dangerous roads

When I thought about writing a post on dangerous drives- one journey was front of mind immediately.

Six years ago, no children, just me and the big boy off for a romantic break to the Lake District. It was beautiful and we were having a lovely time until he decided to take me along Knotts Pass. Now, don’t get me wrong, I gathered there would be hills and winding roads and all sort of mountainous shenanigans. But nothing prepared me and it was half way across that I realised – yes I am bloody scared of heights.

The one thing I was glad we did was get the car serviced before we went and that I double- checked my car insurance!   ”When you’re halfway up a mountain pass you know you need insurance that will get you down in one piece and sometimes the cheapest car insurance are just as dependable as the more expensive – what matters is that it will get you down in one piece So it’s always worth shopping around.

dangerous drives infographic

i was petrified we’d start going backwards and by the time we were over the top  I was an attractive shade of red through hyperventilating! The part that really did it for me was when another car came towards us! it was like a scene from Robot Wars as we tried to move round each other while desperately keeping all four tyres on the road.

I’ve driven through the Alps and across many sheer drops in Southern France but Knotts Pass is still my number one dangerous drive. That fear of falling backwards will the car struggles forward is clearly my Achilles Heel and not one I want to repeat again soon! Still, six years and two children later we’re still together. Maybe we’ll visit the Lake District again as a family next time -’I'll just make sure I have a map and a good detour planned should the idea of Knotts Pass come up again!

New babies and fitting everyone in!

I’m currently 35 weeks pregnant and having  slight hormonal breakdown about where on earth I’m going to fit a new born baby! Realistically I know they don’t take up much space, in fact they are pretty portable for those first few months.

They do, however, require more space as these little creatures begin to move about and, quite selfishly, outgrow things like Moses baskets and require real actual rooms and beds! This is why we’ve decided to create a new bedroom in our loft.

It’s already partly converted so a lot of the heavy building work is complete. We just need 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.

It already has a window and just needs brightening up with a new blind, VELUX 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.image

I suspect I might be spending a lot of late night feeds on Pinterest looking for inspiration! Arthur is really excited about the possibility of being in the loft and it means baby will have a little room all to themselves when the time comes.

So, panic over for now…just have to organise it, pay for it and actually have this baby! Wish me luck.

*This is a sponsored post*

Working from home

I’m lucky. At least I think I am.

I work four days a week but my company are really flexible so working from home a day or two a week is never a problem. I was asked to contribute to a new Workplace ebook  by Furniture at Work, to talk about my experience of working from home and it made me think about what makes it work for me.

Now in theory working from home is brilliant. I can get up, get my son ready, get him to school and be at my ‘desk’ by 9.15 without worrying about battling traffic and wearing appropriate clothing. To be fair I have been known to work from home and never change out of my pajamas!

Working from home has revolutionised work for many of us. Giving more of a work life balance but the truth is, there are a few must dos before you can really get into the groove.

My must dos for a happy working from home day:

  • Make sure you have somewhere away from the washing and dirty dishes. It doesn’t have to be massive. Mine’s a space at the dining table with my back to the kitchen and no access to television!
  • Leading in from the space, make sure you have a comfortable chair. At work I have a specialist chair for my bad back. Yet when I first began working from home I thought a wooden dining chair was fine. It wasn’t!  Investing in a decent chair was such a godsend and means I can sit in comfort. I don’t use the chair any other time so sitting in it makes me feel like I’m ready for work
  • Set yourself times. No point getting side tracked by washing or tidying. Give yourself an hour for lunch and if you need to do a couple of jobs do them then.
  • Don’t let people make you feel guilty. For some people working from home doesn’t work and they think we spend our time watching Homes Under the Hammer. Truth is I probably do as much if not more because I’m not distracted by office banter, canteens and coffee breaks!
  • Along the same theme, don’t apologise for your choices. If it works for you then be strong and make it clear when you’re working from home. Cultures, particularly corporate culture needs to change to embrace changing working patterns and we can do our bit by working from home with our heads held high!

Working from home has given me a freedom to continue enjoying work while feeling I’m giving my best to my family as well. I’m currently pregnant and sometimes I just can’t face the fight to get to the office so knowing I can contribute as well while at home is hugely important. It’s given me balance and will hopefully show my children that work doesn’t have to mean sitting in an office eight hours a day.

