Happy Birthday Gracie

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Today my biggest baby turned 4. I think now is time to admit that she is growing up. Having Gracie changed my life forever and I am so proud of the amazing little person she has become. She has had a wonderful day surrounded by the people she loves and has been deservedly spoilt with some fab presents.



Happy 4th Birthday Gracie

xxx

blogger competition

My Debenhams Children's Toy Wishlist

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I  was asked to put together a toy wishlist from the Debenhams website as part of a Blogger Christmas competition. They sell a very large selection of fabulous children's toys so it was hard to narrow down but here is my top five:

1. Lego Duplo The Jokers Challenge

Zach is Batman mad and we have the Lego Duplo Batcave for him for Christmas already. This would go so well with that set and I'm sure he would have hours of fun. I actually hadn't seen this until I browsed the Debenhams website but it's now top on my ideas list for any Christmas money he gets.


2.  Sylvanian Families Beechwood Hall


Gracie actually hasn't got any Sylvanian Families toys yet but it would make a lovely collectible for her and something we can add to year after year. I am sure she would love the cute animal figures. It is something I would love to buy her and hopefully will soon.

3.  Teksta T-Rex
Ok so the Teksta robots are available as a Kitty or a Dinosaur. I know Gracie would absolutely love the cute pink kitty and Zach would love the Dinosaur. I would definitely side with Zach though, Dinosaurs are pretty awesome and I'm really curious to see what it would do!

4. Winnie The Pooh- Hide Inside Winnie


I thought this looked super cute for Elsie. It's hard buying toys for babies but I decided this would look great in her bedroom as an ornament while she's too little for it and would be great fun for her to grow into it.

5. Casdon Dyson Ball Vacuum Toy

Gracie and Zach love helping me do the housework and I always have an extra pair of hands helping me push the hoover around so I think they would love a toy hoover for themselves so they can copy me whilst I am doing the cleaning.

Disclaimer
This post is my entry into the Debenhams Christmas wishlist competition.

baby gifts

Bambino Mio Swaddle Blankets

Wednesday, December 17, 2014



A few weeks ago Elsie was sent a set of Bambino Mio's swaddle blankets. Now I am already a Bambino Mio fan and regularly use their fabulous nappies on Zach and so I was intrigued to see how good their non nappy products were! The Bambino Mio swaddle blankets are basically giant muslins and I love muslins! They have so many uses, fold up small and are easily washed and dried. What's not to love? 



The great thing about these are the size. I first used them as swaddle blankets but Elsie soon wanted her freedom and didn't want to be swaddled any more but I found she loved to sleep on top of her swaddle blanket. So I always leave one on top of the sheet in her bedside cot and silly as it sounds she gets upset if it isn't there as it has become a comfort to her. I also use one as a sheet in her pushchair carrycot as they are so easy to clean and dry between uses. I find it incredibly handy to have one of these swaddle blankets in my change bag in case of any emergencies. It can be used as an extra blanket in the pushchair when it's chilly, or best of all if your baby gets a runny nose or is sick at all it is great for mopping up anything and can be quickly rewashed. I could talk about all the different uses it could have but that would be one huge blog post and I'm sure you get the gist. 


I love the patterns on the swaddle blankets the pink stars on white is truly beautiful and it is also available in blue stars. I would love to see it available in  few different colours though. I thought maybe black stars on grey or something something similar would be really cool and gender neutral! 

The price per pack is £16.99 and for that you get two large swaddle blankets. Each blanket is 120cm x 120cm in size. I definitely think the Bambino Mio swaddle blankets would make an excellent thoughtful gift for a new baby or even a baby shower gift for a pregnant lady. I would be pleased to have received them myself. They even have regular special offers so you might get a great deal when buying them. If you subscribe to the newsletter on their website you will get these offers straight to your inbox.

The Bambino Mio swaddle blankets can be found on the website HERE along with all of their other fantastic products. I would seriously recommend having a browse!

Disclaimer
I received the item featured free of charge for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.


chocolate

Teacher Gifts: Homemade Rose Flavoured Chocolate Buttons

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Deciding on a gift for teachers can be so much hard work. I decided that it would be nice to make something special with Gracie to say thanks. We have made a Rose flavoured chocolate button with a violet crystal topping. As they look and taste so good I thought I would share with you. Best of all they take only 20 minutes to make!


Ingredients
100g milk chocolate
1/2 tsp rose water
1/4 tsp sunflower oil
Violet Crystals

1. Break up the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. Gently stir until the chocolate is fully melted.
2. Remove from heat and stir in half a teaspoon of rose water and quarter of a teaspoon of sunflower oil. 
3. Line some baking trays with non stick baking paper. I used three as my trays are only small ( I also used a small amount of tape to hold the paper in place as the chocolate drops are not heavy).
4. Using a teaspoon, drop small amounts of the chocolate mixture onto the baking trays being careful to try and make them small and round in size.
5. When the buttons are starting to set scatter a pinch of violet crystals over the top of each of the buttons then leave to set in a cool dry place.


The recipe is easy enough to get the kids involved, particularly in breaking up the chocolate, stirring and sprinkling on the violet crystals. Let them help you check on them and taste them while you wait to package them up. I waited around 4 hours before packing them up.


I bought some cute little glass jars, you can get a set of four for just £1.50 in Ikea ours are from Tesco but are exactly the same but are £1 each. (I've stocked up in Ikea for family presents). To decorate we then made little tags using coloured card, writing the teachers and teaching assistants names on each and a little message saying 'Merry Christmas love from Gracie' on the back and tied it round the jar using a cute grey wool string. Alternatively, you could package them into a presentation box which would be just as nice.


So there you have it, a nice and easy idea for homemade gifts for teachers, friends and family. You could even experiment with different types of chocolate and flavourings. I have a dark chocolate, a dairy free chocolate and a chocolate orange version planned to make over the next week.

block puzzle

Hape Farm Animals Block Puzzle

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Zach was recently sent the Hape farm animals block puzzle to try out. Zach loves wooden puzzles. He doesn't like anything too fiddly as he gets easily frustrated when he struggles to put anything together. The Hape farm animals block puzzle makes things a lot easier for toddlers. With just 9 blocks to put together it really does keep things simple. However each block has a different piece of a puzzle on each of it's six sides meaning there are six different puzzles to put together. Each of the puzzles is a picture of a well known farm animal and the pictures have different background colours so you can teach your child to look out for the colour coding to help them to create their picture.


I love how the puzzle incorporates different learning skills such as problem solving (by learning how to put the picture together), they can also help to teach the names of animals and the noises they make (sometimes children take in discussions about these things much better when they are playing), even physical skills are learnt simply by them figuring out how to put it together in place or stacking them upwards to create the picture.


Of course it's not all about learning! Blocks are great for building towers and all sorts. There are many possibilities when using the Hape farm animals block puzzle to have hours of fun either independently or as a family. 


The Hape farm animals block puzzle has a recommended age of 24 months+ but I would honestly say that it could be used by even younger children. The puzzle is priced at £9.99 on Amazon here making it the perfect stocking filler or gift for Christmas.

Disclaimer
I received the item featured free of charge  for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own.

The First Nativity

Friday, December 12, 2014



This week Gracie had her first nativity. It is something I have looked forward to since before she was even born. I had always imagined watching my kids grow up. Attending every school concert or performance and finally this week I got to attend the first one. I know for the next 14 years or so I will see plenty of their performances and I can't imagine ever missing one.

The build up is great. For weeks Gracie has been coming home singing the different concert songs her favourites being 'Away in a manger' and 'Christmas Pudding'. The nursery class do a concert on their own separate from the other year groups and we were all amazed at how well they did! For a bunch of three and four year olds they were brilliant! All singing, playing instruments and doing the actions, there was only one to cry because he got shy. They all sat quietly and joined in with the story of Jesus being told by a local Vicar. It was absolutely lovely to watch! 

Gracie was an elf. It was no traditional nativity but the songs all fitted nicely! She looked so proud of herself on stage and kept giving us huge smiles when she saw us all watching her. It was seriously one of the cutest things I have ever seen in my life and I can't wait for the next one!

nightlight

Phillips Spiderman 2 in 1 Nightlight & Projector

Thursday, December 11, 2014



Zach is a huge Spider-Man fan! He loves the films, loves to dress as him and even had a Spider-man themed birthday this year.  Any Spider-Man themed gifts are definitely a winner in this house. Philips have a range of Spider-Man lights perfect for a child's bedroom. We were sent the Spider-man projector to try out. 

