Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Book Review - Hop Along Boo - Time For Bed {Belle & Boo}

Hop Along Boo - Time For Bed
This book, oh it is illustrated so well! It is whimsical and creates beautiful dreamscapes for boys and girls of all ages. There are Pirates, Fairies, Cowboys and Ballet Dancers weaved into a bedtime routine as Belle gets Boo ready for bed.


The words rhyme and flow nicely in a sort of quiet, dreamy way and you almost instinctively find yourself whispering by the end. Belle and Boo appear on every page and Addison loves to spot them and talk about what they are up to. She has attached herself quite firmly to the characters and especially loves the rabbit, Boo.

The only tiny issue I have with this book is that on one (only one though) of the pages the writing is black on dark blue which is tricky to read in dim light. If it was written in white then this book would be perfect!

We received the softcover version (also available in hardcover) and it has great quality paper and is standing up well to the nightly readings.

Highly recommended from our household. 

Thanks to Hachette for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Something I have noticed...

Currently I am sitting and procrastinating the afternoon away while an assignment sits half written on my desktop. My poor little blog is looking a bit neglected lately and although I have all the best intentions, time seems to slip away so fast! I will get back to it eventually, I have a few book reviews coming up and I need to do a much needed update on beautiful Addison, as well as where we are at with our house renos.

But the reason I am writing this is because I have noticed something really awesome.

Some backstory...

Addison loves books. She loves being read to and especially loves snuggling up next to you on the couch before bed for the multiple books.

We have been very fortunate to have been given a decent sized collection of books for young readers from friends and family, and I have picked a few up cheaply from op-shops. So many that for the first two years of Addison's life we didn't need to get out library books because she was happy cycling through the ones we had. Now that the board books and touch and feel books aren't quite meeting her needs, we hit up the library once a week. She plays, I choose a few books. She has figured out the concept of library books, that they come home with us for a week or two then get returned.

However I have noticed that she is remembering these books months down the track and references them - "My hippo book with hide and seek - it's from the library". Or "I want to read my pink Spot book - the library one" I find this so fascinating!

But what I am meaning to get to is the fact that even though Addison can't read the words on the page yet, she can pick out almost every book accurately from the bookshelf just based on the colour of its spine or the pictures on the front. No wonder marketing is so effective in young children!

I am just loving the way her memory is starting to work. She is pretty much 2 and a half now and she remembers loads of stuff that I wouldn't have thought she would.

Just some musings from today.

Happy spring!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Book Review - Amazing Daddy by Rachel Bright

Amazing Daddy by Rachel Bright
Published by Hachette New Zealand

Amazing Daddy is a heartwarming children's book which just begs to be added to the bedtime story rotation, especially around Father's Day!

Amazing Daddy is the story of all the wonderful things that Little Panda's Daddy does - making huge stacks of pancakes when he is on breakfast duty, building things in the shed, playing rough and tumble and falling asleep while reading bedtime stories. 

Addison enjoyed this book and she really liked the panda illustrations. It is still a bit advanced for her but she picks up the main concepts and will copy along when we ask her to do 'Daddy's morning grumpy face' and then his 'happy smile'. She also really loves a page near the end which has hundreds of small pictures of Little Panda and Daddy Panda doing all sorts of activities together. She points out the ones she knows - swings, see-saw, in the car, jumping in puddles, making sandcastles. As a parent this page is great because it gives loads of inspiration for activities to do when you get stuck!

My favourite part of the book goes:
 'When he has to go to work, I miss him not at home. So, just in case he's missing me...I call him on the phone!'
This is accompanied by an illustration of Daddy answering said call in the middle of a business meeting with an awkward look on his face. On the table are stacks of paper labelled 'important business stuff' and 'not playtime.'
Amazing Daddy is a cute book that builds up the Daddy in your Little Person's life. It is funny and relatable and even if not all of the assumptions are true in your household, it is a fun read.

Thanks to Hachette for my review copy of this book.

Book Review: Dark Forces by Stephen Leather

Dark Forces by Stephen Leather
Published by Hachette New Zealand

A foreign war is about to come to Britain and not even an army can stop it

Dark Forces is a thriller novel that will keep you guessing until the very last pages. Following the narrative of two completely different characters, it focuses on a topic very close to home - terrorist attacks by the Islamic State. 

Dan 'Spider' Shepherd is an undercover agent for MI5 working to bring down a South London gang. He has a photographic memory that makes him useful for other side missions, including gathering intel on jihadist Muslims who are being smuggled into the UK from Syria. These two missions intersect when the authorities become aware of a terrorist plot about to be carried out.

Mohammed al-Hussain is a highly skilled sniper who is extremely loyal to the Islamic State. He is smuggled into the UK to use his skills in this attack and he is willing to do anything for his cause.

This is the thirteenth novel in the Spider Shepherd series and having not read any of the previous twelve books, I was curious to see how this one would stand as a first-read. I was pleasantly surprised by the way the backstory (and there has been a lot of it) was handled. I felt well introduced to Dan Shepherd and any lingering questions I had about his character were answered throughout the book. I also feel intrigued to go back and read the others, as although key plot points were revealed for some of them, the books would still be interesting to read if they are anything like this one.

