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Half Term in Hampshire

With Christmas sadly now a mere memory the kiddywink and I are busy putting plans together for February half term.  This year Tony and I both have the entire week off and we’re really looking forward to spending that time together and visiting friends and family in the South East that we didn’t manage to catch up with last year.

We’ll be skipping along the coast to Portsmouth, stopping in to see my sister in Weymouth en- route, and possibly visiting Peppa Pig World on the way home.  We’re are also looking to visit the Blue Reef Aquarium as well as the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.  Imogen shares her Dad’s passion about history and I know she’ll love looking around the 1860 HMS Warrior and HMS Victory infamous for it’s role in the Battle of Trafalgar.  Joseph has a huge obbession with anything to do with the sea and is looking forward to seeing the new HMS Alliance, a real life submarine!  As well as being able to look through a working periscope there’s even the chance to meet a submariner.

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As always, we’ll be be looking to save where we can on our mini half term break.  We’ve bagged ourselves a bargain budget hotel for a few nights by simply booking early and we’ll save 20% on our Portsmouth Historic Dockyard ticket with Smartsave.  I’ve saved up our Tesco Clubcard Vouchers to give us 4 times their value on meals out I now just need to find out how to do Peppa Pig World on a budget!

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New Year, New Baby?

No, no and no!  Certainly not mine but I am highly excited that not one but three very good friends will be welcoming tiny bundles of joy in 2015.  Ones that I can coo over, spoil with cuddles and hand back when they start to cry.  Two will become first time mums and are a little daunted at the prospect of baby shopping, something I remember all too fondly!

I made huge mistakes and wasted an awful lot of money when I was pregnant with Imogen on clothes she never wore and equipment that we simply didn’t need and just so that others can learn from my mistakes here’s my baby shopping dos and don’ts.

  • Do remember that there is very little that is essential for a newborn.  Nappies, a handful of vests and babygros, bedding, a cot and a car seat should be plenty to see you through the first couple of weeks.
  • Don’t snub hand me downs or second hand items.  Very few consider second hand when buying for baby which means that there are some real bargains to be hand.  Check with friends and family if they are willing to pass on, sell or even loan anything that you need.  Local NCT sales are also full of bargains.  The only things you do need to buy new are mattresses and car seats.
  • Do your research.  Especially when buying high value items such as prams and car seats.  Check online reviews, try the car seat out in your car and if you see a mum with the pushchair you have your eye on, ask her about it.
  • Don’t overbuy clothes.  You’ll often be gifted with lots of cute newborn outfits and remember that babies grow quickly, really quickly usually before they’ve worn an outfit twice!
  • Do compare prices.  Trawl websites as well as the shops for the best price on everything you buy.  Special offers on pushchairs and prams as well as hitting the sales and clever use of promotional codes and money off vouchers could save you a fortune.
  • Do sign up to the big retailers baby clubs.  Tesco as well as the other big supermarkets and Boots have them and you’ll be sent useful money off vouchers and there’s usually a practical free welcome gift too.
  • Do ask advise from friends and family.  Write your list with a good mum friend or even your own Mum they’ll be able to offer advise on what is essential and possibly what you should be looking to spend as well.

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Staying in really is the new going out

November has been a cold month and with the expense of Christmas just around the corner we’ve been doing an awful lot of staying in and saving those all important pennies.  The latest issue of Glamour magazine told their readers to get cosy with home comforts and curl up in their favourite dressing gown with a cuppa and most importantly watch Netflix!  Even Supermodel Claudia Schiffer admits to enjoying a family night in watching TV box sets and even sneaks in a couple of episodes of Breaking Bad once the kids have gone to bed, just like me!

With cinema ticket prices increased by more than house prices (an amazing 2333% over fourty years) cosying up with a Netflix subscription and a homemade snack like a pizza topped to your liking or freshly popped popcorn could save you a small fortune!

Over the past few weeks we’ve mainly been watching a LOT of Christmas films.  Imogen tells me it’s so that Joseph can learn the “true meaning of Christmas, although I’m not quite sure he’ll get that from Disney’s the Search for Santa Paws!

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As well as the commencement of the re watching of Breaking Bad, Tony and I both watched and enjoyed Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher and whilst it’s not really my thing, Tony indulged in the second part in the Hunger Games film series Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

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Sponsored Video: Toca Ink

As a child I loved temporary tattoos, we weren’t allowed them to wear them at school so every school holiday and sometimes at the weekend my sister and I would be treated to a couple.  I have very vivid memories of my mother scrubbing my arm to remove a particularly stubborn, glittery one before a ballet exam as she muttered under her breath.  I don’t have tattoos now and don’t want one but see absolutely no harm in my children enjoying the simple pleasure of a temporary one from time to time, in fact Joseph is sporting a rather fetching Spiderman one on his right arm at the moment!

Another thing that my kids adore, that I quite simply was born in the wrong generation for, is their tablets.  They both have their own with carefully selected apps for both educational and relaxation purposes.  During the Summer holidays we discovered Toca Boca, a Swedish children’s digital gaming company with a huge range of fun apps to simulate imagination.  Joseph is a massive fan of free app Toca Kitchen Monsters and Imogen loves Toca Tailor Fairy Tales.  They adore the bold, colourful characters and I relish in the knowledge that all of Toca Boca’s apps are free from advertising and in app purchasing.

Toca Boca has collaborated with Brooklyn based tattoo artist Virginia Elwood to create the first in their Artist Play Series, Toca Ink, which combines the fun of both temporary tattoos and the Toca Boca characters.  “As a tattoo artist for over 10 years now, I regularly see how tattoos spark kids’ curiosity,” said Virginia Elwood. “Kids always want to touch a tattoo, ask questions about them and even have one drawn on them. Creating the Artist Play Series temporary tattoos was a fun way of making Toca Boca tangible for kids in the real world. I spent a lot of time playing the apps to understand the character’s personalities to transfer them to a temporary tattoo design.”

In this video you can see Virginia at work on the creation of Toca Ink.

This post has been sponsored by Toca Boca

Our #DesignaFriend Party

Yesterday Imogen’s bestest friends joined us for our DesignaFriend party as hosted by UKMumsTV and lots of other blogging families across the country.  We were sent a whole host of DesignaFriend goodies from the popular Argos range and, of course, the party essentials including cake!

During our party we designed our own DesignaFriends…..

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decorated cakes…

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and the girls all joined the DesignaFriend Secret Club by making their own club cards.

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Because a party just isn’t a party without games, we played pass the parcel too.

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There was even time for a DesignaFriend fashion show!

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After all that fun and excitement it was time for Imogen and her new pal Daisy to relax.

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The DesignaFriend dolls and their great array of outfits all went down a treat with Imogen and our guests who instantly fell in love with their new friends.  The dolls are stunning and at 46cm a really great size for girls their age.  Each comes with it’s own unique outfit and a charm bracelet for you to wear and with each outfit you collect you can also add a different charm to your bracelet.

Argos have some great offers on the DesignaFriend range at the moment with dolls starting from just £14.99 and there’s a heap of half price outfits too, you can see the whole range here.

 

What’s in the #DesignaFriend box?

Just in case you didn’t know… UKMumsTV are holding a DesignaFriend  Twitter party this Wednesday (12th November) between 4pm and 6pm and we’ll be hosting our very own here at home.  Imogen has invited her best friends to join in with all of the fun and we’ve been sent a whole host of goodies to make our party a huge success.  So, what’s in the box?

Design a Friend The box is packed choc-a-bloc with DesignaFriend goodies including two very beautiful dolls who come dressed in gorgeous outfits and their own charm bracelets.

Design a Friend

There are lots of Design a Friend games and activities including pass the parcel and everything we’ll need to create our own DesignaFriend and exclusive DesignaFriend club card.

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Because a party is not a party without cake we’ll be decorating our very own and of course there are awesome DesignaFriend goodie boxes for each party to take home.  These are filled with stunning little DesignaFriend outfits, charms for their bracelets and sweet treats!

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Make sure you join me (@fayerios) and @UKMumsTV on Wednesday between 4pm and 6pm over on Twitter with the #DesignaFriend hashtag as there’ll be lots of fun to be had and plenty of prizes to give away too.   There are downloadable DesignaFriend templates over on UKMumsTV as well as a competition to win your very own DesignaFriend.

We’re Having a #DesignAFriend Party!

Next Wednesday I’ll be hosting another Twitter party along with UKMumsTV and some other lovely fellow bloggers and this time it’s for the awesome range of Design a Friend dolls from Argos!

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Imogen and her closest friends will partying, playing as well as designing their very own doll friends as we talk everything #DesignAFriend on Twitter.

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The party will take place over on Twitter between 4pm and 6pm on Wednesday 12th November and as usual there’ll be lots of prizes up for grabs in spot competitions.  Make sure you’re following @UKMumsTV and the hashtag #DesignAfriend for your chance to win.  See you there!

Stoptober – How Did I Do?

Over the past month I’ve been taking part in Stoptober, the 28-day national stop smoking challenge, with the help of Boots who set me four weekly challenges to celebrate the changes I was due to experience becoming a non smoker.

The first was all about preparing myself to go smoke free.  Knowing my smoking triggers, learning how to beat my cravings and giving myself a goal to aim towards.  This week was undoubtedly the hardest with a pounding headache cursing me for the first few days which made me incredibly moody and and saw me have a little bit of a cry on more than one occasion.  I persevered and started stashing money I’d usually spend on cigarettes with the aim of purchasing a new pair of boots by the end of the month.

The second challenge was a lot easier and one that I quite literally stuck my teeth into!  With smoking dulling my taste buds and me being a whole a week smoke free my taste should have been returning to normal so it was put to the test with a tasty Coffee, Chocolate and Avocado cookie recipe.

Coffee, Chocolate and Avocado CookiesCoffee, Chocolate and Avocado Cookies

They tasted incredible and were a huge hit with the whole family, especially Joseph who I’m sure is giving his Mummy a little bit of encouragement here with his “you’re doing great Mum” thumbs up!

In week three Boots sent me a lovely half way treat which was also to be my third challenge, “The Smell of Success”, a lovely bouquet of sweet smelling flowers so that I could enjoy the return of my sense of smell.  This is something I noticed return very quickly especially during week two’s challenge making coffee for the cookies, it’s one of my favourite smells and one that has obviously been dulled for a long time!

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The final of my challenges was entitled the “Look of Success”.  Smoking can have a big impact on your appearance, not only staining your teeth but affecting your complexion and reducing the nutrients in your hair but these can all be reduced by quitting.  I received top tips from fashion photographer Claire Pepper on how to take the selfie.

Boots UK Look of Success Selfie Tips

Over the past four weeks I’ve been on a long journey, one that has been extremely hard but with the help and support of family and friends as well as the team at Boots with their challenges I’ve noticed small changes in me that have made a huge difference.  I am now smoke free (and fully intending on staying that way too), as well as healthier and a lot more well off with new boots on order as well as money saved towards to my next target, a MacBook!

Although Stoptober may be over, it’s never too late to stop smoking and Boots have loads of information to help you find the right way to do it.

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My Stoptober Journey Starts Here

OK it’s confession time, I’m a smoker. Yes it’s a dirty habit and one that I’m not proud of.  I blame my youth, working in bars for the reason I started and yes I did stop when I was pregnant with Imogen and Joseph but it was all too easy to start up again shortly after they were born.  Every New Year’s Eve I promise myself the new year will also see a new, no smoking me but it never happens.  There are many, many reasons why I’d like to give up, mainly because I don’t want my children to think it’s OK to smoke but also because of health and financial reasons, all that money I light up daily could be put to much better use.

As I am statistically more likely to quit with support this October I’ve decided to take part in Stoptober the 28-day national stop smoking challenge with the help of Boots, who have set me four weekly challenges.  Rather than being like a non smoking bootcamp these have been especially designed to support me as I experience new changes for the first time on my smoke free journey.

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The first of my challenges starts NOW and will see me preparing for my Stoptober journey with expert, tailored, advice from Boots UK pharmacist Angela Chalmers who has told me how to beat cravings and stay focused on my goal.  As per her advice I shall be starting a new hobby to keep my hands busy (which will see me preparing for Christmas with a lot of buttons), recognizing my smoking triggers and trying to avoid them, not punishing myself for any relapse that there might be and rewarding myself. I have my eyes on a new coat and pair of winter boots and a jar where all of my saved money will go to give me a visual goal.

I have my NHS Quit Kit in hand and have purchased a Boots NicAssist nasal spray and gum to try and beat cravings.  The NHS iPhone app is installed on my phone to track my progress and offer instant support as and when I need it and I shall also be turning to Twitter using the #Stoptober hashtag for a friendly ear.

If you’re planning on quitting for Stoptober there’s a wealth of information on Boots.com including how to find which nicotine replacement therapy is right for you and how to cut down using the Smoke Less Plan.  Also, do let me know, we can do this together, but if not wish me luck and join me for a Twitter chat (hashtag #bootsukstoptober) between 1pm and 2pm on Thursday 16th October to see how I’m getting on.

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They told me time flies…

As I cradled newborn Imogen in my arms, they told me.   I didn’t quite believe them, after all she was so small, so helpless.  “Enjoy her whilst she’s young, time flies” they said and by jove hasn’t it? Before I knew it she was a big sister to Joseph and starting pre-school. Imogen Tomorrow is Joseph’s first day in pre-school and his turn to start the long and exciting journey into education and for some reason I am finding it a lot harder to “let go” of my youngest, my baby boy. Baby Joseph In three years, nine months and 4 days Joseph has grown into a loving, independent, determined little boy with a love of cars, Octonauts, biscuits and of course, his big sister! Joseph Another thing Joseph loves is cuddles, and although at sometimes it can be a little tiring having a toddler chasing you around the house screaming “Hug, hug, hug!” It is one thing I’ll never, ever deny my kids.  So as well as embracing the moment of proper squeezy hugs, I’ve ironed, washed dishes as well as attempting to get dressed and put make up on all one handed with a little boy on my hip clinging on for a cuddle. Joseph & Imogen Fairy are encouraging Mums to embrace every moment whilst you can with their #PowerofSoft campaign, after all time flies and soon, like me, you’ll be packing them off for their first day of school.  I know that whilst your knee deep in nappies and spend most of the day with sick on your shoulder it seems a long long way away but believe me it really isn’t.

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