 

Easter at Be WILDerwood

A school holiday would not be complete without a visit to our favourite Norfolk hangout – the wonderful and magical BeWILDerwood.

I’ve written many times about the mesmerising Boggles and teriffic Twiggles. But we’ve never actually been along at Easter. In true BeWILDerwood style it was an adventure to remember.

As always we took the boat across the spooky lake and waited for Mildred the croc to blast us with her watery welcome, always great fun! The staff are brilliant and give you a wonderful introduction while your on the boat. You hear about the Boggles in the bogs and the Twiggles who live in the trees And you can peer across the lake into their tiny tree top homes complete with little front doors, tiny brooms and a little rowing boat.

We made bunny headdresses in the craft tent, we wandered in the sunshine ( yes even the sun came out) and crossed the rickety bridge, slide down the slides and lost ourselves while feeding our imagination in the Sky Maze.

There are lots of places to sit and eat, you can pack up a picnic anod sit at one of the many tables, or buy something from one of the food shacks – they try to keep things local and you can pick up some hot options or a quick sandwich.

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What made the trip this time was the wonderful Cedric the Easter bunny. Set in his own Easter garden the children were able to walk through a little Easter magic before meeting lovely Cedric for a chat. Then off to the Easter garden for a few chocolate eggs – prefect!

It’s the story telling that BeWILDerwood does so well. From the birth of this magical place in Tom Blofeld’s books, to the wonderful story times they run all day with characters from across BeWILDerwood.

It’s the perfect place for children to run free and explore their world. We built dens, slide down slides, climbed amazing tree houses and basically had, as always, a totally brilliant time.

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if you haven’t been then you’re missing one of the best days out for families – give it a go. You won’t be disappointed.

A hamper for mum

A few weeks ago I was asked to review a lovely Mother’s Day hamper.

Fast forward a few weeks and the reason the review is so late is because, I found out I was pregnant! What followed was a whole load of sickness, days ending at 6pm when I could no longer stay awake and more than enough visits to the hospital. But all is well, baby #2 is doing well and I’ve finally got round to using some lovely  products.

i particularly loved the Lavender bath and shower gel, beautiful scented with natural oils, no parabens and foamed up a treat?

The chocolate one was rather delicious too, although Arthur seemed to nab that one off me – he loved the idea of being washed in chocolate. I was quite happy for him to use it as it was full of natural stuff and  had no nasty chemicals or additives.

The other thing I find difficult during pregnancy is cutting down on my heavy caffeine habit – I’m a 5 cups a day girl normally. So the Relaxing tea from Yogi, which came in the hamper, was a welcome change from the tasteless de-caff options. Full of camomile, it tasted natural and really helped my relax.

Finally there was a lovely vitamin A cream – I’ve not used it yet as I’m pretty sure you have to go easy on vict A during pregnancy but Jonathan has been smothering it on after a shower and said his skin feels soft.

It was a lovely treat packed with natural goodness and while I didn’t get to use it on Mother’s Day, I was so pleased to be able to indulge once I’d got through those horrendous few weeks. Everyone deserves a Mother’s Day hamper – whatever the time of year.

Easter films to snuggle up for

It’s the Easter Bank holiday and with that comes four glorious days stretching out before me. My personal favourite moment is Sunday evening when I sit snuggled on the sofa knowing I won’t be a slave to the alarm and there’s no work on Monday morning – bliss.

After the obligatory Easter egg hunt and some roast lamb, Easter Sunday will be all about eating far too much chocolate and watching some of our favourite family films. There’s nothing like watching on a big screen with great sound, something like a Panasonic Viera – like a mini cinema at home.

So let me share some of the films we love to watch – there’s definitely a theme! We love an animal film and what better time to enjoy them than during the season of bunnies, chicks and lambs!

Arthur absolutely loves Happy Feet – ok so it’s not a bunny or a lamb but it’s a bird and I’m sure the babies are still called chicks! It’s one of the first films he sat all the way through and it helps that I love it to. The animation is wonderful and who doesn’t love a singing penguin. The message is one of overcoming adversity and being loved for who you are and I for one will be looking forward to a couple of hours losing myself in a chocolate egg and some dancing penguins.

Next up it has to be a comedy favourite Free Birds – an American animation about two turkeys coming together to help save their flock from becoming Thanksgiving dinner. I think it’s hilarious and full of enough ‘in’ jokes to keep adults amused. These flightless wonders change the course of history and get turkey off the menu for good. Arthur thinks it’s funny too – it’s not just me!

Finally, and probably running into Easter Monday, it’s time for a classic. Now I’ve not introduced Arthur to this yet but as a child I remember watching this over and over with my mum will sharing a bag of mini eggs. It’s Watership Down, I know it’s not the most Easter-friendly film, what with the Easter bunnies coming off worse. But I love it. Their adventure to find a new home and all the challenges along the way. Oh and the music – it makes me cry every time.

I checked the weather forecast today and it looks like rain over the Bank holiday so my cosy sofa and some films sounds like the perfect way to spend Easter with my boy – as long as there’s plenty of chocolate in stock too!

 

 

We all need Buddies!

Getting a four-year-old boy to clean his teeth is possibly as easy as gently laying your head inside the mouth of an angry lion and asking if he minds if you remove his tooth without anaesthetic. A little literary licence at play here but you get the point – it ain’t easy.

We were asked to review the new Buddies toothpastes in hint of mint and apple flavours. Developed for children who hate the taste of normal toothpaste and approved by dentists, they were an immediate hit with the funky bright Buddy characters.

More than that, the flavours really worked, especially the apple one which was a big hit. Arthur loved the apple flavour and it did have a lovely mild, natural taste. Unlike the synthetic tastes in many of the other ‘flavoured’ toothpastes. The hint of mint was not too sweet or overpowering and  both were gentle on little mouths.

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The pump action meant he was able to  toothpaste on the brush easily and without covering the bathroom in some kind of toothpaste massacre. Plus it measures out the right amount for a full little mouth brush.

So clean, easy to use, great taste and the addition of some funky little rubber head characters. If you have trouble with small people and teeth brushing I’d definitely say give these a go. They’ve been a hit in our household – I must admit I’m a bit partial to an apple tooth brushing moment myself!

 

 

Cleaning all over the world

Wonderful places to visit

This week I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time cleaning. Vacuuming, dusting, bleaching - all in a post- Christmas pine needle frenzy to get back to normal. At times I’ve stood, vacuum in hand, channel and felt a rather strong connection to Freeddy Mercury singing ‘I want to break free’ while mindlessly vacuuming back and forth! Minus the leather mini and pink crop top.

That and the Karcher Monuments of the World quiz I recently came across got me thinking, if I was to break free, where would I go? So while dusting for the 241st time I began to create my wish list of wonderful places to visit (without a duster in sight)’.

Rome is top of the list. Maybe a little obvious but I’m a romantic and the thought of strolling through 1000s of years of beautiful history is so very tempting. While in Italy I would spend some time in Florence. One of the main setting for E.M Forster’s ‘A Room with a View’, it’s a book I’ve read over and over as a teenager and I would love to bring to life the imaginings of that 16-year-old mind.

Next I’d continue that literary journey and make a stop off in America- the Deep South to be precise. a little travel around some of the haunts of Scout and Atticus from’To Kill a Mocking Bird.’  I’d  mix it up with a trip to Detroit – the urban home of so much great music.

Next, I’d take a few weeks to go somewhere hot, where I could be lazy, swim in clear blue seas and drink copious amounts of cocktails. I think I’d do this on my own. Much as I love my boys, this is my wish list so, for a couple of weeks it will be me, a pile of books and sunshine.

When I get back my final stop would be a tour of the Scottish islands. Far north, beautifully wild and full of adventure. We’d stay in quirky b&bs, search for hidden coves and watch sunsets, wrapped up in blanket, drinking hot chocolates and breathing chills clean air.

What a fantastic time I’ve had!

 

Keeping your property safe

It struck me over the festive period. I’d filled my home with expensive gifts, delicious food and plenty of lights…

ThenI went out to work, or the park and it would most likely be dark when I came home. Just how easy would it be for some burglars to decide now was a brilliant time to help theselves to all my hard earned stuff. They can almost guarantee there will be easy pickings – many nearly wrapped for ease of removal!

We do everything we can to keep our home safe. We’ve got locks on the windows and, apart from the odd senior moment, our doors are always locked when we’re out. But it doesn’t stop that niggling feeling that someone could be helping themselves to our things. Since having children I’ve become more aware of the need to stay safe. How scary for a four-year-old to think monsters exist and they e been in your home.

I’ve been looking at house alarms and how we can get something in place that won’t cost a fortune but will give us extra peace of mind. It’s definitely something for 2016.

In the meantime here are a few hints and tips on how to keep your property safe. I know most of us know these but there’s no harm in a little reminder:

  1. If you have a gate, keep it closed and in good repair. It’s the first thing any would-be burglar will spot, and they will judge how secure the rest of your house is from this first impression. If you don’t have a gate, maybe you could consider getting one installed?
  2. Get decent locks on your front and back doors – and more than one on each door if possible. If a burglar thinks the front of your house looks vulnerable, they’ll almost certainly find that the back is, too.
  3. Don’t leave ground-floor windows or doors open in the house – even if you’re in (and especially if you’re in your yard or garden). Sneak thieves will look for these kinds of opportunities and can be in and out in just a few seconds.
  4. If you have a dog, think hard about whether to put up a ‘beware of the dog’ sign (or if you have a cat, an ‘I love cats’ notice). It could actually indicate that you don’t have an alarm, or worse, that you leave your back door open for your pet. It’s worth noting that Kings’ alarms can be fitted with pet sensors, if required.
  5. Don’t leave your keys near the front door (on a hall table or another obvious place in your home) – especially at night. Burglars look for keys above big, bulky items, since they can take them away easily for a return visit in the near future!
  6. Store cash and jewellery carefully, avoiding obvious places like bedside tables. This is the first place that a burglar will look.
  7. To avoid false alarms, keep your alarm sensors free from dust, cobwebs and spiders!
  8. Consider having a second (false) alarm box on the back of your house, so that it looks as secure from the rear as it does from the front.

A stay action in beautiful Cambridge

 

I love planning my holidays But this time I’ve been inspired by the rise of the staycation. Look around you – there are some amazing jewels tucked away on our little island and it rarely involves a long flight to get there!

We have stunning beaches and amazing coastlines  but what we don’t have reliable weather. So I’ve been looking at city breaks not too far from home. So what better place to start my bucket list of places to visit in the UK, than the beautiful Cambridge. Steeped in history it has the voices of a thousand literary giants, innovators and pioneers coursing through its East Anglian veins.

Here are a few of the best things to do in Cambridge:

Punting - Cambridge is so well known for the boat race and take a trip to the city and you’ll see punting is hugely popular too. In fact it’s one of the staple student jobs. It’s a great way to see the stunning architecture of the colleges and their bridges.

Visit Trinity Great Court. Famous for the Great Court Run at Trinity College in under 43.6 seconds on the strike of noon on the day of the Matriculation Dinner as performed by Abraham in the movie Chariots of Fire. The is best done as part of a walking tour so you actually get to grips with all the history around it.

Have a pint of real ale in The Eagle pub. You can also read some of the comments on the ceiling in the back room, left by WWII pilots.

If you’re not a beer drinker then my next stop would be to have a glass of wine at the roof top bar at The Varsity Hotel.

Eat Crème Brûlée in a college dining hall. Supper surrounded by thousands of years of history and academia – I’d love it!

Watch a Footlights performance. It’s where the likes of Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson took their first steps into performing. I’d love to go along and watch some stars of the future.

There’s so much to do and once this lovely city is ticked off my list I want to venture further afield. There’s so much of this amazing country I’ve not seen and I think I have the bit between my teeth for a few more staycations.

Next on the bucket list would be Cornwall. I went once as a child for a week and it rained everyday. But I still remember St Ives beach stretching for miles with yellow sands. I also want to pay a visit to Rick Stein’s fish restaurant in Padstow – I love his shows!

I want to explore the old smuggler coves and go on an adventure in the tin mines – Arthur would love that. I’d finish with a few surfing lessons, I’m sure I’d be terrible but I’d love to give it ago.

My staycation would then take me up North, far into the heart of the Scottish Highlands, walking the Munros and watching the amazing wildlife. Maybe I’d hire a castle and spend my time imagining I was Lady of the manor. There’s so much to do in this amazing island of ours and I’ve only just scratched the surface. Maybe next year my bucket list would continue with the Cotswolds and some of the wonderful northern cities like Liverpool and York.

Looks like I won’t be hopping on that plane anytime soon!