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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Aldi Outdoor Living Specialbuys - get your garden ready for summer!

The recent sunny weather has inspired me to want to get my garden summer ready. We love hosting garden parties, especially as Freddy has a birthday in July and we celebrate our anniversary in May.

Aldi are helping me get my garden ready for outdoor living with its range of incredible Specialbuys that can be bought in store from tomorrow.  With a range of brilliant items starting at just £1.49, gardens will benefit from everything from outdoor furniture, barbecue equipment, outdoor dining accessories, decorative baskets, planters and even a fabulous gazebo.

A gazebo is the centrepiece of any garden party providing shelter or shade to party guests. Having an outdoor 'room' allows you to decorate it to suit your party theme, and put out food without worrying about it blowing away or being attacked by every passing insect! It is a great investment and if looked after will last for years. Aldi gives a 3 year warranty on its gazebo so you can buy in confidence.

Aldi's pop-up gazebo is easy to assemble with a foldable height-adjustable frame, powder-coated aluminium legs and polyester cover. It has an air vent in the roof and comes in its own carry bag. It is 3 x 3 x 2.6m making it a good size for families. It is just £59.99, which is a great price.  You can buy an optional set of side panels for £12.99, which has one zip up panel and a panel with a built in window to allow you to have a fully enclosed gazebo, rather than an open one.

Outdoor living, specialbuy


To make your garden look pretty, Aldi will be selling a variety of plant pots. There are some cute animal shaped planters, some decorative free standing ones, faux stone pots, terracotta pots and wooden troughs available. I love the rattan effect planters, which come in cubical or conical designs. They come with an inner planter and prices start at just £9.99 for the cube and £17.99 for the tall version. You just simply add plants!

specialbuy, gardening

You can get a cast iron plant pot caddy so you can move heavy planters (up to 100kg) with ease. The decorative, wheeled caddy means it is easy to move pots to a convenient location during garden parties or barbecues. At just £7.99 they are a great solution to heavy lifting.

For green fingered gardeners, Aldi have a range of obelisks, arches (£9.99) and willow trellises (from £4.99) that can be used to landscape your garden, encouraging climbing plants to grow up them to create a beautiful display. Hanging baskets and brackets are available for gardeners to create colourful, floral displays, perfect for smaller gardens.  Aldi will also have some plants in store to help get the gardening started, this includes herbs, Cordyline and alpines.

This six piece furniture set is just £54.99 and includes table, four chairs and a parasol. Perfect for some alfresco dining this summer.

specialbuys, gardeing, outdoor living


You can grab an outdoor living bargain instore at Aldi from April 30th. Take a look at Aldi Specialbuys online and remember they are only available for a limited time.

Outdoor Living – in store 30.04.15

Pop Up Gazebo -£59.99
6 Piece Furniture Set -£54.99
Bistro Set -£34.99
Early Fun Swing -£29.00
Reclining Sun Lounger -£25.00
Rattan Effect Planter -£17.99
Decorative Flower Planter -£14.99
Gazebo Side Panels - £12.99
Wooden Planter/Trough -£10.99
Rattan Effect Cubed Planter - £9.99
Garden Arch -£9.99
Garden Obelisk - £9.99
Garden Screening - £8.99
Cast Iron Plant Pot Caddy - £7.99
Sandhurst Planter, 38cm - £6.99
Rattan Effect Animal Planters - £5.99
Italian Terracotta Pot - £4.99
Willow Trellis - £4.99
Farmyard Animals - £3.99
Food Storage Containers - £2.99
12" Traditional Hanging Basket - £2.49
Fairy Pot Stick - £1.99
Hanging Basket Bracket - £1.99
Terracotta Plant Pot Feet - £1.79

Hanging Basket Coco Liners - £1.49


Aldi sent me a selection of their Specialbuys to try out this summer.

Banana and Chia Seed Porridge Recipe

Starting the day with a healthy breakfast really can really make a difference to you energy levels and vitality during the day. I have been experimenting with creating some plant based, vegan friendly dishes, that will harness all the goodness of nutrient dense ingredients, but still taste delicious. This is my breakfast dish that I think ticks the boxes.

Banana and Chia Seed Porridge

Ingredients

1 cup of coconut or almond milk
1/2 cup of porridge oats
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 banana - sliced

Method

Put milk and oats into a small saucepan and bring to boil.
Add chia seeds and sliced banana to pan.
Simmer for 3-4 minutes until cooked through.

breakfast, vegan, superfood


This porridge is rich, creamy and naturally sweet. The slow release energy from the oats keeps you energised and satisfied, while the superfood chia seeds add quality nutrients to the dish. It's quick and easy and really is a great start to the day.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

A wonderful birthday weekend with Trentham Gardens, Oruna Cuisine and Alton Towers

I think this year has been my best birthday ever!

It started on the Friday, with Ian taking the day off to be with me while the kids were at school. We headed off to Trentham Gardens where we started the morning with a Frankie and Benny's vegetarian breakfast before going into the gardens for a walk. The sun was shining and we enjoyed a gorgeous walk around the lake. It was beautiful. We spent time looking at the amazing wooden sculptures and watching the birds on the lake.

Trentham, countryside, couple


On Friday evening, Megan and Ella along with Ella's boyfriend Frank arrived to spend the weekend with us. We ordered a huge Indian meal from my favourite local Indian restaurant Oruna. I love Oruna, the food is excellent and there are lots of veggie options to choose from...Sag Paneer, Tarka Dahl, Mushroom Bhaji, Chana Dahl and Mushroom Biryani being my favourites. The staff are so lovely and even sent me a card and a bottle of wine to help me celebrate the occasion. Oruna is such an integral part of our little market town, and so involved in the community. So it's perfectly fitting to have Oruna cater my birthday dinner!

