My reviews

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I have taken so many beautiful pictures over the years, most are hidden away in folders on my computer, some make it onto facebook and occasionally they even make it into a frame!

Since moving into the new house I’ve decided that I want to be surrounded by more photographs. They capture happy times, memories and love and who doesn’t want to surrounded themselves with that?

One thing I have always loved but never actually done, is canvas printing. I don’t really know why! It is such an affordable way to create a big statement on your wall. Pictures of family and friends or beautiful shots of places you’ve been, give a talking point and that unique touch of your own personality.

So when Your Image 2 Canvas offered a £50 voucher for me to review their canvas prints I jumped at the chance. I was only faced with the dilemma of which photo to choose, I have so many beautiful ones that I love! My gorgeous Littlelish would have to be the subject but now to sort through and find the perfect one…

canvas-image

I loved the recent photo I took on my phone with her fairy wings on, unfortunately the quality of my phone camera is not great so I had to opt for a larger image taken with a camera. This was on the advice of the extremely helpful and patient team at Your Image 2 Canvas who looked over the initial phone image I sent them and even tried to sharpen it. In the end I went for the beautiful picture I took at last years Wilderness festival. She looks so happy and pure with a little sparkly gold butterfly on her cheek. It was a high quality image and they quickly set to print.

The website where you place your order is extremely user friendly and has very clear instructions guiding you to choose exactly what size, depth, edging you would like on your canvas. You can also select if you would like it in black and white or sepia. I opted for a large coloured square (30 inches x 30 inches), deep canvas with the image wrapping around the edges. It cost a total of £58.99 which for an artwork of that size I thought was rather affordable.

Within a day (yes one day! If you order before 3pm your product is shipped for free to you the following day) my finished product was there waiting for me in the porch. Eeeek! I was so excited to see how it had turned out and I am pleased to say it is absolutely beautiful! The print quality and finish is perfect and I really couldn’t be any happier with it.

I’ve already had both the visitors that came to my house since yesterday ask me where I ordered it from! So if you are looking for some personalised wall art I can definitely recommend checking out Your Image 2 Canvas and the huge variety of options they have available. Thank you Your Image 2 Canvas!

We were thrilled to be invited down to London Zoo on a blogger sponsored day out by the lovely people at Virgin Money. It was just what we needed after all the events of late, a little mummy and daughter adventure!

I challenged myself to drive down to London, excited to be heading to the city and my old neighbourhood after many years. The sun well and truly had it’s hat on and we knew it was the start of a great day out :) Driving past my old haunts, the school I used to go to, the cinema at Swiss cottage, we animatedly chatted about the day ahead until we reached Regents Park and our destination London Zoo! We parked up and quickly made our way to the main entrance where our hosts for the day, Julie and Max waited patiently.

After a quick brief and hello to the other mummy bloggers we were let loose into the zoo! What to do first? Littlelish grabbed a map and beamed with pride at being allowed to choose where we went. Our mission of the day according to Littlelish was to find the sweetest, cutest animal in the zoo… what would it be? She decided our first destination was the aquarium, it’s the first thing you see as you come into the zoo and we do enjoy a good aquarium. Littlelish navigated us round, still clutching the map. She definitely liked leading the way. We saw big fish, little fish, our favourite was the show off sting ray who entertained us with his funny ray smile. Littlelish was curious to know why his stinging tail didn’t sting all the other fish in the tank! To which I did not have an answer ;)

After a good look in the dark aquarium we ventured blinking, into the bright sunshine, next destination – the giraffes. Littlelish was convinced there was a baby giraffe who she needed to see! We went via the hunting dogs, warthogs and okapi who Littlelish thought were so cool with their stripey tights on!

Once we arrived at the giraffes we climbed up the frame to get a look at the them up close while they munched away on their branches. Littelish was desperate to get even closer and attempted to scale the barrier. She said they looked very soft and would like to stroke them and I have to say I agree! Lovely, graceful animals :) We didn’t find a baby one, only one which was a little shorter than the others – was it a baby? I’m still not sure…

We then headed over to the sticky rainforest to spot some monkeys but had to leave rather quickly as Littlelish couldn’t stand the stench, puffing her cheeks up and not daring to inhale the smelly air! It did make me chuckle. Our next stop was the nightlife area, funnily the dark didn’t phase her at all! She loved watching the bats and we especially loved the loris because it looked so cool! Definitely a contender for the zoo’s cutest animal don’t you think?

We scooted past the meerkats, lemurs, otters and reindeer and decided we would make our way to see some monkeys! The Gorillas had a fantastic enclosure and the coolest of play areas, Littlelish and I decided we would like one of these rooms in our house!!!

It was now time for a spot of lunch we wrestled our way to a free table where we could snack on our packed lunch. We’d been warned that the restaurant was pretty pricey but I have to say the food did look excellent and I felt a little hard done by tucking into my sandwich while everyone was having a nice hot meal. We treated ourselves after lunch with a nice refreshing ice lolly :)

After refueling we headed off to meet the other mummy bloggers and the virgin media team for the penguin show over at Penguin Beach! We managed to get a spot and heard all about the new penguin pool, how the Zoo are trying to keep the environment as natural as possible, they even feed the penguins through a ingenious drain pipe construction which means the penguins are not being fed by human hands but rather the fish is falling directly in the water for them to catch it more naturally. They also explained to us just why a penguin is black and white and no it wasn’t a cheesy joke! The birds are black on their backs so as not to be spotted by predators from above against a dark blue sea and light on their fronts so as not be be spotted from below against the white light as it shines into the water – camouflage, how clever!

It was now group photo time by the lions who were lazily lounging in the sun. There was no time for lordly lounging for us as we still had plenty to see! We headed back to the butterfly pavillion to admire the beautiful butterflies. Littlelish was particularily pleased they weren’t in cages and were free to flutter around. After the butterflies it was on to the other creepy crawlies which I was rather glad were in cages! Spiders, cockroaches and scorpions… no cuties in here!

We had made our way all the way to the back corner of the zoo but here tucked away is in my opinion one of the best areas of the zoo – Meet the Monkeys! An area of the zoo where you can enter the squirrel monkeys home where they run and jump free. On our way in Littlelish noticed the picture of a little boy with only nine fingers! Needlesstosay touching the monkeys was not allowed. She listened well to these instructions but I wasn’t sure she would! Especially when the little boy next to her stroked one and said, mummy it’s soooo soft! Ooops!

One part of the squirrel monkey home is a hide where you could look through binoculars to see the monkeys in the bushes. The cheeky monkeys only came to say hello at the side window, jumped onto the binoculars and off out the other side window!! These were definitely the zoo sweeties we were looking for, absolutely my favourite!!

Next along our path was the area of the zoo designed especially by children for children – Animal Adventure. Always a recipe for success this was definitely Littlelishs favourite part of the zoo. A giant tipi where they do storytelling, chickens roaming around, a special childrens cafe, even a water play area for on a hot day. The specially designed  playground was awesome, creative and original and I literally had to bribe her away from the teletubbies style climbing hill! Luckily there was something even more exciting round the corner, the petting zoo! Littlelish has always loved the farm and has absolutely no fear of petting animals. And finally she had found her cutest, cuddliest animal at the zoo… a goat!! She named it whitey black black and spent a good 20 minutes hugging it much to the amusement of some Japanese tourists who started taking photos of her! It was rather cute.

The sun was starting to set so we popped past the llamas and alpacas and tried to spot the difference between the two, watched the camel spit, took a quick peak inside the old elephant house which I remember from being a small child. We said hello and goodbye to the hippo as we made our way to the exit.

I was proud of Littlelish, she managed to walk the entire way round the zoo, never complaining, taking it all in and loving every minute. We had a fantastic day together, it was good to be doing something fun together and making some memories. I have such fond ones of London Zoo as a child so it was lovely that it was something we could now share.

And Littlelish found her cutest zoo animal… Whitey Black Black!

A huge thank you to Virgin Money and Carat Media for organising a wonderful day out.

