Monday, 30 January 2017

5th Blogversary Giveaway - Games Bundle

Mrs Bishop's Bakes and Banter blog 5th Birthday

How is this little old blog 5 years old already? Where does the time go! 

This little hobby of mine has proved to be way more than just a fad or phase, it has provided my family with wonderful opportunities over the years, and continues to remain my other baby. 

Unfortunately, over the past year and a half this blog space has had to take a back seat as my life has become so very full up with children and working, I still remain passionate about blogging, and hope my passion and integrity shows when I do find the time to post. 

This morning I've been looking back over the five years that have passed since I started this blog, and wow- so much has happened - both in my professional and personal life. 

In the past 5 years I've... 

  • written over 600 posts
  • hosted over 35 giveaways
  • won Loved By Parents 'Blogger of the Year' award (2014)
  • worked with over 60 brands
  • published hundreds of recipe posts 
  • grown a social media following of over 10k and,
  • made numerous wonderful friends within the blogging community (the best bit!)

In my personal and work life I've...

  • gotten married 
  • had two amazing babies
  • shed many stones in weight and fallen in love with exercise and finally, 
  • I left my career in teaching and started my own business as a social media consultant which has now been running for coming up 2 years!

Not too shabby, for 5 years work! 

GIVEAWAY


5th Blogversary Games Bundle Giveaway

To celebrate my blogversary I'm hosting a little games bundle giveaway which will be perfect for keeping the kids amused during half term (I know how much of a struggle the holidays can be if you're a working Mum or Dad!) 

The bundle includes:

  • Seagull Splat (Ages 4+, 2-4 players)
  • Stoopido (Ages 8+, 2-4 players)
  • Addict-a-Ball Maze 2 (Ages 6-100!)
The giveaway will run until 9th February at 11:59pm and the bundle will be posted that weekend first class, just in time for half term week.

UK entrants only. 

Enter via the Gleam app below. 

Good luck everyone! 

Mrs B

xxx

Sunday, 29 January 2017

The Essential Guide To Reclaiming Your Body After Your Pregnancy

mother and baby
Your body has just achieved the greatest feat of all time - it has created and nurtured and then brought a whole new life into the world. Aren’t women’s bodies just incredible? But once that’s all done and dusted, and the little bundle of joy is in the world, many women feel the need to quickly reclaim their bodies as their own and return to their pre-pregnancy weight. This is a totally normal desire, and absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. The key here is time, healthy eating, and managing expectations.

Take your time
Your body has just done something incredible; you’re going to want to take some time to recover. It is advised that in the first six weeks or so following birth, you just take it easy, bond with your beautiful baby, and avoid any vigorous exercise. Once you’ve both been given a clean bill of health, it’s safe to start with gentle exercise and healthy eating. It’s important to remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and crash dieting isn’t going to help either you or your baby, especially if you’re breastfeeding.

Exercise gently
Manage your expectations - when you’ve got a newborn, you’re going to be pretty tired, so high-intensity workouts on a daily basis might not be a sustainable way to go. On the other hand, a 15-minute spin class is a whole lot less time consuming than an hour in the pool, which can be great when you’re working around a baby’s schedule. Play it by ear and see what exercise works for your time and energy availabilities. Try walking with your baby in a pram if you’re unable to get time to yourself. Otherwise, swimming or cycling are a great way to get you started, and you can go from there.

Breastfeed
If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll burn between 300 and 500 calories extra a day, which means you can eat more calories and still lose weight. Just bear in mind that when your breastfeeding eventually ends, your required calorie intake will drop immediately, leaving you susceptible to weight gain if you don’t adjust accordingly.

Get a little help
It can be tricky to motivate yourself when you’re a new mum, especially if you’re struggling with sleepless nights. Surrounding yourself with other mums allows your to give each other the moral support you each need to keep making good decisions, and it also keeps loneliness at bay. Some new mums also choose the help of medication such as Orlistat tablets to get their pre-pregnancy bodies back - it’s entirely up to you how you choose to do it.

Eat healthy snacks
Keeping healthy snack foods on hand allows you to manage your blood sugar - especially important when breastfeeding -  but also helps you to avoid binge eating. Try to snack on nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, yogurt, egg, and all the leafy greens your heart desires. You’ll feel far more energetic, which is great for combating sleepless nights, and you’ll be encouraging your body to drop a few pounds too.

The key is time - don’t allow yourself to fixate so much on getting back to your pre-pregnancy weight that you stop enjoying the experience, it’ll all come with time.

