Christmassy Bedtimes With Great Little Trading Co.

[GIFTED] I am like Mother Christmas, and the minute Halloween and Bonfire Night are out of the way it’s full steam ahead with Christmas prep for me!

I actually love the run up to Christmas more than the day itself. The children are all balls of excitement and there just seems to be a little magic in everything.

When it comes to decorating the house I’ve always left it to the downstairs, and have never really thought about doing anything in the children’s rooms before, so when I was kindly sent some Christmas Bedding sets from Great Little Trading Co. I knew this was going to be a new tradition for us.

I went out a got a mini Christmas tree – lights an all and a poinsettia for their chest of drawers which was the perfect match for the bedding sets.

The crisp white 100% cotton sets come with a duvet cover and making pillow case, both of which has a super cute Christmas print with woodland animals and of course Father Christmas himself.

You can also get matching stockings and Christmas sacks that would complement the bed sets perfectly; and the classic theme means they can be used for many years to come.

This year has been a little sparse on the magic front, so this has made a lovely addition to the boys room and has definitely got them more than ready for Christmas!

Something For All:Christmas Gift Guide

[GIFTED] Last year I decided to mix things up a little and instead of making lots of separate gift guides I did one guide that included a little something for everyone, as let’s face it we don’t all fit into the same box do we!

I hope you manage to find something that takes your fancy here as let’s face it we all need a little cheering up this year don’t we.

Something For Our Tummies:

Chocolate Hamper – The ‘sweet dreams’ hamper from Willie’s Cacao is a chocoholics dream with this stinking g hamper full of goodies from gooey hazelnut spread, indulgent hot chocolate, tasty chocolate bars and much more!

Sparkling Kefir Water – I for one have been a lot more conscious of my health this year and have been looking for ways to enjoy things that are good for you but don’t compromise on taste, and this is exactly what you get from Agua De Madre low alcohol sparkling water that comes in three different flavours; making it a great alternative from the usual Christmas indulgences.

Pizza Making Kits – Gifts don’t always have to come in the form of a present under the tree and I personally prefer something a little more interactive, which is exactly what you get with the brilliant pizza making kits from Birtellis who deliver gorgeous stone baked pizza delivery lots directly to your door.

You can pick from a whole host of different toppings that are great fun to make as a family and sit down and enjoy in front of a movie or two!

Things For Teens:

PMS Gift Box – I put this one here for teens as I think it’s going to make the perfect gift for my teen daughter, but I know there are so many ladies out there that would love this gift box. Our Remedy have put together a whole range of gift boxes full of goodies such as their Our Remedy CBD oil, organic sanitary pads and tampons, vegan chocolates and lots more.

Smartphone Projector – Another one here that’s definitely not just for teens is the smartphone projector. This projector allows you to simply pop your phone inside the cardboard projector and let your favourite film fill your wall!

Cards Against Humanity – Now this game has been a huge hit in our family for many years now, but it has caused problems as for obvious reasons the younger ones haven’t been able to join in. The new Cards Against Humanity edition is a much fun as the iconic original game with a huge 600 cards you need to give it a try!

Car Lovers:

Carfume – Gone are the days of having a garish cardboard smelly tree hanging from your rear view mirror as you can now make your car small gorgeous in style with the Carfume Deluxe Edition that gives off the scent of some of your favourite scents in this sleek and stylish design.

Green Fingers:

Living Plant Food – Indoor plants are becoming more and more popular and this gorgeous looking indoor plant care set will help you look after your plant babies in style.

Feel Good Gifts:

Happy Kids Affirmation Cards – It can sometimes be a challenge for children to open up and talk about their feelings so things like these gorgeously illustrated affirmation cards are a great way to increase confidence and build a positive attitude.

Box Of Favours – Sometimes giving someone your time is far more important than a physical gift and this is exactly what you get with this Box Of Favours there are a deli of cards that offer simple things like a cup of tea or breakfast in bed which can mean so much.

All The Toys:

Teething Toy – Teething can cause such a problem for babies as well as parents so giving them something like the Matchstick Monkey to sooth their gums would make for a brilliant present!

Colouring:

Stib Colouring – I love anything that allows little ones to get creative and what’s more with these Stib colouring pencils you get to read a positive word that is embossed on the pencils every time you pick one up!

Stomp Rocket No batteries, no fuel and the ability to shoot 400ft in the air within minutes! Now what’s not to love about the Stomp Rocket!

Skateboard – Now skateboards have been on Santa lists for longer than I can remember and this Tony Hawkes board is perfect for those that are just starting out and wanting to practice their skills!

National Geographic Toys – Frankie is a huge fan of National Geographic and for me anything that gets kids engaged in something fun as well as educational is a win in my books! They have a great range of kits from shark tooth kits, to real bug kits and more!

Coding Toy – Coding is definitely a skill our littles ones need to learn as early as possible now and the amazing Botley is a fantastic way to help kids learn.

Botley is a coding robot that offers 100% screen free learning and allows children to build on their problem solving and critical thinking skills by taking part in a whole host of activities and challenges.

Getting Crafty – I love a toy you can make and keep and this is exactly what you get with the Fuzzikins Ice Cream Van Bag using the washable pens you can decorate the van and all it’s accessories which can then be taken anywhere with you.

Peppa Pig – Peppa Pig is loved by everyone and I have always been impressed with the amazing toys they come out with; and I’ve not been disappointed with the brilliant grow and play pots.

They allow children to learn about growing and nurturing alongside their favourite Peppa characters.

Subway Surfers – The Subway Surfer game is a huge hit with my youngest two so I know that the Spray Crew and Shorties collectibles would make for the perfect stocking fillers.

Pen To Paper:

Dairy Diary – I’m sure I’m not alone in having a pretty empty diary last year, so this year it would be lovely to receive a diary like this beautiful dairy diary to fill with hopes and plans for the year ahead.

This diary also gives you lots of recipes and tips for the home and garden.

Cookbook – Lots more people are choosing to opt for a vegetarian or vegan diet, or at least have a few meat free days, so the Zest For Life cookbook is a great way to find some super tasty recipes.

Something To Wear:

Leggings – Leggings have been a wardrobe staple this year and they won’t be going anywhere fast! I’ve been wearing them to workout as well and leisure wear and Love Legging is the place to go for all your legging needs. They have a huge range and my favourites have been their Energise Leggings for training and their high waisted Everyday Leggings for wearing anytime at all!

Something Special –

Last year I featured a gorgeous necklace from I Love Rachel and this year she has come up with another beautiful piece in this copper necklace with a mint green enamel disc…it’s the little touches of a chocolate surprise in the gift box that mean so much too!

A Little Glow:

Candle – You can’t go wrong with a candle as a present, but these candles from Kindred Fires are something a little special as they smell incredible and offer a personalisation service to make it your very own!

Something For The Garden:

Bird Feeder – We’ve been spending a lot more time outside this year and have really appreciated everything it offers, especially all the nature we need to look after.

This gorgeous bird feeder with its bulrush is a beautiful addition to the garden.

Last but not last is a bit of a funny one, but something my husband would love me to have…an anti snore ring.

This ring is worn an hour before bed and during the night to stop storing by using pressure points.

I know the gift of a good nights sleep would be the perfect gift for a lot of people!

Stop The Secrets And Start The Conversations

[AD] We all have a tendency to keep a few secrets from the ones we love – I mean does it really matter if you don’t own up to eating the last piece of cake, or maybe elaborate a little on the price after a shopping trip.

It’s human nature to keep little things to ourselves, but there are some situations that create more harm than good when we bottle them up and can have huge repercussions on us and our family’s lives.

I think now more than ever with the uncertainty and stresses that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic we need to have a real think about sharing everything with the ones we love.

Research by LifeSearch has shown that a huge 7 million of use are keeping mental health problems to ourselves, along with a massive 4 millions hiding physical health problems.

Sadly this isn’t the only problem that people are keeping to themselves. 1 in 10 people have money worries that they feel they can’t share and 1 in 20 are fighting a battle on their own with drink or drug problems.

