Our Summer Holiday in the Lake District

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

It's been a long time with no writing, so I thought I would update you all on our recent holiday to the Lake District.

We decided to keep it a secret from Mikey. I love surprising him, but it's so hard now he's older. He's always getting wise to what I'm planning!

The rest of our family knew we were going away and we packed the car up the night before. We even borrowed a fold up pushchair from my mum so we could get everything in the boot, rather than things around our feet!

We all piled into the car, persuading a suspicious Mikey that his Dad was working from home that day and we were just going for a day out. This little fib worked for about an hour, then the questions came. We managed to get away with it, until we had to stop at a services for a break!

The questions and lies continued for the next few hours until we reached a part of Hadrian's Wall. It was a strange feeling to be standing next to, and able to touch a piece of history.

We walked for a while, with both Mark and I checking the time every so often as we couldn't check in to our cottage until 4pm!

Finally, the time came to check in. Mark parked up and I took Mikey with me to unlock the door. It was only when I told him that we were staying for the week and showed him around that it clicked! He was so excited! Bless him :)

Our week was a really eventful one! We made sure we did something every day and that we did something that everyone wanted to do.

Some of the things we visited were; the Lake District Wildlife Park; the Roman Army Museum; Carlisle Castle, where we met Mary, Queen of Scots and Birdoswald, where Mikey learnt how to be a Roman soldier, and I learnt that although we say Centurion, it was actually pronounced Kenturion!

We also went over the border to visit Gretna Green. My favourite thing there was that after a while of watching a piper play, we asked him if we could take a photo. After a chat, we told him that it was Mikey's birthday. With that, he played Mikey "Happy Birthday"!

I really loved the South Tynesdale Railway, which is a small, volunteer-run railway line that runs from Alston to Lintley. It takes about 30 minutes to get from one end to the other and is great fun for little ones. It was the first time Dot was quiet throughout our holiday! She was watching out the window and taking it all in.
I almost volunteered to help, but then realised that I don't live there!

Overall, my favourite place was the Puzzling Place in Keswick centre. It's small, but full of Optical Illusions and a room that made Dorothy look like a giant! It's also very reasonably priced, which means it's perfect for popping in on a rainy day after shopping with the kids as well as part of a family fun day out.

It was a hectic, but amazing family holiday. There is so much to see and do in Cumbria and we will definitely be going back :)

Why I'm No Longer Comparing

Monday, 8 August 2016

As a parent, it's really easy to fall in to the trap of comparing your child with others but a lot harder to  get out of.

It is a trap that until recently, I was firmy stuck in, especially with Dot. She has a cousin who is only 6 1/2 weeks younger than her, so I find it really hard to not compare their development.

I have to say, Dot is a clever girl. At 20 months, she can already count to 10 and can understand and speak quite well. She can also be very independent and 'wilful'!

This past week, I've been trying to potty train Dot. She was showing some signs of readiness and had successfully used the potty a few times before so I thought we were good to go.

However, I was completely wrong. Dot had a lot of accidents, and after three days, she was really tearful and tired of using the potty. The forth day ended in tears and hugs (not just for Dot!)

I felt so bad for trying and putting her through it, but I definitely learnt something. I assumed that because Dot has reached other milestones earlier that she should do other things at an early age too. I am happy to admit that I was wrong.

Two days after the 'traumatic event', we have put the training on hold. Dot is back to her happy and wilful self and I am more relaxed as a mum. I am no longer going to compare Dot to others.

Dot will get there at her own pace and I am no longer going to push her. I am quite happy for her to lead me.

First Year of Secondary School is Over

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Tomorrow, Mikey finishes his first year of Secondary School. I can't believe how quickly the time has gone!

I remember this time last year, where I was worried about so much as he left Primary School. His allergies, asthma, socialising, coping with the workload and everything in between. Little did I know at the time, Mikey would not only cope, but flourish.

In his first year, Mikey has already become more confident and more mature. Instead of me going into school to talk to the teacher about issues and answering questions, Mikey is now in charge of that. A lot of the time, he's happy I don't speak to the teachers. I'm too embarrassing! (If you've ever watched The Goldbergs, think Beverly!)
I still send the odd email, but I feel like I can actually take a step back, which I've never done before.

Mikey's teachers and school has been been amazing. Although his primary school did prepare him in his final year for what was to come, his independence has come on in leaps and bounds this year.

I am writing this while Mikey is on a school trip to London to see a West End show. He is one of 14 lucky children who have excelled in lessons and show commitment to Performing Arts. This is the boy who used to put up a fight when it came to doing homework and his ten minutes of reading at primary school!

