Monday, 30 June 2014

Me and Mine - June

I had such a to-do list, so many would be ticked off in June.
And so, I didn't see predict that June's Me and Mine would be so close to May.
I had no idea as I wrote in May that I would be reaching with outstretched arm to snap Butlin's arm off to enjoy a Just for Tots break in Skegness as a Butlin's Ambassador.
I knew things were bad at work, I had no idea that they could get so much worse, and that I'd be thankful for being able to hold my children so close on our break.

And, yes, it's not that bad. I'm sure it's been far worse. I know it has.
And, yes, it's proportionate. To our life.
Because yes, I bring work home with me.
And I have felt destroyed.
I will look back on this.
It will be a time in my life.
But for now.
It is real.

And so I have been grateful.
For a husband who hugs me.
Who tries to tell me I have been here before.
And hugs me as I convince him this time it is worse.

For children who know no different.
Who just love free space.
Who are becoming the best of friends.
I can no longer differentiate whose friendship is strongest.
They are the bestest of friends.

And every now and again.
Every now and again.
I am grateful for them letting us be a part of it.

And so, as imperfect as our life is, here is our photo.
As always, on the holy grail of everyone looking in the same direction!

dear beautiful

Friday, 27 June 2014

A Comedy of Errors

History would document me as an organised person.
Organising mine and three little people's diaries has been, more or less, a walk in the park.
Ensuring appropriate checks are in place when I'm working away.
Making sure I have minimal nights away or taking time off when my parents holiday.

Everything is ready the evening before.
If I am working away, sets of clothing are lined up for the little people.
My overnight bag and work bag are by the front door, along with my shoes, coat, make up bag and jewellery.

And so, in the past week, I have had to hang me head in shame.

Knowing I would be at Britmums Live on Saturday, that Mr J coaches squash on a Saturday morning, I organised for my parents to look after the little people.
We received an invitation from Seren's best friend, for the three little people to be at her party.
I sprung to action. Arranging for my parents to get them to the party. Making sure Mr J met everyone at the party to regain parental control.
And whilst enjoying Britmums Live I began receiving phone calls, texts.
And then this one arrived:
And after reassuring my mum, I had indeed contacted the mum, and the party was confirmed as 11.30, I felt better.
Until I received this:
And the shock and guilt set in.
I had confirmed the time not the date.
Seren had put the invitation in a "safe place" so excited was she by the invitation from her bestie.

(Please note, he programmed his contact details as this, as opposed to the other hubby, who's not so hot).

And then the further misdemeanors.
I sent this to best friend's mum on Sunday night:
As I turned up at 8.32 to find out I was at the wrong surgery. By 5 miles.

Life hasn't got much better.

I purchased a voucher to buy a friend a gift. Today, panicking the voucher expired tonight, I contacted her to enquire *sensitively* whether her baby-to-be-born had been named. It hadn't. I cried. And this evening checked the voucher which expires in a month's time. And I had revealed my hand.  I cried some more.

I know that my loosing my marbles is symptomatic. 
Not of my age.
Well, maybe a little bit.
But more of everything.

And so, for now, the need to regain a sense of organisation is a priority.
And, with good humour, I confirm my word of the week is:
Please join in, over at the Reading Residence, with your Word of the Week.
The Reading Residence

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Getting children excited about reading

Reading to me, provides everything a child needs in life. 
It is the stepping stone to knowledge, to a future, and when you find the right book, to happiness.
Reading offers the opportunity to nurture an imagination, create a necessary escape, and build a knowledge which lets children become everything they want to be in life.
I am fortunate to be blessed with three children who love to read.
Bedtimes are always a negotiation of how many books will reward their good behaviour.
And little do they know how much I love bedtime, to rediscover the books of my childhood.
And so, a free reading event at @Bristol  was too good a family activity to miss out on.

Little Readers’ Day Out is hosting an event aimed at helping parents of 0-3 year olds to get the most out of reading books with their babies and toddlers (older siblings are welcome).
So, on Saturday 28th June in the At-Bristol Science Centre, parents will have the opportunity to take part in storytelling and rhyme time sessions with their little ones, and to speak to reading experts about their child’s reading journey.

