Monday, 29 February 2016

A Review of The Shadow Keeper by Abi Elphinstone

A Review of The Shadow Keeper by Abi Elphinstone

I was recently sent a copy of the newly released 'The Shadow Keeper' by Abi Elphinstone to review and I can honestly say I have struggled to put it down each day.

Following on from the first book in the trilogy, The Dream Snatcher, The Shadow Keeper can also be enjoyed as a story in it's own right.

It started off dark and dramatic and straight away picked up pace to get you immediately into the story. Moll is a gypsy girl with a wildcat called Gryff and they are being hunted by The Shadow Masks who want to capture them in order to destroy both them and the old magic. Moll is trying to destroy the Shadowmasks dark magic by finding the second amulet which holds the soul of her Mother but to do this she has to hide from and battle them and also save herself and her friend Siddy from terrifying smugglers too.

This is genuinely like no other book I have ever read- it is like dipping in to someone else's life and culture- there is magic, both old and dark, there are fortune tellers, medicine made from herbs and messages on the wind and secret codes- it is very different to any book I have ever read before.

There are good people and bad people, plenty to fear and lots to capture your imagination, the way the author sets the scene is fantastic- you feel like you are in the cove that is home to Moll and her tribe and then just chapters later you can really imagine what it must be like to be at the harbor with the smugglers having already twice fought off the dark magic that is trying to destroy Moll and her tribe.

I found the book to be gripping from start to finish, bits of it were very scary and very dark but Abi Elphinstone seems to know just when to stop the really dark bits to leave you wanting to read on without being too terrified to do so.

It takes a little while to warm to Moll who is very independent but this is also a story of friendship and learning how to trust and you do soon start to worry about what will happen to her. The end isn't a 'happy ending' as such but it is a good conclusion to the book and it leaves you well ready for the next book in the trilogy. 

I already can't wait for the final book to come out and would highly recommend this book to confident readers age 8 upwards or to enjoy with a parent from age 7 (although perhaps not as a bedtime story if you are easily scared!) You can buy The Shadow Keeper here 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Mother's Day Craft Ideas for Kids

Mother's Day Craft Ideas for Kids

Ssshh.... Don't tell my Mum! Mother's Day is coming up soon and I am putting my mind to something nice to make for her, I have to be a bit careful so I don't show her all my ideas but I thought I would share with some of them here as they are all things children can make with little or no help and whilst spending very little money.

You might have seen that last year we made my Dad a special message with chocolate and I plan to do something similar for my chocolate loving Mum - obviously I can't show you the secret message here as she will know what she is getting but below is the version we made for Father's Day last year- which went down a treat!

Last Year's Father's Day treat, to be recreated with a different message for Mother's Day

Like most Mum's my Mum loves to receive flowers (and doesn't get them very often!) so I thought we could give her some that she can keep and enjoy the whole year round. I plan to make this using each of our hand prints and writing a different message on each. We have started setting it out and it will all be stuck down on some nice card once it has finished. I have drawn round mine and Lottie's hand and we have written our messages together so once we add some in with Sam's hand shape then it will be ready

Whenever she gets the chance my Mum enjoys reading a good book and always has at least two on the go so Lottie has been making her a bookmark- this is really simple and she is really enjoying making it. She is only 4 so I have just taught her how to do a normal straight stitch but I think she is doing a fab job!

I have seen an idea I really like of painting a piece of wood in a nice colour and once it is dry writing the word 'LOVE' in nice swirly writing but using a hand print for the 'O' and a pair of footprints for the 'V' - I thought I could do this using Sam's hand and footprints as this would be a really nice way to keep them... I might need Dad's help though as he is tricky to pin down!

I am also going to be making up a batch of gift vouchers for my Mum to use with us- some will be especially related to us and others will be thing like a weekend breakfast in bed or ten mins of absolute silence! I think it will be quite fun thinking up ideas- although I am sure that some of the ideas won't be as fun to actually do!

Friday, 19 February 2016

My Perfect Dream Holiday

My Perfect Dream Holiday 

Mark Warner are on the hunt for Blogger Ambassadors for their Ambassador Programme and have asked people to think about what makes the perfect holiday- which on a wet, cold and windy February half term sounds like a fun way to spend some time.

I have been thinking about this all week and Lottie and I have lots of ideas of what makes the perfect holiday for us so we decided we would have a go at a craft entry. I have had to let Mum be a little more involved in the planning of this post than some of my previous posts because you have to be over 18 to enter (she definitely is even though she tries to pretend she is only 21!) but all the ideas are (mostly) my own! If we are lucky enough to be chosen as ambassadors it would be a team effort for the whole family anyway!

Making my own fleet of planes!
For me the perfect holiday is just about anywhere that means going on a plane as despite being involved in the testing of Terminal 2 at Heathrow I have never actually been on a plane! Having looked at the places Mark Warner travel to they have some stunning destinations (I especially liked the look of Sardinia which I had to look up on my globe) and they have some amazing facilities- skiing looks awesome and terrifying at the same time and I would love to try it but I have decided to write about my dream to visit America as it is somewhere I have wanted to go for ages and gives me some good craft ideas AND you need to go by plane! I would love to travel around lots of different states and explore.

Once I had decided this we quickly made up a batch of chocolate brownies to get us in the mood and inspire us to think about the things that we would like that would make this a dream holiday. This would most certainly include lots of nice things to eat!

Perhaps not as good as the real thing but our own batch of chocolate brownies-yum!

I like the idea of going somewhere that has a lot of history and America certainly ticks that box. I would love to visit the Statue of Liberty and join in with some of the 4th July celebrations. Lottie loves dressing up at the moment so didn't object to much to me turning her into our answer to the Statue of Liberty!

