Joanne

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Wicked Uncle – Choosing the perfect gifts for children

Disclosure- AD In collaboration with Wicked Uncle When Lydia was born, I joined a support group through Facebook through which the majority of us still post within. Every year, the same questions come up, “What…

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Halloween Farm at Cattows Farm, Leicestershire review

We received complimentary tickets to this event however all thoughts and opinions are our own.

We started off the month of Halloween with a spooktacular visit to Halloween Farm within Cattows Farm in Leicestershire. Our journey from Peterborough in the car took us around 1.5hrs each way and was well worth the journey. Here’s why

Parking

There is plenty of free parking on the farm with car park attendants directing you where to go. Disabled parking is at the front, just ask an attendant and they will direct you.

Tickets

Halloween farm is open from 9 am till 6 pm and tickets need to be pre-booked via their website. They offer morning and afternoon slots however once you are there, you are welcome to stay as long as you’d like.

Farm entry is £3 per person

Fantasy land is £7 per person

You can also pay online to reserve your pumpkins in the form of £10

Your E-tickets will be emailed to you and you can choose if you want to print or they can scan the codes directly from your phone.

You will then be given your Fantasy land tickets and your pumpkin tickets (If you pre-purchased pumpkins)

Setup

When you arrive you go through the ticket area into the grounds. The first section is a funfair with a selection of attraction rides, like the waltzers, ghost train, teacups, etc. The rides were £3 each and you could pay by card which was handy. Behind the fairground was the food area, plus the entrance to the pumpkin patch and fantasy land. Around the back of the fantasy land is also a maize maze.

The Day

We arrived just before lunch and after a quick scout around we decided to get some food. There were three food stalls in the eating area, one sold bacon baguettes, pork rolls and sausage and chips. Another sold a range of burgers as well as sausage and chips, chicken nuggets and chips, and other similar meals. The third was a doughnut stand. We went to the burger bar as the kids wanted chips and we wanted burgers.

The owner, Jason, was very friendly and we got talking about the day. He was very helpful and the food was lovely, costing around £4 for the kid’s meals and £5 for the burgers.

You can either sit for food in a bell tent undercover or sit at a picnic bench with an umbrella/parasol. The undercover seating area was full so we sat on a picnic bench and the size of the umbrella pretty much sheltered us from the rain.

We then decided to go through to the pumpkin patch to choose the pumpkins. There is a range of wheelbarrows of different colours available for you to use. We grabbed one and went off towards the pumpkin patch. As it was a Halloween farm, there were a number of setups with skeletons, scary entrances and other amazing photos opportunities.

The pumpkin patch was a decent area filled with pumpkins. You could walk around and find the ones you want. The kids got somewhat carried away but being their first experience we did not discourage them. Once we found all the pumpkins we needed… and more… we carried on through to a shelter.

Under the shelter were a range of different pumpkins and other marrows where you could swap out some of the pumpkins you chose for white ones, green ones, and also some very small ones. Lydia insisted on choosing two very small (and somewhat adorable – for a pumpkin anyway) ones. In the shelter, again keeping in Halloween theme was an occupied toilet that had been occupied for some time given the state of the skeleton, and some ice cream… or I Scream as it was lovingly put.

You move through to Halloween street with lots of photos ops in cardboard cutouts that the kids had lots of fun playing around in. As you move through you get to the weighing station where you weigh your pumpkins. In all, we collected around 9 pumpkins, but only took away 4 (one VERY large one and three more reasonably-sized ones), as well as the two little ones for just over £20 which wasn’t bad at all.

We dropped the pumpkins off at the car. Remember to take your receipt as the person by the gate will insist you produce it to prove you purchased the goods. We recommend doing this as it saves you from having to push your pumpkins around the farm for the whole day.

Fantasy Land

The next stop was to visit fantasy land. Situated in a large circus tent, this area houses the trick or treat street, plants vs zombies arena and also a maze. The maze was not up at the time of our visit but we did see the deflated ruins as we left. The trick or treat street was so much fun. Kids got to knock on the doors with a range of characters that come out and give sweets, gifts and other goodies for them to collect. The girls had so much fun knocking on different doors. We tried our hardest to find Harold but couldn’t – a mission given by one of the ghoulish characters.

