Tuesday, 13 January 2015

A Treasury of Christmas Stories and Songs Review

At the end of December we were sent a copy of A Treasury of Christmas Stories and Songs to review by Parragon as part of their book buddies scheme.

My first impression was 'wow' as the book is hard back and contains six Christmas stories; The Night before Christmas, The Nutcracker, The First Christmas, The Snow Queen, The Twelve Days of Christmas and A Letter to Santa. Interspersed throughout the book are 12 classic rhymes and carols: Hark The Herald Angels Sing, O Christmas Tree, Away in a Manger, We Wish you a Merry Christmas, Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls, The First Noel, Good King Wenceslas, We Three Kings, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful.

There is so much packed into this Treasury and I liked that The First Christmas was included as its so important to me that my children understand the real meaning of Christmas and where it all started from. The traditional carols that are throughout the book are simply put with just the first verse and chorus in most cases and bring your attention back to the importance of why we celebrate Christmas. My younger son has been less interested in this book as only two I think he will grow into it, however my four year old has been hooked. His all time favourite of the book is The Nutcracker and we both loved how the story had been brought to life with Clara and the Nutcracker. We laughed a lot as we sang The Twelve Days of Christmas together and the repetition really helped my son to pick up the words quickly. You can find out more about what we thought about The Night Before Christmas here when we reviewed it last December.

There is so very much packed into this treasury and we are still reading and enjoying it together as a family. I can see many hours ahead enjoying the magic of The Snow Queen and the love that Gerda has for Kay within the story. If you love Christmas and you want to share that magic with your children then this book would be perfect for you. The illustrations are wonderful throughout and add an additional element to this book that draws the reader in further. With every story and song the illustrations fit and capture perfectly. My son has been happy on several occasions whilst waiting for me to read to him to just sit and look at all the pictures.

This is a page from The Nutcracker
This would make a lovely gift and I would recommend if you are already thinking ahead to next year. If you want to buy a copy you can find it here on Amazon: A Treasury of Christmas Stories and Songs. At £12 I think its a good buy because you get so much inside it.

Don't tell anyone but despite Christmas seeming such a long time ago we are still enjoying the magic found within this book!

Disclaimer: We were sent a free copy of this book in order to provide an honest review. All of the opinions reflected in this post are my own.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Outdoor Adventures

My boys love nothing more than being outside and the adventures that come with it. There is something magical about exploring unknown woods, squelching through the mud and finding special things to tuck into your pocket as a reminder of your exploration. Over the winter holidays we took the opportunity to explore what was right on our doorstep. Having only moved into the area a few months ago we still have lots of untracked territory and I love that feeling of choosing as you go, and letting the kids take the lead, picking the path we will take.

I never really thought of myself as an outdoors person but its something that I have embraced over the last few years. A big part in my change in attitude has been the discovery of good kit. On our honeymoon my husband brought me a good pair of walking boots and a really good waterproof jacket and I haven't looked back. I learned that good gear keeps you dry and prepares you for adventure, wherever it takes you. When it comes to having kids in tow it has become evident to me that it is even more important that they have good kit too, as a soggy muddy cold child loses their spirit of adventure very quickly.

So we set our on our walk and everyone was ready to go when we realised my eldest son's wellies were still at school and crocs really don't cut it for outdoor adventures in the muddy frosty wet wood. He came home with very muddy school shoes, oops. As much as my easy solution would be to get him a second pair of wellies, and whilst wellies are great for puddles, I am not sure that they are they best option for big walks like the one we took. Explorers need a firm and well fitting boot and the Volcano Mid Texapore Boots seen below would be a much better option providing comfort as well as plenty of grip. They start at a size 8J and go to a 5.5 so with my small feet I could even get a pair to match! This is definitely something that I am going to invest in for him going forward, I never want to see his school shoes looking like that again.

We also made a mis calculation in expecting our 2 year old to walk and I regretted not taking the back carrier with us. I ended up carrying him in a shoulder ride after the first 10 minutes of walking. We have a LittleLife carrier similar to the one pictured which I love because of its adjustable straps. As I am only 5"2 we struggled to find a carrier that both my husband and I could both use, but especially me. Since we stumbled on our LittleLife carrier we haven't looked back. When my pushchair got a flat last term I used the carrier to get us to school with ease and I find it very comfortable. My head was clearly still dreaming about Christmas and other such things for us to forget it and my achy shoulders will remember next time.

We had a choice of several different footpaths and I loved hearing my boys negotiate between each other which way we were going to go. It was so refreshing to be outside too and both boys enjoyed finding sticks and using it to break the ice formed on puddles as well as listening for the crunch as they stepped onto the ice shattering it. We walked until my eldest got tired and wanted to head back, but it was nice to be outside spending time together as a family. I always want more of this time together naturally exploring, engaging curiosity without the natural time constraints of life. I heard my son saying to whoever was listening "It's a new year, a sunny day and the wind is gently blowing in the trees..."

So to get you started with your own adventures I have picked out my top picks of kids gear for you, to get you thinking about the things you might need as you explore outdoors:

Boys Outdoor Adventure

Get the gear: You can find all items featured at Cotswold Outdoor : 1. Boys Volcano Mid Texapore Boot £50, 2. Sprayway Junior Stretch Grip Glove in Black Spider £12, 3. LittleLife Cross Country S3 Child Carrier £140, 4. Boys Eagle Combi 3 in 1 Jacket £65, 5. Whistler Winter Jacket £79, 6. Kids Puddle Splash Suit £20, 7. Boys Android Tee £5, 8. Boys Sonic Tee in Jelly Bean £5, 9. Boys Masked Beanie £19.99, 10. Kids Furry Letter Long Sleeve £20. A lot of this gear also comes in adult sizes too and if not they have plenty of adult wear to choose from.

My two big musts for explorers big and small are footwear and waterproof jackets, you just can't scrimp on these, as seen above school shoes don't make the grade when it comes to mud. The boys sonic tee is quick drying with a wicking fabric which is perfect for keeping sweaty high energy adventurers dry and I am sure will become a crucial 'must have' item as they hit their teenage years. I love the brightness of the Whistler Winter Jacket and it would be perfect for skiing on the slopes as well as for wearing everyday on the way to school. One thing that caught my eye about it is that it has reflective strips on it, something that I would actively look for knowing that it often gets dark as we are walking home from school now.

I love the spider grip design on the gloves and these would be perfect for biking as well as picking things up as we explore. My boys like having warm hands but they get frustrated if they can't collect sticks and other treasures. Everyone loves a fun hat and my two year old picked out the masked beanie hat as his favourite. Finally my boys aren't big on jumpers but they do love a long sleeved top and having comfortable explorers is very important.

We love outdoor adventures and I can't wait to see what else we explore in 2015 and where our adventures will take us.

What winter adventures have you got planned this January?

Disclaimer - This is a sponsored post but all of the opinions expressed are my own.