O5rcB_NXbIeHbJV7JFNcdfqL-vY Mummy From The Heart...

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Miss E's Love Affair with Alfie (Your Toy Story)

Miss E - meeting Alfie for the first time on her christening day in May 2008 through to today

There really is something very special about a child's relationship with their most-loved toy. Take my little Miss E for example, she is 7 years old now and got her Alfie teddy when she was 8 months old as a Christening gift and he has barely left her side in all those years. That in itself presents problems; as a toddler she would want to take Alfie out with her in the buggy and I used to panic until we were back home that she might lose him.

To ease my worries I thought it would be a good idea to buy an identical Alfie and then if one got lost she would still be happy with her replacement and of course it meant I could give Alfie a much needed wash too. There is only so much loving any teddy bear can take before he becomes a bit smelly!

I searched for ages for a duplicate Alfie. As he was a gift I did not know where he came from but I knew he was made by Gund and called Alfie as his tag said so. The internet bought up lots of large versions but none the same, so it was with delight that one day walking through our local John Lewis I spotted an Alfie. Of course I immediately bought him and that night I hid Miss E's Alfie downstairs and at bedtime I placed the new Alfie next to her. She was only two at the time, so still fairly young but she knew what she wanted.

Miss E glared at me with a look of horror and chucked the new Alfie at her twin sister and said "Not my Alfie, that Miss M's Alfie, where is mine?".  Something I thought would be such a simple answer turned out not to be at all! It has proved useful to have this other Alfie though as the girls enjoy having twin bears as they are twins themselves and to this day they are both still called Alfie and on the odd occasion when we cannot find Miss E's Alfie (as he has got packed away in a toy box or been left at Nanny's) then  Miss M will gladly lend her Alfie to Miss E, it really is very cute.

I do love the fact that Alfie is helping to build beautiful childhood memories for Miss E, she chats away to him, takes him on every holiday and he gets involved with all sorts of teddy bears picnics and make believe games. She has told me before that she loves her Alfie like daddy loves Orange, his teddy that he has had since birth.

I also remind her that mummy loved Raggedy Ann in the same way too, this was my rag doll that went everywhere with me and I know my mum had to replace her felt face a number of times as I used to rub holes in her! I believe she is still in my parents loft, I must ask them to get her down so I can introduce her to Alfie.

My funniest memory of Raggedy Ann is that she regularly used to take the train to see my Nanny. As a young child we had a railway line at the end of the garden and by all accounts I was quite a handful and run rings around my mum. So in an effort to help me behave, if I was naughty Raggedy Ann would be sent away on the train to stay with my Nanny in the next town. Then once I was behaving, there would be a knock on the back door and I'd run and answer it and find that Raggedy had been allowed home again.  I do chuckle about this now and think my Mum was quite clever to instate this discipline as it sure did work and I remember it 37 odd years later!

I won't try this with Miss E though as she is much more of a tender heart than I am and I fear she would cry her heart out. No I'll let her keep hold of her Alfie and they can continue to make beautiful memories together for many years yet.

Talking of childhood memories, John Lewis Insurance have just launched their ‘Your toy story’ campaign.


Every Thursday for the next four weeks a different retro toy will be featured on the John Lewis Insurance microsite (http://whatmatters.johnlewis-insurance.com), along with the story of the toy’s history. This will detail why the toy was popular; its success and why it has been chosen. Furthermore, John Lewis will be publishing a Throwback Thursday (#TBT, ‪#ThrowBackThursday) post each week to celebrate the toys of our childhoods.

The first toy featured is the good old ‘TeddyBear’.

John Lewis Insurance wants to hear your special childhood toy memories, share them on Twitter. Also, why not keep up to date with John Lewis to see what retro toy they will be featuring next week!


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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

It's Back to School Time


It’s time to get organised and make sure you get the new school year off to as good a start as possible. The return back to school after the fun-filled weeks of the summer holiday can be a struggle for the whole family, but with careful planning and emotional awareness the transition can be smooth for everyone. 

Buying New Kit
It’s time to buy new school uniforms, sports kit and shoes. How did they grow so much since last term? Take time to visit the school outfitters with your child and get them measured up properly. You may not have as much time for this during the term so it’s better to buy what you need now, if possible. Don’t forget to sew on name tags. Everyone else will have the same items of clothing so you don’t want all those new clothes to get lost straight away.

Children will not necessarily need new notepads, pens and pencils but who can resist new stationery? Bright, shiny pencils, protractors, rulers and rubbers are tempting and may even help reluctant children get more excited about a return to school. Often a new bag will be required to carry sports kit or a lunch box. Some items may be specified by the school, such as a calculator, so check any lists the school has provided you with and make sure you purchase the required equipment.

Mental Preparation
It’s a good idea to start preparing your child mentally for going back to school especially if they are moving up to ‘big school’ or have changed schools. Talk to them about the routine they can expect, who their new teacher is and which friends they’ll see again or the new friends they will make. Discuss all the fun things they will do at school and be enthusiastic about lessons. If your child has a positive attitude going into the new school year it will be good for their levels of confidence and may even influence their performance.

Also, start to get the family back into a good routine with a sensible bedtime and wake up time. These often slip during the holidays when a routine may not be so important but it’s now time to make sure everyone is well rested before the start of each busy day.

Extracurricular Activities and Private Tuition
Start planning which after-school clubs your child will be attending and whether you’ll need to organise childcare. It is also a good time to think about private tuition. Work out what your tutoring requirements will be for the year ahead and start looking for an appropriate tutor. FleetTutors will match your child with a tutor who will suit their needs and bring out the best in their abilities. Will your child be tackling the 11+ or GCSEs this year? Or is it A-levels they need extra help with? It may be the case that your child just needs a bit of confidence-boosting in a particular subject.

There is a lot for the whole family to think about in the run up to going back to school. But if everyone plays their part in getting prepared beforehand the transition should be smooth. Back to school can be an exciting time not a stressful one. So relax and enjoy...



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Are there 100 supportive MP's out there?


I sure hope so is the short answer, we really need them to show their support and turn up in parliament on 12th September 2014 for the second reading of the International Development Bill.

What is that you may well ask? and don't tune out if you don't know what it is, if politics is not your thing because I'll be honest I wouldn't say politics is my thing either. I'm not one of those clever types who know exactly what is going on or how it all works but I know right from wrong.

And quite simply it is right for our rich country to commit to giving 0.7% of our national income as UK aid. The fight against extreme poverty has come so far in the last few years, there are massive success stories -

  • like under 5's child-deaths reduced by 50% in the last 50 years
  • like cases of polio being reduced by 99% and smallpox being eradicated
  • like primary school enrolments up by 50 million from 1999 to 2007 *
and it would be sinful to allow all that good work to start to ease. There is still so much more to be done but if the rich countries pull together and provide the aid needed there are forecasts which show we could put a end to extreme poverty by 2030, that's not that far away, right? But it sure is exciting!

So today I'm asking you to do a few things to play your part in helping our Government make this 0.7% commitment law. They made the first commitment 40 years ago and then last year all 3 of our major UK political parties pledged their support and said they would enshrine that promise in law. The private members bills will be discussed and voted on on 12th September 2014 and if there are 100 supportive MP's there, the proposer Michael Moore MP can force a vote.

So could you please take a moment to help?
Any one of these things would be brilliant, two would make you fantastic and if you do them all then God bless you and thanks for your help.

Come on, lets pull together and pester those MP's!

* Source - http://www.one.org/international/living-proof/#

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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

JJ has his first taste of designer sports brands...

I recall being a young teenager and all I wanted for my fourteenth birthday was a shiny new Puma tracksuit top to go with my Nike and adidas ones. I had the big white Nike trainers with the fluorescent laces, the pale blue dungarees and big leather belt with a 'sexy' buckle. I was not short of confidence back in those days and I certainly knew what I wanted and most of those things included big brand names - names like adidas, Nike, Puma and Sassy. I hung around with a group who liked to roll out their lino and do some break dancing and we would all gather round the boom box. It certainly was a different time but lots of fun.

Nowadays not many people are break dancing anymore and the idea of wearing a shiny tracksuit top is a pretty horrifying one but it still remains that teenagers like their big brands. It is the in thing to wear the right names and the right pieces of clothing or trainers.  I am pleased to say that JJ is not that much into brands yet, I'm sure it will come and when it does I know where I'll be heading to - straight to JD Sports where the prices are so much more reasonable than most other high street sports shops.

We started to shop in JD Sports for JJ a couple of years ago when he needed new jogging bottoms and we found that they often had deals to buy 2 pairs for a special price. We have found their products to be quality and really reasonably priced and in fact we are off there tomorrow for some new tops and hoodies for JJ as he just does not seem to stop growing.

I'd never considered JD Sports as a shop for back to school purchases but actually they have a great stock of sports clothes (of course), bags, coats, trainers, shoes, caps and hoodies. JJ was offered a new school bag and he jumped at the chance to choose something more grown up than the one he had been using.



His first choice was this adidas backpack, which retails for £30.00 and is 100% polyester. It feels like a really sturdy backpack with adjustable straps and padded over the shoulder straps for a comfy fit. Our bag is all black but there are various different colour ways. It measures 17" x 11" x 5.5".

The backback has a really large laptop section which pleased JJ a lot as he loves to take his laptop with him and there is also another large section as well as smaller pockets and a place for a water bottle. There is also a D loop so you can clip things onto the bag and a nice touch is the straps and buckles on the front which will work well for when JJ goes on hikes with the scouts as he can strap his coat on the front when he needs to.

So what was JJ's comment about his new backpack? "It is so cool Mum, I can take it to Caverdale when I start next September as it is like the big kids have. It totally is a bag for secondary school!".

There is a great selection of school bags on the JD Sports website and they start at a reasonable £10 for McKenzie and there are even Nike branded bags from £15, so you can find something for all budgets.


I was pleased to see that you can order from the web for free delivery into your local store or it is free home delivery for orders over £60. The price is £3.99 if you wanted it delivered to home and your order value is less than £60 and I was super pleased to see that all returns are free whether you post them or take them into store. This is where some stores let you down but not JD Sports.

We have been very pleased with our service from JD Sports, our bag arrived quickly, was well packaged and the actual bag itself is brilliant.


Disclosure: We received this backpack free of charge for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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Monday, 18 August 2014

A Birthday visit to Ripleys Believe It or Not! London

It was my birthday last week and with my 40th last year being a bit of a wash-out I was determined that we should celebrate as a family and have some fun. So it was decided that an overnight trip to London was needed and we had a very lovely couple of days walking, eating and exploring some new places.

One of the places we went to visit was Ripleys - Believe It or Not! in Piccadilly, London. I'd not heard of this attraction before they contacted me recently but when I mentioned it to my 10 year old son JJ, he got all excited 'oh yes Mum, I so want to go there. There are loads of interesting facts and all weird stuff. I've got the book'.  So on that strong recommendation I arranged a visit for the weekend.

Arrival
Last Saturday was super busy in London, far too much for me. You literally could not move in Leicester Square, so I was expecting Ripleys Believe It or Not! to be uncomfortably busy but I was very pleasantly surprised to find a queue of just about 15 people in front of us and this was gone through within 5 minutes. JJ was super happy anyway as he found a door you could open that screamed when you did and this set his expectation that loads of fun would follow.

One of the first exhibits you see is the swarovski crystal covered Mini Cooper, worth over £500,000. This new exhibit has travelled from America to be in London and uses over a million crystals in 50 different colours to represent the 50 states in America, it also depicts many classic American icons like the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore.


I'm not really sure how to explain what Ripleys Believe It or Not! is, so I'll use this bit from their website -
At Ripley’s Believe It or Not! London visitors can marvel at an unbelievable collection of jaw dropping artefact's from across the globe – many of which were collected by the ultimate explorer Robert Ripley himself. With over 700 astonishing exhibits, galleries and interactive experiences spanning across 6 floors, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! London celebrates the weird, wonderful and bizarre in all its forms, which are sure to excite, delight and thrill the whole family. Want to see how will you measure up to the world’s tallest man? Or come face to face with our rare collection of Amazonian shrunken heads? Will you dare to venture into Ripley’s Marvellous Mirror Maze and defeat the Impossible LaseRace?
And actually look at this short video clip as this gives a really good insight and idea.



The Best Bits
Probably my favourite part of the attraction was the artwork. It is truly amazing what you can use to make great art - bottle tops, tape from cassettes, keyboard keys, matchsticks, leaves, dung and even toast!


I also enjoyed the hall of exotica as it was interesting to see what other cultures use.

Of course the part the kids loved best was the interactive exhibits and JJ said he would have liked more of these. There was an awful lot of things to just look at and for my boisterous and busy kids this is not what they want to do generally.

I asked JJ for a comment about Ripleys Believe It or Not! and he said 'It was good but not the best' and I then asked him to compare it to going to somewhere like the Science Museum and he said he would prefer the museum as there is more to get involved with and explore. JJ also commented that he thought Ripleys Believe It or Not! could make their signage/ commentary more interesting. Other places we have been to have made the kids lift doors, looks in boxes, match up answers etc but at Ripleys Believe It or Not! it was mainly just reading a straight forward sign about what the exhibit is.

