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Date night: My “just-the-two-of-us” wishlist

Hi! I’m Katie and Carolin has very kindly let me share this post with you today. So, that’s my outfit all sorted, now I just need to wait for that offer to babysit… hint, hint…

date-night outfit

It’s not very often we manage to escape from the rugrats. But, when their grandparents kindly offer to babysit, it’s nice to remind my other half why he fell for me in the first place. And, it’s lovely to be able to dress up. Here are just a few of the pieces on my date night wishlist:

The classic wrap dress

There’s something about the bird print wrap dress from La Redoute’s Mademoiselle R label that is just impossibly romantic. It has more than a hint of 1940s styling, a cute bird print and an incredibly flattering silhouette. I can just imagine dining alfresco in this on a warm summer evening.

The sexy slingback

Bright, beautiful, and, I have to admit, a bit on the pricey side, the coral cut-out sandals by Charlotte Olympia would look beautiful teamed with that navy wrap dress. And, I could always justify them on that old price-per-wear argument because I’d keep them in my wardrobe for season-upon-season.

The classic clutch

Not only are these envelope clutch bags beautiful, they’re a bargain price. From Lilies and Dreams, the style comes in six colours, which are incredibly on-trend as they’re in this season’s Lego-brick primary shades. I can’t decide whether to go for yellow, orange, blue, red, or classic tan. But, given that they’re on offer at £9 perhaps I can get all of them. They can be carried as a clutch or with the detachable gold chain strap.

The stay-put lipstick

Red may be classic, but the latest trend for lips, as seen on the runways of the London and New York spring/summer 14 fashion shows was orange. I’m a fan of Illamasqua’s lippies as they’ve got staying power, so you won’t be leaving most of yours on your wine glass. The brand’s “flare” shade is the perfect on-trend hue. I’ll be wearing it as I would my red lipstick and keeping the rest of my look simple.

The pretty necklace

I usually love wearing statement necklaces with just about everything. But, for date night, I’ve decided to opt for something a little more delicate. And, what could be better than this necklace designed in the shape of a love letter. It’s cute, very kitsch and it will do the talking for me if I forget to tell my other half this at the end of the night.

What would you wear for a date night?

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How To Manage Technology And Children In Your Household

how to manage your child's use of technologyDespite all our quibbles, complaints and frustrations, technology is a God-send most of the time. It’s hard to imagine what the world was like in those murky pre-smartphone days, or just how we occupied our time in tedious queues and waiting rooms! While we all love our tech and home broadband, when it comes to our families, we need to exercise a little more caution. To help you manage your kids’ use of technology at home in a practical and helpful way, here are a few essential tips:

Set times for internet use

Home broadband is really useful – from downloading movies to watching documentaries and tutorials to help with homework and school projects. Virgin Media fibre optic broadband is a great service, with reliable and high download speeds. To ensure your kids can enjoy the benefits without using it excessively, it’s helpful to set fixed times when they can use the internet. This will also help cut down on endless hours of online procrastination when they’re supposed to be doing their homework.
Balanced use

We’ve all been in those exasperating situations where you’ve reached the end of your tether from a day of screaming, crying and nagging children, and there’s nothing more tempting than the thought of an hour or two of peace and quiet while the little one is sat in front of a popular cartoon. There’s nothing wrong with children enjoying a little TV, but try to avoid using technology as a babysitter in difficult situations. As well as reaching for their favourite show every time, mix things up by giving them creative ways to occupy themselves too. A giant sheet of bubble wrap will keep little feet content for hours!

Keep things open

As your children get older and more aware of technology, it won’t be quite so simple for you to manage how they use it, and your relationship will depend on being able to talk to each other about it in an open and honest way. It’s best to start this early, by exploring websites and new devices together, and discussing the potential dangers and problems you can face online. It’s not just about the negatives though. Try sharing fun activities with technology too, to show a positive side to it.

Chores for tech!

This is a bit of a mean one, but is particularly effective on older kids who don’t want a fixed timetable on when they can and cannot use their mobile phone or laptop. A simple solution to controlling their technology access is to keep control of the home’s wireless password or home broadband password. Change it regularly – a new password every week will both keep your network secure and the kids on their toes! To get the new password, your children must complete an agreed number of chores, such as cleaning their room, or taking the rubbish out.

So there are our tips on managing your children’s use or tech. Hopefully that will help keep them happy and safe whilst enjoying the great benefits of technology.  What are your top tips?

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Homemade coffee syrup

How to make homemade coffee syrupsIt’s almost Mother’s Day and if your mum, like most, is a coffee addict, then why not make her some homemade syrups to add to her morning coffee? She can be reminded of just how sweet you are every time she sips it!

Popular coffee syrup flavours include hazelnut, caramel and vanilla. They are so simple to make that you could create a nice little set for the perfect gift and even design your own labels to go with them!

Here are some ideas:

Caramel Syrup:

  • In a small pot heat 500ML of water and 500grams of sugar on a medium heat.
  • Don’t stop stirring the mixture until all the sugar has dissolved.
  • Now add in 250grams of caramel, which you can either buy for a shop or if you are feeling fancy you can make your own
  • Stir continuously until there are know lumps in the mixture
  • Once done pour into your dispenser and put to the side.
  • Simple!

Vanilla Syrup

  • In a small pot heat 500ML of water and 500grams of sugar on a medium heat.
  • Don’t stop stirring the mixture until all the sugar has dissolved.
  • Now add in 1/2-1 teaspoon of clear vanilla extract
  • Stir until well mixed
  • Once done pour into your dispenser and put to the side.

Hazelnut Syrup

  • In a small pot heat 500ML of water and 500grams of sugar on a medium heat.
  • Don’t stop stirring the mixture until all the sugar has dissolved.
  • Now add in 1/2-1 teaspoon of organic hazelnut extract
  • Stir until well mixed
  • Once done pour into your dispenser and put to the side.

These recipes are pretty simple but work a treat! You can swap ingredients like vanilla extract for fresh raspberries or strawberries and add them to milkshakes for the kids.

Label designs could include quirky names for the syrup, or To: / From: designs! Check out Pinterest for lots of free printables.

Does anyone else have homemade gift or coffee syrup ideas?

This is a guest post with an image from Harold Hoyer.

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Cheap Back Garden Decoration Ideas

A back garden is a fantastic addition to any home, and with summer slowly approaching, it’s their time to shine. However, if your garden is looking slightly more ‘drab’ than ‘fab’, the idea of spending lots of time soaking up the sun out there probably won’t be very appealing.

If you don’t have the funds to make big, drastic changes to your garden, it’s well worth looking into little things you can do that will have a big impact. We’ve put together a list of some great ideas to transform your garden whilst sticking to a strict budget.

Give everything a tidy (and keep it that way!)

tidy your garden

The best way to improve your garden’s appeal is to remove all clutter and mess and to aim to keep things organised. Banish tools and toys to the shed when they’re not being used and keep your lawn tidy by mowing it regularly. Get rid of weeds too as these can make even the nicest gardens look a little scruffy, as can a patio that needs a good dust. The bonus of keeping it clear and uncluttered is that it won’t cost you a penny, too.

Use quirky decorative accessories

You can get really great accessories really cheaply from places like The Range, and even online stores like EBay can have some hidden gems too. Shop around to find lovely pieces, including things like Buddha statues, funky plant pots and different coloured stones to add fantastic little details to your garden. This will showcase your personality and you can easily find cheap things instead of more expensive options. Keep things bright to add a playful, fun appeal, or use neutral, warm colours for a trendy modern feel.

Get the lighting right for maximum effect

Lighting is the easiest and most effective way to create an atmosphere in any space and the garden is no exception. There are loads of really interesting garden lighting options you can take advantage of, like candles in old mason jars, plates of tea lights, fairy lights and solar lights. Solar lights in particular are great as they are child and pet friendly and won’t use up any of your electricity bill either. You could invest in some solar path lights to lead the way to your quiet spot in your garden and position candles around your seating area for a really lovely effect. You can get solar lights really cheaply too from Lights 4 Fun.

Improve your furniture with textiles

garden furniture

If you aren’t a huge fan of your garden furniture but can’t afford to update them at the moment, a great way to instantly improve their appearance is to cover them (or at least accessorise them) with things like throws, blankets and cushions. Draping a large, soft throw over old garden chairs and sofas will transform their appearance and bring them bang up to date. Use bright, colourful floral textiles like this flowery cushion to keep things feminine and fresh too. IKEA ones are great too as they’re so purse-friendly!

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Chicken salad with mango and avocado

chicken salad with mango and avocado recipe

Salad is not really my thing. I like it as a side, but it doesn’t really satisfy me as a main meal (I think I’m missing my carbs), but when I pushed my trolley along the aisles of my local supermarket yesterday, I picked up some mango and avocado and thought “Hm, this could be quite nice in a salad with chicken” and it was as I found out later that day. Amy wasn’t to keen on the mango in the salad as to her fruit should not be mixed with vegetables, but she happily ate the rest of it and really liked the dressing – which ironically had mango juice in it!

If you want to know how to make our chicken salad with mango and avocado, read on for the full recipe.

Chicken Salad with mango and avocado

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts, diced
1 pack of mixed salad (we used rocket, lambs lettuce and ruby chard)
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 mango, peeled and diced
chilli flakes, salt and pepper for seasoning

For the dressing:

2 tbsp grape seed oil
2 tbsp mild mustard
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
6 tbsp mango juice
chilli flakes, salt, pepper for seasoning

Method:

1. Arrange your salad, mango and avocado in a salad bowl.

2. Fry your chicken and season with chilli flakes, salt and pepper before arranging it on top your salad, mango and avocado.

3. For the dressing, stir grape seed oil, mustard, sweet chilli sauce and mango together in a small bowl and season with chilli flakes, salt and pepper.

4. Drizzle over the salad and serve while the chicken is still warm.

I hope you enjoy this simple chicken salad with mango and avocado. I’ll be linking it up with Recipe of the Week, Tasty TuesdayAll Things Pretty and the Parenting Pin It Party. Make sure to check those out for more tasty recipes and DIY posts.


ohsoamelia

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3 Of The Best Mother’s Day Marzipan Recipes

marzipan cakes for mother's day

Aren’t mums great? We bet that it was good old Mum who gave you the baking bug back when you were a little one. Memories of measuring out flour, helping to mix ingredients, and of course licking the spoon, are a common thread that binds most cake makers together. As it’s Mother’s Day soon we thought we’d offer you three of the best mother’s day marzipan recipes. Why marzipan you ask? Well it is a major ingredient of our first choice, which is a traditional Mother’s Day recipe.

Simnel Cake

marzipan simnel cake

Although the Simnel cake has strong ties to Easter, its origins are intimately tied to Monther’s Day. It was a traditional cake baked by servant girls to take home on Mothering Sunday. A Simnel cake is also a classic marzipan recipe. With marzipan making up the filling and the topping you’ll get an incredibly almondy cake, just perfect for sharing with Mum over a cup of tea.

Classic Fruit Cake
marzipan covered fruit cake

Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that are the best, and it really doesn’t come much simpler than a marzipan covered fruit cake. If you get this recipe right it can be one of the most enjoyable to rustle up, and also to eat. Getting the sponge moist and sticky, loaded with fruit and spice, is a fine art and many are the dry fruit cake we’ve consumed over the years! And if you want to make it even more enjoyable add some brandy to the mix to give it a bit of kick. The ideal treat for after a Mothering Sunday roast dinner.

Vintage Flower Cake

marzipan vintage cake

Nothing says I love you like flowers, so why not bake a flowery cake to go with the sumptuous bouquet you bought for Mum. With a fruit cake at its core a layer of marzipan traps the moisture in and adds its delightful almond taste to this beautiful cake. Of course what really sets this cake off is the delicately modelled flowers on top. It’ll take a bit of practice but with the right tools you’ll be able to make some icing roses that Mum will love.

There’s nothing particularly difficult about any of these cakes (well, except for those flowers) but baking isn’t a competitive sport. When you bake one of these marzipan cakes for your Mum this Mother’s Day you’re pouring all your love into creating something for her from scratch, and sharing with her the love of cake and baking that she probably fostered in you as a child. And that says “I love you” much more than a bunch of flowers and a box of chocolates.

 This is a promotional post with images from Jeremy Tarling, Cake Central and Renshaw.

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The personal nature of child sponsorship

All over the world, disease, hunger, war and abuse threaten the lives of children, as well as environmental disasters that strip them of their homes and their loved ones.

Child sponsorship can help lift a child out of poverty and despair. By showing them that someone cares, and giving them the tools to succeed, child sponsorship can and does make a real difference to children and communities in the developing world.

Child sponsorship is also inexpensive. Just 50 pence a day can support community projects that are necessary to improving children’s quality of life. Various charities such as Plan UK run child sponsorship programmes all over the world, and the results are truly outstanding.

child sponsorship

Unlike other forms of charity, child sponsorship is personal. Due to this, it is of even more benefit to the child due to the psychological impact made by someone many miles away caring about their well-being. This emotional connection motivates and inspires children to make something from themselves, helping them to resist the onslaught of depression in difficult circumstances.

Letters, photos and gifts all help a sponsor to create a powerful bond with their sponsored child. As well as this, such a commitment means that sponsors get to see the impact their contributions have made directly from their sponsored child. The encouragement, hope and even love that these children receive transforms them, and can save their lives.

As well as this, such support lifts up the whole community, through projects such as well renovation, improved nutrition and healthcare, education resources and agricultural tools. All of this is necessary so that not only can children grow up strong and healthy, but so that their community as a whole can develop and become independent from poverty.

However, child sponsorship does not only benefit the sponsored child. Once a sponsor contributes to a child’s life in this way, an entirely new world is opened up to them. Sponsors learn about the importance of their contributions as well as learning what life in a developing country is really like. This experience often has an enormous impact, encouraging sponsors to get their friends and families involved in sponsorship, thus helping even more children and more communities.

Child sponsorship is not about a short-term hand-out. Instead, it is about ongoing support to children and their communities, allowing such communities to flourish to the point at which they no longer need outside support. Sustainable development is one of the best ways of ensuring that children in developing countries do not face poverty for the rest of their lives.

To learn more about child sponsorship and the impact it has on a child’s daily life please visit Plan UK at www.plan-uk.org/sponsor-a-child.

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Win a modelling contract for your little star

modelling faceAll parents think that their child is the most beautiful of them all, but does your little one have what it takes to be a model and smile from the glossy pages of a magazine? If your child loves striking poses like the models on the front cover of Vogue or you could picture them selling yoghurt, washing powder and Co in a commercial, then this might be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for.

Venture Photography have teamed up with top agency MOT Models to give the lucky winner of this year’s Little Face of Venture competition the chance to win a one year professional modelling contract. What an amazing opportunity is that? During this time, MOT Models will promote and market the winner for an array of modelling assignments. And that’s not all, Start-rite and LEGO are throwing in a year’s supplies of shoes and an amazing prize for little construction fans.

All you have to do is purchase a full family photography voucher and enjoy your Venture Photography experience. Your photographer will then pick the best photo of your little one and upload it here on the Little Face of Venture website, where all your friends and family can vote! Entries close on 23rd May 2014 and voting closes at midnight on 6th June 2014.

Each studio will then name their regional winner, the child whose photograph has received the most votes on the Little Face of Venture website. All 27 regional winners are then invited back to studio to film a short video which will help the judging panel to find the overall winner, Venture Photography’s Little Face of Venture 2014.

The 2014 panel of judges are Richard Mayfield, Venture Photography Creative Director, Kathryn Bristow and Georgie Mann, Junior Division of MOT Models.

The regional winner from each studio will receive their winning image in a hand made Venture frame worth £350, a pair of Start-rite shoes and a set of LEGO. So what are you waiting for? It’s worth entering just for that, don’t you think? Venture Photography will also donate £1 to Wellchild for every child who enters the competition.

Little Face of Venture modelling contest for childrenThis is a promotional post

 

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10 TV mums that I would hire as a babysitter

Finding the perfect babysitter is not easy. You want to hire someone that is reliable and trustworthy, while still being kind and fun. Unfortunately, Nanny McPhee never stays when you want her to stay and with Mary Poppins you’re always at risk of her being blown away with her umbrella, so let’s face it: We need a new babysitter!

Someone with experience is always good, so I thought, why not hire a mum? A TV Mum to be precise, because we know everything there is to know about them, right? Saves us the terribly long-winded interview process, too. The Baby Website is currently revealing their selection of the most awesome TV mums, but who would I hire?

Holly Willoughby
Holly Willoughby TV mum

She’s the girl next door type with a great sense of humour. Kids would have great fun with her and I bet she won’t mind a cheeky ice-cream before bedtime. Plus, she knows how to fight off evil villains and monsters. She had hand-to-hand combat training with Katie Hopkins after all.

Davina McCall

Davina McCall TV mum

Davina won’t ever throw the towel, no matter how horrific the child. This woman has just completed a 450km triathlon in 5 days, so how big a challenge can a stroppy toddler be compared to that?

Katy Hill

Katy Hill TV mum

Hands-on and with a cracking sense of humour, Katy Hill, would be Amy’s ideal babysitter. Having presented Blue Peter, she’s also one to throw herself into every adventure that comes her way. Extreme lego-threading? Bring it on!

Annabel Karmel

Annabel Karmel TV mum

Annabel Karmel is the perfect babysitter for little gourmets. Rest assured that fish fingers and spaghetti hoops will not be served up, while Annabel reigns over the kitchen. Home-cooked meals will make little ones smile and you relax while you go out for your date night.

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie TV mum

Angelina Jolie is the perfect babysitter for large families. She juggles more kids than an octopus has arms and manages to be a great role model at the same time. Plus, she can teach kids a thing or two about the countries she’s travelled on her charity trips.

Victoria Beckham

victoria beckham tv mum

Your little one loves playing dress-up and regularly raids your make-up stash? Then there’s no better babysitter for her than Victoria Beckham. Fashion icon extraordinaire, VB would help your little one to design their own fashion range and perfect their pout while being a really fun person behind closed doors.

Kirsty Allsop

Kirsty Allsop TV mum

Kids love drawing, painting, glueing and getting creative and so does Kirsty Allsop, which makes her the perfect TV mum babysitter for crafty families that have egg carton lamps and like upcycling.

Emma Bunton

Emma Bunton TV mum

Emma Bunton is the one to hire, if you want a babysitter that will not only be your little girl’s best friend, but also stage coach. They’ll practice dance routines and sing Spice Girls songs and pull of the show of the century once you come back home from your business dinner.

Jo Whiley

Jo Whiley TV Mum

Laid back, cool and with an excellent music taste, Jo Wiley would have been the babysitter of my dreams when I was in my early teens – you know the age when your parents are unsure, if they can leave you alone and you’re actually way too cool for a babysitter. We would have stayed up all night, listened to music and talked about all the cool people she’s interviewed in her career as a radio and TV presenter.

Team Honk

Team Honk

These ladies have been on the big Comic Relief Show last year, the BBC news and even met the Prime Minister, so they totally count as TV mums now. Plus, between them they have 13 kids so plenty of experience when it comes to childcare. They are fun and the most amazing people you’ll ever meet – someone I’d love my little one to meet and spend time with.

But now let me know, which TV mum or dad would you hire as a babysitter and who is an absolute no-no? I might need some back-up numbers…

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10 things that make me happy – International Happiness Day

pretty donuts make me happy

In July 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution which recognised happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes… happiness and well-being of all peoples”. In July 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a further resolution which decreed that the International Day of Happiness was to be observed every year on 20 March. The day was celebrated for the first time in 2013.

Today is the 20th March, International Day of Happiness, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to look at the things in my life that make me happy.

1. My family – they make me smile and laugh on a daily basis. They give me strength, inspiration and sometimes a grey hair or two, but they make me proud every single day.

2. Being healthy – Seeing friends and family suffer with long-term illnesses such diabetes or mental health problems, makes me really appreciate that I am healthy. I might have a couple of pounds too much on my hips, but I don’t have to take regular medication and the last time I’ve seen a doctor was when Amy and I had or 6 week check-up, almost 3 years ago.

3. A nicely cooked meal – Sitting down at the end of a busy day and being able to enjoy a tasty home-cooked meal (even, if I have to cook it myself) is something that makes me happy and helps me relax. I enjoy different flavour combinations and would always pick home-cooked meals over a takeaway – unless I’m suffering from PMS and crave cheesy pizza.

laughing for happiness

4. Giggles – Laughing and hearing people laugh will almost cheer me up – no matter how down I am, but making Amy laugh and seeing her break out in her deepest belly laugh has just to be the best thing every.

5. Magazines – I can’t go in a shop without coming out with a magazine or two. I love, love, love magazines on pretty much any topic out there and always have a stash of them sitting on my coffee table. Flicking through them makes me feel so relaxed and leaves me inspired all the time.

6. Water – Not for drinking, that’s just boring, but being in or on water is something that I have loved all my life. Swimming is one of my favourite things ever and walking along the beach hearing the waves crash against the shore is just something that reminds me of my childhood and instantly puts me in a safe little bubble of happiness.

7. Blogging – Being able to record our memories and write down my thoughts makes me incredibly grateful. Blogging has brought me so many amazing opportunities over the last couple of years, something which I have never expected when I started writing this blog over three years ago. The best thing however are all the people I have met, people that I can now call true friends, even if they only see them once or twice a year. One of them is Andrea from All You Need Is Love And Cake. I have met her once, but we are chatting online for hours every single day and on Monday, we’ll be taking our little girls on a short break to Devon. I can’t wait!

blowing bubbles

8. Blowing Bubbles – Amy and I have been obsessed with blowing bubbles recently. We’re out in the garden every day watching them fly and dance in the wind.

9. Cleaning – I never want to do it as it always seems such a chore, but as soon as I have tidied up a room, de-cluttered or mopped and dusted a room, I feel such a sense of achievement that it gives me a real buzz.

10. Doing something to help others – My dad always tells me that I have helper syndrome and he might not be wrong. Helping others does make me happy because it makes someone else feel good and I like it when people don’t have to worry about something, even if it’s only for a short while.

Now, let me know what makes you happy. Share lists of things that make you happy, personal posts about your journey to happiness and everything else that follows the theme.

Images from via Pinterest (unknown source), Doug8888, Michael Bently