Monday, 31 December 2012

It's that time of year!

End of another year and time to look back at what I posted at the end of the last one. Looking back at what I'd hoped to achieve it isn't looking good!




Lose 2 stone - oops! I'm in better shape but weight not changed much!


Learn to finish one job before starting another
- maybe I'm too old to learn this one...



Learn to knit - this is back on the list for this year

 

 

Read 100 books in a year - looks like this is the only one I've achieved!

 

Guess I need to think about 2013 now.... I thought I'd picked some simple ones last time so let's do better....

  • Carry on getting in shape and actually lose some weight!
  • Learn to knit for those little grey cells
  • Sort the house out
  • Read another 100 books


What are you challenging yourself to do next year?

Sunday, 30 December 2012

#SilentSunday

 

Silent Sunday
 

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Handwritten thank you's

I have to admit that since the invention of email I've been a very poor letter writer. Thank you's have been via email or telephone. I know that I ought to encourage my children to do better. My 9 year old isn't all that keen but I'm making the most of my just turned 6 year old being excited about being able to write!

 

Today we sat down for a bit and wrote letters together. He would ask me to write down words he couldn't spell:

 

 

 

After the first one I realised I needed to draw lines to help him stay on track as he took up far too much space.... It was lovely as an activity to do together and we have more to do tomorrow.

 

 

Do you encourage your children to say thank you by letter?

 

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas present

Well that's Christmas done for another year! Time to look and see which presents were the biggest hits this year...

 

Lego




It was a bit of a Lego fest here this Christmas both in stockings and under the tree. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Friends all made an appearance. Lots of excitement from children on seeing the contents and lots of fun for all 3 generations in building them:



 

I grew up with Lego and I never mind buying it for my children. It's such a versatile toy and it encourages dexterity as well as imaginative play.

 

Playmobil




My children have loved Playmobil for years. They still seem to find a few small sets in their stockings to add to their collection:



 

We will have to clear some space at home for a major Playmobil scene at home!

 

Books




Both children had books from older cousins that they have spent plenty of time reading. They also have book tokens to spend in the shops. That will be hours of pleasure to look forward to.

 

What were your biggest successes this Christmas?

 

Monday, 24 December 2012

A very British Christmas journey

It's been a long, long day getting back from the south in time for Christmas.... Railway closed for maintenance, flooding on the line and a tragic death made a normal 2.5 hour train journey a 4.5 hour slog. It's been a tour of all sorts of places as we were diverted via Hemel Hempstead, Milton Keynes and Rugby. With bus replacements and cancelled services it could have been a complete nightmare.

 

What made it bearable was the attitude of the majority of travellers and railway staff. The underground man who let us through the barrier despite us having the wrong kind of ticket. A stranger smiling and waving goodbye to my kids on the Tube. The chatty bus driver who entertained us up the M1. People that kept an eye on my children so I could grab a coffee or nip to the loo. The lady that lent me her mobile phone when my battery went flat. All the people that made conversation on the train.

 

I really hope all of them made it to their Christmas destinations without too many more delays. So Happy Christmas to the hard working staff on Virgin Trains, Midland Trains and London Underground.

 

Friday, 21 December 2012

Festive Friday!

Wishing all my lovely readers a Happy Christmas and a healthy 2013! For some of you it's Yule or Hanukah so best wishes for your celebrations whatever they may be. Lets hope the next year brings much happiness to us all.

 

 

 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Reasons to be cheerful: week 51 ( #R2BC )

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart
 

Hard to be cheerful when feeling ill but keeping my inspiration from Michelle let's focus on the positive! Last week was all about my big girl so this week it's my boy's turn. He is growing up so fast and at 6 he is starting to change to a big boy now.

