Monday, 7 January 2019

2018 - A Look Back at my Bucketlist

Happy new year! I have no idea where the last year went?! It's nuts and also really quite scary where the time has gone. We have had a mixed year, not great but then not totally horrendous either. We've had some brilliant days out, some fab weekends away and 2 lovely holidays to look back on. We also celebrated my Mum's 70th birthday which meant we saw some family that we'd not seen in quite some time. Alfie (7 in May) lost 4 teeth and Elarna (4 in April) is finding her independence - I can't believe she will be starting school this year! They are both developing as individuals and keep us on our toes! As with previous years I don't set resolutions as for me they are pointless, I never keep them! Instead I set goals and aims that I like to try and achieve throughout the year. When reading through my 2018 bucketlist I feel I have definitely achieved some of my outcomes.

In brief, last years goals were great and easily achievable really. My first goal of 2018 was to book a holiday and as I had already arranged our main Summer holiday I added to this by booking some lovely weekends away with friends to Norfolk and to Legoland and then we also went away for October half term to North Yorkshire which was a well earned break.

I also said that I wanted to read more, I have to admit I found this difficult due to time and often getting into bed feeling knackered but I think I have managed to read more than 2017, especially on holiday - I can highly recommend The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Lullaby, 2 particularly good books that stick out for me this year.

My 3rd goal was to enjoy more days out, to go to Legoland and to watch Disney on Ice. We totally smashed this aim! We had loads of fantastic days out as a family, and with friends also. We had an absolutely brilliant day at Dinosaurs in the Wild as well as a couple of other days out in London with the kids, as well as lots of other trips to the cinema, soft play, trampoline parks and zoos and farms. We did also achieve our aim to get to Legoland on a special services day, it was busy and fun packed weekend and it was great to be able to spend the weekend there with our friends and stay in the themed hotel too. We did also get to see Disney on Ice which was so good and we'll definitely be booking for both again this year.  Tying in to this I also said I wanted to enjoy more walks, I would say we got out and about much more, I really do enjoy walking, country walks are my favourite and we had lots of lovely, long walks in 2018.

I had said I wasn't going to take too much on. I don't think I achieved this, we had a busy year. From about October 2018 we were nuts though, we had something planned pretty much every, single, weekend. It was too much, way too much. I also had quite a few shifts at the GP hub (out of hours service) and was finding it difficult to keep these up and maintain a decent work/life balance. Adi started his new job and although mostly home based, at times has been travelling between Norwich and London and this was making getting to be shifts tricky as we would never know what time he'd be home. We were both shattered by Christmas, we did far too much and packed way too much in, this is not happening in 2019 for sure. I want to make sure we have at least 1 weekend a month where we are home with zero planned. 

My next aim was to print and frame some pictures. I finally got around to doing this a few weeks ago and now have a nice photo wall taking shape with some lovely photo memories to look back on, I'm looking forward to adding to this in the coming year. I also wanted to sort out our paperwork which was just dumped in our filing cabinet, thankfully although a very mundane job I did manage to sort it and I feel alot better about that being sorted.

I also wanted to book our 2019 holiday at the end of the year.....yup did that, not Florida or Italy as I stated but back to South of France and Yorkshire. We have such lovely holidays that we wanted to go back....again! Can't wait :) I find booking in advance great and gives us all something lovely to look forward to.

I wanted to bake more, I'm not really sure if I achieved this, I used to enjoy baking but now I tend to just bake cakes and cookies, I did try and do more but perhaps not as much as I'd have liked to. I also wanted to drink less.....hmmmm yeah so that probably didn't happen, ooops.

Finally, I wanted to pay off some debts. This was not an easy thing to do and sadly not something that I have been able to do for numerous reasons - as mentioned at the beginning of the post, although the year hasn't been horrendous there have been a few things that have gone wrong and have required us to spend alot of money and therefore clearing debt has not been possible. It's a shame but perhaps 2019 will be a better year for this!

So this is a quick round up of 2018, I would hope that maybe 2019 might be kinder to us but we shall see. My next post is my 2019 bucketlist, what will be on it this year I wonder? Keep checking back for my 2019 goals!

Friday, 4 January 2019

Becoming SEO Savvy.

I have been blogging for about years now, through this time I have learnt alot about social media, promotion, content and SEO (search engine optimisation). Of course there are things I could improve on but often these things do time and experience to become competent in. I can genuinely say when I very first started blogging I had zero clue about any of this, it was a minefield when I started to learn about it and it's a huge subject. In this latest post I'm going to talk about some simple tips to help you become a little bit SEO savvy.

First of all, lets talk a little bit about what SEO actually means. In simplistic terms SEO (search engine optimisation) is how we grow visibility in our blog/pages/websites through natural (organic) links. We use it to drive traffic to our sites and increase rankings within search engines. 

So what can we do to help with SEO?

- If you need a little assistance with SEO it might be worthwhile investing in a agency such as ppc agency to help with this.

- Create meta tags. These are little snippets of text that tell search engines what your web page or blog is about.

- Get your blog or website featured on other people's site's, this is a great way of not only getting your blog and writing out there but good for some organic links.

- Use ALT tags on images. I really need to start doing this again, it really helps with providing your reader a description of the contents of image file, you can make these clickable links also.

- Chat to more experienced bloggers or freelancers to increase your knowledge and expertise in the area, it's amazing what you can learn of one another.

So here is a handful of simple tips that you can implement to increase your SEO, as you become more experienced you will gain a much deeper understanding and breadth .

Have you get any SEO tips? Please do share them with me!

* Collaborative content

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Tips and Hints when Flying!

So much has changed over the last few years when flying. Admittedly we haven't flown for quite a few years as we tend to ferry and drive with the kids but the day will come when we do head back on a plane and will need to be aware of what we can and can't take on flights these days. Are you aware of what is allowed? How can you make air travel less stressful? In this post I will chat about just this.

- One of the first things I like to do when flying is check in online, it makes things so much less stressy when you can do this and saves such a lot of time.

- I would also suggest checking with your airline what size and weight of luggage you can check in both as hand luggage and in the hold, some airlines now allow a decent sized bag in the hold and I know some of my friends when travelling short haul for a few days will pack and fit it into hand luggage.

- Check with the airport you are flying from there are often services that can help you with your baggage and offer services such as baggage wrapping to protect your luggage while on flights, for further information on their services check out lots of useful services available.

- Do your research before you travel, we all know that certain sizes of liquid are to be taken on board in clear bottles of no more than 100ml, it's much easier if these are prepared prior to going through airport security. 

- When flying with children make sure the tablets are charged, you've packed lots of things to keep them entertained such as magazines, books, colouring and some small toys that aren't too noisy! Take something that comforts them aswell such as teddies or dummies if being used.

- Keep all your travel documents safe, there is nothing worse thinking you may have lost one so keep them close and in a document wallet so they can be easily found.

Of course there are lots of other things you can do to keep everything organised and travel with ease, have a little read of the below infographic for more information and please do share your tips with me!

* Collaborative content

Monday, 31 December 2018

Walking with Blacks *Review*

My husband and I love getting the kids out and about for a nice, long walk. Where we live we are so lucky to have access to some wonderful country side and scenery which can make for some fabulous walks, it can at times be quite muddy and mucky and my Mum would be the first to tell you that I never wear 'sensible' shoes for these types of adventures! It's only been the last couple of years that I have been wearing wellies....I kid you not! We've recently been testing out a few 'outdoorsy' bits and the brands featured in this post have asked for our opinions on them. I suppose the problem both my husband and I had was not having any decent walking boots, it was really something we were lacking. We kindly sent a couple of pairs and I can honestly say they've been saviours!

Sturdy, solid, comfortable and quite wearable are a few of the words that sums up our walking boots. We were sent a pair from the mens walking boots range and a pair from the women's walking boots range.

What did we like?

- The boots are so well designed, there is lots of detail that have gone in to the making of them, from the waterproof lining to the grip supports these boots are great for everyday walking

- Easy to do up, no faffing around and they stay put whilst walking

- Both myself and my husband felt they were very comfortable once we'd worn them in

- They look great, of course walking boots are a bit more cumbersome than your usual boot but these do look really good when worn

Anything we weren't so keen on?

- They do take a bit of wearing in, as with all boots when 1st worn can be a bit achey but the more we'd worn them the better they became

- They are not cheap but quality doesn't come at a bargain price and both our boots were super quality and extremely well made, consider them an investment

I couldn't not add this picture of my hubby messing around...he'll probably kill me when he see's it!

We were also sent some fleeces to try out, we were sent one from the women's fleece range which is a Berghaus fleece and one from the mens fleece range which is a Berghaus fleece and considering the weather over Winter hasn't been your typical wintery weather these have been perfect for the chilly but not overly cold days. These breathable fleeces not only look good but considering just how thin they feel keep you surprisingly warm.

What did we like? 

-  Available in a selection of colours and reasonably priced

- Quick drying so if you get caught in a shower you can be reassured that you'll be protected from light showers

- Both were soft to touch and comfortable

- They wash well which is very important

Anything we weren't so keen on?

- We both weren't so keen on the light blue, we would have preferred a darker colour because that's what we prefer but also doesn't show the dirt quite so much after a muddy walk!

- For myself, I prefer a little bit of a longer fleece, I found it was a bit short, I prefer a jacket to sit over the hips where possible, so for taller ladies it would be very short

Overall the products are perfect for country walks, they have made a real difference to our comfort, especially when on longer, more rough terrain for sure. If you're looking for high quality and comfortable walking attire then head over to Blacks to check out the full range.

* Please note we were kindly sent the items, the brand asked us to share our opinions and all thoughts are our own.

Monday, 17 December 2018

*WIN* a Rescue Runt Toy *review*

Look at this little fella, scruffy little cutie isn't he? Rescue Runts are the saddest, most unruly creatures, they need a good home, a home that can care for them love them and give them some TLC. These loveable little scruffbags need your love to clean them up and spruce them up a bit. Set to be one of the most popular toys this Christmas and if you have kids like mine who love animals this will be a hit.

We were recently sent the cutest little Husky to welcome into our home and make him feel happy. So far he has no name he's simply 'Dog' but when Elarna saw him she just fell in love with him. She couldn't wait to get him out of the box and welcome him into our home. 

Included in the box is the dog (other types are available), a brush, collar tweezer and towel. The concept of the toy is the child cares for the animal and uses the included items to make the pet look fresh clean and loved. Wipe their tears away, clean their paws, take off its bandage, free them of the colourful fleas, brush their fur an perk their ears up. It's just the sweetest concept, my daughter who is nearly 4 thought it was absolutely brilliant. She's such a caring little girl that this was perfect for her, she spent an age making him look all clean and well groomed.

They really do look very sad when you first get them out the box! Once brushed and tears wiped away and ears perked they look so fluffy and new. I purposely haven't included any of the after pictures so it's not spoilt! Rescue Runts are available from Smyths and all other leading retailers for a rather reasonable £17.99. As mentioned there are several varieties available from dogs to unicorns so plenty of choice.

What did we love about Rescue Runts?

- They encourage caring and nurturing behaviour

- The child becomes responsible for the animal, I loved seeing Elarna care for her little pet doggy

- Reasonable price, offers playability with the added extras included in the box

- Different choices so appeal to a variety of ages of children and both boys and girls

- A lovely birthday or Christmas gift!

Anything we weren't so keen on?

- Not really, it's a fabulous little toy and I'm certain it will be a very popular choice for many parents

If you like the look of the Rescue Runts then you are in luck as I have a very special competition to win ONE! How exciting! Scroll down for further details on how to enter.......

Entry is via the Rafflecopter below and is for UK entrants only please. Please leave valid and regularly checked contact details please. I cannot be held personally responsible for the item being sent out, this will be sent direct from the company. All that remains to be said is good luck!

* Please note we were kindly sent the item free of charge in exchange for an honest post, all thoughts are my own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Bloom Magic Flowers *Review*

Is there anything nicer than being sent fresh flowers? I love having fresh blooms throughout the house, it cheers the place up and makes me a happy girl, I love walking through the door to lovely, colourful flowers. In these cold and dreary months a burst of colour and flowers can really lift your mood.

I was recently sent the most beautiful hand tied bouquet from Bloom Magic to review and when it arrived it was the most lovely selection of bright and colourful blooms. The deluxe reverie a saint-germain is a full and seasonal bouquet, hand tied to perfection. 

The bouquet is delightfully hand arranged with a mixture of white and purple roses, lisianthus and one my favourite's....gerbera's. Elegantly presented in a powder blue hat box....very handy if you haven't got a vase as the flowers can be kept in the waterproof hat box, simply top the water up every couple of days to keep them fresh. Each bouquet is unique, seasonal flowers are used to keep the designs of the flowers fresh and vibrant.

A little bit about Bloom Magic: 

Specialists in flowers and specifically hand tied bouquets with a team of artisans you can guarantee if you order flowers to be delivered by Bloom Magic you will receive world class service and luxurious bouquets. With a wide range of flowers gifts to accompany the bouquets you are guaranteed to find the perfect gift be it for birthday, anniversary, celebration or simply for the love of your life.  Delivering across the UK with next day choices available even if you're looking for a last minute gift Bloom Magic can help you out.

As you can see the flowers really are stunning, I adored the mix of vibrant colours in this selection, it really injected a pop of colour into the house and they smelled so lovely. I have several vases but liked the hat box that they came in that I kept them in this to display. The flowers lasted well, several days they kept looking vibrant and even then they only wilted a little bit. They stayed looking decent for almost 10 days!

What did we love about our Bloom Magic flowers?

- The hat box that the flowers arrive is gorgeous and I love that it doubles up on a vase

- Gorgeous flowers, a wonderful choice online to pick from

- Quick delivery and the flowers arrived perfectly intact

- The flowers stayed fresh for several days and didn't drop their petals

Anything we weren't so keen on?

- The flowers are beautiful but not cheap, although there are a variety of options to choose on several of the bouquets so you can spend less if required

- The deluxe bouquet wasn't as big as I was expecting, however it was a beautiful looking selection of flowers

Overall I would recommend Bloom Magic, there is a lovely choice available, the delivery is exceptionally quick and the flowers would I'm be very gratefully received. Head on over to the website and check them out, they have some wonderful Christmas bouquets available at present!

* Please note I was kindly sent the flowers free of charge in exchange for a review, all thoughts are my own.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

*WIN* Beaker Creatures Lab Set *Review*

STEM products are huge at the moment, for those who aren't sure what I'm going on about STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, a term used to encompass these educational subjects. We've been testing out Beaker Creatures Liquid Reactor Super Lab (RRP £25.00 available from leading retailers), I knew that Alfie would love it anything that involves water, mess and general experimental and he is one happy boy.

One rainy Sunday a couple of weeks ago was THE perfect opportunity to open it and have some fun experimenting and messing around with the Beaker Creatures. There are several experiments that you can do and within the box is most of the kit required to have lots of fun and learning while doing so, there are few household items that are needed to do some of the experiments such as food colouring, shaving gel and oil but if you don't have these to hand you can still release the beaker creatures and experiment with mixing the coloured waters.

Included within the 15 piece set are: 

- 2 x beaker creature reactor pods
- 2 x classification pods
- 2 x mini posters featuring science facts and images
- 2 x hydroplungers
- 2 x beakers
- A set of tongs and stirring rod
- Instruction guide for 5 experiments
- Full size poster to display

The super lab is fairly simple to put together but does need a little bit of adult assistance to clip the hydroplungers in to place but that is about it, less than 5 minutes to set it up and have it ready to play. Now I would definitely advise using this somewhere you don't mind getting a little bit wet and also using something that you don't mind getting a little bit discoloured as the coloured eggs do seem to release a fair amount of dye!

To find out what collectible beaker creature was inside the reactor pods you simply pick one up with the tongs provided and add to the beaker. Fill each plunger with water and clip each plunger into the super lab base, then plunge the water into the may need to help your children with this as we found the hydroplungers quite stiff to suck the water up and plunge it.  

Once the water has started to enter the chamber the excitement starts happening, the water will change colour and depending on the pod the water might fizz and foam and spill over the edge! All very scientific and exciting!

Once the water has fizzed and foamed the beaker creature will start to emerge and you can fish it out using the tongs provided. There are several to collect and some rare editions to find. 2 reactor pods come with the set but more can be purchased individually which is good.

The children just loved it, they just love water and mess kids don't they! It was a really great introduction to science and learning about different reactions and why one reactor pod fizzed and foamed and the other didn't. It was very exciting for them seeing the beaker creatures emerge and matching it u against to poster, they are very eager to get some more reactor pods to find some more!

As I mentioned above there are other experiments that you can try....some more messy than the others! We opted to try 'deep blue sea', this one is all about showing the resistant properties of water and oil and how they do not mix, as oil is less dense (takes up less space) it will float to the top creating 2 distinct layers. 

For this experiment to work (pictures further down the post) you need water, blue food colouring and a few spoons of baby oil. Water goes in one beaker and the oil into the other, you then fill one plunger with the coloured water and the other with baby oil, you then plunge the blue water into the chamber then the baby oil. You can see the layers develop and you can see little bubbles of oil appear. We liked this experiment alot, the kids spent quite a bit of time plunging the different liquids together and observing what happened to the liquids when plunged both slowly and quickly, very interesting!

After we'd finished with the deep blue sea we cleared out the oil and added more water and blue food colouring, we still had the orange water left so the kids were then free to mix the colours together and have fun making muddy colours! We then encouraged then to plunge through the water really fast and then really slow to see the difference.

This is such a wonderful way to get children interested and enthusiastic about science and encouraging them to ask questions. My husband is a physicist and he thought it was a great introduction to chemistry and asking why things happen and he felt it was great that it was so interactive. I liked the set, I wished their was a couple more of the reactor pods included for the price (£29.99) but as long as you are inventive and have some of the recommended household extras there are experiments that you can carry out. It's not a set I would advise they go it alone, adult supervision is definitely recommended else it could get very, very messy!

What did we love?

- A fantastic introduction to STEM learning, specifically science

- Clear instructions which are easy to follow

- The super lab is simple to set up, takes a couple of minutes and packs away nicely back into the box

- Can be reused with several other experiments

- Great fun and interactive. Aimed at age 5+ but my almost 4 year old got stuck in and loved plunging the water and watching the water change colour

Anything we weren't so keen on?

- As mentioned above there are only 2 beaker creatures included in the pack, for £29.99 in cost I think another coupe should be included as once you've used these all that really is needed as extra is water, food colouring, oil and shaving foam

- It can get messy! Be prepared for it water goes everywhere and the colouring from both the food colouring and reactor pods can stain

- The hydroplungers are stiff to use, my 2 found them very tricky to use and had to use quite some force, this didn't stop them enjoying it but did mean that we had to help out

I will leave you with a few pictures so you get an idea of all the fizzy, foamy and wet fun that the kids had while experimenting! If you like the look of what you see or have a child that is very much into the STEM toys then I am offering one lucky reader the chance to win one Beaker Creature Super Lab set! Entry is via the rafflecopter below so please do read on and enter.

Keep scrolling down for the rafflecopter to enter the competition!!! 

Please use the rafflecopter below as means of entering. UK residents only and I cannot be held personally responsible for the item being sent this will be sent direct from the company. Please leave valid contact details that are checked regularly so I can contact you if you win. Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway