Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Hungry As a Horse After School

There'll always be things you aren't warned about, including when your child starts school.

Nobody ever told me how hungry kids are when they get out of school. Maybe it's not everyone and is just my Aaron?

So hungry, that I have to arrive at school WITH FOOD. We're talking proper food, like a sandwich or:

So today, before my #SchoolPedal I made potato waffles on the grill and arrived with those. He ate THREE. We cycle home and he literally will not get on his bike until he eats, and yes, before you ask, he eats dinner too. That's in addition to a snack in front of the TV on arrival home, if dinner is coming later. Sometimes it comes immediately, if I have had time to spend from 1400 to 1500 cooking.

So, yes, I know when we get pregnant we say "nobody told me about THIS" and same, when we have our babies. There's always something we never knew would happen. I think for me it was the lack of sleep in the first few weeks, the difficulty with breast feeding and how PND can totally take you unawares.

So tell me, do you too have to arrive at school with food? I was chatting to Anya yesterday and I know she too experiences this, with her two boys, who, like Aaron, must have hollow legs.

We've been cycling in all weathers recently, and thanks to our lovely Dickies waterproofs, and now the 99p gloves I bought Aaron, he does the school run without batting an eyelid.

So proud of my little 4 year old wee man, cycling to and from school. A real little trouper. I'm uploading a below par photo for now, as my little trouper right this very minute wants to take my computer to play games on Nick Junior and you know what, I am going to let him, as funnily enough I need to go and make dinner ;-) Today just flew, as I had a 2 hour PTA meeting in the morning and then what with buying his gloves etc... the day ran away from me. Jack Frost made his presence known from yesterday morning onwards and I couldn't find last year's gloves. This and yesterday morning our lawn was literally white with frost. It wasn't snow, but nearly as pretty. Looked quite magical. Anyway bye, the cooker is calling me.


Monday, 24 November 2014

A Christmas Gift Guide for the Whole Family

So, you want to know what to buy the whole family for Christmas, each and every one of them, and you haven't the first clue. So here I am to help you out. My pleasure. A Family Christmas Gift Guide that leaves nobody out (except pets - I haven't the first clue about them) :-)

I'll give you one tip before I begin. Keep it personal. Personal wins the prize for best gift every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

For the coffee lover in your life (after all the day begins with coffee doesn't it?)

A Nespresso machine - there are lots to choose from and you can even get a bundle (a Nespresso machine and a separate Aeroccino milk frother that will see you get 75 pounds worth of free coffee from the coffee club). I got to take/taste Nespresso and their coffee through its paces at a brilliant #CoffeeWithCurrys event. What really got me was this "only 1-2% of the world's coffee production meets the high standards of quality set by Nespresso" - THIS explained why my Plantar Fasciitis did not go crazy, despite spending the whole day with them drinking coffee. The acidity is obviously at a completely different level to the crap I drink at home LOL!

A Costa Coffee Christmas Cup so that they can drink from it from Christmas Day until they go back to work, and keep it as a keepsake for next year. Ceramic editions of Costa's four character mugs will be available in Primo size for customers to purchase for the first time ever. They're already instore now priced at £7.95 each.

For the discerning true ultimate coffee lover (connoisseur) you may want to get them something dead cool. Something unusual. So I have researched and found the ultimate coffee lover gift guide for you.

Coffee Gets Personal

As bloggers we get sent all sorts. Some things make an impression, some don't! Some things are reviewed and put to one side. Others are treasured, as it was with this mug, which I drink from daily. Get a personalised mug of your very own from Jonny's Sister. Very cool website!

I'll show you mine if you show me yours:

For the jewellery lover in your life

This authentic Sibyl Silver Brooch is beautiful and I also have one to giveaway below. Moonstones were a favourite stone with Arts and Crafts designers such as Sibyl Dunlop (1889-1968), this elegant silver design reflects her work. Made exclusively for "Museum Selection" who currently have it on offer £24.99 was £49.99. Silver with moonstone and synthetic opals, 1 1/4 inch wide.

For Daddy

Daddy has had quite a few treats from Aaron and I lately, and I'd say some of them would make a fab Christmas gift. Firstly, a personalised photo calendar that includes his favourite pics of him and the kid(s). Our Daddy loved the photobox one that we made for him! When we made it I blogged about it here: Daddy's Birthday Present Calendar. Calendars like that make a perfect gift for any member of the family to be honest. I know I made a photobook for my Mum once, with pictures of her and Aaron. It's coffee table size and she adores it! Speaking of Photobox they are doing a Christmas Sale that ends in 10 hours

For The Gamer in Your Life

Did you know that the latest Sims game is out? See this giveaway: you can win The Sims 4 on my blog. The Sims 4 is the newest edition to the life simulation series allowing gamers to create their own character, then train them, introduce them to new friends, managing their world top to bottom. Swimming Pools, Star Wars outfits and Ghosts have all been added to the game making it the best edition yet

Displaying PUMA evoPOWER 1.jpg

For The Football STRIKER

Puma EvoPower 1 Boots - 140 pounds. They come in a firm ground and a soft ground version. Engineered by PUMA to mimic your barefoot kicking motion, the truly ground-breaking evoPower 1 football boots allow your foot to flex freely when striking the ball, liberating your natural shooting power and thereby increasing your striking goal accuracy! 

Displaying Sondico AEROLITE football.jpgDoes that same football enthusiast need a ball? 
The Sondico Aerolite FIFA Approved Football provides OPTIMUM performance on the pitch thanks to a hand stitched 18 panel construction complete with Sondico branding and graphics for an eye-catching design.

For the Royal Follower or Someone a Little Regal ;-) 

Everyone knows someone who loves the Royals right? Well I discovered a retailer: Highgrove - that stocks beautiful products. Overseas deliveries can take 14 days so you'd have to order now if you are one of my international readers *waves hello there*.

For The Book Lover Be They Young or Old

Any age of book lover will adore this book: The Book of Everyone. You can mock up a book online right now, and even scroll through each and every page and you'll know whether you love it or not. If, like me, you want one, then you only need to decide on an option, out of these flexible choices:
Even if you don't buy one, you've got to go see how very cool and retro the books are. I'm well impressed with the whole concept and can't wait to get my mitts on one. A lovely coffee table book.
Each book is filled with amazing personalised facts, wonderful statistics and all told through a nostalgic glance back to the world the person was born into. You can personalise further with your own touches such as photos and comments.
FREE SHIPPING TO MAINLAND UKThe Book of Everyone has a collaboration with Age UK, so that with every book we buy it goes towards the “gifting” of a book for an elderly person who may not receive a gift. - because after all amazing people deserve an amazing gift. 

Speaking of Books, get yourself to Waterstones

I recently did a shop there for #CollectiveBias and absolutely adore the 5 bits that I bought for advent. Stick Man is always a good idea for Christmas and we've just recently begun huge fans of it, Aaron and I. From my recent visit to Waterstones this is my books haul below. I haven't included the Phonics pack that I got, as Aaron wasn't quite as enamoured with that as I expected. You can read my post here: Waterstones for Children's Christmas Books.

For the Little Builder

We reviewed 4 sets of Mega Bloks this year, and they really are superb. This is the Pony Palace, which can really come alive if you use your imagination ;-)

The The Child Who Loves Everything on Wheels

I recently did a post for what to buy a boy just like my Aaron. It's all things wheels. But what I forgot to mention in there was the ultimate Christmas gift: a bike!!! Aaron got a balance bike when he was 3 years old. Was on it every day for 10 months and then this year, a month before he turned four, got his first proper pedal bike, not a stabilizer in sight! He went out with Daddy one dusky evening, and came back riding within 45 minutes, so it is true what they say, that riding a balance bike teaches you how to ride. He was a whizz straight away, and then moved on to BMX tracks like a real cool dude! Giving a child a bike is like giving them the great outdoors! My favourite memories as a child were when cycling!

For That Family Member who Loves Golf, Boat Trips, Cycling, Mountain Biking and Scotland Washed Down with a Shot of Whisky

Get them a getaway package to Kinloch Lodge Hotel and Restaurant. 
Charming and cosy Kinloch Lodge is a hotel and restaurant like no other.  Kinloch is a truly unique place in a magical setting, nestled at the foot of Kinloch Hill on the tranquil shoreline of the sea-loch Na Dal in Sleat on the wildly romantic Isle of Skye.  Recognised internationally, Kinloch was cited as one of the world's top 25 small hotels in Conde Naste Traveller Magazine.
Wilderness adventure - for those that want to work up an appetite this package includes a full day with wilderness guide Skye Ghillie, a Visit Scotland ambassador. Can include fishing, forgaing and tracking otters, eagles and red deer. From £278pp** for two nights including five course dinner, breakfast and one day wilderness adventureTo get your tailor-made gift voucher contact
Kinloch Lodge on 01471 833333 www.kinloch-lodge.co.uk 

For the DIY Lover Be They Light Work or Heavy Duties

Displaying Gift Card.jpg39% of those who undertake DIY label themselves as ‘Light DIYers’, opting for smaller projects such as painting or putting up shelves whilst 6% are ‘Serious DIYers’ attempting more complicated tasks that include installing kitchens or laying a patio. One in 10 class themselves as ‘Moderate DIYers’ who accomplish projects such as tiling and laying flooring as well as easier tasks.
Natalie Vescia, Marketing Manager, Wickes Gift Card, explains: “A Wickes' Gift Card is the perfect seasonal gift for all types of DIY enthusiasts from parents looking for an opportunity to transform an unloved room in the family home to avid DIYers looking to update their toolbox with quality branded power tools and accessories.”
Giving a Wickes' gift card for Christmas is a perfect excuse for home improvement fans to start planning their 2015 projects and select exactly what they need for their DIY activity, whether inside or outside the home.
For the survey, Wickes interviewed nearly 2,000 consumers (1,993) as part of a nationally representative consumer omnibus conducted by ICM Research, 7-10 March 2014.

For the Philanthropist in Your Family

Not everyone wants a gift under the tree that they can unwrap. In fact some people hate the consumer driven side of Christmas, and the only reason they are participating in the festivities is because they love that Christmas brings family together, and it can be a time of GIVING. This may just be the perfect gift for "them". Head over to Send a Cow. Gifts include Send a Chicken, Send a Little Donkey, Send a Tap, and even a Send a Semen Straw, which gives African families the chance to reproduce newborn cows.

Christmas Doesn't Have to Break the Piggy Bank

Displaying squeeky_clean_range.jpgAll of these Squeeky Clean products by Creightons are available from Poundland! Yes that means they are a pound each :-) would you believe?!?! Indeed, they look like something else I am a huge fan of. There might be a beauty conscious teen who'd be THRILLED to have these wrapped under the tree or perhaps someone you've bought a main gift for, but want to give them some pampering stocking fillers too. I've always been a huge fan of Poundland.

For the Pregnant Family Member with the Expectant Glow

Displaying image002.png"The Cussons Mum & Me Bump Gift bag contains four products from the Bump range to nurture and nourish you through the ups and downs of every day, whilst helping to keep you feeling and looking great. A great gift for a friend – an even better gift for yourself". Includes Smooth & Glow Pregnancy Shampoo, Soothe and Nourish Body Lotion, Relax and Unwind Bath Soak Relax and Unwind Sleep Mist.

For the Car Lover

Displaying Turtle Wax Black Box Detailing Kit Box.jpgEspecially for a car lover whose ride is pimped to the fullest, has its own  name and of course is the pride and joy of its owner. Turtle Wax Black Box Detailing Kit £24.99. With black vehicles becoming one of the most popular paint choices, the Turtle Wax Black Box Detailing Kit is the ideal kit to help prevent the build-up surface defect This kit has 3 products (Black Pre-wax cleaner, Black Carnauba Blend Wax and Black Spray Detailer ) specifically designed to maintain a newer black finish.

Teddies just Pile Up Don't They? How About An Educational One?

Displaying image001.jpgMy Pals, the perfect gift if looking for an interactive friend to help introduce children to words, counting and feelings through 14 activities. My Pal Scout and Violet have super-soft fur and 5 touch points that respond when pressed. My Pals can be personalised to learn your child’s name and favourite things, now via smart phones, so they are ready to play straight from the box! Scout and Violet come with 5 songs or a choice of 30+. Two modes of play; play with Scout and Violet in daytime mode or night-time mode for soothing lullabies. 

For the Concert Lover who Loves Scrapbooking

Displaying Football tickets turned into TicketCoasters (low res).jpgIf you’ve been to a special event or concert with the person you’d like to buy a gift for (or just know where they keep their store of old event tickets) you can get an event ticket turned into a hand-made coaster for them – so they can use it every day and remember the great event.

TicketCoaster is a British company that takes your used event tickets (from concerts, sports, theatre etc) and turns them into a unique souvenir,  by turning them into a quality coaster. Sandwiched between layers of cork-backed board and clear, heat resistant laminate, the ticket is preserved and protected for you to use every day and show off to friends and relatives.

