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owensmum
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      20.09.2009 22:51
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      Oink!

      When my youngest was born I tried to avoid CBeebies and NickJr as much as I could because I'd been there and done that already with my eldest! So we were happily plodding along with Playhouse Disney....until....Peppa Pig!!! He discovered the cheeky little piggy at the childminders and it became all he wanted to watch.


      After several weeks of watching the episodes on TV I gave in and got him some DVDs. A couple of months later I got him a couple more as I was sick of seeing the same episodes!!! One of the DVDs in question is 'Peppa Pig. My Birthday Party and Other Stories'

      ~Who is Peppa Pig?~
      ------------------------------

      Peppa Pig was created by Mark Baker and Neville Astley and they must be laughing all the way to the bank. As well as the TV programme and DVDs there are many toys available based on the characters, some of which live in our house.

      Peppa lives in a house on a hill with her little brother George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig. She has a group of friends that regularly feature in the episodes as well as Granny and Grandpa Pig. Peppa's constant companion is Teddy and George has his Dinosaur. Most episodes feature muddy puddles in one way or another as jumping in them is the activity of choice for the pigs.


      Each episode of the show lasts about 5 minutes and is just a delight from beginning to end. The characters are so familiar and the episodes all have a similar feel to them. They have a bit of comedy and the same catchphrases feature regularly. My son was saying 'Cuckoo' randomly for ages before I realised it was featured in an episode of the show.The end of each episode usually features all the family laughing hysterically so they have to roll on the floor. In between the episodes is a short clip from an episode. This is how my son knows that another episode is following on the TV.

      ~The DVD~
      ----------------

      This DVD features the following 10 episodes:

      1. My Birthday Party - Peppas birthday and she has a fancy dress party
      2. The Playground - Peppa plays at the playground with her family and friends
      3. Tidying Up - Peppa and George race to tidy up quickest in their bedroom
      4. Frogs and Worms and Butterflies - Peppa and George pretend to be different creatures in their Grandpa's garden
      5. Daddy Puts Up A Picture - Demonstrates Daddy Pigs lack of DIY skills
      6. At the Beach - Sandcastles, suncream and burying Daddy Pig
      7. Cleaning The Car - The family clean the car before going out for a drive
      8. Grandpa Pig's Boat - The family borrow Grandpas boat for a trip down the river
      9. Daddy's Movie Camera - Peppa shows Daddy Pig how to work his new camera
      10. The School Play - The school kids perform Little Red Riding Hood


      I'm not going to go into any more detail of each episode as they are all fairly simple and self explanatory. What I like about this particular programme is that my son can relate to the activities featured and it has undoubtedly helped to build up his vocabulary. The episodes are also short and keep his attention. My older son is 8 and also used to watch Peppa Pig but not to this extent. He has to endure it now and he secretly loves it! We enjoy laughing at how it can be raining one minute and then sunny and dry almost immediately so that Peppa can rush out in her boots and jump in the muddy puddles.

      ~DVD Extras~
      -------------------

      There are 2 interactive games included on this DVD. We have had a go at them but I think at just under 3 my son has not quite got the hang of controlling the remote yet. The first game is called ' Learn Your Colours with Peppa'. This has a page full of coloured paint splats.

      You select each one in turn and it will tell you the name of the colour by relating it to something popular in the show. An example being Green Dinosaur - Georges favourite toy.


      The second game is called 'Tidy Up Game' This is based on the 'Tidying Up' episode and involves collecting toys from around the bedroom and putting them in to the toy basket.

      ~Other details~
      ---------------------

      This DVD cost me £4.99 from Morrisons and they have a few other titles to choose from all featuring 10-12 episodes. There is not a great deal to choose between each one other than building up a collection of episodes.

      The running time for this particular DVD is 51 minutes and has a U classification.


      More information and all DVD's, Toys etc are available on www.peppapig.com

      ~Final Note~
      ------------------

      Its inevitable that your child is going to discover a favourite character and I'm happy that Peppa Pig is the character of choice. Of course the merchandise is all bumped up in price and advertised every five minutes and I've seen every episode a million times. There is currently a 3rd series of the show being produced which is due for airing in August (its already September?!) this year so that will help I'm sure!

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        17.08.2009 22:55
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        Family orientated dining

        The Pastures Lodge is a family pub/restaurant that my family and I have been visiting on a regular basis for a fair few years. Its situated on Pastures Road, Mexborough which is a few miles outside of Doncaster. We live quite near to the centre of Doncaster and it takes us about 15 minutes by car to get to the Pastures. The Pastures is owned by Paul Shane of Hi-De-Hi fame and occasionally he can be spotted propping up the bar.


        The main reason we visit the Pastures is for a family meal out at a place where the children can let off some steam. The Pastures has an indoor play area and a smaller outdoor play area. The indoor play area is separate from the rest of the pub with its own seating area. The outside play area has lots of outdoor seating around and is great for the summer.

        The majority of the pub is the family dining area. There are lots of tables of various sizes as well as some booths to the sides. There is a section near the bar where children are not allowed for those who want a drink or meal in peace.


        Pastures offers a variety of meals. They have a carvery which is its main attraction for a lot of people who eat there. They also have a decent menu of a reasonable price as well as specials on a daily basis. The childrens menu is 'Ali Bongos' which is also the name of the indoor play area. This menu is the usual childrens food - eg fish fingers, beefburgers etc. They do offer quite a lot of choice and all options are available with a choice of chips, smiley faces, or potato wedges and beans, peas, spaghetti hoops or salad so the kids never bore of the options available. The most expensive choice costs £4.50. Children can of course choose from the main menu or have the carvery.

        I have had a carvery in the past, but this is not something I tend to go for on a regular basis. But I have eaten at the Pastures many times and have always enjoyed the food. I quite often choose an item from the daily specials for a bit of variety. The main menu has over 20 choices of starter ranging from £2.95 - £7.50. There are over 45 choices for the main course, prices ranging from £6.25 - £16.95. Starting from £3.50 there are also a selection of hot and cold sandwiches, paninis, salads, burgers and jacket potatoes.


        The Pastures do offer a good choice of desserts, some on the menu and some specials. I do recall a dessert trolley being rolled about in the past, but I can't say I've seen this for a while so maybe it went out with health and safety guidelines. Who knows! They still have plenty to choose from.

        The restaurant does get quite busy and if you are going on a Sunday it is advisable to phone and book a table. You are never sent away, but we have had to wait for up to an hour for a table to become vacant. There is a server who greets you when you enter the restaurant, takes your name and gives an indication of how long the wait might be. If you advise that you will be waiting in either the indoor play area or outside they will note this down and shout when your table is ready. However there have been many other times when we have walked in and been seated immediately.


        When you are eating at Pastures you need to note your table number and then order you food at the food order point on the bar. There can be quite a queue here at busy times. Food is then brought to your table. I have never had cause to complain about the service I have received from either the bar staff or the waiting staff. There is sometimes quite a wait for food but you are usually advised of this when you order.

        Meals from the main menu are served between 11.45am - 9.30pm Mon to Sat and 11.45am - 9.00pm Sun. The Carvery is open Mon to Fri 11:45am - 2pm Sun 11:45am - 6.30pm.


        The indoor play area is sectioned off from the rest of the building and no drinks are allowed in glasses in this area. Kids have to take there shoes off and there is an area of padded climbing and slides. There is also a smaller section for babies and toddlers. Aswell as the play there are arcade games and an air hockey table. There is supposed to be a £2 charge for playing in this area but I have never had to pay this once for my children, no-one ever approaches for payment or questions whether we are eating in the restaurant. In this area you can also arrange to hold a childrens party which includes food and play. The price for this is £7.50 per child. I have never been to a party here or seen one taking place so cannot comment on how these work. If you are interested though, full details are available on the website.

