** Disclosure – In return for writing this honest review I was provided with 2 months subscription boxes to Mud & Bloom**
Throughout January and February we have been exploring and enjoying the Mud & Bloom children’s gardening and nature subscription boxes. Read more to find out how you can get 50% off a Mud & Bloom subscription box.
For more about what Mud & Bloom boxes are, read this taken from the Mud & Bloom website;
“The boxes are for 3-8 year old’s and will be delivered through your letterbox at the beginning of each month.
Each box includes everything you need for two seasonal activities: one gardening and one nature craft – along with instructions, quizzes and games aimed at teaching children about the seasons, plants, insects, birds, soil and rainfall.
Activities have been created by qualified teachers and theysupport the national curriculum with influence from Forest School, Steiner and Montessori education.”
The founder of Mud & Bloom, Anja, is a mother herself and totally in tune with the kind of crafting activities 3-8 year olds would enjoy. What I love initially about the boxes is that they fit through the letterbox so no hassle.
Like what you hear so far? If you would like 50% off a Mud & Bloom subscription box, enter the code below at the checkout. This code expires 15th March 2018! So hurry!
When our boxes arrived, George loved collecting them from the doormat and then excitedly unpacking them whilst I explained the activities we would be doing and what the supplies provided would be used for. Having read other reviews, I know some people like to crack on and do all the activities in the box within a short space of time.
But for us we like to have varied and busy days with a mixture of planned and free play activities. I loved having the Mud & Bloom box as a go to . To fill some quiet time when George (who is 3 years old) seemed restless and in need of some guidance in his play.
Over the last two months we’ve grown edible sprouting seeds and learnt how they contain different nutrients in their varying states. George was able to use a sieve and muslin to rinse the seeds, before filling a jar with water using a jug. I helped seal it with an elastic band and change the water daily. He didn’t want to taste any of the seeds in the end but we still had fun watching them grow.
We also made a twig raft which was perfect for my stick hoarding child. This child gets so excited when he sees sticks and twigs and we have quite a selection at home. I set about turning them into a raft using string included in our box. Whilst this was a task that involved more participation from me than G but I actually never realised how simple it was to create a raft so I’m eager to try it on a larger scale now.
It was this particular fact sheet that prompted me to feedback to Anja that I believe the factsheets could be improved with more illustrations and fewer words as secretly I’m still a child at heart and I’m all about the pictures. I understand instructions a lot more in visual rather than written form. These boxes are a work in progress and she is ever improving them.
But by far our favourite crafty task was the pebble painting. This is so on trend right now and little dude loved it (as did I…massively). Checkout our insta to see my fab likeness of our cat Sockies painted onto a pebble.
The Mud & Bloom subscription boxes get you outside bird watching, hunting for freshly blooming flowers of the season, and make use of all those collections from mother nature that kids seem to be unable to resist bringing home. Stones, twigs, you now have a productive use for them all.
Finally I’d like to share with you a poem I wrote to summarise how we felt about Mud & Bloom subscription boxes. We are most definitely signing up for more. At £7.95 a month, inclusive of postage and packing, these more than prove their worth. And remember, you can cancel or skip your subscription at any time.
Mud and bloom’s box of tricks
Will keep your child’s attention fixed
Full of things to make and grow
Crafting, learning as they go
It’s time to go and hunt supplies
Pebbles, twigs and more to find
Whilst you’re out, take your list
To check off flowers and birds in your midst
For budding green fingers,
Mud and bloom has you need
Inside their boxes
Guides, peat and seeds
Subscribe to get your treat
Then through your letterbox you will greet
Your monthly box of things to do
Lots of fun for your child and you.
Remember…If you would like 50% off a Mud & Bloom subscription box, visit Mud and Bloom enter the code below at the checkout. This code expires 15th March 2018! So hurry!
I’ve been pondering, as I do most things, whether as a nation of Brits, whether we are pushing our own fears onto our children?
George is now three and we’ve attended many a baby and toddler class, read many a children’s book and watched many a program aimed at children his age. He’s a child who is learning all about his surroundings, feelings and emotions and how the world works.
The most recent thing we watched that actually sparked this post was a program on a well known British children’s channel. In the show, the children were practicing their nativity play. Two of the girls got up on a stage and acted out the role of Mary and the Angel. After the girls had said their lines, the teacher asked the girls if acting on a stage had made them nervous. They both said no. “Did it make you excited?” she asked. A weak yes response came from both. Fair do’s for asking if it incited varying emotions but what the teacher said next irritated me.
The teacher then turned to the rest of the class and said;
“It’s very hard to get up on stage in front of everyone. “Girl A” usually has a lot of confidence in class but it doesn’t mean it’s easy to get up here, she did really well”.
I get what she’s attempting to do. Praise and credit the girls achievements, but can you see the point I am trying to highlight here?
She has just told a class full of impressionable children that it is a difficult thing to stand up and talk in front of others. And so (to my mind) a potential class of nervous and shy children have been created. You tell a child something, they believe it (typically) For many you have just planted a seed of negativity right there.
And before you think I’m one of those 2017, gets offended by everything types, I so couldn;t be further from it. What I am is someone who says things as I see. We all know that if I tell you long enough the sky is green that eventually, if you are impressionable (as children are) you will start to believe it.
I’ve also on countless times heard the mention of “scary spiders”. Yes, agreed, arachnophobia is a big thing in the world but we are never going to stop it by teaching children that spiders are scary. It’s a never ending cycle of fear being programmed into one generation after the next. Children don’t come out being scared of spiders. We teach it to them. I know the end moral of stories like the one I’ve seen on Peppa pig is that you needn’t be scared of spiders like Mr Skinny Legs but by then it’s too late. You’ve planted the seed. Where are the programs about scary sheep, scary balls or scary paintbrushes? There aren’t many you can name are there!
Then there’s rain. Think about it. As a British nation, specifically in England, the majority of us believe that rain is a negative thing. Admittedly this mentality is changing but there are countless posts about what to do on a rainy day at home. But why does a rainy day have to mean you stay home? And so I draw your attention to a well known nursery rhyme.
“Rain, rain go away, come again another day”
Don’t even get me started on;
“It’s raining, it pouring, the old man is snoring, he went to bed and bumped his head and couldn’t get up in the morning”
I’m sure you are thinking that children don’t over analyse these things. But you have to admit that we could be planting seeds in our children’s minds that suggest rain is negative. You can’t go out in the rain, it needs to go away, no one likes it. Why!?
It’s hard for me as a mother who grew up scared of almost everything. The dark, spiders, going fast, swimming, the wind, loud noise, heights, going upstairs by myself, ghosts, dead people, being shy. I’m not saying it’s anyone’s fault I was that way. I can almost pinpoint a life event that caused each of those fears but I bet I’ve forgotten about the episode of a programme that first instilled that idea into me, or a lady saying something to me on the bus, or a book that was read to me at the library.
As an adult I now try my hardest to not be fearful of anything. Using willpower, hypnotherapy and just a basic “couldn’t give a shit” attitude I’ve managed to conquer most of those fears. Post natal depression will do that for you as well I found. Once you’ve seen the lowest parts of yourself you aren’t scared of much else your daily life has to offer. But for George I’ve always wanted different. If I can avoid him gaining a fear of things I will.
He has already developed several fears that affect him in fits and starts and to be honest I can only think they are things he has seen on television as he certainly hasn’t witnessed them from me or his dad. We greet spiders like they are long lost friends, we poo poo suggestions we hear on tele of people saying they are scared of the dark etc. We encourage him to discover, explore and push himself, safe in the knowledge that we will be there if he feels he needs us to support him.
Once he starts full time school I know this will become harder. Perhaps we all need a little fear to make us rounded individuals. I personally feel fear holds you back and you miss out on areas of life because of it. Shyness for example. Would I have taken part in so much more, been part of so many groups had I not been shy. I wouldn’t have taken so much bullshit and I may, possibly, have been happier for it instead of feeling bitter about a lot of my school years.
What do you think? Do you think this is a British thing? I can’t help wondering if children raised in other countries/cultures/environments have different fears because of different exposures. For example in countries where they don’t a lot of television, if any, do children have these fears? Or as Brits are we creating the next anxious and fearful generation?
**Disclosure – I was invited to Bluestone Wales for a midweek break in return for this honest review. All opinions are my own. This does not affect the integrity of this post.**
This post is about the magical, chilled, friendly, chilled, welcoming, adventurous, did I mention chilled? 5 days we spent at Bluestone National Park Resort .
We arrived around 2:30pm on the Monday and checked in whilst still in our car. A traffic light style system calls you up to the check in window where the staff handed us a welcome pack with our entry key cards and premium wifi code that hubby had purchased, along with a copy of the Village Voice. We parked up and headed straight to the golf buggy hire as this was also the nearest loo’s and nature was a’calling. I’ll talk more about the golf buggies later.
Before I could finish in the loo, hubs had completed the gold buggy pickup so we thought we’d take it for a test spin on a mini tour of the site. We located our lodge which we would be able to access at 4:30pm (or 3pm for other lodge types). You are allowed to bring your car onsite to unload and load up on check in and checkout day but otherwise it must be stored in the car park.
George was loving the golf buggy but we felt after the long journey he needed to stretch his legs in the treehouse play area. The treehouses are fab for children of all ages to explore and overlook the newly refurbished adventure playground which was colourful, clean and great quality. It was lovely to see families congregate here whilst the little ones ran round dizzily deciding what to play on next.
We were staying in a Caldey Lodge in Bartholomew rise not far from the lake. Our two bedroom lodge came complete with an open plan kitchen, diner, lounge with tall ceilings to add to the feel of space. There were french doors which opened onto a patio area with picnic table and bike rack. Off of this lounge area was the twin and master double side by side with the bathroom with shower and large heated towel rail.
The lodge was comfy, cosy and the heating worked a treat. What struck me most was the high quality of everything. Heavy, solid wood furniture in the bedroom and dining area. Strong and decent cooking and kitchen utensils which were all well kept and sparkling clean. It felt like a home from home. (It was actually better than my home!)
Having had spinal surgery when I was a teen, I’m pretty fussy about the beds I sleep in. Don’t get me wrong, I can sleep anytime anywhere,but if I don’t sleep in the right bed then my body can suffer for days. At home we have a half sprung/half memory foam mattress with a feather down topper. It’s my ideal bed and sadly I always miss it when we are on holiday. Bluestone’s mattresses however were absolute bliss. Due to having a toddler that likes me to be near, I spent time in both the twin bed and the double and both were equally comfortable. I literally could have stayed in their beds all day ( if I wasn’t being dragged out at 6am by George every morning)
A unique perk of Bluestone is the ability to be able to hire a golf buggy for either a day or the duration of your stay.The golf buggy is a great novelty and it helps a lot with a toddler in tow. Our trusty steed for the week was number 77 Lili-Mai and we had great fun taking it in turns to whizz round on her.
A warmer time of year we might be tempted to walk more or hire bicycles and trailers but we are so glad that we had the golf buggy as a semi refuge from the rain. It meant we could get from A to B quicker without turning up drenched. Little tip: take extra towels/tea towels for wiping the seat dry which (thanks to Welsh weather) you may find yourself doing half a dozen times a day.
You can also take your own bikes and there’s also guest transport to help you get around the resort with designated bus stops. If I am honest though, the site was not as vast as I’d expected. It’s easily walkable and only marginally hilly in some places. The paths are continually being maintained, with staff filling in puddles and holes with gravel on a regular basis.
Top tip – if you aren’t from Wales, make your peace with the weather before you visit. We went expecting nothing but rain so that anything else would be a bonus. Plus, Rainbows!
Food and Drink
This is mine and hubs favourite part of holidays. We love eating out and trying different eating establishments so we wanted to ensure we tried as many of the onsite restaurants and cafes as possible.
In the end the only places we did NOT try were:-
The Knight’s Tavern which I popped in to use the toilets and the atmosphere was pleasant and very similar to that of a pub that serves food. It’s the lower end of the budget of the restaurants onsite.
The Oaktree restaurant which is a pizza / pasta restaurant but on the first night George wanted to be in the lodge so we got takeaway chip shop food from…..
The Chippy which was nice but I have had better and the staff there lacked a welcoming persona. The fried halloumi is worth a try.
Farmhouse grill – The second time we planned on visiting the Oaktree we actually changed our minds as we couldn’t resist returning to the Farmhouse Grill for the second night in a row. I’d recommend booking a table here to ensure you get seated. You can tell it’s freshly made using top notch ingredients. To quote their menu;
“Using quality local ingredients to instil a sense a place“
Staff are so attentive. Hubs was massively impressed on our second night when someone accidentally smashed a glass at their table and before you barely heard the smash there were already two members of staff dashing to the table with a mop and broom.
Checkout piccies of what we had below.
The children’s menu is fab and is a world away from the typical chicken nuggets and chips but still appealing to children. The ‘kids platter’ was such a perfect dinner for him with so many of his favourites.
We also ate twice in the Ty Coffi cafe. Once for a breakfast, (they do a mean beans on toast which went down a storm with George) and their panini’s are great too. There was so much more we could have tried. It was often very busy in there so they definitely could do with a few more staff as the ones there seemed rushed off their feet which meant they didn’t really have time for ‘service with a smile’. t didn’t prevent us from returning though. Their hot chocolates and sausage sandwich are the best way to warm up after a hike through the vast forest.
Bluestone also have a cafe, Caffi Môr, within the spa which I sadly didn’t try, along with a camp style rustic woodland diner which wasn’t open for the season of our stay.
Things to do
There’s such a vast timetable of activities to do at Bluestone, from shadow puppet shows to baby yoga and massage, 4×4 safari driver experience round a track or a host of tree top activities at the steep ravine.
Explore the forest
We chose to check out the Winter lights enchanted walk in daylight and continue on into the forest where we squelched through mud and then washed our boots in the stream. The forest towards the steep ravine is full of really tall, narrow trees, which when the wind blows creates a creaking noise as the trees all knock together. We enjoyed standing still for a while and listening to this noise, before pretending the trees were going to come crashing down and racing up the hill. George loved this game and natures own sound effects added to the feel.
We also spent a fair amount of time playing at the playground which we nicknamed the Teletubbies playground due to the green hill feature.
We tried the shadow puppet show which was great and the village hall decor is magical. It involved participation and dancing from the kiddies rather than a sit and watch puppet show.
If booking via the website you can find a brief description for each activity but I didn’t use this, preferring to book at the booking office after we got a feel for our surroundings. The show was great and top marks for the effort put in by the staff.
When we had enough of being outside we visited the Blue Lagoon swimming pool. They have something for everyone. Slides, wave machine, pirate ship spray area, lazy river taking you outside and an enclosed baby and toddler splash zone where balls float on the water, they can explore walking round an artificial rock pool, squirting gadgets and basketball. This area has a lockable gate to prevent little ones wandering off towards danger.
The Blue lagoon is also open to the public but it wasn’t overly busy when we went mid morning (residents only) and there was room for everyone. There are also designated photo points where you can use your camera without capturing unknowing suspects in your shot.
The adventure has something for all ages and brings the fun inside. The under 5’s circus zone is completely in another area of the building and features a bright, clean and colourful soft play area, mini ride on car on a track, giant building blocks, and baby gym and balance equipment.
The large main area of the adventure centre downstairs contains masses of wooden climbing frames in a tree house style. Some reaching up the ceiling easily 20 feet in the air. There are free ride on trikes available and a bouncy castle, help yourself to a game of mini golf or play some games at the amusement arcade. There’s also a mechanical digger to dig a large pit of sandy stones and bookable wall climbing for adults and children alike. A mezzanine platform allows you to grab a coffee from the Wildwood cafe whilst the madness ensues downstairs.
Seasonal dinner show
On our final night there we’d booked ourselves into Merlin’s Magical Dinner show. This was in the Wildwood Cafe situated in the adventure centre. Here we had a set menu of roast dinner and desert. This was brought up on a big serving plate to our table where we helped ourselves. Meanwhile the staff were extremely attentive, asking if we needed any more potatoes, gravy etc.
Before and after dinner the staff entertained us by putting on a show in the areas around our tables. There was magic, music, comedy and some audience participation from the children too. This really was an unforgettable dinner experience.
Winter lights parade
The dinner experience over, we all wrapped up warm ready to march in the parade through the site. The parade was led by a 12 foot Merlin wizard whilst a member of staff banged a drum and encouraged us through the cold, night with chanting and singing. The children ran and flashed torches and various items they had made at bookable groups that week.
We all gathered in the courtyard at the Knights tavern where the staff and Merlin took to the balcony to guide us as we watched the light how featured in my video below. They then sang into the evening whilst the crowd sang and danced along. It felt like such a wonderful community vibe and no one was in a hurry to be anywhere.
Check Out my youtube video to see more of the light show
People tried to warn me I would be cold in Wales but I didn’t anticipate HOW cold. I lived in 3 layers all week. I’d defo buy thermal undies if visiting in Winter again.
Having said that, our stay has totally changed my outlook on going out in bad weather. I’ve never been too fussed as I’m a football supporter but Bluestone has really cemented the ideal that whatever the weather, fun can be had.
Hubs and I have already said we would love to return in the summer, maybe with friends or family. I think travelling from Essex is aa long way for a mid week break so I’d prefer 7 days in future. I’d love to checkout the local sites and beaches too as we didn;t leave the resort this stay.
This is a place where you can return again and again and never tire as every activity differs. I’d also love to try one of the upside living lodges, offering fab views of the Welsh countryside.
My vagina is getting a treat next month , and not because it’s pretty but because I believe prevention is better than cure. I have just booked my smear test following an invitation from my GP surgery. I’m jumping on board with cervical cancer prevention week to give you this lecture low down on why I believe all women eligible for the smear test should be getting one. If you read the news, you will know that the number of women taking up their invitation for a smear test is at a 10 year low! The reason, embarrassment over the look and smell of their pubic areas! Yes apparently so!
Erm hello! Have we all gone fucking mental! 9 times out of the 10, (I’m taking a gamble) the person conducting your smear test is a women too! You can request a women carries out the test when you book the appointment. Said nurse/doctor has a fanny/ foof/ noo noo/ noonie/ flange/ vag/ vagina/ pussy herself! It smells at different times of the day or month. It varies in how hairy or not hairy it is. And do you know what else I’m going to take a gamble on? I bet you that nurse trained in her role so that she could help and save others in matters of their health. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t give a shit what state your fanny is in!
I mean be considerate, don’t turn up there unclean. But a simple wash and fresh underwear will suffice. Vagina’s smell! They’re ugly and unless you are a porn star there’s not much you are likely to do about it.
Are we that shallow now that we are risking our LIVES due to another body confidence issue! Please ladies! TAKE SOME PERSPECTIVE!
If you are a Mama then it’s very likely that you have endured childbirth and up to a dozen or more people have seen down there already so you really have no excuse. Plus you now have kiddies to care for and you are pretty useless to them in a coffin. Hey never mind kiddo. Mummy may not be here for your biggest moments in life but at least she had a good looking vagina! Sounds absolutely ridiculous and yes I’m being harsh but it’s necessary.
How often are you confronted with a petition on social media for the NHS to test for this, that and the other. There are so many conditions that could be avoided due to routine testing but these tests aren’t available. Smear tests are so use them!
Cervical cancer isn’t pleasant. I haven’t experienced it myself but I know one way or another that the treatment for it can leave you with less than pleasant lifelong side effects. A small price to pay for staying alive but nonetheless if you can avoid developing it all together then why wouldn’t you. Although the smear test is actually a test to determine the health of your cervix, it stop around 1 in every 100 women’s from getting cervical cancer (according to the NHS pamphlet.
So where will I be February 15th? I’ll be at my smear as I have been every third year around my birthday since I was 21. (Although the age of testing is now 3 yearly for 25-49 and 5 yearly for 50-64 year olds.)This will be my 5th smear and once you’re on the table with your legs open you just get chatting about Eastenders and before you know it it’s over. I tend to pop to the loo after to properly wipe away any excess lube if he nurse has been a bit over generous. I also put a panty liner on as I can sometimes get spotting after. I’m then careful not to lift anything to heavy that day as I do when I’m on my period as I often feel tender. Everyone is different though.
After 2 weeks I receive a letter, which for me has always stated my results were normal and no further action is needed. Sometimes they may find “abnormal cells” but again I know many ladies who have been called back for this and have been fine. Sometimes there is a need to remove the abnormal cells, sometimes a repeat test is needed as it may be that the results were compromised.
Ideally avoid using lubricants, vagina creams or having sexual activity 48 hours prior to your smear to better prevent your results being inaccurate.
So you see ladies it’s just another stage of life that us ladies ideally need to go through. Yes it’s a bit of a bitch but isn’t most of the shit our bodies throw at us. It’s what makes us strong and powerful. It’s what makes us women!
My top tips when attending a smear test
Wear a skirt/ dress or long top so you don’t feel like you are getting so exposed. Although you will be given paper towel to lay across you once undressed.
Don’t feel embarrassed to chat to the nurse just like you would if you was having a blood test or any other test. Remember she’s seen it all before and the mor me you relax the easier it will be.
Take a panty liner just in case of any bleeding/ spotting afterwards.
Treat yourself to your favourite chocolate/ coffee/ manicure afterwards. You did good lady. Be proud.
Tell your girl friends all about it. Let’s not be shy. The more of us share our experiences we can hopefully encourage one another to do this.
Don’t over clean yourself before the test. You will remove some of the natural moisture and in fact dry out your vagina making it harder for the speculum to be inserted ( although again don’t worry about the nurse struggling if you are naturally dry because she will use lubricant anyway).
Book your test mid cycle.
Ultimately it is your choice whether to have a smear test or not but in my eyes if you are too embarrassed to share your vagina for prevention of cancer how will you cope if you ever (heaven forbid) require treatment for cervical cancer?! Book the appointment.
For more information on Cervical Screening in the U.K. checkout the NHS website here;
As a blogger, (or at least a mama pretending to play blogger), my role is to write riveting pieces. It is my observation of both the world of blogging and journalism that often, the way to attract readers is to write controversial pieces.
Controversy after all sparks emotion in people, leading to debate and a more wider coverage of the piece. Sadness, anger, pity, sympathy, rapport, they are all feelings that often make you want to read more. Once roused, you feel more inclined to share with others what you’ve found. This is of course the same for humour, but humour is a delicacy that differs depending on taste and isn’t always easy to get right.
Overall it is my stance that if you read a piece and it makes you feel something then the writer has done their job. As an aspiring writer myself I think that’s what we all strive for. Only for me I’m a bit more selective. I only want people to feel positive emotions. Or at least compel them to think compassionately about the feelings and emotions of other living creatures. But I dread the thought that any of my posts would spark people to feel anger, hurt or disappointment.
See I’m happy to admit that I am a people pleaser. Although a quick google search will tell you that this is a pretty substandard type of person to be with numerous articles on how to stop it.
I want my posts to trigger thoughts and feelings about things you may not have considered. I can’t tell you what to feel but I will try my utmost to make sure that it doesn’t make you dislike what you are reading.
So if you are looking for controversy you won’t find it here. If you do then it was NEVER intentional. I hope I don’t sound like a complete sap without morals because I am very far from that. If I truly feel strongly about something I WILL argue the toss in the most diplomatic way I can.
I consider myself to be a strong and independent woman but the people pleasing side to my personality is supported by my position also as a fence sitter. When it comes to many a subject, just call me Switzerland. Ever striving to remain neutral.
Even if I start off with an opinion or a belief on a subject, I am very easily swayed once I start a discussion about it with somebody of an opposing view. This all combined makes me the worst candidate for a controversial post as I would undoubtedly receive a ton of back lash only to have changed my opinion on the topic. People’s opinions of me however may take a lot longer to change.
So if you ever want a mediator to an argument. I’m probably your girl. Efficiently adept at seeing both sides I’ll help you to find a resolve. As for looking for a contentious post on the latest hot topic…I reckon I can point you in the direction of a fab fellow blogger or two.
This said, my New Years Resolution for this year is to try and give less of a fuck. Last year I tried it and this year I shall continue to improve on the notion of treating others as I wish they treated me but without the expectation that this will be the case as it rarely is.
Much love and peace to you and remember where to come if you need a neutral viewpoint in a disagreement.
Any self respecting blogger is bombarding their readers with copious amounts of posts, piccies and present ideas relating to Christmas. Me? Not so much. Maybe next year. I have 14 nieces and nephews to buy presents for so that has more than kept me busy. Chuck in the Georgeous getting chickenpox and my blog has more the fallen by the wayside.
Santa Claus the Movie (1985) with Dudley Moore was always my favourite growing up. I loved that and The Snowman. George loves the snowman now and we even have a twinkly Christmas pic in the living room.
These days I love Elf but a tradition is for me and hubs to laugh our heads of at The Griswold family in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.
2. Have you ever had a white Christmas?
I can’t vividly remember one but I do remember there being some mild panic that people wouldn’t be able to get to us if it snowed when I was younger. These days our families are so widespread that travel is a must so a white Christmas is no longer the dream
3. Where do you usually spend your holiday?
We alternate between my family one year and in recent years have been visiting my in laws the other year. On the years my family don’t get together because my sisters and I are all with our in laws, we all get together and repeat Christmas on Boxing Day round my sister’s.
4. What’s your favourite Christmas song?
I have a few with stories behind them.
Feliz Navidad (the Michael Bublé and Thalia) – Hubs has always sung this and I honestly believed he made it up. So when I bought the Michael Bublé Christmas album and this song came on I was literally stunned and let’s just say we enjoy laughing at my stupidity when this comes on.
Last Christmas by Wham – This was always my song to wander round the dancefloor towards the end of the night, hands on chest, drunk and merry singing away and pointing to each of my girlie friends when I say someone special. Those days are gone and sadly so is George Michael so this song now only makes me feel like welling up.
Merry Christmas Everybody by Slade -It’s an absolute classic. Every age knows it and it has brought with it a classic punch catchphrase of just yelling at the top of your voice “It’s Christmaaaaaaasssss!!!!”
5. Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?
Yep. We always were allowed to open one small present on Xmas eve as kids so I’ve carried that tradition on with hubs and now with George. You open it in the evening.
6. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
Erm, without cheating with google probably not. How many are there? 7? 8? Rudolph, Donner, Dasher, Dancer, Blitzen, Comet, Cupid? Let’s give up there shall we!
7. What holiday traditions are you looking forward to this year?
The big FC coming round on his mighty sleigh, speakers blaring, pulled by his trusty Ford Mondeo. It’s a beautiful tradition that brings me and my neighbours together in our town. With thanks to the Rotary CLub for organising this year after year.
We always try to take George to Santa’s grotto (only one mind you). We are cutting it fine this year though with the intrusive chicken pox making an appearance.
8. Is your Christmas tree real or fake
Fake. I would adore a real tree so so much but I’m a cat lady. We have three cats and I know the wally’s would eat the flaming needles and end up in the emergency vets over Christmas. It’s so fab that you can now get little scented sticks to put in your fake tree to make it smell real.
9. What’s your favourite holiday food/sweet/treat?
I don’t like mince pies, egg nog, mulled wine or gingerbread men. I don’t like christmas pudding. So that just leaves turkey and chocolate. I never tire of turkey. Turkey curry, turkey dinner, turkey sandwich. As long as it’s warm I love it. Warm leftover turkey sandwich with cranberry and stuffing, mm mmm.
10. Be honest, do you prefer the giving or receiving of gifts?
It’s always been about the giving for me. These days I have so many niece and nephews we only buy for the kids in our families. I still get a few pressies off parents and hubs but quite often me and hubs are so skint this time of year that we agree to not buy each other much. My list of wants is always long, but I live without them. I just love seeing people open their gifts from me/us.
11. What’s the best Christmas present you ever received?
It has to be my bike I got from my mum and stepdad when I was 13. Me and my step sis J (who’s only 18 days older than me) were each given a different coloured sweet wrapper and told to find something that colour in the house Christmas morning. When we did we could keep it. We had a brand new bike each. I still have mine now. Me, sis and hubs have cycled so far on that bike. It holds so many memories.
12. What’s your dream place to visit for the holiday season?
Lapland. The whole caboodle. Sleigh ride, so much snow. As soon as George is old enough to remember (say 5 years+) I’d love to go.
13. Are you a pro present wrapper or do you fail miserably?
I like to think I’m pretty decent. Using ribbons and bows and suchlike although I don’t always bother with the ribbon anymore because of the aforementioned cats. It’s like drawing a moth to a flame and those presents end up with holes torn in them before I even get them to the recipient.
I used to be a proper annoying so and so and put people’s presents in a box wrapped inside a box and so on.
14. Most memorable Christmas memory?
When I was younger and all the Nans and Grandads were alive. All of us, my uncle, cousins, 3 sisters round the table. Usually around 15 of us. It’s how Christmas should be in my book. Now we make a toast to the never forgotten grandparents but still the 15 of us with the addition of our own children and partners.
15. What made you realise the truth about Santa?
My sisters are 8 and 10 years older than me ( and as mentioned previous J is the same age as me). One year, I think I was maybe about 7 years old, it fell to one of my sister’s to deliver the stocking to the end of mine and my step sis’s beds. I can’t remember which one of them it was but they made too much noise and I saw them. Silently. I didn’t make a big deal. I knew from then.
16. What makes the holidays special for you?
Time spent with family, guilt free eating and drinking, making magical memories with George and going out of my way to make people feel special. I love the way everyone comes together to try and create that spirit.
Have a wonderful Christmas all. And if you know anyone alone at Christmas. Try and encourage them not to be.
This is my Christmas tag. What did you think? Do you share any of my Christmas loves?
For me, 2017 will be remembered as the year that advent calendars went mad. They stepped into a whole new level. Some smart Alec (where the heck does this phrase come from?) decided that chocolate advent calendars were not enough. Cover my ears! You can now get an advent calendar containing almost anything.
Of course there have been “fill your own” advents for a while now. Mainly focused on children and adopted by parents who don’t want their precious munchkins having chocolate or because they suffer with allergies. All fab reasons.
But now our little munchkins are being indulged by the supermarkets. A couple of pound (if that, thank you Poundland) on a chocolate advent calendar will no longer suffice. You can now be nagged into buying advents anywhere from £15 upwards to £10,000 (yes really, the feature gift being a £300 Dyson hairdryer) containing Cars, Lego, Playmobil, Frozen characters. The list is endless. I know this isn’t that new but it’s got bigger and more varied this year. Everyone is in on the act.
As for the adults? Well this is where the fun really starts. Counting down to Christmas? For many this is still a celebration of the birth of Christ. So why not count down with a sex toy a day (enter monkey that sees no evil emoji here)! I’m not religious myself but I’m sure this has gone down fabulously amongst those who still hold sacred the true meaning of Christmas.
Sex toys not your thing? We’ve got wine, gin, Yankee candles, bath bombs, makeup, some YouTube girl that everyone has gone bonkers over her charging £50 for bits you can find for a quarter of the price. I just can’t even imagine how next year can top this! Will people be hitting self storage. 25 lockup’s, each containing a new Range Rover a day for the missus. Our consumerist minds have gone mad!
So this year I’ve treated myself and hubs to a little more upmarket calendar in the form of Lindt Chocolate. £5 each in Asda if you don’t mind (not an ad). Next year I may well demand a nail varnish or bath bomb advent calendar who knows but for now I’ll sit back and enjoy my first love, milk chocolate. Mm mmm. And this little festive rhyme for your reading pleasure.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me
12 Yankee candles
11 Star Wars Lego’s
10 sample scents
9 gins for drinking
8 Peppa Pig toys
7 fizzy bath bombs
6 tins of Pringles
5 wines for swigging
4 Clarins skincare
3 toot toot cars
2 nipple pasties
And a box full of stinky cheese.
I hope you enjoyed that. Hands up if your are now googling nipple pasties?
Have you and your family opted for an alternative advent calendar this year? Please share them with us. Seasons Greetings to you all.
** Disclosure – I was provided with tickets to attend this event in return for a pre-event post ( See here). We had such a fab time, I wanted to share our day with you all. All opinions expressed are my own.**
October was pretty cool and memorable. Having started preschool in September, we had our first official school holidays in October half term. George previously went to a private nursery where they remained open all year long. Having joined the preschool attached to his (hopefully) future school, they break up when the rest of the school does.
I wanted to have some fun activities to do together for our first half term. A quick search on google and I came across an event called Kidtropolis. You may have read my pre-event post here. I contacted them requesting tickets to the event in return for a review and I am proud to say they were the first event to accept a pitch from myself.
As a gal and a mama who loves a schedule (never go on holiday with me if you hate schedules), I love that the entire Kidtropolis week is scheduled from start to finish, slot by slot. In order to help you choose which day to attend, you decide which days have the activities and shows which would most interest you and book from there. The sessions are 4.5hours and booking includes two live shows.
We chose to attend the Monday am. The first day of the event. We booked car parking at London’s ExCel centre in advance as this worked out cheaper than us paying rail fare from outside of London. There is more than ample parking available. The directions from the car park to the dedicated hall for the event could have been a little better and more organised but as it was day one we may have been the guinea pigs. Entry was quick and hassle free and we were in before we knew it.
There were ample food outlets accessible within the ExCel as well as food and drink within the event. We chose to get an ice cream and bottled drinks from the ice cream van within the venue. The ice cream was really unique. Like a whippy but soooooo delectably creamy. Best whippy ever!After the event we went for burger and chips at The Bridge Burgers and Dogs. Toilets were easily accessible too.
Back to the event, we had a map to guide us around the event but to be honest it wasn’t ridiculously huge. It wasn’t overly busy either so we able to flit from stall to stall briefly and then return to the things that interested us and that I had marked on my schedule. A schedule is fine in principle but obviously nowadays it has to pass the toddler look and judge test. If George doesn’t like the look of it and there’s not persuading him then we have to move on. Thankfully we managed to do everything we had intended, once George had relaxed and warmed to his surroundings.
Our opening show of Peppa Pig live was really disappointing. They were running late and to be honest it was some random guy called david reading two stories from a book whilst a dressed up Peppa and George character stood on the stage. They didn’t even play the credit music until the end of the show. Thankfully things got much, much better. It was literally the first show, at the start of the first day, I’ll allow the organisers one blip.
The second show we had booked for the end of the 4.5 hour session was Marvin’s magic and it was truly wonderful The kids and adults all loved it and we picked up a prop for sale to start George on his quest as a magician. Watch out Dynamo.
The rest of the day was so much fun. Genuinely! Having read reviews of previous years Kidtropolis events, there were many, many complaints of long queues and unhappy children. I saw nothing of the sort this year. Obviously I can only comment for the Monday am but we had a fab experience and I fully intend to return again and again. I think the biggest and possibly only queue I saw all day was for the inflatable assault course which George wasn’t interested in.
There were quite a few activities, shows and bits and pieces that are much more suited for the older kids. Learning how to be a vlogger from the child pro vloggers, Flawless dance zone, Kids fun radio, Tomy lightseekers which I’ve heard is very up and coming.
There were also many areas which George and ourselves don’t have much interest in yet. There really was something for everyone. Lorax, Minions, Star Wars, Drone flying, Minecraft GWR record attempt, springless trampolines and so much more.
George loved the Tomy games area where he was plied with free biscuits and enjoyed trying out some more classic board games with one of the stallholders who was dressed as a character from the game.
I’d promised him an air walker balloon. Having embarrassingly surprised hubs with one of these being delivered to his work one valentines I felt it was time to introduce the wonders of Balloon walkers to the Georgeous. We were so impressed with the dinosaur we purchased at £5 with a free helium balloon thrown in.
Crazy golf is always a winner and George was more interested in making sure we did this over anything else.
He really enjoyed the Geomag stall playing with a variety of magnetic building parts. As did we and we bought something similar for his birthday.
He was a little shy to meet Chase from Paw Patrol but I know he would have regretted it if he didn’t.
But George’s favourite activity without a doubt was riding the balance bikes and ramps at the Bikertots stall. Followed by watching the professional Bike stunt show which left him in awe. We have since become visitors of the local skate/bike park. We have a little BMX dude on our hands I feel and this event was probably the first time I have seen him confidently go off and do an activity without one of us by his side. He still wanted Daddy close on occasions as it was a noisy venue but this is definitely up his street. They are a great franchise club, helping children learn to ride a bike.
George was also really, really taken (much to Mummy’s dismay as she heard her purse getting emptier) by Sylvanian families. He was besotted. Just look at the admiration for this well made classic childrens toy. He also enjoyed looking at the Aquabeads selection, including this epic bridge sculpture. Despite declaring “I want that” every time he sees it on the tele (who else’s kids does this a million times a week!) up close he in fact did NOT “want that”.
The highlight of my day was meeting my own childhood idols, the characters from Rainbow. Bungle was there but as I said to Zippy,
“Nobody liked Bungle anyway.”
Speaking to Zippy, the guy behind the puppet had been in charge of him since 1973! I was completely starstruck. I even introduced George to how my mornings as a three year old used to be by getting up some episodes on You tube. Classic!
Did you attend Kidtropolis this year or previous years? What were your thoughts? Would you go back?
Huge thanks to Emily who organised the tickets for us.
The truth about pregnancy is obviously my truth. I know every pregnancy for every person is different. I’m hoping some women or indeed men will read and relate to this as I like to think I’m being open about the parts people really don’t go into detail about on a daily basis. Let me know what you think. Did you experience anything similar during your pregnancy. Feel free to laugh. I did! Blimey when something less than always pleasant is happening to you for 9/10 months you’ve got to laugh or end up seriously peeved. So here goes.
Anyone else feel like announcing you are having a baby is a bit like telling your parents you lost your virginity. The slightly awkward realisation that everyone is congratulating you on having sex. Like we all know one another is doing it. But to say to the world “hey (little wave), we’ve had sex over here! I mean let’s get a high five for the sex yeah!”
For 9 months I feel like a walking advert for sex. Reasons to have it. Reasons to not have it. I don’t even get paid for advertising space, for the walking advert of magical crap that I’ve become.
My pregnancy with George could’ve been worse but then if you had seen the state of me! I’ll still tell you now, as magical as it is and I loved feeling bubba move, pregnancy really wasn’t all it cracked up to be. It fucked my body in so many ways. Ways that will never be fixed. Have I come to terms with it? As much as I can. I look at the kid and he was totally worth it. But still.
I think some bodies were made for making and carrying babies and some weren’t. I was the latter. It took us a bit longer than average to conceive and I ended up not being able to feel or use my hands, with a nose even wurzel gummidge would struggle to contend with. Amongst the rest of the swollen crap. Elephants feet, grapes for a bum hole and the purple veiny things taking over my thighs of all places!
But otherwise yeah it was fab. Thankfully I didn’t experience morning sickness. I once vomited at 8 months pregnant and let’s say THAT took me by surprise. I had nausea in the first trimester and migraines but nothing a few fruity polos didn’t sort out.
Then there’s your poo. Everyone knows I love talking about poo. My sis actually feel pregnant 5 months before me so she was able to prep me on the stages of poo your pregnant self goes though. Starting with the “cow pat” phase and ending so elegantly with the constipated haemorrhoids phase. Honestly it’s so hard to poo when you have a ginormous belly in front of you and you ant adequately lean forward.
And don’t think you’ll be done with panty pads either. Oh no. There’s various levels of discharge stages you must experience on top of all the other uncomfortable magicalness. I must’ve wanted to escape my body at least once every 24 hours.
Then there’s the insomnia! Like what the actual fuck! It’s like your body says “hey! You wanna have a baby? Let’s get you used to this sleep deprivation thingy now”! Why! I won’t be growing a human once the baby arrives will I! Let me sleep!
As glamorous as it sounds, it was. Snuggling into bed with at least 5 pillows behind me to prevent the reflux and heartburn whilst ensuring the Rennie’s could be found in the dark on my bedside table. Then more pillows between my legs and behind my back because oh my gosh your hips and back really like to let you know they are carrying a baby. Then win my hands strapped up in wrist splints for the carpel tunnel syndrome I would just start to snooze and relax. 20 minutes later and a swift lean on my bladder from my wonderful bundle of magic and I needed the loo. This would happen at least 12 times a night.
I often just stayed up because my hands hurt too much if I fell asleep. I’d wake up and have to pull my fingers and rubs and shake my hands in an effort to regain the feeling and remove the pain. Not forgetting the restless legs. Trying to relax and all my legs want to do is kick out and flip around. How hubs didn’t move out is beyond me. And sadly for him there was no spare bedroom. Thankfully I had. A family of foxes living in our garden that kept me entertained in the early hours. Not to mention some epic lightening shows.
But there was MANY positives to being pregnant. Playing with my bubba inside my tummy using a torch or music provided me with hours of joy. Watching and feeling him move inside me and being able to share that with family and friends. Feeling like a superhero being able to grow this amazing human being. Knowing I was their source of everything and taking the responsibility of motherhood the moment I conceived. Feeling so grateful that I had this opportunity that so many women don’t.
My hair. Oh my hair. I mean it was rather unfair that at a time when my bikini line was about to become like a challenge on the krypton factor to shave, it also started to grow out of control. The boundaries stretched and suddenly my bikini line became a “let’s-venture-down-her-let’s-So there you have it. We had sex! And this is what happened. I’ll save the shit storm that was my labour for another post.
**Edit** I’ve since thought of more delightfulness experienced whilst pregnant. This wouldn’t be the truth, my truth if it wasn’t the whole truth.
The weird spotting you get during implantation that makes you think you are about to come on and then you do a test before a night out on the piss only to find you are going to be on the lemonade all night.
The way your mouth always tastes like you’ve been sucking on a metal pole for hours.
Your superhero sense of smell. You can smell any smell a mile off. I had lots of fun guessing what people were cooking in the next room at lunch break at work.
The way you think all your baggy pre pregnancy tops will fit you when your pregnant because it’s just a fatter belly right? Wrong! Under your bra thickens and widens as your ribs expand, sending your organs god knows where and you end up looking like a sausage in a skin that’s too small. And that’s why maternity wear is big business lol.
Hot flushes that appear out of nowhere and make you wonder if you are dying of flu whilst you stand there dripping with sweat looking like you’ve got the plague.
Your nipples getting strangely darker. Who the heck knows why.
The surprise you get when you have your first scan (12 weeks) and you expect them to be al over your belly like they are on the tele and in films and they actually do it under your belly button because surprisingly that’s where the baby is until it grows bigger.
The feeling of bubba move and thinking it couldn’t have been further from the “butterflies” people told me I’d feel. It was actually more like bubbles popping.
Wondering why my throat was burning of a night and finding out that’s reflux for you.
Having hubs have to cut my dinner up towards the end because the carpel tunnel syndrome meant I couldn’t grip properly or feel my damn hands through the pins and needles.
** I’d like to disclose that I was plied with copious amounts of delicious food and alcohol in return for this honest review. This neither affects the integrity of the post or the honest opinions held within it**
Recently, as you may have seen if you follow me on social media, I attended my first ever bloggers event. An Essex bloggers event no less. As bloggers events go, I’d say the bar has been set pretty high with this one. The event consisted of welcome drinks, followed by afternoon tea, finished up with cocktails in the secret Dr Legba’s downstairs bar.
I’ll explain each part of the afternoon in more detail shortly, but first, let’s kick this review off in my typical fashion with a poem. An ode to the Royal Hotel, which by the way is no longer a hotel. Enjoy!
Once upon a time there was a Southend Hotel,
Frequented by Lady Hamilton and her Admiral Nelson as well
No stranger to a noble figure or two
This Royal Hotel soon became unused.
Then along came two brothers
Called Matt and Dave
This run down Hotel
They wanted to save
So along with their Dad they set to work.
To make this old hotel a restaurant and bar with quirk.
Prepared for hard work they rolled up their sleeves
Making the Royal Hotel a place you never want to leave.
Their vision achieved they opened their doors
To a place that is to be truly adored.
The food is divine, the cocktails unique
The flaming absinthe on tap is a fascinating treat
I hope you enjoyed that and it has got you wanting to know more, so here goes. Despite the name, The Royal Hotel is now a restaurant and bar contained within a grade 2 listed building and for that reason the name cannot be changed. On arrival, I was welcomed warmly and greeted by Matthew, the director of The Royal Hotel. The surroundings felt comfortable, clean, plush, but not poncey. Ornaments and lamps from Debenhams make the place feel homely and welcoming as do the staff.
I was offered a glass of The Bees Knees sparkling pink rose wine. This is alcohol free fermented grape juice with a green tea infusion. It’s a fab alternative to wine. I’ve since found this can be purchased at Ocado and Morrisons so I shall be treating myself often as this stuff was delicious.
Soon we were escorted by the fabulously entertaining and thoroughly informative Jonathan. He made sure our glasses were filled with prosecco whilst informing us all about the history of The Royal Hotel. Built in 1791, it became a regular haunt for Lady Hamilton. The mistress of Admiral Horatio Nelson, who had a dinner party and ball in the very grand hall in which we sat. Months after the supper, he was killed during the battle of Trafalgar. The building hasn’t been used as a hotel since 1974.
The building still bears the original chandeliers, dance floor and coving which have been lovingly restored. The rest of the building has been refurbished and is unrecognisable from how brothers Matt and Dave and their Dad found it when they took over.
The food was truly amazing. My personal preference would be the Gentleman’s afternoon tea. My favourites being the mini beef burger, ham hock and welsh rarebit croque monsieur, miniature cider jelly, and the millionaires shortbread was just incredible.
Completely stuffed and feeling guilty for all the food I couldn’t fit in my belly, I then proceeded downstairs to the secret Dr Legba’s cocktail bar. I’m a huge fan of a cocktail but I was such a cocktail chav before Dr Legba’s. Woo woo’s, Cosmopolitan’s blah blah blah. Dr Legba’s will introduce you to flavours and tastes you never thought you would experience in a drink.
There are over 50 cocktails on the menu, a third of which have been created by Dave, who is a former head bar trainer at The London Cocktail club. One of my absolute favs, one of his own creations, is the Pork and Apple martini, served with a flaming absinthe caramelised bacon.
Dave created this using sour apple liqueur, Absolut vodka, pressed apple juice and fresh lime. It was truly so sweet and to coin one of my favourite phrases
It was like sex in a martini glass! Yum!
You have to visit just to try this, and I might add the flaming absinthe caramelised bacon is not just for show. You will have never tasted bacon like it! Although the menu varies from night to night, they are all to happy to make cocktails at your request should they not be on the menu the night you visit.
Dave has put so much work into making this bar a unique and magical place. Using as many reclaimed materials as possible, he created his own absinthe dispenser as well as painstakingly gluing over £170 worth of 2 pence pieces to the vertical bar front. He still has much in the pipeline, including a commissioned piece of art depicting the absinthe fairy. The artwork will shortly be adorned to the hidden door leading to the loos. He also has plans to have circus style mirrors in the toilets and to eventually make the bar buzzer entry only, with the buzzer being hidden under a secret fairy door. You’ll be pleased to hear Dr Legba’s can also be hired for private functions.
I could literally rave about The Royal Hotel for many hundreds more words but I’ll tell you about one last special feature. Both The Royal Hotel and Dr Legba’s stock Dalmore whiskey. The gentleman’s afternoon teas can be complemented with a whisky platter of Dalmore 12 year whisky, 15 year whisky and cigar malt reserve. Dalmore are rather particular about who stock their whisky and they personally place the sale at venues chosen themselves.
Huge thanks to Matt, Dave, Jonathan and everyone that made my afternoon wonderful. I look forward to visiting again very soon and bringing family and friends.
Shoutout to a few fellow bloggers who helped with some of the images featured in this post. Also shoutout to the lovely fellow bloggers I met and had fun with at this event.