Thursday, 30 October 2014

Christmas Countdown week three

Thanks for stopping by Christmas Countdown.  The idea of Christmas Countdown is to get organised for Christmas and do something every week in the run up to the big season. The linky goes live on Thursday and stays open until the following Wednesday, and all Christmas themed posts are welcome.

Last week, I loved reading about Chickywiggle's Christmas preparations - you can read them here (and enter a great competition to win a letter from Santa too).

Like loads of people, all my thoughts over the last week have been with Halloween, so Christmas has taken a step back.  This means I have even more to do this week, and I will try and get all my Christmas cards, wrapping paper and gift tags.  I might even write some cards if I get time!

I'd love to know if you're up to anything Christmassy, and I'm running a small competition for those who link up.  Add your post in the linky and then complete the Rafflecopter below and you're in with a chance of winning a Christmas selection box and tree decorations!  Will they last until December?

Me add three

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Clever Busy B birthday book, diary and family calendar review

"Taming the mayhem of modern life" is a quote from the Clever Busy B diary label, and just about sums up what I try and do every day perfectly.

Clever Busy B is a range of gorgeous products, designed by Kerri Binnie (the 'B' in Busy B), all of which are designed to help busy people and families be more organised.  Kerri designed them after becoming a Mum herself - so she should know what we all need!

First up for review is the birthday book.  I have been eyeing these as Christmas gifts for grandparents (who struggle to get out) for a while now.  The book itself is a good size (around 20x25cm), and is held together with a gorgeous thick elastic cord.

Each month has a pocket to hold cards, with a big pocket at the end of the book for other cards, notes or stamps. I've added a couple of cards here and you can see there's loads of room.

Helpfully the front inside cover has a wedding anniversary list too - great if like me you never, ever remember this sort of stuff!

This is a lovely birthday book which is really helpful and has loads of room for storing dates and cards of not just birthdays, but loads of occasions. I might not give this one away after all!

A family organiser is essential in our house - keeping track of school dates, nursery, work and the hectic social life of my kids is a nightmare!  The Busy B family calendar for 2015 will definitely help us stay on track.

"It's the little details that make this a great family organiser" Me

There are five columns for each month on this calendar plus an important date column, which is ideal for a family of four, five or even six.  Spread over two pages, each month has lots of room for writing arrangements and notes, and it also has a pocket for the many, many notes that come home from school and nursery.

I absolutely love the clever stickers that come with the calendar too.  They can be used to mark birthdays, appointments and even to blank over mistakes or when details change.  It's details like this that really make this a really special calendar that's perfect for busy families.

And finally, the 2015 slim pocket diary.  This is a super smart diary which fits well into any hand or changing bag, and saves the endless scribbling of notes, deleted iPhone notifications and frantic looking for business cards in drawers.

This wonderful diary has all the features you'd expect - useful number, notes and monthly view sections - plus a super useful pocket at the back for receipts, stamps or cards.  I absolutely love the brilliant integrated notes page in each weekly view.

"I need to add next year's school dates to this pocket diary - now!" Me

There's loads of room for everything you need, and it fits perfectly in my life.  I love it so much I'm going to get Mum one for Christmas!

I love the Busy B range; all the products are thoughtfully designed and look gorgeous!  I think it's all great value - the slim diary retails at £7.99, family calendar £9.99 and birthday book £12.99.  The range is available online, and I've also seen it in John Lewis and Lakeland.

You can follow Busy B on Twitter at @CleverBusyB, or on Facebook.  Don't forget to tell them I sent you ;-)

Family Fever

Disclaimer: Thanks Busy B for sending us these products to review.  As ever, all thoughts are my own.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Opposites attract - the prompt

This week's prompt over at Sara's Mum Turned Mom is:

Opposites attract

I spent a long time thinking about what to write for this. 

The obvious connotation of the phrase is love.  Do opposite personality types attract?  Probably.  There are so many of us in this world that it would be strange to think we were all attracted to people like us.

And then I thought about a scientific discussion.  Magnets famously repel magnetic fields that are the same.  So opposites in this sense - positive and negative attract.  But then my husband pointed out that magnets also attract neutral, which isn't an opposite.  So that became a dead end.

The only other thing I ended up with was a song by Paula Abdul, from back in the 80s, 'Opposites Attract'.  You know, the one with the cartoon?  And I've been singing that for days now.

Thanks Sara :-)


Thursday, 23 October 2014

Christmas Countdown - week two

Feeling like I need to get organised for Christmas continues. I loved reading all the festive posts that linked up last week.  You can read them all here; they really got me feeling all festive.

I particularly loved Northumberland Mam's review of Lapland Mailroom's personalised letters from Santa.  There's nothing better than seeing excited kids' faces towards Christmas and these are sure to raise smiles all round!

I've been thinking about what I can do to prepare for Christmas this week and settled on two tasks.  Getting all the Christmas cards I need, and making some yummy mincemeat in my slow cooker to use in mince pies nearer to Christmas.  I'll blog it in the next few days.

What Christmassy thing are you up to this week?  I'd love you to grab the badge and link up, and please don't foget to comment on another couple of posts.

Me add three

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Christmas present inspiration for six and one year old

So for this week's #ChristmasCountdown I promised myself I would audit all the secret piles of Christmas presents I've bought over the last month or two for our kids.  I love a bargain and always get them - and then promptly forget about them and end up buying double or worse, finding it again in January (this has happened!).

So I pulled out the boxes, and made a list of all the things I have so far.

For our six year old boy, this is:
  • One racing Mini Scalextric (a very lucky competition win)
  • A Hot Wheels racing battle case - he's big into Hot Wheels and I know he will love this.  I paid about £12 from Wilkinson's. 

  • Assorted cars (can you see a theme here - he loves cars).  There were half price and around £3 each in Sainsbury's a month or two ago.

  • A spy pen from Avon, £5.  He will love to write with invisible ink and see it with ultraviolet light in this bargain pen!
  • A bath-time Thomas the Tank Engine clock, because he really needs to know how to tell the time!  I got this from Boots and think it was a couple of pounds.

Toddler girl has fared less well so far!
  • She will LOVE this Duplo train which had 75% off in Sainsbury's a month or so ago.  It was a bargain at £5 and is perfect for her.
  • The wooden sort and stack will be great for her too, and was in the same sale.  I think it was only about £3.

So now all I need to do is think about how to fill the gaps.  Any ideas very much appreciated - what do your little ones love to play with?

Me add three

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Pumpkin week at Hatton Adventure World and ticket [now closed]

I can't believe it's coming up to half term already, but I'm looking forward to spending a day getting all Halloween-y at Hatton Adventure World.  We last visited Hatton Adventure World in Warwickshire back in April and had a great day.

From 25th October to 2nd November, Hatton is letting every child who visits harvest and carve one of the 40,000 pumpkins it planted in the spring.  I wonder what our son will create with his? 
On our visit we're also planning to visit the pumpkin house and see all the creepy crawlies, and real spiders - although maybe I'll give the spiders a miss and visit the gorgeous boutique shops instead.  I know our daughter will go in her halloween outfit, and maybe she'll win a prize in the daily dressing up competition.

The lovely people at Hatton have given me four tickets to giveaway, which will allow a family entry during pumpkin week, or up to the end of 2014*.  Good luck if you enter - and really hope to see you there over pumpkin week!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions

  • You must be resident in the UK to enter.
  • Competition runs from 19th October 2014 until 23:59 on 23rd October 2014.
  • Entry is via one and/or more of the methods in Rafflecopter widget.
  • Winner(s) will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter.  The winning entries will be checked and must be current at time of checking.
  • There is one prize.  The prize is four tickets to Hatton Adventure World which are valid until 31st Dec 2014.  The tickets can be used during pumpkin week, but * not on bank holidays or for entrance to Santa's Grotto promotion.  They cannot be used with any other offer or with a group booking or membership.  There is no cash alternative.
  • The winner(s) will be contacted by email or on Twitter (if appropriate) by 24th October 2014 and asked to confirm their mailing address.  If no reply is received within 48 hours, a new winner may be chosen.
  • The winner(s') name(s), as registered when logged into Rafflecopter will be displayed after the end of the competition.
  • Judge’s decision is final.

Win competitions at
Listed on Loquax 

Friday, 17 October 2014

A great big SIX #WotW

When our son was born, I had no idea I could be a Mum.  No idea how to be a Mum.  And then I held him, and he was mine.

Little did I know back then the huge impact he would have on every single aspect of my life.  How naive I was to say that my life wouldn't revolve around him.

And now he's turned six.  One third of his time as a young person, gone.  At times it's taken an age, and at times, it's whizzed by in a flash.  The joy, frustration, love, exhaustion, pride and exasperation have all been worth it.  Every single second.  I'm so proud of him, my all grown up baby boy.

Happy birthday, son.

The Reading Residence

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Christmas countdown linky - week one

Every year I promise myself I will be more organised for Christmas, and every year I end up in Toys R Us a few days before Christmas, panicing.  Yes, and wrapping presents up until 1am on Christmas eve too!

So this year, I'm starting a Christmas countdown blog series.  Each week I'll post one thing I've done for Christmas, or one thing I will try and do over the coming week.

I'd love you to join me and link up your Christmas themed posts.  Maybe you're being organised, maybe you've reviewed a great gift for someone, or perhaps you're just blogging about things you'll be making.  Whatever it is, I'd love to share the inspiration!

If you'd like to link up, please grab the badge and link up below.  Please share the love and comment on a couple of other posts.  The linky opens on a Thursday and closes the following Wednesday at midnight.

Week one challenge

So by next week, I plan to audit all the gifts I have bought the kids over the last month or two in the sales, and work out what else I buy for them.  What about you?

Me add three

Playing cars and sparking imagination

It was our son's birthday a short while ago and he was six.  Six! 

We were wondering what to get him for his birthday for a while.  He had a wonderful Kettler Go-kart in the summer, and is having a party, so we didn't really want to get him loads.  We try hard not to let him be spoilt.

So I wandered round the toy aisle of Tesco a couple of weeks ago, with a now extended Christmas toy choice, not feeling hugely inspired.  He loves cars, so I ended up in the car section.  There really wasn't much, but a Hotwheels Super Spin Car Wash play set caught my eye.  At £15 it was about the right price, and I knew our son had lots of Hotwheels cars and track too.

Well.  It has been the hit of the century!  The set itself has ramps, spins cars around manually (as if to wash), and the best bit is that you can link up track to a ramp and let cars go off as far as they can.

So far, our son hasn't stopped playing with it.  It's been a while since he's played purely with his cars, but this has undoubtably sparked his imagination again.  It's great when you find something that's a hit!  I can feel more of this range coming from Father Christmas!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Stepping up to 10,000 steps

Recently the company I work for has launched a walking challenge - 10,000 steps a day for a few weeks.  We all know we should be doing this every day, but it's hard, isn't it?  I can't resist a challenge so I thought I'd give it a go.

Like everyone who does an office job, I tend to sit still for long periods when I'm working.  Measuring over the last week or so, I don't even hit 5,000 steps on those days, agh!  So here's how I'm trying to build in some extra steps in my week and especially on working days:

Measure up

Recording steps is a great first start to increasing them.  I'm using my Withings Pulse electronic pedometer, combined with the app on my iPhone.  Looking at it at lunch time and realising I've only done 2,243 steps is enough to get me out for a walk!

Ironing madness

Ironing's one of those boring jobs.... but I've been trying to build in a few more steps by putting each item away as I iron it.  This means a few more walks across the landing, a bit more time, but added 500 steps to my pedometer that evening.

Treat - walk - walk - treat

Chocolate in the evenings is a bit of a vice of mine, so this week I didn't buy any at the supermarket.  Instead, if I really, really want some, I have to walk to the local shop.  This has the double bonus of saving me calories when I can't face going out and burning some off on the days I do!

Parking mayhem

It makes me laugh when I pass our local gym, and cars are gridlocked just outside it.  The same people who are so desperate to park so close are inside on running machines - crazy!  Park as far away as you can from the shop, school, doctor, whereever, and add another couple of hundred steps to your day.

Walking the school run

This makes a difference to me of about 4,000 steps a day - even in the rain we're out walking to and from school whenever I'm not working and have time.  Ditch the car - you will all feel much better for it.

I'd love to hear how you get to 10,000 steps a day, and woud really appreciate any tips!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Rainbow wonders - My Sunday Photo

The weather over the last couple of days has been a bit hit and miss, so with a dry spell yesterday we took the opportunity to get the kids to the park.  In fact it was our kids and their cousins who we're here for the afternoon.

After half an hour or so the rain drops started to fall, so we decided to head home.  I'm so glad I looked up before we did - this double rainbow was breathtaking.  I love autumn and our seasons, and this was a beautiful reminder of how lucky we are.  The kids all loved it too.


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Win tickets to The Baby Show Olympia 24-26 October [now closed]

The Baby Show is one of the hottest events around for expectant and new parents, and I have five pairs of tickets to the next Baby Show at Olympia London 24-26 October to giveaway thanks to Chicco.  That means five people have the chance for them and a friend to get in free!

Chicco is a sponsor of the show; there will be lots of great discounts on its fab toy range and some great new products on its stand.  I'm sure there will be loads of toys for little ones (and the young at heart) to play with too.

When you check Chicco out at the show, you may even see a picture of toddler girl and I in the Tested for Happiness feature!  Here she is next to her picture on the stand at The Baby Show in Birmingham earlier this year.

To try and win a pair of tickets, please complete the Rafflecopter below.  You can tweet every day for even more entries!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions

  • You must be resident in the UK to enter.
  • Competition runs from 8th October 2014 until 23:59 on 15th October 2014.
  • Entry is via one and/or more of the methods in Rafflecopter widget.
  • Winner(s) will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter.  The winning entries will be checked and must be current at time of checking.
  • There are five prizes.  The prizes are five pairs of tickets to The Baby Show London Olympia 24-26 October.  The winner(s) can choose which day to attend.  The winner(s) will receive a code to redeem online and must print their tickets.  There is no cash alternative.
  • The winner(s) will be contacted by email or on Twitter (if appropriate) by 17th October 2014 and asked to re-confirm their email address.  If no reply is received within 48 hours, a new winner may be chosen.
  • The winner(s') name(s), as registered when logged into Rafflecopter will be displayed after the end of the competition.
  • Judge’s decision is final.
Win competitions at

Happy autumn days

Isn't this a wonderful time of year?  Nights and morning's are cool, but the days are still warm(ish).  We've been lucky this year that summer has been full of lovely weather and September was so dry.  Although the last few days have definitely turned chillier and wetter, the sun is still warm out there in the day.

The changing of the season's is always full of promise for me, especially this time of year.  The stability of school for a while, getting things done, harvest festival, homely soups, filling foods and ultimately Christmas.

I especially love to see the trees turning golden brown, and crunchy leaves underfoot on the school run.  My bodywarmer came out a couple of days ago - a welcome return from unforgiving summer clothes!

I don't think I could live anywhere that didn't really experience the seasons.  Rain or shine, cold or warm, autumn is definitely my favourite season.

I'd love to hear what you think of this time of year.

Monday, 6 October 2014

September's been and gone

These posts seem to get later every month.. the days and weeks just go by so quickly!

Like loads of parents, September was a month of mixed emotions... here's why:

  • Back to school for our son.  Routine, stability, relief.  And missing him too.
  • The return of working all the time and the end of my holiday season
  • A 10m swimming certificate for our son, and a new yellow swimming hat.

  • Toddler girl talking, lots.  Walking, lots.  The two combine: "more walk, more walk". The end of the easy buggy days!
  • Happy days going to the park in a Kettler go-kart, and toddler girl's trike

  • And of course, hours spent putting things in and out of our washing machine. 

 I'd love to hear what you got up to in September.  What were your highlights?

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The best part of any cake making - My Sunday Photo

This week I had a few bits and bobs to use up in the fruit bowl and fridge, so I made a chocolate banana loaf.

My two seemed to approve before it even made it out of the oven!  I admit to leaving a few chocolate chips in the bowl with a decent helping of the mix.  Surely the best part of any cake making is licking the bowl out?

I loved that they shared so nicely too.  And I don't normally co-ordinate their outfits!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Treadmill #WotW

Sometimes the treadmill and good, sometimes it's bad.  This week I've enjoyed the routine of the school, nursery and working days.   The familiarity of knowing where we all need to be has been reassuring.  The predictability helpful.

Maybe it's because later this month brings a temporarily different working week for me and half term holidays.  The predictability will change very soon!

The Reading Residence