A New Way Of Life In Lockdown

It was only a few weeks ago that I was moaning at my husband for not wanting to get on the tube due to the Coronavirus outbreak – fast forward to now and I have just had sweaty palms and my heart beating out of my chest as I prepared to leave the house to do the weekly shop.

In such a short space of time the world has been turned upside down in a way none of us could have imagined, at times it feels like we are living in a movie scene.

I feel grateful that for us it’s being confined under one roof and financial battles that are our only problems as I know that there are far worse situations going on around us and this helps me gain some perspective when things get on top of me.

I developed a cough and felt unwell around a week before the official lockdown and we are now approaching our third week of social distancing.

I’m not going to lie, the first few days were pretty horrific. We went from a family that are like ships passing in the night for the majority of the time, to being with each other twenty four hours a day was a huge shock.

The dining room has had a bit of a turnaround and for the best part of the week is now a training area for my husband to train his clients via Zoom(something neither of us had heard of before) and get some exercise for himself…I need to utilise this more!

With the youngest two I found early on that structure was key and a loose plan was put in place for their home learning was put in place. This hasn’t been without its tears and tantrums, but on a whole making sure their work is complete before they get free time has been working well. Dad comes into play with the teaching for an hour with a PE session to allow me time to get the house in order and I have been fitting my work in before they wake up, during their break times and once they are all in bed.

The teens are a bit of a mixed bag and Izzy has been knuckling down independently, getting her set work completed and busying herself with cooking, crafts and helping me with the boys. Archie however has been less compliant. Getting him out of bed is a challenge in itself and trying to get him to work is impossible. I have my fingers crossed that by working together with his teachers we can get things on track after the Easter holidays.

Food has been a battle ground as for the first two weeks none of us could leave the house and we had to rely on wonderful friends dropping things to us. I have had to ration what we are all eating and it hasn’t gone down well at all. Trying to explain to the children that only having two biscuits a day isn’t going to kill them really isn’t going down well but they are learning to get used to it; as after a very nervous trip to the supermarket, full of people taking little notice of the distance they should be keeping it’s not something I want to be doing to often.

Trying to keep in touch with the outside world is something I’ve been trying hard to keep up and daily FaceTime calls to family and friends are the new normal. We have a very close relationship with our extended family and not seeing my parents, eldest daughter, grandchildren and my sister has hit us all hard, but keeping in touch virtually is a something we are very thankful for.

None of us know when this is going to come to an end, but the importance of following these guidelines to protect everybody else is of the upmost importance and if we all hang in there and get this done then hopefully it won’t be long before we can all get back outside to embrace our love ones and enjoy those simply pleasures we are all guilty of taking for granted until now.

A Personalised Treat For Someone Special This Mother’s Day From Funky Pigeon

[AD] Mother’s Day is fast approaching and I’m sure lots of you are thinking what you want to get that special person in your life.

I know for me it is always something personal and sentimental that means so much more than the a huge amount of money being spent with little thought behind it.

I also love something useful, that isn’t going to get stuck at the back of the cupboard and forgotten about which can sometimes be a tricky combination…I don’t ask for much do I!

Well after taking a look through the vast range of cards and gifts that personalised tote bag and personalised notebook that caught my eye.

These days I’m never without my reusable shopping tote and being able to choose my own wording was even better.

The bag was made from a super thick fabric, was eye catching and would certainly be something I would get a lot of use from everyday, with a lovely reminder that it had come from someone I loved.

Next up was the note book. I am a sucker for a brand new note book and love jotting down ideas as they come into my head, and it’s makes it even more of a pleasure when you have something as beautiful and high quality as this to write them down in.

For me usability was key when looking for gifts and Funky Pigeon had got this just right for me. But as I said there is something for everyone and definitely with checking out this Mother’s Day.

Getting Ready For World Book Day With Viking

[GIFTED] World Book Day often fills parents with dread, but I love it for so many reasons. It gives the children the opportunity to use their imagines and recall all their favourite stories from over the years.

