Thursday, 27 November 2014

What E Wore - The Winter Update

There's a distinct chill in the air and after having a sift through E's wardrobe last week, removing anything that she has outgrown recently, I discovered that she's short of jumpers, cardigans, jeans, and tights. I took advantage of H&M's recent offer - up to 50% off on lots of items - and picked up a few bits and pieces to replace what she needs.

This gorgeous jacquard-knit button down cardigan in a cotton blend had 50% off & was a bargain at £7.49 as it will go with almost everything she already owns. It's beautiful quality and lovely & soft, I love the bright colours.

The denim blue jeggings were £4.19 with 30% off, and the dark denim blue treggings were only £4.99. You can never really have too many pairs of jeans/jeggings with little ones as I find they're always managing to spill things on them or fall over and muddy them up, and at less than a fiver each you can't really go wrong with these.

I had to buy this striped fine-knit jumper because I love the colour, I think burgundy really suits E and this 100% cotton jumper was very reasonably priced at £5.99. It will look great teamed with denim, pinks, and greys.

H&M's little 'basketball shoes' are brilliant, because you can chuck them in the washing machine if they manage to trash them and they are very inexpensive compared to a similar style of branded trainer. This grey pair had 40% off and cost just £3.59, and will go with her entire wardrobe.

I adore this white cable-knit jumper and love the bright flecks of colour within the yarn, it is a gorgeous design and will keep E nice and cosy. It is also available in grey marl, pink, blue, and red marl but the white was my favourite. It is priced at £9.99 currently but I got 40% off & paid £5.99 for E's.

 Badge for TTT, Badge

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Do you remember the last time?

There are a lot of firsts, milestones, and special moments that you enjoy as a parent. First smile, first word, first steps. Learning to read, singing a nursery rhyme all the way through, starting school. I suppose I have just muddled my way through, the same as we all do, juggling the five children and the housework and the day to day without ever really stopping to think - this is the LAST time you'll do this. This is the LAST time we will enjoy this. I suppose I never really appreciated that all good things do indeed come to an end, until now.

My children are growing up.

H turned 9 years old yesterday. We celebrated a few days earlier, he enjoyed a birthday party at the local swimming pool on Saturday with all of his friends from school and rugby, and then we went out for a family meal in the evening. Yesterday he chose what we had for dinner, and I made him a stack of cappuccino brownies with chocolate fudge topping as his birthday 'cake', and we sang happy birthday to him and made his day special. Tonight we'll go to Toys R Us and he will spend his birthday money, he had a sort out of his toy boxes over the weekend to make space for new things.

"Maybe we should find a new home for these, Mum", he said.

I absent-mindedly asked "What?" over my shoulder as I helped him tidy through his other toy boxes, without glancing back to look at what he was talking about - just assuming it was one of his little-used games or puzzles. "Look", he said, "these, perhaps T might want them". I twisted around to see what he was referring to, and felt a jolt in my heart.

It was his box of toy cars.

For the last nine years I have been stepping on or over his cars. I have had them lined up on the draining board while trying to do the washing up, and blanketing the landing leaving me no space to step without risking serious injury (not quite as bad as stepping on a lego but close enough). I've watched him lay on the floor on his car mat, where he would stay and play for hours, making car noises and completely lost in his own little world.

I felt my chest tighten and my face get hot, tears pricking my eyes. "Don't you want them any more? I thought they were your favourites?", I asked him. I almost didn't want to hear his answer.

"I don't really play with them any more", he shrugged. "I like them, but I like other toys now".

I watched as he rolled up the long car mat that has been the boys' bedroom rug for the last two years. Then he sat and carefully sifted through the cars, removing his Eddie Stobart lorries - he wants to keep those, he is collecting them. By this point I can't even speak because I know I have reached a stage where the tears will spill over if I dare say a word. A couple of weeks before this, we had sorted out his wooden Brio train set and passed it on to a friend for her son.

Box by box, the toys are slowly disappearing.

Soon there will only be remnants of their childhood left. An Eddie Stobart die-cast lorry here, an old forgotten Moshi Monster there. A neglected pack of Yu-Gi-Oh cards sitting on the shelf. And then there will be nothing.

Empty beds. Empty rooms. An empty nest.

E is 4.5, and all she wants for Christmas is dolls. Dolls, and just about everything pink and plastic that you can think of. And we will buy it for her. Because one day in the not too distant future, I won't be tripping over plastic and toys any more. One day we will wake up on Christmas morning, & hear nothing. No excited giggling of children as they rifle through stockings to see what goodies they've been left. There will be no more cars on the draining board. It's all getting a bit Toy Story 3 for my liking. I want, I NEED, to hang on to this time, to enjoy the magic of their childhood while I can.

Enjoy every moment as if it were the last. The last breastfeed, the last bottle, the last time you put your child down & didn't pick them up again, the last time they crept into your bed in the early hours after a bad dream. Because one day it will be the last time, & that day will come sooner than you think.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Christmas Meal Plan 2014

The big guy in the red suit is on his way ladies & gents, only a month to go! Which means it is time for my Christmas Meal Plan, detailing all of the delicious goodies we are going to eat to celebrate the festive season. We like to stick with tradition and so our Christmas menu is pretty much the same as previous years, just with a few minor tweaks here and there.

Wednesday 24th December {Christmas Eve}
Breakfast - Pancakes & waffles with various toppings (syrups, sauces, chocolate chips, fruit & cream etc)
Lunch - Sandwiches with various fillings, crisps, and fruit.
Dinner - Chicken enchiladas, quesadillas & cheesy nachos.
Dessert will be home-made mince pies or waffles & ice cream, and after decorating our Gingerbread houses, we will all enjoy Candy Cane Cookies with our snowman soup as we watch our family movie.

Thursday 25th December {Christmas Day}
Breakfast - Pain au chocolat, crepes, and croissants with jam.
Lunch - Roast Turkey crown served with sprouts, leek, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, swede, mashed potato, cauliflower and accompanied by pigs in blankets, onion rings, sausage meat & stuffing and cranberry sauce, topped off with thick turkey gravy. Dessert will be New York Cheesecake.
Dinner - Leftovers (meaning, everything we had for lunch, in the form of a sandwich) and probably an abundance of chocolates and treats.

Friday 26th December {Boxing Day}
Breakfast - Eggs & bacon, with sausages, hash browns, baked beans, fried onions, tomatoes and toast. Possibly a little bubble & squeak too depending on what is leftover from Christmas Day.
Lunch - Sandwiches with various fillings, crisps and fruit, and pasties made with leftovers from Christmas dinner (if there is any!).
Dinner - Ploughman's - mashed potatoes, cold meats and salad.

What festive fare will you be enjoying this year?

Monday, 24 November 2014

Meal Plan Monday 241114

Mon 24th Nov - Home-made chicken kiev with chips and veggies

Tues 25th Nov - Happy 9th birthday H! Dinner is H's choice tonight, and he has chosen his favourite - Brinner*

Weds 26th Nov - Mac & cheese with bacon and broccoli

Thurs 27th Nov - Sausage casserole and mashed potato

Fri 28th Nov - Jacket Potatoes & chilli

Sat 29th Nov - Undecided...

Sun 30th Nov - Roast chicken

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = Breakfast for dinner

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Winter Sun Wishlist

review post.

With the air growing colder by the day, dark and foggy mornings, and the seemingly relentless rain you wouldn't be blamed for daydreaming of getting away from it all and basking in the sunshine on far away islands. I will admit that it has crossed my mind more than once (a day...) and I am keeping my fingers crossed for a lottery win so I can whisk the family off to enjoy some Winter sun somewhere special over Christmas. A girl can dream!

My top ten picks for Winter sun destinations (in no particular order) would be Mexico, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Brazil, Thailand, Mauritius, the Canary Islands, St Lucia, the Maldives, and Australia. Relaxing on a white sandy beach with a cool drink in hand, shaded by palm trees, and listening to the waves lap the shore. I'm seconds away from packing a bag and setting off! (I wish). If you're lucky enough to be heading to sunnier climes this Winter then let me share a few of my favourite holiday must-haves.

- LifeProof Phone Case

For capturing those all important action shots during watersports and swimming without destroying your phone in the process. Lovely Lisa from took one when we went to Rhodes in September and I so wish I had taken one too, she caught some great moments. If we are fortunate enough to be able to take the kids away next year then I'll definitely be snapping one of these up for our trip to preserve our memories.

- FlopZ

I was sent a pair of FlopZ pearl flipflops (£35) to take on my visit to Rhodes, and after some initial uncertainty - Are they comfy? Or do they just feel weird? - I can say that I think they're fab. I'm a big flip flop lover & spend all Summer wearing them, but FlopZ are different in that the clear textured layer massages your feet as you walk. And it actually DOES. By the end of our break I didn't want to take them off but it was sadly not quite flip flop weather on our return to the UK, I'm looking forward to treating my feet to daily massages as soon as the Summer rolls around.

- TeckNet Power Bank

Trust me, you do not want to be without one of these on your next trip. I picked one up for just under £20 before my visit to Rhodes because I was going to be using my iPhone as my camera, and I would have been lost without it. It is essentially a compact, portable power pack that holds 4-5 full mobile charges, meaning that even if my phone was close to running out of juice, I knew I had a charger to hand and I wouldn't miss a single moment.

And of course - don't forget your sunnies!

Are you jetting off to enjoy the Winter sun this year? What are your holiday must-haves?

I received a complimentary pair of Flopz for review purposes. The views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and written in my own words.
All links are no-follow.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Paws for Thought for BEAR & WWF

We are big fans of BEAR, their no-added-nonsense preservative free range of food and snacks are lunch box and after-school staples in this house, especially their delicious pure fruit Paws, and recently BEAR teamed up with the WWF to work together to protect the paws of the world's most endangered species of bears.

Six of the eight bears of the world are threatened with extinction, and BEAR wanted to do something to help address this, so their 5th birthday seemed like a great time to do it. In a special partnership with WWF, they are working to protect these amazing bears and other wild species (and the habitats they rely on) with a donation from every pack sold of their BEAR pure fruit Paws snacks.

BEAR invited us to celebrate their birthday as well as raise awareness of their campaign by sending us a special surprise, the children were treated to tasty packs of fruit Paws and received their own little party bags with goodies inside, including fun birthday badges for them to make as well as a special map with lots of interesting bear facts and information.

For every pack of special WWF Paws purchased until November, BEAR will be donating 5p (single packs) and 25p (multipacks) respectively to WWF to help protect the world’s most endangered paws and other species . On the front of the packs, four of the world’s threatened bears will be making a special appearance; look out for Spectacled, Polar, Sloth and Panda bears appearing on the packs from September to November. As well as raising donations for WWF, the campaign sets out to help engage and educate kids about the world’s amazing creatures with a special map and stickers that highlights where they live and what makes them unique.

BEAR’s founder, Hayley Gait Golding, says: “BEAR started because we wanted to help people get back to nature - both in terms of the food that they were eating, but also in getting them really excited about the world around them. Working with a partner as special as WWF is a real privilege. Together we want to help get young children really engaged with these magical animals - about where they live and what makes them unique- and for them to feel excited that they have made a difference.”

Nicky Day Director of Corporate Partnerships at WWF-UK says: “WWF is really excited to be partnering with BEAR, a company that shares our values in respecting the natural world.  Through working with BEAR we will be able to engage with families and children about our work safeguarding the world’s most iconic and threatened species whilst raising vital funds for our conservation work around the world.”
BEAR fruit Paws are pure fruit shapes that take kids for a walk on the wild side. Made from gently baked fruit picked in season, and never from concentrates, they contain no added sugar, preservatives or stabilisers. They are available in four tasty flavours- ‘Dino’ Paws (strawberry & apple), ‘Jungle’ Paws (apple & blackcurrant), ‘Arctic’ paws (raspberry & blueberry) and ‘Safari’ paws (orange and strawberry). Each pack contains five paw prints from animals that live in that habitat.
While the campaign will soon be coming to an end, the work doesn't stop there. WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Please visit WWF-UK and find out what you can do to help.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Meal Plan Monday 171114

Mon 17th Nov - Sausages, chips & baked beans

Tues 18th Nov - 'Fakeaway' Home-made curry with rice & sundries (works out at just £2.30 per person for a korma, with naan, rice, poppadoms & samosas - made in the slow cooker for after clubs & swimming)

Weds 19th Nov - Southern fried chicken with mash & veggies

Thurs 20th Nov - Brinner*

Fri 21st Nov - Pasta bake

Sat 22nd Nov - It's H's birthday party today (his actual birthday is not until next week) so we'll be enjoying some celebratory party food!

Sun 23rd Nov - Roast pork

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = Breakfast for dinner

Friday, 14 November 2014

A half term break in Cornwall

Earlier in the year we booked ourselves a long weekend break at Parkdean Mullion for the beginning of the October half term with The Sun's £9.50 holiday offer. As term ended on Wednesday for both the primary & senior schools, it meant that we had Thursday to finish packing our things and getting prepared for our half term getaway, and then the whole of Friday to load up, drive down and check in for 4pm. Mullion is a 4.5 hour drive from our house so we needed a good chunk of the day to make the journey down.
We made the decision to pay a little extra to upgrade our accommodation to the Traboe caravan, which is 3 bed & sleeps 6-8. The 2012 model is more modern and includes a washer-dryer, useful when the household has been suffering with a lingering sickness bug that has been working its way through the family! Always a joy. Luckily, nobody else came down with it until the way home when unfortunately the Mister began feeling unwell.

As we were only there for three nights, we wanted to make the most of it and the lovely Bradford on Avon Mum recommended Roskilly's Farm as a nice place to take the children, having been down that way herself over the August bank holiday. It was only a few minutes drive from our park so we headed off there one morning despite the whinging from children who 'didn't want to go'. We parked up in the car park and had a little wander around the goats and pigs before going across the road to where the cafe and shop are. After picking up a map in the shop, we strolled down to the ponds and began making our way around their beautiful nature trails, enjoying a nice peaceful walk. Despite their earlier protestations, the kids - all 5 of them - absolutely loved it & even asked if we could go back again the next day.

We stopped to have lunch in the cafe before we went back to our accommodation, choosing sausage sandwiches with some orange squash to quench our thirst after our walk, before indulging in a famous Roskilly's ice cream as a special treat afterwards. Delicious food, beautiful scenery and amazing ice cream. With animals for the kids to coo over, and free entry to the farm you really can't go wrong, Roskilly's is absolutely worth a visit.

On the Sunday we visited National Trust sites Kynance Cove, and Lizard Point (the most southerly tip of mainland UK) which are nothing short of breathtaking. The children were enthralled & couldn't wait to clamber down the rocky path to the beach at Kynance Cove for a good look around and to admire the pebble cairns that someone had left behind - they even had us scrambling up the cliff edge on the other side of the beach for a different perspective. It was a grey day but the light around the cove is simply amazing, we were all in awe of just how beautiful it is there, and for the price of parking and some refreshments in the Cafe it is definitely a must-see. You can walk along the coastal path from Kynance Cove to Lizard Point, but we chose to drive as we planned to stop off for something to eat and it would have been dark by the time we got back to the car.

On Saturday night we had driven down to Lizard to sample the local fish & chips after some reading some good reviews on Trip Advisor for a local chippy called The Smugglers. The chips were delicious though the portion sizes were perhaps a little smaller than I would have expected. My husband spoke highly of the fish, too, and the children all enjoyed their meals.

On the Sunday we stopped in Coast cafe/bar in Lizard, after our visit to the point. J and I both had toasted sandwiches while the others all had burgers & chips, and they were very accommodating of L's request for a plain burger which arrived exactly as he had asked for it. Not all places are understanding when you try and deviate from the menu (as we sadly often find when we eat out) and the staff were very lovely and happy to help. The food was divine, and it was clear plates all round. Maybe a tad on the pricey side, but in all fairness the food and service was worth it so I can't grumble too much.

