Saturday, 26 October 2019

Photo diary: week 43, project 365

The clocks are going back this Sunday, the weather keeps being abysmal, the skies are dreary and the days are so dark. Sounds pretty bleak.
Last week was a bit of a trial. Eddie's been off school for several days. It looks like the stomach bug makes rounds, as Sasha's school was closed on Friday due to a mass sickness.

The Cat that walks by himself...

Chez Maximka

On Monday Eddie's been so unwell, that I didn't take a single picture. He was sick through the night, and we were both exhausted from the lack of sleep.
A bit more cheerful the next day, he spent most of it in bed.

Our favourite "ghost house" in the neighbourhood, with the creepers in autumnal colours.

Chez Maximka

A window of the jeweller's shop on the way into town, with a shadow of a branch.

Chez Maximka

On Thursday Sash had his final respite stay of the month. Typically we have a pizza and a movie night with Eddie or go out, but he was still not well enough. He had some plain boring food to settle his stomach, and we watched Avengers: Endgame again.

Chez Maximka

On Friday Eddie went back to school. He must have being starving after several days of sickness, because he told me later that he had fish and chips, and then had seconds too, bless him.

Mum has picked a couple of roses in the garden and put them in a little vase in the kitchen.

Weather-wise, it's a totally miserable day today, it's been raining non-stop, in torrents. Yesterday I started reading a book, which I received for reviewing - The Iron Chariot by Stein Riverton. It's been voted the greatest Norwegian crime novel of all times. It's marvellously atmospheric.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Harry Potter gifts at Paladone

Harry Potter merch, Chez Maximka

There was a lot more to magic, as Harry quickly found out, than waving your wand and saying a few funny words.

Gifts inspired by JK Rowling's world of magic are selling like hot cakes. Wander around any gift shop, and you'll spot some merchandise based on the much-loved book and movie series.
Oxford, for example, boasts not one but three Harry Potter-themed shops. But if you cannot visit any shops dedicated to the wizard boy in person, do not despair.

Paladone, the UK's leading company for gift supplies, has a section devoted to the fans of Harry Potter - Harry Potter Merch - which is filled with truly magical gifts.

If you are looking for Christmas (or birthday) gifts for a Harry Potter and Wizarding World fan, Paladone offers a wide selection of gifts, from iconic mugs to gadget decals, from stationery sets to night lights.
The only problem you will encounter is deciding what to pick.

We were offered a £30 credit to choose anything from the Harry Potter range for the purposes of reviewing, and we found it quite a difficult task, as there were so many tempting goodies.

If you follow my blog, you might know that my younger son is a big Harry Potter fan. We have already bought lots of the Wizarding world gifts, like a Harry Potter costume, several wands, soft toys, LEGO sets, hats and scarves, pyjamas etc.

Eddie was thrilled to be able to add to his HP collection. We looked at six pages very carefully, comparing the merits of each gift, and finally, decided to order a Hogwarts backpack and a Hogwarts stationery set - both of which my son can take to school.

Ordering online is easy and straightforward. You will get a free delivery with any order of £30 and over.

Let's have a closer look at our choices.

Harry Potter gifts, Chez Maximka

Take magic with you anywhere you go with a Hogwarts backpack (£19.99). Carry your school books and pencil cases to your own "Hogwarts".
This nylon backpack is made in the Hogwarts colours and features an embroidered Hogwarts crest.
It has a PVC backing, metal zip pulls and is approximately 42cm in height. This spacious backpack is an officially licensed Harry Potter product.

Harry Potter merch, Chez Maximka, Christmas gifts

Eddie loves his new backpack. He can store all his school things inside.
It is instantly recognisable as a Harry Potter-themed product, and will make an excellent gift to fans of all ages.
Our only request to the makers of the backpack would be to make an external pocket for a bottle. There is a pocket on the back, but it is not shaped to hold a drinks bottle. Carrying a bottle inside the bag could be hazardous for any papers or books, in case a bottle is not leak-proof. Most of the school backpacks have a specially assigned outside pocket for a bottle.

Hogwarts gifts, Harry Potter gifts, Chez Maximka

Harry Potter gifts, Chez Maximka

Hogwarts Stationery Set (£9.99, currently on offer at £3.99) will delight any Harry Potter aficionado. It comes in an elegant and stylish case with a transparent lid.

Harry Potter gifts, Christmas gifts for Harry Potter fans, Chez Maximka

It includes a mini notebook, with a portrait of Dumbledore on the cover, three pencils with spells, an Obliviate eraser and a set of three giant sorting hat paperclips.

Harry Potter gifts, Chez Maximka

This set is perfect to use at school, or at home, and will make a lovely gift for any occasion.

Harry Potter gifts, Chez Maximka

Eddie was much taken by the pencils, as he enjoys sketching and is learning the basics of calligraphy. Sorting hat paperclips are my personal favourites.

Harry Potter gifts, Chez Maximka

When we browsed Paladone's Harry Potter section, we also loved the sight of Hedwig mini bell light jar, Hogwarts toiletries bag, gadget decals.

Last year I wrote a post Christmas gifts for Harry Potter & Fantastic Beasts fans, and two of the gifts featured in the gift guide - Harry Potter mini bell light jar and Harry Potter egg and cup set - could be also found at Paladone.

What would you choose?

Disclosure: As mentioned above, we received a £30 credit to spend on Harry Potter merch for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are our own.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Photo diary: week 42, project 365

And one more week has whooshed by, a bit more cheerful than the last one. My Mum arrived on Tuesday, and it's wonderful to see her. Hallowe'en decorations (and Christmas gifts) seem to dominate the shops.
The weather has been pretty abysmal though, it's been raining most days, and we were watching the levels of the river Windrush with a bit of anxiety, as it's prone to flooding.

Last Sunday was no different - rain, rain, rain, with a few sunny rays in between, when I managed to snap these wet cyclamens in the garden.

autumn garden, Chez Maximka

This is one of a few hazelnuts I managed to rescue before the greedy squirrel got to them. She is a total thug, biting off the hazelnuts and just throwing them on the ground, rather than taking what she needs to hide for winter.

autumn garden, Chez Maximka

Tuesday was a super busy day. My Mum was arriving later in the evening.
Thankfully, Sash was given an extra respite day this month, so I didn't have to worry about him. My husband was also arriving from Italy in the evening, so Eddie and I were going to Heathrow to meet my Mum.
By a very lucky coincidence, a friend was taking his cousin to the airport, and offered to take us there as well. We had to leave a bit earlier.
My Mum had a good flight.
Eddie took his backpack with him, with some snacks and a Marvel comics issue.

Chez Maximka

Of course, the first thing my Mum did the next day was to go in the garden and start pruning and chopping. Her strange reasoning is that since we pay for the green waste removal, we need to fill in the bin. I stopped arguing with her, she just does her own thing, and I let her be.

Eddie enjoys reading the Beast/Sea Quest series by Adam Blade. I've taken a photo of the stash he has in collection to use as a reminder on my iPhone what he's got already, in case I spot one of the books in the charity shops.

books for 9-year-old children

I love reading the #FolkloreThursday tweets. Every week there's a new theme, and last Thursday it was the theme of the underground/underworld.
I took a photo of my Mum's artwork. This is an illustration to the Russian folk tale The Mistress of the Copper Hill. She lives in the caves under ground, and lures the craftsmen with the precious rocks. While in her kingdom, they gain a great knowledge of rocks, but forget all about the world they left behind. This is a legend from my part of Russia - the Urals, and has been told by the writer Pavel Bazhov.
My Mum is an artist who works with the hot enamel. The paints she uses are the same as in porcelain. Each work goes in a special kiln to be treated by fire at 800C+.

Russian art, Russian enamel, Lyudmila Kravchenko art

Rain has affected the water levels in the river. There was hardly any gap left under the bridge, as the water has risen.

Oxfordshire rivers

Yesterday Eddie and I were meeting friends at the playground, and walked past St Mary's Church, with its beautiful windows.

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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.


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 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.


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

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.


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.

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


Now that the winner got back to me, I can now announce their name.

Many thanks to everyone who has left comments, I have enjoyed reading all of them.
We selected the winner the old-fashioned way - a name picked from a hat by my younger son.
And - drumroll - the winner of the giveaway is

ANTHONY H! Big well done!

Hope you enjoyed answering the questions and reading what the other people said in comments. Please do come back for a 12 days of Chocmas giveaway, which will start on 1 December, and is becoming something of an annual event on my blog. I love choosing the chocolate bars and different bits and bobs to go with them.