Sunday, 30 June 2013

Silent Sunday

Friday, 28 June 2013

Quick and Easy way to make animations.

Blogging often means I'm thinking of ways to show my photos and ideas, I love to edit photos and I love to get creative an edit videos too, infact we all love to learn new things and teach ourselves different features of the latest creative programs.

Recently I have been showing my eldest all about designing on the computer, helping them to use paint shop pro and get to grips with the basics and its great to see them interested in this, because as children grow up it becomes a bit harder to find things to entertain them, technology helps of course, but quite often you find they are just simply sat watching the TV or playing games, no real thought involved, no longer needing to learn to match colours or numbers the educational benefits can sometimes be lost.

Of course there are lots of things to learn where technology is concerned and finding ways to interest children and entertain them at the same time is always a bonus, I find the creative side of technology hugely intresting, online images and videos are everywhere and the more eyecatching the better, and its great to be able to spark an intrest in creating the content that children look at so often.

Last year we were sent a copy of Zu3D which is a great stop motion animation software and it is something Chloe in particular goes back to regularly making new animation, Zu3D really is wonderful for children and helps them to learn how animation can work in a very real sence.

Yet drawn animation is something that Jake seems to be more interested in, and so Darren was searching out programs to help with that.

I have made animations all by computer drawings in the past, and it is a long winded process, especially if you are drawing each individual frame.

Darren set out trying to find a way to make animations quicker, and he came across GoAnimate.

GoAnimate is a very simple to use animation program, it works online so you don't have to download anything, and it enables you to quickly and fairly easily make fun animated video.

So over the past few weeks he and the children have been having lots of fun making up short animations. It is so simply anyone can do it.

Then Jake came home saying he had to do a homework project about the changes through the decades from the 60's to today - Hippies to Hoodies. And so he set about making an animation with GoAnimate.

With a bit of help from his dad, he has made a pretty good animation - take a look.

And if you want to have a go yourself, or think your children would like it, then be sure to check out the website, it is free to use in a basic way. You can add your own voice (as Jake did in his animation) or use pre recorded voices, you can pick through the characters and scenes or add your own pictures to make backgrounds and props, there are different options and price packages depending on how much it interests you. The more time you spend on the animation the better you can make it even without upgrading to a paid package - definitely worth a look!

We were not paid in any way for this post, we found this website whilst Googling, but it is so easy to use that I wanted to share so please take a look and Go animate!

Medieval knights at Tutbury Castle

Last weekend we went to Tutbury Castle as they had a knights in Armour weekend.

tutbury castle grey sky on hillTutbury Castle is not very far away from where we live, and as a child I grew up just a stones throw away from the castle, as such I remember many many summer days walking upto the Castle to have a picnic.

tower ruin tutbury staffordshire castle

Back then there was no one who lived there, and no entrance fees, when we visited as children it was just a public place to explore and roll down the banks and climb up the towers.

inside tutbury castle tower

In the year 2000 however, Tutbury castle was curated by Lesley Smith, and since then the castle hosts alot more events, and now has an entrance fee if you wish to visit.

looking out over tutbury castle view from tower

Living so close by to the castle and spending such alot of time there in my childhood, its surprising really that we don't visit it more often, infact we had never attended an event there with the children, so when I saw the Knights in Armour would be there at the weekend we decided to go along and have a look.
medieval battle reenactment

The weather did its best to put us off, with it pouring with rain constantly, at one point we almost decided against braving the elements, but I am so pleased that we did indeed go along as it was such a fun day out.

The castle, although mostly ruined, is a great site. which such a lot of historical facts to learn, a intresting place to be and a brilliant way to add a touch of history to a family day out.

children playing at tutbury castle
The grounds are quite big, lots of open space to run about, Dungens to explore and several towers still standing enough for you to climb up, and look out from the top to admire the views.

