Online bingo and guilty pleasures

Sometimes, when the children are asleep and I’m downstairs on my own…I pick up the laptop and take part in a guilty pleasure.

That’s right, I like to play the odd cheeky little online bingo game!  Nothing mad and always a limit of £2 because there’s really no need to go crazy. For me it’s a bit like a quick trip to the arcades when you were a kid. A bag of 2ps and half an hour to put yourself against the machine.

Now the machine is online and I don’t have that plastic bowl rattling beside me but I still get a thrill. It’s a measured thrill, gambling is not for everyone and it’s certainly something you have to keep in control of. I’ve never won more than a tenner but then I only do it very occasionally and with the smallest of stakes so I’m not expecting miracles!

Last month I made the grand sum of £6 but it was a fun way of doing it! I used to enjoy a trip to the bingo hall with my nan so this is just a chance to do the same but in my pjs and with no filthy looks from the angry pros for talking when they’re speed dabbing!

There are are loads of sites to choose from and they all have their own character and they often have first time deals to bring you in. My advice? Take up the deal, have some fun but keep savvy. It’s still money even though it can feel a little detached online. Oh and always do it in your pjs, everything feels better if you’re not dressed!

We all know who the winners are, but knowing that means I’ll never go crazy and my £2 limit will never waive but it’s a little ‘me time’. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not he only me time I have but it’s a guilty pleasure half an hour that makes me smile.

Mobile phones – when’s the right time?

 

My son is six, but already he’s always trying to get his little hands on my IPad or my phone.

He’s adept at finding his way around and has no problem finding videos he wants to watch. All this is ok when I’m about and I guess, in a connected world it’s important they can use technology.

But what happens when he wants a phone of his own. A smartphone to take out with him and I’m not there? I’m not even considering it yet but it’s a question there in the back of my mind.

It’s a tough choice – on the one hand a phone gives him access to me or his dad, a safe person if he ever needs someone. But it also gives him access to a whole world over which I have little control. Plus, do you go PAYG, contract, SIM only? It’s a minefield!

A contract means they can always contact you, but they could be running up huge bills without anyone realising until it’s too late. PAYG means no unexpected bills – but will it have credit when he really needs it?

The most cost-effective and sensible option here is go SIM only with a network like iD that provides shockproof bills.  iD will put a £5 cap on excess usage, allowing you to set your child up with a fixed monthly allowance safe in the knowledge that they will never be able to go over that limit by more than a £5. iD have currently have quite a few sim deals to choose from so compare the offers and choose one that fits your child’s likely monthly usage.

 

There will come a time when he wants and probably needs a phone of his own. I just want to make sure we hit the right balance between giving him the freedom he wants and keeping him safe.

 

A new bedroom and new beginnings

We’ve just become a family of four and while my baby girl is still small, we’ve already been thinking about maximising space. We can’t afford to move so the next best thing was to convert our loft so my son could have his own space with plenty of room to play.

It’s already partly converted so a lot of the heavy building work is complete. We just needEd to change the staircase, put a safety rail up and sort  the abundance of horrendous artex the previous owner thought was a wonderfully timeless style statement.

Once this was all done it was over to me to get involved and make it something special he would really enjoy spending time in.

It already has a window and just needs brightening up with a new blind, VELUX roof window shop has some lovely ones and I know they will fit. We’ll also attempt some funky paintwork and a few bright textiles and I think,it will be a fantastic bedroom for boy number one.

I suspect I might be spending a lot of late nights on Pinterest looking for inspiration! I’ve already been upcycling some furniture and collecting a few bright beanbags and lamps from IKEA – my go to place for affordable style.

Arthur is really excited about being in the loft and has already set-up a chair so he can peer out over the roof tops and watch the world. It means my daughter will have a little room all to herself too so hopefully everyone is happy. For the moment!

*This is a sponsored post*

 

 

 

 

The cost of bringing up baby

Walking back from nursery today I realised the morning had cost my £75 already. That’s £52 for nursery, some nappies and wipes and a new set of vests….it was 9.30am!

