Travelling the world with your kids

Dan swimming

The whole of one wall of my 13-year-old son’s bedroom is covered in a world map.
Every time he visits a new country, he adds a pin on that map.
At the moment it’s fairly sparse – he’s visited Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy,  Belgium, America, Egypt, the Caribbean, Dubai and Finland. He wants to add many, many more pins.

What can be more exciting than discovering the world with your kids?
Seeing things through their eyes, rediscovering ‘old’ countries and discovering new ones together.
Just boarding an airplane is a hugely exciting adventure to them; not the tedious, endless queuing, endless showing of documents and stress fest we adults see it as.

We recently visited Dubai together (more on that trip to come) and tried to make the journey all part of the adventure – and that includes knowing what documents to carry, why we pass through passport control and why you need to down a bottle of water in 30 seconds flat before you pass through bag check!

So how can you make the preparations less stressful? I’ll share a few tips we’ve picked up over the years – let me know what your tips would be.

travelling the world with your kids

Travelling with young teenagers

1. Let everyone muck in.
When you’ve got older children you need to get them involved from the start. This is their holiday too, and they will love joining in the planning.
Take a look at the sort of family holidays you could go on – from beach holidays, to skiing, camping, city breaks or sightseeing, they’re all great for a shared experience.
Then get them involved – one day they will need to know how to navigate an airport on their own or understand where to go once you actually step foot in an airport, so let them start early.

2. Plan, plan, plan.
BUT don’t worry if your plans don’t come to fruition. Much like a wedding, it’s OK to have a vision of where you want to go and what you want to do, but try to go with the flow if your actual holiday veers from the plan. You might find you end up having an even bigger adventure!

3. Try something different.
If you usually jet off on a beach holiday, try visiting a different sort of beach or look for a different holiday altogether. Some of the best breaks I’ve ever had have been when we’ve opted to go someone I’d never really thought of before. One of my best friends has just returned from a family holiday to Croatia, where she said it is perfect for families.

4. Look for a good deal.
The dawn of the internet is a wonderful thing for travel, so utilize it. Allocate a decent chunk of time to shop around, you’re bound to find some good half term holiday deals. And take advantage of reviews – be they other bloggers or Trip Advisor where you can get most of your questions answered. If you like someone’s review and they have similar aged children, message them and ask more questions. I recently did this for our trip to Dubai and the reviewer gave us invaluable advice for travelling there with teenagers.

5. Remember you’re taking children
You can’t have the sort of holiday you did pre-children. You just can’t.
They can easily get bored, be it on a long journey, sightseeing or from being on their own. So plan accordingly.
Having said that, kids are totally open to new experiences. So, if they’re school-aged children, see if you can find things to do that tie in with their schoolwork and bring it to life. When my parents went travelling for six months with me, they had me keep a scrapbook of my adventures: write ups of places we visited, photographs, ticket stubs, interesting things I found on beaches etc. I’ve still got that scrapbook today.

Posted in Family Holiday, Travel | Tagged | 4 Comments

This is what 13 looks like

teenage boy

I come home from work to find him lay on his bed, his head buried in his phone. A typical teenage boy.
His head used to be buried in a book. I loved that about him. The fact that he would willingly read adventures and thrillers and comedies and the quirky novels I’d recommended.

He takes up nearly the whole of his single bed. His legs are so long. He no longer has chubby boy feet. They’re adult size 9.
He’s as tall as me now. Where did that come from? You think they shoot up as toddlers, but that’s got nothing on the growing they do when there’s a ‘teen’ tagged onto the end of their age. When we hug I no longer have to reach down. His head rests on my shoulder, not on my chest. But we still hug. All the time. We have this standing joke where I act all indignant that he hasn’t given me my daily hug and kiss when he gets in from school. He rolls his eyes and huffs and puffs, but he readily gives them out. I feel blessed that we still have this.

His desk is littered with the detritus of snacks he’s devoured the minute he walked in the door because he’s always hungry. Ravenous. An insatiable appetite, not helped by the amount of sport he plays.
The room has a whiff of Lynx about it. It’s still got all the Lego Minifigures he used to collect lined up on the top of picture frames. In amongst the childhood collections of interesting stones and Star Wars figures, there’s the signs of teenager boydom; a phone charger, a protractor, a tub of expensive hair wax.
He’s lying on his bed fully dressed but with his navy dressing gown on, which he wears like a smoking jacket! One of his little quirks.

The hormones have hit. His skin is changeable, his moods too. But he has a great sense of humour. He’s warm and interesting and funny. He laughs all the time.

Teenage Years: The Sequel

I’ll be honest with you, 13 feels like a reward for all the parenting hard work we’ve put in over the years. Now we get a glimpse of the young adult he’s becoming, I feel like all the tough times, the hair tearing, the self doubt, the cajoling, the persuading, the hand holding have all led to this. And it’s pretty darn cool, let me tell you.

I think you spend so much time dreading the teenage years you forget they don’t always have to be traumatic.
Sure we’re only at the gateway right now, but it’s feeling good. Positive. Exciting.

This week Dan starts his new ‘job’; a paper round. Which has meant setting up a bank account, organising himself, planning his own timetable. All valuable life lessons for a teenage boy.
This week he’s also on holiday with one of his best friends and his family in Spain.
It feels like another milestone. He’s taken another step on the stairs of adulthood. It feels like it’s time but at the same time I want time to stand still because he’s still my boy and I don’t want him to travel too far without me.
Literally and metaphorically.

Posted in Dan & Mia | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Dyson V8 Animal review

Dyson V8 Animal review

Let me sum this review up in one line: I am addicted to my Dyson V8 Animal and I’m not giving it up for anyone.
Pretty succinct I think? I haven’t left you in any doubt what I think about it, right?

I feel distinctly middle aged, but I don’t care; I bloody love it. I feel like I’ve been waiting a lifetime to own this gadget!

I was asked to review the Dyson V8 Animal by John Lewis and was a bit whatever about it, because, you know, it’s a vacuum cleaner. Nobody actually likes cleaning their house, right?
Oh but I do. I have been Converted. Intentionally with a capital C.

Let me explain.

Dyson V8 Animal

What’s to love? 

  • The vacuum attaches to the wall so it’s easy to access at all times. Except if your husband puts it in the most awkward spot in your whole house. It’s still super easy to get to even with his lack of thought 🙂
  • Not only does it attach to the wall, the wall fixing is the charger. So it’s always charged and ready to go. It literally slots in and out of the charger . You just whip it out and start vacuuming – there are no cables to contend with, there’s no puffing and panting as you carry it somewhere to start. There is no picking it up and realising it has no charge so giving up on the whole vacuuming thing.
  • It’s really lightweight and easy to use. In fact it’s so easy to use even my kids are happy to vac with it. Yes you heard me right. The kids don’t complain when I ask them to just whip it round the kitchen. Let’s face it, that right there has to be the biggest bonus of all.
  • It’s quite a sucker. As in the suction is great. It powers through the mud in the back of my car (rugby boots, dog, kids) and deals with the dustballs of dog hair that form on the wooden floor in my hallway brilliantly. I know, nice.
  • It also has a ‘max’ power button to give it that little bit of extra ‘oomph’ when you need it (and to be honest it rarely does).
  • It comes with all the tools you will need; a crevice tool (great word) for down the back of radiators, skirting boards, edges; a combination tool for surfaces, ceiling corners; a mini vac head for the car, stairs, furniture and the large vac head for floors, rugs etc.
  • My car has never been so clean. Before, if I had to get the house vac out, I’d literally wait until it was so bad even the kids passed comment. Now a 5 minute whoosh around and it’s pristine (ish) again.
  • I actually enjoy using it. That’s something I NEVER thought I’d say about any vacuum cleaner in this lifetime. EVER.

Dyson V8 Animal on stairs Dyson V8 Animal in car Dyson V8 Animal cleaning car Dyson V8 Animal review 2

What’s not to love?

