Because I’m Happy #4

My series of posts on things that make me happy continues with this super summery post (as I type, it’s tipping it down with rain and I’m actually contemplating putting a blanket around my shoulders, like an actual nan). The last few weeks have been a whirl of family fun – we’re trying to make the most of the time we have before the four-year-old goes to school in September. The brilliant thing about working freelance is that I can down tools and head off for a day of fun with the family, and then catch up on work in the evening. It’s great! Here’s what we’ve been up to…

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Going up in the sky on the Emirates Air Line – Last week we were invited on the cable cars at North Greenwich. They’ve been there a while and it’s been on our to do list for ages. It was so much fun! We parked at the O2 (check there isn’t a huge event on before you go, as parking can be tricky on those days) and hopped on for the 20 minute round trip. You can get off at the other side of the Thames, and there are some restaurants and bars, and even a little beach there. But we stayed on, partly because we were really hungry and once we got off, the plan was to head to the Byron in the O2 for lunch! If you’ve already been on the Emirates Air Line, there’s a competition running at the moment to win a pair of Canon Powershot N2 cameras and four return tickets on the Emirates Air Line cable car – just email them a pic you’ve taken in the air. I’ve entered with the above snap of the four-year-old.

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A cinema trip – we went as a family to see Inside Out. Have you seen it yet? If not, go! It’s SO GOOD. I have to admit, having watched the trailer, I was bit ‘meh’ about seeing it, but Mr P was keen. Before we left for the cinema, the four-year-old had a little strop and told us she wanted to stay at home to play instead. We pretty much forced her out the door, with her saying “I’m going to close my eyes and put my hands over my ears, in the cinema!” (Don’t you love the drama of a four-year-old!) Fast forward to an hour or so later, and she was absolutely transfixed by the film.

It was a screening put on by Subway, so beforehand, there was facepainting and sandwiches in the cinema foyer. As soon as we arrived, the four-year-old was suddenly into the spirit of the event, getting the character Joy painted on her arm and asking the balloon modelling man for a Joy balloon. But even still, we didn’t realise how much she would LOVE the film. In fact, we all did. It’s a beautiful story and like all Pixar movies, told so well. The short before the main film – Lava – is fab too.

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H&M kidswear cuteness – we picked up this gorgeous outfit for the four-year-old in H&M Brent Cross. Watermelon shorts! We literally had to peel these shorts off her after around three days of continuous wear, so we could wash them. We went to Brent Cross for a blogger event which was so much fun. The four-year-old met actual Peppa Pig and after a bit of shopping (thanks Brent Cross for the voucher!) we went to John Lewis for lunch and a chat with other bloggers (hi Tinuke from Circus Mum and Anna from In The Playroom!) While we chatted, the four-year-old was kept busy with a bumper pack of puzzles and colouring goodies from John Lewis. The perfect day out for everyone, no!?…

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Goodbye Party Bags, You’re No Friend Of Mine

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Parties are one of my four-year-old’s FAVOURITE things. Getting dressed up (or you know, choosing which Disney costume to wear), writing the birthday card, wrapping the present, running around with friends, eating cake, playing games, bringing home a bag of plastic tat…

Oh.

Yes.

The bag of plastic tat. This is where my daughter and I have differing opinions. She loves a party bag. I hate them. Does that make me a massive killjoy?

But seriously, 99% of party bags are filled with toys that give five minutes of fun and then get dumped in a drawer and forgotten about, perhaps blowing bubbles which get spilled all over a party frock or the kitchen floor, and often a variety of sugary sweets from Haribo to popping candy.

I have no real issue with the sweets – aside from the fact that after a birthday party, the last thing any kid usually needs is more sugar. It’s the plastic. The tat! My house is drowning in tat. We have clever IKEA drawers which we bought to store toys, but they’re just filled with party bag contents. Played with for five minutes, forgotten about for five months.

I know what you’re thinking. I just need to get a black bin bag and do a clear out, while the four-year-old isn’t around.

But did I mention I’m also a hoarder?

I have a real issue throwing stuff away. My thought process goes something like this: “Right, I’m doing a clear out. Everything that hasn’t been played with in six months is OUT. Here goes. Oh, but what if this is the one toy she really wants to play with, this weekend? And she asks for it. And I have to admit I’ve chucked it. Maybe I could lie and say I don’t know where it is. Oh, maybe I’ll just leave all this stuff for her to play with. The minimal look in homes is so overrated.”

I think what upsets me the most about party bags is knowing how much money and effort goes into them. The four-year-old is soon to become the five-year-old and I’m in the throes of planning her party. The church hall is booked, the paper plates are on order and I’m trying to decide whether to bother doing cheese sarnies or just go for Nutella to ensure all kids actually eat one.

Then I get to the party bag organisation. Plastic tat ain’t cheap, you know. Even shopping wisely and going to Tesco or Wilko’s means spending 25p per piece of plastic tat. Times that by five, add in the cost of the party bag itself, buy enough for 30 kids and you’re already £40 down. £40 on tat that will probably get chucked as soon as the child gets home.

So I’m stopping the madness.

This is where it ends.

I’ve decided that each child that comes to this party will leave with a slice of cake and a book. A book bought in a ten for £9.99 deal from The Book People. Yes, there’s a risk I might give a child a book they already own, but as a parent would you rather be given a book you already have (options: keep one at the grandparents’ house, or regift it) or be given a bag of plastic tat?

Am I a huge killjoy who misses the point of party bags or the instigator of a revolution that will sweep the nation? Vote now.

Image: Shutterstock

Planning My Dream Kitchen

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I seem to have a never-ending list of things I want to tackle in my house – from repainting the living room and putting up pictures we’ve bought to clearing out the loft and re-organising wardrobes and doing a charity shop clear out. One room we’re pretty happy with is the kitchen – it’s large and bright, and opens out onto our (admittedly postage stamp sized) garden.

Our current kitchen is definitely the hub of our home – we spend the majority of our time there, eating, chatting, drinking tea. Even though I have a desk, I usually work in the kitchen. In the summer, I have the patio doors flung open and the radio on, tapping away at my laptop with a cuppa by my side. It’s at the heart of our little family – the four year old’s best paintings are up on the wall and we have framed family photos up there too.

But that doesn’t stop me from dreaming about my ideal kitchen, of course, which would be bright, airy, white with pops of colour and detail. In fact, I think it’s all about the detail when you’re planning a new kitchen – buying those accessories that will add some personality to the room. Popping up some shelving and choosing carefully what to put on them.

I love mid-century decor, so my dream kitchen would have plenty of 1950s shapes, vintage touches but also sleek and colourful. If we were to redesign the whole room and if money was no object, or if we decided to get a personal loan to cover it,  I’d go for a Smeg fridge freezer – they come in so many gorgeous colours and instantly add the wow-factor to a kitchen. Wooden or metal dining furniture would be softened with bright patterned cushions and there would be lots of plants on shelves and perhaps even a terrarium or two. Side note: there is no way I’d be able to make a terrarium looks as pretty as the one below, and I’d invariably kill everything off in a couple of months.

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What do you think? And what does your dream kitchen look like? Please tell me I’m not the only one who fantasises about this kind of thing!

Thanks to TSB for commissioning this post – for details of how I work with brands, see my Work With Me page. Kitchen image: Shutterstock.

Why A Ragdale Hall Spa Break Is Good For The Soul

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As well as blogging here (hello!) I also co-edit family travel blog Space In Your Case. One of the things I feel strongly about, with Space In Your Case, is that as well as focusing on brilliant places you can go with the kids, for fantastic family experiences, we also look at child-free breaks and date nights. Which might seem odd, considering we’re a family travel site but I truly believe that for many of us, we’re better parents to our kids if we have the odd night or weekend off. Of course, not all of us are lucky enough to have childcare available nearby, but if you do, I fully recommend doing it. You’ll come back revived, refreshed and with a desire to spend quality time with your children.

The Clarins Mum And Me Time spa day at Ragdale Hall in Leicestershire is designed for (yep, you guessed it) you and your mum. So it’s perfect for either leaving your partner at home to hold the fort for a day, or if he likes pampering too, Ragdale Hall are more than happy for couples to book the package.

I decided to take my good blogging friend Katie to Ragdale Hall – she had been twice before and loved it, whereas I was a Ragdale virgin. Of course, now I can totally see why she was keen to go back for a third time!

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We arrived at 10am and the staff who greeted us were so friendly (in fact, everyone we met there was lovely) and they explained how the day would work. We were given locker keys and filled in a health questionnaire over a cup of tea. Then we headed to the locker room where we found a fluffy white bathrobe in our lockers, along with our schedule for the day. The attention to detail here seemed spot on – granted it’s easy enough for them to print off your schedule and pop it in a locker for you, but it just gives that welcoming air of ‘We’ve been expecting you’.

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Our Clarins Serenity Facials were booked for 4pm which meant we had lots of time to relax beforehand. We headed into the spa area which has a sports pool, a large swimming pool, an outdoor pool (complete with waterfalls – lush) and then lots of different rooms, from a Thought Zone (a dry heat and warm, ergonomic seating coupled with music, images and colours which is designed to inspire positive thinking and inspirational thoughts), a Rose Sauna and a Scented Room (natural materials, fresh aromatic herbs and a gentle hue of colours help to invigorate senses). My favourite room was the Candlelit Pool – where you walked down some steps into a warm pool in a mosaic cavern with lapping water lit by the flicker of candles and a star-lit ceiling. It was magical. Some rooms, including this one, are silent rooms… and we managed to stay quiet while other guests were in the Candlelit Pool but I admit we started having a gossip when we realised we were in there alone!

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We decided it was time for tea and cake, so we headed to the Verandah Bar and sank into one of the big sofas. After sitting there for a while, reading magazines, we realised it was soon time for lunch, which is included in the Clarins Mum And Me package. The dining room is huge and feels formal in quite an old school way (waiters and waitresses put one arm behind their back when pouring things) but still relaxed and friendly….

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