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The life and times of a home schooling mom of se7en + 1.

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Turns Out 2017 Was a Good Year for Learning… A Lot!!!

December 31st, 2017 · 12 Comments

I have been having an actual holiday… time away from my laptop, and it has been lovely!!! It is the week between Christmas and New Year, I should be resting and chilling out, it has been a long year and after countless roast beasts and secret Christmas preparations in the past few days, I feel like I need a bit of a break. But I have a new notebooks to start and a fresh pack of markers and I just can’t wait to dive into 2018… So I am taking a moment to reflect on the year that flew by. Back in 2016, I made a conscious effort to include rest in my life, not sleep mind you (silly me), just rest. I wanted to take time to step off the world and read or write or have a coffee with a friend, rest away from the work of a homeschooling mom of more than a handful of kids.

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This past year, 2017, was the year the I was Getting Things Done, I was putting aside everything else to get the stuff, that never ceases to land in our home, sorted. Turns out I did absolutely everything else, which says quite a lot about what “writing your goals down” means for me… I did want to send our instagram followers into the thousands (tick); and blog off our blog, dare I say write elsewhere (another tick); I wasn’t sure how that would pan out, but it did; I wanted to slow school down and really enjoy homeschooling (another tick), that’s a whole ‘nother post; and I really wanted to MOVE more, but didn’t think I could!!!

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Se7en Things I Learnt This Year

  1. If You Don’t Sleep You Aren’t Living: Do something about it. I have blogged and blogged about sleeping better this year, because I truly believe in it, it changed my life. Turns out, the more sleep deprived we are the more we think we are ok. I didn’t need special encouragement, I didn’t need extra special sleep coaching, or sleep training… I needed and I still need DISCIPLINE. Sleep is a discipline, it is not a good habit… something you can build into your life after 21 days… it is something you have to be strict about and something I constantly battle with. I love reading just one more chapter, I love doing just one more thing before bed… but the truth of the matter is that with a good nights sleep I literally fly through the next day… no I soar!!! But I have to tell myself every single night, “That is enough for today and get to bed already.” I am consistently inconsistent at this, but I am so much better. Every single time I don’t get to bed timeously I pay a terrible price the next day. If sleep isn’t your number one goal for the year… then make it your number one goal, because everything else will fall into place.
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  3. I Am The Champion of Excuses: I have discovered that I am the champion of excuses. I did set myself a number of goals… and guess what… I couldn’t do this because I hadn’t done that, and I couldn’t do the next thing because I hadn’t done the other thing. I realised that the clutter that was overwhelming me actually wasn’t what was stopping me from getting stuff done… it was the excuse that I had clutter to sort out, that was stopping me from all sorts of other things, all the fun things. As soon as I put all that decluttering aside, I was able to get masses of stuff done. Basically, I was consistent and cleaned out a corner of stuff each and every week, donated and donated and donated… I got a lot of decluttering done, it is still far from perfect over here, but I no longer use “I have to declutter first” as an excuse not to go for a walk, head for the library, go for a swim. If I want to journal better, then there is no need to wait until my desk is perfect; if I want to paint a bookshelf, then I no longer have to sort every book in the house first, I can really just paint the bookshelf…
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    This was our Christmas Card photo, until a a bird flew by and photobombed it!!! That will teach me to be happy with a “one click” photo!!!

  5. I Am Not Very Good at Goals: But I absolutely love a challenge. This year I challenged myself to get moving… I floundered about forever trying to find a goal, and in the end settled on “Just MOVE already.” For years I have tried a daily walk, a weekly hike and any number of things to get moving, but this was the year that I challenged myself… to walk up a flight of stairs when I got to one, to fetch a book from the next room instead of asking a kid, to play on the beach with my gang, instead of just reading a book while they played. I also got to gym, which was life saving, but I think it was an attitude of “moving all the time” that actually got me moving.
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  7. If You Think You Need to Move More, Then Start Already: Don’t wait… dance around the table, walk the dog, walk the kids… just move. You can be kind to yourself, you can be slow and steady, you can give yourself days off (only if you’ve had days on!!!)… eventually you are going to have to do the hard stuff. If you want to run 5km and I do, but you feel dreadful “gasp” when you do, then you can do every other exercise that isn’t running but eventually you are going to have to run. Do the hard stuff, it won’t get easier, but you will get much better at it. At the start of the year I started the ParkRun, it was a family decision to encourage our potential runner… I nearly died the first time. The second time was worse!!! The third time was my absolute LAST EVER (never believe a word I say at the end of a run)… and 35 ParkRuns later I am still chugging around a 5km course each week. I would love to run it, but I just can’t yet. I know I can just download the couch to 5km challenge and work through it… but I was way too unfit for that programme… I am on the Pre-school version of the couch to 5km and perhaps by the end of next year I will be able to run 5km!!!
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  9. Habits Take a Lot More Than 21 Days to Establish: Everyone will tell you that if you do something for twenty one days then it will become a habit and you will just do it routinely. Anyone who has ever started a new habit will tell you that this is a fable. Just saying. Somethings are habits, everytime I get into the car I press play on the audible book I am listening to… that’s a habit. Other things like getting up at 5:00 in the morning will never be a habit, they are a lifestyle. If someone said to me, you can sleep late and get all the things you want to do in a day done… I would probably try that theory out, I would love to believe them.
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  11. Hook Your New Habits onto Something You do Already: I get up everyday, and part of getting up is going to gym. It is as simple as that… I get up and walk out of the door before I even think about it. The first time I give a conscious thought to my day is when I walk back in the door as my kids are stirring. I do not check my phone, I do not have a snack, I do nothing except put on my gym clothes and walk out of the door. It is that easy for me to get to gym… it is literally just part of getting up. I treat myself to a coffee on a Saturday morning, on the way to the coffee I do a ParkRun… do you see what I did there… I hooked the changes I wanted to make onto things I was already doing. Hooks work for me. I thought I was a rewards gal… a year ago I would reward myself with coffee for getting up, another coffee for getting breakfast done, another coffee for hanging out the laundry… really!!! Turns out I am not so much a rewards gal, I just need to find things to hook new habits onto.
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  13. To Do Something Well You Need to Do it Everyday: I started writing with my kids, everyday for fifteen minutes, during November. We did it for the full month, I have 30 pages of writing, and found my writing mojo again… really if you want to do something you routinely do, like writing and blogging then you just have to practice it. Just as you wouldn’t be able to walk the balance beam very well if you only got round to stepping out once every couple of weeks. You literally have to practice and practice and practice to get things right. It is the practice of writing that creates better writing, it doesn’t always flow… it is the practice of going to gym that makes my workouts better, they don’t always flow. In fact it is often hit and miss… but the practice and more practice will set you on your way to being better at almost all things.
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  15. Friends Are Your Strength, Work on Them: Sometimes you feel like you just need to get away from it all, sometimes you feel like you just need a breath of fresh air… well I have discovered, and this is huge… that those are the times you most need a friend. Call them, message them, just stay hi… do it. You will be richer for it. I never take time off the world for myself, there is always one more thing to do… but this year… whenever I was stretched beyond reason, I messaged a friend first, instead of just retreating, which is my usual game plan. Try it. You don’t have to spend hours, and I rarely have those, but instead of trying to always escape… call a friend and say hi before you escape. It was a great strategy for keeping connected and keeping those friendships alive. Trust me if you feel like you need some encouragement and a time out… you will have friends with exactly the same needs… they also don’t want to spend a whole afternoon nattering, but they might well want a momentary afternoon pick me up before they dive into dinnertime and bedtime.

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    And the se7en + 1 + 1th… YES, I am saving the best for last…

  16. Don’t Ever Give Up on Yourself: Honestly, I thought there were somethings I could never ever do… I have hiked my whole life but never been up Lion’s Head via The Dreaded Chains. I really thought I could say good bye to wanting to do that… turns out… never ever give up on yourself, you can do the hard stuff… and when I finally got there, it wasn’t even that hard!!! Never say never and keep on trying.

There is a vague hope maybe 2018 will be the year I get all the clutter of living with ten people sorted, but I have a feeling that it is quite the most impossible task. While I do have strategies to keep on sorting, I certainly won’t be putting my life on hold, while I get it all done. It has to be an onward and upward kind of a year for me, it is the only option.

→ 12 CommentsTags: Thoughtful Thursdays

What We Are Reading Right Now from Penguin Random House…

December 24th, 2017 · 2 Comments

Well our holiday is over and we dashed home to do all our Christmas preparations in just one day… exciting times, I tell you!!! Anyway, I thought I would bring you our final collection of books we have been reading for the year…

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Christmas Reads


“Tis the season to be reading Christmas stories and I don’t know where we have been until now, but my kids just discovered Matt Haig. These books are delightfully Christmassy, lots of glitter and loveliness, the illustrations are a perfect fit and just gorgeous. These books make excellent read a loud books, we have been reading and reading.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig with illustrations by Chris Mould: This is the story of Amelia Wishart and her cat, Captain Soot, set in Victorian Times… Amelia is a chimney sweep, as her mother was before her and she works for Mr. Creeper… who really does live up to his name. Amelia writes to Father Christmas, with a rather delightful Christmas list including, amongst other things, a story by her favourite author Dickens, and her wish for her ma to get well. And the worst thing happens, her mum dies and she finds herself working in Mr Creeper’s workhouse. Meanwhile in Elfdom, in the very far north Father Christmas is having a torrid time with his elves… and in order to get his Christmas show on the road he needs hope… luckily Amelia has buckets of it. This is make believe and magical drama, full of humour of the best variety… a perfect seasonal read.

Father Christmas and Me by Matt Haig: Amelia’s story continues as she moves to Elfdom… and then battles to be happy there for several reasons; mostly because she is the only child there and she is definitely not an elf. For example she is she is taller than every other elf in her class. This book is full of more wonderful drama of the funny variety and lots of delightful incidents… great seasonal reading. Gotta say, perfect Christmassy reading. And if you want to read a great interview with the author and illustrator… then jump over to the World Book Day site and take a read!!!

Bestseller for a Reason



This book is fabulous, and a book I would encourage all my kids to read. If you plan to leave one book lying around in the hopes that they read it, then let it be this book. And before you dash off and see the movie… read the book. It is fast and easy reading, though the story is poignant and will pull at all your heart strings. August Pullman is born with a facial deformity and because of this he has endured multiple surgeries and serious discomfort, but more than that his face is not like his contemporaries. His parents homeschool him until grade 5, to help him cope with all the time off school for medical reasons in theory, but in practice because they fear the worst… that his classmates won’t know how to cope with him. But by grade 5, they start to feel it is time for August to enter the school system… and he does, and he copes really well at first. The inevitable teasing and gasps of horror he can handle, but then he is betrayed by a friend. And it hurts him deeply. This book is his and his sister, Via’s story and it is a good one… about coping when the chips are down, about handling being different to everyone else, not to mention friendship for all the right reasons. This book is the movie tie-in edition, which means it has photos of the movie stars, and at the end of the book discussion ideas and comments from many of the main players in the making of the movie.

A Gripping Biography



Unstoppable: My Life so Far by Maria Sharapova: This is the intriguing story of a person who has lived their life to the full, right from the get go. One of the most electric tennis players of all times has quite a story to tell. From her humble beginnings and being spotted at a Moscow talent clinic by Navratilova, who told her dad that she could play… and to get her to the States. Her journey to Nick Bollettieri’s famous tennis school, arriving with her dad, with a small amount of cash in hand, no English and the ability to to hit tennis ball. I loved this read, as a life long tennis fan, I remember moments as they happened in the book. I love her conversational story, her interaction with the other players on the tour… her rise and fall, insights into her journey as a professional athlete who just has to play. If you love biographies… then this is a VERY good one. If you love tennis… read this, you will love it. If you love tennis and biographies… read this already!!!

Essential Survival



How to Stay Alive by Bear Grylls: I am just going to say this once… if you have an older child, who doesn’t love reading, then look for something fantastic for them to read, give them anything by Bear Grylls. His Biographies are superb and this… book, How to Survive, is an absolute winner. Short and fast facts and solutions to everyday problems and to some very obscure problems as well. This is a book that you can dip into anywhere and find some incredible facts… how to survive the basics: make a fire, build a raft, how to survive in snow, and how to avoid blisters; and then there are some more obscure situations… how to escape from quicksand, survive and avalanche, cope with a kidnapping, survive a bear, croc, or shark attack. There are tips on creating appropriate survival tips… and diagrams to help you get things right. The writing is short and sharp, quick and easy reading of dozens and dozens of difficult, and death defying moments that you hope you will never find yourself in. The best thing is that at the end of each scenario there is a Keep it Simple Stupid Box, with just the most important facts in it. I feel fully equipped on how to crash land a helicopter, and its probably time I started working on my “how to make a fire in absolutely any situation.” My entire family will love this book… it is a great, practical read!!!

Mystery/Crime/Fabulous Read


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Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan: This one I read in a sitting… I loved it, just the right level of mystery… and all the unanswered questions, that linger throughout the book. It’s a debut, and a very good one at that, I can’t wait for more from this author. This is Lydia’s story, or is it? Lydia works in a bookstore, and discovers the body of one of the shop’s regular visitors, who has committed suicide right where she will find them. If that wasn’t horrific enough, it turns out that Lydia was witness to an horrific crime as a child. Are the two crimes related? She thought she had moved beyond the stigma of her childhood trauma, when everything resurfaces with the death of her friend, who appears to have been sending her messages in books for a w while, and she only just figured out the code in the books and how the messages work? She then discovers a photograph that was in his possession, of herself and her best friend from when they were ten… how can that be? What is the connection. The focus is not on the actual crime at all… the focus is entirely on Lydia, you want hot to succeed so badly. After returning to her childhood haunts and spending time with her estranged father, you do rather wonder if you want her to keep on looking for solutions. She is relentless in her quest of self-discovery, she discovers slightly more than she anticipated. If you love mysteries,and codes hidden within the pages of a good book… then you will love this. I really, enjoyed this read.

Perfect Lazy Day Reading



Sourdough by Robin Sloan: I loved this slow and easy reading kind of a book… if it takes time to bake bread and it takes time to read this book, it can’t be rushed. This is the story of a frenetic IT professional who works for a company perfecting robotic arms. At the end of each day she just can’t face cooking and calls for takeout. In fact, her team is so driven and frantic, that they don’t even bother with real food at lunch time and a gel sachet is what they are “thriving” on. The Clement Street Soup and Sourdough start delivering “double spicy” to her overnight, until the owner brothers have to leave the country because their visas expire. Lois, the IT gal, finds herself owner of a dough stater… the brother’s parting gift. Baking and bread making very quickly become an important part of Louis’ days. She goes from changing the world by day and baking bread through the night… the book is a bit of a slow wander, you feel like you are reading it as the sourdough does its trick to prove the next loaf. This is a sweet story, and a great read, a little bit whimsical and one feels like one is perhaps reading a fairy tale. There is more to her special sourdough starter than meets the eye!!!

All these books were given to us for review purposes by Penguin Random House South Africa. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely our own.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

New Books for Kids from Jonthan Ball Publishers…

December 22nd, 2017 · No Comments

So we are on holiday, enjoying the sights and sounds of life in the city. Last winter we did a house swap with friends and it was fabulous and we are doing it again in the summer… we are trying to do one or two fun outings or activities each day and otherwise we are totally relaxing and lying around reading all day… so be sure to tune in for tons of book reviews… And we would like to welcome a new publisher to our blog, Jonathan Ball Publishers, with this collection of lovely books for children.

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Paddington on Patrol



Paddington Little Library, Movie Tie-In: This is a set of little board books filled with the characters from the latest movie.
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If your small children have seen the movie… then they will delight in meeting the family up close, seeing Paddington’s wardrobe, enjoy Paddington’s delightful manners… and see Paddington’s London, which is not your typical taxi tour at all.
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And if you turn your board book collection then together the back covers create a simple puzzle of Paddington himself. Just a sweet little extra.

