Our Summer Holidays

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There was a time when I used to dread the summer holidays just a little bit (or a lot). Acres of days stretching ahead of us with endless time to fill – it terrified me. I didn’t know what to do to entertain the children; holiday activity camps were too expensive, they wouldn’t sit still to watch a whole film, there’s only so many cakes we could bake and I’m still not 100% exactly what crafting is. Holidays used to equal hours of boredom and mum fail.

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But I feel like I’ve turned a corner parenting and holiday-wise as they’ve gotten older. Hux is now three and can sit through a film at the cinema (or even three films: Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2 and then Despicable Me again. That was a fun afternoon) and Elfie loves to pick through her activity boxes to find games and colouring – we get VERY competitive at Guess Who in our house.

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I also think that, 5 years after becoming a parent, I’ve finally come to terms with the responsibility of it all. If I’ve kept the kids alive all this time (and done it solo for 2.5 years) I must be doing something right, yeah? And not only are they still alive but they seem to like me as well. Mega points! When I get told completely unprompted that I am the best mummy ever (though possibly not true) that is the best justification ever.

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We’ve actually had a brilliant summer so far. The weather’s been a bit touch and go (side eye to the current rainy window) but we’ve managed two trips to the outside pool, two playdates, a week in Center Parcs, a cinema trip, five BBQs, four activity sessions at the gym, a girls-only shopping trip and a garden picnic. All mostly spontaneous but still, supermum or wot?!

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I think it’s all down to them getting older and me learning how to parent a bit more. I find it so much easier now my two aren’t high-maintenance babies and we can extract ourselves from tantrums and meltdowns with logic and a healthy bit of bribery, instead of having to sit out the screaming fits because Hux just can’t understand why he has to have the yellow not the green toothbrush. I feel like we’ve left the toddler years behind and I now have two bone fide children with thoughts and feelings and intelligence. I thought I’d always be the kind of person to go gaga over babies but really I’m finding this stage so much more rewarding.

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It’s also down to an arguably healthier work/life balance. Hux has been at nursery three days a week in the holidays and Elfie’s been spending half days with her grannie so I’ve had a little bit of time to knuckle down to business, but not too much. I ‘m still feeling a bit overwhelmed when reflecting on the last year of intense corporate life and it’s been fantastic to take the foot off the work-pedal a little bit this month. I’ve also filled my child-free time with fun grown-up things (hola, last minute trip to New York) and knowing I am making the most of the alone time makes me very happy.

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It’s funny that I’ve spent a lot of time scared of the holidays with my kids, worried about filling their time with being an interesting and entertaining parent. But to make them happy this summer they haven’t needed hours of structured activities – just a chilled out mum, some board games and the odd trip to the pool.

Who knew?

Three Do Summer Cinema

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It’s the summer holidays, which is usually the time of year I try to discover exactly what crafting is. Every year I fail at this and we spend six weeks baking cupcakes and going to softplay at the gym.

But this year we have discovered a new activity! THE CINEMA! That’s right, my two are officially old enough to sit through an hour and a half movie and I could not be happier about it. I’ve spent hours daydreaming of weekly trips to get our fill of films and popcorn.

We kicked off our summer holiday viewing this week with Minions at the cinema and I was impressed at the number of mums using the opportunity to have a nice long nap while their kids were engrossed in the film. Not for me, though – I actually really enjoyed it (and I still think popcorn is a special treat, so yeah.)

To celebrate my children’s increased concentration span my friends at Cineworld have sent over their rundown of the top five family films to see this summer. I’m ticking them off, one by one, but might leave the kids at home for Jurassic World…

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Inside Out

Dominating the box office on both sides of the Atlantic, Inside Out is the animated smash hit of the summer so far.

Another critical success for Pixar, the movie tells the story of how emotions such as Joy, Sadness and Anger rule the roost in teenage Riley’s brain.

With a top voice cast including Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling and Bill Hader, this is a film that will make you laugh and make you cry, sometimes at the same time.

Pixar has made some wonderful films, but Inside Out is right up there with their best so far.

Jurassic World

Earlier in the summer it was Jurassic World packing in the crowds at Cineworld.

The fourth instalment of the dramatic dinosaur series is still playing in cinemas, and sees action hero of the day Chris Pratt take the lead role alongside Bryce Dallas Howard.

Raptor training Pratt does his best to steal the show, but as ever it’s the dinosaurs that really shine, with the Jurassic World boffins coming up with a fearsome new creation; the Indominus Rex.

Inevitably, the test-tube dinosaur gets out and causes havoc – can Pratt and Howard save the day?

