Adventures in Tokyo – Japan

I’m not a travel writer at all but in a Twitter conversation the other day, we were discussing Japan and somebody requested that I write about it.  It’s been 10 years since I was last there but I’m sure most of the main places haven’t changed that much so I’m just going to show you some awesome places to check out and why I love them.

Tokyo is such an amazing place.  We spent 2 weeks there on two separate occasions and still didn’t see near half of what we wanted.

I have also added links to the various places if you want to find out more detailed information.

First let’s talk getting around.

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We used the subway system.  You can buy a day pass for a very reasonable price and use it to go anywhere in the zones.  The Tokyo subway is super efficient and always on time.  The trains are clean and well maintained and there are priority seats for disabled, elderly and pregnant women.  My main tip here would be to avoid using them during rush hour if possible.  Maybe leave a little later for you trip and come back before or after as it can get very crowded – like shoving people onto the trains to pack as many as possible.  There are stops within easy walking distance of most tourist places and the trains are very regular.

Food

Tokyo and surrounding districts is a food lover’s paradise.  You can find modern, western food chains here such as McDonald’s, Burger King etc but why would you want to?  Every street is littered with hole-in-the-wall vendors selling delicious ice-creams, waffles, crepes and traditional Japanese snacks.  There are restaurants galore offering all types of world cuisine but when in Japan, trying sushi, sashimi and other traditional dishes is a must.  You’ve not eaten sushi until you’ve had it Japan.  It’s so fresh and tasty.

Asakusa

Asakusa is one of my favourite places in Tokyo.  It is the home of the huge sensoji shrine, the oldest Buddhist temple in Tokyo (1373 years old).  People visiting the shrine will often waft the incense smoke over themselves in order to cure ailments and encourage wellness.

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The surrounding streets are filled with pretty market stalls selling handmade goods and souvenirs.  Great to wonder around slowly for a few hours.  Due to being bombed during the war, most of the buildings here are fairly modern however, unlike other areas of Tokyo, it is not as tall and over-shadowed by skyscrapers.  There are may traditional eateries here too.

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Harajuku

 

 

Harajuku is one of the funkiest districts in Tokyo.  Home to the Harijuku girls,  who dress in extravagant, manga style costumes and meet there, it’s a vibrant and funky place.  There are blasts of colour everywhere and it’s an amazing place to go shopping for funky clothing or nik naks.  You can also find the Kuwaii (cute) monster cafe here too for a whimsical food experience.

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Odaiba (Tokyo Bay)

Odaiba is a man-made island linked to main Tokyo by The Rainbow Bridge (that looks not too dissimilar to the Golden Gate bridge) and has it’s very own miniature statue of liberty.

It’s a modern development housing shopping malls, business parks and museums.  There’s a huge observation ferris wheel where you can see amazing views of Tokyo.  There’s also a convention centre where regular concerts take place.  (we missed the Foos last time ).  Great for shopping and some sight-seeing too, filled with restaurants and lots of museums.

Ueno Park

Ueno Park is by far my favourite place in Tokyo.  As a park itself it’s beautiful  If you can catch the cherry blossom around Easter time it’s colour is magnificent.  You can walk for hours through the park, there are many shrines, temples and museums to visit during this time.  That alone makes this an amazing attraction to visit but there’s the added bonus of it having the best zoo I have ever come across.

Ueno Zoo is an animals lover’s dream.  It is so clean and well looked after and home to some amazing animals.  The monkeys are really entertaining, you can watch the elephants meander around their paddocks, hear the big cats roar across the park and my personal favourite, relax with the otters twirling and swirling around their area.

 

Akihabara

Akihabara is also known as electric city.  It is a paradise for shoppers of gadgets and electricals where there’s always a bargain to be found.  It also houses endless shops selling manga, comics and anime. It’s also the go-to place for your more tacky and traditional souvenirs.  It can be a sensory nightmare with a lot of lights and different sounds around every corner you turn.

Shinjuku and Shibuya

I didn’t spend much time in these districts but in Shibuya you can visit the famous crossing that’s always shown on movies etc.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXtOdSgf6Ic

Shibuya crossing

These are both business and shopping districts with Shinjunku known as the ‘skyscraper district’.

 

Tokyo is full of so many more places to visit that I didn’t get to. There’s Tokyo tower, and since I last visited there is now Sky Tree Tower.  There are many castles, temples, themed cafes and museums too.  It’s an amazing place with amazing people and if you get the chance to go – I’d highly recommend it.

 

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Little things that can make a big difference to SEN children in the classroom

 

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DISCLAIMER

I’m not claiming to be an expert on all things SEN.  I’m not claiming to fully know and understand what each individual child with SEN wants, needs or prefers or that these strategies will work for all of them, all the time.  I’m aware that in a full classroom, some of these strategies can be difficult to manage or to compromise on with all children.  I also apologise if use a term/label that anybody is offended by – I have become increasingly aware that labels we are taught to use in schools are often not what the communities of disabled people want us to use.  I am also aware that different cultures and nationalities have different preferred terms for certain disorders etc.  I am willing to be corrected.

It’s likely that most things in this post are teaching the proverbial granny to suck proverbial eggs but I’m hoping if it reaches just one teacher/parent and offers a few ideas or supports just one child with a barrier to learing then it was worth writing.

Last year I was not in a full class for the first time in 18 years.  I was given a group of 14 junior aged children who were struggling to make academic progress in their classes due to behavioural, social, emotional or neurological barriers to their learning and often needed complete support.  All the children in my group had a SEN support plan and two were being assessed for EHC plans.

The first few months were a battle but as we slowly learned to work together, to listen to each other and what our boundaries were but what our limits weren’t, we made progress.  I have no wow stories of children who suddenly made 3 years progress and caught up to expected levels but we gained confidence, independence, mental and physical security and progress was made at a steady rate.

I have put together some of the more simple strategies I used and found worked well in my room.  It’s by no means all that I do in my classroom or a list that will transform everything but it’s a list of simple things that might help.

 

KNOW THE CHILD

First and foremost my biggest tip is to know the child.  Read the support plans, talk to parents, gather information from previous teachers and the SENDco but you’ll never get a picture of the child from all of that.  Speak to the children, ask them how they prefer things to be, what helps them learn etc.  Respond to what they show you in their emotions and behaviour.  Even when it’s not possible to give, acknowledge needs e.g. I understand that you would like this however at this moment it’s not possible because…….

As a school we began to use one-page profiles which gives supply teachers, classroom workers and anyone really – an overview of a child.  It is written in collaboration with the child, teacher, and their parents but can be read at a glance.

MOVEMENT IS IMPORTANT

All children need to move.  We have ridiculously high expectations of a young primary school child’s ability to sit still or focus for extremely longer periods of time, particularly when the subject does not hold a lot of interest for them.  Not one of my lovely children could sit with their bottom on a chair, have all four chair legs touching the ground and their two feet touching the floor at the same time.  They would tuck legs underneath themselves, hang partially off the chair and some would even have two feet on the seat and bounce (this last one I corrected as it’s not the safest).  I spent the first few weeks constantly correcting this until I realised that they just couldn’t stay that way.  Once I relaxed the rules, I found they worked, albeit in funny positions and not the ones promoted for the neatest writing but they were working. I now scowl at anyone coming into my room and forcing them to sit perfectly.  I also used a variety of wedges and wobble cushions which did help some children to centre themselves and receive stimulation without so much movement.

Children with motor skills difficulties, attachment difficulties, ADHD, ASD/ASC, and sensory needs need to move to enhance concentration and to stimulate!  My room was a tiny room with no room to move at all so I would allow a toilet trip, a move to put even the tiniest bit of paper in the bin, a stretch to borrow a rubber from another table even though there was one in sight and reach, a visit to me to show me something etc.  It may sound like chaos but it wasn’t.  The children moved when needed and this wasn’t really taken advantage of in general.

In the case of a child who was so worked up that day and needed bigger movements, I would send them on a job to another member of staff carrying something fairly heavy.  The staff member would be aware that often my children may turn up with an armful of atlases, resources etc so would accept them graciously.  They were often returned to me under the same circumstances.

Additionally, weather permitting, I would often do short lesson introductions or physical activities out for short periods of time.  Sometimes we would incorporate deep pressure movements of activities into the lesson.

Also, never stop a child from stimming (a repetative movement, usually expressed by autistic children/children with autism – I’ve seen this heavily debated on twitter and wish to offend nobody).  Stimming is a way of supporting the regulation of emotions, it is not specific to one emotion but it can sooth anxiety and a feeling of being overwhelemed or it can help to regulate excitement.  If it isn’t dangerouse then support and accept it.

IS YOUR CLASSROOM SENSORY FRIENDLY OR SENSORY OVERLOAD?

Working with my group gave me the perfect opportunity to try something out that I’ve always believed.  Classroom walls adorned with working walls, vocab and support material only reaches and benefits a small amount of children.

My new room had limited wall space anyway and with so many sensory and processing issues, I barely had display.  (Now, I can hear the gasps as you are reading  but bear with me).   Rather than plaster support material all over, making it difficult to locate, inviting distraction and confusion, I made individual table mats.  We had a jotter where we would put them. e.g. Childrne would have an A4 mat reminding them of conjunctions, adjectives, adverbs, contractions etc in front of them and easily accessible.  This really boosted independence and limited distraction.  If I was asked for this information, I could direct pupils immediately to their sheets.  I did the same with picture prompts for sentence writing, number strips for formation etc and topic word mats children may need for writing.

Additionally, I turned the lights on a lower setting and I often had a window open to make the room cool.  After chatting with the children they prefered this to a warm, bright room.  I closed my blinds, partially because I couldn’t compete with the window cleaners and grass cutters but it worked and if I forgot to do these things, the children would ask for them anyway.

Many children with specific learning difficulties prefer a coloured background on the whiteboard so I often changed it to black with white writing.  This was prefered by everyone.

PICK YOUR BATTLES

This does not mean ignore destructive behaviour.  It can become very overwhelming to have someone nagging and picking at you all day.  It’s a negative approach that often perpetuates a downward cycle for many SEN children.  I often look at my class and pick out a few key things that are the biggest barriers to learning and focus on these.  So yes, my cloakroom may not be the tidiest, I might not have the stillest children in school but several of my group managed the whole year without hurting a classmate or staff member (under my supervision), they remained in the lesson the majority of the time and they actually wanted to work.  I’m a firm believer in children cannot learn if the environment or their mental state is not correct and these are always my first battles to pick.

WHAT IS IT YOU ACTUALLY WANT?

So many times I’ve sent a child to the head teacher with a piece of work that is fabulous for them individually and so many times they’ve returned with a “well done but your writing could be better”.  Arghhh……  For some of my children writing is a physically painful and laborious task.  Writing neat is even harder and takes so much longer.  If I’ve asked my children to work on adjectives in their writing then that’s what I’m going to focus on in my feedback.  I will keep an eye on skills already embedded e.g. basic punctuation and simple word spellings but I’m not going to ruin that moment of glory over presentation.

I strongly believe, writers do not make beautifully handwritten first drafts, mathematicians do not write their numbers for calculations in perfect squared boxed.  Why should children?

PRAISE LIGHTLY AND SUBTLY

No I’ve not gone barking mad.  My children are the ones who probably need the most praise but here’s the thing.  They struggle with it so much and it can often then lead to a self-sabotage mode, tearing or destroying the work etc.  I will often just place a sticker onto a child quietly (if a child doesn’t like physical contact I often just pass it to them) and say “that’s for….” or I will say “I love your adjectives today.” and leave it there.  As confidence grows over time, children begin to share their achievements themselves or enjoy sharing their work but keeping it light and very specific really helps a lot of children.

 

ADVICE FOR THE TEACHERS OUT THERE

Don’t take it personally – it’s never meant to be

Start each lesson as new – As Elsa once said…..Let it go…..

Be prepared for it to go tits up!  Because it will, you’ll feel like crap and spend days wondering where you went wrong.  But, in the words on Chumbawumba…”You’ll get knocked down, but you’ll get up again….”

Practise self-care – I may not have the marking piles I used to but the time I spend delivering lessons is intense and I’m always on my toes.  It can be draining, especially when it goes pear-shaped e.g. full moon, wind, non-uniform day, school nurse, photgraph day, 3 months until Christmas etc.

 

I also apologise for any typing errors.  This was a long piece, my hands are cold and my eyes have lost the ability to see.  Feel free to point any out.

Love You Gone by Rona Halsall – Book Review

Published 15th November 2018

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Synopsis

I’ve tried to give information without any spoilers – any more plot reveal and it’s likely I would be giving things away.

Mel and Luke are about to embark on a weekend away in the Lakes with their two children.  Things have been tough in their relationship and they have hopes of repairing some damage while enjoying the fresh outdoors and a relaxing break to rekindle their love and passion from the early days.  As Mel is working over the weekend, Luke and the children travel to the cottage on Friday, Mel arrives late on Sunday evening to find evidence that her family were there, but no family!  And so it begins; the search for her beloved husband and children.  But things aren’t always what they seem.  Have the family become lost on walk, hurt or victims to something more sinister?

 

Review

I love a good twist and I love it even more when they just keep on coming.  This book satisfies that need.

The story is told in two narratives; Mel and Luke and switches between them at exactly the right moment to keep you hanging, but when you need to know what the other one is up to.  Initially, we see Luke’s perspective as he travels somewhere with his children and from the outset, you can feel there’s something sinister going on – you just don’t know what or why.

Halsall writes in such a way that makes you unsure what to believe from each character.  It makes you question your own thinking and keeps you changing your mind throughout most of the book.

A fast paced, heart stopping narrative takes you through a tangled web of deceit, lies, family matters, and much worse that all slowly and cleverly unravel throughout the book, bring the story to an explosive and unsuspected conclusion.

 

This book is a must if you are fans of Clare Mackintosh and C.L. Taylor or suspense novels.

 

 

Man In Red – Review of the children’s book by Tom Story

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Synopsis

Once upon a midnight dreary, a young girl spies a red suited man creeping around stealing from underneath the tree. A year passes by and the little girl waits to confront this mysterious, thieving man. Confrontation ensues along with some pie throwing and the little girl finds herself whisked away on a magical journey to learn just exactly what it is this man in red does. Can the little girl’s mind be changed or will she forever dislike and distrust the ‘Man in Red’?

Review

There’s nothing more likely to put me in the festive spirit than a wonderful Christmas story and ‘Man in Red’ by Tom Story really hit the spot. I desperately wanted to share this with my children but I held off….why? because it’s the perfect Christmas Eve read and I want to share it with them for the first time then. This beautifully illustrated, modern, mischievous twist on the classic Christmas story will engage children and adults alike. It will appeal to the child who fully believes or who is questioning the existence of the Man in Red.  Children will adore joining in with the rhyming couplets and I’m sure they’ll go back to this time and time again.

 

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You can purchase Man in Red for the bargain price of £5 from the link below

https://www.tomstorytime.com/product-page/man-in-red

Also check out Tom’s Storytime website – full of delightful stories to watch and share together.

https://www.tomstorytime.com/

Sunshine Blogger Part 2 – 2nd Nomination response

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A huge thank you to https://frasersfunhouse.com  for my nomination.  Drop in and check out the blog where you can find blogs about parenting, books and many other things.

I love being part of the blogging community, especially via Twitter.  It’s really supportive and I’ve discovered so many new blogs that I love to read as well as finding more and more confidence in my ability to write something that’s of interest to people.  Even if you aren’t a blogger yourself, it’s a great way of finding of filling 5 minutes here and there and finding different perspectives, new hobbies and interests or just people who have similar ideas to you.

  Here’s how it works……..

  • Thank the blogger who nominated them and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated them.
  • Nominate 11 other blogs and give them 11 new questions to answer.
  • Notify your nominees and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post

 

If you could choose a food to reflect your personality what would it be and why?

I’m like a French Stick 🙂 A bit crusty and prickly on the outside but totally light and fluffy on the inside.  I’m also filled with tonnes of calories.

What was the last movie that made you cry?

I cry at everything but it’s been a while since I watched a full film. I think it was

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Name four guests (dead or alive) you would invite to a dinner party

Okay… Family aside I’m going for…..

Ryan Reynolds – for the eye candy

Barak Obama – I’d love him to rule the UK

God – He needs a good talking to (I’m not religious so I’m not holding hope that he shows)

Harper Lee – I really want to know if she intended Go Set A Watchman to be published as I haven’t read it yet out of guilt

What was your favourite childhood book and why?

I loved The Hungry Catterpillar for the illustrations and the novelty of the holey pages.

Given the choice would you:

Eat nothing but Brussel Sprouts for the rest of your life

Streak through your town centre

I like sprouts but I drawn the line at nothing but sprouts so I’d have to streak

What’s the most random thing you’ve ever done

I’m random in my thoughts and ideas but I’m not usually random in my actions – I can’t think of anything to go with this at the minute…

What would you buy if you won a million pounds?

An extension on my house, round the world trip for the four of us….

What would be your dream job?

I love teaching but I’d love to be an actual, really real, established author

Who is your top celeb crush?

I have many – I used to have a big Cat Deely thing though but I’ve moved on.

What would be the one item you would save if your house was on fire?

Apart from my family or dog it would probably be my kindle of my first edition books

What’s the bravest thing you have ever done?

I’m not brave but it took a lot to put my blog out there.

 

My Questions for my nominations: 

Who is your favourite author?

Why do you blog?

What’s your idea of the perfect writing place?

How long have you been blogging?

What else do you enjoy doing – apart from blogging?

What would be your dream job?

Do you have any quirks? Do Tell!

What book character would you like to be and why?

What TV character would you like to be and why?

Any tips for new bloggers?

Any words of wisdom for life in general?

 

My Nominations are:

https://endastories.com/

https://ramblingsofaneuroticwriter.blogspot.com/

https://www.eefiesbeautifulmess.com/ 

http://lindavlind.dk/

http://cozystylist.com/

https://kateonthinice.com/

http://normalinnet.com/

https://alltimechelsea.com/

https://www.emilyaagaard.com/

http://www.baileyleah.com/

http://beentherewithkids.com/

Sunshine Blogger Award – Part 1

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I’m over the moon this week to have been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger award by two different bloggers so I’m starting with my nomination from https://theeczemama.com where you can find some great tips and advice on managing eczema and other allergies. Thank you so much for thinking of me.

I love being part of the blogging community, especially via Twitter.  It’s really supportive and I’ve discovered so many new blogs that I love to read as well as finding more and more confidence in my ability to write something that’s of interest to people.  Even if you aren’t a blogger yourself, it’s a great way of finding of filling 5 minutes here and there and finding different perspectives, new hobbies and interests or just people who have similar ideas to you.

  Here’s how it works……..

  • Thank the blogger who nominated them and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated them.
  • Nominate 11 other blogs and give them 11 new questions to answer.
  • Notify your nominees and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post

Questions from https://theeczemama.com

1. What goals do you have for your blog?

I just wanted my blog to exist initially.  Now I’m happy that people read it and more so, engage with the posts.  I do like the numbers but I’m more about the interaction and getting my writing out there.  So my goal is to continue this and to use it to fuel my confidence into writing a book.

2. What is your favorite social media platform?

I use Facebook in terms of personal life as it’s where most of my family and friends are but for blogging I find Twitter is the best place to connect with others.

3. What is the one post you want every one to see on your blog?

The Harry Potter one seems to be very popular but my first ever post is probably the most important to me – It’s was written out of frustration with the education system and how it manages children with HF autism (for want of a better term)

https://likeherdingcatsblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/am-i-asking-too-much/

4. What is your favorite book?

My all time favourite book is To Kill A Mocking Bird.  It has such a   powerful message told through an innocent perspective and sadly the message is still highly relevant today.

Me Before You is up there on my list too.  I just love the characters and the beautiful telling of the story.

Of Course I also love Harry Potter.

5. What made you start your blog?

I’ve always wanted to write.  I originally began two years ago with a post and then I never had the courage or time to pursue.  I’m currently on leave and decided to give it another go – I was so embarrassed about putting my writing out there that I kept it fairly anonymous to begin with and still do to an extent.

6. What is your writing process?

I’m a bit of a rebel.  When I get an idea I start a draft post so I don’t forget.  I often think a lot about my posts so when it comes to writing I kind of blast it out and make changes as I go along.  I don’t spend a long time re-working pieces unless I’m not happy with them.

7. Dogs or Cats?

I love both! I currently have a Labrador though.

8. Do you have a fandom Harry Potter, Star Wars, etc?

I’m not an extreme fangirl but I do love Harry Potter. I love my Loot Crate subscription and I do get a lot of merchandise for gifts (and sometimes for myself).

9. What is your favorite thing to do?

I love to read, meet friends and I have season tickets to the Newcastle Eagles Basketball team.

10. What blogging goal that you’ve achieved has made you feel the most accomplished?

100 followers was great yesterday but just receiving comments on my blog and seeing it shared has been great.  .

11. What is the best place you’ve ever visited?

It’s between Italy and Japan (very contrasting so I can’t choose) although I love Edinburgh too.

 

My Questions for my nominations: 

Who is your favourite author?

Why do you blog?

What’s your idea of the perfect writing place?

How long have you been blogging?

What else do you enjoy doing – apart from blogging?

What would be your dream job?

Do you have any quirks? Do Tell!

What book character would you like to be and why?

What TV character would you like to be and why?

Any tips for new bloggers?

Any words of wisdom for life in general?

 

I’ve nominated the following 11 bloggers to answer my questions if they wish to.

https://alwaysneedmorebooks.wordpress.com/

https://hannnahsbookshelf.wordpress.com/

http://lovelifelavish.com/

https://hidingbehindbooksblog.wordpress.com/

http://www.reflectionsfromme.com/

https://themommylady85.wordpress.com/

https://thebookwormcafeblog.wordpress.com/

https://keyslayy.wordpress.com/

https://sisterhoodbalancinghats.com/

https://thedharmadad.wordpress.com/

http://zooloosbookdiary.co.uk/

 

Book Review of The Woods Murder by Roy Lewis

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Synopsis

It’s difficult to write a detailed synopsis without giving things away.

Set in the late sixties (prior to DNA testing, mobile phones etc), The Woods Murder is the fast paced story of Inspector Crow of Scotland Yard and his quest to find a murderer.

Shortly after the horrific murder of 9-year-old Jenny Carson shocks an entire town, the body of local solicitor Charles Lendon (A womaniser and outsider disliked by many local people) is found with a skewer stabbed through his heart.  Already with their hands full, the local police reluctantly call in Inspector Crow and his team to assist in Lendon’s case.

The more Crow looks into the murder, the longer and more complicated the list of suspects become until reaching an intense climax close to the end.

Review

After the first few chapters I really wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book or not.  I struggled to find anything about the characters that I liked ( character rapport is really important for me) and I also found it difficult to shift my thinking into the era this book is set in.  But, I’m not one to give up on a book so quickly and I continued. And boy was I rewarded!  It didn’t take long (about chapter 6 or 7) until I became hooked.

Rather than rely on the fear factor, (although there is a particularly intense scene through the woods) Lewis goes for the suspense angle.  The Woods Murder reads like a good old-fashioned police drama, like the ones I remember watching with my grandparents on a Sunday afternoon.  You spend the whole book playing ‘who dun it?’ 

Through a variety of points of view, the story is told, weaving a web of potential suspects, each one as likely as the next.  It keeps you guessing right until the very end and each time you are sure you know who the murderer is, bam! – something changes your mind.

I also love the fact that it sticks to the story line.  There are no real sub stories of romance going on etc.  It means you can fully focus on the simple but thrilling crime drama.

It’s compulsive reading!

This is a recommended read for anyone who likes crime/police dramas. It’s the third in the Inspector Crow series and I’m definitely adding the first two to my TBR pile.

 

 

 

Book Review – Snowflakes at Lavender Bay by Sarah Bennett

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I loved the Butterfly Cove books, also written by Sarah Bennet and I really enjoyed reading Spring and Summer at lavender Bay so I was excited to receive an ARC copy from #netgalley to review.

Synopsis

Libby Stone has spent her entire life in lavender Bay.  Since her mother passed when she was a teen, Libby has worked alongside her father in their local chip shop whilst secretly nurturing dreams of turning it into a cafe when her father retires.

Owen Coburn is in lavender Bay for two reasons; one is to find some trace of his biological family after years in the foster system. The second is to look for property and building investments to add to his impressive portfolio.

Their first meeting ends in disaster with both characters showing a mutual dislike whilst  harbouring secret feelings about each other. As their lives become more involved through mutual friendships, can they put aside thier insecurities and often foolish pride to make things work?  Especially when an unplanned surprise is thrown in to the mix!

Review

After reading several thrillers recently I was ready for a warm and fuzzy read and this did not disappoint.  I love seasonal novels and this one is perfect for this time of year.  Not too Christmassy until the end but definitely has winter vibes.  Even the beautiful cover makes me want to curl up in my pyjamas with hot chocolate and a quilt to read.

I’m over the moon to see Libby get her turn as the main protagonist as I always felt hers would be the saddest story as she was the most insecure of the girls.  What enabled me to immerse in the story even more was the split point of view between Libby and her love interest Owen (who has made a brief appearance in the previous books).  Usually when reading I take a ride in one characters shoes, to the point of becoming that character, but in this case I was torn between the two of them.  The ending had me snivelling sad tears followed by happy tears too.

I’m sad that the series is coming to an end but I’m also hoping there a new one on the way from Sarah Bennett.

If you are looking for a light, uplifting wintry book then this is one for you.

The 20 Minute Challenge – The Beauty of Friends!

The rules:

1. In 20 minutes you are to create your post, including writing, checking, proofreading, editing and adding any images.
2. Mention the person who gave you the challenge and include a link to their website.
3. After 20 minutes you must publish what you have created.
4. You are free to write about any topic you choose.
5. Once you have done, you must choose three of your blogging friends to do the challenge, include links to their website.
6. Let your challenge nominees know via Twitter.
I was nominated to do this challenge by Linda V Lind over at Rocking the Spectrum.  Take a pop over and read her fabulous post about The Art of Receiving Compliments.
Many apologies for any errors and ramblings in this blog – 20 minutes is not very long !
My Friends…….
are a massive part of my life.  So much so, that when I was completing our adoption paperwork we had to create something called a network of support.  There are 10 of us in our close group and in the end I was asked to narrow it down, but I couldn’t.  In the end, ‘The Girls’ ended up in one box.
I was older before I gained my closest friends.  I moved away from home for university at 18 and then again when I finished university for a while meaning that I have left many friends behind.  In an ideal world we’d still all be in touch but apart from social media contact, the distance and life makes this difficult.  I finally found my set of friends when I settled and started working in a small primary school (later amalgamated with 2 others).  I met them all at work and although only three of us currently remain there, the friendships have outlasted.  We range from aged 38 to 60, we are in different stages of our lives e.g. young/older children, retirement, married/not married but it doesn’t matter.
It’s hard for all 10 of us to get together at the same time and it rarely happens but thanks to Whatsapp – we are in touch almost daily.
I have an extremely supportive husband, I don’t need my friends because they fill a gap from the perspective but here is what they give me.
They don’t judge!
At some point in our lives we have all needed a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand, a rant, a good laugh to cheer us up or just someone to get totally drunk with and let ourselves go without being judged.
They make me laugh!
We are a weird and wacky bunch.  On Saturday some of us went out for early Christmas cocktails and I cried with laughter most of the day.  Laughter really is the best medicine and for those few hours – any other crap in our lives was thrown out of the window.
We aren’t the same!
We are not at all similar in many ways.  We all have different perspectives on life, love, religion, books, TV etc but it doesn’t matter.  We embrace it and go with it. It makes us interesting and interested.
I trust them!
I’m not a trusting person and I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve been through phases where I would cancel outings and meets because I didn’t like how I looked or thought I wouldn’t be missed.  Whether it’s an age thing or I’ve just gained confidence, I know my friends are here to stay.  They aren’t bothered whether I’m wearing a designer outfit or my jeans and a t-shirt, they aren’t bothered by how much I weigh, what my hair may look like or my make up.  They don’t care if my house looks like Toys ‘R’ Us has exploded in it, or how clever I am.  For the first time I know I have friends for life!
I haven’t shown them any of blogs yet.  This si the first one I’m sharing with them in the hopes that they will know how much they mean to me.  To The Girls – I love you all!  And Thank You for returning it so beautifully.
3 Bloggers I nominate for this challenge are:
Mix It Up Linky

Lucy At Home UK parenting blogger

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#NaNoWriMo and me

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When I first saw this hashtag I got really excited (doesn’t take much).  Twitter was in a frenzy of excitement about it and I knew it was something to do with writing but no idea what.  With the help of my bloggy friends I discovered that it’s National Novel Writing Month.  A month where writers new and established alike pledge to complete a target of 50k words during the month of November.  I instantly wanted to join in but was hesitant due to the enormity of the word count.  I am not a full-time writer and although I am on leave from work currently, 50k words is a huge ask for someone who has barely written before.

Then I realised…….

The word count is not the point – for me.  I have my idea and a brief overview of my children’s book already planned out. I just don’t always have the motivation or dedicate the time to writing for longer periods.  To be honest, I’ve no idea how many words my book is even likely to be – I’m at about 500 currently.  I’m also don’t manage well if I place expectations on myself as failing to meet them makes me disappointed and I run the risk of becoming obsessive about word counts and time.

So I assertively decided…….

I am going to participate in #NaNoWriMo.  But I’m changing the rules to suit me because writing should be a pleasurable experience for me personally and not become stressful and another thing to beat myself up about.  I’m not working to a deadline to complete a book, I am writing because I always wanted to and I’ve finally got the courage to do so.

My pledge for #NaNoWriMo is:

I will try my best to write every weekday (weekends are for taming the kids and putting my best Mary Poppins face on) but I will not be annoyed and disappointed with myself if I can’t or simply don’t want to.

My book will move forward in progress this month.

I will use this as opportunity to develop a first draft and I will not be self destructive if it isn’t perfect or how I envisioned because it is a first draft.

Happy ~NaNoWriMo everyone x

DIY Daddy

Mission Mindfulness
Mix It Up Linky