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Friday, 24 April 2015

How the Hell am I 46 Today??

I'm 46 today.

46 years old...how on earth can I be 46?

I distinctly remember being the same age as each of my kids are now, with vivid recollections of clothing I wore, things I said, feelings I felt and friends I made. How can those memories be from so long ago?

It seems like only yesterday that I was a teenager, dressing up for a night out. Donning my DM's, my black leather skirt and jacket, I thought I was cooler than Hazel O'Connor, Toyah and Siouxsie Sioux combined. My painted black nails, dark lipstick and back combed hair may not have been the most flattering look, but it was my look and I rocked it.

eighties, pvc

I was so slim back then too. It didn't matter what I ate, I was naturally skinny. But I was also moody and surly. I was anti-establishment and anti-social. I wanted to save the whale and ban the bomb. Marx was my historical hero and '1984' was my book of choice.

I absorbed myself in the music and lyrics of David Bowie, Bauhaus, The Smiths, The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen (whilst secretly loving Madonna, Motown and The Carpenters).

Thinking that the peak of my teen years, when I was sixteen years old, ended thirty years ago is hard to believe.

Fast forward to today...I'm rapidly approaching the milestone of having lived for half a century. But I don't feel much older than I did back then. I'm pretty much still the same girl in lots of ways. I'm young at heart with an immature sense of humour and a love of being inappropriate. I laugh at gross out comedies and I still have crushes on the latest silver screen hunks who are probably half my age. Horror movies remain my favourite genre of film, the scarier the better. I refuse to grow old gracefully.

I still like the same eclectic mix of music. I never tell my daughter to turn down her loud music - instead I join in singing and dancing to the latest 5 Seconds of Summer or Panic at the Disco song. I still favour black clothes and I have never evolved into a stylishly dressed woman. Jeans still feature heavily in my outfits of choice. I am still in love with the same lad that I fancied when I was 14, who grew up to be my husband. We have a shared history that spans over three decades and we still embarrassingly fancy each other.

Physically I might not get away with eating what I want anymore and after five kids my natural propensity to natural slimness is nothing more than a distant memory. My face has lost that tight, tautness of youth and gravity is becoming a more difficult thing for my saggy bits to overcome. My hair is losing the battle against the grey, but I am learning to love my silver highlights rather than denying this natural part of the ageing process. But you can still see that the me of my youth is the same me that I am now.

couples

The biggest difference in me today, compared to that mardy teenager, is that I am happy. Really, really happy and content. Age brings the wisdom and maturity to realise what is really important in this life. For me, being surrounded by love is what makes my life worthwhile. Feeling loved and giving love in return. Doing what I can to make the lives of my loved ones as happy and fulfilled as I possibly can. It may sound twee, but it's the truth.

So as my biological clock ticks into the start of its 47th year, I enter this new phase of my life with a positive outlook and a determination to live my life to the best of my ability. I am truly blessed to find myself at 46 with five children who genuinely fill me with pride everyday and who consider me a friend as well as a mother, and a husband who completes me.

Bring on being 46, because right now I really like who I am, where I am and whom I am with.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Jumble - a Jammy Crumble Bake Recipe (suitable for vegans!)

I am on a mission to re-invent as many family favourite meals and snacks, making them as healthy as possible and suitable for vegans, so my eldest daughter can enjoy them. Having a plant based diet has so many benefits to your health, your vitality and the to the environment. I have been vegetarian since the year 2000 and although I am not fully committed to a vegan lifestyle, I do enjoy finding ways to cut back on all animal products in my diet, using wholefoods where possible.

I find that desserts and treats can be tricky as many are full of dairy products such as butter, milk and cream. We still enjoy desserts, but want a lighter version that comes cruelty free. I have been experimenting and have come up with a yummy, jammy, nutty, oaty, crumble bake. It is rich and decadent, but completely dairy-free! It is packed with oats and nuts, uses superfood coconut oil and is sweetened with maple syrup.

vegan, dessert


Jumble Recipe

Ingredients 

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup mixed nuts and seeds to add variety 
(I added chia and sunflower seeds and cashews)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons coconut oil
6 tablespoons maple syrup
4 dessertspoons plum jam*

Method

Put nuts and seeds in food processor and blitz until well chopped.
Add oats and spices and baking powder and blitz to mix.
Melt coconut oil and maple syrup in a small pan.
Add to food processor and blitz to mix through.
Press 3/4 of the nutty mix into a 7" round prepared silicon cake tin.
Spoon jam over the top.
Crumble the remaining mix over the top so jam shows through.
Cook in a pre-heated oven at GM5 for about 15 minutes.
Remove and allow to set and cool in the silicon cake tin before slicing into eighths.

cake, jam, dessert


*The jam I received to create a recipe with is made in an Italian monastery using an ancient method and natural ingredients. Available from www.holyart.co.uk priced at £4.90 a jar.

jam, monasteries

The Name Ella Means Light

Ella, light

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Hosting a Craft Party with Baker Ross

We received a brilliant delivery from Baker Ross this week and so we organised a crafting party for Freddy and his cousins to try their hand at some fabulously arty activities.  I love Baker Ross's craft kits. They are excellent quality products that create great end results that the kids can be proud of.


I covered the dining room table in an old plastic tablecloth and laid out the craft sets along with some extra paints, glue, paint brushes and scissors. The kids tried their hand at decorating their own rainbow fish, making mermaid bookmarks, painting garden gnomes, making scratch art monster fridge magnets and decorating little Superhero themed gift bags that we filled with chocolate coins for them to take home along with all the other things they made.

Baker Ross, crafts, kids, party

Crafting is great for children. Not only does it fire their creativity, it also helps develop their concentration, their dexterity, their hand eye co-ordination and their ability to follow instructions. The children have lots of fun as they involve themselves in some constructive activities, which teach them lots of new skills.

We received the following sets:

Ceramic Gnomes
£4.96 for 4

Decorate with acrylic paints or ceramic paint pens and personalise with a name. These gnomes are suitable for inside and outdoors and look really cute with their pointed hats and big boots.

Baker Ross, gnome, painting, crafts

The children really went freestyle on their colourful designs and enjoyed getting messy with paint. Freddy used googly eyes on his gnome, and later when it was dry, he wrote his name on the plaque with a Sharpie Marker.

Baker ross, gnome, crafts, kids


Polystyrene Fish
£2.49 for 6

Decorate your own colourful fish with Deco Pens, sequins and glitter. This activity goes perfectly with a reading of the story of the Rainbow Fish. Children will love to re-enact the story of the Rainbow Fish with their own multi-coloured fish.

Their is some lovely detail on the fish with its scales, fins, tail, mouth and eyes. The polystyrene is very solid with a close weave so it didn't have that cringey feeling that you get with the polystyrene used for packaging. The fish could be suspended on strings to make a lovely mobile or underwater diorama.

Baker Ross, Rainbow Fish


Mermaid Weaving Bookmarks
£3.49 for 4

Foam shapes, self-adhesive foam decorations, coloured ribbon and googly eyes are included in each individual kit, to create a colourful mermaid with a woven tail. This is a lovely activity and the finished bookmarks look really pretty.

Baker Ross, crafts, kids

I really appreciated the fact that the things needed for each mermaid came in its own individual, sealed bag.  This means you don't need to sort through lots of stuff beforehand. You get spare eyes in each pack too, so you don't need to panic if you lose one! Weaving with ribbons is a bit fiddly, but with a little help, everyone did a great job.

baker  ross, crafts, mermaids


Tropical Fish Cushion Sewing Kit
£2.99 for 2

With pre-punched felt pieces, self-adhesive felt shapes, yarn, plastic needle and stuffing, children can create their very own Blue Tang and Clown Fish (aka Dory and Nemo!)  It's a great introduction to sewing for children aged 5+.

Monster Scratch Art Fridge Magnets
£2.99 for 10

This is a fantastic activity comprising of 2 each of five designs of scratch art monster shapes along with scratch tools and adhesive magnets. As the top surface is scratched away it reveals rainbow colours, creating some cool designs. Once the design is completed, the magnet can be stuck on the back.

crafts, fridge magnets, kids

This was a lovely activity that gave some great results. Everybody enjoyed scraping away the top surface to reveal the colours underneath.  It was very easy and very satisfying to do, using the tools provided.

Baker Ross, crafts


Super Hero Foam Stickers
£2.99 for 120

With 30 assorted designs including girl and boy superheroes, city skylines and 'Wham' and 'Pow' emblems, these self adhesive foam stickers are great fun.  We used them to decorate gift bags, but they are perfect for all kinds of activities.

superhero, stickers, Baker Ross

It was lovely to see both male and female superheroes in the designs. It kept everyone happy!  The foam stickers really are great value and would be really useful for hosting a Superhero birthday party, for decorating party bags, invites, decorations etc.

Baker Ross, crafts, party


Coloured Sequins
£2.99 per jar

These colourful sequins can be stuck or pinned to add colour and sparkle to lots of different crafts, such as collages or card making. We used them on our Rainbow Fish, sticking them with a dab of Baker Ross PVA glue.

Baker Ross

You get a lot of multi-colured sequins in this 90g jar, each colour bagged up individually. It's a great value product for keeping in the craft box.


Hosting a craft party is a great alternative to a traditional birthday party. Children are kept entertained and engaged as they take part in the set activities and get to take home all the goodies that they create. The Baker Ross products are ideal for this. They are super value and the quality and designs are excellent. There are so many different themes available you could easily base a party around a single theme such as animals, flowers, sports or under the sea, or just pick a selection of products from the range.

I like that they are so well thought out, without being overly ambitious or too complicated. The sets give the children an activity that they can add their own creative spin to, whilst still being structured enough to give a good, consistent end result.

Freddy loved doing all the different crafts and was very proud of the things he had made!

Baker Ross, crafts, kids

Monday, 20 April 2015

Vichy Liftactiv Supreme Anti-Ageing Skincare

I'm 46 years old this Friday.  My skin is no longer as tight and taut as it used to be as the effects of ageing set in. Fine lines, wrinkles, dullness and loss of firmness are definitely in my face's future!

However, it's not only these long term changes that I have to prepare for, the phenomenon of over day ageing is also a consideration. Women in my age group have been found to experience skin degradation over the course of the day, with skin appearing up to 4 month's older by the evening compared to its appearance in the morning.

Many skincare products offer results for the long term effects of ageing, but don't take into account the fact that deterioration can occur over 12 hours, with markers such as under eye shadowing, more obvious fine lines, increasing skin pigmentation and complexion dullness setting in as the day draws on.

Vichy Laboratories evaluated seven ageing markers and set about creating a product that would counter both the signs of ageing over time as well as the issue of daily ageing. The result of their findings has given rise to Vichy Liftactiv Supreme, the innovative new facial cream, which helps correct both of these areas.

Vichy Liftactiv Supreme claims to improve the look of skin during the day as well as tackling the longer lasting effects of ageing. Using 3D Optical Correction technology it smooths and illuminates the complexion. The formula contains Adenosine and Caffiene to offer a dermo-smoothing effect to combat expression lines, fill out fine lines and reduce dark circles and puffiness under the eyes. Rhamnose acts on the ageing markers and helps thicken the epidermis, while Neohesperidin is an antioxidant that protects the skin's protective barrier. It has aggressive anti-wrinkle and firmness correcting care with a long lasting lifting effect, resulting in smoother and younger looking skin.

anti-ageing, skincare


I received a sample of the Vichy Lift Activ Supreme to test. The silver packaging and stylish tub give the product the appearance of a luxury item with higher end branding.  The product itself is thick, rich and creamy with a pleasant, light fragrance and it goes on smoothly, absorbing into the skin without any feeling of greasiness. On application it gives the skin a feeling of smoothness, which I really liked. The use of blurring particles and mattifying powders make the skin look illuminated with a more uniform texture and radiance. It felt really nice to apply giving a fresh feel to my skin.

Throughout the day, my skin felt well nourished and fresh and my under eye area definitely looked less shadowed and puffy. I can't say that I have particularly noticed any signs of over day ageing, unless I've had a particularly fraught day, so that is definitely a positive for the product.

Having a product that helps combat the signs of ageing as well as giving my complexion a lift throughout the day is great for my confidence as I am getting older.

Vichy Liftactiv Supreme is available from Boots stores and online priced at £29.95 RRP.  Find out more at www.liftactivsupreme.co.uk/liftactiv-supreme.


Friday, 17 April 2015

Animated films to help children cope with bereavement from Co-Operative Funeralcare

It's been seven years since we lost my dear old Nan. It was the first time that my younger children had to deal with bereavement. They adored their Great Nan and her death was very hard on them. I remember telling them when they got back from school on the day she died. We sat together on the stairs and sobbed. Losing a loved one is hard, and although she was 98 years old and in poor health, her death hit them hard.

We decided that all the great grandchildren would attend her funeral, giving them a chance to say good-bye and celebrate her life together. At the service, my daughter Megan read a beautiful poem in front of the congregation and her words, punctuated with sobs, touched everyone deeply. It was so moving. Afterwards we had a family party where we remembered our favourite stories about Nan, laughing and crying in equal measure. The process of being involved in the funeral helped the children deal with the grieving process and as a family we worked through all the emotions of losing a loved one. We all still miss my Nan and fondly remember all the wonderful things about her.

bereavement, death


The Co-operative Funeralcare has launched a series of short animated films aimed at helping bereaved children to cope with the loss of a loved one. Teaming up with the charity Child Bereavement, Trauma and Emotional Wellbeing Service (CHUMS), they are offering the films as a free resource to local schools, medical professionals, counsellors, community groups and bereaved families.

The DVDs including “Our Year Since Dad Died” and  "Our Year Since Grandma Died", are animated stories to help children understand their grief, told in a video diary format, with the main character Gemma talking through her feelings following a loved one's death. It includes various aspects of the family’s grief, including significant events such as the funeral, Mother's Day and birthdays. It offers practical guidelines on how to overcome everyday hurdles.

Cooperative funeralcare, bereavement


It also comes with resources such as guidance notes and downloadable lesson plan and Powerpoint presentation suitable for key stages 2 – 4.  Grief can be overwhelming, painful, confusing and lonely. The aim of these DVDs is to support bereaved children and let them see they are not alone and that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and there is no fixed time scale for individuals to express their grief. The films can make a difference to a child through their loss and help with their long term emotional well being.

The free DVDs are available from your local Co-Operative Funeralcare. 

To view a short preview of the DVDs and find out more visit: 

flowers


Thursday, 16 April 2015

Free Range Holidays at Bluestone National Park Resort

We were delighted to be invited to Bluestone National Park Resort during the Easter holidays for a short break, staying in a 4 bedroomed Grassholm Lodge. After a four hour drive we arrived at Bluestone, went through the efficient drive through reception and were given a map and directions to our lodge in the Preseli View area of the resort. We were able to drive up to our lodge, unload our luggage and then return the car to the car park for the duration of our stay. This keeps Bluestone safe and free from traffic. Guests can hire bikes or golf buggies to get around, but we opted to stay on foot for our stay.

The accommodation was quite honestly one of the best holiday homes I have ever stayed in. It was well equipped, spotlessly clean, spacious, well furnished and beautifully designed with high ceilings with wooden beams, open plan rooms and a balcony at the top of the stairs looking down into the living area below.  With one master bedroom with en suite bathroom, two upstairs twin bedrooms with a family bathroom and one ground floor twin room with a wet room, the property is suitable for up to eight guests.  The living area had comfy seating, a big TV and DVD player and a patio door leading to an outdoor patio area with seating.  The kitchen was big and really well equipped with just about everything you need for a self-catered holiday including a microwave, dishwasher, an oven, a fridge and freezer, cookware and crockery. A wooden dining table comfortably seated up to eight for family meals.  For younger guests, the lodge came equipped with stair gates, a travel cot and a high chair. There is also a safe in the wardrobe of the master bedroom. All linen and towels are included and there is even a pack in the kitchen consisting of a small bottle of washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets, sponge, cloth, extra bin bags and a tea towel. Recycling is encouraged and the kitchen bin is divided up for non-recyclable and recyclable waste.

Bluestone, holiday, Wales


The resort is built around the central picturesque village area where there is a convenience store, a baker's, a pub and some restaurants. There is also a fantastic Tree House play area for the kids to enjoy. A marquee in the village square is the venue for some kids' entertainment and Freddy was very pleased to get a balloon sword from one of the activity's team during the free daily kids' hour.

The Blue Lagoon swimming pool proved a huge hit. Guests can enter for free throughout their stay and get 2 hours exclusive access from 9 am, after that the public can pay to enter. It has a lazy river, hot tubs, wave machine, slides, kids' area, jets and flumes. There is also a cafe area where spectators can sit and watch. Freddy enjoyed splashing around in the pool, using his new found water confidence gained from doing swimming lessons. I sat in the cafe with a coffee and watched him, his sister and his daddy play in the water.

The Adventure Centre has some amazing free indoor activities such as mini-golf, a ball pool, soft play, a bouncy castle, LEGO and a huge wooden play area with slides. It is also home to the Big Four: the Swing, the Drop, the Sky Trail and the Wall. For just £7 each or £20 for all four, kids over 6 can take part in these exciting, fully supervised indoor activities. Unfortunately, Freddy was a bit too young and the girls were a bit too reserved to give them a go.  There are also arcade games in the Adventure Centre to keep kids occupied. It is an excellent all weather facility.

Upstairs is the Wildwood Cafe, which is an enchanted, woodland themed restaurant set around a 20 ft tree. Seating is in a giant tree house, a forester's cottage, a nest pod and a squirrel's drey.  We found a seat in the treehouse and enjoyed a meal of a veggie burger and chips, which was very nice. Freddy enjoyed doing an activity sheet while he waited for his meal of pizza and chips.  The Wildwood Cafe is the venue for the Neverwood Pirate Dinner Show, where families can experience challenges, games, shanties and stories while enjoying a meal.

Bluestone also boasts its own Well Spa Retreat for relaxation with seven unique thermal facilities and a host of treatments available.  The village pub has free entertainment in the evenings such as a pub quiz or live music.

Bluestone, holiday, resort, Wales


The resort is situated in 500 acres of countryside in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. This equates to beautiful scenic views and wonderful walks. We took a nature walk from the lake, through the forest following the stream down to the steep ravine at the other end of the resort. We then climbed the board walk up the ravine and back into the resort. It was absolutely lovely.

I was very impressed with the signs that marked out the nature walk along with facts about the flora and fauna of the area. It added an extra dimension to the walk learning about the trees and flowers.

Freddy enjoyed playing Pooh Sticks on the little bridges with fallen branches, and the kids climbed trees and played in dens.

In the resort stands the old abandoned ruin of Newton North Church. It is now a haven to wildlife and was really interesting to learn about. There is a brilliant living Willow sculpture of a giant caterpillar that Freddy absolutely loved, he ran through it again and again. At Bluestone you are never told to 'Keep Off the Grass', instead you are encouraged to run on it, play on it and roll down the hills!  It's a wonderful ethos.

Bluestone, wales, forests, family


As well as the free activities and entertainment, Bluestone offers hundreds of paid for activities for families to enjoy and has an impressive programme of activities, spa treatments, dining options and pre-school sessions. The activities include everything from kayaking on the lake to taking on the Sky Wires in the Steep Ravine. Many are all -weather activities so rain won't stop play!

Whether you are a thrill seeker or looking to relax, there are loads of suitable activities available. There are activities for children that they can do with or without parental supervision. So if you want some grown-up time, you can send the kids off for an unaccompanied adventure or pop the little ones into the creche.

With the hundreds of paid for activities, plus the use of the Blue Lagoon and Adventure Centre as well as the wonderful forest walks, a stay at Bluestone can be as action packed as you want it be.
For us we had quite a relaxing time, taking in the scenery, enjoying family evenings in the lodge, going for walks and making the most of the pool and the Adventure Centre. We had a wonderful time in a beautiful part of the world.

To find out more about Bluestone National Park Resort visit www.bluestonewales.com and start planning your own luxury free range break!




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