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Member since: 05.11.2005

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    • More +
      11.03.2012 14:41
      Very helpful



      A brilliant Italian restaurant well worth a visit!

      I live four doors away from this Italian restaurant; needless to say we have frequented it often since it opened early last year. The restaurant has been built onto the side of a pub which has been there for a number of years. We never frequent the pub (it has been known to attract trouble over the years) but we've been to the restaurant so often that we are on first names terms with all the staff! The pub and restaurant are separately owned/run and once inside Amaretto you wouldn't know where you are next door to!

      I love Italian food and this restaurant has quickly become my favourite place to eat (even better in the fact that it's very easy walking distance from my house!). We first visited after hearing how lovely it is through word of mouth, and now we are almost addicted to visiting! We all love this restaurant and the staff make us feel extremely welcome. I recommend this to restaurant to all my family and friends who haven't tried it yet. I've not heard anyone say a bad word against it and it has quickly gained a great reputation.

      ~ Menu ~
      The menu offers a large selection of freshly cooked Italian food at reasonable prices.

      ~ Starters ~

      There is a large selection of hot and cold starters ranging in price from £2.25 (soup of the day) to £5.95 (King Prawns). Between us, we have had quite a range of the starters from the menu and have yet to be disappointed. I often try the soup of the day which is always beautiful (even flavours I wouldn't usually go for). Their minestrone soup is also amazing and probably among the best I've tasted (it's my favourite soup and I've tried it in lots of Italian restaurants over the years.) As we are regulars they sometimes give us a complimentary garlic and cheese pizza before our starters arrive. (They are only priced at £2.50 on the menu so this won't cost them much, but the gesture is lovely, and it always makes us feel even more welcome!)

      ~ Main Course ~

      There is a wide variety of main dishes and I'm sure pretty much anyone could find something to suit their taste. There's a large selection of pizza's (ranging in price from £4.85 for a margherita to £6.45 for a seafood pizza, with most being priced at £5.85). The pizza's always look and taste lovely. If you don't finish it they will happily give you a box to take it away.

      There is also a good selection of pasta dishes (all served as a choice of penne, tagliatelle or spaghetti) and are priced at £5.85 (apart from the seafood pasta which is £6.45). They also do pasta al forno (lasagne, cannelloni and penne al forno). All the pasta dishes I've had have been really nice. Usually when I go to an Italian I opt for Bolognese, I've had this a couple of times at Amaretto, it's nice but it's not the nicest I've ever tasted. I prefer some of their other pasta dishes (particularly the penne al forno!).

      There is a small selection of risotto (£6.95-£8.95). I've personally never had risotto here but my sister has a few times and she always says they are lovely, and they are always well presented.
      There is also a selection of chicken (£7.95), fish (£10.95-£13.95) and steak dishes (£11.95-£16.95). The chicken is always beautiful and well presented. I don't think any of our party have ever had fish. The steaks are usually really nice too. On a couple of occasions they haven't been cooked quite right (medium instead of well done) and both times they brought out a fresh steak cooked correctly.
      All the dishes are very well presented, cooked well and are delicious. The presentation differs slightly depending on the chef but they always look and taste lovely.

      ~ Deserts ~

      Deserts are priced between £2.90 and £3.25 and there is a good selection. They sometimes have homemade cakes which are not on the menu. Deserts include ice cream, banana split, chocolate cake, home made tiramisu and children's shaped ice cream (in a plastic toy, egg man or a penguin - which my niece enjoys!)

      ~ Children's Corner ~

      There is a small selection of children's dishes on the main menu. My 6 year old niece likes choosing from here. She sometimes choose something off the main menu and they give hera smaller portion.
      When the group of 8 of us go (5 adults, 3 children) it usually costs us around the £100 mark and we all have a 3 course meal and drinks. The price of the bill varies depending on how many drinks we have (I think, like most places, they make most of their money on the drinks - though they are averagely priced for Ashington).

      ~ Specials ~

      On a lunch time 12noon-3pm Monday-Saturday you can get 3 courses for £4.95. You get a choice of 2 starters (soup of the day or potato skins), the main can be any pizza or pasta (except sea food) and the desert is a choice between ice cream or coffee. I love the lunch time special as I think it's great value for money and the portions are still a good size.

      On an evening (Monday-Thursday 5pm-7pm) if you order two of the three course specials (£14.95) you get a free bottle of wine. There is a little more choice than the lunch time special as you can have some of the meat dishes. I think this is a good deal as a couple could have a 3 course meal each and a bottle of wine for £30.

      They do traditional English Sunday lunches for £4.95. We've been for this once and it was really nice.

      ~ Staff ~

      All of the staff are lovely, are good at their jobs and make everyone feel welcome. They like to have a chat with us and the younger male waiters are flirty with me (and my female friends). They always make a fuss of the children, especially my niece who has flashing twinkle toe shoes :) and the waiters joke about wanting to swap shoes with her. The staff always give the children a lolly after we've paid the bill (I sometimes get one too!).

      ~ Ambience ~

      The atmosphere and décor is lovely and it's easy to forget your true location (a socially deprived town) and get lost in an Italian world for a while.

      ~ Service ~

      Service is usually really good but can sometimes be a little slow. However, it is never so slow to cause us a problem (I don't like feeling rushed when I am dining out anyway) and the friendliness of the staff easily make up for service being slower at busier times.

      ~ Location ~

      Amaretto is located near the centre of Ashington and has a small car park which it shares with the pub next door. This can get extremely busy and people often have to park in our street (often annoyingly in front of our garage!). There is a bus stop outside the restaurant so it is easy to access on public transport from neighbouring towns.

      158 Woodhorn Rd
      Ashington NE63 9EN
      01670 810 810

      www.amarettoashington.com - check out their recently launched website for more details and the full menu. I've taken so many photos when we've been here that they asked us for some to add to the photo gallery of their website :)

      ~ Parties and making a booking ~

      Amaretto happily accept large bookings for parties etc and this is simple to do. They do birthdays, weddings and funerals. We've been a number of times (as a group of 8) for birthdays and they sing to the birthday person if requested. We have also had food here after a funeral recently (we catered for 35) and this was a hot and cold buffet. They charged £6.95 per head and the food was beautiful.

      We booked a table for 8 on the night of my graduation and I took a balloon in with me. After the meal the waiters had me standing on a chair making a 'speech' (it's the first time I've actually EVER been speechless!) before giving me a complimentary shot of flamin' sambuca!

      My family and I went to Amaretto for our Christmas dinner and this was a fantastic experience! The food was beautiful and prices extremely reasonable for Christmas Day. One of the waiters dressed as Santa and all the children received a gift bag of sweets. As we were at the second sitting and there was git bags left over, our children got an extra gift bag each, and my sister, brother-in-law and I also received one each :-)

      ~ Overall Experience ~

      As you can probably tell I adore this restaurant. The food is fantastic, the prices reasonable, the staff lovely and the décor friendly and warm. I would thoroughly recommend this restaurant for a family meal out, a night out with friends or a romantic meal for two - whatever the occasion you are sure to have a lovely meal out at Amaretto. The main disadvantage is that I live so close it's beginning to cost us a small fortune! The smell of the food cooking when we get our car and go into the house is just too tempting! Extra exercise and more hours at work needed!! All in all I'd thoroughly recommend this restaurant!

      Thanks for reading! bluejules


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      • Tesco Gummy Mix / Sweets / 85 Readings / 83 Ratings
        More +
        04.03.2012 11:17
        Very helpful



        Nice jelly sweets

        On Christmas Day we went to a local restaurant for our Christmas Dinner. After our main course one of the waiters, dressed as Santa, gave all the children a gift bag from his sack. As we are regulars at the restaurant, our children (my nephews and niece) got an extra one before we left, and my sister, brother-in-law and I also got one each! Inside my gift bag was a selection of sweets, one of which was a 100g bag of Tesco Gummy Mix. I got lots of sweets for Christmas and am still slowly working my way through them. I took my bag of Gummy Mix to work with me one day to help pass the time (I'm a weekend receptionist in a car dealership).

        The packet is bright and colourful and looks appealing to children. The packet has a cartoon boy on the front, fishing, with a dog beside him and a cola bottle on the floor next to him. Behind the boy, the packet is see-through and you can see the jellies inside the bag before you tuck in. I think this would be useful for helping to decide on which sweets you want to buy when in the shop but it served little purpose for me personally. The front of the bag also has the nutritional information (1/4 of a bag contains 11g of sugar which is 12% of your daily amount - therefore these should be eaten in moderation - as should all sweets!)

        The packet was easy to open by ripping one of the corners, although this led to the packet splitting so I had to eat the sweets out of the bag sideways on. I think this might have been due to my eagerness to get into the packet rather than a fault with the bag itself though.

        There was a good selection of jelly sweets in the bag and they initially reminded of Haribo Starmix (with less choice). The jellies all smell the same; not a distinctive smell but they smell sweet. The bag I have contains a variety of sweets: jelly/foam hearts, jelly rings (various colours/flavours), jelly teddies (various colours/flavours) and cola bottles.

        All of the sweets taste fruity apart from the cola bottles, which have a cola flavour (just enough flavour, not too strong). The jelly hearts tasted like strawberry and the orange rings and teddies tasted like orange. All of the other jellies just have a general fruity taste (to me) although they are not identical. The sweets are full of flavour and I was satisfied after eating just one or two (until 5 minutes later when I ate some more, but I think that was because they were sat in front of me on my desk).

        The jellies are quite firm and chewy. They are chewier than I would expect from a jelly sweet and after eating 3 or 4 my jaw began to ache. The next couple I had, I held them in mouth for a little while and they softened as they warmed up, but they were still chewier than I would expect from a jelly. This does mean they last longer in your mouth, so you get to enjoy the full flavour and it also means that I didn't eat too many in one sitting (though I did eat the whole bag in a day!)

        Although, initially full of flavour when eating them, I did find that 10 minutes later they left a slight aftertaste and made me a little thirsty. I think the thirst came from me wanting to remove the aftertaste. It's not bad and I have found that other jellies do this to me sometimes too.

        I offered some of the jellies to some of the people I work with (so I didn't have to eat all the calories myself) and they both commented that they are really fruity and nice.
        Tesco Gummy Mix are available from (you guessed it!) Tesco, and are currently 40p each or 3 for £1, which I think is good value for money.

        Overall, I enjoyed eating these jellies although I wouldn't be in a hurry to buy them again. They are full of flavour and chewy and would make a nice occasional treat. Personally I think I would probably go for Haribo Starmix over these if I wanted some jellies but these do make a suitable replacement.


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      • More +
        18.02.2012 18:19
        Very helpful



        I love it! Suitable for everyday and holiday use and adds a bit of sparkle!

        I love butterflies and have a variety of clothes and accessories with them on. For Christmas, my parents bought me this lovely handbag, which lots of people have commented on how nice it is. My mam is a fan of pavers and often gets shows from there. I've had a couple of pairs of shoes from Pavers and always find them to be good quality and last well.

        I like to have a handbag that I can just use everyday until it wears out to ensure that I always have everything I need in it (if I keep changing bags you can guarantee that I will forget to transfer something I need!) - and this one does the job perfectly. I also need a bag with a long enough handle that I can quickly throw it onto my shoulder, without then being too long, so that the bag sits comfortably under my arm. Again, this does the jobs just right!

        Mine is grey in colour with 4 butterflies on the front (purple, black, silver and pink). There is also a cut out patterned design around the butterflies and as they aren't completely attached, it looks like the butterflies have just landed on my handbag (which looks pretty).

        I need a handbag which can fit a lot in without being too big, as I do need to be able to carry it, and this one is an ideal size for me.

        The bag has three large compartments inside (the middle of which is zipped). There are also 2 small zipped compartments (one on the inside, and one on the back on the outside). Inside there is also a place to put your phone and perhaps keys, but these 2 'pockets' are not zipped.

        The lining feels strong and so far has been very durable. When I buy a cheap handbag, sometimes they only last a few weeks before they fall apart, due to the amount of stuff I carry round in it - but so far this is exactly as it was when I started using it 2 months ago. I've used it everyday and sometimes carry a bottle of water and lunch in it too.

        I do carry a lot of things around in my bag, particularly when I'm at work or doing my voluntary work with a speech and language therapy team. Due to this it is often heavy when I'm carrying it around, but so far it's as good as new!

        The outside of the bag feels a bit like leather and is soft. The grey colour is nice, as it goes with lots of different outfits, and the butterflies add a little extra colour.

        The compartments allow me to organise the contents of my bag so I can (usually) find whatever it is I am looking for quite quickly. (I sometimes find that things easily get lost inside large bags, but due to the compartment down the middle of the bag, it is much easier to find things in one of the 3 main parts.)

        Sometimes I do overfill it slightly and have difficulty fastening the zip, however, this doesn't happen often, as I know how much is a suitable amount to carry in it.

        When I first got it the outer zip wasn't great (didn't always fasten) and we thought we were going to have to take it back. My dad said he thought it just needed to be 'worn in' and he was right; the only time I have a problem with the zip now is when I overfill it.

        I've accidentally not put the lid on my bottle of water a couple of times before putting it in my bag, and whilst everything in the bag gets wet, the outside stays dry (and so my clothes haven't then got wet). I think this is good as with other handbags I have ended up getting my clothes wet too when this happens. (However, it does mean I don't notice until I go into my bag again).

        I think bag is ideal for everyday use or holidays, as well as meals out or day trips. It is perfect for what I need and lots of people have complimented me on my 'pretty bag'.

        The RRP for this bag is £49.99 and it is currently available in the sale on Pavers official website www.shoe-shop.com for £17.99 - which I think is a bargain! They only have it in black, but it looks just as nice as the one I have. I am tempted to order one in black for when this one does wear out, or just in case I decide I fancy a change!

        Height - 28cm
        Width - 42 cm
        Depth - 15cm
        Handle length - 52cm


        * Good size - lots of compartments to easily keep things
        * Handles are a good length
        * Butterflies add lovely detail
        * Good quality
        * Fits lots of things in
        * Good value for money
        * Style suitable for a range of uses


        * Zip can be occasionally temperamental
        * Easy to put lots of things in leading to a heavy bag

        If you haven't already guessed.. I love this bag and would definitely recommend it! Thanks for reading!


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        • Vaniqa / Hair Removal / 79 Readings / 74 Ratings
          More +
          11.02.2012 11:49
          Very helpful



          Worth a try!

          When I was 18 I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). At the time my main symptom (and the one which led to me visiting the GP) was that my periods had become increasingly irregular to the point that they'd not made an appearance for more than 6 months (I knew with certainty that I was not pregnant). Two pregnancy tests, a blood test and an Ultra Sound scan later and I was diagnosed with having PCOS. When I was first diagnosed, I didn't like talking about it and struggled to tell people.

          However, I have now accepted that it is part of who I am and I am learning to live with it much better.
          Due to the nature of this product I have introduced my reasons for needing to use it therefore it is quite a long review. I have split it into sections, so if you already have hirsitism and want to skip straight to the part about the actual cream and its effects then it is easy to do.

          ~ Hirsutism ~

          Over the last few years I have more of the symptoms of the syndrome and the one I struggle with most it hirsutism. Hirsutism is the term used for excess facial and body hair growth in women. It refers to a male pattern of hair i.e. over the moustache and beard areas, or more hair growth than usual on the arms and legs. My unwanted facial hair is the most problematic. Hirsutism is rarely caused by anything serious but it is a good idea to find out what is causing it in order to access the most appropriate action. I hope this review helps at least one person who is living with unwanted facial hair, to do something about it.
          I've always had fairly dark hairs on my upper lip and have been having this waxed since I was about 14 years old. As I have dark hair and quite fair skin, facial hair is quite noticeable on me. Over the last few years I have noticed an increasing amount of facial hair (on the areas you'd expect a man to have a beard). I started having my chin waxed when I went for my lip waxing about 2 years ago. My GP prescribed Vaniqa to help with my facial hirsutism in July last year.

          ~ My Hair Removal Regime ~

          There are lots of possible options to minimise facial hair and what suits one woman, won't suit another. I've tried waxing, plucking, hair removal creams and threading. My preferred method is threading, but I don't know anyone particularly local that does it so I usually use a combination of waxing and plucking (which isn't the best I have to say.) Hopefully one day I will invest in laser treatment (I'm sure it will be cheaper in the long term as I currently have to get waxed (professionally) every 3 weeks).

          Removing my facial hair is an important part of my daily beauty regime and has been for the last 2-3 years. Not a day goes by when I don't check for and remove (via tweezing) the darker hairs. I know it's a vicious cycle as the more I remove them the quicker they seem to grow back.

          Unless you have excess facial hair you may not understand how it feels. It is much more than a cosmetic issue. It really effects me emotionally too. Female facial hair is often a taboo subject and is not something which is really talked about. People make jokes about females having a beard and this upsets me, as without my daily hair removal that's what I would have.

          Some days it really gets me down and I'd be happiest just staying indoors so I don't have to worry whether anyone can see the hairs on my face. It makes me feel unfeminine and quite low at times. It doesn't stop me from doing anything, but it is something I am always aware of. Most of the time though, I do just get on with it and hope that no one notices. I know I scrutinise it very closely and that it will always be more noticeable to me than to anyone else. I'm never completely hair free (even after waxing because I have to pluck in between and some of the hairs are too short when I get waxed).

          ~ Discussing Hirsutism with my GP ~

          In July I had an appointment with my GP and while I was there I mentioned that I was becoming increasingly fed up with my unwanted facial hair. She suggested I try Vaniqa and gave me a prescription straight away. She told me that some women have a skin reaction when using it and she warned that if this happened I wouldn't be able to continue using it. She told me that I might not get a reaction but that it might not work as it doesn't work for everyone. She told me that it could take up to 4-8 weeks (longer in some cases) before I would notice a change. I agreed that I would like to try it and subsequently have had 2 further prescriptions of it. Although it is not a cure, or a perfect solution, the results are satisfying.

          ~ The Cream ~

          Vaniqa (eflornithine) is a cream which is applied to the area of unwanted facial hair. Eflornithine acts beneath the skin to block the enzyme required for growth at the hair root. Eflornithine is licensed in the UK for the treatment of facial hirsutism in women. It is said to slow hair growth in 70% of women. It needs to be applied twice daily (with a minimum of 8 hours between applications.) and you need to wait 10 minutes before applying make-up.

          I use a small amount of cream (the size of a 5p piece) and this does all the unwanted hair on my face (my 'beard' (jaw line/cheek and chin/neck area) and my 'moustache'). One tube lasts almost 3 months when applying this amount twice daily.

          ~ Ease of Use ~

          The cream is non-sticky and non-scented and is extremely easy to use. It rubs in well and soaks in fairly easily. However, if not rubbed in properly it does leave a little bit of white residue which doesn't really rub in all that well, once dry.

          The tube is a manageable size (60g) and it is easy to squeeze the cream out of the tube. The tube is a good size for travelling as it's less than 100ml therefore it can be taken in hand luggage on aeroplanes.

          Unfortunately I stopped using the cream in December as I began feeling excessively emotional and as though I needed to eat all the time (the same way I used to feel when taking the pill). Within a week of stopping using the cream I felt like myself again. I have noticed that the hair is growing more slowly than it was before I started using the cream, and I virtually have no hair on my jaw line anymore. I still have quite a hairy chin and neck area but this is not as bad as it was, as the growth is slower.

          Even though I am not currently using the cream, I would still recommend it. It won't necessarily have the same side effects for you, as many women take the pill without problems (but not me). Also, I am still glad I used it for 4 months as it has made a difference to the growth, 2 months after stopping using it.

          ~ How did it fit in with my beauty regime? ~

          It fitted in quite easily and I only forgot to apply it a couple of times (it was really important to me that I use it properly to ensure that I get the best possible results).

          Each morning, after my shower, I cleansed my face, waited 5 minutes then applied the cream. I then got dressed, and applied my make-up (leaving enough time for the cream to dry in before covering it in make-up).

          Before bed, I cleansed my face then got ready for bed (taking of my clothes and jewellery and putting on my pj's etc) - leaving enough time before applying the cream.

          ~ Results ~

          I have definitely noticed a difference in the speed of growth of my facial hair. Although facial hair is still present, there seems to be less of it at any one time and it seems to be growing back more slowly. I do still spend time each day, checking the facial hair and usually pluck a hair or two out but if I miss a day it's much less noticeable than before. Also, the time I spend plucking is less than it was.

          I think it was probably about 2 months before I noticed a difference but there's definitely slower growth (particularly on my cheeks/jaw). It seems to be taking longer to have the same effect on my chin and neck but I have noticed an improvement. It doesn't remove the hair - it slows the growth, therefore you do need to be willing to persevere with it as it doesn't work instantly.

          My mam and my sister have both noticed the reduction of hair on my cheeks/jawline. I'm hoping it will have the same effect on my chin in time but I'm happy that it has led to a reduction already. Any reduction in facial hair is a bonus for me. The lady who waxes my face has noticed a difference too.
          Also, I've had 3 periods in 4 months since I started using this cream, and 2 periods since I stopped using it. That's more periods than I usually have in a whole year! I don't know for certain if this is a result of the cream but it would be a big coincidence if it hasn't had any effect, as I never have periods this close together and the cream is the only change I've made in my life in the last few months. If this is a result of the cream, I consider it to be both an advantage and a disadvantage. There are advantages of not needing to suffer with a period every month! However, as I don't know when my next period will arrive and I go months and months without periods it makes me feel like I'm abnormal and sometimes concerns me about what it will mean in terms of the future (if I want to have children etc). I don't mind missing the occasional period (obviously! Who would miss it?!) but I do like the fact that I have had a few periods recently as it makes me feel healthier and reassures me that my body does know what it's doing (at least some of the time!)

          I've tried numerous pills to 'regulate' my periods and to minimise the symptoms of my PCOS but not of them have agreed with me (with some making me feel really unwell). I've also tried herbal solutions (creams and tablets) with little success - making me feel just the same as the pill. I have therefore arrived at the conclusion that my hormones just don't like being messed with. They seem happy to do their own thing even if this is atypical. As soon as I try influence I end up feeling unwell and very low. When my GP first prescribed this cream I was concerned that it might have the same effect on me but being so desperate to minimise my facial hair I decided I had to give it a go. It took longer than the pill to have this effect but unfortunately it still did.

          It is by no means a perfect solution, but I do feel that it is good to use alongside my hair removal regime to help me in my battle with reducing my facial hair. I feel that after I am waxed it takes a day or two longer than it used to before it starts growing back and I am definitely happy with the results. If this is something you think might be suitable for you then I would recommend you speak to your GP and give it a go. You will need to be willing to persevere with it and accept that it isn't going to cure your unwanted facial hair or stop it completely.

          Vaniqa is available on prescription in the UK.

          ~ Advantages ~

          *My facial hair is growing in more slowly (particularly noticeable (to me) on my jawline/cheeks)
          *Reduction in amount of facial hair
          *Easy to use
          *Regulating my periods?

          ~ Disadvantages ~

          *You need to apply it twice a day every day
          *It doesn't stop hair growth completely
          * Waiting 10 minutes before applying make-up
          *Regulating my periods?

          The packaging says that if you stop using the cream, the hair will return to its usual speed of growth, so I was concerned I might need to use this forever. However, as I have mentioned, I have still noticed a difference since I stopped using this.

          My opinion on this cream, is of course very subjective, I haven't counted the hairs on my face at any one time, nor have I timed precisely the time I spend on removing the hairs on my face. However, I now usually only need to remove hair once a day for little more than a minute, rather than two or three times a day for 5 minutes or more. Also, the fact that my mam, sister and beautician have all noticed a reduction in the amount of facial hair I have, shows that it is working for me. There is no quick fix or one size fits all hair removal solution. I would, however, recommend this cream to complement your preferred choice of hair removal to make it that little bit more successful. I'm a little disappointed I had to stop using it but it was still very worthwhile having used it for the time I did. I hope it works for you.

          Thanks for reading!


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          • More +
            05.02.2012 12:16
            Very helpful
            1 Comment



            A good short read

            When I was looking online for a birthday present for my dad last year, this book caught my eye as he likes reading books by James Patterson. However, when I read the synopsis I decided it was much more a book for me, so I decided to treat myself. It was in the sale on the book people website and only cost £3.

            ~ Authors ~

            This book is written by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet. I've noticed that James Patterson often writes with another author, and my dad says he doesn't enjoy the books that have been co-written. This was the first James Patterson book I've read and I enjoyed it, but I've got none of his other work to compare to.

            James Patterson is an American author famous for his thriller novels. He's written a number of series (Alex Cross, Women's murder club) and he's also written some standalone novel, one of which is this book.
            Gabrielle Charbonnet lives in North Carolina and published over 75 books. She has written lots of children books and has written books under a pseudonym, Cate Tiernan. She says that Sunday's at Tiffany's was Patterson's idea but she worked on it with him. She says that not all writer's give co-writers the credit that Patterson does, and she thinks it's 'gutsy and generous'.

            ~ The Plot ~

            The story focuses on Jane Margaux and her imaginary friend Michael. The book is written from both perspectives (which I always enjoy in a book as, if well written, I think it lets you get to know each of the characters better).

            Jane's mother is a busy, powerful woman on Broadway and has very little time to spend with Jane. They have weekly Sunday visits to Tiffany's to admire the jewellery and Jane looks forward to these trips. As Jane is often left to occupy herself she meets handsome, funny, thirty-something Michael. No one else can see Michael and no one else believes he exists beyond Jane's imagination. Jane loves Michael dearly and the talk from morning til night. She is very upset on her 9th birthday when Michael tells Jane he's leaving. He reassures her that the next day she won't even remember he existed so there's no need to get upset. Michael doesn't want to leave Jane but takes comfort in the thought that she won't be upset as she won't remember him. However, Jane never forgets Michael and sees someone she believes looks just like him in her adult life. Could this be Michael? Could they have found each other again?? Will Jane get her happy ever after?

            "Sundays at Tiffany's" is a heart-warming romance about a girl who until now has lived her life on the sidelines, about what it feels like to fall in love, a tale of soulmates."

            ~ My Opinion ~

            When I was a young child I had an imaginary friend called Ali, and he came everywhere with me. I wouldn't eat my tea unless there was a place set for him and whenever I got into trouble it was Ali who'd done it not me! Obviously, I grew out of my imaginary friend but I have fond memories and am still interested in reading novels about imaginary friends. When I saw that's what this book was about I couldn't wait to order it and get started!

            I enjoyed this book, although not as much as I thought I would. I think I had high expectations and although I enjoyed reading this book, I couldn't help thinking 'is that it?' when I got to the end. I think this was mainly due to the short length. The chapters are short so the story moves along really quickly. In some ways I thought this was good as it meant it was boring, and it was easy to pick up and just read a couple of chapters as they were so short. However, I felt it also didn't give much chance for the characters to be fully developed, and I felt just as I was getting into the story, it was finished. However, I did feel like I got to know the characters a bit and I did want things to turn out well for them.
            I read the book quickly as it was so short. My copy is hardback and has large print, which, coupled with the short chapters made for a quick read.

            I think there's something magical about imaginary friends that take me back to my childhood and give me a warm, happy feeling inside. Whilst reading this book, it felt totally plausible that imaginary friends really do exist... (and who's to say they don't??) and for that this book is worth a read.

            Sundays at Tiffany's is different to most romance novels I've read and for this I think it's worth a read. Although it would be put into the romance category I think it has something a little bit different to bring to genre. It might be worth a read even if you don't usually go for romance. It's not the best book I've ever read but I did enjoy it. I don't think it is a book I would be likely to read again, unless I run out of other things to read. It was fast paced and the ending tied everything up nicely.

            Sundays at Tiffany's is available on Amazon from £1.84 (£4.49 for Kindle) - 5th Feb 2011
            Paperback: 320 pages
            Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd (12 Mar 2009)
            Language English
            ISBN-10: 0099514559

            Thanks for reading!


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            • More +
              30.01.2012 19:31
              Very helpful



              A good hand and face wipe with orange scent

              I've recently started working as personal assistant to a young adult with Cerebral Palsy. When we were out shopping in Poundland at the Metro Centre I saw these 'Me to You' Hand and Face wipes. I decided to buy a packet as we were going for a hot chocolate and I thought these would clean messy hands and face better than the napkins you get in cafes. I usually always have wet wipes in my bags for when I am out and about with my nephews and niece but on this occasion I did not.

              I wasn't sure what to expect for £1 as I had never tried these wipes before. After our hot chocolate and cake I wiped our hands and faces, and all traces of food and drink were removed. :-)

              As the packet is largely than those I would usually carry around I decided to add them to my collection of face wipes for when I want to quickly remove make up after a night or just to freshen up.

              The packet is a pretty pink colour with a Tatty Teddy and some flowers on the front. It's the same sort of packaging that you would usually expect to get face wipes in and the re-sealable sticky opening keeps the wipes nice and moist.

              I first opened these in December and I still have a couple left, and they are as moist as when I first opened them. The face wipes are suitable to remove make-up, and this the function I have used them for most.

              The wipes have a pleasant orange fragrance which is not too overpowering. I tend to choose face wipes which have limited scent as if they are too scented they often cause me to sneeze. I like the smell of these wipes and so far they have not caused me to have any sneezing fits! They also contain soothing Aloe Vera. I haven't particularly noticed this, but the wipes do not make my skin feel dry, and they have a fresh and cooling feel to them.

              The wipes are strong and are a similar size to other facial wipes I have used. They are nice and moist, and one wipe suitably does my whole face and neck. I sometimes use them to wipe excess make-up of my fingers too (after I've been applying foundation) and find them to remove it all adequately and leave my fingers smelling orangey fresh!

              The pack contains 80 wipes, which for £1, makes excellent value! They are currently available on amazon for £1.15 (plus postage), which does make them a bit dearer. I think they are still worth this little bit extra though as they do their job well and smell nice. The packaging will also look pretty on your dressing table! These would also be useful for trips out or picnics etc, when you want to freshen your hands but don't have access to water.

