Days Out – Visiting Bristol

BristolGiven the fact that we’ve just got a new puppy, a foreign holiday is pretty unlikely for us this year. We are, however, planning a few day trips around the country (now that we’ve managed to rope some of our lovely family members in to look after Maureen for the day!) and one of the places I really want to visit is Bristol. I’ve got a fair few friends who live in or around Bristol, so I thought I’d ask them what the best things were to do on a day out in Bristol. Here’s what they said:

Jennifer from My Mummy’s Pennies said “Visit Brunel’s SS Great Britain and have a lovely walk around the quayside. We were there two weeks ago and really enjoyed it.”

Stacy from It Takes a Woman said “We The Curious is really good. Loads of experiments and activities and you can scan your wristband and access your results/photos etc when you get home…”

Liz from Me and My Shadow said “Do the Banksy trail – there’s an app!”

Aly from Bug, Bird and Bee said “We like visiting Cabot Tower at Brandon Hill. The tower is over 200 ft tall and looks out over Bristol. It’s smack bang in the middle of a nature reserve. There’s a big kids play park.”

Carolin from Mummy Alarm said “The street art south of the river is amazing. There’s so much to see on your own or on of the many street art tours and there are some really cool and quirky restaurants along North Street in Bedminster.”

Rachel from Rachel in Real Life said “For parks I’d recommend St Andrews Park and Blaise Castle. From Easter until September (maybe October, can’t remember) St Andrews has a paddling pool. Blaise Castle is near us and we go regularly. It has two separate play areas and loads of open space. Excellent value for money is Avon Valley. Reasonably cheap to get in and lots to do. Though again, mainly outdoors so best on a nice day.”

Cass from Frugal Family said “I went to Hestercombe Gardens yesterday – it was beautiful!”

My friend Becky, who isn’t a blogger but is a displaced Bristol native, said “Go and see a Rovers game!”.

Lots and lots of wonderful options of things to do! If you need transport while you’re in Bristol, why not give AA Taxis Bristol a call?

Summer Weddings: Finding the Perfect Dress

Husband and I have been invited to a wedding in August, and I am SO excited about it – not only do we get to dress up and have a fun evening with our best friends, we also get to STAY AT A HOTEL for the night, which is something we haven’t done in literally years! Of course, going to a wedding means finding the perfect outfit, so when Fashion World got in touch to ask if I’d like to take a look at their range of women’s dresses, I jumped at the chance!

I knew that I wanted something in either blue or grey, as they’re the colours which suit me best, and if it was blue, ideally it would be navy. I’ve had an obsession with peacock feathers for ages, and wanted to be able style whatever I wore with a peacock-feather fascinator, so it meant that I could narrow down my search on the site by not only size, but also colour and occasion. Here’s what I chose:

BEADED PROM DRESS

To be totally honest, the picture doesn’t do it justice – the beading on the front is not only very intricate, but the peacock-inspired colours really pop, shimmering with blues, turquoises and purples in the light. It’s going to be absolutely perfect with my dream head-wear and I can’t wait to see what the whole outfit looks like together.

My mission now is to find the perfect shoes and bag to go with the outfit. As we’re staying, the bag only needs to be big enough to fit my phone and bank card, so something clutch-sized. The shoes would ideally be a mid-sized heel (I don’t want flats but I walk like a baby giraffe in skyscraper heels!), and would compliment the colour of the dress. I saw an incredible pair or purple platforms in a Kurt Geiger sale, but I wasn’t brave enough to buy them and now they’re sold out! Any suggestions of accessories to complete the outfit would be much appreciated!

What do you think of my choice?

Tips for Puppy Toilet Training

As you many know, if you follow me on social media, at the beginning of March we added a new member to the Mum’s the Word clan – Maureen the Pup. Having a puppy has been a real learning curve for us as Chuck was already 2 when he came to live with us and needed no toilet training, but we’re doing pretty well so far. Here are a few tips that we’ve picked up along the way:

Think about your floors!

Whether you like it or not, puppies WILL have accidents, of both the wee and poo variety, so if you haven’t got something convenient like Karndean flooring, you’re going to have to deal with mess. We got a rug from freecycle for our lounge, so that the majority of the carpet is covered and we don’t mind the odd puddle on a free rug, but we also dotted puppy pads around in the early days, as she often had her “accidents” in roughly the same place.

Take them out regularly

Just like when you’re potty training a toddler, getting them to go to the loo really regularly is the first step to cracking toilet training. Husband and I try to take Maureen out at least once every 30-60 minutes, and at the moment we take her out on a lead and try to get her to go in the same place every time, as this will teach her to go there once she goes independently.

Invest in a carpet cleaner

Husband and I have a Bissell hand-held carpet cleaner, and honestly, it’s been an absolute godsend for cleaning up after Mo’s accidents. It can be filled with an odour-busting spot cleaner and can be used to vacuum liquid out of carpets, making it perfect for puppy puddles! I think life would have been much harder without it.

Reward

Most dogs are fairly food motivated, which means that giving them a treat as a reward after they successfully pee or poop outside will be more of an incentive for them to do all of their business outside. Do remember to adjust the amount of food you’re giving them if you’re treating regularly as you’ll end up with a very chubby puppy!

Watch for cues

After a while, you’ll start to notice your puppy’s behaviour or body language change when they need to go out, and acting on these cues is important to develop the communication between you and your dog. As soon as you see them acting like they need to go out, take them and make a big deal of praising them afterwards.

Be Patient

Toilet training a puppy can be frustrating at times – a puppy can do every single wee or poop outside and then randomly go on the rug, and although it can seem like an act of defiance or like they’re being naughty, this is rarely the case. Puppies get caught short, or sometimes we miss their cues. Be patient with them as getting cross will just make them fear you, which isn’t conducive to a good training environment.

Games To Play If You Love To Decorate

Image

There seems to be something about playing with paint colours and placing furniture which fascinates us as people. We love to create designs and order things in a new and exciting way. If you love to play around with interior design then here are some of the best things you can play!

The Fictional Furnishings Quiz

If you think you know Monica’s apartment from top to bottom or you think you could easily recreate hogwarts from memory then this quiz is perfect for you. You’ll have a piece of fictional furniture appear on the screen and you need to work out what show or film it is from, it’s the perfect way to kill time and relax in the evening.

The Sims 3

There’s nothing quite like using the motherlode cheat on Sims and then spending the next five days creating the perfect mansion from top to bottom. Whether you decide to recreate your own house or build the palace from your favourite Disney movie: it’s super relaxing, fun and you can really go as crazy as you like! You could create a castle with 4 floors and even make a home cinema if you want to, it’s all about being creative and taking your time to make the most fun house you possibly can. Just remember to put a ladder on the side of your pool!

Harvest Moon: Animal Parade

If you are a fan of the Facebook favourite Farmville, then harvest moon will be the perfect addition to your game collection. The whole idea of this game is to run your own farm successfully, get married and then build your home together from scratch. It’s the perfect way to spend your time and is seriously addictive.

Design This Home

If you are looking at decorating your house in the next few months you can actually use this app as a fun way to test what things you want and how you’d like it to look. You can create a virtual version of your own house and have fun playing around with colours, furniture and fittings. You can then use this as a guide for your renovation project and it saves you having to draw it out!

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Animal crossing is one of those games which makes you feel happy and relaxed. It’s comforting and super fun to play on in the evenings. Your task is to look after a small village, build up your home, pay a mortgage and even plants flowers outside. It’s the ultimate game for anyone who loves more chilled out games and would rather run around catching butterflies than race cars.

Theme Park

If you fancy a different kind of design, one of the most iconic games of all time is theme park. As the owner of a piece of land you will have the task of adding tides, restaurants and facilities, hiring staff and even building roller coasters from scratch. It is supper addictive and will keep you occupied for hours and hours!

Family Fun: Every Child Deserves an Amazing Party

Getting everyone together for a party is an excellent opportunity to reconnect with family and friends while creating lasting memories. If it is your child’s birthday or other special occasion, planning the best party may be your top priority–something for everyone to talk about before and after the event. Unfortunately, the grand idea often falls short of those expectations. That’s okay. An amazing party doesn’t have to be a budget-busting experience. It is a time when your child, family, and guests have a great time in the company of each other.

A solid foundation to start your planning process will make the experience go much smoother. Here are some tips for planning an amazing party for your child:

Make the Invite List

Before making plans for the party’s theme and location, get an idea of who will attend. Younger children may be content with a family party, but those in school may want their friends along for the fun. Determine your potential guests as a starting point.

Create a Budget

Maybe you want to throw your child one of the best parties ever. That mindset could quickly empty your wallet. By setting a reasonable budget before making any plans, you know exactly what your finances allow. Even if you don’t have a lot of money to spurge on the party, there are creative, inexpensive ways to play games, decorate, and feed your guests.

Pick a Theme

Talk with your child about the desired theme. What are his or her current interests? Does your child have a favorite book, toy, show, or movie? Once you agree on a theme, involve your child in the planning process. This could mean picking out party favors, decorations, or helping prepare food. Your child’s input helps build excitement and anticipation of the big day.

Select Your Location

Now that you know your budget and theme, it’s time to select a location. If you have the space and resources, you may pick your home as the best location. Some families enjoy cooking, decorating, and throwing a party at home. Other families like to take the party elsewhere like a local amusement center or bowling alley. They prefer professionals to take care of the party details and want to avoid the inevitable after-party clean up. There are pros and cons of each option. The choice of location is ultimately up to you.

Keep the Food Simple

Though you may think food at the party is a big deal, most of the kids will focus on the games and fun of the party. Save the elaborate dishes and desserts for the holidays. At a child’s party, finger foods and snacks are easy to put out and don’t require a lot of work. Try to include some healthy options, and make sure you know if any guests have food allergies. An allergic reaction in the middle of a party could really put a damper on the festivities.

Make it a Point to Enjoy Yourself

You may have high expectations for the party, but chances are your child just wants to have fun and see everyone around him or her happy. Don’t get stressed if the elaborate games you planned take the backseat to kids playing a game with the balloons you intended as decorations. Ease up on the expectations and enjoy the time together with family and friends. You don’t want to be remembered as the angry type-A parent grumbling in the corner of the party.

By following these tips, planning your child’s party will be easier and more focused. Just remember to relish all the smiles and laughter as everyone enjoys the party you planned.

Working On My Self-Esteem

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Something that I’ve always struggled with is self-esteem. I don’t come from a particularly “build you up” kind of family (when I got my first pair of glasses, aged 11, my family decided to tell me I looked like Dennis Waterman and called me that for many years, knowing how much I hated it). One of my worst character traits is my ability to be self-deprecating, and as much as I find it hilarious to make mean jokes about myself, my kids are starting to notice and it’s probably not the best thing for them to hear.

Just last week, Husband said to me “you look nice”, and I replied “don’t be ridiculous!”. I should have just said “thanks love”, but I didn’t and as much as he didn’t say anything I could tell he was disappointed with my reaction. I know I need to work on my self esteem, but the sad fact is, I don’t know where to start.

I’ve heard a lot of women say that a good place to start when trying to make yourself feel good is with your underwear, so I was thinking of investing in a whole new load of undies, like this. I’m not much of a ‘frilly knickers’ kinda girl, so something simple yet pretty would be perfect for me.

Another thing I know I need to do is get back to the gym; when I started weightlifting last year, I felt like I’d finally found an exercise that I loved…and I was good at it, too. But a few things happened to knock me off the rails and I managed to completely give up on what I was doing, watching all the gains I’d made slip away. It was a a double blow because my self-esteem was already struggling and having to admit I’d failed at something AND watch all my hard work go down the drain had a bad effect on my mental state.

We had some friends over last night for the football and they asked me if I was still exercising, and while I was telling them (or more accurately, reeling off the list of excuses that I’ve cultivated about why I quit), I realised that I missed exercising and taking control of myself. I missed being productive and showing my girls that we should look after ourselves. And most of all, I missed that daily sense of achievement I got when I got my butt to the gym, ate within my macros and lifted a little bit more weight than last time.

So, for the sake of my girls, I’m going to try to get back to it.

I’m re-taking control.

Making Our Home Work for Us with Karndean

Karndean OpusAlthough Husband and I rent our home, we’re lucky in the respect that our landlady is pretty easy-going about what we do to the place (providing we don’t tear down walls or paint the whole place black!). We’ve been thinking lately about what we could do to make the place work a bit better for us, and we think that starting with the floors would be a good idea (puppies and carpets are NOT a good mix!).

One of the options we considered was Karndean, as I’ve heard lots of people saying how much they love it, and to my surprise there are a whole load of varieties of Karndean to choose from. I thought I’d ask my friends who have it what they thought of Karndean flooring and how well it fits into their life. Here’s what a few of them said:

My friend Emily said “We had it at our old house and it was our selling point. It looked like real wood and was easy to sweep, and it was warmer under foot than other hard flooring”

Cat from Cat’s Yellow Days said “We have Karndean across nearly the whole ground floor. It looks great and cleans easily but the biggest selling point for me was that they had such a big range I could get exactly the shade I wanted.”

Tara from Sticky Fingers said “I had it throughout my new kitchen/living extension. Bloody love it. Easy to manage with the dog and muddy kids, warm underfoot looks fabulous. Had tiles before and it was cold and everything that came within sniffing distance of the floor broke!”

In terms of the different ranges, there are three to choose from:

Karndean Art Select

“Karndean Art Select is a range of vinyl flooring featuring exciting hardwood, stone and marble designs that will render a touch of elegance to any space. With an overall thickness of 3mm, and a wear layer of 0.70mm, the Karndean Art Select is super soft and warm under your feet. Completely washable and waterproof, the Art Select collection is perfectly suited for any room in your home.”

Karndean Van Gogh

“The Karndean Van Gogh range is manufactured from highly durable vinyl from the world’s number one producer of luxury vinyl flooring. Available in a variety of sizes and colours, the Van Gogh flooring range is available in a wide range of solid wood effects including walnut, oak and birch.”

Karndean Opus

“The Karndean Opus range of luxury vinyl tiles is a relatively new and a quite popular range of luxury vinyl tiles. It features wood finish as well as traditional stone tile finishes. With an overall thickness of 2.5mm that includes a 0.55 mm wear layer, the Karndean Opus range is available in an array of sizes.”

Do you have Karndean flooring in your home? I’d love to hear our opinion, so please leave me a comment below!

When Was the Last Time You Had Great Customer Service? #Telephone101

When I’ve had poor customer services from a company in the past, I’m always the first to complain or send tweets to the company to let them know, but sometimes it’s refreshing to hear examples of how a company has got their customer service totally right. www.contactcustomerservicesnumbers.co.uk recently conducted a survey regarding customer service and created an infographic for us to share with you today:

I thought I’d ask my blogging friends for some examples of good customer service they’d received, and here’s what they said:

Penny from Parentshaped said “Flew home from Pisa with BA on Monday. There was a delay so the pilot came out and chatted to everyone, invited kids into the cockpit. He was so charming and apologetic and genuinely interested in people’s journeys and the impact of the delay. He also let us cram 13 travel bloggers into the cockpit for a selfie and bought birthday champagne for one of our group.”

Ruth at DorkyMum said “When we were moving here I lost an iPad at Dubai airport and even when Emirates were useless, someone with the baggage handlers Toll Dnata (someone who was actually based in Melbourne!) managed to track it down for me and get it couriered to Tasmania.”

Cass from Frugal Family has such a good experience with Tesco, who helped her elderly father, that she blogged about it and the CEO shared it with the whole company. You can read about it here.

When Helen from Kiddy Charts lost her purse on a Virgin Train, she never expected them to go so far above and beyond to help her find it. You can read all about her experience here.

Emma at Mum’s Savvy Savings says I always find Amazon to be great when things go wrong. Items have been resent or refunded quickly”

Lynn from Mrs Mummypenny said “Sky were really good with me earlier this week, despite me cancelling down my monthly contract to £20 rather than £77 we were paying. My middle son somehow managed to download Paddington 2 and we were charged £5.49. A chat over Twitter soon sorted it out and they refunded the £5.49.”

Vicky from Being Tilly’s Mummy has a great experience with Tiffany and Co which you can read about here.

Charli from One Wage Family says We had a good experience with AO – Our fridge freezer broke a week after we bought it so we rang The manufacturer Beko and they were useless. They were going to fix it but didn’t have the right part so they wanted us to wait until it was in stock. Wasn’t happy so we tried ringing ao where we bought it from and they were really helpful and ordered us a brand new one delivered and installed the next day”

Faith at Much More With Less has a great experience with Hotel Chocolate. She said “Before Christmas, I signed up for a cut price trial subscription, but forgot to cancel in time, so they sent me the next full price box and charged me for it. Kicking myself, I rang to cancel. Customer services not only refunded the £22.95, but said I didn’t have to return the unopened box, but could give it to the charity of my choice. So I was able to add a nice box of chocs to my donation to our local foodbank, FIND in Ipswich.”

Clare from My Tunbridge Wells said “Wicked Uncle were great when I dealt with them. They sent out a missing part of the meccano set we had received the next day along with some chocolate as an apology!”

When was the last time you had great customer service?

Who Am I?

Who am I? Good question! It’s such a long time since I took part in a good old fashioned bloggers Q&A so when the lovely Emma at Emma & 3 asked if anyone wanted to be tagged, I stuck my virtual hand in the air pretty sharpish! I find myself bogged down with work and commercial posts sometimes, so having the opportunity to actually write something personal seemed too good to pass up. So, here are my answers:

Jayne and Maureen

When was the last time you cried?

Sunday evening. I got a really nice, thoughtful text from my Dad and at the end of what is usually quite a tough day for me, I sobbed. Although, to be fair, it never usually takes much to make me cry, my emotions bubble pretty close to the surface and since we lost Chuck in December, I’ve shed more than my fair share of tears.

If you were another person, would you be a friend of yourself?

That’s a really hard one to answer. On the surface, I can seem really flaky and unreliable when it comes to making and keeping arrangements, but this is due in no small part to social anxiety and awkwardness that makes me shy away from socialising much. I think I’d probably find me pretty funny (because I am one of those wankers who laughs at their own jokes) but it would probably be one of those “I haven’t seen you for six months, lets talk for 3 hours solidly and then not see each other again for six months”-type friendships.

Do you use sarcasm a lot?

Yes. Yes I do.

What’s the first thing you notice about people?

Hmm, that’s another toughie – as someone who is pretty over-sensitive, I think I probably pick up on my perception of the person’s body language before I notice anything material, and that can really colour my impression of a person. I tend to gravitate towards people who I perceive as being emotionally open, I don’t really gel with people who are naturally closed or stand-offish.

Scary movie or happy endings?

I’m woefully uneducated with scary films, although Husband has been doing his best to get me to watch more of them, but I think I’ll always love a happy ending.

Favourite smells?

Creosote, tomato plant leaves, Imperial leather soap, roast dinners, new carpet, puppy breath, newborn baby skin, BB and Sausage’s hair when it’s just been washed, Chanel Egoist, and most importantly, the smell of Chuck’s feet. I miss that smell so much.

What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?

Maldives – our island was precisely 5261 miles away from home!

Do you have any special talents?

I’m okay at baking and cooking, I guess, and I have a fairly impressive capacity to eat junk food, but I don’t think I have anything that could be described as a talent. I’m pretty devoid of exceptional qualities. Oh wait, I do have a huge talent for putting myself down – there you go!

Where were you born?

Orsett, in Essex. The hospital wasn’t supposed to be open for births on the day I was born, but apparently it was too late to get me to the sister unit a few miles away, so I had to be born there.

What are your hobbies?

What hobbies does any working Mum have?! Does doing the school run and indulging in the occasional Netflix binge count?! I enjoy sewing and reading but never seem to find the time for either lately.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an astronaut and had it all planned out – I was going to get a Royal Air Force scholarship to go to University and then become a pilot, which I hoped would give me the opportunity to advance from there, but I was told during a school careers day by an Air Force rep that I’d never be a pilot because I didn’t have perfect eyesight, so I had to give up on that dream. Then, I wanted to be a drama teacher, but that didn’t pan out either! Being a freelance writer and social media bod suits be down to the ground, to be honest, as I can work the hours I want and not have to deal with the public!

How many countries have you been to?

France, Belgium, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Sri Lanka, Maldives – 6.

What was your favourite/worst subject in school?

I adored Drama, English and Biology. Least favourite subjects were R.E. and French.

What is your favourite drink?

Non-alcoholic, anything cherry flavoured – I love a Cherry Pepsi Max! Alcoholic, I like lots of things, but my favourite of all time is probably sake, Stones ginger wine or Taboo (do you remember that?!).

What would you (or have you) named your children?

Sausage and Burrito Baby 😉 – I don’t have my kids names on my blog, but they both have what people call “old lady” names, with a flower middle name.

How many boyfriends have you had?

Proper actual boyfriends/girlfriends, 4, not including the ones at school where someone asks you out on the bus and you spend the next two weeks avoiding them.

Favourite memory from childhood?

Probably the weeks that my cousin and I would go and stay with my Nan and Grandad in Lowestoft for a week. We had so much fun and got to do so many lovely things with them, and the memories are even more precious now that they’re no longer with us.

How would you describe your fashion sense?

Professional scruff. I usually look like I’ve been covered in superglue and thrown onto a table at a jumble sale.

Tell us one of your bad habits!

Swearing too much.

I tag:

Emma at The Syders, March at Mrs Teepot and Jen at Smiles and Trials

 

Creating a Kid’s Wardrobe for Bad Weather

There’s nothing like a sudden-onset Snowmageddon to make me realise how woefully underprepared we are for cold weather. The girls both have decent winter coats, as do Husband and I, but in terms of proper cold weather gear, it’s only Husband who was sorted. Not only does he have water-resistant jeans and gaiters to protect his lower legs, he also has all-weather boots and merino layers for his top half. As you can tell, he spends a lot more time outdoors than the women of this household do!

We went out sledging on Wednesday, and it was so wonderful and fun, but we had to go home after an hour as the cold started to seep in and Sausage’s legs ended up damp after she decided to cheese-roll down a hill! I’ve been looking at kids winter clothes on the internet, in the spirit of being a bit more prepared if more snow turns up and thought I’d share some of my favourite items with you:

Didriksons 1913 Moarri Overall

Aside from the fact that this base layer is SUPER cute, I think both girls could really benefit from a proper thermal base layer to wear when it gets cold. We’ve been layering with wooly tights under their trousers but it’s not very comfortable or practical, so something like this would be properly fit for purpose.

Color Kids Tudo Pants

These fleecy pants would be so much better for outdoor fun, because they’re nice and loose fitting, unlike jeans which can be really restrictive and hard to run around in. These would make an excellent mid-layer over thermals and under a snow suit and the girls would find them super comfortable.

Isbjörn Panda Sweater

As well as being water-repellent, this fleece protects against sharp wind and is a brilliant mid-layer for wearing under waterproofs. Layering like this would give the girls the ability to still move around and either add more layers or take some off, depending on their environment.

Color Kids Klement Overall Children

This waterproof overall would be absolutely perfect for cheeserolling down hills in! The girls could play in the snow for as long as they want witout ever having to worry about getting wet, and the bright colours mean they’re really easy to see on a background of pure white. In fact, I love this overall so much that I wish they also made it in my size!

Sorel Whitney Short Boots

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from my very outdoorsy Husband, it’s that good footwear is VERY important. Having the right pair of boots for your environment is basically the most essential part of any outdoor wardrobe, and these snow boots look as though they’d be perfect for the girls. They have a decent sole, are lined with microfleece and are waterproof – ideal for afternoons gadding about in the snow.

Are you regular outdoorsy people? Do you have a favourite selection of clothes that you wear when the temperature plummets? Leave me a comment below as I’d love to hear from you.