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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

That was 2013. Phew, what a year!

I do love having a good old 'look back' and getting all sentimental, so here comes another of those 'review' posts. Obviously I'd rather be out partying tonight, but this comes a very close second (and I do get to watch the gorgeous Gary Barlow on the box later, so it's not all bad). For the past two years I've written a little note to go in with our decorations as I pack them away, and every December I love reading my notes again and remembering all the good which has happened, and now I can do it on my blog too, yippeee! I realise I should have written this much earlier in the day as by now most friends will be too sozzled to read... but hey, it's for me mostly anyway. Words and some pictures - that's what blogging is all about, after all!

2013 was quite a year. Plenty of baking, which makes me happy.
In January I started my first job since giving birth to Sasha. I did work almost right up to Sasha's due date, but it's been a long 6 years since then! I hadn't actually planned to return to work, but an opportunity came up at the office of a local charity called ADD-vance, who help families with children with autism and ADHD. 
More recently I've been doing some extra training work presenting our story of having a child diagnosed with autism to the local council, as they learn about all the changes which the new Children and Families Bill will bring for them and for families of children with SEN (Special Educational Needs).

In February I wrote a difficult post, using words which are still full of meaning to me: 'Different, not less'. The subject of schooling for our autistic girl cropped up a lot in my blog over the year and will still be very much on the agenda for 2014. We will have to work even harder to get it right as she moves into a new school with new staff in September, but we will of course do our very best. My most read post on this blog this year was on the subject of schooling, written in October: Schooling for High-Functioning Autistic Children.
 
In March we enjoyed the annual PTA quiz, Tamsin suggested her Sponsored Silence for Comic Relief, and I got to spend some time (see pic!) with lovely bloggers and the MP Edward Timpson, at Westminster, discussing the new SEN Bill changes. That's quite a variety of activities there!
In April we had the chance to attend Moshi Monsters' 5th Birthday party, which was amazing. A certain Mr C completed the incredible feat of completing his first ever London Marathon. May saw lovely family days as we celebrated Tamsin's First Holy Communion and then her 8th birthday.
June was when Sasha turned 6, and a couple of days later on my birthday, we made our first trip to Great Ormond Street to try and get a more detailed diagnosis for her. We believe she has a certain type of autism called PDA - Pathological Demand Avoidance. There was a long delay following that appointment, but we've now received the date for returning for the 3 hour session of testing (gulp!) and in a few weeks I hope to be posting more on that.


In June we had a lovely family trip away to Paultons Park, a fab place to visit, especially for a Peppa fan! 
Then in August we had another great family time, at the Lollibop festival. Brilliant photos, happy memories.

September was when I started to get back into blogging in a bigger way. First I was extremely lucky and won a ticket to attend the MADS awards (where I met the gorgeous Dr.Ranj, then attempted, and dismally failed, to look good in a cocktail dress on a surfboard).

 
Then I won tickets for the fabulous Wear It For Autism event run by Anna Kennedy, and following that I was proud to join in and be a part of the Mumsnet #ThisIsMyChild campaign. 

We had a very happy trip back up to stay with my parents in my hometown, where my not-so-little eight year old conquered The Big One at Blackpool Pleasure Beach - another proud moment for me! We also enjoyed a trip to meet friends at Center Parcs - Sasha's favourite place to go on holiday. She's already told me she wants to go there for our summer holidays - fingers tightly crossed someone liked this post then.....


October, November and December were all very busy blogging months where we were lucky enough to be offered plenty of opportunities to review products. Lots of toys, which took me back to my days as a Toy Buyer BC (Before Children, I'm not that old...).
I also attended the Britmums Morrisons Christmas 'Do' and BlogFest run by Mumsnet (#penisbeaker anyone?), where I really enjoyed another surfboard (ahem) and meeting up with lots of bloggy friends, old and new. Too many to name, although all are very special people and I hope they know how much I've enjoyed reading their blogs and spending time with them. Orli, Jane, Claire, Renata, Steph, Hayley, Tania, Debs, Nickie, Marylin, Fiona, Victoria, Candi, Jazzy, Deb, Anne, Jenny, Helen, Molly, Mich, Gemma, Penny, and many, many others, thanks all for your support.
We celebrated NYE a day early with good friends yesterday, and with those amazingly kind and supportive friends I've also enjoyed chocolate making, wine and tapas tasting, 80s parties and Cirque Du Soleil - plenty of fun times together this year (and Gary Barlow at the end of last year, gone but never forgotten...).
Online support has meant a lot to me this year, and I have to mention my amazing PDA Facebook group (was particularly fab to meet Lucy, Julia and others this year!) who all come together as a team to provide each other support through the difficult times. If you can do one thing for me in 2014, please look at the new and improved PDA resource page at www.thepdaresource.com and help me spread the word about this condition. Our children are not naughty, and it is not bad parenting. I would love to see greater understanding and tolerance.