In fairness there were a few areas where you could watch. There was an excellent holograph of Ripley himself at the beginning explaining about how all the artefact's were gathered and then at others times there were short explanatory shows. Like about the shrunken heads and then another showing a man doing some odd swallowing and regurgitating trick, that one felt a bit like an old fashioned circus side show if I'm being honest. JJ tells tells me there was a few clips together that we could have stood and watched but they were shown in a big empty room which felt as it if should have had chairs or benches in so you could sit and watch for longer if you liked.


I asked my 7 year old twins about their favourite bits and Miss E (who is dyslexic) said she liked seeing all the art as she wants to be an artist herself when she is older but she thought lots of things were boring as she could not read the signage herself.

My husband said there were some interesting areas within Ripleys Believe It or Not!, he really enjoyed being able to talk to our kids about the Berlin Wall and the Olympics area was really good but these were combined with other areas that were just a bit 'freak showish' for us. Within the Dungeon area there was some very macabre items and whilst it was interesting to discuss some of them with my 10 year old the idea of my children having their picture taken in a chastity belt just seemed so wrong.  It was good that you could take a route to miss the dungeon if you did not want to go through it.

LaseRace, Mirror Maze and the Black Hole
Miss M said her best bit was the LaseRace, this is at the end of the tour and you can choose your level of difficultly and try and get through the maze of lasers without breaking the beams and in the quickest time to get added to the leader board. You got one go at this in the price and could pay £2 for another 2 goes if you fancied.

JJ loved all of these. He mastered the mirror maze in no time and as it was not too busy he kept going in again and again and the black hole freaked me out entirely as I could not maintain my composure and was convinced the bridge was moving under my feet, of course it was not!



Sadly the interactive graffiti wall exhibit was out of action when we visited.

Cost & General Visitor Details
If we had turned up on the day and bought our tickets we would have spent just short of £100 for 2 adults and 3 children and if we purchased in advance via the website it would have been £85 which is a good saving but it is still a lot of money to spend, especially considering we were only in the attraction for about 2.5 hours.

Ripleys Believe It or Not!, London is really easy to access with buses, tubes and trains serving it frequently. The opening hours of 10am - midnight are excellent and it is accessible for those with disabilities. We used a couple of the toilets on site and both were very well used and a bit grotty with wet floors and smelly bins.

I noticed there were audio guides available in various languages and you can arrange for a guide too, I imagine it would be an interesting school visit.

The cafe was really nice in the middle of some exhibits and we were able to buy a drink and snack. We paid £1.50 for bottled water, £1.75 for a bottle of Coke and 90p for polos.

As with most attractions nowadays you leave via the gift shop and thus the kids beg you for various sweets and knick-nacks!

Conclusion
I'm glad we went to Ripleys Believe or Not! as now we have seen some very unusual exhibits and learnt a few new facts but if I'm honest it is the kind of place I'd only visit the one time. If you love the odd and the unusual  then this will definitely be for you.

Disclosure: We received complimentary entry for our family for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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Sunday, 17 August 2014

Family visit to Kingston Lacy, National Trust

Whilst holidaying in Dorset we decided to use our National Trust membership and go to visit Kingston Lacy and boy were we glad we did, what a great place!

It is really set up for accommodating the kids in the holiday periods, my younger two did a 'spot the teddy bear' hunt and JJ did a classic treasure hunt round the inside of the house with fairly tough clues. They all enjoyed it and got a badge each at the end. There was a cost of £1 each but as I have membership and this was all I paid out that day I did not mind.

The house itself is in wonderful condition and is very large, it was a pleasure to look round and it is always good to get to chat to the kids about how things were in years gone by.


Outside the house there is so much space that even on a busy day you have loads of room to run free and for the children to have fun. There are tons of walks and trails across the 8,500 acre property and this includes working farmland, woodland, formal gardens, a south lawn, Japanese water garden and even a community gardening project where there are a few animals that the children can feed. It is wonderful and diverse, just look -


There are a number of places across the site where you can buy home grown produce and flowers for a donation and it is lovely to take some home dahlias or gladioli that have been grown there. There are also some amazing flowers on site and if like me you enjoy photography, you will be right at home here -


Probably my children's favourite part of the day was the living history.  Before we set off in the morning my 10 year old JJ groaned that we were off to an 'old house' and then after his time with the laundry maids learning hands on how to use a washboard and mangle and then going through all the pieces in the study suite he declared it was an awesome day and he had no idea why he did not want to come here. I had to laugh!


We broke our day up with a visit to the restaurant and there was the option of an assisted service restaurant or a more casual coffee shop. We sat outside in a beautiful courtyard and enjoyed sandwiches and soup. It is not cheap but it is tasty and the homemade soup was excellent, as was the cream tea. There are also some beautiful picnic areas on side which you can use.

In the 6 hours we were at Kingston Lacy I think we only saw a small part of it, we found one kiddie tractor ride area but did not make it to the two other children's play areas that were advertised. We would definitely visit again and it was a great day out for all our family.

We are happy to recommend a visit to Kingston Lacy with the family.

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Friday, 15 August 2014

Go on, say yes for a change....

It is all too easy as a parent to get in the habit of saying no when your child asks for something. I totally get why we do it, so much they ask for involves mess or work for us and to be honest some days we just want an easy life but I'd urge you to consider saying yes to your child at least once a day.

It really does help them to realise they have value and that their ideas matter. Oh and your yes can lead to a whole mass of fun like this water fight the girls had the other night.

Miss E asked me early in the day if she could have a water fight but I was busy and really did not want to clean up a house full of water so instead of no, I offered her a water fight after tea right before bath time. I had the towels ready by the front door, filled up their buckets and water guns and sat down on the bench outside my house to enjoy the show.

They had a ball, have a look...







Can you tell Miss E was the really cheeky one, she kept soaking her twin!


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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

JJ updates his Scout Camping Kit

Camping with Daddy and the cubs when he was 3 years old

My son JJ has been involved in scouting for as long as I can remember. I can't recall if he was 2 or 3 when he went on his first cub camp but yes it was far earlier than it should of been. The reason being of course that my husband was a cub leader for ten years from 2002 and JJ always went along for the ride.

It was quite funny when he started his new scout group after our move last year that his 'nights away' award was already far higher than most of the scouts 3 or 4 years older than him. It is so reassuring to me to know that when he goes away he is really senssible and knows all the different rules about camp fires, cooking outside, tracking, going off alone etc.

He missed camping last year with our house move but he is making up for it this year and has already gone on two scout camps and hopes to do another in the autumn. It is the aboluste highlight of his year to go camping and he will sacrifice mosts things for it. He is very funny though, when I suggest getting a piece of equipment that might make things easier or more comfortable he confidently rebukes them and tells me it would then not be 'proper camping'. He is all about the rustic and getting back to basics.

When we got out all the camping equipment back in April we found that he had grown our of his sleeping bag and that much of his kit neeed replacing - large rucksack, new waterproofs, new camp cutlery, new torch and new sleeping bag. It all adds up and can cost a bit so I did some web searching and I bought quite a few good deals from the Mountain Warehouse eBay store. His coat was an excellent buy at £11.99 for a waterproof pakka coat and it has really proved itself to be effective. In fact I ended up buying most things we needed from there.


As my husband was not camping this time JJ just borrowed his sleeping bag for the last couple of camps but as it is an extra lage it is too big really so when Mountain Warehouse asked me if I'd like to review the Microlite 500 mummy sleeping bag I jumped at the chance. JJ had the choice of green and grey or red and grey and he opted for the red as you can see, he felt this would make it nice and easy to identify at camp with all the others.

Probably my favourite thing about this sleeping bag is the size and weight, it is so small and compact (measuring 35cm x 14cm when packed in the carry bag) and it weighs just 1kg. I had worried this might mean it was very hard to get back in the holding bag and when JJ tried the method suggested by one of his scoute leaders - just stuff it in - it was indeed difficult, but when we laid out the bag and folded it in half and then rolled it tightly it fitted in just fine and I feel confident even my 10 year old can do that himself on camp.


The Microlite 500 is a 2 season sleeping bag and you can choose a left or right handed zip, which is 2 way for ease. You can also zip two together if you would like to make a double bag. Designed for temperatures between 7C - 11C degrees, this sleeping bag is ideal for summer and spring camping trips. The outer shell is made from 100% nylon ripstop material, with a soft polyester inner lining. Mummy shaped, the design insulates even better thanks to the increased warmth, keeping you snug outdoors.

JJ has only used the sleepign bag inside so far but he slept fine in it with the windows open and can't wait to go and camp outdoors and give it a real roadtest.

The RRP for this sleeping bag is £54.99 but it is currently on sale for £29.99 and if you don't fancy this one there is an excellent selection of different sleeping bags and camping equipment on the Mountian Warehouse website and after our purchase of waterproofs, camp cutlery and crockery, torch and a 75 litre rucksack from them I can happily tell you they sell quality products and we would recommend them.

Now JJ just needs to work his magic on me and convince me that I might enjoy camping!

Disclosure: We received the sleeping bag free of charge for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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