Thursday, 28 April 2016

A final catch up on the Spring Forward Blogger Challenge

I can't quite believe I'm actually typing this but it's the end of April already!  This month seems to have well and truly slipped through my fingers and it's now time to update you for the final time on the #SpringForward Blogger Challenge with the Institue of Inertia, in partnership with Comparethemarket.com

If you missed the first couple of posts about this project, the basic premise of the #SpringForward Blogger Challenge is that you are far more likely to stick to your goals and resolutions if you set them in the spring time rather than in the New Year.  As such I was challenged to set myself some goals for April and keep you updated as to whether I've stuck to them or not! 


I set a number of goals under the umbrella of Self Care - small changes which could potentially add up to make a big difference to my state of mind and physical well being.  In an attempt to make things more "measurable" I tried to set myself specific targets:

1. Bedtime routine - laptop off at 9.30pm and no mobile phone in the bedroom. 

2. 50k steps a week minimum 

3. Keep a food diary 

I knew that it was unlikely that I would suddenly be able to make sweeping changes to my lifestyle and achieve my goals from the 1st of April without fail.  I went into this with my eyes open seeing them more as targets than rules - it somehow seems kinder and less open to failure? 

In my last update I explained that I was getting better at turning my laptop off earlier but had completely failed with the whole phone downstairs thing.  Two weeks later and things are much the same - my Fit Bit vibrates at 9.30pm to tell me it's time to shut down but it often takes me another 20 minutes before I mange it.  I think I need to set the alarm a little earlier to give me time to tie up loose ends before 9.30pm.  I have actually been and bought an alarm clock so as to enable me to leave my phone downstairs but I have thus far failed to put batteries in it!  Baby steps!?  I've had my phone by my bedside for almost 20 years (that sounds utterly ridiculous writing it down but it's true) so this really is a case of "old habits die hard" - I haven't given up, I'm definitely still working on it!  I'm finding I'm getting to sleep much easier than I had been so I do think the progress I've made has had an impact even if I haven't quite gone the whole hog. 



Earlier in the month I was struggling to get my 50k a week steps, in part due to the lack of school run over the Easter holidays.  It's amazing what a change in routine can do!  

I've well and truly nailed my target over the latter part of the month hitting over 60k steps for the last two weeks.  This has been partly thanks to getting the kids back to school and therefore automatically being out three times a day on school runs but also due to intentionally taking more steps - taking Thomas for a walk during Ben's dance class, walking the long way home from the shops, taking the kids to the park after tea when the sun is shining.  This is definitely something I need to continue working on, trying to get that magical 10k on more days than not!  It's clear that setting this target in the Spring is easily more successful that doing it in January as there's just more opportunity to get out - the sun is shining, the days are longer - trips to the park are more likely to be on the cards. 

And so to the food diary.  The first part of the month saw me lose 5lbs which I was thrilled with!  The following week, despite being really rigorous with my food diary, I didn't lose anything at all and the week after I gained thanks to a good old premenstrual bloat.  Joy.  So whilst I don't have any further weight loss to report, I do feel much more in control of my eating habits.  Had the maintain and premenstrual gain happened in January, I think I'd have quickly given up and gone back to my own eating habits however right now I'm feeling determined to get myself sorted.  I'm making better choices and I can feel a big difference.  I'm less lethargic, my skin looks brighter.  I know that I'm heading in the right direction and hopefully, with a bit more focus I can start to drop those extra pounds I'm lugging around! 

Along with the specific targets relating to my bedtime routine, exercise levels and diet - I was also aware of wanting to just make more time for myself.  This is such an airy fairy target - it's not really measurable however I've definitely spent more time making sure I've used body lotion or given myself an extra few minutes to put on my make up.  I spent Saturday night colouring in, though as that was for a blog related review I'm not sure it really counts.  That's by the by.  The overall theme of Self Care I think has been a success and I do think that taking time out to concentrate on doing things which make me happier and healthier is of benefit to my whole family and is without doubt something I need to keep concentrating on.  And Spring resolutions?  Yes, I'll definitely be setting some more of those next year!  Who needs New Year anyway! 

*Commissioned post* 

Gazillion 33-in-1 Incredibubble Wand - Review

What's better than bubbles?  GAZILIONS of bubbles! 

The new Gazillion Incredibuble Wand is made up of 33 bubble wands and what does more bubble wands mean?  Well more bubbles of course! 


The Gazillion Incredibubble Wand is super easy to set up - the wand comes in two parts (making it just that bit easier to store) and clicks together easily.  The Gazillion solution is poured into the special tray and you're ready to go!  I should say, the lip on the tray is a really useful design feature as it means the wand can be left resting in it without it tipping up and spilling everywhere. 



 

The wand itself is easy to use, just dip and wave to create hundreds of bubbles.  Even Amy who, at 2, would struggle to make bubbles with a traditional wand, is able to make huge numbers of bubbles with easy by waving the Gazillion Incredibubble Wand around.  She was so very excited to be able to use it so easily! 





With a little care it is possible to make absolutely enormous bubbles too! 



At £12.99 we think the Gazillion Incredibubble Wand is great fun for all the family.  
 

Tots100

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Is it time for a new sofa?

I'm curious . . . how old is your sofa?  We got ours almost eight years ago when we moved into our house.  I loved them the time but if I could replace them tomorrow I would do it in a heartbeat. 




So here's my top reasons why we need to replace our sofas:

1. They're ugly! 
I honestly loved them at the time we bought them - the scatter back cushions felt really modern and the black, grey and red colours looked smart.  I've since learned that scatter back cushions are a short cut to untidy!  They're far too easy for the kids to move around and always look such a mess!  I've also grown to hate the black - our living room suffers from a lack of natural light and I'm sure the black suite just sucks even more light out of it - Dave thinks I'm being ridiculous.  Oh and black is also a lot less forgiving than you would think (snot trails on the sofa anyone?)

2. They look tired 
After eight years of what can only be described as "heavy usage" (three toddlers later . . . ) the edges are frayed, and the fabric looks worn and marked.  No amount of washing or cleaning is going to rescue them now. 

3. They're uncomfortable
Once upon a time our sofas were given the title of "the comfiest I've ever slept on" by a friend of my Dad's.  Now they suffer from saggy cushions and broken springs.  My "spot" in particular has really suffered with me spending the best part of 6 years either pregnant or breastfeeding and thus sat on my bum a lot!  It's so dilapidated now that I have to steal extra cushions from elsewhere on the sofa just to be able to sit comfortably. 

4. They're too big! 
Dave would disagree.  He loves the size of our sofas and if I'm honest I do love that we are able to lie down on them and there's plenty of room to sit so I know where's he's coming from.  However, what I don't like is the physical size of them - since we bought the sofas our living room has changed beyond recognition with two separate extension projects altering the layout considerably and I don't think the size and shape of our sofas suits the room any more. I think they make it feel like a corridor or a train station!  I'd love to be able to invest in an arm chair and a sleeker looking 4 seater. 



Nevertheless, it will be a while before we do actually buy new sofas.  Common sense says that we need to wait till the kids are a little older, at least until Amy is less likely to accidentally wipe her nose on the furniture!  There's other things we need to spend our money on first - but it doesn't stop me daydreaming and pinning my sofa goals


   

*Comissioned post*

Colour with me, Mum! Review & Giveaway

Chloe has developed a real love for colouring in recently.  She takes her time, chooses her colours carefully and gets really engrossed in what she's doing. 

Ben and Chloe both enjoy it when I sit and colour with them, I enjoy it too.  It's a lovely to take time to be able to sit with them, to model how to colour in carefully, to take the opportunity to chat about our colour choices, about the pictures we're colouring in or about what's going on in our lives. 

Colour with me, Mum! takes the idea of parents sitting and colouring in with their children, which is of course nothing new, and runs with it.  This beautifully illustrated colouring book is designed specifically for adults and children to be able to sit side by side, working on one large illustration as a team.  You get a page each to work on, meaning that as an adult you get something a little more complex and intricate to work on whilst your child colours in a similar, simplified picture.  This really is one of those "Why has nobody thought of this before?" ideas. 



This isn't just a colouring book though.  It has been divided into six sections, each relating to the main area's of child development: self-perception, relationships, home life, school life, play and imagination.  Beginning with an introduction explaining the area of development which the section relates to and a series of prompts and questions to talk about whilst you colour in, this book has been thoughtfully created to encourage quality interaction and conversation with your child.  Of course you can ignore the conversational prompts if you wish, they are just there as a support and source of inspiration. 

Chloe was super excited when I told her I had a special colouring book for us to do together and couldn't wait to get stuck in.  Interestingly for us, there was no conversation at all beyond talking about colour or me praising Chloe for her careful work - we were both so absorbed in what we were doing that chatting wasn't really on the agenda.  She clearly enjoyed it though as she asked to do some more tomorrow night! 






If you'd like to win a copy of Colour with me, Mum! then complete the Rafflecopter options below, taking care to do this carefully so as to avoid disqualification. 


*Disclaimer - We were sent a copy of Colour with me, Mum! free of charge for the purposes of review, however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Freshening up the Dining Room for Spring with Valspar

I have written moaned before about the state of our dining room.  It was one of the very first rooms we decorated when we moved into the house some 8 years ago.  We enthusiastically tore off the wallpaper to reveal plaster which was decidedly worse for wear.  Being on a tight budget we couldn't afford to skim the room so we bought some textured wall paper to try and disguise the lumpy bumpy walls as best we good and painted it (Dulux - Egyptian Cotton from memory).

Fast forward 8 years and our dining room has seen some hammer - not least being used as a garage / storage space for a good 6 months during our extension work.  The dining room plays the unfortunate roll of basically being a corridor to the rest of the house and as such tends to be a bit of a dumping ground.  The walls were grubby - actually that's too polite - they were filthy, the wallpaper was peeling and to top it off we had an issue with damp on the front wall which had caused the paper to come off and the plaster to crumble away.  Nice.  The gap in the wall was filled temporarily when we had some other plastering work done but it still left an unsightly mess which we couldn't really disguise.  The damp problem itself has yet to be addressed as it took us some time to work out what was causing it - we've now realised that we need to dig some drainage at the front of the house and relay the drive - none of this can happen over night. 

In reality, the whole of the dining room needs stripping right back and replastering once the damp has been sorted.  Skimming the walls isn't going to be enough any more.  But as I mentioned, this is no quick fix and I was thoroughly fed up with the state of the room.  (And I think Dave was probably more than a little fed up of me moaning about it!) 

 


Knowing that it will be at least next year if not longer before we are in a situation where we can really do the dining room properly (we have quite a bit of work on the extension which still needs to be finished first), we decided that we'd do our best to freshen things up as a bit of a temporary measure.  For the most part the wallpaper in the room still looks fine (just very dirty) - it was just the front wall where the wall had been damp and we'd had leaky windows where it looked particularly bad.  The decision was taken to repaper just the front wall and then repaint the lot to make everything look more presentable. 

Because this project was a bit of a spur of the moment job, I hadn't really thought through any sort of colour scheme - I knew that I wasn't going to be spending money on new curtains or furniture and that this is only really a temporary makeover (I say temporary, watch it last me another three years!).  We tipped up at B&Q with three kids in tow and no real sense of direction so standing in front of the Valspar colour chips was pretty overwhelming.  Aside from the 2000 pre -colours, Valspar promise to make you any colour you want in a range of finishes!  After a lengthy chat with the gentleman working there we decided that really we just needed to go for something pretty light and neutral and plump for a shade of white.  Dave has always been very much of the opinion that white is white and is never really that bothered by the intricacies of choosing paint tending to leave me to it.  We brought home a couple of paint chips to see how they looked in the room.  (Sample pots are available but I decided to fly by the seat of our pants on this one and trust the chips - luckily we got away with it this time.)

Buying Valspar paint is a fairly painless process but be warned, it does take a little longer than picking up a standard tin of premixed paint and heading to the till.  Each tin of Valspar paint is mixed to order before your very eyes!  Our 2.5l tin of Valspar Premium Wood and Ceilings is billed as a paint, primer and undercoat in one product (which helps explain it's rather hefty price of £27). Valspar Premium promises "maximum-durability and super-scrub formulation" to stand up to "even the toughest daily living".  Our dining room will certainly put that to the test. 




Now Dave wouldn't normally bother with an undercoat or primer when painting on top of wallpaper so we were interested to see if he noticed much of a difference.  He painted the walls with a roller as he usually would and found the coverage to be really even - particularly on the fresh new wallpaper (the older, more dirty stuff took more effort).  I was really impressed at how well the paint covered up all the old marks and much with just one coat however we did feel that most of the room needed a second coat just to make sure there were no patches.  (Unfortunately that meant we had to buy a second tin of paint which made the project considerably more expensive that we had planned!)  I personally love the smell of fresh paint but the Valspar Premium doesn't smell very strong at all, the "new paint" smell had faded within 24 hours.



Of course now that we've repainted the walls, it has highlighted the fact that we Dave needs to repaint the skirting boards, ceiling, coving, window sill . . . the list goes on!  Happy Bank Holiday Dave! 

I'm so pleased with what we've got done so far.  The room is so much brighter and cleaner (especially with that horible patch of bare plastered covered over).  I'm really thrilled with the colour we chose and I'm looking forward to seeing how the Valspar Premium lives up to family life! 

Tots100


*Disclaimer - We were provided with a 2.5l tin of Valspar Premium free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

The "Ten Minute Sweep" - Keeping our house tidy this Spring!

This weekend Dave and I had a whole child-free weekend . . . I'd like to tell you we spent it relaxing and enjoying each other's company but in actual fact we made the most of the chance to get some jobs done around the house without the little people under our feet.  For Dave this meant digging a huge trench in the driveway ready for a new water supply and repainting the dining room (watch out for a post on this soon!) 


My weekend was spent decluttering the upstairs of our house - sorting the kids' bedrooms, organising their drawers making sure that I removed clothes which no longer fitted and clearing out toys which were broken, missing parts or outgrown.  Of course sorting the kids' bedrooms is one of those jobs that you really can't do with them there or you'll find that broken bit of tat from McDonalds is suddenly their most favourite toy and they couldn't possibly part with it! 

 




When they feel like it, Ben and Chloe are now getting pretty good at tidying up which I think is in part due to the expectation that they do their bit within the classroom.  Ben in particular, is really good at making sure things go back in the right place - he's also very good at hiding things under his bed.  None of my children appear to be naturally tidy - which doesn't come as a surprise as I'm terrible for leaving things lying around.  

To try and combat our untidy nature, I've instigated a "Ten Minute Sweep" which we're doing as soon as they get in from school - making sure that shoes, book bags and clothes are put away properly ready for the next morning before moving onto the living room / playroom / bedrooms - whichever seems to be most in need.  The reason this seems to work well is that I'm not saying "Tidy the playroom and make sure it's spotless" - I'm just saying "Do the best you can for ten minutes" which I've found makes them far more inclined to just crack on and do it.  We will then do another "Ten Minute Sweep" before bedtime if necessary.  It's making a really big difference to keeping the house tidy and helping Ben and Chloe to understand that it's a team effort - picking up their toys is not my job!  I actually don't mind cleaning, but tidying up drives me mad! 

This Spring, HomeServe have put together a set of tips for those bigger jobs which might need addressing around the house - checking the boiler is in good working order, that your drains don't need unblocking - all the lovely stuff that you're better off sorting before the problem gets any worse!

Have you got any top tips for the big Spring Clean?  What jobs are on your "to do" list at the moment? 

Tots100

*Commissioned post*