To be or not to be – a Review of Children’s Shakespeare Books (#shakespearesunday)

“Nothing will come of nothing”. (King Lear)

Not everyone’s favourite Shakespeare quote, but it is one of mine.

I have to be honest and say that, as much as I enjoy reading and English Literature, I have always struggled to fall in love with reading Shakespeare. The language isn’t particularly accessible for a mere mortal like me and the translation of the story can sometimes get lost as a result.

I remember pulling apart, ‘A Midsummer night’s Dream’, for GCSE at school. Romeo and Juliette by Baz Lurhmann was also a huge film of my teenage years (thanks mainly to good old Leonardo Di Caprio being in it) so this did help pique my interest a little too.

I know how important Shakespeare’s works are and how they shaped our literature, so when I was offered the chance to review some Children’s Shakespeare books, I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to get my kids started on the books. I would never have considered ‘getting them started’ on Shakespeare at such a young age, but I suppose it makes perfect sense to!

ShakespeareBooks2

The books come in a set of 20 and include the titles:

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

Twelfth Night

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

The Winter’s Tale

Timon of Athens

The Tempest

King Lear

The Taming of the Shrew

Romeo and Juliette

Julius Caesar

Othello, The Moor of Venice

Much Ado about Nothing

The Merchant of Venice

The tragedy of Macbeth

Cymbeline, King of Britain

The comedy of errors

As you like it

Antony and Cleopatra

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

All’s well that ends well

The books have child friendly pictures on almost every page, they are no longer than 60 pages long and they have large, easy to read text. They’re also really colourful which my boys loved.

My 8 year old happily read, Macbeth, in under an hour and was able to tell me what the story was about and who the main characters were. This is another feature of the books, the main characters are introduced to you at the start so you know who is going to appear and it also gives you some background information on each of them. My 7 year old has also made a start on reading one, he went for A Midsummer Nights Dream (one of my favourites!) and seems to really be enjoying the story. He is a reluctant reader too so it was lovely to see him pick up a book of his own accord and start reading it.

I think that these books are a wonderful way of making Shakespeare less daunting and I will be reading them too to refresh my brain box. You’re never too old to learn something new and I’m not ashamed to admit that I don’t know what all the stories are about!

I think the Children’s box set of Shakespeare would make a super gift for any book worm this Christmas or for a birthday. They are also a real worthwhile investment for the bookshelf just to broaden your child’s literary horizons. I would never have thought of reading my kids Shakespeare as a bedtime story but we do now.

I clearly could have done with a set myself as a child, then I wouldn’t be so clueless!

You can buy the books online from Boolino in most good book shops.

ShakespeareBooks1


 Disclosure: I was sent this box set of books for the purpose of this review. All words, thoughts, images and opinions are my own.




Dinosaur Week: Day 6 – Dinosaur Lunchbox Ideas

Fussy eaters.

I have 2 in my house in the form of my eldest two boys and it drives me, if I am honest, completely up the wall.

Dinner is often a bit of a battle ground, it’s getting easier, but it still isn’t the most fun filled time of the day for us (hmmmm, dinner time seems to correlate to the time of day I most fancy a G&T, who knew?!)

Because of this, the boys have been packed lunches at school for the past year. They did school dinners for a year before that in a bid to see if it would help, but it didn’t and their eating habits didn’t improve and they were just wasting food which is a bug-bear of mine, so I changed them off them and now I make their lunches.

Truth be told, I’m not really one for ‘Pinterest Lunches’ as I like to call them. You know the ones, the photos of a vegetable animal, painfully crafted using 7 different vegetables and some cocktail sticks, the elaborate sandwiches which, once bashed around on the way to school, will look like a car crash scene rather than the intricate and elaborate lion you had made before they left for the school run this morning. Who has time for that anyway?! I was thankful for a luncheon meat sarnie at my Nan’s as a kid (goodness, the thought of eating that now makes me want to vom. Sorry Nan…)

Image result for kids lunch ideas

Photo from blog.jiji.ng

For day 6 of my Dinosaur week, in association with Stickerscape and Kali Stileman, I have come up with an easily achievable version of a themed lunch. A dinosaur lunch!

