Book Review: Clever Tykes Enterprise Storybooks

A little while ago I was sent a set of the Clever Tykes Enterprise Storybooks to read with my son. The Clever Tykes Enterprise Storybooks have been written to inspire children to be positive, resourceful and enterprising. Clever Tykes books promote important values through morals and role models.

The Clever Tykes books are illustrated by Sam Moore and written by Ben, Jodie and Jason. They are supported by Lloyds Banking Group and In 2017 they sent a set of the books free of charge to every Primary School in the UK.

Book Review: Clever Tykes Enterprise Storybooks

We were sent three of the books – Change It Cho; Walk It Willow and Code It Cody. The books are aimed at children aged 7-9 years, My son has recently turned 8 and I think he might appreciate them more in another year or so. We’ve read them together, but I think when he’s a little older he will appreciate and enjoy them more.

Change It Cho

Change It Cho is about a girl called Cho who loves healthy eating. After noticing that some of her friends at school don’t eat very much healthy food she makes it her mission to encourage her friends to eat more fruit and veg. Enterprising Cho sets up a fruit and veg stall in her village and makes it a success.

Walk It Willow

Walk It Willow is about a girl who loves walking her own dog. When she is asked to walk another dog by a family friend, she turns dog walking into a lucrative business. However, she makes a few mistakes along the way, and there’s the smelly business of poop-scooping! Will Willow walk her business to success?

Code It Cody

Code It Cody is about a boy called Cody who is part of the computer club at school. The members of the club are challenged to design a computer game and pitch their games to a panel of teachers. Cody does lots of research and creates a game of his own, but will his bright idea win?

Book Review: Clever Tykes Enterprise Storybooks

The Clever Tykes books are well written, with lovely line drawing illustrations and accessible text. The print is nicely spaced and I’d say they were just above the easy reader level.

The stories are certainly interesting and inspirational. I know I would have been inspired by them at that age, but I was quite an entrepreneurial child. The characters in the books are really good role models too. For a child with a glimmer of entrepreneurial spirit, these books will really inspire them.

The Clever Tykes books are available online, directly from the website. The Clever Tykes website also includes additional resources which are available to download, some of them are free.

Disclosure: We were sent these Clever Tykes books for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

The Top 7 2018 Tag with HodgePodgeDays

Thank you to Jaymee from The Mum Diaries for tagging me in the Top 7 Tag. Essentially it’s like ticky-it but for bloggers. I have a list of questions to answer and then I tag some more bloggers in so they have to answer them too.

This is what The Top 7 covers –

  • Your Favourite 7 Posts from 2018. They can be any posts at all that you are proud of.
  • 7 Things You Loved The Most About 2018 Whether you visited somewhere, or just had one of those moments you will never forget, if you loved it, list it!
  • 7 Things You Are Looking Forward to in 2019.Whether those plans are set in stone or you something you would like to do this year, share with us.
  • Tag 7 Bloggers to Take Part.Share the love and tag 7 others who would like to take part.
  • Say Thanks.Link back to the person who tagged you and/or myself so people know where to find the tag to join in too.

The Top 7 2018 Tag with HodgePodgeDays

7 FAVOURITE BLOG POSTS FROM 2018

This is a tricky one, some of my favourite ones are the ones which didn’t necessarily get the most views. I’ll start with three blog posts which have been huge in terms of the number of people reading them, the last four picks are the ones I’ve enjoyed the most. That seems fair, yes?

This recipe for easy, cheaty sausage rolls has been a banger (I’m not even sorry) since day one. We make these quite a lot, because they’re just so much nicer than anything shop bought!

I love Parma Violet Gin and it turns out that you do too. This really simple recipe is a winner.

Who can resist a cheery spring daffodil? Not you, that’s for sure. This simple daffodil craft tutorial has been perennially popular since I published it last spring.

The Top 7 2018 Tag with HodgePodgeDays

In July, during the heatwave we went to the first ever Timber Festival in the National Forest. It was brilliant fun and we made lots of wonderful, creative memories I will treasure for a long time.

