Time for a spring clean

It’s that time of year. I’ve wandered around the house making a mental note of all the jobs that need doing.

I’ve handed the list to Jonathan and assured him I’ll be ‘project managing’ each room! The kitchen is first in line because quite frankly we’ve done nothing since we moved in. There are two large windows but neither has curtains or a blind.

There’s something studenty about windows without curtains or blinds, so along with removing the hideous fan light it’s top of the list. I like the idea of closing the blinds at night and shutting out the world, at the moment it feels a little like I’ve left our home wide open for anyone to peer inside – a little too exposed.
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I feel a bit invigorated that we’ve started to get to grips with the kitchen – it will be on a budget but it’s amazing what a few splashes of colour and a fresh coat of paint can make.

VELUX was one of my first stops, they’ve got a fantastic range of blinds and I’m a bit spoilt for choice. I want something bright and colourful but it needs to stand the test of time.I’ve ordered some samples so I can spend ages standing at the window holding up colours while Jonathan quickly loses patience!

I also managed to pick up a new VELUX blind for the loft room – something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. The loft room will eventually be Arthur’s bedroom so, along with the kitchen it’s been bottom of the list. But it was so easy to choose a blind ( I just needed a plain blue one) that I went with it.

Im on a mission and this Spring I’ll be painting walls, putting up blinds and putting those finishing touches to my home that have been in the back burner for too long.

Life is better with cake

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In those foggy days after Arthur was born it was cake that got me through. Then when I started meeting new mummy friends we spent a huge amount of time going for coffee and cake and bonding over leaking boobs and cradle cap.

So when we were asked to review some Mr Kipling goodies it was, as you can imagine, a very difficult decision. I loved the Vienesse Whirls, all buttery and crumbly with a jammy creamy middle. Arthur was taken with the fondant fancies and was very keen to eat all three colours at once! Jonathan revealed a lifelong love of glacé cherries and devoured the cherry bake wells – all in all they went down very well.

We took them on adventures in the woods and enjoyed them during quiet time on the sofa.Opening the packets brought back some wonderful childhood memories, a teatime treat and the flood of euphoria when I saw a Mr Kipling packet in my lunchbox – I wasn’t allowed many cakes!

Mr Kiplings are a firm family favourite and this latest taste test really did seal the deal – life is definitely better with cake!

This post is an entry for #betterwithcake Linky Challenge (http://bit.ly/betterwithcake sponsored by Mr Kipling. Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/mrkiplingcakes.

Save The Children – Den Day!

DEN1What better way to support Save The Children than to build a den!

Save the Children has launched their Den Day. Pick a date between 29th May and 6 June, and let your imagination run wild – indoor, outdoor, in trees or under tables, get building to make a difference. Arthur is always keen to build a den – a particular favourite is under the table with my duvet and pillows!
Den Day is designed to highlight and raise awareness for children around the world who don’t have a safe place to sleep. Imagine your child unable to go to bed someone where safe every night – frightened, alone and without the safety of ‘home’ we all take for granted.
Just register your family here for a free kit packed with ideas n how to plan your magical experience. DEN2

Time to take a bath…

I never want to sit in a puddle of time wondering where it all went.

At home, we’ve got a huge bath and it takes an age to fill, but it also has a slightly dodgy plug which allows the water to slowly ebb away. It’s not noticeable straight away when you’re sitting in it. It’s one of those jobs we’ll ‘get round to’.

But, last week, as I sat in my bath I realised, without me noticing, the water was a puddle around me – it struck a chord. How like time it is. How like the sudden realisation we’re half way through our bath and time is trickling away.

It was Arthur’s fourth birthday earlier this month and so many people said, as we all do: “Where did the time go?” “It doesn’t five minutes ago he was a baby”. So much is dictated by time. Do we have enough, have we used it wisely. It’s the one sure thing we can do little about.

Time will never stand still or offer respite from its tireless journey. We need to beat it at its own game. Embrace time and never allow that final puddle to be a surprise. The one sure thing it’s we all have a finite amount, a time when time says ‘time up’ and all those faded clichés become your truth.

So for me and my boy, I’m going to embrace the clichés, grab each moment as best I can. Sometimes I won’t be able to, sometimes I’ll forget but time is the only thing I can’t control, it’s also the only thing of which I’m sure.

Time will end, so I’m going to make it one hell of a bubble bath.

Mama and More

Thank you NHS

chrimbo5I kept meaning to write this post but time seemed to pass so quickly. But I told myself I wanted to say a thank you and I needed to find the time.

On his fourth birthday Arthur ended up in hospital with a raging temperature and difficulty breathing. Diagnosed with croup and a bronchial tract infection he was home within the day. What amazed me was the service we received.

From the moment I anxiously picked up the phone to call 111- filled with scepticism it has to be said, to the moment we left the hospital. I was left with no doubt that he was getting what he needed.Thankfully I’ve never had to spend much time with a sick child in hospital but I do know it was a scary out of control, feeling. I only glimpsed this for a few hours.

I wanted to put down in words how grateful I feel to live somewhere that gave me peace of mind within hours. Somewhere I didn’t have to worry about affording to make sure my boy was ok. Somewhere where his welfare was immediately the most important thing for the doctors and nurses.

i called 111 around 10.30pm after a horrible few hours. The operator talked calmly and clearly to me. Within moments I was speaking to a nurse and less that 20 minutes later I had a first response vehicle at my door.

After a quick assessment they decided he needed to go to hosital and far quicker than  I ever imagined, he was whisked away by ambulance with daddy, while I drive frantically behind. ( Jonathan had had a couple of beers ).

We arrived in A and E on a busy Saturday night surrounded by the walking wounded, the paralytic and the somewhat strange that emerge in the small hours. Arthur was scared but they took him straight to a side room and made him, and us, calm.

It was a long few hours but who cares-the nurse and the doctor dealing with him were wonderful and ridiculously busy. I know it’s not everybody’s experience of the NHS. But it was ours and it was fantastic and next time I moan about paying my tax I’ll stop, take a moment and be thankful that my boy lives here.

Amazona Zoo – a little bit of South America in Norfolk!

On a bright and breezy Friday morning I took Arthur and his buddy, Leo, on a South American adventure. My budget didn’t quite stretch to the real thing but wow, we enjoyed a lovely day at Amazona Zoo. A small zoo in Cromer which focuses on animals from across South America.

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It was very quiet on the day we went but that suited us fine as the boys could run around and discover without worrying about them causing too much mayhem!

The first glorious animal we came across were the beautiful Jaguars. Stunning and the boys loved watching the ‘big giant cats’.They both stood, enthralled as the Jaguars prowled around the enclosure.

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Next up it was the parrots, their colourful plumes really are amazing and the boys loved them as they are exactly like the characters in Rio, the movie!

The zoo has easy, buggy accessible paths throughout, each path having it’s own foot prints to follow – a lovely touch. The children’s playground has recently been upgraded and now has two amazing bouncy pillows. They are such fun and I have to say I was wholly disappointed the age limit was six! It was a little chilly but they boys bounced around for ages and I can imagine in the summer these will be a real crowd pleaser.

Last time we came along I was fascinated by the Mara which wandered ( or hopped, I’m still not sure!) around the open spaces. I was pleased to see this magic little creature again. It’s something I’ve never seen at another zoo and I love the fact he or she was out, lounging in the winter sun and paying not the least bit of interest to us.zoomara

We wandered past the bright pink Flamingoes and both boys spent ages trying desperately to stand on one leg – with varied success!

Next up were by far the favourite animals of the day – the Capuchin Tufted Monkies. After naming them Freddy and Freddy Sweet Treat, Arthur and Leo were literally mesmerised. Watching them climb and swing and generally monkey around!

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In the inside enclosure we discovered lizards and Caimans and, perched on top, the guinea pigs! But don’t worry, they have a brand new home built for them outside but it was a little cold for them just yet. In summer I suspect we’ll see them scurrying around outside in their custom build homes.

After a good wander around we spent some time in Jungle Tots. A great little soft play area perfect for rainy moments or just a change of scenery. It was clean, bright and perfect for pre- schoolers of all ages, from tiny toddlers to my slightly raucous four-year-olds. Arthur and Leo especially loved the huge blower and the slide – a great addition to Amazona.

You can also pick up snacks and lunch at the Lakeside Cafe – on a warm day it would be fantastic to sit outside, we did this last year and it was lovely.

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We had a lovely day and I would highly recommend this as a great day out. Smaller than most zoos it has a lovely family feel. It works for all ages, is easy to walk round and to top it off, very importantly for children, it has large and very clean loos which are never far away!

*If you fancy taking a trip then don’t forget mums go free on Mothers Day.

Pensthorpe – a fantastic family day out

On Sunday we headed off for a day at Pensthorpe National Park It was a bright day but blimey it was cold so with hats, gloves and scarves at the ready we took on the elements and emerged triumphant!

Pensthorpe is quite simply stunning and manages to bring together some amazing scenery, wonderful wildlife and a sense of adventure and exploration often missing from family days out.We were there on the last day of the Bee an Explorer event for children during half term, where you could discover yet more about nature on the coloured sign-posts dotted around and all three loved spotting the coloured hedgehogs around the reserve. We stopped off to make our very own hedgehogs out of playdough and to top it off, got to meet a real life little hog – fresh from hibernation.
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Freddy the hedgehog was a huge hit and I have to mention the fantastic chap who gave us a talk all about Freddy. It’s no mean feat to keep two active nearly four-year-old boys and a five-year-old girl interested but he managed it. He was engaging, great with the children and just came across as someone who loved his job.In fact this was true throughout the day – there was a sense that everyone wanted to be there and cared passionately – it’s not something you always come across so hat’s off Pensthorpe!

