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28.11.12

Stolen Moments

I wrote this post on my phone last week and then completely forgot to upload it. As I snuggle on the sofa with Charles right now, whilst Harry plays on the floor, it seems really appropriate to publish it.

Being a mummy to two boys can be very busy. Can be? I mean, is always very busy.
Days of relaxing on the sofa are long gone and are replaced with chasing the boys around the house, making them drinks, food, trips to the toilet, nappy changes, tidying the house and doing washing as and when I can.
The only time I sit down is when feeding Harry, (or if I'm on the toilet!), I don't even sit down to eat my lunch!

Quality time with the boys together is easy, but one on one is hard. Although I have time to myself with Harry in the afternoon it is spent clock watching. I'm hoping that after Christmas I can give myself a kick up the bottom and actually DO something and GO somewhere during this time. So far the most we have done is a couple of shopping trips to a neighbouring town, but still I'm constantly clock watching.

Harry rarely naps so one on one time with Charles is almost unheard of.
I have to steal moments whenever I can. Like sending Harry to bed first so I get an extra 15 minutes with Charles. On a Monday I leave Harry with my husband whilst I take Charles to school and those 5 or 10 minutes alone is amazing.

I sometimes hope for him to have a restless night, just so I can go into his room and read him a story, talk about things we've done in the past (like holidays, days out and similar), and to give him a "tickle back". Although this time is only successfully lovely if Harry remains asleep throughout.

This morning I decided to give Charles a shower, he needed a hair wash too, so I sent Harry downstairs and had a lovely 30 minutes with Charles. We laughed, he cried (hates having his hair washed, which isn't helped when he applies shower gel to his washed hair rather than to his body, hense then needing another hair wash!)
As he got out of the shower he grabbed his underwear and a jumper and came and asked if I would dry his hair. I had planned to let it dry naturally but took the opportunity to steal a little bit more time with him.

As we finished he went downstairs and I headed for a shower. He called up to me "I love you mummy".
It was almost like he appreciated that stolen moment as much as I did.

25.11.12

Sky News and Me

When I woke up on Thursday morning I was in a real down mood. Weeks of broken sleep and poorly boys in some form had got to me, and as a result sent me into an emotional, anxious mess.
It was also the morning I was to meet my new therapist. My fourth therapist in a year, so understandably I was feeling anxious about this too and ready to be let down.
As it turns out, the therapy session was really positive, something I'll write about separately, and once I left my appointment I parked up for a bit to catch my breath, listening to my Ellie Goulding album which is always sure to put me in a good mood.
And then I went home.

My husband had a meeting in the city so wasn't going to be home until around 1.30/2. My mum had been looking after the boys for me but left for work at 12.
I was feeding Harry and noticed a Twitter notification on my phone.
A few dms and a telephone call later and I was scheduled to be interviewed by Stephen Dixon the very next morning. A cameraman was due to arrive at my house at around 8am and I would go LIVE on Sky News at 8:40am. I would be talking about my birth experience with Harry and about the campaign to introduce screening for Vasa Praevia at the 20 week scan.

My mum was shocked and told me to really think about it first.
But I couldn't. I had to say yes.
When I was 15 I had my school work experience working with adults with head injuries and brain damage.
I loved it so much that I volunteered in school holidays and whenever else possible.
My A Levels then got in the way and I had to give it up but the feeling of giving up my time to help people, or sharing my time I should say, was amazing.

I'm never going to run a marathon.
I'm never going to jump out of a plane.
But I could go onto national news and talk about this campaign, this condition and my experience.

I didn't feel too nervous. I guess part of me thought they wouldn't turn up, or that they would drop me in favour of someone else.
But at 8am the Satellite Truck arrived.
This was happening.

I had a phone call with a lady at Sky News, running through what we would be talking about, whilst the cameraman set up.

The cameraman was amazing. Such a lovely guy and really put me at ease.
If I'm honest, I was quite looking forward to wearing an ear piece and pretending to be Holly Willoughby for a while.
I was an A Level Media student, and for our GCSE coursework was the Floor Manager for our Christmas school broadcast so this all fascinated me.

With my earpiece in and a microphone clipped on I sat on the sofa, camera in front of me.
Then I heard a voice;
"Hi Lauren. Can you hear me?"
"yes I can"
It was a very weird experience. Especially to think that there were people in London who could see me, just sitting in my lounge, yet I couldn't see them.

