Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpurgo

When we were recently asked by the lovely people at Harper Collins for the children to review the newest literary offering by Michael Morpurgo and I was delighted to accept as we are massive fans of his in this family and I knew it would not disappoint them.  If you do not know of Michael, he has written many books for children, five of which have been made into films..probably the most well known being War Horse.

I actually intended for Charlie (10) to read this book first but Chloe (13) picked it up and read it in just a few days, I then read it (and actually I think it's an amazing book for adults as well as children) and Charlie then had his turn..and we all loved it! This story follows a young soldier in World War I who makes a decision that could have possibly diverted the course of history, and it is a story based on true events.  This trailer gives you a great idea of what an amazing story it is, and after reading it you will want to delve further into the history behind this tale, and really makes you think "What if?!".  It's really hard to write a review without giving too much away, so all we'd like to say is if you're a Morpurgo fan, or even if you're not and are just on the look out for a new book for either your pre-teens upwards or yourself, then give it a go.

Chloe said "I loved all the descriptions of England during the war, I think it's really interesting as History is my favourite subject at school.  Billy was my favourite character."

Charlie said "I really liked that there were pictures in the book and I like learning about soldiers lives during the war.  The story made me think about lots of different things."

You can buy it here on Amazon or I've got a copy to giveaway right here!  Fill out the Rafflecopter form below by this time next week to have your copy with you in time for Christmas.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Find out more about Michael Murpurgo's work on his website.

Friday, 6 November 2015

An Introduction to Joys Crafts Personalised Gifts and Giveaway

So this week I was lucky enough to be sent a gorgeous personalised Father Christmas treat board from the lovely people at Joys Crafts, a website that specialises in producing gorgeous personalised gifts. The Father Christmas treat board is a sturdy wooden board that has spaces for Santa's drink (we give him milk, but when I was a kid it was Brandy!) and cookies/mince pie, and of course carrots for his Reindeer!  It has been engraved with the kids names, which I wondered if would be possible as I have four of them, but it was no problem at all and it looks great.  I am planning on putting it in their Christmas Eve box this year and they will be thrilled. Our Christmas Eve box get opened on Christmas Eve Night has their new PJ's, a Christmas DVD, hot chocolate ingredients and sweeties in usually, so this will be a perfect addition.  These boards are priced at £14.95, which I think is amazing value considering you will keep and treasure it for years to come.  Delivery is super fast too, if you order before 1pm your order will be posted the same day.

I've been taking a look at the other bits and pieces on the site and there's so many gorgeous items that would make perfect gifts, and with Christmas round the corner gift ideas are always welcome.  I especially love the tree decorations in the teacher gifts section, what a lovely presents and something completely different instead of the usual mugs and chocolates.  

So, because I love you, i'm giving you the chance to win a personalised Teacher candy cane tree decoration (as above), made to your exact specifications and delivered directly to you by the end of term!  Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget below, you know what to do...

Monday, 2 November 2015

Living with back pain..please help me!

So last week I was off work as it was half term, and I had lots of fun things planned..crafting, baking and even a trip to London to see the lovely people from Tomy Toys at Hamleys.  However on Tuesday I woke up with a pain in the bottom of my back like I have never experienced before, I couldn't put one foot in front of the other without crumpling to the floor like a sack of spuds.  But I haven't had any kind of trauma or accident so what on earth is the matter with me?! 

I have been to see the GP, who has prescribed me with Co-Codamol, Naproxen and Diazepam and has told me to go back in a few days time.  If there is no significant improvement then he's going to send me for an MRI.  Sitting is painful, laying down is marginally better but with four kids I can't spend my life horizontal.  I also decided to go and see an Osteopath, but to be honest I felt like I might of well as thrown £40 down the nearest drain that's how much good it did me! 

So do you have any tips? Who out there has lived with back pain and can offer me some advice.  It's that debilitating I just want to cry, I feel like I ruined the kids half term by not being able to do anything I'd planned.  Please someone, help me! 

Health Hop

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Wordless Wednesday

Single Mother Ahoy Wordless Wednesday

Review & Top Tips - Camp Bestival 2015

So, this year we did something that I've wanted to do for a few years, and that is to go to Camp Bestival.  I'm pretty sure everyone reading this will know what Camp Bestival is, but just for clarification it is a family friendly festival held at Lulworth Castle, Dorset.  I decided back in May to buy tickets, and for the last 3 months I have been busying myself buying everything (I thought) we needed in order to see us through a weekend camping.  I must admit, I am not really a typical camper..I like my home comforts, hate being cold, and the idea of a Portaloo fills me with dread, however I was willing to give it a shot for the sake of the overall experience.

We arrived on Friday lunchtime (NB see top tip number 1!), and really struggled to find a camping spot.  We had general admission tickets, which basically mean you turn up and find a pitch wherever you can, but because we were about 24 hours behind 99.9% of the rest of the people there we ended up pitching on a relatively steep slope - although there were a set of toilets, a water point and showers nearby.  Our pitch was about a 5 minute walk from the start of the festival site, halfway between there and the entrance, so even though there was noise at night it was nothing that we weren't able to sleep through.  

After we'd pitched we decided to take a walk up to the festival site, I was so excited to see what was going on, and I really wasn't disappointed! Right from the outset I loved everything about it, the colour, the people, the music and the smells, it was just incredible.  To be fair, the fact the sun was shining enhanced the experience from start to finish, everything and everyone seemed to be so warm and friendly.

 Lulworth Castle, as a venue, is absolutely stunning.  It was so breathtakingly beautiful you just felt really lucky to be there.

We bought a cart from Aldi (£49.99) before we went, mainly to help us bring the stuff from the car to the pitch, but it proved to be invaluable in the end for pulling the kids around when their little legs got tired.  There was a stand there where you could "Pimp Your Trolley" who very kindly fitted a sun canopy and a personalised number plate on Saturday - how cute is that, a lovely keepsake for us for years to come.  

 The Jam Jar Bar was amazing...a boutique bar that served delicious cocktails in plastic Jam Jars from an extremely beautiful vintage caravan.  My favourite cocktail was the Strawberry and Basil Martini.

We also spent alot of time outside the Travelling Barn on the Upper Kids Garden where the amazing country/swing music and sandpit was enough to keep us all entertained for a few hours at a time! Toucan Uke and Lil Miss Lonesome with Jules Bushell were particular favourites of mine.

 As for the more mainstream music there was plenty to float all boats, we particularly enjoyed Wretch 32 (he is one of Alfie's favourites anyway so he was beside himself to see him on Friday evening), Clean Bandit, Ella Eyre, Professor Green, Kaiser Chiefs and Ella Henderson.  We sat through the Underworld set on Sunday night because we wanted to watch the fireworks finale straight afterwards, but I really didn't enjoy it. For some reason the sound system didn't sound up to scratch and I just wasn't overly keen on the music, that is personal preference though.  One thing I was surprised at was that there was only one big screen, set up directly next to the stage, so if you were any further back than the middle of the field the chances of seeing anything at all were slim to none.  During really popular daytime acts it was really difficult for the kids to see the stage due to the amount of buggy's/carts/chairs that would be in the arena, Grace was a bit upset she couldn't see more of Mr Tumble.

There were a few program changes on Sunday, which I thought was a bit naughty, I know sometimes things happen but there were young girls literally crying because Ella Henderson was brought forward by a few hours but no announcements had been made and they had missed her.  I don't know how the organisers can get around that though, other than trying to avoid doing it altogether. 

My previous fears surrounding Portaloos were not completely put to rest, but they were nowhere near as bad as I imagined.  They were always clean (or as clean as one can be!) and never once was there no toilet roll - which is super impressive, and I take my hats off to the staff that were always patrolling them to restock.  I must admit though, the "pay per pee" toilets situated next to the Castle Stage did receive my custom on several occasions, even at £2 a go the thought of a flushing bog and handwash was too much to resist.  I would love to see another set of these facilities elsewhere...perhaps on the Upper Kids Garden.

