Wednesday, 22 March 2017

5 (easy-ish) ways to save money for Christmas 2017

Every single year I do it..but not this year!  This year I am actually preparing myself for Christmas WELL in advance.  With 4 kids and all the usual family to buy for Christmas is a very expensive time for us and (before now) I have never got round to putting together a strategy to ensure I am not left broke and stressed to the max by Boxing Day!  Usually i'll leave my Christmas shopping until November and then stress out that I have spent most of our November (and December!) income on just presents for the kids - never mind anyone else.

BUT..this year it's going to be different! In January I was thoroughly peeved with myself that yet again I hadn't adequately prepared for Christmas, after all we all know it's coming! So there and then I decided I was going to put a plan into action to ensure Christmas 2017 was going to be different. 

Here are my 5 (easy-ish) ways I am saving for Christmas 2017, and you can too:

1. Save with Park.

Park is the biggest Christmas savings club out there and helps near half a million families every year save for that special time of year. Your money is held in Trust, so is completely safe.  You simply go on to the website, plan your Christmas shopping spree from the thousands of available gifts, vouchers and gift cards (the website will tell you how much you will need to pay each month) and then set up your payments.  I have chosen £650 Love 2 Shop vouchers, £100 Primark voucher and £150 Sainsburys voucher and I am saving £90 per month straight from my bank account on pay day. The L2S vouchers will buy almost all of the kids presents, the Primark voucher will be used for Christmas day outfits and Christmas Eve PJ's and the Sainsburys vouchers will be the majority of our food shop (along with my Clubcard vouchers, see below).  Some people might wonder why I choose to use Park instead of using a savings account..I just couldn't be trusted not to spend it! There always seems to be something that comes up and if I had £xxx sitting in my savings for Christmas it would be just too tempting! This way I cannot touch it at all until my vouchers come through.

2. Clubcard Vouchers

Usually we do pretty well with Clubcard..I do quite a lot of shopping at Tesco, hubby fills up his van at a Tesco or Esso garage whenever he can and we're with EON for our gas and electric, who also give us points, but I wasn't aware until earlier this year that you can save your points for a once yearly pay out rather than getting them every quarter like you would do usually. There is just an option within your Clubcard account online to opt into the Christmas Saver Scheme, and then they will pay you out in November ready for your Christmas shop.  I have set a target of £100 vouchers (am at £40-odd at the moment) and am supplementing our normal spends with a bit of wombling (see below!).  With that £100 I am planning on spending half in store on our Christmas booze, and the other half will be doubled for a £100 Red Letter Day voucher for my in-laws Christmas present. Hopefully I might exceed my target and have a bit left over for an extra pressie or two!  I believe you can also top up your savings at the tills if you have a little bit of spare shopping budget at any point.

3. Wombling

If you have never heard of wombling then you are missing out on a trick. Quite simply, wombling is making use of things others have left behind. The main two places I like to womble are Tesco and Asda..I have a little wander around the car park and see if there are receipts laying around. In Asda you can check the receipts against the Asda price guarantee online and if they are not at least 10% cheaper on the shop they will give you the difference back in a voucher which I then spend on either stock pile goods that have a long shelf life for Christmas or little stocking filler bits (you have to spend them within a month so couldn't hang onto them for December unfortunately). In Tesco I always keep  a look out for receipts with unclaimed Clubcard points on them, you can add 2 at a time to your own card at Customer Services - this is a great way to boost your total for your payout come November.

4. Cashback Apps

I love cashback apps! These are apps that give you money back once you have bought a particular item in store. I tend to stick to the items that are completely free, or that I buy anyway.  My favourite cashback apps are Checkout Smart, Shopmium and Click Snap. The process is simple..browse the app, choose your offers, buy the items and submit your receipt to the app once you have it. I have a quick look every day at the offers in case there's anything new and nip out and get it asap (same day if possible as some disappear really quickly). Recently I managed to get £18 of Easter eggs from Topcashback completely free via cashback. I am regularly completing cashback offers and storing the money for later in the year, around October time I will cash out all of my cashback apps and hopefully be able to buy the games console my boys would like this year with it.

5. Buying all year round

As I said earlier I tend to wait until November and then panic that I don't have any presents at all! This year I am trying to spread my buying by picking up bargains as and when I see them. Obviously kids change their specific interests like the wind but the general jist of what they like won't change! Anything pink and sparkly for my girls and anything football/WWE themed will pretty much do my boys for the next few years, so I've been trying to keep my eye open for bits and pieces, come December hopefully I'll have a lovely stockpile!