              These are not my favourite facial wipes but I am very impressed with them and will certainly buy them again if I see them for £1. As they are 'Me to You' I think these would make a nice gift too - I certainly wouldn't be disappointed if someone gave some of these to me as a gift!

              Thanks for reading!


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              • Review of 2011 / Discussion / 61 Readings / 54 Ratings
                More +
                29.01.2012 13:41
                Very helpful



                What a year!

                I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on my 2011 which was quite a personal rollercoaster! Quite simply; the best and worst year of my life! This has turned into a rather long review, but I hope you enjoy it!

                == January ==

                For the first January of my 4 year Speech and Language Therapy degree, we had no exams. We did have numerous assignments plus a dissertation though, so January still started off the year as pretty stressful!

                I did manage to fit in some time for fun though! I took my cousins 14 year old daughter to see JLS 'Outta this World' tour at the arena in Newcastle and we both had a fantastic night!

                As a student representative for my course I was invited to a talk about Giving Voice, from someone from Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. Giving Voice (as you may already be aware) is a campaign, led by the RCSLT, to raise awareness of the valuable role of Speech and Language Therapists. I really enjoyed this talk and subsequently became very involved in the campaign because Speech and Language Therapy Transforms Lives

                My dad turned 50 at the end of the January so we went out for a family meal at a local Greek restaurant that we'd never tried but heard was lovely. It lived up to the good praise we heard about it and we had a very enjoyable evening. A nice way to end, what was otherwise a very stressful month!

                == February ==

                My Cousin, Claire, turned 30 in February so we went down to London with Claire's sister, Kirsty, for a long weekend to celebrate. We stayed in a little hotel near King's Cross and spent our time exploring and clubbing. Kirsty's boyfriend lives in London and he took us to a different club each night (Tiger Tiger, Aura, and a Cuban bar in Camden - quite a mix!). We also went shopping in Harrods, visited the zoo, went on the London Eye and just generally explored. We had a great time; although I was exhausted when I returned, I had to launch straight back into uni work!

                A large group of us went out in Newcastle in fancy dress for Claire's birthday when we returned. This was another great night, and a welcome break from my dissertation.

                == March ==

                Most of March saw me at home writing up my dissertation. As it was intervention based, I only finished collecting data 4 weeks before the deadline so it was quite a quick turn around and proved to be a very stressful experience!

                One of the 3rd year students organised a flashmob in Newcastle city centre to raise awareness of Giving Voice and Speech and Language Therapy. I went along to support it with my parents (taking photos), Claire, Kirsty and my nephews. The event had a good turn out and it made it into the Evening Chronicle newspaper (regional).

                == April ==

                I finally got rid of my dissertation when I handed it in on 6th April (2 days before deadline!). We had an 'end of dissertation celebration' night out in Newcastle and I stayed over at one of my friends flats to save the £26 fare home. We had a brilliant night and the following morning I went on Metro Radio to promote Giving Voice (no one could tell I was functioning on just 4 hours sleep and it was a successful phonecall) - we got a number more 'likes' on our Support Giving Voice Campaign page on facebook.

                I also attended some training to become a Giving Voice Champion. This was aimed at us taking the campaign forward in our area and also to encourage us to take the lead in contacting our local MPs and councillors. Following this training I wrote to my MP to explain the campaign and to request a meeting to discuss this further.

                I travelled to Leeds for the day with two of friends from university and we attended the RCSLT Student Study Day. This was a really interesting day and I learnt a lot. After the study day we did a little bit of shopping and went for a meal before getting the train back to Newcastle.

                Easter was a nice family occasion. I organised a mini egg hunt for my nephews and niece and then we all went out for a meal at Amaretto (the Italian restaurant that is practically next door to us). I remember watching the Royal Wedding and feeling particularly proud to be British.

                == May ==

                I started my final block placement straight after the Easter holidays. It was a paediatric placement based in Hartlepool (a 50 mile journey from my house). It was the most stressful 6 weeks ever but I learnt a lot and really enjoyed it. I had my own regular caseload of 5 children plus I saw lots of other children for assessments and reviews.

                I went to see Take That at the Stadium of Light with my parents, sister, auntie and cousins and we all had an amazing time!

                == June==

                June saw me sitting my final (ever?!) exams. The Graduation Ball took place on the night of my final exam and it was at Newcastle Race Course. It was such a brilliant way to end the four years of stress that was our course. About 18 (out of 28) girls from my course went and there was a sit down meal, fairground rides, as much candyfloss as we could eat, and a DJ set from Scott Mills.

                The day after Graduation Ball I met my MP (following the letter I wrote to him in April) to discuss Giving Voice and Speech and Language Therapy. It was a very productive meeting and he learnt a lot about what SLTs do (he said previously he knew very little). I was proud that I was able to increase his knowledge and awareness of the profession. I also left the matrix evidence report with him which demonstrates that Speech and Language Therapy saves £765million per year. I was the first Giving Voice champion to have a 1:1 with my MP so RCSLT did a telephone interview with me for the monthly Bulletin, to encourage others to do the same.

                A couple of weeks after my final exam I received an email from my personal tutor informing me that I achieved a 2.1 in my degree and I was absolutely delighted.

                I arranged a stall at a local Street Fair in my home town where we gave out Giving Voice balloons, leaflets and stickers to raise awareness of the campaign. We also had a tombola and raised money for the North East Trust for Aphasia (a charity based at Newcastle University which helps people with Aphasia - communication difficulties following brain injury such as a stroke). We raised lots of awareness and £350 for NETA.

                == July ==

                At the beginning of July my Grandma got taken into a home. We were all upset by this, especially my granddad. It's the last thing my grandma would have wanted but she was being looked after well enough and seemed content. We all visited regularly.

                I went to see 'Scouting for Girls' with my older sister, Joanne at Tynemouth Priory as part of the Mouth of the Tyne Festival. It rained lots and we got soaked through, but the rain stopped in time for SFG coming on stage and we soon dried off and warmed up! It was a really good night, even the rain didn't spoil it too much!

                I organised another stall at another Street Fair in my home town, this time my local MP came along to show his support and I subsequently got a photo and writing printed in our local newspaper. We raised an additional £150, making our total £500.

                July was also the month of my Graduation. I still can't believe that I finally made it to the end of the course! Graduation was a lovely day. The sun shone, and my parents and sister came to the ceremony. My brother-in-law and the children came into Newcastle after the ceremony so I could get photos with them. This was a lovely surprise as I wasn't expecting them! On the evening of my graduation, we all went to Amaretto for a family meal and the waiters made me stand on a chair and make a speech. They then gave me a complimentary shot of flaming sambuca! After the meal we let off a Sky Lantern and I made a wish. It was a truly wonderful day and I felt privileged to have spent the day with my amazing family, as I wouldn't have got through the course if it wasn't for them.

                Every year we have a family get together at my uncle's house, which is a chance for us all to see each other. We usually have a bouncy castle for the children but it rained last year so we couldn't get it out. We were all squashed inside the house but still had a brilliant time seeing everyone!

                I visited one of my uni friends in Durham and stayed overnight at her house. We went out in Durham on the night time, then the next day we went for lunch, then on a river cruise which was lovely.

                == August ==

                I went to Beamish Open Air Museum with my auntie, uncle and Kirsty. It was the first time I had been in years and we had a lovely day.

                For the first time ever, my parents and I went on holiday with my sister, brother-in-law and the children. We went to Tenerife and had a fantastic week. We spent our days by the pool or on the beach and the evenings dining out or taking part in the family quiz. I would love for the 8 of us to go on holiday again but I don't know if it will be this year.

                I started training to be a volunteer mentor with Northumberland Youth Offending service. I really enjoyed the training and learnt a lot. I'm interested in the links between language and behaviour so thought this would be a good area to develop some of my skills.

                == September ==

                On Thursday 1st September I went to visit my Grandma in the home (like I did often) and she seemed to be in a really good mood. It was the happiest I'd seen her in a while, although her communication has been poor for a long time, she smiled at me and held my hand. I showed her a photo that I had on my phone of us from my second Christmas and she said 'lovely baby'. She didn't seem to know that the baby was also the 22 year old sitting in front of her but I didn't mind because it reminded me of the wonderful grandma that was there when I was growing up. I went home in a good mood knowing that she was happy and content.

                Sadly that was the last time I ever saw my Grandma alive as we got a phone call in the early hours the next morning to say she was being taken to hospital with a suspected heart attack, and sadly there wasn't anything they could do. Naturally we were all devastated, but I took comfort in the fact that she was so happy the last time I saw her. As she had Alzheimer's, I feel like I've been grieving for her bit by bit over the last 4 or 5 years, as the grandma I knew as a child was slowly disappearing from us.

                I was booked to go to Amsterdam on the ferry with Claire and Kirsty on the Monday. I didn't know whether I should go or not, but as the funeral wasn't until the Friday, I decided that I should go. It was nice to get away for a couple of days and we had an enjoyable break. It was rather eventful though, on the first night a girl went overboard, so we were naturally shocked about that! Luckily they found her alive. We were a little late in arriving at Amsterdam the next so we had less time there than planned but we still had time to go for lunch and do a little bit of shopping. It rained the whole time we were there though so we got soaked! The sea was rough on the way home that night and we all got sea sick so unfortunately didn't make use of the night life. However, it was nice to get away from home for a couple of days and I enjoyed spending time with Claire and Kirsty :-)

                My sister lives near the 11 mile mark of the Great North Run and my brother-in-law was running, so we set up a stall giving out orange segments, and jelly babies. My sister and I wore our Giving Voice t-shirts to raise awareness and I had a big banner (with the aim of getting it on TV). My parents caught a glimpse of us on TV when they were watching from home, but I don't think that you'd have spotted us if you weren't looking. It rained most of the time we were outside and we got drenched but the smiles on the faces of the runners as we gave them some oranges or jelly babies made it totally worthwhile. It was lovely to see how grateful everyone was that we were standing there with oranges and jelly babies, even people that didn't want any seemed to be motivated by us being there. I always said that I'd run the GNR one day, but as running really isn't my thing I think my forte is giving out oranges instead! I would definitely do it again as it was so rewarding.

