Thursday 31 October 2013

2013 Letters from Santa: now on sale!

Eep! Has it really been that long since I paid any attention to my poor, neglected blog? Shocking behaviour!!

OK well, without further ado, let me launch straight in and tell you the latest news from PhotoFairytales HQ: the new Letters from Santa are NOW HERE! As always, these are limited edition and there's only a certain number available - and with almost 20% reserved already it's time to act quickly if you'd like Santa to write to your little boy or girl (or big boy or girl - there's no age limit!).

I'm delighted to say that every letter sold raises money for a wonderful charity too: Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children's Charity. Founded by Mrs Dahl shortly after the death of her husband, this great organisation raises much needed funds for seriously ill children.

For just £5.99 including UK delivery, Santa will send a fabulous letter - written and prepared to order, and each one signed individually by the big man himself. Along with the letter there's also a quality personalised certificate awarded for making it onto the Nice List, plus 4 lovely little gifts. Take a look at the website now by clicking here to see full details of what's included.

  • "I cannot thank you enough for the letter from Santa, my daughter was so excited that she had a certificate to say she had been put on the nice list that she has phoned everyone to tell them. Thank you again for letting me be able to make the magic of Christmas alive."

The last order date to order your letter is December 16th unless they sell out first (they sell out every year, so don't leave it until the last minute!). Overseas orders are very welcome - the last order date for deliveries to the EU is December 8th, and the Rest of the World is December 2nd.

  • "We had ours a couple of days ago - my son was absolutely thrilled and couldn't believe the detail - best thing I've ever done! Thank you so so much :) I'm happy to give you any testimonials - I wish Santa had written to me like that when I was little."

These great value letters are a wonderful way to keep the magic of Christmas alive, and at under £6 they are a lovely surprise gift in the lead up to the big day. And with some great little gifts too, they'll give you some quiet time while they get busy playing!

Sarah x

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Pining for Peddles: bike lust, pure and simple

OK, it’s not big, and it’s not clever - but I feel like I’m 7 years old again and want to have a good old whine - you see, I have bike envy. Quite bad bike envy. Put it this way…


I haven’t really given bikes that much thought since I was a schoolgirl. I used to ride mine every day backwards and forwards to school, riding around town to visit mates or go to the park. Then of course, becoming a parent you inevitably get back into bikes to a degree - having a daughter has meant owning bikes with glittery tassels on the handlebars, a basket on the front for dolls (or the cat if she sits still long enough), beads on the wheels that clatter. You know the type of thing.

But our gorgeous and incredibly lanky daughter has now outgrown her bike and the time has arrived for her first proper, grown up sized bike. After much debate over BMX style versus traditional style, colours, basket/no basket (no basket, apparently they’re not cool unless you’re a *little* girl or a mum), etc, etc, she has finally got her clutches on her shiny new bike. And boy it’s a beauty! (Hence my jealousy).

It’s a Raleigh - traditional style, but a hybrid so good for a bit of bumpy off-roading. It’s a lovely pale blue. With silver mudguards. It’s got 18 gears (18! mine only used to have 3…) And spokes that glitter in the sunshine as she peddles. It’s got lovely chunky grips on the handlebars, and a nice squishy seat. And it’s so shiny…. So very, very shiny….

After visiting a couple of bike shops at the weekend I have decided that if money were no object I would most definitely have a bike for every day of the week. Seriously, there are some GORGEOUS bikes to be had out there. I must admit I do rather like the traditional style - and I’m a mum, so it’s OK for me to lust after a basket! There’s the lovely lavender coloured one, with colour coded mudguards. Or the green and orange one with a cupholder (perfect for peddling along the prom, very seaside-y). And there’s the lovely grown up blue one with a brown leather saddle and matching handle grips. Or the bright red one with white tyres (white tyres!) and a ‘Miss Marple’ style wicker basket on the front. Oh, and a proper bell. Ting ting!!

My husband confessed to me that as a child he used to go into the local bike shops to look at the brake blocks. Just, you know, look at them. Not to buy (he didn't actually own a bike). Just look. And one of my earliest memories is sitting in the child bike seat strapped behind my mum watching her back go from side to side as we peddled to the shops. So I guess bikes get under our skin pretty early on. It's our first chance of freedom that comes long before the first car. 

What’s the opposite of being a Petrol Head? Because I think I’m that now. I used to turn my head when we drove past car dealers - but I think that may be about to change….

So biking with a basket: cool or uncool? Leave a comment, and tell me what you think!

Sarah :)

Friday 7 June 2013

Last Minute Father's Day Gift Idea!

Father's Day (June 16th) is looming, and if you've left it a bit late don't worry - here's a great gift idea that will certainly raise a grin!

