25 November 2014

Our Christmas traditions

With Christmas fast approaching, exactly a month away today, I have been thinking about our Christmas traditions and I thought I should get a wriggle on and write about them.

The Little ones are getting older now, at 5 years and 2 and 3/4 years old, for the past few years we have been doing the same things at Christmas time, some things we have done from before we had children too. The Little ones are beginning to remember the things we do each year and they have developed into new Christmas traditions for our family.

Baking- For as long as I can remember I have made biscuits at Christmas time, I remember doing it at home and here before the Little ones came along and I have done it with them too. I, until last year, used the same recipe every year for simple spicy biscuits which we have made recently. We always cut them out with Christmas cutters and decorated them with white icing and all sorts of red, green and silver decorations and handed them out to family and friends in little Christmas bags along with our Christmas cards. 


Last year I was given a book of Christmas baking for my birthday and instead of making biscuits the Little ones and I made giant chocolate drops and decorated them in a sort of florentine style with cut up apricots, candied apple, raisins, nuts and mini chocolate drops . We also made home-made coconut ice too and gave the treats out to people instead, including Little 1's preschool teachers, everyone loved them. So this year I think I will go through the book again with the girls and see what they fancy making.

I was also given a gingerbread house cutter set last Christmas and I am planning to use my spicy biscuit recipe to make one with the girls and decorate it as a family. I have thought about doing this for the past couple of years but thought the girls were a bit young before, watch this space for our Christmas baking as I am sure I will write about it.

The Snowman/Christmas DVD- For the past few years we have allowed Little 1 to stay up a little later on Christmas eve and watch the Snowman on dvd once she is in her pyjamas (a treat for her as the tv is not usually allowed on after tea in our house), this is usually done with hot chocolate and a few chocolate coins, we all sit together as a family for this one. Now that the children are getting older and their attention span is improving we might start watching a Christmas film instead although we usually pull out our collection of Christmas films from late November and watch them whenever we fancy so we might decide to keep it as the Snowman (at least it is short), we'll have to see what they want to watch this year.

Mince Pie for Santa- After the dvd and hot chocolate we always prepare a plate with a mince pie and milk for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer that the girls leave by the fireplace before they go up to bed.

Christmas clothes from Nanny-  On Christmas morning we always open all of our stockings in our bed before coming downstairs in our pyjamas where the girls open their presents from Father Christmas and us and Mummy and Daddy swap gifts with each other. Then either we go over to Nanny and Uncle M's or they come to us for coffee, croissants and a few little gifts if there is time. Since the girls were born Nanny has always bought the girls an outfit to wear on Christmas day and she will either bring it over with her for them to get dressed or give it to us the day before if we are going over to them. This year however Little 2 will be wearing Little 1's dress from a couple of years ago and Little 1 was lucky enough to receive a lovely Christmassy dress from Frugi recently so she didn't need one either.

Little 1's Frugi Reindeer dress.

Dinner at Granny's - After a quick chat and a play with their new things all of us head over to Granny and Grampy's for Christmas dinner. It is great that we are all together for Christmas and I get to spend lots of time with the girls as I am not cooking a Christmas dinner, we spend the rest of the day there eating, opening presents and eating more and bring 2 tired children home in their pyjamas to go straight up to bed.

Boxing Day presents- As we don't have the time to open all of our presents on Christmas day we usually leave the ones for the girls from other people, and ours from friends and work until Boxing day when Nanny and Uncle M come over and we swap gifts with them and open all the rest of ours. Later on we head over to Great Granny's for tea with the whole family, it is a bit of a squeeze!

So there you have it, our two days of Christmas, what do you do, has it changed and developed over the years? How do your children influence your traditions?


22 November 2014

5 months pregnant- scans, specialists and scary moments

I am now 25 weeks pregnant, almost 6 months gone, and boy this month has been pretty stressful baby wise and I have also had a poorly Little 2 as well. It all started about a month ago with our 20 week scan....

 For those who might not know (uncle M-thats you) -The 20 week scan, the anomaly scan, is the one where they check that your baby is developing properly, and if anything may be a cause for concern, it can also be the one where you can find out your baby's  gender if you want to (depending on your hospital and sonographer of course).

I was a bit nervous before we went in hoping that Little 3 was going to be okay, I'm not really sure why I was a bit nervous this time, I don't remember being nervous with the other two but maybe I was and I just don't remember. I was also a bit excited that we might find out whether Little 3 was going to be a he or a she.

The sonographer was friendly and did what she could but Little 3 was not going to wake up or move for her to see what she needed no matter how much she poked and prodded, She had me shake my hips and jiggle my belly (not the most dignifying thing to do), and get up to relieve my bursting bladder but Little 3 was quite happy snoozing (we saw a yawn) bottom down facing outwards. She was able to scan the brain and head, face and check that the limbs were all ok but not able to check any of the internal organs, spine or heart so arranged for us to come back in two weeks time. We asked if she could find out the gender at the end, doubtful that she could due to Little 3's position, she had a look and we could only see the cord, then Little 3 moved and we got a sneaky peek, well, Daddy and I didn't see anything other than cord still but the sonographer was sure she could tell us what we were having and we were thrilled.

We had wanted to know partly because the girls wanted to know and partly because I couldn't wait to find out, I don't like surprises and we have a loft full of pink things and girls clothes I was itching to sort through and start washing things either to pass on and sell or for Little 3 to wear. We are not telling on here what we are having though (unless I accidently give it away by not reading what I have written thoroughly enough) as some of our family do not want to know.

Anyway, we left with another scan booked for 2 weeks time to do the rest of the checks. In the meantime I had a consultant appointment at 21 weeks where we were told that baby was doing well and growing just fine and my blood pressure was continuing to be normal so the consultant was happy to sign us back off to midwife led care- yay.

We returned for our second anomaly scan at 22 weeks and this time the sonographer was able to do the rest of the checks she needed and confirmed our baby's gender for us. She did however spend a lot of time looking at the chest and kept going back to the heart from various angles, we started to get a little worried. Finally she said that she wanted a specialist scan done on our baby's heart as it wasn't beating the way it should. We were suddenly very worried, she showed us a close up of it beating and you could see that every few beats the heart valves hesitated before continuing, apparently it is called an ectopic beat and she said it was not uncommon. It wasn't something I had heard of before and we were quite scared of what it meant for little 3's future. The earliest appointment she could get with the cardiologist was 5 days away and so we had to wait.

At 23 weeks we had our scan with the cardiologist, both Daddy and I were very nervous as to what we were going to be told. The scan took 40 minutes of uncomfortable prodding as Little 3 was not in the best position to view the heart, we watched in silence at the images on the screen of the strange heartbeat and as the sonographer recorded several heart traces and took various picture and looked at the blood flow. Finally she spoke to say Little 3 was likely to be okay (PHEW). The heart was formed correctly and there was no fluid or anything, she then talked us through what she could see and the recordings saying that every third heartbeat was a little premature and then the heart was pausing to correct itself which was good. It is something to do with the heart being immature and extra electrical impulses, that is was not too serious and hopefully Little 3 should outgrow it before birth or shortly afterwards, if not it is something you can live with. As you can imagine we were incredibly relieved and glad that our baby was going to be okay.

We will now be having 4 weekly fetal heart scans with the cardiologist for the rest of the pregnancy in the hope that Little 2 will outgrow it before birth and to keep an eye on the development of the heart. 

Not only was all this going on but Little 2 was also not well for pretty much the whole time as well. It started with a cold and cough over half term which was not serious but she stopped eating, kept waking up and was out of sorts and very pale running a low temperature too so I thought she had a virus as well as the cold. The cold went to be followed just a day later with a sore ear and several loooong nights sitting up with her then another blooming cold followed by a terrible barking cough which lasted a couple of days until she woke up one morning wheezing, breathing funny and obviously out of breath. 

I took her straight to the doctors who gave her inhalers and said she would be ok in a few days, it was due to the virus and cold. That night she was really bad and I was actually really worried about her, neither of us slept, the following day she was worse and I pushed for another appointment, this time the doctor was lovely and listened to everything that had been going on with her for the last almost 3 weeks and decided to give her some antibiotics even though she wasn't sure that it was a chest infection, luckily that did the trick and the following morning she had made a remarkable recovery, was back to her old cheeky self and finally started eating again.

I am so glad that Little 2 is well again and that Little 3 is going to be okay, it has been a rather stressful sleepless month, lets hope the next one is better.




17 November 2014

A funky homemade superhero costume

Last Friday was Children in Need, Little 1 came home from school with a note the week before saying they could wear a superhero costume to school if they donated. Their topic this term is also Superheros so she has been talking about super powers, making rockets, bad guys and catching villains as well as the lost crown jewels(!) for the last couple of weeks and I knew she would enjoy dressing up.

We didn't have anything at home, despite a drawer full of dressing up, that could resemble a superhero, we did have a cat ears, tail etc that she could have worn with black clothes and a black cape to be cat woman but 'No' that was not a superhero no matter how hard I tried to convince her!

So I took to good ole ebay and searched for superhero dress up, I knew lots of children would go as superwoman and with the prices of the outfits escalating due to the theme of this years Children in Need, I thought I'd have a go at making my own costume.

One of the first things I came across after changing my search to fabric was this brilliant pink superhero fabric, I thought it was perfect for a cape and would look great, there was also green and blue versions available too but for us it had to be pink!


I then, after thinking about the colours in the fabric, decided she could wear her black leggings and I would buy a yellow t-shirt and some turquoise fabric to sort of copy the 'POW' bit and make her look like a superhero.

Once it all arrived I got snipping, pinning and sewing (I ended up with some help from Nanny with the sewing as it was taking hours!) There were also problems with the turquoise fabric as it was really stretchy so the sewing machine kept catching and pulling it, grr.


First I cut out a cape shape out of the pink fabric using the t-shirt as a size guide as Little 1 was at school. I made sure to leave a couple of bits at the top for the neck bit and then pinned the pink fabric to the turquoise fabric back to front and cut that one too. I sewed it using the sewing machine and then turned it right side out and sewed around the edge again so it all looked neat. 


I'd had the idea of writing the word 'POW' on the front of the t-shirt in turquoise to link it to the cape so cut out the letters for that and nanny stitched them onto the front of the t-shirt. There was lots of material left so I cut a band to make a sort of belt and a small piece of the pink material for a buckle. This was all edged roughly before sewing it onto the bottom of the t-shirt.

There was still lots of material left so I decided to make some sleeves too as I thought Little 1 might be chilly in just a vest and t-shirt at school as she didn't have a jumper that would go with the outfit. That was simple and involved sewing a piece of material the right size in half, turning it right side out and then attaching it to the sleeves.

I also attached a popper and strip of material between the shoulders at the front of the cape so that Little 1 could take it on and off easily, I wasn't keen on using a tie cord especially as she would be wearing it at school and it might get pulled when she was playing in the playground.

I made her mask by just cutting a small piece of card in a mask shape with eye holes and glued a strip of leftover material on to it then cut around it so that it would keep it's shape and she would be able to see. I livened it up with a little strip of the pink material glued on there too and it was just tied loosely onto her head.

Here is the finished product, what do you think? Little 1 said 'Wow' when she saw it!! She loved wearing it to school and refused to take it off until she went to bed that night. There was quite a bit of material left over so we made Little 2 her own superhero cape too. The bonus to it all is that as the reverse side is turquoise the girls have been wearing their capes backwards and pretending to be Elsa from frozen too!



What kind of superhero would you be and what would your costume look like?

14 November 2014

Frugi- Gift of giving- A beautiful twirly bow dress

When I received a phone call from Karen over at Would Like To Be asking me if I would like to take part in the Frugi 'Gift of giving' project, I immediately said 'Yes, please'. 

Frugi is a clothing company selling gorgeous organic ethically sourced cotton clothes for children and a few bits for grown ups too. As a company they are really involved in giving back to charities, they are part of the 1% project, and raise money through their sample sales, to date they have given a huge £130,000 away. They wanted to focus on the theme of 'Giving' this Christmas and the 'Gift of giving' project was launched.

Karen is part of the Frugi family and was asked to chose another blogger to receive a surprise Frugi gift. I couldn't wait to see what surprise she had picked out for one of my girls and when it arrived I was in no way disappointed.


Our parcel contained this stunningly beautiful Twirly bow dress in just the right size for Little 1, she loved it immediately and so did I. It is so her colours and perfect for her to wear this Christmas. The dress is lovely and soft with a great feel against Little 1's sensitive skin. The fabric has a lovely weight to it with the navy edged lining flowing out from under the reindeer print top layer.


The back of the dress is just as  gorgeous as the front with a big bow to finish the dress beautifully, poppers up the back make for quick and easy dressing too.

We couldn't wait to see how twirly this dress really was and stepped out for a spin after teeming the dress with a pair of navy shoes.




Little 1 loves to twirl and this dress definitely allowed her to do that, it falls just nicely and has a lovely fit on my little girl, she loved it so much that she didn't want to take it off!



We love this dress and I can see it being the number one choice for the upcoming parties this Christmas season. It feels as though it will wash and wear well and withstand all that a partying 5 year old can throw at it.



Thank you Frugi and Thank you Karen x


N.B We received this dress as part of the Frugi 'Gift of giving' project in return for our honest opinion of the product. Outdoor photos in this post were taken by Karen's 'husband' who remains anonymous on her blog.

12 November 2014

Already a little reader...

Little 1 has been at school for 10 weeks now (7 of which were full time) and I am amazed at how well she is doing there. I know I said before she started that she was ready to go and already knew a thing or two (both from home and preschool) to help her along the way but I am really proud of how well she really is doing.

She has taken to it like a duck to water and runs off to the gate as soon as her teacher comes to the door (each class is directly on the playground with a little gated bit before the actual class door) shouting bye and so eager to go in, it is lovely that she likes school so much. I feel sorry for the one or two parents still leaving tearful children at the gates and those seeing sad eyes peering out from the classroom as they walk away.

They really did throw them in at the deep end at this school (we chose this school because it is a very academic one and thought it would suit our bright children well) and started sending them home straight away with phonics to learn (you can read my post about her first days and homework here) and matching letter cards so that they could start to build words.



That was very quickly followed by picture books/one word early reading books, spellings (well, a list of 5 words they have to be able to read and then make without looking at the word using their letters cards each week) and tricky words to learn (ones that can't be learnt phonetically like 'said' and 'she'). It seems like a lot for them to take in especially the younger ones but at recently turned 5 years old, Little 1 was ready for the challenge and has stepped up to the mark.

She loves making words using her letter cards and practicing her spellings and tricky words, she has been doing well and moved onto the third set of tricky words already ( I think there are 20 sets of words to learn in reception) and got all her spellings right so far. 

She isn't so keen on practicing writing the phonics in her book, this is a painful drawn out process each night with us persuading her to do it and her not really concentrating and putting in the effort, she keeps doing them huge or forming the letters incorrectly or in the wrong direction despite the fact she can write really nicely when she wants too and almost all the letters correctly. We often end up giving up and finishing it at breakfast when she is more in the mood but that is not exactly ideal is it! We have tried stickers and things like a smartie a letter or line but she just gets cross as she only gets a few! 

Thankfully it won't be for much longer though as she has done 24 letters of the alphabet to this point so only a couple more, but they probably start sending home diagraphs and trigraphs to practice next (that's the two and three letter sounds like 'th' 'ch' and 'air', I learnt that at a parents meeting at school, I had no idea either!) aaarrggghhh!

A couple of weeks ago we had parents evening and were able to look in her writing book, the painful homework process doesn't seem to have affected her as there was lots of really lovely writing in there, a shopping list, a description of a troll that read' My troll is bloo, he is fat and has big horns' (that one made me go awww, her first piece of writing) and plenty of other well formed letters and first words, so she is just being a pickle with the homework then!




One thing she does love and I mean LOVE is reading, we have always been a house of reading, the children's rooms are full of books as well as some downstairs, we read to them every night and often in the day too from when the girls were tiny and this has really helped Little 1. At parents evening her teacher said she is really advanced in her reading and flew through the first few bands of reading books and is has now been bringing home band 3 reading books for a while, we are so proud of our clever little girl and hope that her eagerness to learn and read continues but at the same time we are careful not to push her too far and let her tell us when she has had enough.

Yesterday she made my day (it was my birthday) by proudly coming home with a sticker on her chest saying Head Teachers Award as she had done a brilliant piece of work and her teacher had sent her and a couple of others to show the head. She was so proud of herself and we were of her too, it was lovely she really wants to please her teachers and is trying very hard.


Their topic this term is Superheroes, she had to make a wanted poster for a cartoon character, she had chosen Mickey Mouse and had written a description as follows 'Mici maus, he has a lon teyl, he has red shots (mickey mouse, he has a long tail, he has red shorts) she said she had written it by herself and her teacher had just reminded her to use finger spaces for the second line, I can't believe how well her spelling and writing is coming along already.




Great going Little 1, we are so proud of you x.

10 November 2014

Getting creative with left over loom bands

This week has been one of those odd sort of weeks, the weather has turned cold and it has been raining, the Little ones are tired despite it being the first week back after half term and they haven't been 100% either. Little 2 has really suffered with a horrible cough, it has disturbed her sleep all week and so we are both tired from repeated coughing fits overnight, but she hasn't been herself either she looks a little pale and doesn't want to eat (except the repeated ask for chocolate buttons!) and she keeps mentioning stomach ache but there are no other symptoms (thank goodness) so she is obviously fighting something. Over the weekend she said her ear was hurting but she doesn't have a temperature and she can go hours without mentioning it so I am just keeping an eye on it for the time being and providing a few doses of calpol for good measure.

Neither of us has felt like doing much this week, she has been well enough to go to playgroup and is pretty chirpy when she is not grumpy from being tired and hungry but she doesn't want to play and has spent much of the week lounging in the ball pool and quietly sat in her play tent with a doll or curled up with me watching Disney films under a blanket, I was hoping we could catch a snooze but it didn't happen!

I did manage to get her to do a couple of creative activities this week when she was up for it but they didn't last all that long and her attention span was not what it usually is....

Earlier in the week it was playdough, we had a pack of lots of different colours so I opened a few for her and offered her plates and cutlery hoping to get a little game going, she was happy to chop and dish it all out but didn't really want to make anything much.




She had a go at mushing it all together and told me that she had made a cat that I had to take a picture of..



And then used the empty playdough container to make 'chocolates' but after that she had had enough. She must have been out of sorts as normally she will play playdough for a good 45 minutes and come back to it over the course of the day too.


On Wednesday with it being bonfire night and all that I thought we should do some sort of fireworks pictures, I wasn't sure where the chalks were and didn't fancy getting the paint out for just a few minutes play and then I suddenly thought of the barely used packet of loom bands taking up space in the cupboard.

Now we didn't fall foul to the loom bands craze over the summer (it will probably be the last craze that I get away with avoiding though!) with the Little ones being a bit young and not that interested but I did get one pack in a mad moment as they sat there on the edge of the checkout (blooming product placement) one shopping trip, I made the girls one bracelet each and that was it, they have been in the cupboard ever since and the bracelets were forgotten by the next day.

I thought that stuck on some black card they could look a bit like fireworks so we gave it a go, they didn't end up looking like fireworks at all but the girls both enjoyed sticking with them and I have a space freed up in my art cupboard now.



Little 2 loves glue and will happily plaster a page in it before sticking anything on, she loves to watch it drip and gloop.




Little 1 had a go when she got home from school and just wanted to stick them on the page, they did look quite effective on the black card and as they were glow in the dark ones they looked good later on when we turned the lights off.



Have you got lots of left over loom bands now that the craze has died down? What are you going to do with yours?

6 November 2014

Running around in Richmond park

During half term we spent the weekend with friends in London, fellow blogger Karen over at Would like to be and her family. While we were visiting they showed us the wonder of Richmond Park. Having only been to London once, recently for Britmums, I didn't really know anything of the green spaces that London has to offer, I was impressed by the size of the open space in Richmond Park.

We drove around the road inside the park and took in the sights, the trees and the greenery with the city looming behind. There were lots of deer that were actually quite tame roaming free and lots of people watching and photographing them, it was lovely to see some big stags with huge antlers too as we drove around. 

Karen took us to the ponds near the middle and we all got out for a stroll. It was the perfect opportunity to take some pictures of the girls together. Two thirds of the photos in this post were taken by Karen's lovely husband and his camera, the remainder were taken by me, you can probably spot which ones are mine, the darker, less sharp ones, but the good news is I am getting a new camera for my birthday next week, yay.


The girls did a little bit of posing together minus Daisy who was busy getting to grips with her balance bike! The Little ones put on their best smiles and I was really pleased with some of the lovely photos when Karen sent them to me, I love this one of the two of them together, it is so them at the moment.




There was plenty of opportunity for spotting ducks and swans on the pond as well as one of the Little ones favourite past times of throwing stones into water.




Little 1 had a ride on Daddy and the bigger girls had a quick play in the fallen leaves.




There was plenty of long grass for running around in on the way back up to the car, the children all had fun chasing each other, hunting for flattened patches where the deer had been resting and posing for piccies too.


As cheeky as ever!




Little Daisy was so busy practicing on her balance bike and getting to grips with the rough terrain that she is missing from the other pictures, she was determined to get to where she wanted to be and she wasn't going to be stopped for a photograph! Bless her.


Although a short visit this time, we enjoyed ourselves at Richmond Park and will definitely go and explore some more when we are back in the area next.

Have you discovered any where new this autumn?

4 November 2014

Personalised Christmas cards- review

With only 6.5 weeks to go until Christmas day I have been super organised this year, the girls and Daddy's presents are bought I just need a few stocking bits for them now and my attention has turned to what I need to get for others. I am alway pretty organised anyway, with Little 1's birthday in October I tend to buy a lot in September and split it between the two occasions and Little 2's birthday is in February just a few weeks before Little 3 is due so I did hers at the same time too this year just incase there are any complications towards the end of my pregnancy, I feel better knowing everything is sorted just in case! 

I am one of those who does a bit of present wrapping each evening in the first few weeks of December and has it all piled and ready to post/deliver along with my Christmas cards. This year I even have my Christmas cards almost ready super early too curtesy of stressfreeprint.co.uk when they asked me to review their personalised Christmas cards and although I haven't written and addressed them yet they will be ready soon too! 



Stressfreeprint.co.uk is an online printing company who offer lots of personalised products, they can create greetings cards for all occasions, business cards, calendars, leaflets and flyers, posters, brochures, menus and invitations as well as cd and dvd packaging and presentation folders, they can cater for large business orders as well as small orders for individuals too.

We were offered a set of personalised Christmas cards to review, all I needed to do was send the photos and wording I wanted on the cards and they would do the rest. I had a picture that had been taken fairly recently of the Little ones that I wanted to use but it was very pale and on a white background and needed a border to make it feel more Christmassy. I looked on the internet but didn't have much luck finding what I wanted, I emailed stressfreeprint to let them know I hadn't forgotten to send the information and their kind customer service manager, Craig, offered me the services of their artwork team which I gratefully accepted. 

All stressfreeprint's products can be created using your own images or ones created for you using their new online designer tool or the use of their friendly artwork team. It only took a couple of days to receive a proof and I was really impressed I had sent them the photo and just said that I wanted something red, green and christmassy and this is what they had come up with. I love the design, the gingerbread men and tree shaped biscuits, candy canes and greenery giving the cards a fun Christmas feel that looked great. if I hadn't been happy the first time I could have sent back my opinions and had it altered but nothing needed doing.



Please excuse the quality of the pictures, my camera really is not that great, the cards do look a lot better than in the picture. The green and red on the cards really stands out and the border design is lovely and bright with a feeling of depth and Christmas sparkle.

I then sent the wording I wanted and the signature of all our names for the inside of the card (which I have cropped off the bottom of the picture for confidentiality purposes) as well as a small photo for the back of the card. I wanted to personalise each card to its recipients by hand rather than have a printed greeting at the top so there is plenty of space left to write names. I was then emailed another proof to look over and once I had agreed the cards were printed and arrived in a couple of days, all I have to do now is write them! 



I was impressed by the friendly emails from Craig on the customer service team as well as the artwork team, there didn't seem to be anything they wouldn't do for me and seeing as I was getting the service for free, I was a very very well looked after and one happy customer.

Stressfree print.co.uk also offer lots of other personalised products, they can create greetings cards for all occasions, business cards, calendars, leaflets and flyers, posters, brochures, menus and invitations as well as cd and dvd packaging and presentation folders, if you are looking for personalised products this Christmas they can create you something great.

Why don't you check out what they have to offer at www.stressfreeprint.co.uk

N.B I received a set of personalised Christmas cards and the services of the artwork team for free in return for this post.