My Sunday Photo!



Perfecting the Summer Barbecue

We may not be blessed with the warmest, or sunniest climate here in the UK, but despite what the naysayers claim, we can enjoy some beautiful sunny days during the summer months. And with the sunshine inevitably comes a barbecue in the back garden (though try not to plan too far ahead as at least in my household any plans that rely on good weather are jinxed the moment the date has been set!) Here are some tips on hosting a successful, and thoroughly enjoyable family barbecue.

Prepare for any mid-barbecue weather changes
Weather changes during a barbecue are no fun if you are not prepared. Have some overhead protection ready for any sudden downpours, or perhaps to provide shade from the sun if someone just needs a little sun break. I’d avoid using an old parasol stuck into the lawn with the risk of it flying across the garden at a sudden gust of wind and striking an unsuspecting guest (yes, unfortunately I have witnessed this happen.
Instead, consider a couple of modern garden umbrellas, like those by Unopiu, which are the perfect alternative. Not only are they made of high quality fabrics, but also they generally look much more fancy and chic than an unsteady beach parasol.

Plan and label your meals
Planning your meals ahead of time will take off any stress for a barbecue. If you are preparing the food yourself, ask your invitees some food preferences, especially if there are any picky eaters or allergies, and then go from there. Get creative! Think outside the hamburger and hot dog classics and cook up your favourites. A potluck style is also a great option. Plan a variety of foods, from burgers, salads and fruits to drinks, snacks and desserts. You can find an endless amount of great barbecue dishes with a little online research.

Label what’s hot-off-the grill
Rare, medium-rare, well-done… be sure to ask the question before starting up the barbecue! Once the food comes off the grill, have labels so everyone can have their pick. Plus, you can use cute labels such as decorated lolly sticks to add a little decorative flare to your day. 

Photo Credit:https://pixabay.com/en/meat-raw-tasty-food-grill-1675015/
Photo Credit: https://c1.staticflickr.com/6/5599/15480838329_a7767e97f8_b.jpg
Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/p-915855/?no_redirect
Use mason jars (for everything)
Mason jars are extremely popular right now, for good reason. You can use them to separate single servings of salad dressings, or simply just to keep any little bugs away. They can also be used as glasses to drink some barbecue punch, or even with tea lights as the sun begins to set and the party continues. They also add a sweet aesthetic to your barbecue.

Simple entertainment with lawn games
No matter how many people you have at your barbecue, nothing beats garden games. For the early arrivals and the kiddos that just need something to run around and do, they come in especially handy. The best part- simple clean up. You can stack Frisbees and badminton rackets together, set up a croquet set, or simply just have a couple footballs lying around. Want to get even more creative? You can DIY a couple games, such as over-sized Scrabble or Jenga. Just be sure you have enough space for a safe barbecue and a flying football as the two do not make the best combination.

Add some extra freshness with fresh flowers
Having fresh flowers really just brightens any day. You can use them simply as centrepieces or put them in small pots to clip onto the picnic table to hold it down. Remember the mason jar trick? They also make perfect casual flower vases.

Hang lights wherever you want and wherever you can
Having lights twinkling around sets a fun, relaxed and celebratory mood. You can use Christmas lights or simple string lights to dangle across outdoor space. They hang perfectly across a porch post or railing, or you can even DIY a post with rock-filled buckets and bamboo polls to dangle the lights across.

While the classic and simple summer barbecue is always a winner, adding a couple fun elements can really spice it up. Remember though, even if weather or food doesn’t turn out quite the way you hope, just enjoy the outdoors and relax! 

Guest Post by Mary D


4 Toys that Every Kid Wants in 2017

As a parent, it can be hard to know what to buy your kids with the extensive selection of toys currently available. Worry not, as we have taken the time to research and present the four most popular toy brands at the moment, based on customer feedback and sales. If you are struggling on some cool ideas for gifts for your child, be sure to check out our list of the top 4 toy brands every kid is talking about in 2017:

1. Minions Toys
If you don’t know who the Minions are, then you are clearly missing a lot of fun. Ever since these lovable yellow characters in blue denim and mono or bi-ocular spectacles captured the imagination of kids and adults alike in 2010, it has developed a cult following. Minions toys range from adorable plush stuffed Minions to kiddie gadgets and gizmos. Even puzzles, board games, and building and construction play sets have been invaded by these delightful characters. Every Minion toys come with a unique take of the character that they represent. For instance, most musical toys that feature the Minions will often feature Stuart because he is well-known for playing the ukulele. Of course, there’s Dave, Bob, Kevin, and the rest of the gang. Minions toys can definitely bring happiness to any child. You can view a whole range of the top Minion toys from this list by MyKidNeedsThat.com

2. Shopkins
Designed after ordinary things or items that we see in the grocery store or the shopping mall, Shopkins is a brand of toy that has been making waves among young children very eager to collect miniaturised versions of everyday things. For instance, there are vegetables and fruits, meats and dairy products, and baked goodies and other delectable treats all designed no bigger than your thumb. There are also representations of electronic and musical objects. Each toy is designed with a very happy face intended to project a friendly personality which children can easily pick up.

3. PAW Patrol
When PAW Patrol was designed for television, little did they know that it will become a very huge success. It follows the story of Ryder and his team of rescue dogs who perform a variety of amazing feats for the residents of Adventure Bay. The really fascinating thing about the PAW Patrol is that the rescue dogs actually represent real-life heroes like firefighters, police officers, construction workers, mountain rescuers, waste management personnel, and even helicopter rescuers. Because of the success of the animated TV show, toys began rolling from the production lines. Most PAW Patrol toys are action figures of the lovable characters of the show including their respective vehicles which are, in reality, their doghouses. Did you know that the PAW Patroller vehicle was listed by Toys “R” Us as its hottest item for the holiday season of 2015 and that the PAW Patrol Air Patroller was predicted by Argos to be the bestseller for Christmas 2016 in the UK? Now, isn’t that a testament to PAW Patrol being a toy every kid wants in 2017? 

There's a Paw Patroller there somewhere!

4. Batman
Among the DC heroes kids have a very special affinity to Batman perhaps because they can see how perseverance and dedication can enable someone to possess extra-human abilities and help society in general. That’s why Batman toys continue to enjoy unrivalled popularity among children especially those who collect action figures. There are also Batman toys that are classified as ride-on toys, building play sets, board games, puzzles, and even dress-up costumes. Whatever the type of toy is, you can bet that there’s bound to be the iconic logo of the Batman or even his signature pointed features like the ears and wings. Truly, it’s one of those toys that kids never really grow tired of playing because of all the action these promise.

These 4 toys are just some of the many that kids want in 2017. But there’s a special reason why these 4 are very popular: they aid children to make better sense of their world.

Guest post


Exam Tips From Bic!

Seeing as the monkeys are only 6 and 9, we're (luckily) not just starting those dreaded exams in this household right now, but plenty are! Be it Sat's or GCSE's, exams will be on the horizon in the not too distant future though! 

Right now, my two are enjoying school and big monkey has just got his first 'desk'. We are getting more drawings than usual and they are both keen to get their homework done, or practise their Maths! I think the Bic Kids goodies they've been sent help, as too does the fabulous artists station with stool, that a dear friend gifted us! 
Bic have some great Exam Tips with those families who do have children embarking on them right now!

"One of the biggest challenges facing students is how to prepare for exams. The idea of locking yourself in a room for hours-on-end with a mountain of text books can seem daunting. Are flash-cards, mind mapping or flow charts a better way of absorbing information or is taking a long bath and meditating better for you? BIC® has come up with a list of eight tips to help students through this exam period".

Have balance – a tip from the BIC HR Assistant
You’ve probably heard the old adage, everything in moderation. It’s important to find a balance between relaxation and study. If students relax too much, exam study tends to fall behind and vice versa. Relaxation can help the mind to think more clearly and rationally, as well as helping the brain to absorb information for future recall. If you’re finding it hard to focus, try exercises in mindfulness as they can help to clear your mind. You can find additional advice here.

Don’t let stress get the better of you – a tip from one of BIC Key Account Managers
A small amount of stress can be healthy for productivity. Stress is your body’s way of letting you know that you are behind. This is the signal that maybe it is time to stop relaxing and hit the books again. There is a vast difference between a small amount of stress and feeling completely overwhelmed. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you may find it useful to write a list and order it by priority. This can help you keep track of what you have studied and what you have left. Which leads us to our next point…

Make a schedule – a tip from the BIC Marketing Manager
Before you start studying it’s important to plan ahead. There is no point studying adhoc as your brain will miss vital pieces of information. Some people may find it easier to prioritise study by exam order. If you have a history exam first and a maths exam last, it would make sense to start with history revision. The key to remember here is be realistic. You cannot cram an entire subject into a three-hour period. Allow enough time to finish, summarise and then take a short break. This can also help with alleviating stress.

Log out of social media – a tip from the BIC Social Media Executive
The need to ‘love’, ‘like’, or ‘wow’ your best-friend’s status may be strong, but is this imperative in the middle of studying? Social media is a large distraction with many students checking Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or other social feeds before they get out of bed in the morning and before they go to sleep at night. The need to stay constantly connected can be beneficial but when the end of term exams are on the horizon, social media needs to take a back seat. Simply shutting the app down is not far enough. Turning off all push notifications can also help to limit distractions

Make yourself accountable to someone else – a tip from the BIC Finance Controller
There is a reason you see famous sport stars training together or hiring personal trainers at a gym - they keep you accountable. You may be more likely to spend an extra 5 minutes on the couch or replace that light bulb that has been blown for the last four years unless there is someone keeping you accountable to your schedule. There are two schools of thought on an ‘accountability buddy’. The first is to choose someone studying the same courses as you. This person will undoubtedly understand your work load, schedule and course content. Nevertheless, this can often be a distraction without even noticing.

The second is to pick someone who doesn’t know your course curriculum. This person will be more objective to the time you spend on each subject. They can also help to set goals that are encompassing of all the study rather than focus on each individual course. A downside of this is, they might not understand that one class or topic requires more hours than others. It’s important to remember that everyone studies differently.

Have your tools ready – a tip from one of BIC Category Managers
This seems rather obvious, but you would be surprised at the number of students that set foot into exams without testing their pens, pencils and highlighters only to find that they don’t work. BIC pride themselves on their exemplary track record with quality products. With just one BIC® 4COLOURS™ pen you will be able to take notes during class, underline important elements in different colours, revise and complete the exam without having the added worry of changing pens or the ink running out. With enough ink to write 8km (on average), you may even find yourself using the same pen time and time again. Here is our checklist of the products you are most likely going to need walking into these exams: 

BIC® 4COLOURS™ pen – four ink colours in one pen, making it the ultimate study tool

Tipp-Ex® Correction Tape – a quick-fix for any little mistakes

BIC® Evolution™ Pencil – an ultra-resistant, wood-free HB lead pencil ideal for drafting essays

BIC® Highlighter - highlighters are perfect for emphasising important points in a question, making it easier to formulate the answer

Eat well – a tip from the BIC Front Office Team
As important as stationery and study is, what you put into your body also needs to be high on the agenda. Your body needs brain food like fruit, vegetables, omega oils, protein and grains. Having a balanced diet will help you concentrate and sleep in the evenings. After all, there is no point writing 8km of notes if you are unable to stay focused!

Other tips – from the BIC Team
Do what works for you, some people may study well with music, others may find it a distraction. The best piece of advice BIC® can give you is to spread yourself out. Instead of making little piles of notes, have them sitting beside each other or even stick them on the wall so you see the key messages daily while revising. Use different coloured BIC® highlighters for each subject. When looking at what will seem like a mountain of paper, these colours will help you distinguish which subject is where. Make yourself comfortable – change the height of your chair and the backrest before you begin. If you don’t, the temptation to fiddle half way through could get the better of you.

All really good tips! I'm just grateful we have a while yet! Reading those tips have taken me back to the days where I was revising for my exams. Not something I want to repeat any time soon. I shall enjoy getting drawings from the boys for that bit longer and marking their sums! Reading their stories and sorting the bits on big monkeys desk! 


Vileda Easy Wring & Clean Turbo - Review

Just after I'd popped the steam mop into the shed for safe keeping and decided I would probably go back to using a good old mop and bucket on the floors, I was asked if I'd like to try the new Vileda Easy Wring & Clean Turbo! I call that a win! 
This Vileda mop and bucket is hard wearing, robust and simple to set up. Features include:

  • New Improved Design
  • Integrated easy-pour mouth
  • Horizontal handle for convenient carrying with less spillage
  • 2 in1 Microfibre Head for Improved particle pickup
  • 55-130cm Telescopic Handle
  • Suitable for all hard floor surfaces including wood and laminate
  • Triangular mop head shape for excellent corner cleaning
  • Machine washable removable mop head
  • Integrated handle holder
The quality is exactly what you would expect from Vileda. The extra feature of this particular mop and bucket is the wringing mechanism. You simply press the foot pedal (you can see here) to 'pump' water from the mop! The mop spins and depending on the amount of pressure you've used, you can control the desired mop dampness! Sad I know but it's cool! 
Now I know a mop and bucket should not excite me but I really love using it on the kitchen floor. It's dead easy to use and so quick too. The wring function even gives you a little workout! 
Having a machine washable mop head is surely an advantage and the little extras make it a great product. For example the Max fill 'water' line inside the bucket and the integrated handle holder on the horizontal handle. With a RRP of £35 I initially thought it was expensive but I can see from it's robustness and quality, plus the awesome nifty wring feature that £35 is probably reasonable. 

We were sent this product for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

We're going on an adventure



Open Star Necklace - Chlobo

Often I the only jewellery I wear are earrings, and my rings. Plus a watch (well, two if you count my activity tracker)! I tend to wear the same pair of earrings, mostly out of habit and not being bothered to change them for another pair! 

I have necklaces and bracelets but tend to wear them just when going somewhere special. Why? I think, having boys and being a working mum, it's just safer! I'd hate to break or lose a piece of jewellery. 

I have some lovely pieces, the latest being a necklace from British jewellery brand Chlobo. A gorgeous new Silver Diamond Cut Chain with Open Star Pendant.
The necklace arrived beautifully presented in a pink Chlobo bag, tied with a pink bow. Inside was the necklace, within a presentation box. The pink packaging with the Chlobo branding really sets off the necklace and the photo's do not do it justice!
The Sterling Silver diamond cut chain has the signature Chlobo tag at the clasp! 
It's a stunning piece which I've been complimented on by a few people. There is a matching bracelet available too. Handmade and often to order, this piece is just £70. It's of great quality and just perfect. I really cannot find anything about it not to like!
I'm really thrilled with it and will be wearing it whenever I know it won't get lost or damaged, running around after the monkeys! I've teamed it with a few different outfits and think it looks stunning.

Thanks so much to Chlobo. I love it! Why not follow Chlobo on twitter and take a look at their facebook page too! 

I was sent this necklace for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
We're going on an adventure



Exploring Europe's Best Secret Getaways

When looking for unusual, unexplored destinations for an upcoming trip, there are quite a few places around Europe that would be a pretty safe bet. With all the various cultures, capitals, and landscapes, travelling to Europe will certainly – no matter where you go really – be a trip to remember. Every season has its place, and every city has something special to offer depending on the time of the year you choose to travel. Whether that be the Christmas markets in Vienna, Monaco’s Springfest, or Italy’s beaches in the summer, Europe has your back. Nonetheless, if you’re still unsure about where to go, here are five potentially interesting and hopefully uncharted destinations to pick from.

Maastricht, The Netherlands: A fun and lively country, the Netherlands has lots of activities and is extremely well organised for incoming travellers. Maastricht is one of oldest Dutch cities, and is surrounded by its unique countryside and castles. With a large university, Maastricht boasts a lively and outgoing community, so if you’re young and are backpacking through Europe, you’ll feel right at home. Make sure you visit one of the many art galleries, take a trip to one of the many vineyards, and ride a bike through the town.

Cefalu, Italy: With an enormous historical heritage, your Sicilian trip can easily be divided between the educational and the entertaining aspects – i.e. between, for instance, visiting ancient ruins and going scuba diving in the crystal blue waters. Make sure though that your appetite is also ready and set to go, because you’re in Italy – a place where meals are a very important part of the day. When it comes to food, with its multitude of typical dishes and desserts, Sicily really has it all. And because it's sea will most likely lure you to it everyday anyway, you and your travelling companion (or family) could even find a beachfront villa to rent, in case the principal focus of this trip to Sicily lies more on having a unique, private experience.

Provence, France: If you’re looking for a picturesque getaway, visiting Provence will do the trick. With infinite fields of lavender, and the famous Gothic castle “Palais des Papes” (the papal residency during the 14th century), there is little room for disappointment. Among the fields and castles, Provence is the largest city in the Marseille region whose people are known to be very extroverted and sociable.
Rothenburg, Germany: Brimming with medieval charm, Rothenburg has this strange effect on people of having you feel like you went back in time. This is most likely a consequence of Renaissance’s influence. In fact, Rothenburg is known for being one of the stops on the famous “Romantic Road”; a journey through Europe extending over 350km, showing its travellers scenic landscapes and charming towns. Rothenburg is a holiday destination for those looking for a timeless experience, an easy-going culture and a number of wonders of architecture.

Bohinj, Slovenia: If, on the other hand, an adventurous destination is more something you’re looking for, Bohinj would be the place. Encompassing twenty-four different towns, the Bohinj valley situates a beautiful lake in its centre, surrounded by the Alps both of which in combination make it the destination for the outdoorsy type. Thanks to its spectacular landscape, and well-organised outdoor activities like kayaking or hiking, the Bohinj valley and its many surrounding towns welcome anyone with adventurous and outgoing psycho graphic characteristics.

With so many wonders and destinations, travelling through Europe is a once in a lifetime experience. Due to its historic nature and diverse cultures, quite literally any destination will enrich you for another perception, another unseen experience.

Guest post by Mary D 



8 Ways To Spot A Fake Designer Dress

With a relative getting ready to go to her school leavers Prom, she has been busy searching for the perfect dress (and it really is perfect too) but when it comes to picking out designer clothing, especially for a prom, you want the best, don’t you?

Sadly, there are too many original-looking fakes on the market and it can be pretty hard to tell whether or not you are getting the real deal. So, before you pick your designer dress, use the below tips to make sure you are buying an authentic label like this Sherri Hill prom dresses available at Peaches Boutique.
Photo credit: Peaches Boutique

Always Read Labels
This is a top tip and one you need to be aware of – fake products usually have labels with poor spelling, whereas the real designer items' labels are always spelt properly.

Do Some Pricing Homework
Before you go shopping, do a little homework on dress prices. Go online and then head in store to check out price tags and determine if the price is within the same range you found during your homework. If the dress is priced a lot lower than you expected it to be, it’s probably a fake.

Look at the Stitching
Next, take a close look at a dress’s stitching. Fake items almost always have low quality stitch work. Look at the hems and seams to determine whether or not the stitches are clean, which will indicate whether or not the item is authentic.

Look at Tags and Fabrics
High-end clothing, such as Sherri Hill prom dresses available at Peaches Boutique, will actually feel expensive. Take a look at the tags in the garment to see which fabrics have been used and where the dress was made. Most designer dresses are made either in Europe or the U.S.

Watch Out for Acronyms
If you see the acronym, BNWT, or Brand New with Tags, on “designer” items, chances are the items are fake.

Take Note of Feedback
Check online for feedback about a seller and if you find a number of comments suggesting that they sell fake items or the seller always has the same sort of merchandise, it’s time to move on.

Smaller Names May Be Safer
Sometimes, it’s safer to buy smaller designer labels than the bigger international designer names. If you ever travel somewhere like the Far East or India, take a look at the hundreds of market stalls and you’ll find designer fakes of pretty much everything. These are usually the more recognisable, big names such as Versace, Prada, Ralph Lauren, Stone Island, Armani, and more.

Don’t Just Accept the Description
If you are shopping online, take note that not all seller’s descriptions are always honest. Comments such as “100% genuine” are usually a red-flag for fake dresses. Comments like “brand new this season” can also be dishonest. Always shop carefully!

There’s nothing worse than being part of a scam, especially when it comes to fake designer clothing. And, especially when you are shopping for a prom. In fact, do lots of research before you settle on a dress and make sure you spend your money on a well-designed, high-quality dress that will leave you feeling like a Princess and will also last long enough for you to wear again, should the occasion arise.

This is a collaborative post.



Which Will You Choose?!

Did you know that Bounty, Mars and Snickers have recently launched a new protein rich version of their popular chocolate bars? I had no idea also! 
In fact, at first I thought it was a joke! It would seem not, for we've taste tested all three bars. Now, ordinarily I would say, from the three, Snickers is my favourite but in this case, I liked the Bounty best. 
I'm not really sure why I was so surprised that Bounty, Snickers and Mars have produced these Protein Bars from Discount Supplements. They are popular snack choices for health conscious people and of course who is going to say no to chocolate!

Which would be your favourite?! Hubby liked the Mars one best.



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