Sunday 30 June 2013

When your best photo's drop off the front page....Posterfriend Review

If you're anything like me then whenever you take a photo that you think is great you immediately want to share it and you Instagram or Facebook or G+ it. It sits at the top of your timeline hopefully attracting a few comments and giving everyone a smile or a laugh or a 'wow'. Two days later though, and it's gone, forgotten, disappeared.

I've often intended to save a collection of my photo's and get them printed off, but I've never got around to it.

It's a well-known fact that the best ideas are generally the simplest. The clothes peg is the usual example of something everyone could have invented if we had only thought of it first...I think that Posterfriend really have hit on one of those incredibly simple yet brilliant ideas. They take your chosen Facebook photo's and turn them into a poster. Simple. You can even choose some of your friend's photo's for your poster if you wish.
My full poster
I decided on an A1 poster with 63 photo's that were smaller, although still plenty big enough to see from a distance, as I wanted to show how my children have grown over the last 5 years and needed to include examples for everyone. I also had the perfect clip frame already. There are tons of different sizes and photo options available, as well as different colours for the photo surrounds. I think if I was putting together a poster for a life event like a Christening or Wedding I would choose less photo's in a bigger scale, and if I was doing a photo for a special birthday then I'd want to have as many photo's as possible and a bolder background/frame colour. 

All in all it took about 40 minutes to design my poster, it was incredibly simple and intuitive. You tend to remember which photo's you were most proud of, and because of how Facebook arranges pictures into albums it's really simple to search through. You can't take photo's directly from your 'timeline', they have to be in an album, so I actually specially re-uploaded a couple of mine. There was even one where I don't have the original any more, so I saved it to my laptop from my timeline, then re-uploaded it to a Facebook album.

I had an absolute blast going through my pictures from the last 5 or so years, the memories for me came flooding back and it was great to put them all together on one big poster I've chosen to frame before displaying on my wall. I did pinch a couple of photo's from my partner's Facebook and I resisted the urge to just make a poster from everyone's profile photo's, but I will be back - including to put together a poster for the Grandparents for Christmas. 

The only 2 points that aren't perfect are the inability to use timeline photo's directly, and the fact that the photo's are sometimes slightly cropped to fit, so in fact I ended up with one photo that I'm not happy with, but if I'd been a tiny bit more observant then I'd have realised and recropped it so that it fit better.

I have to say I absolutely love my poster. It's full of my own best and favourite photo's. The funniest and happiest moments from the last few years. The quality is lovely and the printing is excellent. It's genuine photo quality and really sharp. What's not to love really?

The children have really enjoyed looking at this, and it's going in the hall where we'll all walk past it every day and hopefully remember something with a smile, or spot a photo we'd forgotten about.

Posterfriend has various options starting from a 16"x16" (42cm x 42cm) poster at only £12 
with 25, 36 or 64 photo's. 

I was sent a poster free of charge for review.

Friday 28 June 2013

Keep Britain Breastfeeding Day 6 ~ Breastfeeding Beyond A Year

I fed all 5 of my babies beyond a year, most of them beyond 18 months. A good friend of mine stopped feeding her first child at 12 months because of family pressure and it broke her heart. They both cried for days and nights. I may have shed a tear when a few of mine didn't want it any more, but it was short-lived (and twice I blamed my pregnancy hormones as I was already pregnant with the next one at the time).

I think with the first one, because it had been a nightmare initially I was adamant I'd get plenty of milk into him. I also wanted to better my Mother, who had fed only my younger brother, but had done so for 18 months.

Although no-one was ever openly hostile towards me, I was a bit coy sometimes, so I'd say 'I'm just settling him off', rather than publicly declare I was going to go to his bedroom and nurse my 18 month old. By the time I got to number 5 I generally didn't care at all with friends or strangers, but was a bit more unwilling to admit it with an aquaintance. It wasn't so much that I was bothered about their opinion, it was more that I didn't want to have to explain myself - but then I shouldn't have to. 

The World Health Organisation advises Mothers to nurse until 2 years or beyond. That is the WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION. It's not the woman down the road, it's the authority for health within the whole United Nations. So why on Earth do we find it acceptable here to be pleased when anyone carries on after 6 weeks? Why do we look at people nursing a toddler with surprise? Why couldn't I feel comfortable to continue to nurse my child publicly any more once they were talking and walking?

Boy no.3 ~ Snow! ~ 18 months

I stopped feeding each of my babies when they and I were ready. I listened to no-one who dared to say anything and I challenged them and cited the World Health Organisation advice. Each time a child of mine was ill I was delighted to catch the same cold or illness because I knew I'd be helping them recover. Each time I held them and they looked at my face and settled and went to sleep I felt pure love.

Boy no.4 ~ 17 months

I'd like to think that when my children have their babies, breastfeeding will be something they don't think twice about, and they will have the confidence to nurse, and support their partners to have the confidence to nurse, for as long as is right for Mum and baby. I know I've normalised that in my household at least, and hopefully with a few friends and relatives who were around me at the time.

Don't forget I have a heap of fabulous competitions from Babasling, Lactivist, Rayne Beau Bloos and Breastvest as well as the main competition Rafflecopter which is below....

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here are some links to some of the other Bloggers taking part in the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt....

Pea Musings

The Seven Year Hitch
Mummies Waiting
Sorry About The Mess

Thursday 27 June 2013

Barbeque on a budget - #TheCharcoalChallenge

It was my turn this month to host this months get together for the local Bloggers. I don't know how it ended up being my turn as the first time I met them was at last month's get together, but I rose to the challenge. 

When I saw the Money Supermarket Charcoal Challenge I thought that it would work. The Teachers decided to have a strike day and it was sorted. We could have a weekend day in the week, and although the parents might have to go to work next day, it wasn't a school night for most of the children!

Of course the biggest challenge I was about to face is that there would be 7 of us and 12 guests - so 19 people in total. Fortunately 9 of them are under 8! Here I am  with Sim from Sim's Life, Pippa from RedRoseMummy, Heather from Note From Lapland and Karen from GrumpyishMum. We asked girl no.1 to take a photo. She took 18. Out of 18 photo's there wasn't a single one where Karen was looking at the camera. Tsk...


I spent my budget in pretty much the way I always shop - I looked for bargains! The crisps were all 'buy one get one free' and the cobs/rolls were 12 for £1. All of the frozen barbeque foods were 3 for £5, and the veggie sausages were on offer at £1 a bag!

We already have a barbeque which we use quite a lot when we go camping and works really well as we can have one side for meat and one for veggie, so it seemed foolish to buy another. I didn't include alcohol in my budget on the grounds it was a 'school night' for most of the adults and I didn't want to be blamed for any hangovers at work! I also thought it might be pushing it to fit alcohol into the 50 quid budget for 19 people! Some adults did manage a refreshing beverage or two though....

With all of the burgers, sausages, wings, kebabs and other barbeque foods eaten, my secret weapon was dessert. Something simple and inexpensive, but delicious. 

 Where better to eat an ice cream than when you are pretending you are in an ice cream van?

 And with the children all in the van, the adults could relax with their hot chocolate fudge cake in the garden!

The children all had a fantastic time, we really were incredibly lucky with the weather!

It's okay, I don't need help, I'll just top up my own ice cream!

Some of the adults really did get involved with the kids games too - here we have Jedi v's Mike The Knight v's Ninja....

And a vanload of Zombies....

After a 4pm start I think we did pretty well to be still out there at 10pm. I guess there were a couple of sore heads this morning and there'll be a few early bedtimes today, but it was a definite good thing.

10pm and just the hardy few remain...
(Obviously I've also a whole heap of blurry photo's that seemed great at the time, but I won't subject you to them!)

