Lionboy: The Chase review

This post is written by Owl.

lionboy the chase

This review is about Lionboy: The Chase, written by Zizou Corder (which is a name used by authors Louisa Young and Isabel Adomakoh Young, whose names were too long to fit on the book). This book continues the trilogy of the catspeaking boy, Charlie (see my review of the first book, Lionboy, here), whose parents get kidnapped. It starts with a micro-version of the last book, explaining briefly what happened before. It was chosen by the Blue Peter Book Club.

The story continues in the Orient Express, where Charlie takes his lions, whom he rescued from a circus, to meet King Boris, the friendly king of Bulgaria, in his carrige. Edward, who worked for King Boris, went to Venice with them. While they were there, Charlie and the lions, with the help of Claudio, the boatman,  overthrow the Doge, the evil ruler of Venice, and sail to Morroco, the lions’ home. Meanwhile, Charlie’s parents (who escaped) head to Morroco too.

This book is excellent, it uses powerful verbs, adverbs and adjectives to make the passages exciting to read. I will give this book a 5/5 rating and I highly recommend it.

 

Pregnancy Diary : 29 Weeks

Today I am 29 weeks and 6 days pregnant.

29 weeks

Baby is: the size of a small cabbage!  He is still very active which is reassuring, and I’m finding that watching my bump move is at least as entertaining as watching the television in the evening.

I am: still not sleeping much.  I’ve been using the sleeping pills a bit, but I don’t want to take them every night.  They work to some extent, but they can’t stop me being woken up by children in small hours, so short of moving out for a while I’m not sure what I can do about it!  I’m a bit stressed, but also feeling very blessed by my lovely family, including the smallest one who is making his presence felt with all the kicking and wriggling.  I’m really getting impatient to meet him now.

Spot a Lot Animal Escape

Spot a Lot Animal Escape has been a huge hit with Tiddler – it’s probably our favourite Parragon book so far.  In fact, as soon as I sat down to try and write this review he saw the book and said “Now mum, I like this book, can you read it to me?”  So I’d better stop writing for a minute and do just that…

spot a lot 1

…I don’t think he’ll ever tire of it.  We’ve been reading it several times a day and he’s just asked “Can I take it into Preschool? It’s so good!”

spot a lot 2

In this story, the animals have escaped from the zoo and the reader follows the zookeeper as she searches for them all throughout the rest of the book.  On one level it is a simple counting book, with the main text line taking us from “1 very tall giraffe trying hard not to laugh” to “10 warthogs tapping feet dancing to a hip-hop beat!”  Within the illustrations, though, there is much more to find.  There is a tortoise to search for on every double page spread, and in addition there are instructions to look for extra animals, such as “Spot 3 green lizards” and “Where is the hippo hiding?”

We’ve had many counting books over the years, and plenty of books with hidden things to spot too, and I think this is one of the very best.  In some cases they can become a bit tedious, but not this one.  It has just the right number – and difficulty – of things to find, the text is fun to read aloud and the illustrations are excellent.  Having read it to Tiddler at least once a day for a couple of weeks, and sometimes to Rabbit separately, I’m happy to report that I haven’t got bored of it yet!

We received this book free of charge for the purpose of this review.

 

 

 

Pregnancy Diary: 28 Weeks

This diary started as an attempt to pay at least a little bit of attention to baby number five, and recently I haven’t even managed to write once a week so the mummy guilt has started before he is even born!

24 weeks

24 weeks

Baby is: the size of an ear of corn.

I am: suffering with lower back pain and wishing I could take my usual cocktail of drugs, instead of just paracetamol which has absolutely no effect.

25 weeks

25 weeks

Baby is: the size of a courgette.

I am: tired and ill.  Just a virus but a nasty one, with a sore throat, earache and hacking cough, as well as a permanent headache.  It is making me quite grumpy!

26 weeks

26 weeks

Baby is: the size of a coconut.

I am: still feeling ill and I’ve had enough now.

 

27 weeks

27 weeks

Baby is: the size of a cauliflower.

I am: starting to feel a bit better, but still not sleeping very well, which is making me quite stressed, especially as it is messing with my early morning blood sugar levels.

28 weeks

28 Weeks

Baby is: about the size of an aubergine – or, to be more accurate, about 1.1kg.  Today I had a growth scan because of the gestational diabetes, to make sure he is not getting too big but he is an average weight for this stage of pregnancy and practically perfect in every way!  The scans are always amazing, and although I never expect to see anything new after five pregnancies I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a baby opening and closing his mouth and drinking amniotic fluid before.

I am: surviving, but very tired and emotional.  I went to see my GP this morning because of the insomnia, and she has prescribed sleeping pills to try and help keep my morning blood sugar levels down.  I can take them every night if I need to, but I’m going to try every other night first.  I really hope they work.  I need to keep my blood sugar stable so I won’t have to take the diabetes drugs.  If I go down that route, I won’t be able to go over my due date, or give birth in the midwife-led unit.

baby blanket

The nicest thing that happened in the last couple of weeks was the arrival of a very special parcel.  One of my favourite bloggers and tweeters, Kimberley from Ruby+Lottie, made this beautiful blanket, along with two cardigans and a hat – the very first gifts I have received for this baby, and they are just perfect.  Thank you Kimberley, you are lovely xx

Pregnancy Diary: 23 Weeks

Today, I am 23 weeks and one day pregnant.  I’m more behind with this diary than usual, having missed two weeks, but I did take photos each week.

