Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Family Sharing & Home Cooking Degustabox

Have you noticed how suddenly the evenings are so dark and the mornings are much more chilly. October is a month for home cooking and comfort food - apple pies, stews, risottos, hearty pasta.

Family Sharing & Home Cooking is the theme of the current Degustabox.

This monthly food and drink subscription box is an excellent way to discover products which have only just appeared in the shops or those which might have been around for while, but you haven't had a chance to try them yet.
Thanks to Degustabox, I have found new favourites to add to our shopping list, including some products which I probably wouldn't have tried otherwise.

Each time the box arrives, it's a total surprise. You get a good selection of foods and drinks.
If you haven't tried Degustabox subscription box yet and would like to have a go, I have a whopping £7 off discount from your first box (and you can unsubscribe any time) - just use a code 8EVI8 when you place an order.

What did we receive in the Family Sharing & Home Cooking Degustabox? Let's have a look.

food box

Riso Gallo (£2.29) is our favourite brand of risotto rice. I'd say I always have a pack or two of Riso Gallo in our pantry. Perfect for making a creamy risotto for dinner, with whatever ingredients you fancy.
Riso Gallo brings you the best Italian risotto rice from the best rice fields in Italy. It has a plump stubby grain a high starch content, which helps to produce a creamy risotto, which still keeps a perfect bite.

best risotto rice in UK

I cooked a risotto with asparagus and rocket, and it was very tasty.

risotto recipe, Chez Maximka

If you enjoy authentic world flavours, pesto is a must in the kitchen supplies.
Epicure has a range of pesto inspired by the world cuisine.
You will receive one of Chermoula pesto/Zhoug pesto/Mojo Verde pesto/Chimichurri pesto (£2.99) in the box.
Pesto is not just for pasta. Try it spread over the garlic bread, make a marinade, or mix into cream cheese to make a tasty dip. The possibilities are endless.

We received a Zhoug pesto, which is a spicy sauce with coriander and green chilli.

world flavours pesto

If you're preparing a quick meal and need a burst of flavour, but no time for all the peeling and chopping malarkey, Very Lazy Garlic Paste (£1.85) will give you an instant garlic boost. Just squeeze the garlic paste in the dish you're cooking. Very convenient. It will keep up to 4 weeks in the fridge, once opened.


pantry

As always, there is a selection of snacks and treats.

Boka Cereal Bars (£0.79 per bar or £2 for a multipack of 4) are unique in having 4 green traffic lights - they are low in sugar, fat, salt and are under 100kcal. Great as a healthy snack in a lunch box or after sports. We received a Choco Mallow and Caramel cereal bars (96 and 89kcal).

snacks for after sports


Alpen Protein Bars Berries & Yogurt/Chocolate (£2.69 for a multipack of 5 bars) taste lovely, and are very convenient. You can eat them on the go, if you're in a hurry and don't have to stay at home for breakfast, or if you're feeling peckish when out and about.
Protein bars will keep you fuller for longer, and give the energy to get through the day.

CHUM Fruit Bites Berry/Peach (£0.79) are slowly baked to retain the vitamins, proteins and fibre. As they say, "100% wild, no fake stuff!". They contain no added sugar, are non-GMO, kosher, vegan, gluten free and provide 1 of 5 a day. No gumming agents were used to quicken the process, not dilute dilute sugar claims.
15% profits are donated to @wildaid.org to help save wild animals.

healthy fruit snacks, snacks for lunch box

Appy Kids Co Yummy Bakes (£1) are a lovely snack for kids' breakfast or lunch box. Made with real fruit, fortified with fibre and baked with wheat and oats.
No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, free from palm oil, these baked are sustainable for the planet.
Available from TJ Morris.

snacks without palm oil

Milkybar Buttons 30g (£0.55) are a popular choice with kids and adults alike. These tasty white chocolate buttons contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives.
You can scan the QR code on the pack to explore 80 Awesome Things to Do for inspiration and fun activities for the whole family.
My boys love Milkybar buttons, and conveniently there were two small bags for them.

white chocolate for kids

Hartley's is another brand, which my kids enjoy. Hartley's 3 Strawberry jelly pots (£0.55 per single pot) make a lovely little pudding at the end of a meal.

jelly


And moving onto drinks: there were two Lucozade Zero 1L bottles in Orange/Pink Lemonade flavours (£1.99).
Lucozade Zero Sugar is a sparkling sugar free juice drink with sweeteners.
Nutritional info: 9kcal and 1g sugar per 250ml.

