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 :)

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