Free school dinners for all – what a tragic waste of money

Apparently the new legislation to give all reception, year one and two children a free school lunch will save parents around £2.30 a day. That’s not to be sniffed at – I can use it for weekend treats, days out, or, if I was being sensible put it in his savings account.

Of course I won’t – I won’t really notice it because my son, when he goes to school next year won’t need free school dinners. I’m not rich, far from it, but we do ok and because of that we don’t get benefits. So in my view we shouldn’t get free school meals.

Not because of the Daily Mail mentality of not wanting to be seen as scumbag benefit families clogging up our system. I don’t subscribe to that. But because I know there are children and families who really need it. That I live in a society where we all contribute to the greater good – maybe a simplistic view, it maybe idealistic but it’s the essence of the welfare state.

That if I fall down on my luck, the welfare system will give me breathing space and time to sort myself out.

As well as this £2.30 a day it will cost £150m to get schools  ready and make the necessary changes to their kitchens. Dear god, how many lives could be transfromed with that cash. I object to the policy for reasons of common sense. If parents can’t afford new school uniform or the cost of a school trip precludes some children from going then this hair brain, crowd-pleasing scheme that excludes on the basis of age is heart-breakingly misplaced.

I can choose what to give my son for lunch. I can buy a weekly shop without the fear of paying for it, (unless it’s Waitrose and massive!). I am not rich but I am not in need so for god’s sake use the money where it’s needed. Give parents who need it peace of mind and the rest of us the respect to know we’ll feed our children well enough to get through the school day.

The bedroom tax has hit a minority but had huge impacts, today millions of people, including working families use food banks. This needs addressing. Target welfare, don’t blanket bomb it. The concept and, in turn argument of universalism is useless in this case when we’re choosing to ignore pockets of real need.

Let’s not lose track of the true meaning of a welfare state – it is not for universal benefits. It’s simple, use the money for people who need it, whose lives are difficult, miserable and financially unstable. Don’t placate the DM readers by giving middle class benefits when this money could change lives not just save us a few bob during the week.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

The National Trust 50 Things challenge

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We’ve been taking on huge 50 Things to do before you’re 11 3/4 challenge from The National Trust. What a wonderful way to explore the world for little or no money!

So far we’ve made dens, played grass trumpets, and as you can see, picked and eaten fruit straight from trees. We’ve got loads more to do but I think we’re enjoying it as much as Arthur!

BeWILDerwood, Boggles and amazing mazes!

We never get bored of BeWILDerwood.

A magical adventure playground of epic proportions tucked away in the North Norfolk countryside – it’s the very best place to let your children’s imaginations run wild.

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a href=”http://www.workitmamma.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/image3.jpg”>Creator, Tom Blofeld, in the Sky Maze. Creator, Tom Blofeld, in the Sky Maze.

This time we went when the new Sky Maze had opened and what a wonderful addition! Set high in the treetops, this massive and hugely impressive wooden design reaches over 8 metres high and weaves through the natural landscape. It’s a puzzle in a puzzle and Arthur and his daddy spent ages getting lost and found and discovering new ways of getting across the walkways and canopies.

We went in August, during the height of the summer holidays and despite there being plenty of cars it still managed to never feel full or over crowded, such is the lay out of this wonderful place.

We had the wonderful boat trip from the entrance in one of the lovely coloured boats and met Mildred the Croc, who spurts water at unsuspecting, or in our case suspecting and excited, guests.

Arthur and his friend Isabel loved the story telling and we listened to all three. The staff, all quite young, do an amazing job of bringing the children into this magical world, with dancing and costumes and instruments. This time we all took part in Pippy’s Peculiar Costume Cavalcade – What a fab idea! We all marched around the new path which weaves up neat the Sy Maze, and met the Parasquawk.
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Just a glorious day filled with stories, imagination, fun and crazy creatures – who doesn’t want to peer through the trees and fing a Twiggle house?!