The Spider-man projector is both a nightlight and projector in one. It comes with three small discs containing different shots of Spider-Man in action. Your child can then project the images of Spider-Man onto the ceiling in a dark room. When they are done they can also switch it to the nightlight setting to give out a comforting glow.


Zach loves being able to watch Spider-Man on his bedroom ceiling at night before I switch the nightlight on. The picture is fantastically clear and there are plenty of different pictures to look at on the three separate discs. The whole projector is easy for a child to use independently. With a simple switch to change from nightlight to projector and the disc is easily turned by a child to change picture.


The Phillips Spiderman nighlight and projector would be a great addition to any little boys bedroom and I would say suitable from around 12 months as long as they are supervised. It is battery operated so no need to worry about loose wires around the room. It would be a great prop for making up Spiderman bedtime stories.


As you can see it does still work in the daytime, it's just not quite as effective. Not that that bothers Zach at all, I regularly find him pointing it at the walls to try and catch Spiderman. I am so impressed with the Spiderman projector that I am on the hunt for the Frozen version for Gracie, although I haven't been lucky enough to find it in stock anywhere yet!

You can buy the Spiderman nightlight and projector on Amazon here for just £19.99. 

Disclaimer
We were sent the item featured free of charge for the purpose of this review but all opinions are my own.

adventure play

The School Run Featuring The Trunki ToddlePak

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Being a mum of three under four it would be so easy to get stressed over the school run each morning. Gracie started Nursery in September just after Elsie arrived and it was a struggle to begin with as I was still recovering from my C-Section. Zach was not even two yet and all of a sudden was having to walk everywhere whilst Elsie took the pushchair. Now that things have settled it has certainly become more manageable. Some days I decide to babywear with Elsie and put Zach in the pushchair but I like to let Zach have a bit of freedom most days. It can be a struggle controlling him near roads though whilst pushing the pushchair and also keeping an eye on Gracie. So I've been trying to come up with ways to make the school run more fun for him but with a bit of added safety!


I spotted the Trunki Toddlepak back at The Baby Show Olympia and discussed with them how I thought they would be great for the school run. Depending on whether Zach would like being restrained that is! And so this is how we have been trying it out. 


Zach loves foxes, apart from Pandas, they are his favourite animals. He likes to wear his 'fox' to go out. So I let him. I attach the harness but hold it loosely whilst holding his hand, walking along nicely to avoid him feeling like he's on a lead. Then when he wants to walk ahead I let him and call him to wait if he goes to far to avoid me pulling at him or vice versa. Walking nicely gets boring though and Zach has a lot of energy. We have come to an agreement that when it rains he can jump in puddles on the way to school (encouraging him to find the next one to speed him up!) and back but when it's dry he walks nice until we have Gracie (otherwise we would never get there on time!) then once we've got her we take a slow walk home and he can explore as much as he wants. There is a small field on the way home that he likes to run around and a great little adventurous area we found next to a car park with steep little hills for him to run up and down. So just before he gets to these I unhook the harness and just leave the fox on and he has so much fun playing. 


By turning the school run into a kind of game for him we have made it so much easier and with smiles and laughter rather than temper tantrums. I also find a stress free school run really makes a difference to my day too and motivates me to get on with everything I need to do. 

So thanks Trunki for that extra bit of help from the Toddlepak!

The Toddlepak costs £17.99 and is available to buy here


Disclaimer
We were sent the Trunki Toddlepak free of charge for the purpose of this post but all opinions are my own.

Christmas 2014

Baby's First Christmas Gift Guide

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

I know it can be difficult to buy for a babies first Christmas. I am finding it especially difficult this year with Elsie. I do however have a few really great ideas here and a few of these items are wrapped and ready for Elsie, the rest are cute items she already has.

Book/Soft Toy Set


We have a few of these cute sets now and the kids love them. I have always read to my kids even before they understood what I was doing. These cuddly toys are great for when they are little and they can cuddle them whilst you calmly read them a story. They are also good as they get older and start to recognise that the character in the story is the same as their toy. This book is great for teaching them to count as they get older and familiarising them with numbers in a fun way.