21 weeks

Week 21

Baby is: about the size of a large banana!  His brain is developing rapidly and constantly producing lots of new brain cells.  I know this is a cliche but it definitely feels as if I am losing mine at the same rate.  I am definitely suffering from baby brain, and really struggling to concentrate now.

I am: fine (apart from the baby brain) though I have several annoying symptoms – dizziness (still), leg cramps and quite severe lower back pain which is making everything more difficult.  As a result I am feeling frustrated about not getting much done.

22 weeks

Week 22

Baby is: the size of a papaya.

I am: finding it increasingly difficult to do anything at all because of the back pain.  Trying not to let it get me down but not entirely succeeding.

23 weeks

Week 23

Baby is: the size of a grapefruit.

I am: hanging in there.  Mainly just tired and grumpy because of the pain, but occasionally snapping out of it and remembering how incredibly lucky I am.  And feeling very thankful for my lovely husband.  As I am writing this, at 10pm on a Saturday evening, he is cleaning the dining room floor – he knows the way to my heart!

 

 

Nigelissima – Instant Italian Inspiration

This post was written by Paul who was also the chef.

Nigellissima most Nigella

The last cook book that came into our house, in March, was Jack Monroe’s “A Girl Called Jack”. At the time we’d been living off tinned tomatoes and lentils for weeks, and fell upon her recipes with the grateful desperation of a family ready to have their lives transformed by adding a beef stock cube and some shredded mushrooms to their terrible attempts at fake Bolognese.

Six months later, on the upward curve of the thriftspend cycle, enter Nigella. Nigella with her simplicity, her glamour, and her insistence on quality. Nigella with her mixture of the commonplace (tomatoes, semolina, lentils), and the expensive (sirloin steak, fresh figs, 70% cocoa chocolate). So, riding the fiscal upswing, we invited friends round and cooked loads of dishes. What’s the point of using a cookbook from a supreme entertainer if you don’t entertain with it?

Nigelissima 3

This was the menu, scaled up for four adults, two teenagers and five children aged 10 to 4:

  • Tagliata
  • Mock Mash
  • Italian Golden Lentils
  • Gnocchi Gratin
  • Meatzza
  • (Broccoli)
  • Instant chocolate mousse
  • Baked figs with honey and cream

Nigelissima 4

Tagliata is delicious. Buy the most expensive sirloin you can afford, make some vinaigrette with added chilli flakes and pour over cherry tomatoes chopped in half, cook the steak properly and slice it after resting, then arrange the whole lot on a plate topped with fresh oregano. Total cost of ingredients £25 – an easy party piece. None left over. Tomato and beef salad – who knew?

Nigelissima 2

Mock Mash was a surprise hit – also none left over. Take semolina and cook in milk, then add parmesan, seasoning and nutmeg. Total cost £5

Italian Golden Lentils was less popular, but probably because we’ve seen quite a lot of our little pulse friends recently. And it wasn’t a fair test as, with an hour to go before the guests arrived, I realised I’d forgotten to buy the necessary Castelluccio lentils and garlic oil, so substituted green lentils and olive oil with crushed garlic in it. But the dish itself was really nice – I’d never cooked lentils with leek and thyme before. Fry leeks, add lentils, thyme, bay leaves and water. Serve when cooked (fish out bay leaves). Total cost only £1.50

Gnocchi Gratin was easy to make and quickly eaten, the only leftovers caused by the abundance of other food on the table. Heat mascarpone and milk in a pan and dissolve parmesan in it. Cook gnocchi, put into oven dish and cover with a mixture of breadcrumbs and more parmesan, put into oven and take out when golden. Total cost £12

Meatzza was tasty but overshadowed by everything else. The concept is simple enough – take beef mince and add herbs and spices (a bit like making lamb kofte mix), then pat down into an oven dish before covering with chopped tomatoes and mozzarella slices to form something that looks like a pizza. We’ll try it again on its own later. Total cost £15

Broccoli was meant to have been Nigella’s lemon and parmesan version, but we ran out of time so it was just broccoli. Take broccoli, chop into florets, chuck into water then guess how long it takes to cook.

The instant chocolate mousse was fab, and easy to make. Instead of egg, use condensed milk to thicken and bind the mixture of melted luxury chocolate and partially whipped cream. Leave to chill in the fridge then top with more partially whipped cream. The recipe called for orange liqueur but I left the booze out because of the children. Total cost £12

Nigelissima 1

Baked figs with honey went down a storm with the grown-ups, less so with the children (although the kids were pretty full by then). Cut and split figs without severing them completely, and drizzle olive oil over them before baking for 10 minutes. Prepare mixture of warm cream and honey, and chop unsalted pistachios in mini chopper. Pour honeyed cream over hot figs, sprinkle chopped nuts and serve. Total cost £12

Nigelissima 5

 

None of the recipes were difficult to follow, although I do wish I’d got the herbs sorted out in advance instead of running around the garden in the dark trying to pick thyme and oregano. I started prepping an hour and a half before the meal by opening the first bottle of Bardolino and finding Don Giovanni on the ipod. Chocolate mousse was next (as it had to be chilled before serving), then the Meatzza (which could be baked at the same time as the gnocchi but I didn’t want to be handling raw beef whilst cooking everything else). Then the lentils were put on, then the gnocchi prepared. Finally the tagliata and mock mash happened simultaneously, and the figs were got ready for throwing in the oven after the main course.

 

Would we use Nigella’s book again? Yes! Could we regularly afford to buy premium cherry tomatoes, sirloin steak, decent mince, pounds of parmesan, mascarpone? No! We could save Nigella’s book for special occasions or we could experiment. Can the chocolate mousse survive the ignominy of Sainsbury’s basics dark chocolate? Can the mock mash be made with ‘Italian hard cheese’ rather than real indicazione geografica typica parmesan? Because given our recent experience you could survive at least a year with just two cook books – Nigella’s and Jack’s – and change the ingredients to suit your budget. Have these two passionate ladies met? Can someone arrange it, and send me a preview copy of the resulting hybrid cookbook? Thank you.

 

 

Parragon picture books, Maths and more

We have received some lovely items for review from Parragon recently, starting with two picture books which the children have really enjoyed.

Parragon Books 1

The Fish with the Deep Sea Smile, written by award winning author Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Henry Fisher, is the story of a family’s quest to find the fish with the deep sea smile.  They find all kinds of fish with different attributes – one with “blue-green eyes and whiskers three”, another “With electric lights up and down its tail” and even “a fish with a laughing eye.”  But can they find the fish with the deep sea smile?  With its poetic text and colourful illustrations, this is a great story to read aloud.

parragon books 2

Away in my Aeroplane, also by Margaret Wise Brown and Henry Fisher, is another story which was very popular with the children.  We liked the pictures of the little boy flying in his aeroplane, and enjoyed seeing everything he sees as he goes on an adventure through the skies.  The text is very satisfying to read aloud as you get carried along by the rhythm and rhyme: “Down below the people go, very small and very slow.  They look like bugs and ants and flies – I wonder if they realize what they look like to my eyes.”

parragon books 3

We have also taken up the Parragon #summerwithgoldstars challenge and Owl has worked his way steadily through the age 9-11 Maths workbook.  His confidence in Maths has improved so much this summer and I could not be more proud of him.

parragon stationery

And finally, something for me I think, though I haven’t yet come up with a suitable use for this pretty notebook with matching post-it notes.  Far too good for the to-do list, so I will have to think of something more interesting to use them for before the children get their hands on them.  We are very grateful for all the lovely things we have been sent – we love being a Parragon family!

 

Transformers Magazine Review

Reviews of two issues of the new Transformers magazine – the first by Owl and the second by Monkey.

Issue 1

We have been sent the first issue of Transformers magazine to review.  It came with some free gifts:

  • six game cards
  • a card mat
  • action figure

There is a giant wordsearch and a two-part comic.  It includes a competition plus a poster, and on the back is a supercars page and a page full of puzzles!  There are some character profiles too.  This magazine is quite good, and I will give it a 3/5 rating.

transformers magazine 1

Issue 2

We received the second Transformers magazine.  It came with two free gifts: a figure (called Bumblebee) and some trading cards.  There was also a game (no wordsearch unlike the first issue), a comic strip, a poster and pictures drawn by Transformers magazine.  This magazine is quite good.  I will give it a 3/5 rating.

transformers magazine 2

Pregnancy Diary: 20 Weeks

Today I am 20 weeks and 6 days pregnant.  I had my scan yesterday which was lovely.  Everything is fine and the baby is a boy.  It suddenly seems more real now.

20 weeks

Baby is: the size of a mango.  He is moving around a lot and the kicks are getting stronger.

I am: still struggling with insomnia, and the dizziness is worse when I haven’t slept.  Being half way through the pregnancy feels good though and I’m letting myself get a little bit excited about meeting the boy.

 

Pregnancy Diary: 19 Weeks

Today I am 19 weeks and 6 days pregnant, and behind schedule with this post again.  The photos were taken last Saturday before a garden party.  I was quite pleased to be able to fit into my size 10 East dress (last year’s eBay bargain) at 19 weeks pregnant – I wasn’t sure that I was going to get much wear out of it this summer.

19 weeks

Baby is: the size of a mango.  All the senses are developing now, and baby recognises my voice.

I am: feeling a bit rubbish.  It’s been a bad week, apart from the high spot of fitting into the dress.  Oh and I managed to make a rather good coffee cake for Paul’s birthday yesterday.  Other than that, I think I will draw a veil over it and hope that next week will be better.