Saturday, 30 June 2012

Great garden moments competition entry

I have to admit you can't beat being outside in the good weather and the smell of a BBQ instantly conjures up images of lazy summer days spent with family and friends.

We have what I would call quite a small garden that unfortunately is overshadowed by a large conifer hedge so it limits what we can do in our outside space as nothing grows in its shadow sadly and our lawn is patchy to say the least but should I ever move (or the hedge move!) I would make sure I had....

A small allotment area for the children to grow their own vegetables and get involved with gardening...

.... and perhaps a swing and a sandpit as Little Man loves to play in the sand whenever he gets the chance...

But until then I shall have to make do with what I have and enjoy our local park.  You have to have dreams though and that is why I am entering the Furniture Village great garden moments competition in the hope of winning their great prize to start putting my garden ideas into practice.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Saturday is #satcap day don't you know....

A picture says a thousand words so the saying goes.  We all have a photo that is just crying out for a caption and here's mine for this week.

Why not link up your own Saturday is #Satcap day photo over on Mummy Mishaps by clicking on the badge below and see what words can be captioned to your photo masterpiece?


Frugal shopping - but pack your armour!

I know we are not the only family that are feeling the pinch financially.  Just listen to any radio news report to hear how families countrywide are having to cut corners to make ends meet.

With 6 people in our household the shopping bill is one of the major spends each week and whereas in more carefree financial times I would have chosen organic where possible those days are few and far between and more and more shopping is from the 'value' ranges or from our local market where fruit and vegetables are far cheaper than those in our local supermarket.

One way available to cut your shopping bills causes quite a stir where we live. Our major supermarket closes at 11pm (no 24 hour shopping here!) Each night a crowd will gather at around 8pm, not for a social get together, but more like a get it while you can and be quick party. For at 8pm is the time when the remaining items in the reduced section of the supermarket get there final reduction for the day and for many this means BARGAINS!

Although the food has a best before date of that day you can always freeze suitable items and with prices cut by up to 90% of what they would be on the non reduced shelf you can save yourself quite a sum.  Anything from sandwiches to cuts of meat and fish, bread and the like but with it comes the problem that has the supermarket Security Guard pacing up and down in anticipation.  The problem is the arguments and rows that happen.

Grown adults arguing over who had what and at times I have even seen items being taken out of some of the bargain hunters shopping baskets and deposited into anothers! It did make me giggle but on a serious note this is what these nightly frugal shoppers have come to in order to cut costs or has frugality taken on a whole new meaning?

If I happen to be in the supermarket at around 8pm (and trust me its not often as the regular frugal shoppers are a scary bunch if you try and get in on their turf!) I do go and see what is on offer in the reduced section and the same faces are there every time. Things have even got to the point where they do not reduce the items and stick the reduced prices on in front of them anymore but take anything to be reduced into the back room, reduce the prices, and return it to the cabinet.

In a country that sees families struggling to make ends meet at every turn is it any wonder shoppers are prepared to wait around for reductions?  When a piece of Salmon, for instance, that was £6 can be reduced to 60p this is frugal shopping at its best (and worse).  So when you are in the supermarket later in the evening and you see a crowd it may just be final reductions time.  Join in and grab a bargain but be warned - you may need armour protection from the regulars.

But how far would you go for a bargain?

Monday, 25 June 2012

Hornby celebrates its London 2012 range in style at Hamleys

Last weekend we were invited to have a look at the Hornby London 2012 range at a bloggers event. Where better to showcase the range than at Hamleys in London?

After heading to the Capital city we were soon in one of the largest toy shops you can imagine where we, amongst others, were treated to a VIP tour of the world famous toy store in all it's glory and even got to meet the Olympic mascot Wenlock.  On our tour we were bombarded with toys from every direction from Build A Bear to Batman, the children were in toy heaven!

Hornby, event, Hamleys, London 2012, Team GB, merchandise, Trains, velodrome set, toys

Hornby, event, Hamleys, London 2012, Team GB, merchandise, Trains, velodrome set, toys

The displays at Hamleys are quite amazing and really add to the whole experience. You can see why people travel from far and wide to visit.

