The Ultimate Christmas Meme

23:23 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

The very lovely Diary of a Lagos Mum has tagged me in this Christmas meme that is doing the rounds at the moment. Christmas is my favourite time of year so I was happy to answer the questions...
1.  The Christmas song I can listen to even in June is...
I don't know really. I've talked a lot about Christmas tunes recently but I do really love this one and it makes me feel all fuzzy inside so here it is...
2.  Hot chocolate, egg nog or mulled wine?
Mulled wine. I love it. There is nothing better than walking around Manchester's terrific Christmas Markets and sipping a Mulled Wine (or three!) I do like Hot Chocolate but I generally don't drink it that often. I'm not entirely sure what egg nog is and I certainly haven't tried it!
3.  When do you put your decorations up?
Not before the 10th of December, more than likely on the 10th of December. I can't bear to put the tree up when we are in single figures in December but, as soon as it gets to double figures I want the tree and decoration up straight away!
4.  What are you having for Christmas dinner?
We are at my Mum and Dad's. My Dad informed me that he bought a 20lb turkey today so no prizes for guessing what our main course will be! Dad is an excellent cook and loves to experiment with food so I am sure he will have an interesting starter for us. Pudding will probably be something more traditional - like Christmas Pudding and Brandy Butter. 
5.  What's your favourite Christmas tradition?
As Red Rose Daddy and I have only been together just over 3 years and Bud is only 20 months (yes, we didn't waste any time!) we are still building our traditions together. As far as Bud is concerned, he has new PJ's and a Christmas book on Christmas Eve (you have to have new PJ's for Santa!) and this year, thanks to a few lovely bloggers, he will be putting Reindeer food out in the garden because I know how to make it now. 
6.  Have you ever gone carol singing?
Not door to door. I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. I do love a carol service though and will be attending our local church service on Christmas Eve and joining in very loudly as usual!
7.  When did you discover the truth about Santa?
Truth? What truth? Seriously though, when I was around 10. I very calmly told Mum and Dad that he' wasn't real and that they were responsible for my presents. They said it was OK that I didn't believe but that I had to promise not to ruin it for either of my brothers, I am happy to say that I didn't. My youngest brother is 10 years younger than me and my other brother and I helped to maintain his belief in Santa until he was around the same age as I was when I stopped believing. 
8.  How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Our tree is a tinsel free zone but it does have lots of lights. We always have a real tree and get it from the same place as they are lovely and look after you so well. We love buying new decorations for the tree and tend to buy them if we have a day out or a weekend away in the run up to Christmas. I am hoping to share all the stories of when we bought them with Bud as he grows older. 
9.  All I want for Christmas is...
I'd really like a mini video camera, like a Flip style one, so I can capture all of Bud's special moments in decent quality and  vLog a bit more easily. I really don't care though. I'm always grateful for any gifts I receive and appreciate the thought that has gone into them. I really hope for a peaceful, and restful Christmas and New Year period and that Bud will love every second of it.
I am tagging
Castaway with Dreams

 but, if you read this and want to post your own answers please let me know and consider yourself tagged!

Mix Tape Monday #8 The Christmas Edition

12:26 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

Boo and Me is asking, as part of her fab meme Mix Tape Monday, for our favourite Christmas song. Now, you may remember that I posted my Top 5 Listography of more alternative Christmas songs the other week but I managed to forget a very special, and more traditional Christmas song and I thought I would share that one with you today.

This song was Christmas Number One when my Mum was pregnant with me and I know it is a very special song for her. Over the years we've heard it often and she talks about how she felt when she was pregnant with me and heard the song. She was only 17 at the time (just 18 when I arrived) and newly married so I can't imagine how  she felt. This song has become really special to me and I can't hear it without thinking of my lovely Mum.

Please share your favourite Christmas song by heading over to Boo and Me's link up today.

The Britmums and Kodak Christmas Photocrafts Challenge

11:56 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

Britmums and Kodak have set down a new challenge to use your printer to come up with a Christmas craft using your printer to print your Christmas photos.

Mine is something of a cheat's version. Two Christmases ago when I was about 6 months pregnant, I picked up some photo baubles in the January sales. I knew that the following Christmas I would have a lovely baby who I would want to show off and, in the back of my mind I thought the baubles would make a great little gift for the Grandparents and close relatives.

The baubles are by Shot2Go clear plastic and I bought a 4 pack in Boots. You simply take off the top of the bauble and then separate the two halves and you can use them to display two photos. You simply cut your photos to size and place them inside, then fit the two baubles back together. It can be a bit tricky to make sure that the photo fits securely although you can use the card which separates the two halves as a template.

I used this photo of Bud dressed as an Elf. We'd actually bought this outfit earlier in the year, when I was still pregnant for about £1 as we knew it would be great for a boy or a girl.

Instead of using two photos I decided to write a little message from Bud on a disc of paper and use that as the other side. The baubles had a little red velvet ribbon to hang them and I decided to dress them up a little. I used cream ribbon to hang them and tied a red and white gingham bow to decorate the top of the bauble. I was really pleased with the results and Bud's Grandparents and Aunt and Uncle loved them too.

Plan Your Story - Because I Am A Girl

00:50 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

Search through that drawer or box where you keep all the 'important' stuff and no doubt you'll come up with your birth certificate. It might take a little while to find it and, when you do, it might look a bit battered or scruffy. I know mine does, it even has a coffee stain on it. Now, imagine NOT being able to find it. Not because you've lost it in yet another house move (I think I'm on my third!) but because you never had one. Your parents didn't register your birth. You were born. Your Mother laboured for so many hours and struggled to bring you into the world but your presence within it is unmarked. You may as well not exist.

