Cheesy Cinnamon Sausage Hotpot plus giveaway

I recently received 7 free cans of Cinnamora, a cinnamon soft drink to review, 6 sparkling and 1 still. I love cinnamon toast, so was very interested in the idea of trying a cinnamon drink. And although there are no established health claims related to cinnamon, there are many studies supporting its beneficial effects on diabetes and cholesterol.

Cinnamora cinnamon soft drink

I was slightly dismayed to see that they arrived in one of those Royal Mail “damaged in transit” wrappers. A few cans were slightly dented, but otherwise okay. I would recommend that they pack them in a box for better protection.

Cinnamora cinnamon soft drink

So onto the taste test. I’m not personally a huge fan of fizzy drinks, so as expected I preferred the still variant. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I would rate the flavour as okay, so not quite as tasty as I was hoping. However on the plus side, there is no sugar, artificial flavouring or colours in these drinks. And it was very refreshing. The rest of the family also tried the sparkling variant. My other half liked it but the kids weren’t that keen.

Cinnamora cinnamon soft drink

Now as regular readers know, I enjoy cooking, so I decided to try it out in a dish. I decided on making a hotpot with it.

Cheesy Cinnamon Sausage Hotpot

Cheesy Cinnamon Sausage Hotpot

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 375g pack of 12 good quality sausages
1 250ml can of Cinnamora sparkling cinnamon soft drink
1 medium onion
1 420g can of baked beans
500g potatoes
50g cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degree C.
Choose a lidded casserole dish which is suitable for both oven and hob.
Peel and finely chop the onion.
Add the olive oil to the casserole dish and heat gently on hob.
Add onion and cook for a couple of minutes until softened.
Prick the sausages and add to the dish.
Continue to cook for a further few minutes.
Meanwhile peel and slice the potatoes.
Pour the Cinnamora over the sausages.
Stir in the baked beans.
Cover with the sliced potatoes.
Season with salt and pepper.
Grate the cheese and sprinkle over the top.
Cover with lid and cook in oven for 40 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
Remove lid and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Serve and enjoy.

Cheesy Cinnamon Sausage Hotpot

This time, I got a resounding thumbs up from all the family. So it would be great to see Cinnamora develop a section of recipes on their website.

Cinnamora currently retails at £1 for a 250ml can and is available to purchase online or at selected retailers in London.

Cinnamon cinnamon soft drink

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway 7 cans of Cinnamora to one lucky winner.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your favourite drinks or your idea for a recipe using Cinnamora.

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Family Fever

Disclosure.  This post is a review of products I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

The Kazak Contract by Paul Purnell

I have received a free e-copy of the book The Kazak Contract by Paul Purnell to review.

The Kazak Contract by Paul Purnell

Here is the book blurb.

James Ballantyne travels to Kazakhstan on a minor diplomatic assignment. A simple task, but he falls for the glamorous aide Ocksana Petrova, sent to guide him through the process. Fate leads him to the rescue of a US special agent who is the target of assassination by the Kazak authorities.

What should Ballantyne do? Should he be led by duty or compassion?

Events force his hand and he recruits smugglers to get the agent away from Kazakhstan. The escape route is dangerous and it becomes clear they are being monitored every inch of the way. Is his new love, Ocksana, behind the surveillance? Or has his own team been infiltrated?

Getting out of Kazakhstan alive will draw upon all of James’s military skills, and a lot of luck. With ambush and deception along the way, will he make it to the border and safety? How can he protect his lover? This journey through a wild country stretches every nerve.

James Ballantyne works for the British Foreign Office and is sent to Kazakhstan to secure a major energy deal. He is met at the airport by Ocksana Petrova, the Energy Minister’s personal assistant. Secretly, Ocksana is also working for the Bureau. At his hotel, James starts chatting with Bill Hammond, an American businessman , who hints that Ocksana’s role is to sweeten the deal. Bill invites James to join him in a card game, but he can see Bill is being set up to lose. He leaves and heads to bed, but is woken by a shot. He dashes down the corridor and finds that Hammond has been shot by one of the other gamblers. Hammond is taken to hospital and when James visits him the next day, Hammond begs him for help to flee, asking him to track down Gilda for assistance. Meanwhile James sleeps with Ocksana. Does she have true feelings for him? And will he help Hammond?

The Kazak Contract is available on Amazon, currently priced at £7.99 in paperback and is also available in Kindle format. A great story which I highly recommend.


Here is an extract from the book for you to read.

This is an excerpt from Chapter 14 where the fugitives (including Ballantyne and the smugglers) are confronting the pursuing Special Branch Team. One of the smugglers, a girl called Gilda distracts the enemy while Ballantyne takes on the group.

“Picking a spot about four hundred metres from the target, he waited for the shot which would set off the trap. She fired two shots, one after the other. Within a second, a burst of automatic fire lit up a man standing beside the first car in the ditch. He fired six single rounds into the flame, remembering to keep his aim down as the gun jerked in his hands. Then he dived to the right and watched the effect.

Someone shouted, but he could not catch the words. A second shadow moved towards the ditched car and he fired again. This time he thumbed the automatic lever and sprayed a long burst into the moving shadow. A cry from the dark outline told him he had hit someone and he moved to a new spot, awaiting Gilda’s next shot.

She fired again and sparks flew upwards like a small firework; some piece of car body had taken the hit. Again, a burst of firing replied to her shot, but this from the third car and from two weapons. The aim was wild, and he realised they were simply returning fire to saturate the area.

OK. Keep it up, more the merrier.’

They wasted at least two magazines that way. He took up another position and prepared to respond to Gilda’s lead when he felt a snick as something touched his elbow. Looking down, he realised a bullet had just passed him, catching his jacket. He knew at once what it was. It was a high velocity round, and it changed the game. Down there was a sniper with some sort of night lens, and he was on to him.”


About the author

Based in London, Paul Purnell has worked for over forty-years as a Criminal Law barrister. After serving five years stationed in Germany with the British Army, Purnell began his career as a trial lawyer prosecuting and defending in serious criminal cases across the country. Later he was appointed Queen’s Counsel, a role which has seen him engaged in court cases both across the country and to far flung destinations including the Cayman Islands and Kazakhstan. His extensive experience and understanding of the criminal world has provided the inspiration for his short stories and his latest Jack Ballantyne series. When not writing, or in court, he enjoys racing around the country on his motorbike and spending time with his three children and grandchildren.

Previous titles include a series of well-received short stories; The Hireling (2015), Scaramouche (2015) and The Storm (2016).

Website: http://paulpurnell.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/purnell14


I’m participating in the blogtour. Do take time to browse round some of the other posts.

The Kazak Contract by Paul Purnell

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Courting Chaos by Lynne Barron

I have received a free e-copy of the book Courting Chaos by Lynne Barron to review. To find out more about the author you may visit her website.

Courting Chaos by Lynne Barron

Here is the book blurb.

What happens when London’s longest reigning rake decides to make mischief?
Born of scandal and raised in squalor, Miss Harry O’Connell turned her back on her feckless, frivolous father and carved out a life for herself in the working-class neighborhood of Wellclose Square. She’s a creature of habit, a stickler for schedules, a keeper of secrets, and a woman adamantly opposed to wasting so much a single minute – let alone a spare shilling – on useless endeavors, sentimental nonsense or impossible expectations.
Opposites attract…
With three men standing between Phineas Griffith and the nearest title, he was perfectly content to float through life on a wave of mistakes, mishaps, coincidences and luck. Two unfortunate accidents and an apoplectic fit later, the new Viscount Knighton finds himself saddled with a decimated estate, a mountain of debt and two sisters in need of launching into Society in tandem. There’s really nothing for it but to woo and wed an heiress post haste.
Orbits align…
An unwelcome visit from the Earl of Dunaway sets in motion a convoluted chain of events that put Harry on a collision course with the handsome fortune-hunter. And wreak havoc with her meticulously managed, precisely timed and exactingly organized life.
Worlds collide…
Phineas cannot afford the luxury of falling in love with a prickly, pragmatic and penniless woman. Harry hasn’t the time or inclination to dally with a charming rake when all her considerable talents are aimed at laying waste to all the Earl of Dunaway holds dear.
And chaos ensues.
Some forces are greater than gravity and some chances worth taking. Can these two star crossed-lovers find the wherewithal to risk it all for a happily-ever-after that defies all odds?

This is book 2 in the Dunaway’s Daughters series set in 1821 London, featuring six sisters. Miss Harry O’Connell is the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Dunaway, whom she shuns and puts about a tale of different parentage, whilst plotting his downfall. So the story begins with Harry escaping out her backdoor without money or bonnet when she sees the Earl’s carriage pulling up, and missing her weekly visit to the Montclaire Museum. She usually sticks to a rigid schedule of appointments. Instead she meets her sister Kate and the latest news sets her secrets in a spin. Kate persuades Harry to attend sister Madeline’s coming-out ball that evening, where she meets Phineas, Viscount Knighton.

Phineas is a rake who has just come into the title and now finds himself saddled with huge debt. At the same time, he needs to launch both his sisters into Society. The only answer seems to be to find an heiress to marry.

Predictably Harry and Phineas are attracted, but Harry doesn’t have time for a dalliance with all her scheming and busy schedule. And Phineas can’t afford to fall in love with penniless Harry. What will happen?

Courting Chaos is available on Amazon, currently priced at £3.09 in Kindle format. This is a nice Regency romance story and brought back happy memories of my teenage years when I used to read lots of historical romance from our local library, before moving onto other genres.

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MamaMummyMum

Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Teaching Children to Clean

I’ve tried hard to suggest to my boys that they should tidy one game up before getting another out and that they should put things away at the end of the day, but my words always seem to fall on deaf ears, so when Schar Ward contacted me, to see if I would like a free e-copy of her book “Teaching Children to Clean” to review, my answer was definitely yes please.

Don’t get me wrong, they both do a few chores. Son1 usually brings the bins back after the dustmen have been. And he pairs up clean socks. And they both sometimes remember to put their plates in the dishwasher, son2 is better at this than son1. But they were horrified when we got them involved in washing-up on holiday recently, a task that I can remember regularly helping with myself from age 3.

Teaching Children to Clean by Schar Ward

Here is the book blurb.

By the time a child is sixteen, they should be able to clean every room in the house–Schar Ward

This book contains step-by-step instructions for teaching children and teenagers to clean an entire house. Plus many other life skills such as doing laundry, loading a dishwasher properly, and making a bed.

Cleaning is not an option, it’s a necessity! If your child doesn’t learn, it’ll plague them the rest of their lives. According to the latest research, teaching your child to clean may be the most important thing you ever do for them! You want your child to learn basic life skills, but finding the time for accomplishing this seems to get more difficult each day. What’s the answer? A new approach, that practically does it for you! You’ll find it in these pages and even more:
* The research on children & cleaning
* Proven tactics to get the job done
* Chore charts for every age
* Room evaluations for easier cleaning
* What tools they need
* Safe green cleaning solutions, you can make yourself
* Checklists for detailed cleaning in every room
* How to clean appliances
* How to do laundry, set the table and everyday chores
* How to take care of pets
* Fun cleaning games

Knowing how to take care of yourself in your everyday environment is a skill no one should be without!

my son's untidy room

This is usually what I see in both my sons’ rooms and it tends to start spreading round the rest of the house, so I dived into the book to see how to change my tactics as my current approach is obviously not working.

I’ve picked up lots of tips from this book, so I’ve started by ordering 4 drawstring bags from Amazon – 2 white and 2 black. I have hung one of each colour in my sons’ bedrooms and explained that they are for their dirty laundry. White for white clothing and black for coloured clothing. Hopefully eliminating the need for me to pick up their dirty laundry from all over the floor. And if that goes well, I hope to progress to them bringing the full bags downstairs and then to them loading the washing machine, a task that son1 has carried out occasionally. However, so far son2 has put nothing in the bags, but son1 is remembering to use them sometimes.

The book has certainly highlighted why my current tactics haven’t been effective. And I like the room evaluation guide for making the rooms cleanable. Making beds is something the boys have been taught but ignore. However for instance the book suggests making it easier by moving the bed away from the wall, so that will be my next plan for son2’s room.

One area of the book that is not for me is the chapter on making my own safe cleaning solutions. I certainly don’t have time for this, so I’ll be sticking to buying my usual brands, although I do like the idea of pretending we’re making magic potions.

I think the younger your children, the more you will get out of this book, particularly with regards to cleaning games. I don’t think a game would win my boys over, when they would much rather be on their gadgets.

I do plan to attempt to implement some chore charts and it is a very useful starting point that the ones shown in the book can be downloaded here.

Also it is great that other life skills have been included too. I know this is going to be hard work as far as my boys are concerned, but hopefully I haven’t left it too late to get them to adapt. And I’ve learnt quite a few things myself too, so it is not just all about children.

Teaching Children to Clean is available  on Amazon, currently priced at £15.95 in paperback and is also available in Kindle format. A very useful parenting guide, aimed at those with children age 3-16. To find out more about the author you may visit her website.

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Kids on Trump by Marie Korman and Freida Raj

I have received a free e-copy of the childrens’ book “Kids on Trump” by Marie Korman and Freida Raj for son2 to review. To find out more about the authors you may visit their website.

Kids on Trump by Marie Korman and Freida Raj

Here is the book blurb.

WARNING-This is not a book about politics! This is a book about the power of children and all individuals to create change in the world by bravely taking action to have their voices heard. Regardless of who you voted for in the 2016 election, this book will provide you with a reflective perspective that is filled with comic relief and inspiration like only kids can deliver! This book is for parents and children alike. Parents will fight hard to keep tears of laughter from rolling down their face and children will learn practical tips they can implement immediately to become empowered and create change in the world around them.
So regardless of how you feel about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or anyone else who ran in the 2016 presidential race, fasten your seat belt and enjoy the roller coaster ride, as you discover if kids think Donald Trump is “Tremendous” or a “Total Disaster”!

Kids on Trump

We initially got this book for son1, but his brother was interested to read it too, as they were both aware of the US election campaign and result. They both giggled away whilst reading this book and read snippets out to me. But son2 got more involved with the activities, so he has taken over the review. The book asks a series of questions about President Trump to 10 children aged between 5 to 16. We are introduced to each child and then get to see their answers, some of which are hilarious. In between each child, is a related exercise, some of which are quick whilst others are longer-term projects. The book also includes some of the childrens’ artwork.

Son2's answers

Son2 wrote out all his own answers to the questions of which I’ve shared one page here. As you can see, he does have rather a negative opinion of the President. I love his answer about voting for Pink Sheep instead.

And he has drawn a picture of Donald Trump.

Donald Trump

Kids on Trump is available on Amazon, currently priced at 99p in Kindle format. Both my boys and I found this a very funny read. It reminded me of the old TV series “Kids Say the Funniest Things”.

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MamaMummyMum

Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Guest post: A Little Bit Naughty by Jane Evans

Guest post by Jane Evans, author of “Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club”.

Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club

I’d like to think I was a rule follower at school, not a rule breaker; pretty much every report card I got during my primary years contained the word conscientious.  Back then, I didn’t even know what it meant but I knew it was good because my parents would reward me with a big smile and a hearty “Well done!”

To be honest though, my conscientious exterior probably had more to do with the fact that I grew up in the UK in the 1970’s, a time when corporal punishment was still dished out daily, even to primary-aged kids.  I tell my 8 year old daughter this and she just looks at me like I’ve stepped out of the Victorian age.  Couple this with the fact that I had a headmaster who was actually called Mr Fear (I know it’s like something out of a Roald Dahl book but it is true), I think my well-behaved nature had more to do with survival than being an inherent goodie-goodie.  I was genuinely terrified that I would be summoned to his office for a stern talking to, or worse still, six of the belt.  Ouch!

Despite my best efforts, I was not a perfect saint at school.  Thank goodness!  I remember an early attempt at honing my hair-dressing skills in Primary 2.  Aged 6, my friend Elizabeth and I decided to give each other some rather stylish (or so we thought) fringes.  Armed only with the rather blunt, round-tipped scissors that are standard fair in any primary classroom (anyone who’s ever used these will know that they do not cut anything well) we happily hacked away at each other’s hair.  Until our teacher caught us in the act.  I can’t remember the punishment – to be honest, I think the teacher thought that our dodgy haircuts were punishment enough.  On reflection, I think I got off rather lightly with a slightly wobbly fringe– Elizabeth clearly had far better scissor skills than I as her hair took months to look anything vaguely like normal again.

Perhaps my worst offence at school was over the Lord’s Prayer.  I’d learnt it by rote, off by heart, over years of having to say it over and over and over.  Or so I thought.  But when I was finally asked to write it down, aged 9, it became apparent that I had (ahem!) misheard some of the words.  I remember (yet another) terrifying teacher, Mrs Brown, a stern woman who had yellow teeth and even yellower fingers from chain-smoking Benson & Hedges, calling me to the front of the class and asking me to recite my version to my assembled classmates.  “Our Father, who art in Heaven, Harold by thy name …”  It’s no great surprise that she stopped me right there.  The class howled with laughter as my face burnt with shame.  For punishment, she made me write out the correct version ten times and got me to lead the class in its daily recital for months after.  To this day, I still cringe when I hear it.

It was only when my daughter Grace started school that I began to remember my own school experiences afresh.  It’s fair to say that, overall, I had a fairly easy ride.  Yes, I got into trouble from time to time but I, for the best part, enjoyed school, loved to learn and found it all pretty straightforward.  But now, through the eyes of my daughter, I began to see how different every child in a standard class could be, with some finding school far trickier than others.  Despite these kids having their own individual talents, they’re often the ones who end up getting into trouble, for not listening, fidgeting, daydreaming or other more challenging behaviours.

With a bit more time on my hands now Grace was at school, I decided to start writing again.  I ended up doing lots of research on specific learning difficulties (the umbrella term used by schools for dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism and ADHD) and it became clear very quickly that, while there were a lot of great books out there for adults and teens, there wasn’t much for younger, primary-aged children who wanted to read a good story about kids they could easily identify with, characters they could easily see themselves in.  Real kids with real challenges.   Not princesses or ace footballers but real kids, just like them.

And that’s when Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club popped into my head, a story about three friends each of whom have a specific learning difficulty.  In class, Vera is constantly being told off for daydreaming.  But it’s her daydreaming that fuels her imagination and allows her to take her and her friends, Harry and Max, on the most wonderful adventures.  The message of the story is plain and simple; that we’re all good at something and that we all deserve a chance to shine and be accepted for who we are.  My hope is that Vera and her friends will help those kids that feel a bit different.  And that can only be good.  As human beings, we all seek to feel understood.

I wish someone had told me this at school.  Who knows, I might have been less scared and even dared to be a little more naughty!

Your Stories Matter

And you may read our review of Jane’s book here.

Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club by Jane Evans

This post ties in nicely with Learning Success that I blogged about yesterday. If you haven’t read it yet, do check it out later. There is also a Learning Success giveaway, value £230.

I have received a free copy of the childrens’ book Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club by Jane Evans for son2 to review. Penguins are one of his three favourite creatures, so he was delighted to see some on the front cover.

Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club by Jane Evans

Here is the book blurb.

Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club written and illustrated by Scottish duo Jane Evans and Ruth Mutch follows the adventures of lively young characters who display dyspraxia, dyslexia and autism including Vera McLuckie —who hates school. Mainly because she struggles with stuff the other kids find easy. Oh, and because she keeps getting into trouble for doing what she is really good at…daydreaming.

Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club by Jane Evans

I like Ricky, Henry, Helen and mini 15 penguins 🐧

I also like Shakespeare the dog 🐶🐕🐩 Woof Woof.

The two sentences above are what son2 has written for his review. He doesn’t share much with us about the storyline, so let me elaborate. This story is about a primary school girl Vera McLuckie who has a penguin adventure with her two best friends Harry and Max. Although not explicitly mentioned in the book, all three have learning difficulties. Vera has Dyspraxia, Harry is Dyslexic and Max has Asperger’s and we see how they often get picked on by Bethany, the coolest, cleverest child in the school. In the adventure, the children see a fantastic swimming display by the penguins, but hear how sad they are to be teased by the other birds, for not being able to fly. This gives Vera a light-bulb moment regarding their own talents. But is the adventure, real or a daydream and how will Vera succeed in putting her story-telling talent into words?

At the back of the book, there is a mission to find 15 tiny penguins hidden in Ruth Mutch’s lovely illustrations and follow the instructions to unlock the code word. With some help, son2 had great fun doing this challenge, although it certainly took some time, as the penguins are very well hidden.

And son2 has drawn a cute picture of the three penguins.

Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club

Vera McLuckie and the Daydream Club is published by Your Stories Matter and is available on Amazon, currently priced at £6.99 in paperback. Targetted at children age 7-9, this a lovely story in its own right, that a lot of children may identify with. But it is also a learning resource that can assist teachers or parents in positive discussion with younger children, what it is like to have a learning difficulty. This should help to raise awareness and improve understanding of neurodiversity.

About Your Stories Matter: Based in Kendal, Cumbria Paul Johnson is the founder of Your Stories Matter and the parent publishing company Explainer HQ —which provides creative video, audio, animation and print to the business and education sector. All Your Stories Matters titles are published in paperback and are available to order from online retailers including amazon.co.uk.

For more information please visit: https://www.yourstoriesmatter.org and follow on Twitter @ysm_books

And some of the illustrations are available to download as colouring sheets here.


Your Stories Matter

I’m participating in the blog tour. Do take time to browse round some of the other posts.

Your Stories Matter Blog Tour

14th May

Kid-Lit Reviews

15th May

Yet Another Blogging Mummy

16th May

The Book Corner

Whispering Stories

Book Babble

17th May

Linda’s Book Bag

#redhead.with.book

18th May

The Autism Cafe

19th May

Sinceley Stacie

20th May

Book Room Reviews

Book Babble

21st May

Book Babble

22nd May

Bookworm for Kids

23rd May

Kid-Lit Reviews

Book Babble

25th May

Twirling Book Princess

28th May

Kid-Lit Reviews

29th May

Steph’s Two Girls

30th May

The Book Corner

31st May

Embracing the Spectrum

And you may see a guest post by author Jane Evans, sharing her thoughts on being a little bit naughty on my blog here.

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MamaMummyMum

Disclosure.  This post is a review of a book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Learning Success plus giveaway

Son1 has had memory and concentration issues and is very slow with his schoolwork since undergoing chemotherapy, but is very bright at maths. He also has to attend an extra handwriting lesson weekly, plus use an ergonomic pen and occasionally has one-to-one sessions with the special needs teacher. Meanwhile son2 seems to take everything absolutely literally and have some social difficulties. So I was quite interested to find out more when Learning Success approached me to test out their Learning System for free.

Learning Success System

When I read their blog, I found out that the Learning Success System is a simple method parents can use to help children overcome learning difficulties. It simplifies the process and enables a parent to work at home with their child.

They say that the Learning Success System is:
• Convenient for both children and parents
• Minimizes high costs of learning centres
• Uses cutting edge neuroscience research

Their learning strategy is divided into three parts.

Strategy 1 – Calm the emotions
Strategy 2 – Incorporate the Body
Strategy 3 – Build up the Fundamental Skills of Learning

Statistics show that at least 20% of children suffer with some sort of learning difficulty. This could be with reading, writing or maths. Learning Success offer analysis of what symptoms your child exhibits.

Once I signed up, I received daily emails with exercise suggestions. I also had access to the Learning Success System portal where I can find the full range of exercises and can sort by type. There are member forums where I can seek expert advice or interact with other parents. It also focusses on what you need to do as a parent, such as praising your child for effort.

The boys were quite engrossed in some of the on-screen exercises like tapping where each smiley appeared or shouting out what a picture would be when it starts as a dotted outline and gradually more appears. Some of the other exercises do additionally require you to source the materials, so I adapted a letters memory game to be based on numbers and used playing cards. You start with 2 pairs face down and see how many turns it takes to find the matching pairs. Then you gradually add an extra pair every round. The boys loved taking turns at this and we went upto 13 pairs.

Memory number game

Memory number game

It is too early for me to identify any difference in my sons but I shall continue doing some of the exercises with them. I haven’t managed to get into a routine with this yet.

The Learning System is currently available for either a one-off payment of $297 or 12 monthly payments of $49 with a 90 day money back guarantee. The monthly payment option can be cancelled at any time. I’ve checked the exchange rate and these figures equate to about £230 or £38 at present, so quite expensive in my opinion. But for some, it may be a well worth while investment and really make a difference to a member of your family.

