Monday, 17 November 2014

Memories of 2014, amazing giveaway!

I was lucky enough to be asked to review a book specially made for us by Love2read. When I had the opportunity to do the review, I realised that Libby would enjoy reading a book about her, but what happened next really surprised me. So let's start from the beginning.

The idea of the Love2read books is that you log onto their very simple website and upload your own photos, accompanied by a few words per page of your choosing. Last week was hectic to say the least for me, and I managed to create my book in about 10 minutes flat while Granddad looked after the girls for me. I have to say, I wasn't expecting miracles.

The book arrived incredibly quickly after I'd ordered it, I think it was probably the next day. When I opened it, I was greeted by this front cover.


The first page has Libby and Lia's names on it, and a photo of Jamer Cat with a few words about her joining the family.


You get to add nine photos in total, one per page with your own narrative below them. Some of your photos are then used on the front cover, and all of them are grouped together in a lovely montage on the last page. I particularly love the last page of our book, because it is a photo of Soxa who we very sadly lost a couple of weeks ago.


As you can see, there is a summary of words to read at the end of the book. Which brings me on to the rather amazing thing that happened after I had read this book to Libby for the first time.

I have been trying to teach Libby to recognise letters for the last couple of months and she has got to grips with "L" and can spell out her name phonetically but can't recognise any other letters. She has never managed to read a word before. I should have known though, that a book all about her would be right up Libby's street, because as soon as we had read it, she took the book from me, turned to the first page and said "That says Libby and that says Lia." Pointing to the correct words.

As you can imagine, after having seen what lovely books they are and realising that they are the key to getting Libby reading, I am a huge advocate for Love2read. When I get a bit more time, I will be purchasing another book, dedicated to Soxa. I want to tell Libby and Lia about Soxa's life with some lovely photos for them to remember her by.

In the meantime though, you can win your own book by filling in the rafflecopter below. It's only a short competition so it will be with you in plenty of time for Christmas! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 14 November 2014

And then there was one

Back in the summer, I wrote a blog post about having my hands full when we went out walking with the dogs. At the time, I had Libby, Lia, Soxa, Pluto and Jamer all walking with me and, as you can imagine, it was a little bit hectic.

At the time I was wondering how I would cope when Lia started walking, with two children, two dogs and a cat all running around and needing to be kept under control. What I hadn't taken into account was how I would feel if, all of a sudden, things were not so hectic.

With so  many of us co-existing under one roof, you would think there would always be a lot of buzz and noise. Which there is, I suppose. But when one little noise is suddenly gone, it really hits home how quiet things become.

Soxa was the naughty dog, which has become even more apparent since she's been gone, because even the little things that Pluto used to get up to that were naughty have stopped. She was clearly the devil on his shoulder egging him on.

Pluto is always pleased to see us when we come home, and even Jamer generally comes to say hello. But the little tip-tapping of Soxa's over-excited feet and the tick-tocking of her tail sounding like a little geiger counter really filled the house with noise. Coming home to relative silence is an incredibly lonely feeling, despite our house being so full of activity.

As for our walks, they have become a notably more sedate affair, particularly on a Friday. This morning, Libby was at nursery and Lia had a little nap in the baby carrier. Jamer was hibernating rather professionally, as demonstrated.

Spot the cat
So it was effectively just me and Pluto, strolling along enjoying the sunshine. I think, if we're honest, despite the unexpectedly good weather and the beautiful view, we both felt just a little bit lonely.



Thursday, 13 November 2014

Our Thursday Photo #27

This week has mostly been about sleep deprivation... again. Lia is very, very much a mummy's girl, to the extent that last night I went out running for just over an hour. By the time I got back, she was absolutely beside herself, because she'd woken up and I wasn't there. This made me feel terribly guilty for going out, and didn't make for a particularly good night of sleep either, since she woke up several times in a panic before I even made it to bed.

This led to yet another stupidly late night and, having been up twice between 12.30 and 4.30 am, I reluctantly turned off my alarm that had been set for 5.30 and resigned myself to the fact that for the second time this week, I wouldn't make it to morning swimming training.

 In theory, morning training is really appealing, as I can get up, swim and get home before the girls get up and before hubby goes to work. This week in desperation, I've bought the "No-Cry Sleep Technique" book. Sadly with all the sleep deprivation, I haven't had time to read it! If you happen to have a success story regarding this (or any other) sleep book, please do let me know in the comments, I am grasping at straws for some thread of hope that a decent night's sleep is on the cards for me before too long!

 Today, my sister's boyfriend, who is a fabulous photographer, popped over to take some photos of Lia to practice for a baby photo shoot that he's got coming up. Of course, Libby wanted to get in on the act, so they both had a few snaps taken. Whilst all the proper photography was going on, I took the opportunity to take a quick snap of the girls enjoying themselves. So here is our Thursday Photo #27.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Back in the swim

As you may have picked up on, since having Lia I have been trying to get back to my previous fitness levels and I'm finding it rather difficult. The main problem I'm having is time. I manage to get out for a run once or twice a week, and tend to manage a swim once a week as well. Owing to the lack of training time though, I have recently threatened to go back to early morning swimming training with a local masters club.

On Tuesday morning, my alarm was set to 5.30 am to allow me to go swimming. After being up virtually every hour with Lia, I realised that this was never going to happen and turned my alarm off when I was up yet again at 4.30. Tomorrow I will be trying again, fingers crossed!

One of the things I've always found tough with morning training is swimming on an empty stomach. Of course I don't want to get up super early to eat, but I don't want to be starving all session either. One solution is a healthy breakfast that I've discovered of coconut milk poured over porridge, with some frozen berries mixed in. I do this the night before and leave it in the fridge, so I can just grab a spoon and get on with it in the morning. Unfortunately, sitting down to eat it is another few minutes of precious sleep time I miss out on, so I'm turning to energy bars.

I'm not one for bars that are filled with sugar and nasties, not least because inevitably Libby will catch me eating them and want some. Surprisingly, not all energy bars are vegetarian either, let alone vegan. So my breakfast solution for tomorrow is the Nakd fruit and nut bars, of course I've gone for the Christmas pudding flavour at this time of year! When these arrived this morning, two of the people who I am most keen to encourage to eat healthily were circling around the box.


As the bars only contain dates, cashews, raisins and a hint of flavouring, I encouraged them both to try them. They were both very taken with them, with Dad even taking one home with him to have with his coffee later instead of a chocolate bar. Whilst they are great for sports energy, they're equally good as a healthy snack. The only drawback is that I love them too and I don't think I'll see too many of these myself!

Please note that I was sent a box of these products to sample in return for an honest review. Views, opinions, healthy eating buddies and toddlers wearing granddad's glasses are all my own.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Bring it on winter, I'm ready for you.

As a child, running wasn't really my thing, purely on the basis that I was a swimmer through and through. When I got to high school though, I got on okay with cross country, winning our school cross country run out of the blue, purely from the transferable fitness from swimming. This sparked my interest in running and I went on to represent the county.

At this point, I was incredibly lucky that my mum was an avid runner and she knew how important it was to have the right equipment, trainers in particular. Mum presented me with a little catalogue and allowed me to choose (with her guidance) a great pair of running shoes. The catalogue was from a company that is now (in the internet age) called SportsShoes.com and even now, they are the go-to place for good quality sports kit for mum and I.

So with winter setting in and having had a baby since I last fitted into my winter running kit, I realised it was time to stock up. I'd also made a mistake the last time I bought trainers. I strayed from my mum's advice and bought them elsewhere, ending up with trainers that were too small and rubbed my feet. I've got into the barefoot and minimalist running movement over the last few years, so I also decided to treat myself to a new pair of  minimalist trainers.


As you can see, I have already put my new Merrell trail running shoes to the test on a couple of long, muddy runs. They are incredibly light, nicely cushioned and don't rub at all. They offer some shock absorption without detracting from the feel of natural running. Before I got my hands on them, they were also a lovely colour. Apparently they have been specially treated so that they don't stink. So far so good on that score too!

My next purchase was a pair of winter trousers. Not only are these warm, they are even water resistant and yet still breathable. They are made by Under Armour, who are quite well known for their rugby gear. No wonder then that they cope so well with mud, here are my trousers post muddy run.


They are in fact caked in mud but it somehow doesn't show up on them, despite being quite a light colour. These trousers both inspire me to get out for a run, safe in the knowledge that I won't get cold and damp, and bring out the devil on my shoulder telling me not to go. I like them so much that I'd be perfectly happy to slob around the house in these. Actually, if I'm honest I'd probably wear them to the pub too.

I also treated myself to a new breathable long sleeved running top, made by Ronhill. I like the fact that this is breathable and wicks moisture away from you. I like the fact that it is reflective for bad weather and has UPF40 sun protection for summer running. But what I love about it is that it's made from recycled fibres. What a great, revolutionary step forward in clothing, I am so pleased that this is now possible and hope that more companies follow suit.


I also ordered a running jacket, but this was out of stock so my other items were sent to me rather than making me wait for everything just because one thing was out of stock. They also informed me when the items were on the way and that one thing would be missing. I really appreciated this, there is nothing worse than not knowing what's happening with an order. So I'm waiting in anticipation for my running jacket, at the moment it's not quite cold enough for it though, so my long sleeved top was ideal. So now I'm all kitted up, it's time to launch myself into winter training. Will this include a 6am swim tomorrow morning?? I'm not sure just yet but watch this space!

Please note, I was sent these items free of charge in return for an honest review. All views, opinions, sporty mums, muddy runs and ridiculous thoughts of swimming at 6am are my own.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Feed the birds

If, like me, you can occasionally manage to sort out a hanging basket full of strawberries for the summer, but when winter comes there is just an empty hook, I have a novel little idea for you.

As you may know, we are very proud of our garden now, since dad and hubby spent weeks decking our sloping area to make it both more usable and a really attractive area. Unfortunately, hubby has zero interest in gardening and I have zero time, so doing anything with the rest of the garden never seems to happen.

I also never manage to put any food out for the birds, because my ridiculous cat would team up with my dog to harm the birds if they came too close. This is a shame, because there are some lovely wild birds around here and it would be lovely to see a bit more of them. Luckily, Gardens2you have provided the perfect solution with this beautiful little cast iron hanging bird feeder.


As you can see, it fits perfectly on my hanging basket hook and looks beautiful. This means that the cat, and even my lurcher who is rather a proficient jumper would never manage to reach the birds whilst they feed on there.

The other thing I love about it is that it would be ideal for an urban environment, even for somebody living in a flat with no garden, since it just hooks on. Lets hope they catch on and less birds go hungry this winter!

Please note, I was sent this product free of charge in return for an honest review of it. All views, opinions, terrible hanging basket skills and ridiculous cats are my own.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Children's Books for Christmas

You will notice a conspicuous absence in this review, as my little partner in crime who normally helps me to review children's books is not allowed to see them.

When I was offered the opportunity to review a set of Campbell Christmas books, I jumped at the chance, because Libby had already got her old Christmas books out and was insisting on listening to Christmas songs. I thought these would be ideal for her to review, but then things took on a different slant.

When we wrote our letter to Santa, Libby was very insistent that she wanted him to bring her a book, and that Lia would also like a book. When the Campbell Christmas books arrived, they were by some distance the nicest Christmas books I'd ever seen. So then I had a dilemma. Do I allow Libby to review the books now and give her some that aren't as nice for Christmas, or do I save them to go in her present sack from Santa? Well it was a no-brainer really, so here is my own review. I like them so much that I'm giving you a chance to win them so that another little person will have as much fun on Christmas morning as Libby will. The rafflecopter is at the end of the post.

This little book is just the cutest thing in the world. Whilst reading about how Santa is going to complete his important journey now his reindeer are poorly, kids can wheel the book along on its fully functional wheels.

This is one of the interactive books that Campbell do so well. Each page has a little activity on it, so children can use levers to make things move around. The story itself is a really cute rhyme about Christmas coming and I can see Libby making me read this on repeat, probably until next Christmas.

This is another interactive book, similar in style to Hello Christmas. I am absolutely certain that Libby will be begging to go ice skating as soon as she has read this once! Again, the story is a lovely rhyme and I particularly like the part about getting back up and trying again if you fall over, something I'm always encouraging Libby to do.

This one is my personal favourite. The characters are exceptionally cute, and it is a treasure hunt book. The thing I really love though is the huge pop-up Christmas tree at the end. I have always loved pop-up books, but I've actually never seen a pop-up quite as impressive as this!

And so we come to the book that I know Lia will fall in love with, much to Libby's disgust. The story is all about Santa getting ready for Christmas day, and there are buttons along the side to press, each one making a different noise. I am really looking forward to reading this with both girls.

So, here is your opportunity to win the complete set of these fabulous books. It's a short give away so you will receive them in plenty of time for Christmas. If you have fallen in love with Campbell books as much as me, head over to their website to find out more.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please note, I was sent a set of these books for the purposes of an honest review, and Campbell have also kindly provided a set for you to win. All views, opinions and book loving toddlers are my own. Good luck!