Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Tiny Tickers- Heart week 2015 (Feb 7th-14th)

There are so many charities about at the moment that sometimes the newer, lesser known ones need a bit of a push to 'get out there' which is why I am helping promote the Tiny Tickers charity this week as it really seems like such a great cause.

I was shocked to read that congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common birth defect in the UK responsible for 7.5% of baby deaths, which is a shocking amount in my opinion. Research has proven that the earlier CHD is detected the better the babies chance of survival. Sadly only a 1/3 of 3000 babies are detected with before birth, and a further 1/3 detected after birth which means 1000 babies go home with no one realising they have a life threatening heart defect.

Which is why Tiny Tickers is trying to improve the early detection to ensure the babies have the best start and care they need from day one. This would include CHD screening before birth, testing for CHD in undetected babies, and creating awareness for undetected heart problems in the home and community (think HEART).

Tiny Tickers are promoting 'Heart Week 2015' and there are many ways you can get involved...of course if the 7th-14th of Feb doesn't suit you can fund-raise at any time of the year!

What can you do?
There are many ideas for what you can do to raise vital funds:
Dress down days
How about a Valentine's bake sale-heart shaped cakes for a heart cause
A Tiny Tickers' & Love Hearts 'Guess How Many Sweets in the Jar' game

Their 'Heart Week 2015' tool kit has everything you need to get you started and remember - every penny counts so anything you can raise will be gratefully received. 
To get your free Heart Week pack, including your Love Hearts 'Guess the Number of Sweets' game, register here now!
To set up a Virgin Money Giving page for your Heart Week activity,click here
To read a real life story about why Tiny Tickers needs your help please read Robbie's story 


Swizzels, Love Hearts and the image of the Love Heart sweet are registered trademarks of Swizzels Matlow Limited.

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Friday, 16 January 2015

A Lego themed party on a budget!

Now Alex, like many boys loves Lego! It was a no brainer that his party would involve a loosely Lego theme! We booked a hall and had around 20 5 year olds to entertain (thankfully with the help of Mum who is a nursery teacher-phew)!

Lego colouring
As with all parties you don't get everyone turn up at once so we had printed various colouring sheets for the children-these were all found online and there are plenty to choose room. We had a range of the Lego movie characters mainly.

Create a Lego Man
One evening I had a really great time cutting out 20+ Lego figures out of yellow card. I manage to fit 3 on one sheet of A4 to give you a rough size. I had ordered lots of stickers and googly eyes for the children to decorate them with and gave this as an option as well as the colouring. Some of them really came out well and my two are pleased there are plenty left for them to use when we draw and make now.

Lego brick game
This is a twist from a game my Mum plays with nursery children at her school. Have four coloured cards behind your back and 4 coloured blocks in each corner of the hall. I had decorated them to look like Lego bricks by covering boxes in wrapping paper and then super-gluing circles to the top of them (the things we do eh)! Basically when the music is playing the children dance and jump about and when it stops they have to run to corner. I am sure you can guess what is next...when the person holding the cards pulls one out the children on that colour are out. When you get down to 4 children or less they have to run to different coloured blocks rather than being on the same one. The kids really enjoyed this and we played it quite a few times!

Pin the piece of resistance on Emmet
It couldn't be a Lego party without Emmet involoved or of course a pin! I actually drew this the morning of the party in a rush-the boys have since enjoyed colouring it in. I just cut out red paper 'pieces of resistance' and took blue tac with us. This is quite a good game to do whislt someone brings the food out!

Lego head cake
I simply baked egg sponge in a brownie tin I have which is square with rounded edges, and also a 2 egg sponge in a loaf tin. The square shape made the perfect Lego head shape, and I just cut the loaf cake into the right lengths for the top and bottom parts. I spread yellow icing all over (I used butter icing because I suck at rolled icing!) and then cut two circles for the eyes and cut a shape for the mouth out of black rolled icing.

Lego moulds
These were probably the only thing I really spent money on-Lego figure and Lego brick moulds that I bought on eBay. I melted chocolate into the brick moulds (I had tried using food colouring with white chocolate but it didn't work out) and left to set and then used fondant icing to make the coloured Lego figures-bit tricky to get out so if anyone has any tips on that I would be grateful! These would be great if you wanted to use for making your own crayons too.

Lego party cake cups
Now this year I just did not have the money to spend on plastic tat for party bags, neither the money to buy Lego stickers or anything remotely good to give so I decided the main part Alex usually gets excited about is the sweets anyway! So I filled up some normal plastic cups with some sweets and the Lego chocolate bricks and placed a cupcake on top which had yellow icing and a Lego icing man on top too. Wrapped and tied with cellophane and ribbon to make something simple look a bit nicer!

Hope these ideas will be helpful for you, apologies for some iffy photos I forgot to take proper ones on the day as was too busy preparing food and getting everything together!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

What 2015 has in store for me

Well it is nice to be back, and the house is starting to feel like home, albeit a slightly bare one at the moment!

This year I would really like to make a few changes, I let myself slip a bit last year!

Family comes first
I think it was a build up of nerves and anxiety about the wedding, the pressure I put on myself to make anything and everything I could for the wedding leaving not much time for anything else-I know I didn't always put the boy's needs first. I turned them down, and didn't play with them anywhere near enough, we barely did any crafts and I just feel I didn't do my best to make them enjoy their time at home last year. I think it became a habit to be on the laptop or my phone far too much, and yes I am sure that may still be the case but I'd really like to cut down and and enjoy the hear and now rather than watch and everyone else's here and now. I got a bit too selfish with my 'me' time and this needs to change in me-harder to do than it is to write though!

Us time
Now it is no surprise I like some of my technology but that is nothing compared to James-he is never too far from an electronic device of some sort. Do you ever find you and your partner sat at opposite ends of the sofa, doing mindless this on your gadgets and not really talking to each other of an evening? Yes that is us, and we need to make more effort to do something together or just switch it all off and talk!

Get outside
Now this might sound odd to regular readers as many of you know I don't drive so walk pretty much every day. But as a family on weekends we don't get outside enough, we end up at shops or something else spending the little money we have. This year I'd like to go out more and explore, we live not far from the Cotswold's and there are many other beautiful places on our doorstop that we have never ventured too-we need to be more active and get out there!

Set up my craft business
Yeah regular readers might be sighing at this one as I am sure I have said it many times that I would like to sell my makes...Thing is I always seem to have an excuse because I am not quite sure how to start, am useless with finances and am a little scared of plunging into the deep end. But now I have a crafting space, we have an office/craft room in our new house now, I can access all of my crafty stash at ease. I just need to take those first steps and stop putting brick walls in front of me! I need to start earning something for my family, even if it is affectively pocket money in value but if it can help towards the mundane food bills or put towards day trips extras and take some of the financial pressure of James then it will be worth it. I don't have the confidence to get a 'proper' job, I don't think my nerves would even let me through to the interview room if I am honest.

I think this fits me very well, I am all but stuck in comfort zones!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

I'm back! Moving house, Christmas and New year antics!

Hello! *waves* I'm back again!

Wow this past month or two has whizzed on by in a bit of a frantic blur. With all our 4 birthday's and Alex's birthday party (which I am yet to post about) between the 20th Nov-and 9th Dec, and a house move 6 days before Christmas I am quite pleased it's January!!

After thinking the move wouldn't happen before Christmas on the 15th Dec things soon changed and we were able to move on the Friday-hurrah!

It was madness, it was the first proper move we have ever had to encounter as we had both moved from our parent's house's into our lovely little coach house.

Our house which we had called home for just over 5 years, the place we'd brought home both our boy's wrapped in blankets from the hospital, where we did all our wedding planning and walked in as a complete family of 'Spencer's'. It felt odd seeing all the walls and surfaces empty, suddenly the memories played over in my mind as I sat hoovering the last of the mess on my own-there was a slight tear in my eye but a great longing to get to our new home.

We moved on our own with the help of our old neighbours and some of their church friends. Their help was invaluable! There is no way on earth we could have done it all without all their help with all our family either holidaying in America or on their last day of work. Luckily the buyer didn't need the keys until the evening so was happy for us to take the time we needed-thank goodness it was an investor who didn't mind!

In the evening that followed I wanted to cry at the state of the kitchen, I had never seen anything like it, luckily my parents had the boys for 2 nights in the end as it took me a day and a half to clean the kitchen, we replaced the oven as even strong chemicals couldn't fight of the years of grime!

We somehow, with the help of a few people dropping in, got the house ready just in time for Christmas, even getting a huge Christmas tree the Sunday before Christmas for a bargain £5-James had to chop off about 2 foot of it to fit it in!!

Christmas although hectic, was lovely, it was so fantastic to be in a our new home for it, the boys had space to open their presents and enjoy them rather than us all being on top of each other in the same room.

At lunch we headed to my parents for a traditional and lovely Christmas dinner, we were all so tired we all nearly fell asleep on my parents sofas afterwards! It was nice and relaxed, we were actually back the next day as one set of my grandparents were there. The day after was a big family affair, with meeting James' relatives in Newbury for lunch then heading to an even larger gathering at my Grandparent's house with all my Mum's side of the family!

Santa was very tired from all the hard work!
We had a busy few days sorting out the house and having a late Christmas with James' family once they were back from holiday. New years eve was spent at home with my parent's who had made dinner for us-will be inviting them again ;) and we ended the holiday with a meal with James' sister and partner.

I feel I have been diddled out of a Christmas holiday, but in some ways it is nice to get back to some normality too!

So happy new year to you all, and I hope you continue reading xx

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Sam turns two!

(Before I start his birthday was last week...oops!)

Well it 2 years since you made your slightly early entrance into the world-two years, how?!

You have grown up so much this past year, you are generally such a happy soul.

Your blonde curls made an appearance in the first months of the year- I am not quite sure where you get them from as neither your Dad or I have curls! But boy don't you get a lot of comments on them-and you love it too although you shy away and hide with a little coy smile on your face!

Like many 2 year old's across the country Peppa pig is one of your favourite programs and you pretty much know all the characters which I am not sure is a good thing or not! Although to be honest you will happily watch many children's programmes given the chance-one thing I know we need to try and stop a bit is the tele watching!!

Happy with his George pig top!
You adore your older brother (squabbling aside!) and want to be just like him, you can often be found copying his games or trying to join in a be much older than you really are. It is so funny and wonderful to hear you saying things like 'come on buddy' when playing your cars.

Talking of cars, you love them! You can often be found lining them up and creating races, sometimes getting half of our Hot Wheels cars out and taking over the lounge floor!

In contrast to Alex you aren't scared of many things, I always find it funny (and frightening) when Alex is scared of glass balconies in shops with split level and won't go anywhere near it yet you press your nose against the glass and look down, and sometimes can even be found trying to climb up!!

You are generally quite a quiet boy who just gets on, you potter around ours and other family members house and sometimes we almost forget you are there as you are very content. However you are very strong willed and when you want to (or don't) do something we know about it!

Along with your logic you are also pretty amazing at talking, you are now stringing together many words to make sentences, and are even managing to get the tenses of some words right which does surprise quite a few people. Your funniest thing at the moment is doing a Welsh accent with a saying that my Welsh Grandma says-it's actually pretty good as far as impressions go!

We didn't do too much for your birthday as you were a little unwell (and I think we were all birthday'd out!) but your friend G came over for a short while and a small amount of family in the evening for cake.

The cake requested was a 'chocolate Peppa pig cake' so of course that's what I made-not my best cake but you certainly didn't seem to mind!

You had no trouble knowing what to do with the presents this year and got straight into opening them and were obviously desperate to get the items out of their packaging!

on his new wheels!
Happy 2nd birthday! Now we need to work on the terrible two paddys that have appeared since your birthday! But until then I am really looking forward to a Christmas with you and Alex this year!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Christmas favourite wines with Waitrose Cellar

You may have seen my post the other day on the handy Christmas dinner calculator from Waitrose, well I have had another fabulous opportunity to review some of their wine selection too!

Christmas is a busy time of year where pretty much everyone is either entertaining or going somewhere to be entertained, and whether you drink or not it is often polite to have or bring a bottle of wine for the people who do.

With that in mind I think that Waitrose's 'Our Christmas favourites' selection is a great one to buy for this time of year, as it has something for everyone. Or you could even split it up and give the bottles as gifts-if you aren't to keep them at your own house of course! At £50 I think it is a very good price for the 6 bottles included.

Reindeer's not included!
The set includes:

1 x Villa Vincenta Prosecco NV
Veneto, Italy

1 x Waitrose Sauvignon Blanc, Villa Maria
Marlborough, New Zealand

1 x Laurent Miquel L'Artisan Chardonnay
South of France

1 x Cave De Roquebrun Col De La Serre
South of France

1 x Malvirà Barbera d'Alba San Michele
Piedmont, Italy

1 x The Cubist Old Vine Garnacha Pablo

So that's 1 bottle of something sparkling, 2 white wines and 3 red wines-perfect for our families who love reds but have older relations who prefer white.

We took the Italian red bottle over to James' parent's yesterday as we were having an early Christmas meal before they go away. Unfortunately the wine was corked, just one of those things I guess!

We've not had the chance to try any of the others yet due to not being able to find our bottle opener (thanks to the impending house move)! But I am sure the others will all be lovely-they have certainly called to me the last few days with the house packing stress!

We received one 'Christmas favourite wine selection' for the review, all opinions are our own as always. 

Friday, 5 December 2014

Christmas dinner planning with Waitrose

Many people stress at Christmas time over the all important Christmas dinner, especially if they have more people over than they would normally cater for.

Now I must admit to never having cooked a Christmas dinner, and if I let you in on a secret I rarely cook a roast as often find them too much work-even if it is one of my favourite dinners! However when I do cook a roast I often get the quantities completely wrong and often go way over board with the spuds and not enough of the veg!

This is why Waitrose have come up with a handy tool for Christmas-The Christmas Dinner Calculator.

The Calculator suggests quantities of the popular and traditional Christmas dinner ingredients depending on how many guests you select on the bar at the top. You can choose between a couple and a group of 25 guests.

Now part of our review was to cook an early Christmas meal based on the quantities shown on the calculator chart, although there are 4 of us, I know that Sam doesn't eat much and the boy's aren't the biggest veggie eaters so I did a calculation for a family of 2 and for 3 to suit their likes (knowing that the calculations are based on adults and Sam's portions being teeny) excluding the pigs in blankets which I calculated for a group of 4!

With this is mind our calculations are:
Turkey: 1.5kg (our turkey ended up being 1.8kg as couldn't find a smaller one)
Bread sauce: 150g
Brussels Sprouts: 200g
Roast potatoes: 495g
Red cabbage: 200g
Roasting Veg: 300g
Gravy: 300g
Cranberry sauce: 60g
Stuffing: 225g

All the right weight of food (except for the slight extra on the sausage and stuffing)!
Now when I was preparing this I really thought that there weren't enough potatoes or vegetables, however once cooked I was proven wrong there was plenty between us. I don't think all of us had our biggest appetites this evening but I think on the whole the chart was pretty much spot on, we did have a small amount of red cabbage and sprouts left, and had a lot of turkey left (but bare in mind it was 300g more than the chart said).
Forgot to take a photo with gravy on too due to hungry kids!
 Personally though if I had guests around for dinner I would much rather have a little left than not enough, and who doesn't enjoy a turkey sandwich later in the day? We did admittedly have extra cooked of the pigs in blankets and the gorgeous stuffing which has been nibbled on since the dinner!

This is a very handy tool, I think especially more so for when you have a larger group to cook for than normal as it is very hard to guestimate the quantities for so many mouths! The only thing I did think was a bit odd were the weights for the gravy and bread sauce as this isn't something I would personally measure in grams and would opt for measuring in a jug instead. 

Going forward for next year I think it would be very handy for Waitrose to have a Christmas dinner timings linked to the calculator's quantities and perhaps a few simple recipes that you could click on directly from the 'cabbage image' for an example rather than going to other pages on the site.

If you are planning a party over Christmas there is also a handy Festive Party Calculator too.

This is nothing to do with the post, but we also let the boy's choose items for pudding from Waitrose and they were delicious! 

The icing on the reindeer is to die for! Mmm...
This is a sponsored post but all views and opinions are my own. We received a £60 Waitrose voucher to buy our food and also a few lovely Christmas decorations which will look great in our new home.