Sunday, 29 December 2013

2013 end of year review.

This year has gone by so quickly! Of course, it was always going too because I was wishing the time away, hoping our November Disney World trip would hurry up!

I have spent the last couple of days reading through posts from the last year. It seems the children and I did lots of baking! We started the year off by making these yummy flapjacks, and finished it by making the Pinwheel cookies for Father Christmas! Of course I couldn't forget about the time Chester asked to make cupcakes and chose the ingredients all by himself, he really takes after me!


The year will always start with Millie's Birthday, this year she turned one and since then she has changed so much. She learnt to walk in February and since then there has been no stopping her! I can tell already that she is very strong willed, she knows what she wants and how she can get it! Her vocabulary, especially in the last half of the year, has come on so much. Her baby babbles turned into mimicking sounds, and then single words. In June she told me she loved me and that was the start of her now very large vocabulary. She can point out and say all of the Disney Princesses names, and can easily string words together to tell you what she wants. Millie gave us all a scare at the beginning of the year when we found a lump on her rib, luckily after lots of tests and a couple of visits to the consultant we found out that her rib has simply grown abnormally, hopefully there will be no need for surgery and if there is it will more than likely be for cosmetic reasons.

You can tell that Millie is very close to turning two, she is very stubborn and will drop to the floor and tantrum at the drop of a hat! I have a feeling the next few months are going to be very challenging with Millie! Having a boy and a girl I can honestly say that they strop in very different ways. I am actually dreading Millie's terrible twos as she already seems to be a lot more dramatic than her brother! 

A big blogging highlight of the year for Millie was swimming with Karen Pickering.



Chester has had a busy year, we had the nervous wait to find out what Primary School he had gotten in to. Thankfully he got into our first choice and we could not be any happier with our choice. As I have said before, he has settled in really well and has really amazed us with how much he has already learnt. It can't of been easy for Chester, leaving all of his Nursery friends behind and starting School knowing no one and in totally unfamiliar surroundings. But he took it all in his stride and seems so happy and at home there. He is 5 now, and getting more and more grown up by the day. I try so hard to not let him grow up quickly, these childhood days just fly by and modern technology only makes it go faster! Thankfully Chester still has his fantastic imagination and still loves to be in the great outdoors looking for sticks to build dens at every opportunity! That's not to say he doesn't enjoy a modern childhood too, he got a tablet for his Birthday and a 2DS for Christmas, its amazing how much he picks up from technology. I work hard to make sure he (and Millie) has a healthy balance of variety when it comes to play time. 

Blogging highlights for Chester this year include a cupcake decorating class and the Lollibop festival!


Well as most of you know my life mainly revolves around the children so their highlights are my highlights too. I aim to change that slightly next year as I feel I have forgotten about myself recently. I will write separately about my thoughts on that. But Craig and I did manage to get some bits in the house done that we had been meaning to do for some time, we decorated our dining area. Which I used to hate, but now love. We can now all sit together and enjoy our family meals, we have more space for baking and crafting too! Then whilst I was away for the weekend at Chesford Grange with my Mum and the Kiddies, Craig surprised me and decorated our hallway and landing! We still have a couple of pictures and a hook board to hang so I would say we are almost complete there. Lastly we decorated our front room, it is now a lovely calming pastel colour. Sadly it is still overrun by toys haha! So that's almost all of the boring magnolia gone from our home, leaving just the main bathroom to do!


My Sister went off on her travels, she is still on her travels. At the moment she is in Australia but she has already travelled around most of Asia and New Zealand. Its been really tough on Chester as he adores his Auntie and Uncle. Thank goodness for Facetime and free wifi! The children have been able to speak to them 2 or 3 times a month and they really love telling them what they have been up too! My Sister was even brave enough to do a skydive last month, none of us can quite believe she went through with it, but Chester loved watching the video and often laughs about it!

As a family we were treated to a fantastic day trip to Lille in France. We loved that day so much, Chester still talks about it a lot. Craig and I often say that we would like to go back and explore for a little longer. Its great that the Eurostar allows us to just hop on a train and pop to the middle of another country and back in a day!


So we had a lot of highs this year, the biggest one I will save until last. However, we also had one very big low too. Sadly my Nan passed away at the beginning of our Disney World trip. Sadly we knew it was going to happen, she had a short illness, Cancer. I spent a lot of time with her in the weeks before our trip. Its strange really, because I wouldn't say that my Nan and I were close. But I really am finding it hard and can't quite let it sink in that she has gone. I am not sure if this is because we were totally away from the situation when it happened? I thought that the funeral would make it more real, but even then it was like some weird spaced out dream? Chester has asked about it lots. He is only 5, but I try to be as honest and upfront with him as possible. He is a clever little boy and likes it to be told how it is. I know deep down he is too young to understand it all, he probably will have very little memory of her and Millie will have no recollection of her at all, which I find very sad.

