Reviews, Guest and Featured Posts

Outdoor Fun: Five Child-Friendly Festivals across the UK

Jen Walshaw : April 14, 2014 12:32 pm : Featured and Guest

Hopefully, we’ve seen the back of the worst of the weather, and while we are still in the middle of springtime, summer is just around the corner. Apparently, we can expect one of the best summers in a long time, with bright sunny days making regular appearances, and what better way to enjoy them than with a festival or two?

Five Child-Friendly Festivals across the UK

Festivals aren’t just for grownups who love a good booze up and a funky pair of wellies – there are loads of fantastic festivals across the UK that appeal to families, too. Whether you wish to take your children along to a predominantly adult festival, or you’d prefer to ease them in gently with a family-orientated one is completely up to you – if you opt for the latter, here are some great options for you to choose from.

LolliBop – 15th until 17th August

Located in the heart of London, LolliBop is a child-orientated festival that will almost certainly provide your little ones with plenty of entertainment, fun and laughter to last them the whole day. While it’s not a camping festival, you and the family can enjoy a myriad of activities, live shows and entertainment that runs throughout the day – the jam-packed schedule for 2014 is yet to be announced, but you can expect a super line-up!

All the entertainment is aimed at children under the age of 10 and they’ll be sure to love it! Make the most out of the weekend and book a hotel in Southbank so that you can appreciate what else London has to offer!

Glastonbury – 25th until 29th June  

No festival list would be complete without this iconic one that continues to be a massive sell-out year after year. With two family camping zones and plenty of activities available to keep the little ones entertained away from the music, including the dedicated Kidz Field, Glasto will provide a completely different view of what festivals are all about and should be appreciated at least once during your lifetime.

Standon Calling – 1st until 3rd August

Located in the heart of Herts, Standon Calling has an impressive line-up this year, with headliners including Maximo Park and folk rock star, Frank Turner, taking to the stage to wow the audience. The festival has dedicated areas for children, with plenty of activities available to keep them out of mischief. Plus, children under 13 go free!

Camp Bestival – 31st July until 3rd August

Found in the midst of the Dorset countryside, on the grounds of Lulworth Castle, Camp Bestival is one of the main contenders when it comes to family festivals. Providing the perfect excuse for a camping weekend with the kids, Camp Bestival has an impressive line-up for 2014, as always, including Basement Jaxx, Chas and Dave, James and Sinead O’Connor. The Upper and Lower Kids Gardens will surely provide plenty of activities and fun-filled moments for the children, too.

Make the most out of our summer and get outside to enjoy the sunshine! Whether you opt for a trip to a festival, or you make your own fun, get the family together for some quality time – these early years won’t last forever!


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How to keep your pooch happy in the summer

Jen Walshaw : March 26, 2014 10:39 am : Featured and Guest

alvin summer

Everyone looks forward to a nice warm summer, particularly in the UK where dismal, rainy weather is all too common for the rest of the year. However, if you have a pet dog, the season brings with it a few extra challenges. There are a few risks that summer poses to your pooch’s health that you should bear in mind.

First, and most importantly, the importance of not leaving dogs in cars cannot be overstated. Cars can heat up extremely quickly in the sun, and leaving the window open a crack will make little to no difference. Leaving dogs in hot cars is one of the leading causes of heatstroke in pets, which can be fatal in some cases, so avoid it if possible.

Dehydration is another problem dogs face in the summer, just like humans. They need to have access to fresh and cool water as much as possible. It is also a good idea to switch to wet dog food in the summer, as this can help to increase a dog’s fluid intake.


One good idea is to get into the habit of buying frozen dog food. Put a portion in your dog’s bowl before you go to bed, cover it, and leave it to defrost overnight. That way your dog can benefit from a nice cold morning meal containing plenty of fluid to keep them hydrated.

