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Friday, 20 December 2013

Merry Christmas Everybody

The final school run of the year is over, Ian has finished work and the CBeebies pantomime is on TV.  This means one thing..... (in the immortal words of Slade) It's Chriiiisssttttmmmasss!!!

I'm looking forward to a weekend of wrapping, baking and crafting, ready for the big day when the family descend to share in our festive fun.  It'll undoubtedly be chaotic, but I wouldn't want it any other way!

 I hope you all enjoy a wonderfully Happy Christmas with your loved ones this year!  

Thank you so much for all your support throughout 2013 :) 

Wendy xxx


shepherd, Christmas

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Freddy's First Nativity Play

Last night, Ian and I went to our local theatre to watch Freddy's school's Christmas production "Are We Nearly There Yet?"  I have sat through countless school productions over my 25 years of parenting, some good, some not so good.  But this one was undoubtedly one of the best I've ever seen!

The venue, which gave the children a proper stage and lighting, and the audience proper, comfy seating in tiered rows, helped with the enjoyment.  Not having to be packed like sardines into a school hall, sat on those tiny, plastic seats was a huge bonus.  The children seemed to relish performing like real actors and their enjoyment shone through.

My Freddy played one of the angels and looked adorable dressed in white with wings and a halo. He loves singing and dancing and was very excited about performing at a real theatre!

angel

The children did so well with the singing, acting and dancing.  The shepherds' scene was an unexpected moment of comedy gold.  One particular little shepherd stole the show with his improvised comedic dance routine which culminated with him landing on his backside with legs akimbo in his shepherd's dress!  Everyone was laughing and he played to his audience beautifully.  A future comedian in the making!

Freddy and the angels were simply perfect as they sung and danced their way through their song.  I was so proud that my little man was so completely uninhibited on stage and threw himself into the role without any fear.  He is my little star and his dance moves were spot on!  The 'faster than a rocket' action was particularly spectacular.

Yet again, the ethos of caring for one another came over loud and clear.  There were several moments where the older kids took charge and assisted the little ones.  Wings were adjusted, toy sheep and walking sticks were rescued from stage and overexcited chatter was gently hushed.  It is this sense of responsibility and care from the older children to the younger ones, which really sets this school above any others I have come across.  There are only three classes of children aged 4 to 11 at this little rural school, so it has an intimate, friendly and family-like atmosphere.  It was this ethos that made us choose this school for our son and I am so happy with that decision.  Watching this nativity play really showcased the children's love of their school and the relationship between the pupils.

I most definitely shed a tear or two, I laughed out loud and I grinned inanely at the cuteness of the little ones, so this year's play ticked all the boxes of what makes the perfect nativity play!

Well done to everyone who took part and thank you to Freddy's school for being so perfect for him!

Downton Abbey Inspired English Getaways

This Christmas, millions of television viewers will be tuning in to the Downton Abbey Christmas special. My mum is an avid fan and loves the stories of the aristocratic Crawley family, their servants and the dramas that unfold within the walls of their magnificent stately home.  It's no surprise that many people dream of having the lifestyle of a Lord and Lady, with all the glamour, elegance and style that comes with the title. Although most of us are unlikely to ever live in our own country estate, we can escape to an English country manor house or cottage for a wonderful getaway and enjoy a taste of how the other half lives!

Cumbrian Cottages have compiled an infographic which showcases the top five spots for an English country break with an aristocratic edge, whether you are looking for an intimate romantic retreat or a big family gathering.  The marvellous manor houses or quaint cottages are the perfect venues for living out your own Downton Abbey fantasies and escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday life.


Top 5 English Getaways

In collaboration with Cumbrian Cottages.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

A Video from Santa from PNP- Portable North Pole

Make Christmas Magic


It's become somewhat of a Christmas tradition in our house to make a message from Santa for the kids using the Portable North Pole service.  It is so simple to create a personalised video for your child from the big man himself, featuring your child's name, details and a photo.  The standard video is FREE to make, but you can opt for a Premium video for £2.99 which features more from Santa and his elves and includes up to five extra images in an extra exclusive video sequence. The videos can be viewed online as often as you wish during the Christmas period or downloaded to keep for an extra charge.

There are lots of packages and merchandise also available to buy.  We were given the Jingle Bell Bundle to try out which costs £4.99.  It includes the Premium Video, a personalised telephone call from Santa and a bonus Christmas Eve video message for your child.

I made the Premium video for Freddy.  I was able to add photos of holidays and family members, personalise details about Freddy, add friends' names to books on Santa's shelves and choose between various video options to tailor the video perfectly for my son. The result is a lovely 6 minute video featuring Santa and his cute little elves as they check to see whether Freddy is on the 'Nice' list this year.  It is wonderful!  The sets, costumes and acting are spot on, and I love the ingenious use of Santa's beard, which covers his mouth, to allow for him to say the personalised bits without have to worry about the lip synch!

PNP

In addition to this, there is a phone call from Santa that I have personalised with Freddy's details, which is waiting to be made on Christmas Eve. Plus there is the Christmas Eve message, live from Santa's sleigh, telling Freddy that he needs to get to sleep so Santa can come and deliver his presents.  Excellent way to get the boy in bed!

I am really impressed with the service and the beautiful digital products.  You can also purchase a range of gifts such as a 'Nice' list certificate or a letter from Santa to be delivered to your door.  5% of all money spent goes to help local children's hospitals.  So you get to give a little to charity as you spend.

