No doubt most of you already know that Black Friday is now just one week away – 24th November 2017 . It’s a great excuse to grab yourself some bargains! Whilst I firmly believe that something is only a good deal if you actually need it, I do also think that Black Friday sales provide the perfect opportunity to invest in things that can enhance your lifestyle, or to save money on gifts that you intend to buy anyway. It’s also the ideal chance to get your Christmas shopping done, then sit back and relax for the rest of the festive season!
For example, Halfords Black Friday has some bargains on both adult and child bikes, which of course is a fab way to get outdoors and stay healthy. Also, a popular present! Plus, for those who love to travel, there are some handy items such as a roof box and kids trunkies in the sale too. We have had the ladybird trunki for years – it is so useful!
Black Friday Competition
Halfords also have an amazing Black Friday Competition on at the moment. The closing date is this Wednesday (22nd November) so make sure you head on over before then to enter! All you need to do is complete the short form and answer a very simple question. The top prize is worth a whopping £2,000, plus awesome runners up prizes too, so this is one not to be missed!
£2,000 worth of goodies, including a seven night holiday with Eurocamp (worth £1,000) and £1,000 worth of Black Friday deals.
I have some news and a giveaway to share with you! Activ8rlives got in touch to let me know about their fantastic 3 for 2 Christmas offer; you can buy a combination of Smart Scales, BuddyBand2, Blood Pressure monitor, Pulse Oximeter and Peak Flow meter, in any combination of 3 for the price of 2. Awesome deal! I don’t have any of these myself (yet! I will be reviewing the Blood Pressure Monitor soon, so look out for that!) but I have heard great things about the Smart Scales! A fellow blogger, Just Average Jen, reviewed them and she wrote that they were stylish, easy to set up and use, and accurate – sounds good to me! You can read her review here: Just Average Jen – Body Analyser Review.
Here is your chance to win the sleek Activ8rlives Body Analyser Smart Scales, measuring weight, body and visceral fat, muscle mass, hydration and BMI. Activ8rlives’ health+wellness monitors are easy to operate and are supplied with printed colour manuals and free Activ8rlives4 Health+Wellness App (iOS and Android), which guides you through the process of connecting. Data is then automatically uploaded via Bluetooth, stored securely in the UK, and allows weight, diet and wellness tracking over time. The perfect device to help you monitor and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle, for you and your family.
Are you looking for a personalised gift that really shows you care? Check out this gift guide for unique creative gift ideas that offer a truly personal touch. Personalised, thoughtful gift ideas for both children and adults.
Sometimes buying someone a present is a tough job. Perhaps it is that person who already seems to have everything, or maybe you are simply looking for something unique that really shows you care. If you want to find a thoughtful gift that offers something a little different, then check out these creative gift ideas…
The Book of Everyone/ Wise(ish) Words For Kids
The Book of Everyone makes a great gift for anyone. Each unique book is tailored to the special person you are creating it for. And for your favourite small person, there’s the Wise(ish) Words For Kids edition. You can edit at every stage to personalise the book’s life advice even further. These beautiful books make a very thoughtful present.
Whether it is a slogan adult hoodie or a kids tee with their own drawing on, custom clothing makes a fab personal gift. Choose from bags, sweatshirts, hoodies, tees and vests. Simply select ‘Custom Clothing’ under the menu, opt for adult or child, and pick which item you want, then get designing for whoever you have in mind! You can even use your child’s own art work to create a truly original gift.
My & Me Jewellery makes a gorgeous gift. Each silver charm is lovingly crafted by hand to turn your child’s artwork into a fabulous bracelet or necklace. If you are near North London, Maxine also does BaB jewellery workshops from time to time, which would also make a brilliant gift idea for anyone who would like to try their hand at designing the jewellery themselves. BaB courses are very family friendly; childcare is offered in the room while the parent does the workshop. (Some other BaB courses and workshops are designed for adults and children to participate together too).
This fab website offers a wide range of personalised photographic items; such as mugs, cushions, blankets, phone/ tablet/ laptop cases, bedding, hot water bottles and even roller blinds! I received a cool mug with my Living Life Our Way banner on it – and Bags of Love have kindly offered another personalised photo mug for one lucky reader to win! Enter via the rafflecopter giveaway below.
Just over a year ago I decided to go ‘pro’ with blogging, so I moved my blog to self- hosted and started to think about branding, including designing myself a logo and banner to use on my blog and across social media. Alot of bloggers and businesses hire an expert to help them do this, but I was keen to save some money so I chose to do it myself. I spent far more hours on Canva (using a free trial) than I care to admit! However, I am very happy with the result.
Logojoy is an AI logo designer that makes it quicker and easier for bloggers and brands to create their own logo themselves. It is simple to use; begin by selecting up to five sample logos that you like then the site generates your logos to choose from based on your preferences. There are then plenty of options to then tweak it as much as you want to personalise it further.
How To Use Logojoy
It is possible to design a professional looking logo using Logojoy in just a few minutes. However, if you are a perfectionist and enjoy playing around with the various settings (as I did!) then you will need to allow more time. You can also amend and re- download your logo too, if you decide your logo needs a few extra final adjustments after downloading it (premium package only).
Logojoy costs $20 for a simple low resolution logo. A premium package is $65 which includes high resolution files in several formats with full copyright ownership. For an extra $9 you can also purchase the social media kit, which comes with perfectly size logos for each platform – this is definitely worth it in my opinion because it saves alot of time and effort resizing! Lastly you can also get one hour professional design support for $100 too should you require that level of guidance and support.
(This is an affiliate link, this does not cost the buyer extra, but means I get a small referral fee. Thank you for your support).
Here is my logo…
I worked really hard on my original logo and have been using it for over a year, so I must admit I am actually rather attached to it! However, I am really pleased with my Logojoy logo too and am actually quite (very?!) tempted to switch it! If I was just starting out, I would definitely think Logojoy is worth the investment and would be satisfied with the results.
Which do you prefer, my original Canva logo or my new Logojoy one? I would love your honest opinions, I promise I won’t be at all offended either way!
Thank you in advance for any feedback!
*I was given the chance to review the $65 package and was compensated for my time.
As the clocks go back for British daylight savings time, the darker evenings draw in are getting shorter and the hours of daylight less, many people begin to feel the affect on their mood. ‘Winter blues’ is more common than people might realise and full- on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can begin to hugely affect people’s lives at this time of year.
SAD is considered to be a form of depression. There is plenty of information available about possible causes and the treatments available; including CBT, talking therapies, light therapy and meds if needed. Light therapy is highly recommended by most experts on this subject. It involves being closely exposed to artificial daylight for substantial amounts of time, in order to produce chemicals in the brain that helps to improve mood and alleviate some of the symptoms of SAD.
Needlite is a daylight lamp that can be used at your work desk. It provides much needed imitation daylight that is very close to the real thing, available at any time. It is useful for improving exposure to the amount of daylight on a daily basis, despite being indoors, which therefore supports wellbeing and can assist in the treatment of SAD. I previously wrote a review of Needlite a few months ago and I will be interested to see how effective it continues to be over the winter months too, when it potentially at its most beneficial.
Needlite is available to buy from Well Working. You can also try it out for free, check out the website for further details and availability in your area.
*Disclosure: I was sent a pair of Needlite lamps for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
As it starts to get more wet and muddy outside, having somewhere to store our shoes and wellies is essential! So it was handy to be sent a Songmics bamboo shoe rack to review.
The shoe rack was really quick and easy to assemble. It comes in four pieces screwed together with 8 screws. It took 6 minutes to put together and that was certainly on the longer side of how long it would take your average person. This is a video demo of assembly…
The shoe rack itself is nice and sturdy. It looks great and is very practical; the bamboo is very easy to wipe down and keep clean. I also like the fact that it is made from bamboo, which is highly sustainable.
The shoe rack measures 70cm long x 25cm wide, which fits several pairs of shoes in a row. The height is 33cm, with the bottom shelf starting at 8.5cm from the ground and a gap of 18.5cm between the shelves. This leaves space for small, flat shoes (e.g slippers or plimsolls) or other items on the floor below the bottom shelf, normal shoes fit on the bottom shelf and then wellies or boots go on the top shelf.
The rack can also be used for other purposes too. For example, it makes a stylish bathroom organiser. It looks modern and neat so would fit well in any room. I love it!
You can be in with a chance of winning one of these fab shoe racks by entering the giveaway below. One lucky winner will be drawn randomly by rafflecopter after the competition ends. UK residents only. Competition ends on 25th November 2017. Other T&Cs apply.
*Disclosure: I was sent this item for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. The post contains amazon affiliate links. This does not cost the buyer anything extra, but I make a small amount from sales made via the link. Thank you.
Firstly, the tin can cable car. Here is a quick demo…
This is easy to set up and is fun to play with. Admittedly it is abit of a novelty item that probably won’t have much longevity in terms of holding interest, but that said, we have had it out a few times and she has played with it for several hours. It is pretty durable too; Squiggle had alot of fun attaching her toys to it so they could use it and it held quite an impressive weight! (Note: it is not intended to be used this way!)
Overall, it makes quite a cool gift as long as expectations on amount of use aren’t too high.
Salt Water Engine Car Review
The salt water engine car is great for sparking discussion on natural energy sources. It is also educational in terms of simple mechanics and engineering too.
We discovered this kit had far more parts than we might have imagined it and Squiggle personally found it too fiddly to do independently but children with better motor skills and more patience might be able to do so. She enjoyed doing it alongside an adult instead.
It didn’t move as fast, or as smoothly, as we hoped but it was on carpet and I suspect we just needed to check connections! However, it was pretty exciting that it went along at all just using salt water! Great learning tool.
I have to admit I hadn’t heard of Smartick prior to doing this review, but I am glad they got in touch as it is well worth knowing about! In brief summary, Smartick is an online maths program for children ages 4 to 14 years old. It is rather cleverly designed to be based on ability and progress with the child at their own pace, using latest Artificial Intelligence technology. This means it is not restrictive and challenges the individual child to go as far as they are capable.
As an ex- teacher and home educator, I really like this program. I feel it teaches methods and skills clearly in a simple but effective way. It is quite focused and maximises learning, but it does have visual aids and some basic gaming elements that aim to help keep children engaged and improve concentration levels. I think the way it adapts itself to the individual to personalise their learning is really impressive!
Each session lasts 15 minutes per day, set for maximum concentration and motivation. This is great as it is just a short, manageable burst of learning and isn’t ‘too much’. Smartick recommends that children do a session at least 5 days a week to truly experience the benefits of the program. This is fine for most children, but I knew we might find that challenging personally because if Squiggle perceives it as a demand, her anxiety goes up and she avoids it. As predicted, this happened very quickly!
We also weren’t able to make best use of the program because it is intended for the child to work on independently. Squiggle was not able to do this though because she felt that she needed me to explain it to her, which then added more time, so her speed and other data were inaccurate. Obviously this affects the function of the AI. I should point out though that this was not a reflection on Smartick; it is very clear and I think the majority of children would have no problem using it independently whatsoever. It was simply down to her anxiety and the high level of support she needs.
However, I totally admit that I knew from the outset that the structured approach might not really suit the nature of Squiggle’s particularly complex SEND needs, but I decided to trial it anyway because I was curious if we could make it work for her, and I was also interested in reviewing it generally for others too. So regarding the above comments, we are a very tough crowd to be fair! And we did find it very beneficial in our own way. Whilst we weren’t able to take full advantage of some of the best features of Smartick, it still motivated and inspired her, and provided an excellent springboard for maths practice off- screen. This is really valuable, and was totally worth it just for that!
Anyway, I feel that I am digressing a little now as this is probably not relevant to most families! Back to the review…
Parents receive an email as soon as their child completes the daily lesson with a summary of performance. This is really useful! Plus there is a parent dashboard, so you can log in and see study plans, questions and units that the child has answered, data about performance and other things. Also, there is a team of educators behind the scenes to answer any questions that parents or children have, via phone or email. I found the lady I emailed with was absolutely lovely and very helpful.
Overall, I do recommend Smartick – it is a great tool for learning maths. If you would like further information, or to subscribe, see their website: www.smartick.com
To be in with a chance to win a 3 month subscription to Smartick, enter my rafflecopter giveaway below!
Last but not least, there is also a referral program whereby parents can benefit from a £20 discount if they recommend a friend, and the new friend that subscribes will receive 25% off the first subscription they buy. So do feel free to mention me for a discount!
*Disclosure: I was given a free subscription to Smartick for the purpose of review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
We love Sylvanian Families; we think they are so cute and collectable (and also have educational value too!) Squiggle has a huge ever- increasing collection and loves looking at the website or browsing the catalogue to see what she can add to her wishlist next! So I think I might have been nearly as excited as she was when we received the fab Sylvanian Families Village Cake Shop to review…
The cake shop comes with the mum of the Toy Poodle family, who is the shopkeeper, and alot of lovely little accessories to stock up the shop with. There are 90 bits in total, including the figure, shop, till, cake stands, counters, various cakes, boxes, piping, tongs and other cool stuff. Not everything included is pictured in my photos because Squiggle inevitably spreads half of it across the floor within 10 seconds of opening it… but that just makes it all the more realistic – after all, you wouldn’t expect such a delicious cake shop to be fully stocked at all times, would you?!
Anyway, back to the review….
What I really love about this set – and other Sylvanian Families sets too – is the quality and attention to detail. Squiggle said “I think it’s very cool the way the cake stacks up to make a big cake.” When asked what her favourite part of the set is, she said “Those strawberry filling cakes looked very yummy!” It is also great for fine motor skills, as you will see when you watch the video…
When people hear the concept of zero waste, it can seem somewhat overwhelming. How can someone not create any rubbish?! But the truth is, for the vast majority of people who try to practice a zero waste lifestyle, it is more like zero waste is something to aim towards by taking a slow step by step journey in the right direction. And that’s ok. It is really about doing your bit to protect our planet. Plus each action you take tends to become a gateway to the next. So it really isn’t as hard as it first sounds!
This post covers alot of different areas, but the point is just for me to share tips and alternative products with you all. I intend for you, my readers, to pick somewhere to begin, and to find new ideas to continue from whatever stage you are already at; the idea is not for anyone to try to take it all on at once! Gradual change is the key to making it feel sustainable and not too overwhelming. This is also by no means a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination! There are many, many people far further along the journey than I am, but we can all learn from one another, so I am just sharing what I know!
Here are my ideas for developing a zero waste lifestyle, divided into sections for ease of reference (because I like to be organised!)…
This is the area that I have been working on myself most recently, so I figure it makes sense to start here!
Earth Conscious sell a zero waste natural deoderant that now comes in both tin or stick format. I have only just got mine so too early to comment personally, but reviews on it are great!
Shampoo bars are the obvious choice for zero waste hair washing. Alternatively, powder is another option. However, if you cannot get on with shampoo bars or powder, I recommend that you buy a huge bulk size container of shampoo and conditioner so that it needs replacing far less often. You can purchase a smaller reusable pump bottle to make it more practical.
For example, Faith in Nature sell huge 5 litre refills for around £50. If you feel put off by the price for a product you haven’t tried, it is well worth ordering the smaller size versions first then investing in your favourite. They also offer free samples for a small limited number of their products, so you can try before you buy that way too. I realise this may sound like it defeats the point of choosing zero waste items somewhat, but it is really about looking at the bigger picture and thinking ahead. Other brands probably have bulk size versions too, if you look into it and find any others, do let me know in comments.
As for conditioner, I have written before about natural hair conditioners. Although these are not actually zero waste ideas as such, they are items that can be used for a range of purposes and again can usually be purchased in much larger sizes so this helps to drastically reduce waste.
There are a wide range of beautiful, often handmade, natural soaps available that are sold without packaging (or minimal, recycled packaging) so produce little to no waste. If you prefer liquid handwash, again I recommend buying in bulk to reduce waste.
I totally recommend you make your own! There are some fab DIY recipes around if you google. I made a great coffee scrub last year. Alternatively, there are various eco conscious independents and other brands who ensure their packaging is minimal and environmentally- friendly. (And remember to check for no microbeads too!)
Go for a bamboo toothbrush. Most come in fully recyclable minimal packaging and the toothbrush is biodegradable. I have one from Save Some Green.
Alot of people buy many different types of cleaning products for all different purposes, which immediately creates far more waste. So my first bit of advice is try to simplify!
Cloths/ Wipes/ Scrub pads
Opt for resuable versions made from sustainable natural materials, such as bamboo, hemp or organic cotton cloths and wipes, and coconut hair scrub pads for example.
Multi – Purpose Cleaner
I recommend making your own DIY version if possible. We tend to use vinegar solution. Otherwise choose an eco-friendly brand in the largest size possible that covers a range of uses.
Washing up Liquid
Again my best advice is to select one that lasts longer so less waste!
I was sent this fab soapnut starter pack from Living Naturally, which I have used for my most recent washes (probably about 4 loads now of various items). I am really impressed at how effective they are; in my opinion, they leave clothes just as clean and fresh as regular detergent! Not only are they natural and zero waste but they also work out much cheaper too, so this is a very cost effective way to do laundry as well as protecting the environment. Do give them a try and tell me what you think!
Ok, so granted this isn’t relevant to everyone but menstruation products can cause alot of waste so this is an important one! There are various reusable products, so you will most likey find that there is something to suit everyone that needs them. Earthwise Girls are my go to site for this, since they stock a good range of items to choose from. Personally, I mainly use a cup but also have reusable tampons, period pants and cloth pads too so that I can go with the flow. (Get it?! Sorry, excuse the pun!!!)
This is a huge area. There are so many different aspects and I doubt very much that I have covered even the majority of them in this post, but here goes…
First things first; take your reusable bags along! Or use cardboard crates instead, which is what we do as we find that easier.
Choose items with minimal and recyclable packaging wherever possible. Aiming for a fresh raw food diet, rather than buying convenience goods, is not only good for your health, but better for the environment too. Fruit and veg, for example, do not need plastic wrappers! Of course, I totally understand this might be ideal but is not always realistic for many – but it is, at the very least, just something to consider when doing your shop. Buying bigger versions of long lasting cupboard food also saves on some packaging too.
Try not to buy more than you will eat, freeze if applicable so it lasts longer and my favourite for fruit and veg – make it into a smoothie and drink it up!
Storage/ Lunchboxes/ Picnics
There are lots of durable, practical ways to store food without causing waste. Mason jars, glass or metal containers, resuable sandwich bags and washable beeswax wraps (to replace clingfilm) are all good options. For snacks on the go, carry around reusable cutlery, made from bamboo or similar. Plus carry washable cloths rather than wipes in your bag too.