A Fun-Packed Break In The Peak District With Sykes Cottages

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There aren’t many family breaks that combine gorgeous interior design, rolling hills and adrenalin-filled fun. Last week, we spent a few days at The Old Temperance Hall in Kingsley, Staffordshire with Sykes Cottages. This place was less of a cottage and more of a huge impressive dream home. Which is unsurprising when you discover that the owners bought the hall five years ago and spent all of that time completely remodelling it to become a five bedroom family home.

The Old Temperance Hall, Staffordshire

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So what’s this place like? Well the main living space and kitchen is totally open plan with skylights on the roof, letting in loads of light. Yet in the evening, it still manages to feel cosy. The kitchen has a range cooker and large fridge freezer, and there’s a utility room off to the side with a washing machine, microwave and more storage, plus a shower room and loo. The clever design of the house means you go up one set of stairs to get to the master bedroom, with ensuite and roll top bath. You go up the other staircase to get to two more bedrooms (a twin and a double) plus a small bathroom. On the ground floor, towards the front door, there are two more bedrooms (a twin and a double).

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Mr P outside our bedroom

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Our few days there were brilliant. We went with my good friend Katie and her family (check out Katie’s gorgeous blog) and The Old Temperance Hall was the perfect place for us to stay – because of the layout, it felt like each family had our own ‘wing’ and then there was loads of space downstairs for the girls to hang out and play.

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Taking advantage of the free wifi

The best thing about the location is how much there is to do for families. On our first day in the Peak District, we went to Trentham Gardens (on the recommendation of another blogger friend Kerri-Anne) which was incredible. You’re driving along, in a built-up area, and suddenly it’s there with acres of parkland, a lake, wild flowers and ace things for kids like an adventure playground, zip wire, climbing wall, boat rides and a maze. We didn’t try it but there’s also a barefoot adventure where kids take their socks and shoes off and squelch through mud!

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Navigating the maze

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Saying Goodbye To Nursery

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I’m sitting on my my sofa, working on the laptop as the evening sun streams into the living room window. Along the hall, in the kitchen, I can hear my four-year-old and Mr P. They’re making thank you cards to give to her nursery key worker and the rest of the team, tomorrow.

She’s starting primary school next week. Next week! How did that happen? I’m fairly sure it was just the other day, she was two and toddling along pushing a doll’s buggy that was nearly as big as her. A year ago, I wrote a post about not feeling ready to have a child start school. I’m over that. The four-year-old is totally ready, and therefore so am I. She is counting down the days to starting and thankfully, there doesn’t seem to be an ounce of nerves.

But what has surprised me is that it’s not the new beginnings that have shaken me, it’s the goodbyes.

I can hear her asking Mr P to write the sentence on some scrap paper, so that she can copy the letters and write the message on the card herself. “Thank you for looking after me” she is saying.

She’s been at that nursery since she was nine months old.

The nursery which saved my sanity by allowing me to pop her in for one day a week at that age, two months ahead of her official starting date.

The nursery which didn’t mind when I called up during her settling in sessions, to check how she was, while I sat in a cafe feeling physically sick that my baby was being looked after by “strangers”.

The nursery that changed her nappy hundreds of times, gave her milk, gave her cuddles.

The nursery which could get her to nap every afternoon long after she’d stopped napping at home (how did they do it? Apparently they have some back rubbing technique that sends them all off….)

The nursery which could get her to eat all sorts for lunch, like chicken korma and jambalaya, when all she’d eat at home was rice cakes and sausages.

The nursery where she’s learned to share – toys, books, even friends.

The nursery where she’s not just learned phonics and how to count to 110 but also the words to One Direction songs. Valuable, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The nursery which hasn’t just looked after her, as she has written in the card, but which has helped to shape her into the bright, happy school starter that she is.

I feel sad to be saying goodbye to her nursery. I’ve read countless articles and blog posts about coping with your child starting school, but what about coping with the goodbyes?

A Lunchtime Date At Yo! Sushi, Bromley

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Mr P and I are slight geeks, and whenever we notice there is a new shop or restaurant opening up in our local town centre, we get a bit excited. If one of us spots it, we play the guessing game with the other. “Guess which restaurant is opening up on Widmore Road?!” I’ll say to him, and then I give him clues until he guesses. I KNOW, we are just too crazy for words. The fun we have.

So this conversation happened recently when Mr P spotted that they were planning to open a new branch of Yo! Sushi in the middle of the Intu shopping centre. Yo! Sushi – in Bromley! How cosmopolitan!

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A couple of weeks after it opened, we went for a sneaky lunchtime date, while the four-year-old was at pre-school. And it was AWESOME. We sat in a booth for four (a bit cosier than the bar-style seating) and for a minute, we were totally mesmerised by the plates passing our eyes, on the little conveyer belt.

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Once we’d snapped back to reality, we grabbed the first two plates we saw (classic Yo! Sushi impulsive move) which turned out to be duck gyoza and edamame beans. The waiter asked us what we’d like to drink, and asked if we’d like anything made to order from the menu.

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That’s when Mr P remembered the wonder that is… chicken katsu curry. We ordered one of those, and went a bit off-piste, ordering a beef teriyaki too. Oh my goodness, the beef teriyaki was good. Well, put it this way: we ordered a second one. …

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Our Living Room Makeover

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When we moved into our house six years ago, feature walls were all the rage. We were so excited to choose some wallpaper for a few of the rooms and put our own stamp on our new house. In the living room, we went with a dark red wallpaper with large flowers on it (you can see a glimpse of it behind me in this video if you’re interested) and for a while, I loved it. But after a few years, I realised that the red wall, teamed with the black velvet sofa we have, made the room feel very small and dark. Sadly, as beautiful as our Victorian terrace house is, it’s not blessed with much natural light in the living room. In fact, there were days during my maternity leave where I could have sworn the walls were literally closing in on me.

Needless to say, I’ve been desperate to do a living room makeover for a while now – I just wanted to paint the whole room white and the introduce some bright colours with accessories and knick-knacks.

So when Homebase asked me to have a mini spending spree in our local store, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. The first thing we bought? White paint. A huge tin of the stuff. Mr P set to work one morning and by tea time, our living room already looked a gazillion times better. In fact, it looked 20% bigger, thanks to the light bouncing off our new white walls. It made me giddy with joy!

Next, we bought a new coffee table. Our old one was too big for the room and we’d had it for 11 years, so I didn’t feel too bad sticking it on Gumtree and seeing it head to a grateful new home. Our new coffee table is small and a real bargain at £23.99!

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We’ve been after a tripod lamp ever since we stayed at the Polurrian Bay Hotel last year and fell in love with the uber expensive ones they have. This tripod base was £90 and is a Habitat base, bought at Homebase (I think Homebase selling Habitat products is one of the most exciting things ever).

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Lastly, we picked up a retro tray and a couple of bright cushions from Habitat in Homebase too – their pelican print and yellow flower print – to add a splash of colour.

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I’m totally in love with our new living room, and I’ve spent the last couple of weeks shopping for more colourful accessories to finish it off. Watch the video at the end, where I’ve done a proper room tour and say where we picked everything up!…

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Sharing My Skincare Secrets With Aveeno

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One of the things I loved most about working in a magazine office was the number of fashion and beauty tips I’d pick up from my colleagues. These people were stylish and knew their stuff when it came to the best cleansers and mascaras, so I’d soak it all up and pass tips onto my friends.

Because the best beauty and skincare tips are the ones that your friends pass on, aren’t they? Everyone knows that’s why beauty blogging has become such a huge thing – we’re more likely to trust a friend (or you know, a blogger or vlogger that we get to know over time) than a magazine.

Aveeno have asked me to share my skincare secrets, and I’m delving into my memories of tips passed onto me by the Beauty Editors I’ve worked with…

SKINCARE SECRET 1

Double-cleanse your face. I know, it sounds excessive, but I’ve been reliably informed that it’s a great idea to take your make up off, and THEN do a proper cleanse of your face. That way, you’re not just removing your make up and nothing else, you’re getting all that grime and grease off. Not that I’m saying you having a grimy, greasy face, of course…

SKINCARE SECRET 2

Use nappy cream on your spots. Long before I had a baby, I had a little pot of nappy cream which I would turn to, if I ever had a breakout (quite often, then). Apply some, keep it on over night and wash off in the morning. Hey presto! Your spot should have calmed down considerably.

SKINCARE SECRET 3

If you’re fake tanning, scrub scub scrub for the few days beforehand, and moisturise LOADS, especially your elbows, knees and ankles. Then, on the day you’re applying the fake tan, don’t moisturise as it’ll dilute the tanner and it might make it slip and slide over your skin, creating streaks.

Aveeno is one of the skincare brands I’d wholeheartedly recommend to anyone – I discovered their Daily Moisturising Lotion when I was pregnant five years ago, and I’ve used it ever since.

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It doesn’t have an overpowering smell, and it sinks into your skin almost immediately. I’m not a fan of moisturisers that feel too thick, and which sit on your skin for ages. When I use it, I can feel a difference in my skin straight away – it feels softer and smoother. I know quite a few mums who use Aveeno on their kids who have eczema too – because it’s made with natural oats, it’s ideal for sensitive skin.

I want to know what your skincare secrets are! Comment below and share them or tweet me using the hashtag #AveenoSkincareSecrets.  I’m tagging Charlotte from Write Like No-One’s Watching, Gillian from A Baby On Board and Eleanor from The Bristol Parent to join in and share their skincare secrets on their blogs, if they’d like to!

This post is written in collaboration with Aveeno – as always, all thoughts and views are mine. Please check out my Work With Me page to read about how I work with brands.