Win a Weekend in Cornwall

Have you ever thought of visiting Cornwall outside of traditional holiday periods?  Today I am giving one lucky reader the chance to win a weekend in a luxury 3 bedroom apartment so you can try it for yourselves.

There are a number of benefits to travelling at this time of the year.  Avoiding the summer traffic jams will shave hours off your journey and when travelling to the coast you won’t have to sit in queues of traffic or search for parking. In fact the accommodation is only a stones throw from the beach and a beautiful coastal path with views of St. Michael’s Mount.

There are many attractions available only in the winter such as winter festivals and ice skating at the Eden Project and the beautiful Mousehole lights.

The property is a stunning three bedroom flat above the village shop – Long Rock Stores. It is beautifully decorated and furnished and has ample accommodation, sleeping 6 in 3 bedrooms. Along with the three bedrooms (two double, one with two single beds) there is a family bathroom and large kitchen/diner/living room. The kitchen is fantastic and includes a double cooker. The flat also benefits from being no more than a hundred yards from the beach. The village store is right below you and the village also has a Post Office and two great pubs within a few hundred yards.

To win an off Peak weekend break for up to 6 people  (subject to availability) visit the apartment’s website then add a comment here outlining what you would most look forward to in your visit to Longrock. The winner will be chosen on 5th December.

As an added bonus Rightfromthestart subscribers are entitled to 10% off any booking.

Terms and Conditions

  1. This prize is for accommodation only and does not include travel.
  2. Peak holiday times are excluded
  3. Off Peak bookings are subject to availability .
  4. Only one entry per person

Loquax Competitions

Congratuations to Helen Jones on winning this competition.


Butlins and Happiness – New Online Resource for Families

Ahead of the Government publishing its own report on the state of the nation’s happiness next year, family holiday firm Butlins has launched its own barometer of harmony at home with a study of more than 3000 parents and children.

And while the majority of families in the UK describe themselves as happy and not allowing economic gloom to get in the way of their fun, both parents and kids just wish they could spend more time together. Parents say the need to work longer hours is getting in the way but children would rather forgo extra pocket money to get an extra hour with mum and dad. Interestingly the survey found that the biggest barrier to children’s happiness is spending enough time with their parents.  This reflects my daughter’s comments in a piece of work she wrote about herself.  When asked what made her happy, she wrote

Spending time on my own with mum or dad.

Parents admit that on average they spend just 68 minutes a day with their children, adding up to just 44 weeks in total before a child reaches adulthood.

This doesn’t reflect my own family situation, as a stay at home mum I probably spend too much time with my children for my own sanity.  My husband on the other hand works long hours and at some considerable distance from home so our time as a whole family is very precious.

Now Butlins has appointed its first Director of Happiness to help families overcome obstacles to “together time”. ‘Director of Happiness’ for Butlins, now that has to be added to my list of dream jobs.  Mark Hunter – one of the UK’s only Positive Psychologists – will advise the company on initiatives to help add extra sparkle to family life, starting with a new online resource for parents.

I checked out the happiness resource.  It is made up of 3 main sections:

  1. Financial tips from Family Budgeting Expert – Dan Plant
  2. Tips on looking great  in less time from Beauty and Make Up Expert Sarah Jaggar
  3. My personal favourite – tips from Life Coach Emma Ranson Bellamy  on balancing work and family time

The Key is about spending quality time as a family and Emma has some useful tools to help you reflect on the quality of your family time and some suggestions to make it more fulfilling below are a small sample.

  • Gain perspective: Make a list of the things that are important to you – everything from your children or partner to your car or phone. Then next to each thing write M for material or R for relationship. Then consider losing something from each list; how do you feel? Would losing things from the M list be a real inconvenience? But what about list R? How does losing these things feel? Make a plan to invest your best self in the relationships that are important to you.
  • Make a time capsule: Create a memory record for all the family to treasure in years to come. Your capsule might include family pictures and introductions to you all –  perhaps filmed and saved onto a CD; a newspaper from the day you put your treasure together; biographies of each family member with inside information on your favourite hobbies and TV programmes.

Agree to open it up at regular intervals, i.e. every 7 years and then add to it. This could become your own family tradition for years to come which grows into a unique and very modern family tree.

  • Reflect and wind down: At the end of each day find a moment to re-connect with each other. It might be finding out what your child did in one of their lessons or planning an evening out with your husband or partner.
  • Make a wish list: At the start of a new school term, get together as a family and make a list of things you all want to do. Good planning means that anything is possible!

A Happy Days game providing you  with the chance to win a Butlins break is also featured.

Lego Harry Potter 5-7 Years – A Review

My 7 Year old is steadily working her way through the Harry Potter books, so this game has arrived at an opportune moment.   Lego Harry Potter 5-7 years covers  the last 3 books of the series and as my daughter is currently reading the 6th book she was able to explain some of the characters to me (I only ever read to book 4).  We have a Star Wars  Lego game for the Nintendo DS which is a firm favourite so my expectations for this game were high.

My daughter played it alone and with a friend.  They took it in turns to complete and solve different problems, helping each other out along the way.  You can play the game with 2 controllers each player taking the part of a different character.  This feature works really well and stimulates lots of discussion. It also makes me realise how much better children are at these things than me.

It is a very long time since I spent any time playing video games.  This weekend I had a cold and decided to sit for 3 hours and play Harrry Potter 5-7 Years snuggled up in my quilt.  It was compelling and addictive and suitably challenging to keep me engaged.  I could have used my daughters help at some points as I wandered aimlessly in the dark trying to find a tap. We discovered the following day that she had turned the brightness down and it wasn’t supposed to be a night-time game at all!  I managed to complete the first level and played a little of the next level with my daughter the next day. I am suitably hooked.

The animations that tell the story in between each level are compelling and new characters appear as the game unfolds.  Each character has a special skill such as rebuilding blue Lego structures or using an invisibility cloak.

What was my 7 year olds opinion?

It is excellent because some characters can do some things which other characters can’t do and you can perform different spells just by pressing the spell-wheel button.

She has even drawn an image of how the controls work for the XBox 360 version.

The game lived up to my high expectations, my daughter is coming home from school and asking if she can switch it on and I am looking forward to playing it with her and on my own.  Good credit all round.


This review is based on the XBox 360 game, it is also available on other consoles.

A preview copy of the game was received for the purpose of the review.  No payment was received  for writing this review.

Top 5 Books for Children Under 5 as Chosen by my Children

My competition to win 6 Picture Books has prompted some wonderful comments about reading with young children.  Lots of the comments suggested that parents were always keen to find new books to share with their children.  I have already written a post sharing my top books for under 5’s so I thought this time I would ask my children.

  The Elephant and the Bad Baby  by Elfrida Vipont and Raymond Briggs.

This was my 7 Year olds favourite book when she was 2.  We read it again and again and the repetitive text almost drove my husband bonkers.  When my middle child was 2 she latched onto it also and it became a firm favourite.  The first part of the book is repetitive and it is easy for the children to learn it by heart and join in with the story, especially the ‘rumpeta,rumpeta rumpeta as they go down the road.  The message behind the story is the importance of saying please and it does this in a charming and humourous manner.  Both my children have loved the page with the baker’s shop, looking at the cakes and deciding which one they like best.  I’m sure it is a book you will find your young children ‘reading’ by themselves before long even if they are unable to read.

Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

This was my 3 year olds choice.  Her dad read it to her recently and said ‘What a lovely book, why haven’t I read this one before?’ (his other favourite is The Snail and the Whale  by the same authors).

Written by the authors of the Gruffalo , this rhyming book is about a Stickman who gets himself into situations because he keeps getting mistaken for a stick.  He is desperate to get back to his family and is losing hope when he meets Father Christmas who lends a helping hand.

You Choose by  Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt

This was one of the books from my 7 year olds Bookstart Treasure Chest.  This soon became the one book we read every evening until I became so sick of it and I would plead with her to choose something else.  She is still very fond of it and it is one of the few picture books she refuses to pass down to her younger sister.

Each page asks a question such as if you could have any house what sort of house would you choose?  Then you choose the one you like best from the illustrations.  Nick Sharratt’s illustrations are lovely and it is a great book to stimulate discussion but in our house it was a little over read!

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

This is not strictly for under 5’s, my 7 year old chose it and I’ve allowed it in the list because we first read it together when she was 4. Pippi Longstocking is a very witty and insightful book and you will get a lot out of it as an adult too (in a similar way to Winnie the Pooh).  There are a few books that stand the test of time and this is one of them.  My daughter’s copy has been so well read it is falling apart but when I offered to replace it with a new copy she declined my offer.

Sharing a Shell by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

There is a Charlie and Lola story about a library book that Lola is fixated with and takes home every time she visits.  This was the book that my 7 year old borrowed from the library time and again until finally the library sold it off because it had become too shabby.  We bought it for 30p.

It is a beautiful rhyming story about sharing and friendship and helping others.  We lost our copy a few years back after I used it at work .  My 3 year old found a copy at our doctors surgery, we read it together and I explained that it had been her sister’s favourite.  She loved it too.  When my 7 year old suggested this one she beamed and said’Oh I love that one’ running to her bookcase to get it.  I explained that we didn’t have it anymore.  Writing this has prompted me to buy a replacement copy and I will enjoy reading it to my 2 younger daughters.

Pat the Cat HD (Rhyme & Read) iPad App – A Review


Colin and Jacqui Hawkins’ books with thier comical pictures and witty text are a great way to teach early readers about onset and rhyme.

Onset and rhyme is the ability to put together an initial letter sound with its rhyme to make a simple word.

The rhyme ‘og’ could be added to the onset ‘l’ to make log or ‘d’ to make dog and so on.

The iPad app created by Brightside takes this to a new level.  This interactive, fun way of learning essential phonic skills could be a great way of engaging reluctant readers. The simple rhyming text is great for introducing rhyme to young children and the little caterpillars that crawl across the screen as each page is turned, making daft comments, keep children engaged.


The story is narrated with charming voices and  the text changes colour as it is read so that children can follow the text. The characters then add comments and actions bringing the story to life. We loved the part where Nat the Rat eats his way out of Pat’s hat.

This isn’t just another version of an e-book as there is the added feature of recording the story in your own voice.  The character reads the text then the child taps a record button and repeats the text following the highlighted words. The character then reads the key rhyming word  ‘C’ (the sound)  – at –  Cat and the child again repeats and records.  They are then prompted to play the recordings back and the story is read in the child’s voice.  My 3 year old found some of the text a little difficult to remember but she loved recording the onset-rhyme and felt like she was ‘really reading’.

The importance of phonic skills in learning to read is well documented and this is a great, fun way to learn these skills.

The app is available from itunes for £1.99

Butlins Mum Ambassadors

For some time I have had a big, red Butlins Ambassador badge at the side of my blog and I am conscious that I haven’t yet explained what it is.

I have been chosen as 1 of 10 Butlins Mum Ambassadors.  My girls are so excited because this means that we get to spend 2  3-4 night breaks at any Butlins camp.  In return I blog/vlog about the breaks to share our experience with other mums.

Growing up in Barry (Formerly a Butlins town) means that I have a bit of a soft spot for Butlins.  I have fond memories of day trips to Barry and watching the Butlins cable cars travelling above Barry Island beach.  In the late 1980’s the Barry Island camp was sold but remained open for a number of years under the name Majestic Holiday Camp.  During this period I performed every Sunday evening in the Theatre of the camp with my local Theatre group, it was a great Summer.

I’m probably a bit of a frustrated Redcoat at heart, it’s definitely something I should have done when I was younger.

My other experience of Butlins came on a holiday to Skegness when I was 15 years old, with a friend and her family.  The freedom that Butlins gave 3 teenage girls meant that we had a wonderful time and I wanted to return the following year.  Finally I spent my hen weekend at an 80’s adult weekend at the Minehead camp.

It is almost 10 years since I last visited Butlins and a lot of investment has been put into the camps since then.  I am looking forward to seeing how much they have changed.  We are taking our first break at Christmas.  It will be great to have all the children’s entertainment laid on and to not have to shop for or cook a Christmas dinner.  It will be great to have a break where we can just focus on the family.

I was lucky enough to meet up with some of my fellow ambassadors Mari’s World and Jugglemum along with the ladies from Butlins this week in London.  We had a fabulous day, they went out of their way to make sure we got the most out of our time.  We were given some great advice about working with brands, interesting background to Butlins and lots of lovely food, drink and goodies.  Such a great group of people, I feel that I have made some real friends (although the picture does make me look a dwarf amongst giants!)

I’m looking forward to sharing our Butlins Christmas with you all and I’m hoping you will get to see a little of my 7 year olds fantastic commentating skills on the vlog.

Disney Universe – a Review

It is quite a while since we used our Xbox 360 without the Kinect unit so I wasn’t sure how my 7 year old would react to a conventional game. However after playing Disney Universe for a few days she announced “I love this game”.

Disney Universe is a game for 1-4 players aimed at children aged 7-12. Players dress up as Disney characters and unlock further costumes as they progress.

I wasn’t sure whether a Disney game may be a little twee for the target audience. However the 6 Disney Worlds that the game moves through are suitably dark and adventurous. We have yet to progress from the Pirates of the Caribbean level, but there is plenty of action and problem solving to engage children.  It certainly isn’t girly and pretty.

Each level of Disney Universe has a mission to complete, puzzles to solve and enemies to defeat. As you move around the world, arrows and hints appear to instruct your mission. Some of these my 7 year old found quite challenging but we enjoyed being able to play the game together and work co-operatively to solve the puzzles.

The game works equally well with one or multiple players, it can be played collaboratively working together to solve the mission or competitively to see who can reach the highest score and collect the most gold coins.

I am looking forward to seeing some of the other worlds like Alice in Wonderland and Monsters Inc.

There is further downloadable content with Disney Universe that we haven’t had a chance to look at yet. I think that there is plenty to keep my daughter entertained for some time to come.

Disney Universe is also available for Wii and PS3 Consoles.

For the purpose of this review I received a promotional copy of the game . No fee was paid for writing this review.