Tuesday 31 May 2011

Secret Post Club: May 2011

Its been a while since this has run but it was a pleasure to both send and receive a mystery parcel this month as part of the secret post club which is run by the lovely Heather. This month I received goodies from a lady I'd never come across on Twitter before Erin aka @silentbeauty. She sent me the perfect package:

Coffee beans, chocolate and some pampering face packs! Needless to say the chocolate didn't last long ;-) I am looking forward to some time to enjoy the lovely coffee and a relaxing face pack. You can go see what other people got over at Heather's place.

Saturday 28 May 2011

A British Icon

A few weeks ago I started capturing photographs of Royal Mail post boxes for my blipfoto daily challenge. It has amazed both myself and others just what a variety of post boxes there are in existence. I haven't yet had a chance to photograph a Victorian one I've been told about but all of the ones above have been captured in and around Kendal and range from George V to George VI and Elizabeth II. They come in a variety of shapes and these days materials. Sometimes its the setting that they are in that makes them so photogenic.

What other things scream out their Britishness to you? For other countries what are the iconic bits of street furniture.
Posted by Picasa

Friday 27 May 2011

Flashback Friday: Where have the years gone?

For this week's Flashback as inspired by Karin at Cafe Bebe I'm taking you back to 2007 and what for me was a regular trip to the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Wisley. I took my children and met up with my mum's best friend for a lovely day in this beautiful garden. Looking back my children look so young and small and I can't believe its only 4 years ago:

The years do go so fast and my son will be starting school in September. So glad I have these photographs to prove they were once small..

For more lovely stories please click on the link at the start of this post.

Thursday 26 May 2011

Sudocrem Children’s art competition

Win yourself a spa weekend in London for 2 people

£100 of Early Learning Centre gift vouchers for your child 

Sudocrem are looking for young talented artists between 3 and 5 years old to upload their most inspired drawings to the Sudocrem Facebook contests page - http://on.fb.me/mylRBn . The prize is a luxury spa weekend in one of London’s finest hotels for mum and dad, as well as £100 to blow in ELC! The competition is coming to a close in the 3rd June so not long to enter... it’s still wide open!

Sudocrem are offering a Spa Weekend for 2 people comprising a 2 night stay at the Wyndham Grand Chelsea Harbour 5 star hotel, including breakfast, a spa day pass to the Blue Harbour Spa and a half hour spa treatment for each person. Plus £100 of Early Learning Centre vouchers to spend on your child.  The winning mum or dad will be the one who shares with us their child’s (between 3 – 5 years of age) hand made drawing or painting. Please note submissions must not relate in any way to the use of Sudocrem Antiseptic Healing Cream.

It’s simple - just visit www.facebook.com/sudocrem, ‘like’ the page and share your child’s hand made painting or drawing with a brief description.

The entrant should submit a hand crafted painting or drawing created by their son or daughter (aged between 3 – 5 years of age at the closing date of the competition). Please note, submissions must not relate or refer in any way to the use of Sudocrem Antiseptic Healing Cream or any other licensed medicine. A clear scan or photo of the picture and a brief description are acceptable. The acceptance, disqualification or deletion of competition entries, without explanation or prior notification is entirely at the discretion of Forest Labs, as set out in the Terms and Conditions found on www.facebook.com/sudocrem


Entries can be submitted up until midnight on Friday 3rd June 2011.
Our winner will be selected by Forest Labs staff and will be announced via www.facebook.com/sudocrem  by Friday 17th June 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful XI (#R2BC)

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

All this rain and wind could really get a person down as it is miserable and just gets in the way of all sorts of things... but I am still finding plenty to be upbeat and positive about.

1) Freebies and good service

I had cause to send my nearly new MacBook power supply back to Apple for replacement as it was faulty. Due a combination of misunderstandings and Apple mistakes I was billed the cost of a replacement. A long phone conversation on Monday ensued to resolve the issue. The very nice Shaun from KTD Computers verified to Apple that I had only bought the replacement in January so I was refunded and offered compensation. On Tuesday I took delivery of a shiny new iPod Shuffle as an apology! It really does pay to politely complain about something...

2) My kids behaviour

Never underestimate the power of a sticker chart! My kids are getting better at going to bed nicely, getting dressed in the morning and doing chores etc thanks to a new sticker chart. Pocket money will now be based on the number of stickers they each "earn" and not just given on a monthly basis. It will be interesting to see their reactions when they actually see how much they get...

3) Family fun

Yesterday we all had a fab time at my son's nursery BBQ. It was the only day for a week it didn't rain (small miracle!) and there was a huge turn out of children with their parents, grandparents and siblings. The chair of governors had organised a walking treasure trail which took us on a tour of the local area including Serpentine Woods to answer the questions. My kids worked together as a good team most of the time! Then it was back to the nursery for burgers and sausages from Plumgarths - delicious. Great to have a nice relaxing time with my kids.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

#TheGallery: My Backyard

I love Tara's my backyard theme for this week so we can have a peek at everyone's gardens! Mine isn't majorly spectacular as I'm a) not green fingered b) have too much else to do but here are a few snaps of some the good things lurking in the back garden:

Just enough room to do the washing!

It comes with a great view
It has a lovely little apple tree
I'm sure that there are other much more beautiful gardens to look at if you click on the camera logo and visit Tara's web site.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Talented Tuesday: Geneabloggers Prompt

I've been neglecting the family history part of my blog lately but saw the Geneabloggers prompt today and feel inspired! There was also a conversation on Facebook this morning about musical instruments so I that set me thinking too and I can combine the two in this post.

Unfortunately I haven't currently got the scanned photographs from my families' Victorian photograph album to illustrate this post... One day I'll get round to getting it professionally done. Several of the photographs in the album show my great grandfather Albert Wallace Linford (1861-1913) with his flute. There are other people in the album with instruments so I can only assume that he was in an orchestra.  As my big brother played the flute himself for several years he has inherited the original one. I wonder if my nephew will ever decide to follow in the family tradition?

Albert's daughter Madeline (1895-1975) was a very talented journalist as well as a novellist. Her career blossomed when she reported from a post war Europe in 1919 having originally been a secretary. In 1922 she was asked to begin a Woman's Page in the Guardian newspaper. She talked about this with Mary Stott in 1963:

“…My briefing was lucid and firm,” she recalled. “The page must be readable, varied and aimed always at the intelligent woman… I saw her as an aloof, rigid and highly critical figure, a kind of Big Sister, vigilant for lapses of taste, dignity and literary English.”

This was a a whole new area and she ran it for 31 years a great achievement. She also found time to write some novels and a biography of Mary Wollenstencraft. One of her novels had a fabulous dust jacket which the V&A has a copy of on its web site as a fine example of 1920s art:

Madeline Linford, ‘Bread and honey’, London : William Heinemann, 1928. Illustrator, ‘s’. AAD/1995/8/05/595

Have you got anyone in your family that had a great talent or was famous in their field?

Monday 23 May 2011

Tiny Planet Photography Fun

One of the things I love about my iPhone is the silly things you can do to photographs with free applications. I've recently been experimenting with Tiny Planet to turn the ordinary into something much more fun:

So if you have an iPhone why don't you get the app from iTunes and have some fun.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Change4Life: 60 minutes activity - some alternatives

If like my daughter your child isn't particularly sporty it can be hard to achieve the 60 minutes of recommended activity a day. In her case we are having to come up with alternatives that may not quite be as cardio intensive but do raise her heart rate and also help build up her muscles and her bones.

Since she was 5 my daughter has dabbled in using a longbow because of us as a family being part of the Medieval Siege Society. It's been hard for her to do much practice since we moved up north as 1) I'm not an experience enough archer to be confident to coach her 2) having somewhere safe to shoot sharp arrows. Luckily we have been given permission to use an orchard where she can set up her target and let loose:

Her longbow has a draw weight of 15 lb which means it requires quite a lot of effort for her to pull it back. She hasn't used this one much and still can't draw it back to its full extent. This means that even when she hits the target the arrow hasn't got enough weight behind it to stick in but does leave a mark to prove that she hit it:

As she is still only 7 she can't do it for too long in case she over develops her muscles on one side (just like the medieval archers did) but she gets a good workout. Her little brother prefers a different sort of medieval exercise and enjoys sword fighting. In a controlled manner this is great exercise for both cardio and strength building:

Have you got any more unusual energetic activities with your kids?

Friday 20 May 2011

Fitness Friday - Weeks 21 and 22

I was gutted that last Friday blogger was out of action and I couldn't let you all know that I lost 3 lbs! To say I was delighted was an understatement as it undid all the gains from April. This week was a more modest 1 lb but it's all going in the right direction. So how have I done it:

I vaguely followed the Slim Down plan from a previous Rosemary Conley magazine. This is a 7 day kick start of 1200 calories a day but I didn't fully stick to it. The normal plan for someone my weight allows me to have just over 1400 calories a day so there was enough flexibility to allow for some extras.

