Monday, 30 June 2014

Me & Mine Project {June 2014}

dear beautiful
This month we have loved:

* Being reunited with much loved friends.
* A whole weekend with just Daddy when Mummy went to BritMums Live.
* Mummy and Daddy have discovered Castle and have spent many evenings staying up far too late watching 'just one more episode'.
* Lazy days at the beach realising exactly why we moved to Southport.

This month sees the return of the 'kids can't smile' disaster.  Why is it, when you capture a child engrossed in a task, you can achieve the most delightful pictures but when you ask a child to smile they give you a forced grin which just looks awful?  I was relieved at BritMums Live to see a photo of a well known photographer's daughter doing exactly that and thought that at least it proved it is the subject and not the photographer!

We went to a wedding this month which provided us with the perfect opportunity to take a photo of the family all together and dressed up in our glad rags.  Except...except the kids just weren't playing ball.  My dad, bless him, dutifully took a handful but this was the only one in which none of the children were a blur and you can at least see their faces.  Meg appears to be having a bit of a wild and curly time with her hair at the moment and in many photos her face was completely obliterated by the springy curls which make up her fringe!


The following day we discovered this lovely park close by to us with some beautiful gardens so we tried again...but they still weren't playing ball.


So, despite a number of attempts, this month we just didn't manage to capture us all smiling.  Never mind, eh!

This project is hosted over on Dear Beautiful.  Head over there to see more gorgeous family photos.

Friday, 27 June 2014

National Insect Week with HEXBUG

This week was National Insect Week and when we were asked if we'd like to help celebrate it by racing our very own HexBug ants I knew we couldn't say no.


With the assistance of my Other Half, Meg and Eli set to work creating their track.  Meg designed the start and finishing posts and they worked together using coloured bricks to lay out the track.



With the spectators ready and the HexBug ants raring to go, it was time for the race.


Who will win?  Pink or Green?



Not sure the green one actually wanted to join in with that race!

Excitingly, we are also able to offer the chance to win your very own HexBug Nano V2 Habitat/Hurricane set. We had lots of fun playing with our HexBugs and now you can too! Just complete the rafflecopter below to be in with a chance of winning.

UK entrants only please.  The giveaway will end on Friday 25 July.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclaimer: We were provided with HexBug ants for the purpose of this post.  All thoughts and opinions are our own.

Win competitions at ThePrizeFinder.com

Book Review: Sparkles by Louise Bagshawe

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Sparkles by Louise Bagshawe
Diamonds are forever.  Secrets aren't...


I was sent this book by my lovely friend who instructed me to find a quiet place and get lost in the pages.  Ever one to oblige I waited until I knew I would have a fairly quiet week before cracking the spine and diving in.

I haven't read Louise Bagshawe before so didn't really know what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised.

Sparkles is the story of the Massot family, incredibly wealthy owners of a large jewellery firm in Paris.  It is written in the present tense but begins seven years previously with the disappearance of Pierre Massot, head of the Massot family.  We follow the stories of his widow, Sophie and his son, Tom as well as the head of the rival jewellery firm, Hugh Montfort.

The setting of this book was what sold it to me.  I loved that it was in Paris, I loved that it was based around beautiful pieces of jewellery.  Bagshawe went into just the right amount of detail in my opinion and I could really imagine myself wandering the streets of Paris or standing and admiring the Massot's chateau.

We see Sophie trying to make her way, to step out of the shadows of being Pierre Massot's widow and become her own woman as she tries to get a handle on her late husband's company.  We see Tom trying to make his way in the world and earn what he believes is his due.  I can't go into much more without giving away some of the more interesting plot lines.

The mystery and intrigue were good; I only realised right before it was revealed exactly what was going on and I thought that it was very cleverly done.  You become so wrapped up in the existing story that wondering about Pierre only comes second, so when the bomb is dropped, it makes a fair impression.

I struggled with some elements of the characters.  The character of Judy Dean in particular was vapid and arrogant and I couldn't connect to her in the slightest.  Bagshawe has set this up deliberately as you are not supposed to like her but at the end, when Bagshawe tries to make amends with her...I just didn't feel like it was realistic.  She should have got more of a comeuppance in my opinion!  I also struggled to grasp Tom's character.  He is frustratingly stupid and it was really hard to empathise with his situation.  I wish that Bagshawe would have softened him just a little bit to allow readers to properly understand him.

