Thursday, 30 July 2015

How To Survive A Road Trip With Kids

For a couple of reasons, we're not heading abroad on our family holiday this year.  For one, we've just bought a house (skinto!) and for another, I've done the travelling-with-baby-don't-forget-the-steriliser-oh-crap-there's-water-coming-out-of-his-bum thing before.  And it wasn't pretty - I'm just not laid back enough.

So we're throwing the kids in the back of the car and heading on a staycation.  Now, whilst I'm pretty certain the potential lack of steriliser on a staycation won't end in bum explosions (there's a Tesco everywhere should we need it, right?), I'm pretty certain the long journey in the car won't be an easy one.  With cries of 'I need a wee!' followed by the need for a wee making itself apparent seconds later, constant yells of 'are we there yet!?' and a refluxy baby throwing up seemingly weeks of food in one go, I need a plan.  So, here it is, my plan turned into tips to make sure this road trip is as smooth as a Florida highway (I'm told).

Before we go:
1. Charge iPad - an absolute priority for our young man to get the trip off to a good start.  We had a melt down last time I forgot, and the in car lighter charger thingy was just not up to the job.

2. Check the car - Call me a stickler, but have you ever tried to control a car at 70mph on the motorway having just suffered a blown tyre, with a three year old shouting 'again, again' from the back?  No?  Well, you don't want to.  If you see any wear to your tyres or there's even a hint of a puncture get them replaced - it's just not worth it not to, both for your safety and legally.  Have a look here for information on tyre tred and if you need them, check out Point S - they have a huge variety of brands and sizes in the car tyre world at really good prices.  Not only can you buy the tyres online, you can make an appointment at a local, independent dealer to get them fitted before you go.  No muss, no fuss and supporting local business at big business prices.  Perfecto.

3. Make sure everything fits - in the car and re-pack/buy a roof box if necessary to avoid morning-of-road-trip-meltdowns from grown ups, copying-parents-tantrums from children, and bawling-at-the-noise-screams from babies.

4. Plan lunch - Either pack a lunch - no smeggy station sandwiches for me thank you - or look up country pubs along your journey for lunch if you want to get  your holiday off on the right foot.

5. Pack - a travel potty for side of the road emergencies and a plastic bucket - not for the seaside destination, but for voms - see points 6 and 7.

On the way
6. Buy snacks - yes, buy.  I plan to bribe the eldest with the promise of sweet stops should he not ask the dreaded 'are we there yet' question every three minutes.  I know this will work; he's a sucker for sweets.

7. Make an activity bag - for when the iPad/sweet combo has produced a projectile vom down the back of my seat, I aim to get this bad boy out for some peace.   This blog post from Shannonagains on an airplane activity bag could just be the ticket.  I plan to invest in one of those laptop trays with the bean bag underneath for him to lean on to colour in etc.  Until he throws the crayons out the window...

8. Bribe the kids - good behaviour on the way can be bought with promises of going to the Pirates Party when you get there.  Also see point 6.

9. Make a playlist  - songs to sing along to can make the journey fly.  Hours of fun (for me).  Probably all Frozen and Cbeebies themed to clear a path in the traffic should we get stuck on the M6.  Et Voila.  Inbetween every track ask if a wee wee is needed.  Tedious. Yes.  Necessary.  Yes.  Who wants to be sponging pee out of car seat foam on holiday anyways?

10. Check - water, oil and air when you stop for petrol - If you know your husbands fine, then check the same on the car (guffaw).  And check those pesky tyres again.  Point S have independent retailers all over the UK should you need them.  Handy.  The last thing you need is to be on the side of the road with the kids waiting for the AA.

Safe travels my friends.  With all this in mind, and humour aside, I beg of you to check your car before setting off on a long journey.  You wouldn't get on a plane that hadn't been checked for safety now, would you?

Just a thought.

*Collaboration Post

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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

InstaNatural Cellulite Cream Review

In my quest for the perfect beach body I flung my hand in the air and waved like a crazy woman when InstaNatural were looking for bloggers to review their new cellulite cream.

Now, I'm lucky in that I don't have it bad, just a thigh and bum ripple here and there, enough to cause a wince in the John Lewis changing rooms (bad lighting + wrap around mirror = wince-tastic) which would only be highlighted when sunbathing next to nubile American teens on 'Summer Break' in Vegas. These factors combined made me the ideal candidate.

I did start with taking a before picture, but after two children and being in my early 30s no one needs to see that so it shall remain on my camera phone for prosperity but won't be posted here. But picture, if you will dare uneven skin tone resembling the finest corned beef. Nice.  

