Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The Christmas Blogger Interview - Cardiff Mummy Says

If you know me then you will know I am Christmas mad. I've decided to do a new series whereby I interview other bloggers about Christmas.

First up is my lovely friend Cathryn from Cardiff Mummy Says who is a parenting and lifestyle blogger from Cardiff.



1       1) Do you have any family Christmas traditions?

Yes, lots. When you ask people what they remember about Christmas as a child, for most people it isn’t usually the presents, it’s the things they used to do and how it made them feel. We both really want that for our children, to create those magical memories.
My husband and I have each brought some of our own family traditions and we have created some together for our family. We do a lot of the usual ones – writing letters to Father Christmas; leaving a mince pie, a drink and a carrot out for Santa and his reindeers; leaving out stockings; reindeer dust etc. When I was little, me and my brothers always used to do a little Christmas show for our parents. I told my children this, and it has become one of our traditions too. The angel on the top of our Christmas tree every year is one my husband and I bought together, when we first moved in together. We always take a photo of it being put onto the tree, usually my husband lifting one of the children up to do it. We also always make a Christmas cake together as a family, read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve, visit Winter Wonderland here in Cardiff in the run up to Cardiff, go for a nighttime drive to see all the lights on people’s houses – there are some amazingly decorated houses here in Cardiff, we watch out for Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve (the International Space Station)… so many traditions actually!

2) What’s your ultimate Christmas movie?

I absolutely love Christmas films and we have regular family Christmas film nights in the run up to Christmas. My favourites include Elf, The Snowman, Miracle on 34th Street, and, not for the kids, It’s A Wonderful Life. They all make me cry in their own way!



3    3) What 3 songs would be top of your festive playlist?

Ooh, only three? This is hard! So many Christmas songs I love!
Fairytale of New York by the Pogues featuring Kirsty MacCall and then I love all the old classics, such as Bing Crosby singing  It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas and White Christmas; and I love the carol O! Come All Ye Faithful. We always used to sing that in our school carol service and I used to love doing the soprano harmonies in the last verse.
Plus the whole Michael Buble Christmas album. We have that on in the car constantly from mid-November! It wouldn’t be Christmas without it now.

 4) Are you an online shopper or do you go to the actual stores?

A bit of both. I tend to buy toys I know they definitely want, books, CDs etc online. I do a lot of it in advance, as December is a crazy birthday season for me as well as Christmas so I need to be organised, but I love actually going shopping during the festive season, soaking up all the atmosphere.
Do you make shopping lists or buy things when you see something nice?
Again, a bit of both. I think until you go shopping, you don’t know what’s out there and I often see things I would have had no idea exist if I hadn’t seen them.

6    5) Do you send Christmas cards?

     Yes! I love Christmas cards. It’s so lovely to receive actual post that isn’t bills or junk mail. I know it is completely cheesy but we take a photo of all our children dressed in Christmas fancy dress (Santa, elves, reindeer etc) and that picture goes on the front of our cards. We’ve done it every year and my kids absolutely love it!

7    6) Do you have an elf on the shelf? What do you do with it?

Yes, we have three – one for each child – and this will be our fourth year of doing it. We have cuddly toy elves, rather than the official one, and they stay with us to learn all about Christmas, rather than to report back to Santa. Our elves are playful rather than naughty, so every morning they are in a different scenario, maybe stuck inside a box of cereal, or wrapped up in loo roll like an Egyptian mummy etc.



8   7) Do you have chocolate advent calendars or something else?

My children each have a wooden advent calendar, and I absolutely adore them! I’m not the biggest fan of chocolate advent calendars to be honest! One year, they had beads to make a Christmas necklace with, another year they had a few Lego bricks every day to build something. It’s nice for them to have something to keep at the end of it.




9    8) Do you do a Christmas Eve box? If so what’s in it?

My children get a box on 1st December, rather than Christmas Eve, so they have all month to enjoy it. The elves arrive on 1st December and hey bring a box of goodies. The box, which is just a cardboard box wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper, contains Christmas pyjamas (so they have all month to wear them!), a Christmas DVD, a Christmas book, a Christmas jumper, and a new Christmas decoration to go on the tree. I hope when they each leave home I can give them all their special decorations to put on their own tree.