The meal was superb and the birthday cake that followed was lovely. I even had candles to blow out while everything sang "Happy Birthday to You".

vegetarian, Indian food


The next morning we headed off to Alton Towers for mine and Ella's joint birthday weekend. The weather, although forecast to be grim was actually glorious. We booked into the Alton Towers Hotel in two adjoining Moon Landing themed rooms. The rooms are so cool with incredibly detailed decor that made you feel like you are in a Jules Verne novel! Each room also had its own giant teddy bear in it and an XBox games console. The attention to detail is fantastic and makes a stay so much fun.

hotel, Alton Towers


With our Merlin Annual Passes we had free reign of the park for two days.  The older kids went off to do all the big rides like Thirteen, Nemesis, Air and The Smiler, while Ian and I took Freddy into CBeebies Land. I love what they have done in this corner of the park, elevating Alton Towers to a theme park that pre-schoolers will love just as much as the thrill seeking teenagers. It really is a place for all the family to enjoy. 



Freddy spent ages in the Tree Fu Tom play area tackling climbing walls, cargo nets, the zip wire and the spider rope frame. He unleashed his inner ninja jumping, rolling and overcoming obstacles. Nina's Lab was also a big hit for my science loving schoolboy and he explored all the hands on exhibits. Charlie and Lola's house was another great place to explore, bringing the illustrations of Lauren Child to life in an imaginative and interactive way. With the Driving School, Froghopper, Big Wobble soft play and Carousel rides too, Freddy had a full and exciting day.

Day two was even sunnier! The older kids hit the park to take advantage of the early ride time, following a fantastic buffet breakfast at the hotel.  They took the woodland walk into the theme park.

Alton Towers, woodland


Meanwhile Ian, Freddy and I went to the Splash Landings Water Park. With the beautiful blue skies and sunshine, going into the outside pool was just too tempting and we had a lovely time relaxing in the warm water whilst feeling the sun on our faces. It felt like being abroad and on holiday.

After a couple of hours of playing in the water park, clambering up cargo nets while jets of water squirted at us and getting soaked by the giant, tipping bucket of water, we were ready to hit the park again. We met up with the older kids and after lunch went on a couple of rides together. Nemesis Sub Terra is my favourite, an immersive, psychological horror ride with a thrilling drop. It's fab!  We also all went on the River Rapids, which is a fast, furious, fun and very wet ride. Thank goodness for the sunny weather, which soon dried us all off!  Freddy finished the day with a ride on the new Octonauts rollercoaster and he loved it. We left the park exhausted but thoroughly happy.

Unfortunately, my girls and Frank had to return to Manchester on the Sunday evening, bringing us all back to reality, but we had an absolutely fantastic time together. I just adore being with my family. It's the most precious thing in the world to me and I am grateful everyday that I have these amazing people in my life.

So far, 46 is turning out to be a pretty good age.






Monday, 27 April 2015

Annie - Film Review

The newly released DVD of Annie, takes an old classic movie and brings it bang up to date for a whole new audience. Introducing a savvy and streetwise foster kid in the main role, this 2014 remake shakes up the story while still keeping the iconic songs and the heart and soul of the original movie.

Starring Cameron Diaz as the mean Miss Hannigan and Jamie Foxx as tycoon and mayoral candidate Will Stacks, the film boasts a great cast, but young Quvenzhané Wallis is the star of the show.

dvd, Annie


Annie is a kid growing up in the foster care system under the guardianship of disillusioned and cold hearted Miss Hannigan, when she inadvertently becomes the focus of hard-nosed Stacks' mayoral campaign. Following a near miss accident, where a video of him saving Annie's life goes viral, he is advised to foster her, in a thinly veiled PR stunt to advance his popularity. Although Annie is obsessed with finding her birth parents, she happily embraces her opportunity and soon gets under the skin of Stack and becomes more than just a way to advance his election campaign. A genuine affection soon forms between the pair, as she breathes life into his stuffy world. However, there are some people who want to exploit the situation for their own agenda, threatening to destroy the relationship between Annie and Stack.

This is a fresh and upbeat remake, with the original songs reworked and choreographed for a new, modern audience. It is a story of hope, love and redemption with a few funny moments thrown in. I liked the nods to the impact of social media in the mayoral campaign, which made the film feel very current.

So, the script is a bit corny and the acting is in parts a bit hammy, but it's a family film made to entertain the masses and it does its job well. It doesn't try to explore the realism of what it means to be in the care system, and the cruelty dealt out to the foster children by Miss Hannigan is played for laughs and not taken as a serious threat.

My daughter Kezia really enjoyed it and found the happy ending truly heartwarming.

Annie is out now on DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.


Smencils Smell Challenge #getkidswriting

Smencils are scented pencils that come in lots of fragrances, to make writing more fun!  Each Smencil is a chunky no.2 graphite pencil, which is made of 100% recycled newspaper. They come in an individual recyclable plastic tube with a collectible character top cap. They are perfect for stationery addicts and will encourage kids to get writing.

stationery


We were invited to take part in a Smencils Challenge to celebrate National Stationery Week. We received a pack of five and Freddy agreed to be blindfolded as he tried to guess the scents of the Smencils.

Take a look at the video below, and see how well he did in guessing the smell of the Smencils!

                              


Having stationery that is colourful and fun can be a real incentive for children to pick up a pencil and write. Even reluctant learners like my Freddy can't resist the lure of a fabulously scented Smencil!

Find out more about the world of Smencils at the Scentco UK Facebook page.
UK stockists include Amazon, where the five pack that Freddy smell tested cost £5.00.

Friday, 24 April 2015

How the Hell am I 46 Today??

I'm 46 today.

46 years old...how on earth can I be 46?

I distinctly remember being the same age as each of my kids are now, with vivid recollections of clothing I wore, things I said, feelings I felt and friends I made. How can those memories be from so long ago?

It seems like only yesterday that I was a teenager, dressing up for a night out. Donning my DM's, my black leather skirt and jacket, I thought I was cooler than Hazel O'Connor, Toyah and Siouxsie Sioux combined. My painted black nails, dark lipstick and back combed hair may not have been the most flattering look, but it was my look and I rocked it.

eighties, pvc

I was so slim back then too. It didn't matter what I ate, I was naturally skinny. But I was also moody and surly. I was anti-establishment and anti-social. I wanted to save the whale and ban the bomb. Marx was my historical hero and '1984' was my book of choice.

I absorbed myself in the music and lyrics of David Bowie, Bauhaus, The Smiths, The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen (whilst secretly loving Madonna, Motown and The Carpenters).

Thinking that the peak of my teen years, when I was sixteen years old, ended thirty years ago is hard to believe.

Fast forward to today...I'm rapidly approaching the milestone of having lived for half a century. But I don't feel much older than I did back then. I'm pretty much still the same girl in lots of ways. I'm young at heart with an immature sense of humour and a love of being inappropriate. I laugh at gross out comedies and I still have crushes on the latest silver screen hunks who are probably half my age. Horror movies remain my favourite genre of film, the scarier the better. I refuse to grow old gracefully.

I still like the same eclectic mix of music. I never tell my daughter to turn down her loud music - instead I join in singing and dancing to the latest 5 Seconds of Summer or Panic at the Disco song. I still favour black clothes and I have never evolved into a stylishly dressed woman. Jeans still feature heavily in my outfits of choice. I am still in love with the same lad that I fancied when I was 14, who grew up to be my husband. We have a shared history that spans over three decades and we still embarrassingly fancy each other.

Physically I might not get away with eating what I want anymore and after five kids my natural propensity to natural slimness is nothing more than a distant memory. My face has lost that tight, tautness of youth and gravity is becoming a more difficult thing for my saggy bits to overcome. My hair is losing the battle against the grey, but I am learning to love my silver highlights rather than denying this natural part of the ageing process. But you can still see that the me of my youth is the same me that I am now.

couples

The biggest difference in me today, compared to that mardy teenager, is that I am happy. Really, really happy and content. Age brings the wisdom and maturity to realise what is really important in this life. For me, being surrounded by love is what makes my life worthwhile. Feeling loved and giving love in return. Doing what I can to make the lives of my loved ones as happy and fulfilled as I possibly can. It may sound twee, but it's the truth.

So as my biological clock ticks into the start of its 47th year, I enter this new phase of my life with a positive outlook and a determination to live my life to the best of my ability. I am truly blessed to find myself at 46 with five children who genuinely fill me with pride everyday and who consider me a friend as well as a mother, and a husband who completes me.

Bring on being 46, because right now I really like who I am, where I am and whom I am with.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Jumble - a Jammy Crumble Bake Recipe (suitable for vegans!)

I am on a mission to re-invent as many family favourite meals and snacks, making them as healthy as possible and suitable for vegans, so my eldest daughter can enjoy them. Having a plant based diet has so many benefits to your health, your vitality and the to the environment. I have been vegetarian since the year 2000 and although I am not fully committed to a vegan lifestyle, I do enjoy finding ways to cut back on all animal products in my diet, using wholefoods where possible.

I find that desserts and treats can be tricky as many are full of dairy products such as butter, milk and cream. We still enjoy desserts, but want a lighter version that comes cruelty free. I have been experimenting and have come up with a yummy, jammy, nutty, oaty, crumble bake. It is rich and decadent, but completely dairy-free! It is packed with oats and nuts, uses superfood coconut oil and is sweetened with maple syrup.

vegan, dessert


Jumble Recipe

Ingredients 

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup mixed nuts and seeds to add variety 
(I added chia and sunflower seeds and cashews)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons coconut oil
6 tablespoons maple syrup
4 dessertspoons plum jam*

Method

Put nuts and seeds in food processor and blitz until well chopped.
Add oats and spices and baking powder and blitz to mix.
Melt coconut oil and maple syrup in a small pan.
Add to food processor and blitz to mix through.
Press 3/4 of the nutty mix into a 7" round prepared silicon cake tin.
Spoon jam over the top.
Crumble the remaining mix over the top so jam shows through.
Cook in a pre-heated oven at GM5 for about 15 minutes.
Remove and allow to set and cool in the silicon cake tin before slicing into eighths.

cake, jam, dessert


*The jam I received to create a recipe with is made in an Italian monastery using an ancient method and natural ingredients. Available from www.holyart.co.uk priced at £4.90 a jar.

jam, monasteries

The Name Ella Means Light

Ella, light

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Hosting a Craft Party with Baker Ross

We received a brilliant delivery from Baker Ross this week and so we organised a crafting party for Freddy and his cousins to try their hand at some fabulously arty activities.  I love Baker Ross's craft kits. They are excellent quality products that create great end results that the kids can be proud of.


I covered the dining room table in an old plastic tablecloth and laid out the craft sets along with some extra paints, glue, paint brushes and scissors. The kids tried their hand at decorating their own rainbow fish, making mermaid bookmarks, painting garden gnomes, making scratch art monster fridge magnets and decorating little Superhero themed gift bags that we filled with chocolate coins for them to take home along with all the other things they made.

Baker Ross, crafts, kids, party

Crafting is great for children. Not only does it fire their creativity, it also helps develop their concentration, their dexterity, their hand eye co-ordination and their ability to follow instructions. The children have lots of fun as they involve themselves in some constructive activities, which teach them lots of new skills.

We received the following sets:

Ceramic Gnomes
£4.96 for 4

Decorate with acrylic paints or ceramic paint pens and personalise with a name. These gnomes are suitable for inside and outdoors and look really cute with their pointed hats and big boots.

Baker Ross, gnome, painting, crafts

The children really went freestyle on their colourful designs and enjoyed getting messy with paint. Freddy used googly eyes on his gnome, and later when it was dry, he wrote his name on the plaque with a Sharpie Marker.

Baker ross, gnome, crafts, kids


Polystyrene Fish
£2.49 for 6

Decorate your own colourful fish with Deco Pens, sequins and glitter. This activity goes perfectly with a reading of the story of the Rainbow Fish. Children will love to re-enact the story of the Rainbow Fish with their own multi-coloured fish.

Their is some lovely detail on the fish with its scales, fins, tail, mouth and eyes. The polystyrene is very solid with a close weave so it didn't have that cringey feeling that you get with the polystyrene used for packaging. The fish could be suspended on strings to make a lovely mobile or underwater diorama.

Baker Ross, Rainbow Fish


Mermaid Weaving Bookmarks
£3.49 for 4

Foam shapes, self-adhesive foam decorations, coloured ribbon and googly eyes are included in each individual kit, to create a colourful mermaid with a woven tail. This is a lovely activity and the finished bookmarks look really pretty.

Baker Ross, crafts, kids

I really appreciated the fact that the things needed for each mermaid came in its own individual, sealed bag.  This means you don't need to sort through lots of stuff beforehand. You get spare eyes in each pack too, so you don't need to panic if you lose one! Weaving with ribbons is a bit fiddly, but with a little help, everyone did a great job.

baker  ross, crafts, mermaids


Tropical Fish Cushion Sewing Kit
£2.99 for 2

With pre-punched felt pieces, self-adhesive felt shapes, yarn, plastic needle and stuffing, children can create their very own Blue Tang and Clown Fish (aka Dory and Nemo!)  It's a great introduction to sewing for children aged 5+.

Monster Scratch Art Fridge Magnets
£2.99 for 10

This is a fantastic activity comprising of 2 each of five designs of scratch art monster shapes along with scratch tools and adhesive magnets. As the top surface is scratched away it reveals rainbow colours, creating some cool designs. Once the design is completed, the magnet can be stuck on the back.

crafts, fridge magnets, kids

This was a lovely activity that gave some great results. Everybody enjoyed scraping away the top surface to reveal the colours underneath.  It was very easy and very satisfying to do, using the tools provided.

Baker Ross, crafts


Super Hero Foam Stickers
£2.99 for 120

With 30 assorted designs including girl and boy superheroes, city skylines and 'Wham' and 'Pow' emblems, these self adhesive foam stickers are great fun.  We used them to decorate gift bags, but they are perfect for all kinds of activities.

superhero, stickers, Baker Ross

It was lovely to see both male and female superheroes in the designs. It kept everyone happy!  The foam stickers really are great value and would be really useful for hosting a Superhero birthday party, for decorating party bags, invites, decorations etc.

Baker Ross, crafts, party


Coloured Sequins
£2.99 per jar

These colourful sequins can be stuck or pinned to add colour and sparkle to lots of different crafts, such as collages or card making. We used them on our Rainbow Fish, sticking them with a dab of Baker Ross PVA glue.

Baker Ross

You get a lot of multi-colured sequins in this 90g jar, each colour bagged up individually. It's a great value product for keeping in the craft box.


Hosting a craft party is a great alternative to a traditional birthday party. Children are kept entertained and engaged as they take part in the set activities and get to take home all the goodies that they create. The Baker Ross products are ideal for this. They are super value and the quality and designs are excellent. There are so many different themes available you could easily base a party around a single theme such as animals, flowers, sports or under the sea, or just pick a selection of products from the range.

I like that they are so well thought out, without being overly ambitious or too complicated. The sets give the children an activity that they can add their own creative spin to, whilst still being structured enough to give a good, consistent end result.

Freddy loved doing all the different crafts and was very proud of the things he had made!

Baker Ross, crafts, kids

Monday, 20 April 2015

Vichy Liftactiv Supreme Anti-Ageing Skincare

I'm 46 years old this Friday.  My skin is no longer as tight and taut as it used to be as the effects of ageing set in. Fine lines, wrinkles, dullness and loss of firmness are definitely in my face's future!

However, it's not only these long term changes that I have to prepare for, the phenomenon of over day ageing is also a consideration. Women in my age group have been found to experience skin degradation over the course of the day, with skin appearing up to 4 month's older by the evening compared to its appearance in the morning.

Many skincare products offer results for the long term effects of ageing, but don't take into account the fact that deterioration can occur over 12 hours, with markers such as under eye shadowing, more obvious fine lines, increasing skin pigmentation and complexion dullness setting in as the day draws on.

Vichy Laboratories evaluated seven ageing markers and set about creating a product that would counter both the signs of ageing over time as well as the issue of daily ageing. The result of their findings has given rise to Vichy Liftactiv Supreme, the innovative new facial cream, which helps correct both of these areas.

Vichy Liftactiv Supreme claims to improve the look of skin during the day as well as tackling the longer lasting effects of ageing. Using 3D Optical Correction technology it smooths and illuminates the complexion. The formula contains Adenosine and Caffiene to offer a dermo-smoothing effect to combat expression lines, fill out fine lines and reduce dark circles and puffiness under the eyes. Rhamnose acts on the ageing markers and helps thicken the epidermis, while Neohesperidin is an antioxidant that protects the skin's protective barrier. It has aggressive anti-wrinkle and firmness correcting care with a long lasting lifting effect, resulting in smoother and younger looking skin.

anti-ageing, skincare


I received a sample of the Vichy Lift Activ Supreme to test. The silver packaging and stylish tub give the product the appearance of a luxury item with higher end branding.  The product itself is thick, rich and creamy with a pleasant, light fragrance and it goes on smoothly, absorbing into the skin without any feeling of greasiness. On application it gives the skin a feeling of smoothness, which I really liked. The use of blurring particles and mattifying powders make the skin look illuminated with a more uniform texture and radiance. It felt really nice to apply giving a fresh feel to my skin.