  • The charge doesn’t last long enough for a whole house vac. But who does that, right? A quick whiz around the lounge and you’re done until tomorrow when you can give the bathroom 5 minutes of your time. If you have it on max power it lasts about 10 minutes. If you don’t have it on max it lasts about 20 and if you don’t have it on max and don’t have any tools attached it lasts about 40 minutes.
    However, I’ve found I now just vacuum differently. Ten minutes to do the car on max is plenty. Twenty minutes to do the downstairs is fine etc etc.
  • The dirt collector isn’t very big so you’ll be emptying it a lot. But then I guess if the chamber was any bigger, the vac wouldn’t have the bonus of being so lightweight, so you can’t have everything.
  • The price. It is rather expensive coming in at around £450. That’s an expensive vacuum. What can I tell you, it lives up to the hype and is one of the best vacuums I’ve owned (jeez I sound sad and middle aged!) Still, the fact remains that it’s rather an expensive bit of kit.

The verdict

So what did we think?
Well I’d say it’s one of the best gadgets I have in my house. And THERE’S something I never dreamt I’d be writing!

Dyson V8 Animal review 3
It’s easy to use, it’s lightweight and it’s really effective. I’ve gone from vacuuming the house once in a blue moon to saying “no no, it’s fine, I’ll get the vac out. No, I’LL get it”.

Yes yes alright, I’ll say it; the Dyson V8 Animal has changed my life. And if anyone tries to take it away, I’ll fight you for it.
Happy now?

Many many thanks to John Lewis for gifting this to me.

Posted in Other Review, Reviews | Tagged | 6 Comments

Get busy living

Mother of Teenagers

I am bloody exhausted.
Between exams and homework and after school clubs and my actual job, I am spent.
I thought being the mother of toddlers was hard work; this is up another notch. Because the thing with being the mother of a teenager and a pre-teen is, things really start to matter. More than ever before.

Right now, homework is essential. Revision isn’t something you can just hope will happen as they trot off to their room. The food they eat is more important than ever. Their friendships are vital. Their wellbeing is paramount. Them being quiet and spending more time in their room makes you question everything.
You’re desperate for family time, they’re desperate to be on their own or with their friends.
And on top of all this, you have the whole social media brouhaha thrown into the bubbling mix.
I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying and questioning myself as to whether we’re doing it right. Because now it’s bloody vital we get it right. Mistakes can have much bigger consequences.

Sure I worried when they were little, but looking back I should have just chilled out and let the love flow (in the words of the Bellamy Brothers) and not worried so much.

At the moment I spend school mornings cajoling and threatening and begging one of them to MOVE and end up shouting because it’s all so rushed and stressful and THAT’S the kiss on the head they get as they leave me for the day.
I then spend the whole day fretting and beating myself up and worrying about the effect it will have on them during the day and come home to say sorry for being the World’s Biggest Heel. And I’m greeted with a screwed up face because they have NO idea what I’m talking about as it all went over their head. 

But I’ll still do it tomorrow and the next day and the next day.
I’ll still torture myself. 

Of course, I have one child who does everything they’re told . . . but I still fret I’m not doing right by him too!

A photo posted by Tara Cain (@taralara) on

Here’s the thing. The point. I feel that right now my kids need me more than ever. I feel like the baby years, the toddler years, even the early school years I should have spent less time fretting. More time just enjoying and throwing my arms in the air and going “oh well” because really, everything turns out OK.
I wish someone had told me that. That actually it all comes right in the wash if you just throw a dose of consistency in there, add some boundaries and top it up with all the love.

Life at the moment is tough. Busy beyond belief. Relentless. Tiring.
But we’re getting there.

I am the Mother of Teenagers. Much like the Mother of Dragons, life is brutal, but very rewarding.

Posted in Family Life | Tagged , | 16 Comments

Hummingbird Bakery Lemon Cupcakes

hummingbird baker lemon cupcakes

It’s absolutely gorgeous here in the UK at the moment.
Spring has sprung, the trees are bursting with delicate blossom, the sunshine is finally out and warming our bones and the first glimmers of new shoots are poking their way up through the soil in the back garden.

A photo posted by Tara Cain (@taralara) on

I just love this time of year. It feels like we’ve hit ‘reset’ and it’s time to come alive and metaphorically take our socks off and show our toes to the world.
It’s a time for lazy late afternoon walks by the canal, saying hello to the sheep in the fields and coming home tired and happy to a zingy lemon cupcake. Or two. Or three.
And a cup of tea. 

A photo posted by Tara Cain (@taralara) on

Lemon cupcakes are the perfect treat during springtime. They’re light and tangy and bursting with flavour.
These are our favourite ones in this house. They have a core of lemon curd – adding that extra zing with every mouthful!
I’ve altered the recipe slightly to suit our tastes, but this is a great one for impressing friends with or even giving as a gift if you can manage to part with them!

This recipe makes 10 cakes because I make them using slightly larger muffin cases, rather than cupcake cases.

hummingbird bakery lemon cupcake

lemon cake

Hummingbird Bakery Lemon Cupcakes

120g plain flour
150g caster sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
40g butter at room temperature
120ml whole milk
1 egg
Jar of lemon curd

250g icing sugar
80g butter at room temperature
Squeeze of lemon juice
couple of drops of yellow food colouring (optional)
25ml whole milk
Grated zest of half a lemon


  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C or gas mark 3. Add your paper cases to a muffin tin.
  2. Put the flour, sugar, baking power, lemon zest and butter into a bowl and beat with a handheld mixer (or use a freestanding electric mixer) until everything is combined and you have a sandy consistency.
  3. Gradually pour in the milk until incorporated.
  4. Add the egg and continue to beat until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and continue mixing for a couple of minutes until the mix is smooth. The mixture should be the consistency of thick cream.
  5. Spoon the mixture into your paper cases until two-thirds full and then bake for 20-25 minutes or until your cakes are golden and the sponge bounces back when touched.
  6. Leave the cakes to cook on a wire rack and in the meantime make the frosting.


7.   Beat the icing sugar, butter, lemon and food colouring together until light and fluffy. Beat for around 5 minutes to make sure your frosting is nice and light and fluffy.

8.  When your cakes are completely cool, use a teaspoon to scoop out a small hole in the middle of each cake. Don’t worry if it’s not pretty, you won’t see it once the cakes are iced.

cupcakes with lemon curd

9.  Add half a teaspoon of lemon curd into the hole. Don’t overdo it as it will make your cake far too sickly 🙂

10.  Add your frosting on top – you can either just use a palette knife to swirl it on or use a piping bag as I’ve done.

11.  Finally grate lemon rind over the top to decorate.

hummingbird bakery lemon cupcake recipe

Posted in Food, Recipes | Tagged | 2 Comments

When is it MY time?

mum and the kids
I am my own worst enemy.
Since becoming a mother I just forget to do anything OTHER than be a parent.
My ‘me’ time is none existent.

There was a time I thought an hour on my own wandering around the supermarket was sheer bliss because I didn’t have a child hanging off one of my legs.
I refused to do internet shopping because that hour leaning on a trolley meant precious time to myself.
I thought to myself, I love shopping because that’s my me time. The bloody supermarket!

Before that I looked forward to going to the loo, so I could shut that door and not hear ‘mummy. mummy. mummy. mummy’ in that flat, monotonous tone asking for something they’ve already asked me five times for already.
Going to the loo was my ‘me’ time.

Gone were the back massages, the hours in the hairdresser’s chair, the lazy afternoon spent painting my nails. Hell I even had time to buff, shape and sort out the cuticles.

But babies come along and those days of spending time pampering myself were long gone; I went from sleek legs to only managing to shave the one because half way through dragging that razor up your second leg you realise your toddler’s bouncing on your bed and you’ve just heard an almighty thud.
Everything has to be done efficiently and at speed. There is no pampering involved.

This photo is from about 10 years ago. Right in the heart of prime I don’t have time for me territory. Mia had just cut her own hair, Dan was starting school and I was caught up in the whirlwind of pre-school parenting. And I bloody loved it.

And as with all things children, these phases pass. I’m now in the ‘they can pretty much look after themselves and I need to stop hovering around looking for something to help them with and sort my eyebrows out’ phase.
In the daily melting pot that is family life I need to carve out more moments for me. Because if I don’t I’ve only got myself to blame.
I find myself hovering in my 13-year-old’s room helping him pack his PE kit because that’s what I’ve always done. He doesn’t actually need me; in fact he’s glaring at me with that ‘can you JUST’ face.

But here’s the thing. While they have moved onto their next phase, I’m still floundering in the past.
So these past few weeks I’ve started to grab some me time.
A face scrub here, a pedicure there. Baby steps!

But. Truth be told I am still my own worst enemy.
I’m not ready for me time even though I know it’s vital to me being me.
Because the minute I find myself with a smidge of time to myself I go off in search of one of the kids to see if they need me. Because actually, being wanted by them still feeds my soul.
My dry skin and knotted back can wait a few more years.

Posted in Me | 21 Comments

Let’s talk Game of Thrones on NOW TV

Game of Thrones House StarkLong after everyone had OOOOd and OH MY GODed at Game of Thrones, we discovered it.
The Husband and I became totally and utterly hooked.

After doing the whole ‘I don’t see what all the fuss is about’ for years we succumbed. In a big way. We planned our days around being able to sit down at 10pm when the kids were well and truly in bed, to indulge. Sometimes we indulged in two episodes on a school night, we were that taken.
We binge watched Season 1 in a couple of days. Season 2, Season 3, Season 4 we stalked Ebay like praying mantis ready to strike when a boxset became available to buy.

It all came to a crashing halt when he hit upon Season 5 because, well, it wasn’t even on DVD yet. The horror.
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, then people started talking about Season 6 and we felt left out. This really is an addiction.

Then we were asked if we’d like to be NOW TV ambassadors.
To be honest, there are so many different ways to view your TV these days they all blend into one incomprehensible melting pot. I flat refuse to pay what Sky charges so I was rather hit and miss about the whole thing.


But how wrong I was. NOW TV is our dream come true! We are totally and utterly converted.
Well, first and foremost we get to watch Season 6 of Game of Thrones WHEN IT’S AIRED. AND we also get to binge watch Season 5 on their catch up boxsets.
Oh my oh my.

Here’s what you need to know about NOW TV

  1. You can sign up to watch it on your tablet, smart TV, desktop, Xbox or Playstation. To watch it on your TV you need a NOW TV box which is about the size of your palm and costs about £15. It is supremely easy to set up; you plug it in and connect to your broadband. It’s so easy my 13 year old son set ours up!
    With the box you also have access to catch up TV from iPlayer etc.
  2. It’s not a subscription service, you literally pay for what you want.
    So you can pay for the Entertainment package (£6.99 a month, the Movie package £9.99), or the Sport package (you can either pay for the days you want to watch with a Day or Week Pass, or get a whole month of live sport with a Month Pass £32).
  3. You have access to a world of boxsets so beware of bingewatching.
    Over the Easter holidays the kids and I discovered The Flash while the husband caught up on his favourite The Walking Dead (which no one else will watch with him so we trotted off to watch The Flash in another room! Taking the chocolate and popcorn with us, obviously).
  4. I didn’t realise until after two weeks of having the services that you can actually watch live TV; as in Sky Movies, Sky Atlantic etc. They don’t exactly make it easy to find! On Monday we will be THERE for the premier of Season 6 of Game of Thrones. Yes I know, I know, Westeros bores.

A few minus points.
Buffering can be a problem, but we’ve found occurrences to be relatively low.
I’ve also had to ‘reset’ the box a couple of times; when we’ve attempted to watch something a message comes up saying something along the lines of ‘this content is not available’. The first time it happened I had to Google what to do but it’s really simple; just go to settings and press ‘reset’ and the problem is solved. It is rather annoying though.
After binge watching The Flash we were keen to move on to Season 2 but found that only half of it was there – and the last half at that! I guess it will come onto the service eventually but *ooo* frustrating.

Top and tail of it is, we love NOW TV, would totally recommend it to anyone with a passion for varied and exciting TV and we’d find it very hard to be without it.

See you on Monday at 9pm! Oh and if I’ve sold NOW TV to you or you just want to investigate a little more, click on that purple box over there in my sidebar.

Posted in Film/TV, Other Review, Reviews | Tagged , | 4 Comments

5 reasons why every family should have a dog. And a little competition

A photo posted by Tara Cain (@taralara) on

One of the best things that ever happened to us as a family was the day we welcomed a dog into our home.
He came in, sniffed around a bit, sat on the sofa (BIG mistake allowing that from day one) and captured our hearts from the moment he wagged his tail and poked his wet nose into everyone’s face.

He is gorgeous. He loves us, listens to us, brings us together, melts the day’s troubles away.
We go on more family walks than ever before, he’s brought us new friends and he’s a great foot warmer!

