Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Football Mad? This Could Be For You...

Football mad? Have a child who is?


If you are 12 to 14 years of age, enter the Football for Friendship competition and you could be in with the chance to become an internationally-known junior sports journalist!

The winner will fly to Lisbon to represent the UK against finalists from 15 other European countries in the quest to be crowned Europe's Best Young Sports Journalist.

To enter just click on the link below and follow the on-screen instructions:

Remember the deadline for entries is Friday, 18th April.

Disclaimer: I have not been compensated for sharing this post.

The Dyson Digital Slim DC59 Review

Back in December I was invited along to visit Dyson so they could un-veil their latest cordless vacuum. The Digital Slim DC59.

I was really looking forward to seeing what changes had been made, as I had been using the DC44 for a year and absolutely loved it. So I was certain that I would be as equally impressed if not more by the changes that they have implemented in this time frame.

Before I used the Digital Slim for the first time well over a year ago, I have to admit I didn't think I would be a fan. We have a full size Dyson so surely I wouldn't need anything else? Before long though I was reaching for my cordless vacuum over the big one each and every time. I found it so convenient, especially with having a toddler around the house who literally just seemed to magnetically attract crumbs in his wake.

While we were visiting Dyson’s Marketing Head Quarters we put the DC59 to the test against a number of competitors. I found this really interesting because some of the models prices were very similar to the Dyson, yet the performance was absolutely abysmal. We were vacuuming up flour and other objects that we had placed on some tiled flooring. Some of these competitor models couldn’t even get it all up off the floor, and I found this rather shocking. The DC59 rocked it, and even managed to get the flour that had fallen down a crevice.

Seeing the DC59 up close and personal I could see instantly where some of the changes had been applied. The first thing I noticed was how it looked, in comparison to my DC44 it looked more modern and visually better. In terms of power, they have cranked it up a notch so that it now sucks up just as much dust as a corded vacuum, thanks to its 2 Tier Radial Cyclones.

What’s in the DC59 box?

Crevice Tool
Combination Accessory Tool
Removable Wand
Mini Motorised Tool
Docking Station
Battery Charger
Quick Start Guide
2 Year Guarantee

I have been using the DC59 since December 2013 and have been really impressed with it. I can definitely feel the extra suction while I am vacuuming, and it sucks up so much more efficiently. I use it all around the house and very, very rarely get the full sized vacuum cleaner out these days. I leave it on charge via the handy docking station that you can attach to a wall, so that it is always ready to go.

In terms of the actual use and handling between the DC44 and the DC59 there isn’t much difference. You still have the same button that you have to push in to turn it on, and then release to turn it off. For me personally the biggest improvement is that it has better suction.

The DC59 is completely cordless and runs on battery power (Nickel Manganese Cobalt battery). The battery life on these may not sound very long but I think you would be surprised when it actually comes to using it around your house. We live in a reasonably sized house, it’s not big but there is not a room in the house that I don’t use this vacuum cleaner. The run time for the DC59 is 26 minutes (This has been improved from the 20 minutes run time on the DC44), but thanks to the run time enhancing trigger you can get the very most out of your Dyson. Un-like many other hand held cleaners that stay turned on from start to finish, you can get more out of your handheld because it doesn’t have to stay on. So in between cleaning tasks you can turn it off, for instance when you wander from the living room to the dining room. This means that the battery time is only used for vacuuming and you aren’t loosing precious time.

Of course there is a boost mode, that gives you more suction but decreases your running time. I find that it is handy to have the boost, because there are occasions that warrant it. The dust collection compartment may seem small, but I have never struggled with emptying it frequently.

I recommended the Dyson DC69 to my partner’s family after I was so pleased with it, and they went out and bought one. I was really surprised to find out that they weren’t as impressed with it as I had been. They didn’t think that the suction was that great in comparison to their full sized vacuum. The only instance I have found the suction a little lacking is when the head is off, but with the attachments are on, it definitely lives up to my expectations.

The filter should be washed and air dried each month, admittedly I am guilty of forgetting to do this, but it is so easy to do. Instructions on how to do this are included within the manual.

As this is a hand held vacuum you can use it for absolutely everything, and that is exactly what we do. From cleaning the entirety of the house, from the cobwebs on the walls, to the stairs and of course the rooms. We even use it when we clean the cars. The number of different attachment’s that are included make it a great all-rounder.

Over all I have really benefited from the improvements, and really like the DC59. I just love the convenience of being able to un-plug from the dock and get on with the cleaning. There is no hauling the big vacuum out, plugging it in and slowly going from room to room. It is just easy.

Disclaimer: I was provided with the Dyson DC59 for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are completely honest and my own.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

How to make a Rainbow Drop Cake this Easter

I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper amplification for Collective Bias and its advertiser.

With Easter this Sunday I have been thinking of tasty treats I can cook up in preparation. I am not the most brilliant of chef's but I do like to dabble in the kitchen, and when I do get stuck into something I give it my best shot. I began thinking about different Easter sweets I could in-corporate into my baking attempt...

I decided to make a sweet cake, but not just any sweet cake. While browsing the Swizzels Matlow website I came across many of the sweets from my childhood, Fizzers, Love Hearts and Parma Violets... Then an old favourite of mine appeared, Rainbow Drops!  In that instant I knew exactly what I was going to cook up for the family this Easter.

A Rainbow Drop Easter Cake!

I had an idea forming in my mind of how I was going to do this, and what the finished cake might look like. I decided that the Rainbow Drops would be the over all decoration on this cake, with their bright colours to make the cake stand out it really would be a treat.

I decided to cook up one big sponge cake, which took well over an hour to bake. After waiting for the cake to cool enough to remove it from the tin, I began to melt some chocolate over the stove. 

With the melted chocolate in hand I slathered it all over my freshly baked cake, all over the sides and all over the top. Then I set to work with my chocolate fingers all the way around the base of the cake. With the fingers in place it was time to drizzle the last of the melted chocolate into the center. 

Now all of the chocolate was in place, I had to work quickly. I sorted my Rainbow Drops into their individual colours. I had Pink, Green, Orange and Yellow laid out ready to be put into place. It was trickier than I had anticipated, and had to keep going back to make sure that the Rainbow Drops covered all of the melted chocolate. 

I spent my time adding in all of the Rainbow Drops, I added in the words 'Happy Easter' and then spread the rest of the drops into the particular coloured sections I had laid out. Seeing the completed cake in front of me I was rather pleased with how it turned out. 

The recipe for the actual cake was just a simple sponge:

250g unsalted butter – softened
- 600g caster sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 470g plain flour 
- 140g cocoa powder
- 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 table spoons of double cream
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- A little bit of milk

A Rainbow Drop cake doesn't have to just be for Easter, it could be for absolutely any occasion at all. I like to think of it as a 'just because cake'.

Leo is yet to see our Rainbow Drop cake, but I think he will be hankering after a slice tomorrow when he sets his sights upon it. 

Are you cooking up any tasty treats this Easter?

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Dreaming Of Some Sunshine

It is safe to say that 2014 has kicked off with an frightful amount of rain. We have seen flooding and just general miserable weather. All of this rain has highlighted a certain item of clothing that both Leo and I have been lacking…Waterproof jackets!

If you are like me, you will shy away from heading out and about when it rains, but let’s face it… If you need to go out, you need to go out! Leo on the other hand is not scared of a little bit of water, he’s more than happy to slip on his wellies and find numerous muddy puddles to splash around in! It was only earlier this week after I picked Leo up from nursery, that he decided to jump through each and every puddle he came across, in his trainers no less! Suffice to say I didn’t anticipate that first splash, which resulted in grand smiles from the mischievous one!

By the end of the walk back to the car, Leo had drenched his shoes and splashed water (and mud) all up his jeans. He had managed to inflict the splashes in my direction just as much as his… So I too got to feel soggy and muddy. Of course Leo didn’t mind, this just made the puddle activities that little bit more exciting. Splashing in deep, muddy puddles is so much more fun… When Mummy gets involved too!

I recently came across Muddy Puddles, an online shop selling a wide variety of coats, and jackets that will help our kids weather the elements. They have jackets that will protect you from a rain shower, right through to warmer coats that will weather a snow storm.

Muddy Puddles have the coat (and footwear) for the job. I particularly like the rainmac’s as these little beauties come in handy throughout the year, living in Britain we know that we will spy rain even over the Summer months so it is a good item of clothing to have to hand.

As a parent I like to know that I have everything for Leo that I could possibly need, and as he is growing all of the time this can prove to be one demanding task. Sometimes I find that I only realise that we have a need for an item….In the instance that we actually need it! You can guarantee that if you have to pop into a high-street shop you won’t be able to find what you are looking for. I have found myself in this position on a number of occasions, they either don’t have the size, pattern or the entire item I am after. I guess this is why I do so much of my clothes shopping online these days!

Disclaimer: This is a Featured Post

More Than A Room

It only feels like yesterday that Luke and I began to paint Leo’s first bedroom. It was September 2011 and Leo was 12 weeks old, and we were in a hurry to get the room just right before we moved him from the moses basket in our room, into the wide open space of his new cot bed.

Decorating Leo’s room was something that we had put off, as at this point we were still living under my parent’s roof. We didn’t want to get too comfortable as we had anticipated moving out sooner rather than later. At this point it was still our main aim to save for a deposit and buy our own place, and this is why we were now picking out the colours for Leo’s room. Staying put gave us more of a chance to save… Or at least that was the plan.

We painted Leo’s bedroom walls, and placed Winnie The Pooh wall art throughout the room. It was really starting to take shape now the finishing touches were being added. Luke had put the cot together and we were on the final leg of the preparations, and within a few days Leo was in his new room!

We have now moved into our own place, and we were faced with the realisation that Leo’s new room definitely needed sprucing up! As we rent this house privately, we are limited to what we can do. I have mentioned before how I detest the lime Green bobbly wallpaper that has been used in Leo’s room. It definitely wouldn’t have been my choice had I had a say in the decorating decisions. Of course we could potentially change this, we could tear it all out and start again. But I have to wonder if it is worth it. After all we have to renew our lease every 6 months, there are so many reasons that mean we could potentially have to move each time the lease ends. So to save pennies, valuable pennies that go into our mortgage deposit, I decided I would live with the wallpaper that I detest so much. We have improvised with new wall stickers, we have used simple touches to detract from the bits that we can’t change.

I have always loved the selection of children’s bedding and home d├ęcor over at Lulu & Nat. They have beautiful children’s bedding and accessories to really brighten up a child’s bedroom. One day when we do finally buy our own home, a home that we will be living in for many years to come.

One day we will finally be able to give Leo the exact room he wants, he can help choose the paint or the wallpaper, the carpet and the accessories. It will be Leo’s room, in our family home.

Disclaimer: This is a featured post

Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Harry Potter Studio Tour Presents Feathers and Flight

On Friday 4th April the entire family set off on a wild adventure, and when I say family I don't mean myself, Luke and Leo. I mean my parents and siblings. I cannot remember the last time we all went out as a family of 6, but I know a lot of time has passed since we have all got together and done something like this!

We were on our way to the Warner Brother's Harry Potter Studio Tour for an exclusive preview of their Feathers and Flight feature that is running from the 4th April right through to the 27th April 2014. Suffice to say we were all incredibly excited and looking forward to an evening full of magic and laughter. Having visited the Studio Tour back in December, I knew we were in for a fantastic time and I knew that the rest of the family, who had never visited before were going to LOVE it!

Feathers and Flight 2014

- Pose for a photograph with the owl that played Harry Potter’s letter-delivering companion Hedwig as he sits outside 4 Privet Drive.

- Meet the talented owls that played Ron Weasley’s tiny pet Pigwidgeon and the Weasley family owl Errol who will be stationed along the wizarding street of Diagon Alley.

- Watch as crows and ravens that appeared in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabandemonstrate their acting skills in our backlot.

- Learn how birds were taught to ‘act’ by taking a look at the equipment that was used on set.

- Hair and Feather Supervisor Val Jones will lead an expert team to demonstrate the techniques that made winged wonders such as Buckbeak the Hippogriff and Fawkes the Phoenix a reality on screen. By individually inserting thousands of feathers, Val worked to create the Hippogriff’s feathery coat which helped transform it into a believable creature that really moved.

- See the broomsticks of Fred and George Weasley, used during their escape in Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, in Hogwarts’ iconic Great Hall as the set will be decorated as it was for owl post delivery scenes. Specially-made broomsticks and letters, which were designed to be light enough for owls to carry, will be on display as well as a breakfast feast of racks of toast, cereal and jugs of juice.

The Feathers and Flight event shows us exactly how filmmakers brought the feathered creatures to life on screen. From Buckbeak the Hippogriff to the training of the Owls, the ravens and special effects equipment...There is so much that went into the most simple of scenes. I was so impressed during a question and answers session with Julie Totman and colleague Guillaume Grange, they allowed members of the group to ask questions and shared some of their secrets. Did you know that for each animal character their were at least 3 animals playing that role? Each animal has their different strengths and weaknesses, one animal would be great at tricks, one maybe better at being handled and so on...  

With the introductions coming to an end it was time to start the tour. I have to say that I was so excited to be visiting after hours, when everybody else had gone home and it was just my family and the rest of the people on our tour. As you can imagine, the studio tour is a magical place to be and this feeling was heightened as we got to see everything up close and personal while taking our good sweet time as we went around. First up was the Great Hall, and I took great pleasure in watching everyone's faces as the cinema screen lifted to reveal the entrance to the famous set. I think my younger sister's draw dropped when she first walked in!

We enjoyed nibbles and drinks in the Great Hall and nosed into the crooks and cranny's of this magical room. This set is my favourite, and you don't have to look around to far to work out why. The flagstone floor, the big open fireplace, the detail that is just absolutely everywhere is just outstanding. What I adored about visiting after hours was being able to spend so much time in the Great Hall alone, when I visited in December I felt that there wasn't enough time to see everything, so I made the very most of every moment that night.

We slowly made our way around the tour, we took in everything and posed for many, many photographs. My Mum who hasn't really watched many of the films was enjoying taking everything in (I will be insisting she watches them all now!), my Dad who is the biggest kid enjoyed it as much as my siblings. There was ample opportunity to speak to the guides as they were on hand all evening, and were happy to answer any additional questions that we had. 

There was one thing that I was looking forward to more than anything that evening, and that was to have a play on the broomsticks! On our last visit the line to have a go was about 30 minutes long, and our group decided not to have a go. But on this occasion we just walked straight in, there was no waiting around and we even got to don a Hogwarts robe. We flew Mr Weasley's magical car, and then we each took to the sky's on our broomsticks. It was AMAZING! For my first broomstick flight I don't think I did half bad, and I was so pleased with the picture that I walked away with. The entire family had a go at flying a broomstick that night, and they all absolutely loved it.

Next up we were off out into the back lot, it is here that you can try Butterbeer and see if it tantalizes any of your taste buds. Having tried it before I knew that it was a little too sweet for my liking, but happily drank it up. The younger brother seemed to really like it, but the rest of the family were not sold on it. I definitely recommend giving it a try, you may just be surprised. 

It was here that we came face to face with Hedwig, and we gladly took it in turns to snap our photos with him, before having a look at the night bus, Hagrid's Motorcycle and of course the flying car which happen to all be featured outside. 

As you move out of the back lot and back inside to which ultimately is the final bit of the tour, you find yourself in a room full of creatures featured in the films. There were goblins, wax models of the cast and of course some of the creatures. Dangling from the ceiling I saw Aragog, King of the Spiders. I have to say that he is a spider that I would rather not come across!

Another of my favorite sets has to be Diagon Alley. It is a set that you can walk through and actually gives you a sense of being in a magical world. You see familar sites and can marvel at the shop fronts, my favourite being The Weasley Brother's Joke shop! 

As we began to come to the end of the tour, I knew that we would very soon be casting our eyes upon the Hogwarts Castle, and I knew that this was going to blow everybody's minds. The last time I visited it was for Hogwarts In Snow, and Hogwarts was covered in a blanket of snow. It was nice to see it this time in it's true form, but it still completely blew me away. The detail and sheer size of this model is just incredible. Every outside shot of the castle that you see in the film series, is actually of this model. For the longest time I just assumed that the exterior shots in the film were computer generated imagery. How wrong was I!?

Leaving the room with the rather incredible model of Hogwarts brings you out into a room full of wands. I remembered this room from last time but didn't actually know what it was for. I was really pleased that there was a member of staff in there on this occasion, and he explained to me that each wand box had the name of someone involved in the Harry Potter films. Each wand box had been hand inscribed and the guide was so familiar with each and every box, that he could actually point with his laser pen to the box with the persons name he was talking about. He could point out absolutely anyone and everyone, and even tell you all about them. 

This brought us to the end of our adventure around the studio, and it was time to make our way back to the car. We all had an absolutely amazing time and it was lovely to do something together. 

If you are planning on visiting before the 27th April, the Feathers and Flight experience is great. I am sure you will all love it as much as my family and I did. 

Disclaimer: We were invited along to the event, provided with free admission and a goody bag. I was not asked to write this post and all views and opinions expressed are completely honest and my own.

Friday, 11 April 2014

You Amaze Me

It is so easy to get lost in those blue eyes of yours, the way they sparkle, the way that they shine. 

Watching your facial expressions as you move through the world, the way you study a Butterfly land on a leaf and that look of amazement dashes across your face. The compassion and worry in your voice when you saw a dead hedgehog in the road, the way your little voice quivered when you told me 'hedgehog hurt. hedgehog died'. The way you accept the most simple of explanations, and that the hedgehog has gone to sleep for one last time and is now happy way up there in the sky. 

Nothing tops watching you growing up, teaching you about the ways of the world. The good, the not so good and at times the things I wish I never have to tell you about. You are at an age now where you are wanting to know so much, but still learning and not fully comprehending. Still completely innocent. 

When you do something wrong you look for reassurance in me, you run up and kiss me over and over. That's your apology because 9 times out of 10 your feeling to stubborn to use your words for that one particular punch line. You run out and about in the garden, you scoot up and down Granny's drive, and boy have you got fast. You pick daisy's on your travels and bring them back to me. You say 'for you Mummy!' and present me with a bunch that you picked just moments before. You truly sweep me off my feet!

You have the most infectious giggle, and it is a sound that don't go a single day without hearing. You find adventure in everything that you do, and your giggle rang louder the day you sat on my lap as we drove up Granny's long drive way! You laughed even harder when you managed to grab control of the steering and we almost bumped the pillars on the driveway! That would have been an interesting conversation to have with the grandparents little man.

All of a sudden you have completely slotted back into Nursery, and go off with no tears at all. In fact you are so excited by the time we get there, that you ignore the line of people waiting to go inside and run straight past them, under peoples legs until you are inside! There are no goodbyes for Mummy, and I you are completely happy until I turn back up three hours later. 

Each day you are learning something new, saying something new or surprising me in some way. You make my heart melt and I beam with pride. We are on the count down to your 3rd birthday now, and another year has almost come full circle. It amazes me what each year instills in the both of us, and although you started the year as a toddler, we will be leaving it as a 3 year old. A little boy who will be in his very last year before school. A little boy who will be going on many more adventures, and making me even prouder. 

Watching you grow up is the most amazing thing, and I love sitting on the front row, watching, listening and living life with you.