Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Barnes Park, Sunderland

Barnes Park, Sunderland
We seem to have come across quite a few new parks this summer. We've found lots of new hidden gems, some of which are almost on our doorsteps. My most recent find is Barnes Park in Sunderland

Initially opened way back in 1909 the park is around 2 miles in length and home to a great selection of family friendly activities. 
There are plenty of picnic locations around the park. We ate at one of the benches but a blanket on the grass would be just as nice. I love how much open space there is, there are beautiful walks among the trees and along the edge of the duck pond and it's a great route for dog walkers and joggers. 
The park has a Victorian bandstand that's used by local theatre companies to hold productions, one of the most recent being Twelfth Night. I suspect it'd be a rather beautiful and unique location to watch a performance, especially on a warm summer evening. 
As well as the pretty scenery, the park is home to a well kept range of children's play equipment suitable for both toddlers and older kids. The little man thoroughly enjoyed playing in the sand that surrounds the park, and there are even a couple of buckets and spades that have been left behind by some kind soul. 

Very close to the play area there's a small cafe with outside seating. We only called in for a cold drink to take away so I can't comment on the food or hot drinks but there were plenty of people queueing and sat outside so it looked promising. 
The park also has bowling greens, tennis courts and a very tranquil sensory garden where you can sit and enjoy the peace, or chase after your excitable child like I did!
We ended up spending over three hours wandering through the park. I hadn't realised how nice it was before our visit and we really didn't want to leave. We walked around most of it, played in the park, fed the ducks and watched the bee's in the sensory garden so when we finally left, the little man was absolutely worn out. 

We loved our visit to Barnes Park and we'll be returning soon. It's such a nice spot to spend the day and if you take a picnic you can have a completely free day out. Parking is free and it costs nothing to spend time in the park. When the little man is older it will be the perfect place for adventuring and hiding in the tree's. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Saying I do is expensive

We all love a wedding, two people committing to each other in front of their loved ones and the perfect excuse for a party. Weddings are not only expensive for the bride and groom the costs for their guests seems to be creeping up too. Once you've bought your new outfit, booked an overnight stay at the hotel and spent a weekend binge drinking in a European city your bank card will certainly have taken a hit. 

Weddings can cause financial stress for everyone. Experian’s latest Money & Relationships study shows that one in four people in the UK have argued with their partner about the cost of watching someone else say ‘I do’
The survey shows that 17% of people who are in a relationship miss hearing the wedding bells for friends as they simply cannot afford to attend. We felt quite guilty when we booked our own wedding. We chose to get married abroad which we knew would limit the amount of guests who would be able to come and those that did attend would have to  do a lot of saving. 
Not only are the bride and groom getting into debt, Experian's survey shows that 5% of guests are having to borrow money to attend weddings, of those, a massive 78% have formally borrowed funds from means such as credit cards or bank loans. 

Finances are a tricky subject in any relationship and can easily be the route of an argument. Experian have shared some helpful tips to ensure your relationship and your finances are at harmony with one another. 

Experian has highlighted five dos and don’ts for financial harmony from the Money and Relationship Guide:

  • Set the ground rules. Do you want a joint account for regular expenses and separate bank accounts for personal spending? Such as wedding guest money.
  • Work out who does what. The more frugal partner could look after the budget, while the more extravagant works out the ‘treats’, like meals out or trips away or sav
  • Agree on short and long-term goals and how you’re going to achieve them, and review regularly together
  • Be honest about your past. If you have a less-than-perfect history of repaying money you owe, this could affect both of you in the long-term if your credit reports become linked
  • Take time together to understand if you need to improve one or both of your credit reports. Do this well in advance of applying for credit together
  • Spend all your time together talking about money 
  • Keep secrets. Research from Experian shows that 29% of people in the UK discovered that their partner was keeping credit card debt from them
  • Dig yourself into a hole. If you find yourself in debt, don’t borrow more in the hope of putting things right. Ask for help and be open about it with your partner
  • Talk about money issues when you are angry. Arguing about money is never going to be productive
  • Expect your partner to completely change. It’s unlikely an extravagant spender will do a complete about-turn and suddenly become frugal

Research was carried out online by Canadean in August 2015, and used a sample of 2,000 UK adults.
Figures has been calculated using the ONS figures for the total number of weddings in England and Wales (2012) and the average number of wedding guests, statistic attained from the You & Your Wedding Survey (2015).

*PR Collaboration*

Monday, 31 August 2015

Updating our bedroom with Tony's Textiles

Whilst I like completely revamping and redecorating our home, it's not always financially possible. Changing a few key items, such as a rug, curtains or duvet cover can completely change the look of a room and save you a lot of money.

I was recently asked if I'd like to review something from Tony's Textiles, an online textile company who have been around for over 30 years. Having started out on market stalls they now have an easy to navigate website, selling a vast selection of homeware products including curtains, bedding and cushions all reasonably priced. 
After spending far to long scrolling through the pages and pages of pretty things I finally decided on a pair of Milldale floral curtains and some matching Milldale cushions to brighten up our bedroom. I'm a massive fan of all things shabby chic so the pretty floral design fits in with our simple and light bedroom. 
Delivery was extremely quick, the products landed at my door in the matter of days. The curtains were pretty easy to hang and despite being wrapped up in packaging lost their creases very quickly. The curtains are made from 65% Cotton and 35% Polyester and feel quite heavy and thick and because they're fully lined they hang beautifully at the window. The lining prevents the glare from the sun which is perfect for me when I'm trying to sleep during the day when I'm on night shifts. 

Because the curtains are lined not only do they keep out the sun when I need to sleep but they will keep out any drafts in the colder months and help create a warmer bedroom. 
I love how elegant the curtains and cushions look. The have a very traditional feel to them and wouldn't look out of place in a country cottage somewhere.

When I chose them I wasn't sure how the colours would go in our bedroom, but they matched my walls and upcycled chair perfectly. 
The curtains Milldale curtains start at a very reasonable £14.95 and go up to £44.95. I ordered the 66" wide x 72" drop to fit our bedroom window, I chose a slightly shorter length than our last curtains and I think they look so much better. It makes hoovering and cleaning easier too, no more curtains getting trapped round my ankles and trying to trip me up!

At only £29.95 they're a complete bargain and can easily rival the much more high street brands in both quality and price. I can't believe the matching cushion covers only cost £2.95! 
I'm really impressed with our new curtains and cushions. The quality is great and the prices mean we can update our colour scheme and decor more often. I've already recommended Tony's Textiles to pretty much everyone I know and I'll definitely be buying from them in future. In fact, I've already got my eye on the Balmoral Broderie Angleaise white duvet cover set.

Tony's Textiles also sent a couple of animal cushion covers with my order which will be moving into the little mans big boy room very soon, so you'll see them feature in another post shortly.

Tony's Textiles are based in the UK, their prices are extremely reasonable and they offer free delivery with orders over £100.

*Products were sent for review purposes. Opinions are honest and my own*

Saturday, 29 August 2015

My 1st JCB Tractor Tim review & giveaway

The little man is obsessed with anything tractor related. He will sit for hours looking at his tractor books or looking out of our living room window in the hope a tractor will pass by from one of the local farms.
My First JCB Farm Fun Tractor Tim in box
I was recently asked if he'd like to try out the Tractor Tim from the My 1st JCB range at Golden Bear Toys which I knew he'd absolutely love. Tractor Tim comes from the My 1st JCB range which includes a great selection of construction related toys including My First JCB Talkies, Water Squirters, Pullbacks and Big Wheelers.

