Easter Gift Guide – No Chocolate In Sight!

Easter is well on its way now and the shops are full of chocolate in all shapes and sizes! But there are lots of non chocolate ideas for Easter gifts for those of us that want something a little bit different! Take a look at these ideas…

For the Kids!

Bunny, Chick & Egg crayons (set of 7 crayons) £3.99 + P&P


I just love these Bunny, Chick and Egg crayons from Colour Me Fun! A set of 7 cute crayons in red, blue, yellow, black, purple, orange and green. All Colour Me Fun crayons are hand poured using non-toxic, high quality melted Crayola® crayons.

Each crayon measures approximately 4cm x 2.5cm x 1.5cm deep (1 1/2″ x 1″ x 1/2″ deep), with the bunnies and chicks being the largest, which means they are great size for children’s little hands! Each set will be sent in their own small drawstring bag free of charge (normally 99p). This makes them easily transportable, would make great gifts and would also be fun party favours. Please supervise all children under 3 when colouring.

Last orders need to be placed by April 5th to guarantee delivery in time for Easter.

Munchkin Bath Toys

I love Munchkin bath toys and Pumpkin quite a collection now! Why not consider some fun bathtime products for an Easter gift? They will provide lots of entertainment and bathtime is great quality family time for us!  Munchkin’s range includes both fun and practical bath products. From interactive brightly coloured Dolphin Squirters to a handy bath scoop, you’ll find something perfect for your child. The range starts from £5.99 – great value!

New products in the Munchkin bathing range include

  • Snail Stacker: RRP £9.99
  • Dolphin Divers: RRP £5.99
  • Lazy Buoys: RRP £5.99
  • Baby Bath Ball: RRP £5.99
  • Daredevil Dolphin: RRP £5.99
  • Bath Toy Scoop: RRP: £12.99

Each item from Munchkin has been designed to excite and delight children whilst making parents lives easier and more enjoyable.

I have a fab Munchkin review coming up soon, so watch this space!

When I Was a Kid

Whatever the occasion, have a look at When I Was a Kid for great gift ideas for kids. Their range of wooden toys is fantastic and the customer service from Paul is second to none! One of my favourite brands stocked by Paul is John Crane, and our Easter gift suggestion is this fab John Crane Sorting and Teaching Clock.

This teaching clock features clear numerals with the number written out in words as well as letters which will help them to recognise the numbers.  The face of the clock is marked out with every minute as well as the colourful inner of the clock marking out quarters of an hour.

The sorting and teaching clock also has 12 shaped blocks in different colours which slot into shaped holes so you can do a different activity with the clock each time making the whole learning experience much more fun!

The clock is just £13.50 from When I Was a Kid and the last order date for Easter is Tuesday 3rd April.

Happy Feet Two

Out now on DVD and Blu-Ray just in time for Easter is Happy Feet Two. If you have the technology you can even watch it in 3D! This follow up to the successful Happy Feet movie is bound to be a hit with the kids.

Mumble, The Master of Tap, has a problem. His tiny son, Erik, is choreo-phobic and lacks the talent of all the other penguins. Reluctant to dance, Erik runs away and encounters The Mighty Sven – a penguin who can fly! Mumble has no hope of competing with this charismatic new role model.

Things go from bad to worse for Mumble when the world  is shaken by powerful forces. Erik learns of his father’s guts and grit as Mumble brings together the penguin nations and all manner of fabulous creatures – from tiny Krills to giant Elephant Seals – to put things right. 

The film features an all-star cast including Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. Knowing how much fun the first film was I have high hopes for this one! Look out for our review of Happy Feet Two coming soon.

Pillow Pets 

Mookie Toys are bringing the original Pillow Pets to the UK this spring. Pillow Pets are a premium quality plush toy made of ultra-soft and cuddly chenille but with a clever twist.  When a hidden strap is released underneath, the cuddly creature transforms from a toy into a soft pillow, making the Pillow Pet a perfect travelling pal, naptime buddy and all round snuggly friend.

The range includes Silly Monkey, Playful Penguin, Comfy Panda, Snuggly Puppy, Magical Unicorn and Wiggly Pig, not forgetting Ms Ladybug and Bumbly Bee!   And especially for Easter, Cuddly Bunny, Thumpy Bunny, Puffy Duck and Fluffy Bunny.

Pillow Pets will become a must-have for all ages; from toddlers to teens and expectant mothers to grandmothers.  Snuggle up with your very own Pillow Pet, catching forty winks has never been more fun!

Priced £19.99 RRP and available from Toys ‘R’ Us, Amazon and other major retailers.

Pumpkin is reviewing a Puffy Duck Pillow Pet and we’ll be back with a review later in the week!

For Mum!

Well now I’ve given you some ideas on presents for your kids, here are a couple of ideas for Mum! (Devon Daddy, if you are reading these are definitely hints!).

Poppy Sparkles

I don’t think there is anything on the Poppy Sparkles website that I wouldn’t like to receive as a gift, but for Easter, how fab are these Friendship Bracelets? I love the bright cord colours and these would look fab with my sorry, your spring and summer wardrobe!

There are ten cotton colours available . The picture shows the freshwater pearl friendship bracelets, but they can also come with birthstone crystals. They’re priced at £10 each which is great value. The pearl or gem is on a large silver ring that will fit on most pandora type bracelets or it can be popped on a chain to create a simple pendant necklace too so its a really versatile gift!

Boots

This Easter, Boots have a collection of chocolate-themed beauty treats. As a confirmed chocoholic, these chocolate treats would be a welcome gift!

 

So that rounds up my Easter Gift Guide with only a little chocolate thrown in at the end there! I’ll be back to show you what I’m putting together for Pumpkin nearer to Easter! Let me know what you think of these products in the comments!

 

Monday Munchies 26/03/12

I’m just back from my first weigh in at Weight Watchers. Last week was a week of two halves to use the football cliche! Monday to Friday I did really well, sticking to my meal plan and eating sensibly and within my Pro Points. Saturday and Sunday I didn’t!

I blame the weather, long days out and lack of planning! On Saturday we were lucky enough to be invited to the press launch of Magma, the new ride at Paulton’s Park.

Paulton’s Park is also home to Peppa Pig World and we had a fab but long day in the park (much more on this to come later in the week!). We left home at 8.30 in the morning and stopped for breakfast at Morrisons half way into our 2.5 hour journey. Lunch at the park was chips, and tea was at a Little Chef on the way home (more chips – oops!!). Plus there was icecream and cake through the day!

On Sunday we had a quieter family day but still found time for a cooked breakfast out, icecream and cake. Hmm I see a pattern forming! 🙂

At weigh in this morning I was really pleased to still see a loss despite all this – 1.5lbs off! Ok its not great for a first week but after realising what I’d eaten at the weekend it seemed like a lucky escape. Lesson learned for this week – planning is key 🙂

This week I want to focus on planning my weekends better, and upping my water intake, especially with the warmer weather.

My meal plan for this week is another simple one, I hope!

Monday – Chicken Caesar Salad

Tuesday – Fishcakes, potato wedges and veg

Wednesday – Breakfast for tea (sausages, bacon, scrambled egg, beans, tomato and mushrooms!)

Thursday – Meatballs, pasta, tomato sauce

Friday – Chicken curry

Saturday – Maybe homemade pizza?

Sunday – Possibly a roast depending on the weather.

Fingers crossed for a good week! I always find it easier to eat well when the sun is shining so hopefully the lovely weather will last!

Want to join in Meal Planning Monday?  Pop over to At Home with Mrs M.

What Motherhood Means to Me

So yesterday was of course Mother’s Day and I had a lovely day with Pumpkin, Daddy and my in-laws. Pumpkin and Daddy bought me a lovely mug with Pumpkin’s hand print on, chocolates and flowers. I felt very special and loved by them both.

I was tagged by @zooarchaeologis to take answer some questions about what Motherhood means to me, so how could I resist?

Describe motherhood in three words
Challenging, rewarding and surprising

Does your experience differ from your mother’s? How?
That’s a great question! I was roughly the same age when I had Pumpkin as my mum was when she had me. The first child for both of us was a girl (she went onto have a second girl, we plan a second but not just yet!). I think that the biggest differences I can see are down to the modern world. I remember that we would only go out for meals for special occasions, and almost always to the Beefeater for steak. Pumpkin goes out for a meal probably once per week. We have coffee out a couple of times a week. Pumpkin has more days out than I would have at that age and at the tender age of 16 months has already had about 4 holidays!

What’s the hardest thing about being a mum?
It truly is a 24/7 job. I often struggle to balance Pumpkin’s needs with doing what needs to be done! And the lack of a manual for raising children means I spend a lot of time questioning my decisions!

What’s the best thing?
Watching a person develop from a small baby. At 16 months, she is changing every day and watching her learn and begin to speak is just magical.

How has it changed you?
I think of myself as a recovering control freak! Children are great at showing you that you can’t be in control of everything and sometimes you have to let things happen and just roll with it. That makes me a more relaxed and happier person (well that’s the plan anyway!).

What do you hope for your children?
To be happy, healthy and confident individuals. I want her to have the courage to follow her dreams and I hope she remembers her childhood fondly.

What do you fear for them?
I try not to think about the bad stuff. Obviously I fear illness. Sometimes I stop and think what the world will be like when my children are adults and that is quite scary.

What makes it all worthwhile?
Giggles, cuddles and kisses.

If you want to do your own Motherhood post, consider yourself tagged 🙂

Our first Library visit!

Last Friday Pumpkin and I had a bonus day together as she had only just recovered from a sickness bug and hadn’t quite been clear for 48 hours so couldn’t go to nursery. We thought we would make the most of it and do something we had been meaning to for a while – we went to the local Library.

Pumpkin loves books and so do most toddlers I know! We have a huge pile of books at home (some bought new, others from car boot sales, charity shops and gifts). But we still seem to get bored of our books. We read them so many times and then want to move onto the next! Borrowing from the library sounded like a great idea.

I checked out our local library website and saw that Friday afternoon was Under 5’s Story Time so off we went!

Pumpkin already had a library card of her own which we were given when we went to register her birth when she was 2 weeks old! It hadn’t been used though so when we arrived I asked the librarian about what Pumpkin could borrow. It turns out we can borrow up to 10 books on her card – that’s more than I could carry! Better still, there are no late fines on a children’s ticket so if we are a few days late with the books we won’t have to pay. And the lovely librarian assured me that they are well practiced at repairing books so not to worry if something got damaged in our care! How fab is that?

Pumpkin could not believe her eyes when she saw all the books on the shelves. I think she was a bit overwhelmed and was wondering how quickly she could pull them all off the shelves! I let her play while I selected some books for us to take home. I was really impressed by the selection.

Then it was Story Time. The librarian sat on the floor surrounded by cushions and beanbags and we sat down to listen as she read some library books to us. There was a range of stories and Pumpkin really enjoyed it, especially the audience participation bit! We lasted about 20 minutes of the 30 minute session which didn’t seem to bad for a 16 month old!

Our library has become super modern since I last visited and we were able to use the self service book check out system. Easy peasy and very quick!

The four books we borrowed have been read several times each day since Friday and Pumpkin loves to put them back into the canvas bag I have designated as our library bag! We will go back in a week or two and change them for another 4 books so she always has a changing supply of books. Of course there is no reason that we can’t borrow the same book again in a couple of months if she finds any favourites (I Won’t Bite by Rod Campbell springs to mind!).

I plan to build trips to the library into our schedule more often and hope that it will help to cement Pumpkins love of books and carry it on through her childhood.

Check out your local library for free events, information and a range of services (while I was there I managed to borrow an Energy Monitor for free as I saw a poster!).

Healthy Start Vouchers – Guest Post from Mum and Baby Online

Image from www.healthystart.nhs.uk

Money saving advice from www.mumandbabyonline.co.uk:

Have you heard of Healthy Start vouchers?

If you are pregnant or have a child under 4 years old then you may qualify to receive vouchers towards the buying of :

  • Plain cow’s milk – whole, semi-skimmed or skimmed. It can be pasteurised, sterilised, long life or UHT
  •  Plain fresh or frozen fruit and veg, whole or chopped, packaged or loose
  • Infant formula milk that says it can be used from birth and is based on cow’s milk.

You can claim between £3.10 and £6.20 per week which is a fantastic help when it comes to our weekly shopping. All you need to do is fill out a form online or speak with your Midwife or Health Visitor and they will give you a form to complete. To qualify you must be in receipt of at least one of the following:

  • Income Support, or
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, or
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, or
  • Child Tax Credit (but not Working Tax Credit unless your family is receiving Working Tax Credit run-on only*) and has an annual family income of £16,190 or less (2011/12).

You will also qualify if you are under 18 and pregnant, even if you don’t get any of the above benefits or tax credits.

And it gets better! As well as receiving vouchers towards these food costs you will also receive vouchers for vitamins every eight weeks. These vitamins will be for you as a pregnant mum but also for you child if they are aged from 6 months and they will continue to receive these vouchers until they are 4 years old.

Finally, please do remember to come along to www.mumandbabyonline.co.uk where you can sign up to receive a host of  newsletters from people such as Pampers, Boots and Hipp Organic who will send through a whole host of vouchers and money saving coupons as well as budgeting tips, offers and opportunities to receive freebies from them. It’s great to start as soon as you find out you are pregnant as it will give you the chance to save lots of money right from the get go!

Highlights from The Baby Show

Yesterday I was lucky enough to visit the first day of The Baby Show at the ExCel in London. I was invited to be a VIP Blogger for the day which was fab. I met lots of other lovely bloggers and had a day filled with great experiences. I want to share with you some of the highlights of the day and hopefully persuade anyone who has the chance to go tomorrow (Sunday 26th) that its worth visiting!

I have loads to share from the day and some fab products for review. But for now I’ll just check in with my highlights and a few tips for visiting! (I have just realised that despite carrying a heavy camera and my phone around all day I failed to get any pictures of the stands I visited – Bad Blogger, sorry 🙁 ).

I would suggest taking a free Show Guide when you enter the show and then grabbing a cuppa at the Central Cafe while you have a good read. Mark all your must see stands as its amazing how easy it is to miss something fantastic as you walk through!

First of all I would head over to the Superdrug stand where you can treat yourself to a manicure at the nail bar or get your eyebrows threaded. Several of my fellow bloggers tried this out (while I had a massage) and they thoroughly recommended it! The stand is also a Superdrug store with 25% off all Superdrug own branded products. Once you are fully pampered, its time to shop!

Make sure you head to the Mamas and Papas stand where you can get a demo of the fab Mylo Pushchair. Its so easy to use and looks great (love the one handed fold – so handy when you are out with little one on your own). You should also enter their competition to win one of 3 Mylo pushchairs each day. While you are there pick up your free voucher booklet for over £400 off your favourite baby brands.

The Gro Company was the friendliest stand I visited. Say hi and take a look at their range of baby sleep products. As well as beautifully designed baby and toddler sleeping bags (the original and the best!) check out the fab travel sleeping bags (compatible with a 5 point harness) and the Gro Clock which helps littleuns understand when its time to sleep or to get up! I had a fab time talking to the lovely ladies at the Gro Company, and am looking forward to working with them more in the future!

I saw lots of gorgeous clothes at the show but the stand that stood out was Me & I. These Swedish designed clothes are well worth a look. The bright colours, clever designs and great quality really made them stand out from the crowd. Find out more about their party plan opportunities too. I couldn’t resist treating Pumpkin to a lovely dress from their range.

You can’t go wrong by buying one of the Prima Baby magazine goody bags, For just £2 you get two issues of the magazine, and a bag full of fab freebies. In my bag were several full size products and the magazines made good reading on my train ride home! Why not subscribe to the magazine while you are there for just £20 (a great saving on the cover price of the magazine) plus you get a choice of Tommee Tippee products for free!

Special mentions also for these companies who are all worth a visit!

  • Mia Tui Fabulously stylish and practical bags for mums which looked even better in the flesh than on the website!
  • Cheeky Wipes – a fab system of reusable baby wipes.
  • Cuddledry – The award winning apron towel. It was great to finally see the product in the flesh and the girls on the stand were lovely.

This is just a small selection of the fab products and companies I saw at the show. Stay tuned for more news from my time at the show.

Check out these posts from the other VIP Bloggers 🙂

HiPP Stage 1 Weaning Review

Our lovely friends at HiPP sent us a range of their Stage 1 foods to review. We decided to keep some for ourselves and send some to our guest reviewer to try. Here is what we thought.

Cereals

HiPP has a good range of first cereals and the ones we tried went down well. Pumpkin will still eat these for breakfast occasionally with some raisins, grated apple or mashed banana mixed in to add texture.

Our guest reviewer also enjoyed the fact that the consistency can be changed by adding different amounts of milk which is helpful in early weaning.

Fruit Pots

Pumpkin has always loved fruit pots and I found them fab through the weaning process. Although I tried to make my own baby food as much as I could, fruit was something I often bought. There was much more variety available than I would have made myself. Take this Apple, Peach and Mango  for example. I wouldn’t have put this combination together myself but Pumpkin loves it for dessert.

Pouches

HiPP pouches offer extra convenience when you are out and about with baby. The lid is resealable which is fab when you are on the move, and each pouch offers up to 2 of baby’s 5 a day. Our stage 1 mum loved the convenience of these.

Weaning: Common Concerns Discussed by HiPP – the Weaning Experts

We weaned Pumpkin last year, starting just before she turned 6 months old. I remember feeling very confused, not knowing whether she was eating enough, did she have enough variety and so many other questions. The lovely people at HiPP have answered some common questions which many parents have. 

Weaning is an important stage in your baby’s development – it helps them to develop the skills needed to really enjoy eating food in later life – although it can be a messy business!

Below are some common concerns shared by mums during this time:

1. When do I start?

The Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months of age and it is advisable to wait until then; however some babies may be ready earlier than this. Signs which suggest they might be ready include;

  • Hungry even after a feed
  • Showing an interest in food
  • Sitting without support
  • Puts toys/fist in their mouth

Weaning should never start before 17 weeks, even if these signs are present and should have started by six months. If unsure, get a professionals opinion.

2. How do I start?

The key is to prepare. You don’t need much equipment but you will need:

  • Bibs
  • Small baby bowls – or you can use cups, plastic lidded pots or ramekin dishes
  • Small, shallow, rounded baby spoons
  • Baby wipes, muslins or tissues
  • It’s easier if you can sit your baby somewhere such as a bouncing cradle or reclining highchair suitable for a young baby
  • Some suitable starter food.

Try to pick a time when it is quiet and your baby is content – after a feed is usually good.  Spoon a tiny amount of food out into a bowl and place your baby in a chair or on your lap. At this point a bib might be useful! Put a small amount of the food onto a plastic spoon – and offer it to them.

At first your baby will still be getting all of its nutrition from milk so don’t worry if they aren’t interested or don’t have too much.

3. Organic, non-organic, healthy, home-cooked – ARGH! What to choose?

Home-cooked baby food is often seen as the ‘gold-standard’ but some parents just cannot afford the time needed to do this. In this case shop-bought can be a good option as it is designed specifically for babies.

The decision regarding organic or non-organic is a matter of personal choice however we at HiPP strongly believe organic food offers babies a better start.

The most important thing is that you are happy with what you choose – and remember you don’t need to stick rigidly with one thing.

Obviously, foods for your baby should be healthy – with low levels of salt and sugar, no artificial colours or preservatives and plenty of fruit and veg.

4. How is this baby-led weaning different to conventional weaning?

Conventional weaning works on a principle of offering smooth, runny foods from a spoon to babies from the start; initially offering small amounts but increasing these as weaning continues; then introducing textures to provide a gradual transition from milk to family meals.

With baby-led weaning (BLW) the focus is on letting the infant learn to feed themselves from the start by offering a range of soft, well-cooked fruits and vegetables as finger foods and letting them suck, chew and swallow them at their own pace.

The benefits of BLW are that babies do it themselves, creating less stress for parents and the infant and the self-feeding encourages better hand-eye coordination. The downsides are that progression can be slow, which can cause babies to lack vital nutrients they are no longer getting enough of from milk.

The benefits of conventional weaning are that you as a parent can control the amounts eaten by your infant, and be confident that they are receiving the optimal nutrition they need to grow.

5. My baby is at weaning age but is showing no interest in foods

All babies are different. By six months most babies are starting to show an interest in foods. If they are not then try offering foods before a feed when they will be might be a little hungrier. Alternatively you can hand them a spoon and let them explore to gain an interest. Make sure they are at the table when others eat so they can learn from what others are doing.

Due to the increased amount of certain nutrients needed past 6 months it is important weaning has started by then. If you are concerned that this isn’t happening then contact your health visitor.

6. How do I move from smooth to lumpy foods?

Around 7 months is the time when lumps can start to be introduced. At first, start with softer lumps by mashing ripe fruit, cooked veg and fish. Some babies don’t like the lumps at first and can spit them out or look like they are gagging on them – but persevere as they will get used to them. Try fork-mashing foods first before trying foods with specific lumps in.

7. How much should they be drinking now that they are weaning?

Once weaning starts more fluids are generally needed.

Once your baby is starting to have 3 ‘meals’ a day the amount of milk given, and number of feeds, can start to be reduced and non-milk drinks given. As a guide, 6-month old babies will generally still need around 500-900ml of milk a day.

From 6 months unsoftened tap water is ideal for babies. Once weaning is well-established a milk feed can be swapped for fruit juice at a mealtime. It should be well diluted (one part juice to ten parts water) and given with a meal – as the vitamin C will help to absorb iron in the foods.

8. How much food should they be eating?

Babies are born with the ability to ‘self-regulate’ their intake – this means that they will know when they have had enough! Offer food three times a day as well as usual milk feeds and let them guide you. If they are giving obvious ‘enough’ signs, such as closing their mouth or pushing the spoon away repeatedly, then they have had enough.

9. How will I know about any allergies?

It is normal to worry about your baby having an allergy but luckily these are quite rare, however you should not be avoiding any foods for fear that they may cause an allergy unless your GP or dietitian has specifically asked you to.

If you feel your baby might have an allergy or intolerance then it is important to note down what was eaten and what symptoms occurred. Do not feed your baby any product with the suspect food in it until you have sought reassurance from your doctor.

10. Can I wean my baby onto a vegetarian diet?

Yes, babies can be weaned as vegetarians – however it is important to make sure the diet is well-balanced. This means making sure that they will be getting all of the nutrients which usually come from meat such as protein, iron and vitamin d, from other sources.

Weaning infants should, as a guide, be getting two servings of protein rich foods per day such as lentils, beans, tofu, soya or egg. If possible these should be eaten with a vitamin-C containing food or drink to help absorb the iron in these foods.

Thanks to HiPP for that fab weaning guide. Stay tuned for a review of their Stage 1 foods.

All Change

Since I was a little girl I wanted to be a mummy. I would play with my dollies, dressing them, feeding them, taking them for walks. They all had names and I dreamed of the day I would have a real baby of my own. Since Pumpkin was born, I have of course had a real reality check. Looking after a real baby is not something you can ever prepare for! But I love it all the same.

When I went back to my career in November, I realised very quickly that I wasn’t happy. I suddenly found the corporate world very shallow and discovered that my own career aspirations had gone out the window. All that mattered to me was that my little baby girl was happy and healthy, and that I was there to witness her grow up.

So since Christmas hubby and I have been crunching the numbers to see if there was any way I could be more flexible with my working arrangements. And it turned out that I could.

I have left now my employment and am officially self employed. Doing what you might ask? Well I have my own Phoenix Trading business which I am really enjoying. I have lots of plans to develop it! I have also registered as a mystery shopper with a number of companies which offers a fun way to earn some extra pennies. Plus there is this blog which has already provided me with many fab opportunities and I am hoping there are more to come. I have about a million other ideas for earning extra cash, some of which I will be developing over the coming months (and sharing here!).

Pumpkin has settled really well at nursery and gets some fantastic opportunities that she would not get at home. I also believe that as  an only child its important for her to mix with other children. So we have decided to change from 2 days a week at nursery to one. Plus her Thursdays with Grandma will continue which gives me 2 days a week to focus on earning. I am really looking forward to having the extra day each week with my baby girl, plus she can have a shorter day at nursery (picking her up at 4.30 rather than 6).

Is it scary? Yes. Do we have less financial security now? Yes. Is it the right thing to do for our family? Yes definitely.

We have a walker!

A new phase has entered the Spend Less household – Pumpkin is no longer a baby, she’s a toddler!

After her first steps on her Birthday In November, she didn’t seem too interested in walking until Thursday evening when she just decided to walk off across the lounge! Since then she has spent pretty much very waking hour practising her new skill!

I can’t wait to see where this adventure will take us!

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