The plants vs zombies arena was really fun. Kids were given a bucket of foam balls that we got to throw at the zombies. We initially thought they would just be cutouts but no, these were actual zombies that we got to pelt with balls. This was SO much fun, and quite mean as David and Leo pelted one of the zombies that had been floored.

Straight out of the arena and you come across Dorothy on her yellow brick road as she asks you to go through the maize maze and find her lost friends, the scarecrow, tinman and cowardly lion. I was a bit hesitant as too many horror movies have shown these mazes to be a death trap (see The Tall Grass). We made our way through the maze and did find the characters. The Lion was really fun, but he led us deeper into the maze from where we got a little lost.

This part got a bit scary as we came upon dead end after dead end but eventually, after some backwards peddling and retracing of steps, we were able to find our way back to the yellow brick road. If you get really stuck you can call for help but we do recommend using bread crumbs!

After an amazing day at the Halloween farm, the last thing was to enjoy some of the rides before we made our way home. The kids had an amazing time and didn’t want to leave. The rides were a nice icing on the cake for an amazing day. The only downside was the weather, as it rained the entire day… constantly! But other than that we would thoroughly recommend this as a day out for all.

Toilets

The one thing I dread when going to outside events is using the toilets. I can report that there is plenty of portable toilets which are all kept very clean and are also easily located around the farm.

Disabled guests

As most of my regular readers know, Leo is disabled. Cattows Farm’s Halloween farm is mostly on grass and with today’s weather in mind, it would have made it very difficult for wheelchair users to access. Leo got very tired and sore walking around the Halloween farm today and there isn’t a lot of seated area’s to take regular breaks. However, I did ask someone for a chair when we spent time inside the pumpkin shelter and they were only too happy to help.

Overall

We have had a really fun day. The kids dressed up in their Halloween outfits and despite being champs today and not complaining at all about the weather, none of them moaned about it being cold or wet because of all the fun they were having. The girls have never picked their own pumpkin from a pumpkin patch before so they were amazed by the thousands of different sized pumpkins laying there ready to be picked.

Leo said the best part for him was the Maize maze which really surprised me because he was aching so much by this point and David literally had to hold him up whilst his feet were slipping in the sludgy mood and we had got lost.

Lydia said the best part of the day for her is picking the pumpkins and going around the pumpkin displays.

Emily said her favourite part of the day was Trick or treat street. She loved knocking on the doors getting sweets and looking for Harold.

We left the farm at around 3.30 pm and got home for 5 pm and had one of the best family days in a long time and would thoroughly recommend you give it a visit.

To book your tickets – visit their website here

If you are looking for options for teens and adults, check out these Horrifying Halloween events.

6 Common Health Problems in Older Dogs How to Treat Them

While nobody likes to think about their dog getting older and succumbing to ailments associated with old age, it is better to be prepared for the future rather than to bury your head in the sand. 

When it comes to senior dogs, there are a number of health concerns that you should be aware of and be able to recognise. 

From hearing loss to vision impairment, joint pain to dementia, keep reading to discover the six most common health problems in older dogs and how they can be treated. 

1. Vision Loss

Deterioration of eyesight is incredibly common as dog’s age, with senior dogs being much more prone to cataracts than their younger counterparts. 

If you think your dog may have cataracts, you can ask your vet to have these surgically removed. However, as dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell when it comes to navigating their environment, you should find that they can still get around even with impaired vision. 

2. Joint problems 

Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of joint pain and stiffness in senior dogs. A progressive degenerative disease of which there is no cure, this joint support treatment for dogs with bad mobility from Buddy & Lola can significantly improve your dog’s quality of life. 

Nutrition is also crucial in dogs with joint problems, so you must make sure that your senior dog is eating a healthy and nutrient-rich diet. 

3. Dementia 

In the same way that people can lose their cognitive function as they age, so can dogs. If your dog is acting confused or disorientated or barking for no apparent reason and appears to get lost in familiar surroundings, these are all signs of dementia in dogs

If you notice these behaviours, you should take your senior dog to the vet as soon as possible so that they can diagnose your dog and recommend medications. 

4. Cancer

As your dog gets older, their chance of developing cancer increases. Although lumps and bumps on the body are common for older dogs, you should always get them checked out quickly if you notice any new lumps. 

Your vet can also advise you on regular screenings that can detect cancers that are not easily seen or felt. 

5. Hearing Loss

Hearing loss in older dogs is nearly always permanent, so, unfortunately, they will not get it back once your dog starts to lose their hearing. Make sure that you regularly clean your dog’s ears as this can help slow down hearing loss progression. 

If your dog still has good eyesight, you may want to think about training them to understand hand signals so that you can keep them safe when you are out and about. 

6. Heart problems

Heart disease is common in older dogs and can be recognised by coughing, difficulty breathing, an intolerance to exercise, and unexplained vomiting. The most widespread heart condition in senior dogs is congestive heart failure which occurs when the heart is not able to pump blood efficiently, and fluid becomes backed up in the heart and lungs. 

If you suspect your dog has a heart problem, make an appointment with your vet to talk through your options. 

How to throw an amazing Carnival birthday party

Emily turned 7 this week and wanted a themed carnival birthday party. Okay, I thought, this doesn’t sound that bad. I had three weeks to plan it so, I got a pen and paper and sat down with Emily to discuss what games we should have. I wanted her involved as much as possible in the planning and she wanted to help.

We scanned through Pinterest and Facebook and got some ideas. Some were very simple and easy to do and others needed a little bit of work so, we started on the easy games first.

Throwing a themed carnival birthday party

Tokens to pay for the games

I wanted to make this just like a real carnival and by doing so I wanted to let the kids be able to pay for the games they played, so I brought tiddly wink counters and organza bags. Emily evenly disputed the tokens between the 20 bags and handed them out after the entertainer had finished and the games started.

Tokeneer

This is a game Lydia made herself using a piece of cardboard, a cardboard egg tray and giant lollypop sticks. Lydia created this game so that when the kids ran out of counters they could come to her stall and get some more. She wrote on the bottom of the stick a number and whatever stick the child pulls out was the number of tokens they got, she then mixed the sticks up. This game was a free play game.

Tin Can Alley

We asked our family to save their tins over the last three weeks and when I collected them I just popped them in the dishwasher. I didn’t bother to cover them but you can do this with plain paper and a glue stick if you wanted to.

I borrowed my sister’s sports set that she brought from Amazon for the bean bags. I was going to make the bean bags myself but didn’t need to in the end.

Ring Toss

This was an easy game to as I just used the cones and rings from the set brought above.

Guess how many sweets are in the jar

This is a nice easy one to do. We made the form using Excel with two sections, one for name and the other for guesses. I tea jar from Home bargain for 79p and filled it with sweets counting them as they went it. At the end of the party, the person with the guess closest is the winner and takes the jar of sweets home.

Splat The Rat

One thing that couldn’t be missed from our carnival birthday party was Splat the Rat. This one took us a few days to make because of the painting. Our neighbour was throwing a decent bit of wood away so I asked if I could have it. I sawed it in half and rang our local plumbing shop to see if they had any offcuts. I told him what I was making and they were only too happy to help and didn’t charge me for the pipe, I only paid for the bracket which was about two quid.

Emily helped me paint the red and white stripes and I printed some rat silhouettes, cut them out and stuck them onto the board. You will need a bat or something to hit the Rat with.

We made the Rat from a black odd sock. I filled it with stuffing and added some rice in for a bit of weight, then I tied an elastic around the top half to make ahead and stuck some eye stickers on it.  For the tail, I just cut around the top of the sock leaving a long piece.

Lolly Pop Pick

This one was Emily’s baby. Another popular game at a Carnival Birthday Party. Emily made this one on her own with very little help from me. We used a sturdy cake box and covered it with plain white paper, then Em Painted it Red. I dripped the holes in and Emily placed the lollypops in. We marked a certain number of lollies with a coloured pen and the kids had to randomly pick a lolly and if they pulled one out that had a coloured tip then they won the lollypop.

Wash a wally (Splat)

I was helping my friend break down an old wardrobe and these are actually made out of the backboards from it. There are two boards here and I asked my niece if she wanted to paint it for me, she did an amazing job. My brother in law (Tasha from mummyandmoose husband) cut out the head hole and made some back supports for me. I then brought a pack of two giant sponges from Poundland and cut them in half. All you need is a volunteer who doesn’t mind having wet sponges lobbed at their face and a bowl of water. This fits in perfectly for the theme of a carnival birthday party.

