Saturday, 31 December 2011

2012 - My 50th Birthday Year Bucket List

I don't quiet know how it happened but I have arrived at the year I turn 50! 

I've decided regardless of all the pressures we are under I am going to make this a year of celebration and positive thought.  I've written a bucket list (not things to do before I die, but things to do in this year of being 50). 

50th Year Bucket List

Have a wonderful, happy, bring anybody you want, 50th Birthday Party 

Visit Paris or New York (I have been to neither)

lie on my back and look up at the stars

Have just one day where my twins don't fight

smile at a stranger (it might make their day)   I did this A LOT I just wish I had had the courage to ask people if I could also take their picture

Have just one day where my eldest son doesn't moan   ACHIEVED .  
 Can't believe we achieved this one so quickly.  Have to say he has been a poppet lately.  Maybe something to do with my HRT Tabs giving me horrific mood swings.  He has been keeping a low profile and helping me out lots. Yay for 16 yr old sons.

play barefoot in mud

lie on my back and make cloud shapes

stop waiting for other people to make it right and sort it myself  ACHIEVED ! Feels good, I am finally a grown up.

laugh until my sides and jaw aches  ACHIEVED !
(Mr Poppy from the film Nativity does it every time, cried with laughter watching him in this wonderful film.  Even made all my boys laugh by laughing at mummy crying with laughter ! )

spend a whole day on the sofa watching and crying over soppy films

cook a meal from scratch, I know I can do it, I just hate cooking

accept a compliment with grace and not a negative about myself  ACHIEVED!  This was a major step for me, but I have done it several times and especially remembered to do it once or twice at Cybher this year.

not tell people the price of EVERYTHING I buy to show what an amazing bargain I got.   Managed this most of the time.

dance with my husband like this again

have a week without using the washing machine

just one month where we can afford all our outgoings & still have some money left over

catch up with the special family and friends I've neglected    Achieved this at my Birthday Party, reminded me of some of the wonderful friends I have had in the past. Promises to stay in touch from now on.  Life is too short.

hear my husband tell me he loves me

look in the mirror and be happy with what I see

splash in puddles with my boys and not care about the mess we make of our clothes

visit Ireland

have a dirty weekend away with my husband (who else ! George Clooney is now spoken for)  Sort of achieved (combined with Cybher *cough*

have perfect white teeth

realise that this has gone for good and to learn to live with my baby scarred tummy

stop biting my nails

get my hair dyed white blonde

go camping

open my own vintage homewares shop or just have a corner in someone else's  Haven't quiet achieved the shop, but I do have a cabinet in the wonderful Vintage shop "What Katy did" IN Budleigh!

make some money out of my social media skills (I am always being asked but don't have the confidence)

be happy with my lot

get 50 comments on a blog post *winks*   ACHIEVED !
(This was the first one Woop! would have been the jumping in puddles but I forgot to take the camera to show the proof.  Thank you so much to all the amazing, supportive community of people on twitter, facebook and blogging world, you will never know how much your conversation has cheered, supported and inspired me)

realise I am never going to win the lottery and be a secret Millionaire (and get over it).

Wear a dress when its not a special occasion.

Wear high heels on the school run

Learn how to "do" my makeup

Swim in the sea (in Devon) brrrrr .

Make at least 5 more new twitter friends who I actually meet in the real world

So there we go !
Things to do before I'm 51. 
most not earth shattering, most achievable.  Baby steps.
Love you to join me with your own 2012 Bucket list, let me know and we can link up.
 Would love your support and encouragement on this one. 
Life really is too short. I look around and in a blink of an eye I have more life behind me than I have in front of me.  A very sobering though.

Here's to an amazing, happy and positive 50th Year.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Why its time to say goodbye

We are extremely fortunate to have been ToysRus Toyologists for two years. I can't tell you how thrilled we were to receive the email asking us if we would like to be part of this amazing adventure and then to be invited back for a second year.

It has been a wonderful experience.  We had the opportunity to review many of the latest toys as they came onto the market and we loved thinking up new ways to review. Making films from the playmobil characters and my all time favourite remains the BigFoot video. 

As a  new blogger I got to meet some established bloggers who were very generous with their time and advice. I met Jen from Mum in the Madhouse during the tea party held to launch the campaign and we have remained firm friends ever since.  

I will always be grateful to ToysRus for the opportunity they gave us and their management of the campaigns, my decision to leave the campaign is no way a reflection on them.

Many people have commented on how lucky we were to have such an opportunity and yes we were, but it is hard work reviewing large amounts of toys. We were never put under any pressure by ToysRus to get the reviews completed but I always felt an obligation to them and the manufacturers because of their generosity. This was really easy during the first campaign, the boys were happy and excited and everybody helped out but as time has gone on it almost became a chore for me.  I have seen a side to my children that I do not like. When a box arrived they would just be interested in ripping it open to see the contents and then would loose interest really quickly. Leaving me to try to get them to build, play and review the toys. This is time consuming and hard work especially when as a self employed person I have many other commitments.  Even hiding the boxes and giving them one item at a time only resulted in a backlog of reviews.  We could of course missed out on a box or two, the option was there.  But I could never bring myself to do that, what does that say about me ?  Was it greed ? not sure, I just know it made me realise things about myself and my children that I really didn't like.

When we began the campaign my children only ever received toys at Christmas and birthdays and now they were getting toys every few weeks and lots of them.    For a family like ours living on a really tight budget and some weeks having very little funds to buy even the basics for our home life, having all these expensive toys lying around the house was very hard for me to rationalise.  I tried really hard to give toys to other people to review and this more often than not ended in more stress, most people were happy to take the toys but very few gave detailed feedback on what they felt about the toy. I felt real stress having to constantly ask people if it was possible for photographs or feedback.  I also then felt an unreasonable sense of anger when they didn't seem "grateful" for the opportunity.  I don't like thse feelings.   We gave a lot away to charity etc but again understandably not always possible to get feedback to complete the reviews.

I really feel this year that I have let ToysRus down with the campaign, my reviews have been lacklustre and without spark, it has become a chore. Reading the reviews of some of the other toyologists only confirms this, particularly James Spence  whose cartoon reviews are something else.

So there we are, I have written to ToysRus withdrawing myself from the campaign .  I feel a real sense of relief now the decision is made.  I will not have it there at the back of my mind all the time.

Thursday, 15 December 2011


At the school the twins attend it is policy  not to let parents take photographs or film of the school nativity.  I have my view on this and can tell you I am not impressed.  Another case of political correctness gone mad.  They do though take pictures of your children and give you copies.  It would appear one of my twins shares the same view as me.

Can you spot him ?

Also begs the question why its ok for them to take a whole class photo and distribute it but  you can't take pictures at the event itself of your own little darling !

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Tots100 Christmas Party weekend at Butlins

When it comes to holidays I admit I was a SNOB. Butlins ! no not for me.  All that Hi De Hi and organised activities for hundreds of people.  

How wrong was I ! All this time my family and I have been missing out.

This weekend I had the opportunity to take the family to Butlins Bognor Regis and to drive there in a brand spanking new Kia Cee'd car (more on this later) all thanks to the totally hugable   Sally Whittle. Sally organised the bloggers Tots100 Christmas party weekend for an unmissable price of just £100 for two days in the Ocean Hotel for a family of five. Over the years I have stayed in some amazing hotels including Disney hotels in Florida and the Ocean hotel more than holds its own.

You are met by cheerful, red coated staff as you drive into the complex. The ocean has its own car park with ample car parking, although at the weekend its probably best to arrive as early as you can. You can't officially check into your room until 12 noon, but you can still take advantage of all the facilities if you arrive early.

Although I was there for the Tots100 bloggers Christmas Party I thought it was just too good a deal to pass up for the family, so we arrived on Friday to make the most of the weekend.

The Ocean Hotel

The Lobby

Truly a room with a view - our balcony view

How thrilled were we when we saw all the space we had in the family rooms

The children's twin bedroom was funky and perfect, even had its own tv !

You can have coloured disco lights that change colour above and under your bed and in the bathroom or if you prefer just normal white ones.  Guess which were a hit with us.  Lying in the bath watching the bubbles change colour kept me amused for hours !

The boys were desperate to get to the Splash Water world but sadly when we popped over there at 4.30 it was just closing.  I will say this was one of the only disappointing things about the complex.  The opening and closing times.  Most shops, activities, Splash Waterworld etc don't open until 10 am.  Now if you have  children, which the majority of people I would imagine do have, you need activities  available from about 8am and certainly breakfast.  There were long queues for the hotel restaurants first thing, so I would highly recommend you take your own breakfast cereals, fruit etc and remember to take bowls and spoons.  saves lots of money and hanging around.

Most of the activities on site are included in the price, which really helps, but you do need to plan and book early.  Most of the popular events get booked up quickly.  We still managed to fit in lots of fun stuff.  The funfair, the playpark, the beach, The splash waterworld was the biggest hit, lots of great water slides and plenty of space to play.  Slightly over cautious on height restrictions for smaller children but apart from that it was the biggest hit of the weekend for the boys.

Lots of great shows and entertainment

Bjjorn the Bear was a massive hit and a real wonder to see .

So much to see and do we can highly recommend you book a break at Butlins.  Thank you so much to Sally for the opportunity and to all the amazing staff at Butlins for making our weekend so fab!

Onto the point of the weekend, about 35 bloggers met up in the afternoon for coffee, cake, mince pies and a little highly competitive, fighting and present stealing (yes I mean you Mrs Shoe Blogger ) , sorry I mean tree decorating competition.    Our team didn't win, even though we decorated our tree in reds and silver and made many references to Billy Butlin.  Hey ho, those judges had NO TASTE !  Sorry for lack of pictures, I forgot my camera, but you can see our teams and trees on the TOTS100 facebook page  

The evening kicked off in bar Rosso with lovely cocktails and trying desperately to put faces to blog names ! Then onto Turners Restaurant for dinner.  I sat with the totally gorgeous Kate who blogs at WitWitWoo  Wendy from InsideTheWendyHouse  and her equally lovely sister Paula from QwertyMum   a lovely evening of laughs and some unease when I tweeted about the stroppy waiter to then find Butlins are so hot on twitter the restaurant manager came out to tell us the waiter had been told to cheer up !  I was mortified, so much so I went into the kitchens to give him a big hug, visions of him being sacked running through my head.  Oh dear, wine and twitter Nooooooooo !

We had a wonderful evening and it was so lovely to sit and chat with these lovely ladies.  Once again, many thanks Sally for all your hard work, you put on a great event.

We were also really fortunate to be offered a Kia Cee'd for the weekend.  It arrived promptly at 9.30 am on Friday morning, brand spanking new, sparkly clean and delivered by the nicest smiley man ever ! After a quick familiarisation and packing of the boot we were off. 

 What a dream of a car to drive, after years of driving a petrol guzzling old banger this was heaven on earth.  A diesel car, it was delivered to us with 3/4 tank of diesel and when we handed it back on Monday morning after a 320 mile round trip it still had a 1/4 tank !  amazing fuel consumption.  Really made my husband and I see how cost effective this car would be for us as a family.  It was spacious and felt like real quality inside.  Not at all what I expected.  You really feel like you are driving a luxury car.  There are all sorts of extras take a look at the specification  We were totally blown away by this car and if we could afford a new one we would seriously go back to this one.

Thank you so much to Kia UK for the opportunity to drive this car, we loved it.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Wigwam - Garden Games

We were recently asked if we would like to review an item from the range of products available from the Garden Games website.  Although it is Winter and most of us are inside on our computer games I thought this might be a great opportunity to get the boys interested in a more traditional toy.  I chose the Wigwam  which can also be used indoors.

Big chief "hiding face" Milo

It was really straightforward to put together, even I managed it on my own, although could have done with an extra pair of hands for the fiddly knot tying at the top (but this I am told by my husband is only because I am left handed ) ! Just slot the poles together, slide through the loops on the inside of the canvas, thread the string through the tops of the poles adding a wooden ball spacer as you go. tie it up, stand up the wigwam, pull the drawstring of the canopy and tie the two together ! Simples !

It's sturdy and well made with lovely heavy painted canvas material for the wigwam itself.  One of those toys that I rank alongside the wooden train sets and lego.  A toy that you would keep for life and hand onto other children in the family. 

The twins love playing in it, they both easily fit inside along with as many cuddly toy (wild animals) that they can find. 

Really well priced at £49.99 certainly worth a look if you are considering something other than electronic type toys this Christmas.

Available to buy from Garden Games. Do pop over and take a look at their great selection .

Many thanks to Garden Games for sending us the wigwam to review and keep.  All views are my own.


Thursday, 8 December 2011

Aldi Christmas Hamper

We love December in our home, not only do we have Christmas to look forward to but its also the twins Birthdays.  Lots of fun and excitement, but also its our most expensive month. Thanks to the lovely folk at Aldi we received a wonderful selection of Christmas goodies yesterday.  They will certainly help towards the Christmas cheer.  If you haven't yet shopped at Aldi you really should pop along.  Full to bursting with food products & home goodies for cost conscious families, they combine quality with great value style. 

Yummy Yummy !

Now that's my kind of bottle of Chardonnay !

We can confirm the Stollen is absolutely gorgeous.  We gobbled it all up last night whilst putting up the Christmas decorations.

Baby rabbits at Christmas ?  nooooo they are yummy chocolate baby reindeer .

We received the above food and wine items above from Aldi.  All views expressed and photographs are my own.

Many thanks once again to Aldi xx


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