Photobox Soft Baby Photo Book


It's difficult to do this picture justice in a photograph but this is by far the best first Christmas present any of my children will ever get! The quality of the 'Soft Baby Photobook' is fantastic and I love how I could make the photo book into a short story of our family for Elsie to enjoy. She can look at the pictures and we can read the words to her as she gets older. Then even when she is a lot older it is something we can really treasure as it really is special. The eight page photo book costs £30.99 . You can also buy 4 page, 12 page and 16 page books. I however thought the eight was just perfect! The soft books are even safe to wash and Iron if they need freshening up. Also Photobox always have fantastic offers on their website so it is always a great place to look for photo gifts.

My 1st Years

Of course all babies need blankets. They make great presents especially for those under six months (the hardest age to buy for!). Personalisation makes that blanket that bit more special. I love this blanket of Elsie's (Personalised white cable knit blanket) and it certainly draws attention. I've had many people question where the lovely blanket is from whilst out and about. It is great quality and would make a lovely memorable gift. The blanket costs £25 and although the colour you see is unisex there are a few choices of colour for the personalisation which is a lovely added touch. This blanket can be found on the My 1st years website along with lots of other fabulous personalised gifts.

Me to You


I love the me 2 you range of gifts especially the baby items. How cute is this 'My 1st Christmas' hat and rattle?! Elsie has already been getting her use out of the hat for the festive season and the rattle has been put away in her Stocking for Christmas. She loves rattles, the noises are very stimulating for babies and I especially think that soft ones are fab for younger babies. Rattles in particular are magic in our house. Elsie can go from screaming one minute to fixated and smiling at a rattle. Definitely a must have item for all babies! This hat and rattle set costs £10 and is available at Amazon and other retailers. (You can see photo's of the hat in action on my Instagram page).

Marks & Spencer



This Christmas jumper dress and tight set was actually sent to me to review for the Mumii website but I love it so much I thought I would give it a mention here too! The quality is amazing. It is lovely and soft but also thick to keep her warm in this nasty weather. The sizing is great and it is very reasonably priced at £15 for the set. It comes in sizes 0-3 months to 18-24 months and so would be a great gift for a first Christmas. The dress is available to buy here

Disclaimer
A few of the items featured were sent to me free of charge however all opinions are my own.

Christmas 2014: Visiting Father Christmas

Saturday, December 06, 2014

No Christmas season would be the same without a visit to see Father Christmas himself. We took the kids to see him this week. With Gracie being that little bit older this year she is seeing all the magic that surrounds Christmas and her visit to Father Christmas was definitely a magical experience for her.

The Santa's grotto at our local shopping centre has had a big transformation this year. After years of long queues to pay a fortune for a cheap gift and photo they have finally made huge changes to make it available to all children completely free of charge. Not only that but it is so much better than ever!

First they let the kids and adults into a small room with beanbag chairs for the kids and 3D glasses to watch a short ten minute film about a reindeer. The kids all loved it. Then you go through another door down a little corridor full of beautiful lights and Christmas displays. At the end of the corridor is Santa's grotto. The Santa was lovely and welcomed the kids asked them questions and what they would like for Christmas. Gracie reeled off her list (thanks to all the TV adverts it's a pretty long one!) she then asked really nicely if he would bring her baby sister Elsie a nice teddy because she couldn't ask him for any presents ( she does make my heart melt sometimes!). Zach asked for Batman and Spider-Man, he's easily pleased!

Then Santa handed both kids a candy cane each and a book about Christmas Eve in Coventry so they could read it to Elsie. The kids thought it was really special and I loved that this whole experience was offered for free so that all families can go without worrying about the expense!  

Have you been to see Santa yet?

Christmas 2014

Gift Guide: Children aged 1-5

Friday, December 05, 2014

It can be so difficult choosing Christmas presents for young children especially when they are not your own. There is such a huge market out there and it is so diverse that it can become a near impossible task. With having both an almost 4 year old and a 2 year old I thought I would share some ideas with you with a mix of what is on my kid's lists and a few extra's that we also have for them. 

Doc McStuffins Doctor's Bag Set



This is number one on Gracie's list to Santa this year. Her and Zach are both Doc McStuffins fans and the fact that her toys come to life in the show where she gives them regular check-ups and fixes them with her Doctor's bag, makes this toy appealing to all Doc McStuffins fans. The set contains all of her equipment in the signature purple colour just like on the show. This is perfect for encouraging role play and using imagination. I bought this whilst it was on offer on Amazon but it is available from around £15+ at a range of different toy retailers.

Frozen


If you haven't noticed the phenomenon that is Disney's Frozen, then where have you been? The Snow Glow Elsa is probably THE top selling toy this Christmas and is sold out almost everywhere. We opted for the Toddler Elsa doll as an easy to find alternative! With brushable hair, Elsa's signature dress and mini Olaf toy, it is sure to be a big hit with Gracie this year and would make a great gift for any young girl. The toddler Elsa doll costs around £24.99 and is available from all good toy retailers.

Peter Rabbit Treehouse Playset


I was a huge Peter Rabbit fan as a child and loved the Beatrix Potter books. Peter Rabbit is now also a popular children's television series on Cbeebies and my kids all love it. This Peter Rabbit Treehouse playset is nice and sturdy with a Peter Rabbit figure included. The treehouse has a working lift and slide and is guaranteed to keep the kids entertained. The Peter Rabbit Treehouse costs around £29.99 and can be found at all good toy retailers.

Books

If you are looking for something a bit smaller then books are always a fail safe. There are not many children who don't enjoy a good book. For children under five I think a book always has to have an interesting story, easy to understand words and good illustrations.  This book was sent to us by Parragon Books as part of their book buddies review club and as always has been a big hit with the kids. The book is called 'Peek-A-Book' by Malachy Doyle and Rowan Martin. The book is a great action story which centres around a cat being chased through the pages of some well known children's stories. The book is around £5 which is a fantastic price for such a great children's book. 

Thomas & Friends


Another of my childhood favourites which is now loved by my children. Thomas has a new movie out. Thomas and his friends face their fears in their boldest adventure yet. After a storm on the Island of Sodor a landslide unearths some unusual footprints. Thomas and Percy are eager to find out what could have made these marks but obstacles and danger seem to appear around every bend in the track. With the help of some new friends, some digging and a heap of courage, they discover a surprising answer and along the way they uncover the true meaning of bravery. The movie is available on DVD an costs around £7

What is on your child's Christmas list this year?

Disclaimer
I was sent samples of some of these products but all opinions are my own.

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014: Festive Gift Fair

Thursday, December 04, 2014


Last Sunday Me and Gracie headed to The Festive Gift Fair at the NEC Birmingham for a well deserved special girly day. She is the perfect age this year to really enjoy the magic of Christmas so I was so excited to take her. She insisted on wearing her Princess Anna dress for the special day. We got the train over to Birmingham and as we arrived at around 11am we missed the queues to get in. The first thing we saw when we arrived was The Grinch! This is Gracie's favourite Christmas film and one of her favourite bedtime stories so I persuaded her to have a photo with him.


First of all, we had a good walk around all the stalls looking at all the festive items. From ready made Christmas Eve hampers to exquisite looking hand carved chocolate models there were lots of exciting things to look at. Of course some stalls were heaving with customers and others were very niche and were slightly less busy. I did find that it was very cramped again like last year. With Gracie bursting into tears two or three times with being cramped and pushed around by rude shoppers! Some people are definitely not very festive. I'd love to see them move the fair into a bigger hall next year!


There were all sorts of great stalls selling lovely Christmas items. Gracie treated herself to a little bell decoration from the 'insert name' stall (pictured below) the people there were really friendly and happily served Gracie herself bagging up her sleigh bell. Just like the one Santa gives the boy in The Polar Express, she informed me. We also bought some lovely glittered letters for the wall in the girls bedroom, a Santa sack for Elsie and some flavoured fudge for me and Daddy.


Gracie loved the fake snow scattered underneath the Christmassy trees around the hall. She spent a long time playing with lots of other children throwing snow around and making snow angels. It was lovely to watch. You can see just how excited she was in the picture below! She loved that she had snow in her hair for the rest of the day. (I didn't love it so much when trying to wash it out though!).


Now what happened next was pretty amazing. We had finished shopping and wanted to get home to see Daddy, Zach and Elsie. As we were leaving and walking past the Comic Con hall we saw all sorts of awesome costumes on the attendees (I must go myself one day!). As I was popping Gracie's coat on we were approached by a lovely lady dressed as Anna from Frozen. Of course Gracie was amazed. She took the time to talk to Gracie told her she was the best Anna she had ever seen and offered to have a picture taken with her. Gracie was so happy and said thanks and bye etc. Then Kristoff joined her! So she was stood having a chat with Anna and Kristoff about the 'ice' in her hair having the time of her life. Then we got on the shuttle bus outside and Gracie turned to me and said 'That was the best day ever Mummy, I love doing things with you'. She is an amazing little girl and I do love being part of these magical moments with her!







book advent

Christmas 2014: The Book Advent

Tuesday, December 02, 2014



Last year I came across the idea of having an advent made up of books. One book a day for each day of advent. It was such a success last year that I decided to repeat it again this year. It doesn't have to be an expensive tradition. Last year I made it up of mainly books we already owned from the bookshelf with a few I had stashed away as presents. This year I have done the same again. This years advents includes nine brand new books, a selection of our family favourites and some that we haven't picked up so often. Of course you could buy 24 brand new books I know many buy them from charity shops and discount stores. I like to mix them though as for me its the family time together that is the important bit. Usually Gracie gets a bedtime story in her room at night, Zach isn't so interested in books yet so I like that for the whole of December we can sit all together in front of the fire, surrounded by Christmas lights and read a story together. I'm hoping it will encourage Zach to take an interest but we'll see.

Our books are all wrapped up and numbered and were placed with our advent calendars ready for the kids first thing this morning. I mixed them around after wrapping so even I can't remember which is which. I did list them all beforehand though. So this is what we will be reading for the next 24 days:


  • Little Reindeer Wants To Play
  • Santa's Busy Night
  • The Perfect Christmas Tree
  • Snowman's Party
  • The Princess and The Wizard
  • Stick Man
  • The Dinosaur That Pooped A Planet
  • The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas
  • Frozen
  • Green Eggs and Ham
  • Fox In Socks
  • How The Grinch Stole Christmas
  • Humphrey's Christmas
  • Brave Little Polar Bear
  • Little Penguin Dives In
  • The Gruffalo's Child
  • The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit
  • Frozen- A Sister More Like Me
  • The Dinosaur That Pooped The Past
  • Sugarlump and The Unicorn
  • Room On The Broom
  • The Snail and The Whale
  • Disney Christmas Storybook Collection


I know they are not all Christmas books but we have thrown some really fun ones in. I'm especially looking forward to Fox in Socks as it always guarantees a giggle! 


advent calendar

New Smiggle Store Hits Bullring Birmingham

Monday, December 01, 2014


Recently I attended an event at new Bullring store Smiggle. Smiggle sell a huge range of bold, bright and unique stationery items aimed at stationery fans of all ages. The store is beautifully set out with all items in colour order! They sell all sorts of goodies from Satchels, diaries and scented pencils to optical lights. They even sell stationery advent calendars (great for the diet!) 


I have to say I came home with a lot more than I expected.  I did receive a goody bag with lots of lovely bits in but I also bought a bag full of surprises for the kids for Christmas whilst in there. You can see some here in my stocking fillers post. They have lots of great offers in store so definitely worth taking a look if you are ever close by! 


Smiggle have actually gifted me one of their stationery advent calendars and I am super excited about opening it up! It promises to be full of fun products from sharpeners to rulers and pens.

I love my stationery and I love to doodle especially when I go to blog events and conferences so can't wait to fill my pencil case up with my advent goodies! 

The Smiggle advent calendar costs £20 which although isn't cheap it is a similar cost to all the alternative advent calendars you find today like Lego, Playmobil etc. so if like me you really like your stationery or you have a teenager who does then you should definitely invest in the Smiggle stationery advent calendar. 


You can find your nearest Smiggle Store here. You can also catch up on all the latest news and products on the Smiggle social media pages.

Smiggle Official Facebook Page

Smiggle Official Twitter Page

Instagram