The ever delightful Merry from Play Merrily offered me an opportunity to review a selection of toys and I jumped at the chance
I’m experiencing toys in a whole new way at the moment with my training with the Place2Be – who are a children’s charity that offer counselling in schools across the UK, and to be honest puppets are turning out to be a bit of a challenge for me – so practice was required.
I got the children to take a look at the selection and was thrilled that they loved the idea of puppets as much as I did – these are Manhattan Toys which in my experience are high end, really well made, and would last the course of play with a child and lets be honest thats a rare thing isnt it?
Ao imagine my delight when these faces greeted me out of the box!
They were very quickly named Steve, Dave and Frank – can you guess which is which?
And the children set out immediately entering into fantasy play and creating worlds and adventures for the puppets to go on, it was all at breakneck speed and fantastic to observe.
In the stuff I’m doing with the Place2Be I’m learning that children can and will express through a puppet what they wouldn’t necessarily do in real life or in a conversation with you, it somehow seems to detach from being ‘them’ and becomes the behaviour or words of the ‘puppet’ instead, fascinating stuff.Find the alligator here
They even came to Uni with me to help present a Research presentation into the effectiveness of Play Therapy Interventions and were easily the stars of my show, along with the PlayDoh as well, and my audience sat and played and stroked the puppets, themselves engaging in some fantasy play or simply remembering what it was to play like that.
The children have LOVED them and they are so plushy, thick and luxurious, with plenty of standout tactile bits, and big teeth that the kids loved
Look you can even see the fabric ‘skin’ is 3d and textured, really nice detailing
Find the brilliant plushy shark here
Easily the best puppets I have had before, really engaging and begging to be played with, its a struggle to keep the grownups off them most days
So thanks so much Merry – amazing range of puppets – we LOVED them getting them and they have so helpful in allowing me to practice my skills, and scare the kids to death as well – you know its what us mums do best!
Helping Our Children To Make A Difference
The focus at Padiham St Leonards School has been “Environment & Sustainability” and to further educate and spur on the children they all had a day dedicated to sustainability, energy efficiency, recycling, planting and growing; using the ‘spare’ day of the leap year to enthuse the kids with important knowledge about living in a more environmentally responsible manner. So on 29th February this happened – http://www.padihamstleonards.com/Events/Future+Proof – and what this showed the children was how we can life, work, learn and plan sustainably. They showed them how we can use the resources at our hands better to helps us all head towards a better world. With recycled and reused materials they created everything handmade, gardened, planted and worked with the chickens, sat in tents, had a camp fire and the kids went home thinking this was the best day ever and are full of the messages about going green.
With no electricity being used, they were able to see that education can go without computers, televisions and the like.
Oldest Miss’s had lessons to understand the impact of using nature’s resources and talked about the rising cost of energy, electricity prices and so on and the causes of it. And they learned about different ways to produce renewable energy instead. But what’s really fascinating is how this message is being brought home, not left at the school gates, now they are pestering me for solar panels and wind turbines in the back garden. Funny Miss even wanted to walked to school on Sustainability day – no mean feat for how far we live away! She never normally wants to walk; no wonder she said it was the “best day ever”!
Energy efficiency was a big thing too, and we taught them many things. Switching off lights when not needed, changing to energy saving bulbs, water saving, switching appliances off standby, washing machine set to 30 not 40 degrees, stuff like that. They asked me if we had floor, wall and loft insulation. Are the windows double-glazed and draught proofed? Do you buy energy efficient light bulbs and appliances? And now they are policing the house for energy efficiency. I used to have to tell them off for leaving their bedroom lights on when they weren’t in there; not anymore. They explained to me all the money saving that can be made through energy efficiency. Think of the lower bills, go online and compare energy prices and save even more.
This all started way back in July of last year when the school hosted future proof a collaboration of dance, art, drama involving all the children in the school – take a look at the video from the day – I’ve never seen anything quite like it before – bearing in mind these children are aged from 4 – 11 – simply incredible - watch out for an appearance by Lady Gaga at 13.30 mins in! infact it was so good the children were invites to perform the show on the pitch at Burnley Football Club at half time!
It was all about fun and educational workshops, as the school teamed up with local enterprises to uncover how we can protect our planet. In this event everything was made using recycled materials – from the masks to the costumes. It was a great day.
So now the girls are full of it, but it’s nice to see them interacting with their world. It is their generation that will really have to make the difference that is needed.
In daddy’s work they get to see what happens to waste when you throw rubbish in the bin, saw pictures of land fill sites, and learned about how little space there is left for it. And they came home and joined Mister in his recycling program in the house. I laughed when they told me off for popping a tin in the bin. “don’t let it go into land fill, recycle it!” They were separating plastic containers, tins, cans, jars, bottles, cardboard and paper to be recycled. And now they want a composter outside as well. “You can turn food waste in compost for planting stuff mum, how cool is that?” Cool indeed.