                == October ==

                At the beginning of October I went to a local ladies Over 50's club and gave a talk about Giving Voice. I organised a fun quiz and gave out chocolates and pens. I also arranged for a speech and language therapist to come along and play a song on her ukulele, which she had written herself about speech and language therapy. It was an enjoyable afternoon and I got some more publicity in local press.

                On 17th October I travelled to London with my parents ready to meet my MP as part of a Mass Mobilisation on 18th October. We stayed in a lovely hotel in St James' and bumped into David Hasselhoff in the lift and he was lovely! We went to see Shrek the Musical on the Monday night and it was brilliant.

                On the Tuesday I went to meet my MP in the Houses of Parliament and it was one of the most exciting days of my life. Whilst waiting for my MP I saw the Speakers Procession go into the house. It was quite exciting seeing John Bercow in person (after learning about the Bercow review at university). My MP and I sat outside on a patio area looking out onto the Thames and we drank tea whilst discussing the importance of speech and language therapy. It was such a fantastic experience and I felt proud to be part of the profession. More than 250 SLT's travelled to London for mass mobilisation and 90 individual MP lobbies took place.

                On the evening of the Mass Mobilisation, I attended the RCSLT Honours and Giving Voice Awards ceremony where I was awarded 'Outstanding Contribution to Speech and Language Therapy' for my work with Giving Voice. This was the most fantastic night of my life as I got to meet fellow speech and language therapists (some of which I've read their published work), MPs, John Bercow, Gareth Gates and Mark Logue (grandson of Lionel - The Kings Speech Therapist). Everyone was so lovely and I was overwhelmed to be there with some truly amazing people.

                ==November ==

                In November I started some voluntary work with a local speech and language therapy service 2 days a week. I'm really enjoying it and hope the experience I gain here will help me to stand out at interview and lead to me getting a job!

                After arranging to hold a communication chain across Gateshead Millennium Bridge on a mid-November day I was slightly concerned that it would be cold, windy, foggy and raining. I warned everyone to wrap up warm and be prepared for any inclement weather; so I was extremely pleased to see glorious sunshine and not a cloud in the sky. There certainly wasn't any Fog on the Tyne on this occasion! The lack of cloud cover meant there was a bit of a bite to the air but the sun was surprisingly warm for November. We couldn't have wished for nicer weather and it was an enjoyable morning.

                ==December ==

                In October, I started attending a ukulele group at a local pub (following inspiration from my SLT Uke playing friend). We performed in front of a small audience the week before Christmas, playing a few Christmas songs and some of the songs we'd been practising in the group. I'm still not very good yet but I enjoyed being alongside the other people playing their Ukes.

                My parents took me to see Legally Blonde the musical at the Sunderland Empire as a surprise as part of my Christmas present. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it :-)

                Christmas was lovely. My sister, brother-in-law and the children came to our house on Christmas Day (for the first time since my 14-year-old nephews first Christmas) and we went to Amaretto for Christmas lunch with my parents and granddad. It was a lovely atmosphere and one of the waiters dressed up as Santa and gave all the children a gift bag filled with sweets.

                New Year was quiet this year, a family meal in the house on New Years Eve followed by a game of Trivial Pursuit (from our Christmas Crackers!).

                == My Year - Conclusion ==

                I spent a long of time with family and friends in 2011 and finally graduated from university. It makes me sad that my grandma didn't understand that I'd graduated but I know that my grandma (the one that was there when I was growing up) would have been so proud of me and I'd like to think that wherever she is now, she still is proud, not only of me but of my whole family.

                I'm still working part time as a receptionist to earn a bit of money while searching for a speech and language therapy job. I knew 2011 was a busy year, but I didn't realise just quite how much I'd done until I started to write about it! If you made it this far, thanks for reading!

                == Things I'd like to achieve in 2012 ==

                *Get a Speech and Language Therapy job!
                *Learn to play a song on my Ukulele
                *Do something I've never done before

                *~*~* For Grandma - the woman who taught me that life's not always easy or fair but we have to fight for what we believe in - and we've got to laugh or else we'll cry! *~*~*

                Happy New Year - hope it's a happy and healthy one for you and your loved ones!

                Thanks for reading! bluejules


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                • More +
                  28.01.2012 10:23
                  Very helpful



                  A lovely pairs game for Hello Kitty fans :-)

                  My sister, brother-in-law and the children came to our house on Christmas Day 2011 for the first time since my eldest nephew was a baby! They arrived at our house late morning, in time for Christmas Dinner. My parents and I decided to keep some of the presents we bought for the children, at our house so we could give them some gifts on Christmas afternoon. Santa also left a sack of presents for everyone while we were having Christmas dinner and this Hello Kitty Memory game was one of the gifts my 6-year-old niece received from this sack.

                  Once all the presents were opened, Toni decided she would like to play this game, so my mam and I played it with her. We could see it was a pair's game so we launched straight in without reading the instructions. We spread out the 72 Hello Kitty cards, face down on the floor and Toni took her first turn.

                  ~~ How to Play ~~

                  * Choose a number of pairs (start with a few and as you get more familiar with the pictures and the game you can increase the number of cards used)
                  * Place the chosen cards face down where all the players can see them
                  * The first player chooses two cards to turn over and see if they are a pair. All players must have time to see the cards. If the cards are not a pair then they are turned back face down (in the same place)
                  * Each player takes their turn, if a pair is found they can take another turn until the two cards they turn over do not match.
                  * The winner is the player with the most pairs at the end (the instructions suggest each player can pile their cards up and the winner is the person with the tallest pile. I think it's just as easy to count the pairs - and encourages your child to count. Depending on the age of the child you might need to help them, particularly if they count each card rather than each pair.)

                  ~~ The Game ~~

                  The box comes with 72 square cards (36 pairs) with various, colourful Hello Kitty designs. The cards are approximately 2 inches square and are sturdy. There is a plastic tray inside the box with four compartments for keeping the cards in when you are not playing.

                  ~~ Our Experience ~~

                  Toni was much better at remembering where the pairs were than my mam and I, and she quickly had a pile of matching pairs. The game was taking a long time, as there were three of us playing and we were turning over just two cards at a time. Toni decided we should just say she had won and pack up. I like to see things through to the end though and suggested that we continue playing but turn over 4 cards instead of 2. Toni agreed and we played like this for another 5 minutes. My 12-year-old nephew (Dominick) then decided he wanted to join in, so we continued to play turning 4 cards over. The game finally ended about 15 minutes later, after a total game play of over half an hour. I think this was too long for this particular game as it was getting boring when no one was getting pairs for several turns. However, the length of time it takes to play greatly depends on how good everyone's memory is and the number of pairs you decide play with.

                  Later that evening Toni and Dominick played Memory together, this time starting with fewer cards. They both enjoyed this and they managed to sit and play together for 10 minutes without arguing (makes a change!)

                  ~~ My Opinion ~~

                  I quite like this game and Toni loves it. The instructions suggest that you don't play the first game with all 72 cards, so if we'd read them the first game would have been considerably shorter and more enjoyable. That said, I still enjoyed playing it, and I enjoyed seeing Toni's face when she remembered how to find a pair! (I must admit, I rather enjoyed finding the pairs myself! But I wasn't as good as Toni!)

                  The pictures on the cards, are colourful and show Hello Kitty in a number of different situations or with different coloured backgrounds e.g. dancing or in the garden etc.

                  The cards are a good size for turning over and most of the cards are different enough that it's easy to spot a pair (although my mam found this more difficult than Toni and me: she blamed it on her age!)

                  You could play variations on this game. For example, put a number of cards face up e.g. 4 or 6. Ask your child to look at them for a minute, ask them to close their eyes, take a card away and see if they can tell you the missing card.

                  ~~ Advantages ~~

                  * Good for memory, concentration and attention
                  * Colourful and sturdy
                  * Cards are a good size
                  * Lots of different Hello Kitty pictures (which really appealed to my niece)

                  ~~ Disadvantages ~~

                  * Game takes too long if you play with all of the cards
                  * Some of the cards are really 'busy' with colour and this may be distracting for younger children

                  ~~ Other ~~

                  My mam paid £7.99 for this game on the high street. It is available online from £5.25 (currently on amazon) and is made by Ravensburger. It is suitable for 2-4 players and children aged 4 years and up.

                  ~~ Overall ~~

                  I would recommend this game for Hello Kitty fans, as long as you are sensible about the number of cards you choose to play with and increase these with experience of the game (and familiarity of the pictures) rather than launching in and playing with all 72 cards straight away (like we did!)

                  Toni really likes this game, and as the principle is just pairs, even my nephew will play it with her, and it keeps them both entertained. Toni has asked us to play this game with her a number of times, and I think it's something she'll keep coming back to for a while yet.

                  Thanks for reading!


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                  • More +
                    22.01.2012 13:03
                    Very helpful



                    A lovely hotel in the heart of London

                    == Introduction ==

                    In October, I went to London with my parents to meet my MP as part of a mass mobilisation of Parliament (raising awareness of the importance of Speech and Language Therapy) and the RCSLT Giving Voice Awards Ceremony. We wanted a hotel that was in central London as I knew there wouldn't be much time between meeting with my MP and getting ready to head back out for the evening Gala Dinner and Awards. My dad booked the flights well in advance but still hadn't booked a hotel with only a couple of weeks to go so my mam decided to look online and found us this 4 star hotel for 2 nights. Having stayed in a Crowne Plaza previously I was pleased with this choice of hotel and couldn't wait to get to London!
                    This review is based on three adults staying in a suite for two nights in October 2011.

                    == On arrival ==

                    We got the tube from Heathrow Airport, changed at Hammersmith and got off at St James' Park. It was then less than a five minute walk to the hotel. Check-in was quick and the reception were staff friendly. The lady presented us with our 3 key cards and told us how to find the lifts and our room.

                    The reception area was large and clean, with seating areas and plenty of staff on hand to ask for assistance. There was a concierge desk and all the staff here were really friendly and provided accurate information about local attractions, how to get there etc.

                    Once checked in, we made our way to the lifts in the hotel lobby. When we got there my mam said to me 'that man looked like David Hasselhoff!' We didn't think anything of it until a minute later he joined us in waiting for the lift. I agreed with my mam that the man did indeed look identical to David Hasselhoff, and I let her know this via a little non-verbal communication (a discreet smile and a nod!). By this time I really wanted to hear his voice to establish if he was a lookalike or actually The Hoff. He got in the lift with us and just as we were going to ask him which floor he was going to he pressed the number himself (2, for anyone who is interested!) My dad said 'hello' as we got in the lift, and Mr Hasselhoff's 'hello' back confirmed his accent!!

                    I couldn't help but look at the man in the lift, and then back at my mam. He smiled at us and I think he knew that we recognised him. He opened his room key card, as he smiled, and my mam and I saw that next to 'customer name' read: 'Mr Hasselhoff' - we looked at each other as if to say 'I knew it!' and my mam said 'you are aren't you?' (yes mam, he is (The Hoff), but he can't read your mind!) (My mam is mortified that she hadn't thought of something more sensible to say, but it was just such a surreal moment, and I seemed to have lost my tongue completely! So I'm just glad she actually said something at all. I just stood there smiling!)

                    The Hoff smiled at us and asked us where we were from, and we had a brief conversation. He told us he was going to his room to sleep and when we asked what he was doing in London he said 'lots of things, you'll see me all over.' Sadly at this point he got out the lift and we didn't see him again. It all happened so quickly (from ground floor to level 2) that I didn't even have time to ask for a photo!

                    == Our Room ==

                    As previously mentioned, we booked a suite. This was amazing, but probably bigger than we needed for our 2 night stay. That said, it was truly fantastic getting ready to go the gala dinner in such a posh room and made the whole experience even more special!

                    Our room was located in the corner of the corridor and we let ourselves in easily with one of the key cards. Straight opposite the door was a sitting room, with 2 chairs, a sofa, a coffee table and a TV and minibar. This ended up being where we asked them to put my bed which meant that I was able to have my 'own' room whilst staying with my parents.

                    There was a short passage into the main bedroom where there was a queen size bed and a walk in wardrobe. Around the corner from the bed was a desk and a dressing table as well as a chaise longue (which look slightly worn). There was also a TV in the main bedroom.

                    Tea and coffee making facilities were also found in the main bedroom, and although initially only two cups, when we asked they provided a third one with extra milk and biscuits.

                    == Bathroom ==

                    The bathroom was lovely, and especially large. It provided everything we needed for our stay. There were two sinks with a large mirror in front of them both. The bath and shower were separate, meaning someone could have a bath at the same time as someone was in the shower cubicle should they wish. I couldn't help thinking what a brilliant bathroom it would be for when I go on holiday with my two cousins, as there is more than enough space for three people to get ready to go out in the bathroom!

                    The shower was good; powerful and hot. Plenty towels were provided with fresh ones each day if required. I didn't use the bath but my mam did and said it was suitable, if slightly too large.

                    == Breakfast ==

                    Breakfast was included in the price of our room and there was a good selection of hot and cold food. The waiting staff showed us to a table and asked if we would like tea or coffee and toast. Both mornings we asked for all of these and they arrived fairly promptly. The cooked breakfast was nice with a good selection of food. There was the usual selection of breakfast foods that you see at buffet breakfasts which was all good quality and tasty.

                    == Checkout ==

                    Check out was simple and the staff friendly. We did not have any problems with checking out. We left our bags in our room and a member of staff collected them and stored them for us until we came back later to collect them (our flight wasn't until the evening).

                    == Location and Surroundings ==

                    I've only visited London a few times but this has ended up being twice in the same year! When I visited London last February we stayed near King's Cross, so always had to plan ahead if we wanted to sightsee. This hotel was the perfect location for what we wanted for our particular trip in October as I knew I needed to be near the Houses of Parliament and Church House Conference Centre (for the awards ceremony) and this proved perfect! A couple of minute walk to the left of the hotel sees you arrive at Buckingham Palace and the same to the right is the heart of Westminster. We went to the theatre on the Monday night (the hotel hailed a cab for us). We decided to walk back to the hotel as it was only a 10 minute taxi ride and the weather was mild. It took us about 45 minutes to walk but wasn't unpleasant, and we passed Buckingham Palace (signalling we were almost back!).

                    == Cost ==

                    Prices vary depending on room type and when you stay but a double room for 2 adults on a week night at the end of January starts from £119 per night (I searched this on 8th January 2012), so it would be worth checking a number of dates etc to suit your needs.

                    == Other ==

                    The hotel has a number of restaurants and a spa. We did not use any of these so I cannot comment on them. The hotel has a total of 8 floors, 340 rooms and 21 suites. The staff speak a large number of languages (see website for more details).

                    Check out: 12noon
                    Check in: 2pm
                    45-51 Buckingham Gate,
                    London, SW1E 6AF
                    Tel: +44 20 7834 6655

                    Before our stay, my dad contacted the concierge via email asking if the hotel has a hairdressers onsite as I wanted to get my hair put up for the Gala Dinner. They emailed back promptly saying that they didn't but would recommend the hairdressers next door. On the Monday, we went in and enquired about getting my hair put up the following day. I made an appointment (even though it was expensive) as I wanted the Gala Dinner to be perfect! The hairdresser was very friendly and I think the hotel made a good recommendation. (It cost £45 to get my hair put up, which is probably £20 more than I would pay for the same style at my local hairdresser)

                    == Advantages ==

                    * Comfortable
                    * Friendly and knowledgeable staff
                    * Location
                    * Large bathroom
                    * Good breakfast

                    == Disadvantages ==
                    * Cost
                    * Chaise longue was a little worn

                    == Overall ==

                    We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at this fantastic hotel. I've been fortunate enough to stay in a number of good hotels over the years and this one compares very well. The staff are attentive, friendly and knowledgeable, the room was spacious and comfortable and breakfast was nice. Although expensive, I would recommend this hotel as it's luxurious and is located in central London, within easy walking distance of Westminster and Buckingham Palace. I would happily stay in this hotel again, however, due to the cost it would need to be for a special occasion, as I'm sure there are other suitable hotels more budget friendly. But iff it's good enough for The Hoff... :-)

                    Thoroughly recommended! Thanks for reading!


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                      21.01.2012 11:19
                      Very helpful



                      A useful, easy to read book to help children cope with stammering. Useful for parents/teachers etc

                      As you may know, I am a Newly Qualified Speech and Language Therapist (SLT). Lots of people do not know how varied this profession is, but many of those who do know something about it, associate it with stammering. Speech and Language therapy covers a huge range of speech, language, communication and swallowing disorders; and this does indeed include stammering.

                      I'm sure stammering means something slightly different to everyone, depending on the experience you have. This could be from seeing it on TV (e.g. in the film 'A fish called Wander', or Gareth Gates), personal experience (having a stammer, or knowing someone who does) or just hearing about it in general. I think the profile of stammering has been greatly raised since last year's film 'The King's Speech' which is the story of King George VI and how he coped with his stammering.

                      Stammering means something different to each person who stammers too, some people are only mildly bothered by it, whereas it rules other people lives. But whatever your knowledge of stammering, I hope this review of 'Helping children cope with Stammering' proves to be of interest and/or is useful.
                      As part of my course at university we learned about stammering. I wrote this review for ciao when I was revising for my Dysfluency exam and I have updated it for here. I read this book as part of my revision and I thought I'd share my views on it with you. Stammering is a particular area of interest to me as, as well as learning about it on my course, my 14 year old nephew also stammers.

                      ~ Stammering ~

                      I'm sure you would all know if you were listening to someone who has a stammer. No one has speech which is 100% fluent (everyone hesitates, makes slight repetitions or false starts) but some people's speech is less fluent than others. Stammering can present in different forms and it is not always the same in each person. It can be whole word repetitions (can-can-can I have a drink?), part word repetitions (m-m-my name is..), blocking (where the person's mouth is in position but no word comes out), sound elongation (I f----eel sick), or problems with airflow.

                      Stammering is complex and there are still many questions unanswered about the causes but this book is a good starting point if you know someone who stammers and want to help. There is no 'cure' for stammering, but if it is better understood more help can be provided, both from people who know the person who stammers as well as the professional's involved (speech and language therapist).

                      "Stammering and stuttering are used interchangeably but are actual different terms for the same thing. Stammering is used more in the UK and stuttering is more widely used in the USA"

                      ~ Jackie Turnbull and Trudy Stewart ~

                      The authors of this book are big names in stammering and they have written a number of books and research articles. They are experienced speech and language therapists based in Leeds and they specialise in working with children and adults who stammer. They are also actively involved in the British Stammering Association.

                      ~ The Book ~

                      The book is split into 8 chapters and is written to be read from start to finish, although some sections can be easily dipped in and out of. It starts with an introduction then goes on to describe stammering and how to make sense of it. There is a chapter on early dysfluency then another on borderline and confirmed, so whichever type of stammering a person has, it is covered in this book. Further chapters in the book explain how parents can get help for their child and the sort of help that is available.
                      The book is easy to read, and is written in simple language. Any technical terms that are needed are clearly explained, so you don't need any prior knowledge before picking up this book. As a student SLT, this book was really useful to read alongside my studies as it helped me to see things from the perspective of parents as well as clarify some ideas and make them more concrete and easier to understand in my own mind.

                      There are case examples of children at each of the three stages of stammering (which are each clearly explained in the book) and these cases help to make the information more applicable and no doubt if you are reading this book because you know a child who stammers, you will be able to relate some aspects to them. The cases are then discussed with more information to aid understanding of stammering.
                      Within each chapter there are sections which are split up with sub headings and bullet points making the information easily accessible. Where appropriate there are diagrams to go alongside some of the theories that are used to help explain stammering.

