Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Naughty pigs!

Warren Evans are running a great competiton over on their blog inviting bloggers to share their stories about their favourite bed time toys.

I'm very lucky that Keani and Dexter have been great sleepers on the whole.  They share a room at the moment and until we move (in the year dot) it's likely to stay that way, however they have never known any different so they don't mind.

They are both at the age now there where bad dreams and monsters are starting to make an appearance however, and their nighttime companions are VERY important!

Keani's bedtime toy of choice is a cuddly Peppa Pig - this is particulaly ironic given her nightmare over her own version of a 'monster'.  My poor child was sobbing uncontrollably when James went to check on her.  He brought her out to the landing and apparently they had a conversation that resulted in James trying to stiffle his giggles (he had the shaking shoulders thing going on!).  Apparently the conversation went like this:

K: 'I've had a bad dream daddy' <clinging to James and sobbing her heart out>
J: 'Oh dear sweetheart, what were you dreaming about?'
K: 'Pigs' <more sobbing>
J: 'and why was that a bad dream Keani?' 'why are you so upset?'
K: 'They were sticking their tongues out at me' <sobbing gets louder>
K: 'Naughty pigs!'

Dexter has also woken up a few times having had a 'nightmare' - his nightmares do consist more of the regular 'monster' variety as opposed to the 'pigs sticking their tongues out' and Keani gets very concerned when he wakes up crying.

To ward of the monsters Keani kindly gave Dexter her Iggle Piggle toy - apparently if he puts Iggle Piggle's blanket over his eyes then the monsters won't get him.  He now won't be separated from him, and heaven forbid if he forgets to take him to bed!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Weightloss (or lack of it!)

So I'm approaching forty.  Forty!  I'm not old enough to be forty first of all, nor is my life in order the way that I thought it would be when I was forty.  I still have the same insecurities and worries that I did in my thirties (although they have escalated somewhat since having kids!).

Anyhow I digress.  I have noticed that I can't eat or drink as much as I used to without putting on weight.  I've become really slack with exercise, and to be honest the kids run me ragged so it is really easy to reward myself with chocolate and a nice glass of chilled wine (or two) at the end of the day.  I really need to start exercising and looking after myself a bit more.

According to the Jenny Craig blog cycling is one of the best ways of staying fit.  I can't say I've done much cycling in my lifetime, however, the 2 kids have bikes and as they get older I'd love to be able to cycle with them.  We have a 'greenway' near us which means we can cycle on proper paths away from cars, it would be great to give it a try!

As Jenny Craig is asking for some diet and nutrition questions for her blog to be answered by weight loss specialists, mine would be:

'I have a real tendancy to turn to food for comfort - at the end of a hard day with the children I can easily justify a bar of chocolate.  What foods would I be better turning to? (bearing in mind that a handful of nuts just isn't going to cut it!)'

Ask your own question here and you could win £400 to spend on a bike - what have you got to lose?

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Capture the Colour - Adventures Through Colour

I adore travelling - it's one of my passions and always has been.  I was lucky enough to travel to Australia for a year (via Malaysia) when I was 26, and subsequently worked in travel for a few years.  I went on to visit New Zealand, Borneo, Thailand, South Africa, USA, Prague and Montenegro.

More recently since having kids I've been to Florida twice, Rome, France and Venice to name but a few.

I love flying, I love experiencing different cultures, I love the sights, the sounds and the smells of a new country.   Travel broadens the mind, I don't understand why anyone wouldn't want to travel.  The world is huge and I plan to see as much of it as possible, so it's been fantastic to look over all my old photos and reminisce.  Unfortunately i have also realised how with each trip I have managed to gain a new wrinkle or two!

Travelsupermarket.com have a brilliant competition at the moment in which you need to showcase 5 photographs that capture the colours red, yellow, blue, white and green.  Have a look at the competition here.

I'm not a photographer (not by any stretch!) but I hope you enjoy the photos that I've selected and the tales behind them.

A few months into my relationship with James (now my husband), I asked if he fancied coming to Thailand with me.  He was pretty up for it really considering he'd hardly been out of the uk. This trip sparked a massive interest in travelling for him and I'm really glad he caught the bug.  I was really impressed with him agreeing to do a bungy jump with me (this was my second one).  He was absolutely petrified and was sweating profusely beforehand, whereas I was quite calm and excited.  It sealed the relationship in a way for me though as he was really scared of heights but went ahead and did it anyway.  I loved climbing up to the top of the structure and diving into the lush greenery below.  Beautiful! 
Capture the colour - GREEN
Penguins on a beach, no, really!  This photo was taken on Boulders Beach in South Africa.  I remember walking up to the beach in the blazing sunshine - there were bushes to the side of us and I heard lots of strange rustling.  Peeking through, imagine my surprise when I was confronted with a penguin - THE cutest thing.  As we appoached the beach we could see literally hundreds of penguins mooching around.  Really bizarre to see them in the sunshine I have to say.  We spent lots of time there and even braved the cold sea for a swim with them which was quite lovely until we realised we were swimming amongst penguin poo....
Capture the colour - WHITE
This next shot was taken in San Francisco (still pre kids I hasten to add!).  We spent hours walking round the streets and I loved the quirkiness of the multi coloured houses and the eclectic shops.  My feet had blistered from so much walking but we carried on regardless as there were so many cool things to see.

I adore this shop front.  I couldn't tell you what they sold, but the red stilettos are fabulous aren't they?!  I think this photo pretty much sums up this vibrant yet laid back city for me.
Capture the colour - RED
This next photo is showcasing the colour yellow.  This is from a recent trip to Florida with our two young kids and was taken on Anna Maria Island.  We hit the beach early to avoid the crowds and the heat and I managed to take some lovely simple shots of the children playing.  Dexter wouldn't be parted from his yellow spade and I think this picture sums up the morning perfectly.  The sheer joy of having a beach almost to himself and his trusty yellow spade..... I love the contrast of the yellow against the brilliant blue of the sky (and of course his crazy hair!).
Capture the colour - YELLOW

My final picture was taken on our second trip to Florida at Universal Studios.  Anyone familiar with Dr Seuss will recognise the 'Things' with their brilliant blue hair.

Keani adored meeting all the characters whilst Dexter was a grump for the majority of the time and refused to get out of the pram.  I love this pic as it shows Keani interacting with the characters - she is a quiet and shy girl by nature but her face lit up whenever she saw a new character to cuddle!
Capture the colour - BLUE
So this concludes my entry into the Capture the Colour competition.  I've really enjoyed putting these photographs together and really hope that my kids will in time feel as passionately as I do about travel.

I would like to tag 5 other fab bloggers via Facebook to remind them to enter this brilliant competition!

Di Coke @superluckydi
Wendy McDonald @insidethewendyhouse
Kylie Martin @memoirmode
Mummy of 3 Dairies
Melanie Edjourian @Melanie's Fab Finds

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Celebrate Their Success #PGRaisingOlympians

Wow! Haven't the Olympics been amazing so far?

It's been fantastic to have been able to celebrate our nation's achievements, from the magnificent awe inspiring opening ceremony to the courage and dedication of our athletes.  I've been feeling extremely proud to be British and have been glued to the screen daily - managing to bribe the kids to give me half an hours peace here and there.

I can only imagine what it must be like to be the parents of these athletes - I don't think I'd be able to watch, or if I did it would be through my fingers!  They must be absolutely bursting with pride.

My little ones are only 3 and 4 but already I feel so proud of what they've achieved.

My little girl, despite being very shy and quiet, and not letting me leave the room when she did her ballet class, actually went on stage at the local Town Hall and danced in front of a huge room of people - probably one of my proudest moments so far. 

And Dexter, my 3 year old, astounds me with his vocabularly and his ability to entertain.  I was particularly impressed with his circus skills the other day!

'Successes' are largely celebrated with cuddles and kisses, lots of love and the odd treat - though I'm sure as they get older, they'll become more demanding!

And as my two children start school, I will no doubt be proud of whatever they achieve.  I will instill values and morals, and hope that they continue to be the loving and caring kids that they are now.  I will gently encourage them, applaud all their endeavours and support them in whatever they desire to do.  And if Keani wants to become a world class diver, and Dexter an Olympic gymnast, then so be it!

P&G have made a series of short videos celebrating our Olympic heros, giving the perspective of their mums, and a little insight into how it feels to be the parent of an Olympic athlete.  I particularly enjoyed Pauline Pembleton's video (mum of Victoria) as her line 'you can only really try your best' really resonated with me.  I think my children will be hearing those words for many more years to come!

This is my entry into the #PGRaisingOlympians Celebrate Their Success Linky, sponsored by P&G

Monday, 30 July 2012

#ColourMeInRK – BritMums Competition Entry

Well the school holidays are upon us and trying to keep 2 young children entertained is a bit tricky I have to say!  Keani is going through a stage of wanting to sit and colour in pictures for the majority of the day but sadly Dexter has other ideas.  On Mondays however, he goes to nursery which gives us both a bit of peace and enables Keani to colour in without being bothered by her pesky brother!

I am always on the lookout for new projects for Keani and thankfully Kellogg's have come up with a genius cereal box which allows your little ones to colour in the picture on the front.  With this in mind, and the fantastic BritMums #ColourMeInRK competition sponsored by Kellogg’s, Keani (aged 4) set to work this afternoon and this is her rather brill entry:

Keani's #ColourMeInRK – BritMums Competition Entry
I love the way she's given all the characters stripey hair and stamped her own design on the cereal bowl - now I just need to get her to work another 20 more or so boxes whilst I get to work, um... watching the Olympics ;-)

By the way, if you are in need of half an hours R&R then I highly recommend you go over to the Kellogg's website here where you'll find some colouring templates to download, recipes, and other activities to keep your little ones amused.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Allergy Angst - starting school

Keani will be starting school in September.  Once upon a time I would be looking forward to the event with a large amount of glee but since Keani was diagnosed with life threatening allergies, the thought of leaving her at school all day makes me anything but gleeful.

I wish I could be one of those mums who has the 'bog standard' worries.  Will my child fit in ok? Will she enjoy it? Will she be bright? Will she be happy?  Of course I have those worries but my main concern is, will the staff keep her safe? Will she be kept away from nuts, eggs and shellfish?  Can I really trust the school to do that?

Anyone with an allergic child knows how I feel.  The majority of people will never understand.  A life threatening allergy is just that - a threat to a life.  Keani could have a trace of nut on her lips and go into full blown anaphylaxis.  On the flip side, of course, she may never face a serious reaction at school.

As a mum I think you always run through the 'what if' scenarios.  My 'what ifs' are probably a bit scarier than most.

I thought I was feeling ok about her starting school.  I thought I was managing the fear just fine.  Turns out I'm not really.

Possibly I'm having a bad week.  I was going to allow her school dinners (the catering service seem fantastic and have assured me no traces of nuts).  However upon speaking to the school nurse team at the Health Centre, they have advised me that it is safer for her to take in her own lunches.  Maybe it is, but the school does not have a 'no nut policy'.  So potentially she could be sitting next to a child with a nutty cereal bar.  Keani is only 4, she knows she shouldn't have nuts, but if she's offered a chocolate coated bar, who knows?

I'm hoping the angst I'm feeling is normal for the mother of an allergic child about to start school.  I'm fairly sure it is.  I'm just so envious of other parents who just have the 'bog standard' worries.

Here's hoping tomorrow is a better day.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Organix Review

Organix sent us a tasty organic selection pack for the kids to try.

Both children have grown up with Organix (I say grown up, they're only 3 and 4!) but I have always associated the brand to be organic, junk free and healthy.  Their Organix Puffs have been a staple in our children's diet for quite some time!

Although Organix aim their range at 1-3 year olds, there is no reason not to offer their products beyond the age of 3, Keani our 4 year old devoured the Gingerbread Men (made from wheat flour and grape juice).

Included in the pack was a Beef Stew and Dumplings Mighty Meal, with no nasty ingredients like added salt, preservatives or starches, it's the perfect meal for Dexter and something he's looking forward to!  I'll be giving it him when I'm short on time and need some quick and convenient food.

Also included were some Mini Cheese Crackers, a Tomato & Carrot Veg & Oat Bar, Cheese & Herb Puffs, an Apple & Raspberry Soft Oaty Bar and Raisins & Chopped Apricots.  Dexter was quickly drawn to the Tomato & Carrot Veg Oat Bar - I thought he might turn his nose up as it's not like the sugar infused oaty bars he's normally used to, but he actually really enjoyed it.

He then wanted to try the Raisins & Chopped Apricots and ate them all up too! 

The kids can't wait to try the rest of the goodies in the box and I'm happy knowing that the food is nutritious and healthy and not full of sugar like a lot of the snacks they are given (ahem.. not by me of course... ).

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Stage Fright?!

So it is Keani's first ballet show on Saturday.  I am approaching it with trepidation I have to say!

Now Keani loves her ballet and her tap but does not love lots of people, especially people she doesn't know!  She is a quiet and somewhat shy little girl, but has a heart of gold and a very independent streak.  She was keen to do ballet and I have to say I'm extremely proud of her.  I am still one of the only mums that has to stay in the room with her, but aside from that she is doing brilliantly.

So the big thing is, will she perform at the local Town Hall infront of a big crowd? Eeek! She cried at the latest rehearsal because there were too many 'big girls' in the room (they are doing the majority of the show) and only seemed happy when they left.

Half of me doesn't want to put my little girl through it, what if she bursts into tears on stage and runs off (my biggest fear!).  But half of me thinks, no, she should 'face her fears' and maybe she will surprise us all and be absolutely fine.  Her dance teacher has told me I can hang about right at the side of the stage and hold her hand if necessary (I won't be doing that!).

So we shall see, whatever happens happens.  But I'm so proud of her for actually doing the class in the first place.  Sometimes the world is a difficult place for a shy person.......

My beautiful girl :-)

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Fit for the Queen, Design a Bedroom Competition

My daughter Keani is nearly 5 and has unfortunately had the same decor in her bedroom since she was a baby, poor Dexter her little brother has also had to put up with the rather dull room as we simply haven't had money to redecorate.  As both siblings share a room, we are mindful that any makeover needs to be suitable for both a girl and a boy - luckily they are reasonably close in age.

So I put the question to Keani - 'what kind of bedroom would you like?' 'what do you think would be fit for a Queen?'

So of course the first thing she would like is a lovely pink princess bed with a matching dresser, and a pink chair to match (obviously).

'But Dexter won't like a princess bed, so he can have a white bed instead' 'and he likes making lots of noise, so I think he would like this guitar cushion'  Bless her, she is always looking out for her brother and always makes sure he is included in any decisions.

As we both looked through the furniture and accessories available, Keani was quite clear in what she wanted for her room.  'I think Dexter should have some blue wallpaper, like this penguin one here' 'and I want pink, I don't like blue' 'I like this one with animals on here, I think that would look really nice' 'I think the Queen probably likes stroking cats and dogs so she would like animal wallpaper'.  Keani concluded that her and Dexter could have different wallpaper as they both like different things.

She then went on to choose a lovely colourful rug and some shelving/storage units 'for all my princess shoes and princess dresses' 'I think the Queen has lots of shoes and pretty dresses too'.

Then she spotted a wigwam (?!) and decided that Dexter as a 'prince' would like to 'play in a wigwam with the princesses' and 'have lots of fun having picnics in there' but he could stay in the wigwam whilst she had her sandwiches on the picnic table!  Mmm ok! Apparently the Queen likes lots of picnics, she likes jam sandwiches and chocolate cake and peas (hopefully not all at the same time!).

We looked through all the accessories available and Keani chose lots of pictures for the walls, a gorgeous rug, some lighting, and some other random items.  'More is less' or something! She definitely isn't going for the contemporary sleek look that's for sure!

She finally added some spacehoppers for her and Dexter to bounce around on 'then we've got stuff to do before mummy and daddy wake up'.  Yes, excellent idea Keani! I asked her if she thought the Queen had a spacehopper to which she replied 'I think she might just sit on hers and not bounce around because otherwise her crown will come off and get broked' (broken!).

Keani was finally happy with her room but decided she wanted some butterfly lights to decorate it and also she wanted a princess bed with a canopy over it which we couldn't find, so you will just have to use your imagination!

Well, we had lots of fun designing her and Dexter's new room - we used a clever online design tool which is great when you have small kids as it means they can still provide loads of input and design the room exactly as they want.  As Keani is only young, it would be difficult for her to clearly illustrate her ideas by drawing them, so it's ideal.

Below are some views of the room at different angles. It was the first time we'd used the online tool, but we are pleased with the results and will definitely be using some of Keani's ideas regardless of whether we win the competition or not!

You can just see the orange picnic table here, the wigwam seems to dominate the room, but I guess that would be where all the 'action' happens! You can see the contrasting wallpaper here, the penguins for Dexter and the pretty deer wallpaper for Keani. I don't think it matters that there's different wallpaper on each wall - makes it look a bit eclectic!
A closer view of the penguin wallpaper and Dexter's bed with his guitar cushion.

You can just see the princess bed and shelving here - Keani would like a canopy over the bed though! She also chose some other cool items that you can't really see in the pictures including some funky dog lights (of course the Queen loves her dogs!), some wallhangings, pictures and cusions. 

I think Her Majesty would be proud!

Thanks to Dreams Beds for a fab competition.

Friday, 6 April 2012

My Piggy Bank Tale - Top Moneysaving Tips!

I am not a saver by nature unfortunately.  As a student I spent my loans on pretty new shoes and pints of lager and black...I then progressed to spending my well earned wages on, erm... pretty new shoes and wine (my palate became more sophisticated - but my spending habits didn't!).

When I got together with my husband I had a shedload of debt, and not a lot to show for it - although I did go on some amazing holidays!  Following the realisation that I was no longer young and ought to be paying off my debt and saving for our future, I decided enough was enough and devised a 2 year plan to pay off my humungous debt.

The plan that I followed to pay the debts off is still followed today, however, instead of debt, we now have savings, hurrah!

So here are a few of my top moneysaving tips!

1.  Meal plan.  Sounds simple, but it really does save you wads of money.  It is so easy to think 'sod it' when you haven't got any food in, and nip out for a Chinese or a chippy tea!  When you have food in the house, you don't have that temptation.  Also make sure you have ingredients for quick fix meals - so when you're tired and can't be bothered, you can just whip something up in no time, even if it is just beans on toast or something equally unexotic!

2.  Swap your supermarket.  We have always been big advocates of Tesco, largely due to the Clubcard rewards, however, we have recently swapped to doing our weekly shop at Aldi or Lidl.  We were dubious of the lesser well known branded goods, however, most of them are the same as the more expensive brands - trust me!  Another benefit of using a smaller supermarket is that it takes much less time to do your shopping, which believe me, is a real bonus when you have 2 toddlers in tow.  In addition because you have less choice you don't leave the supermarket with a million and one things you didn't actually go in for!  I believe we have probably cut our food shopping bill in half by doing this.

3.  Cut down on alcohol.  It is so easy to become reliant on that 1 or 2 glasses of wine a night.  Cut down to drinking at weekends only and your purse will thank you!  Even better cut it out completely (hey, but where would the fun be in that?).  This will not only save you money, but your body will thank you for it too!

4.  Make a vow to cut out a treat completely for a couple of weeks.  So for instance, if you always buy a coffee from Costa on the way to work, cut it out!  Take the money that you would have spent and put it in a piggy bank and count it up after the 2 weeks have elapsed.  When you realise how much you spend on little luxuries, it makes you think twice about making the purchase.  If you do this for 6 months or so, imagine how much you could save?!

5.  Swap expensive nights out for dinner parties!  Invite friends round for dinner and hopefully they will return the favour.  Cooking your own food and drinking your own alcohol is way cheaper than going out on the town, plus taxis will probably be cheaper, or one of you could even drive.  This also means you can socialise easier as no loud music blaring! (god, I really sound my age here!).

Anyhow, these are a few of my moneysaving tips to help you save those pennies, these little habits will help your money go a lot further.  It's easy to get into the right frame of mind, and once you've started moneysaving, I'm sure you'll become addicted!
This forms my entry into the fantastic BritMums Piggy Bank Tales Competition, sponsored by Virgin Money.

Share your savings story for a chance to win £500 towards a Stocks & Shares ISA