Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Discovering encaustic art


If you're artistically talented and looking for a new challenge, encaustic art might be right up your street. Known as hot wax painting, this ancient technique dates back many years and is a great way to produce innovative, creative and standout pieces. What's more, with encaustic supplies readily available from sites like Homecrafts you'll have everything you need to get started, so why not give it a go?

Unlike common art forms like drawing and painting, encaustic art offers something a little different. Basically, it involves heating beeswax into a liquid stage and then mixing in coloured pigments. The liquid (or paste) is then applied to a surface, be it wood, canvas, card, paper or pottery, and turned into something quite magical. That's right, before the paint cools, artists use a wide variety of tools including brushes, styluses, drawing tips and other items to produce the image or pattern they require.

It takes time and patience to get the image just so, but with skill and persistence the results can be wonderful. In the past, artists had to work quickly to achieve what they wanted before the wax dried, however, with heat lamps and hot irons available these days it's much easier to keep the wax soft for longer periods of time. Heated metal tools can also be used to rework the paintwork once the wax has cooled, meaning errors can easily be fixed – good news for beginners or anyone looking to perfect an image.

The great thing about encaustic art is that no two pictures are exactly the same and that's what makes them so special. The pigmented wax can be worked in many different ways resulting in an extensive collection of pictures that are a joy to look at. The key is to be confident with what you're doing and manipulate your materials to get the results you want. Don't be scared to make mistakes and embrace any unexpected colour merges or patterns that might occur unexpectedly as this is what makes this art so fun.

Encaustic art dates back many years with the Fayum mummy portraits being perhaps the most well-known examples of such a technique. These fascinating, lifelike paintings were done on wooden boards and would be used to cover the faces of mummies from the Coptic period. They were not only extremely realistic but incredibly detailed and show exactly what can be achieved from encaustic techniques.

Encaustic art supplies can be bought online at a great price, so it's worth giving this pastime a go and experimenting with lots of different colours and patterns. Wax assortments come in numerous different colours, and with complete kits on offer that include everything from wax block to card and styling tools you'll have everything you need to get started. It's fun, it's creative and it's something a bit different to painting, colouring or drawing - which could explain why encaustic art is making a welcome comeback.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Britains Got Talent, my best bits...

With a new series of Britain's Got Talent about to start, I've been challenged by Mecca Bingo to come up with my 5 favourite acts who I think should have won BGT! It's a tricky one, I can barely watch it without breaking down in tears and PLEADING with the judges to reconsider, it's an emotional time! But I've managed to fight through the tears and control myself and here is my top five...
Britains Got Talent Judges calling round for a cup of tea at my house...

 1) My most FAVOURITE act of all time has to be Attraction from last year. Despite the controversy about them not being "British", I really don't care, I just thought they were really good. There was something truly beautiful and artistic about their performance, and they had more "class" in their little fingers than the majority of the other acts put together. I would love to see them live as I think they truly have talent.





 2) Opera duo Charlotte and Jonathan really stuck in my mind from 2012. I think we all love an underdog and they certainly were that! They came on and like everyone else I was thinking, "here we go again" and how wrong was I! They were wonderful! Simon Cowell asked Jonathan to sing without Charlotte but being a gent, he said no. However I did see online that they have now gone separate ways and signed with Sony.... that's showbiz!




3) Gabz - ok she may have looked like a moody teenager pretending to be nice, but you've got to admire her songwriting skills. There were also some amusing comments at the time on twitter about her being a potential nightmare to work with, but who cares! It was a nice song and my boys enjoy singing along with her, with their pretend lighters.... is that wrong?!

Gabz, potential nightmare but great songwriting skills!
4) Everyone loves a bit of Welsh singing, even me. So I was pretty taken with "Only Boys Aloud" who auditioned back in 2012. What's not to like? Deep voices, tuneful and melancholy, total crowd pleaser. I'm only gutted they didn't win!

Only Boys Aloud, total crowd pleaser...
5) I've left my "guilty pleasure" one for last...Stavros Flatley from 2009. Awesome. This has everything. Comedy outfits, silly hair, father and son messing about on stage, dancing, irish music, weird sort of Greek dancing moves, I like!

The act we all love to hate..
Which are your favourite acts from BGT? Are you watching it again this year? I am!! Auditions for the new series start on the 12th April.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Sponsored Video - Dream the Blues!

I've never been one for sport, well not team sports anyway. I actually blame my terrible eyesight and my reluctance to wear glasses even though I could hardly see. Many a time I was whacked in the face by a low flying tennis racket while I blindly gazed around, wondering what on earth was going on around me. Later in life I took up "fitness"- this involved torturing myself by running miles every evening following a pretty hefty circuit training session at lunchtime.

