Camping bubbles and me time

So the boys went off camping last weekend. Big and little; matching rucksacks and a bundle of sausage rolls.

It was the first time they’d been on an overnight adventure together, in fact it was two nights, and what a fabulous time they had. I’m a fairweather (for that read utterly uninterested, would rather go for a spa) type camper. So when their ‘expedition was suggested I made sure my name was well and truly out of the equation.

BOYS-CAMPINGCOLLAGE

I fussed around making sure there was enough warm clothes packed – including some strange looking baby tights I forced Arthur to try on to see if they still fitted. They did so I packed them with instructions for them to be worn under trousers. Not sure why I felt 30 miles up the road was facing sub-zero temperatures but it made me feel better.

They had an amazing time, searching through sand dunes, watching seals and snuggling up by torch light to read stories of bear hunts and pirates. Arthur can’t believe he has his own sleeping bag and I love the fact he’s exploring a world that’s becoming closed to so many children. It was their little bubble and I’m so pleased they did it because it gave them a chance to get muddy, jump off rocks and other such things that would have left me a quivering wreck.

But…if I’m brutally honest, all that stuff is wonderful, yet the real reason I was so happy is that it gave me two indulgent days and nights alone in my house for copious pottering and other such pleasures. Oh bloody hell it was good. I ate steak and asparagus did a lot of very little, watched my secret and very guilty pleasure – Midsomer Murders and generally enjoyed my own company.

In fact, when they returned all boy-like and full of mud and washing I felt a little annoyed they had burst my little bubble.The towels and foisty (unworn) strange baby tights were thrown around while I twitched uncomfortably for a while.non_camping1

We’ve got loads planned together over Easter and I’m really looking forward to it all but when another boys-only trip was suggested in the summer I found myself more than a little excited and resisting the urge to pin him down for a date.

I guess we all need our bubbles – just so happens theirs is muddy and adventure packed and mine is filled with steak and wine and Midsomer murders.
 

Things we don’t think toddlers know. But they do.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. But here’s what I think these wily little people don’t want us to know they know.

  • That you do have to wear shoes, they know and they exploit this for hours of running round while you trail after them brandishing said shoes. They are not idiots, they know they’ll get cold/ wet feet.
  • That hitting the buttons on the washing machine/dishwasher etc does actually f*ck up the washing. Of course they know this. Sitting back and watching you scream is all part of their cunning plan.
  • That other children will eventually give their toys back. They just like to make sure you’re on edge during any kind play date.
  • When they repeatedly scream ‘mummy’ from the top of the stairs you will; A. eventually go upstairs and; B. attend to their every whim, be it a drink, story…you get the point.
  • That relentless twizzling will lead to a fall. But hey, it’s funny and it just means they can make you kiss whichever part of their body has been banged.
  • That food is the best bargaining tool they have. Inside they are laughing at our pathetic attempts to get them to eat random adult stuff. Maybe they’ll humour us, maybe not. This mental stronghold is their ultimate victory.
  • Teeth cleaning is not about clean teeth, it’s about signalling the start of bedtime. Or, in the morning it signals time to wear clothes – neither is an acceptable toddler pastime.
  • That lying on the floor in Sainsburys screaming and crying because you can’t have a can of deodorant/ Sharon fruit/tin of salmon will usually lead to a bag of chocolate buttons while sitting in the trolley lording it over quivering parents who have, quite possibly, also put a Sharon fruit in the trolley. Something you will, of course, refuse to eat once home.
  • That conversations about pooh and trumps are funny – no matter how hard you try to be the adult. Bottom stuff is just comical and toddlers know this – deal with it.

Don’t be fooled by the angelic small person standing before you. Be warned parents, these little people know and they are not afraid to use it.

*This post is based on qualitative research using several hours observing toddlers in their natural habitat. (Except the supermarket one which I read about on a desperate ‘parenting forum’ in the early hours of the morning and to which I added dramatic licence).

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STEAMCLEAN cream for face, hands and body

I was sent a lovely little pot of sumptuous face and body cream to try out – lucky old me.
STEAMCREAM arrived in a cute little box and I opened it to reveal an even cuter tin.
The cream itself, named Envy, was beautifully scented with rose and jojoba oils and was light and moisturising.

imageSo why STEAMCLEAN I hear you cry? Well it’s a new concept where the fresh ingredients are mixed together using a shot of steam. I have to say the cream is extremely light, I presume because of this. It’s so easily absorbed and left my hands in particular very soft but not greasy.

I love the fact you can use the cream on your face, body and hands – there are not many products that do all that in one pot.

envy

The creams are all freshly handmade using delicious and natural ingredients and the stylish packaging is eye catching and adds a sense of indulgence too. At £12.95 for a small pot, it’s not cheap but it’s a fab little treat.

Hotel Chocolat Easter treats

There is always something decadent about Hotel Chocolat’s goodies and this year their  Easter treats are no exception.

When they asked if I’d like to review some of their delicious egginess – well Let’s just say I didn’t hesitate.

We were sent the Egg and Chips, which is a cute twist on the British Classic. I love the attention to detail and the fact each egg comes in a lovely bag complete with name tag – like I said. Decadent
EASTER

The white chocolate slab was delicious with loads of gorgeous vanilla bean running through. It was thick too, something I always look for in a Easter chocolate!

My favourite bits were the little chocolate chips. Filled with a rich liquid caramel they caused huge tension in our house. Rich crisp milk chocolate which simply melted in your mouth. Who was going to get the last one! Arthur loved them too and this Easter treat was perfect for small people too.

It’s difficult to fault gorgeous chocolate, original thinking and gorgeous packaging – so I won’t. Just to say it was the perfect Easter gift for any age. Not that it lasted til Easter in our house!

We're going on an adventure

Henry Hugglemonster’s Roarsome Scooter review

This week we’ve been reviewing the new Henry Hugglemonster’s Roarsome Scooter.

               Roarsome!

                             Roarsome!

Golden Bear has just launched this great little toy as part of their new range based on the hit Disney show, Henry Hugglemonster. Henry is the middle child in the Hugglemonster family, a close knit but madcap family, and the increasingly popular Disney Junior series follows the five year old’s daily life and the ups and downs he faces.

So, on to the toy – it’s really cute and feels nice and robust in little hands. Arthur enjoyed making him scoot along and I was impressed how well it balanced. You can also detach Henry from his scooter for more play.

      Henry Hugglemonster

               Henry Hugglemonster

I like the fact this cute little chap is wearing a helmet and Arthur was quite taken with it asking: “ Can me have a hat like Henry.” When you press his tummy he has some set phrases, including his trademark: ‘ Roarsome’ which Arthur found hilarious and after scooting him around for a while, spend ages just sitting down pressing his tummy!

All in all, he’s really well made, robust and a great toy for boys and girls and at £14.99 it’s not a crazy price for a good toy.

We're going on an adventure

An introvert you say? No way!

I’m an introvert. There I’ve said it.

I’ve tried to hide it for years, behind cupboards, under mattresses, anywhere I can get away from people and I think I’ve been rather successful.

But I think it’s about time I fessed up. I’d love to be the extrovert people seem sure I am but I’m not. This week, after the millionth wanky psychometric test at work I was resigned to everyone looking, incredulous, as I, once again said: “ Yes, I am in introvert.”
“But how can that be” they all wailed as their extroverted lack of personal space awareness left me cornered. “Well, um, I just am, I love people but I love my own company so much too. I recharge by being on my own blah blah blah.”
“But you seem so lively and outgoing.”

Well guess what extroverts – you don’t have the monopoly on that. Well, ok maybe you do but not all the time.

It’s a shameful tag for someone working in the world of communications but us introverts are so misunderstood. We don’t sit in corners cowering at social interaction. We don’t necessarily have trouble speaking to people and, while I can’t speak for everyone, I’m usually the first person on the dance floor. There are many occasions I’ve channelled my introvert into all manner of groovy shapes, fuelled with vodka and gin. I don’t have permanently damp hands and a slight hint of body odour. I don’t think, oh god perhaps I do….I do have an unhealthy level of inappropriate angst.

 I am aware of these and give myself a good hard slap every now and again.
But the truth is I find it all very exhausting. I love going out but if I’ve been out I need time on my own. When Jonathan works away I’m not filled with fear and dread but a warm feeling of being by myself.

It always seems cooler to be an extrovert – someone fearless in the face of new people – someone unfazed by more than two social engagements a week. How freeing to not need a darkened room and a good book on prescription. But after years of keeping my introversion to myself I’m going to shout (but not for too long) about it. Here are the positives:

    • It means I’m reflective and take time to think things through
    • I never get lonely
    • I get to know people slowly
    • I choose friends wisely and those I spend time with are hugely important as they are not one of 1000
    • I like me. I think I’m good company and that’s what I spend so much time with myself!

So, here I am, an introvert. Time for a sleep.

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Nude dancing and mould cleaning – make it count!

This weekend was a simple affair – walks; cycle rides, a little toddler rugby and unexpected time with all three of us as a family.

The big boy was supposed to be working but last minute changes meant he was at home instead. Lovely. Well I say lovely now but at the time I felt a little annoyed his plans meant mine would change.

I was also annoyed there was some paint peeling in the bathroom, totally pissed off our bathroom sink tap wasn’t working properly and basically huffing and moaning my way through Thursday. I did get my period Friday so that explains some of the ridiculous angst but still, come on I was a whinging old cow until I decided to snap out of it and stop sweating the small stuff.

For someone who likes to worry continuously about most things not sweating the small stuff is like asking a toddler not to overreact when you ask him to remove his rucksack – a little specific I know but you get the gist. I made a conscious effort to stop whinging about things that really don’t matter. Never will I lie on my death bed filled with sorrow for the lost moment I could have retouched the bathroom paint. Never will I wish I’d nagged Jonathan more or hurried Arthur up because I needed to do something.

That’s the full stop that counts. Never ever will I wish I’d made him walk faster or talk less. I don’t want to read books to him a little quicker than I should because my mind’s on hoovering – that’s shameful. It might be a little clichéd but hell, I’m up for a bit of soul-searching mind clearing cliché if it does my family some good.

So this weekend I did tell myself to shut up and I gritted my teeth when the house looked like an incompetent toy burglar had ransacked the house. Maybe because I was whinging less, miraculously Jonathan retouched the paint in the bathroom and never even mentioned it once.

Arthur’s favourite thing at the moment is to strip off and dance in the nude to Pharrell’s ‘Happy’. It’s bloody hilarious and instead of letting him do it for a while then worrying he was cold or might need a wee I just left him. Eventually, after laughing himself silly he stopped, got dressed and came and sat on my lap. Tantrum avoided too. His happiness is not wrapped up in social expectation or served with a side order if middle-class guilt. It’s as it is, plain and joyous and devoid of all life stuff. To capture and remember it just for a few moments is a tonic – one I’ve overlooked too many times.

I always have a Sunday list of house things I need to do, including soul-sucking things like washing, ironing, fridge cleaning – or this week’s particular gem. ‘remove mould from shower grouting’. So from now on, I’ll do these things when I can. I won’t turn into a whinging old hag on a Friday when things and plans change and I will make moments count.

If it’s a toss up between nude dancing and mould cleaning I know what I’ll be doing from now on!

Sk:n – tattoo removal

I’ve always been scared of tattoos – not the way they look, they can be amazing. It’s the fact they are there, permanently, relentless and subject to the ages process just like the rest of us!

I often think how I would feel if, along with the belly button piercing I got at 18, I’d also gone through with the bird tattoo on my ankle. I can still see it clearly, a blue bird with stars around it. And guess what – I absolutely hate it now! A good friend of mine did go through with it and now wears her pink flower and snake shoulder tattoo with wincing embarrassment.

There is hope though with companies such as Sk:n  offering effective tattoo laser removal . It’s much more effective then removal creams and other more invasive treatments and uses lasers to breakdown the ink pigments in the skin. According to their site and much of their customer feedback on there, it’s not painful but there is a tingling, slightly burning sensation and you can be left with red skin. But this usually goes completely after six months – so preferrable to the tattoo you are trying to get rid of!

Laser-Tattoo-removal-at-Skin_page_image

I guess one of the biggest barriers to laser removal is the actual tattoo removal cost  and at Sk:n they do offer courses so you can actually save up to 25% on a course of 8. As it takes several to get rid of the tattoo it’s a cost effective way of dealing with your unwanted tattoo.

Sk:n, as the name suggests, is a skin specialist with years of experience dealing with all kinds of skin problems from the fairly common laughter line to laser hair removal, skin tag removal and microdermabrasion. They have loads of articles on their site so you can get more of an understanding about the treatments they offer and hear what customers have said about their experiences.

So, if you’re looking right now, at that little mistake on your arm from 20 years ago – then Sk:n might just be the perfect place to start.

 

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BeWILDerwood – a magical family day out

There are some places that hold special memories in your heart. For me BeWILDerwood is definitely one of those.
I started going when Arthur was tiny and not even a fully fledged Twiggle! So when I was lucky enough to review this lovely place again I jumped at the chance.

All together we were a group of four families all with children around three, with one nearly five and a one-year old.we had picnics and buggies and children with a lot of energy to burn!

From the lovely man on the entrance to the magical new Boggle Houses ( you’ll know what I mean when you go!), the whole place is about sparking little people’s imaginations. Encouraging them to play and explore and enter a world of make believe in which they can be main characters.

