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…
Despite only having one child, and being minimalist myself personally, I find we do still seem to have our fair share of stuff! I think that is down to a combination of reasons; we are home educators, so perhaps by nature we do need more things at home for that purpose. Plus we also spend more time at home than many people because of Squiggle’s needs. But whatever the reason is, a messy house is no use to anyone! I hate wasting time looking for missing things, life is much easier when our home environment is tidy and well oganised. Less distractions and less stress!
Bedrooms are especially essential to be tidy and organised. I feel that it is much easier to get restful, good quality sleep in a calm, cosy environment; it helps my brain feel relaxed and able to switch off. Too much clutter visible in the bedroom is not conducive to good sleep!
That’s why I am pleased to be taking part in Bed Guru’s #StorageForTheWin campaign by sharing my organisation and storage tips for your bedroom. Online bed retailers Bed Guru are sleep experts; they understand that everyone has different sleep requirements and feel it is their obligation to ensure that everybody gets a goodnight sleep! They also have a fab competition running to win an ottoman divan bed base – more info on that below!
Top Tips To Declutter
Ok, so first things first. If you want a neat and tidy bedroom then you need to get rid of the clutter! It is far easier to get organised – and stay that way – if you don’t have too much stuff to stay on top of in the first place. Here are my suggestions for effective decluttering:
• Sort everything into piles (e.g. tops, shoes, bedding and so on…)
• One pile at a time, go through each item in the pile. Consider if it is important and still useful to you. Only keep the things that you really need and/ or truly matter to you.
• For the items you do not plan to keep, organise them into piles of recycling/ upcycling, charity/ pass on to someone else and things to sell (if you so wish – otherwise these would also go in the charity pile).
• For items to keep, the next step will be to consider how and where to store it! (See below).
Organisation and Storage Tips
• Only store things in the bedroom that belong in there; it is meant to be a peaceful sanctuary for restful sleep, not a storage room!
• Shelves are useful for keeping smaller items that you would like to have out on display. Shelves above the bed, or corner shelving, maximises use of space most effectively.
• Wardrobes with sliding doors are great space savers. You can use boxes within the wardrobe to make best use of all the room available. Alternatively, choose a wardrobe with extra rails, drawers and/ or shelves built in. Or do both!
• Find bedroom furniture that can be used for multi-purposes. For example, drawers or wardrobes that also serve as a bedside table.
• Use drawer dividers to organise smaller items effectively.
• Divan bed bases are a great way to store stuff in the bedroom out of sight without taking up any extra space for storage. Ottoman divan bed bases are especially great because they have a lift up opening base, with the help of gas pistons. This type of divan can store heavier items than the typical sliding drawer version because the bed base is supported by the floor. Some styles of Ottoman even open from the side so can fit snugly into tighter gaps; perfect for smaller bedrooms.
Win An Ottoman Divan Bed Base
As I mentioned above, Bed Guru are giving one very lucky person the chance to win an Ottoman divan bed base, so do pop over to their website to enter! With a choice of 19 fabrics, this awesome side opening storage bed will help you to organise your bedroom perfectly!
Find more storage and organisation tips, and share your own suggestions too, using the hashtag #StorageForTheWin on social media.
*Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Bed Guru.
As part of Plastic Free July, I have been making more effort to find new ways to reduce waste in our home. We have been on a journey to consciously gradually reduce our waste, and especially plastic, for a while now anyway but there will always be more action we can take! So I walked around the house, and looked at our current waste and recycling, to come up with an action plan. Then I did some online shopping for zero waste essentials! Here are some of my purchases:
I purchased these Cheeky Wipes reusable cloths through Amazon* for multiple purposes. They come in a pack of 25 in five different colours (£17), which is handy for keeping separate cloths for own their different uses/ remembering who they belong to!
I was disappointed that they arrived in plastic wrapping! However, aside from that I am pleased with them; they are a nice size and wash well.
I needed a new toothbrush so it seemed the perfect time to opt for a more sustainable alternative than the usual plastic toothbrush! This lovely bamboo toothbrush (RRP £2.75) was kindly sent to me directly from Save Some Green, along with one to giveaway as part of my mini eco bundle too! (See below to enter). It even comes in eco friendly packaging, very impressed!
Coconut Scrub Pads
Again, the Safix scrub pad (RRP £2.70) was kindly received from Save Some Green and is a super environmentally friendly alternative to usual versions. It is biodegradable and compostable so zero waste.
Resuable Water Bottle
Hubby bought this water bottle from a local store recently, which can also be purchased through Amazon: Brita Fill & Go Water Bottle* (£12.37). However, I also know that the Clean Kanteen water bottle (£30) comes highly recommended and is made from stainless steel, so that would have been even better still!
St Albans #refusethestraw campaign is inspired by Plastic Free July and has one simple aim; to drastically reduce the use of plastic straws in bars, pubs, cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, schools and everywhere else across St Albans. After watching A Plastic Ocean as part of the St Albans Film Festival, Emma (founder) felt even more motivated to push forward with this movement to rid St Albans of these harmful, and unnecessary, single- use plastics from our community.
A plastic straw has a useful life of around 20 minutes, and most places don’t bother separating them out for recycling. Many end up in our oceans. A great example of human wastefulness! Local businesses can take part in the following ways:
Provide a straw only when requested by a customer
Provide compostable paper straws instead (not those with a polyethylene lining) or other eco-friendly straws
Get rid of straws completely*
*Note: In the interest of considering customers with disabilities, ideally sustainable alternatives to plastic straws would still be available, at least on request.
Furthermore, individuals can help by spreading the word, speaking to people who work in local businesses about changes they can make, and simply by refusing a straw when buying a drink.
The campaign has got off to a roaring start and is gaining momentum fast! So far 16 businesses (and counting!) have pledged their support and are taking action, with more being added to the list daily. This is great news for our environment!
At the time of writing, the following are all phasing out (or already have removed) plastic straws:
I am so excited about this fantastic step forward and can’t wait for further developments! To keep up with the latest campaign news and progress, make sure you follow @starefusestraw on twitter and St Albans #refusethestraw over on facebook. Neighbouring town of Harpenden also has its own #refusethestraw campaign, which you can find on facebook or twitter too.
And don’t forget to tag us in your local strawless or eco straw photos and/ or share them with us using the #refusethestraw hashtag to help spread the word even further!
Small changes make a big impact… and together we can clean up our planet.
If you would like to set up a campaign in your local area, here are some top tips:
You can get started just by setting up an email address, Twitter and Facebook page.
Approach businesses initially with a polite email, following up with an update if no response.
Keep it light – we all know this is a serious thing, but a big green rant might put people off.
Start with green and community minded businesses who are more likely to switch to get the ball rolling and build momentum. Other people are more likely to switch if they see others doing so!
Take it at your own pace. Even just 1 or 2 emails / calls / visits a day makes a huge impact!
Be prepared with information to be able to widen the conversation if the business would like further details e.g. disposable cups, food waste etc…
Don’t be afraid to try the big chains. Ask them to use your local branch as a pilot.
Spread the word about your campaign on local Facebook groups etc…
Regular updates on social media keeps momentum. Post successes, and regularly publicise a list of everyone who has switched.
People like to share photos, encourage use of the hashtag to help spread the word further.
Approach local media and bloggers to get coverage.
Work with local groups e.g. WI, Transition, Scouts.
Plastic Straw Alternatives
There are various sustainable straw options. I have tested out a couple of different ones at home; including steel and bamboo reusables, plus disposable paper and wheat ones too. I recommend the best thing to do is try some out for yourself and decide which is best for you. But here are some of my personal opinions:
Victoria decided to write the book because when she was first considering home education she didn’t really know anyone who was doing it and was surrounded by people telling her how mainstream school was the best and only way. This caused her to doubt herself and led to indecision and heart ache. She looked online at books on the subject but she felt that they were all written by ‘experts’ which she found both intimidating and unhelpful. What she really wanted was the advice and experiences of a real life home educating parent. So she turned to reading blogs and found the real life reasoning she was after; in fact she found them so useful that it inspired her to start her own blog. When she begun receiving messages from other parents saying her page had helped them decide to home educate she thought a book might be helpful too. Plus she generally enjoys writing and blogging too!
Home Educating The Mad Lads is a down to earth, honest and raw story of this home educating family. Victoria writes from the heart and shares her personal story of her own school life, recounts her eldest’s preschool and nursery experiences and the many reasons that led them to decide on home education.
The book is a quick, easy read that features snippets from her blog, useful information about home ed and glimpses into their lives. It is very relatable, and I think is especially handy for people who would rather read print than screen; I know there are certain members of my family who I struggle to persuade to even read my own blog simply because they have such a strong preference for the printed word, so I think a blog style book is a great idea!
Home Educating The Mad Lads book can be purchased through Amazon (RRP £5.79). You can also find their blog over on facebook.
Victoria has kindly also offered the chance for one lucky reader to win a copy of the book. Enter via rafflecopter below. Competition closes 2nd August 2017. UK only. Other T&Cs apply.
*Disclosure: This book was sent to me for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own. This post also contains Amazon affiliate links. This does not cost anything extra to anyone purchasing through these links.
To help celebrate Squiggle’s 9th birthday recently, Bakerdays kindly sent us a letterbox cake. We were lucky enough to review one of these yummy cakes previously too, which you can read about here.
Since then though, there have been lots of developments over at Bakerdays! Their website has had a facelift; now even more user- friendly and is looking great, with new designs and more products being added.
The cake arrived well packaged and in perfect condition, same as last time. There isn’t excess packaging or too much plastic either, which I am happy about. There were also thoughtful finishing touches in the box, such as the party blower, some balloons and a little card. I also like the card that says who packed it too.
I chose this rabbit design after specifically searching the website for the word ‘bunny’ because Squiggle had a pet theme this year for her birthday. I then personalised the writing. Last time I ordered dairy free but I decided to order the regular vanilla sponge on this occasion, just to compare. (Generally we opt to eat as close to vegan as possible but aren’t strict about it!)
Squiggle was really excited that a cake arrived through the letterbox for her! She was very pleased with the design too…
We took the cake outside for a garden picnic and Squiggle had the honour of cutting her cake…
Squiggle also got to have first taste too as the birthday girl…
Her verdict was “Mmmm… it is YUMMY!”
I enjoyed it too, it was tasty and good quality. I do recall the dairy free one we had previously tasted more buttery (in a good way!) than this one, and it seemed to lack a filling, but it was yummy nonetheless!
The letterbox cake is plenty big enough for 3 people to have a very generous sized slice or two, and stays fresh for a reasonable amount of time too. It definitely makes a lovely novelty gift or surprise for someone!
Bakerdays are kindly giving away a letterbox cake to one lucky reader! Enter via the rafflecopter below. Open to UK residents only. Competition closes 14th June 2017. Other T&Cs apply.
I think Caketoppers read my mind; just when I was busy organising Squiggle’s party and thinking about her birthday cake, they dropped me an email asking if I would like to review their personalised photo cupcakes. Since it’s her birthday, they kindly agreed to send me cake toppers for her birthday party cake as well as two cupcakes to sample too, which I really appreciate!
Caketoppers is based in Farnham, Surrey and offers a selection of personalised photo cupcakes, celebration cakes and toppers. You can use photos, logos or even drawings to personalise your choice of cake, so it makes it really unique. I chose my Living Life Our Way logo for the cupcakes. For the birthday cake toppers, I designed a picture on a photo app using some of Squiggle’s own drawings.
The cupcakes and toppers arrived promptly and were well packaged. I don’t like to create so much waste with plastic packaging personally, but it certainly meant that everything arrived very fresh and in perfect condition.
So firstly, the cupcakes. They are absolutely delicious! I literally dreamt about these cakes (yeah, yeah, I know). They were really moist and fluffy; they honestly tasted like they had just that second been made (by someone with far superior baking skills that my own!) Gorgeous. I would tell you what the rest of the family thought of them, but they wouldn’t know… they were way too good to share! I sampled one vanilla sponge and one chocolate; both were to the same yummy standard. I personally liked the vanilla sponge best but that is just my personal preference – both really were delicious!
The cupcake samples, like my example above, can be purchased for £5 including delivery. A set of 6 cupcakes are £12.99 plus postage. There are also various other options, so check out the website for details.
As for the cake toppers, Squiggle loved the fact that her party cake was so unique and personal, decorated with her very own drawings. It meant so much to her! The cake toppers are easy to use; they came with detailed instructions but basically you just peel the back off then use icing to stick them on. They are ideal if you plan on baking a homemade cake but want a special finishing touch to decorate it with. Cake toppers cost from £7.45 for a round, square or rectangle edible photo topper.
I ended up buying a supermarket ‘decorate your own’ celebration cake for the topper, which was a tiny bit too small so doesn’t really do the topper justice. However, that is entirely my own fault and not a reflection of Caketoppers whatsoever! Squiggle didn’t notice at all though – as I said, she was delighted with her special cake! We all were infact, love it.
Caketoppers do also sell the right size cakes to match the cake toppers so you can decorate it yourself, if you fancy a semi DIY job. A round or medium square undecorated cake is £20 and large square (10 inch) is £26. (Plus delivery charges). I’ll admit I would have much rather ordered her party cake from them too, especially after tasting those amazing cupcakes, but this didn’t quite manage to happen – despite the fact that they do also have a super speedy next day delivery option. Mummy fail. Oops! (Long story that I won’t bore you with but absolutely nothing to do with the company!)
Alternatively, you can purchase photo cakes with your own design printed on them, so the same concept as the cupcakes, only bigger. This is an easy, convenient option; and is the one that I am more than likely to opt for next time! These cost from £32.50 plus P&P for a medium 8 inch cake.
All in all, I would definitely recommend Caketoppers, we are really impressed with them. It is a shame that the same can’t be said of my cake- making or organising skills! 😉
Last but certainly not least, Caketoppers have kindly offered up for grabs a set of 6 yummy cupcakes, with the design of the winner’s choice. So enter my giveaway below for a chance to try these for yourself!
My&Me Jewellery turns children’s artwork into beautiful items of silver jewellery to treasure forever. Founder, Maxine, got her inspiration from the creative doodles of her 6 year old daughter, after she came across a page of the young artist’s artwork in her jewellery sketchbook one day. Much to her little girl’s delight, she decided to make one into a pendant; and it got such a great response that the concept of My&Me Jewellery was born.
Maxine works from a small studio in South Harrow. She also teaches classes and will soon be running workshops for parents to make their very own My&Me Jewellery with BaB courses. This practical workshop will be organised with the attendees convenience in mind; parents can bring babies, toddlers and home ed kids along with them and they will be entertained in the same room while parents can enjoy the workshop without the issue of childcare. Brilliant thinking!
The range includes shaped silver charm pendants priced from £49 for a single charm to £124 for a pendant with four charms. Or opt for a disc shaped or heart shaped engraved single charm bracelet or necklace (£55). You can even save 20% off just by signing up to their email list. These lovely items of jewellery would make a fabulous gift or a wonderful treat for yourself!
The Learning Success System uses various approaches to overcoming learning difficulties, using new findings in neuroscience, as well as tried and tested techniques developed by experts in the field. New exercises are delivered daily via email, and there is also a support forum too.
The first principle of the Learning Success System is small steps. In Japanese culture, it’s called Kaizen. It comes from the idea that crash learning doesn’t work, at least not long-term; continuous improvement over time is more effective. Therefore the tasks are only brief but to work well, the programme should be carried out regularly, although the exact amount in terms of length of time and frequency are flexible. Tasks can be approached in the way that works best for your child/ family.
There is a huge wealth of information over on The Learning Success Blog but as a very brief summary, the programme works on the following strategies for better learning:
Build up micro-skills
The exercises focus on developing different skills such as working memory, auditory discrimination, cross- lateral coordination and other skills that help across many areas of learning. The exercises are quick and simple, but also fun and engaging. They are all very much active learning techniques, not passive teaching. (This is a good thing!)
The Learning Success System is available at the discounted reader price of $197 for a 12 month subscription, with a 90 day guarantee. You can purchase it here. (This is an affiliate link. This means I get a fee for each person that signs up, this does not cost the buyer anything extra. Thank you for supporting me in this way!)
One lucky reader can win a 12 month subscription to The Learning Success System. Enter via rafflecopter below.
Do you get stuck with gift ideas? If you are anything like me, the answer is probably yes! I love thoughtful presents; something handmade, personal or unique in some way. But sometimes it can be difficult to come up with something that really fits the bill. So when I found about naming your very own star, I was excited to discover such a fab gift idea! It is ideal for the person who has everything (I bet they don’t have their very own star!), anyone with an interest in stargazing or who loves the outdoors in general, or for someone who just likes something that bit different!
Star Name Registry is the UK’s number one online registry company who offers this unique gift. There are a variety of packages to choose from, with prices ranging from £14.99 for a standard star to £69.99 for a binary star gift set, as well as several other options inbetween. Their gift set version of each package comes with a framed certficate beautifully presented in a silver box, whereas the regular version comes in an envelope. If you need it in a hurry, you can choose to have it sent via email for an extra £4.99 (sent within 12 hours of order received) or £6.99 for next day delivery (paper version). Gift sets can also be sent via next day special delivery for £8.49. So handy to remember as a last minute present too!
I was sent an extra bright star gift set to review. This lovely set includes my very own star, which I not only got to name but was also able to choose which constellation I wanted it in too, an explanation of the star, free download of software, map and framed certificate in a gorgeous silver box. It does make a really unusual and very lovely gift.
I took quite sometime trying to decide on the name of my star and considered a couple of different options; for example, I thought about naming it after my daughter, or even her nickname ‘Squiggle’. But then I came up with the perfect idea: I chose our family name, because then the star represents all of us together. Wherever any of us are, we can look up at the night sky and see our star, and know we are together. It even includes our furbabies! Perfect.
If you would like the chance to win your own star naming, enter my rafflecopter giveaway below. Good luck!