I really like that the videos encourage children to try hard and be good.  Freddy's video tells him to try his best at school, which is a great message for my little schoolboy. You can tailor videos for 'naughty' children or ones who are caught between the naughty and nice lists, to remind them to be on their best behaviour.

Portable North Pole

You can get 20% off digital products in the PNP store valid until 1st January using code:
BLG20BKP

Try PNP for yourself with a FREE or Premium video message for your child.  You won't regret it!!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Wrapping Up with the Scotch Pop-Up Handband - Plus #Win Scotch Goodies!

One of the Christmas chores that I put off until the last minute is the wrapping of Christmas presents. It's always a rushed last minute affair, hindered by battling rolls of sticky tape!  This year, things are going to be made so much easier thanks to my Scotch Pop-Up Handband Dispenser.  No more struggling to find the end of a roll of tape, getting  rogue pieces stuck on my wrapping paper or wishing I had two pairs of hands to hold, cut, stick and wrap all at the same time.  Oh no!  Scotch Pop-Up Handband dispenses pre-cut tape strips and allows you to keep both hands free for wrapping.  It saves time, gives a professional finish and avoids a sticky tape mess.

Scotch Pop-Up Handband Dispenser


The Handband makes wrapping parcels safer as you don't need scissors to cut the tape and there are no sharp edges involved.  The pre-cut, individually dispensed pieces of Scotch Tape make the job safe enough for a child to do.  So you can get the kids to help out when it comes to wrapping up gifts for the grandparents, friends or their teacher.  The tape pieces simply pull out from the slot in the top of the dispenser which is worn comfortably on the back of the hand.

Scotch Handband Dispenser


Tips for Easy Gift Wrapping

  • Sometimes you get a gift that isn't square or rectangular and it can make the job so much harder!  If you have any awkwardly shaped parcels you can make your life easier by boxing them up into a wrapped up grocery carton filled with shredded tissue paper.
  • If you have anything that is round to wrap up, it's much easier to use a festive tea towel or scarf instead of gift wrap, securing it with tape then tying it at the top with a ribbon.
Scotch Pop-Up Handband Dispenser

  • Get the kids to make wrapping paper using a design such as fingerprint robins or handprint reindeer.  No one will notice how well the package is wrapped, they will be too busy admiring the kids' artwork!
Scotch Pop-Up Handband Dispenser

  • Use ribbons and bows to make a parcel look really special.  They can disguise any wrapping that isn't 100% professional looking.
  • Use some twigs, pine cones or mistletoe to decorate the top of the parcel to give it an 'au naturel' festive feel.


The Scotch Brand from 3M is making a £10,000 donation to the Starlight Children’s Foundation this Christmas. Starlight brightens the lives of seriously and terminally ill children by wish granting and also by providing fun, entertainment, laughter and distraction for children in every children’s hospital ward and hospice throughout the United Kingdom.

Tom Chambers Delivering Christmas Joy

Tom Chambers, of Holby City and Strictly fame,  helped with a present drop bringing Christmas joy to lots of children who received gifts. Here are some lovely photos of Tom with the delighted children.

Starlight Children's Foundation

Also this Christmas, Scotch have put the their products to the test by challenging a team of rugby players to use the Scotch Handband Dispenser to wrap up a load of presents.  Even the most heavy handed gift wrapper will find the Handband makes the job so much easier, quicker and efficient!  Watch this video to see how the lads got on.

         

Scotch UK have been running a competition on their Facebook Page to win weekly mystery prizes and there is still time to win a prize for yourself before Christmas.  Visit the Scotch UK What's Under Wraps app.

Win a Scotch Goodie Bag

For your chance to win a selection of Scotch products which will help with all your gift wrapping for any occasion, simply leave me a message below telling me whether or not you have finished your Christmas wrapping this year and click through the Rafflecopter entry form where you can get some bonus entries. But hurry, the giveaway is only open until midnight on Thursday!!

I'll randomly pick five winners who will win the Scotch goodies.  Good luck!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

A First Birthday Party

Today is my grandson Ted's first birthday.  My own son's little boy is a whole year old already.  It doesn't seem that long ago that I was waiting anxiously for the phone call that would let me know that my son had become a daddy.  Since then I have watched Joe become a wonderful father, which is something that makes me incredibly proud.

baby
The milestone of Ted's first birthday has made me think of when Joe turned one.  My tiny baby boy whose journey into the world was so traumatic and distressing for both of us, went on to thrive.  By a year old he was a boisterous, mischievous and highly spirited little boy.  Traits that have stayed with him for the last 25 years!  

Joe's first birthday was a Garfield themed affair with everything coloured orange like Garfield the cat.  I made a Garfield shaped cake using a special tin and iced it with orange and brown buttercream.  I vividly remember doing it even though it was over two decades ago.  Everyone wore orange garlands around their necks and there were balloons and themed tableware.  A perfect day for my little man to mark his first birthday.

Here is Joe pictured with his lovely Nana on his first birthday back in 1989.

grandparents

I hope that Joe makes some wonderful memories with his little boy today.  Memories that will last a lifetime.  The time spent with your children is just so precious. Thinking back on all the moments spent laughing, playing and having fun,  never fails to raise a smile. Life is so much richer because of the special moments that we spend with loved ones.

I almost got to host a birthday party for Ted this year, but sadly it never happened.  I'd baked and decorated the cake, bought the buffet food, invited the guests, decorated the house, had the "1" candle just waiting to be lit and blown out to make a wish- but unfortunately Joe had to cancel the visit at the last minute.  Leaving us with a birthday party all ready to go just without the guest of honour.

However, the party went ahead in Ted's absence and we had a wonderful time on his behalf.  Megan, my parents, my niece and her baby decided to still come.  We re-branded it as a 'Fake Christmas' party.  We all got to spend a lovely afternoon fussing over my gorgeous great-nephew instead of the birthday boy.  It was a shame not to have Joe and Ted there, but we will be seeing them at Christmas for some belated birthday hugs.

I hope Ted has a lovely day today being spoiled and having lots and lots of fun with his family.  Joe has had a bit of a tough time lately, following a nasty car crash on the M1 a couple of weeks ago. I hope that spending today with his little boy will be just the tonic he needs to get back to his old self again.  Nothing is as important as family.  The family that you choose to have around you, those who make life worth living, bringing love, laughter and happiness.  Making you the best version of yourself that you can be.  That is the greatest thing in the whole world.

Happy Birthday Ted xxx

Ted




Monday, 16 December 2013

Great Deals from TalkTalk Mobile - Order by Dec 19th for Christmas Delivery

TalkTalk


There is still time to order someone special a smart phone from TalkTalk this Christmas.  Final day for ordering is December 19th. Order online by 3pm for free next day delivery.

There are some great offers available for TalkTalk customers with low prices on great phone and tablet bundles. The plans are sensible and straightforward so you can pick a plan to suit your needs from the Small, Medium and Large options. Each one has generous calls, texts and data allowances and if you order online the data allowance is doubled for free.  There is no extra charge for the handsets or tablets so once you've picked your plan and signed up to the contract, the phone or tablet is yours.  No hidden charges.

There are some excellent features available to TalkTalk Mobile customers:

Family calls

Unlimited calls between TalkTalk Mobiles in the same household on the same account, and from your TalkTalk mobile to your TalkTalk home phone.  This can save you a fortune on those regularly phoned numbers.

Free text alerts

We will alert you when you're near your monthly calls, text or data allowance. You can also view your usage online anytime via  'My Account'.  This means you will never unknowingly go over your allowance.  This feature is great to give youngsters a reminder when they are reaching the end of their monthly allowance.

Free voicemail service

Retrieve your voicemails without eating into your monthly call allowance.

Free customer care

Free calls to our Customer Care and Handset Support Team for the entire length of your contract. 

TalkTalk have an amazing half price for six months offer (on a 24 month contract) on a range of handsets starting at just £3.75 a month.  Brilliant for a youngster's first smartphone.  There is also a brilliant tablet and handset bundle offer across a range of devices with prices starting at just £12.50 a month. An amazing gift idea for a loved one.  TalkTalk's prices are among the cheapest in the UK and are especially for TalkTalk customers.  Another great reason to switch to TalkTalk.

You can buy boosts for your plan to add on extra call time or data if you are a heavy user.  If you do go over your monthly allowance, pricing is competitive and straightforward so there are no nasty out of bundle surprises.

I really like the transparent and straightforward packages, which are all clearly detailed.  It is very easy to navigate the website and browse the different handsets and view the special offers.  It is a very user-friendly way of finding a mobile phone.

You can pick from some of the most desirable handsets with TalkTalk Mobile such as this year's top voted handset (in the Stuff Gadget Awards for 2013), the LG G2.

The LG G2 is the hottest handset around this Christmas. With the volume and power keys on the back there's no wasted space around the 5.2" hi-def screen and a state of the art Quad core processor ensures you have enough power to enjoy all your favourite apps or watch movies without annoying crashes.  The 13 Megapixel camera with excellent zoom function lets you take quality photos on the go.  It uses the Android Jelly Bean operating system.


TalkTalk


The plans start at £25 for a 24 month contract for the LG G2.  TalkTalk have supplied me with this handset and a SIM for a month to trial to see how I get on with this year's hottest handset with a TalkTalk plan!


TalkTalk, G2

The handset is sleek and stylish and feels nice in your hand with an even weight distribution.  It looks great in black.  The huge screen gives crisp, clear images and text and has great viewing angles which makes watching videos a pleasure.  The screen is operated using KnockOn, where you tap the screen to turn it on. 
The battery life is superb and the G2 copes with whatever you throw at it.  It performs exactly how I want a phone to work and the powerful processor gives a glitch free performance.  I really like the operational buttons on the back as it is a very ergonomic way to use the handset.

The G2 has a Guest Mode, which features specific unlock swipes to bring up tailored homescreens for each family member.  So you can let kids play on their favourite apps safely without them being able to access the phone settings, spy on your private text messages, access inappropriate material or accidentally make any expensive online purchases.  This takes some of the worry out of letting little ones use your handset.

So far I am very impressed with  the LG G2.  Next month I will be testing out the TalkTalk MobileSafe app. So watch this space for further information on the TalkTalk Mobile service and the LG G2 handset, which so far seem like a perfect pairing!
You can find out more about the benefits of TalkTalk Mobile and make an order for delivery in time for Christmas by going online at 
mobile.talktalk.co.uk


           

Friday, 13 December 2013

What Fred Said About The Moon


Is the moon a sleeping sun?


A Weekly Round Up

This week I have received some lovely goodies from some lovely people and here is a round up of my favourites.  Andrex sent the kids some cute Andrex Puppy themed items including these adorable slippers, which has reminded me to stock up on some Andrex Loo Roll for Christmas.  With a house full of guests, the last thing I want to do is run out of toilet paper!

Thank you Andrex

The cute little Andrex Puppy toy will look fabulous peeping out of Freddy's Christmas stocking this year and the magnetic whiteboard will be for all my festive listing!

Thank you Andrex

Forever Friends, the lovable cute and cuddly bears, have launched a brand new magazine out in stores now. 
Love From… Forever Friends is made up of two 16-page magazines.  The main magazine includes content such as stories, puzzles, quizzes, posters and competitions, whilst the second craft-focused magazine, is packed full of creative content such as colouring, collage, recipes, drawing and doodling. Both come packaged together in a bag, which also contains a character sticker sheet, a craft kit and free collectable stationery and accessory gifts. The magazine is available at retailers including The Co-operative, Martin McColls, One Stop, Tesco, WHSmith, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Asda and Hobbycraft priced at £3.25.

Forever Friends magazine

Little girls will love the colourful magazine, which is packed with fun activities and other goodies.  The Forever Friends theme is just lovely and this magazine is perfect for little ones who enjoy arts and crafts.  It will keep them entertained during the quiet moments of the Christmas holidays.

Forever Friends magazine

I've had a little bit of luck on the advent competitions on Facebook this year.  I was really happy to win this Bigjigs Wooden Train based on the Virgin Pendolino.  It will be a fabulous addition to Freddy's Bigjigs train collection.  He is going to be delighted to receive it on Christmas morning!  Bigjigs trains are made to a really high standard and with great detail.  We love them!

Bigjigs Virgin Pendolino Train

Another prize I received was from Mark Hill on Facebook.  I won a wonderful goodie bag containing four MiracOILicious products.  My hair is going to enjoy using these goodies!

Mark Hill MiracOILicious Hair Products

My winning streak continued when I won £40 cash at Kizzy's school Christmas Fair in the raffle.  It's unheard of for me to win a raffle so this was a lovely unexpected treat which we are using to fund a cinema trip to see Frozen!   I also won a Dove Gift Set on the tombola.  Go me!!  I'm on a roll :)





Ainsley's Winter Warming Soups

Celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott has launched a range of premium soups with inspiring and exotic flavours to keep us warm and well fed this winter!  The convenient tubs of comforting soups can be microwaved making them easy to prepare.

Ainsley Harriott's Premium Soups


The New Ainsley Harriott Premium Soup range includes four vegetarian flavours:

  • Mediterranean Red Pepper
  • Malaysian Lentil
  • Tuscan Cherry Tomato
  • Yorkshire Carrot and Rockets


There is also a Red Thai Style Chicken and a Spanish Chorizo and Paprika flavour soup available for the non-veggies.

I was sent a lovely hamper of the soups and some soup bowls to serve the soup in as well as some other goodies for the kitchen such as a herb planter and tea cloths.

I was so impressed with the vegetarian flavours which capture the essence of world cuisine and invoke great culinary adventures.  It is nice to such imaginative veggie options in the range.

Ainsley Harriott's Premium Soups

The Yorkshire Carrot and Rocket Soup is just delicious with its subtle peppery flavour bringing out the sweetness of the Yorkshire carrots.  Lovely warming, comforting and full of goodness.  Perfect for a cold winter's day!  It is a convenient way to enjoy a hearty and delicious lunch.

Ainsley Harriott's Premium Soups

Ainsley Harriott Premium Soups are available at Tesco's, Morrison's and Asda RRP £1.69.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

#Win One of Three Copies of Rayman Legends for the XBox 360

Rayman Legends is the newest title in the Rayman series from Ubisoft.  Following Rayman Origins, our heroes take a 100-year nap, allowing nightmares to infest the Glade of Dreams. Once Rayman awakes from this mysterious sleep, he must set off on a new adventure with his friends to restore order in the universe.

Rayman, Barbara, Globox, and the Teensies are off wandering through an enchanted forest when they discover a mysterious tent filled with a series of captivating paintings. As they look more closely, they notice each painting seems to tell the story of a mythical world. While focusing on a painting that shows a medieval land, they are suddenly sucked into the painting, entering the world, and the adventure begins. The gang must run, jump and fight their way through each world to save the day and discover the secrets of every legendary painting.

Rayman Legends

Key Features

4-Player Co-op Gameplay: up to 4 players can play at once.
Online Challenges: Connect with your friends through a variety of challenges that will test your skill and speed. Check the leaderboards to see where you rank around the world.
Rayman Rocks!: Jump to the beat of a drum, punch to the bass line, even zip-line during a guitar sustain. Timing and rhythm are the key to beat these maps set to music. See if you have what it takes to become a Platforming Hero.
3D Boss Battles: The bosses have a big advantage over Rayman’s gang… an extra dimension!  Dragons and other epic creatures can attack from all angles, so you’ll have to be on top of your game to defeat them.


Rayman Legends

UbiArt Engine Advancements: The UbiArt engine has expanded its abilities to now include 3D gameplay elements, a new lighting design, and a new rendering system which take Rayman’s award-winning graphics to the next level.
The Award-Winning Team Is Back: The legendary team of decorated artists, designers and composers are teaming up again to create new worlds, new characters and a new soundtrack.


Rayman Legends



For your chance to win 1 of 3 copies of Rayman Legends for the XBox 360 simply fill out the Rafflecopter entry form below. where you can gain up to five entries in this giveaway.  Ends Thursday 19th November at 11.59pm.

a Rafflecopter giveaway




Win competitions at ThePrizeFinder.com

TalkTalk Sky Movies Boost

TalkTalk

For the last few weeks we have been trialing the TalkTalk TV service.  This week we have been upgraded so our package includes the Sky Movies Boost  for Christmas and we are enjoying having so many fantastic films to choose from.  It's still just as easy to navigate the TalkTalk menu and pick a film to watch and there is so much choice!

With the TalkTalk Sky Movies Boost you can watch hundreds of movies across 11 Sky Movie channels all from the comfort of your sofa. All uncut and completely ad free, it's a great addition to your festive TV entertainment this year!

The package includes these eleven channels:

Sky Movies

Sky Movies Premiere
Sky Movies Showcase
Sky Movies Disney
Sky Movies Family
Sky Movies Greats
Sky Movies Comedy
Sky Movies Select
Sky Movies Drama & Romance
Sky Movies Action & Adventure
Sky Movies Crime & Thriller
Sky Movies Sci-fi & Horror

This Christmas you can watch some fabulous, festive family films such as Elf, Arthur Christmas and a Miracle on 34th Street, plus fabulous premieres such as Oz the Great and Powerful and Iron Man 3.  And for the dads, the blockbuster action movie, A Good Day to Die Hard is also showing this Christmas. I love snuggling up under a blanket with Ian and the kids to watch a family film together.  We have planned some fun family film nights thanks to our TalkTalk Sky Movies Boost, we just need to add the popcorn! 

Boosts are available to purchase from month to month giving you the freedom to choose the package that is right for you and your family to enjoy at any given time, without committing to a long term subscription.  So to get an extra eleven channels of top movies over the Christmas period would definitely be a lovely present for the family to enjoy!

Whether you are a fan of horror or a lover of romance, each of the channels is tailored to a specific genre so you know the films will be suited to your tastes.  If you fancy a good laugh then look no further than Sky Movies Comedy.  If you want to watch something with the kids then check out Sky Movies Family for something appropriate.  Sky Movies Premiere shows all the big movies and is great for catching up with titles you missed at the cinema.

For us, Sky Movies Disney is the ultimate channel!  Showing Disney classics such as the Little Mermaid alongside new hits such as the amazing Wreck It Ralph, my kids can't get enough of this channel! It really is the perfect choice for Christmas, and it works out much cheaper than buying DVDs or renting movies online.

TalkTalk

When you get the Sky Movies Boost, you also have access to the Sky Movies On Demand feature which gives you instant access to hundreds of movies for free at the touch of the button. It is like having a library of films to watch anytime you fancy it and there is literally something to please everyone.  No one will complain that there is nothing to watch on TV this Christmas!

At £15 a month this boost is a great addition to your TalkTalk TV package.  It will keep every film buff young and old happily entertained with a choice of hundreds of films to watch this Christmas!

To find out more about TalkTalk's TV, Broadband and Calls packages and find a package to suit your needs head to TalkTalk online, where you will see details of their special offers and great value deals. Existing customers can manage their accounts online, making it easy to add on an extra Boost for Christmas!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Thomas and Friends - Merry Christmas Thomas

Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends are all set for some festive fun in this great new DVD for Christmas: "Merry Christmas Thomas!"  This two DVD collection will be a perfect gift for little Thomas fans so climb aboard and celebrate the festive season with Thomas and Friends.

DVD

Merry Christmas Thomas! features six fun and festive episodes and the bonus disc Big Bang Surprise features a further five making a grand total of 138 minutes of  Christmas magic with Thomas and his friends!

The episodes include exciting snowy adventures, presents, parties and the search for the perfect Christmas tree to keep little ones in the festive mood throughout the holidays.

Thomas has been a favourite in my house for years and we love sharing the adventures of everybody's favourite blue engine and these Christmas stories are just perfect for this time of year.

Episode List for Merry Christmas Thomas!
  • The Christmas Tree Express
  • Ho Ho Snowman
  • Salty's Surprise
  • Emily's Winter Party Special
  • Percy the Snowman
  • Tree Trouble
The RRP of this double DVD pack is £12.99 but today's price on Amazon is just £7.75 which is a fantastic bargain.  A perfect gift or stocking filler...Peep! Peep!


How to Make the Perfect Omelet

OXO Good Grips Flip and Fold Omelet Turner

I have been sent an OXO Good Grips Flip and Fold Omelet Turner to try out.  It has a large flexible silicone head and a thick, soft handle which makes it comfortable to hold and easy to grip.

OXO Good Grips Flip and Fold Omelet Turner

I tested it out by making cheese and onion omelets for the family.  I really liked the fact that the silicone head conformed to the shape of the frying pan, allowing me to go around and underneath the omelet with ease.  The large size of the head allowed me to fold the omelet over without it breaking.  The design of the Flip and Fold Omelet Turner really does make the process easier.  It felt really nice to use as it glides around the edge of the pan, bending to conform to its shape.  No more fighting with rigid, square ended fish slices!  I love to use silicone products in the kitchen because of their flexibility and the fact that they can withstand heat so well.  this is another great product in the OXO Good Grips range.

OXO Good Grips Flip and Fold Omelet Turner

The shape and size also makes this an ideal tool to use as a spatula for baking (to scrape cake mix from a large bowl for example).  It's a really nice item and a welcome addition to my kitchen.

Recipe for Cheese and Onion Omelet

Ingredients

2 eggs
ground pepper
splash of milk
a quarter of an onion diced
1 oz grated cheddar
oil to fry

Method

Fry the onion in a little oil until softened.
Beat the egg, milk and ground pepper together.
Pour over cooked onion.
Cook gently until edges firm up,
Grate cheese over the top.
Use the Flip and Fold Omelet turner to release the edges and fold omelet in half.
Cook gently until the egg is set and the cheese is melted.

The thing I love about omelets is that you can use whatever you have in the fridge to make them.  Try frying grated carrot and courgette with the onion, or add chopped Quorn ham or sliced mushrooms with the cheese.  Use different cheeses such as Stilton or Mexicana to add a different flavour.

The OXO Good Grips Flip and Fold Omelet Turner is just £8.

See more products at www.oxouk.com

Art Activities Delivered to Your Door with toucanBox

If you are looking for an original idea for a Christmas gift for a child aged between 3 and 8 years old, how about a subscription to toucanBox?

toucanBox is a company that provides boxes of arts and crafts materials to make exciting art projects based on a theme, directly to your door.  Each box includes two to four project ideas complete with full instructions and all the materials needed.  The activities support the National Curriculum and parent's notes allow grown ups to support their child's learning.  A fabulous book is also included in each box so children can continue the fun after the craft materials have been tidied away.

toucanBox materials

You can buy individual boxes starting at £9.95 for a 2 project pack, or you can subscribe to receive a monthly delivery of a toucanBox.  Both options can be sent as gifts and would make a great Christmas present for a child.

Freddy received an Arctic themed toucanBox containing two project ideas and all the materials needed to make them, as well as a Polar Animals sticker book and a Toucan badge.  The box itself is designed to be fun in its own right, and features challenges to find certain objects in the illustrations as well as having places to doodle, bits to cut out or things to count.  It was a lovely touch to have Freddy's name written on the box when it arrived. Opening the box revealed two smaller boxes, each containing everything needed to make an igloo model and hanging snowflake decorations.

sequins

Freddy was totally absorbed in the activities and enthusiastically glued, glittered, stuck, coloured and painted. He chatted about what he was doing and stretched his imagination through carrying out the activities.  While he was busy having fun he was developing several key skills such as speaking and listening, following instructions, dexterity, hand eye co-ordination and number skills.  He got to use a variety of different art mediums as he busied himself with the activities. He learned facts about the Arctic, a topic which was extended through reading the Polar Animals book together.

Glitter glue

I thoroughly enjoyed spending an afternoon doing crafts with my little boy.  Having the tried and tested projects and all the materials needed to hand took all the stress out of having to come up with an idea and the materials myself. The instructions are good and the end results are impressive.  The Toucan Box allowed me to spend some quality time with Freddy enjoying a well structured craft activity.  We had a lovely time and I am very impressed with the toucanBox and think the two project box is good value for money.


                         

Find out more at toucanbox.com

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Lyon's Coffee Bags for a Convenient Proper Cup of Coffee!

Lyons coffee bags offer all the convenience of a tea bag, but with the deliciousness of real coffee.  Just brew for about 4 minutes in freshly boiled water for a perfect individual cup of coffee anytime you fancy it.

It comes in  three varieties:
Good Morning - a bright breakfast blend to wake you up in the morning.
Coffee Break - a smooth, all rounder for anytime of the day.
Gourmet Italian - a rich, authentic Italian evening coffee for after dinner or special occasions.

Lyons Coffee Bags

I received some samples to try out.  They come individually wrapped for freshness.  Ripping the packet open,  the smell of coffee was released.  I love that smell!

It's so easy to brew one in a cup of boiling water and giving it a squeeze and a dunk helps release the flavour.  I used a mug rather than a cup so the coffee was weaker than it would have been if I'd used a cup, but I don't like my coffee too strong, so this was perfect for me. Very drinkable and enjoyable for an everyday cup of coffee.  If you like stronger coffee simply use a smaller cup and let it brew for 5-6 minutes.

I really liked the convenience of the coffee bags.  Proper coffee made quickly, easily and conveniently.  No need to use a cafetiere or a machine to enjoy real coffee.


Lyons Coffee Bags


The bags are available in packs of 18 for £2.59 at  major retailers such as Tesco, Ocado, Sainsbury's, Morisson's and Waitrose.

Christmas at Poundland

Poundland is once again offering shoppers some fantastic bargains to help make their money go further.  At this time of year, this is definitely a most useful thing!  With a fabulous range of Christmas goodies, you can get stocking fillers, decorations, gifts, sweets, selection boxes, cards and wrapping paper all for just £1 each.

I was given a £20 budget to shop for Christmas essentials and I was really impressed with the haul I managed to get.

My top purchase was the Dorling Kindersley Merry Christmas Activity Book with '50 ways to make your spirits bright'.  Inside there are craft ideas and recipes to keep the kids entertained over the Christmas holidays.  It has an RRP of £5.99.  It is a perfect stocking filler, great to give out at parties or to give your child's friends as a gift.

The selection boxes containing Milky Way or Cadbury's Treat Size chocolates are an absolute bargain at 3 for £2.  Another great idea for stockings or little gifts.  

Christmas at Poundland

There is a massive selection of gift wrap and gift bags to make presents look really great.  I was very impressed with the packs of three gift bags with tags for just £1.  Great for popping in little gifts for a quick and easy packaging solution.  The big plastic Disney gift bags are really lovely and are excellent quality.  The 10 metre rolls of gift wrap will wrap up loads of pressies for just £1.

I love the sackcloth-look present bags with a drawstring top.  They are printed with an Express Elf Mail logo and a message to deliver on the 25th December.  It's a really nice bag that can be used year after year.  It will make a lovely alternative to a traditional stocking.

There are lots of cards on sale from individual cards to boxed sets.  I bought a set of mini cards for friends and the teacher containing 31 cards in four designs.  It is a great value way to let your kids give cards to all their classmates plus the teacher for just £1. The little cards feature a cute design and would double up as really nice gift tags.

For anyone who enjoys baking, there are loads of great products including cake cases and cup cake stands.  I really liked the cup cake boxes which hold individual cakes or four cakes.  Filling a box with cupcakes is a  great gift idea for keen bakers to give to friends and family.  Home baked goodies are such a thoughtful gift idea!  Poundland also stock cellophane bags perfect for cookies, confectionery or cakes, which come with a ribbon to tie them up.  Another lovely way to present homemade goodies making a great and economical gift.

The tubes of sweets make a great stocking filler.  Poundland has lots of choice from Cadbury's Fingers to Freddo Faces to Drumsticks to Kinder Chocolates to Jelly Tots.  For just £1 they are excellent value. I always stock up a few of these tubes to give out as impromptu gifts if we have visitors with children.

The Reindeer Antlers are just one of the novelty products that will inject a bit of fun into Christmas parties.  You could also get Santa hats, Elf Hats or Santa beards for dressing up.  Kizzy loves wearing something Christmassy to school during the last week of term and these antlers with jingly bells are perfect for that. 

Poundland also have lots of decorations for the tree and the home, as well as craft activities, stickers, presents, tableware and tonnes of other festive goodies.  It's easy to stay on budget when every is £1 so there's no nasty surprises at the till.

Poundland is a perfect place to go for cheap and cheerful Secret Santa gifts, stocking fillers and little things that will make Christmas all the more fun!  At the moment if you spend £15 you can get a teddy bear for worth £4.99 for £1.  A lovely little present to pop in a little one's stocking.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Festive Ice Skating at the The Ice Rink at Selfridges Manchester Trafford

We were invited to The Ice Rink at Selfridges in Manchester's Trafford Centre (in association with UGG) to enjoy a festive ice skating session on Sunday morning.  We arrived at the undercover venue, which was beautifully bedecked in Christmas trees, baubles and decorations.  We collected our ice skates and borrowed a seal skate aid for Freddy to use, before taking to the ice.

The girls took to it like naturals and Freddy did superbly well with his little skates that fitted over his shoes.  They gave him more stability than the bladed boots and are a good choice for little ones.

During the session, we met two very special visitors Peppa Pig and Father Christmas!  Freddy was delighted to see them both.  After the session was over we were treated to Krispy Kreme doughnuts and a hot drink.  What a lovely way to start the day!  

Ice skating

The ice rink is open until the beginning of January and is located at the main fountain entrance to Selfridges Trafford off Barton Dock Road, it can also be accessed through men's shoes on the Lower Level.

Opening hours

Monday to Wednesday 12pm until 10pm
Thursdays and Fridays 12pm until 11pm
Saturdays 9am until 10pm
Sundays 11am until 7pm
The last skate will take place one hour before closing.

Ticket prices

Peak tickets

Adults £9
Children (3-16 years) £7
Skate aid £3

- Monday to Friday 4pm until close
- Saturday 11am until 10pm
- Sunday all day

Off-peak tickets

Adult £7
Children (3-16 years) £5
Skate aid £3

- Monday to Friday 12 until 4pm
- Saturday 9am until 11am

The Seven Perils of Being Santa

Take care this Christmas and avoid these seven common festive mishaps! 

This year, Santa is once more risking life and limb to deliver presents to all the boys and girls across the world.  Not only does he have to ride in his sleigh at lightning speed, he also has to avoid some very common festive mishaps.  From slippery surfaces, to heavy lifting, to tripping hazards to open flames, there are lots of potential perils that could befall Santa.  Take a look at the infographic below to see just how risky Santa's job can be, and make sure you take care to avoid these common festive mishaps yourself too!


The Seven Perils of being Santa


The Seven Perils of being Santa was created by First4Lawyers
 PR Collaboration




My Perfect Christmas Day

Christmas Past


I cannot tell you about my perfect Christmas Day without first of all thinking about Christmases past.  As a little girl I remember lying in bed on Christmas Eve shouting down to my mum every five minutes asking how many hours it was till Christmas Day.  In the morning I'd have a stocking at the end of my bed which had some chocolate and a satsuma in it.  Downstairs there were three piles of presents for my two sisters and I. As the youngest of three, my pile was always the biggest.  I remember Plasticine, a Girl's World, a toy broom, a Sindy doll, an Intellivision console and a Humpty Dumpty among my gifts over the years.

family, seventies, christmas

My dad used to prepare the vegetables for Christmas dinner in the kitchen whilst wearing a Christmas hat and my mum would potter around in her pinny calculating the cooking time for our turkey.  The hallway would be filled with festive chocolates and rows of bottles containing booze or pop.  I'd always be allowed a weak port and lemonade to celebrate.  The tinsel Christmas tree sat on top of our TV which was tuned in for the Top of the Pops Christmas special and my sisters and I would sing and dance along with Pan's People!

Christmas

I have so many memories of childhood Christmases, some good (my dad bringing a black sack for me to tidy up the wrapping paper, which in reality contained a gift I really wanted but thought Santa hadn't brought me) and some bad (accidentally setting my Christmas cracker on fire by holding it over a candle and getting a right good telling off for it!)  But whether good or bad, they are memories that have shaped me into who I am today. 

Since becoming a mum, I have spent the last 25 years trying to give my children memories that they can take with them through life, look back on with a smile and learn from.  With festive family traditions, a focus on the emotional over the material and a sense of humour in the face of things going wrong, I hope I have taught my kids what is important in life.  The things that truly matter.

Christmas


Christmas Present


For me, Christmas Day involves being surrounded by my family.  With my nest filled with all of my five chicks, I am at my happiest.  It might be chaotic, it will definitely be noisy and things may not go to plan. But seriously, if there is laughter and love nothing else really matters.  With my best friend and husband by my side and my five children and my grandson having fun, I am in my element.  

When the kids wake up in the morning they grab their stockings and come into my bed.  Thank goodness it's a kingsize!  They take it in turns opening their stocking presents oohing and ahhing over each and every little thing.  From the oldest to the youngest they love this moment of togetherness and sharing and it sets the tone for the day ahead.

We have a leisurely breakfast together before opening the main presents. After every present is unwrapped we think about who gave it to us and what thought has gone into it.  We send some love through the ether to our loved ones who have taken the time and trouble to send us gifts.

We also remember our loved ones who are no longer with us.  We think of them with a smile and talk about the good times we had.  My lovely Nan and my sister Carol are never far from my mind.  I miss them so much, but taking a moment to remember makes them a part of our special day and they feel so close.

The afternoon is spent watching any DVDs or playing games together, until it's time to sit down to a veggie Christmas feast.  The rest of the day is set aside for some family fun, silly challenges (often involving food!) and memory making.

Christmas, Santa

Christmas Yet To Come 2013

So what is my perfect Christmas Day?  Being awoken on Christmas morning by Brad Pitt bearing nothing but a champagne breakfast and a wry smile?  Sitting on a beach in some far flung corner of the world with the sun kissing my skin and the crystal blue water lapping at my toes?   Being lavished with expensive gifts from Tiffany's? No.

So, what will be my ideal way to spend this coming Christmas?  

That's easy - having four generations of my family under one roof, from my 1 year old grandson Ted to my 81 year old dad, all enjoying every moment of being together and having fun.  Twelve of my favourite people altogether on this special day.  Perfect.

The formula might be the same.  The chaos will undoubtedly ensue.  But the feelings of love, fun, family and laughter will hopefully create an atmosphere of joy that everyone will remember for years to come.

If everyone, from the youngest to the oldest are happy, well fed and entertained I will have done my job.  If everyone looks back and remembers just how loved and cherished they felt, then this year will have been the perfect Christmas Day!

However you spend your day, may Christmas Day 2013 be absolutely perfect for you!


”Merry Christmas! This post is my entry into the Tots100/Argos 12 Days of Christmas competition.





Sunday, 8 December 2013

What's Inside the Box of OMG and Box of Awesome?

The Box of Awesome and the Box of OMG are free bi-monthly boxes, delivered straight to thousands of homes across the country. Their aim is to help really fun brands connect with kids in the current digital market. The box is full of awesome stuff, including a book, trading cards, toys and accessories, curated by team.

You can apply to get your own boxes delivered directly to your door, or guarantee delivery by becoming a VIP for just 62p a week.  The boxes really put a smile on the recipient's faces with all the surprises it contains.

We were sent a Box of Awesome and a Box of OMG so we could have a peek at what was inside.  The Box of Awesome is aimed at boys and contains loads of goodies that kids will love.

Box of Awesome

Inside, there were Match Attax, Star Wars, Zombie Zity and Doctor Who collectible cards.  There was a Halo figure and a Vampire Spy book along with lots of other bits and bobs.  A sample of Skwooshi was also included.   Freddy loved the Halo character which came in a blind pack and he enjoyed looking at all the collectible cards.

Contents of the Box of Awesome

The Box of OMG contains girly stuff and included a Zelfs character and poster, a Drummer Girl book, shoelaces, scented wristbands, a £5 Nickelodeon gift card, some Moshi Monsters cards and stickers and a sample of Skwooshi.  There were also some information on digital downloads and a sticker.  The book alone was worth £7.99!

Box of OMG ContentsBox of OMG Unboxed

Here is Kizzy unboxing her Box of OMG.

                          


Find out more about the Box of Awesome and the Box of OMG on these websites:
Box of Awesome website: http://www.boxofawesome.tv
Box of OMG website: http://www.boxofomg.tv/

Box of OMG on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/BoxOfOMG

Box of Awesome on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/TheBoxOfAwesome

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