        The outdoor play area is aimed more at slightly older children. It is essentially a climbing frame with slides. Many of the ways up are quite challenging and very young children would struggle to get onto the frame to access the slides.


        As well as the bar and restaurant they hold special events at the Pastures and there is usually a leaflet available with up and coming events. From what I have noted in the past these regularly feature comedians or tribute bands and have a set ticket price which includes food of some kind. They also cater for Weddings, Funerals and Christenings. They usually have special menus and evenings on the run up to Christmas.

        Next door to the Pastures Lodge is the Pastures Hotel so if you want to make a night of it there is accommodation near by. This is a Best Western hotel. In the same building as the hotel there is also Reeds Fine Dining if you are looking for an A-La-Carte menu. I believe that the 3 establishments work together to offer good deals on events.


        There is a fairly large car park which is linked to all the buildings. It is often quite full but we have always been able to find a space no matter how busy the restaurant is.

        There are toilet facilities available in both the main building and in Ali Bongos. These are usually quite clean and tidy.


        Address and contact details:

        Pastures Lodge,
        Pastures Road,
        Mexborough,
        S64 0JJ


        website: www.pastureslodge.co.uk

        telephone: 01709 579599
        fax: 01709 578756
        email: info@pastureshotel.co.uk

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        • More +
          14.08.2009 12:24
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          A surprising discovery on a day out!

          On a recent trip to Lincoln, myself and my fella were looking for somewhere to eat. After a bit of persuading that Nandos was not the only place to get chicken we decided to give Chimichanga a try. Chimichanga is a restaurant chain owned by Prezzo Plc and this particular restaurant was on the waterfront at Lincoln.

          Seating was available both inside and out, but as my fella has an aversion to wasps around his food we decided to eat inside. We were served immediately upon entering the restaurant and shown to a table. We were given two choices of menu: the standard menu and a promotional lunchtime one. I was immediately drawn to the lunchtime menu as being a good deal.

          ~*~ Lunchtime Menu~*~

          The deal was as follows:

          2 courses £7.95 or 3 courses £9.95, 1st soft drink £1, 1st small bottle of wine/beer £2

          Even my other half had to agree that even if the courses were small he would have eaten enough with 3 courses. As you would expect from a special offer menu, the choice was restricted but still a decent range.

          There were 4 choices of starter. I chose Portobella Mushrooms and my partner chose Buffalo Chicken Wings. For the main course there were 3 main choices plus some salad and alternative options. I chose the Tortilla Cheese Burger and my partner the Piri Piri Chicken Wrap (who need Nandos!). The deserts were limited to either cheesecake or ice cream and we both opted for cheesecake.

          ~*~ Food and service~*~

          Our drinks order was taken initially and we were asked if we would like any olives. We refused these and our drinks arrived promptly with ice frosted glasses. We then ordered our 3 courses with a minimum of fuss. We didn't have to wait long for the starters to arrive and we both noted how beautifully it was presented. Both dishes came with salad garnish and sour cream dip. We both cleared our plates in record time (apart from the chicken bones of course) and agreed that the food was divine.

          After such a great start we couldn't wait to get our main courses and we didn't have long to wait until they arrived. Both were served again with salad garnish and this time with Changa chips. We were asked if we would like any sauces and these were fetched straight away. I was a little sceptical about the chips as they looked similar to the ones I get from my local Pizza takeaway and they are rank! However they tasted nothing like them, these were crispy and the spices just added to the taste. My tortilla burger was tender and wrapped in a tortilla with mayonnaise and cut in half. It was listed as a cheeseburger, but I didn't notice any strong taste of cheese so this may have been missed. I didn't complain though as it was still delicious. The Piri Piri Wrap was well packed with filling and my partner said it tasted delicious. Both dishes were again well presented.

          Towards the end of our main courses we were both filling up and decided we needed some more drinks. The waitress came over straight away and took our request. The drinks arrived shortly after.

          The waitress came and took away our plates and asked if we would like desserts or coffee. I explained that I had already ordered the desserts and she apologised and came back with them straight away.

          The cheesecake was served on square, ice frosted plates which were dusted with cocoa powder and icing sugar. The cheesecake itself was a melt in the mouth delight with chocolate and honeycomb bits both on the top and within the cake. The other half did suggest that maybe some cream would have been a good idea but once he started eating it he forgot all about the cream.

          During our time in the restaurant we were dealt with by two differenet waitresses. Both were equally polite, helpful and prompt.

          ~*~ The bill ~*~

          Our total bill came to an amazing £26.90. I have to say that this is the best deal I have had for a long time. That included 3 courses and 2 drinks each. We were both left full and satisfied with our choices. The bill came quickly and the waitress took our payment by card asking if we wanted to leave a tip to add it on the machine.

          ~*~ The decor and facilities ~*~

          The restaurant had a very clean new look to it. The floor was tiled and shined to within an inch of its life. The seating all seemed to be new. However to compliment this new feel was the mexican authentic decor. There were lots of wooden beams on the ceiling and pillars also made of wood. The walls were decorated with aztec type figures and there were lots of large urns containing plants around the room.

          Before leaving I took a trip to the ladies and found this at the back of the restaurant hidden away. Each toilet had an individual room, with basin, dryer and mirror. It was very clean and was inkeeping with the rest of the decor of the restaurant.

          When we eat out we normally have two children following us around (this was a rare day). The menu we were given did not indicate any special choices for children and the food was quite spicy so I don't think we would choose to take the children along. They did however have high chairs at the back of the room and there was a girl at one of the other tables so kids are welcome.

          All the items we ate from the lunchtime menu were available on the main menu along with of course many other choices. They had everything you would expect from texmex such as fajitas, burritos, chillies and nachos etc. Main courses ranged from £8-£12 and starters around £4.50. I did not notice the prices of the desserts.

          The drinks choices were priced as you would expect. £2 for a soft drink and £3.05 for a bottle of beer. They also had many other drinks choices such as sangria and margueritas.

          A full menu and price list is available on their website www.chimichanga.co.uk. This also details the addresses of their restaurants.

          The restaurant we visited was:

          Unit 1A Brayford Quays
          Brayford Wharf North
          Lincoln
          LN1 1YW
          Tel : 01522 527722

          ~*~ Overall Impression ~*~

          Excellent!

          When we visited the restaurant was very quiet and so whether a busier time would impact on the service I cannot comment. But the service we received was 1st class. I could not fault the waitresses, the decor, the food or the price. This is the one and only time I have visited Chimichanga and as this is the nearest to where I live it may not be a regular occurence. However if I was to notice one on my travels I would be tempted immediately. The cost of food on the regular menu seemed to be similar to its competitors and reasonable value but obviously this lunch time deal made it all the better for our visit.

          Highly recommended!!

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          • Wii Fit (Wii) / Nintendo Wii Game / 36 Readings / 36 Ratings
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            29.07.2009 00:14
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            Will it end up gathering dust in a corner?

            I was conned by the other half into buying him a Wii for Christmas. Mainly by the mention that we could get Wii Fit and that Wii Sports would be great fun for everyone! He was actually right for once! It took a couple of months for me to get round to forking out a further £70 for the Wii Fit package.

