Monday, 27 March 2017

Splodge Teddy Parties - Review

My girls love their cuddly toys and love making things so Splodge Teddy Parties already tick two of their boxes. Boo also loves birthday parties and each year I try to think up something a little different for her. We've had everything like puzzle parties, cooking parties and last year we had a craft party.

This year we are planning a Splodge Teddy Parties and we were thrilled to get the chance to try out a couple of the bears in advance.

Splodge Teddy Parties offer a selection of bears to make yourself at home. They also offer bulk buys of bears and cuddly toys for you to use in your own bear party. You can also get extras like clothes for the bears, party invitations, t-shirts for personalising and colour in party bags to take the bears home. The bears come in two sizes, 8 inches and 16 inches, and you can choose from lots of different packs, like teddy bears, dogs, zoo animals, pets and even dragons and unicorns. Something for everyone!

You can also buy the bear packs individually and my girls were really excited to choose a wolf and a unicorn to make.

When the packs arrived we were presented with our unstuffed cuddly toys, a pack of stuffing, a few little hearts to choose from, a bag to colour and a birth certificate for the toys. The girls were keen to get started and the instructions were simple.




They filled their cuddly toys with the stuffing, making sure to get it into the legs first. It took them a while to do but they enjoyed watching their toys getting fatter with their work.

When the toys where fully stuffed the girls chose a heart, made a wish, give the heart a kiss and then stuffed it into their toys.




Finishing off the toys was really simple. The stuffing had been placed inside a fabric bag inside the
toy and now it need tying off. there was a tie on the bag which just needed a pull and then you tucked it inside the toy. We thought the tie was a little long and as it was plastic we decided to cut a bit of it off first. Then there is a velcro fastening on the top which you have to pull a strip off first before closing it. It then sticks really well to keep the stuffing inside and you can hardly notice the join. Best of all, no fiddly sewing to do!



After stuffing their toys the girls put on their clothes, a t-shirt for Boo's unicorn and a sweater for Star's wolf. Then it was time to colour in the bags.






I timed the activity and from opening the packs to finishing all the activities it took the girls almost an hour. (55 minutes) I think this is an excellent time scale for a party activity, although it may take a little longer with several more children taking part.

The girls had so much fun and they really really love their new cuddly toys.



As well as the individual bears, at Splodge Teddy Parties you can also buy bulk packs of bears for a party, Me to You Bears, Minions and a whole stock of party supplies like plates, cups and tablecovers. In fact everything you need for your party.

I think the pricing is really good too, a single 8 inch toy with accessories (heart, bag, birth certificate) costs around £7. A larger 16 inc toy costs around £10.50. party packs of bears start at £35 for five. Take a look at Splodge Teddy Parties and see what you think, would your child like a Teddy Party?


Disclosure: I was sent the cuddly toys for the purpose of this review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

After Mother's Day

Mother's Day is always bitter sweet for me. My Mum is no longer here and even though it's been more than nine year now it still hurts, especially on special days, like birthdays, Christmas  and of course Mother's Day.

Then there is the fact that I am a Mother myself. I don't always get treats from my kids and there have been years when I've looked on with envy as I see other Mother's posting photos of the wonderful gifts they have received off their children or their children's Dad. I often had to be happy with the home made cards brought home from school. Lately, I've been one of the Mum's with gifts as my eldest children have become older and my Husband a little more thoughtful. But, in all honesty it's not really about the gifts is it?

Just being appreciated for all you do for your children is what most Mum's long for. A kind word, a thank you, a caring gesture. Mum's need loving too, you know.

I often wonder if I'm good enough. I've made mistakes along the way, you don't really notice until your child is grown up. It's hard not to look back and think I wish I'd done this differently, or maybe I should have been more strict, more lenient, more fun, more attentive.....you always think you could have been, just more!

I worry about my children all the time and if I'm a good enough mum.



When my Mum passed away she left all her children a letter, it was the same one for us all. She'd written a poem and it was the saddest thing I ever read. Her life had never really been easy and had left her feeling quite bitter and sad. She'd let everything consume her and couldn't see the happiness she'd had in life. She must have been happy sometimes. I can't remember her always being bitter and sad, in fact, quite the opposite. She was always singing, laughing and joking around and I remember her being the life and soul of many a family party. There were lots of happy times, it was just sad that she'd chosen to focus on the bad instead.

I made a vow right then that no matter how bad things got I would never be bitter and sad no matter what life threw at me. I will always focus on the good times and remember how happy I was. I will always look forward to the good times to come because no matter what they always will.

When you are a mother, your child is your first concern, but you have to take care of yourself too. You have to be happy and create happiness no matter how tough life gets. And never, ever, blame your children for your unhappiness.







RachelSwirl

Saturday, 25 March 2017

My Sunday Photo - 26th March 2017

playing hide and seek in the woods


























Last week we went out! It wasn't a great day, dark, cold and drizzly, but we needed some fresh air so we went to the local bluebell woods to play hide-and-seek. Can you spot Boo in the photo? I think maybe my kids need some more practice on hiding.

hide and seek in the blue bell woods



























The Little Man is just as bad!!
The big disappointment was NO BLUEBELLS. Despite seeing lots of photos of flowers and bluebells online my journey to the wood to see them was a big let down. Although you can see them getting ready to bloom, so far there are none, not one! Now this is the place I used to go to to pick bluebells for my Mum for Mother's Day. so I'm sure they should have bloomed by now.

I wasn't sure how I would manage in the woods knowing that my wheelchair would be near impossible to push on the small muddy paths.

I had a little walk! I don't think I managed to get more than ten feet from the car, but I was there, in the woods, on my feet. I wanted to walk further but I knew that the further I went then the further I'd have to get back and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to manage it. I have to know my limitations.

It was so nice to get out in the fresh air and watch the kids play. I hope we can do it again soon, and that the bluebells will be in bloom.



I like to share the blogs I visit through the Sunday Photo linkies on my Pinterest Board.

If you like my photo you might like my videos too, please check out my latest video on You Tube 


Photalife

Sunday Snap


Friday, 24 March 2017

The Pirate Craft Book - Review

I remember a couple of years ago The Little Man had a pirate day at school. He has never been the best at dressing up, refusing to wear things I'd bought or made, but I did want him to join in with the other kids. However, this is wear I discovered that making costumes was not really my forte. He ended up going to school in a pair of black baggy trousers and a white t-shirt with a belt. We went in to see the class assembly and he looked pretty rubbish compared to the rest of the kids.

I have been sent a copy of The Pirate Craft Book to review and my first thoughts on receiving it were, if only I'd had this book then. I'm sure The Little Man would have been more obliging if he'd help me to make his costume. And I'm sure he would have looked much better had I been in possession of all the lovely ideas in this book.


Authors: Laura Minter and Tia Williams
ISBN: 978178943288
£5.99
Pub.April 2017
GMC Publications


The book contains 15 fantastic pirate-themed projects to make. Aimed at children over three it claims that the projects are easy to make with little or no experience of crafting. They use household items and there are clear step-by-step instructions with lovely photography throughout.



I found that  a few of the projects were more aimed at parents making them for the kids, they involved using a sewing machine or were simply too difficult for children.

There were some projects that children would be able to do with a little help though, like the cutlass and telescope and our big favourite, the Pirate Ship. They could also help with baking and decorating the treasure chest cake. In fact my little man is keen to do this, we just need to get some edible gold paint and we'll be ready to bake.



I love the feel of the book, it's full of colour and the photography is amazing. Each project is clearly described in detail. It would be great for a fun pirate party, it even has a few ideas and recipes for a pirate themed party at the end.

The book also supplies templates for you to photocopy and enlarge.

Overall I consider this a good buy for those parents who have budding pirates in the house or are about to hold a pirate themed party. It's also good for fancy dress, or those random pirate days that your child's school may hold. (I'll be ready next time for sure!)

You can buy your copy of The Pirate Craft Book at GMC.Publishing for £5.99


Talk of the Town

Laura's Lovely Blog

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of The Pirate Craft Book to review, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Word of the Week - Peace




I was so determined to have a good word this week, and despite it being one of the worst weeks in ages I am going to keep my determination. I've chosen Peace.

