Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Improving Children's Handwriting with Free Printables

A child writing
There are a lot of positives to the advance of the digital age. Laptops and iPads are providing a wealth of opportunities for children to develop their writing. Without the limitation of forming the words individually using a pencil and paper (which many children struggle with) it's proving much quicker for them to get their ideas down, so their story writing and other subjects are progressing much faster. However, the downside is that it might discourage them from persevering with the important skill of good handwriting and, at some stage, they will still need to write nicely. It is so much easier to start good habits early, so here are some ideas to encourage good handwriting in children. 

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Top Tips for Camping When it Rains

A tent, with some very inquisitive ducks waddling past.
Everyone hopes for good weather when it comes to the annual family holiday, but none more so than the dediated family camper. Like all holidays, once it's booked, it's booked and you are pretty much condemned to suffer whatever is thrown at you and, usually, the worst of these will be the weather. We've just returned from our third camping trip, through and we had spells of dreadful weather during each of them. This time, the tail end of a hurricane made us glad of our storm pegs, and this was just one of the things we learned from our previous trips. With this in mind, this post contains advice from myself and other campers on how to brave the worst of the British weather in a tent! 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Forest Glade Holiday Park: Family Campsite Review

Beautiful forest glade, situated in the Black Down Hills
Regular readers will know that sometimes I review things I've been sent to try and sometimes I review things I have purchased myself, but I am always honest in my reviews and upfront about where they come from. This time, though, it's a bit more complicated, because I bought and paid for this holiday, but the lovely owner gave me a refund when I said I would be happy to review it. The park is just stunning and there is so much I want to tell you about it, along with millions of photos I've taken for you, which I've tried to whittle down a bit. I hope you enjoy my unbiased review of the beautiful Forest Glade Holiday Park, situated in the Blackdown Hills between Cullompton and Honiton in East Devon. 

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Sister Act: The High- Energy Musical Extravaganza

A line up of nuns, playing various musical instruments
I had been looking forward to this performance for weeks. This has been a favourite film of mine since the 90's and it was so exciting to imagine it transferred to the stage, it is such a show-stopper anyway. This is our review of Sister Act The Musical, which turned out to be pretty surprising in many ways. It's always interesting to see how a film transforms on the stage and Craig Revel Horwood's direction brought some twists and turns I was not expecting. We are lucky enough to get press tickets for shows at the Bristol Hippodrome and you can read our previous reviews of Gangsta Granny and Dirty Dancing by clicking the links, if you would like to.

Win a 16" Marvel Iron Man Action Figure

Large 16" Iron Man Action Figure

Monday, 7 August 2017

Making Informed Lottery Choices Just got Easier with Lottoland

Pile of money, with title overlaid. Like most people, I have played the lottery in this country since it opened in 1997 and dreamed of a big win ever since. It soon became apparent though, that lottery players in other countries were getting a much better deal. In the dark ages; BG (before Google), it wasn't as easy to find out what was happening in other countries, but sometimes news of huge lottery wins would come through from the U.S. where they would roll over seemingly indefinitely until someone picked the right combination, resulting in piles of dollars that couldn't even be imagined. I also found out that the Irish Lotto, at the time, had way better odds than the British Lottery and my much younger, more self-assured, self was not happy about this. 

Friday, 4 August 2017

Choking Hazards and Children - Prevention is Better than Cure

A sepection of objects that a small child could choke on. When my daughter was small, she choked on a Hula Hoop crisp. It was at our local playgroup and, whilst I was just a few feet away, it was the quick-thinking mum who was nearest who picked her up and slapped her back. She was instantly sick and disaster was very much averted. I was a member of the St John's Ambulance Brigade from the age of 12, so I was trained in first aid from an early age. I have always been relatively confident in emergency situations, but not everyone is, or would be able to remember under pressure. It's also very distressing for the child, and the parent, so this post is about preventing choking situations occurring in the first place.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Cleaning Short Cuts and Tips to Keep Up with the Housework

A neat and tidy downstairs cloakroomIt's very easy to get completely overwhelmed with housework. I do. It feels like I blink (or get absorbed in Facebook arguments) for a second couple of hours, and Armeggedon appears, uninvited, in my house. There are various issues that can cause this unwelcome phenomenon to occur. Maybe you are a bit of a hoarder, or have a brood of mini-hoarders, or just have other things you'd rather be doing. Whatever the reason, you are left with two choices; you can either dedicate yourself to a life maintaining a spotless showhome, worthy of a spot in Good Housekeeping or, you can do what I do and cheat a bit, fake it, and have a clean and happy home, without the hours of rubber-gloved drudgery. Here's how.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Review of The Gorgeous Buddy Box from The Blurt Foundation

