Category Archives: Review

The Year That Was

In comparison with 2011 this year has been so much more settled.

I felt my word for the year was contentment and I feel like to a great degree that is the word that settled over my heart and my home. I came to greater peace and satisfaction with the roles in my life – the mother I am and I am aiming to become, the craft-er and sew-er I am, the person I am in the body I occupy.

In my blog I managed 52 posts about Becoming the Mama I Want to Be,

52 Wardrobe Wednesday posts and

52 Make My Week posts.

All of which have been a great delight to do and none have felt like a chore.

I want to thank you for being on the journey with me this year and I hope you will continue to add your voice of encouragement and find this to be a place of joy and encouragement in 2013.

Tomorrow I’ll let you know my hopes and aspirations for the new year.

 Miriam xx

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When Christmas Comes Early

sponsored by nuffnang

A wee while ago we got a parcel in the post – a very big parcel – addressed to mama but really for a little Thomas lover.

oh the shiny eyes

oh the big excitement

oh the unwrapping and the ohs and ahs

very happy little camper.

Bounce spent the rest of the day playing with it and I have had request after request for it to be out. I was rather stoked Daddy was home when it arrived it was so cute to watch them unpack it and ‘man-talk’ while they put it together!! Later in the week when it was my turn to put it together Bounce said to me at one point, ‘It’s okay mama we can wait for Daddy‘ and when I did manage it, ‘Wow mama you did a really good job‘. Gotta love an encouraging kid!! It’s not actually that hard to put together I must say I just have some spatial construction issues (you don’t know what I mean? How strange *wink*)

When Flip got home he was so excited to see it he forgot to take his school bag off before he started playing with it.

The thing I enjoy most about watching Bounce play with it is the inner audible dialogue I get to hear. Little instructions and the oh, whoops, just a minute, this is the way, switch this, hey come here(when he forgets to switch onto the course he wants). With the different places to stop and the track switch and boulder shoot there is a lot to make him feel like he really is in control of the track.

This is one of those toys that everyone has played with when they come over (and I mean the adults too – oh yes, the Daddies that have popped in may have had a more difficult time than the little ones with the distraction factor).

This ‘Thomas Trackmaster’ set reminds me a bit of the ‘death drop’ at primary school. The brave and coordinated used to sit at the top of the bars and flip backwards and then onto the ground (landing of course on their feet – it’s probably banned now). Thomas stops to unload his load (down the chute and into the flying fox thingy (Mama is not a train expert!) and then takes a leap from one track and lands on the rest and speeds home.

Bounce loves Thomas so much – he has always had such a thing for machines and trains and this was the most amazing thing for us to receive in the post. We made a little movie of him doing his thing I kind of like this one because you can see how excited he is hopping along between the bits. It doesn’t show all the ways it works but I just adore his obvious delight watch for the jumping with happiness toward the end.

Actually this little film is also available to watch here. In the same place there are other cuties playing with their Thomas Trackmasters and if you want to you can vote for your fav (read your fav not my film this is not a fishing-for-your-vote post! Unless of course you want to give me your vote, which I will happily receive!). Guess what – your vote also enters your Thomas lover into an a.ma.z.i.n.g prize draw. (Which I am assured is open to New Zealanders.)

You can find us here

You can also make your own film of your wee one doing their own Thomas-thing and enter them into your video competition part as well.

There are weekly prizes of trackmaster product and at the end of the ‘campaign’:

The winner will receive $3000 worth of Thomas product and a family trip to Puffing Billy, with your wee Thomas lover being a conductor on Thomas on the day. (That’s a free trip to Victoria in Australia!! – whoot)

Of course should you all fall in love with my video and vote us in as the winner I will accept with all the humility you have come to expect and love me for – oh wait that is someone else I was thinking of!! 

Don’t tell me I never give you the in! :o) Okay so I hardly ever have an in but this is cool right?

We Recommend for Under 5s

I am a great lover of books and today I thought I’d profile a couple that would make a great addition to a little person’s bookshelves.

One of the things I’m sure you already know is how quickly a much-loved title can become much loathed – not by them, never fear – by you. I always remember when Flip was small reading him a book and loving it and thinking ‘I will never tire of reading this’. But oh I did.

When you have read a book more than 10 times in one day you start to fantasize about hiding the book away for good, or at least a month. See how parenting changes the way you think and the kind of things you long for??

Today I’ll give you 5 reads that have been adored at our place – I couldn’t call them a top 5 we have so many more than 5 we couldn’t pick but these are five for now I would recommend.

1. Where is the Green Sheep – by Mem Fox. A gorgeous book that uses simple descriptors ‘Red Sheep, Bed Sheep, Near Sheep etc while engaging the delight of looking for the green sheep. Sweet illustrations and a delightful story.

2. Who Sank the Boat – by Pamela Allen – this story once it has been read a couple of times causes great delight as the child gives you the answer all the way through the book. A funny tale about a group of animals taking the boat out for a row in the bay.

3. Rosie’s Walk – by Pat Hutchins. I have my own very fond memories of this book and in fact it was the first one I got whilst pregnant with Flip. The illustrations are fantastic – highly stylised 70s pictures and they tell half the story as a cunning fox tries to catch Rosie the hen while she is out on her walk. Each illustration shows the mishaps he gets into while Rosie walks on oblivious to his efforts.

4. Dear Zoo – by Rod Campbell – this is a simple lift the flap adventure that brings great delight to children as they guess and learn the names of different animals the zoo sends and why they wouldn’t make great pets.

 

5. Giraffes Can’t Dance – by Giles Andreae –  This book is one of those classic stories that teaches the lesson of being true to dancing to our own beat. As the giraffe in the story says, ‘We all can dance when we find music that we love’. A well written rhyme scheme and an engaging and endearing tale with all the best jungle animals showing us their moves.

Over the last few Mondays we’ve been profiling some of our favourite finds for under 5s in the hopes of helping out when you are asked for Christmas present recommendations from the relatives.

Which books are well-loved enough to have breakfast stains on them in your house?

I will definitely profile some more book choices later as well. Perhaps one featuring some NZ authors?

We Recommend for Under 5s

Further to last weeks recommendation and happily also suggested in the comments today I’m highlighting ‘Thomas Bingo’. We were given this game a while ago but I love the way this version works.

The game has 2 dice – one with the letters B, I, N, G, O and a ‘Thomas cloud’ and the other has 6 Thomas images.

On their turn each player rolls both dice and then they check if the image appears in the letter column – and if it does they cover it. Bounce and I play this one quite a bit and the boys can also play it independently. Over the summer (when he was just 3) he started to really understand it and if I used paper either side so he could just see the right column it worked well.

Now he is able to do it himself and of course the bonus of becoming more confident with some of the letters of the alphabet.

 

To win a player need a whole line – across, down or diagonally.

A really simple game but one that requires very little strategy so it is easy for the littlest to play with a chance of winning. I also think it would be great to make your own version – perhaps using a name or family name or topic ‘animal’ or ‘vehicle’ or ‘colour’ could be great. After collecting the images and arranging them however you like (because each person is working individually double ups don’t matter) laminate get some big dice and cover them and a pack of disks and you are good to go.

I keep meaning to do our own version but this one makes my wee Thomas lover very happy so the motivation is low.

 

(Coming up to Christmas I am doing some recommendation posts – these aren’t sponsored they are just supposed to give you some ideas when you are asked for recommendations from the relatives!)

To see what we recommended last week go here and read the comments too there are some other great suggestions.

Have you thought of any other games/books that are worth their weight?

In Which I Speak of Christmas

As you know this year I have wanted to stretch and grow myself as a mama and although I am a great believer that really we don’t need a lot of fancy stuff I also really want to know about decent ideas/books/games…. that people (real people not plastic people with fake smiles and children who they just met that day on set!) have actually tried.

I am one of those mama’s that doesn’t really buy my kids a lot of stuff – frequently we get them quite small gifts for birthdays and Christmases….however, I do tend to part with money more easily when it comes to books and games. As I see it both of these are the gifts that go on giving – they can be shared and re-shared year after year.

I also know that in the pre-school years I have been a little lost sometimes and really keen to know about worthwhile stuff especially books around the right level and games they can actually play and understand.

So, coming up to Christmas I thought I might do some preschooler recommendations for games and books and anything else that comes to mind in case you might find it worthwhile too. (I find it isn’t long before I have grandparents and aunts and uncles asking for recommendations and I love having something in mind).