Hornby, event, Hamleys, London 2012, Team GB, merchandise, Trains, velodrome set, toys

After our VIP tour of the store we headed to the 3rd floor party room for some snacks and an up close chance to see the Hornby London 2012 range complete with the Scalextric Velodrome cycling set which is the first and only Team GB set which unlike traditional sets which have cars powering round the track, this set has two miniature cyclists dressed in Team GB outfits and is an Official Product of Team GB.

Hornby, event, Hamleys, London 2012, Team GB, merchandise, Trains, velodrome set, toys

Also included in the Hornby London 2012 range is the London 2012 Train Set which was whizzing round the track in the party room....

Hornby, event, Hamleys, London 2012, Team GB, merchandise, Trains, velodrome set, toys

As part of the fun on the day 5 lucky party goers were able to win some London 2012 themed goodies signed by Olympic medal hopeful Lizzie Armitstead.  How lucky were we to be winners!!  It really made the childrens day - thanks Lizzie and Hornby.

Hornby, event, Hamleys, London 2012, Team GB, merchandise, Trains, velodrome set, toys
Lizzie Armitstead signed London 2012 products for 5 lucky party goers
After the prizegiving we were able to try out the Hornby London 2012 Train Set for ourselves on the Hamleys shop floor.  The children attending certainly seemed to love it and I couldn't resist having a turn myself although I do think I should have practiced first as I was left standing by just about every child that took a turn.

Hornby, event, Hamleys, London 2012, Team GB, merchandise, Trains, velodrome set, toys

We had a fantastic time at Hamleys thanks to Hornby and our thanks go to them for inviting us and for our fabulous goodie bags that contained more great Official Team GB merchandise - roll on London 2012.


Sunday, 24 June 2012

Ravensburger Puzzle Club - Happy Days London

Quite understandably we have been following a London theme with the Ravensburger Puzzle Club, and why not? With the Olympics so close now, London is the foremost venue this Summer.

If you like a puzzle that will challenge you then the Happy Days London jigsaw is my suggestion.  It is a 1000 piece puzzle that depicts a scene of a London street from, I would say the 60's or70's judging from the peoples outfits, filled with red London buses, black cabs and bridges of the capital city.

Ravensburger, puzzles, puzzle club, London, review, Happy Days London

With the main feature of the puzzle being two buses I thought this puzzle would be finished in no time but I was very wrong.  Starting as always with the edges the outside of the puzzle was finished quite quickly but the next part we undertook - the road - seemed to take ages as the puzzle picture itself had a 'hessian fabric' effect as part of it and this made it a lot harder to put together adjacent puzzle pieces.

Ravensburger, puzzles, puzzle club, London, review, Happy Days London

Ravensburger, puzzles, puzzle club, London, review, Happy Days London

The Ravensburger Puzzle Store with its tray inserts came in very useful for sorting similarly coloured puzzle pieces and as this puzzle took us some considerable time to complete it also meant we could store our puzzle in progress for the next time.

Apart from the effect (mentioned above) to the puzzle picture I really liked the inclusion of Big Ben and the greenery that is so often missed in art depicting the Capital.  This Ravensburger Happy Days London puzzle has kept our family busy for days on end and is one of those puzzles that you do a little then as you are walking past draws you back in to have another try at it.

Not a jigsaw that you can do in an hour but one that will have you determined to complete it.

Ravensburger, puzzles, puzzle club, London, review, Happy Days London
I did find that the pieces seemed to bend a lot more easily than previous Ravensburger puzzles which was a little disappointing so we had to take care with making sure each piece was slotted in properly.  In the end finding the last few pieces became of a case of finding the shape of piece that fitted rather than looking for the  picture - certainly worked for us!

Entertaining and time consuming puzzle that will keep you coming back for more.

Review disclosure 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close review

Yes the title is a little obscure but Extremely Close and Incredible Loud is a powerful and absorbing film from Warner Brothers.

It tells the tale of Oskar, an 11 year old boy that fears the loud and seemingly dangerous world around him which is made better for him by the close bond between him and his Father (played by Tom Hanks).