Now before, I would be panicking about his allergies and all the other minute details of the trip. I would go in and speak to the teachers almost on a daily basis up until the trip, but I am okay about it. I not only trust the school, but I trust Mikey. He is in complete control of his medication and allergies.
Although I'll have my phone near me, I won't keep checking it like I used to. I know that he'll have a great time and that he's in good hands.

I think that this year has been a change for both of us. Not only is Mikey becoming a really lovely, confident young man (not that I'm biased in any way!), but I am learning, albeit still very slowly, to step back and it'll be okay.

Hot Pink Wellingtons

How can we help our children to learn about sharing?

Monday, 4 July 2016

As you may know, our family loves books! We love reading whenever we get a chance, although as a parent it's hard to find time (!), but we especially love reading to Dot. 

WILF Books is a really lovely new business where children can receive new books every month, but can also share their old and unused ones too!

This is a guest post from the lovely WILF Books:

Sharing is a super vital life skill, isn’t it? It teaches us how to co­operate with one another in our everyday lives. It teaches us about compromise, that if we give just a little to others, we can also get a little of what what we'd like too. It teaches us about negotiation, and how to cope with disappointment. It’s a fundamental human value that makes us who we are.

We all recognise its importance, but how can we help our children to learn about sharing?

Well, first and foremost, we think it starts with you. Monkey see, monkey do. Children learn so much just from watching what their parents do. You’re their role model, and when you model good sharing and *taking turns* in your family, it gives children a really great example to follow. You, as a parent, can always facilitate and encourage sharing in every day life, and here are five simple ways through which to do that:

  • Allow them to see it in others: Recognise it when your child sees another child sharing. There’s nothing more beautiful (and cute!) than watching children share and play nicely together, a little bit like grown­ups do. You can say things like: ‘Woah, wasn’t your friend sharing her toys really well, that was really lovely of her." 

  • Nurture it through play: It’s really fun to play little exercises with your child that involve turn­taking, sharing and inclusive participation. Talk your child step by step through the process of sharing, saying things like, ‘It’s your turn, then it’s my turn; you share the brown bricks with me, and I’ll share the pink bricks with you, I’ll play with Buzz whilst you play with Woody".   

  • Pile on the praise: When the proud moment comes, and you see your child attempting to take turns and share, be sure to lay on the praise, attention and all round good­will. This is super important, and with consistent practice and positive reinforcement, will become second nature in the minds of your little ones. For example, you could say things like "that was really lovely the way that you let Charlie play with your helicopter, great sharing!" 

  • Have ‘the talk’ (not that talk!): Talk to your child about sharing before she goes on playdates or trips with other friends. Reinforcing before, during and after playdates can really help build their mental map for sharing. For example, you could say, ‘Rahul is almost here and you’ll need to share some of your toys when he gets here. Let’s have a think about what he'd like to play with, shall we?’ You can also talk to your child about sharing before all possible interactions with other children, like nursery, pre­school or big school.

  • Allow them to ‘own’ their sharing: Create an environment and culture that encourages your child to want to share. WILF Books is develop on the value of sharing, delivering tailored and personalised children’s books addressed specifically to your child, along with the opportunity to share their own books with other children across the country. Take the time to sit with your child to discuss which books they’d like to share each month, in return for new books that they will love.

There’s sharing in every day life, and then there’s developing a sense of sharing amongst the wider society and community. In the globalised world within which we live, it’s more important than ever to be able to share beyond our own personal boundaries and connect with those from other cultures and backgrounds. By nurturing this connection, when a child reaches pre­school or school age where community, creativity and play are championed and they begin to interact with people of new cultures, they’ll be able to build more complex relationships with other children with the fundamental foundation of fairness at the heart. Imperative in today’s world. 

You can register your interest with WILF Books ahead of their upcoming launch, here.

Percy Jackson and Capture the Flag

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Mikey loves Percy Jackson. He's read the books and watched the films more times than I can count. I've also found wings attached to my converse trainers more times than I remember too!

I have to admit, I too love Percy Jackson. Not only are the books proper adventure stories (and good ones at that) , they have also encouraged Mikey, who was a reluctant reader, to read for fun while finding out more about Greek mythology.

When we were asked if we would try playing Capture the Flag based on the game played at Camp Half Boood, we couldn't resist!

I made some flags with some bamboo canes, crepe paper and sellotape and we were all set to go and play!

We normally play outdoor games at a local park and after looking for a suitable spot, we weren't disappointed! It was completely open and had slightly uneven ground, with obstacles in the way. Perfect for battle!

We played with smaller teams than were recommended, but it didn't stop the fun in any way.
To begin with, I was with my niece and Mikey was with his Dad. The babies watched laughing from the sideline with my injured sister!

We swapped teams every so often. Unfortunately I was not as good with tactics as Mikey was! No matter what team he was on, they won! At one point, I thought he'd wandered off, but he was hiding amongst the trees and sneaked all the way to the flag!

Even my niece beat me! 

He's also a really good runner and was so fast it became embarrassing to try running after him!

Despite the smaller teams, we had a blast! We have already arranged to play a large game of Capture the Flag with all the family for Mikey's birthday in a couple of weeks and we will make sure to update you on the battle! :)

You can find the new Percy Jackson book, The Hidden Oracle (The Trials of Apollo Book 1) here on Amazon.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

An Adventure With Zed Fox

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Dot has taken over the blog today to write about her adventure with someone new!

The other day a new friend came to visit us. His name is Zed Fox.

He hid in a box so he would be a surprise!

As it was sunny outside, Mummy took us to 'The Spinney' which isn't too far away, but we couldn't walk there so we all went in the car.

When we got there, Zed Fox said that he couldn't walk because his legs are small, even smaller than mine! Luckily, he has some special straps on his back so I could carry him on my back.

 We ran through the trees and when my legs got tired, we stopped for a rest and a chat.

We didn't stop long though.  Soon we were off into the trees again, and then we had to climb over a wibbly, wobbly bridge. Zed Fox was a bit scared, but I went slowly and held on tight so we didn't fall. I didn't even ask for Mummy's help!

After the scary bridge, we went to have a look at the big trees. We had to go up a big path to reach a big hut to look at the view. We looked really, really far.

After our long walk, we stopped for a snack and a drink. Then Zed Fox had a surprise for us. He was hiding a blanket in his back!

Silly Mummy forgot to pack a drink or a snack for Zed Fox, but I shared mine with him so he wasn't left out.

After our snack, it was time to go home. I was sad, but Mummy said it was okay because Zed Fox was coming home with us to stay!

I love Zed Fox!

Disclaimer: Zed Fox came to stay in return for taking him on a great adventure!

Hot Pink Wellingtons

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Party Bags and Supplies: A Review and an Exciting Giveaway!

Our family is pretty big and every month there are at least two or three birthdays. Although the adults don't normally hold parties anymore, we do love to throw a party for the younger members of the family. It's a perfect excuse to all get together, catch up and have fun!

As a parent, you know that it takes a lot preparation hosting a children's party, with the theme, the games, filling party bags and more.

Party Bags and Supplies have everything you could need for a party, apart from the nibbles!

We chose the Jungle Theme as it's perfect for both the boys and girls of the family. They all love animals!

In a theme pack, you receive 8 paper plates, 8 cups, 16 napkins, 8 pre-filled party bags and a tablecloth.

I loved how vivid and bright the colours were and how sturdy the cups and plates were. Perfect for little ones with unsteady hands.

What I really loved though was the pre-filled party bags. Each party bag is full of little toys that fit the chosen theme. There is also a yummy treat, that Mikey can also enjoy, which won big points with me!

As you can tell, I was really impressed with both this theme and Party Bags and Supplies! I highly recommend them! Everything is packed really well and the quality can't be faulted. It also takes a lot of the pressure of you as a party planner!

Party Bags and Supplies can be found on their website https://www.partybagsandsupplies.co.uk and on Facebook and Twitter.


The very kind people at Party Bags and Supplies are giving you lucky readers a chance to win £30 to spend on their website.

All you have to do is to enter via the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Competition Terms and Conditions can be found here 
We were sent the Jungle Theme pack in return for our honest opinion. Our opinions are, as always, our own.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

KidloLand App: A Review

Monday, 27 June 2016

As parents, we all love to encourage our children's learning.  It's really amazing how they soak up information like a sponge.

So, when we were asked to trial an app designed for encouraging learning, we couldn't say no!

KidloLand is an app that is perfect for little ones!

There are over 300 different songs, lullabies and nursery rhymes that focus on letters, numbers, shapes, colours, and so much more!

I was worried that Dot would quickly lose interest with the app as she is only little, but I was wrong. She loved listening to and then signing along with the different rhymes.

It was great to see Dot joining in with nursery rhymes that she already knew, as well as some old favourites that I remember from when I was little, that she didn't know yet.

She especially loved the Numbers 1-10 song. So much so, that I can't stop signing it and even Mikey has joined in!

As a parent, I really liked this app. It is great to use alongside day to day learning. What I also like is that Dot is learning but doesn't realise it! We used it every other day or so for 5-10 minutes and thanks to the Numbers 1-10 song, she already knows 1,4,6,7,8,9!

I'm not sure where the other numbers have gone though!

I also like that there were subtitles at the bottom for each song, which meant that not only can older ones join in with the words, but adults can too!

We have really loved this app and would definitely recommend it to other parents of toddlers and pre-schoolers. :)

To find out more about KidloLand, head to the website: www.kidloland.com, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

The app can also be downloaded from these links:

Disclaimer: We were given a 1 year subscription in return for our honest opinion.

Eating Gluten Free At Pizza Express

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Since November, when I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease, I haven't eaten out. As a family, due to Mikey's food allergies, we rarely ate out anyway, but my best friend Tracey and I used to eat out every other week or so.

Last night was our regular catch up night. Normally, Tracey would come round to our house and we'd sit, laugh and chat over a cup of tea as I don't eat out. I know, tea sounds so hardcore!

This time though, Tracey recommended Pizza Express as they have a gluten free menu. I have to say that I was a bit sceptical. Usually a gluten free menu has the small print that says something along the lines of "we cannot guarantee gluten free due to the risk of cross-contamination."

Before agreeing, I decided to look it up online. Their website is really easy to use so I found what I was looking for quickly.

I have to say I was really surprised, but in a good way. Scratch that, in a great way! It says:

"We’ve worked hard to ensure that you can be fully confident of no issues upon entering any PizzaExpress. This includes changing processes in our kitchens – including labelling and storage, using new equipment only for gluten-free food, as well as changing the flour we use for tossing and stretching our dough to be gluten-free.
Coeliac UK have awarded us with their gluten-free accreditation due to these changes and to put your mind at rest. "
With all this in mind, I agreed to go!

When we got there, I mentioned that I had to eat gluten free, to which our server smiled and reassured me that the menu could be altered so I wouldn't have to miss out.
The reassurance was also on the menu 

We opted for an old favourite, dough balls! I have to admit now that we were so busy talking and laughing that I forgot to take picture a picture of them! I can tell you that were really good. Tracey doesn't eat gluten free food and at one point she had to ask if they were gluten free because they tasted the same!

For  our mains, we both chose a pizza. This time Tracey had a normal pizza and I had an American pizza on a gluten free base. It was delicious!  Apologies for the picture quality. We were sat under mood lighting!
A gluten free American

After a lot of laughter, (as you can tell, we laugh a lot!), we finally chose a dessert.  I say 'a', I was undecided, and as the menu said that the gluten free chocolate brownie was a 'bite sized' dessert perfect for having with coffee or tea, I thought I better pick another one too!

I chose a Leggera Tartufo Limoncello. A Scilian Lemon Ice Cream with a limoncello filling. I couldn't believe that it was not only gluten free, but also only 230 calories. It was so creamy, but also really refreshing. Ideal for  the summer :)

Leggera Tartufo Limoncello 

As  I also mentioned, I chose a gluten free Chocolate Brownie to go alongside a cup of tea.  It was, as the name suggests, really chocolatey!

Gluten Free Chocolate Brownie

Again, Tracey tried both desserts and loved them!

The whole night was brilliant. Not only was it just like it used to be, where we would laugh all night (we were there so long that we had a lock in!), but the food was amazing.

It was really tasty. Sometimes, gluten free food can taste different and you do feel like you're missing out. This isn't true of Pizza Express though. As Tracey agrees, the gluten free options are just as good and aren't missing out on quality or taste.  I also loved that unlike some gluten free food, it doesn't cost any more.

I can honestly say that Tracey and I will definitely be returning to Pizza Express. I don't think I'll eat two desserts every time though!

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Garden: A Brand New Look- Update

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

You may have seen my post back at the end of March about updating my garden and giving it a brand new look.

This is what it looked like to begin with:

We've already made a lot of progress. Well I say we, but it's my poor husband and father-in-law who have been outside working!

After a bit of tidying up and weeding, the first big task Mark had been working on was to remove all of the grass. We hired a turf cutter for the job, which resulted in me driving home at ridiculously slow speeds because I thought that the turf cutter was going to shoot through the window of the boot if I went to fast! At one point a cyclist overtook me!

We had it for the weekend, but with his dad's help, they managed to finish the job by the end of the Saturday.

After the grass had gone, the next task was to create two levels and also dig down for the levels of sand and membrane needed underneath the artificial grass.

My back garden has gone from a large grassy area where the kids could play, to what can only be described as a small building site!

I have to applaud Mark though. He has been working on the garden after he gets home from work all week and trying to get it done when it's not raining!

We've (or rather he), has almost finished the bottom level of the garden and just needs to even it all out and remove the excess dirt, of which there seems a lot!

I have noticed that on my many drink runs that our garden project has helped a local family of blackbirds. The male has been in and out of the garden grabbing worms on the escape. At one point, he was even sitting on 'dirt mountain' waiting for Mark to finish the next section!

This project has taken longer than I thought, but I'm hoping that in the next month or so we can really crack on and get finished. I might even help by bringing drinks!