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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Things I Love - April Edition

It is the end of yet another month in 2013 and I am reflecting on some of the things that I have discovered, used or done, which have made me smile over the last few weeks in my monthly round up of things I love!

De-Cluttering

Now that spring has almost arrived, I am thinking about projects that I would like to do to my home.  We decided that this is the year that we are going to reclaim space in our house that has previously been given over to the accumulated clutter generated by having had five children.  So last week I  blitzed my wardrobe, clearing out six sackfuls of clothing.  I was pretty ruthless deciding that if I hadn't worn it recently or if it was looking a bit tired, it had to go.  It felt quite therapeutic sorting out my wardrobe space.  I had had so many landslides in recent weeks as my irregularly arranged piles of t-shirts, vests, jumpers and nightwear slid over one another as they vied for freedom from their fabric prison.  Making rows of neatly folded articles of clothing and removing the dozens of empty coat hangers from my hanging rail has given my wardrobe a new lease of life.  I found long forgotten clothes so it felt like I'd been on a shopping spree!  Now I just have to apply this principle to the rest of my house!

Springtime 

I love that we are finally beginning to believe that the UK has another season other than winter and there are a host of seasonally themed products appearing in the shops to remind us of this fact.  For instance, you can make your washing-up chores fit in with the season by using new Spring Blossom Persil Washing Up Liquid.  Featuring hints of freesias, white rose, vanilla and dry fruits, the pretty pink washing-up liquid has the perfect aroma to welcome spring into your home.  With its burst of fragrance it makes the kitchen smell fresh, and the sparkling results make cleaning up less of a chore.  It is especially pleasing if your husband is the one who does the washing up!  It retails at £1.00 for a 500ml bottle making it great value too.

persil
I was sent one to try!

Window Blinds

I have always been a curtain-person.  I have only ever had blackout blinds for the kids' rooms and have never previously thought of them as being anything beyond functional.  However, curtains are quite frankly a bit of a pain.  They are a nightmare to hang, the hems fray, the fabric billows in the breeze knocking things over and they are such an all or nothing method of light control.  Recently I have begun to covet the array of blinds that adorn the windows of my neighbours' houses.  They look so stylish and modern with their clean lines that I am thinking that this is the way I should go when I revamp my bedroom.  I love the way that they allow in as much light as you want and they give you privacy.  (I'm forever flashing the neighbours when the curtains are open and the bedroom light is on.)  I really love these Dark Chocolate Vertical Blinds from Web-Blinds which  can be bought online made to measure.  I always enjoy adorning my home with things that are named after food.  I have Pecan paint in my living room, Toffee Fudge in my kitchen and Mint in my hall. It sounds utterly delicious but is totally calorie free.


blinds
Dark Chocolate Vertical Blind  #sp

Birthdays

In our family April is a month of celebrations as both Ella and I have birthdays two days apart.  This year we had a weekend of chaos and fun when everyone descended to help us celebrate.  Then to continue the birthday fun we have had cakes, meals out and made favourite dinners at home.

cakes

cake

Ian took me on a date to see The Evil Dead at the cinema!  He is such a true romantic!!  Even Google got in on the act giving me a personalised home page on my special day.  This really made me smile :)


birthday


TV Finales

Two of our absolutely favourite TV series are coming to an end and we are both excited to see how things pan out and feeling bereft that we will be losing them over the summer.  Dexter and The Following have both had us totally riveted for the last few weeks. Ian, Ella and I have our weekly dates where we join together on the sofa for our fix of our favourite serial killer and our favourite FBI agent who battle it out in their own respective shows.  How will they end??  I can't wait to find out.  I hope some new shows come along to fill the gap.  I have high hopes for Hannibal which starts on Sky Living soon!

Five People You Meet in Heaven

Ella bought me this book for my birthday.  It is by Mitch Albom.  The story follows Eddie, a fairground maintenance guy who dies while trying to save a little girl from being crushed by a ride that has malfunctioned.  He is sent to heaven where he meets five people who significantly impacted his life.  I read it in one day because I didn't want to put it down.  It is a beautiful and powerful book that made me think about how everything that we do impacts on others and reminds us what is important here on Earth.  I highly recommend it for comforting the soul and bringing a little faith and light into your life.

books, Mitch Albom



April in Pictures

family, butlins

Serafino Artisan Glasses from Ozeri

I was recently sent a pair of Serafino Artisan Glasses from Ozeri to try out.  Now, I love enjoying a home made Tassimo Mocha in the evening, and using a fancy glass makes it feel so much more special!  The 12 oz glasses are double walled which keeps the drink hot and your hands cool.  The design is lovely and the curved shape makes the glasses really nice to hold and drink from.  My Serafino Artisan Glass is now my Mocha cup of choice and I really love it.  

Ozeri

Product Specifications


•Serafino ArtisanTM Series 12 oz Double Wall Glasses – (Available in 2-pack boxes).
•Made of durable, heat resistant, mouth-blown borosilicate glass of the finest quality.
•Designed to keep hands cool even with the hottest drinks, and free of condensation with chilled beverages.
•Patent-pending double wall design suspends drinks within an inner wall, creating an engaging optical effect.
•Innovative designs are great for coffee, cappuccinos, hot or iced teas, cocktails and much more.
•Each glass features a wraparound contour that provides a natural aesthetic grip.
•Microwave and freezer safe

The Serafino Artisan Glasses are available from Amazon, currently for sale for £18.95 + p&p
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ozeri-Serafino-Double-Beverage-Glasses/dp/B0069VC3AE

They would make a great gift for a special occasion and come well packaged in a box.

