My Best Blogging Buddy

Over the five years I've now been blogging, I've made lots of online friends. As the Belfast blogging scene grew I've met lots of wonderful ladies, and guys, who share my interests in lifestyle, interiors, style and travel. 

However one of the earlier bloggers like me in Northern Ireland, and one I count as my best blogging pal, is someone I have never met, despite only living an hour's drive away. This is perhaps because of our personal health problems we share, which ironically makes our friendship a stronger one.

Sera blogs at The Agoraphobic Fashionista and has a vibrant Twitter account, running frequent competitions and engaging in debate about everything and anything. She always has the latest beauty releases and is the woman to follow for tip offs of great bargains & sales.

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Chisholm Hunter Diamond Merchants kindly sent Sera & I matching friendship boxes, which really brightened up my weekend with a bath bomb, seeds, cute pegs and even matching friendship bracelets like all proper pals have. 

They are running a Rafflecopter competition to win £250 to spend on their sparkly website, so it's worth a visit. 

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Thank you for choosing me as your best blogging buddy, Sera! And don't you think we even look alike? She's my BFAM : Blogger From Another Mother.

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Famous Artists Cosplay Collectors' Cards, Series One

Super hero cool. Available from the very talented Burnt Candy on Etsy now.

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"What would happen if some of the most influential and popular artist's in history decided to dress up as their favorite Marvel and DC characters to attend comic con? 

It's famous artists and cosplay! What more could you ask for? 

This is Series 1 of my artist trading cards. It features the following: Cezanne as Wolverine, Dali as Green Arrow, DeLempicka as Catwoman, Duchamp as The Riddler, Picasso as Iron Man, O'Keefe as Poison Ivy, Koons as Batman, Kandinsky as The Vision, Pollock as Hulk, Van Gogh as the Joker, Warhol as Spiderman, and Kalho as Wonder Woman.

Makes a great gift for comic book enthusiasts as well as art history buffs, art teachers and artists."

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Your Own Home Catwalk For Your Little Performer - Ikea Väntad LED Rug

Michael's big obsession this past year has been discos. He has a mirror ball, disco lights, and all he wants for his seventh birthday is a home smoke machine (really). 

We spotted the Väntad rug in Ikea Belfast Kid's department & knew at once it was his sort of thing. It's a black and red runway rug with inbuilt LED lights. They are energy efficient using 85% less power than regular bulbs, so your children can play all afternoon with it and you don't have to worry about electricity bills. 

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The rug is non-slip, so no matter how energetic their stage show gets, no-one is going to end up slipping. You'll also be pleased to hear there is absolutely no assembly required. In fact Michael unrolled and set it up in his room by myself while I was still unpacking the car. 

It costs £35 and would make a really showstopping display should Santa want to pick one up for Christmas morning.

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The World of Kitsch Introduces My Very Own Vlogger

I've hired my very own vlogger to undertake toy & kid product reviews on The World of Kitsch. He's a good looking chap, very chatty and I'm not at all biased. Yep, my son Michael has been inspired by 'Whoops, I Missed the Bus', a CBBC show featuring two quick witted teenage vloggers, and even better he works in return for getting to keep the product and a little dash of pocket money.

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He is not to blame for the rookie mistake of filming in portrait instead of landscape, but we will improve the vlogs as we review toys leading up to Christmas 2014. 

If your brand has anything you think would suit Michael to review for you, send me an email. We will review all sorts of toys, as I don't strictly follow the pink-is-for-girls-blue-is-for-boys rules of the toy shop.  Videos will be posted on my YouTube channel, in a blog post on here, and is free for your brand to use in any way you wish. I look forward to hearing from you all.

Raising Mighty Girls

I an very pleased to welcome Karen from the blog Raising Mighty Girls, with a guest post today. Karen feels like I do about children's toys; they are for everyone, and whether your boy wants to play with a doll in a pushchair, or your girl asks Santa for an army tank, they should be allowed to play without labels or judgement. So, over to Karen.

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Raising my mighty girls means creating play opportunities which encourage interaction with ALL sorts of toys.  With no boys in our house, this means that I need to be proactive about creating these experiences. I believe that doing this creates a balanced choice for them. 

It's up to me to provide the 'balance'.  After that, it's their decision about what they prefer to play with.  It doesn’t really matter to me whether it’s a pink baby doll or a blue monster truck. The important thing is that they're having fun!  And hopefully learning something useful in the process!

Give my youngest daughter a doll and she’ll love it.  Give her a sword and she’ll love it too. She just wants to play with ‘fun’ toys. 

#LetToysBeToys

I don’t vote against ‘pink’.  I don't vote for 'blue'.

I vote for ‘balance’.

A balanced ‘play experience’.

 Does it annoy me when we walk into a toy store and are forced to choose between walking down the ‘pink road’ or the ‘blue road’?  Hell yes! 

But it has to be said that most of the major toy stores are beginning to listen to consumers and groups like #LetToysBeToys and are making noticeable changes to the way products are manufactured, marketed and displayed. I could talk all day about gender marketing of toys.  But that's a post for another day.

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Anyways, the youngest has adored Jake and The Neverland Pirates since last Autumn, so she received the Pirate Ship with Jake, Izzie and Cubby for her birthday. And Santa brought a few other items in his sack at Christmas.  Finally at the end of June, she emptied her money box and bought Skull Island.

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#RaisingMightyGirls - Really?  

Yes, this blog IS about raising girls to be mighty!  So before, you get confused about why I would encourage play where the 'boy' is the leader, remember I encourage play with a balance of toys. 

Today, we had friends round to play and she insisted on being Jake and leaving Izzy for the little boy.  She doesn’t see the  characters as boys and girls.  She sees it as ‘Jake is the dude, the leader, the most fun. And I want to be him!'

The youngest Gribbon Girl doesn't see Jake as a 'boy', she seems him as the 'leader'.  I love that she's aspiring to be the leader. 

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 I love this toy brand – it promotes creativity, imagination, friendship, sharing with others, problem solving and mathematics (perfect for the current drive to encourage girls into STEM areas),

But it's not perfect.  Definitely not.  Can you recommend one that is? Let me know.  I'd love to check it out.

Do you know how to 'Talk Like A Pirate'?

Just for a laugh...

Check out this link - How To Talk Like A Pirate - we had such a giggle with it!

 Live Long and Prosper Buckos!

Karen x

Ikea Is Having a Sleepover Spa Event, Will I See You There?

Swedish home furnishing retailer IKEA has announced the opening of its first overnight spa experience – the IKEA Retreat – a pop-up sanctuary designed to make people think twice about the healing power of the bedroom and the bathroom.

On Sunday 7th September, 30 local IKEA FAMILY members will spend the night in the Belfast store indulging in an array of spa treatments and holistic therapies that will show them just how easy it is to have a wonderful start and end to everyday.

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Myriam Ruffo, head of bedroom and bathroom at IKEA, explained: “Our recent Life at Home study revealed the toll that our busy lives are taking on us, with Northern Ireland residents experiencing 13 bouts of stress a day. What’s more worrying is that two thirds of us feel stressed before we even get out of bed.

“It’s vital that people create a space where they can completely escape and find ways to organise their lives to combat stress before it has even begun. Luckily, just a few small changes can make a big difference. This event will show people that you really don’t have to go to a retreat to have a treat; there are lots of simple ways to unlock the healing power of the bedroom and the bathroom so you can start and end each day better.”

The IKEA Retreat is just one in a series of in-store events at IKEA. On the 13th and 14thSeptember, the Ideas Festival will provide customers with even more inspiration with interactive workshops, fun activities and fantastic IKEA FAMILY offers – all demonstrating how one small change in the bedroom and bathroom can make a big difference.

The IKEA Retreat is open to IKEA FAMILY members and will take place at IKEA Glasgow, IKEA Belfast, IKEA Warrington, IKEA Lakeside and IKEA Manchester. To apply to attend, or for more information on the Ideas Festival, simply visit the participating store’s website https://events.myikeafamily.com/

Find 26 tips to help you start and end your day better at http://www.ikea.co.uk/wonderfuleveryday

Bird Taxidermy Inspired Brooches & Hat Pins by Wendy Goode

My lovely parents-in-law bought me this splendid bullet shell & feather brooch for my birthday a couple of weeks ago. I received it yesterday and I love it. It's very 'me'. I'm guessing they picked it up for me at the Dublin Horse Show, which they are just back from. One of their horses, Sox-et-set, was the overall Cob winner, so it was a great show for the Smyths.

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Wendy Goode's website has dozens of feather accessories to choose from.

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There are also some incredible interior items.

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Protecting Expensive Home Interiors

A touch of good design can mean the difference between a house and a home. Whether it comprises retro wallpapers or sleek modern lines, the interior of your home is just as important as its size and location. For this reason, it's no surprise that some people spend a lot of money fixing up their home interiors.

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From one-off pieces of furniture to skilfully applied paintwork, it sometimes doesn't take long to rack up a decent-sized bill when you're making the perfect home. Needless to say, when your dream home is in place, the last thing you want is for it to become damaged. Here, we take a look at a few things you can do to protect your expensive home interiors.

Maintenance

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Looking after the interior of your home isn't solely a matter of doing all you can to prevent running into problems. Sometimes it can require active maintenance to keep the nicest aspects of your home looking as they should. This could mean touching up the paintwork, or even applying protective substances such as varnish to delicate items.

Surveillance

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Sadly, some homes can become the victims of vandalism. The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to protect against this happening to your own home. CCTV is one of the most effective ways of keeping vandals away from your home and keeping your expensive design elements in one piece. Needless to say, CCTV maintenance is just as important as maintaining the home itself.

Protecting from the elements

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Some items which you bring into the home could be very fragile. Even when kept inside, it's not unusual for certain things to be harmed even by indirect contact with the elements. It's important to keep an eye on things like open windows in adverse weather to ensure that no harm comes to your interior.

Be careful

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Simple though it seems, the only way to ensure that no damage comes to your new interior is to be careful. Of course, this doesn't just go for residents, but for guests as well. Accident or not, spillages can be a particularly troublesome occurrence when it comes to expensive interiors.

If there are particularly valuable items on show in your home and you are having a large number of guests over, it's advisable to put the items away, out of harm's way. As vigilant as you can be in protecting these items, accidents can always happen.