Do the same when you wake up for a cooling meal in the evening. You can add to this by using an ice cube tray to freeze cubes of frozen chicken or beef broth. Add one or two of these to your dog’s bowl for an additional treat.

Of course, it is not just water that your dog loses through dehydration. Nutrients will also be lost to the heat, so it is more important than ever to make sure that you are feeding your pooch a nutritionally-balanced, high-quality dog food.

Dry dog food is often recommended, as wet food can go off in the heat, however low-quality kibble can add to your dog’s dehydration. Frozen dog food is much better for your dog’s health, and keeping it in the freezer removes the issues with it going off.

Although your dog is covered in fur, you might find that sunburn is an issue. This can be especially common in breeds with light or short fur, as they have little protection from the suns rays. You should be able to find suncream that is suitable for pets, so it is definitely worth applying this to your dog before they spend any extended periods outside.

It is not just the sun that can cause your dog to become burned, however. The heat of the sun can make certain surfaces incredibly hot, and it can be easy to forget that dogs do not have the luxury of shoes to prevent their feet from becoming burned.

Tarmac surfaces can get extremely hot during the summer, as can sand and certain types of stone, and your dog’s footpads can easily burn. This can cause a great deal of pain. You should use your hand to check the temperature of such surfaces before you take your dog for a walk.

If you keep these safety issues in mind, you should have no problem spending an enjoyable and happy summer with your dog. For products that can help you with this, click here.


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Post-divorce families – getting it right

Jen Walshaw : March 24, 2014 6:27 pm : Featured and Guest

Pre-divorce is full of the very problems and reasons that the divorce became necessary. This might involve arguing, shouting and other forms of conflict; thus divorce can be traumatic, emotive, complicated and expensive.

Divorce can have devastating effects on children if it is not handled sensitively and maturely – we all know these facts. So surely the post-divorce situation is the point in which things can look forward to a workable and sustainable future.


The first stage of the post-divorce family is the re-organisation period and involves settling down to the changes. Adults can find this very difficult and children more so, meaning that support is very important during this stage. It is also common at this stage for children to desperately wish for their parents to reconcile and they may mention it to both parents. It is important that they are told the truth in the matter and it is equally important that they are not ridiculed – it is a healthy and normal fantasy simply born from love and respect for both parents.

Communicating with your child

There is no golden rule as to when a child feels ready to talk about things. It will depend on their age, maturity and knowledge of the situation. It is important to keep communication channels open at all times even when they are not ready to talk. Never force a discussion; children will speak when they are ready.

It is common that after a while a child might develop favouritism for one parent over another– you should not read too much into this but should instead reiterate that both parents love them unconditionally.

Sometimes during this period of re-organisation you might notice a deterioration in your child’s behavior such as acting out or misbehaving. It is a common mistake to make allowances for the stress of of the divorce and simply write it off as inevitable. It is vital to maintain the same levels of discipline as before.


The specialist divorce lawyers you used for the divorce such as Brookman family law solicitors will know of support networks, but take advantage of all possible avenues such as the wider extended family who may be able to provide the most valuable support network. Remember that your ex-partner’s mother is your child’s grandparent and that every child needs their grandparents. After a divorce you must never deny your child access to their extended family.


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What are the benefits from buying local?

Jen Walshaw : March 20, 2014 2:43 pm : Featured and Guest

Although similar assurances are available in other countries, there are added benefits to changing your attitude and buying local.

cliff view


We’re all aware of the economic uncertainty that the UK has faced in the past few years or so, but despite a recent improvement in figures – many are unaware of just how badly people in some areas are struggling.

That’s where you come in! Simply supporting local products like cheese, wines, beer or cider could give your region the edge it needs to grow.

You see, the more we invest in our local economies by buying products, the less subsidies are needed and the more jobs can be created. Who knew eating Lancashire cheese, or Melton Mowbray pork pies could be so beneficial (and delicious!).


But even though the economic benefits of buying local are clear, environmentalism remains one of – if not the most – popular reasons for people to choose nearby suppliers for their foods rather than foreign companies.

As has been well documented in recent years, flying goods from one end of the planet to the other is terrible for the environment and has been implicated in recent spikes in global warming and climate change.

But that’s not all the bad news that comes when products are being moved from continent to continent. Shipping over long distances requires the use of tonnes and tonnes of plastics, which cannot be easily recycled. What are the benefits of buying local?

These days we’re all becoming more and more aware of the quality of our food. No longer is that slop from the chippy down the road acceptable – such has been the rise of gourmet dining in the UK.

But despite the rise of the celebrity chef, gastro pub and posh burger, most of us are simply clueless as to where our food comes from.

Sure, we see that our strawberries sometimes come from the Netherlands and that our coffee comes from Ethiopia – but beyond that, are we really any the wiser about what processes went into making our ingredients?


That’s the magic of buying local. Fact is, in the UK, we’re pretty good about animal safety and have some of the strictest guidelines around in terms of animal welfare.

Take the Red Tractor badge, for example, which tells consumers that the supply chain involved to produce the food you’re buying is above board, environmental and fair to animals.

This is a massive waste of money and reinforces just how much better it is if you end up buying that shampoo from a fellow called Steve down in Devon rather than a faceless chemical and cosmetic company based in northern Italy.


But while the benefits of buying local are clear, there has always been the argument from the uninitiated that it is expensive and leaves household budgets looking emptier than a glass of Pimms in the summer.

This might have been true in the past, but with the recent move of supermarkets to the world wide web, there are more bargains on offer than ever before.

Take the Ethical Superstore, for example, which offers fantastic products made in the UK at rock-bottom prices that even larger chains in retail parks across the country can’t compete with.

Staying at home on your laptop has never been so environmentally friendly!


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2014 spring trends for women’s work wear

Jen Walshaw : March 19, 2014 1:02 pm : Featured and Guest

With winter coming to an end, it is time to give your wardrobe a much needed spring clean and refresh your office outfits with SS14’s hottest trends. It can sometimes be difficult to decide on work wear for women as there are so many options available and what you wear has to look professional as well as stylish. Here are three spring trends that can easily be incorporated into your working wardrobe.

Pretty prints:

Adding prints is a wonderful way of injecting colour and personality in to your outfit whilst still appearing professional.  Spring/Summer 2014 is all about florals and this season’s trend has been updated with graphic designs and vibrant colours. Subtly introduce perennial prints into your work wear by styling a floral blouse with your suit. Alternatively a pretty, floral, silk scarf will instantly update a white cotton shirt.

Pastel palette:

This season’s palette is fresh and delicate with soft blush pinks, mint greens and pale blues. Your office ensemble doesn’t have to be drab and even the most colour phobic of us can easily pull this trend off. Keep the new season’s shades simple by pairing neutral tones with pastel hues, such as a nude dress with a blush blazer.

Updated classics:

white shirt 1

The classic white button down shirt was updated on the runway with a ladylike twist. Ladylike tailoring and feminine silhouettes are replacing last season’s androgynous trend. Fitted shirts embellished with Broderie Anglaise, frills and necktie detailing complete the genteel aesthetic. Traditional English shirt maker, Hawes & Curtis, has a beautiful collection of high quality, fitted ladies shirts in their Boutique, Office and Fashion ranges.

Whether you work in a casual, creative environment or have to follow a strict dress code, these three key trends are subtle and easy ways to dress for success this season.


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Must do activities in London

Jen Walshaw : March 13, 2014 8:32 pm : Featured and Guest

London is like another world. Made famous in film, song and literature, it is one of the most highly populated cities in the UK and it isn’t hard to see why many thousands of tourists flock to visit every year. 