Magical Twiggle houses

Magical Twiggle houses

We took the boat into the BeWILDerwood and Arthur and his friends loved hearing about the Twiggles in the trees and the Boggles down in the marshes. Everyone, including the adults got a big surprise when Mildred the vegetarian crocodile sprayed everyone with water!

It was relatively quiet and the sun was beautiful when we arrived so everything was looking good. We spent ages on the slides and I managed to sustain a slight slide-related injury. My own fault I might add, should have kept my feet in the bag!

            Sliding around!

Sliding around!

The children loved the wooden rope bridges, witches house and wonderful zip wires especially for children. Every time you look up you can spy tiny houses painted in bright colours and I even saw some tiny Twiggles socks hung out to dry – it’s this attention to detail which makes it extra special too.

Zip wire fun!

Zip wire fun!

The story telling is also a favourite and the children loved dressing up as Boggles and Twiggles and listening to how you make real marshy marshmallows! BeWILDerwood was borne out of the books by local author, Tom Blofeld and you can feel this wonderful world spilling out of the pages and into your child’s world.

There is also a fantastic free play area for den making and Arthur and his friends built a magical house complete with seating and a barbecue outside. It’s so lovely to see the world through their eyes and places like this really bring this home.

There’s a great Toddlewood area too, for some gentler play for tiny ones where they can build sand castles and explore their own little houses which are not quite so high in the trees.

We stopped to have our picnic and could see a fire being lit. I went to have a look and to my utter joy realised it was a special wishing fire where children could find a pine cone on the floor – of which there are an abundance. Then make a wish before throwing the pine cone down the magic shoot and into the fire. Oh god, as a little girl I would have completely exploded with excitement!

               Make a wish

Make a wish

There are loads of places to sit and eat, whether you buy stuff or want to picnic. There’s even a lovely nursing area which offers feeding mums somewhere discreet to go should they want to.

We had an amazing day, it was relaxed, and full of wonderful play in one of my favourite places in Norfolk. I really can’t recommend it enough. Obviously it’s man made but it feels as though it’s just grown out of the trees. There were children of all ages there when we went and it seems to appeal to everyone -including the adults!

Tesco Finest award-winning Easter

When Tesco offered me a chance to review some of their Easter goodies, well, it would’ve been rude not to. I love Easter chocolate, the crack of the shell, the promise of more deliciousness inside and generally the fact it appears in your house in abundance.
This year
Tesco’s Finest* Medley of Belgian Chocolate Easter Eggs, £25 has cracked it by beating luxury rivals to take the title of Good Housekeeping Easter Egg of the Year. This is the second year running that Tesco has won the coveted award.
image

I was intrigued, it wasn’t your standard one egg with something inside business. Oh no, this was revved up, cooking on gas, steroid injected Easter egg.

It looks fantastic, almost too good to eat. But I quickly got over this and sat back to enjoy the ride. It really is special and I guess that’s why it beat big names like Harrods to the top spot. It has white, milk and dark chocolate and while not too thin, it had a good crack and felt high quality from the start.

Small boy tried the white choc bit and I had some milk chocolate. I loved the coconut pieces and it’s not something I’ve tried before in an Easter egg and they were scrummy! There are also raspberry and butterscotch pieces but I didn’t get in quick enough to try these. It both got the thumbs with the raspberry bits being described as ‘properly raspberry’.

I’ll admit I’m not a huge dark chocolate fan, I don’t mind a little but it can be overpowering. So over to big boy in the house again, who said: ” Yep, that works.” A ringing endorsement.

It’s not a cheap choice but it feels special and indulgent and each element is well thought through and delicious so for someone special I’d definitely give this the thumbs up. It’s also a great choice for a family as there is something for everyone. It comes in a rather lovely wooden box too – it adds a little something and just shows you don’t have to go too far afield to find something that feels ‘high end’.

It’s not just their eggs either, this year Tesco Finest hot cross buns came out as winners too. They won the Good Housekeeping Hot Cross Bun tasting with their finest* 4 Hot Cross Buns. These come in at £1.70 and while you can get them cheaper these were gorgeous, lots of fruit and easily eaten without butter and weren’t dry at all. Arthur loves hot cross buns and when these ran out he had a full on melt down – praise indeed!

There was a hint of spice which I enjoyed and they didn’t have loads of dried peel instead of fruit, something I’ve found in buns from other supermarkets.

So, would I buy them, the hot cross buns definitely and I’ve already bought some more for the freezer. The Easter egg? Well, I just hope someone buys it for me – hint hint.