Vlog post: Papergang Subscription Box Review

I vlogged!

This is a video review of the Papergang subscription box from Ohh Deer. It’s a monthly stationary subscription box. This is the first month I’ve received it and I love it already!

If you’re interested in subscribing to Papergang yourself, here’s a link for you.

I’m hoping to make vlogging a regular thing so watch this space!

Book Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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In the last weeks of my university studies, one of the things I looked forward to most was being able to read purely for pleasure. So once my last course was over, I went searching through the Apple iBook store for something new. As it was a recommended title as well as a fantasy novel (one of my favourite genres), I went with Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

This book is inspired by folk and fairy tales and really has that feel to it. The scary bits (and there are a few) really feel like something out of a childhood nightmare. Novak has tapped into some primal fears and conjures up some truly horrifying images.

The protagonist is a young woman. She’s clumsy, always untidy, a bit moody and doesn’t think very much of herself. But she’s also brave and strong and she grows throughout the novel, becoming more aware of herself and her abilities as the story goes on. A brilliantly realistic heroine.

I like the realism in the characters. So often the characters in fantasy fall into stereotypes: the dashing hero, the pretty princess, the bad guy who’s nothing but bad through and through. This book doesn’t do that. The characters are flawed. Some are entirely unlikeable, even if they’re actually good guys! There is a touch of romance but it’s not a main theme. I’d say friendship and loyalty are more key here.

My favourite part of this book is the magic. It’s elegant yet natural. There’s real beauty to it (even when it’s being used for evil) and Novik’s descriptions paint a good picture of how it works and looks.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy, quest stories. It’s thoroughly enjoyable and I personally rate it pretty highly.

 

 

Top 10 Christmas Films

The festive season is upon us! One of my favourite things to do at this time of year is snuggle up on the sofa with my favourite people and a big mug of  hot chocolate and enjoy a Christmas film.

So here, in no particular order, are ten of my favourites:

  1. Muppet Christmas Carol. Dickens’ classic tale is surely one of the greatest Christmas stories ever and the only thing that could ever have really improved it was creating a Muppet version. With a lovely message about helping our fellow human beings and some extremely good songs, this film is simply brilliant. We have a tradition of watching it every Christmas Eve
  2. Die Hard. So once Muppet Christmas Carol is over and our daughter’s in bed, on goes Die Hard. Surely one of the greatest action films ever, plus bloody hilarious and ridiculously quotable.
  3. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Hilarious performances all round, with the important message that it just isn’t Christmas without your loved ones around you. Plus I can’t help but laugh my head off every time I see a shrieking Marv getting attacked by a flock of pigeons.
  4. Love Actually. Yes, it’s an over-sentimental Richard Curtis film. But I love all of the little interwoven stories. And I defy anyone not to get a little teared up at Emma Thompson’s performance. In fact, I’m almost weeping now just thinking about it. Just to note, this is also definitely not one for the kids – there’s tons of bad language and also a bit of nudity.
  5. It’s a Wonderful Life. An absolute classic tale of how worthwhile life is and the difference one man can make to so many lives. You really have to get to the end before you get that nice uplifting feeling though.
  6. The Nightmare Before Christmas. There seems to be some debate over whether this is a Christmas film or a Halloween film. I don’t bother myself with such silliness and simply watch it for both. I really love stop animation and ‘What’s this?’ is one of my favourite Christmas songs ever.
  7. The Holiday. Yes, this is another soppy one but it always makes me laugh and, I think, contains a really lovely performance from Jack Black.
  8. Elf. I was not immediately convinced on first hearing about this film. It sounded a bit cheesy and bordering on just a bit too ridiculous. But actually Will Ferrel does well in the role and it’s become a real Christmas classic.
  9. Blackadder’s A Christmas Carol. Blackadder is one of my favourite TV  series and this twist on one of my favourite Christmas stories is just brilliant.
  10. Miracle of 34th Street (1994 version). Richard Attenborough is perfect as Santa Claus and Mara Wilson is the quintessential cute small child. It’s the kind of film that induces that warm, fuzzy feeling in even the coldest hearted Scrooge.

Did I miss out your favourite? Do comment with it below!

Forever Product Review

Autumn term has begun and, as much as I’m missing Pip, it is nice to have a little time to myself. After six weeks of days out, play time and generally trying to keep the little ones entertained from morning until bedtime, I think we all deserve a little pampering.

With that in mind, I’ve been reviewing a range of products by Forever, based around the beneficial properties of aloe vera. I was given a big range of products to test and these were my favourites…IMG_0175

Aloe-Jojoba Shampoo

This is a lovely smelling shampoo and it left my hair feeling thoroughly cleansed. As I’ve got coloured hair, I normally use a specific colour protection shampoo. If this weren’t the case, I’d definitely consider getting some more of this stuff! There’s also a matching conditioner.

Aloe Hand and Face Soap

As someone with naturally dry skin, I find I need to moisturise constantly to keep my hands soft. However, after using this soap, I found that my hands stayed soft anyway! Definitely recommend for anyone who suffers with dry skin.

Aloe Lips

With the colder weather coming up, protecting lips from the wind and rain is important. This lovely lip balm certainly does the trick. Not too thick or strongly smelling but acts as a good moisturiser and provides protection from the elements. A good choice for everyone, especially us gals who like to be outdoors a lot.

