Mr Thorne Does Phonics – App Review

Mr Thorne Does Phonics is one of a series of apps by Mr Thorne a primary school teacher who has produced numerous YouTube videos on the teaching of phonics, spellings and also various maths topics.

We downloaded Mr Thorne Does Phonics to the iPad to see what it was like.  The app contains all the Youtube videos relating to phonics sounds in one easy place, so you can just tap the sound you want to practice and the video plays.

Mr ThorneWhen I first showed 3 yr old Mister B the app, he was a little disappointed as he was expecting an app that he could be more interactive with by pressing the screen rather than just watching it.  It took some encouragement from big sister Miss M who sat watching them herself and repeated the sounds and words that Mr Thorne says.  Mister B being one who always copies his sister started saying the sounds too and got really into it, soon watching Mr Thorne himself and repeated the sounds that he heard.

mr thorne 1mr thorne 2

This is really good to get little ones practising phonics sounds and basic words.  All sounds and words are displayed clearly on the screen alongside a real life Mr Thorne who is pronouncing them.  Mister B is really starting to grasp his letter phonics and this is great for him to sit down with to listen and repeat.  When he’s in the right frame of mind he quite happily sits there copying the sounds – it’s so lovely to hear and you can really hear the enthusiasm in his voice.


For 6yr old Miss M who is becoming an increasingly confident reader, the one thing she struggles with is spellings.  Sometimes I’m amazed at how well she reads but then writes a story with quite poor spelling, she literally writes how she sounds it out.

Mr thorne spellbookMr Thorne’s Spellbook is a series of spelling tests, each of which consist of 10 spellings.  Miss M has sat quite happily trying these out and worked out that if she gets all ten right then she gets some items to display in the museum.  This helped motivate her into trying hard as she could see lots of empty museum shelves that needed filling and wanted to try and gain the rewards.

mr thorne 3I love this app for Miss M as it really does challenge her, we have a lot of apps on the iPad that are below her age, and although she loves to play, they don’t challenge her in anyway.  This is brilliant for spelling practice and is one area I really feel she lacks in.  The first level on this is perfect for her ability, she can easily get 7 or 8 correct but needs to repeat the other few.  There are two further levels concentrating on harder words that she has yet to reach.

Mr Thorne’s apps are simple, to the point and do the job they should – they teach children.  There are no gimmicks, the children learn straight away but in a fun way.   Obviously you need to have the child in the right mood to respond and react to the app but I can definitely say that these apps have been of benefit to my two, they’ve enjoyed them and continue to use them to this day.

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions and we received the app in order to write the review.

My Little Pony – A Canterlot Wedding – App Review

My Little Pony is a favourite with most little girls, and this latest App, A Canterlot Wedding is a lovely interactive storybook with activities that can be played over and over again.

My little pony app canterlot weddingThe story follows the preparation for the Royal Wedding.  Princess Celestia, the bride to be has allocated jobs to each of the ponies in Canterlot, but they need help to carry them out.

The images are bold and bright in this My Little Pony storybook, something Miss M really enjoyed looking at and listening to.  The word are written on each page, but also read out loud and you are prompted when to turn the page.  During the story, there are opportunities to help the ponies carry out their jobs, such as decorated the wedding cake, choosing the bridal outfit for Princess Celestia and picking flowers.

My little pony app picsMiss M really had fun going through the storybook with a smile on her face as she turned each page to see what came next.  I asked her opinion of the My Little Pony storybook at the end and she said “I loved it”.

I thought this was a lovely app, then many young girls would enjoy although I would say Miss M, at 6 is at the upper age range to enjoy this.  I think girls aged 3-6 years would really get the most out of this and go back to it again and again.

The app is available through iTunes and is currently half price, so now’s the time to buy a copy if you know a little girl that might like this.

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions and we received a free code in order to try out the app and write the review.

Giovanni Rana Fresh Filled Pasta – Review

Giovanni Rana have launched a new range of fresh filled pasta, the New Italian Indulgence range.  We as a family love pasta and have it for our meals several times a week.  In fact Giovanni Rana is in our fridge more often than not as I find it a really simple meal that takes just a few minutes to prepare, ideal for quick, easy dinners.  We love the spinach and ricotta tortelloni, so one of the new indulgence flavours really caught my eye as a more luxury, grown up version and fortunately we were sent some to try.

Giovanni Rana mainWe also received some of the simply Italian tortelloni filled with Italian cured ham and cheese which I tried out with the children.  Simple to cook, you just add to boiling water for 3-4 minutes.  I added some tomato passata for the children as can be seen in the pictures above and they gobbled this down without hesitation – a perfect after school meal ready in minutes that they enjoy.  With hectic evenings, after school clubs, swimming lessons etc, I find this great for busy lifestyles.

I couldn’t wait to try the Italian Indulgence large ravioli.  Filled with Crumbly Ricotta, shredded baby spinach and Mascarpone it sounded delicious.  After boiling, I added some green pesto and serve with rocket, all topped with freshly ground black pepper.  This proved to be as delicious as it sounded and I could have easily eaten more.  The flavours tasted more grown up than the more basic range and definitely a little indulgent!

Giovanni Rana Spinach fetaAll reviews are my own and my family’s opinions. We are not paid for reviews although we do receive the product to try out and enable us to write the review.

Ozeri Artesio Soft Touch Electric Pepper Grinder – Review

Ozeri Artesio Electric Pepper Grinder has a modern sleek feel to it and looks great on the dining table.  With it’s black and silver casing, it suits any table style and catches the eye of anyone looking for the condiments.  I love the shiny silver button you press and hold to activate the grinder, so easy to use and comfortable on your finger.

Ozeri pepper grinderTo fill the grinder required a simple turn of the top part against the lower part to unlock and then you can simply fill the bottom part with peppercorns.  Also inside the casing is a battery compartment requiring 4 AA batteries.  This seemed quite a lot but I guess that’s what gives the excellent grinding power with minimal effort.

Once reassembled you can select the coarseness of your pepper on the underside by turning the centre to adjust the ceramic grinding mechanism.  Then hey presto, it’s ready to go!

I have to say I’m a fan of black pepper on anything and everything savoury.  Not a meal goes by without me grabbing the grinder and adding pepper to my food.  So when I first tried the Ozeri Electric Pepper Grinder I was immediately won over.  A simple press of the button and I have freshly ground pepper on my food, so easy, no effort, I was really impressed by this.

Ozeri pepper grinder electric

I have some persistent numbness in a couple of my fingers which although not painful, can make things harder to do and so an electric pepper grinder is a really useful gadget that saves the effort on my hands.  Although the husband who doesn’t suffer the same is also converted to the electric grinder.

We both love the neutral, fresh design with it’s soft textured non slip grip, the beauty of which you can’t see any fingerprints after use!  It’s a strong, sturdy design and I do like to see the peppercorns inside the clear part so you know when to refill.  All in all a stylish, ergonomic, user friendly pepper grinder that requires minimal effort – a pleasure to use while cooking or when seasoning your meals.

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions. We are not paid for reviews although we do receive the product to try out and enable us to write the review.

A Night in with Friends!

Last Saturday I left my family and travelled 225 miles to meet up with nine other bloggers for the first time, all of whom I’ve chatted with online for the last year or so and got to know rather well but would it be the same in person?  Well I took the risk and said goodbye to my husband and children for the weekend. After a train journey full of sea views and sunshine, I finally arrived to a huge welcoming by everyone.  The lovely Eileen was our host and very kindly allowed her house to be the venue for the night and accommodated us all for the night.  It was like meeting a bunch of old friends, everyone got on, and there was a very pleasant atmosphere all evening.

Cotton on group L-R  Me – Fiona, Eileen, Mary, Anna, Pippa, Jenny, Zoe,Tina, Angela,Tami

As well as the great company, we were lucky to have the evening sponsored by some wonderful brands and got to try some new and interesting products for us to review.

We started off with some drinks, a lovely selection of wines from I Heart WINES, whose Prosecco was particularly appealing, a light crisp taste that was easy on the palate.  To add some interest we tried making some Bellini’s with Funkin White Peach Bellini Cocktail Mixer and found this to be the perfect combination, everyone enjoyed it, even the non drinkers with their non alcoholic wine.  We also had some frozen cocktails courtesy of My Cocktail and the rather limey flavoured Mojito tasted divine, out of the freezer is was quite slushy and proved the perfect fit for our Party Pieces pirate accessories!

Drink cotton onWe were lucky to have Domino’s deliver pizza and dessert for our evening meal, and to be fair,  pizza is one of my favourite takeaways!  With Domino’s not being my the one I usually try, I was keen to see what it was like.  Being vegetarian I had the choice of the cheese & tomato or vegetable supreme.  I do kind of prefer my pizzas plain but what really sold it to me was the golden finish to the cheese on the cheese & tomato.  I love anything well cooked, with a crispy finish and the cheese and tomato was just crying out to be eaten – it was delicious!

Dominos cotton onFor dessert we were fortunate to try the New Chocolate Twisted Doughballs, which were rather divine, something my children would be sure to love.  Moist dough twisted with Belgian chocolate inside and sprinkled with icing sugar is sure to be a hit.  This is a great dessert for sharing as it can easily be pulled into pieces.   Definitely worth a try!

I had a lovely weekend with friends getting to know them better and trying out new things.  I’ve definitely found a few brands in the future that I want to try, and gained some lovely friendships along the way.

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions. We are not paid for reviews although we do receive the product to try out and enable us to write the review.

Woolly and Tig Books – Review

Woolly and Tig has been a surprise hit with my two children since it started on television – they are absolutely glued to the programme and love Tig with her pet spider Woolly in their day to day adventures.

Woolly and Tig Night NightNight Night, Woolly is a delightful paperback book from Random House for young children.  The book is beautifully  made with each page being thick and sturdy.  With it’s rounded corners it looks smart and inviting, full of bold bright colours that little ones will love.  On the corner of each page is a little image of Woolly with the words “Lift me up…”, a simple but fun guide to turn the page which my two found fun.

The storyline is all about Tig overcoming her fear of the dark with Woolly by her side to help.  At first her parents give her a little lamp to glow through the night but then she sees shadows on the wall which turn out to be her sheep mobile.  Woolly shows her how to have fun making shadow puppet shows on the ceiling which becomes a fun thing to do and Tig forgets about her fear of the dark.

I love how all the Woolly and Tig stories follow an experience that many little ones face in life and then show them a way to overcome it.  Woolly the friendly spider is a big hit with my children.  They trust him and listen to his guidance with open ears and keep asking for a cuddly Woolly of their own.

Woolly and Tig Sticker bookThe Woolly and Tig Let’s Play Sticker Book is a glossy covered activity book, packed full of pages to colour, practice writing skills, counting and do observational puzzles.  There are also plenty of sticker pages in the centre which my two love, to be used across the pages of the book with some extra stickers to use how you want.

woolly and tig picsI think this activity book covers a good selection of things to do, all fun but incorporating hidden educational aspects.  This is ideal for preschoolers, giving them something to focus on and something to sit down and do with the aid of a parent.  My two both wanted to have a go, so Miss M took charge and did the harder activities but very kindly guided Mister B through the simpler ones encouraging him to have a go at tracing the letters.  She also helped him to place the stickers in the correct places.  Being big Woolly and Tig fans they loved it and in my opinion the sticker book is well thought out with a good variety of activities and of a nice quality.

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions. We are not paid for reviews although we do receive the product to try out and enable us to write the review.

Orion Children’s Books – Nanny Fox & Do you speak English Moon?

Orion books publish a wide range of books for children, something to appeal to all ages.  I’ve always found their books to be of an excellent quality so was delighted to try a couple of their picture books with my young children, aged 5 and 3.

Nanny fox orion books

Nanny Fox is a delightful picture book about a fox who befriends some chickens and ends up looking after them and protecting them from other foxes including his own family who he goes against.  The book is a nice length without being too long making it ideal to read to young children.  My two enjoying looking at the pictures as I read the story helping them to engage with the storyline and understand what was going on.  My little boy enjoyed pointing at things in the pictures and telling me what they were and they were both so pleased that the chicken’s didn’t get caught and eaten in the end.  The book displays lots of good messages about looking after others and caring for them and shows that friends can come from any background but still enjoy each others company.

do you speak english moon orion booksDo You Speak English Moon? is a hardback picture story book written by Francesca Simon (also author of the Horrid Henry books) and illustrated by Ben Cort.  This book is about a little boy asking questions to the moon to see if it does normal everyday things like he does.  It’s simplistic but has plenty to engage with.  For me the illustrations really make the book as they really encourage little minds to expand on the simple questions being asked to the moon.  There are lots of images that 3 yr old Mister B spotted that lit up his eyes like dinosaurs, pirates, big swirly ice creams giving us lots to talk about.  This book is written in a calming way so doesn’t over excite, making this an ideal bedtime reading book.  Perfect for my three year old – he loves it!

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions. We are not paid for reviews although we do receive the product to try out and enable us to write the review.

Ozeri Green Earth Frying Pan – Review

The Green Earth Pan by Ozeri has been a revelation to my kitchen.   I only use a pan like this once or twice a week but I have been so impressed by this, that I try to cook with it as much as I can.

ozeri frying panMy old pan definitely had seen better day’s but I could never have imagined the difference I got with Ozeri.  It’s a sturdy, heavy based pan with an elevated texture on the bottom that creates air pockets to distribute the heat through.  An immediate thing I noticed is that this pan is such a good heat conductor that you need it on a much lower heat than you first think, which is great for energy usage.  The bright, funky design is a winner and gives it a modern look. The other incredible bonus with this frying pan is the non stick surface.  Using a Greblon ceramic coating which is also scratch resistant, I found this to be amazing.

I cooked myself a courgette omelette in my Ozeri pan.  It was recommended to just give the pan a light brush of oil which I did.  The omelette was easy to manoeuvre in the pan, gliding from side to side without no signs of sticking.  This is a revelation to me – the non stick ability is amazing.

ozeri pan green earthI have been really impressed with the qualities of this Ozeri pan.  It does currently retail at £24.95 but I see this as an investment kitchen piece, one that will last and you will use over and over again.  I highly recommend it after trying it for the last week or two.  It is a high performing pan, that requires a medium heat and cooks quickly and evenly and best of all won’t stick, which for me equals less effort washing up – which can only be a bonus!

This is a 20cm pan but it is available in two larger sizes should you require a bigger pan.

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions. We are not paid for reviews although we do receive the product to try out and enable us to write the review.

Crosse & Blackwell 4Kids Monsters University Jelly Pots – Review

Crosse & Blackwell 4Kids Monsters University Jelly Pots are a new kids snack pot available in two flavours and are the same colours as the favourite characters from the film, Monster’s University.

crosse and blackwell jelly pots monster's universityWe received two Monster’s University jellies featuring Sulley, which is a bright blue blackcurrant flavour and two Mike, which is a green apple flavour jelly.  My two children were eager to try one of each and immediately were drawn to the characters on the top.

The first thing they noticed when they removed the outer cardboard wrapper was a fold up spoon.  They were so excited and couldn’t wait to use the special spoon to eat it with.  I personally think this is an excellent idea as it makes them a simple snack to easily put in a pack lunch or picnic without having to worry about spoons.

The Crosse & Blackwell jellies are made with real fruit juice and contain no artificial colours or preservatives.  The jelly appeared softer and more wobbly than traditional jelly although this made it easier to break up and simpler for little ones to eat.  I asked for their thoughts and got the reply “yummy in my tummy” from Miss M who rubbed her hand round in circles on her tummy as she spoke.  Mister B then copied his big sister insisting his was yummy in his tummy too.

crosse and blackwell jelly potsAfter tasting both flavours they both agreed that the apple flavour jelly pot one was nicer and if I was to buy any that is the one they would prefer.  I would definitely consider buying these for pack lunches as I like to vary what they have and these are ideal especially with the included spoon.  Great for picnics and days out too!

Also available are Toy Story fruit pots, something I will look out for so my children can try them – another great way to boost their healthy 5 fruit and veg a day!

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions. We are not paid for reviews although we do receive the product to try out and enable us to write the review.

Scooby Doo Trap Time Deluxe Mystery Machine – Review

Scooby Doo is one of my children’s favourite programmes and something that I used to watch as child.  It’s so nice to see it being enjoyed so many years later with the same enthusiastic viewing and excitement watching the latest adventure that Scooby Doo and the gang get up to int their mystery machine.

So when the latest version of the mystery machine, Scooby Doo Trap Time Deluxe Mystery Machine from Character Options arrived to be tested out – their eyes lit up eager to open the box and get stuck in.

Scooby Doo Trap Time Mystery machine playsetThe Scooby Doo Time Trap Mystery Machine Playset can be played with as just a vehicle or opens out to reveal traps to catch the monsters.  The top of the mystery machine unfolds along with both sides and the back which my two children loved unfolding.  Inside is a cage on a folding arm that you can move around.  The cage can be opened and closed to catch monsters inside.  There is also a net with two posts that you can attach and press a button to eject and the net flies out to land on top of a monster.

The first thing that both my children noticed and were a little disappointed at was that no figures are included with the mystery machine although they have now added this to their Christmas list to get some.  Once I explained that the figures come separately, they soon began to play using some other figures we had at home and let their imaginations take them on adventures with the mystery machine.

Scooby Doo Trap Time Mystery Machine playset characterMy children have had lots of fun playing with the Scooby Doo Time Trap playset, putting little figures in the front to drive the vehicle around, then opening up the back to catch the “baddies”.  They have played with it together, one sitting each side and it has really encouraged their imagination and allowed them to be creative in their play.  They love the fact it’s Scooby Doo and a vehicle they recognise from the programme.

The Mystery Machine is a plastic vehicle although does seem quite robust in it’s build so should last the rough and tumble of little hands playing with it.  I was a bit worried with all the hinges and doors to be opened but it looks like it has been designed to ensure they won’t easily break.  I think this would be great value for any little Scooby Doo fan – a toy sure to inspire and be played with in various ways.

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions. We are not paid for reviews although we do receive the product to try out and enable us to write the review.