Please note this is my idea it is not a series of sponsored posts (not to say I’d mind being sent wonderful quality products to try – are you listening toy and book companies???) it’s just one mama who is passionate about helping other mama’s and families find fun things to share together that aren’t iPhone apps, DVDs, TV programmes or computer games. (Not that these are bad there are just probably lots of great places to find those recommendations – and I am not that place).

First up for the ‘my recommendations’ would be My First Guess Who. The original Guess Who is a fantastic game for developing language however for littlies it’s too confusing -which card do they put down, what questions to ask….

My First Guess Who is easier than the traditional game this one uses plastic faces which you add to as you ask each question. If your child doesn’t have the vocab yet they can hold up the piece they want to ask about. As the game progresses you each build a face and then at the end the whole ‘board’ flips around so you can check they are the same.

Bounce and I have laughed and laughed playing this game together. Flip was given it for a birthday a couple of years ago and it has certainly been worth it for us. Each game doesn’t take very long either so you can play a quick one or have a few rounds.

Definitely one I think would suit children from 3 up and possibly younger depending on their vocab and concentration etc.

I made a clear plastic pouch that closes with velcro for ours because it has small parts! Games with small parts do my head in!! But this does seem to keep it all in order.

Are you keen for more recommendations from our cupboards?

What game gets the most use in your house?

Do you find it hard to find great games for your pre-schoolers?

Any Excuse for a Party!

As part of my goals and aims for the year I am trying to become more intentionally present in my boys lives.

When I was asked if I would like to review a LEGO game of course I was more than happy but I was so thrilled when ‘Creationary’ arrived.

Creationary is the kind of LEGO game I like – it’s like pictionary but with LEGO and it is so fun. A roll of the dice determines your category and then a turn of the card reveals the nature/building/thing/vehicle you need to make. It’s aimed at ages 7+ and I can see why – wee Bounce just didn’t have the concentration to keep on playing or watch others – not that it stopped him being involved.

The Atlas suggested we have a Creationary party to make an occasion of our first game. The boys have been bursting to play since it arrived so this was very much in keeping with the excitement levels.

…. and as part of my parenting strategy for the year it worked so well – why not have a party to celebrate a new game?

We had some awesome LEGO lollies The Atlas got at some conference or other (wish I knew where you could buy them) so we made cupcakes and bought chippies. Ma n Pop joined us too and the adults actually really enjoyed the game.

We have some really creative friends and I can actually see us playing this at dinner parties with the right crew.

As for my boys – had I not received this game it is certainly one I would have asked the Grandparents to get us as a family for Christmas. Good games (I want to say board games but clearly this isn’t) are a pricey investment but pay-per-play and quality time factor I think they are worth every cent. There are 3 levels of difficulty (I found level 1 about right for me but the Flip went straight for the top-level) and it is quite mind bending when trying to figure out how to represent some objects. I was so impressed with the way Flip managed to represent the things he had some of which were really challenging. I love having something that will draw out his creativity and challenge his thinking.

It is tempting to wish the picture representations were in LEGO themselves but then it would take all the creative out of it. I am so pleased they didn’t do that – a game that encourages true creativity is definitely at the top of my awesomeness list.

We are definite LEGO fans and I’ve received rather a lot of street cred from some adults I know for being a blogger who gets LEGO to review – kind of makes up for the weird silence when you tell some people you blog (it’s at that point I want to hitch my pants high and make geeky laughing sounds).

Here’s all the important stuff you need to know:Product name: LEGO®  Creationary

Product description: Roll the LEGO® Dice to select one of four exciting building categories: vehicles, buildings, nature or things. With three levels of difficulty you can show off your building skills, while theothers guess what you are creating. A great game for family and friends to test your imagination, creativity, building and guessing skills to the max.
Contents: • 1 buildable LEGO Dice • 1 LEGO minifigure • 1 LEGO microfigure • 338 LEGO pieces • 96 cards • 1 rule booklet
Age: From 7 years
RRP $69.99

If you are looking for an excellent long-term game investment I can really recommend this one. It will be getting a lot of use in our house… and it will last for a lot longer than the cupcakes!

A Trip to Yoghurt Heaven (and a giveaway)

I’m not really a dairy lover (putting chocolate aside!). I don’t like milk and cheese much and would easily give either or both up. But as a woman I have this niggling thing about the fact that I should be consuming calcium so I don’t end up all bent in half like a paper clip as an older woman.

