Friday, 21 November 2014

Oxford Reading Tree App from Gazoob - Review

In the last month or so Ben's reading has come on in leaps and bounds.  He has discovered that he can read and is obsessively reading everything.  He's constantly sounding things out and reading things to his sisters.  One of the things I love most is that he will try and read literally anything with words on, he's not confined to the reading books he brings home from school. 

Of course this love of reading is something Dave and I are keen to foster in all our children and so we are doing everything we can to encourage him and keep him enjoying reading.  With this in mind, when we were asked to review the Oxford Reading Tree app from Gazoob we were happy to oblige.
We weren't sure which level we should download for Ben - it wasn't immediately clear if the levels on the app correlated with the levels on the Oxford Reading Tree books.  In the end we decided to just invest in the whole lot on the basis that it would actually be great for Chloe too.  (Chloe has just started to bring home her very first reading books.)

Basically the app offers a range of levelled Oxford Reading Tree texts with the option to have it read to you, or for you to read it yourself and then check your answers.  Ben was being a bit lazy at first and just liked to have it read the words for him until we pointed out that perhaps he could be practicing and testing himself! 
Ben really likes the occasional animation or sound effect on some of the pages and of course reading on his tablet adds a certain novelty value.

Although there are some games and puzzles I expected there would be more.  More games to encourage reading of high frequency words, phonics, sentence building and perhaps even some comprehension activities.  Perhaps I was expecting too much?  I just felt that in terms of buying the books to read on his tablet I'd rather he just read a "proper" book in his hands.  There wasn't enough added value to my mind.  I think Gazoob are missing a trick with this to be honest.  

Overall I think the app is a good investment but I'm hoping there will be some more added extras in future updates!
*Disclaimer - We downloaded the app free of charge for the purpose of review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own*

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Time for a wardrobe rethink

It's now a couple of months since I finished breastfeeding Amy.  My baby is now a year old.  Yet my wardrobe is still based on leggings and jersey tops.

Having been pregnant or breastfeeding for most of the last 6 years my wardrobe has been severely limited by a growing or deflating tummy and a need for easy and discreet access to the boobs.  Not any more.

Of course I'm still Mum to three small children, three small children with whom I am at home most of the time so my wardrobe needs to be practical - to be able to withstand being puked on, covered in food or snot and getting soaked on the school run.  'Dry clean only' is not the way forward here.

However I've still lost myself in a pit of black jersey.  It's easy, it's comfortable.  Black is slimming right?

It's all black . . . black dresses, black leggings, black jersey tops . .  .

So I'm back in wire (although badly fitting at the moment while things settle down and I brave going and getting measured . . . ) I no longer need to expose my boobs in public discreetly (or indiscreetly for that matter).  I no longer need to wear maternity clothes though my body still looks decidedly pregnant and wearing clothes with a proper fitted waistband is not an option.

What do I actually want to wear?  I don't know.  My Wardrobe Lust board on Pinterest is full to bursting with navy stripes, skirts, dresses . . . not things which necessarily would suit me or fit in with my lifestyle but things I love.  There is a definite "style" across the board.

I need some colour, some shape, some accessories, some weight loss.  I need to spend some time trying things on, rediscovering my shape, my size, my style.  I don't know what suits me any more.  I'm scared to branch out from my "uniform".

I need a good "Gok-ing! - though perhaps without having to get naked or have my "bangers" manhandled on TV.

I want to wear more colour but I don't know where to start. 

I want to make more of my legs - wear more skirts and dresses.  I wear dresses with leggings for work and I do have some dresses I wear if we're going out but I'd like some "day" dresses, something to feel more "dressed" in.

So . . . it's definitely time for a wardrobe rethink . . . time to banish the black jersey (or at least just wear a bit less of it!)

  Super Busy Mum

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Dormouse and The Teapot - Review‏ & Giveaway

If you're looking for something a bit quirky with a vintage edge this Christmas pop on over to Dormouse and The Teapot and have a little look at the range of hand stamped vintage cutlery.  

From "Baby's first Christmas spoons" to "Plant marker gift sets" you're bound to find something to suit. 
Being as how Dave is an avid cook and also keen to start growing his own herbs and vegetables I thought the plant marker gift set was ideal for him.  I went for the "chillies" option as he does like a bit of spice in his food and has been known to grow chillies in the past.  (And of course the engraving made me laugh.)

Dormouse and The Teapot
Dormouse and The Teapot - Plant marker set

The spoon arrives carefully wrapped with it's own packet of seeds ready to be planted in your own time.  I'm looking forward to seeing the spoon in situ in our kitchen when things are more settled and we're able to think about plants and things again! 

hand stamped vintage spoon
Hot Stuff!

The hand stamped finish is fabulous and couldn't fail to raise a smile.  Of course there's nothing to stop you using the spoon as . . . a spoon!  I think Dave would quite enjoy eating his breakfast cereal with his new "Hot stuff" spoon!

If you're considering a purchase from Dormouse and The Teapot this Christmas let me tempt you further with a 10% discount - just enter the code xmas10 - I'd love to know what you choose!

You can find more information here:

If you'd like to win your very own hand stamped vintage spoon to the value of £15 - then enter here! (As always you can choose to complete as many of the entry options as you like - please complete them accurately to avoid disqualification.)

*Disclaimer - I was set this set free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions are my own*

Tried & Tested Tuesday

Welcome to Tried & Tested Tuesday! It means such a lot to us to have so many lovely people who join us almost every single week and, alongside those, new faces linking up.  One of the things we love most is how many different people with such very different blogs link up, meaning we are introduced to a fabulous variety of different products, days out and anything else that pops up!  We do our best to visit you all each week, but of course we can’t promise to get round everyone – apologies to those of you we didn't get too last week - one of us has been poorly and one of us has been having walls knocked down in their house!

 If you’re new to this linky then welcome along! You can find out more about it and how to join in here. If you’re a regular then welcome to you too! Crack on, link up and share some commenty love – lets face it, that’s what makes linkys work. Each week, as you know, we like to feature two of our favourite reviews from the previous week.

This week we have loved:
  #TriedTested featured blogger
Keepsakes by Rebecca review from Life as our little family. We loved the unusual way of creating a keepsake from a footprint - really creative, and would make a great Christmas gift! #TriedTested featured blogger

Stokke Flexibath review from Mummy is a Gadget Geek. As parents of small children ourselves, we love the look of this practical product - compact, funky and perfect for home and away!

 If you link up please do make sure you visit your hosts Family Fever and We’re going on an adventure to leave a comment as well as a couple of others if you can – we know that people really, really appreciate the feedback! We do ask that you link a maximum of 2 posts each week to keep things fair for everyone – if you choose to link up an extra post please make sure you visit extra posts in the linky to balance it out.  (Additional posts will be deleted out of fairness). We do our best to visit each post and leave a comment, as well as tweeting from @FamilyFever and @Lollinski but as we’ve mentioned we can’t promise to get round everyone every week. We would love it if you grabbed our badge and popped it on your post too!
We're going on an adventure

Monday, 17 November 2014

Tigershark T-shirt Review & Giveaway

I've recently been introduced to Tigershark, a relatively new clothing branched launched earlier this year.  

Tigershark are doing things a little bit differently - like me, Anna who founded the brand, was sick of tv-characters on t-shirts (I refuse point blank to buy them).  Born out of this frustration was Tigershark - committed to including an educational element into their children's t-shirts and inspiring children to explore and discover more about the world around them.  Pretty cool right?  And it taps right into that whole geek chic thing that's going on right now.

I knew as soon as I looked at the website which t-shirt I had to choose for Ben.  Like most 5 year old boys he has more than a passing interest in dinosaurs - and even better there were a range of colours to choose from!  (In fairness I think he would have liked all the designs but it was the dinosaurs which really stood out for me)

Tigershark dinosaur t shirt
Tigershark dinosaur t-shirt

Needless to say he was thrilled with his new t-shirt - firstly because it is green (his all time favourite colour) and secondly because it has dinosaurs on!  The first thing he did was read the words across the top and then name each of the dinosaurs - that's the educational box ticked right there then thanks Tigershark!

Made from 100% cotton Ben's t-shirt is lovely and soft.  He was clearly comfortable in it.  I think its fair to say the t-shirts are true to size.  As you can see in the picture Ben's t-shirt is quite big on him - he's actually wearing the age 7-8 as the 5-6 was out of stock when we ordered.

To share the Tigershark love I'm giving you the opportunity to win a Tigershark t-shirt of your choice for the little boy in your life.  As always you can complete as many of the Rafflecopter options a you like, please complete them accurately to avoid being disqualified.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Sparkup: The Magical Book Reader - Review

Being as how this product is a bit techy I gladly handed it over to Dave to set up so he has done the review for you as well! 

One of the things I enjoy most about being a dad is reading to Ben, Chloe and Amy. It's lovely to have their undivided attention and both Ben and Chloe snuggle into me as I read. I have no doubt Amy will be the same. That feeling is one of the things that get me through the tough times. I've always wanted to read to my kids. Before I was even really sure if I wanted any children, I knew that I wanted to read to them if they ever came into being.  Being read to is one of my earliest memories, sitting with my mum as she read a book to me. I can't even remember the story, just the feeling of happily drifting off into a fantastic land. It's no surprise I became a keen reader. Something Colette and I both share and try to pass onto the kids. 

With that being said I completely understand the point of this product. If you're away from your kids a lot then this might just keep them a little happier in your absence. No substitute for actually being there but even if it just means they don't forget your voice then that's something. 

I'll say right now that this isn't something we would have bought. I'm not giving up reading when I am here and I'm rarely away for more than a night but as I said above I get it if your situation is different.

Sparkup: The Magical Book Reader

Anyway on with actual reviewing. The Sparkup is a camera and recording system that you clip to a book of your choice that will read the story to your kids as they turn the pages. You record what's on each page and the camera takes a picture and ties your recording to that picture. Hey presto! Show it a page and it'll read back to you. Without fault in my experience. The bonus of this personal system, aside from your own voice reading to your nippers, is you can be creative and tie it to your kids by mentioning them or something they like which tallies with what's on the page. All good stuff.

Actually using the Sparkup is a fairly straight forward process once you've got past the long winded explanation the device announces to you on first use. You can't skip this. Which is a pain if you've already read the manual. You can re-record any pages that you don't fancy after reviewing them with the press of a button. If you're anything like me then you'll feel a bit of a berk performing to a inanimate object. Especially if you've got Colette giggling at you from the couch and spoiling your flow!  That feeling passes pretty quickly though.

Using the system is pretty straightforward. I fairly quickly recorded the book we had been sent without too many hiccups. I messed up the recordings once or twice (most likely due to giggling!) but overall the experience was stress free. The kids really enjoyed using the Sparkup. Straight after their first try they asked me to record more books which is a strong vote in its favour. I think it's a well executed device and I recommend it for people who need something to read to their kids. Other than themselves that is.

Just to add in my two pence worth . . . whilst I agree with Dave that the Sparkup isn't something that would be used especially regularly in our house as we do really enjoy the experience of sharing books with your children and talking to them about the stories we are reading. I can see other uses.  Children benefit from hearing lots of different voices telling stories so it would be lovely to have Granny, Grandad, Aunty Nic, Uncle Will and so on and so forth recording a variety of books for them to hear.  I also think that as Ben is really enjoying learning to read now it would be quite cool to have him do his own recordings to listen back to - so he could hear his own storytelling voice. 

To my mind this would be a lovely gift this Christmas for a family where one or both parents often miss bedtime due to work commitments or, if like so many of my friends, you have nieces, nephews or grandchildren who live abroad.  How wonderful to be able to send to Sparkup, along with a selection of books, pre-recorded with lots of lovely bedtime stories for when they are missing you?

We're going on an adventure

*Discalimer - We were sent the Sparkup free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions are our own*

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