 

1) The nice innkeeper




This year being in year 1 my son was selected to have a line in the infant nativity. He was so proud to be the nice innkeeper (big sis was the grumpy one 2 years ago!). I was on the front row so in prime position to see him deliver his line beautifully:

 

 

His shed sounds cosy with all those animals in it - surprised there was room for Mary and Joseph! Do you think a beard suits him:

 

 

2) Cheeky chappie

 

He is full of life and developing a really fun personality. This was him modelling his granny's silly tam o shanter:

 

 

3) Bright bunny

 

We discovered one of his school reading books from a month or so ago and when I compared it to his latest ones the improvement is amazing. He just loves reading and wants to read every day. Long may it continue!

 

His spelling is also moving on and since October he has managed to improve his score from 32 to 67 out of 100! Need to get his letters right way round but the they are in right order at least.

 

What's making you smile this week?

 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Using pktmny.com to teach my children to budget

 
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When I was invited by Britmums to be a beta tester for the new 
http://www.pktmny.com I found the whole idea very appealing. My children are still quite young at 9 and 6 but I want them to learn from an early age the value of saving money and sticking to a budget. They have traditional savings accounts but I control these for them as the money is needed for things such as swimming lessons and big treats.

I have never yet managed to establish a system for regular pocket money and it was always a bit adhoc and was never the same amount each week! In fact I was guilty of giving them more than they deserved in the form of magazines and small treats when out. This new site allows me to set an automatic minimum payment each week that they get paid into their accounts without me having to remember to do it.



The extra tasks that earn extra money are easy to set up and I agreed with the children a fair amount for things like washing up or tidying their rooms. The good thing about this is that they really have to earn their spending money. So if they want to be able to afford something like a new magazine they need to either wait until they the basic money builds up or get busy with household chores.

My 6 year old still thinks that if his account has £5 in it then he has to spend it straight away. On the other hand my 9 year old has become much more savvy about choosing what to use her debit card to buy. She feels so grown up going into a shop and using her own debit card.
 

The good thing is I can adjust the maximum amount allowed to spend so that if they really wanted something above their normal allowance and have saved up then I can allow them to spend more. The fact that I can help them learn to budget is a great thing to do as a family. I know myself the dangers of credit cards so I think that starting young with a debit card is a brilliant idea.

As they grow older then the allowances they have will grow with their needs, abilities and willingness to do chores! It's such a simple yet flexible idea. I look forward to continuing to help my children learn to manage their own money better than I did!
This post is part of a project with BritMums, sponsored by PKTMNY, highlighting it's launch (http://www.pktmny.com). The new tool allows parents to easily pay and monitor their children's pocket money online, whilst allowing their children to earn, save, spend and manage their money in a totally safe and fun way.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Carolling

Tonight I've been out carolling with my aunt's village carollers. We visited lots of homes and outbuildings to share our singing with as many people as possible. In return they plied us with wine and minced pies!

 

It was lovely singing to a range of people from a wide eyed toddler to the grandparents. A real festive feel and we raised £175 for a local charity that provides music therapy.

 

I have no voice left but it was an amazing evening.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Mattel Fun Times: Whac-a-mole Molehill Mania

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This is game my nephew has been given in the past and loved so I thought my children would enjoy. It's a game for 2 players aged 4+ so good for younger children.

 

The idea is to shoot the moles out of the molehill:

 

 

Then capture them inside the hammer:

 

 

There are 3 levels of game depending on the age of the children which have increasing levels of complexity to make the game more interesting. The moles come in two sets with an extra one of a different colour. This means that the top level of the game they can only whack their colour mole with the bonus on being the winning mole.

I have to say that my children had great fun whacking the moles but it did get rather wild! Here is a video of them playing:

 

 

If you can cope with loud and manic games then this is great fun. Not for the faint hearted though!

 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Saturday Book Review: A Medal for Leroy - Michael Morpugo

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One great thing about having a slightly older child now who is advanced at reading is that we are filling our house with fabulous books that we can both enjoy. Michael Morpurgo books certainly fall into this category so I was delighted to be sent a copy of his latest novel to review:




Michael really has a great way of story telling that draws you in. I found myself unable to put this down and was reading in bed until the early hours!



