Friday, 29 August 2014

What You Can Do To Improve You and Your Family's Life

With busy lifestyles and each family member having his or her “own thing”, we usually find it hard to connect and make quality time for our family. When everything seems to be the same day in and day out, perhaps you should consider different ways of improving you and your family’s life. You can bond with each other over pizza, or plan a three-day road trip with your teen. From simple to special, we have listed several tips on becoming a tighter, happier family.
Break out of the routine by doing something special.
Weekends are usually the time when teenagers sleep the day away or go out with friends, younger children watch cartoons the whole morning through, and parents try to accomplish as many chores as possible. Change your routine and do something new for a change. For example, wake up really early one weekend, prepare a thermos of hot cocoa, gather your family’s breakfast mugs, and wake them all up before first light. Tell them you’re all going for a drive, and that they should not take anything with them apart from what they’re wearing.
When it’s not too cold out, let them stay in their pyjamas; otherwise, coats and wellies are in order. Drive eastward to where you’ll have a great view of the rising sun. Take out the cocoa, hand each family member a mug, and simply take in the sun as it rises. It’s a great way to start the weekend together.
Eat together.
Busy families tend to spend less time together at the dinner table, but we all know that the best conversations usually happen over a meal. Open and strengthen communication lines by cooking and having meals together, or by having a weekend cook-off.
Team up and come up with challenging recipes, a quirky set of criteria for judging, and a blind taste test. You may be used to calling for takeaways or eating out, but if you really want to improve your family life, it’s best to do something meaningful, something your kids will remember even when they already have a family of their own. Who knows, it can become a tradition!
Go on a trip.
Best for families with older kids, a road trip can become the ultimate family vacation. This activity requires careful planning, and enables parents to give their children more responsibilities. There are plenty of bonding moments when you’re out in the open road or camping by a fire. Spending time with your kids away from distractions also gives you the opportunity to talk about your family, especially when you’re going through a rough patch.
Communicate.
Families, even the most tight-knit ones, aren’t without their share of squabbles. There may be fights, conflicts, misunderstandings, and a slew of other issues in between. Resolving the issue is not always easy, but one thing you have to remember is to keep communicating. Problems rarely resolve themselves when left alone; these can even create feelings of deep resentment. Talk things out, and make the family members involved know that what they have to say is important. It can be a silly or serious—what’s important is that at the end of the day, there is no love lost and you have an understanding and a solution.

 This is a guest post.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Neat and Tidy: Quick and Simple Tips to Save You Time

It’s often said that the kitchen is the heart of the home, but if you’re not careful, this part of your property can end up feeling more like a prison. After all, so many vital household tasks are completed within this space and it can take what feels like an age just to keep it clean and tidy. However, by following these simple tips, you should be able to streamline your chores, ensuring you’re able to spend more time relaxing with your family. 

 

Invest in a dishwasher

 

If you don’t yet have one, instead of slaving away at the sink why not get a dishwasher? These handy appliances can dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend keeping your washing up pile under control. It takes a matter of moments to load and unload the machines and dishwashers tend to do a more thorough job of cleaning crockery, cutlery, glassware and other items. As an added bonus, they can even help you to reduce your utility bills, if you use them carefully.

 

Sort your storage out

 

Because so much happens in kitchens, they can quickly become chaotic. This is why effective storage is so important. Simply installing user-friendly cabinets that pull out can save you time, stress and hassle, making it easier to find items and put them away again. Using dividers in your drawers also comes in handy. They help to keep things in order and mean you should spend less time searching for objects.

 

To take full advantage of the square footage available in your kitchen, full height cabinets and corner units are useful to have. Creating a home for all the items in this room makes keeping things in order much easier, and it’s especially important in busy family homes.

 

Prioritise a practical layout

 

Ideally, the three main areas within your kitchen — namely the sink, the cooker and the fridge — should be located close together. This ‘work triangle’ should be compact but not too small. Experts suggest making the distance between the three areas no less than four feet and no more than nine feet. Being able to move quickly and easily between these stations will really speed things up. Of course, you can only work with the shape and size of kitchen that you have, but you should certainly bear this principle in mind.

 

By following advice like this, you stand to complete your daily kitchen tasks and cut out a whole lot of hassle. A complete kitchen revamp can prove pricey, but if your budget’s under strain, you can make the changes gradually.

 

Karen Jean is a mum of four and part-time receptionist and can’t stand a messy home. When not tidying up after the kids, she likes to relax with a glass of red wine and a good book.

 

Monday, 18 August 2014

In defence of boys....

In years gone by, like most people I had a vision of what my future life would be like.  I pictured shopping trips with my very co-operative daughter, followed by lattes and pizza express. I did not, not once, picture myself putting together Ninja Turtles, doing drop offs at Beavers and giving instructions about how to use a urinal. Yet, this is my fate.

When we had our first son, we broke the "middle class code" and found out what gender our baby was going to be. I am way too impatient to wait for something as interesting as that. I was happy to find out we were having a boy since we would almost certainly be having another one, and there was every chance I would get a girl right? Wrong.

Again, breaking the unspoken code of people who deal with delayed gratification - we found out the gender of our second child - a boy. I remember shedding a year afterwards and thinking, oh no, I have to go through all of this and it's ANOTHER boy! How silly I was.

Actually having two boys has loads of benefits. First, it is cheaper, as they are into the same things (hopefully). It's a friend for life, a buddy to go through things with, stick up for, fight and wrestle with, learn from and teach.  I actually quite like being the only girl in our family as it means I get special treatment and they adore me. They are totally straightforward and show their emotions (sometimes too much) in a very frank way. I never have problems working out what's going on with them, as it's so obvious. They've actually taught me quite a few things - aside from totally changing our lives, they've taught me not to care so much, since they clearly don't care what anyone thinks - at all!



So boys are pretty awesome. I wouldn't change them for the world and actually Son 2 slotted into our family quite beautifully. Son 1 has a playmate and they do everything together, I am pleased that, most of the time, they are best friends and miss each other massively. I am actually quite envious of their relationship as it's something I never had as a child, and I often felt very lonely.

Here's to boys!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

How to manage the summer heat in your garden.

The recent spell of hot weather has been glorious. Unfortunately, extreme temperatures aren’t too good for gardens. Certain sections of the population, mainly the very young and the elderly should also take some sensible precautions in the sun.

 

Summer health risks for humans

 

If you intend to enjoy your garden during the summer, try not to sit in direct sunlight between the hours of 11am and3pm. The sun is at its hottest during this time and you really should take advantage of the shade to avoid its harmful rays and extreme heat.

 

Take measures to keep yourself well hydrated by drinking plenty of water too. Conditions including sunstroke,dehydration and heat exhaustion are all too common during the summer months, so make sure you take adequate steps to prevent against this.

 

Create a shady garden

 

The UK is known as a green and pleasant land thanks to William Blake and Britain’s temperate climate. A few weeks of prolonged summer sun and heat will soon transform your verdant lush lawns into a dry patch of scrub, so it’s important you stay on top of garden maintenance.

 

One way of coping with this is to water your lawn every evening, and when you do mow the grass, try not to cut it too short. Create a shady alcove by planting Cornus(dogwood) and jasmine, which are hardy plants that produce beautiful flowers.

 

If you’re worried that you’re too old to pick up a plough, then think again! Recent research reported by retirement home experts McCarthy & Stone have revealed that one fifth of Brits don’t class themselves as ‘old’ until the age of 90! McCarthy & Stone’s retirement homes often come with landscaped gardens that are cared for by the firm too – so you won’t be expected to tend large patches of lawn yourself.

