Mama OWL Blog: July 2015

{Summer Bucket List} Make Lollies | #ShepSummer

Friday, 31 July 2015

One of the things on our Summer Bucket List this year is to make our own lollies, which we have done before (these tasty fruity fro-yo lollies went down a treat) but the lovely people at Domu challenged us to make something using an ingredient we had never used before. They sent us the VonShef 150W Masticating Slow Juicer (£59.99, RRP £150) to help us complete the challenge, and the kids and I set about thinking up something fun to make using something new.

Eventually we decided as part of our bucket list adventures to use the juicer to make some healthy, home-made lollies using only fresh fruit and more specifically - pears! We haven't used pears in cooking before, as we normally stick to traditional apple (crumble, pie, turnovers - that sort of thing) but since even L is a fan of pears we thought that this would be the ideal opportunity to try something new and to make our own treats for these lazy Summer days.

Using our ice lolly mould and the Juicer the children and I chose pears, oranges and apples to use to make our ice lollies. The kids cut up the fruit into smaller pieces to allow them to be put through the juicer easily (the instructions recommend approx 4-5 inches long and 1 inch wide) and we set it all up ready to go. It was already assembled when it arrived but the instruction booklet offers detailed steps with diagrams should you need to disassemble for cleaning, although simply pouring water through between juicings flushes it sufficiently.

We cut up two pears, two oranges and one apple and this produced enough juice to make three lollies (one each for L, H & E) which we then placed in the freezer, ready for the children to enjoy tomorrow when we have heard a rumour that the sun might be coming out to play! The juicer even separates off the pulp and the juice, meaning that it's ready to drink straight away - although if you prefer a smooth juice you may like to strain it again before drinking. The consistency is perfect for lollies and the kids are very excited to try them, and are busy thinking up new combinations to try after.

The multi-purpose juicer extracts rather than grinds to retain all the nutrients and enzymes for a healthier juice, and it couldn't be easier to use - you can even use it to extract a variety of ingredients including fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and leafy veg like spinach and kale to make healthy breakfast juices to take with you on the go.

Did you take part in the #DomuChallenge? People got creative in the kitchen and shared their culinary delights with @domu_UK on Twitter using the challenge hashtag to win a fantastic prize to celebrate the launch of Domu's exciting new website. Follow Domu on Facebook and twitter for all of the latest news, updates and offers.

We received a complimentary juicer for review purposes and challenge participation. All opinions are our own.

Using up Leftover Beef | #DomuChallenge

Friday, 31 July 2015

It isn't often that anything is leftover from a meal in our house, mostly due to careful meal planning and budgeting but also largely to do with hungry teenagers that descend on the kitchen like locusts every couple of hours. On a Sunday we enjoy a family roast dinner, and occasionally are left with meat which of course needs to be used up instead of wasted. Since it's the Summer holidays, sandwiches are a staple for lunchtimes as they can be packed up to go out & about with, or enjoyed on a carpet picnic in the living room if the weather is poor but in truth - sandwiches can be a bit boring.

An easy way to liven up a sandwich is to toast it. There is nothing better than a hot toasted sandwich stuffed full of melt in the mouth ingredients which we tried out this week using the VonShef 2-in-1 Health Grill, £42.99 from (RRP £89.99).

Using leftover beef from Sunday's dinner, I bought panini rolls which I then cut in half and spread lightly with butter before adding a layer of cheese, a layer of sliced beef, another layer of cheese and topping it with sweet chilli tomato sauce before placing it in the grill for about five minutes. The children absolutely loved them, and the beef wasn't 'leftover' for long - cheesy chilli beef paninis are now a firm favourite here.

As well as being a handy sandwich press, the health grill is also a griddle which can be used to cook a wide selection of meats and vegetables and even eggs and pancakes on its interchangeable plates that can be used as a contact press or opened out side by side. The grill also reduces fat with its sloped design to channel away excess fat off the non-stick easy to clean grilling surface through the spout into the collection tray.

How do you liven up a traditional meal? Have you put your own twist on a classic dish? There's still time to join in with the #DomuChallenge - but you need to be quick! Get your Chef's hat on & share your culinary creations with @domu_UK on Twitter with the hashtag & you could win a prize, closes TODAY 31.07.15.

