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Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Best Gifts to Help New Year's Resolutions

The Best Gifts to Help New Year’s Resolutions
New Year’s Resolutions are difficult to stick to for anybody. You need will power but you also need the support of your friends and loved ones. So if you have a friend or family member who has got a worthwhile resolution for the New Year offer all the help you can. If you think they would benefit from making a resolution, why not help them out with a thoughtful gift? Here are a few inspirational ideas for your New Year’s Resolution Gift.

Gift: Headphones
Resolution Suggestion: Learn a language
A quality pair of headphones makes listening to anything more enjoyable. Suppliers such as Electric Shop offer a great selection of headphones which could not only prove an incentive to learn a foreign language but get them to the gym or pounding the pavement with a daily jog.

Gift: Fitness Tracker
Resolution Suggestion: Get Healthy
On a similar fitness tip, fitness and health trackers such as those made by Jawbone and fitbit allow exercise fans to analyse their workouts with their smart phones after keeping tabs on their activity.

Gift: Mocktail Recipe Book
Resolution Suggestion: Drink Less Alcohol
This fun gift may encourage someone to throw a January ‘dry’ party or help them discover new drinks for when they are on a night out. This is also a good way to aid a January detox after the excesses of Christmas.

Gift: E-reader
Resolution Suggestion: Watch Less Television
Amazon’s new Fire HD7 is amongst the most top of the range e-readers surround sound capable with cameras in the front and rear. However, if your friend wants to do more worthwhile activities rather than watching telly this may not be the answer (the streaming qualities is one of the models plus points). Go for a cheaper model on which they can only read to encourage a more productive pass time.

Gift: Walking Boots / Water Proofs
Resolution Suggestion: Spend more time in the great outdoors
There are sure to be some great walks around where your friend lives either in their local vicinity or a short drive away. Don’t let weather be an excuse by kitting them out with some high quality wet weather gear.

Gift: Lumie Bodyclock Starter 30
Resolution Suggestion: Become an Early Bird
Getting up an hour earlier can enable you to achieve so much more. This design of alarm clock brings the snoozer gently out of sleep with an increasingly bright light which lets your body know to stop producing the sleep-inducing melatonin hormone and increase the production of cortisol which perks you up to start the day.  

Gift: Theatre/Concert Gift Vouchers
Resolution Suggestion: Get Out More
If one of your friends or family members feel they are not getting enough culture in their lives why not treat them to some vouchers from ticketmaster which will allow them to go to the show of their choice in the New Year.

Christmas Wish List

With only a few days left until the Big Man pays a visit. I have been doing a bit of online browsing to come up with the boys Christmas wish list. With the boys so close in age i always try and find toys that they are able to share and interactive with each other as much as possible. So after scoring the Debenhams website i put together a few little goodies that the boys would love to find under the tree come Thursday Morning.

 1) Melissa and Doug Grocery Basket: Imaginative play is a big hit with the boys and lots of fun for active little minds. Playing shop is one our favourites and this little set with its own little basket would be a great addition to the family grocery store
2) A Treasury of Five Minute Stories: We always try and share a bedtime story every night before bed and this book is packed with some of my childhood favourites that i would love to share with the boys.

 3) Thomas and Friends Walkie Talkie: Both the boys are huge Thomas fans and am sure they would have lots of fun with these talking to each other from different rooms.

4) Thomas and Friends Ravensburger Thomas Night Work, 60 pc Glow in the Dark Puzzle: I am a big believer in educational toys and i love that the boys will still and work out how to complete puzzles. I like to try and challenge them and this 60 piece puzzle not only features Thomas and Friends but glows in the dark too.

5) Pirate Pursuit Game: Board games are another big hit with the boys and we all love sitting together as a family playing a game. As the boys are so close in age they tend to like similar things and pirates are a current hit. This game looks different to any we current have and the wind up Galleon looks like a great idea.

6) Brio Monorail Airport Set: Our train set is one of the only toys that seems to be played everyday. So we are always looking for additions to our set. The Monorail Airport set will add a new dimension to our play and the youngest will especially like the lift set and plane.

7) Teksta Kitty: My eldest has become rather found of one of the robotic friends that they have at nursery and i think that Kitty would be a welcome addition to the household. Not only is Kitty super cute but i am sure we could have lots of fun training her how to perform and is the next best thing to a real Kitty.

Disclaimer: This post is my entry into the Teksta Debenhams competition

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Snowman and the Snowdog Blog Tour

A couple of weeks ago we were asked if we would like to take part in the Snowman and Snowdog twelve days of Christmas blog tour.The Snowman is one of my all time favourite Christmas movie's and last year it was in the boys stocking and was an instant hit with them too.

We were sent a lovely boxset containing the Snowman and the Snowdog DVD and a cute little plush Snowdog. The boys couldn't wait to open it.

Snowman and  Snowdog Box Set

Snowman and Snowdog DVD
The Snowman and the Snowdog is an adorable sequel to the Raymond Briggs classic animated Snowman film. This film (without giving too much away) is about a young boy Billy who finds a secret box under the floor boards of his new house containing a snowman making kit. He builds a Snowman and a Snowdog and the tale comes to life with a magical adventure. The soundtrack is a lovely addition to the story and the boys favourite is the colourful fun race with lots of lovely characters.

Snowdog plush toy
Little man has really taken to this film and loves the plush Snowdog toy. In fact the little Snowdog accompanies little man to bed and i have seen them sharing the odd chocolate biscuit together too.

This lovely little Snowman and Snowdog set that has become an instant hit in our household can be purchased from Amazon

Why not check out day 10 of the Snowman and Snowdog blog tour here

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Money Matters

Since having the boys i have become a lot more aware of my finances, i know what bills go out when and how much for and have made notes in my diary of insurance renewal dates so that i can shop around for the best deals, and always try to put a side a little of my monthly salary for both mine and the boys savings accounts.

Prior to having children, I didn't have a clue about what things cost and just knew that all my direct debits came out sometime after pay day and if there was any money left at the end of the month it was a bonus. I didn't really open bills as i knew they were all set up to come out of the bank, and bank statements were shredded still in their envelopes after a few months of being sat on the kitchen table.

A new piece of research by Opinium shows that i wasn't the only one that didn't open their bills and that as many as one million households don't either.

Although i wouldn't consider myself to be the next Money man i can definitely say that i have a sound understanding of our household budget and payment schedule and that i can check to see if my bills appear to be correct.

With plenty of money saving websites offering discounts and money saving offers some banks and building societies have got clever and introduced bank accounts that offer ways that you can help you reduce household bills.

Do you know your income and expenditure like the back of your hand? If not why not consider a little New Years Resolution to get your finances in better shape.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Christmas making memories

It's no secret I absolutely adore Christmas, I am a merchandiser dream, from Christmas hats to Christmas socks I have purchased the lot. Ever since having children of my own there is the added magic of seeing the pure excitement on their faces from the first day of the advent, through to the ever so special Christmas Eve and of course the big day itself.

I have so many special memories of Christmases when I was younger and I hope to help create such magical memories for my family too. Simple things such as decorating the tree, visiting Santa's grotto and of course writing the all important list to the big man himself. When I was younger I was so excited for the regular visit to Santa to tell him that I had been good all year and come away hoping that I may catch a glimpse of him in my living room filing my stocking on Christmas Eve.

My sister and I spent many a Christmas Eve trying to keep each other awake waiting for Santa, wondering where he was and if he would call. Waking super early on Christmas mornings to peep downstairs to see 'if he had been', and running into our parents room in hope that it was time to go get up properly.

The boys are now at the age where real memories can be created and they have really started to believe in Father Christmas. It would be a dream  come true to be able to take the boys to Lapland and capture the sheer excitement and the true magic of visiting Father Christmas at his home.

This is my entry into the @Transun Lapland competition.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Sugar and Crumbs Chocolate Icing Sugars Review

Earlier this year at the Cake and Bake show in Manchester I came across the flavoured icing sugars from Sugar and Crumbs and after after sampling a huge selection of their delights came away with a few flavours to try at home.

I was really impressed with flavours and the Chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream went down a storm at home. So when i saw they were looking for volunteers to try out their new range of chocolate icing sugars i was only too will too help out.

The new range consists of three new flavours black forest, Jaffa Twist and Chocolate Milkshake, i was sent the latter two flavours to review.

Using the Jaffa Twist chocolate icing sugar I made a chocolate orange sponge cake, using a really easy all in one chocolate mixture. Filling the centre of the cake with the Jaffa twist icing. The instructions were really easy to follow and only required butter and water to be added. I used a full 250g bag and this created more than enough for filling and decoration of the sponge cake. This created a rich chocolate flavour with a definite orange taste and for me this was a great balance of chocolate and orange.

I used the same chocolate cake recipe to create chocolate milkshake cupcakes, again i used a 250g bag of chocolate icing sugar, I decorated 12 cupcakes generously and had plenty of icing left. These went down well with the kids but I did prefer the Jaffa Twist flavouring.

These chocolate icing sugars are a ideal quick and easy way to add a new twist to your baking. I am looking forward to trying the Black Forest flavour too.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Starting School

Last week I went along to a meeting at nursery about Little man moving rooms, moving into the pre schoolers room, the room before he starts Primary school. Yes it's over a year away  and little man is still a toddler in my eyes, but I have already  started to make enquiries in the application process and think about the schools in our local area.

The application process in theory is a choice based process that allows you to submit your preference of primary school via your local authority. However as we live on the boundary of two local authorities the process is maybe a little more complex for us especially considering that the year of little man's birth was considered to be a high birth rate year. 

I have already started to make enquiries with local schools to find about admission criteria and to started to contact head teachers about the possibility of coming to view the schools. Deciding on a first school seems like a massive decision to make and I am hoping that I just get the feeling of knowing that it is the right school for my children, like any parent I want my children to have the best possible start, and feel strongly that both education and social aspects should not have to be compromised. 

The thought of not getting my first or second choice school and having to look at the appeals process or alternative is an added pressure to making the right decision. Then comes the thoughts of School uniforms, packed lunches, before school clubs, after school clubs. I am sure all will be come clearer over the next few months especially once that application pack come through the door.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Bank Holiday shop with Morrisons

A few weeks ago I was selected to become a #Morrisonsmum and was sent some vouchers to go along to our local store and create a meal for the family. I had a few ideas in mind but as Morrisons is not our usual supermarket I went along with an open mind and apart from the usual weekly purchases I hadn't prepared a meal planner.

More often that not I do the bulk of my shop online, so tend to have a good idea of prices but perhaps don't find that I see special offers and promotions as much. In advance of my shop I heard about the price cuts that Morrisons had made so was keen to see these in store.

So in advance of the Bank Holiday, I set out to the weekly shop. I was instantly drawn to the clear signage indicating the lower prices, and the fruit and vegetable section was packed with them, a lot of them as cheap or cheaper than the local market. I chose quite a wide selection which made great snacks for the boys and I.

The meat selection was large and I was really impressed with not only the prices, but the portion packs too, so I was able to purchase packs that were suitable just for the boys meals which I found handy. We also selected a piece of Rump steak for a Bank Holiday treat.

It was great to see that the cheaper prices weren't contained to one area and were spread throughout the departments and I was particularly pleased to find the offers on cheese as this one of the things we tend to go through a lot of and always like to have in.

As I shopped I put together a quick idea of meals for the week, and added a few treats too. As I prepare my meals I will be keen to see the difference in price to my normal shop.

Disclaimer: I was selected to become a #Morrisonsmum and was sent vouchers to shop in store.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter Sweet Treats #CollectiveBias

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser #CollectiveBias

Easter for us has become a time when we all get together as a family to spend hours running around the garden hunting for eggs and clues, chatting, playing games and of course endulging in lots of Easter sweets and chocolates.

This year when planning our Easter get together i have put my thinking cap on and come up with something that we have never done before and set my mind to making an Easter pinata cake.

I wanted to make this Pinata as Easter themed as possible and to pack the centre with lots of sweets, like you used to get on the penny tray! This got me casting my mind back to some of my favourite sweets so i popped online and had a look at and amongst a host of goodies found the perfect sweets; a whole tub of  jelly fried eggs.

Making the Pinata was really simple, i just made up a batch of my favourite sponge cake and flavoured with a hint of caramel. i used an Easter Egg cake mould as i thought i could make a few of these and decorate in different colours.

Once the cake had cooled i scooped out an oval of cake from each of the Easter egg halves and filled them with fried eggs. For a burst of colour i used one of my childhood favourite treats, Swizzles Matlow Rainbow drops.

I then sealed the Egg shapes together with melted chocolate and drizzled this over the cake to create an effect of a decorated egg. The boys were very excited when we cut into the cake and all the sweets came tumbling out and i am sure these will go down a treat with us all again at the weekend.

As an added bonus we have plenty of egg sweets left so these will be put to good use in the Easter egg Hunt.

What are your favourite Easter Treats?

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Cake and Bake Show Manchester

Last year me and my mum took the short train journey to the Cake and Bake Show in Manchester. Not sure quite what to expect i was quite taken aback by how much cakey goodness had been packed under one roof. From the simply outstanding life size gingerbread village to all the stalls, cakes, books and demos that were on offer. We both came away laden down with purchases, a whole host of new ideas, inspiration to get creative in the kitchen and a vow to keep our eyes peeled for the next event.

This weekend the 4th - 6th of April the Cake and Bake Show returns to Manchester Central with a fantastic line up of star speakers including Frances Quinn and John Whaite and several other competititors from the Great British Bake Off.  A wide range of classroom and bakery demonstations across the weekend alongside free sugarpaste modelling sessions and several different types of competitions. There is also a Welcome to the Jungle feature which is the UK's most ambitious sugarcraft installation which sounds like its not to be missed.

The fun doesn't stop there either with a great selection of exhibitors for all types of baking enthusiasts and cake fans. There is bound to be some treats in store too!

For more information on the Cake and Bake Show Manchester or to purchase tickets click here

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Moments that mattered in 2013

2013 seemed to fly by, from little man turning two in early January, Christmas soon seemed to come along although the year was packed with lots of highlights and moments that really mattered.

The boys both had birthdays is the first few months and their little tea parties were lovely family gatherings and a afternoons packed full of party food, cake and proper party games.

We took advantage of the summer weather and spent days outside in the garden and enjoyed walks in the park.

We took a little break and enjoyed staying in a little caravan near the beach.

Little mans language really develop and could really tell us what he wanted, he learnt to count and take an interest in letters. He said I love you'

Tiny learned to walk and talk he learned 'mummy' and 'daddy. Learned how to play , how to feed himself.

We had days out Thomasland, the beach, the park. We had picnics we had takeaways. We had messy play. We read books over and over. We had fun lots and lots of fun.

We went away to London, we enjoyed lots of Christmas festivities.

We had lots of cuddles, and made lots of memories.

And I watched my two little men, watched them grow, watched them bond, watched them grow closer as brothers and saw my love for them grow stronger.

This is my entry in to the Lloyds Moments that  mattered competition.

ELC Art Challenge

Little Man has really started to show his creative streak, so when ELC asked if we would like to participate in the Valentines Challenge we saw this as an ideal opportunity to put those skills to good use.

We were sent a collage toolbox which contained allsorts of crafty goodies from paper and glue through to jewels and wiggly eyes. Little man was really taken with the kit and walked around all evening shouting he was off to work.

Before we started our Valentines crafts little man we talked about love and little man decided that he wanted to make something for me, so we set about making a picture that was a bouquet of flowers. Little man set to work and chose coloured sticks for the vase and green pipe cleaners for the stems, carefully gluing them to the card. Next he selected lots of different coloured sparkly pom poms for the flowers.

Little man was in full flow and as he saw that his craft boxed was still packed with goodies he to make something else. So i asked him to choose materials from the box that he would like to use and he selected coloured beads and after finding a length of elastic in the box i asked little man if he would like to make mummy a bracelet. Eager to started a tied a big knot at the end of the elastic and asked little man to thread the beads onto the elastic. He really enjoyed this as he selected each bead he shouted the colour of the bead and added to the elastic, we found this to a great hand- eye co-ordination activity. As the elastic was filled i then tied the two ends together. Little man was so pleased with his effort and how it looked on mummy that he asked to make one for himself. So we repeated the activity using a smaller length of elastic.

After making mummy a beautiful flower picture and bracelet little man asked to make something for grandma, so we decided on a little love bug picture. I cut out two heart shaped pieces from the yellow and black card and stuck the yellow heart to another piece of card. i then cut stripes for little man to stick on to the bug. which he did he then picked some wiggly eyes. Little man then asked to add legs and arms to the bug which he did using a white pipe cleaner. he then selected a couple of sequins and heart shaped jewel to complete the decorations. I think it looks really cute!!

 Disclaimer: We were sent craft materials to participate in the ELCArtChallenge

Monday, 3 February 2014

Childhood Crazes

Whilst watching a Fireman Sam DVD with the boys tonight it brought back childhood memories as it was the very same episode that my brother watched when he was younger. This got me thinking about toys that have stood the test of time and then the fads that my sister and I had when we were younger.

