I Went To Palma For Lunch – Here’s What Happened…

Got my passport, euros, sunglasses! Let's go!

I love a day trip. Not to the sea side or a stately home. I love getting on a plane and going to a different country, just for the day. Back when my best mate turned 30, a group of us went to Dublin for the day. A couple of years ago, I took Mr P to Paris for the day on his birthday. Recently, I flew to Edinburgh to visit my mum for the day. It’s such a brilliant way to spend a few hours in a fab city, perhaps see some faraway friends or family, and then be back in time for bed. No expensive hotels, no need to take more days off work. Win win, right?

Last week, I discovered a new day trip destination: Palma. I know, I can hear you say “Palma? As in Majorca?” but stick with me. It’s a totally overlooked city break destination. Before last week, I’d only ever thought of it as the airport you fly into when you’re going to a beach holiday elsewhere on the island. But it’s a really beautiful city worth visiting. Even for the day…

Which is lucky because Thomson invited me and a group of bloggers and journalists to Palma for lunch. We flew out there on a 787 Dreamliner (which, I admit, I’d never heard of before the trip. Mr P, however, was very excited when he heard which plane we’d be flying on) and even better, the plane was flown by the MD of Thomson Airlines, Captain John Murphy. Before we took off, they filled us in on some company news – things that if I’m totally honest changed my view of Thomson and First Choice. I don’t think I’ve ever gone on a holiday with them, and I’m not really a fan of a standard package holiday, but after listening to the team and hearing about how they operate, I was left very impressed.

It was the attention to detail like the airline crew having iPads which they use to help you do anything from book a brilliant restaurant local to your hotel, to telling you what the weather will be for the next few days, to the football results of your favourite team. They’re also trying to move away from the welcome meeting when you arrive at your hotel, shifting all of that information to the flight and your in-seat TV. And I loved the sound of the family booth style seating planned for future planes. They just seem to genuinely care about the customer’s experience and starting your holiday off in the best possible way.

dreamliner-flight

After a gorgeous Spanish breakfast onboard the plane and an ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the Dreamliner lightshow (a feature designed especially for the company – nicknamed the TUI Wave) we landed in Palma to glorious sunshine – which was just amazing after leaving a very wet and stormy London.

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36 Things That Happened If You Were A Teenage Girl In The 90s

Clueless

1. You read a well-thumbed copy of Judy Blume’s Forever, after it had been passed around most of your class.

2. You had to decide whether you loved Take That or East 17 more. You couldn’t love them both, that was against the rules.

3. But if the hot boys from school asked, you were totally into Pearl Jam and Nirvana.

4. You had a crush on all of the Mizz male models. especially Malcolm.

5. You wore Dr Marten boots and referred to them as DMs. If you were really cool, you had the cherry reds. With tartan laces.

6. It wasn’t Saturday afternoon without a visit to The Body Shop to spend your pocket money on a kiwi lip balm. Or if you were splashing out, White Musk perfume.

7. You were addicted to playing Tetris on the GameBoy. And you may have owned a Tamagotchi.

8. You went to see Titanic at the cinema three times – and cried when Leo died, every time (“Jack! Come back!”)

9. Saying “Not” at the end of a sentence never got tired.

10. You decided if you ever got a tattoo, it would be Mark Owen’s dolphin or Mel C’s celtic arm chain. Both totally amazing.

11. But you couldn’t decide whether you’d rather have your eyebrow pierced like Howard Donald or a pierced tummy button (well, flashing a belly bar while wearing a crop top would be so cool.)

12. School holidays were spent watching Saved By The Bell (you really wanted to be Kelly Kapowski), listening to Pulp, Blur and Oasis on your Walkman and avoiding any homework or revision.

13. You loved Cosmetics To Go and pored over their newspaper style catalogue every time it was delivered. Bath bombs! Shampoos with comedy names! Amazing smelling products!

14. Over the knee socks were a totally legitimate fashion choice. Despite what your mum’s withering look told you.

15. Every second Wednesday was all about Just 17. And the first pages you turned to? The advice pages, of course. Anita Naik and Nick Fisher were your gurus.

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Getting The Right Balance

cup-of-coffee

Balance is a word I’ve been thinking about a lot, recently. It’s so important that we have balance in our lives. Time on our own, time working hard, time with friends, time watching Friends (with pizza), time at the park with the family.

When things gets imbalanced, it all gets a bit stressy. At least, it does for me. Often, the first sign for me that things are imbalanced is me feeling a bit panicky or paranoid. Then I realise: I need to rebalance my life. I’m either knackered from too many late wine-filled nights, or often too many late nights at my laptop.

But recently I’ve become aware of a new kind of imbalance. For two and a half years I’ve worked full time, while my daughter is at nursery, and that’s worked really well for us. It has kept me sane in the aftermath of (undiagnosed) post natal depression and it has helped turn her into the sociable, happy four-year-old she is now. But something has changed recently. Perhaps it’s the realisation that she will be going to school in a year’s time – our time together now has a cap on it. This time next year, I’ll be picking her up from school at 3.30pm (is that even when school ends for the day? I have so much to learn) and we’ll have just a few hours a day to hang out. We’ll be restricted by a weekday timetable that will limit how much time we can spend together as a family. And then, all too soon, she’ll be at the age where she doesn’t want to hang out with us at all. (Unless she realises that I’m actually a COOL MUM *cough*)

So I’ve decided to change the four-year-old’s pre-school week and reduce her from five days to four days. On one day each week, we’ll hang out, maybe go to the library, meet friends for coffee or meet her nana for lunch. We might do painting or bake cupcakes. There will almost definitely be difficult days and tantrums, but we’ll get through those with as much of a smile as we can. I’m ignoring the small voice in my brain that is trying to remind me of the last time I spent weekdays alone with her. She was a baby back then, rather than a chatty, fun, four-year-old. And my head and hormones were totally messed up. So sshhh small voice, I’m not listening.

Of course, this decision probably doesn’t seem groundbreaking to you. After all, don’t loads of mums work part time? But it’s a big deal for me. And it signifies a real switch in my head. For the first time ever, I’m actually prioritising my family over my career. It’s SUCH a cliché but nobody ever did lie on their deathbed and wish they had worked more. Women are asked about their work/life balance all the time (men aren’t asked about it, but that’s a whole other blog post) and I’ve always been happy with mine – until now.

So I’m going to work less (I’ve already turned down work this week *high fives self*), perhaps even blog less, and focus on my family. I’m also going to do all of the things in my home that I’ve been ignoring for three years – like organising all of our crap, spring (autumn) cleaning, selling stuff on eBay and redecorating and reorganising the four-year-old’s bedroom. I might even paint her playhouse that’s been waiting to be painted for a whole year.

Wish me luck!

Image: DTTSP

Making Difficult Decisions

 

SUNSET

In a couple of weeks time, I’m going to my very first primary school open day. In a way, I’m dreading it – it’s a sign that my little girl is growing up and after a few years of us all being cocooned in the nursery and pre-school world, we’re going to be thrust into a world of timetables, homework and tests. But I’m also a bit excited – taking a look around schools that might be where she spends so much of her future, speaking to the teachers, getting a feel for the place. Choosing which schools to apply for feels like a massive responsibility – especially when you have other parents telling you their (often wildly differing) views on your local schools.

But we all have to make difficult decisions in life – whether to stay in a job we dislike or make a jump into the unknown, whether to stay in a relationship that isn’t good for us or leave, whether to move nearer our family as our parents get older and need our help.

When I think back to when my gran was in her late 80s, she moved from her family home near Edinburgh to a smaller flat in the town I grew up in. She was close by and I would regularly pop in for a cuppa and chat. As she needed more care, it was decided she would move into a care home near Edinburgh. It was a lovely place, run by nuns, and suited my Gran well.

I’ve been thinking about how you choose a care home for an elderly relative – it is one of those decisions nobody really wants to make. It reminds us how short our own lives are and how quickly we lose the people we love. But just as I can’t stick my head in the sand now, and pretend my daughter isn’t getting older and doesn’t need to go to school, it’s important that we tackle choosing a care home properly.

And just as we don’t dictate to our kids (unlike 20 or 30 years ago), we shouldn’t dictate to the older generation either. We explain why things happen to kids, and we give them options to choose from. We give them a sense of control (eve if it’s little things like which colour of t-shirt to wear). So we shouldn’t make a decision for an elderly relative either – work with them rather than decide for them. Think about what suits them and chat to them about different options and share any issues and concerns. Value their opinions. Reassure them that you’re listening to them and that they are loved and safe.

Do your homework carefully when looking at a care home. Whether you’re looking for a care home in Wiltshire like Gracewell’s Salisbury Manor or a more independent retirement setting like Kernhow Park Homes, you’ll find retirement villages scattered across the UK that could be perfect for your elderly relatives.

As well as how the place ‘feels’ when you walk in, here are some things to consider:

  • How easy is the care home to access? Is it near public transport?
  • How clean is the care home?
  • How happy do the staff look?
  • How happy do the residents look?
  • Ask to see an inspection report – they can give you a good idea of how the place is run.
  • Are the bedrooms light and airy?
  • Are there any nasty smells?
  • Is the care home, and the bedroom, wheelchair accessible and are the corridors wide enough for a walking frame?
  • Is there a garden to walk in?
  • What are the communal areas like – are the residents encouraged to mix and join in activities?

It’s such a big decision to make, but don’t put it off, and by working with your elderly relative, you can choose a care home that will be a happy, comfortable place for them to live and be cared for.

• This is a sponsored post. Image: Nate Embrey / DTTSP

Are Cinema Dates A Waste Of A Date Night?

Going on a date to the cinema has a real romantic notion, doesn’t it? Think back to being a teenager and sitting in the back row. I remember going on one of my first dates with Mr P to the cinema (our very first date is something I still tease him about – he came over to my house and cooked me sweet and sour chicken with pasta. Mmmm!) and in our 20s, watching movies together was one of our favourite things to do. Our DVD collection was huge (remember those? Round silver discs you put in DVD players to watch movies on? How retro!) Friends would tease us that it was like coming over to Blockbusters and would regularly leave with at least one or two films to take home. We’re still owed some late fees from those friends…

Since becoming parents, watching movies happens mostly on our sofa. In those early days, films were a great source of entertainment while we sat up with a wide awake baby at 3am, and a few months later, when we were in a vague routine, we’d put the little one to bed at 7pm and settle down with a movie (I’d obviously fall asleep midway through it).

And now, as parents to a four-year-old, we cherish nights where we have a babysitter and can head out together on a date.

 

Printable Popcorn boxes

Image: Design Eat Repeat (awesome printable popcorn boxes – check them out!)

 

But going back to my original question – are cinema dates for parents a waste? We tend to choose going to the pub or out for a meal, our thinking being that we can ignore each other while we check Facebook and Twitter chat to each other, set the world to rights and (assuming a lot of wine and beer is consumed) have a right old laugh. But if we went to the cinema, we wouldn’t be having a conversation, and we’d be doing something we could do on our sofa while our daughter sleeps upstairs.

Not much point right?

Except this week, there’s a movie out at the cinema that we’re both desperate to see. Gone Girl.

I read the book, and despite it being a bit hit and miss, the trailers for the film have had me dying to see it for months. Ben Affleck looks so creepy in the lead role and I’ve heard, from friends who saw advance screenings, that it’s even better than the book. So we’re breaking with tradition and going on a cinema date this weekend. We’re heading to Cardiff to check out a really cool sounding afternoon tea and staying overnight at the Park Plaza Hotel, which is just a ten minute walk from the Cardiff Cineworld, so once we’ve stuffed ourselves with afternoon tea, we’re going to go to an early evening showing of Gone Girl and then hit a bar.

Perfect or what? Cinema date nights, I think I might have been wrong about you…

 

 This post was written in association with Cineworld – big thanks for the tickets to see Gone Girl in Cardiff. We are really looking forward to it!