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Friday, 21 November 2014

‘Let’s End Going Home Alone’ campaign

I was recently sent some information about the Royal Voluntary Service’sLet’s End Going Home Alone’ campaign, a simple campaign aimed at highlighting the lack of support available for the elderly when discharged from hospital. 

The infographic below goes into more detail.
Sadly I no longer have my grandparents but I do remember both being being in hospital towards the end. Thankfully my Mam nursed both at home until they died but I don't remember the option of any support or help from anyone. I can't imagine how lonely and destitute someone would feel being discharged from hospital with no one waiting at home for them, especially at this time of the year. 
Research into the support of those discharged from hospital over the age of 75 shows
that :-
  • over the past year, 38% of those aged 75 have been admitted to hospital and then dicharged home
  • of these, 26% did not feel ready to go home and
  • 13% returned to hospital within three months.
The Royal Voluntary Service states that providing better support for those leaving hospital could save the NHS around £40 million a year, simply by reducing the amount of re-admissions to hospital.

The charity already returns a help scheme called Home From Hospital which helps with the following tasks :-
  • helping individuals home after a stay in hospital
  • putting the heating to ensure they come back to a warm property
  • ensuring there’s a supply of basics like milk and bread
  • providing lifts to medical appointments and
  • checking in on the patient for six weeks after the return home while they recover.
I think a campaign like this needs all the support it can get, particularly at this time of the year. After all, how would you feel if it was someone you knew? 

Feel free to share it across social media and tell your friends!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Asda Wooden Toy Range - Fire Station

The one toy that sticks in my mind from my childhood was my huge wooden dolls house. It was made for me by my uncle and decorated by my Mam. I loved it and played with it for hours. I suspect it's probably still hidden away in my Mam's loft. I think that's where my love for wooden toys may come from. I love how robust and long lasting they are and like my dolls house, can be passed down from generation to generation. 

I was rather intrigued when I found out Asda had a brought out a wooden toy range. just in time for Christmas. Wooden toys always seem expensive so when I found out how inexpensive the range at Asda is, starting at just £10 for a wooden food crate up to £40 for a full blown children's kitchen I was excited but I wasn't really too sure what to expect.

We were sent the George Home Wooden Fire Station* to have a look at more closely. 
The Fire station arrives flat packed in a reasonably compact box. It took Hubby about an hour to put together. It was a reasonably simple procedure with very little swearing or whinging from him. We did have a little issue with the screw holes on one side of the Fire Station as they were out of line, but Hubby was able to fix this without too much hassle and it made no difference to the end look of the toy. 

As soon as it was erect it was obvious the Fire Station was extremely sturdy. There was no wobbling which it does indicate that it's to be built to last.
The Fire Station is across three levels and comes with a multitude of figures and additional pieces including firemen, a fire engine and some pieces of fire! They're all well made and as sturdy and child friendly as the Fire Station itself. 
The colours are bright and eye catching with lots of attention paid to detail The toys are all painted well and are chunky enough for little hands to grab. 
It's such a versatile toy, with so many parts to it and hours of fun to be had by your little people. Whilst my little man is still quite young to play with the building in it's entirety, he's become fixated on the firemen figures and rolling the fire engine round and round the living room floor, he also thoroughly enjoyed playing with his Daddy who I think loves the Fire Station just as much as his son. 
Things we like

  • Easy to put together.
  • The bright colourful design.
  • Sturdy and robust parts.
  • Additional extras such as the fire engine and helicopter.
  • The price is fantastic.

Things that could be improved

  • The paint does seem to chip quite easily so a more protective final coat on the paint would be a welcome addition to make the Fire Station longer lasting, though I do think any chips could be easily touched up with paint. 
  • I would like to see the option of a storage case to purchase to keep all the figures and extra parts together.

The other products in the range as well as this can be purchased online, though because they have been so popular, a few are out of stock at the moment.. Each product in the range is made from ethically sourced FSC wood and comes with the George 100-day satisfaction guarantee. There's a wide range available for both boys and girls, with 31 toys featured!