I love that we can all feel our bit of responsibility whatever age we are – so I’m supporting the school and the children and thinking efficiency, we can all do our share – its about small changes – so what are you going to do differently today ?
We have had so much fun over the Christmas and New Year holidays making some really brilliant and fun recipes from Nestle WholeGrain cereals
We received a lovely big box full of our very favourite cereals and these super recipe cards – aside from your normal ideas for cereals – these added another dimension of fun and a bit of a challenge
One of the things I made in the run up to Christmas was a Gingerbread House to be raffled as part of the Schools Christmas Performance – together with a class of 7 and 8 year olds we made Shredded Wheat Mini roof tiles – a brilliant change to my usual chocolate buttons – looked really authentic so I’m certainly doing that one again
We decided to have a crack at one of the recipe cards as well, and the sheep got thumbs up all round, mainly as it made from Marshmallows and raisin – two of my children’s favourite things – now granted don’t look quite as professional as the recipe cards but what we lack in looks we make up for in pure fun making them!
Dead easy instructions
The hardest part was getting the children to keep their fingers out of the bowl, the cards were really simple to follow and you can find them here, they have some new ideas for Valentines and Easter so well worth a look if you have a rainy day and an hour to play
And here are a couple of other makes from Christmas – the all time favourite Cinnamon Roll Cake
mmmmm warm buttery icing – om nom nom
and the classic mince pies
Hope your Christmas and New Year were productive for you too x
You may know that I LOVE to make, titivate, change, upcycle and generally improve upon, I love a challenge and when offered 5 of these battered and broken photo holders i I knew immediately that they could be changed and improved upon in just a few simple changes. We have so many photographs and children art work in this house that Im forever on the hunt for inexpensive ways of displaying it
I picked these up for £1 each – they are roughly 60cms x 60 cms, in various states of battered and broken and all in a basic metal – ie grey – not terribly pretty
The first step was a quick sand with a light sandpaper, and then a wash down with sugar soap – then a very light respray using Plasticote in Ivory – I use this stuff a LOT and love its matt finish
I then sanded in places where I wanted the grey to come through – I never like a ‘perfect’ finish – if it can be shabby chic’d then it is
I then hot glue gunned on buttons and mini ribbon bows to get the pretty finish I wanted for the girls room and voila – its done
It certainly wasnt rocket science and probably only an hour to do one each for the girls. You can see I ribboned up one of the spaces to hang cards, or pictures from that too and used mini shabby pegs to hold in the postcards…
To show this off I used the amazing postcards that were very kindly sent to me by one of my favourite companies ‘Bags of Love’ Ive known about this company for a LONG time – infact I used to buy their photographic bags and sell them – but I had no idea that they had expanded in such a great way to offer such a diverse range of personalised items.
The set I was sent were postcards – made from my own images – it was such a simple process – I sent them the images and they sent me back a pack of postcards – superbly printed on excellent quality card – such a lovely idea – we are having a grand time posting them to our friends and family whilst away in Wales – a nice and novel way to keep people updated what you are up to but be able to keep and display the photo
Can you tell I love them? can you image sending one of your child off to an aunt or nana and imagine their delight when they received it?
So thanks for taking a look at my upcycled photo holder and taking a look at the Bags of Love Postcards – you can visit the site here – I honestly cant recommend them highly enough and as such this will be going in my ‘Alyson Loves’ page
Charlie Bigham – A LOT
So on a recent trip to Wales – I stopped off at the local Waitrose – now that’s a bit of a novelty to me.. yes I am that sad.. we don’t have Waitrose in my part of the world so I had a wander around and picked up what looked like a ‘ready made meal’ simply because I had never seen this brand before – I slid out the packaging to have a nose at the contents and had a little internal nod that it all looked pretty decent – quick qwizz of the ingredients and nutritional content and popped it in the trolley and thought nothing of it.
As a general rule I don’t ‘do’ ready meals – EVER – in fact I am a snob when it comes to such things – I take great pride in cooking everything from scratch, and I have to say I think I’m a pretty decent cook, however in Wales – alone with the children I sometimes just cant face the old ‘cook for one’ business so either sometimes don’t eat – bad girl – or get something snacky. That was how the ‘ready meal’ happened to go in my trolley in the first place
I put the children to bed – opened the pack, read the instructions and proceeded to follow them – I sat down to eat it and was literally blown away – it was SUPERB and trust me I don’t say that lightly – at all. So good in fact that the following day I contacted the company to tell them just how good it was, and offered to review it for them to let others know how good it was too.