But lets not end on a low, let me tell you about our biggest high of the year... The Children's first trip to Walt Disney World! I have been dreaming of that moment for as long as I can remember, taking my own Children to the most magical place on earth. In November it happened, and the memories will stay with me for a lifetime. The reactions from the children were everything I had dreamed of. From that first glance of Cinderellas castle whilst walking down Main Street to the meeting of their favourite characters. Chester is a little dare devil and loved the rides, Millie is a true Disney Princess at heart and loved meeting her heroes! On many occasions I had a tear or two in my eye, Disney World is my happy place. Its a place I can forget everything in the real world and immerse myself in a world of imagination and joy. That may sound sad for an almost 30 year old but I really can not explain it. If you have every been to Walt Disney World, you will know what I mean. The have a nice day attitude is catching and I love it! I am yet to write up about our trip and that is mainly because I am so sad that we are home! I will get around to blogging about it I promise!



Well that's it, 2013 is very almost over. I can honestly say I will be sad to see the back of 2013, its been a great year and lots of memories were made. But 2014 is coming and I intend to embrace it, we have no Disney holiday to look forward to, but we have new adventures to look forward to instead. My parents recent move to Dorset means that we can holiday with free accommodation whenever we like. I intend to make full use of this! Its also the year that I turn 30! I know shocking isn't it?! I want nothing more than to spend it with my family and have a nice break to Center Parcs. I am realistic though. My Birthday is in August, the most expensive holiday time of year! So I am willing to postpone my birthday until October half term (if any of my family are reading this hint hint lol). My Sister will be back from her travels by the middle of the year and I think by then we will all be pleased to see her! We are getting updates from her blog, and that is lovely, but it will be nicer when she can tell us her stories face to face and we can have proper two way conversations about her adventures! Chester and Millie will no doubt be more excited than all of us put together!

All that is left for me to say is I hope your 2013 has been great and that your 2014 will be even better. Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas pinwheel cookies

Ok, ok, OK. I know I said in my last post that I was having a blogging holiday over Christmas. BUT... Yesterday I finally got round to making some pinwheel cookies that I discovered on Crumbs and Corkscrews thanks to Pinterest.

They got such a great reaction on my own personal Facebook page that I thought it was only fair that I share with you all too! 

I did everything the same as Crumbs and Corkscrews apart from I chose to leave out the peppermint. They were a lot easier to make than I thought, the hardest part was waiting for the dough to chill!! 

Here they are....

Dough ready for the fridge...


4 hours later, they look like this... 


14 minutes after that, they look like... 


Of course, I couldn't just leave it there so some of them had a bit of a Disney twist too....



My batch made 38 cookies! That's more than enough to share with family AND to leave for Father Christmas tomorrow night! 

What do you think? Will they make it onto your Christmas bake list next year?! 







Saturday, 21 December 2013

Christmas is here!

Well it's finally here! Chester has broken up from School and we only have 4 sleeps until Christmas! Whilst I am typing this we are having a great big duvet day, snuggled on the sofa watching A muppets Christmas Carole! Later when the children are in bed, Craig and I will be finishing off the wrapping and watching National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. 

I have made a decision this Christmas to down tools from today. I have lots I want/need to write about, but that will have to wait until next year now. As much as I LOVE my blog so much, everyone needs a break and mine starts from today! I am going to be very busy enjoying the Christmas excitement with my family. I will be popping back between Chrismas and New Year but apart from that things will be a bit silent on here until new year. 

You will be pleased to hear that I have lots of exciting things lined up for 2014. So I just want to take this time to thank you all for reading my blog this year, I am so happy and grateful that so many of you take the time to read all about our family life! I love writing it, so it's so nice to see that others enjoy it too! 

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 


See you in 2014!

Love 
Sammie
Xx

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Improved Salt dough Father Christmas hand!

Last year we made these salt dough Father Christmas hands. 

Today we made these.....

                            


I think they are much improved, what do you think?!

Have you had a go at making these?

Thomas & friends: Merry Christmas, Thomas DVD review!

