28 April 2015

Spice Up Your Cooking For Spring

With the sun shining and temperatures rising, you might be feeling inspired to try out some new ideas in the kitchen. Spring is the perfect time to spice up your cooking, and the following tips should help you to create an array of delicious dishes.

Stock up on store cupboard staples
Whether you want to test your skills preparing plump spiced pears, a zingy curry, flavoursome fajitas or anything else, you’ll need the right store cupboard staples. To cover the basics, make sure you have black peppercorns, bay leaves, chilli powder, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, coriander, ginger and paprika. Other useful ingredients include star anise, cardamom, garam masala and saffron. Even if you already have jars of some of these spices in your cupboards, you might be best off replacing them with fresher versions. Bear in mind that these ingredients are at their best when you use them within three months of purchase.
Photo by sattva from freedigitalphotos.net
Of course, you’ll need somewhere to store these jars and packets, and so a decent sized spice rack is a must. To save space and keep your countertops clear, you can buy special racks that attach to the inside of doors or cabinets. To find out more about these handy spice solutions, you can visit websites like www.solidwoodkitchencabinets.co.uk. It’s always a good idea to get more storage that you think you’ll need so that you can keep adding to your collection without getting short of space.

Extract maximum flavour
Unless you want to fall into the category of a cook who has all the gear but no idea, it’s important to understand how to extract maximum flavour from your new array of spices. To enhance their aroma and bring out their taste, you can toast them gently in a dry frying pan. This takes just 30 seconds or so, but it can make a big difference to the quality of your dishes. Shake the pan as your spices toast, and once you can smell a nutty aroma, transfer the ingredients into a mortar or spice grinder, allow them to cool and then break them down into a powder. You might be surprised by how much of a difference this simple procedure makes to your meals.
Photo by Mister GC from freedigitalphotos.net
Don't be afraid to try new culinary concoctions
It’s easy to get stuck in a cooking rut and rely on the same recipes time after time. So, to get inspired behind the stove, it’s important to make an effort to try new dishes. This will also give you the perfect opportunity to test your new spices. At this time of year, light, fresh dishes are ideal. You can try creating everything from marinated barbecue meats to spicy salads, punchy prawns and delicately flavoured desserts.

Once you've mastered the art of using spices, you’ll be able to test out an array of new culinary concoctions.

theBabaSling Superstar Grey Review

Being a mummy of 3, as you can imagine, is hard work, especially when one is newborn and requires my attention most of the time, not only for feeding and changing but he likes been with me all the time so having a chance to play with my 2 other sons and also get stuff done in the house has been hard work. 

Having looked around the market, I found that theBabaSling is ideal for someone like me. I didn't really want to go down the route of having a sling that kept baby upright all the time and that 's when I fell in love with theBabaSling.

theBabaSling originally came to the market a decade ago, branded BabaSlings Ltd, but has since re-branded as We Made Me which they are now known by. We Made Me was born out of a simple passion: to create thoughtful products, rooted in ancient traditions, with the modern family in mind.

The re-brand was neccesary after the extraordinary growth in popularity that followed after the launch of theBabaSling established them as a market leader with their product being stocked in most major retailers across the UK, and sold in over 35 countries worldwide. They wanted to keep growing and knew that more products under their belt would do this, thus the re-brand to We Made Me and the launch of new slings, the Wuti Wrap and the Pao Papoose. 

I was lucky to be sent theBabaSling Classic in the special edition design, Superstar Grey. This has been designed to carry babies and toddlers from 0–24 month and is fully adjustable to fit any sized person. Handmade from 100% cotton that is both durable and breathable and is washable at upto 40 degrees, including also, a lifetime guarantee against manufacturing defects. theBabaSling is available in 12 colours and fabric patterns including organic and special editions, Polka and Superstar ranges. 

The main reasons that I was drawn to theBabaSling is because they are so versatile, supporting five different carrying positions, 2 of which are discreet breastfeeding positions and they are exceptionally high in quality that I would trust to have my newborn nestled inside it whilst out and about. 

What's more, theBabaSling actually lets newborns lay flat, how they would normally lay, and then can be used in different ways to help them lay and sit comfortably as they grow. 

For me though, I love that theBabaSling is so easy to put on and use. Simply adjust to fit and then place over your head and shoulder in to place. It has a buckle at the back for ease whilst taking off or getting your baby out and is the only baby sling with an extra safety buckle for added peace of mind meaning that even if the main buckle is accidentally opened, the safety buckle will keep theBabaSling in place and keep your baby safe. 

I am currently wearing theBabaSling is the Easy Tiger position. This is where the baby is laid across the chest and round the body, in a normal position they would be in as if you were holding them yourself, and I find that this is very comfortable for me and Joseph. 

There are 5 positions that theBabaSling can be positioned in though as your baby grows. Check out the guides and videos to show how you can wear theBabaSling here. I love that theBabaSling can be used for children up to 24 months old in the Side Saddle position as it means that you can easily carry your toddler without having the worry about the strain on your back, the sling takes the weight for you and makes for a comfortable journey. 

Overall, I am thoroughly impressed with theBabaSling. Not only is it durable, soft and easy to use, but the embroidered stars on the Superstar special edition are stunning and give it that extra touch of quality. I think it's great that the sling can be used for 2 years and will grow with your baby to fit and I like how it mimics how you would normally carry a baby thus making your baby feel comfortable being in the sling.

For more information on theBabaSling or anything else, visit the We Made Me website but now, how would you like to win one of these slings for yourself? Well then you're in luck as We Made Me have given me an extra special edition, Superstar Grey theBabaSling to give to one of my lucky readers. 

For your chance to win theBabaSling in Superstar Grey, enter below on the Rafflecopter app. 

Please remember to check the T&C's at the bottom of the Rafflecopter application and our full terms here. This giveaway is open to the UK only and any entries left that do not follow the required entries will be disqualified. After the one mandatory entry, others will open up to give you extra entries. You do not have to enter by all methods but these will give you extra entries into the competition if you do. 

And please, if you are commenting on the blog as 'anonymous' can you please write your name in the comment otherwise I cannot count your entry.

Ends midnight 24th May

27 April 2015

Venturing Out Of My Comfort Zone

As you can tell, by the name of my blog, I am an avid lover of Yorkshire. I have only ever left Yorkshire when we are travelling abroad and are going to airports, other than that, it seems to be my comfort zone. I know where everything is and feel the love of my Yorkshire heritage whilst been in this gorgeous county.

But I've decided, to try and get out a bit more, try new places and visit more people, that we should venture into the unknown, out of the comfort zone and down south to see what the difference really is.

Not particularly London though. I am a lover of our country and have never visited the capital before but I would rather not go somewhere so busy whilst the kids are so little. Maybe leave visiting there until they are a bit older and can appreciate the history and context of the magnificent buildings for themselves. 

We've decided to go to Aylesbury which is the county town of Buckinghamshire. This is for various reasons, to see the sights, walk the Grand Union Canal, but mainly because I have been wanting to meet one of my blogging friends for so long and, since she lives round that area, this will be my chance. 

Joanna, from the blog Joanna Victoria, has been one of my best online blogging friends for a couple of years now. We chat most nights and are always advising each other about our blogs, chatting about our babies and just having a good old gossip, so it would be nice to meet her in person and have a cuddle with her little baby, Blake.

Having a break away in Aylesbury, we can visit the sights whilst staying at the Holiday Inn Aylesbury, and get to pop in to the famous places around there. Roald Dahl lived in Buckinghamshire for over 30 years and so there are a lot of places and activities around that area based on him. 

There is the Roald Dahl Children's Gallery which the boys would love. This is located in the Buckinghamshire County Museum and uses characters and themes from Roald Dahl's books to stimulate children's interest in science, history and literature with his ever fun twist, featuring illustrations from Quentin Blake. 

Close by to this is the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre which houses all of Dahl's main papers, manuscripts and his "Ideas Books" whilst also offering regular workshops and hosts events that help to enhance creativity and writing skills. Since the boys love Roald Dahl books, they would adore to visit these museums and get to see some of his original works, up close and personal.

It will be great to get out and do some different things. The boys will get to visit their very own children's museums and visit the works of Roald Dahl, and I'll be able to visit someone that I have spoke to for so long. 

Have you ever visited Aylesbury? What else can you advise that we should do whilst there?

- This is a  sponsored post

Getting Our Holiday Essentials Sorted With Chemist Direct

In 3 weeks time, we will be jaunting off to the coast for a week away, to relax and play, our first holiday as a family of 5. Sorting through the suitcase to get our things ready, it dawned on me just how much stuff we will need. Travelling with kids is hard work, but with a baby makes it doubly hard as you need to take everything bar the kitchen sink not to mention all your own clothes, toiletries and necessities.

I made a list of everything we would need to take with us and my jaw dropped to the floor when I realised that it will cost us an arm and a leg just to purchase the toiletries and baby items we need, not to mention sun care essentials too. So when Chemist Direct got in touch, I couldn't wait to see how far we could stretch our budget to see if we could get everything we needed.

Chemist Direct is the UK's No. 1 online pharmacy. Now I know people are wary about buying items online but Chemist Direct is a GPhC registered pharmacy meaning that they are authorised to sell pharmaceuticals online and you can tell that they are registered with the GPhC as they carry the green cross logo to prove so (this is a clickable logo at the bottom left-hand side of the Chemist direct website)

Chemist Direct was established in 2007 and they offer a variety of key services for the public, including an online Doctor service over the web from qualified doctors and a team of in-house pharmacists as well as offering vitamins and health supplements, family planning and baby care products, perfumes, beauty products and toiletries. 

Schwarzkopf Ultime Blonde Colour 
Now obviously this isn't a product I will be taking on holiday with me, but before we go, I will be colouring my hair to make sure that my roots are covered and looking good. I therefore thought it would be good to include this in my round up as it is something that I will be needing.

I chose the colour 'light natural blonde' and as my hair is so thick, it requires 2 boxes to cover it all. Usually paying around £6 for a box of hair colourant, I was surprised to see that Chemist Direct are selling these for only £3.49 each which is fantastic for such a good quality hair colourant brand.

Clairol 5in1 Hair Nourishment Shampoo & Conditioner
I always use Clairol shampoo and conditioner so it was great to see that I could buy these in a smaller bottle (200ml) which is the perfect amount for a weeks use and wont take up as much space in the suitcase as regular sized bottles would.

This is a lightweight everyday shampoo that contains fruit extracts to leave your hair soft, clean and smelling fresh. The nourishment formula has a unisex floral scent with Bergamot, Lime and Mandarin.

Right Guard Xtreme Fresh Shower Gel & Invisible 72hr Roll-On
The shower gel has a revitalising, fresh fragrance that refreshes skin and what's more, the shower gel can be used for hair and body which is great as it means that we are saving space as we don't have to take 2 different products for my husband to use.

The Right Guard Women Xtreme Invisible 72 Hour Roll-On has an advanced stain protection formula protecting against white, yellow and oily stains whilst keeping your body clean, dry and odour free for up to 72 hours.

Transformers Toiletry Wipes
Okay, these aren't exactly essentials, but Charlie prefers to use wipes rather than toilet roll and so these are needed for whilst we are away. The Transformers Baby Wipes gently clean and nourish children's delicate skin keeping it soft and hydrated and leaving it smooth, fresh and clean.

Theramed Toothpaste & Oral-B Classic Toothbrushes
These are self-explanatory really. An essential item that myself and my husband will need. The boys have their own toothbrushes that they will be taking but my husband and myself have electric toothbrushes that I don't really want to be carting around, so this twin pack is cheap and perfect for using whilst we are away.

Not only is Theramed a great whitening toothpaste, but it is also a mouthwash that can offer you up to 12 hours of complete freshness. I chose this as it means that we can then just take this one product rather than having to pack mouthwash as well. 

Protection From The Sun
When it comes to sun protection, I like to have everything packed and ready to go just in case we are lucky enough to get some nice weather. I hate creams though as they are greasy and feel heavy n the skin and so I always opt for a sun spray and these soak in to the skin instantly and can easily be sprayed into those hard to reach places.

Garnier Ambre Solaire Dry Mist SPF30
An ultra-soft and highly efficient sun protection cream that is dermatologically tested, hypoallergenic and completely free of perfume and parabens. It can be applied to wet or dry skin so is perfect for easily protecting yourself from the suns rays after a dip in the sea.

Banana Boat Kids Ultramist Spray Lotion SPF50
Banana Boat a gentle formula that is alcohol and tear-free meaning that it is suitable for use on children’s faces without the risk of irritating their eyes. Gives instant protection against UV rays and is water resistant so wont be washing off in a hurry.

Malibu Aloe Vera Aftersun Gel Spray
If we are to get some nice weather whilst we're away, it's good to have some aftersun in our bag, just in case. This Malibu aftersun has an aloe vera formula which soothes the skin and moisturises it too. Great to soothe sun exposed skin, or just to give yourself a good massage with and to cool down your skin after a long day at the beach.

Sebamed Lip Defense Balm SPF30
This deep conditioning formula will care for dry and damaged lips. It is enriched with vitamin E and plant extracts, which will work to regenerate and nurture an will protect your lips from the suns rays with it's SPF30 protection.

Pampers Baby Dry Mini Carry Pack and Simple Baby Moisture & Care Wipes
Nappies are a must when travelling with a baby and so this Pampers carry pack us perfect for our travels, containing 37 nappies that are designed to lock in dryness for more than 11 hours. We use Pampers at home so it means that we already know that these are a great quality product and the extra absorption material that they contain and advanced technology keep your baby drier for longer.

Simple Baby are gentle and soft wipes that are balanced Ph and contain natural moisturisers and are perfect for baby's sensitive skin. 

Anbesol Teething Gel
By thetime we go away, Joseph will be at the age where he might start to get his teeth. Anbesol teething gel contains an anaesthetic which provides quick-acting pain relief to soothe baby's gums and help to settle down the pain. 

MAM Teether & Soother Ranges
I have been a lover of MAM products since Charlie was a baby and so just had to get Joseph the Bite & Play Teether to take away with us. This is a water-filled soothing teeth at one side and a spinning ball at the other side which baby's can watch and play with to keep them occupied. 

MAM soothers are fantastic for little boys who like to be different. They come with various different designs that are pretty and have a teat that is designed to stay in baby's mouths whilst promoting healthy jaw and tooth development. 

It's good to have a pack of extra soothers in the case whilst you're away and you don't want to be having to search shops to find a dummy if you lose your babies. We got a great deal though as the MAM range is 3 for 2 at Chemist Direct so we also got a spare pack for when we get home too. 

Overall, I am greatly impressed with the amount of travel essentials that we could get from Chemist direct for £50. Not only did we manage to get all the baby products we will need, but toiletries and sun care items too. Ordering was quick and simple and delivery was super speedy too and free since we spent so much.

For more information or to see what else they sell, visit the Chemist Direct website and if you sign up to them, then you can get 10% off your first order!

26 April 2015

In The Night Garden Tummy Time Book Review

Tummy time, whereby babies are placed on their tummies, is recommended by health professionals to help physical development. Having a bit of tummy time helps to avoid the development of flat spots on the back of babies’ heads from all the time spent on their backs, and strengthens neck and upper back muscles as babies learn to lift and turn their heads whilst encouraging physical development.

It helps babies learn how to use their arms against gravity, using them to support their bodies and reach and stretch for things they can see and babies who regularly practice tummy time are able to crawl, roll and sit earlier than those who don’t.

If your baby is par-taking in tummy time, ensure your baby is awake and alert, never place a sleeping baby on their tummy, and remember that your baby may initially cry whilst in this new position but just keep persevering, a few minutes at a time until they are used to laying like this. 

All babies should spend part of their day laying on their tummies but I find that they get bored easily. Most not being able to look round much and being honest, there isn't really much entertainment at floor level. So I was glad to hear that Ladybird have brought out their very own tummy time book to promote babies' being on their font every so often.

Ladybird has been publishing books for children since 1915 and it stands at the forefront of children’s publishing as one of the most iconic and well-known children’s brands so it is great to see them taking a stance towards this and creating a book just for babies. 

The In The Night Garden Tummy Time book is super fun for young ones. You simply open the book and fasten the covers together to reveal three sturdy, interactive scenes. Place the book on the floor in front of your baby whilst they are on their tummy, then direct them towards the stimulating colours, peep-through holes and touch-and-feels in the pictures.

This book has been specifically designed to help make tummy time more fun for babies whilst the high-contrast colours and images hold a baby’s attention to keep them occupied for longer. As your baby grows, they can reach and stretch over to the touch and feel patches and peep through the holes (maybe get yourself or older children involved with a game of peek-a-boo).

Me personally, I love the bright, bold colours in the book that keep Joseph entertained. Having a well known brand such as In The Night Garden, means that when he then watches television, he can associate with the characters and make it an even more of a fun book.

The little feely patches, he loves brushing his hands against are also a plus as it means that he is trying to reach out to find and feel the texture and so is stretching himself, learning how to aim his body and arms into positions and working out how to do all these things to get him into a position to be able to find the parts that he wants to touch. 

You can find more information about the In The Night Garden Tummy Time book and the whole lot of other ranges available on the Ladybird website. But now, how would you like to win a copy of the In The Night Garden Tummy Time book. Then keep reading to see how.

The lovely people at Ladybird have sent me another copy of the book so for your chance to win a copy of the In The Night Garden Tummy Time Book, enter below on the Rafflecopter app. 

Please remember to check the T&C's at the bottom of the Rafflecopter application and our full terms here. This giveaway is open to the UK only and any entries left that do not follow the required entries will be disqualified. After the one mandatory entry, others will open up to give you extra entries. You do not have to enter by all methods but these will give you extra entries into the competition if you do. 

And please, if you are commenting on the blog as 'anonymous' can you please write your name in the comment otherwise I cannot count your entry.

Ends midnight 15th May

23 April 2015

It's A Hard Knock Life Without Our Colourful Sponge Cake - Special Annie Themed Recipe

There's nothing I love more than lounging on the sofa with the kids and watching a good film. Even more so if it's a musical as it means that we get to join in (to the dismay if my hubby who has to listen to me howling!) and so I was ecstatic when Annie was reinvented for a new generation of fans as I knew that it would be another great musical film that we could watch together. Roll on the 27th April when it is released on Blu-ray™ and DVD so we can have an all out singing fest!

Annie is the heartwarming tale of rags to riches. Jamie Foxx plays a New York City billionaire called Will Stacks who takes in a foster kid to boost his image while campaigning to be mayor whereas Quvenzhan√© Wallis plays Annie who, as we all know, is a young, happy foster kid originally left by her parents with the promise they’d be back for her some-day. 

Miss Hannigan, played by Cameron Diaz, is Annie's foster mum and has bought her up to be a savvy, street-smart New York City kid but her life changes dramatically after meeting Will Stacks, who takes her in believing that he is her guardian angel, giving her a better life but in actual fact, Annie’s beautiful outlook on life means that it in fact the opposite way around in this heartwarming tale. 

The film features some of the most timeless songs from the original but they have been updated to bring a hip vibe to the film. You can relive the magic of Annie with the as you sing along to the most famous of the Annie songs, “Hard Knock Life,” “Tomorrow,” “I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here,” and a special music video of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile."

And once the film is over, you get to do so much more as Sony Pictures have packed the DVD and Blu-ray™ full of extra content to keep the Annie love going. There are Five Sing-Along Tracks and a special "You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile" music video with even more featuring on the Blu-ray™ from bloopers to Annie trivia. 

During the film itself Annie does attempt to cook, but fails miserably and so, in honour of the new film coming out on DVD and Blu-ray™, we have been tasked with creating our very own Annie themed recipe. 

It took a while to decide on what to bake, but eventually, Thomas decided that we should do a cake, showered with different colours and have musical theme, just like the film. Since it was his decision, and in homage to the film, I let Thomas bake the cake himself (with adult supervision of course) to see if he could do any better than Annie when baking.

Colourful Sponge Cake
There are quite a lot of ingredients for this cake as there is a butter-cream filling and an icing top as well as them being different colours. To make our colourful cake, you will need:

For the cake:
200g caster sugar
200g softened butter
4 eggs
200g self-raising flour
2 tbsp milk

Butter-cream filling:
100g butter
150g icing sugar

Icing topper:
300g icing sugar for topping
30ml warm water
200g icing sugar for decoration
20ml of warm water

You will also need various different food colourings for every aspect of the cake, we used 5 different colours in the process.

Making the cake:
1.  Preheat the oven to 180C
2.  Grease 2 x 8in cake tins
3.  Add the butter and sugar to a bowl a mix until smooth and creamy
4.  Slowly add in the eggs and flour a bit at a time, mixing in between, and then add the milk too
5.  Separate the mixture in to 2 bowls (only needed if you are doing 2 different colours) and then slowly, a drop at a time, add in the food colouring until it is the colour you want. Tip: make sure not to use yellow like Thomas did as it turns out that it looks just the same as the cake hehe!
6.  Pour the mixture into the cake tins and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes
7.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool before removing from the cake tins

1.  Mix the butter and icing sugar together until smooth and creamy 
2.  Add a few drops of food colouring to finish off
3.  Spread this over one of the cakes and then place the second cake on top
4.  Set aside

Icing topper:
1.  Mix the icing sugar and water together until the icing is a thick enough consistency
2.  Add a few drops of food colouring
3.  Spoon over the cake until it is covered
4.  Leave to set for about an hour
5.  Mix the next lot of icing sugar and water together and then add a different food colouring than in the topping on the cake
6.  Put into a piping bag and then slowly start piping onto the cake in your required design, Thomas did musical notes (with some help from me)
7.  Leave to set before serving

And there you have it, our sponge cake recipe with Thomas' colourful, musical twist. I think he did a good job considering that he's 5 year old (6 next month). What do you think?

20 April 2015

Soother Cleaning On The Go With Aleva Naturals

Many a time have I been out and about with my kids over the years, taking them to the park, to feed the ducks, down the canal, which is all well and good, but you can guarantee that the one time the baby decides to hurl his dummy out of the pram is the exact day that I forget to pack an extra one. 

With nothing on me to clean said dummy, I either have to walk the long way home with a screaming baby, or pop into a shop and purchase a new dummy just to settle him. Telling the truth, this has happened on many occasions. When you're rushing out the door after 2 eager kids, checking the changing bags for extra dummies just goes straight out of my head and so I end up in peril if the dummy makes a break for it. 

So obviously, when I was contacted about Toy & Pacifier Wipes from Aleva Naturals, I just had to give them a try and see whether they would be my saviour when it comes to trips out with the boys. 

These unique toy and pacifier wipes are made from natural, organic ingredients and are completely chemical free. Made with certified organic aloe vera and chamomile oil which are both beneficial for dry skin which is a must when cleaning items that will be going against babies skin. 

Aleva Naturals is a range of baby cleaning items that were developed a group of people, a pharmacist, herbalist and naturopath helped to develop these chemical free products, using only natural ingredients. No artificial fragrances or dyes go near these products and this ensures that they are safe, baby-friendly ingredients.

The wipes come in compact packaging, not even half the size of a pack of wet wipes, and so fit perfectly and compact into my changing bag so they are to hand whenever I need them. Personally, I like that they don't have that chemical scent that some baby products have, they just smell clean. I can just pull one out, give Joseph's dummy a wipe and pop it back in his mouth, quick and simple, no fuss! 

They are damp but not overly wet, just the right amount to give items a quick clean and are quite big wipes too so usually when I've had to use one to wipe a dummy, I will try not to waste it and will give them pram a quick wipes too or one of the baby toys that are in the pram. What's more, the wipes are made from bamboo fibres which are 100% biodegradable so great for the environment too. 

As you all know, we are going away in a few weeks and so I will be packing a pack of these wipes in my case. They will be perfect for cleaning Joseph's things whilst we are away and means that I wont be having to search for a shop for spare dummies instead of enjoying our break!

You can find more information about the Toy & Pacifier Wipes from Aleva Naturals on the Vital Baby website.

15 April 2015

Binky Bear - Binky Goes to London Gift Set

Being a mummy to 2 boys and a baby, we have many books in the house. I try to collect as many as possible so that they always have something new to read or for me to read to them at bedtime. They are usually of the same type, fairy tales and adventures where 'they all lived happily ever after' or are educational phonics and maths books. 

Binky Bear is a new-concept though...

It is a reading and exploring experience suitable for kids aged between 2-7 created by two mums, Liz Nankivell who writes the stories and Moira Blackwell who takes the photographs to accompany the story.

The beauty of this range is that each book is set in a real location and illustrated by photographs with a map to follow. You get to follow the adventures of Binky Bear through the book and then go on your own adventures retracing his steps as you pop to the town he has visited and find all the places Binky went to.

There are three books in the Binky Bear series and the latest title, Binky Goes To London, is set in Central London. Their inspiration is to get kids outdoors and exploring the world. Having fun without spending a fortune, a view into our British heritage visiting big locations in central cities and to create memories for both parent and child alike.

We were sent the cute Binky Goes to London Gift Set which is £22. This includes the book, Binky Goes to London and the Little Binky Bear to go with it, all packaged together in a red, polka dot gift bag. Perfect as a gift as it's ready to go, no need to wrap it.

The story starts where Binky is taken on a day out to London. He really wants to meet the Queen and so we follow him on his adventures around the city, through Trafalgar Square, seeing the horses which direct him where to go and we get to see him meet the royal Corgis, Rudi and Bertie. Throughout the book, there is photos of each location and a map showing Binky's route through the city which is just adorable.

Overall, the boys thoroughly enjoyed Binky Goes to London. In reality, we probably wont be able to go to London to follow in Binky's footsteps, but I wanted the boys to have this book as it shows a lot of what there is to do in our capital city, London, and if there ever was a time that we did pop down south, the boys would know places that they would like to visit from associating it with the book. 

You can find more information about Binky and purchase the books on the Binky bear website.

5 Top Tips: How To Look After Your Jewellery

It’s important to take good care of our prized possessions, especially jewellery, so that we can keep it in perfect condition. Your treasured items need to be preserved so they can come out to be worn on special occasions and ultimately so they can become the heirlooms of the future. 

Keeping jewellery such as gold rings and earrings, sterling silver personalized monogram bracelets, and pearl necklaces in tip-top shape by cleaning them regularly and storing them properly keeps them in the best possible condition.

Constant use and exposure to light, heat, and chemicals can affect the quality of jewellery. Pearls can dry out and crack when exposed to excessive heat and precious metals can discolour when exposed to chemicals such as chlorine. Here are some great tips to help you look after your jewellery properly…

Photo source
Put on last, take off first
Jewelry items should be the last thing you put on in the morning so that they won’t be corroded by perfume or hair spray. At night, it should be the first thing you take off so it won’t get caught in your clothes. Wipe each piece of jewellery with a clean, soft cloth to remove perspiration, oils, and other substances prior to storage. Always remove jewellery before doing physical exercise and before bathing or dunking in a hot tub or swimming pool.

Clean them gently 
Gold and silver, and most coloured gems, can be cleaned with mild soap, warm water, and a soft brush. Rinse your jewellery with cold water and dry items carefully with a soft, lint-free cloth. Be gentle when handling pieces with gemstones to avoid loosening or removing the stones. When cleaning in the sink, make sure the drain stopper is in place. Also use a rubber mat to keep the pieces from slipping. When dry, you can polish the pieces with a jewelry cloth. Adopt a ‘gently does it’ mantra and handle with care at all times.

Pay special attention to precious stones
Precious gems can scratch or become fractured, so avoid contact with hard surfaces or throwing them casually onto your dresser. Diamonds, even though considered as the hardest, are still fragile and may break when subjected to extreme changes in temperature. Jewellery with precious stones should be handled with special care, and you should carefully check their settings to see if they have become loose. If the stone needs to be re-set, take your jewellery to a professional jeweller to fix it.

Photo source
Store them properly
Jewellery should be kept in original boxes to avoid scratching with other items. If the original cases have been discarded, invest in quality velvet-lined padded jewellery boxes that allow you to organize your collection. Have separate compartments for rings, necklaces, earrings, and

bracelets. It’s important to keep your jewellery pieces separate from one another to avoid scratches, especially on pearls and gemstones. Sterling silver must be kept in an anti-tarnish bag or wrapped in anti-tarnish cloth.

Schedule a regular check-up
It’s important to have your most precious pieces checked for loose parts, cleaned, and re-set or restrung professionally. Make sure you take them to a professionally qualified jeweller on a relatively regular basis. Remember, this is a specialist item so needs specialist care if possible. You wouldn't let just anyone loose on an expensive car so don’t do the same with your irreplaceable jewellery items.

Looking after your treasured jewellery can make a world of difference in keeping it bright and beautiful for years. Follow these tips and your jewellery can become your family’s prized heirlooms.

12 April 2015

Something Special Mr Tumble's Play & Learn Book

Charlie is still behind with his talking, visiting speech therapists regularly to try and help him gain confidence and learn more about how to talk and everything. He is good at his colours and pointing things out so any toy that is to do with asking questions that he then needs to work out, are a great way to help him learn.

So when KD UK sent us out the Something Special Mr Tumble's Play & Learn Book as part of me being a KD Mumbassador, I knew that it would be great for Charlie as all their toys seem to be educational based whilst bringing some of the countries much loved characters to life and being a fun toy to play and interact with.

The toy comprises of three colourful pages with a Something Special scene on each with four backlit keys for answering the questions. There are four games to play on each page which teach children about different things from colours to counting and character recognition.

Featuring Mr Tumble, Lord Tumble, Grandad Tumble and Aunt Polly, the book asks questions about what they are wearing, where they are and colours specific to them. Having to point out who is wearing the hat, the bow-tie and working out the colours of each item on the pages. I like how the buttons can be for not only choosing a picture answer, but they also signify the correct colour or number for the question being asked.

To see how the book works and an example of the questions it asks, check out the video below where Thomas is having a go of it.

Overall, I am thoroughly impressed with the Something Special Mr Tumble's Play & Learn Book. It is fun and gives the boys a way of connecting with one of their favourite characters from television. I find that this always makes toys an extra hit with the children as they already know the character and can point out everyone in the questions already.

I love how it's all about learning through play by helping to teach about colours, quantities and numbers whilst being a great way to develop their memory as they learn to count the various items, recognise colours and figure out which of the pictures is correct for what is being asked. It's great to see Charlie working out the correct answers and copying what is being said, therefore helping him to pick up more speech and words whilst he is playing.

For more information about the Something Special Mr Tumble's Play & Learn Book or any other toy in the KD range, visit the KD UK website.

Celebrate For Less - Best Prosecco

A wedding, corporate event, friendly party, picnic or family feast - fortunately, in our lives there are plenty of reasons to gather a good company. And, of course, a frequent companion of any party is a good drink.

