31 March 2017

March 2017 - What happened in our lives

These pictures took a lot of cajoling by me. 

While I thought taking a beautiful family picture, one in when we are all scrubbed up would be a nice memory for us, but what do I know eh? It nearly started a domestic when I suggested taking out the camera and moving away from the bouncy castle and leaving the frosty beer inside. I did get my pictures eventually, even if they came at a price of a grumpy husband and a whining child... 

Is it the same for you guys when you take family pictures? Because if so, I think this monthly family portrait project I have started might be short lived.  

A smiling family picture at a wedding pavillion


Anyway, these pictures were taken at a family wedding nearby Plymouth. I love going to weddings. It is always such a privilege to be invited to celebrate a big moment in life. Getting married, loving, being joyful. Weddings are wonderful. All the planning that goes into them, the little details, the nerves, the expectations, the happy smiles, the funny little mishaps, the beautiful words spoken. 

It really is a privilege to be there, even if it can in practice be difficult. As we live in London, the journey involves about five hours on the road, from one coast to nearly the other coast. With a three year old in the car. On our way back we did break the monotony by popping by Cheddar to buy cheddar. I admit, we did it just for that pun. 


wedding pavillion iron fence

Wave to Mummy family picture in March 2017

sky and dove painted inside wedding pavillion roof

mother father and child smiling in a family portrait

outside garden at a hotel


Other than the wedding and cheddar buying trips, I sort of struggle to remember what we did in March. I know it has been a busy one as our months usually are. I worked. Husband worked. I had a few late nights at work. Did a presentation to a bunch of professors on a work project. Made sushi twice and I love sushi so March was a surprisingly tasty month.

Over on the blogging life I have been to more blog events than usually. Even went to the Peppa Pig premiere. Did some Facebook live videos which I loved doing. I now have a newfound respect for television presenters as I was bricking it with my one and only viewer logging on. Which was probably my dad. 

Sleep has been an issue. Our growing girl has been waking up for midnight snacks, and just been a general pain during the night-time so we have not had much shut eye recently. She has been a proper little miss madam quite a few times, and we are getting a surge of independence and defiance as she is nearing her fourth birthday. 


a funny family picture at a photo booth with everyone dressed as rockers


Now to go back to the photo-taking issues... These photo-booth pictures on the other hand were a totally different story as far as picture taking goes. Not a single complaint made when we took these! 

We, especially my daughter, went in so many times eventually the photo booth attendants at the wedding told my daughter the booth was broken. I did notice though that they managed to fix it for those people who had not been to the booth the umpteenth of times already...  


How was your March? 





26 March 2017

Did becoming a mother change me at all?

I sometimes think about the ways becoming a mother has changed me. I once heard a beautiful Bengali quote, which says that the day a baby is born, it is not just one but two people that are born. A child and a mother.


new mum giving a kiss to a newborn girl



I gave birth nearly four years ago and in a way I am a new person. I am a mother. I am something more than before. Becoming a mother did change me in some ways, and over the years I have grown more. 

But in another way, I am still me. Being a mother has not fundamentally changed me, not my deepest sense of self. Nor has it, rather unfortunately, corrected my character flaws or made me in any way a better person. 

I am still the same old me. The one who comes up with great plans to do all kinds of things, but rarely ever manages to finish them. The one who has bags and bags of unfinished craft projects. The one who constantly looks for a step up somewhere, somehow, as long as it is a step up. The one who is like a dog with a bone when she wants something - including winning an argument. The one who should sleep, but gets distracted by a variety of things until 3AM. The one who would be happy doing pretty much anything in life, but who doesn't have a real passion for anything particular. 

I am still all that. 

It is not all perfect, and it is not all pretty, but it is what makes me, warts and all, me. 

What took me by surprise was the anxiety. As soon as pregnancy became something more tangible than just a thought, I got anxious. What if I didn't eat the right things? What if I accidentally consumed something harmful? What if I fell on my stomach? What if I lifted something too heavy? Gradually, the anxiety just increased and increased. It reached it fever point not long after my daughter was born. Amongst many other things, I spent hours and hours worrying over our impending death in a car crash, and of course me being me, learning also all about the best types of car seats and car seat placements to protect our precious cargo. They are rear-facing until four years old, and back middle, back passenger side, back driver side and front passenger in descending order of safety by the way. 

Perhaps it is part of being a new parent. This thinking of all kinds of possible but highly unlikely scenarios, and how to steer clear of them. But can you ever be totally relaxed as a parent? Probably not. I cannot think there will ever be a time when I won't worry over what my child is doing or if she is safe. 

Other ways it has changed me is that I finally have a real reason to try and be better than I was before. One word describes it the best. Motivation. 

I am more motivated to try more. I am more motivated to push myself more because it is not just for me. It is for us. It is not just about trying to do something for myself, but it is about choosing things that I know are better for us as a family, and things that I want to do for us. It is not so much about thinking purely about what I want to achieve, and how I want to achieve it, but how it will benefit us as well. The simple life sometimes feels like, well, it would be a bit more fun. To relax. To not take everything so seriously. Watch a bit more TV. Laze around a bit more. And at the same time, I know that if I don't do the right things at work, at the gym, at home, it won't be just me who won't be going anywhere. It is all of us. 

And perhaps the biggest thing of all... Before having my child I never really knew what it meant when people would say they would lay their life for someone. It was an abstract concept. After giving birth I finally knew what that meant. The willingness to lay your life down in a heart beat, with no questions asked. That is what really makes me a mother.  


dad and mum cradling a newborn daughter


So what was born then that day, nearly four years ago? A tiny little daughter, growing cheekier day by day. And a mother, much the same as before, but also more anxious and more tenacious, and one who loves her child more than life itself.  


How did you change when becoming a parent? 





9 March 2017

How to help your kids keep safe online?


Keeping my children safe online is something I have been thinking more and more as my daughter is growing up. She will be one of first truly digital natives. She is growing up with technology I could not even properly imagine when I was a teen. She is already using YouTube like a pro, searching for Easter egg and Paw Patrol videos in bed, 6AM, while I try nod... 

So when Kaspersky got in touch about their new product I got thinking about it all and wrote this post in collaboration with Kaspersky Safe Kids

toddler girl watching a mobile film

toddler girl holding a mobile phone

toddler girl sitting on bed watching a mobile film


I first started using internet back in the 90's. Everyone who was a teen at that time remembers the feeling of dread when sneaking downstairs to use the family computer at night, and the dial up internet screeches... And everyone would also remember the infamous acronym - ASL. The chat rooms with walls of text. The first Geocities website monstrosities we built to talk about, well, not quite sure anymore... 

Now it feels quite different. Kids have access to internet in ways I could not have imagined as a child. And the internet is, by and large, much bigger and containing much more of the "bad stuff". Or perhaps not more in proportion, but the bad stuff certainly feels easier to access. A click away on a forum, or a sidebar ad on a site, it is all there. As an adult I am pretty good at just ignoring that but as a kid I am not sure I would have been.

Kaspersky recently conducted a survey in Europe with over 5,000 kids aged 10-15 year. Of these kids, two thirds said they had heard bad language online, a third said they had witnessed violence on internet, and a quarter had seen pornography online. At that age the worst I came to see was some icky sex chat on IRC.

toddler girl watching a film online on mobile

mobile phone on knees of a toddler

little girl watching a mobile phone film


I am a strong believer in that keeping your kids safe online is all about teaching them. Teaching them to be wary of sharing too much information. Teaching them to be savvy when speaking with people that are not real life friends and family. Teaching them not to click on just any old link. Teaching them that they can always come and have a chat with your parents if they find something weird or uncomfortable.   

Alongside that, I can certainly see the appeal in an app that helps parents help their kids navigate internet safely (even when you are snoozing...).  I like the idea of giving kids independence in using internet, while still keeping it safe and controlled. As they get older, they get more and more freedoms and less and less supervision in all areas of life, internet included of course. But in those first few years of using internet, when they don't fully comprehend what is and what isn't a wise move, the Kaspersky app could really help. 

I'm quite liking the ability to set timelines on usage too - knowing as an adult how hard it is to peel yourself away from the screen!


downloading kaspersky safe kids mobile app

kaspersky safe kids app on phone



My daughter is still too young to have her own devices, but come a couple of birthdays I am sure Santa's sack might be bulging with some electrical items... And then it will be time for some conversation, setting boundaries and making sure they are safe online.

I don't know how she will feel about it all at that time, but perhaps she will be quite similar to these kids in the below video. These kids filmed for the video were asked questions like what was the best thing about internet and what was the worst things about internet, and gosh, aren't they just so cute going about their answers!





So yes, conversation, boundaries and a little help on the way. That will be our recipe for internet safety once my daughter gets to that age.


Do your kids use internet? How would you keep them safe?

You might also like: Publishing photos of my child online - why I am OK with it



7 March 2017

What did we honestly think of the Butlin's Minehead resort?

We visited Butlin's Minehead resort for February half-term to review the Butlin's family holiday experience. This review is all about the accommodation, food, kids entertainment and the service in Butlin's Minehead resort. Overall we really enjoyed our visit - it was our first experience of Butlin's and it was just lovely, plain and simple. We had so much family fun over there - I became a total Butlin's convert

Please note, we were invited as Butlin's Blogger Ambassadors to visit the resort. This means we received free accommodation and dining, as press typically does. 

Accommodation

We stayed in the West Lakes Chalet Village, which is pretty much the the top range of Butlin's accommodation. Or, as one of the staff put it to us, "the posh accommodation".


A review of the Butlin's Minehead holidays for families

ducks in the lake at butlins minehead

girl watching ducks at butlins minehead chalets

towel swans on bed at butlins minehead  chalet

towel puppy at butlins minehead chalet bed

butlins minehead chalet bathroom

butlins minehead west lakes village



There are three chalet types - Lakeside, Lakeview, and Parkview. There are two small man made lakes in the Village, and as the names suggest, that's the view of the lake you get from your living room. The lakes are lovely, especially on a sunny day, but we were quite happy with our view too - we were facing sort of an inner court yard where kids occasionally played. 

So what was our chalet accommodation like?

  • The chalet was very clean and brand-spanking new. Everything felt sparkly and fresh. The decor was nice and colourful, and nodding to the retro past of Butlin's. 
  • I loved that the chalets had a separate lounge to bedrooms, fully equipped with a dining table, sofa, and a TV and a DVD player. We could relax watching TV once the kiddo was in bed. 
  • There was a bath and a shower, so best of both worlds. I even treated myself to a bath, although it is not the biggest of baths. 
  • It is self-catering and has a fully stocked kitchen, cutlery, pots and pans included. So potentially you could save yourself a lot of money by cooking your own food.  
  • There was even a dishwasher and a few complimentary dish washing tablets so you can have fun rather than doing the dishes! 
  • The chalets included towels, and a daily room cleaning and fresh towels every day. There was even a set of toiletries, although these aren't re-stocked. 
  • You can ask for extra things like bed guards, cots and stools - handy when travelling with kids. No cost involved with these extras. 

Food

There are a fair bit of options for food at Butlin's Minehead. We had the Premium Dining Plan, which means you can eat buffet-style breakfast and dinner in a designated restaurant. You can also have a Food Court Dining plan which is a cheaper alternative, or eat in some of the sit-down restaurants and pubs on-site. You could self-cater too if your accommodation includes a kitchen. There is a small Spar shop on-site, where we bought sandwich meats, bread and cheese for our lunches, and also some toiletries. If you are planning for bigger shops there are two large supermarkets right outside the resort - Tesco and Morrisons.


drinking coffee at butlins minehead restaurant

butlins minehead restaurant inside

the deck restaurant butlins minehead

dad and daughter eating breakfast at butlins minehead

breakfast table at butlins minehead

butlins minehead last day ice cream bar
 
smiling girl holding ice cream at ice cream bar in butlins minehead


So what was the Premium Dining Plan in Minehead all about?

  • You could choose between The Yacht Club and The Deck - so choice of two (although fairly similar) menus. As they were next to each other, you could just go to one to get your food there and sit in the other - handy if you can't agree which to go to. We only ate at The Deck, as the menu was a fair bit more extensive there, but I did hear that The Yacht Club is a bit quieter. 
  • The Deck had these cool live cooking stations, where you could get omelettes or pancakes for breakfast, or grilled meats, pasta, or noodles for dinner. Depending on the time there could be quite a wait for these, so I only tested them once or twice. They were pretty good though! 
  • The quality of the foods was overall pretty good - some were a bit of a miss, other tasted amazing. Obviously, the biggest benefit in these buffet style restaurants is that there really is something for everyone, you just have to find it. 
  • There was a changing theme every night - so alongside the usual carvery and buffet style food, there were a selection of Italian, Tex Mex or Indian foods. Loved the extra variety!  
  • Kids had their own food, and served at lower stands so they could help themselves - really handy idea. 
  • The last day there was an ice cream bar for the kids (although I did see lots of adults join the fun too after kids left...). This was just pure amazing for the kids - they absolutely loved it!



Entertainment

Overall, there was such a great variety of entertainment at Butlin's Minehead. There really was something for all the ages, and most of it was free. The only thing we spent money was on a round of minigolf (about £10), although I can imagine that with older kids you might have to spend a fair bit more as there are lots of additional activities that do appeal to school-aged children. There were things like climbing, go karts, bowling...


girl smiling at swimming pool at butlins minehead

butlins minehead  splash waterpark inside

aerial adventures butlins minehead

dad and daughter playing minigolf at butlins minehead

family picture at butlins minehead minigolf

sir billys fairgroung sign at butlins minehead

helter skelter in sunshine at butlins minehead

child riding a car at butlins minehead

redcoat staff sitting with children

watching mr men show at butlins minehead

family picture at butlins minehead west lakes village


Our daughter is three, so we mostly spent our time watching the shows, in the Splash Waterworld, and in either the main fairground or the Little Stars fairground for tots, all for free. We found that there was something to do at all times, and the entertainment started from 9AM and lasted well into night time for the older kids. There was a good variety of things to do for all age groups, and I think this is the big Butlin's selling point - if you have got a two or more kids of varied ages, you will be able to entertain them all really easily at the resort. 

What were our favourites at Butlin's Minehead?

  • Do make some time to see the Skyline Gang. Kids love it. They were great fun to watch, and my daughter got so so into them she's got her own Candy costume now. 
  • We really enjoyed the shows in general, and there were lots to choose from. My daughter was totally mesmerised by them! 
  • Right outside the resort is also the beach which is so so beautiful. Well worth a visit. 
  • Enjoy the Splash Waterworld - this was such a great attraction for our little one and to be honest, great for any ages. One day we spent about three hours there... The water slides were great too, although the queues could be long.  
  • The traditional fairground was a lot of fun - we spent many a moment on the carousel and the tug boat. There was an indoor fairground for little kids too (under fives) which was great. 
  • We really enjoyed just wandering about the resort and seeing where we would fancy going. It is a holiday after all, so it was nice not having to stick to schedules. 



Service

And for me one of the best bits of the stay was the service. At Butlin's the kids are the main customers. All the staff were so friendly and lovely towards the kids. They were lovely towards the adults too of course, but it really hit me home how the staff treated kids. They would speak to them on their level, laugh and joke with them, and really make them feel valued. It was sweet to see how much my daughter enjoyed that. And this was not just the redcoats, who are basically hired there to entertain kids. This was all the staff, from restaurant staff to cleaners. 

There were thoughtful extra little touches too, such as little towel animals left on the beds (cute!) and free balloons (decorations during the day) given to kids in the evening. Also, we arrived pretty late to the resort, so once we got to the chalet we got a knock on the door to ask if we had everything we needed. Turned out, we totally forgot to ask for bed guards, so these, alongside a few balloons, were delivered to us to our accommodation in no time. 

And of course, not everything always goes to plan, but the most important thing is that it is fixed as soon and as well as possible. We had a a couple of issues with our accommodation. When we arrived it was cold so I fiddled with the radiators, and the next day it was like a sauna. There was also an issue with the shower head. Once we called the guest services, they came within a couple of hours to sort the issues, and that is really all you can ask for.



butlins minehead beach on the evening

dad and daughter walking on butlins minehead beach

butlins minehead beach in the evening light


Overall, I have to say, we had a wonderful time. And like I said, I am a total Butlin's convert now, and would gladly go back. It was a lovely holiday, and so very care free and family oriented. Exactly what you would want from a holiday. 

Check out my YouTube review too (coming soon)!




Have you been to Butlin's Minehead? Or any Butlin's?





1 March 2017

Top 10 travel essentials from a travel mad family

We have got our family travel packing to a fine art by now. Having had a good amount of practice we now know what items we find essential for family travel.

We love travel in our family. I guess it might be in our blood - me having lived in five countries by now, and husband having spent his first few months of life in a caravan somewhere South of France. Our daughter clocked about 12 flights in her first year of life. We have been skiing and we have been camping, and each time similar items crop up.  

So, what ten items would I pack for my trip abroad?


Top 10 travel essentials from a travel mad family

Top 10 travel essentials from a travel mad family- camera

mum holding an adapter



1. Passports. Because well of course... You gotta get out of the country first!

2. Camera. For taking all those fantastic holiday memories home so you can enjoy them forever more. And look at them wistfully when back home...

3. Adapter. At some point your camera will run out of charge. Or your phone. Or any other crucially needed electrical item such as the iPad with five seasons of Peppa Pig. And you do not need the hassle of trying to hunt the priciest piece of plastic known to man. In a foreign language.



comfortable shoes - one of top 10 travel essential items

family of three wearing ski gear

three girls swimsuits

mum testing if child has fever and dad giving calpol


4. Comfortable flat shoes. Yep. Been there, done that (in my stiletto heels). Didn't see much. 

5. Outfits. And by outfits I mean the appropriate clothing for the holiday of course - ski or swimsuit! And if you fail at this packing stage, please see item 9.

6. Calpol. I don't know about you, but for us it is almost as if every single bug is notified when annual leave is booked and flights paid for. Save the day notices are sent for the departure date. And then it is time to part-ay. Viral style. So Calpol for those sniffly nights you know are coming.



family checking the time

showing an empty space in family suitcase

mum holding a credit card up


7. Time. Time to be a family. Because that is the one thing you do not have when you are back home, busy earning a living. And it is tough. So use that time wisely, and be patient. You have time to enjoy and go slow. 

8. Space in a suitcase. I don't know about you, but I do love to bring a little memory back home. I do try and select something useful but with kids. Well, it often ends up being the umpteenth of soft toy...

9. Credit card! For all those things that you forgot, except...


favourite soft toy - Top 10 travel essential for families


10. Favourite soft toy. When travelling with kids, this is the LAST THING YOU WANT TO FORGET. OK, forgetting the passports would be slightly more troublesome, but seriously. The favourite soft toy - do not forget. Or forget sleep. 


Top 10 travel essentials from a travel mad family | Wave to Mummy



What would you pack?





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