Hair's My New Look!

I had a colour change recently- going from a blonde to a chestnut redhead. Then a fortnight ago I had another colour to make my red even more vibrant! Hair's my new look! (see what I did there - 'here' / 'hair'!!) *groan* My jokes are so bad!



Having taken the step to go red back in September, I was feeling braver and wanted to go richer- more red and bump my colour up a few notches, so I went to the Regis salon in Leeds, armed with my pictures of famous red-heads and asked them to recreate it for me!

On my sheet of lovely reddies was Marcia Cross, Isla Fisher, Rose McGowan, Jill Zarin, Julianne Moore and Bella Thorne. I have to say, I think they did a great job. Here is me just before the stylist got to work...




Sam who was my stylist for the visit was brilliant. She knew just what kind of red I wanted and made sure that I got what I'd asked for. As my hair is so porous, it can take a while for a new colour to 'grab', so after colouring my hair Sam felt that I needed to have a colour refresher on the hair and a conditioning treatment, to make the colour look vibrant and shiny rather than 'flat'. I liked the way that she cared as much as I did about getting it right, and she checked I was ok for time, before doing anything extra.

It was a nice treat for me to get to a Central Leeds salon in the middle of the day. My youngest child started school full time from September, so this was one of the first 'days out' I'd had on my own without having to rush back for a nursery collection! I decided to make a day of it and do a little Christmas shopping in the morning before my salon visit, so it was a nice day. Fortunately I was doing a detox the week I went to the salon, so I'd already prepared a lunchtime smoothie to drink which I took in my bag, because it's awful when you are in a hair salon over the lunch period and not prepared, and you have to sit there hungry until you are released! So I was quite comfortable with my smoothie and the herbal teabags I took in with me which they kept boiling hot water for!

Having been all hair colours over the years, this is the first time I've been red, so I will keep this shade for a while. I think it adds warmth to my face and freshens up my look a bit!

I want to say a massive "Thank you" to Regis who gave me the colour and cut for free, in return for my participation in their recent Regis campaign to unveil the new face of Regis Salons! Here was my blog post about their announcement.

After the visit, the PR for Regis sent me some Designline Colour Care Shampoo and Conditioner as well as some styling products. It was really nice to get a shampoo and conditioner that are designed to help keep the colour locked in, as it is heartbreaking when you see the colour you have had on, washed down the plughole after one wash! The set smelled really nice and the size of the bottles is decent too. I liked how the conditioner was as big as the shampoo bottle as it drives me nuts when you get the matching conditioner to a shampoo and the bottle is smaller! I use more conditioner than shampoo as my hair is so dry!

So that is my new look for Christmas. Are you having a change - maybe a new look you for 2012? Leave me a comment below!

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The App That 'POYNTs' You The Way!

*This is a Sponsored Post*

When I was emailed about a new app that promises to save busy parents time, a little excitement welled up inside! I am a busy mum, I'm juggling a lot of balls(!) and we all know how quickly life moves. Whatever I can do myself to enable me to glide through the day as smoothly as I can, I'm on it.

Did you see my video about how to ensure you don't get locked out? Or the video about staying on top of the costs and kids needs on a family day out? As you can see, I like little tricks to make life easier and be prepared, so I was all set to give this app a go!

Here is how the app looks on your phone:

As you can see, the screen is quite 'sunny' but this app links to the weather so if you are having a cloudy day where you are, the screen will be darker in the background. I thought this was quite cute- and it gives you information without you having to think about it!

I recently upgraded my phone so now I have an iPhone which makes it really easy to get apps. I searched for 'POYNT' in the App Store and found it straightaway. This is what the logo looks like so you know you have got the right app:


Basically what this app does is to help you find businesses, restaurants, movies and events that are local to you. So if you go out socially a lot- or visit places you are unfamiliar with, it can be really useful for helping you save time in finding what you need.

Here is how I used it for a week...

As we are getting close to Christmas and I'm having the family round, I knew I wanted to get my carpets cleaned, so I used the app to find local carper cleaners in my area. It displays the results in order of which business is closest to you geographically, and gives you the address. There is also the option to see the location of the business on a map, get directions or call from the app, so you don't have to copy and paste phone numbers into your keypad. I thought this was quite good, so I entered a few other business types to check that everything I could think of was represented. I don't currently need a locksmith or cavity wall insulation but it's reassuring to know that if I ever do need someone local of this nature, I can get their details quite easily through this app!