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, DVD, review, Warner Brothers, movie review, film review

After his Father dies in the World Trade Centre on 9/11, Oskar and his Mother (played by Sandra Bullock) struggle to come to terms with his death in their own unusual ways. The story is seemingly quite a slow burner to start with as it tells the tale of the family and the bond between Father and Son in the lead up to 9/11 but I can assure you it is worth persevering.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, DVD, review, Warner Brothers, movie review, film review

The story unfolds with Oskar discovering a key in an envelope hidden in a vase in his late Fathers wardrobe.  The key is in an envelope marked simply with the word 'Black' and Oskar sets off in a determined search to discover what the word means and how is links to his Father.

Oskars quest for answers takes him on a journey across New York in an attempt to find everyone with the surname Black and interview them in the hope of unlocking the secret to the hidden key, what it means and what the key opens.  His quest sees him encounter a diverse assortment of people from all backgrounds and all with their own tale to tell.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, DVD, review, Warner Brothers, movie review, film review

The story is powerful and heartwarming but poignant and sad at the same time as you watch the urgency of Oskars quest rise as he narrows down the list of people.  On his journey he meets his Grandfather for the first time and enlists him to help with his search.

The story is beautifully portrayed and the ending had me in tears (I wont spoil it by revealing it though)  but I would certainly say the film is well worth watching.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a certificate 12 rating.

Review disclosure

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Content and Calm Travel TrayKit - our thoughts

We have recently been out and about which included a long train journey. Knowing how easily my children get bored on long trips it is usually a case of  bags of toys, books and comics.

With not wanting to carry large numbers of bags and the weight involved, having just one bag big enough to carry it all is a big bonus so we gave the Travel TrayKit from Content and Calm a try.

The pockets in the top half of the bag are a great size for pens, pencils and notebooks as well as maps.  The pocket size is a little too small for portable games consoles but the velcro fastening to the top of the pockets keeps the games held safely in one place.

Travel TrayKit, Content and Calm, travel bag, luggage, childrens bags
Contents sold separately
The bottom half of the TrayKit has a fold out lipped edge insert which when unfolded stops toys from sliding out when in use which is great for pens especially.  This lipped tray area is held in place by velcro strips and provides a sturdy area for writing or playing with cars.

Travel TrayKit, Content and Calm, travel bag, luggage, childrens bags

As the size of the Travel TrayKit (according to the Content and Calm website) conforms to BAA hand baggage allowance dimensions is is perfect for use on planes as well.  Also supplied with the Tray Kit is a hanging strap so the bag can be attached to a plane tray table or car head rest for use on the go.

Here's our Travel TrayKit on its journey:
Travel TrayKit, Content and Calm, travel bag, luggage, childrens bags

The Content and Calm range also includes an upgrade to the Travel TrayKit called the Traykit Traveller Collection which includes a luggage label, passport cover and a foldout wallet containing a set of pencils, eraser and sharpener along with a world map with stickers and activities to keep children amused.  Little man loved sticking the stickers to the map on our journey. The additional items come in the same colourways as the Travel TrayKit.

We found the size of the TrayKit very good although on a younger child it may be a little bulky.  The one frustration we encountered was the shoulder straps kept twisting when you put the bag onto your back but as they were well padded this did not cause any discomfort but was quite annoying.  The adjustable straps meant that a jacket or coat could be placed along the top of the back and carried on the back which was very helpful.

The bag is robust but if you try and pack too much inside it can be difficult to get the folding tray to stay in place whilst you do up the zip to close the TrayKit but all in all a very helpful one bag solution to travel boredom.

Review disclosure

Monday, 11 June 2012

Next Mummy Stylist Blogger Competition entry

I love creative competitions. I also love kids clothing so the Next Mummy Stylist Blogger competition brings together the best of both worlds.

The competition prize is a £500 Next Giftcard!!  With Little Man growing quickly and speeding towards a fully fledged toddler he his outgrowing clothes just as quickly so if I was to win I would be spending the giftcard on a new stylish wardrobe for him (and I am sure his siblings would love quite a bit from the Next range as well).

One outfit that would be top of the to buy list would be this one that I put together whilst perusing the Next current childrenswear range:

The Red Stripe Hoody is made of 100% cotton (excluding the trims!) so with the breathable cotton fabric this top would keep Little Man cool whilst the longer arms would give protection against any Summer breezes.  I would team up the hoody with the rather cute but very practical Carrot Fit Chinos.  I love the fact that they offer two looks, the standard chino trouser but also a more Summer beach look when you roll up the bottom of the trouser leg - great for paddling in the sea!

When not paddling in the sea then shoes that are hard wearing but keep little feet cool are a must.  The Blue Boat Shoes not only go well with the whole look rest of the outfit but also have a touch fastening which is perfect for toddlers learning to do up their own shoes.

For chillier days I would add the bright and cheerful looking yellow Gilet that tones in well with the bright fresh colours of the red and tan of the top and trousers.

This outfit would cost just £44 (less any P & P charges if I bought online) so you can imagine just how many quality clothes the winner will be able to buy with a £500 giftcard!  With the rest of the giftcard (should I win of course!) I would buy Little Man some underwear as potty training will be just around the corner and some summer t-shirts.  These Bright Stripe T-shirts are great value at just £12 for a four pack...

... I think they would team up really well with the Carrot Fit Chinos in the top photo to provide four separate and different looks.

To achieve the 'preppy' look that is so popular right now what would be better than this green striped Poloshirt?

With two older children to dress as well Next caters for a wide range of ages so the rest of the giftcard would no doubt be snapped up by them and the list of outfits they love on the Next website.

So there you have it - my 'must have' choice of clothes from the current Next childrenswear range... now all I need is a £500 giftcard!

Fit for the Queen - Dreams bloggers competition entry #Queensize

We love a design competition so perfectly fitting this was the Dreams Fit for The Queen design a bedroom competition.

Middle Son got designing and put his ideas of what was 'Fit For The Queen' and I have to say I think he did a great job.  His room of course includes a Queensize bed - well what else?!

Love his ballet shoe wallpaper design.
View from bottom of bed (RHS) complete with water fountain in the middle (maybe it's for the corgis to drink out of!)

Plenty of room on the shelves for crowns and a Union Jack pillow on the chair.
And of course a plasma TV on the wall.....
He wanted to use red, white and blue in the wallpaper and carpet colours but said that was better for a King and the Queen liked pink as she wore a lot of it!

He used a free online design planner to make the designs above and this is our entry into the competition.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Saturday is caption day - caption this picture!

I am joining in with the uber amazing Mammasaurus today with this photo for Saturday is caption day.

Leave a comment below with a caption of what you think Little Man is thinking.... and why not join in yourself?

caption, caption a photo, photo, photography, toddler, expressions, thinking

You can join in the linky yourself here. Happy Saturday caption day!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Rainy day activities with a toddler and on a budget

Cabin fever is starting to set in in our house!  The endless days of rain have seen us having to come up with ways to amuse a toddler that really just wants to go to the park.

I have been trying to be as resourceful as possible so that Little Man is having fun while the constant sound of rain patters at the window.  I have come up with a few ways of rainy day activities on a budget so thought I would share them.

Potato printing pictures

Little Man had great fun doing simple potato prints.  All you need is a potato to cut shapes out of and use as the 'stamp' to print with, paint and some paper or cardboard.  We keep the shapes simple so Little Man could hold the potato easily without getting too much paint on himself but the potato printing soon turned into finger painting which he really enjoyed!
potato printing, finger painting, fun, on a budget, messy play, toddler, rainy day, activities

Charity shop bargains

As I wanted to keep my toddler entertained on a budget when I had managed a quick trip to the shops (in a rare break in the rain) earlier in the week, I saw a bargain in the window of a local charity shop. 
Charity shops, rainy day, activities, make believe, cars, castle, fun, imaginary play, play

This wooden castle, complete with a drawbridge that goes up and down, was a bargain at £3. Little Man happily played for ages with it, driving his toy cars up the ramps and into the castle. We also found some toy people to add as visitors to it. Charity shops can be a real source of bargains to keep the children occupied, be it pieces of wool and off cuts of materials to make pictures or outfits for a wooden spoon doll to cheap jigsaws.

Dressing up

My older children loved dressing up when they were smaller and although Little man was a little reluctant to put dressing up clothes on he happily donned this Pirate cap but as he is just 20 months he liked taking it off as much as putting it on!

