Friday, 12 December 2014

Birdwatching with children? Winter days out, outside.

A few years ago if you'd of told me I, Mary-Kate would encourage my son to go birdwatching  I'd of said "yeah alright, whatever"... to me it was something boring people done (Sorry Mike Mum and Kenny!) but now my eyes have been opened to how many beautiful birds there are out there, in our own country and I think it's a great hobby for children to have.
Birdwatching teaches them patience as they have to wait to see the birds whilst also encouraging them to care for creatures around them, to be kind. They also learn about different birds and get to look through binoculars which Oliver thinks is pretty cool. He's really getting into it and is good at noticing birds in the distance. If we don't encourage little ones to be interested in this then what will happen in the future? Our little people are the future after all.

It's not all about birdwatching in this post though, I also think pond dipping is an amazing thing to do with your children, to show them whats living in the water they are stood in front of is great! I wouldn't have realised half of it was actually in there.

And Just because it's chilly outside now doesn't mean it has to be all playcentres and days inside, there's a whole world out there and winter walks can be just as nice if you wrap everyone up really warm. You could even start by looking for different ducks this winter, Oliver loves to feed the ducks and there's lots around at the moment. Oliver's favourite thing to do is to be outside, he's a much better behaved child if he's been out exploring and running around. Sometimes I say he just needs a field to run around in to calm down.
As a family we love RHS gardens and they're not just for adults, they are great for children and encourage them to care about beautiful gardens as they grow up. One of our favourites is RHS Wisley.

We also love Wildlife Trust and enjoy going to a place called College Lake in Tring. The Wildlife Trust holds various family events throughout the year. The Wildlife Trust has some suggestions on things to do with your children at their reserves: become a wildlife detective and see how many butterflies, birds and plants you can find or play pooh sticks and you could take some paper with crayons to make a bark rubbing - hold the paper up to the tree and let little one rub crayon all over paper until you can see the pattern of the bark.
They also have a thing called the 'hedgehog award' which Oliver loves, he's collecting stickers each time he goes to a Wildlife Trust nature reserve so he can get his certificate, we'll tell you about it when he gets it.
Usborne do a really good little sticker book for bird watching, when the child see's the bird they put the sticker over the outline of it and parents can put the date/place they saw the bird so they have a little reminder. Oliver is much better than me, I'm too loud and scare the birds away and I just can't remember their names where as he is really good.

Just so you know, I'm a little bit anti-play centres - sorry! I just can't stand how Oliver always get ill after going to one and he loves being outside much more anyway.

Whats your little ones favourite outdoor thing to do?

Mary-Kate x

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Mum to be Christmas gift guide

I was just thinking that this time last year I was pregnant with Isabelle, it's gone so quickly I can't believe that my baby will be 9 months old next week! So having a little look back I thought I'd do an expectant mums Christmas gift guide to hopefully inspire people...





Milestone Baby Cards






Cuddles and Cupcakes new mum gift from the lovely Babes With Babies, something for both mum and baby!






Blooming Lovely - mexican bola neclace, I'm still wearing my one now. Below is a photo of me wearing it when pregnant with Isabelle.






Bump giftpack from Cussons Mum & Me, I really liked the shampoo.






A teething neclace, means mum can still wear a neclace even when baby comes along trying to eat everything!






A bibee dress, I have worn mine throughout my pregnancy and I'm still wearing it now! Ideal for discreetly breastfeeding when out, also great for covering that new mum tum.



I have four of these so how did it get this far down the list? It's the amazing Snoob, breastfeeding scarf which has enabled me to feed Isabelle out and about anywhere, discreetly.






A gorgeous nursing lingerie set like this one which is from Cake Lingerie.





A nursing pillow like this one from Thrupenny Bits. I couldn't have managed without one after having a c-section.



A changing bag like this il tutto one which is stylish and I love it. Changing bag is one of the most exciting things to look for and buy when you're expecting I think.
 

or a changing bag like this by Pink Lining, come on with my bag obsession you must be surprised only two made it onto this blog post?

I love this pink lining one too, its so cute!



Is there anything you'd add?


Mary-Kate, x

#NextmasWishlist

Dear Santa Next,

The children have written their Christmas lists to you Santa and they've tried hard to be very good... Isabelle has only nearly pulled the tree down once and broken a few baubles so far and Oliver, well... he woke up last night and 'thought' he had walked to the toilet but actually ended up weeing all over some of his toys, so last night at about 11pm I was cleaning urine up! Fun. So now I'm writing my Christmas wish list
Nextmas Wishlist for my favourite shop Next! (Sorry Michael for spending alot of money in Next but not actually sorry because I like it)





Number 1 on my Nextmas Wishlist is a hat because my head is very cold on the school run! I love this one, I think it's really cute and would match Oliver's one nicely. (I admit, I have worn his one haha it's age 7-10 years from next and it fits my head)





Number 2 on my Nextmas Wishlist is this lovely photo frame because I love to have lots of photos of our family around the house and we've just had a little move around and have a wall waiting for a new frame.
 

Number 3 on my Nextmas Wishlist is this gorgeous bed linen set, it makes me think Sunday Morning Snuggles and would be perfect for Christmas time! Oliver and Isabelle love to get in between us for a cuddle.



Number 4 on my Nextmas Wishlist is this lovely cake stand, I love making cakes and although I haven't made many since having Isabelle I think this would give me a little kick up the bottom to make some! I miss buttercream icing, obviously being dairy free I can't have that BUT it looks so pretty I can make others consume the calories - *insert evil laugh*.


Number 5 on my Nextmas Wishlist are these lovely boots, I need some new boots that are comfortable and I need to stop wearing silly shoes. Want to know a secret? I fell over ok ok I fell over, all the way to the floor! Bottom hit the floor, bruised and everything on the way home from dropping Oliver to school.. it was slippy ok! But seriously, need new shoes, these probably aren't the best 'grippy' but they're an improvement plus (real reason) they're cute?!




Number 6 on my Nextmas Wishlist is one for the kids! I know this is MY wishlist but it would make me happy to see Oliver's face at this bed cover set. 




Number 7 on my wishlist, well now I have to add something for my princess Isabelle... Don't you hate that feeling of 'can't buy for one and not the other'? Oh well this poncho is super super cute! Next, does it come in my size too??




Number 8 on my Nextmas Wishlist - dammit, see I can't even leave the Man out can I? I am desperate to get that stubborn man in a Christmas jumper and this one looks fab! I'd make sure I washed it lots over the Christmas period (every year) so he HAD to wear it.
 

Number 9 on my Nextmas Wishlist, seeing as we're talking about the Man. I'd like him to take me on a night out, it's been about a year now so I think we're due a night out just us and because my size has changed since having Isabelle I would obviously need a new dress. I have just fallen in love with this one. Could I also wear it for Isabelle/Oliver's Christening too?




Number 10 on my Nextmas Wishlist are these PJ's, I love love love pj's. If I'm poorly, I will have a shower and get into new pj's to make myself feel better. A pj day to me has to be clean pj's - Michael always has found that strange and I'm not sure why? You always feel better having had a shower!








So that's it, thats my Nextmas Wishlist! What would be on yours?

Mary-Kate, x

#ClearAPlate

Blogfest was an eye-opener for me, for many reasons but this one might shock you... I hold my hands up, I admit I waste far too much food in our family! I cook too much pasta, give Oliver bigger portions than he needs and over buy too but that all needs to stop because my eyes have been opened thanks to the lovely people I met on the Unilever stand at blogfest who were there telling us all about the #ClearAPlate campaign which is Unilever Project Sunlight working together with Oxfam to teach us all about food poverty and food waste. They asked us to take a little quiz and I didn't do very well, I didn't realise how many people are struggling in this country!
I am going to put this in bold because it needs to be heard... this is about our country, food poverty in the United Kingdom in 2014! I feel incredibly lucky that as of yet we haven't struggled to feed our family but to know that two doors down from us there could be parents going hungry to be able to feed their children makes me want to invite them round for dinner every day. I feel upset that my 'leftovers' and wasted food could go towards feeding another person. As a parent, you obviously would feed your children before yourself but the new research shows that a shocking 22% of families go without food so that they can actually feed there children, yet 75% of us continue to throw away perfectly good food that could be filling that hunger pain in someone else... it just makes you think doesn't it?!

I'm shocked at how much food is binned every day, 11,500 tonnes of food! Over half of that is still consumable so what are we doing? Waste not, want not. I agree with Unilever and Oxfam - no child should go to bed hungry.

The research shows that 42% of households struggle to live on their income, leaving 20% of them to borrow money from family or friends to feed themselves and their children. This needs to be something everyone in our country knows about, I know not everyone will be as shocked as me but I really like to think everyone will care. Food poverty and food waste are very big issues in the UK and that needs to change which is why Unilever Project Sunlight are supporting Oxfam's programme to provide 2 million meals to UK people in need, they've also started the #ClearAPlate campaign which will enable them to provide an additional 500,000 more meals.

People can show their support by following these three simple steps:
  1. Clear a plate of food and take a photo 
  2. Upload the photo to social media with the hashtag #ClearAPlate 
  3. Visit Project sunlight to see how else you can help
Did you know?
One in five UK families are living below poverty line
UK food banks emergency meals have tripled over the last year
11,500 tonnes of food is thrown away a day
This equates to £700 a year
The top three foods that us Brits are throwing away - bread, potatoes and milk.
Half of all the food waste comes from our homes, not shops or restaurants
Over the last 5 years the waste has reduced which is great but it needs to reduce more
More than half of the food/drink we throw away could have been eaten.

The food we as a family waste the most include fruit, veg and pasta - I buy too much and cook too much. I need to reduce my portion sizes and be wiser with my shopping list. I prefer going to the butchers daily so that I buy what I need when I need it.
Competition time, Unilever have chosen 10 bloggers from blogfest to give away one hamper each and I'm delighted to have been chosen as one of those bloggers because I feel so passionately about #ClearAPlate.


The giveaway hamper is worth £50 and will contain:
·         Colourful kitchen whisk
·         Measuring spoons
·         Fridge magnets with imperial/metric conversions
·         Measuring Jug
·         Multicoloured/stacking food containers
·         Reusable cupcake cases,
·         Egg Timer
·         Shopping list/meal planner notebook
·         Window planter with seeds
·         Leftovers Cookbook

To enter, please see the RaffleCopter below. I spent a few days thinking of creative ways to ask people to enter but then I realised it's Christmas soon and everyone is very busy so instead I'd like people to enter via the Rafflecopter by answering some questions and also tweeting - lots of sharing so that this #ClearAPlate campaign gets seen lots more.

Mary-Kate, x a Rafflecopter giveaway Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Yummy Mummy Pink Lining Changing Bag #Review

This is something for the expectant/new mums Christmas Wish-list!

Pink Lining, one of the brands that has remained a favourite of mine from when Oliver was a baby until now. I own 4, yes 4 pink lining bags and I think they're fantastic! The two I've got from when Oliver was a baby are still perfectly useable, these are products that are made to last. I love that Pink Lining are just getting bigger and bigger... they've recently expanded into a nursery range and thanks to Grandma, Isabelle owns a lovely little bunny comforter. The sleeping bags are next on my list of favourites, they're absolutely gorgeous and then there's the hooded towels... oh ok ok rewind and back to changing bags which I am obsessed with. When someone asks me why do you 'need' some many changing bags, well the answer is I don't need them but I want them, I love them. I don't smoke or drink or have 100's of pairs of shoes, my addiction is just changing bags so what's wrong with that?

Pink Lining are a brand I trust, as I've just said they've lasted the past 5 years and trust me I put them through some pretty tough days, spills and being put on the floor at the park whilst little man played. They're great designs, well made and a great price for what they are. I love reusing things with my second baby and Pink Lining definitely allow for that with their changing bags. They're spacious without being too bulky, I can take everything I need for our family our in my Yummy Mummy bag! That includes things for my 5 year old too! And obviously lots of snacks!

I was sent a new Yummy Mummy bag to review, it's wasn't one of the designs I had noticed before but when the box arrived - on a day when I was really poorly, I was delighted and fell in love with it. I actually really really like it and it's even nicer in person. Lots of people have complimented it when I've been using it.
The bag I was sent is 'Yummy Mummy In The Mews Pink Bikes', it's a gorgeous design. The Yummy Mummy is their most popular baby changing bag and gosh are they popular, I see them everywhere. I'm a bit of a baby changing bag geek so I will check your bag out and chances are I will know what brand it is straight away, I see so many Pink Lining bags in town or at baby groups.

 The bag has a front pocket with the yummy mummy slogan and their cupcake patch, You have options of what straps you'd like to use as it also comes with an adjustable shoulder strap which is long enough to fit over your pushchair handle of over your body if you're baby wearing. The bag features two outside pockets which are elasticated and great for holding bottles - or your own bottle of water which is what I use it for.

Inside the bag, opened by a zip you will find two insultated bottle holders - better place to keep your bottle ofcourse, nappy section there's two of these but I only use one for nappies and the other for wipes, theres plenty of space to hold enough nappies for a day out plus spare. There's a key fob which if you're like me, this will really help when you're stood at the front door in the rain wondering where your keys are... just pull the top of the key fob and out they come as if by magic!
There's a small zip pocket which I use for my change, I'm a nightmare with a purse and seem to just throw my money in the bag so to have a little section to put coins in is great and really helpful when I need to get to those coins quickly again. You also get a phone pocket, I can never find my phone in my bag so this is such a helpful feature for me. I sometimes look for it when I'm on it so maybe I'm just crazy. There's a wet zip bag but I don't keep it for 'accidents' I like to make use of it all of the time, I put tissues, teething liquid, nappy bags and nappy rash cream in there just so I can find them easily. I might regret this when I need a wet bag but we'll see. I love the padded changing mat, out of all the bags I own this changing mat is the nicest. The one feature I don't have on any other bag is the mirror and I love it, it's great to be able to quickly check you've not got a bit of (free from) chocolate muffin on your teeth isn't it?!
The exterior is made out of 100% cotton with an eva coating meaning you can keep it lovely and new looking by wipe cleaning it :)


What's your favourite Pink Lining bag?
You can find the full range of Changing Bags Pink Lining have to offer here-
http://www.pinklining.com/uk/changing-bags
or you could go straight to my favourite range Yummy Mummy here - http://www.pinklining.com/uk/changing-bags

They're on facebook too - here
Twitter @PinkLiningUK
Mary-Kate, x


Please note that this bag was sent to me for the purpose of this review but all opinions are my own.

our perfect holiday #MarkWarnerMum

My Christmas wish this year is to be chosen to be a #MarkWarnerMum

At Blogfest I spoke to some lovely people on the Mark Warner stand and had some lovely orange juice (aren't I exciting!) - thank you for being so friendly. After learning they were going to be looking to work with more bloggers I've kept my eye out for this amazing opportunity... you see they're looking to recruit 5 bloggers to work with in 2015 and as a family we really want to be chosen! I am craving a family holiday, I want to start making those ever lasting memories with my children. Mark Warner have asked bloggers to enter by creating a blog post explaining their perfect family holiday, so yep you guess it...I'm going to use this blog post to tell you about our perfect family holiday!
Firstly incase you've never read my blog then this is us...
I'm Mary-Kate, a stay at home mum of two little people who you can see below; Oliver age 5 and Isabelle 8 months. Michael is my better half, he's very lovely and I feel incredibly lucky to have him by my side. He's a self employed landscape gardener, who works 6 days a week to provide for our little family. We haven't had an evening out together in the best part of a year now.
Oliver is our little boy, he is '5 years big' already. He loves school, actually Oliver cried on Friday because he had to go to the hospital for a hearing test and 'didn't get to do any learning all day' *throws hands out to show how terrible this really is*. He loves birdwatching and spiderman, dinosaurs and the solar system. He's at that age where he starts asking all sorts of questions and insults people without meaning to... "nanny you're old so you're going to heaven soon" oh and she was poorly at the time so, that made her feel great! He's a handful but has the kindest soul, just like most children has 1000 questions and sometimes I just don't know how to answer them. *google it*
This is the baby of the family, Isabelle. Shes a very smiley, cheeky baby. She's got lots of food allergies so weaning her is very hard. Her favourite thing to do is to smash down whatever Oliver's just built with his blocks and then laugh when she gets told off. The Christmas tree is her favourite toy and we've had to keep the bottom of the tree a little empty! It feels like yesterday I had her, yet now shes crawling around trying to stand up! She's very teeny at 16lb 11oz even though she was born 8lb 6oz so we're getting lots of use out of her clothes.
So that's us! 

It's no secret that I am desperate to go on our very first family holiday, we have only taken Oliver to a few places in the UK before Isabelle was born so he can go to the seaside but we've never taken him abroad and obviously like any other little boy he is desperate to get on an aeroplane! I will confess now that other than Wales, I've only ever been to Ireland and France. Michael took me to Paris for a few days which was lovely, Oliver hasn't forgiven us yet though as he wanted to go too.
Since having Isabelle, 8 almost 9 months ago (wow that's gone quickly) we haven't had a full night sleep so we are walking around in a daze most of the time, Michael is working full time and we've got a very lively Oliver who is 5 years old, started to wake up every night to tell me 'he isn't tired', 'wants to play' or 'scared of the dark'... oh and you can gaurantee that he's going to wake the baby when he gets up as he has to walk past her door to get to ours. I've given up dairy to continue to breastfeed Isabelle who has cows milk protein allergy so I don't even have a massive galaxy bar to get me through these sleepless nights! Christmas chocolates everywhere lately just aren't making things easier and I don't think Michael realises that those chocolate - no, correction, triple chocolate muffins he brought earlier are torture for me!
As a child, Michael spent summers at his late Grandma's villa in Menorca. Which he loved, learning new things and being able to go for a swim whenever he wanted, going on boats. Being in  a different country for a long period of time and learning about their way of life is something he really enjoyed. He's mentioned food a few times too!
As a child, I spent holidays in North Wales with my family. A place called Llandudno, which we've actually taken Oliver to and he loved it. We loved going to the seaside, on the pier and for walks around the Great Orme - my doll even got Christened in the Church on the top of the Great Orme, by my brother James. Ahh I loved that doll and it's poor legs had to be reattached! they have a tram to take you up the Orme if you don't want to walk, which as a child I was amazed by obviously and half way up there's a copper mine so we used to get off to go in there and learn things. I loved the donkey rides on the beach, I still to this day remember wearing my little red jumper begging my dad to stay right next to me incase I fell off. I was a daddy's girl, I always will be. I remember sitting watching punch and judy like it was the best thing ever! Oliver watched the exactly the same one, run by the same people when we returned which was lovely.
I've told you about our family holidays as children because I'd like to put our childhood holidays together to create our perfect one, I want to get my two out of the UK like Michael did, although I believe it doesn't matter where you go as long as you go and make memories. But I'd quite like to get me out of the UK too, out of my 'comfort zone' and on an adventure. A little bit of me wants to do some lazing on a beach and then build sandcastles and let Oliver & Isabelle cover my feet in sand, we want to be able to take Oliver exploring, encourage his learning - his favourite thing to do is bird watching and he's actually pretty good at it considering he's only 5. He likes to learn about different animals and Michael would like to learn about the place we go, it's history and see some of it's attractions as well as obviously experience their food. Not forgetting Isabelle, she loves everything new at the moment and gets ever so excited! As long as we take enough snacks for her I'm sure she'll be very happy wherever she goes. She's obviously going to be a tricky one food wise which also already worries me - shes got cows milk protein allergy, shes on a wheat, egg, potatoe, broccoli, peaches and mango free diet due to intolerances! But I'm sure with a trusted company it will all be fine. /a doctors note to take my own food for her :)
We would love to start our family holidays with Mark Warner because they're a company you can really trust, I feel nervous about taking our little family abroad... I feel nervous about myself going abroad, so to be able to feel safe is very important to our family. I am a strong believer in making memories - hints the name 'mummy memories', my dad sadly passed away when I was 17 so my last family holiday was to Ireland in 2005 and I'm so glad we got to have that holiday with him, I want my children to have memories of holidays with their parents that will inspire holidays with their own family.

I want a magical holiday of a lifetime from Mark Warner, to let Oliver stay up later after days of new adventures and to actually get to use that suncream for once! To come home with laughter lines on our face, Michael is funnier on holiday! To have 100's of new photos reminding us just how lucky we are to have our happy little family.

So this is it, our entry to be a #MarkWarnerMum a chance to be part of an amazing team for 2015 and share it all with you here on my blog.

Keeping our fingers crossed Mark Warner!

Mary-Kate, x
Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com