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yellowroses
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      11.06.2009 13:28
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      Well worth a visit

      I remember visiting Landmark as a child myself so it was one of my first choice days out last weekend. It combines learning about nature, where we get our wood from, micro organisms with a whole load of fun.

      My son is 5 and very active, getting on with his reading and very interested in science and bugs and doing what a 'typical' boy would do - stuff worms in his pockets, collect twigs and pine cones so this is the perfect place for him to be a kid.

      *******Where is it and How do you get there *********

      Landmark Forest Adventure Park is in Carbridge (look for the B9153) which is Just of the A9 around 23 miles south of Inverness and 7 miles North or Avimore. Carbridge itself is a small village but the Landmark Park is sign posted well from the A9 in both directions. Cutting through the Cairngorns we managed to get there in 2 and a half hours from Aberdeen but I suspect using the busier roads would take longer.

      ****** Tickets ******

      Day Tickets for adults are around £9.50 and for children £7
      Season or weekly tickets are also offered making the rate reduced slightly but for the amount of things there are at the the park the prices are reasonable. It really is a place you can stay at all day and still manage to keep the kids (and the bigger kids) amused.
      After buying your tickets your hand will be stamped and you will be provided with a map of the park.

      ***** Opening Times *****

      Between November to March 10.00 - 17.00
      April - October 10.00 - 18.00 (19.00 in mid July - August)
      The last admission is one hour before the park closes but in my opinion you really wouldnt get to experience the park with only an hour.

      For more information see www.landmarkpark.co.uk
      ***** What is there to do *****

      The Landmark Forest Adventure Park is built around the oldest remaining forest in the region.

      Tree Top Trail - has been designed to be accessible to all - it is a wooden planked trail suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs which takes you into the forest. You get to walk through the branches of the trees and experience the forest from a new hieght (but not too high). Along the way you might see some of the local brids and squirrels.

      Red Squirrel Trail - Again this route is accesible to all but doesnt climb into the branches. It is called the Red Squirrel Trail as at several intervals along the way there are information boards (designed to keep the little ones entertained) that provide educational facts about the age of the forest, the wildlife which uses the forest and information about the dangers the forest poses and succums too. There is a wildlife feeding area where you can identify and watch the native birds and red squirrels feeding while they are undisturbed by the wooden fencing (with small windows) seperating you and them.

      Trees to Logs - a building in which you walk around explaining the processes both old and new of logging. Here they have on display a range of saws dating right back to the first mechanical saws and chain saws. There is also an exhibit on safety.

      Forest Tower- I have never been up here myself because of mobility issues but my friend took my son and it is apparently well worth the climb. It is the tallest timber fire tower in the country and a free telescope is provided at the top. It would be the perfect place I imagine to get photos of the surrounding area.

      Timber Trail- This trail isn't quite so accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs although it is relatively flat and people were managing. I guess it would depend on the weather. This trail once again takes you into the forest where you can see the Cone Kiln- thats where the heat up the pine cones in order to extract the seeds. You can cut your own log (watch out for times on the board) on the activities area, and learn how to count the rings on trees to age them. Also can you tell the difference between your wood by the sight and weight of them? There are also various machines that are used in the forest to look at such as swamp excavators.

      Then you can walk along to the working steam powered saw mill and watch them in action, the staff are really friendly and didnt seem to mind a barrage of questions. Here you can also meet Lex, the working Clydesdale and give him a pat.

      ***** Adventure Land ******

      This is the part the kids are probably going to begging to go to, or mine was anyway. Here they have two playparks, one specifically for toddlers which is set back a bit from the excited older children. Then there is Ant City Olay are with scramble nets and slides and things.

      The aerial adventures all provide saftey harnesses and experienced staff to help. It just depends if your brave enough to attempt them.

      The sky dive is one I can personally say I wouldnt do, but I guess it would be a good cure for vertigo. Kids from about 8+ were climbing up the tower and jumping off, the adults seemes to scream th loudest.

      The Pinnacle is a rock climbing wall which can take eight people at a time. My friend was able to go with my son and they both enjoyed it.

      Ropeworx is an aerial asault course there are two Ropeworx is designed for adults and is a lot tougher than the Tarzan Trail which is suitable for almost all the family. Attatch your harness to the over head wire and tackle the challenges, varying from tyres to narrow beams. This was great fun and one of my sons favourite parts.

      For the kids there are the mini cars and diggers (the cars are included in your ticket think you have to pay for diggers. Race the cars round the track.

      The wild Forest Maze is again accesible to all as it is a planked walkway throughout. Watch out for the Frog, Crocodile, Snake and Ant hill though. The maze took us around ten minutes to complete. I let my son be the leader and he got tickled when we got lost.

      The Wild Water Coaster was what my son was begging to go on the most. This is the only area of the park where we encountered a queue. There are three slides all of which use a raft. I didn't get more than a little damp on any of them. No children under 3 years are allowed on the watercoaster and onlt two are allowed on a raft at once (or 3 children)

      ******* Other Facilities *******

      The Pinewood Grill and Xplore Store are situated right next to the park. The grill sells what you woiuld expect - burgers, sausages, juice, ice creams etc and the it is as overpriced as you might expect. The Xplore store is right next door and sells souveneirs and toys for the kids such as magnifying glasses and balls etc.

      The restaurant however is set back from the adventure area follow the bridge across from the other side of reception and find yourself at the restaurant, shop and Microworld.

      We had lunch in the restaurant and I was really impressed with the quality, price and service. All the food is obviously homecooked and there is a wide selection to chose from. Homemade soup, freshly made sandwhiches, burgers with your choice of speciality cheeses and dressings to macaronni cheese and mince. You will be given a number while your food is prepared but our took around 5 minutes to arrive steaming hot.
      The toilets are clean and are obviously cleaned at regular intervals.

      The restaurant connects on to the shop which sells souveniers, ornaments, books, Jam and shortbread etc and toys.

      Microworld is next door I can't say I particularly enjoyed it here but my son was in his element. Looking at bugs down microscopes as well as different types of bacteria and body parts is just his thing. There are interactive areas and displays where you have to push a button or turn a handle. I think most people would enjoy it it just wasn't my cup of tea.

      ***** Overall ****

      If you are in this area I would definately recomend a visit. It was a great day out for all of us and my son hasn't stopped talking about it since. The only thing that might spoil it is the weather but as we all know in Scotland you will just have to take your chances.

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      • king.com / Internet Site / 170 Readings / 166 Ratings
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        20.03.2009 15:36
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        Fast becoming a king addict

        I joined king.com about 3 months ago out of boredom really. I googled online gaming and king.com game up near the top of search results. You can play in two ways either for cash or for jewels.

        **** Signing up ****

        Registering is simple, all you need is a user name, password, your email address, country, date of birth and gender. You then are sent a confirmation email where you click the link provided. You can then play any game or tournament except the cash ones. You can also create your own avatar, enter multi player games and use the chat feature to talk to other members and friends.

        I haven't created a cash account but at the moment you get £5 free when u deposit your first £5. Upgrading is simple however, you simply select the amount you wish to deposit from the list a special offer this week means thatat the moment £5 = £10, £10=£15, £20= £30 and £30= £45. You then have an option of paying by credit/ debit card, Paypal, BT blick&buy or a regular bank transfer. After upgrading your account you can take part in cash tournaments and collect diplomas and awards. The main bonus of being a gold (cash) player is that you bypass the adverts and queues.

        **** The games ****

        There is such a wide variety of games on this site that I am sure there is something for everyone.
        There are 16 card Games to choose from such as Pyramid, King Solitairre, Freecell, Hearts and GoGo21
        30 Puzzle Games such as Block Party, Chuzzle and Twist me silly.
        25 Action Games including Carnival Shootout, Goldfish Bowl, Lxor
        26 Strategy games like Cake Mania, Funny Farm and Ludo
        9 Word games such as word battle, word seance and quiz queen
        10 Sports including Dart Duel, 9 ball pool and king pin bowling.
        The Royal Games are (I think all for gold members) and include bingo and black jack.

        The games are easily accesible from the home page and are listed by category at the left hand side of the screen. With each game (except the obvious multi player games) you have a choice to play in tournaments, cup games or just against yourself to earn jewels and increase your star rating. I have mainly stuck to the card, word and strategy games as i enjoy these more but there are clear instructions on objectives, controls and strategy for each game.

        As you collect jewels you can update you avatar as more features are unlocked.

        ***** Good points ****

        Easy sign up
        Easy Navigation
        Wide choice of free games
        Its free (if you want it to be)


        **** Not so good ****

        Lots of advertisements as game loads (unless you are a gold player) but this is how they make their money.
        Site does get busy especially early evening and lunch times so sometimes you are placed in queue (unless you are a gold player)


        **** My Verdict ****

        Thhe site is easy to navigae and offers everything I am looking for, There is a community page for players to interact with each other but to be honest besides a quick glimpse I haven't bothered with this. I will probaably contiue with the level of account i have and play the selected few games i am fast becoming addicted to. Definately worth a look to pass a few minutes or hours!

