Pamper Parcels

It’s is exhausting being a mum. To be honest I’m finding having a four year old and a two year old more exhausting than the newborn days. There are still some sleepless nights, but there’s also all the stuff that needs doing in the daytime. Masses of laundry, school homework, forms that need returning, pre-school visits to do, school run, nursery run, swimming lessons, playgroup, shopping, cleaning, school uniform to mend, school shoes to buy, the daily routine of getting through meals and bath and bed time. It can feel like an endless treadmill.

Christmas just adds to the workload. There are presents to buy and wrap, cards to write, school Christmas party days, nursery Christmas jumper days to remember, Playgroup Christmas party, school trip to the pants, meals to plan, food to order, a house to get ready for guests, decorations to put up and children’s expectations to manage. Add in to all that mix my job and my voluntary commitments and you’ll understand why what I most want for Christmas is a clean and tidy house and some time to sit down and relax (and maybe even some  time to reacquaint myself with the man I married!)

When my dear blogging friend Rosie got in touch asking if I’d like to review her new business venture Pamper Parcels I jumped at the chance. You see Rosie understands exactly what it’s like to be a busy mum – and even more so as she is a single mum. She understands that if you just keep going on that treadmill you will burn out and be of no use to anyone, and most certainly not your kids, who need you. It was from this knowledge and Rosie’s experience of a busy life that the genius idea of Pamper Parcels was born.

Pamper Parcels

Making “me time” for yourself, or enabling the person you love to have some, is so so important and even just 30 minutes with a hot cuppa, a nice bit of chocolate and a magazine can make such a difference on a manically busy day. Heck, I know many mums would even tell you that just five minutes hidden in the bathroom without a small person screaming for them or hammering on the door is luxury. Pamper Parcels aim to help you relax. Help you to make that bit of me time happen and face the rest of the day or the week with a spring in your step.

As for the parcels themselves, well this is where it really is “guilt free pampering’. Pamper Parcels’ values mean that everything in your parcel is fairtrade, organic, not tested on animals and has natural ingredients. All their packaging is recycled and the contents come from small independent businesses. What more could you ask for?

Pamper Parcels

It was a real treat to open my Pamper Parcel and it really was all beautifully put together right from the external cardboard box that came through the post to the nice touch of snowman and snowflake confetti inside.

Pamper Parcels

The contents were nicely arranged in the box with some individually wrapped too.

Pamper Parcels

As a self-confessed chocoholic I was thrilled to see so much of it in my box and the Tisserand cream body wash and luxury both oil were very appreciated too.

Pamper Parcels

One other thing that I love about Pamper Parcels is their Pass the Parcel idea. Every Pamper Box comes with an extra little package wrapped up inside it that you can pass on to someone else. It may be a friend or relative, or possibly even a complete stranger in a random act of kindness. After much consideration I actually gave mine to my sister who has done a fantastic job helping my mum move house recently, and I certainly thought she could do with a little bit of pampering.

Pamper Parcels

I’ve recently been really cheered up by some friends who sent me something lovely when I needed it and I know what a huge boost it can give you when things are tough. A Pamper Parcel could do just that for someone you care about and love. Just remember though – Christmas isn’t the only time for giving, and there will be some people who might really appreciate a Pamper Parcel once all the festivities are over too.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I plan to spend a fair chunk this rare child free afternoon sat back trying out the hot chocolate spoon and with the magazine that arrived in this morning’s post. Then I might be ready to face the swimming lessons, school run, nursery pick up and family tea which will finish off my day!

Disclaimer: I was sent a Pamper Parcel for the purposes of this review. All views and opinions are my own.

CraftMerrily Christmas Crafting

We started our Christmas crafting early here this year, and by the time our Bostik Blogger box of goodies arrived from CraftMerrily we’d already made angels, cards and gift tags. It was therefore with a bit of hesitation that I gave Little Miss C what was possibly the best early Christmas present she’d ever had – completely free rein to do whatever she wanted with the box of craft goodies. Normally I’m a complete control freak when it comes to the boxes of goodies that arrive from CraftMerrily, planning out everything we can make before she gets a look in. I then left her and Mr C alone at the kitchen table whilst I went upstairs to my study to do some work.

It goes without saying that I came back down an hour or so later to a huge mess, but also a strange collection of things that they’d made together.

Christmas Crafting Christmas Tree

My absolute favourite has to be this Frozen inspired Christmas tree which has a cardboard cone at the centre of it.

Christmas Crafting Christmas Crafting Tree

The other thing that I love about it is LMC’s addition of a gift tag stuck on it with blu tac. This is apparently so that she can play shops with it and so other people know how much it costs if they want to buy it. A craft activity and role play rolled into one!

Christmas Crafting Star Necklace

LMC was also wearing rather a nice snowflake necklace that she made, which has since also been the star at a school show and tell session. Are you noticing a Frozen theme yet???

Christmas Crafting

The pair of them also spent quite a while making clothes peg aliens. What they have to do with Christmas I have absolutely no idea at all, but I guess there’s no reason why aliens couldn’t visit at Christmas time if they wanted to do so. In fact, maybe they’d be attracted by all the Christmas lights. Or maybe I’m just over thinking this one…

Christmas Crafting

LMC’s final make was this snowy scene that she spent ages laying out and then sticking together. Looking at the colours I’m guessing it was once again Frozen inspired. As is most of her life these days!

Christmas Crafting Star

Once I was finally let loose on the crafting goodie I decided to keep things relatively simple. Firstly I used sparkly pipe cleaners to make this simple star. The Bostik glu dots were perfect to hold the pieces together without being too obvious.

Christmas Crafting Pom Pom Christmas Tree

This year Pinterest, and social media in general, seems to be full of crafted Christmas trees of one sort or another and it was probably due to this influence that I found myself arranging some of the sparkly pom poms from the craft box into a tree shape. I then used the glu dots to stick these onto a piece of white card that I had. I placed a star sticker on the top and cut a bit of red felt to form a pot for it. This I decorated with a simple bit of gold ric rac, stuck in place with the Bostik Sew Simple fabric glue that was in a previous craft box from CraftMerrily.

I’m really pleased with the end result of this and just wish I’d had more pom pos left so I could make a bigger, more colour coordinated one, possibly with green as the main colour and red ones places as either baubles or a line of tinsel.

Disclaimer: We were sent a box of seasonal crafting goodies from CraftMerrily as part of our role on the Bostik Family Craft Bloggers Network.

Dog on Stilts

I do love discovering children’s books from smaller publishers as often they have a freshness to them that makes them stand out from the crowd, and that seems to be the case with Dog on Stilts.

Medium Dog is, well, ordinary. All the other dogs that he encounters seem much more interesting than he is, and that’s making him a bit glum. Then, he comes up with a way to stand out from the crowd. Literally!

The premise for the Dog on Stilts story is just bonkers – after all, as my four year old pointed out, dog’s can’t walk on stilts – but it made both my kids laugh like absolute drains when I read it to them. Yes, there’s a serious message at the end about how being ordinary is special in itself and how friends love each other just the way they are, but it was the comedy side of things that they loved the most.

The brains behind Dog on Stilts are James Thorp and Angus Mackinnon, but as if writing a wonderful children’s book wasn’t enough to keep them out of mischief this duo, who are also known as the Superhairies, have found time to produce Dog on Stilts The Musical! If you though the book was bonkers then this will take you to a whole new level of zany bonkers-ness and it’s a wonderful online accompaniment to the book.

Dog on Stilts has become a firm favourite in our house, especially with two year old Master C who seems to be mesmerised by the pop style artwork in the book. I found him sat on the floor in his sister’s room earlier today completely absorbed in the book and talking to the pictures of Medium Dog. Any book that can hold the attention of a two year old boy who spends most of his time running round like a lunatic has to be a good one in my eyes.

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of Dog on Stilts for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Thrifty Christmas

Christmas. Let’s face it, it’s an expensive time of the year. Well, at least it can be, but here are some of my top tips for having a thrifty Christmas in 2014.

Save on Christmas presents

If I’m honest here, the really serious thrifty folk will have already done the bulk of their Christmas back in the January sales! Don’t despair though if you’re reading this in December and thinking you don’t have a chance of saving money – you do.

Firstly consider who you have to get gifts for. Do they really all need a present? If there are a lot of family members then why not suggest doing a family Secret Santa instead? If you all draw a name from a hat and just spend £5 or £10 on one person then that’s an instant saving, and also a lot less hassle than trying to come up with a  decent present idea for that strange relative that you only see once a year.

Think outside the box too. You can easily make your own versions of some of the hamper style gifts that you see in the shops. All you need is a nice box or other container and some things to go in it. You could even really tailor the contents to a specific person’s interests. I’ve seen mini hampers made up for gardeners containing hand tools, seeds, twine, a gardening themed notebook and gardener’s hand cream before. It’s also worth seeing what you can find in charity shops too. I’m a huge believer in buying secondhand and there are some great ideas over on Missie Lizzie’s Magpie Monday post all about just this.

Christmas Guests

If it’s fallen to you to host Christmas this year then you may well be panicking slightly about how much it is going to cost to feed everyone and make sure they have a merry old time too. If you’re spending Christmas with these people then you should hopefully be on good enough terms to be able to ring them up and ask them to bring something with them to help you out. Maybe one person could be in charge of bringing a Christmas pudding, another some mince pies and ask each to bring along a bottle of wine. Bearing in mind they’re getting a Christmas meal from you they shouldn’t be too put out by your request – or if they are then maybe they won’t come any more and you’ve saved in the process.

Christmas Travel

On the flip side, if you’re the one doing the travelling this Christmas it’s worth trying to plan your journey in advance to keep costs down. Book train or coach tickets as soon as you can as the cheap ones will sell out quickly, and if you’re travelling with children then definitely investigate getting hold of a family railcard as that too would save you a considerable amount – and you can also use it for a whole year’s family travel.

If you’re on your own and heading back to your home town for the festivities then why not ask around your friends on Facebook to see if anyone else is making a similar journey and if you could get a lift with them. In exchange for a bit of petrol money (which is most likely going to be less than a train ticket) you could catch up with a friend and save a bit of money in the bargain.

Keeping up with the Jones

There’s a simple answer to this dilemma – don’t. Christmas can be full of pressure. Not only is the media bombarding you with adverts for things you should buy and do before the big day, but everywhere you go people seem to be trying to sell you things that you NEED for Christmas. Social media is full of it too. Just step back and look at just how crazy the scenes were last Friday for Black Friday. People were fighting over flat screen TV sets in supermarkets, yet we still have child poverty in this country. It’s mind boggling.

Remember that Christmas (whether you’re religious or not) isn’t about getting into debt to pay for things you don’t really need. Sure, buy gifts for those you love and have a merry old time, but just do what is right for you and your family and what is in budget for you, not what you think is expected of you by everyone else. It’s easily possible to show people you love and care for them without maxing out a credit card to do so. It’s possible to have a wonderful time with your friends and family without having had to buy a supermarket’s worth of food and drink first.

If you enjoyed these tips then you might be interested to hear about my new role as the West Herts Drivetime Thrifty Correspondent on Radio Verulum. Each month I’m going to be talking about ways to save money and I’ll be sharing those tips here on my blog too via the Thrifty Mrs C page. Keep checking back to see how you can be thrifty going into 2015.

Owl Advent Calendar

As anyone who knows me in real life will tell you, I’m brilliant at starting craft projects, but when it comes to finishing them it’s another story entirely. The house (and cabin at the bottom of the garden) are full of unfinished projects (over 41 at the last count – but shhhh don’t tell my husband) and the situation has been getting a bit out of hand lately. And I daren’t even count how many project I’ve got everything for, but haven’t yet started.

It’s not that I don’t want to finish them, it’s just that I either run out of time or something more exciting comes along and they’re abandoned in favour of it. I’m trying desperately to change though and I’m determined that I’m not allowed to start anything new without finishing something in the same craft first.

I’m still to complete the cot bed patchwork quilt that I seem to have been working on forever, but the diary dictated that something else had to be done first – a sewn advent calendar for Little Miss C.

Ever since her first Christmas I’ve been determined that she needs to have something handmade for Christmas (in fact both kids do, but I’m giving myself until next year to do something for Master C) and finally at this year’s Knitting and Stitching Show I found the perfect thing.

Owl Advent Calendar

I bought this panel to make a delightful owl advent calendar (not the people I bought mine from, but the same one is available online here) and was convinced that it wouldn’t take too much work. Oh how I laugh at that now.

What you need to do isn’t that complicated, but it does take a little while. Firstly you cut out the main panel and also 24 separate pockets that need to be sewn on to the panel. I knew that I wanted to back my calendar (you don’t have to if you don’t want to) so I also bought some plain green material to back it, and a large piece of iron on interfacing to help stiffen it from my local haberdashery shop.

I ironed on the interfacing to the main panel and then set about preparing the pockets. For each one I needed to turn over and hem the top edge and then turn over the other three sides and pin in place on the main panel. It was then just a case of sewing round the three edges to hold it in place. I say “just” but actually this was the most time consuming part. As the panel is quite big you had to scrunch it up a bit when feeding it through the sewing machine and if you try to do that with lots of pins in it then you end up stabbing yourself no matter how hard you try not to.

Owl Advent Calendar

After a bit of trial and error I found it easier to just pin one pocket at a time and then sew it before attempting the next one. Time consuming, but easier.

Once all the pockets were in place I cut a piece of the green backing fabric to the same size as the front panel and pinned the two right sides together. At the top I also pinned in place two pieces of red ribbon that would be used to hang it.

Leaving a gap of 10cm at the bottom to allow me to turn it inside out I just did a simple running stitch on the machine all the way around the edge. After clipping the corners I turned it inside out and pressed it before sitting down on the sofa and catch stitching the gap at the bottom closed by hand.

All finished – and amazingly more than 24 hours before advent started. Now to try and get all those other projects finished as efficiently!

Owl Advent Calendar

LMC seems to be delighted with it, although she did then insist on filling it all up herself with small toys form her toy box! I plan to add a sticker or two to each day’s pocket, with maybe a couple of slightly larger things towards the end, but for the time being she just seems to be looking forward to the toys that she’s put in the pockets herself, so who am I to deny her that simple pleasure.

Simple Toilet Roll Angel

Sometimes Christmas crafts just need to be as simple as possible, especially when small children are involved and that’s what I hope I’ve achieved with this simple toilet roll angel project.

What you need:

  • Toilet roll
  • White paint
  • Cardboard – a cereal box is ideal
  • Scissors
  • Pipe cleaners – silver or gold ideally
  • Glue
  • Glitter – silver or gold, or glitter glue
  • Sticky tape
  • Pink or flesh coloured paper
  • Felt tip pens
  • Something round to draw round

Simple Toilet Roll Angel

Start off by painting the outside of your toilet roll white. You may need two coats of paint for this.

Draw a circle on your cardboard and cut it out. Then cut the circle in half and this will make wings for two angels.

Simple Toilet Roll Angel

Paint the wings white. Again, two coats may be necessary.

Simple Toilet Roll Angel

Once the wings are dry add glitter.

Simple Toilet Roll Angel

Take your pipe cleaner and form a circle at one end of it to be a halo. Leave a long trailing edge to attach it to the toilet roll.

Use sticky tape to attach the long pipe cleaner tail to the inside of your toilet roll so that it forms a halo above the angel.

On a piece of appropriately coloured paper draw and cut out an oval face shape. Draw on eyes, nose and mouth.

Simple Toilet Roll Angel Simple Toilet Roll Angel

Stick the face onto the toilet roll, and once the glitter is dry attach the wings to the angel’s back.

Hey presto one toilet roll angel ready to go on top of your Christmas tree!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

Ladybird Coffee

I do sometimes wonder just how Ladybird decided which books to put in some of their series – in particular the Ladybird Leader series (737). Whilst they’re all subjects where there is plenty to learn about, the list can seem a bit random when you first read it. From water to bridges, apes and monkeys to fruit, and deserts to coffee.

Coffee is obviously a huge commodity in the world today and if anything the way people drink coffee has changed even more since 1977 when this book was first published. Now there are coffee shops every few meters (well in St Albans there certainly are) and it’s slightly crazy to think just how widely available a hot cut of coffee is in today’s world.

Ladybird Coffee

What is quite fascinating about this Ladybird book is how it appears to have been written in conjunction with Nestle. There is a small acknowledgement at the start about how Nestle Company Ltd have helped with the preparation of this book, but then when you look at some of the pictures you realise that whilst they may have helped, they certainly received a lot of product placement in return!

Ladybird Coffee

Not only is there a selection of Nestle branded instant coffee for sale in a shop, but a jar of Nescafe is also being used in some baking on the facing page.

Ladybird Coffee

Coffee covers the history of coffee drinking around the world, and covers the early coffee plantations in Brazil, and also how Americans started to drink coffee after the Boston Tea Party as it was then cheaper than tea. How coffee beans are extracted is detailed along with the route that the beans take to get to market.

Ladybird Coffee

It’s certainly an interesting read about our daily caffeine hit, but when it talks about vending machines are available at train stations, hospitals and other places where people need be able to get a drink you realise just how much things have changed. You hardly see machines vending coffee any more – certainly every train station or hospital I’ve been to recently has had its own high street coffee shop franchise inside instead!

If you have a collection of old Ladybird books then please feel free to join in with Ladybird Tuesday. There are no formal rules to follow, just leave a link to any post you write in the comments below and if you’re feeling kind link back to my Ladybird Tuesday index page here on Being Mrs C. Thanks!

I’m loving my current work with Bureau Direct. Not only do I get to choose what to review every month from a fantastic range of stationery goodies, but I’m also rediscovering how much I love writing with a pen – something that I suppose I’ve gradually stopped doing seeing as I spend so much time on a laptop or tablet.

J Herbin Ink

After embracing ink pens these last two months – both the Herbin rollerball and the the Lamy Vista – it seemed like there was just one ink challenge to overcome: real ink.

Bottles of ink scare and thrill me in equal measure. At primary school I remember one boy Amit who was the only person I knew that brought a bottle of ink to school. We were all slightly in awe as whenever any of the rest of us were let near ink we ended up with blue fingers and a spill of some sort. Yet, Amit always looked incredibly smart, there were never ink blots on his school books and his fingers always remained clean. I never understood quite how he managed it though.

All these years later and I still don’t think I’ve mastered it, but the beautiful range of Herbin ink colours that Bureau Direct stock has tempted me to have one more go. With a universal fountain pen convertor and a bottle of green J. Herbin ink (Vert Empire as my beloved Lierre Sauvage wasn’t available) I put it to the test.

Once my Herbin rollerball was loaded up with ink I found that it wrote beautifully, possibly even smoother than it did with a cartridge in it. The ink colour (Vert Empire) actually wasn’t all that different from the Lierre Sauvage that I’d used previously either. I’m also completely in love with the ink bottle itself and am imagining how pretty the window sill next to my desk would look with a load of different coloured inks lined up so that the sun could catch them. Anyway, I digress a bit…

But, and it’s a bit but, I’m sorry to say that I still found the whole process of getting the ink into the pen a bit messy – but maybe that’s because I’m doing something wrong. I can’t believe that all these ink lovers all spend time being as messy as I am. So, I’m putting the question out there – how do you do it? How do you manage to fill your pen with gorgeous ink without spilling it all over the place and ending up with coloured fingers? Let me know your secret and then hopefully I’ll be able to put together a video guide as to how it should be done.

Disclaimer: I was sent the mini universal fountain pen convertor and the Herbin ink to review as part of my role working with Bureau Direct. The Herbin rollerball was reviewed for Bureau Direct last month. All views and opinions are my own.

Charity Shop

I try to keep out of arguments on social media. Life’s simply too short to go wading in every time you see something you disagree with. Last week though I saw an exchange which just left me speechless.

Some blogger friends of mine are taking part in a campaign with the Salvation Army to raise the profile of doing your Christmas shopping in charity shops as a way of supporting charities at this time of year. One particular blogger tweeted about the things that she’d found this year for her family’s Christmas presents and someone else (who I refuse to give a link to here – don’t feed the trolls and all that) started to go on (and on and on) about how no child should be given a used toy for Christmas. Yes, there did end up with some crossed wires about whether people were talking about secondhand toys for your own children, or to give to a charity who is giving out toys to needy children at Christmas, but to be honest I don’t see a problem with either of those situations.

Now I love buying things in charity shops and I’ve been seeking out suitable presents for my children and other family members all year. Heck, last year I even managed to find some of Little Miss C’s birthday presents six months in advance in a charity shop. There have been some fantastic bargains to be had at different points in the year, so not only have I saved money, but in doing so I have been giving money to the charities whose shops I have bought from. A win, win situation. My children certainly don’t see toys from a charity shop, or secondhand via any other route, as any different to toys bought brand new.

It’s not only gifts for my children that I buy in charity shops. Other family members will be finding charity shop purchases under the Christmas tree this year, and I know in the past that I’ve been given things from charity shops as gifts. Gifts that I’ve really been grateful to receive.

Another of the reasons that I’m such a fan of secondhand though is that it helps to keep things out of landfill. So much gets thrown away in this day and age that it really is criminal. I see people throwing away things that still have plenty of life left in them, or that could be fixed very easily. Buying a brand new replacement is just a waste – both in terms of raw materials and the energy used to make the product in the first place. In my mind anything like this should be passed to a charity shop instead of being thrown away, as I know there are people out there who would appreciate it, even if you don’t.

When it comes to giving secondhand gifts to the needy I also don’t see where the problem lies. As long as the gift is not so broken that it’s useless or dirty that it’s horrible then surely that is better than not giving anything at all? Some people on twitter were called “greedy” and “cheapskates” for giving secondhand things to charities, but some people simply can’t afford to buy new things to give away. There seem to be two schools of thought on this though – some people saying that children deserve to have new toys, and another which says that needy children will just be grateful to receive a gift at all. In my mind, all children deserve to have a present, and deserve to have toys, and they should be in good condition, but I don’t think this necessitates new.

Anyway, enough of me going on – I’ve got more charity shops to scour to finish off my Christmas shopping. What are your thoughts on this? Will your children be receiving secondhand gifts this Christmas?

The Diggers

One of Master C’s favourite books over the last few months has been Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Or Night Night Moon as he prefers to call it. I therefore sat down with him to read a copy of The Diggers by her with great interest especially since he instantly became very excited by the picture of a digger on the front cover.

Margaret Wise Brown wrote hundreds of stories and poems for children and this particular one has been brought alive in this modern version by French illustrator Antoine Corbineau.

Dig, dig, dig go various animals and machines as they dig underground to create a whole new world beneath our feet. There are worms, rabbits and mice. Pirates, workmen and mechanical diggers. Between them they create underground homes and railways. They discover bones, gnomes and plenty of stones.

This is a lovely books showing children all the things that go on underground, and helps children understand a bit more about the different animals that live there, as well as when humans need to dig down for their modern day infrastructure. Master C got particularly excited to see the trains feature in it.

Little Miss C was also sat with us whilst we read The Diggers and she was quite excited to understand how they make trains go underground, especially as she’s travelled a fair bit on the London Underground and always loved the concept of trains under the ground.

Whilst Master C was excited about the digger on the cover of the book you don’t actually see a mechanical digger inside the book until about half way through so it left him a bit impatient and frustrated until we got to them. If you’ve got a digger mad little boy (or girl) please do be warned that they don’t feature all the way through The Diggers – or else you might have a disappointed little one!

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The Diggers to review as part of our role as Parragon book buddies.