Thursday, 28 September 2017

Spending family time together at breakfast with Ready Brek

Please excuse my disappearance over the past few months.  We've been busy moving.  Packing up our lives and moving 200 miles across the country.  It's entailed a house sale and purchase; a new job; a new school and countless hours of soul-searching about leaving friends and family behind, but we did it for the promise of a better work-life balance and more family time together.

It's working out pretty well.  The Other Half has swapped his daily 3-hour-plus commute for a round trip of about 40 minutes and it has enabled us to finally be able to all sit down together and eat as a family EVERY DAY - both breakfast AND dinner.  There was no chance of having breakfast together previously, with him up and out every morning long before I'd even stirred.  It meant the morning struggle of juggling all the family chores (you know, feeding the dog, walking the dog, getting breakfast, clearing breakfast, making packed lunch, asking child to get ready for school, asking again, asking for a third time, the inevitable hunt for a missing pencil case/football boot/water bottle etc etc) all fell to me, and tempers were often frayed.  Now I have someone to share these tasks with each morning things are so much calmer!

Having breakfast together has become a real pleasure so I was delighted when Ready Brek asked me to put their cereal to the test.  Now, I clearly remember the TV adverts for this from my childhood, with the kid skipping off to school with the Ready Brek glow - central heating for kids.  For some reason we never had it in my house growing up - it will go down in the annals of family history along with other items I was deprived of - the Mr Frosty slush maker and that money box that dispensed little miniature chocolate bars... bitter - moi?

Anyway, we all enjoy porridge and even though I've avoided gluten for well over a year now, I've found that normal porridge oats are fine for me.  Gluten and my stomach don't get on, but thankfully oats cause me no problems at all (oats are naturally gluten free but may be mixed with other cereals in the processing stage which is why you'll find gluten-free oats for coeliacs).

Ready Brek is a great choice for kids and provides them with slow-release energy to get them through the school day.  Many children's cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals, but unfortunately they also tend to come loaded with added sugar and salt.  Ready Brek contains no added salt or sugar and provides Vitamin Bs, Vitamin D and Calcium.  It is finely milled making a super smooth and creamy texture and is so quick and easy to prepare.

Like the Three Bears, we all take our porridge differently, and we've been experimenting with different toppings to come up with our favourites.  I like that I can prepare the toppings in advance and keep in the fridge, or use store cupboard items and then just make one big pan of Ready Brek - we all get what we like but essentially I'm just making the one breakfast.

Since moving to Somerset, I've been staggered at the amount of apples around. I mean, I knew it was famous for cider but seriously, practically every field is an orchard and every single garden contains at least one apple tree.  It means you can wonder down the road, happily picking up windfalls, or help yourself to some from the many buckets outside people's homes offering them for free.  I have a very sweet tooth in the morning, so I like my Ready Brek with some spiced stewed apple and a drizzle of maple syrup.

The quickest and easiest way to make up a batch of the apple sauce is as follows:

Peel, core and chop one large cooking apple.
Please in a non-metallic bowl with a sprinkle of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon, all spice and nutmeg and a splash of water.  
Cover with cling film and microwave on high for 1 minute.
Remove from microwave and stir.  The apple should be soft and fluffy, if not, cook for a further 30 seconds.

The Old Man likes to be super-healthy with his breakfast, usually eating nuts, seeds and fruit so his winning combination was blackberries and chia seeds. We've been blessed with an abundance of blackberries this year and I'm frantically picking them to freeze or make juice and jam with before the end of September when legend has it the Devil pees on them and makes them all inedible!  

For his, I cook up some blackberries with a little sugar, much like making jam but before taking it to the furious boil and setting point.  The cooked blackberries keep well in a covered pot in the fridge for a week or two.

Like me, Ruby also has a sweet tooth in the morning.  Her absolute favourite topping is a spoonful of chocolate hazelnut spread and a handful of toasted hazelnuts for some added crunch.

The only problem is our happy family breakfasts are now filled with banter about whose breakfast is best!  What do you think?  Which would you choose or do you have your own idea?  I'd love to hear in the comments.

And you can check out how some other bloggers like their Ready Brek in these posts:

The Mummy Sphere makes banana breakfast muffins with hers
Pink Oddy has lots of suggestions including overnight oats, smoothies and flapjacks

This is a collaborative post with Ready Brek.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Harper Collins Summer Reads - Grandpa's Great Escape inspired days out and a book bundle giveaway!

I'm delighted to have been asked to take part in the Harper Collins Summer Reads Book Tour, joining with a bunch of other lovely bloggers talking about our favourite kid's books and sharing some ideas for nurturing the love of reading.

We've picked a David Walliams book as he's a very firm favourite in this house. It's no secret that we're massive fans of his, desperate to get our hands on new releases as soon as they come out.  We had a fabulous time hearing him talk on stage last year about his Midnight Gang book, and we got our grubby mitts on his follow up World's Worst Children book as soon as it was published.

We've chosen to talk about another of his books, Grandpa's Great Escape as it's so well loved in this house.  Ruby's teacher read it to the class last year when they were studying World War II, and it's since been read and re-read countless times at bedtime.

Hearing David talk about his inspiration for characters, he said that it can be found everywhere and in everyone.  Much like another favourite, Gansgta Granny (see below for last years World Book Day dress up!), it's refreshing to have older people as the heroes.  Elderly folk can be overlooked by the youth as having little to offer, but talking to them you soon begin to understand the exciting lives they have lead and the adventures they've had.

As someone who has just lost their last grandparent at the ripe old age of 99, I looked with wonder and admiration at the photos of my Nana in her youth, exploring the countryside, riding her bike for hundreds of miles over dale and moor, carrying camping gear on her back, swimming in rivers and cooking on a campfire.  It's easy to forget they were young once, full of vibrancy and vigour.  It's also this generation who can tell, first hand, the stories of wartime Britain.

Grandpa's Great Escape does just that, as Grandpa recounts his heroic tales from the time he was a Spitfire pilot soaring through the skies,  to his grandson Jack.

For me, the book is tinged with sadness - an elderly grandparent suffering from dementia, someone who survived the war, worked hard all their life to be written off and confined to a non-caring care-home, but that's me still dealing with my own grief.  For the most part, and for the child audience it's written for, it's full of charm, humour and adventure.

If you are not familiar with the book, I'm sure this clip of David Walliams reading from Grandpa's Great Escape will persuade you to give it a go.

Daring escapes, thrilling aerial displays and parachute descents into Buckingham Palace, this book has it all, and I've come up with some ideas for the summer holidays for fans of the book.

Whilst I don't recommend trying to steal a Spitfire, or even taking a nap in the cockpit, take a visit to see the Battle of Britain planes close up.

Not only does the museum itself feature in the plot - you can see the domed roof with the portal windows where Jack and Grandpa sneaked in and the huge canons they used to climb up - but you can also learn all about family life during wartime in the permanent exhibition, covering all aspects of living in London including The Blitz, air-raid shelters and rationing. And of course you can marvel at the planes and tanks on display.  The newly refitted museum has a huge atrium where you will find the Sopwith Camel, the Spitfire and the Mark V tank as mentioned in the book.

Admission is free.

Imperial War Museum, Manchester

If you're based in the north of England, then pop along to Manchester IWM and see their exhibition of the Manchester Blitz, to understand more about what it was like during that time, and you can learn about the RAF pilots the 'Dam Busters'. Admission is free.

IWM, Duxford, Cambridgeshire

Entrance fees apply here (£18 per adult and £9 for children 5-15).  At Duxford you can get up close with a Spitfire, a Lancaster and a Tiger Moth. Visit the Battle Of Britain exhibition and hear real-life heroes talk of their memories of defending Britain's skies.  The first Spitfires flew from RAF Duxford.

Duxford is famous for it's air shows, the next of which will be the Flying Legends Airshow weekend of 8th and 9th July, and the Battle of Britain Airshow in September.

RAF Museum, Hendon

Whilst admission is free, you might want to book yourself on the flight simulator at £3 per person, and see if you could cut it as a Wing commander or a Squadron Leader.  Or perhaps experience the 4D interactive flight show complete with sounds, movement, smoke effects and even water spray for a fully immersive experience of life in the air. Or for £10, you can join the 'Spitfire Cockpit' gang and sit in a real-life Spitfire.  Restrictions and exclusions apply, so please check before visiting.

photo credit: The MummySphere 

I hope that's motivated you to have a Great Escape of your own.  To help inspire a summer of adventures for you, I'm offering readers the chance to win a bundle of Harper Collins children's books as featured above.  These include:

The World's Worst Children 2 by David Walliams

Animalcule  by David Baddiel
Finding Gobi (Young Readers Edition) by Dion Leonard
Paddington's Finest Hour - By Michael Bond (who will be sadly missed, RIP)
Goodly & Grave in a Bad Case of Kidnap by Justine Windsor
Darkmouth - Hero Rising by Shane Hegarty
Grandpa's Great Escape by David Walliams
The Fox & The Ghost King by Michael Morpurgo
Pirate Blunderbeard by Amy Sparks and Bed Cort
Radio Boy by Christian O'Connell

To enter, please complete the rafflecopter and tell me what is your child's favourite book and what adventures or days out has it inspired.

This giveaway is open to UK entrants only.  One winner will be chosen at random after the closing date at midnight on Sunday 23rd July 2017.  Don't forget to visit the other #HCSummerReads blogs and follow on Twitter for more chances to win.

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Pizza Express Live at High Holborn - A New London Music Venue

It's no secret that I'm a Pizza Express lover.  I always have been, but since going gluten-free 18 months ago to try and address some of my health issues, I've fallen even further in love with it - hell they even now stock gluten-free beer. 

In my opinion, it's the best chain restaurant for gluten-free diners, as there's so much choice and you don't need to miss out on your favourites - hello dough balls!

I was invited along with a bunch of lovely bloggers to the newly refurbished and relaunched branch at High Holborn. Really easy to get to, it's just across the road from Holborn tube station, and a short stroll from Covent Garden and Theatreland making it perfect for a meal with friends.

The purpose of our visit was two-fold.  To experience a pizza-making party, and to get a sneak peek of the basement music venue, Pizza Express Live before it opens to the public with live music and comedy artists.

Now, the pizza party was fun!  I've been to kids pizza making parties at Pizza Express before, in fact we booked one for Ruby a couple of years ago and I have to say I was a bit jealous of the fun they had.  

Slightly awkwardly, we were in the main restaurant area, with other diners all around, and very close to the kitchen where the professional chefs were doing their thing.  The pressure!

The table was all prepared for us, each station had its own apron and hat, and we nervously took our places.  We had a lovely member of staff dedicated to us to show us how it was done and another who kept us supplied with all the ingredients we needed. Clever trick - each person's hat is numbered, then a little numbered label goes onto the pizza before going into the oven to ensure everyone gets the correct pizza.  The paper labels are soaked in olive oil to prevent them from burning.

As a gluten-free diner, I was curious how this was going to work as the gluten-free bases are all pre-prepared and sealed, made in a certified GF factory rather than fresh on site like the normal dough.  However, they were more than happy to give me some dough to play with, so I still got the experience of rolling it, twirling it and fitting it to a pan.  They then let me put toppings on a second, gluten-free base so I could eat it after cooking - winner!

Making your own pizza certainly adds to the experience of eating out.  It's great to be able to pick exactly what you want on it with toppings, but also decide how thick you want your base, whether you want a crust, how much cheese you want, and then have the anticipation of waiting for your creation to come out of the oven.  The host made the activity fun and light-hearted, but I did still feel like I'd learnt some skills.  I can see an adult pizza party working really well as a hen-do or a work outing/team-building exercise.

We returned to our table to await the arrival of our cooked pizzas and enjoyed some prosecco and dough-balls while soaking up the new decor.  Sumptuous deep-buttoned tan leather bench sofas, chevron wooden styling on the walls, the archetypal Pizza Express marble table tops and low hanging pendant lighting made for a very Instagram-worthy setting.

After a lovely meal, and a little light-hearted competition over who had made the best pizza, we were shown down to the basement, the new live music venue. Pizza Express Dean Street in Soho has long been famed as a jazz venue, and more recently The Pheasantry in Chelsea came second only to The Royal Albert Hall as the Best Live Music Venue in the London Lifestyle Awards.  Pizza Express Live at Holborn is set to follow in these footsteps, with a Manager who is passionate about music.

The beautiful, atmospherically styled basement is so new you could still smell the oak flooring.  Due to open in September with music greats such as Mica Paris and Tom Chaplin, comedy legend Johnny Vegas and some 'audience with' guests such as ex-Arsenal player Paul Merson, they will be launching with a bang.

The acoustics in the dining room and the state-of-the-art sound system are going to make for very memorable nights out, where you can experience the intimacy of hearing great artists in a small venue.  The stage is the same level as the diners, with bar-style seating in-the-round meaning you can get up close and personal with the acts, whilst enjoying your favourite foods from the menu, or a drink from the bar.

Like upstairs, the styling is exquisite, oak parquet flooring, leather and velvet seating and wooden chevron panelled walls with moody lighting.  I definitely think this is going to rival the other Pizza Express Live branches.

This is a venue to keep your eye on. You heard it here first!

Disclosure: Thanks to Pizza Express for their hospitality. This is a collaborative post.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

New Horizons and New Starts with Comic Relief

The table is strewn with packs of Monster Munch and Haribos.  The smell of acetone from the nail polish remover burns my nostrils. A gaggle of teenage girls paint their nails, and apply make-up, expertly contouring and checking their handiwork in compact mirrors.  There's light-hearted banter and chatter filling the room.

This could be any teenage girl's bedroom in the country.  Except it's not.

I feel slightly uncomfortable and intrusive as I'm lurking in the background of the weekly Women's Group that takes place at the New Horizon Centre near Kings Cross, especially when I learn the golden rule: What happens in Women's Group, stays in Women's Group.

Suddenly, the girls decide that they will go around the room, taking it in turns to each pay each other a compliment.  They comment on each other's beautiful eyes, their smiles, their open nature.  Then they turn to Hazz.

Hazz is the Women's Worker, a full-time employee funded by Comic Relief.  It's the first time I realise that she's an employee rather than one of the group. The session is being led not by her, but by two of the young women in the group.  They cajole her into saying something nice about each of them, and without missing a beat, Hazz speaks eloquently about positive attributes each young woman has - whether it's incredible artistic talents, a non-judgemental attitude or complete reliability and dedication, it's clear she knows these girls inside out.

I know if I'd heard these affirmations said about me, I'd leave the session feeling a million dollars, but it's only after, after we hear these young people's stories it dawns on me what a lifeline these positive comments can be. For young women who have had their self-confidence and feeling of self-worth systematically sapped from them, this boost is incredibly important.

Women's Worker Hazz - left

After the session, we meet Farrah*.  She is breathtakingly beautiful, and if life had dealt her a different hand you could easily see her as a famous young British actress treading the boards on the West End.  She secured a place at a prestigious youth theatre group but unfortunately her alcoholism put an end to that.

She started drinking as a young teenage girl, like many of her peers.  However, coming from a devoutly religious family, this was not accepted and she was soon ostracised.  The drinking spiralled and she'd often go missing for days on end. Her increased drinking lead her to mix with the wrong crowd, and she found herself in dangerous situations. 

And then one day she was raped.

Her bravery talking about this was incredible.  Clearly still raw she didn't go into details, except to say that it never resulted in a criminal prosecution for the perpetrator.  The case was dropped.  It is agonisingly difficult to comprehend this injustice and the lack of closure this has given her.  The distrust of the law and the feelings of self-doubt.  

At her lowest ebb, she found New Horizons and with the support of staff like Hazz, she is putting her life back together.  A young girl, only a few years older than my daughter, let down by every establishment that should have been there to help her - her family, school, social services, the police...

The experiences this young woman has had in her short life are heartbreaking - death threats from her family, hospitalisation from suicide attempts, a brutal sexual assault and homelessness.  If it hadn't been for New Horizons, she genuinely doesn't know where she'd be right now.

But with help to get away from the environment she'd found herself in, support to find accommodation, counselling to deal with her mental trauma, and the re-building of her self esteem, she's now completing a course to start her own business as a make-up artist and has been sober for over a month. Her eyes shine bright with determination, and you can tell, she's turned a corner.

Senior Youth Worker, Steven offers a friendly and non-judgemental welcome to all new visitors

Then we meet Polly* and Lucy*. What's clear, is that each young women has their own story, but also just how easily it could happen to anyone. Without the support of a loving family, these incidents can be the catalyst for a life to quickly spiral out of control.  Lucy tells that she "owes more to the workers at New Horizon that she does to her own mother".

Lucy is a strong-willed and incredibly likeable person.  She's feisty and passionate and you can see how, when not channelled positively it led her to scrapes with the police.  She feels sure that if it weren't for Hazz, she'd be on the streets doing drugs right now.  Instead, with the right guidance and nurturing, she's now leading some sessions at Women's Group and is passionately standing up for women's rights.  She talks about how young girls are so often bombarded with cat-calls and derogatory comments in the street or in a bar, but that behaviour is not tolerated here.  All the visitors to the centre must treat each other with respect, and not only does this help the female visitors feel comfortable and safe, but it shows the young men that this behaviour is wrong and that women must be treated equally.  She's a feisty feminist ready to take on the injustices of the world.

Hazz has been working at the centre for 6 years.  Her three-year full-time contract is funded by Comic Relief.  She's modest when it comes to the success she's had here and the incredible impact she has made on people's lives. Without any judgement at all, she's always ready to listen and is one of those people who just always seems to know exactly the right thing to say.

The wide range of activities and life skills workshops on offer

The holistic approach taken by the staff compliments the practical help offered at the centre.  From housing benefit advice to serving hot meals and offering a laundry service, this is a lifeline to many.  Without your generous support of Comic Relief's fundraising, these kind of places couldn't exist, and the final safety net for vulnerable young people might disappear.

* Names changed

Special thanks to Ali for organising the visit, to all the staff at New Horizons and the inspiring young women who allowed us into their sanctuary. Check out the other posts from Chocolate is not the only fruit, Being Mrs C, Mad Mum of 7 and Missy B and Family. If you'd like to donate to this year's joint blogger effort of Team Honk for Comic Relief, please do so here.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Share a photo, Give a Meal to Trussell Trust Food Banks

It's easy to take for granted how fortunate I am.  There's always food in the fridge and the freezer, and even at the end of the month, there's always plenty of staples in the cupboard to cobble together meals. There are times when I've had a busy day and am too tired to cook and I can just pick up the phone and order a takeaway.  Or if we have something to celebrate, we'll think nothing of going out to dinner.

It's easy to forget that not everyone is this fortunate.  Today, in 2017, the use of food banks in the UK is still on the rise.  Food insecurity is a massive issue in the UK.

  • More than 8 million Brits live in households that struggle to put food on the table
  • 4.7 million regularly go a day without eating
  • 3 million people in the UK are malnourished
  • Food poverty in the UK is rising at alarming rates
  • The lowest income households in the UK only have on average of £3.00 per day to spend on food
  • Studies show a lack of flavor in diets reduces energy levels and creates negative thoughts.

These statistics, while shocking, are not so hard to understand when you think that most of us are only a pay check away from finding ourselves in this situation.  Family circumstances can change in a heart beat, and it's frighteningly easy for people to find themselves calling on a food bank for a crisis parcel.  It could be a redundancy, sudden ill health, a relationship breakdown, a mix up with benefits or debt problems...

Knorr have started a campaign which is running until midnight on 27th March 2017, where you can help in such an easy way, why wouldn't you do it?  Simply share a photo on Instagram, a black and white photo of your meal using the hashtag #FlavourForAll and Knorr will donate the value of a meal to the Trussell Trust to help someone who is suffering food insecurity.

If you need more persuasion, please do take a look at some of their videos which show just what a difference the Trussell Trust make.  Not just giving emergency food parcels, but offering a friendly face, a cup of tea and a chat, a non-judgemental ear to listen and practical advice and signposting to deal with the root causes.

Why don't you share your meal today and help give a nourishing meal to someone who needs it?

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

If You Go Down To The Woods Today...Gruffalo Spotting With the New App

Have you heard what's happening at forests up and down the land?  For several years now, the Forestry Commission have been in partnership with the well-loved Julia Donaldson tale The Gruffalo and Magic Light Production (makers of the animated film).  They have Gruffalo sculptures hidden in the woods to discover and trails to follow, but now, for the first time they have embraced state-of-the-art technology and bring us a new augmented reality app to bring the Gruffalo and his forest friends to life.

Admittedly, this new app is aimed at younger audiences (pre-schoolers and early-years) and at nearly nine I wondered what Ruby would think of it.  But it's such a dearly loved story, ingrained on this generation's psyche and the added benefit of using an app really appealed!  We are an outdoorsy family, so I had some qualms about bringing technology out on our walk, but actually, it worked really well and enhanced the experience rather than being a distraction.

We tried out the trail at nearby Wendover Woods (you can check your nearest forest and launch dates here). You can purchase a pack to accompany the trail from the cafe or the Go Ape Centre for £3 and although it's not vital for following the trail, it will give you items to help you on your quest, as well as extra materials to extend the fun such as animal activity sheets and fact cards.

We visited on a Saturday morning and it was reasonably busy, but with everyone going at their own pace there was plenty of space and we weren't rushed.  If you're going with pre-schoolers I'd recommend trying to go in off-peak times such as during a school day.

First stop was the cafe for vital re-fuelling - hats of the Cafe in the Woods for excellent gluten-free carrot cake!  You can purchase your pack here.

Cafe in the Woods make a mean hot chocolate.

A short stroll over to the play area, and you soon spot signs for the start of the trail.  This first section was very very muddy and we did see a few parents with buggies struggling - I'd recommend an all-terrain pushchair.  But after the initial mud-fest the rest of the trail was on well-maintained pathways and easy to negotiate.  A word of warning - this first short section is shared use with mountain-bikers and they can come tearing round so keep little ones and dogs on a short leash!

Clear, easy to spot signposting along the way

As you reach fork in the path, the mountain bikers go off on their own way, and you have the path to yourself.  The trail has lots of signs and clues to find along the way, indicating which of the characters you'll find next - will it be mouse, or owl or snake?  It was nice that you didn't need your phone until a little way along the trail when you come to the first augmented reality sign. It gave us chance to settle into the forest, enjoy the colours and smells and relax.

The bold, colourful signage is easy to spot, making the way and giving clues

While some children were racing on from one sign to the next, others were ambling, stopping for a splash in a muddy puddle or to pick up a pretty leaf. You really can go at your own pace.

The trail took us through parts of the forest we'd not explored before, past beautiful vistas and mossy glades and we all really enjoyed just being outdoors in nature on what was the first real spring-like day of the year.  We heard a woodpecker's hammering echoing around the forest and found huge piles of autumn leaves to kick through.

The whole trail at Wendover was about 2km but it didn't feel like it to us - I guess littler legs might feel it though?

Once we reached our first Gruffalo Spotter sign and were able to turn on the app, we were all captivated by the magical animation.  It was fabulous to be able to take shots via the app of Ruby with the characters, and of course, you are then able to share them on social media.

The animation is magical

The app is fairly straightforward to operate, instructions and guiders on the screen show you where to point it (tip - you have to be fairly close).

How the screen looks in app, with guiders showing where to point

Each time you find a character and bring it to life, you are rewarded with a fact card on the app - rather like a Top Trump card, giving details of the creature's attributes.  There are suggestions of activities to do aswell - can you stomp like a Gruffalo?  And at the end you earn a 'certificate'.

It looks as though each creature can only be animated once, with only one child that wasn't a problem for us, but I guess if you have siblings you may want to download it to more than one phone if you can.  I think if we want to do the trail again, we'll have to delete the app and reinstall it for another time.

We saw lots of children and parents enjoying the app, it takes a bit of practice to position yourself in the best place for a photo with the creature, but it was great fun.  Some younger children may struggle with the concept - they are standing in front of a sign and not seeing what the phone operator sees, so it's worth switching between adult and child having a go.

Enter Gruffalo stage right!
Be warned - he's HUGE. You can't even see Ruby hiding behind him!
We thought this new technology was a great addition to a forest day out and I'm sure some less outdoorsy people could be tempted into the woods with it. The app is free to download (just search Gruffalo Spotter), you don't need any data or connection to use it once you're in the forest, but because signal isn't always great in the woods, remember to download it before your visit.


Find out more on the Forestry Commission website.

Disclosure: We were sent an activity pack for the trail.

Country Kids

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Baebox - A Positive Subscription Box for Girls

For several months now, Ruby has been receiving Baebox subscription boxes. These monthly boxes are the trend at the moment and you can sign up to have everything from coffee, chocolate, books and  make-up delivered as adults, but as far as I know Baebox is one of a kind.  Aimed initially at tween girls from the ages of 8-12, they have now branched out into the teen market offering packages for girls from 13-15 and there's even a boys version on the horizon.  

Why are they different?  Well, because they follow the same aspirations as many modern parents have for their daughters and promote positive, motivational and inspirational messages.  There's so many more worries in the modern world when it comes to bringing up children and concern for emotional wellbeing is right up there.  With pressure about body-image coming from all angles - the media, advertising and the music industry right through to people airbrushing their lives on social media - it's hard for girls nowadays to feel comfortable about who they are.  Add to that the fact that we're still even now, trying to break the glass ceiling and contending with sexism and stereotyping in all aspects from subject choices at school, sport and ultimately career choices and it's a tough old world!

Baebox, as well as delivering age-appropriate treats which are not all about beauty and fashion, also delivers something much more important.  It delivers confidence.

Ruby's room is now full of little affirmations, hanging plaques and postcards with motivational message on.  And you know what?  I really think it's starting to make a difference.

I'm fairly sure I can't put it all down to the wonders of Baebox, but I think it's certainly helping and the change in Ruby's self-esteem and confidence is clear to see.  She's started doing much more sport - she's signed up to do a fencing course at school and she's enrolled for her indoor climbing certificate at the local leisure centre.  To see her scaling up a 10 metre high wall every week fills me with pride.  She's just been chosen to represent her school in a swimming gala and she's been elected to the Eco Council.  She's even joined a drama club and now sings and dances in front of audiences - something I never thought I'd see!

So, as a parent, you can perhaps see why I love Baebox so much.  But Ruby adores it too.  Each month, she eagerly awaits her delivery.  Like any child, she loves getting her own mail, and who wouldn't want a box of treats in the post?  It gives her something to look forward to, and she really enjoys all the messages inside the box.

Her confidence has grown so much, she's even decided she'd like to do her own Youtube videos.  This is one of her first attempts, and while she can see there's lots she can improve on, she's determined to do it all by herself and learn as she goes.

I'm so proud of her, and grateful to Baebox for giving her that confidence boost.

Each month's box contains different items.  This month you can see, was an organiser which is already being used to plan her activities and homework, a very cool water bottle which went straight to school with the very next day, an emoji lip balm (anything emoji is just fine with her!), some chocolate - a rare treat in the boxes, but it is for Easter - and a wall-hanging sign which went up in her room right away.  Previous months have included keepsake tins, money boxes, a yoyo, stationery and stickers.  The emphasis is very much away from hair and make-up which I think is completely right for this age.

She loves the styling, the packaging and of course the excitement of the postwoman delivering her mail. Occasionally Ruby gets something in her box which she isn't keen on, but that's to be expected I think - you can't please everyone all of the time!  She's keen to move up to the Teen box, but she's only 9 so I think there's plenty of time for that yet!

Baeboxes are great as gift ideas and you can either buy them as a one-off or sign up to a subscription for 3, 6 or 12 months.  Thank you Team Baebox for such a wonderful idea.

Disclosure: We were gifted a trial run of boxes but all opinions are our own.