Monday, 22 September 2014

The MAD Blog Awards 2014

MAD Blog Awards 2014

This year, I was so thrilled to be a finalist in the Craft category of the MAD Blog Awards. Along with the other finalists, including the other fab blogs in my category - Along Came Cherry, Little Button Diaries, My Little 3 and Me and The Imagination Tree - I was invited up to London to a glamorous awards ceremony. I didn't win, that honour goes to the very well deserving Little Button Diaries, but I can honestly say that I'm not upset at all. I really was so excited to find myself a finalist that I already felt like a winner.

I arrived in London early and met up with some other bloggers at Wagamamas. Here I was really pleased to meet Jo from Kids Days Out Reviews. We've chatted online a lot, and I've contributed a couple of guest posts to the blog, and it was great to finally meet in person.

After lunch I headed to the Royal Garden Hotel for my hair and make up appointment. I haven't had my hair and make up done since my wedding, so it was a big treat for me. It was carried out by the Powderpuff Girls, and they spent plenty of time making everyone look glamorous. I had no idea what I wanted, and so she plaited my hair across the front and put it up at the back with plenty of curls. I don't normally wear make up so I decided to go with something very bold - full on smoky eyes that I could never have managed myself! I loved my new look for the evening. I posted the picture below on Facebook and I received more likes and comments than I did when I posted the first photographs of my babies!

Hair and make up

Before the awards began I met up with Jo for a drink in the hotel bar, then gradually we bumped into more and more bloggers and we made our way downstairs for the drinks reception. I was so pleased that my friend Swazi from the great Chocolate is not the only fruit had won a ticket to the evening, it was lovely to see her. I also caught up with bloggers that I've met before and bloggers that I had heard of but not had the opportunity to meet yet.

Instagram photo window
Photo thanks to Jo

At dinner I was sat with Kara from Chelsea Mamma that I often seem to bump into at events, and we also share a local connection. I met Emma from Adventures of an Unfit Mother and caught up again with Katie from Hurrah for Gin. We enjoyed a delicious dinner, and then it was on to the actual awards. The awards were presented by Dr Ranj, famous in our household from CBeebies Get Well Soon, and he was a great host. When it came to my category I was so excited to see my blog appear on the screen and hear him read out my blog name as a finalist.

MAD Blog Awards 2014

I may not have won myself, but I was so pleased that Jo won the Family Travel category with Kids Days Out Reviews. It's a fantastic blog with masses of brilliant content and she works very hard on it. It was absolutely a worthy winner, and she even mentioned me in her acceptance speech!

I made it my mission for the evening to have my photo taken with Dr Ranj, and I lined up Swazi to help me manage it. She did brilliantly, spotted her opportunity and took a fantastic photo! There is a less tipsy official one around somewhere, but I think that I like this one better, do I look a bit star struck?

Dr Ranj at the MAD Blog Awards
Photo thanks to Swazi

We finished off the evening with a go on the life size Operation game. You may notice than in every photo of me I'm clutching a wine glass very tightly which probably affected my concentration somewhat, not that I was tipsy of course!

Life size Operation game
Photo thanks to Jo

It was a fantastic night, I had a brilliant time and I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to be there. I think that the stats that were shown on the screen after the awards really prove how proud I was to be a finalist. Thank you so much to everyone that nominated me and then went on to vote for me, I'm so grateful to you all.

MAD Blog Awards stats

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Review - RAVPower Luster Lipstick 3000mAh External Battery Charger

I do love my iPhone 5, but like most smart phone users the battery life is a problem. Normal days at home are fine, as I don't use the phone too much and we have several chargers around the house. But when we go out for the day, particularly if there is travelling involved and I can't connect to WiFi, I'm constantly checking the remaining battery life to make sure I don't run out.

We've been considering buying an external charger for our phones for some times, so the opportunity to review the RAVPower Luster Mini 3000mAh Portable Charger was perfectly timed. Both Ram and I had trips up to London this week, with a long train journey that generally drains the phone battery pretty quickly, and so they were great opportunities for us both to test out the charger.

RavPower external phone charger review

The device comes with a USB to Micro USB cable that you use to charge it. This cable can be plugged into a USB port on another device to charge. It doesn't come with a plug socket that goes into the mains, but this makes the cable smaller and lighter to carry around.

If your phone has a Micro USB port then you can use the same cable to charge your phone. If not (for example with an iPhone) you will need to use your phone charger cable. You can see the Amazon link above for a list of devices that the charger is compatible with, it seems to me to be a pretty comprehensive list.

The external charger is available in five different colours, mine is gold. It measures approximately 10.5 cm in length with a 2.5 cm diameter and it weighs 85g. It comes with a removable clip to attach to a belt, although I didn't need to use this.

The device has a red light while you are charging, which changes to blue when the charger is fully charged. According to the manufacturers, the battery pack will provide you with at least one full charge to your iPhone5 and the input charging time is 4-5 hours.

On Friday I travelled up to London for a couple of days. By the time I arrived at my hotel mid afternoon my phone battery was nearly gone and I only had ten minutes or so to change in the room before I was heading out again. I was able to easily fit the compact charger and cable into my handbag and charge my phone while I was walking about, and when I checked a couple of hours later the phone was fully charged, fantastic!

The charger can also act as a torch which is very handy. You can choose between a bright light, a dim light and a flashing light. The torch can remain lit for up to 120 hours if fully charged which is brilliant.

Review of the RAVPower Luster Lipstick external battery charger

It would be nice if there was some kind of indicator so that you could see how much charge was left on it, but for the price of the charger (currently £10.99 on Amazon) I think that it's extremely good value, and I love how compact it is. We are definitely going to be getting plenty of use out of it!


I received the charger to review, Amazon links are affiliate.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Hama bead covered pen holders from jam jars

Recently I was ironing a larger square Hama bead piece, and I noticed how flexible it was before it had completely cooled. So that gave me an idea for another Hama bead craft - Hama bead jam jars and pencil holders!

Hama bead covered jam jars


Old, clean jam jars or similar containers
Large square Hama bead pegboard
Hama beads


First you need to wash the jars and remove the labels. I've found that the easiest way to remove labels is to spray them with WD40 and leave for a few minutes. Most labels will peel off straight away, some may need a couple of applications. Then wash the jar thoroughly in soapy water.

Use the square peg board to create your design. A design made using one large square Hama bead peg board will not be enough to go all the way around the jar. You can get round this by making two separate pieces and sticking them together or by clipping two boards together (they are designed so that you can do this) to make a longer strip. I just made shorter designs that don't go all the way around my jars.

I went with a simple geometrical pattern, you could also use pictures or words to denote what will be stored inside the jar. Just bear in mind that your design will end up being reversed, so take care with text! You may notice lots of yellow in my designs - for some reason I have ended up with a disproportionate number of yellow Hama beads. I suspect that the large boxes of mixed beads do not contain an equal spread across the colours!

How to iron Hama beads

Iron well on just one side, taking special care to iron to the edges of the design. When you remove the beads from the board the strip of beads will be very floppy. Place the jar on its side and drape the beads over the top so that they will cool to the shape of the jar. If you are working with a long strip that will wrap all the way around the jar then you might want to secure it in place with an elastic band while it cools. When the beads have cooled the strip of beads will still be flexible enough that you can remove it from the jar.

Curved Hama bead projects

I glued my strip of beads to the jars using normal white glue, or you could use a glue gun to make it extra secure. Here's the finished jar!

Jam jar covered with Hama beads

I made as many storage pots as I had jars lying around! I used a large pasta sauce jar, a chocolate spread jar and a smaller container that held dried yeast. You could also use the ever versatile toilet roll tube, with a cardboard base. They'd make great gifts for Mums from little ones, perhaps filled with flowers or chocolates. They'd also make a great desk tidy gift.

Hama bead covered jam jars for desk storage

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Review - The new Spooktacular Halloween range from Asda

Halloween is fast approaching, and it's a great opportunity to dress up and have fun whether you have a spooky themed night in, or dress up for trick or treating. Our children are a bit little to be going out at night, so we'll be having some fun at home with Halloween crafts and activities. This year, Asda have sent me a few goodies from their new Halloween range to try out and share with you.

2014 Halloween range from Asda

The new Asda Halloween range has over 250 lines, including fancy dress and accessories, decorations and food. I do like trying out baking themed around seasonal occasions, but when I saw the Witches Hat Cake Pop Kit (£1.50) I must admit that my heart sank a little. While they look fantastic on the box, we've never had much luck with cake pops. But we gave it a go and I was rather pleased with the results, they were a lot easier to make than I had expected!

Asda Halloween witches hat cake pop kit

All you need to add to the kit is 25g butter. You mix the butter into the chocolate cake crumbs and add a little water to produce a firm dough, which you then press into mini ice cream cones and shape at the base to form a hat. Then you just push in a cake pop stick and place them in the fridge for a little while to cool and harden. When the hats have become solid you melt some chocolate and pour it over the cake pops, pressing in some white chocolate stars to decorate before returning them to the fridge for the chocolate to set. Cleverly, the box itself has small holes in it so you can use it as a stand for the cake pops while you are working on them. The pack also came with plenty of chocolate to melt, which can hide a multitude of sins!

To serve a Halloween themed meal we were sent some skull paper cups and napkins which are a great way to dress up your usual dinner table and make it a bit special, as well as being fantastic if you are hosting a larger party.

Asda Halloween range tableware

Asda also has plenty of Halloween decorations. We received a friendly little hanging monster that is very sweet. I've hidden him away from the children, I'm going to surprise them on Halloween morning by putting him somewhere for them to see when they go downstairs!

Asda Halloween decoration

Although we won't be going out, we will be keeping some packs of sweets to hand in case we have any trick or treaters earlier in the evening. Little packs of sweets like Haribo are the perfect size to hand out, and this year Asda has taken inspiration from the USA and introduced larger pack sizes of Swizzle Sweet Tubs and Haribo Mega Family Fun Bags, with prices starting at £3.

I've not really done much face painting, but this Face of Fear Make up Kit (£4) has an excellent selection of colours along with a little booklet containing loads of different looks that you can create. The Blood Red false eyelashes (£3) are pretty cool too, I'm planning to find an occasion to wear them!

Asda Halloween make up set

So if you are looking for Halloween decorations and accessories to help celebrate Halloween it's well worth having a look at the Asda range!

We received these Halloween items in exchange for a review.

Book review - The Owl and the Pussy-cat by Edward Lear

This Autumn, Puffin are publishing a beautiful new picture-book edition of the classic poem by Edward Lear, The Owl and the Pussy-cat. The book is illustrated by Charlotte Voake, with an introduction by Julia Donaldson.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat new book review

The Owl and the Pussy-cat is a classic poem which I'm sure is familiar to everyone. It tells the story of the Owl and the Pussy-cat that sail away together in their beautiful pea green boat. It's a short poem, but with such gorgeous illustrations it lends itself perfectly to the picture book format. I love the poem, and I really enjoyed sharing it with the children.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat new book review

Julia Donaldson has written a sequel to the poem - The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat - which is also published by Puffin.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat gift edition is published on the 2nd October 2014. I received a copy of the book to review.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

My new desk

Lately I've been feeling a lot more productive, both with my blogging and my crafting. I just feel more organised, and also more inspired. It might sound strange to say, but a lot of that is because we recently decorated our downstairs study and bought a new desk to house our second PC.

Ikea Micke desk in white for PC

The original idea was to have a desk that Ram could use when he works from home, with a large screen and space at the side to plug in his work laptop. We spent a lot of time agonising over the choice of desk, and eventually settled on the Ikea Micke desk in white. It is quite compact, with a cupboard on one side to house the computer tower, and two shallow but large drawers. We also bought the Micke add-on unit to go on top. It has some small shelves on one side, and a magnetic whiteboard at the back which I really liked, although in the end the new monitor fills up all the space so we can't actually use it!

I'm afraid that I've rather taken over this area of the house. I prefer to do my blogging work at a proper PC, because I need a full keyboard to type on and I like having the space to lay out all my folders and notebooks that I use to keep track of everything. I've filled up the shelves with some of my crafty bits and pieces, and I like having them around to inspire me while I work. The desk is in a good location too, it's tucked away a little bit from the rest of the house but it's still central, so I can sometimes sneak in five minutes of computer time with the door open before the children notice that I've gone. When Ram is working at home he can shut himself away for some peace and quiet.

The nice white desk makes a good background for taking crafty photographs. The shelves are a bit of a mess but I like having them filled with things that I've made like my felt button tree picture, my washi tape holder and ribbon covered box. There are also some Hama bead projects lurking there, including ones made by the children which make me smile.

Ikea Micke desk with add on shelves

I'm really enjoying sitting down at my desk and getting on with my work. I love writing my blog, and I spend a great deal of time on it. I'm lucky enough to receive products and experiences through it that we wouldn't have had otherwise. So I'm trying to become more organised, treat it more like a job and schedule in the time for writing posts, leaving plenty of time for doing other things. I've even started working on an editorial calendar!

Button felt tree picture on Ikea desk

Do you find that your environment makes a big difference to the way you work?

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Ladybird Tuesday - The Old Woman and her Pig

The Old Woman and Her Pig is part of the Ladybird Series 606D. Although the Series is titled 'Well Loved Tales', I must admit that this story is a new one to me! It was published in 1973. They are graded in terms of reading difficulty and this book is in Grade 1, the easiest level. Even so it still seems quite a challenging book to me, it's certainly not aimed at very early readers.

The Old Woman and her Pig Ladybird book

The story is about an old woman who finds a crooked sixpence, which means good luck. She uses the money to buy a pig, but on the way home the pig refuses to jump over the stile. So she calls upon a dog to bite the pig to make him jump over the stile, but the dog refuses. The story continues as the women searches for ways to build a string of stubborn animals and inanimate objects which will set in motion a chain of events culminating in the pig jumping over the stile. 

The Old Woman and her Pig

The nature of the story means that it has plenty of repetition, as each required action is repeated several times. It's also a way of telling quite a complicated story in just a few words, making it appealing to young readers. In the end, everything works out as it should, and the woman is able to get home with her pig. 

Ladybird book The Old Woman and her Pig

This is another great book to share with children today, I know that my son will enjoy reading it as it's just the right level for him. The illustrations are fantastic too, the expressions of the characters are just brilliant, they really capture the emotions!

I'm joining in with Ladybird Tuesday at Being Mrs C. You can see all my previous Ladybird Tuesday posts here.
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