Kid Made Christmas Decoration’s – Cotton Reels

I love this time of year, It makes me feel all crafty so the boys and I decided to make some vintage spool christmas decorations to combine my love of sewing and their of making things for Christmas.  They love looking back at the decorations they have made in previous years. cotton Reel Materials
  • Vintage spools or empty cotton reels
  • Ribbon (one for tying round and another for the hanging)
  • Glue gun
  • Embellishments (ours were felt)
Method.
  1. Measure the ribbon, so that you have just enough to wrap round the spool ot reel.
  2. Apply a blob of glue and attach the end.
  3. Wrap round and attach with a further blob of glue.
  4. Take a ribbon and thread through the hole in the reel or spool
  5. Knot the bottom allow sufficient for a decorative dangle!
  6. Apply hot glue to the bottom of the opening and allow to dry against the knot
  7. We finally applied a felt christmas tree embellishment to a number of the decorations to hide the seam.
We have also made air drying clay ornaments, which are great for slightly older children to make. kidmadeornamentseries
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Giving extra this Christmas with Mum in the Mad House and Halifax

I am a huge fan of making Christmas memorable and one of the ways I do this is by giving gifts that we have made.  So I am delighted to be working in partnership with Halifax the bank who give you extra to inspire  more of you to give extra this Christmas by taking the time to produce homemade gifts for that special someone. I want to share with you some ideas and inspiration for craft ideas that can be produced by you and your family and given as christmas present this year.  None are hard to do and are fun family activities and I guarantee you the receiver will be over the moon with the little extra that you have added to your gifts made with love and thoughtfulness.

Simple homemade gifts

simple homemade gifts

Festive Inspired Gifts

simple festive gifts

To win an iPad enter our prize draw brought to you by Halifax

For your chance to win an iPad 16GB Air Wi-Fi ,  please enter the prize draw by submitting your own tips for a great homemade gifts this Christmas.  Entry is via the rafflecopter mechanism below.  a Rafflecopter giveaway For full terms and conditions click here Halifax partnership
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2013 Gingerbread House

One of our advent traditions is to make  and decorate a gingerbread house.  With being out of the country this year we accepted a pre cooked one from Sykes Cottages to build and decorate.  Unfortunately ours came a little damaged (hence the silver foil bottom), but I managed to get it stuck together and then provided the boys with a selection of sweets and icing and left them too it. gingerbread house I have to say it looked a little difference when they first decorated it (they gave it icicles), but Mini kept eating them!  Also they do not know the expression of less is more, so this is a #moreismore gingerbread house and it was two sweets for their mouths and one for the house! Each year I say I will make a pretty one all of my own, but in all honesty the boys adore decorating the house and it has become part of their advent traditions and activities. So for now I am happy to let them put all of their artistic endeavor in to the house decorating and I take a back seat.  I do not even stick around when they are decorating it as I know I would try to take over! If you are looking for a fab, not too gingery gingerbread then I have a fab recipe here. Disclosure: We were sent a free Gingerbread house  for the purpose of this post 
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Getting Croodiacious with Dreamworks in LA

Back in September (yes it seems like ages ago), I was fortunate to go to LA and visit the Dreamworks Campus and get a sneak peek in to how The Croods was made.   My trip to DreamWorks was to celebrate the release of The Croods on DVD and Blu-ray.  Now I have to say that as a family we adored The Croods and went to see it at our local cinema over the summer and the boys were delighted that it was on our flight home from Florida last week. me and belt As this was my first trip to a Studio I had no idea what I was about to see.  Well it was pretty mind blowing and I had a really unforgettable experience. The croods The day commenced with a visit to the Dreamworks cinema and an introduction to the film by Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders, who wrote and directed the film.   They told us about the  fictional prehistoric era known as The Croodaceous period and introduced us to the main characters, The Croods, who are the worlds first modern family. I  was then lucky enough to decorate a pair of Ugg Boots which represented Eeps discovery of shoes in the movie, which is one of those seminal movie moments for me and has stuck with me since seeing the movie.  But The Croods is about much more than shoes, it is about family and how even though we can all have different aspirations, fears and thoughts that ultimately family is everything. I was gobsmacked when we were taken to the CGI stage, where real people become animations by having sensors placed on to them.  It really was mind boggling that a computer becomes a camera allowing the filmmakers to get new camera angles. I learned that lighting is one of the major aspects of making an animated feature so watchable and that the sound team go all around the world to record the actors for the voiceovers.  Dreamworks Studio is as much a technology company as much as it is a movie studio, hence it being in Redwood California. The whole day was just amazing, I even got to meet one of the head animators and have a go a drawing my own belt character and so can you as it is an additional feature on the Blu-ray and DVD! 5264601000_3PA_jpgHR DreamWorks Animation's The Croods DVD & Blu-ray is out now
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Can shoes look good and still be comfortable?

Do you have to sacrifice style to have confort?  I would like to assure you that the answer is no, you just need to know where to look for things and I am going to share with you my fantastically hot purple heeled boots as an example. Nigella Boots These beauties are the Nigella ankle boot from Hotter Shoes and are £90.  They are fantastically good looking, but even better they are so comfortable you can wear them all day without getting aching feet. They have a real victorian feel to them, but are bang up to date in a super purple colour and a 2 1/2 inch heel.  They have cushioned leather insoles and flexible grooved soles, which really makes them a dream to wear. I have said before that I have a high instep and wide foot, but these are perfectly easy to get on and fit well, but they also come with a shoe horn as an free extra, which I love.  The zip fastening is easy to get up and down and makes them very easy to put on. Every time I have wore these fab Nigella Boots I have been asked where I got them from.    I actually found it really hard to chose that shoes to get and my shortlist is below: hotter collage    
  1. Cheshire boots - £129.00
  2. Somerley Brogues in Red/Blac - £79
  3. Donna Heels in Dark Purple - £85
  4. Shake Shoes in Boysenberry - £66
What would you have chosen? So yes you can have style and comfort.  Just make your way to Hotter Shoes.
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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.

Playability

  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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