I liked the 'Movies' section of the app, as hubby and I are quite the movie buffs. Since having kids we don't get there as much as we used to but if we ever do get a chance to go to the cinema, we never know what is on (whereas at one time we would not only know what is coming out but have already seen most new releases on the day they premiere!) Using the app I could see what films are currently out and who is in them, as well as watch the trailer. You can search 'movies nearby' to see where they are playing as some cinemas won't always have everything showing, especially if a film is older. You can get today's screen times, directions to the theatre and call the cinema. The only thing you can't currently do from the app is book tickets, but you can ring them and do it that way, so you pretty much have everything you need within this feature.

Restaurants was a useful app when we went on a night out to a nearby city that we aren't familiar with. One of my husband's clients invited us to their Christmas party, so we had to meet at a certain restaurant. We had never been there before so once we'd parked up, I was able to search for the place using the app then get directions to walk there. I think that feature alone saved an argument (you know what blokes are like about asking for directions!)

The only feature of the app that I didn't really use was the 'Events' section. I had a play with it at home to see what it could do, but it wasn't really relevant to me at the time I tested the app. I think this feature would be more useful to me personally during the school summer holidays when I'm looking for ideas to entertain the kids and the weather is nice so we might look at a festival or being outdoors. Poynt did have a 'kids and family' section within 'Events' and currently this brings up a list of local pantomimes and church services, so it defintely has information all year round, but in the winter time, I'm not really looking for events - we tend to hibernate a bit more at this time of year! I was quite impressed however at the range of categories that this part of the app had. Whether you want to find a sci fi convention or a pet show- you can get the info here!

The app is free so really why wouldn't you give it a try! There are adverts in the search results and that pop up at the bottom but these are not intrusive. It is worth having the ads to get the information for free- it really has proved to be a useful app.

I like things clutter free and to have everything in its place and this includes my iPhone screen! Most of my other apps are organised into boxes like 'Cities', 'Shopping', 'Games' etc but I have left the Poynt app on my homescreen and actually filed away the weather app which I had on before. This is quite a big deal for me as something has to be really good in order to be allowed to 'stand alone' on my phone. My other stand alone apps include the calculator which I use a lot, Twitter (just look at my tweet stream to see how much I use this! I am @businessmum) and Voice Memos. I regularly use this to dictate things I don't want to forget. Oh, and my Shopping List is also a stand alone app because I use this every day to keep on top of my household purchasing!

You can learn more about the app here at their website: http://poynt.com

Poynt is currently available in 8 countries, so I reckon it would be quite good for holidays- you never know when you'll need a doctor or a late night pharmacy when you don't know the layout of the land. I will be taking this with me when we go on our next family holiday. All in all, this is a very useful little app!

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Give a Girl A Kindle This Christmas!

Ok this is an appeal.

But not your usual Christmas appeal, this one is to make MY Christmas wish come true! Woo hoo!

I'm in a competition with 18 other bloggers, all of whom have said what they'd like for Christmas. here is where you can vote for me! http://glam.co.uk/2011/12/juggle-mums-christmas-wish/

We all have a page on Glam's website (Glam is my blog advertising provider) and everyone has to ask their friends, family and followers to vote to help them win! Whoever has the most votes (or '+1s') at 5pm on Tuesday 20th December, wins their Christmas wish!

I have wished for a Kindle. I love to read when I get the chance, and my bedside table currently has a stack of about 6 books that are in line to be read! However I also like things clutter free and tidy around me! So I would love a Kindle to store all my books on then I don't have all the mess but I can still read to my little heart's content!

If you give me a vote here, you will be helping to make my wish come true!!

Here is what their page looks like:


Thank you in advance for taking a few minutes to cast your vote!! ...I'll let you know if all my blogging and Twitter campaigning worked!!! (hehe)

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I Got Papped!

*Stop press* Juggle Mum got papped!

I'm just kidding, but I have been in the press quite a bit over the last few months! Let me show you a bit of the coverage...


This was the September 2011 issue, and the article was about mums returning to work. I gave a column's worth of tips which you can see in the box to the right here (Slimline your day):


I'm also featured in Good Housekeeping's January 2012 issue which is out now!

The article on finding the pause button features my tips for a calm children's bedtime routine!



And not forgetting radio, I'll be on BBC Radio Leeds today for the drive time show talking about how savvy shoppers now use coupons to save cash in this economy! You can listen live at about 5.30pm here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/leeds/programmes

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How Clean Is Your House?

The BritMums ladies posed the question: "How clean is your house?"

Here is my answer- broadcasted from my downstairs toilet - nice!




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A Four Year Old's Fashion



This is how my 4 year old is going to school today. Nuff said.

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The Littlewoods Fashion Challenge!

Now I love the word 'fashion' and I'm always up for a fun challenge so when Littlewoods wanted to see if me and two other bloggers could rock 5 items of clothing for one week, I knew I'd be keen to give it a go!
Little do they know that I have a trick up my sleeve - I'm an ex London College of Fashion girl- my styling kit came everywhere with me 15 years ago, so I know a thing or two about making an outfit work. The kit is probably up in the loft now but I will dust it off and get ready for the week long fashion fiesta! The pieces they are sending me are still to be decided- I'll fill you in once I know!

This isn't the first time I've worn some Littlewoods clothes. Do you remember how my kids and I went to London last month for the Littlewoods Bloggers Christmas event? Well after that day of cake and having my make up done, I posed for a fashion shoot with my kids and here is the result!

Here is my look book provided after my shoot

and

and


To check out the stuff Littlewoods has for yourself, you can watch their Christmas TV ad below:


Or visit www.Littlewoods.com for their website.

So I'm up for the challenge and will be reporting the results on this blog. I just hope that there is nothing resembling harem pants in the package. I looked like I was wearing a nappy when I wore them last time round in the 80's (remember MC Hammer?!) and have had two babies in nappies since then so I just don't think they'd be a good look for me!!

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At Home Column: Business Mum: 'Luxuriates At Home!'

I don’t know if it is the clocks going back, bringing darker days and darker nights, or if it is the cold weather so the woollies come out, but recently I’ve been yearning to hibernate!

Running a business, daily work, doing the school run, running a home – all of these things mean that I have to get out of bed on a morning, there is no choice, but my cosy bed is looking more and more inviting the further we get towards winter. This is why I decided to have a cosy day at home during the weekend!

Sometimes a duvet day is exactly what you need to nourish your soul in the winter months. Busy mums spend most of the time rushing round after everyone else, but we should make sure we have at least one weekend day off in the winter time to stay at home, watch DVDs, eat chocolate and pamper ourselves with luxury bath products.

When you are doing the daily juggle, it’s easy to forget to have fun sometimes. Like any special event, a relaxing day at home needs some advance planning, so here is my check list that every Jugglista needs for her own special duvet day!

First, in advance of your duvet day, wash your bedding! It makes the experience much nicer when you have clean crisp sheets to crawl into!


Next, dig out some cosy pyjamas. I have to confess, there’s nothing more appealing to me than a lovely new set of jammies so if I can afford to I like to get a new pair, or ask people for them for birthdays and Christmas then I can save them for a special duvet day.


After this, choose the movies you want to watch in advance and get it on DVD, or, if you have Sky TV, flick through the menu a week or so before your duvet day to see what movies are showing then set record. It’s a good idea to do this regularly anyway, as there are some great family movies on during the week when we don’t have time to watch them, and it feels like we are making the most out of the monthly subscription if we have recorded a few to have on the ‘Planner’ in case we get chance on a Sunday!


So you have set the scene, chosen your outfit and sorted the entertainment next we move onto the food. On a duvet day I like easy to prepare food that doesn’t require any chopping or extra thinking about so a pizza is a safe choice. I also like to have some chocolate in the cupboard... just because!


Another part of the day will involve having a bubble bath and painting my nails so I make sure that I have a nice nail colour in and also enough bubbles!


Now that all parts of the duvet day are in place, all you have to do is to enjoy it! In my house, what would typically happen is that the kids would see me about to have a bubble bath and get into a comfy bed with a stack of movies then decide they want to be part of it too, so if you want your day solo, have your partner take the kids out somewhere. I don’t mind the kids joining me though... as long as they don’t bounce around in the bed or try to take my chocolate!



I write a fortnightly column for At Home - the Premier UK celebrity and lifestyle magazine, and this one appeared on their site www.AtHomeMagazine.co.uk a month ago. Do visit At Home and leave me a comment on the post there so they get to see your opinions too!
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About the Author
Nadine Hill is a busy working mum (“Is there any other kind?!”) who has a fascination with time management which borders on the obsessive! She loves to find more effective ways of doing the daily juggle whilst enjoying the journey and has lots of practise through raising her two children, managing her small business, being a best-selling author, running her home, public speaking and finding time to get to the gym! Nadine’s ambition is to help busy mums claw back a bit of ‘me time’ so she shares her tips with at home in these fortnightly columns and her own life stories on her blog- Juggle Mum.
She also micro blogs on Twitter where she is @Businessmum. You can learn more about Nadine at www.NadineHill.com

The Juggle Mum Tested by REAL Mums Panel- on bags

If there is something that a group of busy women know about - its handbags! Well, handbags and shoes in my case. So as every modern woman needs somewhere to stash her stuff, I got my 'mum friends' together to test four different organiser handbags!