For the Discerning Drinker who Thinks They've Tried it All

Displaying pic0321 - Licor 43- BOTTLE.jpg
Maybe you want to get your Great Aunt, your Gran or your Mum a little tipple. You know that person who only drinks once a year. They just have a couple of glasses of Baileys to be festive, well this might be just the ticket. Or for someone who adores coffee, but to be festive likes something in it! Licor 43 is a premium Spanish liqueur with hints of caramel and vanilla which tastes delicious with coffee and/or in a variety of tasty cocktails. It's great for Christmas parties and easy to recreate cocktails at home. The product has only just launched on the UK market! Their website is really worth a visit! Licor 43 is available in selected Asda stores nationwide and from www.drinksupermarket.com with a RRP of £17.50 - £17.99. Good news! I have one to giveaway below, and I have finally uploaded the giveaway on Rafflecopter. Enjoy comping! :-)

That Family Member who Eats Ice Cream all Year Round!

Displaying m13007_ShakeNMake_1.jpgThe Shake 'n' Make at only 15 pounds is an amazing gift idea and it is not the only cool (forgive the pun) product that they sell either. Take a look at this amazing catalogue which is just bursting with products that are quirky gift ideas for someone who wants something FUNKY and design led: Just Mustard CatalogueThe product allows you to make delicious homemade ice cream in 3 min only, and no power is required. You can also make healthy sorbets and frozen yogurts. Don't take my word for it, watch the video (yes I know it contains salt but you can use GOOD rock or sea salt and boost your iodine levels):

It's a Cracker for Made in Chelsea Candy Fans

Displaying Candy Kittens Cracker.jpgFor that TV watching person who loves candy, why not buy them a Cracker. Gourmet confectionery founded by the charming Jamie Laing of Made in Chelsea fame. This Christmas, Candy Kittens have “the sweetest gift on the market” with their super seasonal Candy Kittens Christmas Cracker (£12) filled with sweets (with quintessentially British and rather grown-up flavours: ‘Apple and Elderflower, ‘Peaches and Cream’, ‘Sour Watermelon’ and ‘Eton Mess’) and a keychain, pencil, lanyard, sticker and wristband. 
This has to be the ultimate stocking filler...

Since launching two and a half years ago Candy Kittens have gained immense popularity as they have become the number one selling confectionery in Selfridges, enjoyed shelf space in Topshop and have recently expanded to national Waitrose stores where Jamie Laing rocked up in his vintage ice cream van to celebrate.

For the Family Member Who'd Lose Their Head if It Wasn't Screwed On ;-)

Meet Chipolo!

Given that people spend on average 10 minutes every day looking for lost items (153 days in a lifetime…) this product is a must have, particularly for busy parents during the hectic festive season! You can even of course tag your child’s clothes or bag whilst they are playing in the park and keep on eye on how far away they are from you.

*Search by sound using the App *Size of a 10p piece *5mm thick *12 months battery life *Comes in nine different colours *perfect for accesorising, *200 ft / 60 m range, *Notification when object leaves and comes back into range, *also shake Chipolo to find your phone. Price £19. Personally I love their video:

For the Family Newborn - don't get cold feet

Displaying Ballet_Mocc_Ons_standing.jpgRemember the company that brought you sock ons! That amazing product that kept baby's socks on, when they are desperate to pull them straight off. They were a life saver for Aaron and I, we had them in navy. Well they have now brought you Ballet Mocc Ons. There's a whole RANGE of Mocc Ons, take a look! I'll be adding a pair on giveaway to this post!

Baby's First Christmas? Buy them Christmas Dinner and Help Kids Company at the same time

Providing the perfect meal for little ones from 7 months+, ‘jingle belly’ is literally a Christmas dinner in a pouch, with all the Christmas trimmings, including turkey, carrots, parsnips, red cabbage, potatoes, onions, green beans, cranberries – even sprouts! The perfect way to make sure the growing tummies of weaning little ones don’t miss out on a scrummy Christmas dinner with the rest of their family. See all the details below, and how buying one will help Kids Company. I saw Camila Batmanghelidjh speak at MumsNet BlogFest and love what her charity does.
Displaying EK Jingle Belly Wow Sheet.jpg
So there will be SEVERAL great giveaways added to this post in the next 24 hours. Watch this space. Forgive me while I go and rest somewhere as this post has taken quite some time to put together. Ho ho ho!