September saw our first ever glamping holiday in a yurt. We loved sleeping next to the wood burner and being able to look up at the stars.

I’ve been a judge at the International Cheese Awards for several years now. It’s a day I take very seriously and I always, always learn lots of new things. It’s a fabulous day and always the highlight of the summer.

Oh mamma, it was an early contender, but one of my favourite bakes of the year; my Baked Guinness Cheesecake turned more than a few heads, and rightly so!

Recipe: Baked Guinness Cheesecake

7 THINGS I LOVED MOST ABOUT 2018

I’ve had quite a few rough years lately. I tentatively took my first steps into 2018 with not a great deal of hope in my heart. Sure, there were a couple of rough moments. Friends came and went, but nothing absolutely awful happened. I survived the year reasonably unscathed and achieving most of the modest goals I’d set myself. If 2019 is no more or less dramatic that the last, I’ll be a very happy bunny indeed.

I’ll stop waffling now and rattle off 7 of my highlights from 2018…

I baked and baked and baked my socks off and now I’m fairly confident, I’ve learned a few things and baking is now something I really enjoy, rather than something to be terrified of.

I bit the bullet and joined the gym after procrastinating for, hmm 20 odd years.

We’ve had a great year as Merlin Annual Pass Ambassadors, visited a lot of very different attractions up and down the country and had a lot of fun together doing so.

Days Out: The Cornish Seal Sanctuary in Gweek, Cornwall

I’ve watched my son really grow and thrive this year. He’s starting to shake off his glue ear and he’s got into martial arts. He kicks ass, in more ways than one.

Blog-wise, I got myself organised. I’ve got a plan for each week and I blog Monday to Friday year round. It’s hard work, but I’m loving my blog right now. What do you think?

Friendships have been really extra important this year. There are a number of people who have really pulled me through, been there for me in good times and bad. I’m very lucky to have such especially special friends. I don’t go out much, but when I do, spending time in good company is a massive highlight.

Biting the bullet and just being a bit braver in all kinds of situations has helped 2018 be a good year. From tackling my anxiety to digging deep so I can pipe up and not let the world walk all over me, it’s all be good positive steps in the right direction.

7 THINGS I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2019

Oooh do I have big dreams for 2019? The short answer is no. I try not to think too far ahead as it all gets a bit daunting. But I am looking forward to some things, namely…

Holidays with my boys, I’m hoping we will fit in a couple of family festivals, maybe go glamping again and it wouldn’t be us if we didn’t go down to Devon for a couple of weeks at some point.

Glamping at Inside Out Camping, Keswick

Being a bit more organised. My head has been a chaotic place for too long now. Over the year I’ve been slowly getting myself and my work organised and I really need that to continue.

I’d like to get a bit fitter this year. I’d like to go to the gym a bit more often and work a little less if I can. My work/life balance is shocking really.

I’m looking forward to small things, like my son’s reading is really improving and we are just tackling the first Harry Potter book. This year I imagine our reading will take us off on all kinds of literary adventures.

We are tentatively planning on growing some of our own veg again this year. Last year we grew some carrots, but I would love to be bit like Nigel Slater, just going into the garden and picking a few interesting things for dinner.

Ok so it wasn’t always popular, but I loved the heatwave last summer. It was so nice to be warm and feel the sun on my skin. I loved it and I loved going out in it. So more of that please!

I’m looking forward to seeing where my blog takes me this year. I’ve got a vague plan for seasonal blog posts, but we often go on blogging adventures. I’m excited to see just what happens this year. 2019, bring it on!

Days Out: Autumn at Warwick Castle

7 BLOGGERS TO TAKE PART!

Over to these lovely bloggers who all want to share their highs of 2018 and hopes for 2019 too!