I then became nervous.
I was shaking.
I find writing about Vasa Praevia and Harry's birth quite easy, it doesn't matter if I cry, no one can see me. But this was a different level. I was talking about it, to a lot of people.
3 people(ish) spoke to me through the ear piece, and then I heard the item my interview would be coming off the back of.
The piece was about Henry Samat, a baby boy who lost his life due to undiagnosed Vasa Praevia.
My eyes filled with tears and I told the cameraman that I couldn't listen to this, he told me there was no way of switching it off so I distracted myself and then heard the words:
"Here you go Lauren....."
I was on.
Looking at the camera was hard, when talking to people I don't always look them in the eyes, or look at them at all, I look around, I don't know why. Nervousness maybe? Or just habit?
But it's weird looking in a camera. It felt a little, well, silly.
I didn't know whether or not to smile, I tried to relax but then didn't want to look like I had rubbish posture and didn't know what to do with my hands.

I felt like I stumbled over my words quite alot, I wasn't sure how much detail to go into or how long I had to talk, so I kept it brief, whilst trying to give as much information about our experience as possible.
There was also a delay so when I stopped talking, there would be 2 or 3 seconds until I then heard Stephen reply.

As we came to the end Stephen asked after Harry and stupidly I responded
"He's really well, although he's not very well at the moment"
I really hope that people know that I meant that he is doing really well development wise and so on but is poorly. I felt really silly after watching it back.
I also asked my husband to go and get him, we had wanted him on  my lap or in the same room but he was too unsettled and as soon as I sat down with him he stuck his hand down my top. Although, one thing I am yet to do is breastfeed on National TV so it's a shame I couldn't add that to my list.

Once the interview finished I burst into tears. The feeling was overwhelming and I felt maybe I had let down the whole campaign by not saying the right thing.
Then in my ear I heard a voice saying I had done really well.
Although we were now off air London could still see me.
And hear me.
How very embarrasing.

I was then asked to do a few prerecorded bits, I think I messed these up so much that they weren't shown but still it was a cool experience.

Am I glad I did it?
Yes.
Would I do it again?
Yes.
Would I recommend it?
Yes.

The Sky team were absolutely amazing and I've felt so well looked after by having tweets and emails from the team to thank me.
Without their support before, during and after the interview I probably wouldn't have done it.

The odd thing was that it only hit me that night that I had been on Sky News.
SKY NEWS!
We watch Sky News everyday.
And not only that, my family in Somerset saw me.
And my lovely internet friends saw me.
And my beautiful friend Sarah recorded the show so she could see me.

I can't believe how completely supportive and amazing my internet friends were and seeing their tweets and messages after the piece made me feel on top of the world.

My real life friends didn't bother to watch. But that's fine.
Really.

I know that my piece and my tweets following meant at least 3 people then went on to Google the condition and although 3 isn't many, it's still an achievement.

If you saw it, or look at the photos, I promise I'm not really as grumpy as I looked.


Silent Sunday


24.11.12

Christmas and The Second Child

I've always loved Christmas, and my husband loves it too. Before children we would still make a fuss of it, despite a lot of people saying that as you get older it doesn't mean much anymore.
Well, we disagree with that.
One of my favourite memories of Christmas whilst living in Cambridgeshire was driving to Bedford, doing our Christmas shopping, going for lunch and discovering Bacon and Brie sandwiches for the first time, looking around at all of the beautiful lights, and stopping at our favourite garden centre to buy a real Christmas Tree.
We would have to do all of the travelling to family to give and receive presents, which was always so tiring as it involved a lot of driving to go to Norwich and to Lowestoft.

Now we have children Christmas is even better than before, if not a touch more expensive!
I love the magic of Father Christmas, although quite selfishly, I like to get the boys "big presents" from us as I don't want Father Christmas taking all of the credit!

Our playroom is currently a complete and utter mess! It's totally disorganised. Before Christmas we are planning a lethal sort out, and hoping that we can send a few toys to the hospital.
Although there is a two year age gap between the boys they do tend to play with the same items.
Charles is still completely obsessed with his Brio track and every Christmas and Birthday will consist of more track, more trains and the many accessories available.
He's also desperate for a scooter, and thankfully I've had a chat with Father Christmas and he said he'll bring him one, if he's a good boy.
Stocking fillers and other presents are so easy! In fact there is so much I want to get him that I'm having to be strict with the list and cross of things I could get him at other times.

But what about Harry?
This is where it gets tricky.

It's difficult buying for the second child. There's already a playroom full of suitable toys. With Charles Christmas was a time to renew and refresh his toy collection and move him up to the next level, whereas with Harry he is already playing with the toys we would get him for this age, and with the presents we would normally buy him for his 2nd birthday, because he is sharing his brothers toys.
We've become a lot stricter in terms of toys, which ones we know will get played with, which brands have the best quality, and being aware of all the little bits that come with each toy and how easy it is too lose those bits!

Also, anything we buy Harry doesn't instantly become just his. Charles will want to investigate and play too. Which is great in terms of sharing, but not great in terms of Harry enjoying his own toys.
Charles has chosen a Brio train to give to Harry for Christmas and even admitted that he wanted to get it for Harry because "I like it too and we can share it".

A lot of things we want to get him we then realise Charles already has or already has something similar, and there isn't much point in duplicating.
We want Harry to be able to have his own toys, especially things like Brio which he can eventually pass down to his children, but with Charles having an ever growing collection of Brio it makes it difficult.

We are left with a mixture of feelings.
We want to treat the boys equally, this is really important to us, and we want Harry to have his own things, but at the same time, we don't want to waste our money. We don't the playroom to have a new pile of unwanted and unused toys.

The boys are really lucky in that they have a lot of things so far, and I wonder if we have spoilt them too much in the past. The garden is full of toys: a slide, swing, playhouse, trike, car, digger + trailer, bike and a trampoline, so we can't buy anything for out there.

Although Harry doesn't understand Christmas yet we do, as does Charles, and not only do we not want to feel guilty if he doesn't have the same as Charles, but also we know that Charles will notice too.
Afterall, last year the first thing Charles wanted to do on Christmas Day was to help Harry open his presents before he opened his own.

Maybe a simple resolution is to plan a few hours to go to a toy shop, setting a budget, and letting the boys loose to see what they fall in love with, then making a decision to see if it's appropriate or necessary.

Are we alone with the difficulty of buying for the second child?


23.11.12

Mini Remote Control Helicopter {Review}

Every year I ask my husband well in advance:
"What would you like for Christmas this year?"
Every year I tend to get the same answer. And it normally involves something that involves a remote control. Last year I bought him a Big Trak and it hasn't been out of the box for months, a reason for me being hesitant when it comes to buying him yet another remote controlled present. His sister also bought him a remote control  mini for his birthday a few years ago, he took apart the remote to get the 
Something that he has wanted, and asked for, a few times now (Birthdays and Christmas) is a remote control Helicopter.
So imagine his delight when Paramount Zone sent us a Mini Remote Control Helicopter.

We'd seen this kind of helicopter before, not necessarily this brand, and read a mixture of reviews. So we kept an open mind and he didn't get his hopes up too much.

Taking it out of the box we were very careful as it looked very delicate. After a few goes of it it, and after a few smashes and crashes, we realised that despite it's appearance, it is really quite robust.
The lights flashing LED lights on the side of the helicopter make it really stand out and look extremely cool when the lights are down. They really caught the boys attention.
It takes a few goes to be able to manover it properly, and with it being suitable for ages 14+ Charles wasn't able to do it properly but it was nice seeing him work together with my husband. They both got great enjoyment out of my husbands new toy!
The helicopter charges using the controller, which is great for the simple fact that we don't then end up with another plug and lead to lose within the many others we have collected.
In addition to this you can also charge the helicopter via the USB port on your computer, a cable is supplied within the pack for this.

My husband is absolutely delighted with his 'early Christmas present.

The Mini Remote Control Helicopter is available to buy via the Paramount Zone website and costs a very reasonable £16.99 (with free delivery!)


22.11.12

Crashing into a Wall

Sometimes things can really get on top of you. You feel like life is going at a much greater speed than you can handle, you can't keep up but in an odd way you seem to be about to smash into a brick wall. You have no control.
The wall is just coming, and coming, closer and closer.
And at some point you are going to just smash right into it.

The results of the crash are just as daunting as the crash itself.

No one else seems to see you going at this speed.
In fact it hardly seems like anyone see's you at all.

Will they even notice when you do crash?
Maybe that's the other scary thing, they may not notice.

And then you are even more alone that before.

21.11.12

By Carla: Chenille Blanket {Review}

There are certain baby/children's items I am obsessed with and think you can never have enough of.
Body suits
Toothbrushes
Teddies
Socks
Muslin's
Blankets

We have a drawer full of blankets, most are not used, not because I have too many, but because they just aren't good enough.
I want to wrap my boys in a nice soft fluffy blanket, confident it will comfort them and keep them warm.

The By Carla, Chenille Blanket is perfect and provides comfort and warmth. The yarn is so soft that you can't help but to rub your hand over it.
I get quite chilly at night and like a blanket just to put over my legs (old before my time?!) and I used this as I had it next to me. Within no time my chilly legs were nice and warm.
We were sent the Nougat blanket. The colours are beautiful together and makes the blanket suitable for babies, toddlers, teens and adults. This is a blanket which the boys can take with them all throughout life (and maybe even pass onto their children!)
The size is perfect too, as I said I was able to use it over my legs/lap and at 75cm x 100cm, can also wrap the boys up lovely in it.

The quality is beautiful. As soon as I unravelled the blanket from the beautiful ribbon entwined around it I instantly realised just how well made it is.
I washed it as soon as I could, as I do with all items for the boys, and it was just as good once dried as when it was first delivered.

This would make a perfect addition to any nursery or pram, and make a fantastic gift for parents-to-be.

You can find a list of stockists on the By Carla website.




 We were sent a By Carla, Chenille Blanket for the purpose of this review. All words are honest and my own.

20.11.12

Ferrero Rocher Cupcakes {Recipe}

One thing that's exciting for most of us at Christmas is the food. I've said before that I'm not a HUGE chocolate fan, I prefer sweets or crisps, but Christmas I tend to indulge a little more than usual, although by that I mean I'll have 4 chocolates from a selection box rather than 2! I know what you're thinking, I'm a rebel.
One chocolate that I can never ever ever resist is....a Ferrero Rocher. Oooooo, aren't they lovely.
Now Ferrero Rocher's are also the only chocolate I can eat lots of in one go. I *might* have polished off a pack of 10 a couple of weeks ago.

Thinking to the end of the school term I want to get gifts for not only Charles' keyworker, but also the other staff members at his preschool because every single one of them is lovely.
I thought about getting cupcakes made but it would completely break the bank (small budget) and I didn't want to buy 8 boxes of chocolates.
And what better than Ferrero Rocher Cupcakes!

Ingredients:
150ml Vegetable Oil
170g Self Raising Flour
2 Eggs
150g Caster Sugar
40g Cocoa Powder
100ml Full Fat Milk
Nutella
Ferrero Rocher

First mix together the oil and eggs in a bowl, gradually adding sugar until all combined.
Then add your flour whilst mixing.
Add the cocoa powder and milk and mix.
One all the ingredients are combined devide between cake cases. I was able to make 15 cakes using the same units as above.
Bake for 20-25 minutes at 175 degrees.
Once baked, leave for around 5-10 minutes.
Once they have cooled slightly scoop a hole in the middle of the cake, discard (into your mouth) the scooped piece of cake and add a scoop of Nutella (you could use anything, I thought Nutella worked well though). Then simply add a Ferrero Rocher to the top and you are finished!






PicMonkeyCollage1A Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

Blogging with a Newborn

As readers of my blog will know I gave birth to my second son in July 2011. My blog was still new at that stage, only 6 months old, and I was keen to keep it going and to not suffer due to lack of time.
I had been warned by other bloggers who also had newborn babies and toddler that it would be hard to keep up but I wanted to prove them wrong.
I set up a plan and stuck to it and, as a result, my blog didn’t suffer at all. I “only” managed 19 posts in July, which I still think is quite impressive, but August managed to be my 2nd busiest month in terms of blog posts.

Here’s how I did it.

Plan: Plan blog posts in advance. I always have ideas of posts I’d like to write and I either plan these on a notepad which I keep in the lounge or I write my ideas on my phone. When baby brain kicks in and you don’t know what to blog about you can look back on these ideas and go with them.

Schedule: You can incorporate this with the above. Instead of planning your posts, write them up and then take advantage of the schedule option on your blog. This can all be done whilst still pregnant when you have a bit more time.

Link Ups: I wrote 3 weeks worth of posts to link-up to Flashback Friday and then scheduled them to automatically post the Fridays after my due date. As Harry was a day early this worked out fine for me but if you are over-due you can always change the date. Schedule your reviews for this time too.

Guest Posts: Ask other bloggers if they’d like to help you out by writing guest posts for your blog. I’ve had great response in the past when I’ve asked for guest bloggers. All you need to then do is copy, paste then schedule or copy, paste and post.

Ask: You’d be surprised at how many bloggers are willing to help run your blog whilst you are busy with a new baby. If you need posts linked up then head to Twitter and ask and you will be bombarded with people offering to do it for you.

Advantage: Take advantage of your time. Stuck under a sleeping baby? Grab your phone/laptop and type. Soak in the bath? If you have a tight grip or a bathroom cabinet that is the perfect height, then blog from the bath. I am a regular bath blogger.

Simple:  Your blog posts don’t need to be in depth. No one expects a lengthy post about how gorgeous baby is, your birth story etc so soon. Your readers will know you are busy. A simple post thanking everyone for their kind messages with a simple line or bullet points about how you, baby, other siblings [if necessary] are doing will be enough. Or just a photo of the new baby. We are all suckers for a photo of a newborn baby after all.

This is a post I wrote for the Tots100 site early on this year.

17.11.12

Do We Rely Too Much On Reviews?

