Tuesday 28 June 2011

Big Buzz for the Big Dip

The British Gas Big Dip London takes place in Clapham Common from June 18th to July 17th and the British Gas Big Dip Manchester will be held in Spinningfields from July 30th to August 29th.

The Uk’s ultimate urban swim festival, which is the brainchild of Olympic medallist Steve Parry, builds on the success of the British Gas ‘Pools 4 Schools’ project held on the south bank of the River Thames in London during 2009, which taught over 2,000 people to swim in just four weeks.

Launching the latest initiative to get more people to enjoy swimming, Steve Parry said:

“The British Gas Big Dip offers swimming for all the family and so much more – in fact all the fun of the beach is being taken into two iconic British cities. There’s a real focus on teaching people to swim and also sessions which will give people more confidence in the water.

“People who come to the attraction will be able to see England’s Volleyball team, exercise and try new activities including giant slides and zorbing pools. There will also be a beach area for non-swimmers with volleyball sessions, yoga, pilates, kids competitions.”

Jodie Kidd and Mark Foster were at the official launch, and with yesterday's heatwave there were over 1,000 visitors throughout the day.

We met the Olympic medalist (and very tall!) Steve Parry at a recent launch event, and his passion and enthusiasm for the scheme was inspiring.  One in five children in the UK leave primary school unable to swim.  Not only is swimming great fun, brilliant exercise and relaxation, but it is also a life skill - drowning is the 4th biggest killer of children under 16.
Confidence in the water is something we can teach our children from a very young age.  It's about getting in the pool and having fun.  Once that is achieved, then children can move on to lessons - whether they are formal classes, or taught by parents.

The Big Dip is a great opportunity to enjoy the water, so come on down!

@The_Big_Dip on Twitter for the latest updates. 
To book your place visit http://www.bigdip.co.uk/

You have the chance to win one of 5 family sets of tickets to the London event.  To enter, please leave a comment below stating why you'd like to attend.  For an additional entry, please tweet the following and leave a separate tweet to say you've done so: "I'm entering @missielizzieb 's competition to win family tickets to @The_Big_Dip You can too here: http://bit.ly/lp2Idl"

The competition will close at 8pm on Sunday 03 July.  The event is on until 17th July in London.  5 winners will be chosen at random to receive a  pair each of standard entry tickets which allow 2 adults and 2 children (under the age of 12) entry to the Big Dip and swimming in the pools on any day. Neither this blog, not British Gas, the sponsors of this competition will be liable in the event of cancellation due to unforeseen circumstances.  Winners must respond within 3 days with contact details in order to claim their prize.

Disclosure: All opinions are my own.  Prizes are supplied by the Big Dip organisers.  I received family tickets and attended a launch event.  No financial reward was given.

Monday 27 June 2011

Magpie Monday - The sweet smell of...?

It has finally happened.  It was only a matter of time really.  I think you all saw it coming. I have finally gone stark, raving bonkers.  I've flipped my lid. 

I have been too impressionable. I've succumbed to peer pressure. I got carried away in the moment.

Yes, I have bid and won an insanely large amount of old lady pomanders from ebay.  186 of the blighters to be precise.

I was caught up in the notion that there is a pomander revolution on the horizon.  Old lady chic is coming into vogue and I wanted a piece of the action.  Here was my chance to get ahead of the game and make my fortune.  I could see the headlines:

"The sweet smell of success"; "Thrifter comes up smelling of roses"; "Sniffing out a bargain"...

Before you condemn me to an asylum full of crazy online auction purchasers, consider this. And then tell me who is the more affected...

The lady who owned these aromatic fancies displayed them by cementing them onto her bathroom wall.  All 186 of them. In fact, I suspect there were more and some were lost in the arduous removal process.

I can only imagine the odious odours that must have been emitted in that water closet which required an entire wall of pot pourri to keep it at bay.

Like a scene from Se7en, without the aesthetic appeal of Mr Pitt.  What was she thinking?

Consider this.  The offspring of the late owner decided to list the collection for sale on ebay.  They apparently didn't feel in necessary to describe how the ceramic nosegays had been plastered onto the masonry.  Clearly, it wasn't required of them to explain that all of these pomanders were caked in white plaster and gloss paint from their vertical suspension for years on end on in their late mothers toilette.

Consider this.  My obliging and trusting old man, left in charge of collecting the perfumed bounty whilst I was away, thought not to question the encrusted ceramic globes.  Quietly he handed over the cash and loaded them up in the car, delivering the bouquet of bounty to me.

So. Who is the crazy one?

However, all is not lost.  I intend to turn this tale of woe around. I have discovered that soaking the sullied spheres in hot water for hours on end, then painstakingly scraping the paint and plaster off does eventually result in a restored pomander.  Granted, they will be bereft of their contents and missing their labels, but they are again usable.

So begins the arduous task of disemboweling them, picking out the stale and musty brown rose petals, and destroying my finger nails.

It will be worth it.  There are some beauties.  Truly, there is a pomander for every occasion and taste.  From the kitsch:

and quirky

To the quintessentially English.

Depicting dog roses, primroses and violets

or retro floral delights

From the sublime

to the ridiculous.

If I have in any way tempted you with my nose candy, please do speak now.  I can assemble a small collection to meet your requirements, and on transfer of cash by the magic of paypal, I shall wrap, pack and mail the beauties to you.

Me and My Shadow
Grab my button
and link to my blog

Thursday 23 June 2011

Bath & Bed - sound advice from Boots

Now, here are some tips I really wish I'd had three years ago!  Coming from a mum who still counts her blessings if she gets a couple of full night's sleep in a week, I know how important sleep is - to all the family!

Log on to get a good night’s sleep with some expert tips from BootsWebMD.  There's advice for parent's of newborns; information on co-sleeping right through to advice on bed-wetting and how to handle the transition from nappies.

From early days, the key part of our bedtime routine has always been bathtime.  It's a great way to wind down, spend some time playing and splashing around, as well as getting clean after an action-packed day.


Boots offer a wide range of products to compliment a relaxing routine, including Boots Ramer Ultra Soft Baby Sponges (£2.00 for two), which are ultra soft and caring on your baby’s skin.

To care for little one's skin, the Boots Baby Sensitive range has been developed by Boots Baby skincare experts in consultation with a leading dermatologist, to produce the mildest and gentlest product for your baby's skin. There are some great value products in the range that help to prevent irritation before bedtime. Each product will help to leave skin soft and smooth, and is suitable for all sensitive and dry skin conditions. The products are specially formulated to be 100% colour and fragrance-free, hypo-allegenic and dermatologically tested.

They have safety covered too, with the Boots Baby and Toddler Bath Mat (£10.21 each) which creates a non-slip surface when bathing your little one. Its new longer length is ideal for bathing two children at the same time. For both fun and safety, consider the colourful Boots Whale Bath Thermometer (£3.57 each) for monitoring the temperature of your baby's bath water.

Check out your local Boots store, or online to see their great current offers.

Disclosure: Sponsored post.  I was sent some sample products for the purposes of this review, however, any views expressed are my own and are honest.

Handmade Thursday - Ribbon Rag Heart Wreath

Yet again I've been inspired by the crafty loveliness over on Red Ted Art's blog.  This time it was a beautiful guest post by Mary Poppins Home Sweet Home showing how to make rag heart wreaths.

You all know how I like making heart-shaped things - it's one of the few shapes I can actually draw/mould/bend/cut out, so I was definitely having a go at this!

In addition, yesterday I received a very timely parcel from Kleenex, containing my hayfever survival kit (thank you very much Kleenex!).  It was beautifully wrapped, and finished with a zesty lime green ribbon.  Now, I always stash away ribbons and re-use them, but for the life of my I couldn't think when it would be appropriate to use a tissue branded ribbon again.  Instead, I chopped it into strips, used some other green ribbons from my hoard, and added some felt too for added interest.

I cut them with pinking shears - I'd love to say this was a deliberate ploy to give the heart a shabby chic feel, but if I'm perfectly honest it was because I could lay my hands on my pinking shears, but couldn't find a regular pair of scissors.  Does that make me a proper crafty person?! Or just disorganised?

The lovely tutorial here suggests using scraps of fabric, and I'm certainly going to make more of these - perhaps Christmassy themed fabrics on a circular wreath for my front door this year.  But I do have to say, using ribbons certainly speeded up the process as you don't have to cut to width (just to required length). And I'm all for cutting corners!

Linking up to White Lily Green's Handmade Thursday - pop over to see what others have been making.

Inspire Me Beautiful

Monday 20 June 2011

Safe as houses? Child Safety Week Giveaway

Today marks the first day of National Child Safety Week, organised by the charity Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT).  The week aims to raise awareness of the accidents that seriously injure or kill children and help advise parents on how to prevent them.

Child Safety Week runs from the 20-26th June, during which a host of activities will take place to ensure the issue of child safety is brought to the forefront of parent’s minds.

Lindam, the child safety brand, and retailer Argos are proud to be supporting Child Safety Week 2011. 

We are big fans of Lindam's products, with many of them in daily use around our home - stair gates, cupboard locks, socket covers and when Ruby was younger, we used Lindam corner protectors on furniture and door stoppers to prevent little fingers getting trapped.

I know from some of my contact and fundraising with the Children's Trust, that an accident can happen to any child, and lives can be changed in a split second.

The Children's Trust runs the largest brain injury rehabilitation centre in the UK. Many of the children have come as a result of an accident or sudden illness like a road traffic accident or choking incident.

Taking simple precautions like not leaving your child unattended when eating or bathing, locking medicine and cleaning products away, and learning basic first aid are just some of the simple steps every parent or carer can and should do. I recently did a first aid course aimed specifically at parents, and cannot tell you have much happier I feel now I have the knowledge of what to do should a child choke or become unconscious.

The theme of Child Safety Week this year is 'Take a second look for safety.'

Serious accidents can cause injuries to children that take months or years to heal. The psychological damage caused to children and their families often lasts a lifetime. Yet many of these accidents could be prevented by taking taking second look to make sure that hot drink is out of reach, the bathroom cleaning products are locked away, the bath is unplugged or by checking the speedometer.

Lindam stock a vast range of household safety products, which are available to purchase in store or online at Argos.  However, to get you started on the right track, one lucky reader of my blog can win a home safety kit, courtesy of Lindam.

In order to win this great kit, I'd like you to leave a comment below detailing on simple household safety precaution you take.  It could be concerned with fire safety, keeping windows locked, kitchen safety or any other tips you want to share.
For an extra entry, please tweet the following and leave me a separate comment to say you have done so "I'm entering @missielizzieb 's blog competition to win a @lindam_uk safety kit for #childsafetyweek here http://bit.ly/lSuSsn"
For more information and safety advice, you can follow Lindam on Twitter and Facebook.
I will pick a winner at random after 8pm on Monday 27th June 2011.  The prize will be fulfilled by Lindam, but the winner will be required to give me their postal details.  UK entries only please.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.  The prize is supplied by Lindam, however I have received no financial reimbursement and all views expressed are my own.

Magpie Monday - Blue Period

I think, much like Picasso, I'm going through my Blue Period.  OK, nothing like Picasso really, he painted great works of art, I simply buy second-hand stuff.  But it has mostly been blue recently for some reason I'm unable to fathom.

I desperately wanted to buy a huge blue abstract oil painting at the auction on Saturday.  I am no expert in modern art, in fact if it hadn't been for the artist's scribble of the date and title on the back, I'd have no doubt have hung it upside down if it had come into my possession.

However, the old man gave me strict instructions (blah blah blah) to stick to a limit of £30 because apparently we're on some kind of austerity drive.  I dropped out at £45!  Such a shame because it went for £50, and I even saw the guy who won it afterwards and told him it would look much nicer in my house than his.  "Aww sorry love," he said.  "If you really want it, you can buy it off me for a oner"...  What???  Why would I stop bidding at £45 if I had £100 to spend on it?  Odd little man.

Anyway, on to the things I have managed to acquire.  First up, these Devon Pottery pieces.  I have a few of these already secreted somewhere in boxes in the loft. 

They don't match perfectly, but I still think they'll make a nice little display and I love how they remind me of the seaside and childhood holidays.

I found this little blue and white pomander in a charity shop for a quid.  I'd never gone a bundle on pomanders, but since seeing how great the collection looked over on Kat Got the Cream, I've started giving them a second look.  It has to be said, I'm still not keen on the crinoline lady patterns, but this blue and white one was rather attractive.  Since I'm trying to cut down on my addiction to plug-in air fresheners, this will come in very handy once I've filled it with something suitably perfumed.  I'm just hoping this doesn't turn into another collection/obsession.

This next little lot I rescued from my mum.  She's been on a bit of a clear-out mission recently so I spotted these in the 'get rid of' box and snaffled them.  Perfect for making a cake stand I reckon - if I can be brave and actually drill holes in them.

I nabbed these three blue stoneware bottles for £2 from a boot sale.  The guy selling them had the most amazing stall, and I was gutted to have missed a stoneware bed warmer, in pristine condition, and in the shape of a Gladstone bag.  They came from the same stall I got my final offering from...

I couldn't show you my blue bits without showing you something from my macabre shelf.  To be precise it's my kitchen window.  The display is all a bit weird, and will probably result in nightmares for Ruby for years to come, but frankly I think it detracts slightly from next door's guttering.

The porcelain dolls head and single blue glass eye were purchased from the same seller as the stoneware bottles. A very animated Polish man at a local car boot sale.  He was fascinating and I talked for ages to him.  His English wasn't great and my Polish is non-existent, but we understood each other.  He's a 'digger' and had a vast array of treasure he'd dug up from the nearby brick pits.  He told me his house was full of various things he'd discovered and his wife was now making him sell bits off.  He was incredibly knowledgeable about his items and knew the book prices of all the various bottles, pot lids and glassware he'd dug.  However, he was selling at rock bottom prices and let me have the dolls head for £3.  I find her incredibly creepy, and I don't think I actually like her at all, but I had to have her!  I picked up the glass doll's eye, and he let me have it for nothing.  Aren't I lucky?!

They sit next to my little blue-grey monkey ornament.  He's rather sweet and I think offsets the other horrors somewhat.

Magpie Monday is your chance to share your second-hand treasures and to encourage others to re-use and re-cycle.  If you've bought or acquired anything pre-owned and given it a new life, I'd love you to grab the badge, link back here and add your blog post or twitpic to the linky below.  Look forward to seeing what you've got! x

Me and My Shadow
Grab my button
and link to my blog

Thursday 16 June 2011

Cinders and Ashes! Thomas the Tank Engine Stamps Giveaway!

To celebrate what would have been The Rev Awdry's 100th birthday this week, Royal Mail have issued a special Thomas the Tank Engine series of stamps.

The vicar wrote the well-loved children's stories nearly 70 years ago, but they remain as popular as ever with young children.  Readers of my blog will know that Ruby is Thomas mad - given the choice she'd pack up her suitcase and move into Thomasland.

The official launch took place earlier this week at the East Lancashire Railway – which boasts Thomas the Tank as a visitor attraction, with a special visit from the Fat Controller (or Sir Topham Hatt as we must say in these politically-correct times!)

credit: Lancashire Telegraph

The stamps feature Thomas on the 1st class; as well as James; Percy; Daisy; Toby and Gordon. They are available as a First Day Cover, Mint Stamps or a Presentation Pack and are available to purchase at post offices or online at the Royal Mail website.  Sales from the First Day Cover will raise funds for the upkeep of the 15th century Norfolk church where Rev Awdry served.

Royal Mail have very kindly given me a special set of these commemorative stamps, as well as a Thomas goodie bag which will delight any fan - full of books, a DVD and a die-cast model from the series.

To win this fabulous prize, simply follow this blog in Google Friend Connect and leave a comment below telling me your (or your child's ) favourite character from the series.

For an additional entry, you can follow Royal Mail Stamps on Twitter and leave a separate comment saying you have done so.

For a final further entry, tweet the following and leave another comment below stating that you have tweeted; " I'm entering @missielizzieb 's blog competition to win Thomas the Tank stamps and goodies here: http://bit.ly/l4z3T4"

The competition will close at 8pm on Monday 27th June 2011 and the winner will be picked at random.  If the winner does not respond or is not contactable, I reserve the right to re-draw. Open to UK only.

Lawnmower Girl

I was recently sent a Bosch Toy Lawnmower from 4 Little Tots to review.  I have to say, I am usually a little nervous about toys for Ruby to review - toddlers can be so picky and change like the wind and there's always the worry that she might hate something and refuse to play with it.

It arrived in the monsoon season (I exaggerate slightly, but only slightly), so I hid it in the shed and waited for the rain to hold off.  I thought it would be ideal for when Daddy mows the lawn - she could go out and get under his feet help him.

Daddy decided to make a big deal about her 'new surprise toy' and told her to wait with her eyes closed while he got it out (meanwhile of course I'm silently thinking, don't build it up too much, she might be expecting something else...).

Well, what can I say?  The look on her face says it all I think.

She was literally thrilled with it.  She teared up and down the garden pretend mowing for ages.  Great exercise methinks.

It never ceases to amuse me how much fun littlies seem to get out of replica household appliances. Long may their innocence continue I say.  They'll find out soon enough that pushing a real lawnmower/vacuum/iron back and forth is actually not all that fun!

It is safe to say that she absolutely loved her lawnmower.  It's great quality, light and easy for her to manoeuvre - even in our overgrown jungle.  I think it's an absolute bargain at £11.95.

The 4 Little Tots website is full of great toys and essentials for little people.  A dream to navigate, it's sectioned into Eat; Sleep; Play; Bath; Travel and Tidy.  There are helpful sub-sections which make it really easy to find what you're looking for. Simple.

Take a look at their site, and why not give them a follow on Twitter.

Disclosure: Sponsored post.  I was sent the Bosch Toy Lawnmower free of charge to review for 4 Little Tots.  However, my views are honest, accurate and unbiased - you can't fake those photos!  Thank you 4 Little Tots. x

Handmade Thursday - Father's Day

Allow me to explain Handmade Thursday, just in case you're new round these parts.  Hosted by the lovely  White Lily Green each week, it's an opportunity for me to take some time out and get crafty, and to share what others have been making.

I spend a lot of time making and doing with Ruby, but it's only recently I've started making the time to craft myself.  I'm not great at it, but I like to try!  God loves a trier.

My Handmade Thursday posts are unlikely to be 'how to' tutorials - more likely they will be 'how not to', but at least you'll know I had fun making my dog's dinners.

I should also say that I find it nigh on impossible to come up with an original idea of my own - I borrow and steal from magazines, other blogs, things I see at craft fairs, you name it.  I do however, credit a particular blog if I've been inspired (or blatantly stolen) an idea.

This one I think is fair game.  I've seen these all over the place, and first saw pieces like this for sale in a swanky tea shop for about £80 each.  Since then I've been scouring car boot sales and charity shops for Scrabble sets - easier said than done as they appear to be the board game equivalent of gold dust.

I had planned to use the bicycle print fabric I have, but saw this wrapping paper in Paperchase and thought it much nicer.

An apt pressie for my other half who is due to be doing the London-Brighton bike ride on Father's Day (which also happens to be his birthday).

Double celebrations mean double presents.  This brings me to my dilemma.  As he is the breadwinner of the family, do I splash out on an expensive present - and effectively spend money he has earned, or do I hope he'd rather have the selection of handmade Father's day / birthday cards; presents and cakes we're planning?  Or would he rather have a new Wii?

What do you think?

Inspire Me Beautiful

Monday 13 June 2011

Magpie Monday - School Days

Driving past my old Middle School earlier in the week (we still have the three-tier schooling system here), imagine how I felt when I saw a hand-painted banner adorning the gates, proclaiming

Car Boot Sale
here Sunday - 10-1

Well, here was an opportunity to good to miss.  I haven't stepped foot in there since I was thirteen and I was quite looking forward to re-living my youth.  Yesterday morning however, it was chucking it down with rain, but I ventured out and was pleased to see they had moved the sale indoors.  Even better!  It was held in my old assembly hall.

As I walked in, everything was exactly the same - only smaller!  How odd that a building can seem to shrink.  The school hall, where I had spent every morning for four years, stood through mind-numbingly boring assemblies, singing 'Morning has broken' or 'To be a pilgrim', desperately wishing my parents would write in to say we were members of some obscure religious sect, therefore please may I be excused.  The stage and curtains remain unchanged, as do my memories of the excruciating play performances I had to endure, my knees knocking and my whole body trembling with fear.

On the whole, they were happy days, and as I walked round the handful of stalls, a guy smiled at me and said "Hello Elizabeth!".  Embarrassingly, although I recognised him as someone from my class, for the life of my I can't remember his name.  Still, it was ego-boosting to know I haven't changed that much in the past 25 years!

The "light refreshments" (I used the inverted commas advisedly) were served in the entrance and reception hall.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity to sit outside the Headmaster's office - for old times sake.  Only once was I sent there and was particularly terrified as caning was still in place then.  Although my Headmaster would have had to be particularly hard-line to cane me for what I was being punished for.  Myself and a group of friends were practicing our high-kicks in the playground (as you do), and I managed to fling my shoe off accidentally.  It landed on the science block roof and the caretaker had to get a ladder to retrieve it.  Hardly crime of the century - although I suspect if I'd gone home with only one of my new blue, flower cut-out Clark's sandals my mother would not have been too pleased.

Anyhow, back to the boot sale!  It was a pretty dire affair, with only half a dozen stalls.  Most of them were selling kid's stuff - toys, clothes and games, so I only managed to bag a few items for Ruby.

Given that her Thomas the Tank Engine obsession is showing no sign of abating any time soon, I bought her this dress-up set for £3.  It still had the labels in and she was very happy with it - as you can see.

From the same stall I spotted this 4-in-1 jigsaw set, still sealed in the box for £1.

Then a few more books to add to her collection for the bargain basement price of 5p each.

I also got her a Hello Kitty necklace and a pack of Tweenies snap card.  For the princely sum of £5 I was declared the best Mum in the world.  A bargain in anyone's book, surely.

So what bargains have you been bagging?  Have you been to a sale anywhere interesting?  I'd love you to grab the badge and link-up. x

Me and My Shadow
Grab my button
and link to my blog