Dora the Explorer Goes On Tour!

Dora the Explorer inspires a love-hate relationship in our house. My youngest daughter adores Dora and has from a very young age. My husband hates Dora because she repeats everything over and over in a very shouty voice. As is the way though, the youngest member of our family generally has the winning vote on all things audio-visual, so we have a lot of Dora and Boots in our lives.

I was excited to hear that Dora is going on tour soon, and I hope to be able to get Aviya to one of the locations below so she can meet her Spanish speaking buddy in ‘person’ one of these fine days.
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Pop along to one of the Symths Toys listed below to meet Dora:

  • Waterfields Retail Park, Watford (Dora Costume Character)  – 27th July
  • Westwood Cross Shopping Park, Thanet  – 28th July
  • St. David’s Retail Park, Swansea – 29th July
  • Crown retail park, Leeds (Dora Costume Character) – 31st July
  • Clifton Moor Retail Park, York (Costume Character) – 3rd August
  • Ravenhead Retail park, St.Helens  – 5th August
  • Halls Mill Retail Park, Bury – 6th August
  • Middle Engine Lane, Wallsend – 10th August
  • Glasgow fort shopping park, Glasgow (Costume Character) – 12th August
  • Beach Boulevard, Aberdeen (Costume Character) – 14th August

Sky Stands:

  • Brent Cross, London – 18th 19th July
  • Centre MK, Milton Keynes – 25th – 26th July
  • White Rose, Leeds – 1st- 2nd August
  • Intu Eldon Square, Newcastle – 8th – 9th August
  • Bon Accord, Aberdeen – 15th – 16th August
There will be a Dora sing-a-long booth that will be touring around too, in which children can sing along with Dora to her songs – watch out people, my smalls will be singing.
And if you can’t make it to one of these events, hop on over to Twitter and join in with the Dora Twitter Frenzy where you can win prizes and have fun with other Dora fans.

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Sponsored Video: Baby Days Do Pass, I Realise

Earlier this week I was sent a video title #VoiceofMums with a group of mums and babies singing about pretty much what life with a new baby can be like sometimes. It made me smile, watching these new mums try to juggle their babies while singing on camera – pretty much what most of my days are like, without the singing or the camera… but constantly juggling.

It also made me think about those baby days, and I realised a little whistfully that while I’m so sad that they are over, I’m also a little bit relieved. It’s not that it’s all plain sailing now – on the contrary, the tantrums, claims to ownership, discovering that you do indeed have a will of your own, and learning to share, explore and try out independence (we woke up on Sunday morning to find that our four year old wasn’t in the house. She’ had in fact woken early and gone to the neighbours for a play with their daughter! If we weren’t moving I’d be putting a bolt on the door, following that experience!) are all unique, different and come with their own challenges.

But the challenges are different now and those all consuming baby days, were in fact incredibly short lived – even more so the second time around. I know when you’re in it, it feels like they’ll never end, but I have to join the chorus of mothers now, who say ‘Enjoy it! It just ends so very, very soon’. Sorry. But it turns out they were right, and now there’s not much I can do about it!Well, Mum & Me on behalf of Cussons filmed this little video, inviting real mothers to their studio,by way of trying to promote the Baby Bath to Comfort Snuffles, a blend which contains a menthol fragrance to help relieve snuffly little noses.

I hope it makes you smile too, and as you go about your day, humming to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it”, it’ll fill your mind with happy memories of the baby days too.

This post has been sponsored by Cusson’s, but all thoughts are my own

Sponsored Video: Kellogg’s New Breakfast For Better Days Campaign

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, is what our mothers always say, isn’t it? And as (mostly) mothers (around here) I know that most of us make sure our kids have a meal to start the day, because we know that it benefits them. When their tummies are full, their concentration is better, their behaviour is better and they are more open and receptive to learning.

Regular readers will know that I believe that we need to care about other people’s children, because they are the future friends, colleagues, partners and soul mates of our own children. The child – that will grow up to be my child’s GP, my child’s paramedic in an emergency, that will come up with a cure for a sickness that touches my child – that child is already sharing the world with my child and we should be interested in making sure they too get the best we can offer them.

While it won’t come as a surprise to many parents there’s been recent research on the topic of breakfast and how eating or not eating it affects learning – whether that’s in school or at home  – and sadly, they’ve found that 1 in 7 children go to school hungry, and lose up to an hour a day on lack of concentration, low blood sugar and the restlessness that disrupts classrooms.

None of us can change the world for everyone else, but each of us can make a small change to make a small difference which is a big difference to the child that gets to have breakfast as a result.

If you are a cereal eating family, take advantage of Kellogg’s Breakfast For Better Days campaign, and Kellogg’s will give a bowl of cereal to a needy child for every box bought. (They will be giving grants and donations to food banks, breakfast clubs and schools across England and Wales).

Watch this video for more information

This post has been sponsored by Kellogg’s, but all thoughts are my own

A Moonpig Mother’s Day

I don’t go to London for events very often any more, because quite frankly by the time I’ve traversed the train, underground and bus with one or both children, I spend two days having to recover. But every now and then, I receive an invite that really appeals to me and I just can’t say no. When Moonpig invited me to an afternoon of cake, scones and bubbly to showcase the Moonpig Mother’s Day range, who was I to say no?

Upon arrival at the beautiful Montegue Hotel in Bloomsbury, the girls were seated at a table conveniently close to the treats and snacks, and while they were entertained with a colouring and stickers and other child-goodies, I had a chance to have a browse round the flowers, gift sets and treats Moonpig have on offer for mums this Mother’s Day.  I also managed to sneak a back and shoulder massage, which was bliss after carrying Aviya the whole way there!

The Moonpig Mother’s Day range is really lovely. Yes, they gave me delicious cupcakes and a very tasty glass of Prosecco, but that’s not bribery folks – I’d be very happy to receive a Mother’s Day gift box from Moonpig!

Moonpig Mother's Day

You may have used them in the past to send cards, or known that they are one of those services that lets you send a card directly to your recipient, but it seems that not many people know that Moonpig also do gifts along with your cards, and with many gifts you actually get your card free.

One of the things I really like about  Moonpig is the quality of the gifts they’ve aligned with. I have in the past ordered a gift to be delivered direct, only to see it afterwards and be mortified. That will not happen with these brands: Lindt, Montezuma, Beau Jardin, to name a few.
Moonpig Mother's Day

Another thing I like, and was surprised by, was the value for money. These gorgeous bouquets start at £25 and go up to £100 and are huge. I am kind of kicking myself for the times I’ve sent measly little bouquets for not a lot less.

There are also gift boxes from £40, so you can get your Moonpig Mother’s Day gift ordered at the same time. A lot of the bloggers and press at the event were raving about the Breakfast in Bed Box, which come with Champagne, Twinings English Breakfast Tea, Brazilian Real Trade Ground Coffee, Folkington’s Valencia pure orange juice, Scrumshus Granola, Ouse Valley Four Berries Jam, Ouse Valley St Clement’s Marmalade with Whisky, and a flower & Milk bottle vase. It also comes with a fabulous toast stamp that says ‘Good Morning’ – I love that, and specifically that it’s not Mother’s Day specific, so it can be used on any day of the year.
Moonpig Mother's Day

While that is indeed a great box, I can’t pretend that my favourite isn’t a little more decadent and a little less wholesome: The Montezuma’ Orange and Geranium Flower… 3 or 4 of them tied with a ribbon will do me just fine. They are incredible. Seriously.

montezumaWell, we ate cake. We drank bubbly – me, the girls had milk – and the girls walked away with a little umbrella each, which they are in love with, by the way, and we’ve come away knowing a lot more about Moonpig than we did before.

In case you’re wondering why I think sites like this are fabulous, just last week I finally collapsed into bed and was about to go to sleep when I suddenly jumped up remembering a friend’s birthday, which I had now missed. Then a vague memory came to me about a card, sent, maybe. I checked my sending history, and there it was: a sent card, and a birthday unmissed. Yay.

So, if you’re looking for a card and gift service, try Moonpig – I know I will be!

Moonpig Mother's Day

Pulling Down The Blinds For #BritMumsLive

It’s Britmums Live – the UK’s biggest blogger event for parent bloggers – this weekend, and I’m heading there today. I’m very grateful to be sponsored by Hillary’s Blinds – see what I did there with the title?  – who have not only paid for my ticket to the event, but are putting me up in a hotel across the road.

At this point, with one child who doesn’t want to get ready for playschool, and another clambering over me like a jungle gym,  I’m not sure whether I’m more excited about the conference, or about a night on my own in a hotel room! It’s like Christmas, baby! (Please, someone, get the London, baby! Friends reference there?)

Hillary’s Curtains don’t just cover windows. They can make a room and Hillarys can show you how by bringing quite simply the most inspirational collection of made-to-measure blinds, curtains and shutters with over 850 stunning designs and superb fabrics.

Hillary’s Carpets nicely finish up a room, adding luxury, colour or anything else you prefer. From design advice, measuring and no-obligation quotes, to professional surveys, expert fitting and convenient appointment times, their service is tailored to make sure your hopes and expectations are not just met, but exceeded, every step of the way.

If you are decorating, consider Hillary’s as a special favour and thank you from me!

Voucher Codes And Frugal Parenting

I can kick myself if I think about all the years I spent shopping on line and never once knew about voucher codes and discount sites.I spent years paying full price for things, when really, it turns out, there was no need.

Often times, especially if you’re buying from a small business or an independent retailer, you won’t find any codes online, but it’s always worth trying as larger companies often offer discount codes with specific websites, especially those geared to parents. 

Tip when searching for voucher codes: Have a look at the website, i.e. Marks & Spencer and see what they call the box where you’d type in the discount code (usually on the checkout page, so you’ll have to have something in your virtual basket). If they call it coupon, search for Company Name Coupon code, if they call it discount, search for a discount code, if they call it a promotional code, as M&S do, search for promotional code as the company will often offer the code using the same terminology as their website requires it. 

Say I want to see if there’s a free delivery code – I loathe paying delivery for anything, and will pay more for a product that comes with free delivery, rather than paying for postage! So, whether I’m ordering food, drinks and groceries or clothes or even homewares from M&S, I’ll simply Google something along the lines of “Marks and Spencer Promotional Code Free Delivery”. One of the first websites that comes up is MyVoucherCodes .co.uk, which is exactly what you’d expect from the name: a listing of current voucher codes that can be used at that vendor. Again, different websites receive different offers, and many will have exclusive offers specifically for their readers. It’s worth doing a quick scan of the results in your Google search – obviously you don’t want to spend two hours finding a code that’s going to save you £2.

If you are a savvy bargain hunter and deal shopper, you may be rolling your eyes at me right now, but I know so many people who still pay full price for everything they buy. I rarely do, so I’m  hoping sharing this with you will help you save a bit of money here and there on the things you were going to buy anyway.

Planning For The ‘What If’

I’ve been thinking a lot about the future, recently, and in particular about how I should or could be looking after my children. I guess there’s something about having children that puts your mortality into perspective in the starkest way.

One of my favourite movies is A Little Princess, a story about a girl, Sara Crew, whose Dad puts her in the best boarding school while he goes off to war, and makes sure her every need is catered for. He goes missing, presumed dead in the war, and the British government lays claims to his assets, leaving his child a pauper. The headmistress of the boarding school has obvious Daddy-issues and has hated her from the day she arrived, so she takes massive pleasure out of offering to keep this ‘Daddy’s Princess’ on as a servant girl. Of course, being a story, she rises above it and it turns out that her dad is in the house next door, with memory loss.  During a particularly dramatic scene where Sara discovers her dad just as the headmistress wants to have her arrested for stealing – she didn’t – Sara yells “Papa! Papa! It’s me!” … and without fail I break down in tears. E.V.E.R.Y  time.

In a chat with friends, recently, it came to light that while most of us have something in place, none of us really know what exactly we need. So, here’s a composite of our thoughts – I think I need to turn it into a checklist and get on it, really!

1. Final Will And Testament

I guess the first thing you have to think of ‘in the event of’ is where your children will go. It’s a horrible thought, but it must be discussed. In our group it seems to be one of the most wrestled with topics. Many of us live far from our families, and it could be a good few days or weeks before they even knew something had happened! What happens to our children?

I can’t find any actual guidance on this, but I have been told that if you are incapacitated and have been identified, your GP will be notified. You can have next of kin for your children listed with your GP and ‘they’ will be able to notify your family that way.

Deciding who to leave in charge of our children has been one of the most difficult decisions for us, but this should be listed in a will, following discussions. You can leave your children with someone and leave their financial concerns with a different person, or both with the same person.

Most banks will help you set up a will, and it’s well recommended to do so.

2. Money, money,  it’s so funny in a rich man’s world

Most people have a life insurance policy which you can pay in to every month, and then your family receive a lump sum pay out when you die – look at something like Comparethemarket.com to see what the best available options are for you.  This will help toward funeral expenses, certainly, but will also go to the executor of your estate – preferably someone mentioned in your will as someone you trust – so that it can be used to keep your children, look after their education and so on. You can also decide to put the money in a trust for them so that they can access it when they are 18 or 21, but that might put a huge burden of financial responsibility on the legal guardians! (It seems so hard to know the right thing to do, doesn’t it!?

3. Mothers! Plan for your CHILDREN!

Something that I think is really important for mothers especially is making sure your money reaches your children.  A few years back, I had a friend who told me her story, and I learned a really important lesson from it: don’t leave your money to your spouse, leave it to your children!

My friend’s mother died when she was 15, leaving all her payouts to her husband. He remarried 2 years later, when my friend was 17 to someone with three children of her own.  Three years after that, when my friend was 20, her father had a sudden heart attack, leaving his pay out and assets to his wife – his children’s stepmother.  She gave my friend and her two older siblings nothing, investing it all for her own children.  Bonus for her, sure, but his children were left out in the cold. They had no family home to return to and there wasn’t even money to help her for her final two years in university, which her dad had been paying.

I am pretty certain that that had not been her father’s intention and as a mother I’d be turning in my grave knowing that everything I’d saved for my girls never reached them.

So… wills and life insurance, legal guardians and money – what else is there to think of? What other things do you have in place should the worst happen and someone else has to take care of your little ones? 

Money Saving Through Discount Sites

Before I had children, I never knew of the existence of discount sites, coupon codes, vouchers or anything like that. If I ever got anything at a discount, I was really happy about it. I started working for PlayPennies and suddenly a whole world opened up to me for the first time. Now I don’t think I can quite recall the last time I paid full price for a non-grocery item!

Odd as it seems to me now, I know there are still people out there who don’t know about these sites and don’t realise that with a bit of planning, you don’t have to dig quite as deeply into your pockets as you thought.

As an example, there was an offer recently at a chain store for a dolls house, reduced from £20 to £4.99. I have been looking for a dolls house for Ameli for ages now, but haven’t been able to afford it. This was too good to miss, so I bought one. I also bought another, because there are enough friends on our list who will be having birthdays soon, and quite frankly, nothing I can buy for under £5 is going to compare to this!

Now, I don’t have the time to trawl website after website every day to find the best deals, so that’s where companies like Groupon, My Voucher Codes, PlayPennies, Zulily and others come in – they kind of do the hard work for you, and you just sift through what you want and don’t want.

Of course, it’s not a bargain if you didn’t want it or don’t need it, so if you don’t want to sign up for emails, newsletters and RSS feeds from these sites, you can do something else that never occurred to me: do a Google search.

Say for example I want to buy my daughter a pair of shoes from Clarks, rather than just paying the full fee and postage, do a search for something like “Clarks Voucher” or “Clarks Discount Code” (it’s also worth searching independently for free shipping, i.e. “Clarks Free Shipping”) and seeing whether there are any valid discount codes. If you can unexpectedly receive your postage free, or 20% off what you were expecting to pay, just by doing an additional search, why not?

I really don’t believe that parenting has to be as expensive as people make it. In fact, I know it doesn’t. The best advice I can offer is to have a bit of money in your account specifically so that when you see something that is a good deal, you can grab it up, and put it away.

I have on more than one occasion woken up on the day of a second or third birthday party and found I don’t have a present for the child in question. A stop at a toy shop en route to the party normally means we arrive there late, stressed and having purchased something for the full price. With a little planning and a spare corner at the top back of my wardrobe, I now always have something that would be suitable, saving my sanity, and my pocket.

Do you have any money saving tips or favourite websites you depend on? Please share in the comments below!

June Sponsors

I’m working on increasing advertising for eco, green, and best for baby/toddler/family products on the site at the moment and look forward to bringing you more products that enrich our lives without damaging our world.  Do remember to click through to our sponsors from time to time. We appreciate it!

Zulily

ZulilyWe love all things Zulily around here. Zulily offers daily deals for parents and children, with popular brands such as Galt, Melissa and Doug, and a host of beautiful clothing, maternity wear and more on sale for three days at a time. If you love quality and gorgeousness, sign up for the daily email and start saving on brands you probably use already!

Keep Britain Breastfeeding

A month-long carnival of breastfeeding information, support and a scavenger hunt. Win prizes, learn something and have fun on the way! Sign up for the KBBF Scavenger Hunt.

Baby Natural

Baby Natural is your go to place for organic and natural baby products. They are also the UK’s sole distributor of gNappies. Many of the products we use and have reviewed, you’ll also find at Baby Natural.

Little Bliss

Little Bliss is my Baby Massage and Rhythm Kids business. I love watching the bond between parents and babies grow and love equipping parents with the skills to entertain, soothe and comfort their babies. After all, a happy baby makes for much easier parenting!

Urbanvox

Yuri is a fantastic location photographer. He came to our house and did these pregnancy and newborn shots for us.

Placenta Encapsulation

I was really lucky to have Krishna from the Independent Placenta Encapsulation Network turn Aviya’s placenta into capsules for us. If you’re in the Guildford area, she’s your woman!

Please visit and support our sponsors! We wouldn’t recommend them if we didn’t think they were great!

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May Sponsors

Without sponsors, I couldn’t justify the time I spend on these pages.  While it’s a hobby, it’s also how I pay for the things I do with my children – a blessing of modern life, right?  I’d like to tell you a little more about the companies that sponsor us!

Baby Natural

Baby Natural is your go to place for organic and natural baby products. They are also the UK’s sole distributor of gNappies. In fact many of the items you’ve seen reviewed here, you’ll also find at Baby Natural.

Little Bliss

Oh, this is nepotism at its best – I’m advertising me! Little Bliss is my business. Baby Massage and Rhythm Kids. I love watching the bond between parents and babies grow as they become more confident with their kiddies. It’s wonderful.

Urbanvox

Yuri has been a wonderful photographer for us and did these pregnancy and newborn shots for us. He works wherever the work is (within limits!) so check out his site.

Placenta Encapsulation

I have a few posts coming up on placentas and their function and benefits. I was really lucky to have Krishna from the Independent Placenta Encapsulation Network turn Aviya’s placenta into capsules for us. If you’re in the Guildford area, she’s your woman!

Please visit and support our sponsors! We wouldn’t recommend them if we didn’t think they were great!

(If you’d like to sponsor us, get in touch or purchase your button ad directly!)