Other things we loved during the weekend:

Prosecco whilst listening to Ska music at Caravanserai
Cat in the Hat Live
Alpaca Agility
The vast array of food outlets 
The National Trust #50things Meadow (especially the den building)
Lizzies Way (Woodland Creative Play Area in the Dingly Dell)
Folk Idol (the 5 year old singing Edelweiss gets my vote every time)
Energizer Headlight Pimping
The Marvellous Imaginary Menagerie
Blow Up Church Wedding
The trio of girl singers in the Indesit Launderette

 In a nutshell, we had the best weekend ever, there was SO much to see and do we could never have done it all even if we had rushed from one to the next to the next...we preferred just to wander and do whatever we came across that we fancied, and that suited us - at least we know next year (and the year after) there will be still lots for us to go back for.  I have read on a Facebook group that there were some issues surrounding security, and that is a real shame as I saw lots of security about all the time, even though they weren't actively checking wristbands around the site, but not having experienced any issues myself I can't really comment on that.  A tent popped up right next to us on Saturday but it was gone by Sunday lunchtime so I was wondering if it was a day ticket holder that decided to just pitch up, I don't know if that is allowed but I thought it was a bit cheeky if not!

So finally..here are my top tips if you're thinking of going to Camp Bestival in the future:

1.  Get there as early as possible for the best pitches!

We made the huge mistake of arriving on Friday lunchtime and ended up having to pitch on a hill.  Next year we will be there by lunchtime Thursday. Camping Plus pitches are available at an extra cost of £125 for a family of up to 6, on top of your standard tickets, but they mean you get a designated pitch in a separate area - a good idea if you can afford it.

2. Go for a shower at 6.45am or 2pm.

The showers open at 7am, by 5 to there was a queue of about 100 people.  Either get there about 6.45 and be at the front, or go at 2pm when it's completely dead.  The showers have actually got really good pressure, lovely hot water and are in individual cubicles with wash basins and mirrors.  They are free of charge.

3. Take cash with you

Things are expensive, and unless you are a star super scrimper, you will spend a lot.  Try and take your cash with you (and keep it on you if possible, I had a very cute Bumbag from New Look)...this is for a few reasons: It's easier to budget if you can see what you've got/what you've spent, and there is only one block of cash machines which were jam packed ALL the time and also charged £3.49 for the privilege of using them. An average main meal (curry and rice/fish and chips/burger etc) will cost you between £7-£10, a pint is £4.80, glass of wine £5.50, cocktails £7.50.  We tended to eat breakfast at the tent and then eat out for the rest of the day.

4. Have lunch at the WI Tent

The WI tent served tea, coffee, cakes, sandwiches etc at "normal" prices.  Go there.

5. Get the kids signed up to any workshops they fancy early

Many of the kids workshops fill up really quickly, if there's anything they really want to do make sure you get signed up as soon as possible.

6. Buy a fold-up trolley before you go

I was intending on ordering a trolley from Mr Trolley before we got to CB, but I left it too late and none were available (they have a collection point right outside the entrance to the festival from the car park).  They charged £65 for the weekend hire and £100 cash deposit, but as none were available I ended up buying a fold-up trolley from Aldi for £49.99 and it was awesome! It was able to carry up to 150kg so I knew it'd be more than adequate for not only transporting our stuff from the car but carting the kids round too...with the added bonus it'll probably do us for another couple of years at least. 

7. Buy your tickets as soon as you possibly can, you wont regret it.

Early Bird tickets are available at Ticketline from this Friday (7th August)

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Happy Mothers Day

I just wanted to wish all you lovely Mums out there a very happy Mothers Day.  Every day of the year (hopefully not today though because you should be being waited on hand and foot) we wade through piles of washing, battle the school runs, wipe tears, tend grazes, love our children unconditionally and fight many battles that will probably remain unseen to the rest of the world...so enjoy the relative peace of today, put your feet up and raise a toast to yourself and just how blimmin' awesome you are!

