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Thursday, 29 March 2012

Pre-Holiday Tension!

It seems that I've finally caught up with all my outstanding blog posts and am now free to prepare for my holiday to France.  We have a gite for a week which is part of a Goat's Cheese farm 30 miles from Paris.  We're also tagging on 2 days at Disneyland Paris which will be Freddy's first time meeting his favourite Disney characters in real life!!   I'm sure it will be an amazing holiday, made better by the fact that it has been paid for by my prize money that I won in the Travelizer Holiday Blogging Competition earlier this year!  Why then do I feel so bloody stressed?!

I have always struggled a bit with the concept of holidays.  I think it goes back to the stressful family holidays we went on when I was a child.  My mum is the first to admit that she is a holiday-phobe!  She doesn't enjoy travelling, foreign food, sleeping in someone else's bed, using someone else's toilet or being away from home.  Frankly, it rubbed off!  I'm a bit of a travel-phobe and get very worked up about the whole concept of holidays.

My current dilemmas are multitudinous:

  • It has been so glorious that I feel I should be packing for sunny, warm weather.  However, knowing my luck this taste of summertime will retreat to be replaced a cold, wet front.  (I am the only person to have been to Tenerife in July and have it rain everyday, and also when I was in LA it was the coldest and wettest it had  been for over 30 years!) So I'm not sure if I should be packing sun block and shorts or raincoats and wellies.  Consequently I'll take twice as much as I need for each and every one of us.  That is a mountain of clothing, accessories and sundries.  Add to that the pushchair, travel cot, potty, Ella's guitar, food, laptop (in case there is wi-fi), cameras etc. etc. there will be no room for me in the car!
  • Then there is the worry about the security of the house.  
  • The hamster
  • Whether I've got enough Diesel to get to Ashford given that the crazy panic buyers have sucked the pumps dry.  
  • Food...being vegetarian in France equates to pizza, cheese, bread and pasta. I can't even take advantage of the wine because I'm tee-total! 
  • I worry about the travelling.  I get sick!  
  • Terrorism.  
  • I worry that I've forgotten my rudimentary O'level French and won't be able to ask where the nearest toilet is when Fred needs to go!  
  • I worry that Fred's shaky sleep routine will be disrupted and he'll be up until 3am.  
  • I hope the accommodation will be nice.  
  • I hope the kids will have a nice time.  


I know that once I am there I'll be fine.  But before then I just need to pack for five, clean and tidy the house, do a load of washing, make dinner, organise passports and travel documents and sort out things to keep my toddler amused.  I've procrastinated long enough.  I'd better get cracking or we will be in panic stations by tomorrow morning!

So wish me a Bon Voyage and if I get a Wi-Fi connection I might be blogging on location!

The Secret to a Peaceful Easter With Nick Jr

What is the recipe for a relaxing Easter?  How about some delicious chocolate and a quiet toddler so that I can relax and enjoy said chocolate?  Works for me!!   Well, thanks to Nick Jr I may just get my peaceful chocolate munching moment.

Easter Eggs, Inside the Wendy House, Green and Blacks Chocolate
Green and Black's Easter Hamper
Nick Jr have a host of fabulous TV shows coming up over Easter that the kids will love.

Nick Jr
Nick Jr
Dora the Explorer has an Easter Adventure coming to Nick Jr.  Dora goes on an eggciting journey to rescue the Hip-Hop Bunny's basket of eggs from Swiper in time for the Big Easter Egg Hunt.  When the basket is thrown into the Rainbow Garden, it's up to Dora and Boots to save it from the waterfall!  With an adventure through itchy-scratchy plants, going through a petting zoo and floating downstream on a giant rubber duck, Dora manages to save the day, just in time for the big Easter Egg Hunt with all her friends.  It premieres at 4.30pm on Friday March 30th.

Team Umizoomi, which is one of Freddy' all time favourites, are taking part in an Easter Egg Hunt.  Join the gang as they take part in the Umi City Egg Hunt along with their Umifriend, practicing their maths skills whilst racing to find the special Rainbow Egg.  When the egg falls down a rabbit hole it's up to Miili, Geo and Bot to jump in after it.  They discover an amazing world of rabbits underground and have to race across Rabbit Town to try to stop the egg from getting scrambled in an egg machine!  It is coming to Nick Jr in April.

Brand new Tickety Toc is a fast paced, fun filled show about twins Tommy and Tallulah Tockety who live in a very special clock in a magical shop.  The twins pop out on the hour as the clock chimes but once back inside they have fun in the fantastical world of eccentric animal characters and slapstick surprises.  Each action packed adventure sees our heroes saving the day...but getting back for chime-time to keep the clock ticking!  This CGI show focuses on familiar patterns in everyday life, delivering lessons on problem solving, teamwork and compromise.  It comes to Nick Jr on April 23rd at 8.15am.