Here is what I did…

Sandwiches: I used a dinosaur sandwich cutter (I got mine from Ocado.com but these are readily available everywhere – or you could use a cookie cutter and get the same result) to cut out the sandwiches into dinosaurs. These just have ham inside but you can pop whatever your child fancies inside them.

Cheese: I peeled a Dairylea Strip-cheese to make it look like a tree the Dinosaur Sandwich could eat.

Grapes: These grapes can become Dinosaur Eggs (or poop if you have typical poo obsessed kids like mine!) ALWAYS cut your grapes in half for children to prevent choking.  I have only just stopped doing this for my 8 year old but still do for my 6 and 2 year olds.

Cocoa Pops: Chocolate isn’t allowed in our kids lunchboxes at school but cereal is so a few cocoa pops are classed as being fine. I used these to make dirt/stones in a pot to rest the dinosaur footprint biscuit on.

 Dinosaur Footprint Shortbread: I made these with the kids the other day. They’re super simple and you can find the recipe here.

(I didn’t have any left for the photos sadly, but my edible dinosaur eggs would also work really well in a lunchbox. You can find the recipe for those here)

Drink: Water is the only drink allowed at school during the day, but at lunchtime the children are allowed milk, juice or a smoothie. I made some fruit squash and added a tiny bit of green food colouring to the squash to make it green. It’s not really dino related but it looked more interesting and prehistoric!

 IMG_3298

I took this opportunity to label the packed lunch box and drinks bottle ready for the start of the school year.

I was sent some amazing name labels by Stickerscape and some of them even had the brilliant Dinosaur designs on our wall stickers by Kali Stileman on them. They’re colourful, durable and just what I needed to help get organised for the back to school chaos that’s looming around the corner! Importantly, they’re also very clear to read and instantly recognisable which is very important when you have a child in charge of looking after their possessions!

If you go to the Stickerscape website, you can view their extensive range of stick on and iron on name labels. They have a huge amount of different designs to suit every age and interest, and with prompt delivery, you’ll have no trouble getting all those items, ‘school ready’.


 Because my middle one is such a fussy eater, and he is only 6, reward charts do still work with him.

When WOW Toys very kindly sent me a, very fancy, reward chart to review, I instantly thought of my 6 year old and his eating habits. We used the snazzy reward chart to get him try a few different foods and do you know what, I worked!

The reward chart is a chart and rewards all in one box. It’s a fab idea!

You move the magnetic star up the chart as they complete a task and when they get to a reward window (on numbers 1, 5 and 10) they get a toy which, in the end, makes up a set! It’s a really fantastic idea and one my 6 year old really loved. It took us less than 10 days to get the chart done and in the process he tried new foods which I could never have imagined him trying a few days ago. It was amazing to be quite honest. Once complete, he ended up with a little dinosaur toy set composed of a cave man, a dinosaur and a carriage for the caveman to sit in. The toys are colourful, durable and I can see them lasting the test of time, even with my heavy handed toddler about!

We loved the fact the star was magnetic and we didn’t have to remember putting sticker on a chart or anything. My 6 year old loved moving the star up when he had tried something new.

The age range on the box said 1-5, but there wasn’t a chance my 2 year old would’ve understood the fact he couldn’t have all the toys out of it in one go (#tantrumcentral) which is why I chose to use it for my 6 year old. I think the chart is great for kids from ages 3-7 personally but they toys inside it would be suitable from 1 year upwards because of their chunky and durable nature.

You can buy the WOW toys reward chart here. They also have a racing car one and a fairy one available.


 Until 10th October 2016, you can get 20% off all Kali Stileman Wall Stickers at Stickerscape if you use the code DINOKALI.

Disclosure: I was sent some name labels, wall stickers and a WOW Toys reward chart for the purpose of this review. All words, thoughts, ideas and opinions are my own.



Dinosaur Week: Day 5 – Crafty Little Thing: Fizzing Dinosaur Egg-scavation!

Enlight1 (71)

As I said at the start of my Dino week, which I am doing in collaboration with Stickerscape and Kali Stileman, my kids are obsessed with all things Dino.

The release of Jurassic World was a huge igniter for my eldest who must’ve watched said film about 40 times by now.

**********

When I was thinking of Dinosaur related crafts to do, I thought about a super craft for bath fizzes I saw over on one of my favourite blogs, Craft Invaders.

I thought to myself, maybe I could do a take on this but instead of for use in the bath, the kids could make their fizzes into Dinosaur eggs and then EGG-scavate the dinosaurs inside (see what I did there? Sorry…) using some Vinegar and digging tools.

These would be a fab craft idea for schools, pre-schools, childminders, kids bored during the school holidays or even as a birthday party activity!

So, here is what we came up with!

image

It was a most EGG-scellent adventure!

(Sorry, I will stop with the egg jokes now).


Ingredients/Tools

(makes 2 bath fizzes)

50g Bicarbonate of Soda

Some green food colouring, gel colouring is best.

Water – approximately 60ml but you may need more or less depending on how much colouring you put in/how wet/dry the mixture is.

2 small toy dinosaurs to hide inside the eggs

250ml White vinegar

A pair of rubber gloves

A plate or chopping board covered in cling film

A couple of old medicine syringes, like what you get in Nurofen or Calpol.

A couple of old Ice cream/plastic tubs

Some digging tools such as blunt dinner knives, or a knife from pumpkin carving set, this worked really well for us!

(If you’re making more eggs, just double/triple the ingredients and you’ll also need more toy dino’s to hide too)


Method

1 – Place the Bicarbonate of Soda and green food colouring in a glass bowl and mix.

IMG_2681

2 – Add some water, a little at a time and mix until the mixture begins coming together.

IMG_2682

(DON’T ADD TOO MUCH WATER or the mixture will become too wet and won’t stick together. You want it wet enough to come together, but not so wet it won’t form a ball)

3 – Once the mixture begins sticking together, it is ready to begin shaping it around your toy dinosaur.

4 – Put your rubber gloves on.

5 – Place some of the mixture in the palm of your hand and flatten it a bit.

IMG_2687

6 – Place the toy dinosaur in the middle of the flattened mixture.

7 – Take some more mixture and begin covering the toy dinosaur with it. Squish and squeeze the mixture around the dinosaur to cover it and make an egg shape.

8 – Place on a plate, or on a board covered in some cling film (to stop it getting dyed green) and repeat the process for your next egg.

Enlight1 (69)

9 – Once the eggs are complete, leave in a cool, dry place to completely dry out. This drying out process will take a few hours, and a minimum of 12, so it’s best to make them and leave them overnight. Once dried, transfer to an old ice cream tub for storage. They should keep for a long while in here.

10 – Once your eggs have dried out and you’re ready to use them, place one egg per child in a plastic container, an old ice cream container is perfect and find a suitable area (like the garden!) to hatch your eggs.

11 – Give each child an old nurofen/calpol syringe and let them suck up some of the white wine vinegar into it.

IMG_2750

12 – Then, squirt the vinegar onto the dinosaur eggs and watch them fizz away! The more vinegar you use, the quicker the dinosaur will be revealed. Encourage your child to use their digging tools as well as squirting vinegar.

13 – Once the toy dinosaur has been revealed, dispose of the remaining egg mixture and clean the dinosaur up ready for them to play with.

Enlight1 (73)

Happy Egg-scavations Dino hunters!

Enlight1 (71)


Until 10th Ocober 2-16, you can get 20% off all Kali Stileman’s wonderful wall stickers at Stickerscape by entering the code DINOKALI.


 Disclosure: I was sent some Wall Stickers to review by Stickerscape. All words, thoughts, ideas, opinions and photos are my own.



Tantrum Tag-team – Do not underestimate the power of the tantrum…

“Your total mega meltdown tantrum really helped me to understand what was upsetting you and see things from your point of view. Said no Mum, ever”.

Toddler hiding in cupboard having a tantrum

I said he couldn’t have Ice Cream for Breakfast at 6:30am. Apparently that’s out of order and the only response it warranted from the toddler was to try and hide himself in the kitchen cupboards whilst shouting at me…

Tantrums.

One of the shittest parts of parenting.

Nobody warns you quite how epic they can be, how long they can go on for, how there is often no preventing them (unless you give in to every ridiculous demand and whim your child comes up with, such as having to go to Legoland every Wednesday because they don’t like having to go to school that day) and you almost certainly aren’t going to get through them without the help of cake and alcohol. Just saying…

IMG_1188

Those aren’t his glasses. They’re his Nanny’s. He just wears them when he is pretending to be an evil mastermind…

My eldest had pretty epic tantrums until he was 3. I vividly remember, with him being my first so I wasn’t the hardened bitch-mum I am now, being at Mothercare near where my mum works and him having such a meltdown over not being allowed to have half the contents of the shop (he threw himself about everywhere, knocked things off shelves, ran into someone else’s child and bit me) that I had a bit of a mental breakdown in the car park and didn’t quite know what the feck had happened to my life. I decided to leave the shop with him kicking and screaming but, upon getting back to the car, I was unable to get him in the car seat. He had pulled his final trump card of ‘the plank’ just as I was about to try and restrain him in the car seat. Little arsehole. I shut him in the back of the car, unrestrained, and let him thrash about whilst I called my Mum for a sob and to ask her advice. Within 10 minutes, she had popped out of her office, driven to where I was and helped me get the miniature monster of mayhem in his car seat. I told you she is a legend.

No messing.

Bosh.

In he went.

Why couldn’t I get him to do that?! Why was my mum able to put him in his car seat without being mauled?!

Rule 1 of Tantrum Club: Always let a grown up try and apply logic to your tantrum, despite knowing there isn’t any. It’s hilarious to watch them suffer and think about it.

Zak with a sticker moustache

Something not quite right about this photo is there….very dodgy tash.

My middle one was quite an easy-going, happy baby and toddler. Lulled me into a false sense of security that one did… I was all smug, thought because he was my second I knew what I was doing and that I was totally Mumming the shit out of life.

Like a boss.

Was I testicles.

This ones tantrums started a bit later, at about 2.5/3 years old, you know, just in time for Pre-school.

Sodding wonderful.

Most days I would pick him up from pre-school and I would be presented with the dreaded ‘Clip Board of Shame’, a clip board used to hold the papers you’re required to sign when there has been an ‘incident’. Either your child has been hurt, or they have hurt someone else. For me, sadly, it was often the latter. The embarrassment of having a staff member walk over to you at pickup time in front of all the other waiting parents, only to be presented with the clip board of shame, was sometimes too much to bare. Eventually, after my 15th or so form (not all for him being on the dishing out end I hasten to add, he was bad but he wasn’t Norman Price…) I became a bit more used to it and would know who he had hurt before the form was even presented to me and signed. I’d often find myself apologising to the poor child’s parent despite never being told the name of whichever child it was, call it a mother’s instinct…

Rule 2 of Tantrum Club: Always let grown ups think they know what they’re doing, and then laugh at them manically as you pull a tantrum which is off the scale out the bag.

IMG_1764

My littlest one is a bit of an enigma (if you hadn’t guessed from my blog posts). He started his tantrums, I would say, before he was 1. What’s that classed as?! The Naughty Noughties?! He has a stubborn streak that I am nervous of for the coming years and I’m not sure if my shred of sanity that I have left will stand the tests of time with this one…

I’m holding onto the fact that, apparently, difficult to handle babies turn into easy to handle children. I’m not sure who said that, I might have said it to myself after four G&T’s when I think I’m insightful, when in actual fact, I’m just talking shite but, whatever, I’m clinging onto that glimmer of hope so, shhhhhh! Don’t crush it.

This, seemingly angelic, hair-bear has had the glorious opportunity to learn from not one, but two, older siblings, the ways of the Tantrum.

-Come little brother, let us teach you the power of the Tantrum...-

 Rule 3: Always ensure the knowledge of the power of the tantrum is passed down from sibling to sibling, cousin to cousin, and so on. This way, the grown ups will never defeat us and the power of the tantrum will live on, stronger, forever more!!!!!!!!! Mwahahahahahaha!!!!

Like the three musketeers, “All for one and one for all!” my boys set about hatching their tantrum plans each and every day.

After a quick huddle in the corner of a bedroom, where I’m sure they decide who is going to piss me off when, they then set about their master plan for the day.

Since it’s the summer holidays at the moment, these ‘tag-team tantrums’ have really become quite draining. And we are only a week in…

Gin help me.

all for one and one for all - brothers with their hands in a vow grip

Brothers. All for one and one for all!

 It starts off with one, normally my eldest, having a strop about something minor. Normally an ailment of some sort that has manifested itself overnight, like a sore toe, or a clicking finger. Major illnesses these folks. Major. I will then not give enough of a shit about these minor ailments (i.e: I will not give him a bandage or let him eat a pork pie for breakfast which apparently helps cure said mystery ailment) so a tantrum ensues. Despite the fact he is 8, he still has tantrums, but they are now more teenage angst type ones where he says, “I hate you, I wish I had never been born”, and, “I’m leaving home forever”, that sort of thing. Splendid. He’s not even a teenager yet and already the hormones are beginning to rear their ugly head. I told you all, cake and alcohol, cake and alcohol. He will then, probably, have a few more tantrums about nothing much between breakfast and lunch and then loose momentum, thus handing over the tantrum baton to his brother.

After my eldest has had a go and calmed down, it’s the turn of my middle one, who is prone to epic flip outs over the most inane things (sorry mums at school, you know what I am going on about). For instance, this week, we had a major meltdown over nail polish. Yes, you read that right. He wanted his nails painted because, well, why not?! He wanted them painted red (Liverpool colour) but silly, un-glam, mummy didn’t have any red nail polish, she only had a bottle of dried up black polish and a funky dark purple number, probably from circa 1995. Winning. After a tantrum involving feet stomping, toy throwing, hate shouting and sobbing that life is disastrous, he calmed down enough to accept defeat and eventually chose to go with the 1990’s purple. I, of course, acknowledged his choice of nail colour and duly put it on the bedside table until bedtime so that if he mis-behaved again, the polish would not be put upon his nails. Bribery, sorry, incentive given, he managed to not kick off again for the rest of the day and was allowed to have his pamper session, much to his Dad’s dismay… 😉

So where does the little one come into all this I hear you ask?

Well, he is on tantrum call, ALL. DAY.

When one of the older boys is having a lull, he will rev up and cause chaos enough for me too loose my shizzle, just in time for one of his older brothers to pick up the tantrum baton and start the new wave of misery for me, thus creating the perfect shit storm. He will remove a poo nappy and smear himself in it’s contents, he will smear himself in his food, he will turn the hosepipe on in the garden and hold it at the back doors to water the kitchen, he will undress himself as we are about to go out the door and he will come over to give me what I think is a hug, but in actual fact, he wants to headbutt me. Wondrous, eh?! The team work and planning is quite something to behold.

It’s not all bad, don’t get me wrong, but the school holidays sure are amplifying the tantrums each one of them has and, by the end of the day, when each of them has had their turn with the tantrum baton, it’s safe to say I am finished. Brain frazzled. Happiness dissipated. Delirium sets in…hence this blog post.

The photo of my boys hands inadvertently reminded my husband of an old Bon-Jovi album cover, Keep the Faith.

Quite fitting don’t you think?

I might just have to use that saying as my mantra over the next few weeks to get through these summer holidays. Along with Cake and Alcohol of course 😉

Keep the faith, parents.

Keep. The. Faith.

Mouse Moo and Me Too
You Baby Me Mummy



Growing Pains – The emotional turmoil of parenting… (Published on the Huffington Post)

I have written another piece for, The Huffington Post.

It’s a bit off piste for me, in that for a change, I’m not joking about consuming copious amounts of Gin or the fact my toddler smeared himself in his own poo again (yes, that has happened this week…the joys!)

It’s a piece about the emotional few weeks we have had in our household with regards to school and the kids growing up. Something I thought I was ready for but, it turns out, I’m totally not! 😉

Click here to have a read if you wish…

Normal, profanity filled, gin enhanced service shall now be resumed.

Gems.x