Do you have little Christmas traditions in your house? Well we do here, and one of them is to buy a new Christmas DVD. This year we were actually asked if we would like to review a new festive Thomas & Friends DVD so our choice was made for us! Chester is just starting to outgrow Thomas, although he will still sit and watch episodes on TV. Millie however at almost 2 really loves watching and playing Thomas and trains! 

                                     
So Millie and I sat down on a quiet Monday morning to watch the new DVD. It went down a treat with Millie, she laughed, she frowned and she even told the trains they were naughty in some parts! But overall she really enjoyed it. Her only complaint would be that she has to sit through the credits before/after every episode! 

Here is a little more about the DVD ....

Peep! Peep! Join your favourite engines on the Island of Sodor as Thomas & Friends prepare for a magical Christmas celebration in this new two disc DVD collection. Thomas & Friends: Merry Christmas, Thomas! includes six fun and festive episodes.

Its full steam ahead as Charlie discovers how much fun snow can be, whilst Percy gets covered in so much snow that Thomas cannot find him. Salty doesn’t have time for presents and parties until Edward finds him the perfect gift, and the engines compete to find the perfect Christmas tree.

Little ones can also enjoy several DVD extras including guess-who puzzle games and Down at the Station video explaining how real engines turn and change tracks just like Thomas. Thomas & Friends: Merry Christmas, Thomas! Also comes with a special bonus DVD, Big Bang Surprise, containing five additional episodesIt’s the season for Christmas magic with Thomas & Friends!

It has a running time of 138 minutes and an RRP of £12.99

For more information on Thomas & Friends visit www.thomasandfriends.com

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

A good decision

I know I have said it before, but I am really pleased we chose to put Chester's School as our first choice for him. 

He only started in September and since then he has come on so much. He can now write his own name because he wants to he can read a few words and by writing his Father Christmas letter a couple of weeks ago he has proved that his attention span has improved! 

But it's not really about how much he has come on to me. The reason I am so pleased with his School is because it is very clear to see that the Children really are their number one priority. They do loads to make their School time very enjoyable. When they first started a party was thrown especially for them, teachers attended despite the fact it was on a Sunday. A few weeks ago they had a movie evening after School where they all were given popcorn and a drink and were able to enjoy a film with their friends, then they each took in a very small amount of money to purchase a couple of present to wrap up for family for Christmas, it was called the secrets room and it was an excellent way for Chester to buy us presents without us knowing what they were. He felt so grown up that day. Lots of other little things have impressed me too, I could be here all day telling you about them. But two other things stand out to me. 

The first one is the Christmas party that they had today in School time. Each child came out with a present from Santa, Chester couldn't wait to open his, so opened it in the car on the way home. It was a large selection box. They got to play party games and were provided with party food. All for free. Now some people may be reading this and thinking what is so special about that, it sounds like a normal School party. But to me (not forgetting that Chester is my eldest at age 5) they have made a real effort and they did a fab job. 

The other thing that has stood out for me is Chester's teacher and her efforts to go above and beyond for him (and the other Children in his class). Chester is generally a good child at School, his first parents evening was a success a couple of weeks back with his teacher telling us how kind and considerate towards others he is and advising us that his learning is on track and that she has no concerns with him. However, last week he was a bit of a challenge to say the least. Both at home and at School. I think it was a mixture of excitement from the nativity and tiredness. So when I approached his teacher to ask her advice and compare what he had been like at School, she was only to happy to have a chat with him at School. But when I came to pick him up, she had gone beyond that, she had contacted Father Christmas himself who sent Chester out a letter via express delivery. He had sent Chester a letter and a laminated reward chart. Explaining that he needed to get 10 smiley face badges in order to get put back onto the nice list. Since then Chester has behaved much better, at home and at School. Of course he has had his moments but on the whole he has been much better. His teacher didn't have to do that, she is extremely busy, yet she found the time to do that for us. 

So forgive me for sounding a bit mushy but I am just so happy that we seem to of made the right choice for Chester and so appreciative that he is clearly at a very caring School! 

Children's Christmas crafting

I love crafting, that statement would not of been in my vocabulary before I had children. But since having Children I have made loads of changes and embraced things such as messy play! Now I can say I really look forward to craft time with my children, more so now that Chester is at School because we get less time to do it.

8 times out of 10 if I am shopping for craft materials or looking for inspiration my go to place is Hobbycraft. I stumbled across it a few years back and haven't looked back since. 

At this time of year they always have some fab little bits and bobs. Last year we made Christmas cards with supplies we brought from hobbycraft and we painted wooden bird houses for presents for the great grandparents! The make your own cracker kit is always a hit in this house too, infact its on my shopping list for the weekend! 

I was recently asked if I would like to review some of the hobbycraft children's christmas crafts and I was more than happy to say yes please! 

This is what we received to review....


Due to the fact Chester and Millie are 5 and under I have decided to keep the alphabet stamp set and the flower paper topper for myself and will certainly let you know what I made with them in the new year. But in the mean time we have been very busy making the 3d Foam Christmas trees and using the foam stickers and glitter toppers!

The 3d Christmas tree kit comes with everything you need to make 3 Christmas trees all of the foam shapes have peelable backs so this makes it very easy for the children to do the crafting by themselves, Chester hates help when it comes to creative things so this was a big thumbs up from him! 

                                   

                                  

It does say on the back of the pack that it includes a tube of craft glue and some glitter. These things were not in our kit, but actually we did not miss them. We spent a good 2 hours sitting together putting and decorating these trees and a great time was had by all! Chester decorated the big one, Millie the middle one and I decorated the small one. 


                                   

After we had finished we still had plenty of stickers left over (and we didn't skimp on using them either) so we will use these to make gift labels for our food gifts we are planning to make at the weekend. Chester and Millie also wanted to use some of the other foam stickers on their trees, I was happy to let them do this and we have some of those left over too so they will go onto homemade cards from the children.

The 3d Kit is currently £5.00 and is also on a 3 for 2 promotion. I think that it is great value for money. You get so much in the kit and it certainly did a good job at keeping my children entertained for a few hours! We now have a lovely homemade centerpiece for our table on Christmas Day!

The foam stickers are £2, the glitter angels are only 50p (for a pack of 8), and the Christmas flower paper toppers are £1. All of them are also included in the 3 for 2 promotion! What a bargain! If you go onto the Hobbycraft website you will find hundreds more ideas, if like me you will spend hours looking and choosing!

What Christmas crafts do you like to do with your Children? Do you have traditions you like to do each year or do you like to try lots of new things? 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

PNP (Portable North Pole)

I first became aware of PNP last year, one of my friends was talking about it on Facebook. For those of you who have not heard of PNP it is an app (or a website if you choose to do it on a desktop/laptop) where you can customise options and input data about your child, so that Father Christmas sends them an email and let's them know if they are on the naughty or nice list! 

Last year I gave it a go for Chester and LOVED it! This year I was given some credits to try the PNP app on my iPad, I was expecting the same as last year, but what I actually got was much better! It was easier to use and actually I think it was a lot more personal to the child. 

                                 


I had to upload pictures of Chester or Millie and also pictures of relevant events throughout the year.

There are options to put in information such as age, what the child does (go to School, nursery etc) what they would like for Christmas and mentions of special events. For me the options were plentiful Chester has asked for a Nintendo 2DS so I chose the option games console, Millie has asked for a dolly and that was an option on the drop down. 

                                  

                                 


When I had entered everything I wanted to I simply pressed create video and it began downloading. I have made 3 videos so far and each one has taken no longer than 8 minutes to download. 

                                   


Once the video has downloaded it is in the adult password protected area and there you have the option to make it visible to kids or not. 

                                   

I have made a video each for Chester and Millie. Both are very different videos and this makes it more believable for Chester. He is currently on the could do better list, so hopefully he will be receiving another video on Christmas Eve to say he has been put back on the nice list (I can live in hope), Millie is on the nice list. Both children really loved their videos, I will admit I had a tear in my eye watching their reaction to the videos! Chester asks to watch his daily! 



But that's not all! Today I noticed that you could also send videos to adults! So I had a lot of fun creating a video for my Dad. He has been put on the naughty list because he swears to much when driving! Chester thought it was hilarious! 

The videos are a great fun addition to Christmas, we have declared them a new tradition in this house! The app can be purchases on the App Store with premium videos available at an additional cost. 

Sofia the First talking doll and animal friends

Both of my children love Sofia the first, and I will admit that I find the songs in the show very catchy. 
Millie is a real Disney Princess kind of girl so her little face just lit up when she saw The Sofia the First talking doll. It is recommended for ages 3 and over, however I am more than happy to let Millie play with it.

                                 

The Sofia the First doll interacts with the included animal friends: Clover the Rabbit, Mia the Bluebird and Robin the Robin - just like in the Disney Junior series! To activate, Millie simply places one of the sculpted animal figures close to Sofia's amulet. Her amulet glows, and the two figures talk with one another!

      



Millie's favourite is if course Clover. She really loves him in the show and she has a clover plush that she brought in Disney World which she carries around a lot! All together, Sofia and the three animal friends unlock more than 30 phrases!
       

                                    

One thing I was shocked at with this doll, is the size of it. It's very small at only 32.5cm. For Millie it's an ok size. For anyone bigger it's too small. It has an RRP of £44.99, however I have seen it cheaper, it's currently £39.99 in Argos. If the doll was bigger I would say it was worth the full amount. But with the doll being the size it is £30 would be my upper limit on how much I would be prepared to spend. 
The Talking Sofia doll and animal friends is showing as one of the top toys for Christmas on the Dream toys list here at Argos. It was a big hit with Millie, she understood what she needed to do with it straight away. She has been playing with it for almost 2 weeks now and it has been keeping her entertained every day! The fact that it has over 30 phrases is great (from a parent point of view) because you are not constantly hearing the same thing! 
What's top of your child's Christmas list this year? Are they asking for the newest craze or something else?! 

Monday, 16 December 2013

A visit to Father Christmas

The excitement in this house has gone into overdrive the last week or so. This is mainly because Chester is so excited about Christmas! He loves telling Millie all about Christmas, Father Christmas and above all, he love to teach her Christmas Carole.

Millie is 2 next month and even though she is still to young to really 'get' it, the excitement has certainly rubbed off on her! We have been watching Christmas movies, Chester's favourite so far seems to be Home Alone. I can only imagine, sorry dread, the ideas he is getting from watching! We have been busy baking, it's my favourite thing to do with the children as I love to be in the kitchen. Chester has even announced that he is going to help me cook the Christmas dinner this year, I was so pleased when he came and asked me if he could help me on Christmas Day. I can't wait to teach him! This week we have got lots of Christmas crafts to keep us busy.

So the final thing on the Christmas to do list (aside from all the presents I am yet to buy!) really was a visit to Father Christmas! Normally I am super organised and have booked a Father Christmas visit fairly early on. But this year I am really behind, so when I did eventually sit down to book the children's visits all of my choices were sold out! I was then going to take them to reindeer farm as everyone tells me how good it is their, hopefully next year we will make it their. But we just did not have a full day spare to make the trip. Eventually I settled for the last place at the Padock Wood Hop Farm. My parents were down this weekend as it was my Mums 50th and we had a surprise get together planned for her, which was not to far from the hop farm so I decided this would be the perfect excuse to get here near where we needed to be that evening! 

The children could not of been any more excited it was super cute, we waited patiently in a waiting area in Father Christmas' hut. Both Children were happily distracted by the snowmen display whilst we were waiting. 

When it was their turn, we were ushered in and Father Christmas then spent lots of time asking them questions and responding to comments. He even told Chester that Skylanders was his favourite game, this totally made Chester's day, he has since spent time telling me how he would be able to win agInst Father Christmas and show him some tricks, Father Christmas then asked them to choose a present from the toy sacks, Chester chose a reindeer teddy and Millie a pink hippo! We had a picture taken, the children were given chocolate coins and then it was time to say goodbye! 

Our picture was presented it to us in a glass frame and was included in the price (£19.50 for 2 children and up to 4 adults) the children were given some Christmas crafts to decorate too! 

      


It was a really great experience and another thing ticked off the Christmas to do list! 

Have you had your visit to Father Christmas yet? What did your children make of it all? 

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Christmas inspired cooking and baking Linky!

I dont know about you but I have really struggled to find the time to do my Christmas baking this year! For some reason I seem to be a lot busier than last year. But I was determined to create a Gingerbread house, so one day last week I set aside a whole day to bake and construct one, the housework could wait!

I absolutely love reading other peoples Christmas cooking and baking blog posts. So I thought I would be a great idea to start (my very first) linky! So if you have any Christmas inspired food posts I would love it if you could link them up, so that me and lots of other readers can get some festive inspiration! You can link up more than one post, it doesn't have to be a new post, as long as it is Christmas food inspired! You can find the link at the bottom of this post, I will of course make sure I share, comment and pin all the posts in the linky!

So here is my Gingerbread house recipe....

300 g butter
125 g caster sugar
125 g brown sugar
225 g golden syrup (you can use treacle)
725 g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon

I mixed together the flour, ginger, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl. Then put the butter, sugars and golden syrup in a pan on a medium heat and mixed occasionally until all melted.



I then poured the hot mix into the flour mix and stirred until it was dough consistency. Next I tipped the mix onto a floured surface, shaping into a disc. Covered with clingfilm and put in the fridge for around 30 minutes.

After getting out of the fridge I worked with small amounts at a time, placing on a floured surface and rolling out until approx 1/2 a cm thick.

Now, this is where it gets a bit vague, because whilst the dough was chilling I found out that my printer had run out of ink, so I did not have any template, nor (apparently) did I have a ruler! so I actually used 2 cake boards as templates and just winged it! This came back to bite me later....

This amount of mix should of made a house and a few gingerbread men with some to spare, but because of my lack of measurements, I ended up with a gingerbread mansion and no dough to spare!

I also decided to crush up some boiled sweets and use them as windows!



I put each part of the house into the oven for 12 minutes on 180 degrees.

Once out of the oven, I placed on wire racks and left to cool for a good 3 hours.

I then made some icing (to glue the house together) using 2 egg whites and some icing sugar, I mixed until I got a stiff but still spreadable consistency.

I carefully glued together the back wall and one side, then gradually added the other side and the front wall. I then left the walls to set for an hour before gluing both roof panels on. Whilst the roof panels were setting I decorated the sides of the house with sweets and icing.



Finally I finished the house off by sticking chocolate buttons as roof tiles!



Phew!!! It was a super long day but totally worth it. My gingerbread house may not be perfect, but to me its a great achievement!

So now its your turn to show off your Christmas inspired food! Please find the linky below.....






Friday, 13 December 2013

The Evolution of Energy Consumption Through the Decades Infographic

Energy Consumption and costs have been hitting the news a lot lately and it is something that I worry about. A lot. I have a young family to support so the every growing costs of household bills are always a concern to me. So I found this infographic really interesting, I hope you do too!

The evolution of energy consumption through the decades
Be smarter with your consumption and choose the right energy tariff.

VTech Innotab 3S - our thoughts

So as most of you know, Chester is a tech loving 5 year old. He just loves his technology! This Christmas the Vtech Innotab 3S is set to be one of the top toys. We have been testing it out over the last few weeks, as Christmas is getting closer and closer I thought I should share our thoughts of it with you....

                                     


The Vtech Innotab 3S is a wifi enabled learning tablet, with kidsafe web browsing. It has a 180 degree rotating camera and video recorder and a rechargeable power pack.

       


For Chester the big attraction for him was the internet access. Although in reality this turned out not to be such a great feature for him. This is because it is kidsafe web browsing. Now as a parent, this appeals to me a lot and I really like the idea that the innotab has got a few pre selected websites, and then if I as a parent want to add anymore for him I can go in through the password protected parent area. A great way of controlling and limiting your children's internet access. However for Chester, a child who has his own tablet and regularly goes onto youtube to watch videos of toy unveilings and video game demos, it was a disappointment. I did add youtube to the innotab, however when you go onto the website it will not let you play the videos. We have added a couple more of his favourite sites, Cartoon network and Moshi Monsters but they are either very slow loading or do not work at all. Perhaps Chester is ahead of his years I am not sure? So if you are buying the Innotab 3S specifically for the internet access then I would rethink your choices.

But lets not dwell on the negative, Chester has found lots of positives and has even asked for an Innotab game for Christmas!

The Innotab has go some inbuilt apps, others you have have to download/purchase from the learning lodge. The apps that are built in have proved to be very popular with Chester. He absolutely loves the My Magic Beanstalk game. Its a game where you have to grow and look after your own beanstalk over time. Kind of like the tamagotchi of our childhood. He is actually a little obsessed with that game, as soon as he comes home from School he has to 'check on his beanstalk'!

                                      

There is an e-reader too, that has a built in book (What's That Noise). Chester is at the stage where he is learning his phonics and learning to read so this is another hit with him. The narrator tells the story, the words he is saying are highlighted. Then if you wanted to learn the word again you can touch on it and it will be repeated. Chester and I have been playing a little game with it, where I have been asking him to find the word and he has to touch it on the screen to see if he is correct! Others are available to download too.

There are various other features too, a camera and video camera. Chester loves to use these, he must get his love for taking photos from me haha! There are some painting and drawing games/apps. What Chester loves about these is that their are loads of different ways to get creative, his favourite one is letting a frog jump paint all over the page!

                                 


There is one other feature, which we are yet to use and that is the ability to be able to send picture messages to an Iphone or android. I own a windows phone so have missed out on this one! I think that is a fun feature and if Chester knew about it he would love to give it a go!

