Thursday, 19 December 2013

Homemade Christmas Jumper

you know when you suddenly realise that you haven't had a chance to buy the outfit your children need for school that day?

Well today that was me, I subconciously knew it was Christmas Jumper Day for Mikey today - the last day of term, I did even look out for a Christmas jumper his size when I was in town at the weekend, but couldn't see any that were reasonably priced, and then I did mean to go and look again before this morning arrived, but you know how it is, one thing or the other came up and I simply haven't had a minute to go into town to seek out the last remaining 6 years olds Christmas Jumper.

So this morning came and Mikey jumped up excitedly claiming he was going to be wearing his Christmas Jumper today, and then I realised I had not told him that infact I had not been to buy him a Santa encrested sweater.

So what do you do at 8am with only 10 minutes to spare before leaving the house, and a mightily upset child who demands a Christmas themed jumper? and no the standard knitted jumper just won't do - it simply HAS to have a reindeer, snowman or Santa face on it somewhere.
Well I did the only thing I could think of in the remaining 5 minutes

I cut up an old fabric stocking and attached it to an old cardigan (using the magic that is sewsimple)

Homemade Christmas Jumper - cheap as chips and no sewing skills required!

Christmas Gift ideas on a budget

There is no denying it, Christmas is coming the calenders only have a few more doors to open and the decorations are all out, the Christmas concerts have finished and today is my youngest last day at school.

I have once again left the whole organisation to the last minute, and I am still hoping things fall into place. The one thing I do love however is the trip into town to buy some gifts for family and friends, it has become a bit of a Christmas tradition, just me and Chloe head into town on a bus, without the boys complaining, to buy some presents. Last year we went a few days before Christmas, this year we went abit earlier, there wasn't as much Christmas cheer around just hustle and bustle in the shops, which was a shame, and didn't do as much to put me in the Christmas spirit.  I may well take another trip on Christmas eve. We did however manage to buy a great selection of gifts.

With budgets tight we try to stick to token gestures, rather than luxury items, just a little something to say 'we were thinking of you' and thats where Poundland comes in.

Poundland has such a great selection of gifts and me and Chloe really enjoyed picking out things we hope our friends will like.

There are gifts for every one, even the furry members of the family aren't left out with special doggy crackers and Jacksons very favourite Wagg mmm's

Poundland have a huge selection of Christmas treats for humans too, from Cadbury chocolate selection boxes 3 for £2 which is a great price, to chocolate Santa's and candy canes there are loads of Christmas munchies to choose from.

But what I like best about Poundland is that they have a great range of other gifts, lots of novelty items and toys.

From photo frames to toy planes you really can find something for every member of the family all at an affordable price.

I love the fact I can allow Chloe to pick anything she likes without having to say 'oh we don't have enough money to buy that' after shes spent ages choosing the perfect gift.

The selection of arts and crafts is great too, with Christmas themed craft sets and lots of colouring books, pens and pencils.

We picked out the Christmas 3D balloon model kit which looks lots of fun for Christmas morning, with three characters in the set I intend on putting one character into each stocking for my three as they are individually wrapped inside the pack.

I also love the Christmas decorations and accessories Poundland have available, with great wrapping paper and a lovely selection of cheap Christmas cards which are simply perfect for school friends.

Over the years we have added many Poundland decorations  to our tree which are still used after many years.

This year we added a lovely little reindeer snow globe to our collection. and brought some lovely Christmas gift bags 3 for £1 a really great price!

If you are still looking for last minute stocking fillers or gifts for friends then do take a look at your local poundland.

Disclaimer : We were sent £20 voucher for this review but as always all thoughts are my own.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Tis the season...

December - blimey, where has the year gone!

The past few months I seem to be constantly trying to catch up, with so many things happening this year I just don't have much time to do anything.

Christmas however is supposed to be a season of goodwill, of happiness, tis the season to be jolly after all isn't it?

But this year I just can't quite get fully into the jolly line of thought.

Don't get me wrong, I am trying, I went along to the Christmas fair and local light switch on the other week, last year it was a highlight of the month, I loved the fireworks, the lights the Christmas cheer - I took so many beautiful photos and it really did get me in the Christmas spirit.

However this year things didn't really go as well, firstly Chloe was being a right pain, after weeks of asking when the Christmas fair was, she decided on the night she was not wanting to go along, when we got there she was being a total grump, and the loud music and lights just made her upset, which put a real dampner on everything, she refused to cheer up and complained about everything including the food. (she must be the only child I know who doesn't like burgers or chips!)

Trying to not loose my cool completely and give up and retreat home, I stuck it out for the boys sake, however it meant I didn't end up taking many nice photographs, you just can't capture the moment when the moment consists of grumpy children and stressed parents.

However Chloe did start to enjoy herself after I eventually found some food she liked. and she then even plucked up enough courage to join her brothers on a few rides.

But the start of the festivities just didn't seem to have the same cheer, and the list of 'to do's' seems to be ever increasing.

 I still need to organise the presents for the children - I always leave things to the very last minute and try to convince myself its a good idea to keep things low key. Then there is the  food and everything else that makes a perfect Christmas.

I need to  make an angel costume for Mikey for his school play on Thursday - something slightly better than an inside out Tshirt and a bit of tinsel, but I bet that will be what we end up with.

And I need to find some time to tidy the house!

Thankfully Wilkos sent me a nice box of household cleaning supplies, and whilst this might not be the most appealing thing to receive in the post, they are extremely useful!

The antibacterial wipes are simply perfect for quickly wiping the sideboards and floors (this time of year is a nightmare with muddy dog prints everywhere!) and the oven cleaner will mean that at least my oven will be on top form for cooking the Christmas lunch.

Wilkos product range is really affordable and the quality is great, for simple no fuss cleaning then looking in your local Wilkos store is a great choice, and for those last minute stressful Christmas cleaning sessions then the Wilkos selection will ensure you have everything you need.

I guess as long as the house is clean then everything else will eventually fall into place, won't it?

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Christmas drawings with the Ryman art set

Chloe really loves to draw, so much so that I have even created her a page on my blog showing off some of her drawings, so when we were asked by Ryman Stationary if we would like to review the super Art set I couldn't refuse.

childrens mega art set cheap art supplies

The art set is HUGE and oh so lovely, with 258 pieces this is a delux set for any artist.

There is a selection of coloured pencils, pastles, pens and paints - everything you need for endless creative fun and a bargain at just £14.99 (even more of a bargain in the sale currently £12.99 November 2013)

When the set arrived I wanted to keep it for myself, I do love to draw but just don't get very much time these days, a set of coloured crayons always makes me want to stop everything tho and get doodling.

Chloe however had other ideas, and set to work straight away doodling. The pencils are all really great quality they sharpen well and the crayons colour perfectly.

This set really would make a lovely gift for everyone and can be purchased online at Ryman Stationary

Ryman Stationary have loads of great gift ideas for Christmas which are sure to encourage everyone to get creative. Ryman stationary are also running a competition where you can win £100 worth of art supplies full details can be found on their blog The competition is for children in two different age catergories, drawing a Magical Place. You can then upload your drawing to the Ryman Stationary Facebook page.

childrens cartoon christmas drawings

We really do love this super art set and have lots of fun with it already, here is a video showing off some of our creative Christmas doodles

Friday, 22 November 2013

Rising Energy Consumption - Infograph

With the nights drawing in earlier and the weather taking a very wintery turn, I have noticed the energy bills rising. with our long summer months and late Autumn I had got used to the relatively unusual (for the UK anyway) good weather. But sure enough winter has arrived and there is no denying it any longer.

Jumpers on, and the heating turned up. But every winter the energy bills rise and it really is a struggle, we have a smart meter and I try to keep track of our spending, but with so much of our day to day life filled with electrical devices its not at all surprising to see that the amount of energy we consume per household has risen by 20% in the past 40 years.

OVO have put together this interesting infograph with some interesting facts and figures.

Have you changed the way you keep track of your energy consumption? is it somethign that you want to understand more about?

Take a look.

The evolution of energy consumption through the decades
Be smarter with your consumption and choose the right energy tariff.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Nike Trainers from JD sports

The past few weeks has seen my bank balance groan at all the new equipment and uniform my eldest has needed as he started secondary school, school bag, books, pens and pencils, uniform and PE kit.

The PE kit has been the biggest outlay of them all, not only do they have indoor and outdoor PE kit which has to have the school logo on but they also need indoor trainers with white soles, and outdoor football boots and shin pads.

Jake has never really been one for football and so buying football boots in all new to me, not to mention shin pads!

But as if by magic I received an email asking if I would like to review some trainers from JD sports, I could pick out any paid or Nike trainers, for me or the kids, and as much as I would love, and desperately do need, some new shoes for myself I also thought this would be a perfect opportunity to get Jake the last bit of PE kit.

So I looked over at JD sports website, and browsed through the huge selection, there is trainers for every occasion, from lots of top brands. I looked through the Nike section, which has lots of exclusive styles which can only be found from JD sports, including the AirMax 1 with the visible air unit in the midsole, which are both stylish and practical offering great support and comfort. As lovely as these trainers are however, I continues to browse the section looking for Football boots.

I found some Football boots which looked great, there was a great choice of colours and styles and I finally settled on some Black and Orange Astro Turf boots which I was sure would be perfect.
I then noticed that JD sports did a great range of accessories too and had a good selection of shin pads, so I was thrilled when I was told I would be receiving both a pair of trainers and some shin pads.

The shoes arrived quickly well packed and fit perfectly.

The famous Nike tick o the side is just enough colour without being too overpowering, perfect for school.

Jake loved them and instantly took them to test out, they are comfy to wear and he was really pleased with them, he gave them a thorougher testing and returned home with them covered in mud but pleased to report them passed the test.

The shin guards have  ankle protectors which are detachable, and are easy to put on and adjust.

Jake really likes the trainers and the shin guards, and is even enjoying football training so I best bookmark the JD sports website for future purchases!

We were sent a pair of trainers for free in exchange for a honest review of JD sports service.

Spy Gear - Top Secret Mission Review

A few weeks ago we received a package from the postman - a very special package.

Wrapped in black paper with TOP SECRET branded across it the boys couldn't wait to open it up.
Inside we found a secret agent welcome letter outlining our mission - to test and review the range of SpyGear gadgets and see if they passed the test to enable us to become top secret spies!

Spy Gear from Spin Master make a range of fantastic spy kit from the spy essentials to under cover surveillance tools to allow you to become real spies in your own home.

The quality of the Spy Gear is amazing and we have been putting each item through rigorous testing over the past few weeks and we want to share our thoughts with you all. If you have a budding spy then do look out for Spy gear products I am certain they will be a big hit.

SpyGear can be purchased from leading toy stores such as Argos, Asda, ToysRus and Amazon The Products range in price from around £6.99 upto £69.99 depending on which product you purchase.

We were sent the following items:

Field Agent Spy Watch
Price: £9.99
Where can I buy it: in the UK ToyShopLondon Ebay and Amazon, in other countries ToysRus has the watch available. 
Batteries: 1 x cr2032 - which is included
Age rage: 6+
official Website link : Field Agent Spy Watch
This is a great Agent watch  with loads of features. It not only keeps the time perfectly but also tells the time in 24 different countries so you can keep check of what time it is in London, Toyko, Hong Kong and Australia with a touch of a button. This fantastic watch also has a stop watch and an motion sensor alarm, but thats not all this watch also has a secret decoder screen so you can write your top secret messages then store them in the capsules hidden in the watch strap.
This really is a great piece of essential spy kit and perfect for budding spies of all ages. The adjustable straps means it fits a wide range of ages.

Night Goggles:
Price: £14.99
Where can I buy : Asda in the UK, or ebay and Amazon.
Batteries: 3 x AAA batteries (not included)
Age rage: 6+
official Website link : Night Goggles

These handy night vision glasses have everything every spy needs, with the bright LED lights to eliminate darkness and the blue tinted lenses you can be sure to track your target even in the cover of darkness. The fold out 2x magnifying lenses gives you enhanced tracking ability. these goggles look super cool too!
Points to note:  The goggles have an adjustable strap so fit all sizes

Micro Agent Motion Alarm
Price: £6.99
Where can I buy :  ToyShopLondon 
Batteries: 2 x AAA batteries (not included)
Age rage: 6+
official Website link : Micro Motion Alarm
 All good spies need to be able to be one step ahead of everyone else, and this clever piece of equipment ensures you know exactly where your target is moving too. This motion sense is small and can be placed almost out of sight but it will sound as soon as an intruder crosses its line of sight.
Points to note:  the alarm is light sensitive and works best in daylight.

Spike mic Launcher
Price: £24.99
Where can I buy :  Argos, Asda and Ebay
Batteries: 1 x LiPo 3.7v included.
Age rage: 6+
official Website link : Spike Mic Launcher

This is one of the most used and favoured pieces of spy kit , The Spike Mic comes with the rechargeable station, the mic launcher, the mic, and two different dart tips.
This amazing bit of kits allows you to launch your mic with special dart upto 50ft, and depending on which dart tip you pick you can fix your dart to almost any surface. Then listen in to the conversations from afar. The recharge station has a  built in charging port to connect the dart upto when it needs charging and also a headphone socket to connect up headphones to enable you to pick up the conversations from your mic.
Points to note : you do require headphones which are not included in the pack, the red sticky dart tip picks up hairs easily - but can be washed clean.
The mic launcher works really well and the conversations can be heard really clearly from another room.

Stealth Com WalkieTalkies
Price: £39.99
Where can I buy :  Argos, Asda, Amazon and Ebay
Batteries: 2 x AAA batteries each so 4 in total (not included)
Age rage: 8+
official Website link : Stealth Walkie Talkie
These have been another huge hit, these stealth walkie talkies are simple fantastic!
In the pack you get two walkie talkies.
The headsets fit around your neck so the mic rests on your throat and picks up even a low whisper, the ear piece slips into your ear to enable you to hear clearly what your team mate is saying.
There is a small antenna attached at the back on the battery box, and a channel selector.
To activate the walkie talkies ensure both are set to the same channel then press the SG button on each.
These are clear headsets however they do get a bit muffled if you are too close to your team mate, they work well all over the house and even when one person is out in the garden, with a range of 300ft these are great for all spy missions.

Panosphere 360 SpyCam
Price: £69.99
Where can I buy :  Argos, Asda, Amazon and Ebay
Batteries: LiPo 3.7v included
Age rage: 8+
official Website link : Panosphere360

This is a really clever piece of kit and one that is best for the older children.The camera comes with 2gb memory card, and usb cable to connect to a computer and upload your images and video.

The camera can record videos or capture photos, depending on which setting you set it too, on the photo setting it will take a photo every couple of seconds.

The camera take a full 360 degree shot of the room, which give some pretty cool images.

Also included in the pack is a backing plate to attach too to enable you to spin across the floor and capture footage in another room, a wrist strap so you can attach the camera to your wrist  and a sticky plate so you can attach the camera to a flat surface.

The camera is recharged via connecting to your computers USB and lasts for several hours before needing a recharge. The photos are not great quality but certainly fun and the kids love looking back through their pictures to see who they caught on screen.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Secondary school - growing up

When I think about it, it doesn't seem possible that I am the parent of a secondary school aged child, it seems to have come about so very quickly, I can so vividly remember my own secondary school days it seems crazy that now my own child is old enough to be following through the same pathways.

It's strange isn't it? When you think of how quickly time passes and how those tender early years slip by, it seems like no time at all when I first gazed into his newborn eyes, and a mere blink and the years passed to when he first went to start primary school, but now he is no longer this little child dependant on me, he is now this pre teen, full of his own ideas and opinions.

I always knew Secondary school marked  a huge change in my life, a turning point, I remember feeling much more grown up once I had left the comfort and safety of primary school behind, and now looking from the parents perspective its easy to see why.

Along with the new school building to navigate, a new timetable of lessons to learn, new friendships, new teachers, there is also a new set of responsibilities, no longer are you ushered through the day almost coasting by, with someone always there to guide you and tell you the right way to do things, in secondary school you loose that constant guide, you have to make your own decisions your own choices and judge yourself how things will work out.

Jake has managed to survive his first term in year 7 - just about anyway.

He has managed to stick with friends from his old school, who are now in different forms, and make new friends too, he has had to find a way to keep up in lessons and get his work done on time, and he's tried his hand at new skills.

Of  course he has also managed to loose his locker key, his PE shorts, a football sock and completely soak the contents of his school bag. He has had detention for not doing his homework, and skimed past work which I know he could try harder with. He has had to make his own choices, of which some of them have been slightly questionable, whilst these learning curves are annoying for me as his parent I realise these are the times he is maturing the most.

The lessons that are perhaps equally as valued as the mathematics and science equations he will be learning in class. The life lessons of knowing where is safe to place your bag when its raining and how to collect up all your belongings before you rush off for lunch, time management and cause and effect, no work - detention! These life lessons can't be taught easily by anything but experience and that's what secondary school gives, the chance for children to experience life, and learn how to navigate through it without a guide over their shoulder making all the decisions for you.

In the last few weeks I really have seen him growing up before my very eyes and I hope that he continues to make good decisions, or at least tries to tread carefully along the path over the next few years, as he cuts out his own trial into adulthood.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Yummy sweets! Haribo review

Yesterday the postman arrived bearing gifts and we were thrilled to see the huge selection of tasty treats.

haribo trick or treat sweets tub
As the advert says Kids and Grown ups love them so - and that is definitely true, as soon as my other half saw the Haribo tangtastics he had put dibs on them as his and he was reluctant to share them but with the generous 200g bag there was plenty for everyone. These new release tasty treats are exclusive to Tesco and we all really loved them.

haribo halloween themed fang tangy sweets

but if the tangy treats are not  for you then fear not Haribo have plenty of non tangy varieties and Mikeys favourite are the Spooky Ghosts. These are lovely tasty ghosts in vanilla, blackcurrant and orange flavours perfect for little monsters to share.

white ghost chewy sweets haribo
Along with the share bag of Tangtastic and Spooky ghosts we also received a big multi box with 50 individual haribo mini bags inside. These are perfect for passing around party guests or putting in goodie bags, with just a few sweets in each bag they are ideal for young children inside each bag you will find yummy gummy frogs, orange pumpkins and blackcurrant bats which are great fun.

buy lots of haribo best value multi bo

If you are having a party Haribo have that covered too with their Trick or Treat party bucket, included in this plastic tub was 40 individual mini bags and some party game ideas, invites and stickers - everything you need to help your party go smoothly.

haribo halloween party game ideas and stickers invites
Unfortunately the post was abit slower than we had hoped so we didn't get these in time for Trick or Treating, but they are perfect for sharing with friends this weekend as we continue the Halloween celebrations - and they will be perfect for Bonfire night treats too.

mega party pack haribo sweet treats
In fact Haribo sweets are the perfect yummy goodie for any celebration and are always a firm favourite with everyone. Haribo have a huge selection and themed goodies for all occasions you are sure to find them in your local supermarket or you can add them to your online order with Asda or Tesco stocking a huge variety at affordable prices.

We really do love Haribo and have enjoyed the Halloween themed varieties and sharing them with all our friends.

We received a selection of Haribo sweets for the purpose of this review but all thoughts are my own.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Trick or Treats?

I can't believe it is November already this year has whizzed by, especially the past few months with a new school year seeing my eldest start secondary school, my youngest growing up joining year 2 and Chloe in her final year of Primary school there has been so many changes school wise, and there has also been alot of personal family upset and change too, with two of my granparents passing away within a couple of months of each other it really does seem that the past few months have been abit of a blur.

Which is why half term break couldn't of come sooner, we are all tired and grouchy Jake is suffering with his asthma and the dark nights are starting to get me down, and so I was quite happy to have Halloween as a distraction.

We have carved pumpkins - so many pumpkins, and had fun with the cousins, watched films and listened to Halloween music we've really got into the feel this year and it has been good fun and a real celebration over several days.

Yesterday of course saw us  dressed up and went out trick or treating, for years I was always unsure if trick or treating was a good idea or if it was begging and the thought of knocking on strangers doors just never made much sense, but my attitude towards trick or treating now has changed and I really do enjoy it and I now think that it can be a really great tradition.

When we were younger my mum never let us celebrate Halloween no real reason she just didn't like the idea of it, and so I always longed to join in with what my friends chatted about at school and whimsically watched American TV shows where Halloween always seemed so much fun, when I became a mum myself I wasn't too sure what to do at Halloween and for the first years of the childrens lives we didn't really do much at all, but once both Jake and Chloe were at school and they started to notice friends talking at trick or treating I decided that I would go and see what it was all about, living in the middle of nowhere we had to travel to the local village in order to join the fun and I was shocked to find that almost every house had decorations and had laid out lots of treats for the kids, it really changed my attitude towards trick or treating, but still I was unsure if it was just an out of the ordinary occurrence because the village was so small and when we moved house in 2011 I really wasn't kean on going Trick or Treating in the new area. Infact I blogged about it at the time (you can read that post here)

However, after blogging that post the children twisted my arm and wanted to go trick or treating here, so I went, but with strict rules - we would only visit decorated houses, knock once only and be polite and respectful to anyone we would meet. I didn't know what to expect now living on a street in a larger village and from my window it really didn't look like anyone had made an effort towards Halloween at all. I genuinely thought we would return home with out having knocked on a single door.

However I was surprised to see that in fact around the corner along the road and dotted across the village there was in fact quite a lot of houses with smiling pumpkins on display and friendly faces welcoming trick or treaters,  and a good deal of houses which had really gone all out on the decorations. We returned home with a renewed community spirit after meeting the people we lived close by and seeing how they were genuinely pleased to see us out enjoying Halloween.

The following year we went out trick or treating here again, this time we took along the cousins and we had such a lovely time despite the rain (it really did rain last year!) and again we were meet with so many happy people welcoming us and wishing everyone out in the village a Happy Halloween.

Thats why this year trick or treating was a really big part of our Halloween celebrations - funny isn't it how your attitudes towards things can change.

We do follow a set of rules, which haven't changed, we only go to the decorated houses, we are respectful polite and friendly to all, there is no Tricks - infact we say 'Happy Halloween' when the people open their doors and we wish everyone a good evening - it is great fun not only for the children collecting treats but for those who have put the effort in to decorating their houses and creating little gift bags for those out celebrating.

The smiles on the faces of children who have themselves not wanted to go out trick or treating but instead stayed inside to give out sweets is lovely when they see us knock on their door shouting Happy Halloween ,and the parents thanking us for coming makes it worth while and really all the pre conceived perceptions of' begging and asking for treats from strangers seem somehow out of place.

Yes these people may not be family or even good friends, but everyone shares the same hope, to have some fun and celebrate, everyone who decorates a pumpkin or buys a spooky decoration does so because they want to enjoy the season, the tradition, get involved in some way, join in, giving out a few bits of candy or fruit or party bag toys to the children who live around to those who have choosen to join in,  is as much reward as collecting up a big sweetie haul is to the children.

And to those houses who have no decorations, well they are missing out on a really rather nice community event, but that is fine too, I appreciate there are a few trick or treaters who don't have any guidelines or rules and older children who perhaps take things abit to far if they are without adult supervision, and that does spoil it for those who are trying to have some fun. I would not allow the children to do any tricks to those who don't join in, no eggs or flour or toilet paper here and I wouldn't allow my children to go out by themselves (even tho Jake is now 11) When they are too old to come with their old mum they are too old to recieve sweets.

So yes we knock on doors - we take sweets from strangers - we celebrate Halloween and I actually really enjoy it.
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