The rest of the characters I thought were great.  Sophie Massot is brilliantly written and I loved discovering her story and watching her development throughout the book.  Her love interest, Hugh Montfort is rather stereotypical but I think that just added to the enjoyment of the story.

Whilst this is perhaps lengthier than your typical summer read romance novel, I think it is certainly one worth picking up.  You can find the paperback and kindle version on Amazon here.  I would give it 4 out of 5 stars, purely because I thought Bagshawe could have done more with the characters.  The plot itself is utterly intriguing and should be read for the twist alone.

Have you read anything interesting lately?  Why not come and link up with my June Book Love linky?  If you aren't a blogger just leave a comment underneath the post.  I'd love to have you join in!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Get Good Summer 2014...



Last summer, Claire from Clarina's Contemplations invited bloggers to join her in making goals to really make the most of the ten weeks of summer.  I heartily joined in, always game for a bit of list making, and felt really positive about how it was all going to turn out.

How did I get on?  Well, I succeeded with 2 out of the 5 goals I set myself...yes, I will hang my head in shame!  To be fair, right smack bang in the middle of the summer, Meg had a significant and traumatic accident which threw us all off course and we lost our childcare so, again, it all went a bit belly up.

However that has not deterred me from enthusiastically creating my list this summer, hoping to join in and succeed this time.  Fingers crossed everyone!

I have been thinking long, hard, and fairly realistically about my goals this summer, and here they are:

p.s. you might think they look incredibly similar to last year but don't let that deceive you. Or...maybe I'm just not all that imaginative!

1. Have at least 3 family days out
This was by far our most successful goal last summer and I hope to repeat it again this year.  We aren't having a family holiday due to a family wedding commitment but I'd really like to make the most of the time we can get together.


2. Read 10 books
I am currently putting together a list of light-hearted, romance type novels (so send me your recommendations) to read over the summer.  I have been reading quite a few heavy duty ones of late which is fine in of itself but I really fancy just taking some time to read something much lighter which leaves me feeling all warm and squishy inside.  I think the summer is perfect for that and plan to take full advantage.


3. Get out at least twice a week
This is one I know I will struggle with.  The temptation when it gets to the summer holidays, and we haven't got to rush around making packed lunches and getting dressed and out on time, is going to be just kicking back in our PJ's and not doing anything.  I think this is fine, and necessary, some of the time, but I don't want to waste an entire six weeks and have the kids bouncing off the walls.  I am trying to be organised and have started to create a list of cheap or free places we can go to which will wear the kids out but not be too much trouble to get to.

4. Plant something and keep it alive!
Another challenge for me as I seem to have the gardening abilities of a blind toad.  I kill everything I come into contact with.  Recently, Meg grew the tallest sunflower at school and as such is really keen to start planting things in the garden.  I have promised we will try and cultivate something.  I just need to find out which plants/vegetables are the hardest to kill!

My latest attempt

5. Have one interesting date night a week
We work hard to have date nights when we talk about things other than the kids but, one thing that we are very guilty of, is doing the same thing each week.  Nice dinner, bit of wine, movie.  When we were first dating we planned out dates which started with each letter of the alphabet and it was fun and exciting and interesting.  Although that won't be easy to do within the confines of our home, I'm sure that we can try something a little different and just try to capture the fun again!  She says...hopefully...


Have you got any exciting summer plans?  I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Me & You {June 2014}

dear beautiful

I was all lined up with my photo for this month's Me & You and then it got lost in the mix with it being BritMums Live and now...now it suddenly seems a little tragic.

Of course, it's entirely reflective of what we have spent almost every single evening together doing...although I've often got my head down looking at my phone or am absorbed reading a book, every now and then looking up to pass comment on why rugby really is a man's sport and football could learn so much like, erm, video refereeing or, you know, not sinking your teeth into another player...

But there you have it.  Our month.

I have great plans for our date nights in the next couple of weeks seeing as much of our talking and spending quality time together has been suspended in favour of making sure my Other Half doesn't miss a single second of the World Cup.  I don't mind being a widow for now.  I know my time will come.

For now, I will allow him to lament the failure once again of his team.  Poor, poor England.


G is for...

Grin

I completely fell  behind with getting my photographs posted (hands up who saw that one coming?) but I have backtracked them now, so if anyone fancies seeing my E and F...and leaving some comment love I would appreciate it.

E is for...

F is for...

...and here is this week's photo.


I am taking part in the Alphabet Photography Project which is being hosted at PODcast.  Head on over to see how others have interpreted this week's letter.

Monday, 23 June 2014

My BritMums Live Experience...

It's hard to believe that something I spent a year waiting for, planning for, worrying over and generally looking forward to has been and gone.  It seems to have happened in the blink of an eye!

If you have no clue what I'm talking about then I will enlighten you.  BritMums Live, a conference for bloggers took place at the Brewery in London on Friday and Saturday.  It was a forum for like-minded people to come together to learn, share, reflect, and shed a tear or two and I have pondered over how to cover all that went on in this one little post.

When I arrived on Friday, with my notes which had been helpfully annotated by my Other Half (thanks for that...) I was full of trepidation as I really had no idea what to expect.


The feelings didn't improve when I saw the sheer number of people all gathered in one place, let me tell you.




It's tricky to narrow down everything I heard and absorbed over the weekend but here are the top things I learned:-

1. Google+ is the Future
There was a very informative and helpful session about Google+ and how it can work for bloggers.  Prior to this I was aware of Google+ and my blog posts are automatically 'dumped' there for me by the wonders of social media but if you had asked me how it worked...I would have probably changed the subject!  Now I feel geared up and ready to really make it work for me and Catch A Single Thought.  It seems very much like the future and if I can get a hold on it now then I will be better placed for when it takes over the world...or something.  
Top Tip: Understanding circles is key.


2. We All Have A Part To Play
I sat in on a wonderful session led by some truly inspirational bloggers sharing some of the reasons why they do the things they do.  I'm fairly confident there wasn't a dry eye in the house.  Chris Mosler from Thinly Spread said something which has stuck in my head on a loop since I heard it, 'you can feel like you're shouting into the wilderness by actually you are planting seeds...' which is why it is so important that when we are passionate about something that we use our voices and make a difference.  When bloggers come together in common cause it can amazing results and I have a new and fresh drive to play my part.
Top Tip: Bloggers have amazing power, lets ensure we are using it for the right reasons and see a real difference being made, whatever we are passionate about.


3. Making Friends is Hard!
I am naturally an introvert and I once heard someone very wisely say that introverts best make friends on a one on one basis.  I absolutely agree with this and, to be honest, found the entire conference quite overwhelming when it came to talking to people.  I seemed to hang on the edges a lot and although I got to say hello and have a brief chat with some lovely people I have been talking to online this past year, I wish I had been braver and gone to speak to some of the others on my 'must-meet' list.  Perhaps next year I will find my confidence!
Top Tip: ...if I had a top tip I probably wouldn't have had to write the above.  My lesson is, I need to be braver!


4. I'm a Little Bit Addicted to Food
I made the classic mistake of arriving home and realising that I hadn't actually taken that many photos, despite my best intentions.  Imagine my amusement when I realised that the majority of the photos I did take were food related...oops!
Top Tip: Wear bigger pants next year...there was lots of delicious food going around...


I'm still not sure I've fully recovered from the weekend, it really appears to have taken it out of me.  Even spending yesterday relaxing on the beach in the beautiful sun didn't help...go figure!

I have to admit though, despite everything I'm really looking forward to next year and doing it all over again.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Review: Dinosaur Roar!

We have been fans of Dinosaur! Roar for a number of years now; it was one of the board books included in Meg's book bag (the Government one I can never remember the name of...) so when we were asked if we would like to review the app, I was excited to see what the kids would make of it.  Eli in particular is really into his dinosaurs so I thought that he would be the ideal tester.

The app costs £1.99 and has been designed for use on iPhones and iPads and all sales of the app go towards supporting the Natural History Museum (interesting fact: Dinosaur Roar! was the inspiration for a new project aimed at pre-schoolers currently being designed in association with the Natural History Museum and Nuture Rights)

There are three elements to the app; colouring, reading and discovering your Dinosaur name.


The colouring aspect has definitely been the favourite with Eli.  Judging by the number of saved pictures which have appeared in my phone's library he has been making full use of the 14 dinosaurs available.  It is very simple to operate, children simply use their fingers to colour or pattern the dinosaur and there is a 'magic' colouring option which means when they rub their fingers over the dinosaur they automatically become the same colour as their original counterpart in the book.