The Grand hall has a nice display and the children loved being able to hold a real executioners sword.

inside the great hall tutbury castle staffoirdshire

There is a small gift shop and tea room as well,all very reasonably priced, the boys brought plastic swords for £2.50 each and Chloe picked out a necklace for £2

But the highlight of the day has to be the Knights and Reenactors who really did an amazing job and transported you back to the 14th century with their living history display.

living history medieval knights reenactment

There were music makers who happily talked to the children, taught them songs and showed them how to play instruments from medieval times.

medieval pipes played in costume

Peasants in their tents with their log burners and of course the Knights in armour.

14th century medieval knights reenactment

The knights from the 14th century Alliance, put on a truly great show dressed in authentic medieval costumes they all were very friendly and accommodating, they encouraged the children to join in with them and talked about their weapons and armour.

Due to the bad weather the birds of prey were kept inside all except a lovely Owl, it had said on the website that there would be a chance at Archery too, but again due to the weather this was not available.

birds of prey owl at tutbury castle event

But despite the bad weather the grand melee with the knights having a battle was certainly worth standing in the rain to see, with all the knights battling it out to be crowned the overall winner.

medieval knights sword fight battle
Then all the knights took the time to stand and talk to the children and have their photos taken.

children at tutbury castle medieval display
 If you are ever wondering about a good day out for the whole family, then do check out Tutbury Castle, and see if they have any events scheduled there, even in the rain we had such fun.

armoured knights sword battle

knights in armour at tutbury castle

This is NOT a sponsored post, we went along and paid for the tickets ourselves and I'm sharing as I love the photos and the knights were amazing.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


I am not quite sure where the time is going to at the minute, days seem to be whizzing past at an alarming rate, I wake up on a Saturday morning blink and then it's Monday again, look around to only find its already Wednesday!

The weeks are bluring into one and the months creeping up so very fast.

In 4 weeks time the schools will break up for the summer holidays, and then my eldest will be finishing his time at Primary school. I just feel like I want a pause button, or if not a pause, just something to make the days pass in a little slower fashion

Next week I have a Induction day at the new senior school and a chance to purchase some uniform and get to have a proper look around which no doubt make it seem very real, and Jake will find out who will be in his new form group out of his current friends.

The days blending together, and hours passing quicker than seconds should, I have found myself slightly neglecting the blog, and yet there are so many things I do want to blog about, even my Silent Sunday posts have been unseen for the past few weeks.

So I hope to catch up, blog a few of the 'I want to remember this!' moments of recent weeks, and catch up with all my outstanding reviews.

So please do look out for my posts.

The first of which will be one showing off some of the wonderful photos I took at the weekend just gone - at Tutbury Castle when we went to the Armour Knights weekend event.

It really was a fantastic day and we enjoyed it so much, even with the weather doing its very best to put us off. Here is one of the pictures I took..

New Doctor Who figures - Review

We are big Doctor who fans here, and my boys have been collecting the various figures from the hit TV series for the past few years.

My boys love playsets and figures especially those showing their favourite characters from much loved TV shows enabling them to recreated scenes in their own imaginations and portray the famous characters in their own bedroom.

They were thrilled to be sent a selection of new Doctor Who toys from Characters range to look over.

The Doctor Who figures from the earlier series are approx  5 inch tall, however new for 2013 is a smaller scale figure approx 3.75 inches tall.

The smaller figures are similar size to other play figures such as the Star Wars or G I Joe figures and the detail in the new series of Doctor Who toys is second to none.

In the Series 7 range, there are 6  x 3.75 " figures to collect which include Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor his companion Cara and the ever famous monsters including Cyberman, Darlek, Weeping Angel and Ice Warrior.

Along with the new small scale figures there are several playsets to complement the collection.

Including Time Zone play set which portrays the centre of London and comes complete with a Darlek Hoverboard in scale with the 3.75inch figures. It is worth noting that the play sets do NOT come with the darlek figure or any other 3.75" figures so you really do need to purchase these along side the playset, as the playset alone would not give much play value.