So I decided I would do the yoghurt thing – I put yoghurt through my cereal and that way I feel like I can  give myself a calcium tick. The other day I decided to treat myself and instead of buying a cheap tub of ‘whatever is on special‘ (and is probably full of fake everything) I grabbed a tub of Bliss – Berry Happy gourmet yoghurt. And I was indeed Berry Happy. Oh.so.good – so thick and so creamy (almost like a velvety smooth mousse) and full of a berry ‘compote’.

It literally was so good that I emailed the company to congratulate them (I always ring a company if their product is defective so I try to balance it out with praise if I find something genuinely above and beyond).

Long story short I discovered the yoghurt is made by a proudly Canterbury company!! and they are lovely to deal with. I received a personal reply to my email from the company CEO Jim Small, who himself started Cyclops Yoghurt in 1988. Well impressed. Then last week I made the trip out to their factory in Hornby and came home with all sorts of things to try.

For Christchurch dwellers they run a factory shop on a Wednesday for you to be able to buy yourself some treats at below the RRP. 10am-4pm and worth a trip! If Victoria helps you out tell her I sent you because I’m sure she’ll be thrilled about that!

Just for a bit of background the company produces the following:

Cyclops – these are the original products and all the ingredients are certified organic, the yoghurt is fermented for a minimum of 12 hours in comparison to the 5 hours of most other brands and it contains a much higher concentration of milk solids which gives it an acidity and pro-biotic bacteria levels that are much higher than standard yoghurt’s.

The Bliss range – the one I bought. This is a gourmet brand and has the most wonderful selection of flavours. (even the titles make me happy – Apricot Enthusiasm anyone?). These yoghurts are made in the same factory using the same products and although they contain organic ingredients are not currently certified organic. These yoghurts are more dessert like, to me they remind me of eating the slightly soft ice-cream from around the edges of the tub (you mean you don’t do that?? must just be me!) and certainly satisfy the after-dinner sweet craving. They are higher in fat than some of the others and I find for me that means I eat less and feel more full and satisfied.

(Does this make anyone else think of the Seinfeld episode when they spent the whole time eating frozen yoghurt??)

The company also produces 3 flavours of organic frozen yoghurt – Mango, Strawberry and Coffee(which a lot of my friends swear by). And tubs of sour cream.

I love that they as a company they are ardently committed to being an adult based brand – not that children wouldn’t enjoy them but with flavours like Ginger and Pear (with definite ginger flavours) and Mango and Cardamom and a strong focus on organic and pro-biotic qualities – they are not aiming to be a ‘lolly brand’. Certainly my Flip was more than happy to try the frozen yoghurt and described it as ‘all of that‘ and has been asking for it for dessert every night since.

They are also genuinely committed to doing their best by the environment as well – there are awards like this all over the wall at the factory shop

It makes me really pleased to see artisan products being produced locally in New Zealand that refuse to compromise the standard of their products to take a stake of world domination. I also find it really impressive that for over 20 years (before it was trendy) they have been producing organic products.

As I say, I approached the company (Serra foods) after trying the yoghurt because I found it SO good. They kindly gave me some more products to sample and were very generous when I asked them for some vouchers to give away.

SO… to my September giveaway. If you would like to win a voucher (let’s call it a ticket to yoghurt heaven!) to get your own taste of happiness leave me a comment here.

For further entries be a follower of this blog – please leave another comment

and if you really want one of these vouchers pop over and like their fb page and leave me another comment.

3 chances to win!

** currently Cyclops is available at all your local supermarkets but the Bliss range is not stocked in Countdown supermarkets. If like me you’re a cheap and cheerful PnS shopper or a more refined New World shopper you are in luck for both products. **

Entries close on 20th of September and winners will be posted their vouchers within a week. Sorry to my international readers this is a NZ giveaway only. Please ensure I have a way of contacting you should you be a winner.

If You Could, Would You? + giveaway

A while ago a few of us blogged about our dreams… you know those things we don’t want to talk about because you fear they will never happen, or people will judge you, or you will sound silly.

At the same time I was approached by a New Zealander Jolene Stockman who had written an e-book about this topic. She asked me if I would consider reviewing her book. A big risk for her (this book is her baby) and for me (what if I didn’t like it?)

But I did like it.