And I’m hosting a rafflecopter competition to giveaway access to the Learning Success System portal to one lucky winner. Open worldwide.
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a Rafflecopter giveaway – Please click on the link to enter.

And you may see my other giveaways here.

I’d love to hear your top learning tips.

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Family Fever

Disclosure.  This post is a review of a product I received for free.  All opinions are my own.

Outremer by D N Carter

I have received a free e-copy of the book Outremer by D N Carter to review.

Outremer by D N Carter

Here is the book blurb.

Who Controls The Past Controls The Future

 An epic love story must overcome religious divide and a plot to eradicate two blood lines, as the Crusades and the search for the ancient mysteries of the Holy Grail gather momentum.

Raised by his father in La Rochelle, France, Paul Plantavalu is known for his artistic nature, inquisitive mind and Christian faith. He also has an unshakable love for his Muslim childhood friend, Alisha al Komaty. Courageous and outspoken, she returns Paul’s love. But their path is paved with obstacles; religion, war, political chaos and a mysterious enemy determined to destroy their family lines.

Sometime between 1110 AD and 1120 AD in the aftermath of the first crusade, a small band of nine knights — the founding knights Templar — recover ancient precious artefacts left by a former, advanced civilisation, beneath the City of Jerusalem. Ruthlessly guarded, the secrets revealed by this discovery are highly prized by powerful and dangerous forces far and wide; the repercussions of their capture are inextricably linked to Paul and Alisha. As Paul starts to experience dark and vivid dreams and the fragile balance of peace starts to crumble, it will fall to an enigmatic man known as Kratos and his female warrior protégée Abi Shadana, to safeguard Paul and Alisha.

Paul and Alisha’s love story weaves between the threads of our reality and other realms — from the Druids to the Sufi mystics, the Magi of the East, the secret political arm of the Knights Templar and the Isma’ilis, the Assassins. Knights and pilgrims alike will witness some of the darkest battles ever fought. The discovery of a unique sword’s lethal power and whispered connections to King Arthur and the Holy Grail lead Paul and Alisha to question if their lives ever be the same again.

The first of a four-part series, Outremer is an historical epic, which sweeps across England, Scotland and France, to Syria, Jerusalem and Egypt. Discover the truth — and crack the ancient code — behind the great mysteries of the High Middle Ages for yourself.

This is an epic of a book and it is only part 1 of 4. The first few pages are set in 1109, but most of the book is set in two timelines 1178-79  and a storyteller recounting the tale in 1191. It is never revealed who the storyteller is, but I have my own theory. However I’m sure we have to wait until part 4 to find that out. The main timeline follows 15 year old Paul Plantavalu in La Rochelle, France, his father Philip and their close Muslim friends Firgany Al Komati, son Taqi, daughter Alisha and sister Raja. Paul along with Taqi enrages his elder brother Stewart by spying on his Templar initiation ceremony.

Paul and Alisha fall in love. Their fathers are against this. The old man Niccolas gives Paul and Taqi scrolls of their destinies and future path choices. Firgany and family are due to return home to Mawsil and then both families will move to Alexandria next year where Philip and Raja will marry. Paul writes a poem for Alisha before his father sends him to collect a horse from Rochefort-sur-Terre. There he makes an enemy of Templar Seneschal Gerard de Ridefort and a new friend Rick who gives him a gift. When he returns home the next day, Firgany and family have already left.

On the boat back, Raja gets ill. So she remains at Castle Blanc in the Levant whilst Firgany and Taqi continue. Alisha accompanies them part way to collect some medicinal hemp, but they are ambushed. All survive due to the intervention of Abi Shadana. But sadly Raja dies in Alisha’s arms before Firgany and Taqi return. This causes a change in plan and they all return to La Rochelle to break the bad news.

Paul doesn’t see how he can continue to pursue his love for Alisha when his father has lost Raja. By the time he resolves his confusion, Alisha is so hurt that she rejects him. We’re not even half way through the book at this point, but I shall stop now, leaving you to wonder how Paul and Alisha will sort out their differences.

I could certainly imagine a film based on this, but I have to say I skimmed through sections of Bible references, symbols and other philosophies which I just found too deep. I still enjoyed the story though and marvelled at how much of it is based on fact. I was particularly fascinated by the idea of secrets being carved into cathedrals as they were built.

Outremer is available on Amazon, currently priced at £14.99 in paperback and is also available in hardback or kindle format. A challenging read but enjoyable.


Here is an extract from the book for you to read.

This scene is set at the ancient Dolmen site in the South of France at ‘Draguignan Pierre des feé’. The convoy Alisha was in stopped there for the night on their way to Freju. This is where she discovers for the first time her ability to heal. It is also where Theodoric makes his first proper appearance. Paul and Taqi hearing a commotion of villagers outside their caravan rushed to check.

“Clear off you, whoever you are this has no business of your like,” one of the male villagers shouted back.

“Taqi, what happens here?” Paul asked as he stood next to him.

“Tis not your problem boys…now be away with you,” the overweight lady stated still holding the broom high above her head.

Paul rapidly studied the situation. The crowd were clearly angry and hostile, the man on the floor bloodied, his face swollen already and both his eyes closed from bruising. As the man rolled onto his back, Paul saw a worn patch where a cross had once been sewn.

“This man has leprosy yet he denies it and drank from our mead barrels…” a tall muscled man stated and moved to kick the man again.

“No!” Paul shouted and without hesitation ran forwards and pushed the muscled man back hard nearly causing him to stumble but his colleagues behind him steadied him.

“Oh…look…we have a young hero here,” the muscled man mocked.

Paul immediately knelt down next to the man, supported him and lifted him so he could look at his face. Blood was oozing from his split lip and several cuts to his face, his eyes closed due to swelling and his forehead and hands were covered in blisters and scabs. He coughed as he tried to speak.

“Are you mad boy…he has leprosy,” someone at the back shouted.

Paul looked at the subdued area where a badge was once sewn,

“Rick, tis me…Paul” Paul whispered.

“The boy knows this leper,” the overweight woman shouted as the muscled man leant forward to grab Paul from behind.

“Touch him and you will regret it,” Taqi stated sternly.

The muscled man paused briefly to look at Taqi, grinned and then grabbed Paul and lifted him up hard to his feet. Quickly Paul turned to face him as the muscled man pulled his fist back to punch him. Suddenly the man’s face contorted in pain and he started to go backwards and to his knees. Paul looked ahead. Tenno was standing behind the muscled man using just one hand to squeeze the man’s right hand, Tenno’s gaze staring hard at all the villagers who watched amazed. The muscled man squirmed in agony and tried to twist away from Tenno, but Tenno did not move.

“Please…Please…please I beg of you…let go,” the muscled man pleaded in agony, sweat beading across his forehead. Tenno continued his stare at the crowd. The overweight woman lowered her broom and they all began to back away slowly.

Alisha appeared beside Tenno carrying the large two edged sword in her right hand wearing a bright blue shawl around her shoulders. She placed her left hand upon Tenno’s that was crushing the muscled man’s hand. Gently she squeezed her hand over Tenno’s, his hand huge in comparison. Tenno broke his stare at the group and released his grip instantly, the muscled man falling to the floor holding his hand with his left still in agony. Alisha then stepped forwards and walked slowly in front of the crowd looking at them all in turn one by one. She said nothing as she looked into each of their eyes. Several of them looked away or down in shame. After she had walked past the last person, her left hand over her tummy, her right hand holding the sword, she moved to face Paul. She outstretched her right arm and offered him the sword. Despite its size, the sword was remarkably light due to its unique manufacture and material construction. Seeing this, one woman crossed her heart and knelt down and began asking for forgiveness. Taqi just starred bemused at what he was seeing as several Hospitaller’s came and stood behind them. Sister Lucy edged her way next to him shaking her head surprised at Alisha’s obvious affect upon all present. Two more villagers knelt down and crossed their hearts. The muscled man looked up at Alisha still in pain. Paul took the sword.

“You forgot this…do not ever enter into trouble again without it,” she said softly.

“Who…who are you?” the muscled man asked in pain nervously looking behind him at Tenno still towering over him.

Paul tied the sword around his waist quickly and looked at the crowd as they all stared at Alisha. Taqi moved to help the elderly injured man on the floor. Paul likewise knelt to help lift the man whom he knew to be Rick. As they both lifted him to his feet, the muscled man stood up holding his hand in pain. Alisha walked over toward him slowly looking directly into his eyes. He backed away hesitantly as she drew nearer. Paul looked on concerned as he struggled to hold the weight of Rick who could hardly stand, his head hung down.

“Wh…what are you going to do?” the muscled man asked nervously as he moved backwards, tripped on the edge of the track and fell to his knee. Alisha walked up and stood immediately in front of him and stared into his hazel green eyes. He stared back and all stood in silence as Paul watched. Taqi shook his head he had no idea what she was doing as Sister Lucy edged her way nearer to her. As Alisha stared into his eyes, hers wide and her pupils large, she did not blink. After what seemed an age, the muscled mans bottom lip started to quiver and tears began to well in his eyes as he was flooded with emotions. He was still holding his right hand up with his left when Alisha moved to place her hand upon his. He flinched momentarily, but then saw the slight smile start on her face. Very softly she placed her hand over his injured fist. She tilted her head slightly as she looked deeper into his eyes. Sister Lucy shot a look back at Paul bemused as Tenno watched, his face still fierce. The muscled man let out a nervous laugh as the pain simply left his hand. He blinked amazed and smiled as tears fell from his eyes totally unashamedly. Several in the crowd fell to their knees and crossed their hearts. Taqi looked at Paul totally confused. The muscled man knelt down in front of Alisha grasped her hand with both of his and kissed her hand softly and cried. Alisha looked at the crowd of people. One of the Hospitaller’s knelt down followed by another, then another until everyone was kneeling. Paul looked at them all in surprise and then at Alisha.

“Paul,” Rick coughed painfully as he tried to speak.

“This man knows you?” Taqi quizzed as he struggled to hold him up.

Alisha turned to look at Paul and Taqi holding Rick. She let go of the muscled man’s hands and walked across to them. She looked at Rick’s swollen and bruised face and gently placed her hand upon his cheek. Immediately he coughed, stood up straighter and shook his head and took his own weight on his legs. His eyes were still closed swollen as he placed his hand upon Alisha’s hand still on his face.

“Blessed are you mother of our Lord,” Rick coughed out.

Instantly several more in the crowd crossed their hearts and whispered prayers.

“No, I am just Alisha,” she replied softly and looked sadly at the state of Rick’s face. Sister Lucy approached and gently pulled Alisha’s hand away from Rick’s face. “Do not worry, ‘tis not leprosy.”

The muscled man stood to his feet looking at his hands still amazed. He looked at Tenno who narrowed his eyes. ‘Sorry’ the man mouthed to him.

“Come, child…with me,” Sister Lucy said aloud and began to usher Alisha away.

Paul looked on concerned as Alisha seemed to be in some kind of trance almost he thought. He had never seen her like this and Taqi shook his head also bemused.


About the author

After strange and vivid experiences whilst living in Cyprus as a child, author D N Carter has been fascinated by the history, myths and legends of the Middle Ages and mankind’s past. As he got older travels to Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, the Languedoc region of France and the deserts of Arabia fuelled his enthusiasm. While not decoding maps and mathematical codes D N Carter enjoys adventure sports from parachuting to microlight flying. Today he divides his time between East Anglia in the UK and the south of France with his family.


I’m participating in the blogtour. Do take time to browse round some of the other posts.

Outremer by D N Carter

 

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Disclosure.  This post is a review of an e-book I was sent for free.  All opinions are my own.

Board Games Championship Bloggers Event

On Saturday I was very excited to be attending my first ever blogger event, namely the annual Board Games Championship Bloggers Event, held at The Owl and The Pussycat micropub in West London and hosted by Pork Farms. This event was scheduled to tie in with National Board Games Week 2017 which is this week, from 8th – 14th May.

Pork Farms Board Games Championship Bloggers Event

So train into London, then a couple of tube rides to Northfields. A short walk later and I found the venue. My first visit to a micropub and it certainly lived up to its name. The smallest pub I have ever visited and very cosy, with plenty of Owl and PussyCat decor. Book shelves lined the walls, very fitting as the premises was previously a childrens’ book shop. They even brew their own beer out back, so definitely no room for a kitchen. But not a problem, as naturally the Pork Farms team had brought along plenty of pork pies. A selection of brand new Hasbro games were laid out ready to play.

Pork Farms pork pies

So first up was Trivial Pursuits. This was the 2000s edition and I was rubbish, earning no points in the first round. My knowledge was abysmal. Think I’m too old for this and should stick to the original edition.

Next was monopoly. I bought plenty of property, but no full sets, so no building houses for me. Bad mistake. I should have looked at the score sheet, like winner Lea had obviously done, with her hotels on Whitechapel and the Old Kent Road. You only scored for houses, hotels and the most cash. So my property portfolio was worthless. A second big fat zero, but at least I was having fun with a lovely friendly bunch of bloggers.

Pork Farms Board Games Championship Bloggers Event

We were so into the games, we didn’t break for lunch, but kept snacking on the pork pies as we played. Boggle was next and I was really looking forward to this. It was the game I chose to review with my family. And finally I had something to write on my score sheet. A respectable second place with 26 points.

Then onto Jenga which I’m usually useless at, but by some fluke, I didn’t knock the very precarious tower over on either round.

Finally Taboo, a team game in which your team has to guess the word you’re trying to describe without saying it or any of the 5 other taboo words within the allotted time. This certainly had us all in stitches, plus quite a few oops moments when someone accidentally uttered a forbidden word. Think I’ll be buying Taboo for Christmas as I’m sure my boys would love it. And hurrah I was on the winning team.

Pork Farms Board Games Championship Bloggers Event

And then to reveal the winners. I knew I wasn’t in with a chance after my bad start, even though my scoring had started to pick up. So in reverse order, in third place was Lea from Food Steam Ahead then second was Chynna from The Invisible Child and the grand prize winner of a huge pork pie was Laura from What’s Hot.

Of course we all got pork pies to take home too. My favourite variety were the Branston pickle topped pies. What a clever innovation as who doesn’t like pickle with a pie?

Pork Farms pork pies

And a huge thank you to Charlotte, Lotte and team from Pork Farms who kept us entertained and topped up with pie and drinks throughout the event. I won’t forget the story about the Christmas Day pork pie breakfast.

Lastly I must wish good luck to all those who have made it through the heats of the National Board Games Championships. The semis and grand final will be held at BeerheadZ Grantham, next Saturday, May 13th. They will be battling it out at Boggle, Taboo, Monopoly, Jenga and Trivial Pursuit 2000s, just like we did. Hope they have as great a time as us bloggers.

I’d love to hear about your favourite board games.

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Disclosure.  This post mentions an event I attended and products I tried all for free.  All opinions are my own.