Friday, 31 July 2015

Tips for Getting the Most Use Out of Costumes

*Guest Post in collaboration with Funidelia* 

Halloween may be a blast but it only comes around once a year and can leave you with a box in the attic filled with cheap, discarded costumes that no long fit the kids.  By planning ahead and having a shopping strategy, you can select costumes throughout the year that can fit into multiple scenarios.  After all, Halloween isn't the only time you might need a costume!

Photo Credit: The Brick Castle
1. Buy costumes that can fit into your everyday wardrobe. 
One of the best ways to get more use out of your fancy dress outfit is to choose a costume that you or your child will be able to get away with wearing in "normal" life.  The idea is to choose a costume that already fits into your general sense of style.  So if you love a good jumpsuit, choose one in olive green and you can style it for a vintage aviator look.  Or if you like to wear lacy dresses, choose on in white that you can accessorise with a DIY halo and wings for an easy angel costume that you can re-use and re-style. 

2. Ask about refund policies in advance. 
Are you buying a costume for your kid while he's at school, or for yourself without the chance to try it on first?  Be sure to check the store policy about returning used merchandise.  Some costume shoos won't accept anything with open packaging, for example.  Others won't issue refunds, but will allow exchanges for different sizes.  If possible, make sure you purchase using a credit card so that you have a paper trail and always keep your receipt. 

3. Arrange a costume swap with friends. 
Is a friend throwing a costume party and you're not sure what to wear?  Drag out your family's old costumes and have your friends do the same.  Arrange a clothing swap where you get to try on each other's costumes.  You may find pieces that you can mix and match to create something completely new - that old Captain America suit may suddenly become the basis for a robot costume!

4. Buy and sell online. 
You can save money on Halloween costumes by purchasing them online to begin with , and this is also a good idea if you're not quite sure what you're looking for.  You can browse through all the funny Halloween costume ideas at Funidelia to get a feeling for what's out there before committing to a costume that way.  But in addition to buying your costumes online, you can also tell them on sites like eBay when you've worn them.  After just one use, your costume is most likely in great shape and you should be able to get a bit of money back by selling it used. 

5.  Size up when buying kids' costumes. 
Are you purchasing costumes for your children?  Buy them one size too large, so that they can get some good dress-up use out of them.  If you buy something which just barely fits now, chances are that they'll only get the one-time use instead.

Gruffalo Orienteering, Delamere Forest

Last Summer holidays we hit Delamere Forest to take part in the Gruffalo Trail and though we somehow managed to miss out a few of the pictures we still had a great day and were keen to revisit.  When I found out about the new Gruffalo Orienteering at Delamere Forest I knew we had to go! 

The previous Gruffalo Trail basically involved walking around the route, following the signs and spotting some large character pictures pinned to trees along the way.  It made for a lovely walk around the forest and gave the children something a little extra to spur them on when they were getting tired. 

This year however the Gruffalo Trail has been pimped up and is now "Gruffalo Orienteering" - to take part you need to purchase your map from the Delamere Cafe at a cost of £1.50.  The pack basically consists of an A4 map and a leaflet with questions on.  The idea being that you follow the map to identify the Gruffalo markers and find the answers to the questions as you go.  I loved that this added an extra element of challenge for our boys who, now a year older, were able to have a go at following the map and were more than capable of reading and answering the questions as we went around.  It made it really exciting for them and the questions were pitched perfectly to draw out what the children already knew and add a little to their knowledge of the forest.

Now you can just follow the route around the forest without the map and it would make for a lovely walk, however you'd probably struggle to find the twelve Gruffalo markers as many of them are hidden just off the track - even with the map I must admit we missed out a couple!! (I blame the boys and their underdeveloped map reading skills!)  So yes, I would suggest investing in your map at the start if you do want to find them all!

We were all really excited to discover that the Gruffalo statue was still there towards the end of the route and of course couldn't resist a photo opportunity.

In terms of accessibility you could have happily walked around with a pushchair today as the ground was quite dry however we chose to leave ours behind this time and just use carriers.  Erin tried out our new Hamahaki Hopp which I will be reviewing over the coming weeks and Amy was more than happy to be carried around in our faithful Beco Soleil.  There were plenty of people riding bikes around the route as well - something which I'm sure our boys might enjoy another time! 

Of course being super successful orienteers we more than deserved our ice creams - the range of flavours available is epic and I fully recommend the blackcurrant cheesecake!  (At £2 for a generous single scoop you can't complain.)

With plenty of space for picnicking and running around and just £6 for all day parking we managed to while away about 5 hours at Delamere Forest today with minimal effort, had the weather been a bit kinder I think we'd have been there even longer!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Cbeebies Furchester Hotel Magazine - Review

As a child I always saw a comic as the ultimate treat - they were expensive and not something we got very often, if at all.  Now with three children of my own I must admit that magazines and comics are not something we buy very often.  I guess before Ben could read they felt rather pointless. 

Today sees the launch of the new Cbeebies Furchester Hotel Magazine aimed at children aged 3-6 with a main target audience of 4 year olds, just like Chloe. 

We are very much a Cbeebies household (though Ben is beginning to gravitate towards CBBC these days) so The Furchester Hotel is watched and enjoyed regularly by all three children (and occasionally two parents!)

Chloe was super excited when her Furchester Hotel magazine arrived in the post and she couldn't wait to dive in and explore what it had to offer.  I must admit I was keen to try and keep her away from it really so I could save it as a surprise for our long journey to France however once she'd seen it I just didn't stand a chance! 

As you would expect Cbeebies magazine it is full supportive of the Early Years Curriculum including mark making activities, comprehension activities, counting, craft and observational challenges.  I'm really impressed by just how much they've managed to pack into one magazine.   

There's stickers to complete some of the pages and others to add when you've completed an activity - Chlo, like most children of her age, is a big fan of stickers so this was a hit right away! 

As an added bonus this month's magazine comes with a little craft set to "Make your own Portraits" which Chloe is keen to try out! 

I like that there's a good balance of activities which can be completed without support or any need for reading (eg colouring in) but then there's also things which will require a bit of help from an adult or older sibling (eg reading the story or some instructions).  At 6, Ben is able to read much of the magazine to himself so I'm sure he will enjoy reading it to Chloe. 

At £2.75 I'd be happy to slip this into my shopping trolley as an occasional treat for Chloe!


*Disclaimer - We were sent the magazine free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and opinions remain our own*

Super Simple Paint Blow Monsters - #BostikBloggers

Our most recent craft activity has a monster theme!  I decided we'd have a go at paint blowing, it's something I've done with Ben before but he was quite a bit younger and found it really tricky - and of course there's always the risk that they will suck the paint up the straw!! 

Once we had Amy safely tucked up in bed Ben and Chloe chose a piece of card and a single colour of poster paint.  I gave them a good old splodge of paint and showed them how to move the paint around by blowing down a straw. 

We had put rather a lot of paint on so it took quite a while to blow it out but they were both pretty focussed on it.  After a little bit of help from Mummy they were both left with a nice big painty splodge which needed to dry out over night. 

The following morning we set about turning our painty splodges into bonefide monsters with the help of some Bostik White Glu to stick on foam hands and feet and one or two Bostik Glu Dots to help stick on some googly eyes.  All finished off with a felt tip pen mouth. 

I used a  pair of sharp scissors to trim the edges of our monsters before displaying them in our playroom art gallery: 


*Disclaimer - Our box of crafting goodies was provided to us free of charge by Bostik as part of the Tots100/Bostick Craft Bloggers Club*

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Back to School with M&S - #TipsandTricks‏

So the summer holidays may well have only just started however the "Back to School "stuff is already in the shops and has been for a number of weeks now.  I must admit this is a pet hate of mine however it pays to be organised.  The guys at M&S have asked me to share with you my top #TipsandTricks when it comes to preparing for Back to School. 

1. Get your uniforms sorted early 
I have previously been caught out by not having bought Ben's school trousers early enough and then struggled to find his size.  Lesson learned.  This year I checked all their uniform as the term ended, threw away things which were too tired / scruffy / small to make it through another school term (all of Ben's t shirts went this way - although he had grown out of them they weren't fit to pass on to anyone else as they were ruined with pen, suncream, beans and general boy wear and tear!) and put away anything that still fitted and was in good condition.  I wrote a quick list of what we needed to replace and got it ordered early on in the holidays.

2. Label it all! 
Once you've got all the uniform ordered it's important to make sure you label it - don't forget that the whole point of a uniform is that it is the same - a name label will make it a whole lot easier to keep hold of and save your child sniffing jumpers to see if it smells like theirs (Yes this honestly happens). I don't personally bother with iron or sew on labels - they take too long and always come off in my experience.  We use either tags or stickers these days, so much easier and worth the extra money in time saved.  (When we were kids Mum used to spend ages sewing labels on our clothes - she used to buy labels which had our surname in the middle and our first names as either end "Colette Hallinan Nicola" so she only had to buy one set of labels each year and fold under the wrong name when she sewed them on!  How did she have the tiem?! )

3. Plan 
School mornings in our house can be heaven or hell and for the most part it comes down to the planning.  I get all the uniforms out the night before and lay them out in their rooms so that there's no excuses not to get dressed straight away when they wake up.  This also means that I give myself fair warning if there's some socks or a jumper missing!  Oh and while we're on the subject of things going missing - keep shoes and book bags in the same place, insist that they are put away properly the moment they walk through the door as there is nothing worse than hunting for a rogue shoe at 8.50am! 

4. Check those book bags
I check in their book bags most nights, that way I can't get caught out by only finding out about fancy dress the day before or not sending in trip money on time.  Children rarely remember to give their parents the letters they've been given, even if they only put it in their book bag the moment before the walked out of the classroom door!  Oh and if your school has a text system make sure they have the right mobile number!  We get regular text updates about assemblies etc.

5.  Make the most of school dinners! 
I'm very lucky that at the moment both Ben and Chloe are entitled to free school dinners for under 7s - apart from saving me around £80 a month it also saves me the headache of packed lunches or remembering to take the money to school each week to pay for their dinners!  Ben has always been on school dinners and loves them. 

*Disclaimer - M&S are sending me a voucher as a thank you for writing this post*

Daydreaming of a weekend in London

*This is a collaborative post* 

Now that Amy has had a couple of over night stays with Nana my thoughts are turning to getting some time away with that husband of mine.  Up until now our babysitting tokens tend to be used up on events - weddings, birthdays or really needing to get stuff done in the house.  However right now I'm daydreaming about a weekend away in London with my man.  Just for the sake of it.  
Me and the Mr x 
I've never actually been to London and done the whole tourist thing so, should I suddenly discover a free weekend and enough spare pennies I'd be searching out cheap London hotels and booking us a train down to London pronto to see what we could get ticked off this list:  
1. See a show 
Of course this  has to be top of the list.  I saw Jason Donovan in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the London Palladium when I was about 12 and I'd love to make a return visit!  I know Dave would really enjoy it too.
2. Hit the shops
I've only been shopping in London once. Once I ask you!  We basically spent the whole day on Oxford Street and still didn't even cover half the shops available to us.  I think I could merrily spend a whole weekend shopping without too much effort!  (Dave and my bank manager might have something to say about that though!)
3. Take afternoon tea 
You can't knock afternoon tea for a lovely treat - sandwiches, scones, cake - what's not to love!  Afternoon Tea at The Ritz is thought to be the cream of the crop but really is something of a luxury at £50 or more per person! 
Photo Credit: Valdiney Pimenta via Compfight cc

4. Visit Buckingham Palace
I can't say I particularly want a tour of the palace itself but I'd love to just have a wander around outside Buckingham Palace and the surrounding areas.  All those places that you see on TV but never in real life! 
5. Explore the Markets
London is famous for it's markets - Camden Market and Portobello Market are the first which spring to mind.  I'm sure they would swallow up more than a couple of hours with some happy browsing and bargaining! 
6. Take a trip on the London Eye
Whilst I'm not really one for heights on the whole I do love the idea of experiencing the London Eye and taking in all the amazing sights of London from a unique viewpoint. 
So without too much effort I think I could merrily fill up a childfree weekend in London with my man!  What would you do?  Anything you think I've missed?
(Thanks to Emma, Donna, Iona, Mary, Shaz, Steph, Lish and Hannah for their contributions)

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