Tuesday, 25 October 2016

A Spooky Movie Night In

Halloween Vampires

It's half term this week and I had vowed that I would take the week off work and make the most of my time with that gorgeous little man of mine. Of course the world often has other plans, and today was one of those days. I got swept into work this morning, I made the mistake of looking at one email and it was like a domino effect, before I knew it, it was 3pm and the day was gone. It needed to be done though, I have had so much work on recently (which is good as I have also had one of those months where the bills are never ending!), but I really didn't want to be doing it all while I finally had Leo off school.

Tonight I decided to make the evening extra special, it was something we had planned for half term anyway, but after he had a day of boredom I decided we deserved a fun filled evening and some quality time. Leo adores Halloween, and with it now literally around the corner I decided to decorate the living room, pop open a number of naughty but delicious treats, and wrap ourselves up in the sofa throw while we enjoyed Hocus Pocus! 

Halloween Movie Night HMV

Halloween Movie Night HMV

As soon as Leo saw me decorating the lounge he got pretty excited and asked me whether we were having a Halloween movie night, which of course we were. HMV very kindly sent us a movie night in box that included everything we need to have the perfect spooky film evening. It was so lovely to sit down in our brand new living room, light the candles (that were fittingly a skull and black tea lights!) and sit back in the glow.

Halloween Movie Night HMV

Halloween Movie Night HMV

I love any excuse to sit back and relax with Leo, I am the first to admit that I let life run away with me. I know it can't be helped but it just makes me feel so guilty, especially when he is on half term and I should be spending that time with him, not sat at the laptop. Then I think about it and I realise how lucky I actually am to be in the situation that I am in. Not everyone get's the opportunity to work from home, not everyone get's to be off over the half term week. Some parent's have to be in the office and finding childcare for their little one's while they earn the pennies. I have been there myself, I know exactly what it is like, but it still doesn't help ease the guilt.

Halloween Movie Night HMV

Halloween Movie Night HMV

Tonight really did make up for me having to pull an all day shift today though, and that smile on Leo's face made it all worth it. We have a fun rest of half term ready to go, a cinema trip, potential surprise visit to LEGOLAND and lot's of opportunities to see friends and family. I don't think he is going to begrudge me one working day out of the half term.

Leo is now tucked up in bed after a fun filled evening, now I just need to convince Luke to sit down with me and watch the Exorcist! Which just happens to be one of my all time favourite horror films!

Adding your mark to your new home

vintage living room

Over this weekend I finally managed to get some curtains up in the living room, this has been a dream of mine since I moved in back in August. Of course the weeks and months that have rolled by have  brought with them there very own challenges and obstacles that have meant the curtains have had to be put on hold. Now they are up I feel like I need to give myself a high five, but before I get too carried away I need to remember I still have a very long to do list...In the next few months I would love to get a big vintage mirror above the television. 

The next big item on my list is to get blinds in the Kitchen, the downstairs toilet and the upstairs bathroom. The downstairs toilet and bathroom especially feel like very clinical rooms, and there is not a lot going on in there at all, and this is something I really want to change. I want to start this transition by addressing the need for blinds, because by simply putting something bright and vibrant in the window, I can change the whole dynamic of the room.


The kitchen has splashes of colour, but is over all quite a tranquil room. This is what I want to change you see. I have in-visioned in my minds eye, a bright sunflower yellow in this window. I found the perfect match from VELUX BLINDS. People have said I am bonkers to opt for such a bright colour, but I have to say I completely disagree with them. Winter is well on the way, so I feel that it is important to welcome the warmer colours into my home. While it is cold and dark outside, I know that inside I will still be enjoying the brightness of the summer months. 

Modern Kitchen

Modern Kitchen

 I think a sunflower yellow would really make this room stand out, and I will be sticking with my gut instinct on this one. After all.... It's me who has to live here!

The downstairs bathroom is a small room with enough space for a toilet one end and a sink the other. It's absolutely perfect for Leo and I. Just the luxury of having a toilet downstairs is amazing, especially when you have guests over and you are aware that Leo has been upstairs and trashed the landing with a number of his toys. I definitely want to add some colour to this room, and I am feeling a warm Red would really do the trick. 

It's 4 magnolia walls, and at this moment in time I still haven't managed to get the other half to put the pictures up in this room. I really should try and get a sense of urgency on that! 

Monohrome Bathroom

The upstairs bathroom is pretty big and I have to admit that I have struggled in filling it. I am not complaining as it is nice to have a big enough bathroom to maneuver around, especially when it comes to taking a soak in the bath as I have become accustomed to in recent weeks. 

I love how the room is looking at the moment, and I have started to really put my mark on it over the past few days. I have a set of hurricane candles that I have now placed in the window, and I have even managed to get Luke putting up some of the pictures that I have put aside! 

Again with this room though, I feel that it needs some colour in the window. I want a bold colour to really stand out. It can't be patterned because the Chevron pattern of the shower curtain already makes a  fantastic statement piece. At this moment in time I am turn between a second Yellow or a Turquoise blind for this room.

I really did expect to be completely finished by now, in terms of sorting the house. That must have been a pretty naive dream. I still have so much to do, so much to sort, and still a million and one things to bring over from my parent's home. Of course until I have everything sorted and away, I don't really know where to begin with it all.

For now though I should definitely smile about what I have achieved in this time frame, and give myself that high five for getting this far! 

Getting Baby to Sleep - Fade Away Sleep Sounds

I only need to cast my mind back a few short years to when Leo was a baby and resisting sleep, it meant some long restless nights for me, usually on Twitter chatting with other parents all over the world who were faced with the same problem. A baby who did not want to go to sleep. 

Through those long sleepless nights, I remember finding a sense of comfort knowing that I wasn't alone in all of this. It wasn't just Leo who wasn't sleeping, there were other parent's with babies and young children in exactly the same boat as me. They were equally as sleepy, tired and grumpy as I was.

My mind can't help but wander back to 2 nights in particular. 2 nights that followed one after the other, and Leo would just not go to sleep. He spent 2 solid days and 2 solid nights screaming. I was at my wits end, I have never known tiredness like it in my life, and it just happened to be a time when Luke was away with work, meaning I didn't have any support to fall back on. I don't know how I finally managed to coarse him into sleep, but I know it involved a lot of cuddles and rocking. 

We have all been there, and we all know just how mentally draining it is to even attempt to function on little to no sleep. Sometimes it feels like they know what they are doing, like how it is almost a deliberate intention, a form of torture to get us where they want us. 

That is why over time, we the parents learn the secrets and tricks of how to obtain the perfect sleeping baby. White noise is always a popular choice, and I have to admit that we were big fans of the hair dryer back in Leo's day. I don't know what it was about this particular noise, but it was definitely a saving grace in this house.

Leo is 5 now, but those day's of very little sleep are still pivotal memories at the forefront of my mind. I recently heard about a rather incredible company - Fade Away Sleep Sounds (FASS) which provides professional recorded white noise, sounds for sleeping.  I  really wanted to share this with you all, because I know so many of you reading are going through today, exactly what I went through only a few short years ago.  

The company was founded by Kevin Hale back in 2008, only a few short years after himself and his wife discovered the benefits of white noise with their own children. Kevin says, “My wife and I had heard a little about white noise and how it could help babies, so we decided to try it on one particularly tough night when our fussy newborn refused to sleep. Amazingly we found that this inconsolable baby boy responded to the sound of the bath water running. After trying almost everything, it was the sound of the bathtub that calmed him right down.”

Kevin's personal experience went on to help family friends and their newborn a few years later. Kevin recorded and edited the same white noises that had helped his children for the family.  This was the very beginning of Fade Away Sleep Sounds!

You can find out more about Fade Away Sleep Sounds in the video below:

Today Fade Away Sleep Sounds has a number of different white noise options from nature, life and of course Baby Sleep Sounds! The transition from womb to the outside world can be a big transition, especially since they are so used to sleeping with the sound of the Mother's heartbeat, which can make sleeping in silence a very difficult thing for them to do.

The beautiful thing about FASS is that you can download the noise that works best for your baby or child to your computer, smart phone or tablet so that it is always on hand when you need it. This saves you dragging the hair dryer into the babies nursery and sitting there like a man person until your baby falls asleep...Then undoubtedly waking up as soon as you turn it off. The downloaded tracks slowly fade away, but it is done in such a way that you won't notice it even in the final 10 minutes of the track. This is great because it means that it doesn't just cut out resulting in a baby wide awake!

The website allows you  to listen to 30 seconds of each track on the website and full tracks on their YouTube Channel, this means you can find the perfect track that works for your little one before you commit to purchase. 

I wish I had known about this when Leo was younger as I have a feeling it would have been a God send for us. What it is important to remember through these harder times is that, they don't stay babies for very long at all. Pretty soon they are grown up 5 year old's who you need to raise from their beds for school each and every morning. 

The sleepless phase might be difficult and you may be wondering how on earth you will survive it, but you will. That much I am sure of.

Red Tractor: Lamb Mini Roast with Red Pesto Pasta

Lamb Mini Roast with Red Pesto Pasta
Week nights are especially busy for my little family, if it's not science club on a Monday or swimming lessons on a Friday, then we are busy doing our reading and spellings in preparation for the school week. We had Leo's first parent's evening of the year last night, and I managed to work myself up about it. I know it's not the most conventional thing to work yourself up about, but it makes me nervous to think about what the teacher is going to say, because I am so used to hearing about his set backs and I go in prepared to hear all about what he can't do. After the unnecessary worry, it was nice to hear that although he wasn't where all the other children are, he's doing well, he's a joy to have in the classroom and she loves that he gives everything a try!

When we have nights like this where we will be running around into the evening, I always like to have a fuss free dinner ready to go when we get home. Last night we decided to cook a Lamb Mini Roast. I don't usually cook Lamb so I thought it would make a nice change. It can be difficult at times because Leo is such a fussy eater, and the mention of a roast dinner is enough for him to give me the evils.

Lamb Mini Roast with Red Pesto Pasta

 With that in mind we decided to cook up an alternative kind of roast: A Lamb Mini Roast with Red Pesto Pasta. The recipe is from Red Tractor, who I am sure you are all familiar with. All Beef and Lamb carrying the Red Tractor logo can be traced back to the farms and the livestock that it came from. I like this as I rest easier knowing where my food has come from, and I like to know that I am feeding my family good quality meat.
Red Tractor
The Red Tractor logo means that we know that the suppliers who are producing the Beef and Lamb meet comprehensive standards that cover hygiene, safety, environmental protection and animal welfare at each and every stage from the farm to our forks.

My partner and I love Pesto, and although Leo turns his nose up at Green Pesto (because apparently it's green and slimey), we thought that we might have a fighting chance with the Red Pesto. Not to mention the Mini Roast being disguised along with the pasta, one of Leo's staple foods in life. Before I go full steam ahead with this post, I should probably explain what Leo dislikes about a traditional roast, and that is the amount of vegetables that accompany it. Leo dislikes Carrots, Peas, Brussels Sprouts and just about any other veggie you might care to mention. 

Lamb Mini Roast with Red Pesto Pasta

The joy about cooking up a Mini Roast is that it's quick and easy to prepare, you stick it in the oven and can go about getting other jobs done before you get swept away with the rest of the evening and Leo's bedtime creeps up on you. 

I set the temperature for the oven, seasoned the meat and put it into bake. While dinner was being cooked with the most minimal intervention from myself. I set a timer on my phone for 40 minutes, took Leo upstairs for his bath, got him into his pajamas and then came back to the kitchen to prepare the ingredients for the pasta while the roast finished up.

Lamb Mini Roast with Red Pesto Pasta

Red Pesto Pasta

Red Pesto Pasta

I always use whole wheat pasta if I am cooking for myself, and I don't eat pasta very often these days, so this alone was a huge treat for me. I threw in pine nuts, chopped cherry tomatoes and a generous amount of spinach. The beauty of Spinach is that you can pretty much add an entire bag and it wilts down to nothing, it's packed full of Vitamins, Antioxidants and is a great source of vitamins A, B2, C and K. 

Now I can get Leo to drink a green smoothie, but presenting it in his dinner is a first for me... Suffice to say he ate around that, the cherry tomatoes and the pine nuts. However he did eat the Pasta in the Red Pesto. He even gave the Lamb a try (thanks to it not looking like a conventional roast!), he did think it was Chicken though, that boy thinks everything is Chicken...

Lamb Mini Roast with Red Pesto Pasta

Daddy and I made up a smaller plate for Leo, and between the 3 of us we ate the entire Mini Roast. I would say it could easily feed 4 people (2 adults, 2 Children), and it was absolutely delicious. Luke even went as far to say that it was one of the best Lamb Roasts that he has ever eaten (which I am going to take as a compliment as that man loves a roast dinner!). 

I am taking this meal as a win, a big family win!

For everything you need to know about beef and lamb, more recipe ideas and information about Red Tractor beef and lamb, please visit www.simplybeefandlamb.co.uk

Lamb Mini Roast with Red Pesto Pasta

Lamb Mini Roast with Red Pesto
  Serves 2-3

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 35-40 minutes (for medium)

1 x 400-450g/14oz-1lb lean lamb mini roast
Salt and freshly milled black pepper
15-30ml/1-2tbsp prepared red pesto
 For the Pasta:
175g/6oz pasta shapes
30ml/2tbsp prepared red pesto
100g/4oz cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful baby spinach leaves
25g/1oz pinenuts, toasted
Freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish

Red Tractor Lamb Mini Roast with Red Pesto Pasta


  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark -5, 190°C, 375°F.

  1. Place the mini roast joint on a chopping board and make several slits over the surface and season.  Spread with the prepared pesto.

  1. Transfer to a foil-lined metal rack in a roasting tin and roast and roast for 35-40 minutes. Cover with foil if browning too quickly.

  1. Transfer the lamb to a warm plate; lightly cover with foil and leave to rest for 5-10 minutes, 20 minutes if time allows. 

  1. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, drain and return the pasta to the pan. Add the remaining pasta ingredients.

  1. Slice the lamb and serve with the pasta.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Pests in the UK: Do You Live In a 'Danger Zone'?

Pests in the UK

While no one likes to come across a household pest, if you live in certain parts of the UK you could be more at risk of unwanted visitors than others. An incredible 14,812 cases of rat infestations were recorded in Birmingham over a period of one year, with 4,669 cases of wasps in North Lanarkshire.

The report, which was put together by the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), makes for unpleasant reading with officials warning figures have risen after councils cut free pest control services. So how do you know if you live in a danger zone?

The Midlands

According to the report published in 2015, Birmingham had the highest number of rat exterminations during 2013-2014 - more than any other UK city. The BPCA warns that if an infestation of a pest ‘isn’t dealt with quickly and professionally, it’s likely to spread with the problem being much more expensive, carrying a greater risk to public health.’

One effective way to deal with rodents (whether mice or rats) is to put down a trap. Snap traps are an inexpensive option that has been effectively handling rodent infestations for decades. These days you can also opt for electric traps, which deliver a high voltage shock to eliminate pests quickly and humanely. Ultimately, the best control method depends on the size of your infestation.

The North East

Newcastle had one of the highest numbers in the UK for pest problems. Five per cent of people living in Tyneside were recorded to have had problems with rats, along with cockroaches, wasps and other invasive pests.

The North West

Knowsley in Merseyside was among the top 20 worst places for pest infestations in the report with 3.4 per cent of people calling out exterminators.


Recorded as the worst for ant invasions, there were 1,990 cases in Fife. Scotland has seen an explosion in the ant population over a period of four years, with a large increase in the number of call outs. The most common species of ant that invades homes is the Black Garden Ant, which is actually a very dark brown. It goes in search of sweet foodstuffs to take back to its nest to feed the rest of the colony. To prevent a problem with ants, keep food well-sealed, particularly sweet foods like honey, jam, sugar and juice drinks.


This is said to be the most rat-infested country in the UK, with among the highest number of call-outs reported from Blaenau Gwent, Rhondda-Cynon-Taff and Merthyr Tydfil.


In the city, 4.9 per cent of people reported pest problems with Southwark alone reporting 1,820 cases of bedbugs, 1,086 cases of cockroaches and 5,250 cases of mice.


You could be in one of the safer areas if you live in the East. The most pest free place was found to be Southend, Essex, with just 0.03 per cent of homeowners reporting a problem with pests.

While rats and cockroaches are usually more common in larger cities, the BPCA says that localised reasons can cause a pest problem, such as the climate. In the case of wasps, the population explosion in Scotland came after a previously wet summer which killed off a lot of the UK’s wasps. The main message is that it is important to deal quickly with an issue if you spot a pest to prevent the problem becoming a crisis. 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Win a Rattan Direct Table Set!

I am finding it hard to let go of the Summer months, but at the same time I can't help but admire the beauty that is Autumn. There's one tree on the way to Leo's school that is just illuminated with the most stunning Red and Orange leaves. I keep meaning to pull the car over and snap a photo, but I am usually running late in a morning, and on the way back you don't get to appreciate just how visually beautiful it is. 

I took Lux out for a walk yesterday and got some gorgeous shots of him with the vibrant Autumn back drop.

Dalmatian Puppy in Autumn

Dalmatian Puppy in Autumn

Everywhere you look you can see that the seasons are on the change, leaves floating down from their tree top perch, the chill in the air and the arrival of an additional coat layer. Just because it's getting colder though, it doesn't mean that we should bid farewell to our gardens quite yet though, in fact when you hear what I am about to say, you might suddenly feel the urge to go out into the garden!

The new Rattan Direct competition invites you to go outside into your garden and take some snaps of the wildlife that you might find out there. The winning snap will win a Rio (Armed) 4 chairs and a Open Leg Square Table Set! How amazing would that be for a  relaxing sit down, with a coffee in the Autumn sunshine after a busy day gardening?

Rattan Direct Rio Table Set

 The rules are simple and all you need to do is take a picture of the wildlife that comes into your garden. You could have a friendly fox or some cheeky squirrels! Just grab a great shot and submit it.

When the competition closes on the 30th October 2016, Rattan Direct will select the very best pictures and create a poll so that the public can choose their favorite photo from the selection. The poll will be live over on their blog and Facebook page.

Once the winner has been chosen the announcement will be made through the Rattan Direct Social Media Channels, so make sure you stay vigilant and see if you have taken the winning snap!

You can enter the Rattan Direct Competition HERE on their website. Simply fill out the application form, attach your photo and submit it. 

Good luck to everyone who enters and I look forward to having a look at the top photos and casting my vote!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Halloween Etiquette

I actually have a child who wants to go out Trick or Treating on my hands. Like seriously... When did that happen!? It's funny because I always knew it was going to happen, he loves Halloween just as much as I did (or still do) as a child. I adored going out dressed head to toe as the scariest creation that I could find, so of course he want's to do it too. 

It's weird though, because I never expected for it to be a worry for me. It's an unwritten law that a child get's to trick or treat right? I just worry because it is a different world now. People are less tolerant of children knocking on doors. Who's doors are they actually knocking on? 

I obviously won't be letting Leo go out on his own, I will be there supervising and making sure that he is ok and keeping a very watchful eye, but even then I feel slightly wary about it all. 

With this in mind I have been thinking long and hard about Halloween etiquette. What are the rules for trick or treating? 

Bright Horizons day care in Fulham have shared this very helpful infographic with some great advice that is a great rule of thumb to follow this Hallows Eve.