My Year of Living Danishly – The Happiest People in the World

I just love reading about what other people are reading, as it gives me inspiration so here is some for you! I am totally obsessed with reading right now, it is the one activity that I can easily fit-in, in little snippets, whilst taking care of my baby girl – how you ask? How do you have time to read when you have a baby? Well if you don’t already know me, this may be a surprise, or maybe not…audiobooks!! Sorry if you are bored with my harping on about audiobooks, but I have been a big fan of them for like 5 years now, and I have never read and enjoyed so many books in my life! There are two ways I read audiobooks, one through my library (which is free), they have an app called OneClickDigital which enable me to “check out” an audiobook and listen to it on my phone. Though they don’t have many books to choose from.

The best, but not free version though is Audible – I love audible, they have more audiobooks than any other company, their app works perfectly, they are part of amazon so I use the same login, and if you purchase a pack of 12 audiobooks they come down in price to about £4-£5 per book and you own the books, so if you cancel you account, the books are yours to keep forever.

Listening to books mean that no matter what you are doing, you can be reading e.g. on the school run, cleaning the house, at the gym, shopping, waiting in line, driving!

I digress, so what have I been reading recently (or listening to), well my favourite, which I listened to in 5 days (how often do you read an entire book in less than a week?) is “My Year of Living Danishly” by Helen Russell.

happiest people in the world book cover

I read it so quickly because I loved it. Her writing style, her quirky nicknames and the way she describes life just had me captivated. I also loved learning about a country that I had never even considered visiting, I knew absolutely nothing about Denmark, before reading this book. Okay I have to be honest and say that I didn’t even know where Denmark is – my geography is not very good. The fact that they are the happiest people in the world, was interesting, and I enjoyed learning why – some of which anyone could adopt and I was totally fascinated by their amazing way of life over there.

After inhaling this book I immediately read Helen Russell’s second book “Leap Year” because that is also set in Denmark and had the addition of her toddler “Little red”. I love reading books about family life. Leap Year was more about making changes and becoming happier over the course of a year. Also a good read though not as captivating as her first endeavour.

Another highlight of reading these books is that I told her on twitter how great they were and she actually replied to me! It’s so exciting when an author replies to you, I also got a tweet from Jodi Picoult once!

where is denmark map

10 things I learned about Denmark:

  1. Lego is Danish – and if you work for Lego, you get to play with Lego in meetings – how fun would that be?!
  2. Hygge – have you heard of Hoogah (Hygge) it is the art of living a cosy life, this is how the Danish survive their long harsh winters!
  3. They only have 11 hours of sunlight per month, in winter and it gets as cold as -20DegreesC – that certainly shut me up when I was complaining about our particularly cold and rainy winter this year.
  4. The state pays 75% of their childcare, so for a full time nursery place they only pay £200-£300 per month!! That’s nuts, we pay that per week in England!! I almost starting packing my bags on hearing that!
  5. Because childcare is so cheap, everyone works and women have equality, the gap between what men and women earn is less, and the gap between the rich and the poor is very narrow so the quality of life is fantastic.
  6. The state pays all university fees and life-long learning up until the age of 30 years!
  7. If you lose or leave your job you are paid up to 2 years of earnings to look for a new job! And because of this they leave their jobs/careers whenever they are unhappy – how lovely to be able to do that.
  8. They have Danish Patries – okay I did already know that, but I didn’t realise how amazing they were or how long you have to train to be in the pastry business. I have totally had cravings for Danishes ever since I read this book, yum!
  9. Denmark is a very small country, with a population on par with London.
  10. They trust each other, doors are left open, babies are left in prams outside of restaurants and cafes – wow what a world to live in.
1

My boy is TRANSPORT Mad!

I am a Parragon Book-Buddy! I cannot tell you how excited that made me when I found out, seriously I am a total book nerd, in case I haven’t made that clear previously. I inhale books and have surrounded my son with them since he was young, and my fingers are firmly crossed that he will continue to love reading as he grows up.

