30 October 2013

Competition! Win an Usborne Activities Royal Doll's House Sticker Book!

Win this fabulous Royal Doll's House Sticker Book:

"This magnificent house is the home of a prince and princess and their small baby. You can take a tour of the garden and the rooms inside their house. Help to arrange everything, to make the family as comfortable as possible."

This Usborne book comes with over 200 stickers for hours of fun! My daughter, Charis, who is 9 next week has given me strict instructions to buy this book as a present as she loved the 1920s and Edwardian fashion sticker dolly books that we reviewed recently. 

The competition will run from 31st October to 13th November 2013. To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is scroll down to the Rafflecopter entry form and complete four tasks - tweet about the competition (optional), like the Librarian Girl Facebook page (optional), follow Librarian Girl via Google Friend Connect if you haven't done so already (mandatory) and comment on this post what you like most about Usborne Books (mandatory). The lucky winner will be announced on Thursday 14th November 2013.

Thank you to Usborne Books for enabling me to run this competition. Good luck!



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14 September 2013

Review: Usborne Party Cakes to Bake and Decorate

Received a call from my three year old great niece, Fearne, one summer afternoon saying she was at a loose end and would Charis and I like to hook up with her. We said, of course and asked if she'd like to help us bake a cake from the delightful Usborne Party Cakes to Bake and Decorate book. 

Charis chose this strawberry hearts cake from the book. After shopping for ingredients, we rolled up our sleeves, donned pinnies and happily set to work.

The book boasts a whole host of amazing party cakes and cupcakes to wow your guests such as a chocolate cake decorated with pastel coloured marshmallows and another edged with chocolate finger biscuits that we are eager to try. The instructions were clear and easy to follow. We were also impressed with the pages showing how to decorate your cakes with cool paper decorations such as flags on a string and star shaped cake toppers. Even how to make confetti for the table. The book is full of great ideas and I'm looking forward to baking a cake for Charis's 9th birthday in November. 

Fearne getting stuck in. Bless her, she loved making the cake and enjoyed following the instructions, asking 'what's next? What's next?'

Here's the finished result. As you can see, the strawberry jam hearts didn't quite go to plan, but it was tasty all the same. The baking times in the book were spot on - no soggy bottom - and the pink icing was delicious. 

Top marks for Usborne once again. I love the style of their activity books, the beautiful illustrations and clear instructions. Usborne is a lovely, fabulous quality brand.

A tip on how to perfect those jam hearts from good old Pinterest. The jam was too runny to create dots on the cake from a teaspoon prior to running a cocktail stick through them to make the hearts. I will definitely try out an icing syringe next time. 


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30 Day Fashion Challenge: Day 4

30 Day Fashion Challenge - Day 4: Wear a Dress

Very excited about Autumn, I think because I can indulge in my interest in French fashion and wear lots of black and grey, scarves, boots and leather and things. 

Wearing a 1940s sweetheart neckline dress by Oasis that shows a hell of a lot of cleavage, which is ok for a dinner date or night on the town, but not really for a mooch round the Saturday market hence the biker jacket. 

Looking forward to cosy nights in, making soups and hearty meals, Autumn walks, rainy days and dare I say it, preparing for Christmas. Have already started buying gifts for my many great nieces and nephews. Determined to be super organised this year!

Outfit: Oasis jersey dress, Mango leather jacket, vintage Marks and Spencer necklace, shoes by Primark. 

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19 August 2013

Classics Spin #3. And the number is....

...number 4. I'll be reading Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan. 

I'd hoped for number 3 as I'm currently reading War and Peace, but I'm lucky Bonjour Tristesse is a short novel so it's worked out well. 

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17 August 2013

Classics Spin #3

I've decided to have a go at Classics Club Spin number 3. I am to list 20 books from my challenge list here by Monday 21st August, five I'm dreading/hesitant to read, five I can't wait to read, five I'm neutral about and a five free choice. On Monday the moderators at Classics Club will pick a number between 1 and 20 and the book assigned to that number on my list is the one I will be challenged to read by October 1st 2013.

Five I'm hesitant to read:
1. Watership Down by Richard Adams
2. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 
3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy 
4. Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan
5. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett  

Five I can't wait to read:
6.  The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
7. The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
8. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy 
9. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain 
10. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing 

Five I'm neutral about (don't ask me why. I'm sure I'll be pleasantly surprised by them):
11. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
12. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
13. Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky
14. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe 
15. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque 

My five free choice - children's classics:
16. The silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
17. Heidi by Johanna Spyri
18. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
19. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame 
20. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I'm hoping Classics Club will choose number 3 as I'm reading War and Peace at the moment and loving every page. 

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Classics Spin #2 Review: Fahrenheit 451

You may remember in May I pledged to read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury as part of the Classics Spin #2 in May. (Six was the magic number picked by the Classics team). I can't believe it's taken so long for me to post my review, especially as I finished the slim book and wrote a review in a notebook in May. Honestly.

Here is the book, borrowed from the school library. For ages I thought it was a depiction of a horse. What I thought was its long, golden mane are flames of fire.

A nice message waiting for me as I opened the book made me smile:

Goodreads synopsis: Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires ...
The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning ... along with the houses in which they were hidden.
Guy Montag enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames ... never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid.
Then he met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think ... and Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do!

A strange story that left me feeling uncomfortable. Uneasy. Although I did enjoy Bradbury's succinct, poetic writing style.

Bradbury depicts a horrible world that is much too fast and devoid of culture for my liking. Cars that travel so fast along the highway no one dares to cross the road.  Billboards 200m long so speeding motorists don't miss their messages. A world where books are banned and Shakespeare plays are adapted to 5 minute long TV shows. Firemen start fires. Hoses pump out kerosene. Their job: to put out libraries. No one is allowed to think, no free thinkers in this world. Everything goes so fast you don't have time to think, your mind is numb thanks to the constant stream of media stimulation wherever you go. A world where floor-to-ceiling TV panels are installed on each wall in your living space and they are constantly on. The actors on the screen aren't actors, they are your 'family', programmed to 'talk' to you and like a good brainwashed citizen you buy into that. (Picture a world where Phil Mitchell is your actual uncle. Nice). At night you drift off to sleep whilst listening to radio via seashells placed in your ears. No peace and quiet. People find they no longer remember anything of importance and are unaware of what is going on in the world. Anniversaries are forgotten and atomic wars are waged in the space of 5 minutes (against who no one knows).

It fried my brain.

Anyone caught displaying signs of free thinking or engaging in their surroundings, i.e. taking walks in nature, are sent to a shrink. Anyone caught reading or hoarding books receive a menacing visit from the Fire Department...

"A book is a loaded gun in the house next door...who knows who might be the target of the well read man."

I will not forget the mechanical hound or the image of Captain Beatty at the wheel of the Salamander that brought to mind comic book villains. I kept thinking how well the book would work as a graphic novel.

Imagine a world without stories. Culture sustains us, feeds the soul. Take it away and you are left with unhappy, empty, suicidal people. Such is Bradbury's world. I feel depression setting in as I recall reading the book. It reminds me of how culture brought moments of pleasure to prisoners in the ghetto concentration camps. It is a necessity in life, not a luxury. I kept waiting for Bradbury's world to crash and burn and start over at a slower, more natural pace.

First published in Great Britain in 1954, elements of Fahrenheit 451 and its dystopian future are evident in our world today. Except cigarette smoking - there'd be none of that on the scale as seen in the book (I don't know anyone who smokes indoors anymore) - and that's a good thing. 

Glynis's review:

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6 August 2013

Review: Usborne Sticker Dolly Dressing Book

Charis and I are fans of Usborne books and were delighted to be sent this lovely Edwardian Fashion sticker dolly dressing book to review. 

The book briefly describes the Edwardian era in Europe and there are several dolls, with gorgeous names such as Cecily and Pearl, to dress up using the 160 stickers provided. We removed the sticker section from the centre of the book and couldn't wait to clothe Henry and Cordelia at their boat race outing, Aunt Esther and family at the British seaside, Marie and Viola at Poiret's party plus many other scenarios typical of the era for the elegant, well-to-do set. 

Exotic outfits 

Charis found the reusable stickers easy to peel and place on the dolls and she learned a lot about the costume of the era as she played away. It's easy to know where to place the stickers as each comes with a little instruction. Charis was curious about the various fashions beautifully illustrated in the book and, having studied costume and fashion history at university, I enjoyed answering her questions, such as 'mum, what's an empire line?', 'did they really use actual bone to make fancy hair combs?', 'what are plus-fours?', 'why are they wearing tights on the beach!'

More elegant outfits with easy to follow instructions

Easy to position, reusable stickers

It's interesting to see the numerous styles of clothing prevalent during the Belle Epoque: tweed sportswear for golfing and motoring, wide-brimmed ladies' hats, the classic striped blazer and straw boater, exotic oriental inspired fashion by designer Paul Poiret, Art Nouveau inspired clothing, outfits for ballroom dancing, a day at the races and so on. The book also explains how the First World War brought changes to fashion.

The colourful illustrations perfectly capture the elegant style of the period and make it interesting and accessible to children. 8 year old Charis can sometimes close her mind to historical subjects, no matter how interesting, brushing them off with an 'ugh, mum, it's old fashioned!' comment. But not so the content of this lovely activity book. Incorporating a hands-on approach using stickers and a section to decorate your own clothes is a great way to invite children to learn whilst they play. 

Charis at work dressing the dolls

Marie wearing an oriental themed outfit

Charis's Littlest Pets joined in the fun

Charis enjoyed painstakingly dressing the dolls and afterwards told me what she had learned about the fashion of the era. 

She loved that each doll has a name and her favourite was Hattie because she looks like a female Harry Potter:

Meet Hattie Potter!

We now want to look out for more Usborne sticker dolly dressing books. The 1930s and '40s especially - my favourite fashion eras. 

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2 August 2013

30 Day Fashion Challenge. Day Three: Denim With Style

30 Day Fashion Challenge

Today's theme is 'denim with style'. I'm into 'cuffed' skinny jeans at the moment.

I have my heart set on a 50mm f1.2 lens for my Canon camera so I can achieve cool blurred bokeh backgrounds. Unfortunately I can't justify spending a grand on a lens so this photo was manipulated using an iPad app. One day I will have high quality blog photos! 

Outfit: Red Herring Top, Topshop Jeans, Moda in Pelle heels, no name necklace.

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1 August 2013

30 Day Fashion Challenge. Day Two: 'Think Pink'

The theme for today's fashion challenge is 'think pink'.

I don't have many pink items so decided to wear this pink floral summer dress for a lunch date with a friend. Perfect for alfresco dining. 

What would you choose to wear for today's fashion theme?

Outfit: Warehouse dress, Mango denim shirt, Red Herring heels, Accessorize necklace

Tip: here's how to style your sleeves:


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31 July 2013

30 Day Fashion Challenge. Day One: Arm Candy

I've set myself a 30 day summer fashion challenge.

The theme for day one is 'Arm Candy'. I chose to wear a coral bracelet from my friend's shop, Rivalees.

Pictured with my current read: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
Outfit: Top by M&Co, Topshop skinny jeans, shoes by Michael Kors at Daniel Footwear, shellac nails by Beauty Benefits.

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