Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Goodbye 2015 and Happy New Year!

A usual I like to do a post reflecting on the year that's about to pass and think about the future. It's pretty self indulgent, but it's something I've done for a long time and it's quite a therapeutic exercise.

First of all I can say that this year has been much better than last year. We had such an awful time in 2014 with Star's neck and numerous operations, and of course the dreaded halo that she had to wear twice. This year has been relatively tame in comparison.

The beginning of the year was the first time we had all three children at school. The Little Man had started reception the previous September and Star had returned to school full time after her recovery. It was strange not having a child in the house all day, but I coped.

In February we celebrated the Other Halves birthday by seeing his favourite group Ocean Colour Scene play live which was really good.

In March I grieved for the loss of my favourite author of many years, Sir Terry Pratchett. He was taken far too soon by the embuggerance, as he called his dementia.

In April I went with my eldest daughter to see the Gadget Show Live at the NEC Birmingham. We had V.I.P. tickets which meant we not only enjoyed the exhibition but we got front row seats at the Live Show. We also went on stage to have a look at Jason Bradbury's Back to the Future DeLorean before having a back stage tour, then meeting the cast of the t.v show for chats. It was a very exciting day.

The DeLorean at the Gadget Show

Also in April I went to Blog Camp Birmingham. This is a fantastic event put on by Tots100 and I try to go every year when they come to Birmingham. There is always something new to learn about blogging and it's great to meet up with blogger chums too.

Skipping May, which wasn't exactly boring, but not really exciting either and onto June where I found I out I had made it to the finals of the MAD blog awards. This was the second time I'd made the finals and I have no idea how, I guess someone must read my blog then? Also in June I did the Race For Life and raised some money for Cancer. I will be honest, I didn't run, I've never really been a runner, but I walked the full 5k in exactly one hour! Not bad for an old bird!

The Race for Life

July was rather exciting, kicking off with a theatre trip to see Peter James' Dead Simple. I really do love live theatre so I was thrilled to be able to review this show.
Then we had a really fun day at Hatton Farm starting with the kids testing out bouncy castles.We also had some fun at the adventure farm. Hatton really is one of our favourite places to visit.
Then just as the school summer holidays began we joined in with the Big Hoot in Birmingham, where we had to track down 98 fabulous owls. We didn't manage to find them all but we found loads and had lots of fun.
Finally, at the end of July it was Boo's 8th birthday and we had a cooking party for her and her friends where they made pizzas and knickerbocker glories.

Buttons, the Cadbury World Owl from the Big Hoot

In August I took a very excited Boo on a trip to London to meet the lovely Bee Berrie for a cookery class. We had loads of fun, and even more fun trying to carry all the cakes and cookies she had made on the tube and train home afterwords. This was the most exciting part of being a Happy Eggs Ambassador.

Boo and Bee Berrie at her cookery class

We also had several days out starting with a lovely meal and play at Brewer's Fayre, some more owl hunting for the Big Hoot and trips to the park where we enjoyed some paddling in the stream.
August is also birthday time for Star who opted for a family trip to Pizza Hut and the Little Man who had a bouncy castle birthday party.

Bouncy Castle fun

In September we had our first tragedy when we lost one of our older cats Scribbles. She fell ill quite suddenly and after a few days at the animal hospital we had no choice but to say goodbye to her.
On a lighter note, September  was also the time of the MAD Blog awards and I got to stay at the lush Royal Garden Hotel and enjoy a fabulous evening with some great people. I didn't win, but I never expected to, it was an honour to be there.

In October we had our second tragedy when our other older cat Suzie fell ill. The vet said that there wasn't anything they could do for her but I couldn't let her go until I felt the time was right, so we took her home and had a few more precious days with her.

In November it was time to face something that I had been dreading all year, my birthday. It was not just any birthday though, this year was a milestone and I made it to 40, I mean 50, yes I'm 50, I just don't know how on earth that happened, who stole all those years from me? Actually, it's not as bad as I expected it to be.

Then on to December where we got to see Treasure Island at the Old Rep which was really good, I think me and OH enjoyed the show as much as the kids.
December also brings the Christmas celebrations and this year we had the Little Man's nativity as well as the girls music celebration. We also enjoyed carol singing on the hill, a trip to the Christmas Market and the kids enjoyed their school Christmas parties. We had a lovely Christmas with just our little family and a visit from Santa.

Some things I've not blogged about this year;

Star's health - Although her neck has improved greatly since her fixation she has had other ongoing issues including a trip to A&E with a sprained ankle. She already fractured one ankle without us knowing and then subluxed the other with took a long while to heal, in fact it still hurts now, months later. In March she had an official diagnosis of Elhers Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder, which we believed may help us when we sought help for her injuries, but it seems we have a way to go before doctors will listen. We have also been back to her psychologist who diagnosed her autism and she is arranging help for Star at school and for her transition into secondary school next year. Finally, we are getting a lot of help from the gastroenterology doctor with her stomach problems which she has had since birth but we've always been told that she would grow out of them. Well, she's ten now, and she hasn't grown out of them so they are helping at last.

