Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Less Mess, Less Stress...

It's been a while since I've published a guest post but this one spoke to me when I read it. I LOVE it when my kids get messy, we equate mess with fun to some degree, but I am always looking for hacks to make cleaning up faster and easier.

Alex Farley is a full time working Mum of two children, aged two and five years old.  She is a writer and co-owner of a small business, Superb Cleaning Services based in London and has collated some of her cleanup tips to share with you all.

Minimise the Cleanup after Crafting with Kids
- A guest post by Alex Farley -

Are you looking for ways to occupy your little ones but at the same time you don't want to spend a whole day cleaning up after them? I know that many parents are concerned about the degree of messiness that goes hand in hand with some craft projects, but there's no need to panic! Inevitably, there are some activities which can turn into a messy disaster no matter how many times you tell your children to be a little bit more careful, but this post will share with you, a number of tips to help you minimise the clean up after crafting with your children.

Always cover the playground

One of the easiest ways to minimise the clean up is to cover the area where your kids play. For example, you can use a table cloth, a blanket or even a shower curtain. Trust me, each and every of these works really well! The best part is that after your kids are done with their craft project, you can give the cover a good wipe or throw it in the washing machine!

Better messy outside than messy inside

If the weather allows, move the messy activities outside. After your kids are done playing or crafting, the cleaning up will be a lot easier. Of course, it depends on what they played with, but the messy situation will be further under control in contrast to what would have been if they played inside.

Use the bath for messy crafting or playing

When it is cold outside, my kids know that they do all their fun activities… in the bath. To be frank, a friend of mine told me about this tip. Formerly, I let my kids play in their room which was my biggest mistake as a mother. Yes, my kids were having a hell of a fun but they did not see the situation as I did (a gigantic mess to clean after their play). Ever since that friend told me that her children played in the bath, using it as a vessel, I took advantage, too. It is a fantastic way to contain all the mess and it is extremely easy to clean the surface. Once your kids are done crafting, run the water and all the mess will be completely gone in an instant.

Replace your art supplies with washable ones

You will thank me later. To keep your children's clothes from getting heavily stained during their craft projects, use washable art supplies! I replaced all previous ‘risky’ supplies with washable watercolours and washing the clothes has never been easier!

Limit the materials to prevent a massive mess

Give your kids materials in small amounts during their craft process. If they are into painting, give them a small amount of paint and if necessary, add to their supply. Believe me, this does minimise the clean up because kids only use what they actually need as opposed to overloading their paper or ending up with a surplus at the end of their project.

Keep their fun simple

There are many simple tips on how to prevent a massive mess. The place where children play makes a great difference. For example, if you seat your kids at the table and give them crayons to draw with will not be as messy as giving them the opportunity to choose where to draw because they will instantly see the walls as their canvas. If you are worried about the table getting drawn on, cover it with paper.

If no matter how hard you try, things are getting messy anyway, keep calm and try to have fun. If you are concerned about the mess you have to deal with after you are done playing or crafting with your child, you deprive yourself of all the fun. Enjoy your time with your little ones and make the best of it.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Let's Make Some Noise...

Next up from the Miniature Music Music Bag Club is the 'Let’s Make Some Noise’bag. I'd explained that we were going to return the 'Zoom' bag, but that we would still get to see Kate and the rest of the toys during Miniature Music classes. Honey was fine with that but Ace got a bit upset and wanted to hug Kate the astronaut goodbye, which was super cute.

Honey and Ace were really excited to open up the new bag and even more exited to see what was inside! 

This bag contains:
1 story book (including CD and DVD content).
1 melodica
1 accordion
4 shaker eggs
2 sets of hand bells
2 sensory sticks

Ace absolutely adores books and the fact that this one has vehicles in it AND a song to sing along to, pretty much blew his mind and it's been a firm favourite here over the last couple of weeks. The book comes with a CD/DVD so you can sing and watch along or remind yourself of the tune if you forget! The instruments provided lend themselves to becoming bicycle bells, rumbling trucks and beeping horns during the story but can also be used on their own to accompany a range of toddler performances or family sing alongs. 

Honey loved using the sensory stick as a conductors baton and could regularly be found conducting an imaginary orchestra or choir (Melody Mamas warm up Bella Mama being the performance of choice). Ace's favourite was the melodica, he learnt to fit the mouthpiece by himself and loved dancing round with it playing his own, wonderful compositions! Both children are big fans of a shaker egg or two and love a round of Wind the Bobbin up, as well as recreating class favourites such as fast and slow and shake and dance around.

If you fancy joining the Music Bag Club, you can find all the details in the latest Miniature Music newsletter. We hope you have fun making some noise!

Honey wears... Bunny sweatshirt by H&M
Ace wears... Hooded sweatshirt by Primark

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Repping Out...

Ace was thrilled to be chosen as a Brand Rep for Cotswold Baby Co as we love so many of the wonderful brands they stock, especially our all time favourites, Blade and Rose leggings! He even has his own special discount which you can use to get 15% off your entire order (ACE15). Read our full review of this gorgeous up and coming clothing company over at the Cotswold Baby and Toddler Show blog, see you there! 

Click here to read the review

Ace wears... Blade and Rose Train leggings from Cotswold Baby Co

Monday, 5 March 2018

One Grove...

This post is a little different to my normal posts as there are no kids in sight! Sometimes it's nice to take a little bit of time out to do something for yourself. Whether that time is taken daily, weekly or monthly and for how long, is up to you, but here's something I've done for myself recently.

I've always wanted to try pilates, so when Lucy from One Grove got in touch to invite me 
to see their studios and have a go on one of their reformers, I was really excited. I haven't exactly been a regular at the gym over the last few years, I've chosen to spend my time and money on a couple of other things, but I've always enjoyed exercise and been pretty flexible, so I had high hopes for my session! 

One Grove is a specialist pilates, physio and yoga studio close to the centre of Cheltenham. The studio is tucked away down a quiet side street, close to Waitrose (which has a huge, customer car park, just saying) and it's an oasis of calm, a really beautiful place to go to stretch your stresses away. 

With no monthly commitments, you can just call, go online or pop in to book onto any of their 25+ classes each week, a refreshing change from having to pay by the month, even when you can't make half the classes!

On arrival, I was given a tour of the facilities and a brief rundown about the history and principles of pilates and after filling in a short health form, we got started. Lucy moved me through a diagnostic warm up, during which, she was able to spot my weaker areas and encourage me to focus on these throughout the workout.

Once on the reformer, Lucy clearly demonstrated and explained what she wanted me to do and coached me through the movements, reminding me to focus on specific areas and also to breathe (which sounds odd, but I was concentrating so hard at points that I had in fact forgotten)! After less than half the session, I felt like Lucy knew my body and its capabilities better than I did and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I was able to do. I totally switched off from everything else during my session, which is very rare for me as I always have a whole raft of brain tabs open, but I can honestly say that they were all well and truly closed while I was moving through the stretches and exercises Lucy set for me.

If you've ever considered pilates, I urge you to take the leap and give it a try. At One Grove, you will receive a personalised workout, which is tailored to your body. You will never be crammed into a huge impersonal class, so you know your body will always be getting what it deserves and needs from your class or private session. You can plan your workouts based on your free time and budget and the knowledgeable staff are so friendly and welcoming, you will feel right at home from your very first visit.

*Although I was kindly gifted a 1:1 session with Lucy for the purposes of writing a review, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Mummy wears... Gym leggings by Primark

Pink Pear Bear

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Cheltenham Rocks...

Cheltenham Rocks, it really does. We were supposed to be moving house when I was pregnant with Ace but after we lost out on our perfect home (twice), we began to discuss looking further afield. Each time we were sent details of (perfectly nice) houses that were just a few miles down the road, my heart sank and the one time we actually drove out to look at one, we didn't even go in, it just wasn't Cheltenham.

There's so much to do here, every day there are parks and soft play to explore, classes to join, pubs and cafes to try and so much more. Obviously I'm fully aware that all these things are available elsewhere, but elsewhere just isn't Cheltenham!

Sometimes however, all these choices can be a little bit overwhelming and you can spend a lot of time researching places, finding out about their opening times, prices and facilities, as well as scouting out any special offers or discounts. This was my life when Honey was little, we tried a LOT of classes and venues, most of which I found by picking up flyers or scouring Facebook. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed discovering these things, but time is precious with a little one and there's never enough of it!

This is where Cheltenham Rocks comes in. Set up and run by local Mum Laura, she and her team collate all the information you could ever need, about what's on in our fabulous town. The user friendly interface makes it easy to find activity listings and local reviews to help you make up your mind about how to spend your precious free time.

Another HUGE timesaver is the kids' party directory. Party venues, entertainment suppliers and packages are rounded up so you can compare party ideas at a glance. The guide includes estimated prices and contact details for each entry, so if you spot something you like, you can get in touch straight away.

Although it is family focussed, Cheltenham Rocks is not just for parents. If you're heading into town for tea and want a great deal or fancy a day at the wine festival, that's all included too. You can also keep up to date with the latest additions to Cheltenham's ever growing bar, cafe and restaurant portfolio! You can even save a Cheltenham Rocks icon on your smartphone for easy, instant access at the touch of a button!

So whether it's new ideas you're looking for, you want be reminded about some old favourites or you run a class or business you think the people of Cheltenham, need to know about, find Cheltenham Rocks on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and let them do the hard work for you!

Honey and Ace love... Cheltenham

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

In Sickness and in Health...

When Honey refused cake, then promptly fell asleep on me at a birthday party this weekend, I knew she was really under the weather. It's never nice when children aren't feeling very well, you'd do anything to take their place and stop them feeling rotten but instead you can only provide medicine, sustenance and of course, plenty of cuddles. The thought of being housebound with a poorly little one isn't the most appealing way to spend your day, but with a little bit of planning and lots of positive thinking, it doesn't have to be as bad as you fear!

Be courteous
Don't forget to make the people who need to know, aware of your little one's illness. Whether it's calling work to let them know you can't come in, leaving a message on the school or nursery answerphone or a quick Facebook message to the person who runs that lovely group or class you can no longer make that day. 

Be positive
Yes, it's annoying and sometimes inconvenient for a little one to be poorly but it's something you can't change and they certainly wouldn't choose to be feeling rough so it's best to find a way to come to terms with the situation and get on with things. 

Negative: We have missed what I know would have been an awesome photo shoot with Mouse About Town today.
Positive: We are super lucky to have been photographed by Gill on a number of occasions previously and I know other people who are attending today so I'm looking forward to seeing their beautiful faces in the photos later.

Negative: I missed Melody Mamas yesterday, it's a fab choir for parents, where children come along too.
Positive: Everyone else at choir got a break from my voice ;-) Plus, I decided to film my own version of the song we were due to sing, which was silly but good fun!

Negative: We are going to miss our Matilda Miniature Music class this afternoon. It's a brilliant music class where all the kids (and grown ups) get to play real instruments and sing a mix of original and traditional songs. Oh yes, there's also tea and cake during free play time!
Positive: There's another class tomorrow so we will go then if Honey is back at school and if not, there's always next week!

Be organised
You're at home, possibly unexpectedly, what can you get done? Make a list. Perhaps you need to put a load of washing on, does the dry washing needs removing from the drying rack, or maybe the dishwasher needs unloading. These things don't take long but will instantly make you feel productive and might even spur you on to complete other jobs. On the first day of feeling poorly, Honey sat on our bed and helped me sort out all her and Ace's clothes (well, she fell asleep halfway through, but it's the thought that counts). This led to me preparing bags to take to the charity shop, to pass on to friends and listing some bits on a Facebook selling site. Subsequently we ended the day with more space and a little bit of money towards the next size up.

Be different
Offer things that your children don't often choose to play with or that are kept hidden away under normal circumstances. In our case, board games and jigsaw puzzles are a good place to start and are perfect for a little one who's feeling under the weather, as they can be done slowly and in stages. I also brought down some longer books we have been given for when Honey is a little bit older. We have been sharing some of the stories in stages and holding our place using a home made bookmark (stickers are another great poorly activity). Honey and Ace have also enjoyed playing with a drawer full of cuddly toys that never usually see the light of day, they just needed reminding they were there!

Be outside
Just hear me out on this one! If you've kept a child off school, it's unlikely they're well enough to spend much time outside but that doesn't have to stop the rest of the family. During Honey's most recent bout of illness, Ace wasn't keen on staying inside all day so I bundled him up, opened up the playhouse and sent him off to roam in the garden for a little while. I briefly joined him and spent 20 minutes doing some weeding and sweeping leaves off the (fake) lawn while Honey had a nap on the sofa indoors. The next day, with my to do list in mind, I took advantage of my husband coming home early from a training course and walked into town with Ace to get a few jobs done. Ace and I both enjoyed the fresh air and we were also very productive. Today, there is a slight improvement in Honey's health but there's no way she'd have managed school after not eating for 3 days and barely moving so she's still off. The plan to get outside today, is a walk to the corner shop for some milk and maybe even have a cheeky pit stop at our very local cafe to pick up a cake to bring home for later!

Be naughty
Now, don't go breaking toys or ripping books and blaming me, here's what I mean. Let the rules slide a little. Honey hadn't eaten for two days so when she fancied jelly and ice cream for tea yesterday, that was a step forward in my book. Ace eating a packet of crisps on the sofa (usually a total no go area for food) bought me some time to fold the washing that had been sitting in the tumble drier all morning, so it was worth having to get the hoover out when he'd finished. Honey finished watching a film (usually restricted to one film of an afternoon at the weekend) then immediately asked for another one because her 'body was too poorly to play' why not, and as it turns out, the second film actually sent her off to sleep!

There are so many germs around this winter and if you're looking after a poorly little one, I hope they feel better soon. Roll on Spring!

Ace wears... Coat by Little Buffalo

Just Hannah Jane