Having said all that, I can see that taking part in sport (if you can see) is a really good thing and not to be sniffed at, especially if you really really love the sport you are involved in. Anything that keeps children interested and off the iPad is good as far as I'm concerned, and team sports are a great way to learn about dealing with other people and working as a team. Therefore I'm really happy to be able to let you know about a new awesome opportunity Samsung are offering to some very lucky children - the chance to learn how to play with Chelsea FC youth coaches! Samsung Dream the Blues campaign aims to help young people between the ages of 9 and 13 to realise their football dreams and train with the best. As part of the sessions, keen footballers will go through a series of skill sessions and mini games learning how to control, dribble, shoot and pass along with other children around the same age. This year, Chelsea FB will be holding youth football camps in China,Vietname and Columbia where children will have a chance to meet with their Chelsea heroes Torres, Hazard and Terry in London! Bonza!

Find out more checking the Dream the Blues Youtube Channel
Check out  the official  Website 
Have a look at the previous Dream the Blues Campaign  


This post is sponsored by Samsung, but all thoughts are my own.






Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Why does Hearing Loss Increase with Age?


 
As we grow older, many of us experience a number of changes in the way our body functions. Hearing loss can be one of these changes. For people over 75 years old it is believed that around half of the population suffer from hearing loss, which is purely down to their age. It is no wonder that this is a huge frustration for a large number of people.
As new research confirms that older deaf people’s needs are being ignored, Norman Lamb, Minister for Care and Support, has pledged to support and promote a new Deaf-Aware Care quality mark for residential care homes. According to the Royal Association for Deaf (RAD) people, to help care homes achieve the Deaf-Aware Care quality mark, training and support around accessibility, engagement, British Sign Language (BSL) and recruitment will be provided. For deaf BSL users, life in residential homes can be very depressing and isolating, especially if there is nobody to speak their language. The more care homes that achieve the quality mark, the better deaf people’s lives will be. Free hearing tests and home consultations from Hidden Hearing are also available on request and should be taken up on a regular basis.
Below is some information as to why hearing loss increases with age:
What is it and why does it happen?
Unfortunately, hearing loss is a natural part of getting old. As part of the aging process, hair cells in your inner ear begin to die and the more hair cells that die, the worse our hearing gets.
Age related hearing loss tends to deteriorate slowly over a matter of time, meaning people don’t really notice it until it has become very obvious. For many people, it starts with missing the odd word when in conversation or having to turn the television volume louder.
Diagnosis and treatment
If you’re having problems with your hearing, or know somebody who is, it is important to see a hearing professional as soon as possible. After some simple tests, they will be able to tell you if you are suffering from any hearing loss and will advise you on what to do next. Never put it off; having it checked on a regular basis will ensure any problems can be resolved earlier rather than later.
Although there is no cure for age related hearing loss, it can be assisted with the use of hearing aid technology and devices such as loop systems, amplified telephones and text telephones. Modern hearing aids are small and discreet so can be worn inside the ear without being noticed. Advancements in technology have also made it easier to connect your hearing device to mobile phones, televisions and other gadgets. This can significantly improve your hearing and boost your chances of being able to lead as normal a life as possible.


This is a guest post.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Win £500 worth of prizes with Decplay!

For a few months now, my oldest son has been having keyboard lessons. Although he really seems to enjoy his lessons, it does seem to be quite slow going and I do sometimes wonder if it's worth it! Therefore I was really interested to hear about Decplay - a new piano tuition method and form of musical notation that lessens the time taken to learn to play the piano. Decplay have a mission to engage 1 million people and get everyone playing!

The method was devised by Declan Cosgrove who is a classically trained pianist.  Declan believes the traditional way of teaching and the focus on prescribing each note and rhythm, restricts some people's natural creativity, delays the point at which the student feels a sense of achievement and contributes to the huge number of people who stop learning before they can play to a level that gives them and others enjoyment.  The method is ideally suited to popular music (as well as classical) and uses numbers and patterns to produce amazing results incredibly quickly.
http://goo.gl/hjmbXG


If you're interested you can click on the Decplay facebook page and go to their competition tab to get your free song sheet and the chance to win a £500 piano learning prize which includes a keyboard, FastPlay+ course, Song sheet pack and 3 hours online coaching! The closing date is Monday 31st March 2014.

More information about the method can be found at www.decplaypiano.com,


This is a guest post


Sunday, 9 March 2014

My favourite nineties fashion...

Isn't it true that apparently everyone tries to recapture their "look" at 21 for the rest of their lives? do you think that's true for you? It possibly is for me, as at the moment I've entering into a period of nineties mania which basically takes the form of having my hair cut into a "Rachel", I'm not going to take a picture right now but I will post one later in the week for sure. When I was a "youf" of 18, everyone was desperate for a Rachel cut, sadly my hair was too fine to make it work and I just ended up looking rather odd. Fast forward 15 years and with the help of my Big Hair Styler and some loyal 12 year old GHDs and I can just about pull it off. Just about.
She of most wonderful hair-ness
Why Jen-An chose to stop having her hair cut in the "Rachel" styley I'll never know, in my opinion that was probably what went wrong with Brad.

So I'm going to be writing a bit about nineties style and how to turn it into (erm what do we call this decade?!) nowadays trendiness, so here's a start.

The Mohair Jumper and Kilt Look
For those familiar with the early work of the artists formally known as Friends, this won't be a new one. I fail to see how anyone can look bad in a fluffy jumper and skirt, ok maybe some people would, but since according to my husband I have ridiculously long legs and "no torso" this is a good one for me. Here is a classic example of what I call the "Clueless" fashion. As in the film.
Clueless fashion from Missguided
This particular example is from Missguided, but I know nothing about that shop so I wouldn't like to recommend it. However, a recreated look that is suitable for a 35 year old mother of two is:

ASOS check skirt was £36 now £25

Totally wearable and flattering for all! Pair it with a classic.... tucked in of course.

Soft short sleeved jumper from Matalan, £7
What do you think? Obviously pair with some bargainous £7.99 pumps from my recent post and jobs a good 'un! What else did you like from the nineties? What else can I recreate for an oldie like myself?


Silent Sunday - tea for two

#silentsunday

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Bargain Spring Shoes from H&M

In the past, I've blogged quite extensively about my enormous feet and how difficult it can be for us poor afflicted large footed ones to get nice ladylike shoes. With this in mind, I don't really bother spending large amounts of money on shoes, particularly Summer shoes, as my big aggressive feet always seem to knacker them. Last year I spent over £50 on some sandals from Dune. They are really nice, but I've hardly worn them because I failed to spot a problem with them - I have to fasten them with a buckle. What mother has time to actually do up the buckles on her own shoes! Yes, slip on or minimum fastening has to be the way forward, and when it comes to Spring/Summer shoes, it has to be ballet style pumps for me. I usually like to get cheap and cheerful versions of these and then just bin 'em at the end of the Summer, works for me!

Anyway since the weather has picked up, I've spotted that H and M have got some fabbo ones in the offing, and it's probably worth getting them now before they sell out, especially if you are a bit, erm challenged in that area.

First of all, these aren't ballet shoes at all, but I love the idea of these as Summer work shoes

Friday, 7 March 2014

The art of tact...

I've never been a very tactful person and it's something I remember people commenting on from a young age. I don't have a filter, I never have done, and I have one of those faces that show exactly how I am feeling. I can't laugh unless something is funny, I can't smile unless I'm happy. I can't pretend to like someone if I don't. Sometimes it's put me at a disadvantage, but the people who do like me always know I will be honest with them and I do try my very best not to say hurtful things to people.

Recently I've noticed a similar trait in my oldest son. I was really shocked a few days ago when we were watching "Jungle Run" and he suddenly said, "that girl is fat" about one of the contestants. Although I don't mince my words, I would never talk about someone in that way and certainly not in front of him. I immediately spoke to him about how it wasn't kind to say that about someone and he was not to say that again. He was confused though, he explained that he'd been learning about staying healthy and that if we eat too much of the wrong food we get fat. I couldn't disagree with that, but it did lead me to question what else he might be coming out with..I didn't have to wait long.

A few days later we were at an after school club and he felt the need to inform one of the other children about their physical disability, loudly. I was absolutely mortified and immediately apologised to the child's mum who just said she gets it all the time and she wasn't at all bothered. But I was. Then the very same day he said to his Daddy, "you have a big belly" which was just totally unncessary too.

I'm cringing just thinking about it but it made me think - where is the line between being honest and being hurtful. He was saying things that were true, but to me they were hurtful comments that people should keep to themselves. Where is the line between telling the truth and being insulting and rude and more to the point, how do I teach him not to cross it?

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Go Bradford Team Honk!

I'm not really one for sports. Or charity. Or charity for sports for that matter, but this year has been a bit different to everything that has happened before. With my new found awareness of what it means to be a person of integrity and how that is the only true path to true self worth, I had to say yes. So this Thursday and Friday, I will be the holder of the baton! Yes the baton that has passed from blogger to blogger, through sweat and tears, from Landsend to John O 'Groats and goes by the name of Team Honk and is in aid of Sport Relief!G


http://teamhonk.org/
"The first ever Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Games take place from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd March 2014. The public can join the fun and games by running, swimming or cycling their way to raising cash at over a thousand venues around the country, including the landmark events at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

As one of the biggest fundraising events, Sport Relief brings the entire nation together to get active raise cash and change lives. The money raised by the public is spent by Comic Relief to help transform the lives of some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people both at home in the UK and across the world."

I don't do this sort of thing normally, so it would be lovely to be sponsored by, someone, if you can our page is here>> http://my.sportrelief.com/sponsor/bradfordteamhonk
 and you can also text HONK to 70005 and donate £5 to Sport Relief .

Our aim is to raise £20,000 for Sport Relief and lots of people are doing tremendously creative things like Morris Dancing their way through their leg, hula hooping, rafting and the like. I will be running in usual running gear plus one toddler in a pushchair. There are over 200 bloggers involved, plus their (long suffering!) family and friends, and it promises to be a huge event. The route and masterplan is here and you can see exactly what is going on where and I'll be taking part in the Bradford leg.

When I've done my leg, I'll report back on what happened and how it went! WHOOP, go me!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Win a Holiday with Cosmos!

When it comes to holidays, usually I can take or leave them. For me, it usually means endless weeks of preparation beforehand, then endless weeks of putting-away when we get back. For parents of young children, it soon becomes obvious that holidays take on a completely different approach. It's not so much lay back and enjoy the sun as stand up and run around with a moments rest for a week. Having said that, the time is very precious to me since we don't often get to spend that long together as a family these days what with work and school.

Having said that, I'm never one to look a gift horse in the mouth and if I had a chance to actually win a holiday I would certainly go for it! Cosmos are offering one lucky winner the chance to win either a skiing holiday to Austria, or a tropical paradise holiday to Sharm El Sheikh - do you embrace the cold or would you rather board a plane and head for the nearest tropical paradise? Find out whether you have a Snow or Go personality and be in with a chance of winning!

https://www.facebook.com/CosmosHolidays/app_759200040772588



Enter here for a chance to win!

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The perfect family holiday down route 66





Going away on holiday is the perfect remedy for every family who get the opportunity to spend quality time together away from the hectic rigours of daily life. From long hours and sleepless nights looking after a young child to working extensive hours in the workplace to earn a living for themselves and their family, each aspect of being a parent can take its toll. The number of holidays enjoyed every year may come down to finances and the amount of holiday period granted through an employer, but getting away can help a family to expose themselves to many areas of the world and bond as they share many happy memories. Families may choose to travel to another area of the country they live in, but opting to take in the culture and surroundings of another country can be a life-changing experience.



The Las Vegas experience



Las Vegas remains an attractive proposition for any traveller or family, as it is famous for its array of luxurious casinos that light up the night sky and generates considerable levels of tourism as gamblers from all areas of the world come to experience the pinnacle of gambling. Although progressive slots are particularly popular across online casinos, it does not replicate the actual experience of being in America's most popular city. It would be easy to believe that Las Vegas is purely for those who enjoy a flutter in the casino, but the city actually provides a plethora of activities and entertainment that are tailor-made for a wonderful family holiday. Children can enjoy a trip through Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Gamesworks which is far removed from the hectic casino environment. A considerable number of entertainment shows, such as musicals, magic and comedy, are held every day across Las Vegas, with free entry offering enjoyment and laughter for the whole family will enjoy. Families can also partake in a number of thrill-seeking outdoor activities that are ideal for parents to interact and participate with their children, with rides at the Strastosphere Tower, helicopter rides across the Grand Canyon and rafting down the Colorado River to name but a few examples of fun activities to do.



Driving down route 66



Going away on holiday with children carries an extra level of responsibility and care for parents as they remove themselves from the comfort zone of their home area and travel to another area or country. Playing fun, sing-along music can help to create fond memories for the whole family and make a holiday more special. While the majority of holiday packages for families are based upon accomodation in a resort or theme park, route 66 offers a driving alternative that carries steep historical and spiritual value. Spanning nearly 2,500 miles, Route 66 runs throughout the heart of America and is widely recognised as the country's most famous road, with its folklore featuring within popular culture to further emphasise its grandeur appeal. Travelling down Route 66 will allow families to see how America has evolved over nearly 100 years, with remnants of previous existing signposts, structures and now derelict buildings seen along the route. Families can enjoy the traditional qualities of America with a number of gas station, cafes and restaurants available across the route to offer travellers a refreshing drink, bit to eat and gas refill to carry on their way. Many of the buildings along the road have been restored thanks to government intervention, with Delgadillo's Snow Cap Drive-By in Arizona a particularly popular tourist shop for families to buy souvenirs to remember their experience of route 66.


This is a guest post

Staying in or out?

One of the mums at school today was asking me about my social life, i.e. did I have one. I have always enjoyed going "out", be it for a meal with my hubby or out for posh drinks. I don't go out very much, so I don't scrimp when I do. Last night Hubby and I ventured out to see the new Trinity Shopping Centre in Leeds. It's a bit sad to want to go out and do that you might think, but actually to us Leodites it's pretty special. Weirdest of all were that there were all these people out in the new bars and restaurants that made me think, "where were you before? Who knew that there were so many Mumford and Sons lookalikes in one city!". I guess for a long time Leeds has been resting on its laurels a bit, I never really know where to go when we go out so we normally end up spending a bomb somewhere like the Blackhouse Grill. It was nice to see more of a mix of people and ages in places like Friends of Ham and the Alchemist. That will be of no interest at all though to anyone reading this who has never been to Leeds. Anyway, we had a nice time.
Leeds Trinity, very good, I like it.
Thing is, going out ain't what it used to be. I remember being all excited about a night out, for like, days. These days according to a recent survey it's more about sore feet and queuing for ages at bars, or not being able to find the toilet, or having your purse stolen or something. Actually that describes most of my nights out when I was 18 (erm 16, alright, 15). Maybe staying in is the new going out? You can have nice drinks, be warm and comfy, save lots of money, invite who you want round, go to bed when you want and best of all, no queuing for the toilet (hopefully). I reckon this is what most of the Mumford and Sons-ites were doing before these cool new bars with grass in jam jars were opened, biding their time at home, waiting for something decent to come along. When we bought our first house, we were forever inviting people over for dinner parties and it was really cool, maybe we should again? I guess now, most of our friends have children so it's a bit tricky to go out in the evening, and if you're going to get a babysitter then I guess you would rather go out than stay in someone's house. 

Maybe we should investigate this staying in with style, especially as the summer draws on, inviting our lovely neighbours round for BBQs whilst little ones sleep on sofas, like the good old days, yes, maybe staying in IS the new going out....


Sunday, 16 February 2014

Train for the tracks! At the National Railway Museum!

Being the mother of two small boys I am no stranger to a train track. Many a Sunday has been spent looking for an elusive Thomas related engine, or watching "Misty Island Rescue". But nothing beats seeing a real life steam engine in person - which is why we love the National Railway Museum in York!

We were lucky enough to be invited along to the NRM yesterday for their half term event "Train for the Tracks" - we had a great time exploring lots of different railway jobs, but first we tried an authentic railway man's lunch...

 Black pudding pastries and sausage rolls with a twist went down a treat, as did some fun train playing in the Duchess Suite.


After a little rest, we went to have a look at the rest of the events. Firstly we had a look at the amazing engines, this mainly involved running round after our two year old. Weep.



We found the British Transport Police stand and practised dressing up which the boys loved..
We then tried doing our own finger prints - son 1 did these in different colours which looked lovely.


We dressed up as station guards and had great fun waving flags then had a play with a huge Chuggington play area where we made ramps and had races.

Aside from what we did, there was also the opportunity to climb aboard steam engines, build bridges, and lots more! Children were loving it and we enjoyed seeing our children happy and enthusiastic - well worth a visit! 
Free entry, 15 - 23 Feb 2014, nrm.org.uk/half-term
All thoughts are my own though we were given lunch and free parking.

Friday, 14 February 2014

How to renew your google blogger vanity domain!

So it's that time of year again, when I have to shell out for the pleasure of being pret-a-mummy.com rather than pret-a-mummy.blogspot.com. The former, for the uninitiated, is what's known as a vanity domain, the idea being that it looks a bit more professional I guess, and gives your blog a bit more of an identity perhaps. The only downside, as far as  I know, of having a vanity domain is that you have to pay for it. Mine costs me about $10 a year, so it's not too bad, whereas the blogspot.com domain is free, which is how most bloggers start out.

Up until this year, the process of renewing my domain and paying the $10 was super easy - google sent me a reminder to my inbox, I clicked on it and then paid through an app called "google wallet". However it seems that google wallet is now no more and instead google have replaced it with a ridiculously complex system that no-one quite understands. Until now! Yes, I am going to take you through a step by step guide of renewing your google blogger domain, and it's pretty easy actually, once you know how.

