Wednesday 31 October 2012

Asda's Spooky Scribes Challenge

For Halloween this year, Asda have challenged some blogger's children  to come up with their spookiest stories, based on one of their Halloween costumes.

Personally I'm not sure this is such a great idea - Ruby is certainly showing more creativity and a better grasp of prose than her blogger mummy, and I think I need to watch my back...

Based on the Rainbow Witch costume that she chose, Ruby worked really hard coming up with her spooky story, and as she's only 4, I wrote it down for her...

Once upon a time there was a witch.  A very mean witch.  She was so mean that she wanted to steal all the colours.

So she went off on her colourful broomstick, and flew high up into the sky with her cat.

She opened up her bag, which had a whirlwind inside, and sucked up the rainbow from the sky.

Then she quickly snapped shut her bag and went home to her haunted house.

When she got home, she saw her blue door wasn't blue any more.  It was grey.  Her grass wasn't green any more.  It was grey.  In fact, everything way grey because she had stolen all the colours.

All the town's people were sad because it was grey, so they sent the good witch to go and rescue the rainbow.  She quietly sneaked up to the haunted house, found the mean witch's bag and ran outside to release the rainbow.

All it's colours shone on the town, but the bad witch was left in her grey world with her grey cat forever and ever.

The end.

Happy Halloween everyone. x

Disclosure: We were sent a costume and creative package for the purpose of this challenge.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Win a Halloween Party Pack with Duracell

Duracell have just launched an amazing new campaign to inform us about the usage left in our batteries when we send them off to be recycled.

I'm actually totally staggered by some of the stats.

  • One third of all batteries thrown away still have up to 67% of their power still left inside
  • Power-hungry devices like digital cameras may only use up 20% of the available power before they stop working.

I've recently got a new digital camera which uses 4 AA batteries.  I've really noticed how much juice it sucks compared to my old one which used a rechargable battery pack.  It literally eats batteries, and I must confess, I've chucked loads out.  I wish I'd known this earlier!

You can carry on using such batteries in low-usage devices such as clocks, remote controls and torches.  Save money and save resources - everyone's a winner!

So I've made a promise to myself that I'll start keeping these half-used batteries in a labelled box.  When I need one for a torch or the telly pointer, I'll know where to go.

Duracell have also launched their Ultra Power batteries, which have built-in powercheck technology - it's like having x-ray vision on your battery so you can see what's left.

To celebrate these genius products, and the campaign in association with the Energy Saving Trust, Duracell sent me a Halloween Party set and some of their batteries so we could try them out for ourselves.

We'll actually be on holiday for Halloween this year, and although we'll be having lots of spooky fun in Ireland, it was nice to be able to have an early party so Ruby could have some ghostly fun with her cousin.

'Bobbing' for tricks or treats in icing sugar

You can win your own pack containing a mini Maglight torch; a halloween projector torch; a 100 hits halloween party cd; some decorations; a bat mask making kit; some party game suggestions and a pack of Duracell batteries.

To win this spooktacular prize, simply watch the following (very cool) video which demonstrates the message brilliantly, and answer the following question:

How many 'discarded' batteries were used to power the sculpture?

Time is quite short, so this is a quickie comp.  Leave your answer in the comments below along with a way of contacting you before 3pm on Friday 26th October 2012 and we'll do our very best to get the prize out to you for Halloween.

Open to UK only.

Disclosure:  Duracell provided us with a Halloween pack and an additional pack for the competition prize.

UPDATE: Thank you for all your entries.  The winner picked at random is @4

Monday 22 October 2012

Magpie Monday - Love a Duck!

I had hoped to show you my finished make-overs from last week, but I've been too busy/I ran out of paint/I had stuff to do/Strictly was on yadda yadda...

Instead, here's a little cutie I picked up this weekend for 50 pence.

My question is, what to do with it?

Sure, I could use it as a letter rack, or maybe even a toast rack, but there's got to be a more creative use for it.  I just can't think of it right now.

Have you found any second-hand treasure lately?

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Me and My Shadow

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Foraged Fruit Cordial

Autumn is my absolute favourite time of the year.

The golden glow of the leaves as they transform from luscious green, through golden yellow and russet red.  Hedgerows groaning with the weight of jewel-like berries and fruits.  Crisp walks, crunching through the leaves with rosy cheeks and a basket on your arm to scoop up the harvest crop which will see us through winter...

One of my favourite recipes is for fruit cordial made with juicy ripe blackberries and elderberries.  I like it especially as it replaces Ruby's regular additive-laden squash, and for the time it lasts I know she's drinking pure goodness.

