Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Time To Relax

Wow it's good to have some quality time with Daddy and Aaron, today, after acting like a clucky Mother Duck to Aaron and his cousins for the past fortnight.

Home seems empty but in a calm way, not a bereft way. Even Aaron seems to be "chilled" rather than lonely. As usual it is because he always taps into and feeds off my mood. I should try to remember that when I am stressed.

Ooooh here he comes... maybe I won't get to finish this blog post after all. We plan on "Aaron's bed" shopping today. We don't need to get a mattress thank goodness as I will be reviewing this one: Dormeo Memory Deluxe when it arrives.

It's amazing how you only feel tired when you stop. Up until now I was running on adrenaline, but now my body has said "hey Lady, time to slow down" and I am listening. I have to. My energy reserves are depleted.

As much as it was tough being a Mum to Four lately I did occasionally get chance to sit down
And it wasn't always in barefeet 
I have such bad plantar fasciitis that putting my feet up sometimes was a necessity, unless I want to be on Ibuprofen every hour of every day!

A bit of a sort out, when I was doing more cooking and cleaning than I ever have in my life - 33 meals in 11 days x 5 - meant I came across a box of dishes that we got 13 years ago as a wedding present. I really love them. A lot of breakages in recent years meant I didn't have a complete matching set of anything so this is great. Long may they last. Washing up is a bit of a novelty whilst I have these (all in one piece).
At Lollibop I even got chance to sit and have a coffee - thanks for a great chilled out stand Vita Co Co for Kids.
The great thing about being surrounded in little people is that there is always a photographer onhand so I am not just limited to selfies :-)
So bye for now, and wish me luck bed shopping. Sorry I have not blogged as often lately, but I've been busy busy busy.

Liska xxx

Friday, 15 August 2014

Lollibop 2014 Review

So we went to Lollibop 2014 at Hatfield House today. ALL you need to know is that it is WAY better than last year in each and every way!

We went Friday, but if you are going in the next 2 days, here's what you need to know.

If you arrive by train
We (and people we met) did a bit of a silly thing. We found out the train goes from Kings Cross to Hatfield, so just assumed we'd need to travel to Kings Cross. You don't tend to plan your journey when you're a Londoner as you know your stuff right? Wrong. Train ended up going through Finsbury Park, which we'd already been through 30 minutes beforehand on the tube (London Underground). Given that we left home 90 minutes later than planned, we could have done with this time.

Your arrival may look a little like this:
Minus Natalie Cassidy, unless of course, she is there again.
The gates to Hatfield House are right opposite the station - just cross the road. But the walk begins once in. It's a beautiful walk if you can enjoy it and are not running late.
The walk once in the grounds is longer than we'd expected, but was incredibly picturesque. A 2 year old may get tired but a 4 year old won't. It's a very buggy friendly walk.

The signage from station to event is great as are the Olympic style meeter and greeters. They seem to have thought of everything.

Getting in
As you can see in the pics above there was NO queue to get in. This was FABULOUS. Do put your wrist bands on before you get there (if you're a blogger etc)... But then again the weekend will be busier than it was today. 

There is a pic above of the orange wristbands. Do make use of these on arrival. You basically write your name and phone number on them in case your littlies get lost. I told them what was on there, so that they were armed to know themselves what to do. Aaron totally got it, which was so cute!

Planning your day Vs going with the flow
Do what you will, but we had some surprises. We started by queuing to have our photo taken with Thomas (and beforehand with the Fat Controller):

After a few hours we realised we had remained in this zone of the festival, having just done ACTIVITY FIELDS which consists of:
  1. Thomas & Friends area (which is more than one stand, which includes one with toys to play with - Aaron sat and played with Thomas with a member of staff for what seemed like ages)!!!
  2. Baby Ballet where we spent LOTS of times and I got tears in my eyes watching my Aaron dance whilst videoing him. Fab fun in there. Girls loved it too.
  3. Lego Duplo (which includes toys to play with AND animate and even lego to take home - ice cream or giraffe)!!!
  4. Tottenham Hotspur.
My twinkle toes - a wee dancer in the making:
We then realised we ought to move on to see more of the Festival, but we first went to the DISCOVERING ZONE where we got stuck for 90 minutes at:
  1. The Nintendo area (all of us for a while) as you get stickers at each area in there and there is a fab slide. 99% of the Nintendo staff are bubbly and passionate gamers. They even let me charge my phone - thanks Scott. Once my nieces got bored they hopped and skipped to...
  2. The River Island stand where you get to design/create your own t-shirt, which is provided free of charge. Absolutely a MUST DO. There's a shop there too.
Aaron would not leave the Nintendo area as he was comfortably sitting on bean bags playing Pokemon on a Nintendo 3 DS. I kept saying, "when the girls come back you have to" but they were gone a total of 90 minutes including queuing and design.

This member of staff is such a passionate Nintendo gamer he had two of his own consoles in his pockets:
This is the map - study it:




Once we realised it was 16:00 and we'd only seen a quarter of the festival (NOT including the main stage) we made a mad dash there, just in time to see Lazy Town who were awesome, as was the main man Sportacus himself. He got the crowd rocking, as did the girls - I do have footage which I will have to upload when not so tired.

Actually I tell a lie, on our way to the main stage we got distracted by a "kitchen tent" (I think it is the Lolli Kitchen) where the kids hopped in and decorated gingerbread men, only so that they could eat them after - they really enjoyed covering them. I got a bite of each creation and they actually WERE really really yummy:

We planned to grab some proper food after this, but ended up meandering over to the Vita Co Co stand where we actually spent the remainder of our day.

We'd meant to just go there to kill time till Sam and Mark came on at 17:20 but ended up rooting ourselves there.

I bought a box of 4 Vita Co Co for Kids there for only 2 pounds and knew they'd be great as I have previously reviewed them.
Knocking over things in a coconut shy there was the highlight of Aaron's day as he "won" a frisbie.  There's also a fab SANDPIT there which is surrounded in BEACH BUM deckchairs which my arse was VERY grateful for indeed. So instated was I there, that I even went and got a coffee and came back. We were amazed that they ALSO had a t-shirt design area, also with the tee provided, so there we stayed. This meant Aaron also got in on the tee design action. The girls kept running over to Yo Yo Bear from there, so we were munching on their alphabet cereal (which was complimentary) - we already knew we loved it from the Planes 2 movie Gala Screening in Leicester Square where they had some on every seat in the auditorium.

So HAD I planned the day, it would have involved seeing some more of the main stage acts, and would have involved going to some of the food stands, making sure we visited each and every region of the festival.

As it was, we didn't get near a disco I heard people saying great things about. I used far too much memory and charge at Baby Ballet which was totally unexpected but so worth it.

I never knew I had a gamer in my son, so would not have planned to get stuck at Nintendo.

What I guess I am saying is, when you get inside do study the map which they give to you complimentary on arrival (unlike the expensive lanyard from last year), but don't be too rigid with it.

The vibe is SO chilled, it does not lend itself to being rigid.

My wristbands said Blogger Friday - if yours are similar, you won't get access to the Press/VIP area, be warned. Unless they relax the rules for Saturday/Sunday OR you get a different Security Guard to me LOL!

We were one of the last to leave at gone 1800 and there was hardly anyone left for that last hour. Saturday and Sunday may not be like that, but if they are don't follow the crowd. Enjoy the vibe and linger like we did. Even once outside the perimeter of the venue, we put out our rug and enjoyed the grounds of Hatfield House. My tired son and nieces were LITERALLY doing cartwheels, and sitting on the rug drinking Capri-Suns from my picnic hamper, wanting to linger in the beauty of the energy of the day - nobody in a rush to leave. We left the grounds at 1900! We even found a swing  in the trees!!!

If you don't have tickets, they are 20 online, 25 on the door, per person, regardless child/adult. It IS incredibly worth it. SO much free stuff including face painting which Aaron never does but my nieces LOVED. In a society where we are used to paying for every ride etc... it is a joy to spend a day without putting your hand in your pocket. I think my coffee and the Vita Co Co for Kids are the only things I bought ALL day, which just doesn't happen when you take 3 children out. It did help that we had chilled drinks and snacks in the picnic hamper.

We came home ravenous to a beautiful dinner made by Grandma and 3 children went to sleep incredibly content and happy.

By the way there is a water station, with chilled gushing drinking water, so if water is your thang, bring some, and refill your bottles free of charge. See I told you you don't have to put your hand in your pocket
There is a large "food" area, but we did not buy any. You'll struggle to find it on the map - even now I can't pinpoint it having been there today, but it's easy to spot once you do get walking around the whole festival. Not far from Vita Co Co at all.

My only regret is that there is a stand selling alcohol and I never got there despite fancying a beer and enjoying one last year. It's in disguise with the word Creche above the stand, but there it is, and I heard tales of people drinking Pimms - yummy!!!

My only OTHER regret is that we never got to see Titan and we SO enjoyed him last year.

We had NO interest in meeting Justin (Mister Tumble) hence our going Friday when he is not on the programme. I do like Friday though as it is lovely and relaxed. I am interested to hear whether Saturday Sunday will be way busier in comparison.

I will pad this post out, but for now, I must leave it there, as I was up at 7 a.m. after 2 hours sleep and it is now 02:12. I will backdate this post to 15th August so that me saying "today" makes sense.

Night night xxx

That's us for another year:

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Goodbye Cousins Hello Lollibop

Today Aaron's 3 cousins will have been staying with us for 11 days. He will be devastated that they are going home, BUT all is not lost, as two of them will come to Lollibop with us and the timing could literally NOT be better. He says goodbye to the cousin holiday and then hello the very next day to Lollibop. He literally hasn't stopped talking about it since last year (my Lollibop 2013 review is here) so he is not even focusing on their holiday coming to an end, but rather on the fact that Lollibop is imminent. Like the European Yoga Festival used to be the highlight of MY year pre-Motherhood it seems that Lollibop (and his birthday and Xmas) is now the highlight of his!

A few months ago when I told him it was Summer, the FIRST thing he said to me was "does that mean we are going to Lollibop?" - so cute! I am so happy for him his long wait is over. Bless him!

He has looked at the programme with me so is now telling me, that Thomas will be there (I am not sure in what capacity). Actually scrap that, I found the information RE: Thomas and Friends on the Lollibop website so am clued up now.

He's also really looking forward to seeing Titan!


His favourite thing by far last year was Little Tikes so I am glad that they are to be there again.


I am over the moon that there is to be a Pom Bear picnic area as (1) they are our favourite crisps and (2) we ARE planning on bringing a picnic in my gorgeous wicker hamper basket. We've used it every day during the cousins' holiday and they have specifically requested already that I take it to Lollibop.

Last year he spent a lot of time in the Lego area:

The hoodie he is wearing above is because it was windy and rained the day we went last year. I am so pleased it is predicted to be sunny/dry all day this time. What was odd though, was after that Autumnal weather we got a late second (August) heatwave, and the paddling pool that I have stored away came back out. I hope it happens again. Too much rain of late!


What amazed me the MOST last year was that he saw the above "Jake lego boat" at Lollibop last year, and asked me for it. I said "for Xmas" and every day from that to December he kept saying that Santa was bringing him a Jake Lego Boat. Given the amount of TV he watches and the number of toy adverts he thus sees I thought he would change his mind in four months, but no, he stayed steadfast, and I (on behalf of Santa) did get him the whole set. Daddy added lots of other things like a Spiderman costume etc... but he was happy.

I wonder what will be the most memorable aspects of THIS Lollibop. No doubt with his cousins with him, he will have a ball. My niece is already looking forward to the dance area: Baby Ballet.

I love that it is in a better venue this year: Hatfield House (it looks BEAUTIFUL), and that the prices are more reasonable. 20 pounds a head, whereas last year it would have been 115 for just Daddy, me and Aaron to attend. It's great that our feedback on last year's venue was considered and acted upon - I love a company that listens to its customers!

It's now 2:45 a.m. so if I have any hope of being rested in time for the excitement that is Lollibop I best get myself to bed.

Disclosure: I will be reviewing Lollibop 2014 and therefore have been issued wristbands gratis.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Getting kids to eat healthily: the tricks

Every parent knows it's important to make sure their children eat a healthy and nutritional diet, but that's not always how kids themselves see it!

Fortunately there are a few easy tricks that can be employed so that meal times can be less stressful and more enjoyable the whole family.

Step back

It might sound counterproductive to say that taking a step back can help. In fact, asking too many questions about whether or not enough vegetables were eaten in one sitting or why a child might be unwilling to eat what's good for them often makes things worse. Kids’ appetites fluctuate depending on lots of factors including activity levels and growth spurts so no mealtime is really going to be 'typical'.

Luckily I am quite chilled on this. Aaron will eat cereal every day and then all of a sudden not touch it for 3, 5 or even 10 days and have toast instead. Similarly, one day he can eat a WHOLE head of broccoli yet another day won't touch it. Some days he focuses on the rice on his plate, other days it is the meat, and the rice is left. I have noticed he craves what his body needs, kind of like baby-led weaning but for older kids. I am glad I have a relaxed approach as it really works. When he wants to eat a lot, he does, and the portion size is always there to accommodate for that.

Balance

Making sure that a balance is kept over time is the best approach and means that the odd fast food excursion can be incorporated into your dietary regime as long as everyone is aware that it is a treat and not a regular occurrence.

This so applies to us. Very occasionally we will go to McDonald's although we have recently discovered Aaron prefers KFC. We've been twice in a fortnight but probably now won't go again for a month!


Get the kids involved

Letting your children have an input into menus and getting them to take part in cooking and preparation is a fantastic way to make things feel positive for everybody. Whether it's letting granny hand down some family recipes in her McCarthy & Stone property when you visit or exploring some of the great cookery books that are available for kids, getting your children involved in cooking can be fun and educational at the same time.

I am yet to "bake" with Aaron, but he often juices with me. Juicing is a fabulous way of sneaking in their 5-a-day. Also I always give him a choice of dinner before I start cooking. This avoids a rejected dinner. So I will literally say "rice or pasta" or "potatoes or spaghetti"? If lunch is replaced with a sandwich, I'll make that sandwich as nutritious as possible!

Make fruit and veg exciting

One of the big problems in getting children to eat the 'right' kind of food is that fruit and vegetables can often be seen as boring and unexciting. If you serve them in unexpected ways – perhaps as fruit and yoghurt ice-pops to or sweet potato chips – then you may find little tastebuds are more willing to give them a go.

For us this is achieved by juicing. Also, I have recently discovered he loves cucumber. My nieces and nephew have been staying with us for 11 days (last day tomorrow) and they LOVE having a side salad on the side of every meal - who knew?!?!?
Cheesey pasta with chicken, with a generous side salad, which they all gobbled down!
Choose words carefully

Some parents swear by slightly unconventional ideas such as conversational hypnosis and other subtle techniques aimed at helping their children do the right thing indirectly. Something as simple as choosing the right words can dictate whether or not your kids will eat something and often making a big deal of their reluctance is only sure to make things worse. Wow, I can SO confirm this to be true!

You should speak to your children about the importance of eating healthily too and educate them on different food groups and nutritional values so that they understand why a balanced diet is important.


I do this with Aaron, and as a result he now drinks a lot of water. Where he used to drink a lot of Ribena, he now knows sugar is bad, and will opt for water more often than not, unless he is craving a sugar kick as a treat. The hot weather's been great for getting him drinking LOTS of water. Our new filtered water bottles on the go may have helped too.
 This post was a collaboration.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

A Mother of Four For a Week

You may have noticed I haven't blogged in a week... Well it's because I have been busy, incredibly busy - wow how do those of you with large families do it??? Especially you large family Mummy Bloggers out there??

I have my nieces and nephew with me for a week, and as much fun as it is, (honestly the whole thing was my idea) no sooner have you cleared up from breakfast than it is time to start lunch, and same again for dinner. Finding something to cook that EVERYONE likes is no mean feet. Making enough that everyone is full is even tougher. It's been a challenge, but an incredibly rewarding one. But as much as I am loving it, I now have FULL RESPECT for any Mum who has more than 1 child. It's a bit like walking a tight rope and actually, we did that too:
We've had a blast this week, AND it's not over yet! One of the things I wanted to do #B4Sept was have them over, so it's a very big tick, at the top of my Summer to-do list. Getting them all in the paddling pool has been ticked today too. Excuse Aaron's fuzz ball hair in the above photo, but trying to get all 5 of us washed, dressed and out the door, to be anywhere before lunchtime is a struggle and that picture was taken on a day that involved a VERY early start, so hair styling was so far down the list, it dropped off!


Eating out, in addition to the cost of a day out is just not possible, so it's been picnics all the way this week, followed by tasty home cooked meals on arriving home tired and hungry. 

Instead of being a chore it's been great fun, as I have had my Tesco finest* hamper for a year, and had never had reason to use it. Rather apt that I have been reviewing a few Tesco picnic items this week. I should say WE actually. They've been very yummy in our tummy.

My favourite has to be the platter with olives in:
Picnics are a bit like pack lunches, i.e. for the love of God, do not JUST pack sandwiches!!!

Not that I have got to the packed-lunch stage yet as Aaron only starts school this September (it's getting sooner *cries*)!

The following does not feature in Tesco's Picnic range but we think they are just PERFECT:

They are called Madeleine's and are individually wrapped making them rather convenient to pop in. When you are craving something sweet after the savoury these hit the spot without being too sugary. They are currently on a 3 for 2 offer and you get a massive 16 in a pack, so even with 5 of us, we only used a third of them. The rest are still in the cupboard so we have just have some more tomorrow.

Another day's picnic dessert was taken care of with these rather interesting cakes below: Sticky Toffee Popcorn Cake Slices. I actually can't believe how cheap these are, even without the 3 for 2 offer they are currently on! I wasn't sure about them but they turned out to be DIVINE, and all the kids (apart from Aaron) liked them too. He would have, if he had taken a bite, but he refused... They pack a punch in terms of luxury taste, without a luxury price tag!


We also sampled Chicken Pesto and Mozzarella Bites which were superb! If you know anyone who is not allowed to eat pork, but has always fancied a scotch egg, well then this is *nearly* just the ticket. They are delish:

I didn't want to leave you without letting you know what Tesco has to say about the platter featured above up top as it really is the bees knees:
Tesco Summer Eating Mediterranean Picnic Platter - a perfect addition to any picnic basket and is made for sharing. Choose from delicious pimento stuffed green Hojiblanca olives, Spanish Iberico cheese, Habas Fritas – crunchy, lightly roasted and salted broad beans, slow roasted vine tomatoes paired with creamy Italian mozzarella and a medley of pitted green & black Hojiblanca olives with roasted sweet red peppers.
As hard work as it is, this week, pretending to be a Mum to four, Aaron's LOVED every bit of having his cousins, and I have had a ball too:
Disclosure: I was sent vouchers from Tesco to help get me through the week, I mean so that I could spice up my picnic offering! AND boy did it work! DO NOT pack a picnic with just sandwiches - nobody will thank you for it. After three picnics in 5 days I think we are experts now, and that hamper (also from Tesco a year ago), as you can see, went everywhere with us.

P.S. this is my favourite photo from the week so far:

Friday, 8 August 2014

Top 5 Most Common Home Insurance Claims

Assessing Home Insurance Claims must be an incredibly interesting job to say the least! A bit like hearing all the reasons children come up with for not completing their homework.

There are many kinds of home insurance claims; some of them are, putting it mildly, a little bizarre! Or if not the tale itself the extent of the damage purported to have occurred...

Examples include:

  • a claim for a damage to a carpet that had been eaten by a snail!
  • Damage caused to a shed by a badger that had become trapped inside; and 
  • An £8,000 claim for damage caused by a pigeon that fell down a chimney. (It's the pigeon I feel sorry for in that case)!
Bizarre claims aside, most of the home insurance claims that are made fall into just five categories, with almost half of them being due to the escape of water or damage done by the weather, with the bulk of the rest being due to theft, accidental damage and subsidence. 

In 2013 home insurance payouts amounted to around £3.8 billion. 

You should always make sure any cover you take out covers what you need it to.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea! As pretty as water is, it can be harmful in and around the home. By the way, the source of that phrase is not at all what you might think! It is nautical in nature and nowt to do with Lucifer!
These are the five most common home insurance claims that were made last year based on data.

1. Escape of water
Problems caused by pipes and faulty plumbing are the biggest problems for home owners in the UK and tops the list of the most common insurance claims. In 2013 this accounted for 24% of all home insurance claims that were made that year.
While a leaking pipe is really a minor issue, it can cause a huge amount of damage. The average claim for such an incident is £3,500 for ruined furnishings, belongings, and damage to walls and ceilings.
2. Weather and storm damage
In terms of buildings claims, it is weather and storm damage that's the major culprit, and altogether accounts for almost 24% of all home insurance claims. 

With the changing weather patterns that we are seeing in recent years, storms and flooding are becoming increasingly common, and if the cause of this is global warming then things are only likely to get worse in the coming years.
3. Theft
Theft accounted for 14% of home insurance claims in 2013, and many of these could have been avoided had the home owner taken more care with security. Even if you have home insurance, you still need to take reasonable care and provide your home with at least a minimum level of security. Leaving a window open in the hot weather is an open invitation to opportunistic burglars, so try not to do so, and check your policy to see what level of security your insurance company expects from you.

4. Accidental damage
Most of the claims made for contents insurance were due to accidental damage, and it accounts for 9% of all home insurance claims. This is defined as damage caused by an unexpected and non-deliberate action. It excludes wear and tear or any form of mechanical failure. If your television stops working you can’t claim for a new one, but if you accidently drop it onto the floor and break it then it will be covered.

5. Subsidence  
Subsidence is the fifth commonest home insurance claim, accounting for 4% of all home insurance claims. Subsidence involves a downward movement of the building’s foundations and can be caused by a number of factors such as the collapse of old coal mining tunnels, changes to the ground’s moisture content causing it to shrink, and excessive rainfall washing away soluble minerals in the ground creating a hole under the foundations.
This post is in collaboration with: