Thursday, December 6, 2018

PJ Masks gear kids want and need this Christmas

Who are the PJ Masks?


If you're one of those parents trying to decipher what your kid's talking about when they mention the pyjama superheroes or the green gecko, let me give you the run down on who the PJ Masks are. By day, six-year olds Connor, Amaya and Greg go to school like everyone else. As night falls, they put on their pyjamas, activate their amulets and magically transform into heroes; Catboy, Owlette and Gekko - the PJ Masks! 

Bub's loved them for over 2 years now. She first discovered them on YouTube before they were on ABCKids. Back then I was hoping I could find some PJ Masks merchandise somewhere, but given they were only on Nickelodeon it was pretty much impossible. Fast forward a few years and now every kid in Australia knows who they are and the merchandise is available everywhere, which thankfully makes it super easy to shop for Christmas.

I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of licensed products, I much prefer open ended wooden toys, however there comes a time in a child's life when they start wanting everything they own to be covered in their favourite characters. I'm pretty sure it's inevitable. I don't want to be a mean mum and say no to everything, but I also don't want my house overrun with licensed everything, so I've created a rule when it comes to licensed products entering our house. My rule is basically anything licensed has to be something useful that's replacing a product I'd already buy, so think things like cutlery, drink bottles, lunch boxes, backpacks, books. Incidentally they're also things that can be packed away easily so it doesn't look like Nickelodeon has been plastered all over my house {winning}. If you follow the something they want, need, wear and read method for Christmas the following items can cover both want and need for most PJ Masks loving kids.

1. PJ Masks Feeding & Snack range




I absolutely love licensed dinnerware because kids always need bowls, plates and cutlery and anything that makes them more excited to eat food is a winner. Drink bottles are also really handy if you have a child in kindy or school because they're always going missing and need to be replaced. Dinner time will go at super-cat-speed with the PJ Masks mealtime and snack range including: 

  • PJ Masks Melamine Plate - 100% melamine plate for $5.00
  • PJ Masks Melamine Bowl - 100% melamine bowl for $5.00
  • PJ Masks SS Cutlery - 2-piece stainless steel cutlery set with spoon and fork for $6.00
  • PJ Masks 473mL SS Bottle - 473mL stainless steel bottle with pull out spout for $11.00 

Available now from Woolworths.

2. PJ Masks Hooray for Christmas 




The PJ masks new Christmas-themed colouring and activity book lets kids decorate Headquarters to look like a Christmas tree, match each villain to their Christmas stocking, plus lots more festive fun. The 48-page colouring and activity book starring the PJ Masks also has over 30 holiday and hero stickers! Hooray for Christmas is available now from Big W, Kmart, Target and all good newsagencies and bookstores for $7.99

3. PJ Masks Ooshies




Ooshies are another craze I've successfully avoided for a while now because to be honest I thought they were just little plastic character toys, but now I know they fit on pencils or crayons I'm happy to allow a few into my house. Bub's going to school next year so they're kind of useful haha. Ooshies are available from Kmart, Big W or Toymate for $3.99

These goodies will be making their way to our place for Christmas thanks to Santa.

Do you have a child who loves PJ Masks? 

Toni x


Disclosure - I was kindly gifted the above mentioned products in exchange for this post. Santa will be bringing them to one very excited 5yr old on Christmas day. I did not receive payment for this post.
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Friday, November 9, 2018

Count down to Christmas with the Smiggle 2018 Advent Calendar

I don't want to alarm you, but did you know there's only 46 days until Christmas? How did that happen? 

I swear it was just January. 

That's a little over 6 weeks to get everything organised before the big day. 

But, if you're like us and celebrate the countdown to Christmas with an advent calendar then you only have 22 days to grab one of those. Eek

It's a bit of a tradition in our household to get a non chocolate advent calendar, for a few different reasons. It started out because my big girl had allergies so she couldn't eat chocolate anyway {and the allergy chocolate ones sell out super fast each year}. I also love the idea of giving them something that lasts more than 2 seconds. There's so many different ideas for non chocolate advent calendars if you just think outside of the box. My personal favourites are an activity prompt advent calendar or a Christmas book advent calendar, however we incorporate activity prompts and books into our December 1st box already so for the last few years we've opted for a stationary advent calendar. This year my big girl's getting the Smiggle 2018 advent calendar. We got the Smiggle advent calendar last year and she absolutely loved it, so I'm super excited to watch her open this years one. I get just as much buzz seeing what's inside as she does.



What's inside the Smiggle 2018 Advent Calendar?


Without a doubt the most common question I got last year was Is the Smiggle Advent Calendar worth it? Having seen all the goodies she got last year my answer is a resounding yes, especially if you have a 5-12 year old child who loves novelty stationary. Or even if you're a 34 year old adult who loves novelty stationary. The Smiggle goodies remind me of my school days... decorating my notebooks with gel pens {while I probably should of been listening to the teacher} and hanging cool keyrings off my pencil case. Ah memories.

This year I've kept the Smiggle Calendar hidden so she doesn't even know she's getting it, so I have no idea what's inside it, but I can guarantee there's 25 pieces of limited edition stationary worth over $70. Last year there was lots of cool stuff like scented rubbers, pencils, pens, keyrings, rulers and a really cool slap bracelet {that she still plays with 11 months later}. If you head into a Smiggle store you can get a sneak peek of what's inside and if you go on YouTube there's a few unboxing videos you can search for. I'm resisting the temptation though so I can keep the suspense alive. I want to be just as excited as her when she opens each number.



Win 1 of 30 $1000 Smiggle Shopping Sprees


The added bonus of the Smiggle Advent Calendar is that it comes with a lucky ticket and the chance to win a $1000 shopping spree! I can just imagine my kids going insane in a Smiggle shop grabbing $1000 worth of goodies. Alas they won't be this year as I opened our ticket and we didn't win. Yeah I resisted the urge to peek on the calendar, but the willy wonka style lucky ticket envelope was way too tempting. Good news for you guys though, it means there's still heaps out there to be won.



So how will you be counting down to Christmas?
Have you done all your shopping yet?

Toni x

Disclosure - I was provided a Smiggle advent calendar for the purpose of review. While we haven't opened it up yet {because that would be cheating}, I'm confident it is awesome and your kids will love it. I did not receive payment for this review.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Nothing strikes fear into an allergy mum's heart like a dirty floor

It used to be so easy to keep my house clean pre kids. Then I gave birth to a small person... she morphed into a toddler tornado... and I said goodbye to my tidy home.

No more neatly arranged decorative items or spotless floors. They were replaced with random toys and tupperware... all over the floor, chairs, stairs, shelves, under and in the couch. It's like a lucky dip when you sit on the couch, you never know what you're going to find stuffed behind the cushions. My house quickly began looking like a ransacked toy store. With a healthy side serve of dirt, sand, grass and anything else the small child decided to traipse inside. It wasn't pretty all the time, but it was manageable. Then entered child number 2, destructor baby, and everything turned to complete and utter chaos. Now most of the time I can clean all day long and it still looks like a crime scene at the end of the day. Sometimes I feel like all I do is follow them both around with the vacuum cleaner and baby wipes, yet they still manage to cover the floor in crumbs, smear sauce in random places and sneak biscuits onto the couch.


I'm no stranger to mess, in fact you could go as far as saying I embrace it given we do lots of messy sensory play. The reason I get so stressed out over mess on the floors, particularly discarded food, is because of baby girls multiple food allergies. Nothing strikes fear into an allergy mum's heart like watching their child reaching for unsafe food they find on the floor. If she eats the wrong crumbs, finds a random piece of cheese or even a discarded spoon that's touched milk, it can mean hours of pain, screaming, rashes and no sleep... and nobody wants that.

We've navigated food allergies before, when her sister was little, but it was a lot easier with only one child. I always made sure unsafe food was kept away from her up high when we ate and because we didn't drop food on the floor ourselves, any food she dropped and found later was her own safe food. I didn't have to be so vigilant and follow her around micromanaging every speck she picked up. Having an allergy toddler and an older child is a whole different ball game though.

Big sister has outgrown her allergies now, but a lot of the food she eats is still dangerous for her little sister. She's pretty good at asking before she shares food with her, but no matter how many times I tell her not to make a mess or drop food, I can guarantee there'll be a trail of crumbs left wherever she's been eating. There'll also be a curious toddler eagerly waiting to swoop in and eat every last crumb.

Baby girl is only 18 months old so she doesn't understand that she can't eat certain foods, or why, she just wants to eat everything her sister does. Unless our whole family goes dairy, soy and nut free there's always going to be the possibility she can find some food that she shouldn't eat, so right now it's necessary for me to be the mean mummy and take things off her, until she's old enough to understand how to manage her allergies herself, or hopefully outgrows them. 

On top of all of her food allergies, I have quite severe asthma myself and am allergic to cats and dust so I have to clean like a ninja for my own health too. Did I mention we have an indoor cat and our entire upstairs level is carpet? Not exactly the ideal living situation for an asthmatic. I know I shouldn't have a cat when I'm allergic, but he's soooooo cute and so good with the kids, he's basically our third child.



Pre kids {and cat} I could get away with a light vacuum here and there to keep the dust situation and my asthma under control. Now there's a whole different level of carpet cleaning going on, even when the carpet looks clean to the naked eye I can guarantee if I vacuum there'll be all sorts of dirt coming out of it. Between the kids walking food and dirt up the stairs, the cat molting and general household dust build up, I'm cleaning the carpets almost every single day. All the allergies in this house have turned me into the cleaning fairy I always wished I had.

Even though our whole family is well versed in handling allergies, my kids are still messy like everyone elses. Like most mums, I can plead with them til I'm blue in the face please don't drop anything on the floor, please don't eat that, we don't eat food off the floor etc and they'll still do it. Mess is part of our everyday lives. Unlike most other households however, it can have dire consequences, so I have to be on the ball all the time. If you have friends or relatives with allergies please be mindful when you visit them because they're likely as highly strung as I am. Also please don't be alarmed if you ever see them running around like a headless chook picking up stuff off the floor, it's just what us allergy mums do..

Toni x

This is a sponsored post as per my disclosure policy.
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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Super easy halloween toilet paper roll mummies

Do you hoard all the recycling in the hopes of making crafty masterpieces with your kids? Nope? Maybe it's just me... I have so many cardboard boxes, empty containers, pieces of used tissue paper and bubble wrap just waiting in my garage for the day they'll be reborn into something amazing. Sometimes that day takes a loooong time to arrive, but I can always find useful ways to reuse things, like these really easy toilet paper roll mummies.

You and your kids can make them in about 5 minutes and you don't even have to be a crafty mum.  They're so simple, bub started making them when she was 3 and only needed help gluing on the googly eyes. The rougher they are the better they look in my opinion. Also good news, empty toilet paper rolls should be readily available in your household, even if you're not a hoarder of all the things like me.

What you will need


- Toilet paper rolls {as many as you want to make}
- Black washable marker or black paint
- White masking tape
- Googly eyes
- Glue

To turn your toilet paper rolls into spooky halloween mummies 


  1. Colour in {or paint} a black rectangle about 1.5cm from the top of the toilet paper roll. It doesn't have to go all the way around as you'll only see a small part of it at the front.
  2. Rip masking tape into skinny strips and stick over the toilet paper roll in a haphazard criss cross pattern, leaving the black section uncovered at the front.
  3. Glue the googly eyes onto the black section.
If you want to get even more creative make a few of them and poke holes on the left and right sides half way between the top of the roll and the eyes and thread them onto a string to make a decorative bunting. Or tie string on them and hang them from tree branches for a spooky decoration. They also make great props for halloween play.

Find more halloween play and craft ideas for toddlers on my halloween pinterest board or click here for halloween sensory play ideas for toddlers.

Toni x



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Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A whole new world of popcorn

Being on a restricted diet is really hard. I've never dieted before in my life and having cut foods for baby girl's allergies for 18 months now I can 100% say I'd never be able to stick to a diet for myself. The only reason I've stuck to my restrictions this long is because it's for my child and seeing her pain free is worth all the inconvenience I'm going through with limited food options.

However there is an unexpected upside, you value food much much more when you can't freely have it. Even better than that, when you can add a food back into your diet, it's like winning the lotto. Thankfully over the last few months we've had a few small wins and we can both now eat rice and corn. Hallelujah 

I know what you're thinking, it's rice and corn calm down, not like it's chocolate Toni. I can assure you after basically living off pasta, meat, restricted veggies and salad for more than 12 months, rice and corn are amazing. They open up a whole new variety of foods and not just stirfry with actual rice {although that's been pretty good too}. Initially I went nuts eating sushi as often as possible, simply because I could, and now I've started a new love affair... with popcorn!

It's funny over the last few months I've become so accustomed to eating the same meals day in and day out I'd forgotten about so many of the foods I loved eating before. Popcorn totally slipped my mind for over a year. I stopped noticing it in the supermarket because I walked straight past that section in the aisle. Now it's permanently back on our shopping list and the girls are super excited for movie nights {well movie days because they go to bed too early at night}. We set up our own home cinema the other day complete with cushion chair aisles, popcorn and {fake} ice-cream.


The other awesome benefit is we now have another snack option for baby girl who's well and truly reached the fussy eating stage. A food refusing toddler who has limited options to begin with = a super stressed out mum. I've spent so many hours over the last few weeks pleading with her to eat her meals or snacks it's not funny. Right now popcorn is one of the only things she always says yes to and eats without a drama. It's surreal to think that last year it would of caused her so much pain and now it's one of her favourite foods. I'm so thankful we've been able to overcome her corn allergy.

What's really cool too is that Cobs popcorn have a new multipack with 10 x 13g snack size packets of popcorn {3 x Cheddar Cheese, 3 x Sea Salt and 4 x Lightly Salted, Slightly Sweet flavours}. After watching her sister eat chips and biscuits {that she can't eat} out of packets for the last year, and begging to have them every single time, she's so excited she can eat something out of her own mini packet. Pretty sure she feels like a bonafide big kid now. The snack packs have been great when we're out and about and they'll be a great lunch box size for when bub starts school next year too.

I only recently discovered there's so many different popcorn flavours available. I naively thought popcorn was just popcorn and maybe you add a bit of butter {not me because I still can't eat it} or salt and that's it. Apparently I've been living under a rock and there's a whole other world of popcorn out there I've been missing out on! I'm making up for it now of course.

We're all split over which are our favourite flavours though. Bub's favourite is Best Ever Butter, because "it tastes just like at the movies" {you can't really go wrong with a classic butter and salt combination}. Their dad keeps swinging between Cheddar Cheese and Best Ever Butter depending which day you ask him {I'm pretty certain he'd eat any popcorn you gave him though}. Baby girl & I are loving Lightly Salted, Slightly Sweet, it's got the savoury goodness of salt then a slightly sweet kick at the end, yum!

Do you love popcorn too?
Could you survive 18 months without it?

Toni x


Disclosure - I was kindly gifted some packs of Cobs popcorn in exchange for this post. I did not receive any monetary compensation for this post and all opinions expressed are my own based on our experience with the product. Cobs new Best Ever Butter is available from Woolworths and multipacks are available from Coles.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Celebrate Halloween with PJ Masks

A few years ago I was very anti Halloween... I'm so scared of anything supernatural and gory it's not funny. Harry Potter scares me, that's how much I don't do supernatural, so the thought of dressing up as a ghost, witch, zombie, or anything with fake blood totally freaks me out. Halloween has never been my cup of tea, however apparently my daughter is the total opposite of me.

Since she was about 3 she started getting into Halloween as it's been gaining more popularity here in Australia. By getting into it I mean she watches cartoons about it and wanted to decorate the house. Each year she gets more and more into it and literally starts asking me from November when it's going to be Halloween again. She wants to go all out these days... decorations, costumes, trick or treating etc. So, I've relaxed my stance a little and we do a few Halloween play activities, and we even dressed up and went to a Halloween party last year.

Of course she wants to repeat it all again this year, but truth be told I wasn't a huge fan of the witch outfits we used last year and the gory kids Halloween costumes still freak me out. Perhaps I'm a bit of a prude, but I don't see the need to introduce young kids to such creepy things. The main reason she loves Halloween is because she gets to dress up and eat lollies, she basically thinks it's just a big dress up party, so that's what we're doing this year. No gory costumes in sight. This year it's all about the PJ Masks!

If you have a child aged 3-6 you're probably well aware of the PJ Masks by now {if not I've put the theme song video below, it'll get stuck in your head, you're welcome}. By day, six-year olds Connor, Amaya and Greg go to school like everyone else. As night falls, they put on their pyjamas, activate their animal amulets and magically transform into superheroes - Catboy, Owlette and Gecko.




Trick or Treat this halloween as Catboy, Owlette or Gecko


The PJ Masks are the perfect kids dress up idea for Halloween because they're night time superheros! They've been favourites in our house for years now with bub first discovering them via YouTube before they became a permanent fixture on ABC Kids. Owlette is her absolute favourite so when she got her very own Owlette costume she was beside herself excited.


Her costume is one of the new PJ Masks Hero Dress Up sets {RRP $39.99}. It's a full body onesie costume and her favourite part is it comes with real wings. The costumes are available in all characters and come with a fabric mask. The sets are available from Target, Big W, Myer, Mr Toys, Toymate, and Toyworld. In the photo above she's wearing the new Owlette costume mask, available separately in all characters from Kmart, Target, Big W, Myer, Mr Toys, Toymate, and Toyworld. 

Each year I always worry about having lollies on hand for trick or treaters. Admittedly this worry is mainly because I remember I only have packets of loose lollies in the cupboard late Halloween night and it's usually too late to run to the shops to find individually wrapped ones. For someone who's usually over prepared for everything, the candy is always my downfall. Not this year though.

This year I'm prepared with a heap of PJ Masks PEZ dispensers. They make the perfect Halloween candy because they're already individually sealed and the kids can keep using them after Halloween is over. Now I just have to make sure the girls don't find them all before Halloween!

PJ Masks PEZ dispensers, Catboy, Owletter and Gecko are available in major retail and department stores for $3. Flavours include strawberyy, lemon, orange, cherry, raspberry, cola and fizzy.

Do you do Halloween at your place? What will your kids be dressing up as?

Toni x



Disclosure - Bub was kindly gifted a costume and some pez for the purpose of this post. 
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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Chalk and cheese

The very first thing I noticed when baby girl was born was that she looked almost identical to her big sister. Apart from hair and eye colour, every other feature looked the same. They were almost born at exactly the same weight too {only 50g difference} despite me going a week overdue the second time around. A feeling of calm washed over me as soon as they put her on my chest because it was like meeting someone I already knew. It was all so familiar. 

However, it's become inherently obvious that their personalities and likes/dislikes are completely chalk and cheese. The food they eat, the clothes they like, the toys they like, the way they play, reaching various milestones, learning to talk, the sleep {or lack thereof}... it's all been so different. Which basically means everything that worked the first time around is pretty much irrelevant now.

I'd done this parenting gig almost four years before this little person came into my life, yet I still constantly feel like I know nothing. Nothing. That's a tad disconcerting as a second time mum who should {apparently} have it all figured out.

So what do you do when your second child is so different?

You wing it adapt. Make changes. Try everything, until finally something works. It's basically like being a new mum again and starting from scratch. Fun times!

Take sleep for example, first time around I thought we had a bit of a rough time, but now I know we had it pretty easy. She had her normal unsettled periods, regressions and the poop nights when she was teething or sick, but for the most part she slept through the night from a few months old on her own and in her own bed. I honestly have no idea how that happened because we never sleep trained, never used white noise, never tried getting her attached to a comforter, we never stuck to a strict routine. Our only routine was feed, get into sleeping bag, go to bed. Oh and her muslin wrap became her blankie {purely by chance}. She kind of just fell into her own groove and we ran with it. No such luck with her sister though.

This time around we've tried it all. We swaddled, arms in and arms out, and then tried sleeping bags {she hates them}. We used a dummy, until she rejected it and decided I was her personal dummy instead. I've rocked, shushed and patted for hours in the middle of the night. We tried white noise toys and apps, a lulla doll {this works as a sleep association, but doesn't keep her asleep all night}. We even went to sleep school and tried implementing a routine. No luck. This child was sent to break me I swear. Seems she's a stubborn, independent, free spirit who will only sleep on her terms.


The only thing that's worked to get me a minute amount of broken sleep each night {and stopped me going insane} has been co-sleeping and letting her snuggle against me and feed all night. Now don't get me wrong I love cuddles, and to some extent I think I've become co-dependent needing her next to me at night too, but after 16 months of chronic sleep deprivation something needed to change. It's lovely having snuggles but it's utterly exhausting having zero personal space within a 24 hour period. Times that 24hrs by 16 months and I was seriously beyond touched out.

I thought I'd tried every type of sleep aid available, then I got to see the new Gro company Groromper at the Brisbane bloggers brunch. In simple terms it's like a quilted onesie you can use instead of a sleeping bag, but it has some really cool added features like underarm breathable mesh vents, a reversible zip and foldover grippy foot covers. It's like the best features of a onesie and a sleeping bag all rolled into one. This video probably explains it a lot better than me.




I couldn't put my hand up to try it fast enough, and I'm so glad I did, because my child is now sleeping without me for a few hours a night. Yes I repeat, I can put her down and walk away without her waking up screaming every 10 minutes. It's a bloody miracle.

I think the key is that the Groromper has helped to regulate her body temperature at night, keeping her warm and then helping her cool down through the mesh vents when needed. It's something we've always struggled with as she absolutely hates having anything restricting her legs at night. She screams and kicks off blankets and when I put her in a sleeping bag she flails around like I've just locked her up in a straight jacket, even though her legs can still move around in a bag. The Groromper allows her to have complete movement, including rolling all around the cot {which she does all night long}, but she can't kick it off and the best part is she doesn't feel like I've layered her up in anything. She just thinks the Groromper is her pyjama onesie. 

She was a little wary of it the first 2-3 nights, mainly because I roll the foot covers over so her feet stay warm and she hated that. We sleep in air con though so she has to have her feet covered or she wakes up as soon as she gets cold. Once she accepted that she's grown to love it. In the morning when I take her out of it she grabs it and puts it into her cot and snuggles into it.

We've been using the long sleeve Groromper mostly because 90% of the time we have the aircon on in our room at night so our room sits at about 18 degrees. We'll {hopefully} be moving the girls into a shared bedroom together by the end of the year and that room has no aircon or fan. With summer on it's way I'm glad there's also a short sleeve Groromper available for warmer temperatures, so we can avoid WW3 trying to get her to use sleeping bags again. Thankgod.


Not going to lie, I'm kind of dreading moving them into a shared room because I'm scared her sleep will go to poo again.

At the moment she feeds to sleep initially and wakes once or twice a night for feeds. I feel like we're in a much better place sleep wise {finally}. I can now put her down and know I have at least 2 hours of free time at night, I'd have more if I could keep my eyes open longer. I finally feel like I have a teeny bit of personal space and free time back. I know she's warm or cool enough and I know she can't get tangled up in any blankets. I'm actually so relaxed about her sleep at night I forget to use the video monitor {which is huge given I have major anxiety}. I feel like we've finally found our groove.

Of course that may change again in a few weeks when we try to move both girls into a shared room, but hopefully not. Wish me luck!

Have you had non sleepers too?

Toni x



Disclosure - I was sent a short sleeve and long sleeve Groromper for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed within this post are based on our experience using the Groromper {and my immense sleep deprivation}. I did not receive payment for this review. Stock photo has been used with permission from The Gro Company AUS.
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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Coles Little Shop mini collectables help kids understand why plastic is bad for the environment

If you live in Australia and you shop at Coles {and most likely even if you don't shop there} you should have heard about the Coles Little Shop mini collectables over the last few weeks. For those who aren't aware they're a set of 30 miniature supermarket items that can be collected individually in blind bags each time you spend $30. They've caused a massive uproar because they were launched relatively close to the introduction of the single use plastic bag ban across the eastern states. Why eliminate plastic bags to replace them with useless plastic crap has been the catch phrase of numerous Australians across social media since their introduction. I can see where people are coming from in regards to the complaints about plastic, however I do think it was just an unfortunate case of bad timing for Coles. No doubt this national promotion was planned months in advance and coincidentally launched close to the plastic bag ban in some states. A genius marketing concept, but a PR nightmare {or perhaps not, any publicity is good publicity as they say}.

Controversy aside though, I have to put my hand up and admit I was always going to collect them. Normally I'm not a fan of plastic toys, but there's just something about little tiny versions of everyday items that's had me as excited as my 5yr old. In fact I've possibly been more excited than her, it's a close call. My inner child is very much alive and well and has been getting an adrenaline rush every time we've gone shopping over the last few weeks. I need to have them all... every single one. Tiny pieces of plastic that literally do nothing, except make my heart explode with happiness every time I hold them {it's entirely possible I have a problem}. It's OK, I let the kids touch them too, occasionally. Last time I checked I was a 33yr old adult, yet I'm as giddy as a school girl.

But what do you do with a bunch of mini plastic stuff once the adrenaline rush of collecting them is over? Contrary to popular opinion, they aren't useless at all, they can actually be quite educational. Learning through play is something I'm extremely passionate about and one of my favourite ways to inject some learning into our days is to do small world play with my girls. Small worlds are little real life environments that give children an opportunity to act out scenarios to help them process new concepts through play. The Coles minis are perfect for small world play because they're real life items and they're already small {be still my beating heart}. 

The obvious choice for a mini collectables small world would be a supermarket, but I've come up with an idea that helps use these little bits of plastic to help educate children why plastic is bad for the environment. Yes I see the irony. Rubbish and the environment have been keen areas of interest for my 5yr old lately and this has been one of the most thought provoking small world scenes I've ever done with her, so I thought I would share it so you can recreate it, or your own version, with your children too.

< Please note this activity is not recommended for children under 3 as some items may pose a choking risk. Full adult supervision is required >


What you will need:


~ A deep tray {we used the Kmart drinks tray}
~ Marine animal figurines {ours are from Oh Ivy}
~ A few pieces of rubbish {plastic, lids, twisty ties etc}
~ Ocean themed loose parts {aquarium plants, rocks etc}
~ Coles Little Shop mini collectables
~ Tweezers, handy scoops or tongs
~ Food Dye {optional}
~ Water


For our small world I went with a rock pool theme using animals found in shallow water relatively close to the shore, so it would be easier for my 5yr old to understand how they could get entangled in litter dumped by people at the beach. You could of course use any marine animal figurines. To set up the small world I first placed all the rubbish, animal figurines and mini collectables into the tray. In a separate container I mixed a few drops of blue food dye with some water then filled the tray with the water. I made ours quite shallow because I didn't want it being splashed everywhere {which eventually always happens}.

I used a mixture of real rubbish which I knew my daughter would recognise {clear plastic, part of a milk bottle lid, a twisty tie and cut up straws} and the mini collectables to represent the dumped rubbish. I knew the collectables would entice her to play and the household rubbish would make the experience even more real for her. I only used collectables that we had doubles of {so our good ones in the case didn't get damaged} and deliberately chose mainly drinks as they're more likely to be dumped at the beach. Please be aware the stickers on the minis may peel off after being in the water and the cardboard ones will disintegrate, so don't use your most cherished ones as they may get damaged {or use a dry sensory material like dyed rice, coconut or beans as a substitute for water}.

I included a pair of tweezers and handy scoopers with our set up to encourage her to remove the rubbish and rescue the animals. I left it up to her to choose which one she used, or if she wanted to use them at all. You could use tongs or a ladle as a substitute or they can just use their hands.

When I first brought out the tray we had a conversation about how it's really bad for the environment and animals when people throw rubbish into the beach instead of in the bin. She was naturally curious so this lead to discussions about the type of rubbish and how each animal had been affected, where the rubbish should have gone instead and we counted how many pieces of rubbish was in the ocean. She then used the handy scooper to remove all the rubbish and rescue the animals {added scissor skill practice without the need for scissors}. There was also a lot of imaginary play with the animals and she repeatedly put the rubbish in and out of the tray freeing the animals each time. You can see our actual play in this post on Instagram {swipe across for videos}. There are so many learning opportunities from this small world, depending on how your child plays with it. I love open ended, child led play and will usually answer and ask questions based on topics she naturally brings up while playing.

Learning Opportunities


- Environmental awareness
- Categorising types of rubbish {recycling, non recyclable}
- Language development
- Animal facts{names, what they eat etc}
- Fine motor skills {removing the rubbish}
- Hand/eye co-ordination
- Hypothesising {how did the rubbish get there, how can it hurt the animals}
- Imaginary play
- Sensory play
- Counting

If you recreate this small world I'd love for you to share and tag me {@finding_myself_young} on Instagram so I can see it. Also, if you have any other awesome ideas for using the Coles minis let me know. I have a few more ideas up my sleeve, but I'd love to hear yours too.

Toni x



Discosure - I did not receive payment or product in exchange for this post. I am in no way affiliated with Coles.

*Some affiliate links have been used within this post. They do not affect the price you pay, but if you decide to purchase I may earn a small commission {to fund my toy addiction}.
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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Introducing kids to steam education with KiwiCo

Have you been worried about how to entertain your kids as they get older?

Confession time, I've always loved learning through play and I could happily set up small world or sensory play invitations for the girls all day long, but I'm well aware as they get older these types of activities will no longer cut it, and that's terrified me. I can do young kids, but I've always worried how I'd keep older kids entertained {other than craft and iPads}. But a year or so ago I discovered steam education and it's like a lightbulb went on in my head and I've been patiently waiting for bub's interests to catch up so I could unleash all the steam ideas!

If you've never heard the term steam before, it's an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths. Steam education refers to fun learning activities based around these subjects that provoke inquiry, problem solving, collaboration and experimenting. Steam learning is process based learning that involves critical thinking to reach a solution. I've been slowly incorporating it into activities now bub is 5 by doing more experiments like the skittles rainbow and making volcanoes. We're only really at the start of our steam journey and I can see her interest in science and engineering in particular is growing as is her constant thirst for knowledge, so when KiwiCo contacted me to trial their steam subscriptions boxes it was right up our alley.




KiwiCo is a US based educational subscription box company that specialise in steam education for children 0-16 years. KiwiCo make science, technology, engineering, art and maths educational activities accessible, engaging and fun to inspire the next generation of scientists, artists, makers and creators. KiwiCo was created to celebrate kids' natural creativity and curiosity, while helping parents who want to bring enriching experiences to their children. They've recently introduced shipping to Australia and bub was lucky to be one of the first Australian kids to trial their boxes.


The crates are available for different age brackets and include age appropriate steam activities. We were sent a koala crate, kiwi crate and a tinker crate. With her 5th birthday this week, I wasn't entirely sure whether the koala or kiwi crate would be most age appropriate, so it was good to be able to trial both. The koala crate was definitely a big hit and we did those activities straight away. She's also really excited to make everything in the kiwi box though. Having seen both, I would recommend if your child is already in school go the kiwi crate, but if they're still in kindergarten or younger stick to the koala crate. Both require some adult assistance still. The tinker crate is obviously way out of her age range, but it was great to see exactly what's included and I was seriously impressed. In fact I'm sure it would take me a while to construct the hydraulic arm that was included in that box {a high school student could probably still do it quicker than me, because my brain is a little rusty thanks to kids!}.






The koala crate was our favourite because it included musical instruments, but I was really impressed that all the crates include a detailed {both pictures and written} instruction booklet, activity booklet and all the items needed for each activity. I love that the boxes provide hands on learning opportunities where kids can build their own items {with a little help}. It was so much fun watching bub's sense of accomplishment as she turned a few loose pieces into a fully working xylophone. I can't wait to finish building our arcade game from the kiwi crate.



KiwiCo currently have a special until July 31st where you can get a free month when you sign up for a 12 month subscription. To activate click the link below and use the code FREEMONTH. If your kids love all things science or construction, it's definitely worth looking into.

Get a free month with a 12 month subscription with code FREEMONTH



Disclosure - I was sent some KiwiCo crates to trial and review. I did not receive payment for this review and all opinions expressed are based on our experience building and playing with the contents of the boxes.

*Some affiliate links have been used within this post. They do not affect the price you pay, but if you decide to purchase I may earn a small commission {to fund my toy addiction}.
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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Love me when my heart is tired

Have you ever been so tired you feel like you simply can't do anything, yet you somehow get to the end of each day with no clue how you survived? 

Chronic sleep deprivation is torture, like actual torture that is used in war time, yet here I am experiencing it in the middle of suburbia and it's been 14 long months with no end in sight. Nobody is coming to rescue me from this torture though, I'm expected to endure it with a smile on my face and tell everyone how much I love my kids and life etc, and figure it all out on my own. On social media people like to live out this fantasy land, when behind closed doors it's a whole different story. Because happy is easy to deal with and anything less than perfect isn't. The truth is sometimes gritty and harsh and painful, all the things people don't want to experience. So we run and hide from it and pretend it doesn't exist.

I'm not really one of those people though. I tend to call it like I see it and admit when things are falling apart. Having two children has been a lot harder for me than I ever imagined it would be. I'm not sure if it's because of the added pressure of allergies, a baby who's also allergic to sleep, a big {unintentional} age gap, or a combination of all of these things. Or perhaps everyone with multiple children experiences these feelings regardless of their situation.

There's been lots of crying, feeling helpless, feeling like I'm failing, lashing out {because my tolerance level is often minimal} and swearing. Yes I swear, I know it's wrong, I know I shouldn't, but I do. Sorry {not sorry}. I know at times I've turned into a cranky, yelling, generally unpleasant, borderline insane person and my friends and family have had to see me like this. Sure there are a few days where I feel like I'm winning at this mothering gig, but more often than not things feel like they're falling apart to some extent. So, this is my truth, and my apology, and my plea to everyone to still love me when my heart is so very, very tired.



To my friends...

Love me when I put up negative Facebook statuses. Don't ignore me, shut me down, or tell me it gets better. My brain logically knows it will get better at some point. I know I won't have a 15yr old sleeping in my bed waking for boobies every 2hrs {least I don't think that happens, right?}. I've done this before, I know at some point this will all be a distant memory. But at 2am when I've had one, maybe two hours of broken sleep interrupted 4 times by a baby that won't take no for an answer.. I forget that it will eventually end. In the cold, dark of the night {or sometimes the cold, foggy start of the morning} I vent on Facebook hoping for some kind of acknowledgement that I'm not alone. Hoping that someone out there sees me, someone gets me. Please don't respond telling me all the things I should be doing, because that makes me feel like I'm failing even more than I already think I am. Just see me. Let me know I still matter. Tell me to have a cup of tea. Even better organise a playdate so I get to see you in real life. 

To my mum...

When I call you in tears saying I just can't take it anymore, it doesn't mean I want you to question everything I've done. It means I've tried everything and I'm beyond done and please God come and help me. Don't tell me you don't know what to do and leave me lost and crying on the other end of the phone. Tell me you're coming over and everything will be ok. Because even though you might not know what to do and you can't "fix" it, my brain tells me you're my mum and I should run to you when I need help and everything will be ok. Listening to me and coming over will make everything ok, even if it's not. I promise I won't be a crying basket case forever {well hopefully not}.

To my husband...

You know all the times when I yell at you about stupid stuff because I'm just at the end of my God dam rope and the fact you haven't taken the bin out or remembered the kids drink bottles pushes me over the edge? Don't turn those moments into WW3. Just take them with a grain of salt. Remember I haven't slept properly in a really, really long time and I'm a slave to small children every. single. day. Its draining and constant and sometimes tiny stuff will set me off, for no apparent {logical} reason, because my tolerance level is below 0. It doesn't make sense. Tomorrow I'll realise that and know I was overreacting, but right here and now I need to vent so I don't lose my mind and unfortunately you're the only adult in the room, so it gets directed at you. I'm sorry, I know its shit. I know it's unfair, but I also know while this tiny dictator is still a sleep thief it probably wont change. My bad. Remember that invisible bubble the Dr told you to hide in when I was first pregnant 5 years ago? Maybe bring that back and camp out in it for a while, say another year or two.... I should be back to myself by then {oh God I hope so}.

To my big girl...

I'm sorry your world has been turned upside down and sometimes chaos is our new normal. It may seem like I think about you less and your needs don't matter as much anymore, but the truth is you're always on my mind. I spend so much of my day wondering if I'm doing everything right. Do I give you enough hugs? Have I told you I love you enough? Did I spend enough time with you, or did I unintentionally dismiss your concerns because your sister needed me? I don't love you any less and you aren't less important, it's just there's two of you and one of me now so waiting, sharing and not always getting what you want when you want it is the new normal and I know you don't like it or understand it right now, but unfortunately that's the way life is. One day things won't be so crazy I promise.

To my baby girl...

I feel like I'm robbing you of the mother you deserve. You get a tired, cranky, glass half empty mum most of the time when I want to be an excited, energetic, glass half full mum. I want to spend my days setting up all the play activities for you and nurturing your little mind, reveling in your new skills and giving you all of me. One day we'll get to that point, probably once you start sleeping through the night, for now boobies and cuddles are hopefully enough.

To myself...

Give yourself a break. Don't feel guilty that the house is messy, the to do lists never get completed and you feel like you fail more than you succeed. Forgive yourself for not meeting your own impossible standards. Reduce your expectations. Write have done lists instead of to do lists. Celebrate the small wins, because during this monotonous chapter of raising small people the little wins are the biggest victories. Give as much time and energy to yourself as you do to everyone else. Love yourself as much as you love others. You matter too. Love yourself even though your heart is tired.


*This post was in part inspired by Alan Walker's song tired, which has somewhat become the anthem to my life these past few months. I listen to it most nights when I have a shower, you can listen to it here.
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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Have you heard of Mokulock wooden building bricks?

You all know how much I love toys, right?

My penchant for online shopping, coupled with the occasional opportunity to review toys for the blog, means I've pretty much been the toy queen in our house from day dot. When it comes to toys, my kids always come to me {possibly because I'm a girl and like the same things as them, or maybe because I hardly ever say no}. Anyway reasoning aside, for years daddy's been sitting on the sidelines patiently biding his time, waiting for the day he could finally introduce the girls to Lego and reign supreme in the toy department. He's literally been counting down since they were born. What he wasn't counting on though was me discovering a product even more awesome than Lego and totally stealing his thunder! Whoops... I almost feel bad about it {ok not really, because you all know how much I absolutely love wooden toys}. I've found the most amazing wooden alternative to Lego and the best part is it's now available in Australia.



WHAT IS MOKULOCK?


Mokulock pieces are wooden interlocking building bricks made in Yamagata Japan. In Yamagata 70% of the land is mountainous and the residents co-exist with nature, dependent on cultivating the forest for resources. Trees cannot thrive when they're close together in the mountains as not enough sunlight can filter through, so to ensure the survival of the forest as a whole, in the winter forest thinning occurs utilising the snow as a cushion when the trees are felled. The wood used for Mokulock bricks comes from the felled trees that are unsuitable for making furniture or architecture.

Mokulock is made from 6 different types of wood; Japanese Cherry, Japanese Zelkova, Japanese Bigleaf Magnolia, Birch, Hornbeam and Maple. Each individual brick is carved from a single piece of wood making them all unique with a different grain, texture and colour. No 2 pieces are ever identical, which if I'm completely honest would normally irritate my OCD, however I find the unique markings quite fascinating. Another plus is no chemicals, paint, glue or finishing oils are used in the production of the bricks, making them even more eco-friendly.




BRING NATURE INTO YOUR PLAYROOM


Research has confirmed wood has a calming, comforting effect. Mokulock is an organic, eco-friendly alternative for those who love the appeal of Lego, but hate plastic. It provides a multi-sensory play experience without the overstimulating bright colours and cold, hard feel of plastic. Instead Mokulock is warm and textured with subtle colour variations and a natural aroma, allowing sensory input without causing sensory overload.

Mokulock provides hours of open ended creative play that naturally aids fine motor skill development as the pieces are carefully manipulated into place. These bricks never get boring because they can literally be used to construct an unlimited number of designs, inspired by your child's imagination. As your children grow the complexity of their designs will evolve too.

The first time we played with Mokulock bub was coming up with ideas of what to build on her own then asked me to build one and she would copy. We did trees, people, houses and a pyramid all initiated by her. She got a bit frustrated when she couldn't get the bricks to join together perfectly the first time, but her stubborn streak is a blessing in disguise because she kept going until she mastered it. She's now asking me to search out more complex design ideas so we can build animals like dragons and crocodiles. Keep an eye out on Instagram to see all the creations we come up with.





MOKULOCK IS FOR EVERYONE


Whether your children are building simple towers or intricate multi level buildings, there's a Mokulock set for every member of the family from inquisitive toddlers right through to the biggest construction lovers. Although the regular Mokulock pieces are small and best suited to children aged 5 and over, they're also available in bigger sizes so younger children can join in too. And of course adults can play too!

MOKULOCK

The regular Mokulock brick sets include full {8 studs} and half {4 studs} sized bricks. Mokulock sets are available in 24 pieces, 36 pieces, 48 pieces and 60 pieces.

TSUMIKI

Block pieces in the Tsumiki sets are 8 times bigger than regular Mokulock pieces. They're similar in size to Duplo and designed so young children can start learning how to build with interlocking blocks. Tsumiki is available in 28 piece or 56 piece sets and come with additional eye stickers to help bring kids creations alive.

BUBU

The Bubu car is the only Mokulock set that includes wheels and bevel cut pieces. The set contains 14 pieces designed to build a specific wooden car which is the perfect size for little hands. However, the pieces are compatible with all Mokulock bricks, so it can be used in conjunction with other sets to build even bigger vehicles. 

KODOMO

Kodomo literally translates to children in Japanese and these sets are designed to add a little bit of magic. The Kodomo sets include regular Mokulock bricks in full and half lengths with the added bonus of cute eye stickers to help bring kids creations to life. Kodomo is available in 34 piece and 60 piece sets. For your chance to win a 60 piece set enter the giveaway at the end of this post.

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After playing with the regular Mokulock bricks I would suggest they're great for children aged 4 and up {we don't have Tsumiki, but I would assume they would be good for 3+ as they're similar to Duplo}. I always supervise her while playing with them, moreso because I need to keep her younger sister away from them as she still mouths everything. Word of warning too, you will need to keep them away from adult males, if you ever want to play with them again. The good news though is that he has forgiven me for stealing his thunder and now enjoys regular building sessions with bub. It's actually really lovely having a toy they can both play with and enjoy simultaneously. Mokulock gives them the option of working together for a common goal or alongside each other and it's been great watching them bond over a shared interest.


WHERE CAN YOU GET MOKULOCK IN AUSTRALIA?


The entire Mokulock range is now available from Oskars Wooden Ark, Australia's newest online destination for quality open ended wooden toys. Growing up in Germany, owner Simon was surrounded by many high quality wooden toys thanks to his kindergarten teacher mother, which cemented a deep love of handmade wooden toys and open ended play from an early age. He and his wife Thuy recently opened Oskar's Wooden Ark {affectionately named after their son} after emigrating from Germany to Australia, in the hopes of bringing the wonderful handmade wooden toys he enjoyed playing with growing up, to children here in Australia. You can read their entire story here.



Oskar's Wooden Ark specialises in wooden toys, stocking popular wooden toy brands Grimm's, Ostheimer, Wobbel, Grapat, Mokulock and Magic Wood, who's products are sourced from sustainably managed forests in Europe. Wooden bricks, rainbows, cars, animals, Nins and wobbleboards are just some of the iconic toys that grace their online shelves. Each product is unique with individual grain marks made by nature. They're also great for developing fine motor skills, high contrast vision, letters, numbers, counting, mathematical reasoning and language development whilst engaging children in hours of open ended play.

To celebrate their opening and Mokulock being available in Australia, they're offering all Finding Myself Young readers 10% off* all Mokulock products. Just use the code finding_myself_young when checking out at www.oskarswoodenark.com.au. You may even be lucky and get a special Mokulock wooden key charm with your order.

Win Mokulock thanks to Oskar's Wooden Ark


Thanks to Oskar's Wooden Ark I also have a 60 piece Kodomo set of Mokulock wooden building bricks to giveaway to you! To enter simply follow the prompts in the Rafflecopter widget {so I can contact you if you win} and comment below letting me know what your kids would love to build with Mokulock? You can also enter over on Facebook and Instagram for additional chances to win.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

TERMS & CONDITIONS
Competition commences upon publication and ends at 11:59pm May 10th 2018. One winner will receive a Mokulock 60pc Kodomo set RRP $89.90. Finding Myself Young will not be held liable should the prize be lost in transit. Competition is open to Australian residents only, excluding ACT. This competition is a game of skill and will be judged as such. All mandatory entry steps must be completed to constitute a valid entry. Incomplete entries will be deemed invalid and excluded from judging. Entries can be made via www.findingmyselfyoung.com, Facebook and Instagram and one winner will be selected from the total entry pool. Winners will have 48hrs to respond or prize will be redrawn. This competition is in no way endorsed, promoted or administered by Facebook or Instagram.

* Discount code is valid 8th May 2018 - 10th May 2018

Disclosure - I was gifted Mokulock wooden building bricks for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed within this post are based on our experience building with Mokulock. I did not receive payment for this review.

Linking with Kylie
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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Bringing memories to life

This post is in collaboration with Brand Meets Blog

I remember being fascinated by our photo albums when I was little. They were so chunky and there were so many of them all lined up in a row on the bookshelf next to the Reader's Digest and our Encyclopedia Britannica collection. I'd regularly get them down and gently flip through the pages careful not to knock any of the photos out of place. They were the old-school albums where the photos were held in by sticky pages, except the pages became less sticky and kind of redundant as time went on.

I'd spend ages marveling at the fact I really was a baby once and there was a time before my brother existed, even though I didn't remember any of it. Those original baby albums probably inspired my love of photo taking and insatiable desire to capture memories. While I loved looking at them, when I was allowed to, I always wondered why mum put our photos in albums that sat on bookshelves collecting dust. I never understood why there weren't more hanging on the walls so we could see them everyday.

Fast forward 20 something years and chunky photo albums seem to be a thing of the past. In fact I've never even put together a physical photo album, but I have the modern day equivalent with 35 photo albums on my Facebook profile, an Instagram account {for photo sharing} and 9000+ photos sitting idly in my phone gallery. With so many things being digital these days, it can be easy to get lost in our devices and forget about the physical world around us. It's only recently occurred to me that despite the fact I take and share photos every single day, my kids don't actually see them at all {unless my 4yr old steals my phone}. They don't even have a dusty photo album they can pull off the shelf and flick through. For someone so obsessed with making memories, I can't believe I've been {unintentionally} forgetting to share them with my own children.

In my defense, creating some kind of photo wall display has been on my to do list for a while, but it's always been put in the too hard basket and not been a high priority.  I haven't printed photos out previously, because the thought of taking two kids into a store to use a kiosk then wait for the photos to be printed sounds like an awesome day out a special kind of hell {I know this because we all went with my mother when she printed hers}. I want to have more visible reminders of our time together as a family though so I decided to make a start on my photo wall with one of the maternity photos we had taken last year before baby girl's arrival.

It turns out, unbeknownst to me until two weeks ago, you can easily order canvas prints online from CanvasChamp. No long winded trips to the shops. No battling to get two kids ready to leave the house, or entertaining them while they get oh soooo bored waiting in line ups. Just a few clicks on my laptop and I had a 40x50cm canvas print ordered for our photo wall in under 5 minutes. In mum time that's the equivalent of Justine Clarke singing everywhere's a dancefloor {which incidentally is a good way to occupy the kids while using your laptop}.


canvas champ online ordering form



I could of bit the bullet and ordered the entire wall display in one go, but I'm indecisive and if I waited until I'd worked out all the photos I wanted it would never get done. I'd also never ordered canvas prints online, so if I'm completely honest, I was a bit apprehensive about the quality, especially given they were a lot cheaper than I was expecting {so being somewhat pessimistic I decided to try before putting all my eggs in one basket so to speak}. However, I'm happy to report the canvas arrived in perfect condition and really well packaged a week later.

I wouldn't hesitate ordering more prints online now and I'm actually considering ordering some for mum for Mother's Day. What better gift than memories of your children and grandchildren right? You can get a free 8x8 canvas print with your first order if you sign up to the newsletter too. They also have wood prints, how cool! If you know how obsessed I am with wooden toys you'll understand why that excites me so much.
canvas print of Finding Myself Young maternity shoot



This photo from our maternity shoot now takes pride of place on our wall. As soon as bub saw it she said "wow mummy look at the picture, that's when we were in the forest taking photos when bubby was in your tummy. It's so beautiful". Of course my heart melted. I'm so glad she has a daily reminder of our family adventure to the forest and how excited we were to become a family of four. I also love that her little sister will be able to look at it each day and know how much we looked forward to meeting her {and maybe one day she'll believe me she really was inside my belly}. Now I really want to print more photos and organise another family shoot with all four of us {even though baby girl's technically in this photo} so we can hang even more memories on our walls.


How often do you print your photos out?
Surely I'm not the only one with thousands of photos sitting on my phone?

Toni x


Disclosure - This is a sponsored post for CanvasChamp in accordance with my disclosure policy. The maternity photo shown in this post was taken by Katherine Maree Photography.
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