The Much Anticipated “Here We Are”



Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers:
Oliver Jeffers, whose picture books are pure magic, has pulled out all the stops to create a picture book that will be loved by grown ups and children alike.
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The illustrations are the kind that you want to pour over… facts intertwined with magical colours and and a flowing rhythm.
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There is a not so hidden message in it. Be nice. Nice to the world and nice to the people in it.
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I know it sounds all airy fairy and poetic, it is just that!!! Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful… this book is far more than a story, it is a work of art.

From Africa to Scotland… there are Mountains to Climb.



The Snow Angel by Lauren St. John and illustrated by Catherine Hyde: I knew I would love this book when I opened the first few pages, and after the dedication this quote: “Life is like mountaineering – never look down” Sir Edmund Hilary.
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This is the story of Makena, a twelve year old girl with her head in the clouds… quite literally. She might live with her family in busy Nairobi, but in her head she is climbing the highest mountains in the world… nothing will stop this girl, or her mind from wandering… she is a force to be reckoned with.
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In the first part of the book Makena and her dad are going on a beautiful picturesque adventure together. They are off to climb mount Kenya. (spoiler alert…) And then Makena’s life is shattered when her parents find themselves in the path of the Ebola virus… and Makena ends up on the streets of the notorious slums, frightened for her life. She finds shelter wherever she can get it and friendship keeps her going. A trail of events and Makena finds herself in Scotland…
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This book is poetic and beautiful, with a fox that leaves a trail of stars and winds itself in and out of the story, and in and out of the pages… Makena does finally finds someone who can understand her wild imaginings, with the famous quote: “Logic will get you from A to Z. Imagination will get you everywhere” Einstein. You will experience every single emotion as you read this book… it is lovely, it is happy, it is sad, you will grieve, you will despair and you will rejoice. This beautiful book, with the glittery snow on the cover is a wonderful read about a feisty girl that just won’t give up.


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill: This is a reference book of the extremely beautiful kind. It is filled with all the creatures and magical beasts from the world of Harry Potter.
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The illustrated version is just beyond incredible, this book is really an inspired work of art. J.K. Rowling has drawn her fans into her world of make believe by creating an entire “behind the scenes” world to go with it. Really this is a beautiful large format encyclopaedia, full of detailed illustrations and descriptions.
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This beautiful book reads like the notebooks of Newt Salamander, the magicologist’s, notebooks. Every detail, ink blot and footnote has been included for our personal examination. This isn’t a book you are going to read from cover to cover or occasionally dip into. This is a book that Potter fans will want to keep front and central on the coffee table, and they will read it again and again, until they have every single fact memorised. There is an introduction that answers many frequently asked questions, like why Magizoology matters, and information regarding all sorts of top secret phenomena, as well as a useful star classification of the beasts found in the M.O.M. (Ministry of Magic).
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The book contains an A-Z of fantastic beasts, from the Acromantula to the Yeti… and everything else in-between. And hidden behind the Romanian Longhorn and the Swedish Short-Snout is a wonderful fold out double double spread of a Ukrainian Ironbelly. Really, all the featured creatures from the series can be found between the pages of this truly magical book. If you are looking for the perfect book for Harry Potter fans, then you can stop looking, you just found it!!!

Huge thank you to Jonathan Ball Publishers for supplying this fabulous collection of books for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post and all the reviews are as usual my own.

→ No CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

Latest and Greatest Reads from PanMacmillan South Africa…

December 16th, 2017 · 4 Comments

This is the time of year when all the beautiful gift books are published and this year is no exception. There is a pile of lovely lovely giftable reads that we have been reading our way through, so that we could share them with you. We are working our way up from books for the smallest to the tallest of readers…

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This is an eclectic mix of what we have been reading lately… big books little books, fact books and fun books… there really is something for everyone in this pile of books…

A Fantastic Family Read



Norse Myths, Tales of Odin, Thor and Loki by Kevin Crossley-Holland and illustrated by Jeffrey Alan Love: We are reading this book together as a family and it is fantastic. This has to be our book of the year it is truly a work of art. Can I say I know that my middle school boys, who are intrigued by all things to do with Norse Myths, have snuck off and read ahead. This book is a large format hard back book, very much of the coffee table variety… and the illustrations are superb and absolutely make the book. I love that they begin the book with a great description of who is who in the world of Norse Myths… not all of us have grown up with a background in Norse-mythology… clearly my children have because they know all about the characters long before I get there. This book is a work of art from the get go… from the runes in the end covers to the twisting winding illustrations that bring these ancient myths to life.

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Let’s begin with the main players Odin, the ruler of the Gods and know as the all-father; then there is Thor, the god of thunder; and finally Loki, the trickster, who stirs things up in the Norse World, like nobody else could even imagine. The book is packed with other gods, dwarfs and of course giants. North mythology takes place in nine worlds all linked together by a great ash tree… and the stories wind in and out of each world. Of course like all mythology there is good and bad, there folk that play fair and others that never will. What we love about this collection of stories is that they stories are new to us, we have no idea where each story is going and we have to read on to find out. Not only that but the characters have their faults, along with incredible strengths, they have incredible failings… there is a lot of each of us between the pages of this book. Not to mention if you are planning on making a rainbow book case, it is often hard to find a fine yellow book… this beautiful book fits perfectly into that category!!!