Throughout the day, my skin felt well nourished and fresh and my under eye area definitely looked less shadowed and puffy. I can't say that I have particularly noticed any signs of over day ageing, unless I've had a particularly fraught day, so that is definitely a positive for the product.

Having a product that helps combat the signs of ageing as well as giving my complexion a lift throughout the day is great for my confidence as I am getting older.

Vichy Liftactiv Supreme is available from Boots stores and online priced at £29.95 RRP.  Find out more at www.liftactivsupreme.co.uk/liftactiv-supreme.


Friday, 17 April 2015

Animated films to help children cope with bereavement from Co-Operative Funeralcare

It's been seven years since we lost my dear old Nan. It was the first time that my younger children had to deal with bereavement. They adored their Great Nan and her death was very hard on them. I remember telling them when they got back from school on the day she died. We sat together on the stairs and sobbed. Losing a loved one is hard, and although she was 98 years old and in poor health, her death hit them hard.

We decided that all the great grandchildren would attend her funeral, giving them a chance to say good-bye and celebrate her life together. At the service, my daughter Megan read a beautiful poem in front of the congregation and her words, punctuated with sobs, touched everyone deeply. It was so moving. Afterwards we had a family party where we remembered our favourite stories about Nan, laughing and crying in equal measure. The process of being involved in the funeral helped the children deal with the grieving process and as a family we worked through all the emotions of losing a loved one. We all still miss my Nan and fondly remember all the wonderful things about her.

bereavement, death


The Co-operative Funeralcare has launched a series of short animated films aimed at helping bereaved children to cope with the loss of a loved one. Teaming up with the charity Child Bereavement, Trauma and Emotional Wellbeing Service (CHUMS), they are offering the films as a free resource to local schools, medical professionals, counsellors, community groups and bereaved families.

The DVDs including “Our Year Since Dad Died” and  "Our Year Since Grandma Died", are animated stories to help children understand their grief, told in a video diary format, with the main character Gemma talking through her feelings following a loved one's death. It includes various aspects of the family’s grief, including significant events such as the funeral, Mother's Day and birthdays. It offers practical guidelines on how to overcome everyday hurdles.

Cooperative funeralcare, bereavement


It also comes with resources such as guidance notes and downloadable lesson plan and Powerpoint presentation suitable for key stages 2 – 4.  Grief can be overwhelming, painful, confusing and lonely. The aim of these DVDs is to support bereaved children and let them see they are not alone and that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and there is no fixed time scale for individuals to express their grief. The films can make a difference to a child through their loss and help with their long term emotional well being.

The free DVDs are available from your local Co-Operative Funeralcare. 

To view a short preview of the DVDs and find out more visit: 

flowers


Thursday, 16 April 2015

Free Range Holidays at Bluestone National Park Resort

We were delighted to be invited to Bluestone National Park Resort during the Easter holidays for a short break, staying in a 4 bedroomed Grassholm Lodge. After a four hour drive we arrived at Bluestone, went through the efficient drive through reception and were given a map and directions to our lodge in the Preseli View area of the resort. We were able to drive up to our lodge, unload our luggage and then return the car to the car park for the duration of our stay. This keeps Bluestone safe and free from traffic. Guests can hire bikes or golf buggies to get around, but we opted to stay on foot for our stay.

The accommodation was quite honestly one of the best holiday homes I have ever stayed in. It was well equipped, spotlessly clean, spacious, well furnished and beautifully designed with high ceilings with wooden beams, open plan rooms and a balcony at the top of the stairs looking down into the living area below.  With one master bedroom with en suite bathroom, two upstairs twin bedrooms with a family bathroom and one ground floor twin room with a wet room, the property is suitable for up to eight guests.  The living area had comfy seating, a big TV and DVD player and a patio door leading to an outdoor patio area with seating.  The kitchen was big and really well equipped with just about everything you need for a self-catered holiday including a microwave, dishwasher, an oven, a fridge and freezer, cookware and crockery. A wooden dining table comfortably seated up to eight for family meals.  For younger guests, the lodge came equipped with stair gates, a travel cot and a high chair. There is also a safe in the wardrobe of the master bedroom. All linen and towels are included and there is even a pack in the kitchen consisting of a small bottle of washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets, sponge, cloth, extra bin bags and a tea towel. Recycling is encouraged and the kitchen bin is divided up for non-recyclable and recyclable waste.

Bluestone, holiday, Wales


The resort is built around the central picturesque village area where there is a convenience store, a baker's, a pub and some restaurants. There is also a fantastic Tree House play area for the kids to enjoy. A marquee in the village square is the venue for some kids' entertainment and Freddy was very pleased to get a balloon sword from one of the activity's team during the free daily kids' hour.

The Blue Lagoon swimming pool proved a huge hit. Guests can enter for free throughout their stay and get 2 hours exclusive access from 9 am, after that the public can pay to enter. It has a lazy river, hot tubs, wave machine, slides, kids' area, jets and flumes. There is also a cafe area where spectators can sit and watch. Freddy enjoyed splashing around in the pool, using his new found water confidence gained from doing swimming lessons. I sat in the cafe with a coffee and watched him, his sister and his daddy play in the water.

