Be Christmas shopping savvy

I have spent to much on this year’s Christmas shopping, hubby has informed me only last weekend.

I did disagree with him, of course I did.

And I did defend myself, bringing out my emotional weapons:

I only have one child left.”

I do not want to be saving money, I would rather save memories.”

“She needs to feel loved by her extended family and they can’t really afford/can’t be bothered sending gifts so I need to fill in for them.”

“I am now making my own money and I want to spend it on her and other people, if I so please.”

But I did agree with hubby on one point. If you shop this Christmas, and you must, who can do Christmas without shopping for family, friends and grocery shopping, then try and be shopping savvy and get the best deals and the best discounts you can.

The last couple of years have seen the mushrooming of online coupon companies offering discounts for thousands of online merchants. This couponing trend had been popular in America for absolute ages, I actually remember watching American TV programs years ago, when I was still living in Romania, of popular TV programs centered on the extreme couponing habits of ours neighbours from across the pond. I also remember visiting friends in America a few years back and them making a point of NEVER buying anything online without a discount or a coupon.

Thankfully, the trend has slowly been set in the UK as well and now we can become professional “couponeers” and chasers of discounts too!

So for your next online Christmas purchase, pause before you buy and try and do some money saving at vouchersky.com or any other voucher or coupon saving website. Please be persevering, sometimes it takes a few attempts to find a valid code or a substantial discount but it will only be worth your search, the sense of satisfaction that comes from saving!

Disclaimer: we were offered remuneration for mentioning vouchersky.com in our post but the opinions expressed are entirely our own.

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Q Pootle 5 Christmas Special DVD…and another giveaway!

Emma LOVES CBeebies still. Yes, she does refer to herself as a “big girl now, mummy!” but some things are still very much in fashion in our household.

So when we were offered the chance to review the Q Pootle 5 Christmas Special DVD, I knew I was onto a winner with Emma and all the other preschoolers or reception year schoolers who would be in for a chance to win their own copy of the DVD!

As expected, Emma wanted so watch it as soon as we opened the mail.

Her honest review?

“it was lovely mummy, it had Santa in it and it was funny and it had no scary bits in it, only joy!”

Sounds like the ideal DVD to me for a small child, don’t you think so?

Her only complaint?

“It was too short, mummy!”

Some facts about the DVD:

1. It launched in the UK yesterday, 17th of November.

2. It is a short (27 minutes) but exclusive, full of good cheer, Christmas episode.

3. For your Q Pootle little fans, a new selection of puzzles and games as well as two picture books from Walker Books have been launched with the DVD, perfect stocking fillers!

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Snapper Productions have been very kind to also launch a video featuring the well-loved Q Pootle characters.

In addition to that, we, as a blog, are offering one DVD as a giveaway, a lovely present to all the little CBeebies and Q Pootle fans out there.

All you need to do, in order to be entered in the draw, will be to like our Instagram page and leave a comment here to tell us who will be receiving the DVD in case you won!

Good luck, come back on the 30th of November to check if you won!

Disclaimer: we were offered the DVD for reviewing but the opinions expressed are our own. The giveaway is open for UK residents only.

31 Days of Grief: Give

I am back to my grief posts. I should have finished them in October but grief, exhaustion and the disruption of a week in Greece got in the way.

Carly Marie’s prompt for day 19 of the grieving journal was an encouragement to give a bit of us to others in the moments we feel at our lowest.

I have started a new habit with Georgie’s passing. I have taken to giving joyfully and meaningfully, randomly and spontaneously. I can’t wait for the conditions to be right. I can’t wait for our finances to be perfect. I can’t wait. Full stop.

I feel this urge to bless, whenever and in whatever way I can.

My bank account may have suffered a bashing and will take a little while to recover but I do not care. I am not greedy or wasteful. I use money for the sole purpose of giving joy to others, with any opportunity that is presented to me.

My bank account will recover. Money comes and goes. But opportunities don’t.

I know that full well.

I am so glad for every single toy and baby grow I was able to get Georgie. He enjoyed the stimulation and the comfort they brought.

And in his absence, I enjoy now giving to friends and strangers and family. Giving of me. And out of my pocket.

Because I do not know how long I have here. I do not know if tomorrow I will still be standing.

I feel compelled to do what I can, when I can.

I treasure every moment.

All because of a blue eyed baby boy who made me understand life on earth is more perishable sometimes than tinned food.

I do not want to be told of me “she was survived by a bank account” but  that “she gave out of everything she had, unconditionally.”

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Deck the house with boughs of colour…

I love observing the passing of the seasons and I love dressing my home to reflect the changes in nature. I believe every house-proud woman does, wouldn’t you agree?
I believe we were created to vibrate in tone with our surroundings and we are influenced by what the eye sees and the heart feels.

Our house is always reflecting the outdoors and the season we are in. It is a very tangible way of teaching Emma to respect the nature, to understand the changes and to treasure and learn to recreate in her turn a sense of homeliness and comfort.

This autumn, even with Georgie missing from our midst and with my heart bleeding continuously and constantly for him, I consciously made the decision to follow through with our traditions and deck the house in autumn décor. For Emma’s sake, for a sense of security that comes from routines and constants in our lives but also from a very deep need within myself to surround myself with living and beautiful things.

Autumn collageWe also try to celebrate the best the season has to offer, so we would bake and go to shows and stay in touch with what is in season also in a culinary and artistic sense.

The pictures below were taken last year of our living room, our Christmas plants and decorations, our home-decorated gingerbread house and the Cinderella pantomime we enjoyed close to Christmas.

PicMonkey Collage-December 2013

Now that Christmas is fast approaching, I will be looking into decking the house again. If money was no object, I would love to be able to redecorate the whole house in Christmassy, vibrant colours.

Our living room could actually do with a new coffee table, which I would choose from the coffee table range at Cookes Furniture. I would probably go for the storage coffee table, classy yet practical when you have small children and loads of small Lego bits and dolly shoes that need stored away safely (read, be put out of sight.)

We also desperately need a new sofa and it has been on my wishing list forever. It became obvious we needed one when the midwife who came to visit us after Georgie was born nearly took off with a portion of it…I have my eyes on a corner one from Harveys, it would be perfect for movie nights and for cuddling up as a family. I truly hope hubby Santa reads this and grants my wish this Christmas!

If our kitchen/sitting room was a lot bigger that it actually is now, I would choose one of the gorgeous burgundy (and very much in fashion now) comfy fabric armchairs from Marks and Spencer as well. To have somewhere for Santa to sit his weary self and enjoy his mince pies when he visits, of course!

Furniture CollageNow, what are the things you will be doing yourselves to dress the house for the festive season and if money was no object, what would you change about your furniture?

On the fourth day of Christmas…

“On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Four Calling Birds
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.”

Another year has nearly gone by and I am sure that most of us have created beautiful memories with our loved ones that we will  cherish and would love to have close or present as seasonal gifts to our families, in the form of calendars, photo albums or personalised phone or iPad cases.

We have taken thousands of photos since January. I am so glad a dear friend of ours suggested we took photos and videos of Georgie once he was diagnosed. I will treasure the advice and every single picture we have of our beautiful boy forever.

Once Georgie passed away, we have created many, many beautiful photographic memories and have adorned the house with his gorgeous little face. They are wonderful reminders of his beautiful character and presence and the time we were allowed with him. I cannot imagine not having these bitter sweet gifts that we can go back to and remember Georgie by.

imageThe lovely people at FotoInsight have a wonderful surprise for my blog readers and would like to offer one of you, lucky lot, £50 worth of vouchers on their site. They understand too well our need as human beings to visualise love and I am too glad to be able to partnership with them in offering you the opportunity to immortalise your memories and transform them into either (canvas) prints, calendars, photo books or posters. My favourite items on their site are the personalised photo cushions, the glass block photos and the personalised iPhone cases.

They have asked my lovely readers, in order to be in for a chance to win, to like their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and if you have a LinkedIn account, to pop by and say hello.

Once you have done that, just give me a little wave in a comment to let me know you have entered the giveaway.

The competition is open for UK residents only and will be running for a week. Just to give you plenty of time to order those memories in for Christmas. I will use a random number generator to pick a winner and I will announce the name via my Facebook page, so make sure you are a fan!

Good luck everyone and thank you, FotoInsight, for your generosity towards my readers and ourselves.

Disclaimer: I was offered vouchers in exchange for writing this post but the opinions expressed are all my own. And so is the joy of seeing one of my readers blessed with such a meaningful gift!

Silent Sunday

10816129_10152368187426512_1427484325_nSilent-Sunday

On the third day of Christmas…

“On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Three French Hens
Two Turtle Doves
and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.”

As you all know, this year has been the most horrendous we have had so far.

We went through a devastating leukeamia diagnosis with Georgie, months in the children’s hospital and then the most surreal and painful goodbyes from the boy we had come to treasure and love with all our hearts.

We have since attempted to find some balance. Not only us as grown-ups but also Emma, as a sibling, who has witnessed all these events and has been marked by them much deeper than we probably will ever comprehend.

She is not your typical five-year old anymore. She never was but now, even less so.

Emma has developed an eery insight on life and death and her own deep life philosophy, coping mechanisms and rationale, all unique and coming from the heart-wrenching and life-changing events she had to witness at such an early age.

What has helped enormously has been an open attitude, not only from us but from the hospital and the hospice staff. Emma is an inquisitive child and she has had loads of questions and a constant need for reassurance. I truly felt we were beautifully blessed with caring staff who were able to approach the subject of death, heaven and the afterlife sensitively yet openly and knowledgeably, adapting their responses to her age level yet always keeping the truth prevalent in their answers.

Another thing I observed Emma using in her need to process the facts and her own emotions has been play. Child-led therapy through play can work wonders if the right tools and supporting material are at hand.

We were very lucky to have been offered several books to review through the blog which found us at the right time and helped Emma enormously in processing the trauma of Georgie’s hospitalisation and afterwards, his passing.

When Georgie was still in the hospital, and we were still hoping in a cure and healing, we were sent one of the Monkey Wellbeing activity packs, the one in which Monkey visits the Emergency Department. It came spot on, just a week or so before the doctors approaches us with the scary (at that time) avenue of a possible bone marrow transplant for Georgie and the need of a blood test which was to establish if any of us, including Emma, would have been a possible donor.

tnEmma took to the Monkey puppet immediately and we were able to discuss in length through the safe intermediary of the story about needles, hospital visits and so on. It helped enormously, not only with the preparation for the blood test but also with her comprehension of the events and internalisation of the process. Monkey went to nursery with Emma those days and explained the facts to her friends and then helped through play after the hospital visit.

I would warmly recommend the activity packs and the use of the monkey puppet in explaining life-changing events (like going to the hospital, starting school or dealing with a debilitating illness, such as asthma) to a preschooler or a primary school child. The stories are there to explain the procedures and processes in detail and to make children comprehend them in context.

Once Georgie passed away, Emma became obsessed with playing doctors and nurses, to the exasperation of her playmates and school friends, whose life experiences had been so different to Emma’s.

At that point we were offered another precious helping hand, in the form of yet another couple of books to review, Fiona the Doctor and Richard the Vet. The latest in the What do the grown-ups do? series by Mairi McLellan, published on the 28th of October this year, these two books come highly appraised and recommended for children with analytical spirits and dispositions.

COVER FIONAAlthough the books come recommended for the target reader age group 5 to 10, I believe they would benefit the older childen who have the patience to listen about the detailed daily routine of a general practitioner or veterinary doctor.

Emma, at almost 5, adapted the information for her level and used daddy and willing (and at times, even reluctant) play dates to practice her doctoring skills and make sense of her shattered world. She discussed in detail the doctor’s routine she had been read about and assessed correctly the pressures that come with such a demanding job. In the end, and basing her judgement on both the information provided in the book and our experience in the hospice, Emma decided that she would rather train as a nurse in the hospice, to work “with little children like Georgie, mummy. Because sometimes doctors can’t make them better but nurses can look after them so well.” Bless her sweet soul…

Doc EmmaWith Christmas approaching and if struggling with inspiration for gift ideas for children with inquisitive spirits and aiming at working as actors, doctors, vets, fishermen or even filmmakers( Gordon the Wildlife Filmmaker will actually come out of the press in February 2015 so keep an eye for it), do visit Kids’ Educational Books  website for more information about the series and where to purchase the books.

Give a child the chance to learn and play and dream about the future, allow their imagination to run wild and build the foundation on which the future will be build. Because every reality begins with a game, a question and a childhood dream.

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