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.

medication online – hassle-free or a step too far.

I’m currently suffering from a cold. Nothing too terrible but I’m tired, grumpy and want it over and done with quick smart.

I can’t be bothered to head out to the shops and even the thought of a supermarket fills me with dread, so I’ve ordered some vitamin c and echinacea from an online pharmacy.

I never realised you could actually get so much from an online pharmacy but while I was nosing around the site it was clear they had everything covered! I’m not sure how it works with prescriptions, I’m sure there must be checks in place but it’s nice to know there are alternatives.

I had a good look round The Independent Pharmacy and they had everything covered – including stuff to treat nits! Always good to stock up when you have small people in the house!

I guess if you’ve been taking a medication for long enough and know it works for you then it takes the hassle out of trying to get a doctor’s appointment. I’m not sure we should be self medicating though – I still need to do a lot of research around how the whole process works.

But just maybe, if you make an informed choice and order from an online pharmacy it could be a great way of saving time and getting what you need.

 

Giving nature a little helping hand.

We’ve got a small garden so I’m always looking for ways to make the most of the space. Whether that’s creating a section for the children at the back, or adding mirrors and lights to create a sense of space.

The thing I love about gardens is that the seasons bring their own challenges, whether that losing the comforting veil of green in winter, to the overgrowth of plants and bushes at the end of summer. bottom line is I’ll always lose when I go up against nature. Those pesky roots I think I’ve finally beaten bide their time then reappear weeks later.

The wind battered walls get painted regularly but still they look worn and need another coat by the end of winter. That’s why I love to add flashes of plastic and glass. A huge mirror on that wall looks amazing and I can bring it in when the weather turns. I’ve created dens using plastic acrylic sheets in bright colours.

We’ve even grown tiny new tomato plants in brightly coloured tubes to add a little colour. There’s a great selection at www.simplyplastics.com with everything from flourescent tubes to mirrors, clear plastics and brightly coloured sheets.

This summer I’m planning a bit of a colour crazy kids section where they can plant seeds in the flourescent tubes, put mirrors up and create some games with plastic squares. My son has already suggested a colour version of hop scotch!

I love the natural world but punctuated with a little colour imagination and I can make my garden a fantastic little haven.

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Engagement rings – it’s not all about the wedding!

I’m not sure if I want to get married. It’s not that I don’t love him in doors. I do, I just can’t think of anything I do rather do less than organise a wedding! But that’s not to say I don’t want to get engaged. I know, I know, that’s ridiculous but the truth is I just love a beautiful ring!

Something deliciously sparkly on my finger…the idea makes me smile. I’m fully aware getting engaged should lead to getting married but perhaps I could just have a really, really long engagement and just have a ring?

I often wander past a jewellery shop and stop for a few minutes deciding which one I’d like. It would be rose gold and antique, something which would invite comments such as’ that’s so unusual, where did you get it?’. Buying beautiful antique rings is recycling too, right? So not only would I get something beautiful but I’d be saving the planet too.

Ok so that may be stretching it a little but the idea of wearing something with a past, with its very own love story attached is appealing. Was it bought after months of saving by a young man hopelessly in love with a girl. Was is passed down from mother to daughter in a moment of love – a chance to see her life and her loves live on.

I’m a romantic at heart and antique jewellery, for me, is the ultimate in romanticism. Breathing life into something which possibly meant so much and now sits alone in a shop.

I may not want a white wedding but I might be dropping some not so subtle hints about that beautiful rose gold treasure that winked at me as I walked past last week.