Friday, 1 August 2014

Wicker Baskets from The Basket Company

One saying I can't stand is: "Children should be seen and not heard." Children should definitely be seen. And heard always.

And it sort of reminds me of the way Bill and I live too.

Before the spare room became the spare room, there was discussion of turning it into a playroom. But something told me that wasn't a wise decision.

Not because I had guests on my mind. But because I wanted a big family room that was filled with colour and noise. I wanted people to visit my house and instantly recognise my son's importance.

But at the same time, I wanted to cater to my organisational urges, and have nice storage to keep his toys safe and out of the way, come bedtime. Disney Junior goes off, Sex and the City re-runs come on. Balloonia gets put back on the shelf, and out comes Bloglovin' on the iPad. And juice beakers have a rinse in the sink, and I pour a glass of wine - if it's the weekend, otherwise, sad-to-say, I'm on juice too.

When The Basket Company asked if I'd like to review its Heritage Wicker Storage Trunk* (£25.00), I have to admit that I was a little excited. I already have one wicker basket in my lounge, which isn't in any way as well-made as this one. But, as my lounge is work-in-progress, I knew this would be the perfect addition for additional storage once everything is complete.

I love how sturdy it is. None of the wicker is twisted or coming loose. The buckles are well attached, and I love the touch of the chains to keep the lid steady when you open it. It doesn't tip up and it holds plenty.

We took it outside with some toys while it was sunny this weekend, and William loved dipping in and out to see what I'd packed up for him. When the lid was closed, it also made a great surface for him to play on too.

And, if you follow me on Instagram, you'll know it acted as a washing basket while I hung our bedding out on the line. I know I'll get lots of use out of it for years to come, whether as a toy box, or to keep blankets in, or to be filled with lovely food for a picnic.

You can find out more about The Basket Company here. I can't recommend them enough!

*I was sent this beauty of a basket to review. And I do love it, quite a lot. It now houses Bill's Mega Bloks collection and it's absolutely perfect for the job. 

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Mega Bloks Junior Builders - Thomas & Friends

One of the nicest things about watching Bill grow up is noticing what he prefers and what he likes to do. That sounds like a silly thing to admit, but when you're watching that tiny newborn sleep, your mind does wander to the future and wonder what this tiny baby will grow up to be. And, while he's still my tiny baby, he's a person all his own. And I love watching him develop.

I've always been respectful of his preferences. I've not forced 'boys' toys' at him. I wouldn't bat an eyelid if he played with a doll. And he's worn pink, several times.

But he's a quite the stereotype.

And he loves anything with a wheel.

We've had the car phase. But, most recently, it's been trains.

Particularly Thomas the Tank Engine.

Recently, Bill's wishes came true when he was asked, very kindly, if he'd like to review the Mega Bloks Thomas & Friends 123 Train* and the Mega Bloks Thomas & Friends Percy Brave Tale* sets.

As soon as they arrived, he, as a blogger's child tends to do, peered curiously at the parcel I was holding. "Do you want to see what's inside Bill?"

"Okay Mama! Yes pwease!" My son is very enthusiastically-polite when it suits him.

And, I must note that, yes, he does get a treat now and then, but I work very hard to maintain this blog, as well as working full-time. And, when my wage just about covers our outgoings as a single-parent family with bills to pay, there's nothing more rewarding than being able to treat him to things he wouldn't otherwise have without my hard work.

So let's move on to the good stuff!

Bill already has some Mega Bloks already, which he loves. They are the simpler kind, with large joins that make it very easy for him to use.

These sets suit two to five year-olds, so I was dubious at first, as to whether my 25 month-old could manage smaller joints and bricks. But he was quite the pro at it.

I took to the instructions, adding little stickers and building structures, step-by-step. And, while he can't follow instructions, as he's lacking that all-important skill of being able to read, he's an excellent mimic.

As, with any toddler, the little buildings and towers were often broken by a clumsy hand or foot, but he was more than able to build them back up again, and in the right way.

I loved how Mega Bloks had combined an educational toy, that can generate a good few hours of play, with a well-loved character. Bill was telling me all about Thomas and Henry. And he would tell me if the track was broken. Or match up the pieces of brick that make up the dinosaur bones.

The 123 Train was particularly genius as he was counting and placing the numbered bricks up in order. And it was so nice to see his little brain at work and enjoy the time with him.

They work brilliantly as a pair, or separately, but we loved mixing the two up and playing some imaginative games involving toy animals on a train and a paddling pool. That's the benefit of plastic I guess - every plastic train likes a good dunk in a paddling pool on a hot day.

*A big thank you to Mega Bloks for making this toddler's day. We're very grateful for the review opportunity.


When I was a baby, my parents opened an ISA for me. And they would add to it when they could. So by the time I was 18, I had some money to use wisely.

I ended up using it on my first house. To get things done up. And I was so grateful for it.

My solo-parent status has meant that I’m not able to save much for William, but it’s certainly something I’m planning on doing as I hopefully earn more and manage a more comfortable lifestyle. At the moment, where savings are concerned, I have proudly saved up for my lounge carpet – so hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to give Bill a lovely home to come back to every day.

If I could, I would give my son the world, but at the same time I think that working hard for something is a brilliant lesson to teach your children. My parents did the same with me and I really do know the importance of money now. It’s why I’ve never had a credit card and I’ve always gone by the ‘if you can’t afford it, you can’t have it’ rule.

I’ve always been an ISA saver. Ever since that first account was opened for me as a baby. And it’s something I really want to start up again, once I’ve completed the latest house refurbishment challenge that is my lounge.

As you may be aware the new ISA rules came into effect on 1st July, allowing people to put a maximum of £15,000 into a new ISA (NISA).  This money can be split in any proportion between a New Cash ISA and New Stocks and Shares ISA. And this is great, because the new limit means that you can prepare for the future, and get a little interest too. However, it’s very worthwhile trying out ISA investments – particularly as, since providers have started to lower their interest rates since the new rules, which means you’re not getting as much for your money as you used to.

The trend shows that for every one investment ISA taken out, three cash ISAs are opened. Neil Lovatt, Scottish Friendly’s Director of Financial Products, said that the reason for this is that:  “Cash is easier to understand as it offers security and access to the savings without penalty that investment ISAs do not. People are being put off by what they think is pure equity investments and instead are opting for accounts that offer poor returns on their cash.”

If you'd like more information, you can also follow the Scottish Friendly Twitter account too.

I’ve never thought to invest my savings before, but if there’s a better return on my money and I can reach my savings goals faster, then I’ll certainly be giving it a go.

Are you a saver, or a spender?

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