Overall I'm really impressed. The Fire Station will last throughout the little mans childhood and beyond. The price is excellent and the quality is great. The Fire Station would make a wonderful Christmas gift for any little boy and I intend to pick up the wooden building blocks to the little mans Christmas list too, they look great and will help his motor skills develop whilst he learns to build. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A Christmas keepsake from Dormouse and The Teapot

It's the little mans first Christmas this year and another reason to add a keepsake to the collection. If you've read my blog before you'll know I'm rather sentimental when it comes to my son, I have a whole stash of keepsakes in a memory box and I have a month by month record of him growing up in his Project Life album. 

I came across Dormouse and the Teapot, a company who sell everything you need for a traditional afternoon tea. They also have a beautiful first Christmas collection*, featuring beautiful vintage dessert spoons that can be hand stamped with a personalisation of your choice. They're the perfect way to celebrate and remember your little person's first Christmas or to give as a gift.
Dormouse and the Teapot have a variety of options for the wording on the spoons, you can choose from 6 off the shelf' options, with optional  personalisation choices such as a baby's name like ours. You could choose anything you liked though , a wedding gift with the names of the newlyweds or a birthday gift with the age of the recipient. 
From the pretty ribbon tied round the handle to the stamped letters, the spoon is beautiful and is such a unique keepsake item. I love it. I intend to hang it on the tree as soon as we put it up this year. 

I'm really surprised by the bargain price of the spoon too. It only costs £8! You'd be very lucky to get anything as nice, especially something personalised for anywhere near that price. 

You can check out the rest of Dormouse and the Teapot's range on their website which includes mismatched china and vintage fork bookmarks. 

My lovely blog readers can also save themselves 10% off the their purchase by using code - xmas10 at the checkout. 

Grab yourself a bargain Christmas gift but be quick, the code expires on 1st January 2015. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Blogger Photography event with Gavin Forster

Earlier this month I attended a free event with local photographer, Gavin Forster. The short course was trialed on a few local bloggers, prior to Gavin introducing it to small businesses.

I'm a keen amateur photographer, I love taking photographs and recording memories, though I'll admit I've always been a point and shoot kind of girl and worse still, I don't edit my photographs. For quite a while (and constant nagging from my Hubby) I've been on the look out for something to help me with the technical side of photography, so Gavin's course sounded ideal. Hubby bought me decent Nikon DSLR as a wedding gift and it seemed such a shame to have only used it on the automatic setting
Gavin provided a questionnaire for each attendee to fill in prior to the event, where we were asked what we would like to get from the course, giving him an opportunity to tailor the event to our needs. 

The event took place at the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead, a venue I'd never even heard of before the course. I didn't get a chance to look round the gallery on the day as I had to rush off to collect my son, but I'll be visiting again for the Daisy Green Christmas market at the end of the month, when I;ll be able to have a proper look round. 
Six North East bloggers attended the event all with differing levels of photography experience and range of camera, from bridge and DSLR cameras to small digital cameras. 

Gavin was patient and knowledgeable from the offset. It was a refreshing change to hear someone tell you to use equipment you already have (who'd have know you could get great lighting and pictures from your bath tub?!), or products that don't cost the earth, rather than offer lists of 'essential' products that are way out of an amature photographers budget. 
We played around with a range of inanimate objects, photographing them in our own individual ways. It was interesting to see that everyone headed for the light and knew that better photographs come from well lit natural light. 

Gavin went on to tell us more about ISO, shutter speed and aperture, a topic I find highly confusing.  I was grateful to find the majority of the other bloggers seemed similar to me in terms of experience and camera knowledge which made me feel a little less stupid. I'll admit prior to the course, I'd never really looked at the settings on my camera before so it was great to be given the push to twiddle with my buttons, so to speak, when taking photographs. 

The advice and support from Gavin was great. He was full of helpful tips and hints, all of which are easy to achieve. I was unable to stay for the questions and answers at the end of the session but I still feel I picked up a lot of useful information from the course. 

If you have the opportunity to attend any of his courses and want to improve your photography skills I'd thoroughly recommend it. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Slimming World Chicken Carbonara


2 chicken breasts
2 onions
1 pepper
25g Lighter cheddar cheese
2 eggs
frozen peas


Chop your garlic and chicken and cook together. Add the onions and peppers and cook down before adding the mushrooms, chopped jalapenos, peas and sweet corn.

Cook your pasta in a separate pan

At this point I took some out for the little man. Obviously he can't have rare egg so I'll use the ingredients up to this point to mix with pasta for his dinner tomorrow.
In a separate bowl add the tub of quark, the two eggs and half of the cheese. Use a blender or whisk to make a smooth liquid, add some pepper if you want to season.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain the water and transfer into the pan with the chicken and vegetables.
Remove the pan from the heat so it cools slightly, then add the quark, cheese and egg mixture. Stir through to ensure the pasta is all coated. Don't put it back on the heat or you'll end up with a rather weird form of scrambled egg (yes, I've done it before).
Put it in a bowl and there you go. Quick and very simple Carbonara. The recipe is free on the Extra Easy plan and contains speed foods such as the onions, mushrooms and peppers.

Extra cheese can be added, making it you Healthy A choice, or you can syn it as we did. The 25g of light cheddar cheese works out at 4 syns for the whole lot, so to divide between two it'd be 2 syns per portion.
This is one of my favourite Slimming World recipes.

Can I loose weight with help from Amphora Aromatics?

I rejoined Slimming World on Thursday evening. I have played about with the diet a little at home but I was getting no where, loosing a pound, putting it back on, the cycle goes on. 

I really want to loose some weight as I feel uncomfortable and unhappy and clothes shopping is an absolute nightmare. I'm the heaviest I have ever been and I don't like it! I don't feel I can use the 'I've just had a baby' excuse any longer - he's 9 months old! I may have left it a little late to get back into my tiny work uniform by 1st January but the longer I leave it, the worse it will get. 

So ... it's time to get my arse into gear and loose some weight. I need all the help and support I can get so when I was given the opportunity to try some products from Amphora Aromatics*one of the UK's biggest suppliers of pure essential oils and aromatherapy essentials, I wasn't going to say no. Their product range is vast, and includes products such essential oils, candles and even bath and body products. 
They recommend the use of some of their essential oils to help aid weightloss. I'll admit I was a little cynical, simply because I knew nothing about it, but, scientific research suggests that aromatherapy can help with weightloss

The aromatherapist Eugeny Couture, states that sniffing essential oils can suppress the appetite.

She said: 'Essential oils have a huge influence in our daily lives. They can enhance our mood, help us relax and unwind or focus our concentration, so it makes total sense that they can help us lose weight too.

Eugeny recommends the following tips to help get your head round the idea - 

  • Keep a bottle of Grapefuit oil in your handbag and take 3 to 5 deep breaths of it at least 6 times daily to regulate your appetite.
  • Use a combination of 4 drops of Mandarin oil, 3 drops of Bergamot oil, 2 drops of clove oil, 1 drop of Cinnamon oil and 1 drop of Chamomile.
  • Add two handfuls of Epsom salts to a hot bath infused with 5 drops of Juniperberry oil and 3 drops of Grapefuit oil. You can also add 2 drops of Lavender oil.
  • If you enjoy having a massage, change the oil you use to this appetite suppressing blend - 40ml of Sweet Almond oil, 4 drop of Rosemary oil, 4 drops of Fennel oil, 3 drops of Juniper oil, 3 drops of Grapefruit oil and 2 drops of Rose Geranium oil.

Obviously the use of essential oils alone won't make you look like a super model,  thought it is rather interesting to read that Grapefruit oil is said to boost your lymphatic system, positively affect your mood and revive the mind. Apparently the scent of Grapefruit Oil can affect the autonomic nerve and increase the breakdown of lipids in the body.
I've been burning the oils daily this week and although it's too early to tell whether it's working, my house smells amazing. I've had the Grapefruit Oil with me and have taken a few hefty sniffs. I'm not sure whether the scent is helping, or I'm just motivated for my diet, buy I've eaten less and haven't necessarily felt hungry. 

The cinnamon and fennel oils have been my scent of choice today. It smells like Christmas is our house!

Have a look at the great range of products on Amphora Aromatics, or follow them on Twitter and Facebook for some helpful advice and information.  I'm going to place an order for some of their candles too, the Fig and Grape candle sounds amazing.  

Oh and feel free to check back here to see how long it takes me to look like Kate Moss!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Christmas lighting from LED Hut

Last Christmas I reviewed some fab LED lights from LED Hut. This year they kindly gave me the opportunity to try one of their indoor window comet lights*

I'm so excited for Christmas this year, it's the little mans first one, and our first as a proper family. I can't wait to put the decorations and tree up and I intend to make the house as cosy and festive as possible, so I was looking forward to the arrival of the light, and the expansion of my decoration stash!
The light is shaped like a shooting star and is filled with tiny little lights which work together to give off a great effect. 
The light is battery powered so can be moved around to where ever you wish to put it. There's no need to display it near a plug socket. The light is delivered with it's necessary batteries, which is even better!
It's double sided so if you put it up in your window, you can still see the light in your house. The light has a hoop on the top so you can hand it on a wall, it's super light weight so it can easily be attached to a wall or window without worrying that it'll fall off. The light is bright with a warm glow. I think it looks great in our living room which is mainly cream in colour. It's not an over the top light, nor does it look tacky as some Christmas lights can. The only gripe I have with the comet light is the power cable running down from the centre. It's really short so is very hard to disguise if you're hanging the light and as it hangs down from the centre it's extremely noticeable, I'd have preferred it to hang down from one of the ends so I could at least try and hide it a little.
Other than the cable in the centre I like the light, it's a bargain at £9.99 and the brightness is great. I think a couple of these in a window would look great over the festive period.

LED Hut have a fantastic Christmas collection this year with a wide range of lights including window lights, outside lights and tree lights, all of which are reasonably priced.

If you're on the look out for new decorations for the festive period, I'd definitely recommend LED Hut, and if you spend over £50 your delivery is free. 

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Separation Anxiety and planning the return to work

In the last week or so the little man seems to have gone from a happy, independent little soul to a clingy, teary nightmare. I literally can't leave the room without tears, screams or where possible, him trying to frantically crawl after me. It's obviously traumatic for him and very upsetting for me. His cot has become a place of terror and if I dare to sit him in it whilst I pop to the loo his cries can be heard down the street, we've taken to co sleeping because otherwise he'll wake up in his cot screaming the place down and refusing to settle, if he sleeps in with his we all get a good nights sleep. 

After much discussion with friends and family and the helpful world of Google it appears the little man may be going through the Separation Anxiety stage.

Separation Anxiety can become apparent when little people become upset or anxious with the prospect of being separated from a parent. I've been with the little man almost constantly since his birth 9 months ago. Obviously he spends time with his Daddy but he goes to work so I'm the one that's with him 24 hours a day. 

I'm worried about how upset he gets when I leave the room which is making the inevitable return work even more traumatic. I've been off work for a year and the thought of returning makes me feel physically sick. I feel like I'm going to miss out on so much. The little man isn't too far off walking and I'm already worried that I'll miss his first steps or hear him start to say new words. 

He's never been left with anyone other than my Mam, and that's only been for a couple of hours at most. He enjoys her company because he has fun and he's comfortable with her because he sees her a lot. That doesn't stop me worrying about my return to work on the 1st of January and that I'll be away from him for over 12 hours at a time. 

I enjoy my job although it's very stressful. I work 12 hour shifts which are either 7am - 7pm day shifts or 7pm - 7am night shifts. They're long shifts, and there's no down time, I have to be awake and alert for the full 12 hours I'm at work, lives can depend on it. It is quite a rewarding job though and I do mostly enjoy it. I had asked to return to work part time but that was refused, thankfully though I've found another lady who has had a baby, to job share with. This means we will split one full time role between us, working half the hours each, sadly though, this won't come into place until June when she returns from Maternity Leave. That means I have 6 months of working full time before I can drop any hours. 
Over the next few weeks I'm going to try and encourage him to spend time away from me and leave him with my Mam more to try and make the change less stressful for him. 

He'll be staying with her while Hubby and I are at work so I want to make sure he doesn't get upset, particularly when he's without Hubby and I for such long periods of time.

Some other things we intend to try to reduce the little mans Separation Anxiety -
  • Games such as peekaboo can reassure a baby that you may have disappeared but you will return, this helps them understand the idea of disappearing and reappearing. 
  • Increase the time and regularity that they are left with other people, particularly the person who will look after them, whether that be a family member, nursery or child minder.
  • Spend time with your little person and the person who'll be looking after them, encourage your little person to get to know this person and gradually leave the room more. 
  • Don't sneak out and leave your little person, that will create more fear. Make separation predictable, give your little person a kiss, say goodbye and leave. 
  • Try not to leave your little person when they're vulnerable (at least at the beginning) - i.e when they're tired or poorly.
  • Try and keep your little person in their own surroundings. If that's not possible take things from home, toys or a blanket to reassure them. We're agreed that my Mam will look after the little man at our house so he's in familiar surroundings and hopefully less anxious. 
Did you little person have separation anxiety?

How did you cope when you return to work?

Direct Blinds 'Next Banksy' competition entry

We were recently invited to take part in Direct Blinds 'Next Banksy' competition, an opportunity to design your own pattern to feature on a blind. One lucky winner will have their design featured on a range of blinds which will be available for sale at Direct Blinds. 

Whilst the competition is aimed more at designers we thought we'd have a go. If nothing else it'll give my readers a laugh at my Hubby's creative skills!

If you've read my blog before you'll know that my Hubby is a huge dinosaur geek, so ti was inevitable our entry was going to be dinosaur related. He's already obsessed with decorating the little mans 'big boy' room and is determined to fill it with anything dinosaur related. 
My hubby isn't a designer, but he's full of good ideas, so whilst the design may not look aesthetically amazing, I do like it's pretty!
He wanted something that was quite relaxed and simple so no over the top bright colours. He went for water colour style shading and more muted shades of green. 
If the design was to be featured on a blind it would need to look appropriate repeated so a simple but effective design would probably look best. 

I think the last design is my favourite. I like the simple, childlike dinosaurs sat in rows. I think it'd look great in a boys bedroom. 
If you'd like to enter the competition yourself you have until 21st November to submit your design. For more information about the competition and the chance to look at some of the amazing submissions head over to the Direct Blinds Facebook page.  You can also enter on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the tag #makemeadesigner. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Mrs Gleam products

My life is an endless fight with the washing basket, having a small baby who likes to get messy doesn't help!

I'm always on the look out for products that might make my life easier. No one wants to spend more time cleaning that absolutely necessary. As well as something that works quickly I try to avoid products that contain harsh chemicals or nasty additives that may cause irritation to the little mans soft baby skin.

I recently asked if I'd like to try out some products from Mrs Gleam*, a cleaning range that contains no harsh chemicals, no bleach and is suitable for sensitive skin or skin prone to allergic reactions. They sound like a brilliant idea for both the little mans young skin and my dry, sensitive hands. 

Sounds great!
I was sent the Carpet and Upholstery stain remover and the Laundry Spot stain remover. Both look very similar with only the label differing, which could be problematic in the depths of my cleaning cupboard. They could easily be mistaken for each other.  The packing is simple and comes with a spray top bottle. It all looks very pink and feminine with a lady dressed in retro clothing emblazoned across the bottles. 

Carpet and Upholstery stain remover  - A bleach and peroxide free stain remover which is safe on skin. 

Pre little man our cream sofa was fine but since his arrival it's become a bit of a nightmare. It seems to be a magnet for sticky fingers, baby vomit or squashed food stuffs. It seems like a new mark or stain appears daily. The stain remover is simple to use, a short burst of the spray, leave for a few seconds and then blot with a damp sponge. I found this worked easily on chocolate (a stray chocolate button had hidden itself down the side of the seat pads) and a small unidentified greasy stain caused by someones dirty fingers. The stain removers scent reminds me of bubble solution. It's not unpleasant but it's not necessarily something I'd choose as a scent.

The stain remover costs £5.99 to buy which it's too bad considering how long it will last me. I literally used half a spray for each stain on our sofa and didn't find the need to use anymore. This can also be used to remove stains from carpets but as we only have carpet in our spare room and on the stains I haven't had a chance to try it out yet. 

I'm happy with the stain remover, it works well and it's reassuring to know I'm not using harsh chemicals near our skins. 

Laundry Spot - A bleach and peroxide free laundry aid which is suitable for heavy stains and safe for your skin. 
I wanted to love this but sadly it just didn't work for me. In our house baby food stains tend to be the most common and I need a stain remover than will shift them from the little mans clothes. 

Despite following the instructions, the food stains from his clothes just didn't shift, though it did remove minor stains from our tea towels. 
Although the Laundry Spot didn't work for us, I suspect it would work fine if you don't have as harsh stains

I'd still like to try some of the other products in the range, I love the idea that the products are eco friendly and friendly to skin. The air and fabric freshener and the kitchen cleaner both sound good and I'll keep an eye out for them when I'm out shopping.