This is another historical novel based upon a boy born in World War Two but with a story linking back to World War One. The book honours the memory of a real life war hero Lieutenant Walter Tull who was killed in action in 1918. Despite his heroic actions he was never awarded a medal as he was black. It's shocking to modern day people to realise that our forces were so racist that coloured service personnel were almost never made officers and that they were also omitted from medal awards.



The fictional story is about Michael whose father died whilst serving in the RAF during World War Two. He is brought up in London by his mother with regular visits to his aunts by the seaside. It takes the death of one his aunts to reveal a family secret that will eventually take Michael as a grandfather to the battlefields of World War One to honour the grandfather he never knew.



A poignant story for teenagers and adults a like. It did bring tears to my eyes...



Friday, 14 December 2012

Tesco Mobile #XmasSavingsTips Blogger Challenge

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It's a pleasure to be asked by BritMums and Tesco Mobile to share my #XmasSavingsTips. Being on a limited budget I need to make sure that Christmas doesn't blow a big hole in my finances! So here are my money saving tips:



1) Budget

Well ahead of the shopping season set your Christmas budget. You know how much you can actually afford so don't go over the top. I tell my children the maximum I will spend on each of their main presents to manage their expectations (no Xbox 360's at our house!).



2) Save

A bit late for this Christmas but put money on one side each month to a Christmas pot. This can either be in the form of a savings account, cash at home or in my case high street vouchers which I pay in instalments for. You need to make sure that your savings match your budget! Don't over stretch with your overdraft or credit cards.



3) Vouchers and Offers

Now is a good time to use all those loyalty points and rewards you have built up over the year. I knocked £10 off my children's main presents that way leaving me extra for helping Santa fill their stockings! Be canny and look out for 3 for 2 offers or other ways to get more for your money.



4) Christmas Cards

Make your own ecards using a special photo from the year. In the past I've turned school portraits into cards. With most people being on email this can really keep costs down. Of course some aren't so be organised and post in plenty of time to use second class post..



5) Tesco Mobile

This Christmas Tesco Mobile is offering families some of the best deals on handsets and tariffs. Most notably the Samsung Galaxy Ace available for £12.50 a month including 500 free minutes, 5000 texts and 500 MB of data.

And the BlackBerry Curve 9320 - available on pay as you go for £125.

Why Tesco is great for Families:

* You can control your mobile spending with their capped tariff: This means that family members can't use any more than their allocated monthly minutes, texts and data and you don't end up with any nasty surprises on the bill at the end of the month.


* With two or more contracts you get extra perks with the Tesco Mobile Family perks offer - this means you can add all your family handsets onto one single bill and each member can choose from a selection of extra perks each month such as free texts, minutes or data.


* What's more, if you?re a Tesco Clubcard customer, you'll get triple points for every £1 you spend at Tesco Mobile (that's a lot of Pizza Express vouchers - Clubcard members you know what we mean!)




What #XmasSavingsTips can you share?

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful week 50: My Christmas Angel ( #R2BC )

 

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

We have a guest host over at Pressies by Pebbles so please visit her! I'm going to focus on my daughter this week as like all mums and daughters we have our ups and downs but I'd like to focus on great things this week. She has had a rough couple of years to deal with at a young age but her angelic side can still shine through:

 

 

We've had a couple of Christmas fairs over the last few weeks that my children have helped me to sell books at. On each occasion my daughter has befriended some new people and been a fabulous addition to my sales team!

Tonight and yesterday was the Christmas production for the juniors at her school. As you can see from the photo she had a part as an angel in the nativity section as well as singing in the choir.. Despite her tonsillitis she put a 100% effort in for her small part in a wonderful school production.

She is still really focussing on raising money for cancer charities as a way of coping with her day's cancer. It's fabulous that she is thinking of others at a time she is hurting herself.

Well done to my Christmas angel and I hope to see more of the angelic side in 2013 ;-)




 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Charity Appeal: African Children's Choir

The African Children's Choir, who performed with Gary Barlow at this year's Jubilee concert, are asking parents to Give up a Gift for Africa on behalf of their children this Christmas.


Sacrifice the value of just one stocking filler gift and instead donate that money to The African Children's Choir here http://www.justgiving.com/give-up-a-gift-for-africa

Not only will this gesture help us raise much needed funds to educate more vulnerable African Children, it will also allow you to teach your children the importance of giving this Christmas - a stocking filler gift with true meaning.

If you donate via Just Giving you will receive a link to a printable Christmas card from The African Children's Choir which can be printed off and placed in your child's stocking as a thank you.

Or you can donate via your mobile - text GUPA88 £amount to 70070.

This is my daughter Belle on the ACC Facebook pagehttp://www.facebook.com/africanchildrenschoir she has given up a Disney DVD from her stocking, and we have donated the money instead, teaching her the importance of giving to other children who are less fortunate than herself.

We would be delighted if you could donate on behalf of your children and then shout about your donation on Twitter, Facebook and on your blog. Feel free to even send us a picture of your little one declaring what gift they gave up for Africa and we may post it on our Facebook page.

This is Belle on the ACC Facebook pagehttp://www.facebook.com/africanchildrenschoir she has given up a Disney DVD from her stocking, and they have donated the money instead, teaching her the importance of giving to other children who are less fortunate than herself.

We would be delighted if you could donate on behalf of your children and then shout about your donation on Twitter, Facebook and on your blog. Feel free to even send us a picture of your little one declaring what gift they gave up for Africa and we may post it on our Facebook page.

Just imagine the good we could all do if we gave up just one of our Christmas gifts each.

The African Children's Choir travel the World as ambassadors for Africa's most vulnerable children. They raise much needed funds for the education programmes run by Music for Life, who have, in their 28 year history, educated over 52,000 children!

Watch this 2 minute clip about The African Children's Choir and be inspired...


You can Give up a Gift on behalf of anyone, your husbands, parents - anyone! Who really needs another pair of socks anyway - this gift is much more rewarding!

You can read more about the campaign and the inspirational work of The African Children's Choir here - www.africanchildrenschoir.org.uk


 

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The things kids say...

Me: you are a big boy now and should be able to hold on until you get to the loo

 

Son: but I can't

 

Me: gramps can wait until he gets to the loo so you should too.

 

Son: but gramps is very old so he ought to wet himself!

 

 

Monday, 10 December 2012

Mattel Fun Times: Chameleon Crunch

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This is the latest toy we have tried out from our Mattel Fun Times box. This gave us quite a surprise once I'd put in the batteries as he started to run round in a circle! I realised that to do him justice I'd have to try him out in a bigger space than our tiny front room...

 

So he took a trip to my children's after school club to test him out in the school hall. The children from aged 4 up were all delighted to have have a chance to try and feed him once he stopped and opened his mouth:



They found it even funnier when he spat some back out! The hard thing was getting everyone else to stop playing so I could video my daughter on her own:



 

Over the sounds of the school club you can just hear the chameleon making comments like I'm hungry or yum! A cute game that seemed to entertain lots of different aged children. He felt so at home at school that we left him there to enjoy his new friends!

A good fun game for younger children but you do need plenty of space!

 

Friday, 7 December 2012

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

I think I've been a pretty good girl this year so I was wondering if I could have a few things for Christmas:

1) A new body

I'm really not happy with my body at the moment so I would love it if you could swap it for a nicely toned UK size 14 - see not being greedy and asking for a 12 or smaller!

2) A better car

I'm not after anything swish just a car that's less than 5 years old with power steering and central locking. It does need to be an estate though!

3) An immaculate house 

If your elves could spare sometime to declutter my house, put everything away and make it look all shiny and new that would be brilliant.

4) Some time saving devices

Is there room in my stocking for a tumble dryer and a dishwasher? I know you would probably need to extend the kitchen to fit them in but I'm sure that's easy for you!

5) Patience

Please also squeeze in some extra patience for me. I love my children dearly butbsometimesnthey test my patience beyond its limits!

That's all for now. Hoping I'm not asking too much?

Yours expectantly,
Becky

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Mattel Fun Times: Junior Scrabble

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Regular readers of my blog and photo posts will know my family are huge scrabble fans so being sent a spanking brand new copy of Junior Scrabble by Mattel was brilliant. I grew up with the game and my mum has a 1970s original copy! It has changed again since our second hand set has come out.
The game has two levels depending on the age of your child. For the younger ones there is a simple version where you have the words already on the board you just need to cover them:


For my 6 year old just in year 1 this is a perfect level. I am glad that the new version doesn't have all the letters in the words so its assisting him with his spellings. Having the rules made me realise we had been playing wrong but they make the game go better. Scoring is simple with tokens for completing a word.

For the my 9 year old we flipped the board over and you have to think of your own words:

So this makes them think ahead plus scoring requires addition and multiplication skills. My 6 year old could play this level just about but would need help.
A great game for families and a tool for helping primary aged children with spelling and numeracy skills.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Aunt Bessie mid week roasties

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Like most modern parents life can be very hectic at my house with us rushing here there and everywhere with very little time to cook a meal from scratch. I know the value of a proper meal but chopping and preparing takes up far too much time. Like Margaret and Mabel in the video it would seem like a special occasion to rustle up a full roast dinner mid week:




Aunt Bessie's roast potatoes are a big favourite in our house. I love the fact that all I need to do is heat up the oven and pop them in. I can even turn the oven on before doing the school run and it's ready to cook when I get home. The children love the crispiness of the roasties and prefer them to my home cooked ones!

I will also pop in a few Yorkshire puddings (either the bake at home or the 4 minute ones). My children can eat loads of these. Yes it's easy to make your own from scratch but that makes far too much washing up!

Sometimes I also have a few other Aunt Bessie extras such as stuffing balls or other treats - but only when I have had room in the freezer (I need a bigger one!). My children aren't too adventurous on the vegetable front so cooking a one person portion of red cabbage and apple or honey roast parsnips is perfect.

When this is served up with some cold meat from earlier in the week it's a wonderful meal. It's a win all round as we all enjoy it, there is very little preparation involved and virtually no washing up! All making for a very happy mummy.

Plenty of roast potatoes were consumed whilst writing this blogpost!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Keeping the magic part 2

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With my mission to keep my daughter's belief in Santa going a little bit longer I was intrigued by a PR offer to try out the Portable North Pole site to create a personalised message from Santa for my daughter! I was offered a free premium code but as I went on wrong link I ended up paying £2.99...

The site asks various questions about your child including pronouncing their name and various key details. You can then upload a photograph of them and off a special event to add to their special book. At the minute this feature doesn't work on an iPad (my son's video is a bit sparser!).

Telling Santa what they have been asked to do better such as eating their vegetables or sharing their toys. Also what kind of toy they have asked for. With the premium version you can add a photo of your home and a pet to add more personalisation.

Once you have checked out the video link is emailed to you with a PIN code and you can get it ready to play to your child. I would suggest getting it to the play button before bringing your child over. This is how transfixed my two were with their videos:


The way the video has the child's name both written and spoken had them hooked. What was great for having more than one child is that the videos weren't 100% identical. Each child's special book was on a different part of Santa's shelves and they had a different reindeer.

We were all convinced that this was the Santa and the children were relieved to be just about on the good list! Hoping they will try their best to behave now they have seen how Santa and his elves are watching them!

If you would like to share the magic I can give you a special discount code. To use it go to http://www.portablenorthpole.com/voucher and enter the code BLOG10BK for a 10% discount on all their merchandise.