Contents of the June Buddy Box
I have bored everyone for quite a while with the devastion caused by the death of my best friend, but, as I mentioned in my previous post, a few good things came out of it too, not least the kindness of others. Many of my friends came through with all kinds of offers of help and support and it amazed me how thoughtful and understanding everyone was when I needed them most. Although, it shouldn't have done, because friends are amazing. One particular act of kindness made me smile so much, though, I've decided to give it a post of its own. Introducing the Buddy Box, from the mental health charity The Blurt Foundation. It's a hug in a box! 

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

SS Great Britain Summer Events Programme

A couple dressed in Victorian costume. School is finally out for us and the last few weeks have been crazy busy. Along with school plays, leavers' celebrations and other events, we somehow managed to squeeze in a visit to one of our favourite Bristol tourist attractions to find out what's on over the summer. The SS Great Britain is somewhere we have always been fond of, as it has a way of growing with children. Each time we go, we discover something different that we hadn't appreciated before. During the summer break, you can get even more for your ticket price with the addition of some amazing extras that will amuse your brood, whatever their age.

Win a Creature Peeper and Get to Know Your Critters!

Insect Lore creature peeper

Monday, 24 July 2017

Smoking - How I Nailed Giving Up with No Substitutes

I am very proud to say that my husband has finally managed to give up smoking and the amazing part is, there was virtually no trauma involved! I've always known him as a smoker and I've always accepted it as part of life. As a non-smoker, I have never felt able to judge something I haven't experienced, so I never questioned it. I remember when he first admitted he was a smoker. It was on our first date and he was clearly embarrassed about it, but it never really bothered me. There have been massive advantages to him giving up though, not least to our bank balance and you won't believe how he did it. This guest post, in his own words, explains it all.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

My Sunday Photo: Clash of Ages

A couple in Victorian costume, one with a mobile phone!

Globenfeld Men's Rose Gold Automatic Watch Review

The face of a men's watch, on a bed of lavender.
We have reviewed a Globenfeld sports watch before and the husband was very pleased with it, so when I was offered this limited edition, rose gold automatic watch to review, I was thrilled. It looked beautiful in the picture and I was really looking forward to receiving it. I was not disappointed, it is truly stunning. I have never seen anything quite like it, as it doesn't have a battery, but also doesn't need winding. It works through a complicated network of 110 tiny moving parts, some of which can be seen through the windows, which give the watch its unique look and old-style charm. It's a real homage to traditional watch makers of old and has a great deal of appeal as a gift purchase, or treat for yourself.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Win a Disney Travel Easel - Ends 30/07

Disney Travel Easel

20 Ways to Encourage Children to be More Active

Two Children Walking through a Muddy Path
We all know how important it is to encourage our children to be active, and the summer sunshine makes it all the more obvious, but not all children appreciate it. This might be open to a bit of a 'nature versus nurture' debate, but, in my opinion, all children are different and this aspect is no exception. There are some children who would prefer to be indoors, probably, shock, horror, on their playstations. So, I've made a list of 20 ways to encourage your child to get outside and be more active. I've tried to include different age groups in this, as it does get harder as they get older, but some ideas will overlap anyway. 

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Spiderman: Homecoming - A Parent's Guide

Spiderman balanced on a small Eiffel Tower, floating in the sea. Another Marvel film has been released in UK cinemas, and many young children will be desperate to see their favourite hero in action. The reason for this is, of course, because Marvel characters are very much marketed at children, despite the films being  routinely given a 12A certificate. The CBBFC defines this as: Films suitable for children aged 12 and over. People younger than 12 may see a 12A so long as they are accompanied by an adult. Responsibility for allowing a child under 12 to view lies with the adult. Which means parents need to be sure their children can handle it and that the language and references are appropriate for them. So, I went to see Spiderman: Homecoming and this is my parent's guide to help you decide. 

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Can the Combover! Thoughts on Male Pattern Baldness

Balding man, taken from aboveThere has been much speculation about the authenticity of Mr Trump's barnet. Everything about it is wrong. The colour, the sculpted, undulating waves, the fact you never see an individual strand move, it's all a bit... unnatural. Experts seem to have concluded that it isn't a toupe, despite its resemblance to a well-groomed dead animal. The jury is still out on how he is doing it, and more importantly, why, but it got me thinking; why do a lot of men, especially celebrities, worry so much about their hair? It would be sexist not to expect them to care about their appearance, but some women find bald men sexy, so should they be concerned? 