                      Throughout the book it looks at the child as a whole, as each child is an individual and it should never be thought of that stammering is the main thing in their life. Their stammer is just one part of the child, so it is important to understand about the child's life etc to get the full picture. The book also explains that stammering is not the fault of the parent. Lots of parents blame themselves that their child stammers, but this is not the case. The book helps to put parent's minds at rest as well as look at the different emotions that the parents might be feeling as well as the child who stammers.

                      The book finishes with useful addresses and further reading, in case you want to find out more.

                      ~ Overall ~

                      This book is well written and is easily accessible to a variety of audience members. I found it useful to read as a student but feel that parents, teachers, friends, or even the person who stammers would find this book useful. It proved to be a useful addition to my reading for the exam but I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone seeking extra information about stammering. (Perhaps before or whilst seeking the advice of a qualified SLT)

                      Sheldon Press: 1996
                      Used from 1p on Amazon (rrp £6.99)
                      Thanks for reading!


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                        15.01.2012 14:47
                        Very helpful



                        A great book with a sprinkling of magic! Recommended

                        == The Plot ==

                        When Lucy Silchester returns home from work one day there is a gold envelope lying on her carpet. Inside this envelope is an invitation - to a meeting with Life. Her life. It turns out she's been ignoring it and it needs to meet with her face to face.

                        Although this sounds peculiar Lucy has read about this in a magazine, but she's much too busy skipping out on her friends, avoiding her family and despising her job to make the appointment.

                        Lucy is surprised to find that her life is not what it seems. Firstly, her Life is a man who works in office block not far from where she lives. Lucy soon discovers that some of the choices she's made - and stories she's told - aren't what they seem either. From the moment she meets her life, her stubborn half-truths are going to be revealed in all their glory - unless Lucy learns to tell the truth about what really matters to her.

                        Lucy Silchester has an appointment with her life - and she's going to have to keep it...

                        == My Opinion ==

                        I am a huge fan of Cecelia Ahern so I was excited to hear of a new book! I was going to buy it before Christmas but having spent all my money on Christmas presents I decided to wait. I used some of my Christmas money to download it to my kindle yesterday morning and I have just finished reading it now. I really enjoyed it though it is not my favourite of Aherns books. I did enjoy it so much that I spent most of yesterday and today reading it though. This was partly due to having extra spare time to read, as well as the fact that I wanted to know what was going to happen!

                        I love how Ahern always brings a sprinkle of magic to her books yet they never seem far fetched or out of the ordinary. She writes in such a way that the magical element is totally believable. It should seem strange that the main character in this book met her Life in the form of a human being, yet it seemed like the most natural thing in the world, and I'm still secretly hoping that I'll get my very own gold envelope to invite me to meet with my own life!

                        The book is written in first person from Lucy's point of view and although it was interesting from the beginning, I found it took 4 or 5 chapters before I was completely hooked. That's quite a lot for me, as if I don't fall in love with a book in the first 2-3 chapters I tend to give up on them. However, the start of the book wasn't boring and I had high expectations as I've enjoyed many of her previous books, so I wanted to keep reading.

                        I really liked reading about Lucy and the people in her life. I felt like I got to know Lucy as the book went on and I empathised with her at some of the decisions she has made in her life. I also really enjoyed reading about her Life and learning about his take on Lucy's life choices. It made an interesting twist and I think it would be very entertaining to be able to sit down and have a conversation with my own life!
                        We meet a number of people in Lucy's life and although they all have an important role, I felt that some characters were better developed than others. This meant that I felt closer to some of the characters than others. As I got to know Lucy through the story I was willing everything to go well for her and her Life. Although, I really liked Lucy, I felt differently about some of the characters than she did, as I am an 'outsider' to her life and the story.

                        The book is split into 30 chapters, plus an epilogue and I felt the chapters were just the right length. I was happy with the ending, although some of it was slightly predictable in parts. I appreciated the moral in the tale and it has made me think a little more about my own life and how the decisions I make affect me and those around me. It also made me reflect on some of the relationships I have with my family and friends and has given me something to think about. I like it when I continue to think about a book after I've finished reading it.

                        I don't think this book has as much going on as some other books by Ahern, which makes it slightly less exciting, however, for me it was still thoroughly readable and contained an enjoyable and meaningful message. Although the message was an important one, the book does not come across as too serious; therefore it is very easy to read. Definitely one I'd recommend!

                        == Other ==
                        Hardcover: 392 pages
                        Publisher: HarperCollins (13 Oct 2011)
                        ISBN-10: 0007350430

                        'The Time of my Life' is currently available on Amazon for £6.46 in hardcover or £7.99 for your kindle. I have just checked these prices out and was disappointed to discover that on this occasion my download cost me more than the actual book would have done. However, it was more convenient for me and I am not a fan of reading hardcover books anyway.

                        == Overall ==
                        The book is well written and the main character is developed well. This is not my favourite book by Cecelia Ahern but it is still worth a read, whether you are already a fan or would like to read a chick-lit with a difference. I've given this book 4 out of 5 stars as it isn't quite as good (in my opinion) as other books by this author or in the same category.

                        Thanks for reading! bluejules


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                          12.01.2012 21:36
                          Very helpful



                          Great read

                          == Plot ==

                          Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is yourself... Eliza Cummings is leaving work one cold winter night when she receives an unexpected phone call. On the other end of the phone is a voice which makes her heart stand still and takes her back twenty-five years - to the night Rose died. Eliza doesn't understand why Rose's father wants her to visit him or why is he killing her with kindness when they both know that he blames her for what happened to his daughter.

                          Grief and guilt cast terrible shadows, but as the story unfolds and the setting shifts from London (where Eliza currently lives) to the fairy tale landscape of the Swedish countryside (where Rose's father lives) - and back in time to Eliza's school days - we learn that generosity, humour and friendship can smooth over and restore even the most broken lives, and that some secrets just can't be kept hidden...

                          What happened on that dark night twenty-five years ago?

                          == My Opinion ==

                          I really enjoyed this book and read it fairly quickly as I wanted to find out what was going to happen. The book is set across the past and present and it flows smoothly between the two. The past is set in the boarding school where Eliza and Rose go to school and we learn about them and their friends (mainly Portia and Sandra/Cassandra). The story alternates between characters which I think is an effective way for the story to be told.

                          From the beginning of the book we know that Rose drowned but that's all we are told and it is through reading the story of the past that we learn how this happened.
                          I was intrigued to learn about the characters in the story and I empathised with them at different points. I found myself relating differently to the Eliza at school and the Eliza in the present day. I think this demonstrates good writing skills as even though they are the same person, we are reading about a teenager and a middle aged woman, therefore I feel it is important to relate to them both in different ways.

                          I was hooked on the book and found myself eagerly awaiting what was going to happen, however, I still felt a little detached from the characters. I felt like I was observing them all but not actually being drawn into their lives. I think this was due to the way it was written and I kept questioning things that were happening and couldn't quite decided who I should like and who I should have doubts about. I related to and empathised with all of the characters at some point in the book though and it made for an addictive read.

                          I enjoyed how the story not only switched between past and present, but also between London and Sweden, and this was written beautifully. I particularly enjoyed reading about Eliza's time in Sweden with Rose's father, Eliza's Godfather.

                          Part way through the book, we appear to find out something that is quite shocking but we don't know until later on in the book the exact details of this, which is another element which kept me reading.
                          Although, the main focus of the story is on the fact that Rose drowned, it is written in a beautiful way and looks at how something that happens many years ago can still affect your life today. Apart from death, there are other themes in the book such as love, friendship, guilt and forgiveness. I think there was just enough of each to balance the story nicely.

                          I was satisfied with the ending, although part of it did come as a shock. I read this book in two days as once I started I found I needed to keep reading. It's not the best book I've read but it is certainly one that I would recommend.

                          I've not read anything by this author previously but I will be looking out for more of her work in the future.

                          == Other ==

                          Paperback: 352 pages
                          Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (1 Aug 2011)

                          I read this on my kindle and purchased it for 99p as one of the Deal's of the Day. It is now priced at £5.10 to download, not the bargain I got but still worth it for this book. The paperback currently sells for £7.43 on amazon.

                          Definitely worth a read! Thanks for reading!


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                            07.01.2012 16:19
                            Very helpful




                            ~ Plot ~

                            "My husband shot himself in our bedroom. When I got home, Emma was standing at the bottom of the stairs, screaming."

                            Since that traumatic day, Laura Brandon's little girl hasn't uttered a word. Previously, Emma was a chatty little girl always having something to say. Laura is desperate to help her daughter talk again and seeks help from professionals.

                            When Laura's father dying wish is for her to visit elderly Sarah, Laura doesn't know why. Who is this woman and why does her father want her to start visiting her. Laura has never even heard Sarah's named mentioned previously. Not wanting to ignore her father's dying wish, Laura begins visiting Sarah and the story of Sarah's past begins to unfold.

                            When a psychiatrist suggests that Emma won't talk because she's terrified of men, Laura is guilt-ridden. To help Emma, she needs to know what unspeakable secret lies behind her husband's suicide. Laura thought her family was perfect, but her quest leads her to a shocking truth. For her child's sake, should her father's sins be kept silent?

                            ~ My Opinion ~

                            Having read and enjoyed other books by Diane Chamberlain I decided to give this one a try. I purchased it for my kindle over the Christmas period and it was only 99p (from Amazon) - bargain!

                            I was initially drawn to the book due to the title 'Breaking the Silence'. I thought and hoped it might have something to do with communication and I was correct in that selective mutism is an important theme within the book. As I'm a newly qualified Speech and Language Therapist, I found this of particular interest (even though the whole story kept me hooked).

                            I really enjoyed this book and could hardly put it down once I started it. I read one chapter before I went to bed and the next morning I decided to read a chapter over breakfast. However, this one chapter quickly led to two and three and more, and I ended up spending the whole day reading! I finished the book early that evening and it's safe to say I got nothing else done that day! (I don't usually have enough time to spend the whole day reading, but I was so absorbed in this book!)

                            The book is written in third person and is mainly set in the present day. The story takes us to the past at times as well, through stories from Sarah's life. Sarah is an old lady with Alzheimer's who Laura visits following a request from her dying father. The story moved smoothly from the past to present, and although very different stories, they both had me equally hooked. I felt I could relate to Sarah, and was fond of her, as my beloved Grandma had Alzheimer's in the last years of her life.

