Saturday, 31 December 2011

Rachel reviews Voyage of the Dawn Treader Vlog

Rachel reviews milky the bunny vlog

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Moshi Monsters: Moshling Zoo (Nintendo DS)

We have realised this holiday season that we haven't been reviewing any of the games we play on the Nintendo DS, Wii and PS3. Well to welcome in the new year (nearly) we have decided to rectify this situation. For our first review we are looking at Moshi Monsters: Moshling Zoo for the Nintendo DS.

I gave this game to Rachel for christmas hoping that it'd be the right level of difficulty and interest for her to play with. She is a moshi monsters fan, collecting the moshlings and the cards which comes with them; but she's never played the online game due to time constraints and my security concerns with her using my laptop (I'll blog separately about our solution for this).

The game was an instant hit, it is a great positive for a game to be easy to use and engaging from the outset and most have not managed to achieve this before. No doubt some of this is Rachel's increasing knowledge of gaming and her age, but it certainly says a lot for a game that she needed no help at all getting started.

The moshling characters are perfect, just as she knows them from the cards, books, annual and figures; she immediately felt like she'd enterred their world and wanted to explore and interact with them.

The first thing you need to do in the game is feed and wash your first moshling, a fluffie of some description. The washing is very straight forward and quickly builds up points for moving up levels; the feeding takes a bit of practice but Rachel picked it up quickly enough and that propelled her into level two within 15 minutes.

There are races and quizzes for each moshling, these also build up points; I was surprised how challenging these were for me, but they posed no problem for Rachel. Dare I say I felt my age a little bit!!

Within an hour of playing Rachel had figured out how to get more moshlings and had 5 in various areas by the end of the day. She has had the game for four days and plays for about an hour a day and already she has a couple to level 10 and the others are progressing well.

If you have a moshi monsters fan who loves their Nintendo DS and is looking for a new game I highly recommend Moshi Monsters Moshling Zoo. It's fabulous.

My rating: 8/10
Rachel's rating: 9/10

Wednesday, 28 December 2011


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When we're at our flat we watch a lot of movies, we take all sorts that we never normally make time to watch at home. One of these is Burlesque. I wanted to watch it at the cinema but getting Mike to watch what appeared to be a musical and especially one that was being slated by the critics, wasn't going to happen. But he agreed to watch it on the small screen.

The plot is pretty obvious, the staging average but the casting wonderful and the singing and dancing a joy. I knew I'd like it, it's my sort of thing, but Mike liked it to. It's a really enjoyable film and does not deserve all the average reviews it's received.

Christina Aguilera is stunning and perfectly cast; Cher is just right for the role and the two main men, wonderful.

If you like to shake your tail feather and sing along to classic tunes then watch Burlesque; it's an uplifting way to spend an evening.

Emma 8/10
Mike 7/10

Harry Potter and the deathly hallows

Last night Mike and I decided to watch both parts of Harry Potter and the deathly hallows back to back.

We watched part I when it was released about a year ago and part II in August. I reviewed part II here.

Watching both parts together I feel slightly differently about the films so I'm reviewing again. A girl's allowed to change her mind right? And I gave Mike permission too.

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Harry potter and the deathly hallows was filmed as one film which would be released in two parts, but it belongs together. I know that makes it a four hour film, but it really us fantastic taken as a whole. It flows better, it feels more well rounded. The slow bits in the tent which Mike complained about were in proportion with the massive action that I didn't like so much. It worked fabulously as a whole. The characters grow through both parts, the plot builds to a crescendo through both, the poignancy is greater and the defeat more worthwhile.

We both agree that it was a big mistake to divide the film onto two parts, one which detracted from the plot and characterisations. But thanks to the DVD and Blu-ray releases we can all see it in it's completeness.

If you love Harry Potter but were left feeling disappointed by these two (or just one of them) then I highly recommend you find a 4 hour slot in your life and watch them back to back. You'll appreciate it.

