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 | 13 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.

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But how wrong I was. NOW TV is our dream come true! We are totally and utterly converted.
Why?
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 , | 2 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

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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

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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

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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

Girl in a tree

girl in a treeLast week I read a beautiful post from Laura at Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy  about getting it right.

I never feel like I’ve got it right when it comes to parenting. Especially with this one pictured here. I feel like I fail her all the time and make all the mistakes I swore I’d never make.
I beat myself up for my horrendous lack of patience, for not understanding, for understanding all too well, for her not being like me, for her being just like me.
I wish she’d do this or not say that. I question why she’s not more like me and why she’s so difficult. I forget she’s her own person, then I beat myself up about that too.

And we took the dog for a walk to our favourite haunt and she climbed a tree.
No big deal, just put her foot up on the first branch, hoisted her body up and stepped up to the next branch.
Like it was the most everyday, natural thing in the world because that’s what we’ve always done when the kids go for a walk in the woods.

Then she stood in the branches and looked out over the woods and smiled. Not at anything in particular, just at being up high and having achieved something and, I like to think, at being content.

And right there I felt like I’d won at parenting.

We don’t often get these highlights so grab then while you can, revel in them and recognise that there are countless other parents out there going through exactly the same agony/ecstasy every single day.

Posted in Dan & Mia | 3 Comments

The definition of patience

Tree climbingAsking your 10 year old to please not wear her new white top to eat tomato soup and then reining in your natural inclination to rage when she ignores you and spills soup down said top.

Then she wipes it with her hand and spreads it even further and you know you’re completely out of Vanish.

Staring in disbelief as your child moans about brushing their teeth and then because she’s trying to moan WHILE brushing her teeth she manages to dribble toothpaste all down the front of her navy blue school uniform.

Discovering the school jumper she’s just spilt toothpaste down is the last clean one in her wardrobe.

When your 13 year old loses an item of uniform/PE kit Every Single Week.

Trying to get your child out of bed, dressed for school and out of the door when they’re on the top bunk and there’s no bloody way she’s getting up until it’s right down to the wire and she’s got 5 minutes to do everything.

When you finally, FINALLY get out the house, drive off to work, drive past the back of the house and both kids have left their bedroom lights on.

Listening to a 10 year old retell a ‘funny’ event from school.

When your 13 year old leaves a trail of drinking glasses all over the house and every one of them leaves a ring on the table it’s left on.

Not flapping when you find blobs of yoghurt on the living room coffee table. And the sofa. And the TV remote. And the rug. How, just how?

Fighting every fibre of your being that wants to rage when your 10 year old drops the white board rubber on the floor in her bedroom and the months of ink on it transfers itself to her cream carpet.

When you ask your rugby playing son to ensure his dirty kit is by the washing machine so you can wash ready for tomorrow’s match. Then finding he’s left a vital part of said kit in the bottom of his bag and it’s soaking wet and muddy and you’ve ALREADY PUT THE WASHING MACHINE ON.

When you slave over a meal and one or both of your kids whine about how they didn’t fancy that for dinner tonight.

Discovering Tippex on grey school trousers and not losing your cool.

 

Posted in Family Life | Tagged | 11 Comments

7 photos that show you have a teenage boy in the house


teenager on phone
1. This is your primary view of them.
I know the back of my son’s hand better than I know his face these days.

Balls under the bed
2. There is a ball under Every. Single. Surface in the house.
Including your feet while you’re cooking, when you’re walking through the house precariously balancing a pile of ironing in your arms or when you’re sat on the loo. I’m not exaggerating.
This photo was me literally lifting up the duvet to reveal under his bed.
LOOK at how dirty that one rugby ball is . . .  *grimaces*

Lynx
3. You have to navigate the fug of Lynx spray to get in to their room.
It’s preferable to the fug of teenage boy body odour, let’s be honest.
And how many years has Lynx Africa been going? Is it some kind of right of passage for teenage boys to use it?

teenager on xbox
4. Your TV is neither big enough or close enough for any game on the Xbox.
If you ask him to take a few steps back because, you know, that’s a bit too close, he looks at you like it’s the craziest idea you’ve ever had.

teenager in fridge
5. You constantly run out of food as they raid the fridge mere minutes after they’ve eaten a full English roast dinner. A meal that was the same size if not bigger than yours.
My food bill is huge. I never ever seem to have enough food in the house. Ever.

trainers trainers laces done up
6. They own the world’s supply of trainers, which they spend hours researching and coveting. And not a single pair of them are clean and not a single pair of them have their laces undone. Ever.
Does it really take THAT much time doing up and undoing laces?

Skinny Jeans super skinny jeans

7. How many pairs of skinny jeans does one child actually need? Is it a uniform?

Posted in Family Life | Tagged | 23 Comments

Passing the Travel Bug on to your kids

Travel beach

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list”
– Susan Songtag

I caught the travel bug many years ago.
At the age of five my parents took my brother and I travelling in a bright red Commer van with a caravan in tow.
We travelled through France and Spain and flirted with the top of Africa and I came home with a wanderlust.

Now I’m a parent I feel a great weight of responsibility to show my children the world.
To show them how different the world is, how beautiful, how big, how inspiring.

Before children I travelled a lot.
I’ve had lunch in the mountains above Budapest. I’ve been skiing in Austria. I’ve travelled on horse and cart through Germany, sat with villagers on the island of Skiathos, attended a wedding in Florence, Italy.
I’ve travelled to Thailand, Canada, America, the Caribbean, Lapland.
I’ve travelled to villages very few people get to see let alone visit in Papua, Indonesia.
And all the time I wonder, will I be passing on that wanderlust to my children? Will they crave what I craved?
And how the heck does all of that translate into a family holiday?

Travel boatingTo us the perfect family holiday is one where we’re having experiences together.
It’s about looking back and thinking ‘wow, we did that. That was pretty awesome’.
For a family who loves to veg out on the sofa with a good movie on we do love our adventure.
Dolphin watching, horse riding in the sea, snorkelling, scuba diving, we’ll give them all a go!

Travel horse riding in the sea Travel swimmingTo me travel is about having write home moments. Moments that when the pictures pop up on the digital photo frame in the lounge someone asks “WHEN did you guys do that?!”
Ah and the photos. I LOVE taking travel photos. Like posing in snorkels and the 10 year old pulls her grumpy face because it’s time to go home and she wants to keep her mask forever.

Travel snorkelling

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo what makes a perfect family holiday for you?
I turned to Twitter and Facebook to ask and got some fabulous answers. I specifically asked: What do you consider THE most important thing when going on a family holiday?
(Very few people managed to answer with one thing!)

A surprising number of people said WiFi was on their list, showing a real sign of the times!
And this was followed by a resounding ‘FOOD’!

Erica has a great list (I said ONE thing Erica!): “1. Stuff for an only child to enjoy 2. Food. 3. Things for us all to do together 4. Wee bit of luxury 5. Value (all the above at an affordable price!)

Family travel must haves

I also love Liz’s reply: “A really comfortable bed, seriously I check reviews for info. Nothing worse than spending a fortunes on a holiday and then not sleeping or having back pain for 2 weeks. After that facilities, food, wifi, stuff for us to do. These days we tend to try and get an apartment rather than a hotel room so we can self cater and have a little privacy now L is 13.”

Family travel must haves 2Over to Kylie: “Museums. We booked a week in Majorca last year. Kids facilities including a kids club galore. Day 2 Joseph said, this is all very nice but where are the museums? There were none nearby at all. This year we’ve booked Normandy. It won’t be as warm but there’s a lot more to do.”

Family Travel must haves 3Seriously, this stuff is golden; these are all families who travel who know exactly what they need from their family holidays. And it’s really interesting to see how things change as our children get older.
Except for Kerry; I’m pretty sure she’s always going to have food at the top of her list!

Family Travel must haves 3Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 11.29.50 Family travel must haves 4

And what did Twitter have to say? Here are just a few of their answers:

And finally, this is how we do family holidays!

This post is for the Mark Warner Holidays’ Family Ambassador Programme (they’re asking what your perfect holiday is).
Thanks to everyone who joined in and answered the questions and gave such honest and interesting answers.
What I take from all of this is that people love to travel, love to take their kids and are passing on that wanderlust as best they can!

Posted in Travel | 5 Comments

She’s always right. Just like her mother

Mia

The husband and I are rowing. Over something insanely trivial no doubt.
I’m not going to give any examples of what it might have been because, well, as I said they are insanely trivial and someone will point and laugh and say ‘you daft pair, what are you 15?’
Yes we are daft. We’ve also been together for more then 24 years so it clearly works for us.
But there’s hand waving and tutting and lots of head shaking and ‘I said, you saids’. You know the scene.

So items are being slammed down on tables, kitchen cupboards are being closed much louder than they really need to be and the dog is hiding in his bed in the pantry because he hates raised voices.
It’s really quite childish.

Also, the incident we’re rowing about was so trivial that I can’t actually recall right now what it was about.
But needless to say, we’re snipping away at each other totally obliviously to the world going on around us.

Then from the next room this little voice pipes up, filled with the authority of someone speaking from a position of total and utter knowledge:
“Stop rowing you two. What’s the point? You’re both right and you’re both wrong, so you might as well stop it now.”

And right there you realise your 10 year old really is going to be OK out there in the big wide world.

Posted in Family Life | 11 Comments