Offering something for everyone; from parents who are yet to start reading to their baby to those who already read regularly. This is also an opportunity to join the baby book club and receive the best new books for babies and toddlers.

Added to the story telling sessions and rhyme time, there will be crafts and colouring, face painting, competitions and give-aways, guest appearances by well known book characters and a picture opportunity with Steam Dog Gromit.

I am already looking forward to the weekend, and can't wait to see the children's excitement as they get to listen to Paul Strickland reading "Dinosaur Roar!", a favourite story whatever time of day.

With an agenda tailored for pre-school children, you can find out more on the Routes to Reading Facebook page, and register for the Little Readers' Day Out event whilst you're there!

Disclosure: We have been invited to this event as part of the promotional activity. All views and opinions expressed are our own.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

That's life

I ended up last night in one of my lowest places, not in a dark place, I am fortunate, I still have an idea how to find my way out.

And not least, because my mood got me humming along to Wicked!
Which can never be considered a bad thing.

And so, to now, this evening, I am thinking of The Man.
And know, there's a way forward:
"That's life
That's what all the people say
You're riding high in April, shot down in May
But I know I'm gonna change that tune
When I'm back on top, back on top in June"

And yes, the timings are near enough spot on (give or take organisational delays).

And I have picked myself up.
Thanks to literally taking the day off.
Thanks to texts, and messages.
Thanks to taking the time.
Taking the time to work on my CV.
More importantly taking the time to work on my new project (sssssshhhhh..... a sneak preview).....
The phone calls I'd been putting off to make my new project happen, have happened.
The knowledge that I'm eating the wrong things, to regret tomorrow, but needless to say, my streaming cold demanding bacon and eggs, haven't made me feel like a complete failure.

And so, tomorrow begins our life anew.
A sports day, a doctor's appointment (I know my life is going wrong when I start to get all my appointments wrong, and repeatedly turn up a day early), my first day back at work, and dreams of a shopping trip to create the desserts I have been creating in my head today.

Yes, life is better compartmentalised.
Yes, they all overlap.
But appreciating the good things.
Not letting them be infiltrated.
Is the best way we can be true to ourselves.

Monday, 23 June 2014

*That* feeling

It's not a new feeling.
It's a feeling I can pinpoint across the years.

I couldn't talk to Mr J last night, too overwhelmed, and scared of the tears which would appear.
It's ok, I reassured him, we're fine.

These are just the feelings I inflict on our family.
I reprimanded myself.

Today I wanted to make excuses.
To remain under the covers.

And so,
To being proud of my daughter at Sunday School, convinced in spite of myself that she and her friends had left today learning something.
To her bestest's birthday party. The joy of turning 5. Watching my three celebrating this milestone.
To a car boot sale. To 'prop shopping'. Remembering the most enjoyable blog posts.
To home, to sunshine, playtime, bedtime, and cuddles.

I reminded myself, and was reminded, that this was our day of the week.
One of two days as a family to appreciate the happiness which will see me through the week.

And yes, we ended the day, appreciating each other.
My family letting me take an afternoon nap as my body wilted under the worst I have done to it.
Made it falter, made it rundown.
As I talked to Mr J tonight.
And he, typically, reminded me of previous occasions.
Those occasions where I have taken my stand.
Remained true to myself.
13 years on.
To now.
Remained true to me.

And I told him, how this time was different.
And he gave me that knowing nod.
And I explained to him, how I can stand for myself, and know my limits.

That this time, it is not about me, and yet it is.
Too many people have felt this.
And whether you feel the force of the tidal wave or a tsunami,
People do not have the right to cause this.

People should not have to feel this.
To feel uncertainty.
To feel misunderstood.
To feel that unacceptable behaviours are acceptable.

And as I opened my mail on Friday night.
Knowing that I should wait till work resumed on Tuesday.
That everything changed.
I do not understand.
I rationalise.
I apply logic.
I weigh things up.
I am a proven operational manager.
I am a proven strategic manager.
And yet, the things I have read.
I cannot rationalise.

The promise.
To be true to myself.
More than ever, I know I am being tested.

And so I have spent tonight on job sites.
Knowing I cannot remain as I am.
Maybe I will have to.
The breadwinner.
My income is not a point of compromise.

Will I need to compromise.
I can prioritise my family above anything.

It would be amazing, as me, if I could hold a piece of me true.
That I could stand.
For truth, for universal values, and for the right.
The right to finish work, and leave it.

And enjoy every aspect of family life.
Without compromise.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Enjoying Just for Tots at Butlin's

This week we have been fortunate to be enjoying the best of family life at Butlin's. 
We are in Skegness exploring the newly introduced 'Just for Tots' break and the little people couldn't be any happier. 
I love that my children are learning what holidays are.
They want to live here.
They are trying to negotiate an extra five days.
Thinking this is how it works.
And, of course, they know how lucky they are.

For us, the parents, Butlin's is doing what it does so well, creating the perfect holiday experience for children, with great customer service, with little touches which make the world of difference,  and in doing so creating the perfect holiday for us.
The 'Just for Tots' breaks are designed for those under 5. Little touches include the Splash Waterworld and fairground being very under 5 oriented in the mornings.
Shows starting earlier and evening meals being earlier.
Being provided with little touches so the children have things to do over the course of the week- collecting stamps for eating the right foods, and getting stickers for getting involved in the activities. 
And that's before they get to the Little Tikes town and all day craft and messy play!
So far, so fantastic! 
We have seen Beauty & the Beast and Scooby Doo on Centre Stage, loved Fireman Sam, Barney and the Skyline Gang at the Skyline Pavilion. 
We've loved the outdoor Little Stars Fairground, we've enjoyed some of the rides in the Fairground.
We've (they've) been dragged out of soft play.
Seren and daddy have spent far too much on the 2p machines. It's ok because they've convinced mummy that they don't spend half of what they spend on my all time favourite coffee- my treat whilst they are on soft play.
And we've spent two afternoons in the awesome Splash Waterworld.
Today, Bob the Builder, the Skyline Gang, and... Mister Maker!!

So, it's fair to say.
Butlin's really do know how to do holidays. 

Disclosure: We are #ButlinsAmbassadors and reviewing the #justfortots break at Skegness in this role. All views and opinions expressed are our own.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Having fun making treats #BahlsenBakeOff

When a bumper hamper landed on our doorstep much excitement surrounded it.
So wonderfully was it wrapped that Tom & Seb thought it must be a 'pass the parcel'.

It was in fact full of wonderful 'treats'.
Bahlsen treats to be specific.
I am a huge fan of their Choco Leibnix biscuits, I love how my teeth sink into chocolate before hitting a lovely biscuit.

And now the children have been introduced to Zoo Leibnix. I think this will be a familar in our shopping trolley.
How fantastic will Bento lunch boxes be with little animal biscuits?
How much fun can you have with maths as the animals come together in pairs?
Especially for the person who gets to eat them!

And our special parcel has two great recipe books- one which uses Choco Leibnix, and the other for Zoo Leibnix.
Oh! The decisions.

And whilst, there are so many I want to attempt.
I wanted to attempt to get the children involved in the whole process (as compared to the parts of cake baking they are 'allowed' to be in the kitchen for!).

And so we had so much fun.
My first ever attempt at s'mores.... hmmmm, won't take this approach ever again!
One attempt at chocolate dips... it worked.
And all accompanied by hot chocolate... the perfect accompaniment for any Leibnix biscuit.

And this was the fun we had.
(And yes, check out the fab Chef attire- this made our baking experience complete!

And if you liked this, check out the rest of the fun on the Bahlen Biscuits You Tube Channel!

Disclosure: We received a box of treats as part of the #BahlsenBakeOff Challenge. We were not asked to blog the experience... but had sooo much fun we had to!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Excited about Just for Tots at Butlin's Skegness

Rarely do events collide to give us such opportunities. And when they do, Mr J and I are agreed that they should be grasped with both hands.

Accepting an invitation as a #ButlinsAmbassador to experience the Just for Tots breaks was something we knew we should do as a family.
With two under-5's the opportunity to enjoy Butlin's 'just for the little ones' was too good an opportunity.

This new experience, introduced by Butlin's in April, means that we know our week will be aimed at young children, and, for our three, this has caused much excitement.
The knowledge of seeing Fireman Sam, Angelina Ballerina and the Skyline Gang has made counting down the sleeps a new motivation.
Adding Mister Maker and a Little Tikes Playground to the mix and nearly tipped them over the edge.
(If Tom doesn't get to meet Mister Maker I think I'll be in sooooo much trouble!).

If you haven't heard about the Just for Tots breaks, some of the customised aspects include:
  • Bespoke meals by Annabel Karmel MBE, who works with Butlins on specially-designed nutritious and tasty meals that will go down a treat with everyone.
  • ‘Pushchair Porters’. A unique service upon arrival to help parents transport their toddlers and belongings from the car to the room with minimum fuss.
  • Photocall ‘Firsts’. Photo opportunities at attractions around the resort where our roving photographers capture the extraordinary moments that parents must not miss, from the biggest smile on the tot’s fairground to when they get up close with their favourite TV heroes
  • Nap-time Buggy Walks. Customised quiet route maps to help little ones drift off through the landscaped gardens and out along the beautiful beaches that neighbour our resorts.
  • Drop-in style activity sessions and shows that are repeated throughout the break – so it doesn’t matter how long your little ones take to get their shoes on or finish their breakfast.
  • Butlins will be offering “learn-to sessions” so everyone can see their little ones achieve big things like learning to swim and ride a bike.
  • Wake-up activities every morning for early risers and bedtime stories with favourite characters to end the day
  • A pool party for pre-schoolers in Splash Waterworld with the big rides switched off and replaced with water toys to create a calmer atmosphere for your ‘water babies’
  • All their favourite TV heroes under one roof to cuddle and watch in specially designed shows that are shorter in length (perfect for easily distracted toddlers)
  • And the best thing is everything takes place within walking distance of your accommodation, so you can wave goodbye to car seats and ‘designated drivers’.
Oh my, to avoid the disappointment of my children not being tall enough.
To be able to have things which will specifically benefit them.
To know that everything can be expererienced and appreciated by my little people.

I love that Butlin's Head of Product Development, Alicia Coghlan describes the concept as "...making our youngest guests feel like little VIPs!”

And of course my diva's will love this.

And me, I just love receiving emails like this!

Just for Tots’ short breaks are available at Butlins Bognor Regis, Minehead and Skegness, with 4-night Monday to Friday breaks running across all resorts until September this year.

Disclosure: We are receiving a four-night break as part of our role as a Butlin's Ambassador. We will be reviewing this break honestly and all opinions contained are our own.

Father's Day

This Father's Day, I will be grateful for my husband being such an amazing daddy.
I will be grateful for my dad being such a fantastic role model in my life.

And I will think of those close to me, who have lost their dad's.
Of the phone call this week, letting me know that someone close had miscarried at past 12 weeks.

And I will be grateful for those who hold their hand out to offer support.

Winston’s Wish is there to support children and young people remembering their dad this Father’s Day
As the leading childhood bereavement charity in the UK, Winston's Wish supports bereaved children and families, helping them to rebuild their lives after the death of a loved one. This enables them to face the future with confidence and hope.

And so whilst families celebrate Dad’s special day, those families supported by Winston’s Wish find it a particularly difficult time. Bereaved children and young people have been faced with reminders of their loss as everywhere features this focus on Father's Day.
And marking special occasions such as Father’s Day by creating activities to remember and celebrate the person who died, can make a difference.

Winston’s Wish provides 10 ways to remember dads this Father’s Day:

  • Take a special card to his grave – or to where his ashes were buried or scattered
  • Tie your Father’s Day card or a special message to a helium balloon and let it soar into the sky
  • Blow some bubbles and send him your love on the wind
  • Plant some bulbs or a shrub in a place that holds special memories of your Dad – what was his favourite colour?
  • Have his favourite meal – Risotto? Roast dinner? Curry?
  • Listen to his favourite music – (however awful his taste was!)
  • Begin to make a memory box in which to keep things that remind you of him – photos, shells, holiday snaps, glasses, silly tie etc.
  • Make or buy a new frame for your favourite photograph of him – what was he doing?
  • Ask your Nan or Grandad for their memories of Dad as a little boy, and/or your Mum for her memories of when she and Dad met
  • Write him a letter or a poem or a song. Maybe you could start with something like ‘If you came back for just 5 minutes, I’d tell you....’

17 year old Amelia Taylor received support from Winston’s Wish after her dad was killed in an air accident in 2009. Following home visits by a Winston’s Wish Practitioner and attendance at a residential weekend where she met other children in a similar position, Amelia found that talking about her dad became a lot easier.

“I have gained so much from the support given by Winston’s Wish. I suffered severe anxiety after dad’s accident and used to worry about everyone I loved; thinking something bad was going to happen to them. Winston’s Wish gave me strategies to help manage these feelings. Winston's Wish have helped me realise that anyone can lose a parent, at any age and that I am not the only person going through this”.

Winston’s Wish encourages families to keep memories of dad alive with activities that the whole family can engage in, such as making memory boxes, listening to dad’s favourite music or having his favourite meal on Father’s Day.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

My fortunate labours #OBEM

As I had insomnia last night, and began channel hopping.
I ended up for the first time watching 'One Born Every Minute'.

And, of course, crying within the first 15 minutes.

I watched with envy as parents had their amazing moments recorded.
As my very, very, secret surfaced, that I have always regretted not having one photo of me holding both Tom & Seb as babies.

And by fluke, it was an episode where an identical twin was giving birth to her twins.

I know with confidence that I will always say: "I would like more children, but..."
I know that I have the most perfect family.
Whom I miss so much as they sleep.

And more so than anything else.
I had the most amazing labours.

Who could not be grateful for the expectant mother who arrives at 9am (for convenience, let's ignore the fact she turned up for an hour in the middle of the night, and agreed to go home) and gave birth at 9.53.
Who turned up at 6am on the day she was scheduled to be induced, and introduced her gorgeous boys to the world at 6.35 and 6.53.
I like to think I was an easy patient.

It made up for me being a pain the backside in the first ten weeks, or so.

I am so grateful for these little people.
That I could introduce to the world.

Without time to have my favourite tracks playing.
Without time to scream the place down.
Without time for all the things packed into my maternity bag

I am grateful for fast labours in hospital.
For my wonderful children.

And to have only discovered #OBEM when it's too late to change my mind!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Word of the Week #WOTW

This week has been about reinforcing relationships.

Be it a morning in Llandaff.
An unexpected offer of a play date.
Reinforcing texts and support, helping working life seem bearable.
An invitation to a 'mum's night out'.
Last minute coffee dates.
Or the agreement to read over an application form.

This week I have only had one day working away.
And more so than ever I have been fortunate to watch my children.
I have even managed to finish work in time to take them to the park (twice!).

I have watched the resentment as Tom scoots faster, Seb climbs higher, and the jealousy caused by Seren's tooth falling out first.
Witnessed the tension as Seb remembers the words to 'Meg and Mog', Tom to 'Room On A Broom', completely trumped by Seren being able to read 'Jack and the Beanstalk'.

And watched as they shared their food, got upset when one was missing, always named the others as their bestest of friends.
As they took it in turns to carry Jewelly's cat box to the vets.
As they counted to ten to share the holds of a very special snow-globe.

And so, this is my word, beginnings and maintained, all making lives easier.
So please, pop over to The Reading Residenceto see how others are summing up their week:
The Reading Residence

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Stress Less Challenge - A summary

At the beginning of May I signed up to a challenge.
Thanks to Mumsnet and Aviva, I am beginning to understand that stressing less can be achieved not only by decreasing stress levels but also by managing them.
If I have learned one thing over four weeks it would be that.
I have also learned that what you can be doing, you are doing, but there are also things that you can be doing, that someone else can see, and introduce to your life.
I live my working life with the mentality of 'continuous improvement'.
It turns out my entire life is subject to this approach,
And this is my reflection, along with my plans.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Mumsnet Blogging Network which offered 10 bloggers the opportunity to participate in this challenge. All views and opinions written are my own.

The Biter

I hope every family has one.

I remember Seren coming home with her first nursery accident report form.
She had been comforted, with a cold compress, the child at fault had been disciplined.
I joked with Mr J, I would rather be us than the other parent.

Almost five years on.
We have biters.

From a young age the boys have taken to launching their jaws into each other.
It's so difficult to manage.
Because one is no better than the other.
Seren, almost two years older, understands biting is wrong.
She has never been a biter.

The boys are the same age.
From hitting, pinching, pulling hair... and biting.
The boys fight.
Yes, they are lovers,
But yes, they know how to fight.

This evening as I sat in the office working late.
All hell broke loose outside.
I invited the crying child into my office.
Who displayed the bite mark on her school jumper.
"What happened?" I asked.
"X bite me" was the response.
Of course I wanted to understand the motivation.
"Because I wanted to come in and talk to you. But X said I couldn't. Because you were working. I tried. And he tried to stop me. And then he bit me."

I wonder about how much else is wrong with our lives, beyond the fact my son is a biter.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

My Little Swimmers- A #Review with Huggies

We were over the moon to receive a Little Swimmers package just for Tom & Seb.
Whilst Tom & Seb are toilet trained by day... we have many times that I need reassurance- namely at nights and at their swimming lessons (and any other swimming times).
Tom & Seb started swimming lessons when they turned three, because their confidence in their swimming aids knew no bounds.
Three months later they were already achieving their stars.
And they adore their time in the pool as much after class as they do during class.

We love Huggies Little Swimmers because it means we don't have to worry about accidents.
Our children have used Little Swimmers since they started swimming.
For Seren, it started at 15months with her screaming down a pool in Kos, for sanity we then waited until she was three for a re-introduction.
The boys are water babies. From a year old they loved Center Parcs and now love our local swimming pool.

And in all of this time Huggies Little Swimmers have not failed us. And be assured the children have!

We have now also added Huggies Wipes to our regular purchases. Whilst I've not had a particular leaning for wet wipes, Mr J is definitive in his preference,  he likes the thickness and the 'do-ability'. And to be honest, if it means he's sorting nappies- I'm sold!

Disclosure: We received a Huggies Swimming Nappies pack for the purposes of this review. All opinions and views contained are our own.

Monday, 9 June 2014

She CAN - The Worst Ever Period

As ActionAid begins the final phase of their She CAN campaign, they reach into the element of our lives, our lives in the UK, which are taken foregranted, kept private, to emphasise how the dual effects of violence and poverty impact the lives of so many, too many, women and girls.

ActionAid hopes through this campaign, this fundraising effort, that we can support women and girls, whose lives are so different to those of us living in the UK.
What do women and girls generally take foregranted in the UK?

Uh oh, standback for the uncomfortable.


Something that naturally affect most women are one of the last taboos – we find it hard enough to speak about them in the UK where we have so much at our finger tips.

Proving the point, ActionAid conducted a survey in the UK about how women here would feel about being caught out without sanitary products.
Guess what? Almost 50% would call in sick if this happened.

Why did ActionAid do this survey?

It’s linked to an initiative which urges people to consider how a lack of products such as tampons and sanitary towels can have a dramatic effect on women and girls in refugee camps ActionAid supports.

For women and girls who already have limited access essentials such as water and soap and have often travelled long distances to reach safety – having fled quickly.
ActionAid believe all women deserve to have their basic needs met and can feel that they have their dignity intact whatever their situation which is why this seemingly insignificant item to us here in the UK is in the pack which ActionAid gives to girls and women helped in camps.

Fear of visible stains (50%) and the feeling of being unclean (48%) were felt to be amongst some of the worst impacts, while almost one in four (23%) British women believe the worst time to get a period would be when travelling long distances.

These fears become even more significant with the finding that almost half of British women think that stomach cramps (47%) and heavy bleeding (45%) are among the worst things about having a period.

I know how uncomfortable I have felt about having periods when there are important meetings, when I have long car journeys ahead.
I have uncomfortable memories about periods in school, the daunting aspect of PE and swimming lessons.
And yet, these are, as that hash tag suggests #firstworldproblems
As Jane Moyo from ActionAid says:
“Nearly half of working British women feel it would be so difficult to go without tampons and sanitary towels during their period, that they wouldn’t be able to cope going to work.”

What if you need to make that escape, that escape that would protect you and your family?
If your daughter was fleeing to a refugee camp, in horrific circumstances.

The knowledge that dignity is protected.
That whilst everything else in your life is changing.
That during this most difficult time, you and your daughter might receive a pack which ensures one additional stress is avoided.

And so, with the UK government doubling all donations to the She CAN appeal, there hasn’t been a more urgent time to donate so ActionAid can make twice the difference to help women and girls escape poverty.

So, please if you can, if you can give what you can afford, and take advantage of the UK Government doubling all donations, please make the difference to so many lives, and help make some of our "take foregranteds'" and make them more realistic to all women and girls.

If you can't afford the cash right now, please use your voice, please consider tweeting or posting on Facebook to raise awareness.
Here are a couple of examples you could use:

Imagine you’re in a refugee camp – you left home with almost nothing. Then you get your period… #SheCAN

Imagine: You're on your period in a refugee camp. There's no water, soap or sanitary items via @ActionAidUK #SheCAN

Help a female refugee. @ActionAIdUK is looking for £ to distribute sanitary items to women in refugee camps #SheCAN

Thank you x

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Make, Bake, Cookies - The Recipe Book #Review

Sometimes a book comes along to solve all your problems. As a Parragon Book Buddy I was over the moon to receive a book which might solve my baking nemesis- tasty biscuits!

I love this book- helpfully split into sections which include 'Soft & Chewy', 'Crisp & Crumbly' and ''Fun & Frosted' with practice I'm hoping to move away from crisp and break your teeth... or just tastes like flour.

There are so many fantastic recipes- all with ingredients which create fantastic tasting biscuits- I am so tempted to follow the pictures and package these ones as gifts:
 And once I get my fantastic tasting biscuits, I can't wait to try and create fantastic looking biscuits!
At over 180 pages there are so many recipes to choose from, I love the final chapter- 'Something a Bit Special' which definitely seems the culmination of tasty and terrific looking cookies, and maybe for Seren's next birthday I might be ready to attempt the amazing Rainbow Slice Cookies!

If you're looking for a book to perfect your cookies, with a RRP of £14.00 it is a worthwhile purchase compared to batches of binned biscuits, although I have just found it for £6.99 so definitely worth snapping up!

Disclosure: We received a copy of 'Make, Bake, Cookies' as a Parragon Book Buddy and for the purposes of this review. All opinions and views contained are our own.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Word of the Week

At every opportunity this week, nothing has really gone to plan.
And so, our Word of the Week is:
We've forgotten things, made other plans, and had to quickly rearrange.
We've had opportunities which are too good to turn down, so have been frantically unpicking and re-planning.
We've had to figure out how to make our family marry with the things we need to do.
And we've had to make sure our contingencies accommodate keeping everyone happy.

We've had to complete the horrible "extended leave" form for school, as we've accepted a wonderful invitation from Butlins for the little people to experience a Just for Tots week.
We've confused the life out of my mum with childcare plans as Seren has decided she loves sleepovers.
And Mr J has decided to put up with me going for Britmums on the Saturday, agreeing to juggle three children with his squash coaching.

And of course there's been the work stuff.
Returning from work after a week off, to find my team is more fragile than ever.
Understanding today the impact of our Transform programme. Knowing that people I have known for up to 13 years will be creating new paths. There will be much change for people who have managed me, colleagues, confidantes.
I will have a new manager, and a new permanent manager thereafter.
My team have a new home.
And I can't help but think that the most exciting thing about a new home, is new surroundings, choosing the decor.
And how that applies to us, home workers- mobile workers... I wonder if I can convince Mr J to refurnish my home office?

And then, there's the little voice, the little voice which is telling me about the new opportunities.
The possibility that there are opportunities to be grasped.
Is now the time to step up to the mark?
To find out my worth?
The answer may be that I am achieving my worth.
Or it could be that I have the opportunity to be a part of the direction.
Is there ever a right time to find out?

Please, pop over to The Reading Residence to see more people defining their week.
The Reading Residence

Why Butlin's makes sense to our family of five

Last week we were fortunate enough to be invited back to Butlin's as part of their Ambassadors programme.

More fortunate because we were an Ambassador in 2013. Being an Ambassador means we get to experience five days at a Butlin's resort.
For us, this year we chose Minehead.
I am pretty sure I can see Minehead from our house- albeit the Bristol Channel means we have to take the longer route.

Why did we choose Minehead rather than Bognor Regis?
Minehead is more realistic for our family, if Butlin's is to be believed, that all of their resorts are of equal quality, why would a longer distance matter? Especially when travelling with three young children.
Whilst Minehead does not have the amazing hotels which Bognor Regis offers, financially we will not be staying in hotels that often-we wanted to review a holiday that would be realistic for our family in future years.

And so, three children, aged 5, 3 and 3.
A Silver Bungalow with Premium Dining.
For half term week.
Honestly, I was dreading it.
This is our first experience of holidaying in half term- knowing that now Seren is in compulsory education that this would offer a realistic view for the future.
And given my only other experience of child focused attractions in school holidays, I was not hopeful.

And I'll admit, when we got there, I instantly missed all the things I loved about Bognor Regis.
Because, of course, the layout is slightly different, because the sea does have a habit of determining layout.

Within a day, all thoughts of Bognor were memories.
The children and Mr J have left their hearts in Minehead.
And to be perfectly honest, whilst it was a nice busy, I didn't have any feelings of impatience.
We didn't queue long for the children's rides or fairground, the children made lots of friends at softplay, we got to see the Pavillion shows, and the children enjoyed the 2p machines.
I didn't have any feelings whatsoever of being stressed and the children enjoyed everything.
The weather was miserable.
But it really didn't reduce our enjoyment.
Because here's the thing.
At Butlin's all the entertainment is free, the majority of the activities are free, the fairground is free.
It rains, so you watch Mike the Knight, Fireman Sam, or Angelina Ballerina.
You enjoy coffee whilst your little ones enjoy soft play.
You wear them out at the Little Stars indoor fairground.
You burn even more energy at Splash Waterworld.

And when the weather is good,
You enjoy the outdoor fairground.
You make the most of all the parks dotted around.
You can even cross the road to the beach.

I did describe Minehead as more focused on the self-catering audience.
We enjoyed premium dining at Minehead, which allowed us to eat at The Deck and The Yacht Club.
Unlike Bognor Regis we weren't able to make an exchange for vouchers to eat at the other restaurants dotted around the resort.
I missed this, with the knowledge that your meals are paid for, there is definitely no temptation to eat in other places.
And whilst I am not 100%, it did seem like the Skyline Pavilion had more eateries to cater for those self-catering.
Admittedly we had no complaints whatsoever about The Deck or The Yacht Club, especially for young children, who don't have the best restaurant behaviour and can sometimes be fussy. Buffet style eating is absolutely perfect.
And whilst we made the most of our dining plan, and only needed a teeny top up at lunch.
We did make an exception and tried out the ice-cream parlour.
Oh, yes, how we loved 'Scoop'.
It was fantastic!

The break would have cost £1,318.
Oh my!
Our accommodation was £1,024. £256 a night. £51 per person.
If we try and stay in any hotel, we have to book two rooms- a budget of £128 per room. And that seems reasonable- we could probably come in under that budget in most places outside London.
Butlin's does have the benefit of three bedrooms, a lounge and kitchen.
Plus we then had all our entertainment included, access to Splash WaterWorld and the fairground.
I wonder how you'd cost the swimming, the entertainment, the soft play, and the fairground/
Oh, and we had the double buggy which neatly fitted in our bungalow- which few hotel rooms can manage.

Our food plan was costed at £294.
£24 per adult per day, and for our under 5's it's £6 per child (for 6-14 year olds it's £12).
That's breakfast and dinner.
And I would say it's three courses... but if you've met Mr J you know how he loves his eight course meals (he calls it tapas...).
We couldn't eat out for that.
And whilst we could probably eat in.... I really begrudge cooking and washing dishes on holiday.
And, given you eat minimally at lunch as a result...
It definitely offers value for money.
So, of course, they'll be more posts about our break over the next week or so...
And, of course, Mr J is frantically trying to book a break at Minehead over the summer holidays for him, his mum and Seren.
And, completely stereotyping, if he thinks it's value for money, and he's from Yorkshire...
... There's no arguing!

Disclosure: As Butlin's Ambassadors we received a five day break in a Silver Bungalow with a Premium Dining Plan for the purposes of this review. All views and opinions contained are our own.
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