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As it was rather chilly and wet we didn’t get to do a big walk but having been before I know there are some great walks with the stamp trail being a big hit with my son last summer. Children can build dens, spot the amazing array of wildlife and the wonderful carved wood and metal animals punctuating the walks. This time we were lucky enough to see the red squirrels too – Arthur thought they were amazing as they basically look exactly like Squirrel Nutkin in Peter Rabbit!

You can even see flamingos and they stand out magnificently this time of year against the vast grey skies and muted browns and greens of late winter.

We stopped to refuel at the lovely Courtyard Café – so pretty and I loved the feeling of bringing the outside in with exposed brick walls and huge open windows. The boys loved sitting and watching the birds at the feeders while they tucked into sausage and chips. It had a relaxed vibe with bare wooden tables, plenty of room and a sense that no one was going to rush you.

The children all had sausage and chips and it was great to hear the meat was from a butcher literally five minutes from the reserve. They really champion local produce and it’s a lovely tie-in to the whole ethos of the reserve. Grown-ups had haddock and chunky chips with peas and it was delicious – fresh, well-cooked with crispy chips. There was loads of choice and daily specials and they also have a dedicated hot and cold children’s menu.

imageThe selection of cakes was too tempting to miss so we had a slice of coffee and walnut and a chocolate oat slice, again delicious and generously portioned. Again the feeling the staff really cared about what they were doing shone through and I had a lovely chat with the girl who served us on the til – it’s these moments that make the day sometimes.

The toilets where big, clean and easily accessible even with three children – this is always important on family days out!

After lunch we hit Wildrootz – it’s just the best adventure play area I’ve been to. The children love it so much. With slides, wooden dens, sand galore and the magical, and it has to be said slightly addictive, musical instruments, it’s just a fab place to be. I was worried the cold would spoil it but they ran around so much it didn’t matter. Only when the rain started in earnest did they agree to head back to the car!

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The natural theme continues with animals carved in the benches and lovely bright fact boards throughout – I never new bats always fly left out of a cave. Or that rodent’s teeth never stop growing! They are in the middle of building a £1million indoor play are which will be a fantastic addition and I can’t wait to get back to try it out.

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On our way back we stopped off inside the viewing gallery to watch the birds being fed and listen to the ranger talk about the many species of birds, some of them are really rare.
That’s the real beauty of Pensthorpe, it has managed so successfully to merge nature with fun and education –they have listened, developed and continue to get better. It really does have a special place in my heart – if you’ve not been I can’t recommend it highly enough.

So are there any downsides to Pensthorpe:
I like to write honest reviews because I know families will take time and spend money going to these places. But it’s tough with somewhere like this.

  • It’s limited if the weather’s not great but the new indoor play area will help this.
  • It’s not cheap – but you’re helping to pay for the upkeep of this magnificent place
  • I like my coffee a little stronger!

Cult of the Slimming World

This week has been a somewhat ‘off piste’ Slimming World week.

My downward spiral began with steak and red wine with friends, followed closely by Malteser Cake and fish pie. I’ve carbed up so much I assuming I’m now at least 60% pasta. I can feel the hot breath of our esteemed SW leader, Jean, breathing down my neck – salivating at my despair.

But you see, there in lies the problem. I don’t despair. I really should, I can feign it like a sociopath feigns empathy. I can hang my head in shame and dutifully promise to fill in a food diary for next week. But, I know, I think she knows this is simply not going to happen.
So you might ask why I go each week – it’s a question I’ve pondered. I like the diet because it suits me. I like the fact I get a figure to work with each week. I love the fact the group is comedy gold and because there’s no way I’m giving up now!

I’m not in to the recipe sharing, I do get it but I can Google most of it. This week Sylvia shared her ‘speed soup’ recipe which, to be fair, was simply boiling veg in veg stock and pureeing. I managed not to gag when she said it does her for lunch Monday to Friday if you skim the top. I longed to urge her to throw in some pasta, crack open the chilli but some how I fear Sylvia is too far gone.

Our lovely, skinny Frenchman, Syed, arrived on a motorbike this week, very exotic and only something you can do once slim and agile. His ascent into two-wheeled deity status cemented by another 2lbs off this week. Barbed comments about not losing any more or you’ll ‘get all gaunt’ could be heard from ‘Curly Wurly hidden in jumpers’ woman.

It’s a cat and mouse mind game this Slimming World lark. There’s a dark undercurrent detectable only when I see the slight glimmer in Jean’s eyes when I’ve put on weight, or the even more annoying: “Well done, you’ve stayed the same.” Her claws digging further into my psyche. Once you’re part of this cult it is very hard to leave.

But of course I’m different…I can leave any time me.