This is also my entry into Mummy's Little Monkey/Pilot Pens My #PILOTMUM competition. Above is a picture of me and my dog drawn by Grace...I totally rock that pink hair ��

Taffy Mail American Candy Box Subscription Service Video Review

This weekend Grace, Chloe and I filmed a video review of this months Taffy Mail American Candy Box.

Taffy Mail is a subscription service that sends a box stuffed full of US treats straight to your door every month.  Chloe absolutely loves anything American so I thought this was a great idea when I came across it online.  In the UK anything that is imported from the US is generally expensive so I personally thought this box was good value at £14.99 for 11 items, only 2 or 3 of which we had ever seen over here before.

For more information on the Taffy Mail service see their website at www.taffymail.co.uk

Friday, 31 October 2014

Halloween Fun!

I absolutely love this time of year, or I have done since I've had kids anyway.  There's such a sense of fun about Halloween and I love how excited the kids get about it, and of course Halloween means we're really close to Christmas (which I also love).  I've gone all out with the decorations this year and have decorated the whole of the front of the house, hopefully the trick or treaters will actually turn up!  

The kids were desperate to do their own pumpkins this year, I have usually done them in the past, so they each chose their own and yesterday afternoon they set about carving them out.  All four of them did their own freestyle designs using a whiteboard pen, they found that easier than using a paper template. I must say I wasn't too impressed with the carving kits I bought them from Sainsburys though, the carving tools buckled almost immediately - maybe I need to look into stronger alternatives next year. 

So here's the finished products, as you can see they're all very proud! 

What Halloween fun have you got planned for this year? 

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Day That Changed My Life Forever

Thursday 26th June 2014 was one of the best days, but also one of the worst days, of my life. It was the day that I made a whole family's dreams come true by giving birth to their beautiful little boy, Julian Noa. I was ever so fortunate to have been trusted to be his keeper and carer for 9 months until he was ready to come out and meet his Mummy and Daddy and when he arrived he was everything I hoped he would be, perfect in every way and he continues to thrive to this day.  Being a surrogate was an amazing experience and I will carry it with me for the rest of my life. If you want to read more about my journey you can do so here.

That day was also the day I found out I suffer from a condition called Pulmonary Hypertension, a potentially life-limiting and scary heart and lung condition that I had never even heard of before, let alone knew I had myself. It basically is a problem with the pressure in the valves of the lungs and heart, and cannot be cured unless a lung transplant is carried out although it can be managed in most cases with therapy and medications. Right now my PH is mild, I am able to walk, talk, climb stairs, work, look after my kids, walk my dog and do everything else I want to do but there are thousands of people out there who's PH is so severe they cant do any of those things. People who's lives will actually end due to the condition. I am a lucky one. The Drs don't know for sure if I have always had PH, although they suspect I developed it after Grace was born as a side effect of a medication I was taking.  

The even more scary thing about finding out about my having PH (at 39 weeks pregnant) is that pregnancy is not recommended AT ALL for women with the condition..this is an extract from the PHA (Pulmonary Hypertension Association) website:

"Becoming pregnant when you have pulmonary hypertension (PH) is dangerous. The life of both mum and baby are put at great risk. The risk of pregnancy-related death in women with PH is between 25% and 50%. This risk is related to the changes that take place during pregnancy such as increased heart rate and changes to the immune system"

Quite frankly, I feel lucky to be alive. I also feel blessed to have my children, and to have been able to give Julian to his wonderful family.  From now on I am going to seize every opportunity that comes my way and live my life to the full, because if my whole surrogacy journey taught me anything it is that life is precious and you need to grab it with both hands.

Last Sunday I took part in the Great South Run, fundraising for PHA UK, and I am pleased to say I completed the run and managed to raise nearly £300 for this amazing charity.  You can read more about PH and PHA UK here. 

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