Here are the results of our tried and tested....



Karen tested the VIP (Very Intelligent Pocket) available from Firebox
I (Nadine) tested the Knomo Rimini, available from www.knomobags.com
Vicki tested the Kipling bag from QVC
Carla tested the Mia Tui bag from www.miatui.com

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Well That's Christmas Entertainment Sorted! (Plus a Reader Competition!)

This year we are having both my parents and my husbands family over for Christmas Day. As we have a system within the family, each household takes it in turns to host Christmas Day so I have to do 'the big event' once every three years.

I've been slowly stocking up on food that will keep and booze, but this week my thoughts turned to what kind of entertainment we'd need for the day. I want to be sure that there is something for everyone and I think I've got it cracked! After the big dinner, we'll have an XBox 360 Kinect set up in the conservatory and bingo in the main living room!

The XBox belongs to my brother in law so he'll have his own games for it, however I know he's into sport, so to save my mother from having to play golf (which she can't do!), I have got a game for it that I know will appeal to the whole family -whatever age. It is the new Grease Dance game!

I tried it out to check it would be easy enough for everyone to do and I have to say, we had a hilarious time testing it! Once we had set up profiles for all the players for the Kinect (which you have to do before playing) we went into the game. The Grease music belted out from the TV screen, and when it does you can't help but tap your toes. My husband and daughter played against each other first, and it was highly entertaining for me to watch!

Here they are doing some moves!


They went on the 'dance' option. There are a few ways to play the game including karaoke but the dance option unlocks the extra songs quicker, so we gravitated to that. Hubby chose the track 'Grease is the Word', and they stood side by side and followed the moves of the cartoon man and woman on the screen.

I think the funniest thing about doing games like these are doing them when you have company (not just alone) because the player has fun playing but it is also very entertaining to watch the players busting their moves on the dancefloor too! After the song ended, you have the option to check your photos, and this is where the Kinect device has taken pictures of you dancing and shows them back to you! For the Grease game, they put photos within a high school yearbook - you can see my hubby doing 'The Bomb' here!



Afterwards I danced against my daughter to "Look at me I'm Sandra Dee". She won of course! The Grease Dance game will be brilliant to have on Christmas Day as I know that I can get Grandparents up playing, my kids will definitely want to dance and we have loads of relatives in their 20's who can show us all how it's done! I have three copies of Grease Dance on the XBox 360 Kinect to give away. See the end of this post for details of how to enter. You can also learn more about this game here.

Another game I tried this week is the newly launched Zumba Fitness 2. It comes out today, you can see it on Amazon here. This time the game is for me as I didn't get much of a look in when we played Grease Dance! I'm reserving this game to play on Boxing Day so I can start to work off everything I ate and drank the day before!

I love zumba. I go to a class twice a week at my gym, but I've never done it solo at home before. I wasn't sure if I'd get the full effect of a class by myself at home, but you can actually do a class with this game! I did a couple of dances by following the on screen woman and the game knows how you are doing as you put the wii controller into your Zumba belt which you get with the game. After my dance, I could feel the muscles at the tops of my thighs so I knew it was working! Plus the game crowned me as a 'Zumba Legend!' I was quite pleased with that- especially as it meant I unlocked a new game to try later.

Here is the packshot of the new Zumba game, I have three of these to give away:


...and here is the Zumba trailer. I challenge you to watch this and NOT bop your head or tap your feet. I think it really captures what Zumba is about. I just feel so happy after doing Zumba!


COMPETITION TIME!
I have three copies of each game to give away to Juggle Mum readers. That is
- 3x Grease Dance for XBox 360 Kinect
-3x Zumba Two for Nintendo Wii

To win one, all you have to do is leave a comment with your email address or a way of contacting you (so I can get your postal address), and say which game you would like. I will choose six winners by random number generation on the closing date of Friday 9th December 2011.

Terms and Conditions:

• This competition will run from the 25 November to 6am on the 9th December 2011
• The winners will be chosen at random and contacted via email or whatever contact method they left in the comments
• Competition is open to residents of the UK and NI only
• Prize is non-refundable and no cash alternative is available. I only have Grease for the XBox Kinect and Zumba for the Wii. They cannot be 'swopped around'.