My health - To celebrate reaching my half century I've had a couple of nasty health scares this year, one which ended up in me being blue lighted to A&E for the first time in my life. I don't remember that being on my bucket list of things to do before I'm 50! Things seem to have settled down for now and I don't have any real answers, but I'm getting the help I need.

At home - We have now been living in our house for over two years and after having to wait 12 months for the plaster to dry and the house to settle before decorating, we have finally managed to decorate the whole of the ground floor of the house as well as the girl's bedroom.

My Wishes for Next Year;

I'm hoping that Star's health doesn't deteriorate. We are going to see a geneticist in February who may give us more indication of what we have to look forward to. I'm also hoping that she copes with secondary school, at the moment it's my biggest fear and something constantly on my mind. 

I'm also hoping that I can move my younger two children to another primary school. I've thought long and hard about this and I really don't think there current school is the right place for them.

We are all really excited and looking forward to our holiday in June to Devon. We've not been away for a few years because of Star being so ill, so it's going to be a real treat. It's already booked and paid for and piggy bank of spending money is already growing, I want to make sure it's a really special holiday. The Little Man can't remember ever going on holiday before. He has been away but he was too young to remember.

I also help that my health doesn't get any worse. I want to be able to enjoy life with my children as much as possible without worrying about my health. 

Of course I'd like to wish for peace in the world and an end to all this violence and war, if only there was a simple answer.

A cure for cancer would be good too, I've seen far too many people inflicted with this dreadful disease, it's time we got rid of it forever.

Now, I feel that my wishes have kind of escalated rather quickly, so I'll leave it there and whatever happens I wish for a Happy New Year to all who read this.

Happy New Year!
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Saturday, 12 December 2015

My Sunday Photo - 13th December 2015

Yesterday my niece turned 18! I made her birthday cake, it's vanilla on the bottom and chocolate on the top, decorated with butterflies and feathers.


Monday, 7 December 2015

Treasure Island - Review

We were thrilled to be invited to watch a performance of Treasure Island at The Old Rep. Birmingham last week. The show is running until the 3rd January 2016 with two performances most days and tickets starting from £12.95 and costing £55 for a family ticket.

The Old Rep is on Station Street Birmingham and can be found directly behind the station, or opposite the new John Lewis store. There are many places to park in the city, the Old Rep offers parking for 4 hours at the NCP car park on New Street. It was built in 1913 and has a lovely classic theatre feel with a steep auditorium, giving every seat a good view of the stage.

Steve Eagles, the writer, has adapted Treasure Island from the original book by Robert Louis Stevenson. The story is condensed and the characters bold. We also have an additional female lead character in Jesse, sister of the book's hero Jim Hawkins.

The show is brought alive by the music of Steve Allan Jones. The tunes are catchy and will have you tapping your toes or clapping along, or you may find yourself charmed by the beautiful mermaid song. From the very start to the very end, the music and dancing is the  soul of this production.

Jesse (Charlotte Swarbrick) and Jim (Gianni Cantone) do a fantastic job of involving the audience, getting the children to join in by helping them and learning their secret handshake. While the wonderfully evil Israel Hands (Barry Shannon) gives the audience the opportunity to boo and hiss. The silver tongued, not quite peg-legged Long John Silver (Ian Crowe) was equally funny and evil with a little good thrown in. There was even a talking, rapping parrot called Beaky Rascal (Adam Bailey) "I say Beaky, you say Rascal"

My girls were captivated by the beautiful mermaid princess (Ella Vise) and her lovely aria. Not quite so the Little Man though, who audibly groaned by her fourth appearance (boys will be boys) But even he was caught up in the mermaid song as he picked up on the waltz beat and started tapping and counting along to the music, 123, 123.

Star has autism and has a fascination for words. She likes to jumble things up and talk with what we call 'wixed up mords.' So, imagine her delight at the appearance of Ben Gunn (David Heywood) who spoke with all his words mixed up. He was most certainly her favourite character of the show. (Sorry, mermaid princess)

The entire performance is fast paced, exciting and fun and will not fail to entertain children of all ages and their grown-ups. It doesn't get too scary or over excited which is great for children like Star who sometimes find performances like this overwhelming. My Little Man is five years old and like a typical little boy finds it difficult to sit still for any length of time, so the fact that he managed to sit through the whole performance shows that it has a good pace of action.

On stage with the cast

As a special treat at the end of the show we were able to meet some of the cast. My children didn't let me down by putting forward really important questions like Boo asking "is the sky really real" and Star asking "was the dead man at the beginning really dead?"

The Little Man was completely thrilled to be given a demonstration of how the ghost appeared from the treasure chest. Oh the fun he would have had if he'd been allowed to play with that box!

I would like to thank the cast and crew for their hospitality and making our visit really special.

