The cost of bringing up baby

Walking back from nursery today I realised the morning had cost my £75 already. That’s £52 for nursery, some nappies and wipes and a new set of vests….it was 9.30am!

The first year of a baby’s life is magical, wonderful, exciting and very expensive. It’s more than £400 on nappies alone – that’s a weekend away! My daughter is almost a year and my son is six so I’ve been there before. I wouldn’t be without them but if any of you are thinking of becoming parents – be prepared and start saving.

I think most of us try to forget about it but here’s a little reminder just how much those little darlings cost us…

This infographic was provided by Busy Bees Nursery Childcare in Leeds.

https://www.busybeeschildcare.co.uk/nursery/leeds

Average Cost of a Baby Infographic.

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Summer holiday saving tips.

The summer holidays will be here in a matter of weeks. Long, sunny (hopefully) days, no early morning school run and lots of adventures to be had.

I love the holidays and getting to slow down and spend some time with my babies but I also know that some of those adventures don’t come cheap! It’s easy to watch money slip through your fingers with days out, lunches and little faces full of expectation.

So here are a few tips to save some cash – and your sanity!

1.Make a bucket list of things to do. Create it together and make sure you include lots of low cost options like, visiting ten new parks over the holiday. Having a picnic by the river. Climbing the highest tree in the forest.

2. Have a rainy day plan. We usually have a baking day where we choose two things to make and spend the day baking flapjacks, buns and other treats. Not only does it keep everyone happy but also means you get some cost effective snacks at the end of it!

3. Plan ahead and get some play dates in the diary. When children have a special friend round to play you really don’t need to spend anything! Maybe the odd ice cream or a make your own pizza lunch.

4. Think about joining the National Trust. A family pass is less than £10 a month and gives you free entries to parks and castles and other amazing historic treasures across the country. We’ve explored so many places and just packed up a picnic to save even more money.

5. Keep your eyes open for vouchers. You can often find two-for-ones, or money off through Groupon or Woucher. And a top tip from me is to check your parking tickets and receipts as they often have offers on the back.

6. At the beginning of the holiday sit down and choose maybe two special days out. Those days that will cost money. Plan them in, choose them together so the children really look forward to them and they will feel special.

7. Finally, don’t sweat it! Kids have been climbing trees, making paper aeroplanes and riding bikes quite happily for years. They may well moan they are bored and want to go out. But you know what? Being bored is good for them! It encourages imagination and self reliance, so you’re saving money and doing thema favour in the long run!

So start planning now. Save some money and fill those six weeks with some amazing adventures. See you the other side!

Glorious day in the Norfolk Broads

This half term we were lucky enough to take out a boat on our wonderful Norfolk Broads. It’s such a joy to just kick back and see parts of our beautiful county that you just don’t see on foot or by car. We picked up our Herbert Woods picnic boat at Potter Heigham, where the lovely  Mark, the happiest chap on the Broads, gave us the safety talk and a few good pointers on where to go.

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Despite it the being half term, it felt relaxed and never busy. We were zigzagged by wonderful yaghts; followed by a very determined duck and her tiny brood, and the children loved spotting the waterside houses, including the imaginatively named (by them!) mushroom house.

The picnic boat was perfect for us, three adults and four children. It had a toilet, gas ring, hot water, a fridge and a sink too. Herbert Woods also supply sponges and washing up liquid as well as plates cups and cutlery. The roof pulled back both sides so could enjoy the sunshine and quickly hauled back if a black cloud appeared angrily overhead. You also get a handy map with timings so you can make the most of your day and know you’ll get back in time.

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We trundled up to the Benet Abby ruins where we stopped off for a run through the fields and a chat with a local chap cutting pathways into the ancient meadows for tourists. He told the children there were hidden pathways and without further encouragement they were off to find them.

We also had a slightly hairy moment when we went to walk through a field, only to realise not only were there cows in there but a great big bull! Luckily we were assured he wasn’t bothered at all, still we decided to take a detour!

 

IMG_2257A boat on the Broads is an adventure our children just loved. Whether it’s sitting outside and watching the world from the boat, spotting birds and houses and hidden gems where crocodiles may lurk! Or inside where they played captain and simply enjoyed this little house on the water and all the ways it fed their imaginations.

We went up to Salhouse, through Horning and stopped in one of the many free mooring areas. Salhouse is beautiful and the children explored  what they called the ‘enchanted woods’, while we sat on the grassy hill and chatted.

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That’s what I found on the boat, it takes you away and lets you breathe. No traffic, no crazy tv, no mad rides, just a great day out.

No one wanted to get back, we just wanted to turn around and do it all again. Thank you Herbert Woods and I can’t recommend it enough for a family day out. Just the best fun.

Getting hacked off with the cyber wolves

I’ve worked in the media team for a large financial company for many years.

At the beginning hacking, intranet trolling, online fraud and the like were rarely heard of. Now, they form part of our strategy. We have full teams dedicated to detecting cyber attacks, teams constantly finding those weakneses in our armour which let the wolves in. Only last year over 500 pieces of customer data was stolen from our secure (or so we thought), online portfolio.

Late last year I started getting strange emails from clients and ad agencies asking me why I was asking for certain information. Turns out my secure work email had been hacked and an email was being sent asking for certain bits of information that the email claimed I’d ‘lost’. Luckily we caught it early and no harm was done. I thought I was keeping everything safe, and I was, as far as I could.

We’re getting good at catching these criminals but these faceless gangs are always on the look out at ways to attack. Even our printers can be under attack. take a look at this video – the wolves are always at the door.

 

 

 

Our wonderful Easter trip to Pensthorpe.

 

IMG_2230This Easter holidays we were lucky enough to spend a day at the glorious Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, just outside Fakenham.

If you haven’t been yet, I suggest you hot foot it there as soon as possible – it’s definitely a jewel in Norfolk’s crown. A beautiful reserve with something for all ages. It’s really well set-up for families with shorter pram friendly walks, stamp trails, den building and, of course, one of then most amazing outdoor play areas I’ve ever seen – WildRootz.

There were four children on our  trip and from the moment they stepped out into the reserve they were running and exploring. From crazy looking birds, to nesting geese, to swirling a stick in the water – you quickly realise that being outside, exploring nature simply never gets boring.

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To quote my six-year-old son, when asked what what his favourite bit was: ” it is a great big place to look at and climb and explore and I want to live there.”

It’s a perfect chance to get outside as a family, enjoy an adventure and rediscover , or even discover for the first time, a love of the outdoors.

This Easter they had an Easter trail with clues hidden in balloons around the walks. A great way to share some knowledge and educate the children about the wildlife, with the added incentive of a chocolate egg at the end! The children really got into it and it took us through the beautiful Milenium Garden with its hidden sculptures and into the section where you can also do some den building.

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You can take a walk around many of the trails and catch a glimpse of some amazing bird life, including flashes of pink from the flamingoes! We saw the huge, elegant cranes, watches cute little red squirrels and spent at least two hours building a dam in the tiny stream which runs around WildRootz.

The socks and shoes came off, sticks were found and sand was squished and mixed until we were kindly asked to leave as they were locking up! Wildrootz is wonderful, carved wooden animals punctuate amazing slides, sandpits, musical play and zip wires. There’s also loads of seating for picnics and a little hut selling hot drinks, and ice creams. There are loos nearby too, a must for any family day out!

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We also spent some time in the indoor area, Hootz House, a lovely addition which is in keeping with the rest of the place. Wooden structures, great slides and a welcome chance to warm up for parents too!

There is something for everyone and the staff even hold talks in the viewing station just beyond the gift shop where you can hear about the valuable conservation work they do and learn more about the many species of bird they have.

It’s one of my favourite days out in Norfolk and if you’re looking for an outdoor adventure then look no further – Pensthorpe is definitively the place to go.

Our mid-week Dolmio challenge.

Everyone is always hungry in our house and speed is of the essence!

So when I as asked to take on the #Dolmiochallenge and produce some lovely family food using a jar of Dolmio, I though, why not?! I’ll admit I’ve always been a bit sceptical about a jar of sauce – surely it’s full of nasties and tons of sugar. But I was pleasantly surprised.

Dolmio Bolognese Original 500g sauce is 100% natural. In each jar, you’ll find at least 10 juicy diced tomatoes, a dollop of tomato puree, half an onion, a tablespoon of sunflower oil, a couple of cloves of garlic, a handful of herbs including basil, a teaspoon of cornflour, a teaspoon of salt, a pinch of pepper, two teaspoons of added beet sugar for taste, a squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of water and nothing more. In fact, a jar provides a family of four with one of their 5-a-day each and that’s before you add any further veg to the meal!
A good spaghetti bolognese is always a big hit in our house. But I thought I’d do things differently this time. My delivery of Dolmio came with lots of lovely veg. So I started off with a huge batch of ratatouille.
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I lightly fired onions and garlic, added a couple of bay leaves and the chucked in loads of mushrooms, a who.e aubergine, two carrots and a large courgette and of course finished with the jar of Dolmio. I added a good glug of balsamic and let it simmer for about half an hour. Once ready I portioned it off.
So night one was a delicious spag Bol, I simply fried off the mince, added beef stock and lots of the sauce. Finished with fresh basil and a good grating of parmesan, it was scrumptious and brimming with veggies.
The next night I smothered chicken breasts int he sauce, topped with cheese and serves with some more green veggies  - Arthur loved this one.
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Finally it was a Friday night chilli, just adding some chilli powder, cumin, paprika, a couple of tins of beans and a good dollop of natural yoghurt.
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We ate really well and with a little planning the children had lovely meals brimming with fresh vegetables and on the table in less than 30 mins.
It was the sauce that kept on giving and hopefully my three meals, plus some still left in the freezer, means I took on the Dolmio challenge and succeeded.
For more information visit www.dolmio.co.uk/thankgoodness or if you’re looking for mid-week meal inspiration check out the label on Dolmio jars.

 

Our Easter trip to BeWILDerwood

 

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No Easter holiday is complete in our house without a trip to our beloved BeWILDerwood.

We’ve been going for years and I can genuinely say it is my favourite family day out in Norfolk. A huge, outdoor magical playground, inspired by the books of Tom  Blofeld.

I’ve taken Arthur since he was a few months old and so this time, at the grand age of seven and a half months, it was time for Rose’ first trip.

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We love the boat ride across the scary lake, looking up into the trees and spying Twiggle houses. Arthur and his friend Henry were creating stories about how the Boggles and Twiggles meet once the sun goes down and dance along the boardwalks. This is what I love, BeWILDerwood sparks their imaginations, as well as wearing them out in preparation for a good night’s sleep!

This Easter Cedric the Easter bunny was there and when we arrived we were given our invites to fill in and meet him. there were also extra Easter trails and competitions.

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First up we headed to the slides – always a massive hit. Followed by hours of climbing and jumping and swinging from the broken bridge (just its name, its very safe!), to the Sky Maze which saw the boys frantically looking for Easter clues while Rose and I chilled on the benches and watched the fun While munching on our picnic. There are lots of places to eat a picnic, plus places to get drinks, snacks and some warm food like jacket potatoes and hot dogs – all good quality too.

We queued to see Cedric and after a lovely chat where the boys showed off their hopping skills, we wandered through the little Easter garden and hunted down some chocolate eggs – what a lovely touch!

Then it was off for some den-building, definitely one of Arthur’s favourite things to do.

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There was also a whole marquee for children to make Easter crafts. Plus the storytelling was all about some ‘pesky bunnies’. The staff are great, from the story-tellers to the patient chaps looking after the zipwires, especially when Arthur and Henry insisted on ‘one more go’, at least ten times!

We went on the first Tuesday of the holidays and despite the carpark being full, it never once felt busy or over crowded. I love that sense of freedom. There’s something for most ages, stories and craft, to zipwires and climbing. We love it and if you’re looking for a fun-packed family day out, I challenge you to find better.

 

Valentines’s Day – time spent with the one you love. So this year I spent it with my dad and brother. This might not be the obvious choice but Valentines’s Day is also a chance to acknowledge that loneliness can seep into our world. Slowly, undetected at first, until one day you realise there’s no one to take you out for tea and cake.

So off we went to the Assembly House in Norwich for a rather delicious afternoon tea and a chance to share are similarly ridiculous sense of humour. Laugh at the wonky nose we both inherited and  reage that’s sense of belonging that can so easily be lost.

Here we are laughing at something dad said – he’s hilarious and I never want to forget that. I was pregnant too – not just cake it that tummy!

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My dad is not lonely, he has loads going on but it was my opportunity to show my support for the  campaign to end loneliness.A hugely important campaign to raise awareness about the growing problem of loneliness. Particularly among our ageing population.

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The world is getting smaller – you can text a thank you, email a quick ‘how are you?’ and generally relieve ourselves of the burden of guilt through social media and the internet. Don’t get me wrong I love both but deep down I know a knock at the door and a quick hug would imprint itself for far longer and have so much more worth.

We had fabulous cakes, delicious scones and moments together that no email can ever replicate.

Easter – that means 500 Creme eggs sold worldwide!

Get your insulin at the ready…it’s almost Easter.

Like Christmas, Easter, let’s be fair, has become far more of a commercial success than a religious holiday. Families up and down the country will be hunting for chocolate eggs and children with telltale chocolate faces will be shooting crazy-eyed looks at weary parents who are counting down the days until school.

I do love Easter, it signifies new life, Spring is with us, my favourite flowers are daffodils and I love chocolate – what’s not to like. Seems I’m not alone either, a whopping 80m chocolate eggs will be sold in the U.K over Easter.

Here are some more eggcellent Easter facts ( yes, I did say eggcellent).

• Easter occurs on the first Sunday following the full moon.  This is why the date changes every year – though it usually falls between 22 March-25 April.
• The largest Easter egg hunt took place at Winter Haven, Florida, USA on 1 April 2007.  It consisted of 501,000 eggs with 9,753 children taking part.
• The largest Easter egg was 10.39 metres in height and weighed a staggering 7,200kg.  The egg had a circumference of 19.6 metres at its widest part.
• The most expensive Easter egg cost around £25,000 and was made by British business Choccywoccydoodah.
• The largest chocolate bunny was made by Brazilian company Senac-RS, weighing 3,850kg and was made from 6,000 bars of chocolate.  It measured 4.1 metres tall and was 1.9 metres wide.
• 48.1 billion Easter eggs and sweets are sold worldwide.
• The first chocolate eggs were made in 1873 by Fry’s in Bristol, England.
• 500 million Cadbury Crème Eggs are made each year globally.
• Decorating Easter eggs dates back to the 13th century where eggs were decorated to symbolise the end of the Lenten period in which eggs were forbidden.  They were decorated and consumed as a form of Easter celebration.
• Egg painting originates from a Ukrainian tradition called Pysanka.
• Easter eggs are likely linked to Pagan traditions where the egg, an ancient symbol of new life, is associated with Pagan festivals celebrating spring.
• The Easter bunny first arrived in American in the 1700s with German immigrants.  Their children made nests for the Easter Bunny to lay their eggs in and the custom spread.
This infographic was produced by Busy Bees Childcare who have a nursery in Huntingdon:
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I had another baby!

When I turned 40, I’m pretty sure it was just my body that got the memo. The ‘me’ inside, seemed content to live out the illusion of still being, shall we say, early 30s.

I still gasp in astoundment when the woman I presume to be the same age as me reveals she has no idea of anything pre-1990. Incidentally, when did the 90s become retro?

This was illustrated perfectly last week while explaining to a  20-something the 1980s entertainment sensation, The Crankies. “Yes, so they were husband and wife and she dressed up as a young Boy Scout and….well yes that was about it really.” We both shifted awkwardly. Enough said.

On a serious note, I didn’t think that much about my fertility declining with my advancing years. I was lucky and here she is:

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I’ve not been blogging much lately, because, obviously, being so old with two children, I’m knackered. But I’m back and looking forward to adventures with two.