ivel valley ready peck bird seed mix

Ivel Valley wild bird food review

The other day I was stood at my kitchen window, watching the different birds that were happily eating at our bird feeder and suddenly realised that I was doing exactly what I’ve watched my Mum do so many times over the years.

She often stands in her kitchen, looking to see which birds have come to eat up the treats she leaves out for them (and this bird watching is even more special when there’s a grandchild around to share it with!).

DSC_8619

And now here I am, doing the exact same thing with Rhys and Nerys, holding them in my arms and showing them the birds in the garden.

My Mum and I really are quite similar it would seem!

Before we moved into this house we lived in a flat in the middle of town, so we didn’t have any outside space at all.  So I was really happy when we moved to this house with it’s ever-so-slightly wild garden, because there’s so much to see out there.

And I was especially happy when I realised that the landlord had left a couple of bird feeders at the top of the garden, so all we had to do was fill them up and wait for the birds to come.

We’ve been picking up random bags of bird food here and there since we moved in, but it’s been a bit hit and miss with what’s in stock, and what I can carry home from town with Nerys in tow!

So I was really pleased when I was offered the opportunity to test out some bird seed from Ivel Valley, especially because you can order their products from their website and have them delivered straight to your door – perfect!

We were sent a big tub of their Ready peck 5 a day seed mix, along with some 5 a day suet pellets and 5 a day suet balls to try out, and they’ve all been a big hit with the birds here!

Ivel valley wild bird food

I was particulary impressed with the 5 a day seed mix because it came in a brilliant reusable storage container.

One of the issues we’ve got in our house is that there’s not a huge amount of storage space, so our bags of bird food were always sort of in the way, stashed in a corner by the back door.

Well this storage container solves that problem because it’s vermin proof and, after being tested out in the Welsh weather, waterproof, so we can keep it out of the way in the garden.  Which is a perfect solution for us.

The seed mix itself is really high quality, and contains suet, oats, seeds, nuts and insects and is designed to attract a fab mix of birds including Tits, Sparrows and Finches.  We’ve definitely seen a variety of birds at the feeder since we started using this mix, and it really is fun to stand at the window and see what we can spot.

ready peck bird food

We do also seem to attract pigeons though, which is pretty annoying, but when we chase them away the other birds then hurry over for their turn to feast!

The 5 a day suet pellets and the 5 a day suet balls are also great quality products, which attract even more birds to the garden, including Robins, Starling and, my Mum’s favourites, Wrens.

The pellets I tested were the apple ones, which are made up of suet, oats, seeds, nuts and fruit and are designed to either be scattered on a bird table or the ground, or in a mesh feeder.  I simply scattered some on the decking in my garden, underneath the seed feeder.  The pellets didn’t last long out there at all!

Along with the pellets we tested the suet balls which are designed to go in a suet feeder, and contain suet, oats, seeds, nuts and insects.

Ivel Valley have developed their products over 5 years, taking time to really perfect everything, and the result is a really great range of products that are high in energy and low in waste and that really have help us attract a beautiful mix of birds to our garden.

And with the huge tub sitting in our garden we’ll be bringing in the birds for ages, which is fab because Rhys and Nerys have been really enjoying seeing all the birds coming and going.

Do you put food out for the birds in your garden?  What type of bird do you see the most?

 

We were sent the bird seed mix, pellets and suet balls for the purposes of this review, but all words and opinions are my own.

playgroup

Going to baby group for the first time (tips and advice for shy, anxious parents)

I can still remember it so clearly, the first time I decided to venture out to a baby group with my son.  I was so unbelievably nervous.  I’ve always been a shy person and so the thought of walking in to a room full of people I didn’t know and somehow trying to start up a conversation with them was just terrifying!

But, I had no Mum friends at that point, so took a deep breath and made myself do it.  And, honestly, that first time wasn’t that great.  I found it really hard, and had to force myself to go back a few weeks later.  But after that, it got easier and the people I met at that first baby group are still good friends of mine now which I’m so happy about.  We saw each other through the really hard times of being a new, first-time parent and are still around now to help each other through the hard times.  Especially now several of us have had a second child.

So, if you’re a new parent and sort of want to venture into the world of baby groups but are really scared by the idea of it, I would really encourage you to go for it.  It’s so worth those scary, uneasy moments!

Here are some tips, some science-backed, some just based on my own experience, that might help you take that first step into the world of baby groups!

going baby group first time advice shy anxious parents

Take someone with you.

Now, if you’re going to a group with the aim of meeting new people and making new Mum friends, then taking someone with you might not seem like the best idea, as you may well end up spending the whole time just chatting together.  But, if you’re really shy and nervous, having someone you know there with you might be enough to get you through the door.

Then once you’ve done that, you may well feel brave enough next time to go in alone.


Have a hug before you go in.

If you do take someone with you, try giving them a big hug just before you go in the door.  Or, if it’s your partner or someone you’re close to, try holding their hand on the way there.  If you’re going by yourself, then get your baby out and hold them close to you as you walk in the door.

All of these actions release oxytocin into your blood stream which is a really good thing!

Research from Concordia University has shown that oxytocin can help introverts in social situations because “under the effects of oxytocin, a person can perceive themselves as more extroverted, more open to new ideas and more trusting”.  So get those hugs in!


Ditch the car.
Try walking to the group if you can.  There are two reasons for this, the first is that walking releases oxytocin, just like hugging does, and the more of that the better when you’re feeling nervous!
The second reason is that walking to the group will give you time to calm yourself.  You won’t be worrying about whether or not there’ll be enough parking when you get there, you can just relax and take the time to reassure yourself that it’ll be ok.


Listen to some soothing music.

If you do decide to take the car (maybe that option is less stressful to you than pushing a heavy buggy all the way there!), then try listening to some soothing music as you drive.  Studies have found that doing this can, say it with me, release more oxytocin into your bloodstream.  Marvellous!


Use your baby to break the ice.

One of the great things about baby groups is that you have a natural ice-breaker with you!  You don’t have to worry about awkwardly starting up a conversation about the weather, you can open with a simple ‘how old is he?’.  You’ll find that other Mums are more than happy to answer questions about their babies, I mean, who doesn’t love talking about their kids!


Get people’s names!

One thing I would highly recommend though, is to make sure that when you do get chatting with someone you ask them what their name is, and not just their baby’s name!  I speak from experience.  I spent far too long calling people ‘so and so’s Mum’, then it just gets to a point when it’s almost embarrassing to ask.

So get in there early, ask for their name and then use it in conversation with them so it has a better chance of sticking in your sleep-deprived mind!


If at first you don’t succeed…

Try, try again.

And then try a different group!

You might find that the first time you go to a group it all feels a bit awkward and you don’t really talk to anyone.  If this happens, take a deep breath and try again.  It might take a few visits for you to warm up enough to start chatting to people, and also once you’ve been a few times people will start to recognise you and chat more with you.  If you really don’t like the first group you try though, have a look around at the other ones that are available in your area.

If you find the free-play sort of groups really intimidating then try going to a class or activity-based group instead.  Rhyme time sessions at the local library are a great free option, and there are all sorts of baby massage classes, baby signing classes, arts and crafts for toddlers sessions, and music classes that you could look into.  You might find that the activity helps you relax more so that you can start to chat more easily with the other mums.

So, there you have it, my advice to other shy parents who are working up the courage to venture out into the world of baby groups!  I really hope it helps, and that you end up enjoying these kind of groups as much as I’ve enjoyed them over the last 5 years.  If you have any other advice or related stories then please do leave me a comment, I’d love to hear what you have to say!

simple all-butter scones

Simple all-butter scones

In the middle of a wet and windy week, what could be better than baking some simple all-butter scones?  Baking them with your toddler that’s what!

My husband’s been nagging me for ages to make some scones and so Nerys and I decided to spend a rainy day at home baking.

simple-all-butter-scones-recipe

I have to admit that the resulting scones aren’t quite as tall as they would normally be, but I know that’s down to a few factors, including me running out of self-raising flour and clearly not adding enough baking powder to my plain flour.

Nerys had such a great time mixing these up with me though, so I really don’t mind that the end result wasn’t perfect!

I just love baking with my children, knowing that they’re learning so much while having fun.

Simple-butter-scone-recipe

Nerys really was my little helper the whole time making these, weighing everything out with me, mixing it all together and even brushing the tops with milk at the end.

She actually surprised me with that last one, because she really was gentle with the brush rather than just squishing the scones with it which is what I kind of expected her to do!

simple-butter-scone-recipe

It was so hard to resist these when they came out of the oven, but I made myself wait till they’d cooled a little before spreading one with some butter and jam, so good!

If you’d like to have a go yourself, here’s the recipe for these simple all-butter scones:

Makes 12 scones

  • 225g self raising flour
  • 60g cold butter, cut up into small pieces
  • Pinch of salt
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 50g raisins
  • 120ml milk

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees and either grease a baking tray or line it with greaseproof paper.
  2. Measure out the flour and salt and tip into a mixing bowl.  Add the cold, cut-up butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  3. Stir in the sugar and raisins.
  4. Add the milk to the mixture and stir everything together.  Ever so gently knead the mixture together with your hands until you have formed a stiff dough.  Try not to handle it too much though.
  5. Gently roll out the dough until it is 2cm thick.
  6. Cut out shapes with biscuit cutters.
  7. Put the scones on the baking tray, brush them with milk and cook them for 12-15 minutes.
  8. Leave them to cool a little before tucking in!

 

One of the important factors in making great scones is using proper butter, nice and cold from the fridge, and rubbing it quickly into the flour so that it doesn’t melt too much.  When the scones bake, the butter then melts, creating steam which adds more oomph to your end result!

I think this might be another factor in why mine were a little flat, because I had so much help from Nerys the mixture was handled a little more than it should have been!  But, she had great fun and they still taste really good.

We used the newly rebranded Wyke farms butter in our scones, and then used some more to spread on top with some jam, so yummy!

wyke-farms-butter

Wyke farm have put a lot of thought into the look of their butter, and I think it looks great; it really celebrates Wyke farm’s British heritage with images of Prince the farm horse, the Somerset compass and the iconic oak tree that sits on top the hill outside the dairy at Wyke Champflower on it, as well as highlighting its credentials with the 100% Green logo and the Red Tractor stamp of assurance.

The butter looks really high quality, and the taste lives up to expectations.  It’s great to use in baking, and just perfect on warm scones with jam!

It’s been a while since we’ve had ‘proper’ butter at home and now I’m wondering why I stopped buying it!  Our poor neglected butter dish has now been retrieved from the cupboard though, and my morning toast is just so much tastier – you really can’t beat real butter can you!

 

I received some Wyke farms butter for the purposes of writing this post, but all words and opinions are my own.

mpow lens kit selfie stick

Mpow lens kit and selfie stick review

If you’ve visted my blog before you’ll most likely know that I love taking photos, mostly of my family and our everyday life.

For the most part I take photos with my ‘proper’ camera because I love the control it gives me to get the image I want.  But, saying that, I am also a big believer in the quote, “the best camera is the one you have with you”, which is very often the one on my phone.

I think I just got out of the habit of taking photos on my phone after I cracked the screen and lens on my old one which basically rendered the camera useless.

Now I have a new phone though, I really want to get in the habit of taking more photos with it, and so I was really pleased when Mpow gave me the chance to test out some of their equipment.

mpow lens kit selfie stick

They sent me their 3-in-1 lens kits and selfie stick to try out and, honestly, I’ve had so much fun playing around with them!

I never thought I’d be a selfie-stick kind of person but I really love it!  I’m really quite passionate about us parents getting in more photos with our kids and a selfie-stick makes doing it so much easier, and a lot more fun than trying to cram into a normal selfie together.

The stick itself is really quite compact when you first get it out of the box, which is great as it means it wouldn’t be too awkward to pop in your bag if you want to take it out and about with you.  All you have to do is flip the phone holder round, put your phone in, tighten the clamp at the angle you want it and then extend the arm.  It took me a minute to position my phone in the holder just right, because the power button is on the side of my phone and was the holder was pressing on it when I first tried!  But once I’d sussed that it out was all good!

The selfie stick connects with your phone via bluetooth and this was really easy to set up by following the instructions on the box.  Then it was just a case of having a play.

mpow selfie stick review

Nerys was really intrigued by the selfie stick and loved posing for photos with me using it.  Next up is to have a go at getting all 4 of us in a photo together using it, which I think will be a lot of fun, although I’ll have to get over the thought of us being ‘that family’ if we do it out in public!  I do really like the stick though, it’s easy to use, nice and compact and just a really great way to avoid that crammed in feeling you normally get when you take selfies on your phone.

 

Next up for exploring was the 3-in-1 lens kit.  Now, I was really excited to give these a go.

As a photographer I love the way the lens you use can completely change the image that you create, so I was really looking forward to seeing how effective these little lenses would be.  And I have to admit I was really impressed.

I took the lens kit with us to the park to test it out and you can see in this set of photos the difference the lenses make.

The top photo is with no added lens, the middle one is with the wide angle and the bottom one is with the fish eye, and you can really see how much the lenses change the look of the photos.

mpow 3 in 1 lens kit

The weather’s not been that cooperative recently (that’s summer in Wales for you!), but I’m really looking forward to another nice, dry day when I can take these lenses out for another spin.  You have to be careful to get the lens in just the right spot over the phone’s existing lens, to really get the photos spot on, so I’m excited to have another good go with them to really get the best out of them.

What I am really pleased with though, is the result of my playing around with the macro lens.

Now, I have to admit, this one took me a few minutes to figure out as there were no instructions with it.  I attached the lens to the camera and the image was just really, really blurry.  I couldn’t seem to get it to focus at all.  Until I held the phone right up close to the object I wanted to photograph, like, practically-touching-it-close, and hey presto!  A gorgeous, close up shot.

Once I’d figured out that this was how it worked then I was away.  I went out into the garden to find a flower to practice on and this was the result.

mpow macro lens

For a photo taken with a phone, I’m really impressed!  I absolutely love the depth of field this lens produced and can see me having so much fun experimenting with it.

I would highly recommend both the 3-in-1 lens kit and the selfie stick, for both those who take most of their photos on their phone and who want to experiment and push the limits of what their phone can do and for those who, like me, tend to take most of their photos on their big camera and who want to have more creativity with their phone when that’s the camera that they have with them.

Keep an eye on my instagram for the results of my future efforts with these bits of kit!

Ted wears organic

Ted Wears Organic

I’m really excited to announce that Nerys and I have been given the opportunity to be brand reps for a lovely children’s clothing company – Ted Wears Organic.

Ted Wears Organic is a practical and funky new independent children’s clothing line, created by a lovely Mum called Vicky and named for her son Ted.  Vicky uses high quality organic cotton in several designs and patterns that you can mix and match to create your own unique outfit.  And I just love this idea!  The range starts from just £6 and includes t-shirts, leggings, harem pants, dresses, shorts, skirts and maxaloones, which grow with your child.

It works like this, you visit the Ted Wears Organic store and choose an item, then comes the really fun part as you get to choose what fabrics you want to use!  Say you’re ordering a t-shirt, well then you chose the fabric you want for the body and then you can get creative and chose a coordinating or contrasting fabric for the arms, such fun!

All of the fabrics have been specifically chosen by Vicky to co-ordinate, but if you’re not sure that what you want will ‘work’, then get in touch with her and she’ll talk you through it and make sure you’re completely happy with your choices.

Ted wears organic

Nerys was so excited when her outfit arrived in the post – she walked round the house hugging it!  Her outfit consists of a long sleeve t-shirt and leggings in a gorgeous ‘over the sea’ design with co-ordinating pink dotty fabric.  It really is lovely, so well made and beautifully soft.  I can see us getting a lot of wear out of this outfit!

Ted wears organic clothing

You can check out the whole range at the Ted Wears Organic Etsy store, and as one of my lovely readers you can get 15% off your first order by using the code ‘GLORIOUS15’ when you check out.

If you want to keep up to date with the latest news from Ted Wears Organic you can also find them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

 

I am a brand rep and was gifted this outfit, but all opinions are my own.

 

The dinosaur that pooped daddy

The dinosaur that pooped Daddy – book review

Both my children love books, and we read a couple every night at bedtime as part of our nightly routine, so we were really excited when we were offered the chance to review a couple of books from Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter – The dinosaur that pooped Daddy and The dinosaur that pooped a rainbow.

I have to admit I hadn’t heard of this series of books until a few months ago, when Rhys was given a copy of The dinosaur that pooped a planet for his birthday and he really enjoyed it.  Well, he is a 5 year old boy after all, anything to do with poo is funny!

So he was very happy to see two new ‘the dinosaur that pooped’ books arrive in the post the other day.

The dinosaur that pooped Daddy is an eye-catching little board book, much shorter than the dinosaur that pooped a planet, and was written with younger children in mind.  Even so, Rhys really enjoyed it and I loved the fact that it had an educational element to it for Nerys.

The book counts down items around the house from 10 to 1, as Danny and Dino search for Daddy which is great for Nerys who is learning to count at the moment (we’re still at the 1, 2, 5, 6, 2, 10! stage at the moment), but the fun rhymes and the poo-related ending kept it entertaining for Rhys too.

The Dinosaur that pooped a rainbow, as you might have guessed, is all about the different colours of the rainbow, with the addition, of course, of the colour brown.  It’s silly, it really is, but that’s a big part of it’s appeal.  It’s just a fun way to help young children learn colours.  And the simple, rhyming text makes it nice to read, as it has a good rhythm to it.  I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading books out loud to my children it’s much nicer when the text has a good rhythm to it!

The dinosaur that pooped daddy

To celebrate the release of the book, The dinosaur that pooped Daddy, there are some really fun printable activites available to download.  We printed out two copies of the Father’s day card so that Rhys and Nerys could each do one, and then they got stuck in to the other activities and had great fun with it.

The sheets are lovely and colourful, and there was a fab mix of things for my 2 year old and my 5 year old to do, so no one got left out which I thought was great!

dinosaur activities sheets

I will say this, if you don’t really find poo funny and are trying to steer your kids away from toilet humour, then these books probably aren’t for you.

But, if you have a young child who finds all that stuff hilarious then these books will be a big hit.  They’re a bright, colourful, fun way to introduce kids to numbers and colours, and to make reading books fun if you’ve got a bit of a reluctant reader on our hands.

If you want a fun Father’s day activity for your children then you can click on these links for the Father’s day card and activity sheets and print them at home.

 

Disclosure – I was sent these books in exchange for an honest review.  All words and opinions are my own.
Questions about Frozen

5 questions I have about Frozen

I know, I know, we’re really late to the party with this one, but we’ve just introduced our children to Frozen and they absolutely love it.

I don’t want to think about how many times I’ve seen it in the last month.

But the thing is, the more you watch films like this the more questions you end up wanting answers to!  So, in the hopes that someone out there has some answers for me, here are 5 questions I have about Frozen:

5 questions I have about Frozen

 

1)  What’s the deal with Olaf’s song?  Am I the only one who just finds it all a bit strange, and like it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the film?

There’s just something rather Mary Poppins about it!

 

2)  Why does Kristoff not realise that Anna is Anna?!

By which I mean, he watches her get healed by the trolls when they’re children, he must know who she is because she’s taken there by her parents, the King and Queen!  Yet when they meet as adults and she gets struck again by Elsa’s magic it’s like he just doesn’t make the link or think, “oh this is familiar” at all.

 

3)  Who are Kristoff’s parents?  What happened to them?  Was he basically being raised by Sven?!

 

4)  How can Elsa suddenly magic up things like her new dress and, oh I don’t know, life?!

At the start it seems like her magic basically allows her to produce ice and snow, and things made out of ice and snow.  Fair enough.  But then she goes on to create Olaf, and bring him to life!  And magic herself up a nice new outfit, and then at the end, ice skates for Anna.  Is there a limit to what she can create?  Is it just things that are somehow linked to ice and snow?!

All very strange if you ask me.

 

5)  Why are the songs so damn catchy?

Seriously, I don’t think an hour has gone by the last month without me catching myself singing one song or another from the film.  On the plus side, Nerys likes to sing the songs too and it’s brilliant because, bless her, she really can’t carry a tune yet but she likes to belt them out which is just pure entertainment.

I’m sure there are more questions that need answering, but those are the 5 that have been bugging me the most recently. 

And, yes,  I know,  all this really means is that I’ve seen this film too many times now, but please, if you can shed any light on any of these issues please do let me know!