Dog on Stilts Review

I love a quirky read, we’ve just enjoyed reading the rather excellent Dog on Stilts by James Thorp and Angus Mackinnon published by Digital Leaf. Joss has just moved on from heavy cardboard picture books and will sit for a long time if a story catches her attention, as indeed Dog on Stilts certainly did!  (nb. we don’t always have a penguin balloon watching over us when we read!)

dog on stilts

This gorgeous hardbacked book is beautifully illustrated, and interactive too, with pages both portrait and landscape and the colour ways are so unusual for a kids book that this is a standout on the shelf, and a real mad comic caper to boot.  There’s something wonderfully tactile about turning the book around to read the curling whirling writing when sharing the story together!  I was wary that some of the images might err a little on the dark side but Joss saw the fun in the story and didn’t seem perturbed!

Image courtesy of http://www.digitalleaf.co.uk

Image courtesy of http://www.digitalleaf.co.uk

Dog on Stilts tells the tale of Medium Dog, he has some issues with his confidence and comes up with a unique solution to help him ‘walk tall’ and sees him head on out through his neighbourhood getting into scrapes and having a not so great adventure. I do like a tale with a moral at the end, and Medium Dog with his everyday hair and medium shape learns an important lesson about true friendship, where real friends value the everyday us:

We think you’re dog wonderful just as you are

This is a book for all ages, you know you’re onto a good one when there’s the odd ‘joke’ for the parents to enjoy too, and there’s a bit where, OK, I won’t spoil the story for you, but there’s a grown up hoot out loud moment with a poodle that’s not to be missed!

This book doesn’t need stilts to walk tall!

– There’s an online musical version of the book and you can get a copy for yourself with the ISBN 9781909428058

Disclaimer: We received a free copy of this book for this review, all views are my own

Giveaway: Getting ready for Christmas with 3M

I have some exciting things coming up on the blog soon, throughout December I’ll be running some amazing giveaways in collaboration with other bloggers and some top brands and bringing you great gift guides designed to take the stress out of present choosing!

Now that we’re in the run up to that period, we’ll need some supplies to help us with wrapping.  3M, makers of Scotch Tape, have kindly stepped in to help kick start the process!

I have started wrapping a few bits and bobs to send abroad and I’ve been using my new trusty 3M kitty dispenser to make wrapping a doddle!

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How handy is this little guy!  I don’t have to search for the rolls of tape and scissors in my kitchen drawers anymore and I can use it one handed too!
3M cat dispenser

You might remember this 3M craft post Joss and I wrote earlier this year, there are more uses to Scotch Magic Tape than wrapping alone!

Retailing at £8.99 this would make a sweet secret Santa gift for that stationery lover in your office, or a cool stocking filler to brighten up a desk space.

Giveaway: Getting ready for Christmas with 3M

The lovely folk at 3M have given me two dispensers in the range to giveaway.  Ralph the dog and this handy footballer will make your wrapping a breeze!  I’m giving away Ralph on my Facebook page here, and the footballer via the rafflecopter form below, so two lucky blog readers will receive their own dispenser for the holiday season!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

dog and footballer

T&Cs UK entries only, winner will be announced 24 hours after competition post closes and prize will be sent within 7 days of my receiving your address. There is no cash alternative.

November’s Organic Round Up

It’s time for my latest organic roundup.  I’ve decided to try to do these every couple of months after my Organic September post was so popular!  This month we’ve been trialling three new products that I’d like to share with you.

Organic Round Up

First up, and helping me with potty training on the go, is Organyc’s Organic Baby Wipes. About a week ago Joss woke up and announced she didn’t want to wear a nappy. A week on she’s doing brilliantly, we’re using cloth wipes at home but I needed something quick for out and about as she’s often using the potty when we’re literally on the go! Made from 100% organic cotton infused with organic Chamomile and organic Calendula these are a great choice of more eco-friendly wipe. They’re a really good thick quality cotton, smell refreshing but without overpowering and the addition of the essential oils is great as these are the same oils we use at home with our cloth wipes.

organyc

Next up, for the past month I switched my usual moisturiser for these Oriflame eco-beauty smoothing day and night creams, priced at £16.95 each the two come in cheaper than my usual buy.  I really liked the packaging, with pump action nozzles they dispense hygienically and you can still control the amount you use.  The day cream contains a blend of Fairtrade Shea Butter and Fairtrade Organic Coconut Oil for a gorgeously smooth base for my daily make up routine and after a few weeks people commented that I was looking well so I assume the cream did the trick!  The night cream has a similar blend of shea and coconut oil but is slightly heavier, it smooths on nicely and after about ten minutes my skin felt plumper; this cream feels like a luxurious treat for my skin.  That it’s paraben free, fairtrade and organic makes this a really attractive eco-buy too.

The most noticable result for me is that the flaky patches I struggled to fight with my usual cream are gone, this is a brilliant result for me as they were really stubborn and could leave my makeup looking patchy on a bad day.  This is a product switch that I’m really pleased with, and sticking to!

oriflame

Organic News

In other news, Aldi, our beloved local store that we use so heavily because we don’t have a car have started stocking a range of organic fruit and veg, brilliant!  They now have a wide selection of organic products to choose from including meat and diary produce too.

Air drying clay at Christmas

I absolutely love air drying clay, it’s really easy to work with and has a really nice finish.

I bought a pack for £2 and started with a project I’ve wanted to do for a while, making a little trinket dish, something I’d seen on Pinterest. Decorated with a sharpie and sprayed with some varnish to finish it off I was really pleased with the results.

Air drying clay at Christmas

Air drying clay at Christmas

I made a few more to give as gifts, then used the leftover clay to make some Christmas tags/ornaments. These probably worked out at less than a quid to make and I’m really happy with the results.

Air drying clay at Christmas

I rolled out the clay to about 5mm thick and cut out the shapes using heart and circle cookie cutters, then I used various stamps including alphabet stamps to emboss designs into the clay (the bobbly designs were printed using a scrap of an old jumper so you don’t need stamps to get a nice result!) A straw was used to pop a circle in the tops so they can be hung on ribbons.

After two days they were dry and ready to sand gently, then paint. I checked on them every so often to check they were still nice and flat, air drying clay can curl so do take care to check on them!

I used metallic paints from Joss’ stash to decorate them, then finished them with a spray of varnish too.

airdrying clay christmas ornaments

Egg Carton Christmas Trees

  egg carton christmas trees

Joss and I have been getting crafty most evenings for the last week.  After dinner we clear the table and she asks to draw, once she tires of another round of drawing pigs and slugs (it’s always pigs and slugs she draws, I don’t know why!) she usually asks if we can do some painting.

I thought we’d use this time to start to make a few little Christmas decorations together.  As I was clearing the kitchen last night I was about to pop the egg carton into the bin when I thought about using it for painting instead.  Cutting out the centres of the carton I made some of them taller and some shorter and trimmed any rough edges before letting Joss go crazy on them with the glitter and paint!

Make your own Egg Carton Christmas Trees

If you’d like to make your own egg carton trees here’s the lowdown:

egg carton christmas tree

  • Cut out the pointed centres of your carton, remove any rough edges and prep them for your toddler by cutting them into different sizes.
  • Get decorating with paints, glitter glue and stickers
  • You can either keep them as they are or stack a shorter tree on a taller one as we have done to make them look more ‘tree like’
  • Then either keep as a snowy scene as we’ve done, or pop a little hole in the top with a pencil and add ribbon to make them into ornaments for your Christmas tree.
  • Enjoy!

SAD Mam’s Winter Survival Guide

She’s only happy in the sun- Ben Harper

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It’s no secret that many of us struggle in winter, the dark mornings and nights and dull overcast days can send even the most positive soul into the doldrums; with light deprivation the main cause of SAD the long nights and short days can take their toll. I realised a few years back that I have made a referral into community mental health or asked for help from my GP every year in Autumn/Winter for as long as I can remember.  It’s pretty clear then that for me a personal action plan is necessary to help me fight the winter blues.

When I was on maternity leave I found that particular year much easier, I could be out during the brighter parts of the days and felt good about making plans for the late morning period when I knew I could get more of the vitamin D I need from the sun.  Once I returned to work the impending sense of doom that the change in the clocks brought about was palatable; I was SAD alright, really bloody miserable!  There’s a sense of cabin fever that winter brings and now that I recognise it I am better prepared to treat myself well in winter.

I have learned to manage aspects of SAD over the years and yet it’s definitely harder when you have more than just yourself to think about.  During the summer months I really enjoyed going out for a walk with Joss every evening until about 8pm. This routine set us all up for a happy bed time, yet in winter we all have a sense of being ‘stuck at home.’ This survival guide is no replacement for getting advice and support from a medical professional, but it might offer some general well being pointers that fellow SAD mums and dads might find helpful!

 SAD Mam’s Winter Survival Guide

Your survival kit might include:

  • Access to sunlight daily, even just for twenty minutes. If you’re at home with the kids take them for a walk between 9 – 11 when they days are often brightest, keep yourself from getting down by talking about all the things you see on your walk, there’s a reason why Joss and I have been doing so many leaf pictures lately, it’s because it gives me something to do when we’re walking to distract myself from thinking about what we’ll do next, what we’ll do is get some glue and get sticking!  If you’re at work take an earlier lunch break and have a walk around the block to soak up any daylight you can get.
  • A SAD or light therapy lamp which can give you a boost on those really dark days when Mr Sunshine stays away and Mr Rain comes out the play. I use mine daily for an hour from about September and do feel a noticeable difference
  • Headspace, I have been teaching myself to meditate to help clear the dark thoughts and intrusive ideas that come into my head. I tend to get really glum in winter, it starts with head chatter “I feel bad, why do I feel bad? Is something bad going to happen?” Then it spirals… CBT taught me to control the spiral and I have some brilliant tools that I use to combat anxiety, but in winter it feels easier to give up and I sometimes lose the fight, that’s when taking some time to meditate can bring me back to a more positive way of dealing with the thoughts. I use a few online tools, but the headspace app is a really good place to start.
  • Your diary – give yourself things to look forward to, plan to see some friends – life often looks different when we get together with others; look ahead to Christmas if you enjoy the festivities and plan to do something nice, this year we are going to get tickets for Enchanted Parks in December and I’m really looking forward to sharing that with Joss. More recently we’ve enjoyed getting out in the late fresh air for Halloween and Bonfire Night, both nights I had to really motivate myself to get out of the house but we really enjoyed it when we were out.
  • A healthy eating plan – step away from the winter stodge, it’s so tempting but try to save that to look forward to over Christmas time! If you can stick to a healthy eating plan, (heck, include exercise and make it a healthy living plan) you’re likely to feel more energised and better prepared to fight off any winter bugs that also get us down.  Balance your carby cravings with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and try to take in proteins which can help to boost your seratonin levels try fish, turkey, chicken, beans, pulses, nuts, eggs etc, food high in B vitamins and tryptopan can boost your serotonin levels
  • An Advent activity list – in winter it’s harder to motivate ourselves as we experience a dip in energy.  I find it harder to think of things to do and easier to sit down and do not much of anything!  Last year I had a series of counselling and was given a huge list of 100 activities to challenge my thinking, often my husband would designate me a task for the day and I’d have to engage with it.  After a day or two of feeling silly for needing someone to motivate me I thought I could do the same for activities Joss and I could do together.  I wrote out a list of fun activities indoor and outdoor and stuck it on the fridge to avoid the old ‘I’m bored and there’s nothing to do’.  I really recommend giving this approach a try if you like to have something to look forward to and to set yourself goals, it sets you up for the day with a little activity plan and is something for your family to look forward to as well.  Here are a few ideas to get you started.  I’ve decided to use this as a basis for our ‘Advent bucket list’ of 24 ideas to do starting 1st December; we’ll try to do them all in the run up to Christmas to keep me motivated and I’ll use each activity to try to increase my mindfulness and focus throughout the darkest time of the year.

sad

Finally, if your symptoms are so bad that you feel you can’t live a normal day to day life and the down days are too frequent, see your GP for medical help.

Simple things to combat SAD

I’m drafting a mammoth post about seasonal affective disorder at the moment, but as it’s been on my mind as I’ve been mulling over ideas I realised that I know I am feeling really well within myself at the moment as I’m really enjoying the little things in life., the simple things to combat SAD if you will.

Today a friend tagged me in a Facebook challenge to share five photos that make me smile, later I’ll be digging through old pics to choose just five, but this post is a wee celebration of the small things that have made me smile very recently, it’s utterly self indulgent but it’s been a while since I did this, so here we go, seven simple things to smile about.

Things like bonfire night

fireworks use

Like these two messing on for Halloween

fireworks2 use

Crafting something I’m really proud of and love

gift

And encouraging Joss to appreciate her own artworks

fireworks

Spotting interesting things on my walks and rambles with her

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And her joy at spotting something really awesome too (taking this little fella home and washing him up made me smile, Joss practically ran home to show her Lego monkey foundling to Daddy)

farm3 use

And finally, just being in her company

ang and joss

Smiggle 30 Pack Pens Review

Smiggle that’s where a smile meets a giggle, is the latest stationary brand to really catch my eye. They have brought bright fun stationary to the marketplace with something for all ages and great quality too.

I was recently sent a Smiggle 30 pack of pens to get my creative juices going; this would make a great Christmas gift for a stationary lover or to encourage the kids with their homework.

It includes a mix of gel, glitter, neon and pastel Smiggle pens, scented, which is where the Smiggle fun comes in, yum! And all tucked nicely away in a handy carry case; my Smiggle 30 Pack Pens Review gave me the excuse to get organised!
smigg

I just knew these would make a great addition to my family planner. I usually colour code each person’s activities and my own work tasks, I thought I’d take this opportunity to show you how our little family stays organised!

Keeping my To Do List out of my head really stops me feeling overwhelmed, and juggling work, blogging, family life, volunteering and studying too gets overwhelming, trust me!

My planner gives me confidence that I won’t forget to do something important!

Smiggle2

Essentially I have a little colour coded system to make it easy to see what’s coming up for who at a glance, I use my blog like a memory journal so sometimes I jot down ideas so I don’t forget what we’ve been up to, or if Joss say something that I want to remember that gets jotted down too!

I get my planner out on a Sunday morning and meal plan for the week ahead, making a shopping list alongside.

If other stuff runs out, like washing up liquid or hand wash I keep a set of post its in my planner and add to a little ‘on the go’ shopping list to go alongside my main list when I finally hit the shops!

Do you keep a family planner? How do you stay organised and in control?

A Simple Toddler Firework Activity!

simple toddler firework activity

It’s that time of year again, the time when Sarah and Duck’s firework dance is once again carefully choreographed by my tot and we all get the sparklers out!

We’ve had such fun at Joss’ toddler group this morning that I had to share her firework pictures; these are so simple and effective.

Take some black card, oodles of glitter glue and sparkles and let your little one go wild!

A Simple Toddler Firework Activity

You will need:

Black card

Glitter pens

Or glue and glitter

simple toddler fireworks

Let your tot go wild with the glue and glitter, there’s no exact science to fireworks so don’t intervene, just allow them to crack on and get messy!

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Once they’ve made the firework designs write their name in glitter glue, then while it’s all still wet sandwich a piece of paper over the top of their picture and rub down hard to spread the glitter and the glue out and help it to hold.

Then peel off the top sheet to leave the sparkly design in place, allow to dry, then display!

Park Photostory

Saturday mornings are Mr B’s lie in day and Joss and I get a bit chewy in the house so the last few weeks we’ve been going to ‘the big park’ – I’ve noticed the sun is out at it’s best 9 – 11am at the moment so it’s the perfect time to get some vitamin D and for me to shrug off the working part of my week and get into relax mode.

Park Photostory

I love this kid, she’s such a sweetheart, when we left the park she hugged this dog and fed him some sand, “you alright puppy? here’s your dinner! Good boy!”
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Headed for the bigger kids climbing frame, I was glad I had my running shoes on, she’s so quick around it!

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These water pumps are ace, I love playing with them too!

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She’s really honed her climbing skills lately!

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And finally we rounded off the day with new boots for a cheeky monkey (tonight she told me she was “chillin’ like a villain” – haha) we get very little choice of shoes in J’s size, she has such narrow feet, but these will see her through the autumn and winter just fine and dandy!
boots

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall