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AD | VALENTINES DAY GIFT IDEAS

Wednesday, 6 February 2019
So with Valentines Day being just around the corner I bet your other half is asking you one thing ... 'We don't do cards, do we?' - Emmm, yes - yes we do! It always makes me laugh a little when the subject is broached because there's always that instant panic of what to buy, how to be thoughtful and original. I've been working with Amazon Handmade over the past year and I'm thrilled to be writing this post in collaboration with them. I've been sent some beautiful handmade and personalised items to give you an idea of the things you can get on there this Valentines to make it really special.

Amazon Handmade is equally special because it provides artisans with a place to be seen, so it's always lovely knowing that the item you purchased has been crafted with care and is helping to support a creative in doing a job they love.


I for one love all things personalised, usually so I can put my stamp on the things that are rightfully mine - like that posh moisturiser I bought on a Spa Day and use sparingly that my lovely husband decides to snaffle at every opportunity. This little wash bag with scripted name emblazoned on it is sure going to provide me with a safe hiding spot and looks pretty too! I love the size of this it's perfect for trips away, overnight stays and fits lots inside. I know I'll get good use of this and I love the canvas material it's made from it's very on-trend. Still in wedding mode I also thought these would make for cute bridesmaids bags too!
Amazon Handmade Personalised Makeup Bag by MYOG Prints, £6.95


We are all about the kids. In fact, every single time we have them watched to go out for a meal or date night all we end up doing is talking about them! (Anyone else?) So with that being said I know that anything relating to them is always going to be a hit. Being a digital world we have become all too accustomed to the technologies of a backlit photograph from our phone and tablet screens and it's lovely that we are becoming better at documenting and taking more pictures but actually having them printed is really special. Nothing beats a real photo. It took me a while as there are so many but this is my absolute favourite picture of Ella and Charlie, not because it looks cute but because this picture transports me to a memory and a happy time. I remember this day we took off to chill with the kids in the garden and enjoy the amazing Summer. We fell asleep in the garden under the parasol and had a BBQ when we woke up. We laughed, we played, we splashed in the paddling pool and each time I see it I remember what a brilliant day we had. So for that reason I picked this one to be framed and I adore the retro scrabble style lettering of the kids names too. Amazon Handmade Personalised Frame by Crafty Teapot Designs, £18.99



I remember one year we went on holiday and I watched a woman blow glass and create a beautiful vase. If you've ever seen this before you'll know how mesmerising it is. I was completely fascinated at the process and how they can introduce different colours it's pretty cool. This little vase was made like this too. I really love how dinky it is, I was looking for something to bring a little bit of colour to the room in this corner to marry in the pinks. I might even end up placing it in my office!
Amazon Handmade Posy Vase by Bath Aqua Glass, £25
If you're looking for a thoughtful gift then there are lots to be found on Amazon Handmade. Last year we got a personalised chopping board with our names and wedding date on it and we use it every day. Just some of the gifts that are available you can check out more here :

What do you do for Valentines Day?

#AD #handmadewithlove #amazonhandmade #valentinesday #willyoubemyvalentine





HAPPINESS CAN BE HANDMADE *AD

Wednesday, 12 December 2018
Present purchasing, it divides us. You either love it or loath it. But regardless of whether you are practically Santas right hand man or would give the grinch a run for his money there’s something we all have in common - the desire to find the perfect gift. Personally I’ve always loved giving, thinking something through and seeing the delight in someones face when I’ve got it right it’s such a lovely exchange. I’m definitely a big believer in ‘it’s the thought that counts’ and materialistic items and overpriced junk can be picked up by anyone. It takes a little more thought to make a present a real gift.



There’s always something really special about a handmade gift knowing that it’s not factory bred and made in the masses - degree of exclusivity if you will. Even more so if the item is personalised with a message or name, thats always bound to make it unique and less conventional.

When trying to think of a present for my trickiest to buy for, I make a mental list of their interests and hobbies, funny jokes we have together or a memorable moment and then think of a way to make that personal thought into their gift. Amazon Handmade is a one-stop shop where you can find a mass of beautiful handmade items crafted by small businesses and made with love. People who are truly passionate about the work they do and deliver a little bit of happiness to each purchaser.

We have a few festive items from Amazon Handmade ourselves. Being such a huge fan of Christmas time and all of the traditions that go along with it, I’ve always made the kids a ‘Christmas Eve Box’ full of goodies and activities for the night before Christmas. As Charlie was just a baby last year he didn’t have one but this time he is set and ready to join in on the festivities. This beautiful hand crafted personalised box would make for the best early Christmas present for any little tot. The simplistic design is so timeless and I have to admit I do get a little sentimental thinking that this is the exact box I’ll be reaching for year after year to fill with happiness for my little boy. And then to think in years to come I’ll tell him he’s had it since 2018. WOW. It’s just astounding to think that the memories start here.


Similarly Ella has a stunning personalised sack for all of her Christmas presents from Santa. It adds to the wonder and magic of Christmas time to show that her name is actually on the sack. I told her it was a little present from her Elf, Buddy and she wasn’t to open it until Christmas Day. The delight on her face was a real picture.


Reading with the children has always been a real pleasure of mine, even if Charlie is still at the impatient pulling pages stage where he wants to see what happens next or otherwise he heckles me through the entire book speaking gobbledy gook louder than me to drown me out! Nevertheless we do enjoy a good story and what better story to enjoy than a story about you! Ella has a little book made up all about where she stays, stating the street name and mentioning a few familiar names thoughout. It’s such a thoughtful and unusual present to give and definitely something I’m keeping in mind for birthday presents this year too. Similarly Charlie has a beautiful one all about nursery rhymes, a bit more appropriate for his stage of development too and great since he does love a sing song.


As much as the idea of a personalised gift is so lovely for the person intended for, for me it’s also great to know that your purchase is helping to support another person achieve their dreams and channel their passion into something tangible as a career. Being a creative myself it really motivates me to shop small and stay local and that doesn’t always mean it’s offline. Amazon Handmade is an incredible platform for small shops to establish and bring beautiful handmade items to our Christmas lists with ease.


This post is sponsored by Amazon Handmade* 

THE KIDS DO THE WEEKLY FOOD SHOP | LITTLE TIKES SHOP 'N' LEARN SMART CHECKOUT | *AD

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

You know sometimes the kids get a toy and you end up totally engrossed in it yourself? This is that kind of toy. As the kids age gap is closing I’m finding them playing with the same toys together so when I can find an item that’s great for sharing play as well as independently then I’m all for it. My two kids are always in the shops with me as I can never find the time to go without them so they were seasoned pros at this from the get go, it’s the incredible Little Tikes Shop ’n’ Learn Smart Checkout & Lil Shopper. 



Usually I have a mini breakdown when it comes to toy assembly especially when there are two eager kiddies desperate to get stuck in impatiently waiting in the wings the Smart Checkout is super straight forward, you simply raise the folding arm (you can put this back down for storage purposes later if required which is handy!) add the basket, clip in the flashing aisle number and you’re ready to go. It takes 4xAA batteries so no unnecessary trips to the shop finding obscure battery packs the worst case scenario is you do what I did, borrow them from an unused TV remote meantime ha!



The checkout comes complete with over 35 pieces of recognisable groceries that are ingeniously detected by the tills scanning point, much to Ella’s amazement. This instantly made it go from good toy to wow toy, she was puzzled at how it could tell the names of each item, it’s like magic. I must admit I was very impressed with the quality of the groceries, they’re made from a smooth heavy plastic that will not dent or budge because lets face it, who likes a crater in their orange?! 




For us Mums the next point is a huge benefit. There are specific sections for each food range, for example a fully opening fridge with a light for meat, dairy & poultry, a basket for the breads, shelves for the fruit and veg and a stand for the snacks. A place for everything, everything in it’s place.  



So let's chat about the play experience. The kids were just free playing, using the lil shopper selecting the items they needed for their home - such good imaginative exercise for them! Once they were ready to pay they worked the scanner, listening carefully for the names of the groceries that they didn't already know which is something I find will be very valuable for Charlie as he is in the Prime learning stage starting to repeat new words and form sentences. Once the item was scanned they took it sort of in turns to place it on the fully functioning conveyor belt until their trolley was empty. At the end of the conveyor belt there is a hanging space for the little shopping bag and as they items fall off the end of the belt they drop straight into the bag.



Now in this shop there are 3 ways to pay : coins, cash or card. Each note can slide through a slot in the til to pay, equally the same applies to coins and there is a carder reader too! 




This is all amazing and the kids spent around an hour playing with this as it was however with the introduction of the Smart Checkout App that can be downloaded for free on the app store the level of interaction was elevated. There is a really cool little space and holder for a tablet to be kept in place on the checkout. I watched as Ella was challenged to many games, some being a 'search and find' style of game, some counting, other time challenging and an element of songs and free play time too. Ella face really lit up as a brightly coloured orange carrot chatted her through the steps. 


The following morning I challenged Ella to take her new shopping skills and hit the supermarket for real this time, off she went with her Lil Shopper and picked up her version of essentials which included : apples, bacon, chocolate peanuts and nappies for her brother. Not a bad weekly shopping list I say!




Overall I'm incredibly impressed with this toy. It's strong, robust and provided hours of interactive, valuable entertainment for the kids. The recognisable technology in the scanner is super clever and the design is something that has been well thought out. I think it's excellent value for money and would make for a wonderful 'big' Christmas gift to siblings as a joint present or independently too.

This post is sponsored by Little Tikes*

NEW HOME SHOPPING WITH US *

Monday, 29 October 2018

Honestly, I thought I knew of all of the shopping centres, parks and outlets in Glasgow and the surrounding areas so when I was invited along to The Centre, Livingston I was surprised I hadn't been before then! It was a miserable Saturday morning, but one of those days where all you want to do is get up, grab breakfast and quickly get out the door. That's exactly what we did, blaring 'The Greatest Showman' soundtrack the whole car journey - yes, we are that family you see at the traffic lights belting out our best!

This is a total 'mum comment' but my initial thought when we arrived was ah - plenty of parking. Great! I know it's so basic but with the two kids I want to be able to get parked easily and know I won't struggle to juggle all the bags back, that's one of those things that can make or break a day out.



When we walked through the centre I couldn't get over the size of it. It has all my favourite shops all under one roof - H&M, River Island, Next, Topshop, PRIMARK (eeeeek!) but we will get to all of those in a second! We headed to the information desk that was impressively manned by 2 lovely members of staff, happy to point people in the right direction or lend a hand. Kids being kids, Charlie was just having one of those mornings where he didn't know if he was hungry, tired or just a bit bored so when we found out there were little car trolleys available for rental it really made a difference. We parked & locked up our pram and swapped it for 2 cars, one pink with flowers on and the other red and sporty - much to the kids delight! Now we were now ready to have a wander.



The Centre prides itself in it's ShopEatPlay message, reminding families that's it's the ideal place to take children as an all day experience, fulfilling all your needs in one visit, under one roof. You know you just get a vibe walking around somewhere for the first time? I could feel a real sense of warmth and happy atmosphere when we were finding our bearings. Keeping in mind this was a Saturday mid-morning, it really should have been carnage but it has to be said it was surprisingly peaceful.



With the keys being handed over to us pretty soon at this point, we were desperate to have a nosey in Debenhams especially since I spotted they had a sale on. The idea of looking at homeware for the new house is dreamy to Fraser and I, but the kids? Hmmm... I knew better than to take them there undistracted unless I wanted a bill for damages in the store ha! So usually if we are out shopping for the day we like to make a bit of a fuss of the kids and let them pick a toy, particularly if it's a day like today and we are out for hours - I can understand how they could get a bit bored and I always feel all the mum guilt for dragging them about the shops. This way it's fun & exciting and lets face it, a small price to pay for a peaceful easy life! The Entertainer and Build-A-Bear where the two they debated over but with Ella's want for a new LOL Surprise doll The Entertainer toy shop tipped the scale. With one in hand and a Paw Patrol Fire Engine in the other they were delighted and Fraser and I felt smug knowing we had bagged ourselves some time to have a good look around Debenhams.

To our delight we found that most things were on sale individually and if not then it fell under the 20% off selected homeware range! I spotted an item on my wishlist for less than half price and could hardly believe my luck, a Nespresso machine for £65! I knew that had to come home with me along with a beautiful marble utensils holder from Julien MacDonald, the matching chopping board, some good quality knives and some clever JosephJoseph drawer storage. Shop one complete and we had certainly worked up an appetite!


Although the choice of eateries is vast in The Centre, being the creatures of habit that we are we decided a good Nando's was in order. Luckily its located right beside the entrance point so we didn't get soaked in the typical Scottish weather. In Nando's I had to laugh, the managers shirt was literally the EXACT same as charlie’s green and black plaid one, the only difference being that his had the Nando's logo embroidered on, he had the same hair colour and literally looked like the mini and big versions of each other. The manager thought it was funny too and soon after the kids tummies were full and ready for some play time.



The Centre is not only home to many great shops but they know how hard it can be at times to keep the kids amused (and sometimes the husbands!) Inside you'll find their incredible softplay area 'Aerial Adventures!'. Its a super futuristic space theme with dark areas of play as well as lots of ball pit, climbing frames and also a basket ball shoot game that Charlie and Ella adored. It made for a fantastic sensory experience and the age range of the kids was wonderful catering to all family types. Fraser & I were able to grab a coffee, get a plan of action into place for afterwards at the same time as catching a breather and letting the kids tire themselves out.


For older children or as kindly displayed by the big kid that is my husband, you can take advantage of the HiClimb - a vertical assault course 12m above the ground, HiFall - a 12m free fall set to make your adrenaline pump, and HiRide - a 20minute Aerial adventure course, zipline and obstacles 13m in the air. Both Fraser and I agreed that it would be a brilliant laugh to do this with friends or even as part of a works christmas night out coming soon! 






Both thrilled after their fun time in the softplay area, the kids were tired out and Charlie decided to go for a nap. This gave us a lovely chance to spend some time with Ella who has been so excited about moving house for the same reason as myself ... for the BATH! We made our way to Lush & Ella picked out a few delicious bath bombs for herself, and of course I couldn't resist one either! It was a little milestone for Ella going in and picking her own things, like a big girl! 



Since we had our essentials for the home, some nice bath bits, it only felt right to head to Primark and pick up some pjs, bedding and socks too! I was amazed that The Centre actually had a Primark! It's a nice one too, well laid out and has 3 floor levels! We managed to pick up some pjs and a dressing gown too!


I have to say, we were more than impressed with the centre itself, the staff we met were all wonderful and you can really tell they're adding more value to the shopping experience especially to cater to families. Its design is beautiful, spacious and modern as you can see from the photos and we can't wait to head back soon to see the Christmas decorations as they're going up next week! So exciting!

Thank you so much to The Centre Livingston for having us, we thoroughly enjoyed our day. You can expect to see us more often. If you fancy taking a trip there for yourself I've left a link to the website here www.thecentrelivingston.com and directions below to get there.

*sponsored by The Centre Livingston

MAKING THE MOST OF THE EVERY DAY ERRANDS WITH FORD ECOSPORT*

Saturday, 10 March 2018
I'm sure every parent can relate, sometimes getting out the door can be immensely challenging. Add another child and a dog to the equation - it can be a bit of a juggle. I often worry about having the work/life/family balance right. My to-do list is as big and chaotic as my laundry pile and I feel like the kids grow a month older every hour. Okay, slight over-exaggeration but I want to spend as much time as I possibly can playing and connecting with them while they are still pre-school age. I find the best way to make the hours in the day work for us is to make the most of the everyday chores and errands and inject a little bit of adventure where we can. This keeps the mum guilt at bay but also keeps life ticking over in order. Pretty much a win-win.

Due to our location, anything we do usually involves a car trip - whether it be the nursery run, grocery shop or even a walk with the dog. We rely on the convenience of our own transport to get the job done (& in all honesty if we didn't then I do NOT know how we would cope!). I've documented a few days in our life to show you that we are, like most, a very normal family doing regular things but always trying to make it the most fun & educational for the kids. 

Before I jump in, I want to thank Ford for collaborating with us on this post and lending us the lovely EcoSport Family car to use this week as we share our day-to-day with you. 

NURSERY TIME

Fraser works shifts and my Mum is part-time, so where I can I like to take Ella to nursery on her own - just the two of us while Charlie is being watched. She thinks this is great, a real treat that it's her time. Our day usually always begins with a mad dash out the door - why is five minutes in the morning less time than five minutes the night before?! We have a laugh about her 'spinny' car seat and pretend she's on 'The Voice'. I have a playlist of all of Ella's favourite songs, and believe me, it's longer than playlists of my own! Once I've connected the phone to the car and get our music on it's time to sing our way to Nursery - yes, we are that family. The ones you see at the traffic lights belting out their best. It's great fun and keeps her entertained on boring trips plus I adore listening to her little voice attempting to hit the high notes, it makes me melt!


Pick up time is always lovely. There's really nothing nicer than when that classroom door opens and they run into your arms. Once we have shoes & jacket on, we usually count our steps, hop, skip or stomp our way back to the car which is another task - find where Mummy parked the car. It was a little trickier than usual as we are using the Ford EcoSport this week but she still managed to find it!


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MAKING THE MOST OF THE LIGHTER NIGHTS

Now that we are approaching Spring and the nights are becoming lighter, we are trying to make the most of the evenings when Fraser comes home from work.




We tend to go a little road trip to take Lola out her interesting walks and are fortunate that we have some stunning places within a drive's reach. We love discovering new places and we vowed at the beginning of the year that we would spend more time discovering Scotland. Most of the trips require a bit of planning, organisation and in most cases time so the longer distance discoveries usually have to wait till the weekend. Until then, we tend to make our way to country parks locally or in this case we set off up the Campsie Hills just in time to watch the sunset. 


As a rule of thumb, family plans never go as intended - demonstrated beautifully by Ella who decided to opt out of the walk and napped instead. Not ones to be deterred by a minor change we parked up and had more of a stationary experience - ha! Lucky for us, Charlie can't yet walk so he was happy to bird watch from the comfort of my arm by the car. 


Lola also came out to stretch her legs for a while although to be fair I think she enjoyed the spacious car boot more! I love the way the door opens and closes in the EcoSport. I usually get the fear of bumping Lola's head as I close our own but this way is so much better. The rear window is low enough for her to do her nosey as we travel and she's also a part of the chat as she can see over the back seats.



When the sun set it was bitter cold, I've never been more grateful for a heated seat! We gave my Mum a call on the handsfree to instruct her to get the kettle on as we went to defrost and eat their biscuits for a visit. 




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PARENTING RULE #268 : MAKE EVERYTHING THEIR IDEA

My three pieces of parenting advice are this :
  • Coffee
  • The art of distraction 
  • Involvement 
On that last point, this is the ONLY way I can get the food shopping done successfully (with a touch of the first and second points thrown in for good measure!) 




Her favourite thing to do in the supermarket is select nuts from the pick & mix station and use the scoops to fill her little bag. Of course, her snack of choice are the roasted almonds... The most expensive ones in the section so we pay the price for the good behaviour - a chocolate surprise egg now seems more appealing... and cheaper! In-between Ella's snack picking I frantically throw all the essentials we need into the basket, avoid the sweetie aisle and then we head to the check out. 




For us, having a big family car boot is an absolute must. If not for the dog, pram or sleepover trips to Nana's where they practically pack their entire rooms - then definitely for the food shopping. We did a relatively small shop dash today but believe me, if you watch my grocery hauls over on my channel then you know that my usual kitchen filler is plentiful! The average car would undoubtedly have shopping bag passengers on the seat no doubt setting off the seat belt alarm the entire way home which isn't annoying at all... but thankfully no issues with that here.


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CHAT WITHOUT 'KIDTERUPTION'

Everyone laughs because the thing I look forward to most when I'm having a break from Mum duties - whether it be a night out or something as simple as a child-free dentist appointment - is the conversations I can have start to finish without 'kidteruption' as I call it. Fraser & I barely get a chance to catch up with each other without having to meet the demands of our little loves mid-conversation, anyone else?! Some of the stories I want to tell him literally only last a minute real time but add 2 kiddies to the mix and I'm pretty sure I have been trying to tell that same story for over a week. That being said, we usually find the best way to get a good chat is to go a drive for coffee. OH YEAH! Living that wild parenting life! But seriously, those kids just love the sound of the car engine, the warmth of the heating and being cosy in their seats. This combo on an afternoon is sure to knock them for six making it the perfect time for Fraser and I to grab a hot one and have a gab. It seems the only shots we have these days are the extra espressos in our lattes but we wouldn't change a thing!


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It's funny, we don't necessarily DO anything out of the ordinary - but I love how we make the ordinary something fun to do. The kids are our constant entertainment turning even the most normal of jobs into a story to be retold at the next family get-together. I think it's as simple as this. Having the ability to move and change the scenery for a while adds a freshness to the day/week/month but making sure we can do it altogether is what counts. It's so important to us to grow together, our dog included because we are a family. The five of us. And it's the most regular of things like a family car trip where we can go and enjoy new experiences together that our children will cherish as a memory. 'I had the best time playing my tablet all day long when I was 6' said no kid ever. Go adventure!

This is a paid partnership with Ford. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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