We all know there's no cure for cellulite but we remain in hope and at £49.95 a pop (currently on sale at £23.95 on Amazon - grab yourself a bargain) you'd hope this'd be it. And we all know that a good dose of caffeine should go some way to loosing the lumps; with this ingredient top of the list, along with Retinol, Vitamin C & B5, Cocoa Butter & Shea could this be the cure?

The product, ordered from Amazon arrived quickly and safely - a few box bashes but the product was fine. It looks like something a builder would use and smells strangely earthy and a little bit fruity, like the stone of a peach, not unpleasant, just not... lovely - but another blogger reviewer thought it smelt divine so that's personal taste; I like floral and spicy, not earthy.

On to the texture. What I love about this is the thickness; not so thick that it takes forever to absorb, not so thin that it feels cheap. It feels luxurious and you don't need tons. When you come to the cream the next day, the oils have risen to the surface in little puddles but the product itself doesn't feel oily in the slightest.  With all this in mind I was happy to slap it on twice a day and wait for miracles to happen.

In one short week, my uneven skin tone had started to become, well, more even, but only really noticeable to me - my husband swears he couldn't see any different.  But my skin was SO SMOOTH!! It felt lovely and I think that was reflected in the way it looked too and with prolonged use a real difference would be seen.

In the interest of reviewing, I stopped using the product after a week and sure enough the lumps and bumps returned, but my skin felt smooth for much longer.  With this in mind, I'm going to start using it again a week before my trip and take it with me.

So, it seems great for a short term fix; I can't comment on long term, I didn't use it for long enough.  It does seem that the cure remains elusive but this cream certainly feels like the next best thing.

Recommended!  And you can buy it here

*InstaNatural kingly sent me this product for review.  All views and words are my own.

Wicked Wednesday

What the hell is wrong with my husband that he can't just put the sodding empty toilet roll in the sodding bin. Is it him? Is it bloody men in general!? So help me when he gets home I'm shoving this where the sun don't shine.

Aaaaaaand breathe.

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Monday, 27 July 2015

10 Things To Do On A Rainy Day

Stay in and hibernate away from the rain

1. Make a Den - Something my husband excels in.  I, however, do not.  If you're like me, you can follow Jocelyn's Indoor Den Building in 5 Easy Steps

2. Get Crafty - Whittle away a few rainy hours by making something with your child, then putting your feet up with a cuppa whilst they get on with decorating it.  The bigger the better (more time spent decorating you see) so have a go at making them their very own Space Rocket

3. Make Pizzas - Occupy the kids and get dinner sorted in one easy, if messy, step?  Get them making their own pizzas - making the dough, popping their toppings on, a couple of hours passed, easy.  This easy recipe never fails.

4. Popcorn and a movie - Don't just stick a movie on and grab a packet of Butterkist; Use these recipes to create your own fabulous flavours of popcorn and make a real event of the movie - go on, draw the curtains and grab a duvet!

Get Out
Brave the weather on the run to the car/bus and get out and about.

5. Swimming - Kids love a good splash about, and you can relax and watch in sauna like conditions or, if they're not old enough to go in on their own, console yourself that you're working towards that beach bod as you fling them around the pool.

6. Computer Games - OK, bear with me.  You might not feel like spending the day in an arcade, but trust me, once you get into it, there's no turning back.  It's so addictive and you'll be the coolest parent on the block for the whole of the holidays.  Do your research though as these places can be quite pricey.  If you're lucky enough to love near Nottingham, take your kids to the National Videogame Arcade - not just an arcade but an educational visit to three floors of playable exhibitions.  Your kids, if they're old enough, can even take part in gaming coding lessons - and you can grab a cuppa in the cafe (there's a theme here!).

7. Library - Always something on for your kids and what a way to spend a rainy afternoon if there isn't - tucked up in a cosy corner with a good book and your children for company.  Delish.  Libraries aren't the places they once were so don't worry if you have shouty children - like mine!

Sod it!
Get out in the rain; brave the elements!

8. Feed the ducks - They'll be out in force with no visitors to keep them company.  Get those rain coats on and some duck friendly delights and share the love with our feathered friends.  Just don't feed them bread - have a look here for some duck friendly treats (my heart sinks when I think how much bread I've thrown in the water over the years!)

9. Go for a wet walk - Make like Peppa pig and don your wellies for some jumping up and down in muddy puddles.  You'll feel invigorated afterwards and will want nothing more than a spanking gorgeous hot chocolate and buttered toast.  It's this bit I enjoy the most.