Monday, 3 December 2012

This week's Toys R Us reviews

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Baby Born Interactive Star

This is the latest incarnation of the Baby Born series.It has moved on from the original version that my step daughter had about 10 years ago.

Image

She comes with one outfit, a dummy, a potty, nappy, bottle, feeding bowl and spoon. There are also some bits of jewellery which are child sized. This means that you can either give her water through the bottle or special food with the spoon. Then you can put her on her potty to do a "poo" or she can do a wee when you press her belly button.Just make sure you have tightened the valve on her back before putting water in her or she leaks as granny discovered! Even though this is 3+ toy my 9 year has loved being her mummy. She is a very cute looking baby whether asleep or awake:



Image Image

What is good compared to the early Baby Born is that you can put this baby in the bath as its waterproof and has no electronic parts. She is well sized so that a 3 year old wouldn't have much trouble holding her.For a first real doll she would be ideal as if my daughter is anything to go by your child will get years of fun with her.



Smasha Ballz Ninjaaah

This toy is very much designed to appeal to boys with its Ninja look and the fact that the packaging says:


  • Smash 'em
  • Chuck 'em
  • Slam 'em

My son was very keen to chuck him around, I wasn't so keen as we have a small house! He makes proper Ninja sounds when he is thrown or whacked. Here is a little video showing some of them with me operating him:


Apparently the more you whack him the more noises he makes. This is obviously an incentive to do it more and more! If like me you discourage your children from chucking stuff around the house then this is not the toy for you. It does also respond to patting and dropping too which reduces the danger issue.

My son periodically goes back to this for short periods but it hasn't grabbed him that much after the initial excitement. Maybe other children would enjoy it more and it would do better in a home where it could be really thrown around!




Pokemon Electronic Pokedex

We have only ever watched Pokemon on YouTube so I wasn't sure what my son would make of his pokedex. In fact I was surprised at how much he enjoyed it!

The pokedex has information on 45 of the Pokemon characters plus a trivia quiz. My son seemed to manage to work out how to use it without any instruction which is more than I did!

Here is a video showing some of what the pokedex can do:


It is a very simple black display but it seemed enough for my son to see what he was doing. If you have a big Pokemon fan then I'm sure they will get even more out of it than my son did. I remember my now teenage step sons being heavily onto Pokemon at his age!

A pretty basic electronic toy but if my son is anything to go by a popular choice on Christmas Day!



Zoobles Family Day - Jump Rope

The Zoobles Family Day jump rope set will be available soon on the website. We have had a few Zoobles in the past which my daughter loves so it was nice to get a new addition. The nice thing about this one is that it actually does something rather than just allow the zooble to pop open on the magnetic pad.

Here is a little video of me making Zippy skip:




We discovered she skips much better when closed though she can pop open on occasion! All of my daughter's Zoobles can skip on the jump rope as they are close enough in size and weight. There are perching points for up to 3 Zoobles on the play set too:





And they can all share in the cardboard picnic. Not sure how long the picnic will survive before getting lost or ruined but the rest of the set is well made.

A nice addition to a Zooble fans collection or a great first piece to start a collection.



Monday App Review: Peppa Pig Theme Park

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We were sent a code to get a free copy of the latest Peppa Pig game from PS2 this time it's set in a theme park:


Up to 3 children can have a login for the game to savw their coins and stickers. Like Peppa games we have previously reviewed there are quite a few options for games inside the app:





My 6 year old's favourite was the bumper cars:



Whilst his big sister loves the music game:





Each game has simple instructions and easy controls which means its easy for a child to play. As they go they earn coins to spend in the shop on stickers to add to the scenes they can create:





A lovely game for Peppa Pig fans and one that is very simple. Slightly more than some games at £3.99 but it would get plenty of play.



Saturday, 1 December 2012

Keeping the magic

My 9 year old started questioning the existence of Santa last year and even more so this year. For her little brother's sake I'm trying to keep the magic for a bit longer.

Today we were helped by Kendal Museum's Polar post as my children wrote a letter to Santa!