            What you get for your money:
            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            The Wii balance board, lead to charge it and the game itself.
            The balance board is fairly lightweight but does have the disadvantage of having to be stored. We have bought a protective cover for ours to make it a bit more durable. The board can be charged up by attaching the lead from the board to the console itself. This can be a bit inconvenient if you are wanting to use it as it restricts moving it around. Fortunately it keeps its charge for a while and so this isn't a problem very often.

            What is Wii Fit?
            ~~~~~~~~~~
            The idea is that you create a profile for yourself, set yourself goals and it keeps a track of your progress. The body test measures your BMI, weight and then gives you a Wii Fit age. This is calculated on your actual age and the results from a few 'tests'. These are all based around balance an example of which is standing on one leg! Not really sure how accurate this is as a test of your fitness age but its more a bit of fun.

            The game also records how much time you spend using the game and your progress against any goals. It is quite personal, remembers your name, when you last used it, gives you tips etc. It can be a bit of a pain when it tells you off for not being around for a while!

            The Games:
            ~~~~~~~~
            For the first two sections you need a personal trainer to show you how to do the exercises. You can choose from a male or female trainer. They talk you through it and can get a bit repetitive.

            **Yoga**
            The first section is Yoga and this was the main reason I was interested in buying this. When you first enter the section only a few of the exercises are available to you and it always makes you watch the tutorial if you've not done an exercise before. The first few are fairly simple but it doesn't take long for all of the exercises to be added. I did all the exercises once today and it took about half an hour.

            When you start an exercise it tells you which part of the body it will work on. When you finish an exercise it gives you a percentage mark depending on how well you did. This is all assessed by your weight distribution on the balance board. I find this a bit unreliable to be fair. I can think I've done pretty rubbish and get a high percentage or be really pleased and it tells me I'm pants! Some of the more advanced exercises are done without the balance board and so you don't get assessed on these.

            At the end of every exercise it banks your minutes and shows you the top ten leader board. This is where you can see whether you are better than the rest of the family or they are klcking your butt!

            **Muscle exercises**
            This is the section I use the least so I'm not going to go into a great deal of detail. It works the same way as the yoga section only the exercises are more traditional. The good thing about both the yoga and muscle sections is it links exercises together that will work on a certain area and lets you know when you've completed a set. Good if you are wanting to concentrate on toning a certain part of your body.

            **Aerobic**
            This section is a bit more fun than the first two. It has 2 levels of hula hoops, 3 of step aerobics, 3 jogging and a boxercise.

            Again, you don't get all the options initially, these are built up over time but you do get one of each type of exercise to start you off.

            The hula hoop options are good for making you look a bit stupid if anyone else is watching as you are hula hooping without a hula hoop and its hard work! I enjoy doing the step aerobics, the first two to options to become available are set routines and then the 3rd is a free-step option. This can be done whilst watching normal tv and you keep time by the Wii remote. You can choose how long you want to do step for and it will alert you when your time is up.

            The jogging works similar to the step except you don't use the board at all for this. You have 2 set distances to run along with other people and then you can free-jog along to the tv.

            The boxercise is my personal favourite in this section and starts with a 3 minute beginner routine. Once you've done that a couple of times you can opt for a more advanced level. This is the only part of the game that requires the use of the nunchuck so it can measure the force and quality of your punch on both hands.

            **Balance**
            This section is where you will find the most entertaining games that are made with the intention of improving your balance and eventually your Wii Fit age. I don't use this section too often as I feel as though I'm not really doing anything towards getting fit! All the games work in a similar way getting you to move from side to side, back to front etc to make something happen on the screen. There is table tilt, heading footballs, skiing, snowboarding, tightrope walking and a penguin flipping game. The final game is zazen which is basically sitting very still!

            **Favourites**
            If you select this section it has your most frequently used games together to choose from.

            Overall opinion
            ~~~~~~~~~~
            We've had this for about 5 months now and the novelty has certainly worn off for everyone else in the family. I am still using it as I do want to lose some weight. However, I can't get myself motivated to use it often enough for this to happen. Like everything else, if you have got willpower you could probably successfully shape up using this. But if you prefer to watch Coronation Street of an evening its not going to do you any good, unless you use the free-step or jogging options of course.

            You do need quite a bit of space available to use this. Some of the exercises involve stepping on and off the board in every direction and some only putting you hands or feet on the board with the rest of your body on the floor. With the boxercise you need to ensure you keep your distance from the tv as punching the screen with a Wii remote would probably not be the best idea.

            Although the game recommends that you warm up before exercising, ther is no warm up section to the game. I tend to get round this by doing some yoga or muscle exercises before attempting anything aerobic.

            I did think that at £70 this was an expensive purchase but I guess if you compare that to gym membership or paying to exercise it is only a one off cost. So I would say that if you are serious about getting fit its a good purchase. If you are just wanting this for a bit of fun then you will get bored of it once you've opened all the games and there are cheaper options available. On the plus side, the balance board can be used by some other games on the Wii although these are few and far between at the moment.

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            • More +
              08.07.2009 22:52
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              A couple of hours out in the fresh air, just watch the flies!

              It's not very often a new animal park opens in your local town. I was quite excited to see the bus advertisement stating 'new for 2009 - The Yorkshire
              Wildlife Park'.

              I had a look into it and found it was located a few miles away so we decided to give it a visit.

              The park opened on the 4th April 2009 and our visit was made on Sunday the 26th of the same month.

              Being from the area, I assumed I knew exactly how to get to the park from the name of the area of Doncaster - Branton. What I should have noted was the directions on the website as the way we went was a bit of a sneak through some private land! So make sure you check the directions carefully! After 'finding' the park we pulled into the free car park. This did seem a bit like some spare land that had been utilised, as there were electrical pylons scattered amongst the area. It also seemed a bit on the small side. This was not a problem on our visit but may hinder in future.

              Entrance fees:

              Adult £8.50
              Senior Citizen £6.50
              Child 3-15 £6.00
              Under 3 Free

              You can also buy a family ticket for £25. This allows entrance for 2 adults and 2 children. As we were 2 adults, 1 child and 1 under 3 this didn't offer us any savings and so we paid a total of £23 for our entrance.


              Their website also mentions discounts for group bookings made in advance.

              The staff at the ticket booth were very welcoming and helpful and this is referred to as the Information Station. Anything you need to know about the park can be found out here.

              As you enter the park you come into a courtyard area with some seating. The courtyard has the cafe, toilets, gift shop and the Jungle Play Barn around it.

              If you walk straight through the courtyard you come to the animals. There is a small aviary which features the usual budgies etc and a squirrel enclosure. A little further along and you get to the Meerkats. These are always a hit with our family particularly since the recent compare the market adverts.

              We then came across a donkey who was happy to be petted much to the pleasure of my youngest. There were also goats and cows in this enclosure known as the world farm.

              The contact area, allows you to walk amongst lambs and other small farm animals. We didn't actually realise this until we were on our way out and so missed out on this opportunity.

              Nearby there was an outdoor play area which had a decent variety of activities for different ages.

              A bit further along we came across the Tiger Barrel Train Ride. This sounded better than it was!!! Basically it was a tractor which was pulling a few barrels on wheels. Each seated one person and had a seat belt. There were only about 8 barrels and so at busy times this would probably develop quite a queue. As it was we had to wait for about 15 minutes. The ride went into a wood, turned around and drove back out again! Not the most thrilling adventure but the kids enjoyed it!

              After our very petrolly ride, we visited the lemur woods. This was an area that was partitioned from the rest of the park but that you could walk through.

              You had to go through a double gate to make sure they didn't escape. This area was the highlight of the park for me. There was a path to follow and the animals were roaming around climbing trees and posing for photos. Exit was via another set of double gates.


