Taking it all online

Sometimes all I want is to sit online and shop! There, I admit it. Amazon, Asos, evening the weekly shop. It’s all at my finger tips.

Well, nearly all. I just wish it was as easy to buy things like medicines, vitamins and all that type of thing. There is a reluctance to sell medicines direct to customers online and that’s absolutely as it should be.

Doctors are there for a reason! But there is also an element of common sense and I’ve just discovered the world of online prescriptions. I would never try to treat a new ailment or get diagnosed online. But I would try it out for things I use all the time, like creams for dry skins. Maybe medicated shampoos and even some anti biopics.

I’m not recommending it to everyone but in a fast-paced world where time is a valuable resource, having the freedom to buy a Few bits and bobs from somewhere like you drugstore, while watching Eastenders is a good thing.

It will never and should never replace doctors but, as with so much is life, it’s about taking a common sense approach and using your savvy to make the most of your time and your health.

Make it a Christmas cracker!

Someone put a post on Facebook a few days ago: ’100 days until Christmas’.

And so it begins, my journey, in equal measures of fear and excitement, towards 25 December. I love it, absolutely love Christmas but it’s a bit of an abusive relationship if I’m honest! I keep coming back every year, full of hope and renewed enthusiasm. But each time I still get caught out.

Is my freezer groaning loud enough under the weight of unnecessary food? Do I have enough stocking fillers to be lost or ignored by Boxing Day? Is my house adorned with enough ‘frippery’ after all, I’d hate anyone to pop in and not realise there’s the small matter of Christmas to be getting on with.

I’m making a list…im checking it twice. But still I know I’ll miss something. It’s usually something like Christmas crackers. I spend ages looking for the best ones. Something beautiful but also not disappointing.

All the big retailers do their own brands and premium brand crackers so it can be a bit of a mission finding best ones. To be fair, all you really need is a good ‘bang’ a sturdy hat and a lame joke. The rest is a pointless quest for the perfect cracker gift – you’ll never find it so give up now!

One year I did attempt to make my own. I’ve since promised this will never be repeated. I’ve seen some amazing homemade ones and if you’re that way inclined then there’s nothing nicer than creating a theme and filling with your own gifts. Mine looked like freak refugee toilet roll middles following an explosion at the toilet roll factory.

Along with Christmas pud, festive jumpers and simmering resentment, Christmas crackers asre essential – how on earth could you enjoy Turkey without them?!

I’d love to hear your top tips for a stress-free Christmas. Leave me a comment and let me know how you make your Christmas go with a bang.

Time to crank up the heating

It’s that time of year when Jonathan begin our little dance. Back and forward; will she won’t she…

Sadly it’s not some kind of romantic ritual. It all boils down to hitting that switch and walking the heating back on, he holds out as long as possible, throwing sideways glances when I stand up and walk within touching distance of the thermostat. He throws jumpers at me while I threaten to hit the on button in September. seems October is his cut-off point and only then does he feel officially ‘cold enough’ to fire that boiler up.

I do get it, it’s bloody expensive heating a house. Especially one where there’s a tendency to leave windows open too. I do love fresh air when I’m warm! There are loads of alternatives, including a wood burner but that’s a massive financial out lay. There are loads of different electrical heating systems too and they’ve come along way since the early days of expensive storage heating. Check these ones out – they use up to 50% less energy. Electrical radiators which use less energy and are better a for the environment – bit of a win win really.

I love winter, I really do. Frosty cold days, slow cooked loveliness and warm jumpers which hide a multitude of stodgy sins! But along with cranking up the temperature it cranks up the bills as well! Maybe it’s time to look into an alternative.

But the heating will always be a bit of an Autumn dance for us. One flick of the switch and there is no going back.

 

The Warrener

On Sunday we took a drive out to The Warrener, a Whitbread restaurant connected to a Premier Inn. I wasn’t sure what to expect – you never know and if I’m honest most of the places Iveeaten in like this have been because there’s nothing else around!

 

The Warrener surpassed anything I could have expected. From the new timeless and really well thought out decor to some of the friendliest and most efficient staff I’ve ever come across. The Warrener is just off the A11 in the town of Thetford so we’d made a day of it with a walk in the woods, and we arrived ravenous!

Our lovely waitress showed us to our table and I could already see they’d made a huge effort with the refurb. Old photos gave a nod to local history and calming colours made the whole restaurant feel quite classic.

Arthur loved the new Horrible Histories activity packs and, unlike him, sat for ages colouring and drawing dot to dots. Normally these things dont interest him but I have to say I was really impressed and got quite carried away discussing Henry VIII and his wives!
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So the food; I had calamari to start. Hot, crispy and exactly what I was expecting. Jonathan had chicken goujons and Arthur had garlic bread – because he’s addicted to the stuff! All were really well made, fresh and tasty.

I went for the BBQ burger with onion rings for main with skinny fries and I devoured the whole lot. Great crispy fries and a really tasty burger. Jonathan raved about his mixed grill and it did look delicious. Arthur’s burger came with chips and we got him some veg sticks…to ease our guilt!
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It was all really well presented and perfect for families to enjoy decent food in a relaxed environment. Arthur’s meal was a generous size and declared ‘yummy’ so that’s all you can ask. Plus both burgers were good quality and tasted properly meaty and grilled – if that makes sense!

We found room for puddings and Arthur loved his scary face icecream, complete with strawberry laces for hair and sweet false teeth. In fact the false teeth were the highlight of his day! I had warm chocolate brownie and Jonathan, a rocky road sundae. All were polished off easily and tasted good.

Overall The Warrener was a very pleasant surprise. The new menu and decor made it feel like somewhere I’d actually go again and not just eat in if I was staying in a Premier Inn. A thoroughly enjoyable meal and a special mention to the great staff who made us feel so welcome, and didn’t blink an eye when Arthur started singing out loud!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excuse me while I trump the sky…

This week I’m starting to think Arthur is playing mind games with me.

At 4am this morning he yelled through to my sleep added brain:”mummy do crabs bite fish”. I’ll be honest I don’t know and as such mumbled back: ” go to sleep, Santa is watching…”. In the cold light of day that line does seem a little creepy. I hope I’ve not planted the seed of a grubby Sanat hiding behind his door. He seemed fine this morning so pretty sure I got away with that one.

Rewind to a long car journey at the weekend. “Mummy what is sky and do we breathe it?” Dear lord he is systematically demolishing the small amount of general knowledge I hold dear. ” Yes” I said, we do breathe it and it’s made up of lots of gases and something called oxygen, and on and on I went.

“Do we trump the sky?” Boom! And there is was. This boy is messing with my mind. Who asks if we trump the sky?! It’s genius. At once childlike and almost completely unanswerable.

There has been a barrage of ridiculous questions and I’m becoming more and more convinced Arthur is on a mission to send me completely mad. Im questioning myself, what the hell do I actually know. I’m Googling crazy stuff and recording documentaries – just in case. I suspect he’s planning to completely break me so access to the ‘treat’ cupboard becomes free and easy. One soul destroying question and I’ll happily let him have five chocolate biscuits to make up for my pathetic guilt-ridden attempts to answer why we have skin and does it come off when we die.

Well done Arthur, you are fascinating, fascinated, and utterly on track for world domination. Me? I’m simpering I the corner with an encyclopaedia.

Pensthorpe – a jewel in Norfolk’s crown

Today we headed out to one of our favourite Norfolk family destinations; Pensthorpe Nature Reserve.
I’m a huge fan because it encompasses everything I want for a day out with children. Fresh air, beautiful places for them to run and hide and use their imaginations plus, it doesn’t have loads of garish rides and over priced ‘fun’.

Pensthorpe is in North Norfolk just outside Fakenham and is a wonderful reserve which really has something for all ages. Walking through the beautiful gardens you can’t help but be wowed by the plants and amazing water gardens.

Through the gates and we were greeted by the ducks and geese who waddle around waiting for food. You can buy the food from the shop on your way in and the children loved watching the birds go crazy for the contents of their brown paper bags!

Luckily the rain held off and the sun came out so we stopped at the pond dipping area and had a wonderful time with one of the volunteers who spent ages with the children talking them through how to scoop the water and helping them on their little voyage of discovery. The joy on their faces when they found a tiny fish or a water spider was priceless – although the adults were a bit peeved when we could even catch weed!
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We could have stayed there a lot longer but the call of the amazing WildRootz outdoor play area was calling. It’s a totally supercharged playground with amazing wooden structures, fantastic slides and even a musical area where walking across the wooded sets creates wonderful sounds!
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The stream running around the outside is a firm favourite and the children were soon down to their undies and running around having the best time ever.
I love the fact it’s all wooden, all in keeping with this beautiful reserve and the attention to detail is stunning – even the benches have animals carved into them and every area is homage to the educational ,and conservation work they do.
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You can watch the Red squirrels, scatty and crazy, running through their enclosures and look up and you’ll see signs letting you know things like:” bats always turn left when they leave their caves”. Every corner you turn captures nature in its finest hour.

Pensthorpe has just opened its new indoor play area too. Hoots House is in keeping, all made out of wood and a wonderful place to spend a couple of hours if the weather isn’t kind.
There’s a cafe inside and they’ve very sensibly divided times so you book a slot. We had 1.30 til 3 pm, so it means it’s never too crazy busy. The children had a wonderful time and it kept three four year olds and a five year old fully engaged for well over an hour. There is an area for under fives and the rest is based in ability so you can make a judgement. Lots of hiding places, a great slide and some fantastic wooden walkways made for a great indoor adventure.

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There is a seating area upstairs but it would be nice if there was some seating downstairs as this would make it easier to watch the children and have a coffee without having to run up and down stairs. The staff were very friendly and explained everything really well. I also noticed they always had a couple wandering round to keep an eye on the children which is reassuring. It’s a great addition to Pensthorpe and I love that they’ve kept the theme to match the glorious outside space too.

Pensthorpe has so many options. You can take a walk around the whole place and get your stamps to collect your badge at the end. You can take in the red squirrels, flamingos and gigantic stalks. There are wonderful walks through the maintained gardens or around the waterways. You can even watch feeding time sitting inside the viewing area – this is highly recommended on a colder day. We’ve been when it’s got chilly and the children have loved sitting and watching all the birds on the shore ‘ having their tea’.
It offers fodder for their imagination, a chance to learn without really realising and a wonderful experience for adults too. Pensthorpe does have a special place in my heart and somewhere we’ll be coming back to year after year.