Festive Jam Jar candle holders

jam jar   I love candle light, especially during the Autumn and winter months when the dark nights are upon us.  There is something warming and comforting and these festive jam jar candle holders are so easy to make. All you need is a selection of jam jars, things to decorated them with and some glue or double sided tape. We used lace (that was my mums), sheet music paper (which I sourced via Pinterest and have saved on my free printables board) and some scraps of ribbons. These jam jar candles are not just for Christmas we have had them by our fire place since I made them last year! If you are a candle lover then make sure you take a look at my decorated pillar candles and teacup candles too tea light holders Some other great jam jar candles: Sequined Jam Jar tea light holders by Nurturestore Granny Chic tea light holders by Tales from a Happy Home Festive candle holders by Planet Penny Jam jar and tissue paper luminaries by The Imagination Tree Glitter tea light holders by Be a Fun Mum Etched jam jar tea light holders by Pea pod designs Festive Jar lights by The Boy and Me Sparkly Jam Jar tea light holders by Fantastic fun and learning
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Kettler Go Kart Nitro Extreme

I am a BIG advocate of free range parenting and getting children to make the most of the outside.  My boys had as much of a free range summer as I could afford them and have bikes and scooters.  Their best buddies also have a Kettler GO Kart that they adored using over the summer.  This Autumn we have been putting the  Kettler Go Kart Nitro Extreme through its paces. The Kettler Go Kart Nitro Extreme is a go kart aimed at children aged 7 to 12 years old and we have had children on it from aged 6 through to 12 so can attest that it is suitable for a wide age range and that they can adjust the seat themselves, so no adult intervention is needed to get it ready for the next child.  (Sorry about the pictures, but it has been so dark here) Go Kart Nitro Extreme The Kettler  Go Kart Nitro Extreme has an RRP of £249, which is a lot of money, however, if it lasts from ages 7 to 12, which is five years and gets use throughout that time I think that it is extremely good value for money.  Plus they hold their value, just take a look on ebay and see how much they sell for second hand. Since we got the Go Kart it has been used every day come rain or shine and has been great for encouraging them to get out and exercise.   We live on an estate and there are some inclines, but the Go Kart handles them really well and once the boys got used to it no push starts were needed.

Ease of Assembly

  Me and the boys managed to put this together ourselves in around 20 minutes.  The box it came in was MASSIVE, but this meant that we only need to add the wheels and handle/steering wheel.

Quality of build

  We are hugely impressed with the quality of this go kart.  Yes it should be good for the price, but it is sturdy and goes over bumps and kerbs with ease and feels really solid and of great quality.  My friends Kettler is 6 years old and still looks great, so Kettler has a good reputation.


  There is something fantastically fun about being on a kart.  Being closer to the ground makes you feel as though you are zooming at great speeds.  The Go Kart Nitro Extreme is a big hit where we live with children queuing up to take a go on it. We love the Go Kart Nitro Extreme and think that the boys will get a lot of play out of it.  The only negative is finding space in the ever full garage to store it! Disclosure: We were sent a Kettler Go Kart Nitro Extreme to review.  As always my thoughts and views are my own and are not influenced by anyone in any way.    
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Strengthening Our Winter Defences

One of the things I miss most about living in Berkshire is my next door neighbour Louise, who runs her own business Panacea Holistic Health and Beauty.  Louise is one of those people that has an innate ability to make you feel good about yourself and I was lucky enough to be a client of hers. panacea She provides a variety of holistic therapies and beauty treatments, gift vouchers and natural health and beauty products.  Her massages are divine and she tailor makes her treatments according to your requirements and needs.  She has the ability to put people at ease and make your treatment relaxing and refreshing. She made a superb inhaler and roller ball of a special aromatherapy mix for Mini and his tantrums, which he still uses to this day.  I felt more than confident in asking her advise as she is a trained and qualified aromatherapist. So I asked her to write me a guest post about how we can all strengthen our winter defences.  S0 over to Louise: Strengthening Our Winter Defences
With autumnal colours filling the landscape there is no denying that winter, and all it's associated ails, is rapidly approaching.  Do you dread the onslaught of endless winter bugs?  Stocking up on tissues and mentholated rubs and lozenges?  Would it surprise you to learn that it doesn't have to be that way? It's very simple; avoiding the winter bugs is all about having a strong immune system.  If you have been watching 'Food Hospital' on Channel 4 you will be very aware of the power of  food, and our nutritional status for keeping us healthy.  Well, here is my prescription for staying healthy this winter and beyond.
  • Top up your friendly bugs.  Those that reside in our intestines have been proven to have a very positive impact on our immune system.  Too few and we get ill.  It's very easy to give them a boost with a quick course of probiotics which are available in both capsule and powder form.  Top Tip: Always take probiotics during and after a course of antibiotics.  Antibiotics kill off the good bugs as well as the bad ones.
  • Boost Your Vitamin C and Zinc.  These are the primary immune boosting nutrients.  Unfortunately to get the immune boosting benefits you will need to supplement as it is virtually impossible to obtain a sufficient dose through food alone.  Take 1-2 mg of vitamin C and 15mg of zinc a day. Top Tip: Vitamin C helps the absorption of iron from your food, so take some of your vitamin C when eating iron rich foods for an added boost.
  • Take a high quality multi vitamin/mineral.  There are lots of other nutrients involved in keeping your immune system in optimum working order such as Vitamin A, Vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, selenium and molybdenum. Top Tip:  All supplements were not created equal.  Avoid cheap version where costs are kept down with dosages too low and ingredients the body finds difficult to process making them an expensive waste of money.  If you only have to take one a day, it's not enough!
  • Clean up your diet. All the advice above will be more effective if you eat a nutrient rich diet too.  Fresh food in a rainbow of colours provides added benefits that these supplements can never hope to live up to including enzymes, fibre and helping your body to absorb all these extra nutrients you are fuelling yourself with.  Refined, processed food often use more trace minerals to digest them than the 'food' itself actually provides.  Finally, cut right down on your refined sugar intake.  Studies have shown that eating sugar suppresses our immune system for up to 5hrs; plenty of time to catch that cold. Top Tip: Xylitol is a widely available natural sugar substitute that looks and tastes great, doesn't spike blood sugar levels and is even good for your teeth.
  • Catch more ZZZZZZZs.  There is a close association between immune function and sleep.  Sufficient sleep, believed to be at least 7 uninterrupted hours a night, enables the immune system to recharge.  Interestingly the onset of an illness of any kind also increases our need for sleep as our immune systems go into battle.  Having a young family of my own I know this is not always easy to achieve, but I find knowing how important it is helps me focus on getting more sleep, even if not enough.  Top Tip:  Start 'winding down' an hour before you want to sleep...log off and switch off and choose reading or listening to a relaxation track before drifting off.
  • Take some Exercise. The important word here is 'some'.  Those of us that have 30-45 mins a day of moderate intensity exercise such as brisk walking or gentle jogging are 20% less likely to catch colds and coughs.  It is  equally important not to overdo it however, as strenuous exercise actually depresses the immune system making you more susceptible rather than less.  Top tip:  Try to exercise outside whenever possible for the added bonus of a mood boost too.
  • De-stress.  The hormones released when we get stressed are further immune supressors.  Reducing stress is not easy to achieve as we are often reacting to situations outside of our control but it is important to take action to reduce the negative impact where we can.  The suggestions above will all help; more sleep, more outdoor exercise, and a better nutritional status will all help our bodies to 'stand down', fight or flight not required! Top Tip:  If you find it hard to wind down try a warm bath, take slow, deep breaths from a couple of drops of a relaxing essential oil (lavender, chamomile, frankincense)on  a tissue or listen to a guided meditation/relaxation track, often available as a free download.
In my personal experience this immune boosting plan will keep you free from all manner of bugs.  I find that illness only strikes when I have been well for so long that complacency sets in and I drop too many of the balls.  But the great thing is that if you do most of the suggestions, most of the time your immune system will be so strong that you won't even notice:)
Thanks to Louise's advise the boys have been taking supplements and we are currently reviewing the Higher Nature range of Childrens Vitamins and I have to say I am really impressed.  Rather comically the boys have taken to calling them their "chemicals" and  have not missed any since we got them.  They are using the Kids Vitamin D3 Spray 625iu, which is mint flavoured, the Kids Vital Vits,  Kids Smart Focus  and Kids Fruit & Shake.  We also have Kids Relax & Unwind, but neither of the boys like the taste.
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Great Kids books for Advent and Christmas

christmas  and advent books Now that we have got down the Advent box, I thought it was time to share with you some of our favorite books about Advent and Christmas. My boys are 7 and 8 now and some of these are long time favorites such as Dear Santa, which although they have outgrown they still love.  
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Beauty buys to put on your Christmas list

I used to be something of a beautyaholic.  I adore potions and lotions  and BC (before Children) I would spend my hard earned cash on lots of new and exciting cosmetics that promised the world.  I loved the packaging, the anticipation and the whole buying something for me. Now my life is different.  The only time I get stuff like this is Christmas and Birthdays or if some kind PR sends me something! So this is my list of things that I have popped on my Christmas List.  Some have been previous PR samples, others products that I am getting to the end off! top beauty buys Healagel Eye.   I have been looking for a new eye cream since having my eyes lasered nearly a year ago.  Since giving up my glasses the area under my eyes has been dry and sore.  I have tried alsorts of products and even been to see my GP, who said it was due to my skin not used to being exposed and that it needed to acclimatise.  I have been using Healgel Eye for the last 2 months and my eyes are no longer dry and sore and I feel much better about them.  Now at £32 I know it isn't cheep, but I rarely spend any money on myself and I am a firm believer in that if you find something that works then keep on with it.  Plus it has a pump dispenser so provides you with measured amounts and I reckon I will get around 4 months useage out of it. Nourish Argan Skin Rescue Treatment  The latest cult brand at www.biggreensmile.com that is getting rave reviews from customers is Nourish, which was created from the guys that brought you Neal’s Yard. Certified Organic by the Soil Association, the Nourish skin care range was developed in 2012 to offer cutting edge, beautiful, high quality natural and organic skin care products. I have been using the Nourish Argan Skin Rescue Treatment, which is £18.95.  It is perfect for my skin at this time of year, which really hates central heating. Nourish Argan Skin Renew Treatment I have also switched from my normal moisturizer to Nourish Argan Skin Renew Treatment and my skin is reaping the benefits.  Again central heating makes it tight, sore and dry and this puts the life back in to it without being to heavy and greasy.   It is £21.50. Lily Lolo Honey Glow Shimmer Stripes  I used to wear make up everyday when I worked, but since being a mum I no longer hide behind my "face" plus I wanted the boys to understand that women do not need make up to look good.  That said I still love makeup and wear it when I am going out of on days when I look particularly dreadful!  I was recently introduced to mineral makeup and was send the Lily Lolo Honey Glow Shimmer Stripes compact.  It is £19.99 and I have used it a lot.  I opted for the honey glow as I am a real pale skinned person, but we are going on holiday.  This gives me a gentle, subtle hint of a glow and makes me look like a better version of myself. Liz Earle Hair Oil  Botanical Shine Nourishing Hair Oil for all hair types is the only product I use on my hair other than shampoo and conditioner and they have to be paraben and SLS free.  At £15 for 150ml it  is on the expensive side, but I have had my last bottle since March, so when you bring it down to a cost per use it is amazing value.  People have raved about Moroccan Oil and I have used both but much prefer the Liz Earl Hair Oil.  Even Maxi uses it to make sure his curls to not tangle. I was devastated when I left my bottle at Thorpe Park earlier in the year and was straight on to the internet to buy another bottle. Aromatherapy Associates Bath Oil I adore a long warm bath and there is something decidedly indulgent with Aromatherapy Associates Bath Oils.   When my mind is racing and my insomnia raging then a bath with their deep relax oil goes a long way to helping me get on top of things and trust me that is priceless.  My oil lasts me all year as I treat it like liquid gold.  The boys are not allowed anywhere near it.  This has been on my Christmas list for the last 18 years and I really look forward to unwrapping a bottle. L'occitane Hand Cream I used to have a love hate relationship with hand cream.  I hate dry hands, but I hate greasy hands even more.  Then a colleague introduced me to L'Occitane Hand Cream and it transformed my life.  It is really thick and you only need a tiny bit.  My colleague was a glamorous more mature lady and I used to really look up to her.  She was always perfectly groomed and very chic.  She also taught me her way of putting on handcream.  You place a very small (pea sized or smaller) amount of cream on to the back of your hand and then rub both the backs of your hands together, before turning them over and rubbing in the remainder of the cream which means your palms do not get too greasy .  This is the hand cream I always buy my MIL. What is on your list for this Christmas?
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Reindeer Food Tutorial and Free tag roundup

We love Reindeer food.  It is a tradition in The Mad House to go out and sprinkle it on Christmas Eve and to track Santa on Norad.  There are endless recipes for Reindeer food on the internet and mine is no different or special, but it is much loved and used over the years. reindeer food

Reindeer Food

  • Oatmeal I use the value oats
  • Bottles of Christmas colored sugars
  • Christmas sprinkles
  • Glitter or coloured sugar if you are concerned about animals eating it
Method: It couldn't be much simpler, you just pour everything together in a big bowl and stir to ensure it is all mixed together.
Spoon the reindeer food in to small plastic bags and then seal with one of the free tags listed below:

Free Reindeer food Tag Roundup

reindeer food8
Love these free tags from Amanda's Parties to go
Todays Creative Blog has these adorable tags.
vintage rudolph fancy labels - lisa
Or how about these vintage fancy labels form The Tom Kat Studio.
WC Designs have a very stylish printable here.
Activity village has free printables too and
magic rein
Organized Christmas has two different free labels to choose from.
idea room
The ones I use from Amy at The Idea Room
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Christmas Eve Gifts and Making Christmas Eve Magical

