Thursday, November 27, 2014

Counting down to Christmas with books!

For the past three years we have been counting down to Christmas with a Christmas Book Advent Calendar, and this year will certainly be no different.

This has grown to become a much loved family tradition in our house. The kids look forward to unwrapping a different book each morning and I have to admit I have lots of fun discovering new books throughout the year to include in our advent calendar. This year I have a lovely selection of new and old Christmas books and I will be busy wrapping them over the next few nights. 

Christmas Book Advent Calendar #kidsbookadvent

This year I will be sharing each book we unwrap daily on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, with a weekly wrap up on the blog. So make sure you follow along to see what we are reading throughout December.

Feel free to join in the fun too. 

Do you love Christmas books as much as we do? 
Are you counting down to Christmas with a Christmas Book Advent Calendar? 

I would love to see what Christmas books you are reading throughout December and I know our reads would too! Don't worry, you don't have to share a book every day if you don't want to and there are no prompts to follow. You can share one of your child's favourite Christmas books or like me, share a different book each day. If you want to get really creative, you could take 24 different photos of the one Christmas book! It's really up to you, there are no rules. Just have a little fun and share your photo of a Christmas book using the hashtag #kidsbookadvent on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. 

So gather up your Christmas books and get creative with your camera as we countdown to the big day! There will also be a few giveaways along the way too, so stay tuned.

If you are interested in creating a Christmas Book Advent Calendar, you may also like our hints and tips on how to create one without blowing the budget:

How to create a Christmas Book Advent Calendar without blowing the budget

Once you have your books, here's some inspiration for displaying your Christmas Book Advent Calendar:

Follow Honey Bee Books's board Christmas Book Advent Calendar on Pinterest.

If you enjoyed this post, keep updated via our monthly newsletter or social media:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Human Brochure: Our night at Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre

Earlier in the year I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the 101 Local Humans for the Visit Canberra Human Brochure. The Human Brochure is all about showcasing what's great about Canberra but from a local's perspective. If you would like to check out my local recommendations for our nation's capital you can find my human brochure here.

The highlight of the campaign was the VIP weekend where each Local Human and their interstate guests were treated to unique Canberra experience. Our VIP experience was a night tour of Questacon, the national science and technology centre. This was a perfect match for my guests and I. James loves science and it's his favourite subject at school and Emily is always asking to do 'speriments' too.

It was an unforgettable night science theatre. A night of discovery and really cool explosions!

When we arrived we felt very special indeed, as they had rolled out the red carpet  for us! 

The Red Carpet at Questacon, Canberra #humanbrochure

All we knew, prior to the event was that our host for the evening was Lord Fwah! We really didn't know what to expect but couldn't wait to meet him.

Here is Lord Fwah's dramatic entrance:

Dramatic entrance using Liquid Nitrogen at Questacon Canberra #humanbrochure

Now that's an entrance! Liquid nitrogen is pretty awesome stuff! With an entrance like this we knew the rest of the night would be amazing.

Once we entered the building we were dazzled by spectacular science experiments! We launched balloon rockets and learnt about sound vibrations. You've got to love an opportunity to make crazy noises into a microphone.

Learning about sound vibrations at Questacon, Canberra #humanbrochure

We then meet Dr Scar in the Perception Deception gallery. We learnt a little about haemoglobin and wounds. Then Dr Scar worked his face painting magic on us. Lots of gory wounds and gashes.

Dr Scar from Questacon creating working his face painting magic

James had a close encounter with he who must not be named and ended up with a Harry Potter scar!

Here's my nasty gash. 

Dr Scar's secret to a gory wound is red jelly! Who would have guessed?

Looking a little worse for wear, we then got to explore the Perception Deception gallery, which was lots of fun. This gallery is all challenging our senses with a variety of perceptual tests and illusions. 

Exploring the Perception Deception Gallery at Questacon, Canberra #humanbrochure

The Wonderworks gallery was definitely a highlight for my 2 year old niece. She loved the dancing and seeing the colours and shapes moving. This gallery explores colour and movement as well as patterns and shapes. 

Wonderworks gallery at Questacon, Canberra #humanbrochure

We learnt about static electricity in the Awesome Earth gallery Has anyone seen my balloon?

Learning about static electricity at Questacon, Canberra #humanbrochure

Then lightning struck! Which is always pretty spectacular, and definitely one of my favourite exhibits at Questacon.

Lightning strike in the Awesome Earth Gallery, Questacon #humanbrochure

The Q Lab was definitely the most dramatic part of our evening. We sat on a bed of nails, our hands were set on fire, lots of messy experiments took place and we got up close with a giant stick insect.  

The elephant toothpaste experiment is always impressive.

They then set my husband's hands on fire! Don't worry, no husbands were injured during the course of this experiment. It looked pretty spectacular though. I just wish I had a better photo! 

Questacon Canberra  #humanbrochure

We even got to meet a Goliath Stick Insect. It was ridiculously tickly as it crawled up your arm.

Meeting a Goliath Stick Insect at Questacon, Canberra #humanbrochure

We finished our tour of the galleries in Excite@Q. A wonderful hands on gallery which includes a 6m high slide, robot air hockey and a big blue tube called a Rototron. A visit to Questacon really isn't complete without a photo in the big blue tube!

In the Rototron at Questacon, Canberra. #humanbrochure

Then we were treated to a dinner party with Lord Fwah and the rest of the awesome Questacon crew. 

Dinner party at Questacon #humanbrochure

The food was lovely and the dinner entertainment was so much fun. More experiments (of course) and even more Liquid Nitrogen, including an important lesson on why you should not swallow Liquid Nitrogen! We even learnt how to create Star Wars laser gun sound effects using a metal slinky and a Styrofoam cup! Very cool!

Creating sound effects using a slinky and a styrofoam cup at Questacon #humancbrochure

Then all the kids were turned into blue tongue lizards! Well actually the blue dye helps to easily identify the taste buds on the tongue. The more taste buds you have the more likely you are a supertaster. Supertasters experience tastes more intensely than the rest of us and as a result can be more fussy about the foods they eat. Thankfully James is not a super taster. He eats pretty much everything!

Learning about super tasters at Questacon #humanbrochure

Then it was time for a puppet show! A dinosaur puppet show featuring Mutty the Muttaburrasaurus! The show was hilarious and, of course, required audience participation. Again my wonderful husband "volunteered" to be part of the show and he had to Roar on cue. I thought he was pretty good, and I was impressed with the variety of ways he could say "Roar!" Although Emily, on the other hand, wasn't that impressed with his performance and thought he needed to roar louder. A very harsh critic indeed, but I guess that's show biz?

Dinosaur puppet show at Questacon #humanbrochure

The dessert was definitely the highlight of the meal (no surprise there) It was fruit salad and ice cream. What's so special about that I hear you say? Well before we ate our dessert we were given a little pink tablet made from Miracle Berries. After swirling it around on our tongue for a while, it tricks our taste buds into thinking that sour and bitter flavours are sweet. It was mind blowing! Lemons have never tasted so good and I am certainly not a fan of grapefruit, but with my taste buds well and truly tricked, I just loved it. The best part was sweet flavours become sweeter, so the vanilla ice-cream was just divine! 

Miracle Berries for dessert at Questacon #humanbrochure

We found out that they sell Miracle Berries at the Questacon shop, so we went back recently and bought a packet for an upcoming party we are hosting for James.

Our amazing evening came to an end and we are now well and truly in love with the world of science! I know my iPhone photos and amateur photography skills really didn't do the experience justice. I have to admit I was having way too much fun to worry about photos all the time. 

I really enjoyed seeing how the kids reacted to this experience. James absolutely loved it and was the first to volunteer for everything! He was answering questions, getting involved and having the time of his life. It was so wonderful seeing him so confident. He has even decided that he's going to be a Scientist when he grows up. Questacon, your job is done!

Emily was a little more reserved. She clung to my husband, but watched everything that went on. A few days later, when we were looking through the photos together, she really surprised me with how she described what was happening in the photos and the various experiments that took place on the night. She soaked it all in, even though she wasn't as hands on as the other kids.

Questacon is such an amazing place and is definitely worth a visit with the kids if you are in Canberra.

If you want to see more of the wonderful Canberra experiences the other humans have had, make sure you browse through the Human Brochure

Personally, I would like to say a big THANK YOU to Visit Canberra and Questacon for such a fantastic experience. I would also like to thank Medina Serviced Apartments on Northbourne Ave, for taking such good care of my guests during their visit. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Picture Book Review and Craft: Elizabeth Rose on Parade by Jaquelyn Muller

Elizabeth Rose on Parade by Jaquelyn Muller and illustrated by Kathryn Zammit

The circus has come to town and Elizabeth Rose and her family of circus performers are about to parade down to the Big Top. Who will lead the parade? Why, Elizabeth Rose, of course. While the clown's nose is shiny and the acrobats are thrilling, no one quite compares to Elizabeth Rose. Her performance is a celebration of the simple pleasures of childhood, turning cartwheels, walking on tin can stilts and learning to juggle. Elizabeth Rose is a sweet, fun loving young girl, and I have no doubt that readers will adore her as much as we do.

Elizabeth Rose on Parade is the follow up of I love you 5 Lollipops by Jaquelyn Muller and illustrated by Kathryn Zammit. The short rhyming sentences, all rhyming with rose, make this a pleasure to read aloud and is perfect for ages 3 years and over. Kathryn Zammit's illustrations are just adorable and the colourful images will certainly appeal to young circus fans. We also had lots of fun searching for the hidden lollipops. 

You can find out more about Jaquelyn Muller via her website, where you can also purchase signed copies of her books. You can also find Elizabeth Rose on Parade in selected bookstores.

Book Details:
Author: Jaquelyn Muller
Illustrator: Kathryn Zammit
Publisher: Jaquelyn Muller Books
Publication Date: October 2014
ISBN: 9780646921266
RRP: $24.95

After reading Elizabeth Rose on Parade we were inspired to create our own little circus. We went outside and practised turning cartwheels for a while. Can I just say it has been a very long time since I turned a cartwheel and after demonstrating them for Emily I can guarantee that it will be even longer before I turn any more!

After a little exercise, the usual request from Emily arrived: "Mummy can we do some crafting!" So we decided to create our own Big Top using paper plates. 

How to create a paper plate circus tent

I thought a paper plate would make a great base for a circus tent and they were super easy to make.

All you need to create a circus tent is:
  • 1 paper plate
  • scissors
  • sticky tape
  • tooth pick (for a flag pole)
  • red paint
  • paint brush
Cut you paper plate into sections as outlined in the photograph below:

How to create a paper plate circus tent.

Then paint your paper plate pieces with stripes, like a circus tent. Once the paint is dry, use sticky tape to attach all the pieces.

Here is Emily's finished circus tent. She went for a swirls rather than stripes.

Paper Plate Circus Tent

Here is James' finished circus tent: 

Paper plate Circus Tent

They were so easy to make. Now we had the Big Top, we had to create our own circus. We added the paper plate circus tent to a large piece of butchers paper, which Emily then decorated using oil pastels to create a circus backdrop. 

Creating a circus backdrop using butchers paper, oil pastels and our paper plate circus tent

Emily liked using the illustrations in the book as inspiration for her own circus drawings and here is her finished product. You will notice she created a dark sky over the circus tent (and it even has rain).

Creating a Circus scene using a paper plate circus tent

She wanted her backdrop to look like the last page of the book, with it's dark cloudy sky.

A sneak peek inside Elizabeth Rose on Parade by Jaquelyn Muller

Earlier in the year Emily was given a circus Duplo set which was a perfect addition to her circus backdrop and ideal for some imaginative play. She happily played with her circus friends all afternoon.

Imaginative circus play using a paper plate circus tent and circus duplo

A picture book like Elizabeth Rose on Parade, that can inspire such creative play is certainly a wonderful addition to any child's bookshelf.

Elizabeth Rose on Parade

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Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the author. My opinions are, as always, my own.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Picture Book Review: Justine Clarke's The Ugly Duckling and a Giveaway!

The Ugly Duckling performed by Justine Clarke

The classic Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, The Ugly Duckling was reimagined as a song by Frank Loesser in 1952 and originally sung by the late Danny Kaye. Now Justine Clarke and illustrator Nathaniel Eckstrom breathe new life into this family favourite to create a beautiful picture book and CD.

Following the classic tale, there is a baby duckling who is very different from all the other ducklings in the nest. He is cast out by the other ducklings for being so different. He wanders alone and hides away for the winter. Finally he finds himself a new home where he is accepted by the other birds. He has found were he belongs.

There once was an ugly duckling,
With feathers all stubby and brown,
And the other birds,
In so many words, said,
'Get out of town!'

Illustrations by Nathaniel Eckstrom for The Ugly Duckling

The book includes a bonus CD with Justine Clarke performing the song. Justine's performance is truly delightful. The imaginative use of various instruments to represent the different characters is wonderful touch and had my kids thoroughly engaged. 

The illustrations by Nathaniel Eckstrom are stunning and are a perfect accompaniment to Justine's CD.

When the Ugly Duckling becomes a Swan from The Ugly Duckling by Frank Loesser and performed by Justine Clarke

The endpapers are adorable too.

Adorable endpapers by Nathaniel Eckstrom from The Ugly Duckling by Frank Loesser and Justine Clarke

The Ugly Duckling is fairy tale with a beautiful message that will no doubt assist in starting conversations about being different, being yourself, belonging and acceptance. 

Book Details:
Author: Frank Loesser
Illustrator: Nathaniel Eckstrom
Performed by: Justine Clarke
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Publication Date: October 2014
ISBN: 9781742836447
RRP: $24.99

The Ugly Duckling by Frank Loesser, Justine Clarke and Nathaniel Eckstrom

Now it's time for a Giveaway!
This giveaway is now CLOSED. Thank you to all who entered. Winners will be announced on Sunday 26 October 2014.

Congratulations to: 
Kate (Princess and the Pea)
DIANA (Thumbelina)
Annaleis. (Thumbelina)

Thanks to Scholastic Australia we have 3 copies of The Ugly Duckling to giveaway. This book would definitely make a lovely Christmas gift. 

To enter is super easy. All you need to do is leave a comment below telling us your favourite Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and why. Good Luck!

Terms and conditions: 
Entries are open to Australian residents only.
This is a game of skill. Chance plays no part in this competition.
Entries open at 2:00pm AEDT on 17 October 2014 and closes at 9:30pm AEDT on Saturday 25 October 2014.
Winners will be notified by email and must respond with their postal details within 48 hours or a new winner will be selected.
The prize will be shipped directly from the publisher.

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Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher. I was not obliged to review this book and my opinions, as always, are my own.

We are linking up with: 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Picture Book Review: Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

Review of Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett is a stunning picture book that explores a common childhood fear - the dark. A child's active imagination is an amazing and wondrous thing but it can sometimes it means that the shadows and sounds at night can be very scary. Learning to deal with those fears can be tricky and a little bit of help is needed.

Orion is a little boy who is afraid of many things, like wasps, storms, spiders, girls, but most of all he is afraid of the dark. 

Illustration from Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

He has tried all sorts of things to solves his little problem, but nothing has worked. Finally he gets so fed up that he yells at the dark to go away, and that's when it happened. The dark came to life and climbed in through his window! Orion embarks on a journey with Dark to face his worst fear and it's not long before Orion realises that the dark isn't scary, it's actually friendly.

The artwork and illustrations are truly stunning. The intricate details add so much to the story and we discover something new every time we read it. The typography used throughout the book is also fabulous and adds lovely visual appeal. We had lots of fun making all the scary sounds that Orion could hear during the night.

Use of typography in Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

We especially loved the two die-cut pages of Dark's hand. Just fabulous!

Die-cut pages from Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

Emma Yarlett deals with this common childhood fear of the dark so beautifully in Orion and the Dark. I know this will book will be a wonderful resource for parents and provide a them with a great conversation starter about fear and facing your fears.

Book Details:
Author/Illustrator: Emma Yarlett
Publisher: Koala Books
Publication Date: September 2014
ISBN: 9781742761190
RRP: $14.99

Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

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Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. I was not obliged to review the book and my opinions are, as always, my own.
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