Everytime I want to buy an item now, any item from a dress, to a car, washing machine, toy or even purchasing a holiday, I immediately log onto my computer and search for reviews.
There are always a mixture of responses.
Those who review it before properly using it, those who want to complain about anything and everything, and those who simply want to write something to feel like they've helped when actually they've been too brief "this is good".

When we went to Lanzarote last year we booked last minute. We went into the travel agent on the Tuesday, she told us what was available, we booked, and flew out on the Thursday. It wasn't until after we booked, and got home, that we looked at reviews.
There was a mixture, although most seemed to be positive.
It wasn't until we got there that we realised the people who wrote the positive reviews must have been drunk all week as the place was AWFUL!
We were moved hotels and the new one was really lovely, we didn't want to leave. But looking at reviews they were worse than the previous hotel, and we couldn't understand why.
It was clean, staff were polite, food was edible, fantastic entertainment, lovely area and so on.
 
It was this experience that encouraged me to write reviews not only on my blog, but on company websites.

I bought a dress from the Wallis site which was supposed to be for Harry's Christening. It looked gorgeous on the photos and one woman had reviewed saying it was perfecting for breastfeeding.
Well, when it came through it was still beautiful, and was perfect for breastfeeding, but had no shape to it whatsoever. Infact it made me look like I was still pregnant. I returned it, and left a neutral review.
I bought a black dress just after this and one of the reviews was a lady stating the the gold buttons were not her taste and she was extremely unhappy due to them, and she thought they looked cheap.
It was stated clearly in the description that the dress had 2 gold buttons down the front and these were clear to see from the photos of the dress.
I went ahead and bought the dress and love it. In fact it's one of my favourite dresses.
Today I am looking into tablets and computers for Charles for Christmas. We want something that is more educational than a games console.
We decided on one of them and I thought I would look at reviews. On most websites the reviews are positive with the odd criticism of battery life.
I head over to a few groups I am a member off to see feedback on this item, the feedback is the opposite of most websites. Although the same complaint of battery life remains there are other cons to the product. So I look into the alternative products these people are suggesting. I look into one of the other products highly recommended. It's double the price of the one we like, and on websites has bad reviews, despite being so highly recommended by a certain group of people.

Once reading all this information, from all review sites I can be it blogs, communities and company sites I feel like I am no further forward than when I began.
And then I wondered whether or not I, or we as a whole, rely too much on reviews?
Do we trust too much in what other people say? Products vary and occassionally a bad/broken one will slip through the net and be purchased and before we know it we've complained and given it a bad review before even trying out another one after an exchange.
We also have very different expectations, and want to gain different things from certain products.
I guess like watching films or tv programmes. We like them for certain reasons and we get different things out of them.

So as I stand here and try and catch my breath after reading these differing opinions and trying to work out what we want, I'm left wondering why I rely on reviews so much.
Yes they can be really helpful, but what did we do before we had the access to the internet, to peoples opinions, to be able to read blog reviews? We bought the items we wanted.
We would take a risk.

And I think we need to go back to that. Taking risks, going to shops rather than relying on online buying, testing out the products in store and making a decision based on our own feelings.

Consumer rights have come along way throughout the years and I am confident at getting refunds or exchanges where I feel necessary.

I'm not totally dismissing reviews, of course I'm not, I write them and I'd hope that they help some people but I don't think we should rely on them all the time.

And on that note, this year we will be buying what we feel is right. If we make a wrong choice and buy something that is rubbish, well then I am happy to stand by that.

Gift Packs vs DIY {Christmas}

 It's become tradition that every year I get my dad a Lynx set for his birthday or Christmas (his birthday is on December 20th)
I have also mixed it up a couple of times and bought him some L'Oreal For Men items and a mens Body Shop set.

Since 2005 about half of my Christmas shopping is purchased from Boots, even when I worked at Superdrug I would buy Christmas presents from the rivals.
One year though, whilst working at Superdrug, I stocked up on loads of the Lynx showergels and sprays whilst there was a promotion on. I then bought a toiletries bag, filled it with the Lynx, and instantly had my own gift pack.
It cost me around £12 altogether and the bag was packed of different items.

This year my dad has asked for the same and instantly I head to the Boots website and, in all honestly end up quite disappointed at what they have on offer.
The gift packs are not really suitable for my dad. I just want something simple.
Moisturiser + Shaving Gel
Now it's either "Sports Duo" or "The Morning After" and the packs don't include anything I want them to.
Which leads me to think that making your own set is much better, especially when a 3 for 2 on mens toiletries offer is running.
Packaged nicely it can look lots better than the gift packs the brands provide themselves, but of course you end up spending more money, and you lose out on the Christmas gift 3 for 2 offer.