The reading aspect is a fully interactive experience based on the original book.  Children can opt to either listen to the story or read it aloud to themselves.  There is also a record function which means either parents can record themselves reading the book for their children to playback, or children can record themselves.  Eli doesn't seem to have really grasped this element yet and simply records himself roaring...entertaining but nonetheless not quite right!

Overall this app has become a firm favourite in the house and we would say it is very reasonably priced at £1.99.  It is aimed at children aged 5 and under, and at 3 years old, Eli has had very little difficulty with it.  My only criticism would be that there isn't a help section.  I didn't realise initially that you had to 'scroll' each page of the story, and I think a simple guide to the app would be helpful.  Apart from that we haven't got a single bad thing to say.

If you have a dinosaur fan in your house then we would definitely recommend this app.  You can download it from the app store here.

Disclaimer: We were provided with a free download of the app for the purpose of this review.  All thoughts and opinions are our own.


Review: Mental Blox

Recently we were lucky enough to be asked by Learning Resources to become a part of their official toy testing team.  We couldn't say yes fast enough!  Having reviewed a number of Learning Resources products in the past, we are always impressed with the quality of the toys and games they make and the way they encourage learning in children through having fun and playing.

The latest game we have been sent is Mental Blox, a 'brain-boosting, block-building make you think game!'
Contained within the box are 20 double-sided activity cards showing a number of different constructions, 20 chunky, plastic coloured shapes, and an activities guide.  The idea is that working in teams, you try to recreate a structure from memory (having been shown the card for 10 seconds) or you try to build a structure based on clues provided by other players in your team.


I'm going to just get this out of the way and say that whilst this game is aimed at children aged between 5 and 9 as an adult, I found it tricky!  We first played it when we were away with extended members of our family which meant that there was a range of ages from 5 right up to 50 attempting to play....and let's just say that those under 16 did a heck of a lot better than those over that age.

It's actually amazing at an adult's inability to remember information.  I was on a team with Meg, who has just turned 5, and whilst she occasionally struggled with the exact way up a shape had been or the colour of it, actually creating the structure wasn't much of a challenge at all.  Weird, huh!


Certainly put me to shame.

The game has been designed to encourage critical and strategic thinking as players have to recall what they have seen and reproduce it.  Due to Meg's age we haven't attempted the second version of the game, where players describe a structure, as we think she would find this too complicated (or maybe we would...); I think that this is more suited to older children.

For older children there are also additional challenges on the activity cards; questions such as 'how could this structure be condensed to 3 columns?' which I liked.  It means that it will be a long time before Meg outgrows the game as we can keep on changing and developing it as her knowledge and confidence grows.


As I have come to expect from a Learning Resources game, it is very well made.  The plastic shapes are chunky which makes them easy to grip and to balance on one another and they are brightly coloured which makes the game attractive to children.


It would definitely be a struggle for children under the age of 5 (unless you are raising a wonder kid) but it can almost certainly be played by anyone over and above this.  Priced at £26.34 although it isn't cheap, I think the fact that it will last and that it is entertaining for the whole family makes it worth the price.  To be honest I could even see it being used as a team building game by teenagers and adults.

We have thoroughly enjoyed playing with it, although we have had to limit it to once every couple of weeks as it gives me a headache trying to retain the patterns in my head.  Clearly I need to work on my memory-retention skills!  Must be all the blogging...

Disclaimer: We were sent Mental Blox for the purpose of this review.  All thoughts and opinions are our own.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Review: teapigs Matcha Green Tea Challenge

I have to admit that before being asked by teapigs if I would like to take part in their green tea matcha challenge I had never really considered green tea as a drink I'd like to have in my life.  I have a number of friends who swear by herbal teas and, maybe it's the yorkshire lass in me, but I have just never been swayed.  I like my tea to be strong and dark and very much tea-tea!

So, I had to do a bit of research beforehand and when I saw all the benefits that drinking green tea offered I thought it had to be worth a go.  teapigs kindly sent me out a modern matcha kit which included:-

- 30g of matcha green tea (enough for one shot a day for a month)
- electric hand held whisk
- shot glass
- matcha info leaflet
- matcha badge


Matcha is made from organic green tea leaves which have been ground down into a fine powder.  You can drink it a number of ways: as a matcha latte (this was my choice), added into a smoothie, sprinkled on your cereal etc...because it is a powder it can be added into almost anything which makes it very versatile.

Health benefits wise, matcha is basically a very concentrated form of green tea.  It is packed full of vitamins and minerals and is particularly rich in antioxidants.  Some of the benefits from drinking matcha include: healthier skin, an energy boost and assistance with weight loss.

If you are already a drinker of green tea then you might be wondering what the difference is between normal green tea and matcha: essentially because you throw away the leaves afterwards you aren't getting the full goodness which comes from the plant.  When you drink matcha as a fine powder mixed in liquid you are ingesting the whole leaf, so nothing is missed.

I chose to drink the matcha as a latte, mixed and foamed with some warm milk.  I have never tried green tea before so had no idea what to expect although as it was healthy I wasn't expecting it to taste good.  The first few times I tried the shot I chickened out of actually allowing the latte to sit in my mouth and just swallowed it down whole.  This worked quite well for me but I figured for the purpose of the review I had better actually taste the stuff.


I'm not going to lie, it is certainly an acquired taste.  It is very bitter and if you don't make sure all of the powder is mixed in before you drink it, your tongue will get a very sour shock.  That said, I have spoken to a number of friends who swear that you do get used to it and some even claimed to like it!  I won't go that far and I did go back to just drinking it down quickly and without tasting it but then maybe I'm a wuss!

As for the health benefits:-

- I definitely noticed an improvement in my skin.  My complexion was better and I do think it looked healthier as a whole.

- Energy wise, matcha claims to not only energise but also to calm: I'm not entirely sure I noticed a difference with this but maybe that is never going to be a possibility with two children under the age of 6!  That said, during the time period I was taking it I also completed a number of large projects which would normally have my stress-levels through the roof; my Other Half commented that I handled it like a pro and I can only think that the matcha tea had something to do with that.

- I did also notice that I drank less normal tea which must mean that I was craving caffeine less and therefore I must have been feeling more energised.  

- I wasn't using the product to try and lose weight so I can't comment on this particular aspect.  

Overall, I was quite impressed.  Whilst the differences weren't dramatic I was only testing it for a short period of time and I wouldn't have expected them to be.  It is obviously an additional way to look after your body and I would definitely be interested to try it longer term to see whether I notice a real lasting change.  One of the best elements is that it is very simple to take and you can add it in easily to be a part of your every day routine.

If you would be interested in trying the matcha tea for yourself, teapigs have kindly offered my readers a 10% discount which is available until the end of June.  Simply use the code catch when placing your order.  Prices start from £2.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a match modern set from teapigs for the purpose of this review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Book Review: Sealed with a Kiss by Rachael Lucas

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Sealed with a Kiss by Rachael Lucas


I am a sucker for a 'feel-good' story, you know, the type where you can block out the sound of everything else around you and just become totally absorbed in the story unfolding before your eyes.  When I picked up my copy of Sealed with a Kiss, I noticed on the front a comment which said, 'wonderful escapism' and so even though I've had hold of the book for a couple of weeks I waited for the opportune moment to crack the spine...a time when I knew my Other Half would be around to do some child-wrangling and I could read the book in a day.

It was so worth the wait.  If you fancy a bit of romance, a few hilarious mishaps, a protagonist you can't help but wish was real as you'd quite like to invite her over for tea and cake then I would really recommend picking this book up.  

When Kate is dumped by her boring boyfriend she decides on a whim to take a job as a Girl Friday on the Scottish island of Auchenmor.  Although she doesn't know exactly what that entails, and her mother and best friend believe she is setting off to her doom, Kate soon discovers that the island is everything she needed it to be.  From the nosy friendly neighbours to her new boss, Roddy (Laird of the island) and some wildlife mixed in (no, I'm not talking about the reappearance of Roddy's evil ex-girlfriend) it's a really enjoyable story.

The writing style flows and one of my favourite parts was the interaction between the characters.  Right down to the Scottish inflections it read really well and I found it easy to follow.  I believe a good chick lit novel should leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside and this definitely ticked the boxes.  I was actually really disappointed when it finished.  I am sure Rachael Lucas could have made it last a few more chapters!

The Scottish island makes for a stunning backdrop and the descriptions made it sound so peaceful and tranquil, it's immediately obvious why Kate feels so at home there.  I loved everything from the way the castle was described through to the seals on the beach.

This is the type of book which would be ideal as a summer-read and for any fans of chick lit (and those who think they aren't put could do with a good pick me up!) this is a perfect choice.  It's rare that I have no complaints about a book, my only one is genuinely that it didn't last longer...I know that Rachael Lucas is writing a sequel and I'm pleased as I would have liked to know the endings for some of the other characters in a bit more depth.  

Have you read anything good lately?  Come and join in with my June Book Love Linky, either by linking to a post you have written or, if you aren't a blogger, by leaving a comment.  I'd love to have you join in!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

F is for...

Freedom

Saying goodbye to our butterflies who seem to have only been with us for the blink of an eye and were very keen to flutter away.


I am taking part in the Alphabet Photography Project which is being hosted over at PODcast.  Please pop over and see how others have interpreted this week's letter.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

I'm Writing A Book...

You may have seen from occasional tweets and blog post references that I am writing a book.  I have spent my entire life dreaming of seeing my name in print but never really doing much about it.

I'm a bit of an expert when it comes to starting projects and never finishing them.  I have had countless amazing ideas for stories which I have begun with much enthusiasm and then just sort of drifted away from them.  It's not just writing where this is a problem, just take a peek in my sewing box to see the many and varied unfinished cross stitch projects...


I was inspired to write this book in June last year whilst we were on holiday in Brantome, in the South of France.  I began it with much vigour and then, as usual, began to drift away from it.  In September I quit my job to be a full time writer but ended up picking up freelance work to help keep us afloat and so again, not much time was given to the writing of the novel.

In November I joined in with NaNoWriMo, convinced that I could get my 50,000 words written and...you've probably guessed the pattern by now.  

The trouble was, I couldn't get the characters out of my head.  They would pop in, unannounced at the most inconvenient of times and I found the only way to avoid putting a dirty load of washing in my freezer instead of the washing machine was to start noting the thoughts down as and when they arrived.  These thoughts started to become a bit more coherent until I had whole scenes unfolding in my head.  I would drift off to sleep imagining the next part of my story until I really had no choice but to sit down and start to write.

I feel determined to finish the book this time, for the first time, and have set myself the aim of writing 1,000 words a day.  I have even sent my book out to some friends and family to ask their thoughts which, as anyone who knows me can tell you, was the most terrifying thing I have ever had to do; it was even more scary than being charged down by an African Bull Elephant whilst trapped in an open sided jeep which was stuck in a sand dune in the middle of an African safari...and that was fairly worrying.

The thing is that they haven't all subtly suggested I find another career either, which is somewhat encouraging.

So amongst the freelance writing to help keep food on the table, the making sure I turn up to school on time with Meg wearing the right clothes and don't leave Eli behind accidentally and everything else, I am actually writing a book.

I'm doing it.

For real.

Want a sneak peek?

Hugo Bertrand tightened his face in what Isabelle hoped was a smile, but feared was a snarl.  She squeezed Anais’ hand involuntarily as Hugo assessed her.  ‘Ahh, la fille anglaise,’ his voice was deep and gruff, as though it had been a long time since he’d spoken.  ‘Oui, I’m Martha’s sister.  I’m helping with the children today,’ she gestured, noting as she briefly turned that Benjamin and Louis had vanished.  Hugo nodded, hard.  ‘Oui, je sais.’  Isabelle frowned, as Anais translated again.  Hugo had clearly understood what she was saying, but made no effort to speak English to her.  Isabelle wasn’t sure why this irritated her so much, and was just about to move on when suddenly, Hugo reached towards her.  Automatically she took a step back, feeling her stomach contract in irrational terror before realising he was simply reaching past her to close the car door.  She laughed nervously and Hugo turned towards her as if to say something else, before nodding hard again, climbing into his car and driving off, leaving Isabelle standing at the side of the road feeling like she’d just done ten rounds with a heavyweight boxer.

Hugo Bertrand slowed his car down as he turned the corner past the school and tried to calm his racing heart.  That girl, that fille anglaise, why had she affected him so?  He shuddered, when she had looked at him, it felt like she was seeing right into his soul.  Right into the very depths where all those things were buried.  Things nobody had the right to know.  Hugo flinched as he saw Isabelle in his rear view mirror crossing the road.  She paused as she stepped off the pavement and glanced up the road towards his SUV.  He cursed under his breath, not wanting her to recognise him but knowing in such an obvious statement car, she was bound to.  He took a deep breath, cleared his mind and roared off.

As of this morning I am 32,000 words in and I think even if I tried to, I couldn't stop now.  My hope is to have it finished in the next month and then I will need to edit it, and find someone to create me a cover so I can self-publish, but I know that I have a bit more work to do before then.

I just wanted to share exciting news that this time, I am not going to give up before it gets completed.  Even if that's only because I'm being stalked by my own fictional creations.

Strawberry Picking

It has been years since I went to a Pick Your Own Farm, probably in the region of 2 *cough* years but I have such fond memories of going as a child that every summer I have wanted to take the kids.  It just seems to be something I think about late in the season when it's too late to go.

So this year I was determined not to be foiled!  With Father's Day providing the perfect excuse for some great family fun, I hit the internet and searched for the closest place to us.  As we were heading over to a family BBQ in Liverpool after our morning adventures, Kenyon Hall seemed like the ideal choice, being fairly near to both home and Liverpool.

It's quite early in the season for strawberries so my Other Half gave them a quick call to see whether it would be worth heading down.  I loved that they were honest enough to say they didn't have too much left having been very busy the previous day but that if we didn't mind a bit of rooting around, that it would be fine.

As we love a challenge, this didn't put us off in the slightest.  

Meg was beyond excited at the prospect of getting to pick her own.  She was bouncing up and down as the member of staff handed her the empty container and explained where to go and she broke into a sprint when we reached the strawberry fields.  I think she had been concerned there wouldn't be any left as we passed several people with containers piled high.


The prediction that we would have to root around was correct but in all honesty I think this made it better for the kids.  We would have been done in five minutes flat if every plant had been laden with ripe strawberries whereas we got to spend around an hour hunting out the very best ones we could find.



This made it much more of an adventure and both kids were very proud when we finally filled the containers.


The real difficulty was persuading the kids to not sneakily eat a strawberry, I caught Meg in the act at least 5 times and I'm sure Eli was sporting a red streaked chin by the end, in fact I think my Other Half had been abetting him in strawberry eating subterfuge as he was looking very shifty too.


Although the sun didn't shine, and it was starting to spit as we headed back to pay for our strawberries, the kids both had a brilliant time and we will definitely be returning.  I have added it to my list of successful day out ideas for the long six week holiday which is looming ever closer!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Bedtime Tickles

Usually we have a very strict bedtime routine in our house.  Having had the unhappy experience of a child who does not fall asleep and cried for hours through over-tiredness, we have recognised the importance of sticking to the same routine and have done so since Meg was about 4 weeks old.  Of course, there are times when this has to adapt and change but generally we try and keep it the same.

Sometimes though, it's nice to just throw out the rule book, isn't it?

Meg and Eli absolutely adore it when their Daddy plays rough with them; whether this is wrestling or being flung in the air or just a big old pile up...there is something different about the way their Daddy plays which just fills them up with excitement and joy.  I've never quite been able to match it and just have to accept that I'm the person they will turn to when they want to make a pretty picture, and their Daddy is the person they will turn to when they want to play a slightly more active game.

Last week was no different.  They had been in the bath and were just in the process of choosing a bedtime story when suddenly they were grabbed and flung onto the bed and tickled, tickled and tickled some more.

The logical part of me thought it was going to be a disaster for getting them calmed down ready for sleep; as I listened to the high pitched shrieks and laughter my heart began to sink.  But when I walked into the room and saw the sheer delight written across their faces, I just melted.  It was such an ordinary thing, being tickled by their Daddy, and yet there was something completely magical about the moment too.

If I could capture the elation on their faces and bottle it up, I think it would get me through even the most stressful day.  Such beautiful joy and innocence.


I think we might have to abandon the rules more often.

Super Dad: Clothing Review for Jacamo

I was recently asked whether I would like to review some items from Jacamo, an online clothing store for men.

We hadn't come across the company before so were intrigued by the kind of items they would have available.  My husband is a bit of a brand monkey and would rather wear a quality named item which is falling to pieces than a generic brand (it's something I am working on!)  However, with Jacamo stocking brands from Firetrap to Henleys, as well as their own branding of clothing we were onto a winner.  The other interesting thing about Jacamo is that they stock clothing from a S right through to a 5XL which I'm told is fairly unusual.

My husband decided to get some new shoes and opted for a smart pair: 'Black Label' by Jacamo and and a casual pair: 'Voi Lace Up Shoes' which will be ideal for the summer.  The ordering process was really simple and there was a lot of variety to choose from for a range of budgets.

The shoes are very good quality and as we have a number of weddings coming up this summer I can see that the smart shoes are going to be worn a good number of times.  The fit was good, and the style was perfect for my husband.


The pumps he chose were a tad small and so we will need to exchange them for a bigger size; I don't think this is an issue with the sizing but more than my husband needs to remember he is usually a 9 in trainers and pumps, not an 8!


As to whether we would buy from Jacamo in the future?  Whilst I was outfit hunting for my husband I saw a good many items I would choose.  I particularly like this Flintoff by Jacamo crew neck jumper which looks like it would be ideal for the summer.  But then I have a bit of a thing for grey clothing.  That said, there is a great selection on the website and the prices are fantastic for the brands you are buying.  I'd certainly recommend taking a look.

In light of it recently being Father's Day, Jacamo created an infographic all about Super Dads.  As much as I hate to admit it, my husband is something of a Super Dad; every night when he comes home he takes over the childcare so I can work, then once the kids are bathed, fed and in bed, he walks the dog and does the dishes...and most of the house cleaning as well!  There's not really much for me to complain about is there?


I'm very impressed with this list of things our lovely Dads get involved with.  Is your dad a super dad?

Disclaimer: We were sent items for the purpose of this review.  All thoughts and opinions are our own.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Ideal Home Show, Manchester


We were lucky enough to be offered some complimentary tickets for the Ideal Home Show in Manchester by Dulux, which took place last weekend.  I was beyond excited at the opportunity to go, having wanted to attend for a number of years but never actually getting round to sorting out tickets (story of my life I think...)

We decided to go on the last day, Sunday, which thinking back now may actually not have been such a good decision.  A lot of the stalls had reduced the prices of their items and in the popular sections it was total pandemonium.  Perhaps it would have been quieter on the Friday or Saturday...isn't hindsight a wonderful thing!

There was so much to see and do that it's tricky to put it all into one post.  It was held inside Event City and was divided into sections such as Ideal Interiors, Ideal Woman, Ideal Technology and so on.  Certain sections seemed to attract more people and we spotted various large queues throughout the day but having the kids with us meant that we couldn't really stop and investigate much.


I think if we went again, we probably wouldn't take the kids.  Whilst there was lots there to draw them in, and the people on the stands were very accommodating (big thanks has to go to the staff at the Lycia Properties stand who gave us all chocolate from their own personal stash!) it wasn't ideal if you wanted to peruse all the lovely items at a leisurely pace.  Meg and Eli were very much see it, test it and then quickly move on.

The only time this was not the case, was when we reached the stand selling, of all things, Star Trek Tribbles.  These are little fluffy things which vibrate and jiggle when you clap near them.  Both the children referred to them as 'moving rocks' and thought they were the best thing since sliced bread.  We actually had to return to the stand three times so they could make the Tribbles wiggle and dance.  Amazing the things which capture the attention of children.


The thing I really liked about the show was that the majority of things on sale were actually affordable.  I was surprised at the number of independent sellers who had stands and that they items they were selling weren't overpriced.  I think I had gotten it into my head that it was only going to be the big brands present so it was nice to be proven wrong.

I also spent a lot of time dreaming over the beautiful items which have now been added to my 'one day' list.  From kitchen gadgets to stunning interior decorations, I am now determined more than ever to buy our own home just so I can fill it with beautiful items!  Pipe dream, I know...


One thing which did having us scratching our heads was the apparent disappearance of the Dulux 'Bedroom in a Box' exhibition.  We studied the map a number of times but never came across it.  If anyone else was there and can enlighten us, please do!  I was quite disappointed as I would have liked to see it for myself.


I believe the Ideal Home Show has now finished but will be down in London for a Christmas exhibition in November.  That is definitely one I would love to visit...I can just imagine all the Christmas loveliness as I sit here, in the blazing sunshine...


Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary tickets but all thoughts and opinions are our own.