I enjoyed reading about Shepherds home life. As he is undercover in this book it takes a backseat but Shepherd is a solo Dad to a teenage boy, and it is interesting to see how his job (or what his son knows about it anyway) affects the choices being made by his son Liam.  

I found the book quite slow going. The cover made big promises of a huge terrorist war but most of the book focuses on Shepherd's undercover operation, as well as al-Hussain's trip from Syria. However in the last 50 or so pages, the action ramps up, all the pieces fall together and the plans are finally revealed. You are kept in the dark about pretty much every detail of the attack so it is exciting to read how it unfolds. Once you get through the bulk of the book, make sure you set aside some time to finish it without being interrupted - it's worth it.

Trigger warnings - as with most thrillers there is some very descriptive violence. There is a torture scene and mention of rape, although this is not as descriptive. It also brings the realities of a modern war to mind. This was actually quite terrifying for me as I felt very removed from this concept. 

I spent a lot of my teenage years (and recently if I'm being honest) reading Young Adult spy novels like the CHERUB and HENDERSON'S BOYS series by Robert Muchamore and the ALEX RIDER series by Anthony Horowitz. This book feels like a natural progression into adult fiction of the same genre. If you enjoy the spy thriller genre, you will enjoy this book.

Thanks to Hachette for providing me with a copy of this book for review.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

On using my brain again - a life update

This year I decided on a whim to do something crazy, awesome and a little bit scary.

I enrolled myself in a degree level course by correspondence.

The course I am doing is a Bachelor of Applied Science (Information and Library Studies). The end goal? To be a qualified librarian, or archivist or even work in the Sound Archives of New Zealand (Nga Taonga Sound and Vision).

I am just wrapping up my first three papers now and I have discovered quite a few things about myself over the last few months.

-I am not a last minute person. Those of you that pull all-nighters to get assignments done on time - it's not for me. I am that annoying person who has it done a week before the due date. Sorry bout it.

-I am motivated. Addison goes to preschool three days a week while I study and I make the most of that time! The chance of me getting any work done with her around is slim to none so I beaver away. 

- I was craving time to use my brain. It's not that I didn't love being a full-time stay at home mum with Addison, because I so did and we had so much fun growing together and it has been a privilege doing life on one income (and still are). But after nearly two years I needed to have some space to myself so I could be a better mum, wife and person in general.

-I can pretty easily ignore the housework on a study day.

-I can think in long term goals. This course will take me 2.5 years if I can work hard and keep up the pace I have now as well as study over the summer months. In the big picture, that really isn't a long time. Addison will almost be at school when I am qualified which works well with getting a job that will fit in with whatever our family gets up to.

-I really enjoy studying. I would happily consider doing a masters thesis or PHD somewhere down the line.

This last semester of courses has been a great start. It was a good kick up the bum when I felt like the courses were easy. I got a less than ideal mark (which really wasn't that bad) but because I had studied before I thought that I should fly through everything. Well there is still lots to learn Amy! Also adjusting to a new way of learning - all online based with forum support from tutors, is a lot different than a classroom or lecture scenario. Learning to understand the assignment brief and jump back into APA referencing - which luckily has come back to me now!

I have been learning about information and how it works in today's society, how to search for information going deeper than Google, how to evaluate and justify resources, the library systems and processes that go on behind the scenes and how technology is changing the information landscape among other things.

A librarian is an information specialist and part of the pull of the job for me is the customer service focus. I enjoy solving problems and doing the monotonous tasks that most people dislike. My focus may change over the course and that is what I want. I want to find out where I fit and where I can use my skills to help people.

 I may be using my blog to review some books and things, something I am doing for fun, and as professional development of sorts.

If you have questions about my study, please ask! If you need any help with any study or research you are doing then let me know! I am also happy to proof read assignments to the best of my ability.
Thanks to those of you that have supported me so far on this journey, especially Dave who has to put up with my lack of housework and word vomit after three days of very little social interaction.

Crochet Jellyfish (pattern here)

I am still busy as ever crafting too, I am trying to find my niche in the crochet/craft market, if anyone has tips on establishing an online shop or marketing in general then hit me up! Otherwise I am working on custom stuff and building up stock for a market near the end of the year hopefully.

We are gearing up for more house renovations too, our small budget is funded by us selling stuff we make so soon we should have some more sandpaper (expensive!) and plaster and then it is all systems go. Our next space to renovate is the second small hallway and probably the laundry or the lounge. We are also getting a new fireplace installed somewhere in the middle of the winter so that will be happening too.

Date night

Addison is growing up super fast and is really enjoying her few days at preschool as well as her independence at home. She can now do lots more around the house like choose her clothes, get up to the table, help me bake and help me feed the cat so she feels like a big girl. Her speech is getting really good now and she is starting to do a lot more imaginative play and has begun trying to sing songs a lot more too. She still gets frustrated a lot but she is learning to ask for help and learning to have some down time too as naps seem to be declining.

So there is a bit of a life update from me, crazy big things are happening!

xx Amy

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Sew Lately - An Attempt at Pattern Making

 Recently, this dress headed out to one of Addison's little friends for her 2nd birthday.

This dress was based on a pattern that I can't remember where it came from but I have altered it pretty significantly. I made a dress out of navy and white chevron material, way back when Addison was coming up to a year old. At the time the dress was a bit big and ended down by her ankles! It still fits her pretty well at 2 years old but she has clearly grown taller as it is now knee length!

When making this dress for a 2 year old I lengthened the skirt length and also the width of the bodice to allow the elastic to stretch and fit for longer.

The materials I used were a lightweight cotton (pink) and a heavier quilting cotton (arrows). It was an interesting combination for the dress as the bottom band weighs down the skirt but makes for some pretty cool swirly movement. 

I used french seams for the majority of the garment and enclosed the rest since I don't own an overlocker. This makes it look nice and tidy on the inside and stops the dreaded fraying!

I am still a pretty 'wing it' kind of sewer and I would love to learn more about the pattern making process so I can troubleshoot a lot of my mistakes. The skills I am improving at though are edge stitching and keeping seams even and neat. 

The matching oversized bow headband was a free pattern I found in The Natural Parent Magazine and it is so cute! There will definitely be more of these made in the future.

Here is the first dress on Addison at age 22 months. I love the fabric combo and she always gets loads of compliments when wearing the dress. Now if only she will give up her trackpants phase so I can get her wearing pretty dresses again!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Dear Addison - 2 Years Old!

Dear Addison,

Two weeks ago you turned TWO! You had a great birthday week with plenty of cake (which was the most important part in your opinion!). On the day of your birthday you got to stay in your PJs all day for Pajama Day at preschool. We took in a little cake for you to share and you got to blow out your candles and sing some songs. You came home and opened a couple of presents with Daddy and Mummy and got another piece of birthday cake at home and went to bed a happy camper.

Then a couple of days later Nana and Koro arrived and then that Saturday we had a little casual birthday party with Grandma and Grandpa, Aunty and Uncle and a few close friends. It was fun and simple and you got some beautiful gifts. We made you a Thomas cake and you loved the 'toot toots' around the top.

You are growing up into a beautiful girl and your baby days are long gone. You want to do everything your 'self' and have gotten really good at climbing - especially onto your chair ready for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Food is still one of your favourite things. You are the usual fussy toddler though and you don't eat everything we serve. You have a sweet tooth like your Mum and you also enjoy kiwifruit, feijoas, marmite sandwiches, honey on toast, weetbix with sauce (golden syrup) and spaghetti.You must be going through a growth spurt because the last few nights you have been polishing off 2 weetbix faster than me for breakfast and downing just as much dinner as us then asking for more! It's one of the first times you have cleared your dinner plate!

You had a good go of potty training at around 22-23 months and were in undies during the day for a few weeks with only a few accidents but you hit a regression and are currently refusing to wear them but you will still happily use the potty occasionally. We aren't pushing you in this aspect  - I know you will get there in your own time.

You also moved to your big single bed at the end of March and you have really taken to it! Sometimes, especially during the day, you get distracted by the toys in your room and skip a nap but you will happily be in your room for a couple of hours of quiet time so I still count that as a win! You have fallen out of your bed twice now but it doesn't seem to bother you after a quick cuddle. We have a video monitor that comes in extremely handy for checking what you are up to in your room. Sneaky parents we are!

 I looked in your mouth the other day and spotted your bottom two molars (the second set) coming through. I hadn't noticed much of a change except that you have been sucking on your hand a bit the last few weeks and have a bit of dribble rash. They don't seem to be causing you as much pain as last time which is good. I'm looking forward to leaving the teething train behind.

Your vocabulary is exploding everyday. You say up to 4 word sentences sometimes and have reached the NO! stage. You are good with your manners but only when prompted so I will keep at it. You have started to sing along and do actions to songs - your favourite being 'The Wheels on the Bus'.

You have finally decided that cuddles are actually pretty nice to have and I finally get a good few. Not quite at the wrap-your-hands-around-my-neck level, but a good snuggle anyway.

   Your favourite toys at the moment are your Duplo (to build castles and towers), Dwight of course, your soft toys including Piggy (a Peppa Pig one), Rainbow the reindeer, Kitty and Piglet. Others rotate in the favourites list. You love trains and dinosaurs and dolls and prams. You love drawing and painting and you love collecting fluff (like pillow stuffing). You also love bouncing on beds and balancing on a long piece of wood like a mini balance beam.

   You are getting so adventurous which is a huge change from the cautious baby you were. It takes a bit of getting used to seeing you climb the ladder to a slide that is way taller than me and happily slide down, or standing on the coffee table and try and jump into our arms! I can now see how the grey hairs start to appear. 

  We love you Addison and we pray that you feel loved and surrounded by the village that is helping raise you.
xx Mummy and Daddy