The playsets are cardboard dioramas with a plastic base and clips to hold the pieces in place. 
Although I was unsure of the longevity of a cardboard playset I was impressed with the quality.

The playset itself stays together well and the carboard is sturdy enough to withstand a good deal of 'play' It did take a fair amount of fiddlign to get it to fit together correctly, and the only other issue we had was that the newspaper stand sign did not seem to fold into a upright position and needed a bit of tape to secure it, but this is a minor issue and did not seem to worry my boys who have loved this playset and the doctor who figures and have put in requests to collect the rest of the series characters.

If you are a doctor who fan then be sure to look out for the new range of figures in the new smaller size, priced at around £6.99 for each figure these are sure to be on lots of peoples wish lists at Christmas and birthdays.

You can see the whole range of Doctor Who merchandise on the Character website and you will find the toys in all good toy shops.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Growing up

I feel like I say this all the time- but I really can't believe how quickly the years have passed and how quickly my children have turned from babies to toddler to these amazing little people who I am constantly watching and wondering what life will bring them.

Chloe is 10 now.  Jake 11.

I am not sure I am a great parent to older children, I really do find it harder now, than when they were younger.

I by nature am soft, a push over even. I have always been so, when they were young it was all about the fun. I  never really raised my voice, never left them to cry themselves to sleep at night, never forced the issue of shoes outside, everything was new and fun and exciting we danced in the rain, sang and span round in circles - Daily.

 I never made them finish their meals. I let their hair grow wild and left them with sticky fingers and dirty faces. No tears or tantrums just smiles and fun, it was always easy to entertain and distract. They, from the outside, may have ran rings around me, but our house was always full of laughter.

Now they are older, I always sort of hoped the mutal respect, the ease and allowing them to learn themselves would pay off. I hopped that the fun and laughter would continue. But then they grow up just a little, and the songs and the swings and the laughter fades.. when is it that you get too old to dance in the rain?

My easy going approach did work,  in some respects, they are great kids most of the time. But boy do they push the boundaries and now as these mini people I am impatient for them to want to tow the line abit more, to be more responsible for their actions. I am conscious of the way they behave and find myself shouting at them a whole lot more, raised voices, and complaints. Not so much fun.And I miss them easy years.

I think, perhaps, I  expect too much of them, its almost like because they have passed from the child stage that I am not quite sure what they should behave like now. But then I remember they are not gorwn up yet.

And for that I am so grateful,  I do not want them to waste away their childhood, or forget how to play. Not yet.

I want them to relish the next few years,  learn of course, and grow but I do want them - and me, to find a way to have fun whilst they do that, and I hope, I hope so much that as they grow up and forget how fun it is  to be a bit silly, they don't forget how fun it was.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Home improvements- Beds

I have been thinking alot recently about all the home improvements that need doing, I think it is the warmer weather and the lighter evenings that does it.

I posted before about tiding up the clutter and just making little touches to the downstairs, and then doing a overhaul of Chloes bedroom, which really made a massive difference, but there is still plenty of rooms in the house which just get forgotten about.

Along with the boys room, the other one that always gets left untouched is our bedroom, we have never had a nicely decorated bedroom, its always been a very practical room where we simply sleep. Which in turn results in it becoming a bit of dumping ground for any odds and ends, and things always get pushed under the bed!

At Christmas my mum and dad brought me a lovely Keep Calm and Carry On canvas, which matches wonderfully with my union jack bed spread, but that is about as far as it goes in terms of decoration and style, and as a result the room is very plain and a bit boring.

The walls  could do with freshening up, possibly adding a coloured feature wall,  The cabinets need sorting out and making use of, to display our nik naks, the bed could do with repositioning into the centre of the room making it more of a prominent feature,  thinking about our current bed it is a very old one and could do with replacing,  Darren has trouble getting to sleep and often wakes through the night which isn't ideal at all, we often discuss getting a new bed but it gets bumped further and further down the list of priorities when funds are tight.

Which is a real shame as sleep is so important and has such an effect on your overall health, I know I simply don't get enough sleep, always pushing the limits and staying awake till the early hours trying to find those much needed extra hours of the day.

But when it comes to thinking about which bed would be both comfy and practical and within budget, I always think of Divan beds, you can purchase a whole range of cheap divan beds from retailers such as TJHughes and they provide a great storage solution, eliminating the option to push things under the bed, which would force us to tidy up the clutter that is building under our bed at the moment!

Of course it is the mattresses which adds the comfort to any bed, when on a budget you want to ensure you can find a great value mattress that is going to provide the comfort needed for a peaceful nights sleep without breaking the bank, TJ Hughes have a range of cheap mattresses which start from as low as £109 for a double bed size so there is something to suit everyone.

I think if we treated ourselves to a new bed it would rejuvenate the love for the room we try to spend as little time as possible in, and then it would encourage us to really add a personal stamp to the room which it most definitely is lacking at the moment, and make it one which we could be proud of.

So now I guess it is a decision on which room to rejuvenate first - ours or the boys!

This is a sponsored post but all views and opinions are my own.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Worries of Starting Secondary School

My eldest son is in his final term at Primary school.

And it hardly seems 5 minutes ago that he started school.

I remember thinking how strange it would be him going off to school, how I wondered how he would get on, what the future would hold for him.

Then the years passed so very quickly, I almost can't recall them, and now he is in his final weeks of Primary education. It almost doesn't seem possible, I have such strong memories of my own time at senior school, I remember the last days at primary school, the first induction days at senior school and I know these will be the years Jake will always remember too.

I would be lying if I said I was 100% confident that the next 5 years of his school life will be plain sailing, I hope, of course I do, that he manages well and fits straight into the new life at senior school.

But the reality of the next chapter is massive.

If I'mhonest, I  have been rather a slack parent for the primary school years, I don't force the issue of chanting times tables or stress over spelling mistakes. I don't worry when test results come back just about average, I don't make them read school books every night before bed, and  I wonder if this will there fore be a huge shock to the system when the lessons up a notch and homework is more of a must.

I hope the next years of learning are good ones for Jake, I really hope with all my heart it is the turning point for him, to find something that really grabs his interest, to truly find something he enjoys and becomes good at, for him to make new friends, new relationships and gain confidence in so many aspects as he doesn't really have many hobbies right now, I hope he takes advantage of any after school activities available and finds something that he wants to join in with, tries new activities he hasn't even thought about yet, I want him to try new things, and find his place in the world. It is scary to know it is the next years that all this will happen, and it is the things that happen over the following  years that will mould the adult he becomes.

With the next few weeks important ones, so many open days, visis to the new school, parents evening and final goodbyes,  I have been thinking about all the changes to come over the next few years, and trying to come to terms with the fact that my children are indeed growing up.

I'm not sure if right now anyone is ready, least of all me, I feel like life as a parent has to change, adapt, grow up, and that means improving and organising the little things - properly organising things. Being on top of the game so much more. For years I have always thought there was time ahead of us, that it didn't really matter  if homework was missed because 'they are only young' but the years have crept up on me surprisingly fast, and I am no longer a parent of toddlers, no, now really Jake isn't even a child.. I know he is, but he is certainly not that little boy who needed me for everything,  now he is finding his own way, and I can only stand, watch and hopefully guide him a little.

It really is a funny feeling, I know I am a parent, yet I find it so much more difficult now than when they were younger, it seemed so much easier then, easy to make them smile, make things fun and make sure they were doing something useful.

Now the parenting has to change, no longer are brightly coloured numbered blocks going to help, or big crayons and scribbles on paper helping them learn something new. No, now I need to think like a parent of older children and find what it is that will help them now.

The first thing I want to do is sort out the boys bedroom, as at the moment it is a bit of a tip in there and there is simply no storage space and far far too many toys, I have visions of lovely clean sideboards and space for Jake to organise his school things, but the reality might not come out like that!

I want to get myself a memo board for downstairs too, I am probably more disorganised than the children, and I need to make sure I am helping Jake with getting things done on time, not being the parent who always forgets!

I want a stack of draws either by the front door downstairs, or in Jake's bedroom, which he can organise with the days of the week with the homework in, in my mind it will be perfect he will place the homework in the draw on the day he gets it, then complete it and move it over to the draw of the day it needs handing in, but I am just not sure how effective this will be, but I can at least give it ago.

I will blog about anything I find that seems to work, and what we are doing to try and make the next year a happy one, if anyone has any tips however I would be most grateful!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Appreciating music again

It's funny isn't it how through life you go through various spells, and different things become popular at different times.

When I was a teenager I loved Music, always listening to the radio, buying the latest CD with the newest release from my favourite bands.

Through my teenage years I went to several music concerts, listened to all sorts of music, a firm feature was the radio, always listening to the charts on a Sunday, and enjoying finding out about new releases before I could afford to buy the CD for myself.

But then things changed, I'm not sure why or when exactly, but slowly over time I stopped listening to new music, I guess it was having children and the room filled with their noise and there was no period of time which could be filled the radio.

I stopped knowing who was in the charts, who was releasing new tracks and certainly couldn't tell you about any bands who were touring.

But now the children are older and I have started to notice over the past few months music is creeping back into the house, obviously music has always been a feature, with Darren who loves to sing and play guitar so there has always been a music presence but its not music that I've notice making a increase into our daily lives but the radio.

This pleases me, because there is such a good variety on the radio, listening to new songs I haven't heard before and being reminded of old favourites too,  all the music reminds me of the concerts I attended in my teens.

I loved the thrill of being in the arena filled with other fans and the loud music ringing out. I think there is nothing better than enjoying a concert, the electric atmosphere that builds from being in a huge crowd all enjoying the same thing.

So when I got an email asking if I would write a post featuring bands performing at the 02 arena it was perfectly timed.

The 02 arena is the second largest arena in the UK (second to the Manchester Arena) and one of the largest  arenas in Europe making it the busiest arena in the country and one that lots of top performers tour at.

With a capacity of 20,000 the atmosphere at an 02 concert must be amazing and I hope to get to go and see someone perform there one day,  there is such a variety of events at the 02 All sorts of bands have tour dates there, from current bands like JLS to bands who have been around since the 80's like Depeche Mode, who are touring in November 2013 celebrating 30 years in the music business you can book Depeche Mode tickets online on the 02 website along with all the other event tickets and find out tour dates and information.

It  won't be long before I get to take my three children along to a real concert, and enjoy the thrill of seeing their idols live on stage and I can't wait!

This is a sponsored post

Last Minute Fathers Day Gifts From Poundland

Tomorrow is Fathers Day. The day where we can say a big thank you to dads everywhere and let them know they are important.

However I am abit slack with these sort of things! And always leave my gift buying to the very last minute.

The children love to make homemade cards and pictures which I think are always the nicest true thought included, but sometimes a brought gift is nice too.

Poundland sent me some of their Fathers Day gift range to have a look at, and I am very impressed, they have a great selection of products which are perfect extras to add to the handmade gifts and cards, which means you can show you care without having to break the bank.

Included in the range of gifts from Poundland, are fun FamilyGuy themed items which are great for anyone who is a Family Guy fan. The fun Beer glass would make a great gift.

Poundland also have a great selection of gift bags, cards and wrapping paper, the quality has really improved over recent years of the cards and paper you can now purchase from pooundland.

There is also a great range of gifts 'for him' these included all sorts of little gadgets from wooden puzzles to grow your own football pitch sets.

And of course the very cute dog cuddle toys.

If you haven't yet brought a little something for Dad, there is still time to get to Poundland and pick up something fun.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Digital Cameras - what are the best batteries?