I’m not sure that Parragon Books will be able to top this month’s book, what a great one to start with because it is so much more than just a book. It’s a book, a game and a 2 in 1 jigsaw, and most importantly, it’s about Transport! Nate loves transport, he has always been obsessed with it and it has not really diminished over time. Everything from planes, trains, motorbikes to construction vehicles, those are his favourite.

parragon book and jigsaw

The package that you receive is like a little travel pack, with a handle, inside is a medium-sized book and a 2-sided jigsaw. The jigsaw has 30 pieces and depicts one of the scenes from the book. Both are of the same image (of cars), one side is colour and the other side is in black and white, waiting to be coloured-in.

Spot-A-Lot of Vehicles – The Book

For this age group I was slightly surprised at the size of the book, it is not the bedtime story kind of size where you lay it across your lap and look at the big glossy images. This one is more of a travel-sized book, which is perfect if you indeed want to use it for travelling, and we certainly will be. I intend to bring it in the car for long journeys as the protective case will keep it clean and protected.

3 year old reading a book

I was very impressed by how interactive the book was. I am used to just reading Nate stories, but this one asks questions and points things out along the way, this helps to extend his learning in the form of numeracy, shape recognition, colours and vocabulary. It also extends the length of the book, which on a long journey is invaluable.

The ilustrations have an old-fashioned quality to them and feels very reminicent of my childhood books. There are so many tiny little details on each page, lots of things you can point out and ask “what’s that?”. Everything from zebra crossings, bales of hay to pieces of coal in a truck.

pre-schooler reading books

Each page is littered with questions, and some are hidden, so I didn’t find them until the second or third reading, which is fun. Some examples include: “Find a car pulling a big trailer” or “Find 4 yellow umbrellas”. Some are whimsical such as “Find a cat that’s stolen my hat”.

Nate’s favourite question was: “Find 2 fish kissing”.

two fish kissing

Me: Find 2 fish kissing.

Nate: 2 fish kissing that’s silly.

Me: Why is it silly?

Nate: Because fish don’t have lips to kiss, but me and L kiss.

That’s his best friend at Nursery he is talking about, its so cute!

At the end of the book I asked him if he liked the book a little or a lot, and he said A LOT! So it has a 3 year old’s seal of approval.

Jigsaw

Nate is pretty obsessed with jigsaw puzzles at present so this is perfect timing. He loved it, put it together with a little help from me and then proceeded to colour it in. Though he also tried to colour in the wrong side, had to put the kabosh on that one!

colouring in games for 3 year oldsalmost 4 year old puzzles

The jigsaw is perfect for his age (3 years old), they were a good size, and had enough pieces to be challenging.

Spot A Lot: Vehicles Book and Jigsaw is available at: Easons, Matalan, TK Maxx and The Works.

*I received a free copy of the book and puzzle in exchange for a honest review, all views are my own and I have full editorial rights over this and all of my blog posts.

5

Dream Sequence Book Review (and #Competition)

books with headphones

I have recently read (well listened to actually) all seven books in the Dream Series, books by J.J DiBennedetto. I am also running a competition for three of my readers to win the first 3 books in the series (in audiobook format). So if you have ever been intrigued by audio-books but were unsure, this is your time to try it for free. If you already love audiobooks, this is a no-brainer.

My overall assessment of the series is that I really loved the first few books but did not enjoy the later books quite as much, though I enjoyed watching the family expand and her dreams with them. I found the books intriguing and clever and even though I did not enjoy the later books quite as much, if I had reviewed just the earlier books this would be a rave review. Be aware that these are my personal opinions about the books and just like movies and music books are terribly subjective.

Book 1 – Dream Student

Sara is a pre-med university student who starts having nightmares. The difference is that her nightmares are other people’s dreams. Sara confides in her room-mate (and best-friend) Beth and meets Brian, whom she begins dating. Sara is dreaming about a murderer, every night she sees what he does to his victims, she has to watch but she cannot do anything about it, or can she?

I find University life in America fascinating so it was an interesting backdrop to this story to read about Sara’s pre-med programme. I found Sara strangely arrogant at times, she jumped from indecision and self-doubt one moment and than cocky at other times, in spite of that, I actually really warmed to her and felt bad for her and her nightmares. I did actually guess who the murderer was but still found the climax pretty thrilling.

dream student characters

Book 2 – Dream Doctor

Brian and Sara get married and move in together in the dorms while she starts Medical School. I like that her dreams are not as disturbing this time, there is no way a real person could live like that. My favourite part is learning about medical school, the intricacies of that way of life is fascinating to me. Her jealousy of her neighbour, whom she thinks is lusting over her husband is quite amusing and realistic. Her empathy towards Janet is amazing, she really goes above and beyond for someone so young and I just love how she stands up for Janet. The idea of her having a baby though, wow, I know I shouldn’t judge but it’s really hard not to. The idea of marrying someone within a few months of knowing them at age 21, whilst at university and then deciding to have a child whilst you are both studying, if it was a close friend of mine I would advise against it. No normal person would be able to cope with Medical School and a baby, a baby completely rocks your world, especially the first time.

This time Sara dreams about one of her teachers, a very mean man that is impossible to like, who it appears everyone is plotting to kill. Sara has to try to piece her dreams together to find out who, of all the suspects it could be and try to intervene.

Book 3 – Dream Child

Sara is a paediatric resident with not just a 3 year old but baby twins – all I can say is she is superwoman! It’s amazing how often she takes her toddler to work with her, I have never seen or heard of that happening in England, maybe it is specific to Americans or doctors? It’s pretty impressive how close she and Brian still are after so much stress, and three kids, including twin babies.

In this book we find out that Lizzie has started to have the same dreams as her mum Sara and that they can actually see each other in the dreams, its pretty surreal. In this book they help a congressman who is tangled up with the mob. This book felt less realistic and was not quite as enjoyable as the previous two books which I enjoyed very much.

Book 4 – Dream Family

It’s not the authors fault but I really did not like the narrator of this book. I prefer to have the same narrator all the way through a series otherwise it can get confusing who the character are, as you get used to their voices. I really did not like the voice she did for the Paul Sorentino, and for Lizzie, her voice was so annoying I almost stopped listening, perhaps the narrator is new. It’s a shame because it is a powerful story, as something disturbing happens to Sara, and she struggles to cope. It is really hard to listen to her go through such a hard time in prison, as brief as it was. The whole book is about her recovery, and how her family help her through it. It turns out that her mother can also see other people’s dreams.

I have to admit that I found Sara and Brian even more unbelievable as characters in this book, how many people do you know that have been married for like 8-10 years, have 3 kids, work doctors hours and are as lovey dovey as teenagers? I don’t know anyone like that, it’s just not realistic.

Book 5 – Waking Dream

The family move into a new family home. Grace is part of the family now and acclimates surprisingly well. Through her dreams Sara sees a woman in a red dress sneaking into Brian’s dreams, but why and who is she? Sara realises her family are not the only one’s who have the ability to go into people’s dreams. Sara and Brian have no sex for almost 3 months, they are normal, I thought at first and then they go back to being love-struck teenagers again! This book is very surreal and new rules are made up about what she and others can do in the dreams.

Book 6 – Dream Reunion

Sara feels guilty for what happened in her dreams last time, but she moves on and goes to her college re-union. She dreams about her friend Joe, whom she thinks is going to do something bad to the family business. Sara and Brian, after 15 years of marriage and 5 children have their first argument, their first argument after 15 years, who are these people?

