My Little Pony Review

Why a ‘cutie mark’ is so important for my daughter

My Little Pony ReviewAbout 6 months ago I decided to cut back on TV watching and banned Cbeebies etc from being on as much.  It took me several weeks to discover that Little Dimples (then just turned 3) had worked out to use YouTube – argh!

Not just that, but she had worked out how to stick the headphones on for the computer so that I wouldn’t hear the tell tale signs!  Little Minx!

It was during this that she discovered My Little Pony and fell head over heels in love (how she found it I have NO IDEA!).  Obviously there is a lot to love – ponies, sparkles, pink, magic etc etc.  But actually as I started to catch more of the story I started to understand the fascination.

At first we could find everything on Youtube and then they disappeared, which caused us lots of tears in the house.  Then I was contacted by a lovely PR and I understood why they had disappeared – because they are now available on DVD!

The first story is lovely about how Rainbow Dash discovers that whilst learning is important, so is friendship – and that it creates magic in life.  I love this story as I was a much too serious and studious little girl, and I wouldn’t want my children to be quite that good (I know I might regret that one day!).

The second DVD ‘Call of the Cutie’ has a story on it explaining about how every pony has a ‘cutie mark’ on them that gives them their identity.  Now my gorgeous little girl was born with what they call a ‘stork mark’ on her head.  It’s basically a birth mark where the claws of the stork would be if they really did fly a baby to it’s mother.  Most has faded, but the flash on her forehead still shows when she is having a tantrum (she isn’t slow in coming forward about how she feels about things).  She also has a ‘zip’ all the way down her back.

I have a large strawberry birthmark just below the bra line, and I know that it has caused me many odd looks.  Little Dimple’s is more noticeable and I was wondering how to explain it to her one day when it gets pointed out.  But MLP answered that for me and I could photograph her ‘cutie mark’ for her and show her that she too has one, so she is ‘special’ like the ponies.

I’m also a BIG fan of learning about yourself, and learning to be you.  Just you.  No one else.  Which is a strong message in Ponyville.

They now have Equestria girls as well – Little Dimples is in 7th heaven with the dolls that go with them.

Christmas is coming up and you are bound to get requests for presents.  A DVD is always a useful thing to have, but it can be tricky to pick something that doesn’t have a downside – like Barbie’s neck.  I love the MLP series, so reckon they are a good bet for you (even Curly Headed Boy watches them, but don’t tell anyone).

But don’t forget what I mentioned in my previous post about Christmas – there is no point to rushing around like a headless chicken and not enjoying yourself!

 

Disclosure: I was sent a couple of CD’s by the PR for My Little Pony.  I’m not reviewing things at the moment, but as my daughter loves MLP, it wasn’t difficult to agree to review it for them!  They are available in all good retailers and www.clearvision.co.uk priced £12.99. Certification U: Suitable for all audiences.

Charity Shop Finds

Getting unusual jewellery doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

So you’d like to buy your wife/partner/girlfriend some jewellery, but don’t know how to do it without bankrupting yourself?

I love jewellery, but I love saving money too.  This can make it difficult if you want ‘original’ jewellery, because it can make us tempted by the likes of Pandora or Tiffany, but then we are talking mega bucks.

A few years ago I was a fan of Schwarovsky because of all the sparkles, but then I fell foul of their returns policy after getting the wrong sized ring for a birthday present (due to going on holiday straight after, I couldn’t return it as I had taken too long).

So the question is, how to still get a sparkle fix and not cost a fortune?

 

Here are my Top 3 Tips for buying gorgeous jewellery on a budget.

 

1) Original designers on Etsy, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram

There are loads of people out there making gorgeous unusual pieces.

Lady muck is a good example; she sent me this wonderful Alice in wonderland broach which I put on my denim jacket.  I’ve never been sure what to do with a broach, but this works perfectly; just a little bit cooky/vintage too which is great for me.  (If you have little ones make sure you check the metal circle every now and again that holds the charm on the brooch).

Brooch from Lady Muck
Lady Muck’s Brooch

One of my favourite people is GreenfroggyFae, who normally sells her pieces locally, and I’ve been nagging her for months to get on the internet, and at last she has a shop!  She specialises in pieces made from old watches, and has a really creative style.

Wave some pictures in front of the love of your life and mention words like ‘vintage’, ‘silver’, ‘gold’, ‘crystals’, ‘under stated’, ‘fashion statement’ to see which words they pick up on the most.  If you are going for colour, have a look at what they already have, and what colour their clothes are; you don’t want to repeat what they have, but also don’t want to choose colours they never wear.

 

2) Local crystal shop

I actively have to avoid my local crystal shop as the kids and I are suckers for anything that sparkles, and I really do have enough crystals.  But I have treated us to a couple of visits recently, and this is what I came back with.  Don’t you think that ring is gorgeous, and much better than anything you could get normally in the shops?

For anyone near me who doesn’t know where to go, this came from Destiny Rising, which is at Battlers Green Farm in Radlett.

Crystal ring from Destiny Rising
Sparkly x 3!

 

They can have added benefits of being ‘good for you’ too.  So it’s wise to go knowing when they were born (star sign), and wether they have any ailments or problems needing fixing at the moment.

 

3) Charity shop

On one of my declutter trips to the local charity shop I actually got a chance to check out some of the stuff that they had.

Now you might not like this gorgeously sparkly bracelet, but I thought it was a real find , if maybe only right for summer wearing.  However, there was loads of much more tasteful stuff, so get yourself down to your local charity shop for a treat!

Charity Shop Finds
Butterfly Sparkles!

 

I go on my intuition; so rather than go in every week to see if there is something there for me, I go when I get a big urge to visit the shop.

 

 

What do you think of my finds?

Where’s the best place for you to get lovely sparkly things that don’t cost a fortune?

 

Kids love Dens

Great Toy For Imaginative Outside Play For Boys and TomBoys

Several months ago I was sent the most amazing thing for Curly Headed Boy to review the ‘Ultimate Dangerous Den Kit‘ from Battle Box.

OMG was I the best Mummy in the world for this old blogging marlarkey when it turned up!

Luckily for me they are incredibly nice people as well, and they have never nagged me once knowing I had my Fibromyalgia diagnosis and was taking some time out.

I’m hoping that this review catches those people still making the most of new year sales, or with presents to buy in January and February; such a difficult time just after Christmas.

Ours came with:

  • Camouflage Tarpaulin
  • Steel pegs
  • Strong cord
  • Wooden Mallet
  • Danger Mines sign
  • Den Bags
  • Union Jack Flag
  • Camouflage net
  • Go Wild! Book – 101 things to do outside before you grow up
  • Backpack
  • Help for heroes chocolate bar
  • Playing Cards

 

So several months on what do I think about it?

It’s a great present that will last for years and get used by both Curly Headed Boy and my tomboy Little Dimples (3).

I love anything that battles the lure of the computer game and gets the kids outside.

Plus we found that Dens can be made inside, so it can be used all year round.

I remember making Dens as a kid and mine love them just as much as I do, but there are times when a couple of pillows just don’t work, and this is perfect.

If you can’t afford the ultimate Den Kit that I was sent, then I would go for the Essential Camping Kit as a great alternative and maybe get someone else to buy the hefty backpack in the ‘create your own kit’ section.

Before this I had tried to make a sort of Den that went over the Kitchen table; ahem, it didn’t really work out, especially as they kept bumping their heads on the table.  So this kit has saved several bumped heads and tears!

If you have a ‘big boy’ who doesn’t really need a den, check out their battle boxes for all their ‘special things’.

 But let me show you what the kids thought ….

Kids love Dens
Very chuffed!

 

Ultimate den kit
In it’s full glory

 

Making a Den Inside
Dens work inside too!

 

My one complaint?  It made Christmas shopping really hard this year for me and Santa!

 

Disclosure: Battlebox sent me a den kit to review, but that doesn’t affect my opinions of the kit, and I would seriously have considered buying one myself.

 

 

Tips for dealing with Christmas

7 Top Tips on How to deal with stressful people at Christmas or special occasions

Tips for dealing with ChristmasIf you ignore the money worries, which are frankly caused by buying presents or stuff for people, then the next biggest cause for trouble at Christmas or other big family events and parties is PEOPLE!

So this months feature for Danny Smith from Radio Verulam‘s drive time show (92.6FM) was all about them and how to deal with the stress.

I love people, but Oh My do they know how to cause trouble when more than one of them gets together, in fact some of them love causing trouble!

So here are my seven top tips for avoiding arguments and break downs/ups during Christmas, family parties or any big special event.  Anything from dealing with your family, the in-laws, your other half and over excited kids.

(I’ll pop the audio at the bottom as soon as I have it).

