Saturday, 23 November 2013

Letters to Santa

I'm not sure where the tradition of writing to Santa comes from but now here in the UK there is a specific address provided by the Royal Mail where you can write to him and receive an actual reply (or not if some of the news reports last year are anything to go by!).  You can't visit a garden centre without seeing a Santas Postbox.

I've never posted a letter to Santa

Don't get me wrong - I've written to him LOTS (yes - when I was a child, not NOW!) but I never 'posted' my letter in the traditional manner.

I'm not sure why? Perhaps my Mum and Dad didn't want to fork out on a stamp (sorry Mum and Dad) so instead I have always burned my letters on the fire!  I did ask Mum where our little tradition came from and she didn't know - she did it as a child too.

Growing up my family home had an open fire and each year I would write my letter to Father Christmas with my list of things I would like, in my best hand writing, and then we would throw it onto our roaring log fire.  I would then proceed to run outside to watch the 'words' coming out of the chimney and floating off to the North Pole (a childs imagination is a wonderful thing!).  I distinctly remember calling back to Mum and Dad that 'yes' I could see the words floating off in the sky.

Because it was something that I did it is now a tradition that I have carried on with my two girls.

Luckily my parents still have a log fire (different house) and so off we toddle after the letters have been written, around to Grandma and Grandpas to burn our letters for Santa!



Is it just us that does this?  Do you have a specific tradition regarding sending letters to Santa?


Rosies letter burning its way to the North Pole

Please note - this tradition does not work on an electric or gas fire :)

Bex x

Friday, 15 November 2013

I love you Martha

Martha Stewart? Martha Who?


Here in the UK that name probably doesn't mean that much to most people (apologies in advance to Ms Stewart for this) but I understand that she is VERY well known on the other side of the pond (USA in case you didn't get that!).  I figure she's a bit like a more mature version of our lovely Kirstie Allsopp mixed with Mary Berry.

Personally - I have never met Martha but oh how I would love to having discovered her gorgeous stationery range available exclusively at Staples.

I am currently battling with a teeny tiny obsession with her Chalkboard labels!




They're fantastic for the kids toy storage because when we move on from certain toys we can just change what the label says!




They're great for in the kitchen too (although I had a tiny bit of an issue fitting them on my Tala glass jars because of the curve so had to make little snips so it would smooth around the jar).

I now want to label EVERYTHING!


Only problem with these labels is I HATE CHALK.  Can't stand the feel of the stuff.  Therefore a girl has to have chalkboard pens (and these little babies aren't cheap!).  Mr H only let me buy one white one but I have my eye on a pack of multicoloured chalkboard pens so that I can really pretty them up!!

What would you use them on?


I'm eyeing up the Martha Stewart Wall Manager System at the mo - watch this space!

Bex x


Thursday, 7 November 2013

Picture Keeper + Giveaway!!!

Photos, photos, photos - we're always taking photos.

Now that most mobiles have a camera we truly can, and do, take pictures anywhere and everywhere of people we're with, places we've seen and the food we eat (I for one do not do that last one - I do not want to tweet what I eat!).

We've all heard horror stories about people losing their photos because of some technological disaster or another and these days far fewer people are printing their photos, choosing to store them digitally on their computers and laptops.

Back-up, Back-up, Back-up


We've had one of those disasters.  Back in 2007 we were quite good at backing up our photos on to disc or memory stick but as we took more and more photos it just became a chore to do and we got behind then had a mini-computer meltdown and lost all the photos of our daughters Christening.

We once again vowed to do regular back-ups - at least once a month. And we did - for about a month!!

Again - we let it slide.

We now have an iMac and store our photos on there and use Apples Time Machine to back up everything on our computer.

My only problem with this is that its constantly plugged in to the computer.  In the event of a fire we'd be screwed.

Recently when I was browsing some of my favourite American blogs I saw that one blogger had reviewed a Picture Keeper and it seemed like a pretty damn fine idea.  But could it really be this simple to back up?  iPhoto on the Mac makes it notoriously difficult to just do a basic back-up of your photos to a memory stick and so I wondered if this could do the job.

Having had a quick look in iPhoto there are just a few pictures that need backing up:

Have we really got over 15,000 photos??? Time for a purge!

I contacted the lovely people at Picture Keeper and they agreed to let me have one to try out and review AND one to giveaway to my lovely readers. How good is that?! - here goes:



Straight out of the box it looks simply like a normal USB Memory Stick.  I plugged it in...


(please don't look at the dust!!)

...and got this little icon on my desktop:



A double click and it opened this screen...



I'm working on a Mac so having selected PictureKeeperForMac this screen opened (really is so simple this far)



Click Start Back-up

Now here it sat making whirring noises for about 10 minutes and I wondered if it was actually working.  I normally click click click when things don't work but I decided to just leave it and see what happened.  It was obviously trying to locate all the photo files on my hard drive (and there are alot!).  By the time I came back with a cup of tea - Ta-Dah!  This was happening on-screen




And 15 minutes later.....it was done. FULL to the brim!



Sadly for me there is still another 13,000 pictures that need backing up so I'm going to have to invest in another Picture Keeper HOWEVER all I need to do with that new one is plug it in and it knows how far it has got with backing up and just carry on where its left off.


The PK 4 I was sent says on the front that it will store 'up to 4000 pictures' so initially I was a bit disappointed that it had only held just over 1000 - however on the back of the packaging it does explain about the capacities and how it depends on the file size of each photo.



Pros

It was truly SO simple and SO effective.  No software to install. No locating the photos - just plug it in, click start back-up and away you go.

Cons

It seems to back-up the most recent files first - not necessarily a con but it would be useful to select whether you wanted oldest or newest saved first so you could save the photos chronologically.

Think carefully about what size you will need.  I would suggest you buy as big as you can afford.  Modern cameras take such detailed photos meaning that the file size is larger and so I would suggest most people will need to go with a PK16 at least.  Whilst a PK4 is not expensive at £18 you really do need to go bigger.

Is it worth it?


In my opinion YES.  Anything that makes something which is a chore easier is worth it.  It's a fantastic idea - very simple to use and I'm sure even I can remember to plug something in once a month to back up (and if I can't then Picture Keeper do have a reminder service for this!).

I think that most families would find they either needed several of the PK16's or a PK Pro.

At £149.99 for a PK PRO on Amazon.co.uk (as at 7 Nov 13) it's not cheap by any means but for peace of mind that all those precious memories are safely backed up I would say it's worth it.

About Picture Keeper

Picture Keeper is available in various sizes:







More details at Picture Keeper.  You can follow Picture Keeper on Twitter @PictureKeeper and on Facebook www.facebook.com/PictureKeeper

If you want to purchase one use the above link and enter '2plus1' at the checkout to receive 15% off + free shipping.

Giveaway Time!

The lovely people at Picture Keeper as well as giving me the product to review have also allowed me to offer one as a prize so please enter below if you would like to win a PK4 of your own.

I would love to know your thoughts on it.



a Rafflecopter giveaway








Bex x

Friday, 1 November 2013

Elf on the Shelf Antics


The Elf on the Shelf

Last year was the first year I came across this tradition from America.  While my girls are still young enough to 'believe' in Father Christmas I want to create as much magic as possible.

The idea is that on 1st December (or after Thanks Giving if you are in the USA) Father Christmas sends a scout elf to your house to watch the behaviour of the children (bare with me - its not as creepy as it sounds!).

"Santas eyes and ears"


The elf will return to the North Pole each night to report back to Santa on whether the child has been naughty or nice but on their return s/he can get into mischief!

In America you can buy an 'official' Elf on the Shelf and although you can now get them over in the UK through Santas very own workshop (Amazon) last year they were a tricky beast to track down (and mighty expensive at that) so I decided to get some of my own.

I think you are supposed to only have 1 elf per family - but I thought I'd get one for each of my girls.  I like the idea that when they are grown up they can each take their elf to their own families.

I found a lovely little seller on Facebook called Bumbletwigs who was making Christmas Elves so ordered two for the kids.

Elf Mischief

This is some of the antics our two girl elves got up to last year.  Occasionally they stayed put as we forgot to move them - but thats OK 

"elves have a favourite place to sit just like you or I so they're probably just sitting in one of their favourite spots"

You really learn to push the boundaries as a parent!




Each night the Elves would get up to mischief of some type or other and each morning the children would hunt for their elves to see what they had been up to.

There is a whole array of ideas for things that the elf can get up to.  Just look at the Elf on The Shelf Official Website here. (Personally I think the official elf is kind of creepy!).

Children are not supposed to touch the elves as it could erase all their Christmas magic but there are plenty of cures for that too to save childrens tears.

"Christmas magic is very fragile, and if a scout elf is touched it may lose its magic. If your elf has been touched, please sprinkle a little cinnamon beside him or her before you go to bed; cinnamon is like vitamins for elves, and it helps them get back to the North Pole. Once they arrive, the North Pole E.R. doctors will check them out."

On Christmas Eve when Santa arrives the Elves go back to the North Pole with him.

And there in ends the tradition.

We don't have many years as parents when children truly understand AND believe in the magic of Christmas.  This year my girls will be 4 and 6 so are right in the middle of it and believe and trust in it so utterly that I cannot wait for the whole Christmas season to start.

I wonder how many more years I will have it?

Do you have any Christmas traditions to share?

Bex x