When we are faced with such awful mindless violence and loss of innocent lives in terror attacks on our country we have a choice. We can react back with our own anger or seek peace. Of course, I'm not saying that you don't have to feel anger, but my choice is to hope that one day we can all live in peace. It is for this reason that I'm no joining in with any angry posts on my social media timelines. Already, people are arguing with each other and many friends have been lost because of opposing views. We should be sticking together at times like this. Peace to all.

We had a bad start to the week at home this week too. Poor Star was supposed to have been going on a school trip but the coach went without her. She was so upset she made herself physically sick and lost two days from school because of it. We have still not received an explanation from the school about what had happened and although the school does seem to have some understanding of autism, I think they have a lot to learn. Especially where special instructions are involved or change of routines. We have felt angry and let down but I'm sure we will be at peace again once we have spoken to the school and talked about what happened and how we can prevent it happening again. Star is back at school now and things are more peaceful at home.


I wish you all a peaceful week next week x


The Reading Residence

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Ways of Raising Money for Those Big Buys

Sometimes life throws things at us and money becomes short. We have to cut back on luxuries and try to make do with less.
This year, I have had to cope with a big loss of income and it's hit us hard as a family. We have had to manage our finances carefully and saving has taken a back seat for now.
Thankfully our children still have their Child Trust Funds which will give them a lump sum when they come of age. And I still have my savings fund which matures in three years time. My plan for that money was to go on a cruise but I don't think that will be possible now unless I make a miraculous recovery.



When faced with a big buy you can raise money with a loan. peer-to-peer lending is a great way of taking out a loan with low interest.  It's good to know that there are places that offer  safe and protected loans without those humongous interest rates. It's also a great way to increase your savings by becoming a lender yourself. You can gain interest on your savings by loaning them to someone else.

I need to raise money for a big buy, which is proving to be difficult with our current financial situation. This week I made a difficult decision, egged on by my Facebook friends I have opened a Crowdfunding page to help raise money for a power chair. My condition is getting worse and I'm finding it more and more difficult to get around. I can't self propel my manual wheelchair for very long due to the damage to my spine so I have to rely on being pushed around. I did buy a second hand power chair last year off eBay but it was so cheap I had a feeling it wouldn't last long.  I was right. It was good to have a little independence for a while though. If I'm honest, I didn't think I'd be using it for long anyway because last year I was convinced that I would get better, but following my new diagnosis this year, I now know that I am looking at a future where I get worse not better. I'm not in a position to take out a loan so I set up my Crowdfunding page and I'm already wowed by the support I've received.




It would be so lovely to be able to get about by myself again. I could face the future with more positivity. I have to admit, I've not coped very well with the start of this year and I've been feeling very low since my new diagnosis. The thought of getting some new wheels really excites me and I'm looking forward to the warmer weather and being able to spend more time outside with my children.

If you would like to know more about my condition, Stiff Person Syndrome, then The Tin Man has lots of information. My type of SPS is one of the rarest, progressive encaphemylitis with rigidity and myoclonus.

What do you do when cash is short? I'd love to hear of any frugal tips you may have, or ways of raising money for those expensive things that you really need.



Twin Mummy and Daddy

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post



Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Chipex Touch Up Paint - Review and Competition.

I had a new car last September, I was the only driver in the house and the car was a life saver making travelling so much easier. Yes, before that I was one of those annoying disabled wheelchair users taking up space on the bus.

In January, Graham, my husband, passed his driving test and I was so grateful because driving was becoming so difficult for me. He is such a good driver, with no nervousness at all he has taken to it so well. I was a little worried as I know most people have car accidents when they are a new driver. I know I did, I hit a post in a car park, went into the back of someone at a junction, and had a rather nasty accident when I hit the side of a car that was turning. Since the first year I've not had another accident and I've been driving nearly twenty years now.

Graham took the car one day to visit his mum and pop into the supermarket to pick up some shopping for me. While he was in the supermarket someone managed to scratch the car on the back wheel arch. Graham was fuming and so was I, our lovely car was now sporting an ugly scratch.

car scratch

We were now faced with two options, pay for an expensive repair or buy one of those paint sticks you can get from the auto shop. We couldn't really afford option one so we had a look at the paint in the shops and couldn't find and exact match for our colour. Then Chipex came to the rescue with one of their colour match paint system.

Chipex offer a kit which treats stone chips and scratches, it contains all you need to make your car look like new again.

Take a look at this little video to see how it works.




You can find your exact car colour by entering your registration number or looking up your car colour in a chart. Any problems just call them and ask. We found our colour pretty quickly and soon ordered the correct package.


You get everything you need in the kit:
  • Your perfectly matched paint
  • Blending solution
  • Chipex polish
  • Brushes
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Paint removal cloth
  • Microfibre cloth
  • Full set of instructions
  • Small foam block


The instructions are easy to follow but you may need to practice the application on a small area first. Some deeper scratches may need more than one application. Our car had a particularly nasty deep scratch that my husband had to paint three times. It really is a simple as 1, 2, 3 easy steps to get your car looking good again.

My husband said that the instructions were very well explained, and it was all easy to use. He was really pleased with the results. There were couple of things he would change though. The paint brushes could have been provided in different sizes as not all scratches are the same. Also, he said that the blending in block provided could have been a bit bigger. This is all bearing in mind that our scratch was pretty big.

So, what did it look like after treatment?

repaired scratch

As you can see, it looks much better!

How would you like to win a Chipex bundle for your car? It doesn't matter if you don't have a scratch you can always get one for those just in case moments.
Fill in the widget below for  your chance to win a £64 bundle including screenwash. Open to anyone living in the UK. Ends on 20th April 2017.


Win a Chipex Bundle UK #59
My Random Musings


Mummy in a Tutu

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Five Delicious Ways with Dolmio

Have you ever made your own bolognese sauce? I have and although it's not that difficult, it never seems to taste as nice as the ones you get in a jar. I assumed that this was because of all the additives in there to enhance the flavours and colour. I didn't realise how wrong I was.

Did you know that a 500g jar of Dolmio Bolognese sauce is 100% natural; it contains no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or sweeteners. In each jar, you’ll find at least 10 juicy diced tomatoes, some tomato puree, half an onion, sunflower oil, garlic, a handful of herbs, a teaspoon of cornflour, a teaspoon of salt, a pinch of pepper, two teaspoons of beet sugar for taste, a squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of water and nothing more. In fact, a jar provides a family of four with one of their 5-a-day making it a great mid-week meal option for the whole family.

Take a look at this short video and see for yourself!





This certainly makes me feel happier about using Dolmio in my cooking.
As a family we all have our favourite Dolmio recipes.
The older kids love the traditional Spaghetti Bolognese while the younger ones love to get stuck into mum's home made meatballs and spaghetti. Dad loves his bolognese stuffed peppers, and we all love a good lasagne. This week I tried something new because I'm on a diet that forbids pasta, I made a gorgeous Courgetti bolognese instead.

Here are our Top Five Delicous Ways With Dolmio.


1. Spaghetti bolognese.

serves 4

Ingredients:

400g minced beef
1 jar Dolmio
1 pack of spaghetti
parmesan cheese to taste

Method:

  • Put a large pan of water on to boil for the spaghetti
  • Put the minced beef into a large pan and brown, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking together. (tip: I don't use any oil as the beef has it's own oil, if it does seem to dry you can add a little oil but drain it off afterwards so you don't get a greasy sauce.)
  • Once the large pan of water has boiled, pop in your spaghetti and stir
  • Once the minced beef has browned add the jar of sauce and stir, then warm through
  • When spaghetti is cooked (according to pack, but usually around 9-10 mintues) drain and add to the plates before pouring over  your bolognese sauce.
  • sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese

2. Meatballs and Spaghetti.

Ingredients:

serves 4 

500g minced turkey
1 egg
1 jar Dolmio
400g of spaghetti

I make my meat balls with turkey mince and bind them with egg. If I make them for the grown ups too I might add some herbs like basil. If I want them to go a little further then I may had breadcrumbs to the mix. You can also use minced beef, chicken or lamb for meatballs, it's just that having tried them all we like turkey best. 

Method:

  • Cook spaghetti to pack instructions
  • put turkey mince and egg in a bowl and combine
  • shape turkey mixture into balls with your hands
  • brown the balls in a large pan with a little oil
  • once brown add the Dolmio and stir through
  • serve with spaghetti
This really is a favourite with my kids they can't wait to get stuck in!



3. Stuffed Peppers.

serves 2

Ingredients:

Left over bolognese (or you can make fresh using previous recipe)
2 large red peppers
grated cheese


Method:

  • heat oven to 200C/ gas mark 6
  • Cut the top off your peppers and take out the seeds
  • place on a baking tray and fill them with the bolognese sauce
  • Top with grated cheese and bake in oven for 15 - 20 minutes
These were fantastic for lunch the day after our bolognese using the leftovers. 


4. Lasagne

serves 4

Ingredients:

500g minced beef
200g sliced mushrooms
1 jar Dolmio
1 jar of Domio white lasagne sauce (or make your own)
3 sheets of lasagne (I like fresh, but you can also use dry)
grated cheese for sprinkling on top


Method:

  • Preheat oven to 190/ gas mark 5
  • brown the minced beef in a large pan
  • Add the mushrooms and fry for a further minute
  • Add the jar of Dolmio and warm through.
  • In a large lasagne dish first place a layer of the minced beef mixture
  • Follow with a sheet of lasagne
  • cover the lasagne sheet with the white sauce
  • pour another layer of minced beef mixture over the top
  • cover with lasagne and white sauce
  • do one more layer of minced beef mixture, lasagne and white sauce
  • finish with a layer of grated cheese
  • Pop in the oven for around 20 minutes or until the top is nicely cooked and beginning to brown.
For an interesting twist we often use slices of chicken breast instead of minced beef. You can also add other vegetable instead of mushrooms, such as peppers or courgette.

lasagne

5. Courgetti Bolognese

I'm currently following a Paleo diet which means pasta is out of bounds. So is processed food but on finding out that Dolmio only use natural ingredients means I could use it. It is still a bit of a cheat as it contains cornflour, sunflower oil and beet sugar which are also off limits to a paleo diet, but a little cheating every now and then shouldn't hurt and they would work out as tiny amounts for one portion. Not having pasta however, meant I had to find an alternative, so I tried Courgetti for the first time and I have to say, I love it! I'll definitely have it more often now.

So what is courgetti, it's basically courgette which has been spiralized. You can buy it in packs at the supermarket or make your own. I decided to invest in a spiralizer and found one on Amazon for only £7.95 and it's great for starting out. It also comes with an e-book of recipes.

PrimeFolksCo. Hand Held Vegetable Spiralizer Bundle with eRecipe Cook Book ~ Spiral slicer creates endless spaghetti noodles ~ Includes brush for cleaning the compact spiral cutter

Ingredients:

I actually made this just for myself because I used the same bolognese as everyone else substituting courgetti for spaghetti. But here is the recipe for 4 servings.


500g organic minced beef
1 jar Dolmio
2 large courgettes

Method:

  • brown the minced beef off in a large pan (no oil)
  • once browned add the Dolmio (And any extra vegetables)
  • spiralize your courgettes
  • In a frying pan add 1 tbs coconut oil or olive oil and warm
  • add the courgetti and stir fry for one or two minute
  • Place on plate and add sauce.



My family love Dolmio and I always have a jar in the cupboard. It's so tasty and versatile and it's also healthy and nutritious. It often features in our mid-week meals. I'd love you to try one or two of my recipes and please let me know what you think of them. Have you tried courgetti yet?





Disclosure: This post is an entry for the #Dolmio #ThankGoodness Challenge, sponsored by Dolmio. www.dolmio.co.uk/thankgoodness.”

Monday, 20 March 2017

I Can Sing a Rainbow

me, my dad, my brothers and cousin


This is my Dad in his Robin Reliant. Also in the photo is a little me, along with my two older brothers and my cousin. I'd say it was taken around 1971-72 and I found it in my mum's photo album.

When I was little my Dad had a Robin Reliant and it was his pride and joy.

I loved the weekends when my Dad would take me out in his car. On a Saturday he would get me to ask one of my friends or my cousin and we would go to the park or the bluebell woods to play. He would be so patient while we would run around playing or making dens in the woods. Then on Sundays he would take me to the pub while Mum cooked Sunday lunch. My favourite pub was the Merritt's Brook, there was a field at the back with horses and we would stand at the fence feeding them grass from our hands. Or we would go to the brook that ran along side and if it was warm enough I could paddle in the water.

When I was born my brothers were already teenagers (I think I may have been a bit of surprise!) and as our home only had three bedrooms I had to share my Mum and Dad's room. My eldest brother got married and moved out when I was five years old and then I had my own bedroom. I didn't like it much though and I would sneak into Mum and Dad's room and get into bed with them. I remember being squashed in-between them. I think my claustrophobia was already present as I would have to have one leg out of the blanket or I'd feel trapped. I do remember bedtimes when Dad would tell me a story, usually an old classic like Little Red Riding Hood, or Sleeping Beauty. Sometimes he would draw me picture, I remember he used to like to draw ballet dancers or cowboys.

When I was seven my Mum became pregnant again. I was with my auntie at home while she was in hospital giving birth. The phone rang and my auntie told me I had a baby brother. I cried so much, I really didn't want a brother, I wanted a baby sister. I was devastated and wanted them to take him away. I did love him eventually, but I still think today that life would have been so much better had he been a girl.
His life seemed to hang by a thread, he had a traumatic birth that he nearly didn't survive. Then he got really sick at just a few months old and had to spend even more time in hospital. And one night we were all sitting watching television and my baby brother was in his carry cot on the table by the window. Suddenly Mum got out of her chair and picked him up and I remember my Dad saying 'why have you picked him up while he was sleeping?' Then suddenly the window smashed and the glass filled the carry cot. Right where my brother was laying just a few seconds before was a broken bottle! The neighbours were having a drunken brawl and our broken window had been the result. My mum could never explain why she picked up my brother when she did but she probably saved his life.

When I was nine my Dad worked the night shift at a local car factory. When he came home in the morning he would leave me half a packet of polo mints and on one morning a week I would also get a Beano comic. We still went  out at the weekends, after dropping Mum and my little brother off at my Nan's. One evening, just before my Dad went off to work, my Auntie arrived with an offer. It was eight weeks before Christmas and my auntie worked for a credit agency. She said that Mum could have some vouchers to spend at an open evening in Woolworths and then pay for them weekly. I knew Mum was nervous about asking Dad, he didn't like credit, but she was thrilled when he said yes. After he'd gone to work my other auntie and my Nan came around and they celebrated with tea and cake. They were talking about how fabulous Christmas was going to be when they realised that Mum had run out of sugar so me and my cousin were sent to the corner shop to get some.

When we got back from the shop there was a police car outside my home and my next door neighbour was waiting for us. She ushered me and my cousin in her house and told us we had to wait there for a while. It seemed like forever. Normally, when I was with my cousin you couldn't shut us up we were so chatty, but we sat in silence, neither of us knowing what was going on. Eventually we were told we could go back home. That's where my memory stops. I can't remember going home or what happened next. I just know that it was the day my Dad had died on the way to work.

I didn't go to my Dad's funeral, instead, me and my cousins stayed at my nan's house with my uncle. He kept us occupied by holding a talent show and we all had to get up and perform. When it was my turn I sang 'I can Sing a Rainbow' and now every time I see a rainbow I think of my Dad.


the family grave

This is our family grave, my Mum and Dad, my Nan and my little brother all rest here now.











RachelSwirl

Sunday, 19 March 2017

My Sunday Photo - 19th March

church


I've not been out much this week and looking through my photos they are either food related or review related. So I've gone for an older photo of our local church. The Church is Norman in origin so it really is a beautiful landmark building. 

We often walk through graveyards, I visit my family, most of which are now underground. Some of the gravestones in this cemetery are very old. Like this one from 1761. 



When I see old stones like this I like to read the name out loud. Just think how long it's been since poor John Guise has had his name spoken out loud. My favourite author, the late Sir Terry Pratchett, said 'Do you not know that man is not dead so long as his name is still spoken.'

This week was also the second anniversary of Terry Pratchett's passing, I'm sure his name is still being said aloud.




Sunday Photo Pinterest board.


If you like my photo you might like my videos too, please check out my latest video on You Tube 


Photalife

Sunday Snap


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