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Thursday, 28 March 2013

We Went To Specsavers!

Four out of my five children are glasses wearers so I was very pleased to be asked to do a review for Specsavers. I never take the health of my children's eyes for granted and make sure they are regularly tested.  Ella and Kizzy were both due their annual eye test so the timing was perfect.  We made an appointment for after school and college and went to our local branch.  It's a very friendly branch and the kids always feel comfortable and relaxed.  We received a courtesy call the day before our appointment to remind us of the time and to check that we'd be there.  

The eye exam is very thorough, consisting of some pre-tests before going into the examination room with the optician.  At sixteen, Ella goes in on her own, but I accompanied Kizzy.  I am always so interested in how, by switching the lenses in the funny glasses, an optician is able to ascertain an exact prescription!  It's all very clever.  As their paternal grandad has oval retinas and is registered blind, the optician is always very thorough when checking inside the girls' eyes and ensured us that they were both fine.  Everything was clearly explained and our questions were answered.  We were also assured that we could come back anytime if either of the girls started experiencing any problems, rather than waiting for their next annual check up.

glasses, frames


Once their prescriptions were printed out, the girls got to do the fun part - pick new glasses!  They both get the cost of their glasses subsidised by the NHS.  Kizzy looked at the Teenage range, and Ella got to choose a pair from the designer range as part of our review.

Ably assisted by a very helpful and patient member of staff, Ella looked through the racks of frames from designers such as Red or Dead, Gok Wan, Karen Millen, Jasper Conran, Osiris, FCUK and new this month  Emporio Armani.    Once upon a time, the choice when it came to glasses was very limited.  Today the frames are more of a fashion accessory with so many lovely styles and colours to pick from. The fashionable  frames bear the distinctive designer branding and make a clear style statement.  Many of the designer frames are exclusive to Specsavers.  There is a 2-for-1 offer with prices from £99.

The assistant was very knowledgeable and took account of Ella's head size and shape to recommend styles.  Together they picked out a shortlist of four frames to choose from.  In the end she picked a pair by Karen Millen.  They were adjusted for a perfect fit over her ears and across her nose.  We were offered some optional extras and chose an anti-glare finish as Ella does a lot of work on computers and will be learning to drive soon!  I love how getting a good, stylish pair of glasses boosts the girls' confidence.

We made an appointment to pick up the finished glasses for two weeks time.  They are very accommodating as we had to fit the appointment in around Ella's college hours and we were being very indecisive trying to remember her end of term timetable! In the end we actually had to phone back and change the time, but again this was no problem.

When the time came for the girls to collect their new glasses, they were ready for them straight away.  The fit was checked and the girls were asked to read the letters on the eye test chart to confirm that they could see clearly.

Both girls are delighted with their new glasses and I was delighted by the service we received at Specsavers.

glasses
Ella wears Karen Millen!

Specsavers
Kizzy wears Red or Dead 


To find your nearest Specsavers store and to check out their range of designer frames including the new Emporio Armani glasses visit www.specsavers.co.uk.

Butlins Here We Come

It seems a long time ago that I became a Butlins Ambassador and booked a family holiday at Butlins Bognor Regis staying in the newly built Wave Hotel.  But, now that holiday is just days away!  We'll be staying in a Reef Appartment that has all the perks of a hotel including daily housekeeping and a half board meal plan, but also offers some of the flexibility and freedom of self-catering with a lounge and a kitchen and three bedrooms.  It sounds just perfect for my family.

New for this year is a dazzling new fairground with rides that are all free to enjoy.  I am sure the children will be spending a lot of time on the Helter Skelter, Carousel and Paratroopers!  The traditional fairground aims to bring back the joy that I remember as a child, riding the Dodgems and enjoying the sideshows.  The new Character Theatre is opening for Easter, where little ones will get to see Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder and other favourites live on stage.  Freddy will be in his element.  The Discovery Studio is also new for Easter where older children can enjoy magic, animal and science shows.  Shows cost £5 each but I think this will be well worth it! All the other Butlins entertainment including the indoor play area for little ones and the shows will ensure that we have a fun filled few days away!

butlins

A week away with sea air, no cooking and cleaning and good food is just what the doctor ordered.  If we could organise a bit of sunshine that would be just perfect!


           

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Our Peppa Pig Theme Park Party

Peppa Pig

Yesterday we took part in a Peppa Pig party with UKMums.tv.  We were sent some brilliant Peppa merchandise and some of the latest Peppa's Theme Park toys along with ideas for games and food.  At 3pm the children began to arrive to help 3 year old Freddy test out the new range and have some fun, while I tried to take photos, prepare food and Tweet from the event (multi-tasking at its best.) We had a houseful of young guests eager to play games, do colouring in, eat pizza and cake, watch Peppa Pig on TV and try out the toys.

The kids loved Muddy Puddles Peppa who jumps up and down, counts and speaks phrases.  They copied her actions and giggled as she splashed and sploshed. The Theme Park Toys are based on the Peppa Pig World rides from Paulton's Park.  The Big Wheel, the Balloon Ride and the Train Ride are brightly coloured, plastic toys which have interactive features.  The Big Wheel spins and the seats pivot to keep the characters in their seats.  The Balloon Ride turns around and comes complete with a ticket kiosk and a 'ring the bell' game.  The Train Ride has three cute carriages, a rocket ship, a spinning cupcake and a dinosaur.  It wheels along the ground with the characters onboard.

Each piece comes with a Peppa character wearing a differently patterned dress.  Other characters are available in packs so you can add the likes of Rebecca Rabbit, Danny Dog and George Pig to your collection.  The figures are well detailed with movable limbs and are perfect for little hands.

The rides make a lovely theme park scene for children to play with. I found it a little fiddly to get the characters to sit in the carriages securely.  So my over zealous pre-schooler enjoyed spinning the wheel and balloons fast enough to make the characters fly out of their seats!  The Train Ride was voted the favourite toy by our guests. The carriages could be used on their own or joined together.  The children enjoyed whizzing the carrriages around, racing them against each other with Peppa, Rebecca and Suzie onboard.  The 'ring the bell' fairground game was a big hit.  Pressing the button makes the bell ring.  It's amazing how much little ones enjoy such a simple pleasure!

The Peppa brand has definitely got it right.  The children all love the show, the toys, the books and the other merchandise.  It has got real kid appeal with its simple imagery and the fun animal characters.  We had a great time celebrating the joys of  Peppa Pig and her friends today!

UKMums.tv

Big Wheel Playset RRP £14.99
Deluxe Balloon Ride Playset RRP £19.99
Theme Park Train RRP £14.99
Peppa and Friends Figures RRP £4.99

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Bigjigs Farm House Sorter

bigjigs train


We are so excited to be in the final phase of applications for the Bigjigs Play Patrol!  

We love Bigjigs, who are a fantastic toy company specialising in wonderful, traditional wooden toys for children of all ages.  

We love the ethics of the company which strives to keep its environmental impact minimal.  

We love how the toys enhance children's development and learning through play, and how each top quality toy is beautifully and thoughtfully designed.  

We love the tactile feel, warmth and smell of the wood, and we know that each toy will last for generations (especially important now I am a granny to my baby grandson Ted who will one day inherit some of  his Uncle Freddy's toys!)

Bigjigs Farm House Sorter

We received a lovely surprise through the post from Bigjigs for the final stage of the Play Patrol applications. We were challenged to put the fun to the test in a review.  Three year old Freddy is always ready to have fun!


wooden toy


Now, being the McDonald family, we are particularly fond of farm toys as they give us the opportunity to sing one of our favourite songs "Old McDonald Had a Farm" so this was the perfect toy for Freddy to test, ably assisted by his big sisters Ella and Kizzy who are always on hand for some fun play time with their little brother.   In this video, Freddy demonstrates the Farm House Sorter accompanied by his musical sisters!


 

The Farm House Sorter is a lovely toy for ages 12 mths+ that will appeal to both tiny tots and pre-schoolers alike, as it can be played with in different ways according to the child's age and ability.  This gives it great play potential for years to come as it grows with the child, making it a great investment to the toybox. 

It came boxed in recyclable cardboard, with only the shapes wrapped up inside for protection, so the waste was minimal. The Farm House Sorter consists of a colourful, wooden barn with shapes cut into the sides, a removable roof and a handy carry handle, along with nine cut out shapes (eight animals and a tree).


Bigjigs


Firstly, children can post the shapes through the holes, which will help develop their fine motor skills, spatial awareness and dexterity.  

But this isn't all!  Each of the animal and the tree shapes are individually painted.  This  helps children learn their colours.

The shapes can be counted in and out of the sorter to help children learn their numbers.

Little ones will enjoy chatting about the animals which assists their language development.  The colour, the position, the animal noises, the size etc. all lend themselves to having conversations with Mummy or Daddy about what they are doing.

The name of the animal/object is written in lower case on the back of the each shape so pre-schoolers can learn letter and word recognition whilst playing, which is a step towards mastering their reading skills.  

The shapes also allow for imaginative, farm yard role play as they are free-standing and can be 'walked' around their farm house home.  It is a shame that the tree does not stand up as it could add another dimension to a child's storytelling with the animals.  

The shapes can be drawn around and used as templates as an arts and crafts resource which will help mark making skills to develop.

All this learning comes through having fun and playing, which is the best way for little ones to develop!  


bigjigs


Freddy loves his Bigjigs Farm House Sorter.  He is able to post the shapes through the right holes, even though he sometimes has to think quite hard about it and turn the house round to find the correct space.  He likes that the whole roof comes off so he can retrieve the animals easily to play over and over again.  The roof parts have also doubled up as steering wheels in a very imaginative game of racing car drivers with his sister!  I love how a good toy inspires so many ideas in a child, way beyond those of any adult!  It is a well designed toy that Freddy enjoys carrying around with a real sense of ownership.  He is happy to explore the toy independently or will happily show off his skills to us, chatting and engaging us in his discoveries. It is well made, solid and robust enough to withstand years of play. All the pieces fit inside for storage and the roof attaches securely, but is easy to get off and on.  There is nothing fiddly or frustrating to contend with, so it's smiles all the way from 3 year old Freddy. 


Bigjigs, shape sorter


In a world of technology with garishly coloured, plastic, battery-operated toys with lights and sounds, it delights me that my son is so thrilled with this toy.  I love him having traditional toys which provide him with an alternative to the brands that inundate the toy shops today.  Fuelled only by his imagination, his natural curiosity  and a yearning to learn new things, Freddy brought this shape sorter to life in ways I hadn't even thought of.  We have had dancing and flying farm animals with superpowers flying into their farm house home.  We've seen racing cars zooming around with rooftop steering wheels.  We've sung songs together and chatted about pigs and cows and ducks and geese.  He has told me stories, he has counted, he has recognised letters and he has done all this in the process of having fun and playing!

Find out more about Bigjigs by visiting their website at bigjigstoys.co.uk

Sending Presents to my Mum

I have blogged about the chaos of the first three weeks of March and how complicated my life was.
In the melee Ian and I totally forgot Mother's Day and failed to send cards to either of our mums.  Feeling utterly guilty about my daughter-fail, and unable to make the journey to visit in person due to the poorly kids, I had to put my faith in the hands of Parcelforce to restore my position as 'good daughter' in the eyes of my dear mum.  Bless her.  Not only did she not receive her usual Mother's Day present and card, the poor thing was also struck down by a horrible cough and cold bug and needed cheering up!

I packaged up a lovely bundle of gifts including a recipe book of cakes that my mum wanted, along with a box of her favourite Milk Tray chocolates, some pictures from the kids and some lavender scented shower gel and redeemed myself by sending this box of goodies safely all the way to her door in Wales!  Job done.  Day saved!

I felt even more virtuous as I reused a box from my pile of cardboard recycling to package up the parcel contents safe and sound.  And so although it wasn't exactly 'a brown paper package tied up with string' ( it was more a second hand grocery carton stuck up with parcel tape) my mum assured me that receiving a unexpected gift through the post was definitely one of 'her favourite things'!   She loved that it contained personal touches such as the kids' pictures which I'd sent, something you just don't get when ordering gifts to send online. It cheered her up no end, which was my objective and she totally understood about the failure to send a Mother's Day card due to my unfortunate extenuating circumstances.

art
Drawing Pictures for Nana
Since bestowing these goodies upon my mother, things have started to look up even more. Easter will be here soon (note to self: do NOT forget to send out Easter gifts to the family asap.  No repeating of my Mother's Day faux pas!!)  Although we have had snow, it is beginning to melt and there is the faintest promise of Spring in the air.  When the sun comes through from behind a cloud and I feel the warmth on my face, it feels so good.

Soon, I will be able to visit my mum in person and give her a long overdue hug.  I am hoping she will have been busy in the kitchen using the recipe book I sent her, and I'll be able to sample some home made muffins and cakes!  That will be a good day indeed.

cake
My Baking Mum


Disclosure


Monday, 25 March 2013

Belvita Breakfast Biscuits

Despite the fact that most people know how important breakfast is, research shows that as many as one in three people regularly skip breakfast . But with Belvita Breakfast – which come in individually wrapped servings – you can enjoy breakfast your way, whether at home, on the go, or at work, so there’s no excuse not to have a balanced breakfast!


breakfast, mother's day


Belvita sent me a lovely treat for Mother's Day to ensure that I get a good breakfast even on those days when I am really rushed.  The lovely travel mug means I can grab a hot latte, a packet of Belvita and a banana on the go however busy I am.  It's a simple way to start the day with a wholesome, quick breakfast.  Eating them with a portion of dairy and a piece of fruit provides a balanced meal for busy mums.

·         Belvita Breakfast biscuits are scientifically proven to slowly release carbohydrates over four hours  – giving you energy for the whole morning and keeping you going until lunch.

·         The new Belvita Breakfast Cranberry biscuits are a tasty combination of wholegrain cereals and cranberry pieces. Each serving of Belvita Breakfast Cranberry biscuits provides a source of vitamins E, B1 B3, Iron and Magnesium.  The Belvita biscuits are filling and taste good.  I love the addition of cranberries, it works really well giving a slightly chewy texture and a nice fruity flavour.

·         Belvita Breakfast are the only breakfast biscuits available in 10 flavours so everyone will be able to find a favourite. Belvita Breakfast Cranberry biscuits will join the full Belvita Breakfast range, which includes Milk & Cereals, Fruit & Fibre, Honey & Nuts, Crunchy Oats, Forest Fruits, Muesli, Yogurt Crunch, Honey & Live Yogurt Crunch and Strawberry & Live Yogurt Duo Crunch.


cranberry


 Belvita Breakfast Cranberry Biscuits are available in all major supermarkets nationwide (RRP £2.45).



How To Make A Easter Bunny Mask

Easter bunny, craft

With the weather being more akin to winter than spring, we have kept ourselves cosy by staying indoors!  Thankfully, we have had lots to keep us entertained and busy including doing some Easter arts and crafts projects. 3M Scotch set us a challenge to create some Everyday Magic at Easter with the kids by working on an Easter craft challenge using the Scotch Brand products. We were sent a bundle of Scotch goodies including their Magic Tape to use, which was perfectly timed to tie in with our own Easter craft activities.

Easter

For the challenge we decided to make an Easter Bunny Mask and Kizzy took charge!

What You Need

A4 foam sheet
Scotch scissors
Scotch Magic Tape
Scotch Double Sided Tape
Scotch Expressions Tape
Felt
Cotton wool
Cardboard
Feathers
Pipe Cleaners
Elastic
Hole Punch

What You Need to Do

Simply draw a mask shape onto card and use it as a template to draw the shape onto a piece of craft foam.
Cut out carefully (including eye holes - that are the right size and position for your child to see through!)
Using Scotch double sided tape, stick cotton wool onto his ears to make them fluffy.
Cut out cheeks from felt and teeth from white card and stick onto the mask with the tape.
Twist 3 pipe cleaners in the middle to make whiskers and stick with Scotch double sided tape.
Use Scotch Magic tape to secure the whiskers and then stick a felt nose on the top using a loop of tape.
Cut thin strips of Scotch Illusions tape and stick down as eyelashes.
Add a few finishing touches using feathers, felt shapes, glitter etc. to personalise your Bunny!
Carefully punch a hole on either side of your finished mask, thread elastic through and secure ends.

Here is Kizzy's video tutorial on How To Make an Easter Bunny Mask!


It was a fun activity allowing Kizzy to use her creativity to create a rather spangly and funky Easter Bunny.  I think she did brilliantly well!   Why don't you challenge your little ones to make some Easter crafts this year? From bonnets, to painted eggs, to decorated sweet jars to pompom chicks, Easter is a great inspiration for craft activities.  We are having a lot of fun getting arty this year (especially as we can't go outside!)

Easter


Check out Scotch's Facebook Page  for hints, tips, chat and competitions!


We were sponsored by Scotch 3M to take part in this challenge and were given a selection of tapes to use in our Easter arts and crafts activities.

Poundland Easter Egg Hunt

As a Poundland Ambassador, I was challenged to do an Easter Egg Hunt for my little ones with a £20 budget, buying items from Poundland's own seasonal range.

As ever, I was impressed with the range available all for just one pound each!  I filled my basket up with lots of goodies: 

Easter Egg Hunt kit
Easter bucket
18 fillable plastic eggs 
novelty chalks
Easter craft kits
Easter decorations
cupcake box
bunny ears
Cadbury's Caramel eggs
Cadbury's Buttons Easter egg
Smarties Mini eggs
Haribo Easter sweets
Milky Bar Easter Egg
bunny footprint stickers
egg stickers
egg stakes

easter

 Unfortunately the weather has not been conducive with Easter Egg hunts (snowball fights would be more appropriate) so we had an indoor egg hunt instead.  I loved the cute animal design signs and colourful numbered egg tokens that made a trail around the house for Freddy (dressed as an Easter chick) and Kizzy (with bunny ears) to follow.  The bunny footprints were a nice touch adding some magic.  We filled the fillable plastic eggs with mini eggs and hid them too for Freddy to find and pop into his Easter bucket.

Easter

He had fun gathering his loot with his big sister.  The four colourful egg tokens were exchanged for a Cadbury Easter egg which Freddy was was very chuffed with!  It's a shame that this year's weather is so horrible as it put pay to my idea of doing Easter pavement art with the carrot shaped novelty chalks, and decorating the lawn with the decorative egg stakes as the kids searched for the clues that would lead to their Easter goodies. But we did the best we could, and it was great fun!  Indoors or out, Poundland's range of Easter treats allowed us the have some seasonal fun without spending a fortune.

Easter




Shake It Up - The Album

Kizzy is such a huge fan of the Disney Channel TV shows including Shake it Up starring Bella Thorn and Zendaya.  The show follows best friends CeCe and Rocky as they balance school, boys and family with  dancing on a local TV show, Shake It Up Chicago.  Every episode is filled with music and dancing which Kizzy really enjoys.  When we were offered the chance to review the brand new Disney soundtrack album "I <3 Dance" I knew that Kizzy would absolutely love it.  I was not wrong!  It now happily resides on her iPod and she sings along and dances around the living room!

album, disney channel

The seventeen track CD features a host of other Disney Channel favourites such as Selena Gomez, who performs a remix of the theme song, and Bridgit Mendler,who sings We're Dancing.  The album features a host of different styles from disco, R&B, rapping to electro pop, which keeps it fresh and interesting to listen to.  It has a very young and funky vibe that will appeal to the tween market.

The soundtrack is as upbeat as the show itself and will get any fan up and moving.  Kizzy likes Contagious Love by Bella Thorn and Zendaya which features a rap and a very catchy chorus, which has everyone singing along (including me!). The Olivia Holt cover of These Boots Are Made For Walking got me up and singing along, much to the amusement of the kids!  It's all good fun, frothy and high energy.

The Track Listing

1. Contagious Love         
2. This is My Dance Floor                             
3. Beat Of My Drum                        
4. Blow the System                          
5. Afterparty      
6. Holla at the DJ                              
7. These Boots Are Made for Walkin'    
8. Sharp as a Razor         
9. Future Sounds Like Us            
10. I Can Do Better         
11. Shake It Up Theme Song      
12. We're Dancing           
13. I'm Back       
14. Getcha Head in the Game    
15. Freaky Freakend      
16. I Do Drew Seeley     
17. Law of Averages


Even three year old Freddy is enjoying Shake It Up I <3 Dance being played around the house.  Here is a video of him shaking it up to the Selena Gomez theme tune re-mix.



Buy it from today at good music stockists such as Amazon.  It's a great gift for any Shake It Up fans.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Easter Crafts with Hobbycraft #cbias

Although the current weather is more Christmas than Easter, the season of chocolate eggs, Easter chicks and bunnies is nevertheless fast approaching.  We have been taking part in an exciting 'shoppertunity' with Social Fabric to create some homemade Easter themed crafts using products purchased from Hobbycraft.  We have a brand new Hobbycraft store that has just opened in a retail park near to where we live, so I was really keen to pay it a visit and check out all the products on offer.  I love browsing through all the different aisles: the bakeware; the children's craft sets; the jewellery making; the papercrafts and of course the seasonal aisles!

To find out what we got up to on the very snowy day that we visited Hobbycraft to buy the items we needed to get crafty, take a look at my Hobbycraft Shopping Experience G+ Album.


I felt really inspired after reading this poem, which is printed on the wall behind the tills, and ready to help the kids make some Easter craft gifts!  I love doing craft activities with my family but I am no expert when it comes to doing complicated projects. So the crafts that we chose to do are all simple and perfect for children to carry out with some adult supervision.   The range of Easter themed stickers, ribbons and decorations makes it easy to add a seasonal twist to any craft project.  We loved all the cute designs featuring cartoon bunnies, fluffy chicks and colourful eggs.  I bought loads of stuff that will keep us going throughout the Easter holidays, and if the weather doesn't improve we will appreciate the joys of a nice indoor activity such as arts and crafts.

How to Make Decorative Easter Sweetie Jars


hobbycraft


1 Kilner Jar (£2.79)
Decorative Paper (£2.00)
Easter Ribbon (£1.00)
Easter Foam Stickers (£1.00/£1.50)
Edging Scissors (£2.00)
Sweets to fill the jar

Cut out a circle of decorative paper using the edging scissors to fit the top of the jar.
Stick on with glue.
Using decorative Easter stickers decorate the lid.
Fill the jar with sweets and shut lid.
Add stickers to body of jar.
Tie a length of ribbon around the top of the jar and add a label.
It makes a great Easter present and an alternative to a chocolate egg.

Kizzy did a great job and enjoyed creating a bespoke jar to give to a friend this Easter.


hobbycraft

We are going to expand on this idea to make jars containing the dry mix to make Easter cookies and decorating them for gifts for the grandparents.  It's such a nice idea for a present and would work for any season or occasion.

How to Make Hand Painted Egg Cups


Hobbycraft


White Ceramic Egg Cups (69p each)
Rainbow Markers for ceramics (£3.99)

This is such a simple and lovely craft idea whatever the age of your children.
The Rainbow Markers are quick drying and smudge proof.
Simply draw your design onto the egg cup and leave to dry.
For a great Easter gift, pop in a small chocolate egg.

All three children enjoyed this activity together.  Designs can be as simple or elaborate as the ability of the child allows, so anyone at any age can enjoy decorating their own ceramic egg cup.  


hobbycraft

Ella, Kezia and Freddy had real fun.  I love how hard Freddy was concentrating on his 'modern art' design.  (I hear scribbling is all the rage in the art scene this year!!)

Craft Kits for Kids


hobbycraft


Hobbycraft sell a range of great value kids' activity packs from just £1.00.
We bought a kit to make an Easter Chick in a nest, which included everything needed to make it including double sided tape and a felt pen (£1.00).

With a bit of help, Freddy made a chick that he was very proud of!  It is such a great value kit and something that would make a lovely gift to give to crafty kids this Easter.  It would also be a lovely going home present  for children if you have an Easter party.


chick, Easter


So if you want to 'hop' along to your local Hobbycraft to stock up on some 'egg-citing' Easter arts and crafts bits (I love a good pun!) you can find your nearest store, discover some ideas for projects and look at the extensive range of products on the website at  www.hobbycraft.co.uk.


I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® #CBias #SocialFabric.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Occasion Smurfs from Schleich

Ever since the release of the Smurfs movie, the little blue fellas have proved quite a hit with my kids.  The prospect of the second movie this year will only add to their love of all things Smurf.  So when I received a collection of Smurf figures from Schleich, the children were very happy!

The collection includes: Valentine's Day Smurf; Sorry Smurf; Happy Birthday Smurf; Bride & Groom Smurf; Baby Smurf; Thank You Smurf; Get Well Soon Smurf and Party Smurfette.

Each cute little character is posed with an accessory befitting the occasion they represent.  The fun Party Smurfette comes in her own cocktail glass, Valentine's Day Smurf is holding a big love heart shaped box of chocolates behind his back and Happy Birthday Cake has a cupcake with a candle and a party hat.  The attention to detail, from the expressions on their face to their posture is perfect to convey their special messages.

These Smurfs would make a great alternative to a card for a special occasion, or could be used as a cake topper.  The Bride and Groom Smurf would look very smart sat on top of a cake celebrating the wedding of two Smurf fans!  Baby Smurf in his nappy and with a dummy in his mouth is a lovely memento to celebrate a baby being born and makes a cute little keepsake.

smurf

As with all Schleich's ranges, the Smurfs are well made, hand painted with exceptional detail and are well designed, bringing each character to life.  They would make a great collection for Smurf fans or will stand alone as a small gift for a special occasion.

The Smurfs are available from Amazon with prices starting from £3.39

Things Are On The Up

We have had a testing few weeks.  Firstly, Ian's operation, which was pretty brutal and left him in quite a state for the first week of his recovery, was much worse than I imagined it would be.  But possibly worse than his state of being exhausted, battered and bruised was the fact that he had to wear surgical support stockings and see-through net pants.  This post-op fashion statement made him look like an extra in a weirdly cast extra-fetish version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.  I tried to be a sympathetic nurse but as I tended to his stitches all I could do was sing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite from Transexual Transylvania" over and over in my mind.  Dealing with a doddery husband with a bag strapped to his leg has been quite interesting and given me insight into what our future together might look like.  It isn't the prettiest of futures but if it involves both me and Ian still together and still in love, then I can deal with anything!

Just as Ian began to regain a bit of his mobility and become a bit more human, it was Freddy's turn to take on the role as poorliest person in the house.  He had a bad day at nursery on Monday so we decided to cheer him up and give Ian his first jaunt out of the house by taking him for lunch.  Not our best idea.  Within minutes he had gone pale and fell prey to a very virulent tummy bug. This bug lasted until Thursday.  Ian has always been the resident expert of clearing up spilled bodily fluids as I have a very weak stomach.  Bless my poor husband as he attempted to clear up poor Fred's stomach contents, accompanied by a chorus of me gagging and wretching.  I am officially useless!  Up until this turn of events I was totally in control of the housework.  But suddenly having five loads of washing a day and no tumble dryer put pay to my organisation and the house descended into chaos.  Poor Freddy took until the weekend before he started eating again.  Poor little mite was so weak and thin by the end of it all.  But suddenly he asked for porridge.  Porridge topped with golden syrup.  Three bowlfuls later, my little boy started back on the road to full recovery.  everything else was forgotten as I watched him tuck in with gusto.

poorly
Feeling better and hugging Kizzy x

This week, things have been so much better.  Freddy is back at nursery and seems much happier.  Ian is no longer hobbled over, bent double like an old man, shuffling around the house.  He is almost back to normal except for the catheter and 4" long scar.  He has an appointment next week to check his grafts and remove the catheter and we hope everything will then be over and Ian's health will be fully restored.

 My son Joe and his girlfriend Jade have visited with Ted who delighted us all with his sunny smiles and happy demeanour.  Being a grandparent is quite simply an honour!  They have had some good news involving a tax rebate which is going to improve their financial situation significantly.  I'm so pleased for them. Life is so hard as a young couple with a new baby who are trying to work and support themselves.  They get no help from the government and really struggle to pay full rent and council tax.  This windfall couldn't have come at a better time.

smiles
Smiling at Grandad x

My eldest daughter Megan has had a fabulous holiday in Budapest with her boyfriend (whom we thoroughly approve of and think is very lovely) and returned to some very good news that she had been offered a job at a Digital Marketing Agency.  She had applied for it the week before without being qualified, was offered an interview where she was very honest about not having the experience but showed her commitment to learn and the CEO took a risk on her based on that. They are going to train her and put her through exams. So her career will shortly be taking a brand new direction leading her to places that she really wants to go.  Exciting times indeed for my go-getting girl.

Ella had a great trip to Berlin with college to practice her German (and in a stroke of good fortune avoid the sickness bug completely). Although it was very cold and snowy, she returned home fit and healthy and buzzing from her incredible adventure.

Germany
Ella at The Berlin Wall
Last night she performed in an Awards Ceremony for her Sixth Form College which I attended with Kizzy at the Severn Theatre.  When she was at her last school, I attended all the events she performed in, tolerating the lack lustre dance performers and the cringey comedy duos and the embarrassing music teacher who fronted his own jazz band to get his own 15 minutes in the limelight.  Her new college is so very different.  The students are unbelievably talented.  They had three concert grade pianists performing classical pieces by Beethoven and Chopin.  There was a lad who is playing a lead in a production of We Will Rock You who had an incredibly powerful voice.  There was an amazing arrangement of a Michael Jackson song performed acoustically which was far superior to anything I have ever heard done on X Factor or BGT.  A three piece girl, harmony group performed two songs, accompanied by one of them on guitar and they were so professional. It turned out that they had written the songs themselves too, but I did not realise this as they were so credible.  Add to this the academic awards and presentations and this college is just in a different league to her old school.  Moving Ella was definitely the right decision.  I was so proud of Ella who performed Lego House by Ed Sheeran.  She stood in the spotlight of the stage, just a little girl with her guitar and sang beautifully, with her engaging trademark smile on her face.  She was brilliant and received huge applause.  Her college principal is full of praise for Ella who isn't in with the music crowd, yet has had her talents recognized.  She is amazing!

We have exciting times to look forward to in the next few weeks too.   Megan is coming home for Easter before starting her new job, which will be wonderful.  We have our Butlins holiday coming up staying in their fancy new hotel.  Having a few days full board and with housekeeping in one of the three bedroomed appartments at the Wave Hotel is just what the doctor ordered.  Sea air and an all you can eat breakfast buffet is just what the doctor ordered!

Seasonal Care for Coughs and Colds

So we are forecast another wintry weekend of gale force winds and snow.  I thought it was meant to be spring already!  This unrelenting cold weather is doing nothing to help the coughs and colds that are lingering.  I am getting fed up of seeing my loved ones continually getting poorly.  At the moment my poor mum and dad are suffering from a really nasty cough.  They sound awful, but are being sensible, staying home in the warm and getting plenty of rest.  I hope they get well soon.

I was sent a seasonal care package to ease the suffering caused by these bugs!  Next time I see my parents I will be sharing my goodies with them!

colds, olbas

Olbas Bath is a fragrant and therapeutic bath liquid that soothes and relaxes aching bodies and helps clear the nose and head with its natural Olbas vapours.  It is suitable for anyone over 3 so is great to relieve congestion in pre-schoolers. A steamy, hot Olbas bath is just the thing to make you feel better!  I used some as a shower gel and it worked a treat with its lovely smell that really cleared my head and woke me up!

Olbas Menthol Lozenges are honey and lemon flavoured with added vitamin C. They provide soothing, natural menthol to help you breathe easy wherever you are.  Pop a pack in your handbag or pocket for quick relief from congestion.

Jakemans Minis are "marvellous menthol confections", sweets to soothe with vapour action to clear the passages.  Made from the finest ingredients the pocket sized packs are perfect for relief on the go.  Ian loves these and would happily eat the whole packet whether he has a cold or not.  He loves the menthol vapours.

Hopefully the better weather will soon arrive, bringing with it some better health for everyone.  Until then, look after yourself and keep some lozenges on hand just in case!


Thursday, 21 March 2013

Organising the Kids' Lunches with Sistema

Kizzy has a packed lunch at school most days and we have used various lunch boxes, bags and tins to try to make sure that she doesn't end up with soggy sandwiches, bruised bananas or yucky yogurt leaks.  Some methods have been more successful than others.  When I received a sample of Sistema to try out, Kizzy was delighted as two of her best friends have the exact same box and everyone thinks they are really cool! 

lunch box

Sistema’s uniquely designed boxes from New Zealand use leading edge technology to ensure that children’s food stays fresh for longer.  Each lunch box has a rubberised seal making sure nothing can escape and the separate compartments in each box mean you don’t have to worry about the food getting mixed up and squashe against each other.


Sistema


The lunch boxes come in a bright fun colours aqua, pink and lime green making it more fun for the kids. They are also freezer, dishwasher and microwave safe, making them practical for parents too. All Sistema products are BPA free and made from lead free materials.

Kizzy's usual lunch fitted in perfectly into the compartments keeping everything safe and undamaged.  The drink bottle is a great idea and will save us a fortune in buying cartons of juice.  Due to the box having separate sections, you couldn't fit in a whole large piece of fruit, but funsize fruit, grapes, sliced cucumber, carrot sticks or halved kiwi fruits are fine.  As each section has a rubberized seal, things can be placed  directly into a compartment without worrying about them falling out or needing to be bagged up first. Food stays fresher for longer too.  The hard outer means that the food is protected against being squashed by school books or PE trainers inside Kizzy's school bag!

I like that it is easy to clean.  I hate cleaning the soft lunchboxes and bags, they get so mucky and mouldy in the hard to reach places.  Sistema boxes can be immersed in hot, soapy water or put in the dishwasher.  Far more hygienic!

Not having a handle might make it more difficult for a younger child to manage, but to combat this, one of Kizzy's friends puts her Sistema box into an old zip up lunchbag.  This way it is easy to carry but all the lunch things are safely compartmentalized inside.

Sistema products are available to buy at Asda, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Wilkinson, Amazon, Cargo, John Lewis and many more. RRP ranges from £2.49 - £7.99 for packs.

#WIN a Lindt Easter Treat!

I recently reviewed the gorgeousness that is Lindt Lindor and used some in a yummy Brownie recipe which we conjured up ourselves in a baking session.  Well, now I can share the chocolate love by offering one of my lovely readers the chance to win their very own Lindt Easter chocolate to do with as they wish...scoff singlehandedly, share with the kids or use to bake up some chocolatey recipes of their own!

A selection of some of Lindor's Easter Chocolates


So, if you want to win your own Chocolate surprise from Lindt, simply fill out the Rafflecopter entry form below.  But hurry the giveaway will close on Tuesday 26th at midnight.  Good luck!!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dinosaur Train and Other Top TV Shows for Pre-Schoolers

The world’s cutest T-Rex, Buddy, and his friends are back once again to entertain the kids this Easter with the latest compilation on DVD; Dinosaur Train – Hatching Party- released on 25 March 2013, courtesy of Studio Canal.  Hatching Party includes seven episodes:


• Hatching Party

• The Theropod Club
• Triceratops for Lunch
• Buddy the Tracker
• Diamond Don
• The Old Bird
• Valley of Stygimolochs

Special Features:

• Educational Segments with Dr Scott
• Egg Holder to decorate

We were sent a review disc and it will make a welcome addition to Freddy's collection of DVDs. He enjoys watching Buddy the T-Rex as he climbs aboard the Dinosaur Train and  meets other prehistoric animals. It would certainly make a great alternative to a chocolate Easter Egg this year.


To celebrate its release, they have recommended some other top TV shows for pre-schoolers which are listed below and of course includes every pre-school paleontologist's favourite show 'Dinosaur Train'.


Dinosaur Train

The world’s cutest dinosaurs are back in this educational and funny show that teaches pre-schoolers all about science and fulfils their fascination of dinosaurs and trains with exciting adventures on prehistoric Earth.  Clever and exciting the dinosaurs partner together and learn about the prehistoric animals around them!


Sesame Street

It is the original pre-schoolers television series and it has been around the block since 1969.  It follows your favourite friends including Cookie monster, Big Bird, and the whole crew as they sing songs with their primary focus on educating children by teaching them how to count with Count Dracula or their ABC’s.  This classic pre-schoolers television series is one that both you and your children can relate to.


Dora the Explorer

This famous pre-schooler television show follows bilingual Dora as she teaches kids both Spanish and English and has a moral story about friendship and not stealing like Swiper the fox!  This show is a favourite due to the strong educational presence and ethics it teaches the children.


 Super Why

Super why follows four friends with super powers including Alpha Pig with Alphabet Power, Wonder Red with Word Power, Princess Presto with Spelling Power, Super Why with the Power to Read.  They use their super powers in fairy tales to solve problems from their everyday lives and invite super YOU to come into the pages to help them!


Little Einsteins

This great pre-schoolers program combines real life images with classical music and art to educate and entertain young children. This show is unlike others in that it focuses on teaching young children about classical art and music and each episode is themed around providing an introduction to the classics of art and music. 



Freddy is a huge fan of Super Why and The Little Einsteins which are both educational as well as a lot of fun.  I would also add The Numberjacks, The Iconicles, Peppa Pig, Handy Manny, Ben and Holly and Tickety Tock to the list.  All Freddy's other favourite TV shows!

What are your kids' favourite TV shows?


Dinosaur Train- Hatching Party is out on DVD 25 March 2013 courtesy of Studio Canal.






Wednesday, 20 March 2013

If Only I'd Known....

I am a mum of five wonderful children aged between 3 and 25, and a granny of a gorgeous baby boy, but even with my quarter of a century of maternal experience under my belt (a belt which is straining under the expanded girth created by five pregnancies), there are still things I wish I'd known.

The mysteries of pregnancy, childbirth and new motherhood are things that you can never really master, however many books you read, websites you scour or episodes of One Born Every Minute you watch!  But you can attempt to glean as much information as you can from as many sources as you can, to make you as prepared as possible for the adventure ahead!  Aptaclub's new app 'Preparing for Birth' has loads of information to support mums through the last trimester keeping them organised and giving tips and advice whenever needed.  Unfortunately for me, mobile phones were barely even invented when I had my first born son.  Women today have access to so much more information (and they get to play Candy Crush Saga when in labour!)  All I had was an old handed down Miriam Stoppard paperback as my only point of reference!  But even with the birth of the World Wide Web and Smartphone technology, there are still things that mums-to-be will wish they had known!

Looking back at my own days of being heavily pregnant (during my grand cumulative total of 3.75 years of pregnancy) these are the things that I wish I had been made aware of during my last trimesters.

pregnancy
My Belly at 6 Months Pregnant with Freddy!

If only I'd known....


....that a baby's kicks at this stage do not feel like fluttering butterflies, but a herd of little elephants rampaging through your internal organs.

....that my belly button would protrude like the end of an uncooked sausage.

....that the smell of my husband would make me gag whenever he came close. (Not that he is particularly smelly, I just became super sensitive to any scent...particularly his!)

....that trying to shave your legs, let alone your bikini line, is utterly impossible with a third trimester baby taking up residence in your uterus. (And don't ask your other half to help unless you want to risk numerous flesh wounds in the process.)

....that I would never bloom.  I spent months waiting for the glow of pregnancy, instead all I got was the sallow, energy-less lethargy of a beached whale.  It would have saved much disappointment knowing I would never be able to replicate the famous pregnant Demi Moore Vanity Fair cover shot.

....that my belly would get so huge that even my husband's extra large dressing gown would not meet up around my middle.  Had I known I  could have avoided the embarrassment of exposing myself to the postman.


....that tattoos stretch!  Your tiny, discreet humming bird on your hip will end up looking like a crazed giant ostrich.

....that cleaning my teeth would make me heave.  Not the best thing to do whilst heavily pregnant with limited bladder control.  Morning underwear changes should be saved until after taking care of your dental hygiene.

....that I would not just get 'cankles', I would get 'thankles'.  Straight down from thigh to foot my legs were like tree trunks.

....that my unborn baby using my bladder as a squeezie toy makes a good night's sleep impossible.

....that cutting my long hair into a very short style to make it easier to manage was a really bad idea.  Not only did I ending up looking like a bloke with a beer belly, instead of a heavily pregnant goddess, it was no easier than having a ponytail.  It took me a year to grow it back before I felt like 'me' again.

....that my craving for Chow Mein from the local Chinese would become a very expensive habit and pile on unnecessary extra pounds that I would convince myself were down to water retention.

....that I would be so emotional.  I would sob at anything...TV programmes, songs, even TV ads!  One glimpse of a smiling child or a kindly old person would see me in floods of tears.  I even cried at a cookery programme once...but the biscuits they made were just so beautiful!

....that Braxton Hick's contractions will make me think I'm in labour many times.  Timing them every single time I got a slight twinge only led to disappointment. So instead of thinking 'this is it' every single day for the last four weeks of pregnancy, which is very stressful, just relax and go to sleep.  If you wake up in the morning still pregnant, it was a false alarm.

....to tell everyone my due date was two weeks later than it actually was, to avoid the well meaning "Are you still here?" comments.  They drove me insane!  "Yes I am still here!  Still pregnant and utterly fed up.  What are you gonna do about it!"

....that having a hot curry followed by sex does not guarantee that you will go into labour...but it's a nice way to spend an evening in with the hubby!

....to make a date to do something that you really want to do on your due date.  This is a win-win situation.  You will either have something lovely to do as a distraction from the prospect of going overdue, or you will be unable to do it because you will have given birth already and will be basking in the joy of your new baby.  Either way, it's a result!

....that every ache, pain, embarrassing moment, stretch mark, varicose vein and sleepless night will all be worth it in the end, because being heavily pregnant meant I was growing the most precious and important things I will ever have in my life inside me.

new baby
"If Only I'd Known....It Would All Be Worth It In The End!!"


This post is Inside the Wendy House's entry into the Aptaclub 'If Only I'd Known...' Competition.


aptaclub




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