This is a sponsored post.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Top Cleaning Tips for Parents...

messy toddler
Familiar sight? Image source

Keeping your home clean when you have children is no mean feat. No matter how organised you are, and how well behaved the kids – a little or a lot of wear and tear is inevitable. If you’re being driven mad by stains on the sofa, hand prints on the walls and other little ‘accidents’ that just can’t be helped, read my tips and tricks for restoring your home to its former glory…

Sofa, so good

That brown chesterfield sofa looked perfect when you had it delivered, but the arrival of babies has probably left it looking more like an antique than you would like! You are far from alone if you find yourself removing half-eaten pieces of toast and old bits of biscuits on a regular basis! 

Thankfully, it is relatively easy to restore your leather couch to its former glory. Here’s what to do:

  • Vacuum the entire sofa thoroughly, getting into every crevice to remove dirt and dust.
  • Make your own DIY cleaning solution by mixing water and white vinegar together for a non-abrasive way to remove dirt and stains. Gently rub all over until you have covered every part of the sofa.
  • Dry off any residue with a clean towel.
  • To give a leather sofa the gleam that it had when you first bought it, condition the fabric with linseed oil or flaxseed oil. Leave the oil on overnight, then buff to a brilliant shine in the morning.

Magic carpet tricks

Has your little one gone crazy with the glue during her crafting session? You don’t have to put up with glue all over the carpet. To get rid of glue stains, place a paper towel over the offending areas and set your iron to a low heat. Iron over the paper towel, and hey presto – you can peel the stain away! For stubborn food or drink stains after a particularly messy eating session, blot as much as you can and use a mix of water with a little white vinegar: this is especially good for getting rid of fat or oil marks.

Wondrous walls

Do you find yourself going crazy because of hand-prints all over your carefully painted walls? You can remove those marks without having the hassle of repainting the whole room. I swear by baby wipes for getting rid of hand marks – they remove the prints without damaging the paint, just make sure you go easy with a gentle rubbing action to protect taking any colour away.

Make mattresses great again

Bed-wetting is a common problem with young children, if you forgot to buy a mattress protector and the inevitable accident happened then try not to worry - you don't need to remortgage your house to buy a new mattress. You can remove the odour and stain by mixing 3 tbsp of baking soda with 8oz of hydrogen peroxide, then use this to scrub the mattress. For really stubborn odours and stains, prepare a mixture of washing powder and water to make a foam and leave to soak for half an hour. Finish off with a vacuum – and your mattress will be like new.

You can keep the house clean and looking good even when your kids are messy – it just takes a little ingenuity! 

Tell me your best tips in the comments section below…

Mrs B

xxx

This is a sponsored post

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet To Train Your Toddler To Sleep


Are you being driven mad by a toddler who just won’t sleep? As much as we love our children, we need them to get their rest. If they don’t, the kids act up the next day, and as parents we find that our sense of self is ebbing even further away: Mummy needs her down time! Lack of sleep is the absolute worst - and trust me I've had/am having a pretty dreadful sleep-deprived time of it of late - illness, teething & an 8 month old baby means that sleeping is for wimps here at Chez Bishop...I dream of getting into bed and being able to stay there for 7 hours straight....(even 4 or 5 would be nice!)

baby mobile

I can't help much with poorly/teething babies, but if a troublesome toddler is disturbing your sleep then before you start actually tearing your hair out, take a deep breath, settle down with a cup of tea and a biscuit, and read on…

Image source

Creating the best bedroom
Get this right, and your child will want to go to bed, at least until the novelty wears off!  Choose the bed with care, making sure that it is as cosy and comfortable as possible. There are lots of great luxury beds for toddlers, so your little one can feel like a pampered princess or sorted super hero as part of the bed time experience.

Getting a blackout blind can transform your child’s sleeping habits. The tiniest chinks of light can disturb their sleep, and make daytime naps virtually impossible. These kinds of blinds are relatively inexpensive and easy to fit, and could be the answer you’ve been looking for.

Try not to overfill your toddler’s room with toys, pictures and books. Splashes of colour, a selection of special soft toys and a book or two is more than enough. You don’t want your child to be so excited and stimulated by all that’s in his bedroom that there is no chance of a restful night’s sleep for anyone! If you have to use their bedroom for toy storage (as we do with Bert) then try to use clever storage to ensure it isn't all on show, luring them to play when they should be counting sheep.

cute baby lots of hair
Image source

Bedtime routine
The importance of having a good bedtime routine cannot be underestimated. You can find out the psychologist’s perspective on why a routine is so essential here. You wouldn’t just get into bed and expect to fall straight to sleep without any winding down yourself, and your toddler isn’t able to do that either.  Start by turning off any screen based entertainment. That includes TV, laptops, tablets and phones. The blue light, sights and sounds emitted from these devices have a stimulating effect on little brains, and can really inhibit sleep.

Giving your little one a bath helps them to relax, and provides a great opportunity for you to interact with them one-on-one in a fun, positive way. Try to do this at the same time each night that you bath them, and they will come to expect the arrival of bedtime with much less drama.  I say ‘much less’ because of the very nature of unpredictable toddlers - we all know they're anything but predictable! Ha!

As added backup, and if your child reacts well to rewards then you could also try using a bedtime routine chart and offer rewards for stress-free bedtimes.

Soothe with stories
Reading a book to your child before sleep, no matter how little they are, is a great way to gently direct them to relax. Focusing on the story and the soothing sound of Mummy or Daddy’s voice helps to lull them into a sleepy state. Reading with your kids doesn’t just help them to sleep better, it also helps you to communicate with them, and can make a great relationship even better! We've found that reading nightly with Bert (& now Connie) before bedtime has also had a huge impact on Bert's vocabulary, empathy, imagination, and has hugely improved his familiarity of letters, words, and numbers. He has also become a very expressive child, and I believe that too is down to his exposure to books and reading with us on a nightly basis.

Getting your toddler to sleep well every night can feel daunting, and almost impossible at times, but if you persevere and maintain a consistent routine, you will get there in the end!


Hugs to all those parents who have a daily struggle at bedtime, chin up & keep things consistent!

Mrs B

xx

This is a sponsored post.

Monday, 23 January 2017

BRAND NEW Soft Play fun at John Bunyan Sports & Fitness, Bedford

Soft Play at John Bunyan Sports and Fitness, Bedford


This weekend my twin sister came to stay - Bert (3.5) always gets so excited when Auntie Jojo visits, and we always try to pack as much "fun stuff" into her visits as we can. On Sunday,  we headed to our local sports centre (John Bunyan Sports & Fitness, Mile Road, Bedford) to check out their brand new soft play centre & cafe.

The children's indoor play and party venue at John Bunyan Sports & Fitness in Bedford has undergone a massive refit recently, and a huge multi-level soft play frame that reaches an incredible 3.70m in height has been installed. 


Bert (& Connie) were really excited to try it out!!

Soft Play at John Bunyan Sports and Fitness, Bedford
Brand spanking new soft play in Bedford.

Soft Play at John Bunyan Sports and Fitness, Bedford
Twisty fun! Bert & I making each other dizzy at soft play. 

The extensive 3 tier play-frame includes:

· A large junior ball pool
· An upper level two player assault course
· A 3.70m spiral tube slide
· an inflatable ball canyon
· A V rope bridge sky walk
· A spinning door panel run
· A dizzy disc twister zone
· A daredevil see through floor


Bert's little face lit up when we walked in - he played happily for over an hour, stopped for a quick lunch, and then played for another solid hour - he'd have stayed longer too if we'd let him! He was a sweaty mess by the end, and boy did he sleep well last night, bonus!

Bert at Soft Play at John Bunyan Sports and Fitness, Bedford
My little mop-head - eager to explore the new soft play at John Bunyan.

Bert Bishop at Soft Play at John Bunyan Sports and Fitness, Bedford
Squished nose! Bert having fun at soft play with Auntie Jojo!

The brand new play equipment was, as expected, in tip top condition, the whole place was really clean, smelt fresh and for a weekend, wasn't too crowded, meaning Bert could run off and play confidently, without the worry of him being squished by much bigger kids. Although the age range is 0-12, I think the equipment was pitched perfectly for him, as a tall and confident 3 year old he was able to access all of the equipment with ease. 

In addition to this huge 3 tier play-frame, there is also a dedicated built-in baby and toddler area with height appropriate soft play equipment allowing very small children to explore the play centre at their own pace. It forms a safe, clean space for younger visitors, where they can play in the large ball pit, use the toddler sized twin lane slide and climbing frames.

Connie (7.5 months) slept for the first hour of our visit, but once she woke we let her explore some of the baby area and she loved it! 

Connie B at Soft Play at the John Bunyan Sports and Fitness Centre, Bedford
Connie B in the baby section at soft play

Connie B at Soft Play at the John Bunyan Sports and Fitness Centre, Bedford
She's almost mastered the army crawl! 

She adored holding (licking!) and throwing the ball pit balls, and army crawling around the soft space. Even her big brother came to join her in a calmer fifteen minutes of our visit. 

Connie B at Soft Play at the John Bunyan Sports and Fitness Centre, Bedford
Connie B enjoying the baby section in the soft play at the John Bunyan centre, Bedford

Bert and Connie B at Soft Play at the John Bunyan Sports and Fitness Centre, Bedford
Bert and Connie - after hours of soft play fun - they look shattered!! 

As well as the soft play equipment there is a large, spacious seating area with disabled/wheelchair access throughout. We arrived at 2pm and managed to get a table for four after only a few minutes wait. We set up camp and let Bertster run free, feeling confident he was in a secure space - the entrance to the soft play has an automatic lock door, which has a high release button - meaning that the kids can't escape without a parent letting them in/out. 

What I loved about the layout is that it feels cosy without being small - some of the massive soft play centres are overwhelming for the adults, let alone the children - and this space felt perfect for Bert. I was happy to let him run free and enjoy himself without worrying too much or feeling the need to chaperone him. It is pretty easy to spot the kids wherever they are on the equipment, and it is straight forward for adults to navigate the equipment if need be.

Without a doubt John Bunyan have created a space which is pleasant for the adults as well as the kids. For me, all good soft play needs great coffee for the grown ups and good food/snacks for hungry little mouths. Luckily, John Bunyan have it covered with the Bickels Yard cafe which serves great hot/cold drinks and a wide choice of hot/cold snacks, all at very reasonable prices.

In fact, we all ate lunch there yesterday for under £15 (3 adults, 1 child) this included a hot tuna melt panini, two falafel sandwiches, two bags of BBQ flavoured Popchips, one tea, one coffee, one diet coke, and a kids meal box which included: a cheese roll, a packet of Pombear, a fun-size banana and a drink. I think that's an absolute bargain! And the food was delicious - despite Bert's face, he liked it, honest! 

Bickel's Yard cafe lunch at John Bunyan
Yummy grown up lunch at John Bunyan's Soft Play!  

Bert eating lunch at Bickel's Yard Cafe
A very hungry Bertster attacking his cheese roll! 

There is also family-friendly toilets with baby changing facilities, which helps to make life that little bit easier for parents. There is plenty of free car parking at the centre too, so no need to worry about parking tickets or expensive car parks. Easy peasy! 

Bert is already asking about our next visit - as a member it costs just £4.50 for him to play there - so I'm pretty confident we'll be back within a couple of weeks! 

Opening hours
Monday - Friday 9.00am - 5.30pm
Saturday & Sunday 9.00am - 5.00pm


Prices
Children aged 0-1 years FREE
Family Choice members FREE
Members £4.50
Non-members £5.50

Soft play parties are also available.

For more information please contact the centre:

John Bunyan Sports & Fitness
Mile Road, 

Bedford, 
MK42 9TS
Tel: 01234 364481

If you're a Bedford local definitely go and check it out - let me know if you pop along, I'd love to hear what you think too! 

Mrs B
xxx

We were given free entry to the soft play centre at John Bunyan in return for this honest review. 

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Now That's Crafty Parenting: The Benefits of Encouraging Your Kids to Create

junk modelling

One of the joys of having kids is the chance to share your passions with them. That can be a simple matter of a parent buying their child a miniature football kit (to get them "on the right side" early on). It could be playing your favourite music around the house while they're still young in the hopes that they'll become a fan, too. Or it can be something more participatory, like sharing your passion for crafting with them.

It's not something you can do immediately, of course. Before the age of about three or four, skilled crafts is not something they'll be able to truly grasp. But as they get older, and particularly when they're ready to go to school, it can be good for them. As they're learning about colours and shapes, crafting can work for them for a number of reasons.

Reason 1 - It's A Chance For Some Special Bonding Time

When your kids are younger, you'll spend most of your time together anyway. Then, when the time comes for them to start pre-school or school that quality time happens less. You'll miss them, and they'll miss you, so crafting is a chance to sit down with them and hear about what they do at school.

Reason 2 - You Can Make Things For Their Room

From a relatively young age, children always want a way to make their mark on the world. Let's face it, the moment they know how to write their name, they'll write it on anything! (As any mother who has ever had to wipe felt tip pen off their wallpaper will know!). As you get them into crafting, you can start to make things for their room.

Kids are very visual - most rooms will feature posters of their favourite animals, characters and footballers. Not only do these look good, but studies have shown that visual stimulation is important for their growing brain. You can add an extra dimension to this by having them make the items they will ultimately display.

An easy way to introduce them to crafts is to make a wall hanging with them. Ask them what they want on it. Help them by cutting out pictures and by handling the hot glue sticks for a glue gun, so there’s no accidents that could put them off in future. Then give the hanging pride of place above their bed. You could also make a personalised sign for their door.

Reason 3 - It Brings Shy Kids Out Of Their Shells

Crafting isn't just a fun way to spend a few hours; it can really help kids! Studies show that for children who have difficulty in social situations, crafting can help them become more outgoing.

Just by giving them a piece of paper and some crayons you can unleash their creative side. It can then become a conversation starter. Ask them questions like "What are you drawing?" and "Do you like [whatever they have drawn]?". If you show an interest in what they do, it will boost their confidence.

Reason 4 - There Are So Many Ways To Do It

potato printing

If your kids don't show a passion or a talent for drawing, they may be more interested in sewing or applique. Depending on their age, they might find baking and decorating cakes more interesting than other forms of craft. The important thing is that you give them all the space they need to find their own style - and are there to help when needed.


What crafts do you enjoy with your little ones? In the Bishop household we are a big fan of baking (naturally!), making sticker collages and building models out of Play-Doh.

Mrs B

xxx

This is a sponsored post.