Boo, with the Mermaid Princess and Jesse

Disclosure: we were given tickets to the show in return for promoting the show's art competition earlier this year. Star, Boo and Little Man also entered the competition and were thrilled to see their work on the wall at The Old Rep.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Feeling Melancholy

It's not really been a bad week, we put the Christmas decorations up the other day and they look lovely. Everyone is relatively well at the moment, we have lots to look forward to before Christmas and even an exciting weekend ahead. However, the past day or two I've been feeling quite melancholy.

It's around this time of year that I start missing my mum the most. It's the time of year when it all began. Back in 2008 my mum was taken into hospital on 30th November, on the 11th December we heard the words that no-one wants to hear, ever, terminal cancer.

I'd always been close to my mum but there was always someone who needed her more than me, either my younger brother, my step-dad or my nan. I was never number one, but I accepted that and tried not to give her too much hassle, we had a nice relationship and were always able to talk about anything. When I was 19 I told her I was getting married. My older brothers had got married young so it wasn't that unusual. She didn't fully approve but instead of going against me she did her best to make my wedding as special as possible. I don't think I'd have been able to have planned it like she did.

Mum always loved Christmas, and I always loved spending time at Christmas with my mum. It was always a fun family time full of fun and food, from making our own decorations to baking delicious mince pies. She always made it real special. It was harder after nan passed away but we still tried. It was while before we had a big family party but we had to celebrate the new millennium in style.

That's the night things started to go wrong. Two days later I had a falling out with my mum and we didn't speak to each other for five years. I think this was one of the toughest times in my life. I'd just split with my husband, I had two children, one had just received a diagnosis I'd not expected, the other had suffered a trauma, and I was trying to hold down a full time job while being a single mum. How could I do all this without my mum's support. For the next two years lots of horrible stuff happened but I survived. I also found a new partner.

I started speaking to mum again when I was expecting Star. It started with a card that I gave to my auntie to pass on. (It was so bad I didn't even know where she lived!) Then I received a letter in reply. (Which I still have.) It took nearly nine months for us to get to the stage of seeing each other and a further two years to seeing each other on a regular basis. Even then we had bars on certain conversations. I can't talk about what happened, but for the record neither of us had done anything wrong, we'd just taken sides with others. She'd sided with someone who needed her more than me, and I'd sided with someone who needed me more than her.

2008 was going to be our first Christmas together since the turn of the century. We'd repaired our relationship to the stage where we were able to share this special day together again. We'd made plans on what we were going to do, what food we were going to buy, even what tv programs we were looking forward to.The previous Christmas I'd called her on the day, this year I was going to see her. As soon as they appeared I picked up as many of the shops Christmas catalogues as I could and we browsed them together. We wrote lists, lots of lists.
I did spend the day with her, but it wasn't how we had planned.

When the Doctor told us it was cancer we wanted to know what the treatment was, when it would start. The Doctor said there was nothing they could do but make her comfortable and that she only had weeks left. It was only 13 days to Christmas, our first Christmas together in 8 years.

Mum wanted to go home immediately.

I understood.

I took her.

She wasn't home for long, my older brother decided she'd be better cared for in a hospice.

Christmas morning came. I had two little girls then, Boo was just a year old and Star was three. They opened their presents and I put them in pretty dresses and we rushed off to visit nanny. I had to spend Christmas with her, we hadn't spent Christmas together for so long and it was going to be our last one. Our last Christmas.

We walked into her room and I immediately got Dad to take the girls out again. They went to play in the relatives room.
I sat by mum. She was asleep. She didn't wake up. I spent my last Christmas with my mum while she slept.
I said goodbye to my mum on that last Christmas Day together.

Before my mum was laid to rest I endured a second bereavement that Christmas. Someone that needed her more than I had ever done but I'm not ready to share that story.

Seven years later and the pain eases, but never goes away. Some days I feel it's all I have left. Some days I enjoy the happy memories instead. Grief never leaves you, but then neither does love.

I miss my mum and I feel robbed of that last Christmas together, but at least I had the chance to be with her.

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Thursday, 3 December 2015

How We Made Over The Kids Bedrooms

Today I'm introducing a guest post from Sally Morton, a very savvy mum who shows us how she made over her kids bedrooms on a budget, giving the kids a valuable lesson in the process!

My kids have been hinting that hey have outgrown their bedrooms for some time now, so I decided that maybe it was time for a makeover and an upgrade. And after I sat down with the kids to get an idea of what they were looking for in their new bedrooms, I pulled out my budget and started working out some numbers. I figured that it was going to take some serious cutting back and our holiday budget may suffer because of that, but thankfully I managed to find some pretty useful Discountrue coupons for Hotels.com  which allowed us to enjoy both he vacation and the makeover!
Soon I laid out the plan to my kids, they agreed to the deal and started planning what they wanted their personal spaces to look like.

Step One

First of all, if we knew there was something basic we were going to need to buy, such as paint ad sandpaper, we looked for special occasions. We also decided to go the DIY route so that we'd save even more. It was logical that the primary colour for the rooms should be something as plain and neutral as possible, because they cost the least. And then each of my kids added their own personal touch to make their rooms to their personal tastes.

The Walls

My son adores Batman, and I'm pretty sure he always will (I haven't met a single boy who doesn't think he is the coolest superhero ever) so he decided he was just going to have a more grown up version of that theme in his room. He painted one wall black (my poor heart!) and then painted a large stylised version of the Bat Signal in yellow. This cost us a little more than planned because our idea of projecting the mural onto the wall didn't work with the particular image he chose. We ended up making the image half the  he originally wanted and creating a 'blackout' stencil then sort of winging it!

My daughter love the ocean and anything mystical like fairies, mermaids or unicorns. So to personalise her room she created a feature wall using a rich ocean blue and and fading into a bright sky blue.  To make the tow colours blend together better she first divided the two paint colours out in equal parts (we had coffee tins all over her room!) then roughly divided the wall into five sections from top to bottom. The very bottom of the wall got pure ocean blue , and the very top got pure sky blue, the middle section got an equal blend of the two, while the other two sections got a blend of three to one parts (more ocean at the bottom, more sky at the top) We than used a sponge to 'smudge' the dividing lines into each other. And finally she finished the wall with a large vinyl decal of a tribal style mermaid.

The Decor

We then headed for a various stores and browsed yard sales to find some old furniture and the other odds and ends (like lamps and picture frames) we needed to finish everything off. y son found two different black and yellow comforter sets online which he got at over 50% discount by combining coupons with a seasonal sale. My daughter searched forages and eventually found one comforter set and duvet set that perfectly matched the colours she'd chosen for her feature wall and suited her ocean theme, although her savings weren't quite as dramatic as my sons!
For my son's room we found an old steel 3/4 bed that he fell in love with so we decided to stick to that idea an found an old army chest to use for a side table come storage space, a steel and wood desk that we replaced the top of, and old metal office shelving that we had sandblasted to get rid of rust and old paint. Finally we painted everything in a gunmetal grey and bought clear plastic storage containers so that everything on the shelves can be arranged as neatly as possible (as neatly as any boy can manage!) WE finally covered a huge cork board in black felt, made a yellow frame from skirting he conned a neighbour into donating and mounted it on the wall.
The first thing we found for my daughters room was an old wooden L-shaped wiring desk with drawers. So we sanded it downs and painted it in a sort of silvery pearl white colour, then replaced all the wooden handles with silver ones. Her bed has drawers underneath it and she loves all the storage space it gives her, so instead of replacing it, we simply disguised the dark wood by jury rigging a white night frill/curtain to hide the drawers.Then we used an old duvet and layered scarves in different shades of blue over the headboard. We found a matching set of  battered wooden chairs which we refinished in the silvery pearl we already had, used on for the desk an and two as side tables while the  last found a home in my studio/office. Finally we copied the cork board form son's room, although my daughter's is covered in a satiny silver material.


And there you have it. All together the whole project still cost me a pretty penny,which is why I had to save up for three months beforehand. Now that may seem a little extreme but this is going to be the last major upgrade my kids get before they head off to college and their own lives so I decided to spoil them a little. Plus I really liked the fact that they both tried hard to stick within their assigned budgets and were careful to only choose items that they could see themselves still liking years from now! In fact within the first week of saving I already had both them coming to me with questions and ideas about what was possible withing their budgets! And that made me feel good because it meant all my hard work has paid off and i have saving savvy kids.

Thanks Sally, I'm looking for ideas for my son's bedroom and I'm pretty sure he likes Batman too. My girls already have their room done and went for a purple flowery theme.

"JuJuHd" by Trollen67 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Dear Santa

Dear Santer,
I relly like Chrismas and it's my favoriot time of the year and I was thinking about that if your relly real send me a letter please and put your name on the letter so I know YOUR real. I do belive in you still but is it true that when people don't belive in you they get stupid presents and they get unapropret stuff. If this is true put true, but if not put false if the other one. I gave you the thing you needed to do. I hope you have a happy chrismas Santer and I will give you the best mint pie, drink and the best carrots because I like your raindeers,
yours senserly,
Boo :)

This is my 8 year old daughter's letter to Santa, completely unedited. Do you think he will read it? I wonder what he will reply. The inappropriate stuff she is talking about comes from a conversation we were having, if you don't believe in Santa, you only get socks for Christmas. I guess she thinks socks are inappropriate, so I best not get her any, I wonder if pyjamas are ok?

She also wrote a list for the big man;

This is the stuff I want Santer
A pair of Warlky Talky
new teddy
pokemon deck zapdoze
Another Santer book
a little toy
a Teksta puppy and
Teksta dinosaur
Bye, and who wrote this list is Boo :)

Nothing on that list is anything she has asked for previously, and as you can imagine, with five children I have most of my Christmas shopping sorted. As her big brother pointed out, the Santa list is not for Mummy though, it's for Santa. I may be able to provide a few of the things on the list, apart from the last two items there is nothing really expensive on there after all. 

