3 May 2016

Win a Travel with Children Book by Lonely Planet.

Last year, at the Family Travel Show, I was delighted to see a stand by the very famous Lonely Planet people. Their books have been invaluable companions over the years to those of us who like to explore places abroad - going off the beaten track and living as the locals do. 

Nowadays, of course they've gone all 21st Century with apps galore, giving invaluable up to date information and what-not-to-miss tips for almost anywhere you can think of and they have also moved with the times of their millions of devotees by encouraging us to continue to travel with our children.  They sell our planet as anything but lonely - more of a huge opportunity for inspiring and inter-active adventure!

We spent much longer at their stand than at any of the others, perusing some of the samples of their 'Not for Parents' kids' books and willingly signed up to their newsletter which has been an absolute revelation with truly outstanding photography and enormously interesting and useful articles such as Tips to keep your family healthy on the road.

Today, I am giving away a copy of their Travel with Children book to a winner of the Rafflecopter competition below, but their shop contains hundreds of travel titles and is chock-a- block full of ideas of where to go with or without a family in tow.

lonely planet, travel with children,
One of the many publications for travelling with children by Lonely Planet.
This particular publication covers The Art of Travelling with Children - planning and packing with a world wide remit and a country by country guide - anywhere you can think of in Europe, as well as The Americas and the Caribbean, The Pacific, Asia, Africa & The Indian Ocean and The Middle East.  If you don't want to stray too far from home, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales are also included. 

It made me want to just open it at random and follow wherever Fate led and gave me ideas for destinations that would never have, perhaps, entered my head - popping off to The Netherlands, for example - where 'The well being of children is a priority. They are welcome everywhere.' You can cycle, ice skate, take a boat on the canals (Teatime cruise on a pancake boat, anyone?) or visit a museum, of which, they tell, there are dozens. They advise us that the Maritime one has a pirate- led welcoming committee, the Rijksmuseum has incredible doll's houses and those such as the New Metropolis (NEMO) Science one have dedicated childrens corners and fun educational activities.  Oh and let's not forget the Windmill and Tulip hunting they also recommend, all of which adds to the appeal of somewhere really quite easy to get to that most of us might not think of.
If you sign up to their newsletter you'll see the great offers to take advantage of when buying books and / or digital products (3 for 2 presently) and whether you're looking at going round the world or taking a short city break somewhere, it seems silly not to take them with you, as well as your kids!

If you'd like to be in with a chance of winning a copy of this book then please complete the widget below and if you'd like to go to this year's Family Travel Show, it's 1st-2nd October at Olympia, London.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

25 April 2016

To My Darling Seven Year Old.

'Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.''


The youngest turns seven.  What kind of man will he be?
My darling youngest son turned seven last week.  It seems inconceivable and, yet, right too.  I'm actually surprised he has been so young for so long!

He is shooting up, almost as tall as his much older brother and is definitely the centre of our little family most of the time. 

He remains loud, optimistic, characteristically good natured, a giggler and quite mischievous, but deeply caring and compassionate. 

He still loves his dancing and drama classes and continues to wear out those of us who know him with his constant singing and inappropriate gymnastics. 

Every day with him is a blessing and considering his start in life - with just me and my eldest and all our struggles to just get by in the early days - most of which he has, thankfully, remained oblivious to - he has nothing short of thrived.  

He is an inspiration and to him I say this:

Thank you.

Thank you for coming, for everything you teach me, for the love you show to almost everyone you meet, for maintaining your innocence and zest for life to a degree that is utterly beyond comparison.

Thank you for making me laugh, for the persective you unwittingly and regularly grace us with, for looking after your good health and appreciating it even at your age and for your ability to count the smallest blessings as absolutely divinely given and important.

Thank you for insisting you choose your own clothes and sticking to your guns when you want to wear legwarmers or your jeans inside your socks so they look like them, for turning your nose up at trousers that aren't skinny enough and tops that just don't cut the mustard.  You've always been cool, even before you knew what constituted it.  And, rightfully, you're the one who decides what that is in your world anyhow. 

You'll make a wonderful man - if this is who you're going to be then - energetic, thoughtful and kind and never, ever boring.  You're everything anyone could ask for.   

And should you, one day, consider going out with less girlfriends and making a very lucky lady your wife, let's hope she will wholeheartedly accept your undying penchant for Superhero suits and poo jokes.  

Lots of love, as always, Angel,

Mummy xxx

21 March 2016

Things That Mightily Please Me.

Some of us just aren't meant for the high life, are we?

After a week of things that mightily peed me off, I was met instead with one full of pride and pleasing events, plus a little adventure that, perhaps, I'm not really cut out for thrown in for good measure!

Firstly, my youngest son took part in a dance show at a major theatre in Brighton.  He had a mini role as the only male in 'The Boy Does Nothing' and was like a little star amongst 15 (mainly much older) girls.  He held his own without even a hint of  any nerves and performed the splits to great gasps from the audience, which is probably the only time he's done at the right time in the right place.  Generally speaking, it's something he slips into at the most inopportune moments.

The 6yo who loves doing the splits!
And the following day, his older brother - by the far more reserved of the two - took part in a keyboard demonstration at their school, where a few of the children showcased what they'd been learning in their lunch time lessons there.  It was a much smaller affair, but I was no less proud. He seems to have a real ear for music and such a tender touch when he plays that, despite him being a beginner, it brings me real joy.

So, still on cloud nine after leaving the latter, I sauntered off to Waitrose, clutching some John Lewis vouchers I'd been given.  It's not a normal haunt of mine and I was looking forward to feeling like I was living the high life for a little bit longer.

But, honestly, it doesn't matter how hard I try to fit in to these posh places it's impossible not to let myself down.  I needed the loo half way round and had to nip round the corner to a cafe and pretend to be looking for lost sunglasses, then I ran out of parking time before paying and had to dump the trolley at Customer Services for a second time in order to pop out to the car park and chat up the assistant.

They were very polite while I explained my plights but it was obvious they thought I was one of those mad women who likes to pretend to do their shopping there and then scarpers without the goods, for which, admittedly, there is an attraction because it's like heaven in there, if one doesn't encounter the embarrasment and exhaustion generated by yours truly.

It is very pleasing, therefore, that the children seem destined for the high life.  Their mother is a lost cause!

10 March 2016

Things That Mightily Pee Me Off.

Last night, one of my Foreign Language students decided to change his bed.  That's all well and good you might imagine, but seeing as he's leaving on Saturday, it mightily peed me off.

This means I'll be washing and drying two lots of bed linen in two days instead of just the one. As well as that for the other four beds in the house over the course of the week.

And as I emptied the washing machine, muttering under my breath but really making my displeasure possibly but politely quite clear to him, it became apparent that the load coming out - at 9.45pm - had been infiltrated by a tissue, with only me to blame.


The other thing that compounds this little laundry-gate case is the backfiring of the bargain detergent I recently purchased in haste.

The childrens' coats were spectacularly muddy so it seemed sensible to eschew the normal non bio / Eco stuff in favour of  Surf, just at the beginning of half term.  The boys went off to their dad's for a couple of days while I went to work and got everything ready for us all heading off to France for a bit.

Then this happened.

A rash from Surf laundry detergent.
Aaaaaaaargh.  The eldest and I came out in a rash - he on his arms and legs and I on my arms and neck.  Not that we knew initially what had caused it.  Seeing as they'd been eating with their father, it wasn't anything food related and it took a while to work it out.

Mentioning my theory at the office, however and popping some pics on Facebook confirmed it though.  It seems lots of people react similarly to biological washing powders.

12 loads of re-washing later - over a period of almost a fortnight - with a different bottle of detergent and much more use of my tumble dryer than usual - cheap has most certainly not been cheerful.

And then I discovered some had got away.  It was sat there smugly in my ironing pile - stuff that had not yet been done.

So that's the next lot in, after the student's stuff.  And I'm grateful it surfaced before I'd gone to the effort of pressing it all, because if even more precious time and energy had gone to waste, that would have mightily peed me off as well!

*Pours a glass of wine to celebrate small mercies.*

What's been winding you up lately?

15 February 2016

Out to Lunch.

I was taken out to lunch on my day off last week.  To a proper restaurant. With an actual gentleman.

He's married and he's a Vicar. He opened doors for me, entertained me with witty repartee, ordered splendid food and drink and paid the bill.

What more could  a woman ask for on a Tuesday at 12.15?!

He wanted to pick my brains, as besides being a man of the cloth, he's also a comedy writer and, having retired from service in a very famous local church, he's wondering what else to do with himself.

I lent him Blogging for Dummies, talked about Twitter and listened to many a tale, plotting plenty of post titles for him as he regaled me:  'The Time I Met Tony Blair'  'My Dinners with Simon Cowell,' that kind of thing - all true - and felt very blessed to be in his company despite the absence of his clerical collar on this occasion.

He's a hoot, an experienced broadcaster and deserves a wider audience.  There's talk of a book too, the title of which I mustn't reveal, but suffice to say it's hilarious and it would undoubtedly be littered with uproarious facts about families and humanity, considering the hundreds of weddings and funerals he has conducted.

The snippets I heard sure are stranger than fiction!

He's also a good cook and likes to talk recipes, so I reckon there's space for him and he'd be warmly welcomed as a writer in our midst.

What do you think?

Father Martin Morgan, retired Vicar of St, Margaret's Church, Rottingdean.  Out to lunch, in the nicest sense.
Thank you Father Martin for your company, kindness, consideration and comedic take on life.  Can't wait to do it all again.

Anya xx

8 February 2016

Bye Bye Beautiful, Hello Gorgeous and Papa don't Teach!

Last week saw the end of an era - I had to get rid of my beautiful car.

She's been ace for as long as I've been given her, which indeed I really was, because she was a trade for some building work my ex-husband did for some friends.

They'd had her since new and passed her on to me when they were upgrading.

This time, it was my turn to do just that, but not before she's given me long good service of around nine years!

Ford Focus
'Bye Bye Beautiful!
I've loved her. She's never let me down, but she was getting old and a bit crunchy and not worth what it was going to take to get her through her MOT and even though this has been the case for the last couple, things felt different this time, so I bit the bullet and traded her up for a gorgeous little Yaris.

Toyota Yaris,
Hello Gorgeous!
I started off with two tiny Minis after receiving driving lessons from my step-dad on Sundays in a local supermarket car park.  They were never allowed to open then in those days so it would empty with plenty of room to roam around and learn how to change gear!

And over a period spanning *crikey* thirty-three years, I gradually progressed to a Ford Fiesta, a VW Golf, a company convertible BMW and a Toyota MR2 sports car before the inevitable decline in engine capacity and status to another VW Golf, my beloved Ford Focus and now, my tiny Toyota.

It's funny how things come full circle and we've ended up with another small car, but it's perfect for my small family.  It feels a bit like we're flying because it's light and it's an automatic and it comes with a built in sat nav so we won't get lost next time we go to France!

And that's what swung it for me.  She was so ancient that my RAC cover wouldn't stretch to looking after us should she break down abroad and travelling overseas by ferry is something we want to do more of.

Nowadays, people can't learn to drive in car parks and the cost of driving lessons has risen so steeply that some parents feel forced to take the stressful option of trying to teach their kids how to drive on the streets!

I can't imagine what this must be like in today's busy world and it didn't occur to me that it might actually be more stressful for the Learner than the qualified driver but some research commissioned by carfused.com has revealed this to be the case. 

They've released a video featuring Sandra Dodson, from Sky TV’s Driving School of Mum and Dad, in which they monitor the heart rate of a 17-year-old learner as she was taken out to practise driving with her father and then compared it with when she's learning with her.  Sandra is a former deputy chief driving examiner at DSA, Driving Standards Agency. 

Evidently, the stress levels monitored were higher with Dad in the passenger seat - shouting and grabbing the wheel - but they stayed high too vs. with an experienced instructor where they rose and fell depending on the challenges presented.  Their point is that stressed and distracted drivers are more dangerous!

The research about the rising cost of learning to drive had a lot of pick up across national media channels such as BBC radio and the Daily Mail and it makes fascinating reading - especially the bit where the youngsters become the designated drivers over Christmas!

I certainly couldn't have survived just on those lessons from my step-dad because families need to stay on speaking terms (!) but I still hear the advice of my Driving Instructor whenever I am reverse parking.  The cameras in my new car are completely disconcerting and the annoying helpful lady who advises when we're over the speed limit is going to take some getting used to.  She feels like a parent beside me anyhow!

Here's the video below.  How do you feel about your experiences of learning to drive and your various cars over the years?

29 January 2016

Win £150 John Lewis Vouchers for De-Cluttering Top Tips with Everest.

So the word on the street this month has included a great deal about de-cluttering our homes, our lives, our friendships and, consequently our minds.

And there's no denying how much more space can be created in a relatively short space of time once we actually try it.

My top tips for de-clutterinng would be to:

1) Tackle things ten minutes at a time.  A drawer a day or washing down a wall can give you incredible impetus for tomorrow, or *gasp* even another ten minutes.

2)  Leave off the wine until afterwards.  It's amazing how 'tired' you can feel after a glass or two and how tempting it can be to leave even the ten minute tackling until tomorrow.

3)  Reward yourself.  Write a list of your achievements / dream de-cluttering jobs downsized into very small chunks and you'll be amazed how much you can achieve by the end of a day / week / week or two.

4)  Believe in a place for everything and everything in its place.  Friends who have actually visited my house may be surprised by my advising anything in this regard, seeing as it's not exactly the most organized-appearing place to be, however there is a lot to be said for organized chaos.  I can put my hands on almost anything I'm looking for because, even at worst, there's an area for everything and and everything in its area!  Work stuff on my desk, dastardly school paperwork on the kitchen side, non-work to-do on top of the microwave.

5)  Use files.  Years of office work means appreciating the simplicity of segragating and sorting. One file for Instructions, another for receipts and guarantees, another for finances, others for important documents, sentimental stuff and the like. Whatever works for you.

6)  Be ruthess. Get rid of the kids' broken and outgrown toys when they're not around. Don't even entertain the idea of getting them involved.  They'll suddenly want to play with everything they haven't touched in years.  You know best.

7)  Try to stay on top of things. It's very easy to let piles of this and that build up again once you've cleared away your *cough* areas, especially if it's an ongoing job and you're focused elsewhere, but it's best to be happy with one room than unhappy with them all, so set small targets and give yourself credit for each little achievement.

The great thing about Everest Home Improvements bi-fold doors is that the feeling of space you create - physcially first, followed inevitably by mentally - is that they allow you to go even further by enhancing the illusion of it in fine style.  Check these out.  What's not to like?!

Everest bi-fold doors giving the illusion of even more space than the lack of clutter does. 
And today, they're generously giving away £150 of John Lewis vouchers to a lucky winner of our Rafflecopter competition.

All we ask is that you leave your own top tip for de-cluttering in the comments via the Rafflecopter giveaway widget below and the winner will be chosen at random.  Additional entries are optional.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And the winner is Lisa Rowsell (@Lisa2062).  Many, many congratulations and thank you everyone for entering :)).