Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Gruffalo Party Packs to the rescue

You may have noticed I haven't been blogging much lately. The reason for that is that I am in the midst of going through every single item in our house and deciding if we should ship it, sell it, give it away or dump it. The idea of organising a 4 year old's birthday party amidst all of that is somewhat overwhelming.

All of BB's parties so far have been small affairs, a few of his friends gathered in our garden to play and eat. Balloons, bunting and birthday cake - that's all you need, right? I've prided myself on the simplicity. But our house is not in a fit state to welcome guests, we may not even have a house at all by the time the birthday comes around. Also, I feel like we should have a bigger party, a chance to get together with all the friends who have been a part of BB's first four years, before we leave the country.

Believe me though, I have lost sleep over this - just how am I going to do it all. As if in answer to my question, I then received an email from a party bags and supplies company who wondered if I would like to take a look at one of their party packs and write a review. YES PLEASE!

The website has loads to choose from and it took me a while to choose. I wanted something well known and gender neutral, and so finally settled on The Gruffalo . The box arrived a week ago and I have been waiting all week to open it. BB is at nursery this morning so I finally got to take a peek. Inside are eight ready packed party bags, eight cups, eight plates, eight napkins and a table cloth.  The party bags are good: - something to make, something to make noise, a finger puppet, a wiggly snake and of course some chocolate.


Gruffalo Party Pack

The table settings look great too. 


Gruffalo Party Pack
Gruffalo Party PackGruffalo Party PackGruffalo Party Pack


Typically the pack I chose is one of the more expensive, but actually, even this only works out at £3.55 per person, which when you add up the cost and the hassle of sourcing all of these things individually, makes them quite a bargain. In fact I like it so much I am ordering more so that everyone at the party has the same.

And now I am totally into this idea of outsourcing everything...

... so, in addition, we have a lovely local bakery that are doing the food and the cake, and a party shop that is charging me a small fortune for some helium filled balloons. I don't think BB will ever have a party that's this flash again, but despite my previous opinions on keeping children parties simple, I can totally see why busy parents choose to do it this way. More expensive than a home party of course, but simpler in so many ways.

Disclaimer: The Gruffalo Party Pack was sent to me free of charge for the purposes of this review. I have not been paid to write this and all of the views are my own

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Divine Chocolate

I regularly receive requests to review all sort of items on my blog, usually children's clothes or toys, but recently I got a request that was a little different. Would I be interested in reviewing some of the natural products made in Carmelite Monasteries? I was curious.



After taking a look around the site, and googling Carmelites (sorry about my ignorance), I decided that we could indeed try some of the products. I was free to choose two of them, so we went for the Dark Chocolate Cream and the Lemon and Citron Marmalade.



I have to say that the Dark Chocolate Cream is by far the best Chocolate Spread I have ever tasted. We had some of a well known brand in the cupboard and there really is no comparison. Smooth, dark and delicious - it didn't last many days in our house.

The Marmalade was also very tasty. It has a serious bite to it which you can smell as soon as you open the jar, and is perfect for breakfast. I was not so keen on the texture though - a bit runny for my liking - but I guess that's just a personal preference, the taste is great.

If you are interested to know more about the products please check out the HolyArt website http://www.holyart.co.uk

Disclaimer - these products were sent to us free of charge for the purpose of this review. I was not paid to write this post, and the views and opinions are my own 


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pura D'or Organic Argan Oil Shampoo - Review

A couple of months ago I was sent a bottle of Pura d'or Hair Loss Prevention Premium Organic Shampoo to review. This is a premium product containing Argan Oil which has recently risen in popularity in hair care, and as I am in the process of discovering different hair products for a grey haired old lady I was more than happy to give it a try.




I was disappointed when it first arrived that I had been sent the shampoo only. I usually use a shampoo and conditioner pair. I was uncertain at first  as to whether I should use it alone or with another conditioner, but I decided to try it out by itself and see how I went. It's not like I have really long hair that's gong to get tangled now is it! Also, I have been reading stories of people using coconut oil as a conditioner and had been saying I would give it a try, so I finally got around to that too. I used the shampoo every day and the coconut oil conditioner just once a week. This turned out to be a perfect combination. My hair didn't seem overly dry after just the shampoo, but with the coconut oil conditioner it felt amazing. It makes you wonder why we even use conditioner in the first place.

The main claim of this particular shampoo is that it reduces hair loss. Now I lose a lot of hair. It's not quite so noticeable since it has been shorter, but my shed hair has always been everywhere, blocking plug holes and vacuum cleaners, and this has definitely been worse following my pregnancies. I did think that perhaps it was better when using this shampoo, so to put it to the test I have been using a different one this week to see if it made any difference, and it definitely has. In fact I was reminded that I needed to write this review by the hairs that have fallen onto my keyboard during the last couple of days when I haven't been using it! So, it seems it does what is says on the tin.

It is quite a pricey product, but it says on the bottle that the 16floz is approximately 3 months supply and I would say that this is a good estimate. I have used it every day for a month and I have not quite used a third of the bottle yet. That said I have short hair and so only need one squirt from the dispenser, but many people don't wash their hair every day either. So, if you take how long it lasts into account when you consider the price it is probably no more expensive than your average supermarket brands, and I'd definitely choose this paraben and sodium laureth sulphate free organic shampoo over most of those!




Monday, February 23, 2015

Essential Oils for Pregnancy Birth and Babies

Recently I decided to continue my self study on the use of essential oils. This is something that I started almost thirty years ago, but have not had so  much time for in recent years. I have always really enjoyed aromatherapy, and, as I have mentioned before, have a very keen interest in studying natural medicine. Although I am happy to accept that there are some things since hasn't found an explanation for, at the end of the day, I am a scientist, and evidence reassures me. In the future I plan to write some posts about the use of the essential oils and any research that may have been carried out on their properties which can validate claims. Meanwhile, I thought to get us started, that many of you might be interested in my notes from a webinar I attended recently on the use of doTERRA Essential Oils for pregnancy birth and babies. 


The session was hosted by Heidi and Allen Lafferty who provided the above information and I felt it was very much worth sharing. Please remember that this does not replace the advice from your doctor. 


General oils for taking care of mum in Pregnancy and motherhood 

Citrus
Elevation
Peppermint

Citrus oils lift mood - also great for cranky kids

Wild Orange lifts mood and calms any anxiety a child may have as well helping them focus

Lemon is for stamina

Elevation - helps for depression and low mood

Peppermint - inhale to energise, esp if haven’t had enough sleep


Nausea

Ginger
Pepperpint
Digestzen

Rub on bottoms of feet

Peppermint use with caution if breastfeeding as can decrease breastmilk - however if needed you can use it and can use fennel to increase BM production

All oils can be used topically, Internally, Aromatically

Some need to be diluted with carrier oil - recommends fractionated coconut oil

can also use olive oil, almond oil, grapeseed, sunflower - but must be pure organic etc

1 drop essential  1/4 tsp oil when using on babies

Blood Pressure - Pregnancy Induced Hypertension

Ylang Ylang
Geranium
Lemon Grass
Lavender

Can use all topically

Lemon grass should not be taken internally unless in capsule

Sleep

Lavender
Serenity blend
Roman Camomile
Vetiver


Stretch Marks

Immortelle
Frankincense


Swelling

Elevation blend
Lemon / grapefruit
Aroma touch blend
Cypress
Lavender
Ginger

lemon can be taken in water as a regular drink

lemon, lavender and ginger can be ingested - not the others

Delivery

Contractions -
Preterm labour - lavender
Hemoraging - Helichrysm


Post Pregnancy

Breast soreness  - lavender
Ceasraean Scars - Immortel, lavender, frankincense
Increase milk production - Fennel
Mastitis - Melaleuca
Perineum support - helichrysum, lavender
Tone uterus


Baby

baby eczema -frankinsense and melaleuca


Lavender - Image from hypnofacials.com
You can find out more about joining doTERRA here and feel free to connect me if you require further information

Recommended book - Essential Oils for Pregnancy, Birth & Babies  by Stephanie Fritz (NB this book was recommended by the presenters not me. I personally am not sure about this author yet. Although she says that you can email her with any questions, so far she has failed to respond to all of my questions about the research evidence behind her recommendations and there are not many references to research in the book :(  )




Thursday, February 19, 2015

Happy Chinese New Year - The Great Race Book Review

Seeing as I have been reviewing books for a few years it is very exciting to now be able to write about books that I am selling myself through Barefoot Books. And seeing as today is Chinese New Year, I couldn't think of a better place to start that by telling you all about The Great Race - The story of the Chinese Zodiac.

The Great Race - Chinese New Year Barefoot Children's book review

This is a picture book with a target audience of 4- 9 years olds, though it can be read to and enjoyed by younger children. The story tells a tale of how the different animals came to represent the different years in the Chinese calendar. "I'll hold a race!" The Jade emperor cried, "The first year of our new calendar shall be named after the winner"

The Great Race - Chinese New Year Barefoot Children's book review


As with many of the Barefoot Books, this is more than just a story. The end notes include further information on the Chinese Calendar, some Important Days in the Calendar and the characteristics of the animals and the years that they represent.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New Year New Work New Me!

It's been a while since I have written on the blog - not for lack of things to say I can assure, but it has been a crazy busy time... followed by a week of the flu. We are just starting to re-enter the world.

Although I have had lots of different posts in my head, I am actually just going to do one big one to catch up as that seems a little less overwhelming than the other option.

As you know I quit my work with PP at the end of last year. well, almost, he hasn't replaced me yet so  I am still doing some bits for him, but I am not spending anywhere near as much time on his business as I was. I am just doing the things that are absolutely necessary, and none of the bits I used to for free. This gave me lots more time to myself, for almost a week, and then I managed to find other stuff to do.

Firstly I need to get my BabyCalm and ToddlerCalm classes up and running again. A combination of factors, (moving house, the venue I was teaching from being taken over by new owners a few times, and then spending every day with my Nana) meant that I haven't really done much with that for a while. The plan is to run classes from my home once we move, that way I won't lose money on the venue if I have a small class or need to cancel, and I won't lose clients when the venue has a change of management/plan/use as has happened for the last 6 months. I also really liked facilitating courses in my home - its a much nicer atmosphere (I got that in feedback too - not just my own opinion about how nice my house is!). The only downer being that I have to have it clean and tidy which can be stressful sometimes when you have a toddler, but its good to have a reason to keep it nice. Anyway, we are still waiting to move, so I can't do much in the way of classes yet, so my work in that area has really been about getting things up to date and getting my CPD sorted for this year, A) to get me back into and B) as I can't do anything from my house until we move (more on that later).

Also, I am not really sure what the direction of these two companies is going to take, so I need to be a bit prepared for anything. I don't want  to invest all my time in them as it could end up that it's not going to be viable long term. But I like them and I want to build on what I have, so with that in mind,  for BabyCalm I signed up for a short course on Essential Oils for Pregnancy Birth and Babies and did the AromaTouch Training. I chose this because I have long been interested in Aromatherapy, in fact I used to sell the oils a long time ago, and as I mentioned before I started studying natural medicine in Australia and would love to continue. So this seemed like a good way to get back into BabyCalm and start a new/rekindle an old branch of interest. With regard to doing something seriously with Natural Medicine interests, I first have to find a course that suits me - i.e thats grounded in real science and research not just someone's ideas. Aromatherapy is quite a good place to start in terms of having evidence. Anyway, I really enjoyed both the training events and have since given three free Aromatouch treatments to complete my training. I find it almost as nice to give the treatments as to receive them and hope to keep that at a regular part of my life too, though unfortunately I am not able to charge for the treatment as I don't have a formal aromatherapy qualification. I am continuing my studies of aromatherapy in an informal way for now, mostly by reading and using them for our family wellbeing.

For ToddlerCalm I decided that I would be interested to do something on play or forest schooling. On doing some research in this I found a great course on storytelling and story play that is being held close to where my sister lives, so she could look after BB for me while I did so I signed up for that. A few days later, three different people that I know mentioned the idea of me becoming a Barefoot Books Ambassador.  I have thought about doing this for a while, mostly just because we love the books, however I have always found myself saying that now is not the right time. Three people saying that perhaps I should give it a try, along with the fact that there was a  promotion on in January that made it cheaper to get started, and of course the need to develop a new income strand were enough to convince me. I figured that in the very worst case scenario, we would just have a some extra books from a book company we really love at wholesale prices... and so I signed up.

It has been a bit of a whirl wind, but I have to say that so far I am blown away by what an amazingly exciting and supportive business it is. The training and guidance that are sent out and provided through webinars is really great, and makes it really clear what you have to do and how you can do it so that you can make your business successful. You can essentially do as little or as much as you like, some people are making more than they did on their previous full time job, others are doing the minimum, which is selling about £50 worth of books a month on average - almost a personal account by the time you add in the birthday presents you can get through it. I am hoping to add a couple of hundred pounds a month to our bank balance out of it, so nothing too crazy, but enough to make it worth while. I am also doing a few fundraisers and things too, and kids activities so it feels worthwhile and I am enjoying everything about it so far. I also really like the little challenges that they set to increase your sales, this motivates me. What I am loving most is the fact that all the work that I am doing is building MY business, which is much better that when I was trying to build someone else's (particularly as he didn't seem to care so much about it as me!)

So work wise, I am pretty set up for a while I think.

With regard to the house, we have no progress as yet. The people we are buying from can't find anywhere to move to. The real estate agent is on my back saying that I'll lose my buyer if they don't find somewhere soon, but it's not really in my hands. I have had a look around to see if there are other places I would consider, and there are, but I am sticking with this one for now. Hopefully they will find somewhere soon. I am just trying not worry about it too much, if it happens it happens, if it doesn't there will be other houses and other buyers and our house is quite fine in the mean time.

I had one of my most challenging mum weeks last week. BB had been a little off colour for a few days, but not so bad. Then on on the Wednesday I got a call from nursery to say that he was really unwell and had a high temperature. I went to collect and bought him home. He slept for a while and then proceeded to vomit in pretty much every corner of the house. It turned out to be the flu, which I then caught. I was at my worst in Sunday just as he was starting to feel better and go stir crazy having been stuck in the house for days. I was hard. Very hard. I was not the best Mum I can be that's for sure. On Monday he went out to nursery and I stayed home to rest up. That was great - gave us both a break from each other and gave me a chance to catch up on some sleep and start to get better myself. We both still have bad coughs, but are on the whole OK again now.

Finally, spring really seems to be springing here over the last couple of days. I am so excited about this. Dark dreary winter days really don't do it for me, and a little hint of spring is very energising!












Thursday, January 15, 2015

Toucan Box Review

You may have seen adverts for Toucan Box popping up on Social Media. I have noticed them several times and thought about them, then thought that we could do that ourselves. Just before Christmas thought there was an offer that we couldn't resist - A chance to try your first Toucan Box for FREE.



The box arrived about a week before Christmas - some pop sticks, googly eyes, glitter glue (BB's favourite) string, jewels, glue, some thin foam, and of course the instructions.

Toucan Box Review - Instructions
Instruction booklet

Toucan Box Review - Instructions
Instruction booklet


The box had BB's name on, which he now recognises, so the first part of his joy came from the fact that there was a parcel for him. The second part was that it rattled and jiggled and sounded sooo cool. As soon as we opened it he wanted to start creating. We made several of the Christmas decorations, most are not packed away for next year, but here's one that he gave to Nana that we brought home from her room the other day.

Toucan Box Review - Christmas Tree decorations
A Christmas decoration by BB

Simple, but effective. BB was able to do most of this himself too, once he had been shown what to do. I enjoyed making them too - it was nice to spend the time together working on something like this.

Toucan Box Review - Rockets
The super dart rocket
Our second box arrived just after Christmas. This was to create fireworks or rockets. Again we sat down to the activity as soon as the box arrived.  BB was particularly into rockets at this time too as we had just watch Wallace and Gromit on Prime Instant Video- the one where they build a rocket and go to the moon looking for cheese.

Then a couple of days later when my parents came to visit, BB carefully got the  things out, setting a place for each of them at the table with all of the things they needed to make the rockets.

Toucan Box Review - Rockets
The first attempt rocket
My Dad immediately set about improving the design, narrowing the rocket and removing the tails which created resistance and slowing it down. It flew! So all the family had some fun out of this set.

Our third set arrived yesterday - even though we were quite late home, we had to do it before we went to bed. We made some jellyfish.

Once again everything that we needed was in the packet. We made one each so BB was easily able to copy what I was doing. He needed some help of course, especially with the threading of the ribbon and tying of knots.

Toucan Box Review - Jellyfish
Our jellyfish

As well as the craft materials you also get some stickers which you can add to a chart to get free gifts and prizes.

Toucan Box Review - Sticker chart
The prize chart, for collecting your tokens














There was also a booklet that they call the Toucan Tracker, which links all the activities to the curriculum. I counted them - 89 outcomes!!! 

Toucan Box Review - Curriculum Document
The curriculum!


Then there is a sheet for parents that tells you how the activity fits into the National Curriculum "What we are learning" and the flip side "Explore more" gives you more ideas for activities. Though we haven't done any of these yet, I have created a folder to keep them in for future ideas, so I do value them. 

Toucan Box Review - Parent sheet
Parent support sheets

To be completely honest I found the curriculum links to be the least valuable part of the project. I also doubt if they are correct - for example in the fireworks pack they are talking about expansion of air, the speed of sound, shock waves and sonic booms - now I was a Science Teacher for 13 years and that sort of level of understanding was beyond most of my year 10 students, so I really don't think its appropriate for a preschooler.  Nor do I think anyone will achieve a sonic boom with their home made paper rocket! There is another link to a Science outcome which begins with "The North Pole is home to Santa and his reindeer..." now call me a party pooper, but that's not actually science!

Toucan Box Review - creative use of leftovers
BB's snake
The other thing of course is that you could do all this yourself. The thing is though that you don't do you! Well I don't anyway, not right now at least. And if you did, it could cost more as you would have to buy a whole pack of straws, a whole reel of ribbon etc. instead of just the bits you need. That said, every project so far has been very generous with resources - we have had bits left over from every project so far which we are putting away in our craft stores. Whilst I have been writing this, BB has picked out some of the leftover pieces from the box and created this snake, all by his self.

The boxes cost £4.93 and are delivered fortnightly, so whilst they are not expensive, that does add up. However, we are enjoying the joy of boxes arriving, getting into the craft ideas, working together to create something and we do have stuff left over for other projects. You can also get a box half price if you introduce a friend, and can collect the prize tokens faster if you share your projects on Instagram Twitter of Facebook. So although I could do it myself for less, the reality is that I am not doing that right now. Currently, we are thoroughly enjoying the whole Toucan Box experience and would definitely recommend them to our friends and so have no intentions of giving them up as yet.

So if you would like to try a free box click on the image below - please note this is an affiliate link and I will earn a small commission for introducing you (but it wont cost you anything)


 If you do end up trying one, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.



Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Rethinking the Christmas Card

As the festive season ends, I am taking down the cards and wondering about the future of this annual tradition. The number of cards I receive each year seems to decrease, though the number I send remains the same.  Many people no longer send cards, but a text or email, or even a Facebook status update instead. The advent of the internet and mobile phones, along with the increasing price of sending mail and a growing consciousness of the environmental impact have undoubtedly contributed to the decline. I wonder each year if it's time for me to stop sending them too.

To ease my conscience about the waste, I always keep the cards. BB and I use them for craft, and we make labels for next year's presents from them too. But this year, as we hope to be moving, they have found themselves in the recycling bin. To keep the cost down, I always buy next year's cards in the January sales too, but again with a move in our future I don't really want to be stocking up on things like this - we are streamlining our belongings, not stockpiling!

So does this mean that now is the time for us too to cease this old fashioned tradition and move more into the electronic age? It's something I have been pondering for a couple of weeks now, but I think not. Although I didn't write a Christmas letter this year, I usually do.  And I love writing the cards. It's a time for me to sit down and think about all the special people that I know around the world, to remember them, and the times we have had together, to wonder how they are doing. Many of them have children of their own now, some that I haven't even met. I wonder about them too. This little process of sending a card is perhaps my only connection with some of them, I don't want to lose that. I like that the card represents a little bit of me in their home at Christmas.

The Christmas Card BB made me at nursery this Christmas

Of course I love receiving cards too. I hang them on ribbons so they become part of our Christmas decorations. Little bits of the sender are in our home too. So I have decided to carry on with the tradition. Further more, in thinking about what I really like about sending them, if possible we are going to try and make our own next year too. I always used to do this. Not just as a child, but as an adult too. Something simple like a photograph of a where I was living or a place I had been. They don't take too long to make but are something different to commercial ones. I loved making them. I recently found many of these at my Nana's house, she had saved them, the personal hand crafted cards being a little more special those from a bumper multi pack. We have received several this year with photos of children and families. Some with artwork by the children, several handmade by crafters.

The Card BB and I made for Nana last year

As I parent I also think about what I am passing on to my child about this process. Do I want him to think that sending cards is about buying a multipack from a megastore and then laboriously writing and posting them? Or would I like to make the process more meaningful? Making our own Christmas decorations has become part of family Christmas traditions that I hope we will enjoy each year. I am thinking that mindfully making and sending our own unique cards could become one too. As with all these things its will take a bit of organising and planning, but I think we can do that. I have already found a couple of great places to get envelopes online, some fancy envelopes and some more plain ones. We have a whole stock of card and paper already, and a wealth of ideas. I'm not sure what style we will go for yet. Maybe there will be a whole range... we'll see.

Meanwhile we'd best get making all our thank you notes as a practice run.