Mark Warner Holiday Childcare Essentials

Thursday, 30 July 2015

On our recent visit to San Lucianu Beach Resort in Corsica with Mark Warner the children got to enjoy their holiday without boring Mum & Dad hanging about making them look uncool, by hanging out with the brilliant & infinitely more fun young ladies and gents at the Kidz, Junior & Minis Clubs. The Childcare facilities at Mark Warner resorts are second to none (just ask POD) and the kids were spoiled for choice with the daily games, activities and watersports that were on offer throughout our stay.

But what do you need to provide for them?

We took the children's Trunki PaddlePaks on the plane for all of their essential travel bits & bobs to keep them busy quiet happy on the flight. We then used these bags (that had already been labelled with the children's names using our fab Stamptastic labelling kit as they use them for their swimming lessons at home) to send along with them when they went off to have fun with their friends at club. In their bags we packed:

  • Sun Hat (a baseball cap or similar)
  • Sun Cream (we also applied this before they left)
  • T-Shirt (that covers their shoulders, a UV/Rash Vest is ideal)
  • Shorts
  • Swimwear
  • Towel
  • Closed-toe Shoes
  • Bottle of water

You also need to make sure that all of your items are labelled, to help the staff keep everything in check so it's best to prepare it all before you leave. Often we would put their swimwear on under their shorts & t-shirt (or just a t-shirt with swimming shorts for the boys) but this way they all had sufficient clothing to change into as they often ended up very wet with all of the swimming and watersports (and water fights!) so don't forget their towel! Our children wore their clog/croc style shoes the majority of the time although they did also have trainers for field sports and times that they would be running around playing games on the grassy area, or on the courts playing tennis - also handy if you plan to take them out cycling. As mine were constantly in and out of the swimming pool, personally I would recommend taking them a pair of goggles too.

We shared this fantastic holiday at San Lucianu in Corsica with lots of other lovely bloggers and their families, where lifelong friendships were forged. To read all about their experiences and thoughts on San Lu please do visit their blogs, listed below.

Anya at Older Single Mum - Amanda at The Ana Mum Diary - Carissa at Little Likely Lads - Lisa at Hollybobbs - Charly at PODcast - Kate at WitWitWoo - Monika at Family {m}adventures - Emma at Emma&3 - Alice at LifeAsAlice

Mark Warner provided flights, resort transfers and half-board accommodation.The views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and written in my own words.

Feeding the Family for under £4 | #DomuChallenge

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Regular readers will know that we meal plan weekly to help us keep to our household budget and reduce food waste, so I was more than happy to give the #DomuChallenge a go when they asked me to come up with a family meal for under £4.

Domu UK sent us the VonShef Turbo Air Fryer, currently priced at £69.99 (RRP £99.99) to aid our mission and so I added a family favourite - Spaghetti Bolognese - to our meal plan this week. So easy, and very inexpensive even for a family of seven.

The benefits of using an air fryer are immeasurable - the food is evenly and thoroughly cooked, and the need for oil is greatly reduced (a teaspoon is often more than enough) or removed entirely for healthy, low calorie dishes without sacrificing flavour and is versatile enough to be used to grill, roast, fry and even bake all of your favourite meals in its easy-clean 10 litre capacity bowl. The Air Fryer is also energy efficient and often reduces the cooking time meaning healthier meals faster, and comes pre-programmed with 7 modes in addition to manual settings with adjustable temperatures & timer.


Minced Beef 750g - £2.98
2 tins of Chopped Tomatoes 400g - 62p
Onion - 16p, chopped
Store-brand Spaghetti - 20p

Pinch of Herbs, squeeze of Tomato purée, crushed Clove of Garlic - from my store cupboard


  • Put the minced beef to the baking cage and cook for approx 10 minutes.
  • Open the cage (carefully!) and add the onion and garlic.
  • Close the cage and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes.
  • While the beef is cooking, add the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée and herbs to a saucepan and heat through. Place the spaghetti in a separate pan of boiling water and cook as per packet instructions.
  • Add the beef, onions and to the pan of sauce and stir well, leaving to simmer for around 5 minutes.

So simple, and this meal comes to a grand total of £3.96. No need for oil and no jars of ready made sauces full of preservatives, salt & sugar - just a healthy home-made meal. You could even substitute the spaghetti for courgette, either thinly sliced or 'spiralised' and lightly sautéed to serve with the bolognese instead to make it healthier still.

The Air Fryer is so easy to use, and just as importantly, easy to clean. After use I simply drained off and disposed of the fat from the mince (I couldn't believe the amount that came out!) before washing the bowl and baking cage with dish soap and warm water. It comes with a skewer to be used with either the baking cage or the meat forks, as well as tongs to lift the cage from the bowl & a rack to use for baking. Though very quiet during operation, it's worth noting that the Air Fryer is quite large but with its versatility I dare say it will receive constant (even daily) use and earn it's place on the worktop.

There's still time to join in with the #DomuChallenge - can you put your own stamp on a classic dish? Get your Chef's hat on & share your culinary creations with @domu_UK on Twitter with the hashtag & you could win a prize, closes Friday 31.07.15.

We received a complimentary VonShef Turbo Air Fryer for the purpose of participation in the Domu Challenge and for review. The views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and written in my own words.

{Summer Bucket List} Celebrate Birthdays - A turns 17 | #ShepSummer

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The first of our Summer holiday birthday celebrations was yesterday, when our eldest daughter A turned 17 years old. I remember writing a post when she turned 13 and became a teenager, and I shared a photo of her Twilight themed birthday cake. I think someone hit fast forward because the time has flown by from then to now and I'm sat here contemplating next year when she turns 18, finishes her A-levels & heads off to university - flying the nest & making her own way in the world. Bittersweet moments.

Happy 17th Birthday to our beautiful, wonderful eldest daughter. We love you so much.

Super Busy MumBest of Worst

Meal Plan Monday 270715

Monday, 27 July 2015

Meal Plan 270715
Monday 27th July
Cheesy chilli beef paninis using leftovers from our roast dinner yesterday, & it's A's birthday so there will be birthday cake for dessert!
Tuesday 28th July
Spaghetti Bolognese (courgetti for me)
Wednesday 29th July Brinner*
Thursday 30th July
Toad in the Hole
Friday 31st
Chicken Fajitas (lettuce wraps for me)
Saturday 1st August
Sunday 2nd August
Roast Chicken

#MealPlanningMonday linked up with At Home with Mrs M.
* = Breakfast for dinner (egg, bacon, etc)

{Summer Bucket List} Nothing Days | #ShepSummer

Friday, 24 July 2015

Not everything has to be done at 100mph. Days do not need to be filled with activities and outings and constant stuff. Sometimes, we just like to do absolutely nothing. The 'glorious nothing days' as the advert says. This morning we woke up to a band of heavy rain moving painfully slowly across the West Country, meaning a miserable, wet and chilly day and a lack of desire to do anything or go anywhere. So we didn't.

We woke up, later than usual, and stayed in pyjamas until lunchtime. In fact two of the kids didn't even bother getting dressed at all. We pulled out all of the blankets & made ourselves comfortable on the sofa, which is where we ate our breakfast (and I enjoyed my coffee) and we watched a string of Disney movies including the brilliant Maleficent.

At lunchtime we put a blanket on the floor and I packed them a little basket of various goodies for them to share, and they enjoyed a carpet picnic whilst watching movies and still wearing their PJs. Then we all piled back on the sofa again & snuggled up. Nowhere to go, nobody coming to visit - just enjoying our own company in our own home.

A slow, lazy, quiet day. Just us. Just doing nothing.

A glorious nothing day. That's something else ticked off of our Summer Bucket List.

 photo 4d06e438-4e6a-4f3b-88b2-0c1093350397_zps361ad0e9.jpg  Super Busy Mum

Family Friendly Holidays - Cornwall | #ParentPanel #LoveCornwall

Friday, 24 July 2015

We visited Cornwall as a family for the first time last October, and fell in love with it.

We stayed in Mullion, situated on the Lizard Peninsula and just a stone's throw from two breathtakingly beautiful National Trust sites - Lizard Point, and Kynance Cove. There was no shortage of things to keep us and the children happy and our simple family holiday there enjoying woodland walks, local farms & Cornish ice cream, and tranquil sandy beaches is one that we will remember fondly for many years to come.

Cornwall is the ideal location for a family holiday in the UK with an abundance of attractions to suit the whole family, from cliff top walks to watersports and surfing, gorgeous gardens, historical tours and museums, Flambards theme park for the kids (including the big ones), as well as the iconic St Michael's Mount, and The Eden Project.

