A Week on Instagram #6

What a week!! It has been absolutely insane. On Wednesday I went on a school trip with year two to Dudley Zoo, and it was so, so hot. Thursday saw me going on a coach down to Weston Super Mare with year one. Thankfully, it was a bit cooler, but three hours each way on a coach with 40-odd 6-year-olds wasn’t exactly my idea of fun. The children enjoyed it however, and that is the main thing.

Saturday was the absolute highlight of our week though – it was Harrison’s 5th birthday. We had promised him a small party, which although there were only 9 children, it ended up wiping us out for the weekend. Sunday, and the beginning of this week have passed us by in a blur, with me having a rather nasty viral infection and bug.

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Hey Duggee Talking Soft Toy Review

Alex and Benjamin (and I suspect Harrison as well!) are big fans of Hey Duggee. For those of you who might not have heard of it before, Hey Duggee is a children’s TV show based around an after school club where Duggee is the leader. Like Beavers, the children have to complete tasks in order to earn badges.

The boys were absolutely thrilled when we were sent out a Hey Duggee Talking Soft Toy, wich is aimed at children aged 10 months and over.

Hey Duggee Review | www.parenthoodhighsandlows.com

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Jungle Binoculars #BostikBlogger

Easy Jungle Binoculars for kids | www.parenthoodhighsandlows.com

Whenever we go to visit my nan, the first thing Harrison and Alex do is head straight for the cupboard where my nan keeps a pair of binoculars. They love looking through them and playing explorers, so when our latest Bostik Box came with a theme of’ ‘jungles’, I knew exactly what we would make: jungle binoculars!

We were a bit short on time this month, and this craft literally took us a few minutes with minimal supplies. You can spend much longer on them, but for something quick, easy and fun, this is perfect.

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Win Star Wars Disney Infinity 3.0 Toys!

We are huge fans of Disney in this house, and the boys absolutely love it when they are allowed to use ‘mommy’s ‘puta’ to have a play on the Disney Games Website.

There are loads of free online games from all their favourite Disney shows and movies, from Cars and Frozen, to Inside Out and Big Hero 6. I’m very fussy about what I let the kids play, but because they need to use all sorts of skills in these games, I have no problem allowing them to spend half an hour or so on the website.

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5 money-saving tricks every homeowner should know

There’s no getting around the fact that the cost of running a house can be high. What with the mortgage, general upkeep, food and energy bills to pay for, you can end up spending a small fortune every month. The good news is that there are plenty of ways you can lower your spending at home and have some spare cash left over. Ready to start saving? Here are five tricks every homeowner should know:

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Father’s Day Gifts from House of Fraser

This time of year is always a bit manic – and expensive – for us. Not only is it Harrison’s birthday and our anniversary, but it’s also Father’s Day. Every year I seem to spend ages looking for the perfect present for my dad, and for Graham from the kids.

With so much going on this year, I haven’t had chance to browse the internet, but luckily, House of Fraser has come to the rescue with their suggestions for Father’s Day gift ideas.  From shirts and cufflinks, to gift experiences and glasses, there is something for all sorts of budgets and tastes.

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A Week on Instagram #5

I haven’t done one of these posts for a few weeks. If I’m honest, I fell out of love with Instagram for a bit. I was constantly getting spammed by Juice Plus and It Works (you know, those really naff wraps that apparently make you lose loads of weight) on there, and I couldn’t be bothered with it for a while.

I’m back using it again now, and whilst not as active on there as I have been, I’ve been trying to post once a day or so, so here’s a little round-up of the last week (well, week and a bit!) on there.

Little House of Science

One of my favourite lessons to teach when I was working as a primary school teacher. Children are naturally very curious about the world around them, and science explains it all.  It’s all the best subject for getting really hands on and practical with. Unfortunately, with less and less time available in school timetables, there’s less time to get really stuck it, and explore concepts to the depth that they need.

That’s where the Little House of Science comes in. Founded in 2014 by three women in London, the vision of the company is to create a safe and fun environment for children to get involved in project based, hands on learning. You can view some class videos via their YouTube channel. With great STEM based term topics and holiday workshops, such as volcanoes, DNA, lessons on the brain, trees, robotics, children will be able to learn, explore and have fun!