Poetry for Everyone



I’m Just no Good at Rhyming by Chris Harris and Illustrated by Lane Smith: Let’s begin by saying we are huge fans of Lane Smith, and as soon as I see a book illustrated by him I know that we are going to love it. The illustrations in this book are totally, totally wacky… and just the creative license to illustrate with words… it is delightful. His work full of surprises, seeing things form a different perspective to the rest of the world… and so creating a page turner, you can’t wait to see what is on the next page.
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Apart from that the poetry… is engaging, hilarious and just slightly outrageous. you will read poems in this book the will leave you pondering life, and laughing out loud… Poems like: The Good-Child Test, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, Chocolate for Breakfast (it’s not chocolate it is chico-early!!!) and what about: Somebody Stole my Bagel’s Hole. This book is packed with funny quirky, expressive and most importantly shareable poems that we have loved… this is our poetry book of the year and if you wold like your kids to engage in poetry in a playful way, rather than a truly schoolish way, then this is the book for you… Our whole family loves it. We have enjoyed it together at the kitchen table. And as it lies on the coffee table, so it gets enjoyed again and again, by folk of all ages… stopping by and dipping in.

A Brilliant Board Book


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My Big Book of South African Animals by Roger Priddy: Finally we have a board book for South African children, featuring local animals. This is a large format chunky book, packed with dozens of beautifully photographed animals presented on brightly coloured pages… just what you would expect from a Priddy book. As well as the usual culprits you would find in an animal book, you will also find some lesser spotter South African varieties… there is an ostrich, a kudu, a duiker and nyala, sun fish and a cape vulture, to name a few.
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Your tiny animal lover will love this book, the crystal clear photographs, the naming of names and such like. I firmly believe children need to experience things that they encounter in their own world, and so many great books for small children that are published overseas do not have any of our local animals… English woodland creatures and Amazon jungle wildlife is great, but here is something with animals a local child will encounter whether they live at the coast or further inland. This book is a winner for us.

Seasonal Colouring



The Nutcracker, A Colouring Book from PanMacmillan: A beautiful colouring book that the whole family will enjoy. It is based on the classic story by E.T.A Hoffmann, and you don’t have to be a ballerina to enjoy it… the pictures are beautiful and there is something for everyone to enjoy and colour in… pages of beautiful presents, candy canes and christmas trees…
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The cover is delightfully Christmassy with red and gold embossed highlights. This book is extremely giftable for folk of all ages who love the story, and folk of all ages that love colouring.

A Fine Chapter Book



Nevermoor, The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend and illustrated by Beatriz Castro: This book arrives with the tag: “Highly Acclaimed” pretty much embossed on the cover. It was the cover in fact, that drew me into it… it is just beautiful. The story is about a girl called Morrigan Crow was born on Eventide, and so she is a curse… she is the blame for everything in and out of town that goes wrong… the dead kitchen cat, the hailstorm, the broken hip and even a local heart attack. Not only that, but she is cursed, cursed to die on the night of her eleventh birthday. It is a grim beginning, but then a book that states the problem right at the start is indeed a good one, because we are left to read our way through to the solution… A series of events brings Jupiter North into Morrigan’s life, and you know that this is no accident. Morrigan has been selected to “try out” for a place in the prestigious organisation, the Wundrous Society. Four difficult and dangerous trials, need to be overcome. These are trials of the exceptional skill, mind bending kind… the extreme self discovery kind of challenge… will Corrigan be able to complete the challenges? This book is full of extremes and surprises as you follow Morrigan on her journey. My middle schoolers will enjoy this book, and our eleven year old gal would absolutely love it… This is a timeless tale, and one that any adventurous middle grade reader would totally love.

My one hesitation about this book is why did I have to go hunting for the illustrator’s name on the the publisher’s page. The illustrations are beautiful and enrich the book, Beatriz Castro’s name deserves to be on the front cover, not buried with the barcode on the back cover… it is a design flaw.

In Case You Need a Hobby



Calm Calligraphy, Malleus: After wanting to up my lettering skills all year, I finally have a book that could well set me on my way. The book begins with a beautiful introduction to the author, her passion for calligraphy is explained. And then she goes on to tell her readers how exactly the art of calligraphy can prove to be somewhat of a meditation in your life. After the introduction there is a section, called The Seven Rules… and these are tips on writing in general, lots of ideas on how to write better, best practices and so on. How to create the perfect space for your writing, be disciplined, take it slowly and so on.
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Essentially this is a workbook, with tons of practice pages… and I am sure if one was disciplined and worked at it… starting with letters and moving on to words, then phrases… that you would indeed not only change your handwriting but have beautiful script writing. I love it lettering practice at it’s best. And the just the kind of challenge I need to write beautifully.

Something to Inspire Your New Year



How to Bullet Plan by Rachel Wilkerson Miller: Bullet planning is the new in thing… it is quick and easy journaling to keep you on track in every single area of your life. I absolutely adore looking at folks marvellous Bullet journals all over instagram… there are well over a million bullet journal tags on instagram, go and check them out and thank me later. Meanwhile, I have been working on my own version of bulletin journaling, had I even known it was called this (!) for years. I had to get this book and I had to check it out and I had to share all the details with you… this is the complete guidebook to everything you need to know: the basics, yearly spreads, monthly spreads, habit trackers and so much more… even travel spreads. Stacks of “How to tips…” and beautiful photographs to show you all the details you might miss in a quick read. There are boxes of quick inspiration and lots of little tips so that you can get started immediately…. because that is what you will want to do. The best kind of notebook for the job (any blank notebook), the best pens, the best ideas, not to mention this book begins with a glossary, so that when you do trawl around on the internet for #bulletjournal inspiration, that you are not totally overwhelmed or baffled by what folk are talking about.
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All you need to get started is a blank notebook, and from there you go… what is it you would like to keep track of? Basically if you love being organised but can’t stand to be told what to do… which is why to-do lists never work for me, then you will love bullet journaling… because you can make it exactly what you want it to be. You can start off really and truly simply and you can create and elaborate as you go along… you can keep it simple or be inspired to do more, it is all up to you and not predetermined by whatever else the crowd is doing.
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I confess I read this book in an afternoon…I couldn’t help myself I was inspired. It is a dipper though, and I will be returning to it again and again for future tips. The book has a soft cover and is about four times fatter than a moleskin (because it is packed with so many tips), but otherwise the same feel and texture. It is lovely you could toss it in your bag and read it on the go and be inspired for weeks!!!

