cool grandparents

Throughout my childhood, I had cool grandparents. They held a very special place in my heart. They were the foundation of our family and even if we had our ups and downs, they were the unmovable rocks that we could turn to. If one of my grandparents pulled me up on something, it was worse than being told off by mum or dad. These were the people at the top of my pyramid of love and those I never wanted to upset.

Each grandparent offered something different. Nana lived in Waterloo, an Irish immigrant who had been widowed way too early with four young sons to look after. A staunch Catholic, she would grill me every weekend asking if I had been to mass or not. Nana liked to make cupcakes, she measured everything with a cup and always allowed us to lick out the bowl afterwards.

My mother’s parents lived closer to us, grandad was Hungarian with a fascinating history I learned later in life. My grandmother came from a line of teachers, her own father a headmaster at a grammar school and her mother a primary school teacher… maybe moving to education wasn’t so far off of my life journey after all!

These special people, who stood at the sidelines of my childhood and encouraged me at every step, have been fundamental in my life and are a presence I am very keen to encourage in the twin’s life. In fact, I was overjoyed (and a little bit jealous) of them shooting off to County Durham over the summer holidays for a fortnight with Nonna and Grandad.

There was already an incredibly strong connection between the twins and the gramps but spending this special time with them and getting up to so many fabulous activities (Harry Potter castles, Hadrian’s Wall and making pottery) strengthened the bond even more. Reinforcing the idea that grandparents are enormously important in a growing child’s life.

The girls still talk today about their summer holiday antics and are plotting to return next year too. I’m not sure the grandparents know about it yet though!

They think of their grandparents as cool people to be with, they take them to nice places, let them stay up ‘late’, allow them into the kitchen to cook and bake. Their grandparents are full of knowledge – they encourage them to read, to listen, to ask questions and to try new things.

I can honestly say that the girls thrive in their company and it’s so good for them to be with other inspiring adults rather than all the time with us.

How to be cool grandparents

If you are about to become a grandparent I wish you a lifetime of happiness ahead, it’s one very special relationship that keeps on giving. If you’re looking for some top tips on how to be a cool grandparent, I found this fun infographic on Shepherds Friendly that gives some really good ideas to keep in mind as you develop your relationships.

Shepherds Friendly also have an efficient plan for saving for your grandchildren’s future that is worth a read. Take a look at their Young Savers Plan for more information to see if it’s for you.

boots for dog walkingNovember is Baxter’s birthday and he will be 4 years old. In January we’ll be counting 3 years since we left Battersea Dogs Home with him and he became such an important part of our family. We really couldn’t imagine life without him nowadays.

We’ve all got to know each other very well and it’s fascinating to understand him more as time passes.

I mean, we always knew he liked food, he lives for it! I can’t go into the kitchen without him appearing in the doorway with the saddest, hard-done-by look on his face. I can’t open any packaging that remotely rustles without him leaping off the sofa and heading towards the promising noise. In fact, I would go as far as saying that food is Baxter’s most favourite thing in the whole world.

In second place of Baxter’s favourite things is a lap. You haven’t even sat down properly and he’s already climbing onto your lap settling himself as comfy as possible regardless if you’ve yet to put your mug of hot steaming tea down. Once he is comfy, he takes a huge sigh and relaxes into you, dropping off to sleep with a loud snore.

walking the dog on the beach

He hates being left at home alone though and will stand blocking the front door if he can get there before you. When you send him back into the lounge the look on his face is so sad it is heartbreaking. On the flip side – mention the ‘w’ word and he goes crazy, yapping excitedly until you’ve got your boots, coat and doggy bags ready!

We try to walk him twice a day, fitting it around work, after-school clubs and every other commitment that goes into daily life. We are very lucky that either Oana (my daughter in law) or our lovely next-door neighbour, will take him out to stretch his legs when we are at work/school.

However, Dad is king of the dog walking and the two of them set off on their walks on a regular basis. Around the Warren (a local green area), across the fields on the old WWII runway or, when we are at the coast, the beach.

Now Baxter has a dream…that of catching a seagull and whenever we are at the coast he pulls as hard as he can to get on the sand to chase them. So, we always make a point of stopping off at the beach and watching him run as fast as he can across the sand chasing the gulls who circle above him and return laughing above him out of reach. If he runs into the sea, which he doesn’t like as he’s not too sure what to make of the constant waves rolling in. However, should he find himself soaking wet, he will then roll in the sand to dry himself off….you can imagine the state he gets in, can’t you?

boots for dog walking

All this dog walking requires some good quality footwear and jackets. You need to know that your feet are going to stay warm and dry and you want to be sure you won’t get wet or cold as you are out in all weathers.

Millets have a huge selection of outdoors clothes including waterproof jackets, fleece, hats & gloves and footwear. They got in touch and asked if we’d like to choose two pieces and review them. Dad checked out the men’s selection and found a great pair of boots and a green parka.

He’s been wearing them a lot. At the park, on the beach and for walks around the area we live in. He’s very pleased with his choices. The boots are just what he was looking for walking the dog. They are comfortable, high to the ankle and have a good grip on the sole. The jacket (minus the fur trim around the hood – that’s not him at all) has also been a huge success. He has tested it on very windy days (Storm Brian and Ophelia) and he has been caught in the rain. He made a point of telling me how impressed he was and pointing out the beads of water running down the coat rather than penetrating the fabric.

Success Millets! The man and his dog are both very pleased. However, we still need to catch that seagull…

boots for dog walking

Disclosure: Millets online sent us the jacket and boots for dad for the purpose of this post. All opinions are our own.

Me: “Dinner’s on the table girls.”
Alice: “Not yet mum, I can’t put this book down!”

Separate occasion
Me: “Don’t forget to take a book in the car for the journey.”
Bessie: “Oh brilliant, I can read Kaspar Prince of Cats!”

Kaspar Prince of Cats

What more proof do you need that Kaspar Prince of Cats by Michael Morpurgo is utterly compelling? I have yet to get a look in but judging by the twin’s reaction this book is very, very good and on my half term reading list!

There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the twins engrossed in a book. They get comfortable on the sofa, sinking into the cushions with Baxter cuddling in on the scene too as close as he can, happy for the warmth of a soft lap.

Silence reigns in the house and my two little people start to take an adventure via the printed words forming pictures in their mind as the story develops.
Is there anything better?

The fact that they are huge animal fans – any picture or video of an animal on my Facebook stream is always met with very long ‘awws’ – meant that the book was already set up to be a hit. However, some books can disappoint. I have had to write in the girl’s school reading books twice now asking permission to exchange their books as they found them boring.

Not the case for Kaspar Prince of Cats though. This book, read to date by two people, is already well thumbed and has lost its ‘brand new’ look.

The story is about a cat, which you obviously gathered by the title. A special cat that arrived at the Savoy hotel in London in a basket. Carried in by Johnny Trott, the bell boy, who carried all of Countess Kandinsky’s belongings.

Now I can’t tell you what happens as I haven’t read the book yet, not to mention it would be a huge spoiler but, suffice to say that Johnny ends up with Kaspar. The two of them become great friends with Lizziebeth, a spirited American heiress and Johnny and Kaspar find themselves travelling around the world. They encounter all sorts of troubles on their journey – theft, a shipwreck even a rooftop rescue!

It is said that he goes by the official title of Prince Kaspar Kandinsky, Prince of Cats.

It is said that he is a Muscovite, a Londoner and a New Yorker.

It is said that he is the only cat to survive the sinking of the Titanic…

I’d say they are the perfect ingredients to cuddle up on the sofa for a good read, wouldn’t you?

