On celebrating the ordinary

styling-dfs-sofa

I was having a conversation with a friend at work recently, who has a two-year-old son.
We were talking about making memories with your children and how when they’re little you fill their spare time with extraordinary things; visiting wondrous places, experiencing fabulous things, inspiring them, hopefully making them go ‘wow’ every once in a while.

Much like my friend, our memories consisted of family walks to beautiful places. We encouraged them to climb trees, to go on nature treasure hunts, to experience the wonders of Mother Nature for themselves.
But, I told my friend, BUT here’s the thing, they don’t remember. They really don’t!
My son is elbowing 14 and often I’ll reminisce about things we’ve done and he’ll say I really don’t remember that! How bloody sad!
And there was me thinking I was creating a magical childhood!

Well, as it turns out, rather thankfully, I’m wrong.
For while they don’t remember specifics, our family traditions are well and truly ingrained.
They have a great love of the outdoors, they love adventure and they are inquisitive and active.
And best of all, they have adopted our most favourite post-day out habits of curling up on the sofa together and watching TV.

The sofa is the heart of our home.

Everyone has ‘their’ seat – which we all squabble over – their favourite cushions and a cosy blanket or two.
I absolutely LOVE this habit we have.

dfs-sofa-sophia And now winter is on our doorstep we intend to do it even more. Movies, boxsets of Modern Family or The Flash and a hot chocolate or two.
So when an email arrived in my inbox asking if we’d like to try out a DFS sofa for winter snuggling I snapped their hand right off! It’s a campaign with us written all over it!

We’re in the process of remodelling our home to make an open-plan kitchen, dining, living space and have been casually browsing new furniture to fill the space, so this was perfect timing.
We visited our local DFS store, which turns out is just 15 minutes up the road, and argued for a good half an hour about which sofa would suit.
Sometimes you can have too much choice! I wanted the French Connection stylish number in petrol blue that was utterly gorgeous but wouldn’t go with anything we currently own so we’d have to buy everything else new to go with it.
I was totally up for that *ahem*.
Then we went home and remeasured (which wasn’t easy because we’re measuring off architect plans and imagining how it ‘might’ look when the work is all finished).

dfs-sofa-cosy dfs-sofa-collage dfs-sofa-review So here’s the one we opted for – it’s a House Beautiful Sophia in Stone. We’ve always opted for leather sofas in the past (feral kids, a dog, mucky pint-spilling husband) so we were delighted to have a cuddly fabric sofa this time.
The day before it was due to be delivered I also spotted this dog cushion at Marks & Spencer and fell in love; it’s a perfect fit for the sofa AND it looks just like my lovely boy (although if he ever tries to sit on said sofa he will no longer be my lovely boy!)

dfs-sofa-for-families It’s even more fabulous than I imagined and perfect for this family.
Now I just need to decide which is ‘my’ seat and stake my claim . . .

Note: As we’re not entirely ready for our new sofa because the house renovation hasn’t started, we’ve had to move our current sofa into the conservatory for safe keeping #dontjudgeme

img_4172

Posted in Other Review, Reviews | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Supremely easy Crunchie fudge

crunchie-fudge

I have never had so many ‘PLEASE make these again!’ comments after these showed up under the hood of our glass cake dome!
They are seriously good. Or should I say Seriously Good.

I made them for our rugby club’s bonfire party – fudge and honeycomb seem so autumnal – and they sold like, well, hot cakes.
So I made them for my work colleagues and again, went like hot cakes.
All the while my teenager is lamenting “can you JUST make a batch for us and not give them away”. Sorry Dan 🙂

chocolate-fudge-recipe

So here you go; Crunchie Fudge. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Wrap it in greaseproof paper, put it in a nice tin or a presentation jar and give it as a gift. Just be warned; it looks glorious for the first couple of days but then the honeycomb gets absorbed into the fudge and it’s not so pretty, but it still tastes fabulous.

Ingredients
397g can of condensed milk
400g milk chocolate, broken into squares
25g butter
1tsp vanilla essence
125g icing sugar, sifted
300g Crunchie bars, chopped

making-fudge-with-crunchie-bars

Method
Line a 9X9 tin or similar with greaseproof paper.