Listening to storybook CDs

Finally when it was time to wind down the play nearer to bedtime we found a couple of story CDs for Little Man to listen to.  Of course he had to wear his brothers headphones to do it!  I have to admit he did look rather sweet wearing them and seemed to like the stories as well.
 We had a good day together even if the weather was awful.  I shall not be so worried about the children having to stay indoors as they had as much fun as I did sharing the activities.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Diary of a toddler.....things I have learnt so far

I am now 20 months old and learning fast... I may not be able to speak but I get my point across.  Here's some things I have learnt as a toddler:

  • Straps on the pram, highchair etc are there purely to see how fast you can squirm your hands underneath them and get your arms free. Under 10 seconds and you're nearly a pro!
  • Food is best served squished through your hands or hair.
  • Doors left slightly ajar are an open invitation to explore.
  • Sleep is for everyone else - why sleep when you can wake up and play for 3 hours in the night?
  • If I arch my back or kick my legs I can make it almost impossible for my Mum to put me into anything... carseat, pram you name it I can challenge going in it.
  • The Sky box button turns from green to red... then green to red, green to red, green to read and it never gets old.
  • The most exciting objects to explore are the ones that makes my Mums face recoil in horror when I grab them.
  • A smile works in an instant.
  • The big white thing in the kitchen stops turning the clothes when I press buttons.
  • Food is for target practice.
  • Sippy cups are for sprinkling the floors - right?
  • Sand is gritty but so much fun to eat.

sand, toddler, learning, lessons, learnt, behaviour, diary of a toddler

Journey 2 from Warner Brothers now out on DVD

Back last year we went to the cinema to see Journey 2 with Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson - you can read my review of the film here.

Warner Brothers have kindly sent the children a copy of the film of DVD to be able to enjoy at home along with some rather cute bugs and a lenticular puzzle of a scene from the film.

With all the recent wet weather we have had, the film proved as popular to watch at home as it had been at the cinema.  Who can resist a bit of 'Pec Power' from Dwayne on a rainy afternoon?!

The DVD is out now to buy so if your in need of some action this Half Term why not read my review and catch up with Journey 2 yourself. Its out on 3 formats 3D Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray Triple Play, DVD and Digital Download now. The film is rated a certificate PG (Parental Guidance)

My sincere thanks go to Warner Brothers for sending us this gift.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Last few days of the Furniture Village Spring Sale - Sponsored Post

Some things just go together, strawberries and cream, Wimbledon and showers and Bank Holidays and shopping for furniture!

Whether its a new sofa, a stylish new table and chairs or somewhere to spend time dreaming there is plenty on offer from a range of famous brands such as Ercol, Parker Knoll and G Plan. With 40 stores nationwide to chose from and free delivery in Mainland Britain when you spend over £250 what better excuse do you need to head out and hunt down a bargain near you.
As so many of us are on a tighter budget these days, Furniture Village orders can be reserved with just a 10% deposit with the balance due approximately 14 days before your new furniture is due to be delivered and with up to 3 years interest free credit (when spending over £400) there is an option for every budget.  
So this Bank Holiday why not see what bargains you can find at the Furniture Village Spring Sale? Time to grab yourself a bargain with the last few days left! Sales ends on June 5th 2012.

The Tipping Point - use your voice!

Syria - A day of protest

The blogging community is today using its voice en masse to speak out about the Syrian atrocities.  

Last weekend a massacre happened in Houla.  Children slaughtered in their own homes, whole families violently killed.  Babies executed.

Although I wept as I read about what had happened and wanted to look away I wouldn't, couldn't for although the stories were graphic and sickening we need to know what is happening in the world around us.  In that massacre 108 men, women and children were slaughtered without mercy.

I am adding my voice in addition to so many others in the blogging community to raise awareness to the cause and  to show I will not ignore the deaths of innocent children.  I am a Mother and am prepared to tell the world I will not look the other way and claim ignorance.

Although the politics behind the conflicts are not fully understood by myself, massacre is. 

This is the tipping point.

So what can you do?

Sign the Save The Children Petition and take action do not turn away, read more at the Syria - A Day of Protest page.

Let your voice be heard, share your tweets and join in.  BE HEARD.

Follow and share the Twitter hashtags #Syria   #StopTheKilling   #TippingPoint