Our top 10 things to see and do at London Zoo

1. Meet some cheeky squirrel monkeys and see if you can climb like a squirrel monkey

2. Have a play in the childrens area, see how fast you can climb the hill!

3. Hug a goat in the petting zoo!

4. See if you can spot the Loris in the dark

5. Listen to a story in the childrens tipi

6. Admire some beautiful butterflies in the butterfly pavillion, see if you can spot the camoflaged ones!

7. Say hello to ray the show off sting ray

8. Watch the giraffes munching on their lunch with their long tongues!

9. Learn more about the penguins and meet ricky the rockhopper at the penguin show at Penguin Beach

10. Go and meet an okapi! What’s an okapi? Go and find out :)

 

Top 10 reasons for using Virgin Money Travel

1. Virgin Money Travel Insurance was voted “Best Online Travel Insurance Provider 2012” at the Your Money Direct Awards.

2. You can be sure when you purchase travel insurance from Virgin Money, you’re covered by the people who know all there is to know about travel.

3. Annual cover from just £35.20 (based on European policy for under 50s)

4. Kids covered free – up to 3 under 18s per insured adult

5. Winter sports covered – from off-piste skiing to snowboarding

6. Protection if your holiday is delayed, cancelled or cut short

7. Over 65s cover also available, and we even cover some pre-existing medical conditions

8. As a Virgin Money Travel Insurance customer you have access to a travel advice line for support before you leave and also while you’re away on your trip.

9.  As a Virgin Travel Insurance customer, you’ll be provided with access to Virgin group discounts which can help cut the cost of your
travel expenses.

10. Virgin Moneys goal is to make “everyone better off” – this philosophy underpins their approach to business by offering good value to customers, treating employees well, making a positive contribution to society and delivering a positive contribution to shareholders.

 

 

We’ve been busy learning to read for sometime in our house. Littlelish turned 3 in the summer and is therefore a pretty early reader. She picked up her phonics very quickly and was soon ready to move onto the trickier stuff like blending and segmenting. Unfortunately I’m not a teacher which has meant I haven’t always been able to know how to support her in her learning besides reading lots and lots of books! I went looking for online games to support her learning but often they were poor quality, not using the phonics system, very American or expensive!

And then the lovely people at Teach Your Monster to Read told me about their brand new, FREE, online game developed for the Usborne Foundation, a charity set up by Peter Usborne (who also founded The Usborne Publishing company).

The game has already won gold in both the Practical Preschool and Primary Teacher Update awards. It’s what we’ve been waiting for – a fantastic, educational, engaging way of teaching little ones to read… and what’s more it is free!

The game’s primary aim is to develop children’s speed and accuracy of grapheme (letter) recognition. Children work through each grapheme (in the same order as Letters and Sounds) practicing each one using one of four minigames. Complete the minigame and you will receive a letter and a prize reward for your hard work. Along the way, there are opportunities for the child to practice aspects of reading like blending or segmenting.

Littlelish particularly enjoyed customising her monster and selecting her reward for completing each section (interestingly her choice of prize was 9 time out of 10 food related!!). I was pleased that there were 4 minigames to choose from as this added variety and also meant the game could be geared to the level of the child. Littlelish got bored quickly of the first level games so it was good that there were more complicated games for her to play too.

Teach your monster to read is unlike any free online game available. The illustrations are superb, contemporary, amusing and they create a spark of imagination in the child so the adventure really comes alive. The game play is also brilliant, we didn’t encounter any glitches and the game didn’t freeze up on us like many online reading games I know!

I’d definitely recommend you pay Teach your monster to read a visit…While you are there why not check out their blog as they also have a cool Draw a Monster competition running until the 9th of November http://blog.teachyourmonstertoread.com.

The prize is a fantastic £150 worth of Usborne books! I’ve been checking out the entire set of first level reading books for Littlelish  http://www.usborne.com/veryfirstreading/books/books.aspx. They look FAB and we would love to add them to our library so Littlelish is going to get to work creating her monster! Why not enter a monstrous creation too! :)

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