Wednesday, December 17

Christmas gifts for around the home

 
 
You know there are gifts you really want to buy but you can't decide on who to give them to?  They are more a joint present or things you want for yourself so maybe buy for a partner on the pretence of them being to share - or for the home!
 
These are my top picks of gifts for the home, or in other words gifts I want to buy for myself but it's Christmas so that's not really the done thing.
 
 
 

 
I have a huge problem in my house, I am always the one to get up with the children in the mornings, no that's not the problem - the problem is that Paul is still asleep and therefore if I wasn't to get dressed it's dark and I'm not organised enough to get my clothes out the night before.
 
Getting dressed in the dark is relatively easy however finding the clothes I want to wear is next to impossible.  These lights would be the answer to my problems.
 
With no wiring and with batteries lasting for around 8 months even I could put these up.  Just screw the plate into place and slide in the light, these are sensor light so come on when the wardrobe or drawer is opened and turn off when the door is closed again.
 
These can be charged via USB when the battery finally runs out so are cheap to maintain.
 
 
Priced from £41.88 and available from www.sensio.co.uk
 
 
 
 
We love to bake, I enjoy it and the kids love it too.  
 
This lovely set includes a 1.6L mixing bowl, essential kitchen scales and 3 mini shaped cookie cutters.
 
Available in Red or Mint this is a very cute gift for all cookery lovers.  This really would make a lovely gift for a parent and her children to use together, with a non-glass bowl it is great for little fingers and won't break if accidently dropped.
 
The scales come with batteries included so you are set to go, weighs up to 5000g/11lbs
 
Priced at £38.50 and available from www.brabantia.com
 
 
 
 
Perfect stocking fillers for the kids (and me) - why not design your own notebooks using your own photos. 
 
With many options available from on picture using the whole front of the book or little pictures as above, or you can even create a collage effect with many photos - the possibilities are endless.
 
Personalised with names, dates or even messages.
 
Available with lined or plain paper and costing £5.99 each - from www3.snapfish.co.uk
 
 
 
 
This is a rather different type of gift, an old tradition which is returning and with it brings good luck for the next year.
 
From the heart of a British Forest comes www.certainlywood.co.uk rather traditional present – perfect as a gift for any host this Christmas.
 
A seasoned, kiln-dried Yule Log, gift-wrapped and with a limited edition scroll outlining the history behind the Yule Log together with some eco-friendly Flamers – twists of wood wool dipped in wax, handmade in Herefordshire. The Yule Log is lit on the first of the 12 days of Christmas and then a small portion burnt for the next 11 days to bring abundant luck in the forthcoming year.
 
The remainder is then stored and used to light the Yule Log the following year. Priced at £25
 
Heston Blumental Precision - Dual Platform Precision Scales
 
 
 
 
The first of its kind, this original and innovative dual platform kitchen scale can weigh ingredients from as small as 0.1g to as large as 10kg, giving you unparalleled precision in the kitchen.
 
For the keen baker in the house - not for the kids this time.  If you are serious about cooking then these are what you want. 
 
"Successful baking depends on precision.  If you prepare carefully and measure correctly, you should get great results every time.  My new dual platform precision scale makes weighing-out simplicity in itself, no matter what the amount or ingredients." - Heston Blumental
 
Features:
  • Large high capacity platform  - 10kg capacity/1g increments
  • Ultimate precision platform - 200g capacity/0.1g increments
  • Stainless steel platforms - hygienic and easy to clean, with the ability to weigh directly onto the platform or use your own bowl
  • Large clear backlit display and storage case
  • Slim design
  • Aquatronic (liquids: ml or fl.oz), metric and imperial measurements.  Add & weigh functions allows for the measurements of multiple ingredients in the same bowl
Priced at £49.99 and available from John Lewis
 
 
 
 
I love the different smelling soaps you can buy in nice department stores, not the everyday bar type you pick up cheaply in the supermarket with your weekly shop, the hand made ones.  The ones with actual fragrance to them, pieces of petals contained within - you know the type, your Nan use to have it put away for special guests who came to visit.
 
This set from G Baldwins & Co lets you play around and make your own soaps in the comfort of your own home. 
 
With all the equipment and ingredients you need beautifully packaged in a lovely presentation box you can set about mixing the fragrances and making your own wonderful creations to use yourself or to then give away as gifts .
 
The kit contains 6 Bar Silicon Soap Mould, 1kg Organic Soap Base, 1 x 10ml Essential Oil of Lavender (or you can choose tea tree oil, Rosemary oil or Ylang Ylang oil instead), 25g Lavender Flowers, 25g Rose Petals, and our Organic Cotton Apron.
 
Available for £66.79 and available from www.baldwins.co.uk
 
 
 
 
 
This Wi-Fi smart scale connects wirelessly to calculate your BMI and percentage body fat. Available in black or white, the Aria can register up to 8 users so is a gift for the whole family. It will help you get back on track after the inevitable over indulgence this Christmas.
 
They say the scales don't lie - well these definitely won't.  They connect up the your computer or smart phone wirelessly via the WiFi to give a true picture of your weight, you can input your age and height and it will tell you your BMI.  By using the app on your computer or your phone you can see your weightloss progress in front of you in a chart form - set your self goals, earn badges for your achieved goals and losses and you can even input your food intake into your phone/computer to gain a more accurate understanding of your achievements.  Use in conjunction with a fitness tracker and an exercise routine and you will hit targets in no time.
 
Priced at £99.99 and available from www.fitbit.com
 
Costa Christmas Ceramic Mugs
 
 
 
I actually have these on my birthday list (shhh it's my birthday on Sunday). 
 
I am a coffee lover, it's my drink of choice during the day and my favourite is a Caramel or Vanilla Latte made using my Tassimo - can you see my love affair with Costa shining through there?  Well I need to make my own as I don't have a local one near me - not having a car during the week really does have it's downfalls. 
 
The next best thing to a coffee shop visit is to make my own and what better way to enjoy it than in one of these 4 cute Christmas mugs!
 
Priced at £7.95 each they are available in Costa Stores throughout November and December while Stocks last.
 
Disclaimer:  This is a collaborative post.  I have included some affiliate links for convenience.
All prices correct at time of posting.
 
 
 
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Getting Festive with Brewers Fayre

Family time has been lacking in this household recently since Paul started a new job, he is out first thing in the morning and often not home until the kids are off to bed, and he works on Saturday's too.  This means family meals are limited to sitting down together on a Sunday.
 
By that point I'm often so tired I really don't fancy cooking so when we were asked if we would like to try out the new Festive Menu at our local Brewers Fayre we jumped at the chance and headed off last Sunday.
 
The new festive menu is available from:
 
Daytimes:
2 courses for £8.99
3 courses for £10.00
Monday-Thursday 12 noon - 5pm
25th November - 18th December 2014
 
Evenings and Weekends:
3 courses for £13.99
Monday-Thursday from 5pm
Friday-Sunday from 12 noon
25th November - 30th December (excluding Christmas Day and Boxing Day)
 
Kids Festive Menu:
2 courses for £4.99 for children aged 12 and under
Available from 12 noon from 25th November - 30th December (excluding Christmas Day and Boxing Day)
 
Now although the Festive menu had varied options for adults, for children it was VERY limited, so much so that I couldn't order from it for either of my two children as they would have gone hungry.
 
 
 
The kids menu consist of:
Mains:
Roast Turkey served with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, a chipolata, garden peas, root veg mash and gravy
 
Dessert:
Christmas pudding - served with custard or vanilla ice cream
or
Ice Cream - Vanilla, Strawberry or Chocolate flavour, served with your choice of sauce and a biscuit curl
 
Now neither my children are all that keen on a roast dinner and would have only eaten the Yorkshire pudding and peas so it seemed pointless to order that for them, but there also was no vegetarian option - not that my children are vegetarians but it was surprising not to see this as an option as I could have ordered that for them instead (they aren't huge meat eaters and much prefer a pasta type dish, fish pie or even a soup).
 
Instead they chose Macaroni cheese with garlic bread from the normal menu which they were very happy with.
 
For the adults there is a good choice:
 
Starters:
  • Tomato and Basil Pesto Soup - served with half a Ciabatta bread
  • Prawn Cocktail served with buttered brown bread
  • Pork Pate served with slices of toasted bread and cranberry and apple spiced chutney
  • Garlic and Herb Breaded Mushrooms served with BBQ and ranch dipping sauces
Mains:
  • Roast Turkey served with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, a chipolata, Brussels sprouts, root veg mash, sage, cranberry and onion stuffing and gravy
  • Fish Pie served with a lightly dressed side salad and garlic bread
  • Mushroom Tortelloni Bake served with s lightly dress side salad and garlic bread
  • Festive Beef Burger - a 6oz beef burger topped with brie and cranberry sauce, served in a flavoured bun with sliced tomato sauce.  served with potato dippers and coleslaw
Dessert:
  • Christmas Pudding served with brandy sauce and cranberries
  • Mandarin and Cranberry Sundae - Vanilla ice cream with chunks of brownie, mandarins and cranberries, topped with squirty cream
  • Caramel Apple Betty served with custard
  • Warm Chocolate Brownie served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate & fudge sauce
On Sunday when we arrived at just after 4.30pm it was actually rather quiet in our local Brewers Farye, this is always welcomed as you know you won't be in for a long wait - not something you want with young children.
 
After placing our order the food arrived quite quickly, the children were given a Beano comic to look at to keep them amused - unfortunately this was rather too old for them and they weren't interested in it and there wasn't any crayons or paper for the kids either but I do always carry them in my bag so not a problem for us.
 
We all opted for 2 courses - those being a main and a dessert.
I chose the festive burger, Paul the roast turkey and the kids had Macaroni Cheese.
 
For an extra £1.49 and I would recommend this is you like a bigger roast dinner - it will give you extra turkey, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and gravy.
 
 
 
 Harry got a little bored waiting around so by the time his food arrived we had to use a high chair to stop him running around - he was not impressed.
 
The food itself was very tasty, Paul wishes he had upgraded his Turkey dinner for a bigger portion but he now knows for next time and my Burger was delicious.  The brie was a nice change to cheddar and the cranberry sauce went really well with the warm burger.  The kids also cleaned their plates so that was a definite winner for them, and they all stole some of my chips but I didn't complain as my potion was huge. 
 
For dessert I chose the Christmas pudding, Paul opted for the Brownie and the kids had ice-cream
 
 
 With our meals the kids had fruit shoots, Paul and I each had a refillable coke, and I had a large glass of wine while Paul had a beer.  Our bill came to around £45
 
We all enjoyed our meals and it was a nice opportunity to spend a little time together as a family, chatting, laughing and catching up on our week.
 
We plan to spend more family times just catching up on a Sunday over a family meal whether that be at home or out it was nice to see the kids enjoying their food and laughing instead of fighting and moaning they didn't want what I had cooked.

Brewers Fayre are also offering a Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day - you can view the menu here and the cost is 3 courses for £42.99 per adults and 3 courses for £14.99 for kids 12 and under.
 
Disclaimer:  We received a voucher to cover the cost of our food in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts and opinions are our own.
 
 
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Tuesday, December 16

Christmas Gift Guide - For Men

 
 
I often struggle with ideas to get for the men in the family, they seem to already have so much already and never want to tell us what they want, however once again I've been shopping around and have chosen a few gifts to suit all budgets.  I've even included some pocket money gifts which the kids can buy themselves for a special Daddy or Grandad.
 
Braun Series 7 - 790cc
 
 
This is the most advanced shaver released by Braun - perfect for a very clean shaven look.  The Braun series 7 captures more hair with every stroke leaving that just-shaved feeling of smooth skin for longer.
 
Sonic technology and new OptiFoil™ Technology help to deliver Braun's most thorough shave ever.  The 790cc comes with a Clean&Renew™ system for extra hygiene and convenience.

 
Braun's patented Clean & Renew system automatically cleans, charges and lubricates the shaver at the touch of a button, giving the feeling of a brand new shaver every day, prolonging the life of your shaver and the quality of your shave.
 
In the box you will find:
 

What's in the box:
  • Braun Series 7-790cc 3 Shaver
  • Travel pouch
  • Mains Charger
  • Clean & Renew System
  • Clean & Renew Refill Cartridge


This shaver has 3 different settings: Normal, Intensive and Sensitive sonic modes for a more personalised shave, with extendable trimmer for sideburns, beards and precise detailing.

A full charge takes only one hour and with that offers a full 45 minutes of shaving time.

Available in Boots priced at £299.99 however is currently on offer for £199.97.

Dove Mini Travel Gift Tin


A nice little stocking filler at a pocket money price - Contained in a rather cute travel tin are a miniature Deodorant and 2 mini body & face washes. 

Priced at only £5 this could be a gift from the kids - also available from Boots.com and on offer for 3 for 2 currently.

G Baldwin & Co Men's Gift Box


A lovely pamper set for men, because where they admit it or not they like it and need to look after their skin too.

Men’s Range Gift Box contains a collection of Green Tea and Frankincense dedicated products whose combination of essential oils with frankincense and green tea (which are known for their anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties) can help to improve the appearance and condition of your skin.

• Natural Cotton Flannel

• Green Tea & Frankincense Refreshing Facial Wash – combining the revitalising effects of cucumber with cool aloe vera and toning extracts of seaweed, helps to remove everyday grime and pollutants.

• Green Tea & Frankincense Exfoliating Facial Scrub – a deep, toning facial scrub whose use of finely milled bamboo particles with moisturising candellia wax beads and birch bark extract helps you to achieve smooth, polished skin.

• Green Tea & Frankincense Smoothing Shaving Oil- we have blended the nutritious, lubricating and non greasy oils of argan, shea and marula for a non-irritating and smooth skin-conditioning shave.

• Green Tea & Frankincense Hydrating Skin Lotion – Chickweed and Jojoba oils are blended with Ginseng (rich in ginsenoside) to improve skin tone and offer you a healthy complexion.

Priced at £34.99 and available from www.baldwins.co.uk

Yurbuds



Award winning Yurbugs are sports earphones which never hurt and never fall out.
Available for men and women they make a great gift for the sportsman in your life.  Wear in the gym or while running - plan ahead for those new years resolutions!

Designed for comfort, these are sweat resistant and have a nice long 4ft cord.

Priced at £49.99 and available from Wiggle, Runners Need, Apple, John Lewis, Sweatshop and other independent sports retailers.

Hi-Tec Walking Boots



 
These boots are  Altitude V 200 i Waterproof Men's Walking Boot in Dark Chocolate and are prefect for this cold wet and soon to be icy weather.

These best selling boots are made with leather uppers and have a fully waterproof Dri-Tec membrane and 200g of thinsulate insulation so are perfect for keeping not only dry but warm too.  Good for not only the school run with the kids but think of that freezing cold dog walk in the evening! 

They are also coated with an I-shield protective treatment - which is a lightweight, breathable and invisible layer which is water, oil and dirt repellent - which will help keep these looking newer and cleaner for longer - well lets face it, is your partner is anything like mine they won't clean them often!!

You can even puddle jump with the kids in these and would be great in the snow - should we get any this year.

Priced at £84.99 these are made to last.  Available from www.hi-tec.com

Nero Platinum 2015
This is a gift that men and women alike will love - a nice useful one for the computer.

Nero introduces Nero 2015 for burning via smartphone, WiFi streaming & more Nero 2015 Platinum come packed with brand new features and companion apps for Android™ and iOS

 Nero, global multimedia software producer, has released Nero 2015 Classic and Nero 2015 Platinum digital media suites, which makes it easier to burn, rip, play, edit and share digital content anytime, anywhere, on any device. The software suites feature more than 10 brand news mobile apps and major enhancements to Nero’s flagship PC applications: Nero Burning ROM, Nero Video, Nero Recode, Nero Express, and Nero MediaHome. The brand new Android™ & iOS mobile apps include:

  • Nero MediaHome Receiver which streams files directly from PCs or laptops running Nero MediaHome to all Android™ & iOS devices over WiFi. All transcoding happens automatically to ensure maximum compatibility.
  • Nero AirBurn which allows users to wirelessly transfer their files, photos, videos and more from a smartphone or tablet to a PC running Nero Burning ROM and have it burn directly to a CD, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, or disc image.
  •  Nero Manual apps which feature easy-to-understand tutorials, video guides, and tips and tricks for Nero’s flagship PC applications. Running on a "second screen", the manual apps keep the desktop free for running the applications in full screen.

You can read a full post about it here, I have a giveaway to win 2 copies!  Priced at £89.99

Slogan Mug or A novelty desk tidy


Gifts for the office desk perhaps?  The kids can buy these as a joke or novelty gift for Dad - priced at only £1 each from Poundland you can't really go wrong.


Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post and I have included some affiliate links for convenience.
Prices all correct at time of posting
 
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Monday, December 15

Alphablocks Reading Programme

 
 
Emmy is a very reluctant reader, I have been struggling to get her to read her School reading books, and while her friends are moving ahead to the next levels at a great speed, Emmy isn't really interested at all. 
 
Now I know all children learn at different rates and shouldn't be pushed too hard but as a parent you really don't like to see them struggle, and because of her reluctance she is beginning to fall behind.  Again at 4 years old this isn't a huge problem but I want to keep on top of it before it does become a problem.
 
The main thing issue I have is Emmy doesn't like to sit still.  She knows she has to and has to do as she is told at School but at home she doesn't understand that she does have to continue this - heaven help me when she gets homework.
 
We have been looking at the Alphablocks reading programme which is a series of reading and activity aids you are send to look at in the comfort of your own home, for you and your child to look through and work on together.
 
The programme, designed by phonics experts provides children with 15 Alphablocks Reading Programme magazines and Alphablocks resources aimed at stimulating children to reward their improving literacy including finger puppets, letter tiles, games and stickers, plus loads of gold stars to reward achievement. Alphablocks is published by Immediate Media Co, the leading specialist content company, who publish the UK’s leading Pre-School portfolio.
 
The programme is made up of 3 parts - 15 magazines in total which you are sent in 3 separate packages over a 10 month period.

This reading programme starts with the first steps in phonics as taught in schools. The magazines and resources introduce the 26 letters and their sounds, blends, and combinations, allowing you to feel confident in helping your child get started on the exciting journey into reading
 
This means your child can progress and learn at a comfortable pace without feeling overwhelmed.  This programme is aimed at children aged 4-5 years so perfect for Emmy.
 
 
 
 
Over the course of the 3 packs (10 months) you will receive:
  • 15 Magazines
  • Over 450 stickers
  • Over 100 letter tiles
  • 50 Flashcards
  • Word Magic Game
  • Pencil Case and Pencil
  • Word Flip Game
  • Finger Puppets
  • 450 Gold Stars
  • Certificate
In pack one there are 5 magazines, stickers, letter tiles, finger puppets, pencil case with pencil and ruler and a word magic game.
 
The first magazines are a red level - this is a beginners stage with each magazine progressing through the steps slowly and in a fun way to help the children learn while having fun at the same time.
 
Your child is introduced to the Alphablock letters one at a time and the can say and write the sounds they make - play games using the letter sound and learn how to form basic words as well as write them.
 
 
Emmy has really been enjoying these books, they are something we sit down together to do and she like the mix up of writing, reading and games.
 
She hasn't been getting bored as she usually would and I'm hoping as she progresses through these over the next few months she will start to improve and catch up with her friends in class.
 
Using the letter tiles we have in the kit we have been making up our own games, spelling out our names and helping Emmy to form her sounds and letters properly.
 
I will update on how we are getting on with the next packs when they arrive.
 
From a parental point of view I think they are great and are really helping.
 
Priced at £39.99 (plus p&p) for all the sets, which will be delivered in 3 separate packages and available from https://joinarp.alphablocks.tv/
If you cost that out per magazine it comes to £2.66 each - less than a magazine the newsagents!!
 
 
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This room is set to try me!!

When I lived at home with my parents there were 4 of us in our 3 bedroomed house with only one bathroom.  This was a downstairs bathroom,  you manage but as you can imagine there times when someone is in the bath or shower and another needs the loo, and that's when everyone is well - add stomach bugs into the mix too and well that's enough of that!
 
When I moved into this house with Paul the thing I was happiest to have was a downstairs shower room as well as the main bathroom upstairs.
 
No more queuing for the loo, or an audience while having a bath. It was a welcomed feature then but now it's a room which is bugging me and mocking me.
 
A girl can dream!
I always planned to update it, to decorate but it's a room which gets left as other jobs arrived and we're more important.
 
The shower leaks and has sadly made the shower cubicle and shower enclosure mouldy. I've treated it so many times and can often be found with mould sprays, bleach and a toothbrush trying to tackle the problem but it's relentless.   The only solution is see is to eventually replace it all including the shower to a nice new power shower,  one which doesn't leak - oh I dream of a nice powerful shower!
 
 
It seems this room will continue to mock me though as this weekend the lights and fan just stopped working.  I've changed the bulbs but it's not that so now if you use the downstairs bathroom you must do so in the dark or with the door wide open, not so bad but it's almost Christmas and I've people coming and going all the time.
 
Thankfully my lovely brother is coming,  hopefully to my resume Tomorrow to take a look.   He is an electrician so hopefully he can figure out what is wrong with it quickly so I can shower again,  well not that's it's stopped me but seeing what I'm doing would be rather nice and the kids do think it's rather funny to close the door on me so I'm in the pitch black with a head full of shampoo.
 
 
 
Then the next job is adding a lock to the door again.  We used to have one however when Emmy was about 19 months old she managed to lock herself in there.  We had to break the lock off by pulling the door as hard as we could (by we I mean Paul) and breaking the lock.  This was promptly removed and hasn't been replaced - as we know Harry would do exactly the same thing but we do need a lock so will add it back up higher up.  My poor Mum wasn't allowed any peace and quiet from the kids and had to suffer an audience when she came last week (I may have been giggling though as I never get any peace and quiet).
 
Do you have a room in your house which desperately needs doing up?
 
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