10. Slosh about in the paddling pool - on a warm but rainy day pretend you're in Florida for their daily downpours and get in that pool.  So much fun to be had in a rainy paddling pool (the kids you understand - you can wait at the window, towel in hand.  And it's warm so grab a prosecco too!).

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Sunday, 26 July 2015

Opportunity Knocks

I originally started this Blog to help me discover family friendly Nottingham; to help me live life in this new City (hence the title), but since it took so long for us to move after starting it's taken on a life of it's own as a hybrid lifestyle/parenting blog, which I adore as it gives me an outlet to write and pushes me into trying new things and exploring new ideas.

Never the less, I wanted to accomplish what I originally set out to do.  So when I found an opportunity to become the local editor of the Bubele Newsletter for Nottingham I JUMPED at the chance - who wouldn't?  I get to write about the city I'm learning to love, find out what's on for my family and then I'll be blogging about what we've done.  I've got the chance to take my writing to the next level and reach a whole new audience.  I've also got the potential to make a little bit of moolah, which will be reward for all those times I've thought to myself 'is this worth it?'.  I know 99% of the Bloggers who read this will know EXACTLY what I'm talking about here.

So I wanted to thank each and every one of you who has visited my blog in the past, and a big wave to all the new visitors in the future.  I carried on because people were reading, and because people were reading, it got noticed.

Thank You.

If you'd like to support me just a little bit more, I'd love for you to subscribe to the newsletter.  Whilst Nottingham focused (and this may suit some of you), the newsletter will arrive every other week in your inbox (no spam, I promise!) and over time, I'll be able to let you know when newsletters for other areas are live.  There is also a 'Good Reads' section where I'll be showcasing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read daily through Linkys - watch out for yours!

Click here to sign up - it takes 10 seconds and I'll be eternally grateful - and if you do it in the next two weeks, you'll be entered into a prize draw for two tickets to see Michael Morpugo’s I Believe in Unicorns

Once I've got my head around it all, I plan to post on the wonderful App Bubele have, which helps you find fabulous activities and special offers for your family close by.

With Love x

Linking with
Baby Brain Memoirs
Domestic Momster

Friday, 24 July 2015

Word Of The Week - Anxious

I seem to have spent this week in a permanent state of anxiety; on Monday, I looked at my phone to see two text messages - one from a friend urging me to contact her friend about my son's school choices (see post about that here) and another from my boss telling me she's leaving and my new boss wants a word (I'm on mat leave).

Then follows the trip into town that panicked me and the complete anxiety of going on holiday after the atrocities in Tunisia (post on that to follow).

But there is light at the end of the tunnel - hence the graphic.  I'm getting my head round schools, I'm good at my job so whatever happens with my boss it'll be all good, I was fine in town and the holiday?  Well, that remains to be seen, but i'm becoming more and more rational.

So this week, it's Anxious.  Hoping for something more positive next week.

Do you have any tips for dealing with these feelings?

The Reading Residence

Thursday, 23 July 2015

School Politics Before School's Even Started

And so it begins.

With the school year finished and the new ones starting in six short weeks, my thoughts have turned to the politics of "Getting your Child Into The Right School".

I didn't choose to enter into these politics; I was forced into them kicking and screaming, in my refusal to think about the next stage for my eldest, by a really good friend who knows someone who knows someone who works in the appeals process; I don't want to be in that situation, I'm told.

Of course they're absolutely right, but the advice given to me was this - make tactical choices.  Pick too many great, in-catchment area schools and you end up in a bad, out-of-catchment area school that no one else wants to go to.

Huh?  How does that work?

I'm told that because there are so many good schools where we live (which naturally helped us choose the area we wanted to live in), being in catchment area means sweet FA.  Nada.  There will be families living out of catchment that have other circumstances that will come above us should 'over-subscription' happen - and I'm reliably informed that it will if we apply to a local, good school.  Catchment area means very little these days where we are.

For example, in our local schools admission criteria, being in the catchment area is sixth on a list of seven criteria for admission.  It seems because we are good parents, haven't needed social services involvement, aren't on benefits and we are applying for a place for a child without older siblings, we will struggle to get a place for our son at a school that is so local, it's a five minute walk away.

This confuses me.  We are a bog standard family.  Two working parents, two kids, one mortgage.  Yet this makes it difficult for our son to go to the local, Ofsted Good (we aren't even talking outstanding here) school.  So I've been advised I need to look out of catchment, at good schools that aren't over subscribed.  So, prey tell, how do I find these school?  Yes, that's right. Hours and hours of googling, when I should be using those hours being the good parent I'm trying to be that's keeping our son out of the local school.  And it seems these great, non-oversubscribed schools are just an urban myth.

I'm flabbergasted and dreading what the next few months hold as we apply for those seemingly scarce school places.

And I'm completely stunned at finding myself ringing the City's public boys school to see about their admission policy.  Despite all the tax we as a family have paid over the years, it seems that to get my child the education he deserves I'm having to spend an extra £10k per year to get it.

So in true playground fashion, as I route around down the back of the sofa for the public school registration fee, you'll find me whining 'Why is it so unfair!'.

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Modern Dad PagesMummy and MonkeysMami 2 Five

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Wicked Wednesday 22/7/15

These long summer days are just too much for some people...

How is that even comfortable!?


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Great Friend Hunt

Having recently moved back to Nottingham with my young family, after leaving fifteen years ago, I'm reaping the benefits of being closer to family - we even had our first date night in, well, forever on Saturday!

But with that benefit comes the downside of moving away from my friends and having to make new ones.  I'm not looking for a new BFF, just companionship; someone to share a piece of cake with whilst our babies play and we discuss poo (that's what mums do!), someone to go for a walk with, invite over for a coffee, just to chat with.  Y'know, mummy friends.  A few drinks in town without the men folk.  A few drinks with the men folk.  A proper friendship born out of having something n common and enjoying each others company.  I've joined baby groups, play groups, swimming lessons, but my days are getting a little lonely.

But I got to thinking this morning as I got a text from one of my closest friends, and a Facebook message from another over night - it's amazing where you find your friends and never where expected.  They never come along when you think you need them, and always when you aren't looking for them.

And so, introducing my Besties, and where they came from:

Ellen, the bravest woman I know (not to mention the slimmest - cow).  We met whilst waitressing at a wedding one summer whilst we were at (different) Uni's.  We felt sorry that no one was dancing at the wedding, so we took a chance and started it all off with a little dance off of our own.  The bride and groom loved it, the party got started and we've been absolute firm friends ever since.

Tessa, my Uni friend who lives in Reading.  We met in the most natural way possible; at university, on the same course.  Our friendship has lasted us never living in the same town since and although we don't speak often anymore (we're both busy mums), I'd never be without her and know she is always on the end of the phone if I need her.

Nat, my husbands friends wife (at first).  I love her and her ghetto booty.  We met at my brother-in-laws wedding and bonded over a shared hate of sleeping outdoors; We're now closer than our husbands are, who were friends before us.  She's the girl who will ALWAYS stick up for you, but will tell you later you're wrong (if, indeed, you are).  She is one of the most loyal people I've ever met, with the strongest will.

Joe and Jan (come as a pair!), our old neighbours, who have just moved to Canada (sob!).  Their adorable children are older than ours, so it's not that that bonded us.  I'd say it was a shared love of New Zealand wine, and husbands who are middle class but will fight it to the end, with their shared love of being a Manc.  My WORD I miss them and our many a random evening drinking on the patio.

Lou, the friend I have the most stories about, who moved to Australia ad few years ago and shows no signs of ever moving back.  We barely speak, the odd email here and there; we're both crap at keeping in touch.  If I needed something she wouldn't be the first I'd call, and I wouldn't be her first either.  We see (and speak) to each other about once a year.  But there will always be a shared bond and I absolutely adore her.  I just wish she'd get on and get married so I have an excuse to get my ass out to Oz!!

I've reminded myself here that friendships don't have to be years old to count.  They can survive the miles and being in close proximity which is sometimes harder - if I had to live with Ellen I'd surely kill her (and her me!).  These friendships are like my family and even though they aren't near by, I can't just see them for a cuppa and I'm missing my God Children's firsts, I know that whatever happens, I'll always have them in my life.

Linking Up With:


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Monday, 20 July 2015

The First Foods Book by Ella's Kitchen

I adore Cookery Books; I have hundreds of them, so when Ella's Kitchen asked if they could send me another to add to my collection, of course I said yes!  My seven month old boy, Woody, is loving his food as we wean him off milk, but I'm struggling to think of new foods we can all enjoy - the inventive side of my brain seems to have gone away for summer.

The First Foods Book guides families through every stage of weaning, from first foods through to family meals and finger foods.  In my opinion, all foods should be family foods and I don't believe in making separate food for Woody; with this in mind, I skipped the first three chapters - 'Very First Tastes', 'Smoothly Does It' and 'Taking On Textures' and went from there - however, a quick flick through showed me that for families who prefer the traditional method of weaning and want to start on fruit and veg and move slowly to other food groups, these chapters would prove a great source of advice and inspiration.

On to the remaining chapters.

You can't beat a cuppa and a flick through some recipes
Not actually a chapter, but the introductory sections gives some information on how to use the book and some advice on weaning itself, perfect for first time weaners.  With such a variety of foods covering such a wide span of ages groups, from first foods all the way though to eating as a family, it was great to see some recipes with serving information such as 'makes 6 ice-cubes', 'makes 4 teaspoons', 'makes 4 small portions' or 'feeds 4 kids and 2 adults' - this will most certainly help avoid trays and trays of the same food in your freezer through going overboard with the carrots.

'Time To Chew'
The recipes here are for 10 months plus where things start to get chunky.  These recipes are written for babies, but I found the recipes work for the whole family if you don't mash as instructed; you may just need to play with the ingredient volume to make sure there is enough to go round.  The Salmon Risotto was perfect for us.  I didn't mash it at all, just let Woody go for it in that very special 'Grab and Shove' method of eating he has (if I were spoon feeding I'd have mashed it), with a few spoonfuls from me thrown in.  You would never have known it had come from a weaning book and even my three year old went back for more!  The recipe makes 4 small portions; thinking that would suffice my children (i.e. one for Woody, three for the three year old), I made the same again each for myself and my husband (so three times the recipe in total) and there was plenty.  However, I did throw in a large handful of Parmesan at the end.  I know, I know, fish and cheese shouldn't go together in Italian dishes, but I'm not Italian and the heart wants what the heart wants.

Salmon risotto; Woody's portion compared to the book and the adult portion to the right
Also in 'Time To Chew' is three ways with a baked potato; we had a go at the Pesto Pea Filling, which made a great topping for my spud and a great one to mix into Woodys.  It's quite thick so again, perfect for the 'grab and shove' method of feeding yourself.  It was super tasty and given my jackets are normally topped with cheese and beans, this made a nice, healthy alternative for me.  Even better, it uses all store cupboard ingredients, perfect when you are caught on the hop.

The topping alone to the left and mixed with the potato to the right
'Meals For One + All'
For 12 Months Plus; there are some lovely sounding meals, all of which are written for a family and servings are generally for four adults and two children, with no mashing involved.  We fancied the Go Greek Lamb Stew.  For this one, I made it exactly as instructed, which serves two adults and four kids.  It did the four of us perfectly, but then we are big eaters.  It was deliciously slow cooked, the lamb melted in the mouth, perfect for children and little weaners.  We let Woody go for it and popped some, chopped, onto a spoon for him too, and ducked some bread into the sauce for him to gum away at.

'Fantastic Finger Foods'
Ruby Red Muffins - More Pink than Red!
This chapter has some great food for Baby Led Weaning, and we just had to try the fabulous 'Ruby Red Mini-Muffins', sweet muffins where the sweetness comes from the beetroot and carrot - genius, and a little sweet treat for your little ones without the sugar hit.  However, if you decide to give these a go, finely grate your beetroot.  I didn't and they weren't exactly ruby red, but definitely a winner.  The other downside to this is the waste.  If you regularly eat beetroot (we do) and feta (we don't) then great; if not you're having to buy a large quantity of these ingredients in the packet to use just a small amount.  That said, these freeze well, so make loads and freeze them to use up the ingredients.


The First Foods Book is designed beautifully, all bright colours and Ella's Kitchen-esque child friendly illustrations.  The pictures of smiley, messy-faced children chowing down throughout the book gives high hopes for successful weaning and the drool worthy illustrations do the food justice.  It'd be nice to see a photo for each recipe which would appeal to my visual nature and make a quick reference for busy parents, but not to be in this book.

I'm also a bit in love with the pull out weaning charts and planners; this appeals to my list making side and the wall chart is a lovely memory of your child's weaning adventure; one for the memory box!  Such a lovely touch, as are the tips to help even the smallest weaners help in preparing their food.

I'd recommend this book to anyone looking to introduce more variety into their baby's, and their own diet and definitely for anyone starting on their weaning journey.  They excel at taking regular meals, such as shepherds pie, making them baby friendly (no sugar, no salt!) and adding new flavours, such as spices to introduce your baby to new tastes - cumin and ginger in the shepherds pie for example.

The first three chapters are purely focused on your weaning baby, but after that (Time To Chew on wards), this is a brilliant, family friendly cookbook.

You can buy the First Foods Cookbook from Amazon now for only £4.99! Just click on the link below to buy


*Ella's Kitchen kindly sent me this book for review; all opinions and words are my own.

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