Thursday 23 October 2014

Canter down to Aldi for some great prices on equestrian clothing

Time was, that you had to be super-rich to afford horse-riding for your little darlings - room for a pony anyone?

But the fact is, you don't need your own stables and acres of land, in fact you don't even need to own a horse.  With riding lessons under £20 per week, it's becoming more affordable and Aldi are doing their bit to make it more accessible still.

Ladies Training Jacket - £19.99 and Winter Jodhpurs £12.99

From 26th October, they'll have their equestrian clothing range in store offering great kit and accessories from only £2.49.

And lets face it, even if you aren't 'horsey' these are great pieces of clothing for any outdoor activity - even if it's just walking the dog!

Ladies Multi-purpose boots, available in black or brown - £12.99

Ladies Funnel Neck Top - £12.99

The high-vis clothing is not only great for visibility when you're riding, but now the clocks will be changing, perfect for staying safe when out and about generally - the kid's reversible high-vis gillet would be great for cycling or even on the walk home from school.

Children's Hi-Vis Reversible Gillet - £14.99
Children's Riding Fleece - £6.99

We've been sent some of the fleece tops and Ruby loves the 'kangaroo pockets' in hers.  I'm looking forward to trying out my bamboo base layer leggings under my waterproofs when we head off to wet and windy Wales next week.

With the range including boots; socks; gloves; jackets;  boots;  jodhpurs;  base layers; ear warmers and snoods it's worth checking out - horse rider or not!

Wednesday 22 October 2014

The Snow Queen - a movie review

At this time of year, we all need a new 'classic' winter family film to curl up in front of as the evenings start to draw in earlier.

Releasing in Vue cinemas on 25th October, and then on DVD from 3rd November is Signature Entertainment 's new film THE SNOW QUEEN.

Young audiences will be familiar with the Snow Queen story from the recent Disney smash Frozen, but this film is much more closely in line with the original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale from way back in 1844.

The original characters from the book are here, and The Snow Queen follows the story of little orphan girl Gerda, who must defeat the evil Queen after she's taken over the kingdom and kidnapped Gerda’s brother, Kai.

Accompanied by her adorable pet ferret, Luta, and Orm the troll, Gerda embarks on a perilous journey across the icy wonderland, facing swashbuckling pirates and treacherous trolls, in a race against time to defeat the wicked Snow Queen, save Kai and bring warmth back to the hearts of people across the land.

Like the original fairy tale, it's quite a dark story in places, and younger viewers may struggle to follow the plot.  That said Ruby, aged 6 1/2 enjoyed it, and I think it's a film that will benefit from a few extra viewings.  She struggled a little to keep up with Orm and his shape-shifting ways into lots of different animals.

Overall, it's a charming story of good triumphing over evil and perfect for this winter.  The DVD would make a great stocking filler too.

If you'd like to, you can print this free activity sheet to take to the cinema with you when you go along to see it.


We were sent a pre-view copy of the DVD for the purposes of this review.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Martyna Wren - An afternoon of Vintage Tea and Sultry Songs

Some days are just destined to be great aren't they?  Take Saturday for example.  An afternoon consisting of some of my favourite things - my lovely friend Becky from Bentley's Vintage; a decadent afternoon tea of delicate sandwiches; cakes and scones; gin; prosecco and the gorgeous voice of Martyna Wren.  It was bound to be an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon.

We pootled up to Kettering on the train - not somewhere I'd ever been before, but we were lured by the promise of an intimate gig accompanied by cake so who were we to say no?

Meandering through the frankly quite quaint streets of Kettering, with the obligatory stops in various charity shops en route, we came to Vintage Fleur, a delight of a tea shop decorated with copious amounts of floral paper lampshades and fine bone china.

Martyna was setting up, suitably attired it film star garb so we settled at our table and ordered one of the teapot cocktails.  I'm probably more used to drinking gin from teacups than I really should be, but having it poured from a teapot took it to a whole new level.

The colossal cake stand was delivered groaning under the weight of tea time treats, and we sat back and enjoyed the silky smooth voice of Martyna as she performed tracks of her album The World Can Wait.

We were actively encouraged to relax, chat and eat while the performance went on around us, and sitting there with the gentle hum of chatter, the clink of silver teaspoons and cake forks against plates with Martyna singing her sultry vintage jazz in the background was just perfect.