Hook a Duck

A nice and easy one to do and the kids LOVED IT.  I purchased all of this from Poundland. We marked the bottom of a few of the ducks with coloured nail varnish and those were the ducks that won the kids sweeties. HANDY TIP – Glue gun a penny to stick to the bottom of each duck this will prevent the ducks from tipping. This is something that we didn’t do however if we had time would have been handy.

Tattoo Parlour

No carnival is complete without a tattoo parlour. I brought two packs of 24 from Amazon. Teamed with a bowl of water and some towels it was a popular part of our party. There are hundreds of different tattoo designs available to buy so you can choose tattoos to match the theme of the party. We chose a mix of superheroes and animals so although not entirely matching our carnival theme there was something for everybody.

Pinata

I had actually forgotten all about this. I had brought a unicorn one from Aldi and a 20kg tub of sweets from iceland to fill it halfway. Kids loved doing this but in the end, David gave it the last whack and all the sweets flew out everywhere like an explosion of sugar.

Find the ball

This game is a simple one to create, all you need is a few paper cups and a ping pong ball. You need a minimum of three cups to play this game. The idea of the game is for the player to guess which cup the ball is in (HANDY TIP- Use coloured plastic cups and double them up so the player cant see the ball. I used the cups and ball from a game I already had at home called ‘Beat That’ however, you can buy cups and ping pong balls for as little as a pound each.

Prize Table

I brought things like bouncy balls, make your own aeroplanes, yellow stick men, bubbles, punch balloons (HANDY TIP -fill them with rice to make a noise), rubber fish which we placed in bags of water to duplicate the real thing and popcorn cones. I also went to home bargains and brought a bulk load of those popular fidget tubes which went down very well and was only 69p each. The prize table looked amazing and there were so many positive comments. This was probably the most expensive part of the party, however, depending on how much time you have you could probably pick up some cheap items.

My mum made snakes on sticks and did a fantastic job with them, she made around 23 of them and we worked it out that they cost her around 30p each.

Food

We planned the party to be in the afternoon so that we could do minimal food and because it was a Carnival birthday party we thought that hotdogs would be the most appropriate and iconic snack to have. I brought hot dog trays from Poundland and took along tomato ketchup, mustard and a couple of onions (HANDY TIP- During summer months, a lot of shops sell squeezy coloured bottles which would go with the theme really well.)

Drinks

Everyone had their own paper cup with their names on it so that no one got mixed up. There was always an adult supervising the drinks to help the child find their name and the drink were always left on the counter to stop and spills.

Popcorn

We made popcorn cones and used them as prizes. We were going to hand them out during the party however, all the children and adults were too engaged in the activities around them which were fine because they were all individually wrapped they took them home with them. I brought buckets of popcorn and some sweet cone bags and pegged them to a sock peg hanger. This was cheap to make and really added to the theme. HANDY TIP- You can do the same with candyfloss or I have recently discovered after the party that you can buy small tubs from Home Bargains for 29p each.

Birthday cake (Doughnuts)

Emily loves her doughnuts and it isn’t the first time she has opted for them instead of a birthday cake. I brought a doughnut board from the range for £4.99 and three trays of ring doughnuts from Asda the night before. We put 7 candles in a doughnut and this is what she blew out and then ate. By having doughnuts instead of cake not only was it cheaper but a lot less messy as it isn’t as crumbly..

Decorations

To really give your venue the look and feel of a carnival birthday party then you need to spend some time on decorations. The stalls and games are all great however, what gave it the wow factor was the decorations alongside everything else. This can all be achieved quite cheaply if time was on your side. This is what I did.

Backdrop

Being a blogger I already had the bits to hang a backdrop however you can do this by using a washing line or a bit of string and some begs (Handy tip- use multi-coloured pegs) The backdrop was brought from Amazon (Insert link) Although the most expensive part of the decor was the backdrop it created a focal point and was later used as a backdrop for photographs and really gave the room the themed carnival birthday party look that I was going for.

Balloons

Lots and lots of multicoloured balloons (Handy tip- Use bright, bold colours) A few years ago I wrote a blog post for Zuru promoting their product Bunch O Balloons. Back then little did I know how much I would come to depend on this product for our parties. Bunch O Balloons are brought as bundles of balloons usually in packs of 24 that you inflate using their specific electric pump as it has a special attachment.

Now what makes them great is that 24 balloons all inflate at the same time, all self-sealing and attached to curling ribbon. All you need to do is cut the little pipes to separate them and there you have it 24 individual self-inflating balloons in seconds. It’s something I use and depend on for every occasion. Read more about Bunch O Balloons here.

Crepe paper

Multi-coloured crepe streamers worked very well to create a high top tent feel. We brought these from Amazon and you didn’t need much however with crepe streamers I don’t think they’re such a thing as over the top.

Table cloths

I wasn’t going to bother originally with tablecloths but I am glad I changed my mind. The red really made the venue pop. I brought paper tablecloths from Wilkos for £2.49 each. I kept the tablecloths that didn’t get ripped or wet for any future parties.

Signs

I went online and searched ‘free blank carnival templates’ and printed the amount I needed. Emily helped write the names of the games and then I laminated them as originally her party was going to be outside. Laminating them made them weatherproof and gave them more of a professional look.

Stickers

I made my own stickers for the party but that’s only because I know how to do it. If you don’t want the extra hassle of doing this then a lot of people offer this service online for a decent price. I wanted to make name stickers for all of the kids there so they knew each other’s names to talk to each other and for the adults to know who they are. I also made stickers to go on Emily’s popcorn cones.

Entertainment

We decided to hire a local party entertainer to come as a ringmaster because Emily loves the film the greatest showman and again this would fit in with our theme perfectly. During the hour she taught the kids two dance routines from the film, a couple of games and then did a birthday presentation which included a small gift for the birthday child. If you are local to Peterborough, Beyond A Princess is the company I used. She was very good and kept the kids engaged the whole time. This then allowed me to mingle with some of the parents at the party as well as making sure the final touches were complete and grab myself a drink before the games started.


Setting up

Allow yourself plenty of time to set up and get as much help from people as you can beforehand. I couldn’t have done this without losing my marbles if it wasn’t for my mum, sister Natasha, her husband, my little sister, Jaymee and all of my nieces and nephews. They all took on their own jobs to help me out. My older nieces and nephews and my son all ran their own stalls and they loved it, they did a fantastic job. Special shout out to my nephew who had wet sponges thrown at his face for a good hour.

I really hope that you have found this blog post useful and have an fun and exciting carnival party

Below are some of the items that I had ordered myself from Amazon.
*Disclosure- Amazon affiliate links*

Here is the links to some items that I didn’t buy but if you have more of a budget would look amazing.

Xplora Smartwatch – Find out why we love this watch

Ad- This is a collaborative post with Xplora however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

They also encourage adults to be active too. I ditched the car so we could cycle to school but now I have ditched the bikes so we can walk to school and I will tell you why in this post. I had seen these smartwatches on Instagram and I was instantly attracted to the Gps tracking feature, especially as recently my girls have started to play outside and that does nothing for my anxiety.

Lydia and Emily were kindly sent the Xplora X5 each to review and they wear it every single day.

Xplora’s Mission

Xplora was founded with the mission to give children a safe onboarding to digital life and a better balance between screen time and physical activity.

Vision: 
Play to move the world

Our vision is to enable children around the world to experience how their everyday activities can make a positive change in the world.
Our Xplora Platform rewards activities and incentivises children to be more active. Each week, our users walk more than one billion steps. That’s the equivalent of walking around the world once every day!!

What’s in the box?

  • -Xplora X5 smartwatch
  • -Charger lead that magnetically attaches to the back of the smartwatch and takes a few hours to fully charge.
  • – Sim card trap tool opener

Setting up your new smartwatch

You will need to download the Xplora app so you can link and manage the smartwatch, once set up and linked you can then monitor your child’s activity through the app.

To use all the features Xplora has to offer on their watches you will need to use a sim card. Xplora will send you out a GiffGaff sim card with your new watch which is what the girls use in theirs and we currently use the £6 goody bag which gives them 500MB of data, unlimited texts and calls.

The data is strictly used for the GPS feature so you do not need to worry about your child being able to access the internet.

You can add pre-approved numbers to the watches through the app which means the girls can only call and text the contacts that I have set up for them through their watches. They can not see anyone’s mobile number and they can definitely not see their own mobile numbers so they cannot give them out.

The camera on the X5 smartwatches is really good, better than I thought it would be. The camera is on the front so they can only take selfies, I get random pictures of them sent to me even when they are upstairs which is quite random and funny.

Let’s talk about the GPS tracking

Now, this is the feature that I was looking forward to the most.

The door knocks every day with one of their school friends asking if they can play out and I dreaded it and always said No. My reason was that I wouldn’t be with them to protect them and keep them safe and I wasn’t comfortable with that. We have a lot of children playing out the front I felt so bad stopping them because of my own anxieties until one day I said, Ok. I was outside every two minutes checking them, making sure I could see them and that they were safe.

They know they are not allowed to cross the road and they know their boundaries but that still didn’t stop me from going out and checking on them. When their smartwatches arrived, I felt relieved because one of the features is the tracker so I was very eager to see how it all worked.

Please be aware that without a sim card this feature will not work.

All I have to do is go into my Xplora app and swipe to which child I want to check on and I can see where they are. I can see the pin moving as they move around the boundaries I have set them. You can also set up a safety zone where you will get an alert if your child comes out of the said zone and an SOS button on the side of the watch just in case god forbid they need to use it which will alert your phone.

I am looking forward to using this feature in the summer holidays when we go on days out and moving forward when the girls go no school trips again.

Rewarding your steps

This is what I was talking about at the beginning of the post. I ditched the bikes because we wanted the steps and that is because we get rewarded for walking. HOW, you ask?

For every 1000 steps, you take you are rewarded with 1 Xplora coin which you can save up until you have enough Xplora coins to buy something from their Goplay store. The shop restocks and opens every Friday at 4 pm and you can buy real stuff like scooters, trampolines,  Instax camera, clothing and smaller items like puzzles, binoculars, footballs etc.

When you first get your new Xplora smartwatch, they give you a code for Xplora coins on the side of the box to start you off, make sure you add them.

Campaigns

You can win bigger prizes by joining these campaigns, It will cost you 1Xplora coin to join any new campaign. You can get a daily reward which will help you towards your overall distance just by checking in every day but other than that you don’t need to do anything else except for walk as it will monitor is all for you. There is an option to buy boosts using your XCOINS but we don’t do that as were are saving all of ours to buy something in the store.

School Mode

This is another great feature that I love.

I asked the girls headteacher if they can wear them to school and she said yes as long as they don’t fiddle around with them. Well, they can’t in school mode, all they can see is the time and that’s it until it unlocks at 3.20 pm I have set mine to lock from 8.30 am to 3.20 pm Monday to Friday however in this time, it can still monitor their GPS location and steps.

Since Covid, we have not been allowed to physically take our children round to their outside classroom door so we have had to leave them at the gates and watch them go through. There have been times where I have watched them go through but second-guessed myself because there are so many children going through at the same time. I just log onto my app, refresh the location and I can see they are in school. This has been such a relief for me.

The watches are also waterproof until 1.5m/30 min so if they do accidentally put in in water, you don’t need to panic and the screens are gorilla grass and have a protective cover on. My girl’s screens are scuffed a bit now from all the wear and that’s okay because you can buy replacement screen protectors on Amazon.

Battery life

I have found that the watches only take a few hours to fully charge and when fully charged we can get around a day and a half out of them. There have been mornings that I have stuck them on charge before school for an hour and 23% would last them all day until around 5 pm. I try not to let them go flat before I charge them and I don’t leave them charging overnight. I would say the battery life is very good.

Overall

I am so happy with the watches, I have told everyone that I can about them and all the amazing features. I am shouting about them over on Instagram because they are so handy to have and leaving reviews everywhere I can because we love these smartwatches.

The girls can call me for the park instead of having to keep coming back every two minutes ( not that I mind) and I can call them and ask them if they took a drink or if they’re both okay. I can even set an alarm on their watch through the app so they know when to come home. I still go out and check on them every few minutes but I feel more relaxed since having them. They love ringing each other when one of them is out with an adult and I love that we get rewarded for walking. Since having our watches we are doing at least 10k steps every day and feel so much better for it.

For 15% off anything from the Xplora website, use my code JO15