I briefly worked at Body Shop at Christmas in 2004. I fell in love with their gift packs for men and women especially.
I've always been a fan of Body Shop products, Strawberry items and Brazil Nut items are my favourite. My husband buys me some items every Christmas for my stocking. Doing this is better than buying me a gift pack as he knows I'll end up getting something I want, as sometimes in multipacks there can be one item you just won't use or don't like.

Last year I decorated a box withh shiny paper, added shredded tissue paper, and made my Nan a gift pack of Body Shop items that I knew, or at least thought, she would like.
I actually found the items in the sale which meant that although I was saving money, I was able to buy more items.

I've also, for the past 4 or 5 years, made hampers for our dads and last year for my mother in law. These were full of amazing goodies from the Adnams Kitchen and Cellar in Southwold.

So my tips for Gift Packs vs DIY are:
* Research. Take your time to work out which one will give you the most for your money. A gift pack may well sound cheaper, but when you look at the sizes of the products within the packs sometimes you are better off paying that little bit extra and making your own.
Cosmetic packs tend to be a really great buy. I used to stock up on these as they were such bargains. Packs of these can be between £10 and £15 and when you take into account that the items seperately are normally £8-£10 for a mascara and £4-£10 for eyeshadow/lipstick etc then it's a really great buy, even for yourself.
Get them in the sale after Christmas and it'll almost be like stealing them!

* If you're putting together a hamper wait until the last minute. Toiletries are often on BOGOF or 3 for 2 offers somewhere so shop around or wait.
I also use shoe box, covered in paper, to present my gifts in, instead of paying more for a wicker basket which may never be used.

* Know your offers. It used to wind me up when people would turn down a BOGOF or 3 for 2 offer. Turning away a free item.
When using these offers be wise.
Buy One Get One Free- The cheapest item will be the free item, so make sure you get something the same price or very similar in price to the other item. Don't buy something for £5.99 then choose a £1 product for free.
Similarly 3 for 2 works the same way.
If you buy product A which is £20, and product B which is £20, then don't buy product C at £5, you will only be saving £5 when you could be saving more. You are better off getting another £20 item as you'll get it for free, and if you really want the £5 item, pay for it.
The tills are clever at Boots and will always work out the best deal for you, at least they did when I worked there!
* Don't be afraid of *clearance*. Looking at clearance or Outlet pages, or raiding the sale rail/bargain bin, doesn't make you a cheapskate. Really great offers can be found here, sometimes the items are being sold cheaply because the packaging is an old design. Does that really matter? No. Save a few pounds and buy the bargains.

15.11.12

bakerdays Letterbox Cake {Review}

If you hadn't guessed by my blog title we live in Suffolk, I was born here and my husband was born in Norfolk, so he has family there.
We also have family in the Midlands and in Somerset.
Despite the distance we have a great relationship with these family members, and even made three of them Charles' Godparents, and one Harry's Godparent, despite the fact they couldn't actually make the Christening.

At birthdays and Christenings I always planned to send some cake to the relevent family members but didn't know how to rightly package it to keep it fresh and in one piece, so I simply didn't bother, which I still feel guilty about.

This week I became aware of a fantastic service run by bakerdays.
 The ‘letterbox cake’ is a brand new product innovation from bakerdays.com:  designed to be posted and drop safely onto the mats of your family and friends.  It’s the right size to fit through the letterbox so you don’t have to worry about someone being in to take delivery.


This is such a great idea and I love knowing that if I wanted to simply send a cake to a member of our family, I can do so with the confidence that it will get there without them having to be in to sign for it, rearranging delivery or collecting it from the post office, and added to the fact that I don't have to worry about packaging it up and getting it there fresh and safe.
The letterbox cakes are available in a variety of flavours:
Plain Madeira
Carrot
Fruit
Gluten and Wheat Free
Double Chocolate Chip
They are also available in a variety of designs and categories...too many to list here but for example:
Anniversary
Birthday
Engagement
Love and Friendship
New Baby
Thank You
And you can also design your own! I chose this option and sent bakerdays a photo of the boys. The photo was printed perfectly onto the cake, Charles was amazed!

Honestly, I thought that maybe the concept of the cake plus the photo upload being a unique selling point, may have meant the flavour of the cake wouldn't have been so nice.
I was SO wrong!
The cake is amazing.  I ordered the carrot cake, thinking the boys wouldn't like it....wrong!
It's light, and so full of flavour.
Although the cake is small you can get quite a few slices out of it. With the flavour being so rich you don't want a huge slice anyway (although I was tempted to eat the whole cake myself!)

The cake comes well packaged and is placed inside a tin, so damage is extremely unlikely. Also within our pack was a card and a small pack containing 3 balloons, 2 candles + candle holders, and a party whistle.

The letterbox cake prices start at £14.99.

This is a service I would certainly use in the future and would highly recommend.








We were sent a delicious cake for the purpose of the review. All words are honest and my own.

13.11.12

Music For Kids Pirate Recorder {Review}

I have very fond memories of music at school. Primary School was my favourite. It was the time we were discovering different instruments, the different sounds we could make and the different ways we could use them.
I remember one day we were asked to make our own instrument. We were give a mountain of materials to use and all day in which to make something. I think it was one of the best days at school, ever.
I also remember, fondly, the concerts at Christmas. I always seemed to play a big part in Christmas concerts in Primary school.  I was always one of 8 in a choir singing 'White Christmas'. We also had a recorder only Orcestra which I was always part of.
I loved playing the recorder.
It was easy (to me, although others struggled) and I picked it up really easily.
I've always been quite musical. I learnt to play the piano, keyboard and organ. I also married a very musical man. He was part of his school band, can play the keyboard and flute and has a guitar.

As a result we would like to encourage our children to play a musical instrument. Charles seems to really like music and learning how things work.
We were sent a Recorder from Music For Kids and Charles was really excited when we opened the packaging. Even more exciting than the recorder itself, was the fact that I would be letting him loose with  Pirate stickers to decorate the Recorder himself.
Each pack contains:
A three piece coloured recorder,
'Starting to Play' book & CD,
Themed stickers for decorating the recorder (Princess or Pirate)
Finger chart
Carry bag with draw string and recorder cleaning rod.

Although at only 3 years old he isn't going to be able to play a whole song quite yet, he is managing to play some notes properly with a little guidance. The pack is great to help guide him along as he gets older and will understand a lot more.
I can't fault this at all. The recorder is really good quality and is nothing like the branded toy recorders you can buy from toy shops (we should know, we bought one last Christmas!) meaning that actually, it's not too unpleasant or annoying to listen to.
The fact that children can decorate the recorder themselves makes it even more encouraging for them to play with it, in my opinion.

If we could have kept this as a Christmas present we would have done. It's ideal for any budding musicians.
These fab recorder packs are suitable for Pirates and Princesses and retail at £9.99.









 We were sent a Pirate Recorder set for the purpose of this review. All words aobve are honest and my own.

A Day Bursting With Pride

If yesterday was summed up into one word it would be "Proud".
It was a busy day. Charles went to Preschool in the morning, always a rush! And then in the afternoon he was due to have his preschool boosters.
I was dreading the day. I had very little sleep, in fact for a long time I've been coping on very little sleep and it's now starting to catch up on me. Sunday night though I was faced with a very awake baby who just kept wanting to play, who wouldn't go to sleep without a boob in his mouth.
Charles has had a slight cold the past 2 weeks, I worried that his school photo would be taken with a streaming nose. I really wanted to stay with him, to be ready to be on nose wiping duty, but also to tell him to smile. I worried that he would be too shy or go all silly and we'd end up with a photo of him with a straight face.
I almost told the preschool not to worry about having his done. Afterall, I didn't want to buy any because I can take photos of him in his uniform at home. I have some lovely ones from his first day in particular.
Knowing his key worker has a child too I thought I didn't need to mention the nose wiping if needed and surely someone could get him to smile, and if not, it didn't matter when I didn't want to buy them anyway.

The whole morning I kept wondering what he was doing. Was he now having his photo done? Was he smiling? Was he sat being quiet and grumpy?

The time came to collect him. I was suprised to be greeted by his keyworker with an envelope.
Look at these! These are his photos!!
Inside this envelope was a sheet of paper with passport sized proofs.
As we looked at the four photos together she sounded as proud as me. He was smiling in all of them, and more than that, he was POSING.
I had absolutely nothing to worry about.
I was bursting with pride and had to hold back tears until we reached the lane where I grabbed him for a cuddle and told him how proud I was and started to cry.
I looked at the pictures he had painted at school and in there was a perfect rainbow...perfect for a three year old anyway!
"It's beautiful isn't it, mummy. Of course it is, mummy, I made it"
He skipped and ran home, thoroughly enjoying his morning at school, chomping on the small stick of rock all children were given as a reward.

I couldn't be prouder of him. And I couldn't love his preschool anymore than I do.

I felt awful when we got home. Here was my boy, on a high from his amazing morning, having his "cool photos taken because I am cool" (his words) and in 2 hours time we would be taking him for his injections and causing a meltdown and screams and tears.
I prepped him as much as I could, and he seemed to understand what I was saying.
He ran into the doctors surgery, kept singing and playing whilst we waited for his name to come up on the board.
As soon as his name beeped onto the board he ran down the corridor towards the nurses room. He still seemed quite excited and I felt sorry for him with the shock that was coming.
He sat on my husband knee and the first needle went into the top of his arm. We prepared ourselves for a scream.
Nothing.
I looked at him and he was smiling, with a slight giggle.
The three nurses all laughed and said they couldn't believe he didn't cry, but that he definitely would with the second because it is the worst one.
So, in went the second one. He flinched a little and then....nothing.
No tears, no screams.
Everyone cheered him and told him what a brave boy he was.
He got a sticker and was able to choose a bag of Magic Stars or Buttons.

And off we went home.
He didn't complain at all and jusr kept reminding me that he is a "big brave boy".

As he ran into preschool today he headed straight for his keyworker and proudly showed off his plasters stating "I didn't even cry!".
She was proud of him and told him he was so brave and so grown up.

And the fact that she is proud of him too, makes me even more proud.

12.11.12

Winter Warmer Minty Potato Soup {Recipe}

I was sent a pack of Good Natured Splendid Spuds and asked to come up with a Winter Warmer Recipe.
I ummed and ahhed for days, wondering what to make. There were so many options and after first deciding on Potato Wedges, I then thought that they didn't really fit the brief.
Winter Warmer.
Hmmmmm.
Then the obvious hit me.
Soup.
Obvious, but the perfect winter meal.
My usual homemade soup is Turkey or Chicken Soup, normally made thick with lots and lots of potatoes.
I couldn't go for that recipe again, but a thick potato soup had to be done.

So, I thought about my favourite vegetables to accompany the potatoes. Peas and broccoli.
And what goes nice with peas and broccoli. Mint sauce.
And so I set about making my recipe, as I went along.
The other great thing about this recipe is that it can all be done in one pot.

Ingredients:
390g potatoes, peeled and diced
Two stock cubes (I used chicken as it was all that I had)
700ml water
A red onion
Handful of peas
Half a Broccoli
Mint Sauce
Double Cream
 
In a saucepan, fry your red onion in a little bit of butter. Then add the potatoes and cover with the water, boil for around 5 minutes and then add your stock cubes. Continue to boil until the potatoes are cooked.
Then, add your peas and broccoli, and boil until these are cooked.
You then need to blend the soup either by using a hand blender or food processor. Blend until the vegetable are a smooth texture.
Then add your mint sauce. I added a tablespoon because I like it strong but you can add as little or as much as you like. (Of course if you don't like mint sauce you can leave it out completely, the soup is just as nice without it.)
Blend again.

Transfer back into your saucepan, heat and then serve with a drizzle of double cream.
Enjoy.

 
Good Natured Splendid Spuds are pesticide-residue free and therefore grown in harmony with Mother Nature. They use only natural predators to control pests and disease, which leaves you safe in the knowledge that you and your family are getting nothing less than natural perfection. In fact, the entire Good Natured range is both good by name and good by nature. Spendid Spuds are available in Asda store nationwide.

This post will be entered into a competition on the Good Natured Facebook page at the end of November.
If you like it (or if you like me) then I would love it if you could vote for it.

I was sent a pack of Splendid Spuds and an apron as part of the competition.

Peppery Parmesan Potato Wedges {Recipe}

I love potato wedges. Simply because I think they make a great alternative to chips and can be served in many different ways. I love how the are suitable for Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Served with Salad, Chilli or Pie.
Earlier this year I posted a Cajun Potato Wedges recipe.
Today I think I may have beaten this recipe. In terms of flavour and ease of making them.

Using just one potato you can get a portion for one person.
Before I used olive oil and heated my wedges in the microwave before adding the flavouring and then transferring into the oven.
I wanted to reduce the time needing to cook and reduce the methods of the potato being cooked.
So, I experimented and shockingly, was really pleased with my first attempt and will be making more to serve with dinner tonight!

Ingredients:
Potatoes (for my experiment I used one medium sized potato)
2 tablespoons of parmesan
2 tablespoons of natural breadcrumbs
1 egg
Salt
Pepper

First chops your potatoes into wedges. I keep the skin on mine.
In a bowl mix up one egg.
In a seperate bowl, mix together parmesan, breadcrumbs and salt and pepper. I used big chunks of peppercorns and sea salt.
Roll the potato wedge into the egg mix, then transfer it into the dry mix and cover well. Then place on a baking tray.
Do this for all wedges.
Place in the oven at 200degrees, for 25-30 minutes, or until the wedges are cooked.
Remove from the oven and serve.

I sprinkled a little more Parmesan on mine and served with mayo.


11.11.12