Tractor Tim is brightly coloured and very chunky. making it perfect for little hands. It's ideal for both indoor or outdoor play and is adequately robust for my less than gentle little man. 
My First JCB Farm Fun Tractor Tim being played with
The tractor comes with a removable trailer which can be used to transport sand, stones or sticks, whatever your little person sees fit. 
My First JCB Farm Fun Tractor Tim and trailer
Tractor Tim has become one of the little mans favourite toys, he always makes a beeline for it. He loves playing with it in his sandpit, filling up the trailer and wheeling the tractor round and round in circles.
My First JCB Farm Fun Tractor Tim and trailer in the sand
At only £14.99 the newest member to the My 1st JCB range, Tractor Tim is perfect for adventurous little people. It's a great sturdy toy and would a great gift for both boys or girls. 

The kind people at Golden Bear Toys are also offering one of my blog readers the chance to with their own Tractor Tim. To enter please complete the Rafflecopter form below. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Terms and Conditions 
  • A winner will be chosen randomly via Rafflecopter 
  • The winner will be notified via email and Twitter (if you leave your handle) 
  • ALL entries are checked and if any of your entries are found to be fake ALL of your entries will be disqualified. 
  • Fake entries/automated entries will be disqualified. 
  • You will have 28 days to respond to the winning notification, if you don't a new winner will be chosen. 
  • The prize will be sent directly from the company.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Enhance your borders with EcoBorder

The garden has been a work in progress and a complete money pit recently. We'd done very little to it before the summer started but now it's finally starting to take shape. We've had pretty much everything dug out. We've said goodbye to the weeds, shrubs and uneven paving stones and hello to bark filled borders, a decking area and a much tidier look.

We were recently sent some EcoBorder from The Plastics People to help finish of the edges of our borders.  EcoBorder is made from recycled tyres and is a environmentally friendly, it's also quick and easy to install and is a simple way of keeping grass and borders separate. It's available in four different colours - black, red, grey and brown. I decided on the brown as our borders are filled with brown bark. 

EcoBorder costs £59.88 for a pack of 6, 4 foot lengths and can be ordered online It's also worth checking out the other products on The Plastic Peoples website, particularly their low cost cuts and sheets of Acrylic, Perspex, Polycarbonate, PVC and Correx.
Each piece of EcoBorder bends up to 70 degrees, meaning it can be installed along the edges of borders or paths even if they're not straight. The recycled tyre material is extremely durable and completely reusable, the EcoBorder cane be moved and reinstalled as much as you like without causing it to soften or distort. 
To ensure correct fitting you need to make sure the area underneath the EcoBorder is as flat as possible as any stones or bumps will mean the EcoBorder doesn't sit correctly.
EcoBorder comes in 4 metre lengths that connect together with a sturdy type of dowelling. They fit together easily and it gives the border a smooth and streamline look.
The lengths of EcoBorder are secured to the ground with stakes, You'll need a hammer or mallet to ensure they're deep into the ground but they are very easily knocked in. 
As soon as the EcoBorder is down, the difference is instantly noticeable. It creates a tidier and neater look and makes our borders look much better. I really like the fact they're made from recycled material too, the amount of tyres in landfill is crazy, so finding a use for them like this is a great idea. 
I'm really pleased with the EcoBorders. They look fab and have made grass cutting right to the edge of the lawn much easier. It's been in place for a couple of weeks now and we've had no issues with movement or lifting. It looks like it will last and looks like it will resist any weather but only time will tell.

*We were sent the products for review purposes. Opinions are my own*

Monday, 24 August 2015

A visit to Lightwater Valley

Hubby and I had visited Lightwater Valley pre little man but we couldn't really remember too much about it. Last week we decided on an impromptu visit and a day out in the sunshine. Located just outside Ripon, Lightwater Valley is around an hour and 20 minutes from our home in Durham. It's a theme park suitable for families and offers a range of rides suitable for any adrenaline level!

The park is well sign posted once you're in the general area and there's plenty of parking available with car park marshalls on hand to direct your vehicle. The park wasn't as busy as I'd expect, despite the fact we were visiting right in the middle of the school holidays.

A standard ticket for guests measuring over 1 metre and allows entry onto all rides costs £19.60 if you book online in advance. Under 1 metre tickets cost £5 and under 2's are free which was a very pleasant surprise when we were queueing at the entrance desks. Lightwater Valley also offer a range of discounts for senior citizens, carers and emergency services staff, had I remembered to take my ID badge!

Lightwater Valley dinosaur crazy golf
The entrance to the park is home to a Jurassic themed crazy golf. You can access the crazy golf without paying to enter the park and if you're visiting the park you get a discounted rate if you decide to visit. The little man was too young to play but he looked shouting and pointing at the interactive dinosaurs.
Lightwater Valley rides
There's a good range of rides in the park, ranging from relaxing family friendly swan pedal boats on the lake to the adrenaline inducing 'Ultimate'.

We didn't go on any of the larger rides during out visit, we opted to go on the more family friendly ones or one of us taking the little man on age appropriate rides whilst the other took photo's.
Lightwater Valley Eagle Creek farm tractors
Eagle Creek farm at Lightwater Valley
The little man almost couldn't handle the excitement when he realised he'd be riding in a tractor at Eagle Creek farm, so much so, we rode if 3 times during out visit. 
Lightwater Valley Eagle Creek Farm

Lightwater Valley

Lightwater Valley boating lake and swan pedal boats
Lightwater Valley express train
We loved the Lightwater Express train which runs round the majority of the park, stopping at certain stations to allow you to disembark or join the train. It's perfect for tired legs and you can even transport push chairs in a special carriage.
Lightwater Valley with child riding the teacups
ride silhouette at Lightwater Valley
father and son on the rides at Lightwater Valley
metal spider sculpture at Lightwater Valley
Near the entrance to the park there's a great falconry area. It's home to a good range of birds of prey, snakes, lizards and even some rabbits. We all enjoyed wandering through it and found it a very calm and relaxing location compared to the hustle and bustle of the park itself. 
lizards at Lightwater Valley
I would return to the park, but maybe in a year or two when the little man is a little older so he has the option of going on some of the bigger rides. I would also recommend taking a picnic with you as although the prices weren't too inflated we struggled to find healthy choices for the little man. 

What we liked
The good range of rides for children the little man's age
Lack of queues
Plenty of clean toilets with baby change facilities dotted around the park
The Lightwater Valley falconary centre
There's plenty of grass and seating if you've taken a picnic
The reasonable prices

What we didn't like
The food options were limited. I would have liked to see some healthier options available
A minimum spend of £5 is required on all card machines/shops and food outlets around the park
We found quite a lot of the staff we spoke to quite unhelpful and not particularly polite

The little mans favourite rides -
Eagles Creek farm tractors
Lightwater Express train

Lego dream house competition with Ocean Finance

We were recently asked if we'd like to take part in the Ocean Finance Lego dream homes competition. Each blogger was sent a Lego starter kit and asked that their child create their dream home from it.

The little man and his Daddy have been very busy this week. The little man needed some help from Daddy to get started but thoroughly enjoyed his little challenge once he'd work out how to stack the bricks. After taking some inspiration from his Daddy's handiwork, the little man helped create his own Lego home.
It was great seeing and playing with Lego again.It brought back lots of memories of my own childhood and hours and hours spent creating extravagant houses, elaborate vehicles and odd looking animals. I loved the stuff. It inspired me to get up into my Mams loft and find my stash of Lego from the 80's!
The little man didn't seem to go for any specific colour. After pouring bricks all over the garden he simply plonked bricks here, there and everywhere.
Our house building took three days, perfect takes a long time you know!
After careful brick positioning and decision making the little mans Lego house was complete and currently takes pride of place next to the TV.
The little mans Lego house
Daddy's Lego house
Each blogger entering the competition is in with a chance of winning a £150 Toys R Us voucher. I love his little house, its unique, has kept him entertained for days and has allowed Daddy and I to watch him learn more about creative play.

The little man would love to win with his creation to stock up on Lego and put it towards a John Deere ride on tractor and truck. 

You can check out Ocean Finance's Lego Dream House Competition page. 

We were provided with a Lego set to take part in the competition.