Monthly Archives: May 2013

Spring The Small Stuff – #S2S2D 8

Today I am I supporting the fab and inspirational Emma from Crazy with Twins who is beating thyroid cancer. I am proud to say that I have met Emma and she is a wonderful person, who is dealing with the challenges this battle brings her in as much of a positive way she can.

I took a look at Emmas Blog yesterday and it had the BEST news ever, her body has shed the radiation so fast she can now cuddle her children again and they can continue being a regular family (well as regular as you can be with twins and an illness).

However, I am aware that the results of the treatment will not be know for the next six months, but I also know that going through something like this can change your outlook on life and give things much more clarity.

My experience has taught me to find joy in the everyday. To make the most of the small things that help me get through each day and then to find three things at the end of each day that I am grateful for.

Spring The Small Stuff

The smell of freshly cut grass. The sound of all the local lawn mowers on a Sunday afternoon. Listening to the shouts and giggles of children playing outside. W watching the seeds we planted start to sprout. Earthing up the potatoes. Using up the last of the kale by making homemade kale chips. Lighter evenings. Waking to the sound of the birds singing. The boys running in after school and then running straight out again to play with their friends.

Wild Garlic and Bluebells. The leaves on the trees all being green. Blossom on the trees. Cherry blossom on the floor like confetti. The whole family washing the cars together. Theme parks in the sun. Sand in my toes and sun on my back. Spring tides and large waves. The promise of more to come.

Washing blowing on the line. less ironing. lighter weight coats. Putting away all the winter hats, scarfs and gloves and getting out the sun hats. Rubbing sun cream on to the soft, soft skin on my children. Sewing later and longer thanks to natural light! Watching Dr Who together as a family. The anticipation of camping trips. Day trips to the seaside. Icecreams. The sound of the ice cream van. The smell of BBQ’s. Spring Birthdays. MOthers Day. Fathers Day.

Finally learning how to crochet (fourth time’s a charm). Buying fabric for new quilts. Finishing existing quilts. Plotting, planning and designing new quilts. Going to my sewing lessons. Plucking up the courage to go to the WI! Watching my children take turns at cooking. Eating child baked cakes.

Waking up next to the ones I love. Hands to hold. Comfortable silences. Laughing at bad films and enjoying good films. Family movie nights. Board Games. Bruised little legs in short trousers, especially school shorts! Early nights in fresh bedding. Good books. Washi tape. White Walls. Yellow. Daffodils. Tulips. Good tea from china cups. Good friends. Great family.

Reading books out loud to my children. learning something new. Challenges. Even more yellow. Craft swaps. Writing letters. Receiving letters. The sun. Scented candles. Pims in the garden with my family. Instagram. Pinterest. Blog comments. Being able to wear standard sunglasses. The fact that I impress my children that I am not scared on roller coasters. My boys telling jokes that are funny and make sence (it has been a long time coming).

Win a Bathtime Fun Hamper at #kidsbathtime Twitter Party on June 4th at 1pm 3

h&a is the company behind some of the UK’s most love character bathing products and they aim to make bathing more manageable and fun for you and your little ones with family favourites like Disney Princess and Thomas & Friends!
I am going to be looking at ways to make bath time more manageable, fun and relaxing for both you and your children. I am really looking forward to hearing all your tips and ideas for making the most out of bathtime.

Make sure you are following @babybudgeting @Mum_TheMadhouse and @Tots100 on Twitter
Join in the conversation on Tuesday 4 June 2013 between 1 and 2pm (GMT) using the hashtag #kidsbathtime
Five tweeters with the best suggestions and tips from the event will each win a fabulous H&A bathtime hamper worth £25! (terms and conditions apply)

Family Holidays in Alcudia 1

Family Holidays in Alcudia

Going away with the kids can be a challenging ordeal sometimes. It’s hard to make a holiday work for everyone – the youngsters want to be active all the time, while we adults might want to share a romantic moment or two. Picking where to go can be half the battle, but I think if you pick the right spot with a good mix of family fun, you’re going to have a really great time.
A bit of a tourist hotspot in northern Majorca, Alcudia holidays this summer are definitely something to think about if you’re travelling with children. For one thing the landscape is gorgeous, with a perfect blend of beaches and stunning mountain ranges. This means that there are loads of different outdoor activities to do while you’re there. Alcanada beach is great for younger children as the water isn’t too deep – you can actually walk or swim out to Alcanada Island from here as the water is only 1.5 metres deep! This is a great adventure for the kids; you can pretend to be pirates or explorers heading out to find hidden treasure.
Another great spot that we enjoyed was the Hidropark, a waterpark just outside Alcudia. The prices are extremely reasonable and you can definitely while away at least one day here – our boys were desperate to go back almost as soon as we left! There are lots of different things to do besides the slides and pools, including mini golf, bouncy castles and floating boats. There’s also paintball on offer, but obviously that might not be suitable for the kids, depending on their ages.
There’s also the chance to take a boat trip around the coast, which is a nice way to relax if you’ve had a hectic week. You can take a glass-bottomed catamaran around the bay and see the fascinating underwater world right beneath your feet. If you think you might be interested, I’d suggest booking ahead – there’s nothing worse than waiting in a queue when you’ve got your little monsters champing at the bit to get on board!
Image by Duncan Rawlinson used under creative commons licence

10 ways to encourage children to save 11

I have recently blogged about 8 ways to encourage children to be frugal over at A Thrifty Mum, which has got me on the whole money management with children bandwagon. I find that using practical examples really helps the boys understand money and finances, but one of the things that I find really hard is how to encourage the boys to save for savings sake. After a chat on The Mad House facebook page I realised that I was possibly asking too much from them to save for savings sake. However, I did get some great ideas of ways to encourage your children to save rather than splurge.

Give children a goal to save towards, something that really sparks their interest and motivates them. Create a chart to help them tick off the pounds/pennies until they reach their target – Ramblings of a suburban mummy
Teach children the different denominations of money and what they add up to. This helps her understand what spending each coin means – Verily, Victoria Vocalises….
Work out how much they need to save each week to buy a special something before a certain date, and then they can see that they have some money left, but they also get buy their big item. It’s just small scale practice for when they’re adults wanting a car, house or holiday – The Brick Castle
Pay “interest” on what he’s saved that month. So if they save all month he can get something bigger – Snaffles Mummy
Make it visually – Using a glass jar or even a money box that counts the money (like Cass from the Frugal Family) makes saving money much more tangible for younger children. Or even have a savings chart with stars and stickers.
Set regular savings goals – Incentivise saving by offering added rewards at regular agree set points. This is why the Pigs from Natwest really worked back in the 80’s
Pay interest – pay your child monthly interest on savings they have. not only does this encourage them to keep it saved for longer, but it teaches them about money management
Set a goal – Are they saving for a specific item? if so make them a chart. Encourage them to find inventive ways to earn money to help them achieve their purchase faster
Insist that a percentage of their pocket money goes into a long term savings account.
Discuss the reasons that people save. By setting an example you are giving them the best lesson ever. My boys are both very maths oriented and we discussed how a Sippdeal SIPP pension works and why it is important to be able to look after yourself when you no longer have the ability to earn money.
We also set aside so much money each month for fun family activities, showing that you do not need immediate gratification and that by planning, saving and managing our money we can all have fun.
Open a bank account with them and actively use it. Make sure it is a book account, so they have to go in to a branch to pay in and take out their money. This way they have to plan spending within banks timescales and again learn that spending is not about instant gratification.
Save smaller denominations to demonstrate how every penny counts. The boys both have a large vodka bottle that they fill with pennies and once a year they exchange it for holiday spending money. It really adds up and Mini is always on the lookout for peoples dropped coins when we are out and about.
Teach your children that buying an experience (ie a trip to a theme park) brings much more happiness than a products (such as an ice cream). Saving for the experience may take longer or be harder, but it makes memories and makes the experiences so much better
Whilst chatting to people about saving and teaching children about money I came across some really great blog posts about it and they are too good not to share, Perle Noire wrote a super post on how she teaches her family about saving, Cat from Yellow days, uses money as a maths tool and makes learning really fun, Becky from Baby Budgeting and Family Budgeting is really worth following for her fab money saving tips too.

Chatham Marine Wake Pro Deck Ankle Boot Review

Now we do not have a boat, but MadDad has been wearing these for the last few weeks and said that they are extremely light and conformable. They are perfect for the warmer weather as they have side ventilation in the leather and look smart with trousers or even shorts.

The blurb:

The professional quality performance deck boot everyone has been waiting for. Wake G2 is a technical boat boot with 5 eyelets, premium leathers, mesh panel inserts and a butted raw edge apron seam with rolled mesh padded collars. Full interior leather and cotton linings for your comfort, a strobal construction and a full length perforated padded sock make this one of the most comfortable ankle boots on the market. On top of all of that, this shoe comes with a 2 year manufacturers guarantee.

A boot that comes with a two year guarantee well that is new to me and we are really impressed with the quality of these boots. They might be designed for the sailor, but they are also perfect for walking and playing with the boys too.

Connect with your children at mealtimes 4

However, I really encourage chatting and communication. When the boys were younger we had a news style roundup from each of us, where we “reported” our news and events from the day, which included what was had for dinner, what we have done, places we have been and also anything we needed to remember. MadDad and I did this as well as the boys. I would ask open ended questions about their day and encourage them to remember as much about it as they could. Food can always be warmed up.

Other ways to encourage conversation at the dinner table include:

Use story cubes
Ask questions such as What was the best part of your day?
My boys love hearing about when they were younger or other family members, so have conversations about how you chose their name or how you and your partner met.
Try finding foods all of a certain colour or starting with a certain letter.
My boys study a different topic each half term and we find out what it is and use that. For example recently the boys have been learning about Australia and Africa and we have been discussing our visit to South Africa and Captain James Cook who was from our area. The school provides us with the topic list each term and we make sure we research it, so we have something to discuss with them.
Why not let your children interview you and you them.

Try Something New With Your Family During National Family Week

Try Something New With Your Family During National Family Week
Do you spend enough time with your family? As our schedules get busier and budgets get tighter, enjoying real quality time with our loved ones seems to have become something of a luxury, never mind using that time to do something really memorable. However, there’s a great reason this May to clear your diary – National Family Week, which encourages families to get together by highlighting the importance of family time, and organising hundreds of family-friendly events across the UK.
Taking place between the 27th May and 2nd June, there’s bound to be a fantastic National Family Week event in your local area, but there’s no reason why you can’t just hold your own! National Family Week is also a fantastic time to try something new with your family to make the week really special, and create some memories that will last a lifetime. Here are four great ideas to get you started.
Try a New Restaurant
If there’s an exciting-looking restaurant that’s opened up in your area, National Family Week is the ideal time to give it a whirl, and enjoy some tasty grub with your family – now that’s a good excuse to leave the office early! Alternatively, if money is short, try cooking a dinner together and getting the kids involved. They’ll get to learn a new skill or two, and you’ll all have a wonderful time.
Have a Craft-ernoon
There are few things more fun than getting your hands dirty, so this National Family Week, set aside an afternoon for the whole family to get stuck into some crafts. If your children are very young, help them to make cress heads or painted pasta jewellery, or for older children, you could all collaborate on a larger project such as making a scrapbook, creating teacup candles, or even using decoupage to decorate an item of furniture. As well as enjoying some crucial bonding time, you’ll all have a keepsake to remember the day by.
Send a Smile
Do you remember when you were young, and everyone had a pen pal? In the age of email and texting, writing letters has fallen by the wayside, so get your family together to put pen to paper during National Family Week, and send a note to those faraway family members. You could invest in a beautiful letter-writing set or just pick up some funny cards from the greetings card specialist Hallmark but don’t forget to include some rib-tickling stories and a photo or two.
Get Sporty
Don’t let the summer pass you and your family by! Grab a Frisbee or football and get outside in the fresh air during National Family Week, or even better, why not organise a ‘Sports Day’ for your family and friends? You can hold an egg and spoon race, a bean-bag throwing contest, and of course the obligatory sack race, and ensure an unforgettable afternoon of fun that you’ll want to hold again and again.

Tips for visiting Thorpe Park from Cass at Frugal Family 3

We are booked to spend the weekend at Thorpe Park this weekend and Cass at Frugal Family visited with her family a couple of weeks ago, so I asked her to let me know what I needed and her tips. She was also kind enough to pop them in a blog post to share with you too!

The frugals at Thorpe Park

When I heard that Jen and the boys were off to Thorpe park this weekend, I was so pleased for them as we had a lovely weekend there a few weeks ago.