              The next part of the park was a similar idea but this time it featured Wallabys, soooo cute! On the way out of this enclosure was when I first noticed the flies. There were an awful lot of them. They were getting on my nerves and I can only imagine that they would be more of a problem when the weather gets warmer in the summer.

              The rest of the park was a large area called the African Plains. This featured Antelopes, Zebras, Ostriches and Cattle. However the seated viewing area
              seemed to be situated at one end while the animals preferred the other so there wasn't a lot to see!

              Back to the courtyard and we investigated the Jungle Play Barn. There was a large Astra Slide which you needed to go down on a mat. There was also a drop slide which zoomed into a ball pool. Unfortunately the only way to access the ball pool was down this slide. At the other side of the barn was a large empty area. This had a couple of childrens pay rides at one side and a small climbing area for younger children. I was not overly impressed with the use of this space and hope that it will be developed at a future date.

              The leaflet we were given at the information station detailed Ranger Talks and Feeding times across the park. We seemed to always be in the wrong place whenever any of these were taking place and so cannot comment on them.

              The cafe in the courtyard is called a Taste of Yorkshire. The dishes are all priced around #4.95 and a full menu can be found on the website. Again we didn't have chance to sample the food and so cannot comment on the quality.

              At the time of our visit the opening times were 10am - 5pm. During July they are opening later on Saturdays. This is called 'An Evening At The Park' and
              offers free entry after 5pm with the animal enclosures open until 6.15pm. Other facilities are open later.


              Overall, this seems to be a work in progress. The website has a coming soon section and when we were at the park we saw notices about phase two of the park.

              It seems that the aim is conservation and that to keep the park running they need to attract visitors to raise funds to develop. The patron of the park is Justin Fletcher better known as Mr Tumble to any cbeebies fans.

              It was worth a visit just for the animals, although don't expect to make a day of it. I think we were there for just over 2 hours. I am sure that I will give the park a further visit at a later date just for curiousity more than anything else. I hope it is a successful and continues to develop. I am sure this can only happen with visitor support.

              Further information can be obtained from the website at

              www.yorkshirewildlifepark. com

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              • More +
                21.04.2009 22:27
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                What would you do?

                I have only discovered Jodi Picoult in the last couple of years. I first heard of her by reading a review about one of her books so decided I would give her a go. I've now read five and have enjoyed them all thoroughly. I found her writing very strange but yet refreshing at first, but have since grown used to her style. She usually writes from different character viewpoints, heading each chapter with the name of a character. The book I am reviewing is Change Of Heart and it uses this same format.


                ~*~The outline of the story~*~
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                When June Nealon's 7 year old daughter and police officer husband are shot dead, she is left heart broken. But she is also pregnant and finds the strength to carry on. She rebuilds her life for the sake of her 2nd daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth then develops a heart problem and eventually needs a donor to survive. June is faced with the decision, do I let my child die or do I accept the heart from the man who murdered my husband and daughter? Jodi Picoults books always seem to involve making tough choices. You always find yourself thinking what would I do?


                When I read the background to the book, I expected this to be the crux of the story. There is however a lot more to the book than this. The murderer in question is Shay Bourne. He has been on death row for 11 years and resigned himself to his death. He wants to give his heart to Elizabeth as he feels this will repay what hes taken away. However if he is given the lethal injection then he will be unable to donate. So a court battle begins for him to be given the right to die by an alternative method. Bournes lawyer is Maggie and she uses religious faith as her defence.

                As a result the book focuses very heavily on the death penalty and the writer has researched the book well. I never knew it had so much to it. The other main focal point is religion, looking at the differences between recognised religions as well as raising the question, what defines a religion or faith? Who decides what we should or shouldn't believe? Another of the big characters is Father Michael, a priest who acts as Shays spiritual advisor.


                ~*~The characters~*~
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                The stories 'narrators' are June, Michael, Maggie and Lucius. Lucius is another inmate at the prison in the cell next to Shay. We don't get to hear any of the story from Shay himself. All the characters were well explored. I particularly liked Maggie the lawyer as she had a vulnerability to her. Even though she had a successful career she still felt the need to live up to her mums expectations of her.


                Michaels character is two fold to the story and he has his own agenda for helping Shay. From the point of view of June we got to see what it felt like to be a victim of crime and how you want retribution for it. Her personality as such was not explored as thoroughly as it could have been.The narratives by Lucius were my favourite parts of the book. He was a very real character. He expalined prison life in detail and in a matter of fact manner.

                ~*~Did I enjoy it?~*~
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


                I'm not a very religious person myself and if I had known the amount of religious reference involved I would probably have been put off. However I found the book to be an intriguing read. It really made you think about how differently people can see the same things and also how we judge and define people. I found myself wanting to read more of the book whenever I had a spare minute. The only let down was that I kind of guessed some of the story reveal before it actually got revealed and athough I was happy to be right I also felt it was a little too transparent. However, the ending to the book was fantastic and left me thinking for days. I believe this is what the author tries to achieve with her writing.

                The majority of the books I read are chick lit. If you want to read something with a bit more depth and to give you food for thought then I thoroughly recommend Jodi Picoult as an author. Of the books I have read so far this is one of the most enjoyable.


                ISBN-100340935839
                496 pages
                Available new on Amazon from £3.86 or as little as 54p used.

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                • itv.com/ITVPlayer/ / Internet Site / 59 Readings / 57 Ratings
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                  09.04.2009 20:43
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                  Another way to catch a programme you've missed

                  I lead a fairly busy life as most of us do and I've always been a bit of a telly addict. But, I'm not the kind of person who will drop everything when a TV programme is on, but at the same time I can't miss anything! In the days of the video this got quite messy. I had piles of them stacked up. Recordable DVD was a step in the right direction, none of that rewinding lark. When Sky plus showed up I thought all my Christmas's had come at once, the ideal service for me. The only drawback is the expense and I have been thinking of shopping around for alternatives.

                  I was watching an episode of Corrie and saw an advert for a programme that followed which looked my kind of thing. Unfortunately as I was a few days behind with my viewing I'd already missed it. I quickly skimmed through the TV guide to see if I could find a repeat but drew a blank. I decided that the only way I was going to be able to watch it would be to view it online.

                  ITVs website is called ITV.com and they offer a service called ITV Player. This enables you to catch up on TV programmes that you have missed. The website is easy to use and I found the programme that I wanted to view easily using the A-Z guide. There are other options to find the programme you are looking for: Selecting the date, a list of all programmes, the Top Ten and a section with just Soaps. Once I had selected the programme a still frame appeared on the small 'screen' on the website with a 'play' sign on top. I clicked on this to start the programme. As it was a programme that was shown after the watershed originally and which I was watching before 9pm I needed to create a PIN number for future use. The programme then started to play on the small screen. I clicked on a further icon which enlarged the picture to fill the screen. All pretty easy so far, but then the problems started. The screen kept freezing up. The sound was coming through the speakers fine, but it was almost like watching a series of photographs. I decided to stop it to see what I could do to improve the situation. I noticed an option to download a free upgrade service called Silverlight 2. I clicked on all the appropriate links and the service was downloaded in a few minutes. I then started to play my programme again. My initial problems were resolved and it was playing much smoother. So I settled down to watch. All was fine until my screensaver kicked in as I hadn't touched my keys or the mouse for a while. This was easily sorted but I wasn't impressed at having to get out of my chair again so soon!

                  The next hiccup was when I reached the first ad break. Along the bottom of the screen is a bar showing how far into the programme you are. I decided that if I clicked after the break then it would start again after the ads. This did happen but then the programme seemed to be on a constant catch up. I would get a black screen with a percentage as though it was downloading, the programme would start and then stop again every few seconds and repeat. To resolve this I paused the programme and went to do something else online for a few minuted then came back and played it. This seemed to work until the next ads when I encountered the same problem again. This was an hour long episode and it took me almost 2 hours to watch from start to finish. I found myself quite put off the service by the end of it.

                  Being a bit on the forgetful side, I found myself forgetting to record the 2nd episode until 20 minutes into it. Reluctantly I turned back to the ITV Player. I had to enter my PIN number again to watch it and it started fine this time. When it got to the first ad break I decided to let it run. It only showed a couple of adverts and then the programme came back on. It did look as though it was catching up again, but after the once it played just fine. My opinion of the service improved greatly.

                  I have since gone back to the site to have a look at the services on offer. A link that seems particularly useful is the FAQs. This advises what system requirements are needed to use the player, how it works, and troubleshooting. By looking at this I have discovered that the catching up difficulties I encountered is when the system is 'Buffering'. This can vary in length and is determined by the internet connection, spped of broadband, weather etc.

                  You can also watch the ITV channels as they are being broadcast. ITV1, ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4. In their own words these are running as live as possible. Although the majority of the programmes on offer are from the last 30 days there is also a section entitled TV Classics. This has numerous past ITV shows available to watch. Examples include classic Crossroads, Wrestling and many old series such as Peak Practice, Darling Buds Of May, Soldier Soldier, Metal Mickey to name a few. When you select one of the programme names it gives you a bit of background info plus a list of episodes available. Ideal if you are a bit of a nostalgia fan, but something I haven't really got time for.

                  My initial experience of the player wasn't impressive. I think a lot of this was down to my inexperience of how it worked. My 2nd viewing was much improved. Im not totally converted at the moment and it will take a lot more to convince me it is better option than Sky Plus. I have also tried the BBC I Player and this seemed very similar although I have not looked at it in any great detail. As technology improves this will no doubt be one of the future ways that TV is viewed but I'm not yet converted. Maybe I'm a bit stuck in my ways, it took me a long time to give up on vinyl and accept that CDs were the future!

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                  • More +
                    02.04.2009 22:11
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                    quirky upbeat debut

                    My first impression of the Ting Tings was whats that name all about?! Well according to Wikipedia its the first name of a chinese colleague of Katie White who fronts the band. Katie hails from Salford and her partner in crime is Jules De Martino who is from Cumbria. Both members were originally in a 3 piece band called Dear Eskimo. They were signed to Mercury records but the Ting Tings were formed after a split due to creative differences.


                    To date the Ting Tings have only released this there debut album titled 'We Started Nothing' Realesed on Columbia records in 2008, the cd is fairly short with ten tracks in total.

                    ~~~Great DJ~~~
                    This is the opening track on the album and starts the album off with a bang. Its such a catchy track, starting with a guitar rift and then the electro drumbeat kicks in. The lyrics are very simple and repetitive particularly in the chorus which helps to make it such an addictive track.


                    'The girls ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah,
                    and the boys ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah,
                    and the strings ee ee ee ee ee ee ee ee,
                    and the drums, the drums, the drums, the drums'

                    ~~~Thats Not My Name~~~
                    The most well known hit from the band to date, with the most commercial success this brought the band into the spotlight for me. Again the track has an addictiveness about it. I particularly like the vocal arrangement on this track. Towards the end there are three vocal melodies layered sung by both members of the band and although the album version is longer than the radio release it is enjoyable right to the end. This is a bot of a taster track, if you like this track then you will like the album, if not then you won't.

                    'Are you calling me darling?
                    Are you calling me bird'


                    ~~~Fruit Machine~~~
                    After the first two tracks this one struggles to have as big an impact. Having said that it is a grower and has a good beat and catchy chorus. Its also quite a short track.

                    'Kerching'


                    ~~~Traffic Light~~~
                    This is a completely different style to the other tracks so far and is one of my favourites from the album. It shows off the sweetness of Katies vocals as opposed to the usual attitude filled harsher vocals. The lyrics on this track are very simple and yet cleverly effective.

                    'Don't you be a roundabout,
                    not another roundabout,
                    you've come so far yet back to the start,
                    don't you be a roundabout'


                    ~~~Shut Up And Let Me Go~~~
                    If you haven't heard the hook from this tune then you must have been living on another planet! Its been used in numerous adverts and programmes. Its instantly recognisable and very catchy. The follow up single to 'Thats Not My Name' it was another big hit for the band.

                    'Hey!'


                    ~~~Keep Your Head~~~
                    I love this track. Again it has a catchy melody and hook, I refer to the track as '10 minutes ago' as these are the most prominent words for the majority of the track. It practically jumps along, makes you walk faster when listening on headphones!

                    'Fourteen, intimidated and shes just fourteen'


                    ~~~Be The One~~~
                    This is a much more subtle track, with not much of an initial impact. But its definately a grower and a nice to listen to track. It almost has a sing song quality to it, very mellow. Another track that has been released as a single.

                    'I don;t wanna be the one, making all the noise'


                    ~~~We Walk~~~
                    The most recent track to be released from the album. It doesn't really get going until a couple of minutes into it and it lacks the oomph of the previous tracks. Its still a decent listen but nothing special and a bit too long.

                    'ah ah ah ah ah, ah ah ah ah ah'


                    ~~~Impacilla Carpisung~~~
                    Don't really get this track! Its fairly catchy but I have no idea what its about. It may just be me showing my stupidity! In the break in the middle and towards the end there are sections that sound as if they are played on a kids casio keyboard. Very odd! Even so, its still catchy!

                    (not even gonna try and print lyrics here!)


                    ~~~I Started Nothing~~~
                    The final track on the album and and a bit of a weak ending. I like the vocals on this track, they are different. It has a catchy rift but it does drag on a bit.

                    'I started nothing, I wish I didn't'


                    We have had this cd for a while now. I originally bought it for myself as I liked 'Thats Not My Name'. It has proved to ne the most popular cd we have. It regularly gets put on in the car when the kids are tired and they are soon singing along and dancing about. It seems to give them a new lease of life. The album does have an infectious sound to it. We all tend to like the start of the album more than the end. The latter tracks are all decent they are just not a patch on the excellent start to the album. I would recommend this cd to anyone who likes music to put them in a good mood. It can't fail to get you singing along. I have listened to the album over and over and I never tire of it. Usually if someone else in my family constantly wants to listen to an album I tend to get sick of hearing it. That is not the case with this one.

                    Its available to buy fairly cheaply now but is still popular. If you want to listen to any of the tracks yourself then visit the bands website:


                    www.thetingtings.com

                    The band are currently working on their follow up album and I can't wait to get my ears on it!

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                      19.02.2009 21:39
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                      Try a different one!

                      Chart Throb

                      I have never been the greatest fan of Ben Elton as such but do like the sitcoms he was involved in writing such as Blackadder and The Young Ones. After reading a few positive reviews I decided to give one of his books a go and the one I chose was Chart Throb.

                      Eltons 11th novel, Chart Throb is about a reality TV show to find the next big Pop Star. Basically its a mickey take of such programmes as The X Factor, Pop Idol, Fame Academy etc etc etc. The story is set when the X Factor is no longer and Chart Throb is the biggest reality show on TV. The judges on this show are Calvin Simms (also the creator of the show), Beryl Blenheim (an ex heavy metal star who has had a sex change and has a dysfunctional family TV show of her own) and Rodney Root the weakest link.

                      If you have ever watched the X Factor or any similar shows you will find the format of the story quite familiar. Auditions across the country, desperate wannabes with sob stories and the tone deaf. The difference with this is that we get to see behind the scenes and to find out that everything isn't always as quite as we are led to believe.

                      To add further detail to the story there are numerous characters involved. Beryls extended and complicated family, Calvins estranged wife, the Prince of Wales, last years disgruntled failed auditionees and some of the TV crew. I did find that because of the many characters involved it was quite difficult to find any particular depth to any of them.

                      I found this a fun, quick and entertaining read. It was billed as 'laugh out loud humour' and although I was amused my sides were far from splitting. The book is fast paced and I got through the 464 pages fairly swiftly. There are no chapters as such just headed sections of various lengths. This does make it very easy to pick up and put down and ideal if you have to read in short spurts.

                      It is definately not to be taken seriously, its a very over the top look at the world of celebrity, fame, money and greed. I was a bit disappointed with the end to the book. All the ends were tied up and I understood what happened it all just seemed a bit weak.

                      Overall, a decent read but it hasn't made me want to rush out and buy Ben Elton's entire back catalogue or anything. However, having now read a few reviews of this particular book I believe I probably picked the wrong one to sample in the first place.

                      Available from as little as 1p on Amazon.

                      ISBN: 10055277376X

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                        05.02.2009 22:13
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                        An average book from a better than average author.

                        Glitz is the eleventh novel from author Louise Bagshawe. The version I read was the hardback which I managed to mooch from Bookmooch. Im not going to go into the authors background, but if you are interested then check out my review on her previous book Glamour.

                        Glitz is the story of reclusive millionaire Clement Chambers who lives on a large estate in the Seychelles. He has four nieces, who are two sets of sisters - Diana and Venus, Juno and Athena. They are all very different and not particularly close. As things stand the Chambers girls recieve a £500,000 a year trust fund from their Uncle Clement and are set to inherit his mass fortune. Each Christmas they all get together in the Seychelles and endure their uncle and each other to keep him sweet. This particular Christmas he introduces his bride to be Bai-Ling and everything changes. His bride to be is younger than all of the nieces and gets Clement to make this the last year of the trust fund payout. This is where the battle begins. Bai-Ling is a golddigger and is prepared to do whatever it takes to get her hands on the rich mans fortune. The Chambers girls however have other ideas and realise they are going to have to work together to stop the marriage and save the money. But there is more to the story than a simple fight for cash, Clement Chambers is a control freak and he sees everyone else as pawns in his sick game.

                        This was an enjoyable read in typical Bagshawe style with confident, successful female characters. We get to know each of the Chambers girls and how money can control your life and the difference its sudden loss can cause. All of the characters are not particularly likeable as they are all spoilt and selfish. We get a glimpse of how the other half live, fast cars, big houses, butlers and designer clothes. We also see the power of money.

                        The novel is a quick and easy read and the story is fast paced. The ending was a bit weak but not exactly as predicted. I enjoyed the book as an escapist read as I had absolutely nothing I could identify with for any of the characters. I found this to be on a very similar level to Bagshawes previous novel Glamour which was much weaker than her previous books. Both stories are very unrealistic. Bagshawes books are always enjoyable, but if you are new to her work then I would recommend Sparkles as a far better read than this book.

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                          03.01.2009 22:30
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                          Extreme is an understatement!

                          This is a book I never actually went out to buy but was given by a relative and so I thought I would give it a go and found myself reading it over the Christmas period. It made quite a change from the Harry Potter series I have just finished.

                          I personally became aware of Sharon Osbourne when The Osbournes went out on MTV. I had previous knowledge of Ozzy her husband but not of any of the rest of the family. I only watched a couple of the episodes and didn't find it that enjoyable to be honest. I did warm to Sharon when she became a judge on the X Factor reality TV show on ITV.

                          The first thing I will say about this autobiography is that there is a fair amount of bad language in it. If you are familiar with The Osbournes this will not come as a big surprise but I did find it a little over the top at times.

                          Sharon Osbourne is well known as the wife of metal singer Ozzy Osbourne but unlike most celebrities other halves Sharon has led an extremely interesting life of her own.

                          Sharon was born Sharon Arden in 1952 to her Russian Jewish father Don Arden and Irish mother Hope. Sharon had an older stepsister Dixie and step brother Richard from her mothers first marriage as well as another older brother David.

                          We hear tell of Sharons upbringing with what could only be described as an unstable family. Her father was an ex singer and ran a music management company and her mother was a dancer who ran a guesthouse for entertainers. So Sharon was never a stranger to the entertainment business. Her father was a bit of a gangster type and Sharon saw a lot of violence in her youth. She also saw a lot of baillifs as her father often had financial problems.

                          When Sharon was older she became a big part of her dads business. This was mainly due to her fathers financial situation and so Sharon was signing her name on important documents at a very young age. She meets Ozzy through her father who manages Black Sabbath. Ozzy is already married at the time and it takes a long time before she becomes involved with him. By this time she has also taken over his career management from her father and he has split from Black Sabbath and is launching himself as a solo artist.

                          Sharons life with Ozzy is nothing if not turbulent. Ozzy is an alcoholic, addicted to various drugs and at times very violent. I found it quite difficult to understand how she has stayed married to him for such a long time. Having an alcoholic father myself I found it quite hard to understand how she could keep her kids in that environment for so many years.

                          But - what we did see is that Sharon has the ability to give a good fight and wont take anything lying down. She is definately a fighter and with some of the people she has encountered (her father and husband the main culprits) she has had to be. Some of the stunts she pulls herself are shocking to read and she tells some stories with pride that I would be ashamed to admit to.

                          As well as Sharons upbringing, career and marriage we also learn of her battle with cancer, her weight problems, her fears over Ozzys accident and her relationship with her kids.

                          Although I have covered the basis of the book there is much more to enjoy. I did find some of the writing a little rough around the edges but this did add to the believability of what I was reading. I finished the book still not able to make up my mind about Sharon. She has certainly struggled through her life and has come out the other side an extremely successful business woman. Like her or not though, the stories she has to tell and the life she has led make for very interesting reading.

                          The book is written by Sharon Osbourne with Penelope Dening.

                          372 pages
                          ISBN 0-7515-3766-7
                          The copy I have is different from the above pictured.
                          £7.99 paperback issued 2006 by Time Warner

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                            02.12.2008 22:52
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                            A bit of nostalgia!

                            As a mum myself I find myself spending quite a lot of time in toy shops recently! At the risk of sounding old, they don't make them like they used to do they!! So what great toys did I used to play with?

                            1. Etch - A - Sketch

                            This brought out my creative side, well it would have done if you could draw anything other than straight lines with it! It was a screen filled with something (don't know what) and you used to have to shake it to erase your drawings. To draw you turned one of two white knobs at the bottom, one to go left and right the other to go up and down. The main drawback was if you made a mistake you couldn't just erase the bit you did wrong, you had to put up with your mistake or start again. Good fun trying to draw with it though!

                            2. Ker - Plunk

                            This is still around to buy today and I read a review on it in the last few days. It consists of a plastic container almost like a cocktail mixer shape, some yellow and red sticks and lots of marbles. The aim of the game is to stick all the sticks in through holes to from a platfrom. The marbles are then dropped in through the top and rest on the platform. You then start to remove the sticks one by obe trying not to release any marbles. The winner is the one who collects the least marbles. I remember playing with this many times with my younger brother. It was a bit annoying to keep having to set it all up each time though. We also used to play pick up sticks with the sticks and marbles with the marbles so it got its moneys worth!

                            3. Care Bears

                            This was not strictly when I was a child more in my teens! It was hip at the time (honest) to own a Care Bear even at that age! The Care Bears had their own TV cartoon in which all the many bears appeared. You could also collect stickers for a Panini album (yes, I had one of those). The bears all looked the same, but each had its own colour and its own picture on its belly. The one I chose was Bedtime Bear and was a gorgeous shade of blue with a Moon? or maybe a Star or both (my memory is terrible) on its belly. I loved that bear, not sure where it went now I think about it, have I still got it somewhere??

                            4. Vic 20/Commodore 64

                            My dad used to be a TV engineer and so could pick up electrical items fairly cheap. As a result I had a large TV in my bedroom as a youngster. He then managed to get hold of the Commodore Vic 20 'computer'. I use the term loosley as it isn't anyhting of the standard you see today and I would say it was more of a games console than a computer. We had hours of fun with this and its replacement newer model the 64. Games like 'frogger', 'bruce lee', 'blitz'. It used to take an age for the games to load on a tape deck and about half the time it would crash and you would have to start agin. It was worth it in the end though when you actually got the game to work! Many an hour was spent laughing at my mums attempts to controla frog or an aeroplane with a joystick, hilarious! We also used to buy those computer weekly magazines and try to make our own programmes. Syntax Error after about 3 hours of typing, nothing more infuriating.

                            5. Sindy

                            We all know who Sindy is don't we? Barbies poor relation. Yes I never had a Barbie I got my aunties cast off Sindys instead! But she had lots of accessories and then I got some bought, woo woo! Joking aside, I loved combing her hair, dressing her in the many outfits (they were old fashioned in the 80s), riding on her brand spanking new horse and in her lovely shiny new yellow car. I also had a cardboard house, with loads of furniture. Actually wanted the posh multi storey one with the fold away doors but Santa never got my letter.

                            6. Tiny Tears

                            I can't really remember a lot of the detail of this as it must have been when I was very young. What I do know is that she never left my side. We went on family outings with her attached to my arm. I suppose this is the equivalent of baby born today. Basically a doll. It did have real tears and I think it might have peed itself aswell or did I imagine that? It had a bottle that you tipped up and it looked as though the milk dissapeared. As if by magic, wow.

                            7. Monopoly

                            I couldn't write a review about toys without mentioning the timeless classic of Monopoly. I could visbly see my mum and dads faces drop whenever we suggested playing this because it took so long! We always knew that whoever got their hands on Park Lane and Mayfair would win and then it was just a waiting game. We didn't follow the proper strict rules (all that auctioning properties, boring) I have played this again recently with the here and now version. Just not the same!

                            8. Donkey

                            This is a bit lame really but we always used to play it at my Grandma and Grandads. Its a card game and the aim is not to end up with the card with the Donkey on. If you did you had to say eeyore and everyone laughed at you. Im sure you can get versions of this still today and that its just as lame still!

                            9. Girls World

                            I thought I was the worlds best hairdresser/make up artist with this! It was a plastic head, with hair that could be long or short. It came with many quite awful make up items to daub all over the poor girl. It was no way near as easy as they suggested to get off though. The hair could be brushed, curled, styled, you name it. Used to get tangled up on a regular bsais and be an absolute nightmare to get the lugs out. If it was a real head I think I would have broken its neck several times!

                            10. Raleigh Bike

                            When I was young we spent a lot more time playing outside than my children seem to want to do. I guess there were only so many hours that childrens tv was available to watch and grown up tv is just dull right.

                            The first, proper bike I had was a beautiful red raleigh bike. Im not sure of the model, it was just a basic girls bike and I loved it. It had stabilisers on at first of course and I was so proud when they came off. After that there was no stopping me. One hand, no hands, head over handle bars, knees cut to shreds, heaven.

                            Writing this has made me realise just how old I actually am and has been a good trip down memory lane. Hope you enjoy reading!

                            Kirkytracy x

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                              18.11.2008 22:38
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                              A pleasure to read

                              This is another book I have borrowed from the local library to read to my two year old at bedtime. It is published by Macmillan books and the author is Ian Whybrow. I had not realised but after doing some research I am very familiar with this authors other work. He writes the books for 'Harry and his bucketful of Dinosaurs' which have been made into a TV series which runs on the Playhouse Disney channel. I have also borrowed some of his other books 'Wobble Bear Says Yellow' and 'Again!' both of which I adored! The book is illustrated by Edward Eaves.

                              The book starts by introducing us to Baby Lion and then he decides to walk around to look for his friends.As baby lion says hello as he meets all of his baby animal friends they each have an action or sound.

                              Eg: Monkey 'oo,oo,oo',
                              Leopard 'Raaaaah'
                              and
                              Parrott 'Squawk'.

                              This continues for a fair few pages and then the story ends with the double page spread featuring all of the baby animals.

                              'What a lot of babies, my, oh, my!
                              It must be time to say goodbye'

                              Then we have 'goodbye baby (animal name)' next to each picture with a repeat of their earlier action

                              'look at baby lion, cuddled up tight
                              Purr very quietly and say night-night'

                              Each of the pages have detailed illustrations that are very colourful and bright. Baby Lion and all of the other baby animals are raised from the page and are soft to the touch. The pages give a feeling of fun and happiness. The actions/sounds promote interaction and after a few goes children can learn what each animal says or does. And the touchy-feely effect on the animals encourages the child to be involved more.

                              There are several other books available with a similar theme:

                              'Say Hello To The Animals'
                              'Say Goodnight to the Sleepy Animals'
                              'Say Hello to the Snowy Animals'

                              Overall, this is a delightful book for young children. I am extremely impressed by the books I have come across so
                              far by Ian Whybrow and will certainly be keeping an eye out for other titles.

                              ISBN-10: 1405090243

                              Available to buy from Amazon from £3.59 new 45p used as at 18th Nov 08.

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                                09.10.2008 22:54
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                                Eagerly awaited album from Alanis

                                Flavors of Entanglement is the latest instalment from the fantastic Alanis Morissette. Since the staggering success of Jagged Little Pill in 1995 Alanis has continued to create album after album of pure bliss. With a gap of 4 years since her last studio album - So Called Chaos - it was an eagerly awaited purchase.

                                The version I am reviewing is the deluxe editon with bonus cd. It cost me £14.99 from HMV which is more than I would normally be happy to pay but I had a £10 voucher to spend. The main album has eleven tracks, the bonus disc another five.

                                ~ Main CD tracks ~

                                ~ Citizen of the Planet ~
                                Opens the album. The verses are slightly reminiscent of Placebos sound. The chorus then kicks in with a powerful guitar underlining it.

                                ~ Underneath ~
                                The first track to be released as a single is a much softer song. It is fairly catchy in the chorus and has a nice upbeat riff running through which then continues into the bridge.

                                ~ Straitjacket ~
                                One of my particular favourites on the album. The only song on the CD with any colourful language. It features the f word is full of the angst that Alanis does best. The lyrics describing mental torture in a relationship. Its abrupt end suits it well.

                                ~ Versions of Violence ~
                                The vocals on this track are at the lower end of Alanis's range. It has an almost haunting sound to the verses with a more prominent chorus. This track describes the different types of violence other than physical. This is another track that finishes abruptly.

