Essex Mums Newsletter January 2016
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The Forum  *   Essex Mums Love...  *   Things to Do  *   Places to Go   *   Places to Eat      Directory  *   Getting Active  *   Product Reviews   *   New on the Shopping Guide   *   Pregnancy & Parenting Articles   *   Recipes   *   Craft Ideas   *   Educational Activities   *   Special Offers   *   Blog   *   Events   *   New Groups & Classes   *   Ad Rates   *    Competitions
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Happy New Year! I hope you and your family had a wonderful 2015 and that 2016 brings you even more happiness. It's been a great year here at Essex Mums and as the site has continued to grow during 2015 I thought I would take this opportunity to go over the many different areas of the site - I hope that it will continue to be a useful resource for your family.

Once again I would also like to thank everyone who has been a part of the site this past year (and previously). When I started it back in 2008 I never would have dreamt of it becoming what it is now - hopefully a useful and interesting site, but just as importantly, a supportive, friendly and amazing group of parents who have been there for one another through thick and thin. Thank you Essex Mums, there's a lot I would have struggled to get through myself without some of you.

If you have something you'd like to add to the site, please use one of these buttons to get you there quickly!


For a limited time only, Lakeside and Brentwood Karting are offering 50% off all gift vouchers. The vouchers are valid throughout 2016, which means you can visit the award winning go kart circuits for just half the price. Lakeside and Brentwood Karting are the largest and fastest outdoor go karting race tracks in Essex, offering a variety of karts suitable for all skill levels - age restrictions apply.
Purchased gift vouchers are available to download immediately.

Purchase some vouchers for either yourself or a friend and get your Karting in 2016 for half the price!

http://www.lakeside-karting.co.uk/
The Forum
Without the forum, where would we be? So many of us have made great friends here, kids have grown up together and we've given and received some amazing advice as well as just having a lovely place to chat each day. If you've never posted, please make it your new year's resolution to come and say hello; if you posted once but decided it wasn't for you, please give us another chance! We're always happy to see some new faces, just dive right in to one of the daily threads, come and introduce yourself or arrange a meet-up! Don't feel daunted, it really is a friendly and welcoming group. The forum has been a little slower over the last year or so, and it would be nice to have some new faces (and of course the return of some older ones is always welcome too!)


If you're pregnant or already a parent and need some advice, there's always someone who has been there, done that. There's a section for Essex Dads, for those of you who fancy a bit of stardom, who fancy a debate or just want a rant; you can ask for opinions on medical issues, or on schools and nurseries. If you want something different for your child's birthday party you can find it on the forum, and likewise if you have a business opportunity you'd love to share, you can do so here too. There's even an area for buying and selling where you can list items free of charge! The Local Business Noticeboard is a new section of the forum to post about and promote your business to our community. If you are interested in having your posts shared with our Facebook and Twitter followers too, email me on louise@essexmums.org about forum sponsorship at just £20 a year.

As well as that, you can get professional advice from one of our experts:

  • Ask the Baby Expert: Ask Lisa Clegg author of The Blissful Baby Expert any questions you have regarding dealing with everything baby-related. 
  • Ask the Business Expert: Ask our business expert Claire Conby any questions you have about starting up or running your own business.
  • Ask the Children's Physiotherapist: Ask our Children's Physiotherapist Chris Smith from Kidsphysio2u any physical development concerns you may have, or for general children's physiotherapy questions. 
  • Ask the Counsellor: Ask qualified counsellor Amanda Wilkins any questions you have about emotional wellbeing, particularly within the pre natal and post natal period.
  • Ask the Dentist: Have a question about tooth and mouth care? Ask Charl Chapman from Essex Dentist.
  • Ask the Midwife: Any questions about pregnancy, labour, birth or postnatal care? Then ask our experienced midwife for some advice.
  • Ask the Occupational Therapist: Ask our Occupational Therapist Abi Johnson for advice about your child's fine motor skills, handwriting, self-care or difficulty accessing leisure activities.
  • Ask the Solicitor: For legal advice and questions - ask the Solicitors from Leonard Gray LLP 
  • Ask the Speech and Language Therapist: Post your questions about any concerns you have about your child's speech or language development to the Therapists from C&D Independent Speech & Language Therapy
  • Ask the Teacher: Have a question about your child's education? We have a range of teachers from Early Years right up to Secondary ready to help and offer advice
  • Ask the Trainer: Put your health and fitness questions to our forum Personal Trainer Zoe Randall 
  • Ask the Working Mums Coach: Are you are working mum who needs some advice, or are you looking for help to get you back into work? Come and ask our Working Mums Coach from The Pickle Shed
Essex Mums Love...
We followed up with our second Essex Mums Awards this year and they were even more popular than last year, with tens of thousands of nominations and votes for the people, places and things that make life as a parent in Essex that bit better. Check out the wonderful Essex Mums Loves... section to find out who won and read a bit about them. 

The 2016 awards will start in early spring so get your thinking caps on about who you would like to nominate this year, and get in touch if you are a business who is interested in sponsoring them.
Things to Do
Hopefully a section you're all familiar with! The Things to Do section is a fantastic listing of what's on for families across Essex. It's divided into different areas to make it easy as well as types -  one off eventsparent and toddler groups,classesgroups for older children and things for parents. I'm always on the hunt for new goings on so please do contact me if you have anything you would like listed here or just submit the event yourself using our online form. Every event links through to a forum post with more details, which means there is also the opportunity to discuss things you have been to yourself, and find out what others have to say about them. Regular events, venues etc. are also listed on the map, which makes it easy to search for what's on near you.

I'm eager to make sure that all classes, groups etc are as up to date as possible so please send over any new details if you run a class, or let me know if you see something that is no longer running or needs updating. Oh, and make sure you mention you read about it on Essex Mums if you do go along to something new!

If you're looking for some cheap but effective promotion, you can make your event 'Featured'on Essex Mums for just a pound a week. Once you have added your event you can choose the subscribe option below the 'Add Your Event' button to start the Featured ad running, or pay via the Online Ad Payments page. It's only a pound a week, with the amount being charged on a weekly basis, so there is no need to pay the full amount upfront, and you can run the listing for as long as you like. When you want it to finish, simply cancel your subscription. 
Places to Go 
I still have hundreds of great attractions and days out to add to the Places to Go section, which gives detailed descriptions of venues and attractions across the county, divided into categories to make it easy to find something if you fancy a day out. If you would like your place to go listed here, just get in touch on louise@essexmums.org.This section will be having a big revamp in the new year so it's been a bit on hold recently but should be back better than ever soon!
Places to Eat
The Family-Friendly Eats section contains listings and reviews of family-friendly restaurants and cafes, so that parents make informed choices about where their family can enjoy a meal, and where might be best to avoid. It would be great to eventually award establishments certificates of family-friendliness, based on what the users of Essex Mums have said but for that we need more ratings and more reviews, so come and tell us about the best and worst near to you. You can also use the map to find places near you. If you would like to add a place to eat, just use our online form.
Directory
The Directory is your guide to local services, shops and more. There are free basic listings available to all which include contact details, website etc. and inexpensive lifetime listings for those who would like a little more exposure. To add your company, just fill in the online form and submit your listing.
Free Training and Business Advice

Award winning Ignite Business Enterprise are able to offer you free workshops and business advice. Whether you are thinking of starting up, have started or your business has been going for some time, we can help.  Our workshops are running across the whole of Essex until the end of March and cover everything from ‘which social media’ through to 'basic book keeping’ or even ‘marketing on a budget’, to qualify all you need to do is live in Essex and want to learn more. 

For those who want a bit more help and advice, you can arrange to visit our premises in Braintree for a Free advice session and if that’s too far we can arrange for a more local provider to assist you.

To book a workshop or advice session, simply call 01376 340940 or email emma@ignitebusiness.org, workshops can also be booked online www.ignitebusiness.org
 
Product Reviews
Want to find out what's worth buying and what's worth missing out on? Where is good to go and where to avoid? Then consult our crack team of Essex Mums product reviewers before making your purchase! Click on each reviewer on the Product Reviews page to see all of their reviews, or click here to browse the reviews or search by categories such as age range and type of product.

