FLORIDA FIRST TIMERS – DISNEY HERE WE COME!

It’s official, we’re off to the happiest place on Earth! Next August twelve of us (yes, twelve!) are Florida bound for a fortnight of fun in the sun. Having worked through the endless flight / accommodation / ticket options we’ve finally managed to get booked up and the countdown is on.

I should probably confess at this point that I have never really been a Disney kinda girl. I’ve definitely seen a few Pixar movies but as far as Bambi, The Lion King and all that – nada. I mean I’ve been around Flump while she’s watched Frozen but that’s usually while I get on with doing stuff or on long car journeys, in which case she has her headphones on so not sure that really counts?!

Luckily my 16 year old niece is a lover of all things Disney and has kindly agreed to supply us with a weekly DVD so we can do our homework in time for the big event. She’s also 100% obsessed with Harry Potter (now at Universal Studios) and I have serious concerns that she may not make it to Florida on account of being the first person to actually explode with excitement.

So far, so good. Aladdin – tick, Little Mermaid – tick and I admit, the new Beauty & the Beast movie is pretty awesome too. Any recommendations then lovely readers?

Continue Reading

*GIVEAWAY – A3 FELLOWES LAMINATOR*

There’s something strangely satisfying about laminating stuff, no? This week we’ve been laminating left right and centre and basically living out my childhood dreams of being Teacher. Here’s a peek into what we’ve been up to…

There are oodles of online printables available for organising everything from your weekly menu to your wedding day. Visit Fellowes.com/ideascentre for some fab free options. Use a dry wipe marker so you can clean and reuse as many times as you like.

 

I also laminated my favourite ‘Daily Blogging Checklist‘, nothing quite as satisfying as being able to tick things off that list right?

Getting Flump to practice her writing isn’t easy at the best of times but it seems the novelty of a wipe-clean sheet makes it slightly more interesting! I also laminated her times tables sheets to keep them in the back of the car for practicing while we’re out and about. Next up – telling the time sheets (wish me luck!)

I found this idea online and thought it was so cute as a present for Grandparents – mini-me bookmarks! Just print a photo of your little one with their hands clasped up in the air, laminate and thread some ribbon through the top – simples. I also made a cute unicorn tail version with some leftover wallpaper. You can find some simple bookmark printables here to get you started.

These wipe clean placemats have been the kids favourite laminating project and actually the most useful. I let them choose some wallpaper samples and cut them to size using this nifty little trimmer. I also found these cool Dinnertime Doodle free printables which the kids will love.

With the start of a new school year comes the bonus of works of art arriving home on a daily basis- yay! Some lovely Mummies cannot bear to part with even the teeniest scrap of paper and store these offerings in a folder, to be filed away for sentimental reasons. I’m not that Mummy, ours get filed away in the recycling bin, sometimes enroute to the front door. However occasionally there are some treasures that even I find hard to ditch – there’s something about those handprint ones that get me every time. A quick trip through the laminator means I can store it away safely to cry over in years to come!

Continue Reading

TRUE TASTE OF MEXICO COMES TO BEDFORD

Tuesday afternoons are rarely something to shout about in our house. School run, fish finger sandwiches and footie training before bedtime are standard. So this week when I was invited to experience the true taste of Mexico at a stunning new restaurant in Bedford I was more than a little excited. Firstly, Mexican food is my absolute favourite so it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Secondly, I’m so used to having to travel miles for a decent Mexican restaurant that I did a little happy dance to hear one was opening just twenty minutes away!

MEXIco is a relatively new kid on the foodie block (Bedford being it’s 3rd branch in a year, after Derby and Maidstone) but if you ever get the chance to visit, I can highly recommend it. Created by Head Chef Johnny Hernandez, the name behind numerous successful US restaurants, the menu brings a taste of authentic Mexican cooking to the UK.

Interior – MEXIco is a real feast for the eyes, bursting with colour from top to toe the vibrant décor and playful design give a relaxed fiesta feel to the venue and had me mentally redesigning my kitchen, living room, garden…

 

 

Artwork – I have to give this a special mention as the focus on authenticity runs right through to the specially imported artwork on display. Shipped directly from contemporary Mexican artists and craftsmen most of the light fittings, sculptures and patterns have been created specifically for MEXIco. (Even the toilets are wallpapered in the newspaper that was used to protect the artwork in transit!)

 

Food – Focusing strongly on freshness and authenticity, Chef Johnny has developed a menu that draws from his many years experience of travelling around Mexico. Talking to him about the dishes it’s obvious how passionate he is about bringing the true taste of Mexico to the UK (trust me, this guy knows his stuff, not many chefs can say they were personally requested to cook for President Obama at the Whitehouse!). All the favourites are on offer, tacos, tostadas and my personal favourite – chicken quesadillas. Just make sure you leave some room, the churros and dulce de leche are too good to miss.

Drinks – In true Mexican style, tequila is at the star of the show at MEXIco. If you’d asked me if I was a tequila fan before now the answer would have been a definite ‘No’ but after sampling (many of) the cocktails prepared and so beautifully presented I have to admit I’m a convert! Oh, and if you’re not planning to eat but fancy a drink or two with friends this place is perfect – a separate bar area means you can just pop in and enjoy a beer or work your way through the cocktail menu, no problem.

Continue Reading

SCHOOL HOLIDAY SURVIVAL PLANNER

Whether you’re counting down the last few weeks of term or dreading the prospect of having your little critters at home for the holidays, a holiday survival planner will prove mega useful when the time comes.

You can find lots of printable templates online, here’s one you might like but there are all sorts of variations so have a looksee for one that suits you best.

If like me you prefer to have a copy on your pc you can find monthly templates here downloadable for Excel and Word.

Hooray, you’re good to go! Here’s how I set about building mine:

Start with the biggies. I already know which dates we have our family holiday booked, when I’m taking the kids to visit family in Ireland and which week their favourite summer club is running so those go into my template, colour-coded to make it look pretty  obvious at a quick glance.

Add in any definites. I always feel for parents who have to arrange a party in the school holidays. If possible I make sure we RSVP ASAP to make their job a little less stressful. Along with these dates, I fill in things like family celebrations or pre-booked day trips/activities.

Book in the necessaries. I’ve learnt the hard way to plan ahead when it comes to anything school uniform/shoe related! You can now pre-book feet measuring in some stores making the whole process a lot less painful for everyone involved. Apart from the paying bit, that’s always going to hurt. If you need to go to a specialist uniform retailer for certain bits and bobs find out their opening hours (some smaller stores can be a bit random!) and see if they do appointments. It probably makes sense to pencil in morning to buy any other bits of uniform (don’t forget the PE kit!) so at least it’s all out of the way. Do this on a separate day to shoes/uniform shop, there’s only so much dullness anyone can tolerate. Arrange dental check-ups and hair appointments if required.

Continue Reading

3 INGREDIENT BISCUITS, YOU’RE WELCOME!

High on any kid’s list of favourite pass-times are making a mess and stuffing their greedy little faces with junk. It goes without saying then that baking, an activity that combines both these things, is always a winner. While I do a lot of baking when I have the kitchen to myself, I rarely have the patience or inclination to allow my two little helpers in on the act ‘just for fun’. This recipe is my secret weapon for those times when I can no longer avoid the joy that is baking with children. It’s simple enough for the kids to get involved, quick, has 3 basic ingredients and best of all uses little equipment so you won’t be left with a mountain of washing up.

If you’ve attempted to bake with kids before you’ll already know that they have zero interest in measuring out the ingredients or lining baking trays. All this stuff is boring. They basically want to get their hands covered in goop and eat the end results as soon as possible even if it means first degree burns to the tongue. Just get everything prepped beforehand (it won’t take long in this instance) and I promise things will be 100% less painful.

Ingredients: 100g softened butter or Stork, 50g caster sugar, 150g self raising flour.

Continue Reading

SHARING IS CARING WITH PREZZO

Like most families our weeks seem to fly by from one to the next, a busy jumble of school runs, work, to-do lists, chores, after-school activities and emergency fish fingers sandwiches. Weekends are just as hectic to be honest, only with a lot more football and laundry involved. Which is why school holidays are such a relief when they do come along, a chance for all of us to take a break from the usual routine and spend some family time having fun. This half term coincided with a bank holiday which meant even Daddy got the chance to kick back for a few days!

After a rare family trip to the cinema we headed to Prezzo with our tummies rumbling (Italian is the ONLY option we can all agree on when eating out). The La Famiglia sharing dish was just what the doctor ordered, no fussing about what who was having what, just a huge bowl of spaghetti bolognaise delivered to our table pronto! There are 4 pasta dishes to choose from so something to suit every family. Dishing out for the family in a restaurant setting is a genius idea – everyone gets to enjoy a family style meal together just how they like it – from the spaghetti monster who always asks for extra pasta to the one who insists on having the sauce on the left, minus the cooking and washing up! Plus no food envy whinging (guilty!) and because everyone is served just the right amount, no wastage – ooh we like that a lot! Along with a couple of garlic flatbreads, we found the portion size perfect for 2 adults and 2 children, leaving just enough room for that all important dessert!

Continue Reading

DAVID BADDIEL’S ‘ANIMALCOLM’ CHILDREN’S BOOK

David Walliams, Frank Lampard, Ricky Gervais – to you and me well known names from the celebrity world but to my 8 year old son, authors of some of his favourite children’s books. Now you can add to the list of famouses-turned-author, funny man David Baddiel. In fact Baddiel has been writing for many years but has only ventured into children’s fiction more recently. Already a huge fan myself I need no convincing of his humour and brilliance but as we know, kids are the harshest critics and so on this occasion I’ve delegated the task of reviewing ‘AniMalcolm’ (Baddiel’s latest) to my own little bookwork, Spud.

At first he thought the book looked a bit big compared to his usual reads but inside the text and illustrations are well spaced out and make this an easy read for him- he flew through the pages chuckling away to himself! He really enjoyed it and especially loved the idea of the main character being turned into all the different animals and experiencing life from their point of view! Two big thumbs up from this little bookworm.

“I loved it when he was turned into different animals!” – Spud Brown, 8 years

Continue Reading

10 WAYS I’M #ROCKINGMOTHERHOOD

 

You may have noticed the #rockingmotherhood tag popping up on your favourite blogs quite a lot recently. A list of 10 reasons why you’re acing it in the Mummy game followed by 5 nominees to join in. I’m all for encouraging us mamas to ditch the mum guilt and actually celebrate the positives of parenting so here goes…

1:EMBRACING NEW EXPERIENCES – Ha! Where to start with this one? Becoming a mother brings with it no end of new experiences and challenges. Some of these we may prefer to erase from our memory (Morning sickness? Episiotomy? Cracked Nipples? I could go on but I won’t!). Others open up a whole new world where we are forced to deal with things totally outside our comfort zone. From Great Aunt Aggie to Gina Ford (urgh) we’re bombarded and bamboozled with advice but ultimately the buck stops with Mama Bear and slowly you begin to grow in confidence, learning as you go. Every stage of parenting a small human throws up (!) weird and wonderful experiences. Eventually I realised that being a mother is a bit like being Charlie Bucket in Wonka’s Chocolate Factory; you know it’s a privilege not everyone gets, you spend most of it being slightly freaked out but ultimately you embrace it as one of the most amazing things you will ever experience.

Continue Reading

COUCH TO 5K – WHAT IT’S REALLY LIKE

As you might already know I’m running the Vitality London 10,000 at the end of May. Yep, that’s actually happening (well that’s the plan anyway!)

Not only will this be my first 10k race, it will be my first ever race. I’m part terrified, part excited, part terrified. Any previous attempts to run for more than 2 minutes have ended with me convincing myself I’m just not built for it, quickly returning to my comfort zone of long walks. After a knee operation and a long, boring wait for tendonitis to ease up I was happy just to be able to manage walking without pain. So there I remained, content with my daily mooch to the next village and back. A long enough walk to rack up a decent amount of steps and my daily therapy fix to boot- perfect.

This year however, when an opportunity came up for me to run as part of The Children’s Society team I knew it was just the motivation I needed to give running another try. It’s a wonderful charity that works with disadvantaged children dealing with a wide range of issues from child poverty to government policy, always working to transform the lives of vulnerable children. Being able to raise awareness for these guys through my blog while training for a 10k seemed like a no-brainer.

I thought I’d give you a little update on how it’s going so far. As the title of the post suggests, I’ve reached the halfway point of my training today *pats self on back* so I thought it might be useful for anyone considering the Couch – 5k to have a little insight of my experience.

Training

I decided to train using the C25K app as it’s the most well known, tried and tested approach I’m aware of. It’s tailored to first time runners and seems to have a good success rate. For anyone who hasn’t heard of it or used it before it’s an 8 week running plan aimed to gradually build up your running to 5k through a combination of walking and running, until you are strong enough to run without stopping. Each training session lasts between 30-40 minutes including a warm-up and cool-down.

Each week has three workouts ideally with a rest day in between which works perfectly for me. I drop the kids to school and do the workout straight after on Mon/Wed/Fri meaning I don’t have to worry about fitting a session in over the weekend.

I would say that before starting C25K my level of fitness was average. I’m no gym bunny but I do try to make a bit of an effort to move my body and keep active. The very first day of training was this: 5min warm up then alternate 60sec jogging and 90sec walking for 20min. Pff, I mean how hard can that be? Turns out it can be quite hard. Hmmm….so at that point I may have had a mild panic about how the hell I was ever going to run 10k if I was struggling on Day 1!

8 weeks on, I have somehow managed to learn to run continuously for 5k! I just have to read that back because it seems unbelievable to me. I’ve never before managed anywhere near that and I know for a fact that the only reason I haven’t quit weeks ago is because I can’t. I’ve committed to running 10k and not doing so, well it just isn’t an option.

When the voice on the app tells me to run, I run and I keep running until she says I can stop. It’s that simple. I reckon Forest Gump had the right idea you know, just keep on runnin’.

Some days are harder than others. In fact most days are a little bit hard but I’d liken it to childbirth in that once it’s over you feel an overwhelming sense of joy and completely forget the horror you’ve just endured.

Injury

Continue Reading

END OF AN ERA, NEW CHAPTER OR JUST MASSIVE MISTAKE?

So recently I’ve been contemplating going back to work sometime in the near future. Both the kids are in full time education and so the opportunity to return to the workplace is there if the right position were to come along.

Of course this would mean a real change to our current family dynamic and would bring with it a whole heap of challenges, childcare during holidays being the biggest and most obvious one.

In January I decided to dust off my CV have a tentative look to see what was out there (if anything) that would suit my requirements. I’m not really looking to get back on the career ladder as such, just something admin based that I can do well while still being around for the family as much as I can.

So here I am, noseying around on jobsites for something that might be remotely suitable when I spot an interesting little post that appears to tick a lot of boxes. On a whim I click the ‘Apply for this job’ button for the craic, my CV gets whizzed off through the interwebs and I crack on with life never giving it a second thought.

Until a few weeks later when I get a call from the company inviting me for an interview!! After a brief pause while I suddenly realised she hadn’t got the wrong number and that I had indeed applied for an actual job, I arrange an interview date.

Right, ok then. So that happened. I’m going for a job interview. For a job. A job that could actually be my job. It’s just an interview though, not an offer so no biggie right? If anything I should go purely because the last time I had a job interview I was a mere child, pre-marriage or parenthood, so I could really do with the practice.

Obviously I discussed it with Himself and he agreed that whatever the outcome I should go for the interview regardless.

So I did, this morning.

Continue Reading