The Adventure Centre has some amazing free indoor activities such as mini-golf, a ball pool, soft play, a bouncy castle, LEGO and a huge wooden play area with slides. It is also home to the Big Four: the Swing, the Drop, the Sky Trail and the Wall. For just £7 each or £20 for all four, kids over 6 can take part in these exciting, fully supervised indoor activities. Unfortunately, Freddy was a bit too young and the girls were a bit too reserved to give them a go.  There are also arcade games in the Adventure Centre to keep kids occupied. It is an excellent all weather facility.

Upstairs is the Wildwood Cafe, which is an enchanted, woodland themed restaurant set around a 20 ft tree. Seating is in a giant tree house, a forester's cottage, a nest pod and a squirrel's drey.  We found a seat in the treehouse and enjoyed a meal of a veggie burger and chips, which was very nice. Freddy enjoyed doing an activity sheet while he waited for his meal of pizza and chips.  The Wildwood Cafe is the venue for the Neverwood Pirate Dinner Show, where families can experience challenges, games, shanties and stories while enjoying a meal.

Bluestone also boasts its own Well Spa Retreat for relaxation with seven unique thermal facilities and a host of treatments available.  The village pub has free entertainment in the evenings such as a pub quiz or live music.

Bluestone, holiday, resort, Wales


The resort is situated in 500 acres of countryside in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. This equates to beautiful scenic views and wonderful walks. We took a nature walk from the lake, through the forest following the stream down to the steep ravine at the other end of the resort. We then climbed the board walk up the ravine and back into the resort. It was absolutely lovely.

I was very impressed with the signs that marked out the nature walk along with facts about the flora and fauna of the area. It added an extra dimension to the walk learning about the trees and flowers.

Freddy enjoyed playing Pooh Sticks on the little bridges with fallen branches, and the kids climbed trees and played in dens.

In the resort stands the old abandoned ruin of Newton North Church. It is now a haven to wildlife and was really interesting to learn about. There is a brilliant living Willow sculpture of a giant caterpillar that Freddy absolutely loved, he ran through it again and again. At Bluestone you are never told to 'Keep Off the Grass', instead you are encouraged to run on it, play on it and roll down the hills!  It's a wonderful ethos.

Bluestone, wales, forests, family


As well as the free activities and entertainment, Bluestone offers hundreds of paid for activities for families to enjoy and has an impressive programme of activities, spa treatments, dining options and pre-school sessions. The activities include everything from kayaking on the lake to taking on the Sky Wires in the Steep Ravine. Many are all -weather activities so rain won't stop play!

Whether you are a thrill seeker or looking to relax, there are loads of suitable activities available. There are activities for children that they can do with or without parental supervision. So if you want some grown-up time, you can send the kids off for an unaccompanied adventure or pop the little ones into the creche.

With the hundreds of paid for activities, plus the use of the Blue Lagoon and Adventure Centre as well as the wonderful forest walks, a stay at Bluestone can be as action packed as you want it be.
For us we had quite a relaxing time, taking in the scenery, enjoying family evenings in the lodge, going for walks and making the most of the pool and the Adventure Centre. We had a wonderful time in a beautiful part of the world.

To find out more about Bluestone National Park Resort visit www.bluestonewales.com and start planning your own luxury free range break!




Wednesday, 15 April 2015

LG Kizon Review - keeping kids safe with a wearable tracking and communication device

The LG KizON is a brand new wearable technology for kids, designed exclusively for pre-school and primary school children that gives parents a simple, safe and convenient way to communicate with them. The LG KizON has been designed specifically for children to wear on their wrists to be used as a direct communication device with a primary designated phone number. Kids can instantly get in contact without the need to remember telephone numbers, or carry a phone. In addition, parents can set the KizON to send updates on the wearer's location throughout the day, and all the information is delivered to a dedicated smartphone app.  The LG KizON brings peace of of mind by delivering real-time tracking information and by giving children the ability to securely communicate with parents via the press of a button.

With its GPS capability, durable kid-friendly design and functionality and long lasting battery life, the LG KizON offers a secure way of tracking a child’s location, and provides an effective way to communicate, giving parents peace of mind and giving children greater freedom and independence while they play.

LG KizON


Initial Thoughts

As a parent to a five year boy, his safety and security is at the forefront of my mind. I am, by nature, a worrier and I try to keep an eye on his whereabouts at all times. I am aware that this may restrict his ability to explore his environment and play freely.  We love going on family days out and he enjoys going into soft play areas or playing in parks. He is such a sociable lad, always striking up conversations with other kids and joining in games. With me constantly trailing him, I know I am restricting his freedom. It would be better for me to watch him from a distance, ensuring his safety without cramping his style!

The LG KizON offers a means to monitor my child's whereabouts and maintain a way of directly communicating with him when out and about. This would clearly provide me with peace of mind and allow him the chance of spreading his wings. Any unusual movements would be spotted instantly to avoid any incidents of wandering off, and if he became fractious, a quick press of the button would instantly phone my mobile.


How We Got On

The set up process for the LG KizON is quick and easy, with step by step instructions for downloading the app onto my smartphone and setting up designated numbers. The LG KizON is switched on my holding down the call button on the handset. The app can then send a request to the device, connecting the parent's phone to the child's KizON. This enables the tracking and allows calls to be made between the parent and child.

LG KizON set-up


We went away to Wales for an Easter break, which gave us an ideal opportunity to test out the LG KizON in a real life situation.  Freddy was really excited to wear the device on his wrist. Having previously downloaded the app onto mine and Ian's phones, we were connected as the primary and secondary contacts. The app also showed us Freddy's location on a map that appeared on the screen. We gave him a little lesson in how he could call us and we practiced phoning him so he could answer the call. It really is straightforward. The device is adjustable and was comfortable for Freddy to wear, and the design is really kid friendly (the blue version has little trucks and cars on it).

LG KizON, kids' tracking device


Freddy went into an outdoor play area at the resort we were staying at and we sat on a bench while he played. It was so reassuring to be able to phone him to keep tabs on what he was up to and tell him when it was time to leave. Freddy was able to answer by pressing the button on the front of the device. If the child fails to answer after ten seconds, the call automatically connects so you can listen through the microphone. Freddy was also able to ring us if he needed to. For me, this is the greatest feature of the LG KizON. Being in contact with your child is very comforting and gave me the confidence to allow him a little bit more freedom without constantly following him around. For me, the LG KizON is not a replacement for my parental vigilance, but it is a great tool, which helps me relax a little and lets Freddy gain a bit more independence.

The tracking worked best when both devices, the KizON and my phone, had a good signal. Unfortunately in some parts of Wales the network is not very good, which meant that it sometimes struggled to find the exact location. However, when back in our hometown the tracking is accurate to an individual address. As it uses GPS technology to track the device, it will understandably work best in places with a good network.

LG KizON, smartphone, app


The tracking would be really useful for my 12 year old who goes from school to friends' houses and then off into town independently. Being able to know where she is would be very useful as her mobile is generally turned off and in the bottom of her school bag. If LG ever launch a teen tracker, I will definitely be in the market for one! A similar system for the elderly would also be very useful.

For 5 year old Freddy, he will never be too far away from me to really need to track him during a normal day. But for holidays and days out this is an excellent product, and if he ever did wander off, it would be an absolute godsend to be able to track his whereabouts. As a precautionary measure, this is invaluable.

I absolutely loved being able to be in phone contact with Freddy. The device is really easy to use and a friendly voice lets the child know that they are making a call and when the call is ended. When receiving a call there is a really cute ringtone and a flashing light to alert the child.  Wearing the KizON on his wrist meant Freddy couldn't drop it, put it down or lose it. It is always on his person without him having to worry about it. Freddy felt very grown up having his own 'mobile phone' on his wrist.

As it has a simple pre-configured one button to dial function, he doesn't need to remember a phone number or have a handwritten copy of my phone number tucked in his back pocket. He knows that with a touch of a button he can contact me. This will be really useful for birthday parties or play dates.

LG KizON


The battery is good for 36 hours and if it starts running low, an alert is sent to the parent's phone, giving the adult the responsibility to keep it fully charged. The KizON contains a SIM card with its own phone number and you can add credit for making the calls. Only designated numbers can make calls to the phone making it very secure.

The app interface is really good. You can set it up to notify you of battery life, to tell you when the device is on or off and to set location reminders at set times. You can control the KizON's power and volume, allow up to four contacts and enable auto-connect directly from your phone. You can also make a search and call through the app.  The map can be viewed using a traditional road map, or using street view. It is all very user friendly and intuitive.

My only slight criticism of the functionality of the device is that the button you use to make calls is also the button that needs to be held down to turn the device off. So I have inadvertently phoned myself up a few times while switching it off. However, a voice does say 'good-bye' once the button has been held in for 8 seconds so if you are patient it isn't really a problem. It's just me being too hasty!

Both Ian and I were really impressed with the LG KizON. It gave us that bit of extra security knowing we could contact Freddy at any time and that he could phone me if he ever got in any trouble or felt frightened. Although we still won't let him go off completely on his own, this ability to contact him does make it easier to let him go into parks or play areas independently. The tracking is a very reassuring back up to have in the event that we ever lost track of our son. I hope it is something we won't need to use, but it is good to know that we could find him if we ever needed to.

The LG KizON will be launching in the UK soon.



“I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network ResearchPanel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity”.


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Research reveals parents' confusion over sugar in kids' diets

New research conducted by Fruit Heroes, the newly launched lunchbox snack brand in the UK, shows that the recent focus on the health implications of too much sugar has left some parents so confused that they don’t know what they should be feeding their children to give them the healthiest diet. Almost half of the parents surveyed say the UK's dietary guidelines for children are unclear and confusing.

Three quarters of parents say they now find it difficult working out what is and isn’t healthy for their children and a huge 84% of parents are concerned about their child’s diet

Sugar is now seen as the dietary public enemy number one when it comes to the fight against obesity and disease, but the ever changing advice and guidelines have left parents so confused that many now don’t even know if they should be giving their children fruit to eat at all.

The study saw one in seven parents say they didn’t think fruit was healthy or were unsure if it was or not, and almost 40% were unsure of which are good sugars and which are bad sugars. On the whole, three quarters of parents generally don’t know what they should be giving their kids as part of a healthy diet.

A quarter of parents surveyed by Fruit Heroes say they are confused by front of pack nutritional labels like the traffic lights and general daily allowance percentages, while a third did not know that five a day means five pieces of fruit or vegetables.Worryingly, some parents thought that a packet of crisps counted towards one of their child’s 5-a-day.

My family are all vegetarians, meaning that most of our nutrients come from plant based foods. Therefore fruit plays a big part in my children's diet. Freddy loves grapes, apples, oranges, melon - you name it - he loves it! I am happy for him to eat fruit and snacks made using fruit, but try to avoid too much refined sugar in his diet on a day to day basis.  Fruits contain so many nutrients, so in their whole form are a great way of getting vitamins and fibre into children. My rule of thumb is that if food is naturally plant based, then it's got to be good.

Fruit Heroes are made using all natural ingredients such as dates, fruits and juice and contain no added sugar or artificial additives. They are naturally high in fibre and are a healthy lunchbox treat or on-the-go snack. Each 20g Fruit Hero bar also counts as one of a child’s “five a day”, proving that treats can be incorporated into a healthy balanced diet. They are a great alternative to sweets and unhealthy snacks.

fruit snack

             

Facebook : FruitHeroesUK 

Twitter: @fruitheroesUK

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Vanish Gold for Whites Bed Linen Challenge

There is something so special about staying in a posh hotel, sleeping in a comfy bed covered with pure white, crisp bed linen.  The Vanish Bloggers Club sent us a White Company Single Row Cord Bed Linen set in pure white, so we could take the challenge of keeping it looking good using Vanish Gold for Whites.  The smooth and crisp 200 thread count Egyptian cotton percale finish demands being kept in pristine condition!


Vanish, whites, laundry


Adding Vanish Gold for Whites to the laundry can make whites up to three shades whiter, which helps maintain the crisp, cool bed linen in top notch condition. No one wants dingy, greying bed linen!

       Vanish, laundry


I tried the Vanish Gold for Whites in my own bed linen challenge using bed sheets from the children's beds.  Washing one with Vanish Gold for Whites on four occasions made a significant difference to the whiteness of the sheet. The other one, which had been previously washed without Vanish and put away in the cupboard, looks dingy by comparison. I am impressed with how it really does raise the laundry's whiteness just by adding it into the drawer of your washing machine.
       
white washing, bed linen


I have enjoyed being part of the Vanish Bloggers' Club, testing out the product for myself. I have become a convert to using Vanish after seeing the results. Kezia's school shirts and our bed linen will definitely be all the better for it!

Take a look at my previous challenge, which gives more details of how to use the Vanish Gold in your laundry: Making whites three shades whiter.

Visit the Vanish website at: www.vanish.co.uk.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Family Get Togethers are #BetterwithCake

Cake is a food that is synonymous with celebration. Any event is instantly elevated to party status with the addition of a good cake or two. 

I remember going for Sunday tea at my grandparents' house every weekend as a child and waiting eagerly for my Nan's cake tray to be brought to the table - as soon as we had finished our boiled ham sandwiches, our cucumber in vinegar and our boiled eggs. As the cakes arrived, I would eye up the array of tasty treats, picking out which of the offerings I would choose. If there were Fondant Fancies on offer I would be over the moon! The sweet morsels just seemed so fancy - totally living up to their name! I loved the colourful fondant icing, that little creamy bit on top and the soft sponge. They really are one of the iconic, nostalgia inducing foods from my childhood in the 70's.

Fast forward forty years and cake still has that ability to make any family get together a celebration. Receiving a cake delivery from Mr Kipling this Easter was perfectly timed as my three eldest kids were all coming home for a bank holiday weekend visit. Having all five of my children together is quite honestly my favourite thing in the world.  The noise, the laughter, the chaos, the fun...add some yummy cakes to that equation and this get together was guaranteed to be exceedingly good!


#betterwithcake, cake


At those times when you are pushed for time or don't want to be stuck in the kitchen baking, shop bought cakes can be a bit of a godsend. Some days I just want convenience over feeling like I'm in an episode of the Great British Bake Off. Don;t get me wrong, I love baking and the feeling of pride that comes with creating something gorgeous and tasty is pretty powerful. But I can't always harness my inner Mary Berry, so I'm glad to have an alternative for when my domestic goddess persona goes AWOL.

Classics like Viennese Whirls, French Fancies and Bakewell Tarts go down well with the family. Cakes look so pretty with their fancy shapes and colourful hues. Whipping them out of the store cupboard and popping them on a pretty plate creates an instant party in seconds.  Soon, everyone is happily tucking in to tea and cake, chatting and laughing (and picking the cherry off of their Bakewell Tarts! Does everyone do this - or just us?) 

Freddy loves cake and I love watching him select which one he wants with wide eyes and licked lips. The anticipation and the look of concentration as he chooses between them is precious. He has been known to flutter his eyelashes and cheekily ask "Can I have two, please?" when he struggles to pinpoint his decision down to just one cake. Watching him reminds me of six year old me, eyeing up my Nan's cake tray forty years ago.

Family get togethers are always #betterwithcake!

family, cake, Mr Kipling


This post is an entry for #betterwithcake Linky Challenge (http://www.britmums.com/2015/03/the-easter-school-holidays-are-betterwithcake/), sponsored by Mr Kipling. Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/mrkiplingcakes

Mr Kipling

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Disney on Ice - Magical Ice Festival

We love Disney.
We love ice skating.
We LOVE Disney on Ice!

***

The latest show from Disney on Ice is the wonderful Magical Ice Festival.  Featuring favourite characters from The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Tangled and Frozen, it is the perfect performance for little princes and princesses to enjoy.  We went to watch the show at the Genting Arena in Birmingham.

Ariel, Rapunzel, Belle, Anna and Elsa take to the ice as their stories are beautifully brought to life. With all the best songs, amazing costumes and fab special effects, each of the princess stories are told, reliving some of the most magical Disney moments, introduced by Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald. 

The highlight of the show, especially for the hundreds of little girls dressed up as Anna and Elsa, was most definitely seeing the Frozen segment of the show. Royal sisters Anna and Elsa, along with Olaf the snowmen, ice-man Kristoff and Sven the reindeer, are included as part of the UK line-up of Disney on Ice for the first time.

The ice skaters playing Anna and Elsa are incredible, putting on emotionally moving, dramatic and breathtakingly impressive performances. All the little mini Anna and Elsa clones in the audience went absolutely crazy when Olaf appeared and hearing them all blast out the chorus of 'Let It Go' gave me goosebumps!

We absolutely loved it.  The show is slick, colourful and so moving for Disney fans young and old. The ice dancing is superb - our favourite stars being Gaston and Elsa who left us breathless. It is the perfect treat for families who love all things Disney!

The show is still touring, playing in Dublin, Belfast, London, Cardiff, Nottingham and Leeds in various arenas up to May 17th.

Find out more at the Disney website: www.disney.co.uk/disney-on-ice/magical-ice-festival.

Disney, ice skating, Frozen


We received four press tickets to see the show.

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