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Friday, 31 August 2012

Beko 8kg Washing Machine

Laundry is a necessary chore made much more difficult when you have a big family that includes both a  messy toddler and a fashion conscious teenager! My previous old washing machine struggled to keep up with the pressure and latterly sounded like it was trying to spin bricks rather than clothing.  So when Appliances Online offered to send me a Beko 8kg Washing Machine, it couldn't have come at a better or more appreciated time.

The delivery was organised and I was kept informed right up until it arrived.  The delivery guys were great and unpackaged the machine, gave me a few pointers and took away all the packaging.  Unfortunately they couldn't fit the new machine as my old one was hard wired into the wall.  However, Ian was able to remove our old washing machine and plumb in the new one easily and we were ready to go!

laundry, washing machine
The Beko 8kg Washing Machine

I was really impressed with the look of the machine.  The programs are clearly displayed around the dial on the front of the machine and a digital display shows the details of the chosen program.  Spins per minute, temperature and times are clearly shown on the LCD screen.  Adjustments can be made to further tailor the program to suit your washing needs.  The 8kg drum is really spacious and large enough to accommodate my family's laundry demands.

My favourite thing about the Beko washing Machine is the Daily Quick program which washes a full 8kg load of washing in just 28 minutes.  This has revolutionized my laundry!  I can now do three loads of laundry in the time it took to do just one load.  When the kids are back at school I'll be able to get their uniforms washed and hung out to dry on the Friday night, leaving my weekend free from laundry chores.  More time to have family fun!!

Another program is the Xpress Super Short which washes 2kg of washing in just 14 minutes.  So if your teenager suddenly decides they want a particular outfit for an evening out, you have time to run it through the wash.  This will avert any laundry related emergency!

The washing cycle is quiet even when spinning, which is really noticeable given that my last machine was so very noisy.  It is a joy to not have my washing machine drown out the sound of my TV.

The Beko 8kg Washing Machine has an A+++ rating making it really energy efficient.  This saves on both water and electricity, which will also save me money in the long run!  Used in conjunction with the 28 minute wash cycle this is a really economical answer to doing laundry.

The Beko 8kg Washing Machine is a great value machine that is perfect for larger families.  It is energy efficient, well built, economical, quiet and has a large capacity.  I really can't recommend this washing machine enough!  It costs under £300 and is packed with useful features to make laundry less of a chore.




If you are looking for a new kitchen appliance and are looking for great service, free delivery, a connection service, fuss free returns and a price match promise, then check out Appliances Online.  They are the UK's largest online kitchen appliance retailer stocking all major brands at great prices.  They also offer advice via their UK based call centre.  Appliances Online really do put the customer first!



The Return of Dallas

I'll never forget the days when Dallas first graced our screens.  The feuds, families, wealth, power, sex, revenge and rivalry kept us all hooked on the saga of the oil magnate Ewing family across fourteen seasons.  Whether you were Team Bobby or Team JR, there was plenty of excitement to keep you hooked.  I am more than a little bit excited that a brand new series of Dallas, starring some big names from the original cast, is coming to Channel 5 on September 5th, but I will never lose the soft spot in my heart for the original!  Whether they were fighting over the love of a woman or over a business deal,  the sprawling saga never disappointed!

Dallas


When Warner Bros sent me a box set of the original Dallas Seasons 1 and 2, I was filled with such nostalgia and a pang of pure guilty pleasure, rekindling my old love for a family favourite!  This is a vintage classic US soap from the late 70s and 80s that reflects a bygone era.  The theme tune is so iconic and draws you into Southfork Ranch from the opening bars.

Ewings, Dallas, DVD

From the moment that young bouffant-haired Bobby Ewing arrives home with his new wife Pam, the daughter of Digger Barnes, love rival and business rival to patriarch Jock Ewing, sparks begin to fly!  It is the perfect scenario to unleash the evil that is JR, the man we all love to hate, as he plots and schemes to drive her away.  Throw into the mix the alcoholic, ex-beauty queen Sue-Ellen and the spoilt, flirty teenager Lucy, long suffering matriarch Miss Ellie, vengeful rival Cliff Barnes and broody foreman Ray Krebbs and you have the complex ingredients for the larger than life storylines that made Dallas one of the best loved shows of its time.  Just how far JR is prepared to go to get his own way is always shocking!

As this was made 30 years ago, the picture and sound quality are representative of the time it was filmed.  It gives it a certain authentic 80s charm which transported me back to my childhood...just don't expect HD.   The five double sided discs feature every one of the episodes from both seasons.  It is a bit tricky reading the writing on the dual discs to work out which side is which, but I blame that on the fact my eyesight isn't quite what it used to be!!

Season One was a mini-series with five episodes and Season Two has 24 episodes.  This equates to a lot of TV viewing!!  Dallas is such a classic that I love dipping back into to it.  It does become quite addictive and the 'oh let's just watch one more episode' syndrome has meant a few late nights!

Some of the plot lines include black market babies, kidnapping, bigamy, a plane crash, infidelity, alcoholism, drug taking, accusations of murder, premature birth and near death experiences.  The stories come thick and fast.  The seasons end with gripping cliff hangers that leave you wanting.  Season 2 ends with a rare moment of compassion, emotion and heartache for JR which has left me hankering for series 3!

The Dallas Season One & Two boxset is available from Amazon for £13.19.  It is a must have if you have the same nostalgic love of the series that I have and you want to experience the epic saga with its incredible story lines and fabulously larger than life characters!



Thursday, 30 August 2012

Dizolve Washing Sheets - Revolutionising Laundry!

It is not often that a product comes along which makes me really wonder why on earth it hasn't been invented before!  New Dizolve Washing Sheets have made me do just that.  

This new laundry product has revolutionized the way we can wash our clothes.  No more heavy bottles of liquid and no more bulky and cumbersome boxes of  powder, tablets or liquitabs need to be bought, lugged home and stored.  Dizolve are super concentrated washing sheets that come in a super light and compact pack.  The impact of this design is beneficial to both my cupboard space and to the environment.  Up to 80% less packaging is used and the transportation requirements for the product are massively reduced meaning less lorries on the road.  


laundry, eco-friendly, washing

Each Dizolve sheet has the concentrated washing power to tackle a load of laundry.  The sheet pops straight  into the drum on top of the dirty washing and dissolves into the water during the washing cycle.  They smell really fresh and dissolve fully into the wash leaving no residue.  They are quick and easy to use, are mess free and work really well.  They are effective in both hot and cold water.  I use a 30 degree wash and they work perfectly at that temperature, making them kinder to the environment and to my pocket.

Dizolve, laundry

Dizolve are suitable for all types of machine.  They are powerful, consisting of 90% detergent concentrated into every convenient sheet.  The non-biological formula is kind to skin and to clothes.  They really are a trouble-free solution to laundry and a great alternative to traditional style detergents.

They are available in selected supermarkets or can be ordered online at the website www.dizolve.co.uk where you can also win a year's supply!

Disolve 12 pack is £2.99 and a 24 pack is £5.49 RRP.
Available in Unscented, Fresh Linen or Lavender varieties.

"Europe is Beautiful" with Cewe Photobook

CEWE PHOTOBOOK LAUNCHES SEARCH FOR EUROPE’S MOST CREATIVE PHOTOGRAPHER AND OUTSTANDING PHOTOGRAPH

To celebrate Europe’s outstanding and versatile beauty, Europe’s number one photo book company, CEWE PHOTOBOOK has launched an initiative to champion keen photographers’ talents.

‘Europe is Beautiful’ is the largest photo competition in Europe and gives anyone that’s creative with a camera, the chance to show-off their special shots. Categorised into ‘people’, ‘sports’, ‘city and history’ and ‘culture and nature’ entrants are encouraged to get creative and demonstrate their flair for photography through their eye-catching snaps.

Whether  focusing on Europe’s culture or history, people or landscapes, keen photographers are able to submit up to 5 of their prized pictures in any of the four categories of to be in with a chance of winning one of many spectacular prizes.

A picture really does tell a thousand stories so what better way to revel in Europe’s beauty than through snap-shots of some of its greatest attributes; Rome’s magnificent Colosseum, the coastline of Croatia, Spanish fiesta’s, Italian personalities and the vibrant buzz of London. This innovative competition gives people the opportunity to document a beautiful and diverse continent from behind their lens.

The competiton is now live at http://contest.cewe-fotobuch.de/eib2012/en and will run until the end of of 2012. Once the competiton has closed an expercienced panel of judges will select 500 winners from all the entries, which will then be announced at the begining of 2013.

The ‘Europe is Beautiful’ competition is easy to enter, entrants simply register and enter online at http://contest.cewe-photobook.co.uk/eib2012/en/photos/add

First prize is a luxury European cruise for two, second and third prizes are exclusive multi-day European city breaks for two and there are hundreds of runners up prizes including Samsung cameras and CEWE PHOTOBOOK vouchers.

With so many prizes it is well worth going through your holiday photos and entering this great competition!

Bayeux, France
Bayeux Cathedral


How Do You Holiday?

As the Summer holidays are almost ready to bid us adieu, I have been reflecting on the concept of what a holiday means to me.  As Winter threatens to sweep in with its wet and windy weather, (I feel we seem to bypass Autumn in the UK...where are those seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness??) I'm already looking to summer 2013 for the inspiration  I'll need to batten down the hatches and get through my least favourite season.  What is it that I want from that magical week, when my husband books his annual leave and we head off together again with the children with a head full of dreams and a heart full of hope as to what this week will mean to us?

One week a year.   Seven days out of three hundred and sixty five.  One hundred and sixty eight hours out of eight thousand, seven hundred and sixty hours.  This is the time that the average family dedicates to their annual holiday.  It's just a tiny percentage of our year, a year that we spend working hard with jobs, school runs, housework, cooking, cleaning, laundry, gardening, DIY, getting stuck in traffic jams and queuing up at checkouts.  Don't we deserve those seven days to be ones filled with unadulterated luxury, relaxation and pure pleasure?  An escape from the mundane tasks that blight our everyday existence?

When those magical seven days finally come round, I look forward to spending quality time with my husband and my children.  I don't want anything to ruin this.  I don't want to worry about where we'll be staying or even have to erect my own accommodation, heaven forbid!  From the moment I arrive I want to feel like I'm on holiday.  No cooking or cleaning.  I want to concentrate 100% on spending every moment having a good time with my family.

I want a comfy bed with a real mattress, not something that pulls down from the wall or needs blowing up!  And don't even get me started on the issues of bathrooms.  A holiday to me does not equate to queuing up for a dirty, lukewarm shower in a block that is half a mile away from where I sleep!  I want something better than I have at home.  I want a whirlpool bath, a power shower and a spotless toilet that I can stake my claim to for a week in the knowledge that no unfamiliar bottom will plant its cheeks on the seat.  Surely that is not too much to ask?

When I'm on holiday I want to eat great food.  I want to experience new cuisines and immerse myself in the hospitality of where I'm staying.  I don't want to worry myself with shopping for groceries, planning meals that can be made with the inadequate kitchen equipment that self-catering always seems to offer and then wash-up afterwards. That is a worse case scenario than cooking at home!  Nor do I relish the idea of heating a can of beans over a calor gas stove in the middle of a field. Oh no!  I want to eat amazing food cooked by a professional on china plates washed up by someone on minimum wage.

When I wake up in the morning I want to be infused with a shot of joyous disposition.  I don't want to have to worry about the weather spoiling my day.  I want to feel a sense of smug righteousness knowing that I won't be stepping out of my bed into a muddy field, batting away flies drawn to my body heat.  I want to pity those whose first job of the day is to scrabble together a breakfast using unfamiliar utensils in an unfamiliar kitchen.

As I take on the lady of leisure persona, I want to immerse myself in how the other half live.  Just for this one week out of fifty two.

holidays, the Gilpin
Cheers x
Failing this, a four night break at Disneyland Paris is and will always be the perfect alternative!!




Wednesday, 29 August 2012

So You Want To Be A Pirate!

Exclusively in Tesco stores, the DVD So You Want To Be A Pirate! is available to keep your little pirates entertained.  This all new short comes from Aardman and provides a swashbuckling stop-motion animated adventure with the Pirate Captain and his band of misfits.
Hugh Grant voices the dashing Pirate Captain and his crew are voiced by Ashley Jensen, Martin Freeman, Brendan Gleeson and Russell Tovey.  Together, with the Captain's trusted Dodo Polly, they give hilarious tips on how to become a seaworthy addition to the crew and help them in their madcap adventure to win the coveted Pirate of the Year award.  You can learn how to remember where you buried your treasure, the secrets of navigating winds, get an inside look at pirate recruiting and even cook a pirate’s recipe suggestion - doesn’t a giant squid with lemon and barnacles sound delicious?

 David Tennant and Brian Blessed also make guest appearances with their very distinctive vocal talents!

The DVD also boasts a treasure chest of extras with lots of child friendly activities for the kids to enjoy.



DVD Bonus Features Include:
  • •        How To Animate Your Pirate
  • •        How To Draw A Pirate
  • •        Printable Colouring Pages
  • •        How To Talk Like A Pirate – Words And Phrases From Your Favourite Characters

SO YOU WANT TO BE A PIRATE! is as an introduction to Aardman’s most ambitious stop-motion film to date  THE PIRATES! IN AN ADVENTURE WITH SCIENTISTS, which is due for release on Blu-ray™  3D, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download on September 10, courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

So You Want To Be A Pirate! has a running time of 17 minutes and is a U certificate making it suitable for all the family.  It costs £5 exclusively from Tesco.

We were sent a copy of the DVD and it was great to get a taste of the Pirates ready for the release of the new Aardman movie.  We are big fans of Aardman and love their distinctive brand of animation.  The Pirates are a quirky and madcap bunch of characters that are very funny and entertaining.  We loved the TV Chat  Show style of the DVD, with the house band and guest stars adding to the fun.  Both children and adults will enjoy the brand of humour in this short and I for one am looking forward to seeing The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists when it is released next month.  

The added booty of the bonus features will provide hours of fun long after the short has been watched adding to the value of the DVD.  Budding pirates will definitely love joining in with the high seas fun!

Back To School With Shoe Zone

If you are looking for some great value school shoes then Shoe Zone is definitely a good place to look.  They have an extensive range of shoes for both girls and boys in a variety of styles.  You can buy both in store or online with free delivery and free returns.  The website also stocks some exclusive styles that you can't get in store, offering even more choice.

Kizzy was sent some school shoes to try out and she chose the Walkright black leather upper school shoes with a velcro fastener, low heel and embroidered flower detail.  The coated leather is scuff resistant and durable.  The shoe has a breathable lining and a flexisole for comfort.
shoe zone
The style is perfect for school.  She needs a comfy pair of shoes with good support, but she also likes them to look good.  They really fit the bill!  I am not keen on the idea of fashion shoes for young girls and like the fact that these are wide fitting and  have no heel, yet they are still stylish and fun.  The fit is good and I like the velcro straps that will keep them securely on when she is running around the playground! There is a handy name tag inside the shoe for writing on the child's name which will prove useful at school for keeping Kizzy's property safe.

The price is really competitive.  For a pair of coated leather, sensible school shoes £9.99 is an excellent price.  They not only look smart, but they have features which make them secure, comfortable and good for her feet.

school shoes

We also got Kizzy a pair of sports trainers in purple and black for her school PE kit.  They have velcro straps for easy fastening which is very useful when hurriedly getting changed for games lessons.  They have a breathable upper for comfort.  Kizzy loves the colour of her new trainers.  At  just £6.99 they are really reasonable.  As her PE shoes get left at school in the cloakroom, I would not want her to have an expensive pair of designer trainers so these are perfect.  They look really distinctive too, so she will be able to spot them easily.
she zone, back to school
Shoe Zone has shoes that are practical, functional and look good.  The prices are very reasonable and help to lessen the expense of going back to school.  Kids' feet grow so fast that I am grateful that I can get good quality footwear at a cheap price. 

school trainers, back to school



The shoes were provided by www.shoezone.co.uk ...The No 1 Value Footwear Retailer!





Monday, 27 August 2012

The Vampire Diaries

The Vampire Diaries Complete First Season ... Love Sucks

vampires, TV

Warner Bros have sent us the Season 1 box set of the Vampire Diaries.  This pleases me very much because we somehow managed to miss this entire series when it was on the TV and Ella and I both really wanted to see it.  I'm pretty fond of the vampire genre.  True Blood was awesome.  However the Twilight trilogy left me utterly cold.  So I was really interested in finding out which side of the blood-sucking fence the Vampire Diaries would fall on.

Vampire Diaries is a brooding supernatural drama based on the love triangle between Elena and two vampire brothers Stefan and Damon.  They are all beautiful people making it very easy on the eye.


Ian Somerhalder, Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev


Elena returns to Mystic Falls High School after the death of her parents in a car crash .  Her troubled brother Jeremy causes her problems as she tries to salvage what is left of her family.  When she meets mysterious new boy Stefan she feels he empathizes with her problems and is touched by his attention, not realising he is actually a vampire battling the urge to suck her blood!  Damon is his enigmatic, dangerous brother who shows up to wreak havoc on the town and claim Elena for himself (and carry out a few bloody murders in the process).  To add to the complications, Elena is a double of a girl that the brothers both  loved 150 years ago.  That love triangle did not turn out well!

The really interesting thing about the Vampire Diaries is the way that Damon and Stefan are portrayed.  On the surface it appears that one is good and one is evil, but as the plot progresses we see a more human side to Damon as he fights to win the mortal soul of Elena.  It is great to see Ian Somerhalder in a bad boy role and he seems to relish the scene stealing lines, the arrogance, instability and intensity of his character.  Stefan played by Paul Wesley, is the opposite of his brother and their turbulent relationship and back story is the highlight of this show.

With building tension as the series progresses, every episode pieces together the puzzle of the plot.  The series is gritty and quite dark with scenes of bloody violence, but it has romance and humour too.  It is much more 'grown-up' than the sparkly Twilight films and is quite intelligent with a good plot and complex characters.  It is easy to watch with plenty of eye candy to keep everyone happy.  In fact Ella tells me that fans actually engage in online arguments as to who should be romantically involved with who...and it gets quite heated!

We are enjoying our foray into Season One of this series which is based on the books by L.J.Smith.  We have a lot of catching up to do as the series is now on season 4...but we are definitely hooked!

I love getting hold of a DVD box set of a good TV show and indulging in a marathon viewing session.  If you missed out on The Vampire Diaries it's definitely worth buying.  It has five discs and includes all 22 episodes.

The Vampire Diaries Season One  DVD box set is available to buy from Amazon and other good retailers.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Moshi Monsters Mini Memory Game

Ravensburger, Moshi Monsters


The Ravensburger Moshi Monsters Memory Game is a set of 48 high quality, laminated picture cards making 24 matching pairs featuring full colour images of the cute and quirky Moshi Monsters!

The game can be played to suit the ages and abilities of your children, using different numbers of paired cards.  With the cards face down, children take turns to turn them over two at a time to find the pairs. You can adapt the rules to suit who is playing or even play solo against the clock.


Ravensburger
Playing The Moshi Monsters Memory Game


Freddy plays matching pairs games on the internet and I am always amazed at how good his memory is.  We started playing using 18 cards and he picked up what to do straight away.  It gets quite competitive!  I enjoy having a go myself to keep my brain working in my old age!

The game is for boys and girls aged 3-5 years old and helps develop their memory and observational skills as they match the pairs of monsters. However, it is enjoyed equally by older children and grown-ups alike.   Little ones will love the colourful pictures and enjoy matching up their favourite characters.  

It is really nice to see a game that is so simple, traditional and which requires no fancy gimmicks!  Yet it is bang up to date with the character choices available which will delight the kids.  It is great for all the family to play together. 

 The box is compact and sturdy making this a good game to take away on holiday or when visiting grandparents to keep little ones entertained.  The pieces are 5cm by 5cm and are made from thick laminated  card so will not bend or peel easily.

The designs available are Mike the Knight, Moshi Monsters, Thomas & Friends, Minnie Mouse, Hello Kitty and Disney Princesses.  



Under My Umbrella



TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Back To School With Poundland

stationery

When kitting the kids out with stationery for going back to school in September, it is nice to know you can save cash by shopping at Poundland where everything costs just £1.  We were sent £10 to stock up on back to school essentials and we enjoyed filling our basket with goodies.  

stationery, Poundland

Poundland also have a range of extra value products that include EXTRA FREE items so you get even more for your money.   More pencils, more colouring pencils, more pens, more highlighters, more dinner money envelopes etc!

stationery, Poundland

The One Direction stationery range is proving very popular among young girls and Kizzy picked out these gel pens.  I'm sure she'll be the envy of her 1D fan friends!!  I may pinch the Harry Styles pen for myself if I can sneak it past Kizzy  ;)

Poundland stocks some top brand products and we got a big pack of Blu-Tack for just a pound.  Other top brands for sale include Bic, Tippex, Uhu and Cadbury's so you know you are getting the best for less.  Kids' favourites such as Disney, Spiderman, Me To You and Barbie are also available.

We were really impressed by the academic diaries.  There are lots of  designs to choose from and they are a fraction of the price of other, similar ones I have seen in other shops.  They are perfect for the older children to keep themselves organised at school or college.

Poundland also have a range of basic essential stationery items at two for £1!

Check out the Back 2 School  at poundland.co.uk



Friday, 24 August 2012

Cadbury Dairy Milk Mini Bubbly

A Pocket Sized Portion Of Pure Bubbly Fun

We all love the delicious bubbliness of Cadbury Dairy Milk's Bubbly Bar, but if you are like me, once you start eating one it's hard to stop!  The guilt of eating a whole one is a bit of a reality check and the enjoyment is soon forgotten as you contemplate the effect on your waistline.  Now Cadbury have come to the rescue by making pocket sized packs of pleasure.  Innocently blissful Mini Bubbly Bars with all the deliciousness and none of the guilt.  So you can simply enjoy the moment and indulge!
chocolate bar
Pop one in your pocket or purse and enjoy the luxury of a choccy fix anytime you want.  I enjoyed my Bubbly bar with a cup of coffee mid morning.  It was my little treat! 


cadbury, mini bubble


With just 210 calories per bar and made with Fairtrade chocolate,  you'll get a burst of joy in every bubble! 






The Sweeney O.S.T.

Sometimes You Have To Act Like A Criminal To Catch A Criminal

September 10th sees the launch of the CD of music from the new motion picture 'The Sweeney'.  I can remember the classic 70's cult cop show with its catchy theme tune and look forward to seeing how the new revamped, updated version starring Ray Winstone and the amazing Ben Drew aka Plan B compares.

Nick Love has directed the film so I am imagining a gritty portrayal of the police drama as the hardened police officer and his trusted sidekick tackle the crime ridden streets of London together.


I have been sent a copy of the music from the film which comprises of the original score composed and produced by Lornes Balfe who has most recently worked alongside famous film composer Hans Zimmer on Dark Knight Rises and Inception.

The score itself evokes the dark and gritty nature of the movie and brings to mind the modern city streets and the criminal underground of London.

The remixes of the Sweeney theme tune have been heavily influenced by Dubstep and Electro creating a very contemporary tracks giving a modern twist to a classic for a new generation.  John Legend and Katy B add vocals to two of the tracks Getting Nowhere and Crossover.

I was a bit disappointed not to see a Plan B original included in the soundtrack (I love that man) so I will instead look forward to seeing him acting as Carter to Ray Winstone's Regan!

The Tracklist

Score
Opening Titles
Regan's Beginning
Country Surveillance
Put Your Trousers on, You're nicked!
Makin Talbot
Trafalgar Square
Fog Horns
You're Extinct
Couldn't Help Her
Regan Rebels
In Prison Out For Blood
Carter Solo
End
End Credits - Sweeney Remix
Magnetic Man - Getting Nowhere
Magnetic Man - Crossover
Sweeney Theme - Dr P
Sweeney Theme - Barry Adamson

The film is out on general release from 12th September 2012


Thursday, 23 August 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful

Today, the news has been telling us that GCSE results are down for the first time ever.  English exams have been marked really harshly with the grade A boundary being raised by 10%.  Thankfully, neither of these statistics have been relevant to my daughter!  Ella has done amazingly well and got six A*s, two As and two Bs.  Her A*s are in both English Literature and Language, Maths, German, Geography and Chemistry.   Her results are even more remarkable because of the problems that she has endured this last year.  I hope her success proves to her just how brilliant she is.  We are so proud of her for so many reasons!

We officially have taken our house off the market having missed the window of opportunity for relocating.  With the new term about to start I am not going to give my children any unnecessary upheaval.  Freddy is due to start nursery, Kizzy is going into year 5 and Ella, with her fabulous grades, will be starting a new college to study her A'Levels.  Although I initially wanted to escape this place, things have changed.  Throughout the summer Ella's circle of friends have become closer and tighter and my house has become the place to be.  Last night we had seven 16 year olds sleep over, so they could go to collect their results together.  They are all good kids and it makes me so happy to see my daughter having fun with such a lovely bunch.  They have forbidden us to move!  I am happy to stay.

school, exams, teenagers
Ella and her friends with their results.

teens, exams
My amazing 16 year old daughter!

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart



 **********
I also heard some really sad news this week, as a lad who we knew very well has died while at V Festival.  He was one of my son Joe's best friends when they were growing up on the estate where we used to live.  He spent a lot of time at our house and was a real cheeky chappy.  He always made us smile with his antics.  It is so tragic that he has died aged just 22.  The coroner's report has proved inconclusive.  Although this obviously isn't a reason to be cheerful, it reminds us to hold our loved ones closer and be so grateful for each other.  RIP Timmy x


Great Stationery Ideas From Stabilo

With September fast approaching Kizzy is preparing her 'back to school' kit, so receiving a selection of items from Stabilo to try out, made her very happy indeed!  She loves stationery as her bulging pencil case will testify!


pens, back to school
Some of Stabilo's Stationery Products

When it comes to stationery, Stabilo produce some very funky and innovative items.  The Cappi Pens are quite ingenious.  They are felt tips with their lids attached to a clever ring which means you will never lose another pen lid again.  As losing lids is a favourite pastime in our house, this will help prevent the dilemma of dried out felts!  They cost £6.50 for a pack of 12.

Another clever idea is the Woody, a chunky 3 in 1 wooden pencil that is a colouring pencil, watercolour and crayon in one, that is perfect for little hands.  Freddy likes scribbling with it and the depth of colour is satisfyingly good on the page.  They are good first pencils for toddlers to encourage early writing skills.  They cost £8.00 for a box of six.

Stabilo also produce a range of ergonomic pens for left-handers which is a great idea.  My husband is a leftie and remembers struggling to write at school and smearing ink across his work in the process.  It is really good that there is now a solution to help left handers with their penmanship!

With handwriting pens, colourful fineliners and cute highlighters to pop into her pencil case, Kizzy will be well prepared for the new school term!

Stabilo Pens are available from Amazon, Cult Pens and other good stationery stockists.

CuddleUpPets

What do you get if you cross a cuddly blanket with a cute puppet?  A CuddleUpPet!


Freddy was sent one of Flair's new CuddleUpPets to try out.  The cuddly, snuggly blanket includes a puppet head which can be operated by the child in play, or by an adult as part of a bedtime routine with the friendly animal reading a bedtime story!

Our CuddleUpPet animal blanket is an elephant design.  The plush blue blanket is 28" x 39" and has a foot on each corner and a little tail as well as the fun, cartoon style, cuddly elephant head incorporated into the design.  The elephant himself looks a bit dozy but quite friendly!


Freddy instantly took to his new cuddly buddy.  He enjoyed snuggling under the blanket, making the puppet talk, cuddling the elephant like a toy and giving his trunk kisses!  It is perfect for snuggling under to watch TV.  He really loves his new toy as these photos show!


The CuddleUpPet can help make a bedtime routine for young children providing a favourite toy and cuddly blanket in one.  I think it would take more than this to get my son into a bedtime routine, even with its sleepy eyes and cosy snuggling potential.  However, it will make a good bedtime companion that can help a child feel comforted and confident at night-time.  

It also makes a great travel companion for taking in the car.  Freddy loves having a blanket in his car seat so his new elephant CuddleUpPet is just perfect for that job.

The puppet element of the CuddleUpPet adds a new dimension of interactivity.  Fred loved it when I made his elephant 'talk' to him and he quickly worked out how to do it himself.  Although his hands are a bit too small to control the mouth, he was perfectly happy making the whole head move and interacted with his furry friend in some imaginative pretend play.

It is a real novel idea to combine a toy and a blanket to provide cuddles, comfort and fun in one.  Freddy definitely has given it a big thumbs up!

CuddleUpPets are just £19.99

Clean Up Your Act With JooMo

A revolutionary new skincare product has been launched, which is challenging the natural skincare industry to clean up its act on misleading packaging and use of the word 'natural'.  JooMo Ltd, which has developed the first ever 100% truly natural face wash, has released industry research which shows most of the big name skin brands that claim to be natural are in fact far from it, with some ingredients which are also found in drain cleaner and others that have been linked to breast cancer.  The founders of Joomo, Nick Wallen and Linda Russell, embarked on an extensive campaign to identify and address this problem, coming up with a completely natural solution.  Using scientific and historical research including Chinese methods, JooMo is a completely safe, natural and effective face wash that helps repair damage, deals with problems and rebuilds skin's natural defences to prevent future allergies, infection and inflammation.  It contains a revolutionary skin care product, SaponinJ which consists of a specially balanced formula of Saponins, essential oils, sea salt, natural sugars, natural pH modifiers, antioxidants, softeners and emollients.

JooMo Face Wash comes in a very funky squeezy tube which makes it look great for the teen market.   It is aimed at youngsters (teens to twenties) with senstive skin, skin prone to spots, inflammation or soreness.  It is a face wash and moisturiser in one, and comes in a Honey and Orange variety.


skincare, natural cosmetics
JooMo

The wash itself has an amazing smell.  With hints of honey, orange and cinnamon it really does reflect its natural ingredients.  The orangey-brown gel like wash does not foam up, but feels rich and creamy against your skin.  It smells divine.  It rinses off well and leaves skin feeling clean without any tightness or irritation.  A little goes a long way so it will last well.

I have been testing the Joomo for about a while now and I think it is a really nice product (OK I know I am not in the teen to twenties age group but I wanted to test it for myself).  It feels so gentle and I've had no problems in that time.  Sometimes I get patches of dry skin around my chin area and sometimes even the occasional hormonal breakout...but so far so good!  I also suffer from psoriasis on my hands but have not had a flare-up, even though the weather has been really hot which is usually a trigger for it.

My skin feels really nice and I am reassured that this is completely natural.  Many big brand products do contain natural ingredients and plant extracts, but they also have unnatural, synthetic chemicals in them too.  The long term effect of putting these on your skin is not really known.  I love companies that strive to deliver a truly natural product.

I will happily let my girls use this product as I am sure that using harsh facial products on their skin is one of the reasons that teenagers can have skin problems. I will definitely be buying more.

For more information on this product and to buy it online, you can visit joomo.coop.  A 100ml tube costs £4.75 with a flat rate postage of £2.50 for any number of items ordered.  The company's mission and ethos is quite inspirational.  The product is great.  What more needs to be said??!!






Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Last Goodbye: Helping Your Child Cope with Leaving School

The saying ‘Time waits for no man’ could not be more relevant for a mother. One moment your little cherubs are bum-shuffling around and the next they are young adults ready to make their own way in the world. The massive leap between school and higher education is a key time for any teen; it is often defined as the step between being a child and becoming an adult. However just because your little girls and boys are growing up doesn’t mean they don’t need your support. (Even if they think they don’t need it)

These days’ schools play a far greater role than just education in your child’s life. For them the school system has been a safe bubble; its own micro-world with rules, boundaries and expectations which they have resided in for most of their young lives. For a teen to suddenly be brought out of this environment that they consider the norm into the ‘real world’ is an emotional and life changing event for any young person. Your children will be leaving behind friends they have known for years and often this will be the first kind of separation since their primary school years.

When considering how to help your children get through this major event is their life, there are several things you must remember:
·         Firstly, at this age everything is a big deal; how many times have your children acted like it was the end of the world when you ask them to wash up? This is normal, at this age of a child’s development their brain put high priority on things we might consider unimportant. Be patient and understanding, we were all young once and your teenage years are often the best in your life.

·         Secondly, just because they say they are ‘ok’ or ‘not bothered’ doesn’t mean they are. Teenage boys especially are notorious for bottling up their worries, however don’t pester them too much, this usually yields poor results. Try talking to them as adults, give them space and when they are ready to talk they usually will.

·         Finally don’t panic! I know it’s not an easy thing to do, especially when you think your children are stressed or worrying, but trust me it’ll only make it worse. What you have to remember is, even when they don’t seem to, your teens still look to you for security and guidance. Keeping a cool head will help convince your children that everything is ok and they are probably just overreacting.

One of the major reasons teenagers can get so stressed about leaving is that it is often seen as a negative experience and is sometimes overly dramatized by parents and teachers. The best way I have found to help the transition is to make it a positive experience by celebrating their time together with friends and all that has happened. Have a leaving party and let them say good bye to their friends in a positive manner rather than a sad goodbye. One great way to help them get through this time this is through things like leavers hoodies, which is a great memento to take away to uni with them. Organising an event with other parents is a great way to surprise your children and create a comradeship that lets them have a memento of their time at school and helps them remember that they are not alone in their new adventure.

Leaving school lets your children mature into unique individuals, it is a hard transition period and they will need lots of understanding and support. However remember that it is always an exciting and happy time of growth and new experiences. Remember to you your children will never stop being your little babies and most importantly deep down they feel the same.

Sam Fisher is writing on behalf of Banana Moon, a t-shirt printing company who specialises in personalised t-shirts, hoodies for school leavers, sports kits and workwear.



Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Tots 100 Summer Party At Zippos Circus

Heading down to Brighton with Ian, Ella, Kizzy and Freddy for the Tots 100 Summer Party, we were all intrigued at the prospect of spending the day at Zippos Circus.  After our horrendous experience with the French circus in Nacre, we were all hoping that this would be a very different experience.

The sun was shining as we arrived at the coast.  Brighton is a place very close to my heart.  I spent lots of time there when I was younger as my big sister lived there.  I was keen for my own children to see the place where their auntie, who they sadly never got to meet, used to live.

We had a couple of hours before we were due to meet up at the Big Top on Hove Lawns.  It was a lovely sunny day, perfect for strolling down the promenade to our destination.  Freddy loved stopping every so often to head down onto the beach and throw stones into the sea.

Brighton
Brighton Beach

We found the Zippos Circus big top and waited until we saw other bloggers and their families go in (I never like being first, in case I go in to the wrong place!)

Zippos
Zippos Circus

We were signed in and each given a sticker to wear.  These stickers were the most wonderful stickers ever as they entitled us to order whatever we wanted from the food stands for free.  The kids were giddy with the power of being able to get popcorn, Slushies and candyfloss without having to ask me for cash!  We had a lunch of cheese paninis and chips and caught up with Sally and Flea for a chat which was lovely!

Zippos
Enjoying A Circus Lunch

After eating we headed off to the ring where we were introduced to the Ringmaster Norman Barrett MBE and his performing budgies.  Ian got very excited as he recognised him, remembering him from his childhood.  He was a little starstruck, bless him!  We were also given a demonstration on how the horses were trained by the lovely Yasmine Smart, granddaughter of the legendary Billy Smart, accompanied by a beautiful horse called Diamond.  The kids then got to have a go at some circus skills.  Freddy loved juggling with scarves although he seemed to be doing the Dance of the Seven Veils rather than juggling!  Kizzy had a go on the low trapeze.

Zippos
Learning To Juggle


We then took our seats for the show to begin.  The kids were intrigued that the performers were also the ones who were selling programs, showing people to their seats and serving candyfloss and popcorn.  They liked the idea of the pitch-in culture of the circus where everybody has their roles to play to make sure that everything runs smoothly.

Zippos, circus
Ready For The Show


Now, I must admit that I'm not a big one for clowns.  I just do not get their style of comedy and they are a bit creepy.  So I was quite impressed that Zippos French Delbosq Clowns consisted of a young, funky, attractive and  funny couple who would have been equally suited to a career as CBeebies presenters.  They have made the artform of clowning much more current, relevant and modern for a new generation.  Their slapstick act was actually really entertaining, unique and made us chuckle.

Zippos
Photo Credit: Gary Samuels

One of our favourite acts was the Kenyan Boys who were an acrobatic troop who did some amazing and impressive tricks!  From acrobatics, skipping, fire-eating, Hip-Hop and limbo dancing, they were incredibly talented and great fun to watch.

Zippos, circus
Kenyan Boys Acrobatics

I loved how contemporary most of the acts were.  There was a woman who juggled with her feet whilst lying on a motorbike who was incredible.  The Argentinian Gauchos with their flaming balls (!!) were thrilling.  The aerial acts were breathtaking and all done without a net!!  Anya the juggler brought her act bang up to date by juggling within a steel and perspex triangle.  The horse act was fantastic as the majestic creatures performed to pulsating dreambeats alongside dancers.

Zippos, circus
Argentinian Gauchos

There was a real sense of nostalgia when Norman Barrett performed with his budgies.  The gentle and traditional animal act was really lovely.  He obviously loves his birds and their ability to perform tricks was so cute.  The budgie that pulled a little carriage using a tiny harness was my favourite!

For amazing circus acts, nothing could compare to the show's finale....the incredible Motorcycle Globe of Death.  Three motorbikes going at breakneck speed in a metal cage no bigger than my kitchen, whizzing around a dancing girl was jaw droppingly, death defyingly nerve wrackingly amazing!  It was really high octane stuff!  My action shot below does it no justice whatsoever!  I've never seen anything like it and it really had the wow factor to end the show on.

Zippos, circus
Brazilian Lucius Team Motorcycle Globe of Death


We had a great day!  Afterwards we went on down to Brighton beach and the kids had a paddle in the sea.  It was a perfect end to a lovely Summer Party...even though the motorbike shaped Helium balloon that we bought for Freddy after the circus was unable to withstand the rigours of the Brighton sea breeze and removed itself from the string and was last seen heading skyward across the Channel!  

Zippos, circus
Freddy's Balloon Before It Escaped!

Huge thanks goes to Sally Whittle who yet again has pulled out all the stops so us bloggers can have a good time!   We had a great day at the circus and loved being in Brighton in the sunshine.

You can find out if Zippos Circus is coming to a town near you by checking out their website, where you can also book discount online tickets.

www.zippos.co.uk 




Spending Pocket Money The Roosterbank Way

Kizzy has been using Roosterbank for a couple of weeks now.  Not only has she had fun playing the games,  she also has had several pocket money payments paid into her account.  This means that she has enough saved to buy something from her wishlist.

pocket money

She had 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' picked out as something she wanted to buy (the kids are keen to complete their Disney DVD back catalogue!)   She had it saved in her Saver Basket on her dashboard.  Once she had saved enough virtual cash, she had the option to send her order through to me and her account balance was adjusted to show her spending.  She also received a little message congratulating her on saving up enough money.

Roosterbank


Once Kizzy sent her order to me, I received notification in my account in the Parent's Area.  I then had the option to checkout the item. To do this, I was taken to the Amazon secure checkout where I paid for the item which will be delivered to our door free of charge.  Kizzy then receives email notification that her request has been fulfilled!

Roosterbank

The process really is easy.  Roosterbank puts the item directly into your shopping basket ready for payment, so you only need to log in and pay.  All purchasing is done directly through Amazon, and up until that point the money in the child's Roosterbank account is virtual.

I am really impressed with this simple but extremely clever idea.  Purchasing through Amazon is secure and the stock levels are high, plus postage is free.  Kizzy has watched her account balance go up and waited until she had enough cash saved to be able to request an item from her wishlist.  This is teaching her about the importance of saving money and has given her real satisfaction.

The communication between Roosterbank and both Kizzy and myself as a parent is very good.  Notification emails are sent when orders are sent through and approved.  It is a really efficient service.

Money doesn't just have to be spent on things bought through the shop.  The child can request money to be withdrawn or paid into a savings account using a similar process.  The beauty of  Roosterbank is that it manages pocket money in a virtual way that is perfect for parents like me who do not deal in cash.  You only need to come up with real money or pay for things by credit card when your child sends you an order, and only when they have enough saved up.

Take a look at www.roosterbank.com ... it's free to join and no actual money exchanges hands until you approve your child's request for a withdrawal or to check out an item.  It's educational, teaches saving and money skills and is a lot of fun!






The Nintendo 3DS...more than just a games console.

The Nintendo 3DS may be a compact device but it offers a huge range of features  to help kids learn and develop their creativity. With its fantastic range of fun educational features, the 3DS has everything you need to encourage kids  to play and interact with the world around them.  This multi-tasking console is home to a host of educational games, and with its built-in camera and free Wi-Fi connection it also allows access to informative and entertaining video content. What’s more, a new larger console has just been launched with a 4.8 inch 3D screen.  The Nintendo 3DS XL  is now available  in the UK  in three great new colours: Blue + Black, Silver + Black and Red + Black.

Check out the exciting educational features of the 3DS below to  get the whole family feeling inspired ...

New Art Academy
Available from: £22.99
Try out new skills and discover hidden talents you didn't know you had inNew Art Academy for Nintendo 3DS! With over 30 brand new lessons to get your creative hands on, this imaginative game will have you painting and drawing your own masterpieces in no time. With lessons catering for all ability levels, plus a Free Paint mode for those who just want to doodle, New Art Academy provides an unlimited blank canvas to play with, as well as a wide range of different materials to try out. Plus, you can share your creations and even give virtual lessons to your friends and family using SpotPass or Nintendo Letter Box.

gaming, Nintendo
Playing on the Nintendo 3DS

Kingdom of Plants 3D with David Attenborough
Available to download for free from the Nintendo eShop 

Curious kids will be out exploring the garden in no time when they see this exclusive 3D video clip from ground-breaking Sky series, Kingdom of Plants 3D with David Attenborough. The exclusive one and a half minute clip is an astonishing look at the secret lives of plants filmed at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London, revealing a dramatic world otherwise invisible to the human eye. Filmed over the course of a year, it’s a revealing and fascinating new look at plant life through the use of stunning 3D time-lapse filming techniques. Kingdom of Plants 3D with David Attenborough is just one of the many inspiring and entertaining educational 3D video clips available to download for free from the Nintendo eShop for all Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo 3DS XL owners.

Lola’s Alphabet Train
Available to download now for £1.80 on the Nintendo eShop
All aboard the learning train for a fun time! Specifically designed for 3-7 year olds, Lola’s Alphabet Train is a guaranteed way to keep kids coming back for more as they master their reading skills.
The Alphabet Train features five exciting games in one. As your children’s skills improve, the games get more challenging, but still manage to be enjoyable and engaging!  See our review here!
PEGI: 3
The ‘Successfully Learning’ Series
Available to download now for £4.50 on the Nintendo eShop
Little Freddy the vampire makes learning fun as he guides children through a range of exciting exercises and problems, providing helpful tips and motivation along the way. These engaging educational titles are available for English, Maths and German and cover the current curriculum for children in years 2 to 5.
PEGI: 3
XL:
3DS XL screen:
The new Nintendo 3DS XL allows users to enjoy a 90% bigger screen to capture and display their photos in stunning 3D. With its 4.8 inch screen you’ll be able to enjoy Nintendo video content in even greater detail and have an even bigger canvas to experiment on in New Art Academy. The Nintendo 3DS XL has the biggest screen to feature on a Nintendo handheld console to date and with double the current battery life means hours of interrupted entertainment

  • 3D memories: With a handy built-in 3D camera and video camera, kids can really unleash their creative side and get snap- happy this summer. Why not challenge them to make a video diary, or hold your own family photography competition?

  • Internet connected: Access the internet without high roaming charges or a monthly fee and you needn’t worry about safety with the 3DS’ easy-to-use parental controls, which allow you to control all internet use and interactions. Nintendo has recently launched Nintendo Zone with over 25,000 Wi-Fi Hotspots across Europe where you can access the internet for free through the inbuilt web browser or download content via the eShop.

  • Letter Box: This delightful free messaging feature on Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo 3DS XL lets users send notes and drawings instantly to friends, wherever they are in the world.
  • eShop: There’s a whole range of fun and stimulating games to download on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, offering real value on the move.  Everything from Colours! 3D where you can learn to paint and create an incredible 3D picture to Pullblox a highly addictive block puzzler that really get brains ticking.  In addition, you can take advantage of lots of free content including exciting animation shorts and trailers for the latest films in glorious 3D plus Nintendo TV monthly episodes and demos of the latest games to try-before-you-buy.

3DS
Nintendo eShop





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