Monday, 26 November 2012

Feeling like Scrooge, plus the VELCRO® Challenge

The VELCRO® challenge is on....

We've had a couple of rotten weeks with coughs and sneezes - November is not a good month for us. However, this year I haven't been able to muster a lot of advance festive cheer  - we have seen the Xmas switch on (coughing away!), have bought a few presents but we feel Xmassed out already. The big commercial pressure exerted by retailers is putting us off. We have not made plans, unlike last year, when we were booking flights to Italy to spend Xmas with my family early in autumn. We had a family reunion up north (my partner's side) during the half term, so I don't know what this Xmas will bring. We are not the only ones, we know of others who are feeling more like Scrooge than Rudolph this year. Some might feel the pinch, while others are frankly fed up with all the material messages. If you have children you are already living on top of a mountain of toys and things - you probably have everything you need and you might feel like decluttering rather than acquiring more stuff. 

So getting a parcel in the post was delightful, even if I was expecting it. Nestled in the red tissue paper were samples of VELCRO® products to try out and an unexpected bonus package at the bottom. I waited for the weekend - my daughter goes to an afterschool club and is tired during the week - to have a good rout and predictably, the first thing that got opened was this...
Velcro Princess masks
Every little girl wants to be a Princess, but which of these masks to go for? Michela decided to make them both and try them on before deciding on a favourite.

The strawberry blonde princess mask was tried out first, I think the purple tiara really stood out. Obviously, it didn't match Michela's hair at all but when she looked in the mirror she found it quite funny. I was amused and pleased she was having fun with it - Michela had a terror of masks until she started preschool, fleeing in tears from various mask-making workshops held at children's centres. 

As expected the brown-haired mask looked better as it matched her hair and complexion, although it's a bit crooked in the photo, due to Michela having a session with it in front of the mirror. 

I expect the next VELCRO® session will be in early December, when we will put up our Xmas decorations. The house is in a bit of a mess at the moment - I am taking advantage of my partner being around to sort out some unglamorous DIY, while getting on with my freelance work. My inhouse publishing project has finished and I'm back working from home.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Xmas shopping: HO HO or Oh No? Plus 2 Moshi Monsters Books to win

Xmas shopping: pleasure or pain?
Now Halloween is over, it’s time to think of Xmas. I usually squirrel presents all year round in a box – handy for birthday gifts too – and only do bespoke shopping (some relatives ask for specific things to avoid jumper/sock/hanky fiascos) in the last weeks. So whether you are on the lookout all year round or have a last-minute panic, here is my festive blog with two brilliant, unisex gift ideas for under a tenner and a fab competition to win a Moshi Monsters book.

To be honest I don’t like thinking of Xmas too early – when Michela (aged 5 and a half or nearly 6 as she puts it) asked me to get the Xmas tree out of the garage in August I put my foot down. I do dislike the early frenzy in shops too, cards in September anyone? I mean they come out even before the Halloween stuff!

When I was working for women’s magazines we did the Xmas issue in August. I remember testing mince pies, puddings, cakes and stuffing (made with water from the office kettle, double yuck!) in summer time. It was kind of surreal but then all the press shows are in July and August – after all monthly magazines are compiled well in advance. But there is no excuse for the early appearance of Xmas goodies in the shops alongside suntan lotions. Let’s get our celebrations in order: Halloween, November fireworks and then Xmas, not the other way round. So now the fireworks are fizzing away, I am prepared to start thinking about Xmas and check in the garage if more baubles or decorations are needed for our artificial tree. 

I was sent all sort of press releases for Xmas presents and I have cherry-picked two that are affordable, unisex and can guarantee hours of fun (tried and tested by myself, my five year old and my mother in law).

Two Xmas gift idea under £10 for boys & girls!

Party Time - truly top of the pops!
Pop Party 10, available from Amazon at £8.99, is a combo of CD with 22 chart toppers suitable for children (ie no naughty lyrics) and a DVD of music videos. A foldable lyric sheet is also included, which made me feel a bit nostalgic as they seem to have gone out of fashion now you can get lyrics online. We tested Pop Party 10 in our car during a rainy journey to the inlaws during half term and it lasted for a long stretch of time, with plenty of cheerful tunes – including 12 Number 1s. This CD is a cracker, with uplifting dance beats like Gangnam Style, Dance with Me Tonight by Olly Murs and the soulful Let me Love You by NE-YO. Other international artists featured include teen faves JLS, Katy Perry, Jessie J, Justin Bieber and One Direction. Michela’s favourite was Gangnam Style - she also loved watching the video on the bonus DVD (yes, we caved in and got a portable DVD for car journeys). We did listen to Gangnam Style an awful lot since then!  This CD/DVD combo is linked to a fun website, with videos, competitions and games. You can join the pop party at

WIN! One of two copies of Moshi Monsters Musical Mystery Tour!
Enter the competition or buy it here
Michela found out about Moshi Monsters when we bought some branded yogurts. She was delighted with Moshi Monsters Musical Mystery Tour – and so was her grandma, a retired teacher, who told me the book was fantastic with its fun word games, quizzes, challenges and colourful mayhem of characters. 

The names are very clever – think talent judge Simon Growl, delicious treat (not!) Eyescream Sunday, Bubba the Bouncer and Dr Strangeglove. To give you a flavour of the text, here is a snippet: “Shuffling along Sludge Street, you stoop outside Horrods”. Do you dare to step into this shop or would you make a beeline for the underground disco? 

Four animation trigger cards and a QR code bring this book into the digital world. By downloading a piece of software you can find out how you'd look as a Moshi character, or watch Zac Binspin performing an exclusive show on the palm of your hand. 

Moshi Monsters Musical Mystery Tour is published by Carlton Kids, has an RRP of £9.99 and available at, Amazon and all good bookstores. 

We have two copies of Moshi Monsters Musical Mystery Tour to give away. All you need to do is a leave a comment below with the name of your favourite monster! Visit for some inspiration.... Competition is open to UK residents only and closes on Sunday 18 November. Good luck!