Monday, 24 October 2016

Christmas Gift Guide - Ideas for girls aged 8-10

My daughter has very clear ideas of her Christmas wish list having begun compiling it at the end of August. She is Lego obsessed and this makes up 7 of her wish list items. It would have been more but I reined her in!

Here is a girls gift guide based on my daughters list.  Prices may vary. For information I have used Amazon links and images.

In no particular order here is my top 10-

Pom Pom Wow
Pom Pom Wow Decoration Station
£30 approx.

Pom Pom Wow 48540 Decoration Station Toy

Lego Santas Workshop
Lego Santa Workshop
This is actually for 12+ but my daughter is now a Lego expert.
£80 approx.

Lego Creator 10245 Santa's Workshop

(She also wants Lego Minecraft, Lego Skyras Castle, Lego XXL box, Lego City Camper van, Lego Friends Bumper Cars and Lego Livi's Pop Star House!)

Diary of a wimpy kid collection
Book 2
£4 approx.

Popin Cookin (other sets available)
PopinCookin Sushi Set
£4 approx.

Kracie Popin' Cookin! DIY Sushi Kit

Karoke machine
Pink Karoke Machine
£50 approx.

Singing Machine SML-283 Portable CD-G Karaoke Player and 3 CDGs Party Pack - Pink

Golden coin maker
Golden Coin Maker
£20 approx.

John Adams Golden Coin Maker

Neon Science
Neon Science
£20 approx.

John Adams Neon Science Toy (Multi-Colour)

Pokémon Pikachu Plush
Pokemon My Friend Plush
£20 approx.

Tomy T18984D Pokemon My Friend Pikachu Plush Toy

Aqua Sand (other sets available)
Aqua Sand Set - Refills are £5.99
£12 approx.

Character options  Aqua Sand themed set Pirate Adventure

Girls Make up
Make up Egg
£20 approx.

Gentle Girls Egg Shape Make-up Set (Pink/Purple/Blue/Orange/Red)

I hope this has given you some inspiration with prices from affordable stocking filler to the more expensive. Happy shopping.

Emma xxx

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Christmas Gift Guide - Boys List (for info my son is 6 years old)

Christmas is fast approaching.  My daughter's list was easy but for my son its a little harder to pin down as he's easily swayed by a good TV advert. After some browsing of Smyths Toy catalogue, Argos and Amazon I have narrowed down the list.

Prices may vary. For information I have used Amazon links and images.

In no particular order here are the top 10 -

Lego Dimensions
Prices vary enormously but at the moment it is £45 so grab yourself one quick!
My son also wants the Simpsons characters and ghost busters.

LEGO Dimensions: Starter Pack (PS4)

Robo Fish
£13 approx.

Robo Fish Limited Edition Bowl, Net and Fish Set

Lego Angry Birds
£40 approx.

LEGO 75824 Angry Birds Pig City Teardown Building Set

Minecraft DanTDM hero pack (or plush item)
£15 approx.

Tube Heroes "TDM Diamond Dimension Pack" Figure (Multi-Colour)

Rocket League PS4 game
£15 approx.

Rocket League (PS4)

Audi S5 Cabriolet(Don't ask!)
£110-£150 approx.

Transformers Rescue Bots
£10 approx.

Playskool Transformers Rescue Bots Bumblebee

Flying Heros
£13 approx.

Flying Heroes Superman Flying Hero

Carrera Go Race Track (or any similar)
£50 approx.

Carrera GO!!! Speed Run 62367

Minecraft Diamond Sword
£20 approx.

ThinkGeek 52cm Minecraft Foam Replica 1/ 1 Diamond Pickaxe

Hope this inspires you and is useful.  I'm not 100% sure how I'm going to tackle the electric sit on car issue. I think Santa can't fit it on the sleigh!  Happy Shopping.

Emma xxx

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Spooky Short Story

I was looking at photos on my phone whilst lying in bed. The night before had been my best mate Megan’s 30th birthday and had been brilliant. My head throbbed slightly and my feet were ruined from hours of dancing but it had been worth it. The pictures were all of smiling happy people and I laughed as the last few were blurred; my ability to take a photo effected by alcohol at that point. I was just uploading a particularly good one to Facebook when I noticed something odd in the background. I squinted at the photo and shivered. It couldn’t be. In the background someone was smiling over Megan’s shoulder. The problem was it looked very much like our friend Chloe who had died 2 years ago. I quickly looked through the other photos and felt my eyes water as I noticed Chloe’s happy face in each and every one. I rang another friend Rebecca knowing she’d also been taking pictures and hoping she could offer a reasonable explanation.  Rebecca answered after a couple of rings and in a rush I told her about my photos.

“What? Slow down. You aren’t making sense.” Rebecca said. She sounded like she’d just woke up and I knew what I was saying sounded ridiculous. I explained again slower and I heard her take a large intake of breath. "Let me check my phone and call you back.” She said sounding confused. A few minutes later my phone rang and I snatched it up.

“Well. Is Chloe in your photo’s?” I said hastily my hands shaking slightly.

“Yes.” Rebecca answered quietly. “I can’t believe it. She looks so happy as well. I’m torn between being terrified and overjoyed to see her again.”

“That’s exactly how I feel. Should we actually do anything? Why do you think it’s happened now?”

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it was a big celebration. We had always joked about turning 30 in style.”

“Yeah I guess.  I wonder if she’s in anyone else’s photos?” I said wondering if anyone had already uploaded to Facebook without really looking properly.

“Who knows? We better tell Megan though. Shall we go over together? I’ll get breakfast and we can deliver the news. I’ll pick you up in half hour.”

“Ok sounds good.  See you soon.” I had a quick shower and threw on some clothes. Rebecca arrived just as I was putting my shoes on and I rushed out of the flat.

In the car Rebecca thrust her phone at me. “Dave, Phil, and Vicky have uploaded photos and Chloe is in most of them. This is so weird!” I scrolled through the photos and smiled as I looked at our former best mate. Chloe had a rare heart defect and had died two years ago. She’d always known about her condition and lived life to the full. She’d backpacked for 12 months, bungee jumped, swam with dolphins and her proudest achievement had been meeting Father Christmas in Lapland. She’d been quite ill for 6 months prior to her death and she was bitterly disappointed she wouldn’t reach her 30th birthday. She looked so happy in the photos but I wondered if it would upset anyone especially her mum who she’d been extremely close too.

As the day wore on we realised Chloe had photo bombed every single photo from the party. Some people thought it was morbid, others took great comfort from it, and her mum decided to visit a psychic. The local paper took up the story although I refused to be interviewed.
Over the next few weeks’ things returned to normal. I had been worried about taking more photos but Chloe did not show up in anymore. The existing photos had taken on a shimmer where she stood and looked faded but her smiling face was still clearly visible.

Rebecca was the next of our group to turn 30 and had decided that a small group would visit Dublin. On the short flight Rebecca asked me if she thought Chloe would appear. “I have no idea. It’s so strange. Maybe this time though we’ll sense her as we are prepared.”

“Wow! I hadn’t thought of that.” Rebecca said and turned away deep in thought. I looked out of the window relishing the calm before the madness of a boozy weekend and wondering if Chloe would join us.

Throughout the weekend no one sensed anything and although photos were checked almost obsessively Chloe did not appear. It was only once home that she made her appearance. Photo’s seemed to change and it looked like she was actually with us. Her arms were wrapped around us in several shots, she was doing bunny ears over Phil’s head smiling, and she was actually kissing Megan’s cheek in another. I couldn’t quite believe it.

Over the next few months. Chloe appeared in each of our 30th birthday pictures.  Instead of worrying we looked forward to seeing her. Her mum although sad loved seeing the photos and had become an honorary member of the 30th birthday gang. People offered all sorts of explanations ranging from camera glitches, group hallucinations or even that she wasn’t really dead. I have no explanation but have loved seeing my friend and hope she has enjoyed partying with us.

Emma xxx

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Monday, 17 October 2016

The anonymous blogger

Recently I've been thinking more about the anonymous bloggers.

I sometimes find it hard to engage with the parent bloggers whose profile picture is a logo & their Instagram is all children, day trips, food and the odd lower body clothes shot.

However I think maybe they have it right & I'm wrong.  Anonymity means you can write more freely. Talk about topics you might not want your mum or work colleague to read.

My posts are always honest but we all have a tendency to highlight the good bits. We photograph the smiles and successful play days not the days you are bored rigid and would happily lock yourself in the toilet for a few minutes peace.

I wanted my blog to be identifiable with personality and warmth. My humorous posts fit that description and do well.   But I feel sometimes I'm going through the blogging A-Z for post ideas. Day in the life, share a recipe, blog about a craft project. I love these things but it does feel a little average. Recently I've veered more towards sharing Northamptonshire events & this has gone well but means I can't participate in linkies so much as the posts won't appeal to the masses.

I have also read more about Facebook commenting groups which seem to be about cliques and Instagram accounts using 30 hashtags for optimum likes with a million filters &  absolutely nothing instant about it!  It all seems so engineered. Maybe that's what you need to do to be successful in the parent blogging community.

I've been happy with my growth apart from the annoyingly static Facebook but the more I read the more I don't seem to know. I'm not a techno wonder & have yet to schedule my tweets. I feel like a bit of a blogger fraud. I don't use Google analytics or Tweetdeck or understand SEO.(Google analytics is on my list to do though. I'm trying to go pro!)

I think I've gone off on a bit of a tangent but bare with me (OMG!!! I'm not sure which bare it is. bear/bare. I tried both neither look right.)

I love blogging for the creativity. I've conversed with some lovely people. Maybe I need to engage more (definitely felt more involved since joining a brilliant Facebook group UK parent bloggers). 

Writing & blogging can be a very solitary pursuit and maybe I need a tribe (oooh is that a proper blogger term). I love writing. I've actually dusted off some of my short stories and have begun to share. It was my first love.

Getting back to my original topic I do think some topics would be better written anonymously & the freedom must be so enlightening! To be able to have a proper rant or constructive bitch must be amazing.

Emma xxx

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Saturday, 15 October 2016

The Clown is in Town short story snippet

A while ago I wrote a story inspired by Point Horror which was my favourite teenage read.  It had the working title The Clown is in Town. It seems rather fitting with clowns being in the news to share a snippet. Although I clearly don't want to encourage killer clowns in the spirit of Halloween I thought I'd share. 

Here is the Prologue.  Be prepared to be scared! Ha Ha!!!


The party had been great.  I smiled and smoothed down the hem of my little red riding hood skirt remembering my brief flirtation with Riley Roberts. Oh my god that boy was fit.  I was so glad Shannon had convinced me to buy the outfit. I laughed to myself remembering the afternoon at the fancy dress shop. We’d gone to Mr Ben’s fancy dress shop after school and screamed with laughter trying on the different outfits.  I’d almost wet myself. We’d taken so many selfies and posted them to Instagram I’d felt like Kim Kardashian and never had so many comments.  Riley had commented on the link to my little red riding hood outfit which had instantly made that the outright winner although I’d had reservations.  My mum thought it was cute but my dad hadn’t been so impressed. It was a little on the short side and the corset top enhanced my waist making my modest chest look huge.  For a fancy dress outfit though the material was quite good and the cape was a brilliant cover up which had been required when Barry Marshall had perved all over me. Hearing some sort of bird hoot I was dragged back to reality and increased the pace of my walking.

I could kill Shannon. I glanced around anxiously, for the first time realising walking home by myself was probably not my greatest idea.  I should have just texted my mum for a lift. I pulled out my phone checking the time 11.47 pm my dad was going to go mental. My curfew was 11 pm and I was still a 10 minute walk from home. I was surprised he hadn’t called me. I checked my phone but I had no missed calls.  I’d hoped Riley might offer to walk me back as we live on the same estate but I knew my hopes were dashed once Chloe got her nails into him.  I can’t work out if he actually likes her.

Shannon is usually with me but was currently sucking the face of Sam Carter and I’d got fed up of waiting and left. I was also a little jealous.   Sam wasn’t my type although he was cute but I’d really hoped something more might have happened with Riley and I felt like a gooseberry.  Sam had said he’d make sure Shannon got home ok.  To be fair Shannon had offered to leave and we’d not actually agreed to go home together. Sam had convinced her to stay and she’d been easily swayed I thought grumpily.

I was just rounding the corner into the estate when I noticed a guy from the party.  It was the clown guy. The costume was wicked but slightly freaky. The clown mask had pointed teeth and the face was long making it look as though it was melted. The costume was brightly coloured and he had an afro wig on.  He even had long red shoes on which must have been a nightmare to walk in.  “Hey good party wasn’t it?” I said smiling.  He didn’t reply so I carried on.  “Do you live near here?” Still no answer.  I started to feel uneasy my heart rate increasing. Realising I didn’t actually know who was under the mask I began to walk faster. Why had I left without Shannon? Why hadn’t I just texted my mum or dad? They would have picked me up even though I’d be grounded for being late again.

I heard footsteps behind me so began to run.  I was nearly home it would be fine. Realising it was quiet again I looked behind me and no one was there. The clown guy obviously was just a jerk and wanted to freak me out.  I stopped slightly out of breath and looked around properly.  No one was in sight.  Bloody hell maybe I’d imagined it. I’d always had an active imagination and the late hour and sneaky vodka and redbull I’d drunk earlier had maybe left my brain supercharged. I sighed feeling stupid and felt my phone buzz.  A text message glowed in the gloom

Ring a ring a roses,

People will bring posies,

Bless you bless you,

As you fall down.