 

Hanging baskets need a lot of love

 

Whether you grow fruit or flowering plants in your hanging baskets, they will need attention from the watering can in order to withstand the rigours of the hot sun. If possible, try and water your baskets in the early morning and repeat the exercise in the evening once the sun has started to go down.

 

You can even add a couple of ice cubes to the soil as the water from these will evaporate slowly and give your plants more moisture.

 

Compost can catch fire

 

If you have a compost heap in a plastic bin and keep on topping it up with plant debris and grass cuttings, you should be aware that in some extreme circumstances the grass cuttings could catch light if placed under direct sunlight. Make sure that you keep your bins in the shade and turn the pile over on a regular basis.

 

Don’t forget to nurture your pond

 

Anyone who has an ornamental pond in their garden should make sure that the pond water is regularly topped up. Tepid water is better than very cold, as this won’t shock the fish with a sudden change in temperature.

 

A garden in the summer can be a delight, and if you follow these guidelines you’ll still be able to sit outside and enjoy its beauty.


This is a guest post. 


Friday, 25 July 2014

Take a Romantic Mini Break this Summer



We all know that relationships need investing in to keep them alive and thriving, but sometimes work, kids and just life in general can get in the way. We all lead super busy lives, which means that romance can often be left languishing on the back burner.
Being spontaneous is a great way to stoke those fires of passion, and what could be better than a exciting last minute mini break to give you the opportunity to spend quality time together? Just wait for the weekend (or book a couple of days off work), decide where you want to go and pack a bag!
If you need a little bit of inspiration to get your juices flowing, here are three of the best city break destinations for romance – and some handy tips to make the most of your time together. For more spontaneous getaway suggestions, take a look at the new Travelodge Get Up and Go guide:

Edinburgh
The Scottish capital is a wonderfully romantic city, with its cobbled town centre and the stunning surrounding countryside. Feel like King and Queen of the castle, wander the medieval Old Town or take in fine art at the Scottish National Gallery. If the sun is shining in your favour, why not pick up a picnic from a deli on the Royal Mile and head to the dramatic landscape of Holyrood Park. Or sit among the flowers at the Royal Botanic Garden and let love bloom and blossom.
Edinburgh’s Travelodges make a great base in the city – proving that getting away doesn’t have to cost a fortune. You’ll get a comfy bed for the night and have plenty of cash spare to spend on those little treats that make a weekend away extra special.

York
The historic city of York definitely lends itself to romance, with its winding streets, world famous chocolate shops and beautiful green spaces. The York Chocolate Story Tour is guaranteed to leave you feeling sweet, and, if you’ve got any hints you’d like to drop, a visit to the breathtaking York Minster is a must. A wander of the Shambles, hand in hand, is sure to see you picking up some trinkets to remember your trip by – or, if you and your beloved share a thrill-seeking side, clinging to each other in the York Dungeons will get that adrenalin pumping!

Bath
Bath is a beautiful place to escape for a lost weekend, especially if some rest and relaxation is on the cards. Book a couple’s massage at the Thermae Bath Spa before heading up to the rooftop thermal pool which boasts incredible views across the rooftops of the city – an evening dip is especially romantic, so enquire about the twilight package.
During your loved-up stay in Bath you can also step back in time at the Roman Baths Museum, explore Bath Abbey, picnic in Royal Victoria Park and experience Georgian luxury at No 1 Royal Crescent.
Make time for romance. Squeeze in a spontaneous mini-break to escape the stresses and strains of everyday life, and give your relationship a renewed lease of life.

This is a featured post.


Monday, 21 July 2014

Break time!

We are desperately in need of a break! Usually around this time of year as it's our anniversary we make sure we make time to take some time out - but not this year. At the moment we are in the throes of trying to sell our house and it's all go go go with viewings, obsessively looking on Rightmove, that sort of thing.