Minions

Having caught the public’s imagination in two Despicable Me films, the Minions are striking out on their own.

Kids absolutely love the Minions and this prequel tells the story of how these odd little creatures ended up working for evil plotters.

The 3D animated movie is an absolute riot, with Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm signing up for the voice cast alongside Pierre Coffin, Michael Keaton and Allison Janney.

Pixels

An Adam Sandler comedy might not always sound like ideal family friendly fodder, but Pixels is breaking the mould this summer.

Sandler stars as a video game geek who has to fight back when characters such as Pac-Man and Donkey Kong come to life – only evil.

A starry cast also features Kevin James and Michelle Monaghan and there is a safe pair of hands in the director’s seat too, with Chris Columbus (from Home Alone and Harry Potter and the Philopsopher’s Stone) in charge.

Underdogs

Aimed at a slightly younger audience is Underdogs, an animated comedy starring Harry Potter’s Rupert Grint as Jake, a young soccer player who has to take on the school bully.

Jake also has to rescue Laura (Eve Ponsonby), his childhood crush and best friend, and he has help from the players on his table foosball game, who spring to life.

Young teens who are particularly into their football will love this tale of redemption and love.

 

Thank you to Cineworld for supporting MTT

Now You Are Five

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I’ve been trying to write this for a little while now and am shamefully completing it almost a month after the event of Elfie’s fifth birthday. But I feel like Elfie turning FIVE has been such a milestone for our family – not just for Elfie but for everyone in our little family of three and it’s been difficult to put into words exactly how I feel about this little poppet now she’s getting older.

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Sidenote: since when did I become grown-up enough to be the mother of a five year old?! Hasn’t happened yet, probably never will.

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I’m going to hark back to one of my favourite motherhood quotes here because its never resonates more than on the birthdays of my kids; the days are long but the years are short. And holy mackerel do these years go by swiftly, I can remember Elfie’s 4th birthday like it was yesterday but looking back at the pictures now she was so teeny tiny. What a dot!


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So here we are at five, which feels so much more grown-up than four and a million miles away from three. The year has been huge for Elfie as she started school last September, and with school comes all the associated fun stuff like the Christmas play, maypoleing, sports day, the annual camping trip… it’s been fantastic for us all. I chose to send her to a village school a 10 minute drive away rather than the huge primary school around the corner; there are only 10 children in her year (vs 60 at the local primary) and 26 in the whole school. This environment has been really brilliant for her, she has so much confidence with older children and just adores being around her friends.

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She’s a fantastic learner and truly enjoys reading and writing; we spent hours in the garden on a blanket yesterday as she painstakingly wrote out a story and I spelled the odd word to her. Elfie’s thirst for knowledge is beautiful to see and really reminds me of myself at her age, she loves books as much as I did and devours them like a hungry caterpillar ;)

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I’ve written a lot about how Elfie and I sometimes have a tricky relationship, what with us being carbon copies of each other and everything. We’re both laid back in some ways but highly strung in others, defiant, head strong and know what we want, so it’s safe to say we have clashed in the past. Dare I say that these clashes are getting fewer and far between; we’re learning to talk more to one another when we have issues rather than rant and strop (her, not me, honest ;) which has resulted in a much more harmonious relationship.

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We had chicken pox this year which was truly awful and Elfie seemed to suffer with it much worse than Hux. There’s a reason you can only catch it once and thank god – me keeping her off school for a week was a crime as far as she was concerned. It was nice to us to spend some time together just the two of us but I wish it would have been less itchy and more fun.

FYI: despite the pox there’s always time for Frozen Dresses.

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I love how close we are now. Cuddling is such a big part of our relationship and she’s always grabbing me round the neck when I tuck her in and saying “I just never want to let you go, mummy” or getting in to my bed in the morning and wishing she could cuddle forever. So do I, Elfie. So do I. We have these big chats and I feel like our family situation means that we have a very special relationship – she tells me stuff and I tell her stuff – we know each other inside out. Some point over the last couple of months marked the time that Elfie had spent more time living with me as a single parent than she did with her dad in the house as a family of four. Though her father is still very involved I really do feel like I represent not only a mum to her but also part of the strength that comes from a dad.

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Elfie has a stonker of a personality. She is so sweet, so kind, so thoughtful. It’s not an exaggeration to say she is loved by all – she is just such a little treasure. She has beautiful manners (*takes a bow*) and brings sunshine wherever she goes. She has her moments – like mother, like daughter, remember? – and likes to take herself off on occasion for a little strop. But I normally find her 20 minutes later lying on her bed casually reading a book or playing a game on the iPad, strop or quarrel completely forgotten.