Right, time to start finally adding them:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Next one:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 21 November 2014

Win a Copy of the New Game The Sims 4

New Mum Online has teamed up with EA 
to offer you the 
chance to win 
a copy of the 
new Sims 4 game.

Since EA’s original release of The Sims in 2000 the game has sold more than 175 million copies of the series making it one of the most successful video game series in history.

The Sims 4 boasts a whole range of new features ranging from creating Sims to building houses and exploring new worlds.  With rich emotions and quirky personality traits the all new Sims are more expressive than ever.  Storytelling with The Sims 4 is more powerful, more fun, and weirder than ever. 

New menus and layouts put life at your fingertips with everything you need to know conveniently available at all times.  Take your Sims back and forth; live in one world, visit the gym in another, pursue relationships across multiple neighbourhoods, explore for collectibles and secret locations. The world is your oyster. 

A free update has also been announced, with EA introducing swimming pools, Star Wars costumes and Ghosts to the game.  You can now build rooftop and infinity pools as well as dressing your Sims as your favourite Star Wars character including Darth Vader and Princess Leia.

Creating a Sim has never been so much fun, using direct manipulation gives you easy, all over control to make whomever you can imagine, from original Sims to simified versions of real-life people. With more support for ethnicities and body shapes than ever, there really is no limit to who you can create.

Follow The Sims on Twitter 
or via the hashtag #TheSims4 
or like on Facebook

The Sims 4 is available to buy from www.thesims.com for £49.99

To enter my competition and unlock other ways to enter answer the following question:

What is the name of the language that Sims speak?

1.  Simlish
2.  English
3.  Dutch

Added to Super Lucky Di's December Blog Comp Linky, which can be hopped over to via this button:
SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

How Low Can You Go

It's not a good day. It's a cry at the drop of a hat day. Worse still, when I am in that mood, Aaron gives me reasons to cry.

I got up ten minutes late, but still tried to stick to our normal routine. As Aaron sat on my knee having his breakfast and watching TV, under the blanket that has become necessity since the dark cold mornings began, I read this: "You don't have to be a writer". Even though I knew some very good writing would ensue, given the capabilities of that blogger, I was already stopped in my tracks by the heading. When I realised that my writing is below par, I stopped writing from the heart, quite some time ago. Given that I already was not a foodie, or a crafter, or a home interiors, or beauty blogger, it didn't leave me with much. Which is why you more often that not just see blog posts that are a showcase of "we did this" or "he did that". The heart and soul went out of my blog a long time ago, and recent readers would not even know it was ever there. But it was. Oh yes it was. 

But I put my blog and a piece of my broken self in a tupperware box, and it was only reading that post this morning that made me come face to face with that reality. Not whilst reading. No, of course not. Whilst reading I was caught up in Mammy Woo's world, enjoying her writing style so very much and feeling empathy with everything she described. My overwhelming feeling whilst reading, was that I was so so very glad that she was back. The blogging world is quite a two dimensional place, and it is people like her, would provide its colour. I like colour.

So, back to my morning. I got in the shower late. But rushed like a loon so that we made up for some lost time. As he often does since the mornings got colder, Aaron stayed watching TV whilst I got the bikes out. Today is the first day that the curtains were still closed as we left, as it was THAT dark, but thankfully it wasn't actually dark by the time we set off. Thank God as despite buying red and white lights for both of our bikes months ago, I still haven't put them on.

There's a slight incline shortly after we leave here, and Aaron always cycles up it. I always walk, being that I am not as fit. Today he struggled as he was in waterproofs and his school shoes were slipping on the wet pedals. As I could see he was struggling with the incline I put my hand on his back, careful not to push as I know only too well that he likes to do everything. everything. by. himself! Anyway he went loop the loop. "Why did you push me?" "I can do it by myself" and so on. He went to go back to the start, to prove he could do it by himself. This is where I went into a panic, because two days ago we were so late, the register had already been done, so we'd had to sign in at reception. It'd made me feel like we were listed in a naughty book and I swore I would never go through that again. My panic overspilled and I said to Aaron "you can't cycle up again, we can't be late and I don't want to end up in that book" - he saw my distress, didn't know how to process it, and went into "paddy" mode. When he saw this distressed me further he was at a complete loss and started to kick me again and again, with a line of cars stuck in traffic staring at us. He then said "I don't care if you go in that book" "I want you to go in that book" and I cried. Right there in front of the traffic a 4 year old boy made me cry. My.son.

