- - two become four | a blog about our life with twins... and lots more

29 November 2011

Competition Closed: Win a Fujifilm Digital Camera or a Transformers ATV courtesy of Littlewoods

Can you believe it is very nearly December? Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? No? Well here's your chance to to get your hands on a couple of fabulous gifts as featured by Littlewoods on their latest television campaign!


Littlewoods very kindly asked if I would like to giveaway a cool purple Fujifilm digital camera and an awesome Transformers Optimus Prime ATV Ride On (I know a little boy who would push his sister over to get to one of these!)... so of course I said I would be happy to oblige... after all, I was extremely lucky to win my lovely pink laptop (that is being used to write this here post) in their old for new competition earlier in the summer... so I though it would be great to help out my lovely readers too!

One lucky reader will win the camera and another will be chosen to win the Transformers ATV... this will all be selected randomly using the Rafflecopter form below.

HOW TO ENTER

Complete the Rafflecopter form below to confirm your entries made via blog comments, Twitter, Facebook etc.
This giveaway is set to run until Friday 9th December 2011.
Please make sure to read the rules below.
Winners are announced on the Rafflecopter form after claiming prizes.


No form showing? Hit refresh and it should appear
Complete the form – or your entries will not go into the draw
Mandatory entries to be completed first; i.e. leave a blog comment
Want more chances to win? Come back daily to confirm bonus entries via Twitter
Viewing this by email? You need to click through to enter.

Good luck!













27 November 2011

Things I have learned this week

  1. It was not a good idea to take the terrible twosome to a three hour #bloggerbrainstorm. We struggled through the first hour through Jasper's screams and then made our apologies before beating a hasty retreat... blubbering like a baby... me - not Jasper!
  2. I am completely incapable of going anywhere on my own with the twins... they are over 2 years old and I am still useless at it!
  3. Jasper and Tilly desperately need more some one-on-one time to help develop their Jasper's confidence and work on his control/attention issues.
  4. I need to reset my mental self image... I'm not the size 8/10 that I used to be... it's beginning to get depressing... perhaps explains why I rarely look in the mirror! I guess the other answer would be to actually do something about it... both seem impossible at the moment.
  5. Did I mention that I'm useless at taking Tilly and Jasper anywhere on my own?
  6. I'm having a bad me/meh week.
  7. On a bit of a positive note... I have, however, met some lovely bloglanders this week :)
Here's hoping for a better week next week...

Baby names... how did you choose yours?

// image linked to source

Baby names... an inescapable decision you have to make as a parent, and one of the most difficult... get it wrong and they will be lumbered with it for the rest of their life. Do you go with traditional, unusual, family names or something from your current favourite book/movie?

And then when you find out it's twins it makes things doubly difficult!

We had absolutely no problem with girls names at all. Before we had a gender scan at 16 weeks we'd already picked out two girl's names - Matilda and Madeline - and middle names - Grace (a nod to Keith's Nan) and Rose... all chosen purely on the fact that we just liked the names and that they weren't too unusual and at the same time not too popular (apart from Grace that is, which is why it is Tilly's middle name).

Then, after the gender scan, we had to completely rethink everything. Except with boys names we were completely stumped! We both had our lists of favourites... but not one single one matched... and none were negotiable!

Then one day it just clicked. We were in the midst of reading the Twilight saga at the time and Keith came out with the suggestion of Jasper - our favourite character - something we could agree on! And in that instant we both knew what our little boy would be called. His middle name came not long after... another chance mentioning of a name we both liked... Gabe... except neither of us liked the idea of their given names being shortened, so Gabriel it was.

I know we took a chance on using a name from a hugely popular film, but we thought it would be one that escaped most people's notice... and a quick glance at last year's top 100 baby names listings on the Office for National Statistics shows that Jasper didn't even feature, so hopefully we were right. Matilda and Tilly don't feature in the top 50 for girls and seem to be on the decline too... so hopefully they won't be in classes with children with the same names as them.

Did you struggle choosing baby names? How did you decide on yours?



Disclosure: this is a sponsored post

26 November 2011

Recipe: Atholl Brose Muesli

It's getting to that porridge time of year again... which is fantastic, I love crisp, chilly mornings and not being able to feel my toes when I wake up... except I'm not really a huge fan of hot cereals. So last week I thought I'd have an experiment.

I love oats - especially in muesli... and the best breakfasts I've ever had were Atholl Brose at Ragdale Hall (many years ago... back in the days with no commitments and money to spare! It's been quite depressing seeing all the lucky buggers bloggers who've have the chance to go and review them recently!) and Bircher Muesli in a hotel on an island in the Nile (again, way back when... aah, those were the days!).

After a not-very-quick search, I found it quite difficult to pin down a recipe for either of these... well unless you want an alcoholic drink called Atholl Brose (which does have similar ingredients plus a good measure of whiskey too - but I guess that explains where the muesli dish got it's name from... or is it vice versa?). Anyway, I'm gabbling on a bit now so let's just get to the recipe that I came up with...

The great thing about this is that you can prepare most of it the night before, so all you have to do is get up and enjoy the next morning.


//image linked to source


Atholl Brose Muesli

Prep time:
Serves: 2

You will need:

1/2 cup Oatmeal
3/4 cup Milk (I used whole milk)
2 tbsp Honey
1/4 tsp Mixed Spice
1 handful Raisins
1 handful Chopped Strawberries

There are so many different things you can throw into this... the Ragdale muesli had raspberries in it, but just use whatever you have to hand; blueberries, dried cherries/cranberries/apricots, dessicated coconut, chopped nuts, grated apple (although I would grate this and stir through the following morning)

Directions:

Simply...
  1. Place all of your ingredients in a bowl
  2. Give it a good stir
  3. Cover
  4. Place in the fridge overnight
  5. Enjoy the following morning! :)

25 November 2011

Style Inspiration: Abney & Teal

Hands up who loves Abney & Teal! I am completely and utterly in love with this new CBeebies programme. It's got the vintage charm of Bagpuss, a walking turnip, and a woolly manatee that burps bubbles... what more could you want! Tilly and Jasper both adore it and get excited whenever Bop (the manatee - or at least that's what I think it is) comes on screen.

In honour of this wonderful programme I thought I'd whip up a quick style inspiration... so now you too can dress your kids as Abney & Teal...


Abney: Tipper Jacquard Knit Jumper, Stella McCartney Kids // Belted Coated Jeans, F&F at Tesco // Multi-Stripe Tassel Trim Scarf, M&S

21 November 2011

Make it Monday: Advent Activity Cards... and a free download

Last week I mentioned that I was currently working on our advent calendar... a beautiful felt kit by Button Bag. I've been wanting to make a re-usable calendar since we became a family as it takes the emphasis away from the chocolate... you can put other little surprises in the pockets, and hopefully it will become a family tradition.


Pinterest, yet again, has also provided the inspiration of including activity cards too, to help make the most of the festive season. So one evening this week I quickly whipped up a list and got to work on photoshop. I've just made simple cards so that if I've got a bit of spare time I can embellish them with glitter, tape, ribbons and buttons... but first I need to finish off the calendar!


I'll post up pictures of the cards once they are all finished, but thought that as I'd gone to the effort of creating them I would also share the templates to download to save you the time and trouble. I've included a set of my activities, and also a blank set so that you can use any of your own activities... speaking of which, it took me quite a while to come up with 24 activities so any suggestions for future years would be glady welcome... just let me know in the comments below :)

Here is what I came up with:
  • Make mince pies with Daddy
  • Make paper snowflakes to decorate windows
  • Read a Christmas story together
  • Go for a drive to see the Christmas lights
  • Bake some stollen
  • Have hot chocolate with the works
  • Visit Santa’s Grotto
  • Pop some corn and watch a Christmas movie
  • Light some candles and listen to Christmas music
  • Go to a children’s carol service
  • Wrap up warm and go stargazing
  • Write letters to Santa
  • Celebrate Mummy’s birthday by decking the halls!
  • Make a nativity scene
  • Wear new pyjamas to bed
  • Post/deliver) Christmas cards
  • Make Christmas cards
  • Visit some reindeer and then make reindeer food
  • Make Christmas cookies
  • Make marshmallow snowmen
  • Use old Christmas cards to make new decorations
  • Make pomanders
  • Sing some Christmas songs
  • Wrap some presents

Free Printable Downloads



20 November 2011

Top 5 things about twins!

It's been a busy old week here... and now I'm sat here 'relaxing' after a weekend of birthday celebrations trying to catch up with the goings on in blogland.

Earlier in the week the beautiful Jo tagged me to write my top 5 list about having twins... reading through everyone's posts there are a few that keep cropping up, but that's just 'cos it's so great to have twins!

Here's my top 5 things about twins... in pictures:






I'm a bit short on words at the moment so I'm tagging Mich, Heather and Marianne to hopefully do a better job than me!

14 November 2011

Make it Monday: A Very Thrifty Lavender Rice Wrap

I've been spending a lot of time, both with the twins and also in the evenings, doing a lot of crafty stuff recently. It's very therapeutic - especially with little helpers as there is no time to think about anything else because you're too busy worrying about where the paint/glue/glitter is going or watching that they're not vandalising the other's masterpiece!

Kelly has decided that she'll be trying to do a weekly 'Make it Monday' post, so I thought I'd steal borrow her fantastic idea (hope she doesn't mind!) to keep me motivated to continue with our current crafty streak.

So first up is this very thrifty lavender rice wrap that I made for my sister-in-law's birthday after my favourite nephew told me that was what she wanted.


It was inspired by this rice wrap that I had pinned on pinterest.

I'm so pleased with how it turned out... especially as it was the first time I had used a sewing machine in twenty years!

And it couldn't have been easier or cheaper to make... although I probably shouldn't be admitting this!

What I used:

Fabric - an old hoodie bought from a sale in New Look about 5 years ago for about £3
Elastic cord - from scraps box
Button - from scraps box
1kg rice - own brand can be bought for less than 40p
10 drops of lavender oil - already had, but can be bought for about £3-4 and a little goes a long way


When it's made up you can either throw it in the microwave for 2 minutes for a wonderfully scented heat wrap, or leave in the freezer for a couple of hours for a chill pack... I think it makes a great gift and plan to make lots more!

What have you been making recently?

Currently on the go I also have this advent calendar, as well a some embroidery :)

08 November 2011

How to be a frugal eBay seller

As part of my ongoing, and seemingly everlasting, decluttering, I've been having quite a bit of success on eBay. It's a great way to add a few sheckles to the pot each month and is also a bit of a boost to feel that I can still contribute in some way to the upkeep of our family. Obviously being an auction site a lot of it is a game of chance, but there are ways to maximise your earnings and be a frugal eBay seller... so I thought I'd share a few of the things I've learned along the way...

// image linked to source


Photos

Good photos are important in selling anything on eBay as this is the main thing the buyer has to go on. Make your photos as clear and detailed as possible.

Also bear in mind that in a lot of categories there is a fee for any additional pictures uploaded after the initial image. When it comes to clothing, which I've been getting rid of a lot of, I think it is good to see close ups of any detailing as well as an overall product shot... in these cases I get around the multiple uploads issue by using photoshop (but you could use any of the free to use programmes such as Picnik, Gimp or Pixlr etc.) to create a composite image.

For items like DVDs and CDs I would normally just use a stock image from Amazon instead of faffing around trying to take a decent picture... unless there were any details, such as the condition of the casing/item, that I thought needed highlighting.


Postage and Packaging

Would it be too obvious to state that you should post out be the cheapest possible delivery method you are happy with? I always state which service I will be using and use Royal Mail Price Finder to calculate the approxiate cost by weight, which I then use as the postage cost. I don't mess around offering free post and packaging or a set price (and then sit there worrying about whether my costs will be recouped)... my thoughts are that if I state my postage cost and people are happy to bid, then so be it.

Packaging-wise, I stash any old envelopes, jiffy bags, bubble wrap, tissue paper and boxes that can be re-used in anyway, and most of these come in handy for sending out my eBay sales... but remember to remove any previous traces of your address. For sending out clothes I ordered (from an eBay seller) some of those plastic postage bags that are similar to those used to mail-order companies as they are lightweight and provide adequate protection for soft garments.

Another key thing to remember is size and weight limits on each of the different postage options... again, Royal Mail comes in very handy here.


Titles and Descriptions

The key here is to be detailed, precise and honest. For the title it is a good idea to be as detailed as possible so that when potential buyers are searching for what you are selling they can find it quickly and easily without having to sift through hundreds of other sloppily titled descriptions. Try to include condition/colour/brand/size and as much other information you can fit in the 80 character limit.

The same can be said for your item description. Expand on the details in your title and be as precise as you can. If it is a relatively recent product I usually do a quick google to see if I can find product specifications. I also try to add a personal touch or a bit of humour to make the listing memorable so that potential buyers are more likely to remember it.


Timings

When selling items on eBay there are two types of timing you need to take into consideration
  1. the time at which the listing goes live
  2. the time of year you are listing your item
It is widely suggested that the best time to list items is when people will be sat at home searching for what they are looking for i.e. weekends and evenings. This is probably a good consideration, but with the many tools out there that buyers can use to place those last minute bids I tend to ignore this and tend to list items when I have the time to actually put the effort in... usually late at night when the kiddies are in bed. Besides, you have to pay extra to schedule listings, so they go on as when I can!

I have found though that it does make a huge difference if you are canny with the time of year that you list certain items. People will not be looking for winter coats in the height of summer so why list one then?

I have made some great sales just buy picking the right time to list them. When we had a particularly cold and snowy spell last winter I dusted off my snowboard gear, a down jacket and various other wintery items and they were snapped up. I also took advantage back at the begininning of October to sell off all of my uni text books (some even went for more than you buy them brand new on Amazon!) by catching those eager students that were just starting or returning to studies.



So just get out there and try it! Yes you may make losses on some items... if you can consider them losses - you've either had your use out of them or no longer want them after all, but hopefully you will make some useful sales too. It's amazing what people will buy... I listed a mini camping espresso maker that had been used once, all original packaging (with £14.99 price label still on and thus stated in item description) and it sold for £19 plus £3 postage... madness!

Do you have any other tricks on how to be a frugal eBay seller? If so, please feel free to add any suggestions in the comments below :)

02 November 2011

Make some noise for John Crane Ltd and Sevi!



Tilly would like to let you know that her favourite wooden toy manufacturer, John Crane Ltd, have just joined forces with the gorgeously vibrant Italian brand Sevi to become their official UK distributor!

I was so excited that Tilly and Jasper were invited back to model for John Crane because they had so much fun last time. Although I think they might have second thoughts next time after Tilly tried to take over! I hadn't realised that they would be 'modelling' some of the Sevi range, but they were very impressed... as was I. The toys are top quality and such fun, bright colours.

Feast your eyes on some more Sevi loveliness...


And... they also do fabulous Christmas decorations and this Nativity scene is definitely going on my wishlist for our Christmas mantelpiece...

Disclosure: I am running this post in conjunction with Blog Match and for doing this I have received a cute keyring... the modelling was just a happy coincidence!

01 November 2011

Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Every year, November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month in the UK.
 
I wasn't aware of this until very recently, but now I'm reading up on anything and everything I can to find out as much as possible about this disease... and I thought here would be as useful a place as any to help raise awareness, if only to help make the point that early detection can save lives (that is if you haven't got a GP that ignores major symptoms for 5 weeks that NICE recommend immediate referral for - grrrr).

The two aims of Lung Cancer Awareness Month are to inform and educate the public, particularly those at risk, about the importance of early detection and diagnosis; and to raise awareness among health professionals, particularly GPs and pharmacists about the possible diagnosis of lung cancer when considering symptoms.

Using the message Early Detection Saves Lives the campaign urges you to see your doctor straight away if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away after two to three weeks
  • Worsening of a long-standing cough
  • Persistent chest infections
  • Coughing blood
  • Unexplained persistent breathlessness
  • Unexplained persistent tiredness or lack of energy
  • Unexplained persistent weight loss
  • Persistent chest and / or shoulder pain

These symptoms may not be serious, in which case, you’ve got nothing to lose by getting them checked out. If they are serious, you’ve got everything to gain - diagnosis at an early stage could save your life.

So what can you do to help?

I'm hoping that my compassionate readers, those that know of someone, or perhaps are even suffering from this awful disease themselves will help spread the word and raise awareness by sharing this post on facebook or retweeting on twitter using the hashtag #LungCancerSucks. Every little helps :)


You can find out more about Lung Cancer by visiting the following organisations:


(PS: No it's not me)