                            Mental health issues are a running theme throughout the book and Chamberlain deals with these in a delicate way, without shying away from the issue. She writes about these issues well and they were seamlessly part of the story. Some parts of the book are a little disturbing but they are written extremely well, so although they did affect me, it didn't take enjoyment away from the book.

                            From quite early on the book, the reader is left asking questions about events, and I quickly started to hypothesise what I thought would turn out to be true. I did this throughout the book, and whilst I guessed some parts, there were still some shocks and events that I didn't expect at all. Some things I didn't work out until almost the end, which I think was due to the excellent writing of the book. I enjoyed constantly questioning things and learning more about the characters. I was satisfied with the ending and all the lose ends were tied up.

                            It is clear that Chamberlain has done her research before writing this book and that's what makes it so brilliant. She takes issues which could be difficult to talk about and writes about them beautifully. There are also other themes which I found particularly interesting to read about such as Laura's career as a high flying astronomer or the hot air balloon business which always appears in the story.

                            I related to most of the characters and enjoyed reading them develop as the book went on. When I had a toilet or food break, I found that I was thinking about the characters as though I knew them and couldn't wait to sit back down and read some more. Even the characters which were a smaller part of the story were developed well and fitted in really well.

                            Although initially drawn to the book because of the selective mutism, I thoroughly enjoyed all elements of the story. It is powerful, compelling and emotive and I felt like I knew most of the characters personally by the end of the book. I think this book would appeal to a wide audience of male and female readers as there are a number of themes (suicide, mystery, romance, psychiatric health, astronomy and heartbreak).
                            I would thoroughly recommend this book! It's a few days since I finished this book but I am still thinking about it as it touched me so much.

                            ~ Other ~
                            File Size: 2596 KB
                            Print Length: 407 pages
                            I got this book for 99p for my kindle in December but it's currently £2.96. Amazon are currently charging £3.12 for paperback edition.

                            Warning: do not start reading if you have more important things to do as they might have to wait!

                            Thanks for reading. bluejules


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                            • Orchard Toys Big Wheels / Puzzle / 71 Readings / 66 Ratings
                              More +
                              04.12.2011 14:33
                              Very helpful



                              Great value puzzles

                              ~ Orchard Toys ~

                              "Orchard Toys is a leading manufacturer of educational puzzles and games for children aged between 18 months and 12 years, with a reputation for excellence of design, manufacture and service." All Orchard Toys are manufactured in the UK. I've used a range of their toys and games on placements with university, and with my nephews/niece and have not been disappointed.

                              ~ Big Wheels Puzzles ~

                              I bought this set of puzzles earlier in the year to help build up a collection of resources for when I am (hopefully) working with children in the (near) future. I used them on a several occasions throughout my final year at university.

                              The set contains four puzzles and 8 additional play pieces. The four puzzles are construction vehicles. Two of the puzzles are 4 piece (a red digger and a yellow excavator) and two of the puzzles are 8 piece (a green and yellow cement mixer and a blue bulldozer). All the puzzles and additional pieces come in a sturdy yellow box with pictures of the puzzles on the front. The additional pieces include cones, bricks, a barrier and other things you might find on a construction site.

                              The puzzles are designed for 3-5 year olds. I think this age guide is good but if a child younger than 3 enjoys doing puzzles they might be able to complete the 4 piece ones. (They would probably struggle more with the 8 piece ones though.)

                              ~ My Opinion ~
                              I think these puzzles are great and will probably appeal most to young boys. I used them with a 7-year-old boy with speech difficulties and mild cognitive delay and he really enjoyed using them. We were working on sound awareness and I used the puzzles as part of a structured activity. Every time he segmented a word into syllables, identified the first sound in a word (or whatever else the task aimed to achieve) he could choose a piece of the puzzle. This rewarded his efforts each time he attempted a word etc. We sometimes used them as a quick activity with just one or two of the puzzles (one 4 piece and one 8 piece) or if I wanted a longer activity I'd present him with all the pieces of the puzzles so he could choose which of the vehicles he wanted to start with. The child I was working with sometimes need a little bit of assistance with the 8 piece puzzles (due to his mild cognitive deay) but he could do the 4 piece puzzles with no assistance.

                              When all the pieces are presented it is easy to see which pieces belong to each puzzle as they are different colours. This also means it is good for helping young children to learn their colours (red, blue, green and yellow).

                              Each of the vehicles have a driver (two of these are male and two are female) which could be a good starting point for a conversation about what the person does as part of their job/what the vehicle does etc. I think it's good that there are male and female drivers as I think this will make them a little more appealing to girls.

                              One day when I was preparing my resources for a session using these puzzles, my then 5-year-old niece was at my house. She told me she'd not seen these puzzles before and could she play with them. I told her she could and it filled in 10 minutes for her. She did each of the puzzles without assistance and told me what each of the vehicles were called. She told me there were 'extra' pieces in the box and I said she could play with them but she decided to put everything back in the box. They kept her entertained for 10 minutes but were probably a little bit on the easy side for her. She enjoyed playing with them at my house but I don't think she would play with them again, nor do I think she would have been impressed if I'd bought her them for Christmas instead of something with princesses on.

                              These puzzles were great at keeping the boy I was working with motivated and on-task in therapy sessions. After he completed each puzzles with used the name of the vehicle in the activity (e.g. how many syllables does 'digger' have? Or 'what sound does mixer start with?').

                              The puzzle pieces fit together easily and are made from thick, sturdy card. I think younger children would particularly enjoy these, but may need some assisstance depending on how confident they are with puzzles. These are an excellent step-up from 2 piece puzzles.

                              ~ Good Points ~
                              - colourful
                              - more than one level of difficulty
                              - play scene after the puzzles are complete
                              - sturdy
                              - wipe-clean
                              - good for learning specific vocabulary (e.g. relating to construction sites)
                              - male and female drivers

                              ~ Bad Points ~
                              I can't actually think of any bad points. I guess the length of time a child plays with these puzzles will depend on their age, ability and interest in construction etc (but this could be said about most toys really!)

                              ~ Availability ~
                              This set of puzzles is currently £4.77 on Amazon. They retail for £6.50 directly from Orchard Toys.

                              ~ Recommended? ~
                              Absolutely. The puzzles are of good quality, easy to put together for little fingers and provide entertainment as well as educational value. The puzzles double up as a play scene after complete with the additional pieces, which offers an opportunity for conversation and vocabulary learning. I also think they are great value for money. What's not to love?!

                              Thanks for reading! :-)


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                              • More +
                                13.11.2011 16:16
                                Very helpful
                                1 Comment



                                A nice short story, well written

                                Browsing Amazon for new books on my kindle I came across this one, and at only 99p I thought I'd give it a try. I've never read anything by this author before but I liked the sound of the blurb. It was also advertised as a short story, which is good as I have a tendency to neglect everything else when I'm hooked on a book. I reckoned that a short story wouldn't have me hooked so long, therefore wouldn't distract me from everything else I should be doing.

                                ~ About the Author ~

                                Cathy Kelly is a number 1 bestselling author. She worked as a journalist before becoming a novelist, and has published eleven bestselling books. She lives in Wicklow with her partner and their twin sons.

                                ~The Plot ~

                                Elsie's sister Maisie emigrated from Ireland to Chicago forty-five years ago. The sisters enjoy writing to each other every month with news about their families, hopes, dreams and successes. It's not quite as good as seeing each other in person, but they are happy enough with the arrangement.

                                When Maisie suddenly announces that her granddaughter wants to visit Elsie in Ireland, Elsie is besides herself with worry. A great deal has happened in the last forty-five years. Has Elsie always reported it all accurately back to her sister? She can't possibly bear the humiliation of being found out for having stretched the truth, but there is no way she can refuse to play host to a member of her family, is there?

                                ~My Verdict ~

                                I really enjoyed this short story, it was well written and the characters were established well over a short space of time.

                                The title letter arrives within the first couple of pages of the story, so you are drawn straight into the storyline. The book is written in third person, mainly from Elsie's angle but this does change a little throughout the book, allowing time to get to know the characters a little better.

                                Elsie lives with her daughter, son-in-law and twin granddaughters so I felt like I got to know these characters best out of all the characters in the book. I did feel that all the characters were developed well considering the length of the book, and I felt I could relate to them on the most part.

                                I couldn't imagine what it would be like to only keep in touch with my sister by letter for forty years, but the story pulled me into their lives nicely and I empathised with the sisters. I enjoyed reading about the relationship between Elsie's teenage twin granddaughters and their reaction to an American cousin they have never met coming to visit.

                                The story was true-to-life and heart-warming and I enjoyed travelling the journey with the characters (albeit a short one!)

                                I read this book in one sitting and it took just less than an hour. I do read quite quickly but I think slower readers could also read this easily in one sitting. I don't think 99p is bad value for money, as I would pay 70p for a bar of chocolate that would only last 5 minutes! The story kept me entertained, took me on a nice little journey through someone else's life and has given me something to think about for a little while. I felt hhapy and satisfied with the ending of the book, although I did find it slightly predictable (in a good way!)

                                The book is not separated into chapters (at least, it isn't on the kindle), but due to the length of the book I didn't feel this was a problem. This short story also appears in Kelly's collection of stories, Christmas Magic (£6.99 for your amazon kindle).

                                It's not the best book I've ever read but I would definitely recommend it (particularly if you can download it for a Kindle as it's a bargain!) I will be looking out for other work by Cathy Kelly as I enjoyed her writing style for this short story.

                                ~ Info for Kindle e-book: ~

                                Format: Kindle Edition
                                File Size: 396 KB
                                Print Length: 30 pages
                                Publisher: HarperCollins (28 Oct 2011)

                                ~ Info for Paper back Edition ~

                                Paperback: 70 pages
                                Publisher: New Island Books (Jan 2002)
                                Language English
                                ISBN-10: 1902602692
                                Currently 99p to download for your Kindle or from £2.38 second hand paperback, on Amazon.

                                Recommended! Thanks for reading :-)


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