zero sugar soft drinks

zero sugar soft drinks

And finally - Eisberg Alcohol Free Sparkling Rose (£4, available at Morrisons and Ocado) is a ripe and juicy sparkling rose with fruity notes of red cherry and strawberry. It is quite crisp.
At 33kcal per 125ml glass, it makes a lovely dinner drink for those who avoid alcohol for whatever reason.

non-alcoholic wine

Disclosure: We receive a monthly food box for the purposes of reviewing.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Finding Ruby by J.A. Higgins #BlogTour

psyhcological thriller, Chez Maximka


Finding Ruby by J.A.Higgins is the first in the Nell Montague mystery series. It is a tense, yet sensitively written psychological thriller, with the elements of the supernatural.

Nell Montague was only seven, when a 13-year-old girl named Ruby disappeared on a Halloween night. She was last seen in a company of a masked figure. Nell was the only witness.

Fast forward 23 years. Nell is living with her abusive partner Gary, and has a low-paid job. She is hoping for an elusive promotion.
Abandoned by her father when she was a child, and losing her Mum to cancer, Nell grew up lacking in confidence and craving for love. Her grandmother Elizabeth was all she had.

After her grandmother's death Nell is truly alone.
Her grief is palpable, her heart is in turmoil: "She had expected fear, despair, misery, but nothing had prepared her for the physical loss. Sounds were too loud, movement hurt her eyes, she was incapable of carrying out an action and on top of it was the continual quivering inside as if she were a volcano about to erupt."
Having lost the only person who truly loved her, she is bereft and fearful.

Her boyfriend Gary is a brute. As often happens with victims of a domestic abuse, Nell is forever walking on the eggshells, trying not to "provoke" her partner. She wants to leave him, but at the same time she is scared of loneliness, and finds excuses for him, hoping against any better judgment that he would amend his ways.

The meeting with the solicitor changes her life, as her grandma has left her two properties, giving her a gift of a financial independence.

At the same time, Nell is being followed around by a mysterious Austin whom she met at her grandma's funeral. What does he want from her?

Her vivid nightmares have clues to her past, and the tragedy which happened all those years ago.
"Escaping into the imagined life of her alter ego was something Nell seemed to be doing more and more,
When she was unhappy or panicky; when she was stressed or afraid..." In her mind she is Ruby, confident, self-assured, successful, everything Nell is not.

But there is another side to Ruby. The Ruby of the nightmares which haunt Nell.
"Napping in the afternoon often brought impossibly real dreams and the Ruby nightmare came at any time when she was particularly stressed".

While Nell is trying to adjust to a new life, another 13-year-old girl named Emily disappears.

Nell's nightmares turn into hallucinations, and she begins to think she might be losing her mind. Hoping to find some answers, she goes to a psychic, who tells her that two disappearances are connected. In order to find Emily, they might solve the mystery of Ruby's abduction.

Horrors of the past might be shoved in the furthest corner of your mind, and you might think they are locked away for good, but they have an uncanny ability to come back to the present.

Finding Ruby is an absorbing mystery story, a perfectly crafted thriller. It kept me reading into the night.
I can't wait for the next book in the series.

Possible triggers: child abduction, rape, domestic abuse.

Many thanks to J.A.Higgins, Silverwood and Rachel's Random Resources for my copy of the book!

This post is part of the blog tour for Finding Ruby.

psychological thriller

psychological thriller

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Sacrificing Starlight by David Pipe #BlogTour

fast-paced theriller, books set in Cornwall


Sacrificing Starlight by David Pipe is the most unnerving and gruesome book I've read in the last few years.

This is not a cosy mystery. It's unsettling, dark, unforgiving, and chilling.

Some of the graphic scenes are so disturbing and distressing, it makes your hair stand on end.
I struggled with this book, as the topic is very upsetting - exposing the highly organised paedophile ring, with the elements of satanism. I had to take a few "breaks" from reading, as the main theme is every parent's nightmare.

The book begins with a tragic scene of a child's body washed out on a Cornish beach. The little body tells a horrifying story of abuse.
DCI Hunter is transferred to Cornwall from the Metropolitan Police. His wife and child are missing, and he doesn't know if they are still alive.
Hunter is trying to expose the organised child abuse ring, and he cannot trust anyone. While getting closer and closer, he keeps getting sinister texts in regards to his little daughter.

Ben Trevelyan is another parent with a missing daughter. His little girl was abducted two years earlier. A war veteran, Trevelyan is merciless and patient, hunting for clues in search for his daughter.