We had an amazing summer holiday with great friends who made everything so easy and who I'm really looking forward to seeing soon in the New Year. 


We saw family of course in 2013, and in January was the first time for 3 and a half years that my parents, brothers and I have all been in the same place together. Hope we can do it again in 2014. 

Having looked back over all my other photos, I can see there is SO much more that went on this last year but I realise I do need to stop somewhere, so here it is. 
2013 was a FAB year, Cheers to you all and here's hoping 2014 can be just as fantastic!!

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Thursday, 26 December 2013

Center Parcs December Challenge: Christmas! #CPFamilyBreaks

You may have seen a post or two from me about Center Parcs before.... like the one where I wrote a poem or the one showing a video of how our family likes to have fun..... well, here comes another one as the Center Parcs Blogger Challenge for December is all about Christmas!


Funny that. Anyhow, I thought it would be a really quick and easy post to write as I love Christmas so much, and we were asked to choose our 12 favourite things about the festive season. Turns out, it's extremely difficult. I found it so hard to narrow it down to just twelve!

The Center Parcs Winter Wonderland Expert, Nick Oot, came up with a list of his own for inspiration, and my favourite there was his first tip - decorations. Did you know they use more than 2,700 kg of artificial snow to create the perfect Winter Wonderland setting? Or, that they put up around 1,500m of fairy lights? Carry on reading to see where decorations figured in my list!

To make it even more challenging for myself, I decided that I should share out the numbers and let the other members of my family each pick their favourite three things. So here goes:


Sasha
1. Presents
2. Mummy (my second favourite answer)
3. Terry (no, not a pet name for Santa, it's her soft toy that goes everywhere)

Short and sweet.

Tamsin
4. You get to spend time with your whole family (aahhh, this was my fave answer)
5. Towards the end of opening presents you get to scramble under the Christmas Tree
6. Advent calendars

I agree with all of these, except for the scrambling now that I'm old and wrinkly. Loved it when I was younger.

Mr.C
7. Minstrel Santa pot (see photo)
8. Seeing the girls excited and happy
9. Christmas lunch

Number 8 is my main raison d'etre, and now I have a Christmas Pud full of Munchies I can add that to his number 7.

Little Old Me
10. Christmas baking - no Christmas pudding or Christmas cake in this house though, can't stand them. Cupcakes all the way for me!
11. Decorations; both on the Tree & taking girls to see the big light shows on local houses
12. Panto - see my recent post about how we managed this as a family here.


So there you have it, in a nutshell (kind of). There's so much I've had to leave out - Christmas is the most magical time of the year, after all! 

This is my entry to the Center Parcs and Tots 100 December Challenge. If I'm chosen, I would like to visit Elveden Forest. #CPFamilyBreaks

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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

So here it is, Merry Christmas....

Santa is on his way and so I just wanted to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year!

Thank you so much for reading; we've had another busy year in which I've found myself going back to work unexpectedly (and yes, part-time DOES count) and we made our first visit to Great Ormond Street to try and get a more detailed diagnosis for Sasha (PDA). I'm pleased to be able to tell you now that we have an appointment for the follow-up testing there early in January, so I'll be blogging more about that fairly soon.

I'm hoping if you click on the link below it will take you to a message from all of us, so please do try and let me know if it works.

Curtis family Christmas message

I've really enjoyed blogging again this year, and I'd like to say a huge and heartfelt thanks to everybody who supports us, either by commenting or sharing or simply reading - you are all helping in different ways. So from the bottom of my heart, Thank You.

Merry Christmas! Now get off to bed - don't you know Santa is nearly here and he won't stop unless everyone is asleep?!
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Dinosaurs in Space Animation Set

We recently received a brilliant box which kept my 8 year old and her friend amused for hours - Dinosaurs in Space, an animation kit made by the brilliant Zu3D.

In the box was an animation ready webcam, some coloured clay, modelling tools and the super animation software. We were very impressed with how the box itself turned into some background scenery to be coloured in - ensuring a unique and fun experience for everyone, as well as making great use of the packaging.

Full tutorial videos to help you get started and help with using the software are also included. Everything you need, in fact, to make your own project from start to finish, and the two 8 year olds we trialled it with managed to make and set it up pretty much all by themselves, with very little input needed. It's quite simple, set the camera up, press click, move the creatures a bit, click again... and repeat! You can even add titles, credits and music to make it look very professional.

I'd love to show you the animated video which the girls created, but they had so much fun that it does go on for rather too long... We have recreated a shortened 'preview' version instead:

We definitely recommend this box set, for all budding animators young or old. It can be purchased at the Zu3d online shop.



Disclaimer: we were sent this product free of charge so that we could test it, but have not received any payment and all views expressed here are our own.
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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Nintendo Wii Party U and Nintendo 2DS

Did you know that Nintendo have released two great new products - Wii Party U and the brand new Nintendo 2DS? We were lucky enough to get the chance to try these out and I thought I'd let you know how fab they are.

The Wii U is a new system, similar to the old Wii, but with one major difference. The console now comes with a GamePad controller. This a separate handheld screen, with buttons, which enables you to sit on the sofa and play games while someone else watches the television. 

I'm not the best at taking in and understanding all the technical data, but you can read all about it by looking at the main Wii U website if you so desire. You can use this GamePad controller like an extra Wii Remote controller, you can view gameplay on both your television screen and the GamePad, you can use the touchscreen to control gameplay on your television, you can use just the GamePad on its own... and it has a built in camera, how cool is that?! Plus it can be used as an internet browser.... total amazeballs! Of course, there are good parental settings so you can restrict who can access what by giving everyone a separate Mii to log in with. If you have already created your Mii on an original Wii system, the new Wii U can very cleverly import all of this information at the touch of a button - more amazement here (we're easily pleased).
Wii Party U was released which features 80 new minigames that utilise the unique features of the Wii U GamePad. Two players can play games such as Tabletop Football with each other on the GamePad, at the same time. Highway Rollers is a great party game for the big screen, a bit like a board game but with a modern twist! My girls loved it. Then there's House Party games - ones which get you using the space and other options a bit more, like 'Water Runner' where you ladle water from a stream on the GamePad and take it to the jug displayed on the TV. Up to 4 players can participate in that. There's so many other games on Wii Party U that we haven't had time to check them all out yet - 'Name That Face' where you use the camera to catch your expression then challenge others to guess what you were feeling sounds like fun!

Our girls are 8 and 6 and could manage to play all of these comfortably without any help. I'm sure even younger children would find much to enjoy on this too. We certainly haven't used the Wii U to its full potential yet but are really looking forward to the holidays and to the chance of trying out even more of those family games! 


Since receiving the new Nintendo 2DS to trial, our eldest has been almost permanently glued to this console. It's a brand new member of the Nintendo 3DS family, offering an entry price point, without the 3DS screen which some parents find too dazzling for younger children. The main difference with this new console is that it isn't a clam shell case - so the screen is always on display. This seemed a little strange at first, but actually it's a huge bonus as the console feels more comfortable to hold, and the screens are right next to each other so easier to follow.

The console comes in black and blue, or white and red. I found a great table which compares the different 3DS family of consoles - much welcomed for a technophobe like me. Eldest tested out the game Animal Crossing: New Leaf and is still going strong on it, finding new things to do and places to go every time she picks the console up. All your old DS and newer 3DS games can be played on this new system too - top marks to Nintendo for recognising that parents can't afford to shell out all over again for the old favourites!

So Nintendo products are a big hit in this household - we love them so much, we all agreed to wear the silly hats to prove it....


Disclosure: we were sent these products to test but have not received payment. All views expressed here are completely our own, and we always give honest feedback for the benefit of our readers.



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Monday, 16 December 2013

Panto. Loads of laughs or not?

I'm really proud of our little girl, Sasha. Despite her autism and the struggles she faces, she is still generally a happy, polite and curious child. Whilst we haven't really spoken directly with her about her autism, it's not a secret and is discussed in our house quite openly. She is just not quite at the stage where she would fully understand the condition and its implications. Recently though, I've noticed a change in her. She is definitely maturing and becoming more aware of her own struggles. She tries hard to keep her 'upsets' under control and seems to now understand how some situations are not good for her.

I was extremely happy today when we were able to attend the panto as a family for the second year running. Of course that's not as easy as it sounds, and it has taken some careful planning along the way. Last year Sasha did leave the theatre a few times during the performance to take a break - it was clear to see when all the noise and excitement were getting too much for her. We always need to make sure we can have seats with easy access for leaving (getting other people up mid-show is bad enough once but slightly more than embarassing if you turn into human yo-yos!). Making sure she will have a good view so there's a chance her attention will be held is also key, and I'm sure that covering both of these things last year meant that she was happy and willing to give it another go this year, despite knowing how loud and noisy it can be. I was also well prepared with a bag full of distractions in case it didn't prove to be as appealing to her as she was hoping. There's so few things we can enjoy as a family due to Sasha's PDA and sensory issues (she often refuses to leave the house and doesn't have the attention span to sit through a film at the cinema), so this day out is all the more special for us.

Before I go any further I'd like to let you all know that it was an amazing production at the Alban Arena. We had enjoyed the previous years performance and had tears running down our cheeks back then; we knew a couple of the same stars (Bob Golding and Sam Rabone, brilliant guys) were appearing this year along with Gareth Gates and Andy from CBeebies, and so we were sure we were in for a treat.

We all thoroughly enjoyed the first half and it was such a pleasure to see Sasha laughing out loud at the jokes (not that she could get the innuendos, but they tickled her anyway). She did resort to the ear defenders to block out the noise when Gareth Gates started singing, but that was definitely due to volume and not quality (he's amazing folks, I'd pay to see him in concert!). She bounced up and down in her seat and enjoyed joining in the shouts of 'hello Buttons' and 'he's behind you' etc, but every time the audience clapped she would push her hands over her ears and bow her head down. The ear defenders were used several times, but there were plenty of good and happy times too. At the end of the first half, two real miniature white ponies came on pulling Cinderella's carriage (oops, sorry for spoiling the surprise folks!) and whilst everyone else cooed at them, Sasha beamed and told me she LOVED the carriage.

Just after the second half started, Sasha tapped me on the leg. She didn't look at me, which I thought was a bit odd, but when I looked more closely, I could see that her hair was over the back of her seatback, and that the woman behind her had her handbag placed on her knee, pushed right up against Sasha's hair and the seat. When I tapped the woman's bag politely to let her know that Sasha was unable to move, she hissed at me that she had had to put the bag there to 'protect herself from Sasha's hair'. I was gobsmacked. I was aware that Sasha had swept her hair over the seat back a couple of times in the first half, as her bobble had come loose, but I hadn't realised that it was a problem. The woman's attitude was certainly a problem though, and sadly it did spoil the second half of the show for me. Why on earth would you feel you had to 'protect' yourself from hair?! It's not as if it was dirty, or swarming with headlice. The woman could have just moved her knees to one side slightly and the hair wouldn't have touched them. Equally she could have mentioned it during the interval or tapped me on the shoulder and pointed it out, but instead she chose to trap my girl's hair with her bag. Unbelievable. Maybe she was just feeling piqued because she was being distracted by the amount of times I had to put Sasha's ear defenders on and off - but believe me, Sasha wasn't doing that for the fun of it. Sasha was really trying to enjoy today but her senses were obviously getting a right battering.

After that I did have to stop Sasha from swishing her hair back once again, and from that point on Sasha got more and more distressed. Slightly scary music and scenery tipped her over the edge and she then started crying and saying loudly that she wanted to leave. I had to try and console her (which is extremely difficult in that sort of situation, as anything you say and any options you offer tend to just inflame Sasha more) and as a final resort I pulled the mini ipad and 'normal' headphones out of the bag so that Sasha could be distracted by that. She began to play Minecraft, rather unhappily, but at least she did agree to stay in the theatre for the rest of the performance, so I could try to get back to enjoying it (and avoid the embarrassment for Tamsin of Mummy having to leave with little autistic sister again).

Sadly this did just highlight to me the fact that Sasha will have to cope with ignorant people on her journey through life. I'm just hoping that the kind, supportive ones like my dear friends and her current classmates will outnumber those oddballs.
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Sunday, 15 December 2013

Make Christmas Magic - Santa videos and Santa Sprint app!

Every year since the girls have been old enough, I have enjoyed creating magical videos for them from Portable North Pole

PNP is an amazing website where you can personalise a message from Santa to your child by adding memorable information and photos. The look on my girls' faces when they watch what Santa has to say to them, and wait to hear whether they are on his naughty or nice list, is priceless.

It's so quick and easy to do; you are guided through some simple steps such as clicking to say if it's a boy or girl, saying how old they are and choosing what 'targets' they've been given during the year (thumb sucking and tooth brushing for example...). It's simply brilliant - go on, give it a try!

Just for you lovely readers, I have a great offer: a discount code for 20% off digital products in the PNP store valid until 1st January - BLG20BKP.

The same people behind this have also released a brand new app for your ipad or iphone this year. Called Santa Sprint, it's available for download from the Apple store and is £1.99. My girls have loved playing this game - a bit like that old arcade game with a yellow thing that went around munching, but an updated version. Lots of levels which have provided hours of endless amusement. We definitely recommend it!



Disclaimer: we received free versions of these products to test out but all views expressed here are our own. We liked them so much that we can safely say we would have spent the money on them anyway!
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Thursday, 12 December 2013

10% off and free shipping (orders over £10) at Great Gizmos!

You know how it goes; I really don't have time to be writing this post, but I do love the products over at Great Gizmos, as I mentioned in an earlier post so I thought I'd share the good news and offer with you...




Great Gizmos celebrates new kids gifts website with 10% off voucher and free shipping on orders over £10!
There are only a few days left before Christmas Day and everyone is looking for a bargain. Great Gizmos is here to help you with all your shopping needs for children for the festive period with their brand new website www.greatgizmos.co.uk 
If you’re looking for an art and craft project, baby’s first toy or a cool outdoor gadget, Great Gizmos has it all and offer free shipping with any order over £10. In addition, there is even a 10% off voucher for first time users (valid until 31st January 2014) so you can save money this Christmas – just enter CPR10 at the checkout for extra savings! This site is packed full of ideas and really easy to navigate. Order now and you’ll be well in time for Christmas!
Great Gizmos’ introduced this brand new site in early November. The animated pages help you find that perfect gift by categorising products to make them easier to find as well as being able to search by price, gender or age so you can specifically find the right product for you. Alternatively, if you know what you are looking for then you can search via Brand, which will show everything available in that collection. Plus, each product includes a detailed description so even if you are browsing you can see exactly what is on offer.
With www.greatgizmos.co.uk you’ll find a fantastic range of toys and gifts suitable for children of all ages from great brands such as 4M, NICI, PlanToys and Zoob. Whether it is activity kits, science projects, soft toys and accessories, eco-friendly wooden toys or construction sets you are looking for they provide a wealth of products so you can find that perfect gift every occasion.
So what are you waiting for, this could be the Christmas elf you’re all in need of…  I'd definitely recommend taking a look, everything from stocking filler presents upwards and the plush toys are THE cutest around!

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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Save The Children's Christmas Jumper Day Friday 13th December

Did you know about Save The Children's Christmas Jumper day on 13th December, and their other fab events?! Woolly Wonderland – a 10 day Christmas pop-up for Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day launched at Westfield Stratford City and Wear your Christmas jumper and donate £1 to Save the Children at www.christmasjumperday.org



Woolly Wonderland

Open from 5th-13thDecember, Woolly Wonderland is a top-to-toe knitted Christmas pop-up that will feature customisation stations, knitting workshops, storytelling and other fun activities for the whole family; it even includes a photo booth to capture guests in their festive finery. 

STORYTELLING TIME

Dom Joly and Mary Portas will be hosting sessions alongside The Gruffalo and Elmer in the Snow to help the whole family get into the festive spirit with story-telling, giveaways and fun activities.
CUSTOMISATION STATION

The makeover team for John Lewis will be on hand to help decorate Christmas jumpers at customisation workshops, using fashionable textiles and haberdashery to transform them into exciting additions to this year’s winter wardrobes.

KNITTING NATTER

Not content with a touch of customising? Save the Children has a whole host of knitting experts on board to help beginners become pros in no time. Fashion knitters Wool and the Gang’s workshops will cover all the basics skills needed to get knitting Christmas jumpers in no time. 

To sign up for workshops visit www.christmasjumperday.org/woollywonderland

Save the Children’s Woolly Wonderland schedule

John Lewis jumper customisation:

·         Wednesday 11 December 6-7pm; Friday 13 December 12-1pm

Gruffalo reading and activities:

·         Wednesday 11 December 3-4pm

Elmer in the Snow reading and activities:

·         Friday 12 December 12-1pm

Wool and The Gang Gets their Knit on:

·      Thursday 12 December 3-4pm; Friday 13 December 3-4pm


To take part in Save the Children’s Woolly Wonderland, bring your Christmas Jumper and your imagination down to Westfield Stratford, E20 between 5th – 13th December.


To sign up for a specific workshop visit www.christmasjumperday.org/woollywonderland.

Don’t forget to wear your jumper on Christmas Jumper Day on 13 December and donate £1 to Save the Children at www.christmasjumperday.org. Save the Children is calling on people across the UK to help make the world better with a sweater and take part in the tradition of wearing a kitsch Christmas jumper in exchange for a £1 donation to raise money for its life saving work with children the world over. Support for Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day has already started in earnest, with celebrities posing in their festive woollies.  Myleene Klass, Julie Walters, Lorraine Kelly, Gok Wan, Rochelle Humes, Erin O’Connor, Lauren Laverne, Alex Jones, Bruno Tonioli, Ashleigh & Pudsey, Arlene Philips, Nate James, Simon Rimmer, Jay Rayner, Daniel Roche, Kate Thornton, Jack Topping, Natasha Kaplinsky and Dom Joly have all dug out their finest Christmas knitwear, ready to wear in support of Save the Children’s Christmas campaign.


Wear your jumper on Christmas Jumper Day on 13 December and donate £1 to Save the Children at www.christmasjumperday.org .You can buy your Christmas jumper from John Lewis, official retail partner of Christmas Jumper Day. £25 from the sale of every jumper in the Save the Children range goes to the charity.

Guinness World Record attempt | 13 December 2013

World renowned choreographer Arlene Philips is adding even more excitement to Christmas Jumper Day by leading Save the Children’s attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most people wearing Christmas jumpers in one space.

Arlene will be providing a twist to the record breaking attempt by choreographing a Christmas Jumper Day dance routine to Kelly Clarkson’s brand new track ‘Underneath The Tree’ (the first song from Grammy Award winner Kelly Clarkson’s Christmas album ‘Wrapped In Red’) and leading participants in the dance on the day.

Help Save the Children to make history by donning your Christmas jumper and joining them at Westfield London on Friday 13th December – sign up to take part at www.christmasjumperday.org/worldrecord and don’t forget to donate your £1 to Save the Children at www.christmasjumperday.org. Only pre-registered participants will be given access to the area on the day. Once registered you will receive a confirmation email with all the necessary details required to take part on the day.


All money raised from Christmas Jumper Day activities will help save the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children. In the world's poorest countries, more than 7 million children die every year from easily preventable causes like diarrhoea and malnutrition. Simple solutions, like vaccines and mosquito nets save lives – so by getting friends and colleagues to take part in Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper day on Friday 13th December and donating £1, you can help make a real difference.

For more information and to sign up visit www.christmasjumperday.org




Twitter - @savechildrenuk #xmasjumperday

I've got a jumper, I can't wait to join in. How about you?!
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Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Surely everyone wants to be a #MarkWarnerMum ?!

It's late, I'm tired, the keys on my keyboard are sticking from where I spilt a cup of tea on it earlier (oops, sorry Mr C!) but I really really couldn't pass up the opportunity to enter to try and become a #MarkWarnerMum!

If there's one thing I love, it's a good family holiday, and whilst we sadly haven't had the chance to experience Mark Warner Holidays yet ourselves, we would really, really like to (I know, sorry, overusing the word 'really'. Must. stop.). I've loved reading about Tired Mummy Of Two's trips away with Mark Warner, and have been only ever so slightly envious. Promise.

Their resorts are all-inclusive and have outstanding facilities, such as the pools and tennis courts, bikes for hire (yes, free!) and fitness classes (am sure they could inspire me, ahem). They offer so many amazing activities, from sailing and kayaking to waterski-ing. What I've always wanted to do most of all though, is scuba dive. That would be amazing.

I've met some of the MW representatives at blogger events, and they were lovely, enthusiastic people. They were even so kind as to let me have a go on a windsurfboard (is that all one word?!), fully clothed! Crazy (I could have dropped the thing).
Blogfest
Am I doing it right?!
So I know all about them, and how fab they are (grovel, grovel), and I KNOW that I would dearly (not really) LOVE the chance to go on one of their holidays. We like to get away to be able to relax and have fun as a family together.

Mr C loves ski-ing and has always wanted to take the girls to give them a go at learning, whereas I always force him to spend the money on  prefer a summer holiday. I'd be happy to give either a go for the chance of travelling with a company who seem to care about getting the whole family involved and helping you to have the time of your life (although if you're forcing me to choose, I'd say Summer every time).

Daytime activities and evening entertainment are included in their Kids' Clubs, and I've heard stories of children who didn't want to return to their parents at the end of the day - now that is good care! Their resorts are in gorgeous places - Portugal and Sardinia being my top two choices, but also Corsica, Turkey and Greece. There are 8 ski-ing resorts including Courchevel, Meribel, Val d'Isere.. very appealing, especially at this time of year - if you can't beat the cold, join it (or them?!).

I'm going to leave you with a family photo, of us on top of the largest sand-dune in Europe. We love exploring, we do ;)

I hope I've impressed on you (and them ;)) how much our family would love to take part in one of these holidays.... please keep your fingers crossed that I can become a #MarkWarnerMum!
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Monday, 2 December 2013

Great Gizmos Christmas products review

I've mentioned products from the Great Gizmos company before - not because I was asked to, but purely because I honestly love the ranges that they stock. They cover everything from dress up to robots, and have several great formats which work really well as craft activities and make perfect party presents. I'm also in love with most of their gorgeous plush toys (I know where my eldest daughter gets that love from.... ).

So imagine my delight when we were asked if we would like to review some product in time for Christmas. I jumped at the chance, and waited excitedly for the package to arrive. We were sent four items and I'll review them all separately below for you:

1. Mould & Paint - Christmas (RRP £8.95)

Possibly my favourite product ever (yes, THAT good!) is this little kit containing a plastic mould, bag of plaster, paint and paintbrush, string for hanging and sticky magnets. You can choose whether to make these as decorations for the tree or magnets for your fridge; we did a bit of both!

So easy to do, it involves a bit of mixing the plaster with water, pouring into the mould, leaving to set for around 30 minutes and then painting as desired. Simple! The girls love making these - there was enough plaster for 12 little ornaments, and in this pack the shapes were Father Christmas, a reindeer, Christmas Tree, a stocking, bells and a snowman. We've had fairies, cupcakes and easter eggs before now from this range, but you can also get cars, dinosaurs, sealife... they're fab! Especially at this price, and great for a gift. I was very pleased with how carefully Sasha painted hers, and I think the end result is definitely fit for the tree!

2. Polar Bear Snow Globe (RRP £6.99)
This came well packaged so have no fear of ordering online. It's a lovely little item; great quality with plenty of sparkling snow glitters. These are always a hit with both my girls; would be a perfect stocking filler. There's also a Seal in the globe option.

3. Snow Leopard Girl Beanbag keyring (RRP £7.99)
From the gorgeous Nici range of plush, this is just so cute and soft and furry! It also matches eldest daughter's new winter hat, which is a big plus. There are so many more animals in the range that your children's favourites are bound to be there too. Lions, giraffes, birds, sheep - look at the keyring section for the huge range.

4. Kapoony Dangling (£17.99)
We sat this gorgeous pony up which means you maybe can't tell how big it is... 25cm long, and the legs dangle, hence the name! This is superior quality plush, ultra soft and strokeable so perfect for any horsey fans out there. It also comes in even bigger sizes, and other products feature this pony too. Check here for more ideas.

You can see their full range and order at www.greatgizmos.co.uk. The website is as captivating and easy to use as their products, I can highly recommend it!

Disclosure: 
We were sent the above product for the purpose of this review, but have not received payment. All the views expressed here are our own.



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