Chester has found the Innotab 3S really easy to use and navigate, it has kept him entertained for longer than a day which is a big achievement for a 5 year old! I think its safe to say that Chester is a fan of the Innotab and I can see him getting lots of use out of it.

Chester and I discussed how much we would give out of 10, and in the end we both agreed on 8. If the internet was not so slow and worked on the websites we tried to use it on we would of given it a 10.

The Innotab 3S has an RRP of £99 and as I mentioned before is set to be one of the top toys this Christmas, I have even seen it listed on the Dream toys here at Argos. Aside from the one and only problem we have with it, I can totally see why. It is sure to be an instant hit with lots of 4-8 year olds all over the country!


Thursday, 12 December 2013

TOMY Jungle Magic Sounds Aquadoodle review and giveaway!

Millie LOVES arts and crafts. This was Millie a few days ago....


She asks on a daily basis if we can get the paints or the pencils out. I try to get them out as much as I can, but sometimes the last thing my home needs is a load of paint sprayed everywhere! So when TOMY told me about an Aquadoodle mat which also had jungle sounds (as you all know Millies favourite animals are tigers) I was intrigued to find out more! 
       

If you haven't heard of Aquadoodle before, they are a range of mats which you can draw on with a special water filled pen. Then when the water starts to dry the drawing disappears and you can start again! No mess and no worrying about where you are going to store the 50 pages of artwork your child has just created! Dont get me wrong, I love hanging pictures on the fridge but my fridge can only handle so many at once!

The Jungle Magic Sounds Aquadoodle has an added extra. It comes with a special pen, and when you place it onto the pod next to the animal of your choice it will then play that animals noises when you draw on the Aquadoodle mat! 

                                     

Suitable for ages 18 months and up, its a perfect addition to Millies art crate! She is aged 23 months and totally got it straight away. The pen (which requires 2AAA batteries, which are not included) was a little tricky for her to press onto the pod, but she understood what she needed to do and it didn't take long at all for her to hold it correctly. She found it easier to use the water pen on its own rather than in the sound holder. That was until I showed her what happens when she pressed the sound holder and the water pen onto the mat! She has now become obsessed with the tiger and his noises! 

                                   

When Chester came home from School he had a go to! He was happy to practise writing the letters he has learnt this week all over the mat! 

I think the Jungle Magic Sounds Aquadoodle would make an excellent Christmas present, its RRP is £24.99 and I think it is a great investment for any toddler.

What do you think? Do you know someone who would love an Aquadoodle mat for Christmas?! Well the lovely people at TOMY have one to giveaway! So for your chance to win one for the little one in your life all you need to do is fill out the rafflecopter form below! 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

We've got the holiday bug!

Like any mother, I love spending time with my family. An undoubted highlight of 2013 was our trip to Walt Disney World. Seeing the kids’ faces light up as they experienced all of the wonder of Disney was just magical and us big kids enjoyed it too!


I may be premature in saying this, but I have already started thinking about our 2014 summer holiday. I don’t know if I'll be able to top Walt Disney World, but anywhere with a large pool, super fun play park and lots of child-friendly activities should do the trick!

I don't really mind where we go - I’m a firm believer that you can make your own fun wherever you are. One thing’s for sure though, wherever we do end up, we’ll need to invest in some new luggage.

After stocking up on more souvenirs that we know what to do with in Florida, our suitcases were fit to burst on the return flight. As they were already a bit battered, I felt for sure that we’d be the unlucky ones with our belongings strewn across the collection belt.

Thankfully, that didn't happen, but I'm taking no chances next year! I’ll definitely be investing in some new luggage to see me through. I've heard you can pick up some really cheap cases from budget sports stores and I’m sure their great, but I’m looking for something a little more reliable that I won't have to replace every year.

Samsonite are renowned for their tough and durable gear, and my parents have Samsonite cases and give them rave reviews. So I'm thinking of going for one of their suitcases. They are a little expensive though, but I suppose you do pay for quality and it is an investment.

I was searching online and I came across a company called DCH Supplies. They have a fantastic collection of Samsonite luggage at some of the lowest prices I've seen. They even have some hand luggage cases that will relieve the load on my already jam-packed handbag!


Once I've’ve bought my cases, I guarantee they’ll be full almost instantly – there’s no such thing as travelling light with little ones in tow! But I guess that’s just how a busy family life goes. I wouldn’t change it for the world. 




* This post is brought to you in association with DCH Supplies

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Chester's 1st Nativity

So it's that time of year again. Christmas. It comes around so quickly! I really love Christmas time, I love how excited my children get at the thought of Father Christmas coming and I get excited at the possibility it might snow. Wishful thinking on my part every year I know. 

But this year Chester excitement has reached a new level. He has been super excited for the last month, because he has been practising very hard for his very first Nativity play! 

Chester is the kind of child who can pick things up very quickly. He was told some of the songs over the course of 2 days, before we went to Walt Disney World. He was singing them all holiday, and then when he came back he had no trouble at all sloting back in with the other Children, 

Whilst we were away the parts were given out, Chester was given the part of a Knight. Not part of the original story I know, but I think they extended the cast to make sure every child had an important part to play. Every parent wants their child to be a main part you can't deny it. So I will admit that I was a little disappointed to learn that he was given a part that is unknown to the actual story. However, I will also admit that I was the one to take him out of School in the middle of play practise (to go to Walt Disney World mind you) so I only have myself to blame. 

Well yesterday was the day of the performance, and Chester could not of been any more excited! He had worked really hard practicing his two lines so I was excited for him too! 

The performance went really well, the children were all super cute and they all did an amazing job! Chester added his own cheeky spin to it in places (I don't think they were planned)! 

                                     

Trying not to sound too boastful, as I really am not like that. But Chester is a born entertainer, even his teacher has told me that! So I was super proud of him yesterday, he looked so happy and so proud of himself up on the stage. 

Yesterday's performance has got me thinking, maybe I should look into acting clubs for him. Nothing serious, just a bit of fun. He has so much energy all the time and perhaps this would be a good outlet for that energy? 

Does anyone send their children to acting clubs/classes. I would love to know your thoughts and experiences on the matter?  

Sunday, 8 December 2013

A new Christmas bake for me!

As you probably know by now, I love to bake. I also love to try new things or things I have never made before. Basically I like to step outside of my comfort zone and enjoy a challenge in the kitchen!

A couple of weeks ago I read a recipe for an easy Christmas cake, I really didn't realise how easy it could be! So I adapted the recipe to my preferences and yesterday I made my very first Christmas cake! 

Ingredients:

200g unsalted butter
200g dark brown sugar
4 eggs
225g plain flour
500g mixed dried fruit
500g sultanas
Approx 750ml apple juice

For the icing

1 pack (approx 450g) white marzipan
1 pack (approx 450g) ready to roll white icing
Sprinkling of icing sugar
1 Tablespoon apricot glaze

Method:

The day before I mixed the two bags of fruit together and poured the apple juice over until it was just covering. I stirred the fruit twice in 24 hours. You could use alcohol for this but decided to try it with juice!

I preheated the oven to 150 degrees and greased and lined a 19cm cake pan. 

Then (with a little help from Chester and Millie) I creamed together the butter and sugar.

                                     

Gradually adding the eggs and then folding in the flour. We then mixed in the fruit one spoonful at a time. Millie helping herself to the cherries along the way! 

                                     

I then poured the mix into the cake pan, filling it to the top and smoothing it over. I had a little mix left over, enough to make a taster cake. Would be rude not to don't you think?! 

                                     

I then popped in the oven for 3 hours. At around half way I covered the cake with baking paper to prevent the top from burning. 

When the cake came out of the oven, I left to cool in the pan for 10 minutes or so and then transferred to a wire cooling rack.

Whilst the cake was cooling we had a sneaky try of the taster cake, it was delicious! Packed full of fruit and flavour from the apple juice! 

Once the cake had completely cooled 2 or 3 hours later I rolled out the marzipan (on a sprinkling of icing sugar) until it was about half a cm thick. I heated the apricot glaze in a pan until it was boiling and then covered my cake in the glaze. I smoothed the marzipan over the cake and then rolled out my icing to the same thickness. 

                                    


I brushed the marzipan with some boiling water before laying the icing on top, working my way from the middle out wards smoothing it all out. I cut all of the excess off and tied a ribbon around the base. 

                                       

                                        

I wrapped the left over marzipan in cling film and put in the fridge to use later in the week. With the leftover icing I got my coloured food colour pastes out and got creative! I made some trees and then some snowflakes, with the snowflakes I also added edible glitter, this gives a lovely effect. 

All that was left to do now was to arrange the decorations on the cake....

                                      

                          

What do you think?! Not bad for my first attempt?! 

I have added my Christmas Cake to A Mummy Too's recipe of the week linky, you can find lots of other great cooking and baking ideas by clicking on the badge below! 

Link up your recipe of the week