Jolene has written this book specifically with teenagers in mind but that does not mean it can’t be appreciated by adults as well. Her book is called ‘Total Blueprint for World Domination’.

It is a book that brims with passion and enthusiasm for making your personal dreams a reality, but it is much more than a ‘you can do it’ motivation guide. The book is also a workbook at the end of each chapter there are places to pause, questions to ask yourself and exercises to do.       ““`

And it takes things a step further – it asks you to go to the edges of your dream and work backwards in steps to look at what you can do right now to make those things happen. For me this was the chapter that was most valuable and challenging. It’s all too easy to dream, to talk about what you want to be ‘when I grow up’ but not to actively pursue that by the things I am doing now.

The book is very readable. It isn’t long or arduous but it is a book you can really take time over and let it challenge your behaviour and your thinking if you want to.

Here are two of my favourite quotes from the book:

Feel the incredible deliciousness of being able to do something right now.

You have always made a difference from the time you entered the world to this moment sitting in your skin. You affect people around you. You affect the world. Everything you do, and everything your don’t do…..you make a difference right this second. Whether you mean to or not.

Jolene has been working hard to make her own dreams realities and I think she is a wonderful example in a long line of New Zealanders and women who have chosen to make and be the future they dream of. Jolene has generously decided to donate 2 of her books to readers here as a kindle book or PDF .

Leave me a comment, tell me your dream, tell me about a person that inspires you or just tell me I’m awesome!

2 winners drawn in 2 weeks time May 25th

extra entries if you share through your platforms – blog, tweet, fb… just leave me a another comment

Feeling the Force

We love lego – it seems to come with the territory of having 3 males in one house….maybe it would be the same if it was all girls – I can’t say I have no expertise in this area.

When the new lego game ‘Battle of Hoth’ arrived in the mailbox poor Flip nearly burst his buttons in excitement and the effort required to wait until we were ready to play before we undid the box.

It was worth the wait a long leisurely morning with Daddy setting up – it took them nearly an hour of enjoyable ‘lego play’. I think even I could follow lego instructions. Certainly Flip loves the easy style of their instruction books, no words needed.

and then the great Battle began. Flip’s entire focus was on getting to the stage where he could roll the dice and attack. In his typical style without too much, any strategy he creamed Daddy and won the game.

I like that about this game it can be played with strategy (and I’m sure it will be in a few years) or you can just play it.

The Atlas, really liked the ‘childhood memories’ aspect of playing this with Flip. The excitement and ability to participate in the imaginary play part of the game and the arguements over who will be the goodie (he was very mature and let Flip choose).

I personally like the imaginative part of lego’s approach – even though it is a game players can choose to add in new characters (these are provided in the form of Chewbacca and others) and change the style of the game. Even in the rules/instructions there is encouragement to make the game your own. And of course the pieces all work with any other lego you have.

The game is based on the battle of the same name from the ‘Empire Strikes Back’ Star Wars movie.

I ended up making a clear plastic case for the pieces with a velcro top because I didn’t think the box would ensure pieces being safe at our house.

I was sent this game to review with my boys and when I get something this awesome I score major points for being cool which I figure buys me less eye-rolling when I am doing my serious work of blogging! Although it’s recommended for 8+ I think it can be accessible for players 5-8 if they play with an adult.

We’d recommend it for those who like games that can be played on a fun or thinking level and for Star Wars lovers, Lego lovers and the geeks 😉 who love both.

Product Name:  Star Wars™: The Battle of Hoth™
Body Copy: It is a dark time for the Rebellion. Darth Vader has discovered Luke Skywalker’s secret base on the remote ice planet of Hoth™, and Imperial ground forces are ready to attack! The Battle for Hoth™ has begun in an exciting game of strategy and luck for 2 or 4 players.
Contents
·      1 buildable LEGO Dice
·      32 LEGO microfigures
·      272 LEGO pieces
·      Rules booklet
·      Building instructions
RRP: $    69.99
And on an entirely different lego-loving note – look at these awesome lego boxes I bought the other day. I brought them home for my boys after my trip to see my new nephew and they are a FIRM favourite. Not sure where you can buy them in Christchurch but I found these at Moore Wilsons in Wellington. You can get other sizes too.
by putting raisins in these I figure I can get Bounce off my back to buy the raisins in the boxes instead of the cheap large packets I buy!