Proud To Be Working With Kidstart

One of my favourite things about blogging is being able to reach out to brands that I want to work with and share here with you. I find that having been blogging for just over a year now, I’m confident to approach companies that I like and am keen to bring to you.

So, I’m pleased to say that I recently approached Kidstart to see whether we could work together in some capacity. I’m a big fan of Kidstart, and have been using them since I was pregnant with Boo, so over 5 years now. Every time I shop on-line (which is how I do most of my shopping) I use them. As such, I’ll be bringing you news and offers from them as a Kidstart Ambassador, and I’m currently working with them on further ideas, too – exciting!

KS_LOGO_PNG

So, by way of an introduction to them, this page tells you how it all works. Put very simply, when I shop on-line, I always go via Kidstart first, click through to the shop I want, and after I complete my purchase there, a percentage of that sale is added to my Kiddybank. That’s linked to both of my children’s savings accounts (you can link up any accounts), and every time the pot reaches £10, it’s transferred over to their accounts. As I have 2 children registered with them, it simply splits the credits across the two accounts. I love putting money into the kids’ savings accounts just by shopping! I do all of my Christmas shopping this way, and plenty more besides, so it’s an easy way to add to their little pots.

They have this Savings Prompt that you can install, that handily pulls up their partners on any searches you do, too. So for example, I search TMNT toys in Google (yes, a regular check here lately!) and it will come up with a little reminder and a click through to ensure I earn money on any TMNT purchases I make with their retail partners. Oh, and they do have things like utilities, phones, insurance and so on on there, so do check those areas, too, before renewals and switching.

Along with the ongoing credits back into your accounts, there are regular promotions on, too. For example, they currently have these Halloween offers running…

10% discount code plus 8% KidStart savings at Angels Fancy Dress for all the latest

Halloween Baby and Toddler fancy dress

8% KidStart savings on decorations, fillers and fancy dress with Party pieces

5% KidStart savings on the Book People range of Halloween books for readers of all ages.

2% KidStart savings at Amazon for the latest Halloween treats

Little bonuses if you’re shopping now!

What do you think? Do you use them, too?

Word of the Week 31/10/14

Thank you so much for continuing to share and to link up – I love to find out about everyone’s weeks in this way, love it!

If you’re new here, Word of the Week is a nice and simple weekly linky, with everyone welcome to pop by and share. You reflect back on the past week and sum it up in one word. Then share your word with us in a blog post, with as little or as much explanation as you like. I comment on and tweet out every post, and it’s a friendly place, so come join in! All that I ask is that if you link up, you link back to me, and visit as many of the other blogs as you can and comment on their words, please.

My word of the week this week is:

siblings wotw

It’s been half term this week, my girl’s first break from school since she started in Reception a few weeks ago. I have adored having both children at home with me, but more importantly, they’ve loved being with each other. It’s been a week of make-believe campsites, Lego-building afternoons, fun play dates, a theatre outing, baking and catching up with family and friends. And through it all, they’ve remained the very best of friends, the little siblings…

kids running

What about you? What one word sums up your week best? Please grab the badge, link up and share.

The Reading Residence



Linky opens at 6.30am Friday, to midnight on Sunday.

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Tips For Cutting Costs With Minimal Effort

Wherever possible, I like to save money, of course I do, who doesn’t? So when VoucherCodes.co.uk got in touch with me and invited my to share my top 3 money-saving tips as part of their VC Life Hacks campaign, I was keen to get involved. It got me thinking about where I make our biggest family savings, and also how easy it is to make those savings, You see, I am keen on saving cash, but I’m not especially keen on having to go to enormous lengths to do so – yep, lazy! So these top tips are for cutting costs, with minimal effort….

top tips for cutting costs with minimal effort

On the Home:

planningPlan. Yes, I know I said it was easy, and if you’re naturally quite organised this one does come easy. If you’re not, well, ponder the ease that it could bring to you! A few examples of how planning helps me…

I meal plan, which saves me time as I’m clear on what I’m doing daily and I don’t faff about trying to decide, and it saves on money as there’s very little waste and I can plan around whatever’s on offer in the shop that week. I food shop on-line, which allows me to plan this all well, grabbing cookbooks if need be and checking cupboards for what we have in.

I plan ahead for birthdays and Christmas. I keep an ongoing gift ideas list for the kids, as and when things occur to me, and because I plan ahead for buying, I manage to grab bargains at sale and offer times.

I plan the kids clothes a year ahead. What I mean by that is that now that Boo is 5, I’ll be buying her aged 6-7 clothes soon, always in the sales, ready for the year ahead.

I note down all renewal dates for utilities on my calendar, so that I can shop around a week or so before to get the best deals ready to switch.

(Oh, and I do not count the cost of pretty stationery as detrimental to planning. I never consider pretty stationery to be an unnecessary purchase anyway, and in this case, it makes me all the more eager to complete the tasks! On the off-chance you have a different viewpoint on this, I can reassure you that planning on your laptop, on dull plain paper, or using free printable downloads found over on Pinterest will aid you just as well. It just won’t look as gorgeous.)

On Shopping:

laptopI do most of my shopping on-line, from groceries to Christmas presents. I find it allows me to search around for the best price, as well as read reviews on the items. Once I’ve decided where I’m going to make my purchase from, I then go through and use my Kidstart account and check to see whether the retailer is registered with them. If they are, by shopping through that link, savings are added to the kids’ savings accounts, which I love to do. That done, I always search for a voucher code before I check out and I’ve saved some serious amounts of money over time by doing this. It takes seconds, and is easy, it’s just a habit that you meed to get into! Oh, and to make sure I am wringing the very most that I can out of every purchase, I also use my credit card which gives me vouchers back to spend, and then ensure that I clear it monthly so that I do not pay any interest. If I can buy something that puts money into my kids savings, for the best price around, with a discount code found and then gives me vouchers back, then I’m pretty pleased with myself!

On Gardening:

As regular readers will know, over the past year I’ve really taken an interest in my garden. I really enjoy getting out there and keeping it looking pretty and colourful. But I also discovered that gardening can be quite costly. I’ve been working on introducing new plants, and looking after them in as natural and inexpensive way as I possibly can.

I’m fortunate in that my mum is a keen gardener, which has meant that so many of my plants have been able to come from cuttings from her garden. I’d recommend that whether you have fab green-fingered folk around you or not, you team up with another friend and take cuttings and swaps from one another’s gardens. Similarly, if you do pick up bargain packets of seeds or bulbs, split them, and you’ve then twice the variety for the same costs.

bananas for rosesI’d also recommend keeping the upkeep as inexpensive as possible out there, by using natural garden remedies to look after it, such as egg shells to deter slugs and baking soda to kill weeds. They’re easy to do, and are pretty common things to have in the house. For example, I feed my roses with banana skins, of which we always have plenty as the kids love bananas!

In connection with my garden, I’ve a little bonus tip here! I like to keep fresh flowers in the home, as they brighten the place up and are just one of those little pick-me-ups always guaranteed to make me smile. But they don’t always come cheap when you’re buying them regularly. So to be able to allow myself this indulgence, part of my garden, from spring through to autumn, is now a cut-flower patch to provide me with flowers indoors (I blogged about how to create a cut flower patch in your garden here – so simple, so colourful!).

cutflower patch 3

Looks pretty, too, doesn’t it? You’re welcome :)

What are your top, easy, money-saving tips?

Disclosure: Written in collaboration with Voucher Codes, though all words and opinions remain my own, including choosing to use VC as a top tip – I really do!

Papery Peep – October

October’s Papery Peep already?! Where is the time going?

Before, I share some pretties, a quick reminder. Tonight is the #BringBackPaper Twitter party, starting at 8pm, so be there! We do also have the book swap running until the end of November, and the November Instagram challenge begins this weekend, #30DaysOfPaper. Find out more here. And now, back to stationery….

Today I’m going to share with you my 5 year old’s papery goodies. Yes, my daughter is set to follow in my footsteps, and has started to build up her own pretty stationery (she makes me so proud!). Boo’s always been great with paper as she’s loved colouring, painting and art from an early age, and now we’re moving it to the next level. She’s been at school for half a term now and is enjoying learning how to read and write, so she wants to write letters, lists, cards, notes – you name it!