Dressing my sister up as The Statue of Liberty!

Of course there is the sport too which is quite different from in the UK and as sport plays such a big part in my life I couldn't miss the opportunity to go and see something completely different- I have had a try at making an American football pitch out of LEGO - it was much harder than a UK one!

Starting to make an American football pitch

My perfect holiday would have lots of nature and animals so I would like to go to some of the National Parks and of course would want to see the Grand Canyon- it looks amazing. A trip to the beach would be nice too.

Clay dino fossils... from the year 2016!
I like to learn something when I am on holiday but it needs to be interesting so I would really love to see the Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas - earlier this half term we had a fun day of dino crafts to make our own Dinosaur Valley and enjoyed made dinosaur footprints out the front of our house (to scare Dad when he got home) and dino fossils using clay but we would love to see the real place!

Creating our own Dinosaaur Valley at home!

Every perfect holiday has to have something that is completely out of this World so for me that would have to be a trip to the Kennedy Space Center. For now though I will have to be content with making my own rockets and space ships!

My favourite bear ready for take off!

I also enjoy seeing how places are different to home and would love to see some skyscrapers. I had lots of fun creating a nighttime skyscraper picture- all the windows have their lights on because Mum says New York is the city that never sleeps!

The City that Never Sleeps!

Then most important for my perfect holiday would be that there would be lots of FUN. Disneyland would be right at the top of the list for a trip to America because lets face it- what 8 year old wouldn't want to go?! 

Lottie enjoying being Minnie Mouse!

What would make your perfect holiday? 

This is our entry into the Mark Warner Blogger Ambassador Programme 'Crafting King' Catagory. You can see some of the other fantastic entries into The Blogger Ambassador Programme by following @mwholidays #markwarnermum #markwarnerdad

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Mini Weekend Box Review

Mini Weekend Box review and a chance to try for FREE!

We were really excited to be asked to review the Mini Weekend Box from the Weekend Box Club. Like most kids I love getting post so was really excited to get home from football and find a package waiting for me!

These brightly coloured boxes look like fun right from the moment they arrive through your letter box and we enjoyed opening it up and seeing what was in store for us.

The Mini Boxes contain two activities from a selection of four choices-

* Something to make
* Something to bake
* Something to explore
* Something green

The mini Box was perfect for one child to do the activities with a little help but we used a bit of teamwork and did the activities between the two of us and still really enjoyed it. At just £4.95 a box though it wouldn't be impossible for each of us to have one in the future or we can upgrade to the bumper box which has four different activities for £7.50.

The boxes come with a theme that all the activities follow which means they tie in nicely together and that you learn something new whilst still having fun. Our theme for the weekend was 'The Rainforest' and the box had something to make and something green as well as facts, stickers and colouring.

We had a parrot mask to make and for this project we had all the materials we needed (and enough left over to make a second mask). The people at the Weekend Box Club had literally thought of everything including the glue! The directions were really easy to follow but there was also space for you to add your own individual arty touches which was great when making more than one mask.

We then had the chance to plant our own rainforest which I was really looking forward to (normally we don't have much luck with things we grow so this was going to be interesting!) Once again they had covered all bases- we just had to find a small drinks bottle to cut but everything else was supplied. The bottle was where I needed a bit of help as it was quite tricky to cut but the rest was again very easy to follow. We had a little disk of compost which we added water to and watched it expand and then there was a little trick of using a piece of string to suck up the water before we added the seeds! We did have a few days of disappointment thinking nothing was happen and then all of a sudden the seeds have started to grow...we can't wait to see what our rainforest ends up like!

We really enjoyed trialing the Mini Weekend Box and would definitely look at ordering them again- the great thing is you can choose how often you have them and also stop them if you want a break or if you are going on holiday. I would love to try one with a baking activity next time as I would like to see how that comes delivered and what you can make but I really liked the activities we had and would recommend this for children age 4 upwards with adult help or 6 upwards to do more independently- although part of the fun for us was doing the activities together as a family.

If you would like to try one of these fun boxes for FREE visit the Weekend Box Club here and enter code CATHERINE311 to receive your first box free.

Note from Mum

I was impressed with the boxes and found them to be very well organised, good fun and a really nice way to spend some time with the kids at the weekend- having the activities ready planned encourages you to make sure you set aside the time to enjoy them with the children rather than just vaguely planning to and then realising the weekend has slipped away yet again. Surprisingly -considering the fact that I am being especially frugal at the moment I do feel these are good value for money and will be looking to sign up for our own delivery which I know the kids will love.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Yummy no cook double chocolate nutty cereal bars

Yummy no cook double chocolate nutty cereal bars

We have been experimenting with lots of cereal bar recipes recently and after trying lots of different adjustments have found one we all really like. These yummy bars are very filling and are perfect for a quick breakfast or mid morning snack and ideal for an after football treat.

Try them yourself and see what you think!


220g honey
120g peanut butter
50g light brown sugar
50g cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of salt
170g stoneground oats
40g rice crispies
80g of white chocolate chips


* Grease and line an 18 x 18 baking tray.

* Add the honey, peanut butter and sugar to a non metallic heat proof bowl and microwave on full for one minute

* Stir and heat for a further 90 seconds

* Stir again and whisk in vanilla, salt and cocoa

* Add the oats stirring all the time.

* Slowly add the rice crispies until all absorbed

* Add three quarters of the chocolate chips

* Press the mix down into the baking tray

* Sprinkle with the remaining chocolate chips and press down

* Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and then cut into bars

* The bars can then be wrapped individually for use through the week if you can resist eating them straight away!