 

Tip 1- Hold your tongue and don’t get drunk!

Go out for some fresh air

 

I’m not being a spoil sport, but drink and stress don’t go well together.  In fact neither does lots of sugar followed by a sugar low (check out my healthy eating for rubbish cooks for ideas to counteract that sugar buzz).

Take a breather, and get out for a walk.  Just 10mins walking round the block can help you have patience for a few more hours.  It’s pretty easy to come up with an excuse; say you are feeling odd, or have to deliver a card urgently, or need to buy more milk (hide the extra in the garage).

Remember to BREATHE and especially breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth in equal measures e.g. a count of 4 in and 4 out.  The nose will calm you down and it’s important to balance the in and out breaths.

 

Tip 2 – If you do too much for people they will treat you like dirt and show no gratitude

 

This is a very ironic but massive rule to learn in life.  There should always be a balance between how much you give and receive in return.  If you do too much, then the people you did it for will subconsciously feel guilty and then resent you for being a martyr and doing too much.  It pretty much always goes wrong and is one of the biggest causes for an argument.

Instead learn the art of delegation and get everyone involved in helping, even if it’s just with hoovering the lounge and setting the table or doing the clearing up.  Ask people/family to bring provisions or look after the kids with a winning ‘I know you’d love to help’ kind of smile.

Make sure you set their expectations early on, so that everyone knows what the plan is e.g. I’ve had a chat with Curly Headed Boy about the order of events on Christmas Day and that his Grand Dad has had a terrible Flu.

 

Tip 3 – if you are really sure of yourself you don’t need to convince other people you are right

What is success and failure

 

Some people are like energy suckers and love a good argument discussion they drag you into ‘debates’ which become heated and unpleasant.

Just remember this rule:  It really doesn’t matter if people disagree with you, because 50% of the world always disagrees with you.  So there is no need to try to convince them or win the debate.

If other people start up a difficult conversation, just interrupt and suggest to continue it at another time or place; after all you are in charge (if it’s not your party, maybe make a distraction instead).

 

Tip 4 – being clear about your boundaries

Often we get really upset because we have just had hours of abuse or nit-picking.  The key is to knock it into touch at the beginning and do it early enough before you are too upset.

It’s not about shouting at people or telling them what you really think.  They key is to say how you feel e.g

When xxx does/doesn’t happen
I feel xxx
If it continues/happens again thenconsequence you are willing to go through with that isn’t inflammatory>

For example:

  • When things like that are said I feel hurt, so if it goes on I’m going to go and have a little walk or watch TV.
  • When no one helps me to tidy up after lunch I feel really unappreciated and don’t feel like doing any more
  • I get stressed when the kids are running around me when I’m cooking, I need someone to play with them please, otherwise it might be dangerous.

 

Tip 5 – learn from your mistakes

Ok, so you might not manage all this, or some of this advice might be a little late.  Don’t get bitter, just make sure that next time works for you!

If you are a bit stressed the night after the event try counting your blessings before you go to sleep, as there is bound to be something from the day that went well, even if it was just how helpful someone was in the midst of the chaos.

 

Tip 6 – make a plan b

Face your fears, and work out what’s the worst that could happen and hen make a contingency plan and store it away.  This is not about worrying about something, this is about sorting out your ‘insurance’ and popping it in a drawer to be pulled out in an emergency, just like we do with cars.  Also, when faced, our fears are often never as bad as we think they will be.

Ideas could be to pull out board games to calm down hyper kids, or to have a new film up your sleeve for when everyone needs a chill.  Maybe putting on some music would help put people in the festive spirit, or going out for a walk stop people from getting too stir crazy.  A big pot of coffee might help with the family drunk, as will not having too much alcohol available for them.

(If however there is domestic violence in your house, I strongly suggest that you get advice from a professional about holiday periods.  Plus be very careful if you are planning on leaving soon, as it’s the point of separation that can be the worst).

 

Tip7 – but expect the best

Is it possible to have romance and kids?I bet you are looking at me with misbelief at this one, but seriously, miracles do happen!  So the most important tip is to focus on how you would like the event to go, rather than on what you don’t want to happen.  If you focus on people misbehaving it tends to happen, maybe because you behave in a way that prompts it psychologically.

This is particularly true of children and awkward relatives.  If we expect kids to be badly behaved we tend to get on their case really quickly, thereby over-controlling them, and making them feel suffocated.  Being nervous around a tricky relative will put them on their guard as well, thus bringing out the worst in them.  Drunken relatives, may still drink, but it’s possible that they fall asleep in the corner, rather than cause a massive problem!

 

I hope these tips help, as memories from special events can last for a lot longer than the actual event.

Feel free to add your hints and tips or success/disaster stories.

Remember there are lots of other tips on here about how people behave and how to feel more contented and Christmas.

Card made by kids

Tips on getting the right gifts without spending a fortune!

I was asked to come up with top tips for people worried about what to by for friends and loved ones from Christmas and Birthdays by the lovely Danny Smith from Radio Verulam‘s drive time show (92.6FM).

It’s a tough job to come up with a present or gift that you can afford, and that they love getting.  But it’s not impossible!  My last post was about presents for children, this one is for the grown ups in your life.

If you prefer to hear Danny and I talking than read this post, check out the link at the bottom.

 

How to cut costs and still send great presents:

 

Benefits Cuts

1) The first rule is don’t go into debt for christmas, unless you are sure you can pay it off the next month.  No one is worth over spending for; in fact I can pretty much promise you that the present will go wrong if you spend too much.

2) If you are struggling financially, especially at Christmas, then cut all the budgets for presents in half.  You can often buy a great present for 50% of what you used to spend e.g. £30 vs £15.  It might take some extra effort, but it’s still possible.

3) If things are really bad have an honest chat with your friends and family; no friends who are worth anything will mind not getting an expensive present or not getting anything at all.  Just ask if you can skip this year, or do a secret santa with a price limit of £5 or £10, which means loads of thought.

4) Cut postage costs at christmas with a thoughtful email with photos and interesting info (not showing off stuff!) or send online cards.  (Some people also make a donation to charity)

5) Hand made presents are still appreciated: some people make lovely candles, cakes, tarts, or a scrap book with photos in it.

6) Do something for them instead e.g. some DIY or fixing something.

7) Don’t over spend on food; it’s not about making sure you become lardy bloaters.  I do my shopping online so that I can keep going back and double checking my 2 christmas food shops (one for big long lasting stuff, the other for perishables).

8) For parties or Christmas dinner ask people to bring something; it’s lovely to feel like you’ve contributed to a meal and helped out.  It’s easy to, as they could bring cheese and biscuits/pudding/starter/wine/chocolates etc.

9) Don’t get conned into spending lots of money on Christmas decorations; they really don’t have to match of have a theme.  Make some if you have none, and then buy them in the sales on Boxing Day for next year.  Remember the Pound shops will help you out with getting loads of buck for your money.  DONT GO TO THE GORGEOUS GARDEN CENTRE GROTTO unless you have your bank with you!

Important Information For Dads

Card made by kidsYes, you may have talked about not spending money on each other at Christmas or for birthdays, but always buy something.  You can get hand creams, pretty bracelets/rings, or a bunch of flowers for £5.

Remember EACH child buys a present for each parent.  So if you have more than 1 child, it is more than one present.
If the kids are young make sure that they MAKE CARDs for mum, covered in as much glitter, goo and stuff as possible to show how much they love her (you are looking for time and effort versus beauty here!).
(Don’t feel bad, the Big Hairy Northern One has fallen foul of all of these, so it happens to the best of them; learn from each others mistakes!).

How to buy presents that people like!

Just as in my previous post about presents for children, the rule of something they want, they need, to wear and to read is a good starting point.  Remember also something to watch or listen to.

The key is to buy something that people actually want, not what you think they want or like!

How?

Be a detective.

Listen to them.

Remember the lost art of conversation.

Detective Tips:

1) What do they have around the house

2) What do they spend their money on

3) What do they spend their time on

4) Who do they spend their time with

1) What do they have around the HOUSE:

Don’t add to a collection if already full!

Something that is going to use up like smelly things is great or a treat they can’t afford.  Check their cupboards for hints: which bottles are untouched (disliked) and which are nearly finished?

Don’t buy paper books if they use a kindle or don’t read!

Are they smart, minimalistic and modern, vintage, old fashioned or cutsey?

Do they love pictures and have a space?  Do they love photos?  Are they running out of space, hows about an electronic photo frame?

2) What do they spend their MONEY on:

People generally spend their money on what they like the most.  With a Mum you might need to think back to before kids though, and then add a dash of common sense about the fact that some of those things she would still love a chance to do and some are now inappropriate!

Also ignore the fact that a Mum tends to spend more money on herself than her kids and check out what she gives her friends as presents.

What does she need to spend her money on; clothes, PJ’s, scarves, hats, bags, filofaxes (oops sorry that’s me!), boxes (me again!)?  What has she forgotten to buy for herself?

(Top Tip: give teenagers vouchers, that way they can buy stuff in the sales and get more for their money)

3) What do they spend their TIME doing:

We again tend to spend our timing doing what is most important to us.  Even the boring chores will be different for each person as to how much of a priority they take.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because they do all the cooking, that they want something for the kitchen though!  When I asked on twitter, Mummy Barrow told us a great story of how her – mother in law was given a food processor, which got dumped straight back in her husbands lap with a few choice words.  Ironically the Big Hairy Northern one is a lover of gadgets, so potentially that wouldn’t have failed for him!

Something clever is a subscription to a magazine as it keeps on giving all year long, or a special posh tea.
I’m part geek and part tree hugger.  Pretty much anything that sparkles, or is related to faeries or looks astonishingly like an iPad mini works for me.  But be careful.  When I say I’m a tree hugger, I’m more your natural cycle type, not into the peace for all the world stuff, so this is where the art of conversation comes in to find out more about the person.  Oh and I might be a bit trekky, but the model of the star ship enterprise really didn’t work for me (so sorry Big Hairy Northern one, but I had to share!).
What do they love, but hardly ever treat themselves too?  Things they used to do a lot before having kids?  Maybe a massage, spa day, day out with the girls?
What do they like reading, watching, where do they like going?

4) WHO do they spend their time with:

The ones that they really enjoy spending their time with, not the supermarket assistants!  Who would they like to spend more time with?  Maybe a trip for the family to a show?  Maybe a national trust membership for the family?  Perhaps organise a surprise visit from their best mate?

What do they think about the latest fads, or shops?  Are they a Cath Kidston type of woman, or an Apple Mac type of man?

 

 And men remember this all important rule: THIS IS NOT LIKE A MAP,

ask …. unlike when you need directions!

Happy Christmas/Birthday shopping guys!
I’d love to hear your stories of best and worst presents here, or your stories of how these tips helped!
p.s. Don’t forget wrapping paper and sellotape!
http://youtu.be/x8D751UEpBY

Presents

Tips on affording and buying birthday or christmas presents for children

I was asked to come up with top tips for parents worried about affording presents for their kids at Christmas and Birthdays by the lovely Danny Smith from Radio Verulam‘s drive time show (92.6FM).

I’ve written my tips below, but if you fancy listening to our dulcet tones, then head to the bottom for the audio clip.

Stress

Exhausted MumsIt can feel incredibly stressful to not be able to afford expensive presents for children, but there are ways around it.

The first thing you need to know is that:

 

YOUR CHILDREN WILL NOT BE RUINED BY NOT HAVING THE EXPENSIVE PRESENT

OR GETTING SOMETHING SECOND HAND!

 

They will either get used to the idea and work out for themselves that they haven’t been ruined, or they will get off their butts and grow up with a job that will enable them to earn well, so it will give them motivation in future.  (Ok so a few will grow up to be whingers, but I think there is more to that than just a few presents).

In fact last year we bought Tracey Island at a school fair for 50p and added extra bits from ebay where they were missing.  And when Curly Headed boy was little we bought the basics of a brio set new, but added shed loads from eBay.

 

When I asked on twitter, the most popular reply was to go for second hand:

   Emily: bought duplo second hand
   Molly: bought a dolls house
   Jenny bought a well loved dinosaur, who 4yrs on is even more well loved

Get a mix of toys/useful presents

 

There is an old fashioned quote that I love that gives ideas for presents:

  • something they WANT
  • something they NEED
  • something to WEAR
  • something to READ
I think that sometimes we focus too hard on just buying toys, when ‘in ye olden days’ it would have been great to get an orange.  So get them used to the idea that getting new PJ’s and gloves is great too!

Budgeting

Affording to buy stuff on a budgetThe first rule is don’t go broke, don’t get into debt that you can’t pay off really quickly.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t ‘not worry’ about money.  October to february is an expensive time for us with birthday for the Big Northern One, Curly Headed Boy, then Christmas and then Little Dimples.  If we are not careful we are in major trouble come the spring with big credit card bills.

