Thursday, 5 March 2015

If We'd Had #WorldBookDay In The 70's, I'd Be Taking These

World Book Day - Thursday 5th March 2015

Today, March 5th, is World Book Day which is now in its 18th year. World Book Day celebrates authors, illustrators, books and, a subject close to my heart, reading. In fact it has been designated a worldwide celebration of reading by UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation).

The main aim of World Book Day in the UK and Ireland is to encourage children to explore the pleasure of reading by giving them the chance to have a book of their own. And to help with this, participating schools have been sent packs of book tokens and age-ranged World Book Day Resource Packs with lots of ideas, activities and display material.

When I learned to read, we had the old Janet & John books ("Look Janet, the dog has the ball" - it's ingrained now!) and fairytales came in the form of the classic Ladybird books. World Book Day has got me thinking about those books dear to my heart and that I'd want to talk about in school. These are just some of them - and I've specifically listed the paperback versions because, much as I love my Kindle, it is never quite the same reading experience. And I believe our kids have far too much 'screen time' as it is. On the other hand, of course, if you wanted to read these to your kids as a bed time story, many fabulous children's books are downloadable free of charge.

Young Heidi goes to live with her grandfather in his lonely hut high in the Swiss Alps and she quickly learns to love her life there. Her strict aunt decides to send her away, back to the town. Heidi can't bear being away from the mountains and is determined to return to her happy life with her grandfather.

These are stories of little country girl, Milly-Molly-Mandy who lives in a tiny village in the heart of the countryside. She is a busy little bee, whether earning money to give a party, minding the village shop, having a picnic or going sledging. Despite the stories being nearly 80 years old, they are still enjoyed today.

Katy Carr is a tomboy who dreams of being "beautiful and beloved, and amiable as an angel". Unfortunately Katy is untidy and always getting into mischief. When a terrible accident threatens her grand plans for the future, she needs all her courage and humour to see her through.

Mary Lennox is sent to Misselthwaite Manor to live with her uncle and everybody says she is the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen. Pale, spoilt and quite contrary, Mary is also horribly lonely. One day she hears about a garden in the grounds of the Manor that has been kept locked and hidden for years. And when a friendly robin helps Mary find the key, she discovers the most magical Secret Garden.

This is one of the best selling books of all time, selling over 50 million copies. Although ostensibly about animal welfare, it is really an allegory about how to treat people with kindness, sympathy and respect. Narrated by the horse, Black Beauty, each chapter tells of an incident in Black Beauty's life and contains a lesson or moral.

Actually the second in The Faraway Tree series, this is about Joe, Beth and Frannie who find an enchanted wood on the doorstep of their new home. This is the start of many magical adventures with characters such as Moonface, Saucepan Man and Silky the fairy. Blyton is arguably the most famous children's author of all time and her stories still sell thousands of copies every year.

The Wind in the Willows is a children's novel by Kenneth Grahame, first published in 1908. It is the story of kind, sleepy badger, brave and lively ratty and irresponsible Toad, together with the sinister weasels and stoats who capture Toad Hall when Mr Toad is in jail.  It is up to his friends to, as Ieuan (and Captain Adorable) would put it, save the day and save Toad Hall.

Incidentally, my mother used to say I drove my car like Mr Toad.  Hmmm.

Which children's classics would you add to this list?

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Frozen Wonderland - Caitlin's Poem For #WorldBookDay 2015

Frozen trees scattered with frost.
Pretty snowflakes shimmer like the shining ice.
Wonderful snow sparkles like the dancing snowflakes.
The branches hang down loaded with the frosted ice.

On a white mountain full of snow,
live reindeer galloping around the trees.
Beyond the reindeer mountain lies an ice castle.

The snow queen lives in the ice castle.
There she lies in snow, ice and frost
This is a frozen wonderland.

Caitlin Hobbis (age 7)

Raise A Glass On Mother's Day On Sunday 15th March

Gallo Family Vineyards Pink Moscato - £6.99
I love a glass of chilled rosé and this one from Gallo Family Vineyards is sweet and light-bodied with the taste of ripe nectarine and juicy pomegranate. It would complement a variety of dishes like smoked salmon, salad, strawberries and cream or, my favourite, a slice of Victoria sponge.

Gallo Family Vineyards Moscato - £6.99
Or how about a glass of Gallo Family Vineyards Moscato, which is a light to medium-bodied white, with notes of peach, citrus, pineapple and orange blossom?  Gallo say this wine will complement light Thai food, creamy chicken dishes and vanilla desserts.  

For further information go to

If your mum prefers not to drink alcohol or is a mum-to-be, a great alternative is Shloer Celebration, an alcohol-free bubbly.

#SayItWithShloer Celebration at just £2.99 a bottle

The Celebration range comes in two delicious flavours; White Bubbly and Pink Fizz. The White Bubbly has a crisp and full bodied flavour from the very best in white grape juices. The Pink Fizz combines the vibrant flavours of red and white grape juice.  Both are best served chilled.

Shloer contains no preservatives, artificial colours, sweeteners or flavourings and comes in eleven flavours, including White Grape, Red Grape, Rosé, Apple & White Grape, White Grape Raspberry & Cranberry, White Grape & Elderflower, Berry Punch, Celebration Pink Fizz, Celebration White Bubbly and new Shloer Light Red Grape and Light White Grape.

And this Mother's Day, Shloer are running a competition.  For the chance to win a bespoke gift bag, complete with a bottle of Celebration, tell them why your mum deserves a sparkling treat using #SayItWithShloer.  Their Twitter ID is @shloerofficial and you can find them on Facebook at

Shloer is available at supermarkets nationwide at £2.99 / 75 cl.

For further information go to

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Great Purse-Friendly Home Gifts For Mother's Day From Terrys Fabrics

Flutter Printed Duvet Set £9.99 - £17.50

Terry's Fabrics, the Home Furnishings Specialists who promise to "transform your house for less" have a great range of purse-friendly home gifts for mum this Mother's Day. With an interior design centre, a huge stock of products online and stores in Staffordshire and Stockport, there's certainly plenty of choice.  

Lily Luxury Quilted Bedspread £26.90

Distressed Love Sign - £8.20

Love Table Lamp Cream - £15.99

Lovehearts Filled Boudoir Cushion - £9.99

Distressed Home Sign - £8.20

Emily Throw Eau De Nil - £29.99
Terrys is not a name I had come across before but their online store is certainly worth a visit.
Further information at or telephone 01782 566666.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Review & Giveaway: Stress Control - Stress Busting Strategies For The 21st Century

Stress Control:  Stress-Busting Strategies For The 21st Century is the latest book from psychotherapist Susan Balfour, who has made a special study of stress syndrome with a particular emphasis on the effect of stress on our health and how to manage our stress in daily living.

Susan has a private therapy practice in south west London where she works with both individuals and companies and lectures extensively on the subject of stress management.  She has been featured on a number of TV programmes about stress and anxiety management, and has worked with leading medical specialists on the management of Repetitive Strain Injury.

There are acres of words written on the subject of stress and its management, as just a cursory glance at the Mind, Body, Spirit section both on Amazon and the few remaining UK bookshops (thank God for Waterstones!) will attest.  These books seem to fall either into those with a medical focus or the more traditional 'self help' tome which offers advice in almost 'soundbite' format or has a spiritual focus, which some people may find hard to relate to.

Susan Balfour's book is a happy blend of both styles, combining important scientific information (such as the impact stress has on our bodies) with a frank discussion of how modern life and particularly how today's society, with its constant drive towards consumerism and acquisition, is affecting us.  I found the tone to be no-nonsense and frank, rather like chatting to an old friend who has your best interests at heart.

Susan believes that we need to learn from the lessons of the past and ancient wisdom rather than constantly seeking new (and temporary solutions).  This is not, however, done in a wishy-washy, navel contemplating way.  She proposes alternative approaches to modern problems, for example our addiction to social media and the urge to be constantly connected to our phones every minute of the day!  Bullying at work, working from home, excessive workloads, every modern dilemma is included.

The book contains 11 clearly defined chapters, each with suggested, easy-to-implement exercises. For example, "Technology and stress" (Ch 4), "Take control of your agenda" (Ch 5), "The Positive No" (Ch 6), "Stress at work (Ch 7) and "Food to empower you" (Ch 10).

I particularly liked Susan's focus on tension releasing exercises, since I have been doing Pilates for the last few months to help a lower back problem thanks to two caesarians just 18 months apart!  We can definitely control our stress by the way in which we move our bodies. The book includes a loosening and stretching routine which is easy to do, as well as an exercise to achieve deep relaxation.

Finally, Susan talks about what we can learn from successful people, focusing on control, challenge and commitment.

I really liked this book which is choc-full of advice.  It is not a book to be skimmed through but rather contemplated and digested slowly. Susan reminds us that it is OK for us to prioritise our own health and happiness - something that many busy mums totally forget!

So are you stressed?  With which of these symptoms can you identify?

* drinking more alcohol than usual
* sleeplessness
* feeling more emotional than usual
* non-specific hostility - feeling angry most of the time
* feeling threatened by life's demands and by other people
* increased irritability
* humourlessness
* eating too much, or too little
* increased dependence on caffeine, tobacco or other mood altering substances
* digestive disorders
* frequent minor ailments
* excessive sweating
* impaired memory
* palpitations
* indecisiveness
* feeling indispensable
* inability to relax
* feeling the joy has gone out of life
* always feeling rushed; always in a hurry
* resistance to change

If you're anything like me, I'm sure a few of these will ring a bell rather loudly!  It is imperative to manage our stress so that we lead happy productive lives and can give our best to those around us - particularly our children!

Stress Control:  Stress Busting Strategies For The 21st Century is available on at £10.88 for paperback and £4.99 for the Kindle edition.

I also have one copy to give away.  Just enter via the Rafflecopter app below.  The giveaway will close at midnight on Monday 9th March and the prize will be sent out by the publisher.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Colours of Wales - Caitlin's Poem For St. David's Day 2015

Colours of Wales - A Poem

Caitlin Hobbis, aged 7, 
crowned Bard of Dinas Powys Primary School (Infants) 

Caitlin, proudly holding her dragon trophy

The daffodils sway in the breeze.
They grow in a beautiful dainty meadow.
The petals shimmer like the shiny sun.
Dragon breath burns out orange and white sparks.
Dragons live on a fluffy, snowy mountain.
The dragons drive through the sky with their red scaly wings

The crowd cheer as Wales play.
Rugby players sing the National Anthem.
On a beautiful mountain like fluffy clouds
live bouncy, fluffy sheep.
Welsh cakes sizzle in the kitchen.

These are the colours of Wales.  

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Making Welsh Cakes For St. David's Day

Having munched our way through many a pack of Tan y Castell's finest Welsh Cakes, we decided to have a go at making our own.  We found our recipe on the trusty BBC Good Food website here.

You'll need the following ingredients:-

*  225 g plain flour
*  85 g caster sugar
*  1/2 tsp mixed spice
*  1/2 tsp baking powder
*  50 g butter cut into small pieces
*  50 g lard cut into small pieces plus extra for frying
*  50 g currants
*  1 egg beaten
*  splash of milk

Since I didn't have baking powder, we used self-raising flour and we substituted the lard for butter, but this didn't affect the recipe in the slightest.

Add the flour, sugar, mixed spice, baking powder and a pinch of salt into the bowl.

Rub in the butter and lard with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly.  Then add in the currants and work the egg in until you have a soft dough with the consistency of shortcrust pastry.  If the mixture is too dry, add a splash of milk.  We had to add quite a bit of milk to our mixture.

Once you have your dough, roll it on on a lightly floured surface to the thickness of your little finger. Use a 6 cm cutter to cut out the cakes.

Grease a flat griddle pan or frying pan with lard (we used butter) and put on a medium heat.

Cook the Welsh cakes in batches for about 3 minutes each side until golden brown.

The Welsh cakes will stay fresh in a tin for a week.  If you don't eat them all in one go, that is!