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.

Making The Most Of Your Outdoor Space During Winter

[AD] These crazy times that we are currently in have bought a huge range of changes to all our lives and we are all having to adapt to this new way of life.

One of the big things that is so hard for many is not being able to see family and friends. During the summer things were slightly easier as you could happily meet up outside, picnic and socialise in the sunshine. Now that we are having to meet up outside again, things are going to be a little tricker with the cold and wet weather.

There are however ways around this and getting your garden ready to enjoy in any weather is something a lot of us are looking to do.

I have left a few tips below on things you could do to transform your garden this autumn/winter and I would love to know if you have had any differ to ideas you have already put in place.

Cover – Instead of shielding from the sun, the winter means we need our gardens to protect us from the wind and rain. An awning coming off the side of the house or a gazebo which is perfect for keeping out the rain and the wind.

Lighting – With the nights drawing in now it’s important to have good lighting for the garden to make it look cosy and so you can move around safely.

You can do this by getting a professional in and running lights from your mains, or solar powered lights scattered around will be just as affective.

Underfoot – Trudging across a boggy lawn isn’t something any of us want to do, so making sure you have somewhere sturdy and level to congregate on is a must. Once you have the firm footings in place then you can make it your own with your choice of paving slabs or tiles.

Heat – There is nothing worse than being outside and not being able to enjoy yourself because of the cold, and there is absolutely no need to suffer anymore as there is such a huge range of patio heaters and fire pits on the market, so you can enjoy your garden whilst keeping toasty!

Seating – Having somewhere cosy to sit is a must and there are plenty of options out their. Outdoor sofas are my favourite and I love snuggling up on ours with a few blankets to keep us warm.

Entertainment – Something to keep the kids…and the adults busy is always a good idea and there are lists of outdoor games available such as giant Jenga and noughts and crosses that will keep you entertained for hours.

Storage – Moving the inside outside is a great idea, but you need to think about storing everything as you don’t want to have to be dealing with soggy cushions and blankets! Investing in a watertight storage system is a great way to have peace of mind that everything will be safe and dry.

Four Beautiful Garden Trends

[AD] When it comes to clothes fashion, make up, or interiors trends we are used to seeing these changed regularly along with offered advice and tips on how to keep things up to date.

However there are some parts of our lives we might not think about updating as much as others, such as gardens. Rest assured though there is a trend for everything if you look for it. So when it comes to gardens there is plenty to choose from of you are looking for some new garden inspiration.

Here are some of the most beautiful garden trends, which can help you transform your garden into something you enjoy.

Botanical Gardens

Starting with a classic that will never go out of style, the botanical garden trend is perfect for those who like their garden to feel like a jungle, or one of those immaculate National Trust gardens you have to pay to visit. The general theme of a botanical trend is lots of plants and flowers, and any accessories that tie in with the theme. Think gorgeous leaf prints on outdoor cushions or stunning floral flowerpots. Whatever you choose the botanical garden trend will never fo out of style; it will always only enhance your garden! Treat yourself to some new trees or some delicate lights to dangle in the garden to transform it into a cosy place.

Indoors – Out

A stunning new trend for gardens operates on the idea of bringing what you would originally be an indoor style right outside! This can apply to almost anything, but most lovers of the ‘indoor – out’ style have been mainly searching for ideas on outdoor kitchens and outdoor bars in 2020. While this is very much a sign of the times right now, not being able to go out much, or at all, this is an excellent trend when it comes to making full use of the space on the property and enjoying what you have.

You can base you ‘indoor – out’ style on any room you like – your imagination is the limit. Just make sure you think about the very interchangeable weather we are often blessed with when using things outside!

Wildlife Friendly

Those who love the garden are Turing it into a sanctuary for wildlife. This includes but does not go beyond your mainstream birdbath and seed feeder that is annually hung on the tree. It is much more common now to build ‘insect hotels’ which are designed to help anything from hedgehogs to wood lice! Planting wild flowers and plants that can help to sustain wildlife, which also happens to be a stunning addition to any garden. And don’t forget there are options now to build homes for toads and frogs to shelter from the winters bite! The one thing that’s unique to this trend is that is focuses less on clearing and cleaning up the garden, and more on how wildlife can benefit from the stray plants or the unruly compost pile! It might not be as ascetically pleasing as others, but helping our wildlife is a beautiful trend that should continue. For those who want to go that extra mile for their little pals, consider getting a pond. A pond is one of the best places for wildlife to flourish, just make sure to keep it clean and use a quality, branded filter such as OASE filters to keep the environment healthy.

Cosy Accessories

There was almost definitely a time where the only thing that might have been expected to be in the garden was the odd shovel or a shed, but so many things have changed since then, and a garden is essentially room with its own right. This tied in with the ‘outdoor – indoor’ trend, can see people bringing some new sought after furniture and accessories into the garden such as day beds and fire pits.

For those who love napping, there is no reason not to enjoy the last of the summer sun simultaneously, and for pits offer gear long into the night, which are both perfect for making the most of your garden before it gets too cold.

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!

Understanding Reverse Mortgage Terminology

[AD] Retirement is one of the most sort after phases of life; it is a period where an individual may have several life goals and can now sit back and reap the rewards of their efforts. However this beautiful dream can become a nightmare when there is no financial safety net. Most would-be retirees come up with various plans to live a hassle free post-retirement lifestyle, including opting for a reverse mortgage.

A reverse mortgage offers a certain level of financial security. So if you are considering this path, then you should familiarise yourself with its terminology, which I’m going to explain to you now.

What Is A Reverse Mortgage? – Do you know how a standard home loan works? Yes! Such loans come with monthly repayment options right? Now think of a reverse mortgage as being the opposite of that. What I’m trying to say here is that instead of repaying the loan under a regular loan, you receive monthly funds from an approved reverse mortgage loan.

Does this mean their are conditions to access such a long term loan option? For starters your home should be your permanent place of residence, which serves as collateral for your reverse mortgage. With this loan option you can access funds, depending on your agreement with the lender.

Reverse Mortgage Terminology – HECM: HECM stands for Home Equity Conversation Mortgage. What does this mean? Despite the similarities it bears to a standard reverse mortgage, a HECM has a distinct feature. This mortgage comes with a government insurance, whereas lenders issue a reverse home loan. An example of such lenders includes banks.

Reverse Mortgage Calculator – Lenders use reverse mortgage calculators to determine what options are available to a borrower. It evaluates the total home value and uses the information to rates the borrower’s financial status before the approval of the loan application. Here are some of the factors the lender will consider in your home:

• Age

• Condition

• Physical location(address)

By law homeowners cannot access loans based on the total market value of their home equity. Notwithstanding the calculator helps to estimate what amount(percentage) can be made to a borrower. And yes, individuals with an outstanding mortgage will have to settle them first before they can receive payments from the reverse mortgage balance.

What Ways Can I Receive Funds? – A reverse mortgage comes worth various payment options, depending on the borrowers needs and preferences. first off you can receive payment on a lump sum; this is ideal for retirees with several, immediate and demanding projects that need financing. Another option is create a line of credit which provides access to funds at any time. Finally you can opt for monthly loan payments, which is similar to receiving a pay-check. This option makes it easy to predict earnings and execute monthly plans.

You can select any one of these options, depending on your financial status and needs. However it is essential to discuss your options with a reputable lender to get the best deal. This type of mortgage is perfect for people in need of financial security once they retire.

Filling Those Walls With Poster Store

[GIFTED] When we moved into our home a few years ago now, one of the things that I fell in love with was the high ceilings. They make each and every room light and airy and create an illusion of lots more space. That being said this also brings with it vast expanses of walls that need filling to make it less clinical and really put our own stamp on it.

Art work as your know can be pricey so I always look for companies that offer good quality, different art at affordable prices; and this is where Poster Store really fits the bill.

Poster Store is an online company that supplies a huge range of Scandinavian inspired posters and frames to compliment your chosen work.

Their prints cover a whole range of interests from photography to modern art, fashion to maps and much more. The variety means that you can find anything to suit any taste or home design.

I was actually really surprised that their collections drew my eye towards black and white prints which is not something I would ordinarily go for…well I did sneak a bit of colour in too!

The coloured print was actually my favourite and it complimented the drinks tray perfectly as there has been a few evenings where I have felt like this after indulging!

My husband always says I don’t consider him when it comes to styling the home and I have to admit it is made up of pretty much all my tastes. So I the dining room I have selected some of his favourite things and made a gorgeous collection of black and white photos.

Lastly was the landing which is still definitely a work in progress. I wanted to keep it more calming as downstairs has a lot going on and anything to help the kids become more restful at bedtime is a bonus.

I absolutely love the simple lines and flowing designs of these pieces and now all I need to add is a few plants for a little bit of colour!

The black frames really make the designs stand out and the quality of them is outstanding.

I always opt for a black frame, but they offer a great range in black, white, silver and gold and also if you like a natural look with a wood finish there are also oak and walnut available. They all come in a range of different sizes to fit the prints perfectly.

The amount of different choices can be a little overwhelming if you don’t have a definite idea in your head, so Poster Store has given lots of hints and tips and inspiration pages that can help you towards picking pieces that are right for you.

So head over and take a look and let me know what you think. If something catches your eye you can save 30% on all posters (excluding Selection posters and frames) until 13th September using code thejoyoffive30

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!