Goodbye 2019 – Hello 2020

Goodbye 2019. It wasn’t a bad year over all, I was a littler quieter on the blog, even though lots has happened. 2019 found me focusing more on my Crochet and Reading and I took up matched betting. Overall it was quite a positive year. 5th December 2019 also marked the tenth year of the Mr and I living together. Facebook also reminded us we’ve known each other for 14 years, almost half my life haha!

Goodbye 2019 - Hello 2020

Hospital Appointments For The Girls

We’ve had lots of hospital appointments to attend, mostly for Izzy’s hearing but also chasing an Autism diagnosis for Eva. We’re hoping this will help get an EHCP in place before Secondary school to make things easier for Eva. Eva has also complained of leg pain for quite some time and having been checked for signs of muscle weakness, the Dr highly suspects she may have Peripheral Neuropathy like me. This was hard to hear, knowing she could face the same as me was heartbreaking. We will have to monitor her to find out for sure though.

Izzy has glue ear and has lost 50% of her hearing, we’re currently monitoring her and using the Otovent to try and clear her ears. If this doesn’t work she will need gromits fitted and her adenoids and tonsils removed. The Otovent had made a difference with a few days use so we are hopeful once Izzy is less congested we can get back to using it and improve her hearing.

Izzy also has astigmatism like me which we have an appointment at the hospital for this Tuesday. I’m hopeful she has very few issues, although I’ve no doubt her eyesight will continue to deteriorate as she grows. Whilst it has been stressful we’re hopeful both girls will get the help and support they need to improve things.

My Own Health

Admittedly I have neglected my own health again, but I do plan to get on top of that this year. Fatigue, pain and eczema have made 2019 quite frustrating at times to be honest. Having a rather rude Dr make me feel awful for even asking him how I get referred to his department for my eczema, I felt too nervous to book in and get a referral. I’d hate to be referred to that Dr after he had talked to me so nastily in front of an entire waiting room of patients.

Trying to balance attending events with the girls, doing the small amount of tidying I do at home, actually leaving the flat to go shopping so I’m not at home 24/7 and trying to find time for myself has been quite tricky and I’ve had to miss out on more over the last year. I’ve learnt to reserve my energy for the more important things better than before but still the guilt gets me when I do miss things.

I guess that’s typical for anyone with chronic pain and mental health issues but thankfully reading and crochet have helped me rest my body whilst still feeling like I am doing something productive. I do still have days where I push myself badly and suffer sometimes for a week or so after but these days are becoming less and hopefully in 2020 I’ll learn to control that further.

Matched Betting

From matched betting, we managed to buy a car just in time for the school holidays and countless hospital appointments for both girls. Originally I was saving to build the Mr a PC for gaming, oops! We have at least made a start on buying parts but due to emptying the bank for the car we haven’t managed as much as I had hoped. I can’t deny we have made a nice amount over the last 6 or so months but having had so many financial struggles over the years we are still playing catch up too, as anyone with health issues will understand due to benefit changes.

Me and the girls in the car

Regardless, I am extremely grateful for discovering this fantastic way to earn a little extra each week. Having a car has given us back some of the freedom we had lost due to my health. We had some lovely trips out during the summer to Wicksteed Park, Wat Tyler Park, Canvey Island and we’ve even managed a few visits to Martyn and Hannah.

Reading

I am honestly proud of myself for managing to read almost 60 books in 2019! I can’t thank Random Things Blog Tours enough for organising so many fabulous tours. Thanks to Anne, I have discovered and rediscovered some amazing authors over the last year. I’m hoping to hit 50-60 books again during 2020 after a short break over Christmas.

Crochet

My crochet skills definitely improved over 2019! I decided to take on as many challenges as I could and managed to make most of the things I wanted. In total, I crocheted nearly 50 items, from blankets, cushion covers, teddies and bookmarks. I even took a pattern and edited it to make a lovely Skull Scarf and shared the pattern. It was definitely a good year for crochet even with a long break due to sore hands and wrists.

I also created a bear pattern, Izzy asked me to make her best friend a red sparkly bear. Izzy explained he needed a longer body so her friend can grip him properly as she has weak hand muscles. Under her instruction and watchful eye to make sure he was perfect I finished him quite quickly and Izzy’s friend loved him. Several people really liked the bear when I shared pictures and with a lot of encouragement, I will be looking to sell my crochet makes, particularly the bears in 2020! I’m still undecided on a platform for selling but please do get in touch if you have a request.

Positivity

In 2019 I discovered several people weren’t worth the stress and effort anymore, those that put me down or treated me badly were simply cut out. I don’t need extra negativity in my life when I do have some amazing friends such as Slim, Martyn, Hannah, Fiona and Lisa who have all been there for me when I’ve needed it and I hope I’ve been there for them as much as I can too.

It’s hard to feel positive if people are putting you down or taking your kindness for a weakness constantly and I’m determined to have a more positive outlook. I also think this is much healthier for the girls, certain people have been cut out of our lives to protect them and ensure they grow up around kind, supportive people who genuinely care.

We said goodbye 2019 knowing we have some fantastic friends and feeling much more positive for the start of a new year.

Plans For 2020

I intend to read at least a book a week and crochet at least one item to see if I can manage 50+ reads and makes this year. Due to my anxiety and chronic pain I’ve not been out as much as I should, especially alone. I plan to change that this year and get out a bit more in the hopes it makes going out a bit easier and to give me a bit of a break from these four walls.

Hopefully matched betting will allow us to finish off the Mr’s PC at last as this keeps him occupied in between running around for the 3 of us. He has taken on the role of my carer fantastically and does so much for us it will be lovely to finally give him something back just for him.

It would be lovely if we could save enough for our first proper family holiday this year. We went away for a weekend to Kent when Eva was a baby but we would love to do something a little more special!

Goodbye 2019!

Overall 2019 has probably been one of our better years and it’s making me look forward to 2020! Saying Goodbye 2019 has been quite enjoyable. How has your year been?

Chocolate Emoji Maker and Zimpli Kids Products

We received a Chocolate Emoji Maker to review along with some other really cool Zimpli Kids Products. The girls love Zimpli Kids products and couldn’t wait to get started!

Chocolate Emoji Maker

This fab little kit comes with everything you need to make 2 Chocolate Emoji Bars. The instructions are nice and easy to follow and both Izzy (5) and Eva (9) really enjoyed making their chocolate emojis.

Chocolate Emoji Maker

Once the chocolate had melted in the warm water, it was time to get to work! Following the instructions the girls found they were able to follow the outlines pretty well.

Using White, Milk and Dark chocolate girls managed to create their chocolate emojis in just a few minutes. The hard part was waiting for them to set! Thankfully that didn’t take too long.

This kit was really fun, I can see us buying more chocolate and doing it again too as it was such a quick, simple and enjoyable activity and of course, ends in chocolate!

Snoballs

Snoballs

We also received some Snoball Sachets, simply mix with water create your own Snoballs! Perfect for indoor sensory play or outdoors. The Snoballs break down naturally or can be washed away leaving no mess behind. The girls love playing with Snoballs and seeing who can create the biggest one!

Blue Gelli Baff

Blue Gelli Baff is amazing! Simply add to your bath water and watch it turn into blue Gelli! This fun stuff doesn’t stain the skin and comes with a handy sachet that dissolves it all at the end making it safe to drain your bath.

Gelli Baff

We love using Gelli Bath to play with too, Izzy set up a bowl of Gelli Bath to give her toy dolphins a bath. As you can see they had plenty of fun too!

Dolphins having a Gelli Baff

Gelli Baff comes in several colours and is great fun at bathtime or in a tub for sensory play. Both my girls have sensitive skin and have had no issues using Gelli Baff either which is always a plus.

Crackle Baff Colours

Crackle Baff Colours

Add Crackle Baff to your bath water and hear it crackle as it changes colour! This makes another great sensory play activity as well as a fun bath product. The crystals crackle and pop so loudly whilst they turn your bath a mystery colour which Izzy thought was amazing.

Crackle Baff Colours

Forever Blue By Kelly-Marie Pollock

I received Forever Blue by Kelly-Marie Pollock to read and review. Forever Blue is a small collection of intimate poetry, inspired by personal experiences with Grief, Loss, Depression and Self Harm.

Forever Blue by Kelly-Marie Pollock

*Trigger warning – contains adult content not suitable for all audiences.

Forever Blue

I haven’t read poetry for years but Forever Blue has sparked my interest again! This collection of long and short heart-felt poems delve into the darkness of the mind in a beautiful way that most will be able to relate to. Kelly writes in such an open and honest way letting her feelings pour into her poetry giving them power. Beautiful collection of poems that I would definitely recommend reading.

Kelly-Marie Pollock

Kelly is a 33-year-old, married mum of 4 plus 3 adult step-children. She has an intense love of the Victorian era, Vampires and is waiting for a Zombie uprising. Kelly’s passion is writing. She is also a mental health advocate and BiPolar warrior. When she isn’t reading or writing, she enjoys long nature walks with her husband and their children. Kelly can not get through the day without her morning cup of tea. She uses excessive amounts of sarcasm and profanity in most sentences and she’s not even sorry.

Kelly has also published Cherry Nova, a gothic romance and occult horror novel. Cherry Nova is the first book in The Chronicles of Nova Morgan which I have also reviewed here.

Paw Patrol And Top Wing At Showcase Cinema De Lux

On Saturday we watched Paw Patrol and Top Wing on the big screen at Showcase Cinema De Lux at Bluewater. We were kindly gifted 3 tickets to watch the Nick Jr Big Screen Heroes show in exchange for our review. 

Paw Patrol - Paw Patrol and Top Wing at Showcase Cinema de lux

Paw Patrol And Top Wing

We haven’t visited a Showcase Cinema De Lux before so we weren’t too sure what to expect. Bluewater is signposted really well making it easy to find Showcase Cinema De Lux (and the Mr was pleased to find an open bar below!). Upon arrival we were pleased to find that unlike our recent cinema trips, all the chairs were clean, in working order and recline!

This is perfect for us as Izzy often ends up on my lap halfway through which aggravates my chronic pain. Having my legs raised took off the pressure making the experience a rather comfortable one!

Izzy watching  an episode of top wing

In total there were 6 episodes swapping from Paw Patrol to Top Wing and each one had Izzy glued to the screen, even Eva seemed happy enough to watch. Izzy loves Paw Patrol but hadn’t watched Top Wing before and she was certainly impressed.

Top Wing - Paw patrol and Top wing at Showcase cinema de lux

The display and sound were perfectly clear, we forgot Eva’s ear defenders but thankfully the volume wasn’t so high it overwhelmed her yet it was loud enough for Izzy to hear even though she only has 50% of her hearing currently due to glue ear. Overall we really enjoyed visiting Showcase Cinema De Lux and watching Paw Patrol and Top Wing on the big screen. I can see us visiting this cinema again in future.

Top Wing

Showcase Cinema De Lux

Showcase Cinemas has 21 cinema across the UK offering luxury recliner seats for a more comfortable cinema experience.

Ticket Prices are:

Adult – £9.35
Child – £8.60
Senior – £8.60
Student (Id required) – £9.25

Have you visited a Showcase Cinema before?

Into The Dark By Karen Rose

I received Into The Dark by Karen Rose to review as part of the Random Things Blog Tours. The Sunday Times bestselling author Karen Rose is back with the gripping fifth instalment of the Cincinnati Series.

Into The Dark By Karen Rose https://amzn.to/33mI73R

Into The Dark

When Michael Rowland saves his younger brother Joshua from the clutches of his stepfather, he runs for his life with his brother in his arms. From his hiding place he sees the man who has made their lives a misery taken away in the trunk of a stranger’s car, never to be seen again.

Doctor Dani Novak has been keeping soccer coach Diesel Kennedy at arm’s length to protect him from her dark secrets. When they are brought together by the two young brothers who desperately need their help, it seems they might finally be able to leave their damaged pasts behind them.

But as the only witness to the man who kidnapped and murdered his sterpfather, Micheal is in danger. As Diesel and Dani do all that they can to protect him, their own investigation into the murder uncovers a much darker web of secrets than they could have imagined.

As more bodies start to appear it’s clear that his killer wants vengeance. And will wipe out anything that gets in his way…

Karen Rose

Karen Rose Author Picture

Karen Rose was introduce to suspense and horror at the tender age of eight when she accidentally read Poe’s The Pit and The Pendulum and was afraid to go to sleep for years. She now enjoys writing books that make other people afraid to go to sleep.

Karen lives in Florida with her family, their cat Bella, and two dogs, Loki and Freya. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, and her new hobby – knitting.

My Thoughts

Having read some of Karen Rose’s – The Chicago Series, I was really looking forward to Into The Dark. It definitely didn’t disappoint! Right from the start you find yourself hooked as Michael runs for his life with Joshua in his arms.

I found myself walking around tidying up with the book still in my hand thinking I’ll just read to the end of this chapter. Into The Dark is full of suspense and so many twists and turns. As each dark and dirty secret unfolds it makes you wonder what they will discover next. Dani and Diesel’s complicated relationship with Dani’s own dark secrets keep you just as hooked right until the end.

Having utterly enjoyed Into The Dark, I think I’ll be reading some of the other series I have missed!

Have you read anything by Karen Rose? Does this sound like a book for you?

The Three Hares – The Jade Dragonball Book Review

We received The Three Hares – The Jade Dragonball by Scott Lauder & David Ross. This children’s quest fantasy is packed full of action and adventure!

The Three Hares -The Jade Dragonball by Scott Lauder and David Scott Ross

The Three Hares – The Jade Dragonball

Sara Livingstone’s school trip to the Beijing Palace Museum takes a terrifying turn when an encounter with the ancient Qingming Scroll thrusts her a thousand years into China’s past. With secrets in the shadows and danger around every corner, Sara must take her place in a cosmic battle and find the courage to face an unworldly ancient magic.

Scott Lauder

Scott Lauder Author Picture

Scott Lauder was born in Ayrshire, Scotland. Having taught in Greece, Japan, and England, he now lives with his wife and four cats in the UAE where he teaches English. In his free time, he enjoys hiking and drinking good coffee. His other books include The Right Thing, A Single Shot, and The Boy-King Tutankhamun.

David Scott Ross

David Scott Ross has traveled and taught throughout Asia since he first moved there in 1987. He currently teaches in upstate NY, where he lives with his wife and two sons. When David is not writing or teaching, he dreams about becoming a chef, a rock star, maybe an actor, but probably not all at once. At present, he is wrapping up two projects: Pastimes, encounters with a Stone Age people, and Dim, a detective novel.

Eva’s Thoughts

I really enjoyed the book because it reminded me that we have forgotten how to make and build things without using machines to help us. When Sara Livingstone visited the museum she saw a vision of a strange person talking about the QingMing Scroll which I loved. When Sara visited ancient China she used her wits and Granny Tang’s stories to survive which was amazing! I think everyone will enjoy The Three Hares – The Jade Dragonball just as much as I have, it’s packed full of adventure and magic a bit like Harry Potter.

The Purple-Bellied Parrot By William Fagus

I received The Purple-Bellied Parrot By William Fagus to review as part of the Random Things Blog Tours. This children’s action and adventure book follows The Purple-Bellied Parrot on his quest to live his would-be life.

The Purple-Bellied Parrot by William Fagus

The Purple-Bellied Parrot

Discover…

The power of the ‘HhhuuuUUUUTTT!’

Ever feel you are living the wrong life?

Ever feel another life, your should-be life, is out there waiting for oi, if only you had the courage to…

Have you answered yes to any of those questions?

Then follow the Purple-Bellied Parrot on a rip-roaring globe-spanning adventure packed with unforgettable characters. His quest to live his should-be life.

It Begins: In the sterile apartment of a city executive with unruly nasal hair where the Purple-Bellied parrot cannot even do the very thing he was born to do.