Ronin’s favourite view! 🐾🐾 He sat out there in the sunshine today, actually basking! #vizsla

A photo posted by Tara Cain (@taralara) on

So, my 5 reasons why every family should have a dog:

  1. When your kids roll their eyes at you talking to them like babies, your dog will love it and no one will bat an eye at you coochy cooing the pooch.
  2. When you walk in the door from work, he will make you feel like THE most important person in his whole entire world. When you walk in the door having been to the loo he will pretty much do the same thing – they have no sense of time.
  3. Mobile vacuum cleaner for the kitchen floor.
  4. They listen to everything you say, never answer back and kiss you when you’re grumpy and angry. Especially when you’re grumpy and angry.
  5. They will never ever tell on you when they catch you eating a sneaky bar of chocolate while hiding behind the kitchen door. So someone tells me *cough*.

Hound Haus

If you want to treat your dog I have a little competition running on Twitter to win one of these fabulous dog subscription boxes for your pooch.
The Hound Haus is the brainchild of Verity Jones, who, after working with older people and in homeless shelters saw first hand the joy and support dogs can bring their owners. So while you treat your beloved dog, the money you spend helps Verity offer homeless and struggling dog owners additional support with essentials for their dog which as food, vet products and blankets.
She does all of this because she believes that supporting people to provide for their own dogs helps the owners, their dogs and reduces the demands on animal shelters.
And that’s got to be a good thing.

Each monthly subscription box is filled with five or six treats and items suitable for your pooch – everything from healthy nibbles and snacks to poo bags and toys.
You can pick the size of your dog (small, medium, large or puppy) and even make specific requests if your dog is a ‘destroyer’ of toys!

So, take a look inside our box in this very short video (there’s no talking because I’m having real iMovie issues!)
To enter the competition just Tweet:

RT & follow for the chance to win a @Thehoundhaus subscription box for your gorgeous dog #giveaway Click To Tweet

Terms & conditions:
The competition is open to residents of the UK, ROI, Channel Islands and Isle of Man only (sorry rest of the world) and those aged 18 and over.
The prize is for a Hound Haus subscription box. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
Entry is via Twitter. Only one entry per person, per day.
The competition closes at midnight on Sunday April 24, 2016.
One winner will be chosen at random from all the entries after the closing date.
A winner will be informed within 7 days of the closing date and will need to respond within 14 days or a new winner will be chosen.
The winner’s name will be announced on Twitter.
The prize will be sent within 28 days of receiving the winner’s address.
This is a joint promotion between Sticky Fingers and The Hound Haus.

Posted in Competitions, Dog, Other Review, Reviews | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Tefal Optigrill review

Tefal OptiGrill

In a few weeks time we will be embarking on a major house renovation project.
Both of the children’s bedrooms will be affected, there will be more dust than any human should have to endure and I will have no kitchen for weeks on end.

The only thing getting me though is knowing I have my Tefal Optigrill to hand.

Well now, that sounds rather dramatic doesn’t it?
I was sent the Tefal Optigrill to review and try out weeks ago and I was a bit ‘yeah well, I’ve got my George Foreman grill what’s this pretender going to bring to the yard? Or my kitchen.

Well let me tell you.

I would not be without it. This isn’t going to be much of a review because I’m basically going to say ‘buy one, they’re fab’; so here is a quick list as to why I love it so:

  1. It’s stylish enough to have out on your kitchen counter.
    Because let’s face it, most people shove gadgets in a cupboard and they never see the light of day again.
  2. It’s easy enough for a 10 year old to use.
    Obviously I don’t let my 10 year old use it because, you know, hotplates. But for anyone who can’t be bothered with instructions or learning anything new, this is your dream gadget.
  3. Three buttons and you’re cookin’
    Press the on button, press the button to reflect what you’re cooking (sausages, chops, steak, bacon etc), press OK. That’s it.
  4. It even tells you at what stage your steak is at.
    Like your steak rare? There’s a beep for that. Like it well done? There’s a beep for that too. It has an automatic sensor which adjusts the time and temperature to suit the food it’s cooking.
  5. What can you cook on there you ask?
    There are automatic settings for burgers, sausages, bacon, steak, chops, chicken, fish and there’s also a manual setting for cooking other things like veggies.
  6. It cleans like a dream.
    The top and bottom plates clip off and if you clean them not long after they’ve cooled down you can literally run them under the hot tap and wipe them clean with a cloth.
    If you’ve left it too long and the gunk has dried on it takes probably a minute extra of your time and elbow grease.

steak dinner

So were there any negatives you’re asking?
Well, it costs around around £100 so I guess the price could be an off-putting factor. However given the amount of times we use it now I would absolutely buy one again.

Some meat can come out ‘squashed’ or a bit flattened. It doesn’t bother me but it could be an issue for some.

You need to turn your sausages once for all round crispy skin; not sure if that’s a negative really but putting it out there.

You need to put it somewhere which is splatter proof or you’re happy to clean around as it does tend to get a bit of a grease ring around it. Again not really a negative but I’m scratching around for stuff here!

Anyway, here’s a very quick little video to show you around the OptiGrill and to demonstrate just how easy peasy it is to use.
We love it!

Posted in Food, Other Review, Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

Our Easter in pictures, the Big Renovation Project and a little competition


Our Easter break was a whirlwind of family walks, gardening, binge TV watching and planning for our Big Renovation Project.
It’s an exciting but daunting time.
Our house project essentially means knocking the whole of the back of our house out and making the move to open-plan living.
It’s so exciting but oh the mess, the mess, the mess.
It will put a huge strain on us over the summer as our home is turned into a building site and we have to cram everyone and everything into various rooms.
But it will be totally worth it and we’re all just going to have to suck it up and take a deep breath!

We have thought about moving house but we love our little spot overlooking oak trees; we love the close proximity to school and friends for the children, the fact that just a ten minute walk away is the most beautiful countryside – and I have a silver birch in the back garden I’m not ready to give up yet!

So while the sun shone we threw open the back doors, pottered in the garden, got a lungful of fresh air and enjoyed all our rural surroundings have to offer.
Then we came home and cuddled up on the sofa in front of the TV.
We’re making the most of the calm, the lack of dust and workmen while we can!

Easter view across reservoir

Easter walk with the dog

Dog walk with Vizsla


And while all of that is just lovely, the next best thing for me as a middle-aged house proud mother was that I washed all our bedding and hung it out on the line to dry.
It is THE best part of spring being here now; the joy as you get into bed that evening and your duvet cover is crisp and smells of the outdoors.
On our bed we swapped our dark, heavy duvet cover for a white one that yells SPRING IS HERE and it felt like we’d had a complete room make over.

Is there anything finer than white bedding blowing in the breeze on your washing line, or is that just me!

Let’s be honest, it’s not going to look this fresh and inviting for a while now after the work starts as we will have to cram boxes and bodies in our room over the coming months as the building work creeps through the house.
But at least this week it’s an oasis of calm!

Freshly made bed


If you fancy getting your hands on some new bedding for the spring, I have a simple competition running over on Twitter to win a Slumberdown Sleepwell bundle: The winner gets to pick their choice of duvet size along with two pillows. Just tweet the following to enter:

RT & follow for the chance to win a @SlumberdownUK Sleepwell bundle to celebrate spring #giveaway Click To Tweet

In my role as a brand ambassador for Slumberdown I’m all about fresh bedding and making where you sleep as comfortable and cosy as possible.
Here’s a fun video I made to showcase their washable pillows – another perfect excuse to get that bedding out on the washing line in the sunshine!

Terms & conditions:
The competition is open to residents of the UK, ROI, Channel Islands and Isle of Man only (sorry rest of the world) and those aged 18 and over.
The prize is for a Slumberdown Sleepwell set: 2 pillows and a duvet size of your choice. The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.
Entry is via Twitter. Only one entry per person, per day. 
The competition closes at midnight on Tuesday, April 12, 2016.
One winner will be chosen at random from all the entries after the closing date.
A winner will be informed within 7 days of the closing date and will need to respond within 14 days or a new winner will be chosen.
The winner’s name will be announced on Twitter.
The prize will be sent within 28 days of receiving the winner’s address.
This is a joint promotion between Sticky Fingers and Slumberdown.

Posted in Competitions, Family Life, Sponsored | Tagged | 15 Comments