We planned our trip carefully as we wanted to get the most out of the weekend and I had loads to tell Jen about what she needed to do when she got there. Being a typical blogger, Jen told me to write her a post about what she should be planning for so here you go….

Before you go, make sure you’re getting the best deal possible as there’s lots of offers out there at the minute – Friij, Coke and using your Tesco vouchers are the main ones that I know of at the minute.

Getting there is really easy which is always a bonus when travelling with children! I know that Jen is driving down from the North East but we went by train which meant we arrived at Staines train station. There’s a bus that runs about regularly between the train station and Thorpe Park which costs £3.50 per adult return or £2.50 per child return. If you’d prefer though, you can get a taxi which is £2.50 each way (minimum of four passengers).

When you get to the park and you’re through the gates there’s a brilliant locker room downstairs in the dome where you can store your belongings in a large locker for £1.00. I had an empty carrier in my handbag so I literally took out everything that wasn’t essential for the day, popped it in the carrier and left it in the locker. There’s nothing worse than wandering around with a heavy bag!

If you’ve bought the fast track passes (which are excellent) make sure you know the time slots that you need to be at each of the rides and plan your visit around that because some of them are quite far away from each other.

One thing to be aware of are the height restrictions in place at Thorpe park as the minimum height restriction for the larger rides is 1.4m – very sensible decision to me looking at the scare factor of the rides but very unfair in the eyes of an eight year old who is just under the height and had to watch as his dad and sister went on some of the rides without him. I think the height restriction is higher here than in some parks we’ve been to but the rides are in a different class to the ones we’ve seen before. There’s plenty for all ages to go on though so don’t worry if your children are under that height – it really is just the larger rides they won’t be able to go on.

We saved a fortune buying two refillable drinks for £6 which we shared between us and carried round all day getting them filled from time to time. We also took a picnic to eat which would have been great as there were lots of places we could have sat except we ate it on the train on the way!

Oh, another thing. You get very, very wet on the water rides so it’s worth having a few pound coins so you can use the dryer things that they have near each ride. I would usually say that things like this are a waste of money but they were great and stopped any whinges about being wet.

If you’re staying at the Crash Pad, make sure you book a table for tea – we forgot to and the only bookings left when we arrived at 7pm to eat were for 9pm. Luckily the coffee shop sold some rather delicious carrot cake so we weren’t that gutted that we had to wait 😉

Also, make sure you take advantage of the early entry into the park if you are staying at the Crash Pad – the staff are great and literally start the ride as soon as you get strapped in so you can take full advantage of the 20 minutes or so before the park officially opens.

The App is great too – it tells you what the current queuing times for each ride are so don’t forget to download that before you go.

I can’t think of anything else but I’m sure Jen will have lots more to tell you when she gets back.

Have fun x x

I have to say we only told the MiniMads of our trip last night and they were jumping around with excitement If you have been I would love to know your top tips and be prepared to see lots of pictures and tweets marked #ThorpeParkMums over this weekend!