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More Tips on MyFamilyClub!



I have been busy recently, writing articles for the new MyFamilyClub website.

Here is a piece I wrote about tips for shopping with toddlers, and soon, they will publish another article about how to organise your car when you are a busy parent! Here is the link to that article.

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Santa's Steam Train Had Me Steaming!

The Christmas countdown has started and families with young children will probably be visiting a Santa attraction this year. So when the National Railway Museum (NRM) asked me if I'd like to take my family to see their new Santa's Steam Adventure, I said "Try keeping me away!"



We have never visited Santa in November before. Like many parents, we decide sometime during December that we should find time to do a Santa visit and we go, but this attraction at the museum in York opened last weekend for the first ride and it runs every weekend from now until Christmas plus the train will be running every day from 17th - 23rd December as well. Having been invited, I saw this as a fab opportunity to fulfil one of our Christmas traditions - without all the crowds!

People who know me well know that I don't like crowds. I get a little claustrophobic and like to know where my exits are. I like space all around me and can't stand being 'hemmed in', so usually when we see Santa in December and there are loads of crowds and queues and people rushing, it makes for a more stressful day for me, although I just breathe deeply and get on with it. I was looking forward to a calmer, less crowded Santa experience this year as it is the start of the Santa experience at NRM.

We started our journey in the museum's Station Hall where we walked through a special 'magical depot' with large steam trains filled with wrapped gifts and the odd furry toy cat to make the place seem 'homely'. They had made the area look very Christmassy with trees, lights and even a display of the museum's old toy collection from years ago which was presented in a rather nice style. Each old toy was tagged with a child's name then you read the accompanying sign to see what the toy was and what year. So we saw Peter's train from 1960, William's book from 1946 or Grace's toy train set from the 1980's etc. It was really nice to show our children what kids in past years used to get for Christmas- and is a massive change from now where they get Xboxes or mobile phones!

At the end of the magical depot, we were greeted by a helper who chatted to us whilst the train was getting ready. We were the first in the queue and were let onto the train first. I was pleasantly surprised when I entered the train. I'd kind of expected your 'run of the mill' train with 'airline' style seats facing front and back, where we would sit and Santa would walk through the aisle. This was not the case! The carriage where we were ushered to was clear of all fixed seating and had a red carpet on the floor, pillows and blankets for the children to sit on in front of Santa's big wooden throne, and six high back chairs at the back of the carriage for the parents to sit on.

The effect, if everyone sat where they were supposed to, was that of Santa or a helper telling a story to all the children who sat on the floor whilst the parents sat at the back! I wish this had happened but unfortunately it didn't.

The staff who looked after the train were brilliant and the train looked really festive and pleasant, but there wasn't enough room for all the adults to sit down at the back, so after the first three families got on, sat their kids at the front then took a seat at the back, the remaining families kind of shuffled on and sat down in the middle, some parents blocking smaller children's views as they sat in front of them. I really wish that the train staff had organised everyone. Maybe announcing as people enter, "Can we have all the children to the front and parents can sit towards the back" but with an absence of direction, everyone did the only thing they could do and sat where there was space, but this meant that people were sat on the floor, some standing and some perched on the little ledge that ran around the wall of the carriage. So rather than being a kind of 'we're all in it together' style family outing, it became a bit of a free for all and a scramble for space.

After the train set off it stopped again, and this was to let on a latecomer and her two sons. This was nice of the driver to do that (you don't normally get trains stopping just because someone is late!) but it wasn't as nice for me as the lady's boys sat on top of my feet - there wasn't really the room to take them. Again, I wished for some instruction from the train staff to show the lady to a safe spot to sit, and encourage her boys towards the front with the other children, but they all came to the parents seating at the back.

Nonetheless the train set off and the two helpers at the front started telling a story about the train and Santa. They were quite theatrical and interactive - passing out toy tools to get the kids to help 'fix' the trains broken wheel by hammering on the floor! The kids loved this bit- being part of the story and it was entertaining for the adults too. The story continued and after the kids fixed the wheel, they had to help create some magic to get the train moving again by shaking the bells and singing Jingle Bells. The adults were asked to sing too! I really liked the storytelling and the acting done by the helpers, my experience at this point was only spoiled by the fact that I had no leg room where I was sat as there were too many people around me. So I just tried to ignore what was around my feet and focus on the kids and Santa.



Santa came out halfway through the ride. He sat in the wooden throne, and everything that happened after this I couldn't see, as the helpers had asked everyone to stand to welcome Santa. If the helper's had asked the CHILDREN ONLY to stand, we would all have been able to see what happened at the front of the train, but as everyone stood, I could only see this guys black wool coat and his backpack.

I heard Santa asking my daughter her name and what she wanted for Christmas, and I sent my husband to the front with his camera to get a photo of her with Santa, but due to the number of people in the carriage and the fact that they were adults, standing up, we couldn't get a proper shot.

My kids enjoyed it which is all that matters at the end of the day. They saw Santa and they had a nice ride on a train in a festive carriage, but I felt that I had missed out as I couldn't see my children's faces as they spoke to Santa. I couldn't get a nice photo of them to remember the day by as there were too many people, and with everyone standing up, it made the small carriage feel very claustrophobic. All I wanted to do when the train arrived back to base was get off.


As it is so early on in the season, I really hope that the NRM staff put some structure in place for the passage of people whilst on the train. If people are shown where to sit when they get into the carriage, or at least given some general instruction, then the whole experience would really be very pleasant. The train was lovely, the staff were friendly and very entertaining whilst doing the story time part, and the children got a gift from Santa which was nice. The only thing that went wrong for me was too many other people in my personal space which could have been avoided with some clear direction. If the NRM staff add more seating for the parents at the back this would help - or take the chairs out all together if some adults will get them and some not. Maybe it's fairer for no-one to have a seat. My train was crowded and there were about 8 or 9 families on there, and as we get nearer to Christmas, this attraction will get even more busy.

The prices for the Santa Steam Adventure are very reasonable at £7.50 per child (which includes a gift) and £5 per adult (which includes a mince pie and hot drink in the restaurant afterwards). Tickets can be booked on the website or by calling 0844 8153 139.

Thank you to the NRM who allowed my family of four a complimentary ride on the Santa train for this review.


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Juggle Mum 'Tested by REAL Mums' Review Panel... on diaries

The funniest coffee morning I've ever had! Four busy mums reviewed four 2012 diaries to see what they liked, what they didn't and how it helped to organise the details of their lives. Here is the video...



The diaries reviewed were
Vicki reviewed the Family Life Book from Organised Mum.
Karen reviewed the Dodo Pad (see below for a special discount*)
Carla reviewed the Dairy Diary
Nadine reviewed the Mum's Diary

* Juggle Mum readers can get a discount! Dodo Pad is offering 10% off on all purchases from www.dodopad.com until the end of November 2011 with the sales code 11PR.


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The Private Members Club, The PR Company, The Bloggers and Butlins!

Now I have a confession to make... I'm not cool.

I like Asti Spumante, my favourite outfit is my pyjamas and I am partial to a bit of soft rock from time to time. But I got the chance to be cool last week when the Butlins marketing ladies took me and a couple of other bloggers to a private members club in Central London!

Here we are at The Hospital Club!


From left to right is Katie from Butlins, Marianne from Mari's World, Rachel from Right From The Start, me in the awesome zebra chair, and Jae from Butlins.

This place has hosted private movie screenings, celebrity parties and events from some of the biggest brands in the world. There was a picture of Jo Whiley in the lift because I think she might have recorded her BBC Radio 1 show from there before, so like a tourist, I had my eagle eyes on alert - hoping to bump into a celeb who I could casually ask to pose for a photo with me!

This place was so hip that even the lift was cool. Check it out!


At the bar, the girls enjoyed champagne and olives whilst I had a 'watermelon smash' cocktail and crisps. (I told you I wasn't cool!) We had gone there after a day in London at the PR offices that looks after Butlins. The bloggers had been chosen to be 'Butlins Mum Ambassadors' for 2011 - 2012 and this was our first meeting to learn a bit more about Butlins and meet the other bloggers.



Here we are earlier in the day:


From left to right: Anne from Consolidated PR, Rachel (blogger), Me (blogger), Mari (blogger), Katie (Butlins) and Jae (Butlins).

So the deal is that as a 'Butlins Mum' I'm going to be visiting two of their resorts next year to have a family break and report back on how it was. It's like a review with bells on! But that is next year, for now I had a fab time in London. I always love re-visiting the big smoke, even if my feet always hurt by the end of the day (and I have run 10K y'know!)

Do you know what the first thing I did when I got home? (after kissing my kids) I got into my pyjamas!

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Building Bears!

My kids were invited to the local Build A Bear Workshop to give the experience a try so whilst we were in the area, I persuaded my hubby to come along too for some Christmas shopping.

We had a fab day, it's been ages since we went shopping together but I have to say, the Build A Bear experience just blew me away!

I've never been into that store before, my kids have done it once before when their uncle took them to get a bear, so I had no preconceptions other than I'd noticed when passing that the store always seems busy. I get easily put off by crowds, I prefer to shop when it is quieter with fewer queues, but having gone through the experience in store, I have to say the queues are worth it and if you are planning a trip there, don't expect to be quickly in and out. If you plan that it will take a little time to get round the store, you can relax and fully enjoy the whole visit.

The Build A Bear website describes the in store ambience as a retail-entertainment experience, and this is truly an accurate way to describe it. We were met at the door by a member of staff who guided us round and looked after us for the whole visit. Vicki who was our guide was fantastic. She took the time to ask and remember all of our names - not just the children, and she used them throughout the store, so she felt like a friend at the end of the visit - I even gave her a hug upon leaving, she genuinely seemed to care about how we found the whole experience and she patiently explained every part of the process, because your bear goes through a series of events that happen whilst you are making it!

Vicki and the store manager knew that I was a blogger and would be writing about the experience afterwards, so cynics may say that of course I would have a positive experience, but the other staff members were not aware and we got the smile, the attention and the service from them too, so I'm confident in saying that if you go to the Build A Bear Workshop, you will be greeted with a warm welcome and excellent service.

I asked about what it would be like for customers if the store was really busy, would a staff member take them round like we experienced, and I was told that when it is quieter, staff can be more hands on all the way around, but when it is really busy then customers will go from one 'station' to the next around the store on their own, but that there is a staff member at each key point to assist with any queries.

The layout of the store allows the foot traffic to flow naturally from the right hand side of the store, down the length of the store, hitting each station and back up the left hand side of the store to the till. There are overhead signs to show you the next step, but my 8 and 4 year old didn't even look at these and they instinctively knew where to go next.

At the start of the store you see all the bears on display and you choose your new bear. They have what I'd call basic teddy bears (brown, soft cuddly bears) and also bears with jazzy prints, bears that are camouflage, reindeer toys, other animals that are stuffed - these are called 'furry friends', and branded toys like the Hello Kitty range. When big name movies come out during the year, the Build A Bear Workshop often gets the soft toy versions, so this year they had the Smurfs in (which sold out across the country!) and they currently have the new penguins from the new Happy Feet movie that is about to be launched.

Here is a video I recorded in store when my children had chosen their new bears....


The day was a unique experience. If you have someone in your life who is having an occasion coming up, you can find a bear to suit. They had loads of types of bear- a graduation bear with cap and gown, a wedding bear, a corporate suit bear (maybe for someone's first job?), cheerleader bears, football bears- you name it! They even had bear accessories like a bear wheelchair, a bear stroller, bear roller skates, a bear sofa bed and you can even get your bear a wardrobe to put all these outfits in!

Vicki told me that their store is always really busy in the week between Christmas and New Year, as loads of children get gift vouchers to buy their own bear. I can see why- it is nice to be able to buy a bear for someone which is completely personalised but if your gift is for children, they will love to go round the store and experience making a bear for themselves.

Every year Children in Need partner with Build A Bear Workshop so families can give money to the charity by visiting the store and making a special limited edition bear. Here is a picture of Pudsey Bear:


The Pudsey bear is really cute, but my kids had already spotted the patterned bears they chose! Children in Need day is this Friday - the 18th November 2011. You can find more information at www.bbc.co.uk/pudsey

You can learn more about the Build A Bear Workshop at www.buildabear.co.uk

Thank you to the Build A Bear Workshop in Leeds who hosted our visit and for the personalised bear each that was given to my children.

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My X Factor Pizza Night!

This is a sponsored post.

Saturday nights in my house from August to Christmas are always about X Factor. Now I have kids and my Saturday nights round the town are a distant memory, I love to get the family together on the sofa and cuddle up and watch our favourite show on telly! In this series, my daughter likes Janet the best, I'm warming up to Kitty - she's a great performer whatever you think of her personality, my husband likes Marcus and Craig and my son is just happy to watch along with us holding his Lotso bear! So last night we did our usual Saturday night thing, watching 'Derm' and the judges with a cup of tea (rock n roll eh?!)

Except last night we added something new into the mix. Chicago Town have brought out a limited edition X Factor pizza, so we had one of those! We also bought a Chicago Town Takeaway Cheese pizza too as one pizza for all of us wouldn't fly- we like our food, so with our pizza, coleslaw, nachos, beers and my little cup of tea, we settled down with our feast to watch the show. This is me with the X Factor box!


Last night's show was good- in a dramatic twist Amelia Lily was voted back on. I don't think she should have gone in the first place- she is a litte rocker and reminds me a bit of Miley Cyrus, but it's good to see her back. I think she will do well now her fate is dependant on a public vote and not a judges preference.

We loved the taste of the new Chicago Town X Factor Pizza, but trust me - use the oven ready tray provided with the pizza to cook - we put the cheese pizza in the oven before our X Factor one, and the cheese pizza stuck to the oven shelf because we hadn't read the instructions before baking. When we cooked our X Factor pizza on the oven ready tray, it came out perfectly. Because Chicago Town have made these pizzas to be like takeaway pizzas, with a real dough base and light and fluffy in the middle, you need the oven ready tray to support the pizza's weight in the centre which is where we went wrong the first time. However we still ate the cheese pizza, we put the bits onto a plate, gave the kids a bowl each and told them we'd already cut it up for them! They didn't question it!

Here is my husband and I with our X Factor pizza:


The X Factor pizza has a BBQ sauce stuffed crust and is topped with pepperoni, red onion, spicy beef and mozzarella. Each limited edition pizza comes with a free music download on the pack - you get this by entering the code from the box into Chicago Town's website. However in a twist of their own, you can either take your free download or gamble it to try to win a bigger prize like tickets to an X Factor show, cash or maybe just another pizza! I was feeling lucky and gambled but when the computer screen went to the judging panel to see if I'd won, I got two 'yes's and two 'no's, so I didn't win:-(

If you are an X Factor and pizza fan like me, you might like to give this pizza a try. It tates really good, you could possibly win prizes and it is cheaper than one from a takeaway shop! The Chicago Town X Factor pizza was £3.78 in my local ASDA.

The only problem with having a feast on the Saturday night is that I need to go for a run on the Sunday to work it off! I usually love a run but in recent weeks' I've got out of the habit so it'll take extra effort from me to get going again. Wish me luck!

The X Factor official website is www.itv.com/xfactor


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The Birthday Wish... Then The Real One!

Two of my friends came over for a coffee morning to celebrate Carla's birthday.

Vicki is the brunette, Carla is the blonde and I am operating the video camera.

Carla's birthday wish is priceless!




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Money Saving Tip if you Like Coupons!

Have you ever spent money in a store only to get home and find a coupon for that shop which you could have used?

If you forget to use coupons or they go out of date before you use them, you'll like this tip!



I recorded the video for MyFamilyClub, a new parenting website that I write for. Check them out- they have tips for saving time and money!

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I've Got A New Writing Job!

I've just started writing for MyFamilyClub, a new parenting website that promises to help parents to save time and money!

My first article for them is called 'How to Find the Pause Button in Your Everyday Life' and you can read it here.

If there is a particular subject you would enjoy reading about, let me know in the comments below, I'll see what I can do! My next article for them will be out in a few weeks and I'll keep you updated!

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Yorkshire Bloggers Descend on Littlewoods Christmas Event!

I say Yorkshire bloggers (plural) because my two children are certainly active in blogging. I write the copy, they get to play with the free toys we are sent, and bake with the free cereal! So when Littlewoods invited us to London during the last Half Term, we said "Ooh yes!" Here is what went down...



After this video was shot, we headed for the Offices where we were greeted with this scene:

This is heaven! A room full of clothes, shoes, toys for the kids, cake, other bloggers to chat to and a photography studio set up in the corner because we were going to have our pictures taken!

We were encouraged to try on some of the clothes hanging round the showroom, to find something to wear in the photo. I bumped into Jo from Slummy Single Mummy who just looked gorgeous in everything she tried! I can't wait to see her photo from this event. Here she is on the left:


I also had a natter with Kerry from 'And Then All I Thought About Was You' (here on the right)


and Nova from Cherished By Me who is on the left below...


Whilst I was busy getting photos taken with the other bloggers, my daughter was busy having sparkly make up applied...


Then we posed for our fashion shoot! (Pictures to follow in another blog post)

The team at Littlewoods and their PR Agency McCann were fantastic. They couldn't help out enough whether it was finding me a dress in my size to try on or getting my son a piece of cake! Here are some of the girls who helped make the day so special...


...and after all the fashion and photography fun, we got to keep the clothes! This is my children in the street after we left!


Thank you so much Littlewoods - your Christmas fashions are awesome!

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