I then went through the motions. We cycled to school. We padlocked the bikes. I walked him round to his class. Just as I was about to leave the class, after taking off his waterproofs and hanging up his coat, they started to sing the "we've stopped we've stopped we've finished song". Aaron came over to me, so that we could sing it together before I'd leave, like we do everyday. I had eyes full of tears and a throat that wouldn't swallow. I couldn't do it. I couldn't act. Acting is a lie and I never lie. So. I pushed him towards the carpet, and said "Aaron go to registration". He wouldn't leave my side so I said "Aaron you kicked Mummy today, so no, I am not going to sing with you". He looked completely crushed and my heart broke into a million pieces right there and then.

As I left the classroom the tears fell.

I was left with mixed feelings. "Would his hurt spoil his day?" wrestled with "Good! Now he knows how I feel". Only, because I haven't got a wicked cruel bone in my body, the first was loud and the latter was a mere whisper. I never, ever, ever, want people to know how I feel. This is the very essence of my problem and always has been. So no, I didn't want to hurt Aaron. But, I could not sing. What's worse is, the Teacher's Assistant heard me tell him that I wouldn't sing. I would never normally show vulnerability like that. Aaron's school life is perfect and I want it to be ever so. But the dam of tears and the floodgates of emotions were open. Reading Mammy Woo's post had ensured that. The genie was out of the box. Pain was outside. The tupperware box was open.

I left the classroom at the same time as two other Mums and we had a bit of a giggle and order was restored. But then I bumped into the headmistress and we ended up talking PTA stuff. To cut a long story short it meant I needed to go back into school.

I went to reception, so that they could print out something I had emailed them a week ago. I was able to say the date that I'd sent it etc.... I waited ten minutes while they looked for my email. I was then told "can you send it again". I knew that the internet data on my phone ran out about a week ago. I knew it doesn't refresh till 24th. I knew that this would mean cycling home, and then cycling back in again, so that I could cut up all the tickets (I'd designed about 8 to a page). I knew that today was the first day I had to myself this whole week. I knew this wasn't going to work for me. I knew I would put myself last and do it. I always do. I quietly left the building and got on my bike and cried all the way home.

Anyone reading this will wonder. Why does her not being able to find your email make you cry? Well the answer to that is ever so simple. Since my self esteem issues began, I have felt invisible. THAT I have blogged about before. Her not finding my email was yet another symbol of my invisibility. The word invisible doesn't even enter my head. It is a feeling, that has a note, like a musical note. Whenever anything occurs that is at the very essence THAT, it is like a knife in my heart. When I am "myself" of course something like that wouldn't bother me, it'd be like water off a duck's back. But broken me, doesn't like to be invisible. Broken me wants to dance on tables and shout at the top of my voice "I'm here". Hey and my email is too.

I feel fine now. But the come down after a cry like that isn't really fine. It's NUMB fine. So today I will sleep walk through the day, in that numb way that is my way of coping. I guess that too, is something that Mammy Woo described. Another reason I resonate with her post.

So that's me. You see. Now you know why I don't write like this, because really I am NOT a writer. Yes, I can string a sentence together, but THAT is not writing. Writing has a melody and a style and I have neither.

EDIT: I didn't have to go back to school after all. The wonderful school secretary printed everything out and cut up the tickets, so all done. I had a lovely sausage and bacon sandwich and order was restored until walking back from the shops a car was so keen to overtake a bus that it did so, whilst driving through a LARGE puddle that resulted in the puddle becoming my clothes. Not normally a problem, but I was carrying a packet of toilet roll in and amongst my shopping, that I had not put in a carrier bag........... GGGgggrrrrrrrrrrrr! 

Sorry, I totally forgot to say, I found this this morning and it is brilliant:

Bye for now, Liska xxx

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Waterstones The Place to Go For Children's Christmas Books and Advent Calendars Without Chocolate

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser: Waterstones. All opinions are mine alone.
Christmas Books Shopping List for a 4 year old boy
I went shopping to Waterstones yesterday for Christmas books for Aaron, with advent more than Christmas itself in mind.

I didn't necessarily plan on buying 5 books, but I did, which meant I ticked every single one of the items on the shopping list I had in my head:
Waterstones Christmas Books Haul including pop up advent calendar
  • 1. Something for advent. A beautiful pop up calendar Dream Snow by Eric Carle (the author of  the much loved The Very Hungry Caterpillar) became the thing that is going to steer our advent (with the help of our Card Factory ELF). We've done chocolate ones in the past, and all that happens is Aaron is so enjoying the chocolate that all windows are opened in 1-2 days. I have bought a chocolate one but it is hidden in the cupboard. THIS pop up calendar will be our thing this year. Start of some *new* beautiful family traditions, and the start of making advent something really special and *magical* for Aaron. Hopefully Mummy and Daddy will enjoy the magic too. I can't find it online, but then you can experience the festive feel instore if you go shopping to buy it the traditional way like I did. It's hard to give you an idea of the size of it, but hopefully you can see that the tree is taller than "my" ;-) Faraway Tree paperback. Yeah, it blew Aaron away, and there's a Santa next to it which is again quite large, but slightly smaller.
  • A wish list book. Stick Man by the people who brought you The Gruffalo - Julia Donalson (Author) and Alex Scheffler (Illustrator) - has been on our wish list since the beginning of September (I must confess I had not heard of it before). I knew it was just right for these festive times and just had to have it. We read it last night and Aaron said "there's the fox from The Gruffalo". The Illustrator has made him identical which was incredibly cute. It's almost like seeing an actor from a show in something else LOL. It also taught me that when Aaron is listening to a book, he is taking everything in, visually too if it is a picture/illustrated book.
  • Something I (Mummy) would like to read. The Magic Faraway Tree Collection - Three Books in 1 by Enid Blyton. This was an easy decision. I adored The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton when I was little so I was thrilled to see Waterstones selling a 3 in 1 book.
  • An educational book. I got a "Fun With Phonics" pack that contains 5 books and a CBeebies DVD so that I could do phonics with Aaron. Not necessarily my best idea but we'll get there. It's for ages 3 and up and is superb value at 9.99 pounds. Aaron's never been a huge CBeebies fan, but if your child is, then this is incredibly GREAT value for money.
  • A bedtime story book. For this I got The Puffin Book of Stories for Five Year Olds by Wendy Cooling and Steve Cox. Last night we read the short story about the elephant. The stories are short enough that they are perfect for bedtime, but detailed enough that the concentrating little one gets exhausted from taking it all in. PERFECT to get a busy mind to focus and doze off ;-)
The reason I bought more than I intended and spent more than I had planned is because firstly it is SO festive in there. There is a buzz from both staff and fellow customers. Two, the store is merchandised SO beautifully and three, there are so many good ideas in there like the advent calendar, which Aaron and I ADORE. The proof that he is that bit older and wiser now, is I did manage to convince him not to open any windows, and he understands that he can't until 1st December, although he doesn't fully appreciate how far away that day is.
Dream Snow pop up advent calendar by Eric Carle
Aaron's favourite thing out of the 5 things I bought was by far the advent calendar. He adores opening and closing it (that's to make it pop up, NOT the doors themselves). LOVES the Santa and the tree! The advent calendar had another fan after Aaron went to bed. Our Elf was snooping trying to see what's inside the 5 gift (pop-up) boxes that surround the tree:
Card Factory Elf investigates the advent calendar
There's currently nothing in them, but I have a plan. The Elf himself will be tasked with putting little gifts for Aaron in those boxes during advent. Because the brilliant thing is, not only do they pop up and surround the tree but they also have little lids on them that ACTUALLY open!

The Elf was quick to catch up with Santa once he'd checked out the calendar and the gift boxes it includes. They needed to have a good chinwag to make plans for advent and Christmas:
Pop Up Santa from Eric Carle's Advent Calendar and our elf
I did the shopping in Waterstones yesterday while Aaron was at school. When I collected him, I told him about the books as we cycled home. I began by saying "I bought lots of things for you today" to which he bombarded me with questions as we cycled: "is it toys?" "is it something to eat?" "WHAT is it?"

When I eventually gave in and said books, he said "no, not books, books are boring" which is an odd thing for a boy who adores reading, and has a huge book collection to say. Anyway, we were near home when he said it, and I knew the advent calendar would soon change that, but in actual fact he came across the phonics book first as he went straight to the TV when home, and as I'd been watching the DVD he found it. He sat on my knee and we read one of the books and watched the DVD but I think it'll need to be one for the weekends or holidays as it reminded him too much of school I think. Don't get me wrong, he is extremely happy at school and adores both of his Teachers, BUT after a long day, it's nice for all of us to unwind, no matter our age! Hey?!??!

Shortly after, we went to the advent calendar, and just as I'd hoped, he ADORED it. At first he was in awe of it, and then he just couldn't stop exploring it.
Large pop up advent calendar by Eric Carle
He must have opened and closed it 50 times last night, but that won't be nearly as exciting as the 1st December when we actually get to open a window AND, it isn't chocolate that is inside...

*Here's the magic *

...but rather each window contains a decoration for the large pop-up tree. By the big day 25th December Aaron's cardboard tree will be fully decorated. I know he'll have so much fun doing that, and it will mark the beginning of each day. Technically Advent starts 30th November this year.

If you love the Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child as we do, then you will adore Stick Man. I bought it yesterday in the same small size card hardback book that the other two we already own are in (beautiful gift those two were from Siobhan, my friend, for Aaron's birthday), and we've wanted it for ages, since we read it at school in September. It's been on my wish list, as I love the Christmas ending that makes it so perfect for THIS time of year:
The Perfect Christmas read from the people who brought The Gruffalo
The small cardboard hardback one is so perfect for handling when you're curled up with a little one in bed. Once the excitement of the advent calendar had died down Aaron straight away wanted me to read Stick Man and then we read it in bed again last night.

I then moved straight onto the Story Book for 5 Year Olds, and read one short story from there. It was a real fun tale about an elephant. 

Then my kind boy said "Mummy don't you want to read your favourite book" - thanks Aaron :-) so I quickly, with glee, moved onto Enid Blyton and was immediately transported back in time. At first he said he was frightened (by the Gnome) but I soon cheered him up. As the book has quite flowery language, he went dead quiet taking it all in (and by osmosis extending his vocabulary at the same time) and I thought he was nodding off, but about 10 pages in, he asked me a few questions, and I could tell he'd listened to everything. It's a real experience when you read a non-picture book to a child for the first time. They listen in a much more focused way, as the words form pictures in their minds, which I think is wonderful for firing off imaginations. Shortly after his questions he did indeed nod off as it was 20:30 and he gets up for 07:30 and his ideal sleep time is 11 hours, so like clockwork he went to the land of nod, and Mummy? Well Mummy was in her element reading the favourite book of her childhood, so I may have carried on and read another chapter. I even kept reading out loud so my voice would sooth him as he went deeper into the land of slumber. The book is a trilogy and I hope Aaron lets me share it all with him! In order to fit this much story reading in at bedtime, you need to schedule it as part of your routine. No point starting when they are already tired, as only two things happen: (a) they get grumpy and frustrated keeping their over tired selves awake to hear the story or (b) they nod off and miss it, which although is great, so you can crack on with other things, means you've both missed out on the beautiful quality time that a bedtime story brings. I am so glad we did this #CollectiveBias "shop" as the last few weeks we'd dropped our bedtime story routine, which we'd got so good at, but I won't let that happen again - it's just too magical.
Christmas instore merchandising at Waterstones UK
If you like books and you like shopping, I'd get yourself to Waterstones. I honestly felt like I'd walked into a Christmas Grotto of sorts and the reminders that it's Christmas are everywhere, with the tasteful signage you see above. I felt so obliged to get something educational, my first stop was this section (below), where I spent a large proportion of my time looking at the "school" type reading/phonics books. Thankfully to the left and right of them there's lots of fun. To the right is where I found the Faraway Tree trilogy in a lovely Enid Blyton section.
Layout of the childrens corner of waterstones
The front facing The Magic Faraway Tree Collection you see below is the one I purchased, but sadly there was a piece of racking behind it, to hold it forward and I couldn't see a copy from the shelf to replace it with. I didn't like to think that it wouldn't be there for another customer until it was replaced from either out the back or a delivery. Ah well maybe I am a unique customer, but I like to think everyone likes a bit of magic in their stories.
Enid Blyton on the shelves of Waterstones
The store was incredibly busy. A lady next to me was choosing three different books for triplets. Unlike us, kids haven't got into Kindles, so books really are the perfect gift. 

Please let me know, what are your favourites? I say you, because don't we enjoy them as much as they do? Having Aaron opened up a whole new world of magic and literature for me.
Waterstones Loyalty Scheme for purchases instore
Bedtime's been a dream (forgive the pun) since we've had our new books :-)

For Christmas