The Virtues of Laidback Parenting 1

The Virtues of Laidback Parenting
I grew up on the stage. From ballet lessons to freestyle to jazz to musical theatre to drama classes, I was an all-singing all-dancing child that adored dress rehearsals and the thrill of applause. Clad in character shoes, a scrapped back bun and glitter, I would waddle on the stage with a perfected plié and my proud parents, who drove me to theatre school every Saturday, would gleam at me from the stalls. It was pretty magical and undoubtedly, hugely expensive (although that didn’t cross my mind when I was a child).
So, did I become a west end super star after ten years of theatrical teachings? No. No I didn’t. Not even close. Sure, I had dreams of grandeur and I’m still a major fan of musicals and all things jazz hands, but two things got in the way.
Firstly, I’m really crap at dancing. I have no natural rhythm, agility or grace and my poor parents had to sit through hours of the Sugar Plump Fairy. Secondly, I made the conscious decision to focus on my education, no less. At the age of 12 I was offered an agent and the possibility of a bit role in Eastenders but, ever the sensible Susan, I told my parents that I wanted to wait until I’d completed my GCSEs and then my A-levels. Unsurprisingly, A-levels led to a degree (literature) and here I am, over ten years later, with the stage a fading line on the horizon of my history.
The point is, I was never pushed to perform. Sure, my parents supported my artistic endeavors both financially and emotionally, but they never made me go to auditions or forced me to accept that agents offer. Some might argue that, had they applied a little more pressure, my life would be very different and I’d agree. However, it would be different against my will and that’s no place to be. I’d likely resent them for having taken away my freedom of choice and mightn’t have harnessed the kind of independence that I so cherish now. As I’m sure is true of many children’s hobby clubs, I saw many a parent/child relationship crumble under the applied pressure of success. There was always the kid that had the beautifully handmade costume and the most dramatic make-up. Her ballet shoes were the best money could buy and she had a personalized Pineapple dance bag with a matching water flask. I, on the other hand, was in a hand-me-down leotard. To the super-kids, performing was a lot more than a hobby; it anchored their home lives and their relationships, it was their future.
As an adult, I’m totally pro liberal, laidback parenting. My folks allowed me to explore my interests without the burden to succeed. That’s what education was for. Singing and dancing was for fun and that’s an important distinction to make I think. Indeed, these days’ lots of clubs focus on the latter, providing a place where children can nourish their imaginations rather than their trophy cabinet. From surfing to horse riding, motorsports to magic, the hobbyists gamut has never be so varied. If I could go back and do my time again, a Glee club summer camp would have been my idea of heaven on earth. Sadly, Glee Club didn’t exist when I was a sprog. I had to settle for Fame, which my darling mother took me to see as a birthday treat – although the Phantom of the Opera remains my absolute favourite production of all time.
Sure, I’ll never be Christine Daaé and it’s unlikely that Steven Spielberg is going to call any time soon to star me in an onscreen adaption of Starlight Express, but I’ve gained something quite different from all my years as an infant thespian. I’ve become a confident and somewhat dramatic individual that possess the virtues of independence, golden memories and a dedicated passion for the theatre. Okay, I still haven’t mastered the step-ball-change but once a Sugar Plump Fairy, always a Sugar Plump Fairy, I figure.

Adventures for children in Magaluf

Adventures for children in Magaluf
Magaluf, on the Spanish island of Majorca, is a holiday resort that is as much a destination for children and families as it is for the young adult crowd looking to party. From mainland Europe, flights to Magaluf really don’t cost a fortune, and in addition to the endless sunshine and family-friendly beaches, there are lots of activities for children to keep them entertained.
Let the kids run free at the Western Water Park and they’ll spend all day darting between the slides and attractions. With an Old West theme, there are rides like The Beast for thrill seeking youths who want a slide with a 30-metre drop or the family attraction Mega Slide, where riders raft down a 260-metre slide as a group. There’s also a diving show where kids can enjoy watching professional divers do tricks and flips in the air.
Looking to venture outside Magaluf? Then you might be interested in taking the Palma-to-Soller train, which is a day trip by way of vintage railroad through beautiful countryside to Soller. There aren’t many vintage trains still in operation and it’s a treat for children and adults to travel this way and feel like you’re journeying into the past.
If your children are interested in nature and want a break from the sunshine, there is an amazing cave near Porto Cristo called the Caves of Drach. The name translates to Cavern of the Dragon, which is sure to peak the kids’ interest and imaginations. Within the cave is a hidden lake considered to be one of the largest subterranean lakes in the world. Take a cave tour, which lasts about an hour and includes a classical concert on the lake, and enjoy the cool ambiance as the music bounces around this ‘cavernous’ space! There’s also a light show that imitates the sunrise and the chance to take a boat ride across the lake. A day at the cave is truly a magical adventure for children.
With such a variety of outdoor and inexpensive activities to choose from, parents can’t go wrong by booking a holiday Magaluf this summer and making some awesome memories to bring back home.

Join me and Vanquis for a Money Management Twitter Party on Wed 5 June at 7.30pm #SmartMoney

I have freely admitted that we have had to borrow money in the past and that using credit cards to pay the mortgage quickly spiraled and things could have got very messy, very fast. Vanquis are well aware that people do get into trouble and have set up a site to help with all those questions you might have and to give you practical debt advice and resources.

I know that it can be far too easy to bury your head in the sand and feel as though there is no where to go and nothing you can do, but actually taking control of your finances is incredibly empowering and can help you feel more in control of a difficult situation.

I know how hard it can be to manage money and finances in the current financial climate and talk a lot about saving money on my other blog A Thrifty Mum. But we really want to hear from you and I hope that together we can share some brilliant top tips that will help us all. Even though I often write about family money saving and management I still have a lot to learn and I love getting new tips and ideas.

So why not join me and Vanquis for a money management twitter party on Wednesday 5 June at 7.30pm with you top tips for money management.

Walkers Hoops and Crosses Review

For alas neither of the boys were at all keen on them. They really didn’t like the strong roast beef flavour and in the end MadDad ate them and informed me they were a lot like Monster Munch in texture.

I decided that I really liked the idea of Hoops and Crosses and picked up a six pack of salt and vinegar (£1.89 in asda or 3 packs for £4) and they went down much better.

Updating the Kitchen – Moodboard 4

As I have said I have a love of mid century and Orla Kiely has a great interpretation of it. I love her tins and fell hard for her melamine range. The tray is a great size and the handles makes it perfect for the boys to carry. The containers are going to get a lot of use from storing baking to summer picnics.

I adore Camila Prada’s designs, they are clearly the love children of Tove Jansson and Orla Kiely. We use a Koko storage jar as a sugar dish and it makes me smile everytime I use it. I love functional peices that look good and work for us and rather than having the same things as everyone else I am happy to save up for the item I want or ask for it for Christmas!

Most of you will know by know that I am a tea monster too and when Not on the High Street offered me a gift I decided to get a Linda Bloomfield tea pot. I choose the handmade 2 cup size and it is reassuringly heavy and pours beautifully. It is a delight to use and makes drinking tea even more enjoyable. MadDad things is looks rather breast like and it is delightfully tactile

After losing yet another lamp shade and cup to a ball in the house, we decided we needed some family rules and Find me a gift were happy to help and sent me a personalised family rules print. My rules are: no balls in the house, try new things, use kind words, mind your manners, do your best, laugh out loud, be happy, share, enjoy the little things and keep your promises. What would yours be?

I am planning a video of my updated kitchen as soon as a few last things are finished and in place.

Angelina, Me and BCRA 35

At this point Mini, my second child was around one I was offered the test too. MadDad and myself went along to meet the pretest councillor and discussed all the implications of having a positive test. We left those meetings really feeling as though I needed to have the test and I need to be aware of what my risk would be. Do I had the test and two weeks later we went back for the results, only to be told that I too carried the faulty gene too.

We went home reeling, especially as I had been told that my lifetime risk of breast cancer was over 80% and my lifetime risk of ovarian cancer was in excess of 60%. However, we decided to look up on this as a positive thing and do the only thing I felt able to do which was to gather as much information as possible about treatment and screening. I had a mammogram and an MRI on my breasts, but both were really hard to interpret due to my age (the younger you are the more dense the breast tissue is) and also the fact I had large breasts.

It was around this time that we made the hard decision that we were not going to have anymore children and that I needed to be well for the two I had and to have my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. I did this first as there is some studies that shown the risk of ovarian cancer increases at 35 and also it is a silent killer and there was no screening I could have at the time.

Four months later we made the informed decision to have a double mastectomy and immediate reconstruction with implants. We made the decision to have implants due to MIni being under a year old and the recovery would be quicker. So I went in for my operation on 28 February. Unfortunately for me things were not straightforward and I had issues with the implants and subsequently spent a lot of time in hospital with sepsis and had to have the implants removed and another operation to remove some more tissue sue to the pathology of the previously removed breasts.

It was a hard and very emotional time for me and my family. I was in hospital for over six weeks over a two month period. But I reduced my risk of breast cancer to less than 5%. I still have not had a reconstruction, but when the boys are more self sufficient I will.

Crafting with Post-it notes 6

The boys really enjoyed being allowed to stick the post-it notes to the wall and I felt safe in the knowledge knowing that they would not mark the paintwork or stick permanently.

We used Super Sticky fully adhesive Post-it notes which are in fab vibrant colours. 3M have just launched Post-It Notes Colour Cubes which have many more bright and lovely colours. Why not check out Post-It UK Facebook Page for more information on the new range of Post-It Notes and see other peoples pictures too.

Win a Forestry Commission Discovery Pass 33

I am a huge advocate of free range parenting and natural play. One of the ways I encourage this is by taking the boys to our local woods and also to Dalby Forest, which we are ambassadors for.

I want them to learn that they can climb trees, roll in leaves and use natures playgroup. I want them to learn all about unstructured play. I want to encourage them to build dens and look out for nature. In short I want them to have balance in their lives, I want them to have a natural childhood along with the technology that pervades their lives.

I am sure that I am not the only parent that feels this way. If so then this giveaway is perfect for you.

My smile is the mask I wear every day 22

In the past I have struggled with depression and I still have numerous health issues, but I do not want these to define me. I worked hard to overcome my depression and it is not something that I often dwell on. Most of the time I am a pretty positive person.

Recently I made an error and I fear that I have lost one of the people that I used to call a good friend. This fills me with deep sadness and I do not know how to make things better, in fact I do not think there is anything I can do to make it better. Hopefully time will heal things , either that or I will just have to let go and mourn the loss of a good friend from my own stupidity.

I am at my happiest when I am with my family. When I am surrounded with MadDad and the boys on a weekend. I love having them around and I love doing things together with them. I am putting myself out a little bit more and have been enjoying my weekly sewing class, even if I am the youngest by two generations!

I am currently trying to pluck up the courage to go to the local WI group tonight, but worry that I will be the only one under 50! I have left four messages for them, but they have not got back to me, so wondering if I should just go.

Sometimes I just wonder if it is me that feels this way or if I am just feeling a little down in the dumps?

Five Essential Pieces for a Summer City Break

Five Essential Pieces for a Summer City Break

When it comes to summer we don’t all want to rush to the beach for a lazy fortnight in the sun. Some of us prefer to explore the sights and sounds of new cities across the world. City breaks offer shopping, museums, arts and culture as well as fantastic new cuisine to discover. These days with budget airlines it’s often a good idea to pack as little as possible so that you can carry on your luggage. A few key pieces will see you through your break in style, whether you’re pounding the pavements exploring the sights or enjoying a night out in style.

Linen Blend Shorts
It’s good news for those of us who prefer not to reveal too much leg that this year, longer shorts are on trend. A great pair of shorts is your ideal partner for a summer city break. They’re comfortable and cool and look ideal paired with relaxed jersey T-shirts. Bonmarché’s Linen Blend Shorts [link to –
] are a longer length style available in a selection of colours. With a drawstring waist they’re comfortable as well as classic so a good choice for your flight too.

Monochrome Print Jersey Maxi Dress
Sometimes you want to feel feminine or just that little bit glamorous. The fabulous maxi dress is a real winner here. In relaxed jersey fabric they are easy to dress up or down for whatever your break brings. For daytime wear pair yours with a smart pair of plimsolls and a fine knit cardigan to keep out any sign of a chill. For evenings simply add a little touch of bling from your jewellery box and pretty sandals and you’re ready for a meal out in style. The Monochrome Print Jersey Maxi Dress by Bonmarché is a good choice and in neutral monochrome it’s easy to add a splash of colour in your accessories if you feel like it.

Stretch Cotton Capri Trousers
Cropped trousers are a key length for the season and they’re effortlessly chic too. To take you comfortably from day to night Bonmarché’s Stretch Cotton Capri Trousers are a great option. Capri’s can be paired with flats and a simple jersey T-shirt for a chic daytime look that is perfect for touring museums and art galleries. For evening just switch pumps for heels and a blouse and you have a new look in an instant.

Embroidered and Beaded Scoop Neck T-Shirt Jersey T-shirts are an all-time classic for any situation. They’re flattering on every figure, comfortable and, even better, easy to pack. If you like clothing with a little more detail then choose something with a pattern or embroidery such as a the Embroidered and Beaded Scoop Neck T-Shirt by Bonmarché. Take a selection along on your city break and you can’t go far wrong.

Sleeveless Frill Front Blouse
Most city breaks offer the chance of a night on the tiles or two whether it’s enjoying an opera or dining out at an elegant restaurant. A blouse is lightweight to pack but adds a touch of glamour in an instant. Choose something that flatters your figure to have you oozing with confidence. A blouse with a detail in the centre is a failsafe way to bring attention to the middle of your body and in so doing create the illusion of a slimmer you. Try the Sleeveless Frill Front Blouse by Bonmarché with its pretty ruffle front. It’s perfect to pair with a delicate knit cardigan or fitted jacket if the evenings are cooler. Try with the Capri Trousers for a practical yet chic look and for added glamour add a chunky bracelet.