Aloe Propolis Cream

Another one for the dry-skinned amongst us. I find that once my skin becomes dry, getting it back to normal is a real challenge, usually taking up to a week to be smooth again. This stuff worked wonders though, getting rid of dry skin within a day or so!

I’ve really enjoyed reviewing these products. There’s plenty more in the range so if you fancy treating yourself, visit the website here or call the lovely Ellie Waite on 07971842203 to order something for yourself!

Note: I was given a selection of products from the Forever Living collection to try free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are, as always, my own. 

Turning Twenty Six and a Gift of Geeky Brilliance

Recently it was my 26th birthday. It was quiet, yet lovely. It was spent with family, eating cake, enjoying gifts and generally having a nice time.

For my birthday, my rather lovely husband ordered me a gift from Shabby Geek Box. This rather wonderful company takes from you a list of your favourite films, games and other geeky stuff (and obviously some cash) and then sends you a big box full of stuff associated with your chosen themes.

Usually, my husband cannot help but give me clues about what I might be getting and that’s if he hasn’t given up and just asked me what I’d like. Plus, if Pip finds out what any presents are, it’s pretty much impossible for them to then be kept a secret. On a few occasions, she’s approached the intended recipient, whispered what the gift is at them then told them very firmly not to tell anyone because it’s supposed to be a surprise.

But with a box from the Shabby Geek, nobody knows what I’m getting so it’s a guaranteed surprise but at the same time it’s very likely going to be stuff I’ll like and want because I chose the themes. As it happens, I loved all of it. The contents were: two mugs (one Harry Potter, one Twilight), two Pop Vinyl figurines (one Severus Snape, one a gold Dalek), a set of Doctor Who Stickers, a Doctor Who lamp, a set of four coasters each with a Hogwarts house coat of arms on it, a Hunger Games bag, a Doctor Who comic, a Dalek cushion cover and a little pack of Haribo sweets. It was brilliant.

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You know, I had been concerned that moving into my later twenties might mean I’d suddenly become very serious and mature. Having received a big box of geeky bits and bobs for my birthday and been completely thrilled with it, I’m now secure in the knowledge that I’ll still be my usually silly self for at least another year yet!

Please note: I wasn’t asked to write this by Shabby Geek Box nor have I been compensated in any way for this review. I genuinely just think they’re a good company and deserved a bit of nice promotion.

Learning to Read: Songbird Series

I love to read. I was always a quiet child and often had my nose in a book. While Pip isn’t at all a quiet child, she does seem to have picked up the same love of books. She’s always been very enthusiastic about reading and that made teaching her at home simple and really enjoyable. Her reading level, according to teachers, is now where they’d expect her to be at the beginning of Year 1 and it’s definitely her biggest strength.

The only problem was that she often became frustrated when she gets stuck on a word and, after attempting to read it herself, has to ask me. I tell her the word, explain any tricky grammar which made the word hard for her and move on. But after that, she’s always a bit unhappy and less likely to really try with any other words she doesn’t immediately know but that usually she could work out on her own. If she makes more than one mistake or struggles more than once in a book, she’ll more than likely ask to stop altogether. I realised that what she needed were books that she could read entirely without much help from me.

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So I was really pleased when she was given the Songbird set of reading books for Christmas. They are all written by Julia Donaldson, who we already know and love for The Gruffulo, The Gruffalo’s Child and Monkey Puzzle, amongst many others. They are structured in stages so that the child can progress as they learn, at their own pace. The stages are colour coded so it’s easy for Pip to choose a book of her level on her own. They are really nice stories but told in small, easily read words and phrases. The illustrations are all great and by a variety of artists and in different styles which adds a bit of interest.

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Pip began reading the First Stage books and was so proud of herself when she read an entire book by herself for the first time. Now we try to read one book every day, either from the set or one that she brings home from school. She really enjoys it and its lovely to see her actually enjoying the story rather than struggling with reading. You migt notice that some of our copies have gold stars on – that’s our reward system, Pip gets a gold star every time she reads a book without any help. I don’t want to rush her but I think I’m going to start introducing the second stage books now. I’ve had a look at them and I really think she’s ready for it.

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I can’t recommend this set enough for any child learning to read – they’re just brilliant!

Review: Toucan Box

We love craft projects here in the Appletree household. Especially crafts that end up with something useful, something that can be played with or enjoyed. I think there’s a sense of achievement in making something that actually works, rather than simply looks pretty.

Today, we made jellyfish from the bits and pieces in our Toucan Box. This is a subscription box for children which contains all of the bits and pieces and instructions for a fun craft project. Also included were a few facts about jellyfish and a few more ideas for underwater creature themed activities.

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Given that Pip was studying sea creatures only a little while ago at school, she was thrilled when I told her we’d be making jellyfish and even more so when I told her we could race them!

The craft project was fairly simple to make and Pip could do much of it herself – decorating her jellyfish, threading her beads onto the ribbon, threading the ribbon through the holes.

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When finished, I used to included suction cups to hang the jellyfish to our mirrors in the living room. By alternately pulling on the two pieces of yellow ribbon, you can make the jellyfish wiggle up to the top and then slide back down again (with a little persuasion!). Here’s a video to demonstrate:

We really enjoyed this activity.

If you’d like to give Toucan Box a try, follow this link and use the code APPLETREE to get your first box for free!

Please note: I received a Petite Toucan Box free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own.