Emma 10/10
Mike 10/10

Despicable Me review by Rachel

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We all watched despicable me and no one fell asleep. I've seen this film before bit it's even better watching it again. Mum and Dad really liked the bank of evil because it was by brothers or something.

(Emma says - previously Leehman Brothers!)

I really like the yellow people who work for the man Gru. Gru thinks he is bad but he's not very good at being bad and he's good at being funny.

Gru adopts three girls and they help him be a good dad and that is funny too.

It's a good film and very, very, very funny.

Megamind review by Rachel

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We watched Megamind. Mummy fell asleep half way through it but Dad and I watched it all. It is very funny and Megamind is not really a baddie, he is just lonely and wants people to talk to and like him. I think the good guy was really the baddie and a bully.

Megamind has a very big blue head and a pet fish in a robot and he isn't very good being evil but he's very good at being funny. It's a very funny film and dad laughed a lot.

8/10 and good for everyone

Sunday, 25 December 2011

The Gruffalo's Child

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One of the highlights from last years' Christmas day was absolutely definitely the BBC production of The Gruffalo. We loved it! So it was with much excitement that we perched ourselves in front of the television this Christmas day afternoon.

We weren't disappointed, the BBC have done Julia Donaldson and her books proud again. Rachel sat open mouthed throughout, she says
"I loved it just like the book, it's lovely and the mouse isn't scary but tricks the Gruffalo and her child. Can I watch it again tomorrow? Tell everyone to watch it because it's brilliant. But it's too short."

It didn't have the same impact as The Gruffalo but that's mainly because it uses the same style and animation and therefore didn't achieve the wow factor.

However it will be top of our sky plus box for the next few months and no doubt watched with smiles and joy every time.

If you didn't catch it tonight do not fear, it's repeated tomorrow morning and will be released on DVD soon, just watch out for the big bad mouse.

Happy Christmas

Noah's Ark Card Game

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I bought this cheap as chips card game for us to play after Christmas lunch today, we had mixed results.

We started playing the game it was intended for, Noah's Ark.
The aim of the game is to get all the families of animals (mum, dad and baby) into the ark with Noah.

There are 17 families and one Noah card.

The cards are all dealt out and players can look at their cards. If players hold a complete family then it is laid down in front of them face up.  This animal family has "entered the ark".

The player on the left of the dealer holds all their remaining cards face down to the player on their left.  This player selects one of the cards shown.

If this card completes a family then it "enters the ark", otherwise this player now offers their card to the next person on the left.

Game continues until all animal families have "entered the ark".

If a player has the Noah card then they can complete the game by "closing the ark".

When the ark is closed then the players all total the scores of the cards in front of them in families.  They then take off the value of any cards still in their hands.  The person who closes the ark with the Noah's card scores 50 points. The winner is the player with the highest score.

There were five of us playing and the game didn't work with that many, after an hour we'd got almost no where and Rachel had wondered off from boredom.

Determined to try and get a game for us all out of my purchase I convinced everyone to play Happy Families with the cards instead.

The object of the game is to collect complete families. 

The cards are all dealt out.  The players can look at their cards and make any families they have.  When a player has a family of cards they lay that family down in front of them, face up.

Game starts when everyone has looked at their cards.

The first player asks another player for a specific card from a family they already have one of. 

If the asked player has the card, they gives it to the requester and the requester can then ask any player for another card. 

If the asked player does not have the card, it becomes their turn and they ask another player for a specific card. 

Play continues in this way until all cards are grouped into families.  The player with the most families of cards wins.

This was much more interactive, fast paced and exciting to play. It got us all talking and laughing and Rachel loved it.

Despite not being great in it's original form, this card game is definitely worth getting hold of if you can. The best £2 I've spent in ages.
Happy Christmas

Friday, 23 December 2011

Simple Christmas Biscuits

Today Rachel fancied doing a bit of baking so we made these super simple and terribly tasty Christmas biscuits.

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These are the simple ingredients:

250g butter , softened
140g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
300g plain flour

And all you do is:

Mix the butter and sugar in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.
Add the egg yolk and vanilla and briefly beat to combine.
Sift the flour and stir into the mixture.
Use your hands to make a ball of dough.
Roll out the dough about 1cm thick and use cutters to make shapes.
Bake the biscuits at 160 degrees C in a fan oven for 15 minutes.
When baked allow to cool and then decorate.

We made hearts, hearts with heart holes, bells, stars and candy canes.
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The decorating was bright and cheerful. Perfect for Christmas; here are Rachel's favourites.

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Thursday, 22 December 2011

Rachel makes ... Christmas name cards

We have been inundated with Christmas cards, over 200 at the last count, we are very lucky and feel very loved.  The trouble is we only have room to hang about 150 around the house.  We don't worry though; every year I let Rachel pick her favourite ones and make christmasy pictures out of them.  This year however she's taken her creativity one step further, she's made .....

Christmas lunch name cards.

Here are her step by step instructions to making them.

1. You need to choose a nice picture on a Christmas card

2. Cut the picture out from the card, you can have some background round it if you want

3. Take the back of the card and fold it in half to be the stand, if you've cut the back of your card then just use some paper

4. Take the picture and Sellotape it to the stand so that the picture is nice and tall

5. Cut little pieces of paper for the name labels

6. Write the name of the person coming to Christmas lunch on the little pieces of paper

7. Sellotape the name label to the stand

8. There you go you've finished

9. Repeat steps 1 to 8 for every person coming to Christmas lunch

10. You (the child) need to lay them out on the table so all the adults know where to sit.

Here are the ones I made.
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Have fun making yours.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Caramelised Nigella Lawson

Have you seen this front cover of Nigella's magazine?

I was looking at it and wondering how lovely it would be to be coated in caramel; I was in my own little world. As a mum of course I was quickly snapped out of my ponderings by Rachel who sensibly said....

why has she done that? it will be really sticky and hurt to get off.

bless her, always the neat freak :)

Tracks of 2011

We were listening to the radio and heard that already people are compiling their tracks of 2011; so Rachel thought she'd compile her list and here they are:

10. Swagger Jagger by Cher Lloyd
9. Read all about it by Professor Green
8. Price Tag by Jessie J
7. Don't Hold your Breath by Nicole Scherzinger
6. Best thing I never had by Beyonce
5. Mr Know it All by Kelly Clarkson
4. She makes me wanna by JLS
3. Black and Yello by Wiz Khalifa
2. Born the way by Lady Gaga
1. Moves like Jagger by Maroon 5

I'm quite impressed with the range, although sometimes I wonder about the lyrics which she sings along to. But really I'm just seriously impressed that there's no Justin Bieber!!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Perfect stocking filler - The Slithers

Are you looking for something small and perfectly formed and fun for your kids stockings this year? I highly recommend The Slithers which were a bargain £2.49 at our local The Range.

I remember a simpler version of these as a girl, they were very popular in the 1980s. But these are new and improved, with a spring in the centre to get some fabulous window walking.

Not sure what I mean? Well here's Rachel demonstrating it for you.

Silent Sunday

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Making Maths Move: Maths Busking

I love maths, always have done. I find numbers come naturally to me and I adore mathematical puzzles. I know I'm lucky and I know that my skills and passion are NOT all about my genetics; they're mostly about having a fabulous teacher at school who made maths fun.

There are many of these teachers around, Rachel has one right now, but we have to be clear that we live in a society which tends to demonise maths and make it appear much harder than it needs to be.

Enter stage left Maths Busking; a fantastic way of engaging with maths in a fun, almost magical, performance stream.

This is absolute Gold, I love it and hope to see some live very soon
Well done Maths Busking.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Africa United

I recorded this for Rachel before checking what it was all about. I then decided to watch it in advance, to check it out and I'm pleased I did because I'm not yet ready for her to watch films with issues this big. The film is truly fabulous though and I'm sure in a couple of years I will watch it with Rachel.

The film is about three african boys who decide they want to go to the World Cup in South Africa. There's a middle class boy, an ex-child soldier and an ex-sex worker. This unlikely trio team up and decide to walk 3000 miles across Africa, with no idea what's in front of them. There is sadness, moments of fear, times of hope and lessons galore. It's not exactly a feel good movie, but it has lots to tell us about life, friendship, illness and Africa.


Making Paper Chains

Here's a simple and really effective craft activity for the kids.  I have been making paper chains with Rachel since she was two and now she makes them on her own.

She takes scrap paper, cuts it into strips, decorates them in whatever design she fancies and uses sellotape to make the rings. 

Easy peasy lemon squeezy is her assessment of the level of difficulty.

These two she made in 20 minutes this morning before school.  Rachel is obsessed with repeating patterns so she made the one on the right with blue then red then blue then red etc.  Where as the one on the left is more complicated, red hearts, pink stripes, red kisses, pink stripes etc

Give it a go, they are cheap, simple and fabulous at this time of the year for decorating your house.

abc button Todays Creative Blog

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Disney's Christmas Carol

This film is so much more than I expected; truly impressive.
The animation is beautiful.
The voices are fabulous.
The story is a true likeness to Dickens' book.

Every generation needs their own Christmas Carol; to know Scrooge and to learn the lessons of hope and charity. This one is perfect for the kids of today and it might even become my version of choice.

9/10 especially around Christmas time.

Silent Sunday sunrise

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Monday, 7 November 2011

London 2012 fun

You can hardly move without seeing some more fabulous news from the London 2012 organisers; but today I've been struck by the artwork around the festival. 

There are a series of posters produced by artists especially for London 2012, such as the one by Rachel Whiteread which can be seen here.  These will no doubt be all over the buses, tubes and billboards of London and the rest of the UK, all good.  But I would rather have seen posters by real people, rather than artists, portraying their feelings about the Games.  After all the version that Rachel and I have produced with just 10 minutes on the computer is not far removed from those produced by the 'artists' themselves.

What art can you produce in line with the posters for the London 2012 Festival?

Oh and if you fancy creating your own mascot that's a lot of artistic fun; just go to the Mascot website and select the mascot, their colour and all aspects of their clothing; here's ours.

We'd love to see those you create

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Transforming in the morning

It's amazing what a face wash, teeth clean, nice outfit, hair brush and 15 minutes can do for a girl of a certain age.

From this 
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To this
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Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Rachel's moon gazing

The moon has been amazing the last few days, clear and large in the sky both morning and night.  Rachel and I were mesmerised by the sight of it and decided to try and capture it's beauty in photographs.

We started off yesterday morning with this shot on the iPhone4

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Then last night, coming back from swimming, the moon looked as if you could reach out and touch it.  We were both disappointed that we couldn't get the scale and majesty of it in the photo, but this shot using iPhone4, through the bushes is magical 

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And this shot we were both impressed with, it was taken using my slimline digital camera with zoom 

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It made us wonder just how good a photo could be taken and so Rachel looked online and found this shot, her aspirational moon gazing photo

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This morning Rachel wanted to take yet more moon photos and she did pretty well I think

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Friday, 14 October 2011

Toothie and the swallowed tooth

Rachel lost her 8th tooth this week, but without even realising it was wobbly, let alone about to fall out.

One minute she was happily finishing tea, the next she had washed her face and noticed a whole where there was once a tooth.

We searched around a bit before it occurred to me that she'd most likely swallowed the tooth.  I have to admit to being slightly nervous about telling her my theory, but she wasn't at all bothered.

That is until she started thinking about how the whole tooth fairy thing would work.  She soon formed a plan; leave a note....

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And you'll never guess what; it worked. Toothie read the note and left a donation to the Rachel fund for new soft toys.  All was well with the world.

Operation Christmas child

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The charity Samaritan's Purse run Operation Christmas Child.  This is a scheme that we've participated in for at least ten years, possibly longer.

The idea is best explained by the organisation itself
Fill a child's life with joy this Christmas.  Wrap, pack and send your own gift filled shoebox to a child in need with Operation Christmas Child.  I prefer to think of it as sending a parcel of love across the world.

