Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Top 10 Toys for Christmas

I'm sure that you are all aware by now that I'm a Toyologist for Toys R Us. Last week I was featured in my local paper talking about donating some toys to Chick's after school club and my nursery at work and that story seems to have been picked up by a couple of other people!!! Today I was interviewed by the Leicester Mercury and tomorrow (weather permitting) I'm going to be on the BBC Radio Leicester afternoon show talking about my Top 10 toys for Christmas!!! Yikes!! 

I put a Tweet/Facebook call out to my fellow Toyologists to find out what their favourite toys were and this is the list that I've come up with. In no particular order my top 10 are:

Harry Potter Lego Game (& Harry Potter Lego in general!!)                  
£24.99 (Lego) 8+

Vtech Storio   £39.99 (VTECH) 3+

Bop It £17.97 (MB Games) 8+

Magic/Disgusting Science £12.99 (Galt) 8+

Sticky Mosaics £14.99 (The Orb Factory) 5+

Aquadoodle desk £24.99 (Tomy) 18months+

Bigfoot £84.97 (Imaginext) 3+

Thinkfun Zingo  £12.99 (Ravensburger) 4+

The Logo Board Game £24.97 (Drummond Park) 12+

Twister £11.97 (MB) 6+

I've chosen these Top 10 for a whole host of reasons. To buy the game or find out more please click the prices to take you to the Toys R Us website. If you want to ask specific questions about any of my Top 10 then please leave a comment and if I can't answer it I'll find a Toyologist that can!!!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Silent Sunday........because she still believes!!!!

Silent Sunday

Friday, 26 November 2010

Oxfam Unwrapped

As a child I loved Christmas but the older I get the more I find it all far too commercialised. I hate the fact that the Christmas stock starts appearing in September and that I'm already sick of hearing the same 10 Christmas songs....bah humbug!!!! Obviously with having Chick I have to do Christmas and I find myself buying into the very commercialism that I hate to give her the Christmas she wants. 

Last year for the first time I bought Chick a present from Oxfam which actually wasn't for her. It was a safe water card that paid for 8 or 10 people to receive clean water. It didn't cost much maybe £10 or something but I felt that it was important for her to think about others amongst the piles of commercial stuff she got. I think that she was a bit bemused by it but I explained my thinking behind it and she's been a convert ever since and has even suggested that we buy something similar this year for a few folk on our Christmas list.

A few weeks ago I was invited to attend a briefing day about a new range Oxfam has launched this year especially aimed at Children and young philanthropists called Oxfam Unwrapped. According to their research 71% of Parents think that Christmas is a time of year when their kids should think of others but I wonder how many actually do something other than think about it? 

Gifts from the Oxfam Unwrapped range include Educate a child (£30), Desk and chair set (£21), Give girls a head start (£17) and Playtime (£7). With each gift purchased your child receives and activity book or a gift card that explains all about the good that their present is doing.

For more information please click on the image of the desk & chair set below or the Oxfam logo. Gifts start from only £5 so why not think about adding one to your Christmas shopping list and help someone get a life changing gift rather than something that will sit in a cupboard!!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Gallery - Black & White

Week 36 of The Gallery and this week's theme is black and white.

This picture is one of my favourites of Chick. It was taken one day at the start of the year when I was planning on doing a Project 365 and taking a picture everyday!! It only lasted about a month before I gave up due to work commitments/time constraints/plain laziness. The project for the day was 'close up' which I'd never really tried before but I was thrilled with the results!

Make sure to stop by Tara's blog and check out the other fabulous entries!!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Friends (or a lack of!!)

My girl and I have a routine going on the way home from school, whereby I mostly bombard her with questions about her day i.e. What did you eat for lunch? What was cool at school? Who did you play with? The answers to the questions are different each day. Some days I just get a shrug of the shoulders and some days I’m lucky enough to get full sentences!!!

Today though all the way home my poor girl just talked about how unpopular she is and how she doesn’t have too many friends. We had a chat about how it’s the quality of friends that count and not the amount that you have but she pointed out that I have ‘hundreds of friends all over the world’ which is kind of true but I reassured her that it sucks when most of your best friends live far away!!! I’ve had a quiet chat with the Teacher and she says that she hasn’t seen any problems with her having a lack of friends. I tried to talk her round about it but she was having none of it.

So my question to you my lovely readers is how to address this with her?  Chick has gone off to Brownies still worrying about being unpopular. How can I reassure her that she’s fine just as she is without making a big deal out of it? Should I just ignore it or maybe encourage her to start having her school friends around for tea? Any advice you can give me would be gratefully received.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Gallery - Before & After

This week Tara has come up with a Before & After theme. I figured seeing as Chick turned 8 on Sunday it should be about her!

This is my beautiful girl at Christmas just after she turned two:

This is my (not so) Little Princess on her 8th Birthday:

How cute does my girl look???  All I can say is that appearances can be deceptive ;-)

If you want to join in with this week's gallery then hop on over to Tara's blog.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Adventures of a Toyologist at the Hospital!!

Being a Toyologist completely rocks......but I'm sure you'd all kind of guessed this anyway! I've mentioned in previous posts that I was going to try and donate some of the toys to the local hospital. Well thanks to the generosity of Toys R Us, I was able to give them a box worth around £150!!

As I live not too far from Leicester I decided that I would donate them to the Leicester Royal Infirmary. They have nine play centres at the hospital spread over two hospitals, several wards and waiting rooms. I'd had a few e-mails back and forth with the Play Co-ordinator about dropping off the toys and made my merry way to the hospital on Tuesday.

Chick has only been to the hospital once to have grommits in her ears, we were there for the day, it all went very smoothly and apart from having the same operation myself and giving birth, I've pretty much been lucky enough to avoid the hospital.

Before I went to drop the toys off, all I really thought about was what a great thing I was doing and hoping that the toys would make a bit of a difference. Very narcissistic of me I know and something that I'm going to have to work on. What I hadn't thought about was any of the 1,000 or so people that might be laying in a hospital bed and how ill some of them might be.

On the main site there are four main children's wards ranging from recuperation to plastics to long term illnesses to breathing difficulties. On each ward there is a dedicated play room that is run by a play worker. They organise all the activities which are different morning and afternoon. They make sure that the boards are up to date and decorated with drawings and pictures from the children. On some wards their job is to try and explain through play what their treatment many involve. On others it may be as simple as playing a game with the patients.

Some of the children can stay for up to two years. Just take a minute to imagine that? Not only your child being ill but being so ill that they are in hospital for two years! How do you even go about dealing with that? How do you help them? How you deal with your child not making it home from the hospital?

I spent the whole day going around in circles and really not concentrating on my work just thinking about the morning at the hospital. Now here I am, five days later and I still wish there was something that I could do to help but I just don't know what. I'm not a healer, I can't donate millions to research or to pay for nurses so what can I do? I'm not sure what I can do but you can do something for me.......when you've finished reading this, go hug your kids or watch them sleep for a minute and be grateful that they are well and healthy!

*Lots of lovely reviews to follow when the Play Workers have had time to collate their thoughts and come back to me :-)

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Remembrance Day

 Today is Remembrance Day and each year I take Chick to the Sunday Remembrance Day Parade as I think it’s important for her to acknowledge the sacrifice of previous generations and to realise how damn lucky she actually is. I’ve been attending various services ever since I was in my late Teens but some of my friends don’t agree with my point of view on this subject which is absolutely fine. I have no intention of upsetting anyone with my point of view and I’m not about to argue with anyone who doesn’t think the Remembrance is worthwhile but I have several reasons for wanting to remember.

Both my Grandfathers were in the Army during the years of National Service that followed WW2. My Great Uncle fought in World War Two and My American Dad was in the Air Force. For three years in my early Twenties I worked alongside the British Army in Germany and I’m proud to be friends still with some of these guys. Part of my reason for the Remembrance is because of the guys and gals above. I want them to know that I’m grateful that they are prepared to lay down their lives for us, even for wars or causes that they don’t believe in and that some of us in England do care and do appreciate that they are stuck in hellish conditions in Afghanistan. 

It bothers me that the Labour government got us into this and we cannot even afford to send the Troops out with the proper military kit to help them survive. Sub standard boots, trucks that are neither use nor ornament and not enough air support as the helicopters we need are stuck in a hangar somewhere. Two years ago a charity was set up by Bryn and Emma Parry called ‘Help for Heroes’ to help wounded Personnel get the support that they need. It’s quite well supported in England but we shouldn’t fu**ing need it. The government should be providing the wounded with all the help they need not leaving it to the fundraising abilities of the good British people.

Today whilst our Country was remembering our fallen, a small minority Muslim protesters burning a model of a poppy alongside messages like:

"British soldiers burn in hell" 
 "Islam will dominate"
 "Our dead are in paradise, your dead are in hell".

Now I completely understand that this is a very, very small minority but what I say to this is....leave England. I'm sure that most of these Guys probably were English but if you don't like the way this Country is run, our values, us remembering our dead soldiers then move. You try living in Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia.....anywhere that you feel fits in with your belief system but don't dare tell me that my friends are burning in hell and that yours are in Paradise.

When I first moved back to England from Germany, I went back to school and did a History course. As part of that course we visited the Battlefields of the First World War. Before we left I read everything that I could get my hands on relating to the war. I cannot even begin to describe how heart wrenching the trip was. At all the (huge) memorials there is just row upon row upon row of names of the dead. We visited the Town of Ypres and the Menin Gate Memorial where each night at 8pm the last post is played and you can’t help but be moved, in fact it just sends a shiver down my spine!! It’s only in recent years that I can bear to read anything about the conditions they fought in, so profound was the trip.

Last year for the first time World War One went from living memory to history after our last surviving soldiers from WW1 Henry Allingham and Harry Patch died. We may have none of them left but I will always remember them and the guys that they had to leave behind buried in mud on Flanders fields and I want to part of the movement that keeps their memory alive.

So this is why I want to remember and why Chick and I both bought poppies on the day the campaign started. Each time I open a paper and read about more deaths I’m always half expecting it to be someone I knew in the past and for this reason we always wear our poppies.  

"When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, 
For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today"
John Maxwell Edmonds

*I originally posted most of this last year but when I re-read it for inspiration thought it was already good enough :-)

Monday, 8 November 2010

Advice to my 16 year old self!!!

Last week there was a #hashtag on Twitter which was something along the lines of ‘advice to your 16 year old self’.  So what would my advice to be my 16 year old self be??? Well:

-          You aren’t that fat, even though you think you are. Make the most of it because you will never be this thin again and believe me you are hawt!!!

          Travelling the world seems like a lot of fun and really it is however, the future would really appreciate you training on the stock market/journalism route now so that in 18 years time you are not still stuck in your home Town.....you’ll be living in Dulwich or Knightsbridge instead!!!

-          Respect yourself. I cannot reinforce this one enough. You don’t have to relinquish control for Men to fall in love with you.

          Your taste in clothes and music rocks!!

          Your Mum knows a lot more than you think.  Quit rolling your eyes at her and listen instead ;-)

-          Stop skipping school with JoJo and actually revise for your exams....you will still be best friends in 20 years so all that gossiping about idiotic boys can wait.

-          Spend as much time as possible with your Dad. You don’t know it yet but you only have 18 months left with him. At 34 the only regret you will ever have is leaving your Dad alone that last weekend. When he is gone make sure that you get some grief counselling so you don’t spend the next 10 years a drunken mess!!!

-          At 16 the life you imagine for yourself in California is one of being a size 6 and drinking at the Whisky a Go-Go with Nikki Sixx. The life that you actually end up with there is even better.

          Sex is not enough......no matter much you try to convince yourself it will work.

-          Chick’s Dad will be a Clown. He admittedly is VERY handsome and smells like the most gorgeous thing in the World but you have to put your foot down. Life would be a million times easier if you force him to face up to it from the start.


I think that’s about it.....although I’m sure that as I soon as I hit publish a fabulous piece of advice will pop into my brain! What would you tell your 16 year old self??

This is a pic of me and JoJo at 16....she's going to kill me when she sees this ;-)

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Bonfire Night

So I'm aware that I'm behind the times as per usual and that bonfire night was actually on Friday but thought that I would share anyway! This year we decided to head Twin Lakes for their 'Pirates Revenge' themed bonfire night and fireworks with a few friends and I have to say that it was absolutely brilliant!

After the weather on Friday being warm enough to wear flip flops and no coat, by last night it had changed and was almost perfect bonfire night conditions....freezing cold with a super clear night sky. On arrival we were greeted by 'Scary' Pirates:

How cute do the kids look in their bobble hats and ear muffs???

We first headed for the hot doughnut stall because we all need something warming on a cold November evening!!! Then we let the kids run off and ride as many things as possible before heading for the bonfire and what a monster of a bonfire it was:

Shaped as a pirate ship in keeping with the theme and soooooo hot that we had to move away from it as we felt like we were getting burnt!!!  We managed to find a nice distance away though where we still close enough to feel the heat whilst we were watching the fireworks!

Now being the old cynical British woman I am, I don't generally expect much from fireworks in England!!! My favourite fireworks ever are the Lake Tahoe ones on the 4th July and nothing has ever really come close to being as impressive as they are. Last nights though were pretty incredible! My camera batteries ran out (epic fail!!!) and I ony managed to get this shot with my phone:

The finale was awesome and I may even have ooooohed and aaaaahed like a girl!!! I didn't want it to end at all!! A thoroughly fun night and highly recommended!!  What did you do for bonfire night? Hope that you had fun and all kept safe!

Friday, 5 November 2010


Every so often (read – Thursday or Friday EVERY SINGLE WEEK!!) when Chick is beyond tired she will have a completely unreasonable meltdown about something. It’s normally a relatively trivial thing that triggers it but once she starts all hell breaks loose.

Now, once upon a time I used to scream and shout back and send her to her room but the older she gets the more I try to behave reasonably in the hope that she will copy me and that I haven’t given her a temper for life by not being calmer when she was younger.

We do have rules in our house and my Mum thinks that I'm way too strict with Chick. I guess that’s a Nana’s prerogative and after almost eight years we’ve agreed to disagree although obviously I’m always right ;-)  One of my rules is that you don’t have to eat everything on your plate but if you don’t then there will be nothing else to eat. No dessert, no supper and definitely no random snack of yoghurt or fruit.

Tonight, Chick specifically requested Lasagne and being the lovely, caring Mother that I am, I actually made one for her. She took one bite, declared it disgusting and made me remove it from her sight before she was sick!!!  I reminded her of the rule, whilst biting my tongue and not saying anything about wasting my valuable time cooking it and she was all ok and not remotely hungry.

Fast forward thirty minutes to me being on the phone with my best friend and immediately she starts being unreasonable (No......I don’t know where she gets it from either!!) Chick was banished to the naughty step for being rude and the wailing started:

Her:       You don’t love me

Her:       Mum, talk to me

Her:       Life is soooooooooooooooo unfair, I’m starving!

Her:       I hate you

Me:        I’ll be there in a minute and when you’ve calmed down we’ll discuss your behaviour.

Her:       I’m sooooooooooo hungry, you don’t love me, you are STARVING me, I hate you.

I finished my phone call and tried and talk to her about her behaviour, which basically resulted in her being sent to bed early and crying for an hour whilst intermittently moaning about being hungry and me breaking out a very, VERY, large vodka and red bull!

What do you do with your kids? Do you have similar rules or would you have given in and let her have something else to eat? Do you make your kids eat everything on their plate? Am I being incredibly harsh? I look forward to reading your views and am praying that I’m not the only ‘strict’ Parent out there!!!