What the bloody hell did that mean?  I spun back round and the clown was inches from my face. I gasped as he raised something above his head. Thunk! Then nothing.
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Wednesday, 12 October 2016

My Crohn's Story

I have Crohn's disease and luckily have stayed in remission since my diagnosis 8 years ago.

I thought I would share my story to help any others suffering feel less alone and also to encourage anyone with symptoms to get checked out.  Its not the most glamourous disease and therefore people are a bit embarrassed to discuss it or get checked out.

For those who don't know Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) not to be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  Symptoms often include abdominal pain, diarrhea (which may be bloody if inflammation is severe), fever, fatigue and weight loss.  It is a chronic inflammatory disorder, in which the body's immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract causing all the stomach issues. 

I became ill in May 2008 when my daughter was 16 months old.  It started with stomach pains when I was eating. I'd get half way through lunch and bin it feeling full, uncomfortable and sometimes sick.  I visited my G.P who said it likely to be excessive stomach acid and gave me some tablets to try. Two weeks later I felt worse, had lost weight, had terrible stomach pains and had reoccurring diarrhea.

I went back to the G.P and it was then suggested I could be wheat intolerant. A blood test was taken for celiac disease. The test came back positive so I began a wheat free diet.  In 2008 gluten free bread was awful cardboard anyone? Unfortunately I got worse and was signed off work.  I had lost 1 1/2 stone and was weak and felt really low, was now anemic and suffering night sweats.

Another trip to the G.P and this time I took my partner and burst into tears.  Walking anywhere was a mission. Picking up my daughter was getting to be a huge effort and carrying her upstairs nearly impossible. I was tearful, tired and in pain.  My blood pressure was so low the G.P was surprised I hadn't fainted.  This time the G.P called our medical admissions unit at the hospital and I was admitted for tests.  As soon as a consultant read my history he suggested Crohn's. I'd never heard of it and he gave no information.  I had some tests an upper endoscopy, stool sample, blood tests, x ray and scans.  These proved inconclusive but I was told I was 100% not celiac so celebrated with a chicken wrap which instantly made me feel happily and then extremely ill. I was discharged with medication to treat Crohn's and a 2 page leaflet. I had steroids Prednisone and later Budesonide plus iron and calcium supplements. The steroids made me feel sick.  I was supposed to take them on a full stomach but couldn't eat. It was a vicious cycle. I was also totally paranoid about the moon face side effect.  I remember one of the few things I could eat were jelly sweets. Haribo kept me going.

As my tests had been inconclusive although steered me towards Crohn's and the tablets didn't seem to be helping a further test was ordered a Colonoscopy.  I had this on the 29th July 2008. I'd been ill for just under 3 months and lost 2 stone 4lbs in weight.  Thankfully these test gave me answers.  I had Crohn's. It was advanced but could be sorted. I was admitted to hospital again and given intravenous steroids and infliximab.  It was like a miracle.  By day 4 I felt human.  I could sit straighter and I ate my first full meal. The hospital food seemed heavenly. Not rushing to the toilet was amazing.  I stayed in hospital for 8 days and came out 5 lbs heavier and so much healthier.

I went back to work on reduced hours for a couple of weeks and then things went back to normal. For several years I had an infliximab infusions every 8 weeks at the hospital. It really was my wonder drug. About 18 months ago I was moved to azathioprine which is a daily tablet. I see my lovely consultant annually and so far (touch wood) I've been healthy. My last colonoscopy 2 years ago showed some active disease which I was surprised about but it just goes to show that the medication keeps it at bay.

I have very few photos from this time my album skips from 10th May 2008 to 26th July 2008 (A brief but much needed visit to my mum in Devon) and then 25th August 2008. I found the only photo I have of me to share.  It is weird to have no visual reference but camera phones weren't that common and in the grip of illness you don't really stop to take selfies.

I wanted to reassure anyone struggling that things will get better once your diagnosis is confirmed and you get the right medication for you. Things have progressed greatly since 2008 and the health professionals know more about the treatments required. I wish you the very best health and if you have any symptoms do get checked out.  For me my diagnosis was delayed due to my Celiac result.  I still test positive apparently I'm a medical anomaly!!!

For anyone having a colonoscopy I would 100% recommend sedation.  It's not the most pleasant experience but is the best at getting a diagnosis.

Take care

Emma xxx

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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Halloween themed days out to entertain the kids (Northamptonshire)

I love Halloween and also October half term. Here's some ideas for days out to keep the kids busy. There's a mixture of indoor and outdoor for all weather. Don't get too spooked!!!

Potz Ceramic Studio
The Causeway,Northampton,NN3 9EX
Potz Ceramic Studio
Halloween Party Friday 21st October 7pm until 9pm.  Children can dress up, paint a ceramic Halloween item and do a craft activity.  The pottery studio will be doing kiln baked jacket potatoes, cheese, beans or salad followed by monster doughnuts, pumpkin mallows and soft drinks.
They have space for 34 little monsters and it is £15 per child.

Riverside Hub
7 Carousel Way,Northampton, NN3 9HG
Riverside HubSaturday 29th October 6.30pm - 9pm
Your little monsters can have fun on all our fantastic play equipment, including electric go-karts, 10m high climbing tree, toddler village, sensory room etc.
There'll also be a special Spooky Halloween Disco and prizes will be awarded for the Best Fancy Dress Costumes.
Tickets for the Halloween Party are only £10 per child (plus a small booking fee) and adults are free!
(Laser tag is available at an additional cost of £2 per game or £5 for unlimited games).

Melton Spinney Road, Melton Mowbray,LE14 4SB
15th to 31st October
Family Halloween attractions (so suitable for the little ones). 20,000 FREE pumpkins  for kids to carve or paint. Win magnificent prizes plus wicked Halloween workshops including children's magical wand making and Halloween broomstick flying masterclass, meet and greet Marty the friendly Monster! and Fruti our forgetful Witch!! creepy Halloween competitions, children’s Halloween craft workshops and family trick & treat, children’s fancy-dress is optional but we love it when they do! Plus the all new Harry Potter workshop.

Gullivers Land
Livingstone Drive, Milton Keynes, MK15 0DT
Join the official Swizzels Trick and Treat Trail at Gulliver’s Theme Parks.
At each stop along the trail we’ll have spooky tricks and plenty of treats! Look out for different themes as you face some frightfully fun activities. Each trick performed earns you a sweet surprise.  Get your picture taken at each stage as you transform into some seriously scary characters, from a wicked witch to Pumpkin Peat.

West Lodge Rural Centre
Back Lane, Kettering, NN14 2SH
West Lodge Rural Centre
15th October to 31st October
Loads of spooky activities to keep you entertained. Pumpkin carving, Spooky walkway, Witch’s house tours, Spooky Tractor rides, Panto style ghost stories plus all of the usual farm activities.
Family ticket approx. £22 if booked online
Family = Any combination of 4 people, 1 must be an child

Castle Ashby
Northampton,NN7 1LQ
Castle Ashby
Pumpkin Hunt 22nd to 30th Oct 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Follow the trail around our gardens to find the hidden pumpkins, once found copy the face on the paper provided.  Find all the pumpkins to win a prize!
£2.50 per child (I think it is also £4 to park it was last year).

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Fireworks Displays Northamptonshire

Fireworks Display at Wicksteed Park
Kettering,NN15 6NJ
Wicksteed Park
Annual fireworks extravaganza Saturday 5th November.  Tickets are £5.
Gates open at 5pm and fireworks are at 8pm approx.  There will be a free family disco in the pavilion once the fireworks have finished and funfair at an additional cost.  Book tickets online. Click on the link.

Super Heroes Night at Duston Mill
NSB Fireworks
Northampton,NN5 4EG
Free parking.  Beer tent.  Hog Roast.  Live Music.  Come dressed as your favourite super hero.  7pm Guy Fawkes competition 7.30pm Bonfire Lit 8.15pm main display.
Tickets are £5 you can book online the pink link will take you to their website.

Fireworks at Silverstone
Silverstone Fireworks
Towcester, NN12 8TN
5th November. Bonfire lit at 5.15pm and fireworks at 6pm. £5 per adult and children 15 & under are free. Click on pink link above to book.

Parklands Community Annual Fireworks
Northampton, NN3 6DX
5th November.  Doors open at 5pm.  Fireworks 7pm. Fair rides,BBQ, outside bar. Free to enjoy donations welcome.

Boughton Bonfire Night
Boughton Pocket Park, Northampton
5th November 4.30 to 7pm.Food & drink will be sold.  £3.00 in advance or £4.50 on the gate.  Call 01604 842311 or email to book.

Hollowell Bonfire & Firework Night
Hollowell, NN6 8RN
5th November gates open at 5pm, bonfire at 7pm and fireworks at 7.30pm.  £1 per person including children. Fair, food and bar.

Northampton Borough Council Fireworks
Racecourse, Northampton
5th November from 2pm with a funfair, food and stalls.  Bonfire 6.30,fireworks at 7pm.  This is a free event.  This will be a popular one so plan your parking.

Hope there's an event near you and enjoy.  I'll have my son's ear defenders at the ready as he loves the fireworks but not the noise!

Emma xxx

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