You can win a signed copy simply by entering the competition on the Rafflecopter below

PS. **Puts on detective hat** I thought you’d really interested to hear about how Michael Morpurgo was inspired to write this story

MIchael Morpurgo blog tour

We are delighted to be invited by Harper Collins to take part in the #MorpurgosAnimals blog tour where each blog is focusing on a separate book. Other books to look our for are: – The Butterfly Lion, The Fox and The Ghost King, The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, Born To Run, An Elephant in the Garden, Toro! Toro! Shadow and Running Wild reviewed by some of my favourite bloggers.
For up to date information follow Harper Collins on Twitter and Facebook

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Eternity Rose

Photo by Oana Dascalul

Soon, there won’t be any getting away from it… Christmas is on the way and coming fast. Everyone’s going to be on the lookout for the best gifts to give. If you have a loved one to think of and have no idea what to buy, take a look at the Eternity Rose as an option…

When I lived in Italy there was (and still is) an artist who lived in the town called Maestro Paolo, an eccentric guy – as most artists are, who was always coming up with really good ideas. He’d build wooden huts throughout the village and fill them with interesting things to look at and the tourists would stop in awe as they walked the cobbled streets. He’d organise really fun town carnivals and when you walked past his jewellery shop you could see birds flying around and baby rabbits in the window chomping on fresh grass and carrots. (I must add no harm was ever done and he would take the utmost care of them.) But there was one idea of his that I simply fell in love with – silver handmade roses.

They were beautiful to look at and looked as delicate as a real rose. A tall stem with a couple of leaves and a fresh rosebud at the top just starting to open. I admired them so much, I decided to buy one for my mum to remind her how much I loved her. Living so far apart was difficult for us both and this would be a constant reminder of my love for her.

I also bought one for a very good friend of mine for a special birthday, I thought the silver rose would live on whereas real flowers would soon pass and be forgotten.

When Eternity Rose got in touch and asked me if I would like to review one I accepted, simply because it reminded me of that special gift and that special time in Italy. They make them in gold too but I went for the silver as a reminder of Mastro Paolo’s roses.

Eternity rose

Photo by Oana Dascalul

I must say, the rose is packaged in the most beautiful wooden box which really adds a touch of luxury to the opening of the gift. Inside the box is lined with a soft blue velvet-like fabric and the rose sits in a specially carved out space making sure no damage comes to the flower and delicate petals.

The Eternity Rose is a real rose. It has been taken at its most perfect stage and dipped in silver (or gold) It is then hung to dry and the finished product is a delicate and beautiful flower that will stand beautifully in a single stem vase.

I am very impressed. I think anyone opening this gift will love it. It is an object of beauty which is unusual and still maintains the deep meaning behind the gift of a rose. Plus it will live on for years and years.

Who would you buy an Eternity Rose for?

Disclosure: I was sent an Eternity Rose for the purpose of this post.

Project Mc2 doll

The twins love the Project Mc2 girls and I am happy to let them watch as they are inspiring. The Project Mc2 characters are proud to be nerds, proud to be geeks and show that intelligence is something cool. A way of thinking that is close to my heart and I am keen to encourage too.

As Year 5 has kicked off, we are looking forward to a successful year with their new teacher, where they slipped last year I am encouraging them to catch up and do extra at home. I am bribing them with pocket money to sit down and do an exercise or two of Mathletics each day, call me harsh but they are liable to burst into tears over maths as they totally lost their confidence last year. I am of the idea that if I can beat that fear over the next few months, I will have won the battle and they will be more confident in maths as they go through the remainder of their school life. It’s worth it for me and I am determined to get them to the best of their ability again.

The Project Mc2 doll series help me on that journey and as I encourage the twins to do extra, they are reminded that these girls do too and yet they look great, they are funny and intelligent too.

Project Mc2

The new set of dolls added to the fun existing list are the Project McExperiments with Dolls. Each doll comes with her own experiment using ingredients found at home and can be performed over and over again.

The experiments include: Make your own Lava Lipgloss with McKeyla McAlister, |Create your own Gummies with Adrienne Attoms, Make your own Light Up Earrings with Bryden Bandweth, Design amazing Tie Dye with Camryn Coyle, or Create Glitter Tattoos with Ember Evergreen

The dolls, based on the girls in the show are fully movable and can be dressed and undressed. Their hair can be played with and they inspire hours of fun play. Do you know someone who would be happy to receive a Project Mc2 Experiments with Dolls? I have one doll up for grabs in the competition below.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway