GlassesShop review

GlassesShop review

Do you have bad eye sight? Are you like me and really struggle when it comes to buying new frames? I have been wearing glasses ever since I was a baby so glasses shopping has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up glasses were not cool, you got picked on for being s ‘four eyes’. These days though there are so many beautiful frames to choose from, people with perfectly good vision are choosing to wear glasses just as a fashion accessory. Glasses shopping has changed a lot since I was little too, gone are the days of spending hours in an opticians hunting through frame after frame trying to find the perfect pair, now you can do it all from the comfort of your home on your laptop. I was recently contacted by GlassesShop to see if I would like to review their service and some frames, always on the hunt for gorgeous glasses, I obviously said yes.

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Wall Snaps prints review and exclusive discount code

Ever since I have been able to use a camera, I have loved taking photos. I love capturing photographs of people, places and whatever pretty thing catches my eye. It wouldn’t be difficult to describe me as snap happy and I am more often found behind the camera than posing in front of one. Since becoming a Mum I have got literally thousands of photographs stored on my phone and laptop, I am sure lots of you parents out there can relate. When the lovely team at Wall Snaps contacted me asking if I wanted to review some of their products obviously I said yes, what a perfect excuse to finally get some of my photos off my phone and out on display.

Wall Snaps are an online photo printing service that help you create beautiful personalised wall art. You can get all your beautiful shots in canvas form or you can choose a customisable frame option or have a large poster-like print out to frame yourself at a later date.

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Baker Days letterbox cake review

Baker Days letterbox cake review

Very rarely do I get excited by something I have received via my home’s letterbox. Bills? Yay, another thing to worry about. Junk mail? I don’t care that you have the best double glazed windows for sale in town, please leave me alone. An appointment for a lady check up at the doctors? Important, yes. Exciting? Not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I get nice packages through the post when I have been on an online shopping spree but more often than not I end up missing the delivery and having to reschedule or take a trip to the post office to pick it up. So, when Baker Days, the personalised celebration cake specialists, asked if I wanted to receive a cake through my letterbox I couldn’t write back and say yes quick enough. Who wouldn’t want a cake sat waiting for them when they went to grab the post in the morning?

Baker Days letterbox cake review View Post

Woodland adventures with Trespass – Toddler rain suit review

Nothing beats a nice, long family walk, don’t you agree? There is just something about exploring the great outdoors, soaking up nature’s beauty and enjoying the peace and freedom of the countryside that I absolutely love. Put Leo in a forest or on the beach and he is in his element, his curiosity free to run wild and his inner explorer unleashed. If you follow me on InstaGram you will know that Leo and I are always off on little outdoor adventures, splashing in puddles and navigating our way through various local woodland. Being a family that loves the outdoors, I was so excited when Trespass, one of the most successful outdoor clothing companies in the UK, asked me if I would like to review one of their products.

It was so hard to decide what to review as there is so much amazing choice for outdoor clothing on the Trespass website. Eventually, I decided this would be a great opportunity to get Leo a new rain suit. His old one has got too small and, with the amount of time this boy spends in puddles, it seemed only logical to get him a new one. The Dripdrop navy waterproof suit is £26.99 and is available from age 2 up to age 8. Leo is small for his age so the age 2/3 suit was a bit long on the arms and legs but apart from that it fits him perfectly,

To give his new suit a proper test run we spent Saturday afternoon exploring a forest 10 minutes away, one we have not visited before. I was very impressed with how easy the suit was to get on, sometimes getting a toddlers wiggly limbs into all in one clothes can be difficult but I had no trouble zipping Leo in. As it was quite a chilly day Leo had a jumper and jeans on under his suit, he said he was ‘very cosy’ and the suit slid on easily over his bulky clothes. The fleece lining helped keep Leo nice and snug and the suit is also windproof. There was a chilly wind, rattling through the trees and rustling the leaves but Leo was happy exploring, the cold not bothering him at all.

Leo sure put the rain suit through it’s paces. He was climbing over tree trunks and running down steep slopes with his Daddy. Even though the suit was a bit too big Leo had no trouble moving around in it and running through the trees. The elasticated waist means the suit fits like a dream, not too tight and not too loose, making it easy for your little one to explore in comfort.

Unfortunately, the weather has been uncharacteristically dry for the UK so we were unable to discover the full potential of the Dripdrop rain suit, We had hoped to find a stream or something in the woods but no such luck. Just by looking at the rain suit I am very confident in it’s waterproofing abilities; the elasticated wrist and ankle cuffs will effectively keep little arms and legs dry and the hood is a good size. The polyester outer coating is waterproof up to 2000mm, perfect for keeping your little one dry in a rain shower, or if they get a bit enthusiastic with their puddle jumping!

The rain suit also has reflective piping along the back, a great little feature to make sure your child is always visible even on the dreariest, rainiest walks you go on. It is really easy to roll up the rain suit and pop it in your bag if the sun starts shining and your toddler gets too warm. The Trespass Logo is stylishly placed on the front and the suit looks great, just look how cute Leo looks in it.

Leo loves his new ‘splash suit’ and I am actually looking forward to a bit of rain so we can see how it holds up during a toddler puddle splashing marathon. Even with Spring tantalisingly close, a rain suit is a must when you live somewhere with unpredictable, often rubbish weather like we have here in the UK. This boy’s rain suit makes a cosy alternative to a traditional rain coat or jacket and knowing your little one will be nice and dry, hopefully you will be encouraged to get out exploring, whatever the weather may be,

What do you think of the Dripdrop rain suit?Would you consider buying one for your little one?Do you like exploring the countryside too? It is our favourite way to pass the time 🙂

Disclaimer: I was sent the Dripdrop rain suit from Trespass in return for this honest review, All words and opinions are my own.

This post is linked to..

Cuddle Fairy

WHATEVER THE WEATHER LIFE UNEXPECTED

Diary of an Imperfect Mum: Family Fun Linky
A Cornish Mum

Bridget Jones Mad About the Boy – A book review

I love Bridget Jones. I am a big fan of the films as well as the original books by Helen Fielding. When I sat down and opened up Mad About the Boy, I was so excited to find out what was next for our beloved Bridget, after finally marrying her Prince Charming Mark Darcy. The plot of the book was not what I was expecting but I still really enjoyed it and found myself laughing out loud on several occasions. If you are a fan of the Bridget Jones’s Diary books and films you are definitely going to love the third and final instalment, Mad About the Boy.

bridget jones mad about the boy
This book is impossible to review without giving away a spoiler. I won’t reveal the exact details but if you don’t want to know anything then maybe you should check out one of my other book reviews instead.
Ok, so here it is. SPOILER ALERT, Bridget and Mark are no longer together. You find out this information on the very first page so this is not a major secret, I will not reveal the circumstances as to why  Mark is not around though, you will have to read the book to find that out.

Mad About the Boy is all about Bridget’s life after Mark. For the past 5 years Bridget has been a single Mum to their 2 children Billy and Mabel.  Days of getting stuck up fire man poles are long gone as Bridget is now getting stuck up trees with her kids in the local park instead. Blue soup kitchen disasters have been replaced with mishaps with the kids spag bol and shop bought food being disguised as home made. Bridget is now battling the trials of the school run and getting to grips with the politics of play dates and making ‘mum friends’. Bridget continues to count calories, enjoy a glass or five of Chardonnay and her countless fags have been replaced with copious amounts of Nicorette gum. 
She may now be a mother of two but Bridget is still searching for her dream career and a new man; a born again virgin is how Bridget’s best friends describe her. Determined to meet someone new, Bridget gets herself on Twitter. The unspoken rules and secrets of the online world baffle Bridget, I was in hysterics reading all her social media woes and her tweets to her disappearing followers. Things have changed since Bridget was last single and we follow her journey to finding a man in the digital age. Be prepared to feel as though you have read a dating guide book as Bridget undertakes some serious reading and research to bag herself a new man. 
Along with navigating her way through the online world, Bridget is also attempting to start a career as a screenwriter. Bridget’s musing over modern day fashion and whether it is acceptable for a woman in her fifties to wear skinny jeans with an oversized handbag to a business meeting had me laughing away to myself. Bridget juggles meetings with the school run, texts from a disgruntled Nannie and tweets to the aforementioned toy boy. It is nice to know that even in her fifties Bridget’s interest in men still surpasses that of her professional life, some things never change hey?

I love Helen Fielding’s witty and snappy writing style and even though I am not a fifty something, single Mum, I really related to Bridget. I found her rants about social media, fashion, parenthood and relationships very refreshing and funny to read. I had tears in my eyes on more than one occasion, sometimes due to laughter and others were a result of Bridget’s bitter sweet approach to starting a new relationship.  

If you are looking for a book to make you laugh, make you think about this world we now live in and maybe make you cry a bit, then you should definitely read Mad About the Boy. If Bridget’s tales of head lice infestations and drunken antics at the school sports day don’t make you smile, I don’t know what will. Give it a go, it is v.v. good.
Have you read Mad About the Boy or any of the other Bridget Jones books? What did you think? If not, have I persuaded you to give it a read? I hope so 🙂

This post is linked to..

A Cornish Mum
My Random Musings

Cuddle Fairy

Mummuddlingthrough

My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows

Treat your skin with Hope’s Relief

As a Mum our hands are always busy. They are expert tower builders, healthy meal makers, book page turners, soothing back rubbers and funny tickle monsters. Unfortunately, mine are also dry skin sufferers. As my hands spend so much time in water, washing up several times a day and bathing Leo every night, my skin isn’t that great, it has a tendency to crack and itch, especially in this cold weather. Eczema also runs in the family and I occasionally suffer with the odd flare up on my hands.

When Hope’s Relief, creators of Australia’s number 1 natural eczema cream, contacted me to see if I wanted to review their Intense dry skin rescue cream I, of course, said yes. Hope’s Relief have a range of natural skin care products, all designed to soothe and treat dry skin. As their range is made of completely natural ingredients, they are all free from sodium laurel sulphates, parabens, coal tar, artificial colours and fragrances and contain no mineral oils or petrochemicals – in other words, there’s no nasty stuff.


The hand cream comes in a hand bag friendly sized bottle and the packaging is much more attractive than most medicated hand creams you can buy in the chemist. I started using the cream straight away and have come to realise that a little bit of the cream goes a long way. I have been treating my hands at least twice a day for about 3 weeks now and I still have plenty of cream left in the bottle. 

The cream works best when applied 2-3 times a day, make sure you leave it somewhere you can see it so you don’t forget.

I am very impressed by the Hope’s Relief  rescue cream, it doesn’t smell too strong, it absorbs into your skin really quickly and your hands feel softer immediately. I found leaving it on my dressing table when I am at home helps me to remember to use it as it is in plain sight and when I go out I pop it in to my hand bag so I can continue using it throughout the day.

A couple of weeks in to use I did notice a dry patch of skin had reappeared down the side of one hand. I was assured that it was not a reaction to the cream as it was only in one spot and hadn’t occurred immediately when I began using the cream. I continued using the cream for another week and now the dry patch has nearly gone again, yay! Unfortunately I think I do need to stop exposing my hands to so much water and maybe start wearing gloves when I wash up (or maybe get a dishwasher, wouldn’t that be amazing?).

Suitable for big and little hands.

The Hope’s Relief range of products treat all types of skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and dandruff. The best thing about the Hope’s Relief range is that it can be used on newborn skin as well as your own. We all know how important it is to keep our little ones skin nice and moisturised but if your baby suffers from a dry skin condition then I would say it is definitely worth looking into Hope’s Relief. As all their products are made with natural ingredients and contain zero nasties, you know your child’s skin is going to be soothed safely with this cream.

Are your hands always busy too? It can be easy to neglect our skin when their are so many other things to think about but it is really important to keep your skin moisturised. With the Hope’s Relief intense dry skin rescue hand cream, skin care is quick and easy and it won’t be long before you notice the results. With Mother’s Day just around the corner perhaps there is something in this range your own Mum would appreciate? Her hands have been just as busy as yours, they are the hands that stroked your cheek and picked you up all those times when you fell after all.

The Intense dry skin rescue cream is £16.20 from the UK Hope’s Relief website. If you want to purchase any of their wonderful, all natural products you can get 20% off using the HOPE20 promo code at the checkout.

Hope’s Relief products are also available from Wholefoods, Nutricentre, Revital, Panacea, Planet Organic, John Bell & Croyden as well as www.hopes-relief.com. You can also purchase products from good health stores and independent pharmacies

Do you suffer from dry skin? Have you used any of the Hope’s Relief range? I would love to know what you think. Also, does anyone want to buy me a dishwasher? 🙂


*Disclaimer: I was sent the Hope’s Relief hand cream in return for this honest review. All words and opinions are my own.*

This post is linked to…

A Cornish Mum
My Random Musings

Cuddle Fairy

Mummuddlingthrough

My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows

Book review: The Girl on the Train

I recently finished reading this absolutely amazing book, The Girl on the Train, I am sure you have probably heard of it. The Girl on the Train is a debut, thriller novel written by Paula Hawkins. This is a very hard book to review without revealing any spoilers but I will try my best, I promise I won’t give anything important anyway.

One thing you should know before reading this book is you need to be prepared to let the housework pile up, your other hobbies to be ignored and your other half to be pretty much neglected for the time it takes you to read it. You will not be able to put it down and that, my friends, is a fact.

The Girl on the Train is a novel told through the voice of several different characters but the story predominantly belongs to Rachel, an unhappy divorcee, who is a borderline alcoholic. Rachel travels to work on the same train every single day and to add a bit of interest to her otherwise boring commute, she makes up stories about a couple she sees regularly from the window. The couple live in a house down by the train tracks. A house just doors down from the one that Rachel once shared with her husband Tom.

Rachel has named the couple Jess and Jason and she fantasies about their perfect life together. Jason a loving, protective husband and Jess a happy, beautiful wife. In Rachel’s mind they are the perfect couple, the definition of true love. They have the type of marriage she wishes she could have had.

One day Rachel’s fantasy of the couple is shattered when she spies something out of the window of the train. What she sees may seem irrelevant to anyone else aboard the 8.04 to London, but to Rachel it changes everything. Bad things start to happen, we learn more about the real people behind Rachel’s daydream, perhaps Jess and Jason are not as perfect as they may seem from the other side of a window? Perhaps Rachel has had more to do with recent, horrific events than she even realises herself? The reader is not the only one left wondering what is going on as, thanks to her drink problem, Rachel regularly blacks out, bits of the night before just disappear from her memory, sometimes lost forever.

The chapters switch between characters and by the end it is difficult to decide which narrative to trust. Hawkins makes sure you don’t figure anything out too early and she is very good at building suspense and leaving you hanging for pages on end, desperate to know what happens next. Sometimes the end of the book can be a bit disappointing, especially if you figure out the secrets the author wants to keep as a surprise before the big reveal. However, just when I thought I had figured  everything out, Hawkins spun the plot around and suddenly the story was running off, full speed in a different direction, one that I never saw coming.

If you are looking for an exciting, really well written page turner then you need to read The Girl on the Train. The voyeurism , complex characters and thrilling plot make this an absolute must for your book shelf. Make sure you read it before the film comes out too.

Have you read The Girl on the Train? What did you think? Have you got any good book recommendations for me? I would love to know your thoughts.

A Cornish Mum
My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows
My Random Musings

River Cottage Canteen Winchester review

My lovely sister and nephew came to stay on the weekend, it is the first time they have visited us since we moved to Hampshire in September. As a late Christmas present, my sister paid for us all to go out for lunch at the River Cottage Canteen in Winchester. There are a few other River Cottage restaurants dotted about the country, my sister had tried them all apart from this one in Winchester and she said we were certain to have a lovely meal. I was very excited to eat lots of yummy food and maybe try something new.

Winchester is a really beautiful city – Oli, Leo and I have only visited once before when we went to the Christmas Market in December. Our lunch was booked for 12.30, we got to Winchester about 11 so we had a lovely little stroll around the shops and took in some of the sights.

winchester cathedral
Winchester Cathedral
Jane Austen hose
Jane Austen’s house – my sisters favourite author 
Me and my lovely nephew.
winchester catherdral
Walking around the Cathedral grounds.
The River Cottage Canteen is situated in the lovely Abbey Mill Gardens, before we went in for lunch the kids played in the playground. Leo loved the slide as usual but there was lots of other play equipment to keep him busy. Unfortunately, our walk through town had worn Leo out and by the time we arrived at River Cottage Canteen he was in an awful mood.
river cottage
River Cottage canteen. 
When we arrived we were greeted by a lovely member of staff, she showed us to our seats and got Leo some crayons to keep him entertained. River Cottage Canteen is set out over two levels, it is very big but feels cosy at the same time. There are exposed beams on the ceilings, lights bulbs hang from ropes and none of the chairs match. We were sat on the lower level and we could see into the open plan kitchen where the chefs were all busy at work. As we sat browsing the menu, Leo decided to kick off..big time.
Oli drawing pictures to keep Leo happy.

I think a combination of hunger and being completely knackered were the cause to Leo’s horrendous tantrum. He screamed his head off for about half an hour, nothing was cheering him up. The lovely waitress came and brought us some bread so he didn’t have to wait for us to order but he wouldn’t eat it. The brilliant waiter made Leo a warm milkshake and let him play with the card pin machine but that didn’t work either. Amongst all the kicking and screaming we managed to place our food order.

Leo and his milkshake.
The menu at River Cottage Canteen is different from anything I have seen before. Oli and I rarely go out for fancy food, we barely even get the chance to go for a pub lunch these days. At first I wasn’t sure what to go for, there was nothing on there I would normally eat and I wasn’t sure what I would like. The menu changes frequently at River Cottage Canteen and the food is locally sourced, organic and all freshly prepared (here is a sample menu). I decided to go for the venison  salad with cinnamon apples, hazelnuts and cheese. I had never tried venison before so I wasn’t sure what I would think. My sister ordered the same and Oli ordered smoked mackerel. My nephew and Leo ordered flat bread, carrots and hummus to start from the children’s menu, kids get 3 courses and unlimited squash for only £7.
After we ordered, Leo’s tantrum escalated into hell like, never seen before territory and I was ready to just leave. If the staff had not been so amazing I think I would have just taken him outside and joined in with Leo and started crying. As it turns out though, the two people looking after our table were amazing. They didn’t give any grumpy looks or quietly ask us to remove the screaming demon child from their restaurant. They instead brought Leo some chocolates, gave us apologetic smiles and asked if we were ok and if there was anything they could do. It was the milkshake that saved us in the end. Oli managed to get Leo back into his highchair, he then snapped out of whatever angry feeling had consumed him for the past 30 minutes, said ‘sorry Mummy’ before drinking his milk and falling asleep in his highchair, right in the middle of a not exactly quiet restaurant. That is how he stayed for the rest of the meal! It was such a relief.
My very sleepy boy. Tantrums are exhausting.

So, back to the food. Our starters arrived and they were amazing. They were a perfect size and the venison was gorgeous. The hazelnuts and cinnamon apple slices worked really well with the meat and fresh leaves. I am so glad I tried something new and didn’t just go for the soup.

Yummy starter.

For our main course, Oli and I had the pulled pork bap and my sister ordered the plaice with roasted cauliflower and cauliflower puree – cauliflower is clearly easily sourced in Winchester! Oli loves pulled pork, I have never tried it but decided to put my trust in my husbands taste buds and give it a try. The pulled pork came in a yummy lightly toasted bap with pickled red cabbage, bacon mayonnaise and perfectly seasoned chips. I should listen to Oli more often, the pulled pork was so good, it was really tender and sweet. The bacon mayonnaise made a great dip for the chips but also tasted amazing spread inside the pulled pork bap. My sister really enjoyed her plaice and apparently cauliflower puree is awesome. My nephew enjoyed his fish and chips, it was a decent sized portion as well considering it was from the kids menu. The staff kept Leo’s main warm and said he could have it once he had woken from his highchair slumber.

Pulled pork, better than your average burger and chips.

We were feeling fit to burst at this point but when the waitress asked if we wanted to see the dessert menu, well, we thought it would be rude not too. My sister had the honey pannacotta with prunes and a spicy biscuit and I had dark chocolate orange cake with orange syrup and cardamom cream. I don’t like ice cream (I know, I’m strange) so it was nice to see the cake came with something else. I have never tried cardamom cream before but it was really nice. It wasn’t what I was expecting, it wasn’t sweet like regular cream and it wasn’t like clotted cream either. I can’t really describe it but I can tell you it worked so well with the cake and the orange syrup, the flavour combination was perfect. Oli declared himself full to the brim so he opted for a Gaelic coffee instead of dessert, who doesn’t like a little, hidden shot of whiskey on a Saturday afternoon? My nephew had his ice cream and honeycomb that was included in his £7 lunch meal.

Droool..
Oli’s coffee.

Pretty much as soon as we finished dessert Leo decided to wake up and, to everyone’s relief, he was in a much better mood. He asked for chips as soon as opened his little eyes and the waitress went and grabbed his food from the kitchen. It was still lovely and warm and had been put in a little box so we could take it with us. As the meal was a Christmas present I don’t know exactly how much the food came to. The starters were about £6 each and the mains varied in price but I would say the average was about £13. Considering the high quality of the food and the excellent service, I think the menu was very reasonably priced.

This is his ‘I’m sleepy and eating chips’ face,
Lovely sister and nephew,

Apart from Leo’s tantrum when we first arrived, we all had a really lovely time at River Cottage Canteen. I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for somewhere a bit different to eat in Winchester. The food is amazing, you can really taste that it has been freshly made to order, and the price is not extortionate. There are also a selection of soft drinks made of locally sourced produce as well as a selection of ales and ciders. I was concerned it would be a bit too upmarket for a family meal but the staff were so, so lovely (I really can’t stress that enough) and the children’s menu had a few good options to choose from. I would definitely go again but maybe next time Oli and I will go on a date night, that way we are guaranteed a tantrum free meal!

Have you been to the River Cottage Canteen in Winchester? Did you have a nice meal? If not, would you consider eating at a River Cottage Canteen? It’s a nice place to go if you fancy something a little bit different.
My Random Musings

My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows

Family Fever

Book review: Dark Places

Remember Gone Girl? The book that everyone was reading a couple of years ago and it’s film adaptation that made us all realise Rosamund Pike is actually pretty awesome? Well, it turns out that was not Gillian Flynn’s first novel. A couple months a go I read her debut Sharp Objects and I loved it, not as much as Gone Girl  but I still loved it. Yesterday I finished her second novel Dark Places and, oh wow, it is brilliant. If you liked Gone Girl you will without a doubt enjoy this book too.
Like the book that brought Flynn into the mainstream in 2013, Dark Places is full of unexpected twists and turns, intriguing characters and it is completely impossible to put down, trust me. 

Dark Places tells us the tale of Libby Day, a woman in her early thirties who lost her mum and sisters to a brutal murder when she was only 7 years old. In the house at the time of the murders, Libby escapes and is convinced her teenage brother Ben was the man she heard slaughtering her family. After testifying against Ben in court, Libby’s brother is sent to prison.
We meet Libby several years later, she is an angry woman who is troubled by her tragic past. Never had a real job, Libby has been surviving off money from donations and trust funds. Now that money is running worryingly low, Libby finds herself in a bit of a predicament. Until, that is, she gets a phone call from a man called Lyle. Libby learns that Lyle is part of a group called The Kill Club. It is not as scary as it sounds, The Kill Club is a group of murder case fanatics. The members enjoy recreating real life murders, delving into the facts of unsolved crime and creating their own conspiracy theories. It turns out, the murder of the Day family is a very interesting case. Many people are convinced Ben is innocent and Libby is offered cash to go delving into her past, in order to find out what really happened the night her family was murdered.
Each chapter switches between the present day and the day Libby’s family were killed in 1985. We learn a lot about Ben, as well as Devil worship and farming life in Kansas. Just when you get absorbed in to the investigations of present day Libby, you are thrown back to 1985 and reading about the struggles of mother Patty Day and the life changing events that happened on her last day alive.
In true Flynn style, some of the language is very grotesque and gory. Although I felt uncomfortable reading on more than one occasion, especially in the chapter recounting the night of the murders, I still found myself completely engrossed in the story. As we learn more about what happened on that dreaded night, we are subjected to several, unpredictable twists in the plot. I won’t spoil the ending but I will say it is a very, very clever finish to an absolutely brilliant book.
If you are a fan of crime thrillers or if you loved Gone Girl, you really need to put Dark Places on your reading list. You won’t be disappointed.
Have you read Dark Places or any other Gillian Flynn novels? What did you think?  I am pretty sure Gillian Flynn has now become my favourite author.

My Random Musings
A Cornish Mum
Post Comment Love

Book review: Us

From the author who broke all our hearts with One Day and made us all laugh/cringe with Starter for Ten comes another book that you are going to seriously struggle to put down, and that book (obviously) is Us.

I love David Nicholls (if you haven’t read One Day you really need to..now, I am being serious) his books always captivate me from the very first page and by the last you feel like you have known his characters forever and are wishing the story didn’t have to end. I felt exactly this way reading Us, I was desperate to know what happened next.
Before we get to the end though (no spoilers), lets start at the beginning. Us is the tale of Douglas, a man in his 50’s who believes he and his spouse are happily married. That is until his wife, Connie, wakes him one night in the early hours and admits she is considering leaving him. This would be awful at the best of times but poor, clueless Douglas has already booked a family holiday, travelling around Europe for the summer. The trip is booked for Douglas, his unhappy wife and their teenage son Albie, who shares a very strained relationship with his father.
In a hope to save his marriage, and the hundreds of pounds already spent on the trip, the Grand Tour of Europe goes ahead. A series of mishaps ensues and I often found myself thinking ‘Oh Douglas, why did you say that?’. We quickly learn that all Douglas wants is to make his wife and son happy but, for several different reasons, he often struggles to achieve this. As the family travel all over Europe, Douglas sees himself getting in to all kinds of trouble – his shenanigans in Amsterdam are particularly hilarious – and on more than one occasion I was convinced this poor man would never please his already distant wife and his moody, ‘the whole world hates’ me teenage son. 
I loved that the story was not set in one place and Nicholls describes the big cities of Europe in beautiful detail. I have never been to Venice or Madrid but I feel as though I have. He made me long to visit Paris again and made me wish I appreciated art a little bit more. You come away from this novel feeling like you know just that little bit more about this continent we live on, seeping with culture and history.  
I found myself conflicted at times reading Us. I just could not decide if I wanted Douglas and Connie to stay together. His wife’s character is so complex and different to his own, I  often thought maybe this trip was all in vain, perhaps their marriage isn’t worth saving. However, at other points I so desperately wanted them to stay together because it is clear how much Douglas loves Connie and does not want to be without her. I won’t tell you the outcome of their journey (both marital and the physical trip), all I will say is when I read the very last sentence I had a smile on my face.
Have you read Us or any other David Nicholls novels? Do you love his books too? If you are looking for something to read I hope this review encourages you to give Us a go.

Fa`mily Fever

The Story Museum, Oxford

There is nothing like a good book. If I had a motto or a catchphrase, this would probably be it. I have loved books since I was a child and to my delight Leo loves them too. Children’s books in particular are so very special, they help develop our children’s ever growing imagination through exciting stories, funny rhymes and wonderful illustrations. Of course books are key in developing children’s all important literary skills too.

Leo and I spent this weekend with my sister in Oxford and on Saturday Leo went on his first ever museum trip. After being recommended by friends to my sister, we all went on a visit to The Story museum, a place that celebrates the amazing world of books.

My first impression of The Story Museum was that it didn’t feel like a museum at all. As soon as we walked through the door we were greeted by lovely staff and a very quirky little cafe. We paid for our tickets and sat down for a drink before we went in to the museum to check out the exhibitions. The children enjoyed drawing on the blackboard table tops and my sister and I were able to enjoy our teas in peace. Instead of pictures of art or photographs, the cafe walls are decorated with upside down tables and chairs, it all feels very Wonderland-esque. A magnificent ‘preserved’ cake, made by Winnie the Witch herself (!) stands tall on display in the cafe, my 10 year old niece was very impressed by this, the younger boys on the other hand were upset they couldn’t eat it.

After our tea break we headed into a separate building where all the exhibitions are. Illustrations  decorate the stairwell and the feel of the building is very far away from any art gallery or museum I have visited before, but in a good way. Our first stop was the Draw me a story exhibition, a large room featuring original prints and artwork from children’s book illustrators such as Quentin Blake, Emily Gravett and Mini Grey. As well as all the pictures on the wall, there is a treasure hunt game for the children to play, making the experience more interactive and fun for kids. There is a board at the entrance covered in little pockets and in each pocket are some small objects, you then have to go and find the picture where these objects belong. My niece and my nephew who is 5 enjoyed the treasure hunt, Leo was too busy exploring the vast amount of space to get properly involved.

Museums are fun!

The lovely volunteers at the museum handed out little drawing books to the children which encouraged them to draw their own story. A room was set up with tables and chairs, lots of colouring pencils and even a professional sketching illustrator board. Although Leo had a bit of a tantrum to start with, all four kids enjoyed sitting down and getting some serious drawing done, Professional illustrators regularly visit The Story Museum and are put to work in the Illustrator Zoo, a room where you can watch a professional at work and have a chat with them as well – you can find a list of illustrators visiting soon here. This is a great opportunity for children to find out more about becoming an artist or just a chance to meet the people behind some of their favourite characters.

Drawing a story.

Next we moved on to The Changing Room, a room full of more fancy dress clothes than you could ever imagine. This room is home to the only talking throne I have ever seen and we spent the majority of our visit dressing up, creating crazy names for ourselves, sitting on the throne and listening to it announce us. My nephew and his friend had great fun using all the boards to create silly names and my niece loved trying on loads of different clothes. Leo wasn’t really sure what was going on but he enjoyed attempting to scale the massive throne and trying on lots of different hats – hats are awesome but fairy wings and cat ears are not! My sister and I joined in on the fun too, who doesn’t love fancy dress?

So..many..clothes!

Dressing up fun…

Tantrum avoided, thank you hats!

Once we had finished dressing up we headed on over to the Time for bed exhibition, this was by far the children’s favourite part of the museum. On arriving at the exhibition, we were encouraged to get cosy in one of the dressing gowns provided and the children all chose a book from the varied selection available, grabbed a cuddly toy and snuggled up on the biggest bed I have ever seen..ever. All six of us fit on it with loads of room to spare. The whole room is inspired by award winning children’s book, The Baby who wouldn’t go to bed. There are drapes over the ceiling, fairy lights, a small bed with baskets around it where you can lay your teddies down for a rest, as well as a smaller room with a sensory wall and lullaby’s playing in the background. It was nice to cuddle up and read to Leo and the whole atmosphere calmed down the very excitable older children. We spent the last of our visit in this amazing bedroom, all wishing we could fit a giant bed into our own rooms at home.

What to read? Decisions, decisions..
Everyone loves a bedtime story.

                                                     

I need this bed in my life!
We were, unfortunately, pushed for time so we couldn’t spend as much time as we wanted looking around the museum. As well as the exhibitions we saw, there is also a film den showing television and film adaptations of children’s story books. The Extreme Reading section of the museum is currently closed for building, however, when open it invites visitors to experience stories in a unique, exciting and interactive way – hopefully it will be finished by the time we visit next. 
We will most definitely be visiting again. The Story Museum is a crazy, funny, magical, interesting as well as educational place. You feel as though you have stepped into a different dimension where your imagination is left to run wild and free. The Story Museum is a great place to visit if you are in Oxford for the day and really is suitable for all the family. I went with my sister and children ranging from 2 years to 10 and all of us thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and can not wait to go again. I really can not recommend it enough.
The Story Museum runs several different exhibitions. activities and events throughout the year, you can see all the exciting things coming up soon here.
Have you ever taken your children to a museum? Did they enjoy it? I think The Story Museum is the perfect place for that first ever museum visit.
Family Fever