Pages

29.11.13

My Thorntons Christmas Hero

A week ago I was contacted by Thorntons to send some chocolate, Secret Santa style, to my Christmas Hero. One person came to mind immediately, and it won't be a surprise to some.

When I think back to Christmases as a child a smile beams across my face and the happiest of memories play in my mind. Not just because of the effort our parents would put into decorations, presents, the visiting Father Christmas, but because I got to share the excitement of every single one with an amazing person.
My twin brother.
I am so incredibly lucky to have such an amazing brother, something I've talked about before, and I wish I could let him know just how incredible he is.
Not just because of the memories from our childhood Christmases, but because he is one of my favourite people in the world.

Back in 2008 he "lived the dream" and went to work at Ayia Napa in the Summer. Although I hated him being so far away, I admired him for doing something he had always wanted to experience.
He came home in the September and it was around then that job hunting for everyone was a nightmare. There just wasn't much around at all. And in 2010 he made the decision to move to Somerset. Again I hated him being so far away but as there was nothing around here for him (other than family) I understood why he was moving as he was guaranteed a job there.

I'm not going to talk too much about what makes me so proud about him because that's his personal life and I have no right to talk so openly about it on the internet but his current situation in terms of his career fills me with so much pride. He works A LOT, makes a lot of sacrifices, and of course him being so far away means we hardly get to see him but he spends the majority of his holiday time coming "back home".
His visit home this week didn't go to plan so we won't see him until next year now which sucks. So sending him some chocolates to hopefully put a smile on his face made me feel a bit better about him not being able to come back.

Added to this, he completed a 3 Peaks Challenge back in September. Climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, to raise money for a charity called One Sight, in just 28 hours. The challenge finished on September 11th, our birthday. I wrote a little more about his challenge in another post.


So I chose to spoil him with his Thorntons Secret Santa gifts and sent him the Christmas Gift Bundle for Him and the Classics Chocolate Advent Calender.
Good to put a smile on his face, not so good for his pre-Christmas diet plans.
Just a little something to show him that despite him not being here for Christmas he is still thought about and as special as anyone else.

I was given a budget to order my hero some special Thorntons treats.

28.11.13

Never Enough

Not good enough.
Not knowledgeable enough.
Not pretty enough.
Not thin enough.
Not funny enough.
Not trustworthy enough.
Not talented enough.
Not big enough.
Not nice enough.
Not strong enough.
Not wise enough.
Not bright enough.
Not eloquent enough.
Not cool enough.
Not popular enough.
Not special enough.
Not perfect enough.
Not important enough.
Never ever good enough.
http://media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/79/ba/e6/79bae6b8cf0838305755632b11330f9b.jpg

26.11.13

Bullguard Identity Protection

Online safety is something that I am wary of for myself, but even more so for my children (in the future).
I have been active on the Internet since I was 16, which these days seems quite late, but I would frequent in Yahoo Chat Rooms and a few Forums. I think I was always quite sensible and seemed to be able to sense who was genuine and who wasn't, and even then there didn't seem to be the problem with online protection as there is now.

I worry that the boys may be bullied online. I worry that they may be targeted by people pretending to be someone else. I worry that they could say the wrong thing to the wrong person/people.

One in five parents have been 'shocked' by content they have discovered on their children's email, text or Facebook account, a study by internet and mobile security firm BullGuard has revealed.
The alarmingly high figure emerged amid a study of 2,000 parents of kids aged 10-17, which showed 61 per cent regularly snoop on their kids.
It also emerged that one in five mums and dads are convinced their offspring lie about their age to gain access to social networking sites.
More than one in ten parents have had to deal with their child being bullied online and a whopping 17 per cent have had to intervene after their child was threatened.
What’s more concerning is that 23 per cent of parents said their child didn’t know the perpetrator.
It’s no wonder then that one in four parents have confessed their snooping to their children because they were so concerned about what they found.
The worrying stats also revealed the average child doesn’t actually know 40 per cent of the people they are friends with on Facebook.

TOP 10 WAYS THAT PARENTS SNOOP
1. Reading messages on social networking sites
2. Checking their internet history
3. Reading their text messages
4. Monitoring their list of friends on social networking sites
5. Checking their pictures on social networking sites
6. Reading their emails
7. Checking their call list
8. Finding out their passwords
9. Asking teachers to keep an eye on their internet use
10. Getting a sibling to help to snoop

Bullguard have come up with an Identity and Social Media Protection Programme to help parents, and children, keep safe on the internet.
I am familiar with Bullguard as my mum used their software on her computer but I am yet to use it myself.
Setting up the Social Media Protection was really easy. You are given an activation code which you need to set up on their website. Once you have entered your code you simply refresh the page and then explore the new tabs available to you.
I used my own Facebook profile to test out the Social Media Protection. If you are setting this up for a child's account you will need for them to click on a link you will send via an email. It's all pretty simple and doesn't take long to do.

I was amazed at the information the software was able to pick up and how it was able to detect what it saw as risks.
I am 28 and am friends with a range of people on Facebook. The oldest being someone in their 60's. The Bullguard Software flagged this up to me, along with some other friendships it detected as a possible risk, and I liked that it told me why it felt these people were a risk to me for example: Significant age differences, few mutual friends or because the other user didn't supply their age to Facebook.

The Social Media Protection app is easy to find on Facebook by simply looking at the sidebar on the left.
The app is broken down into four pieces of information:
The Summary:
Here's a summary of the items we flagged for you and that require your attention. We only flag activities and items with inappropriate or malicious content or that can harm your reputation online.
Friends, which is as I explained above.
Messages. Bullguard scans messages either private ones or timeline/status messages and picks up on certain words. This can look a little worrying when you see a long list of alerts and risks but words such as 'pot' 'balls' 'wine' are picked up, which aren't necessarily offensive but I like that these are flagged anyway.
Lastly, links.
I follow a local paper and have 6 'malicious links' alerts but when looking closely at the words detected it is simply because there was a fatal car accident last week and the software has picked up the word killed.

In the 6 hours I have had the programme installed I have had two emails alerting me to activity on my Facebook page. One email being an overall summary and another one alerting me to High Risk Activity.

I think this programme really works and would help set a parents mind at ease. It's not going to fix online bullying, or completely protect our children but it is a fantastic way to monitor Facebook.
I would warn parents to not over-react when they receive a High Risk Alert email, I think this is the only way the programme could cause issues for families. The high risk alerts I received are simply for the newspaper article and because a friend had said that her workout had almost killed her.
Of course, it's essential to check out any warning alert received, but best not to over-react because it could be nothing.
I think every single household should have one of these if there are children who use the Internet.
http://mediaserver.dwpub.com/press-release/33221/BullGuard+Identity+Protection+Bo.png


I was sent the Bullguard Identity Protection Software for the purpose of this post.


25.11.13

Preparing for Christmas

As the 1st of December approaches I'm sure I'm not the only one making countless lists making sure everything is planned, organised and ready.
I have my list of "end of November/first week of December priorities".

The main thing to think about when it comes to decorations of course is the tree. We buy a real one for our lounge but would really like an artificial one for our kitchen.
I think finding an artificial tree that is perfect is just as difficult as buying a real tree, it certainly is for us anyway.
There is so much to consider, the height, the width, the colour, the shape, pre-lit, already decorated, with or without the snowy effect and the price.
The slim Christmas trees at The Range would fit perfectly in our kitchen. They are 6ft so would be tall enough to really make an impression but is slim so wouldn't take up too much room.
We will be getting our decorations down from the loft on November 30th to check for any breakages and also to go through all of the lights that we have to make sure they are working. 

We host Christmas at our house and will be having both of our mothers over for present opening and lunch. Also on the list is making sure I have enough plates, bowls, wine glasses, champagne glasses, cutlery and cookware for the lunch itself. When we have meals at any other time I'm not too bothered about mismatching cutlery or crockery but at Christmas everything needs to be matching and to be perfect.

I don't just like to restrict decorations to the downstairs of our home and like to do what ever I can upstairs too. Although lights can be a bit too much, especially as we won't really see them or benefit from them, so an alternative is a pretty duvet cover. I love the idea of just using a duvet in the Christmas period and think that not only would they be suitable for our bed, but also a lovely touch when we have my mother in law to stay on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and of course for the boys.
My favourite bedding is this one at The Range and is the Red Nordic Stag design. I don't usually adhere to the Red and White theme of Christmas but this design is beautiful, and it matches my gravy boat and that's important right?

Wrapping paper is something I will be organising as soon as possible. I have been informed that we have enough in our under stairs cupboard to open our own gift wrap shop, but I'm fussy, I like the wrapping paper to all match.
And then getting the homemade Christmas Cards made and making sure we have the addresses of everyone we need to send a card out to.
And once these important jobs are address it will be time to relax with a warm Mulled Cyder, or Mulled Wine, watch It's a Wonderful Life, and then on to the next list.

PR Collaboration

Motivational Monday #19

I can't stop singing this at the moment. It's always on an advert around Christmas and we watch Pinocchio quite regularly so hear it a lot.
The past week I've also been looking at our honeymoon photos from when we visited Disneyland and came across a lot of the bits we bought whilst there so this is another reason this song is constantly in my head.
Although not a Motivational Quote I think it is beautiful and it makes me want to be more positive and to think positive thoughts.
Beautiful words and a beautiful song.

24.11.13

The Ordinary Moments #13

Two or Three years ago Charles and my husband came up with a term that is now a big part of our lives.
The Bumby Scoot.
It's basically scooting around, on your bum. The Bumby Scoot.
It can be done anywhere and everywhere, but is most effective on sand or soil.
We went to the beach in Wells-Next-The-Sea last week and after climbing a massive Sand Dune the boys immediately travelled down in the best way...by scooting.
Charles carried on a lot longer than Harry but I didn't manage to take a photo of the really long track he had left. I love that Harry is now part of the Bumby Scoot club, I don't join in as the track would be far too big and it's not appropriate to do when wearing a dress.
I love how this is their natural thing to do now if we go to a beach. Other people write their name in the sand, we just leave a track left by our bottoms.


mummy daddy me

Some Things I Love #20

We received a few exciting letters last week from Charles' school. Firstly one that said about his school Christmas dinner, it may seem totally not exciting but I have really fond memories of Christmas dinners when I was in Primary School. Secondly that they have Charles' favourite Magician going to the Reception Christmas Party, and thirdly that in the Reception Christmas Production Charles will be playing an Innkeeper. Basically a group of children play the same role (if I understand correctly) and have no lines but it's all about being in the right place at the right time.

We've been looking at our honeymoon photos this week from when we went to Disneyland Paris. The boys were really interested so we've been showing them videos of Disneyland on Youtube. How magical does it look at Christmas?! Goosebumps and tears from me (what a surprise!) at just watching the video!

I finally got round to wearing my Joules wellies despite owning them for quite a few months after buying them back in April.
Oh, and that is my Joules knitted dress too.......and my Joules coat.

CHRISTMAS SONGS!! YES, ALREADY!!
Note to Music Channels: if you do not start playing more of Bing Crosby and David Bowie then I will just watch it on repeat on YouTube and not visit your channel again.

Geeky friends and other helpful bloggers. You know that moment when you get really frustrated with your blog and not being able to do the simplest of tasks, I love that there is always someone there to help you out.
In fact sometimes I'm amazed that there are people who will help you at the drop of a hat, they'll pinch 5, 10, 15 minutes of their time, or even an hour, or two, or three, to help YOU out.
As much as others say "blogging is bitchy" or "it's too competitive", clearly it's just a select group of people who fit into that category. At the moment I am seeing nothing but helpfulness and kindness.

stil badge

19.11.13

5 Essential Christmas Decorations


This is a guest post from DotComGiftShop, their website is full of lots of amazing items including some fantastic Christmas decorations.

When lovely Lauren gave us permission to write a post for her fab blog, she mentioned her obsession with all things Christmas, so we thought we’d run through some of our fave statement decorations.

T-light holders
 
Nothing says festive like the gentle glow of candlelight and t-light holders are an inexpensive way to add a touch of Christmas magic to any area of the home. They also make great table decorations.

Garlands
Ideal for stairs, mantelpieces and tables, the Christmas garland is a staple decoration for the festive period. But you don’t have to be ultra-traditional. There are plenty of modern alternatives available.

Giant stockings
Stockings are great decorative pieces, but the problem is they’re so gosh darn small. Fortunately, you can get giant sacks like this with gorgeous vintage prints, which can fit pretty much anything in.

Baubles
The humble Christmas bauble is still a decorative favourite and it’s easy to see why. Just look at them, gorgeous. Classic is often best and these antique effect baubles are just the ticket.

Scandinavian hanging decorations
 
If rustic charm is your thing, you cannot fail to appreciate Scandinavian style ornaments like these. Bring a touch of the Christmas market into your home.

All of the decorations pictured (and many, many more) are available to buy in the Dotcomgiftshop store. Big thanks again to Lauren for letting us come over and play on her rather lovely site.


I have recieved nothing in exchange for this post.

Mulled Cyder/Cider | Recipe

mulled cider
Two Sundays ago we visited a lovely pub in the village of Horning in Norfolk. When we walked into the pub I noticed, immediately, a cauldron looking thing on the bar with Aspalls Mulled Cyder. We went to our table, I visited the ladies room with Charles, and came back to find that my wonderful husband had ordered me a Mulled Cyder without me even needing to let him now that it was what I wanted (5 husband points awarded)
Oh. My. The taste was amazing. I went on to order another and, well, my new favourite drink was born.

The following day my husband popped out for supplies and came back with a bottle of Aspalls Cyder. I knew what I wanted to make but didn't know if I had all of the ingredients, a lot of recipes online suggest vanilla pods, cardamom, star anise, all of which I didn't have.
So....I made it up.
It's so simple and easy, and very very tasty.

You will need:
Half a bottle of Cyder or Cider (I highly recommend the Aspalls Cyder for this)
1 lemon wedge
1 lime wedge
1 orange
Some grated nutmeg
Half a cinnamon stick
2 dessert spoons of caster sugar
half a teaspoon of Allspice.
(these ingredients make enough to fill two wine glasses)

Cut your Orange into quarters, squeeze the juice into a saucepan and then add the orange quarters to the pan. Add the lemon wedge, lime wedge, and caster sugar and stir until the sugar is almost dissolved. Add the cinnamon stick, allspice and nutmeg and continue to stir until you can smell that wonderful Christmassy scent.
Mmmmmmmm.
Add the Cyder (half a bottle) and leave for a couple of minutes until it starts to bubble.
Serve in a glass with a wedge of orange. 
It's as simple as that.

mulled cider
mulled cider
mulled cider
mulled cider

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

18.11.13

Motivational Monday #18

Do you ever get that moment when something has gone wrong, where you just stand there and think of every single that has gone wrong that day? That week? That month? That year? In your whole life?
Sometimes those bad moments can really bring us down, they can make everything feel awful but sometimes, through those bad times, we need to stand back and reflect on other things in life.

For example: despite the fact my dad walked out on us when I was 15 and broke our secure family unit, and since that I've had awful days because of that, does it mean I've had a bad life? No, I've had other things that overshadow that by far. It doesn't take away from the things he has done, but it's nice to be able to take focus away from that.

I had this quote scheduled for a while but I think Katie summed this up perfectly with the quote she added in her post, Tough, last week.

17.11.13

The Ordinary Moments #12

Since Charles has been going to school I've had to dedicate more time to Harry. Before he would have his playmate, he would follow Charles around or Charles would follow him, they would play and fight over the Brio train track, they would hunt for food together and cuddle and dance.
But now I have to take on a new temporary role of brother during the daytime when Charles is at school, which is quite a role to take on as I have big shoes to fill.

Getting housework done is almost impossible. Harry is quite a mummys boy, and either tries to help or does the best he can to get my attention.
Addressing the floordrobe in our room is always a mission, as is organising and putting washing away, as this blonde haired boy jumps on the bed and all over the clothes, pulls the duvet cover back to hide underneath to play peekaboo and kicking in excitement which will of course make my neat and organised piles a big heap on the bottom of the bed or on the floor.
Or he'll explore our bedside cabinets, and try to reach my make up so he can find another nail polish to put on, or find my husbands loose change stash.

Still, look at that smile. I can't help but to say "right, let's ignore the housework" and then just tickle him and playfight or go downstairs to cuddle or play.


mummy daddy me

16.11.13

Hello Again

In 2009, when Charles was only around 5 months old I visited my doctor to talk about feelings I had been having.
Not post natal depression, but anxious feelings which were strong, unbearable at times, and involved clear, very vivid images in my head. A lot of things I haven't shared because some of them are quite disturbing and heartbreaking.

One of the images which prompted my visit to the doctor was of Charles being run over.
I was walking along a road with him, and the path was narrow and I think this is what caused the images to appear. I panicked at the cars driving past us so close, and in my head I pictured his pushchair going over and him being run over.
It was so clear, and so graphic, that I can still see it now.

Charles has always been quite good when it comes to road sense and car parks. He has tried to run away a few times when he was little but would never get far. He understands that he needs to stay close to the car and now will talk to me, or hold my leg, when I put Harry in the car so that I know he is close by.

I'm only now letting Harry walk places, rather than being stuck in a pushchair, and on Friday I decided to take him to a retail park so we could buy some bits from Argos.
We were able to park right outside the door so it was easy for him to walk in, and for us to walk back to the car as I knew I would have a couple of big bags.
It didn't quite go to plan as he ran away from me, into the road, ignoring my calls of him to stop and come back, instead just giggling.
30 seconds earlier he would have been hit by a car.
Thankfully there was nothing coming.
I put down the bags on the path and ran after him, but it felt like I was going in slow motion. I didn't even look to see if a car was coming, but I prepared myself for impact.
I prepared myself for the image of my son underneath a car.
I saw him under a car. So graphic.
I saw myself sat cradling him.
I saw myself at hospital with him.
These images going round and round and round.

But nothing happened.
No impact. Nothing. No cars. Just us in the middle of the road and a few people over on the path walking along slowly and watching.

Why don't people help? Why would people choose to stand back and watch a mother desperately trying to catch her child and possibly save him from a car? Why would people choose to want to watch a 2 year old get run over than to take a chance at maybe offending me by helping me out?
I wouldn't have been offended, I would have been incredibly grateful.

I'm not blaming people. It wasn't their fault. But I'm surprised everyday by how selfish we are sometimes.

As we got into the car Harry just laughed at me. He clearly didn't understand how serious this could have been.
He certainly didn't know what was going on in my head.
Those images still going round, added to the images from 4 years ago which decided to join me again.
I felt and feel angry at him for running.
I felt and feel angry at him for not understanding.
I felt and feel angry at myself for trusting him.
I felt and feel angry at myself for thinking he was responsible enough to not need to hold my hand, or to be on reins or in a pushchair.
I'm angry at myself.

I sat in the car shaking, unable to drive. Just trying to calm my mind down and to realise that he was safe, in the back of the car.
I eventually drove away, still shaking, but still seeing those images.
I shouted at him, he laughed, he didn't understand.
But I was still replaying those images, so vivid.
Even now, it's as if it happened.

It's silly to some, I know that. And I wish my brain didn't work this way, but it does.
I can't filter it out and I've tried, I'm trying, I'll continue to try but the feelings just over take and really, there's nothing I can do.
I can't get rid of it.
I am given time apart from the feelings, a break from them, but then they come back.
It's just something I have to live with.

Some Things I Love #19

I won some vouchers for Argos recently and have been obsessing over the website and making lists upon lists of things to buy.
I've been able to get a few Christmas presents, and some much needed wine glasses to replace the ones our dishwasher has smashed.

I'm obsessed with Made In Chelsea. I can't believe how late I am to the party, and I can't find any old episodes on YouTube, only trailers.
I wish I could watch it from the very beginning so the relationship and friendship dramas all made sense.

 Up until now I've pretty much worn my Uggs everyday but I decided to get these boots out again. Last time I wore them I ended up with massive blisters so I was quite nervous about wearing them again.


Harry has started singing lots of songs, in his own way.
His favourite is
"I'm music man, far away play, piano pooppaaa pooopaaa play the drums"

Blankets. I love snuggling under a blanket with the laptop at night. I am still "borrowing" a beautiful knitted one from my nan (she lives in Somerset and gave it to me for our drive home as I was poorly) and it's currently my favourite one to snuggle under, although I do wish I had a Christmassy one to use in December.

stil badge

15.11.13

Pinecones: When Autumn Met Christmas

This year we are making as many Christmas decorations as we can. Some will be made by just me, and some will be made with the help of the boys. We want our tree to showcase the different things we can make ourselves.

One of the easiest and prettiest things we {I} have made so far are these glitter pinecones. We actually collected two big bag fulls from a local woodland and plan to do lots of different crafts with them.
The first craft I did, the glitter is far too pretty to be thrown around and ruined/wasted by the boys, is super easy and just requires pinecones, glue and glitter.
I didn't want to have the pinecones all the same so either dipped them in glue and then sprinkled the glitter on top or painted glue on and then sprinkled the glitter on.
I don't recommend dipping or rolling the pinecones in the glitter as the glitter tends to then get all clumpy and also loses it's sparkle.
Once you've sprinkled the glue on it's best to spread the pinecones out on a tray and leave to dry.

These will now live in a heart bowl and also in a glass jar with some fairy lights.
I think the great thing about these is that although they are perfect for Christmas, you COULD just have them as a pretty household decoration.
Our jar with the fairy lights has been on the table since I made these 3 weeks ago. It's beautiful if you want low lighting and to set a relaxing atmosphere.

The glue is just a strong craft glue from B&Q and I bought the AMAZING glitter from Ebay, the pack is really quite big and little goes a long way.