The fruit is not only jam packed with vitamin C, but elderberries contain a substance called Sambucol (and yes, Elder is used to make the drink Sambuca!) which is massively helpful in fighting 'flu.  In fact, recent studies found that this substance is more effective at fighting the virulent strains of influenza than the commercial drug Tamiflu.

So, not only is it a delicious cordial, but try taking a dram neat daily to ward off 'flu, or making a hot toddy with it to ease the symptoms.  It's also delicious added to meat gravy, and goes particularly well with pork.

The 'recipe' is more of a guide than a hard-and-fast recipe since it depends on how much fruit you manage to pick, and your own personal taste with regard to sweetness.

Some recipes call for the same weight of sugar as fruit, but personally that is WAY too sweet for my family, so I tend to use about 1 kilo of fruit to 5 large tablespoons of sugar.  Taste it as you go, and adjust accordingly.

First wash your fruit.  Then take the berries off the stalks and add to a large pan (I just pull the elderberries off by the handful - you're going to strain it anyway, so don't worry too much if you have tiny bits of stalk in).  Add enough cold water to cover the fruit.  Add your sugar and stir until dissolved.

Bring to the boil and then turn down to simmer for about 40 minutes - don't cook it too high or you'll end up with jam!

After about 40 minutes, turn off the heat, cover with a lid and leave overnight.

When cool, squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, then strain through a muslin into sterilised bottles.

I keep my bottled cordial in the fridge so I don't worry too much about super-sterilising the bottles - I tend to run them through the dishwasher on a hot wash, then rinse out with boiling water.

To drink, dilute one part cordial to 4 parts water or tonic, and enjoy the winter 'flu free!

Linking up with Ta-Dah Tuesday!

Sunday 14 October 2012

Magpie Monday - Jumble spoils

OK, so these finds may not look a lot - yet.

But I'll show you them now, in the hope that I can show you them transformed in a couple of weeks and you can all go 'Wow!'

These were just a couple of items I snaffled at last week's jumble sale - the one where everything was spilling out of my friend's convertible and we looked like a couple of second-hand Thelma and Louises.

So much stuff did we get but in fact, we even got a carry-out to the car service.  How posh are we?

I spied this little orangey pine kitchen shelving unit on the table behind the overall-clad helpers and snapped it up for a teeny-tiny price.  I can't even tell you what I paid - it's embarrassing.  Especially if I manage to make it respectable and sell it on.

For the first time, I managed to get a 'before' shot, but it's now been sanded and had one coat of Alabaster white paint.

Why dust, when you can sand?

It needs several more and some waxing, but I think it's going to be a beauty.

I also got this wooden (well, MDF to be precise) toy box.  It will be for Ruby's ever growing collection.

Assorted litter and fluff came free

I love the little heart cut-outs on the side.  I will probably paint it chalky pink and put a little blackboard panel on it so we can label it 'toys' or 'dolls' or 'books'.  Not bad for £2?

Hopefully I can show you the finished result on here soon.

What have you been thrifting lately?

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Me and My Shadow

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Hello Canvas!

I must admit, I'm not one of those people who has loads of photos of us around the house.  I know people come here and look around for them adorning the walls, but they're just not there.  I haven't ever really seen the point to be honest.  If I want to look at myself (not likely) I'll look in the mirror, and if I want to look at my daughter, then I'll look at her!  Sound weird?

Anyway, I was recently contacted by Hello Canvas and asked if I'd like to review one of their products.  As luck would have it, myself and Ruby had not long ago had a brilliant photo session with Anna Bowkis Photography and it was a shame to leave those lovely images languishing on a disc.

Here's the photo I selected:

I simply emailed a jpeg off, along with instructions for any cropping or whether I wanted a black and white print (Anna's photography is perfectly edited already, so no cropping needed here!).

The very next day, my HUGE canvas arrived.  I couldn't believe the speed.  If you want a present in a hurry folks, these are the guys to go for.

It was expertly packaged and protected, although I did have a heart-stopping moment when the tape from the bubble wrap got stuck to the picture in my haste to open it.  Luckily it carefully peeled off leaving no damage to the canvas or the image.

And here it is in situ - well, not quite, I'm waiting for him indoors to hang it in Ruby's bedroom, so for the moment it's hanging in the hall to frighten off burglars...

I love it!  Well, apart from the fact that you can see my grey, but that's down to the model not the printing or the photography - I'd suggest you get yourselves a younger model.

Perhaps I should have waited for the final shots from my Woman's Own makeover once they'd dyed over the great and filled my wrinkles (oh yes indeed, more on that later).  In fact, once I get the final jpegs through, I might just treat myself to another Hello Canvas!

I would very much recommend them for friendly service, fast turnaround, great packaging, good quality and reasonable prices.  Check them out yourself.

As a special offer to my readers, Hello Canvas have kindly offered a 5% discount on any orders.  Simply use the code LBMAR2012.

Discolsure: We were sent a large canvas free of charge for the purposes of this review.  However all opinions expressed are my own.

Fun Competition for Foodies

Do you love to cook?  Well, do I have news for you...

How do you fancy spending the day with famous chef Daniel Galmiche at his Berkshire restaurant?  You could win a cooking lesson, but not only that, you'll be treated to champers and canapes on arrival, have an exclusive tour of the wine cellars and kitchen and finish the day with a five course tasting lunch.

Sound good? Hell yeah!

The prize winner would need to be available on 3rd November and as part of the prize they will cover travel expenses up to £100.

All the details and terms and conditions are over on the Ideas Kitchen site.

In order to enter the competition, you will need to answer a simple question.  The answer can be found in one of these videos so watch carefully...

The closing date is 17th October 2012, so get your skates on!

Sponsored post.

Monday 8 October 2012

Presents for Men (and Women and Children!)

Don't let the name of the website 'Presents for Men' confuse you - they sell a whole range of gifts that are not available on the High Street.

I was given the change to review their site and products and I have to say, there was a huge range of choice, with personalised gifts; stocking-fillers; gifts for foodies and children's items.

I chose the bath bomb kit, which is something I'd personally like to receive as a present.  Ideal for people who like to try out new crafts, or for a tween or teenager.

Bath Bomb Kit - £14.99

This kit contained everything we needed (apart from olive/vegetable oil) to make 4 bath bombs (although we actually managed 6), and was a great introduction to this craft - a new one to me!

The instructions were really easy to follow and I was surprised how simple bath bombs are to make - I won't be spending a fortune in Lush from now on!

Ruby helped to make them and although the product isn't suitable for young children to make on their own, she managed it very well with supervision.  She's inspired now to make her own and has been chatting about what shape moulds we could use, and what scented oils each person might like for Christmas.

After we'd made our bath bombs, we left to harden overnight, and then Ruby tried one out the next day.  We were very impressed at their fizziness - every bit as good as shop bought ones.

So, if this is an indication of the quality of gifts sold on the website, then I'm very happy to recommend Presents for Men.  Take a look, the site is really easy to navigate, there are handy categories to make gift buying straight-forward, and you're bound to find something a little bit different.

Disclosure: We were sent this product for the purposes of this review.  However all opinions expressed are my own and are honest.

Share your Flapjack recipe and win £50 Sainsbury's voucher

Do you have a super-dooper original recipe for perfect flapjacks?

Do you add an unexpected ingredient or twist?

As part of the Sainsbury's Flapjack challenge, I'm asking you to share your best flapjack recipe for the chance to win a £50 shopping voucher.

If you'd like some autumnal inspiration, check out this delicious recipe...

If you'd like to enter, just leave a comment in the section below with a link to your original recipe (remember copyright laws folks, don't go stealing).  If you don't have a blog you can link to, leave your recipe on my Facebook page under this post, and leave a comment here saying you have done so.

The closing date is Friday 26th October 2012, when one of you will be chosen to win the £50 Sainsbury's voucher.

Good luck, and I can't wait to see your yummy recipes.

Sponsored post: The prize is kindly supplied by Sainsbury's who will be responsible for fulfilling it.

Magpie Monday - Autumn Walk

Such an improvement weather-wise on last weekend.

On Sunday, we all donned our wellies and wrapped up snug for a crisp walk around the woods.

A flask of hot tea, sipped on tree trunk stools, fingers stained purple from blackberry picking, clouds of hot breath steaming from our mouths like dragons.

Ruby was suitable attired for the autumn weather.

Fur collared double-breasted coat - £4 (charity shop)
Purple knitted hat and scarf - 10p each (jumble sale)
Attitude - model's own. Grab the badge and link up.

What second-hand bargains have you picked up lately?  Grab the badge and link up.

Me and My Shadow

Thursday 4 October 2012

Your child's big questions - do you know the answer?

There are some questions that Ruby comes out with which just floor me.  I find myself racking my cobwebby brain trying to remember school lessons so I can answer such gems as "why is the sea salty" and "where does the moon go in the day time".

Given that I spent most of my science lessons dicking about at the back of the class with my mates, trying to gas each other with Bunsen burners, I generally fail to come up with suitable/accurate/vaguely true responses.

My stock answers are:

a) It's magic

b) Let's Google it

c) Let's ask your uncle (who, according to Ruby, is an 'astro-phizzlestick')

But, my pain is over.  A brand new book launched today will answer all those searching questions, in a succinct, child-friendly manner.  What's more, the responses come from some of the greatest known minds in the country.

  Big Questions Infographic
Created by Faber and Faber for the book Big Questions From Little People. INFOGRAPHIC: What Big Questions are on Your Child's Mind?

Proceeds from the book go to the NSPCC and what's more, if you have a tricky question posed by your little one that you're struggling to answer, you can ask away today on Twitter.

Simply follow @BigQuestionsBK and ask away and help them find the nation's biggest Big Question.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Justin Fletcher's Funny Faces

The demi-god that is Mr Fletcher has just launched a new activity book - set to become a pre-schooler stocking filler essential.

Tell me, what kid doesn't love Justin and what kid doesn't love stickers?

The book comes with tonnes of reusable stickers featuring various funny features so you can make funny faces to your heart's content.

Mix and match, and re-use over and over again.

We had a right giggle!

The sticker activity book releases today, and will be available nationwide with an RRP of £3.99.

Disclosure: We were sent the book for the purposes of this review, however all opinions are our own. 

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Jingle Puzzles

I'm really glad that Ruby enjoys music so much. I don't have a musical bone in my body, I never learnt to play an instrument, and I make dogs howl when I sing.

But, she's now got a great teacher at school who is very talented and enthusiastic, so she comes home daily with new songs to her repertoire. She's even learnt to do 'Jazz Hands'!

When we were sent the Jingle Puzzle set to review, I knew it would be right up her street. It basically contains all her favourite things - stickers; a jigsaw and a music CD. It was bound to be a hit really.

We played with the Five Little Speckled Frogs set, which contains a CD of lots of counting songs. It's a great addition to her school learning, and lots of the songs she's already familiar with and she joins in loudly, including her new favourite which I swear I thought was called 'Alistair Campbell's got 5 humps".

There are over 20 stickers to either decorate things (including the dog in our case) or as reward stickers (with wording such as 'great work' and 'amazing singing').

The sets are aimed at 3-6 year olds, but I'd say the simplicity of the puzzle would put it at the younger end of that range. She did the puzzle fairly easily, but still got great pleasure out of it.

We have the CD on in her playroom, and get silly doing the actions to all the songs.

Retailing at £9.99 I think this is great value for money when you consider all the extras that are included. Each pack has song sheets, activities, a metre long puzzle, a music CD a bonus story and the stickers.

A great little Christmas present. Choose from this one, Old Macdonald's Farm; Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or The Wheels on the Bus.

Disclosure: We were sent the set for the purposes of this review.  All opinions expressed are our own.

Jungle Junction - Race Launcher Review

We recently got to try out the new toy sets from Jungle Junction.

Here's how we got on...

The Jungle Junction Race Launcher is available from all good toy shops.

Check out also our vlog review for the Jungle Junction Taxicrab Boat Set.

Disclosure: We were sent the toy set for the purposes of this review.  All opinions are our own.

Jungle Junction - Taxicrab Boat

We recently got to try out the new toy sets from Jungle Junction.

Here's how we got on...

The Jungle Junction Taxicrab Boat Playset is available from all good toy shops.

Check out also our vlog review for the Jungle Junction Race Launcher.

Disclosure: We were sent the toy set for the purposes of this review.  All opinions are our own.

Monday 1 October 2012

Magpie Monday - Light Fantastic

What an icky day.  I think the car boot sales are pretty much finished now until next year, although every cloud and all's Jumblie season!! I went to one on Saturday.  A proper one, that smelt of wee and everything.

All the clothes I bought for re-purposing are currently in quarantine soaking in Ace, so those will have to wait for another show-and-tell day.

Instead I'll show you something I picked up at a boot sale a few weeks back.

This little vintage paper parasol was £3 and made me do a little yelp when I spotted it.

I knew it would be perfect to suspend from Ruby's very un-aesthetically pleasing spotlights in her room.

It prettifies her ceiling and softens the harsh light.  I'm very happy with this find.

What have you been thrifting lately?

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Me and My Shadow