Next we have to work on some Christmas spelling :)

Christmas (with a T in the middle)
Santa, not Santer
Reindeer (although she was pretty close)
and I'm pretty sure Santa will prefer Mince pies to Mint pies ;)

Merry Christmas Boo, may all your wishes come true xxx

Sunday, 29 November 2015

How to Make the Most out of a Small Bedroom for a Child

A major problem with most homes is that child bedrooms are often quite small. Even if you're lucky to have a home with big rooms, no room will ever be as big as your child's imagination to run riot fully. Here are a few tips to make sure your child's bedroom is big enough for them to play as well as sleep.

Fitting a bed into a small room can be frustrating but also obviously that's what turns a room into a bedroom. The bed is essential for the night time but will often just get in the way of the child's play during the day. That's why it's best to get a bed that serves more than just one purpose. For example, you could get a trundle bed that doubles as a comfy chair that they can read books on during the day. The Serene Eleanor day bed fro Bedstar can be turned from an extremely comfy chair into a bed within minutes. It even has the option of creating a second bed that raises to the same height if your children share a room or ever want a sleepover. It's built with a sprung slatted base for extra comfort and out of a beautiful hardwood so will look stylish in any room.

Once you've sorted the bed, it's time to look at how else you can maximise the space in your child's bedroom. when it comes to furniture, only put in what your child really needs. Your child's clothes are probably much smaller than yours, so they won't need as much space to store them. Buy a tall, narrow wardrobe to save on floor space. If you struggle to fit all your child's clothes in it, you could install a second rail below where the other clothes sit to use up that wasted space at the bottom of the wardrobe.

Other than a bed and a wardrobe, children don't really need any other furniture in their room. If they enjoy having a drink at the side of their bed at night, swap their bedside table for a small floating shelf at the side of the bed. then you'll have more freedom on what can store underneath. If they want a chair or table to play board games or do art and craft, choose ones that will fold away when they're not using them.
Now you've created a lot of room, you'll need to make sure you have enough storage so their toys don't end up cluttering the floor. Buy boxes that will easily stack on top of each other to give them more floor space. You could even colour code them or label them to help them know where their toys need putting away. Install some shelves within their reach where they can store their books and smaller toys. Also make use of wasted space like on your door by buying a hanging organiser  with lots of different pockets.

Once you've done all of this, your child will have lots more room to play games in. The only problem will be reminding them to put their toys away at the end of the day so it stays tidy.

Disclosure: Written by Emily West

Saturday, 28 November 2015


Fifty! All year that number has been haunting me, but there is no turning back now. I look into the mirror and it's a 50 year old woman that's looking back at me.

I don't feel 50, I'm still stuck somewhere between my late 30s and early 40s. The kids really do keep me feeling younger. The other 'older' women picking up kids from reception class are generally grandmothers not mothers.

I did think about having a party to celebrate my Big Birthday, but I knew I'd end up doing all the work and I didn't fancy that. I don't mind doing it for others but I wouldn't have enjoyed doing it for myself. So I though about a night out, but then I got plagued by illness so I have postponed until I'm feeling better. I have the dates booked so no worries, and not long to wait.

So, how did the day go?

Well, I did feel really spoilt by my friends and family.

I woke up to some lovely cards and presents.

I was really surprised by some of them, and may have been feeling a little emotional when I opened the very last book ever written by the late great Terry Pratchett.

My eldest Daughter brought me a Sat Nav to help me stop getting lost (along with lots of other gifts, I'm sure she gets paid too much!) and my son bought me lots of chocolates (And I mean LOTS) and my gorgeous new babies Doc and Marty my Roborovski hamsters. Here's a sneaky peak, but I'll be posting more about them soon. They are so cute, so tiny and so fast!

Then while we were waiting for our takeaway to be delivered, you can't cook on your birthday, I had these delivered from my lovely online friends. They are beautiful.

Of course after dinner there was cake, made by Boo and Dad. They did a real good job too!

I've decided that being fifty is not so bad. We all have to get older, there is nothing you can do about it so why fret.  

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Breakfast With Santa at Brewers Fayre

I love taking the kids to visit Santa and we try to do something different each year. This year we were invited to preview the Breakfast with Santa a Brewers Fayre at the Guild in Bromsgrove.

As it was breakfast we had an early start but the kids were eager to get ready and go out to meet the Big Man himself. I'm not really sure that the girls still believe in Santa but they went along with it. The Little Man was most excited and thought we were going to the North Pole. What a pity the snow from the night before didn't stick around as it would have looked great driving through the hills to get there. Saying that, I don't really drive in the snow so probably a good idea it didn't stick!

We were shown to our table on arrival and the kids went straight into the colouring in and activities set out for them.

Then we helped ourselves to a choice of continental breakfast and cereals. There was a lot on offer and plenty of tea, coffee and soft drinks to wash it all down. The kids went straight for the cereal, but also had toast and croissants.
While tucking into breakfast we were visited at the table by Santa himself, looking very authentic and causing the Little Man to gasp 'It's really him!'

Then each table in turn was taken to visit Santa in his grotto. Santa was very accommodating and made the kids feel at ease as he chatted with them. He did look very much like the real Santa, who should be really busy in the North Pole right now! The kids were soon chatting away telling him all the things they wanted for Christmas and nearly giving me a heart attack! (How come they tell Santa the want the really really expensive things that they never mention to me?) Then Santa gave them all a little present (Denis the Menace related) and the kids asked sheepishly if they could open it straight away, to which Santa agreed if it was okay with mum and dad.

After our visit to the grotto, it was time for our cooked breakfast which was rather nice. The kids especially liked their sausages, which they exclaimed loudly, were much  nicer than mummy's sausages that they had at home. 

When breakfast was over it was time to have some fun in the play area, which as always with Brewers Fayre,was superbly equipped for a fun time. 

The Breakfast with Santa at Brewers Fayre starts on 5th December and is on every weekend until Christmas from 10am to 11.30am. It will also be on from Monday 21st December to Thursday 24th December. The cost is £8.99 per child and for this you get breakfast, a visit to Santas grotto with a gift and lots of other craft activities while you are waiting. You can find all the details and book your place locally by visiting the Brewers Fayre Website.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Our Favourite Christmas Books

The Little Man has already has me reading his favourite Christmas books at bedtime. He loves the stories to help him build up his excitement as we race towards the holiday season. I love them too and here I am sharing a few of our favourites.

Santa is Coming to Birmingham

by Steve Smallman

This is definitely one the Little Man will always ask for. I know this book is set in Birmingham but you can get the story in various towns across the UK.

Buy from Amazon.co.uk

The story tells of Santa visit going a little awry but the day is saved by a new little reindeer out on his first ever journey. It features some famous landmarks that will be recognised and is loads of fun. Although it doesn't actually mention our suburb, it does mention some  nearby.

Mouse's Christmas Wish

By Judi Abbot

A lovely story about animal friends coming together to spend Christmas together. But everything is going wrong for little mouse. Will he ever make it to his friend Rabbit's house or is he doomed to spend Christmas alone?

A feel good book that has a little twist at the end. Of course everyone knows that Christmas is best spent with friends.

Buy from Amazon.co.uk

Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom: Christmas Adventure

Such a big favourite on the television, Ben and Holly have a fabulous adventure when Father Christmas makes a surprise visit to the Little Kingdom. The grown-ups get trapped in various Christmas decorations and it's up to Ben and Holly to rescue them.

The Little Man has grown out of Peppa Pig and no longer watches Ben and Holly, but we do love this story it is such fun.

Buy from Amazon.co.uk

The Sheep that Saved Christmas.

by Jason Page

Everyone knows someone like Cynthia, someone that is crazy about Christmas. Only Cynthia is a sheep and her woolly friends are a little fed up of her festivities all year round, so they send her off to the North Pole to help Father Christmas. The problem is, there is not a lot a sheep can do to help...or is there?
Cynthia is a loveable character, you can't help but wish that it all turns out good for her in the end.

So that's what we are reading for now, I'm sure our Christmas collection will grow, we still have some old favourites tucked away that haven't found there way out yet.
What are your kids favourite reads at Christmas time, I would love to know.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

My Sunday Photo 22 November 2015

Breakfast With Santa

Yesterday we met Santa for Breakfast. This photo is very special to me. There may be other photo opportunities with Santa this year but I realise that this may not be the case for much longer. In fact I know that the girls no longer really believe and are just going along with it. Of course the Little Man is still very much a believer, but this will probably be the last year that I have all three buying into the Santa mystery.


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Frozen Toiletries Gift Wish List

 My Boo loves Frozen, she had a fabulous Frozen Birthday party last summer, we even had snow in July! This Christmas she has helped me put together this gift wish list of Frozen toiletries.

Frozen Lip Balm Trio.

Now the weather is colder, Boo suffers from sore lips a lot and she loves her lip balm to keep them soft and smooth. This pack contains three beautiful crystal balls filled with lip balm in three delicate shades and sweet smells. They make a lovely gift and can be purchased for £6 from Boots.

Frozen Bath and Beauty Wash Bag.

This lovely bag comes with a selection of toiletries, 50ml Hair Spritz, 50ml Bath and Shower Gel, 50ml Shimmer Lotion, 30ml Body Sprtiz and 2x Bath Fizzers. The bag is reuseable and very good quality, Boo's eldest sister has already tried to nab it for her make up! Boo really loved the bath fizzers and can't wait for the party season to use the glittering hair spritz. A lovely gift at £10 from Boots.

Shimmer and Sparkle Bubble Bath 

This was our favourite. An adorable bottle with a jewelled lid, decorated with a bracelet and shimmery ribbon. The bubble bath shimmers when shaken and the whole thing is just really pretty. Boo loved the bracelet and couldn't wait to wear it. The bubble bath produces lots of shimmery bubbles when poured under running water. At just £5 it's a lovely gift or stocking filler from Boots.

Boo's Verdict.

Boo thought all the items were really lovely. The lip balms were very cute and she is always popping a little onto her lips, she said they make her lips feel smooth and taste nice.
The wash bag is really pretty and full of lovely things. She said she loves the picture on the bag and want to be a Queen of Snow, now she wants it to snow! The bath fizzers were great fun and made the bath all pink and sparkly.
Boo's favourite was the Bubble Bath because the bottle was so pretty and the bubble bath sparkled when you shook it. She loved the bracelet too.

All products can be purchased from Boots. They are not suitable for under 3 years old. They are not edible. 

Disclosure: We were sent these products to review in return for our honest and unbiased opinions. 

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Where is the Train to a Better World?

Over the weekend I saw most of my friends Facebook profiles turn blue, white and red in support of the people in France. I also saw people slam Facebook for doing this because they have not offered the same support for other countries that have suffered similar atrocities, like Beirut. In truth it's happening all over the world and it is horrifying.

Still, when it happens so close to home it strikes a chord, those of us in European countries know it could be us next, or our family. It scares us, shocks us and we join together in support and mourning.

Does this really have to drive a divide between East and West though?

For some maybe, after all, those that are instigating the attacks are coming from the East are they not. Even if those carrying out the attacks may be natives to the West, and some are, they are receiving their instructions from elsewhere.

We cannot let this cloud our minds though, there are just as many people, innocent people suffering in the Middle East. That's why they are running away, coming to us for help. They are being attacked by the same people who are attacking us. They are not opposing us.

Beyond the blame, beyond the cause, we have human beings being slaughtered in many countries on a regular basis and this is wrong.

It's also driving a wedge between those of us that are not fighting, causing us to oppose each other's opinions, argue with each other. It's not just them and us any more.

Why are we allowing this?

The media will always give us more coverage of attacks closer to home. Most of the attacks are carried out far from home and we only get more news coverage when they happen in holiday destinations like Tunisia or Turkey.
We will feel more shock at countries that are attacked that are not in the Middle East because the fighting has been going on so long there we are more accustomed to hearing about it.
I'm not saying that either of these things are right or wrong, but we shouldn't be arguing with each other about them.

Straight away people were saying close our borders, stop them from coming into our country. Yes, we are scared, but the sad thing is, they are probably already here. That doesn't mean they are among the Asian family that run your local shop or restaurant though, or even those refugees that have just arrived in camp. It's easy to think that the terrorists have sneaked in with those. The truth is we can't tell, we have to put our faith in the experts to find out where they are and weed them out. One of the terrorists in Paris was French, remember that. Again, it's just something to drive a wedge between us, those of us that should be sticking together, standing together, keeping everything together.

We should know who our enemy is, We should stand together. Don't let them turn us against each other because we are stronger as one.

We may not be fighting with kalashnikovs or bombs but we should not be attacking each other with words either.

I will show my support to Paris but I will also think of the families lost in Beirut.
Also, this year, France, Libya,Yemen, Tunisia, Afghanistan,Texas, Baghdad, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, Egypt, Turkey and Bangladesh, some of these places have been attacked more than once.

I will continue to teach my children how to accept other people's views and opinions gracefully even if they don't totally agree with them. I will teach them right from wrong, and mostly that harming other people is wrong. Will there even be a future for my children with the way the world is turning? If there was a train to  a better world then I'd be first in line to buy my family a ticket.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Three Different Kinds of Poorly

I know every child is different but it really shows when you have three young children with three very different personalities. I've written about this before when they were doing an afternoon of decoupage. This time I'm observing how different they are when they are poorly.

I'll start with Boo. She's been really poorly a few times since they started back to school in September, she seems to catch everything  that's going around, but mostly ear, nose and throat infections. I was the same as a child and had a tonsillectomy by the time I was Boo's age. When she's poorly she's very subdued and sleeps a lot. If not sleeping she'll lie on the settee watching tv. She rarely complains, even if she's being sick or in real pain. I tend to worry about her more because she doesn't complain. I always know when she's not feeling well because the first thing she'll ask is for me to take her temperature.

Star, is not ill very often, which is probably a good job considering everything else she has to put up with. She has pain in her joints on a daily basis and her stomach problems would make an adult squirm, these things she deals with and just gets on with it. She'll ask for painkillers or a wheat bag, or a rub if it's her knees hurting, and that's it. Oh, but it's a different story if she has a cold or sore throat or similar, it's like the world is ending. We have constant moaning and groaning, constant demands for drinks and hugs. We can't leave her alone for two minutes, she needs lots of attention. I find it quite amusing really, and I do tend to humour her.

Finally we have the Little Man! Who quite refuses to be ill. One minute he can be throwing up all over the bathroom, then two minutes later he wants to play Minecraft or bake cupcakes. "I'm all better now Mummy" he'll exclaim with his pasty face and burning temperature. Trying to get him to lie down and relax for more than five minutes is a nightmare. He has to be really, really poorly to rest at all. Thankfully, with all this daytime activity, he does sleep well at night now. At least his poor little body gets some chance to recover. He doesn't get sick very often, today he's off school, the first day off this year, and I mean since January! He was poorly during half term for a day though. He's such a little whirlwind though, no time to get sick.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

What to do in Birmingham

I've lived in Birmingham all my life and I love my City. Of course I'd like to be closer to the sea side, but being central it's never that far away.

I'd like to share some of my favourite places in Birmingham with you, some are obvious, some not so obvious but I'm sure there is something for everyone.

If you need to stay over Birmingham has a selection of fabulous Travel Lodge hotels for you to stay in, including five in the city centre. Look our for their new upgraded rooms which are more comfortable than ever and each room has a new king size bed.

Shopping in the Centre.

It's worth a trip to Birmingham just for the shopping. Come by train and you will most likely to arrive at Grand Central, a brand new station and shopping centre with lots of new shops including a great John Lewis store. There are also many places to grab something to eat. Then right next door you have the Bullring Shopping Centre, three floors of fabulous shops with something for everyone. That's before you've even stepped outside onto the high street! The shopping experience just goes on and on. If you fancy a break there is the Museum and Art Gallery you could visit, or the library. Why would you want to visit a library? Well, just take a trip to the roof garden and soak in that view! If you come around Christmas time (12th November to 22nd December) you can catch the wonderful Frankfurt Market, which extends to the Christmas Market and Craft Fair.

Birmingham Symphony Hall

Just a stones throw from the library you will find Birmingham Symphony Hall. Maybe you fancy catching a show, coming soon you will find Will Young and Jimmy Carr, or maybe you will like something classical, there is plenty to choose from, from Beethoven to Mendelssohn.

The auditorium is a model of a modern concert hall with superb acoustics so whatever you decide to see you will enjoy.
Or you could even opt for a tour of the hall, they are held frequently.


Just the other side of the  Symphony Hall you will find one of Birmingham's famed canals. The canals have been restored and are now a lively hub of activity with bars and restaurants. You can take a trip on a barge, or just take a barge taxi to another canal area, the Birmingham Mailbox.

Think Tank

On the other side of the City is the Think Tank, which is Birmingham's brilliant science museum. It's a real fun day out for all the family with so much to do and learn. There is even a fabulous science garden to explore on nicer days. It's a wonderfully interactive museum which will capture imaginations. You can explore the science behind manufacturing, see the world's oldest working steam engine, find out about the future, visit the planetarium and much more.

Sea Life Centre

Birmingham also has a wonderful Sea Life Centre which has been voted one of the best things to do in Birmingham. It has an interactive rockpool, a 4D cinema and a colony of  Gentoo penguins in the Penguin Ice Adventure. An all time favourite has to be the 360 degrees tunnel with the sharks and giant turtle called Molokai.

Cadbury World

If you want to venture out of the City Centre then why not visit the home of chocolate...Cadbury World. This is where Cadbury's chocolate began. It's not just about the factory though, Bournville is a whole community which was built for the workers at the chocolate factory. (Because the Cadbury's were Quakers by religion, you will not find a pub in Bournville!) The tour of Cadbury World is fun and enlightening, with lots of taste testing on the way. There is a Chocolate shop you can visit, and many photo opportunities. If you visit, do take a look around Bournville village too. Just across the road from Cadbury World you will see a Clock Tower which hosts a Carillon, which is one of the largest and finest in Britain. It is actually 48 bells held in a cupola which are worked by a keyboard, so the tunes that can be played are quite amazing. You can hear the Carillon being played at the weekend in the afternoon. 

Whatever you decide to do I'm sure you'll find plenty to keep you happy and occupied in Birmingham.

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

A little Note About Positive Reviews on Raisie Bay

Some people only write reviews when things go wrong with products, which is good because it lets people know that there could be potential problems. I've also seen negative feedback with say things like, I had to return this item because the colour did not suit me...is this useful?

I write reviews on most items I buy because I like to give genuine feedback. If I have a genuine problem with a product I will write my review in the appropriate place.

I write reviews on my blog too, but they are mostly positive. Why? Because I only write reviews for the things I've loved. If I don't love them I let the person who sent me them know with details why and then let them decided if they would rather me write a negative review or not write one at all. It's always the latter.

This is my blog, my place and I'll let you know about the things I love. If you want to find out what other people have hated about the product then you will need to look elsewhere.

My reviews may all be positive, but they are still genuine.
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