|FAMILY|halloween gifts and homemade wrapping paper

Somehow this year, I seem to have turned Halloween into pre-Christmas, with books, dvd's, small toys and treats akin to those you'd find in a Christmas stocking!

I'm not really sure how this happened, it wasn't planned but now I've done it it's something I think is quite nice for each year.  For nearly 2 weeks T has been collecting stickers for being good each day on his 
Mums' Days spooky sticker chart with the promise of a surprise if he manages to collect all 12 stickers by 31st.  He's doing well! It's 29 October and he only has 1 to go!

For his gifts, he has, a sticker book and things to do, a scratch and sniff Halloween book (which in hindsight might be a little young for him) a smurfs spooky dvd, hotel Transylvania dvd, which is his favourite film at the moment, a playmobile vampire with pet raven and a playmobile ghost, which could also be used with his pirate ship or the castle he's getting for Christmas.

As well as these, he's had a witches brew drinks dispenser and mini pumpkin light which he has had already.

I really wanted to present these nicely ready for when he opens them Saturday morning, but didn't really want to use tissue paper.

I searched google for free Halloween digital scrapbook paper and found loads!   

Here's what I did in word to create the paper:
1. I saved 4 different designs as .jpeg
2. In word I created an a3 landscape page with minimal margins
3. I then inserted one of the .jpeg files 
4. I changed the image to 'in front of text' so I could move it about, independently of the margins 
5. and re-sized to fit the height of the page ignoring the margins
6. I copied the image and lined up the second against the first making sure the whole page was covered.
7. I printed on A3

A small margin was left on the printed sheets which could be cut off if you like, personally, I didn't bother.

Obviously you could create wrapping paper in this way for any design you can find!   The beauty of digital scrapbook paper is that most of the time it re-sizes perfectly so you get no distortion, if you use a photo or other image it may pixelate when you enlarge.

As you can see these turned out really well, I've wrapped the gifts and popped them all in one of our big couldrens ready for Halloween along with some yummy treats.

If a proper 'step-by-step' word tutorial would be useful, please leave me a message and I'll create one, I really wasn't sure if I should do one or not, so your feedback would be fab please! 

Thanks so much! Happy Halloween!

If you'd like to see all of our Halloween toddler/pre-school activities, you can find them here. For lots more ideas check out our Halloween Pinterest board for inspiration.

You can see all my Halloween posts here.

|HOME|halloween 2015 mantle

I love Halloween and so I do tend to enjoy decorating for the occasion. I thought I'd share some of my tips for decorating my mantle today.

The look I wanted to go with this year was 'haunted' house.

I started off with a few new things this year, this amazing 'snow' globe well bat globe actually!  And the haunted house picture in the photo below. Both from Homesense.

Tip 1. Enhance what is usually there. Small changes can be really effective these candlesticks are always on the mantle but usually don't hold candles. In the past I've added my bleeding candles but this year I bought some black candles from eBay which really add to the effect.  This is great because it means I don't have to find a home for them whilst I have my Halloween display. 

Tip 2. Fix light switches in convenient places
I used strong double sided tape to attach the light switch to the underside of the mantle to enable us to switch off and on easily.

Tip 3. Cluster cheap items for maximum effect
Here I used 2 bags of small plastic skulls to fill a vase, I added a set of lights and the effect is pretty good, especially in the dark! 

Tip 4. Utilise what you have
I've had these life sized crows for a couple of years but I wanted something to set them off, to make it look as though they've just flown in!  I remembered that I had these 2 big black books, which just happen to be about ghost stories and the supernatural. So they are perfect for adding a bit of height and making the crowd look more real. 

Tip 5. Think outside the box
I knew I wanted some sort of black garland 'swag' hanging from the mantle but wasn't sure I wanted it to be plant (either real or fake) so I ordered a black feather boa from Amazon this adds a bit of texture to the display and is the perfect accompaniment for my pom-pom bat garland.

Tip 6. Have a children's display
Because we have quite a lot of Halloween ornaments and decor which didn't really fit my haunted house theme I decided to let T decorate a shelf for himself, for this display he can interact with it, reorganise and play with the items   By letting him do this he doesn't want to touch or play with the items on the mantle. 

You can see all my Halloween posts here.  For lots more ideas check out our Halloween Pinterest board for inspiration.

|FAMILY|Feelings chart

Today I have a little activity to help children talk about and explore their feelings.

I saw this great 'how was your day' calendar and knew that I wanted to replicate it for T, this way he can draw a face to represent how his day was and we can talk through any anxieties he has.

At first we just practiced drawing different faces, this could be done as a one off task but I intend to do it everyday when he comes home from nursery, trying to open up lines of communication with him for when he starts school next year.  Of course at the moment, we know how his day has been, but I'm hoping he will soon develop a habit of talking to us about his day and it will become part of our daily routine.

If you would like to download a copy of our feelings chart you can do so here

 Toddler Approved Tuesday

|#toddlerapprovedtuesday|week 53 - 27 October

Thanks to everyone who linked up last week, to everyone who tweeted or re-tweeted, everyone who commented and everyone who entered the giveaway's, in case you missed any, here's a list of them all for you!   Our first one ends tonight so make sure you enter to win a £15 voucher for Rachel's one stop shop today!
Dora and friends phone and charm bracelet (ends 23.55 01/11/2015) http://www.larabeeuk.co.uk/2015/10/giveawaytatturnsone-dora-and-friends.html

Handy Herbs Kit for Kids (ends 23.55 31/10/2015)

Magformers Wow set (ends 23.55 30/10/2015)

Gotrovo mini treasure hunt kit (ends 23.55 29/10/2015)

Pixie Dixie paint your own PJ’s (ends 23.55 28/10/2015)

Rachel’s one stop shop £15 voucher (ends 23.55 27/10/2015)

Remember you can post your weekly post to the #toddlerapprovedtuesday Facebook page too, I like every one which will mean you continue to show up in my feed when you post new posts! 

If you are not yet in the Facebook group send us a request and we'll add you. Feel free to post anything in there all through the week if it's relevant.

I've got a feelings chart for kids to link up this week, includes a download if you'd like to try for yourself.

This week Becky is linking her no carve glow in the dark pumpkin video on YouTube.  

My showcase

I think this ikea blocks hack from Mudpie Fridays is brilliant, T's never had blocks like this but I'm sure he would have loved them!

I couldn't leave out T's favourite Andy from Cbeebies from the showcase this week.  I know that T would love this Andy and the odd socks album, that's for sharing with us Entertaining Elliott
We would absolutely love it if you would join us, the linky will open every Tuesday through to Thursdays and give us a good few days to see what your little ones have approved! Every week Becky and I will each pick our favourite two links for our #ToddlerApprovedTuesday showcase which will be featured on our posts and in the weekly #ToddlerApprovedTuesday email, which hits over 125 email addresses each week!
Remember to share your post and the linky using the hashtag #ToddlerApprovedTuesday on your social media, Becky and I will retweet all your posts via Twitter (make sure you mention us in your tweets @3princess_1dude/@larabeeuk for us to be able to Retweet).  
1. Link as many posts as you like (well with in reason!), remember to copy and paste the #ToddlerApprovedTuesday badge on each post you would like to link up.
 Toddler Approved Tuesday
2. Pop by and comment on as many as you can. Can't comment? Why not Pin It or share on Facebook or Twitter instead? It only takes 2 seconds to click the share button!
By linking up you agree to receive future email notifications regarding #ToddlerApprovedTuesday. These emails can be unsubscribed from by clicking the unsubscribe button in the email.

|SAVVY SHOPPERS|Becky from 3 princesses and 1 dude

On this week's savvy shoppers, Becky from 3 princesses and 1 dude shares her tips and advice for shopping and cooking for her family of 6!

1. What is your weekly budget for groceries?
We don't really have a budget, but I try and aim for less than £60. 

2. What's your meal plan this week?
M -  Spaghetti and Meatballs with garlic bread
T -  Salmon and Prawn fish pie
W - 'out of the freezer' tea
T - Slow Cooker Sweet Chilli Chicken
F - Jacket Potatoes 
S - Tuna Melts and Sweet Potato Fries
S - Meatloaf, mash and veg.

3. Where do you shop the most?
I shop around, but our weekly shop is an online Asda shop, finished off with bits from Poundland, Home Bargains and Heron, which is generally the stuff I know I can get cheaper. Heron usually has great offers on yoghurts. Last week we got 2x6 pack Muller Corners for £1.50! If I had bought them in Asda it would have cost me around £5!! 

4. Do you have any tips for spreading the cost of your weekly shop?
Shop around if you can, don't feel shame because your shopping in the discounted shops! (I actually used to avoid shops like Poundland and Heron, which I  look back now and just think it crazy!) and make use of offers on stuff you know you will use. There is quite often offers like 3 for £10 on fresh meat's.

5. Do you have a Pinterest board for family friendly meals? (If so share)
I have lots of food boards! From breakfast, to tea time and everything in between!! Here is our Tea Time board: https://www.pinterest.com/3princess_1dude/tea-time/

6. What would you say is your biggest shopping weakness?
Bargain buys! 

7. Does everyone in your family eat the same meals?
Yes, you eat what you get, there is no alternative! And if its the hubs who 'doesn't like it' (he hates veg) well he can either pick out the veg or make his own after the kids have gone bed!

8. Do you coupon or use any of the shopping apps? Any advice, hints or preferences?
No, although I probably should.

9. What's the most important factor in deciding your family meals?
Ermmm...If I want to cook it! Does it look like I could cook it? Is it made in a way I know how to cook? Can I change a recipe to make it my own? 

10. What's your go to store cupboard pudding?
Ohhh, we aren't really puddingy people. The monsters like stuff like yoghurts, Angel Delight, tinned sponges etc. Stuff that can be grabbed and made quickly (If they eat their tea!)

11. Do you stockpile? Any advice or tips?
I want to say no, because I don't specifically buy to 'stock up'. But my cupboards are full to the brim, as is the freezer...must be those bargain buys I cant say no too!!

12. Would you please share a favourite family recipe with us (can be a link to your blog, someone else's or a website or just type it here, include a photo if you like!)
Anything Pasta! My Crunchy Extra Cheesey Mac Cheese always goes down well! 

Cook pasta, make cheese sauce, combine the 2 in a baking dish, cover with a thin layer of cheese and stir in, grab your favourite crisps I find Salt and Vinegar and Cheese and Onion make a great combo! (they have to be proper crisps mind, Wotsists etc wont work!) crush them up, layer on top of the pasta and sprinkle a mix of your 2 fave cheeses on top, pop in the oven until the cheese has melted. 

13. Do you do any meal prep to save time/money during the week?
Not that I can think.

14. Does your family have any dietary considerations?
No, thank goodness!

15. Do you batch cook and freeze meals?
No. The freezer is already full!

|GIVEAWAY|#tatturnsone - Dora and friends phone and charm bracelet

Back in the summer I reviewed some Dora toys for the Dora sing along campaign, for our final #tatturnsone giveaway we thought these would make a great prize especially for the little ladies in your life.

I hope you've enjoyed our week of giveaway's, our first one ends tomorrow so keep an eye out of you entered, you just may have won!

I'd like to thank all the companies who worked with us and a big thank to you my fab co-host Becky for her hard work on this little collab for #toddlerapprovedtuesday's first birthday.

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|STAY|holiday inn express - Hoylake


A couple of weeks back we had a great weekend away in Liverpool.

These little weekend breaks have been fabulous for the 3 of us, we've been able to have little escapes here and there and spend time just relaxing.  I think it's great for T to experience hotels at his age, and learn how to behave in that social environment, sadly in our experience too many people don't teach their children how to behave properly.  On this trip alone 4 children from different families managed to disrupt other guests purely because they had not been taught how to behave, and parents found it acceptable for them to play in the revolving doors, continuously scream through breakfast, run around the lobby whilst people were trying to eat and carry hot food or run up and down the corridors squealing in the early hours!  Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox now, but we are really finding that these little trips teach T so much and they are a great reward for him behaving well.

We stayed in The Holiday Express Hoylake on our latest trip which is a lovely new hotel with 56 rooms located minutes from the beach, upon entry we were welcomed by incredibly warm and friendly staff who quickly and efficiently had us checked in.

Our family room was located on the first floor, the room was a decent size with a double bed and a double sofa bed.  Freeview TV was provided as is free wifi.  We were greeted to a lovely brownie and fruit platter in our room, which of course went down very well with a certain young man!  I'd like to think all guests get one of these, but I suspect not.

The Hubs and I did our usual search round for cleanliness and found the room to be spotless.


The shower room was a decent size and incredibly clean, the shower cubicle was large and T managed to have a whale of a time in there whilst preparing to go out for dinner.

Our hospitality tray had everything you'd expect, but wasn't re-filled the second day which we did find a little odd, however,  as The Hubs doesn't drink tea or coffee there was plenty for me and I'm sure they would have restocked had we asked.

After we'd scouted round and settled in we headed down to the lobby for a drink, I must admit I really liked this, all the hotels we've stayed in so far haven't had this so it was great for us to sit in the bar and relax, The Hubs watched a few quiz shows on the lobby TV, T watched his iPad and I expect I was on social media! Drinks were averagely priced at about £6 for a glass of wine and £4 for a beer, the staff even brought out some colouring pencils and colouring sheet for T which was a lovely touch.  It was incredibly nice to be able to sit and relax whilst T coloured and watched 'Andy's dinosaur adventure'!

Breakfast was adequate, hot options were limited only serving toast, beans, sausages and scrambled eggs but there were lots of cereals, yoghurts, fruit and pastries so no-one was going hungry, everything was self-serve so you could eat what you liked.  There were 3 juices available and a good selection of twinings teas.

The price of a family room per night for the time we went was £79.00

In true 'Four in a bed' style this is how we'd rate our stay (out of 10) ...
1. How was the hospitality at the hotel?
8 - lovely friendly staff who made us feel very welcome
2. How clean was the hotel?
9 - very clean, but scuff marks on the walls which I could wipe off with a baby wipe.
3. How were they facilities?
8 - free parking, good tv, free wifi, bar on site, snack machines, ice machine everything you need but no extras.
4. How did you sleep?
8 - no noisy traffic, comfy bed the only noise was from other guests.
5. How was breakfast?
7 - adequate, not a great deal of choice of warm options.
6. Would you stay here again?
Yes definitely
7. Would you pay the full rate for your stay?
Yes we would, although slightly more in comparison to other budget hotels.
8. What is your overall 'value for money' star rating out of 5?
⭐️⭐️⭐️ a full English would have made 4!
'A budget hotel without the budget feeling'

Disclaimer: we were given a complimentary stay in return for this honest review, we would have no qualms in recommending this hotel to friends and family travelling for business or leisure.

|GIVEAWAY|#tatturnsone - Handy herbs kit for kids

Today we have a fabulous herb kit for kids to giveaway from #todldlerapprovedtuesday regulars Handy Herbs.  We always look forward to the fab child friendly recipes from Handy Herbs so it's great to work with them for this giveaway and have them involved in the celebration!

Handy Herbs say…
With Herb Kit For Kids we aim to inspire children to have fun growing and cooking with herbs assisted by our friendly herb characters. At the same time two key lifelong skills are promoted and developed.

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|GIVEAWAY|#tatturnsone - magformers

For today's #tatturnsone giveaway we have a magformers set for you. 

Featured on #ToddlerApprovedTuesday the lovely Elaine from Entertaining Elliot linked up with this review back in August, she recommended it as a 'great toy for curious little (and big!) minds'

Each WOW set consists of 16 pieces: including squares, triangles, a special pilot boy and 2 wheel sets AND 22 double-sided illustrated maps showing how to play with Magformers.

Good luck!

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|FAMILY|halloween bucket list

Eeeeeeeeek my second favourite holiday is coming up!  I love Halloween and it looks as though we have a little boy who is closely following.  Our decorating is done now, our Halloween party is planned for next week and we're keen to make a start on our list, so here it is!

1. 'Boo' our neighbours
2. Read a Halloween ghost story
3. Host a Halloween party
4. Go trick or treating
5. Eat mummy sausages
6. Dress up as a ghost
7. Apple bobbing
8. Carve a pumpkin
9. Make Halloween lanterns
10. Decorate for Halloween

You can see our Halloween kids activities here and our Halloween decor ideas here.
Mums' Days

|GIVEAWAY|#tatturnsone - govotro mini kit

Day 4 of our fabulous #tatturnsone giveaway's and today we have a gotrovo mini treasure hunt game for you.

Suitable from 3+ it's perfect for one child or parties of children and great for indoor and outdoors!  We have got one and can highly recommend, T loves following the pictures on the cards to follow the trail.

You can find more gotrovo products on their website.

Good luck!

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SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

|REVIEW|Mums Days reviewer - Lace'mups

Very exciting!  Our very first review for Mum's Days has been published!!! 

We reviewed Lace'mups and gave them a 4 star rating.

|GIVEAWAY|#tatturnsone - Pixie Dixie

Today we have a set of Paint Your Own PJ's from Pixie Dixie (RRP £29.99).The paint your own pj's have featured previously on #ToddlerApprovedTuesday thanks to the lovely Claire at The Free Range Family when her lovely girls reviewed them back in August, in fact they had so much fun they made plans to start their own pyjama business! Make sure you pop over and read her review. 

Each set consists of a pair of 100% cotton super soft pyjamas, 4 fabric paints and a brush. And whats more you can wash them over and over and your design stays put!

Entry is via the Raffle copter form below, 
UK only for this giveaway. 
The winner will chose BOYS or GIRLS pj's and can can chose from a variety of sizes between age 1-2 and 11-12. 
The prize will be sent direct from Pixie Dixie HQ. 

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|GIVEAWAY|#tatturnsone - Rachel's one stop shop voucher

Hello!  So for today's #tatturnsone giveaway we are offering £15 to spend at Rachel's one stop shop, never visited before, well you should ;) so many beautiful goodies.

Please make sure that you read the terms and conditions in the rafflecopter below.

Good luck!

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SuperLucky Blog Giveaway Linky

|REVIEW|Hey Duggee official magazine

When we were recently invited to review the new Hey Duggee official magazine I didn't actually know what Hey Duggee was, we popped over to the Cbeebies website and took a look and T really enjoyed it. It's now a favourite on his iplayer and we have a few downloaded to his iPad.   Most of the time there are benefits to not watching 'live' TV but then sometimes I think maybe we do miss out on little gems like this because we don't really come across them by chance.

T was very excited to receive his first Hey Duggee magazine in the post, and of course, before anything else he wanted to open the 'free' gift and see what was in there.  He was mostly impressed with the cookie cutter which immediately meant that the play dough came out so he could try it!  The second thing that gets checked are the stickers,  the stickers in this magazine are of good quality and are easy to remove and durable for little hands, something we always seem to have an issue with is T ripping stickers as he's a bit heavy handed, we didn't find this a problem with these. 

T also loved the chefs hat, he's going to wear that at the weekend when we make our cookies and he can 'earn' his cooking badge.  Daddy also got the privilege to try it on!

I personally love the idea of completing the tasks and activities to earn a badge, in the first edition there's a a3 poster which you can stick them all on. That will be put up on T's wall. He found that very motivating and kept asking what he needed to do to earn his Squirrel Club Sticker (ummmm I wonder if I could add in a few good behaviour badges of my own 😉)

T was very proud to be called a member of the squirrel club which I personally think is a great motivational idea. 

It also promotes other good practice ideas, such as cleaning after yourself in the kitchen and making people happy. I think they are great additions to the fab activities the magazine also has to offer.  Cleaning in the kitchen also earns the squirrels a special golden badge which is included on the sticker sheet.

The magazines activities cover 7 key learning areas and are aimed at children between the ages of 2-6 with the core age being 4, from our experience, this is probably spot on, T is coming up to 4 and the activities and games suit him and keep him engaged.

The learning activities are either just right or a little challenging for T which is exactly what he needs at the moment. Absolutely perfect for pre-schoolers or reception children just getting into reading and writing. 

T loved the 2 stories in the magazine and was a little disappointed that there wasn't another for the next bedtime but apart from that it really has gone down a storm in our house!

Priced at £2.75 per magazine it's a lot cheaper than some on the market in my opinion (average £3.99) and makes it more affordable as a special once a month treat!

Hey Duggee official magazine launches today - 21 October 2015!  

Disclaimer: we were sent this magazine and given a years subscription, for this honest review.