                                ~ Not as we ~
                                The second single is a simple ballad. Alanis is accompanied by the piano as she comes to terms with having to start again , but no longer as a part of a couple. The purity in her voice really shows in the vocals here.

                                "from scratch begin again, but this time I as I and not as we"

                                ~ In praise of the vulnerable man ~
                                The most reminiscent of tracks on the album to her previous album Under Rug Swept. This moves along at a catchy speed, with its gentle chorus and almost sickly lyrics!

                                ~ Moratorium ~
                                I had to look this word up having absolutely no idea of its meaning. Apparently it means, and I quote "A suspension of an activity". The activity in question being relationships and romance. As with all Alanis's previous albums a track features the title somewhere on the album. This is the track in this case. This is also the longest track on the main cd and is a little on the gloomy side. Don't listen to this in a low mood it will make you feel worse!

                                ~ Torch ~
                                Is almost a ballad. Its simple guitar accompanies the softer sing song vocals.

                                "I never dreamed that I would have to lay down my torch for you like this"

                                laments things to miss after a relationship has ended.

                                ~ Giggling again for no reason ~
                                The most different sounding vocals that I have heard from Alanis. Singing the chorus particularly in a soft head voice it contains little of her familiar sounding vocals.

                                ~ Tapes ~
                                Another slow track to start with building to a chorus again sounding almost like Placebo.

                                ~ Incomplete ~
                                One of Alanis's favourite subjects lyrically seems to be this one. Looking for something thats missing. Has she finally accepted that she will always feel like this? The verses feature gentle picking on the guitar, the chorus is backed by a loop. This track is the perfect end to the CD.


                                ~ The Bonus CD ~

                                ~ Orchid ~
                                Another song featuring acoustic guitar in the verses. This is a mellow, feel good track.

                                ~ The Guy Who Leaves ~
                                Features Alanis's head voice in the prechorus, a funky beat and melodious vocals and catchy layered chorus.

                                ~ Madness ~
                                Piano backs the vocals again here. A slow gentle track. This is over six minutes long and doesn't really go anywhere. A reason it is only on the bonus disc presumably. Not a bad song, just a little lacking compared to other tracks.

                                ~ Limbo No More ~
                                Again a slow long track. This does have a catchy melody running through and the chorus is a little more upbeat than the previous track.

                                ~ On The Tequila ~
                                I actually found this bizarre on my first listen. Its almost Alanis does Janet Jackson. Its all about a night out on the town with the girls and obviously the tequila. It is so unlike Alanis Morissette that its hard to take seriously and maybe thats exactly the point.


                                ~ Summary ~

                                Alanis has collaborated with Britsh producer Guy Sigsworth for this album. Sigsworth who has produced for Imogen Heap and Bjork specialises in Electronica and as well as producing also co wrote the music for the album. There are no tracks that I dislike, I just think some are stronger than others. The bonus CD is worth having just for the collection but if you are not a big Alanis fan then the cheaper main CD version would be as good a bet.

                                Although Alanis has a very distinctive vocal sound, she continues to experiment with different music sounds and styles with this album. It ranges from the catchy upbeat to the very slow ballad to the heavy guitared rock track. She displays a huge range of emotion in her vocals and in her lyrics. I am always amazed by the intelligence in the words she writes. Something I particularly like is how she adapts words to fit with her track, breaking them in half or pronouncing them differently to work better.

                                I for one enjoyed this from the first listen but as a bit of an Alanis freak Im a bit biased I guess.

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                                  30.09.2008 22:39
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                                  Thoroughly enjoyable, suspense filled, humorous yet thought provoking read.

                                  This Charming Man is the latest best seller from successful irish author Marian Keyes. Born in West Ireland in 1963, Marians first book Watermelon was published in 1995 and she has followed it up with bestseller after bestseller. I read the large paperback version of this book and my first impressions were that this was going to be a bit of a blockbuster read at 676 pages. The RRP for this version is £12.99 but I managed to get it for free through Bookmooch so why pay more!

                                  The ISBN for the large copy is 978 0 718 14913 0 and is published by Penguin fiction. The cover of the book is purple with a silver toaster. The toaster has lots of fireworks and stars coming out of it. I never quite discovered for myself the relevance of this to the book but I have now been informed and I do see the connection!

                                  After the initial acknowledgements by Marian Keyes the book starts with comments from four different women regarding a newspaper article announcing the engagement of politician Paddy De Courcy to Alicia Thornton. The next page features this newspaper clipping. The book then starts proper with a section headed up Lola. This section is written in some kind of diary format and seems to miss out words every now and then to abbreviate slightly. This section starts with Lola's reaction to the engagement. Lola has been Paddy's girlfriend for the last 16 months and so is somewhat surprised to read this announcement. I found that this initial section of the book moved along quite swiftly mainly because of the format. The pages were broken up by headings fairly regularly such as the time and or date. This section does take up the first 101 pages of the book but I progressed through it quickly. It was quite easy to pick up and restart by stopping at a change of time/date. I don't normally enjoy reading novels written in this format but this was made easier by the humour added . The section was quite comical and I found Lola to be a very likeable character.
                                  At the end of this section and then at the end of the next few sections we are given a half page description of an incident. All the incidents take place between a man and woman although we as the reader are kept in the dark of any names of the parties involved.

                                  I was happy to find that the next section headed Grace was no longer in the diary format but was now written as normal text but still in the 1st person. Strangely I found it hard to adapt for the first few pages. Following the introduction of Grace we meet her sister Marnie. The writing now changes to the 3rd person and this took a little adapting to again. Finally we meet Alicia, the soon to be Mrs De Courcy, again written in the 3rd person.
                                  As the book continues the four womens lives and events start to connect. Lola Daly is a fashion stylist and a bit on the kooky side with purple highlights in her hair (or molichino as she calls it). When she hears of Paddy's engagement she starts to fall apart and on the advice of her assistant Nkechi she retreats for 5 months to a small coastal village called Knockavoy. Here she encounters some strange and witty characters and this part of the story was easily the most light hearted and amusing. Grace Gildee is a journalist for the Spokesman and has known Paddy in her past. She is currently in a relationship with Damien another journalist. Marnie Hunter is Graces twin sister and she also knows Paddy from the past. Marnie is married to Nick and has two daughters, Daisy and Verity. Marnies Marriage is struggling and she is also having problems in her job as a mortgage broker. As well as Grace and Marnie we also get to meet their extended family, their Ma and Dad and also Aunt Bid. These characters feature in both womens stories and as they are sisters they tend to cross paths fairly regularly. Alicia Thornton is the character who is featured least and we don't really get to know her that well. This however has no impact on the book as it mostly concerns events that have already taken place. Details of the charming man himself Paddy are fairly vague initially and are revealed gradually throughout the book.

                                  I found all the characters interesting and very well developed. I did however wonder how the story would fill nearly 700 pages but the more I read, the more engaged and curious I became. We eventually got to learn more about Paddy and the effect he had on each of the womens lives. I found some of the book quite disturbing and the pages featuring Marnie were the most difficult emotionally.

                                  I have read all of Marian Keyes books and would rate this as one of her best. it's a long book but once I was into the story I found that I couldn't put it down. The change in the writing style between each section did make the flow of the book difficult at times, but we always new which characters perspective each section was from. I also found that the book jumped back and forth in time quite a lot. I did struggle with this at certain points , distinguishing what was happening now and what had already happened. This book deals with some serious issues but to reveal these would ruin the mystery surrounding the connection of the women. I will say that Keyes takes you right inside of the characters heads. I believe a lot of her writing is based upon her own experiences. It reads like a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces nicely placed at the end.

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