The Valley in Cornwall offers the perfect base for your Cornish getaway - a unique collection of two and three bedroom holiday cottages tucked away in 13 acres of gardens and woodlands only a few miles from the city of Truro and port town of Falmouth.
With its own fitness suite complete with spa pool, indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools, and tennis and squash facilities in addition to guests-only bar and restaurant Café Azur, The Valley offers a complete holiday experience in a tranquil, rural setting.

With seven of us to keep entertained and the children ranging in age from 17 down to 5, The Valley with its central location is ideally placed for us to venture out and explore the wonders that Cornwall has to offer while ensuring that on days we choose to stay and enjoy the quiet gated woodland complex we will be spoiled for choice with the exclusive activities and amenities at our disposal - although I'm sure they would happily spend all day every day swimming, and H & E would certainly enjoy the playground.

There are five styles of 5* luxury accommodation available, each one offering spacious open plan living, large bedrooms & all boasting contemporary, stylish interior designs, and with each cottage having a minimum of two bathrooms hopefully we will avoid the age-old problem of the teenagers hogging it! Seven of the Villa Galleries and one Croft cottage are also dog-friendly so there is even the option to take along our beloved Chorkie and Miniature Dachshund, Florence & Joseph, to enjoy the holiday with us.

Cornwall will tempt you back year after year with its outstanding natural beauty, hidden treasures and family-friendly atmosphere, we certainly cannot wait to visit again and make many more happy family memories.

This is an entry in to the Parent Friendly Stays #ParentPanel

End of Term 2015

Thursday, 23 July 2015

We have reached the end of the 2014/2015 school year and I have to say, I am relieved. This year was a difficult one for our family with a massive transition from primary to senior school for L which brought with it a whole host of new challenges (and stress), a brand new start at primary school in reception class for E, and the beginning of A-levels for A. To say that we are all exhausted would be somewhat of an understatement.

The first day of school back in September was filled with excitement and trepidation. New friends, routines, teachers... So much to learn and take in. I can honestly say that I think this year has been a success. We have faced some trying times, there have been tears and tantrums, good times and bad, but we have made it through the year.

We presented the teachers and TAs with beautiful potted plants as end of term thank you gifts, which we purchased from local garden centre Fairfield Nurseries for only £3 each. The owner, Darren, even gift wrapped them for me. We made our own special thank you labels which read "Thank you for helping me GROW this year" with a photo of the children to tie on to the ribbon, and they were very gratefully received by the staff.

Looking at your children every day, you don't really see the difference in them as they grow until you look back at photographs. I cannot believe the difference in H after this school year, he has grown up so much. He will be starting year 5 in September, and next year it will be time to apply for his secondary school place, to go & visit on an open day.

He's had a brilliant year at school, taking part in the swimming gala and playing on the football team. Next year he is looking forward to swimming in the gala for the school again (he uses his weekly swimming lessons as training!), & being on the cricket team. His end of term report was positively glowing - he has made wonderful progress and continues to make us very proud both through his academic and sporting successes, and also just by being the really lovely, friendly, caring young man that he is.

I remember dressing E up for her first day. She looked so tiny stood there in her oversized uniform with a giant red bow on her head, fresh and new and ready to begin her primary school adventure. Now, well in fairness she's not that much bigger but she's grown up in so many other ways & made the most amazing strides in her learning.

On stage 19 for her reading, and at the expected level for all of her EYFS profile goals and exceeding in four of them (including maths, literacy, and physical development which I think is due to her gymnastics training - she is very strong and poised) she has absolutely blown everyone away with her progress. Her teacher was even taking examples of her work to other schools to share with their staff, she is an absolute star and has done so well. She still experiences anxiety in certain social situations and when leaving me in the mornings, but she is an amazing little girl who will soon overcome those difficulties, and we are very proud of her efforts and bravery this year.

I'm generally discouraged from taking photographs of my eldest two children because we all know how teenagers can be. Unless they're taking selfies for likes or to Instagram their eyebrow or hair game (usually strong, from what I can gather) they don't like the camera anywhere near them. So let me say - A & J have been nothing short of outstanding. A has bagged herself a great new job where she has now been working for several months and absolutely loves it, she has studied for her AS levels around her work hours, sat all of her first year exams and managed to juggle just about everything without too much grumbling about it. Her room is a complete mess, her clothes are everywhere and she never cleans up after herself, but we can't have it all.

J has improved enormously throughout the year, and has proved to himself as well as to his teachers and to us that he has it in him to work hard and do well in his chosen GCSE subjects. His most recent report was a huge improvement on the ones we had earlier in the year and he has put in some real effort during year nine. His grades have improved, his attendance (as for all 5 of them) is excellent and he receives a certificate for it every term & his teachers all had great things to say about him at parents evening. We know he can do it, he just has to keep up his hard work & hold on to that belief in himself.

As for L, that is a whole blog post in itself. I want to tell you all about our year seven experience from the perspective of a child with Autism, all of the difficulties that we have faced & how we've worked to overcome them. This year's been a real rollercoaster for him and for us, and I'll be sharing the ups and downs of the ride very soon.

Now - it's time to enjoy our well earned Summer holiday. Have a wonderful break!

Back to School Uniform Checklist

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

School has barely even finished and I am already taking on the mammoth task of kitting out four of my five children for the new school year in September. It can be an expensive time of year, and so I find that starting at the beginning of the school holidays and spreading the cost over the six week break helps to lessen the blow on my bank balance. I also save my Tesco Clubcard vouchers and then 'boost' them to double my money which saves me a fortune - I've just bought 8 polo shirts, 2 pairs of trousers, 2 dresses, a skirt, and a cardigan from F&F for the grand total of £4.50 using my boosted vouchers, and delivery was free as I used the 'click + collect' option from my local store. I still have a lot left to buy, but that's £40 that won't be coming out of my wallet.

Shopping online for uniform is a great way to save money as there are usually some good deals to be found, with plenty of stores keen to draw you in with special offers, BOGOF's & 3 for 2's and such like. Shop around & always look for discount codes before checking out, and use sites like topcashback to earn money back on what you spend.

Last year I bought all of the children's school shoes from Clarks, having previously gone for supermarket brands, and I am pleased to say that every single pair lasted the full school year. Only in the last two weeks have two pairs (H & E's) died a sad (and by the looks of it, rather painful) death. So at the end of the Summer holidays, I will be taking each of them - not all at once - to Clarks for their fittings and new school shoes.

As for the rest of it, my personal shopping list for uniform looks like this:

Notice I have put "sturdy" school bag for the boys - I have no idea what they do to them but on more than one occasion they've brought home backpacks with only one strap because the other has snapped. As for lunch boxes, for the boys I just buy a triple pack of the clear plastic 2L tupperware style tubs for a couple of pounds because they usually end up destroyed after a couple of months of being flung around by my darling sons, but luckily they are inexpensive to replace. E on the other hand is busy scouring online stores for the one that she wants for the new school year, Disney themed no doubt.

After you've bought all of the uniform, the next job is labelling it. Last year and in years previous, I bought sew-in name tapes because I liked how they looked and they could be un-picked and then used again. However, I ended up with claw-like hands and multiple painful needle sticks all over my fingers because I am just completely rubbish at sewing, and it was a painfully tedious job that took me hours. This year, I was asked to be an ambassador for revolutionary brand Stamptastic - they didn't have to ask me twice.

Having to label 4 new sets of uniform no longer fills me with dread. The job will now take minutes rather than hours, and using the transparent block (which enables you to position it correctly before stamping) means that I can label their school shoes, wellies, and trainers with ease. The kit can be used on metal, wood & some plastics, I've used ours to label drinks bottles, bags, lunch boxes, & even E's scooter. It really came into its own when I had to label H's entire kit list for his recent school residential trip.

The standard name stamp is just £10 and can include up to two lines of text, and even a little symbol if you wish, with five fonts to choose from. The Stamptastic ink pad to accompany the stamp is available in black ink only and costs £12. While the initial outlay is perhaps more than purchasing iron-on or sew-in name tapes, you will only need to replace the ink pad over the years (though it does last well if stored in its original silver bag packaging) which will save you money as well as time in the long term and as I said, can also be used for other school items like bags, shoes, and even toys & stationery.

The kit we labelled for H's trip has been through the wash several times since June with no sign of fading, and E's scooter has been used in the rain & through puddles on many occasions and as you can tell, no smudging or fading of the name stamp has occurred.

You can purchase your Stamptastic kit via their website - with free P&P within the UK - or follow them on Facebook and Twitter for all of their latest news and offers.

The Giggles Family

As Stamptastic Ambassadors, we received a complimentary stamp kit for review purposes.
The views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and written in my own words.

{Summer Bucket List} Swim! | #ShepSummer

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Swimming is one of the most important life skills for a child to learn. Mine have all been taught to swim from a young age, and three of them still attend weekly swimming lessons at our local pool. E is currently on stage three, and at 83% so I anticipate that she will be moving up a class relatively soon. H is now in the ASA stage 8/9 competitive swimming class, he has essentially completed the 'Learn to Swim' framework but enjoys his weekly lessons and so we have decided to continue them for fun & exercise as well as to help prepare him for next year's school swimming gala. L has 1:1 lessons with a private tutor during public swimming sessions and is working at a stage 6/7 level.

The children adore swimming and every time they go, they grow in confidence and ability. On our recent family holiday to Corsica they were in the pool & sea every single day, they would have happily just spent all day every day swimming - just as they did when we went to Paris and the South of France last August. We took our Speedo Sea Squad Spinning Dive Toys from and the kids had great fun diving in to retrieve them, as you can see in this Go Pro footage from Life As Alice.

Our local authority offers free swimming for children under 16 during the Summer holidays, all you have to do is register with the local centre for a membership card. I signed four out of five of my kids up and collected their cards last week, as A will be 17 next week she unfortunately no longer qualifies. I'm unsure what areas of the UK are offering this, but a quick Google or call to your local swimming pool should tell you - it's definitely worth checking out as it's a great way to keep the kids busy and active during the six week break from school, and older ones can go with their friends.

Tomorrow is the last day of school for H & E (A, J & L finished last Friday) so we are very much looking forward to a nice long rest before starting their new school year in September. We're hoping to tick off lots of things on our Summer Bucket List during the holidays, having plenty of fun and making many lovely Summer memories.

Summer days

Meal Plan Monday 200714

Monday, 20 July 2015

Meal Plan 200715
Monday 20th July
The kids have asked for ham & cheese toasties tonight, nice & easy for me!
Tuesday 21st July
Carbonara (vegetable omelette for me)
Wednesday 22nd July Sausages and chips with baked beans (sweet potato chips & GF sausages for me)
Thursday 23rd July
Spaghetti & meatballs (courgetti for me)
Friday 24th
Saturday 25th July
The Mister & I are at a wedding today, so the kids will be having dinner with their Grandparents
Sunday 26th July

#MealPlanningMonday linked up with At Home with Mrs M.
* = Breakfast for dinner (egg, bacon, etc)

The Benefits of a Lifestyle Change

Friday, 17 July 2015

Having shifted a massive 4 stone (that's 25kg or 56lb) in less than seven months, I fully appreciate the benefits of weight loss. Moving around is easier - there is less stress on my internal organs and my joints, even going up and down the stairs used to make my knees hurt, I feel better, happier and more confident, I look better. Losing the weight has only been a small part of this experience for me (sorry, I simply can't bring myself to use the word journey *cringe*) and I feel it is important to remember that it isn't a diet, it isn't just about losing weight & fitting into smaller clothes, it's a lifestyle change.

As well as the pound loss, I've lost a considerable number of inches from my whole body - 35 at the last count. I also have little bosom of which to speak any more but then again, it's easier to fit 34Cs into clothes than 38DDs and I can always buy myself a new pair in the future should I so desire. I also don't have to deal with gaping shirts or backache, and they are well proportioned to my now size 8/10 frame. So every cloud and all that.

My fitness levels have improved enormously. I am capable of so much more than I ever thought was possible at the beginning of the year. From getting out of breath from running up the stairs, I can now run a mile and a half without stopping or slowing down to catch my breath which is a massive achievement for me, and I am improving week on week. I live at the top of a hill, and on my many trips up & down to the pool or to the library with the kids I remember how I used to struggle and get out of breath. Last night I walked up it whilst having a conversation & didn't have to stop or slow my pace.

In addition to all of these amazing benefits, I haven't had a headache since before Christmas and my gums no longer bleed when I am brushing my teeth. I also don't get 'sugar hangovers' any more, and even when I allow myself a treat here and there I know when to stop and don't binge on it. I've learned it's okay to treat myself, but that I need to do it responsibly and exercise to balance it out, too. It's been a steep learning curve.
24 weeks of hard work!
I have learned so much about my body and how to take care of it, including how to maintain my weight loss & fitness goals even when enjoying a holiday, and learning to prep food in advance and use meal planning to my advantage. I keep a food diary on myfitnesspal to keep track of what I am eating because it is so easy just to graze through the day when you are busy without realising what you have consumed.

But by far and away the most important thing about all of this for me, is being a role model for the children. I'm not a perfect mum (and newsflash - there is no such thing) and I make plenty of mistakes, but I want to set good examples for the kids. I've given up smoking (I am six years smoke-free next month) and now I am maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regime, teaching them how to eat well and to stay active.

I don't want to be a fat mum that is embarrassed to swim with them and won't play with them on the beach because I am worried about what other people think of how I look. To be honest I stopped caring what other people think a long time ago, and now the most important thing for me is having confidence in myself & my body, which I do have now.

I will walk down the street in a dress or on the beach in a bikini without wanting to cover myself up, I will play with my children in the sea and the pool and not feel self-conscious, I will take them out running with me, or even out SUP boarding or on a kayak on holiday. I will be a good role model, and I will continue to encourage healthy habits as I already have done for years with all the sports and activities that the kids take part in on a weekly basis. I will let my husband and children take my photo, & be present in our family memories instead of using the camera to hide behind.

There are some things as a parent that I don't always get right, but this I can - being a fitter, healthier, happier mum is something that we all benefit from.

#BloggingToJoggingSim's Life

Fitness 4 Mamas Weigh, Lose or Stay - Laura's Lovely Blog

Sweets & Treats for Summer from The Making of Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour London

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Next week the delectable delights of the Harry Potter movies - Sweets & Treats - are the main event at Warner Bros Studio Tour London, just in time for the Summer holidays. Running from Monday 20th July until Sunday 6th September, you can find out about how all of the delicious film food - real and replica - was made by watching demonstrations in the Ministry Munchies kiosk by the expert prop makers from the movies, are you able to spot the difference between the real bakes and prop fakes?

We had a wonderful time at the Sweets & Treats preview trying out the delicious Butterbeer ice cream, available to purchase in the Backlot Café this Summer, along with frothy tankards of the drink from the movies - which as you can see is loved by E!

The children as well as their Grandmother (my mother, a huge Harry Potter fan and this also being her first studio tour visit) were enraptured by demonstrations of how certain things were made, such as the floating pudding from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (that Dobby drops on the Dursleys' guests) and to see the Gryffindor common room set decorated as it was for the Quidditch victory scenes in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, complete with decorations, sweet wrappers & a barrel of Butterbeer.

The various special events that are staged throughout the year at the Warner Bros Studio Tour bring a whole new element of magic to each visit, and it doesn't matter how many times you have been there before as you will always find something you didn't notice on a previous visit, or learn something new at one of the demonstrations.

We were delighted to be able to see the new Hogwarts Express exhibit, as on our previous trip to the Studio Tour for the Bludgers & Broomsticks event last year it had yet to arrive, so the children had great fun exploring the carriages and walking down Platform 9¾. The Warner Bros Studio Tour experience is even more special on each occasion, there is so much to learn and enjoy that I don't think we will ever tire of it.

It wouldn't be a full Tour experience without the trip to the gift shop at the end, and if I ever made it out of there without a carrier bag full of Harry Potter themed sweets & treats I think that I would collapse from shock. It's almost become our own little tradition to bring home some peppermint toads, chocolate frogs and every flavour beans because after all - who doesn't love vomit & bogey flavour sweets? These small touches really bring the movies to life, it's simply a must visit for every Harry Potter fan.

Don't forget that during the Tour, children are invited to collect stamps on their own complimentary Activity Passport which includes a fun Golden Snitch hunt to make their visit even more unforgettable, there are six stamping stations placed throughout the Tour and Passports can be collected from a staff member on your arrival. Why not share your Tour experience on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram during your visit with the complimentary wi-fi, using hashtag #WBStudioTour.

Tickets for the Studio Tour must be purchased in advance and are not sold at the Tour. For full ticket information & prices and to book, visit the Warner Bros Studio Tour website. Warner Bros Studio Tour also offer one free carer ticket for each paying disabled visitor, which can be booked through their Visitor Services Team - for more information click here, proof of entitlement is required on entry to the Studio Tour.

My Travel Monkey
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