Saturday, July 30, 2011

Helena Dowling talks about the NickJr 'Help Dora Help' Campaign'

If you have kids of a certain age you may be familiar with the Help Dora Help campaign that has been running on Nick Jr for the past month or so.
Nick Jr have teamed up with The Prince's Foundation for Children and the Arts to offer a special £20,000 award to one lucky pre-school, nursery or playgroup to enable them to improve their facilities and give their kids the best possible start.

I was lucky enough to have a chat with Helena Dowling - presenter of Nick Jr's 'Wake up World' slot every morning and the face of the 'Help Dora Help' campaign - and she told me a little about the initiative.
"Dora is a fantastic role model for kids... We have worked with educational specialists to create a great educational pack that encourages creative learning through exploration and developing their sense of adventure."
She is really excited about the campaign and the opportunity it provide for the winners to do something really special for the children in their care.
"The first prize is £20,000 which could provide a great outdoor play area or an amazing trip out. There are fabulous prize packages for the runners up too!"
Helena has visited some pre-school groups to see the the activity packs in use and said the kids really enjoyed working with characters they are familiar with.

Helena, who has taught kids dance classes for years absolutely loves her job as the 'face' of Nick Jr
"I get to go into work and play with soft toys and be silly all day. Of course I enjoy it!"
You can also see her in some episodes of the new series of 'The Bopps' singing and dancing with Keith and Stan Bopp, which she enjoyed immensely.
"Keith and Stan a couple of great guys to work with. We had a lot of fun filming the show."
 Thanks so much to Helena for talking to us - it really made the Little Man's day and he couldn't wait to tell Daddy later that he had spoken to 'He-ena' on mummy's phone!

Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances I am little late with this post and the closing date for entries for the 'Help Dora Help' competition has now passed. However you can still download the activity pack which contains six curriculum linked session plans based around different themes such as pirates, nature and space. Why not have a look? You may be inspired to begin a project to keep the whole family occupied during the summer holidays.

Still looking for something to occupy the littlies during the summer break? Nick Jr have kindly sent me a fabulous activity pack to give away to one lucky reader of my blog. Giveaway post to follow in the next couple of days...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Something has got to give...

My life is slowly disintegrating into utter chaos.

I have far too many things to do - there is keeping on top of all the paperwork for the OH's motorcycle retail business; developing a website for the charity my MIL works for (that was founded by her mum, OH's Nan); developing my own website for Forest Flower Designs; keeping up with the orders and commissions for Forest Flower Designs; keeping the house in a half decent state of repair (OH doesn't do DIY) on an extremely limited budget.Then there is general housework, cooking, washing, ironing, cleaning, tidying up the mess everyone else thoughtfully leaves for me to do. And last but by no means least being a mummy to my Little Man and keeping him occupied in a positive way throughout the day whilst trying to do everything else (which means not just allowing him to sit in front of the TV all day...) Is it any wonder why I am permanently on the edge of exhaustion? Sometimes it only takes one tiny little thing to tip me over the edge and the whole day lies in ruins as I huff and puff and maybe slam a door or two. Or dissolve into a useless, tear-streaked mess.

Something has got to give!

Friday, July 22, 2011

'Levity III' comes to Lydney

Every now and again something really special lands on your doorstep and if you are lucky you get to experience some magic...

Levity III arrived in the Forest of Dean this week - setting up home a Taurus Crafts, Lydney. For the next 9 days you can visit this extraordinary exhibit before it moves on.
The Luminaria comprise of a series of large domes connected by tunnels all made from a specially developed plastic that filters the light in such a way to create magical hues and colours so intense that my poor camera nearly went into overload!!
We were fortunate enough to be the first people allowed in to view the luminarium and the minute we walked through the ante chamber into the first, magnificent green chamber it was as if we had been transported to another world...

Shapes from nature, Islamic and Gothic architecture and mathematical precision inspired the Luminaria designs. Only four different colours of plastic are used to create the myriad of colours...

The Little Man was joined by his best buddy Princess P and they were both utterly entranced by the whole experience!

As we moved from one chamber to the next there was plenty of time to chill out to the ambient music. The whole structure is inflated so when you lie down and close your eyes you kind of sink in to the walls... was most tranquil. Even the Little Man gave up his relentless movement and chatter to just chill for a moment or two!

We were all absolutely blown away by Levity III - it was truly sublime and and unlike anything I have ever experienced.

Levity III is at Taurus Crafts until the 31st July. It is open to visitors every day from 12:30pm and costs £3.00 per person or £10.00 for a family ticket (up to four people). Taurus Crafts boasts a fantastic cafe, craft workshops, gift shops and a fab deli, plus a garden centre, children's play area and local artisans showcasing their craft. Parking is free too so you have no excuse not to plan a whole day out!

For more photo's from our visit to Levity 3 please visit my Facebook page and have a look at the 'Luminarium' photo album.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My new best friend...

Well I did it! I got my new camera!!

After a bit of begging to get some Folksy sales and some calling in of favours I manged to get the money together to not only replace my poor, dear departed camera but quite significantly upgrade it!
So my new best friend is a Fujifilm Finepix S2950HD, factory re-conditioned and thus a fair bit cheaper than Argos price (gotta love eBay).

Now the reason I was in such a hurry to get this camera is that I have been invited to a fab event on Friday that absolutely demands top notch pictures so I have 2 days to get to know how it all works and how to get the best out of all the settings...

#TheGallery - Vintage

Ahhhhhh 'Vintage' - what springs to mind? Lacy curtains, fifties dresses, delicate china tea sets... Vintage rallies full of impeccably restored old vehicles with their proud owners equally impeccably dressed in period costume. And campers.

Now we are not talking that old cliche the VW here. Oh no!

First up I will admit to slightly cheating here - our camper is not technically 'vintage' in the sense that it is slightly too new to be tax exempt (such a shame!) but we will gloss over that for now. It is still over 30 years old and in 'car' terms that's vintage enough for me. (Although the first person to suggest that anything/one over the age of 30 must, using that logic, be considered 'vintage' gets a slap. OK?)

Monday, July 18, 2011

#MUMenTUM Losing weight the icky way...

Hello ladies - it's Monday, so it must be time for some MUMenTUM catch-up!
This past week has not been the best week ever - read this post here to see all the reasons why - in fact there were moments when I actually lost track of the hours/days and curled up in a little ball under a duvet on the sofa and prayed that it would all just go away... (especially the energetic toddler who insisted on using mummy as a bouncy castle)
Food poisoning is not a nice experience. It completely sapped my energy ( I guess not eating for four days can do that...) and reduced me to tears of frustration and pain. Not pleasant.
On the plus side I lost over half a stone. A couple of pounds have gone back on since I have started eating again but hopefully that's it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

So not silent Sunday

I am not in a good mood. As I related in my last post, in amongst all the crappiness that was last week my camera died. It was nothing big or particularly special but it did all I wanted it to do and some. It had some fab little features that really made a difference to my captures. Now it's gone and I really miss it.
Have been having a look around at different options to replace it with and have run up against a brick wall.

It's called my Other Half.

Friday, July 15, 2011

This week has not been a good week...

It began on Saturday when our much anticipated Summer Fun Day at the Shambles Retail Village in Newent was almost literally washed away by torrential rain!  The Little Man, of course, loved it and spent half an hour running around like a loon, jumping in puddles, standing under the awning of our gazebo and waiting for the cascades of water to splash down on him as it got to heavy for the fabric roof to support. I would have taken pictures so you could share his joy but I was too busy trying to rescue all my stock from the elements (dried lavender pillows and books - neither like getting wet!)

On Sunday I went with the MIL and SIL to the Tewkesbury Medieval Fayre. This amazing event we attend every year (I have blogged about it before, here) but this year the boys stayed at home so we took advantage of the opportunity to shop. I had planned a whole blog about it, artisans and craftspeople using traditional methods and skills to create items of beauty to cherish... My camera however had other ideas. Today was the day my trusty little pocket Yashica joined the great 'Tripod in the Sky' and decided it would open up no more... *sobs - I have NO camera! How will I manage with NO camera?*

Monday was a busy day. I got a lot done and treated myself to a nice Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni meal from local supermarket...
At approx 4am Tuesday morning I threw my guts up. And then again at about 7am...

Have you ever had food poisoning? If you haven't, pray you never do. If you have I sympathise entirely but it's probably not something we will discuss over drinks...
The last three days have taught me several things:
  • Parenthood really is the hardest job in the world - I don't care how demanding your job is, if you get sick leave you don't know how lucky you are!
  • Three year olds understand more than we give them credit for - LM at 5.30am on Wednesday morning 'Are you still poorly Mummy?' 'yes, baby' 'Ok. I'll go and do some colouring then.'
  • Three year olds are also better at entertaining themselves than they lead us to believe...
  • My OH is great at coming home from work and getting the LM off to bed AND bringing home things like Lucozade but crap at feeding himself and getting himself out of bed in the morning*
  • OH really doesn't do washing up.**
  • Lucozade is marvellous stuff - and you can get it in Cherry flavour now!
  • I will probably be giving Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni a very wide berth from now on...
So 4 days with little more than a piece of dry toast and half a dozen bottles of Lucozade for sustenance and I am feeling tired, listless and a lot lighter (just over half a stone to be exact - there IS a silver lining!) but my stomach is no longer churning. I am feeling hungry again this morning, although the memory of what happened last time I ate anything lingers. I don't think I'm up for a three course Sunday lunch just yet...

*To be fair I already knew this
**and this...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's Bear's Birthday at Barefoot Books

Barefoot Books are celebrating the launch of the eighth book in their iconic 'Bear' series in a very special way.
For every copy of Bear's Birthday they sell during the month of July they will be donating one book to Refuge - the UK's largest provider of emergency accommodation and support to women and children escaping domestic abuse and violence.

“Children and their mothers who access Refuge’s services often leave home with little or no notice. Many women and children arrive at the refuge in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes they are wearing and if the child is lucky their favourite toy,” explains Sandra Horley, CBE, chief executive of Refuge. “Books are a huge treat for children, and especially the children we work with who have been uprooted and who may be missing home comforts."

'Giving Back' is at the very core of the Barefoot philosophy and since the company began 20 years ago they have donated tens of thousands of books to charities such as First Book. Book Aid and Books for Africa.

'Bear's Birthday' is a lively picture book for 2-6 year olds. Help Bear count backwards from 10 - 0 and find out who is making his birthday balloons disappear! Available as a sturdy board book, perfect for little hands, or a larger sized paperback, it would make a fantastic birthday present!

So here is your chance to 'Give Back' - click on the badge below to purchase a copy of 'Bear's Birthday' before the 31st July and Barefoot Books will donate one of their fabulous books to Refuge.

Don't forget I am giving away a copy of the gorgeous 'Over in the Meadow' hardback book and enhanced cd to one lucky reader right here. Competition runs until 24th July.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Garnier Ultralift 14 Day Challenge

Let me start by saying that I am a girl who has NO beauty regime. I rarely wear make up. Cleansing is usually little more than soap and water. I will occasionally slap on a bit of Johnson's Baby moisturising cream if I am having a dry day! And that's about it...

But I am not getting any younger and the youthful complexion I have been blessed with is going to need a helping hand sooner or later! So when I was offered a chance to join in the Garnier Ultralift 14 day challenge, I thought 'Why not?' and agreed to put Garnier's Ultralift day cream to the test for two weeks to see if it had the promised wrinkle reducing effect!

The pack I received contained 14 sachets of Ultralift Day cream - a total of 21mls which is nearly half a jar!
First I had to grade my crows feet with the unique 'Wrinkle reader' included in the pack.
I was quite pleased to note that I measured somewhere between a 1 and 2 - not bad for a busy mum in her late 30's! - then apply one sachet of cream around my eyes and the rest of my face for the next 14 days, before comparing results. The sachets were generous with enough cream to apply to my face and neck. I would recommend you go easy around the eye area though, as I found my eyes watered a little if I used too much!

So does it do what it says on the tin (pot/sachet)?

Well I will let you see for yourselves...

Well I must say I don't think the pictures do it justice (do you have any idea how difficult it is to take pictures of your own eyes by the way?) and the difference IS noticeable - a couple of people have commented on how much less tired I look, which is always a bonus!

Garnier launched the Ultralift 14 day challenge a few weeks back, were inundated with requests for challenge packs and have no more left. However, if you really want to give the 14 day challenge a go, I have one extra pack to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment on this post and a way of contacting you if you win (Twitter id/email address).
Open to UK readers only. Competition closes at 9pm Tuesday 19th July. Winner will be chosen by a random number generator.

#MUMenTUM - Things they are a-changing...

Good morning ladies -  I hope you are all well and feeling positive!!

I am now into the second week of using the Slimpod and although I haven't shed masses of weight (3/4lb at weigh-in on Saturday morning) I am beginning to notice a change in the way I am thinkng about food and eating. My portions are definitely getting smaller and my food choices are getting better.
A case in point -  yesterday I went to the Tewkesbury Medieval Fayre with my MIL and SIL. We go every year, usually the whole family but the OH really didn't feel like it and the Little Man was happy to stay at home with Daddy and watch World Superbikes and F1 on the TV. This year it was packed to the gills and by lunchtime the queues out of the food tents were ridiculous so we found ourselves a nice refreshing fruit juice slushy (which was yummy!) and decided to carry on shopping and get food on the way home. Which meant McDonalds...
After ordering strawberry shakes to take back for the boys I surprised myself totally by going for the Grilled Chicken Salad Wrap and a bottle of water. No fries. No coke. No McFlurry.  I think the messages ARE getting through!*
The changes are not only food related. Looking back on my week of success log enteries and I see that I am feeling a lot more relaxed about what I can and cannot do and ultimately I seem to be achieving more each day because of it! My creative mojo seems to be returning AND I seem to be finding it easier to keep on top of the housework as well.
It seems there is more to me being the me I want to be than just simply losing weight...

*just in case you are interested you can work out the nutrirional information of your McD's meal by going to their UK website and adding your meal items to a list that adds up total calories, fat, sugar and salt. It's an eye opener!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

What am I reading in July?

Well it would seem I was a bit ambitious in June and only managed to read two out of three of my planned books despite, or perhaps because, being on holiday one week!

This month we are going back to basics starting with this little gem I have borrowed from my dad that promises to be a great, and possibly educational read..
Really looking forward to sharpening up my English!

From the sublime to the, well not ridiculous. Quite sensible actually...
Picked this one up from the library today and have already had a flick through with a coffee earlier.  Lots of recipes to try and handy tips on meal planning, shopping, cooking in advance and making the most of every last bit of food... 

Don't forget to check out what everyone else is reading this month and if you love books, why not join in and share your reads this month?

What are you reading?

Monday, July 04, 2011

#Mumentum Thinking Slimmer...

Hi ladies! Have been a bit lazy these past couple of weeks. Our lovely holiday in Yorkshire saw the diet on hold for a week as we lived mainly on fish and chips and ice-cream! I put on a couple of pounds that week and then spent last week moaning to myself about tightening waistbands and lack of will-power.
By Thursday I had had enough. Various things went pear-shaped, we had no money for food shopping and life just seemed to be one hard slog...

So I sat myself down and had a long, hard chat with myself.

In the old days I was pretty good at living in the 'now', enjoying the moment and trusting that what ever was needed to get me through would be provided. Somehow.  I think it is time to start getting that groove back. I think that would go a long way to  helping me feel 'me' again...
So I told myself to stop worrying about the future, next week, next month, next year, and start concentrating on the here and the now. We'll do what we can do in this moment and trust that we will find a way to do what needs to be done tomorrow...

Post arrives on Friday with letters from both the water company and electric/gas supplier. *GROAN*
Unbelievably the water supplier has halved our monthly direct debit as we were paying too much and even more unbelievably the electric company were refunding our over-payments from the past year to the tune of £170!!! Is this what they mean by 'the universe will provide' I wonder?
More remarkably still, a stroll down into town later reveals a fabulous red dress, only one left and in my size, and pair of shoes, both reduced, so I could even justify buying a new outfit for the wedding we were attending on Saturday...

It's the little things :)

With my little windfall I also 'treated' myself to a 'Slimpod' - I have heard so much about this weight loss method based on cognitive hypnotherapy and have been wanting to try it out but really couldn't find the money to pay for it. Until I stopped trying to find it! I am on day 2 so really too early to tell if it's working yet but I have high hopes!
One of the keys to the Thinking Slimmer programme is setting realistic goals to focus on and making them public - they suggest pinning them up on the fridge door (which I have done) but I also thought I would share them you as well....
  1. To fit comfortably back into my pre-pregnancy size 14 clothes
  2. To practice my Yoga stretches and breathing on a regular (daily) basis once again
  3. To find the energy and enthusiasm to do all the things I WANT to do as well as all the things I NEED to do...
I will keep you ladies posted.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Join me 'Living Barefoot' Giveaway

My first batch of gorgeous Barefoot Books have arrived and I am like a kid in a sweet shop! This takes me right back to my bookshop days when a delivery of new titles was like Christmas. I absolutely adore the smell when you open the box - new print, unopened books full of delights just waiting to be enjoyed...  The there is the 'oooo'-ing and  'aahhh'-ing as each treasure is lifted out and examined. It doesn't matter how thorough the reps are seeing an image of a book in a catalogue is never as good as actually holding it in your hands....

So, yeah, I LOVE books!  I especially love beautifully illustrated kids books!! And when it comes to illustrations Barefoot Books are definitely amongst the best - from the distinctive (and lovely) oils of Niamh Sharkey  and the stained-glass inspired illustrative style of Olwyn Whelan to the dreamlike quality of Italian artist Nicoletta Ceccoli and the gorgeously bold and colourful work of Debbie Harter plus many, many more.

There are also a large number of story books available with accompanying CD's and Barefoot Books have enlisted the vocal talents of Niamh Cusack (Tales from Celtic Lands, The Faery's Gift), Jim Broadbent (Storytime, The Prince's Bedtime), Miranda Richardson (The Princess and the White Bear King, The Barefoot Book of Stories from the Opera) and Juliet Stevenson (The Tear Thief, The Real Princess)

Amongst their new titles for this year are a series of gorgeous 'Sing along' books complete with 'enhanced' cd's that bring the book's illustrations to life in a little animation with  the words scrolling across the bottom of the screen! Brilliant fun for little ones (and not-so-little ones) and a great way to learn a new favourite.

Check out the fabulous 'Over in the Meadow' below

To celebrate my becoming a Barefoot Books ambassador, I have one copy of this gorgeous book and enhanced CD to give away to one lucky reader!

To enter this competition please do at least one (if not all) of the following:
  • Firstly - pop along to Barefoot Books and have a look around at their gorgeous selection of books for children of all ages, then come back and leave a comment telling me which one (or more) you would love to give to the special little person in your life. You MUST do this to be entered into the draw.
For extra entries you can - 
  • 'Like' the Tales from Mount Pleasant Facebook page - this will keep you up to date with future competitions, giveaways and new Barefoot Book releases. Comment to let me know.
  • Follow this blog with 'Google Friend Connect' or subscribe to the RSS feed by clicking on the tab at the top of the column to the right. Again, please comment to let me know you have done so.
  • Post the tweet ' I want to #livebarefoot with @forestflower23 and Barefoot Books' with a link to this blog post.
The competition runs until 9pm Sunday 24th July. The winner will be chosen by a Random Number Generator and the winner will be announced on Twitter and Facebook and emailed if address provided. If the winner does not get in touch within 7 days the prize will be re-drawn.

Please note this competition is open to UK residents only. 

Good Luck x

*please note the prize has been paid for by myself and not provided for free by Barefoot Books. This post is not sponsored by them in anyway. As a Barefoot Books Ambassador I earn a commission on any books sold through my link to their website.

#SilentSunday 03/07/11

Silent Sunday
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