It’s not just somewhere for summer either. Some of my best BeWILDerwood adventures have been at Halloween and their wonderful bonfire themes fun. Just go, take the children and let the magic take over!

The whole world in a gym

I’ve just been to the gym. A fairly inoccuous way to spend a morning one would think.

The wearing of trainers, a touch of lycra and the obligatory water bottle I found lurking in my bag from…well possibly too long ago. So, off I went, full of hope and on a mission to sweat myself into shape. What I soon realised when I stepped into the gym is that it is a mirocosm housed within glass. A social commentary of life as we know it – with a few bar bells and unfathomable machines of torture thrown in.

I plugged my headphones in – more than a little excited I could watch Eastenders while trotting along. But soon it becaome clear this was the place to watch mother nature in action. To my left a group of eager boys tight with muscles and enthusiam were like bees to honey around a young woman desperately trying to lift weights.

Her vocal workout was, to be fair, as strong as her lifting technique with yelps, breathless cries and deep breathing all serving to build a frenzied moment, relieved only by the elderly lady struggling on the nearby treadmill. She was here with her husband – I think it was her husband. Gripping their little workout sheets to avoid going ‘off piste’. I had totally forgotten to fetch my sheet from the appropriate drawer which meant I randomly mounted pieces of equipment in the hope it would do what Hannah, the lovely instructor, had planned for me to do.

The hardcore peacocks were in the corner willing each other to lift heavier and heavier weights while their blood vessels pulsated in protestation. Eventually someone lifted something close to the holy grail and there were grunts and claps and I felt a wave of testosterone hit me straight between the eyes.

In my corner were those less inclined to grunt and more inclined to hide away in baggy clothes, cycling in silence. Or like me, trotting along on a treadmill all to aware of my bum writhing up and down in the mirror. One lady had some kind of canvas combat trousers on and a hoodie. Maybe she was hoping the excess clothing would help with weight loss – either way she looked in pain but she and we, all knew those extra clothes weren’t coming off.

All in all it was a little stroll (with some light inclined cycling) through life’s gym goers. Those of us desperate to be invisible and those desperate to be seen. We all came together in one glorious mash up of gym ettiquette. I quite enjoyed it – I’m going again soon and who knows, I might even grunt a little.

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Andrew Barton Ultimate Blondes

The last couple of weeks I’ve been testing out the new Andrew Barton Ultimate Blonde brightening and rehydrating shampoo and conditioner for blondes.

Asda has been stocking the Andrew Barton range for a while and I’ve always been a fan so I was just a little chuffed when they bought out a range for blondes – especially as my roots could do with a little brightening!
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Packed with camomile and Arjan oil the shampoo smells delicious and natural and is a bargain with a 400ml bottle coming in at just £3.90. The conditioner is equally as delicious and feels light weight. My hair feels soft and like it’s had an injection of moisture which is perfect during the summer months and the colour is definitely brighter.

It doesn’t take much shampoo to get a good lather which means the bottle will last a good while and as I blow dried my hair I kept getting waves of a delicious summer smell – it was my hair!

A lovely set of products which give you quality without the price tag.

Lollibop, the perfect festival for small people.

Lollibop, Lollibop oooh, Lollilollibop…

Sometimes only a song will do and this weekend at the fab Lollibop Festival, this is exactly what we were singing as we left, tired, and very very happy.

I’ve been to Lollibop before and had a great time but last year I know there were a few niggles about it becoming over- commercial. I suspect these fears for everyone were allayed this year. In it’s new home, Hatfield House, the festival had a relaxed and happy vibe from the moment we arrived. The grounds are huge and the set up means you could wander easily around and take in the atmosphere.

We drove and parking was easy and plentiful, there were loos as soon as we arrived and for me, that’s always a good sign! There are loads all through the festival with easy changing stations and drinking water too – just making a day out with small people so much easier.

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There were queues for the Lollipalladium so we wandered around and enjoyed all the other stuff first. Fantastic impromptu magic shows, the fantastic Titan the robot and face painting galore!

Arthur absolutely loved the street dancing classes and we spent ages getting our groove on, the dancers was fab with the children and we spent a good hour in there. We wandered around the Harry Potter Wizard School and planted magic beans and made wands.

Arthur was chuffed with his Beano magazine and, along with his little friend, spent ages in the lego tent. We also caught Michella Strachen reading from her book and she kept us entertained for ages, a really great story-teller and Lollibooks was a wonderful addition this year.

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It worked for everyone, from Charlie at just a couple of months old, through to his mummy and me who find it hard to resist a comedy dress-up moment! loll5

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To be honest there was so much to see and do we didn’t manage to get back to watch any of the shows but our day didn’t suffer for it. We did watch some of the acts on the main stage and Arthur loved Lazy Town and Mr Maker and it was so easy – you could watch easily from way back and there were huge screens for extra effect.

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A brilliant festival vibe with little people at it’s heart. I can’t wait for next year but there’s still time to pop along tomorrow – it’s absolutely worth it.

Crazy toddler question time

What Arthur said

A while ago I wrote a post about the funny things Arthur says – it seems, at the ripe old age of three these little gems keep on coming so – chapter two of ‘what Arthur said’.

Me: “How did you hurt you hip Arthur?”
Arthur: “ Playing golf last week.” He’s never played golf…unless he’s sneaked out for the odd round when I was asleep.

Me: “What do you want for tea?”
Arthur: “None of your horrible stuff and no pasta – it’s horribler than your horrible stuff.”

While sitting in the park a man with lots of facial piercings and tattoos walked by and smiled.
“Mummy, that man is all decorated like a big cake and his face has been nailed.”

Me: Do you need a wee? Arthur: “No I did one on daddy’s head”

We’re all familiar with the relentless questions, some of which I can answer, many leave me floundering and laughing in equal measures.
A selection of my favourites:
“Mummy, what is dead?” What followed was a fumbling explanation I won’t bore you with. His retort: “So are you dead then?”

Does Father Christmas get lonely in hot weather?

Where does chicken come from, does it come from cows?

“Is the moon the sun’s shiny shadow?

Just a little selection of my favourite I’ve remembered to record…I fear there are many more to come. Love you Arts!

Festival on the Farm – a glorious day

On Saturday we enjoyed a glorious day of sunshine at Festival on the Farm, Gressenhall, Norfolk.

If you’ve not been to Gressenhall and you’re a Norfolk or nearby native then you’re missing a trick. A wonderful museum set in 50 acres which brings to life country living  with a workhouse, school and farm with rare breed aninals.

On our visit the grounds had been opened to a miriade of fabulous stalls, animals, people and music. We were greeted by the guys from the Goodies stall telling tales of Jack and the Beanstalk while the childen sat on straw bales and listened intently – they even managed to weave some carrot and veg action into the mix – a fabulous story followed by a healthy message – result!

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We headed around the corner to be greeted by a tiny and rather beautiful pony who happily stood while little hands patted his nose and stroked his back . Behind him was a wonderful old car brought back to perfect condition – Arthur was rather taken with that – I think it’s because he’s just fallen in love with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Arthur and his little friends even managed to touch snakes and stroke gigantic stick insects – which I admit made me feel a little squiffy! There was den building, bug hunting and loads to keep little adventurers happy and it all had a wonderful feel of simple outdoor fun.

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We bought lunch from the cafe and sat outside on the grass and listened to some of the great local musicians playing live. Arthur and his friends took to the dancefloor for some outstanding toddler moves and the sun continued to shine.

In the chapel was a lovely art and crafts fair with local producers and artists displaying some of the best Norfolk has to offer.We even managed to spot the Gruffalo stalking the grounds – we were too late for tickets to make a Gruffalo lunch but the children were quite happy to simply follow him around for a while.

We moved down to the farm where the children learnt what it was like to milk a cow and we watched a cute little shadow puppet production in the cow shed, by Nutmeg Theatre. After a little more running around in hot sunshine we cooled off with a quick head duck under the water pump – this turned into a mini water fight and it wasn’t just the small people getting in on the action.

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We jumped on the farm truck for a ride around the fields and then headed back up to finish our day with a final run around – I loved that the children didn’t need fancy rides or expensive games – they picked up sticks, ran free and generally had a wonderful time.

There was loads to do and see, some of which we just didn’t have time for. But it was a magical day and even the practial things such as parking was easy. It didn’t feel crowded, there were loads of easily identifiable staff on hand to help and I have to say, Festival on the Farm was the perfect way to spend a sunny family day out.

 

The Vax Air3 Reach Upright review

A couple of months ago my vacuum blew up. I can only assume the poor thing died under the weight of cat hair it relentlessly sucked up on a daily basis.

It was a good friend, but my loyalty didn’t last long when I was lucky enough to review the Vax Air3 Reach Upright..

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The suction on this beast is amazing – and I was amazed (and slightly ashamed)to see my carpets a shade lighter after a proper clean with the new machine!  The Air3 Reach is lightweight and easily glides over the carpet and into corners and one of the best features is the extra long flexi-hose.  It means when you do stairs you don’t have to hoof it up with you. It stays at the bottom and you can travel.

In all seriousness I will take better care with the whizzy brushes at the bottom of this one as I think it was the huge amount of hair caught up in these which burnt the motor out on my last one.

It’s very easy to empty and the filter can be popped in the washing machine – they recommend every three months, which, I think, means it will last longer. I also get a perverse sense of satisfaction when I can see the dust and dirt spinning around inside then tip it out – how do three people create that! It’s the cats, I blame the cats for everything.

All in all, this is a great, relatively light weight vacuum which makes easy work of everyday vacuuming. Plus you can reach ceiling and stairs with ease and the flexi pipes click easily together so you’re not left trying to work out how things fit together.

 

Watch out cats…here I come.

 

*Throughout July this model includes a Spray & Vac Cordless Handheld Window Vacuum – FREE with orders over £100! worth £59.99 absolutely free!

Tick tock – watch the clock

I am sitting at work. It’s 3.57pm and each second feels like it’s driving up hill in a very slow car.
My curser is blinking back with a rather smug dance – I’m trying to time the flashes with the seconds ticking on the large, white corporate clock on the wall. I can’t, so I’ve begun a list of holiday essentials using one of the post-its on which I wrote something terribly important.

It was terribly important yesterday and today it’s a shorts, suncream and pull-up pants list. I guess important is in the eye of the beholder.

Oh god I’m bored – so bored of the relentless act of being ‘corporate’. All around me colleagues are talking very earnestly about ‘getting comms out’, ‘collaborating’ and ‘objectives’. Words and phrases that often leave me close to spontaneous vomiting.
It’s my own bloody fault.

To be fair these people are doing a great job and they enjoy it. More fool me that I haven’t currently got the courage of my own convictions. I could stay for years listening to the ticking clock, punctuating my angst with moments of corporate clarity. Or I could get off my comfortably large arse, change jobs, start writing more and make some kick-ass life-changing decisions.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the ease of it all. The pensions, the mat leave, the pay and benefits. It’s so very hard to admit you’re shit scared of jumping ship and taking a leap of faith. It’s even harder when your mortgage depends on it. I was even contemplating becoming a team first aider because it meant a day out of the office! Now, apart from the fact I hate anything gory and could not, under any circumstances, clear up sick, it’s just a ridiculous idea.

A fluorescent jacket and access to the plaster drawer is not going to quell my discontent – though to be fair it may be handy. No, I need to dig deep, decide what it is I actually want to do. Then either, make a baby, get a new job or shut up and put up – no one likes a moaner.

I’ve started on the ginger nuts now, left over from our last ‘away day’. I’m not sure I’ll make that decision today for so many reasons. But I know I will.