  1. Jade at jaydedanielle.com
  2. Rebecca from viewsfrommygardenbench.com
  3. Colette from goingonanadventure.co.uk
  4. Mackenzie from mackenziejbrook.wordpress.com
  5. Rachel from marvellousmrsp.com
  6. Phill from fourseasonsdad.com
  7. Lisa from hollybobbs.co.uk

FREE Printable: Chinese New Year – Year of the Pig

This year Chinese New Year falls on Tuesday 5th February. Chinese New Year is a glorious, colourful celebration of the New Year, just when I feel the year is at its darkest and gloomiest. This year is the Chinese Year of the Pig.

In Manchester the Chinese New Year celebrations are legendary, with a parade, Chinese crafts exhibition, a big celebration in Albert Square and a fantastic street food market.

2019 is the Chinese Year of the Pig. The Pig is the twelfth of the 12 year cycle of animals which make up the Chinese zodiac in the Chinese calendar. Legend has it that the Pig was the last to arrive when the Jade Emperor called for the great meeting. This is why the pig is the last animal in the zodiac.

To celebrate Chinese New Year and the Year of the Pig I’ve created this colouring sheet for children, or indeed adults. It’s a simple sheet which you can print out on A4 paper. All you need are some felt tips or colouring pencils and it should keep the kids entertained for a little while. If you want to extend the fun, you could also try making a Chinese drum, or some traditional red envelopes for Chinese New Year.Chinese New Year Year of the Pig PrintableClick here to download your FREE Chinese New Year printable!

It’s pretty cute isn’t it? It’s A4 sized, so just print off however many you need. Give the kids a million coloured pencils or felt tips and let them go wild with them. Adults who enjoy colouring in might also like to get in on the action too.

I’d love to know what you’ll be doing to celebrate Chinese New Year, let me know in the comment box below. Gong hei fat choy!

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FREE Printable: Chinese New Year - Year of the Pig

FREE Printable: 2019 New Year Colouring Sheet

That’s it. Christmas is pretty much done and dusted and the next big date in our diary is New Year. After all the fun and frivolity of Christmas, who really has the time and energy to get out a load of glitter and glue and get crafting with the kids? Not me, that’s for sure. I’ve created a cute little printable for New Year which I’ve made available for you to download and use for free.

New Year is usually a time for parties. We often get together with friends and their families over the New Year period, the kids love to sit and colour for hours. Here’s a sweet printable which they can colour in to welcome in 2019!

Free Printable: 2019 New Year Colouring Sheet

Download your free 2019 colouring sheet here!

It’s pretty cute isn’t it? It’s A4 sized, so just print off however many you need. Give the kids a million coloured pencils or felt tips and let them go wild with them. Adults who enjoy colouring in might also like to get in on the action too.

Our New Year celebrations are usually fairly low key. We might have an early dinner out with friends somewhere and then off home for snacks and family snuggles in front of the TV before the boy goes off to bed. Sometimes I might do some work while it’s quiet.

The fireworks at midnight usually wake my son up, so he will usually get up and watch them out of the window with us for ten minutes before he goes back to bed.

New Years Day usually involves us all going on a long walk somewhere with the dog and a roast dinner at home. We have a small extended family and our friends are usually busy, so we tend to do our own thing. What are your family traditions at New Year?

If you enjoyed this, you might also like to try –

Free Printable 2019 New Year Colouring Sheet

Giveaway! Win a Pass The Pigs Game

You’ll be snorting with laughter if you play with these piggy games for Christmas.  The original party animals, Pass the Pigs, use hilarious pigs for dice. Will you roll a sider or start makin’ bacon? Having fun with friends, on the road entertainment, or just chilling out – the game is on for every pig in the parlour!

Fantastic fun for the whole family, Pass the Pigs is so easy to play. Simply throw the 2 piggies up in the air and see how they land. Compare the pigs landing positions with your scorecard and earn points, the first to 100 wins.

Pass the Pigs comes in a handy travel case, pop into your bag and you are ready for a game anytime, so if you are traveling to see family it’s the perfect entertainment on the go.

Win a Pass The Pigs Game

Pass the Pigs 

Hours of fun are guaranteed with this exciting game. Perfect for taking on the road, the Pass the Pigs game comes in a handy travel case, so there’s never a dull moment to be had!