So how does it work?
1. Find a shoe box
2. Decide if you want to send to a girl or boy and what age range
3. Select things to go inside the box
4. Do not include food, medicine, anything toxic or sharp, nothing war related or political.  Don't worry, there is lots of help on their website
5. Donate £2.50 for postage, if you do this online then you even find out where your box ends up
5. Drop your shoe box at a collection point between 1st and 18th November.

Our boxes 2011

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We are doing two this year; one for a boy aged 2-4 years and one for a girl aged 5-9 years.

Girl aged 5-9 box will include:
- toothbrush and toothpaste
- brush
- flannel and soap 
- hair clips
- bangles and necklace
- skipping rope
- inflatable beach ball
- note book, pencil, sharpener, eraser
- gloves
- scarf
- cap
- sweet lolly

Boy aged 2-4 box will include:
- toothbrush and toothpaste
- brush
- flannel and soap 
- two dinky cars
- crayons and colouring book
- inflatable beach ball
- gloves
- scarf
- cap
- sweet lolly

I have always enjoyed producing the shoe box for a child, but it is even more fantastic now I have Rachel; she learns about children who have less than herself and makes her own box for a girl her age across the world.

For more information and to prepare your own box if love and joy please visit the scheme website at

Sunday, 2 October 2011

I am 1 in 4

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This image is so powerful, such a brilliant representation of the reality of Babyloss. This month is Babyloss Awareness Month, to remember the babies who never grew up, to help the parents with empty arms and to raise awareness of the facts.

Please do what you can:

Silent sunday

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Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Social Network Reviewed

Mike and I watched The Social Network again this weekend and I realised we haven't reviewed it before, so here it is, our thoughts on the third time of watching.

It is worth saying that I am a social network junkie. I have a facebook account with 454 friends (as of today); I tweet as myself, as a blogger and as a careers advisor; I blog and even vlog occassionally.   I have reconnected with friends online and I've made friends online.  I get social networking. 

Mike was an internet early explorer, he introduced me to the online world; but he prefers to stay as an internet lurker.  He reads discussion boards, reads the news online, watches tv online, but he does not wish to share anything of himself online.  He does not get social networking.

That said, we both loved the film; first time, second time and this time.
The casting is perfect, the acting believable and the story compelling.  We of course have no idea how realistic the film comes to real life; but it certainly captivates, intrigues and captures what social networking is all about.  But it does so much more than that.  The film shows how hard it can be for those who see the world differently and set out to change what they can; there's misunderstanding, alienation, upset, despair, hope, dashed hopes, complicated relationships and confusion.  Facebook was a step change in friendships, and it has changed the world forever; but amidst that it has not as yet provided the happiness the founder desired in the arena of human relationships.

The film shows how ideas are never as simple as being completely original, how complex it is to separate one person's idea from anothers and how complicated our lives of intellectual property rights have become.  In reality can anyone ever say their idea in the 21st century is completely original?  Every tune is based on chords set out hundreds of years ago, every plot has been told before, every character has been lived somewhere.  But is that a bad thing?  No, there is always room for change and development, but only some of the ability to bring that about.

The story of facebook's development also demonstrates how money can destroy friendships and lives, even when it is of very little importance to some of those people.  Greed and power take over so easily, and in their wake lie broken hearts and friendships.

Wow, this is less of a review and more of a social commentary.

Can you tell we liked the film, and it got us thinking and talking.  What more can you ask for.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Origami for children

Rachel was given the book "Origami for Children" for her birthday.

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I had put off trying to have a go with Rachel, expecting it to be fiendishly difficult, but I was wrong. Every project is ranked by difficulty as 1, 2 or 3. We started at the simplest and created a cat, a dog and a penguin in quick succession.

Basking in our success I gave in to Rachel's pleas for an origami balloon and was completely dumbfounded when it inflated as promised in the final step.

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The book is everything it promises in the title; origami for children with the instructions and paper you need to make one of each. We are mighty impressed with our creations

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Rachel tells a joke she wrote

Rachel's first silent sunday