Thursday, 1 October 2015

Fun Halloween Ideas To Keep Kids Busy All Month

Inclement weather and the turn of the seasons can be an incredibly expensive time for many parents. With outdoors activities limited – and spending too much time out in the wet and cold being as detrimental to your child’s health as not spending any time outside at all – the cost of keeping your children occupied can be expensive.

Tickets to the cinema, bowling, video games, DVDs etc. can soon mount up and are short-term solutions to boredom. Halloween is fast approaching and with it an opportunity to keep the children occupied and enjoying themselves.

If you are planning a Halloween party – or even if you’re not – these fun, crafty ideas will keep the children busy for weekends at a time and will help build the anticipation of what is fast becoming a family favourite UK festivity. Decorate your child’s bedroom, and the rest of the house, with these fun ‘spooky’ decorations that can be reused year after year.

Your recycling box is a treasure trove of materials for Halloween decorations so before you throw it out, think about what can be repurposed with a little bit of creative attention.

Egg boxes make wonderful bats that you can hang from pretty much anywhere. Three cups will make the body and two wings. Shape the outer two cups into wings by cutting a ‘w’ shape out of them. Paint the whole thing black and stick two googly eyes on them, or paint two eyes on, and two dots of paint or glued on triangles of paper to make the teeth. Thread them with string or ribbon and hand them around the house.

Create a ghostly wall mural in your child’s bedroom by painting dried fallen leaves white and using a black marker pen to draw two eyes and a spooky ‘oooh’ mouth and stick them to the wall with blu-tack.

Halloween Kids

Decorate your child’s bed with fake webbing, or cheese cloth, and use a dry paint or make-up brush to dab it with baby powder to give it an aged, haunted house look – the baby power will vacuum right off or lift when wiped with a damp cloth. You could visit Bedstar to get a playful novelty bed that would last beyond Halloween and become a feature of your child’s bedroom for years to come. A Princess carriage, fire engine, London bus or racing car will provide hours of make believe play when the rain is pouring down.

Make gruesome illusions of heads in jars with a little bit of food colouring, water and a photo. Get a headshot with a plain white background, place it inside a jar and fill it with water coloured with a few drops of green or yellow food colouring. Use smaller jam jars for a ‘shrunken head’ look.

Paint old glass jars or bottles to make them look like Halloween characters and use them as themed desk-tidies.

Use plain black bin bags to create dramatic and super cheap spider’s webs by following these instructions.

Value orange tissue-paper balls from a craft shop can easily be made into a variety of pumpkins with some black card, scissors and glue. Just cut out the eye, nose and mouth shapes and glue them to your paper balls. Hang them around the house or use drawing pins to suspend them from the ceiling in your child’s room.

Halloween Kids

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Marvel Kids UK: SPIDER-MAN Rescue Mission Review

Marvel Kids UK

Leo is growing up, and its apparent in every way shape and form these days. From starting school to the tv shows and characters that he is now taking a liking to. He is growing up. Very recently he has been fascinated by super heroes, Marvel and SPIDER-MAN being a very big hit with him, from the cartoons on the television to the toys in the supermarket. It was only a few weeks ago we walked a few pounds lighter with a Spiderman doll instead of a packet of sweets...

We recently discovered Marvel Kids UK over on Disney where they have a fun selection of games for children who like Leo, LOVE superheros. There are 8 different SPIDER-MAN games and 7 Avengers available to play, and obviously Leo has been swaying towards SPIDER-MAN. Thankfully with 8 different games to choose from it provides an element of choice. It has been a nice way to break up the afternoon after a long day at school, and I think he has been thankful for the downtime that he get's from it.

Marvel Kids UK

A firm favorite has become SPIDER-MAN Rescue Mission. It reminds me of the traditional computer games that I used to play as a young girl. The arrows move you left and right, the space bar makes you jump and the idea is to navigate through the digital world, taking out bad guys and collecting items that will help you on your journey. 

All of the controls are stipulated before you enter the game and tell you how to get SPIDER-MAN around the world safely. You can choose different levels of game play: EASY, MEDIUM and HARD, Leo and I have both been enjoying the easy setting, and I tell you what it is still catching us out!