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Dirty Dancing at The Bristol Hippodrome - Review

Classic scene from dirty dancing
When I first heard about the stage version of Dirty Dancing, I was really curious as to how they would handle some of the bigger scenes from the 1987 film. It might have been 30 years ago, but it's such a classic that I still watch it now and again, so was very aware that there would be some challenges for the production team. The stage show has enjoyed three successful West End seasons and is now midway through a nationwide tour, taking in no less than 16 UK towns and cities. So how does a dance-based film, with a large cast and many iconic scenes, filmed in some diverse locations, transfer to the stage? We received free tickets for our review, which will hopefully provide the answer.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Thoughts on Saying Goodbye

Balloons in the sky with a church behind
I went to put up a Sunday Photo today and realised that I hadn't posted since last Sunday, which seems impossible, but this week has gone in kind of a blur. So, I thought instead, I would write a bit about why I have been so unnaturally quiet this week and what's been happening in between. The reason for my absence hasn't been a happy one, but sometimes you just have to write what's in your heart and hope no one minds. I often, like now, right these introductions before I write the actual post, so I don't know how they are going to turn out. However, I do know that I am going to try to end it on a bit more of an upbeat note, so try to hang in there, if you can.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

How to be a Proper Blogger

Roses in vase and notebooks
I have nearly reached five years of blogging and, during that time, my approach to blogging has changed dramatically. I started blogging purely because I like writing. I didn't consider making money from it for a good three years. After that, it sort of happened accidentally and I now enjoy the fact that I can make money from doing something I love. The downside is, it's been a major contributor in changing the way I blog and the way I think about blogging. Over time I've become more interested in whether I'm blogging 'properly'. I look at other bloggers, and I wonder if I should be blogging more like them, if I could be more professional, perhaps. These are my thoughts on 'proper' blogging.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Swansea Beach Review and General Thoughts

I decided to review Swansea seafront after visiting over the weekend. It was different in many ways to other beaches we've visited, for good and bad reasons, so I really felt it would be useful to note down a few points for anyone who is considering going. Swansea is the second largest city in Wales, with over 260 shops, and 25 car parks, so it's easy to forget that it is also home to a pretty impressive stretch of coastline. However, if you are thinking of making a visit to the beach, there are a few things you might need to know, particularly if you have little ones, or anyone elderly or infirm in your travelling party. We've been to Swansea, and here's what we learned.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Snooker, a Cheap and Fun All Weather Family Activity

A face framed with a snooker triangle
I don't know about you, but we really struggle sometimes to think of new ideas for places to go on rainy days. Sometimes, even in the summer, it seems to rain for days and days and boredom sets in for everybody. I think, as a family, it's important to try to get out of the house as much as possible, in order to get away from all the distractions. Everyone relaxes more outside the home; the grown ups can't think about housework, DIY and other chores and the screentime thing doesn't have to be an issue with the children, so everyone wins. This doesn't have to be a 'dad and lad' activity, but for us it definitely was, as part of the 'Please bring the boy back when he's tired' initiative. Thus, the boys took the photos. *sigh*

Sunday, 11 June 2017

My Sunday Photo: A Final Memory

This was the last photo my dear friend and fellow blogger Lynn ever sent me. I think it's stunning and I wanted to share it so that everyone could see how amazing she was. She will be missed by so many and this photo shows how she could light up a room. 


Saturday, 10 June 2017

5 Ways to Save Money in Iceland

Skogar Folk Museum, IcelandDo you remember when the Dismaland exhibit opened in Weston-super-Mare and I couldn't go, so instead, I asked my intrepid explorer friend Mel, from The Diary of a Jewellery Lover to tell you all about it? Well, she now has a travel blog, where she documents her adventures as she explores the globe with her husband. When I mentioned how keen I was to go to Iceland, but how expensive it was reputed to be, she sent over this rather brilliant budget guide on how to save money in Iceland. There's some great advice in here, as well as some fascinating shots of the island. Come for the tips, stay for the stunning photographs! 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Mason's Arms Stonehouse Pizza and Carvery Review

Boy on Slide
About three miles north of the Almondsbury interchange, on the A38 in Rudgeway, stands a little pub. The Mason's Arms has been there for as long as I can remember, but recently it's had a pretty spectacular makeover. Stonehouse Pizza and Carvery own 77 outlets across the country and The Mason's is one of their most recent acquisitions. As a regular visitor before it changed hands, I was amazed at the transformation. Gone were the dated, split level sections and in their place; clean lines, bright colours and fresh paint. We were invited to dine for free, in return for our honest review, so we were keen to find out if it lived up to our new-found expectations!

Monday, 5 June 2017

When Your Best Friend Dies

I've been very lucky in my life. The only people who have passed from it, have been older relatives. Now, as much as there is never a good time to go, it's a little easier to come to terms with when you have lots of good times to remember, you know they had a long and happy life and contributed a lot to the world. They will be remembered because they made their mark; in their profession, through their clubs and hobbies, on their friends and colleagues. Everyone will say 'Oh yes, lovely chap, had a good innings' and, after the initial loss, you can at least have that little crumb of comfort, they got the best out of life. Then, your best friend dies. Very suddenly and very young, and all of that changes.

Beautiful Bowood House and Gardens - Review

Bowood House
Bowood is somewhere that I remember going as a child and I have wanted to visit again ever since. I remember it being very beautiful and having lovely gardens, as well as a stunning lake. There is also an imposing stately home too, which I knew Phil would love, as he is a massive history buff. It's situated in Calne, in Wiltshire and is famous for its rhodedendrons, which are available to view at an additional cost. There is also a private walled garden that you can pay extra to visit. So, we set off in the middle of half term through the country lanes of Wiltshire to Bowood House and Gardens. This is our review of what we found there and if it lived up to my wonderful memories!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

SS Great Britain - Step Aboard and Back in Time

SS Great Britain Flags and Chimneys
The SS Great Britain has always been one of our favourite Bristol attractions. What I love about it, is that it is perfect for all weathers. The deck is gorgeous in the summer sun, but if it rains, there is plenty to see undercover. We haven't been for a while now, though and I had wondered if it would still appeal to L now that he is older. We took Phil along this time, too, and he hadn't been since he was at school. What I noticed was that, we all got something different out of it and there was something for everyone. We were lucky with the weather this time, it was really warm and sunny, although it did make the Dry Dock a bit humid, it was like the tropical house at the zoo! I suppose all that glass will do that...

8 Pet Hates - What gets my Goat!

Happy GoatThis is the epitomy of a #FirstWorldProblems post, but it's not to be taken seriously. I'm writing it for fun and I am totally aware that none of life's little niggles are comparable to all the bad things in the world, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for some lighthearted Mr Meldrew-style moaning about life's little imperfections. I will be inviting other bloggers (or non-bloggers, if you fancy a go) to write their own 8 pet hates, but, to start us off, here's mine. Let me know if you'd like to contribute, in a comment, or through my contact page. I'd love to see what gets other people's goats! 

Friday, 2 June 2017

Review: Gangsta Granny at the Bristol Hippodrome

Granny and Ben on Mobility Scooter
We were absolutely thrilled to be asked to review Gangsta Granny, the stage adaptation of David Walliams' fantastic book. We love going to the theatre and, having read all the David Walliams books, L couldn't wait to see how it transferred to the stage. I wasn't worried about a children's show being less appealing for the grown ups. Walliams has proven to be a visual comic genius and there is no way he was going to let us down in the laugh department. I was not disappointed and neither was L. He was absolutely transfixed for the whole two hours and so was every other child in the nearly full theatre.

Friday, 26 May 2017

BrickBox Subscription Box Review

Boy with Brickbox Package, title overlaid
Lego and other compatible building sets will always be popular with children. They're just so entertaining in the way they capture the imagination with the endless building possibilities and ideas. Every parent knows how much children love getting post, it's a joy that sadly diminishes with age and the onset of many bills, but in a child, it's still a moment of pure excitement, when they realise a letter or parcel is for them. So, when we were asked to review a Brickbox box, all the way from the Netherlands, I was very keen to see how excited L would be to receive post that turned out to be Lego. Life doesn't get much better than that when you are 11!

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Stop Naming Terrorists - We Don't Care

Lady with finger to lips, title overlaid
Yesterday, I wrote about the bomb blast in Manchester and how I felt that it was pointless for many reasons. One of those reasons was that the cause, or the perpetrators, would not be remembered, only the innocent and the brave who were caught up in the atrocity. Then, this morning, all over the news, were all the details of the 'loser', to quote Mr Trump (yes, I know, only sensible thing he's ever said!) and it made me really angry. Why are we giving them what they want? Why do we care what his name was or when his birthday is? The mindset of anyone who could commit an atrocity like this is to make a name for themselves, so why are we giving them that opportunity? Stop naming terrorists!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Manchester #WeStandTogether

A Manchester cityscape with title overlaid
I went to bed early last night, so it wasn't until this morning that I woke up to the horrific news from Manchester Arena. There are no words are there? There are no words that will do anything to ease the pain for those families, the ones with missing children, the ones who are coming to terms with losing a loved one. Nothing anyone can say will make it any better for any of them. Not even the ones that maybe weren't hurt, the 'lucky ones'. Those people, most of them very young, will carry the memories, the emotional scars of what happened, probably forever. And for what? What can it possibly achieve? I just don't get it. I don't understand the point of it at all.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Three Girls; A Difficult, but Worthwhile Watch

A Bristol Street with Title OverlaidI thought about whether or not to watch this three part drama for so long, all three parts were available on iPlayer by the time I got around to it. I knew it was always going to be a difficult watch, but in the end, I felt I owed it to them, after everything they went through, to at least hear their story. Which might sound daft, but there it is. If, like me, you are struggling with whether or not to give it a go, whether it will be too much, or too graphic, I wanted to give you my take on it, now that I've seen it. I think it's very important viewing, as it happens. Here's what I learned. Oh, and I'm going to try and write this with no spoilers, I'll come back and let you know how that worked out when I've finished. Edit: Nailed it!

Win a Motor Mania Mega Garage Centre


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Gino's Generalisations - 'Fussy' isn't Always a Choice

Pink Desk with Corner of Keyboard VisibleIt's a common bugbear amongst experienced parents, when other people pass judgement on your parenting skills, your children's behaviour, or any other aspect of your family life. It's not actually limited to parenting, no one likes to be judged by people who have not walked in their shoes. For the purposes of keeping this short, though, I am going to focus on the particularly superior and judge-y parent-bashers, who think they know best. Some are parents, some are not and one is a famous celebrity chef who jolly well ought to know better. I don't have any pictures of Gino D'Acampo, so I will be illustrating this post with cake, although my son would not eat it if it had jam in the middle, because he doesn't like jam. So there.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Loving London - The Best of British

A London street, with title overlaidI am not very good at London. I absolutely love going and I would love to go more often, so that I get the hang of getting around a bit better, but I'm still very much a tourist when it comes to navigating. It's a great place to be, though, and I've always felt really at home there. I love the diversity, the different architecture, and I really love the people. People say London isn't friendly, but this has never been my experience. I've always wanted to write a post about my experience of London, as a visitor and, after visiting recently for the This Morning Live press event, I had the perfect opportunity. So here is everything I love about our capital city, let me know in the comments if you agree or if I've missed anything!

Saturday, 6 May 2017

This Morning LIVE is Coming to Birmingham in May!

This Morning presenters, with title overlaidSometimes, as a blogger, I'm just a little bit spoilt and couple of weeks ago was no exception. I was invited by Netmums to attend an afternoon tea party to launch the very exciting This Morning LIVE consumer lifestyle event, which will be coming to the Birmingham NEC from the 18th to the 21st of May this year. I read 'cake' and was already on my way, but it turned out there were a lot of very interesting people to meet, including many of the This Morning family who will be at the show, and it was really interesting to find out how they felt about this new live venture. If you haven't got your ticket yet, here's a few good reasons why you should, even if you are not an avid watcher of  the TV show!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

How to Support Someone Who is Unhappy with Their Weight

Cakes in a No Entry Sign with Title OverlaidI suspect this post may meet with some controversy due to the subject matter. There are some people (thin people) who believe that losing weight is as simple as eating less and that anyone who is overweight is simply greedy. However, as a former thin person, I can confirm this isn't always the case. I put on weight due to a combination of health issues, some that cause me to hang on to weight, and the worst one, which is a pain illness making most forms of exercise impossible. I never thought I'd say I miss jogging! The point of this post is that a lot of people are unhappy with their weight and it can take many attempts to be successful in losing it, but here's how to help by not making the situation any worse. 

Monday, 1 May 2017

Review of the New Hatchimals CollEGGtibles Range

Three Hatchimal CollEGGtible Packs with Title OverlaidWho can forget the great Hatchimal shortage of Christmas 2016. Easily the most popular toy of the season, everyone seemed to want to get their hands on one and who can blame them. Cute, appealing, and a brand new concept in an interactive toy. If your little ones loved the original Hatchimal, then they are going to go loopy for the latest addition to the range; Hatchimal CollEGGtibles. These tiny, adorable little critters are exactly what it says in the title, collectible, affordable, Hatchimal miniatures. We were sent some for free to see what we thought, ahead of today's launch, and we've been dying to tell you all about it.
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