Serafino, Ozeri

Financial Thinkings

When it comes to finances, we should never bury our heads in the sand.  With the current economic climate affecting us all, now is the time to discuss money matters and make plans to protect our families from the recession for now and the future.

Like many families we have financial concerns.  We have two older children who live away from home who we worry about financially.  We often need to help out the kids and a lot of our savings have dwindled because of cars, house deposits and unexpected expenses that they can't afford to pay.  Our 17 year old daughter is going to be going to university in 2014 and will not be entitled to any financial help from the government other than her student loan.  We will be supporting her to fund her living expenses.  Most worryingly of all, Ian's job is yet again under threat as his company has been bought out and many of the personnel are in fear of compulsary redundancies.  It isn't the first time that the fear of being made redundant has reared its ugly head, but it is still just as frightening.  I try not to worry about it too much, because I don't want it impacting too negatively on my everyday life.  But we do need to have plans in place in case of the worst.

I was really interested to follow the Live Financial Q & A (broadcast in conjunction with the Markettiers4dc Parenting Broadcast Blogger Network and brought to you by Bright Grey) which offered advice on financial planning and answered questions that were put to them by other families.  We have always been good with money and have no outstanding debts aside from our mortgage.  However, for the reasons listed above, I can not become complacent about our future. Today's economy is causing us all to feel the pinch, and supporting grown-up kids who are struggling to make their own way in the world is eating up our nest egg. 

The best advice is to balance the incomings and outgoings.  Our income is generally pretty static, but there is lots of maneuverability with what we spend.  Obviously there are the utility bills, mortgage, council tax etc but other expenditure can be cut resulting in big savings.  Keeping a budget plan can really help keep the finances in check.  It is a real eye opener to see where your money goes each month.


savings
Keep an eye on your spending

Living today is expensive, but things we think of as essentials really are not!  Sky TV packages, eating out, takeaways, Starbuck's coffees, top of the range gadgets with high end contracts - these are all luxuries!  There is always room to cut down on your outgoings and spend less on life's incidentals.  Cutting down can save a small fortune every month.  This money can be set aside.

My parents always advocated "saving for a rainy day" and I have followed in their footsteps to some extent.  As I've spent a good proportion of the last 20 years as a stay-at-home-mum, I have not got a retirement plan.  I was pleased to hear that you can make provision for your future through regular savings, you don't need an actual pension.  So I am less panicky about my future income and will be disciplined enough to put something aside for that purpose.

money, saving
Every penny counts

We currently pay out on a life insurance policy and also have an endowment policy from an old mortgage which we still pay into as a windfall for our future.  I often think that we could stop paying into them to save a few pounds and cash in the endowment, but that these are still sound investments.  However, we should consider some financial advice from a professional to make sure all our policies are still  the best for us now.  Circumstances constantly change and we are never sure what lies ahead, so regular financial check-ups can help keep our finances healthy.  Otherwise it's like buying a car and never servicing it!  We need to take care of our finances and professionals are best placed to advise us.

I hope my eldest children soon become financially independent, which will be a massive help to our finances.  However, we still have three other kids to raise and help to  teach the value of money.   In the short term, we will be having a family finance meeting to work out where we can all make savings and to ensure that we put something away every month to build up our savings giving us some financial protection for our futures.  This security is invaluable, because none of us now what tomorrow may bring.

Here is a link to a live financial advice clinic:

http://www.studiotalk.tv/show/live-financial-advice-clinic

It gives plenty of helpful advice to anyone who wants to plan their finances for now and for the future.


Monday, 29 April 2013

Toy Story 4Kids Fruit Pots

Crosse and Blackwell's Toy Story 4Kids Fruit Pots are the perfect addition to lunchboxes.  Individual pots contain real fruit juice jelly containing pieces of fruit and provide one of your five a day.  They are free from artificial colours and preservatives, and are also suitable for vegetarians. Each pot features a Toy Story character: Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Rex, Bullseye or the Alien.  They even come with their own little foldable spoon making a convenient anytime, anywhere snack.

jelly

Freddy and Kizzy both enjoyed the fruity pots of jelly (and I may have enjoyed a Mandarin Jelly myself!)  The only hurdle we came across were that they are a bit tough to get into, so a child may struggle without some grown-up help, if having one in their school lunchbox.  The foldable spoon is a very clever addition that the kids thought was great.  

Each pot is packed with fruit pieces so fruit lovers will enjoy them very much.  The flavour is quite natural and not too sweet or at all synthetic tasting, which we liked.  They are priced at 65p each.

Fruit pots

They come in six fruity flavours:

Apple Pieces in Raspberry Jelly
Mandarin Segments in Mandarin Jelly
Mixed Fruit in Strawberry Jelly
Peach Pieces in Peach Jelly
Peach Pieces in Strawberry Jelly
Pineapple Pieces in Pineapple Jelly

4kids

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Boys' Canvas Shoes On Review

Shoe Zone are the leading value footwear retailer with 550 stores throughout the UK as well as their online store.  They sell over 25 million pairs of shoes every year!  This year I am thrilled to be working with them as a Shoe Zone Mummy, reviewing shoes for myself or one of the kids every month.

With summer (hopefully) approaching, it is time to kit out the children with some clothes and footwear that will see them through the warmer weather.  Freddy is now at the age when he loves to explore, run around and have fun in the sun, so some casual, fun, canvas shoes are a seasonal essential.  As he is learning to be more independent, having a pair of shoes he can get on and off himself is a real bonus.

