Saturday, 10 December 2016

Choosing the perfect Real Christmas Tree

We always have real Christmas trees at home, for me there's nothing better. You can't beat the smell of the pine and the natural look and shape of a real tree.  There's also environmental benefits to a real tree  and I have this argument time and time again, but they are grown as a crop, like any other crop.  I think people somehow think it's bad to go around chopping down trees, but the fact is they are grown specifically for this purpose - just like any other plant crop, and if everyone suddenly stopped buying real ones, there'd be considerably less trees grown on our planet!

We spotted the tree in the photo earlier in the year, in fact it way May!  Hidden deep in the forest, we were astounded that someone must have walked for miles carrying all those decorations to dress a tree that practically nobody would see.  It felt magical, and I still don't know the story behind it, I guess we'll never know!

There are of course pros and cons to having a real tree inside your home, and everyone's needs and desires are different so the Forestry Commission have come up with this handy guide to choosing the right one for your home.

All of the christmas trees sold at the Forestry Commission sites are 'Santa Approved' and with each purchase you get your own living mini sapling to take home, meaning you can grow your very own tree in your garden.  Many sites are also holding festive events too, from Golden Pine Cone hunts, to arts and craft sessions, and of course, Santa's Grotto.  Check out what's happening near you.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Deck out your home this Christmas for less with Poundland's cracking value

Christmas is such an expensive time of the year right?  All those presents, the food, the drink, the parties, the new frock and the Christmas all adds up.

So when it comes to dressing the house, I like to try and save costs where I can.  I have my old favourites in the loft which come out year after year, but I do try to keep them up-to-date with some on-trend accents and I also tend to use a lot of natural materials such as pine cones, holly and ivy which I gather from the garden or pick up on woodland walks.

To freshen my decorations up, I've been bargain-hunting in Poundland and I have to say, (not that I'm averse to shopping there, or could ever possibly be called a snob) you'd never guess that they came from a discount store.

To create a cosy hygge feel in my dining room, I've decorated the mantle in Scandi style red and white.  Candles for that feeling of warmth and soft lighting, pretty wooden star fairy lights, a sprinkling of candy canes and some real glass vintage style baubles all add to the look. I bought some scented tea lights too to add to the atmosphere and they smell lovely - just £1 for a pack of 16 orange and cranberry scented candles.

Large etched glass vintage style bauble £1, pack of 9 mini mercury glass baubles £1, set of 6 wooden star lights £1

I've kept the feeling if hygge going with my red and white theme. Cosy up with decadent glasses of hot chocolate topped with candy canes, or use them to decorate door wreaths such as this handmade rag wreath I've made. 

Ho ho ho glasses £1 for 2, metal sleigh bells £1 for 10, candy canes £1 for 12, chocolate coins £1 for 15

If you've been hooked by the metallic trend, then these copper fairy lights are just the job.  The Moroccan style, little lattice-work spheres are so stylish. Copper works really well against vibrant green foliage, so these would be perfect for a mini tree or to wrap around a spruce wreath, and being battery operated is a bonus as it makes them more portable.

Set of 10 battery operated copper LED lights £1

Silver metal star lights with blue LED bulbs £1 set of 10 battery operated fairy lights

Icy blues and silvers are a stylish combination, and you can make it grown-up without venturing into Disney's Frozen territory.

Create a cosy basket for guests to grab a snuggly blanket while they enjoy their mulled wine, decorate with frosted glass or these real glass baubles with feathers inside, and the delicate beauty of iridescent star confetti.  As well as all the items for £1, Poundland has started selling more and more larger items, so don't be surprised to pick up some bargains like this gorgeous blue soft fleece blanket for £3.

Blue fleece blanket £3, filament style LED fairy lights set of 6 £1

large glass feather bauble £1, confetti bauble £1 for 2

Stock up on traditional pillar candles too to create mantle decorations and table centrepieces.  Take a rummage through the artificial flower and foliage section, and add fresh greenery from the garden.

Church candle £1, mini glass silver baubles £1 set of 9, silver faux eucalyptus £1 stem of 3

And it's not just the decorations where I've been able to save a few quid, I've also got lots of gorgeous wrapping paper, trimmings, Christmas cards, stocking fillers, chocolates and even this delicious Huntley and Palmers Christmas pudding for just £1.

Huntley and Palmer large Christmas pudding £1, sleigh bells £1 for 10, mini glass baubles £1 for 9

So if you haven't ventured into Poundland for a while, take a look, I'm sure you'd be amazed at their cracking value!

Come and join in the #CrackingValue Twitter party on Friday 9th December from 12:30-2pm to win some prizes! We'll be giving away 5 £20 vouchers throughout the party and trust me, that will go a long way!

Take a look at some of the other amazing Christmas bargains other bloggers have found:

Rock N Roller Baby has a festive table display
Little Likely Lads looks at gifts and wrapping
Deep In Mummy Matters looks at living room decorations
What Hannah Did Next shows off her Christmas dining table
Modern Mummy shows off her colourful eclectic style
Blog By Baby has some gorgeous gifts and wrapping ideas
The Joy Of Five has a stunning fireplace decoration
Innocent Charms Chat shows off her choice of decorations
What the Redhead Said has a stunning Christmas Tree

Disclosure: I was sent £50 voucher to purchase Christmas items to showcase them.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Playbrush - The smart new way for kids to brush their teeth

Now I'll admit, when I was first asked to review a new bluetooth children's toothbrush, I thought it was a bit of a gimmick.  I mean, does anyone really need a smart toothbrush?

But I have to say, from my initial thoughts, I am pretty much won over.

The new Playbrush has been developed by a start-up company as a fun way to get over that perennial problem of getting children to brush their teeth properly. My daughter is 8 years old, so she's obviously past that stage where I brush her teeth for her or monitor her intently.  She's looking for more privacy in the bathroom and I need to be able to let her deal with her personal hygiene herself.  However, as a mum, I know she hasn't been brushing her teeth for the full two minutes as recommended, and I'm pretty sure she isn't doing all areas of her mouth thoroughly.  Luckily for us, her six-monthly dental visits are always issue free, but I'd like to keep them that way and prevent any future dental health problems.

At this festive time of the year, we also have the added problem of advent calendar chocolate for breakfast!

So how is Playbrush different?

Well, it's a silicone cap device which fits snugly to the base of any manual toothbrush (although there is also a new toothbrush included in the box).  It means, going forward, we can just replace worn brushes, but still use the device.  After a simple charge via a usb, the attachment transforms the brush into a games controller.  Using bluetooth technology to connect to your phone or iPad, it works with downloadable games to encourage better brushing.

There are currently four games available, free to download, which gives plenty of variety and your child won't get bored.  Each time the teeth are brushed, you can chose which game you want to play and collect points for good brushing.  The way the games are devised, it promotes good speed of brushing, different angling and directional movement of the brush to get into all the nooks and crannies of the mouth.  Little motivational messages pop up as you go, and there's a countdown timer to keep you going for the full 2 minutes.

I really like the leaderboard idea, it gives a competitive edge which I think kids love and will keep them motivated to try harder.  You also get a snapshot report at the end of the teeth brushing session to tell you which areas of the mouth you've cleaned properly, again, great for improving your dental hygiene.

I love that it takes away the twice daily battle of getting my daughter to do her teeth - she's super keen to get brushing now and improve her scores and I no longer have to nag her.

As a parent, you can sign up for a progress report, to keep track of how your child is getting on.

The Playbrush has been developed with leading experts in the dental field, and has been featured in the Guardian and FT.

Because the base is interchangeable, and because you can add multiple profile users to each game, it's really cost effective for larger families, meaning you only have to purchase one of the devices and change it around on different sibling's toothbrushes.

My biggest concern was around having my phone or tablet in the bathroom with all that running water - I've had far too many bowls of dried rice incidents!  However they've thought of that too - included in the box is a plastic holder with suction cups allowing you to safely store your phone away from the sink while playing.

All in all, I'm really impressed.  It's a very well thought-out product and helps tackle an issue which many parents face every morning and evening, so well done Playbrush!

The Playbrush is currently at sale price of £19.99 making it the ideal Christmas present.  It comes with a 2 year warranty and there's a 30 day money-back guarantee if you're not happy.  Chose from pink or blue.

Disclosure: I was sent a sample to review.  All opinions are my own.