Cornwall is a truly naturally beautiful place to visit and I am very much looking forward to visiting there again very soon. There is so much more for us to see and do and explore, and after spending most of our time there just enjoying our surroundings without any fancy expensive theme parks or attractions I know that we will be able to make the most of it whatever we choose to do. I hope to visit in the Summer time and enjoy the warmer weather on the beach, perhaps let the kids try surfing as well as just enjoying playing on the sand and in the water. I love the sea and could sit and watch the waves breaking on the shore for hours.

Have you visited Cornwall? Where is your favourite place? I'd love some recommendations for places to visit the next time we go.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

#LoudnProud For L

On Saturday, after over a year of attending a weekly Tae Kwon-Do class, L finally passed his first junior grading & earned his very first belt - white with red stripe. Due to the nature of his difficulties, we've been concerned how he would cope in a grading environment which can be very busy with lots of spectators, as well as loud and overwhelming for someone with Autism.

His instructors have been preparing him and making sure that he knows what to expect, and after this - his first "in-house" grading - they are sure he is ready to progress to a grading along with the rest of his classmates. At the weekend, his instructor tested him and he earned his white belt with red stripe and was applauded by the group for his efforts.
He was so proud and pleased with himself, it was lovely to see, and for him to know that going every week and working hard has earned him a belt and certificate. He has had his confidence boosted and he is very keen (although a little anxious) to attend the next grading with the others in January.

It was important for us to find an activity for him that would suit him and that he would enjoy. With his hips & legs as they are, very physical sports like rugby, running, or football are simply not appropriate, so he has a weekly 1:2:1 swimming lesson with an instructor (though he is at stage 7 and will no longer need to go soon, we will probably continue the sessions because he enjoys them and it is good physiotherapy for his legs) and after careful consideration we decided to give Tae Kwon-Do a try, too. 

From the very first session, he loved it. He was eager to join in and seems to get on well with a few of the other people in the class, particularly the older ones who are more understanding & mature. It has been brilliant for him in terms of the social aspect as well as the physical, & it has been just the thing for him as it is very routine and methodical which suits him & his needs.

We are so very proud of him & how hard he's worked, & to see how far he's come is wonderful. Sometimes things can be very difficult for him, but he really does try his best & that's all we can ask of him. He's an amazing young man & we're looking forward to watching his next grading in the new year.

I am this week's #LoudnProud host, and we would love to hear all about your special moments and achievements, so please do share your posts below. Feel free to grab the badge and we would love it if you could visit others and share the linky love - thank you! The linky closes at Midnight on Sunday, and next week will be hosted over at NotMyYearOff.

Mama Owl

Brilliant blog posts on

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Milestone Moments

I remember those early days of parenthood. It is such an amazing time. You are full of wonder at this new person that you have brought into the world, and excitement at the prospect of raising this little bundle of love and sharing your life with them. It is beautiful and wonderful, and exhausting and overwhelming, but just absolutely incredible.

I carefully planned so many aspects of raising a family - what clothes to buy and where from for the best deal, which care seat is the safest, would I need a pram or a carrier, choosing brands of nappies and baby care items. As they have grown up it has progressed to which schools are best for my children, and even plans for university now my eldest is sixteen and studying for her A-levels. I wonder about the adults that they will become and the adventures that they will have when they fly the nest and go off to live their own lives.

But, I admit that I was one of those people that hadn't given much thought to life insurance or planning for the future until our third child was born. It was then that we realised we needed to put plans in place should anything happen to either or both of us, to make sure that the children will be provided for should the worst happen. Death is not something that anyone likes to think about, but especially now that we have five children, it is so important to ensure that they will have that security. I want to be safe in the knowledge that even if their father and I cannot be with them, that we have provided them and their guardian with a secure financial future.

Aviva have created a useful video to offer key advice for new parents and help guide with what to do when you have a baby, including tips on saving money and getting into your new routine. Take a look, and share your thoughts on Aviva’s official Facebook page, because if - like I did - you feel you lack understanding of life protection, Aviva want to hear from you.


Whether it is the birth of your first child or the purchase of your first home, Aviva want to know which moments in your life have had the most impact in their Facebook competition #milestonemoments. The competition runs from the 10th - 14th November and lucky participants will stand the chance of winning £250 worth of high street vouchers, so why not watch the video & join the conversation on Facebook.

Sponsored article

Monday, 10 November 2014

Meal Plan Monday 101114

Mon 10th Nov - Baked bolognese

Tues 11th Nov - Beef casserole & dumplings (so grateful for my slow cooker, with two after school clubs, two lots of swimming lessons and tae kwon-do on a Tuesday now we would be eating SO late without it)

Weds 12th Nov - Toad in the hole with vegetables, chips & gravy

Thurs 13th Nov - Lasagne (something else I can just throw in the slow cooker to be ready for after today's gymnastics session)

Fri 14th Nov - Chicken fajitas

Sat 15th Nov - French onion soup, & bread rolls

Sun 16th Nov - Roast

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post

Friday, 7 November 2014

Angel Delight Moments in Time

I do love a bit of 80s & 90s nostalgia, reminiscing about the good old days before technology took over (the irony of me blogging about this isn't lost on me) and all the things that made my childhood wonderful & memorable - My Little Pony, Rainbow Brite, a Coca-Cola bottle lid shaped portable CD player (doesn't seem quite so portable now, looking at my iPhone), going to birthday parties in the Wimpy or McDonalds and watching TV classics like Dungeons & Dragons, and Knightmare. Those really were 'the days'.
When I was growing up, we always sat around the table together as a family for meals, and we always had a roast dinner on Sundays with a dessert - often the fluffy wonder that is Angel Delight because it was quick and easy to make, and we could help whisk it! I'm a traditional soul and I have tried hard to raise my children with the same values that I grew up with as far as my own family goes, & my husband is the same. We have dinner together at the table as a family almost every single night, we always have a roast dinner on a Sunday (the Mister insists on it) - and the kids love Angel Delight.

BritMums challenged us to share our memories and stories of Angel Delight, our very own #AngelDelightMoments, & to taste test the new Bubblegum flavour that was launched in Tesco stores last September. My children are fans of the more traditional flavours - strawberry, chocolate, banana - but they're kids & they're not going to turn down the offer of dessert whatever flavour it is, let's be honest. The Bubblegum flavour is suitable for vegetarians and made with only natural colourings, and as with all the other flavours of the dessert it is versatile enough to be enjoyed in many ways.

The new Bubblegum flavour features a handy milkshake recipe on the back of the sachet which is just as easy to make as the normal dessert. Simply whizz up the sachet contents along with 300ml of cold milk and 3 scoops of vanilla ice cream in a blender, pour into a glass and serve. Bear in mind that this recipe will work with any flavour of Angel Delight, too, so let the kids choose their favourites and you could even serve it with some fresh fruit.

We made a special dessert as we often do for the weekend, using Bubblegum Angel Delight, strawberry jelly, meringue, and sprinkles. Just make up your jelly as per the packet instructions and place in the fridge to set. When the jelly is ready, crush your meringue and sprinkle a layer on top of your jelly.

Make your Angel Delight as per the packet instructions (just add milk, and whisk!), and pour it over the top of your meringue layer, then place in the fridge to thicken and chill for about five minutes. Then simply decorate it as you please! We added some more crushed meringue, some sprinkles, and pretty soft shimmer pearls. Now all that is left to do is eat, and enjoy!

This post is an entry for the #AngelDelightMoments linky challenge.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Dear Father Christmas, from Florence

What would be on your pet's Christmas list this year?

It wouldn't be Christmas without treats, I think Florence would really like the Christmas multi-pack & the Turkey & cranberry stuffed bone.

Psst - don't tell Florence - but this is the note I just sent to Father Christmas...