Sunday, 31 July 2011

Interview with Helena Dowling

Do you remember a couple of weeks ago we told you all about the Help Dora Help campaign, the campaign is allowing pre-school and nurseries to apply for a grant up to £20,000 for educational and learning purposes. Well we got invited to ask Helena Dowling who is the host of Wake Up World over on Nick Jr, some questions.

What’s the best bit about your job?

The best part is knowing that I'm making great quality children's television! It’s been so interesting meeting the educational experts and learning about the research and planning that goes into making pre-school programming. At Nickelodeon our shows are thoroughly researched and designed to be informative, educational, inspirational and of course fun for preschoolers. Children's programming is a real love of mine, so it’s great to know I'm a part of that.

I also love going into the studio and recording Wake up World with the team. They’re all such great people and are extremely experienced in pre-school programming so it's lovely to work alongside them. Recently we created a Dora dance which was brilliant as I got work creatively and draw on my dance and singing experience.

Do you get nervous when your being filmed?

Not any more! At first I did get a little nervous as I was working with a new team but they quickly made me feel at ease. As I have been performing for years and had appeared on a TV show for two years, I’m used to performing to camera. I think a little nerves are actually a really good thing and help you to perform.

Any tips for anybody who wants to get into presenting?

I would say learn about the television industry inside-out, work out the sort of shows you’d like to do and then make a show reel that is relevant to that. Approach presenting agencies and TV stations directly. Also you could consider doing a presenting course that will show you how to use autocue and get used to having in ear piece. I did one at Presenters Inc which was fantastic.

What’s your favourite Nick Jr. show?

I’m a big fan of SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer. I also love Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom, it’s so sweet how they are miniature!

What has been your biggest adventure?

For Nick Jr. it would be visiting a nursery to get the children to take part in the Help Dora Help campaign. It was a wonderful day meeting all the children and the nursery staff and we had a lot of fun colouring in Dora's backpack for the competition. We also read some stories and sang songs. They really enjoyed it and so did I! The children were so sweet and when they met Dora it was lovely to see their little faces light up. When it was time for Dora to leave I had to tell them that she was going to go and make another show for them so there were no tears!

Do you know any other languages like Dora?

I can speak basic French and I am learning Italian.

Did you always want to be a presenter?
Yes I did and I'm so happy to be doing it now. I also wanted to be an actress and dancer which I also do. So I have been very fortunate with my career, as well as working really hard to get where I am. I particularly wanted to be a children's presenter after appearing on Saturday Morning Showdown in 2006, I just thought “wow”. It seemed a really fun job and having lots of young people in my family and having taught dance to children for years it was often said to me that I would be perfect for it. I love working with young people and children and I'm passionate about children’s television so it's a dream come true really.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Nighttime Troubles

It's been a while since I've blogged about Oli and how he's doing apart from saying how unpredictable he can be. Compared to the baby stage where each day we were blogging about something new and asking for help, this toddler stage seems to be smooth sailing. I hope I've not set myself up right there by saying that out aloud, but it has been. It's less of me learning how to be a parent now and more Oli learning how to be a boy. How to be a child in the world and how to make it work for him.

Something has changed recently though and I'm not liking it very much - bedtimes has now become a mission for us. We've been doing the same routine we have done for the last couple of years, bottle of milk and blankie to bed. Lately he goes to bed and sometimes he screams for a while but other times he'll be quiet whilst he drinks his bottle and then start to scream. He wants to carry on playing or stay up on the sofa with me, which as nice as that is, it's mummy's 'me' time and it's his bedtime. I know sometimes the screams are for more milk, he's had one bottle and wants another. I've sadly given in to him a few times when the screaming does become unbearable and because I know it works and it does make him go off.

Nap times are slowly being fazed out, some days naps are not even a thought. We get the answer of no at the bare thought of taking him up for a nap, he'd much rather play with his toys then take a nap. Is 28 months a usual age for naps to start decreasing?

I'm hoping like everything else this is just a phrase and that the battle of nighttime will once again be a battle that I win.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

LolliBop - Win a family ticket!

Do you remember a couple of week ago we told you all about Lollibop, the festival for little people. We also told you about us being a Lollibop family which means we get to tell you all the latest news from Lollibop HQ as it comes through. The best part being that we get to give away a family ticket for 4 so you too can enjoy the fun of Lollibop. Just look below to see the fantastic acts on offer to keep your little ones (and you!) entertained throughout the day.

You can pick any of the three days to attend (the festival runs on 5th, 6th and 7th August in Regent’s Park), and all you have to do to be in with a chance of winning the family ticket of 4, is to leave a comment below. The winner will be selected at random, and I’ll get in touch with you to find out which day you’d like your ticket for. Competition ends midnight on the 31st July and entry is open to UK residents. Find out more info about Lollibop here.

LEGO Star Wars

I love the thought of presents which get both father and child playing together especially as it's a day which celebrates their love for one another. what better way then something from the ever growing range of LEGO. This January saw the launch of new sets for the LEGO Star Wars range. It includes models from the films as well as Star Wars: The Clone Wars vehicles and mini figure. They have something on offer for every LEGO Star Wars fan and collector.

We got sent the Imperial V-wing Starfighter to put together, review have some fun with. The Imperial Starfighter comes about (which I'm sure any Star Wars fan already knows) after the fall of the Galactic Republic at the end of the Clone Wars, the V-wing starfighter became one of the first starfighters of the growing empire. With working cockpit and rotating wings for flying and landing modes, the Imperial V-wing is used to hunt down the Rebel Alliance. It includes two little figures - Imperial pilot and astromech droid R2-Q2.

Together they built it following the easy to follow step by step instructions and then flew it around the living room. I'm quite proud to say it's still in one piece today which is amazing considering how destructive a certain toddler can be at times. I'm sure over the next few years, these Lego sets will be all over the house.

If you're looking to add to his or even her collection of LEGO Star Wars why not get him the T-6 Jedi Shuttle, Bounty Hunter Assault Gunship, The Battle of Naboo or help build up his crack team of clone troopers with the Clone Trooper Battle Pack.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Bridezilla has arrived!

She's arrived. She didn't know where to go other then to the deep dark depths of wedding planning. It seems that whenever I've got a spare few minutes that I'm doing something wedding related or even when I've not got a spare minute, I'm day dreaming and thinking about it. I blame the whole setting the date, handing over deposits and actually securing the two main parts of the day - venue and registrar.

Should I be doing stuff yet towards planning? Less then 12 months sounds like a long time but is it in wedding terms? We know our date so we know save the dates are next. I need to tap up some past brides to find the ins and outs of wedding planning. It's such a minefield, like the wedding breakfast. Why call it a wedding breakfast if it's not ate at breakfast time? Thankfully people on twitter helped me out with that one.

When we went back to the venue the other day to sort out paperwork we were asked questions about number of guests, menu choice and some other thing which I thought would wait until early next year so that prompted us to come home and start drafting up our guest lists. We also wrote a list of other things we need to think about - DJ, photographer, florists and all the other services we'll need. This is even before we've given a thought to what we're going to be wearing, still seems quite surreal that I'm actually going to be wedding dress shopping next year.

In the meantime we're saving like loons to make next year financially possible, we're budgeting wherever possibly. This includes giving up luxury's such as the new hair colour I was going to get can just wait until after the wedding now, swapping Ribena for the cheaper option of supermarket own brand (eeek!) and even littler things like limiting how much olive oil I use when cooking.

Oh well at least we have the venue, the theme and the bridesmaids sorted.

Extreme Pie

I love trainers, I own more trainers then I do any other kind of shoe. So you can imagine my delight at getting sent a pair of trainers from Extreme Pie to try out and review. But not just any pair of trainers, a pair of DC trainers.

DC trainers have been in my life ever since my skater days back when I was a young-er girl. They were the best trainers to wear when skating because of the flat, grippy and wide soles to them. But as I proven since hanging up my skateboard and pushing around a pram instead, skate shoes can be worn when and wherever you like.

The DC Fiona ones are different to the usual skate shoes I wear, these are perfect for summer wear as they are canvas and have little vent holes to help with the airflow. What I like about them is that they are quite lightweight and comfortable to wear. I've been wearing them all day to and from work and around the supermarket and no discomfort from them at all. Pretty much go with any clothing you wear - shorts, jeans and they even looked ok with the summer dress I was wearing when I first tried them on. They are available to buy in both lollipop and black/purple colours.

Extreme Pie have trainers, boots, flip flops and even heels to suit anyone and any style.

Welcome Wednesday Blog Hop

I'm guest hosting a blog hop today for the lovely American 'Mommy' Blogger Haute Mom. American blogs make up about 50% of my google reader, I love reading what our American counterparts over the seas get up too and how life differs over there! They drink wine just like us and blog about first days at Daycare or nursery as us English mummy's call it.

Blog Hops are all about finding new blogs to read and check out. So as Haute Mom says put those feet up, relax, and join the bloggy fun.

Friday, 15 July 2011

My Monthly Budgeting

A financial services company called thinkbanking is offering a bank account that helps with budgeting. The service isn't free, but it's available to all UK residents aged 18 or over. Perhaps you're wondering why people need help with budgeting? Isn't it something they could do themselves?

The thinkbanking bank accounts are managed, so someone organises your bill payments for you (as long as you have enough money in your account) and you can only spend what is left over. People who can't find the time for budgeting (or just find it difficult) could really benefit from this kind of help.

Alternatively, here's a quick guide to working out your monthly budget yourself.

Working out monthly budgets

People tend to stick to either monthly budgets or weekly budgets, depending on how often they get paid. If you're paid weekly but would prefer to see how your finances work out on a monthly basis, simply multiply your weekly income by 52 (weeks) then divide by 12 (months).

Now you have your monthly take-home income, you need to work out how much money you'll have left after you've paid all your important bills. So list all your essential monthly expenses and how much they cost. 'Essential' can mean different things to different people, but here are ten of the most common ones to get you started:

  • Mortgage/Rent

  • Council Tax

  • Utilities (including water, energy)

  • Telephone

  • Mobile phone

  • Travel costs (including car tax)

  • Insurance premiums (e.g. contents, life, car)

  • TV licence

  • Essential clothing and shoes

  • Broadband

Take the total cost away from your monthly income and whatever amount you are left with is how much you have available to spend on non-essentials that month.

If you don't have any money left over after accounting for your essential costs, you'd probably benefit from some financial advice - and if you don't even have enough to cover all your essentials, you need to address this as soon as possible.

Frugal for the future

If you do have money left over after that, however, it's a sensible idea to put some of that money into savings or invest it for the future, leaving you with a sum that you can spend on something fun to do with the kids - or even treating yourself!

If you're really frugal you might be able to put a lot more into savings. We never know when we'll need a little extra cash to fall back on.

Also, remember that you're likely to spend more at certain times of the year - birthdays and holidays are good examples. If you're frugal and manage to put some money away, you'll appreciate it much more when those expensive times finally come around!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

How a sausage roll made me cry

Anyone who knows me knows that I am in head over heels in LOVE with the beach, I adore the seaside and could quite happily spend everyday there if the Mr would let me. On Monday we took a trip to one of our local beaches, we've been here before with Oli a few times but our trip is usually cut short as he likes to do nothing but try and go as far out to sea as possible (The sea is cold, I don't want to get cold!) or run like a loon all over the place and basically do anything but relax, soak up the sea air and make sandcastles with his parents.

But like I said in a
previous post about toddlers being unpredictable he's changing and we've noticed a huge difference in everything we do and how he's co-operating. He waited when we got him out of the car, no running off and calmly waited for us to get our stuff together and then he walked along with us down to the beach. We put our stuff down and he understood that we needed to get him changed before he did anything, he let us do this without any squabbles and was changed within minutes.

We wondered over to the sea with us where he happily played and kept to where we told him. Usually turns are taken to stay with him so the other can chill and lap up the sun, instead today we asked him to come and sit down with us and eat some of the picnic Daddy had prepared that morning. He came, he sat on my lap and he tucked into a sausage roll with us. A SAUSAGE ROLL. He never eats snack stuff like this. I don't know what came over me that made me blub like a baby, queue strange looks from both the man and the boy. It was just seeing this child of mine do something I have longed for him to do, I didn't have to chase after him and beg him to take a mouthful of food. He just sat there with us both tucking into this picnic and listening to use describing what was around him. Even sat happily making sand castles and drawing names and numbers into the sand.

Maybe we just have to get him when he's in the right moods to do stuff like this together, but then maybe he's just realised that co-operating with his parents is much more fun. Who knows!? I'm sure we'll be going back to the beach next week if the weather is still treating us nicely so we'll find out then if it was a one off or not. Extra pleased about yesterday as we drove past a gorgeous little hotel which after a quick google we found out do weddings and is only a few minutes walk away from the beach, we're actually planning on going to go and look at it today which is quite exciting.

I'm really enjoying not having to take a pram everywhere with us, it's been sat in the boot now for the last couple of weeks and we've not had to use it once. It's amazing how much difference just a few months make. Hopefully the next step will be getting a few more words out of him.

Monday, 11 July 2011

The lovely guys over at got in contact with us to see if Oli wanted to review something from the fantastic range of wooden toys available on there website. It was so hard to decide what we wanted, we had been toying with the idea of getting a wooden shopping cart as the one he had got for Christmas broke a few weeks lately, this was done to it being made out of shoddy plastic no question about it. We really liked the BigJigs Shopping Trolley which at twice the price of the plastic shopping trolley we actually saw as a good investment, if we had gone back and bought a replacement plastic trolley that would of been the price of the wooden one right there spent. Might as well cut out the tears from the broken plastic one, the effort of going out and buying it and just buy the one which will last way longer then the plastic one. See I'm learning, another learning learnt in this parenthood lark.

We thought the cart could wait, after browsing the play sets & vehicles we fell in love with the wooden play garages. Oli is REALLY into his cars at the moment so took this chance to get him his first toy garage. We chose the Janod Toy Garage which arrived a few days later much to the excitement of one 2 year old.

Like most toys of this size it came in pieces, along with the instruction guide we quite easily managed to assemble it just under 10minutes. Which is always good when you have a eager toddler ripping your arm off trying to get to it to play with it. What was a added bonus to this garage is that it comes with extra play pieces, as well as some wooden cars you get a little play gas pump and a helicopter, helping you to get more for your money.

From the moment it was put together to even now where Thomas The Tank Engine has found a new home on it,he's been playing with it on a daily basis. It is just one of those essential toys for little boys who are into playing with cars. The lift is a genius idea, he has much fun transporting his cars from level to level. When it was set up we had fun putting the stickers on the garage ourselves with where we wanted to put them.

It's sturdy and as Oli found it out before getting a telling off, able to take his weight. Even though it's wooden, it's still quite light which is handy and it's been played with all over the house, from the dining table to the floor.

The Janod Toy Garage is currently priced at £48.96 which after watching the toddler play with it for the last couple of months, we deem to be good value for money. From first looks we knew it was going to be something which lasted for years and will last for all of our future children and possibly even there children.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Mint Chocolate Cheesecake

If you could bake happiness and pleasure this is what it would turn out like. When making it I had lots of cheesecake mixture leftover so made some mint chocolate cheesecake cupcakes with them. I now have a fridge full of about 20 cheesecake cupcakes and this big cheesecake to be eaten, wrong weekend to not have any guests over.

Head over to And Then All I Thought About Was You for the recipe for this stunning piece of baking goodness.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Toddlers are so unpredictable

The other day at work we were talking about the weather can be so unpredictable, especially the last couple of weeks. One week it's the perfect beach and BBQ weather but then the next your walking back from somewhere and having to avoid puddles as it's pouring down with rain and you're wearing your flip flops. This got me thinking about what else can be just as unpredictable as the weather, of course the toddler boy jumped into mind.

Since he's developed toddleritis* we've found that one minute he can be as loving as can be, kissing you constantly and squeezing you tightly for a hug. But then the next minute he's screaming in your ear, throwing down the nearest thing to him or throwing himself to the floor to kick and scream. These can happen at any moment and we just cant predict when it's going to happen. We're trying to get hi used to walking and going places without the pram, he loves walking so that isn't a problem. He's also quite good at sticking with us, we often go to the supermarket without the pram and he doesn't like sitting in trolley's so he normally follows us and if he goes astray he responds to us calling him back. What is the problem is hat he's easily led astray, he will be all happy and well behaved but then sees something he wants, rare but usually happens when he sees boxes of chocolate fingers/malteasers and screams because he wants them and we've said no. This could lead to him screaming the supermarket down or lying on the floor throwing a tantrum. Yesterday he was distraught because he kept seeing other kids in those car trolleys *shakes fist at Tescos* and he wanted to be in one. We spent the rest of the shopping trip trying to avoid these trolleys.

Though for every tantrum we have we have triple the amount of loving from him and this makes putting up with these 'terrible toddler' moments bearable and totally worth it.

*No cure has currently been found for toddleritis just yet, current studies suggest that you drinking a bottle or 5 of your favourite alcoholic beverage can help. To be consumed after 7pm under adult supervision.

Photo Credit - Laura @ The Mummy Life

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Bridesmaid Cookies

I took the first steps into planning my wedding this week, I asked the lovely ladies who I had picked out to be my Bridesmaids to actually be my Bridesmaids. I did it in a slightly different way to the usual method of just asking. I wanted it to be extra EXTRA special the way I asked them and was very pleased when a idea popped into my head. The idea came to me as I was writing my Lemon Meringue Cupcake post for Amy's Bake It. Amy is a very talented lady, she makes lots of fantastic cakes and sweet treats, has her very own shop called Cake Shop Corner and has even wrote her very own book - .

Everyone loves cookies right? So I thought why not ask Amy if she could design some cookies asking the simple message of 'Will you be my bridesmaid'. I was so pleased when she replied saying that would love too and that it was a great idea. She even made a 'Will you be my flower girl' for my flower girl Top Ender.

And the handy thing is that my bridesmaids just happen to be bloggers! So of course I knew the cookies had arrived when I was tweeted and saw blog posts with photos of these cookies, why I didn't send myself one is beyond me. Amy did a fantastic job of them and were exactly what I pictured! Go and look at Kerry's post to see her surprise and Pippa's post to see why a cookie made her cry. Vic also got one, I knew she had when she turned up to my door that evening with crumbs around her mouth. Hers asked her if she would be my maid of honour, I'm sure I'll be regretting this come the hen night and I'm faced with a male stripper. Nah I'm sure it will just be a quiet sleepover with the girls in our pjs..

So far this wedding planning lark is kinda fun and not as painful as I imagined it to be, though I'm sure it wont be long until I turn into Bridezilla!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Glee Live

When the lovely guys at Eon asked us if we wanted to come and gleek out with them at the O2 and watch Glee Live we of course jumped around screamed like teenagers replied yes. This was before we even knew about the hospitality box with free bar/food and the fact that they had also invited some of my favourite parent bloggers who I also consider to be good friends of mine - Tim, Sally, Vic, Amy, Jen & Cass.

It timed well with CyberMummy which I was already in London for, the man came and met me in London, well I say met more like jumped me whilst I was waiting outside M & S for Sally & Flea. I actually thought someone was trying to steal my CyberMummy swag, they would of been severely disappointed to find just 3 packs of baby wipes and some other baby stuff.

We headed to the O2 where we met the lovely ladies from who took us to their fabulous box which had a fantastic view of the stage as well as a food spread which we all couldn't wait to tuck into after the long day we all had at CyberMummy (apart from Cass who spent the day in London with her family instead). When the Glee guys came on stage they were lots of girlie screams, even from Tim who's daughter had managed to convert him into a Glee fan! And yes like Sally said I screamed twice as loud when Finn came on stage.

I have included some photos from the evening below, just click on them to see them bigger. Or head over to where I'll add some more photos from the evening. Thanks Eon, Me & The Man had a fantastic evening and we're still buzzing from all the excitement now, a week later!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Today is..

a day to recover from a weekend of friends staying over, BBQ madness and lots and lots of fun...

These are a selection of photos that me and Laura from The Mummy Life took.

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