Firstly, you will not be able to pay for your domain with the gmail account that is attached to your blog, that would be just too easy. Instead you have to find out what your admin email address and password is. If you try and use your normal gmail account you will see this.


 Never heard of that before? No me neither. So here's what you do to access your google admin account.
 

  •  Enter the code and click submit.
  • It will then send an email to your back up account asking you to reset your admin password. Make sure you check the correct account - this is whatever account you have on your gmail account as your back up.  If you're not sure which account that is, go into your gmail account and in settings-accounts there is the following page - click on the circled bit you can see in the image below and check what your alternate email address is (what I call back up account) - the email has been sent there. However, sometimes the password reset email just goes to your blogger gmail account, so check them all!
 

  •  Click on the link in the email and it will take you to a reset password page, just so you know, your admin email address will most probably be apps-admin@domain so mine is
    apps-admin@pret-a-mummy.com
  • It will then ask you to sign in AGAIN with your apps-admin account, then go to billing and make the payment for your domain. Again, this isn't easy and it may be easier to just go back to the reminder email you've had and click on the link on that. If you go to "billing settings" you can add payment details there, I clicked autorenew as it seemed to prefer it.
  • When the payment for my domain has been taken in a few days I will probably delete my card details, just in case....

There you have it! PHEW! Why did they make it so difficult? If you have any problems, let me know and I will try to help if I can :P

Monday, 3 February 2014

Learn at home with Collins and Letts

Many years ago when I was studying for my GCSEs and A Levels I discovered these handy little things called study guides. Turned out you didn't actually need to concentrate in class that much when you have them, you could basically teach yourself the entire syllabus and still do pretty well. In fact, that's what I did. With the exception of RE and English, I pretty much taught myself the entire syllabus first with my GCSEs then with my A Levels. I'm not ashamed to say that I wasn't swotting away in the library, I was cramming at home, learning parrot fashion everything I needed to know. This worked for me as I have a really good memory and I learned really good memorisation techniques. I did pretty well and even managed a "B" at A Level Chemistry which was previously unheard of at Wakefield College. Happy days! However I soon found that this studying technique only got me so far, in fact, at degree level I was totally out of my depth and found that my high grades didn't actually get me anywhere, since learning by memorisation doesn't do you that much good at a higher level. Anyway, bad times, and I like to think I've developed intellectually (!) since then. Probably not. Anyway, the point is that all my study guides were either Letts or Collins - thank you for helping me pass my exams!

But anyway, enough about me, I was really pleased to receive these lovely Letts and Collins books for my son a few weeks ago...
Collins and Letts goodies!
We got to work straight away on the Lett's handwriting book and maths book - as a teacher I was really impressed with how consistent it was with the curriculum and also how much thought had gone into making them enjoyable for children.


I've actually been looking for something to do with him at home just to help with his fine motor skills a bit so this work really well.

We were also sent some Collins books which I really like - I think boys particularly love non fiction and it was great to see my boys flicking through these and asking questions. Some of them even contain stickers and as you can see, these have gone down a treat!

Space stickers, gone!





I was really impressed with the quality of these books and feel sure we will be using them for weeks to come! At a price of bnetween £3.99 and £9.99 each I think these are really good value - to get your own go to Collins.co.uk. 

These were sent to me for review purposes but all thoughts and opinions are my own - and my children's!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Moments that matter...

January is always a good month for reflection, for thinking about the year that has passed and planning for the year ahead too. Photos are a really good way to think about the past and remember happy times.  I know I don't take nearly enough photos these days, I really need to get myself a decent camera. Many of the happy times last year were over the summer - it gets pretty cold in winter in our part of the world and we pretty much hibernate in our house until March. We had some happy times on holiday in France - swimming every day, picnics, wine, boat rides and just spending time together. Something we probably don't do enough of. I've been invited to take part in Lloyds Bank moments that matter and I've been thinking carefully about what makes a moment matter and how to make more of them. Sometimes when you have young children, it almost becomes that it's not worth going out at all, since it often end up being either stressful or expensive, or worst of all, both.

It sounds cliche, but  quite obviously the moments that matter the most are those spent with people you love - but it's not always about people who "love" you - it's also about spending time with people who have your best interests at heart.  One of the best things about being in your thirties is knowing the difference between the two. Having children has created lots of moments that matter - they are usually stressful moments that matter, but they are important nonetheless. Hopefully as our children grow older the moments that matter will grow and the stress will desist. Hopefully.

What are your moments that matter?

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Preparing for visitors - what to organise before their weekend stay



Often when we have visitors over for a weekend, it has been carefully planned and prepared for well in advance. And then there are other times when their arrival is sprung upon you at the last minute. Avoid the panic of last-minute guests and prepare your home for any eventuality by ensuring you have everything you need to be the perfect host.