For the kids birthdays we tend to stick to the monthly ‘kids pot’ as the budget; it just means that there won’t be anything spent on the other child and no school uniform buying etc in those months.
Christmas is obviously tricky as presents are needed for both, but we stick to a limit (well I have a bad habit of blowing it a week before, but not by much, I just love parcels!).
When we want to buy something bigger, like the year we got an xBox Kinect 360, we say that Father Christmas has given a ‘Family Present’ for everyone, and then bought games that work for everybody.  This year we are doing the same with Guitars.
I do LOVE stockings and little pressies.  But they don’t have to be expensive, and can include the traditional satsuma, chocolate lolly, socks, pants, a book, and something fun like a little figure for my son or a sparkly thing for my daughter.

 

Make the most of what you buy

How to organise a play room

 

I do take them through a catalogue for ideas.  But at the same time I spend a lot of thought about what they ACTUALLY play with and do and their personalities, rather than what they think they want.

It would be horrid to work hard to afford presents and then find that they weren’t worth the stress.  So I’ve got loads of tips to make sure that you really get value from your spends:

 

1) Don’t ruin their imagination, they don’t need things that take away the fun from playing like kitchens and those packs of Lego that you are meant to make into something specific, just get put on a shelf after being made and never touched again.

2) Buy things that will last for years and be added to e.g. Wii, Xbox, Wooden Train, Scooters (buy accessories the next year), dolls houses

3) Focus on outside e.g. balls, scooters, bikes etc

4) Ban plastic tat unless necessary (wood can be expensive)

5) Stick to one system and get rid of the others e.g. Only Lego or Kinect or Mechanno etc

6) Send lists to friends and relatives and explain that you don’t have enough money to cover everything your kids need or want, so their help with sticking to a list is much appreciated.

7) Ignore big toys that will take over your house, kitchen, lounge and life e.g shops, kitchens and huge plastic toys etc

8) Expensive dancing/talking toys are a waste of money

9) Ban Children’s TV with adverts from November; stick to Cbeebies or Disney

10) Look for versions of toys that fold up e.g. we have a wooden fold up house for Little Dimples, which is much easier than the big castle we once bought for Curly Headed Boy (they do fold up castles too).

11) They don’t need 100 teddies, 100 dolls or 100 little bits of stuff, so stop the collecting bug!

12) The old games are the best: ball, teddy, hoola hoop, kite, marbles, dolls, jigsaws, snap

13) Second hand is fine, especially for young ones and things that they grow out of e.g. bikes, duplo, dolls houses

14) Remember that old saying: something they want, they need, to wear and to read.  Maybe consider things to make and watch as well.

15) Check out these simple Top 10 games that work for kids and give you a break.

If you do get overloaded by toys in your house, check out my top tips for sorting out a playroom and my other tips for decuttering.

If you fancy listening to these tips check out the audio here:

Feel free to add your hints and tips below, the more the merrier!

Wishing you stress free shopping and happy kids!

Canvas Pictures

Great Mothers / Fathers Day or Grandparent or Photographer Present

Canvas PicturesGreat canvas pictures of the family

 

I know that shopping for Mums, Dads, Grandparents or Photographers is difficult, so I reckon you’re going to love this idea; Photos on canvas.

I love having photos of the family around; I think it reminds us of happy times when we are exhausted and it stops me from panicking that I’ve forgotten about their childhood because I have a regular reminder.  Normally I go for framed photo’s though.

The big hairy northern one is getting quite good at his landscape photography now a days too, and we’ve been looking for a place to print a couple of them off as pictures for our lounge and kitchen, but many options were really expensive.

 

A couple of days ago I received the MOST GORGEOUS canvas print of this picture of Little Dimples at the Jubillee from Hello Canvas.

 

I know their canvases are good because a few years ago the big hairy northern one ordered one for his work, which looks nice, but hasn’t really kept the lovely colours of the original picture.  I must admit I thought it was a bit of a waste of money.  When I said yes to Hello Canvas it was more because then it would be fair to have canvas pictures of both of the kids on the wall together.

 

Ironically it is so good that I’ve had to go and order another one myself of Curly Headed Boy with his Lorax face painting on, because even he said ‘Why is her picture better than mine?’; out of the mouthes of babes heh!

(That happens to me a lot with the free things I get to review.  I normally charge to review, but if it’s something I want I’ll waive the fee.  I’m going to have to start charging a ‘your stuff is too nice to review and will make me go shopping afterwards’ fee!).

 

The good news is the price!  The HUGE (probably a bit too big) one they sent us was 20×28 inches and is only £29.  If you wanted a big one of the family, that would be great, or if you have a gorgeous photo you’d like printed for your wall, then it would be a good size.

Otherwise I’d definitely go for a smaller one.

I think they make perfect presents for family and loved ones.

 

I’d love to know if you like having photos around the house?  Have you tried these types of canvas prints, or do you prefer an electronic photo frame that rotates through lots of pictures?

 

Presents

Would you take back a present, or is it mean and rude?

 

For years I have taken the attitude that the Big Hairy Northern Hubby knew something I didn’t when buying me presents, and that given time if they didn’t quite hit the spot immediately, their purpose would become clear.  Not sure that quite worked with the model of the Star Ship Enterprise, but with most things it did.  He has always been very generous and ‘its the thought that counts’ right?

Well, this year I’ve taken a difficult and much harder decision.  To take back about 80% of what I was given.  We’d agreed to not spend much on each other, and were very careful on the kids, but clearly once out shopping with the extremely eager Curly Headed Boy all restraint was off.

Normally I would probably have found someone with bigger hands for the running gloves (I have freakishly small hands).  I’d have kept the big dressing gown as a spare and gone out and bought the little short one I really wanted.  More importantly I would have waited for the purpose to come clear for the very expensive snow boots, big fluffy hat, ear muffs, gloves and matching hat.  But, I’d forgotten to mention something quite important to hubby;  I don’t have a winter coat that fits me (apart from one that would work in the arctic, but would kill me in a shop), and I was really struggling with clothes having lost 2 stone this year and needing a lot of clothes.

So I made the very difficult decision to take it back (still keeping the gorgeous PJ’s and bracelet, so it wasn’t all wrong).  I felt guilty at not buying as much as him.  When I worked out how much he’d spent I felt angry and worried about the coming months living on a budget while he looks for work.  I was furious with the snooty woman in the shop that would only give me a credit note for most of the stuff.  I was even more furious a couple of days ago when I tried to sell the credit note she gave me and found that she had taken a ‘fee’ without informing me (got to look into the legalities of that).

I’m hoping that the hairy one is OK with the change in my present keeping/giving back behaviour, because I actually feel much better about it now after a week or so (I started writing this blog post last week but didn’t get a chance to post it).

My lessons learnt are:

  1. Don’t buy from small shops without checking about refunds
  2. Take stuff back quickly, some shops have a deadline of 2 weeks
  3. Taking it back in the sales is fab; you get more bang for your buck!
  4. Although uncomfortable admitting a present isn’t right, it’s worth taking it back
  5. Don’t give people a present that’s too generous, it can make them feel guilty
  6. Don’t give people a present that is more than was agreed on, it makes them feel uncomfortable, not full of glow at your generosity

Did you take any presents back this year?  Where you lucky and got fab ones, or did you get some doozies?  Have you had that experience where someone has given you much more than you were expecting and you felt guilty?

Presents

Beware the refunds policy when buying presents

I know this post is a bit late for christmas, but there is all the birthday’s next year and Christmas in 12 months time.

Basically, BEWARE buying presents for people without being sure of the refunds policy, especially if it’s not a big name shop you are buying from.  You may end up only being able to get a credit note, exchange or even worse, nothing at all.

Also, if you do want to take things back, get your butt going, because you might be running out of time; I ran into that problem after one of my birthday’s, thanks Swarosky; not shopping with you again after being your biggest fan ever.

The Money Saving Expert has a great summary of our legal rights in this summary of refunds policies.

In these harder financial times, it might be difficult for small businesses to survive, but what they need to understand is that customer service is the key to our choice of where to shop, and so is making sure that we have security on our expenditure.

Today I was able to take back a dressing gown to Next from the hairy northern one, just because it was too long and I’d asked for a short one.  Thirty minutes later I took back a dressing gown for Little Dimples that I’d just bought in the sales, because I’d found a much more suitable one in Sainsburies.  That makes Next a safe bet when it comes to presents or buying things for my family.

Compare this please to the snooty, back tempered woman in ‘Its all about sports‘, which is a shop selling snow and sports kit near Willows farm.  Her face said it all when I walked in with the big fluffy snow boots, hat, gloves, bag and ear muffs that I’d been given for christmas from my family.  At no point in the buying of all that stuff by the Big hairy northern husband and Curly headed boy had the sales assistant said ‘I assume you aren’t buying this for yourself, so be warned that we don’t give refunds’.  There was no sign.  There is nothing on their website.  It’s unclear as to wether you’d get a refund if you returned something bought on the internet from them in their terms and conditions.  But she is perfectly within her rights to self-righteously think I’m lucky that they give a credit note.

Well honey (yes, that is meant to be patronising), at some point I’ll spend that credit note, and when hubby is has a job again and I have money to spend I won’t be coming to you, and I’ll be making sure that all my friends know how ‘helpful’ you were as well.  Oh and I’ll be reposting this blog post next Christmas too.

Update 2013:
I have just been back to this shop to spend my credit note.  I was surprised to find that the woman who had given me the impression she was one of the owners, was in actual fact not, and no longer works there.  I feel a bit guilty now, because I really should have complained properly and given the owner the right to reply.
What I can say is that I bought a FABULOUS coat, that will really help with my Fibromyalgia, so I’m really chuffed.  The owner was a lovely man and both him and the assistant were tremendously helpful.
I still lost out on the fact that I discovered when looking at the receipt that she had not refunded me the total on the credit note, but had taken a percentage off – argh, not worth worrying about!

 

Have you encountered shops that only give credit notes for things clearly bought as christmas or birthday presents?  Please do share here and add a comment!  And remember when buying from smaller shops or places you don’t often go to check their refunds policy.

 

Please name and shame below if you have had the problem yourself.

Competition and What on earth to buy the relatives who has everything?

Do you need ideas for those difficult presents?  Well I have two ways of helping you in this post: Ideas and a competition for a fabulous £100 hamper.  (Actually I recommend keeping the hamper or giving it to me, and buying the presents!).

What I’d really like to say to the men ‘who never need anything’ or ‘who have everything’ is, PLEASE STOP BUYING STUFF FROM SEPTEMBER ONWARDS, so that we have a chance of finding something to buy for you!

Or there’s the ‘Oh I prefer to give at christmas, I don’t need anything in return’ thingy; yeh whatever, I know you, I know you are going to turn up with a lovely, well thought through little gift for me and I’m going to feel really guilty!

But I have a solution!!  Oh yes I have!  (Ok relatives, please now go and read something else!).

If you have a really rich relative, then blow them away by winning this fabulous hamper from Interflora worth £100 and giving it to them by leaving a comment below (see more details about competition entry at the end).  Or as I suggested, keep it for yourself – you can always invite them over for Christmas dinner.

There are lots more Christmas Hampers here, which go from a much more affordable £19.99.  Personally I like the Christmas biscuit tin, but then I love tins or boxes of any kind as you’ll know if you’ve read my de-cluttering posts!  Or the christmas cracker packed with chocolates would suit me too.

For my in-laws I reckon the ‘Luxury Breakfast tray’ is gorgeous and definitely something that you know people would use.  I have a little irish granny help me with looking after Little Dimples who the ‘Christmas Cracker’ at £60 would work as I know she loves champagne and she’s been a really special person, so worth it.

If you have a friend, wife, sister or sister-in-law to buy for then they have a whole section called ‘gifts for her’.  My favourite is the box (remember what I said about boxes/tins) with gorgeous hand cream, candle and shower gel.  Or there is a box of personalised cup cakes, which look gorgeous and since my son’s party I’ve been a big fan of cupcakes.  I didn’t realise that Inter-flora did anything other than flowers (of course there are flowers too, if you want to be more traditional).

Lastly if you love watching Kirstie Allsopp, but are actually pretty craft-challenged or maybe just don’t have time like me then you can buy your wreaths all ready made.  They are quite expensive for parents cutting costs at christmas, but the little festive outdoor barrel would look really pretty on our porch and would be a lot more tasteful than the huge box of lights that the big hairy northern one is about to get out of the loft (yep he is one of those, but I have drawn the limit at a Santa running across the roof).

Right now onto the best bit of this post, Inter flora have kindly sponsored this post and offered that fabulous hamper worth £100.  That’s a pretty big part of the christmas lunch bill off your expenses list, so apply now and then be kind and tell your friends to apply; so that Santa brings you a present too for being such a good Mummy (or Daddy!).

The closing date is Thursday Dec 8th at midnight – any entries after then will not count – and the results will be released first thing on Friday 9th.  So you have less than a week to enter, because I wanted to make sure there is time for the hamper to get to you.