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        • PartyLite / Highstreet Shopping / 134 Readings / 126 Ratings
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          18.03.2009 15:29
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          I'm in love but need a winning lottery ticket!

          I first found out about Partylites last Feburary when a friend invited me to a Partylite party. To be honest I almost didn't go as I wan't exactly flush with cash and how exciting can an evening discussing candles really be? However, I'm glad I did as it was both enjoyable and informative. Also unlike some other parties I have been by other companies I didn't feel the pressure to spend a fortune, book a party or become a consultant although all of this was offered.

          *****PartyLites *****

          PartyLites began in the early 1900s when a school teacher, Mabel Baker, began crafting candles from wild bayberries. These candles were gifted to friends and family but became a buisness. In 1973 PartyLite Gifts Inc was created and has progressed from the 3 women in a tiny office to the company it is now.

          PartyLites now sells a wide range of products, the main focus is still on candles which come in many divine scents. The range of candles is extensive and the range in size from scented tea lights right through to 3 wick candles. They also sell candle holders in a wide range of designs and materials from which I'm sure you could find something to suit anyone.

          Popular choices are also their flameless fragrance range. They sell reed diffusers which I haven't seen anywhere else, sachets and garlands which are ideal for keeping in drawers or cupboards to keep clothes smelling fresh along with incense sticks and novelty items such as wine glasses filled with a fragranced gel.

          PatyLite products are made for quality and I feel aimed at an older market than myself. Anyone who loves have beautiful and expensive items in their home to show or to create a certain mood will love these products.

          ***** The Party ****

          The party was great. When I arrived the consultant had set up around 30- 50 candles in my friends living room and the smell from the few that were lit was simply divine. To me there is something mesmorising about the flame on a candle, something strangely relaxing and comforting.

          The next thing that struck me after the scent was the broad range. None of the candles or holders looked alike. The candle holders were really decorative and came in all different colours and styles.

          The conulstant started the party by playing a game. Yeah, I made a face at that too and wondered if i could get to the door unoticed but all it involved was passing a candle around the room (even i can do this). The consultant read a short tale and everytime she said a certain word you had to pass the candle on. I think it was right for yes and left for no but it doesnt really matter. To cut a long story short i ended up winning the candle a wonderful smelling votive so that was a pleasant start to me evening.

          The consultant then passed round catalogues and samples. I was expecting her to go through the catalogue page by page but to my relief she didn't. Instead she told us about special offers and drew our attention to products she thought we might be interested in and products which were a bit more unusual like the reed diffusers. She also explained a bit about how to burn a candle (trimming the wick and safety etc) and also why PartyLite candles were different to other candles. Normally when you spill hot wax off a candle it will cause quite a bad burn, for some reason (which I can't remember sorry) PartyLite candles don't. I was really cynical about this but did in fact find out for myself that it is true when i was a bit enthuiastic at hugging my candle.

          Hugging, yes i really did say hugging. You know sometimes when you burn a candle you end up with a tunneling effect (a hole is burnt in the centre of the candle) which is not only a waste of half the candle but makes it difficult to light. Well hugging is a technique where you press the edge of the candle towards the centre to help it burn evenly. Another tip that was given was to burn the candle for as many hours as the diameter of the candle. For example you would allow a 3 inch wide candle to burn for 3 hours at a time.

          The samples were in towers of little pots, like lip balms pots with the name of the fragrance clearly printed on the bottom. Most of these scents were so nice and ranged from the usual herby scents of lavander, lemongrass etc to fruity scents including raspberry, cherry, melon and coconut, but almost any you could imagine, and then the sweet scents such as chocolate and mint. The scents are also divided into moods- sensual, calming, invigorating you get the idea.

          We then had the opportunity to ask questions and look at the candles she had brought along with her. Then the order forms were handed out and the boring paperwork done. Payment was taking on the night by means of cash or credit/ debit cards.

          I have been to quite a few parties with other companies like the Body Shop, Virgin Vie, Ann Summers and even a book party but this is the only one where I would have felt comfortable handing back an empty order form. Obviously I don't know if this is typical of PartyLites or just down to luck with the consultant at the party but there was no pressure. She asked if anyone wanted a party and explained my friend (the host) would get extra comission if two parties were booked. The offers for hosts change all the time but my friend earned comission, got access to special offers and free gifts.

          ***** Products ****

          I could list all of the products they sell but for more information their website or catalogue is probably more use. Instead I will desribe the products I bought and the service I received.

          Despite not being flush with cash I fell in love with some of these products. I ordered a mottled candle in raspberry an thyme (my best purchase) a set of melon tealights and 3 tealight holders. Also I bought 2 different reed diffusers one in cherry and the other in the relaxation scent.

          The melon tealights and holders were a friends birthday present and the relaxation diffuser was a mothers day present anf the other gifts for me. I have just (last night) come to the end of my candle (sobs) and if I had the spare money I would be buying another one today. I know you are probably still thinking that a candle is just a candle but there is something special about these.

          The reed diffuser was also great. It was a glass bottle filled with cherry fragrance into which you insert reeds. The fragrance travels up the reeds and is circulated into the room. The smell from this was strong but not overpoweringly so. It lasted around 4 months. Unfortunately you cannot buy refills of scent. PartLite say that you can't buy refills for a perfume bottle but it seems in my opinion a waste of both the lovely glass bottle and reeds to have to just disregard them when the fragrance is finished. I have actually filled mine with sand and it is now decorating my bathroom.

          ***** Delivery & Price *****

          The party was held on a saturday night and my friend received the goods to distirubte on the tuesday so it was really quick and hassle free. The only thing was that my friend had to seperate the orders herself. Doesn't sound like a big deal but she had 4 big boxes full.

          I haven't mentioned prices till now for a reason- they are really expensive (but so worth it). You will be hard pushed to find anything in the catalogue for under £10- £15. A lot for a single candle (I can hear you) but party light philosiphy is to aim for quality and they certainly do that. I love the products i have tried and have heard nothing but good reccomendations from friends who have bought things too however I cannot justify spending that much money (no matter how nice they are) especially in todays climate. You do however, quality wise get what you pay for.

          *****Overall *****

          If it wasn't for the price this Partlites would get 5 stars as I have fallen in love. I felt comfortable with my candle burning and my son in the room as I knew that the wax wouldnt hurt him (although obviously the flame is a hazzard) For a special gift these PartyLite products are amazing but unless you are rolling in it you are probably better to not know what you are missing.

          ***** Extra Information *****

          The website is http://www.partylite.com

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          • More +
            17.03.2009 12:22
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            The second richest abbey in Britain and truly magnificant to look at.

            I have been here many times and it is one of my favourite places on earth, I just had to suggest it to Dooyoo and share this gem with fellow Dooyooers. My first memory of coming here is from about age 6 when I went one evening with my Grandad. The best memories I have of the Abbey were of before the visitor centre opened as it is today. My Grandad who knew everyone, knew one of the care takers and we would often jump the fence (naughty I know so don't arrest me) in the early evening when the abbey closed.

            I love history, old buildings and atmospheric places so this place ticks all the boxes for me. I have fond memories of coming here with my Grandad and listening to his tales (unsure if they are all true but it didn't really matter) Perhaps it is my memories of spending time with my Grandad and family picnics I cherish more than the actual Abbey but the two are intertwined for me.

            **** Where is it and how to get there ****

            Furness Abbey is situated on the outskirts of Barrow- in- Furness near Dalton around 5miles from Ulverston. For those of you who don't know Barrow-in- Furness is in Cumbria, North West England on the coast of Irish sea. It is on the borders of the Lake District a nice area to visit.

            To get here exit the M6 onto the A590 and follow the signs for Barrow in Furness. The scenery along this route is spectacular with lots of other things to look out for. The Abbey is well sign posted as a visitor attraction. There is free car parking ourside the visitor centre.

            There is also a railway station in Barrow-in - Furness with regular links to Lancaster and Blackpool. I think there is a bus that runs from near the railway station to the Abbey but this might involve quite a lengthy walk.


            **** History ****

            The history of Furness Abbey dates back to William the Conqueror and the Norman invasion. Furness belonged to Roger de Poictou, a Norman Lord who was granted this land for services to William, however he was banished from the kingdom and the land passed to Stephen, the Earl of Bolgne and later the King of England. The Normans were superstitious and therefore donated large areas of land to monastries in an attempt to save their souls. In 1127 Stephen gifted the 'forest of Furness' to Ewan d'Avranches who was the abbot of a small monastry at Tulkeith. He along with 12 other monks then moved to Furness.

