Harry Potter – Mystery at Hogwarts

Well, it has been a while and I’m sorry, dear readers, for neglecting you so. I have so many things to tell you about that I hardly know where to start.

As you may remember, Monday is board games night with my boys. This week they chose Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; Mystery at Hogwarts.

Harry Potter Game

I am pretty good at charity shop shopping, even if I do say so myself!The Win

The object of the game is to be the first player to reach Fluffy’s Trapdoor having successfully worked out which Teacher witnessed which Culprit casting which Spell on which Victim.

As in Cluedo, one of each of the main playing cards (in this game there are four types of Hint Card: Teacher/Classroom; Culprit; Forbidden Spell and Victim) are selected secretly at the start of the game and hidden.  Unlike Cluedo, the game is split into three sections.

In the first section, the players roll the dice and move their hats around the board, going into the classrooms to collect Hint Cards, which are not shared out at the start of the game, as they are in Cluedo.During the Game

The second section is more familiar; going into the classrooms to make suggestions: “Professor Flitwick; did you see Gregory Goyle casting Wingardium Leviosa on Mrs Norris?”  The other players then take it in turns to show you one of the suggested cards from their hand, if they have one.

The third section, when you know which cards are hidden there, is to race to Fluffy’s Trapdoor, where the game is won or lost.Fluffys Trapdoor

There are a couple of other tweaks from the Cluedo format too.  One is a ghost which roams the halls; blocking doorways and banishing students to the Great Hall.  Another is the green-bordered deck of cards.

Throughout the game, when the dice show the silhouette of Hogwarts, cards are drawn from a second deck.  This contains special cards, allowing you to look at cards from other players’ hands; move around the board; gain immunity form the ghost; open secret passages and, vitally, bridge the gaps in the stairways to Fluffy’s Trapdoor.


The PiecesThe game is great fun to play and runs really well, as you would expect with it being based on such an established classic.  I was a little worried that the extra variable might complicate the game or slow it down (in Cluedo, it’s just who did what where – we really don’t care about the victim) but it doesn’t.  The sharp artwork and topical adaption make this game appealing to the younger generation and the good quality board, cards and pieces mean it will survive them too.The Cards




What have you been playing recently?



February Birchbox

I do love getting my new Birch Box.  I tried to resist renewing after a year of receiving them and managed to resist December’s box, but January looked just too tempting and now it’s February!

February Birchbox











I’m kicking myself a little about my photos as I forgot to get my big group shot and now the box is all broken up.  Two bits are in my work bag; two are on my dresser at home and I’ve eaten the other one!

In the interests of ending on a high I’m going to start on a low.

Oats + Chia – Mixed Berry

Oats and ChiaIt’s not a good start that I’m not keen on berries, really.  I ate this two days ago for breakfast.  The oats were ok, the berries were very sharp, I’m still picking chia seeds from between my teeth and there are as many Weight Watchers points in this made with water as there are in a sachet of porridge made with milk.  Sorry, I wasn’t impressed.

TheBalm StainiacThe Balm Stainiac

I just don’t understand lipstains.  They feel dry and unnatural while offering uneven and poor colour.  This could be how I’m using them, I suppose, but I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong.

Liz Earle – Botanical Shine ShampooBotanical Shine Shampoo

I was a slow starter when it came to Liz Earle but I’m getting to love the Hot Cloth Cleanser which I keep in my work locker and use before I go into the shower.  I’m looking forward to seeing what the shampoo does, although I would have preferred to receive the conditioner too so I could test them both together.  This could be one for the work locker.

Bath Salt Scrub

London Butterflies – Bath Salt Scrub

I have yet to try this – with cycling to work and swimming at weekends I’m more of a shower person, although I love the idea of a relaxing bath.  I’ve had a number of exfoliants recently though so I’m not sure how soon I’m going to be able to try this one.

Wild About Beauty – Rose Water Illuminating SerumIlluminating Serum

This one made it into my work bag, which is always a good sign.  I was expecting to have to squeeze the pretty tube but there’s a pump at the end – is this the best of both worlds?  The serum is off-white with an iridescent pink sheen to it which is slightly hypnotic.  The light formula blurs fine lines, almost like a primer, but feels just slightly tacky on my skin; not a problem under makeup but slightly disconcerting when I test it on the back of my hand.

Silver EyelinerCynthia Rowley – Eyeliner in silver

I’ve seen quite a few posts recently about paler eyeliners so was delighted to see this in my box.  A basic application on my upper lid put a twinkle in my eye, so I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can do with this.

It’s a bit of a mixed bag for February.  As I’ve seen other people comment, there doesn’t seem to be any theme running through this box; it’s all a little random.  I’ve also noticed that, where issues raised with Birchbox on Instagram have been answered promptly in previous months, there’s a lack of response to comments this month.

With other subscription services vying for my business (I adore My Little Box and seem to have subscribed to Glossybox – look for their reviews over the next week) I’m not sure how long I’m going to continue with Birchbox.

What do you think of my box this month?  Do you receive Birchbox too?  What did you get?  What did you think of the Oats?



Burt’s Bees and So Susan

I went into Waitrose the other evening with my little boys.  They don’t like going to the supermarket and I only ever take them in the evenings if they’ve been naughty or if we’re desperate for something.  We were running low on toilet roll (and they’d been cheeky to staff at school)…  Being on a highly restrictive diet, I was looking for a distraction to stop me from being magnetically attracted to the patisserie counter.  Cue the bath and body aisle!

To be fair, I have long been looking for some kind of serum or cream to miraculously transform my nails from ratty and splitting to smooth and nourished.  I browsed through the aisle of luxury names until my eye fell on the Burt’s Bees range.  I’ve heard good things about their lip balm and one more lip balm never hurts, does it?  I picked up the honey lip balm and put it in my basket.  As I glanced up, my eye was caught by a pretty metal tin with a picture of a lemon on it: Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream.  Could this be the answer?  I added this to my basket and it was as I was looking down that I saw this:

Tips and Toes

The lip balm was different but there was still one in there.  There was also the cuticle cream: a smaller tin but when do I ever finish anything anyway?  I totted up the price in my mind and the kit was only around £3 more expensive for an additional 4 items.

So how did I get on with everything?IMG_2367

Almond & Milk Hand Cream:

This stuff is quite lush and smells like a whole family of almonds having a bath in clotted cream.  It’s a really thick cream to spread across the skin of your hands when you have plenty of time to rub it in.

Hand Salve


Hand salve:

This is is a solid waxy balm with a strong lavender scent which melts ever so slightly under my finger.  I have been using it across my knuckles where my skin is prone to cracking with the cold and so far the results are excellent.
Replenishing Lip Balm:
(with pomegranate oil)
Replenishing Lip Balm
As I said, many people have raved about these lip balms.  I don’t know if it’s the pomegranate oil or one of the other “replenishing” ingredients but I don’t like the flavour of this.  It tastes a little artificial although my boyfriend assures me it has a pleasant tint to it.  As a balm it’s fairly average.Hand and Foot Creams

Honey & Grapeseed Hand Cream:

This hand cream smells divine!  I love the waft of honey as I rub it into my hands.  The texture is not bad, although I prefer my hand creams to be a little thicker and my fingertips are left feeling just slightly greasy.  It’s probably my third favourite hand cream, after l’Occitaine en Provence and the Almond and Milk hand cream above.


Coconut Foot Cream:

I’m disinclined to write much about this one on the basis of “if you don’t have anything nice to say…”  It smells lovely and there was a nice, chilly tingle of mint when I applied it to my feet but the chilly tingle didn’t go away for ages and the cream was slimy and just didn’t rub in.  It was still slimy the next morning when I got up!  I have almost an entire tube left if anyone would like it…?

Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream

Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream:

Finally, we have the reason I bought the set in the first place.  This product did not disappoint!  It smells like lemons and limes tangoing across my nails in a snowstorm of zest!  My finger nails were so much improved after just two days that I did this:

So Susan Amethyst

 So Susan: Amethyst:

Quite possibly my favourite nail varnish at the moment (but only because glitter is so hard to remove).  This shot was after one clear basecoat and one (ONE!) coat of Amethyst.  If I’d had time I would have applied a second coat and a topcoat, but still, wow!

Small criticism: there is something badly wrong with the brush; half of the fibres are shorter than the rest, as if this brush was made from the scruffy ends of the bundle.

So what are you putting on your hands at the moment?



Mondays Like These

Well, that was an interesting day.

I’ve had an absolute ‘mare of a weekend!  There didn’t seem to be anything in particular going wrong but I was just depressed through the whole of it; with four children in the house that was a recipe for emotional disaster for me.  Monday rolled around and it felt like a potential turning point; this was the moment when my week could either continue downhill or start climbing back up towards some level of emotional stability.

The first thing I did on Monday to influence this was eat a banana before I left the house.  My commutes last week had been hard, I was running on empty all the way in and by the end of the week I was shattered.  The difference in my commute after a banana was impressive and I got into work to have my breakfast feeling energised rather than drained.

The second thing was the arrival of my Teapigs Matcha kit, about which I will write a full post soon.  I’m not sure if it’s coincidental timing with other things falling into place but, after drinking a matcha shot at lunchtime, my afternoon was so much easier than it would normally be.

A pleasant ride home was followed by Board Games Monday with my boys when we played Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs, a game which used to belong to my brother when we were the age my boys are now.


Expedition Disturbs the Undergrowth

Pteranodon Swoops!

Pteranodon Swoops!


Considering his next move





The little guy won this one, being the first to get two gold coins from the temple out of the valley, which made for a nice, quiet evening!

An excellent start to the new week; things may be starting to look up for me.



My Quiet Places

I suffer from anxiety and depression.  My head gets filled with a jumble of voices; images; songs; numbers; words; worries and so many other things. They build up and up, like hair in a plughole, further and further restricting the flow of energy inside me, disrupting my concentration and creating a stagnant pool of frustration as I try to battle my way through the day.

I need quiet places.  I don’t mean audibly quiet, although that certainly helps, just somewhere which inspires my inner peace, somewhere I don’t have to worry about anything for a couple of minutes.  Not all of my quiet places are places; some of them are activities or even people.

My favourite quiet place is in the arms of my boyfriend or holding his hand as we walk.  There’s something about his touch, about this wordless reassurance of his love and acceptance of me which calms the crazy of my mind like a summer breeze wafting through an Audrey Hepburn movie.

Watching a movie is often good for a bit of escapism but the effect is transitory, with the exception of Audrey Hepburn (see above).  Unless I’m watching them from within my boyfriend’s arms.

Books are wonderful escapism too but I seldom seem to find an opportunity to settle down with a book uninterrupted and I dislike having to snatch a paragraph here and there without time to immerse myself in a story.  I love having an hour or more to really sink into the book to the extent that the feelings, emotions and background of the hero or heroine linger after I’ve put the book down, leaving me frustrated, sad, scared or teary with happiness.  Far more so than movies, books take me out of myself and into the mind of someone whose problems I can understand, problems which will probably be solved by the last chapter, which is preferable to the ongoing chaos inside my own mind.

My sanctuary while I’m at work is the ladies’ room where, for just a few minutes at a time, there is nothing in my day more pressing and the peace, when there’s no-one else there and the extractor fan is off, is cleansing.  This works less well at home, where the children have no respect for the sanctity of the bathroom and the meaning of the closed door.

At home the study, which we recently reorganised, is probably the closest I have to a quiet place.  It is currently the tidiest room in the house and the lack of clutter helps to ease the clutter in my mind.  Unfortunately the boxes of paperwork, books and unsorted stuff from previous house moves are creeping back in, meaning the room is started to get less organised…  Also, it’s right next to the play room which means the noise level can creep up when the children are at large.

Where do you go when the world gets too much for you?  What do you do to detox your spirit?  Do you have any advice for me?  I’d love to hear your stories.



Relieving the Strain or Small Changes

I have been suffering (ask anyone who lives or works with me) with screaming pain in my shoulders and neck for months now.  I have been walking around as if I had books on my head, desperately trying to keep all my movements smooth.  I gasp if I move my head to suddenly, squeal if I sneeze and live in dread of my commute where, bike or car, I must keep checking my blind spots.

A hard pillow didn’t help, nor did a soft one.  Curling up to sleep was no different to stretching out.  On my back; on my side; on my front, nothing.  I was living on a cocktail of Panadol and ibuprofen and smelt constantly of heat gel but even if they had made the pain go away (which they didn’t) they still wouldn’t touch the cause of the pain.

I was starting to resign myself to the idea of having to go to the doctor, something I never enjoy doing, if only for the inconvenience but then, about a week ago, I glanced over at my manager of the last couple of months and I had an idea.  The kind which makes you slap yourself on the forehead.

Allister is fairly tall, topping six foot with a few inches to spare.  He had also complained of a bad neck until we raised the level of his monitors by a few inches, bringing the tops to the level of his eyes.  Why it didn’t occur to me at the time that the same solution could be applied to me is beyond me; I guess I’m better at solving other people’s health issues than my own.

So, rather than raising my monitors, I lowered my chair by a few inches and my screaming neck pain started to go away!

A couple of days later I thought I would try moving my keyboard closer to me so I wasn’t stretching to type and the pain in my shoulders reduced dramatically!

I am amazed at the effect these minor adjustments have had on my quality of life!  Now, rather than being continually beset by neck and shoulder pain, I can focus on more important things!  Like why my ankle hurts when I run… (I am such fun at parties!)