Go back to that cupboard. You might find some other important documents in there - your passport, driving license, exam certificates, the deeds to your house, your contract for employment, your marriage certificate, the birth certificates of your children, a bank statement. Without that birth certificate they have all disappeared. You don't exist and you can't prove yourself to all of those different places that rely on that scruffy, coffee-stained piece of paper.

The lovely Seasider Claire asked if I was interested in meeting her challenge to blog about a world in which I don't have a birth certificate. This is all part of a campaign started by The Plan named 'Because I Am A Girl' to highlight the 75 million girls globally who aren't in school and have no access to education. The Plan have created a Facebook App which takes information from your profile to show you what your life would look like if you were one of those girls who didn't have a birth certificate. Please go and have a try at it, it will shock you and move you.

So, how would my life have been different? Well, As a private girls' school pupil who was lucky enough to have a full Assisted Place and then went on to University to study further, I cannot imagine a life without education in it. I certainly can't imagine being denied education simply because I was female! I went to a Girls' School which was founded alongside a Boys' because the founder believed that girls should have the same access to education as boys. In many countries throughout the world boys are prioritised in education at the expense of girls and even denied education to keep them uneducated and 'in their place'. When I was 14 I was more concerned with which band I liked and whether the boy on the bus (he knows who he is) liked me as much as I did him. I could have been married to a man I had never met, who was twice my age! I may never have 'used' my degree much but the right to study, complete my degree and NOT use it is mine because I was lucky. Lucky not to have been one of the 75 million and to live in a country which insists that every child is registered and that every child receives that magic piece of paper, no matter what their sex.

Please take the time to have a look at the Facebook App, and perhaps blog your response to it. I'm not tagging anyone because I know we are all very busy this Christmas but, if you do have a look, please let me know either with a comment or a link to your post, you can also connect up with Seasider In the City's linky.

Review: Oil and Vinegar Fire Extinguisher Set

23:58 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

Ideas By Net have a terrific range of personalised gifts on their website. They specialise in Business to Business promotional gifts and can arrange to personalise their range with your company name and logo.

We were sent the Oil and Vinegar Fire Extinguisher Set to review.
The bottles each hold 100ml and are clearly labelled with their intended contents. As we all know, spraying oil means that you use less and get the same results so these are great for either spraying a pan with olive oil to cook with, or using to enhance a salad dressing. The bottles are quite dainty and smaller than you would think but they are really smart and feel like excellent quality. Red Rose Grandad is something of a foodie so these will be added to his Christmas present, I think he will really love them. The presentation is quite a masculine one and he is the ideal recipient. They are presented in a fab plastic display box so will definitely make an ideal gift.

Ideas By Net have a range of products which extends from ballpoint pens up to expensive corporate gifts like crystal globe paperweights. You can get a quick quote online or call them to speak to an Adviser about your business need. You can also follow them on Twitter or 'like' them on Facebook to keep in touch with what they are up to.

I received this gift free of charge, the thoughts and opinions contained in this review are all my own.

Oh Christmas Tree!

00:37 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

We bought our Christmas Tree on Monday (we always have a real one) but, due to busy days we haven't had the chance to get it decorated until tonight and the tree has been inhabiting the downstairs loo instead,

I really like the place we get our Christmas trees from, we always go to the same one. They grow their own and are a local, independent company.

I'm quite surprised by our tree as, usually you get them home and they are much bigger than you thought but this one is actually smaller than we realised!

We have so many lovely decorations and a smaller tree this year so I haven't had to resort to the generic filler baubles so I'm really pleased with the tree. Red Rose Daddy and I had a lovely evening remembering where we had bought each one as we hung it.

So, our tree.
The tree in all it's glory.

Some special baubles,. the ice-skating choirboys were bought at Winchester Cathedral last Winter.

Bud's First Christmas Bauble (Winnie the Pooh), it has his name on it. At the bottom is an Owl which is also a bell. I have a feeling this will be Bud's favourite this year as he loves Owls at the moment.

We decorated the Christmas tree after Bud went to bed tonight, I can't wait until he sees it in the morning!

What does your tree look like?

Mix Tape Monday #6

00:26 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

The lovely Boo and Me is asking for 'A Song That Means Something Special' as this week's addition to her Mix-Tape Monday link-up. Please head on over there and add yours.

This is a hard, hard choice for me. I have a very long list of songs that remind me of special moments, special people or, simply, those nights that you never want to end but I have managed to narrow it down.

I don't like R'n'B, I pretty much think that it all sounds the same to me but this was the first song that Red Rose Daddy and I ever danced to, on the night that we met! It was everywhere in those heady days when we had just become a couple and simply hearing it reminds me. So, not my usual kind of choice at all, but a very special song nonetheless.

So, what is your special song?

Review: Anatomicals Body Butter

16:22 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

I'm a big fan of Anatomicals and their range of skincare. It is consistently high quality and always smells wonderful. I also like using body butters and can be quite particular about them. Specifically I don't like them when they are really thick and have a waxy consistency as, bizarrely, the dry skin on my legs means that the really thick butters can be a bit uncomfortable to massage into my skin. 

