30 November 2010

The Next 12 Days of Christmas Shopping

Have you thought about doing your Christmas shopping at Next

They sell so much more than just clothes.

Here are my top 12 Christmas shopping suggestions (all references to The 12 Days of Christmas are purely deliberate):

12 - Talking Drum (Zingzillas) £17

11 - Grey Piped Military Coat £65

10 - Dancing Dad £6

9 - Wii Just Dance £20

8 - Blue Milk Sleepsuits (two pack) £11

7 - Floral Cargo Swim Shorts £25

6 - Anti-allergy Goose Feather & Down Pillows (two pack) £30

5 - Gold Napkins Rings £7

4 - Novelty Bird Box £10

3 - Superdry French Navy Foil Print T-Shirt £25

2 - Ocean in my Pocket Turtle Hut £10

and a ...Sorry, couldn't find a partridge, but I did find some Pears Photographic Prints £15

All of the above are available to buy at Next.

This is a sponsored post.

26 November 2010

UNICEF 'Inspired Gifts'

The ideal Christmas gift for those who have everything – UNICEF ‘Inspired Gifts’

UNICEF has a unique Christmas gift that’s ideal for those difficult to shop for friends and family. Just what do you get the person who seems to have everything?

The answer is simple: get a Christmas gift that’s different, easy to buy online, and helps children in need.

UNICEF Inspired Gifts are real, life-saving supplies that are delivered to children in emergencies and disasters around the world. They include products such as water containers, vaccines, medicines, food, and education materials. Your friend or family member will receive a card which tells them how the gift is making a real difference in children’s lives.

Treat 100 children for dehydration for £26.50

Weighing Scales for babies and children, £26.50

You can view the full range of gifts at www.unicef.org.uk/inspired

For those who don’t have everything, UNICEF also offers a more traditional selection of cards and gifts: www.unicef.org.uk/shop

My lovely friend, Rosie Scribble, has seen first hand the amazing work that UNICEF does in Cameroon. If you haven't read her beautifully written account yet, you can find it on her blog.



25 November 2010

And the Winner of the Vtech Kidizoom Video Camera is...


Congratulations to Second Time Mummy!

Please email your choice of a pink or a blue video camera and your address to sandycalico (at) ymail (dot) com


I'm running a new competition over at my reviews blog, Sandy Calico Reviews. The prize is £50 of Mothercare vouchers and a month's supply of Fairy. This competition closes at midnight on Wednesday 1st December.



24 November 2010

Dell Inspiron All-in-One Desktops are the One-for-All

My first home computer was a Dell. I'd used computers at work for many years and was a competent user, but I didn't know that much about them. I certainly didn't know what to buy, but I found the Dell website easy to use. With a few clicks of the mouse I had built up a specification for a desktop computer and had selected all the options I required.

At the time I was single, so my needs were basic. I wanted to go online, upload photographs and play around with Microsoft Office. The Dell desktop I bought did what I asked of it and it did it well. In fact, five years on and it is still in use.

Of course, now I have a family, my requirements for a family desktop computer are different. 

Soon the boys will be using the family computer more and more. A computer in every home was unimaginable when I was at school (yes, I really am that old)! Using computers is second nature to my two and three year old sons. Already they can move a mouse and use the keyboard, picking out their initials.

We now want a family computer that is multi-functional. We want to go online and play games, watch videos and much much more. We want a high-tech interactive touch screen. We want sleek and space-saving design, with no tower, so that it can fit anywhere in the home. We want a high resolution screen for viewing photographs. We want to create and listen to music. We want it all!

The Dell All-in-One Desktop seems to fit the bill.


Further information can be found here

the youtube Video

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23 November 2010

Black and White

I'm rather proud of this photograph. It was taken in a park in Epsom a few years ago with my trusty old Fuji Finepix E550.

The theme for the Sticky Fingers Gallery this week is black and white.


21 November 2010

Do You Lie to Your Children?

I'm not talking about those harmless white lies we all tell our children. You know, when you've had a hard day and you put them to bed early but you don't tell them it's only 6pm. Or when they want a seventh yoghurt and you tell them there aren't any left and you'll put them on the shopping list.

What I'm talking about is Father Christmas. Do you tell a tissue of festive lies or do you come clean about the big fella with the white beard and red outfit?

The big argument for telling the truth is that your child may be devastated when they discover that you have been deceiving them for years. Has this happened to anyone? Were you the child who didn't like having the cotton wool beard pulled over their eyes?

For me, as a child, the excitement I experienced every Christmas was priceless. I remember it as a magical time. My brother and I would decorate a box that we left by our beds. Father Christmas had to leave one present in these boxes so we would know that he'd been. Our large stockings were waiting downstairs. We didn't notice that Father Christmas had used the same wrapping paper as Mum. We weren't concerned that he had the same handwriting as Mum.

I thought I saw him once. When I was five we had friends staying. I was sleeping on a camp bed in Mum and Dad's bedroom. I say 'sleeping', I was trying to sleep, but far too excited. When I heard footsteps on the stairs I turned to face the wall. I saw a red reflection in the radiator. Then, relieved, I slept.

I think it dawned on me when I was nine that maybe Father Christmas didn't exist. I felt neither disappointed or cheated. I pretended I still believed so that my younger brother wouldn't find out. Christmas was still magical. Until I left home the same sacks would appear downstairs every Christmas morning.

I'm almost certain I want my children to experience the excitement, joy and magic of believing in Father Christmas, but it's only possible if we all take part in the big Christmas lie, isn't it? Can Christmas be just as magical without the jolly bearded chap and his flying reindeer?

If you have decided not to take part in the great Christmas deception, what will you tell your children about Father Christmas? Do you think your child will be the odd one out at school? Are you worried your child will spoil it for the rest? I'd love to know what you think.

Ho ho ho!


19 November 2010

Tiny Acorns

Earlier this year the fabulous Tim from Bringing Up Charlie ran a free creative writing e-course. I thoroughly enjoyed it and picked up plenty of writing tips.

You know the saying about tiny acorns? Well, Dotterel Press has published the course and selected pieces from those who took part in a mighty oak of a book, called 'Tiny Acorns'.

I am delighted that two pieces wot I wrote are in the book.

You can buy 'Tiny Acorns' direct from Dotterel Press for just £8.99 plus £1 p&p (no matter how many copies you buy). 

'Tiny Acorns' is also available internationally from Lulu for £9.99 and to download there for £2.99. 

All proceeds will go to Children In Need.

I am immensely grateful to Tim and so so proud of all those who took part in the course, especially Nickie from Typecast and Mummy Limited - my wonderful writing buddies.



18 November 2010

WIN a Vtech Kidizoom Video Camera

*** This competition is now closed ***

Would you like to win one of these Vtech Kidizoom Video Cameras? 

The giveaway winner can choose which colour they prefer as the camera comes in pink or blue.

The Vtech Kidizoom video camera has a RRP of £59.99.

It is a child's first video camera featuring tough design and easy operation. You can record and edit video and take photographs. It has a 1.8" colour screen, 256MB internal memory, 4x digital zoom and 2.0 megapixel resolution and includes RV and PC connections.

Would a child you know like this for Christmas?

This prize has kindly been provided by Argos, who provide a wide range of toys, such as Lego and Barbie dolls.

The Vtech Kidizoom Video Camera is on Argos' list of the top 10 toys for Christmas 2010.

How to enter the giveaway

  • For one entry simply leave a 'pick me' comment on this post. Please leave your Twitter id or email address so that I can contact you if you are lucky enough to win.
  • For an additional entry follow this blog on Google Friend Connect and tell me in the comments that you have done so.
  • For another additional entry follow my other blog, Sandy Calico Reviews, on Google Friend Connect and tell me in the comments that you have done so.
  • For yet another entry sent the following tweet "I've entered the #competition on http://sandycalico.blogspot.com/ to #win a Vtech Kidizoom Video Camera" and tell me in the comments that you have done so.
  • That gives a maximum of four entries per person.

The rules

  • Open to UK residents only (sorry to my international readers).
  • The closing date is midnight on Wednesday 24 November 2010.
  • The winner will be picked using Random.org and notified on Thursday 25 November 2010.
  • The prize will be sent to the winner by Argos. Please allow 28 days for delivery.

Good luck!



17 November 2010

Mummy Blogger Family Time With Owners Direct

Andy and I had been thinking of going on holiday for a while. This would be our first holiday with the boys. We wanted to go somewhere nice (obviously), somewhere clean and somewhere not too far away.

Andy and I needed a holiday, but we were worried. What if the boys wouldn't eat or sleep? What if they didn't like it? We were terrified.

I know other families think nothing of hopping on a plane or trekking with their children. I'm ashamed of our lack of confidence in being away from home and away from our routines.

All this changed when the fabulous Publicity Oxford invited us to join three other blogging families at an Owners Direct Farmhouse in the Cotswolds. Everything was being laid on for us. It was only one night. It sounded ideal.

So earlier this month we met up with the lovely New Mummy, Cafebebe and Mellow Mummy and their families at Yew Tree Farmhouse near Lechlade on the Glos/Wilts borders.

Owners Direct have 37,000 self-catering holiday homes and apartments worldwide.

The house was stunning. I've always wanted to live in a house like this.

We had plenty of time to enjoy the house and the garden and the children absolutely loved it. The location was quiet and beautiful.

Spending time with other families was great fun. We all mucked in together to make the holiday a wonderful experience.

I could just imagine a large family gathering or group of friends staying here. Our farmhouse had seven bedrooms and the dining table seated fourteen. We all had our own space but could get together for meals and a glass of wine in the evening.

We would definitely book with Owners Direct for our next holiday. It was a (luxury) home away from home.

The boys ate well, played well and one of them slept well. The other woke up at 3.30 and asked to go home! He soon went back to bed though. We gained so much confidence from this short break.

On the second day we all went to Cotswold Wildlife Park. Despite Cash being startled by a gaggle of guinea fowl we had a great time. The boys loved seeing the animals, they are at the age now where they can take it all in.

Before we left, we stopped at the shop (as you do). We now have our very own zoo at home!

"We parked them, mummy"

Thanks must also go to the companies that donated extra items to make our stay even more comfortable and meant that we didn't have to overload the car. Thank you John Crane (we officially love all of your wooden toys), Huggies, Treasure Trove Toys, BabyBjorn, Jumbo Games, Green's, Boots, University Games, Tippitoes, Munchkin, Sanihands.co.uk and Prince Lionheart.



12 November 2010

Just because...

... it's nearly Christmas

... I'm sentimental

... 'Your Song' is a classic

... it's my favourite shop!

I hope you enjoyed that sneak preview of the John Lewis Christmas advert that launches tomorrow night during the X-Factor.

Now, where's my Love Actually DVD?!


10 November 2010

On Beauty

What is beauty?

Beauty can be difficult to describe. Maybe there's a formula for the perfect face, but I suspect many are chasing an ideal that simply does not exist. We exfoliate, refine and paint our faces to look younger. 

Here's an idea. Perhaps we could try just looking like ourselves.

It amuses me when I see teenagers wearing make up. They don't need it, any of them, yet they plaster themselves in the stuff and spend ages getting dressed in their distressed tights, scuffed ballet-style pumps, battered corsages, pretty printed dresses and non-functioning cardigans. Their hair is back-combed to within an inch of its life. They hold a pink phone in one hand and a strawberry beer (with a straw) in the other.

Is youth wasted on the young? It's all relative, surely.

I can not understand the fascination with cosmetic surgery. It seems that most women over 40 in Hollywood all look the same. Botox, fillers and more, plumping up their faces until they look like they're wearing masks. To me, this is not beauty.

I'm not anti-make up. I wear it occasionally. If you meet me at an event, I'll be wearing my make up mask and hope that it hides my blushes and shyness. I could never be bothered to wear it - and take it off - every day.

Beauty is Andy's friend, K. Before I met her, Andy said that she had a light shining out of her. When I saw a vivacious joyful woman across a crowded graveyard, at a wedding, I knew this must be K. I was right.

Andy is beautiful, to me, inside and out. My children are the epitome of beauty. I'm sure they feel the same about me, so why do I not feel beautiful?

Probably because I am fat. I'm not a little overweight, I am big. People sometimes make comments when I walk down the street.

I actually feel self-conscious when I wear make up or dress up. 

"You can't polish a turd."

"You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."

I've just read that back and detected a hint of self-loathing. That's not attractive either. 

I saw an advert today for a £59 set of eye-shadows. I wanted them. I wanted to buy them, bring them home, take them out of their (over)packaging and sniff them. I'm sure they smell expensive. Then I wanted to be 16 again. Forget the Rimmel rainbow eyes I created for an aerobics class in 1986 - my eyes matched my leg-warmers, I'll have you know. I fancy playing with eye-shadow now. I want to sit and watch The Apprentice with my face on. I want to create the Christian Dior vision of beauty with pink/gold eyes and glamorous lashes.

Why? Because I'm worth it and youth isn't wasted on the young and because I want to and because I am beautiful in every single way.

This post has been written as part of the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop. This week I chose Prompt 3, On Beauty.


7 November 2010

I'm Scared

I wrote this study of grief for my monthly creative writing group. The prompt was 'scary'. I expect they were expecting ghost stories, ready for Halloween. Grief does scare me because it's immeasurable.

I’m scared.

I’m scared I’ll lose my way and not be able to get back. 

I haven’t enough mental crumbs to leave as a trail and you can’t tie a piece of string to the grieving process.

What if I stray from the well worn path of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance?

It is entirely likely I’ll get lost in the depression stage and that’s no use to anyone.

If I reach the point of no return, will I even know?

Better to keep my grief tucked away where it can hide and lurk and fester. I ease the pressure occasionally, when it’s safe. I’ll weep a little at a soppy advert on the television or allow a few fat tears to fall down my happy face when someone has a baby.

Sometimes I forget it’s there, briefly, until a snippet of a song hits me like a truck. I crumple when I remember you are gone.

I’m scared if I start crying I won’t stop.

I’m scared I have no tears.

I’m scared I have already accepted your death and I have nowhere to go.



5 November 2010

Win a Year's Salary with Paypal

What would you do if you won £40,000? I would jump up and down, scream lots and roll around on the floor for a bit. Then I would spend it! We've just had our first mini-holiday since the boys were born and as Presley said when we got home 'I want to go on holiday again'. So do I, love, so do I. We would fly first class to see my Mum Down Under and maybe take a nanny with us - just for the flight!
Paypal have launched a brilliant prize draw promotion that gives everyone who enters the chance to win a year’s salary of £40,000. All anyone has to do is buy something with PayPal, and they are automatically entered into the weekly prize draw.  And the more you buy the more chances you get, because you get entered every single time you buy with PayPal.
Here is a link to the Terms and Conditions.
I've already started my Christmas shopping and prefer to pay by Paypal as the retailer never sees your credit card information, so I've already entered this draw several times!
There are many retailers who accept payment by Paypal. Here are some Christmas shopping ideas for you and your family (and my husband).
I bought Presley and Cash VTech Kiddizoom cameras from Boots. They were part of the 3 for 2 promotion. My friend also got one for her daughter so we ordered them together and both saved.
If Andy is reading this, I would like something pretty from Figleaves.
I would also like some Emporio Armani She perfume from Fragrance Direct.
Andy may be lucky enough to get some cool clothes from ASOS.
Also offering a 3 for 2 promotion is Superdrug. I love their Thomas the Tank Engine stocking fillers.

Only 7 weeks to go until Christmas!

Win £40000

Find out more

Enter now for your chance to win

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