2. Put the condensed milk, chocolate, vanilla and butter into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt on a low heat, stirring often until all combined. Stir constantly so nothing sticks to the bottom, until smooth and well mixed. Take off the heat.

3. Add the icing sugar (I sifted mine right into the saucepan). Beat really well until all the sugar is combined and it makes a nice, stiff chocolatey mixture.

4. Leave to cool in the pan slightly and then stir in two thirds of the Crunchie until well combined. If you add it too early when the mixture is still hot, it will make the Crunchie melt, so be patient and wait until it’s cooler.

how-to-make-crunchie-fudge

5. Tip the mixture quickly into the prepared tin and spread it out evenly.

6. Sprinkle the remaining Crunchie over the top – the ‘crumbs’ look like gold dust when you add them at the end which gives a lovely finish! Make sure you push it into the top of the fudge with the back of a spoon so it doesn’t all fall out once it’s set and you’re slicing it up.

cruchie-fudge-recipe1

7. Put in the fridge for at lease 3 hours.

8. Remove from the tin and cut into squares – the size depends on you!

img_4114

Let me know what you think.

Posted in Food | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

HelloFresh meal box review

hellofresh-box

I was asked once if I could choose one household helper free of charge which would it be: a housekeeper, a nanny, a gardener or a chef.
I would choose a chef every and any day of the week.
It’s the one thing I really struggle with; working full-time and with two kids who are out and about all the time, I constantly worry that we’re not eating properly.

We regularly run out of fresh fruit and veg because I can’t get to the supermarket every other day, my son eats like it’s going out of fashion so we run out of everything ALL the time and quite frankly I don’t have the time to sit down and think about what we’re going to eat for the coming week because it depends on so many differing factors.
We never sit down at the same time and by the time homework is sorted, kit is washed and I’ve gathered my thoughts I need to cook something FAST.

Also there’s that whole stuck in a rut thing. Cooking the same ole things over and over. I like to try new things, discover new tastes, broaden our palettes.

So, this is all my way of saying I love the idea of meal boxes.
I don’t care if it makes me sound lazy (just order online. Just go to the supermarket. Just plan). If it were that easy I’d do it. It’s not. I don’t.

So, we took delivery of two HelloFresh family boxes to review. Both came on a Thursday. Both made me a bit giddy with excitement.
So what did we think?

FAVOURITE MEALS

Out of the eight meals we received I’d say we’d definitely make four of them on a regular basis now. We ended up trying dishes we would never have bothered with before and – like the pork dish – we make it regularly now.
Our meals were:
Teriyaki Beef

hellofresh-teriyaki-beef

Pan-Fried Sea Bream

hello-fresh-sea-bream-with-sweet-cherry-tomatoe-sauce

Creamy Leek and Mustard Chicken

hello-fresh-creamy-leek-and-mustard-chicken

Jamie’s Sizzling Steak Stir-Fry

hello-fresh-jamies-steak-stir-fry

Sweet and Sour Pork

hello-fresh-sweet-and-sour-pork

Sticky Chicken Drumsticks

hello-fresh-sticky-chicken-drumsticks

Courgette, Broad Bean and Feta Orzotto with Pork Meatballs

Saucy Mascarpone and Bacon Gnocchi
(Sorry forgot to take a photo of these two!)

So what is HelloFresh and how does it work?

Basically it’s a fresh food box which is delivered to your door with everything you need to make a set number of meals. The recipe cards are super easy to follow and you literally just take out the ingredients you need for the meal you’re making and it’s all there ready for you to prepare. There’s a spot of peeling and crushing and chopping, but other than that the preparation is quite minimal.
Each recipe card also tells you how long it will take to cook, so you can decide if you have enough time for each meal which I loved.

You can choose from a classic box, a veggie box and a family box. We tried out the family box which was £64 per box and included four meals for a family of four.
You can view upcoming recipes; oh and Jamie Oliver is in on the scene too creating recipes for the boxes.
The meat was all excellent quality, as was the fresh produce. It came well packaged and was very easy to follow and create the meals.
You can also swap recipes if you’re really not keen on one which is due to be in your box. However this is only available for the Classic 3 meal box (Meat & Fish). Hello Fresh say they are hoping to make it available to other recipe boxes very soon.

PROS

  • The box arrives with everything you need to make four family meals. The ingredients are excellent quality and very well packaged. The meat and fish come in a well insulated pack inside the box. They were in the box for a good few hours before I got home to unpack them, but everything was still chilled.
  • The meat and fish is locally sourced and organically produced and much better than similar cuts at the supermarket. I’m very fussy about the meat and dairy produce we eat and I was really pleased with the quality.
  • The recipes were a mixture of old favourites and some we’d never tried before. We turned our noses up at the sweet and sour pork as we’re not really fans, but this version was a whole different way of making it and it’s now a firm favourite.
  • Everything is measured out for you. This sounds like the laziest thing ever, but when you’re pressed for time it meant I actually enjoyed cooking a hell of a lot more. It also means less food wastage. It means you don’t have to buy a whole jar of saffron or fish sauce for one dish and it then sit in your cupboard unused for a year.
  • You also know you’re getting a really healthy, balanced meal which is a big win.
  • There is also plenty of food for decent-sized, not large portions. I have one child who eats everything and anything in his path so I think we’re on the verge of the family box no longer being suitable, for for smaller tummies it’s fine!

hellofresh-recipe-cards

CONS

  • I’m not sure if this is a ‘con’, but you have to cook the meals pretty much every day after receiving the box. The ingredients don’t last – probably because they aren’t full of chemicals to increase their shelf life – but it does mean you need to be prepared to make four meals on the trot. So no cheeky takeaways in-between. No eating out and skipping a meal. We did actually struggle with this sometimes because we’re so busy and because the box was delivered on a Thursday, which meant meals had to be cooked over the weekend.
  • It’s expensive. There’s no getting away from it, it is a lot of money. However you do get your money’s worth – the ingredients are excellent and the bumf tells you each meal costs around £4. Yes you could  probably make it cheaper, but you’re paying for the convenience here and the quality of the ingredients.
  • A couple of the meals just weren’t kid friendly. Not your average kid anyway. My kids aren’t foodies, they like good simple fare like bolognese, chilli, stir fries, roast dinners.
    A couple of the meals I just couldn’t get them to invest in!

VERDICT

I love the idea of these boxes. Love it. However, practically they do  present issues of their own.
As I said, you have to cook the meals pretty much every day. Maybe if it were delivered on a Monday would be better as actually the weekends are the times I DO have have to think and spend a bit of time in the kitchen.
Yes if you look at the cost per box it is expensive, but having experienced the quality and the convenience I don’t think that would put me off now.

I think our overriding verdict though, would be that we really liked the boxes; how to took the stress out of cooking, how the kids could join in without me stressing that we wouldn’t get to eat until 9pm at this rate and how it opened up a whole new raft of recipes for me without me having to sit and sift through recipe books finding ones which would suit.

Have you tried subscription boxes? If so, let me know what you think?
I also reviewed three other meal boxes recently; see what I thought.

hello-fresh

Just a note to the wise; you should also note, this is an auto-renewing subscription service. You can pause or cancel a delivery before midnight on the Wednesday prior to the week of your next scheduled delivery so MAKE A NOTE or a box will arrive on your doorstep.

Posted in Food, Other Review, Reviews | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Apple Crumble Cake

Apple Crumble Cake

Every year we pick a bumper crop of apples from the tree at the bottom of our garden.
It’s a fruit tree my beloved grandpa bought for our new home when we moved in.
Now he’s gone, every year when we pick that bumper crop I make sure we celebrate with some apple-baked goodness to remember him by. He’d love that.

It’s usually a pie or an autumnal crumble, but this year I wanted to make something which I could take into work and share with my work colleagues.
A pie or crumble just wouldn’t cut it.

So I opted for an Apple Crumble Cake. Or an Apple Crumble traybake.
It was a bit of a new one for me, but boy oh boy it’s a winner; AND I’ve never had so many requests to share a recipe!

So here you go; a most excellent autumnal treat. Eat it warm from the pan, or keep it in the fridge for a slice. You should note it’s best only kept for a couple of days, however it may not be a problem you need to worry about as it doesn’t tend to last long!

Apple Crumble Cake recipe

Apple Crumble Cake

Ingredients
Base
100g butter, at room temperature
110g caster sugar
1 egg
150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp milk

Filling
5 large apples, peeled and chopped into bitesize pieces
1 nob of butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sugar

Topping
185g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
125g butter, from the fridge
165g caster sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees C (320 F) and grease and base line a 20×30 cm pan.
  2. Add the apple, butter, cinnamon and sugar to a saucepan and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes or until the apple is softened but still retains some bite. Take off the heat and leave to cool.
  3. Make the base mixture by creaming together the butter and sugar, then add the egg and beat well.
  4. Fold in the flour and baking powder and stir in the milk.
  5. Spread the mixture evenly in the bottom of the prepared tin.
  6. Make the topping by mixing the flour, sugar and baking powder together in a bowl. Add the butter in small chunks and then rub it into the flour mixture with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  7. Drain the liquid from the apples and add them evenly on top of the base mixture.
  8. Spoon over the crumble mixture evenly. For a little extra crunch you can sprinkle over some rolled oats or some chopped nuts.
  9. Bake in the centre of the oven for 40-50 minutes or until the top is golden.
  10. Leave to cool in the tin and then cut into slices.

apple crumble traybake

Posted in Food, Recipes | Tagged , | 4 Comments

First day of school. The senior school edition

school-homework

His legs are long and lanky now, not the sturdy legs of a four year old when he first pulled his grey trousers on to go to school.
He wears a tie and a blazer and looks like a grown up. His school shoes no longer have ‘bumpers’ or velcro straps. They’re men shoes.
I lament the loss of my little boy but marvel at the young man in front of me.
He started senior school this week. Year 9.

Sunday night, I hover around his room wanting to get involved. He doesn’t need me but I’m feeling the need to be needed.
I fold a piece of kit here and there. Pretend I’m directing the proceedings but I’m just a hanger on really.

On Sunday he puts his uniform on for a test run. We have to pop into school for the afternoon with all the other boys in the year and the parents.
He looks amazing. I feel an overwhelming sense of emotion and pretend to go downstairs to fetch something, because honestly, this feels worse than that day in reception when he looked too small to spend the day in a classroom.
Now he’s too big. He’s growing up so fast. Where has that little boy in Reception gone?
I feel the past eight years of his school life rush at me; the disappointments, the tears, the joys, the Big Decisions.

Dan is now a senior school pupil. The next phase in his schooling starts now. The GCSE years. Everything gets serious from this moment forward.
And I feel as emotional now watching him disappear through the school gates with a huge rucksack on his back as I did eight years ago when he left my side to go to Reception.

 

Posted in Dan & Mia, School | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Adventures with a Citroën C4 Cactus

Citroen C4 cactus campingBefore we took delivery of our funky green Citroën C4 Cactus to review on a family camping trip to the Lake District I rolled my eyes and I moaned.

Seriously? HOW are we supposed to fit everything into that car? I looked it up online, I mentally tried to imagine my leggy teenager and preteen sitting in the back and bickering all the way up the M6 because ‘he’s in my personal space’ etc etc.

I imagined us playing car boot Jenga and failing miserably.
I imagined family rows and having to sit on sleeping bags and hating the whole experience.
I was the worst sort of moany, whingeing blogger.

“It will be fine” the PR soothed. “We’ve checked with Citroën and they assure us it’s fine for your trip and there’s a roof box on there too”.
Our trip was four days in a Hobbit Hole in the Lake District which we were all super excited about.
I mean, come on, a Hobbit Hole!
We had just returned from a fabulous family trip to Dubai, and we were loving the idea of a Hobbit Hole in the hillside!
But the car. Would this Citroën C4 Cactus fit all our bags in (it’s like travelling with four adults these days) and our sleeping bags, our pillows, our camping cooking gear? Hell we had a gas bottle for our camping stove. And we even packed a gazebo it turned out we didn’t even need in the end.

So the car came and everything fitted in fine. No one had to squish themselves in-between the car door and a gazillion bags.
In fact the nearly four-hour journey to the Lakes (the traffic was rubbish) was a breeze.
The husband and I looked at each other like we’d been fools. “I really like this car” he commented as we got to the pass the car sweets around stage. “I really like it”. He drove it the whole holiday. Some might say he hogged it. The husband works at a high-end car company and he criticises most cars.
The Cactus was winning us over, goddamit.

Citroen C4 Cactus dashboard

So we decided to reward her (for all cars are ‘hers’) with a little adventure!
We took her through Borrowdale and the stunning Honister Pass, which snakes through the Lake District and must be one of the most amazing roads to drive on.
We stopped and took arty photos and she stood out for being the ‘wrong’ green and we laughed because her side ‘air bumpers’ made her look perfect for the rocky terrain.

Citroen C4 Cactus review Citroen C4 Cactus lake district Citroen C4 Cactus family

Then we took her to Aira Force Waterfalls in Penrith where she had to sit and wait for us because it was quite a hike up the side of the falls and she was resting after her Honister Pass climb.

Citroen C4 Cactus review 3Finally we took her to the beach at Morecambe where she got to meet the famous statue of Eric Morecambe and she once again managed to stand out on a grey and rather overcast day.

Citroen Cactus at seasideSo what did we make of the Citroën C4 Cactus?

Well, we are really rather fond of her.
She’s funky, nippy and cheerful but roomy enough for a squabbling family and groovy enough to turn heads.
She was an easy, comfortable ride with loads of storage space
If we could change anything it would probably be the pop-out window in the back which the children found annoying and I found annoying having to listen to them being annoyed.  Also the digital touchscreen wasn’t always intuitive and pretty much all the controls were on there, so making minor changes was a bit of a faff, which isn’t great when you’re driving.

But these are minor complaints in a vehicle we really did grow rather attached to.
We grew to love the side bumpers too!

Citroen Cactus review 2

Posted in Other Review, Reviews | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Do you wish you could freeze time?

 

growing up so fast

Do you constantly wish your children would stop growing up so fast?
I do. All the time.
Hell, I write it all the time on this blog!
It feels like a blink and BAM, another slew of years slip on by and I’ve got a teenager whose voice is breaking and who wants to go on the train into town with his friends and doesn’t need me to do anything.

And I lament ‘oh where has my baby boy gone? Where are the days where he held my hand/sat on my lap/snuggled into my neck and fell asleep while watching back to back episodes of Ben 10?’

I miss chubby hands in mine, needy arms reaching up for attention. I miss little voices singing TV theme tunes for shows I’ve grown to dread because I’ve watched them over and over and over and over.

I saw a post on Instagram recently from Renata at thefelfis about her children growing up so fast.

Here’s what she said: “Most of the time I’m fine.. But sometimes and some days I have moments which I feel so sensitive and all I want is to cry. My reasons are usually related with the time passing by too fast. About the things that I have no control about. About my kids growing up, me getting older. I really try to do the best of my days each and every day but this anxiety just consumes me. I want badly the time to slowdown!!!”

Yes, I thought. Yes, yes yes!
But no. Wait a minute. When I thought about it I’m not that sad. Because actually the preteen/teen years are proving to be pretty awesome too. Challenging sure, but then so were the baby/toddler/first school years.

As your children get older you watch them become more independent and it’s a joy to see. Because you think to yourself I helped that happen. My parenting is working. I did that.

You never ever think the day will come when you’re OK with them leaving home. I could never imagine myself being OK with not actually knowing where they were, what they were doing, who they were with.
But it’s a slow build not a sudden overnight thing. My 13 year old now takes himself off on the train to our local town and the first time he did it I don’t mind telling you I CLENCHED the whole time he was away. But he did it and he loved it and he loved me for trusting him to do it. And that in turn made me feel great.

So anyway, the point of all this was to say that them getting older is a good thing; an exciting thing. Don’t lament the passing of time because watching them grow is a fabulous thing. The teenage years don’t have to all be bad and just like they are going through huge changes, so will you. And it’s all good 🙂

Posted in Dan & Mia, Family Life | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

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