Thursday, 21 June 2012

Getting in the Spirit at home

It seems like a while ago now, but back in April we were sent a lovely Olympic 2012 supporters scarf from Next, and if you remember that post, we took ours out and about and ran through the fields waving it showing our support for Team GB.

The beautiful scarf with the Great British Lion proudly shown on the front is a lovely way to add a touch of patriotism to any outfit, and my three have worn it on several occasions, to school for their street party supporting the Jubilee, and non uniform days recently.

I really do like the Red White and Blue theme thats everywhere at the moment, unlike others who complain of it being a money making spin or are bored of it, I have always liked the Union Jack and the 'get together and back your country' momentum that comes with things such as the Jubilee, Euro 2012 and Olympics.

I think its great to show abit of pride and interest in our little corner of the world, I love the fact that events like this give children an additional reason to learn about their nation.

So when Next sent me a wonderful Team GB Supporters kit I was thrilled to find some lovely items in it which add a touch of that Great British pride to our home.

Now, I must admit I am normally the one who over looks the little details and added extras that add style and personality to a room, and there always seems to be something more important to spend money on so the little luxuries get side stepped so having this parcel of beautiful goodies that really do add them quirky touches has been very refreshing!

In the pack was a lovely Olympic Games 2012 cushion, which makes the otherwise dull and boring coffee coloured sofa, that normally gets pushed to one side or covered in childrens toys and discarded books, come to life,  instantly rejuvenates it with a upbeat feel.

We were also set a bundle of tea towels which are lovely the pack has 6 designs, a couple of plain ones and some with more detailed designs, one with the 'Keep calm and carry on' slogan, which over the past few years has become an ever increasingly popular design which is instantly recognisable and has a very British feel and just having them has made the kitchen seem so much more loved.

We also received a set of The Games Returns supporters glasses which have the same design as the cushion so tie everything together.

I am loving the little finishing touches and it has inspired me to think a bit more about the extras that add that personality and homely feel to things and even made me think the washing up liquid looked quite good!

If you haven't looked at the great selection of Olympic themed homeware from Next then do take a moment to have a peek, there really are some inspired items which will just add those homely finishing touches to any room without breaking the bank.

I was sent these items from Next but not asked to review them I am posting about them because I think they are genuinely great!

Monday, 18 June 2012

starting a savings plan

For a long time now, even before I became a blogger myself, I have always loved reading blogs, ones that inspire, and encourage you to do something different in your life, one such blog that I have read and followed for such a long time is Wondering Wanderers, If you haven't been to this blog yet then it is a must, there story goes that a couple of years ago they wanted to change their lives, so they set about a plan of travelling for a year in a motorhome WWoofing (which is volunteering on organic farms and such like in exchange for knowledge and a place to stay) to discover if it was possible to live an off grid minimalistic lifestyle, be more self sufficient and do the things they and their children loved. I followed them on their journey, reading the fascinating adventures, watching them plan and save, then find their trusty 30 year old motorhome and set off, reading their updates when the arrived in new places and learnt new things, looking longingly at the photos of the children doing what they so obviously love and now seeing them find a new goal and settle on a small island in Scotland managing and developing their own croft... It all seems idealistic, almost impossible,  yet they did it, they changed their lives leaving behind a 9 - 5 job and house in Sussex to travel and fulfil the dreams they had.

Why this is truly an inspiring story, and one that has captivated my imagination for ages, I just don't know if I'd ever have the courage to do something as ground breaking.

I do however know that when you want something you really have to set yourself a goal, put your mind to it and in doing that even the impossible can become achievable.

So we have set ourselves a goal. We want to get past the quick fix  activities spending £100 here and there that we are so used to doing and focus on saving up enough to fulfil a dream and give us a taste of the adventure, travel and outdoors we all crave.

We have a goal of around £3000 which we are hoping will enable us to buy a small cruiser boat to travel the beautiful canals on, not to live aboard, although that maybe a future goal once the children have flown the nest, but to certainly travel the 6 week summer break on.

Now that amount may not be alot, but when your income is ridiculously low in the first place it seems massive, and that is where we normally give up, the climb seems to tough even if the views at the top are amazing.

But I remember the Wondering Wanderers, I remember how they did something so much bigger and didn't give up to achieve their goals and realise that we can't give up either.

So how do you manage to create some savings when you're on a low income? well this may not be a fail safe plan but its a start and I am hoping that we can get to our goal for next summer.

  1. Have a clear out - declutter the book shelves, the game cabinets and toy boxes and try to sell everything that is no longer used but still in one piece, I have seen several posts on how to sell 1000 items to generate £1000 and the idea does appeal, but I am not sure I have 1000 items that we'd be willing to freely give up so I am aiming for smaller scales maybe 100 items for £100 to start with
  2.  Take advantage of money making schemes such as Top Dollar Mobile which is a quick and easy way to do the green thing whilst also getting a top price for your phone. Simply go to the website, search for your mobile phone model, find the price they will offer, request a free postage pack, send in your phone and receive your cash, if you have several old phones cluttering up the drawers then this is a great way to get some money and stop mobiles needlessly ending up in the landfill.
  3. Set a weekly spend total to keep within it. Meal Plan and use shops own brands too - we already use alot of budget labelled food and haven't got any complaints yet. Factor in everyday expense to the weekly budget but cut out all unnecessary treats.
  4. Do the main food shopping on line to save on impulse purchases, shopping on line also means you can watch the total as you go along and stick within a budget helping with the above point.
  5. Get a money box or glass bottle to use for loose change - the best ones are ones that can't be dipped into!

My hope is if we follow them 5 points for the next few months we should have managed to make a dint in our total, once we have started I think it will be easier to continue so the first two points are the ones I am focusing on this month  hoping an initial boost to our empty saving pot may encourages us to cut down in following months and continue to save.

This post is sponsored by Top Dollar Mobile

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Country Kids - despite the rain

I am starting to get really fed up with the weather, it is just miserable, every time the sun tries to come out it soon starts raining again and serious cabin fever is kicking in, I don't mind the rain, but its the prospect of 5 pairs of muddy shoes and wet clothes and a soaked dog that puts me off trudging out despite the weather.

But today I couldn't stay indoors any longer, so when my sons friends called for him and they all wanted to retreat inside from the rain I decided we would take a trip into the woods instead of in front of the computers.

They seemed surprisingly eager as we ventured through the overgrown pathways to eventually find a open space they could run around in.

And I enjoyed the time outside admiring natures beauty so full of life with the vast array of greens which look all the more vibrant in the rain.

There were several bumble bees around, which is always nice to see, and they didn't seem to mind getting wet as they went about their business

We sheltered under the trees 

and when the rain stopped we ran around jumping in the puddles and skidding in the grass,

 and it is moments like these that make me realise that the muddy clothes and shoes are really not worth worrying about at all.

I'm joining in with CoombeMills Countrykids click on the badge below to see what else everyone has got upto outdoors this week
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Friday, 15 June 2012

wet and miserable

I am not loving this weather at all  its June, we should be enjoying the Summer, we should be donning our shorts and T.shirts and slapping on suncream, but instead we need wellies and brollies. I can't remember a year where its been quite as miserable and wet for so long.

And when the weather is miserable it seems so is everyone else.

That is everyone except my daughter who never fails to bring a smile to my face

The flowers who are lapping up the water

and the bugs!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Sponsored Video: Samsung Galaxy S3

This post is sponsored by Samsung

After my eldest lost my phone the other day, I have been thinking about the different phones available, one of the main features I am really looking for is a good camera, I only have a point and shot camera at the moment, and if I was going to upgrade to a decent phone, then the camera and photo features would be what swings it for me.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 has a pretty great 8 megapixel camera which is more than my current point and shot, and some great features, like the best photo option, which takes 8 continuous photos so you can really capture the perfect moment even if your target is not willing to sit perfectly still!

I know probably better than most that trying to capture the moment with a single shot isn't always easy when you're photographing children and its the one thing I am always striving to get better at, so this feature allows you to effortlessly capture the perfect moment as it takes 8 photos in quick succession meaning you don't end up with closed eyes and turned heads. It also has 1080p HD video recording with video stabilisation for clearer more stable videos, the Galaxy S3 also has face recognition which means it can sort individual profiles into slide shows or send photos of your friends straight to them and with the 4.8 inch high definition Amoled display you can look back through the images in perfect clarity.

But it's not just the camera that makes this look like a great phone, it has enhanced processing power and graphics which means you can watch HD videos whilst surfing the web or sending emails, voice recognition and direct call features plus loads more, the slogan is 'Designed by humans, Inspired by nature' take a look at this video a day in life of a Galaxy S3 which gives a glimpse into its features because there is just too many for me to mention here, and I think you'll agree it would be a huge improvement on my little old lost phone - if I had a phone this good there's one thing for sure, I would not be letting Jake take it to the park, oh no this would be Mummys Toy!

Freedom and lost phones!

My eldest is now 10, and I mentioned the other day in my post 'letting them grow' how hard it is being a parent and knowing whats best to do when your children want to show their Independence, I mentioned how I have been giving my eldest two more and more freedom the past few months, and the other week I took the jump and allowed my eldest to the park with his friends when they called, I know he is, on the most part at least, sensible enough to have this freedom now, I know his choice of friends is good and I trust they won't get up to much mischief, but even still it doesn't stop us parents worrying about them, so I sent him off with my mobile phone in hand, as he doesn't have his own mobile phone, and my poor old phone is older than he is, so not of any huge value.

He returned home the first few times proud as could be, placing my trusty phone back into my hand and asking to do it all again the following day, I watched him mature before my eyes over the next few weeks, there really is so much to learn from having that independence, from being able to be part of that group who go to the park on their bikes and skateboards kick about a football for a few hours, learn how to handle yourself without mum there to tell you not to ride too fast down the hill, and learn how to handle social situations without my prompts.

I try desperately hard not to be a cotton wool type parent and think there are untold benefits to giving children the chance to take calculated risks and learn from their own judgement calls, obviously I understand the need to be cautious and safety is always paramount but being able to let them grow up with their mates is what 10 year olds need to do isn't it?

So for the past few weeks things have been good, he has enjoyed the freedom of being able to call for his mates and them for him, returning here for snacks and drinks and spending much of the half terms just, well just being kids.

Then tonight he arrives home at the time I'd asked, he bounds though the door, throws his shoes to one side and relaxes on the sofa. I wait for the normal return of my phone, but he doesn't gesture towards giving it me. I serve up dinner we eat nothing much is thought of the phone, then I remember he didn't give it me on returning from the park and ask him for it, he reaches to his pocket then says ''I don't have it - didn't I already give it you?''

Que annoyance on my half and guilt on his, and we trudge off out to search for my phone.

We return without my phone!

Like I say its no great loss I am not really a technical hungry phone user, and much prefer my laptop for most things my phone was very cheap when I brought it years and years ago it had a cracked screen and didn't always receive messages when they were sent, it didn't have a camera and was certainly not at all smart so I guess I will have to start looking for a new phone and find someway of firmly attaching it to Jake so it can't get lost in future!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Life happens

I have been abit slack with my blog this past couple of weeks, yes I've posted reviews and just about managed to get my Silent Sunday up, but the general posts, the ones I love most have been abit thin on the ground, yet so much has happened, so very much I wanted to blog about.

The days seem to merge together, the weeks pass by so very quickly, I can't quite believe its June already.  June 2012!

The past few weeks have been somewhat bittersweet, my youngest turned 5, my daughter turned 9 the other day too, all three of my children are growing up, so very fast.

Then to confirm their passage into the next stage of their lives, my youngest learnt to ride his bike without the stabilisers. He did so well, he got his new bike for his birthday and I have mentioned before that he has been desperate to learn to ride 2 wheeled like his older brother and sister for a while, and last week he did just that.

When Jake and Chloe learnt I cheered and beamed with pride watching them pedal away, me pushing Mikey in his pram behind them, wistfully watching as they grew and matured smiling and cherishing the thought of doing it all again in a few years with my youngest.

I feel the same pride watching Mikey pedal so fast to keep up with his older siblings, but it makes my heart pang with a touch of sadness realising its another stage finished, and one as a parent I won't go through again with him being my last.

Thank goodness for Cameras and Videos and blogs to store the memories!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Monster Pet Supplies - Jacksons Approval!

Regulars here will know that Jackson is a huge part of our family, the kids adore him and he them in return, he joins us on ventures through the woods and snuggles up with us when the weathers not so nice outside, he also LOVES to get involved in the reviews on my blog!

So when we were sent a parcel from Monster Pet Supplies inviting Jackson to give his expert opinions on some great toys and treats he couldn't be happier.

Like all Boxers, Jackson loves to play, he isn't boisterous but is lively, he will jump around and 'bounce' all day if you let him, his favourite spot is the garden and we've recently had to gravel the small lawn area as he was just churning up the grass constantly bounding around on it throwing toys round himself and catching them again, he loves soft toys but because he is a big dog he is strong and often soft toys don't last too long.

So when I saw the Good Boy Mighty Tuff monkey in the box of goodies I wondered if he'd manage to destroy it, but we've had Monkey for nearly a month now and he has fared pretty well, only loosing his tail, which came off within 10 minutes of arriving, but other than that the monkey is surprisingly tough with its plaited body it is strong enough to be used as a ragger, and Jackson loves him.

Next in our box was a Good Boy Gripper, which is a strong rubber dogs toy which is approx 6 inch in diameter it is a really tough toy which is perfect for the bigger dogs. Jackson has played with this many times and there isn't a mark on it and I doubt he will ever manage to damage it - it really is that tough! Being made of rubber it bounces when he flings it around which he loves and the shape makes it easy for him to catch, but because its heavy its best for an outdoor toy unless you want potential damage to glass cabinets and such like, its a perfect toy to take along with you on your walks and Jackson will happily run after it and fetch it, but he is just as happy playing with it by himself in the garden, this really has kept him happily entertained for hours and is sure to last for a long time yet.

And last but by no means least we received some Good Boy Deli Chicken Twists from Monster Pet Supplies great treat selection. These were very well received by Jackson, the pack boasts that they are made with real chicken and the finest ingredients

 Jackson sure thought they were tasty, I liked them too because he didn't wolf them down within 2 seconds flat the chewy sticks made him take his time a little bit more and giving him them once (or sometimes twice if he'd been really good!) a day the pack lasted quite a while.

Overall Jackson really enjoyed testing these great products from the Good Boy range, all three we're excellent quality and value for money, the toys both priced just over £5 making them very affordable. We'd recommend them they really are a great choice if you have a play full four legged member of your family, or if you have any other furred friend take a look at Monster Pet Supplies they have a great selection of food and toys for all sorts of pets, or why not join them on Facebook where they have alot of competitions and they share their latest offers.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Tilda Kids Rice - a quick tasty snack

It's half term week here in the UK following the long Jubilee bank holiday weekend and the weather has been somewhat unsavoury, it is uncharacteristically cold for June and rather wet!

So yesterday when we went out to play at the local park with my three and a group of their friends because the council had put on a Olympic Sports activity day, we had good fun I soon became the bowler in a game of rounders, the children tried their hand at long jump and Tennis amongst other things and despite the drizzly weather everyone had a good time.

We returned home along with several additional 10 year old boys all rather hungry. So I mustered up a quick snack for them, remembering the Tilda Kids Rice we were sent to review a few days prior I thought this was an ideal time to give it a go.

The Tilda Rice kid pouches come in several flavours including Sweet Vegetable and wholegrain rice, Sunshine Vegetable, Mild Curry and Cheese and Tomato. Each pouch is 125g which is a handy snack size.

The pouches can be microwaved, but if like me you don't have a microwave they can also be cooked in a pan on the hob, with a bit of water you simply heat the rice up for 3 to 4 minutes.

Each pouch contains 1 of your 5 a day portions of vegetables which is made up of vegetable puree and vegetable pieces.

I decided for a quick snack to make some sweetcorn on the cob, a selection of Tilda Rice and some potato waffles, everyone tucked in. The Sunshine Vegetable rice was the favourite followed by the mild curry, which was very mild, which is great because my three are not kean on strong spices, but some of the other 10 year olds would have liked a spicier curry.

Cooking was quick and easy which makes these a perfect snack or a great accompaniment to a meal, the fun packet design is sure to attract younger childrens attention too with Tilli the elephant featured along with other animal friends.

The tasty flavours give a good variety helping get fussy eaters to enjoy something abit different. Overall I was impressed with these pouches they really are a great quick snack idea, they are available from good retailers for around £1 each, everyone here loved them and the only thing left was empty plates.

We were sent a selection of Tilda Kids rice to review, all opinions however are our own.

Ice Age 4 Odeon Reviewer

I received an email the other day asking us to partake in a competition with Odeon to find their IceAge4 Official junior reviewer,  my eldest two thought they would give it ago.

Ice Age 4 Continental Drift is due to be released on 13th July, we watched the trailer and it looks a great film, with the familiar character and humour from the previous movies plus a whole host of new adventures including pirates and huge crabs!

It really does look like a great film, the competition means the 5 most viewed videos get passed onto the judges with the winners getting the chance to see the film in July and review it officially for Odeon Cinemas.

It really was lots of fun watching the trailer and filming our review which is full of giggles and to become official Odeon reviewers would be a great opportunity so please take a look and share it with your friends :)

Monday, 4 June 2012

Great Garden Moments

I love being outdoors, be it walks in the woodlands of afternoons in the garden the outdoors makes me smile. I have such fond memories of the fun we had in garden at our old house, it was rare you found us indoors, we were lucky enough to be surrounded by open spaces woodlands at the end of our garden that we cut into to make hidey holes and magical gardens with rope swings and secret dens.

My other half is the creative type, his imagination and flare for fun is as big as the childrens, and becoming a Dad gave him extra reasons to live out his adventures, and in doing so he turned the garden into a medieval adventure zone, with mud huts, armour stores even a castle, that he designed and built himself.

The garden gave us endless fun, we rigged up speakers under the castle and brought a medieval music CD which set the scene for mystical adventures every time you stepped into the garden.

Picnics and BBQ' were a must and many times our garden became the retreat that the local children would flock to, but of course a medieval garden isn't complete without a few select props.

The feature I always loved was the stocks, which my other half made himself, they were a great bench but a fun play area for the children  too.

Another favourite was the Colin, the Falcon. He is a garden Decoy, to scare away birds from newly laid seed lawns or fruit trees, but my other half cut away his rock and fixed him to a hand made bird stand.

The children spent hours in the armour shelter or running around in a true medieval world. Their Dad showed them how to make a shield out of a panel from an old washing machine, and they would often be found sat in the armour shelter with a hammer banging on old blocks of wood completely emerged in their imaginations.

We would do activities outside too, often found with pots of paint and paper, or simply sitting reading books or playing with toys or board games.

The garden really was the hub of our house and the centre of so many of my childrens memories, now however the children are abit older, we have moved house and our current garden is smaller, we still love being outdoors and spend lots of times wandering through the woodlands close by, but the garden is more sophisticated, more of an adult relaxing space, there is no castle, or armour shelters, no swings or climbing frames, now we have a little table and chairs and a BBQ, Colin came with us and sits in the corner over looking the more sophisticated area, the swords and shields also made their way to the new garden, but attach to the fence as a untouched reminder of the past fun.

Now beautiful flowers grow without fear of being trampled by young children, and we sit and enjoy the peace whilst chomping on Burgers from the barbecue, that's the bitter sweet nature of childhood, it doesn't last forever, children grow quickly their fun and games change, now a basket ball hoop entertains them, the patio area is a useful skate park for practising their latest skateboard tricks and the wonder of fairies and playing castles is just a fond memory.

 Now we are making new memories, in a new garden, and although it is different from the past it has potential to be just as amazing. That is why I am entering the Furniture Village Great Garden Moments Competition, which is giving us a chance to win the amazing Cheltenham garden table and chairs set which I think would make a fantastic addition to our garden.

Rainy Day Activities - Cushion sewing kit

The Diamond Jubilee has been rather wet hasn't it? But the whole country seems to be covered in patriotic Red White and Blue, I do love the Union Jack designs and merchandise.

My three children love a celebration too and Chloe specifically always wants to show her support to upcoming events and celebrations, if we were to sit at home and not mention the Jubilee celebrations I would definitely have her complaining.

But when its wet and miserable street parties are cancelled and things don't seems as appealing, so I was thrilled when we were sent a My Style Union Jack Cushion kit to review.

This is ideal for anyone who loves getting crafty and wants to spend this bank holiday doing something with a patriotic feel, or if you want to get some crafts in to entertain over the summer Olympic celebrations.

The kit includes everything you need to make 2 cushions, the felt covers come ready cut and punched to make sewing easier, the thread and a needle.

You get the two inner pillows which arrive flat packed but pop out to make lovely soft pillows one large pillow 40cm x 25cm and one smaller pillow 25cm x 16cm

This is a really lovely kit and has kept Chloe occupied for a good while, she has never really completed any sewing kits before so this was a perfect starting point with the pre hole punched felt shapes.

The My Style Union Jack Cushion kit is aimed at girls aged 8 and above and would make a perfect kit for birthdays or to keep in for the rainy days over the summer holiday. Priced at £14.99 I think this is great value as the finished pillows are really lovely.

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