            It is unsure exactly what order thw buildings that make up the Abbey were built in but it is assumed that a prayer room and sleeping quarters would have been built first. In 1147 the Abbey was taken over by the Cistercian Order - a Roman Catholic Order often refered to as the White Monks. They rebuilt the original church with a particularly ornate one. Most of the other buildings are dated in the 12th and 13th centuries. By the 15th century Furness Abbey was only second to Fountain Abbey in North Yorkshire in terms of wealth. There are strong links between the Abbey and the Isle of Man. The monastry owned mines on the island and built Peil castle to establish and maintain links. Salt and wool were the main sources of income for the monks at Furness Abbey.

            Being based so close to the Scottish- English border it is no wonder that the Abbey came under threat. After being raided by the scots in 1316 when the Abbey suffered serious damage Dalton Catle was built nearby to provide some protection. It is said that the Abbot reportedly paid Robert the Bruce (a bribe) as insurance to protect the Abbey. This ransom failed and the Abbey was pillaged and burnt by the Scots many times until 1346.

            The Abbey was closed in 1537 as part of King Henry VIII reign of supremacy over the church and the dissolution of the monastries. The Abbey was demolished soon after with the red sand stone and lead from the Abbey roof being used in other nearby building.

            ***** The Abbey ****

            Situated in vast woodland and between grassy hills Furness Abbey is idyllic and tranquil especially in autumn evenings. We have spent many summer days walking in the nearby woods, having picnics and playing football in the nearby fields. There is a natural ampitheatre opposite the Abbey which is an ideal spot picnis and a kick around. We just had to be near the Abbey to experience the atmosphere surrounding it.

            Built of red sandstone over 700 years ago most of the Abbey is now in ruins, although it is still possible to see the layout of the different buildings. The buildings that visibly made up the Abbey are the Church with its north and south Transept and Tower,the dormitory, infirmary and kitchen. Also visible are the cemetry, the Cloister Court, the Precinct, Outer court and Chapter House.

            As children we used to play hide and seek in amongst the ruins as there are countless arches and doorways to hide in. Some parts are now roped off as an attempt by English Heritage to preserve the sandstone. Twenty years ago none of us considered that climbing the steps and posing for a photograph would damage this magnificent structure.


            **** Museum and Visitors Centre ****

            The visitors centre has a large number of brochures and information guides available in different languages. When I went you were also able to get headsets that provided a commentary of a guided tour as you walked through the Abbey. Again this was in a choice of several languages. We tried using the head sets once and found otherselves completely lost and not following the same path as the guide. Not sure anyone else could manage this but me! I guess I was too used to following 'our' route. The good thing about this however is that because you all have individual headsets you can stroll around at your own pace by pausing the guide.

            There are souvenirs available too. Everything from the usual post cards and book marks to mugs, books and t shirts. There is also a small selection of local history books. Most of which are at reasonable prices.

            It has been a while since I visited so I am unsure of current admission prices. They weren't outrageous when I went. The phone number is at the bottom of this review if you want to find out prices and opening times.

            The museum is home to many artefacts including old pots and tools excavated from near. There are also tombs and the remains of the King of the Isle of Man, King Ronald I can be found here


            **** Myths, Legands and folklore ****

            It has been said that there are Ley tunnels under Furness Abbey linking it to both Dalton Castle and Piel Castle to allow the monks an escape route if under attack. It is not refuted that these castles and the Abbey had strong ties as Peil castle was built to strengthen trade links with the Isle of Man and Dalton Castle built to offer the Abbey some protection.

            It is also said that the Holy Grail and King John's missing Jewels are hidden someone near or in these tunnels. I remember my Grandad telling me about these tunnels and feeling excited at the prospect. (I even wrote an adventure story about finding these treasures) Saying this though there was also the disbelief that Peil castle was so far away. Saying that though if they can create a structure this magnificant without the technology we have today then what is to say they didn't have the ability to tunnel.

            My Grandad saw a monk here. My Grandad was not religous (he was protestant my gran catholic) and he didn't take any nonsense from anyone. He told me he went to the Abbey one evening and say a monk clear as day walking around the Abbey. He knew it wasn't a person but was sure it was there. Now okay there are ghost stories about all old buildings and I remain open minded but coming from my Grandad who was a complete non believer and skeptic felt spooky. There are also report of a headless monk seen wondering around and a woman on white horse.

            A story that was often told when I was younger was the story of the ringing of the bells. Apparently soldiers coming to attack the Abbey missed it completely as it was hidden in the valley. To celebrate the monks then rang the bells. Obviously this gave them away and led to one of the fiercest attacks the Abbey encountered. This to me was a bit like the typical Irish joke and I'm not sure it holds any truth but it made everyone laugh.



            **** Extra information ****

            There is nowhere to buy snacks or drinks inside the Abbey so I would reccomend you take something with you. Technically picnics are not allowed to be brought into Abbey grounds but there is the wooded area near by or the car park. Also take a camera because trust me you will want some pictures to enhance the memories you take away with you.

            We would often go for lunch and drinks at the Abbey Tavern. You pretty much have to drive past it to get to the Abbey. We always experienced great service and reasonable prices. There is also the Abbey House Hotel which is a renovated old private house. There are reviews on this site about this hotel.

            For a virtual look around the Abbey
            www.dalton-in-furness.org.uk/dalton-online/abbey-tour/index-abbeytour.html

            The pictures are great but cannot replace visiting for yourself.

            ***** My opinion *****

            You have to visit if you are in this area of the country. The size of the Abbeys structures and knowing they are still standing (well some bit of them) after 700 years is awe inspiring. The scenery is breath taking and has to be explored. The atmosphere however is the biggest attraction for me. It is so hard to explain the tranquility and mysteriousness of the Abbey but go take a look for yourself.

            It isn't just me who fell in love with the Abbey. William Wordsworth visited several times and refers to it in his poetry and Turner has made painting of it.

            For further information the telephone number is 01229 823420

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            • More +
              17.03.2009 03:56
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              Love is the most valuable gift that there is

              I bought this book for my son when he was 2 and he still reads it now (aged 5). The thing that attracted me to buy this book over others were the bright colours and illustrations I thought my son would love. I also bought his book with an accompanying story telling cassette. I find these story teller cassettes and cds so useful for when he is hacing trouble sleeping as I can just leave one on for him.

              ***** The author *****

              Giles Andreae is an Oxford graduate and acclaimed poet. This book The Lion Who wanted to love, started off as a poem which, after being left to the side for a number of years he decided to turn into a story.

              ***** The Plot *****

              Leo is a young lion cub who is different. Instead of hunting and killing his prey, Leo just wants to love it.

              'And besides when I'm close to a zebra a funny thought goes through my head, Instead of deiding to bite through his skin, I'd rather much hug it instead.'

              As you can imagine Leo's reluctance to hunt and willingness to love isn't 'typical' lion behaviour and unfortunately for Leo his mother casts him out of the pride. Leo creeps off to live alone in the jungle where he makes new friends by halping other animals. He rescues two injured young antelopes from leopards and nurses them back to health. The young antelope reward Leo for his kindness by saying he's 'the lovliest lion they've met'.

              After helping the antelope Leo decides to run to each animal who need help (superman in feline form). 'He led little hippos to watering holes, And he taught baby birds how to fly.' All his friends gave him food although he never asked for anything.

              One day Leo races to the river to help a cheetah caught in the rapids. Leo leaps in and manages to pull the cheetah to safety but gets swept away himself. Being pulled towards the waterfall the cheetah dashes off to find help. All of Leos friends come running and link themselves tail to paw. A lioness dips her head in and rescues Leo. The lioness is of course Leo's mum who admits her mistake in casting Leo aside and ends with the moral of the story.

              'You've got to be strong to be different, And when you've got love on your side You've got the most valuable gift that there is, We want you as Kiing of our pride.'


              **** Illustrations ****

              Illustrated by David Wojtowyez (glad i don't have to say that!) the illustrations are brilliant. Using bright tones of blues, greens and yellows this is a cheerful book to look at and ideal for yound children. The animals are drawn in cartoon style with lots of expression which gives them individual personalities.

              **** The Text ****

              There are roughly 4 lines per page with a beautiful rhythmic pattern which makes it a joy to read. The text is a fairly good size and my son is now attempting to read this himself with some guidance.

              ***** Themes and ideas *****

              Leo is different and not afraid to stand up for what he believes in despite being cast aside. I don't really want my son going around hugging everyone and getting picked on because of it. I do however want my son to be his own person and not just a sheep. To have his own beliefs and ideas and not feel pressured to bury them.

              Altruism- Leo helps other animals he would normally be hunting. Not only that but he helps for no reward other than to feel good about it. My son is probably one of the most caring kids I have met (I know I am biased). If someone falls in the playground or park my son will be the first one there.

              My son went through a rather embarassing stage where he would say racist remarks and 'didn't like' people who were different, I used this story to explain that just because people are different doesn't mean they can't be friends.

              I can use this story to tell him how proud I am of him and how much I love him. He doesn't have to amazing things to get my praise he just needs to be himself.

              ******Overall ******

              Well the fact my son still reads this 3 and a half years on speaks for itself really. It is a delightful tale and perfect 'happy ending' story for bedtime. This book won the 1998 Children's Book Award for best Picture Book. All you need to do is pick it up to see why. In case you haven't noticed I love this book and would definately recommend it. In fact I've given it to three frinds children as presents ranging in age from 2 to 7. Children in my opinion are never too young to be read to.

              ***** Price and Availability *****

              The RRP is £5.99. The amazon price is £4.49 or £2.18 from alternative sellers but this is without the storytelling cassette or CD.

              ***** Extra Info *****

              Published by Orchard picturebooks other titles by the same author and illustrator include:
              Rumble in the Jungle (also available as big book and pop up book)
              Cock a doodle doo Farmyard Hullabaloo
              Commotion in the Ocean (also available as big book and pop up book)

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                15.03.2009 23:23
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                A manual from a doting father beyond the grave

                I was shopping in Asda last week and walked past a display of books for £1. This is where I picked up 'By the Time You Read This' by Lola Jaye. I'd never heard anything about this author before (It turns out to be her debut) but the title caught my attention. One of my favourite books of all time is 'PS I Love you' by Cecelia Ahern and I expected a similar sort of story. I read this book in about half a day when I was ill in bed and it kept me occupied.

                **** The Author ****

                Lola Jaye currently woeks as a counsellor for the NHS and has a degree in Psychology and masters in Psychotherapy. She has a blog, 'Diary of an unpublished author' and pages on myspace, bebo and facebook. For more information on this author go to www.lolajaye.com

                **** The plot ****

                The book follows the life of Lois Bates from the age of 12 through to 30. The story starts with her mum remarrying and Lois receiving a 'Manual' from her Aunt- her dead fathers sister. Lois has mixed reactions to receving this manual. Her instant reaction is to burst into tears as it provides proof that her father really is dead and is not just going to walk back into her life, although she has known this for 7 years there was always a slight hope. The manual has an entry for each birthday starting at 12 and finishing at 30 (the age her father was when he died) as well as extra entries about varrious things from exams and career to relationships.

                The book is based around the entries in the manual and the narrative fills in the gaps between with Lois reflecting on the manual and events which lead her to reading it.


                ***** Themes ****

                The main theme in this book is of course Lois growing up without her father. The fact he is dead and can't be there leads her to hero worship him and blame her mum for things that were not under her control.

                Lois maturing and rebuilding a relationship with her mum. Lois was obviously a daddy's girl and Lois's dad is not spoken about in the house. Lois thinks this is because her mum doesn't care about him.

                Following the trials and tribulations of a teenager growing up in the 1980s. Also having to adjust to a new step father and step sister. The issue of calling another man 'dad'.

                The idea of leaving someone messages from beyond the grave and being able to pass on advice and tips you won't be around to share.

                Lois coming to a realisation that as long as she hero worships her father other reltaionships are near impossible as no one else will ever compare.

                ***** Good Bits *****

                The fact this book is written from a father to a daughter who was only 5 when he died. He follows all the themes and issues she will face as she grows up including relationships and sex. The way it is written you can easily imagine how difficult and perhaps cringe worthy this would be for any father to do.

                'With Stars On' A song that Lois and her father used to dance too. She has forgotten about this until it is mentioned in the manual. This allows the author to coin the phrase 'I love you with stars on' which is quite a nice touch and reminds me a little of PS I Love You.

                The camera he has left her has a picture of her father she herself has taken and although it is really bad it is her most treasured possesion and leads her to a change in career path.

                The relationship between Lois, her best friend Carla and Carla's brother Corey is really believable. They grow up as naighbours and there lives are almost destined to be interlinked despite 'growing apart'

                The way the reltionship between Lois and her mum is so effectively portrayed. How could any mother compete with the happy memories of a cherished father felt by a 5 year old. How could she compete with a manual to which Lois can't answer back? The fact Lois hides the manual from her mother and later finds out her mother knew all about it. You see Lois and her mother confide in each other more as she grows up.

                The character of Lois was, for me anyway, easy to relate to. I did however find myself wanting to yell and slap her when it came to relationship issues (just as well she isn't real). I guess however this is a refection of how well she was brought to life.

                **** The not so good bits ****

                Okay people bearing in mind this is just my opinion I found myself at various stages of the book wondering why on earth I was bothering to read it. It isn't anything overly exciting or gripping or a 'new' story but as I said I was ill in bed and I'm glad I did finish it although the ending it a bit predictable.

                I felt OLD reading this book (and thats never good). Not really sure why this was though. It was set in the 80s which does feel like a long time ago to me and perhaps it was the trip down memory lane in this resspect that left me feeling aged. Maybe as well I was left feeling old beyond my years by some of Lois's attitudes to life.

                I was hoping for another PS I Love You. Perhaps I am being unfiar to Lola Jayne comparing the two but that is personally what my y hope were. In this respect 'By the time you read this' lacked emotion for me. I love books I can laugh and cry too (hey I'm a girl) and this book had me do neither whereas PS I love you had me do both at the same time.

                ***** Overall *****

                This book was ok. Perhaps if I had read this one a few years ago I would have raved about it. Saying that however I read it in about 3-4 hours and literally didn't put it down and it didn't put me to sleep either. Worth a read but don't expect greatness.

                I bought this book for £1 in Asda but it has a RRP of £6.99 It is currently selling for £5.49 on Amazon or £0.01 for an old copy.

                Lola Jaye also has a new book out called 'Reaching for the Stars' for £1.99

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                  14.03.2009 02:58
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                  Don't be so Horrid Henry

                  I bought this book as a stocking filler for my son (5) this christmas. He loves watching Horrid Henry on CITV but I love reading to him and allowing him to use his own imagination to create the pictures. This book won the Galaxy British Book Awards Childrens Book of the Year 2008.

                  ***** Horrid Henry *****

                  Horrid Henry is written by Francesca Simon who began to write children's books full time after having her son. She was previously a medevilist and freelance journalist. She is now the author of over 40 books with the Horrid Henry series being by far the most sucessful. Horrid Henry is - well his name says it all- horrid! He encompasses the 'horrible' parts within us all and mingles them altogether. You know when you have something awful going through your mind or at the tip of your tongue, well he wouldn't hold back.

                  I can imagine that this is what attracts children to the books and this lovable rogue. In a world where children are increasingly in 'controlled and supervised environments' these stories let kids know its ok to think like kids (well to a limited degree). Horrible Henry is made to look even worse by his younger brother Perfect Peter, again the name says all you really need to know. A super squeaky clean good- too shoes of a snitch. The other characters similarily have equally descriptive names, Moody Margaret, Sour Susan, Stuck -Up Steve,Goody- goody Gordon, Clever Claire, Vain Violet, Gorgeous Gurinder,Kung- Fu Kate, Singing Soria, Tidy Ted, Rude Ralph, Greedy Graham and Beefy Bert.

                  Living with what he perceives as the meanest parents in the world who don't understand his needs, a perfect brother and moody friends is it any wonder Henry gets up to horrible tricks.


                  **** The Book ****

                  There are four stories in this book all around 20 - 25 pages long, so perfect length for a bedtime story. These stories are nothing other than pure genuis. It has plots so crazy it will have adults laughing never mind the children. The book is probably aimed at children 7+ in my opinion. There are some illustrations in black and white but not what a younger child would appreciate. Also the text is a fair but not big so would probably be managable for independant reading at around 7 or 8.

                  *** 1 Horrid Henry and The Abominable Snowman ***

                  The story starts with a snowball fight between Moody Margaret and Sour Susan, as you can guess with names like that having snowballs thrown at you isn't your idea of fun, Like girls (sorry had to be said) they end up arguing and storming off bragging about who is going to win. At this point Horrid Henry steps and demands to know who is going to win what. Using typical Horrid Henry techniques of blackmail and deceptiveness Henry finds out about a snowman competition with a prize of a year's free supply of ice cream. Dreaming of the ice cream Henry plans his snowman- not just any snowman but one with fangs, claws and horns- an abominable snowman. Setting to work Peter decides he wants to help Henry and they could build a bunny snowman. Of course this doesn't go down well with Henry who tells him to build his own. In typical Peter style he tells his 'Muuuuuuum' that Henry won't build a snowman with him and mum tells Henry not to 'be horrid'. Peter eventually decides to build his own and when they are all finished they compare them. Henty's is the biggest with a viking horned helmet and fangs, Margaret and Susan have built a ballerina with a tutu and Peter a tiny 'long, thin, lumpy body with two stones stuck in the top for eyes. That night Horrid Henry wakes and decides to check his snowman is definately the biggest. Margaret had made hers bigger with a flowery hat. Henry decides to put Peters snowman on top of his own, justifying himself that someone might trip over it otherwise. In the morning Henry oversleeps and wakes up to the door bell. A man from the Frosty Freeze ice-cream factory is at the door declaring the winnig snowman to be in the garden. It turns out that the snow has melted overnight and all that is left is Perfect Peters snowman. Henry's horrible plan has backfired again and he is left howling.

                  *** 2 Horrid Henry's Rainy Day ***

                  Horrid Henry is bored after being banned from the TV and computer. Unfairly of course because grown ups really don't understand the desire to do something you are told not to and even worse as it was Perfect Peter telling tales that resulted in punishment otherwise no one would have known. Complaining he is bored to the 'meanest, most horrible parents in the world' he is answered with helpful suggestions such as read a book, do his somework, tidy his room, empty the dishwasher and empty the bins. Surprisingly enough ideas that are not really what Henry had in mind. With onlt one thing left to occupy him he sets out to annoy Perfect Peter. Sneaky Henry calls Peter names and Peter complains Henry suggests that Peter could write a list of ten names he didn't want to be called and for £1 he would not use the names. (Why didn't I think of that for my little sister?) Of course after recieving the list Henry alters the names on the list and taunts his brother some more. Peter then tells his 'Muuuuum' who punishes Henry be removing a weeks pocket money. Henry of course tries to justify himself. 'I was only telling the truth, he really is a frog'.
                  Shouting at his mum 'You'll all be sorry when I'm dead' Henry is left contemplating his famalies reaction to his death decides that although haunting people would be fun, watching them enter his room and use his things wouldn't be. Henry then decides to write his will. This is absolutely hillarious. Leaving nasty things to people he doesnt like such as sweet papers and a muddy stick to the toad aka Perfect Peter and holey socks to his cousin. His will then turns into a bit of a swap list' you can have my Goo- Shooter only if you give me your football, your bike and a computer game'. He then decides that it would be more fun to recieve things than give his away so decides to write to people to tell them he has left them something great with the hope they will reciprocate. Finally Heenry's thoughts move to all the things his parents will no longer need when they are in the old peoples home, deciding to test driuve these items in his bedroom Henry is baffled by his 'selfish parents' demands that he puts them back.

                  ***3 Moody Margarets Makeover ***

                  Henry is sitting in his Purple Hand fort (his garden) and hears money mentioned in the garden next door. Moody Margaret is doing Makeovers on her 'friends' with ends in the catiness of jealous girls. At first Henry thinks the idea of anyone paying you to make them look completely different is ludicrous until he sees Gorgeous Gurinder pay Margaret £2 to look like a clown in Henry's opinion. Henry then decides to 'borrow' Margarets idea so arming himself with his mums make up he tries looking for business by insulting his parents. Having no luck with them he undercuts Margaret in a price war and sets to work making over Kung Fu Kate and Singing Soraya. After doing Kates make up he does his hair by emptying a pot of glue on it! Then doing Soroyas hair he adds in paint. Henry is pleased with his work as they both now look completely different. Contemplating raising his fee to £10 mum notices her lip stick has gone missing. Kate and Soraya are not best pleased with their new looks and neither is mum when she sees. She sents him to his room and Henry thinks he may need a little more practice. Henry bursts into Peters room and offers make over to Perfect Peter, Tidy Ted and Goody- Goody Gordon.

                  *** 4. Horrid Henry's Author Visit ***

                  Henry Wakes up excted about going to school (unheard of for him) because it is book week and his favourite author TJ Fizz is coming to visit. The excitement made Henry hungry so opening a packet of crisps under his desk he is caught by the Battle Axe and sent out the class. Worse still apart from missing TJ Fizz he has to sit in the back of Perfect Peters class and listen to Milksop Miles read Happy Nappy. The class start singing 'Oh I'm a happy nappy, a happy zappy nappy.' Trying to escape fails and Henry ends up dancing to the Happy Nappy and having to put on a bright blue nappy, Henry screams and Miss Lovely and Miles assume hes scared of the nappy. Claiming to be nappy- phobic Henry makes it back to his own class just in time for TJ to begin reading.

                  **** Overall ****

                  As you can see these plots are crazy yet so hillarious. Francesca Simon has performed an act of pure genuis in their writing. Henry's thoughts are replayed as well as his actions so therefore his thought processes are clear and not to disimilar to things I can imagine my own son thinking. Perfect sharing stories to have you all laughing. The other thing is that of course as parents we say no, we set limits and we serve the consequences of breaking boundaries. Each time my son does something wrong and I 'punish' him I am told I am the meanest mum in the world and that he hates me. Reading Henry has helped him to recognise that all children have to listen to their parents.

                  Stereotypical and believable characters, insane yet brilliant plots and a genuine bad boy who just took it literally (thinks like a man). His horrid antics have a horrible habit of back firing.

                  My son like I said got this book for christmas but has asked to read it so often he can practically tell me the stories. This is probably more of a useful reflection on the book than my opinions.

                  I bought this book for £2.99 at my sons school book fair. It has an RRP of £4.99 but is selling currently on Amazon for £3.49 or an old copy for £0.01

                  I was going to list the others in the series but my review is already sooo long (sorry) I'll let you check them out for yourselves!

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                    12.03.2009 00:03
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                    Want to see Wall-e dance to some nrw tunes

                    This was bought for my son last summer as he had vouchers for the Disney Store. I thought it looked like it would a bit longer than some of the other Wall- E toys he would soon tire off and add to the heap left on the shelf. For all of you who don't know about Wall- E I will try and explain a bit about him first so if you are already a Wall- E expert of just Wall- Ed out feel free to scroll down.


                    *****Wall - E *****

                    For all of you who (somehow) managed to miss the usual advertising and hype for any new Disney/ Pixar release, Wall- E was released in UK cinemas on 18th July 2008. Wall-e is an animated film with no speech at all for the first 20 minutes or so. Set in the 29th Century the human population have abandoned earth due to it being no longer able to sustain life. Humans are now living on luxury starliners while robots are compacting the rubbish in the hope to make the earth sustainable again. After 5 year humans are now obese and suffering from bone loss. All the robots have broken down except for one - WALL-e.

                    Wall-e is the only survivor bar a cockroach and continues clearing up the planet. He finds a video of an old romantic film and copies the music. One day Wall-E finds a single shoot growing and decides to nurture it. Also at this time EVE a probe robot visits earth and Wall-e falls in love with her instantly. Clinging on to her and finding himself aboard the starliners aand getting up to all kinds of adventures.

                    This film looks at issues relevant to us now, for example obesity through lack of exercise and damage to the planet which may leave it unsustainable. However my son was really bored after the first 10 to 15 minutes and at least half of the audience in the cinema walked out. He has seen it since however and enjoys it on dvd where he can skip the 'boring parts'. I think they have aimed to appeal to everyone with this movie, with the love storyline, robots and space tracel, and it has got mostly good reviews however, I think it is definately aimed at older children.

                    ***** The Toy ****

                    Looks just like Wall-e. He is a yellow box with two 'legs' these are grey plasticcogs covered by the kind of tracks you would see on a bulldozer these are made of black rubber. These legs are triangular shaped with a wide edge keeping him balanced. He has two arms which are yellow plastic with grey hands and moveable 'fingers'. His eyes which illumniate in blue when activated are supported in grey plastic the shape of binoculars and attatched to the 'body' by a grey plastic neck.

                    ***** What it does ****

                    Press a button on the top of Wall-es body and he comes to life- his eyes light up blue, his arms move up and down, he next expands and the 'body' pivots back and forth between the 'legs'. He says Wall-e, says Eve and does a dance, dances to a tune and makes various other sound effects he will move too. It has two modes- Try me is basically shortened versions of the full mode describe above. Some f the sound effects can be high pitched and squeaky which if you have seen the film you will probably understand.

                    Along with Wall-e you get a leaad to connect him to your MP3 player. Then Wall-e plays, dances and blinks (flashing blue lights) to the tunes you play. My son was really impressed with this.

                    **** Good Things ****

                    Looks like Wall-E
                    Sounds like Wall-E
                    Moves like Wall-E
                    Lead provided to connect up to MP3
                    Speaker for an MP3
                    Batteries surprisingly long lasting (3AA) I've only changed them once since July)

                    **** Not so good ****

                    High pitched sounds
                    Quite Loud
                    Very Gimicky

                    **** Overall ****

                    My son choose this himself with gift vouchers so I didn't pay anything for it. He didn't enjoy the film at the cinema when it was first released but I am not sure if this was about expectations rather than anything wrong with film. It isn't your typical disnay animation with bright pictures and colourful characters and lots of dialogue. He loves showing off this toy though and the fact it doubles as a speaker and he can 'borrow' my MP3 player makes him even more pleased with it and feel very grown up.
                    If you are a huge Wall-E fan and want to see him dance to some new tunes then get yourself one of these.


                    Available from the disney store £20 or Amazon for £37.95 (£19.00 new from independant seller) Reccomended for 8+

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                      05.03.2009 00:44
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                      Not one I would reccomend

                      My son recieved this game on his 4th birthday. He had watched the cartoon Roary the Racing Car on TV as part of the channel 5 Milkshake programme and enjoyed. It wasn't however one of his favourites.

                      **** Who is Roary ****

                      The cartoon of Roary the Racing Car last around 10 minutes and is aimed at children from around 2- 6 years. It is bright and cheerful and based at a racetrack so would probably capture any young boy interested in cars. It probably wasn't one of my sons favourites because at 4 he considered it too babyish. I'm not sure if this was due to his love of superheroes or if it wasn't the 'in' thing at nursery. Yes even 4 year olds feel the need to follow the crowd.
                      Based at Silver Hatch Racetrack, Roary is the main character. He is bright red
                      and full of character. I forgot to mention that all the race cars can talk -a bit like Thomas the Tank engine. Anyway Big Chris is the mechanic at the track and keeps the race car in line. Roary probably has the character of an energetic young boy, always keen to please but often getting up to mischief and into stick situations as a result. Peter Kay is the voice of Big Chris but don't expect a level of humour that will have you rolling on the floor, although there are some funny moments. It does have storylines involving the importance of sharing, exercise a healthy diet so your child may learn some things from it.

                      ***** The Game ****

                      This game is also neither one of my favourites or indeed my sons, in saying that though we have kept it (along with games such as buckaroo and elefun) for occassional play on a rainy day.

                      In the box there is a grey plastic ramp with a timer. The timer is just a dial that you turn that starts when you press a button, simple enough for a child to use after showing them once. The ramp is the platform upon which you attempt to build Roary before the time runs out and the ramp jumps. Roary comes in 9 parts - the main body of the car, 4 wheels in 2 sizes, the exhaust system, the engine (i think that is what it is), the back of the car, and baseball cap.


                      ****Play ****

                      To setup push the ramp down. In my opinion this is really tricky and takes some fiddling with to get it to sit. Unless our one is faulty. Then turn the timer. There are colours around the timer but they don't mean anything in relation to where it stops or starts (that i can see anyway)
                      Make sure you have all the Roary pieces to hand then press the red button to start the timer. First place the biggest part of Roary - the main body of the car, then the engine and hood followed by the wheels, exhaust and baseball cap. The timer lasts for about 20seconds before it 'pops' and roary falls apart.
                      The aim of the game is obviously to beat the clock and build Roary. You can press the button to stop the timer when you have finished so it doesn't fall apart. This game is designed to be played with 1-4 players. In all honesty I don't think you would be able to play with 4 players there isn't enough time for children to take turn in the 15 seconds they have.

                      ****Learning ****

                      Children learn about the make up of a car- ie 4 wheels, exhaust, steering wheel and where they go.
                      Learn to play quickly.


                      **** The good bits ****

                      It was a present so I didn't waste my money (sorry)
                      It has entertained my son for a few minutes
                      It doesn't need batteries, the timer is simply a wind up one
                      The box is sturdy enought to keep it in (can you tell I'm stuggling)

                      **** The not so good bits ****

                      15 seconds is just not long enough (Yes I get the idea its a pitstop ie you have to do it quick but 15 seconds for a 3-4 year old to put together a car?)
                      The ramp is fiddily It is meant to just be pushed down into itself and stay there but 98% of the time it doesn't stay
                      Not really educational - Boys who like cars will know where pieces go
                      It really is not a game where you can teach children to share or take turns. My son tried to play it with 2 friends and world war 3 broke out because so and so wasn't quick enough.

                      Like I said we have had this game for 18months and it hasn't reached the charity shop or Ebay yet. I definately would not buy this or reccomend it to anyone even if they are real Roary fans. In my opinion a wate of money and plastic.

                      If however you do want one (I'll sell you mine!) It is on Amazon for £9.78.

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                        03.03.2009 01:42
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                        Watch the grown ups hide up trees and cry for their mums.

                        From previous posts you may have noticed that among my sons many other obsessions, an obsession with pirates seems to have grown along with him. He recieved this book with accompanying CD on his 4th birthday (he had a pirate and princess party). The CD practically lives in his CD player and the book is a favourite at bedtime.

                        The Night Pirates is written by Peter Harris. He was originally an accountant before finding a love of writng scripts for both adult and children's comedy TV programmes. As far as I have seen this is the only children's book published so far but will be eagerly awaiting more.

                        The book contains 32 fun filled pages full of mystery, humour and intrigue all built in using simple language your children will love. The text in this book is not just at the bottom or top of page but is in different fonts and sizes spread all over the page with some pages in a portrait layout instead of
                        the lanscaped book. The words are often directional as well for example the words 'down, down , down the dark street they came' are positioned on a line each with text size of the word down decreasing in size.

                        It follows the story of a boy named Tom - "Tom was a nice little boy. Tom was a brave little boy. Tom was a little boy about to have an adventure." Tom is awake one night when everyone else is sleeping when "Down down down the dark street they came. Quiet as mice, stealthy as shadows." You see Toms imagination come to live, imagining Monsters and Trolls. Instead he discovers Pirates!!

                        Now these are not your average scary pirates, these are little girl pirates who have stolen the front of Tom's house as a disguise for their pirate ship. Tom joins the crew and helps the girls steal from 'really rough tough grown up pirates.' Grown up pirates who hide up trees and cry for their mums.

                        The story ends using almost the same words as it starts with and my son loves this. "Only the moon was watching them when they arrived. Only the moon was watching them when they left. Only the moon and one little boy."
                        No- one else will ever know? Or will they!

                        Accompanying this wonderful story are splendid graphics by Deborah Allright. Humorous pictures of the pirates, especially the grown up ones in trees, and also suspension building ones of a dark street and shadows. Her pictures are detailed and include bright colourful illustrations of Tom and the pirates whilst darker images of the night.

                        I think one of the main appeals of this book is that it isn't just your typical pirate story. The humour built in is magic but at such a simple level that children off all ages will enjoy it. What child wouldn't enjoy a story about an adcenture where they take the mick out of grown ups?

                        The CD contains 5 tracks - Track 1 - Full story with music, Track 2 - Song to sind along too, Track 3- Creep, Climb and Snare (a pirate game) Track 4 Read along story with page turns and Track 5 is a song only the moon to sing along too. The story is read by John Sessions, he is really animated anf puts me to shame in reading the story in such a way to give it justice.

                        My son mainly uses Track 4, often I read this book at bedtime and he wants to read it again. I put the track on for him to let him follow the story whilst learning to fall asleep alone (totally spoilt him as a baby so likes me to stay with him)

                        I think this book would appeal to most children aged 3+ Both girls and bpys would probably enjoy it equally. It is about girl pirates afterall. My son has had this book 18 months or so and it is still read as often now as it was when he first received it. I think that alone tells you his opinion.

                        The RRP for this book and CD is £7.99 however it is currently selling on Amazon for £4.79 with free delivery on orders over £5.

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                          02.03.2009 14:45
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                          Got to see it for yourself.

                          First and foremost I love Arbroath! I have never lived here but been a visitor many times over the years and it is a favourite place to visit for my son too.

                          ****Where is Arborath ***

                          Arbroath is in the North East of Scotland and is situated on the coast. It is around 16 miles north from Dundee and 45 Miles south of Aberdeen. The name Arbroath originally comes from its position on the Brothock Burn. Originally called Aberbrothock - meaning the meaning the mouth of Brothock. Arbroath is easily accesible by road from either Dundee or Aberdeen and also has a Railway station.

                          ******Harbour and Fishing ****

                          Arbroath is on the coast and is one of the busiest fishing ports in Scotland. The harbour dates back to a wooden pier in 1194. The fishing industry really know their trade. Probably most famous for 'Arbroath Smokie' Apparently this has been given the same copyright protection as Champagne so that goes some way to show you how good it is. Arbroath Smokie is haddock hung by their tails and smoked over hardwood chips. There are lots of traditional fish mongers in Arbroath where you can sample this. Along the road facing the harbour are a selection of pubs with outseid seating areas so you can watch the world go bye. A lot of these pubs however, will not serve you if you have children with you even if you are only drinking soft drinks.

                          ***** Abbey ****

                          If fish isn't your thing then there is plenty more on offer. The Abbey built in 1174 but not completed till 1222, founded by King William the Lion. The Abbey quickly fell into disuse after the Battle of Arbroath in 1446 and materials such as lead from its roof and the red sandbricks were used in the building of much of the town visible today. There is a visitors centre at the Abbey with a fee to enter.

                          ******The lighthouse and Signal Tower Museum ******

                          TheSignal Tower was built in 1813 as an onshore control for the Lighthouse. The signal tower now house a museum of the history of the lighthouse and harbor and is well worth a look. The lighthouse was buit in 1811 and was the first lighthouse ever to be built an a rock which becomes submerged at full tide.

                          ******West links Park and Beach *******

                          * Kerr's miniature Railway

                          I must admit this was one of my main reasons for taking my son to Arbroath. He was thomas the tank engine mad at the time. The miniature railway is staffed solely by volunteers. It is the oldest miniature railway in scotland as it began operating in 1935. It has trains running through most of the year. The railway runs alongside the modern rail connection with Aberdeen so you often see a ful sized train whizz past. As well as the railway there is also the Land Train which takes you by road from the West Links Park to the Harbour and back. There also minature Stagecoach buses and Fire engines for the children to ride in. I have to saw my son did absolutely love this.

                          *Amsuement

                          Like most coastal towns to attract visitors there is an amusement arcade which houses slot machines, bandits etc. Alongside side this there is an indoor theme park housing various rides like the waltzers as well as attractions such as Rambo Land (soft play area for the kids) The good thing about this is that we all know scottish weather is not predictable and this is somewhere to spend a few hours if the weather is not the best.

                          Between the amusement arcade and the miniature railway is quite a long walk so you can avoid the expensive rides if you want.. However to get to the miniature railway you walk past various other attractions such as trampolines, mini golf, a childrens racing track with electric go karts and a well equipt and very safe childrens park. There is also a paddling pool for the children if the weather id nice enough to use it.

                          My son went in one of the little stalls along these attractions and begged me for a fishing net. We spent the afternoon on the beach catching sea weed. Thee beach is a short walk down the steps from the attractions and is lovely and mainly well kept. As a reault of the fishing net I got of lightly with the hounding to go on this and that but he did enjoy the trampolines and race ttrack which were reasonably priced.


                          *********Eating Out ******

                          You can probably guess what I am going to say but there are a great number of fish restaurants in Arbroath and the freshness of the produce is something you are unlikely to find elsewhere. There are also quite a variety of pubs and independant restaurants to suit every taste.

                          *****Culture *****

                          Apparently (not tried it myself) a night out in Arbroath is always a good night out. Local bands seem to play in a lot of the pubs and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming.


                          ******My views ****

                          In case I haaven't mentioned it before I LOVE Arbroath! The history and quirkiness combined with traditional methods as well as accomodating the modern world. There really is something for everyone. I haven't mentioned shopping so far in this review as I would say it is pretty average for a small town and tourist destination. Also I haven't mentioned places to stay, quite simply because I have never stayed overnight in Arbroath but there are plenty of hotels, b&bs and a caravan park so I am sure you will find something to suit you.

                          I'm definately taking my son back to Arbroath this summer.

                          ****Extra Information ****

                          This year is being celebrated as Scotland's homecoming to comemorate 100 year anniversary of Robert Burns. Yes I know we have already had Burns night but the celebration is on all year so there really hasn't been a better time to visit Scotland!

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                            02.03.2009 03:47
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                            Glad I bought it

                            Before christmas my son had his first ever experience of scalextric and loved it. So much so this was added as number one on his letter to santa. I searched the shops for a decent set for a reasonable price but I wasn't too shocked to see that it is expensive. My son is only 5 and toys as you can imagine are not always cared for. I was delighted to see this mega motors set in Argos and snatched it up.

                            ****** What's in the box *******

                            Instruction guide
                            2 Mini Coopers (1 Red 1 Yellow)
                            2 Evo 8s (1 Blue, 1 Red) These are just the interchangable sets to convert mini coopers to race cars
                            Stickers - to decorate cars
                            2 Speed controller
                            Tansformer and Adapter (a plug basically for us who are less technically minded)
                            The Track - 7 Straight, 18 Curves, 1 Short Straight, 1 Power intake Track (the bit you connect the plug and controllers too) 1 lap counter track,(altogether there is apparent 4.23 metres of track)
                            5 bridge bases (Black plastic circular discs with a whole in), 18 bridge posts (cyllandrical pieces about half an inch tall that are interconnecting) and 5 Track holders (Plasic u-shped pieces with a circle underneath to go on top of your bridge and keep the track steady)
                            4 Spare brushes

                            *******Set Up *****

                            There are three different track set ups given in the instruction booklet or you could try and create your own. The different set ups are for varying degrees of experience and difficulty. The begginners set up is an oval shape and the easiest and fastest to set up. Ideal for learning to control the cars, however my son was bored of this track in ten minutes.
                            The intermediate track adds twists and bends to the track and took only a few minutes to put together. Soon he had mastered this track too so I set up the advanced track for him.
                            The advanced track uses the bridges, therefore incorporates hills and dips into play as well as trickier bends. My son still finds this a challenge at times.

                            Setting up the track (according to the instruction booklet) may take half an hour to set up the first time. I manage in around 15minutes tops (and if i can build it anyone can) The track pieces have two metal strips in each lane for the cars to run on and i have found that as long as these match up connecting the track is easy. Disconnecting the track however, I had to teach my son to resist the urge to just pull the pieces apart as the may just snap. Instead you press down of two of the joins and they come apart easily. Simply plug the transformer in and the controllers and you are away.
                            There is however a warning that oil in the controllers may burn off the first time you use them. I did actually experience as once of the controllers did grow quite warm but only for a few moments.

                            Changing the body of the cars from mini coopers to EVO8s was very tricky. Well at least I thought so and I had to get my dad to help.


                            *****Playing *********

                            Basically 2 players race around the track. We have so far spent hours playing this although i must say it is not my favourite toy to play with my son as I get bored after 5 minutes of watching the cars go around. I have also created my own track for him with the pieces in the box, but really I'm not so sure it was worth the effort.
                            Playing with this track however does seem to have increased his attention span and his levels perserverance.


                            ****** Good Bits ****

                            Easy to assemble
                            3 levels of track
                            Easy to use conrollers (simply squeeze the trigger, the cars speed is based on how hard you squeeze)
                            No batteries needed (always a plus for me)
                            Track counter so you don't lose count of how many times you have been round circuit
                            Connects to othe tracks in this series so my plan was to let it grow with my son
                            Easily affordable. A cheaper alternative to scalextric but not so great quality but I'm no expert.


                            ********Not so good bits ******

                            Flimsy plastic that will most likely snap if stood on (so don't stand on it)
                            The tires on the cars seem to fall off or move so they are not on the wheel properly. Not sure if this is because my son has a thing about tires and has loosened them or a design fault.
                            The cars have pins to keep them within the two metal strips and wire brushes that act as conductors. When the car falls of the track these brushes are often bent out of shape, lying the wrong way or full of fluff and hair. Cleaning and repositioning these can be quite frustrating.
                            The wires on the controllers could be longer so you didnt have to sit almost on top of the track (but now I am being picky)

                            ***** My opinion ****

                            I'm glad I bought it. My son loves it and has played with his 3 year old cousin, school friends, his grandad and uncles and of course me. The brushes on the cars to frustrate me but there are spare ones in the box and a phone number and website should you need more. I would definately buy another track in this range to connect up to our existing one but may also purchase a scalextric set in the future.

                            ***** Price, Availability and extra info ****

                            I bought this set in argos for £19.99 but you could also try ebay. I just checked amazon and didn't see it.
                            This set is designed for children 5+ although my 3 year old nephew did manage to play.

                            Website : www.Topbananatoys.co.uk
                            Top Banana Toys Ltd
                            13 Oak Industrial Park
                            Chelmsford Road
                            Great Dunmow
                            Essex
                            CM6 1XN
                            Phone 01371 873141

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                              28.02.2009 19:05
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                              Make a dramatic and positive change to the quality of someones life.

                              I was born with mild cerebral palsy. It wasn't diagnosed until I was 3 when a CT scan confirmed what my parents suspected. Over my years I have seen numerous specialists and health professionals, the majority of which, have helped me tremendously in leading a 'normal' life. Occupational therapy and the OTs (occupational therapists) have provided the most support and assistance with performing day to day experiences and I cannot praise them highly enough. This review will cover what they do and my experiences.

                              *******What is occupational therapy ******

                              Occupational therapy is the assessment and treatment of physical and psychiatric conditions using specific, purposeful activity to prevent disability and promote independent function in all aspects of daily life.

                              Occupational therapists work in hospital and various community settings. They may visit clients and their carers at home to monitor their progress. When a course of therapy is completed, the therapist will analyse how effective it has been.

                              They work with all ages from young children through to the elderly and assess each patients needs in an individualistic, holistic and thoughtful way. In my experience most of the OTs I have seen have been extremely capable of divergent thinking and problem solving. They seem to have a caring nature and the persistence to keep trying.

                              ******My experiences ******

                              I started seeing an occupational thereapist at around 5 years old when I started a main stream school. I can't really explain how they have assisted me until I explain my disability so please bare with me.

                              Cerebral Palsy is an umbrella term used to 'label' brain damage suffered before, during or shortly after birth. The range of brain damage experienced is very broad. It can lead to peoblems in motor function, speech, hearing, sight, learning difficulties and more serious problems like trouble breathing, digesting food and control of any muscle group in the body. Luckily for me my cerecbral palsy is at the milder end of the scale. I have weakness in all four limbs but more noticably on my right side. I also have problems with balance and co-ordination as well a difficulty in speech and swallowing when younger. I also tire very easily as a result of the extra effort needed to perform everyday tasks.

                              I did not manage to walk until I was 3 and a half although doctors said I may never have managed. I walked with an uneven gait and at 5 still could not hold a pencil in my right hand (naturally right handed) I learnt with a lot of persistence from my family to write left handed. This however meant that sometimes I failed to see the right side of my body. Occupational therapy at this age was one long play session that I remember enjoying. Building towers of bricks with both hand, making cookies so I had to use both hand together. Walking along a bench to improve my balance. As I got older the Occupational therapy team suggested the use of a computer and I got my very own BBC computer in the classroom to take the pressure off.

                              It wasn't until my teens that other issues really came up for me and I saw an occupational therapist again. This was mainly to do with equipment to help ease my pain. I struggled sitting for a long enough period to sit my exams so special chairs with neck and arm rests were tried out. I think it took around five chairs to find one which suited my needs but the occupational therapist was both optimistic and encouraging.

                              Probably because of this I took on a work experience placement with a team of occupational therapists and physio therapists in a stroke rehabilitation unit. Here I experienced OT from the other side of the coin and was equally as impressed. Quite often the solurions to issues are incredibly simple but have been over looked by other specialists. One story that sticks in my mind was a lady (in her 50s) who had suffered a stroke but was doing amazingly well and was so positve. She had severe weakness down her left side as a result of her stroke yet had managed to learn to walk again and make a cup of tea. She was so upset by the fact that she could make a cup of tea but was unable to carry it from table to the seating area. I told the OT on her case and immediately they found her a trolley. This ladies face lit up and I have never forgotten. She was too embarassed that the problem wasn't big enough to mention that she had resigned to living with it. This amazing lady and others like her made me want to train as an OT too. The work was not a life and death emergency but the improvement to someone's quality of life you can make is enormous.

                              Unfortunately I haven't (yet) been able to train as an OT due to the decelopment of seizures at 15 but I am still very impressed by this worthwhile career.

                              As an adult I have seen Occupational therapists many times in various settings. As an in patient in hospital where I have had to relearn basics like making a cup of tea and a sandwhich, climbing out of bed without injurying myself and bathing. In the community through home visits where they have supplied and suggested all kinds of useful equipment to make my life that little bit easier. They have suggested and provided everything from potato peelers and pronged chopping boards, bath aids and perch stools and health and safety tips about how to prevent being seriously injured when I have a seizure. The help they have given me is priceless and the support I so desperately needed. I was really weak with a 2 year old boy to look after and couldn't even dress myself. I had given up and was no longer optimistic but the occupational therapists persisted and rebuilt both my confidence and physical ability.

                              ***** Other aspects of OT ****

                              The one side of OT I have not personally experienced is work in the mental health field. This is based more on the prevention of disability through teaching new skills and the rebuilding of comfidence. For a variety of reason people suffering from mental health problems find everyday taks difficult and lose their confidence. They may struggle to feel useful. Aid someone who is struggling to make a cup of tea or cook a meal, which they felt they could no longer do, and the confidence boost would be enormous.


                              Sorry for the long review but I hope it was useful. In my opinion Occupational Therapists, Orthotics and Physiotherapists are the hidden gems of the NHS. Working hard to maintain and enhance a positive attitude and problem solving ability.

                              (Some of the above information was found at http://www.nhscareers.nhs.uk/details/Default.aspx?Id=284 )

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                                28.02.2009 01:55
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                                Not quite as pictured.

                                If you read a previous post on a Ben 10 action figure you will know my son is a big fan of this cartoon. I am not going to explain what Ben 10 is, simply because there is a long explanation on my other review so if you are a Ben 10 novice check it out.

                                My son recieved this clock and watch set for his 5th birthday. He is always asking what the time is and I thought using a digital display he could find out for himself.

                                ******* The clock *****

                                The clock my son recieved is different to the one shown in the picture. I suggested this product with the projector alarm clock but have seen the one above so will try to describe both.

                                The picture shown is the Ben 10 wall clock. I looked at this item on amazon before heading to Agros for mine. I'm not sure how big this clock is as it is not stated on Amazon. But it is as you can see a green splat shape (everything Ben 10 has to be green) with pictures of the most common ailiens around the border. There is a circular clock in the middle with a picture of Ben 10 and the omnitrix. The clock obviously shows hours and minutes but also has a second hand. Like I say I didn't get this clock in the end so I apologise for lack of comment on it.

                                The projector clock is the clock I bought my son which also came with the watch shown above. The projector clock has a green base and a figure of Fourarms standing on top of it. There are only four buttons on this clock which make it simple for children to use : Project, Set, Adjust and Mode. It has a smallish digital display where you can see the time (hour, minutes and seconds) and day. It has an alarm although this is not the loudest, although it does the job as it wakes my son for school. It also has a stop watch feature.

                                The thing that makes this clock stand out is the projector function. There is a circular light on the top of the clock beside the Fourarms figure. When you press the projector button the time is projected onto the ceiling in green. This makes up for the small display. My son shows this function off to all who pass through the front door as a gimmik, yet it is also useful for him to see what time it is in the dark. It takes 2 AA batteries.

                                I took this out of my sons room to wirte about it. I have just accidently knocked it with my arm and one of the arms has just fallen off at the elbow joint. Better go and find some glue before he notices. Maybe not as strong as I thought.

                                *****The watch*****

                                The watch face itself is mainly blackand has pictures of ailiens on it. Surrounded by green border where there is a button (metal pin) to allow to switch between time, date and stopwatch displays. There is also what i would call an inverted button which u push with the aid of a pen or pin to adjust the date and time. The watch strap is black with pictures of the most common ailiens as you would expect. I had to make an extra hole in the strap for my son but he is tiny. My son wears this watch with pride and has developed a much greater understanding of time. It is a 12 hour display which is perfect for younger children.

                                The wall clock and watch set are currently selling for £10 on Amazon while the projector clock and watch set are £19.58 in argos. I bought mine in argos for £15.99. I know the Projector clock without the watch is also being sold in some Asda stores for £16.99.

                                My son loves this and is now happy to go and look at the time instead of asking.

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                                • Cookie Recipes / Recipe / 64 Readings / 62 Ratings
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                                  27.02.2009 23:53
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                                  Always cheer me up :)

                                  Having not had the best of days I decided to cheer both myself and my son up by doing some baking. We bake about once a week and freeze cakes and pies etc for later. Tonight though I wanted chocolate and since I have avoided the supermarket this week I headed for the flour. My flat looks a bit like the flour fairy hit but we had fun and a treat all the same. I usually bake using measuring cups as is it easier for my son. Also I normally write out the recipe using pictures of the cup or spoon etc and rough pictures of ingredients such as a bag of sugar, this lets my son get ingredients from the cupboard and feel very clever as opposed to me telling him what to do. The recipe below is in cups rather than weights but i have put rough weights as a guide.


                                  ***** Ingredients *****

                                  3/4 Cup of castor sugar (4oz)
                                  3/4 cup of Brown sugar (4oz)
                                  2 medium eggs
                                  1 cup Butter (6oz)
                                  1 teaspoon vanilla essence
                                  1 teaspoon Baking powder
                                  2 1/4 cups of plain flour (10 oz roughly)
                                  1 cup chocolate chips (whatever kind you like) not sure on weight but around half a packet
                                  ( you could also add chopped nuts such as pecans if you want more bite)

                                  You will need

                                  A baking tray covered with grease proof paper or kitchen foil that has been well greased
                                  Oven set at 200 ٥C or (I think 400٥F or gas mark 6)

                                  **** Method ****

                                  Mix castor sugar, brown sugar and butter together.
                                  Beat the eggs then add to the mix with the vanilla
                                  Gradually add flour and baking powder and mix till smooth
                                  Gently stir in chocolate Drops
                                  Use about a table spoon of mix per cookie and lay on baking tray leaving about a 2 inch gap between them so you dont end up with one giant cookie
                                  I made 12 large cookies with this mix so think ill be visiting my sisters and passing them on (too tempting to have that many)

                                  ***** Cooking ****

                                  Place in oven for 12- 16 minutes
                                  You are cooking until edges turn golden and slightly crisp.


                                  ***** Those with allergies ****

                                  This recipe works with rice flour and I used to make it with Stork or Pure (Dairy Free Spread) and plain chocolate or carob. It also works using an egg replacer in place of eggs. My son had lots of allergies so learnt to be inventive.

                                  ***** Alternatives to chocolate *****

                                  I have also replaced chocolate with quartered glace cherries, mashed bananas, coconut and chopped apricots. They all worked ok, i cut down the amount of butter to use bananas as otherwise it may be too wet.

                                  Enjoy!!!


                                  **** The cookies ****

                                  Moist but not soggy and absolutely delicious cookies which cheered me and my son up. Of course he ate majority of cookie dough before cooked.

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