Friday 30 September 2011

Dying to try the new Dylon A/W collection

You know how much I love Dylon dyes right?  I've used them in all kinds of projects, from upcycling vintage cushions, to kids' t-shirts, to doily bowls to adding images to fabric.

Forget the catwalks and fashion shows, this is where the Autumn/Winter trend news is at.

Dylon have launched three new limited edition colours for Autumn, to help you keep your home and your clothes in vogue.

A sumptuous Russet red evokes the richness of autumn leaves and ripe apples. This colour is predominant in the fashion stores and magazines right now. How about trying it on a pair of your denims for a low-cost way to get that all important pair of coloured jeans.

The chic Slate Blue is one of this season's key catwalk colours and I have plans to use this in our bedroom! I've already decided I'm going to spray our cream metal bedstead a striking metallic petrol blue so this will be prefect.

Finally, there's the limited edition Camel Beige.  Great for updating some of your existing clothes and following the likes of Paul Smith who combines camel with earthy browns and greens this season, or Donna Karen who teams it with edgy urban grey.

So why spend a fortune on new clothes and home accessories when you can simply dye your current ones!

Sponsored post: I was sent one sample of new dye to try.

Fun learning activity books by Galt Toys

The lovely people at Galt sent us some Early Activity books to try out.

It was perfect timing as we'd just had a very long summer break, and I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to ease Ruby back into some gentle learning before starting at her new nursery.

We were sent the Alphabet sticker book

and the Counting sticker book

Retailing at only £2.99 I think these are amazing value for money.

There's hours of activity in each book, with stickers, puzzles and drawing to keep things interesting and fun.

Aimed at pre-schoolers, I think at 3 and a half Ruby is the perfect age for these books.  She already knows her numbers and can recognise most letters so this gave her confidence that she was 'getting it right'.  I don't know about your child, but Ruby gets quite upset and embarrassed if she thinks she's getting something 'wrong'.  So, already pretty good at the basics, what we do need to spend a little time on, is her writing.  She's never attempted to accurately write down letters or numbers before, but the instructions and step-by-step guide is great for the adults to aid learning.

Ruby still tends to hold her pens in a fist, and it's difficult to encourage her to hold a pen correctly - she tends to just get frustrated and refuse to do any more.  If anyone's got any tips on how to gently approach this, I'd be grateful!

The books suggest practicing 'writing' by following the lines with your finger first and she did this really well.  Eventually she did have a go at writing and I think she did brilliantly!

The books are written by an experienced educational consultant, and I'm confident that they are helping me support Ruby's learning in line with Key Stage 1.

Ruby really enjoyed these books, the reward of a smiley sticker on each page is a lovely bonus and she found the puzzles fun to do.

We would definitely recommend these books to pre-schoolers, and I'll be looking to get the others in the set too - First Writing and Colours, Shapes and Sizes.

Sponsored post: I was sent two books to review free of charge. However, all views expressed are accurate and honest and are my own opinions.

Thursday 29 September 2011

Dora's Ballet adventure - and a special treat!

Well, did you miss me?

I'm relieved to say the hellish trauma of the world's longest house-move is finally over and today I got re-connected to the information super-highway - hallelujah!

I'm back to quickly tell you about a special showing of a new Dora show on Nick Jr, and give you the chance to win your very own Dance & Sparkle Dora Ballerina doll from Fisher Price.

Pre-viewing tomorrow, Friday 30th September at 4pm on Nick Jr.

You can see a sneaky clip here.

Break out your dancing shoes because Dora the Explorer’s dance class is having a big show! In this brand new special Dora Ballet Adventure, Dora is opening the ballet show and she can’t wait for her family to see her perform. She just needs her dance slippers, but by mistake the Delivery Duck has brought scuba flippers instead! The show can’t start without the slippers. Can Boots help Dora find a pair of dance slippers and save the show?

If you miss the launch, you can catch up with repeat shows:

Friday 30thSept at 4pm and 6pm
Saturday 1stOctober 10.30am and 5pm
Sunday 2ndOctober at 1pm
Monday 3rdOct – 8.30am and 4.30pm
Tuesday 4thOct – 10.00am
Wednesday 5thOct – 2pm
Friday 7thOctober – 4.30pm

If that isn't enough of a Ballerina Dora fix for you, you can get games and downloadable activity sheets too.

Read on to find out how to win your very own Dance & Sparkle Ballerina Dora from Fisher Price.

“Dora is ready for her big performance at the dance recital! She talks and sings and features poseable arms & legs! Twinkling lights and a special dress really make Dora sparkle & shine on stage!”

To enter this competition, please follow my blog through GFC and leave a comment telling me which is your/your child’s favourite Nick Jr show.

For an extra entry, you can tweet the following, and leave another comment saying you have done so: “I’ve entered with @missielizzieb to #win a Dora Doll to celebrate launch of Nick Jr’s Dora Ballet Adventure 30/09 4pm

Don’t forget to tune in to the Dora Special on Friday, or catch up the following week.

The competition closes at 5pm on Friday 7th October.  The winner will be picked at random. Please ensure you leave a method of contact with your entry.

This is a sponsored post and the prize will be fulfilled by Nick Jr.

Monday 19 September 2011

Magpie Monday - Yee-ha Grandma

There's definitely an Autumn chill in the air now.  When I packed up all my clothes and waved them off to the storage unit with a teary eye 7 weeks ago, never did I think we'd still be rootless at the end of September.

Today is a huge day for us.  All being well we'll be collecting the keys to our house this afternoon.  Ruby has her settling in session at her new nursery this morning too.

Even though the end is in sight, I know it will still be a while before we're fully moved in and unpacked.  My suitcase of summer clothes I've been dragging around is no longer serving me so well, so I nipped to the charity shop to see if I could pick up anything more seasonal.

First up, I got this nice knee kick Per Una skirt.  Not sure about the velvet ribbon trim - that might have to go, as it's a little twee for me, but still will be a great skirt with a woolly pully and a pair of boots. It cost me £3.50.

Next I spotted this Zara dress.

It was labelled as a size Medium. Now that dress has either seriously shrunk or I've been piling on a few more pounds than I realised.  With only a side zip under the arm, I was not a pretty sight trying to squeeze myself into it, but I did eventually succeed.  It's definitely a wiggle dress, but I think I need to lose a bit of the jiggle before I can pull it off - literally, you should have seen me try to get it off again!!

I also picked up this plain long sleeved brown tee, which I thought I could wear under the aforementioned dress, along with a pair of chunky knit tights. Now I'm not so sure I'll fit anything underneath it!

And finally, my favourite purchase, a pair of tan coloured Top Shop cowboy boots for a fiver.

I loved these so much. In fact there was also a pair of black Office cowboy boots in the same shop.  Myself and Ruby discussed this at length and decided that Daddy wouldn't be too impressed if I bought both, so we settled on the brown ones.

When he came home and saw them his reaction was to shout (loudly)  "Yeeee-ha Grandma". He assures me this is a well known expression and was in no way directed at my advancing years and sudden crop of grey hair.  I'm not so sure.

Ruby now takes great delight in running around shouting "Yee-ha Grandma" everytime I put them on. Which is mildly amusing soon I suspect to be very irritating.

What do you think. Is there an age limit to dressing as a cowgirl?

Please link up - apologies if I can't comment during the day or retweet your posts, but I'll catch up as soon as possible. x

Me and My Shadow
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Sunday 18 September 2011

Situations Vacant - Healthcare workers urgently needed

You may remember a few months ago, I asked you to sign the No Child Born to Die petition - the Save the Children campaign to fund vaccinations for children in developing countries.  Because each one of you took the time to do so, the campaign was a massive success.  Our voices were heard. We made a difference.

This Saturday, Save the Children hosted a bloggers conference which I was hugely disappointed to miss. Prior commitments meant I couldn't attend, but guess what? Me, you, we can still make a difference.

Please take a few minutes to sign the latest petition calling for healthcare workers. 

Doctors, nurses and midwives are vital to saving children’s lives. But there's a massive shortfall of health workers in the world’s poorest countries. As ever, the poorest and most vulnerable are hardest hit.
Half of the 8 million children who die each year are in Africa, yet Africa has only 3% of the world’s doctors, nurses and midwives.

