• Featured Post: Happy 45th Birthday Mr Men and Little Miss! News of a Special Exhibition

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  • Book Review: Terraria: The Ultimate Survival Handbook

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  • Review: TomTom Spark Cardio +music

  • Film Review: Nine Lives

    Nine Lives

Featured Post: Happy 45th Birthday Mr Men and Little Miss! News of a Special Exhibition

Mr Happy

The 1971 line up

One of the most enduring memories of my childhood was dressing up as Mr Strong. It was for one of our school fetes where each year (this was the 1980’s) we dressed up and paraded around the school field for all the parents to see. I used to love the Mr Men books, we had a few, but not all of them. I’d get them from the library whenever I was given the chance.

The other thing I really remember vividly was playing live action Mr Men and Little Miss in the playground. Each person would be given a character to match their personality.When I was little there weren’t very many Little Miss books to choose from, in fact I can only remember Little Miss Bossy. It was inevitable, given the sort of child that I was that I would end up being Little Miss Bossy, although sometimes I was Mr Messy. They both suited my childhood. Being born in the 1970’s by the time I went to primary school it was all about the beginnings of girl power with Mrs Thatcher in charge and everyone loved America.

Mr Happy

Mr Happy

Thats why the Mr Men books were so good, they were really absolutely British. The pictures were fantastic, each drawn with felt tip pen. It made them more accessible and I’d spend many a happy hour trying to think up my own characters and create my own little books.

The Mr Men and Little Miss books were something which I was desperate to share with the kids, I mean, what a brilliant excuse to have to read them all again! Although we have bought an entire new set for the children both myself and my husband find that we still have lots of our vintage original versions. Just reading them can bring back really vivid memories and we drive the children mad by reminiscing with them about various times in our childhood when reading them! I’m also keen on getting them to create their own little Mr Men character books…

Of course, with the benefit of being in my forties and a mother to four children I now know why there were so many Mr Strong’s in the school fete. It must be one of the easiest book related fancy dress costumes out there. In fact I even recreated this costume for my own child recently.

As each year passes there are of course, even more brilliant Mr Men books to read and I often review them here on this blog. In fact (guilt) I have a little stack by my computer here which I must get around to reviewing!

mr strong kids costume

My daughter as Mr Strong

Isn’t it fantastic to hear that to celebrate 45 years of the brand (shocking as that means its only a few years older than me) there is going to be a pop-up exhibition in London’s South Bank. Even better that it has been designed specifically with kids in mind, with exhibits displayed at a child’s scale throughout.

The exhibition will feature hundreds of pieces of memorabilia from the past 45 years, celebrating the nation’s favourite Mr Men and Little Miss charactersFans will be able to add their own memorabilia to the exhibition via the Mr Men Little Miss virtual archive, by simply uploading an image of their favourite item on their phone or laptop. Consumer items uploaded to the virtual archive will be on display on rolling screens at the exhibition, alongside physical items, creating an ever-changing exhibition of the nation’s most-loved Mr Men and Little Miss memorabilia. The first 45 people to upload an item to the virtual archive will receive a limited edition print signed by Adam Hargreaves.

As a professional museum curator and a Mr Men fan I cant believe my luck! It couldn’t get much better really; a child friendly exhibition during the school holidays featuring our favourite book characters.

You’ll be able to  explore the collection on loan from Mr Men Little Miss super fan Michelle Harrop. Fans can also add their own pieces to the exhibition via the virtual archive, take time out in the Mr Men Little Miss story time library area, and take snaps of themselves inside a specially-created ‘Happyland’ backdrop alongside their favourite Mr Men & Little Miss characters. The exhibition will also include a personalisation stand for visitors to take home their very own personalised print of a Mr Men or Little Miss character as a memento.

The Mr Men Little Miss Mini Museum will be open between Thursday 25th August and Monday 29th August 2016. The exhibition takes place at Gallery@OXO, situated on the ground floor of the OXO Tower on London’s South Bank.

 Fans can upload their memorabilia to the Mr Men Little Miss archive at www.mrmen.com/archive

Follow the characters on social media for the latest news and competitions:

Twitter – @MrMenOfficial

Instagram – @MrMenOfficial

Facebook – www.facebook.com/mrmenlittlemiss

Book Review: Terraria: The Ultimate Survival Handbook

terrariaTerraria is a sort of 2D exploration game which my eldest son is obsessed with- to the point where he played for 12 hours straight and got his iPad confiscated! Its played by his favourite YOuTuber DanTDM and is something that all children appear to love.

This book came at the right moment because it inspired the 9 year old to feel more inspired to delve deeper into the game because it explained things at the right level for him. Previously to this book arriving he hadn’t actually played the game a great deal because he found it quite tricky. Therefore I cant rate this book highly enough because not only did he actually do some reading (something very hard to get a reluctant reader to do) but he also got some real value out of the game itself. A win- win situation.

If you are looking for something full of information which will encourage your child to read as well as to to apply what he is read then you really cant go wrong. When asked my son gave it 5/5 perhaps his highest score EVER for a book!

This is a good quality handbook, reasonably priced at £7.99 and an essential companion for anyone interested in the game and wanting to get the most out of it. You can get hold of a copy of it here.

Review: TomTom Spark Cardio +music

 

I did it!

I did it!

One thing is for sure, this year I’ll have covered more miles on foot than in any other year in my life, thanks to all this running. I must admit, now the Race for Life has happened, I didn’t do nearly as much training as I would have liked to have done in the past few months. Partly this is because I’ve got a new job to keep me busy!

There is nothing like a new bit of kit though to encourage you to get out there and this past couple of weeks I’ve been trying out the new TomTom Spark Cardio + music.

The watch itself was easy to set up and the app seems easy enough to use. I  like using sports apps purely because they really incentivise me. However, it isn’t immediately clear how to connect it with Runkeeper which is my favourite way of monitoring what I’m doing and I have to admit I did have to ask tech support (my husband) for help

In terms of the look and feel of the watch, does sit on the wrist a bit better than my Fitbit Blaze. However, again, like the Blaze I don’t think it looks quite as nice as a conventional watch. I think as I have a black strap it just doesn’t look all that great with workwear, which for me is quite a big thing as I find tracking my activity through the day quite useful now I’m in a desk based job.

Unlike the Fitbit Blaze, the Tomtom Spark Cardio +music is a full on GPS watch. That means it doesn’t just act like an activity tracker but it can also be used for sports tracking because the GPS accurately logs your run and all the split times. Yes, something like Runkeeper on your phone can do this but it does mean you have to carry your phone on you when you are running. This is where the Tomtom Spark Cardio +music plays its trump card- it can do the full run tracking but also has a built in music player and storage, which means as long as you have a pair of compatible bluetooth headphones (I used a pair of Creative Hitz WP-380s) , you can listen to music and track your run without having to carry your phone with you!

It’s been a few years (6 in fact) since I had a GPS running watch; my husband bought me a Garmin Forerunner just before I got pregnant with Ned. I never really got to use it as I had really bad SPD but the one thing I do remember from using it was how long the darn thing took to lock on to a satellite signal. The first time you use the Tomtom Spark Cardio +music, it takes a while to get a lock but every other time you use it, satellites were found much more quickly. This is because the Spark has a smart find function that remembers where you start off from so the app can download three days worth of satellite locations in advance. That’s clever.

The Spark is a compact unit that slips out of its strap to to enable charging. It’s no more bulky than a lot of the fitness trackers that don’t have GPS but if you do use the GPS, it will obviously need charging a lot more frequently.

Rather than relying on a number of different buttons, the Tomtom Spark Cardio +music has a four way rocker button at the bottom that lets you navigate the various menus. It’s not the easiest thing to use initially as there isn’t a way to click the middle, just up, down, left and right but after a while it becomes easier to use.

The app tracks all the sort of things that you would expect:

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And you can drill down in to the actual activities too:

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Overall I was impressed with the Tomtom Spark Cardio +music. It deals with the issue that if you’re taking your phone with you to listen to music, you might as well just use your phone to track your run by being a pretty cool music player into the bargain. It’s also good to be able to monitor your heart rate while running, since this gives a more objective measure of how you’re pushing yourself.

The Tomtom Spark Cardio +music retails for an RRP of £189.99.

 

Film Review: Nine Lives

Nine LivesJunior film reviewer Fifi (7) went along to the Nine Lives screening with Being Mrs C and her daughter. She came out buzzing about the film and reckons its one of the funniest films she’s seen at the cinema.

Nine Lives is the story of a businessman (Kevin Spacey) who works really hard, when it comes to his daughters 11th birthday he decides to get her a cat (something she’s always wanted) from the pet shop. There is an accident and the businessman (Tom) and the cat swop bodies. Tom is now trapped inside a cat and only the cat whisperer can hear him. The film harks back to classic 1990’s rom-com with a few tiny nods to the present day. Jennifer Garner, Malina Weissman and Christopher Walkern star alongside Kevin Spacey.

Have a look at the trailer:

 

This film has an enormous amount of appeal for any child who owns a cat (such as Fifi). Indeed, I’d have to say that she thought it was fantastic before she’d even seen the film. She has been talking about it ever since and we’ve been told we all just have to go and see it and get the DVD when it comes out!

In terms of adult appeal i’ve been reliably informed that there is more than enough to make this a good choice as a family film. I’m all for this sort of film as a school summer holiday activity because I must admit I do get a little bit bored by children’s animations; if theres some ‘adult’ jokes and a sub plot which goes above the children’s heads (like this does) then that keeps me happy.

This summer has seen a crop of great movie choices and I have to say that over the past 9 years of reviewing family films this year sees some really stiff competition amongst what to watch this summer. From Fifi’s reaction this is another film you cant really go wrong with.

Nine Lives goes on general release in the UK on 5 August 2016. Runtime of 87 minutes. Universal Certificate.

School Holiday Parenting

This is what happens in the Tate Modern... (ahem)

This is what happens in the Tate Modern… (ahem)

I’d like to say that the school holidays have commenced with much Enid Blyton style gusto and adventures. In truth I have sought sanctuary in going to work and doing the housework. Today is a rare day off and I sit trying to concentrate enough to read Judy Blume’s latest book. Around me the children have decided to change their appearance; one has pillar box red hair, the other blue, purple and pink stripes (thanks Pixie Lott) its like living in an all action comic book movie. Except with punch-ups over multigrain shapes and macaroni.

Fortunately the youngest has no interest in appearance and instead busy’s himself waking at the crack of dawn to watch The Big Bang Theory. This is a programme rated 11 years over his age much of which appears to go over the top of his head, apart from Sheldon’s stuff which he finds immensely amusing as its like watching his big brother on TV.

I don’t approve of any of these activities. I’d like my children to look like little angelic Lucy Mabel Attwell characters wearing vintage style clothing and the four year old to be playing with wooden toys. However, after nine years I am a broken woman and all I’d like to be able to do is read a book (notice i’m writing this unable to concentrate to read my book).

Parenting is not at all like how I imagined it to be. I’ve spent a lot of time pondering this. In a way i’m quite proud that I have managed to sire fairly independent children if they are somewhat eccentric, on the other hand I dream that we are one of those Instagram families or the parents you see having delightful picnics in park whilst their children gamble about. Our picnics always descend into a shouting match ‘watch out for dog poo… I HATE the outdoors…I don’t like jam sandwiches… well you shouldn’t have kicked the football into the lake if you wanted it…’

Are there parents out there that aren’t conned into spending hundreds of pounds in comic shops and bookshops for things that wont be read? Parents who can go out without fear of being fleeced for the sake of peace? Parents who can go to the beach without complaints about sand?

The biggest question of all remains; how do some parents sustain their picture perfect homes with cream carpet and cream sofas? I can only imagine that they go out, to places like the Tate Modern where their children gaze at artworks rather than actively engage with them (see photo).

Don’t get me wrong, I love the school summer holidays! Not least because I don’t have to deal with school mothers which are a special breed in our town perfectly capable of causing entire families to move towns. We are on early days here, i’m determined to finish this book this holiday (mustn’t set targets too high)- I wonder if I can hide in the loo?