Little House of Science | www.parenthoodhighsandlows.com

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A Family Weekend #MySundayPhoto

We are a very close family and we all get together at my parent’s house quite a lot. But with everyone working, and throw in three dogs, it’s very hard for all of us to be able to go out together.

Bank holiday weekend was a lovely, very family orientated couple of days. On Saturday evening, we went to my parents to have a few drinks to celebrate my dad’s birthday. The kids love this – they end up being the centre of attention and they know they end up with a sneaky glass of lemonade and some late night crisps if they’re good! On Sunday, my mum did an afternoon tea for us all. There were sandwiches, salads, cheesecakes, muffins, scones – all homemade. There was so much food! I never thought I would be defeated by cake, but Sunday was a first! Continue reading

I’m going to #BML16!

Three weeks today is an event that I have been looking forward to all year -BML16. It used to be called BritMums Live, and it’s big blogging conference that I ‘ve wanted to go to since I started blogging. I’ve never been confident enough to go, but this year, I’ve finally realised that’s a bit daft, and I’ve got a ticket. It is only because of my wonderful sponsor, Childcare.co.uk, that I’m able to go.

I’m so, so, SO excited, and all my family are probably fed up of me talking about it. I’ve been to a few blogging conferences before, but absolutely nothing on this level. I’ve got a few very close blogging buddies that I can’t wait to meet up with, and I know that I won’t be walking around like a billy no-mates, which makes me less nervous. I’m also really looking forward to spending my first night away in a hotel by myself – hot uninterrupted bath, a doubled bed to myself and a lie in!!!

BritMums have put together a linky for everyone who is attending as a sort of ice breaker, so here goes…

My name: Rachel

My blog: Parenthood Highs and Lows. It’s a parenting and lifestyle blog, and although I hate the name of it (no idea how I came up with that one, but it’s stuck now!), it’s my 4th baby.

Find me on social media: I’m on them all – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

How I look: Tall, overweight, long brown hair (although I’m hoping it will be blonde-ish by then!) and blue eyes.

Is this my first blogging event? Nope. I’ve been to blog camp twice, and I went to Blogfest and Funfest last year. I’m a Britmums virgin though, so have absolutely no idea what to expect!

I’ll be wearing: Depending on the weather, either this dress (not with the heels though!) or leggings and a long top.

Summer style - cut out back floral print midi dress from JD Williams | www.aprenthoodhighsandlows.com

What I hope to gain from BML16: To be honest, my main reason for going is to meet up with other bloggers, but I’m really looking forward to most of the sessions – just need to work out which ones I’m going to!

My tips for a great conference: 

  • Dress comfortably
  • Remember everyone is probably as nervous as you
  • Don’t be afraid to approach people
  • Drink wine!

Oskar and Ellen Soft Gardening Set Giveaway!

This week we have been busy tidying up the garden, making it ready for Harrison’s birthday party and the summer. The kids have got involved as much as possible, but because we don’t really have any plants or flowers in the garden, there wasn’t the opportunity for them to do a lot.

That’s why I love toys like this soft gardening set by Oskar and Ellen from Born Gifted. I’ve written before about how much I love toys that encourage role play, and this one, as well as many of the other toys on the website, are perfect for encouraging children to use their imagination. This one does only come in pink, but hey, it’s just a colour, right?

Oskar and Ellen

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What’s on my desk?

Working from home means I can work pretty much anywhere I want to. If I want to sit in bed in my PJ’s, I can. If I want to lie on the sofa with my feet up, I can. I do like being comfy, but I am much more productive when I am sitting at my desk. I feel more like I’m ‘at work’, and am less likely to get distracted by the TV or social media. In an ideal world, I would have a separate room to work in, but that’s just not possible. Instead, I’ve had to compromise and put a desk in the top corner of the living room.

What's on my desk? | www.parenthoodhighsandlows.com

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Interplay Bug Safari

Interplay Bug Safari - perfect for kids to explore and learn more about bugs.

Our boys love hunting for bugs and often bring me little pots from their toy kitchen box with ladybirds, caterpillars and all sorts of weird and wonderful little creatures in. To have a proper kit that helps them capture and examine bugs carefully is like a dream come true to them!

The Interplay Bug Safari is aimed at children over 5, but with a bit of support, Alex and Harrison have had lots of fun. The kit contains a field lens, bug tongs, magnifying pot, tweezers, paint brush and a really comprehensive information booklet.

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Summer Style with JD Williams

This summer is going to be really, really busy and really exciting for me. I have christenings, two weddings, Harrison’s birthday and his party and BML16, all in the space of about six weeks. I’m really looking forward to it, but I have to admit that I’ve also been dreading it.

All these things require some effort with appearance, and whilst I love getting dressed up, being ‘plus sized’ , I find it difficult to find outfits that are both comfortable and flattering. When JD Williams got in touch and asked me if I wanted to review one of the summer dresses from their website and a pair of sandals, I prayed that it would be the outfit that I needed for all of these events!

Summer style - cut out back floral print midi dress from JD Williams | www.aprenthoodhighsandlows.com

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Exploring Nature #MySundayPhoto

We woke up last Sunday to find the sun was shining. Before the forecasted rain came across, we jumped in the car and headed to the park to feed the ducks, wich we haven’t done for a while. It was a lovely couple of hours out, and we even bumped into my brother who was walking his dog with his friends.

The kids were really excited to find this recently cut tree stump and were fascinated by the patterns on it and all of the insects that had made their home in it. We tried to work out how old the tree was by counting the rings, but we didn’t really have a clue what we were doing!

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Blog Camp 2016

Last weekend, alongside many other bloggers, I attended Blog Camp. Blog Camp is a free blogging event held by Flea Enterprises, which includes Tots 100 (the parent bloggers) Foodies 100 (the food bloggers) and Hibs 100 (the lifestyle and interior bloggers). This year, the event was sponsored by The Wood Window Alliance.

I went to this event last year, and had a brilliant time, so I was really looking forward to it. Unlike last year, I wasn’t nervous in the slightest – I just couldn’t wait to meet up with some of my blogging friends and learn new things to help me to improve my blog. I barely took any photos though – we were having so much fun I completely forgot!

I met up with Zara from Mojo Blogs and Nikki from Keeping Strong and Moving Forward at Birmingham’s Grand Central – even though I’m a Brummie, it was the first time I had been there. We made our way to The Studio, where the event was being held. After finding our badges, we headed to the main seating area to grab a pastry or two and the first of many, many coffees!!

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Degustabox Review May 2016

For a long time I have been reading reviews by other bloggers of the Degustabox, and always thought they sounded great. I’m really pleased that we have now been given the opportunity to try them out for themselves.

If you haven’t heard of Degustabox, they’re a food and drink subscription service. For just £12.99 a month, you get a box of carefully selected products delivered directly to your door. It’s a great way to try out new brands and products that you might not normally go for, and let’s face it, getting a surprise is always fun!

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Would the Midlands Survive a Zombie Invasion?

eBay have conducted a Midlands survey where it was revealed that most people believed a zombie invasion was more likely to happen than Leicester winning the Premiership! Now that Leicester has actually won it, we should all probably start being prepared for an invasion!

So, what did they find out?

  • The first thing we would reach for is our smartphones, followed by our trainers –  presumably for a swift getaway.
  • Birmingham, Nottingham, Leicester, Warwick and Wolverhampton were named as the best spots to hide out, with Solihull, Northampton and Lincoln being dubbed as the most ill-equipped.
  • Jamie Varney, Wayne Rooney and Peter Crouch are the top three footballers we would want on our team facing the walking dead.
  • Manchester United was voted as the best-equipped team to survive the apocalypse.
  • 40% of Brits would splurge out on a boat or a top of the range sports car to flee the Zombie hordes.
  • A quarter of Brits would barricade their front door and use a stash of golf balls to jeep the zombies at bay.
  • 16% would grab an encyclopedia on their way out to help reestablish civilisation when the apocalypse blows over.
  • Most Midlanders think that a zombie invasion would be caused by a decrease in brain activity caused by watching too many reality TV shows.
  • A fifth of the Midlands believe we could survive less than a week in the aftermath, but a further 20% were more optimistic, saying they would last over a year.

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Bathing Bunnies Review and Giveaway

All three of our boys are proper little water babies. We don’t have a bath anymore, but in our old house, they would spend a happy half an hour most evenings splashing about in the bath. These days, it’s more of a quick shower, but they all enjoy being in there. In fact, we have more of a problem getting them out than anything else – let’s face it, who does like getting out of a nice warm shower or bath into the cool air?

However, they (well, Alex and Ben!) have this gorgeous snuggly toddler towel from Bathing Bunnies to keep them warm once they get out. Available in four adorable designs, these hooded towels are super absorbent and are made of 100% cotton terry towelling, so even after being washed they stay soft.

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TOAD Diaries Review and Giveaway

Very recently, I mentioned that I was going to have a look at starting bullet journaling. I’ve been doing it for a couple of weeks or so now, and whilst I wasn’t sure to begin with whether it was just another form of procrastination, I’m really enjoying doing it and it is making me a little more organised and productive.

If you want to read more about exactly what bullet journaling is, have a look at the ‘official’  bullet journal website here , but in a nutshell…it’s a DIY planner, diary, organiser, tracker, to do list…basically anything you want it to be.

There are some hardcore bullet journal junkies out there, who live their lives by their ‘bujos’ (I hate that word!) and spend a long time making them looking beautiful – and believe me, on Pinterest and Instagram there are some stunning ones. I don’t do this though – I could easily spend hours prettifying it, but that kind of defeats the object for me. I want to use it to help me use what little time I do have more productively. My only concession to making it pretty is using the odd bit of washi tape. Mine is definitely more functional.

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I don’t use mine as a planner or a diary as such either – for that I have my Paperchase planner. I use my bullet journal as a kind of glorified to-do list and record keeper. If I write lists on paper, I tend to lose them, and as I find good old paper and pen easier to use than spreadsheets and online organisers, keeping it all in one place kind of makes sense.

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How to get children to love writing

Getting children to love writing from an early age is important, especially with such constrained school timetables. Find out how you can help children discover a passion for writing.

It’s pretty obvious that I love writing. I wouldn’t be a blogger and a freelance writer if I didn’t! Admittedly, a lot of my writing is straight onto a computer these days, but I still sit and physically write as much as possible. I draft the majority of my posts in a notebook first, and am always scribbling things down on post-it notes and in my planner – any excuse to use pretty stationery really!

I think it is really important to get children to love writing from as early an age as possible. When they get to school, writing becomes something that is squashed into a space in a timetable, and whilst schools do their best, it’s more of a case of practising writing rather than ‘just’ writing. Being able to sit and write creatively, about absolutely anything you want is a bit of a luxury that isn’t usually possible in a constrained school timetable.

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Cider and Pizza at The Stable, Birmingham

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a cider and pizza event at The Stable, in Birmingham.  It’s only been open since November, and prides itself on using local produce for its pizzas and pies, and local cider suppliers.

The Stable Birmingham | www.parenthoodhghsandlows.com

We were greeted with a glass of Devon Red cider, which was very much appreciated on the hottest day of the year so far, and sat chatting and admiring the interior – think exposed brickwork, long wooden benches and neon signs!

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The Mummy Tag

I was tagged by the beautiful Louise at Birds and Lilies to complete ‘The Mummy Tag’ so you can find out a little (or a lot!) more about me.

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1. Are you a Stay at Home Mum or a Working Mum?

Both! My main job is working from home, doing my blogging and my freelance writing, but at the moment, I also have a part-time job at Harrison’s school. I’m working as a teaching assistant, just for fifteen hours a week. I kind of wanted to test the waters a little bit and find out how I felt about working in schools again. As much as I enjoy it, I have realised that for now, I want to carry on working for myself so I can be at home with the kids. My contract ends at the end of the school year, so will be back to full-time blogging and writing.

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