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Dear Daisy, It is your first day at school...

Aldi Dupes | Is it acceptable?

Even if you haven't bought into it I am pretty sure you'll have heard all about the Aldi dupes for products such as Liz Earles Cleanse and Polish. Aldi's version being Hot Cloth cleanser and well a quarter of the price at least. I have bought into it and I have mixed feelings, I will be really honest.

One part of me absolutely loves the product for what it is. To me it does a good job for the price and my skin appears to really like it. It is gentle enough for me and leaves me feeling cleansed and well, polished. I also love the consistency and the smell is very spa like which is a scent I like. It is filled with rosemary, chamomile, cocoa butter, white tea and eucalyptus oil which are all scents I enjoy. It isn't floral or over powering, it just smells clean and fresh.

Aldi Hot cloth cleanser

But let's be real here. It is a complete rip off of the cult Liz Earle product that has been a staple in many peoples cleansing routine for a long time and for a good reason. In one way I think Aldi (Lacura) have made a bold step even attempting to come close to such a brand and surely it can't compare?

I am not a long time user of the L.E Cleanser, as much as I would love to it sadly is purchased as a gift and I can't sustain the price tag as my usual go to product, as much as I would love to. So to compare the two wouldn't be fair. So I looked at the ingredients.

First let's look at Aldi’s Lacura Hot Cloth Cleanser. Firstly it looks like a great pick for your skin. It’s got no harsh cleansers such as SLS and 2 of its top listed ingredients are coconut oil  and cocoa seed butter. Good right? Pretty much the same pattern you'll see emerging from L.E Ingredients list. Of course you can see which of the ingredients is a top ingredient by seeing how far up the list it is but you can't necessarily see exactly how much is in either of the products to truly compare.

Either L.E has a lot more of the active ingredients in them to warrant the price tag or they are using their brand name and trust to reflect the price tag.

Image Source: Look Magazine

For me I like the Lacura product, I just wish they had marketed it slightly differently. Why make a deliberate copy of that famous cult product? But then you have to ask yourself would the likes of you and I have picked it up if it wasn't?

There are some more dupes that have been released this last few weeks and as much as I want to try them I do feel this tie to the original cult brands. Watch this space!

Stop Rushing Me

time saving with kids
Come on, in to the bath...

Out you Jump quickly!

Eat up faster!

Come on tidy up, we need to go...

Stop rushing me.

Do you feel like you’re always in a hurry and rushing your kids around?  Or is it just me?

It is is difficult as a parent not to add this time pressure to our little ones, especially when we have school to get to on time, work to start and jobs to do before a certain time. But just lately I have been feeling the guilt when I have spent the afternoon rushing them about, especially Daisy who has been at school all day. She obviously just wants to spend the time doing things at her own pace once she is home, enjoying her bath and playing with the toys she has missed whilst at school all day. I am not sure why it has suddenly dawned on me how often I actually do this and truth be told how to try and make it that bit easier for her.

At the weekends I make a conscious effort to allow the day to be slower. If she doesn't get dressed util 11am then so be it. If we are spending the day at home then why not? If she wants to dilly dally over her lunch and be the worlds most painfully slow eater then fine. But how do I bring more of this into the time she has after school? How do I change my mindset that everything has to be done in a rush?

I know rushing about makes me feel on edge, especially when there is hold ups and she wants just "2 more minutes" in the bath at least 3 times before actually getting out! But why is it that I let it bother me? Because really, does it matter if it takes that 10 more minutes to do our bedtime routine?

When I stop and see other people with my children just absorbing the moments and letting them explore I feel a pang of jealousy. Not because I wish it was me but because sometimes life and routine just feels like it doesn't let me very often. Should we be letting out children stop and think a little more, take things in and then act. Sometimes ‘slowing down’ is easier said than done and obviously some things we can't help but rush and some times we really do need to be somewhere at a specific time, I.e - School!

My commitment (I have to now I have noted it here) is to try and remove things from the never ending job list. For example they really don't need  baths/ showers every single night, why not spend longer choosing the bedtime story that I often hurry along. Why not let Daisy doodle away whilst having her tea and let her spend extra 10 minutes eating if she enjoying herself? And do you know what, yes she has to read at home for school, but will one evening a week less really made a massive difference to her education at this age? I think not.

Just a bit of thought for you on this dreary, frosty day...

Garden Activities For Kids: Ideas To Improve Your Lawn and Plants With Little Helping Hands* AD

Those of you that have followed us for a while will know that we have recently been renovating our home. This means our garden has taken a bit of a hit and so we really need to start focusing on that now!

Free activities for kids

Keeping your garden in a reasonable-looking state is a year-round task though. Whether you live in the city and have a man-made patch of greenery or in the countryside, there is always room for improvement and odd jobs that can be done. So, why not get the kids involved? Garden activities for kids are a great way to keep your kiddies happy but keep your garden in tip-top shape at the same time. Of course, there are some jobs that the kids can’t get involved in, like using machinery or sharp tools, but little odd jobs can all add up to improve the overall look and health of your lawn and general outdoor areas.

1. Planting!

Whatever the weather, there is potential to get outside in the garden and plant some seeds. You may think that now winter has arrived there is no hope for any sort of flower, vegetable or shrubbery to thrive but that is not the case. Taking kids shopping for seeds is an activity they will no doubt enjoy, or you can even use food scraps to reduce waste and grow your own veg for free! Some hardy trees, plants and vegetables that can survive even in freezing temperatures are evergreen trees, shrubs, grass, berry bushes, kale, spinach, beetroot, carrots, cauliflower and much more.

An important aspect of every garden (well, most) is the lawn, so why not get the kids involved in preparing the lawn for winter. Of course, using lawn mowers is not an option but you could get inventive and have a leaf collecting competition to see who can pick up the most or who can find the biggest or most colourful. Ideas like this might seem simple but are a free and easy way to keep your kids busy for hours, whilst also keeping your lawn in good health. Aerating your lawn by spiking small holes on its surface is another way you could all have a go, but with the kids using toy rakes which can be found in most kids gardening sets.

However, if you think your lawn might need a slightly heavier helping hand to get it through winter, you could get the professionals in. Greensleeves offer a range of year-round and affordable lawn care services, with guaranteed results. There’s nothing to say you couldn’t get the job started off with a seasonal winter lawn treatment from Greensleeves, then add little finishing touches with some garden activities for kids, as all their services are completely child-friendly.

2. Crafts and DIY!

The good thing about getting creative and doing some child-safe DIY, is that it doesn’t need to be done outdoors. There’s plenty of things that can be made indoors to add some colour or even functionality to your garden – lawn, plants and all.

You could create shelters or mini houses for animals, whether these be for birds, hedgehogs, toads, bugs or worms. Winter months are the perfect time to recycle some of your household waste, such as coffee cans, paint cans, old containers etc. and your kids can get messy and crafty (which of course they’ll love) whilst giving some lucky animals a place to hide from the cold! As well as keeping the kids happy while they’re making the shelters, they’ll no doubt be kept occupied for the weeks following too to check if their shelters are being used.

A really good idea which would help improve the quality of your garden and lawn, whilst also creating something that the kids can monitor and check up on, is a worm farm. Worms, although they may seem gross, play a super important role in your garden. To create a worm farm, use a cardboard box lined with a bin bag and soil. Then add a few worms, which should multiply if you give your children the fun responsibility of putting kitchen scraps in the soil regularly. Once your worm farm is alive and kicking you can even use the soil as compost to help the growth of your lawn or plants.

3. Planning!

Although this post has hopefully shown so far that there are plenty of garden activities for kids to be done no matter the season… sometimes it really is just too cold to take your kids outside without wrapping them in a thousand layers. All mums will know that getting a coat on a child is a struggle! Despite this, there is nothing saying that you can’t sit down with your kids and plan your future garden activities, for example, you could create a fun wish-list for your kids to tick off. As the famous saying goes… failing to prepare, is preparing to fail. You could book in some lawn care treatments, for example, at the start of each season, alongside seasonal garden activities for kids to keep your lawn in good health but with lots of colourful creations to compliment it!

If reading this post has inspired you to get creative in the garden with the kids but you like the idea of getting a professional treatment too, Greensleeves offer affordable lawn treatment services across the whole of the UK. Visit their website for a quick quote or to book in your own personal lawn assessment.

*Collaborative Post, all opinions are my own.

Finding that Perfect Dress for the Winter Party Season* Collaborative Post

The festive season is coming up fast, far too fast if I am honest! I was just starting to relish the autumnal colours and before I knew it the word "Christmas" was being thrown about!

 Usually Christmas comes with lots of parties and celebratory dinners. For these events you will want to dress up and get into the spirit of the occasion or at least have a go if you're anything like me sat with your mum bun! So, more of than not that means going online scouring the web for somewhere like Simply Be and putting together a great outfit that you can wear to several parties.

The fact that the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are on the 23rd and 26th of November gives us the perfect opportunity to buy what you need at a bargain price, any chance of a bargain and I am there! Plus, if you do it now you will not be left running around frantically at the last minute (that old habit I have!). To get you started, I have had a quick look around and identified some great trends that you can tap into to quickly find your perfect winter party dress.

Choose a classic dress

Sticking with the classics is a particularly good approach, they don't go out of fashion and can hang about in your wardrobe for a while. These cuts look good on most women and the fact that they are timeless means you can easily wear them again and again.

Fortunately, these cuts are really easy to find this year. Most retailers have plenty of A-line, maxi, pencil and wrap dresses in their collections. If you are unsure of what the classic cuts are, just click here to find out and decide whether they are right for you or not.

Opt for a luxury fabric

Nothing says special better than a luxury fabric. If you wear a dress that is made from lace, velvet, silk or a nice shiny, metallic fabric people know that you have spent a bit of money on your outfit. Or, at least they think that you have. Although these days, it is relatively easy to pick up a nice lace, velvet or metallic dress for not much more than you would pay for an everyday one but it definitely makes you feel that little bit fancier!

The great thing about these dresses is that they hang really well. The fact that the fabric is relatively heavy is the reason for this. It also means that they are great for covering up any little bulges.

Choose a dress that is easy to accessorise

When shopping for your dress, choose one that you can easily accessorise. Doing this will enable you to create different looks and let you get plenty of wear out of your outfit.  It should also make it easier for you to wear it on an everyday basis once the parties are over instead of it simply sitting in your wardrobe gathering dust.

*This post is a sponsored post but all opinions are my own

Top Tips For Saving Money Before Christmas

Christmas is looming and we all know it can be a struggle with the old bank balance. All of the gifts you need to buy, the special food, clothes and all of the additional funds you need for the special events that come with it like your Christmas party! It’s never easy especially when you throw children into the mix. I have done posts like this before but I wanted to write an updated one with a couple of new additions:

Top Tips For Saving Money Before Christmas
Image Source: Youtube

These are my top ways of saving a bit of money to help lighten the load a little this year.

1- Meal plan. I’ve talked about this before and how it really does help us a family to not only be organised and know what we are doing each evening for food but it also cuts down on waste and trips to the shop. We try to go for dinners that we can bulk and stretch out to at least two days, sometimes even three. For example if I’m doing a chilli then I’ll throw in some extra veg (what ever is lurking in the fridge) or an extra tin of beans or lentils to bulk it up and make it go that bit further.

2- This is more about utilising what you’ve got to free of funds rather than dipping into your bank account. Start working your way around the house room by room and minimalise. Do you need everything, love everything or have a use for it all? If not, sell it! That way you not only free your house up of unnecessary clutter but you also make some £ to spend on things you do need to buy or to put away for a rainy day!

3- Think free! At a weekend it’s so easy to pop out for the day with the kids and before you know it you’ve bought lunch, a coffee, parking, a present the kids have begged you for and so on. Instead go for a walk or a bike ride, visit the library and take some snacks with you or aim to be back home by meal times. It may not feel much of a day out to you but the children will barely notice, or at least mine wouldn’t who are just 2 and 4 years old. All they want to do is be out and about. Basically if you avoid opportunities to spend then you won’t! A prime example of coffee shops for us, it’s so easy to spend way over £10 on two coffees and a snack so I try to avoid it where I can because they all add up.

4- Sleep on it. With this I am talking about impulse buys. The internet is a wonderful yet very tempting place, it’s makes shopping that bit too easy! Instead of clicking buy now on that new pair of boots or what ever it may be leave it in your basket for 12-24 hours and then have another look, is it really necessary?

5- Be a bit thrifty. Not everything you buy has to be brand new. I know some people will stick their nose up at this but what’s really wrong with looking around a charity shop or eBay for that particular toy your after for your son? Or maybe you’ve a thing for Joules clothing, then there are a ton of Joules pages on Facebook where people are selling either brand new or almost new items every single hour and you could pick up a bargain!

6- Voucher codes. I used to be the person laughing at those others who would scour magazines and things for coupons to save that bit of money on their shopping. Now I’m not as In to it as that but if I’m buying online then I do a simple Google searching for vouchers for that particular store and quite often I’ll find a voucher of some kind such as free delivery of 20% off if you spend £20 etc. It’s always worth a look. 

Ideas for Half Term days out in Shropshire

Half term is coming, seemingly a week later than the rest of the country but it is just a couple of days away here in Shropshire. It couldn't come any sooner either, it has felt like a long first term for Daisy and the tiredness is kicking in.

I thought I would share some ideas for days out and things to do in Shropshire over half term in case you are at a loss at what to do with your family.

The Pumpkin Farm -  Llynclys Hall Farm Shop near Oswestry. Essentially a "free" day out where you can get all of the autumnal feels, the kids can run free safely and you can find yourself a hot coffee whilst they roam about. And of course you can support a local business if you make any purchases! If you've seen our latest post then you'll know we have been a few times and love it every time. 

The Severn Valley Railway - Now, we haven't been here for a few years but by all accounts is still a fantastic day out. The train service will be up and running from October 27th to November 4th for half-term! Tickets can be pre-booked, or are available to purchase on the day. The real life trains are running daily, giving you and the little ones the chance to experience a bygone age in the Severn Valley Railway. This could be a hit for those older children as well as the little ones who are pleased with anything mechanical and moving like my son, Alex!

Acton Scott Historic Working Farm - This is a local favourite where you can take the family to visit Acton Scott Historic Working Farm near Church Stretton. Children under 2 are free and the other admission prices aren't too bad for a day out, we have always found the £9 for an adult worth it. You could take a little picnic for lunch or there is a good little cafe there if you wish to have lunch or coffee out. You can expect to see lots of animals and some demonstrations of how life may have been historically including heavy horses etc. Much better on a nice day weather wise, but one to have on your list! 

The Shropshire Wildlife trust - There is a great little centre by the Abbey in Shrewsbury. This is much better suited to the little kids, probably under 6 but the Shropshire wildlife trust also do a programme of activities for those of an older age which look great too, but these will need to be booked on to. For little ones though you can just turn up and dip in the pond, play in the big sand pit and mud kitchen area and they will love it. Some of the sand pit is under cover too which is a good rainy day option! Again you don't have to pay admission but can support them by purchasing drinks in their small cafe etc. We did a post about this not long ago and you can find it here

Apley Farm shop - have a Spookley Pumpkin Festival on during half term where  you can ride the pumpkin express, hear the Spookley story, pick your own pumpkin from the pumpkin patch & carve it in the carving cavern. It looks like a great week and something we will likely head to this week. 

Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge - Have a Candy and Cobwebs week going on which looks great for all of the family. A Halloween trick or treat event especially (sourced from their website) for under 8s and  grownups.

On arrival, all children taking part will be given a fun activity sheet to lead them around some of the exhibits in the Victorian Town - there will be a goody bag for all children who have a go at all of the activities. 

Children joining in the event can:

Dip a candle
Listen to a spooky story
Play a trick on the townsfolk
Design and colour-in a pumpkin

That time of year again: Pumpkin Patch Shropshire

If you have read my blog for a while then you will know that last year we visited the beautiful Llynclys Hall Farm Shop near Oswestry especially for some pumpkins and I really have been counting the days down until we can go again.

I love autumn and everything that comes with it, the colours, the weather, the smells, you know what I mean I am sure. I love taking photographs and love to compile them at the end of the year into memory books of that year and quite often there is a void between summer and Christmas festivities so this is the perfect day out. I just love having something fun to capture and the colours of the pumpkin farm really sparked my creativity.

pumpkin farm shropshire

It was a nice dry, sunny weekend again and I always like to get out when we can and of course something more interesting than our usual walk down to the play park goes down well with the kids.

Llynclys Hall Farm Shop is not too much of a drive for us and it was well worth it. If you have never been before then it really is worth a trip. It is free entry and although it will probably only fill about 2 hours of your day, it really was nice. Last year it was more of a barn stacked with millions of pumpkins but this year you can go on to the patch and choose your own, which me and my camera just LOVED!

As you would expect there were a lot of pumpkins and so Daisy found this brilliant, trying to lift them, finding funny shaped ones, baby ones and massive ones! This year they had lots of coloured variations too, I am naturally drawn to the beautiful grey ones! They had built a tiered wall from hay and placed pumpkins all over it which was lovely to take photos of. There were just loads of photo opportunities.

pumpkin patch shrewsbury, free days out shropshire

They had a barn with kids activities in such as chalk boards, ride on tractors and cars, drawing tables etc which was a nice little touch. And for us, a coffee van. We had a hot chocolate and a biscuit while the kiddies roamed about which warmed our cockles a bit! I did go a bit mad and buy a few too many, but hey it's the time of year for it!

I highly recommend the trip :)

So you want an extension on your home? How do you go about starting it?

Those of you that have followed me for a while will know that we are now the other side of a home renovation, it feels like it has taken an absolute age, but we are just about done now apart from a few annoying little things that need finishing off. 

I often get asked how we started it, what do you need to do? So I thought I would note them down for anyone interested. 

how do you start an extension

  1. Know exactly what you want. We had lived in our home for a few years before we knew what it was we needed from our house to enable us to live there happily for longer. Once we had the children we knew that we needed more downstairs space and a family bathroom upstairs, which we didn't have previously. Alex also had a little box bedroom so it was important we were able to build that into our plans and give him some more space. We live in a dormer bungalow, so we have an upstairs but the roof shape means there is limited space up there compared to downstairs. But what I am trying to say is, live in it and really know what you want. Building work and planning is expensive so you are not going to want to do it again in a hurry. 
  2. Get an architect that understands what you want and designs to your style. We had 2 architects. The first one being far too old school and traditional for us, he worked from paper and just didn't convey what we wanted him to so we had to part ways and find ourselves another. The final architect knew exactly what we wanted from our home and was able to put it in our designs and we absolutely loved our final design as a result. You should find yourself someone who not only understands all the planning process and can do this for you but also someone you feel like you can talk with and tell if you don't like something on the plan or you have other ideas. Your architect will also be able to draw up your builders plans too which allows them to know exactly what needs to be done. There’s no law saying you need to use an architect but we found it so much easier to have a professional draw up the designs.
  3. Planning permission. Que the eye rolls! Everyone hates having to do this process don't they. But find out what they are looking for, work alongside them rather than against them and it should be a smoother process. You can undertake some extension projects without the need for planning permission so you need to look this up too, it will be referred to as your “permitted development rights”. Regardless if planning permission is required or not, any renovation must comply with building regulations. You’ll need to ensure whoever carries out the work can self-certify the work they do, that includes everyone from the builder to the electrician to the window fitter! 
    dormer bunglaow extension
  4. Find a tradesman that comes on recommendation if you can. You're going to have to have these guys coming in and out of your home for a few months and work with them. With your builder agree the price before commencing so you know exactly what to expect financially. There will always be a little "something" that crops up or needs replacing so have a bit of contingency if you can. 
  5. Neighbours. Just think of them. It is going to disturb them or change their view for a while so just be kind. It could make a big difference when you're back in your home! 
    Velux kitchen window

Bike Adaptations for Riding with One Hand

I haven't really done much personal writing recently, with Daisy starting school and being busy at work I just haven't got around to putting pen to paper, or you know, fingers to keys.

With limb differences being in the press more and more recently it has reminded me why I write; to share awareness and maybe help someone one day if they ever stumble across my blog.

And I thought adaptations for limb differences would be a good place to start, her bike.

baby born with no hand

Recently Daisy had a bike adaptation made for her bike and honestly it was the first time we had asked for any help from her occupational therapist. Up until then we hadn't needed any help and if we are honest when we first got Daisy her bike for her birthday we didn't feel that she would need any help with that initially, but we soon realised if we were going to make it as easy as possible for her then yes, we needed a bit of assistance. It was more to do with her balance than the ability to hold on to her bike and use her hand. Because she doesn't have fingers or a palm on the right hand it means the length of that side shoulder to hand is shorter than the left, meaning she leans to that side and then the balance puts her steering off and makes her naturally steer off to that side.

What it meant was that she was getting frustrated because she was spending more time trying to steer the thing and keep it straight than peddling. It was almost as if she couldn't do the two things at once. And who can blame her, not sure I could either!

So the team at the West Midlands Rehabilitation centre built a socket for her handle bars. She would put her hand in to it and it would come up to her elbow joint. That way she could steer freely and have the length she needed to be able to concentrate on her peddling and balance.

I can't say that she loves it because that wouldn't be true, but she doesn't hate it either. She loves how it means she can ride a bike like everyone else, that she can go out on bike rides and enjoy it easily. But what she doesn't like is how it has to be different to everyone elses bike. But we will come across things like this a lot more I am sure.

I made a video all about this with some footage of her riding it so you can see how it looks in real life situations.