New Autumn Boots from Jacamo

The adorable Hodge, aka The Husband spends his days in work boots and his evenings and weekends in trainers. I love it when he puts the effort in and dresses up a little bit when we go out, it’s nice seeing him look smart, for somehow he miraculously becomes extra good looking. This week he’s been trying out a pair of slouchy desert boots from Jacamo.

The slouchy desert boot is a classic but fashionably attractive design. We ordered the lovely deep chocolate colour boot, though it’s also available in stone, which is a paler brown boot. It’s made from suede and the sole is sturdy but not too thick. They look brilliant with jeans worn on a casual night out and I think they are a nice looking autumn boot.

I asked Hodge to put it to the man test. He walked to the pub and back wearing them. Did they rub? No, they were comfortable, he has one foot slightly wider than the other which means sometimes one shoe rubs or the other shoe is virtually falling off, but he informed me that these were comfortable and fine to wear.

He stood at the bar for an hour or so, were they kind to his feet? He said they didn’t make his feet hurt and he was comfortable standing in them.

I can already tell that Hodge will wear these to death, he’s pretty fussy about his footwear so I’m pleased he’s found something which suits him, looks smart and isn’t a pair of trainers.

Well, I think that’s quite enough from me, here’s what Hodge had to say about his fancy new Jacamo boots…

“The boots were very comfy and it was nice to be wearing something which smart yet casual looking and which, I think will go with the vast majority of jeans. Due to my different sized feet, it can be quite difficult to find footwear which keeps both feet happy, but after wearing the desert boots for a couple of hours, neither foot was putting in any complaints. I’m very much looking forward to wearing them again”.

Jacamo boots

Note: We were sent these Jacamo boots free of charge for review purposes, all images and opinions are our own.

Manchester Photography Workshop with Currys

Earlier this month I upgraded from my camera phone to a Nikon Coolpix L820. It was second hand, a really good price and it was a step up from where I was camera-wise, and closer to where I eventually want to be (DSLR nirvana). There was only one problem, how do I use the thing? With fantabulous timing I was invited to attend the #LightsCameraCurrys photography workshop at Manchester Photographic, in association with Currys.

It was an incredibly informative day, especially for those who had a proper DSLR camera, alas I was in the minority with my bridge camera, but mine does what I need it to do so I’m happy. I am in no way jealous, no siree.

Christian from Manchester Photographic showed us the ropes and we ran through basics, such as finding your focus, shutter speed, apertures and ISO. We explored all the settings on our cameras and then went out on assignment. Luckily it was the Manchester Food and Drink Festival that weekend so we wandered down to take some pictures. Here are some of my favourites…

Manchester Photography

Manchester Photography

Manchester Photography

Manchester Photography

I really enjoyed just going out and taking pictures with my new camera. It’s given me the confidence to take it out and have fun with it. I really recommend going on a photography workshop, even if it’s just to boost your confidence. When I do eventually upgrade to a proper DSLR then I’ll definitely be booking myself onto another course. Manchester Photographic are ace and if you’re local, then they are worth checking out.

You can read more about the day here on the Currys blog.

My Sunday Photo 28/9/14

DSCN0144

OneDad3Girls

Ready for School with Ready Brek Easy Sachets Porridge

Autumn is here and there’s a definite nip in the air. I want to send my boys out for their busy days with something warm in their bellies, something which will give them energy and keep them full and fuelled until lunchtime. Ready Brek are launching two new flavours which are part of their easy sachets range. They sent me both flavours for us to try, their new gingerbread and chocolate flavours as well as the traditional original porridge.

The Ready Brek Easy Sachets are very simple to make up, just tip the sachet and the required amount of milk into a bowl and microwave for 90 seconds. It’s really quick and easy, ideal for busy mornings and the race to get ready and out of the house without being late for work or school. Cards on the table, I’m not a porridge fan but the boys are, so I had two very willing expert testers and I even dipped my spoon in to sample.

Ready Brek Easy Sachets

Chocolate flavour – this was an all round big hit, it’s tasty Ready Brek but chocolate flavour. It’s delicious and feels more like a treat than a porridge. The boys loved this, even I finished my bowl, which shows just how moreish the chocolate flavour is.

Gingerbread flavour – The boys liked the gingerbread, it wasn’t too gingery for the small boy and it had a delicate ginger flavour. I think this is the perfect porridge for autumn and the run up to Christmas. Personally this wasn’t gingery enough for me, but I like a strong, strong ginger flavour, for me this would be excellent with a little drizzle of stem ginger syrup.

The Original flavour – This is the traditional Ready Brek we all remember from our childhoods. The flavour and consistency haven’t changed, it’s just much, much quicker to make. They boys variously enjoyed theirs plain, or with a dollop of jam, a drizzle of honey, or a spoon of nutella. I like that with the original you can dress it up whichever way you like.

I like that a warm, tasty breakfast is so quick and easy to conjure up, and I like knowing that the boys are leaving the house in the morning with something warm inside them, which should hopefully set them up for the day.

Ready Brek Easy Sachets Giveaway

You could win a bumper selection of Ready Brek Easy Sachets. I’m giving away to one lucky porridge loving winner a total of 92 sachets of Ready Brek in original, chocolate and gingerbread flavours. To enter please complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:
1. This competition is open to residents of the UK only.
2. There is no cash alternative offered.
3. To enter, please use the rafflecopter widget above. Please ensure you leave some contact details or I will not be able to contact you if you win.
4. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries. The winner will receive a 92 sachets of Ready Brek Easy Sachets, chocolate, gingerbread and original flavours.
5. The competition will close on 26th October 2014 .
6. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this competition.

Win competitions at ThePrizeFinder.com – See more at: http://www.theprizefinder.com/content/92-sachets-ready-brek#sthash.sXd1uval.dpuf

Pop Goes Your Name – Personalised CD

The small boy loves music. Since he figured out how to use his Dads iPod we’ve been regularly treated to his own personal musical style and constant demands to dance. Dance Mummy, dance! We love this and it’s only to be encouraged, even if his music taste isn’t particularly small boy appropriate. Rage Against the Machine anyone?

We were sent a personalised Pop Goes Your Name CD to review. It’s a collection of fun and upbeat songs, personalised with the small boy’s name, which makes it extra special for him. The CD, which is written for children in their early years features a selection of musical styles, with catchy melodies and sing-along lyrics, so there’s a little bit of rock, a little bit of pop and a little bit of hip-hop etc.

We had a small family disco to see if we liked the CD, we did. From the moment it started he was dancing, he danced all the way through. We danced a bit too, there were some serious toe-tapping tunes on this toddler CD.

What I liked about it was that it wasn’t toe-curlingly twee, it wasn’t sickly sweet nursery tunes, but proper, actual songs that you could listen to and enjoy. We’ve only listened to it a few times and it’s not worn thin or got annoying. And the small boy absolutely loves it, which is always the true test. You know with a child that if a toy, game, CD or whatever is good they keep asking for it, and he does.

The Pop Goes Your Name CD costs £12.95 and you can choose from the top 800 children’s names. I think at that price it’s a great present idea for a small child, ideal for birthdays and Christmas. It’s a lovely gift and one we’ll enjoy together on our little disco nights and on car journeys.

Pop Goes Your Name

Note: we were sent the Pop Goes Your Name CD free of charge for review purposes, all images and opinions are our own.

The Hedgehog and her Hoglet

Today the small boy and I attended the launch of a new children’s book at The Lowry in Salford. The Hedgehog and her Hoglet is a beautiful book born from a community arts project, written by Carla Henry and delightfully illustrated by Matt Hunt.

The Hedgehog and her Hoglet was inspired by a mum attending an arts event with her child. She said that when her baby came along she lost her confidence and felt grey, she said she needed to get her colour back. It’s a sentiment echoed by so many mums, it really rang true with me too, I may have shed a tear or two during the reading.

The event itself was a lovely, warm, community event. It’s clear that The Lowry are incredibly proud of the work done by their engagement team, alongside Salford City Council and Sure Start centres in Salford. It was great to see the families involved in the project, playing along with the story as Carla Henry read it out, we left clutching a copy of the book ready for bedtime and a balloon.

The Hedgehog and her Hoglet

We’ve just read the story at bedtime twice. The small boy is three and I can confirm it’s a hit. It’s beautifully and simply written, every word counts and the tale of how the hedgehog got her colour back is quite lovely; but the illustrations really make this, there is so much in them, lots of little talking points which is always one of the real joys of reading a children’s book.

You can buy The Hedgehog and her Hoglet from The Lowry and costs just £4.99, the proceeds from sales of the book will be used to deliver more creative projects with families in Salford.

To celebrate the launch of this fabulous new book I’ve got one copy to give away to one lucky blog reader. To enter please use the widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:

  1. This competition is open to residents of the UK only.
  2. There is no cash alternative offered.
  3. To enter, please use the rafflecopter widget above. Please ensure you leave some contact details or I will not be able to contact you if you win.
  4. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries. The winner will receive a copy of The Hedgehog and her Hoglet worth £4.99.
  5. The competition will close on 15th October 2014.
  6. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this competition.

ThePrizeFinder.com – home of competitions and prize winning” target=”_blank”>Win competitions at ThePrizeFinder.com – See more at: http://www.theprizefinder.com/content/copy-hedgehog-and-her-hoglet#sthash.cPMsCoIE.dpuf

How to get a good nights sleep

I was always a sound sleeper, right up to the moment the small boy arrived and then, well you know the rest. I’ve had nearly four years of broken nights and worse, those nights where sleep just will not come. Talking to friend about how to get a good nights sleep, he told me about something called “sleep hygiene” and it all just made perfect sense.

There’s always lots written about children’s bedtime routines, but much less so for adults. I think we all have bad habits, overstimulating ourselves before bed with tv, the internet, caffeine and alcohol, then falling into bed and thinking sleep will just magically come to us. I think, especially about myself, that my body has got out of the habit of just falling asleep and drifting off into dream-land, so to me sleep hygiene seems incredibly sensible.

how to get a good nights sleep

It’s not just about brushing your teeth and washing your face, although those are important too; it’s about getting into a proper bedtime routine, and not doing those simulating things in the hour or so leading up to bedtime. How many of us are checking our emails and social media accounts right up until the lights go out? I’m very guilty of this.

Searching the internet for some advice I found this great little ebook from bedroom specialists, Feather & Black. The book contains lots of really useful information and advice about how to create the right environment for sleep, as well as tips on how to unwind and switch off from your day enough to have a good nights sleep. The free ebook also contains information about helping your children to get into a good bedtime routine as well.

how to get a good nights sleep

The free ebook which is available to download here was inspired by the results of their annual sleep survey. Feather & Black have created the free ebook to offer practical solutions to the sleeping woes of the nation, and I think it’s a cracking little resource, and an enjoyable easy read.

how to get a good nights sleep

What do you do to help you drift off to the land of nod?

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Five things that make mornings easier

Now the small boy is at big school, mornings are a bit of a kerfuffle. Husband drops him off at school on his way to work which is a massive help, but mornings often feel like a Generation Game style challenge. There are a few things which make the rush in the morning easier to cope with.

Here are our five morning wins…

1. The small boy wakes up well rested and in a good mood. This makes everything exponentially easier. He’ll do almost everything you ask with hardly any fuss if he’s fully topped up with sleep.
2. Opening the wardrobe and finding that what I want to wear is clean and hanging up, not crumpled up on the “that’ll do another day” chair, or worse, festering in the laundry basket.
3. Someone in the household has had the presence of mind to put a pot of coffee on. The smell alone is enough to gladden the heart.
4. The small boy eats something for breakfast. He’s gone off virtually everything bar scotch pancakes and Belvita biscuits. And he eats them so slowly. Eat your breakfast or we’ll all be late!
5. We get a kiss, cuddle, or a backwards glance as he runs to his friends in the playground. Goodbye son, have a good day…oh.

Morning win

Belvita biscuits are a bit of a godsend to be honest. When the small boy refuses to sit and eat breakfast, we can’t force him so we often nibble a little packet on the way to school, or they go in my bag for when we get peckish later in the day. I think of them as a healthier biscuit, like a treat but filling us up and giving us that slow release energy that kids (and their parents, let’s face it) need.

What are your morning wins?

This post is an entry for #MorningWin Linky Challenge sponsored by belVita Breakfast. Learn more here.

Who Done It? A Murder Mystery

It was a dark and stormy night (it wasn’t, but all good murder mysteries should start that way), and I made my way to the Renaissance Hotel in Manchester to meet 30 other bloggers to uncover the terrible mystery of who killed Sir John.

At this point I feel it wise to apologise profusely for the quality of my pictures, which are at best poor. Let’s call my pictures atmospheric and leave it at that shall we.

We began by meeting the lovely Joe Blogs team over a glass of fizz. We were all intrigued by what lay in store for us that evening. It was great to see some familiar faces, meet new people and put faces to blog profiles.

We were ushered through to our tables where we sat and chatted some more. Suddenly the door burst open and in staggered Sir John, bewigged and dressed for the party, he lurched through the room clutching his chest, then dramatically gasped his last on the floor by my feet. There was a shocked hush (and maybe a few giggles), then Sherlock Holmes and PC World came in to question us, and set us to work figuring our who done it.

murder mystery

Packs of paperwork and clues were passed around. We all had our suspicions, but it was up to us and our team to find the true identity of the cold hearted killer. As we dusted for prints and questioned the suspects our delicious meal was served.

I had the Kidderton Ash goats cheese to start which was very tasty. It was served with nicely dressed salad leaves and hazelnuts, I cleared my plate. My main course was wild mushroom papadelle with garden herbs and garlic, it was nicely cooked and the mushrooms were flavoursome, though I looked on with a touch of envy at the carnivores chowing down on some excellent looking beef. Pudding was a chocolate brownie white and dark chocolate sauce with vanilla ice cream. This was so good a number of people were moved to lick their plates.

murder mystery

I drank a very acceptable Spanish red, Arium Tempranillo-Garnacha Tinto Albali with my meal, white was available but I abstained. Restraint being my middle name and all that.

As we ate we chatted and weighed up the clues, the culprit was finally and dramatically unmasked, the winning team (not us, alas) were furnished with some celebratory champagne and the case was closed.

I am of course sworn to secrecy about the finer details of what went on that evening, there is a court case pending and we wouldn’t want to prejudge the jury, or something like that. But I can confirm that much fun was had, and a maternity leave spent watching CSI repeats has finally paid off.

A big thank you to Joe Blogs for organising such a fun evening on behalf of bgo, a bingo website launching a new murder mystery game; and thank you to the Murder Mystery Company for entertaining us and keeping us occupied throughout.

murder mystery

A mugshot (of sorts) of all the bloggers who attended

Note: I was invited to enjoy a fun evening by Joe Blogs Bloggers Network. I have not been financially compensated for this post.

Pamper Me! A warm bamboo massage at HealthySpirit

Pre-baby I was a bit of a massage addict. I love facials and pampering and being pummelled into blissful relaxation. Then the small boy came along and suddenly there didn’t seem to be time for me, just when I needed that time for me most. This will not do, so I booked a warm bamboo massage at HealthySpirit in Didsbury, Manchester and readied myself for 75 minutes of bliss.

I arrived and Stephanie (my therapist) gave me a little tour and led me into the Crystal Room. The Crystal Room is where most of their treatments are done, it’s a lovely warm, comfortable room. The lights are kept reasonably low; pleasant, restful music plays in the background, sometimes they burn oils to enhance the experience.

bamboo massage

We sat down and ran through my medical form, due to my back surgeries last year I am always cautious and explain what can and can’t happen with my back during treatments. Stephanie was great and reassured me that any pressure around my surgical site would be minimal. She then asked me to take my clothes off and get comfortable on the massage table, she left the room for a few minutes while I did this and while I got settled on the table.

Stephanie made sure I was warm and comfortable before she began, she asked what kind of oils I liked and then applied a relaxing blend of neroli, lavender and sweet orange mixed with the sweet almond oil carrier. The scent immediately started to relax me. She then started to massage my back, shoulders and neck using the warmed bamboo sticks.

The sticks are quite warm, but in a soothing way, they’re not quite as hot as a hot stone massage, but definitely warm enough to sooth and relax the muscles they’re rubbed on. I could definitely feel the muscles in my too-tense shoulders relaxing as the treatment went on.

Stephanie checked on me regularly, ensuring that the bamboo was the right temperature, that I was comfortable and not in any pain. Although it was a relaxing massage, the heat and pressure from the bamboo meant that the massage was deeper than it felt, which is a good thing.

Stephanie really worked at the knots in my shoulders, working her way down my body. She spent some time massaging my calf muscles, apparently we hold a lot of emotional tension there, and it’s no surprise to me that they needed some extra work.

The incredibly restful treatment ended with a lovely face and scalp massage, I’d drifted off a few times during the treatment, but this is where I did actually nod off. After 75 minutes of bliss I was left to relax, wake myself up gently and get dressed. I felt utterly relaxed but energised, like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

The warm bamboo massage is innovative treatment which is said to aid lymph drainage, promote restful sleep, help sensory nerve perception and provide stress relief. It really is the best treatment I’ve had in a very long time, I’ll be booking myself in for another before Christmas, because I’m worth it.

The warm bamboo massage at HealthySpirit is £45 for a 75 minute treatment, which I think is exceptional value.

bamboo massage

Note: I was given this treatment free of charge for review purposes, all images and opinions expressed are my own.