These problems cause huge issues for the people suffering, adding anxiety and sleep deprivation to the problems that are already there. Also these issues will then have a knock on effect for their loved ones too if something should happen to them.

A fear of being judged, embarrassed or even the worry a relationship may break down are a few of the reasons people keep these things to themselves and incredibly a huge number would rather take these worries to the grave with them, rather than face them head on.

A lot of people, including myself, put off putting things in place to protect our future for so many different reasons, when this is in fact one of the most important conversations to have.

It was my sister that actually got us talking about this a few years ago and gave us the wake up call we needed to get our life insurance in place. So should the worst happen to me or my husband we now know that either one of us will be looked after as well as the children.

Even if you think you are covered and don’t need to let on about an illness you are dealing with, this could actually affect your insurance claim in the future, so this discussions need to be an ongoing thing.

Now really is a good a time as ever to open up these discussions, be honest with yourself and your loved ones and to get things in place that will give you peace of mind for the future and take the burden of your shoulders now.

Learning to open up and talking about feelings is something I try my hardest to instil into my children too, in the hopes that we can build a future generation that are comfortable talking about issues this generation seem to find so hard.

BeSafe izi Flex FIX i-size Car seat Review

[AD] With my eldest daughter being twenty three years old now, I have watched how far seats have evolved over the years and the changes have been amazing – one of the biggest changes I had seen though is that of the booster seat.

These used to simply be a block of plastic that could be easily moved around but had minimal safety features and big changes have been made; and I’ve not seen more changes than the BeSafe izi Flex FIX I-size, which is the first booster seat to comply with safety regulations.

We have been lucky enough to try out this high backed booster seat for the past few months and have been nothing but impressed.

The youngest boys who are now six and eight still very much in need of a car seat so this seat was perfect as it spans a good age range from four to twelve.

The chair is super lightweight and even includes a carry handle in the back of the chair to make it easy to move around and installing with the ISO Fix system took a mater of minutes.

Another issue we face being is large family is the amount of space car seats take up in the car, but with the slim yet space design this seat offers we easily fit two chairs in with a teen tucked in the middle. It has in fact been designed so well you can actually fit three seats in side by side.

One of my favourite features is the hight adjustment that is a a spinning handle on the side of the carseat that give you the perfect hight in seconded without having to try and fiddle around behind the chair.

Comfort is still key with older children and this is the first booster seat I have seen with a recline function. It also comes with additional padding on the chin and chest to allow for a comfier journey. The lap belt is also threaded through a clever magnetic loop which is something you wouldn’t ordinarily get with a booster seat.

I have listed a few of the many stand out features for you below:

• PAD for additional chin and chest protection.

Lockable ISOFix arms for easy instillation.

Side impact protection.

Shoulder and lapbelt guiders for best position.

• Headrest shaped for improved view and sleeping support.

• Easy height adjust to grow with your child.

• Integrated carry handle.

• Slim design yet lots of space.

• Detachable bumper to allow three in a row.

• Compliant with new UN R12 safety regulations.

For me this is the perfect final stage car seat. It has a high level of safely, but the comfort and fit has not been compromised in achieving this.

The boys are happy with them comfortable ride and we are safe in the knowledge it will be a safe one!

Good, Safe Fun At Hever Castle

[PRESS TRIP] For those of you that follow me regularly you will know that we are all big fans of Hever Castle and we were delighted when they opened their doors again after lockdown.

As with anything we have done since restrictions have been lifted, we approached our first visit back with caution, but from the get go I needn’t have worried.

Pre-booking is essential, and time slots need to be selected to allow for small streams of people to enter at one time. This worked really well and we were able to get in quickly and easily.

Once we were inside the grounds there was plenty of room to run free and take in the beauty of the gardens.

All of the usual attractions aside from the maze are open with limited numbers allowed in for 30 mins at a time. Once your time is up there is a clean down before the next group of people are allowed in.

Of course this meant there was some waiting around and we didn’t get to spend as long as we usually would at each section. But I was happier to know that we were going into a place with limited numbers that was clean rather than having to stress about trying to social distance the children like I have at other places we have visited.

The play area is actually split into two sections and we manage to fit in two trips to both whilst we were there, with a cooling of session in the water maze in between which is always a favourite of ours.

We didn’t go inside the castle on this visit as the weather was just to glorious to miss so unfortunately I can’t comment on how long it was to get inside. However we did sit for a good while watching and feeding the huge fish!

Along with lots of other people we took a picnic and plotted up next to the water so the children could enjoy feeding the ducks whist we ate.

There were still plenty of food options if you prefer to eat there and of course lots of ice cream stops which we had to partake in!

It’s become a bit of a tradition for us to finish the day with a stroll through the wooded area which we always fine super quiet and the boys love as the can go off track, play by the steam and of course get covered in mud!

I can honestly say I was more than impressed with all the measures that have been put in place at Hever Castle to allow you to still have so much fun, whilst keeping you safe.

The castle will be getting its coating of autumnal leaves now and we can’t wait for our next visit to see this!

Treads – The Indestructible School Shoe

[GIFTED] It’s that time of year when parents are frantically trying to get ready for the return of ‘back to school’ labels are being stuck in, trousers are being taken up and for me the dreaded shoe shop is taking place.

With years of school shoe shopping under my belt I still haven’t found a stress free way to keep the kids happy and me sane whilst getting what we need.

So when Treads asked if I would like to try out their online shoe shop I was immediately drawn in as the prospect of hitting the shops was something I had been avoiding – especially in the current pandemic.

Treads specialise in durable school shoes for children aged 6-16 using a combination of top quality materials and clever technology to turn construction style footwear into school shoes.

The boys sat with me and happily scrolled through the shoes and selecting them for themselves. There wasn’t a huge range which for me was much better as they came to a decision really quickly.

Frankie went for the smart, Velcro option with the Sydney shoe and Oscar went for a more casual, lace up with the Boston.

Children are in school shoes for a good six or more hours a day, so fitting is important to me and is the only reason I usually opt to go in store for this. However Treads have a print out paper gauge that allows you to take the measurements and then enter online to get the perfect fit. They also come with a dual fitting system which means you can take out one of the inner soles to give you a wider fit.

The biggest pull for me though was their ’12 month indestructible guarantee’ which means if they don’t meet their high standards they will replace them for FREE.

My youngest two have been known to ruin shoes in a matter of weeks so I’m eager to see if they can stand the rest of time with them and by the sounds of these shoes they should have their work cut out trying to get through these!

A special Strobel technique is used which means the upper part of the shoe is placed into the mould and then the sole is injected around it – making it come complete entity. As well as this, the heels are reinforced to prevent splitting so they really have covered everything.

I will of course keep you updated and let you know if the demolishers manage to break through…I have high hopes for these though!

The Week Junior – Current Affairs For Kids

[AD] It’s been months now since the children have been in any kind of formal education, and with the summer holidays drawing to an end it is time to start thinking about the return of school and getting those clogs ticking over again.

Lockdown learning wasn’t easy for us at all and I found myself finding ways to keep the children engaged that wasn’t based around endless piles of black and white worksheets, as they glazed over as soon as they were confronted with this. Instead I tried to use things that were going on around us to spark their thirst for knowledge and this is where The Week Junior has been a great help.

The Week Junior is an award-winning current affairs magazine for children aged 8 – 14 that brings together news and facts from all around the world.

Like most children mine are naturally curious and The Week Junior allows them to find out about current affairs such as COVID-19 and the Beirut explosion in a safe and easy to understand way, which I sometimes find hard to convey to them.

There is a section that encourages their ability to engage in debate….this isn’t something they normally struggle with though to be honest! Quizzes, puzzles and crafts to keep restless fingers busy, sport and entertainment that Frankie absolutely loved and so much more.

We received our first copy just before going away for the weekend and came across a section all about Stonehenge. We have driven past numerous times before and the the youngest two had never really shown much interest. I was so pleased as we passed this year though as they had recalled many facts they had read up on and were over the moon to see it in all it’s grandeur.

Frankie also took inspiration from the ‘photos of the week’ and used my camera to try and get a little more creative with the way they see things though the lens.

This magazine is a fantastic resource to feed inquisitive minds, getting them talking about a whole host of different topics as well as discovering new ones and allows them to build critical skills.

You can join the other 90,000 families that already receive The Week Junior by subscribing HERE and getting your first SIX copies free!

Messing About On The River With Go Boat

[GIFTED] I’m sure that anyone who has followed me for a while now will know of my love for water. Ordinarily the sea is my first passion, but anything that brings me close to the water makes me happy.

So as you can imagine when we went along to Kingston the other day to try out a trip on a boat with Go Boat you know how happy I was about this!

We regularly visit Kingston for a walk along the riverside and to grab a bite to eat and I have always seen the boats sauntering up and down the river and fancied getting onboard myself, so this was the perfect opportunity for me.

Go Boat is electric, self-drive picnic boat that has is situated along the Riverside Walk just on the edge of Kingston town centre.

Upon arrival we were created with a smile, lots of hand sanitiser and plenty of social distance markers which made us feel at ease right away.

All payments are contact free along with signing in and each boat is sanitised before each trip.

Safety instructions were given, life jackets were issued and we were shown to our boat. Each boat holds up to eight people and we took my Mum and Dad along…Dad was made to take the helm and become captain for the afternoon.

We all got comfortable whilst locating the umbrellas that were provided, and with the sun beating down they were very much welcome.

Our trip was for two hours which would allow us to get to Hampton Court and back but you can opt for just an hour or three hours which means you to take in both Teddingdon and Molesey Lock too.

With six of us in total there was still plenty of room to put your feet up and relax whilst taking in the sights of the stunning riverside houses, paddle boarders and swimmers and of course the grand Hampton Court Palace.

We took our own picnic with us which is a must if you ask me and I think if we had a return trip we would definitely go all out with this as the table really lends itself to this.

We ended our trip by passing under the bridge which the children absolutely loved – especially as I fell off the end of the bench trying to get a good picture!

The two hours absolutely flew by and my preconceived ideas about the boys being a pain were completely quashed. They loved sitting taking it all and helping grandad to steer and can’t wait to get onboard again soon, so I think the Paddington morning will have to be out next port of call!

An Overnight Escape To The Hut – Deal

Lowdown has meant seeing a lot of our own four walls or taking trips to out local green spaces. I am extremely grateful that we have a lovely home and plenty of places to choose from when it comes to getting out and about, but after months of end not going to far afield and not seeing friends I was delighted when the lovely Hanna from The Savvy Mummy asked to meet up at her beautiful hut in Deal – Kent.

It’s only just over an hour from us and I was so happy to see a beautiful, smiling face greet us and the peaceful Kingsdown Holiday Park.

The park is home to a collection of stunning wooden huts, set in the middle of a beautiful green space just a stones throw away from the beach.

The park has so much to keep the children busy from mini golf to tennis, a well equipped play area to table tennis and the ability to allow you to let the kids roam free and find their own fun.

The Hut itself is a real home from home with a warm feeling as soon as you step in. The ground floor has a well equipment kitchen and a living space with a dining area which you sometimes don’t find in places such as this. There is also a good sized bathroom a double bedroom and a super cute children’s room complete with bunk beds and a disco ball light that kept the boys very amused!

My favourite part was the mezzanine floor that had bunting draped from each and every banister and had two good sized double beds. The cute triangular windows also have toy a gorgeous view of the grounds and the sea!

The Hut really is a tardis and is deceptively more spacious than than it looks. We are a big family and it could house us all with ease.

After exploring everything the park had to offer we jumped back in the car and took a short drive into Deal town centre to get some chips and have a dip in the sea before Hanna and the girls headed home.

If we had more time we could easily have made the walk into town as there is a wide a flat promenade that is perfect for the kids to scooter on and is definitely on our list for a return trip.

After a sad goodbye we headed back to the hut for the evening and the boys were eager to head out on their own around the park. This kind of thing always fills me with anxiety – not so much because I am worried about their safety as I felt completely space there, but I know how my youngest two have an extreme ability to annoy and I don’t want them to impose on others!

After a while and with regular checks from their big sister I relaxed a little and was able to have a cup of tea in peace whist they enjoyed their new found independence.

I’m not one to sit still for to long though and I was getting itchy feet, so I took Oscar on the few minute walk down to the sea front. This section of beach had a row of pretty cottages and two pubs which I have heard serve great food and have benches on the beach where people were enjoying a glass of wine whilst watching the sunset.

Me on Oscar however headed( pj’s on) down to the sea to see what we could find in the rock pools. My ever inquisitive youngest had a bit of a shock though when he got a sea urchin sucker onto his finger!

A little bit wet and weary we went back and enjoyed chocolate dipped marshmallows and got an early-ish night!

The next morning Frankie was up by the front door at the crack of dawn trying to spot his new found friends. For me lockdown has meant he has wanted to do very little aside from be stuck in front of a screen, so seeing him back to his old self and wanted to get out and about was amazing.

We brought a few of our own supplies for breakfast, but Hanna has left the kitchen well equipped with all the essential such as tea, coffee and cereal which was most unexpected and very welcome.

Toast, and a tidy up and it was time to say fair well to our over night home and head back into Deal to see what else there was to offer.

I had come across Deal Pier Kitchen whilst having a look online and had made it my mission to visit before we left.

I didn’t even realise Deal had a pier and unlike the usual fairground filled piers this was just home to the restaurant that sat right at the end.

The pier has a brutalist feel to it which I love and the restaurant has been built in keeping with this, keep the exterior dark, with plenty of glass to take in the stunning sea views.

There were lots of delicious choices on the menu, but being early we grabbed skinny fries and cake…great for the waistline!

Izzy was desperate to have mooch around the shops, I was not so much so with all the COVID regulations in place, but we window shopped and Deal had a good variety of your usual suspects as well as some pretty homeware and gifts shops in a pretty lame type setting.

I really felt we made the most of an overnight stay and packed in as much as we could with The Hut being the perfect place for us to do this.

The location was perfect to relax in and just let kids be kids and it allows you to do as little or as much as you want.

We had a wonderful stay and hope to be back very soon!

What Families Look For When Renting A Home

[AD] The rental market is growing all the time, with a lot of people having to stay due to not being able to get on the property ladder and many just opting to stay in rental properties due the the flexibility it gives them.

Whatever the reason there is a whole host of things to consider when moving with a family and some things are often overlooked by both tenants and landlords; so I have compiled a few top tips for you below to make these decisions a little easier:

Schools – One of the top priorities for most families is the location of the nearest public and private schools and how well they perform.

Recreation – Having parenting groups, open space, playgrounds, libraries etc that are easily accessible is a big must for many families.

Crime Rate – We obviously all want to keep our families as safe as possible so one factor would definitely end to try and find an area with a low crime rate.

Community – This isn’t something everybody would find important, but a lot of people like the opportunity to be able to be part of a wider community for support, finding friends and getting together at different types of events for the whole family to enjoy.

Parking – Coming from someone that has only just found a property with good parking this is a big priority – especially when you have a young family.

Having to drag your shopping along the street with small children in tow is never fun and can add additional stress to your day.

A Safe Home – You could find a beautiful home that completely fits the bill in many ways, but there is a banister free stair case or a sheer drop off of the patio area that simply would be safe for your family. This is something that both tenants and landlords should consider.

Pets – Pets can be a important part of the family so with many landlords not accepting pets this is something you most look into.

Gardens – Gardens are an extension of the home and something a lot of people look for in a property. With small children you need to ensure this area is safe and can work with outdoor toys etc.

Insurance – This is import for both the tenant and the landlord to get right as for a landlord there are many more things to factor in being able to compare landlord insurance to ensure things such as theft, loss of rent and malicious damage are a must.