Trevelyan is a ruthless anti-hero who embarks on a disturbing killing spree. I can understand his craving for revenge, but he takes too much pleasure in dispensing justice.

There is a lot of characters, and at first it's hard to follow disjointed chapters. In the old style books and plays you often see a list of characters - I definitely needed one to keep track of who is who, while reading this book, as I got confused by too many names.

As a narrative technique, it works. You're meant to be confused, not knowing who are the "good guys" in this book, if there are any.
The style of writing is abrupt, fragmented, presented in short, fast-paced chapters.

The world that the author depicts is dark and harrowing. The disturbing violence gets inside your head and haunts you. I felt like I need a brain bleach to erase the graphic images.

I'm not especially squeamish when it comes to a body count in books and films, but this book takes the carnage to the level of a gore-fest.



Potential triggers: murder, child abuse, organised crime/child trafficking, violence/torture scenes.

You can find out about the author at www.davidpipebook.com

Thank you to David Pipe, Widminster Books and Rachel's Random Resources for my copy of the book!

This review is part of blog tour.

books set in Cornwall

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Photo diary: week 41, project 365

It's a funny mix of Halloween and Christmas in the shops. We are so not ready for either of these events. I looked at the mince pies in Waitrose today, but decided it's still too early to indulge.

Eddie is my shopping companion, whether he likes it or not. Like many men, he gets bored with grocery shopping, and tries to amuse himself when he has a chance, like sitting among the toiler paper rolls. I told him that at £6.70, he is a real bargain.


Chez Maximka

On Monday I walked to Sainsbury's to get more trading cards for Eddie, but the promotion  has ended, drat.
More pics of St Mary's church, from a different angle, on the way to Sainsbury's.

Oxfordshire churches, Chez Maximka

Tuesday started like a shit difficult day. As of last week, Sash's meds have been increased, and he's not coping with that. If anything, his anxiety has gone up, not down, and since I'm the one who administers his meds, I'm the current point of annoyance for him.
I find it hard to see him so stressed, my poor boy.
I was on the verge of tears that morning, and after taking Eddie to school, decided I need just a mindless half an hour for myself, and went to one of the local cafes for a cup of latte and playing games on my iPhone and checking social media.

Witney

On the way home from school, it was raining, with bursts of sunshine, and we saw a rainbow.
I looked up at it, and made a wish for a calmer week for us all.
This is the second photo from Tuesday, but as I realised I don't have any photos for Thursday, I'm adding this one to the seven-pics round of the week.

Witney town centre

Having popped into the local Oxfam, I've spotted this vintage embroidered matchbox. Fancy that, embroidering matchboxes?!

vintage artefacts, vintage household items, vintage embroidery

Playing with my iPhone camera settings, this is a portrait stage setting, with a dramatic black background. Pretty good to hide a messy sofa, with one million cushions.


I guess you're never too old to go to the playground. It was raining earlier today, and the playground was wet, but we just had to stop by for 10 minutes on the way home from grocery shopping.



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Tuesday, 8 October 2019

9th blogversary giveaway (E: 16 October 2019)

This October my blog Chez Maximka is celebrating its 9th anniversary.
When I started writing it, it was a record of my newborn's milestones, mostly meant for my family and friends, as I didn't imagine anyone outside my close circle would be interested much in our life. I was proved wrong, as years later I have had visitors from all over the world.

The blog's themes are always fluctuating - from baby-related issues to product reviews, from food to books. At some point of its history it was more food-based than anything else, but in the last couple of years it's gone back to a bit of everything.

I will never call myself an influencer, in fact I dislike this word, as it's so pretentious. Yet it does give me a buzz when my readers come back to me to say they have read a book I reviewed, or tried my recipe. Yay!

To celebrate the 9th blogversary, I am offering my readers a 9-day-long giveaway of my favourite things.
If you've taken part in my yearly Chocmas giveaways, you might know the drill (and do not worry this giveaway is not a substitute for the chocolate one, Chocmas will be back in December).
If not, please read the T&Cs.

Every day I will offer you a surprise gift. These are all things that I personally love and enjoy.
For 9 days (= 9 years of my blog's life) I will be revealing a part of an overall prize, and each day there will be a new question.

As stipulated in the T&Cs below, the number of winners will depend on how many questions the first randomly selected winner will answer. If they answered all 9 questions, they get the whole lot. If they choose to answer less questions, they'll get less prizes, and the remaining part of the prize will go to the next randomly selected winner.

T&Cs:
The giveaway is open to the UK residents only.

Please leave your name or Twitter name in the comment if you login as Anon, or I will never know who commented.

There will be one or more winners, who will receive all the goodies appearing during the nine days of the giveaway. If the first winner has replied to all twelve questions, they will receive the whole lot.
If the first winner answered less questions, they will receive the prizes from those days only.
The remaining prizes will be allocated to the next winner(s).
I hope I don't have to send nine different packages though.

The more questions you answer, the bigger your prize will be.
Only one entry per person is allowed (per day).

If you missed a day, you will have a chance to catch up on any other day until the end of the giveaway, as long as it comes in a SEPARATE comment.

Please note, if you answer 9 questions in one comment, it will count as 1 entry.

For a Bonus entry, please visit my brand new Facebook page ChezMaximkaBlog and engage (leave a comment or like). Leave a separate comment to say that you did so, and leave your name (First name and letter of the surname is enough).

Once the winner is selected randomly, I will count their replies.
I will contact the winner, who will have 28 days to reply with their address details. 
All the prizes are provided by me, and are in no way sponsored by any brand.
This is my way of saying Thank you to my blog readers.

I will be posting the package(s) at my own cost.
If the winner's away when the parcel arrives and is not able to rearrange the redelivery, and if by some chance it is returned to me, please do not expect me to cover the cost of the postage again.
If that happens, the prize will be taken to the local food bank (foods) and charity shops (non-perishables).

I will send the packet by Royal Mail, tracked and to be signed for.

The giveaway will end on the 16th of October at midnight.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Now, what do we get on day 1?

Day 1:
I'm a huge fan of Cornishware, and have quite a few pieces in classic blue, and red stripes.

I'm very happy to offer you a 6oz red stripe mug from Cornishware as the 1st day prize.

Question 1: 
How was your summer? What's the best memory of the last summer for you? (for me the highlight of the summer was our trip to Cornwall)

giveaway prize, Chez Maximka

Day 2 (9 October): Now that you have a pretty mug, have a cup of tea.
Today's addition to the prize stash is an Earl Grey tea from Whittard. I love this tea, and buy it regularly.
Question no.2 (9 October): As we're on a topic of tea, how do you take yours? Black, with dairy or plant milk, lemon, sugar, honey, or spices?


Day 3 (10 October): Chocolate and tea are my favourite treats. I love dark chocolate, and was delighted to see that Waitrose has introduced a new line of dark chocolate bars.
Here are three different dark chocolate bars as a prize for the 3rd day - from Peru, Madagascar and Dominican republic.

Question 3: As my mind went blanc re: question to ask, I asked my son if he would help me with the question. He suggested using the question Cressida Cowell asked her audience last Saturday at the literary festival:
If you had any superpower, what would it be and why?

high percent cocoa solids dark chocolate, Chez Maximka

Day 4 (11 October): Reading is one of the greatest pleasures in life. I wanted to add a book or two to my prize, and then decided that you might enjoy choosing your own book.
I am adding a £5 gift card to spend at The Works. If you opt for their 3 for £5, you could get three paperbacks - whatever genre you like. (The books in the photo below are for the illustrative purpose only, the actual prize is the gift card.)

Question 4: What fictional character would you most like to meet and why?
(and if you're curious about my choice, I'd love to meet Brother Cadfael and talk about herbs, Crusades, monastic life and human nature)


Day 5 (12 October):
I love Moomins, always have loved them, since I first discovered them as a child. When I saw this pin in the bookshop, I knew I had to buy it for my giveaway.

Question 5:
What's your favourite childhood book?

Moomins, Chez Maximka

Day 6 (13 October):
Today's prize addition is more to do with my younger son's likes - he's crazy about Harry Potter ad Funko Pop figures.
Funko Pop Harry Potter key ring will look cute on any bag.

Question 6: What film or book character are you most similar to?
(I think I'm Moominmamma - a good cook, and a calming centre in a rather disorganised crazy household).

Harry Potter merch, Funko Pop Harry Potter

Day 7 (October 14):
L'Occitane is one of my favourite brands. Today's top-up prize is a selection of mini beauty products from L'Occitane.

Question 7: What's the best or worst purchase you've ever made?

(For me it would be a children's bed in a shape of a car. We saw it on Amazon, and my younger son begged me to get it. Once it arrived, it proved to be the most uncomfortable plastic monstrosity, narrow inside, with a very thin mattress. My son moves a lot in his sleep, and kept banging his head on the heavy plastic sides. He didn't last more than a couple of nights in it. That was such a waste of money.)

Chez Maximka

Day 8 (15 October): I can never resist pretty stationery. Give me notebooks, pens, pencils, stickers etc, and I'm on cloud nine.
Here are a few bits of stationery to add to the prize.

Question 8:
What book or film does always make you smile?

(For me, it's Gerald Durrell's My family and other animals. I've read it many times, it makes me smile every time).

Chez Maximka

Day 9 (October 16):
On the last day of the giveaway I'm offering you a mini bag from Seasalt. I like to use their small size bags instead of the gift wrapping. They are pretty and re-usable.

The last question: What takes up too much of your time?

(I confess: it's social media and books).

jute bags for shopping


Monday, 7 October 2019

Peppa Pig Electronic Learning Toys (review + giveaway E: 15 October 2019)

musical toys for kids, Peppa Pig toys, gifts for Christmas for preschoolers


As the sounds of a jolly tune ring out of Peppa's Laugh & Learn Laptop, I think of the not-so-faraway days when my boys used to watch Peppa Pig cartoons on TV and DVDs.
She was such a big part of their preschool and early school days. Gosh, she was almost a member of our family.
I do miss those days, as I secretly enjoyed the show as much as they did (that and Ben & Holly in the little kingdom too).
I liked the cheeky Peppa, her little brother George whose only word was Dino-saur, and their parents - a hopeless Daddy Pig and wise Mummy Pig.

Peppa's Laugh & Learn Laptop (SRP £19.99, available in Argos) is a colourful interactive musical toy, suitable for children aged 2 and over.
It has a portable carry handle and light-up screen.

Peppa pig toys, Chez Maximka

This toy is promoted as learning on the go.
As long as you're in your own space, like a car, you'll be fine. I wouldn't take it on a train or a bus, as it won't endear you to the general public.
Kids will love it though.

Peppa pig toys, Chez Maximka


The portable laptop offers four different activity modes to play, allowing your child to discover objects, colours, numbers and letters by pressing different buttons on the laptop.

First move the selector key.
Six keys at the bottom panel describe the object nearby, and Peppa Pig and her friends. Press the music keys to listen to some short fun songs.

Peppa pig electronic learning toys

During the quiz time Peppa is asking you to find something, and then the image lights up on the screen. Peppa asks questions about colours, objects, friends and counting or finding the first letter of a word.

Peppa Pig electronic learning toys, Chez Maximka

Peppa Pig electronic toys

To play music, press any inset key to listen to the piano notes, amusing silly sounds will come when you press the character, and the instruments will give you musical tunes.

To stop the music, close down the lid and the laptop is sent into the Sleep mode.
I would also like to add that a volume control button would be welcome, as the sounds and music are pretty loud.

This product requires 3 AAA batteries. The toy comes supplied with the batteries, but they're for demonstration purpose only, and won't last long.

The screen and handle are quite chunky and easy to use by pre-schoolers.

Peppa Pig toys, Chez Maximka

If you're thinking of what to get your Peppa Pig-loving tot for Christmas, you might want to consider either of the two toys I'm reviewing today.

Peppa Pig electronic toys, Chez Maximka


Peppa Pig Count with Peppa (SRP £19.99, available in Argos) is another electronic learning toy for children aged 2+.
Your tots will have fun, learning about numbers, counting, colours and shapes with Peppa.
Peppa greets you with a message: "Hello, shall we learn to count together?"
She is very clever, that Peppa - you put colourful coins in her purse, and Peppa recognises each coin.
She also asks questions - and then your child has to find the right coin.

electronic learning toys, Peppa pig toys


The switch at the back has a low/high volume control. The battery compartment is at the back as well.

Peppa pig electronic toys

There is a Mode selector switch on the side, which allows you to choose either a Numbers or Colours mode.
To preserve battery life, Peppa will automatically power-down after approximately 45 seconds without input. Just press any button to turn the unit on again.

Peppa pig electronic toys, Chez Maximka


How to play:
Once the unit is switched on, Peppa will ask you to learn together. Insert any coin in the yellow slot of Peppa's purple purse.
Slide the selector button on the side to choose either Counting and Numbers or Colours and Objects.

To retrieve the coins, simply pull open the purse.

Peppa Pig electronic toys, Chez Maximka

Peppa sets different tasks in different modes, for example, she could ask you to insert a certain amount of coins in her purse, or find a number or a coin with a certain amount of objects.

Peppa Pig electronic toys, Chez Maximka


If your child is hesitating, they will hear an encouraging phrase. If you make a mistake, Peppa will ask a new question.

Peppa Pig toys, counting toys


And if you're not in a learning mood, Peppa will be happy to sing one of her three songs.

electronic toys for preschoolers, Peppa Pig toys


If you like the sound of these electronic toys, I have a super giveaway for you.

One of my lucky blog readers will win a Peppa Pig Count with Peppa toy.


T&Cs:
The giveaway is open to the UK residents only.
The prize is kindly provided by Provence PR, and they will dispatch the prize to the winner. I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.
Please enter using the Rafflecopter form below.
The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by email, Twitter or Facebook.
If no response is received within 7 days, Chez Maximka reserves the right to select an alternative winner.
Open to all entrants aged 18 and over.
Any personal data given as part of the giveaway is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with 3rd parties, with the exception of the winner's information.
This will be passed to Provence PR and used for the fulfilment of the prize, after which all the data will be deleted.
Please do not forget to leave the comment, as it's the only mandatory step. 
Bonus points are awarded for the Facebook entry (i.e. leaving a comment, or liking etc)
Giveaway ends on 15 October 2019.

Good luck!





a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Photo diary: week 40, project 365

On the days like today, when the rain ceases its onslaught, you feel a joyous bounce in your step. Especially when you're accompanied by two enthusiastic youngsters.
I don't often meet fellow bloggers, and never go to the blogging events, for many reasons, mainly that nothing happens in our neck of the woods, and London venues are a bit too far for me to travel. Plus organising the childcare is also tricky.
But this week I was lucky to meet two of my blogging friends - Anca and Mary.

Last Sunday was cool and wet, and as we were walking pass the playground, Eddie asked me to stop by just for five minutes. It stopped drizzling by then, but still was pretty wet.
It didn't discourage my child at all.

Chez Maximka, lifestyle blog

Monday was a mixed bag. I had to go to Oxford to meet with Sash's mental health team to discuss his increased anxiety and medication. We arrived to Oxford a bit early, and had a quick coffee in one of the Summertown cafes before travelling further across the town. The pastries looked so tasty.

After the meeting with the CAMHs, I got back into the town centre to meet Anca from Anca's Lifestyle blog. I enjoy reading her blog, but we haven't met before.
I'm glad Anca is studying part-time in Oxford now, so hopefully we'll be able to see each other again.


Oxford cafes

 Sometimes I arrive to Eddie's school a bit early, and as I don't like to stand waiting outside the gate, I pop in the nearest charity shop.
Last time I visited I spotted these two vintage photos of ladies. My guess these are the Edwardian rather than Victorian fashions.

Victorian fashions, Chez Maximka

Most of the autumnal crocuses were flattened by the rain in our garden, yet these two were still standing straight. Such a beautiful colour.

autumn garden, Chez Maximka

On Thursday we didn't have to hurry home after school to meet Sash, as it was his respite stay. We haven't been in the Shake shop in a while, and Eddie enjoyed his strawberry and whipped cream shake. A pity the vintage jukebox was not operating.
In the evening we ordered two pizzas from Domino's and watched Infinity Wars (again!).

Witney cafes

An Inset day at Eddie's school, while Sash had a full day at his school. We went to have lunch at Huffkins. We used to frequent it, when Sash was little as he loved their carrot cake and eclairs, but I think we haven't been there in the last couple of years.


Today we had an early start as we were going to the Cheltenham Literary Festival to the Dragons and Wizards event by Cressida Cowell, the author of the super popular How to train your dragon series as well as Wizards of Once.
We've only just finished reading Wizards of Once, book 3, yesterday.
Eddie drew a picture of Toothless for Cressida.

She was very gracious. There was a huge queue waiting to have their books signed. We waited for over 45 minutes, and the queue behind us was even longer. Cressida spoke to each child, signed books and posed for the photos. If I had to smile 500 times, I'd scream like a banshee.

My child is happy with his signed book. He also gave his drawing to Cressida, and she was kind to say lovely things about it.

This wonderful trip wouldn't have happened to us without a friend's help - Mary aka Over40andMumtoone - has kindly given us a lift to Cheltenham and then back home.
Our boys had a good giggle together. I wish we lived closer to meet up more often than once in a few years.

We loved Cressida's suggestion to have a Free Writing Friday in schools, when kids are encouraged to write for just a quarter of an hour, just as a creative exercise, without a fear of being criticised and marked by teachers.



Chelthenham festival, Chez Maximka


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