So there are my 5 (easy-ish) tips for saving for Christmas you save for Christmas? Let me know your top tips!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

30 Party Games for Children

I have four kids between the ages of 7 and 14, therefore I have organised a lot of kids parties!

I also have a job that involves organising events, many of which are children's parties also.

When I first started organising parties I struggled to come up with ideas of how to entertain my guests without having to pay £200+ for a professional entertainer.  When I did hire entertainers I often found that the kids used to bore easily and it was difficult to find something universal that all age groups could enjoy.

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that the way forward is to run my own games (with a little help from my friends and family to keep order) and throw in a bit of balloon modelling!

Let me just stress, I am a VERY basic balloon modeler - YouTube taught! I can do a flower and a sword, which pretty much covers all bases.  These are the balloons I bought to begin with, you also need a decent pump.  It wont take you long to master those two things, a few hours perhaps.  It is incredibly satisfying when you do though!

Anyway on to the games...

1. Musical Bumps - sit on the floor as fast as possible when the music stops, slowest is out!

2. Musical Chairs - dance/walk/jog round the chairs and sit down when music stops, person without a chair is out, a chair gets taken away each time.

3. Egg & Spoon Race

4. Pin the tail on the donkey

5. What's the time Mr Wolf?

6. Musical Statues - Stand still when the music stops, anyone caught moving is out!

7. Pass the Parcel

8. Three Legged Race

9. Simon Says - Do an action as long the caller says "Simon Says" before the action.

10.  Pinata

11. Blind Mans Bluff

12. Balloon Relay

13. "Greetings O Great One!"

14. Sardines

15. Duck, Duck, Goose - sit in a circle, one person walks round outside saying duck, duck, duck and then pats someone on the head and says goose – the goose has to jump up and chase them round the circle

16. Grandmother's Footsteps - One person is "Grandmother" and stands at the front. Everyone else stands in a line across the room. When Granny turns round anyone caught moving is out!

17. Escape the Monster - 2 adults are monsters on one side of the room, children are lined up on the other. Children are told to make it across the forest without being caught, if the monster catches a child they become a monster too.

18. Sleeping Lions - Everyone lies down, walk around and try to distract them. Anyone who moves is out.

19. Hide and Seek

20. Crawling Race

21. Musical Animals - Shout out an animal when the music stops and they all have to pretend to be that animal. Anyone not being that animal is out.

22. Doggie, Doggie where's your bone? - One child is the “doggie”. All the children sit down in a group. The child designated the doggie will sit in front of the group with his or her back facing toward them.  The doggie places the bone behind their back and closes his or her eyes. One of the children quietly sneaks up and grabs the bone then places it behind their own back. All the children then sing: "Doggie, Doggie, where’s your bone? Someone stole it from your home!"
At that point the doggie opens their eyes and turns around and tries to guess who has the bone. Afterward another child takes their turn as the doggie and the game is repeated.

23. Charades

24. Balloon Burst - In this game the kids will bop a balloon in the air while dancing to music. When the music stops whoever was the last person to touch the balloon must pop it and complete the challenge inside.

25.  Dragon Egg Bust - The kids sit in a circle and pass a dragons egg (balloon) around while the music is playing.  When the music stops whichever child is caught holding the balloon must bust it open as fast as they can to retrieve the gold coin (plastic) inside. They can then trade the gold coin in for a small prize.  After a person is caught with the dragon egg they must sit out for the rest of the game. The game continues until there is only one player left.

26.  Pokeball Snatch and Catch - Players divide into teams of two and compete to see who can collect the most pokeballs.  First you will need to create a couple a dozen pokeballs.  You will do this using ping pong balls and a red and black markers. Give one player from each team a spoon and the other a baseball cap.  Sit the players from each team across from each other - spoons on one side, caps on the other. Place a bowl with all the pokeballs on the side of the players with spoons.  On go, the players with plastic spoons take a pokeball and use the spoon to try and launch as many pokeballs into their teammates cap.  After a minute whichever team has the most pokeballs in their cap wins!

27. Catch the Alien - This is a perfect game for your space theme party. I think it makes a fun twist on the pinata. You put on a Green Alien mask and the explorers must try and catch it with their space wranglers (hula hoops). When the alien is lassoed he throws out a handful of theme candy for his release. This game continues until all the candy is gone.

28. Bobbing for Doughnuts - Hang each doughnut from the ceiling or a tree branch using string or ribbon. Make sure each doughnut is hanging low enough that each child can touch it with their mouth. To Play: Each participant takes their place in front of a hanging doughnut and places their hands behind their back. On the start of go they each try and eat their doughnut (without touching it with their hands) as fast as they can without dropping it. First one who finishes wins!

