Thursday, 8 December 2016

Portable North Pole Magic Pass Review

It's that time of year again when parents all over the world start to use the age old bribery line, "Be good otherwise Father Christmas will put you on the naughty list! He knows!"

I'm sure my parents said this to me and now I have a child of my own, I have definitely used the line to enforce some good behaviour! Times have changed too and nowadays you can create personalised videos from the North Pole to enhance the magic.


We have used the Portable North Pole app for the last few years and it has always been very popular with Elliot who absolutely loves that Santa knows his name! This year we were invited to test out the Magic Pass which costs £9.99 and gives you lots and lots of extra treats on the Portable North Pole website.

As well as the standard video that anyone can download on the website there are lots more premium videos to create including Your Big Book and Secret Places. You can personalise all these videos to make it extra special for your child - you can even add photos of friends and family members to make it more magical!

Another benefit of the magic pass is the reaction recorder - you can use the app to let your child view the video on your phone/tablet and it will record your child's reaction. This is priceless! You can see on the video below when Santa says Elliot's name - that big smile!


There are also lots of calls available to download and just like the videos these can be personalised. There are lots to choose from including Congratulation and Mrs Claus is baking cupcakes and special Christmas Eve ones such as a Special Surprise from Santa's Elves.

If this wasn't enough you can even download and print cute little certificates from the video for your child to keep:


I think this is a lovely thing to do at Christmas and really makes it magical for the children. The free version is great but I do think the Magic Pass at £9.99 is brilliant value for money - especially if you have more than one child because you only pay the once. Elliot is loving the videos on the website and I can't wait to create some more for him to watch!

For more information, check out http://www.portablenorthpole.com/
For official Portable North Pole merchandise, you can find this in John Lewis:





Monday, 28 November 2016

Christmas Gift Guide for Babies


Maybe your Christmas shopping is done and dusted and your presents are wrapped and ready to go. Perhaps (if you're like me!) you've been making lists for the past month but not actually got going and are now feeling a little worried that Christmas is just around the corner....

Hopefully this gift guide will give you some ideas for the little people in your life! 


I just cannot resist an Elf costume and I've already subjected poor Elliot to one since he was a baby! I love this cute little sleepsuit, festive enough to look the part but practical enough to snooze in. 

This cute toy is suitable from birth and makes a lovely keepsake gift of baby's first Christmas

Perfect for those little ones who are about to take their first steps, this walker will play a fun melody when the baby starts walking. As soon as the baby stops walking, the music will stop and hopefully encourage a few more steps! The Online 4 Baby website is the UK's cheapest online baby megastore and definitely worth checking out for all the latest deals - my shopping list for the baby has grown substantially since finding this website! 

There's no reason that the babies should have to miss out on the all important Christmas dinner when Ella's Kitchen have produced this yummy creation. 30p from the sale of each pouch will be donated to Save the Children who are promoting the importance of family meal times and the positive impact it can have on a child's development. 

5 // Miffy in the Snow book - £3.75
Little children will love Miffy and these simple stories will be a big hit with parents who remember Miffy from their childhood!

I have heard great things about Dr Brown's bottles and their ability to reduce wind related colic due to the unique internal green vent system. This cute little gift set comes with three bottles, a butterfly soother, bottle brush and a Flexees teether. I shall be testing these bottles out in the new year once our baby has arrived so look out for a review and a giveaway! 

I love penguins and this grey fleecy stocking from John Lewis is perfect for baby's first Christmas

8 // New Baby 4 Piece Gift Set, Boden - £38.50
This 4 piece set would make a fab gift for new parents as it contains all the essentials - sleepsuit, bodysuits and a bib. I adore the bear print on this! 

Hopefully that has given you some inspiration - I certainly have a few more things to add to my list now! 

*Disclaimer - Sponsored post

Hogwarts in the Snow at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - Review


Written by Sarah Abbott - Entertaining Elliot's brand new guest blogger (and family member!)

Warner Brothers have made a lot of films but none as big as the Harry Potter series (yes, even bigger than Ace Ventura: when Nature Calls) so it's no surprise that their studios in Watford have been transformed  into a permanent interactive exhibition of all things Potter related.We were lucky to be some of the first to see 'Hogwarts in The Snow' - all the usual attractions but with an added festive tinge. Walking into the entrance you're met with huge portraits of the film's stars and as it's Christmas, a ginormous Christmas tree which everyone was queuing up to get nice pictures in front of for their mums. 



We had to wait a while for the tour to actually start but nobody seemed to care as everyone was given mulled wine, spiced ginger punch and mince pies. There was also some guests clutching what looked like large goody bags but no amount of hovering near the sign-in table procured one for us. Then we were ushered into the studio's cinema where the tour guide joked we were about to watch all eight films (judging by some of the squeals in the room, I don't think a few of the guests would have minded, however, sadly we had places to be before the next 22 and a half hours had come to an end). The film's three main actors  talked through an introduction to the series along with awkward jokes (bless 'em) and then the evenings first audible crowd gasp happened when the cinema screen was pulled up to reveal the gates of Hogwarts behind.



 Behind the gates is the set for the Main Hall where many of the film's memorable scenes such as the Sorting Hat doing some sorting happen. The realistic banquet food on the long tables had been replaced with yule time fare including spontaneously lighting Christmas puddings and the room (which is as big as it looks on screen) was lined with beautifully adorned Christmas trees each with 'fairys'- that looked suspiciously more like witches to me - at the tops which flew in circles.




Onwards from this section, the tour is self guided so you can take as long or as little as you like. The place is stacked high with props, sets and costumes from all eight films, some of which are really quite impressive in size such as the snaked embelished door to the chamber of secrets or the imposing Magic is Might statue.


For us the absolute highlight was the other half getting to 'fly' a broom stick, or at least mess about in front of a green screen - much to the indifference of the staff whilst I laughed like a woman possessed- then magically get superimposed over a whizzing backdrop of Harry Potter related scenery. Some might say £25 for the privilage is a bit on the extortianate side, but a small USB stick containing twenty seconds of comedy gold says otherwise.


There's so much to look at  including exterior props such as the house on Privet drive, the Knight bus and the Weasley's house that you really could spend all day at the attraction. There was a snow machine on the go during this outside segment which wasn't quite as exciting as it sounds but it's funny how a few bits of foam wafting around in the air makes everything feel that bit more christmassy! 

Another highlight was the Creature Effects Department where you can get up close and personal with Dobby, Buckbeak, Werewolves and centaurs among many others. Take this as fair warning though of the humongous model of the  spider 'Aragog' which boats a leg span of 18 foot which you will encounter dangling from the ceiling when you turn a corner, incase you want to survive the rest of the tour without ruining your pants. This bit was fascinating and makes you really appreciate the time and effort that went into creating that realism that CGI alone can't quite achieve.

Harry Potter fans and fans of luggage alike will love experiencing Platform 9 and 3/4 in real life and no one's going to judge you for making sure you get that shot of you racing 'through' the brick wall with your bag trolly.


 The Hogwarts express is there too and you're able to walk through the carriage section which in reality is just a carriage of an old train with bits of prop scattered around it, but tourists from  outside of the UK probably go crazy for it. Who am I kidding, we did and made sure we got pictures of us hanging out of the Hogwarts express window waving imaginary hankies. In case you were worried, there's plenty of opportunites to splash a bit of cash around tour- Hogwarts Express gets it's own train station related gift shop and there's also a Honey Dukes sweet cart, Butter Beer Cafe as well as lots of opportunites to pay for a professional to take your photo during a famous Harry Potter scene.


There's also a replica of Diagon Alley to marvel over complete with it's owl emporium, Leaky Cauldron and Gringott's Wizarding Bank, but the most awe inspiring 'prop' is left for the end when you walk down a corridor with various Harry Potter concept art and imagery to find at the end, the extremely detailed model of Hogwarts itself, complete with it's sprinkling of 'snow'. Photos of the handsculpted model don't do it justice and you only really get the impact of the sheer size of it (nearly fifty feet in diameter) by walking around the whole thing to the background track of 'Harry in Winter' from the soundtrack- it's lovely. There was also a man in this room explaining how the snow and fire effects were achieved in the films. Much of the time small fires in the film were made with clever lighting and carefully engineered vapour which was good because fire is expensive to make. 



The exit of course, is through the gift shop, however before you get there you find yourself in Ollivander's Wand Shop where individual wand's with thousands of names are printed on the boxes. We found out later that these are all the names of everyone involved in the making of the films, however at the time we assumed that  if you found your name it meant you were a wizard! Luckily a helpful guide is on hand to cross reference her massive book of names against yours...alas we were both merely muggles, which almost ruined the entire evening. The nice lady also said that hopefully everybody elses names would be added soon so when we visit next time I'm looking forward to spending the day scouring  a warehouse of about 500,000 wand boxes out-back. 


Looking for the perfect wand!
The gift shop itself is a treasure trove of everything you might possibly ever want to buy in your entire lifetime if you're a big harry potter fan including finely rendered replica's of all the wands; nostalgia inducing uniforms; gorgeously pretty jewellery; delectable looking sweets and chocolates straight  from JK Rowling's pages; painstakenly detailed illustration books and prints and incredible replicas of many of the props themselves. Us? We parted ways with a crisp five pound note in exchange for a very small plastic keyring, because we know how to have a good time .....and also because we blew all of our budget on a fake broomstick ride (no regrets). 

You should go; it's what Dobby would have wanted!

Ticket Information - https://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/

*Disclaimer - We were provided with free tickets for this event in return for this honest review 

Friday, 18 November 2016

Looking back at our Halloween Half Term!

I had all good intentions of writing about Halloween straight after but as it often does, life got in the way and it's only now, two weeks later that I'm able to sit down and talk about what we got up!

Elliot had the week off pre-school as it was half term so we had lots of exciting things planned...and several different fancy dress costumes to wear!

On the Wednesday we met up with some of our close group of friends at one of our favourite places, Kingston Lacy. We all have National Trust memberships so it's always a nice cheap day out and the kids absolutely love it there! We took a picnic and did some Autumn crafts - my friend Louise also brought some print outs for the kids to do. This was a fantastic idea, they had to tick off certain items from their sheets and they all had different themed sheets such as fairies and pirates - they loved it!! All the activities were downloaded from https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/naturedetectives/activities/ - we will definitely be doing this again :)


Later on that day I took Elliot to a local garden centre who were holding a special Halloween event for children. They had lots of things happening such as fancy dress competitions, spooky stories, pumpkin carving, spooky food and a scary tunnel. Elliot didn't win the fancy dress competition but there were over 40 kids in his age bracket so lots of competition and lots of little Dracs! The scary tunnel was actually really scary, we got about a foot inside and Elliot decided he didn't like it so we had to turn around and come out again....maybe one for the bigger kids! Although saying that my 29 year old sister was freaked out by someone dressed up as a zombie so she made a pretty hasty exit too!

Strutting his stuff on the catwalk!! 
On the Friday we hosted a little Halloween party for Elliot's friends - it's become a bit of a tradition  and we love hosting! It was a great excuse to decorate the house and of course, another excuse for Elliot to wear a different costume :)

It gets harder and harder to get a photo of all the children looking in the same direction!!
On the Sunday of Halloween weekend we couldn't decide what to do but Elliot wanted to visit Corfe Castle...even though he'd been there just a few days before with his grandparents! It's another brilliant National Trust property here in Dorset and we love visiting. There were lots of special activities on as it was half term, such as teddy zipline, spooky story telling and a Halloween themed quiz. 


Over the weekend we also managed to get a bit creative in the kitchen to make some spooky food thanks to a lovely hamper from the Co-op. Our favourite were the smores which were lovely big thick chocolate chip cookies with melted marshmallows and jam inside....yummy! To see some of the recipes head over to the Co-op website.


Finally on Halloween itself, I took Elliot trick or treating with one of his little friends. This is the first year he's really understood it and was so excited about getting some treats! We were planning on just knocking at a few houses we knew such as friends and family but on the way we spotted lots of houses decorated with pumpkins so we did spend a bit longer out than planned...both kids were sooo tired at the end of the evening!


Hope you all had a fun Halloween! 


Best of WorstTwin Mummy and Daddy

Monday, 14 November 2016

Pregnancy Update ~ Baby #2 (Gestational Diabetes)


So following on from my last update , I just wanted to write about Gestational Diabetes. At 28 weeks I was booked in for a glucose tolerance test. This isn't something that all ladies will have to have in their pregnancy but if you are risk from getting getting gestational diabetes then you will be offered the test. Gestational Diabetes is when your body cannot produce enough insulin to meet the extra needs in pregnancy.  Any woman can develop gestational diabetes but you are more at risk if:

- Your BMI is above 30
- You've previously had a large (10+lb) baby
- You had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
- You have a family member with diabetes
- Your family origins are South Asia, Chinese, Africa-Caribbean or Middle Eastern

My test was at 9.15am at the hospital so I was told to fast from 10pm the night before. At my appointment I had a blood test and this is used to see the level of sugar in my blood. Straight after the test I was given a measured glucose drink to drink within 5 minutes - I won't lie, it tasted pretty grotty! You can take your own Lucozade in to have instead of the glucose drink but check with your midwife/notes as hospitals may vary and it has to be a specific type of drink. I was then told to sit in the waiting room for two hours. I did feel abit hungry towards the end of the two hours but I had my Kindle to read so it wasn't too bad! After the two hours, I was called in for another blood test and this was to see how the levels compared to my first test. Unfortunately they aren't able to give you a result there and then so I was told that the hospital would be in touch within 48 hours if my test returned positive.

The next morning I had a phonecall and my heart sank when I saw the hospital number because I knew that it would be bad news concerning my GTT test. The midwife confirmed that my test result was positive for Gestational Diabetes and that I needed to go back to the hospital to attend the diabetes clinic that very morning.

Having escaped GD in my first pregnancy I was quite upset that I'd got it this time round and I didn't really have a clue what to expect. Fortunately I remembered that one of my friends had had it during her pregnancies so she was able to give me some advice and calm my nerves abit!

Back at the hospital I met with the dietitian who was really nice and put my mind at rest that I wouldn't have to cut out completely everything and live on a diet on brown rice and broccoli! She gave me some dietary advice handouts and the main thing I was told was to watch my carb portions and cut out any sugary drinks. I was then introduced to the diabetes specialist midwife who I will be seeing alot more of over the next 3 months and she gave me a blood monitoring kit. This was a bit overwhelming at first - I would have to test my blood 4 times a day by pricking my finger with the special needle device. Good job I'm not squeamish :-s

That was over a week ago and I'm pleased to say I'm getting my head round things and knowing what I can/can't eat. I've found a really good website (http://www.gestationaldiabetes.co.uk/) which has helped so much with everything and they have a really active Facebook group too which has been useful for questions and reading what other people are eating.

Unfortunately my morning readings of my blood levels are still higher than they would like and this isn't something that can be controlled by diet. So I've been put on some medication which should lower this. If this doesn't improve then the hospital will look into putting me onto insulin. Hoping it doesn't come to this but we'll just have to wait and see - I've read that gestational diabetes can get progressively worse towards the end of the pregnancy.

The positive thing is, the gestational diabetes should go when the baby arrives but unfortunately it will leave me more at risk in the future of developing type 2 diabetes so will have to ensure I really watch what I'm eating after the baby is born. Good reason for me to return to Slimming World!


Thursday, 3 November 2016

Pregnancy Update ~ Baby #2 (Weeks 24-28 & Pregnancy Essentials!)


Well, here we are in November - how did that happen?!! And I'm now 28 weeks so heading into the third trimester. I feel like it's going so fast now, the first trimester went so slowly because I was conscious of not telling people but now it's becoming more realer by the day. We have so much on over the next two months too so it really will be due date before I know it - eek!

I've been a bit slack at blogging my pregnancy updates recently but the truth is, there's nothing major to talk about! Other than a little tired, I've been feeling well. No sickness as such but certain smells are still making me retch and even brushing my teeth some mornings can cause me to get a bit retchy...not a pleasant side effect!

Lots of movement from the baby, even more so than what I remember with Elliot. Such a strange feeling, like she's doing somersaults in there!

Haven't seen my actual midwife since 16 weeks but I did have an appointment with the hospital midwives last week. I got the letter and wasn't sure why it was at the hospital and not at my local Dr's surgery but when I got there I was told it was due to my high BMI and that it was a special clinic for overweight mums to be - great!! Was expecting a lecture but the midwife was very nice and just did all the usual measurements and checks. She said I should be trying to limit my weight gain over the next 3 months - currently I'm up about a stone from my pre-pregnancy weight. She went over what I should be eating, what exercise I could do - obviously I won't be doing any marathons anytime soon but walking is very much encouraged in pregnancy, not just for larger ladies!

We had another scan this week (28 weeks) and this was a growth scan to see how the baby was doing. I love the later scans because the image is so clear, we could see her pursing her lips! She's growing well and measuring exactly as she should so that was good.

Pregnancy Essentials

I'm lucky to have had a good pregnancy so far but there are certain things I've been using that make life a little easier!

Pregnancy Pillow - Velinda 
I didn't have one of these when I was pregnant with Elliot but I have to say this has come in really useful this time round. It is rather big so it does take up a fair amount of room in bed but it really does make things comfier. The material is soft and the pillow is squishy without being too soft. Elliot quite likes propping himself up on the pillow to watch a film too so I think we will be getting lots of use out of it! I've read that pregnancy pillows can be used as a feeding aid when baby arrives so I will definitely be giving this a go.

I love the pattern on mine!


Maternity Leggings - Yours Clothing
I never used to wear leggings but my first pregnancy changed all that and I'm back in them this time round too - so so comfy! The choice for plus size maternity clothes online is sadly abit limited but good old Yours Clothing have a great range called Bump it Up which has lots of essentials like leggings and shirts. I kind of begrudge paying lots for maternity clothes but these leggings were £12.00 which I didn't think was too bad and I do wear them alot! I've not bought any maternity jeans so I generally live in leggings with a shirt or dress over the top.

Baby Center Pregnancy App
I love reading the daily updates and seeing what size my baby is now compared to a piece of fruit or vegetable - last week she was the size of a cauliflower which made us chuckle!

What were your pregnancy essentials?
MaternityMondays

Monday, 17 October 2016

Halloween with Home Bargains


Halloween is one of my favourite times of year and it's great that Elliot has inherited this love of mine! We will be hosting not one but two Halloween parties this year so we've been on the look out for spooky things that will make our parties extra special. Home Bargains have a brilliant range of Halloween supplies and we were sent a bumper box of goodies to try out...


They have literally covered all angles with decorations, costumes, crafts, sweets and even pumpkin carving kits!

The first thing Elliot picked out of the box was the skeleton costume - he loves dressing up so is definitely going to get lots of wear over the Halloween half term week! Home Bargains have a fab range of costumes and prices start at £4.99 which is an absolute bargain.

If your little skeleton isn't a fan of masks (they never stay on Elliot) then there is always the option of painting their faces instead. The family make up kit is only £2.99 and has a range of sponges and colours so you'll be able to have a practise before the big night! (There are some great Halloween make up tutorials on YouTube that I've spent far too long watching this morning....)

Make up kit - £2.99
Skeleton costume - £4.99
For all your trick or treating needs, Home Bargains have plenty of sweets, treats and even a ghostly loot scoop! Elliot was very taken with his loot scoop and has been testing it out all week ;) The big bags of sweets are great value, the only trouble I find is that I'm tempted to open them early and by the time Halloween comes, I'm out of sweets! (Just me?!)

Loot scoop - 99p
Pumpkin Jar with marshmallows - £1.99
Swizzels monster treats - £1.99
As we are hosting two Halloween parties this year we will be going to town on decorating and I love getting Elliot involved too. One of the most effective things you can buy is the spider webs and spiders - for only 99p you get a really large bag and I find this goes a long way. The more you stretch it, the creepier and cobweb-like it looks! The pumpkin LED lights are a great idea as they are battery powered and obviously don't need plugging in which gives you a bit more flexibility in where you are decorating. I like to drape them over my fireplace with lots of LED candles (safer!) and plenty of cobwebs. The plaques are great value too at 79p!

Pumpkin Lights - £2.99
Web & Spiders - 99p
Halloween Plaque - 79p 
The last thing for us to test was the pumpkin carving sets (99p)- the kits come with a tool that has a serrated edge, perfect for making your pumpkins as scary as possible plus a really useful scooper for getting the insides out. (That is my least favourite bit about pumpkin carving!). If you're not feeling very creative then you can also buy pumpkin push-ins (59p) which is a fantastically cheap and cheats way of making your pumpkin spooky without the work!


I'll be posting lots of photos from our Halloween party on our social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) so look out for these and let me know what you think of our decorating skills!

The Halloween range at Home Bargains can be found online  and instore

*Disclaimer - All items were sent to us for the purpose of this review. All views are my own



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