Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Snaps of Little Chaps!

Zulily is such a great site for busy Mums - they send out an email every day with lots of new bargains to be found for babies, children and (of course!) Mums!  For example, Zulily have a deal where you can buy this fantastic skyline wall art and this gorgeous kids rain gear (perfect now that the snow has been replaced by torrential downpours!).  I've only just become a member - a friend told me about the site, but I know that I'll be looking forward to devouring those daily emails!

Zulily also run some great competitions on their blog and have one at the moment asking for tips on how best to take photographs of children. Now I love taking photos of anything and everything, but especially kids having fun.  I was very lucky in that my Dad loved taking cine film (does that show my age?) and we have a wonderful record of our family growing up which was pretty unusual for the time.  Photos are so important - who doesn't love sitting down on a wet and windy afternoon in front of the fire and browsing through their photo albums reminiscing?

So here are my top tips on how to take great photos of children

1.  Take ALOT of photos - set your camera to "burst" mode if you are able to which will take a flurry of photos one after another.  Often, if you only take one photo, you'll miss the "moment", eg, when they land in that puddle, or they'll be looking a bit gormless!  This is particularly a problem with compact cameras which can have a significant "shutter lag" (time taken to take the photo after pressing the shutter) so learn to click a bit before you think it's "the moment" too. At least if you take a batch of photos, you're likely to have one or two great ones in there!  (this applies to photos of pets too!)

Take lots of photos so you don't miss the "moment"

2.  Get down off your high horse!  Of course, what I mean is, get down to the same level as your child to take the photo - the results will be much more intimate and interesting.

The Childs Eye view

From the "High Horse"

3.  If you are trying to get an intimate shot of a child when they are engrossed in something, try to avoid using the flash as it will distract them and spoil the moment and your shot.

Hopefully, by following the above, your photos will get better and better with time and you'll be proud to show them off to friends and family, or even enter some competitions.  Zulily are also running a photo competition on Instagram where they are looking for the biggest grin, there have been loads of great entries, all really cute - I wouldn't like to be the judge on that one!

Happy Snapping!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

My Grand Adventure

Moneysupermarket set my imagination alight with their brilliant competition - "A Grand Adventure".  They have challenged bloggers to write about where they would go on their own Grand Adventure and how long they could make £1000 last!  This was definitely right up my street - I live and love to travel so I got thinking about all the destinations I could visit.

Once I'd had my thinking cap on for a few days, my choice was obvious....

Now India must be one of the cheapest and easiest  (once you have learned how to buy tickets and work the reservation system!) places in the world to travel by train.  I took a look at Seat 61 and found that I can go from Delhi to Bombay, a journey of over 900 miles, on the Radjahni Express, a premier sleeper train with meals included, in first class for just £47, or if I travel in third class, a mere £19.  Train travel in India is fabulous (some may say fabulously daunting!) and a great way to get to meet people, so it will form the major part of my travel plans - after all, you only get to see clouds and a few mountains from the sky.

Getting around in cities will be easy too with so many cycle rickshaws available and even taxis and auto rickshaws (tuk tuks) will be well within my budget.

Now, I've got to an age now where backpackers hostels just don't do it for me, I like my own room and my own bathroom, but fortunately, that doesn't come at an extortionate cost in India, even when staying at Heritage hotels.  For example, the wonderful looking KS Palace in Delhi is only R2000 per night, around £23!  It will be a haven to get back to after the hustle and bustle of downtown New Delhi.  Similarly, the Dayal Hotel in Udaipur offers clean modern facilities for just a little more (R2550).  I can even stay in a hotel in the 13th century fort walls at Jaisalmer for even less!

One of my favourite things about travel is food and tasting all the local delicacies.  Now I'll be doing my best to avoid Delhi Belly at all costs by drinking only bottled water, but eating street cafe food won't be off the menu, I'll just be making sure that what I do eat is freshly cooked.   Just like at home, I'll be tucking into lots of fresh fruit and veg bought at markets but at a fraction of the price I pay here in the UK.  Eating out every day won't eat into my budget either, with great meals costing between £1 and £5, for example, at the Cafe Madras in Bombay and Spicy Tadka in Varanasi.  

Entrance fees will tot up a bit but the biggest one, the Taj Mahal, is still only R750 which is under £9.  St Paul's Cathedral in London costs £15......

So, how long will my Grand Adventure last?  Well, with average daily costs for food and accommodation being £28 per day, and using trains to travel long distances, I reckon I'll be away for at least a month!  Bring it on!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Home Spa-un fun in January

January is here, there's rain, snow, ice and wind all taking its toll on me and my skin and I'm battered and bruised from chucking snowballs and sledging with the kids - what I REALLY would love to do is escape to a spa for a day (minimum!) but with all the bills from Christmas hitting the doormat this month, the likelihood of that is zero!

So when Tots100 suggested having a bit of relaxation at my own Home Spa, I couldn't resist trying it out!  I had a look on the internet and found loads of ideas for homemade spa treatments with things that I have in my store cupboards so wouldn't cost anything.  I was lucky enough to be given some lovely Cowshed products and one of their delicious scented candles for Christmas, so I set the scene by having a relaxing bubble bath and lighting the candles (having first persuaded Grandma to have the kids for the afternoon!).

I'd already got all the ingredients out of the cupboards ready for my treatments so I was ready to give them a go when I got out of the bath.

First, I wanted to give my feet some pampering - those freezing temperatures were beginning to take their toll, so I mixed some coarse sea salt with olive oil (no need to bother using extra virgin!) - about two tablespoons of each, and rubbed that over my feet for about five minutes - paying particular attention to the rough skin on my heels.  My feet felt wonderfully soft afterwards when I rinsed off the mix in a bowl of warm water with scented bubble bath.

Next, I wanted to concentrate on helping out the skin on my face which was really taking the brunt of this cold weather so I made a gentle oatmeal mask from four tablespoons of fine oatmeal (if you only have porridge oats in, you can give them a quick whizz in a food processor), an egg yolk and one tablespoon of runny honey.  Mix them all together into a soft paste and apply to face and neck and leave for 15 minutes, then wash off with warm water and pat dry.  The very gentle abrasive effect of the oatmeal sloughed off those dull dead layers of skin and the egg and honey really seemed to replenish my skin - wonderful!

My hands are looking really dry, and, dare I say it, a bit wrinkly, so I searched for a moisturising solution and found that pumpkin does the trick!  Now there aren't many pumpkins in the shops in January, but you can still easily get butternut squash which is the same thing (and usually really cheap in Aldi too!).  I had some that I had roasted on Sunday when I was making the roast dinner, so I mixed three tablespoons with half a teaspoon of honey and a drop of milk.  Slather this over your hands, paying particular attention to the backs where the skin is thin and leave on for 15 minutes.  I suggest you lie back at this stage and put a couple of chilled used camomile tea bags over your eyes and enjoy some quiet music, something like Nora Jones, or, if classical music is your thing, Faure's Requiem.

Wash the pumpkin mask off in warm water - the effect was amazing.

After all that pampering, I jumped in the shower to wash off any residue of my preparations, put on my fleecy jim-jams and cosy dressing gown and sat infront of the open fire with a cup of camomile tea to finish off my Home Spa day perfectly!