However I am determined we will go away SOMEWHERE just the two of us, and I'm starting to do some research!I really like the idea of staying in one of the many Henley Hotels as it's somewhere I've never been before and we can really make a weekend of it! While we are there it's nice to look at the history of the place:-

"The first Henley Regatta was held in 1839. Prior to then the same stretch of river had been used for the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race along with other events. In its early days the Regatta was more about socialising and entertainment than sport and initially was just a single afternoon event.  As its popularity grew more events were added and its duration was gradually extended until 1986 when it became a five day event, which it has remained to this day."

I love stuff like this, it's really Pimms and cucumber which we don't really have up north all that much! The Regatta was before national or international rowing federations and consequently it is unique in the world of competitive rowing and has it own set of rules that are not governed by  either British Rowing of the International Rowing Federation, whoever it is recognised by both bodies.

 I'd really love to go to something like this and I think I've got in mind exactly where we will spend our anniversary this year! It's really nice to do something a bit different and see a different side to English life - even though it's only a few hours from Yorkshire. I love learning about the heritage of it all, having a few much needed glasses of Pimms and enjoying a good row! What more could you want?! In collaboration with Superbreak

Friday, 11 July 2014

Time Off - Online!


If you're reading this blog you probably know how rewarding it is having kids - but you'll also know that to appreciate it (and stay sane) you have got to make time to relax at some point!

 

It's amazing to think that, fifteen years ago or thereabouts, we were all just starting to get into this internet business. Now it's everywhere, and we're literally carrying stuff around in our pockets that would have been science fiction when I was growing up. Weird to think that children now will never know anything different!

 

One of the brilliant things about modern smartphones and iPads and the like, is that we can grab a bit of downtime when we get the chance - that's so important for mums of young kids (or any age kids, really), as it means we can take the opportunity when we get it. If your kids have a nap after lunch, you can use your phone for half an hour of Words With Friends, Angry Birds, or even to play bingo online. Imagine having to run out to a bingo hall a few years ago if you fancied a game! Now that wireless is everywhere, even the hassle of getting on the internet in the first place is gone.

 

The way the technology has changed is amazing. I remember the phone I had ten years or so ago - a tiny black-and-white screen and that was about it. It seems like phones got as small as they were going to get shortly after that, and suddenly, as everyone started getting online on their phones, and the graphics got better, everyone wanted bigger screens. Apple's next iPhone is supposed to be coming with a bigger screen and I'm quite tempted...

 

also remember the days when the internet was basically just sites that told you stuff. Now there's a forum for just about everything (various parenting ones spring to mind!) and everyone can contribute. It's the sharing of information that makes going online so different these days - nobody, including new parents who often feel like they don't know what they're doing, needs to feel alone.

 

At the moment though, for me it's the ability to "tune out" when the moment presents itself that I value most. With two small boys I never quite know when it's going to be, but as long as I've got my phone to hand I'm always going to be ready!

 

 (Image courtesy of mashable.com)

 

 

(This post is in collaboration with Ryan James)

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

100 Day School Uniform Guarantee!

My son seems to get through school uniform like there's no tomorrow. The trousers seem to definitely fare the worst - they go at the knees AND the hem, I am forever chucking them away and buying new ones! Now, it seems totally familiar to see him in his school uniform but I remember his first day at school like it was yesterday.

Look at that shiny new uniform! Compare this to my first day at school with my friend Helen thirty years previously.
My first day at school in 1983

 I remember this day still very clearly. My mum took me and my friend Helen to school on our first day, we were in different classes and actually I was the older by five months. Later we would grow to be exactly the same height - five foot eight, and in fact Helen was one of my bridesmaids many years later. How silly putting four year olds in a tie! But there you are.

There's something definitely special about a "first day at school". I guess it's the end of an era, a big transition between staying at home with mum and venturing into the big wide world.

Anyway, back to uniforms wearing out in two minutes! I buy all my uniforms from George at Asda - they are one of the few uniform providers to make navy blue trousers which wash well and last 100 days! That might sound short but in the life of a school trouser it is very long indeed! In fact, if you have any issue at all with your uniform, Asda have a no quibble guarantee which is really reassuring.

George at Asda Navy Trousers only £3!


Where do you buy your school uniform?

This is a sponsored post although all thoughts are my own.

Monday, 7 July 2014

It's getting to the time now where we have to think seriously about moving house - the house we are in is over three storeys and although it's been GREAT for having a young family in, due to our age, if we want to get another 25 year mortgage then we realistically have to start thinking about moving SOON!

It's always going to be a stressful process, and in the past we've always gone for new builds which has been great - everything is perfect when you move in and there is NOTHING to do to it - the downside being that the value of the property does slide over the first few years. This time we're not going to make that mistake, we're not going to take the easy route and in fact we've already got our next house in mind! I'm a really impatient person and I know that when we do make the move, I'll want to have everything looking "perfect" (ish) as soon as possible. I think the way to do this is to get some ideas beforehand so it's not all last minute. I've been having a look at what to do with the bedrooms already and for the boys bedroom I like the idea of something bright and bold and think this quirky crocodile head is pretty awesome!


Singoli Crocodile Head

In keeping with the safari ish theme, I think this giraffe cushion is super cute and a great accessory!


Gola Children's Cushion

I've also come across quite a few lovely blogs on this very subject, I like this one here called My Little Lovebird, there are loads of great images on there with various ideas and concepts. Looking at blogs for home design ideas now seems like a total no brainer for me!

That's about as far as I've got thus far! If you spot any awesome kids bedroom stuff please leave a comment below!

Friday, 4 July 2014

Day out at Lightwater Valley!

Everyone loves a good theme part (secretly) and I must admit that before we had children, I don't think we would have considered visiting one. But do you know what? It's good fun! And now the boys are a bit older we can actually go on most of the rides with them and it's lovely to see the big grins on their faces after the log flume or mini rollercoaster, they think they've been really daring!

A few weeks ago we had the chance to put this into practice by spending the day at Lightwater Valley! It's quite near to our house, probably about an hours drive away - so we set off quite early to make the most of the day. I remember going to Lightwater Valley as a child with school and having a great time, it's nice to revisit old haunts with your own children years later I think.

When we walked through the ticket barriers, this little guy was on hand to greet us! I thought it was a nice touch, especially as my boys LOVE Angry Birds. They were thrilled!

Angry Birds Fun!
The fun times with Angry Birds continued when we went inside and were confronted with a whole Angry Birds section of the park! Awesome! There was even an indoor play area for when it's raining or gets really hot, complete with cafe for tired parents to relax. They also had some plasma screens on the wall so children could play the game, it was really high tech. Outside there was some pretty awesome games too where a voice would tell you to stand and you ran around stamping on various things, we liked it.

Angry Birds climbing frame

More Angry Birds stuff!
After that we ventured into the rest of the park, it was smaller than I remember but apparently they were having some development work done. I was surprised at how quiet it was - the staff said sometimes it's busy and somtimes quiet, you just never know. We rarely had to queue more than a few minutes for each ride which was GREAT with young children, we went on each ride several times!

Fun on the swings

There were LOADS of rides suitable for toddlers as these photos show, though there were some height restrictions on some rides it didn't affect our enjoyment at all. It was quite hard to get action shots of the children on the rides as they all came out blurry!

Looking serene on the swans.
We went on this ferris wheel several times!
One thing to add was how lovely the staff are at Lightwater Valley. We went to Drayton Manor recently and the staff could barely string a sentence together. The staff at LWV were kind, thoughtful and happy to have a chat between rides which I thought was a nice thing.

We had a typical fast food lunch in one of the cafes at lunchtime, there was plenty of choice including baked potatoes, pizzas, hot dogs that kind of thing. Not mega healthy but then that's what kids seem to like on days like that!


I noticed on the way out that plans are afoot at Lightwater Valley to redevelop the closed off area of the park into holiday homes which I think is a lovely idea! It's nice to see they are moving with the times and listening to what people want.

All in all we had a great time, the weather was fab, staff lovely, rides lots of fun - what more could you want!

I received these tickets as a gift but all thoughts are my own.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Karen Millen Sale Goodies!

I've been holding on SO long for the Summer sale, every year it seems to get earlier and earlier, traditionally it starts around the 30th June, not sure if that's a good thing or not?! I guess it is.

Anyway, I was lucky enough to be given a £75 Karen Millen Voucher as a gift at Christmas and unbelievably I've had the will power to hold onto it for 6 months in time for the Summer sale! Here's what I chose...

Karen Millen Palm Print Skirt £49
I had my eye on this when it was £99 so I was pretty happy to see it hat a full half price. I think it's a great thing to have in for an "any time" wear - fine for work, great for day, holidays, evening, the list goes on! It's nice to have a more formal structured skirt and if the quality is anything like the rest of Karen Millen's stuff it'll be awesome.
Snake Devore Top £25
I thought this top was a good buy and means I was within my £75 limit too! It might be a bit loose fitting for me so I'll see what it's like when it arrives!

I was REALLY tempted with this block heel sandals too, were £110 now £55. They looks pretty as well as practical.
http://www.karenmillen.com/two-part-block-heel-sandal/sale-footwear/karenmillen/fcp-product/221FS01176
Karen Millen Two Part Block Heel Sandal £55
 Have you spotted anything good in the sale yet this Summer?

Friday, 13 June 2014

My Capsule Wardrobe!

Every Summer I always have the same dilemma - what clothes shall I buy this year? Inevitably I end up stocking up on quantity at H&M and then getting better quality items at Karen Millen and Oasis. This year I was determined to be super organised, and also move out of my comfort zone a bit too, and I decided to buy only five or six items and sort of, mix and match them! Otherwise known as a capsule Wardrobe. Here is what I went for...

http://www.dorothyperkins.com/en/dpuk/product/dresses-203543/skater-dresses-2986066/floral-print-textured-ottoman-dress-2769686?bi=1&ps=200
Floral Print Dress from Dorothy Perkins, £22
http://www.topshop.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?searchTerm=gingham+jeggings&storeId=12556&productId=13370960&urlRequestType=Base&categoryId=&langId=-1&productIdentifier=product&catalogId=33057
Gingham Jeggings from Topshop, £22

http://www.dorothyperkins.com/en/dpuk/product/clothing-203535/tops-t-shirts-1974337/petite-white-lace-yoke-tee-2736675?refinements=Colour{1}~[white]&bi=1&ps=200
White peasant blouse from Dorothy Perkins, £22

http://www.dorothyperkins.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?searchTerm=pink+jumper&storeId=12552&productId=14069984&urlRequestType=Base&categoryId=&langId=-1&productIdentifier=product&catalogId=33053
Coral Texture Jumper from Dorothy Perkins, £22
So here I have many different looks I can go for! I can:-

- wear the dress on its own
- wear the dress with the jumper making it look like a skirt
- wear the dress with the white blouse, again making it look like a skirt
- wear the jeggings with the white blouse
- wear the jeggings with the jumper

Winner! I also bought a light blue shirt from Gap but I think it hindsight it was a mistake for me - it's not very structured so it sort of hangs off my narrow shoulders, strangely it's not on the Gap website but I do like wearing it over the gingham jeggings, but only tied at the waist over a white tee.

Shoes wise I'm all for buying a couple of new pairs of pumps each year, as even expensive ones get worn out. I like these and they also go perfectly with the items listed above!
H&M Ballet pumps £7.99
What do you think of the idea of a capsule wardrobe?

Monday, 9 June 2014

Get Your Garden Ready for Summer


Spring has well and truly sprung, and with summer just around the corner it's time to start thinking about getting your garden in shape for the warmer months. But if you're new to gardening, or perhaps don't know where to start, what should you do? Take a look:

Spring Clean

Just like your home, your garden needs a bit of a spring clean to get it back to looking its best after the winter months. Rain and wind take a lot out of the garden, and trees and bushes may well be overgrown thanks to all that rain they've been showered in, so take the chance to trim bushes and trees back, prune those plants and sweep up any fallen leaves. If you have a young family it's a great way to get the kids involved - give them a child-sized broom and encourage them to help sweep alongside you.

While you're in the mood for a little spring cleaning, make sure all your tables and chairs are wiped down, ready for you to enjoy the sun and eating outside again. Also give the windows a clean both inside and out, so you can see your garden in all its glory.

Give it a New Look

Perhaps you have grand designs for your garden and you dream of pretty rockeries, a vegetable patch and some pretty flower borders. Take time to plan what you want from your garden and make it work for you. Sketch out your garden and take some measurements so you know exactly where everything will go and you'll always have the measurements should you need to work out the amount of gravel you need or how long your garden bench (you'll find great value garden benches from ASDA) needs to be to fit exactly where you want it.

Planting

It's often rather confusing trying to work out what you should plant and when. At this time of year you should consider planting things like sunflowers, nasturtiums, poppies, cornflowers and Nigella. These will all add a great burst of colour once they have grown. But if you want that beautiful pop of colour in your garden immediately, pick up a few of the seasonal plants available in garden centres right now and fill borders, pots and hanging baskets with them.

In terms of vegetables you can sow beetroot, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, carrots, parsnips, peas, spinach, spring onions and salad leaves right into the ground. Inside the greenhouse you can sow sweetcorn, runner beans, courgettes, cucumber, kale and even melons. Add to that an inside and outside herb garden and you'll have a fantastic crop of fruit, vegetables and herbs that will last you all year round.

Like anything, if you plan exactly what you want to do in your garden, whether that's planting new seeds or laying some decking, you'll be able to create your perfect garden with just a little hard work. And won't it be worth it when you're sitting outside watching the sun go down with a glass of something chilled and bubbly in your hand.




Friday, 30 May 2014

My 1st Years Apron Review!

Everyone loves things that are easy peasy. One thing that I've always found rather difficult is choosing gifts for children, I never know what to do for the best? Do I get something that the child will like, e.g. plastic tat, or do I get something the parent will like, e.g. a nice outfit from M&S. It's a difficult one, usually I try to do a bit of both. Until now, I have discovered a really lovely online store that allows you to get something fun and useful for children's birthdays - introducing www.my1styears.com

I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to review something from My 1st Years and I chose a personalised art apron for my youngest son - he loves painting and always seems to be getting paint all over himself (and everywhere else too) so I thought this would be a nice choice. Best of all, the apron also includes a lovely paint set with matching brush - which he absolutely LOVED!

Anyway, onto my review. The apron and paint set arrived inside a lovely gift box, this is a really good idea as I like sending things direct to people online but it seems a total waste of money to pay for gift wrap. The box is free which I think is a great idea and makes the item seem a bit more special. Plus my boys were keen on using the box to create a space ship for their lego men so it was a total win win!

Inside the box there was the lovely apron complete with the paint set neatly tucked inside the apron's pounch, I was thrilled. The quality of the apron was outstanding and I loved the way his name had been embroidered so carefully and lovingly. The apron is totally wipe clean so I won't have to wash it, I think that's a total must.


He's already had a go at using the paints and I have to say, they were great. The paintbrush was also a "proper" one that he could use over and over again.

All in all I was really pleased with the apron and at £14.99 it's the perfect price for a present.


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Which Watch?

It's nearly Summer! Which means it's nearly my birthday. Which means it's time to look for presents for moi! There does come a time in every married couple's life when you simply run out of presents to buy one another. Then you have to start going over old ground and re-buying pressies you've already bought! This is what is happening to us, and what better to rebuy than a watch! Yes please!

I've had a look at The Watch Hut as a start and, as is expected, I'm thinking BLING!

I like this Michael Kor watch.
 
Michael Kor Watch £229
Ooh and I like this one too - this'd go GREAT with a black dress..



Don't you think watches are just PERFECT for a birthday present? Exactly the right price, shiny, potentially blingy and a bit "special", in a good way. I do have a nice watch, a REALLY expensive one but the thing is, it's so expensive that sometimes I think it sort of owns me, rather than vice versa. That's another good reason to get something in the "reasonable" bracket.

What do you think? When is the perfect time to be given a nice watch?


This is a sponsored post.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

#Morrisonsmum Bank Holiday Shop!

Bank holidays are pretty awesome. An extra day to lie in (LOL!), have a bit of a hangover, that sort of thing. Usually on a bank holiday weekend we try to plan our time carefully, maybe a weekend away, a party, a walk in the country - this year it coincided with Son 1's birthday, so we decided to make a bit of a day of it.

And wouldn't you believe it! As luck would have it I was chosen to be a #Morrisonsmum and have a little mosey round Morrisons to take a look at their new cheaper prices and to buy everything I need for an awesome family BBQ. Fun! I've always liked Morrisons as I think their meat and bread products are second to none. There are LOADS of Morrisons around here, mainly because we live near their HQ in Bradford (an invite would be nice Morrisons HQ!) and there is a REALLY nice store nearby in Guiseley that has the world's busiest supermarket cafe, so I'm well versed in the ways of Morrisons. Morrisons work with farmers to get the highest quality ingredients, and I think it really shows in their end product.

Now Morrisons have raised the bar again by promising to lower prices even more! Wherever you see a yellow sticker like this...





....so you can be sure the price is cheaper than any other supermarket, not just matched!

So here's some piccies of our shopping trip and some bargains we found!

3 sets of BBQ meat for £20, bargain!






No BBQ would be complete without some boozerino, and Morrisons have a fab selection, I liked this selection of bubbly, and half price champers, what's not to like!?



Half price champers at Morrisons


Our neighbour Paul (hello Paul!) put us onto this awesome French lager, it's low in alcohol and is great for a summer's day.
French Lager, bargain at £3.45


You can't see it in this picture so much, but one of the things I love about Morrisons is the steamy salad stuff, either way this is a bargain and good quality salad too!

Lovely garden stuff.
Since we're doing our garden up, I stocked up on some fun seeds, bird boxes, pots, that sort of thing.
Anyway, here's our looty (or is it booty?) when we got home.... all ready for dining al fresco!

oh and there's a haribo cake there for my son's birthday.

If you really want to impress when you're entertaining, consider my lovely little tip of smoked salmon bites!

  • Melba Toast (99p)
  • Cream cheese (choose brand own rather than Philadelphia, tastes the same and it's cheaper!) (£1)
  • Smoked Salmon (£3.49)
I made 16 smoked salmon bites which worked out at 35p a portion, bargain! Here's the finished result, pop on some cracked pepper for the full effect.

My Salmon bites 35p a portion
The quality of the smoked salmon was amazing, especially considering the price, I was super impressed.

Enjoying the scran.
I also made a potato salad but I am too embarrassed to put it on here as it does not look good.

Having a lovely BBQ with all those wonderful ingredients really put me in mind for the Summer ahead and I'm looking forward to more BBQs courtesy of our local Morrisons!

Disclosure

Morrisons have cut prices on over a thousand products and where you see a yellow marker in store and online which says the item is cheaper, you can be sure it is staying cheaper! They are cutting prices and not corners. I was sent gift vouchers from Morrisons to enable me to shop for this meal and produce this blog post though all opinions are my own.

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.






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