The first year of a baby’s life is magical, wonderful, exciting and very expensive. It’s more than £400 on nappies alone – that’s a weekend away! My daughter is almost a year and my son is six so I’ve been there before. I wouldn’t be without them but if any of you are thinking of becoming parents – be prepared and start saving.

I think most of us try to forget about it but here’s a little reminder just how much those little darlings cost us…

This infographic was provided by Busy Bees Nursery Childcare in Leeds.

https://www.busybeeschildcare.co.uk/nursery/leeds

Average Cost of a Baby Infographic.

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Summer holiday saving tips.

The summer holidays will be here in a matter of weeks. Long, sunny (hopefully) days, no early morning school run and lots of adventures to be had.

I love the holidays and getting to slow down and spend some time with my babies but I also know that some of those adventures don’t come cheap! It’s easy to watch money slip through your fingers with days out, lunches and little faces full of expectation.

So here are a few tips to save some cash – and your sanity!

1.Make a bucket list of things to do. Create it together and make sure you include lots of low cost options like, visiting ten new parks over the holiday. Having a picnic by the river. Climbing the highest tree in the forest.

2. Have a rainy day plan. We usually have a baking day where we choose two things to make and spend the day baking flapjacks, buns and other treats. Not only does it keep everyone happy but also means you get some cost effective snacks at the end of it!

3. Plan ahead and get some play dates in the diary. When children have a special friend round to play you really don’t need to spend anything! Maybe the odd ice cream or a make your own pizza lunch.

4. Think about joining the National Trust. A family pass is less than £10 a month and gives you free entries to parks and castles and other amazing historic treasures across the country. We’ve explored so many places and just packed up a picnic to save even more money.

5. Keep your eyes open for vouchers. You can often find two-for-ones, or money off through Groupon or Woucher. And a top tip from me is to check your parking tickets and receipts as they often have offers on the back.

6. At the beginning of the holiday sit down and choose maybe two special days out. Those days that will cost money. Plan them in, choose them together so the children really look forward to them and they will feel special.

7. Finally, don’t sweat it! Kids have been climbing trees, making paper aeroplanes and riding bikes quite happily for years. They may well moan they are bored and want to go out. But you know what? Being bored is good for them! It encourages imagination and self reliance, so you’re saving money and doing thema favour in the long run!

So start planning now. Save some money and fill those six weeks with some amazing adventures. See you the other side!

Glorious day in the Norfolk Broads

This half term we were lucky enough to take out a boat on our wonderful Norfolk Broads. It’s such a joy to just kick back and see parts of our beautiful county that you just don’t see on foot or by car. We picked up our Herbert Woods picnic boat at Potter Heigham, where the lovely  Mark, the happiest chap on the Broads, gave us the safety talk and a few good pointers on where to go.

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Despite it the being half term, it felt relaxed and never busy. We were zigzagged by wonderful yaghts; followed by a very determined duck and her tiny brood, and the children loved spotting the waterside houses, including the imaginatively named (by them!) mushroom house.

The picnic boat was perfect for us, three adults and four children. It had a toilet, gas ring, hot water, a fridge and a sink too. Herbert Woods also supply sponges and washing up liquid as well as plates cups and cutlery. The roof pulled back both sides so could enjoy the sunshine and quickly hauled back if a black cloud appeared angrily overhead. You also get a handy map with timings so you can make the most of your day and know you’ll get back in time.

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We trundled up to the Benet Abby ruins where we stopped off for a run through the fields and a chat with a local chap cutting pathways into the ancient meadows for tourists. He told the children there were hidden pathways and without further encouragement they were off to find them.

We also had a slightly hairy moment when we went to walk through a field, only to realise not only were there cows in there but a great big bull! Luckily we were assured he wasn’t bothered at all, still we decided to take a detour!

 

IMG_2257A boat on the Broads is an adventure our children just loved. Whether it’s sitting outside and watching the world from the boat, spotting birds and houses and hidden gems where crocodiles may lurk! Or inside where they played captain and simply enjoyed this little house on the water and all the ways it fed their imaginations.

We went up to Salhouse, through Horning and stopped in one of the many free mooring areas. Salhouse is beautiful and the children explored  what they called the ‘enchanted woods’, while we sat on the grassy hill and chatted.

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That’s what I found on the boat, it takes you away and lets you breathe. No traffic, no crazy tv, no mad rides, just a great day out.

No one wanted to get back, we just wanted to turn around and do it all again. Thank you Herbert Woods and I can’t recommend it enough for a family day out. Just the best fun.

Getting hacked off with the cyber wolves

I’ve worked in the media team for a large financial company for many years.

At the beginning hacking, intranet trolling, online fraud and the like were rarely heard of. Now, they form part of our strategy. We have full teams dedicated to detecting cyber attacks, teams constantly finding those weakneses in our armour which let the wolves in. Only last year over 500 pieces of customer data was stolen from our secure (or so we thought), online portfolio.

Late last year I started getting strange emails from clients and ad agencies asking me why I was asking for certain information. Turns out my secure work email had been hacked and an email was being sent asking for certain bits of information that the email claimed I’d ‘lost’. Luckily we caught it early and no harm was done. I thought I was keeping everything safe, and I was, as far as I could.

We’re getting good at catching these criminals but these faceless gangs are always on the look out at ways to attack. Even our printers can be under attack. take a look at this video – the wolves are always at the door.

 

 

 

Our wonderful Easter trip to Pensthorpe.

 

IMG_2230This Easter holidays we were lucky enough to spend a day at the glorious Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, just outside Fakenham.

If you haven’t been yet, I suggest you hot foot it there as soon as possible – it’s definitely a jewel in Norfolk’s crown. A beautiful reserve with something for all ages. It’s really well set-up for families with shorter pram friendly walks, stamp trails, den building and, of course, one of then most amazing outdoor play areas I’ve ever seen – WildRootz.

There were four children on our  trip and from the moment they stepped out into the reserve they were running and exploring. From crazy looking birds, to nesting geese, to swirling a stick in the water – you quickly realise that being outside, exploring nature simply never gets boring.

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To quote my six-year-old son, when asked what what his favourite bit was: ” it is a great big place to look at and climb and explore and I want to live there.”

It’s a perfect chance to get outside as a family, enjoy an adventure and rediscover , or even discover for the first time, a love of the outdoors.

This Easter they had an Easter trail with clues hidden in balloons around the walks. A great way to share some knowledge and educate the children about the wildlife, with the added incentive of a chocolate egg at the end! The children really got into it and it took us through the beautiful Milenium Garden with its hidden sculptures and into the section where you can also do some den building.

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You can take a walk around many of the trails and catch a glimpse of some amazing bird life, including flashes of pink from the flamingoes! We saw the huge, elegant cranes, watches cute little red squirrels and spent at least two hours building a dam in the tiny stream which runs around WildRootz.

The socks and shoes came off, sticks were found and sand was squished and mixed until we were kindly asked to leave as they were locking up! Wildrootz is wonderful, carved wooden animals punctuate amazing slides, sandpits, musical play and zip wires. There’s also loads of seating for picnics and a little hut selling hot drinks, and ice creams. There are loos nearby too, a must for any family day out!

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We also spent some time in the indoor area, Hootz House, a lovely addition which is in keeping with the rest of the place. Wooden structures, great slides and a welcome chance to warm up for parents too!

There is something for everyone and the staff even hold talks in the viewing station just beyond the gift shop where you can hear about the valuable conservation work they do and learn more about the many species of bird they have.

It’s one of my favourite days out in Norfolk and if you’re looking for an outdoor adventure then look no further – Pensthorpe is definitively the place to go.

Our mid-week Dolmio challenge.

Everyone is always hungry in our house and speed is of the essence!

So when I as asked to take on the #Dolmiochallenge and produce some lovely family food using a jar of Dolmio, I though, why not?! I’ll admit I’ve always been a bit sceptical about a jar of sauce – surely it’s full of nasties and tons of sugar. But I was pleasantly surprised.

Dolmio Bolognese Original 500g sauce is 100% natural. In each jar, you’ll find at least 10 juicy diced tomatoes, a dollop of tomato puree, half an onion, a tablespoon of sunflower oil, a couple of cloves of garlic, a handful of herbs including basil, a teaspoon of cornflour, a teaspoon of salt, a pinch of pepper, two teaspoons of added beet sugar for taste, a squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of water and nothing more. In fact, a jar provides a family of four with one of their 5-a-day each and that’s before you add any further veg to the meal!
A good spaghetti bolognese is always a big hit in our house. But I thought I’d do things differently this time. My delivery of Dolmio came with lots of lovely veg. So I started off with a huge batch of ratatouille.
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I lightly fired onions and garlic, added a couple of bay leaves and the chucked in loads of mushrooms, a who.e aubergine, two carrots and a large courgette and of course finished with the jar of Dolmio. I added a good glug of balsamic and let it simmer for about half an hour. Once ready I portioned it off.
So night one was a delicious spag Bol, I simply fried off the mince, added beef stock and lots of the sauce. Finished with fresh basil and a good grating of parmesan, it was scrumptious and brimming with veggies.
The next night I smothered chicken breasts int he sauce, topped with cheese and serves with some more green veggies  - Arthur loved this one.
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Finally it was a Friday night chilli, just adding some chilli powder, cumin, paprika, a couple of tins of beans and a good dollop of natural yoghurt.
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We ate really well and with a little planning the children had lovely meals brimming with fresh vegetables and on the table in less than 30 mins.
It was the sauce that kept on giving and hopefully my three meals, plus some still left in the freezer, means I took on the Dolmio challenge and succeeded.
For more information visit www.dolmio.co.uk/thankgoodness or if you’re looking for mid-week meal inspiration check out the label on Dolmio jars.

 

Our Easter trip to BeWILDerwood

 

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No Easter holiday is complete in our house without a trip to our beloved BeWILDerwood.

We’ve been going for years and I can genuinely say it is my favourite family day out in Norfolk. A huge, outdoor magical playground, inspired by the books of Tom  Blofeld.

I’ve taken Arthur since he was a few months old and so this time, at the grand age of seven and a half months, it was time for Rose’ first trip.

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We love the boat ride across the scary lake, looking up into the trees and spying Twiggle houses. Arthur and his friend Henry were creating stories about how the Boggles and Twiggles meet once the sun goes down and dance along the boardwalks. This is what I love, BeWILDerwood sparks their imaginations, as well as wearing them out in preparation for a good night’s sleep!

This Easter Cedric the Easter bunny was there and when we arrived we were given our invites to fill in and meet him. there were also extra Easter trails and competitions.

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First up we headed to the slides – always a massive hit. Followed by hours of climbing and jumping and swinging from the broken bridge (just its name, its very safe!), to the Sky Maze which saw the boys frantically looking for Easter clues while Rose and I chilled on the benches and watched the fun While munching on our picnic. There are lots of places to eat a picnic, plus places to get drinks, snacks and some warm food like jacket potatoes and hot dogs – all good quality too.

We queued to see Cedric and after a lovely chat where the boys showed off their hopping skills, we wandered through the little Easter garden and hunted down some chocolate eggs – what a lovely touch!

Then it was off for some den-building, definitely one of Arthur’s favourite things to do.

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There was also a whole marquee for children to make Easter crafts. Plus the storytelling was all about some ‘pesky bunnies’. The staff are great, from the story-tellers to the patient chaps looking after the zipwires, especially when Arthur and Henry insisted on ‘one more go’, at least ten times!

We went on the first Tuesday of the holidays and despite the carpark being full, it never once felt busy or over crowded. I love that sense of freedom. There’s something for most ages, stories and craft, to zipwires and climbing. We love it and if you’re looking for a fun-packed family day out, I challenge you to find better.