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Friday, 19 December 2014

Preparing for guests over the festive period

I can't imagine there's many people who don't find Christmas stressful. It's such a hectic season with so much going on. The Christmas shopping, endless parties and constant stream of friends and family at the door. 

I love the festive period, the cheesy Christmas films on TV, the tasty food and of course the presents but I do get a little stressed by the constant flow of visitors who descend on the house and ensuring the house is clean and tidy. I sometimes find worrying about visitors takes the fun out of the festivities for me. 

Here are some of my suggestions for preparing for visitors over Christmas
Declutter

The more people there are in your home the more cramped it will feel. You can make areas seem bigger and calmer by removing rubbish, unnecessary items or even things that take up a lot of space. Temporarily moving the coffee table to the garage will allow floor space, especially if you're holding a party.

Clean

Don't do what I do, panic clean 10 minutes before your guests arrive. Clean your house during the run up to Christmas so you don't have to spend Christmas Eve hoovering or with your hand down the toilet. 

Prepare the spare room

If like us your spare room is used more as a dumping ground than a bedroom, give it a clean and get it ready for guests. Clean towels and a comfortable guest bed ensure your guests are more likely to return. Whilst you might not anticipate guests staying over there tends to be one who just won't leave or who has had one sherry too many.


Have plenty of food

If you're feeding your guests make sure you have plenty of food for them. It's worth checking in advance for any allergies or dislikes.

Relax!

It's your Christmas too! Take the time to sit and relax. Try not to get stressed if things don't go to plan. Chances are, your guests won't even notice.

And remember ... you're not running a five star hotel, it's your home and your guests have come to see you, not how clean your skirting boards are!

Do you have any other tips for preparing for guests?

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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Oogaa feeding products



As you know, the little man is a happy little eater. He will eat anything put in front of him, IF he can feed himself. He likes to use his hands  and has recently started putting loaded spoons into his own mouth which is fantastic but not always practical when we're out and about as it's extremely messy.

He's become very reluctant to be fed by hubby or me, and often pushes away the spoon. It takes a lot of persuasion and encouragement for him to eat from an offered spoon. 

When we were recently offered the chance to review some feeding products from Oogaa I was very excited. Oogaa products* are brightly coloured with fun designs and best of all, are completely safe for little people. Sam Skolnik created the fun feeding range from pure grade Silicone after discovering traditional plastic cutlery can release harmful chemicals during day to day use. 
We were sent a none slip mat and the Oogaa mealtime set, which consists of a 9poz bowl and two feeding spoons.

“Oogaa is an innovative design company that creates fun, healthy and sustainable products for babies and young children. Our individually made, hand-finished products are designed to be better for baby and for the world they’ll inherit one day. We put special emphasis on environmentally friendly, green materials that are as safe and sustainable as possible.”
The cutlery is fab. I absolutely adore the bright and bold designs, they're perfect for my little man's meal times.

The cutlery is made from Silicone  which has various benefits, it's dishwasher friendly, does not corrode, doesn't support the growth of mould or bacteria and is both odourless and tasteless. 

The cutlery is extremely flexible and much more friendly for little fingers than more traditional metal or plastic cutlery. As it's a softer material it's perfect for sore teething gums and less likely to cause damage or noise when thrown across the room!
The little man seems to be a big fan, feeding time using the Oogaa products is much easier and less stressful for us all. Hubby is delighted that he can make silly train or aeroplane noises to accompany the designs of the cutlery.
I can confirm the green Silicone, none slip bowl is the perfect size for a little head! The bowl is fairly shallow and very malleable. As it's made of Silicone it's less likely to slide around during feeding. They're also really good for transportation, the bowl rolls up to fit easily in my change bag, it takes up loads less room than our usual bowls and the none slip mat is great. I've taken it with us everytime the little man has eaten out. I feel much better letting him eat bits from my plate from that rather that grubby cafe tables which I frantically clean with baby wipes before he gets near.
Overall I'm impressed by the Oogaa products we've tried. The quality and design is great and they've made meal times much more fun for us. The only negative thing I could mention is that the Silicone does stain. I've found the cutlery has already started to discolour a little. I think it's from jarred baby food, I have the same issues with stains on clothing. 
The products are higher in price than your standard baby feeding equipment but you do get what you pay for. I think the fun design alone is worth paying extra for. The cutlery and bowl set that I was sent costs £12.99.

You can find out more about Oogaa and their eco friendly products on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. If you wish to buy any of the products you can order online from Mothercare.






Wednesday, 17 December 2014

How to make your Christmas leftovers last longer

We all hate waste. It’s upsetting to cook a lovely meal only to see a third of it go in the bin. This is especially the case at this time of excess when Christmas dinners and banquets You can temper these feelings of guilt (and save money while you are at it) by making the most of your left-overs. It’s always a good idea to re-use food that we weren’t able to eat the first time around but sometimes it is difficult to find the time to fit those bits in our meals schedule within a healthy time period.


Cook New Dishes
One of the problems with left-overs is that you do not want to eat the same meal twice or three times within a short space of time. Therefore the best way to reuse leftovers is to mix them up with fresh produce. You can create some really interesting meals this way but if you are wondering what to make there are plenty of websites and recipe books devoted to the subject.


Organise Your Fridge
This is an obvious one but you can get a few more days freshness by placing your leftovers in the fridge. The trick is not to forget about them! Devote a section of your fridge to leftovers so you always know where to find a snack or the base of your next meal. If you are not happy with how your fridge is set out you may want to look at the range of freestanding fridges at Electric Shop.

Make Bread Last Longer
If you are not regular visitor to your local duck pond you may find you are throwing out a lot of mouldy bread. Switching to sourdough bread, which doesn’t go mouldy, will solve this problem and keeping your loaf in the freezer will prevent the process.


Invest in Tupper Ware and Stock up on Cling Film
The best way to delay the decline of your food is to lock out air when you pack them away. Split your food to smaller portions and cool the food as quickly as possible and wrap comprehensively in cling film or in an air tight tub.


Only Reheat Left-overs Once
The most important thing with leftovers and food that you have kept longer than usual is to not put yourself at risk of illness. Planning your meals for the week in advance can mean you only buy what you need to and making sure food, especially leftovers are thoroughly heated through when you eat them. If you are at all in doubt that the food hasn’t got any unwanted bacteria growing on it, do not take the risk.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Baby update - 10 months old

I can't believe my little man is 10 months old already. It doesn't seem two seconds since he was a tiny little baby, now he's a proper little man who is into everything. He seems so grown up. 
Personality

He's fiercely independent and is always on the move. Now he's found his feet there's no stopping him. He's toddling round all the furniture and two days ago stood for ten seconds without holding onto anything. He can move faster than the speed of light with his walker, sprinting across the living room floor laughing hysterically to himself.

He's so vocal and constantly chatting away to himself, us or random old ladies in cafes! His new little thing is roaring! He sounds like a tiny tiger. He's added some more words/sounds to his range. Instead of just 'Da' over and over we're now privileged to have 'Ba', 'Va', 'Fa' and 'Di'. He's still not keen on anything Mammy related, he's said it a few times but only when he's annoyed or upset. 

He still loves being around people and will do anything for a 'hello' from a random stranger. 

He;'s started waving today too. It's really sweet and looks like a proper side to side wave. 
Health

He's had a couple of off colour days where he's had a high temperature but nothing that's been very long lasting. He always seems to be a little ill after he's been to our local SureStart baby group. 

We finally had our hospital appointment to check the little mans hips and find out if he had what I have, thankfully, he doesn't! It was such a relief knowing he's developing well and doesn't appear to have any of the hip and back issues I do. 

Still only the two bottom teeth but he's the dribbliest baby in the world, so I don't think the next ones are too far away. 
Feeding

His feeding is great. He eats pretty much anything we give him. His favourites are still ham, cucumber and pasta with a tomato sauce. 

He's started feeding himself with a loaded spoon or fork while we're in the house. He's so proud of himself when he's doing it. 
Sleeping

His sleeping is rubbish. He seems so unsettled at night, waking up every couple of hours. In the last couple of days I've started giving him an extra bottle during the day because when he wakes during the night he wants a feed. I'm not sure if he's waking because he's hungry or just because he wants the comfort from the bottle. I'm longing for the day he sleeps through again, I miss my sleep.
What we've done this month

The little man met Santa for the first time at Beamish Museum. He was good as gold and only gave Santa's beard one little tug. 
We've been to messy play and sensory play most weeks, where he loves getting messy and chasing the other babies.

We've visited lots of Christmas markets and bought new decorations to celebrate the little mans very first Christmas. 

We've put the tree up and surprisingly it's still up, albeit minus a few decorations at the bottom which have been removed, thrown and sucked under the sofa. The little man hasn't tried to pull the tree over yet.

My next update will after the little mans first Christmas, which I seriously cannot wait for. I'm looking forward to just the three of us enjoying our first family Christmas together and sadly, it'll also be after my return to work! I go back to work on the 2nd January and I'm dreading it. I feel sick at the thought of it. I'm returning on very slightly different hours and I'm dropping 12 hours over the course of the month, so pretty much still full time. Hopefully in June, I'll be cutting my hours in half, but we will have to see what happens with that one. 

I'm terrified I'll miss out on more of the little mans milestones, particularly his first unaided steps. He'll be with my Mam which I'm happy about but I'll miss him immensely. 




Monday, 15 December 2014

Keepsake jewellery from The English Charm Company

My favourite type of gift has to be a something that I can keep forever and look back on, remembering the time I received it, what was happening in my life and reasons behind it. I'm quite a sentimental soul.

Since the birth of the little man I've become a little obsessed with collecting keepsakes and mementos from his early days and months, so much so, I already have a rather large box filled with 'things' to keep. Whilst it's nice to keep things its not always practical so I was rather excited when I was given the opportunity of reviewing a beautiful piece of keepsake jewellery from The English Charm Company.

The English Charm Company is ran by the lovely Natasha who is based in Hampshire. Natasha designs and creates beautiful handmade keepsake jewellery which is perfect to give as a gift or receive.

Natasha offers a range of products including hand prints, finger prints, footprints or a child's drawing, all printed forever onto 99.9% pure silver. Each item purchased is sent in an elegant box with a beautifully tired ribbon, silver polishing cloth and care instructions.

After much deliberation and website viewing I opted for the Personalised heart shaped single charm*, a gorgeous charm suitable to affix to a bracelet or keyring.

What's really clever about The English Charm Company is everything can be ordered and created online or through the post, there's no need to visit Natasha in person.

To create our charm we were sent an impression kit through the post. The impression kit consists of two pots of coloured clay/putty which must be mixed together and rolled into a ball.
The ball is what will hold the finger print of your little person, ready for it to be created into a piece of keepsake jewellery.
I did need assistance getting the little mans finger print onto the ball as he was intent on trying to squash it or eat it! You do need to be quite quick when trying to get the fingerprint as the putty does start to dry quite quickly. When we finally managed, we left it to dry for a little while before parcelling it back up to send back to Natasha to create something pretty. You can read more about the process of how a piece of jewllery is created here.
Around a week after I'd sent off the finger prints a little beautifully wrapped little box arrived on my doorstep.
When I'd unwrapped the pretty little gift box I was greeted with a gorgeous heart shaped charm with the imprint of my little mans finger!

The charm is quite large, much larger than I'd expected. It has a chunky look which I really like. I'm not really a fan of delicate jewellery so a thick, chunkier style of charm is much more suitable for me.
The lines of his fingerprints aren't too prominent yet due to his age,so there's not a great deal of detail to his fingerprint. I'd like to get a similar charm made once he's a little older so the detail is a little stronger.

The heart shaped charm costs a very reasonable £45. Natasha has a range of products for all budgets on her website which you can check out here. I love the idea of a permanent keepsake made from forever lasting silver.

Check out the The English Charm Company on Facebook as there's a chance to win a £50 voucher!












Sunday, 14 December 2014

Silent Sunday


Enchanted Parks - Saltwell Park 2014

 On Thursday evening the three of us visited Enchanted Parks at Saltwell Park in Gateshead, a series of art installations using light, sound and fire against the back drop of the cold North East darkness.

This is Enchanted Parks 9th year which was developed and commissioned by NewcastleGateshead Initiative and Gateshead Council. The theme for this years event is the story of Estella,  who lived inside Saltwell Towers and dreamt of a life amongst the stars.

The paths are dimly lit but the event is very well staffed, with volunteers at every step along the way who are polite and keen to chat. The route is fixed with signs warning you not to stray from the path. 
The woodland around Saltwell Park looked beautiful. Everything was eerily lit with the pale lighting.
The little man was absolute transfixed with the lights and surprisingly, stayed awake for the entire walk round the park grounds. 
The External combustion installation pictured above was quite spectacular, both in site and sound! The sequence of the flames mimic the pattern of the solar flares on the surface of the sun. 
 The light installations were very impressive and looks amazing against the dark night sky. You can read about the artists who created them here.

We had a great time at Saltwell Park and I'd thoroughly recommend it, my only advice - wrap up warm! It was freezing!

Tickets cost £7 each for Hubby and I and then little man was free. Parking at the park itself was £3 which was pretty reasonable. There was no issues getting or out and the event itself was very well organised with plenty of staff and volunteers to provide help if necessary. We're looking forward to next year already!















Friday, 12 December 2014

Gift ideas from SkateHut

I've only recently discovered Skatehut but I'm impressed with the range of skateboards, scooters and accessories they have. It's the perfect place to gift hunt for those difficult to buy for teens or any cool scootering kids. They have a great selection of skateboards, scooters, bikes and funky accessories. 

I've put together a few of my favourites.




The Green Balance bike is ideal for any little people ready to start out on their bike riding journey. I love the bright colours and the sleek design. It's make a great gift for an adventurous little boy.

Everyone needs a sledge because we're DEFINITELY going to get snow this year. This Orange sledge is long and stream lined and would be perfect for children or adults!

The Cute dinosaur Skatehut Micro bag is so sweet! It's a shame they don't do it in adult size because I have a dinosaur obsessed Hubby who would love this. 

How fan does the Mini Rasta BMX look!? I love the Bob Marley-esque colours and thick chunky tyres. 

Every child needs a scooter and the Blue scooter from Skatehut looks great. It's simple but the bright colour is really eye catching. What I love about scooters is they're so much easier to store than a bike.

The Nefo aero howler looks like good fun. Not only for a child but any energetic adult too. It'd be perfect for playing on the beach in the summer.

You can still place an order with Skate Hut in time for guaranteed Christmas delivery!





Have you got your Christmas Jumper?

Everyone loves a Christmas jumper, right? 

Love it or hate it, today is Christmas Jumper Day. Whether you are a tacky fanatic or a less is more kind of person, there's something for everyone. 

Have you got yours? If you haven't you should take a look at the great Christmas Jumper finder from Voucher Codes. 



I bought our family Christmas Jumpers early this year, and went shopping for them as soon as they appeared in the shops, even the little man has some! We will be wearing ours Christmas Day this year which will be our first one as a family of three!!

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Book of Everyone

The Book of Everyone* is a book dedicated to it's owner which is all about them and the world in which they were born. It's full of interesting and unusual facts about their year of birth and contains some great arty graphics. 

"The Book of Everyone is the perfect gift for someone you love. This one of a kind gift is a book full of stunning artwork, glorious personalised facts and fun statistics. The Book of Everyone can be made in minutes, customised, previewed right away, printed and dispatched to you in under one week!"

It makes an ideal gift for those that are a nightmare to buy for. In my case, my uncle. He's 74 and needs nor wants anything. Birthdays and Christmas drive me mad trying to find something for a gift, unique to the year before.

I was asked if I'd like to review the Book of Everyone which seemed like a great idea so I chose his year of birth, 1940.

Creating the book was simple, You can add photographs if you wish, change quotes and text or add additional information, but if you want to make it even more simple, all you need to do is add their name, date of birth and as if by magic, your book is created and ready to send off to be printed.
My book arrived quite quickly and without any issue. I was was surprised with the quality and how nice it actually looks. It's a sturdy little hardback book really great quality printed paper inside.
The Book of Everyone is a fantastic 50 page gift suitable, like it says, for everyone! It's a beautiful personalised keepsake filled with fun facts and great sentiments.

The Book of Everyone is available in four different formats, suitable for all budgets from, Digital £7.50, Paperback £19.50, Hardback £29.50 and Deluxe £49.50.

The Book of Everyone makes a great Christmas gift but what's even better is, by buying the book you'll be supporting a fantastic charity. The people behind The Book of Everyone have teamed up with the charity Age UK for their #peopleareamazing campaign. Did you now that around 500,000 elderly people will spend the festive period alone this year? I think it's a really sad figure, imagine if it was your parents, or your neighbour?

Every book you buy goes towards the gifting of a personalised book for an elderly person who may not receive any other Christmas gifts this year.