At any event, sparkling wines are hard to beat. The most expensive but also the most refined version is a real French Champagne. But you can’t go far wrong with a charming Italian Prosecco – it’s usually easier on the wallet too!

Whatever may be said, Italy continues to step on the toes of France. And now it's time for the Champagne region to feel its vulnerability. Prosecco is one of the most controversial Italian varieties which until recently was considered to be suitable only for cheap Italian cafes, but nowadays it has entered the wine lists of famous gastronomic restaurants of the world.
Photo by Stoonn from freedigitalphotos.net
The majority of the producers of Prosecco have achieved unexpectedly good results, and one of the evidences of this fact is the acquisition of DOC Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene zone in summer 2009 - the most prestigious DOCG status in Italy. Besides, now with the word "Prosecco" can be called only wines produced in specified areas of DOC and DOCG in the regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia (for example, Valdobbiadene Prosecco).

However, according to the representatives of Conegliano Valdobbiadene association, these changes will eventually help the consumers because now it will be easier to choose quality Prosecco.

It is also worth saying that another difference between Prosecco and Champagne is that in case of Prosecco the fermentation process doesn’t happen in the bottle and the wine is aging with time. Therefore, like Mr. Carlo Biasiotto says "Prosecco should be drunk here and now; you can enjoy it in any circumstances and it will always reward you with a feeling of celebration."
Photo by Graeme Weatherston from freedigitalphotos.net
Of course, after you have chosen suitable drinks, you need to make sure that they are cooled to the required temperature; for sparkling wines it is 6-8 degrees.

How many bottles of sparkling wine do you need? Depending on the duration of gathering of guests it will take from 1 to 2 glasses per person. One bottle will be enough for 5-6 glasses depending on the size of the glass. This means that for 50 people you will need about 10-20 bottles of the chosen Prosecco.

Heroes of the festivities often give their guests compliments to remember the event. Why not give them a bottle of your favorite wine? You can order a special label with words of thanks, your photos and autographs. Your guests are sure to remember you with kind words and drink this wine to your health.

So invite Prosecco to your next event. We bet you, and your guests, will be pleasantly surprised!

11 April 2015

Park, Stay & Go On Our Adventures

For the past few years, my husband and I have wanted to go on a cruise with the children. Not to some great exotic destination, but just around the Mediterranean, something different than flying abroad for the sun and it's a fantastic opportunity for the kids too as there are so many family friendly cruises nowadays, there is even a Disney one which looks amazing.

How amazing would it be to go on a huge cruise ship, stand on the front deck and, like Rose from Titanic, hold our arms out to feel the sea-air breezing past us, the freedom, the utter pleasure of being able to feel that rush of air going past us.

The only problem we have with going on a cruise, is that the port we would be picked up at is miles away down South and with us being slap bang in the middle of the North, it means that we have to drive all the way down to the port, with the kids in the car, for around 5 hours, and then board a cruise ship with 3 moody, tired kids that have being travelling for hours already... how fun, not!

I can handle a few hours of driving whilst trying to entertain the kids. We can make plans for the journey down, make up bags which have activities and snacks in and can stop off at service stations for a little breather and to stretch our legs a little. What we need though, is something to help in between driving down South and boarding the cruise ship. A stop off point. A place for the kids to have a nap and a break for my husband and me before the holiday starts.

So we have been thinking of taking up the Park Stay n Go offer of the Holiday Inn Southampton-Eastleigh. The Holiday Inn Southampton- Eastleigh hotel is just a 5 minute car ride to Southampton Airport and 15 minutes from all major Cruise Terminals, making it a great hotel for our pre-cruise stay. Perfect for us as the cruise we are thinking about ports in Southampton, not far from there.

The best part of doing this is that we can drive down the day before and have a break and a sleep once we get there. A rest in a nice hotel and, if we decided to go a couple of days earlier, we could even go out and visit the sights in Southampton to give us an extra long holiday and a visit to somewhere else new. 
Photo by Gualberto107 from freedigitalphotos.net
We've never been down South before so I'm sure the kids (and us adults) will have fun exploring a different city, seeing the historical sights that Southampton has to offer. Like the medieval walls which is one of the most complete survived circuits in the country and the many central parks which the boys could run off some energy in. 

I'm glad that we can go a few days before and have a break between the long journey and before going on holiday as I feel that it'll be a lot less stressful and give us those extra few days to explore somewhere new too. What's more, this includes somewhere to park the car too so we know that once we arrive back from our cruise, the car will be ready for us to pick up and will have been looked after whilst we are away.

Now that we know we can do this, it's just a case of finding our perfect family cruise and organising it all. Have you got any tips for surviving long trips with children?

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8 April 2015

How To Introduce Your Baby To Swimming

It’s highly important that children are introduced to swimming from a young age, not only is it a fun activity that will keep them fit and healthy it also ensures that they are safe around open bodies of water. 

Research conducted by the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) discovered that more than half of children aged between 7-11 years cannot swim 25 metres unaided. This could be due to fitness levels as child obesity rates continue to rise, or simply because they have not been taught how to swim correctly and for long periods of time.

Swimming is a skill that comes naturally to most humans, we float in water and our bodies react to being immersed in it with primitive movements to propel us along; introducing your child to swimming from as early as baby stages will ensure the basic skill of handling themselves in water becomes second nature.

Start off by placing your baby in the bath at home and get in with them, carefully pour a little water over their head and face so they get used to the sensation and move them around the bath in the water while they float on their back. Encourage them to splash and play with bath toys, all while praising them and smiling. If you’re happy your baby will usually feel the same way!

When the time comes to properly introduce your baby to swimming it’s important that you wait at least six weeks to reduce the risk of infection, although there’s no need to wait for immunisations before venturing to a pool. If you have had a caesarean however it is recommended that you wait a little longer.
Photo by artur84 from freedigitalphotos.net
Seek out a warm pool, preferably one that is heated to 32°C and keep an eye on your baby while in the water. If they start to shiver or their hands, feet or lips look a little blue get out of the water and warm them up straight away.

Remember to pick up waterproof nappies and take along a warm bottle or snacks for after the swim. Towelling dressing gowns and overalls with hoods are great for when you get out of the pool, you can find some great designs here to wrap your little one up in after a dip. You should also ensure you wash the chlorine water off your baby immediately after getting out of the pool and rub in moisturising cream if your child suffers from dry skin or eczema.

You or your partner can take your baby to the pool in quieter periods to introduce them to swimming or you could join a baby swim class which as well as teaching your child to swim confidently will also develop their social and play skills with other children. You might also make some new friends yourself.

Baby swim classes will also help you take the next step to teaching your child to swim underwater and hold their breath. When you think about it, your baby just spent nine months in amniotic fluid in the womb, so being submerged in water should feel pretty natural. 

Many baby swim classes teach underwater swimming because babies have a natural ability to understand that they must hold their breath underwater once their natural laryngeal reflex (gag reflex) is triggered when they are submerged. Underwater breathing teaches children how to control their breathing in the water and will make them better swimmers as they progress.

So now you understand the importance of encouraging your child to swim it’s time to don that bathing suit, get that waterproof nappy on and go for a dip!

2 April 2015

Get Ready For Summer With Boots #bootsbaby125years

Now the clocks have sprung forward, hopefully the sun will begin to shine and that's where Boots mini club come in as they have got babies and young children all dressed up and ready for Spring.

The launch of the Spring/Summer All Dressed Up 2015 collection is stylish and affordable and great quality making every day a special occasion with its bold, vibrant colours and patterns.

Whether it's for playing, every day wear or a special event, mini club teams casuals with playful prints that stand out from the crowd. This cleverly coordinated collection matches fresh looks with simple separates to give you endless possibilities to mix and match your little ones wardrobe with ease perfect for the warm summer months ahead.

I love the Boots mini club range and for years, have been purchasing clothing from the range for the boys. Their baby range has so much brightness to it and it is really just stunning. Joseph already has a couple of bits from their Spring/Summer range and has been loving showing off the gorgeous prints and bold patterns whilst out and about. 

Especially designed for little ones from birth to six years, mini club is available exclusively at Boots stores nationwide and is also available online on the Boots website. What's even better is that they sometimes have the mini club range on a 'buy one get one half price' deal so you can pick up even more of a bargain.

Have you ever purchased from the Boots mini club clothing ranges?

When it comes to the Boots baby range though, I love it. We have been using their products for years now as I find that they are the best on little babies skin.

From nappies and wipes to bath washes and moisturising creams, we love them all. The Boots Super Dry nappies absorb well and so far, over all the time of using them, we have never had leakages and their wipes are fragrance free and gentle on the skin. I always use the Moisture Cream after Joseph's baths to keep his skin soft and hydrated as he is prone to dry skin.

The Dreamtime Bath is especially lovely as it has a gorgeous scent and is so soft on the skin whilst having thousands of tiny bubbles in the bath. Have you tried the Boots Baby range?

Tree Fu Tom – Tom Saves The Day DVD Giveaway

Today I have another fab giveaway for you as the new DVD, Tree Fu Tom – Tom Saves The Day is about to launch. You can join Tom and his friends in Treetopolis for 6 magical action-packed adventures.

Tom may look like a normal boy but when he puts on his magic belt and performs a series of magical moves (known as Tree Fu) he transforms into a tiny but mighty, magical superhero. Featuring the vocal talents of Mark Bonnar and Sophie Aldred, this hit CBeebies CGI animated series is out in a thrilling new collection is released on Monday 6th April. 

Tom, Twigs and woodland friends have lots of amazing adventures but when trouble strikes it's up to Tom to save the day. With our help, Tom can make Big World Magic and tackle anything from warbling Warble Weeds to stopping those naughty Mushas make mischief.

This new DVD features six action-packed episodes, Ranger Tom: Super Helper, Tom and the Warble Weeds, Super Squirmtum, Ranger Tom: Fun Guy, The Golden Spore, Twigs’ Tall Tale.

For your chance to win a copy of Tree Fu Tom – Tom Saves The Day DVD, enter below on the Rafflecopter app. 

Please remember to check the T&C's at the bottom of the Rafflecopter application and our full terms here. This giveaway is open to the UK only and any entries left that do not follow the required entries will be disqualified. After the one mandatory entry, others will open up to give you extra entries. You do not have to enter by all methods but these will give you extra entries into the competition if you do. 

And please, if you are commenting on the blog as 'anonymous' can you please write your name in the comment otherwise I cannot count your entry.

Ends midnight 19th April