Monthly Archives: June 2013

Summer Manifesto 2013 2

Summer Manifesto 2013

Continue to find time for the things I enjoy whilst the boys are off school – sewing etc. I am going to try some english paper piecing as it is portable so I can do it if we are at the park etc.
Make a family summer bucket list.
Practice my crochet. After over two years of trying I think I might have cracked it! I made a coaster!
Menu plan – Menu planning save me money, time, effort and makes us all happier. This is something that has slipped recently, so I am going to endeavor to do this weekly.
Declutter. Both the boys want their bedrooms changing round, so I’m going to do a boot sale and also clear the garage over the summer (yes, really!).
Go camping with the boys .
Realise that we do not have to have a strict summer schedule to enjoy the summer. I want the boys to get board and learn to make their own entertainment.
To turn off more. Less electronic time, more family time.
Have a family picnic once a week. There is nothing wrong with doing this on a school evening. We need to get out more and this would be a great way to connect as a family.
What are your goals and aims for the summer?

Family Beach Essentials 1

So what are my essentials:

For me it is a decent pair of shoes, I love these womens fitflops from the MoZiMo Website. I tend to go bare foot on the dry sand, but as our beach goes a long way out, I like trainer style shoes to walk on it!.
I also suggest large bright beach towels (great place markers) and also good for sitting on and getting dry.
UV wear for the boys. Yes we always have sunscreen on, but the more protection the better.
Even at 7 and 8 the boys love toweling robes. perfect for getting warm and dry.
A large bag for putting it all in
Kindle – just for me!
Beach toys, such as balls, kites, bucket and spades.
baby powder or talk, perfect for removing sand before putting shoes on
Beach kettle and cups. There is always time and the need for tea.
I also have in the car, a beach tent, windbreak and spare change for the parking meter.

Keep your garden in shape this summer 1

Keep your garden in shape this summer
If the weather is good – and you’ve made preparations for adequate seating areas and so on in previous months – then your garden might be a fantastic place to be right now. However, there are plenty of things green-fingered individuals can do to help it remain looking at its best. Just as boiler insurance can cover you for winter; these steps could get you prepared for some pleasant evenings ahead with your feet up.
Love your lawn
If during the colder weather your lawn was neglected somewhat then it might be worth giving it a little extra tender, loving care this month. Regular mowing – at least once every couple of weeks – is perhaps the best way to keep it looking at its best. Don’t let your cuttings go to waste either as they can be added to your compost bin.
If necessary, don’t be afraid to add a little fertiliser to your grass and tackle weeds by uprooting them or using an appropriate weed killer. Avoid yellow patches by moving around garden ornaments or furniture regularly.
You could also take the time to tidy up your borders, this can improve the definition of your garden and make your shrubs look better than ever.
Welcome the right kind of wildlife
While certain visitors to your backyard – such as snails, slugs and beetles – may not be particularly welcome due to the damage they can cause, others are likely to be a more enjoyable sight. Birds might effectively remove problems by preying on them and avoid you having to but down potentially harmful pellets. So keep hedgerows thick enough for them to nest in, place a birdbath and consider putting up nesting boxes.
Take care of indoor plants
Why not take advantage of the time freed up by not needing to worry about your boiler cover for at least a few months by concentrating on some other tasks? If you’ve household plants then make sure they are getting enough water and re-plant those that appear to be outgrowing their containers. You should also try to get the right balance between time spent outside and indoors. So bring them in on a cold night, place them in the garden on a pleasant day and use blinds to avoid them scorching.
Collect water to avoid wastage
In summer the money saved on central heating bills can quite easily be eaten in to by the costs of increased water usage. It may, therefore, be wise to install a water butt in your back yard to collect rainwater. This can then be used to keep your plants healthy and prevent you from needing to get the hosepipe out. The same applies to grey water, which is particularly useful during water shortages. So why not save your leftover bath or washing up water for your plants? If you do have crops that you plan to eat then it’s best to avoid using it on them due to the potential for contamination.

Modernise your Lounge: Top Tips for the Minimalist Look 2

Modernise your Lounge: Top Tips for the Minimalist Look
A minimalist home certainly isn’t for everyone – in fact, it’s nigh on impossible if you have a family home full of messy kids and moulting pets with grubby paws. If you’re the sort of person who would be able to apply a minimalistic approach to your home, then it’s a bang on trend style that can look amazing if you know how.
If you plan on turning your living room into a simple and stylish sanctuary, you need to give some thought to what pieces of furniture you’re going to have in there and where you’re going to store all the clutter that you’ll be moving off the shelves. Choosing a standout piece as a focal point, such as one of the sleek and stylish corner sofas from Sofas and Stuff UK will help to direct the eye to a centrepiece that will set the mood for the room perfectly.
As far as turning your home into a minimalist heaven is concerned, there is no right place to start. Change the way you think, find a place for everything that is out of sight and keep your home decluttered and you will have the basics for the minimalistic look. Simplifying an entire house isn’t easy, so start with one room and move from there. The living room is an ideal place to begin, because it’s one of the main rooms you’ll use day-to-day.
Look at the furniture you have and try to whittle it down to the bare necessities. The fewer items you have, the more minimalist your lounge will look. The trick is to remove furniture without affecting comfort – ask yourself what pieces are essential and take away the things that aren’t.
Other than furniture, your floors and surfaces should be clear. Wooden floors and light, shagpile carpets work well in a minimalist room as long as you can stay on top of cleaning them. Avoid storing things on the floor and surfaces, or stacking things next to your sofa – that defeats the point entirely. Find a home for everything, apart from a choice item or two which will add striking visual appeal – a vase of fresh flowers and an elegant ornament, perhaps.
Living in a minimalist home is difficult but if you can change the way you think about your pad, you will be able to enjoy the simplicity and tranquillity associated with it.

Tips for LEGOLAND WIndsor with 7 and 8 year old 10

We love LEGO and we are also huge fans o0f LEGOLAND. We go to the LEGOLAND Windsor once a year and Maxi and I were lucky enough to visit Legoland Florida earlier in the year too. On Fathers Day The Mad Blog Awards hosted their first #MadDayOut at LEGOLAND Windsor and we were lucky enough to be asked to come along and help at the event.

My boys are 132cm and 127 cm, so can go on every ride. Maxi, who is the taller child can go on them all independently. Mini can go on most independently, but needs to be accompanied by an adult on some of the others. We were also gifted a gold VIP wrist band, which I believe is the equivalent of a Q-BOT Ultimate. This meant that we skipped the queue on every ride. We managed to go on every ride in the p-ark in one day and there were no queues! Was it worth it? Well once both the boys are over 130cm we will buy then a Q-BOT Ultimate each, as it made the day so much more special and as a trip to LEGOLAND is a once a year thing for us I would rather save up and do it in style.

So What are our top tips for making the most out of your visit to LEGOLAND?

Get there early – The park opens for general visitors at 10am. Get there early for the park opening. It is quietest first thing on a morning.
Pick up a lost parent wrist band at the beginning of the park (Guest Services). These are invaluable. There are a lo0t of children and it is easy to lose one as Penny will tell you.
Head for the rear of the park first. The most popular rides are driving school and boating school, so it pays to get the queuing out of the way first and we found the queues much less on a morning. We start at the back and work our way forward.
If you stay in the LEGOLAND Hotel you get access to Atlantis 30 minutes early.
Be prepared to get wet. Splash rides include Pirate Falls Dynamite Drench, SQUID Surfer and Vikings River Splash. We use poncho’s to ensure that we have dryish clothes!
Take swim wear or UV wear for children. The new DUPLO Splash Valley and Drench Towers is a superb water area with slides, fountains, water guns and much more. There is a toddler area and an older child area. It is great fun and perfect for when your children are flagging. We managed to both grab a cup of tea whilst the boys made the most of the water.
There can be a lot of walking and waiting, so if you have a buggy take it. Even if your child doesn’t normally use it.
Make use of all your time. We stayed till closing time, a lot of people leave earlier so the queues get shorter.
Turn up for the Pirate of skeleton bay show early (20 mins approx before the start) and put down a picnic blanket a little to the right of the control booth on the corner. The show is brilliant and will be enjoyed by all. The harbour coffee shop does starbucks quality lattes. Even better this is the perfect place and time to have your lunch in front of the show, its fab! And bring a picnic as food is ridiculously expensive.

Ways to keep costs down

Take a packed lunch. There are areas for eating your packed lunch or snacks. You can also go back to the car to get it. There are also lockers at the beginning if you want to store your bags, but they do not refund your coins.
Kids eat free after 3pm in certain restaurants
Get a refillable drink for £7, especially if it is warm. You can use the drinks bottle once you get home too.
Get the shopping over with at the beginning. Set a budget and make sure you stick to it! You can also leave your purchases their to collect on your way home.
Keep an eye out for 2 for 1 deals by search on line.
If you are travelling the park have an affiliation with a number of hotels and you can get your second day free. It is worth checking out booking both hotel and park entrance with these hotels.
We had THE best time, in fact Mini called it Epic. To see more pictures why not take a look at our LEGOLAND 2013 Google+ picture album

Top ten food safety tips to protect your family from kitchen bugs 2

Top ten food safety tips to protect your family from kitchen bugs

Last week was Food Safety Week 2013, run by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and this year they focused on ways to reduce the risk of food poisoning at home. Here are some simple tips to help keep you and your family safe.

1. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before cooking and after changing nappies, touching the bin, using the toilet, handling pets or preparing raw food.

2. Wash or change dish cloths, tea towels, sponges and oven gloves regularly and let them dry fully before you use them again.

3. Remove unnecessary clutter and wash worktops before and after cooking to prevent cross-contamination.

4. Always use a chopping board and wash the board in hot, soapy water after using and in between preparing raw and ready-to-eat foods. Better still, use a separate chopping board for each.

5. You don’t need to wash raw meat or poultry as thorough cooking will kill any surface germs. Washing meat can actually splash germs and raw juices onto other surfaces and equipment.

6. Make sure your fridge is set below 5°C to prevent harmful germs from growing and multiplying.

7. Don’t overfill your fridge. Air needs to be able to circulate to maintain the set temperature. If you are using infant formula we recommend you make up each feed as your baby needs it, using boiled water at a temperature of 70ºC or above to reduce the risk of infection, and use it within 2 hours. If you have no choice but to store made up bottles, do so in the coolest part of your fridge, away from the door, and for no more than 24 hours.

8. Cook food thoroughly until steaming hot in the middle to kill harmful bacteria. Food can then be cooled to a suitable temperature for children by cutting into smaller pieces and separating into shallow bowls, or even placing in a sealed container and running it under cold water.

9. ‘Use by’ dates are typically found on perishable products (dairy, meat and fish) and are based on scientific testing to determine how long these foods will stay safe. After that date, food could be unsafe to eat even if it is correctly stored and looks and smells fine. If you need to store a food for longer, consider freezing it.

10. ‘Best before’ dates are used on foods that have a longer shelf life and tell us how long the food will be at its best. After that date it is normally safe to eat, but its flavour and texture might have deteriorated.

To see how safe your kitchen habits are and for more tips, take the FSA’s Kitchen Check online. You can get your little ones involved too by downloading their fun young people’s activities.

Kitchen Check can be found at:

Fundraising Ideas for Everyone 1

Fundraising Ideas for Everyone
Charities in the UK rely solely on the fundraising efforts of the public, together with donations made via their shops and collections and legacies left in people’s wills. They receive no government funding and in times of financial hardship like those we are currently experiencing during this recession charities find that their funding drops considerably.
This is understandable: when your job is unsafe and you are worried about how you are going to afford food and your mortgage, your ability to donate to charity has to come lower in your list of priorities than it usually would. However, even if you cannot afford to make regular donations yourself, you may still want to help your favourite charity. You could do this through volunteering your time or you could organise a fundraising activity.
You may think that fundraising events are organised on a large scale by dedicated fundraising teams. In fact, anyone can host a fundraiser. All you need is a worthwhile cause that everyone can get behind to support, and an idea for what to do to raise the most money possible. You can get everything you need in terms of forms and advertising online.
For example, the RSPCA has a Choices website where you can not only select a particular project to support (e.g. your local rescue centre, or providing veterinary care to the animals helped by the RSPCA to name but two) but can also download all you need to get your fundraiser up and running. You can also set up a fundraising page online that you can promote through your favourite social networks: it’s really easy, all you have to do is fill in your name, brief details of the project and why you want to support it, and what you’re doing to raise the money (and how your friends can help you to achieve your goal).
Are you stuck for ideas on what sort of event you could organise? A lot will depend on the space you have available and the time you have to organise it. A lot also depends on the weather! Since it’s summer and we’re hopelessly optimistic in the UK about how sunny it will be, here are some ideas for fundraising during the summer months to get you started.
A summer fete is the obvious choice, if you can gather together members of your local community to organise stalls and entertainment. Perhaps speak to your local church or even the PTA at your children’s school about coming together to organise a traditional British fete in a location central to your area. As well as selling crafts and cakes, your local school could put together a dance routine to entertain people, and sell refreshments to raise even more cash. Look into local companies that hire out bouncy castles to see if they will be prepared to donate a bouncy castle or slide for the event. You could also organise races like the egg-and-spoon, sack race or three-legged race with a small donation for taking part. Offer chocolate as prizes – this won’t cost much and you might even be able to get a donation from your local supermarket if you ask and explain what the event is supporting.
On a smaller scale, you could organise a car wash. Look for car parks close to main roads where you can put up a sign advertising the fact that you are washing cars for the RSPCA with a suggested donation of, say, £5 per car. Or you could go door-to-door or call in at local offices that have their own car park and ask if anyone would like their car to be washed for charity.
Whatever you do, have fun organising the event and be pleased that you are doing your best to support a charity that is close to your heart.

Seven 13

How can my baby be seven? All of a sudden he is starting to look like the man he is going to be. So in honor of my darling Mini, this is for you.

You give the best cuddles in the whole wide world, they are all encompassing and frequent. One of my favorite times of the day is that cuddle in my bed before we get up and face the day ahead. Oftren we each say five more minutes.

You have no pause button. You do everything at full speed.

You are extremely sensitive, although you often hide it under your bravado. You care about what other people think and say.

You have my temper! It is like looking into a mirror. I know this is something you are working hard to control, but baby it is going to be a challenge. I know, I have been there, however, it is part of your personality. We talk about being able to learn to read and write, so learning to control your temper will be something you can do too.

Your family mean everything to you. You love us all with a passion.

You are a reader. You love fact books and sleep with your Guinness Book of Records and 2013 Football fact book. Every morning I remove at least 4 books from your bed.

You put your clothes on back to front. When we tell you, you just shrug and say it is “your thing”!

You are still mad about anything London.

Win Your Family Holiday This Year!

Win Your Family Holiday This Year!
The recession has hit most household budgets hard, with families struggling to meet basic outgoings, and not very much left in the pot for luxuries like holidays. If you’re feeling pretty gloomy at the prospect of giving your break a miss this year, imagine how good it would be to win your family holiday this year!
With Cushelle and Butlins, you could do just that. They have teamed up to give away three UK breaks, for families to try out the brand new Wave Hotel at the Bognor Regis Butlins resort. The lucky winners can check in two adults and two children, for a super exciting vacation at Butlins.
Those with older children, between the ages of 8 and 14, will be especially excited by the new Wave Hotel, as everything about it has been carefully designed to appeal to hard to please teens and pre-teens. The designers have gone with a cool and quirky underwater theme, complete with submarine style rooms, and the tech geeks at Butlins have gone all out to integrate the latest gadgets and gizmos to appeal to tech savvy kids.
The piece de resistance is the Games Port, where families can challenge each other to interactive modern games. The hotel also boasts a kindle and iPod library for guests, free Wi-Fi and a Soho Coffee Co Café. In the bright, funky designed rooms you’ll find iPod docks, freeview, and individual DVD players for each bed – saving on squabbles over what to watch!
Outside of the hotel (if you can drag the kids away!), the Bognor resort has also been treated to a brand new fairground, where you can ride your favourites for free! There’s also a fantastic new Discovery Studio hosting live shows themed on science, animals and magic – perfect for inquisitive kids!
It’s got to be worth a quick click to enter – all you have to do is enter a Cushelle barcode online. And even if you’re not a winner, Cushelle will give you £20 off your Butlins break of choice, making a family holiday that little bit more affordable.

Win a years supply of tea for your teacher from Whittards

So why not print the entry form and have them draw their favourite teacher with a comment and email either a photo/scan to by 30 June 2013.

So my boys are going to do one for each of their teachers, when I asked Mini his response was:

My teacher deserves a years supply of tea as he is the BEST teacher in the world, plus he supports Middlesbrough Football Club and they have been relegated.

Maxi thinks this teacher deserves a years supply of tea:

My teacher has beautiful hair and helps me learn and puts in lots of effort.

My Maternity Essentials 1

A friend of a friend is currently pregnant and has asked for tips on all things maternity. Now I wasn’t a very good pregnant person and spent most of it in and out of hospital, but there where somethings that I could not have managed without.

A fragranced candle – Everything smelled odd to me throughout most of my pregnancy. My usual perfume was to strong, MadDad’s aftershave turned my stomach as did cooking smells, however, I found a fragranced candle that I could bear and we had one for each room.

Peppermint tea – I went off tea, coffee and all milky drinks when expecting. I indulged my need for a warm drink with fresh mint tea and during the winter good quality dried tea leaves.

Big pants – I know that a lot of people like under bump pants, but for me I needed big pants. I bought packs of them from M&S and they were fab. They also worked great after I gave birth as they didn’t rub on my c-section scar.

Body Oil – My skin was really dry and I moisturised with body oil, I also used it in the hope of not getting stretch marks too.

Audio books – I just couldn’t concentrate on reading for any length of time and found audio books a real lifesaver.

Bubble bath – I suffered from Hyperemesis throughout both my pregnancies and everyone kept telling me to have ginger (ginger tea, ginger biscuits, ginger ale, ginger everything). Eating generger never did anything for me at all, but a bath with ginger and lime scented oil did give me a little respite.

Acupuncture – This was the only time I got any relief from my sickness throughout my pregnancies. It was worth every penny we paid for it.

Multivitamins inc folic acid – Yes I was vomiting, but I still took vitamins in the hope that some got to my babes!

Cruises: The Perfect Family Holiday?

Cruises: The Perfect Family Holiday?
Cruises are becoming more and more popular for family holidays as many providers have begun to cater for younger couples with children. It is wise to check out the range of cruise deals available for families from some of the well-known cruise lines. Some operators may run from Italy, for example, but children travel free, so costs are cut substantially. Discounted rates usually apply for kids from a large number of liners anyway, just like they would from accommodation providers on the mainland and seats on aeroplanes.
A major benefit of cruises is that there will be few added costs once the upfront reservations have been made. Entertainment, meals and snacks are generally included in the price. Any tours and excursions plus alcohol consumed on the ship will, however, cost extra, so you should bear this in mind if you have a larger group. Cruise liners are like floating holiday villages, and there are sure to be restaurants or buffet bars on board to suit the most picky child eaters. If mealtimes are problematic, it’s possible to allow them to choose their own eating venues, while adult members of the party enjoy the refinements of dressing for dinner and dining in fine restaurants on board the ship.
Many cruise deals offered during school holidays include full daily entertainment for kids in clubs, with regular sports or arts and crafts activities. It is wise to check out the programme of activities available with each particular cruise company and choose an operator that is best suited to the interests of your own kids. From water slide areas where the children can make new friends to tours of the ship and video game lounges, they are sure to have a blast.
Cruises can be a great choice of holiday for the extended family as well – while the kids are allowed to roam around the ship and take part in the activities on offer, parents and grandparents can take time out to relax around adults only pools, in the spa or in any of the comfortable bars or coffee lounges on board the cruise liner. The older generation will appreciate the sheer luxury available on the liner and will also be able to take the time to pursue activities at their own speed rather than rushing around after the grandkids. This is a fantastic way of having a family holiday without spending all of your time together!
When the ship is in port, each member of your party will be able to participate in exciting explorations of cities, seaside villages and wonderful beaches in whichever part of the world the cruise liner docks. So perhaps cruises really do offer the perfect family holiday, although the best way to get the most out of your holiday, as with any trip, is to do some research. Not all cruises accept families, while some specifically cater for multi-generational parties, and some are very child focused (eg. Disney cruises). Shop around a bit to find the option best suited to your own particular tastes.

Colouring in for all ages 12

One such activity, which is perfect for all the family is colouring on fabric. The fabric is from Ikea (TIDNY)and is only £7 per meter and the fabric pens are £7.99 from Yellow Moon. It is an ongoing project and once it is all coloured in I am going to set the c0louring by ironing the fabric and then make it into cushion covers for the family room.

The fabric is really think, so is perfect for children of all ages as you do not have to worry about younger children being heavy handed and ripping the paper or the colour bleeding through. We are also going to get the fabric paints out and use them to do some of the colouring too.

I love this for so many reasons. It is something that we can all do (adults too), it is a quiet activity that gives us time to chat and laugh together as you can see from the images below!

Trash Packs or Trashies for those in the know! 1

Whilst Maxi was at Cub camp last week, Mini and I had lots of fun making up the Slime Trashies. We made gooey, sticky, sewer ooze slime that defies gravity, then we used our ooze to create 3 giant, slime filled Trashies that you can squish, poke and squeeze.
Making them was great fun, Mini had to measure, stir and time his slime and had to wait 30 minutes for it to become fully slimelike, which was great for his patience.

The good thing about trashies is that they are reasonably priced and make great reward and pocket money priced toys.

Saving time and money as well as helping a good cause 1

We’re all looking for easier ways to save these days. If you work from home like me, you’ll probably appreciate the time constraints when it comes to shopping, which is why online discount sites can be a bit of a god send. But when there’s so many offering so much, how do you know you’re getting the best deal out there? Type what you’re looking for into a search engine and thousands of results come up – I don’t know about you, but this sometimes gives me a bit of a headache. So where should you turn to when you’re looking for a decent voucher code for your weekly shopping, new clothes, or any last minute gift emergencies that crop up?

Well, I’ve recently found a site that might be able to help you out. My Favourite Voucher Codes is ever-so-slightly different from the rest of the voucher code sites out there. Yes, they give you access to all the best offers and promo codes from your favourite shops, but they also do a bit of good too – every month, they donate 20% of their net profits to a different charity. And you also get a say in which worthy cause benefits from the donation. Each month, they shortlist three charities and invite users to vote on the recipient. So in June, they’ve chosen three causes that are linked with helping the forces, veterans and their dependents – Help for Heroes, The British Red Cross and The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association.

And if you like to get your online shopping done quick sharpish, there’s also another way they can help. Say you’ve already started searching for your fashion/groceries/books/gifts and you don’t want the hassle of searching back for a discount. There is an easy way! You can download their money saving voucher code app if you have a Chrome or Firefox toolbar – then all you have to do is click on the My Favourite Voucher Codes icon and a list of current offers for that retailer will pop up. Anything that saves time is a bonus in my book.

So many of us do our grocery shopping online these days, but if you’re new to supermarket home delivery or you fancy trying out a different supplier, they’ve got voucher codes for all the big names that can save you quite a bit – for example, this Tesco voucher code saves you £12 when you spend £60 or more on your first online shop with them. And another one of my favourite things about this site – how easy it is to search through the sales for clothes. I found some excellent deals for shops like Dorothy Perkins, Marks and Spencer, New Look and Apricot amongst others.

So next time you want to save a bit of money online, think about using My Favourite Voucher Codes and you’ll be doing a bit of good with the money you do spend too!

Top 5 Mountain Bike Routes in the UK

Top 5 Mountain Bike Routes in the UK

Top tips on where to go – and how best to insure your bike with Allianz Your Cover

The continued success of British cycling in media and professional competitions has been a common, and seemingly endless, source of enthusiasm and great results. Yet it is not only the country’s Olympic victors who are in good health.

Cycling as a national past-time has enjoyed significant leverage in recent decades, bolstered by government and local, NGO-run low-carbon campaigns and get-fit incentives.

If you’re looking to insure your bike before taking it out, Allianz Your Cover ( offers a Bicycle Cover add on which you can add to your current Your Cover insurance policy at any time. The cover will deliver cover up to £5,000 on individual or group cycles worth over £1,000. For a newly-purchased top-of-the range hybrid or off-road bike, this can mean peace of mind should a tumble – or a bad spate of luck – befall you.

From road-biking in the Lake District to BMX-ing the dirt trails of Braintree, Essex, cycling in all shapes and forms is enjoying a renaissance. Mountain biking is also undergoing its own mini-revival, with new trails being built and developed across the UK – a sure sign that things are looking good.

Allianz Your Cover provides you with five trails to visit – including four big hitters, and one newbie we’re interested to see progress.

1. Coed-Y-Brenin, Wales
This list is dominated by Wales and Scotland for good reason – their landscape and climates provide perfect conditions for great mountain biking. Coed-Y-Brenin is an excellent example of that – according to the Daily Telegraph it’s the “birthplace of modern mountain bike centres” – and with a range of trails, including the tricky Temtiwr 9km, it has enough to suit even the experienced rider.

2. Glentress, Scotland
Glentress is without doubt one of the most well-known mountain bike destinations in the UK – known for its wide appeal, with easy green runs all the way of to a freeride park graded orange run for the extremely confident. Set in the Tweed Valley Forest Park, it is also a beautiful spot.

3. Fort William, Scotland
Best enjoyed by those with a little experience under their belts – not least so you can catch a glimpse of the view whilst tackling some craggy, technical trails that place you under the breathtaking shadow of the mountains including Ben Nevis. The Witch’s Trail comes highly recommended!

4. Coed Llandegla, North Wales
A privately-owned and run wood trail in the north of Wales. Owned by UPM Tilhill – a major timber and forest services provider – it is the first privately-owned forest to be recognised by the forestry commission as a provider of sustainable timber. What it also provides is great cycling, well-cared for tracks, and great wildlife.

5. One to watch out: Rostrevor, Northern Ireland
It might be a bit soon to be on the list of top destinations, but we couldn’t help but include the latest addition to the mountain bike roster in the UK – Northern Ireland’s Rostrevor. To be opening gradually over the spring/summer 2013, this new destination promises world class trails, according to this BBC report.

Redefining the concept of me time 15

I recently used the above as a title about needing to have time away from the children and taking time out for me and I received a tweet from Kirsty Younger saying she misinterpreted by title and though I was really redefining the concept of me time.

For the next couple of days this tweet kind of sat in my mind making my brain twitch somewhat. It was like an itch that needed scratching. Should I be redefining the concept me time?

One of the things that irks me about “me time” for woman is people often talk about using this time to get pampered or to pamper himself and I was so guilty of this in my last post. However, I am one of those woman who find a trip to the hairdressers a stressful experience and would rather sit in silence that chat about the weather or the next holiday the stylist is going on. Put me in a spa situation and I feel like a four year old child on her first day of school. I am never sure of the right etiquette and again who wants to have small talk whilst someone is checking out your nose for blackheads and judging you on your lack of skincare regime. A spa is the seventh circle of hell for me, not something I would want to do with any precious alone time I might have.

The more I thought about me time, the harder it was to define in the first place never mind redefine. Have my standards dropped since becoming a mum. Do I not wash my hair or paint my nails often enough. Do I need to carve out more time in my day to do this, or would my spare time time be better spent learning something new like I am with my sewing class? I know that I am getting so much out of getting out of the house and meeting new people and learning new skills. It is fast becoming my favorite day of the week. Plus I am able to put my new found skills to work making quilts and things for people I love.

But here is lies the crux of the issue. In order to redefine or even define me time you need to get past the part of your brain that feels guilty that as a mother or partner you are putting yourself first before your children or other people in your life. That you could possibly not be satisfied by all the other things in your life and need to look for some other outlet. But I am learning that guilt is the strongest emotion I possess and if I let it, it will always come to the front of my mine and I am no longer going to let my life be ruled by guilt. Whether it be my own guilt in the form of self deprecation and self worth or even self bullying or the guilt of other people that feel that by me needing some time away from my family that I am doing a disservice to mothers everywhere rule my life anymore.

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Accept Family Support? 1

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Accept Family Support?

How do you know when it’s time to accept family support? It’s a question asked often on forums and to friends over coffee, but rarely is it a question answered in an easy to manage way. Often prevention is better than cure, and early intervention theorists have long suggested that getting help before major problems arise is a sure fire way to ensure children don’t have to go through the same negative emotions and problems that their parents suffered before them.

You can take advice and get clued up on the options available now, to prevent problems later.

Help For Separation

Family breakdowns are one of the toughest things to have to deal with, but one thing to keep in mind is that for both partners, the emphasis should be on ensuring the children suffer as little as possible. Maintaining good relationships between you and your ex may not be practical, but there are counselling sessions you can arrange through your local authority to work out ways to reach more amicable terms, and places you can go for advice on how to deal with sharing child-minding responsibilities and reaching decisions on what to tell your children.

Support with Special Needs

The main thing to remember if you’re dealing with special needs children is that there is no shame in asking for support. Trying to work it all out on your own will probably lead to bigger problems and breakdowns from stress. The introduction of the new Children and Families bill, announced recently in the Queens speech should help make the process of getting help easier and more readily available for families struggling. The assessment process for children will be sped up, better budgets for parents with special needs children and better guidance available from your local authority.

Support for Children

If you find managing the relationships with your children difficult, or their behaviour leaves you despairing then don’t feel alone, there are plenty of measures to take and support you can benefit from with organizations like Action for Children who run children’s centres, and also advice on dealing with anger management issues experienced by children on websites like OnePlusOne.

Financial Support

Financial management is essential to keeping the balance in families, so make sure money issues aren’t causing you more stress than necessary by speaking to your bank about repayment options on loans, or getting advice from and government advice websites which offer support and guidance on debt, budgeting and everything in-between.

The big thing to take away from this is to never suffer in silence. If you find yourself struggling with care of children, finances or separation there are provisions available to offer support in all manner of ways. Social services is something people tend to fear as a last ditch method before break down of the family, but it should be seen as a support network designed to prevent break downs and stress. There are also new legislations being introduced by the current government to offer better support to those with special needs children.

So don’t leave it too late to ask for help.