It felt like we were part of an exclusive private party, some kind of members club, as shoppers and workers made their way home past the window, stopping for a little nose.

Martyna Wren has been a lover of jazz ever since she was 12.  As someone who didn't follow the crowd as far as chart music was concerned, I warmed to her straight away.  Our musical tastes may have been different back then and sadly, I didn't develop the same musical talents, but I respect her for following her own path, and it's certainly paid off.  Gaining a scholarship to hone her talents, receiving accolades from within the industry and last year touring schools to speak to 6,000 children about exploring music outside of the mainstream.

I could listen to her voice all day long - in fact I treated myself to a copy of her albums so I can do exactly that.  Here's my favourite song, Al Capone's Girl.

After the music, we were invited to explore the vintage and craft booths upstairs.  Vintage Fleur is housed over 3 floors and it's a proper treasure trove of delights.  I don't need to tell you I was in my element.

I'd definitely recommend popping in to Vintage Fleur in Kettering.  You can catch Martyna Wren on the rest of her tour.  She'll be appearing at:

  • Sat 25th October - Rufflets St. Andrews - Tickets £30 2pm. Bookings 01334 462226
  • Fri 14th Nov - Bea's Of Bloomsbury £30 Champagne and Tea 7pm-9pm 0207 2428330
  • Sun 23rd November - Metro Deco, Brighton - 4.30pm - Tickets £19 - Bookings: 01273 677243

And I hear rumours she'll be back on my turf early next year performing at Woburn.  I think I might have to go again!

Friday 17 October 2014

Samsung Showcase American Style Fridge Freezer - getting to know you

Our house is in turmoil.  In the next week or so we're having our kitchen ripped out by the short and curlies.

Granted, I have a swish and swanky and oh-so-uber-cool modern grey and steel kitchen to look forward to, but in the meantime it's a constant headache of appliance ordering, waiting in for deliveries, choosing worktops, taps, flooring, being measured, being measured again, waiting in for tradesmen...the list goes on.

I've learnt more terminology about kitchen planning than I ever wanted to know, and had my eyes opened to the endless list of sink possibilities.

Everything is packed and squirrelled away, I can't find a wooden spoon for the life of me, never mind the sandwich toaster, and I'm not looking forward to 3 weeks of takeaways (ok then, maybe a little bit).

The one thing that's keeping me sane, is our new fridge freezer.

It's arrived ahead of time, and is rather elegantly being housed in our dining room for the moment, awaiting the transformation of our tired kitchen into something more becoming for a beautiful, sleek and downright gorgeous beast of an appliance.

It arrived, via my side gate (which had to be removed from it's hinges), carried by 2 burly men using some kind of physic-defying lifting straps.  They expertly guided it in through the back door with millimetres to spare, and wheeled it into it's temporary home.

Clever wheels mean that despite it's undeniable weight and unwieldy size, it actually glides across the floor quite gracefully.

And in our dining room he currently sits.  For he has now become a 'he', elevated to a status where he has a gender and a personality.  I think he's a bit sad because he's not yet fully functioning.  He's not plumbed in at his temporary home, so can't show off his swanky filtered chilled water dispenser.  Nor can he administer crushed ice to my smoothies yet, or glorious chunky clear ice cubes for my G & T, but he can bide his time.  Perhaps he's heard from his cousin over at my parent's house that Ruby will endlessly pester him for ice in her drinks, so I think he's probably enjoying the peace right now.  I'm still figuring out if I can somehow combine it with my demi johns of wine and have chilled Pinot on tap...

Even though he's not in situ yet, I couldn't leave him alone.  A fridge freezer like the Samsung Showcase is crying out to be used.  To be filled up with the best food and drink you can possibly find.

He's itching to show off his clever double-door arrangement.  The 'showcase' door opens to reveal all your most regularly used items like milk and butter and wine (what?).  The inner door opens to reveal the main fridge in all it's all-around-cooling-glory.  I am loving the versatility of the storage, and the fact that you can use it to meet your families needs.  I can see straightaway that this is going to allow me to keep a much better handle on my food planning, allow me to see and access everything I have and I hope ultimately save me money and wasted food.  My old fridge had an entire shelf crammed full of jars of goodness knows what.  I never knew what was in there, and mostly could never be bothered to root about and look.

Here's a little video of me checking it out once the delivery men had left.  I'm still a little bit in awe of it so apologies for sounding like a love-struck teenager.

It has so many clever features, many of which I'm still discovering, and I'm sure once he's fully at home in our brand-spanking new kitchen, I'll be able to tell you even more about how in love with him I am.  But for now, I'll just stroke him adoringly.

Disclosure: I was sent the fridge freezer to review.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

The Gruffalo's Child comes to the forest

We had a great time exploring the Gruffalo trail earlier in the year, and it proved to be a massive hit with families up and down the country.  During spring and summer 2014, more than 10,000 children met the Gruffalo himself and hundreds of thousands followed the Gruffalo activity trails through Forestry Commission England woods and forests.

Ready for winter, The Forestry Commission have now introduced The Gruffalo's Child trails at various locations across the country.

Families across England are invited into the deep dark wood this autumn and winter to find The Gruffalo’s Child, who has followed The Gruffalo out of his comfortable cave for a forest trail adventure.
From 3 October 2014 until February 2015, self-led Gruffalo’s Child activity trails will be located in 24 Forestry Commission forests across England, continuing the nationwide celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the book’s publication.

While following the trail route, children and families can take part in activities based on their favourite book’s characters.

In addition, there will be activity packs available for £2, which will include a foraging bag, a fun-packed activity leaflet, a colouring-in sheet and a special Gruffalo's Child sticker. These special packs will encourage children to learn more about the behaviour of animals in autumn and how they search for food, create shelters and prepare for the cold winter months.
Check out the website to find your nearest trail.
There are some fabulous Gruffalo related goodies around which would make perfect Christmas gifts for any little fan.  

The Gruffalo Nature Trail book is packed with activities, fun educational facts and stickers to help enhance their understanding of wildlife.  Published by Pan MacMillan it's a great way to bring nature home and learn about the habitat of the forest, alongside the familiar story characters.

The Forestry Shop also has a range of Gruffalo items for sale, including clothing,  art and craft sets and other gift items.  Make it your first port of call if Christmas shopping for a Gruffalo fan!

Disclosure: We are official bloggers for The Forestry Commission and receive and annual Discovery Pass to visit.  We also received a copy of the nature book to review.

Friday 10 October 2014

A Giveaway! Little Lightburners - ethical gifts and keepsakes

Let me introduce you to Little Lightburners, a beautiful online store of delightful gifts for babies and young children.

All of the products on offer are fairly made and fairly traded, and these ethics are central to the business.  Supporting artisan makers both here in the UK and overseas, Little Lightburners brings you  a huge array of beautiful keepsakes and gifts you'll be proud to give and thrilled to receive.

Owner Debbie has a passion for sourcing unique gifts, and as a mother of three understands a parent's desire to find unique and personal presents.  She's happy to offer a bespoke and personal service, adding messages to gifts or putting together hampers and baskets.

I'm delighted to team up with Debbie to offer you the chance to win a £50 gift voucher to spend at Little Lightburners.  With Christmas coming, it's the perfect time to choose some stocking fillers for a special little person, or perhaps you know someone expecting and would like to get a newborn gift?

What would you choose?  Here are some of my personal favourites from the store:

Hand knitted merino wool booties, with a Cath Kidston bib.

A pure silver textured heart on an 18″ sterling silver snake chain. Each unique charm is hand-crafted and has a soft satin finish.

A vibrant alphabet wall chart poster would make a great addition to any child’s room and is a fun way of teaching children the alphabet. 

Fairly traded Mouse Family from Barefoot. Designed by artist and colourist – Barbara Sansoni – and individually made from 100% hand-woven cotton, by talented artisans who earn a decent wage, the fibres are dyed using eco-friendly dyes and dried naturally in the Sri Lankan sunshine. The toys are stuffed with natural fibre.  Every mouse is different from their noses to their toes. The girls love dressing up in their stripy pinafore dresses with daintily hand-embroidered flowers, colourful shoes and white pants, whilst the boys always look smart in their neat shorts or trousers and shirts. 

If you'd like to win a £50 voucher to spend with Little Lightburners, then please complete the rafflecopter below.  One winner will be selected at random.  UK entrants only.  The winner will be able to an item or items up to the value of £50, no change will be given and there is no cash alternative.  This giveaway is run in conjunction with Little Lightburners who remain responsible for fulfilling the prize.

Giveaway closes at midnight on Sunday 19th October 2014. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway