Living Arrows 16/52

I know I am 16 weeks late in joining in but I have admired many photographs from other bloggers that take part in the living arrows linky that and I love the concept behind it that I thought I would join in myself.

We recently got a glimpse of summer so we headed off for a family walk around the local nature reserve, I just love this photograph of Gracie, she didn’t know it was be taken and I think her happiness and playful nature shines through, she really doesn’t have a care in the world and I miss that about childhood, we had fed the ducks and eaten ice cream and once we got home Gracie told me what a great time she’d had – it really is the simple things in life that makes it wonderful.

gracieblue

living arrows

Degusta Box {March}

We recently received a box full of yumminess from DegustaBox, a subscription service that delivers a surprise box of food goodies to your door each month. This is our first month receiving the box so we weren’t really sure what to expect, although we were both super excited, I mean let’s face it, who doesn’t like having surprise food delivered straight to their door?

The box was delivered by courier and all the products arrived well packaged, my husband and I were like two kids on Christmas morning, excited to get stuck in and see what surprises we had and we were not disappointed!

SAM_0274

SAM_0283

SAM_0285

SAM_0320

Included in the box was:

1. Chocolate Chai / Tea Latte : Chocolate Chai is a unique blend of rich cocoa with warm spices, I was a little dubious when trying this as I am very much a tea girl however I was pleasantly surprised by the flavour, the spices aren’t as strong as I first imagined although if  I’m honest then I am a long way off ditching the tea! Tea Latte is an infusion of Earl Grey with frothy milk which I am yet to try.

2. Tyrrells Popcorn : This popcorn is popped at Tyrrells Court Farm, Hertfordshire and is available in five different seasonings. We tried Sweet and Salty and they were yum and very moreish, the packs are perfect for when you’re on the go or to eat as an alternative snack. Gracie actually tucked into ours while curled up on the sofa watching Frozen! they make a great movie night snack for the littlies.

3. Moma : Moma produces a range of breakfast products, including porridge. We received two tubs of porridge in our box and I would have to say that these were one of my favourites, they are quick and easy to make requiring you to simply add hot water. Gracie tried the plain porridge, while I enjoyed porridge and cranberries, these are perfect for when you are wanting a quick breakfast and they provide the perfect portion, before going on to maternity leave I used to take porridge into work with me, I just wish I had taken these.

4. Shaken Udder (Banana, Chocolate and Strawberry) : These milkshakes contain natural ingredients and are made with real fruit or Belgium chocolate and blended with fresh British milk, it is safe to say that these were Gracie’s favourite products from the box and that neither me or my husband got a look in, other than a quick taste each! They are perfect for drinks on the go or to pop into the kiddies lunch box – Gracie always has a milkshake and biscuit before bed so she enjoyed choosing one of her Shaken Udder’s for a change.

5. Mexican Dave’s Nachos : We love Nacho’s in our house and Mexican Dave’s are no exception, these were the first food that we tried and one of my husband’s favourite, the flavour was to die for and you couldn’t just have one, we were all going back for more, they are perfect to eat on their own or you could have them as a side dish and if you wanted to add extra flavour then they are also gorgeous with melted cheese on!

6. Scwartz : Schwartz are perfect for when you want to whip something up quickly, you simply add a shot of flavouring to your pan and then add in any additional ingredients that you may fancy, whether it be meat, veg, rice.

7. Organico Pasta : This pasta is 100% Durham Wheat. Pasta is an old favourite of mine as you can do so many different things with it, you can add different sauces, different meats, eat it hot, eat it cold… in the DegustaBox there was a recipe suggestion using the pasta which we are planning to try (I’ll come back and post the recipe once we have given it a go!)

8. Organico Sauce : This tomato sauce is from the same range as the pasta, again I have many sauce jars in my cupboard and consider them a staple food. I will be using the sauce when I try the recipe mentioned above and I can’t wait!

The total value of all the products in this box is approximately £18.14  and the actual cost of the box including delivery is £12.99.

Overall we were thrilled with our box, not only is it great value for money but it also got us trying different foods that we otherwise wouldn’t have, my husband was so impressed that he has ordered one to be sent to a friend as an house warming gift!

If you would like to try your own DegustaBox then you can use this code VRSF6 to receive a £3.00 discount when registering or to learn more about DegustaBox then why not visit their website or alternatively give them some facebook or twitter love.

Disclaimer: I was sent March’s DegustaBox for the purpose of this review however all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Siblings {April}

Another month and another siblings post, I swear time is flying as it doesn’t feel like two minutes since I was writing last months :) Gracie is now 2 years 11 months and Nancy is 10 weeks old.

One of my favourite times of day at the moment is the bedtime hour, days seem to be so hectic that some days it feels like our feet don’t touch the ground but come 6pm and we start to wind down, we have bath time, milk and biscuits (no biscuits for Nancy of course) watch a bit a of tv and just snuggle before bed.

As time goes on Gracie is becoming more gentle and likewise as Nancy grows she is becoming more resilient, so together they are beginning to find the perfect balance in their sisterly relationship, which is just beautiful to watch!

cuddles1

cuddles

dear beautiful

A Garden Project – Part 2

I recently wrote a post about our garden and our plans to do a garden makeover ready for the summer. I am so excited to share some up to date photographs. One of the reasons it has taken so long to do the garden is because we have felt quite overwhelmed by the task, we have had people out to give us quotes but they have always been too expensive however this year we grabbed the bull by the horns and decided to do it ourselves, well I say we, when really it’s my husband that has been putting all the hard work in!

First we started by painting the fence, my lovely mum also spent the day with us painting which was great as it meant we got it done much quicker, we also hired a rotavator so hubs got cracking with that. After one day the garden was looking like this.

SAM_0222

SAM_0223

Hubs spent the next few days raking the soil, moving our shed, and bordering the garden ready for when we had our turf delivered.

A few days later the turf arrived and he wasted no time getting it down… I’m no expert but I think he did a great job!

SAM_0309

Since laying the turf we have watered it regularly throughout the day and after a week and a half we can really tell the difference. Next on the list is to fill the borders, start pricing up decking and we would also like a couple of plants to just brighten the space up a little bit. Gracie is very happy with the progress and can’t wait till she can get out there and play!

* Review * Stamptastic

Gracie has recently started pre school and as anyone with small children in school will know,  belongings often get lost, left behind or accidentally sent home with another child, therefore everything needs labelling, now I’m not much of a sewer and I certainly don’t like ironing so something about Stamptastic” immediately appealed to me.

Stamptastic is run by 3 mums, Emma, Francesca and Rie who became fed up of ironing and sewing labels, together they created a personalised stamp and ink pad as a quicker, less stressful alternative.

Stamptastic in their own words…

 new fast way of naming all your belongings!

A personalised stamp usable on fabric, metal, wood & some plastics.

No more sewing or ironing on labels.

No more losing your pencil case or P.E. kit!

Now you can just stamp everything!

Transparent block for accurate, easy positioning.

The ink will last wash after wash.

  When ordering your stamp you are given the opportunity to adjust the size / font and you are able to preview what your name will look like before ordering, the stamp, is a transparent block which allows you to stamp your belongings with ease.

PicMonkey Collage

I won’t lie, once I got going I turned a bit stamp happy, determined to try the stamp on as many different surfaces as possible. I’ve stamped, paper, t-shirts, jumpers, coats, lunch bags, school bags, metal drinks bottles to name but a few! It really was simple, I pressed the stamp down onto the ink and then straight onto said items, being able to see Gracie’s name through the transparent stamp really made the job easy, obviously you want to get it right first time as unlike other methods of labelling you only get one shot at it, as I think it would be quite difficult to get the stamp in the exact same place twice. I would also recommend testing the stamp first as I found that while my first couple of prints were good, the more I used the stamp the better the print as there was more ink on the stamp itself.

PicMonkey Collage1Gracie has now been at preschool a couple of weeks and the prints are still looking good, her coat and uniform have been through the wash and her lunch bag and drinks bottle have been washed on numerous occasions and her name hasn’t faded.

The stamp itself is currently for sale at £8.00 and the ink pads £10.00. Considering that once you have the stamp you will never need to buy a new one again, I think it’s really good value for money, the ink pads will also last a while! I will definitely be purchasing another when my younger daughter is ready for school.

Disclaimer: I was sent the stamp free of charge for the purpose of this review however all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Life with two…

When I gave birth to my first daughter back in 2011, I honestly felt like I had been hit by a bus. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the lifestyle change, I talked to other parents, joined online forums, read books but it wasn’t until she actually arrived that I realised just what it meant to be a parent and the impact it would have on my life. I remember for several weeks after giving birth talking to my husband and asking him if he was happy to stop at one. Lots of people would ask me “are you having anymore” and I would shudder at thought and say god no, one’s enough! Time passed by and I started to recover from the birth, Gracie was sleeping through the night, she was also starting to interact with me, smiling and giggling and amazingly one day I had a thought… “I could do this again”

Over the next few months this feeling got stronger and stronger and when Gracie turned 2 I was thrilled to fall pregnant again. Pregnancy the second time round was hard, harder than I remembered actually, I don’t know if it was having the toddler in tow but I just felt tired and everything ached, towards the end of pregnancy I struggled to move which made running round after Gracie lots of fun! (NOT)

Finally after what felt like the longest pregnancy known to man my second daughter was born, I no longer had a child but I had children, initially things felt easier, the labour was quicker, I was in and out the hospital within hours, bringing Nancy home was more relaxing as I knew from past experience what I needed to do and I just felt like I bounced back from labour a lot quicker however this was short lived as soon I realised that both my two children needed and wanted their one mum ALL THE TIME.

Suddenly I have no time to sit down, with one I could relax while she napped, or while she cuddled up on the sofa, or was happily playing alone, but not now, now they tag team me.

Gracie is inquisitive and follows me round like a shadow, what are you doing? can I see? Is my baby sister wide awake? can I hold her? can I kiss her? can I stroke her head? who’s that? what’s that? can I say hello? can I go for a walk? can I make a drink? can I look in the fridge?

Nancy is just in a cycle of sleep, cry, feed and wind, she happily falls to sleep on me but if I try to put her down she cries, I try to lay her down in her moses basket or in her rocker or under her play gym but then Gracie likes to “help” and disturbs her, she won’t settle in her crib upstairs so I have taken to either not doing what I need to do, or lugging her around under one arm and providing an half arsed attempt at getting things done.

It’s exhausting, I’m exhausted. I wonder if and when it will get easier and I wonder how those with 3, 4 or more get through the day! But then I look at them and they look at me and they smile and it doesn’t matter anymore, suddenly we’re embracing the chaos, I remind myself its not forever and bet myself that I’ll miss it when its gone…

*Review* A Woodland Adventure with Tiny Discoverers

Last weekend we visited one of our favourite nature reserves and we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to test drive Gracie’s new Woodland Adventure Pack that was sent to her by the lovely people at Tiny Discoverers.

Available in either blue or red the backpack comes filled with lots of goodies including binoculars, a magnifying glass, bug pot with magnifying lid, easy to grip tweezers, woodland themed activity cards, crayons and paper! The straps are adjustable, meaning even the smallest of explorers can carry it with ease and it also comes with a detachable pencil case.

DSCF8746DSCF8728

When we first arrived we headed straight to Gracie’s favourite place, the lake! Gracie took the opportunity to try out her new binoculars to look at the ducks across the water before feeding them.

DSCF8755

As we walked round Gracie held her magnifying glass, I think she was really taken with this and loved how big it made everything look, she was able to search for things in all the nooks and crannies she wouldn’t usually be able to see into and even managed to spot a bug for her bug pot! Daddy helped with this bit using the tweezers as it was a bit too small for Gracie to pick up but we did some practicing with bigger objects while she gets the hang of it.

DSCF8769

DSCF8776

DSCF8800

DSCF8820

We couldn’t leave without getting the crayons and paper out and we decided to use them to trace some of the stonework. There are various different colours to choose from and they are perfect for outdoors as they are really chunky, at home Gracie often snaps her crayons but there is no chance of that happening with these.

DSCF8796

DSCF8798

The backpack is currently retailing at £22.00 and is recommended for ages 3 plus. I really think this is good value for money as the pack is something that can be used time and time again and it can create so many adventures for the little ones, you don’t necessarily have to venture out to enjoy the pack either, it’s perfect for outdoor play in your own back garden. The items included in the pack are made with children in mind as they are bright, colourful and hardwearing, Gracie dropped her magnifying glass on a couple of occasions and there was no damage caused. You can also add your own items to the bag as well, Gracie decided to pack a drink and duck food in her bag too.

Overall I think the Woodland Adventure Pack is perfect for any young child that loves outdoor play. Gracie absolutely adores being outside and can usually be found jumping in the puddles, throwing mud around and generally getting stuck in! She was genuinely upset when it was time to come home and wanted to stay longer and play with her pack, we only managed to get her in the car with a promise to come back soon!

Disclaimer: I was sent the woodland adventure pack free of charge for the purpose of this review however all thoughts and opinions are my own.

A Garden Project

After almost six and a half years living in our house we are FINALLY doing our garden up. Every summer we potter about in there with good intentions but we never actually get anywhere with it. To date we have never sat in our garden and enjoyed the sunshine or had a BBQ and Gracie has never been able to play in it :(

Gracie (and now Nancy) are definitely the main motivators for us to get this done now, Gracie absolutely loves the outdoors and would spend all her time playing outside if she could, with the start of spring making an appearance this week it’s really encouraged us to get going with it, there is nothing worse than being sat in your living room while the sun is shining through the window and your garden sits looking dim and un played in.

SAM_0218

SAM_0219

SAM_0220

 To get us started we’re going to paint our fence, as you can see from the photos the back panels have already been done, we did these at the end of last summer however due to being pregnant there was only so much I could do and as the autumn weather kicked in the remaining panels got left.

We are then going to completely clear the garden and cut the  grass right down, the grass is currently patchy and the ground uneven so we have hired a rotavator and will be rotavating and levelling the soil before spreading grass seed (unless we decide on turf, we’re still pricing things up!) and that’s as far as our thinking as got for now! We know we want to keep the garden pretty simple / low maintenance with a patio area and also a dedicated ‘dog run / area’ and maybe an area for Gracie and Nancy to grow their own plants but that’s in at the moment. I plan on spending the next few days and weeks scouring wonderful pinterest for inspiration!

I will be posting our progress and if any one has any advice or suggestions on gardening then it would be very welcome!

Thanks for reading!

Time for change…

As I approach the 6 weeks post natal mark I am starting to think about my lifestyle. Following Gracie’s birth in 2011 I didn’t feel up to dieting or exercising for a long time and as a result felt quite frumpy and self-conscious about how I looked, this time I am pleased to say my recovery has been a lot quicker and I generally feel a lot better in myself therefore don’t want to waste any time.

So here’s the plan, firstly I am starting with my eating habits. I don’t want to restrict myself to a diet plan as such, I just want to eat ‘clean’ and cut out the junk. I am going to plan my meals so I don’t get caught out in that ridiculously hungry stage where you just eat anything and everything in sight! I am also going to make sure I have a selection of healthy treats readily available. I would describe myself as a chocoholic, I eat it every day and if I don’t I have bad headaches! it’s as though I’m going through withdrawal, so I won’t be giving it up, just managing the amount I have! If I did cut it out completely I KNOW I would end up binging later down the line. I am also a tea belly, so I plan to swap some of my many mugs of tea for water!

As well as eating healthier, I would like to start exercising. I have signed up to run the 5k Race for Life in June so I have this as my motivation. I am going to be using an app that I downloaded on my phone to help build me up from nothing to 5k. I’m looking forward to running as it will be time out just for me! (sorry if that sounds selfish!) I am also considering returning to Zumba but I’ll put that on the back burner for now. I worry that if I set myself too many targets then I am at more risk of failing!

My starting weight is @#!? (yeah right, as if I’m putting that on the internet!) I have a lot to lose so instead of setting myself a massive goal that will feel unreachable I am going to set mini goals, starting with my first 7lb!

Wish me luck and if there is anyone else dieting or exercising then I would love to hear your words of wisdom and how you are getting on!

FITNESS

Review: Love2read

We were recently given the opportunity to create and review our own book from Love 2 Read.

Love 2 Read allows you to create your own unique book using your own words and photographs, the aim being to help your child develop a love of reading.

Creating your book is a simple process, once you are on the Love 2 Read website you click on the create option and you are then asked to choose the title of your book, there are LOTS of book titles to choose from (too many to mention!) or alternatively you can opt to use your own title. As Gracie became a big sister last month, I decided to create her a book titled “My Baby Sister…”  which is a story all about Nancy.

SAM_0203

SAM_0204

Once you have your title, it’s time to choose your photographs, this was the hardest part for me, it was nothing to do with the website it was just my indecisive nature, however once I had chosen my photographs uploading them was extremely easy. Each page holds one photograph and it may be worth knowing that your first four photographs create your front cover.  Under each individual photo you can add a few words and you can personalise your book further by choosing the colour of your borders. Before starting my book I watched a demo available on the website, it was a very short video showing an example of a previously made book with the same title,  it’s worth taking the time to watch the demo as it gave me an idea of what to include in my own book and what it might look like. (Don’t worry you can preview your book before ordering!)

SAM_0205

We received our book within a couple of days and Gracie immediately recognised herself and Nancy, she could also relate to the photographs and could remember where they were taken or she simply recognised the surroundings, within the first ten minutes of having the book I had already read it to her three times!

Although Gracie is a little bookworm she also has a tendency to rip the pages in her books therefore I was really pleased to see the quality of her Love 2 Read book, the pages are all printed on thick, good quality paper that I am confident that Gracie won’t be able to rip. I was also happy with the quality of the printing, each photo looks perfect. When uploading my photographs it was highlighted that a couple of photos were “low resolution” meaning that if I had gone a head and used those particular photos the images may not have been as clear, it’s really useful knowing before hand as it allowed me to change my photo and avoid any disappointment when the book arrived.

At the end of the book there is a page with nine photo’s on (you select ten in total) and also another page with key words on for your child to practice, the final page is a message from Caroline, the face behind Learn 2 Read.

SAM_0206

SAM_0208

I really do love our book and I also love the concept behind Love 2 Read, I think they would make great gifts and perfect keepsakes, I especially like how you can make various different books for various different occasions and over time you could build your own series, which I think would be truly special to keep and look back at in years to come.

Disclaimer: I was sent the book free of charge for the purpose of this review however all thoughts and opinions are my own.