She has a cute little notepaper set and a butterfly jotter pad that she chose and was adamant she wanted on a recent shopping trip. She’s yet to use it, but then she won’t be the first person in this house to ‘need’ stationery that then isn’t used for a while!

boo's stationery

I reviewed one of these gorgeous Magical World Journals a while back, and Boo loves her unicorn journal.

boo's unicorn

She then had these goodies for her birthday at the start of the month…

boo's stationery 2

boo's stationery 1

letter set

I so love that fluffy hedgehog pen, and of course the writing set is gorgeous! She chose the microphone pen herself on her birthday money shopping trip, where amongst other things, she also chose herself some lovely new books.

What do you think? Or rather, if you were me, which item would you be trying to sneak and use yourself?!

So now it’s your turn to share! Come link up any paper-loving blog posts and check out what others have been enjoying this month, too. A new book, relaxing with a pile of magazines, some stationery pretties or share your snail mailing collection with us – anything paper goes!



Linky closes at midnight Tuesday 4th November.

The Reading Residence

10 Top Social Media Tips From Bloggers

I’ve had great pleasure in hosting The Blog Lowdown here for many months, and now that the series has drawn to a close, I though it’d be good to take a look back at it and share some of the advice that a whole host of bloggers have been wonderful enough to share with us week in, week out. There’s been plenty of tips and countless useful suggestions, so I thought I’d group them into a few themes that I’ll share with you over several posts.

To kick us off, here we have a selection of top social media tips from the series…

10 top social media tips from bloggers

1. Use each of your social media profiles in a different way. Sure you want to plug your posts, but you also want to create unique content, giving people a reason to follow you on more than one of your social media platforms without boring them! It also allows you to gather followers from right and left for a variety of reasons …Different bait for different ponds! But all of which ultimately increase your exposure (and contribute to your TOTS100 ranking). (Misplaced Brit)

2. Make sure to add feeds from each of your social media accounts into your blog. You may not be posting daily, but if you’re updating Facebook, posting on Instagram & pinning treasures on Pinterest – let it all show! Let your blog be loading with new information all the time, so whenever anybody comes back over to your site, there are new discoveries to be made! (Misplaced Brit)

3. Work hard to build up a Facebook following. Twitter, Bloglovin etc. are fab but you are mainly communicating with other bloggers. To get to a wider audience I find Facebook is by far the best medium and it has a great potential for viral spread, too. (Hurrah for Gin)

4. Remember social media is all about engagement. A feed full of self-promotion or streams of consciousness of your opinions or activities will soon get boring for your followers. Interact – share posts, make (kind) comments, offer (constructive) advice. Use tools like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck sparingly. They can be useful for things like keyword searches and scheduling posts, but they are no substitute for interaction. (Headspace Perspective)

5. When it comes to Twitter, promote great content, whether it’s yours or someone else’s. Be a source of valuable information. (Misplaced Brit)

6. Be active on Google Plus! Like, reshare, comment and engage. Write a few sentences explaining why you’re sharing your own post or resharing someone else’s. If you just link dump then many on G+ consider this as spam. Google+ is a great platform to find the top experts on blogging and social media. It’s also very visual (like Pinterest) and you’ll find more interaction if you upload large images. (Over There to Here)

7. Use Instagram, and include a link to your blog in your profile. If people like your photos, they are likely to visit your page. (Family Fever)

8. Be active on Instagram. If you want to increase your following, being active is about more than posting, it’s about interacting with others. Don’t think of instagram as your personal photo album, think of it as your invite into everyone else’s life & living room. It’s not enough to go around clicking ’like’ on everything. Everybody’s doing that – so you’re one of 40 likes they just had! If you want to get to know people; if you want to network; if you want to stand out – you need to comment – and it takes literally only a few seconds. (Misplaced Brit)

9. And I’d have to add in the fabulous social platform that is Pinterest, too! Here’s my blogger’s guide to it.

10. I’d also always point people in Kriss’ direction, at Over There to Here for Google + tips, and Hannah over at Mum’s Days wrote a great post on Facebook Page tips recently.

To read the full interviews with any of the bloggers mentioned, simply search for them in my side bar and their full Blog Lowdown post will come up for you.

Which of these will you get working on first?

Other posts you may like…
My Top 20 Tips for Bloggers
How to Write a Brilliant ‘About Me’ Page
10 Tips to Get Your Blogging Mojo Back
5 Tips for Starting a Blog Linky

Visit The Reading Residence’s profile on Pinterest.

Miffy Books Review & Give-Away

Miffy is celebrating her 60th birthday next year and ahead of this milestone, the rhyming texts of Bruna’s classic stories are being refreshed for a modern British audience by the award winning poet Tony Mitton.