Did I come in on budget? Not quite, but I was darn close! Here's how I spent my budget - 

Charcoal £5.50
16 Quorn Sausages £2
12 Meat-free burgers £2.25
24 burger cobs £2
12 hot dog cobs £1
Mushrooms 69p
Onions £1
Beef and Pork Kebabs £5
Jamaican Jerk Chicken £5
Pork Ribs £5
Bagged Salad £1.25
Pringles x 2 £2.48
Doritos x 2 + Salsa £2.97
Tear and share Garlic Bread x 2 £2
Garlic Ciabatta x 2 £1.30
Rosemary Breadsticks £1.25
Robinsons juice £1
Coke x 2 bottles £1.98
Vanilla Ice Cream £1.40
Ice Cream Cornets £1.10
Chocolate Cake £3
Double cream 85p
Total = £50.02

This is my entry into the MoneySupermarket Charcoal Challenge. I was given £50 to try to host a successful barbeque on a budget.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Chill Factore Snow Play Party

The Chill Factore at The Trafford Centre in Manchester has recently started offering Snow Play Parties and invited a bunch of Bloggers and our children to try them out.

The Chill Factor Trafford Park Indoor Slope
Inside the huge Chill Factore building - so THIS is what it looks like...
Suited and Booted and Ready to go...
.......once they'd finished playing on the benches
The parties are suitable for children aged 2 and up, and before I went I couldn't really see how well that was likely to work, as my experience of young children tells me after 15 minutes in the snow they're worn out and cold and want to go into the warm, rest and heat back up. It was not the case at all. My 3 and 4 year olds were out there for 90 minutes really happy even with all the extra clothing on, plenty of tumbles and the odd snowball..

Carousel Chill Factore
Chill Factore Snow Park and Carousel
Sledging, Luge and Tubing
Snow Party Activities take place in the Snow Park, and can include SnowPlay, Tubing, Luge and different types of Sledging depending on the ages of the children.There is also a brand new spinning carousel which all ages of children can use.

The new Carousel at Chill Factore - which for some children
had a similar calming effect to a smooth car journey...

Children aged 4 and over can try Sledging, which was better with Dad than with me as I manged a spectacular crash, taking out a part of a netting barrier and a photographers tripod. Thankfully my son thought it was 'awesun', so I retained a little parental dignity.

I broke this man's tripod! (Sorry)
Ready to go....
And they're off....
The small slope in the Snow Play area offered plenty of sledging fun too.
 We really did have a great time. It's easy to forget you are indoors. The ambient temperature is nice, your face never gets cold and the snow is mainly compacted and doesn't punish you in the same way as walking to the shops in natural snow would. I thought there wasn't much there to keep them entertained, but I was wrong, although 90 minutes was just about their limit and they were worn out by then anyway.

King of his Castle.....erm.....Snowplough

After the play we were treated to a sample of the menu, with various pizzas and chips, which got the thumbs up from all my children, including 2 of the girls who joined us after shopping. The food was really well cooked and very tasty, the pizzas were really nice and the chips crisp.

I will definitely go again and I think it makes a great party venue. I've been meaning to go for so long and it was all so much quicker and easier than I expected. The suits are not like the last time I wore one on a school trip as a teenager, they're light and really comfortable. The snow is not really deep and tiring, if anything we needed a bit more loose snow for snowballs! It's a real fun thing to do and the pricing is comparable with most other days out activities and children's parties.

Not quite enough snow for snowballing...but he tried!

Chill Factore Snow Play Parties cost from £9 per child with the standard menu, with a minimum of 10.
Hire of jacket and trousers £6 per day, Boots and Helmets are free of charge.
The Chill Factore Snow Play currently costs £6 per person or £20 for a family of 4 for 30 minutes.

We were given free entry to try out the Snow Play Party experience

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Keep Britain Breastfeeding Day 3 ~ The Importance of Support

It took me 5 days in hospital to get my first one to feed. 5 heartbreaking days of me sweating in my dressing gown and slippers and watching all the other new Mums come and go. 5 days of pumping milk that my little man wouldn't take at all for 3 days, and at 4 days not from anything except a bottle or a cup. 5 days of watching him turn yellow with jaundice and begging for a wet nappy. 5 days of me sobbing and feeling a complete failure.

I was just 22 and had no friends who breastfed, and no family to call upon. My partner's Mother hadn't breasfed in the late 60's, it wasn't usual, so she couldn't help me either. Everyone could watch, but the help I needed wasn't available. I had my child on a Friday, and the one and only breastfeeding support worker only worked Tuesdays. There was no internet like there is today, all I had for reference was a badly photocopied pamphlet with line drawings.

All the midwives tried to help, but a lot of the advice was to just stop, give in and look after myself, I was falling to pieces and that was no good for my baby. I couldn't though. I WAS GOING TO BREASTFEED MY CHILD.

My partner of the time (the Father to my first 3 children) suffered from Asthma and I knew without any doubt that to breastfeed would help protect my child. I knew that in the long run if my child developed Asthma, I would live with my own feelings of failure forever. He was fantastic. He trusted I was doing the right thing and didn't try to deter me. I suppose he knew I would give up when I really had no choice and didn't want to crush me unnecessarily.

All the time there was one Midwife who was truly on my side and desperate for me to nurse. She had the weekend off, and I missed her so much for those 2 days. I felt incredibly alone, and so very small in that great big hospital full of people who couldn't put their finger on how to help. It was awful for her when she arrived at work on the Monday to find me still there and still unable to get my child to latch except for about 3 occasions over the whole 4 days. It really was hell.

By 2pm on that last day I was ready to give in. I couldn't take the punishment any more and my child was getting ill. I would pump and give him a bottle for as long as my milk would allow and I'd been warned this would likely be 6 weeks at best. I couldn't afford an electric pump, they cost hundreds at the time, so it would all be hand pumped. It was at this point of pretty much no return that my Midwife did a stunning thing. She gave me advice she was not allowed to give, she told me a secret. She told my partner to go to Mothercare or Boots and buy nipple shields. It was a last ditch effort, and one which would still probably only give us 6 weeks, but it was worth a shot and would be far easier than hand-pumping milk.
My bags packed for home, my partner came back within an hour and the Midwife took a shield and poured boiled water over it. I positioned it and brought my baby to me. What happened next was beyond my wildest dreams - my baby latched on and fed. No hassle, no screaming and crying, he just fed. I sobbed some more, repeatedly thanking her. I cried again as we left hospital, unsure of what lay ahead, but confident I could do it.

I knew that with the nipple shields my milk production would be reduced because of the lack of stimulation, and I wanted to be able to feed for as long as we both wanted, so, for the next 6 weeks I carried on feeding whenever my son showed an interest. My Health Visitor told me I was 'wasting my time' and that my milk would stop, it was pointless.

For the first week or 2 I expected to suddenly find nothing there, but there was always gallons of milk, I woke up in a puddle every night and leaked all the time. I began to get a little more confident and look to the future. I needed to get rid of the shields, the sterilising and carrying them about with me was frustrating and made it virtually impossible for me to ever feed in public. I started trying to get him to latch before positioning the shield. At first he'd only occasionally even try, but by 4 weeks had taken a handful of feeds without a shield. At 5 weeks he took 2 feeds running without a shield and I knew it was working. I was still feeding my baby and I still had milk. He was just less than 6 weeks when we stopped using nipple shields all together. It is one of the proudest days of my life.

I carried the nipple shields around with me for a few more months, but I never needed them again. I fed my child until he was 19 months old and loved every moment. He did develop Asthma briefly between the ages of 7 and 9, but since then has never had any more signs of any allergy. My 2nd child nursed from birth until 21 months, and my 3rd until 20 months. Neither ever had any Asthma, only a little Eczema which they no longer have.

Support in those early weeks is absolutely vital. I had a very good and obvious reason for breastfeeding and I wasn't going to give up. I felt completely alone and useless and I battled every step of the way. I had to fight for what I knew to be worthwhile, when everyone around me thought it was a waste of everyone's time. I never saw a breastfeeding support worker, even though I didn't leave hospital until after she should have been working all day. At the time there were no numbers to call, no support groups, no volunteers that anyone knew of. No internet to turn to. Without that Midwife breaking the rules and giving me her own personal advice from what she'd seen over the years, I probably would never have been able to put my child to the breast. I will never forget her, her name was Claire. 

My 5th (3) and my 1st (19)

To this day I have no idea why my first child was so stubborn in those early days, why he just wouldn't do what he was told. I guess he must take after his Mum....

In all I spent around 8 years breastfeeding and every moment was worthwhile. I made it, and looking back I will forever be proud of myself because I did it alone. Many, many Mums give up when they don't need to. There is support everywhere now and all Health Professionals have a duty to help you, including your Health Visitor Team, GP and Midwife. Groups and volunteers such as The La Leche League, The NCT, The Breastfeeding Network, Keep Britain Breastfeeding and Lactivist are all there waiting to listen and help. Don't be scared to ask.

There are loads of fabulous bloggers taking part in the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt including

Oh So Amelia
Faded Seaside Mama
Mama Geek
Life, Love And Living With Boys
Pobbing Along

Zena's Suitcase

Sunday 23 June 2013

Keep Britain Breastfeeding Day 1 ~ Lactivist T-shirt Giveaway

 The Benefits of Breastfeeding

I'm a fan of breastfeeding. I won't judge anyone for not doing it, but I think it's a shame if you don't at least give it a try. I fed all 5 of mine for between 15 and 21 months, until it felt right to stop or they decided they weren't interested any more.

We all know now that it's indisputable that breastfeeding has positive physical benefits for baby and Mum. I don't need to tell you about the reduction in allergies (baby), stomach bugs (baby), Cancer (Mum), Ear Infections (baby) or Meningitis (baby). I don't have to harp on about the better bond between parent and child. I'm sure I don't even need to point out that breastfeeding for 12 months will save you around £600. I probably don't even need to point out that children who were breastfed as babies score higher on average in intelligence tests. 

 The difference I want to point out is that breastfeeding your child makes you calmer. It makes you relax. It forces you to sit on your backside for hours every day holding your child. You might read, watch pulp movies or dreadful soaps, you might blog or surf the internet, you could even take up playing games like I did (I got 2 Platinum trophies on the Playstation 3 whilst feeding no.4, the teenagers were incredibly proud). Whatever you are doing, you won't be racing about at breakneck speed or worrying too much about the dust on the shelves. Every 3 hours you are demanded to go and have a sit down for half an hour or more (often more!). 

Life takes on a different pace. You relax into it. You will go to sleep much more quickly at night, and you will sleep better. You'll be less likely to snap at people or be grouchy. You'll worry less although you may think more. You'll have more time to chat and will be able to rekindle friendships and write that e-mail you've been meaning to write for the last 6 months

There's a reason these statues have those expressions. Once you get over the initial tricky learning period, and if you let it, breastfeeding brings serenity.

The lovely people at Lactivist have a huge online resource on their blog at where you can find masses of information about breastfeeding and should be able to answer any questions you can think of. They also have a great range of breastfeeding friendly slogan t-shirts, badges, bags and all kinds of whatnots and I am able to offer you a discount code. 

For the whole of Breastfeeding week enter Discount Code KBB13 when you place an order and get 10% off anything at

They have also kindly donated a Keep Britain Breastfeeding T-shirt for me to give away to one of my readers in an infant's size of your choosing (subject to stock being available).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Please take a look at all of my other Keep Britain Breastfeeding Competitions which are all listed on this page.

There are loads of great bloggers taking part in the Scavenger Hunt, including:

Little Lilypad Co
In The Playroom
A Baby On Board

Saturday 22 June 2013

Babasling Competition

When my children were younger they spent a lot of time in slings. My oldest had terrible colic and screamed for hours every day, the sling was the only way to soothe him enough that he slept and fed calmly and I was far happier to carry him around for 4 hours than listen to his heartbreaking crying.

As I had more children I discovered that with your baby in a sling you are better able to attend to the older ones. Holding hands to cross the road, or helping with jigsaws and making lunch are easier with that extra help to hold the baby for you.

When I had my 3rd child I didn't get a double pushchair, I pushed my 2 year old and carried my baby in a sling for the first 6 months, and it worked really well until my toddler was old enough to use a buggy board all of the time.

I'm a total advocate.

For my 4th child I didn't hesitate to get a sling, it was something we had ready before he was born, and it was very well used. It's much easier to get on a bus and find your change or hold an umbrella with baby in a sling than it is with a pushchair!

One of the best things about slings is the ability to feed your child wherever you are and whatever you're doing. You are well covered, so you aren't displaying your goods to the world and you don't get cold. Baby doesn't need to be overly-disturbed, and you don't need to spend ages finding somewhere suitable to sit comfortably to feed. It makes breastfeeding in public something that most people wouldn't even notice you were doing!

I've fed for about 8 years in total, and over that time I think I have fed just about everywhere....
  • I've fed several of mine at the table while out for a meal in a restaurant.
  • I fed my 1st at Derby Beer Festival.
  • I've definitely answered the door to the postman while feeding all of my children.
  • I've fed my babies on the bus, train and on coaches
  • I fed my 4th sitting in front of the Christmas tree in the Trafford Centre
  • I fed my 5th in A&E, radiography and several other departments when my 2nd slipped on ice.
  • I fed my 2nd at a pantomime when he was 3 weeks old and he never made a single noise the entire performance.
  • I fed my 4th when he was 3 months old while serving behind the Tombola at the school Christmas Fair.
  • I've fed whilst dancing or walking around at more festivals and shows than I could possibly begin to remember.
I'm sure there are about a thousand other places where I've been confident and able to feed my children in a sling, and I might not without it.

The lovely people at theBabasling have kindly donated a sling for me to giveaway as a prize. The winner will be able to select whichever sling they wish from the entire range. It truly is a great prize and I'm delighted to be able to have this opportunity.
theBabasling is designed to carry babies and toddlers (0-2yr+ / 7.7lbs-33lbs / 3.5kg – 15kg). It is available in 9 colours, 3 different styles for different seasons, can hold your baby in 5 positions and is machine washable. They come with a lifetime guarantee and free delivery.


My competition question is this ~ Where is the strangest or most interesting place you have fed your baby?


We'd love to see photo's* of you feeding and/or carrying your child in a sling in an unusual place. We want you to show that feeding doesn't have to be a major event, it can be something you just do.  It's the most natural thing in the world, it's almost an every hour event when your child is tiny and it can be done anywhere. Photo's can be e-mailed to me, tweeted to @thebrickcastle or uploaded to my Facebook Page

If you don't have a photo then a story will be just as good an entry, and can be left on my Facebook wall, e-mailed to me or typed as a comment to this thread. 

The competition will close to entries at noon on Saturday 6th July 2013, and the winner will be announced by noon on Monday 8th July. Please include a method of contact with your entry - including if you enter by comment on this post.

Please keep any photo's nipple-free because I don't want to get into trouble with Facebook, Twitter or Blogger for 'adult content' (whether I agree with that or not) and I also don't want to scare off new Mums and Mums-to-be who aren't yet confident with feeding in public!

Don't forget all of my other Keep Britain Breastfeeding Competitions which are all listed on this page.

Terms and Conditions - This competition is open to UK residents only. The prize is one theBabasling of your choice which will be sent to you directly from theBabasling. The competition winner will be chosen by myself and a representative from theBabasling and our decision will be final. No correspondence in this matter will be entered into. This competition is in no way endorsed or supported by Blogger. The winner will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the competition ends, if they do not respond within 5 days we reserve the right to choose another winner from the competition entries. For any further information please e-mail