Pass the Pigs is a game of skill for 2-6 players, it comes with a handy carry case, 2 pencils, 2 pigs and a pocket-sized score card. Suitable for ages 3+ and available for £9.99 rrp.

Find out more about Pass the Pigs by visiting their website!

WIN a PASS THE PIGS game

To be in with a chance to win both the Pass the Pigs game, simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only aged (18) and over.
2. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
3. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget above, complete any mandatory entries and any optional entries you would like.
4. The winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.
5. The winner will be sent a Pass The Pigs game.
6. The closing date for entries is 11.59pm GMT on 4th February 2019.
7. The winner will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date.
8. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
9. The winners name will be available on request
10. Address details will not be shared with anyone.
11. Entry to this giveaway confirms that participants have read, understood and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.
12. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this giveaway.

The Ultimate Review Round up of Merlin Attractions in the UK

If you’ve got a Merlin Annual Pass, you might have some favourite places to visit with it. A lot of passholders tend to visit the same two or three attractions, but it’s good to branch out a bit if you get the chance. This year we have been Merlin Annual Pass Ambassadors and we’ve made a conscious effort to get out and about a bit more, using our passes on holidays and weekends away to get the most out of them.

The Ultimate Review Round up of Merlin Attractions in the UK

There are (I think) 32 UK attractions you can gain entry to with a Merlin Annual Pass. Whilst we’ve not managed to visit them all, we’ve had a lot of fun trying. Below is a list of all the (current) Merlin Attractions in the UK along with links to a write up of a visit there, either by myself or another blogger. It’s a cracking to do list if you’ve got a Merlin Annual Pass. How many have you visited?

The Ultimate Review Round up of Merlin Attractions in the UK

Alton Towers Resort
Bear Grylls Adventure – the newest and most adventurous attraction!
Blackpool Tower – Our review back in 2016.
Blackpool Tower Circus – We loved this, definitely worth seeing if you’re visiting.
Blackpool Tower Dungeon
Chessington World of Adventures Resort
Edinburgh Dungeon
JURASSIC Skyline – We visited on a cloudy day, but loved it all the same.
LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Birmingham – The newest LEGOLAND is a treat!
LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Manchester – Our own favourite LEGOLAND!
LEGOLAND Windsor 
London Dungeon
London Eye
Madame Tussauds Blackpool – See all your favourite famous faces!
Madame Tussauds London
National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham – Worth a visit to the National Centre.
SEA LIFE Blackpool – Plus Behind the Scenes Tour!
SEA LIFE Bray
SEA LIFE Brighton
SEA LIFE Great Yarmouth
SEA LIFE Loch Lomond
SEA LIFE London
SEA LIFE Manchester – Lots to see and do under the sea!
SEA LIFE Sanctuary Hunstanton
SEA LIFE Scarborough
Seal Sanctuary Gweek – This is a real treat for Seal fans!
Shrek’s Adventure!
Thorpe Park Resort
Warwick Castle – Seriously good fun for castle enthusiasts!
Warwick Castle Dungeon
Weymouth SEA LIFE Adventure Park – A very different SEA LIFE experience.
York Dungeon

What’s your favourite Merlin Attraction?

The Ultimate Review Round up of Merlin Attractions in the UK

Homemade Gifts: Fruit and Nutty Buttons

Homemade treats make for really lovely gifts at Christmas. These Fruit and Nutty Buttons are really fun to make and delicious too.

Homemade Gifts: Fruit and Nutty Buttons

I’ve been making variations of these chocolate buttons since I found a silicone mold in a charity shop for £1 earlier in the year. I’ve made these a bunch of times with my son, they couldn’t be more simple. Melt some chocolate, pour it in the mold and decorate however you want.

As it’s Christmas I wanted to use some nuts in these buttons, so I made a batch of candied walnuts. They’re super easy and so delicious, we nearly ate the whole batch before we got chance to add them to the buttons.

Homemade Gifts: Fruit and Nutty Buttons

Candied Walnuts

Ingredients:

200g walnuts
6 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
1 egg white
splash of water

Homemade Gifts: Fruit and Nutty Buttons

How to make your candied walnuts:

Pre-heat your oven to 120° and put some baking parchment on a baking tray. In a bowl, whisk your egg white with a splash of water. In a different bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon until it’s well combined.

Using a fork, dip each walnut in the egg white and then toss is in the sugar until it’s covered. Place the walnuts on the baking tray. Once all the walnuts are covered, put the tray in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or so. Make sure you turn the walnuts every 15 minutes so they cook evenly. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Fruit and Nutty Buttons

Ingredients:
250g of milk chocolate
A bag of mixed fruit and nuts
Candied walnuts
Small bag of white chocolate buttons

Homemade Gifts: Fruit and Nutty Buttons

You will need:
A saucepan, a glass bowl which will sit in the pan, but so it doesn’t touch the bottom; a metal spoon, silicone baking molds.

How to make your fruit and nutty buttons:
Boil some water and pour the water into your pan so it’s about 3cm deep. Carefully place the glass bowl in the pan making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. This is called a bain marie.

Break your chocolate up into small pieces and put it in the glass bowl. The water in the pan needs to be at a gentle simmer, not bubbling and boiling. Stir the chocolate until it is melted.

Once the chocolate is melted, with a spoon scoop out some melted chocolate into each of the molds. Try and put an equal amount in each. Gently shake the silicone tray so the chocolate settles.

Homemade Gifts: Fruit and Nutty Buttons

Melt about half of your white chocolate buttons for drizzling. Take your fruit and nuts and decorate the buttons however you want. I did four different kinds –

  • Candied walnuts drizzled with white chocolate
  • Pecan nuts, dried cranberries and sultanas
  • Just candied walnuts
  • Plain white chocolate buttons

Leave them to cool for at least two hours. If you need them to set a bit faster you can pop them in the fridge. Once they’re set you can put them in little cellophane bags and decorate with ribbons.

They’re really delicious and the addition of fruit and nuts turns them from a fun chocolate treat into something a little more grown up. They’re such a lovely gift to give and receive, and really great to make with kids too.

Homemade Gifts: Fruit and Nutty Buttons

Christmas Crafts: How to make Pretty Paper Baubles

It’s the week before Christmas and I’ve got a million things to do. One of them is to plan some things for me and the boy to do on Friday. We have a whole day to ourselves before the madness begins, and he’s already requested crafts and baking. Those I can do. I’ve been wanting to try to make some paper baubles for a few weeks, I finally had the chance this morning.

These paper baubles are so simple to do, but they look pretty smart and I’m sure they cutting and sticking will appeal to my son. Paper bauble making will definitely be on our agenda for Friday.

Christmas Crafts: How to make Pretty Paper Baubles

How to make Pretty Paper Baubles

You will need:

Coloured or patterned paper
A glass
A pencil
Scissors
A glue stick
A length of ribbon

How to make Pretty Paper Baubles:

You’ll need coloured paper, I used plain red paper and a patterned red paper which I thought would work well together. On your coloured paper, draw around the rim of the glass to make a circle. You’ll need at least 8 circles to make your bauble.

Cut your circles out and fold them in half. If you’re using patterned paper, the pattern needs to be in the inside of the fold.

Christmas Crafts: How to make Pretty Paper Baubles

Using the glue stick, glue the folded halves together; if you’re using plain and patterned paper, alternate them. Make sure your circles are well stuck together, you might want to press them under a heavy book for half an hour to make sure they’re firmly glued together. I found it best to make two halves of the bauble before putting the ribbon on.

To fix the ribbon in place, give the inside half of one side of your bauble a really good rub with the glue stick. Lay your ribbon in place and having given the other half of the bauble a good rub with the glue stick, press the two sides together. Your bauble is complete and ready for hanging up on the tree.

It’s as simple as that!

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How to make Pretty Paper Baubles

Children’s Book Review: The Element in the Room

The Element in the Room by Mike Barfield is a fully illustrated and fun guide to the chemical elements and is jam-packed with mind-blowing facts!

Children's Book Review: The Element in the Room

For reasons I still don’t quite fully understand, I never really did much chemistry at school. I was able to swap my GCSE options so I did drama instead of science. I don’t feel that choice has hindered me, but when it comes to helping with homework, I find myself sneaking off to the loo to google things a bit more than is proper. The Element in the Room is just the kind of book we need. It is as advertised – packed full of facts.

The Element in the Room is aimed at 7-11 year olds and is written in such a way that even scientifically dense me can understand. It even has a helpful glossary at the back, just in case I get extra stuck. For my science mad 8 year old, this is a great book all about the Periodic Table of Elements.

Children's Book Review: The Element in the Room

It’s got colourful illustrations by Lauren Humphrey, slightly larger than bite-size facts and even a few experiments to try. There are even some comic style pages featuring scientific sleuth Sherlock Ohms as he investigates the elements.

This funny and fascinating book is written by Mike Barfield, a comic writer; so it’s as funny as it is factual. It’s a real treat to find a book on the Periodic Table which is so accessible and fun to read. If you’ve got an aspiring scientist, The Element in the Room is a great book to buy them. It might even help me learn something about science!

The Element in the Room by Mike Barfield costs £14.99. It’s published by Laurence King and it is available from a wide range of bookshops including Amazon.

For details of more children’s books published by Laurence King, visit their website.

Disclosure: We were sent a copy of The Element in the Room for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Days Out: The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

Getting out of the city and out into the countryside for the weekend is an all to rare thing. But this year we’ve managed two jaunts to the Lake District; the first to Keswick for a spot of glamping and the second to Coniston. During our visit to Coniston, we took some time to explore the southern lakes a little more. My son is a steam train enthusiast, so we visited the The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway and we loved it so much, we went back again the next day!

As a child I spent an awful lot of time in the southern Lake District. My Nan had a caravan there and my Uncle liked to fish; so we would spend lots of our school holidays going on day trips and long walks. I remember my time there very fondly, especially our annual visits to The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway, so it was great to share that with my son.

Days Out: The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

On arrival at Haverthwaite Station, it felt like nothing at all had changed in 30 years. Of course it had, whilst original features abound, there are the kind of modern conveniences that people expect; like clean modern toilets, a nice cafe and a gift shop.

Most visitors arrive and park at Haverthwaite Station which is near Ulverston and really easy to find. The steam trains run regularly, but if you find you’ve just missed one and you’ve got to wait for the next one, the cafe is very decent and you can always have a mooch around the gift shop. The station itself is really pretty to explore and there’s a play area for little ones too.

Days Out: The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

On the day we visited, Haverthwaite Station was playing host to The Owl Sanctuary. There were a selection of owls and a few handlers talking to the visitors about them. My son was lucky enough to hold a tiny one. He adores owls, so he was in his element.

Days Out: The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

Soon our steam train rolled into the station and it was all aboard for our journey to Lakeside at Windermere. We clambered aboard ‘Repulse’ and got comfortable in the original carriages. The journey itself isn’t an especially long one and takes around 20 minutes; but it takes you through beautiful countryside, pauses in Newby Bridge, then through some woodland and eventually to the edge of Lake Windermere.

Most people get off here and either go on to explore the aquarium, or go on to get the steam boat across Windermere. We stayed on the train and returned to Haverthwaite Station.

Days Out: The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

Periodically, The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway have special events and special days. The day after our first visit was one of these special days. As it was sort of on our way home, we returned to do the whole thing all over again, but with a few child friendly activities, dressing up and sing songs. This was the icing on the cake for my son and our two visits to the railway have really cemented his love for it. I know that come spring, we’ll be back.

I have very fond memories of going on The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway when I was a child, and now my son does too. It really is a brilliant attraction, made better by having things to see and do at either end. It really was the highlight of a very brilliant weekend in the lakes.

For more information about The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway, visit their website.

Note: we paid for our tickets in full, I’ve just written about it because we loved it!