Marvel Kids UK

Marvel Kids UK

Admittedly while Leo has been at school I have had a little play myself, and as much as I want to be able to say it's really easy... I struggle! There is a certain part of the game I just cannot get past, and because I am such a determined person, this does not sit well with me at all. This is exactly why I have been re-visiting the site and and trying time and time again. 

Leo thinks it's all rather hilarious because he's a little superstar at it, and because Mummy cannot do it for love nor money, he is having one big giggle at my expense. 

I have shown Leo how to use the controls and he seems really happy with it. Anything like this he just takes to like a duck to water, which may be super now that he is at school. 

Leo and I both really like the selection of games over on Marvel Kids UK and I am sure that Leo will now be making his way through the library of different games over the weeks ahead.

Christmas is Coming

It might seem a little early to be thinking about Christmas in September, but you only have to pop into your local super market and you will see that absolutely EVERYONE is already getting swept up into the Christmas spirit. Christmas just seems to come around earlier each and every year, and I believe that is because everyone starts to prepare for it earlier each year, if it's not the financial side of planning for the big day, then it's the organisation, because let's face it...Christmas requires a lot of organisation.

This year with Leo being 4, I am more excited than ever to start getting preparations underway. There is so much that I am looking forward to wowing him with, because the true magic of Christmas is all seeing and all knowing this year. Faeries, Santa Clause, Elves are already running around Leo's head, and the excitement is already brewing (Yup I know.. It's still September!'.

Santa has always brought Leo a new pair of Pajama's on Christmas Eve, but this year there is talk of a Christmas Eve box, that will be full to bursting with fun activities to enjoy, think hot chocolate, Christmas films, new slippers and new PJ's!

It may not surprise you that my thoughts have already turned to Christmas Stockings.., 

I have put together a stocking for Leo each year, it's a tradition that I love. I don't spend a fortune on them, they are just fun little bits and bobs, little trinkets that he enjoys opening as much as I did putting them together for him. This year I thought about what I actually spend on the stocking and the contents, and decided to have a look at the pre-filled stockings that you can get readily made up. 

They are a great idea if you have looked high and low for the perfect contents, already have a budget in mind, or cannot find a decent sized stocking to hold everything. Stocking Fillers have a number of different stockings for a wide range of people:

- Girl Stocking 3 Plus
- Girl Stocking 8 Plus
- Girl Stocking 14 Plus
- Boy Stocking 8 Plus
- Boy Stocking 14 Plus
- Male Stocking

We are now prepared with both a Boy Stocking for he ages of 3 and up, which is absolutely perfect for Leo, and a Female Stocking for myself. The clever aspect of buying a pre-packaged stocking is that you can actually make a saving (33% to be exact!) on the full price of the items that are within. The stockings are full of toys and games suitable for the ages you are ordering for, and I have to say that I have been very impressed with the over all quality of the stockings, 

The felt stockings are a great size at 56cm, and you only have to touch them to know that they are full of goodies! I have kept them hidden from Leo, so he has no idea right now. 

I may be pretty well prepared in some aspects of getting ready for Christmas, but I am yet to actually start Christmas shopping! Now Leo is in school though I am going to start strategically planning what it is we need to purchase, and start budgeting for the festive season.


Friday, 18 September 2015

How to make Cacao Hot Chocolate

It was earlier this year that I first heard about Cacao. You read right, I am not talking about conventional Cocoa, I scoured Tesco's, up and down each and every aisle trying to locate this mysterious ingredient. At first I thought that it was just a spelling mistake, and when I couldn't find the product in Tesco..I opted for just using Cocoa. Google had confirmed that Cacao was indeed a real substance, and I now know that cacao powder is a healthy alternative to conventional over-processed “cocoa” used for baking or hot chocolate! 

I use Cacao for so many different, and tasty treats. Just because I have really cleaned up how I eat, it doesn't mean that I don't have a sweet tooth or that I completely take chocolate out of the equation. One of the best discoveries I made was Cacao Hot Chocolate. It was just an idea that popped into my head and only required a few ingredients.

What you will need...

- A pan

-  1 teaspoon of Cacao Powder

-  1 mug of Coconut or Almond Milk 
(I usually opt for Coconut but both are equally as delicious!)

- Honey or Agave Syrup (until sweet enough)

- A mug (to enjoy your hot chocolate!)

How to prepare your warming (tasty!) treat...

- Take your pan and add a teaspoon of Cacao Powder. 

- Pour a mug of Almond or Coconut Milk into the pan and heat through (but don't boil!) stirring continuously. 

- Add your Honey or Agave Syrup until it's sweet enough for your personal taste.

- Before it boils, take it off the stove and pour it into your mug. Boiling Cacao kills off all of it's goodness!

Enjoy your Cacao Hot Chocolate have shared 15 other snacks to help boost your energy and productivity, which would you try!?


School Run Mum

Life right now is not what I expected it to be, it's better. The Mum who was once at work, missing out on school holidays, days out and about...She is now at home, she's a Mum who gets to take her little boy to school, socialise with the other Mum's while waiting in the playground and get to know the faces, the names of the children that her little boy is making friends with. 

I am that Mum. 
A school run Mum.

I haven't really spoken about how I became that Mum though, and it's only a very recent occurrence. Some people could say that I have had the worst year what with getting made redundant, and then suddenly having my new position ripped from under me when they back tracked on their word. But do you know what? I am so glad that all of that happened, because I have slotted straight into my new way of life. I love not having the stress of getting up in the morning and wondering what awaits my arrival in the office, I love that I get to be there for that beautiful boy of mine, because I am now right where I should be.

Leo goes to school in a small village, he goes to the very first school that I went to as a child all those years ago. I love it, it's small and friendly, the absolute perfect environment to nourish and mould my boy into the fine young man that I know he is going to become. It's fun and inviting, and I know that the experiences he is going to have are going to provide him with the very best opportunities in life.

Our school run consists of a few transport methods, as although Leo attends a village school, we live in the neighboring town. In a morning we hop in the car and take the short drive to the school, which is exactly where Leo will pop the scooter out of the boot and scoot the rest of the way into school. 

It's such a great way to start the morning, and as he scoots along we meet other children on their scooters. Children's scooters are a great form of transport, and perfect for Leo to get from point A to point B because if it wasn't for the scooter, I am pretty certain that he would insist on me picking him up and carrying him along with his book bag! It opens up the lines of communication for the children and even for us as parents, in Leo's first week at school I have met some truly beautiful people, I actually believe I have made a new friend, and it's not everyday you make a new friend. On his very first day as I strolled back to the car with his scooter, I got talking to a lady from the school. An hour later I was still stood there putting the world to rights with her, and it felt such an amazing privilege to get to be a part of this once closed chapter of Leo's life.

I am now getting the opportunity to be a consistent face in the school play ground, and in comparison to the nursery days where no one would ever really talk to me, because I was the Mum who was always at work. I was the Mum who's face didn't fit.

But now I am a school run Mum!

Now I get to watch my boy smiling as he scoots into the play ground. I get to watch him scoot around the playground with his peers as he makes life long memories, scrapes his knees and as he picks himself back up after a tumble. 

Being a school run Mum is something that I have always wanted, it's something that seemed completely un-obtainable, un-realistic, crazy. I was thrown into it, it wasn't a choice that I made, but I am so glad that it happened. 

Once the school run is complete for the morning, and Leo is away learning at school. I bring myself back home. I open my laptop and I write. I write until 3pm, I work flexibly around Leo and then I return and pick him up, where the rest of the afternoon is spent together. Usually quietly because he is so worn out from a busy day at school. 

And then the process begins again.
Because I am a school run Mum.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Overcoming Driving Anxiety

Driving has always been a little bit of a worry for me, it's a fear that grew more after I had Leo. I guess in hind sight it was a little more of an anxiety than just your average worry. I was always a nervous driver and refused to drive anywhere out of my comfort zone, so anywhere that needed me to jump on the motorway or pop into the hustle and bustle of city life...You could forget it. It wasn't going to happen, and if by chance it did...I would be a nervous wreck behind the wheel.

My comfort zones consisted of the town in which I live and then a few of the neighboring cities, but if I could avoid going that far afield then you can bet your bottom dollar that I most definitely would. It is only in this last year that I have actually even driven on the motorway, I drove my little man all the way to Devon, but had his Dad on hand to offer support and advice. I got quite into the driving side of it though and even somewhat enjoyed the experience. It was something that I put off again for a while until a few weeks ago, when I decided to take Leo over to Drayton Manor for the day. It meant having to head along the motorway on my own, but I wasn't worried. Instead of feeling worried and anxious I felt ready. I was ready to finally just drive where I needed to drive, and I was proud of myself, because I knew how far I had come since those days where all I did was worry about driving.

We joined the motorway and we were away, I drove us all the way there, and all of the way back again. I didn't get stressed, I didn't panic, I didn't feel like I was suddenly going to have a meltdown and need rescuing from the hard shoulder. Pulling back up onto my drive at home I gave myself a pat on the back, I had done it. I had ACTUALLY done it. 

I can't put my finger on what has suddenly clicked within me to enable me to just get on with it, I know that to some people it doesn't sound like a lot, but to someone who would actually cry at the prospect of driving on the motorway, it's a pretty big break through. I am now excitedly planning lots of trips for Leo and I to enjoy, just knowing that we can pack the car and head off on our own is such an exhilarating feeling.  If we want to go for a walk along the beach in the middle of Autumn then we can, if we want to head away in the October half term for a few days, we can take ourselves. There is no more relying on other people, no more having to check for the nearest train station.

Of course now that I am more than happy to put the miles on my little Mini, I am having to keep a close eye on the over all wear and tear on my car, and of course the wheels. I know that pretty soon I am going to have to treat my little car to four shiny new wheels, as the current set are nearing the end of their life span. There are a few local places where I can go to get my car tyres done, but usually I like to have a look online and reserve news tyres for local fitting from tyre dealers such as Point-S so I can see exactly what I am paying.

I am already busy planning our next trip away. We are hopefully visiting Newquay in the October half term, and it will be the longest, solo drive I have ever completed. 

If you are a nervous driver for one reason or another, it doesn't have to stay that way. I never thought I would come out of the other side, but I am so glad that I did. The freedom that I feel now as I merge onto the motorway is something I cannot describe.

Work it Mamma returns to work

Parent's the world through have seen their children start school this month, be it that very first day at school or going into a new year, September has rolled round rather quickly. Today I have Victoria from Work it Mamma telling us all about how her little boy Arthur has just started school for the very first time, opening up the opportunity for Victoria to return to the world of work. Returning to work after taking time out, whether it be weeks, months or years is always a daunting thought. Times change as do people, and that can often make the challenge that little bit more daunting.

So tomorrow morning I’ll be taking my boy to school for the first time.
I’ve had the tearful moments already. I’ve bought him endless trousers and shorts – just in case. I’ve had his hair cut and I’ve filled this ever-present void with practical stuff.
But then Friday will be here and all that practical stuff will be done and I’ll say goodbye and he’ll have a lovely morning while I wait to hear all about it, a little heavy of heart but proud.
Spin the coin and it’s the end of an era for me. I’ve agreed to increase my working hours. Not by much, but enough to nudge me a little further towards a full working week. In turn a little further away from being at home with my boy.
It makes sense, it really does. He’ll be at school and I can concentrate on me a little more. Build my career and make the most of a bit more cash. But god it hurts because it’s the end. It’s made the last few weeks a very reflective time for me. We’ll never wander around Thursday and Fridays and enjoy that school-free time. I’ll never snatch cuddles on a rainy weekday at home (ok, I know this is a little dramatic but it’s just how I’ve been feeling!).
Along side all this is a little nagging feeling I’ve been refusing to acknowledge. I’m putting myself out there again. I’ve changed jobs to a far more interesting and stretching job. My part time safety net is slipping away and it’s me against the world. What if they all realise I’m just winging this whole work business. What if after all this time, I just can’t do it any more.
If I’m honest I feel I’ve hidden a little behind my working mum title. Allowing me to pass on challenges and not take on new and often scary stuff. Along with the new school year I've found my own crisis of confidence. I wasn’t expecting it.
 I know Arthur will fly at school, he’ll find his feet and all will be well.  I think I owe it to us both to do the same.
Do drop by and say hello to Victoria on Twitter!