I brought myself a new camera a couple of months ago, a lovely Nixon CoolPix L810

It really is a lovely bridge camera, reasonably priced and takes a great photo.

The only thing I was a little unsure of when I purchased it was the batteries. it takes 4 AA batteries and the ones it comes with in the box lasted all of about 30 minutes. I've had so many digital cameras in the passed and it is always the battery life that frustrates me, so many cameras use AA batteries but normal batteries just simply do not last very long, and batteries are expensive if you have to keep buying new ones each time you want to use your camera.

So I was slightly disappointed that my new camera was once again hungry on batteries,  I  replaced the test batteries that came in the box, with my old rechargeable batteries which have been faithfully working for the passed few years in various electronic devices, I have used so many of the big brand batteries, but the ones I have now have been charged and used so many times they just aren't holding the charge anymore, so I was once again disappointed that before the day was over I was having to charge them before I could use my new camera, and it is always when your camera is out of charge that you see the best photo opportunity.

I started to think about getting some new batteries which promised to give me more hours camera life, and hopefully mean I never missed a photo opportunity again.

Then by sheer coincidence I received an email asking if I would like to review some batteries from and of course I jumped at the chance.

I will admit I don't know alot about batteries, but was pleased to accept their offer of the high capacity Sanyo batteries and the Ansmann 4 Speed charger.

I received an email as soon as the batteries had been dispatched letting me know my order was on its way, and they arrived the next day packed well with a little token thank you chocolate too - great service all round from

long lasting aa batteries rechargeable for camera

The Sanyo Eneloop XX NiMH 2400 mAh batteries are quite simply amazing, and I think they are the best rechargeable AA batteries I have ever used, they come pre charged so you can use them straight out of the pack, (pre charged using solar energy making them ultra environmentally friendly) 

I put them straight into my camera and they lasted far longer than any other AA batteries I have ever used. I took them on our day out in the fields, and I took about 400 photos that day, and recorded almost an hours video footage.. and they still were working when I got home, they then lasted and lasted and lasted!! I have charged them once in the last month and used my camera with them in so so many times, if you are thinking of purchasing a digital camera which uses AA batteries then definitely think of getting some of these to go with it. 

Another great feature of the Sanya AA XX Eneloop  batteries, is that they are said to still hold 75% of their charge even after a years use.. thats pretty amazing, and I will update you in a years time to see if it is true.  Priced at  just £12.98 these are a must have and far more affordable than buying standard batteries which need replacing regularly.

recharger for digital camera batteriesOf course if you are using rechargeable batteries then you need a way to charge them, The Ansmann Charger is a brilliant size, it has a speed charge option which is great if you need a fast charge, and the light indicators let you know when your batteries are ready to use. 

This handy little charger can charge upto  4 AA batteries or 4 AAA batteries and comes with a three year guarantee, so you can be assured this works well.

battery charger for digital camera
When I plugged in the charger the first thing I noticed was that it has a fan which blows to keep the batteries cool, this is a great idea and helps preserve the life of the batteries.

Another great feature is that the recharger comes with a 12v in car  lead, so this is a great charger to take with you if you are travelling. 

in car 12v battery charger
Although upto this point, I had not heard of Ansmann batteries, I am pleased to have found them now, this charger also comes with 4 x AA rechargeable NiMH batteries and these are really great they hold the charge well. Unlike the Sanyo batteries these ones do not come precharged, so you do have to charge them before the first use.

The 4 batteries took about 2 hours to charge and I have been testing them along with the Sanyo batteries this passed month, they have lasted such a long time and certainly enable you to not worry about missing that great photo due to no battery life.

 I took them with me to my sisters where we camped for the weekend, in fact I took all 8 batteries and the charger in case I needed it, but I didn't need to swop the batteries at all for the whole weekend.

I really am pleased with the batteries and if like me, you have recently purchased a Digital camera and are looking at a way to power it, then do take a look at they have some fantastic offers and low prices for all your battery needs.
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