The new range of Superhero prints can all be fully personalised - you can not only add their name, but also list their own special super powers and - erm - vulnerabilities! The superhero on the print will even feature their initials on the costume too.

You can order right up until Tuesday 11th June and orders will be sent via 1st class recorded delivery. Visit the website here for more details or to place an order!

Sarah :)

Thursday 6 June 2013

Beside the Seaside

Throw your head back and take a deep sniff: can you smell holidays on the horizon...? Beaches? Ice creams? Hint of donkey on the air? Salt on the wind? Not long now...

1: ‘Fish in the Sea’ personalised print, £14.50

2: Great British Holidays canvas, available in a choice of colours, £29.95

4: ‘Kiss Me Quick’ canvas, available in a choice of colours (other designs in this range also available), from £16.95

5: ‘Pirate Treasure’ fantasy portrait, (part of the 'Role Play' collection), from £15

Monday 3 June 2013

Top 10 Spring Cleaning Ideas (that you probably won’t have thought of!)

I don’t think I’ve ever actually done a ‘spring clean’ in my entire life - housework just seems an ongoing boulder that I’m constantly pushing along! But I have found a few little tips for you that you might find useful for your own personal housework boulder!:

1: Clean with Lemons - if you have burnt on food in your microwave, cut a lemon into quarters and pop it in a bowl of water. Pop the bowl into the microwave on high for a couple of minutes then leave it in there for a couple more. The steam will soften the crusty bits and make it easier to clean (and it will smell lovely too). Also, if you have stains on a chopping board you can rub lemon juice over it, leave for 20/30minutes, rinse off and it should clear the stains for you.

2: Shaving Foam gets stains out of carpets - I haven’t tried this one personally, but I have seen several sources that say this is great for getting rid of spots on the carpet. The foam breaks down grease - has to be the foamy kind though, don’t think gel would work!

3: Bread gets marks off walls - now this one I have tried, and it really does work: just rub a slice of bread over fingermarks on your walls and it will erase them for you.

4: Ice cubes and carpets - ice cubes can be used in two ways: for getting gum out (just hold it on the gum until it freezes then scrape it away), and also for curing dents in carpets when you shift furniture (just put an ice cube into the dent, then after it has melted comb the carpet pile back up).

5: Clean with Coke - great for getting burnt on bits out of pans (leave overnight and the acid in the coke will get to work).

6: Tumble Dryer sheets - if you use these you’ll know that they work well to remove static in your drying, which means they also work really well on things like TV screens, computer screens: in fact anywhere that attracts dust! They are also great for giving a gleam back to chrome items: kettles, light switches, etc. If you particularly like the smell of your washing when it comes out of the dryer you could also try popping a tumble sheet in your knicker drawer for that ‘just washed’ smell too!

7: Magic Erasers - I love these sponges, I always have a packet under the kitchen sink (and you can buy them in pound shops too, bargain!). My white kitchen sink often picks up stains, and sometimes even bleaching won’t brighten it - but rubbing down with one of these sponges works wonders. I’ve also used them on crayon marks on a roller blind, to clean shoes and trainers, to get scuff marks off laminate floors, to get rid of tea stains in cups (just remember to wash the cup thoroughly afterwards), cleaning inside the car - loads of places!

8: Toothbrushes - mix a paste of baking soda and water and use an old electric or battery powered toothbrush to get rid of the grime you get on grouting between tiles.

9: DIY Room Freshener - if your house is a bit - erm - whiffy, simmer a pan containing water, a sliced lemon or two and a sprig of rosemary on your hob. If the water evaporates before you’ve finished enjoying the luscious smell just top it up a bit.

And my best tip of all?

10: Delegate. Delegate, delegate, delegate - fair means or foul, bribery or corruption, strop or wheedle, beg or demand: get the rest of the household to chip in and help. No matter how short or tall they are!

So what are your cleaning tips? Have you got any little gems that you could share? Leave a comment and let me know, I’d love to hear from you!

Sarah :)

PS: an extra tip for you - not really cleaning related, but pretty useful: if you bake a sponge cake and want to prevent it from drying out, just pop a slice of bread on top of the un-iced cake when you put it in your cake box. It will keep the cake moist until you can get to ice (and eat) it!

Thursday 30 May 2013

Father's Day - gift ideas for dads and grandads

Father's Day is just over a couple of weeks away (June 16th), but there's still time to order a great personalised pressie for the best Dad in the world! There are loads of goodies to choose from on the website, but here's just a small round up of ideas for you:

1: ‘I Love You This Much’ personalised print, available in pink or blue, £14.50
2: Personalised Blue Heritage Plaque, personalise with any wording you like, £17.50
3: ‘Family Sayings’ canvas print (can be commissioned in any colour), from £16.95
5: Personalised Family Print, available in two designs and a selection of colours, £14.50
6:  Personalised Vintage Handbill Print (range of designs available), £14.50
7: Personalised Newspaper (range of stories available), from £12.50 

Friday 24 May 2013

Friday Facebook Finds: a treasury of handmade gifts and goodies

There's no denying that Facebook is a fantastic site for networking and keeping in touch with friends and family - but there's also a wealth of fabulous small businesses on there offering completely unique hand crafted work just waiting to be discovered by you!

Here's a small round up of some of these independent British makers and designers, who are busy creating with a passion:

1: 18cm Shabby Chic Freestanding Letter, £16.99 

2: Personalised Fine Silver Footprint Keyring with Message Tag, £70

3: Bespoke baby booties made from handmade felt, all hand crafted from native wools, from £9

4: Handmade Fabric Doll, £35

5: Cupcakes from the "Vintage and Elegant" range, £10 for 6 cakes

6: 'Home Sweet Home' personalised canvas print, from £16.95

7: Hand crafted and safety tested 'Guardian Angel' breastfeeding necklace, £12

8: New Baby Greeting Card, hand appliqued and embroidered cotton fabric on linen with beads, £3.75

9: Marlene - a little handmade rescue fairy, gift packaged in a fairy travelling case and complete with adoption papers, £13
Folksy Shop:

10: Handmade Button Bracelet, available in any colour you can imagine, £15

11: ‘The Giraffe in a Scarf’, beautifully illustrated by a Norfolk based artist, £6.99

Sarah :)

Tuesday 21 May 2013

So, why DO we throw confetti at a wedding?

When you think about it, it does seem like a slightly odd thing to do - and one that’s pretty much guaranteed to get the vicar’s knickers in a twist! 

But actually, it seems we’ve been doing it for centuries - and apparently it dates back to Pagan times, when newly married couples were showered with grain to represent a ‘fruitful union’ (not unlike the wedding cake cutting ceremony which represents pretty much the same idea - when you think about it, the cake would also contain wheat which would also represent fertility). Druids believed that the fertility of the seeds would transfer to the couple on which they fell. And flower petals scattered for the couple to walk over were thought to protect the couple from harmful spirits.

So, how do you give Mr and Mrs a good send off and not irritate the vicar? Use biodegradable confetti, or visit your local florist and go for real petals instead.

If you've been invited to a wedding this year, why not check out the great range of wedding gifts at PhotoFairytales - guaranteed to be totally original and a fabulous keepsake for the new couple!

Sarah :)

Friday 17 May 2013

The Top Ten Lists you SHOULD be writing...

I do like a good list - one full of things I can tick off. With ‘TO DO!!’ written across the top, numbers down the side, and a fair few slightly cheaty easily tick-offable things on there (think, ‘brush teeth’ or ‘post letters’). 

Sometimes though these lists can become a bit of a millstone around your neck. There often seems to be things on those lists that stay there longer than they should because you (let’s be honest) don’t really want to face them. So with this in mind I thought I’d write a list of potential lists that would be a pleasure to complete. Something a bit less ‘grind’ and a bit more ‘raise the spirits’!:

1. Places you have been that you loved, and places that you wish you could go
2. The best bits of the particular season we’re in right now
3. People who make you laugh and people who love you
4. Things that you would love to do if money was no object
5. The jobs you said you wanted to do when you were a child
6. The cutest/funniest things your children have ever said
7. Qualities of yourself and your life that you like and feel proud of
8. The ultimate dinner party guest list (they can be alive, dead, or mythical - doesn’t matter)
9. How you would spend a day if you had absolutely nothing to do
10. Acts of kindness that you have done in the past

There, aren’t those lists more fun than the ‘clean oven and bath dog’ kind?!

Sarah :)

Thursday 9 May 2013

Pssst, let me tell you a secret...

Just a quick question for you today - do you follow my PhotoFairytales page on Facebook? If you haven't discovered it yet, it's a great place to discover exclusive discounts and offers - and occasional freebies and giveaways too!

Thanks to the powers that rule Facebook though there is one important tip I need to share with you - when you give the page a 'like' don't forget to check that 'show in News Feed' is ticked. And after liking the page just hover your mouse over the 'Liked' button and choose 'Add to interest lists'. Why is that all necessary? Well unless you interact with the page (eg, leaving comments on my posts, liking posts, etc) there's a good chance Facebook will decide to stop showing the latest updates in your News Feed and you'll miss out. I'd definitely recommend you do that for any other Facebook pages you really care about and enjoy too.

And do leave a little comment on the page when you join - I'd love to hear from you and wave a virtual 'hello'!

Find the page here:

Sarah :)

Sunday 5 May 2013

Where did you last see it...?

Damn it woman, where are the biscuits?!

There’s a bit of sighing and cupboard door slamming going on in the kitchen. Coupled with a bit of mumbled, slightly put out, ‘Well I can’t see them…’.

You see, my husband is looking for a (packet of) biscuit(s) to go with his tea. I’ve told him there’s some nice oaty ones in the cupboard that I bought the other day. ‘Which cupboard?’, he asks - well, its hardly difficult given that our kitchen is only just about large enough to stand 2 adults with a joint BMI of under 10, and the cat would most certainly not withstand a swinging in it either. We have two food cupboards - one for savoury stuff, one for sweet. ‘In the sweet cupboard, on the left!’, I reply (whilst doing a bit of unsubtle eye-rolling). And still he can’t find them.

You see, there is a distinct way that my DH looks for things - basically, if it can’t be spotted the second (and I mean, THE SECOND) he starts to search, then it is officially lost. If he can’t find his socks in his sock drawer in under 1.2 nano seconds then I am called for to explain, A) where his socks are, and B) why they weren’t there a minute ago when he looked, or C) why do I hide them under his pants like that…

Of course, when its something important that is lost (think car keys, wallet, important paperwork, etc) it can become a little, erm, accusing in our household. Lot’s of me saying, ‘think about it methodically, where is it likely to be?’ and a fair bit of both of us saying, ‘Well, you had it last - no I didn’t, you did’ and ‘Well, where did YOU last have it?’. And it’s invariably a short hop and a jump to the full blown discussion as to the general tidiness of the house and why it is that only one of us is capable of putting things away properly whilst the other treats the place like a hotel (no prizes for guessing for who takes which role). It isn’t long before finding the lost item has taken second place to establishing firmly who is at fault for the aforementioned loss.

Mind you, I have to confess I have been known to freak out when I can’t find my glasses - ‘But they’ve got to be somewhere, I need them, I can’t drive without them, I’ve got to find them, it’s an emergency!’. Which is when I tend to get asked, ‘What, the ones on top of your head you mean..?’ (followed by smug face). Well, we all make mistakes, OK?

Now, where did I put that reminder about the car tax….

Sarah :)

Friday 3 May 2013

In the Pink!

There’s no doubt that spring is a tad late this year - where there would normally be a riot of pink blossom on the fruit trees there’s just a few hesitant leaf buds instead. Don’t worry, that gorgeous blossom will be here soon - and in the meantime, here’s a little pink riot to keep you going!

1: ‘Twilight Fairy’ - Fantasy Photo Portrait, from £15
2: ‘Cosy Cottage’ - Personalised Canvas Print, from £16.95
3: Handpainted Fairy Gift Plate, £21.50
4: ‘Princess Sleeping’ - personalised wooden plaque, £15.95
5: ‘Elephant’ - Meaning of Name Print, £14.50
6: ‘Great British Game Shows’ - Canvas Print, £29.95
7: ‘Nature’ - personalised Love Poem print, £14.50
8: ‘Hush Little Baby’ - Personalised Canvas Print, from £16.95
9: ‘My Message to You’ - Personalised Print, £14.50

All prices shown include UK postage and packing

Thursday 2 May 2013

Whoops - flying low!

Getting dressed in the morning is not often a relaxing time - during the week it’s something that is squeezed into a 30 second slot in between “Muuuum, what socks am I wearing?” (white ones, same as every school day) and “Have you brushed your teeth - then go and do them…” type conversations!

Added to this the fact that my wardrobe is not entirely bulging with those staple items that magazines often go on about. The simple white ‘T’, coupled with the dark perfectly cut slim leg trousers, the stylish raincoat (you know, the kind you just have to sling on, tie the belt and you have instant ‘supermodel-does-school-run look’), the trendy leather pumps and the latest bag. No, don’t have any of that. Well, I’ve got a white t-shirt but its been washed so many times it looks more like Santa’s sack. And my jeans are pretty good, except on the days when I have the ones that are a bit too low cut and seem to lack the will to stay on my hips… And the only accessory I tend to take out these days is an unwieldy dog and a pocket full of poo bags. Still! Never mind…

Today I’m wearing some trousers that I’d kind of forgotten I had. It’s been a while since I last wore them. ‘Oh look’, I thought this  morning, ‘there’s those trousers I haven’t worn in a while - I’ll wear them today.’ An innocent enough thought, until I’d had them on for 10 minutes and remembered why they were at the back of the wardrobe. They’ve got one of ‘those’ zips - the kind that slide down constantly. Slightest bit of pressure (like bending over the sink to brush your teeth), and ‘zzzip!’. There they go. So I’ve a day of constantly checking my flies, and/or constantly pulling down my top to cover the gap, ahead of me.

Then there’s the days when you really (and I mean really) can’t find anything to wear in that wardrobe. The days when everything you pull out goes back: Too tight/baggy, too hot/cold, too ‘going out-ish’, too ’washing the car-ish’, too smart/not smart enough, sleeves/legs are too short (common one this, I’m on the lanky side), doesn’t go with anything (but I still like it which is why I still have it), rides up/down when you sit/walk, etc, etc. Which is why I live in jeans just about every day. Let’s face it, jeans are like the gods of the fashion world. They go with pretty much anything, they can be worn pretty much anywhere except for the poshest/smartest/formalist events, AND (not to be scoffed at) they’re made of a fabric which is strong enough to you know, well, hold in bits. So that’s what I’ll be wearing tomorrow while my ‘flying low’ trousers of today are languishing in the wash before being stuffed into the back of the wardrobe again.

If only everything in life was as reliable as a pair of jeans, eh?! Let’s just hope I don’t end up wearing the low cut ones...

Sunday 10 March 2013

A question for all Mums - old and young!

It’s Mother’s Day - a day that celebrates all the fabulous mums that look after, love and care for their families. So I’m feeling a bit reminiscent of the time 10 years ago when I became a mum...

The first few years of your child’s life are amazing: they grow and transform at such a fast pace. One moment you’re marvelling at their first words and steps, the next it’s their first day at school and then they’re taking driving lessons! I don’t know about you, but we have a large (and ever growing) ‘Memory Box’ - packed full of keepsakes from Amy’s life so far. From first curls and a favourite tiny sleepsuit, to her first pair of proper walking shoes and an adorable tiny denim jacket she used to wear. These mementoes will probably never stop being added to - and are definitely the first thing I’d reach for to save in a house fire!

As far as Amy is concerned, I think her main childhood memento will be her beloved bear: PB. He has been with her since her 3rd birthday, and they have never spent a night apart. He protects her from bad dreams, looks after her when she’s poorly (even at the risk of catching it himself), he hogs her bed at night, and has had lots of outings and holidays. I can see PB sitting somewhere in a corner of Amy’s life forever - it may not always be on her bed, he may be consigned to a cupboard or even a box in years to come, but she’ll always have him in her life.

So what are the mementos you kept from your child’s early years - and what are the things that you still have from your own childhood that are still treasured possessions? (Mine is a small, flat and slightly grubby white bear called ‘Snowy’ - and a little elephant brooch that I’ve had since about the age of 6 which I still occasionally wear!)

First footprints? Baby blankets? Favourite cuddlies? Hospital bracelet? Tiny clothes? A special painting?  Or just an enormous box (or boxes) crammed with mementoes from each and every year?! Let me know, I’d love to hear!

Sarah :)

Friday 8 March 2013

Mother's Day Free Printable!

Give mum the gift of a lay in this Mother's Day... Thoughtful, caring - and free!!

This is a great little project for the kids - and mum will love the sentiment! Just click here for this Mother's Day Freebie!

Feel free to share this post on Facebook or Twitter, etc - just click the share buttons below!

Sarah :)

Thursday 7 March 2013

World Book Day - easy costume solved!

If you have a child at primary school, from time to time you will get sprung with 'dressing up' days - and to be honest, you might not always get as much notice as you could wish for (eg: "Mum, it's Dress as an Insect Day at school soon!" - When? - "Tomorrow" - gulp!). It's not always easy, especially if you don't want to go to any or too much expense - but at least with World Book Day you do get a bit of time to think about costume ideas.

This year Amy had two ideas: Toto (the dog from Wizard of Oz) or Pippi Longstocking. Up until this weekend, it was all leaning more towards Toto (black leggings, black boots, black jumper, black tail from a Halloween costume, homemade ears, and a collar and tag - sorted!). But at the last minute a change of mind was made and it had to be Pippi. Which wasn't too bad actually - slightly crazy clothes, long over the knee socks, and plaits (thank goodness for Amy's long hair!). We tried threading wire through her plaits but her hair was just too heavy and we couldn't get it to work - but I think we did a pretty good job of creating suitably 'sticky-outy' plaits, don't you?!

What did your child dress as this year?

Sarah :)

Thursday 28 February 2013

Spring Greens!

There's a bit of debate about when spring officially get's sprung in the UK: some say March 1st, some say March 20th or 21st... Whatever, let's just agree on one thing: if spring was a colour it would be green. Purest green..!

  1. Punk Bands, Great British canvas prints (5 other designs and colours available), £29.95 -
  2. Camper Van handpainted gift plate (part of a range of designs available), £21.50 -
  3. Family Tree print, £16.95 -
  4. Fantasy Photo Portraits (over 100 themes to choose from), around £15 -
  5. Personalised Family Nest print, £14.50 -
  6. Personalised 'My Message to You' prints (part of a range of designs), £14.50 -
  7. 'Personality' canvas prints, from £20 -
  8. Personalised Football Gifts (13 teams available), from £9.95 -
  9. 'On This Day' birthday prints, £25 -

Sarah :)

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Housework Horrors!

I was cleaning the oven the other day - a job I hate with a passion. I put it off and put it off and put it off, until it begins to become a daily obsession of avoidance. We spend a week or so eating dinners which can be cooked on the hob simply so that I can delay it just a bit longer. (Because once the spills get baked on enough in there, it makes your eyes sting when you heat it up…)

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a slob. If you dropped by un-announced you won’t find anything too scary - there might be a pile of dirty washing on the kitchen floor, but at least it’s en-route to the washing machine and just waiting it’s turn for the spin cycle to end… You might not be able to see your face in the bathroom taps, but at least there won’t be any old plasters on the edge of the sink. If the dog is up to date with his haircut you probably won’t even see black fluff all over the carpet. No, my house, overall, isn’t bad. It’s quite respectable. (Most of the time.)

So while I was facing up to my demons and cleaning the oven, I was daydreaming about being rich enough to afford “staff”. Or even just “a woman who does” as they used to say. It was a friend who planted the seed in my head - it’s her birthday soon, and we were joking about wanting the “gift of not having to do housework”. But to be honest, while the idea might be lovely I’m not really sure I would want a domestic engineer in my life. It would be much too weird - on every level. Someone washing my knickers? No thanks! Someone cleaning my toilet? No! I’d even struggle taking my car to one of those valeting places that seem to be springing up in every Tesco car park. My car isn’t a festering pit, but then neither is it on first name terms with a Dust Buster. I do give the floor mats a good shake out every now and then though. But don’t put your hands in the cubby holes in the doors - you’re likely to come out with a fluffy half-sucked mint or a lolly stick stuck to you.

There are certain chores I could maybe farm out without too much problem. The hoovering and general dusting maybe. Floor mopping. Erm… struggling now. Oh, ironing I guess. But then Murray does that most weeks anyway so I wouldn’t really be gaining anything.

Anyway, maybe it’s just as well I’m not so wealthy I can afford to eat chocolates out of a heart shaped box while telling the cleaner I need them to de-fluff the under bed areas - I'm not sure that's really me to be honest (tad too much of a control freak).  My oven is sparkling now by the way and your eyes will stay pain-free if you ever pop round while I’m in the middle of a roast. But come soon to get the benefit.

Which housework jobs do you absolutely hate?

Sarah x

Tuesday 19 February 2013

The best school shoes: a mum's review

Toughees 'Pearl' school shoes
Like most children, my daughter Amy can be tough on shoes - particularly school shoes. Plus she grows so fast you can practically hear her stretching (a bit like rhubarb!). So buying shoes for school is a regular occurrence for us, and one that’s often a bit, well, fraught!

Girls of course, have an extra agenda: fashion/style/heel height. Oh, the battles over high heels, flimsy thin souls, patent leather, and slip on versus strap… So, this is my list of what I need from a decent school shoe:
  • Mustn’t cost the earth (I hate the fact that most ‘decent’ children’s school shoes are now in the £35-£45 bracket - kids grow so fast you are often in that frustrating spot of having shoes that still look absolutely fine but no longer fit.)
  • Mustn’t be too cheap either (because at the end of the day, you often get what you pay for)
  • Must be leather (so they can be polished when they get scuffed, and they will breathe a bit too)
  • No stupid high heels (she’s 10, she still wants to climb in the park and I also don’t want her tottering about - you’re a long time an adult, a short time a child, and I’ll be keeping her that way for a little while yet thank you shoe manufacturers!)
  • No thin souls - they wear away too quickly and you get wet socks all the time

So, basically all I want when I go shopping is a good mid-priced leather school shoe that is more practical than fashionable. Doesn't seem like that much to ask, but it often is. Here are the shoes we've tried and tested:

  • Cheap end: ie, supermarket shoes or cheaper high-street shoes (eg Stead & Simpson) - price around £15

Result: It’s rare to find leather shoes in the supermarket, they’re usually plastic or occasionally ‘coated leather’ (don’t be fooled, this isn’t proper leather and basically means they will scuff and wear like mad). We’ve found leather shoes in the high street for around this price, but the leather is low quality - it stretches and goes very baggy after a short amount of time (around 4-6 weeks we found) and ended up actually being too big. They usually need polishing every day to keep them looking good. The straps/fastenings don’t seem to hold up and tend to snap, fray and generally give up the ghost. We found they only last a couple of months before you end up thinking of buying new shoes again.
My rating: 2/5 (I’m being generous…)

  • Expensive end: ie, Clarks, Hush Puppies, etc - price around £35-£45

Result: The leather quality on this type of shoes is always much better - when they get scuffed they can be polished effectively, and will look really good. The Clarks shoes we’ve had (admittedly, only a couple) have been a bit, well ‘meh’. Not great, not bad. One gripe I do have about Clarks is that we go to the shop, see lots of shoes on the shelf, then they only have one (or two, if you’re lucky) style in the size you need. And invariably they’re not the style that you and/or your child want. We do really like Hush Puppies though. They seem to be a little bit chunkier, and they come with a selection of insoles to help adjust the fitting so you get a great fit. The ones we’ve had have lasted brilliantly (months, rather than weeks), and they polish up beautifully.
My rating: 4/5 (would have been 5/5 but they are so expensive!)

  • Middle End: ie, priced around £20-£25

Last September (approx 5.5 months ago) I wanted to find shoes that were more in this mid-price range - something good quality that might last. It was tricky, took a bit of scouring! But I think I may just have found the holy grail of school shoes… Toughees. This is a range of shoes that are made from extremely hard wearing leather, and are designed to go through the mill. They are made in non-polish leather, so a wipe with a damp cloth is often enough to bring them back to shine. You can polish them if you really need to though. We bought the “Pearl” design (which was a winner for Amy because it has a heel - high enough to excite her, low and wide enough for me!). It has a proper buckle rather than Velcro, and although this means it takes 5 seconds longer to put on, it does mean that you don’t end up with fastenings that have lost their stick (anyone who’s ever spent half an hour picking grass and fluff out of Velcro so that it sticks again will know what I mean!). Amy has been wearing hers to school every day, and they lasted brilliantly. She has only just worn them out (good timing as she's gone up a size again!), and the uppers still look almost as good as when we bought them (it was the sole that gave up in the end - just on one shoe, and probably due to riding her scooter and dragging her foot on the ground!). We paid £20 including delivery for hers from Amazon (in a junior size 5), and I think that’s pretty good value!
My rating: 5/5 (the winner!)

As her shoes have just given up I was really hoping that it would be a simple case of buying the exact same shoes again to see her through to the summer holidays. Alas I hadn't remembered that I was dealing with an aforementioned fussy little girl and it seems having the same shoes twice is not the done thing! So we've plumped for Hush Puppies again - but at least they were a half price bargain this time!

What shoes have you found to be the best for school? And which ones would you avoid like the plague (please name and shame!)? I’d love to hear about your own experience, so do please leave a comment and let me know.

Sarah :)

Edit - May 2016: I just wanted to let you know, in case you were wondering, that this post is entirely my own opinion based on my own experiences. It hasn't been sponsored in any way. And 3 years on, I still stand by Toughees - they're bloomin' good! Oh, and a little tip for you: if you get on their mailing list you'll often receive special offers ;) x

Saturday 16 February 2013

Gift Ideas for your Mum this Mother's Day...

Gorgeous Gift Ideas for Gorgeous Mums
this Mother's Day at PhotoFairytales!
Mother's Day is only a few days away (March 10th), so it's time to start thinking of what to treat her with this year - and I've got some great ideas I think she'll love!

This is just a small selection - you'll find loads more on the website by clicking here, as well as links to all the items featured below:

1: Blue Heritage Plaque, £16.95 - can be completely personalised, featuring your own wording.
2: My Message to You print, £14.50 - a range of designs available, both with and without photos, that can all be fully personalised with your own special message.
3: SuperMum print, £14.50 - all Mums are super, and one of these brand new prints will certainly raise a smile!
4: Personalised Canvas prints, from £15.95 - a huge range of lovely designs available, all fully personalised.
5: Personalised Newspaper, from £12.50 - make your Mum headline news this year...
6: Handmade Wooden Gifts, from £12.50 - see the range of beautiful handcrafted and personalised keepsakes.

Sarah :)

Friday 15 February 2013

Brand New: 'On This Day' birthday prints

NEW: 'On This Day' personalised birthday prints
It's been a little while since my last post - but don't worry, I haven't been spending my time frivolously  I've been busy coming up with some new goodies for the website!

And one of the brand new items you can now find are the 'On This Day' range of prints - lovely artwork to display that gives a fascinating glimpse of the world on the day you were born... A great gift idea for Mother's Day this year - mums and grannies would love this!

Each print is carefully and individually researched using various sources and gives a wonderful memento to celebrate a special birthday or the arrival of a new baby. Available in a range of colours, you can order any date from 1900 onwards so these are great for any milestone birthday (eg, 18th or 21st, or perhaps one of the 'big' birthdays?!). Because each print is researched and prepared individually, the information can vary slightly - but as a guide this is what yours could include:

  • Details of your birth: where, when, etc - as well as intriguing information such as how your horoscope may affect your personality, and the ideal future career for your birth date!
  • The meaning of your name
  • Culture and Media: what were the top inventions that year - or the top books, films, tv, toys and more?
  • News: events that took place on the day you were born
  • World Leaders: who were the mean players in high office!
  • Born on this day: which celebrities and notable people do you share your birthday with?
  • Sport: who were the winners in the year you were born?
  • Cost of living: how much did key items cost on the day you arrived, and what was the average wage?

Click here to view the range of prints and for further details.

Hope you like them!
Sarah :)

Monday 14 January 2013

Hairdressing Hangups...

OK, hands up if you've ever done this:

> You go to the hairdressers in need of a cut, and possibly a new style.
>  You talk through with the hairdresser what it is that you would like done.
>  They nod professionally.
>  You then sit and stare in horror at yourself in the mirror while they get totally scissor happy and give you a mullet. Or a short back and sides.
>  They proudly hold the mirror up to show you the back. It’s even worse than the front.
>  They smile.
>  You smile back.
>  You say: “Yes, it’s lovely thank you!”.
>  Then you leave a tip (a tip!) and go - probably booking another appointment for 6 weeks time.

Come on, it can’t just be me?!

Now, I’ve spent soooo many hours sat in the hairdressers chair over the years fighting an inward battle (“ask her not to use straighteners it makes your hair too flat, she’s cutting your fringe too short - tell her or you’ll spend a month looking like you did when you were 5, she hasn’t done your layers right - speak up now while there’s still time. Go on, you can do it! Just smile and say “erm, do you think you could please just….”). But do I speak up? Nope - I just sit there, chatting and smiling, giving out the ‘relaxed and all is good’ vibe. While inside all is in turmoil!

So over the years I’ve tried to analyse why I find it so hard to speak up. Let’s face it, if you’re served a dreadful meal in a restaurant you call the waiter over and tell them. If you get bad service in a shop you complain to the manager. So why is it so hard to do it with a hairdresser? Well I think it’s because of the Great British Reserve. You can complain to a waiter about your dodgy meal because they didn’t cook it personally. You can complain to a manager about the service of a member of their staff because it wasn’t them who was directly rude. Crikey, it’s not even that hard to complain directly to that member of staff about their rudeness or bad service (unless you have a real fear of confrontation). So why is it different for a hairdresser? This is what I think:
  1. It’s because they are often so nice and friendly - they chat to you while they work, they smile, you build a relationship that lasts for the hour or so that you’re sat in that chair.
  2. You are criticising someone’s creativity - you convince yourself that you will crush them if you complain. Hairdressing is a career that you learn, but it is also (if done right) one that you have a natural talent and eye for (or not, in some cases).

As for why I then leave a tip and book another appointment - well, I haven’t quite worked that one out yet. If you have any thoughts and can analyse that one, feel free and leave me a comment! If you’ve ever had a tragic hair cut too and not spoken up, please leave a comment too - then at least I won’t feel like the only one in the world!

Sarah x

PS: and if anyone can tell me where hairdressers go when they get past 30 or so, let me know. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one… all feels a bit too ‘Sweeney Todd’ for my liking...

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Happy 2013!

I know, I know - I'm a bit late wishing you happy New Year, but the thought is still there! I hope you had a lovely Christmas and Santa was good to you?!

November and December were phenomenal months at PhotoFairytales HQ - the busiest ever, and it was fantastic to welcome both new and returning customers and to be able to help with their Christmas shopping. It never fails to give me a little judder of pleasure to think that my creations are being given to others and unwrapped on Christmas morning!

The next date on the calendar is Valentine's Day in just 5 weeks time - if you need a little bit of inspiration do take a look at my range of romantic gift ideas on the website...

I'm going to be working on some new designs and product lines over the next few weeks too, so do check in and see what's new. If you would like to receive updates direct to your inbox, why not sign up to my mailing list (don't worry, I won't swamp you with emails - I only send them when I've got something great to tell you about!). You can find the sign up form by clicking here.

Have a great week,
Sarah :)

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