Wednesday 29 May 2019

Review: Yorkshire Wildlife Park, A Fabulous Family Day Out

Yorkshire wildlife park header

Earlier this week we visited the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, near Doncaster, and we had an amazing day out. It's probably my favourite walk-through animal park that we have visited, as it is relatively flat, super easy to get to, the large animals all appeared to have fabulous large enclosures and they have worked very hard to ensure that you are able to see the animals, without encroaching on their space.

We planned a break in Yorkshire so we could visit the park as Miss E has been polar bear crazy for some years now and this is one of only two places in the UK where you can view them. The weather was fine, but overcast on the bank holiday Monday that we visited and this seemed to be conducive to the animals being happy to have a walk around and be visible for all the visitors.

Sleeping polar bear
Nobby, the shy polar bear

Friday 24 May 2019

How my Meg & Bee Handbag Helped me to be Bold Again

Middle aged woman with bright bag
{As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, any affiliate links will be marked with #ad)

As a larger lady, shopping isn't always fun for me. I know many of the BBW (big beautiful women) or the body confidence, plus-size community would tell me there are loads of fabulous clothes out there, in far beyond my size. I should embrace who I am and how I look, and just shop to suit me and no-one else.

And I do. I shop for me but the reality is that I don't like being a size 22/24. I'm not healthy at this size. I need to lose weight and this will happen, but right now I'm a bit stagnant in that quest. I don't like my shape and for me, it doesn't feel flattering in clothes. I have a truly enormous stomach, like a great big air balloon on my front.

I'm not writing this for you to tell me I am OK as I am, or that I look good. I know I look presentable and sometimes I feel beautiful, but a lot of the time I just feel uncomfortable and like I'd like to slice my enormous belly off the front of me. Not in an unhealthy kind of way, just in a wishful... I'd look so much better and everyday tasks would be a lot easier kind of way.

I like to be comfortable and that is more important to me than being trendy or stylish, so I go for clothes in the same kind of cut and I like longer tops that cover most of my belly. I often fall back on black or navy, despite the fact that I love reds, pinks, bright blues and greens, as they are safe colours. Ones I don't have to stand out in.

Tuesday 21 May 2019

How to Get Bargain Price West End Theatre/ Musical Tickets

9 to 5, The Musical
9 to 5, the Musical

I absolutely love going to the theatre in London's West End but we all know that it can end up pricey. Before having my children I had seen most every musical that was out and my husband and I would think nothing of spending £80 or a £100 on each ticket. After the children came along, that just wasn't practical anymore and my trips up to London for the theatre became few and far between.

A few years back I realised how much I was missing out and started to find out how I could see some of the big name shows without spending a fortune. I have been lucky enough to see some crackers in the last few years - 42nd Street, Wicked, The School of Rock, Dream Girls, Thriller Live and the Curious Incident, all for a great price.

So I'm going to share with you how you can bag great price tickets too, but don't worry, you won't be sat up in the upper circle, I only like to be in the stalls or front of the Royal Circle, so I always get good seats.

1. Enter the Ticket Lottery for the Show you fancy
Have you heard of a ticket lottery?  I think many people haven't yet and they are great. You can enter online to be part of a lottery (lucky dip) to get one or two top price tickets for a much reduced rate. Of course many times you won't win but it is super easy to enter and costs nothing, so why not give it a go. I've entered a couple of times and won tickets for Matilda once. Sadly I couldn't use them as I got the week wrong, but I was able to pass them on for someone else to enjoy.

Matilda the Musical - up to 2 £25 band A tickets, drawn 3-5 days before the performance.

The School of Rock - up to 2 £15 band A tickets, drawn 3-5 days before the performance.

Hamilton the Musical - up to 2 £10 tickets, drawn the day prior. There is a 22 hour entry window.

Aladdin the Musical - up to 2 £20 tickets, the lottery opens at 11am on Mondays and closes at 11am on Tuesdays. Entrants can select up to 3 choices of performance for the next week

Aladdin Theatre Show

The Book of Mormon - up to 2 £20 tickets, entries accepted from 12 noon each Wednesday for performances the following week. Also there is a daily lottery in person, you can enter 2.5 hours before the performance.

Friday 17 May 2019

Reasons to be Cheerful - The New Job Edition!

Whoop, whoop. I think the title gives away my main reason to be cheerful this week. I am super chuffed that I am starting a new job on 3rd June. I'll be working 2 or 3 days a week helping to put together the adult programme for Spring Harvest, the Christian holiday that I've attended at Easter for the last fourteen years.

But next year I'll be part of the team working there and making sure that the 3,000 or so other people have an amazing time. I am so excited to be taking on this role and being a part of this amazing company.

I've had to make some changes to take on my role and commit to the hours but I think they will all be good changes.

  • I've given notice at my gym and will join a new one just moments away from my new work, to start in September. The new one looks much better and I hope is cleaner!
  • I'll have a 35 minute drive to work and back each day. Great time to think, sing, listen to podcasts and generally have my God time.
  • The kids will have to get themselves up in the morning and it will be a good thing that they'll have less reliance on me calling them. The worst culprit nowadays is JJ!
  • The kids will cook dinner two nights a week for when I get home late and again this is great for them to develop skills and independence. 
  • I had to stop the breastfeeding peer supporter course that I had started as I can't commit to the hours that requires, along with my new work. 
  • I've stopped Slimming World, as truth be told I was just paying lips service to it. There is no denying that I need to lose weight and get healthier, but I need to find what works for me and I'm hoping that a new challenge will be the catalyst I need for change. 
I am so pleased that my new work have been flexible and allowed me to do differing days in the next couple of months whilst I had lots of commitments already in the diary and then in September, I'll move to three shorter days and start my new normal.

Wish me luck!

I'm linking this post up with Becky at Lakes Single Mum for the Reasons to be Cheerful linky. She is hosting it for the month of May and I'll be the host again in June. 

Monday 13 May 2019

Getting a Better Nights Sleep to Help your Mental Health

Grey cat asleep on bed
Image Credit: Photo by Alexander Possingham on Unsplash

{This post has been commissioned by TEMPUR®}

The average British adult gets 6 hours and 42 minutes sleep per night (1), making me very much average. I had to chuckle when I looked at my FitBit and saw that lasts weeks average was 6 hours and 46 minutes, and yet I still feel tired many days. I’m not alone though, as we Brits are trying all sorts to help us improve our sleep quality – meditation, exercise or seeking professional help for our mental health or sleep issues.  In fact, there is no shortage of products to help aid a restful nights sleep with people trying everything from CBD oil to specially designed skincare products.

Mental health is an area of keen interest now, and I am so pleased to find that some of the stigma and secrecy is being shed. It is of course OK to admit you have depression, anxiety or any other number of mental health disorders, and to seek help for them. As someone who had late-onset postnatal depression after having my twins and occasionally suffers from bouts of anxiety, I know that I feel much better and more in control I feel when I am sleeping well. The benefits of good quality sleep really can’t be under-estimated, and it’s easy to recognise when I am deficient in sleep as I am irritable, lack concentration and the simplest things can phase me.

This week is the UK’s Mental Health Awareness week (13 – 19th May 2019) and this year they have chosen to focus on mental health and body image. Another hot topic, and in this image-driven society, one that can be challenging. I was interested to read the findings of the mental health survey commissioned by TEMPUR®, which found that only 38% of Brits say the quality of their sleep is good or excellent (1) and 30% recognise that poor quality sleep impacts their mental health.

Thursday 9 May 2019

Living your Children’s Lives

Teen boy enjoying a pizza
JJ at his happiest, with a big pizza in front of him!

Sometimes it can be really tricky not to try and impose your world view and to live your child’s life for them. And I don’t mean the extremes, we all know parents who are a failed musician or weren’t encouraged in their desire to be a model and now have a child who is excelling in that hobby or career.

I’ve always been keen for my children to be unique, just the way God created them to be. So whilst in my heart I had this desire that JJ would be an amazing musician and would lead worship in our church, I knew from an early age it probably wouldn’t happen as he didn’t show any interest in playing an instrument. I could have signed him up for lessons and bought a guitar or keyboard, putting all my energy into him mastering his craft, but that would have been about me, not him, and that’s not fair.

So despite my unfulfilled aspirations (singer, runner, artist) I let my kids be and waited to see where their personalities would take them. If you asked me I’d probably have told you that I had this part of parenting nailed, I wasn’t projecting my desires onto the kids and they were free to do what they fancied.

However, as I was chatting with JJ during the recent Easter break I realised this isn’t quite true. I do have expectations and norms that I was subconsciously expecting them to conform to. Not to attend clubs, master hobbies or attain beyond their means but just in regard to how their life might look, how they spend their time. I’ll explain.

Monday 6 May 2019

Knockhatch Meerkat Experience: My Girls had the Best Fun! (Review)

Meerkat experience at knockhatch header

During the Easter holiday we took a trip over to Knockhatch Adventure Park in Hailsham, East Sussex.  We've been before (check out my review here) and the girls had a fabulous time, but I'd never been on a weekend or on a school holiday before and wow, it was busy. As we drove up we were directed to an overflow car park and if I'm honest, I started to feel a bit of dread at how busy it might be, but despite it being super busy I have to so I was pleasantly surprised and we had a great day. The girls were able to get one everything they wanted and the queues were nothing like I've experienced at theme parks like Legoland.

I won't go into all the attractions that are available at Knockhatch (you can have a look at my review, I've linked to above if you fancy more insight), but there are loads and they seem to be really good at adding extra attractions and offering more value. This year they've added a great new wooden Dragons play castle and high wire experience. The basic ticket on an orange day (high season) is £12.99 before any discount is applied and if you book online, you get 20% discount, or my favourite is to use our local 1066/ Town City Card and get 25% off. 

Costs and Booking
The great news is that when you are going along to take part in one of their experiences the entrance to the park is included and you can use the park for the whole day. We got a 2 for 1 Meerkat experience via Red Letters Days and the cost for this currently is £49, which is a super bargain, as this allowed both girls entry to do their experience and up to two adults (17 years plus) can go along as their responsible adults/ spectators. So that is £49 for entry for four and two of those got to spend 30 minutes hands on with the meerkats.  They have a few experiences available and we would definitely book for another one as we found the meerkat one excellent. 

When I booked last year, I had to ring but I see now you can book online for the experiences. To get a weekend date I needed to book about 3 months in advance. There are two slots for the meerkat experience each day 10.30am and 4pm, each lasts for half an hour and it will only be your party, which feels really exclusive.  The price to book direct with Knockhatch is £48 for one person and £64 for two people. 

Once booked you're advised to wear long trousers, sleeves and closed in shoes for the experience.

Friday 3 May 2019

Updating your Tween Girls Bedroom with Minimum Effort but Maximum Impact

Photo by Mister M on Unsplash
{Collaborative post}

I don't know about you but as soon as Spring arrives and the sun makes an appearance, I feel like I want to get the house in order and give it a big spring clean. Maybe it is the sunlight highlighting my cobwebs or shining through the windows that now look grubby, I don't know, but I do know that I have an urge to clean it all up and make changes.

Of course, I don't have the money to change every room, every year and realistically it would be wasteful to make too many changes, too often, but it is nice to give a room a fresh look, without spending too much.  I tend to update one room a year, so that the redecoration doesn't all come at once.

This year it is the turn of Miss M, she has a modest sized bedroom and her tastes have very much changed from when it was first decorated five years ago. We bought her some functional furniture at the end of last year but now it is time for those extra accessories, the touches that make a room personal and yours.

Miss M's favourite colourway at the moment is grey and pink, so we have gone for soft grey on the walls and grey bedding to keep the room light and then accents of pink and rose gold to give colour and make the room feel girly, yet grown up, She has been collecting some small items for a while now, ready for her make over - rose gold wire baskets, plants in pretty pots, white twinkle lights and some beautiful stationary to display on her desk.

Thursday 2 May 2019

Reasons to be Cheerful: Work, Gym and Gorgeous Views

Isn't the Wisteria gorgeous? My home looks so fab right now

Happy Thursday friends. It is time for a cheery post and to focus on what has made me grateful this week. I'm not hosting Reasons to be Cheerful this month, it is over with Becky at Lakes Single Mum but it's still important to stay in the good habit of being grateful each week, so I am aiming to continue sharing weekly, until the linky is back with me in June.

Back to the Gym - It was hard to go over Easter with the kids being off, but I've enjoyed being back this week and have been in the gym and swam a couple of times.

Some ace opportunities - I've had some great paid blogging work come up the last few weeks and it makes such a difference to be paid well to research and write content.

A spot of shopping - I had to take JJ to Cadets last night and this means I hang around Hastings for a couple of hours, normally I go to McDonalds with my laptop and work, but last night I went to Sainsburys and came back with a couple of skirts, a top and a cardie. Now to see if they go with the rest of my wardrobe!

Family meal out - We had a 50% off voucher for Harvester so we all enjoyed a meal there earlier in the week. It was great as the kids weren't bickering and the food was excellent. I do like being able to fill up on salad.

Wednesday 1 May 2019

The History of Harry Potter

{Collaborative post}
You’d need to have been living in a remote cave, devoid of Internet and any contact with the outside world for at least 12 years not to be aware of Harry Potter. The huge impact it's had on our cultural landscape is fascinating, and the brand has numerous exciting spin-offs, such as films, live theatre productions and even a tour of the studios where the films were made. But how did everything fall into place? That really IS a magical tale…
The inspiration behind the stories
JK Rowling says she first stumbled upon the idea for Harry Potter when she was stuck on a delayed train, leaving Manchester for London King’s Cross. This was back in 1990, which feels like a lifetime ago – and for many fans, it actually is.
Drawing inspiration from a number of sources, including classical texts, folklore and contemporary children’s literature, Rowling spent five years note-making and idea compiling before she started reaching out to literary agents. That’s no easy feat with a new baby daughter in tow.
Rowling finished the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, while she was training to be a teacher. But she shelved those plans when Bloomsbury accepted the story for publication in 1997. The rest, as they say, is history.