Spy Training For Real



Spy School, Are You Sharp Enough to be a KGB Agent? This is the book all the guys in our house want to inhale in a moment and I would kind of prefer that I got to read it on the side before they even noticed it was in the house. This is the ultimate spy book and I mean ultimate… don’t think fancy gadgets, don’t think boot camp training long before dawn… this book is about training your brain until it is the ultimate elite athlete and spy tool. This book is about sharpening your memory and absorbing all the secrets needed from beginner Junior Agent through the all the levels of training to be an operative double agent.
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The book is packed with real life scenarios and exercises that you have to do… and training techniques with mind maps and mnemonics just the easy one. The purpose, to sharpen your brain… not to mention how to survive a polygraph. This is an extremely useful book and I am not surprised that it is a Russian bestseller.

For Rainbow Rowell Fans of all Ages



Almost Midnight Two Festive Short Stories by Rainbow Rowell and illustrated by Simini Blocker: This book is beautiful, it is small, glittery, with adorable pen illustrations and it cries out “giftable.” The first story, Midnights, is about Noel, a highly allergic young fellow and Mags a sweet, lifesaver (literally!). They meet every year at the same New Years Eve Party and every year get to know each other a little bit better.
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The next story, Kindred Spirits, is about a girl Elana, who has waited for ever to see the next Star Wars movie and decided she is going to wait in line, no matter what… she spends a week on the pavement with Troy, a tetchy old hat at sitting in line and Gabe a sweet lad with a huge heart for Star Wars… this is really the story of their week in the queue together… Sweet stories, fun holiday reads… for anyone who likes a little love, a lot of friendship and a quick read over the holidays. If you are a fan of Rainbow Rowell you will love these and if you aren’t a fan yet… then these would be a great place to start.

Absolutely Gripping Teen Read



Contagion by Teri Terry: When I saw that we had a Teri Terry book in our review pile I just about died of excitement. Her first series: Slated, Fractured and Shattered, were probably the first “Real teen reads” to be read in our home and we loved them. Absolutely gripping stuff. Let’s move on to Contagion, just saying, is the first in a series, and from the first page you will need to read right until the very end… of the series. One thing about Teri Terry’s writing is that it is very unpredictable, not to mention extremely fast paced. If you have a teen that is a slightly reluctant reader challenge them to read the first few chapters… they will be hooked.

The story is about Shay, a teen whose mum has given her a name that she loathes, not to mention she is bullied to distraction. And then there is Callie, and she is Kai’s younger sister and also somehow in the grip of some sort of epidemic and has been closed off from society… though she can’t remember why. The chapters are short and end right on a cliff hanger every single time. And the book alternates between Shay and Callie, so not only do the chapters end on a cliff hanger but you have to wait a chapter to see what happens next to a particular character. Shay has a photographic memory and Callie is officially missing… and it just so happens that Shay may be one of the last people to have seen her. There is something strange going on with Callie, she appears to be in some sort of government institution… and she is having some sort of out of body experience as she is cured (the book is called Contagion, after all). And then Shay and Callie’s thoughts… hmmm… Creepy, gripping, dystopian and very typically Teri Terry. This book is well over 400 pages long and you will read it really fast… and then you will be in anguish, while you wait for the next book in the series to emerge.

Finally, Young Adult SciFi Read



Satellite by Nick Lake: This book is a touted as the Martian for teens. It is the story of three unusual teens that have been raised together as a family. Fifteen year old Leo and the twins, music-loving Orion and green-fingered Libra, who were all born and raised on Moon 2. They have been raised by astronauts and their whole life has directing them back, towards life on earth. As they draw close to their sixteenth birthday, they will be heading “home.” They are full of trepidation and have no desire to head out of their open ended world of space. The book is told through the eyes of Leo, who loves mathematics and engineering, but wants to live on his grandfather’s ranch in the mountains. The bad language and Leo’s struggle to find his identity when the only choice of a teen crush are really like siblings you have grown up alongside things can be somewhat awkward… and puts this straight into the young adult category for me. Despite all that and the very obvious and annoying “text speak writing” through out… so no capitals,”u” for “you” and so on… the story is a good one and Hood 2 puts it up there with good reads of the year. So if you are a space nut and interested in thinking in “reverse” about what life on earth would be like if you have lived your entire life in deep dark space… then this is the perfect holiday read for you.

Huge thank you to PanMacmillan South Africa for supplying this fabulous collection of books for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post and all the reviews are as usual my own.

→ 4 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

On Take a Deep Breath…

December 14th, 2017 · 16 Comments

I finally took a breath, and it was good, so good. The air filled my lungs and I could breathe again. I didn’t know it, but I had been holding my breath for more than twenty years. Twenty Years. From the moment our first child was born, maybe even conceived, when he surfaced from the tub of water and took his first raggedy breaths… I have been holding my breath. Sometimes holding it real tight and other times just slightly… When your child cries, “What is it?” When they wake in the night, “What is it?” When they come home from a play date devastated, “What is it?” When they think the whole world hates them, “What is it?” When your teen phones you and says, “You know your car?” “What is it?” Motherhood is a journey that requires lot of holding your breath.

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You spend most of your mothering time creating the best for your kids with whatever you have available, their favourite meals, favourite clothes ready to wear, gathering stories they will enjoy, and doing activities you know they will love… No it isn’t all ice-cream and screen time… even though that is what they would love and would be the easy way out. It is more about giving them the stuff that would be best for them, even if they don’t think it is best for them.

You send them to bed timeously, but they do not sleep. You make a healthy dinner and almost all of them love it… but there is always that one. And to be sure the one that doesn’t love it (and no it isn’t always the same one), makes quite sure why you have let them and the world around them down. To be sure, next time you put a meal on the table you will hold your breath a little tighter waiting for “The Next One.” Night after night, meal after meal… you will find yourself somewhat out of breath. And that is just the food situation. There is a whole lot more to your family’s life than meals. There will be days when you are getting everyone to all their best activities, literally leaves you totally breathless and one person will always say… “Can we just stop by… wherever on the way past.” And you (really) want to ROAR “NO” because you can’t even breathe, well you just take a gasp and try to fit that in as well. Because Moms really are doing their best for their kids, and breathing for themselves it turns out, isn’t such a big priority.

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We live in a crazy world where expectations are high and comparisons shattering and while I know I beat my drum to a slightly different beat, and I know I don’t conform to expectations well… I still hold my breath. I want my kids to do their best, I want the to have fabulous friends, I want them to dream big and then go for it… and I want them to appreciate all their opportunities. The thing is somewhere in wanting all this for my kids I think I may have stopped breathing all together. It is crazy I know, because I didn’t realise it.

When I planned a year of Getting Things Done… my intention was really to clean out closets, toss out all the clutter, and clear all the surfaces. Get all those little tasks done that were stopping me from doing what I really want to be doing. Only when you are holding your breath, it is hard to know what it is you are wanting to do… really you kind of stop wanting to do anything. After a year of perpetually picking at projects, fifteen minutes here, and fifteen minutes there, of tossing stuff like never before, of getting so much school done, of sorting actual closets… I realise that I may never be done with that… there will always be clutter, there will always be very important reasons why I should be making the next meal instead of sorting the craft drawers, and there will always be my desk to clear before I can do any work… because that is the family dump zone.

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Turns out I needed to get myself sorted long before I could get the house sorted. (I have so much to learn!!!) I have always loved clearing clutter and keeping our house sorted, it gives me the calm in the storm of living with ten people and all the associated friends and acquaintances that stop by. But I still wasn’t breathing. Turns out, only when I started sleeping like a real person should… not collapsed on the couch while reading to the kids, not slumped over my laptop hoping a blog post would write itself. Real sleep in a real bed through the night… that I started to actually breathe again.

So many people have said, isn’t it lovely you go to gym and have some “me time”… no it isn’t about “me time”… I literally wasn’t breathing and didn’t know it. Getting to gym for me, is all about catching my breath. Moms if you are holding your breath and think you can leave it till later, till your kids are grown, before you start breathing again… trust me… you can’t leave it. You have to start now. Don’t shove yourself at the bottom of the heap, so that your kids can have a better birthday party, don’t lose sleep over getting another contract so that your kids can do another extra-mural… you need to breath to parent. You need to stop for a moment and figure out what it is you need in order to breathe. If it is a nap on weekends, or your coffee brought to you in the morning… if it is ten minutes in the evening watching the sun set. Your family would most likely gladly give it to you… GLADLY, if they knew that is what you need.

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So I am storming through to the end of the year… if you walked into our home, it is most likely messier than it was a year ago, the garden is a tragedy… and I can partly blame that on the drought. In my year of Getting Things Done… I have taking a turn through the kitchen closets, I have dealt with our wardrobes, I have tossed and tossed and tossed… but I am nowhere nearly near done with the project I thought I was doing. I might not have gotten everything I intended done this year… but I did learn how to sleep again. And because of that I have learnt to breath again. This week I went exploring underwater for my first time ever, I was a little nervous about using a snorkel, so I left that on the side. I had to take deep breathes and dive down… and I loved it… a magical world, a whole new adventure. I am breathing again and it is wonderful.

My kids are happier for a mother that is alert when they talk to her, they are thrilled when I head to bed at the same time as they do, and most surprising of all, when I say no, because I have to sleep… they get it. They are excited to have me along on their outings, and not as thrilled that I am keeping up!!! The point is, I didn’t realise that I wasn’t breathing, until I stopped to gather myself. It is the time of year when we fill up our days with activities and stuff, and making memories. Don’t forget yourself, gift yourself with a quiet moment, get some air and breathe deep… you will find you are a much better for it, and so everyone around you will be better for it too.

Remember that my first born is twenty, and my youngest is eight… so if you are reading this and your oldest is eight… and you have several little tots to care for, then trust me you are still holding your breathe really tight and you have a ways to go on the motherhood journey. Don’t compare yourself to where I am, just take a peak at where you will be.

→ 16 CommentsTags: Thoughtful Thursdays

Se7en Reviews Stuarts’ Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa…

December 13th, 2017 · No Comments

This book has a very formal title, Stuarts’ Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa, and yet it very quickly became a member of the family. It has been sitting so comfortably on our school table for a couple of weeks and I think it has literally become part of the furniture.

We use nature guide books a lot in our homeschool, because of our endless pursuit of creating the most fabulous nature notebooks. Nature guides are poured over by my kids, keeping them busy and absorbed hour after hour as they learn about new and amazing creatures and fill up their data banks with amazing and unbelievable facts. Most guide books lie around for a while and then they move on to a new favourite topic and a new guidebook appears on the table.

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This one, the Mammals of Africa guidebook, has stood the test of time. I can tell, because it is absolutely stuffed with post-it-notes on pages the kids want to get back to later and also, I think it might be that it is more than a local book, it includes the whole of Africa… and so there are many animals that my children have never seen or heard of, between the pages of this book… and the fact that there are lots of details about the animals that they have encountered… so many facts that they are constantly finding something new to glean.

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These are our favourite animals in Cape Point Nature Reserve and we have done numerous projects on our friends the Cape Mountain Zebra.
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Apart from the obvious, fabulous content of the book, I like this book because it is particularly robust. It has been tossed in a backpack and taken on hikes, it has been paged through again and again, it has dare I say been spattered with watercolours and wiped clean, and it is showing no signs of wearing out, splitting, collapsing or falling apart, any time soon. It may be a soft backed paperback but it is particularly well put together.

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We were so excited to spot a Cape Clawless Otter on one of our recent hikes, and dashed straight to the guidebook to fins out more.

Otherwise, the book begins with an introduction to the vegetation regions of Africa, because different biomes have different animals. The introduction explains how the book is divided into different animal groups. The animal groups are colour coded throughout the book, for quick and easy looking up when you are our in the wilds. After this very short introduction the book literally dives into the animal listings. Each family of animals is divided up again into smaller groups. Each type of animal is displayed with at least one page of full colour photographs, a colour distribution map, measurements and detailed physical descriptions, identification pointers as well as similar species. Their habitat, behaviour, food and reproduction habits are described as well as their status. Clear diagrams for quick reference are provided for quick measurement guesstimates, as well as a silhouette for comparisons and if the animal is diurnal, nocturnal or crepuscular.

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We were excited to spot one of these little bucks on a recent hike.

The 450 page book features literally thousands of animals… from all over Africa, including primates, carnivores, and herbivores, from aardvarks to zebras, with pangolins, hedgehogs and marine mammals in there as well. We have regularly used this book out on adventures to identify animals that we have spotted… and dig deeper into animals that we have specifically learnt about this year. For example, we spent quite a bit of time learning about the Karoo and Riverine Rabbits.

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The Riverine Rabbit and the surrounding Karoo was something we studied in depth for school this past year.

Gallery of Nature NoteBooks

I thought I would include a couple of the gang’s nature notebook pages and a photograph from the book, showing you how our guys create their pages from the Mammal Guide…

Okapi

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Leopard

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Bottlenose Dolphin

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Robust Common Chimpanzee

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Southern Lesser Galago

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You can meet the authors on their website: Stuart on Nature. I received this book from Struik Nature for review purposes. It is not a sponsored post, and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

→ No CommentsTags: Se7en at School

Se7en Joins Dinos Alive AR at the Cape Gate Centre…

December 12th, 2017 · No Comments

Following a week of end of year functions, we slid into the school holidays… and all the activities that describe Cape Town as one of the top spots for for summer holidays revved into gear. We were invited to the Dinos Alive AR Expo at the Cape Gate Shopping Centre.

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My kids had a blast at this event and as usual they were given an exceptional evening by the folk at Cape Gate Shopping Centre. They knew they were going to encounter dinosaurs… they were not expecting goodie bags packed with treats!!! And yes, they knew they would have all the screen time in the world, because that is the best way to have fun and meet dinosaurs “in real life…”

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If you need to encounter dinosaurs on a grand scale then you have come to the right place…

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Augmented Reality (AR), It is a Thing!!!

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Photograph credit to Cape Gate Centre

From Big Screen… to medium screen…

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What can I say, kids of today are made of stronger stuff than we were, if a dinosaur had come flying down a tunnel towards me when I was a kid I would have had a heart failure, and they love it and cry out for more!!!

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Just pop up screen on and you are literally good to go.
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Plenty of helpful guidance for anyone who needed it…
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And clearly it was interesting!!!
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And on to Headsets

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Photo credit to Cape Gate Centre

This is what they came for… a complete immersion into the world of dinosaurs and they were suitably wowed…

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Apart from that there was 3-D dinosaur art to create, as well as excavations…

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And for the little ones… colouring.

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And Catering…


The catering team sure had a lot of fun putting this dinosaur themed event together. All sorts of dinosaur bites to eat, and totally winning was the pic’nmix candy bar…

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With every imaginable treat to try…

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All the cuteness…

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I think we might need dinosaur cookie cutters after this event, how cute are the dino-cookies…

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And a popcorn and milkshake bar… fun times!!!

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The Dinos Alive Facts…

For the duration of the summer school holidays, the Dinos Alive AR Exhibition will be at Cape Gate Centre. You can buy your tickets at the door or at web tickets. Your kids will happily spend a morning or an afternoon there, there is lots for them to do, as well as a small store full of dinosaur goodies to buy, for your young dinosaur lover.

Dinos Alive AR

Thank you so much, Cape Gate Centre for a wonderful evening. This is not a sponsored post, I was not paid to write it, though we were given tickets to the event for review purposes. Opinions expressed are as usual entirely our own.

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