10986395_434534216708961_1966216557_nElfreda, whatever did I do without your bright sunshiney smile in my life? You are a light in the dark, a laugh in the silence and on occasion a pain in my bum. But your mummy loves you to the moon and back. And then again. And again and again and again. I hope you know that.

Elfie’s 4th  birthday / Elfie’s 3rd birthday / Elfie at 2 / Elfie’s 1st birthday

Affordable Family Holidays in Europe

I’m starting to get to that time with my family when they’re old enough to appreciate a holiday abroad. At 3 and 5 they’ve been to a couple of different countries already – Madrid for a family wedding and our epic cruise a year or two ago – but now I’d like to show them now what foreign travel is really all about. For me it’s all experiencing different cultures, learning new languages, tasting new food. The world is our oyster (and if I get to eat oysters, well that’s just a bonus)!

So as a result of this I’ve recently spent more than my allocated time researching great value flights to a number of European destinations. Here are my top picks: let me know where you want to go!

Canal. Amsterdam. Netherland

Amsterdam

Amsterdam may be a better choice of family holiday than you’d think. It’s a gorgeous city just made for strolling along peaceful canals, enjoying the beautiful architecture and chomping on stroopwafel with your children. The parks are plentiful and the family friendly atmosphere here is overwhelming; it’s first on my list! Don’t believe me? Have a look at the amazing experiences my friend Fritha had there recently.

Guernsey

I last visited Guernsey when I was fifteen and have been looking forward to returning since. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Britain I’ve ever been and one of the smallest – totally unique to our country. Highly recommended! Stay in St Peter Port and explore by car; it’s ok, you can thank me later ;)

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Paris

I love Paris and Elfie is slightly obsessed after receiving a LEGO model of the Eiffel tower. To be fair I think my two are a bit overwhelmingly intrigued at the prospect of a train that goes UNDER THE SEA so for ease we will definitely be flying. I can’t wait to take a trip here with them for croissant, jambon and fromage! If you fancy a Parisian jaunt I’d highly recommend the R. Kipling hotel which is in my favourite district of Pigalle; quiet, foodie and very very Parisian. Ooh la la.

Biarritz

French is the only language I speak apart from English which may well explain my preoccupation with France. Biarritz has everything to offer: the best of France pus a huge 6km of sandy beaches. Why not experience some culture plus sandcastles at the same time?

Where are you planning on flying off to this summer?

Thank-you Flybe for sponsoring MTT

Dear Self: Start Living The Dream.

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It’s 2am as I write this, which means you can make the safe assumption that Jet Lag is still making me her bitch. Recent Google searches this past 24 hours have included; ‘can jet lag kill you?’ ‘jet lag feel terrible’ ‘how to make jet lag go away’.

It hasn’t helped.

The thing about jet lag is that I’ve had stacks of time to think (and play on Tinder, but that’s another story). What I haven’t had stacks of time to do is absolutely anything productive whatsoever because my brain is mush and I’ve been busy burying my face in my childrens’ necks after being apart from them for a week. Even on occasion at 2am which I’ll admit is kind of creepy, but then again there’s nothing like the smell of your kid’s neck. Sorry/not sorry.

So I’ve been thinking about next steps. It’s all well and good making big declarations as I have – sticking it to The Man to follow my dreams of independence, travel, and happiness. But as I was handing in notice, preparing to go to New York and thinking about turning 30 I didn’t really anticipate what would happen on my return home. When real life hit. And now I’m back I guess I really have to start doing that. But exactly how do you turn your dreams into reality?

Jet lag has been providing me with answers. Kind of…

I’ve worked out that my first step should be to define exactly what your dreams are. Great! So this is the bit I bore you with mine ;)

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BUSINESS! So, one of my dreams is to expand my business and to build on what’s already there to create a successful, knowledgeable marketing consulting machine. Fine. I’ve had a Brooklyn fried chicken-induced brainstorm over a company name and mission statement so we’re well on our way there (though none of them were approved by Kirsty, my business advisor extraordinaire…).

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WRITING! But I want the sum of what I do to be more than a Marketing Consultancy. Blogging has been such a huge part of my life for so long and I feel like by going corporate work-wise a year ago I lost my way a bit. You can’t really blog the intimacies of your divorce or vagina while you’re working for a global corporation now, can you?

No more! I am finding myself again in these pages and on your screen. I’m going to re-discover my mojo and write, write, write about finding love (haven’t yet, don’t get your hopes up) and being brave and what motherhood is all about and everything that interests me in between. I’m going to treat my website like one of my clients’ and look at it critically, making it the best it can be. And I’m really excited about that.

Cool, so that’s the work life sorted.

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CHILLING! I’m going to slow down. So much of my life is run at 100mph – I’m always finding myself getting cross with slow drivers, slow walkers, slow check out cashiers. I need to chill the fuck out, calm myself down and realise that a life led at a slower speed is much more enjoyable. And healthy!

Speaking of healthy I want to be well, in mind, body and spirit. Which means gym, yoga, meditation, green juices. In my 30s I’m turning into an organic spirulina-swilling meditating health fan and I am really happy about it so there.

I’ll still drink wine, though.

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MY BABIES! I’m going to make more time for my children. This whole life-changing exercise is about them, really. I want them to know I am around to be whatever they need me to be, at any time they need me to be it. In our house a happy stress-free mummy = happy kids and the effect on them when I’m spending time at home without a work-panicked, stressed and furrowed brow is palpable. I’m going to be present for them as much as I can and do everything for their happiness.

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INSPIRATION! I’m going to read. Not just the unread stack of books under my bead but blogs, papers, twitter feeds. It is so good for the soul and I miss the feel of beautiful words on my eyeballs, I really do. I miss being inspired and I am going to look especially to my fellow women (Laura! Emma! Lena Dunham!) to do that for me.

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TRAVEL! I want to spend my child-free time experiencing the other side of the world. Or Europe. Or the country. Whatever, I just want to push myself outside of my geographical comfort zone and explore new places. And even sometimes do this with the children.

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In one of my favourite quotes from Girls – which I have been watching a lot of in my dozy sleepless haze – Hannah Horvath says that she may be the voice of a generation. Or at least a voice. Of a generation. Is this not true for everyone? I think we all have voices, even if we’re not quite sure what we’re meant to use them for.

My voice may have got told to SHHHHHHHHH last week by a gobby New Yorker who then gave me the finger in a Mexican restaurant (she had a point. I was loud and obnoxiously singing The Smiths), but it is metaphorically going to be speaking up way more from now on.

Let’s speak up and live our dreams, yeah?

 

Who Wants To Be a (Boots Points) Millionaire?

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I must go in a Boots store at least once a week. I remember it from when I was spending my very first wages from my very first job as a pot washer in the pub in the next village. I earned the princely sum of £3.00 an hour – I can still see the orange eyeshadow palette I bought from No7 that autumn. It ROCKED.

My tastes have moved on a bit since then but my Boots loyalty has not. It’s one of those safe places on the high street where you know exactly what you’re going to get and what it’s going to cost – like John Lewis or Pizza Express. When I was in New York last week (did I mention I’d been to New York? I feel like I’ve hardly discussed it ;) I felt comforted to find a Boots aisle right in the middle of a Duane Reed pharmacy… a little bit of unexpected England slap-bang in the centre of Williamsburg.

One of my favourite things to do at Boots is to save up my Advantage Card points until I have ridonkulous amounts and then splash out on something I wouldn’t usually buy myself. I’m one of those people who closely monitors the advantage card points offers, pouncing when there’s a 500 bonus for a high spend or 100 extra points for toothpaste Today I received 350 extra points for buying a St Tropez product that had been already reduced from £14.50 to £9: I felt like I’d won the lottery!

Boots are currently running the chance of a treat of a lifetime for Advantage Card holders; one lucky user of the Advantage card app is going to become a Boots millionaire, winning 1,000,000 Boots points, worth £10,000! To celebrate this they’ve asked me to have a think about what I’d spend a million Boots points on.

This was not a difficult task.

The last time I splashed out using my points I bought a really fancy Kent hairbrush. I love the fact you can do this – it feels like guilt-free splurging. Carrying on the hair theme, if I was a Boots millionaire I’d look at buying new curling tongs and a lifetime supply of Moroccan Oil.

I love the range of brands Boots stock and my favourites run from Essie to Clinique, Soap and Glory to Clarins. Clinique’s bonus time is a double whammy for me as you can get points AND freebies, and I’d use my million points to purchase every single one of their chubby sticks. I’d also head to Molton Brown for hand soap and cream, followed by Essie for thousands of nail polishes.

I’d treat the kids too, of course (probably) – I love the clothes in Boots’ Mini Club range and then I’d buy a lifetime supply of nighttime nappies because those things are expensive.

If you want to take part all you have to do is download the Boots App then go to ‘my offers’ before 4th August – check back on 19th August to see what you’ve been treated to!

What would you buy if you became a Boots points millionaire?