Dust if you must – but if not please jump on trampolines.

This weekend I’ve spent loads of time with people I love. It’s a cliché but like most well-trodden clichés there is a truth which sits neatly upon its shoulder.

Sometimes I’m consumed with guilt about a meal from a microwave, a bathroom that hasn’t been cleaned properly for a couple of weeks. Sheets that aren’t ironed and crisp each Sunday evening.

This weekend, my boy and I left our house in a right old pickle. mud covering the garden where we’d enthusiastically planted all our geraniums and strawberry plants in one go. A bathroom littered with toys from baths and toys tumbling from every corner of the sitting room.

We searched out memories and moments on which to dine. Times that will give us so much more than a bleached loo and scrubbed floors. Barbeques at my wonderful parents with my brother and his lovely family. Fantastic fun at the children’s gym, jumping in foam pits and bouncing on trampolines. Sun drenched visits to the farm where Arthur spent hours talking to the lambs and introducing himself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for blasting those germs and I’m not advocating living in a squalid pit in the search for some kind of spiritual awakening. But we all know those times when we’re missing the moment because we’re consumed with something else.

This poem sums it up for me – Dust if you Must…sprinkled with cliché but its simplicity still holds a truth that resonates:

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.

(Thank you to whomever wrote this – I’m not sure who you are but it makes me smile)

Countdown to Lollibop 2013

Last year, one of the best days out Arthur and I had was the fantastic Lollibop Festival.

Aimed at little people the festival is basically a celebrations of all things children. I remember we got there as the gates opened and were some of the last to leave – that’s no mean feat with a bunch of toddlers and a hot sunny day. We had a ball and if you’re tempted to go then here’s what we got up to last year.

I’m so excited about going again this year. I can’t wait to see Arthur’s face again when he’s sees his favourite characters come to life before his little eyes. The live stages were just brilliant and I will never forget his face when The Gruffalo and Waybuloo took to the stage.

This year all the best bits are back, with some great new stuff too. The live stages are still to be announced but Cloudbabies, Dick and Dom, and Poppy Cat will be there as well as the returning Lollibop Kitchen and the Lollipalladium.

Arthur was subdued when Waybuloo took to the stage last year!

Arthur was subdued when Waybuloo took to the stage last year!

It was just such a great place to wander around knowing your children would be amazed and entertained in equal measures. On a practical note I remember the facilities were so good too, with a huge baby changing tent, with wipes and nappies and loads of staff around to help out.

Last year it was in Regent’s Park and this year it’s moved to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on August 16,17 and 18 and I’m really looking forward to seeing the park and making the most of another wonderful year at Lollibop. Roll on August!

Our week with Aldi

A couple of weeks ago I posted about my conversion to an Aldi supermarket lover.

It’s not somewhere I had shopped much before, but since attending a blogger event and hearing about their ethos, and using their products – this is changing.

I’ve been trying out a few of their products this week and so far they’ve been so good I’m going to change brands. There’s no going back from their baby wipes and now I can say the same about several of their groceries.

So here’s what we’ve been trying out in our house.

Our week with Aldi

Our week with Aldi

Bramwells Tomato Sauce.

This win’s hands down on price, at just 99p for a 563g squeezy bottle. But what did my very own sauce monster think? Arthur loves fishfingers and tomato sauce, scrambled egg and tomato sauce and, quite frankly, he can get tomato sauce into the equation he will!

This sauce had a bit more of a tang than other well known brands but that’s fine with me – I might even go as far as to say it was more tomatoey. I gave it to Arthur with his scrambled egg and after a few minutes was greeted with, “more dip dip mummy’. A very good sign that he liked it! At two he was very clearly mapped out tastes and this seemed to be winner.

Everyday Essentials Spaghetti

Next up we had pasta using Aldi’s  Everyday Essentials range spaghetti – again the price is just amazing. It’s a staggeringly low 19p for 500g, and for most families it’s marrying quality with this kind of price point which is the holy grail of shopping. So I cooked the dried pasta according to the instructions – I always cut a minute or two off so it’s got a bit of a bite. It was lovely! Held the sauce well, had a slightly nutty flavour and generally did everything I wanted from a good cupboard staple.

Almat concentrated washing liquid

Finally this week I’ve been using Aldi’s, Almat concentrated washing liquid and softener. I sound like a broken record but the price, at just £2.39 for a bottle which is supposed to do 28 washes, is hard to beat. The bottle says it works at 30 degrees so I gave it a go and so far so good. It might not have as strong a scent as other leading brands but the clothes were soft, clean and easy to iron. I also kept a close eye on Arthur’s skin to see if any change led to a flair-up. Nothing appeared so that’s a plus for me. It comes in bio and non-bio versions too.

I genuinely believe Aldi is offering a great alternative for families searching to make their money go further. The products have all surpassed my expectations – particularly the baby and toddler stuff.

It’s worth noting that the Aldi Mamia nappies came out as one of the top brands in the  latest Which? survey on disposable nappies. Beaten by only Pampers, the Aldi disposables got an overall customer score of 70%. But they win hands down when it comes to price – a pack of 24 size twos costs just £1.69!

Aldi Baby and Toddler event is back from 30 May

Back by popular demand, Aldi is holding a Baby & Toddler Event in store from 30th May, offering a range of must-have baby product ranges for every parent or parent-to-be at great prices. With everything from jumbo packs of nappies to clothing, to sterilising equipment and bottles, the event is a great excuse to stock up on essentials and special buys for the family

Have money – will fly

Last week, if I squinted and stayed inside, I swear I saw the sun. Peering through my curtains I felt the first rays of summer (granted the heating was on so I can’t be 100% sure) and saw that big ole yellow globe.
My thoughts turned to holidays. I’m desperate for a holiday but a kitchen renovation and a bit of titivation in the back garden – ooh er missus- means funds are sadly lacking.
So this week I’ve been looking at ways to save or make money to put towards a couple of flights over to France. Luckily my parents have a house over there so it’s a relatively cheap way of getting some sun for a week. Only trouble is we want to go in August so we’re being held ransom by the school holidays.
If you’ve got gadgets lying around – then you’re just staring at spare cash! We’ve sold our second hand mobiles, including a Blackberry on Music Magpie and it’s hassle free – you may not get the highest price but it’s a compromise between that and spending time and effort. It was a very easy service and the money arrives promptly.  They take loads of different gadgets so well worth a look, even if you think it’s too old to sell, you may be surprised.
Our next stop has been Ebay. To be honest I’m not a huge fan, for two reasons. The fees they sting you with after you’ve sold and the tit for tat feedback games that can happen. That said I’ve managed to sell some old clothes and a table for £110 so that’s a brilliant start.
I highly recommend sitting down and spending an hour getting good photos and a decent description ready, then you can just log on and go. Oh and look out for the free listings as they can save you pounds if you’re selling bigger items.
Gumtree has always been a favourite purely because it’s free and you can tailor it by location as well making delivery and collection really easy. Last week my parents sold their conservatory on there and I’ve bought and sold countless toys. The downside is that people always seem to want to haggle so you often end up with a lower price.
The last one I’m trying is the good old car boot sale. I used to do these but since a certain small person came along they have been impossible. But I’ve booked the grandparents and we’re planning to send a Sunday morning touting our wears to the public. It’s far more time consuming but it means you can get rid of lots in one go. The pitch is costing us just £7 so hopefully it will boost the holiday fund nicely.
Our running total so far from flogging stuff we don’t need or want is £180 – I guess one man’s rubbish really is another’s treasure!

Missing Madeleine

Imagine the moment you can’t find your baby. Your heart beats faster when you lose sight of them in the supermarket. Your heart is in your mouth when a momentary wander takes them from your view at the beach.

The feeling of relief when you see them toddling or wandering about again is overwhelming. Imagine never having that, never seeing them walking back to you, never knowing the relief of seeing their face again.

madeleine as she looked when she went missing

madeleine as she looked when she went missing

Madeleine as she may look now

Madeleine as she may look now

Madeleine McCann went missing on 3 May 2007 , in the Portugese town of Praia da Luz - today she is still lost. It was a family holiday, like the ones you and I take each year with our children, expecting sand, sun and to come home with red shoulders and wonderful memories. Today is her 10th birthday and as bloggers we’re helping to raise awareness about this. To keep this little girl in the public consciousness and help her family in their continuing fight to search for Madeleine.

There are hundreds of children still missing. That’s hundreds of parents going to bed each night just not knowing. Can you imagine? If we as a community can raise awareness even for a moment then we’ve made a difference.  The campaign tag is #blogging4madeleine and hopefully as many people as possible will help us bring this campaign to life.

It’s International Missing Children day on 25th May – so please take a moment to look at the site, and look around you. You may be able to help a family end a living nightmare – one none of us ever want to face.

The Big Tweet for Missing Children is also coming soon - so please get involved if you can.

If you have any information or sightings, however small you may think it is then please contact your local police force immediately, AND call +44 845 838 4699 or email investigation@findmadeleine.com

You can also contact Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555111 or www.crimestoppers-uk.org

Second baby syndrome

Arthur turned two in March – so now the new question ringing in my ears is: ” Are you going to have another one”.

‘Yes’ is my response but this yes is stretching out through this year and nudging into 2014. If I say yes then in my head it’s happening and yet the reality is I seem to be spending a lot of time pontificating about baby 2, how will I cope, what will I do about nursery, will I keep Arthur in nursery. Will I have another C-section – and on and on and on…

I was at the doctors last week and talking to an elderly woman about it. Her response: ” Oh my dear just get on with it then you don’t have to worry about it. I had five kids by the time I was 25 and we were fine.”

By having choices I’m indulging myself far more than I should be. It’s hard to make decisions when your back’s not against the wall, when any outcome will actually be ok. A flurry of relatively unimportant drivel fills my head and I’m spending lunchtimes discussing them with equalling indulged friends.

Today choice is key, it’s a social driver, a marked and welcome change, particularly for women and I’m not complaining. I’m simply getting annoyed with myself. A lot of my ‘concerns’ sound self indulgent and the moanings of a middle-class mum with too much time on her hands. How pointless my concerns will seem if this choice is taken away from me.

Living the moment, taking life at face value, making things work. These are all things that have been stripped away as choice and the insistence of choice increases. I’m not sure how I feel about this yet. Looking at it from a feminist perspective choice is paramount. Looking at it as a family, a working person with increasing financial responsibilities – choice is another noose with which to hang myself.

Having a second baby is something I really want to do and it’s a choice I hope I can make. I possibly won’t be making flapjacks every moment god sends and filling freezer while quelling my working guilt with delicious means. I will be tired and feel I have no time for myself but perhaps if I had three children, no washing machine, got my water from a well and cycled ten miles to work like my grandmother, I wouldn’t be so worried.

Wroxham Barns, a wonderful family day out

Last week the sun finally shined so me and the boy headed out to Wroxham Barns with some of his little posse. Wroxham Barns is a bit of a Norfolk institution – it’s been going since I was a kid so it holds some lovely memories.
Arthur loves feeding the lambs and always gets involved with great gusto – in fact this time he really went for it and when he was passed the huge bottle to feed the lambs, he prompty stuck it in his own mouth. Shamed mother moment!


Feeding the lambs

The Barns are set in the Norfolk countryside just by the famous Broads and had a fab mini farm with lams, hens, pigs, donkeys and some very bad tempered goats. In fact one of my memories of coming here as a child is the horrendous walk through the goat shed as they swiped at your paper bag of food – hooligans! Nothing’s changed so I’ll admit we skipped the goats.

Arthur looking at piglets

Searching for piglets!

There’s a lovely pond with ducks and we even got to see the beautiful tiny new lambs – just the cutest thing ever! It’s all enclosed which means the children can run around without too much concern and there are loads of places to wash your hands. Plus there’s a lovely little soft play area, aptly named ‘The Pigsty’, so if the rain does hit you can still have fun.

The café is also rather lovely and you can pop in for tea and cake or have a proper lunch using lots of local produce, As well as the goats, memories of Wroxham Barns’ cream teas also followed me on our visit and I’m pleased to say they are still there – along with some delicious homemade cakes!

At £5.75 entrance and free for under twos it reasonable and you can easily spend a day wandering round the farm, browsing the local shops which really focus on local produce, and a fab play area with rides – although you do have to buy tokens for these which is a bit of a pain.

It’s just a simple wonderful place to spend time with your children and if you take a picnic it really can be a cheap one. Well done Wroxham Barns for keeping something small and well run rather than turning it over to a large corporate – it’s really appreciated. But if you ever feel like getting rid of those goats you’ll have no argument from me!