We've had a sneaky peek at the latest offerings on Nick Jr and Freddy absolutely loved them.  He was engaged and enthralled by the antics of the characters.  He really chuckled at Tickety Toc, practiced his numbers with Team Umizoomi and joined in enthusiastically with Dora shouting "Swiper No Swiping!!"

Now...while he is happily watching Nick Jr...where's that chocolate ;)

We Sing Pop!

Everyone loves to sing.  Whether you sing in the shower or use your hairbrush as a microphone, deep down inside us all, there is a Lady Gaga bursting to get out!

There is a brand new title available for the Nintendo Wii in the karaoke style gaming genre, We Sing Pop by Nordic Games.  Featuring a host of  top tunes accompanied by the official pop videos, the latest offering from the We Sing franchise will appeal to the MTV generation and wannabe X Factor finalists alike.

We Sing Pop, Wii, karaoke, Nintendo

The track listing boasts classics from pop icons such as Hanson, Cher and Wham alongside modern greats by Adele, Lady Gaga and Jessie J.  With 23 UK number ones covering six decades of music, everyone will find a favourite to perform to. 
We Sing Pop is compatible with up to 4 Logitech USB microphones meaning the game can be enjoyed by both individuals or groups.  You can sing solos, duets or play in one of eight multi-player party modes. You can play together or competitively against your friends.  Expert and Blind modes add further difficulty levels to keep you challenged.  You can add effects to your voice, practice your skills and replay performances which adds to the entertainment!  The jukebox mode allows you to watch the videos themselves which is a nice feature of the game for music lovers to enjoy.

Points are scored by hitting the right notes in the right rhythm.  Bonus points can be won by hitting star notes.

We were really impressed that this game included the full pop videos of the songs which really added an extra dimension to our enjoyment.  The playlist was great.  There were no songs that we didn't know which is a real positive element.  We could (between us) sing our way through all thirty tracks.  The game puts you centre stage in your own pop party. The scoring is sensitive which created a good competitive atmosphere.  There are three difficulty settings so the whole family can tailor the game to suit their own level.  You can even play it in a pure and simple Real Karaoke mode for times when we feel like singing along without the pressure to perform!  The game is compatible with the mics from other singing Wii games such as Rock Band, so you don't need to buy new ones for each game you buy.

I felt like a diva belting out 'Bad Romance' and enjoyed duetting on Cher's 'I Got You Babe'.  The kids rapped to 'Ice, Ice Baby' and Ian crooned to 'Love Is All Around' .  This game has real family appeal and will keep everyone entertained and spending some quality fun time together!

We Sing Pop from Nordic Games is available as a stand alone game of in a bundle with microphones.  The game plus four mics has an RRP of £49.99.  The standard edition game is currently £24.32 at Amazon.

Footwear for Summer from Keds

In 1916, Keds created a new concept in footwear; a shoe with a soft rubber sole.  The original sneaker was born and has remained a real style icon for almost 100 years.  From film stars, artists, sportsmen and first ladies, just about everyone has worn Keds.  They were even mentioned in pop song Teenage Dirtbag, where the girl "rocks in Keds and tube socks!"

Keds now offers a range of shoes in both new and authentic styles, holding onto the distinctive, trendy, narrow silhouette. The new Keds Spring 2012 collection is inspired by two on-trend themes: Lawn Party and Pool Side.

Lawn Party offers a mix of heritage and 2012 style.  Classic and smart with a tailored flair, and made from materials such as Hopsack and Jute, they are designed with plaids and stripes.  Pool Side offers new styles with bright, simple colour palettes or jutes and tropical prints.  The colour options include some vibrant new candy shades.  There some some gorgeously feminine ankle-wrap styles which simply personify sunny days.

keds champion sneakers

I was sent an original Champion style sneaker in white to try.  This versatile shoe is an absolute classic, perfect for the Spring/Summer season.  Teamed with shorts, jeans or a dress, the simple yet stylish shoe is an absolute must have for the holiday season. They can be dressed up or down to compliment any outfit. The silent sole and lightweight feel give a real playful and feel good tone to the shoe...they make you feel young.

keds logo

The beauty of the Keds Champion sneaker is in its simplicity.  Quality stitch work and moulded rubber give Keds their distinctive shape.  The attention to detail with the logo on the label and on the back of the shoe provide the designer edge.  


keds

The Keds Champion comes with both matching and contrasting laces giving the option to bring your own style and flair.  I liked the black lace effect against the pure, crisp white shoe.  Very funky and in keeping with the trend for monochrome.

SS12 keds footwear

Champions are light and flexible but I did find them a little bit narrow (on my foot with the bunion!) so bear that in mind if you have wide feet and are ordering Keds online.  Other than that, they are super stylish, youthful and timeless.  

Be sure to check out the Spring Summer 2012 range from top footwear brand  Keds to keep your feet comfortable, on-trend and stylish this season.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Warbutons Pour Le Petit Dejeuner!

We're off to France for Easter!  To get us in the mood, Warburton's have sent us a box of breakfast goodies including their fabulously French Brioche in three new exciting flavours.  Perfect timing!

France, continental Breakfast, Brioche, Warburtons

Warburton's are giving a real continental flavour to breakfast time with their Chocolate Chip Brioche Loaf.  The soft, doughy Brioche loaf comes ready sliced and is studded with real choc chips.  It is delicious lightly toasted and if topped with chocolate spread makes a real indulgent breakfast with a European twist!  Perfect for special occasions, after all, who doesn't dream of eating chocolate for breakfast!!  I liked it straight from the packet on its own...it is very cakey and light.


The Butter Brioche Rolls come individually packed so can be enjoyed on the go.  They taste delicious eaten as they are with their rich, sweet flavour and the kids really love them.  Perfect for breakfast, lunch boxes or as a snack, they are convenient, filling and tasty.  Each pack contains eight rolls.



Raisin Brioche Swirls really are a taste of France.  Individually wrapped swirls of soft Brioche Dough are filled with luscious Creme Patisserie and studded with juicy raisins adding flavour and texture that my husband absolutely loved!  Perfect for taking on car journeys to provide a substantial snack for the kids that they will love.


I was very impressed by the Warburton's Brioche which is baked with the same love and attention as the other bakery products which are already a huge hit here Inside the Wendy House.  The brioche is just so soft and delicious.  The use-by-dates are quite long and they can be frozen too, so they will stay fresh which is always a consideration when buying baked goods.

These French breakfast goodies are really authentic and make a welcome change to our normal morning offerings...what's more to say but "Vive Le France!"

Get Chipwrecked This Easter

On April 2nd, Alvin, Simon and Theodore return to DVD in a brand new, un-fur-gettable family film.  The fun begins as the Chipmunks and the Chipettes go on vacation with Dave on a luxury cruiseliner.  The all singing , all dancing chipmunks are back to their best, getting up to mischief and having fun from the offset!


We are lucky enough to have had a sneaky peek at the film and we enjoyed it!  It is real family fun, which is exactly what you need to entertain the kids, especially with the Easter holidays fast approaching.  The kids were singing along to the songs and laughing at the antics of the chipmunks throughout.  They were delighted to see the return of the rather mean Ian, down on his luck and intent on getting revenge!

Alvin and the gang find themselves having a bigger adventure than they anticipated when they wind up marooned on an island after one of Alvin's pranks goes wrong.  Queue the infighting, the acapella renditions of "Survivor", journeys of self-discovery and shipwreck gags!  They soon realise that they are not alone on this tropical island!! Some escapades including an erupting volcano, a personality altering spider bite and some hidden treasure add to the excitement.  Will Dave be able to save the day??  Will they get off the island with friendships intact and still be able to perform at the International Music Awards? 

If you can put up with the squeaky, rodent voices and predictable humour, then you will be able to enjoy this latest offering from the Chipmunk franchise.  It is energetic, a bit silly and full on with its slapstick humour and funky covers.  For me, the novelty of singing Chipmunks is still enough to keep me entertained...I can't help it .  The rendition of  "I Whip My Tail Back and Forth" sold it for me!  

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked is available on DVD and Blu-ray Triple Play 2 April. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

If you want something more to keep the kids entertained, you can click on the activity sheet below and print it out, so the kids can learn how to draw their own Alvin! 



My Money Saving Vlog!

In today's economic climate, being a parent can put a huge strain on the purse strings.  Hard earned wages quickly disappear meaning that the savings dwindle.  With the costs faced by our children as they get older...university fees, driving lessons, house deposits...it is increasingly important that we are in a position to help them out.  Unfortunately I don't know of any get rich quick schemes or ways to make a million, however with a few gentle penny pinching tweaks to our daily routines we can save cash and every penny really does count.  Soon the savings will add up...making a much needed nest egg for you and your children's future!

Here are my penny counting tips brought to you (badly!) through the medium of song (and with added jazz hands!)


Here are my lyrics so you too can sing along as you save!!

"Turn the heating thermostat down by one degree,
Stock up on essentials when they're Buy One Get One Free,
Pay off your credit card so you're not charged interest fees,
That's the way to save your cash when you're counting pennies!

Try own brand products...they might be to your taste,
Squeeze every drop from your shampoo and toothpaste,
Today's ingredients could be yesterday's food waste.
That's the way to save your cash when you're counting pennies!

Forget expensive foreign climes, staycations can be cool,
Leave your car at home to save money on your fuel,
Make homemade lunch and drinks to go - Starbuck's prices are for fools.
That's the way to save your cash when you're counting pennies!

Check your gas provider is the cheapest you can choose,
Sign up to Quidco and get free cash to use,
Enter online giveaways...what've you got to lose?
That's the way to save your cash when you're counting pennies!

Make a weekly shopping list for tasty, frugal meals,
Search on the internet for voucher codes and deals,
Remember nothing feels as good as saving money feels.
That's the way to save your cash when you're counting pennies!"



 

Photographic Nostalgia

In 1993, my son Joseph was five.  Ian and I were finally a proper couple.  He drove a vintage Morris Oxford.    I had an old Olympus SLR camera.

Looking back at old photos today, I came across these shots that I took of Joe some 19 years ago.  With a little tinkering on Picnik I made them into Polaroid snap shots.

Morris Oxford, Retro, Nostalgia

retro, nostalgia, Morris Oxford, boy, mechanic

I love a bit of photographic nostalgia...don't you?!

The Gallery...Extreme Close Up!

toddler, glasses, eyesight, Specsavers, Mr Bump

Freddy's glasses have become a big part of our life.  They are not proving to be an easy addition to the family.  Repairs, adjustments, running battles and spec throwing are now commonplace occurrences. But we persevere in hope that we can 'fix' the sight in his left eye.  They are the subject of my Gallery picture, shot in extreme close-up, a reminder of this phase in my little boy's life.  

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Easter Baking with Rachel's

Vanilla Easter Cup Cakes



Simple cup cakes, decorated with a delicious swirl of butter icing and decorated with chocolate mini eggs.


Ingredients 
220g butter or margarine, room temperature 
220g caster sugar 
2 large eggs, beaten 
220g self raising flour, sifted
2 tbsp Rachel’s low fat vanilla yogurt

Icing 
80g unsalted butter, room temperature
250g icing sugar  
25g Rachel’s low fat vanilla yogurt 


Serves: 12 Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 20-25 minutes

Method

1.Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 5.
2.Line a cup cake or muffin tray with paper cases.
3.Beat together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time.
4.Fold in the flour and yogurt.
5.Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until half full.
6.Bake in the oven until golden brown and springy to touch or test using a skewer, if it comes away clean the cakes are ready. Leave  them to cool on a wire rack.
7.Meanwhile prepare the icing. Begin by beating the butter and icing sugar until pale and well mixed, ideally using  an electric mixer.  Add the yogurt and continue to beat on medium to high speed until the icing is fluffy. The longer you beat the lighter the icing.
8.Spoon the icing into a piping bag fitted with a star piping nozzle. In a circular motion swirl the icing around each cake.
9.Decorate with mini eggs.

PER SERVING: 345kcal, Protein 2.6g, Carbs 43.4g, Fat 17.7g, Sat Fat 10.9g, Fibre 1.2g, Sugar 33.5g, Salt 0.4g
COST PER SERVING: £0.15


We will be baking these when we get back from holiday over the Easter weekend!  Rachel's sent me some of their delicious yogurts to get creative in the kitchen with.  I love using their thick and creamy yogurt as an ingredient in both sweet and savoury dishes.  


Pasta Bake Topping


The Rachel's Organic Natural Yogurt makes a healthy alternative to cheese sauce to use on Pasta Bakes.  Simply mix with an egg and a sprinkle of herbs.  Pour over pasta mixed with a Quorn Bolognese sauce. Top with grated cheese and bake in the oven at GM 6 until golden brown.  It is delicious, quick and easy.





1.
1.

Old Amsterdam Cheese

When I received a block of cheese through the Royal Mail post I must admit that I had reservations about eating it!  But, being me, reservations were cast aside as I sampled the Old Amsterdam cheese that I had been sent to review.  I was glad I did!

cheese, Old Amsterdam, Gouda

With a Dutch name I was expecting something akin to Edam.  I was very wrong.  The Old Amsterdam is a very, very mature cheese that had an aroma to match!  This cheese is incredibly full flavoured, nutty with a sharp tang and a granular texture.  It excites the palate with its depth of flavours and is a world away from its milder cousin from the Netherlands.

cheese, Gouda, Old Amsterdam, mature, cheeseboard

Old Amsterdam is actually a premium matured Gouda that comes in a black waxed ball. It slices, grates and can be used to cook with. I melted it over pasta and it added a real depth of flavour.  It tastes best served at room temperature allowing the flavours to develop and works well with wine and crackers after a meal.

Old Amsterdam is a real taste of the continent and is becoming a favourite amongst cheese lovers everywhere, scooping awards and gaining in popularity.  I'll definitely be buying some whenever I do a cheeseboard as it will add a very unique flavour and texture that I really enjoy!

Look out for it on cheese counters in Waitrose, Tesco, Booths and Morrisons, as well as independent delis and fine food shops across the UK. RRP approx £2.49 per 150g.  


For serving suggestions, accompaniment and recipe ideas, visit www.oldamsterdam.com

A Journey Of 1000 Miles Begins With A Single Step!

I just had a flash of inspiration while chatting on Twitter today.  It was an epiphanous moment!  It started when I quoted one of my favourite quotes:

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

This is something I live by, knowing that I personally need to break down things that need to be done into baby steps.  I'm big on lists and organising myself into doing bitesized chunks to achieve the desired result.  It makes life much easier to avoid bogging myself down by big and overwhelming challenges.
This strategy has got me through some real tough times and continues to provide a mantra for when life threatens to consume me with its demands.

With the bit between my teeth, I am a force to be reckoned with.  I enjoy structure and striving towards an end result. I love the feeling of accomplishment when I achieve my goal and I am never more motivated than when something needs to be done.  Pressure and deadlines are things I can respond to well.  

Sometimes I wonder why I don't have my own business.  Or why this blog isn't as successful as it could be.  Or why I've never had a career?  For someone with elements of the qualities needed to succeed, why am I not a personal success?

Yes, I have an amazing family.  I dedicate myself to that role but they are my vicarious success.  I love knowing that I am at the heart of our home, and am in some small way responsible for the wonderful little people I have helped create.  But I would not presume to take credit for their achievements.    They swell me with pride and make my heart burst with love.  But their success is not mine...it is down to them.  Maybe I helped supply the tools but they created the beautiful end results.

So my journey will start with one single step.  A step that I will tread with purpose, vigour and with 100% commitment!  My only problem is I don't know where I am going!  I long to start this journey to my next destination in my personal development. Freddy will be starting nursery this year and with no more babies on my horizon, I need to start thinking about me.  This is so difficult for someone who has continually defined themselves by the roles given to them by other people: mother, wife, daughter.  Who am I??  What do I want? What is this thing I want to do, but can't quite work out exactly what it actually is?  Where is it that I want to go? 

One thing's for sure....I really need a map! 



Designer Labels For the Home


Amara was created to showcase some of the world's finest luxury gift suggestions.  With the top brands such as Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Missoni Home, it is the perfect online shop for those looking for those special luxury items for the home.

We were sent a taste of luxury in the form of a Toile de Pip Square Cushion from Pip Studio in a classic, oriental floral design.  This 45cm square cushion is made from 100% cotton percale and is part of a range of bedding items which will create a luxurious sleeping environment.

soft furnishings, home, lifestyle

The pattern is bold and has contrasting trim.  The shades of blue against the white is very eye catching and would add a design feature to your sleeping space whether used alone or alongside the matching bedlinen available.

Cushions, homeware, soft furnishings

The Pip Studios label and the red and white contrasting trim add a contemporary touch to the pillow.

cushions, amara, pip studios

The Apple Tree design on the back of the cushion adds a vintage feel.  The red and white stripped buttons secure the case and look really effective.

Pip Studio's attention to detail in their soft furnishings and the quality of the workmanship and fabrics used, will give any bedroom a luxurious make-over.

The cushion costs just £22.

 The user friendly website is a joy to navigate as you discover designer homeware and inspirational gift ideas.  Find the Pip Studio range and a whole host of other top quality brands online at amara.co.uk. 

What's New At Asda?

Asda have three new ranges of baby food exclusive to their stores!!  We were sent samples from two of them, Heinz Mum's Own Recipe Smoothies and Annabel Karmel's Disney Rice Cakes and Biscuit Bakes.


Generally speaking, Freddy turns his nose up at a lot of baby food these days.  Now that he eats what the rest of the family eats he finds some of the baby-specific recipes a bit bland and tasteless.  However, these products have got real toddler appeal and he really enjoyed them all.


The Disney Cheese and Onion Rice Cakes were a big hit.  The thin rice cakes were crunchy and palatable and the flavouring was really tasty.  I had a couple myself and they were very nice (just like grown-up Snack-a-Jacks)!  It is so nice to find a crispy snack that he really enjoyed that was a healthier option with no artificial additives.  Mickey Mouse on the pack made them even more appealing to Freddy!  They are just 59p for a good sized packet.

We also received a box of Porridge and Apple Biscuit Bakes consisting of five individually packed packs of three rectangular biscuits.  Again, rather than being bland and having a cardboard texture like many baby biccies, these were oaty, crumbly, tasty and full of chunks of apple.  They tasted like a grown-up posh biscuit which meant that Ian and I had to share a pack too!  Kizzy also loved them, so these will be a healthier alternative for all the family.  A pack costs £2.29.

The Heinz Smoothies come in individual bottles and are free from all artificial additives.  They are 100% fruit with added vitamin C.  The Apple and Pear variety went down a treat with Freddy!  The bottles cost 89p and are a good size to pop in your hand bag for a smoothie on the go.


I am really impressed to find products that bridge the gap between bland baby food and grown up that is often considered junk.  Thumbs up to both ranges from me as a parent and Freddy as a toddler who enjoys a good snack! 

Find these items at your local Asda

Monday, 26 March 2012

Top Tips For Housework (a.k.a. Domestic Chores Made Easy!!)

The job of a stay at home parent can become a never ending cycle of household duties. As soon as kids come on the scene, domestic bliss can become replaced by domestic drudgery.  From the ever growing washing pile that sometimes threatens to consume the entire house, to the dust that taunts you by returning to your surfaces almost immediately after you have dusted, housework is quite simply a chore of monumental proportions.

Over the years I have learned tips, hints and short cuts to make my life easier and my house cleaner.  Any technique to reduce the hours spent on housework means I can free up hours to do my own thing!  This blog doesn't write itself you know!!

Here are my top ten tips for easy, breezy cleaning and happy housework!

1: Top To Bottom...In any room that you are cleaning, work from the top down.  Tackle cobwebs first (unless it's Halloween when you can pass them off as 'au naturel' room decorations).  Then lamp shades before dusting your blinds or curtain rails, polishing surfaces and finally vaccuuming the floor.  Otherwise you will be showering yourself and your previously cleaned furniture in dirt.  Don't make more work for yourself!

2: Washing-Up...My biggest tip is to put all your cutlery dirty end down into a jug of soapy water.  By the time you have finished washing up, your knives, forks and spoons will be sparkling clean with minimum effort, plus you won't be chasing them around the bottom of the sink!  None of that fiddly cutlery cleaning.

3:  Oven Cleaning...Avoidance is Better than Cleaning!  Simple rules like not overfilling pans or casseroles, covering things with foil to avoid greasy splashes and using a baking sheet underneath the shelf that you are using, will avoid the burnt on messes that are so difficult to clean!  Simple.

4:  Cleaning Windows or Mirrors...Forget using fluffy cloths which make this job so frustrating, use a scrumpled up  piece of newspaper to polish up your glass.  It is much easier and less messy to get a good shine.

5:  Toddler Spills...Your baby has spat a mouthful of juice onto the laminate.  Fear not!!  This is why God invented socks!!  Whip off your shoe and mop up the spill in an instant...no one will ever know ;)

6:  Delegate!  Write out a list of little jobs and get the kids involved.  Even the tiniest tot will enjoy being armed with a duster or a dustpan and brush.  When they've completed their chores reward them with a film night or a trip to the park.  It works everytime with the younger kids!  Older ones get more cynical and refer to this as slave labour!


7:  De-Clutter...if you haven't used it for six months, if it isn't precious or beautiful and if it serves no purpose, get rid of it!!  Charity Shops are crying out for good quality items to sell.  You get a tidy house, you get to help others and you get to feel good about yourself in the bargain! Win, win, win!

8:   Ironing...Don't Do It!!  Tell everyone that you are boycotting it from an environmental standpoint to reduce your carbon footprint.  Instead of looking at you as a scruffy and dishevelled individual, they will see you as an eco-warrior on a one woman mission to save the planet!

9:  Crayon on Your Paintwork??  WD-40 will do the trick.  It is also useful for removing stickers, chewing gum, chair marks, glue and felt tip.  Keep a can handy...it is a secret weapon against a multitude of messes!

10:  Leather Sofas:  For sprucing up your leather sofa use a baby wipe.  They bring it up clean and also smell good!  Baby wipes are definitely for more than just babies' bottoms!  They are also great for toilet seats (don't flush them though!!), cleaning car dash boards, polishing the leaves of a rubber plant and for cleaning gloss paintwork.  They also wipe away grubby fingerprints on window sills, door frames and light switches.  In fact, in our house it is an unwritten rule that any baby wipe used for a minor hand or mouth wipe goes on to clean down at least one surface on the way to the bin!


I'm sure some people will see my lack of domestic prowess as lazy...but I just see it as creative housewifery, freeing up time for the better things in life, like spending time with my precious family.  Why would I want to spend hours making my house pristine, when I could be having a tea party with my toddler?  I want a happy, lived in, comfortable, welcoming, clean-enough home...not a show home where children fear to tread!  Time is precious, use it well!

*This is my entry into the Morphy Richards Innovators competition with Tots 100.*

Welcome to The Jungle With Raa Raa The Noisy Lion

"Welcome to the Jingly Jangly Jungle" is the name of the brand new BBC DVD starring CBeebies favourite Raa Raa the Noisy Lion.  It is released today...March 26th.

Welcome To The Jingle Jangle Jungle

The DVD comes complete with a Raa Raa figure that Freddy could not wait to get his hands on!  I love Raa Raa's afro-esque mane and shiny black nose!


Raa Raa's debut DVD is bursting with lots of noisy adventures and helps little ones learn all about language and communication skills.

 Each episode follows Raa Raa and his wonderful gang of friends: Topsy the giraffe, Huffty the elephant,   Crocky the crocodile, Zebby the zebra and Ooo Ooo, the cheeky little monkey, in eight fantastic episodes. 

·         Topsy’s Musical Stones
·         Ooo Ooo Slips Up
·         The Right Sound
·         Zebby’s Snack Time
·         Raa Raa’s Big Roar
·         Raa Raa’s Favourite Things
·         Two’s Company
·         No Sleep Till Bedtime

Raa Raa

Sounds, gestures, facial expressions and words are used to solve problems and add fun to their adventures. The episodes are loud and full of fun.  Lorraine Kelly narrates the stories which are really appealing to pre-schoolers.  Freddy loves Raa Raa, he laughs along to the episodes (especially when Raa Raa tries to find 'the right sound' and blows a raspberry noise through a hollow stick!)  and sings along to the catchy theme tune.  I love the animation which is very friendly, cute and colourful.  The Jungle is a lovely setting and the giggly jungle pals really make a feel good show.

Visit raaraathenoisylion.com for games, activities, music, clips, downloads and more.  


Happy Feet Two

On March 26th, everyone's favourite penguin is back on DVD and Blu-Ray with the release of Happy Feet 2!  This time it is Mumbles's son Erik causing the drama!

happy feet two, DVD

To celebrate its release, Warner Bros have sent us a wonderful box of goodies including Haapy Feet 1 and 2 and March of The Penguins on Blu-Ray, and some fabulous film merchandise.

Happy Feet Two, DVD

The story of Happy Feet Two introduces us to cute little Erik who can not dance.  His father may be choreographically gifted, but Erik is seriously rhythmically challenged!  In fact his first try results in a very embarrassing mishap where he ends up with his head in the snow!  He runs away and encounters the god-like Mighty Sven, a 'flying penguin' who isn't all he seems to be!  Mumbles heads off to bring back his son who now dreams of flying, much to his dad's frustration. Meanwhile, trouble is afoot in the Antarctic as an iceberg threatens  Emperor-land, trapping the penguins below a wall of ice.  Will the animals of the South Pole, from the tiny and very funny Krill to the huge Elephant Seals be able to save the penguins?  Will Erik and Mumbles be able to work together to save the day? Through the power of friendship, song and dance anything is possible!

This film is visually amazing.  The stunning landscape and the animals are portrayed in eye-popping animation that is beautiful to behold.  Films like this are what Blu-Ray was made for.  The detail, the colours and the sheer spectacle are breathtaking.

In terms of the story itself, the narrative is a bit complicated and chaotic in parts.  And the sub-text of  conformity over acceptance is possibly at odds with the sentiment of the original. The film goes bigger and bolder than its predecessor, but some of the charm and originality are lost because of it.   However, the visual feast, the fabulous all singing, all dancing performances and the voice talents of a host of stars more than make up for any plot flaws.  Matt Damon and Brad Pitt as the ambitious Krill Will and his long suffering friend Bill are fabulous were the stars of the show for me!  

The visual jokes and gags make the kids giggle and the songs are truly entertaining.  There are even some scenes of peril that have you on the edge of your seat (Bryan the Elephant Seal's predicament had me holding my breath!) . Happy Feet Two is an enjoyable watch for all the family which will have everyone tapping their toes and singing along.  Perfect for a family movie night over the Easter holidays!



                   

Easter Crafts at Asda

This year, you can have an egg-cellent fun filled family Easter with Asda.  They are offering so much more than just chocolate, with crafts, games and gifts with prices starting at just £1.  You can make Easter an action packed weekend filled with fun activities to bring the family together without breaking the bank.

From Easter Bonnet making kits to Egg Painting Stencils to Card Making Sets, the kids will be kept entertained getting arty making Easter themed crafts.  For the Easter Egg Hunt, Asda have cute buckets and fillable plastic eggs in assorted colours and sizes to fill with treats.  There is even an Egg Hunt Kit with everything you need to make an exciting, colourful trail.

We were sent a Make Your Own Easter Badge kit with six plastic moulds, plaster, pins and paints, everything needed to create your own 3D badges.  The mould is re-usable so can be kept for future crafts.  For just £2, this is excellent value.

Adult supervision was required to mix the Plaster and it was a bit fiddly to insert the pins in the back of the badges, but the children really had fun with this kit!  9 year old Kizzy was able to create some really cute, colourful badges.

Mixing Plaster
Inserting Pins
Painting Badges
Easter Badges
We also have an Easter Activity Scene Sticker Book with seven pages of big, colourful stickers.  There are bunnies, cupcakes, chicks, eggs and letters in many different styles to make pretty, Easter scenes or decorate cards and crafts.  Definitely hours of fun to be had for just £2!


Find the Easter Range instore or see online at asda.co.uk.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

An Evening Of Music and A Proud Mum Moment!

On Saturday night I went to a concert showcasing local musical talent.  My daughter Ella had been invited to play, along with her friend and duet partner Jake.  They have performed together for a few years, both playing guitar, and I am so proud of them.


The concert was held in a local hall in support of an educational fund that supports young people in the area.  Kids aged between 12 and 16 from some local schools came together for the three hour musical showcase that included vocalists, pianists, guitarists, saxophonists and an instrumental band.  It is such a positive experience to listen to such talented teenagers performing musical numbers from a diverse range of genres such as musical theatre from Phantom of the Opera, Wicked and Evita to pop hits from Adele and Katy Perry.  The band did an awesome rendition of Michael Jackson's Thriller which was a huge crowd pleaser.  Their female drummer was absolutely incredible.  Such was her enthusiasm, she broke her drum!

It is so wonderful to see teenagers breaking the negative stereotype that society places on them.  Everyone was so professional, talented and committed.  It was such a feel good evening of entertainment!  A real inspiration.

But my proudest and favourite moment was of course when my own little star performed her three songs with Jake:  Naive by the Kooks, You Know My Name by Chris Cornell and Apologize by One Republic.  They were fantastic!  Here are the videos.  One of them rehearsing at my house and two of them on the  night that I managed to sneakily record on my Flip!



                            

Nothing beats seeing your child doing something that they truly love.  Ella is so confident when she performs.  Having the guitar in her hands brings her to life.  It gives her the confidence that she sometimes lacks in everyday situations.  She lights up the stage with her smile and enthusiasm.  It was wonderful to see her doing what she loves.  I am so very proud of her.

Millionaire's Shortbread #Project 52 Week 12

How wonderful to be a toddler when a slice of Millionaire's Shortbread is actually as big as your head!

Millionaire's Shortbread

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Freddy's First Haircut

It was the day I put off for months and months and months.  My beautiful, baby boy has always had the most gorgeous long, blonde, curly locks, but as he is approaching three, the girlie look was beginning to cause a few problems.  Fred's obsession with hair bands was beginning to get really troublesome as he wanted his hair to look  "perfect" and my hairdressing skills were not up to the job. He would get frustrated when his hair style didn't match up to Annie from 'Little Einsteins'!  Besides, did I really want him to be seen in public with high bunches? However liberal my views are, I still found it uncomfortable to see my boy with such a girlie look outside of the house where other judgemental eyes could see him .

I couldn't put it off any longer...the haircut was imminent.  We had decided to go for a simple trim, keeping it longish, but halfway through we realised that the kink in his hair made him look like he had an old lady's shampoo and set!  We had to have a re-think and decided that we needed to get rid of the baby hair, to allow it to thicken up and hang properly.  The clippers came out!

Not Quite Sure!
Halfway through.
Looking All Grown-Up
My Big Boy!!
In spite of putting this off and not wanting to lose those baby locks...I love his new look!  My big boy looks fabulous and so handsome!

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