It Ends: On the shores of a distant land after an epic journey which tests his courage, his ingenuity and the bonds of friendship – to the limit.

The Purple-Bellied Parrot Blurb

William Fagus

William Fagus Author Picture

The publicity-shy William Fagus live in a remote location in an upturned fishing smack with a parrot and sundry antique musical instruments and carpentry tools.

The redoubtable Mrs Lush, his cleaning lady and confidant, is his most frequent visitor.

Our Thoughts

Eva and I both read The Purple-Bellied Parrot and really enjoyed it. The Purple-Bellied Parrot finds himself remembering a time before being stuck in a cage looking up at nostril hair. He decides he needs to live his would be life and has quite an adventure doing so. You can’t help but laugh and cry while reading this book. Humour and sadness are weaved cleverly into this beautiful story as the Purple-Bellied Parrot learns about the world around him.

Overall we both think children from around 7 to 8 years and adults will love this book. It’s perfect for reading aloud to all the family. With characters such as the Spuggies, Sergeant Troggers and Millie, the Purple-Bellied Parrots adventure will have you hooked!

Brightening Clothes -#ACEWinterRefresh Challenge

We’ve been brightening clothes with Ace for colours as part of the Britmums #ACEWinterRefresh Challenge. We took part in a previous ACE back to school challenge and loved their products so much we still use them.

Brightening Clothes #ACEWinterRefresh challenge

Brightening Clothes

We received 2 boxes of ACE for colours to help us with this challenge. The girls wear a lot of red and pinks thanks to their school uniform and it being their favourite colours so we decided to brighten some up.

We decided to test ACE for colours mainly on a red fluffy pyjama top that was a lovely bright red last winter but has slowly faded and a pair of light pink and black socks that were a little grubby and faded.

Easy To Use

ACE for colours is really easy to use, simply add the specified amount on the box along with your usual washing powder to refresh your clothes. You can find Ace for colours at your local Morrison’s store or online from Amazon.

ACE gently lifts stains helping you keep up with the never-ending school washing pile, keeping clothing bright, robust and clean. ACE is gentle enough you can add it to every wash keeping your clothing in the best condition possible.

Results

The red fluffy reindeer pyjama top came out surprisingly refreshed and looking much brighter than before. I had been thinking of replacing these but these results mean it will last Izzy most of this winter and still look bright and colourful. It was a little difficult to get a before and after photo but I am pleased with the results.

Reindeer pj top refreshed with ACE for colours

I was really shocked to see just how much dirt was removed from the socks and the pink is almost like new again! The black is looking much darker too rather than faded.

Before and After ACE for colours

Do you use any ACE products?

 *This post is an entry for the BritMums #ACEWinterRefresh Challenge, sponsored by ACE for Colours Powder. Get help for all kinds of stains with the ACE Stain Helper and pick up the range at your nearest Morrison’s store or buy online on Amazon.

Mess-Free Fun – Playfoam Pluffle Review

We’re enjoying mess-free fun with Playfoam Pluffle which we were kindly sent to review by Learning Resources UK in September. Pluffle is the mesmerising feel-good fluffy stuff which is mess-free meaning both children and parents will love it!

Playfoam Pluffle

Play Foam Pluffle

Playfoam Pluffle comes in packs of 2, 4 and 9 and suitable for children 5 years and up. We were kindly sent three 2-packs to review including Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, Pink and Purple. Unlike similar products, this can’t dry out, can be mixed and is completely amazing to touch and watch. Several packs and colours are available to buy making Pluffle a flexible and fun product.

Playing with Playfoam Pluffle

Pluffle is a fantastic learning resource, squishing, squeezing a pinching develops hand strength and watching the lava-lamp like flow encourages concentration. This truly is mesmerising and we all found ourselves flipping over handfuls to watch it fall and flow.

Under the sea Playfoam Pluffle sensory play scene

Imaginative Sensory Play

Izzy was fascinated and couldn’t wait to let her imagination loose finding an assortment of toys to create play scenes. She loves the feeling and says it tickles her fingers! It really is super soft to the touch.

Izzy loves to mix things so she had most of the colours a little mixed in rather quickly too otherwise I could have added more photos’s.

Beach Playfoam Pluffle Scene

I love this beach scene Izzy created using the Blue and Yellow Pluffle though. She sat playing with this scene for quite some time, burying characters in ‘sand’, letting them swim in the ‘sea’ along with the sea creatures.

Our Thoughts

Overall we think Playfoam Pluffle is brilliant and a great SEN resource for children aged 5-10 years. Izzy really enjoys pulling out her tubs to play with. Even Eva had fun getting involved feeling Pluffle and setting up scenes.

Have you seen or heard of Playfoam Pluffle before?

The Birthday House By Jill Treseder

I received The Birthday House by Jill Treseder as part of the Random Things Blog Tours. This murder mystery is a fantastic read, set in 1955, based on a disturbing real-life crime.

The Birthday House By Jill Treseder

The Birthday House

A Friendship. A Murder. A life that will never be the same.

The year is 1955, the location picturesque Devon. In a house by the River Dart, schoolgirl Josephine Kennedy posts invitations to her twelfth birthday party a party that never takes place. Horrific violence is committed that night in the family home, leaving all of its occupants dead.

Based on a disturbing real-life crime, this compelling story explores Josephine’s fate through the prism of friends and family – the victims and survivors who unwittingly influenced the events that led up to the tragedy.

Josephine’s best friend, Susan, is haunted by the secrets of the birthday house. Can she ever find a way of making peace with her past?

Jill Treseder

Jill Treseder - Author of The Birthday House

Taken from www.jilltresederwriter.com:


I started writing in a red shiny exercise book when I was seven years old. But in that time and place it was an ‘invalid’ activity, was overlooked, but never went away. It was many years before I felt able to call myself ‘writer’.
But there came a day when the phrase ‘I am a writer’ no longer sounded pretentious, but legitimate, and even necessary. Was it because I had a writing room instead of the corner of a landing? Or because I spent more time writing? Or because I’d got better at it? Or because I get miserable and bad-tempered if I don’t write? Probably a combination of all of the above.


Writing is my third career. The first was as a social worker with children and families, a job I loved, but left because I could no longer cope with the system.


This led to a freelance career as an independent management consultant, helping people to handle emotions in the work context. I worked in the IT industry, in companies large and small, as well as public organisations. Later I became involved in research projects concerned with the multi-disciplinary approach to social problems such as child abuse. So, in a sense, I had come full-circle.


All these experiences feed into the process of writing fiction, while my non-fiction book ‘The Wise Woman Within’ resulted indirectly from the consultancy work and my subsequent PhD thesis,‘Bridging Incommensurable Paradigms’, which is available from the School of Management at the University of Bath.


I live in Devon and visit Cornwall frequently and these land and seascapes are powerful influences which demand a presence in my writing.
Writers’ groups and workshops are a further invaluable source of inspiration and support and I attend various groups locally and sign up for creative courses in stunning locations whenever I can. I try doing writing practice at home but there is no substitute for the focus and discipline achieved among others in a group.


I have written some short stories and recently signed up for a short story writing course to explore this genre in more depth.
I live with my husband in South Devon and enjoy being involved in a lively local community.

My Thoughts

I couldn’t wait to read Jill Treseder’s The Birthday House, I love crime novels and being based on a real-life crime made this even more enticing. Beginning with Mrs Harrison, the house keeper discovering the bodies to Josephine’s best friend Susan as she hears the news and later on in life discovers there is more to the story.

I really enjoyed reading from everyone’s perspective, it gives you a clearer picture of how these crimes affect everyone from housekeepers, best friends. It also gives you am understanding of the murders thought process and a good look at the emotions and grief felt by everyone both in the lead up to the murders and after.

I read The Birthday House in one sitting as it was such a compelling and convincing read. Whilst this is only a fiction based on a real-life crime, you get the feeling Jill is very close to the mark. I would definitely recommend this novella to crime fans.