Thursday, 31 May 2012

Thrifty Thursday, £10 Oasis Dress, Cheap Birkenstocks and My Garden!

The time has come for me to write my weekly Thrifty Thursday post! I really love writing about my bargain internet finds, don't forget though that the best way to be thrifty is...don't spend!
First off, I think this lovely drapey dress is Oasis is a great find, and only £10 in the sale! It gets great reviews too, great for summer evenings.
Oasis Dress - £10
I like to treat hubby every now and then to a new top to cheer him up when he's had a hard week, he loves polo shirts (as is befitting a man in his thirties!) and is a big fan of Crew Clothing, so I was pretty happy to see that TK Maxx are now selling Crew tops off for as low as £12! I spotted one for myself that I wear with chinos for a preppy look (also protects my neck and shoulders from the sun), £14.99.

Crew Clothing in TK Maxx
I also spotted some very lovely Birkenstocks in TK Maxx that would be great for hols (there were loads of other colours, but I love anything shiny, like a magpie!) - £24.99.

Silver Birkenstocks
The greatest thing about summer is that you find a whole new room to your house - the garden! It feels like my two boys are just discovering the garden for the first time. They play together, chase each other round and  generally cause mischief. Thing is, going in the garden is great because it's healthy, means spending time together without the telly or internet being on and best of all, is COMPLETELY FREE. Well, once you've bought the wooden house, slide, swing and garden toys it is anyway.

Take a look at my lovely garden.

My Garden
It's actually raining today, so thanks to Instagram I've sunnified it!
Long may the thrift continue!



Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Me and Sky Ride...


The last time I got on a bike I was two months pregnant. My dad had kindly bought me a new bike for my 29th birthday to cheer me up, and I was giving it a spin. I cycled about ten miles, got lost, bought a bottle of water, asked someone for directions, got lost again, then eventually found my way home. A few days later I found out I was pregnant and I am ashamed to say I have never been on a bike since. My son is now 4 years old.

So I am going to brave it, and attempt this years Sky Ride in our local city of Bradford.  Here is some info (this isn't a sponsored post, I just want to help promote something I think is great for families and healthy living).

"Sky got together with British Cycling four years ago to inspire the nation to become fans of cycling, and to make it easier than ever before to ride for the sheer fun of it. Together, they created Sky Ride to help people – whatever their age or ability – to get on their bikes and have fun. They offer free bike rides across the country from mass-participation events to weekly local rides. Visit the website to watch a video of one of last year’s rides.

A Sky Ride City event in partnership with British Cycling will be happening in Bradford on Sunday 1st July. British Cycling are passionate about getting people on their bike and having some fun, even if you’re just an occasional cyclist; they believe a blogger like you could inspire them with some great ideas and exciting stories about getting your kids into cycling and your favourite places to go for a ride in your local area. The Sky Rides have been hugely successful and are a fantastic event for everyone to enjoy."

So I'm going to give it a go, I'm taking my oldest son and we are going to go for a good old bike ride together. He still has his stabilisers on, I might need mine.


Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Leeds Loves Food, Meeting Alex James and Polaroid Sunglasses...

As per usual, once the sun is out, internet consumption goes down accordingly. Summer with children is so lovely, especially if you have a garden. Even though we've now been in our house for almost five years, this is the first summer I can actually remember spending any time in the garden. Paddling pools, water guns, sand pits, those are the sounds to my summer. That's what childhood is all about right? Son 1 no longer asks to watch Jake and the Never Land Pirates 22 times a day, now it's only 19!

Last weekend being a Leeds lover, we ventured to a crowded, hot and sticky Leeds for the annual Leeds Loves Food festival, all over Leeds. It was a really good opportunity for Yorkshire culinary talent to really showcase itself and also for me to go and have a damn good nosh up. It wasn't your ordinary food festival that normally seem to consist of stalls of olives and german sausages, there were loads of Leeds restaurants like Thai Edge, Brasserie Blanc, Chino Latino to name but a few. I had a lovely thai meal for lunch, although I did have to eat it standing up and share most of it with Son 2 to stop him screaming, such is life.


Lattitude - Kir Royale!

Lattitude Stall
Being a Yorkshire lass (I rarely tell people I was actually born in Northampton) I was keen to try all the Yorkshire stalls and see what they were offering. I was really keen to try the Rhubarb Kir Royale from local wine merchant Lattitude. I do love a good glass of fizz, but was a bit sceptical about combining the two. I have to report though that it was totes YUM!

I must admit festivals like that aren't the best places to take young children, although there were some activities planned for children like the Pizza Making, and the involvement of Meanwood Valley Farm, my two were more interested in the free lollies from Asda.


Crowded Lovely Leeds People
The massive highlight for me was meeting Alex James, aka heart throb for my 16 year old self in my pre children indie days, who is now a master cheese maker. I talked to him about the creaminess of cheese and he kindly advised Son 1 to steer clear of the chilli cheese. I was completely and utterly star struck. Here is a pic I took after I had stopped fainting.
Alex James, did love Blur, now loves Cheese.
Best of all (have I said that already) on that lovely sunny day I got to wear the lovely sunglasses that Polaroid kindly send for me! They are absolutely gorgeous and also due to their size really help with my hayfever as they completely cover my eyes from the sun. I have quite a small head so they took a bit of getting used to but I love the lilac design and also the high end case and accessories.
Lovely Polaroid Sunglasses
So, lovely food, Alex from Blur, Kir Royale, lovely Leeds people AND my new Polaroid Sunglasses. I'm in heaven. Oh, and don't forget the churros....

Churros Tent Leeds Loves Food





Sunday, 27 May 2012

THE HUNT FOR THE UK’S ULIMATE TREASURED KEEPSAKE IS ON!


Letters, mix-tapes, your baby’s hospital bracelet or a warm knitted hat from Granny...Families across the UK are being invited to share their most treasured memories for a unique online gallery which launched on the 15th May and the chance to have their items brought to life at the  National Media Museum (Bradford).
Showcasing a treasure trove of meaningful mementos, from a new-born’s first curl to a grandparent’s war medal, the keepsake collection will be available to view online, giving an insight into what our nation holds most dear.  From the touching and traditional to the brilliantly bizarre, articles can be photographed and uploaded by anyone in the UK until 12th June; with written entries also accepted.

Launched by the card and gift specialist Hallmark, the Treasured Memory gallery has been built to share the stories behind the UK’s most cherished keepsakes and, through a public voting process, uncover the Nation’s Ultimate Treasured Memory.

To enter a keepsake in to the gallery, participants are asked to submit a photograph or description of their prized possession tohttp://www.facebook.com/HallmarkUK with all entries also being added into a prize draw to win a Nikon-1 camera.

Following the initial entry period, a panel of expert judges (including the Mummy Blogger behind Inside the Wendy House, Wendy McDonald and Exhibitions and Displays Manager at the National Media Museum, Amanda Chinneck) will create a shortlist of entries to compete in a public vote to be named the UK’s Most Treasured Memory.

The finalists will be shortlisted using a number of criteria, from their ability to capture a unique memorable moment to the comments they inspire within the gallery. Hallmark will also be working in partnership with the National Media Museum, in Bradford, later this year to create opportunities to showcase the final entries.

On the 5th July, the public poll will come to a close and the shortlisted entry with the most votes (at 1pm) will then be named the UK’s Ultimate Treasured Memory. The lucky winner will also receive a fantastic Treasured Memories prize package, worth over £350, which includes the new Nikon-1 camera.

Emma Bragg, judge and Head of Emotions, at Hallmark said:
“In households across the UK there are items hidden in attics, drawers and cabinets that capture a truly memorable moment between loved ones and deserve to be shared with the world. Those belongings may not have any monetary value but, to the families that own them, they will mean the world.

“Through our online gallery we want to create a unique opportunity to showcase these hidden treasures whilst bringing people together to celebrate them. We look forward to seeing what the UK has been hoarding in its homes and unveiling the Nation’s Ultimate Treasured Memory for the very first time.”

Wendy McDonald, Mummy Blogger at Inside the Wendy House, said: "I am thrilled to be involved in this competition and I think it will be really interesting to hear the stories behind everybody's most treasured keepsakes.  I love the idea of sharing these precious memories with each other."

For more information about the Treasured Memory gallery, or to enter a keepsake, please visit   http://www.facebook.com/HallmarkUK

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Thrifty Thursday

Well it's Thursday today and I must admit it's been such a turbulent week I almost forgot about my new baby, aka Thrifty Thursday! Well this week it has to be Isabella Oliver, though actually this isn't on offer anymore, but I wanted to show off about it anyway.

It's the Isabella Oliver Breton Zip Dress which is £99, though this sounds a lot, there was a 50% off day last week where it was £49.50 which is a complete and utter bargain. Great for a "throw on" dress when you get back from work hot and bothered, but smart enough to dress up on holiday with some nice wedges.
Isabella Oliver Breton Zip Dress

I also bought this lovely shift dress in H&M last week, what a bargain at £19.99, I actually bought it in lime green which is absolutely gorgeous, with a pink skinny belt.

H&M Shift Dress £19.99
Not very thrifty so far, but lovely things all the same!

I'm going to delve into my favourite website ebay for my ultimate item of thrift now.
I really love this fingerprint jewellery, (I blogged about it a while ago), which is only £35 for a necklace, about half the normal price on the high street, and fab quality too.

Gifts in Mind Jewellery
Finally, this is something I picked up at local store, Flouncy Flouncy for £22 (on sale).

Lovely Suzy Smith Purse - Flouncy Flouncy
It reminds me a bit of a Fendi purse I saw in Harvey Nichols, but much MUCH cheaper. I have no idea when I will use it, but I had some good news yesterday and wanted to treat myself.

I received no financial incentive to write about any of this! I just like it!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Next Bed in a Bag and Olympic Scarf!

I've finally got to grips with instagram after many tired and sorry efforts seemed to yield nothing but fuzzy photos. I think I've just realised that you need to actually put a bit of time and effort into checking the instagram shots, just a few seconds, nothing more.

Anyway, here is the evidence! I was lucky enough to be sent a Bed In a Bag by Next (£40).

Next Bed in a Bag
Bearing in mind the recent sleep crisis we've had with Son 1, and the fantastic progress he's made, I thought it was only fitting that he should be rewarded with some smart new bedding. It loves gorgeous on and really brightens up his bedroom, plus it makes a change from having hand me down stuff from Son 1, poor Son 2, hardly anything of his is new!

Next also sent me this lovely Olympic scarf in preparation for the London Olympic games starting very very soon! I once read that the depression rates go down in countries where the Olympic games are held for a few months and I can see why. Anyway, this is my "how to wear" the scarf, in my new "Breton" look  in preparation for my upcoming hols in Brittany.

Next Olympic Scarf
Thank you to Next for sending me these lovely items to review.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Leather Satchel Company!

A few weeks ago I attended my first bloggers conference - Cybher. I was lucky enough to be sponsored to go the event by the lovely Ed at Savoo and although I was pretty nervous about meeting other people who love writing about themselves (joke!), I needn't have been as I was fine and met some lovely people who made me feel right at home.

Cybher Conference
One of the highlights of the day for me was meeting Keith Hawshaw and his wife (she has a name but I can't remember it!) who run the Leather Satchel Co. All of their satchels are hand made from great quality materials and it really shows. Best of all all their products are guaranteed for five years so if anything goes, it can be fixed! I was interested to hear about their bespoke bags and really fancy some sort of travel holdall....when I'm rich and famous!

Anyway, I took some shots of the Cybher Bag I was given and also the white satchel I bought! I love it, I feel really chic when I take it out and about (it's like a pet).

Pink Cybher Bag!

White Satchel
I had to hide my envy signs (red face, sweat etc) when my new friend Candy Pop bought this scrumptious aqua marine glittery bag...I love it so.

Glittery Aqua Marine Satchel
Get yourself over to the Leather Satchel Co to see for yourself.

Monday, 21 May 2012

What it feels like to have slept...

...it feels wonderful. I feel human, normal, myself again. I can see the future in a positive way, no hurdle is too large, nothing in unachievable. I admit a few weeks ago I was in a dark place. The constant disturbance to my sleep was badly affecting both my husband and I in every possible way. We had no energy to do anything, we were snappy and harassed. Now thanks to the great advice we took from Brenda the Nanny (sleep expert) we now have a happily sleeping boy. I can't tell you what a difference this has made to Son 2's behaviour, he has suddenly started talking too! We were starting to get a bit worried as Son 1 was jabbering away at 15 months, but we needn't have, because suddenly Son 2 has started telling us exactly how he feels, he even says, "cot, cot", when he's tired. What a difference.

Sleep is a must, it isn't for the weak.

Son 2 last summer

Friday, 18 May 2012

WIN WIN WIN! Lovely Baby Carrier or similar!

When Son 2 was born I was determined to be something of an earth mother. Actually that's a lie, I just wanted to make my life as easy as possible knowing that I already had one demanding delightful child to contend with.  One of the things I decided to do was to not bother with a double buggy and simply "wear" my new baby wherever I went. It actually frees your arms to hold shopping, changing bags and the hands of would be runaway toddlers. One company I really like and who have been willing participants in my recent Thrifty Thursday post are Sa-Be Baby Wear.
Sa-Be Baby Carrier
YOU! My lovely readers have been offered the fab opportunity of winning your very own baby carrier* courtesy of Sa-Be Baby Wear.
Sa-Be Baby Carrier

They write far more eloquently than I could about the benefits of baby wearing:


First of all, there's that lovely feeling of carrying your baby close to you, feeling them settled and contented as you go about your daily routine; be it shopping, housework or caring for your older children. Your baby will be part of your daily life from day one, and will benefit hugely from this. Having spent 9 months in the security of the womb, feeling the constant movement and warmth, they can now feel secure and relaxed in a similar environment, feeling familiar movements and hearing the wearer's heart beating. They are exactly where they feel the most safe and secure, and can enjoy looking at the world around them in an upright position. Instead of being over stimulated by the activities around them, they spend more time in the quiet alert state of mind, an ideal state of mind in which to learn.

*if you are not into baby wearing, or you feel your kiddiwinkles or too old or whatever, you are still welcome to enter and you can choose goodies from the site up to £20 (p&p free). 


All you have to do to enter is:
  • Go to Sa-Be Baby Wear's website and choose your favourite item, leave a comment here and say what it is. Leave your contact email too.
For an extra entry do the following:
  • Follow my blog by email - top right of this page.
  • Join my blog - again on the right.
  • Follow Sa-Be Baby and Pret-a-Mummy on twitter.
  • Like Sa-Be Baby and Pret-A-Mummy on facebook.
  • Use the buttons below to like, share, google+ etc.
Most importantly, don't forget to say in your comment which ones you have done, and PLEASE leave your email address too so I can contact you if you win.

The winner will be announced on Sunday 27th May 2012. UK only.

Good luck!
    .
    I received no financial incentive to run this competition.
    Loquax Competitions

    Wednesday, 16 May 2012

    Thrifty Thursday

    Every Thursday from now on, I will be writing a post showcasing some of my thrifty finds on the internet, be it ebay, Amazon, Etsy or even a high street store. I take my inspiration from the fabulous AThriftyMrs who spoke so wonderfully at Cybher. She really inspired me to put my innate thriftyness to work and share it with others. At the bottom of this post there is also a Thrifty Thursday Linky so I really hope everyone joins in and doesn't leave me all alone in my thriftyness.

    Pashmina


    I wrote a couple of posts a little while ago about budget wedding ideas and came up with some thrifty alternatives to traditional wedding related stuff. I really love these "pashminas" on ebay and although some of them are seconds (there is a selection), I ordered one for myself and it is divine. These ones are £11.90 plus postage and packing and are great as a cover up for weddings or even for bridesmaids as there are loads of colours that you can co-ordinate with your colour scheme.

    I also LOVE these pearl earrings from ebay (new don't worry, I don't do used earrings!) I am not sure but at £3.99 can't see them being genuine pearls (but then I know nothing about such things so don't listen to me) but I don't really care as they are absolutely gorgeous. I have them in every colour, and I must confess often buy them as a gift for people and just pop them into a posh jewellery case.

    Pearl earrings
    As a Yorkshire girl through and through, I really love this local company Sa-Be Baby Company, They sell really funky baby gear, and my favourite is these snazzy (a word my dad often uses) bibs.

    My favourite is this very "now" Jubilee style at £3.50 which I think is lovely and very very cool. Great for the olympics too.



    Share your fantastic finds, please don't leave me on my own. This is a first for me so hope everything works....JOIN MY LINKY!!
    Yikes.



    I received no incentive to write this post. It is all my own doing!
    6V88JQZ2X976

    Monday, 14 May 2012

    Valley of Desolation


    I saw this signpost the other day when we were out for a walk, and it really sums up how I feel today. 
    After weeks and weeks of not getting enough sleep, my body has finally given in and I have the most terrible tonsillitis. I can't remember ever feeling this poorly before and it just proves how important sleep is for the body and the healing process. Son 2 is now sleeping "through" with no problem, I must admit there were times I never thought it would happen. However now we have another problem, early waking, sometimes as early as 4.45am. That is it for the day then, he is up! That creates the problem that he finds it very hard to carry on until his one nap of the day which is after lunch.

    I sometimes look at my face and I don't recognise the old woman looking back at me. Photos of me five years or so ago that at the time I thought were horrible, now look lovely, fresh and youthful. Now my skin is dry and sallow, my eyes permanently puffy and sore. I have no energy and no motivation to do anything. The sleep debt I have racked up over the last year is well and truly catching up with me; I owe, big time.

    Sleep is not for the weak, it is utterly essential.

    Sunday, 13 May 2012

    Barclaycard Amazing May Deals

    This is a Sponsored Post


    Recently we've been looking closely at our spending and how we can best save money. For too long we have lazed around when it comes to our finances, just letting the direct debits roll out and not actually looking at how much we are spending. In these difficult financial times it's really important to properly check your finances to ensure they are working for you, and not spending and wasting money where you don't need to.  When the offer of this sponsored post for barclaycard came up, I was pleased to see that one of the offers actually applied to us. Here are the offers:
    •  Market leading 22 month 0% BT offer is now even stronger with the introduction of a brand new £30 discount on the transfer fee (for transfers over £2,500).
    •  New 15 / 15 deal - 0% interest on both purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, an extra month improvement from the current 14 / 14 offer.
    •  The low BT fee card (fee of 1.6%) is extended to 17 months duration, increased from 16 months.
    • A completely new, 0% interest on all purchases for the first three months with Barclaycard Initial, a product designed for those customers who are new to credit.
    We desperately need to do a balance transfers of one of our credit cards that we are slowly but surely paying off, but at 19% interest! It's ridiculous we haven't sorted it out sooner really. This deal of 0% interest for 15 months is perfect for us as we could then spread the payments out without paying any interest on them. Makes perfect financial sense really. It's very easy to transfer your balance over as well, click here for more details.
    These offers are valid until the 31st May.
    David Chan, chief executive of Barclaycard Consumer Europe said:
    “We’re very excited to be offering even better value and such a huge amount of choice to new customers; from those wanting to manage their money better, to those who are seeking to build a credit history.”

    I'm going to get onto it this weekend, it's a must do job.
    Viral video by ebuzzing

    Silent Sunday - Cybher

    Saturday, 12 May 2012

    Sleep update....

    A few weeks ago I blogged about the cruelty of sleep deprivation Click here for the post.. We were utterly at our wits end with tiredness, the shine had been taken off our life and we needed help. After talking to Brenda Brenda's website.we decided to cut out son 2's morning nap in an effort to help him sleep through the night. I realise everyone has their own opinion on this, but I was surprised at some of the negative comments I've received and have had to take the step of moderating comments from now on, which saddens me. I'm just too tired to respond to people who don't agree with imposing a routine on babies and toddlers at the moment.

    Anyway an update! We have success! For the first time in son 2's short life he has slept through the night! He is like another child, he is happy, smiles more and is eating better. More to the point he has now stopped biting us, which quite frankly was getting painful. I wonder why being in a set routine and sleeping through the night has given him the idea that biting is no longer welcomed? Any ideas?

    Friday, 11 May 2012

    What I do all day...

    I was reading a great article the other day by The Stir which basically described with hilarious clarity what it's like to be at home with children all day. I thought I would describe my typical "day off"...

    Wednesday - leave work amid various "your weekend starts here" and "you lucky thing". Little do they know.

    Thursday - Get woken at 3am, Son 1 no longer wears nappies at night so he has wet the bed. Change bed. Bed still wet, put towel under sheet, put third sheet on. Comfort Son 1. Son 2 wakes up, settle Son 2, go back to bed, it's now 4am. Lie awake worrying for 20 minutes.

    6am - Son 2 wakes up for real this time. Bring him into our bed, he pulls my left earring clean out of my ear.  Check skin for ripping, seems ok. Get hit over the head by a bottle of milk, decide to get up.
    6.20 - Son 1 wakes up, has argument with Son 2 (Son 2 shouts NNANANANANANA) about which cartoon to watch.
    6.30 - I get in the shower. Have to do 20 pretend sneezes whilst showering to keep Son 2 from crying. Shampoo my hair and foolishly close my eyes to wash it off. At this precise moment Son 2 opens the shower door which whacks me straight on the nose. There is nothing worse than being whacked on the nose when you have your eyes shut. Son 2 tries to climb in the shower repeatedly. Give up and turn shower off.
    6.45 - Have argument with Son 1 about school, he doesn't want to go. It is still not yet 7am.
    7am - Attempt to dress Son 2, he kicks me in the stomach, hard. I attempt to get him to lie still while I change his nappy. Give up and lie in bed for a few minutes, I'm already exhausted.
    7.30 - go for breakfast, Son 1 claims he doesn't need food, Son 2 throw his entire bowl of cereal on the floor. Scrabble around cleaning it up, own clothes now filthy.
    8am - Son 1 finally agrees to get dressed, run around frantically getting everything ready for school.
    8.15 - Go to the car. Son 1 insists on using his umbrella to walk 3 metres, this pokes me in the eye. Son 2 wants to go another direction, not towards the car. Carry screaming Son 2 to the car along with keys, Son 1's bag and my bag. Arms ache.
    8.30 - Get to school, no parking, park in permit holders only bit. Drop Son 1 off, Son 2 struggling the whole time. Get back to car, have a parking ticket.
    8.45 - Get home, frantically put dishwasher on, put some washing on, the whole time shouting "boo" to Son 2 and carrying him/entertaining him. Give in and give him a biscuit. Go to the toilet, Son 2 wants to sit on my knee. Great.
    9.30 - Go to a toddler group. Stop other toddlers trying to kill my son whilst their mothers chat to each other. Talk to other children, teach them manners etc.
    11.30 - Get in car to pick up Son 1. Son 2 instantly falls asleep which vexes me greatly as he hasn't eaten lunch yet. Pick up Son 1 - am handed about 15 toilet rolls inside a plastic box and am informed proudly it is a "LifeBoat". Sarcastically thank the teacher.

    I can't go on, it's too depressing. I need to go back to work for a rest.

    Wednesday, 9 May 2012

    What I'm Wearing To #Cybher Part Two.

    This weekend I am having a DAY OFF CHILDREN which of course I am devastated about and will miss them every second etc, but once I am over that I can start enjoying my first ever blogging conference, Cybher! Whoop whoop! I am going to eat pastries, listen to people talk about blogging, thrust business cards at people and generally have a lovely relaxing time. I am going to savour every moment. I must mention my generous sponsor Savoo and the lovely Ed who made this all possible (my oscar speech practice is coming in useful now) and who are also at the event. I am a DealPro over at Savoo so enjoy sharing my favourite topics - shopping AND saving money.

    A few weeks ago I wrote about my outfit choice, a little premature perhaps, anyway, I've changed my mind now and gone for this little beauty...

    Spotty Dress with shoes
    Now the dress itself comes with a nude coloured belt, but I'm thinking of changing it for this red belt to match my red shoes. The slight fly in the ointment is that the red shoes have a scuff on the heel (worn ONCE!) however I am hoping no-one will be looking that closely (I really do hope they don't, it would be weird to be on ones hands and knees examining others shoes).

    Other than that I have no idea what I'm doing. 

    Tuesday, 8 May 2012

    When a restaurant is child friendly...


    ...we can all finish that sentence. When a restaurant is child friendly the whole experience is bliss for everyone. I love eating out, I always have done. I love the ritual of looking at the menu, ordering drinks, waiting for the food to arrive....it adds a little sparkle to my (unsparkly) life. Anyway, back to eating out with children. You know the score, moaning, whining, lots of food going on the floor or refused point blank. Lemonade drunk in seconds. That's why I love Beefeater Grill restaurants so much, no need to stand on ceremony, honest food, reasonably priced and more to the point, my children love it. It's the simple things like BALLOONS that make all the difference.
    Tucking into some spag bol
    Yes, an actual child's menu! Desserts £1!
    We really enjoyed our meal there, I had steak which was perfectly cooked and so did hubby. I would really recommend Beefeaters as somewhere to go with children, the staff are also brilliant and couldn't do more to help. The desserts are also "proper" and remind me of my childhood, think chocolate sundaes, caramel apple crumble, rather tasty.  Thank you Beefeater and we will be back soon!

    Sunday, 6 May 2012

    Sleep Training Day 3

    What a day.

    As you know from previous posts (Sleep training day 2) we've been having a bit of trouble getting our son to go to sleep and STAY asleep. I accept and respect that some people have a different view to us and that actually naturally children would all rather sleep next to their parents, all snuggly and safe and warm. The problem is that I just can't function like that. Maybe it's harking back to the perpetual childhood of adults of my generation, but I want and expect more for my life than being continuously with my children, day AND night unable to have any time to myself to pursue my own hopes and dreams. I've had rather a backlash today and received some comments that I have perceived as hurtful, maybe I got it wrong. I'm so damn tired I can't even think straight.

    Anyway, back to the sleep training, last night was a total and utter......SUCCESS!! Without any crying at all my son slept his way through the night with no waking at all until 6am this morning. It was a little earlier than I would have liked but I felt absolutely AMAZING. The world seemed suddenly a better place, colours more vibrant, smells more..smelly. I felt human and could feel my limited sense of humour returning. More to the point my little boy was like a different child, he was happy and smiling, rather than grouchy and grumpy. He showed a new zest for life and lived today like it was the first day of the rest of his life. I can only say that this must be due to the new found structure to his life which he is, so far, thriving on. He also did not bite us at all today, which is very unusual for him, could it be we have "cracked it"?

    Anyway, here is a picture of the little man at his very loveliest.

    See smile as evidence of good nights sleep!
    Thanks once again to Brenda - our saviour.


    Silent Sunday

    Saturday, 5 May 2012

    Sleep Training Day 2

    Yesterday evening I was feeling very stressed and worried about the prospect of starting the sleep training set up for us by http://brendathenanny.co.uk/, I had completely prepared myself for a night of no sleep. Worst of all, even though I was completely exhausted, when I actually went to bed I couldn't sleep and my heart was pounding. I felt like a conditioned rat who had "learned" there was no point in even going to sleep as I would soon be waking up in complete despair.

    During the day I kept to the routine fairly rigidly though I did let him have an hour and a half at 12.30 rather than an hour as he was very tired. The only other thing I changed was we had our normal evening meal at 5pm rather than a proper meal at 11.45 as I think this is going to be difficult for me to implement.

    I eventually got to sleep about 11pm but unfortunately Son 1, who normally sleeps well started crying and claiming he was scared! I was *terrified* he would wake up Son 2 (since he was born I have discovered creaking floorboards in this house I never knew existed before!)so quickly went down to speak to him (probably breaking a golden rule but I can only cope with one child at a time!). About an hour later I heard the dreaded, "WHHAHH WHHAHH" and shuddered with fear at what would happen. He cried for about 15 minutes during which time I actually fell back to sleep. Next thing I knew it was 6.30am and Son 1 had crawled into bed with me. All hail the sleep plan! It seems to be working so far. Will update on day 3 tomorrow. CRPKXHHU2BQ

    Sleep Training Day 1

    As anyone who regularly reads this blog will know, we've been having a very difficult time of it at as Son 2 is still nowhere near sleeping through the night, even though he is now 14 months old (see The Cruelty of Sleep Deprivation.. He is very very much like a newborn, sometimes waking up to 3 times a night. Even though we are now able to factor it into our lives, it is still wearing away at our spirits and our health. It is getting to the stage where I am so tired I shake from head to toe for minutes at a time, I have lost my appetite and suffer from the most chronic heartburn. This cannot go on.

    In desperation I turned to my usual source of information, the internet.  I had already argued with spoken to the doctor and health visitor, to no avail. I just couldn't agree with their theory of leaving him to cry endlessly.

    Anyway, we think we might have found our saviour, knight in shining armour, general good egg in the form of sleep expert Brenda The Nanny:


    "Brenda has been helping babies, children and parents for over 30 years. Originally trained as an NNEB (National Nursery Examination Board) Nursery Nurse and Montessori teacher, Brenda qualified in Liverpool in 1979. Maternity training followed when she worked in the Special Care Baby Unit in the Al Corniche Hospital, Abu Dhabi looking after premature and sick babies. Since March 2003 she has worked as a full-time night nanny and sleep consultant in London, the UK and abroad."


    I think I have found the right person.


    Last night we had our first skype "meeting with Brenda". I could tell hubby was reluctant as things are so bad he is now of the opinion nothing anyone can say or do will help us or change the situation. I was hoping Brenda would help to change his mind.


    We started our meeting talking generally about babies and how they think. Brenda believes that by four months babies already have the skills to differentiate between each parent and can read how "tough" each parent is prepared to be and behave accordingly. She also mentioned a word I definitely associate with Lewis, DETERMINATION. She said that the majority of the babies that she sees are very, very determined. That is so so true for Son 2, if he wants something, nothing and nobody will put him off, and he will carry on and on until he gets it. Babies like that are particularly difficult to sleep train as they are very resistant to change and will shout very loudly about it! She also said that Son 2 has now formed a lot of habits that would have been a lot easier to break at 6 months. She also picked up on something that I had not noticed: we treat him like a newborn, if he cries we give him milk, if he has a tantrum, we pick him up. We never allow him an opportunity to settle himself or learn to be more independent. We are molly coddling him.

    So here are some new rules:
    • No sleeping in the car or pushchair.
    • No morning naps.
    • No naps in the afternoon for more than an hour.
    • Keep everything the same every day.
    Brenda also gave us a new routine as she said that Son 2 is desperately crying out for boundaries and to know what is going to happen at set times each day. This is evidenced by his latest habit - biting. He bites us all the time especially when he is tired (which is all the time), GIVE ME BOUNDARIES, he is telling us.

    Here is the new routine (he is 14 months by the way).
    • 6.30  get him up.
    • 7 am - milk feed then little play/get dressed.
    • 7.45 - breakfast.
    • Then go out somewhere.
    • NO SLEEP AT ALL
    • 11.45 - lunch time (have as main meal).
    • 12.30 - nap for no more than one hour. If he wakes up before one hour, leave to cry.
    • 5pm - a light tea.
    • 6.15 - bath.
    • 7pm - watered down milk (for better digestion) and story.
    • 7.20 - go to sleep/we leave the room.
    Brenda also mentioned the importance of having a really dark room and using sleeping bags to stop baby from getting cold or escaping from the cot!  

    Now for the night waking! Brenda said the best approach is....leave to cry. He usually wakes between midnight and 3am for his usual milk feed. Brenda insists he does not need this and is just waking up out of habit. We must not under any circumstances get him out of his cot as this gives him confused signals. Hubby was a bit worried he might be sick or need his nappy changing (number 2) so Brenda said to go in after a minimum of 25 minutes, check him, lie him down again, shush him a bit then leave again. 

    So today is day 1, of the rest of our lives that is. I instantly feel that we have taken control and things are going to get better, what do you think of our new routine? Do you agree with leaving babies to cry?

    Friday, 4 May 2012

    Free things to do with the kids at the weekend

    This is a guest post written by the bargain loving Ross who runs popular UK  freebies website and facebook page.

    Weekends can often fill you with a need to have fun and spend some quality time with your children. You might not always have the funds to do exactly what you want, but it shouldn't mean you can’t still have a great time, which is why we have compiled a list of fantastic free activities available around the UK to help you save money and still have a great day out with the family.

    South West:

    St Catherine’s Castle in Fowey, Cornwall, offers a lovely day out for the family. There is usually lovely weather in Cornwall and you can visit this magnificent castle completely free of charge. You can explore this artillery fort built by Henry VIII in 1530 and view the ground level gun ports. This is
    a way to provide your children with an educational yet fun day out.


    You can take part in a free walking tour in Bath, Somerset if you are looking for something a little bit different to do with your family. Every day of the year (except Christmas Day) you can meet in the Abbey Church Yard and take part in a two hour walking tour and take in some fantastic places of architectural and historical importance. This may be suitable for older children or you will be able to take younger children in a pushchair but they may not find the sites quite so fascinating.

    London and South East:

    The Museum of Childhood is home to the UK’s biggest collection of toys and childhood paraphernalia. This makes it a fantastic place to spend a day with your family. You will find toys from the 16th century right up until the present day and there is much on offer for young families here.

    Greenwich park is another fantastic place to visit with your family. This is London’s oldest Royal Park and will allow you to take in some of the truly breathtaking views that London does have to offer. On a clear day you will be able to take in St Paul’s Cathedral and take in the sights surrounding the River Thames.

    A visit to the beach in Ramsgate is always something nice to do with children. There will be nice weather during the summer and there is a lovely high street to explore. Walks along the beach here will allow you to relax, play and enjoy your weekend completely free!

    North West:

    The National Conservation Centre in Liverpool will allow your children to learn about everything from motorbikes to Egyptian mummies. Entry is free and the whole family are welcome to come and learn about many artefacts and rare pieces that have been well cared for and preserved.

    Wetheriggs Pottery, in Penrith, Cumbria, is a 19th century industrial monument steeped in history and filled with restored machinery as well as an original kiln dating right back to the 19th century. There are 10 acres of grounds just waiting to be explored and lots of wildlife can be seen here
    including newts, birds and even the odd badger or fox! You can enter the grounds for free and there are additional activities available that may cost money to become involved in.


    North East:

    Morpeth Chantry Bagpipe Museum in Morpeth, Northumberland can provide an interesting yet varied day out for the family. If you are wanting to view some bagpipes up close and personal then this is the ideal place to take your children. It can be a little busy at weekends but do not let that deter you from this wonderful location with lots to offer.

    Faringdon Woodland in Faringdon, Oxfordshire is home to a wonderful 4 acre wood that is ideal for
    families who want to explore and packed with activities for the children too. This is a wonderful open space with lots to see and do. Whether you are looking for 24 black birds and a giant willow pie or finding the fairly useless bridge you will be sure to have a fantastic time here with the whole family.


    Midlands:

    Green’s Mill in Sneinton, Nottingham is home to a 200 year old windmill. This is a grade 2 listed
    building and is now one of just a handful of working mills left in Britain. You can tour this windmill for free and check out the process of turning grain in to flour. You can see the method used more than 200 years ago and best of all admission is free!


    If your children love castles then the ruins of Clun Castle in Clun, Shropshire will provide a fantastic backdrop for a free family day out. These ruins lay by the riverside and allow you to see what’s left of a Welsh Border castle that is now run by English Heritage. You can view the information boards throughout these ruins to learn more and your children will have a blast pretending that they are in the ruins of their very own castle after they have made it through a long and arduous battle!

    Scotland:

    Gorgie City Farm in Edinburgh is a donation based activity day for the family. Here you will find a
    wide range of livestock and pets including chinchillas and tortoises. There is an on site cafĂ© and a play park for the children so that they can really tire themselves out running around. You can also buy some of the farm’s own produce from the on site shop. You can introduce your children to the workings of a real farm and let them see up close and personal what running a farm can entail.


    The Boat of Garten Community Gardens in Boat Of Garten, Highlands is a wonderful place to visit with your family. This is a delightful place to stop off with your family for a picnic or just a relaxing rest after a long day of sight seeing or travelling. These gardens are wheelchair accessible too making them even more fantastic!

    Wales:

    Goferydd in Holyhead, Isle of Anglesey is a fantastic place to visit. Here you will find the RSPB Seabird Centre in Ellin’s Tower. You will be able to see thousands of breeding seabirds and admission is free all day from 10am - 530pm.

    The National Museum & Gallery in Cardiff is one of the most unique museums in Britain. Here you will find a wide range of art and science displays. You and your children will be able to learn about a vast array of interesting topics and afterwards you can explore Cardiff itself and take in some of the lovely sites there.

    If you fancy something a little different for you and your children then why not consider visiting the National Library of Wales. Here you will be able to find photographs, maps, books and much more of
    Wales and you may just uncover a gem and find out something new about Wales that you never knew before. You can even make it a little more fun by giving a prize to the child to find a picture of Cardiff or somewhere similar first. Obviously this type of place is more suited to older children to avoid any damage occurring to priceless books or photographs.  

    Tuesday, 1 May 2012

    My holiday picks from Homeaway.co.uk

    Even though the terrible sleep problem persists (see The Cruelty of Sleep Deprivation) we are trying to get on with things and have turned our attention to lovely thoughts about our next holiday. Going on holiday with children is completely different to going away as a couple. Nothing is simple anymore, and the slightest problem can turn into a big stress. One of the most important things to get right is accommodation because, let's face it, you're going to be staying in a lot more than you used to. Some people love the ease of hotels and all inclusive deals, but for me, nothing beats the freedom of staying in a cottage or villa as it means you can put the kids to bed and have some adult time, even if you are "staying in". One of the companies that specialise in holiday accommodation for young families is HomeAway.co.uk. There are loads of cottages to choose from (though you can set the filter to find the things most important to you), but these are the ones that take my eye:


    Christchurch, Dorset. Ref - 418812
    4 bed harbourside house with panoramic views, and books & games for kids. From £600/week 
    I absolutely love Christchurch, it is one of the most picturesque places I know. It is also a wonderful place to take children with its recently renovated children's park with paddling pool and lots of child friendly restaurants. If you catch the ferry (and by ferry, I mean wooden rowing boat) across the water you can go to Mudeford beach, home of the £125,000 wooden beach huts (I spend my time trying to nosy inside them).


    Purbeck, nr Swanage, Dorset, Ref - 96889
    3-bed seaside cottage, from £350/week.  ‘Very baby and child friendly’ and provides baby equipment, plus kids toys, books and games.
    Swanage was the site of my very first holiday as a child. Apparently this is the place I fell in some stinging nettles and then my dad thrashed them all down with a stick. I have such happy memories of holidays in Swanage, so child friendly and seasidy. I love this house, all cosy and homely.


    Carew Newton near Pembroke, ref - 8843.
     Unusual converted chapel. Listed as ‘children welcome’. Very modern interior, 3-bed, from £550/week
    We took son 1 on his very first holiday to Pembrokeshire, so it holds special memories. Although this cottage isn't especially child friendly, sometimes you've got to just look and gaze in wonder at fabulous contemporary interiors. 


    Here's another great find in Pembrokeshire:
    Pembrokeshire National Park, Ref - 418962
    2-bed detached cottage, from £400/week. Provides games and toys and states property is very family friendly.
    Lovely interiors, very "shabby chic".
    This is another beautiful cottage, and probably more suitable for a young family (if I'm honest) than the previous one. The fact that there is a pub/restaurant on the beach nearby that sells locally sourced lobster is a winner as far as I'm concerned. There are also lots and lots of beaches close by which small children love.


    Everyone loves the Lake District (even though my mum claims it rains there all the time).
    This one was recommended to me by a friend and looks divine:
    Caldbeck, near Keswick, Ref - 82107
    3-bed, 5*-rated cottage in Caldbeck (very pretty village). The owner Jen is brilliant and does lovely home-cooked food which she can deliver to the cottage (extra charge for the food, of course) and you just then whack in the oven. From £575/week.
    You can't beat roaming around in the Lake District in the beautiful scenery and countryside to make you feel truly proud to be British. This cottage would be great for those looking to really get away from the hustle and bustle. The interiors look amazing and would make me come home and detest my own paltry house (and lack of taste for that matter).


    Now although I love holidaying in this country, it's cheaper than going abroad and much easier, you can't always rely on the British weather. I'm no sunbird but I do love a sunny day or two so I can get my summer dresses out and generally feel summery and wear sunglasses on my head. I'm a bit of a Francophile as well, truth be told. I love all things French but most especially the delicious food and wine. There is something amazing about even the simplest of lunches in France and everyone takes food and meal times very seriously (as they should!). With this in mind, I couldn't help but think "wow" about this little gem.


    "The Blue House", Near Deauville, Normandy, ref - p80776
    A beautifully decorated 3-bed, wood-timbered house in front of the famous Abbey of Bec Hellouin. From £806/week
     
    This house is absolutely stunning and more importantly, gets great reviews too. It is quite near Deauville which is a lovely seaside town with restaurants to die for and a stunning beach (I speak from knowledge here, yum yum!). Husbands will also like this area as it's quite handy for all the Normandy (and by this I mean WW2) beaches, though to be fair there are some very interesting things to see and do and poignant reminders of the great sacrifice made in those sad times.


    I will update you when we decide where to go, roll on summer!


    And of course, booking direct means(this is from the website):
    - A free rental guarantee which protects against fraudulent (i.e. non-existant) properties/listings. Everyone who books a property on our site is eligible for this and it provides compensation of up to 50% of the rental fees paid – up to a maximum of £700 – for any properties which turn out to be fraudulent (very rare).
    -        A dedicated insurance product via our partner Europ Assitance which protects specifically against fraud and mis-representation (i.e. the property is significantly not as described), as well as all your standard travel insurance items.
    -        Traveller reviews for increased peace of mind so people can read feedback from previous guests. Owners can add their reply/comments to reviews but reviews are unedited and so long as they meet our guidelines, all are posted, good and bad.

    I am looking for a holiday with HomeAway but this was a sponsored post. Just so you know.

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