Rockford’s Rock Opera Review & Giveaway Bundle

Rockford’s Rock Opera by Sweetapple is an ecological musical story about extinction, biodiversity, the value of the natural world and bringing endangered species back from the brink. It was created by a group of friends (Matthew Sweetapple and Elaine Sweetapple, husband and wife, and comedian Steve Punt) in an attic in Barnet, Hertfordshire and was first launched on the web in 2008. Rockford’s Rock Opera is enjoyed in 100,000 schools all over the world. This year it is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary and is now in the process of being turned into a feature animated film! With a production budget of $38,000,000 it will be one of the UK’s
biggest-ever independent films.

Rockford's Rock Opera

The story is unique in it’s format and delivery; combining pictures, animation, songs and dialogue. It is a truly touching story with an important ecological message. In essence, it is a musical story about a boy from Battersea called Moog and his Dog, Rockford. The underlying message is that one day we’ll discover the greatest secret of all; how every species on earth can live together in harmony. The creators, who describe it as Jungle Book meets Jurassic Park, suggest it is aimed primarily at ages 6-12 years old.

I downloaded all four of the parts on my iPhone from the App store (part 1 is free, parts 2, 3 and 4 cost £1.99 each). Each app contains extras as well as the story itself; including the music, story background and useful learning material (did you know that 99.9% of all creatures that have ever lived may now be extinct?!) as well as links to environmental organizations and charities.

Rockford's Rock Opera app

The story itself is a good combination of stills and CGI (some quite psychedelic; it took me back to the Beatles yellow submarine), supported by clear narration and varied styled music – some with singalong lyrics (one of my favorite touches). Not wishing to give too much of a spoiler, the story centers around Moog and his rescue dog Rockford from Battersea Dogs’ Home, who find themselves travelling across the sea of tranquility to an island called Infinity; home to the last creature of all extinct species. Here they encounter many fictional creatures, including a small yellow sticky creature with a green stripe called a Cocklebur Ink, a ten tentacle octopus called a Dectopus and a menacing guitar playing mantis called The Registrar, to name just a few. Moog and Rockford must race to the centre of the island against the backward flowing river to stop the extinction of all dogs and humans on earth. But, given humans were the cause of many of the islands creatures’ extinctions, not everyone wants them to succeed.

Rockford's Rock Opera Island of Infinity

All four parts run to 2.5 hours in total but is divided into chapters, making it perfect for bedtimes or car journeys. It has no in app purchasing and does not require an internet connection, so it’s 100% safe for children to use unassisted.

I have to say I fell in love with this story. It really tugs on the heartstrings and inspires empathy in such an original way. It gets the message across very clearly, and is hard hitting, yet also simultaneously approaches it in a sensitive and tactful way; it is a delicate balance that has been achieved remarkably well.

The songs range from slow, emotional songs such as ‘This Tail is True’ to really rocky tunes like ‘I Am The Registrar’. My absolute favourite though, is the incredibly catchy ‘Tale of The Cocklebur Ick’. This one has literally not left my head! I think not least of all because it carries such a strong message and is so thought- provoking. That tale in itself can lead to many hours of valuable discussion; indeed there are entire lesson plans on the website to cover just that part of the story.

The website is filled with tonnes of useful information, from detailed lesson plans to practical ideas on how to protect our environment. It also has loads of other cool fun stuff too, so do check it out! RockfordsRockOpera.com

Giveaway!

I have an awesome Rockford’s Rock Opera giveaway bundle for one reader to win! Enter via rafflecopter below. UK only. Competition ends on 8th July 2018.

Rockford's Rock Opera giveaway bundle

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*I was given free access to the apps for the purpose of review and was compensated for my time. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Fun Family Activities To Celebrate Earth Day!

Sunday 22nd April is Earth Day. So here are some lovely ways you can celebrate, either then or any other day (because really, everyday should be Earth Day anyway!)…

Fun Family Activities To Celebrate Earth Day!

Nature Art

There are lots of fun nature art activities that you can do as a family. One that is particularly great for Earth Day is to collect some large pebbles, arrange them in a solid circle, then paint them with a map of the world (I decided to add a peace sign too!)

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Get Crafty!

Make a paper mache globe – a project takes several days but is lots of messy creative fun – head on over to The Crafty Classroom to for a detailed tutorial. Or make an Earth Pom Pom, pop over to Monkey and Mouse for info!

Nature Walk

Use all your senses to explore the natural environment around you. Stop for a few moments, be still and listen. What do you hear? What do you see? What can you smell? Touch the bark of a tree, go barefoot on the grass. Take it all in and connect with our earth.

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Complete a Challenge

Go from room to room to find ways to reduce energy consumption in your family home. Who can spot the most ways?

Give Earth a Helping Hand

Clean up your local environment with a two minute litter pick in your local park or nearby beach.

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Family Movie Night

Watch an eco documentary such as A Plastic Ocean or Blue Planet 2.

Storytime Snuggles

Grab some books from your local library, such as Duffy’s Lucky Escape.

Duffy's Lucky Escape

Plastic- Free Picnic

Can you manage to hold a plastic- free family picnic? Which part is most difficult? How could you resolve it?

Take Part in a Project

Create your own family documentary about whichever aspect of green living you choose. Or make a poster about it. Or whatever format you prefer! The key is to engage with your ideas and share them with others.

What are you doing for Earth Day? Tell me in comments, I look forward to reading about it!

Sustainable St Albans Week 2018 and Launch of Plastic Free St Albans!

There are only a few days to go now until Sustainable St Albans Week 2018, so I want to share with you some of the fab things that will be going on! If you are local, then pop along to some of the events to learn more about eco living and show your support. And if you aren’t local, maybe these ideas will inspire you to host your own event in your local town!

The week will be kicking off with an afternoon of talks to launch the event, as well as over a dozen activities on just the first day alone. Over the course of the week there is a massive range of fun, educational and inspiring activities for all ages.

Sustainable St Albans Week 2018 logo

Some of the highlights include the grand opening of our first ‘Little Free Library’ – where you can take a book and donate another, several guided walks and cycle rides, organised wildlife watch, vegan cooking demo and tasting (yum!), plenty of talks and workshops on various topics, eco tours, growing activities, seed swaps, clothes swaps, litter picks, poetry recitals and film screenings. The list goes on and on…! It is a jam packed week full of brilliant options to choose from.

Children can also meet Munch the recycling lorry and discover more about recycling, do creative activities using old items, take part in interactive storytelling, attend woodcraft taster sessions, and swap books, amongst other things. Lots of the other activities are very family- friendly and suitable for all ages too of course!

For the full event schedule visit the Sustainable St Albans website and download the booklet.

There is also a one day Know- How Festival, which sounds brilliant! I thought this was worth a specific mention as it has so much going on for the whole family. Here is further information…

Know How festival flyer - part of Sustainable St Albans Week 2018

As part of Sustainable St Abans Week, on Sunday 22nd April, which very aptly is also Earth Day, marks the official launch of Plastic Free St Albans. I am so excited about this, so let me tell you more about it!

Plastic Free St Albans is inspired by Surfers Against Sewage – an environmental charity who are leading a national campaign called Plastic Free Coastlines, to encourage communities to drastically reduce single use plastics – and is an alliance of several local activists. It was founded by Emma Tyers, who previously ran the hugely successful St Albans Refuse the Straw campaign and also has members from our fantastic local groups, Sustainable St Albans and St Albans Friends of the Earth, too. What a team! The group aims to hopefully achieve S.A.S Plastic Free status eventually.

Plastic Free St Albans logo

The main goal is to work with local businesses, schools, and other organisations to remove, as far as possible, plastic straws and stirrers, water bottles and balloons from St Albans. These particular items are being targetted because they are so rarely recycled, and therefore form such a large part of our plastic waste and litter.

They are also working on St Albans Refill scheme, which asks businesses to provide free water bottle refills to anyone who asks, free of charge. Look out for other upcoming projects in future too!

Last but not least, check out their excellent interactive map of all things plastic free, so you can see how the campaign is developing and, more importantly, know where to head to avoid the plastic! Awesome initiative, looking forward to seeing the map grow!

You can also read more about Plastic Free St Albans in this Herts Ad article.

To launch this fantastic new campaign, there will be a plastic-free picnic at Highfield park on Sunday afternoon, followed by a screening of A Plastic Ocean in the evening, along with a panel of guest speakers, hosted at the beautiful Odyssey cinema. There are only a few tickets left, so grab yours now!

Enjoy what promises to be an inspirational and exciting week!

Handmade recycled silver labradorite stone ring image and giveaway wording

GIVEAWAY!!!

To help celebrate and support both Sustainable St Albans Week and Plastic Free St Albans, the lovely Sally from Leonard of London has offered us a stunning piece of jewellery to giveaway to one lucky campaign supporter! This gorgeous handmade ring is made from recycled sterling silver and has a beautiful labradorite stone.

The ring will be resized for the winner as per the measurements given before sending it to them.

Check out Leonard of London on facebook for more of her work.

Handmade recycled silver labradorite stone ring

The giveaway ends on 21st May 2018 and is open to UK residents only. Enter via rafflecopter below. Other T&Cs apply.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Duffy’s Lucky Escape (Duffy The Sea Turtle): An Inspiring and Educational Childrens Book About Ocean Plastics (Review and Giveaway)

About the Book

Duffy’s Lucky Escape is a fantastic engaging story with the most stunning gorgeous illustrations that takes children on an adventure with Duffy when she encounters plastic pollution in the sea after a storm. This beautiful book, aimed at ages 4-10 years old, highlights the relationship between humans and wildlife, and how we negatively impact their health by polluting their natural habitats. It also teaches how to help in a fun and friendly way.Cover of the book Duffy's Lucky Escape by Ellie Jackson

This book is the perfect present for a special child in your life or even gift a copy to a local school, community group or library.

Educational Value

The book and the accompanying website is exceptionally high quality with a wealth of learning opportunities. It can be used as an educational resource in any setting to discuss recycling, reducing use of single-use plastics, global citizenship, environmental activism and empathy for our natural world. The website has plenty of great ideas on the resources page. There are also some interesting little video clips on their facebook page about the making of the book too.

A picture of Duffy the Sea Turtle swallowing a plastic bag. One of the beautiful illustrations from the book.

The Story Behind Duffy

Duffy was suffering from something called Floater’s Syndrome where the plastics she had eaten were stopping her from diving down under the water to eat. Luckily turtles who are on the surface are more likely to be spotted by people out on boats and so are more likely to be rescued. The first thing they do is to build up the turtles strength before they can find out what is wrong with it via x-ray. In lots of cases they see plastic caught in the turtles throat, stomach or intestines causing the blockage and making them feel very ill. If the turtle is well enough the vets can operate and remove the plastic before they can eventually be released back into their natural habitats. The whole process from the initial rescue to the release can take up to a year. Read the story in more detail here.

A stunning illustration of Duffy in rehab at the rescue centre. A page from the book Duffy's Lucky Escape.

About the Author

I never thought about becoming an author, it was a process that I fell into by reason of circumstance and luck. An amazing opportunity to live for a year on a tropical island in the Great Barrier Reef was not something that I ever thought would lead to a new direction for me – we moved there as a family for beaches and adventure! The most beautiful beaches, framed by palm trees and sunsets, just how you would imagine an island paradise to be. We didn’t wear shoes for a year, we had our own pool, and a great circle of friends. My three children were all under school age and it was the perfect chance for us as a family to experience a more laid back approach to life and give our kids real freedom. My husband works from home and this allowed us the chance to try something different before we had to start real life when our eldest started school.

We heard about a turtle release happening on one of the beaches – I have to say I didn’t realise what a big deal this event was going to be – the whole island turned out plus TV cameras and journalists. When it was time for the turtle to be put back into the water, we formed two lines into the sea and the turtle was released on the beach and immediately headed for the sea and was gone in a matter of seconds. It was a surprisingly emotional experience to see this turtle who had spent a year in the aquarium getting fit and healthy again, returning to her ocean home.

After the turtle release, we visited the Turtle Hospital on the mainland and heard all the different reasons as to why turtles need our help – one of which is where they suffer from eating too much plastic. As soon as my young children had made the link between plastic on the beach and turtles, every time we went to the beach they were running around picking up rubbish saying “Mummy, I’m saving a turtle!”. Well that was it for me, I was amazed at how such a simple true story could motivate and encourage such enthusiasm for picking up rubbish!

An illustration of Duffy the Sea Turtle after her release back into the ocean.

Further Information

Shop: Purchase via Duffy the Sea Turtle website directly or buy on Amazon.*

Cost: £7.99 with a percentage of all profits going to UK national marine charities.

To find out more, visit duffytheseaturtle.com or find them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

*Contains an affilliate link.

Giveaway

One of you can win a copy of this wonderful book! Simply enter via rafflecopter below. UK residents only. Ends 15th December 2017. Other T&Cs apply. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wicked Uncle Review – Fun Gift Ideas For Kids (STEM Toys)

Wicked Uncle is a cool website that specialises in awesome gifts for kids. More than that, it is set up to make it easy for anyone to be able to choose a brilliant suitable present – even if they don’t know the child very well. It is also great if you are simply stuck for good ideas and need some inspiration. 

I was given the opportunity to review their website; they gave me a voucher code and my brief was to choose products with a focus on science and engineering. (Ideal as Squiggle loves STEM toys!) This is the first time I have shopped on their website and I found it super easy to use. I also tried to consider how simple it would be if I was buying for someone I don’t know at all, and I can totally imagine it would be straightforward and take the stress out of it! 

The website allows you to select gender, specific age and categories (such as outdoors, sensory, engineering, creative and various others). Or you can browse all options within any of these sections. I admit I am not a fan of organising toys by gender but I do understand that some customers might want to ‘play it safe’ and find this function useful. Plus there is a good selection in both the boys and girls sections; the range is not divided up in a way that is too stereotypical thankfully. And of course you can just choose ‘all’ for this instead if you prefer to be gender neutral, like us! 

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Given I was looking for engineering toys specifically, I selected that category and looked up the appropriate age range (in this case, 8 – 11 years old). I could then search the products by price or popularity. I have to say, there is an excellent selection of items; including some really unique ideas!

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I spent ages browsing the website and was really impressed. There were lots of items that I wouldn’t have thought of myself and have never spotted them anywhere else before. I also came across lots of great gift ideas for other people while I was browsing, lots of inspiration for future occasions! I eventually decided on the Salt Water Engine Car (£15.95) and Tin Can Cable Car (£14.95) plus I couldn’t resist throwing in the funky Mood Cube (£5.50) too.

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Ordering is easy, and there are options such as gift wrap and choosing a card (at a small extra cost) should you require it. Once ordered, delivery is quite quick; my parcel arrived within a few days. It also comes with a cute (and funny!) thank you card for the gift, which is a nice little touch.

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I chose these particular two items because from the descriptions I could tell that they would be fun, educational toys that Squiggle would really enjoy. I also like the eco- friendly nature of them too; I value toys and activities that emphasise the importance of being environmentally conscious.

I knew Squiggle would find it interesting that the car runs from salt water and this can also lead onto further discussion about clean energy (which is something we have already talked about alot before, but it is still a good reminder!) There were more pieces than I expected, but that’s great as it means the activity actually lasts more than five minutes! It is lovely that we can properly get into it together. 

Wicked Uncle, childrens gifts, toys and games, gift website, educational resources, gift ideas, review, engineering, science, STEM

I like the tin can cable car activity because it reinforces the concept of reusing and upcycling. I also knew that Squiggle would let her creative side take over and use this as a zip wire for her smaller toys – as this is something she was already trying to design by herself in the garden anyway! Her previous attempts at improvising were fantastic, but this kit is ideal!

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In summary, I am very impressed with the website and will definitely be using it to buy gifts again in the future! It is absolutely brilliant for coming up with unique gift ideas. It also comes highly recommended by others too – it is an award winning service infact; rated 99 out of 100, based on many reviews. Well done, Wicked Uncle!

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*Disclosure: I was given a voucher code so I could shop on Wicked Uncle website for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Global Guardian Project

Global Guardian Project is an inspirational digital multimedia resource – called a learning capsule- designed to educate children (and adults!) about caring for our planet, and to empower children of any age to take action and be change-makers. 

“Our mission is to create learning tools that support the entire family in making simple, daily changes that will become positive habits.”

Each learning capsule is delivered monthly to your inbox. Subscription costs $14.99 per month and can be cancelled anytime. You will only ever pay for what you receive. You can also buy one-off capsules for $16.99. 

The capsules are beautifully presented, and contain a wealth of information and activities. They include things such as endangered species, interviews and spotlights, DIY and art projects, recipes, and guided meditations.  Each one focuses on a different country. The current one is about Sweden and coming next, on 15th April, it will be Israel. Here are some page samples from this month’s Sweden learning capsule…

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Global Guardian Project, learning subscription, home education, activist, global citizen, green living, sustainability, our world, freedom to learn, childhood unplugged, affiliate

Global Guardian Project, learning subscription, home education, activist, global citizen, green living, sustainability, our world, freedom to learn, childhood unplugged, affiliate

Global Guardian Project, learning subscription, home education, activist, global citizen, green living, sustainability, our world, freedom to learn, childhood unplugged, affiliate

I cannot express how much I love the aim and approach of this fabulous initiative. As home educators, we are always excited to find awesome new resources. But this one is an absolute dream because it matches our own values so perfectly. So I am genuinely SO delighted to have teamed up with them to offer 10% discount on subscriptions using my code LIVINGLIFEOURWAY To subscribe, click here and enter the code at checkout. Remember you can cancel anytime. 

If you are not sure if you want to commit and would like to try it out first, you can get a free India capsule, worth $14.99, simply by signing up to the newsletter here. They send out useful emails once or twice per month. No junk. Promise.

You can also download the free Oceans capsule here. This is a mini capsule, about 50% of the content of the full size subscription version. But it gives you a great idea of what the capsules are all about. And I am so happy that this one is dedicated to the ocean!

Remember, if you decide to subscribe, my code is LIVINGLIFEOURWAY for your 10% off discount! I hope you love it as much as I do!!!

*Disclosure: I am an affiliate. This means I get paid a referral fee for each person who subscribes using my discount code. You save money, I receive a fee, Global Guardian Project gets subscribers and our planet gains a tribe of protectors. Everyone wins! 

30 Days Wild – Day 22: Bug Hunt and Litter Picking

We enjoyed spotting various insects today.

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We observed a bee collecting pollen, laughed at the challenge of taking photographs of hoverflies, watched a beetle hiding under a leaf, held a ladybird and a fly that landed on Squiggle’s leg, saw other insects too, and studied some mite eggs on a leaf.

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We also appreciated the beauty of rain drops on the web and the gorgeous colours of a tree…

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And we picked up litter too…

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30 Days Wild- Day 6: Growing Our Own Food

We have a small area of our garden dedicated to growing our own fruit, vegetables and potatoes. Today we planted out our pepper seedlings and harvested some rocket potatoes from our GYOP project.

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Here is a video clip taken a few weeks ago of Squiggle planting the seeds (and some others too)…

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A fortnight after planting the seeds, seedlings were already growing strong.

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Squiggle gently handled the seedlings as she carefully planted them outside.

Here is Squiggle, harvesting (and then later eating!) our potatoes…

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I love her look of amazement!

For more information on the Grow Your Own Potatoes (GYOP) project, and to register now to take part in 2017, see their website www.growyourownpotatoes.org.uk

Eco- Energy City

Today Squiggle and I spent the majority of the day building an ‘Eco- Energy City’. It was such an interesting project and sparked lots of educational discussion, such as renewable energy sources, transfer of energy and different ways energy is used. She was really focused throughout and loved the finished product too- a big thumbs up from us!

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Getting started
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Circuits
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Wiring the water wheel
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Finishing touches
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And it works! The 'city' gets energy via the solar panel and hand generator, which can be stored and then used to power the windmill, turn the water wheel and light up the street light and house light.
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Experimenting with the switches
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Sylvanians came to visit the city and learn about it too!