So here I am – I don’t DO reviews on this blog – its just not what I wanted to do when I started blogging – however there are some things that just need shouting about and this is one of them.
The company was Charlie Bigham’s – they accepted my offer and set me up with a stack of amazing food to sample and try and Oh My Goodness what an amazing weekend we had – a real taste sensation – beginning with my husband demolishing one dish before I even got home!
mmm looks good doesnt it… though here is what greeted me on my return from the gym
but more about that to follow..
Let me tell you ANY box that looks like this is ALWAYS welcome at my door
So over the next few days I am going to show you just how good and simple these meals are – and really what a refreshing revelation they are to a ‘cook from scratch’ snob like me
Charlie Bigham – I think I might have to marry you
…Where have you been all my life?
At this years Cybermummy event I happened to mention that I loved the MIFI – well the concept – I hadnt tried the real Mccoy, and one of their lovely PR’s contacted me to review one.
The Mifi is ….and here comes the official blurb ..
It works by creating its own wireless hotspot, working on 3g so its nice and quick – its a revelation
OK so it arrived and Im thinking there is NO way this thing can be as good as it appears – we have a mental lifestyle, 3 children, 2 homes and days out on boats and beaches, there is NO way this thing will keep up and keep us all connected.
Our family consists of 4 main internet users, using a selection of laptops, ipads, iphones and netbooks, our home braodband struggles to keep up so the concept of having a little gadget that just connects us all wherever and whenever we want is pretty hard to fathom – but wow how wrong can a girl be.
If you are thinking well why not just buy a wifi dongle? – yup I could have done that – but that would be one dongle to share between up – noooo – that wont work -
Why not connect to local wifi? – all well and good if you are in a region with Starbucks and Costa’s however here in deepest Wales – they are rarer than rocking horse doodooo
Why not upgrade to a WIFI Ipad – erm ££££ thats what
My teenage daughter is permanently rooted to the internet in one capacity or another and so afternoons spent bobbing about on a boat in the sea, sans access can seem interminable to her, we cant even get a mobile signal down there on our networks let alone internet – so hence my scepticism about it working for us.
I charged it and followed the ridiculously easy to follow instructions and bobs your uncle and fanny is your aunt – it fired up and connected within about 30 seconds – but that was at home – in the land of decent signal – I popped it in my bag with my Ipad and set out for the day – I used it sporadically whenever I got 5 minutes and can honestly say it was a joy
Eldest daughter came home and connected through it too, all good in the hood here, next came Mister with his laptop, yup another convert… was all going swimmingly… though we all scoffed at it working in Wales
The annual decamp to Wales commenced as soon as the hols started and out came the mifi – and it only flipping worked – I’ve lost count of the number of times one of us exclaimed ‘how can I have zero signal on my phone but 3g on the internet?’ it really seems like the work of the Devil – far too simple, useful and effective.
Next came the real test, my husband called me foolish to even try – there we were bobbing about in the Sea off the Welsh coast and …. drum roll… it fired up and connected 3 of us on the boat – this thing really is genius and I honestly dont know how we managed without it.
One of my perks of Wales is a lovely coffee and breakfast at a super cafe in Abersoch – no internet there though… so its old school newspapers.. not any more – Ipad me up.. I can now browse the news and enjoy my breakfast.
Its still working on its single charge so I cant even tell you how long it might last – but its pretty hefty battery life, and financially its not a huge commitment, you buy the dongle and then its paid for by how much you download
If I’m honest I think its the PERFECT gift for that person when you dont know what to buy them, you know those ‘have everything’ types we all have in our lives
Three have been doing some interesting campaigns recently ‘showing mums the benefits of having internet on the go, as research shows that mums can save 135 hours a year by having mobile internet while out and about. Common activities that mums would do on the move include online banking (27 per cent), keeping up-to-date with emails (63 per cent), shopping online (27 per cent), and looking for recipes (14 per cent).
Mobile internet helps keep mums connected and gives them the freedom to be online for both work and play, wherever they are, and at a time most convenient to them. Sylvia Chind from Three explained: “We’ve really tried to get under the skin of modern motherhood through this study. We now know that 28 per cent of mums now spend at least an hour online every day. While they are often carrying out vital family admin online, we know from the research that mums could do this while out and about rather than allocating a time to sit down at their computer….’
…… Now Im not going to lie the majority of my time online is done browsing Twitter, blogs, Facebook and Google – but hey it all adds to my life so Im not knocking it
So many thanks Three for letting us try this fandango piece of technology – you have entirely changed our families enjoyment of Wales – without question, its going to be a bereavement to send this back to you – and thats quite rare that I love something as much as this