But even if you’re lucky enough to count yourself native to the capital, it’s worth taking time to revisit all the great things the city offers. Perfect for individuals, couples and even those with small children, London features something for everyone. Bursting with art galleries, restaurants, historic sites and theatres, use the must-visit guide below and tick some activities off your bucket list.


Visit a museum

London is home to some of the most fantastic and varied museums and exhibitions in the world. Whether you want to see the Rosetta Stone in the British museum, check out Damien Hirst sculptures at Southbank’s Tate Modern or examine real dinosaur bones at the Natural History museum, there is a rich variety of places to choose from. Many of them are even free.

Take a walk

Although London’s transport network is pretty well served, it’s worth eschewing public transport and walking on at least one trip. You’ll get a much more authentic London experience bowling down the Strand during rush hour than visiting the Tower of London! You can even stop for a picnic in Regent’s Park or St James’s park or catch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

Better yet, take a cab. Not only an iconic symbol of London life, once you’re free from the weight of the crowds, you will see a whole different side of the capital – one which is difficult to imagine when you’re trapped on the underground! Get a taxi quote London and get from A to B in comfort and style.

Pick up some bargains at a market

London is well-known for its street markets and Portobello Road, Greenwich and Camden markets have all become very popular with visitors. Grab a bagel at Brick Lane Market or treat yourself to a gorgeous bouquet at Columbia Road Flower Market on Sunday to experience some genuine London vibes.

Find spiritual solace

Take a free visit to Westminster Abbey and enjoy Evensong at 5pm every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and at 3pm on weekends. Taking a little time out to appreciate the stunning architecture and delicate detailing is enough to bring peace to anyone (whether you are religious or not).


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What type of Bingo player are you? I am old school

Jen Walshaw : March 7, 2014 10:56 am : Featured and Guest

Costa Bingo are trying to find out what your boingo personality is.  I took the test and I am an old school player, which is pretty spot on.

Bingo for me reminds me of my family and good times when everyone got round the table having a laugh and playing together!

My mum and aunties and my cousins would often play together and it was real family fun and I have never played online bingo in my life.

Both my boys see bingo as family fun too and my brother runs the bingo in the club that he and my sister in law run.

So what is your bingo personality?  Take the quiz and find out.


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Are we failing in our mission to support elderly relatives?

Jen Walshaw : March 5, 2014 12:07 pm : Featured and Guest

Recent media attention has put a spotlight on how isolated many UK elderly people actually are.

The blame has largely been placed upon the busy pace of modern life.  As we struggle to make ends meet, and juggle work and family life, it can be easy to forget about the elderly people in our lives.

However, the question is; are we really failing to provide support for this forgotten generation?


Not just face to face support that’s lacking

When you think about loneliness, you often associate it mainly with a lack of face to face contact. However, even just contact over the telephone can play a big part in keeping elderly relatives happy.

A recent study by Senior Response, a call centre for the elderly, has found that only 50% of those aged 40-60 receive a telephone call once a week. Only 14% of people contact their elderly relatives every single day.

Unfortunately there are a significant number of older people that have absolutely no contact with anybody on a daily basis. It’s this that contributes towards chronic loneliness.

It is understandable that many relatives may not be able to visit elderly relatives on a frequent basis. Many live away from their parents or grandparents so actually getting to see them could be a struggle. However, in this mobile age it’s easier than ever before to keep in contact with people no matter where you are in the world.

While the elderly aren’t known for their grasp on modern technology, most still have a landline. Even if you can’t get your older relative to sign up to things like Skype, you could still make that call just to check how they are.

Could a change in the law help?

In China, a new law was introduced where children have to provide emotional as well as physical support for their aging parents.

If they don’t, they could face a potentially large fine and in some cases they could even face time in jail. The Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly is there to protect the older generation.

However, China is known for its strict rule, so enforcing this kind of law in the UK would be pretty challenging.

More support needed

Of course, the care required by the elderly often overshadows the stress it can put on their family’s lives. Looking after relatives can be really stressful, especially if they have mobility issues as well as declining mental health.

There often isn’t enough support given to help adults care for their elderly parents. A recent report from Carers UK found that there are 6.5 million unpaid carers in the UK. While many are willing to do anything to take care of loved ones, this can put huge pressure on their own finances and quality of life.

Without adequate support, it’s understandable why many people consider putting their elderly relatives into a home. However, in some cases mobility aids, such as a wheel chair lift, can prevent adult children having to resort to this option for their parents.

By helping to make pensioners more independent in their home, they will be able to get around the house, do things for themselves and be less reliant on family members to take care of them.

Many older people are worried about going into a care home. They don’t want to be a burden to their children, but they fear what life will be like away from everything they are familiar with. It can be a really distressing time.

Many elderly people in the UK are being slowly forgotten by their relatives. If you have an older relative, why not get in touch? A simple phone call may be all that it takes.


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From schools to shopping: Why reside in Reading?

Jen Walshaw : February 27, 2014 11:56 am : Featured and Guest

Having lived and word just outside of Reading for 14 years.  I have to say I love it and the fact that Maxi was born there will mean it is always close to my heart.

Reading is often dismissed as merely a town on the commuter belt to London. It doesn’t feature on many tourist brochures and is perhaps most famous historically for making biscuits.

reading baby


My Reading Baby

However, thanks to a booming IT and insurance industry, this large and personable town is enjoying something of a renaissance. Visit its lively and vibrant town centre with its array of bars, shops and restaurants and it quickly becomes apparent why the Reading and Bracknell area was named best place to live in the UK in 2013 by the consultancy PWC and think tank Demos.

With such a thriving economy, excellent schools and nurseries and a housing market that offers good value for money, you may wish to consider looking into Linden Homes property for sale in Reading. It could be the smartest move you ever make: with some of the best performing schools in the country, a red brick university and a creative and dynamic workforce, Reading is very much on the up. Plus, it is situated along the banks of the picturesque River Thames – what more could you want from a family home?

Property in Reading

Like the rest of the south east, the Reading property market is buoyant, particularly the rental market fuelled by the city’s student population. Some of the most desirable areas are Woodley, Caversham Heights, Calcot Row, Tilehurst, Earley and Lower Earley where you will find traditional Victorian family homes offering good value for this part of the country.

Shopping in Reading

Reading is the number one shopping destination in the south east outside of London and ranks in the top 10 UK regional destinations. Take a wander through Broad Street Mall and the Oracle shopping centre and you will find over 90 high street names including Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, House of Fraser and TK Maxx.

If you’re looking for something a little bit different, Union Street, Friar Street or the street market on the corner of Hosier Street have a variety of independent stores and boutiques, selling unique one-off items.

Eating out 

Reading has a fantastic array of restaurants offering everything from authentic Italian to tapas bars, sushi bars, Thai, Chinese, Japanese and French as well as top quality traditional English eateries.


It would be impossible to talk about Reading without mentioning the world famous music festival. Every August some of the biggest names in music come to the Berkshire town for the atmospheric three-day festival.

If sleeping in tents and wallowing around in mud isn’t your cup of tea, then Reading has a thriving cultural scene to enjoy throughout the year. It has several theatres, the most prominent being The Hexagon, which boasts an eclectic mix of plays, concerts, stand-up comics and musicals.


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I do hope you are having a great valentines day…..

Jen Walshaw : February 14, 2014 3:49 pm : Featured and Guest


We are not huge Valentines celebrators here in the Mad House.  Especially as our wedding anniversary falls o0n March.  This year we are celebrating it even less as Maxi has a stomach bug!



However, some people are not like MadDad and me and feel that Chocolates. Flowers. Dinner = Valentine’s day. Not a sniffling ill other half! Make sure they’re aware of the importance of this day, thanks to Vicks.

So which camp are you in, the Valentines lover or the Valentines hater?


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