We were sent the Demo Max Boys Canvas Velcro Shoes, which are a perfect summer shoe for Freddy.  The navy canvas shoe has a red ankle support, stitching and trim making them look rather cool.  The thick, white rubber sole is supportive yet flexible enough to allow small feet to bend and flex.  The double velcro straps are secure, and make it easy for little ones to do up their own shoes, making them an excellent choice for pre-schoolers.

Freddy finds them really comfortable and loves being able to get them on and off independently.  He also says they help him run fast and he likes the blue colour! They are a real bargain at just £4.99.


boys, shoes, summer


Friday, 26 April 2013

Win One Of 20 £500 Red Letter Day Vouchers With Carex

Carex is a brand that we swear by here Inside the Wendy House.  The anti-bacterial hand washes and gels have been helping to keep our hands germ-free for years!  With a bottle of hand wash in our bathrooms and a hand gel kept in my hand bag, we can keep our hands clean wherever we are and whatever we do.

This year Carex celebrates its 20th birthday, and to celebrate has launched a nationwide competition to reward 20 pairs of busy hands around the UK.  The Carex Live Life Hands On Awards celebrate all the wonderful things that we do with our hands everyday.


hand wash
Carex Handwash


Carex wants people to share a day in the life of their hands, showcasing the real life moments that hands unlock, every single day.  So as a busy parent that may entail washing up, doing the laundry, crafting with the kids, feeding the baby, cooking dinner or playing Candy Crush Saga on Facebook (you know it's true)!!  Gardeners, nurses, lollipop ladies, mechanics, school teachers or bakers all have hands that tell stories, and Carex is inviting everyone to show them the amazing things that we do by entering with a couple of sentences, a short written diary, some photos or even video footage.

Chiquitos
Hands Grabbing Popcorn!!

Carex will pick 20 of the most compelling entries to each win £500 worth of Red Letter Day vouchers, plus a year’s supply of Carex hand wash.  The Red Letter Day vouchers can be spent on anything from a complete chill-out weekend at a luxurious spa, an adventure trip with a partner to a family weekend with the kids. It's a fabulous prize! To enter The Carex Live Life Hands On Awards visit http://www.carex.co.uk/carex-live-life-hands-awards and fill out the form.  Then keep those fingers crossed!


luck






Thursday, 25 April 2013

Why I'd Love A New Bathroom

As a mum with a tot, a tween, a teen and two grown-up kids, as well as having one grandchild plus a host of my older kids' respective 'other halves', my home is often filled to capacity. I adore it when my eldest come back home to roost, and having my nest full makes me at my happiest, however when the nest has inadequate bathroom facilities it can become a bit of a struggle!

We have two bathrooms in our house which should be enough for a family of seven plus a few extras in the way of fiancees, boyfriends, my grandson and various random sleepover guests.  Sadly however our current bathing situation falls very short from ideal.

I have my own small en-suite shower room off of my master bedroom.  When I bought the house I dreamed of at last having the privacy and freedom of my own en-suite. It was something I had always wanted and I was ridiculously excited about it.  My first luxury, just for me, after contending with sharing a single bathroom with five children and my husband for many years.  I felt is was probably well deserved.  No more fighting over bathroom space with the kids.  Being able to keep it clean and tidy, free from all the kids' paraphernalia and heaps of discarded damp towels.  No one knocking on the door yelling at me to hurry up because they needed to use the bathroom to do their make-up/wash their hair/shave their legs etc.  Sadly the dream went down the plug hole on day one.

down the drain

The problem is that our family bathroom is woefully inadequate and not well put together by the builders who knocked my new build home together six years ago.  From the start I was disappointed by the shoddy workmanship, the loose bath side panel, the ill fitting sink stand, the radiator (that is so thin I think it's made out of tin foil and has since rusted and leaks), the inefficient extractor fan, the toilet that just doesn't flush that well and constantly dribbles water and the taps that corroded within the first few months of use.  It was cheaply thrown together using substandard materials. There is no overhead shower at all and the odd sized bath taps meant we couldn't even fit one ourselves, not even the cheap, hose attachment kind.  The children all favour showers over bubble baths, and even if they do have a bath can't wash their hair properly without a shower attachment and end up in my en-suite to rinse.  So my family bathroom simply isn't good enough or functional enough for the five children to use.

So, my en-suite has become the family bathroom.  A stream of kids come through my bedroom on a daily basis to use my facilities.  Sometimes I'll be asleep in bed at night when one of them decides that they need a shower before going to college the next morning.  The extractor fan, the noise from the shower and the light under the door are not conducive with my beauty sleep!

Other times I'll be having a rare lie-in when one of the older kids along with their partners decide that they need to use the shower, and I am forced to hide under the duvet until I can scurry away, out of my own room so they don't see me in my embarrassingly, revealing pyjamas, or I see them later emerging into my bedroom wearing nothing more than a towel and a smile.

The amount of times I've gone to use my shower and found the floor soaking wet with soggy towels strewn across the toilet lid and upturned bottles of shampoos and shower gels dripping their contents into the base! The en-suite I dreamed off was a luxurious little haven with scented candles in crystal bowls, a shelf of my favourite products ready to use and an abundance of fluffy towels.  Instead it is an over-used family bathroom, that just happens to be accessed through my bedroom, which houses the toiletry products of everyone who passes through and regularly has puddles on the floor.

towel, bathtime
One of The Wet Towel Culprits

My en-suite was not made to cater to the level of traffic it experiences, consequently we now have damp spots on the wall around the unit and the ceiling is peeling away and mouldy due to condensation levels.  The bedroom window outside the bathroom is starting to suffer with mould developing on the wallpaper and around the sealant nearest the door.

Meanwhile we have a bathroom that is being completely underused, which I dream of converting into a fully-functional family shower room that can cater for all the kids and take the pressure off my en-suite.  Unfortunately, the very fact that we have a big family means money is not readily available to embark on any such project anytime soon.

bathroom


When Tots 100 featured a competition in conjunction with Bathshop 321 to win a bathroom makeover I felt  that I simply owed it to myself and to my family to give it a go.  It could be a wonderful solution to my bathroom woes (and at the very least it has given me a chance to have a little en-suite related rant and a wonderful bathroom makeover related dream!)  My dreams are not elaborate or fancy.  I don't want a state of the art jacuzzi.  I don't want an inbuilt plasma TV in the shower. I would simply love some practicality restored to my family home.

The Quadrant Sorea Suite is absolutely perfect for the bathroom makeover I have in mind.  With three daughters, each with their own stringent beauty regime, a walk-in shower is essential.  This corner unit is perfect, space saving and a good size.  I love the contemporary and stylish look of this suite.  Teaming it with chrome fixtures and fittings would create a light and modern environment, with a functionality and sleekness that would be appreciated by my family.


Bathshop 321


Our family bathroom is really quite dark as the window faces out onto the wall of the house next door.  The current beige tiles and drab, matt paintwork do not help.  Opening up the space by replacing the unused bath with a shower, re-tiling with glossy white tiles and having a big feature mirror to reflect the light back into the room would create the illusion of spaciousness.

Pastel blue, silk finish bathroom paint would contrast beautifully with the chrome and white, giving a fresh feel that isn't too clinical, and the random inclusion of decorative blue tiles among the white ones would add a colourful splash to appeal to the younger family members.

Some fun Graphic Decals on the wall would add a bold, modern twist appealing to my teens. I would love to provide adequate shelving and cupboard space to house all the potions and lotions that the girls accumulate, keeping the surfaces clutter free.  Matching accessories would add a touch of luxury and decoration to the room.  Soft blue towels could hang on a chrome towel rail radiator keeping them cosy for use and off of the floor!

Both wall and ceiling mounted chrome lights would provide bespoke lighting to the different areas of the bathroom.  And my children would at last have a functional and beautiful bathroom to be proud of. (And my en-suite would be saved from over-use!)

Bathroom Makeover

Bathroom Makeover Mood Board



To finish our entry here are my girls explaining our plight in song-form!!  Enjoy our "Shower Song"!!



Tots 100





30 Money Saving Ideas

On the 30th anniversary of the £1 coin, MoneySupermarket.com are challenging bloggers to each come up with thirty money saving ideas, with one lucky winner drawn at random to win £1000 (doubled to £2000 if they receive 1000 or more money saving ideas!)  

So here are my top 30 tips for saving the pennies! 

1:  Squeeze every last drop from your toothpaste tube, shampoo bottle or shower gel before throwing away.

2:  Stock up on essentials when they are on special offer or BOGOF.

3:  Try store's own make products instead of top brands.

4:  Take packed lunches instead of buying food out.

5:  Keep a refillable bottle for water to take out and about...buying bottled drinks is so expensive.

6:  Sign up to Swagbuck's and earn Amazon vouchers online doing surveys, polls and playing games.

7:  Use price comparison sites when shopping for insurance, utilities etc.

8:  Sign up to Quidco to earn cash back on online purchases.

9:  Get the kids to make homemade cards for loved ones' birthdays and special occasions.  They cost a fraction of the price of shop bought cards and will be hugely appreciated!

crafts

10: Search  charity shops for bargains.  Brilliant for vintage finds!

11:  Don't throw away toys that your kids have got bored with.  Organise a swap with another mum for a toy their child no longer wants.

12:  Takeaways cost a fortune.  Ditch the Chinese/Indian/Pizza and cook your own.  It can be a lot of fun!

13:  Swap DVDs with friends.  They are bound to have something you want to see and vice versa.  You can then enjoy a free film night.

14:  Collect rainwater in a bucket to water the plants.

15:  Use the backs of old envelopes to write shopping lists instead of using a notepad.

16:  Make a weekly meal plan and shopping list for frugal family meals and stick to it to save money on the grocery shop.  Be disciplined, avoid impulse buys or nipping to the shops midweek for extras.

17:  Don't throw away leftovers from dinner.  Put them in a box and freeze them for homemade ready meals.

18:  If you have vegetables left over in the fridge at the end of the week, don't bin them, boil them up to make a healthy veggie soup or stew.

19: Leave the car at home when you are making short trips - save fuel, get fit!

20:  Turn your heating thermostat down and pop on an extra layer instead.

21:  "Dirty Out" clothing with one extra wear.  Less laundry, less water, less detergent, less money spent.

22:  Sell unwanted things through Ebay, Music Magpie or at local car boot sales.

23:  Home baking is a great activity to do with the kids and is much cheaper than buying expensive shop bought baked goods if you use economy ingredients.

baking


24:  When the kids' jeans get too short, cut them down to make funky summer cut-off denim shorts.

25:  Search online for money-saving discount codes and vouchers, on sites such as moneysupermarket.com.

26:  Give discount stores such as Poundland a try when shopping for essentials.  There are some great deals to be had on grocery products, toiletries and cleaning products.

moneysaving

27:  Instead of expensive branded cleaning products, try using a solution of vinegar in a spray bottle.  It is an effective cleaner, deodoriser, disinfectant and glass polish, costing just pennies.

28:  Visit your supermarket just before closing time and you can pick up some great bargains that are reduced for quick sale.  Bakery items and some fresh produce can be frozen and used over the following weeks.

29:  If your car needs any work doing to it, check for secondhand parts on Ebay first.  We picked up a secondhand petrol tank for my daughter's car for £25 when a new one cost £700.  Then you just need to pay for the mechanic's labour.

30:  "Find a penny pick it up!"  Keep an eye out for loose change in pockets, under the sofa or even on the floor.  Pop it into a jar or money box and very quickly you will have enough to bank.  Every single penny counts when you are saving money!


If you want to enter your own money saving ideas for a chance to win £1000, visit www.moneysupermarket.com/30-ways-to-save-1-pound/ for full details, terms and conditions.



Thirty Years of Change

Special K has changed for the first time in thirty years, launching a brand new, more wholesome recipe for their breakfast cereal.  Now made with not two but three grains - rice, wheat and barley - it contains wholegrains with 8 added vitamins and iron and has only 2% fat per portion.  The delicious, crisp flakes deliver a tasty and nutritious breakfast.  It is apparently a favourite of the Queen and Lady Gaga who clearly know how to enjoy a healthy start to the day!  It is definitely my favourite cereal served with almond milk, and the new recipe tastes great.

cereal


Yesterday was my 44th birthday so thirty years ago I was 14 years old.  I was an awkward, tall, slim schoolgirl, insecure and unsure of what lay ahead.  How would three decades change me?

Whereas Special K has gained an extra grain, I have gained some extra pounds since 1983 (so I may not be planning to sport that iconic red swimsuit anytime soon). However, like Special K, thirty years of changes hasn't changed what lies at the very heart of me.

time, change

What would I have thought had I known that in 30 years time I would be married to that lad from my English class that I had a crush on (and not John Taylor from Duran Duran!)?  That we would five wonderful kids and a gorgeous grandson together!?  That I would be, by choice, a stay at home mum, rather than have a high flying, jet-setting career of my own?!   That I'd escape city life for a rural existence?!  I don't think 14 year old me would be expecting these things in her future.

So many things are so different now.  The world has changed around me.  

I used to keep a written diary in 1983, recording the trials and tribulations of a teenager growing up in the eighties.

Now I run my blog recording the trials and tribulations of being a middle aged mum in 2013.

I used to take photos on my 110 camera and get my films developed, waiting anxiously for the postman to deliver my pics to see if any of the 24 prints were worth keeping.  

Now I use my mobile phone to take pics, edit them on Instagram and upload them all to the internet in an instant.

Back then, Bauhaus, Marillion, Bowie, Blondie and Meatloaf played on my record player, as the needle ran across the vinyl of the 12" LP's.  In my bedroom I'd sing along to my favourite tracks as I imagined myself on stage, performing alongside my musical idols.  

Today I have the same artists on my iPod alongside an X Factor winner, a reformed boyband from the 90s, some Justin Fletcher for the kids, The Killers (my musical tastes have been influenced by my teenager) and some  Andrew Lloyd Webber musical numbers.  I sing along in my car on the school runs. Some self-hypnosis weight loss MP3s are tucked away on there too...not very rock and roll!

In 1983, on our Radio Rentals TV I'd watch Blackadder and The Young Ones as I discovered the joys of the alternative comedians. The Tube introduced me to new bands and I loved it when they'd host the first UK showing of a new music video at midnight and I'd be allowed to stay up to watch it.  Having to tolerate watching Allo Allo, Game for a Laugh and The Paul Daniels Magic Show with my parents was painful, but I secretly enjoyed Blankety Blank!

Nowadays Dexter, American Horror Story, Revenge and Modern Family grace our 55" 3D plasma screen (alongside CBeebies, Nickolodeon and the Disney Channel when the kids gain control of the remote control - which is most of the time).

I used to read James Herbert and Stephen King books, flicking through the yellowing pages of the second hand books I'd acquired.  I still do this...Kindles are just not the same!  

I used to be pretty shy...I still am if I'm honest.  But I now have the confidence that comes with age and experience to carry me through most situations.  I'm not afraid to go for what I want in life and don't worry about what other people think.   

I used to wonder what my purpose was.  Why was I here?  But ever since becoming a wife and mother, and having my incredible family, I have fully understood the meaning of life!


                                    



This is my entry for the BritMums/Special KHow I’ve Changed Linky Challenge” #SpecialK30  

Monday, 22 April 2013

Happy 17th Birthday Ella

From the moment you were born, you have been special.  Your name means "bright light" and this is what you have brought into our lives. Today, my beautiful daughter, you are seventeen years old.  You have so much to look forward to, so many adventures ahead. I fully intend to cherish every moment of my wonderful girl while you still live at home. You don't realise what an amazing young woman you have become.  I hope this is the year that you learn to understand just how incredible you really are. 

daughter, birthday

I love your music and listening to you sing and play the guitar.  I love how much you adore your brothers and sisters.  I love that you are such a fangirl when it comes to The Killers, Disney, John Green or Darren Criss.  I love how clever you are and how you teach me about psychology so I can understand too.  I love watching films and our favourite TV shows together.  I love your smile.  I love your enthusiasm for things.  Your passion for dystopia novels. Your love of reading.  I love your fabulous hair.  I love your hugs.  I love how you are so strong, even though you are fragile. I love how you wanted a John Green/Rainbow/Killers mash-up birthday cake and that my attempt made you happy. I love that you love me. I love you Ella.


birthday

The Killers, birthday cake


Family Reflections After a Wonderful Weekend

This weekend has been hectic.  Megan and Joe, his fiance Jade and baby Ted came home to spend the weekend. My niece Kate also came to visit and my parents came over too.  We had a houseful!  It also happened to be the weekend before both mine and Ella's birthdays so it was a real celebratory family weekend.  We also had a quick visit from my sister and two of my other nieces who got to meet baby Ted for the first time, which was lovely.

family, generations

During the weekend I took lots of photographs.  It is really important to me to record all these family moments.  We have four generations of our family now since the birth of baby Ted and my niece is soon going to give my parents their second great grandchild and me my first great nephew.  These are really precious times and I want to save them to look back on in the years to come.

Being a grandparent has made me feel like I have a greater responsibility to be a keeper of our family memories and to uphold our traditions. I treasure my children and the arrival of this whole new generation is exciting and wonderful.

I am currently reading The Sixty Minute Grandparent by Rob Parsons.  It is interesting to read about other people's perceptions of this new role that is thrust upon us when our children start having their own families.  The book is pretty light hearted and easy to read or dip into. The emphasis is on becoming the best grandparent you can be, in whichever way you are most comfortable.  It reminds us that our grandchildren only really want two things from us: to be loved and to know we are there for them.

Grandparents are a varied species!  Some are very hands on and play a major role in their grandchild's life.  I don't see Ted very often so I'm not a nappy changing, babysitting, disciplining, bottle making grandma.  However, what I can be is someone who can give Ted unconditional love and the promise of quality time spent together whenever I do see him.  As he gets older, this will become more and more significant to his life.  I can tell him about his dad and what he was like as a child.  I can tell him about our family and our past.  I can make him feel included and embraced, a brand new branch on our family tree.

The line in the book that really resonates with me is this one on the job description of a grandparent:

"Individuals must be loving, caring, loving, selfless, loving, accepting and loving."

I think I am definitely up for that job!




I received a copy of The Sixty Minute Grandparent by Rob parsons which is published by Hodder and Stoughton priced at £11.99.

Poppy Cat and the Woodland Trust Launch Outdoor Adventure Campaign for Families

The UK’s leading woodland conservation charity, the Woodland Trust, is partnering with the Nick Jr's Poppy Cat, to launch an outdoor campaign for pre-schoolers with an adventure platform for its VisitWoods website for one month from 19th April 2013.

woodlands


VisitWoods.org.uk hosts information on over 11,000 UK woods that are open to the public. Poppy Cat content has been created for the site with downloadable activity materials focusing on ‘Mystery Trail Adventures’ - especially for children aged 2-6 years to engage them during family outings to the woods.  Now Spring has finally sprung it is the perfect time to venture out on a woodland family adventure.
Nick Jr

Simone Ashley-Norman, Woodland Trust, says, “You are never too young to visit a wood and our partnership with Poppy Cat will enable families across the country to get outdoors this spring and make the most of our beautiful native woodlands. VisitWoods.org.uk makes finding and visiting woods as straightforward as possible, for all ages and abilities, so there’s no excuse to stay indoors!”
Michael Dee, Director of Content at Coolabi, the producers of Poppy Cat, adds, “Poppy Cat is an adventurer who is often embarking on journeys to the woods with her friends. This provides a natural link to VisitWoods and we are pleased to partner with the Woodland Trust to provide exciting content for children and families to make their everyday adventures extraordinary!”
nick jr

To support the Woodland Trust partnership and allow Poppy Cat fans to continue the adventure at home, Nick Jr. are airing nature-themed Poppy Cat episodes every day from the 18th April at 7.15pm for two weeks.  There will also be campaign content at nickjr.co.uk alongside Poppy Cat clips, games and activities.
Poppy Cat, starring the voice of Joanna Page, is based on the award-winning books created by Lara Jones. Pre-schoolers love Poppy Cat's exciting adventures which unleash young imaginations leading to unexpected discoveries. 

For more information on the Nick Jr pre-school series or the Woodland Trust Poppy Cat campaign, please visit www.poppycat.com / www.visitwoods.org.uk, or become a fan of Poppy Cat’s on Facebook (www.facebook.com/officialpoppycat) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/PoppyCat_). 
Older brothers and sisters can also discover more age appropriate activities via the Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives initiative – naturedetectives.org.uk.


woodland, family walks

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Entertainment at Butlin's Bognor Regis

This is the last of my Butlin's reviews from our midweek Easter break as part of the Butlins Ambassadors program for 2012/2013.  I've already posted about the excellent accommodation and the food we enjoyed using the Premium Dining Plan.  Now it's time to look at the entertainment and things to do at Butlin's Bognor Regis.

If I am completely honest, I thought that during our break at Butlin's we might leave the resort to go and visit some nearby tourist attractions. We even Googled a few places to have as contingencies in case the kids wanted to do something different.  I guess I still had the preconceived notion that Butlin's would be a little old fashioned for my family.  However, this did not happen and we did not need to leave at all.  There was so much to do on site that we didn't once feel at a loss for entertainment.  We were kept busy and entertained all day.  As most activities are included in the price of the holiday, we spent very little money during our stay and the kids never once complained of being bored!  I was a bit concerned about Freddy who is quite shy and not keen on loud noises, but he ended up being the biggest fan, often saying "I love Butlin's" when asked whether he was enjoying himself.

Billy's Fairground

New for 2013, is the revamped fairground featuring new rides and new landscaping.  The rides are all free to go on and the kids enjoyed the Helter Skelter, Carousel, Trabants, Paratroopers, Swings, Dodgems and Trampolines.  The side shows, games, arcade and food stands all added to the fun of the fair!  Freddy enjoyed his first candy floss.

The fair looked great and the Elvis soundtrack that was playing put us in the mood for some good, wholesome, old-fashioned fun. Many of the rides were suitable for accompanied children over 0.9m tall so Freddy got his first taste of some of the bigger rides and he loved it!  He also enjoyed the trampolines where he bounced happily and showed off his skills.  I'm not really a fan of rides anymore as I get too dizzy being spun around (damn my Labrynthitis!!) but I loved watching my girls, Freddy and Ian having such a good time together.  We made several visits to the fair as it was a big hit with everyone.

It brought back childhood memories and I remembered my dad driving me round on the Dodgems.  He used to be able to change direction in a split second to get us out of any bumping related situations!  Seeing Ian driving Kizzy around gave me a bit of deja vu!

The games stands such as Hook A Duck, throwing darts at balloons or the Wiggly Wire were £2 a go.  We didn't try any of the games ourselves but they seemed very popular and many kids were clutching prizes such as cuddly toys and novelty gifts.  We went to a side show in the World of Wonders which was quite bizarre but fun, touching on the interactive live actor entertainment used at theme parks.

butlin's, fairground


Indoor Entertainment At Butlin's

So much has changed about the entertainment at Butlin's, since the days of Glamorous Granny and Nobbly Knee contests.  Catering to a more sophisticated audience, Butlin's has seen the launch of a whole host of great shows, tribute acts, celebrity performances, puppet shows and pantomimes to keep families entertained.  Dedicated children's shows have brought TV characters to life for the delight of little ones.  Showing on the stage at the Skyline Pavilion, we saw Fireman Sam, The Skyline Gang, Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder.  At the Centre Stage venue, we watched the new Sesame Street Show, Elmo Makes Music.  We also saw the panto Jack and the Beanstalk, X-Factor finalist Rylan (who we adored!) and Take That tribute act, Beautiful World.  The quality of the shows was all extremely good and very professional.  I introduced the girls to the joys of Coca-Cola Floats in the Centre Stage venue, another nostalgic memory from my childhood relived!

The Red Coats do a good job of keeping the crowds happy.  They hosted a series of party dances every evening, busting moves to Gangnam Style, Chocolatte and The Music Man.  We loved Red Coat Nathan who was an amazing dancer!  My kids aren't the sort of children to go up onto the dance floor, but we had a lot of fun singing along and having a boogie in our seats.  Kizzy and Freddy learned a few of the dances and performed them later back in the apartment.

I was very impressed with the security at the Centre Stage venue who kept the crowds organised and safe when we went to have our photo taken with Rylan after his performance.  There was quite a rush as fans dashed to the Meet & Greet area and I thought the Rylan Riots may ensue!  The staff kept control whilst maintaining a sense of humour, and the huge queue of X Factor fans moved quickly and orderly.

butlins, rylan, take that tribute, sesame street

The arcades included lots of machines that took two pences so I was happy to let the kids loose with a pound's worth to feed into the slots.  It provided a whole lot of fun as they made their 2p coins last for as long as possible.  There are lots of other games there including ones to win prize tickets but thankfully my kids had no interest in them.  I can imagine that children could spend a lot of money trying to accumulate enough tickets to exchange for a prize.

There was a virtual reality simulator that Freddy wanted to go on with Ella.  They took their seats in the little pod and shut themselves inside as they went on a virtual rollercoaster through a volcanic mine!  I looked on hoping he was enjoying himself, but fearing he would be overwhelmed by the intense ride.  Thankfully the doors opened and Freddy came out grinning from ear to ear!

The Indoor Tots Rides and Soft Play area were the highlight of Freddy's holiday.  He adored being free to play whenever he wanted, for as long as he wanted. He was able to pop in for a quick play or a quick ride several times a day.  I was so proud at how much he came out of his shell and held his own with the other children.  We relaxed with a coffee while we watched him in the play area.

The Games Port at the Wave Hotel was another excellent indoor venue for playing interactive video games.  Particularly useful when the weather isn't great, which is a lot of the time in England!

Out and About

With the beach so close, it was really nice to take a wander to see the sea.  The tide was in and the waves were pretty fierce, but the children enjoyed throwing stones into the water and watching the waves crash onto the beach.  It was nice to breathe in the fresh sea air and blow away the cobwebs!

Throughout the resort, there are fun things such as water features, play areas, grassed areas, funky seating, wooden horses and interesting things to explore.  Freddy did a lot of climbing, sliding and crawling as he investigated the outdoor areas.  

Butlin's, Bognor, beach

There is crazy golf, a football pitch, climbing wall, zip wire, go-karts and sporting activities going on throughout the day. You can pay to take part in various activities and I was impressed what good value they were. My girls were happy to stay together with me and Ian and Freddy, so they didn't take advantage of the kids' club sessions that were going on.  But if you have the sort of child that likes doing their own thing with other kids the same age, there was lots for them to do, including silent discos and games tournaments.

We saw the baby animals in the Easter Spring Farmyard and took part in an Easter Egg Hunt Trail.  These were seasonal activities especially for the holidays.  Other Easter events such as arts sessions and Bonnie and Billy's Easter Bonnet parade also took place while we were there.

We went swimming in the indoor, sub-tropical Splash Waterworld and I was so impressed!  The water was pleasantly warm and we had fun in the children's area with Freddy and also loved the wave pool and the bubbles.  None of us were brave enough for the slides, Master Blaster or the Space Bowl flume though.  The pool and changing areas were kept clean and tidy and had ample lockers,  and the lifeguards were very visible while on duty.  We spent a very enjoyable couple of hours at the pool and the kids' water confidence increased measurably while they were having fun in the water.

Butlins

The overriding feeling during our holiday was one of real family fun and togetherness.  There were lots of smiles and plenty of laughter.  The days flew by and there was never a dull moment.  We split our time between our amazing Reef Apartment and the free onsite activities and filled our days with traditional seaside family entertainment.  I enjoyed doing things with my children that I had done with my parents, and enjoying the simpler things of life.  It was a much needed break and we thoroughly enjoyed sharing quality family time together.

We all agreed that Butlin's have got it very right.  The range of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets is spot on.  The self-service buffet was varied, impressive and provided an excellent way to feed the fussiest of families with a pre-paid plan that took all the stress away from eating out.  The entertainment is diverse and most activities are included in the price of the holiday.  It is good to be able to enjoy yourself without spending a lot of cash day to day.  It makes budgeting so much easier knowing that most things are free to enjoy.  The swimming pool is excellent and a lot of fun.  


                                         

Find out more about Butlin's short breaks and holidays at www.Butlins.com.  Like them on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

I'll leave you with a collage of happy smiles from our holiday.  

butlin's, Bognor Regis, family fun


Thank you Butlins for giving us the opportunity to be Ambassadors this year and for sending us to The Wave Hotel at Bognor Regis with a Premium Dining Plan for the purpose of this series of rewiews.  Our thoughts and findings are all 100% genuine and we are now all self-proclaimed Butlin's fans.

My Bedroom Dreams

Once upon a time my bedroom was a place for peaceful, childhood slumber.  A place to dream of wondrous and magical things, as vivid and as exciting as a child's endless imagination allows.  A bed filled with stuffed toys for cuddling and keeping any hint of monsters far away.

Later, it became a place for teenage solitude.  Away from parents, away from rules and regulations.  A place to hang out with friends, listen to angsty music and grow in the privacy of my own space.  With posters adorning the walls and shelves lined with books that would later shape my mind, my room helped me turn into who I would become.

Then came romance.  A love nest.  Somewhere to be alone with a loved one, safe, secure and happy in the company of the one I loved. A place for first kisses and the warm glow of  new romance.  Scented candles softly glowing and Endless Love playing on repeat to set the mood.

Being carried over the threshold saw the beginning of a new adventure.  Married life. The marital bedroom was a place for decision making.  Late night chats planning an exciting future together, snuggled in the security of each other's arms. A future full of possibilities lying ahead of us.  A wedding photo hanging on the wall.  Ornaments on the window sill.

Pregnancy made my bedroom my safe haven.  A cocoon to snuggle up inside at the end of each day.  Resting and waiting as the baby inside me developed and grew.  Extra cushions for comfort.  A cot positioned beside the bed in readiness for the new arrival, a promise of the changes to come.

A new baby brought sleepless nights, night time nursing and silent moments where I gazed upon my tiny miracle and felt the enormity and wonder of motherhood.  My bedroom was our sanctuary at 3am.

By the time that my fifth child came into my life, my bedroom had become a dumping ground for the kids' toys and clothes that they bring into my room with them as they seek me out to ask for things.  An overspill from their own bedrooms. My much loved bed has become a trampoline or a place to play hide and seek beneath the covers.  They play video games and watch TV in my room so my bed is always dishevilled by the time I get to crawl under the duvet at the end of a busy day.  My youngest wakes up most nights so his cotbed stays by our bed for convenience.  My sanctuary has become a family room. Some days the curtains don't even get opened in my rush to get up and out on the ever hectic school run.  I don't think I've had a full night's sleep for years.

With the cost and responsibilities of having five children, my bedroom has been sorely neglected and in dire need of some tlc.  The brown and beige paintwork is tired, the decor is shabby and there is a distinct lack of anything 'pretty' or feminine to mark it as my space.  My room is functional, but not personal, relaxing or tranquil.    Where once I had framed, family portraits hanging on my wall and beautiful wicker baskets on my shelves I now have a utilitarian storage unit holding plastic boxes filled with functional things.  The gorgeous co-ordinating bed linen  and cushions that once graced my bed have given way to mix and match duvet covers and fitted sheets. Spilled drinks, kids with tummy bugs or leaky nappies have ruined most of my luxury bedding.  Practicality and necessity has taken over from beauty and comfort.  I have no sanctuary anymore, nowhere to unwind and relax and simply be me.  I'd love to reclaim that space again.

makeover
My Drab Bedroom

A new colour scheme would be a simple yet uplifting start to a makeover.  Goodbye brown, dark and dreary, hello fresh and clean.  Natural hues would add a beautifully, delicate look. New lighting and fitted blinds would brighten up the room, inviting natural sunlight into our lives.  A beautifully framed mirror would reflect the light, opening up the room giving the illusion of extra space.  Luxury bedding, soft furnishings and rugs would give a fresh new look and add a subtle splash of colour.  Soft femininity would remind me of the woman behind the mother.  Shabby chic, vintage furniture would replace utilitarian storage units. A feature wall would add a striking statement and add a boldness that pays  tribute to the vibrancy of my remembered youth.

A wonderfully comfortable bed at the heart of the room would once again become a place to dream, to grow, to love, to reminisce, to relax, to unwind and to simply be. A comfortable space would help sleep to find me.  A room makeover could makeover my very being.

My Dream Bedroom


This blog post is part of the Silentnight Spring Bedroom Makeover Challenge.


Silentnight Spring Bedroom Makeover Challenge



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