Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Galt Early Activities Books


We love Galt here! We recently reviewed Ants in Your Pants - a brilliant game that Isla loves playing. At the same time we also got some great pre-school early activities books. We have only just started looking at these as I felt that she was ready for them as she has a bigger attention span and she also seems to like doing 'homework' - we'll see if she's still saying this age 13.....

We have three of them, 'Counting', 'Alphabet' and 'Colour, Shapes and Sizes'. We've started on the 'colours, shapes and sizes' one and I've been so pleased with how good she is at it and how in to it she gets. It has tasks where you do matching, others where you spot differences. There are stickers (I don't know any child that doesn't like stickers!) to find and stick in the correct place and other bits where they can colour in freestyle or where they have to copy exactly as it is in the book. We work on it together and she totally dictates when she's had enough, I'm not going to make her sit for an hour ultimately not enjoying it - I want her to enjoy learning and these books do make it FUN!

The books are so clear and on the inside covers they have great guidance for parents on how to use them. As well as being a learning tool, creativity is also encouraged, make sure you've got a box of crayons or the dreaded felt tips so that they can colour in where required. I've found that these books help to give Isla and I some one to one time that Noah isn't involved in, she loves that as we can talk uninterrupted.

At £2.99 each I think Galt Activity books are really good value as there are a couple of hours activities in them - not just the activities but the talking that they can also instigate - and boy Isla can talk! Check them out for your pre-schooler!


We were sent 3 Galt Early Activites books to try out free of charge

Monday, 30 July 2012

Plum Baby Cookery School - Stage 1

As you know I was very lucky a few weeks back to win a competition prize of a trip to the Plum Baby Cookery School! It was a brilliant couple of days where myself and Noah were filmed with 4 other mums and babies to make some brilliant films to guide mums through the process of weaning. These films will be such a great resource for new mums, giving tips, information and recipes. Noah is 12 months old now and doing well with his weaning, but here is the first film for Stage 1 - when you're just getting started at around 4 - 6 months. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Isla and Noah's Party


So after Noah's birthday came Isla's birthday, born 2 years and 4 days apart this now allows for a bit of cunning for a few years at least - JOINT PARTIES! They had their party at a local soft play centre with 16 friends (not including baby siblings) - it was a full house and I think the kids loved it.  Before we even got in the soft play Noah managed to fall over, bang his nose and make it bleed. Grrr. Luckily it stopped pretty quickly and he got stuck into the bouncy castle. They bounced, they ran around, they yelled and cried and did all the things that excitable 3 year olds do really. After an hour of madness we went off to eat - most of them don't touch the 'real' food as they're too hyped by the thought of cake and ice cream.

Isla loved her birthday cake - Peppa Pig - i was given my orders months before, so I bought some edible Peppa Pig characters from a lady on eBay and I fixed them to a pre-made plain white iced cake. And also because it was Noah's party too he got a Thomas the Tank Engine  - he is already obsessed with that train!

I decided not to do the traditional party bag thing and bought all the kids a painting set instead from Tesco - Princesses for girls and Cars for boys. Everyone took cake and a handful of chocolate treats and a balloon home. It felt like it went really well and I definitely know that it lived up to Isla's expectations. My only regret is that I didn't get to spend as much time just watching them having a brilliant time. And something I've realised lately is that I do just love watching them, especially when they don't realise it. The pure joy written all over their faces is just priceless.


Two days after the party it was Isla's birthday and the night before I was busy wrapping and organising her presents and balloons. I was really excited because she was getting her first bike and she'd recently been talking about how much she wanted a princess bike. We'd had a slight hitch with the whole bike surprise thing ealier in the day when she'd walked into our bedroom and come face to face with it. Me and the OH froze and didn't speak and she looked open mouthed at us and whispered 'biiiiiike'. We hurried her out and told her that Daddy was fixing one of her friends bikes! The little white lie we'd told her obviously stuck in her mind the following morning as she had actually thought that it was her friends bike so we then had to convince her it was hers. The hazards of having a small house with nowhere to hide things!

She opened all her presents (there were loads), had a ride on her Princess bike and then we got ready for a trip to the farm with some friends. We had a great time, it was miraculously a dry, partly sunny day in a mostly wet and unseasonally cold week. It was just a lovely family day and looking at my little family I realised that we now have a new toddler in the house and my old toddler is really a bit too grown up to be called that anymore. Happy days.

The Day That.....My Son Was Born


This post is my entry into the The Day That… blogger photo competition

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Saturday, 21 July 2012

A Few of My Girl's Isla-isms!


I've been playing close attention lately to some of the things Isla says as some of things are too funny to forget. I did this a while back here and haven't since so thought I'd get a few down so I can look back on them and have a chuckle and smile at how cute she can be.
The funniest thing she came out with in the last week is this one:
Me: I love you Isla (said after many cute moments over the 'Isla and Noah Birthday Weekend')
Isla: I love Daddy, I love Noah and (big pause).......I LOVE MYSELF! - the last bit being said at the top of her voice!

Notice no mention of me there. However I love that she loves herself, I mean that's important right?

With my help she also discovered Jammie Dodger biscuits this week and on telling her what they were called once, she went on to call them Dodgy Jammers, not sure the biscuit company would sell many if that was their name!

Some of the stuff she says is exact copies of things I say to her, so I frequently get told "stop guzzling your drink mummy and eat your dinner....." or "make sure you go to the toilet before we go out mummy or you'll wet your knickers...." - Both things I feel sure don't apply to me but I go along with it anyway.

Then my final one had me and the OH in stitches. Isla has taken to walking around with a notebook and pen a lot lately and quite often asks our names and pretends to write them down. We get interrogated by her as follows:

"Wass yer name?" "OOOoo are you?" "Ow old are you?"

On this occasion she was actually pointing a giant cardboard tube at us and demanding "oooo are you?" I decided that now was the time to start teaching her she need to pronounce her 'H's' - so every time she said "Oooo" I said say "Who" and so this went on with her saying "Oooo" getting louder and louder and me saying it's "who" not "oooo" until she said " I can't say 'who'!" Saying it absolutely perfectly! Of course she then went back to saying "Oooo" and we could not stop laughing and she got all indignant - "STOP LAUGHING AT ME!" which of course had us laughing even more!
I love my funny little girl such a lot - she never stops talking to be honest so I think I'll have plenty of material to keep me smiling for a long time!




Friday, 20 July 2012

Sand Le Mere Holiday Village- Review


Recently we took a little trip Up North (East Yorkshire Coast to be exact) to check out a holiday village, Sand Le Mere, after it's recent £4 Million makeover. I have to say that when we were offered the opportunity I really had no idea quite how far up north we were going and quite how long it was going to take us to get there from south of the M25 - 8 hours including 2 service station stops! Admittedly the M25 and the M1 were being particularly nasty to us that day and we also drove through almost constant rain. I have to say had I realised what an arduous journey it was going to be then I would probably have passed on this chance especially as we were only going to be able to enjoy 2 full day times there. However we went, took my mother in law too and had an enjoyable time. 

On arrival we collected our keys from the bar (reception being closed at the hour we arrived) and we set off to find our home for the weekend. Isla had been asking are we nearly there yet from joining the M1 so it was good for us to actually be there and not have to answer that question 100 times. Noah was knackered and so we set about organising who was sleeping where. We'd been left a travel cot to put up and this is where my first piece of constructive criticism comes. I know that the staff aren't to know that we were going to arrive at an ungodly hour and it would have been nice had this have been set up. But also it didn't feel like there was room for the travel cot as the room with the double bed wouldn't house it and the other two rooms had two single beds - so we had to do a bit of DIY in one of the twin rooms and take one of the beds apart put the mattress in the double room and put the bed frame on it's side so that we could fit the cot in.  This meant that Isla and Noah were in sleeping together. I feel that this is something that should have been set up before we arrived. What we did discover from the weekend was that it can work having the kids in together - the first morning we were woken by their giggles which was really cute (even if it was 6.20am!).

Once sleeping arrangements were sorted out, we got the kids ready for bed, got them down and then listened to the beeping from a smoke alarm. Low battery. No ones fault as such, batteries run down and I don't know when the last person would have been in the mobile home before us, but we didn't have a battery and it was too late to go in search of one so we went to bed with it intermittently beeping until the morning. I'm going to also add here that when you go and stay in a static caravan you can't possibly expect to have a lot of room and beds are half the size that they would be at home, so while me and the OH laid in our single beds listening to the smoke alarm beeping we had our feet hanging out the bedroom door (we are both 6 foot tall!) and our bottoms hanging over the side of the mattress - thought you might like to conjure up that image in your minds! 

In the morning, Isla was very excited about our temporary home, the night before she'd been massively excited when she saw a camp bed emerge from under a sofa in the lounge - actually looking in awe and uttering "That's amazing!". We had breakfast and then we got ready for a swim at the all new swimming pool. This was exciting for us as Noah hadn't been swimming as yet and we couldn't wait to see his reaction to it. When we got to the main building an adult swim was in progress but this was fine because there were an untold number of 2 penny slot machines (Isla loved 'winning' money) and an all new soft play area. I also went to reception to tell them about the need for a new battery for the smoke alarm and the bathroom light wasn't working. Both things were fixed while we were at the pool.

Once the pool was open to all we dropped MIL at the cafe where she could watch us through the window, got ready and took to the pool. Isla was totally hyped, loving every minute of it. It's hard keeping up with her really - she's in and out of the pools (there are two - a small one with a slide and a main pool) and then in and out of the splash area. Noah on the other hand was a little bit shocked by his emergence into water and clung on for dear life but then after 5 minutes he relaxed and loved it! He had his Little Swimmers on that I'd kindly been sent to try and he looked so cute, he was laying on his back floating about - I wish I could have taken photos. The pool is the real attraction of the whole complex, it's so safe, the steps, floor and walls of the pool are soft and spongy, no hard tiles to contend with. It really is the star attraction! My only piece of constructive criticism here is that the showers need to have hooks nearby for people to hang their towels. A minor detail.

After swimming we had lunch in the restaurant. The staff were really friendly, they heated up Noah's food and the food was tasty and pretty speedy. It also looked out on to the playground so adults could finish their food and watch the kids playing. The only thing I would have liked to see is the kids meals on the menu had an accompanying soft drink but they were all fizzy ones, a juice, fruit shoot or water is more appropriate for the really little ones.

In the afternoon we took a 50 minute drive to Bridlington for a bit of seaside fun. It was a really lovely sunny day and Isla had a top time, couple of rides at the fair, quick sandcastle session and a donkey ride. We had some tea there - lovely dressed crab for me. YUM.

The following day we wanted to do the same as the day before in the morning, and take a trip to the pool. However when we pulled up in the car park we could see through the window that that there was no one in the pool. I ran in on my own to check out the situation and the pool was unexpectedly closed. There had been a power cut and this had lead to the pool losing water. As far as I know it was closed all day and this was a real blow as the kids loved the pool and had been promised swimming, so we kept our promise and made our way to the local pool at Withernsea. It wasn't as plush and new but it did the trick and we had a good time.

On getting back to the van we had a little group of ducks outside our window and so the kids threw them a couple of slices of bread and it really entertained them. That night we cooked our first meal in the van. I would say that it's tricky cooking in such a small space with small toddling babies around but we managed. Isla loved mealtimes in there. I'd love to see things through child's eyes again as she found the whole thing so magical I think.


The following morning we had breakfast and set off for home. So you see it was a short trip and my review is on the basis of a very short time spent at Sand Le Mere. We didn't experience the evening entertainment but we saw plenty of people with sleeping babies in buggies making their way there for some fun. There were just a few things that I've already pointed out that could have made our experience better but what I have to go by is how good a time did Isla have and I would say that she loved every minute of our time away.



We were given free accommodation in exchange for this review. All opinions and words are my own.

Sausage, Sweet Potato & Lentil Casserole

I was a bit stuck for what to make for dinner last night and I decided to make something up as I went along. It turned out absolutely super yummy and so I thought I'd share it here. I hope you like it as much as I did. I had seconds, therefore depriving my husband on his return from playing a late round of golf!


Ingredients:

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Caramelised Red Onion and Pork Sausages
3 medium sized sweet potatoes - peeled and diced into 2cm cubes
Tin of Puy Lentils - (this had been in my cupboard for over a year!)
1 leek
1 clove of garlic- squished and chopped
2 small carrots - chopped fairly small
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 beef Oxo cube - I used the Puy lentil tin to measure the water added - 1 and half tins full
2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
Couple of dashes of Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and pepper

Method:

Roast sweet potato pieces in the oven for around 30 minutes at 180C

Brown the sausages on the hob and then remove from the pan

Next soften leeks and carrots, add the garlic after 5 mins and then the tin of Puy Lentils and cook for another 5 minutes

Once all the above is done add all those ingredients together, along with the tin of chopped tomatoes, stock cube with water and season with Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.

Transfer the whole thing with a lid on to the oven and cook for around 40 minutes so that all the lovely flavours combine

Remove from the oven and there you have a really delicious dinner. Admittedly this sounds a bit of a wintry dish but to be honest we're not having the best of summers and last night was a bit chilly and I relaxed with a glass of wine and a big bowl of this and went back for more! Obviously you can use any sausages you like but I found that these were so delicious that I'd definitely use them again. I'd also say that you could bung in other veg, a few mushroom would be nice, maybe some red pepper, and an onion would be as good as a leek. Enjoy!


Monday, 16 July 2012

My Boy Turns 1


It's safe to say that this has been the fastest, and I'm going to admit the most tiring year of my life. How has my baby boy gone from being  a newborn to a toddler so quickly? I thought life with one child was fast moving, but with two it's like travelling at the speed of light. It has been a wonderful year, seeing my baby grow and change and also watching his relationships develop - with his Sister, his Daddy and his Grandparents. I think it must be very hard for him as he has a gregarious older sister who LOVES the limelight and I feel like sometimes he is a little bit of an enigma - no one sees the side of him that I see all the time, the cheeky grins, the wicked sense of humour (no I'm not mad, he really does already have a sense of humour at 1) and the determination to keep reaching milestones.

I can't say I could imagine a year ago what my life would be like now, it's certainly a hard year when you have another older child only 2 years older, they almost NEVER sleep at the same time, they never wake up at the same time and now Noah is older they're already tussling with each other over toys and demanding the same things. He's already walking which I can safely say is a great relief as he WEIGHS A TONNE!! Anyone I meet in the street or at soft play cannot believe that he is only 1 - he looks about 18 months - I'm sure this will go against him as he gets older and people might expect more from him on first meeting him.

He is the making of our family and we love him to bits. It's rather weird now that his birthday is over and knowing how different Isla was between 1 and 2 years of age - it's such a cliche but I almost don't want him to grow up - and then my rational brain says - "of course you do! you want sleep and to reclaim some of your life back!". The other thing that is weird is having all these boys toys around the house! Up till a few days ago we pretty much had either girls or unisex baby toys for him and now we're full to the brim with trains, diggers and cars! I've got to learn a whole new way of playing.



Sunday, 15 July 2012

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Colour Me In Rice Krispies Competition


This is Isla's entry into the Britmums Colour Me In Project with Kellogg's Rice Krispies! We were sent a fabulous colouring set full of pens and pencils and much to Isla's excitement GLITTER PENS and also a pack of Rice Krispies to colour in.

Isla had a great time doing this, throughout saying 'It's looking pretty' especially when it came to covering it all with red, gold, silver and green glitter. Here are a few snaps of her creation. I love it as I'm all for her being creative and always encourage her to do colouring and painting.

Deep in concentration!


Going mad with the glitter
The finished article!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Plum Baby Cookery School


A few weeks ago I found out that my recent weaning blog post had won in a competition through the Tots 100 to attend the Plum Baby Cookery School (as well as £500 and a video camera!) - I was really excited as one of my favourite TV chefs was going to be there, Rachel Allen. I love her cookery books and programmes - big fan! So the plan was put in place for Noah and I to get ourselves over to Buckinghamshire for a couple of days and knuckle down to some cooking at the wonderful Beverley Glock's (food writer, broadcaster)amazing house. I have to admit that I didn't really realise what we'd be up to before going there and I also spoke about the whole thing with trepidation to friends, as an overnight trip with Noah didn't thrill me, as imagined him not sleeping in a hotel room and keeping me and the other guests up all night! I'm happy to report he did no such thing - he was the best little boy ever - even if my evening in the hotel room was a bit dull, at times hiding in the bathroom, just keeping as quiet as I could and eventually giving in and going to bed at 9.30!

So, Noah and I set off on our road trip at 7.30am and luckily I allowed enough time as a coach fire on the M25 set us back an hour! On arrival we met the other mums and babies in the gorgeous setting of Beverley's garden. We shared travel nightmares and introduced all the babies. We met Becky and Izzy, Becky and Holly (2 Becky's very confusing!), Maria and Teagan and Therese and Patrick. All babies were (naturally) gorgeous and none were camera shy - all working the camera in their own special way.


So what did we get up to? In all honesty I had no idea really what we were going to be doing and this is what I love about all things blog related that I get myself into (bra model at The Baby Show springs to mind!) - we are to be the stars of some new films for Plum Baby on cooking for your babies and catering for their ever changing needs as they go through the stages of weaning. Beverly and Rachel were to be our teachers and presenters of the Plum Baby Cookery School. For two days in the setting of Beverley's amazing kitchen (Aga - WANT!) it was 'lights, camera, action', we were filmed, had cameramen surrounding us, lights shining on us, had a sound boom waving over our heads - the only thing that was missing was 'make-up'!  We were taught how to make some of the Plum recipes from scratch, which was brilliant as it showed me how easy these meals really are and how not many ingredients are actually needed. Personally I love Plum and Noah has also shown himself to love many a Plum pouch so to know that I could easily rustle up one of his faves Minted Pea and Lamb in double quick time was great. The emphasis was also on making meals that ALL the family can enjoy - Sweet Cape curry is next on my list to make. My cookery highlights from the 2 days are - well all of it actually - but if i had to whittle it down it would be the Beef Stronganoff - and actually wanting the cameramen to keep needing new shots of us delving into the bowl for more! The other one would be the delicious Sweet Cape Curry - that was lunch on day two.

All in all it was a wonderful adventure for Noah and I. It was a bit strange for him going away with mummy for 2 days and also hanging out with a load of people he didn't know but I'm all for him doing new things and meeting new people. We loved meeting everyone, Beverly, Rachel, Maria and Therese - and I have to give special mention to the two Becky's who also blog - check them out at The Ar Blog and Munchies and Munchkins  - all are amazing mums.

Thank you Plum Baby for the experience!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Sponsored Video - Domestos for UNICEF



In a weeks time we're looking forward to two big birthdays in our house - Noah will be 1 and Isla will be 3 - every birthday is a big birthday now as far as Isla is concerned - she understands that birthdays = presents. When I watched this video it really brought it home  to me that for some children around the world their best present is basic sanitation, no fancy gizmo's wrapped up in pretty paper, no big party with a birthday cake - in fact without improved sanitation over 5 million children fail to make it to their 5th birthday. Improved sanitation has been deemed a basic human right by the United Nations, yet in this country we take it for granted. I also really took a shine to the children featured in this film  who remind me so much of my bright, breezy and funny Isla, I couldn't contemplate life without her as many mums in less fortunate countries have to when their children are taken from them by diarrhoea of all things!

Domestos and the Unilever Foundation are partnering with UNICEF to improve sanitation in areas of the world that need it most (Gambia, Ghana, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Vietnam). It is estimated that 2.5 billion people around the world do not have access to improved sanitation. Hard to comprehend really.
How can you do your bit? Well in the UK between the 1st July and the 30th September Domestos will be contributing 5% of it's average proceeds from specifically marked bottles of Domestos to UNICEF's Community Approaches to Total Sanitation Programme (CATS). Domestos has been protecting us from germs for over 80 years so it seems apt for Domestos to partner with UNICEF to try and give everyone access to basic sanitation. Our toilets have been kept a germ free zone for years with these products and so if Domestos can support the efforts of UNICEF to promote good hygiene practises and help create demand for toilets then there will be less people suffering from faeces related diseases. By making one small purchase you will be helping to improve the lives of many people and stop preventable diseases kill young children.


This is a Sponsored Article

Monday, 2 July 2012

Noah Walks!

So a huge milestone has been reached this week - my baby took his first steps! He took a couple at the weekend but this evening he did 7.....and here they are on camera:



He's started walking at exactly the same age as Isla did. There's no stopping you now you my gorgeous boy!