Care Bears we were both obsessed, from cuddly bears to plastic figures shortly. The introduction of the Care Bears sticker book started a fascination with collecting stickers and the eternal search for  'furry' and  'shinies'.

Collectables seemed to be the norm and  whilst I collected erasers with everything from pencils to burgers my sister had hundreds and hundreds of key rings.

Cereal box collectables were always a hit, with everything from stickers to bike reflectors buried at the bottom of the weekly cereal of choice which usually was something that was chosen for the sole purpose of hunting out the bagged treasure.

Cabbage patch kid dolls followed and the introduction of the more sinister adaption of the Garbage Pail kids created a mad frenzy of card collections in search of Slimy Sam and friends.

Whilst Rainbow Brite and My little Pony also had their moments,lights alive, Goblins, and tamagotchi were also firm favourites. Everyone who was anyone had a water game too......always a firm favourite for birthday presents (such a simple toy but hours and hours of fun pressing a button to fire hoops onto a pole)

These crazes didn't stop at toys and collectables jelly bean shoes and bags were a must alongside a candy watch watch and bracelet and your hair up in a banana clip. Any spare pennies were spent at the newsagents on push pops and ring pop lollies. A few years later we then moved on to the next craze of swatch watches which came in various colours and patterns.

Then do you remember the craze of the  Coke Cola spinners Yoyo's were Everyone was obsessed with trying to find a gold ring pull to win a prized gold Yoyo, and adults and children alike were frantically trying to master the arts of  'walking the dog' and 'rocking the baby'  in order to attend the spinner championships.

What were your childhood Crazes? These are some of the favourites listed on the Amazing Crazes website who are reminscing on five decades of childhood obsessions

Disclaimer this is a entry to the Oxford Open Learning Competition

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Heating on the Go

With the steady increase in the cost of living, i am always on the lookout for practical ways in which we can save money: from shopping online, buying in the sales to scouring online sites to find the best deals on a whole host of bills. Heating is one of most expensive bills and i admit to often coming home from work and the heating has been on all day or coming home and having to crank the heating up as i have been soaked on the way home! As its not always easy to predict the weather in this country, i find it difficult to find ways of making a saving on the heating bill.

Hive have a solution, with the introduction of an innovative new product which allows you to control your heating and hot water via your Smartphone, tablet or PC. Not only can you control your heating temperature whilst on the go, but it allows you to become more energy efficient and begin to make savings on your energy bills.

The Hive Application
The mobile application allows you to add preset temperatures, add a daily heating schedule, add events (such as the boys swimming lessons) control your hot water and if your heating is turned off frost protection which will ensure a minium temperature is maintained.

Hive has been designed so that it works alongide your current heating system meaning that you don't have to change energy suppliers.

Having the ability to adapt my central heating at the same rate as our ever inconsistent weather wherever i happen to be is a huge appeal, and with the added possiblity of saving money as well as always having a comfortable home to come back to at the end of a long day sounds like a winner!

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Your three years eve

Little man it's your three years Eve. Tomorrow you are going to be three years old. How did that happen, it only seems like yesterday that you made your timely entrance into the world.  Firstly I want to tell you how proud mummy and daddy are of you, we still find ourselves looking at you in awe. You really are our little miracle man.

Your second year has seen you grow so much and seen your funny and cheeky personality really start to emerge. I still love how cuddly you are in the morning and how you always want one last juice before bed.Your language has really developed and I am constantly surprised by some of the words that you come out with and your love of letters and numbers. You have started to say the funniest of things now, just a couple of weeks ago whilst out for a meal you asked for a rice crispie and banana pizza and have asked for Father Christmas to come to your birthday.

I love watching you play, learning new things and the way that you read your stories to me, and how you look out for your little brother. You are so helpful and are always keen to run around and clean up especially after your brother spills his milk.

I still pop into your room every night little man to give you an extra kiss. I really am  a very lucky mummy.

Here are some of your favourite things from your second year:

Your two favourite songs are:

Wheels on the bus and London Bridge

Your two favourite books are:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Peace at last ( both of which you recite so well)

You two favourite characters:

Thomas the Tank and Curious George

You love milk and yoghurt
You have a very sweet tooth

Happy Birthday Eve , love you so much little man xxx
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