Anatomicals have a new range of 3 Body Butters - 
  • Beauty Nutter? Here's Your Butter. Natural Orange Flower & Amber Body Butter - A delicately scented body butter perfect which will leave the skin revived and soothed
  • Smother Superior (Nun Better). Bergamot & Green Ginger Body Butter - An enlivening skin smoother that's great for putting a zing back into dull, stressed-out skin.
  • Churned Out Nice Again. Italian Lemon and Lavender Body Butter - Relaxing and toning, makes the perfect post bedtime-bath treat
I was sent the latter Body Butter to review and was not disappointed by Anatomicals' latest offering. I am a big fan of Lavender fragranced products as I always find it a calming and relaxing aroma. The addition of Italian Lemon to this scent livens up the fragrance a little and is a bit different to the typical Lavender product. It smells great though. The body butter had a soft consistency so it was really easy to use, it absorbed really fast and was non-greasy.

John Lewis and ASOS both sell the Anatomicals Body Butter range at an RRP of £5 which I think is a really good price for this product. You could afford to buy the full range!

I was sent this product to review free of charge but the thoughts and opinions are all my own. 

Stocking Fillers with NPW

23:05 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

I have lots of people to buy for at Christmas, over 20, and I always like to add some small presents in with the main gift for them. In addition to this we often have one or more Secret Santas to participate in so finding quirky little gifts that people actually want can be a struggle.

NPW have a wide range of gifts which are perfect for those smaller budgets, be they Secret Santa or Stocking Fillers. The vast majority of their gifts are priced under £10 and they have some really quirky ideas. I thought I would share some of them with you.

Get the Hint Wish-List Advisory Tags and Breaking News* (£3:50 each) 

These are cute little post it pads which give you the ability to get your message across quite quickly, and in no uncertain terms! The first set would be great for the teenager in your life, you could ask them to tag a catalogue, a bit quicker than writing a list!

The second set would be a great Secret Santa gift for a PA or someone else who has to read lots of information or pass it on to other people. Again these are small pads of little post-it notes, you simply stick them on to the edge of the page to draw your attention, or someone else's to a piece of information.

Hippo Shower Cap* (£4:50, Currently reduced to £4:05)
These are so cute, and the perfect stocking filler for anyone who doesn't wash their hair everytime they get in the bath or shower. I can't wash mine more than 3 times a week if I want to do anything with it so I always need a shower cap to hand. Bud loves seeing me wear this and the Hippo's goofy grin makes him giggle. There are lots of different fun shower caps on the site so I'm sure you could find one to match any personality, lots of them have reductions at the moment,.

The Driinn Extra Phone Holder* (£6) is a nifty little gadget that attaches to your phone charger when it is plugged in.
This would be great if you are charging in a confined space, or at your desk. You can keep the lead out of the way and it has a non-slip pad so you shouldn't be able to knock the phone off like you can when it is just on a table . The plastic is excellent quality and the whole device is hinged so folds flat so it can be tucked into a bag or drawer for easy storage.
If you ever struggle with painfully pulling out your earphones by mistake, because you catch the trailing lead, then you really need the Bobino (£1:95 for the small, up to £2:95 for the large). You simply wrap the excess lead around it, keeping it neatly in a pocket or against your body. Problem solved, and available in 6 different colours so, in theory, you could get one for every outfit!

These would be a great stocking filler for a woman who loves to pamper herself. They are cotton/lycra mix blend and have a map on the foot's sole showing the pressure points and where to press to relieve different ailments. The socks* are £6:95 (currently reduced to £6:25) they are also available in blue. The gloves work on the same process but the map is on the palm of the hand.

Fab soft cloth facial masks for the bargain price of £1:50 - £1:75. They are available in four different varieties of facial mask - Rose, Lavender, Mulberry* and Chamomile, and two different eye masks - toning or refreshing. A really great little sachet to slip into any woman's stocking, or to add to someone's Secret Santa gift. I've tried the Mulberry mask and it was lovely. It allowed me to relax for 15 minutes while the mask got to work and my skin looked great afterwards. The sachets are really pretty too.

These are great. £3:95 gets you a funky little tin with a hinged lid which is full of cute little decorated plasters. There are 15 different designs so definitely one for any Secret Santa or stocking. The designs cover everything from the cute little monkey shown above to  Skulls and Bones plasters for the Pirate in your life! Not the sort of gift that immediately springs to mind when choosing a present but useful and really sweet. 

NPW have an excellent range of really reasonable gifts, the vast majority of which are priced under £10. I really think that it would be a great place to shop, especially if you are struggling for stocking filler presents for teenagers or adults. Everything arrives wrapped neatly in red tissue so you don't even need to re-wrap it! 

You can get free delivery on any order from NPW until Noon on Friday 9th December and you can also sign up to follow them on Twitter or on Facebook to keep up with any current discounts or codes (the Facebook page currently has a code to receive 10% off your order). NPW also have a great competition running at the moment where you can win £150 of gifts but be quick (again!) as this closes on 13th December.

I received all of the items marked with * free of charge from NPW. The recommendations and opinions are all my own. 

Review: Scentsy Home Fragrance Products

00:04 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

I am a big fan of candles and wax tart burners as a way to fragrance my home and have heard of Scentsy because a friend of mine in Canada is one of their consultants. I wasn't aware that the company's products were available in this country until I was contacted by a Scentsy consultant, Heather Budd, on Twitter, asking if I would like to review her products. 

The basic premise of Scentsy is that they offer wickless candles. These aren't so much candles as blocks of wax which you place into the dish of a warmer which you plug into the mains. The warmer has a lightbulb in it which gradually warms a plate underneath the dish and causes the wax to melt and release the fragrance.If you are familiar with burning wax tarts it is a similar process except there is no candle, and therefore no naked flame involved. 

The warmers come in two sizes - full size and mid-size. I was sent the Delta Full Size Warmer and a selection of three wax fragrances to review. I found the warmer really easy to set up, you simply unpackage it and fit the dish on top of the main warmer body. It plugs in to the wall using an adapter, which shows the company's North American roots.

The warmer I was sent was quite a neutral design, as shown, I thought it was quite funky but also that it would go with a lot of different decor. There are holes pierced around the widest part of the warmer which allows you to see the light from the bulb shining through, and gives a similar effect to having a candle lit inside there. 

This photo doesn't really do justice to the burner or the light which shines from it. It really does look lovely. 

I was sent three different wax cubes to try. Christmas Cottage - a blend of Valencia oranges, raspberries, cloves, and spices. Pumpkin Roll - Creamy pumpkin pie filling surrounded with yellow cake, pecans, butter, and spice and Central Park Pralines - A decadent confection of rich roasted pecans, buttery caramel, and cinnamon sugar. These all form part of the Autumn Winter Collection. My favourite was the Christmas Cottage,I thought it smelled just like Mulled Wine. The wax cubes were broken off from a larger bar which looks rather like a small ice cube tray. The fragrance was really strong and long lasting but not overpowering. Each cube lasted for around 8 hours of warming.
You can see the Praline wax cube melting here

I found the warmer really easy to use and the fragrances to be great quality and definitely the sort of fragrances I would choose myself. I do like spicy and food-y scents The warmers sell for £30 for the full size warmer, and £25 for the mid-size warmers. This is a little expensive but they are great quality. The wax bars sell for £5 each and each offers 6 chunks - by my reckoning about 50 hours of home fragrance - so comparable with the prices of wax tarts and candles. One thing that I really loved is that there is no waste with the wax here. You don't get that annoying bit of the candle that doesn't melt. When the fragrance is gone you simply pour the used wax away (I just used an empty can but the recommendation is, when you have a bar in it's packaging, to pour it back into the packet) and then wipe the dish to remove any residue. This was so much quicker than having to put a burner in the freezer to unfreeze a melted wax tart! 

The products are quite expensive but, if you enjoy experimenting with this type of product I think you would find them great. There are 80 different fragrances available so I am sure everyone could find the scent that suits them best.

Scentsy sell online through independent consultants like Heather Budd, and also have in-home parties (similar to those hosted by The Body Shop or Pampered Chef). If you would like any information about their products please contact her.

Mix Tape Monday #5

23:43 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

Boo and Me's prompt for this week's Mix Tape Monday invites you to reveal the first song that you ever bought. Mammasaurus is hosting this week so pop over there if you would like to join up.

Now, let's face it. This is going to be embarrassing for the vast majority of people. We all have to cut our teeth on dodgy music to appreciate the good stuff when we get there, don't we?

Anyway, my parents used to buy me 7" singles if I asked for them sometimes but the very first record I bought with my very own money was this...

Yes, it was a Coke advert theme and yes, it was recorded by someone who may well define the term 'one hit wonder' but it meant a lot to my 11 year old self and I suppose I will always have a soft spot for it as a result.

What was the first song you ever bought?

Listography - My Top 5 Christmas Songs

00:02 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

So, this week's Listography from Kate Takes 5 is being hosted by Alma's These Precious Things and asks for your top 5 Christmas Songs. I have also been tagged by Him at The Blog Up North to name my favourite Christmas song so I am combining the two.

I love Christmas songs and was tempted to name songs like 'The Fairytale of New York' by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, 'Christmas Wrapping' by The Waitresses, 'Driving Home for Christmas' by Chris Rea or 'Stay' by East 17 (even though it isn't really a Christmas song). These are all excellent choices and songs that I love but I've decided to look to my record collection and bring you a Very Indie Christmas.

1. Home for the Holidays by Tim Wheeler and Emmy the Great

I've posted before about how much I love Ash and Tim Wheeler and, this year, bizarrely, the man himself has decided to record a Christmas album with the very talented Emmy the Great. This is the best of the bunch I think. I especially love the very cheesy video and presence of Christmas jumpers which don't detract from this being a great song.

2. The Ghost of Christmas - Manic Street Preachers

Yes, those Manic Street Preachers. The same Manic Street Preachers who have a reputation for taking themselves very seriously. This song was never released as a single but it really should have been. I defy anyone not to tap their foot along to this.

3. Space Christmas - Shonen Knife

I love Shonen Knife. They made perfect Japanese pop. I discovered them because they were beloved of The Sultans of Ping who you will meet later in this rundown. This song is the perfect Christmas song - it has a simple message and gets it across in around 3 minutes. What else do you need for the festive season?

4. Christmas is Going to the Dogs - eels

I'm sorry, the video to this is awful but it seems to be the only one on Youtube! This is a great song, because we all sometimes feel like this at Christmas.

And, I've decided, my favourite Christmas song...

5. Xmas Bubblegum Machine - Sultans of Ping

100 seconds of pure Punk Pop with a very festive message. This could be the best, and possibly, least heard Christmas song ever made.

So, what are your favourite Christmas songs?


Silent Sunday

23:00 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

Saturday is Caption Day

00:18 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

Saturday is Caption Day over at Mammasaurus' blog.

So, what do you think Bud is thinking here?