As people that follow me on Twitter know I'm doing lots of Wii Zumba! In the first week I did 5 sessions and this week I did 3. After moving up from the 20 minute beginner to 45 minute session there was a noticeable difference to my abs. Its great that the exercise tones as well as gets the heart rate going and burning fat. I have also had some Wii Just Dance sessions, done flexibility on the Wii Personal Trainer and had one session of a Rosemary Conley DVD. It's feeling great to mix the different kinds of exercise up to stop boredom setting in.

Next week's plan:

I am going to try and carry on sticking to the calorie and fat limits on the Rosemary Conley plan. Its a simple system but you need to keep track of how much you've had. I find that the healthy power snacks make a huge difference to preventing over eating when I remember to eat them!

As its working I'm going to carry on with my mix of exercising. I even get my kids to join in and choose the Dance tracks etc. My daughter thinks my "Zumba bum" move is amazing so they don't mind me exercising when they are around which makes it easier.

So its onwards and downwards and watch this space!

#FlashbackFriday The good old days!

Sorry I haven't joined in for a while and couldn't post last week with Blogger going down! Lat week one of my oldest (we've known each other 27 years!) friends discovered how to use her scanner and posted this on Facebook:

It was taken back in 1995 well before any of us had children and we were still only 24! Five years before we had written notes guessing where we would all be and what we would be doing in 5 and then 10 years time. None of us admit to remembering what was revealed but I don't think much of it was accurate! Shame the 5th girl from our group was taking the shot so isn't in it.

This is the same group of buddies taken a couple of years ago at my friend's hen night:

Do you think we've changed much? Now click on the logo at the top to see what other people have beeb remembering this week.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful X (#R2BC)

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Despite the fact I have a stinking cold I'm still feeling pretty up beat this week so here are the reasons why I am cheerful:

1) Mummy Pride

My daughter for the first time managed to swim a width non-stop using front crawl not once but twice during her lesson on Tuesday! Not sure if it was the incentive of a packet of Malteasers from her teacher for managing a non-stop swim or making sure she stays well ahead of her baby brother who is only one group below her. Whichever it was both she and I were very pleased with her achievement.

So keen she wore her hat and goggles to watch TV!

2) Mummy Love

My 4 year old son has declared that he will always be my baby and that he will live with me for the rest of his life. Can someone please remind him when he is a stroppy teenager what he has said now? 

My son the day he was born

3) Blogging

After the lack of decent posts in April and then the blogger issues last week my blog is back on form. I've obviously been writing more attractive posts or discussing the right issues as my viewing figures have rocketed. I had over 160 page hits yesterday alone!

4) Me

I'm beginning to really feel slimmer and healthier now and its not just the numbers on the scales each week. A month or so ago I was pleased with the fact that I could squeeze myself into a pair of size 14 jeans once again. Now those jeans are feeling much looser and some the belts could do with an extra tighter hole in them. 

Think I'll stop there and let you go and see what other people are happy about this week:

Tuesday 17 May 2011

#TheGallery: Moustachioed

Apparently Tara is passing the blame for this week's theme on Laura at Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy? who apparently has a moustache obsession. Yes I have seen evidence of this! Now she is luring is in with a potential prize of a mobile camera so I feel I need to give it a good go with one of the least flattering photos of me ever taken:

It was Christmas 2008 and my mum brought one of those giant crackers which had lots of silly things in it to make you look particularly stupid! After a few glasses of Christmas wine it seemed like a good idea to pose for photographs... My dad joined in the fun too:

After these embarrassing photos I do hope Laura picks me to win! Pretty please xxx

LIFE Troutbeck - a New Hope?

After the scary news in the Westmorland Gazette this week about the future of the swimming pool and leisure centre at Troutbeck it was quite a relief to read a news brief from the new owners today. I have written about the centre before with its dilemma of how to keep attracting customers in to a rather shabby looking centre that does have a great pool and decent gym, whilst waiting for the funding to go ahead with major improvement plans.

Last week the previous owners were made bankrupt after not getting enough people to use the facilities. The new swimming lesson term appeared to have less children signed up for the excellent classes (my kids are coming on really well after 1 term) and this was presumably the final straw.

The new owner in his news bulletin seems really upbeat about the future of the complex and has the funding to move on with the building projects (subject to planning permission). His 9 month project makes for an exciting prospect:

  • Create a 100 station gym, a separate Free Weights Area, 
  • A dedicated Dance studio supporting a world class studio timetable of classes, 
  • Modern spacious changing rooms that will be integrated with the modernisation and facility uplift of both the pool and sports hall.  
  • Phase 2 will see the further development of a “Day Spa Thermal Heat Experience suites”

The centre is desperately in need of this facelift and expansion. They are looking to reward customers who stick with them during the changes by freezing membership prices at £25 a month which could potentially stay that way for life if you stay with the leisure centre. I certainly I wish I was in a position to take up this offer!

So support your local leisure and watch it grow and expand to become the area’s biggest and most comprehensive Fitness Facility. This is an exciting time and there maybe disruption over the next 9 months but I for one can't wait to see the final result!

They have announced a temporary reduction in hours so do check before making a trip:

  • Monday 7.30 – 1pm and 4.30 – 8pm
  • Tuesday to Friday 3pm -9pm (except Thursday until 8.30pm)
  • Saturday 9.30am -3pm
  • Sunday 12 – 3pm

Monday 16 May 2011

Haba Toys: DIY Benny

This is the third of the Haba toys my family and I have been sent to review. For the technical details please look here

The kit comes in a tough cardboard toolbox which looks pretty robust. The box contains quite a comprehensive little tool set (saw, screwdriver, spanner, hammer and drill):

My son's favourite was the drill which you can pull a handle on the back of and it vibrates like a real drill:

All the tools are covered in a soft velour which makes them a lot safer for younger users. I know from experience that small boys tend to turn just about anything into a weapon but it wouldn't hurt too much if one of these hit you. 

At 4.5 my son enjoyed playing with this for a while but hasn't asked to play with it again as he isn't majorly into this particular kind of role play. There isn't much serious DIY done in our home and he hasn't got a daddy around to copy. If you had a 2 - 3 year old who was keen on being a builder this would be a great and safe way to start them off.

I like the way that is neatly contained in the case and it looks like it would stand up to heavy usage by a toddler. Once they get a bit older the tool kit would be a bit more limited as the soft tips can't do as much as hard plastic or wood ones. 

Update: we passed this on to my friend's 1 year old son and apparently he absolutely loves it!

Saturday 14 May 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful IX

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

I haven't had time to join in Michelle's lovely linky lately as too busy and not because I've had nothing to be cheerful about! So I need to jump right back in and let you all know why I'm smiling at the minute :-)

1) Compliments Received
I seem to be receiving lots of compliments recently both for myself and my children! My son was praised today and last week for being so well-behaved whilst I was doing my aerobics class. The poor thing had to sit in a corner and watch a DVD whilst I and the other people got all sweaty, apparently other people's kids have caused chaos and run riot in other classes:

I myself have had several people comment on doing well at losing weight and getting slimmer! That is always such a boost when other people notice the results of my hard work. Another mum at school has told me that I come across as a very calm person (obviously hasn't seen me at home with the kids!) and an ideal childminder... 

2) Friendships
I have an increasing number of people up here in Kendal and at my daughter's school that are so lovely to chat to and spend time with. My regular Wednesday morning coffee at church seems to be extending into an almost all day social with the fabulously supportive Christian mums. At the school gates and in the village playground there is always someone to have a chat with. Even when walking through town I nearly always bump into to someone to pass the time of day with!

3) My children
Not only am I being complimented on them but they are reaching so many exciting milestones. My son has been awarded a place at his big sister's school for September and so is moving on from being a pre-schooler to a primary school child. He has also just worked out how to fasten his own seatbelt at last! He has promised that when he grows up he will still want kisses and cuddles and will never say he hates me... I don't believe that!

My daughter at 7 and a half has finally lost her first baby tooth which fell out last night:

She still has her annoying moments but also lovely touches like last night when I came down from putting her brother to bed to find her washing up (in virtually cold water!):

Wednesday 11 May 2011

#TheGallery Chilled Out

For this week's gallery theme of Chilled Out I give you my daughter chilling out part way through a day helping me sell Usborne Books at the Babymaze Baby and Toddler Show in Morecombe! She has made herself very comfortable on her chair and has her drink and a snack to help her relax.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Havaianas - Rain or Shine Festival

Sponsored post

On April, 14th, Havaianas hosted the very first festival of the year…right in the city center of London! The RAIN OR SHINE indoor festival took place in the Ultra Lounge of Selfridges (Oxford Street, London, UK) to celebrate the global launch of the new Rain Boots range! Surprising? Not really considering that it’s Always Summer with Havaianas.

Guests enjoyed Brazilian cocktails by Sagatiba but also traditional British brews while sampling a mixture of the best Brazilian and British festival foods including Tacos, Fajitas, Mini Fish n'Chips & Burgers.

Musical artist Jamie Woon wowed the guests with music from his recently launched album ‘Mirrorwriting’ and Daisy Lowe got the party going spinning tunes from the DJ booth. Dance artists ‘Brazilian Fantasy’ took to the floor and created dance frenzy toward the end of the night when all of the guests really ‘gave it some rain boots!’

The Rain Boots collection is composed of 8 colours (2 unisex and 6 feminine): Green, Black/Yellow, Pink/Light Blue, Purple/Pink, Grey/Pink, Turquoise/White, Always Summer and Elegance. They cost between 45 and 50 pounds, depending on the colours. For the time being, they are only available at Selfridges and on www.selfridges.com

Very soon, you’ll be able to get them on www.havaianas-store.co.uk so we recommend you to enter your email on that page in order to be the first to know about their availability.

What about you? RAIN or SHINE?

Monday 9 May 2011

Haba Toys: Discovery Puzzle - Knight's Castle

Sponsored Post

This is my second post as one of the UK Ambassadors for Haba Toys. It's such a pleasure to be able to try out such lovely toys with my children.
Today's review centres around the Knight's Castle Discovery Puzzle. This is a jigsaw with a difference and says that it encourages:

  • Close observation
  • Fine motor skills
  • Eye-hand co-ordination

As it is aimed at the 4+ age group I tested it out with my 4 year old son. Sometimes he likes jigsaws and others not but luckily he was keen on this occasion! Once again there is minimal packaging with the puzzle being hard cardboard which is placed inside a cardboard frame to complete it. It was wrapped in plastic to protect it on the shelf and has a paper insert with the look-closely story written on it.

The pieces come out easily and I noticed that the cardboard frame has the shape of the pieces on the base to make it not too difficult for younger children to complete:

Around the edges there are also shapes to assist the children in getting the right pieces in the right places. This made it easier for my son to work out which piece he needed to choose next:

He did some help and encouragement with completing the puzzle but that is partly because he hadn't noticed the shapes on the base of the frame! When his big sister had a go afterwards she used this to complete the puzzle much more quickly. Knights and castles are some of my son's favourite things so he was very pleased when it became more obvious as to what the final picture was going to be:

Once completed I then persuaded him to try and solve the puzzles from the story on the insert. He didn't want me to read the actual story but was good at finding the answers in the puzzle. It does say in the story that your child may not be ready for some of the questions and to just miss them out. He wasn't keen on spotting too many of the picture clues from around the frame on the actual puzzle but I'm sure at a future stage he would do.

One problem with the puzzle was that when I picked it up the puzzle pieces fall out when tilted too far. This could be a bit of a problem when storing it and I may need to get a little bag for the pieces before they go missing.

I will let my daughter properly try out the puzzle and write up her own review for an older child's perspective.

Friday 6 May 2011

Fitness Friday: Week 20

First of all apologies for missing the last few weeks, the school holidays have played havoc with my blogging and my diet/exercise so I have in fact gained a couple of pounds... Aargh I was so pleased with the 1 and 1/2 stone I'd lost and seriously need to get back on track. So this is my plan:

Today I started following the Slim Down plan from last month's Rosemary Conley magazine. This is a 7 day kick start of 1200 calories a day which I can follow for 2 weeks. The magazine reckons should lose me 5 lb this week. It worked back in January so let's hope I can stick to it and see the results on the scales next Thursday at class.

I have been better at  getting exercise into my routine the last few days. Getting in a 50 minute combination of Wii Personal Fitness Instructor and Zumba after the school run makes me feel better. I have also had a couple of Just Dance 2 short sessions when time is short. The Zumba is working on the waistline and abdomen which is my main area to shrink so let's hope a few home classes a week will work wonders!

Watch this space for next week's result and click on the logo to see how everyone else is getting on (hopefully better than me!)