Here you will find some of the most common questions people ask themselves when guests are coming to stay such as do I have enough room, are the towel rails stocked up and how am I going to feed all of these people! - and the best ways to answer them.

Where Will They Sleep?

Ensuring everyone has a comfortable bed for the night is a top priority for most. You need to think about how many adults you have, how many children, who will want to stay in a room with whom and even who is the loudest snorer. It is not out of the question to ask your prospective guests to bring extra bedding with them if you are running short. Just remember to have your own sheets and pillow cases washed before they arrive. No one wants to rest their head on a pillow that is covered in someone else’s hair.

What Will They Eat?

Providing enough food and drink for your guests is another important preparation you must think about. Most polite guests will bring along some treats with them to help share the load, but if they are travelling a long distance with a car full of people, there are limits to what they can bring. Easy to cook, freezer-ready food is a must-have if you’re being the host with the most, as you can whip out several dishes at once with minimal cooking. A supply of soft drinks and fruit juices is also a good way to go as you can cater for a variety of tastes. You should also check with your guests beforehand if any of them have any allergies or dietary requirements so you can factor this into your planning.

What Will We Do For Fun?

Entertainment is a tricky thing to plan in advance and sometimes the purpose of the trip relieves you of responsibility anyway. Your guests may be staying at yours while you attend a social event together, which negates any further planning on your part. However, the visit may just be a social call, in which case, you need some back-up plans. Games are always a good bet, whether it is a board game or console games you can play together. Or take a look at your local event websites and see if there are some fun activities happening nearby during their stay.

Do I Have Enough Towels?

This may seem like a minor point but you would be surprised at how many times we are caught unawares by this simple requirement. The fact is, people will want to shower, bathe and wash while staying at your house and using a damp towel is a serious no-no. Ensure you have a fully stocked airing cupboard filled with fluffy towels before your guests step foot through the door.

 This is a guest post.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Trendy Tips for 2014

While many of us usher in the New Year with resolutions for prosperity and health, we often forget to include the most important space within our plans—the home. Energising a tired space doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. By simply de-cluttering and reorganising you can transform your home into a sanctuary for your entire family to enjoy. Sprucing up your furniture can also have a tremendous impact on the quality of your home life. Let’s take a look at how to make your space the epitome of form and function for 2014.
Less Is ‘In’
Fashion mavens are calling 2014 the year for minimalism. What exactly does this mean? Minimalism, on the fashion scene, is defined by clean lines, subdued embellishments, and gravitation towards modern motifs. Before you even consider jumping on the minimal bandwagon, the first thing to do is clean out your clutter. Old and unwanted items should not take up valuable real estate in your home. If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of junk you have, set aside one hour per day to separate the salvageable from the scraps. It may be helpful to divvy things up into three categories: sell, donate, and toss. Local charity stores will often take your unwanted junk and allow you to write it off in your taxes. Otherwise you can have a yard sale or if you’re at your wits end, just toss it out. Once this part is done, the rest is a breeze! Remember, it’ll be worth the effort when you see your clean slate. 
Furniture Face-Lift 
 Want to give your old furnishings a new lease on life but don’t know how? Transforming a table or end piece from drab to fab is simple with these two techniques:
            Staining: The staining process is ideal for wooden tables and chairs. As opposed to painting, staining a piece allows the wood grain to stand out. The process is relatively painless, if you’re in a do-it-yourself mood. Sand down the initial coating with sandpaper and then apply a wood conditioner. After the conditioner has enough time to soak in evenly rub on the wood stain.
            Stripping: Stripping old furniture is a bit more dangerous because of the chemicals involved but the outcome can be well worth it. Stripped wood has an air of elegance and simplicity that’s sure to please any fan of the modern look.
If you’ve exhausted your options and would rather invest in a new piece, then consider purchasing one directly from the manufacturer. That way you’ll avoid the middle man and the price padding that gets added by agents, importers and high street stores. Made.com has modern yet functional chairs that fit right in 2014’s minimalist theme. These subtle upgrades will translate to major benefits in the long run. 
Image courtesy Made.com

So, eliminate years of clutter by organising and rearranging unwanted items, then give your furniture a face lift by either refurbishing old pieces or purchasing new ones direct from the maker.

 This is a guest post

Monday, 27 January 2014

Self Worth...

About two years ago, I wrote what is now my most visited post of all time - The Loneliness of Motherhood. When I look at my stats I can see the search terms people use to discover this post and it makes me really sad. Are we a nation of lonely people who cannot reach out to others? Without a decent support network or simply anyone to talk to? Like a lot of people, I am proud in my loneliness, that is not to say that I am proud of being lonely, but simply that I would never want to accept sympathy or false friendship because occasionally being alone makes me sad.  I have certainly found as I've got older that people seem to be more and more concerned with what is going on in their own lives, and turn a blind eye to whatever is going on out side of their immediate circle. I guess it's a coping strategy.

For me though, I feel I've gone the other way. I guess as I've "matured" I've become less egocentric and more concerned for others, my empathy levels seem heightened to a level where I almost can't bear it and I desperately want to help others in need. I've stopped judging people harshly and feel ready to excuse people when they behave badly. What I've learned is that we never know what's going on in the background of someone's life and the struggles and challenges they face.

I learned something really important recently - true self worth only comes from living a life of integrity. Recently I had the opportunity to avoid something that was going to be really hard for me, I could have got out of it and pretended it had nothing to do with me. That something was the decision I took to save our local children's centre. Just before Christmas with the support of another group doing the same thing for their local centre, I started an e-petition and submitted it to the council. I only got 76 signatures in the end but that was enough for me to be invited to full council and present my case. I started attending the children's centre in Bingley some years ago; it is the only place I have ever felt accepted since we moved here 6 years ago - the mums there are really kind and friendly, I like the fact that the families who attend have a mixture of backgrounds and it works really well. Without the children's centre I would be even more lonely than I already am. I guess you could say that my motives were selfish in wanting to keep the centre open, but the services it provides for vulnerable and not so vulnerable people in our community are utterly vital.

I've done some scary things, like travelling alone and living abroad - but this was the most terrifying thing I have ever done. I prepared a speech and spoke to the entire council in "chamber", I was addressed by the Lord Mayor, I was totally terrified and could hardly speak. Anyway, I put my case across and even got some "here heres", at about three points during my speech I was almost overcome with emotion, but I got to the end somehow. I totally believed in what I was doing and the right of it, and the day afterwards I felt utterly elated.
Yes it was like being in court, I spoke in the raised section at the back of the photo.

A feeling like that you don't get from:-
  • excluding others.
  • showing off about what you have.
  • shouting someone else down and forcing your opinion on them.
  • making others miserable by your actions.
  • talking about your achievements.
  • earning lots of money
  • having a huge house
  • having a lovely car.
I can confirm that doing the right thing is the only path to true self worth and it's a journey I now find myself on. That's not to say I won't stray or make mistakes, but I can see my future so much more clearly now and it's a future I can look forward to.  Even if the decision is taken to close the children's centre I can honestly say that I tried my best to stop that happening.

What are your experiences of self worth and self esteem? How would you define them?

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

January Hamper Bargains!

One of the best parts of the sales, if you are a "foodie" like me, is buying up all the cut price hampers and food related gifts at amazing prices. This year, for whatever reason, there seem to have been more of these bargains than ever before! Here are some of my top finds online and instore, best snap them up!
1) Thorntons have some amazing deasl on chocolate goodies after Christmas, I like this

Thorntons Christmas Mega Bundle - £30
Christmas gift mega bundle which is only £30. It's great to just have "in" for occasional presents for the entire year as the sell by dates are really good. Bargain! There are lots of others too. The chocs are really nice and there really is something for everyone in here. It's such a good deal and the usual Thorntons quality you might expect.

2) Waitrose are doing a Christmas Cheer Box at £15 from £30. What's not to like? Nice wine, nibbles, Christmas Pudding, love it!
Christmas Cheer Box Waitrose £15
3) I probably wouldn't buy this for myself, but Selfridges are doing a Christmas Taster Hamper for £67 (was £100).
This includes:-

  • Daylesford Christmas Taster hamper

  • Prosecco 75cl

  • Organic sparkling apple juice 75cl

  • Organic Scottish shortbread selection in a tin 330g

  • Organic Christmas pudding 900g

  • Organic Christmas marmalade 227g

  • Organic lemon & ginger curd 227g

  • White chocolate & red berries 65g
  • Pricey, but sounds amazing.

    4) Now this could be hideous, but it seems a good buy? I'm not sure, anyway BHS are selling off their Festive Sparkling Hampers for £48, this include:-
    • Sol Club Bucks Fizz (75cl),
    • M&M Cava (75cl),
    • McGuigan Sparkling Shiraz (75cl),
    • Moonstone Brut (75cl),
    • Moonstone Rose (75cl),
    • Robe D'Or (75cl). 
    I have to say, the Champagne would have to be really good to be worth this price.




    That's all I can find for now, spotted any other hamper deals?

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