We were offered some Miffy books to review and share with you, and it was only then that I realised that my kids had never experienced the joys of Miffy! Such a terrible mum! Her cute little face is pretty iconic, so I was keen to introduce Miffy to the children….

miffy

Miffy Goes Flying
Miffy’s uncle has come to visit and is going to take her on a trip. They fly up high and see the world from above.

Miffy in the Snow
It’s snowing and Miffy wants to go and play. She rides her sledge, skates on the frozen river and even makes a snowman. In the snow she finds a little bird who is too cold so Miffy helps him to build a little house to keep him warm.

Miffy’s Bicycle
Miffy’s only a little rabbit now, but she dreams of a time when she will be old enough to ride her very own bicycle. Join her as she dreams of all the adventures she will have…

Miffy at School
Join Miffy at school, where she learns to draw, write, read and sing. But Miffy’s favourite thing is when the teacher reads the class a story.

Award-winning UK poet, Tony Mitton, has worked closely with Dick Bruna’s Dutch publisher to create new translations for the classic Miffy stories that are true to the books’ original voice, and yet have a contemporary feel to the language that makes them appealing to the modern young audience. The translations beautifully convey the warmth and friendliness of the original Dutch whilst maintaining a style that is inimitably Miffy.

miffy books

The Miffy books are just lovely. As you can see below, pictured with Boo, they’re little hardback books, perfect for small hands to hold. They all rhyme, and share with us snippets of Miffy’s day to day life, adventures and her imagination. They can hold Boo’s attention, and she’s largely into chapter books now. They’re that bit too long for Little Man to sit still for, at just 2, but I can see these being classics that we’ll be enjoying frequently together in the coming months. He likes Miffy, shouting her name when he sees her now, so I’m sure we’ll soon be reading about her daily! The hardback books retail at £4.99 each.

We’ve spent a happy Miffy morning here today! As well as the gorgeous books, the kids and I have discovered the Miffy website, and had a good look and play around on there, where we then printed off a couple of Miffy pictures, too, that were fun to colour in….

Miffy reading

Miffy website

miffy colouring

It’s been a great start to half term! I do love exploring books and characters further with the kids, so this has had us chatting about that little rabbit all morning!

I now have a set of Miffy books available to give away to one of my readers. One lucky person will receive Miffy Goes Flying, Miffy at School and Miffy’s Bicycle. To be in with a chance of winning, let me know what you think of Miffy and enter using the rafflecopter below. Ends midnight 24th November 2014, open to UK entrants only, good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What do you think of little Miffy?

Disclosure: We received Miffy books FOC for the purposes of writing this post.

A Spook-tacular Halloween

We’ve not really done Halloween here before. It’s not been something we’ve been particularly interested in, but as with many things when kids come along, we are making more of an effort with this time of year, and are definitely seeing the fun in it now! We decided to kick things off with a Halloween-themed day at the weekend (yes, I know we’re early, but we wanted Daddy around for the fun and he’ll be working on Friday).

We spent a very happy, if a tad windy, few hours at the National Forest Adventure Farm, enjoying their half term Halloween Spook-tacular week. First off, Boo had to check on her scarecrow Lily (we made her there on our first visit, so Boo likes to see her!), we had some lunch in the restaurant, and then it was off to say ‘hi’ to the animals…

animals

And then it was all about Halloween….

pumpkin field

pumpkins

pumpkin carving

Boo loved carving her first pumpkin! It was then time for a run around the fabulous play areas….

play areas

And it was then back to the courtyard for Broomstick Training…

broomstick training

Did you know you have to hold a broomstick the right way up or the magic runs out of it? And that you have to check the bristles for tiddly-winkers as they eat the magic? Oh yes, Boo knows it all now, and she absolutely adored it! I thought it was a really fun magical idea. I loved watching her there, taking it all in, concentrating on what she needed to do to become broomstick-flying accredited!

And on our return, we lit our Jack O’Lantern and ate pumpkin-patterned hot dogs (and do note, Little Man has his spooky, ghostly top on, too!)

Halloween evening

Kicking Halloween off in style!

It was yet another lovely time had at the National Forest Adventure Farm, this being our third visit there in as many months (you can read about how we found the farm and activities here, and then our Spudfest adventure here for more information). The staff are very friendly, always seem to be about and ready to help, and I do love the ingenuity of the place in coming up with fun things to do that get you wanting to go back time and again. Spook-tacular’s on all of this week, until Sunday 2nd November, if your little ones fancy joining in. There’s pumpkin carving, scare school, find the mummies in the maze, broomstick training and a haunted house, along with all of the usual attractions.

What do you do for Halloween?

Disclosure: We received entrance to the National Adventure Forest Farm FOC, though all words and opinions remain my own

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

My Splashing Little Man

I’m enjoying my time with Little Man. We’re taking several classes and we’ve found a lovely playgroup we both like, too. I’m finding things all so different this time round, as my son is nothing like his sister.

Boo was, and is, a ball of confident energy. She’s in constant motion, and is always looking to chat and make new friends. As a toddler, this translated as a lively, happy child, and she was a ‘runner’! Yep, she was a toddler that had to have reins, and even then, she was straining and tricky to keep by my side. I loved her enthusiasm, though there’s no doubt it also exasperated and exhausted me on many occasions!

Little Man, well he’s arguably more of a daredevil then Boo ever was, though he does have a big sister to show him all of the dangerous things he could be attempting! But when we’re out and about, he’s shy and he stays with me. Holds my hand as we stroll along, or is content in the pushchair. When people smile at him, he promptly puts the pushchair hood up and covers himself, extremely rude of him and hilarious to me!

I see the contrast between the two of them so clearly when we go to one of our classes. My Boo memories of this walk to and from class were not the most relaxing and smiley ones, as she was invariably running off, and it was a battle of wills to get us back to the car safely. Not so with Little Man, which has been a very refreshing change for me! We contentedly walk along and chat about the class and then what we’re going to do when we get home. He’s right there, happy to be my side, and if he wanders off, I know he will pop back to me, unlike his wayward sister!

This week it was a rainy walk, which gave him an excuse to find puddles, and he so loves finding puddles. So yes, he wandered off a little, splashed about, and made our morning all the more fun.

Little Man puddles 2

little man puddles

little man puddles 1a

I really enjoy this walk now and it seems it’s even better when it’s raining! It’s relaxed, we’re in no hurry, and my stress levels are low! Though there’ll always be a little nostalgic place in my heart for Boo’s chaotic chasing days there, too!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Word of the Week – 24/10/14

Thank you so much for continuing to share and to link up – I love to find out about everyone’s weeks in this way, love it!

If you’re new here, Word of the Week is a nice and simple weekly linky, with everyone welcome to pop by and share. You reflect back on the past week and sum it up in one word. Then share your word with us in a blog post, with as little or as much explanation as you like. I comment on and tweet out every post, and it’s a friendly place, so come join in! All that I ask is that if you link up, you link back to me, and visit as many of the other blogs as you can and comment on their words, please.

My word of the week this week is:

#bringbackpaper

Yes, I’ve decided that as it begins with a hash tag, it is indeed one word, and if it’s not? Well, it’s my linky, so I’m doing it anyway!

Now, this week could just have easily been ‘Croup’, as that has dominated the week here with Little Man catching Boo’s, and he’s been suffering and struggling with it. It has meant sleep deprivation, leading to general grumpiness (him and me!), lots of activities cancelled, and plenty of snuggle time. But, after last week’s not so positive ‘Damp’, I had to find something cheerier this week, didn’t I?!

For anyone that doesn’t know, #BringBackPaper is my campaign to get us enjoying more papery goodness, and it’s kept me nice and busy this week. I’ve been arranging the book swaps (plenty of time to still join in with that), catching up on my own snail mail, planning my #30DaysOfPaper prompts ready for my November Instagram challenge (they’ll be over on my Instagram feed soon so keep an eye out for those!), getting chit chat ideas ready for the Twitter party next Wednesday evening, lining up a whole new regular papery feature and I’ve liased with a fabulous lady on bringing a feature about her business along with a giveaway to you all soon. And as if that wasn’t enough, I’ve discovered a new author this week, so have been drawn into a happy bookish papery world and the post I wrote a couple of days ago on Minted has got me planning some papery Christmas gifts from them. So yes, I’m going with paper over croup!

What about you? What one word sums up your week best? Please grab the badge, link up and share.

The Reading Residence



Linky opens at 6.30am Friday, to midnight on Sunday.

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