Many of us take for granted the National Health System we have here in the UK.  Whether it be midwives helping to safely deliver babies, health visitors who offer help, advice and support to new parents, GPs and clinics who treat illnesses and ailments and immunise our children, accident and emergency staff, cancer nurses, screening clinics and nursing staff.  Healthcare professionals are there through every step of our lives.

Gemma at Hello it's Gemma and Michelle at Mummy from the Heart have set us bloggers a challenge. To unite us and show our government and the world that we have a voice and we think that every child deserves the best chance in life.

Chris at Thinly Spread is currently in New York with Save the Children.  On Tuesday she will be at the UN fighting for the rights of 100s of thousands of people who do not have a voice.  The hope is that by Tuesday, 100 UK bloggers will have written a post like this, and written 100 words about a health worker who has made a difference in their life.

Here's my 100 words.

After a week  suffering  chest pains, I conceded I needed to get checked out. I dropped Ruby at nursery and carried on to the walk-in health centre. I was seen immediately by Glenda a Practice Nurse.  She was a motherly type, kind, gentle and concerned. She quickly got my number –my approach to my own health is to bury my head in the sand.  Cleverly and subtly she asked about my daughter and quickly made me realise it would be selfish not to take this seriously.  She asked, if it had been Ruby who’d been ill would I have ignored it? Clever psychology which got me hooked up to an EGC machine and sent off to the hospital for blood tests and x-rays before I knew it.

If I'd lived in one of the world's poorer countries, would I have got treatment and care like that? Quite simply, no I wouldn't.

Please show your support and sign the petition. If you have a blog, please take up this challenge and write your own post and tweet the link with #healthworkers campaign.

We can do it.

I was tagged by the lovely Nicki and Curly and Candid and Gemma at Hello It's Gemma, and now I'm tagging these lovely bloggers to complete the challenge by Tuesday, but if you're not tagged, please join in anyway. x

Amanda at the Ana Mum Diary
Kay at Brink of Bedlam
Tracy at White Lily Green

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Friday 16 September 2011

Innocent Kid's Lunchbox Challenge

Did you manage to catch the fabulous twitter parties with Innocent, hosted by Maggy and Christine?

I really enjoyed the sessions, and picked up loads of great tips for making lunchboxes fun and healthy. There promises to be a round-up of all the great ideas in a booklet soon.

Innocent contacted me and asked if we'd like to take part in their lunchbox challenge. Well, of course we would!

We were sent a pretty pink lunch box, a personalisation kit (that's stickers to you and me) and some Innocent goodies, including their fruit tubes and juice drinks.

You can never go wrong with stickers in this house, especially these super-cool foam shapes, so Ruby wasted no time pimping her lunchbox!

That all done, next it was my turn for a challenge: to come up with healthy and fun contents.

A balanced lunchbox should contain a mix of carbohydrates, protein, dairy item for calcium, a drink and fruit/vegetables.  It's important to vary the contents day-to-day and to keep it fun and interesting.

So, here's what I came up with.

I made up a batch of cheese and broccoli muffins with leftovers from last night's dinner. I used Red Leicester cheese and used the fail-safe recipe by My Daddy Cooks. This is a great recipe and we use it lots, adapting it to whatever vegetables we have. Usually Ruby likes to help me bake, and this would have been a great way to get her involved. However, the contrary Mary decided she didn't want to do baking this time!

Sandwiches are usually a bit hit-and-miss with Ruby. She tends to just eat the filling from inside, so as there was carbs in the muffin, I cut out the middle man and made her ham 'rolls'.

Simply spread a slice of ham with cream cheese and roll up. You can cut into small slices for a pinwheel effect.

I included a pot of cold rice pudding, left over from last night's dinner. This is delicious cold, and I added a frozen Innocent fruit tube (made from 100% pure crushed fruit and juice) which helps keep the lunchbox cool, and then can be squirted over the rice pudding.  Ruby loves to add foods together and mix up into a mush, so I'm banking on this being a winner!

I also popped in a frozen carton of Innocent juicy drink to act as an ice pack. It will thaw by lunchtime and give her a tasty drink, plus one of her 5-a-day. It also contains no sweetener, flavourings or preservatives.

Finally, as it's her favourite fruit, a banana for another of her 5-a-day.

Ruby hasn't yet returned to nursery because of our house move but we had this as a packed lunch picnic in the garden today as a trial run! It went down rather well.

What do you think of my lunchbox selection? What do your kids like in theirs?

Sponsored post: the lunchbox and some Innocent products were received free of charge in order for me to take part in this challenge. however, no financial reward has been received.  All views expressed here are my own.

Slow Cooker Rice Pudding - A Warming Treat

I've tried various different recipes for cooking rice pudding in the slow cooker, but they don't all work as well.  There seems to be a lot of variables, which cause your pudding to cook differently - make of slow cooker, different brands of pudding rice and type of milk you use.

However, it's still a delicious, simple and low cost dessert to make, and well worth giving a go.  There's nothing like a hot bowl of creamy goodness on a chilly autumn day!

Here's the recipe I tend to follow as it works best, although I'm more of a bung-it-all-in-without-measuring kinda girl.

Large knob of unsalted butter
150 g Pudding Rice
50 g sugar (I tend to use a lot less than this because I don't like it too sweet, around 30g)
1.5 litres of milk (for creamier pudding, substitute some milk for cream)
Pinch of nutmeg (freshly grated is better)

  • Grease the inside of your crock pot generously with the butter.
  • Pour in the rice, sugar and milk.
  • Add a sprinkle of nutmeg to the top.
  • Switch on your slow cooker on high. the pudding usually takes around 2-3 hours to cook.

I tend to give it a good stir after about 10 minutes to make sure the rice and sugar doesn't stick to the bottom.  Then, keep an eye on it. If the rice is soaking up all the liquid, add more milk.  The pudding rice seems to consume whatever dairy product you throw at it like some hungry mythical beast, so you often end up with a massive potful.

This time I tried adding Total Greek 0% fat yoghurt instead of cream.  Whilst the feel wasn't quite as smooth and creamy in the mouth, it was still just as delicious and well worth doing if you want to reduce the calorie content!

Serve with a dollop of jam, fruit puree, syrup or just as is!  Tastes delicious cold too.

Why not try it this weekend?

Linking up here with more delicious slow cooker food.

Romanian Mum

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Green (very) Cross Code

I warn you now, this post is going to be a bit of a rant.  But frankly, if I can't rant on my own blog, well...where can I?

Myself and Ruby walk everywhere. Admittedly, I don't drive so we have little choice, but I think that even if I did we'd still walk those little journeys that others seem compelled to jump into their 4x4s for. We enjoy walking, it gives us an opportunity to talk about the surroundings, discover new things, be in touch with the weather and the seasons, learn about nature and of course, get some exercise.

But I am getting increasingly fed up with the selfish, stupid, reckless behaviour of some drivers, and their total disregard of pedestrians.

Take this morning for example.  We walked the 10 or 15 minutes to the rail station. It was early morning, about 8.30 so there were a fair few other children about on their way to school (those who weren't in the 4x4s).

In that short space of time we encountered no less than 3 separate incidents of dangerous/reckless/selfish/moronic - call it what you will - behaviour from car drivers.

The first, was crossing a pedestrian crossing.  We do try to use the proper place to cross, and Ruby is all too familiar with pushing the button and waiting for the green man.  This morning however, we were nearly bowled over by some idiotic woman who decided to jump the red light. She came belting through the crossing while the green man was up, and by the time it was safe to cross, it was back on the red man. Great.

You may think I'm going over-board here, but I took a photo on the way back because I intend to complain to the council/Highways Agency or whoever about their rubbish road layout/traffic lights.

We were crossing from A-B. The car came through the lights at C.  The trouble is, when turning right here, most cars end up stuck in the middle of the junction waiting for a gap in the traffic to turn. Often they are way beyond the light when it turns red, and so end up going over the crossing when it's showing as safe to cross.

Next up. Walking down the street, we walk past a stationary car.  The driver flung open her door to get out, nearly bowling me off my feet. She didn't even look.  She did at least mutter a cursory apology.

So we carry on our way. Only to be met with this.

Forced to walk in the road by selfish parking is a very common occurrence and it makes me so mad.  When Ruby was tiny and in her pram, on a few occasions I did ask the drivers to move rather than walk the pram in the road.  They were none too pleased, but tough! Paths are for people. Roads are for cars & bikes. Simple.

Four hours later, on our return, the van was still parked like that. I wonder how many people had been pushed onto the road in that time?

Besides the obvious danger of these idiots, it really annoys me that their behaviour undermines what I teach my child about road safety. I mean, I tell her to wait for the green man - and cars continue to drive. I tell her it's not safe on the road and drivers give you no option but to walk on the road. I tell her she's safe on the pavement and people try to brain you with their car doors.

Here endeth the rant. Tell me I'm not alone. I'm not the only one who gets mad by this...or am I just turning into a grumpy old woman?

Tuesday 13 September 2011

We're in a flap over Olive the Ostrich

First of all, can I say how pleased I am to tell you I'm an official Nick Jr blogger!!  See the snazzy badge over there on the right...we are officially now friends.  It's always nice to have new friends isn't it?

Secondly, I'm really pleased they asked us to review their new animated children's show 'Olive the Ostrich' which launched on Nick Jr last week. It airs every weekday at 8.15 in the morning and 6.30 in the evening.

I'm happy to report that Ruby has already taken Olive to her heart, and even after watching only two episodes, is singing along to the theme tune.

It already has a lovely 'familiar' feel to me as well. It's narrated by none other than Rolf Harris - a familiar TV face from my childhood, and it has the air of distant lands and exotic fantasies of Mr Benn that I fondly remember watching.

Olive is different to the rest of her family. She doesn't run fast or enjoy pecking in the dust, so while everyone else is busy, she literally buries her head in the sand and drifts off in a magical daydream which takes her on a different adventure each episode, with a new problem to solve.

If you look carefully at the backgrounds, you'll no doubt spot familiar items from the craft box - the scenery is made up with silver foil, corrugated card, feathers, pipe cleaners etc.  That's because the makers, in partnership with The Prince's Foundation for Children and the Arts selected schools from all over the UK to help make it!  Children aged between 6 and 9 were able to get involved in the process, develop storytelling skills and learn about animation and the filming process.  How cool is that?

Why not tune in and see if you and your kids love it as much as we do already.

Sponsored post: Nick Jr sent me a sample DVD and promotional material for the purposes of this review. No financial reward was received and any views expressed here are my own and are honest.

Monday 12 September 2011

Creative stitching - a review and giveaway

You'll know by now how much I love handmade items, so I was really pleased to be asked to host a giveaway for Creative Stitching.

If, like me you're looking for an original gift, made with care and love, but lack both the time and skill to make it yourself then this is the place to come!  Creative Stitching started out about 10 years ago selling at craft fairs and since then they have also moved to an online store.

Only using top quality fabrics, threads and card mounts, the products are made by hand, in small quantities so you can be sure that you will receive a bespoke item created just for you. With friendly and helpful service, they are happy to create special orders from their huge range of designs and fabrics - you only have to get in touch and ask!

I love the range of bunting - perfect for parties and room decoration.  Starting at £11.95, it's one of the most reasonably priced range of bunting I've seen.

There's plenty to appeal to boys; girls and lovers of shabby chic.

Now it’s September, I feel safe to mention the ‘C’ word! Creative Stitching has some adorable Christmas items, including a range of hand stitched tree decorations.

These are real keepsake items, and decorations to be treasured for years to come. Right on trend with the current hand-made vibe, I can’t decide which are my favourites. Maybe the gingerbread man…

Or the gingham heart?  From only £3.00 each you can splash out on a few!

Or maybe the handmade advent calendars will take your fancy?  Made to last for year after year, fill the pockets with sweets or treats for a truly tailor made advent experience.

Creative Stitching have kindly offered me one of their handmade children's aprons to giveaway to one lucky reader.  The winner will be able to choose any apron they wish from the range of great designs for boys and girls, like this robot one.

We love aprons in this house, and Ruby already has a collection of 4 different ones (she'll be giving me a run for my money soon!) Perfect to pop on to protect clothing when helping in the kitchen; baking; crafting and painting - you can never have too many aprons! 

To enter the competition, please visit the Creative Stitching store, and pop back here to leave me a comment about your favourite item on the site. Make sure you leave a way to contact you with your entry comment.

You can gain an additional entry each for doing one or more of the following:

Like Creative Stitiching on Facebook

Post on YOUR facebook wall: "I'm entering this blog competition to win a children's apron from You can too here:"  

Tweet the following: "I'm entering to win a kid's apron with on @missielizzieb 's blog. You can too here:"

Please leave a separate comment for each additional entry or it will not be counted.  The draw closes on Tuesday 20th September 2011 at 8m.  The winner will be picked at random.  I will make every endeavour to contact the winner, but if they have not responded within one week, I reserve the right to re-draw.

Sponsored post.

Magpie Monday - Suits you Sir!

Occasionally I come across an item in a charity shop that is just perfect for my home. Something that's exactly what I need, even though I didn't know I was looking for it.  Today's item was one of those moments.

This valet stand had a reserved sticker on it when I spotted it, but that didn't stop me!  I smiled sweetly to the man in the shop, promised him I'd give it a good home and he agreed if the reserver hadn't come to collect it by the end of the week, it would be mine.  Hurrah!

Why did I want/need this stand?  Well, my old man has a very long commute to work each day. This means he gets up at the crack of dawn - in fact now that summer is over, he's getting up before daybreak.

After waking sleeping beauty (that's me) one too many times by stumbling around in the dark, scrabbling through drawers trying to locate socks and pants, or worse, plunging me into blinding brightness by flinging on the light, he agreed there must be another way. My early morning snarling of expletives as he rootled through his box looking for a matching cufflink was having a devastating effect on my sleep quota.

So, he started to prepare his garments the night before.  Meticulously getting out everything he needed for the following day before going to bed.

'Good boy' you're thinking. Well, as you know, my long-suffering fella can't do right for doing wrong. No.  The landing was forever cluttered with suits hanging off door handles, or my pet hate - suspended from the picture rail.  Ties were flung over the banisters.  Enormous shoes lay in wait silently for unsuspecting night-time pee'ers to break their toes on.

My latest purchase solves all these niggles.  Now he has somewhere to lay out his collar stiffeners (seriously, does anyone else in the world still wear these?); cufflinks; watch and all his work garb.

And my lie-ins can continue undisturbed.

Grab the badge below and link up with your second-hand finds.

Me and My Shadow
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Sunday 11 September 2011

I Love My Lunchbox

I was very pleased to be invited by Total Greek yoghurt and Nick Coffer to their 'I Love my Lunchbox' (no sniggering at the back. Yes, you! I'm looking at you!) picnic event the other week.

So, we took a day out of our holiday, jumped on the train and hot-footed it into town, with Ruby singing 'London Bridge is Falling Down' all the way there.

Luckily, it wasn't falling down and we were able to spend a great afternoon indulging in tasty treats cooked up by Nick and Archie using Total greek yoghurt.  I had no idea how versatile it was.  Pop over to the website for all the delicious recipes created, specifically with kid's pack-up in mind.

I particularly loved the feta and bacon filo parcels and I'll be giving them ago. Delicious hot or cold.  Ruby was a big fan of the smoothies and the muffins and Dad loved the marinated chicken wings.

The cooking was ably demonstrated by Nick and Archie, and it was fun to watch them live as I'm more used to seeing them on the My Daddy Cooks blog.

We had a go at re-creating some of the recipies ourselves, and they really were very simple.  I loved this idea of using up left-over pasta to make a lunchbox filler.

We had a fabulous day, Ruby was completely in love with the cow and zebra mascots, to the point of stalkerish behaviour!  There was face-painting, garden games, brilliant live music and gorgeous food. What more could you ask for?

Check out the video montage of the day - see if you can spot Ruby dashing in with a killer bear hug for zebra, and me and the old man - stuffing our faces predictably!

Huge thanks to Total Greek Yoghurt and My Daddy Cooks for having us.  Do join the Total Greek facebook page to find out about future events, how to get tickets and more brilliant recipe suggestions.

Sponsored post: We attended the event described free of charge and were given a goody bag. However, no financial reward was received for publishing this post and any views expressed are my own.