29. Egg Toss - Couples stand at least 6 foot apart and toss a raw egg between them. The couple who throw it between them for longest, without breaking it, wins!

30. Bingo!

So there it 30 best party games for children!

Top Tip: Make sure you have plenty of stickers for "Runners-Up" and stock up on cheap prizes throughout the year to make sure you're never caught short!

What are your favourite party games?

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpurgo

When we were recently asked by the lovely people at Harper Collins for the children to review the newest literary offering by Michael Morpurgo and I was delighted to accept as we are massive fans of his in this family and I knew it would not disappoint them. If you do not know of Michael, he has written many books for children, five of which have been made into films..probably the most well known being War Horse. Find out more about Michael Murpurgo's work on his website.

I actually intended for Charlie (10) to read this book first but Chloe (13) picked it up and read it in just a few days, I then read it (and actually I think it's an amazing book for adults as well as children) and Charlie then had his turn..and we all loved it! This story follows a young soldier in World War I who makes a decision that could have possibly diverted the course of history, and it is a story based on true events. This trailer gives you a great idea of what an amazing story it is, and after reading it you will want to delve further into the history behind this tale, and really makes you think "What if?!". It's really hard to write a review without giving too much away, so all we'd like to say is if you're a Morpurgo fan, or even if you're not and are just on the look out for a new book for either your pre-teens upwards or yourself, then give it a go.
Chloe said "I loved all the descriptions of England during the war, I think it's really interesting as History is my favourite subject at school. Billy was my favourite character."

Charlie said "I really liked that there were pictures in the book and I like learning about soldiers lives during the war. The story made me think about lots of different things."

You can buy it here on Amazon or I've got a copy to giveaway right here! Fill out the Rafflecopter form below by this time next week to have your copy with you in time for Christmas.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 6 November 2015

An Introduction to Joys Crafts Personalised Gifts and Giveaway

So this week I was lucky enough to be sent a gorgeous personalised Father Christmas treat board from the lovely people at Joys Crafts, a website that specialises in producing gorgeous personalised gifts. The Father Christmas treat board is a sturdy wooden board that has spaces for Santa's drink (we give him milk, but when I was a kid it was Brandy!) and cookies/mince pie, and of course carrots for his Reindeer!  It has been engraved with the kids names, which I wondered if would be possible as I have four of them, but it was no problem at all and it looks great.  I am planning on putting it in their Christmas Eve box this year and they will be thrilled. Our Christmas Eve box get opened on Christmas Eve Night has their new PJ's, a Christmas DVD, hot chocolate ingredients and sweeties in usually, so this will be a perfect addition.  These boards are priced at £14.95, which I think is amazing value considering you will keep and treasure it for years to come.  Delivery is super fast too, if you order before 1pm your order will be posted the same day.

I've been taking a look at the other bits and pieces on the site and there's so many gorgeous items that would make perfect gifts, and with Christmas round the corner gift ideas are always welcome.  I especially love the tree decorations in the teacher gifts section, what a lovely presents and something completely different instead of the usual mugs and chocolates.  

So, because I love you, i'm giving you the chance to win a personalised Teacher candy cane tree decoration (as above), made to your exact specifications and delivered directly to you by the end of term!  Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget below, you know what to do...

Monday, 2 November 2015

Living with back pain..please help me!

So last week I was off work as it was half term, and I had lots of fun things planned..crafting, baking and even a trip to London to see the lovely people from Tomy Toys at Hamleys.  However on Tuesday I woke up with a pain in the bottom of my back like I have never experienced before, I couldn't put one foot in front of the other without crumpling to the floor like a sack of spuds.  But I haven't had any kind of trauma or accident so what on earth is the matter with me?! 

I have been to see the GP, who has prescribed me with Co-Codamol, Naproxen and Diazepam and has told me to go back in a few days time.  If there is no significant improvement then he's going to send me for an MRI.  Sitting is painful, laying down is marginally better but with four kids I can't spend my life horizontal.  I also decided to go and see an Osteopath, but to be honest I felt like I might of well as thrown £40 down the nearest drain that's how much good it did me! 

So do you have any tips? Who out there has lived with back pain and can offer me some advice.  It's that debilitating I just want to cry, I feel like I ruined the kids half term by not being able to do anything I'd planned.  Please someone, help me! 

Health Hop

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Wordless Wednesday

Single Mother Ahoy Wordless Wednesday

Review & Top Tips - Camp Bestival 2015

So, this year we did something that I've wanted to do for a few years, and that is to go to Camp Bestival.  I'm pretty sure everyone reading this will know what Camp Bestival is, but just for clarification it is a family friendly festival held at Lulworth Castle, Dorset.  I decided back in May to buy tickets, and for the last 3 months I have been busying myself buying everything (I thought) we needed in order to see us through a weekend camping.  I must admit, I am not really a typical camper..I like my home comforts, hate being cold, and the idea of a Portaloo fills me with dread, however I was willing to give it a shot for the sake of the overall experience.

We arrived on Friday lunchtime (NB see top tip number 1!), and really struggled to find a camping spot.  We had general admission tickets, which basically mean you turn up and find a pitch wherever you can, but because we were about 24 hours behind 99.9% of the rest of the people there we ended up pitching on a relatively steep slope - although there were a set of toilets, a water point and showers nearby.  Our pitch was about a 5 minute walk from the start of the festival site, halfway between there and the entrance, so even though there was noise at night it was nothing that we weren't able to sleep through.  

After we'd pitched we decided to take a walk up to the festival site, I was so excited to see what was going on, and I really wasn't disappointed! Right from the outset I loved everything about it, the colour, the people, the music and the smells, it was just incredible.  To be fair, the fact the sun was shining enhanced the experience from start to finish, everything and everyone seemed to be so warm and friendly.

 Lulworth Castle, as a venue, is absolutely stunning.  It was so breathtakingly beautiful you just felt really lucky to be there.

We bought a cart from Aldi (£49.99) before we went, mainly to help us bring the stuff from the car to the pitch, but it proved to be invaluable in the end for pulling the kids around when their little legs got tired.  There was a stand there where you could "Pimp Your Trolley" who very kindly fitted a sun canopy and a personalised number plate on Saturday - how cute is that, a lovely keepsake for us for years to come.  

 The Jam Jar Bar was amazing...a boutique bar that served delicious cocktails in plastic Jam Jars from an extremely beautiful vintage caravan.  My favourite cocktail was the Strawberry and Basil Martini.

We also spent alot of time outside the Travelling Barn on the Upper Kids Garden where the amazing country/swing music and sandpit was enough to keep us all entertained for a few hours at a time! Toucan Uke and Lil Miss Lonesome with Jules Bushell were particular favourites of mine.

 As for the more mainstream music there was plenty to float all boats, we particularly enjoyed Wretch 32 (he is one of Alfie's favourites anyway so he was beside himself to see him on Friday evening), Clean Bandit, Ella Eyre, Professor Green, Kaiser Chiefs and Ella Henderson.  We sat through the Underworld set on Sunday night because we wanted to watch the fireworks finale straight afterwards, but I really didn't enjoy it. For some reason the sound system didn't sound up to scratch and I just wasn't overly keen on the music, that is personal preference though.  One thing I was surprised at was that there was only one big screen, set up directly next to the stage, so if you were any further back than the middle of the field the chances of seeing anything at all were slim to none.  During really popular daytime acts it was really difficult for the kids to see the stage due to the amount of buggy's/carts/chairs that would be in the arena, Grace was a bit upset she couldn't see more of Mr Tumble.

There were a few program changes on Sunday, which I thought was a bit naughty, I know sometimes things happen but there were young girls literally crying because Ella Henderson was brought forward by a few hours but no announcements had been made and they had missed her.  I don't know how the organisers can get around that though, other than trying to avoid doing it altogether. 

My previous fears surrounding Portaloos were not completely put to rest, but they were nowhere near as bad as I imagined.  They were always clean (or as clean as one can be!) and never once was there no toilet roll - which is super impressive, and I take my hats off to the staff that were always patrolling them to restock.  I must admit though, the "pay per pee" toilets situated next to the Castle Stage did receive my custom on several occasions, even at £2 a go the thought of a flushing bog and handwash was too much to resist.  I would love to see another set of these facilities elsewhere...perhaps on the Upper Kids Garden.

Other things we loved during the weekend:

Prosecco whilst listening to Ska music at Caravanserai
Cat in the Hat Live
Alpaca Agility
The vast array of food outlets 
The National Trust #50things Meadow (especially the den building)
Lizzies Way (Woodland Creative Play Area in the Dingly Dell)
Folk Idol (the 5 year old singing Edelweiss gets my vote every time)
Energizer Headlight Pimping
The Marvellous Imaginary Menagerie
Blow Up Church Wedding
The trio of girl singers in the Indesit Launderette

 In a nutshell, we had the best weekend ever, there was SO much to see and do we could never have done it all even if we had rushed from one to the next to the next...we preferred just to wander and do whatever we came across that we fancied, and that suited us - at least we know next year (and the year after) there will be still lots for us to go back for.  I have read on a Facebook group that there were some issues surrounding security, and that is a real shame as I saw lots of security about all the time, even though they weren't actively checking wristbands around the site, but not having experienced any issues myself I can't really comment on that.  A tent popped up right next to us on Saturday but it was gone by Sunday lunchtime so I was wondering if it was a day ticket holder that decided to just pitch up, I don't know if that is allowed but I thought it was a bit cheeky if not!

So are my top tips if you're thinking of going to Camp Bestival in the future:

1.  Get there as early as possible for the best pitches!

We made the huge mistake of arriving on Friday lunchtime and ended up having to pitch on a hill.  Next year we will be there by lunchtime Thursday. Camping Plus pitches are available at an extra cost of £125 for a family of up to 6, on top of your standard tickets, but they mean you get a designated pitch in a separate area - a good idea if you can afford it.

2. Go for a shower at 6.45am or 2pm.

The showers open at 7am, by 5 to there was a queue of about 100 people.  Either get there about 6.45 and be at the front, or go at 2pm when it's completely dead.  The showers have actually got really good pressure, lovely hot water and are in individual cubicles with wash basins and mirrors.  They are free of charge.

3. Take cash with you

Things are expensive, and unless you are a star super scrimper, you will spend a lot.  Try and take your cash with you (and keep it on you if possible, I had a very cute Bumbag from New Look)...this is for a few reasons: It's easier to budget if you can see what you've got/what you've spent, and there is only one block of cash machines which were jam packed ALL the time and also charged £3.49 for the privilege of using them. An average main meal (curry and rice/fish and chips/burger etc) will cost you between £7-£10, a pint is £4.80, glass of wine £5.50, cocktails £7.50.  We tended to eat breakfast at the tent and then eat out for the rest of the day.

4. Have lunch at the WI Tent

The WI tent served tea, coffee, cakes, sandwiches etc at "normal" prices.  Go there.

5. Get the kids signed up to any workshops they fancy early

Many of the kids workshops fill up really quickly, if there's anything they really want to do make sure you get signed up as soon as possible.

6. Buy a fold-up trolley before you go

I was intending on ordering a trolley from Mr Trolley before we got to CB, but I left it too late and none were available (they have a collection point right outside the entrance to the festival from the car park).  They charged £65 for the weekend hire and £100 cash deposit, but as none were available I ended up buying a fold-up trolley from Aldi for £49.99 and it was awesome! It was able to carry up to 150kg so I knew it'd be more than adequate for not only transporting our stuff from the car but carting the kids round too...with the added bonus it'll probably do us for another couple of years at least. 

7. Buy your tickets as soon as you possibly can, you wont regret it.

Early Bird tickets are available at Ticketline from this Friday (7th August)

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Happy Mothers Day

I just wanted to wish all you lovely Mums out there a very happy Mothers Day.  Every day of the year (hopefully not today though because you should be being waited on hand and foot) we wade through piles of washing, battle the school runs, wipe tears, tend grazes, love our children unconditionally and fight many battles that will probably remain unseen to the rest of the enjoy the relative peace of today, put your feet up and raise a toast to yourself and just how blimmin' awesome you are!

This is also my entry into Mummy's Little Monkey/Pilot Pens My #PILOTMUM competition. Above is a picture of me and my dog drawn by Grace...I totally rock that pink hair 😉

Taffy Mail American Candy Box Subscription Service Video Review

This weekend Grace, Chloe and I filmed a video review of this months Taffy Mail American Candy Box.

Taffy Mail is a subscription service that sends a box stuffed full of US treats straight to your door every month.  Chloe absolutely loves anything American so I thought this was a great idea when I came across it online.  In the UK anything that is imported from the US is generally expensive so I personally thought this box was good value at £14.99 for 11 items, only 2 or 3 of which we had ever seen over here before.

For more information on the Taffy Mail service see their website at

Friday, 31 October 2014

Halloween Fun!

I absolutely love this time of year, or I have done since I've had kids anyway.  There's such a sense of fun about Halloween and I love how excited the kids get about it, and of course Halloween means we're really close to Christmas (which I also love).  I've gone all out with the decorations this year and have decorated the whole of the front of the house, hopefully the trick or treaters will actually turn up!  

The kids were desperate to do their own pumpkins this year, I have usually done them in the past, so they each chose their own and yesterday afternoon they set about carving them out.  All four of them did their own freestyle designs using a whiteboard pen, they found that easier than using a paper template. I must say I wasn't too impressed with the carving kits I bought them from Sainsburys though, the carving tools buckled almost immediately - maybe I need to look into stronger alternatives next year. 

So here's the finished products, as you can see they're all very proud! 

What Halloween fun have you got planned for this year?