From being very young, I have had penpals. Over the years I have exchanged letters with people from all around the world, and at present I have half a dozen or so friends, in England, America, Canada and Australia, some new and others with whom I have corresponded for years. There’s nothing quite like sitting down and writing a letter to someone – the flow of the pen on the paper as your thoughts tumble out and turn into words on a page is quite therapeutic sometimes, and I find it very calming. And receiving a letter is so exciting – I like to set aside time to myself and sit down with a nice, hot cup of tea while I enjoy reading them, and think about how I shall respond.

When one of my penpals, who has a daughter the same age as Tadpole, contacted me saying her daughter would like to have a penpal I was delighted to ask if he’d like a friend across the sea to write to. He was very enthusiastic in accepting and was incredibly excited when the first letter from his new friend arrived.

Tonight he wrote his reply and I’m very proud of him – for a six year old, it’s rather a long letter and he took a lot of care over it and drew a little picture of them both together on the back. I’m sure she is anxiously awaiting her letter from Tadpole, so it will go to the post office tomorrow.

I guess you can’t start too young – and I hope this is the beginning of a lovely and lengthy trans-Atlantic friendship!

Here’s his lovely letter – obviously I’ve edited it to protect identities, but I thought it would be nice to include it to show how well he did.

Edited letter

Blog Tour: Whither Thou Goest by Anna Belfrage (Graham Saga #7)

Whither Thou GoestTitle: Whither Thou Goest (The Graham Saga #7)
Author: Anna Belfrage
ISBN: 978-1781322413
Publisher: SilverWood
First Published: 1 November 2014 (Paperback/Kindle)
No .of pages: 408

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
In their rural home in the Colony of Maryland, Matthew and Alex Graham are still recovering from the awful events of the previous years when Luke Graham, Matthew’s estranged brother, asks them for a favour.

Alex has no problems whatsoever ignoring Luke’s sad plea for help. In her opinion Matthew’s brother is an evil excuse of a man who deserves whatever nasty stuff fate throws at him. Except, as Matthew points out, Luke is begging them to save his son – his misled Charlie, one of the Monmouth rebels – and can Charlie Graham be held responsible for his father’s ill deeds?

So off they go on yet another adventure, this time to the West Indies to find a young man neither of them knows but who faces imminent death on a sugar plantation, condemned to slavery for treason. The journey is hazardous and along the way Alex comes face to face with a most disturbing ghost from her previous life, a man she would much have preferred never to have met.

Time is running out for Charlie Graham, Matthew is haunted by reawakened memories of his days as an indentured servant, and then there’s the eerie Mr Brown, Charlie’s new owner, who will do anything to keep his secrets safe, anything at all.

Will Matthew deliver his nephew from imminent death? And will they ever make it back home?

The Graham Saga is a series that just keeps giving! You want cracking characters? They’re in there. You crave action and intrigue? Look no further! You fancy some peril and deliverance? It’s right here, people! You like historical settings, but enjoy modern people out of their time? This is the series for you! And with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books now hitting our television screens, we can expect The Graham Saga to pick up interest from fans of Gabaldon as they look for more wonderful works to entertain them with the kind of rich plots and sweeping landscapes they already love, because if you like Gabaldon, you’ll LOVE Belfrage!

Once again, we see Alex (a modern woman out of her time) and her family almost torn apart and having to pull together to make it out the other side of the trials and tribulations thrown their way. Much of it is edge of the seat stuff and one genuinely found it incredibly difficult to put down the book and return to one’s own day-to-day life (as one must occasionally, to do everyday things such as feeding the kids, getting them to school, and making sure we have a nice, clean home in which to live – seriously, if I could have an extra few hours in every day just to read these books, I’d be a very happy woman!).

Fans of the series will find this latest (7th!) installment delivers everything one would expect and then some – an exciting, often intense, adventurous, romantic saga of a story that will keep readers gripped till the last page is turned, and then leave us gasping and gagging for more. It seems Belfrage cannot put a foot wrong – long may she continue to give us more installments in this truly wonderful series!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Here at Kincavel Korner, things are definitely looking more festive – the tree is up and decorated (although I think we’ll pick up a few more decorations for it this afternoon, to fill it out some more!), and the mantelpiece is decorated too.

We kind of just let the kids loose with the tree ornaments, and then had them (well, Tadpole, at least) help rearrange them and spread them out a bit. Much fun was had by all and now we’re all ready to gather our supplies to make some festive cookies and mince pies over the next few weeks!

Tadpole’s Xmas cards and gifts

Small reindeer dust instructions

Print off these Reindeer Dust instructions and include them in the packets

Tadpole is six years old now and getting so grown up! He decided he wanted to write his festive cards to his classmates all by himself, so I got a couple of packs quite cheaply and let him loose with them, telling him he could write a few each day so as not to get bored with it. Well, he loved it so much, he wrote all forty, yes, FORTY cards in one go and then asked if he could do some more! He still had to put names on the envelopes, so he did that instead. He has 27 classmates, one teacher and three teaching assistants, so he used the rest of his cards to write to family members.

Once he was done, he thought it would be nice to give his classmates and teacher/assistants a little gift, which, while very generous, could be the bane of any parent’s life, after all, 27+1+3 = 31. That’s a lot of gifts and could be very costly!

So here’s what we did…

It just so happens that Santa’s Elves taught me how to make Magical Reindeer Dust, so I thought everyone else might like to know how to make it too.


Our bags of Magical Elf-Made Reindeer Dust to sprinkle outside on Xmas Eve!


  • Porridge oats
  • Sparkles

Now, I’ve seen it made with glitter and metallic sparkles before, but I worry that it might harm wildlife if they eat those, so I used cake sparkles. I delved into my cupboard and found some that were just about at the end of their shelf life – some sparkly sugar crystals and some silver balls. Then we mixed them in with the oats.

I had an abundance of little gauze bags, but you could just as easily make little paper envelopes to package up your reindeer dust, and decorate them however you like.

27.11.14 - Writing Xmas Cards 1

Tadpole diligently writing his festive greetings

The last inclusion was a little scroll with the instructions for using the reindeer dust, which I printed out on the computer.

Next we had to think of something for Tadpole’s teacher and three teaching assistants. Clearly Reindeer Dust is for the kids, so we needed something a little more grown up for the adults in the class. Last year we made individual Xmas cakes and mince pies, but we haven’t had time to do any baking yet (we’ll be doing some right before Xmas though, so we can leave a treat for Santa on Xmas Eve!). So, we had to come up with an alternative gift…

As all four are female, we decided that I would make a Shamballa-style bracelet for each of them. Tadpole chose the bead and colour combinations, I put them together, and then popped them in some more of the little gauze bags – much easier than wrapping them individually and it looks very pretty!

I hope they’ll like they’re gifts!


Shamballa-style bracelets for Tadpole’s teacher and teaching assistants


Proof positive that Santa Claus is, without a shadow of a doubt, REAL. I knew that anyway, because he came to my house one, WHILE I WAS AWAKE! I don’t remember much about it, other than that he was in his red suit and had a white flowing beard and a round, choochie belly, and a jolly laugh, and it felt like he was entirely made of love. I was only about 3 years old, but I remember that feeling of excitement and wonder at Santa actually coming to my house to visit. I’m glad some other kids have met the Jolly Dude on one of his days off too. :)

Take a look at John’s story – it’s a real dilly!




Analogue Days…

ANALOGUE DAYIf you’ve had a look at my list of 52 things in 52 weeks for next year, you might be a little puzzled by challenge #51, which is to have an “analogue day” each month.

“What is an analogue day?” I hear many of you ask. Well, I shall tell you. An analogue day is a day spent with no (or next to no) contact with digital technology.

The long and short of it is, you do without television, computers, mobile phones, and all kinds of social media for 24 hours. Instead you find things to do that do not involve the use of those things.

So, if you, like I, feel that sometimes it might be better to just switch off and live life a little simpler, perhaps you’d like to join me in switching off for the day once a month. You can see the full details on analogue days HERE. Just leave a link to your page or blog in the comments section at the bottom of that page and I’ll add you to the list of participants.

What have you got to lose? A few hours connected to everyone else? Think of what you stand to gain – all that time you’d usually spend surfing the net or watching TV will now be freed up to do something different, perhaps to try some completely new experiences. Come on, give it a go! You know you want to!


52 things in 52 days – end of year round up

Well, due to one thing or another, I didn’t quite complete my full list of 52 challenges, but I did complete 44 of them, which is a pretty decent tally, all things considered.

You can see my full list HERE along with how I did. My updates fell by the wayside as I got busy and as we got into renovating our new home and moving in there.

I have now posted my list of challenges for next year, which you can see HERE.

As you can see, I’ve reduced some of my targets as I know full well, after this year’s experience, that some of them will be unattainable, and I’d like at least a shot of hitting 100% next year!

I hope some of you will join in and make your own list of 52 things in 52 weeks, or if you’re really pushed for time or inspiration, or want to try bigger, more complicated challenges, you could try for 12 things in 12 months. Either way, I hope you all have a lot of fun next year!

Christmas at Beamish

The Beamish Open Air Museum is, of course, one of our favourite places to visit – we went twice during the summer holidays, and booked tickets for a special evening visit before Christmas. We went last night…

We arrived just after 5pm and immediately went to queue to see Santa Claus in his grotto – we thought it best to do that part of the visit as early as possible and then see everything else at our leisure. Even so, it was a hour and a half of waiting. Still, the good folk at Beamish had put together a whole host of activities to keep the kids entertained while they waited for their five minutes with Santa Claus, including plate spinning, juggling, various crafts, a quiz, posing for a photograph on Santa’s very own sleigh, and writing a quick letter to Santa.

Eventually we made it to the grotto and were led into a cozy room warmed by an open fire, where Santa sat waiting to greet every girl and boy. Tadpole handed over his letter in which he very politely asked if he might have a metal detector for Christmas (I’m proud to say, he was one of the very few kids who included a “please” in there and said thank you as well!). He only wanted to ask for one thing for himself, although he then verbally asked for several other things – for his little brother! That kid is all heart, I tell you!

Santa then handed them each a little gift and also a bag of lichen to feed the reindeer outside. We said our goodbyes to Santa and headed back out into the freezing cold where Tadpole was delighted by the velvety noses of the reindeer as they snuffled the lichen from his hands.

We then headed into the town where we were delighted by carol singers in the street and music hall entertainment in the Masonic Hall – she was a real dilly and we stayed for several numbers, singing along and applauding wildly at the end.

In the town park, there was a brass band playing and a number of stalls selling craft goods, food and drink.

We then headed to the pit village, in the hopes of giving Tadpoke his first ice skating experience, but the queues were so long, we didn’t fancy another lengthy wait, so we promised that we will take him skating soon after Christmas. We headed into the school house where Tadpole very neatly wrote his Christmas wish using a dipping pen and ink, then handed it to the teacher to put in the fire so the smoky wish would fly up the chimney. He again wished for a metal detector – I guess he really wants one!* A brass quartet had come into the school house to escape the cold and they played carols while we warmed up.

Finally we went round to the 1940s Home Farm, where Tadpole made a Santa finger puppet. When he sneezed I made the mistake of saying “Gesundheit!” before realising that speaking German in a little 1940s farm in England really wasn’t the wisest course of action, and the man in costume jokingly called his neighbour to report the possibility of his finding a German spy in his home!

And then it was time to go home. Tired, but happy, we piled into the car, where both the boys almost immediately fell asleep.

There was one terrifying moment when we took a wrong turning in the dark and ended up going through the Tyne Tunnel (one of my biggest phobias) and I had a tough time controlling the panic (alright, I failed miserably and had a bit of a panic attack), but we came out the other side and I was still alive, so that’s all to the good, although I had to make Hubby promise me we would never, EVER go through that tunnel again! Even that didn’t take the shine off the evening though.

We had such a magical time – I can hardly wait for our next visit to the past!

* He will be very pleasantly surprised on Christmas morning!

Called it!

sarah connor

My vision of the perfect casting for Sarah Connor…

Back in February this year, I did a cast/recast of Terminator 2: Judgement Day. You can see it HERE. Go ahead, go read it, then come back here.

As you can see, I recast all the major characters from the film (I didn’t recast the original movie, as I wanted to recast both the Terminators and John Connor as well), and as the female lead, playing Sarah Connor, I cast Emilia Clarke, who you may recognise from Game of Thrones, where she plays Daenerys Targaryen, AKA Khaleesi, AKA Mother of Dragons.

Yesterday, I watched a trailer for Terminator Genisys, which is due for release next year. Here’s the trailer:

Did you see who they cast as Sarah Connor? Did you? DID YOU???

I couldn’t believe it! I even had to go and check the cast listing on IMDb, just be be sure. Go on, go check it. It’s HERE.


Just wanted to say, called it!

ULLAdubULLA or The Chances Of Anything Coming From Mars…

WayneWOTW-TNGThis year we planned a very special pre-Xmas treat for ourselves (ie me, Hubby and Tadpole – Choochie is too little for this one) – a treat we waited for an entire year – we bought three tickets to see Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds: The New Generation at the Newcastle Metro Arena.

There were a few “will we?/wont’ we?” moments as:

  1. The tickets were kind of pricey,
  2. It started at 8pm and finished late, meaning, that with travel included, it would be a VERY late night for Tadpole, who is usually in bed by 7.30pm, and
  3. It was on a school night.

We quickly decided, however, that we would do it, because:

  1. It’s the final arena tour, and we’d not get another chance to see it,
  2. We don’t often treat ourselves to something so extravagant, and
  3. Tadpole loves it as much as we do. In fact, he knows the whole score backwards.

As a one-off late night on a school night, for something so special, we decided it was worth it. And we weren’t wrong!

Tadpole was initially a little overwhelmed – the anticipation of waiting a whole year to see it, the massive size of the arena, and the excitement of actually being there in the arena where the music would be played, live, and directed by Jeff Wayne himself, well, Tadpole burst into tears for a moment or two. Not entirely unexpected for a little lad who is only just six years old and attending his first very concert, and one he absolutely adores. He quickly composed himself, however, and could barely contain himself when the show began.

The massive Martian descending right onto the stage was particularly impressive, but one of the most magical moments was during Forever Autumn (beautifully, hauntingly sung by Brian McFadden), when thousands of tissue paper leaves in red, gold and brown, came tumbling down onto the audience. During the interval, Tadpole collected a few of them to keep as momentos, and they are safely pressed between the pages of the programme we purchased (for £15 – a wee bit pricey, but, well, it was a once in a lifetime event for us, so we splashed out on one between us).

The look of total enchantment on Tadpole’s face, as he sat with his eyes glued to the stage and sang/hummed along with the entire score, made it worth every single penny. He was in raptures. And to be honest, so were we. It a a wonderful night out, and I am so glad Tadpole is of an age where he’s old enough that he’ll remember it.

Tadpole fell asleep in the car on the way home – and it’s hardly surprising, as we got home around 11.30pm – and then went straight to bed. The next morning, he got up for school, tired, but without complaining, saying he felt a little sleepy, but he’d had excellent dreams, and he hummed the music all through breakfast and on the way to school, where is proudly told his classmates about his exciting and grown up night out.

I think he had fun! ;)

A quick run-down of the cast:

  • Jeff Wayne – Composer / Arranger / Conductor / Producer
  • Liam Neeson – George Herbert, The Journalist (interactive hologram)
  • Brian McFadden – The Sung Thoughts of The Journalist
  • Jason Donovan – Parson Nathaniel
  • Shane Ward – The Artilleryman
  • Carrie Hope Fletcher – Beth, Parson Nathaniel’s Wife
  • Joseph Whelan – The Voice of Humanity
  • Anna-Marie Wayne – Carrie, The Journalist’s Fiancee (hologram)
  • Michael Falzon and Lilly Osborne – spoken words and understudies
  • Black Smoke Band
  • ULLAdubULLA String Orchestra

All were excellent, turning out brilliant performances that blew us all away. And at the end, Mr Wayne got a very well deserved standing ovation from his elated audience, which included one six-year-old little boy who couldn’t stop cheering and clapping.