Review: Fimo Soft Craft Kits

00:09 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

My niece loves art and crafts, she wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up, and she is always on the look out for new crafts to explore so, when I brought round two Fimo kits for her to have a look at she we was really excited. Both of us have heard of Fimo before, and seen creations made by friends using this modelling clay but neither of us have had the chance to use it before.

I was sent two kits to review by Merry over at Patch of Puddles. The first kit was an introductory pack - the Fimo Soft Basic Starter Kit (£13:95)
This pack includes 9 half blocks of Fimo Soft in a range of bright colours, a bottle of varnish, a Fimo tool and a mat. It also includes very basic instructions.

The second kit we were sent was the Fimo Soft Create Your Own Pets Cats and Dogs Set (£4:75)
This kit includes 4 blocks of Fimo soft and basic instructions to create your own cats and dogs.

Fimo is recommended for children aged 8 and over. My niece and nephew are 10 and 8 so I thought that this would be right up their street. My nephew is only recently starting to take an interest in crafts so I was surprised that he was really keen to get involved too. 

The first thing we did was to open both packs up and have a look at all the colours contained. The Starter Kit was great and, we thought, contained all the colours we would need, whereas the Pets kit has orange, red, black and white and we agreed that these were great shades to create cats and dogs from. We were all expecting some instructions with the kits to help us decide what to create and were a bit surprised to see no ideas for models in the starter kit, and only really basic ideas for the cats and dogs in the Pets kit. I was expecting my niece and nephew to be a bit taken aback by this but they straight away decided what they wanted to make and started to model their ideas. Bud is a massive duck fan. As far as he is concerned anything with wings is a duck and says 'quack, quack', his cousins are well aware of this so both of them decided to make ducks to show to their little cousin. 

You unwrap a hard block of Fimo and have to start working it with your hands before you can mould it. The children could do this but very quickly started to ask me and their Mum to work the next colour they wanted to use so it was ready for them to shape when they needed it. We were happy to do so and sat and had a chat whilst working the clay in our hands and both of us agreed that it was quite therapeutic! 

The kids got into shaping the clay really quickly and soon learned that they could do really quite fine work using the colours. After completing their ducks (photo later on) they moved on to creating pencil toppers. The idea for these came from the packaging of the Starter Kit which clearly showed a selection of pencil toppers made from Fimo. Arty Girl (my niece) made a Chicken, whereas Lego Boy (my nephew) made a funny face.
Arty Girl working on her Chicken pencil topper

As time passed, Lego Boy got a little bored but Arty Girl carried on creating. She started to mix the blue and white colours together and found that she could make a sky blue shade of Fimo by doing so. We were quite surprised by this and I was really pleased to see that this worked as it gives the Fimo far more versatility. It is testament to Arty Girl's creative side that she came up with this all by herself.
Sky blue Fimo - all Arty Girl's own creation

The children really enjoyed playing with the Fimo and I was really surprised at their ability to create great little models quite quickly. I think the speed at which they could make their creations was excellent as it kept them interested for longer because they could see quick results. Lego Boy, especially, doesn't usually sit still like this for a long period but he sat using the Fimo for nearly an hour.
L-R Lego Boy's Duck, Arty Girl's Duck, Arty Girl's Chicken Pencil Topper and Lego Boy's Funny Face Pencil Topper

In creating the four models they probably used about a third of the Fimo so they have plenty of modelling clay left to make some more models. Arty Girl varnished the models and baked them in the oven for half an hour and the end result was great. Sorry, no photos as they have disappeared into school bags and bedrooms. We didn't use the Pets kit to create the models it showed but we did find the four blocks of Fimo contained in it to be really useful in creating our other models. I think, if we had just received the Pets kit then the children would have probably created cats and dogs but the addition of the Starter Kit meant that they had far more available to them and could get really creative. 

I asked Arty Girl what she thought and she said that she really enjoyed using the Fimo and was surprised at how easy it was to use. She really liked the different colours and the ability to make her own colours by mixing two or more together. She was planning to make pencil toppers for her friends' Christmas presents. We all agreed that we thought that the packaging should contain more ideas for models but I will be showing them the Patch of Puddles Fimo pages to get some more inspiration. 

I was really pleased to be able to share the Fimo with the children, and especially to introduce Arty Girl to another creative medium. She really loved it so I think I may buy her another kit for Christmas or her Birthday. I'm going to have a look at Craft Merrily for some inspiration. I may also sneak in a little jewellery kit for myself as I am really keen to have a play with the Fimo myself! 

I was sent the two Fimo kits to review free of charge but the thoughts and opinions contained in this post are all my own and those of my niece. 

Review: Earth Friendly Baby

19:48 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

We are big fans of natural skincare products in our house and I always try to choose products with no nasty ingredients in for Bud's shower. We don't actually have a bath in our house (a source of great pain to me as I love a good soak) but Bud loves his showers and happily stands under the water and potters about in the tray with his toys. Our current favourite shower gel is Earth Friendly Baby's Organic Mandarin Body Wash so I was really pleased to be asked if we wanted to try out their Organic Lavender Shampoo and Body Wash and Organic Lavender Body Lotion.

I'm a big fan of Lavender, I always find the fragrance really centring and relaxing. It is meant to have sleep-inducing qualities so I used these products for Bud's bedtime showers. The Body Wash was thick and I only needed a little squeezed on a sponge to generate enough lather to wash Bud all over. I always prefer a product which I can use for hair washing as well as body washing when I am dealing with a showering toddler so I used this to wash his hair too. The results were great. His hair was soft and smelled lovely when it dried. The lid for the bottle clicks open allowing you to squeeze the gel out and shut it, it was great not to have to worry about unscrewing the cap. I was pleased that the product wasn't purple like so many Lavender products are - you don't need purple colouring to know that something is Lavender fragranced!

Bud is a very wriggly young man and not at all keen on massage so we have to turn applying baby lotion into a bit of a game. The bottle of body lotion has a pump top which is great as it can be used with one hand, again great when you are chasing a small boy around. The cream has a nice consistency, slightly runny but not so much that there is a risk of spilling it. I only needed 3 or 4 pumps to give me enough cream for Bud. He likes to rub in the cream himself and this was very quick to absorb so really easy for him to do. Again, the product isn't coloured purple, in fact the only lavender coloured part of these products is the trim on the labels. After the body wash and the body lotion I was left with a beautifully scented boy who seemed to sleep well afterwards too!

The Shampoo and Body Wash retails for around £3:99, while the Body Lotion sells for around £4:99. I don't think this is too much to pay for effective products which gently care for your children's skin and we will certainly be sticking with this range as our baby toiletries of choice. 
A beautifully scented boy, fresh from the shower.

Earth Friendly Baby products are all natural, biodegradable and use plant derived materials where possible. They don't contain SLS or Parabens and are suitable for vegetarians. None of their products are tested on animals. Currently, the Earth Friendly Baby range of products are available from selected Waitrose, John Lewis, Sainbury's, Boots & leading independent baby stores, health stores and selected pharmacies. 

We were sent the two products for the purpose of this review. The thoughts and opinions contained within this post are all my own.

Listography - 5 Cartoon Characters From Your Youth

00:02 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

This week's Listography over at Kate Takes 5 asks for 5 cartoon characters from your youth. I was a big fan of cartoons  in my youth and have been thinking about which were my favourites

1. Mysterious Cities of Gold
So many people deny all knowledge of this show, I guess not many people watched it, but I loved it. The main story was a quest through South America and it had a really good mix of history, adventure and science-fiction. It was, apparently (I've been Googling) a Japanese-French production and the characters' mouths never moved in time with the dialogue track but it was really good, and had a fantastic theme tune.

2. The Magic Roundabout
The original, not that abominable film they made a few years ago. I remember this being shown just before the news in the evenings. I really loved the characters and, when they were brought back and shown on The Big Breakfast in the 90s, they were a real craze for me and my friends. Another French cartoon, there seems to be a theme here.

3. Willo the Wisp

Kenneth Williams and a bizarre story of some very strange creatures who lived in the forest together. I was very small when this was on, it used to be on before the news when the aforementioned Magic Roundabout wasn't. My favourite character was Evil Edna, the TV with legs, and I must confess that we had a strange little old lady who lived next door-but one to my home who was called Edna, you can guess what we nicknamed her...

4. Dangermouse
I'm sure lots of people have chosen Dangermouse as one of their 5. It was mouse and his rodent-y sidekick Penfold leading a James Bond-type existence saving the world from Baron Greenback, a rather large toad. David Jason was the brilliant voice of the show and really made it perfect.

5. The Trap Door
All together now... 'Don't you open that trap door! You're a fool if you dare...' This was a clay-mation series voiced by Willie Rushton. Each episode featured the central character, Berk, carrying out the instructions of the Thing Upstairs. Inevitably this would lead to the Trap Door being opened, a monster escaping, and chaos ensuing! It was brilliant. We bought the complete Trap Door on DVD a while ago and I can't wait to share it with Bud. He'll probably think it is old-fashioned nonsense though.

Which cartoons did you love when you were small?


Review: Big Game Hunters Wigwam

00:28 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

Recently Bud has really started to love his blanket and has been getting a bit creative with it. It generally lives on the sofa but he has been dragging it from there on to his toy box and getting underneath it. He also crawls underneath his highchair and shouts 'beep' which I assume means 'peep-oh'  and his Daddy and I have been starting to think that he will enjoy building dens when he is bigger. Red Rose Daddy is especially pleased about this as this was one of his favourite activities when he was small.

Last Summer we bought Bud a play tent - one of those that pops up but he wasn't interested in it in the slightest and it has remained in the cupboard ever since - so, when we were sent a wigwam to play with I wondered what he would make of it. I was so surprised. As soon as we started to unpack it he was so excited! He was trying to climb under the canvas before it was in place and generally getting in the way until it was built.

The wigwam was easy to put together but I wouldn't have been able to do it on my own although I think Red Rose Daddy probably could have. The frame of the wigwam is made up of six solid wooden poles which come in two parts and are fixed together using a plastic adapter. The poles then feed through loops on the inside of the canvas and are secured at the base of the poles by pockets in the canvas. You then gather the poles together and tie the top of the canvas cover together at the top of the wigwam. When the cover is in place you feed a cord through the pre-drilled holes in each post, alternating with a wooden spacer ball, to secure the top of the wigwam. Once complete it should look something like this

Review: Big Game Hunters Wigwam

I think we actually had our base a bit too wide as the door wouldn't fasten. It has 3 velcro strips to close the door which is great for when you are having secret meetings in your tent! As soon as the wigwam was up Bud was delighted with it. He dragged his cushion in, and his book and sat quietly looking at it for what felt like ages. Far longer than he usually sits still anyway!

Review: Big Game Hunters Wigwam

The only problem I have found with our wigwam is that it is rather large so we won't be able to keep it assembled inside for very long. It stands about 6 feet tall and the base is about 4 feet in diameter - room enough for Bud to lie down in. I so wish we had a playroom so we could keep it up through the winter and he could get his lovely new den set up properly. We do have a large back garden and I'm confident that we will be making the most of our wigwam next Summer. It really is excellent quality. The poles are solid and robust and the canvas cover is beautifully sewn and decorated with really bright, simple animals. Bud was especially excited by the rabbits on there as they are one of his new favourites. 

Review: Big Game Hunters Wigwam

Big Game Hunters have a range of wigwams and playtents for sale on their website, as well as a great range of outdoor games, trampolines and sandpits. This wigwam sells for £49:99 but I think it will provide an awful lot of entertainment and fun over the next few years and is well worth the price.

I was sent the wigwam to review but the opinions contained within it are all my own thoughts and words. 

CLOSED Win a Family Ticket for the Merlin Attractions in Blackpool

11:40 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

We are big fans of Blackpool in our family and both Red Rose Daddy and I have fond memories of spending a lot of time there as we grew up. In fact our first weekend away as a couple was spent there. There are many ways to spend a day out in Blackpool but I feel the Tower entertainment complex is the number one family attraction. It is the rule in our family that the first person to spot the Tower on the horizon wins a prize, of course it is always the littlest person who wins!
Merlin Entertainments have now taken over 7 of the attractions in Blackpool  which means you can buy one ticket which covers the following attractions:-
  • Blackpool Tower Eye
  • Blackpool Tower Dungeon
  • Blackpool Tower Circus
  • Blackpool Dance at Blackpool Tower Ballroom 
  • Jungle Jim's 
  • Madame Tussaud's Blackpool
  • Sea Life Blackpool

A family ticket to visit all of these attractions would usually cost £37 if you book online at the moment but, thanks to the lovely people at Merlin I have a family ticket for all seven attractions to give away. The ticket is valid until 31/12/12 so you have plenty of time to visit all the attractions.
To enter please follow the steps below:-

Mix Tape Monday #4

00:55 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

So, we're now at week #4 on Boo and Me's Mix Tape Monday link up. I must admit I am so enjoying this linky. I love thinking about my choice each week and reading everyone else's posts.

The theme for week 4 is: A song from the best gig you have been to.

I love live music and I think I actually need it. If I don't have a gig booked I start to get a bit antsy and worried. I've been to see a band every month this year, since June and I've loved every single gig. I'm a firm believer that my best gig was always the most recent one and, as I went to a gig this Friday (yes, just two days ago!) I am going to share a song from that. This video was taken at the gig where I was in attendance, Manchester Academy on 25th November 2011. It was an amazing night and The Vaccines were incredible. 

And, because that video is a bit poor in quality and jumpy, here is one of their videos of, I think my favourite song of theirs. Enjoy.

So, what was the best gig you have ever been to?

Silent Sunday

22:49 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

I'd Like to Thank...

00:20 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

...The Diary of a Lagos Mum and At Least Daddy Can Cook for giving me my first Blog award! Have you noticed how I say 'first' there because, obviously, I'm going to win lots more awards for these ramblings!

Thank you lovely ladies! As usual with nice things like this there are a few conditions attached.
1. I must tell you seven things that you don't know about me.
2. I must pass this on to 15 other bloggers.

Well, I'm relatively new at all this so there is lots you don't know about me, so here goes!

1. I'm insanely broody. Bud is now 19months old and I'm so ready to have another this space!

2. I've had over 20 different jobs. A lot of this is down to the amount of time I've spent temping but an awful lot of my jobs have lasted under 6 months. The worst was working in Burger King when I was a teenager, I lasted three weeks. The best was working on the Audio Visual counter in Boots (remember when Boots sold CDs?) when I was a teenager (at the same time as the Burger King job). I loved it. Can you tell I'm really not incredibly career minded?

3. I went to an independent school. It wasn't a public school like Roedean or Cheltenham Ladies' College but the vast majority of girls there did have parents who were paying for them to attend. I was on a full assisted place as my parents could never have afforded to send me there otherwise. I loved it and wouldn't hesitate to send Bud there (it has two single sex schools on the same campus) if we could afford it or he could achieve a scholarship.

4. I am something of a geek. I mainly love Doctor Who and anything involving Joss Whedon but I'm a sucker for anything sci-fi.

5. I have a degree in Geography. Just. It was Third Class and I wish I had never bothered.

6. I can spend an amazing amount of time in art galleries and museums and I don't mind going alone. I do drag Bud to an unfeasible amount of exhibitions - he may well be the best 'read' toddler around. I genuinely find peace in looking at beautiful things and, if I don't get to Manchester Art Gallery every couple of months I get a bit twitchy. I swear Bud will start to think their pre-Raphaelite paintings are family portraits at this rate.

7. I don't have a passport at the moment. I lost mine a couple of years ago and haven't got around to replacing it yet. This irks me because it means that I can't be whisked off to Paris at the drop of a hat. I realise this is highly unlikely to happen but I can dream! Bud doesn't have a passport either. I need to sort this out soon.

So, 15 bloggers eh?

I'm not sure I know 15 other bloggers and I am fairly sure those that I do know will have been tagged already so don't feel obliged to complete this!

Here goes:-
1. Coombe Mill
2. The Boy and Me
3. The Crazy Kitchen
4. Spud and Spike
5. The Brink of Bedlam
6. Actually Mummy
7. A Mothers Ramblings
8. Gadget Mum
9. Dragons and Fairy Dust
10. Would Like to be a Yummy Mummy
11. Milkpetal (if you have time before baby arrives!)
12. I May Not Be Your Mom But I Can Be Your Friend
13. At HomeWith Mrs M
14. The Blog Up North
15. The Five F's

Good luck!

All Aboard the Santa Special from York

23:24 Pippa Ainsworth 0 Comments

Last Saturday Red Rose Daddy, Bud and I went to York for the day. I used to live in this beautiful city so I was very pleased to have the opportunity to revisit some old haunts and show the city off to my little family.

We had been invited to go and meet Santa at the National Railway Museum so this was our first port of call. We parked in the museum car park and set off to explore. It really is a fascinating place and, because it is a national museum you can visit it for free.
There are lots of historic trains, including the Mallard (fastest steam train ever) and a model of Stephenson's Rocket. They also have an exhibition featuring the Flying Scotsman (the route passes through York), a Japanese Bullet Train and a number of Royal Trains. Bud's favourite part of the museum was actually the viewing platform which allows you to look out over the very busy York Railway station and see the moving trains arriving and departing. Bud was incredibly excited by this and his Daddy and I have decided that we need to take a family train journey very soon so he can experience these trains up close.

We were booked on the Santa Express at 12:45pm and were advised to arrive early to enjoy the grotto as part of the whole experience. The grotto was a platform in the Station Hall which had been converted with various wagons and train carriages stacked high with Christmas presents and decorations. We meandered through this and took quite a few photos of Bud. Here was where he found his other favourite part of the day - a pedal train which he immediately climbed on to. I'm not sure if he should have been on it or not but it was clearly a toy and not an antique so we let him play for a little while. You can see how much he was enjoying it here.
We also found a beautifully decorated Christmas tree which Bud was fascinated by. He attempted to remove all the baubles he could reach within about 12 seconds so that doesn't bode very well for our Christmas tree this year!
Anyway, we spent so much time prising Bud away from the decorations that we suddenly realised that the train was due to leave so we had to hurry to catch it. Thankfully we weren't the last to board. The Santa Express was a steam train named Teddy pulling two carriages, the first was empty but we quickly climbed onto the second.

It was rather full, with other bloggers and their families. I recognised quite a few from the blogs that I read but was a bit too shy to say hello. There were cushions and blankets supplied so everyone could get cosy and ready for our story.
We set off on our train ride and, very quickly the train broke down! Oh no! Our storyteller quickly got all the children involved helping to fix the train, by hammering, using the screwdriver and then singing 'Jingle Bells'. After a couple of rousing renditions of Jingle Bells our very special guest arrived - Santa! I am pleased to say he was a very authentic Father Christmas, the best I have seen 'in real life' for quite some time. He was very round (OH and I were trying to decide if it was padding or not) and very jolly. All the children were invited up to come and meet Santa and receive their present. The children were all impeccably behaved and queued beautifully to wait to have their moment with Santa. There was an opportunity to have their photo with Santa too. As predicted by his Daddy and I, Bud did not want to meet Father Christmas and wanted to stay as far away from him as possible. We did manage to get a photo of him (and me) in the same shot though
As you can see, both Santa and his assistant were really friendly and smiley. You can see Bud doing his little nervous twitch here, this was as close as he was going to Santa. He was clinging on with his knees with grim determination! The present we are holding is not the present we took home as I quickly realised that we had received an age 3-6 gift. As Bud is only 19months I asked if we could swap it for the 0-3 present and they were happy to do this. When we opened his gift we were really pleased. He got a 'Hickory Dickory Dock' jigsaw and book set. The jigsaw is a little advanced for him yet as it contains 20 pieces but he enjoyed completing it with his Uncle on Sunday and we have done it a few more times with him since. I will be putting it away for a little while though because we may lose pieces if we leave it in the toy box at the moment. The toys generally seemed really good but I did notice that some of the 3-6 year olds were getting Winnie-the-Pooh books which I thought would probably have been more appropriate to the 0-3 age group. The train journey isn't especially long, just a few hundred metres each way but the whole experience is perfectly timed for their audience I think.

The tickets for the Santa Express cost £7:50 for children and £5 for adults. Included in this is entry to the grotto, the short train ride and story and the visit from Santa. Adults also get a mince pie and hot drink in the restaurant while children get a candy cane. The mince pies were really lovely with a crumble topping and the coffee was rocket fuel which was more than welcome as Bud hadn't had the best night's sleep the night before. As we hadn't had lunch we also ordered some potato wedges to share but Bud loved them and so his Daddy and I didn't get much of a look in!
After exploring the museum some more we decided to have a trip into York and boarded the road train to do this. The road train costs £2 for adults and £1 for children (under 3s are free) and gets you from the museum up to the Minster in no time at all. Bud really enjoyed this little train and was gripping tightly on to his present throughout our journey. Just a bit of advanced warning, if you have a pushchair you will need to fold it up to use the road train.

We had a lovely walk around York and I showed the boys my old front door on Goodramgate (right in the centre of the city) and after a drink in my old local and a wander around the shops we headed home after a really lovely day.

The Santa Express will be operating 8 times a day, every weekend from now until Christmas, and every day between 17th and 23rd December. To book places contact their website or call 0844 815 3139.

We received free tickets for the Santa Express and free parking for our visit to the NRM. The thoughts and opinions contained in this post are all my own.