1    9) Do you make any gifts?

Not really, I wish I could be that creative!

10) Do you do any Christmas crafts?

Yes! I love doing all of that and we always make something. One year my daughter made festive snowmen for everyone in the family, out of card and cotton wool. I think she must have made about 25 in total – at her instigation. We made one and she just wanted to keep on going! We still have our snowman family and bring them out every year. Usually though, it’s something like footprint reindeers or decorating a bauble.


1  11) If you could only eat 3 things from your Christmas dinner, what would they be?

Roast potatoes, red cabbage and my mushroom wellington I make every year (I’m vegetarian).

1  12) What’s your favourite festive tipple?

A Baileys on ice, always on Christmas Eve.

1  14) Where are you spending Christmas this year?

Christmas Day will be in our house, with my parents. Last year we hosted 15 – all of my husband’s family, including six children aged six and under, so this year will be a lot calmer! Boxing Day will be at my husband’s brother’s house with all of their family.


1   15)  If you could go to any Christmas market in the world where would you go?

It’s never really been on my radar of something to do, if I’m honest. However, some of my girlfriends have just been talking about going to Munich next year for a Christmas market, so perhaps it might be that! I think I’d rather go to Disneyland Paris in the run up to Christmas 

You can follow Cathryn on her social media channels here:


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Monday, 28 November 2016

Sofia the First Toys from Jakks Pacific - Review

Disney Junior is a firm favourite in our house with Sofia the First being one of Eva's favourite TV shows. She is a girly girl who loves anything to do with princesses. She loves pink, purple, ball gowns, tiara's and basically anything that sparkles. She was delighted when she was sent a fantastic bundle of new Sofia the First products from Jakks Pacific to review. 

We were overwhelmed when we saw all of the items. We were sent:




Sofia the First Royal Friend 3″ Figure (RRP £5.99)
Sofia the First Mini Royal Prep Art Class Playset (RRP £9.99)
Mini Princess Amber’s Closet Playset (RRP £9.99)
Sofia the First Royal Tiara (RRP £6.99)
Sofia the First Royal Camera (RRP £9.99)
Ruby with Royal Friend Figure (RRP £5.99)
Jade with Royal Friend Figure (RRP £5.99)
Sofia the First Backpack (RRP £12.99)


If there's one thing Eva really loves, its a bag. She takes after me on that one. She has quite a few bags but she decided this was the bag she was going to use for big school (she started preschool in September). It's a good sized rucksack and would be perfect for sleepovers or days out. She carries it almost everyday to school and she literally has about 2 things in there but she loves it.






Eva also loves to take pictures. Again I think she has developed that passion from me. As you can imagine I'm not always willing to give her my actual camera to use so this was an idea solution. The camera came with batteries (this is normally unheard of in toyland). She set to work straight away taking pictures of anything and everything in sight. When she looks through the viewfinder she can see various scenes from Sofia the First and when she presses to take a picture, it actually makes a camera noise. I love the fact that it comes with a removable lens. Just like mummy's she says.



Eva already had a Sofia the First dressing up dress so she was thrilled to get the tiara to match. 


The royal friend figurines were Sofia, Ruby and Jade. Each one comes with an animal featured in the show. The figures are identical to how they look on the programme. I often find with children's toys that they can sometimes look slightly odd but these are a very good match. They are great for imaginative and role play which she tends to do a lot of nowadays. They are a handy size to pack in a bag if you are going to a restaurant or anywhere where the kids would need entertaining. In fact, Eva packed them in her hand-luggage for our very recent trip on the Eurostar. 










The mini royal prep art class playset comes with a Sofia figure. The set is almost magical as when you dip the paintbrush in water and start painting the wall, then a picture of a pony appears on one side and different colours on the other. Eva found this amazing.





Amber's closet playset comes complete with an Amber figurine, a closet, a mannequin and removable clothes. Eva is able to remove and place the clothes on Amber without my help.





Overall, we think these toys are really good value for money. There are plenty more available in the collection and with prices as low as these then we don't mind adding to the collection. You can view and buy the collection here, Smyths.

*We were gifted these toys in exchange for our honest opinion*


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Sunday, 27 November 2016

Making Learning Fun With LeapFrog

In Eva's world of princesses, fairies and make believe, it is sometimes difficult to find toys that are not only fun but educational to play with. That's why we were thrilled to be sent a LeapStart Junior from LeapFrog to test out.

Eva is now nearly 4 and attends pre-school for 2.5 hours everyday. I can already see an improvement with her language and reading but we find it quite difficult to teach her these skills at home without knowing whether she's actually concentrating or learning. 

She adores reading but a lot of the time I think she is memorising the books we read rather than reading the words. We also find it incredibly difficult trying to teach her to write and problem solve. This is all new to us so i'm sure we'll get better at it but for now we have the LeapStart Junior to help us.


The LeapStart Junior is an interactive learning system designed for nursery and pre-school aged children (perfect for Eva) and teaches essential life and school skills. It works using replayable activity books which you can buy separately but it comes with a sampler book. It requires 2 AA batteries and costs £39.99.


The easy grip stylus is used to activate audio responses and play activities on each page of the book. The books contain over 30 activities such as jokes, songs and games which help little ones to trace, compose their own music, maths, teamwork and searching for letters etc.



As you can see from the pictures, the LeapStart has been a huge hit with Eva. I'll admit that I didn't think she would use it as much as she has because we do have an iPad in the house and therefore she plays games and reads books on that. However, I think Eva loves the independence that this can give her. She is able to fully use it herself without any guidance from us. She finds the stylus easy to grip and use. The size of the LeapStart itself is ideal for her to hold and it is very lightweight.



It's a very robust product. As you can imagine it has been dropped and bashed about rather a lot and it is still perfectly intact. 



We love the fact that it's portable. We take it to restaurants, family houses and we recently used it to keep her entertained on a Eurostar train journey. 

We will definitely be buying her some more learning books for it, in particular the science and maths books. You can view the full range here, Reading Systems. As she's nearly 4 we are also thinking of getting her the LeapReader. We noticed there are lots of Disney books available with that system and she is a huge fan of anything Disney so she'd love to learn to read those books.


We were also sent a lovely toy for Ophelia. It was the LeapFrog Count and Colours Band. She loves music and is attracted to bright colours, so this was bound to be a winner in her eyes.


The Count and Colours band is led by LeapFrog favourite Scout and costs £14.99. It requires 3 AAA batteries. It has 3 different learning modes which are counting, colours and music. 



When Ophelia bashes/presses any of the buttons, this causes Scout to move and sing. This helps her to learn cause and effect. It's amazing how in a short space of time she now understands what happens when she presses it.



This has quickly become one of her favourite toys. She crawls over to her toy box and searches for it. She sits next to it and dances and sings (in her own little way) gleefully.



We've been so impressed with how much she likes it that we're definitely going to ask Santa to bring her a few more LeapFrog toys for christmas. They are bright, colourful, fun and educational. Everything a parents wants in a toy.

*We were kindly gifted these toys from leapfrog but as always all my opinions are my own*
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Friday, 25 November 2016

Egg Box Christmas Trees - Guest Post by Monkey and Mouse

I'm excited to share with you this Christmas craft guest post by my friend Jenny who writes at Monkey and Mouse

Over to you Jenny:

Who doesn't love an easy Christmas craft that the kids can mostly make themselves? Kid made activities are definitely hard to find now that everything needs to be 'Pinterest worthy'.  Sometimes it's more fun to just create and get crafty.



Here's my tutorial to create some cute Christmas trees out of egg boxes.


You Will Need

Cardboard Egg boxes;
Scissors;
Glue;
Glitter;
Ribbon/tinsel strands;
Sequins; and
Pom-poms.

Method

1.     Cut out the two pointy bits in the middle of the egg box, place them in the lid part to act as a little tray to collect the glitter

2.     Using glue stick on the ribbon or tinsel strands.

3.     Glue little dots and sprinkle with glitter for little baubles.

4.     Stick on sequins for tree decorations and a pom pom on top for the star.

5.     Let the trees dry and then set up a little Christmas woodland for the kids.




There you have it. A craft that your children can do by themselves. Jenny has lots of other crafts on her blog so if you'd like to see more, here are her links:
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Fire and Ice Facial at The Cardiff Clinic

I was recently invited to experience a Fire and Ice Facial at the prestigious Cardiff Clinic. The Cardiff Clinic is a non-invasive cosmetic, skin and aesthetic treatment centre on Cathedral Road. It is led by top consultant plastic surgeon, Mr Richard Karoo and features a team of experienced specialists. 



Their philosophy is to provide a wide range of non-invasive treatments using the safest, most advanced and effective techniques to suit each individual. The team provide honest and safe advice and aim to deliver you the best results possible.

There are a wide range of treatments available for both men and women such as chemical peels, lip enhancements, fat reduction and many more. You can view the list of treatments here, treatmentsThe Cardiff Clinic also offers many beauty treatments such as luxury facials, massages, tinting and manicures. 

I was offered to try out the new Fire and Ice facial. I'm a busy, working mum so I hardly ever get any alone time, let alone pampering. As you can imagine, I jumped at the opportunity. 

The Fire and Ice facial is a resurfacing treatment which is a favourite with celebrities such as Halle Berry and Gwyneth Paltrow. It's the best selling treatment at the Four Seasons hotel. It's an intensive medi-facial which is clinically formulated with the purest pharmaceutical grade ingredients, designed to rapidly and safely resurface the skin, reduce fine lines, encourage cellular renewal and address any problematic skin. I couldn't wait to experience it.

I drove to the clinic which is centrally located in Cardiff. I was able to park in the clinics' car park which is located at the back of the building. The building itself is grand and beautiful. Upon entering one of the first things that caught my eye was the gorgeous flooring. It's the original flooring for the house and it looks fantastic.


Photo taken from the Cardiff Clinic Facebook page




The waiting room is large and wonderfully decorated with a mix of modern and classic furniture. Whilst waiting for my treatment I was able to enjoy a delicious latte.





My treatment was with beauty specialist Lisa. Lisa has a wide knowledge of all of the products that were used and was able to advise me on how to care for my skin which i'll fully admit i'm not very good at. I've been using the same moisturising products for years so it was good to get a new opinion. 


Photo taken from The Cardiff Clinic Facebook Page

The facial itself lasts about an hour and starts with a cleansing complex which contains a gentle bends of acids and vitamins. This step cleanses the skin without stripping essential natural oils.

The next step is the intensive resurfacing mask which is the 'fire' element of the facial. This uses glycolic acid with vitamin b3 and retinol. It's for rapid exfoliation without peeling. This part can sting but it only lasts a couple of minutes. I felt a tingly sensation on my face but nothing that was too uncomfortable to cope with. Lisa provided reassurance and also stated that it can be removed if I felt it was painful (which I didn't).

Next is the rejuvenating mask which is the 'ice' part of the facial. This uses hyaluronic acid and antioxidants aloe and green tea to soothe, reduce inflammation and stimulate collagen synthesis. This felt lovely after the 'fire' part of the facial.




Then follows a range of serums and moisturisers. The super serum advance helps to lighten, brighten and tighten the skin. I certainly needed that around my tired eyes. The hydra cool serum hydrates your skin from the inside out. The youth eye complex is designed to smooth and firm the eye area in particular the fine lines and dark circles (note to santa, i'd love a bottle of this for christmas). The moisturising complex hydrates, soothes and provides anti oxidant protection from daily environmental damage. Lastly was the spf which helps repair existing dna damage. I never think to use an spf everyday but after this facial and Lisa's advise, i'll be using one on a daily basis.




My skin was left glowing and felt very soft. For the days following the facial I experienced some shedding. I normally have quite dry skin but my skin certainly felt hydrated for a while after. 

Overall, I had a fantastic experience at the Cardiff Clinic. I felt special from the moment I walked through the door. The staff are knowledgable, attentive, professional but above all friendly. 

The clinic itself feels luxurious. It's spacious, comfortable and has the ability to make you feel relaxed. I could have stayed there all day. 

I'll definitely be using it for all of my future beauty treatments. It felt like an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life and it was certainly a special experience. It feels a lot more exclusive than any other clinic or beauty centre I have been in.

I have a couple of Christmas parties coming up and my mum is also visiting from Australia over the festive season so i'll be visiting Lisa with her to have a manicure and pamper session again soon.



Photo taken from The Cardiff Clinic Facebook page

If you would like to keep up to date with their latest news and treatments here are their social media links:
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