Monday 26 March 2018

PJ Masks are back!: Our Series 2 Viewing Party

We are so excited that brand new episodes of PJ Masks will be back on our screens starting Wednesday 28th March on Disney Jr. PJ Masks is probably my children's number 1 TV show and as a parent, I love it too! So many children's shows can get annoying but PJ Masks isn't one of them - I'd happily watch along!

We were lucky enough to get the chance to watch the first two episodes of the new series before it's shown on television and what better way to do it than by setting up a viewing party? We were sent everything needed to have a fun-filled PJ Masks day which just added to the children's excitement.

We received a huge box of character goodies; an inflatable chair, glow in the dark puzzle, art case, stamp and sticker playset, Catboy bedding set (RRP £29.99), two character masks, a blind bag (RRP £3.99 - we got Romeo!) and lots of partyware. 

The kids were so excited to get playing and the Ravensburger Glow in the Dark Puzzle (RRP £7.99) was a huge hit. They both loved seeing the bad guys as well as their beloved PJ Masks. 

The Art Case (RRP £7.99) and Stamp and Sticker Play Set (RRP £4.99 from B&M and Sainsburys) kept both C and E entertained for ages! I definitely think we will be using these a lot over the Easter holidays. The Art Case reminds me of the types that I had as a child; filled with crayons, markers, paints, scissors, pencils - the lot! E especially loved using the little stampers in the Stamp and Sticker Set and branding the PJ Masks symbols everywhere. Stickers are always a hit in this house too!

We had both children fighting over the awesome Inflatable Chair (£9.99) and I advise you to use a pump for this. I blew it up myself and felt like I was gonna pass out. Must buy a pump!

I got the partyware (RRP £29.99) all set up and ready to watch the brand new episodes and the children donned their super cool Gekko and Owlette masks (RRP £9.99 each) in preparation. 

The first two episodes are called Moonfizzle Balls, where Catboy works a bit too fast to kick Luna Girl's moonfizzle balls and Gekko and Owlette can't keep up, and Soccer Ninjalinos, where Owlette learns that being part of the team means coaching Catboy and Gekko to defeat Night Ninja who has trained his Ninjalinos in kung-fu football! Judging by these two episodes, series 2 is set to be just as much fun as series 1. C and E couldn't take their eyes off the screen and even asked to watch a second time! It's safe to say that they cannot wait to see the rest of the episodes.

PJ Masks is back on Disney Junior on Wednesday 28th March at 4.30pm then every Wednesday after that at 4.45pm.

(We received this bundle in exchange for this post.)

Friday 23 March 2018

Fun Pool Toy Ideas for Your Kids This Summer

Toys and play time are integral to the physical, emotional, cognitive and social development of children. In fact, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (Article 31) considers playtime as the natural right of every child in the world. And yet, free playtime for children has been gradually shrinking over the past several decades as TV, computers have heightened pace of life and
consume the majority of our children’s time.

As another summer draws closer, perhaps it’s a good idea for parents to spend some time researching suitable toys for their children. For those with either a swimming pool in their home or access to a nearby public pool, or even those who are planning on going to a resort, it is imperative that the right toys are provided for their children so they can spend their day with productive activity
instead of just splashing aimlessly around the pool. Check out our list below of some great recommendations of water toys for kids this summer.

Water Gun
Water guns need no introduction. They have been perennial favourites of children for a long time. However, many parents are unaware of the benefits that the toy possesses. Playing with water guns socially helps regulate emotion, as well as heightening cognitive functions, motor skills and spatial awareness. Water guns also introduce the concept of competition to young children.

Toypedos and similar imitation products are dive toys that are shot from a launcher. These brightly coloured and hydrodynamically designed toys can be aimed to the bottom of the pool or the surface of the water, where it will glide for a considerable distance. The toypedo is great for racing games for children who can swim comfortably to retrieve the missiles, which will improve their
coordination, balance and motor skills. Don’t worry about leaving the younger kids feeling left out - the sight of the toypedo cruising underwater is very riveting on its own.

Dive Rings and Dive Sticks
Dive rings are small, multi-coloured plastic rings that sink when thrown in water, while dive sticks are weighted plastic rods that will remain vertical once they reach the pool floor. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? However, they are actually loads of fun for children trying to improve their swimming ability. Simply throw the rings and sticks into the pool, and let the kids dive in to retrieve them. They are quite soft, so the risk of accidental injury is very rare.

Toy Swimming Goggle and Scuba Gear
Kids love throwing on a pair of goggles or snorkels and diving straight into the water. They can literally spend an entire day snorkelling around the pool. This is great for improving their fitness levels and a great way of sneaking in a bit of healthy cardio activity! Just keep an eye to make sure they don’t get exhausted or sunburnt – and never leave them unattended.

Waterproof Card and Board Games
Sometimes, it’s great to have an alternative form of play time for the kids. Board and card games will allow to use different forms of cognitive stimuli that will help with their numeracy and literacy skills. Get the waterproof versions, so they can play comfortably anywhere around the pool – even on an inflatable lounger!

(This is a sponsored post.)

Thursday 22 March 2018

Real Life with Two Children Under Six

Just as my eldest child (C, now 5 years old) turned one, I began to get broody again. There is a ten year age gap between myself and my sister and I knew that I wanted my own children to be close in age. I had imagined them playing together, forming a wonderful bond and eventually having each other's backs as they moved into their teenage years.

We have great times, there's no doubt about that. It is so clear that they love each other to bits and I know they will defend each other to the death when they are teens. They love to play nicely together on occasion, especially when it comes to their mutual love of superheroes. But now? It can be hard. One thing I didn't know much about as I was effectively an only child until the age of 10, were the sibling fights. Oh, the sibling fights! If they can find something to argue over, no matter how silly or trivial, they will argue over it. Arguing sometimes isn't enough.We will even have hitting and hair pulling and at these moments, I do become a bit of a shouty mum because I am not going to allow them to get away with that kind of behaviour. I have been known to leave a room and count to five before I explode.

They bounce off each other a lot too so if C is in his, what I like to call, "his funny half hour" where he just giggles and laughs about everything, taking nothing seriously, E will be right there adding fuel to the fire and thus igniting my inner rage. Usually I can let this go but if it happens over homework time, no way. At the ages of five and three, I am definitely well aware that they do push boundaries and see what they can get away with. It helps to have mum friends to message and have a little rant to (hi, Jenna!) because they get it and won't judge.

They both absolutely hate food shopping but guess what? That's life and we have to do it. They will mope and moan and groan the whole way around the shop, attempt to run off (more E than C) so Chris and I have actually resorted to pep talks before we even go into the shop which usually includes a bribe of a chocolate bar if they behave themselves. They love to talk about things like poop, farts, bogies and bums at the top of their voices in public and I swear it has to be just so they can embarrass us!

Getting two children dressed in the morning is a hard slog. E will put one sock on and decide it's funny to run away from me so I can't put the rest of her clothes on. C will then think what she's doing is hilarious and do exactly the same thing. And why does it always happen when we're in a hurry to be somewhere? Don't even get me started on the refusal to eat dinner that they specifically ask for. This is one thing that really irritates Chris. I often joke to him that turning 30 is just around the corner and FUE hair transplantation can be a option for the hair that he's losing due to the kids being stressful! Most days after we've put the kids to bed, we just need to relax on the sofa for half an hour before we even attempt to do anything else just so we can recharge a bit. I'm not making parenthood sound very good, am I? I don't think my temperament helps much as I can be a little uptight, find things harder and take things more seriously than they have to be. It's something that I have to work on.

It's not all tough though. There is nothing better than getting some family time like baking together, going to the cinema, being outdoors or having movie or game night. The children are so caring and loving and I couldn't even tell you the amount of hugs and kisses we get and we are constantly being told they love us. I do get a lot of "mum-guilt" over being a shouty mum at times but things like this make me feel a little better about it all. I wouldn't change it for the world.

(This is a sponsored post.)
Wednesday 21 March 2018

Ravensburger The Gruffalo Shaped Floor Puzzle - Review

"A mouse took a stroll through the deep, dark wood"... I'm sure everyone is familiar with the classic Julia Donaldson book 'The Gruffalo', even if you aren't a parent! It's been one of my children's favourite books since they were babies, followed by The Gruffalo's Child, they love watching the animated shorts and even have a Gruffalo costume. You can imagine their excitement to see that Ravensburger had sent them a Gruffalo puzzle to try out.

The puzzle itself has 24 pieces and is perfect for children aged 3+. My children are 3 and 5 so they were able to do it together with minimal help from me. The pieces are about the size of my palm so great for my daughter at 3 who is just starting out with puzzles but not too easy that my 5 year old got bored.

In true Ravensburger style, the finish of the pieces is fantastic and it's well-made. The fact that the finished article is shaped like the Gruffalo rather than a traditional rectangular puzzle just added to the fun. Both children loved seeing their favourite character come to life with the more pieces that they put together and liked the addition of other characters from the book such as snake, mouse, fox and owl.

My five year old son is a fantastic reader so one of the little details that he specifically liked were the lines from the book on the colourful border around the Gruffalo. He loved being able to read it in full when the puzzle was complete.

The Gruffalo Shaped Floor Puzzle is so much fun, it's bright, colourful and perfect for any little Gruffalo fans - the finished image is like it's been plucked straight out of the book! It retails at £9.99 from all good retailers

(We received this item for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

My Mermaid Lagoon Charm Shell - Review

My 3.5 year old daughter E is what I like to call an "all-rounder" as much as she loves superheroes and getting messy, she also loves dresses, princesses, unicorns and mermaids.

Interplay have recently brought out My Mermaid Lagoon Charm Shells with three different mermaids to collect; Storm, Calypso and Serena. E was very excited to receive the Calypso set as she has beautiful pink hair which is E's favourite colour.

Calypso lives in her own oyster shell which fits perfectly in your pocket. Each shell contains, in addition to the mermaid, a key (which really works to lock the shell), 30 beads, a sea turtle charm, two split rings and a 40cm stretch cord so you can make your own mermaid charm bracelet.

As E is of such a young age, I hadn't really done many crafty activities other than sticking and creating pictures so it was nice to involve her in making something that she could wear afterwards and I felt like she was more excited by this. She did need a fair bit of help as the set is recommended for ages 4+ but she had lots of fun threading the beads onto the cord.

Calypso can sit inside the shell and her seat can be removed for hiding treasures underneath - something I think E will use if she has an item that she doesn't want her brother getting his mitts on. 

As I mentioned before, the key really works to lock the shell and I think it's a great idea to attach it to the bracelet as it's so tiny, it would definitely get lost easily in our house if it wasn't! E is able to use the key to lock and unlock the shell herself and has been enjoying pretending that her mermaid is going for a little swim then coming back home to her shell. It's a very well-made, sturdy toy and I really like the crafty element to the set. I definitely think we will be picking up the other two mermaids in the range to give Calypso some friends.

My Mermaid Lagoon Charm Shells retail at £9.99 and you can find them at all good toy shops.

You can also find out more information at the Interplay website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

(We received this item for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)
Friday 9 March 2018

Managing the Costs for a Family of Four

From personal experience, the costs of living for a family of four can be a struggle at times. My partner Chris works a job which is salaried (and isn't the worst paid!) and although I don't go out to work in the traditional sense, I am registered as self employed with this blog and I do make money from it. The worst thing about this though, is that we know Chris's salary will be the same each month, but my income can vary massively.

Within the past year or two, we've found our outgoings increasing. Our eldest child, C, started his first year of school which meant we had to buy uniform items and I make him a packed lunch every day so we're always spending money on that. Chris also passed his driving test in May last year so we are now paying the monthly payments for a car as well as road tax and insurance. I am a non-driver so we have to factor in the costs for me travelling to the school to collect C each day as Chris works during pick up time.

We try our best to be as careful as we can with money. We keep a list of what payments come out of each bank account. We each pay half of our rent, Chris pays his car payments and mobile phone bill and I pay my own phone bill, TV licence and Netflix and NowTV monthly payments - we love a binge watch at the weekend and can't be without those! We have prepaid gas and electric meters which we just top up when needed so we do need to make sure that we have money for that set aside.

We very rarely splurge and treat ourselves, date nights are few and far between and although I have good intentions when it comes to food shopping, this is definitely where most of our money goes. I would love to be the type of person who can meal plan but it really isn't feasible in our house. C was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (I will write a new blog post about that soon) and part of that means that he tends to stick to eating the same foods (think; Birds' Eye chicken dippers, sweet potato smiley faces, potato waffles, sausages etc) so every evening I am making two separate dinners because he would point blank refuse to eat something that he wasn't familiar and comfortable with.

Obviously, things do happen which are out of your control and we had a nightmare situation like this recently where we had not one, but two massively, unexpected expenses. The first one was a strange ammonia smell in our kitchen which was eventually realised was coming from our fridge. With two young children in the house, our first thought was that we had to get rid of it and get a new one because after a quick internet search, we found that it was toxic. Within about four weeks, our tumble dryer started giving off a burning smell. We did the usual checks, it wasn't anything to do with the lint filter or trap, nor the base roller, exhaust hose or belt rollers. It ended up kicking the bucket too. After paying out for a new fridge, we really panicked about having to pay for this too. I know a tumble dryer isn't a necessary appliance but with work and school uniforms to wash and dry every evening, the fact that we have no outdoor area to dry clothes and the fact that it was coming into winter, we really couldn't be without one.

In my panicked state, I did brainstorm what we could do like try Zippa Loans, sell some of the many things that I have sitting around my house waiting to be listed on eBay or try to wrangle some quick paying sponsored posts but luckily, my dad came to the rescue and was able to lend us some money. Having something like that happen has definitely made us want to be more money savvy and think that we really need to open a savings account for costs like this.

(This is a sponsored post.)
Friday 2 March 2018

A Guide to Distressing Your Own Denim

Wearing the same clothes day-in, day-out can get boring, so why not get creative and transform some of your old jeans into the hottest distressed denim loved by the likes of Rihanna and Kylie Jenner? It may sound complicated but maxi dresses retailer QUIZ is here to break it down into a step-by-step process.

Before you start
Before you start, you need to carry out some inital preparation. If you don't, you risk acting too hastily and potentially making a mistake that could ruin the overall look of your jeans.

Try on your clean, dry jeans and work out where you want to distress. Pockets, knees and the bum are the most popular parts to modify, as they are the areas of the jeans that naturally wear and tear. Use chalk to mark out where you want to distress.

Creating tears
Inside the jeans underneath where you plan on cutting, you'll need to place a magazine or thick piece of cardboard. This will prevent your knife from slicing both sides of the fabric.

Take a safety knife and carefully cut rips of varying sizes into the denim to create a natural-looking tear. Loosely aim to create a diamond shape using varying sized cuts.

Next, fray the tears you've just made. Along the edge of each cut, gently tease the horizontal white threads using a safety pin, being careful not to break them. Then, using tweezers, pluck out the vertical threads to leave just the white horizontal threads. Repeat this for each cut you have made.

Distressing the denim
At this point, you'll need a piece of sandpaper. Take the sandpaper and rub it across sections of your jeans. Doing so will create a natural-looking colour fade, perfect for adding the finishing touches to your distressed denim creation.

Consider patches
This next step is optional but adding patches to your denim is a great way to show off your individual fashion flair. Bright florals motifs are in vogue and practically leap off distressed denim to give you an eye-catching contrast of grunge and chic. If you want a subtle embellishment, why not go with lace? This is a classic feminine fabric that will dress up your modern distressed denim with retro charm for the ideal smart-casual look.

If patching your denim or distressing it altogether sounds like too much effort, you could head to QUIZ instead to shop their collection of ready-made ripped and patched jeans. However you do it, you definitely need some distressed denim in your wardrobe for the season ahead!

(This is a sponsored post.)