Mens fashion dilemas solved

Men’s Winter Fashion

The sun has shut up shop for the year and the cold has firmly settled in. How long it will stay for, only time will tell, but investing in some cosy clothing to take you through the dark, icy months is highly advisable. If you’re bored of hoodies and boring jumpers then take a look at this list of the newest and most fun ways to keep warm this winter.

Onesies

Ok, so it may be a bit weird to head outdoors in one of these pyjama-esque get ups, but the onesie has risen to prominence in the past couple of years for good reason. Nothing beats the snug feeling of an all in one set made of warm fabrics and often featuring a hood for extra insulation. Zip up to the top and you’ll soon find that you are climbing into your onesie every time you walk through the door! A onesie without feet is advisable so you can match it with your favourite pair of slippers for the ultimate comfort plus warmth combination.

Novelty Christmas Jumper

A normal looking jumper with a humongous print of santa, a polar bear or some reindeer on has somehow wormed its way from unbearably lame to so-lame-it’s-cool and there are a huge selection of really warm jumpers like this around this year. Whatever ridiculous picture you choose to wear across your chest, you can be sure of a warm winter and also show that you’re game for poking a bit of ever-so-ironic fun at yourself. These jumpers may not be much use outside of Christmas time, but they are good fun and will be available to you during one of the coldest spells of the year. Whether you want to be seen in public with yours or are content to let your family get a few laughs at it over your Christmas dinner is up to you!

Cardigans

Another fashion item that has suffered being labeled as terminally un-cool, the knitted cardigan has risen to a fashionable standing that the novelty jumper can never match. These are considered genuinely cool now and cardigans from George at ASDA offer huge varieties of colour and style to the fashion-conscious cold person. They really are cosy too, with a good knit giving that weighty quality feel that insulates you fantastically during cold weather.

Trapper Hat

Keeping your body warm is all well and good, but being out and about with cold ears can be extremely unpleasant. A good hat will sort this out and the undoubted coolest option at the moment is a good trucker-style trapper hat. Big amounts of fur lining with pads that go over your ears will mean you can say goodbye to hearing-wrecking chills and cold necks with one garment – smart!

 

Keeping up with the cold and keeping up with fashion doesn’t have to be hard. These items will keep you looking fresh while enabling you to keep the feeling back in your extremities – just make sure you grab yours before you get snowed in somewhere!

Some dream toys for 2013

Christmas is coming and there are just some things that each year become must-haves for the festive season. The Toy Retailer’s Association have come up with a dream list for 2013 and we’ve been trying a couple out.  

In our family Christmas means board games – lots of board games! So in the lead up to the official opening of the games cupboard we’ve been playing the new Monopoly Brand edition.

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It’s like a supercharged version of the original with all the great bits you love and some fab added extras. We played with my mum and dad which is always a gamble as dad is possibly the most competitive man I know. I say man because I happen to be the most competitive woman I now!

Monopoly is a game to get you thinking and making decisions.  It’s time less and this one is no exception. It’s the classic fast-trading property game with a brand new twist! Initially mum and dad were a little dubious as this is new full-throttle consumerism with no go to jail card! Every time you pass GO, you collect the current value of your tower, so every brand you buy makes you richer!  

I soon became a little obsessed with getting richer and richer – I was capitalism at its finest. We were all really engrossed and there was something extra special about recognising all those iconic brands and taking control.

monopoly-empire-2Game Includes: game board, 4 Towers, 6 Tokens, 30 Billboard Tiles, 6 Office Tiles, 14 Chance Cards, 14 Empire Cards, Money Pack, 2 Dice and Game Guide

 This game yes is all about today’s brands like McDonald’s, Coke, Hasbro.  The game also is so much shorter than a regular game and felt fast-paced. Sometimes I found the original game a little boring and it went on for hours.  To win all you have to do buy up the little tiles (properties) to fill up your tower.  No cards to collect, just buy the tiles and and fill your tower.

Just like the classic Monopoly you roll the dice and go around the board game.  There is no trading of pieces either but there are Monopoly and chance cards you can pick up and that allows you take tiles away from other players. 

It’s a much more family-friendly version because the games are shorter and while Arthur at two-and-a-half is much too young, I would say it’s suitable for eight-year-olds.We got a bit confused while we were finding our feet but once we got in the swing it was a great game and I genuinely enjoyed it.

 I’ll definitely be bringing it out again over Christmas – it will be taking pride of place in the games cupboard!

Introducing… Robo Fish

Robo Fish is another toy from the Toy Retailer’s Association ‘Dream Toys’ list for 2013. You can find the full list of Dream Toys here at Argos.

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When we go to our local garden centre Arthur is obsessed with watching the fish in the pet section – he’s literally mesmerised. I’m not a huge fish lover – they’re not exactly thrilling are they?! So it was great to get a Robo Fish toy to play with, a perfect alternative to a real fish and no tank to clean!

 

These little intelligent techno toys are amazing. They replicate the natural movement of fish and as soon as we put it in the water Arthur thought it was fab.

He did take it in and out of the water quite a bit (good job it wasn’t real) but soon realised that it only worked once immersed. It’s so simple, you just fill the bowl and pop the fish in. I must admit I was pretty impressed with it and the three of us sat and watched it for quite a while – in a slightly hypnotic state!.

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Our Robo Fish, named ‘poo poo’ by Arthur, came complete with batteries (plus spares) so he was really simple to set up. As a parent  that ticks a big box and means you’re not scrabbling around hunting for batteries.There is no on button or remote control, it just has these rather clever sensors, so when put in water he reacts and swims, when he is taken out of water and dries off he stops moving.

It’s a really simple concept with great technology and enough to grab the attention of a toddler – plus it’s much easier than a real fish and the cats didn’t eat it!

*This post is in association with Argos

Road trip with the children – yes you can!

Roads trips – the preserve of the youth, or at least those without children, right? Wrong – you just need to make a few changes, tweak a few routes and off you go, children in tow!

So, if  you’re planning a family road trip, you might wonder what you can do to keep the kids entertained without it coming at your expense. It’s all about choosing the right route for your trip – one that has plenty of attractions and sights along the way, not to mention amazing roads which are easy on the eye from start to finish.

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Here’s'a little journey through some of the best family-friendly routes with some stop-offs sure to keep the little people amused.

Down along the Danube

A good route the whole family can enjoy takes in three of Europe’s most aesthetically pleasing capital cities – Vienna in Austria, Prague in the Czech Republic and Budapest in Hungary. All three are close to the river Danube, one of Europe’s longest, while each city shares characteristics such as Gothic-era architecture, homely cuisine and a raft of well-preserved cultural venues.

The route begins in Prague, which has plenty to offer for visitors young and old. You can start your week-long Central European trip by dining at the Choco Café, a family-friendly restaurant near the Old Town Square serving hot chocolate as well as lunchtime staples like Panini. The Holiday Market in Startomestske Namesti in the medieval district is a good place to spend the afternoon.

Exploring the rest of the square is something else you can do over the rest of the day. On day two, you might like to visit St Vitus’s Cathedral, one of the largest in the region and other landmarks like the Old Royal Palace. Golden Lane is another place you might like to walk down – the houses are like something out of a fairy-tale!

Viennese delight

After leaving Prague on the third day, you can visit Vienna. On arrival, you should try and visit a restaurant which serves Wiener schnitzel, the national dish of Austria in the evening – a breaded meat cutlet.  Day five should consist of visits to Viennese landmarks including the Belvedere Palace, the Museums Quartier and, in the evening, a trip to the Christmas Market!

Many of Vienna’s greatest experiences are only accessible by car, the majority of roads throughout are well-treated both in urban and rural environments. 

“It’s a fact that driving around Vienna is very popular as many of the roads offer some of the best views in the whole of Europe. It would be wise avoiding using the vehicles horn in Vienna or near hospitals as you may easily receive a fine. It is illegal to overtake school buses when the yellow lights on the vehicle are flashing. Also know warning triangle, first-aid kit and reflective vest must be kept in the car at all times. They are considered essentials and there are chances to receive a fine” according to Mike Callaghan a spokesperson and Head of Argus Car Hire.

On Day six of your trip, the final stop is Budapest, a city which is two halves – Buda and Pest. It’s reachable by train in just two and a half hours and, on arrival, there are so many places to start. A trip up Castle Hill via funicular will offer panoramic views of St Matthias Cathedral, the Hungarian National Gallery and, of course, views of the Danube!

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The final day in Budapest is an ideal opportunity to see how they celebrate Christmas there. The Christmas Fair in Vorosmarty square is great for a bargain and bite to eat, while a swim in the Szechenyi Baths will be a perfect end to a perfect week.

Cancer, family and what matters most

Over the past few weeks we’ve been dealing with a horrible illness.

Cancer has kicked it’s way through our door and laid on the sofa like an angry squatter – relentless in it’s mission and without thought or care for those living there.

Jonathan’s mum had throat cancer several years ago and sadly it came back. She’s had major surgery. Amazing surgery to be honest, they used an artery from her arm and tissue from the arm to rebuild her throat and create a clean blood supply. They did other stuff too which sounds hideous and painful and so intrusive it takes your breath away.

But it was all to help her live. She’s been in hospital six weeks, unable to eat or even do the most mundane of things and enjoy a cup of tea. She’s going home today and it’s a relief for everyone. She’s far from better and there are months of uncertainty ahead but it’s one hell of a step forward considering the severity of her illness.

I have wanted to say how brave and amazing my boy had been (the big one). Despite little or no support from other areas of his family, he has been determined to see his mum everyday and do all he can.  I’m so proud of him and it’s been painful to watch the heavy load on his shoulders as he battled on day in day out to try to hold things together. I haven’t told him because I don’t want him to lose the plot and breakdown because I know that would be awful for him.

His is a fractured family, torn apart through the years by actions, emotions and a mixture of weakness and stubbornness. These few weeks have only served to confirm what we all know. Family is precious, there is nothing more than it and its whole is certainly greater than the sum of it’s parts.

A wall without cement is just a pile of bricks.

Hotel Chocolat – Christmas review

box-chocolatesI don’t know many people who would turn down the opportunity to review some delicious chocolate – and if I did know anyone I’d be highly suspicious. Like people with web toes or large foreheads, a dislike of chocolate is something of which to be wary.

The lovely people at Hotel Chocolat sent me the H Box Christmas Selection to try – put it this way, they arrived Friday and I can’t say there were any left by saturday.

They arrived in a lovely cheery red box and I have to say some of them were miniture works of art. A wonderful array of Christmas-themed gorgeousness. My favourite had to be the cranberry cup. I’m a sucker for anythng with white chocolate and the cranberry really off-set the sweetness.

I also loved the crispness of the chocolate on the caramel one, it snapped tor eveal a gooey indulgent centre. The Nutmeg and Praline was also a winner – it was a new taste for me and it really worked, plus it ramped up the Christmas factor which is always a good thing in my book!

The box has a little something for everyone and is a real modern twist on a traditional box of chocs. Priced at £12.50 it’s a great addition to the family feast or a nice little addition to a Christmas stocking – preferrably mine!

 

I wasn’t paid for this review but was sent a box of chocolates to review

Taking the hassle out of party planning

November always seems to bring a sense of urgency – weeks seem to fly past at an alarming rate and before you know it you’re frantically trying to organise some kind of get together with all those old friends who you text more than see and spend ages promising to ‘meet up soon’.

I always make an effort to have a bit of a bash and this year I’m starting to plan it now! Last year, after thousands of emails and a lot of effort we had an Alice in Wonderland party, the year before that was gansters and molls. Only trouble is it takes so long to get the message out, find out who’s coming, who’s doing what, whether my best bud Liz will be making pavlova – all the important things.party1

I’ve found a great little app by Fancy Dress Ball to help me get organised and keep track of what’s happening and who’s doing what. I can send out Facebook invites with the app and keep an eye on who’s replied instead of constantly emailing and calling to find out if they’re coming or not. I can let everyone know what the theme is and even check out what others will be wearing – perfect.

So this year’s theme of ‘Harry Potter All Grown Up’ is set – everyone’s had the invite and we’re ready to go. So far only one ‘Hermoine gone bad’, so don’t think I’ll have any competition!

Social media sometimes acts to distance ourselves from meeting up and be a barrier to making time to actually see each other. This nifty app  just makes the whole process easier and means I’m more likely to have enough energy to actually enjoy the party too. I love Christmas but organising something with my friends is a military operation at the best of times!

I’ll be using the extra time for a bit of Christmas cheer and a few cheeky eggnogs.

Children’s book reviews – Christmas cheer and wizard’s whispers

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love books – especially children’s books and I really believe reading to our children is one of the most important things we an do as parents (aside from keeping them alive, feeding them, that sort of thing!).

So, I was so pleased to be asked to review two lovely children’s books published by Egmont. The first is the wonderfully titled: Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Tale of the Wizard’s Whisper by Kristina Stephenson. Currently Arthur is a little in awe of all things wizard so this was a great book to review.

STINKYSOCKS

What I love most about reading children’s books is the immediacy. An adult fiction can often meander along several literary paths – often for good reason. But to capture the imagination and concentration of a two and a half year old it has to be instant.

This book didn’t disappoint. The tale starts with a wizard making his way from a tall, tall tower to a castle on top of a hill. A mysterious whisper had told him that in the castle was a legendary knight who had helped dragons, monsters and kings.

Who could this perfect knight possibly be? Why, Sir Charlie Stinky Socks of course! And he’s looking for adventure.

With his cat Envelope and his good grey mare, he journeys along a treacherous track, through a spooky wooky wood and into a deep, dark cave where a mysterious black sack lies. But ogres, scallywags and pirates are lying in wait, ready to thwart Sir Charlie at every turn! Finally he returns and discovers what’s inside the black sack.

It’s wonderfully written with a sense of rhythm quite advanced for many children’s books but it kept Arthur’s attention all the way to the end. The name Charlie Stinky Socks has also given him hours of giggling time! The illustrations are wonderful, very detailed but still with a child’s eye in mind -  managing to capture the magic of wizards and knights perfectly.

We loved it and it’s found it’s way into the well-read section of his reading corner. I think we’ll be searching out a few more of the Charlie Stinky Socks books – I like the sound of him so far!

 Next up was a wonderful Christmas book, Little Robin’s Christmas, by Jan Fearnley. It’s a week before Christmas and Little Robin has a warm vest for each frosty day. But he meets seven chilly friends and soon has no vests left for himself. Poor Robin huddles on a roof …until Father Christmas comes to the rescue and, as a reward for his kindness, gives Little Robin a red vest to keep forever.ROBIN

This is a lovely, innocent and completely traditional book which touches on the importance of kindness to others and the idea you will be rewarded if you do good to others. It’s about friendship and not giving to receive and I thought it was a joy to read.

The illustrations are very traditional but it was very easy to read with my son and we managed to talk around the subjects of sharing and being kind in their simplest forms. I love the fact the little robin gave away his vests too – just so cute! It worked for Arthur because it was so simple and he was able to follow the cause and effect of the story and so the message wasn’t lost on someone so young.

 Both books leant themselves to a lovely afternoon of reading, drinking hot chocolate and deciding not to venture out at all!

Getting hot and steamy with Vax

I’ve been lucky enough to review the new Vax Total Home Master steam mop. It’s a 2-in-1 cleaner, which not only cleans your floors but has loads of attachments to clean those pesky areas like tiles, mirrors and even upholstery.

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On Sunday I went on an all-out steaming assult on the house and the whole process was easy and completely and utterly addictive. When used as a floor mop you simply attached the mop cleaning pads to the bottom and away you go. It’s relatively light and just does a great job. With young children in the house I love the fact it’s simply water – nothing else, no chemicals just god old H2O. The head swivels really easily meaning you can manuveure it into difficult places too.

Me in full Ghost Busters mode!

It’s when you get the attachments out that the fun really begins! I used the smallest nozzle to get into the corners of my shower – you know the place, where all the soap gunk collects and turned an attractive browny rust colour. I took aim, fired and after a few seconds wiped away all the sludge – perfect. You do need to keep a cloth or kitchen roll with you to wipe away the debris and it’s surprising just how much comes off!

While in the shower room I also squeegied the door using a different attachment. This was a bit more tricky but no less satisfying! It was just getting the angle right. I really like the fact it has a strap to hook over your arm and a really long lead so you’re not always having to plug in somewhere else. As I walked around the hosue with my steamer strapped over my shoulder and nozzle in hand I could distinctly hear Jonathan humming the Ghost Busters theme tune – to be fair I did look a bit like Dan Aykroyd minus the boiler suit!

There are loads of attachments, including a wire wool-effect brush and another softer bristle brush and next on my list is the oven and the arms of our sofa. It’s a great product and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good quality floor steamer but who fancies bringing out the big guns and tackling those stubborn stains at the weekend – or is that just me?

 

I wasn’t paid for this review but I was sent a steam mop to review.

 

Blogging; selling out or taking control?

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the commercialisation of blogging and sensing a growing distain for the sponsored posts and advertorial angles creeping into the virtual community.

I get it, I really do but what’s really getting my goat (if I had one) is the idea I’ve been reading that it’s, within the largely female parent blogger world, in anyway anti-feminist. As with all communities, technologies, societies it is growing, changing and evolving into something with a commercial edge. It’s inevitable and somewhat naive to expect it not to.

Anyway – why does everything have to be a feminist issue? Does anyone actually know what a feminist is? Just this morning I have read four definitions on the net. Anyone out there give me a description? Is it choice? Is it equality – surely that’s a given unless you are an oppressor/dictator/nazi or other equally repugnant person? I’m a little angry that blogging and making money out of it seems to be being hijacked and used as another stick with which to hit women. (GGGRRRR – that’s me angry).

I’m not belittling women’s rights – quite the opposite. I don’t want them to be diluted amid confusion and challenges that have another agenda.

Commercialisation within this community isn’t wrong, more a symptom of predominantly women taking opportunities and control. Now I’m aware there are some men who blog in the parental blogging world but I’m talking in general and in the majority. Also I’m presuming feminism and commercialism aren’t mutually exclusive and never have been – bearing my soul in a blog doesn’t make me a feminist any more than writing a sponsored post takes that away.

Blogging and earning money or products through our writing is empowering. (I’ve stolen and bastardised that from a great tweet I read on a Blogfest roundup!)  We’re tuning into how women buy, what we like to see, the fact other people in a similar position matter to us. Empathy in advertorials is hugely driven by women and so the gentler form of selling, buying and reviewing offered by blogging fits this perfectly.

We are doing it because we can, because there is opportunity and because it’s a chance to shift work life balance. If I can sit in the evening after work and after my son is in bed and write a sponsored post well and make some money out of it.  I’m taking control, evolving the world of work to fit me and my family – totally and utterly feminist – isn’t it?

It’s claiming something and using our savvy to create another source of income. As long as we do it honestly and opening and with integrity then I see no reason to stop or change it. Claiming we’re all being railroaded into writing posts for unscrupulous companies is also insulting to women. It’s inferring we don’t make decisions but act passively to serve a commercially-fuelled society. But for me and many of the women I know it’s a clear decision because it works for us.

Now I’m off to write a post about a very good steam cleaner . Yes, that’s right, a steam-cleaning; blog-writing, no nonsense sort of feminist type woman – that’s me.

Competition: Win a personalised year planner

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I love a diary, planner, organiser – in fact anything I can write a list in! I’m obsessed so when I was given the chance to review the new Personal Planner website and build my own – I jumped at the chance. Like many working mums I live by the quality of my planning and quite frankly at times it’s dire and my lists are written on scrap paper and shoved into the depths of my handbag never to be seen again!

The team at Personal Planner came to my rescue and I have just ordered my very own planner for 2014 complete with personal photos and my own dates to remember. It was genuinely an easy process – you just decide what planner you’d like and personalise it.

It’s such a lovely idea and I’m looking forward to getting mine in the post soon. I’ve gone for an all out girlie pink and mint green theme with lovely photos of Arthur on the front and back.

If you’d like to ramp up your organisational skills or even treat someone to a fab personalised Christmas present then I have an online gift voucher from Personal Planner up for grabs.

If you’d like to win then simply leave me a comment on the blog telling me which Bank Holiday you’d add to your calendar for 2014. You can also email me at torylk99@gmail.com

Terms and conditions:

This giveaway is for UK residents only.

The prize in not exchangeable

The competition will close on November 30 at midnight