Here are your favourite reviews from last year!
KidsFest 2015
On arrival, we were directed to an overspill car park which was all very well organised and worked out. We entered the farm, no problems and staff were very friendly and helpful, interacting with my three little ones a lot. We were given the wristbands straight away with no queue along with a timetable and map.
Read Michelle's full review here
360 Play, Basildon
Yesterday we were lucky enough to try out the new 360 Play in Basildon. It officially opens today so the kids were super-excited to try it out early.  360 Play is based at Festival Leisure Park in the building that used to house the Ikon and Diva clubs (for anyone who is unfortunate enough to remember them!). 360 Play already have centres in Leicester, Milton Keynes and Stevenage and espouse the idea of being ‘a revolution in play’ which is an intriguing tag line! 

Read Louise's full review
AJ
My daughter Iris turned six a couple of weeks ago and we opted to have a joint birthday party with her friend Suzy. Both share a lot of friends so it seemed a sensible way of splitting the cost and the work and also of taking the pressure off the girls to be the centre of attention. In the Essex Mums awards last year, the Best Party Entertainer winner by a mile was AJ so when Suzy’s mum suggested using him as our entertainer as they had always been fans, I was more than happy to go along with her suggestion and see what the fuss was about. 
Click here to read Louise's full review
Getting Active
Find out how other Essex Mums and their families are getting fit and fabulous in our Getting Active section! Read their wonderful reviews and follow in their footsteps on your own healthy journey. 

Here are a few of the most read reviews from last year:
Dynamic Yoga with Rob Gretton
High intensity boot camps, marathon training, high energy Zumba,  fast paced spin classes and running up 200 steps just so you can pretend to be Rocky when you get to the top (we’ve all done it).  All of these things are great, but what about the slower side of fitness? What about also taking the time to be gentle with ourselves.  
Click here to read Kylee's full review
Forever Living C9 Detox Programme
I’m fairly happy with my health, and weight, and know I am within my healthy BMI: but as a working mum of 2 small children I often find that I can get into a rut of not eating as healthily as I should, and not taking care of myself.
Click here to read Jillian's full review

66% off Kids Pass
Kids Pass are offering an amazing deal for Essex Mums. Purchase an annual kids pass for  just £29:99 (RRP £75:00  â€“ a massive 66% off )

Use the promo code KPCESSEX at the checkout on the kids pass website www.kidspass.co.uk/join
 
WHAT IS KIDS PASS?
A Kids Pass Membership gives you access to the most Incredible deals at 1000’s of Attractions and Restaurants across the UK.

As well as restaurant and attraction savings, you’ll also have complimentary access to Cinema and Theatre Benefits as well as many more offers:
  • Up to 60% off at 100’s of the Top UK Attractions
  • Up to 40% off at over 420 Nationwide Cinemas including: ODEON, Cineworld, Showcase, Empire, Reel and Vue Cinemas.
  • Kids Eat Free at Family Friendly restaurants Nationwide!
  • Up to 60% off Theatre Tickets Nationwide.
  • 25% off Experience Days with Virgin!
New on the Shopping Guide
Looking for great gifts, fairtrade or handmade toys, clothes that are a bit different to what's on the High Street, or just something to treat yourself? You'll find it all and more on the Essex Mums Alternative Shopping Guide! Browse shops on the guide by category, or search the product guide for that perfect buy! 

We are now looking for lovely new shops for our guide this year, so if you think you would be a good fit, please get in touch on louise@essexmums.org
Pregnancy & Parenting Articles
The Pregnancy and Parenting section features fantastic information about different aspects of pregnancy and parenting written by our very own Essex Mums: everything from trying for a baby to raising teenagers.

Here are a selection of your favourite articles from last year:
Dads and Breastfeeding
Some new dads can feel a little left out when they see how much enjoyment their partner is getting from breastfeeding their new baby. They may also feel like they are not getting as much chance to bond with their new child as their partner while she breastfeeds. There is no reason for the father to feel ashamed or worried for thinking this as it is a perfectly normal way for a man to feel and think.
Read more
Parent and Baby Yoga
Parent and baby yoga is extremely beneficial as a bonding process. The parent (usually the mother) gets a special time to just sit and be with her baby, using touch to create a connection together. The whole ethos of yoga practise is to create union with the body and mind, with parent and baby yoga this is extended further creating a union between parent and child. 
Read more
Quiz: Which Playground Mum are you?
The school playground can be a fun place to meet other parents and rediscover the social life you may have lost since having children, or it can be a nightmare of cliques and feeling out of place that might take you back to the worst parts of your own school days. We thought we would take a light-hearted look at the different types of Mums (and Dads!) you might encounter in the playground: the good and the bad! 
Read more here
The UK’s leading children’s theatre company presents
HANDA’S HEN
Sun 24th Jan 2016, 11:30am | 1pm | 3pm
£8 / £5 concession ~ Age: 2-6 yrs
 
 
Following the sell-out tour of Handa’s Surprise, Handa and Akeyo are back, and this time they’re searching for Grandma’s black hen, Mondi. During their search they find two fluttery butterflies round the hen house, three stripy mice under the grain store, four little lizards behind the pots… But where is Mondi?
 
 
"Another winner...a beautiful introduction to theatre - highly recommended." The Ham and High
 
“This warm, inclusive show has an increasingly energising effect on the young audience … a sweet safari…and you learn how to count to ten in Swahili.” The Stage
 
Tickets are now available by calling (01702 328335), emailing (clifftown@essex.ac.uk) and online at www.clifftowntheatre.co.uk - we look forward to seeing you there!


 
Recipes
Take a look at our recipes section for some tried-and-tested family-friendly feeds! Do you have something you would like to add to this section? If so, please share it here. If anyone is interested in becoming a regular contributor please get in touch

Here are a few of your most-loved recipes from last year:
Slow-Cooked Balsamic Chicken Thighs
Something light and summery for tea – serve with veg or a salad and new potatoes.

Read the full recipe from Slow Cooker Crockpot Recipes
Slow Cooked Sweet Potato Chilli
Super-simple and really healthy. Can be eaten with rice or in wraps. Add sour cream, guacamole, salsa and cheese to make it even tastier!

Read Louise's full recipe
 
Morrocan Style Chicken Stew
We all need something to warm us up a bit, especially on a Sunday, so why not try this Moroccan style chicken stew…
Read  the full recipe from Foodie Woodie
 
Craft Ideas
Our Craft Ideas section features arts and crafts for children of all ages. Just click on the image to find out how to make it! If you have any ideas, or would like to write a regular feature for this section, please get in touch! louise@essexmums.org

Here are some of your favourite ideas from last year:
Sticky Monsters
A simple idea sticky back plastic. Create your own crazy monster and decorate your windows! You could also make this a bit festive and make a reindeer or Father Christmas instead!
Read more 
Easy Handprint Flamingo
Looking for a simple but sweet craft idea? This handprint flamingo from Crafty Morning is about as easy as it gets, and looks great! It also makes a great keepsake to look back on how tiny your child’s hand once was.

Read more 
Homemade bath paints
Easy peasy bath paints: combine shaving foam with food dyes. Add paintbrushes (or little fingers) and you can watch them get clean, then colourful, then clean again!
Read more 
Fit & Fun @ Mini Monkey Gym

STARTING ON 25TH FEBRUARY 2016 @ 4PM AT THE KNIGHTSWAY CENTRE BRENTWOOD CM13 2AZ
Ages 4-6 years old 

We offer circuit training in a child friendly environment practicing rolling, balancing, jumping etc.

Among the many benefits are physical fitness, confidence and stronger self-esteem, more energy, better memory, and simply a good feeling about themselves and they are easy to achieve.

We start every session with a welcome song and a warm up and songs throughout the session.

To book your child’s place please contact Val on 07944229138 or email us on brentwood@minimonkeygym.co.uk

www.minimonkeygym.co.uk/brentwood.php
Educational Activities
Our Educational Activities section features ideas to get your kids learning and help them with their homework. We really need some contributors for this section who can come up with some simple ideas, so if you would like to become a contributor or just have a few suggestions, please post them - anything is welcome, no matter how simple

Here are a few of your top activities from last year:
Spelling Menu
Many schools give out a list of spelling words for children to learn each week. If your child struggles with a more traditional approach to learning them and wants something a little more inspiring, why not try one of these fun ideas for a twist on a fairly mundane task. 

Read more
The Key Jar
My parents babysat a few weeks ago and my Mum played a game with them that she had seen someone share on Facebook. It seemed like such a lovely idea I thought it would be nice to share here too. While this isn’t strictly a learning activity in the sense of something the kids would be doing at school, I think it lends itself well to creative thinking, PHSE and learning more about themselves and each other. 
Read more
Minecraft Challenges
Like many parents, I have a computer game obsessed 7 year old and worry constantly about him getting too much screen-time. It’s hard to find the balance between letting them do an activity they enjoy and one which can be creative, imaginative and stimulating, and them becoming pale, twitchy little creatures who have never kicked a football in their lives. 
Read more
Special Offers
Special offers for Essex Mums added this month!
10% off Poppy Red shoes
Poppy Red is a boutique shoe store based in the spa town of Ilkley, West Yorkshire.  We stock a wide range of exciting and fashionable shoes including Lelli Kelly, Mini Melissa, Livie & Luca, Froddo, Kickers, SunSan, Angulus and many more.
Read more
66% off Kids Pass
Kids Pass are offering an amazing deal for Essex Mums. Purchase an annual kids pass for  just £29:99 (RRP £75:00  â€“ a massive 66% off )
Read more
Photography by David Solomon Ltd
A free £65 Studio sitting, including 2 8x6 photos in folders, and 30% off all wall portraits.

Read more
10% off What On Earth Books
What on Earth? Wallbooks are perfect for kids that never stop asking questions.  Curious children can lose themselves in 14-billion years of history, laid out on a series of beautifully illustrated two metre long timelines, with answers to just about every question the adults don’t know. 
Read more
Based in Hadleigh in Essex The Costa Cupcake Company is an award winning fresh young company providing stunning celebration cakes for all occasions. In the words of Tracey-ann, The Costa Cupcake Company is her little piece of heaven and self admits she is not the “normal baker” specialising in Quirky, Shabby Chic, Retro & Vintage designs as well as sugar free, gluten and dairy free cakes.

From birthdays, christenings, and weddings, to corporate events and supplying local tearooms and coffee shops if you are looking for something that’s tastes as amazing as it looks then look no further.  

Mention Essex Mums for your 10% discount.
www.costacupcakecompany.co.uk
01702 741860 / 07447 452125 
Areas we cover: Essex, London ,Hertfordshire,Suffolk


 

Blog
The blog features posts from me as well as from guest bloggers, so if you have something you would like to write, please get in touch!
New Mum’s Resolution
I thought this might be a good opportunity to take a look at the things I want to change… or at the very least improve on this year, with regards to being a parent. Perhaps you would like to share some of your new year parenting resolutions too! 
Click here to read more
Interactive days out parents can have with their children
Time with family is a precious commodity which gets smaller every day, so it is absolutely essential to seize the moment and make the most of the time we have with the people we love. It is not just about quantity of time we spend together either.
Click here to read more
Events
Lots going on this month! You can find full listings on the Things to Do section or search by area using the links below. Make sure you take a look to find fun things to do for your family, and let us know when you try something good. Oh, and remember to say you saw it on Essex Mums!

New Classes and Groups

A selection of new information about classes and groups added this month.  Some are brand new to the site, some just have updates about new venues, details etc. Take a look at the Things to Do section for complete listings.

Classes

Parent and Toddler Groups
Children's Centres Sport

 
Ad Rates
If you'd like to consider advertising on the site, take a look at the Ad Rates page. There is a range of ads to suit all budgets, and if you want to hear how advertising on Essex Mums has worked for others, take a look at the Testimonials page. I am always happy to put together packages that suit you and are normally discounted so get in touch if you have a few ideas about where you'd like to be on the site and we can work together to find something that suits you. If you would like help putting an ad together, we can provide this service free of charge.

If you are interested in being informed of special ad offers, let me know. Offers this month: half-orice homepage ads, new year ad packages.
Everything else
As always, please send any events, feedback, ideas etc. to me at louise@essexmums.org. I love hearing how people use the site and ways I can improve it. The normal newsletter will be back next month - I hope you've enjoyed this overview of the website!

I hope you have a lovely month and that I'll get to see you at a meet-up soon.

Kind regards
Louise
Competitions
Fantastic things to win! Enter one of our great competitions or get in touch if you would like to run something yourself. New competitions are always being added so make sure you check the competitions page for new giveaways, and get in touch if you'd like to run a giveaway yourself. 
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