Book 7 – Dream Home

Sara and her family, including her parents, move into a new home in a small town. She gives up private practice and joins the local hospital, where it turns out she is not wanted, and she is not very popular. The book centres on Grace who is trying out for the lead part in the school play and has a huge crush. Sara befriends an elderly shop-owner who predicts that the town will soon be facing a earth-shattering snow-storm.

dream sequence books

If you enjoy fantasy, something a little different but also enjoy reading about university/medical school and doctors you will enjoy this series.

Competition

If you would like to be in with a chance to win the first three audiobooks in the series please enter via rafflecopter below. The winners will receive an audible code that, when entered into the check out will allow them to receive the first three books of the Dream Sequence – Dream Student, Dream Doctor and Dream Child. I have three audible codes to give-away courtesy of the author J.J. DiBenedetto.

Terms and Conditions of entry:

1. I will be accepting worldwide entries.
2. The prize on offer is an audible code which gives the winner a set of 3 books from the Dream Series (Dream Student, Dream Doctor and Dream Child), you will need to have either an audible or amazon account to use the code and there are 3 up for grabs.
3. The prize will be sent by myself via email to the winners.
4. You must enter using the Rafflecopter widget below and perform the task(s) correctly (for example, if you enter your email address to subscribe, ensure when you receive the confirmation email that you accept the subscription too), for each task completed you will gain more entries into the competition.
5. You must enter a valid email address into Rafflecopter so that you can be contacted if you are a winner.
6.This is a sponsored post, and the author “J.J. Dibenedetto” has provided the prizes.
7.The winner will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter after the closing date (6th October 2015), and the winners will be contacted via email and announced soon thereafter. If a winner does not respond within 14 days another winner shall be chosen. Check back to this page to see the winners, it will also be announced on my social media.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This is a sponsored post, I was provided with the audiobooks for free in exchange for my honest reviews.

13

Don’t read this…if you NEVER get bored!

If you never get bored, you don’t need this!

old books on bookshelf

I absolutely love to read, always have, from a young age when my mum used to drop me off at the library, go shopping, then come back for me. I always took the maximum amount of books home and read them all! The naughtiest girl in school was one of my early favourites. Then as a teen I moved onto Virginia Andrews and Point Horrors. Now as an adult I love reading everything from young adult (Twilight and Hunger Games) to chick lit (Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes) to Crime (Mo Hayder and Nikki French) to Comedy (Bill Bryson) and Romance (Maeve Binchy and Barbara Taylor-Bradford). My current novel was recommended by another blogger, something completely different “Clan of the Cave Bear” by Jean Auel. I read about 4-6 books a month at present, I fit this in around full-time work, blogging and parenting a toddler…but how do I manage to read so much with so little free time?

Continue reading

5

Nate at 3 years 3 months – Progress

A few stats first…

Weight: 3 stone

Height: 108cm

childrens height chart

Current favourites: Power Rangers, Big Hero 6, The Lion King, strawberry milk, yoghurts, pizza, the moon, going exploring.

Communication:

Nate has always been a big talker, he said his first word at 6 months and it just exploded from there. Now he talks incessantly about everything…and I love it! His phrase of the moment is “Did you know” and here are a few examples of his speech:

“Mummy just remember,(points to our car) that is my Batman-bill, and you musn’t break it, ok?”

“Mummy, I’ve noticed that you’ve been a good girl, so here, have a sticker.”

“You sing it slowly and I’ll sing it fastly.”

His letter recognition is improving slowly, he can sing the alphabet song very easily, and will recognise all of the letters in his name and a few odd letters like M in mummy and O and S in his friends’ names. He often says “Look mummy, that’s my letter”, he sees them on car number plates, signage, books and even on man-hole covers! I am (along with nursery) trying to help him learn the sounds of the letters in his name, as when they start school they teach through Phonics, which is all about breaking words down into their constituent sounds. So instead of saying “that’s en for Nate” I say “that’s nnnn for Nate”. I think it is helping because when we were reading before bed, a couple of nights ago, I asked him “how do you say that letter” he said “nnnnn”.

He loves to sing, which is fantastic as I do too. They teach him loads of songs at Nursery, which he will happy sing out loud at various times of the day, plus he picks up songs from movies pretty quickly. One of his favourite songs at the moment is “Roar” by Katy Perry, and he keeps making me play it in the car, all of the time, he knows all of the words to the chorus and is trying to learn the rest. A favourite movie at present is “The Lion King”, I put it on for the first time, a couple of weeks ago (a treasure from my past) and he instantly loved it, and like most 3 year olds now loves to watch it over and over again. He sings along to “I just can’t wait to be king” and “Hakuna Matata”, well we both do!

Physical

He has recently become more independent, and is quite happy to go off on his own in a play centre. Previously, one of us had to go with him, but now he feels comfortable enough to run off on his own, knowing that we are nearby. Which is lovely and sad at the same time, he doesn’t need me as much (so it makes me feel sad), but it is lovely to sit and watch.

safari play centre milton keynes

We potty-trained Nate over Christmas, so Nate had just turned 3 years old and he was obviously very ready because he had 3 accidents on the first day, 1 accident on the second day and then he was dry from then on, even including the excitement of Christmas day. Even though he was potty trained older than most of his peers, once he had it, it was cemented. I know of some who potty-trained earlier than Nate but still continue to have regular accidents. So, I guess I shouldn’t have been so worried that he was getting behind. He isn’t dry at night yet, but he is very close, because he wears pull ups and takes himself to the toilet in the middle of the night, plus he keeps asking to wear his pants in bed, so I don’t think it will be long.

Behaviour

Nate is a very well-behaved boy 90% of the time, but he is a 3 year old so he has his moments when he really tries my patience. I find the hardest parts of the day are the getting dressed and un-dressed, the beginning and end of the day. Those are more 50/50, sometimes he is happy and compliant, and other times he wants to do anything but get ready for bed.

Food

He eats a nice healthy breakfast, his favourites are Blueberry Shredded Wheat or Shreddies, his lunch is a nice mixture of fruit, veggies, cheese and yoghurt, however he will only eat ham or peanut butter sandwiches (on wholemeal bread at least), I wish I could vary that. However, my major bug-bear at present is what he eats at dinner time. He has become very fussy lately, refuses to eat things he used to eat (he previously ate Broccolli) and refuses to try anything new.

baby led weaningfeeding a baby

I have been reading a lot of fussy eating posts lately so I know I am in good company, worrying about this. Some of the things I am going to try include: smoothies, cupcakes and muffins with hidden veg, eating family style – BUT not until my damn fridge freezer gets fixed!

Some useful blog posts I read this week include Mum’s Days posts on healthy eating snacks, and Mini Yummers post on getting kids to eat more vegetables,

Sleep

He was sleeping fine and only waking up when he was sick or other rare occasions, however the last few weeks he has not wanted to go to bed and keeps getting up in the evening (not necessarily overnight), keep saying that he isn’t tired. I have been working on it though, so we will see what next week brings.

 Do you have a 3 year old? What are they like?

2

This week I’m…

Watching…House of Cards season one – my husband recently got me hooked on this weird politically show, starring Kevin Spacey. Every time I watch an episode though, I keep thinking, those two are freaks! Frank and Claire Underwood – they are so weird.

Reading…an actual book: Six Little Miracles by Janet Walton – I’m really enjoying this story about the first lady to have sextuplets. I know how hard it is just having one child, so having six, and then having six all at once – amazing! Audiobook: I am listening to A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, I am revisiting thie beloved book. I love Bill Bryson, he is so funny, I love his dry humour and sarcasm. Nate is reading lots of books, but our current fave is The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson.

daisies and tulips

Trying…I bought myself a Bento-style lunch box and will be trying to indulge in healthier snacks at work such as granola, yoghurt, nuts and fruit. I love the little sections and pots in this fab little box, it even comes with mini cutlery!

Cooking…tonight we had a pasta dish that I invented myself – Garlic chicken in pasta, onions and chicken soup. Tomorrow we will be having bangers and mash with roasted apples and onions (Jamie Oliver I think), plus a whole host of other veg and we will be serving it family style and letting Nate help himself. This idea came from Mummy McD, who also has a fussy 3 year old. I am hoping he will try a few new foods, but without me pressuring him.

Planning…our 10 year wedding anniversary is coming up, so I am planning something fun for me and the hubster. Obviously I won’t be going into detail as he often reads my blogs *waves at hubby*.

Going…this weekend we are going to try to go to the Natural History Museum in Tring, we also need to go to the Library to get some new books. Nate wants some more Julia Donaldson books, as we have read most of hers.

What will you be doing this week?

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6

How to Play with your Kids (a new way of thinking)

easter activities

I know how to play with my kids, you’re probably thinking, of course you do, but how about thinking of your this time, and not them, what is fun for you, what did you used to do?

It’s Good Friday tomorrow, a lovely long weekend ahead for those of us who work (outside of retail), and with typical British weather I was trying to think of some indoor activities to do with my son, and not just Easter related activities. We will hide eggs over the house and do some Easter crafts and baking, but 4 days is a lot of time to fill, so I was particularly inspired by a book I recently read called “The Happiness Project”, in which the author, in trying to come up with fun things to do she thinks back to her own childhood and what she used to find fun. She used to make a version of scrap-books – which actually sounds fun, although she called it a blank book – and I might give that a go – you just need blank paper, glue scissors, and a bunch of magazines, comics, catalogues, photos etc. stick in it the things that inspire you, which is sort of what we do with our blogs.

So I decided to have a little think about what I used to enjoy doing when I was a child as inspiration for playing with my son this long weekend, here is my list:

1. Writing stories and quizzes and I kept a diary – I always had a notebook in my hand as a child, my mum was forever groaning after the incessant questions I would ask them during my quiz sessions, and when we went to toy shops I would often just buy a notepad and pens – yeah weird I know!

2. I made paper airplanes – with a twist! My brother liked making paper airplanes, which was a bit boring for me, but to join in I made them too, but, in addition, I would cut out windows into the plane, and then cut out little people and animals and insert them into the windows so that the plane had passengers!

3. Building a den outside, or a home as I used to call it, we would collect all sorts of things from the area to make a home, used empty boxes, old pillows, sticks, flowers, old tires etc.

4. Playing board games – I loved and still love playing board games, sometimes my brother and I would play monopoly and then leave it overnight in my room and play the next day and keep going on and on with the same game for like a week, I think we must have made up our own rules for it to go on that long!

5. Radio stations – I had a tape recorder and would record myself having my own radio station, I would interview my brother and parents, I would sing the songs in between instead of playing real songs (I love singing) and would do all the talking about my day like a DJ does and it was all recorded onto tape. (It’s a little embarrassing to be sharing this with the world, but I was 7)!

Some of my activities are a bit old for my 3 year old, but I think he would love to make paper airplanes and maybe even add a twist to them like I did. I have never encouraged him to build a den before, but I am sure he would love it and we already play board games so that’s covered.

So my plan to incorporate into my Easter plans is Den Building and paper airplane making. What are yours? Do you remember any activities you loved to do as a child? Please share them!

1

My Reading Toddler!

So today, at bedtime, I was astounded, so much so that I had to video it for daddy, although second time round is never as good as the first.

I started reading “The Snortle Hunt” to my 3 year old, and as I said the first line…On a hill
Nate suddenly continued reading: …bumpy steepy, there’s a house scary creepy, and it’s said a Snortle lives there.
Mummy: Now nobody’s…
Nate: …been so nobody’s seen, and mouse whispers ‘come if you dare’.

It went on like this through the book, me with the occasional prompts and him reciting the book word for word. In the video it looks like he is reading, my 3 year old reading, of course he isn’t reading, he just remembers it, word for word!

Amaze-balls!