Once of my favorite tradition over the festive period is the Christmas Eve Gifts which are left from our Christmas Eve Elves.  I adore Christmas Eve, there is something really special about the anticipation of Christmas Day and we spend it as a family as MadDad always tried to get it off.  We make sure we are prepped for Christmas Day and can be found in the kitchen as a family for part of the day.  I love the thought of making it magical and wanted to share with you what we do and how we do it! Christmas Eve Sacks Christmas Eve gift bags New Pyjamas (so they look their best on Christmas Morning in pictures) I have even ordered The Pajama Elves book to read over the advent period. A new family Movie  A family Game Reindeer food Snowman Soup A new book for bedtime We all snuggle up and make cranberry and popcorn garlands for the tree at the front of the house as we watch the new movie.  We go and lay a wreath on my Mum's grave and as the sun starts to set then we wrap up warm and go for a walk round the local neighbourhood and look at everyones christmas lights before returning home for our snowman soup. The last thing the boys do before putting out a pie and drink for Father Christmas is they sprinkle their Reindeer Food before going to bed with their new book.
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Easy child friendly Fabric Christmas Cards

Making christmas cards is tradition in The Mad House.  We love making them for people that we love and we don't buy many cards at all. This card is fantastic for encouraging cutting skills and you can use any off cuts of fabric and felt that you have. fabric Christmas card Mini loved making these cards and as you can see as often is the case with children more is more and he wanted to use our christmas stamps and paper punches too! Materials:
  1. A selection of fabric and felt
  2. Glue
  3. Pinking scissors
  4. Card stock
  5. Sequins
Method: It really couldn't be much simpler.  Mini cut the fabric in to strips and the positioned them to make a christmas tree shape.  He then cut out a pot shape from brown felt.  Once he was happy with his tree and pot he stuck in to the card and then he embellished it in his unique fashion!
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Do not let the thought of Christmas make you panic

I read a really thoughtful and insightful post over at Tales from a Happy Home, where Gillian noted that she noted the Christmas countdowns as they tended to make her feel panicked about Christmas looming ever closer. The thing is Christmas is not supposed to be a time of stress and strain or panic, but it is for many mum's.  We are often the ones that keep the family ticking over whilst ensuring that everything is organised, made, purchased, wrapped and plans made. But I had an epiphany the year my mum died and realised that for me life is about the people I spent it with all year round and especially at Christmas and not what gift we give them on one day of the year. Christmas also got much less stressful when we stopped buying for adults (apart from the MIL and FIL and that present is from the boys).  We do not buy for my brother and his wife or my Brother in Law and his wife.  Instead we concentrate on making  and buying a gift for our nieces.  This really reduces the panic. Another thing that is really important to me is making sure the boys vision of Christmas is much more than the gifts they receive on Christmas Day.  I do this in various ways.  Firstly with their Christmas Lists, where they are only allowed to put four items on their list.  This means they have to be mindful about their needs and wants.  I also insist that they give three toys ech to charity and not toys that are heavily played with either!  My spending time with the boys each day over advent doing something off our activity advent calender also ensures that they think a little more about Christmastime and Advent. Christmas list rules
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Air drying clay ornements

Every year we make salt dough or corn flour ornaments and unfortunately they got damp in storage and they were ruined, so this got me thinking about using air drying clay for a more permanent christmas decoration. christmas decs Initially I made three from some left over clay we had and decorated them myself with out the boys involvement and was really pleased with the way they turned out.    So I decided to have a go with the boys. Materials:
  1. Air drying clay
  2. Cookie cutters
  3. Plastic roller (i used the boys old playdough one!
  4. Silicon cooking mat
  5. straw
  6. Clear sealant or modge podge
  7. decorations (we used buttons and felt)
  8. Nailfile
  9. ribbon
  10. Glue (we used a craft glue gun)
Method: I would recommend that you make your ornaments a couple of days in advance to decorating them.
  • Firstly work the air drying clay well in your hands until it becomes more supple and easier to roil.
  • Roll out an amount on the silicone mat (4mm) is an idea depth.
  • Using a cookie cutter cut out your decoration shapes.
  • Remove the decorations from the mat on to a board to dry.
  • Using a straw make a hole in the top to thread your ribbon.
  • Also smooth the sides of your ornaments to make for smoother edges.
  • Allow to dry (do not dry over a heat source or they will crack.
  • Once dry take the nail file and smooth any rough edges.
  • Then apply a clear sealant or modge podge (PVA).  I did this with my first set of ornaments.
  • Decorate and attach the ribbon.
air drying clay ornements Collage The second set I did with the boys are a lot more rough and ready, but then they do like to take over and so they should.  They decided to decorate them before we even sealed them.  However, they look great and I am really pleased with them  
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