For reluctant readers and can give them a more creative way to look at reading and this is exactly what I have been doing with Viking.

I was sent a gorgeous parcel of craft materials to create something around the theme of World Book Day; included in this was a gorgeous book of book craft creations. They were all stunning, but super delicate and with my youngest two being bundles of destruction I wanted to create something for them that would stand the test of time.

I simply took a piece of A4 black card and onto that randomly stuck some pages from old books – the older and more dishevelled the better.

Then I look some pages that were partly blank and using the old typewriter style alphabet stamps I printed out a couple of quotes from one of our favourite authors – Roald Dahl.

One complete I roughly tore the page until it was a good fit and put in place on top of the pages.

Lastly I placed inside a pretty frame and it was all ready to take up home next to the boys bookcase to give them a little reminder every time they walked past.

I have lots of other ideas running through my head so watch this space for more book crafts to come!

Getting Ready To Rumble With Robozuna

[AD] We started the half term pretty spectacularly when we headed to a pub in Balham! Yes I was taking my children to a pub in South London on a Monday morning – however this was not for a cheeky wine, it was to celebrate the launch of the new Series of Robozuna.

For those of you not familiar with Robozuna it is a animated show about a 14 year old boy called Ariston and his homemade robot – Mangle who together try to free their land of its evil empire and band of robots.

The show was really bought to life for us with a wrestling match and a real life Mangle who was there to oversee the proceedings.

The boys are huge wrestling fans and quickly settled down with their popcorn to watch the show whilst shouting, cheering and encouraging the fighters with each and every choke hold, slam dunk and flying fist!

Whilst all the fun was taking place we got the chance to take a look at some of the brilliant toys that are available to accompany the show. I love being able to purchase toys to go along with the children’s favourite shows as it really allows them to us their own imaginations and create scenes of their own.

Frankie’s eyes lit up when he saw the Robozuna game that is available on iOS and Android.

The game allows you to customise your own bot and battle against others using coding as well as your own creativity.

I had to tear Frankie away which is always the sign of a good game!

If you are already a fan or have liked what you see then don’t forget to tune into CITV and ITV at 8.30am on 29th February and check out the brand new series!

Getting Away From The Screens At Hever Castle

This half term Frankie seemed to hit the age where the only thing that was interesting him was screen time. The dreaded Xbox had firmly taken hold and anything I suggested doing was brushed aside.

However the mini dictator wasn’t going to get his own way and we headed out for some fresh air and to see what the Living With Nature event at Hever Castle was all about.

After a lot of complaining about having to leave the house, the minute the children left the car they made a run for it and bounded across the fields, making the most of all the beautiful open areas Hever has to offer.

The huge play area is always a favourite for us and we spent a good few hours picnicking, letting off steam and drinking delicious coffee and hot chocolates to keep us warm.

Frankie was especially snug in his cosy sweatshirt from T.J.Maxx.

Next up it was time to take a look at what was on offer at their Living With Nature week.

Hever is fabulous for children and they always manage to put on something exciting for them during the holidays and this half term they didn’t disappoint. The children got to watch an array of different birds of prey in the falconry display, meet a hedgehog and talked about bee keeping in the wildlife charity tent, make a super cute ladybird and bumble bee in the craft tent and explored the grounds whilst answering lots of questions in nature trail quiz.

We even managed to fit in a snowdrop walk which was so pretty and highly recommend.

Of course we couldn’t have a visit without a trip inside the castle. I always love looking at the grandness of all the rooms whilst the boys love to see the suits of armour and discussing how the poo would make it’s way from the toilet into the moat!

We managed to squeeze in an ice cream before the heavens opened and got us drenched…but that’s all part of the fun isn’t it!

For me Hever is a place where the adults can take in the beauty whilst the kids can just be kids and you can ask for much more than that can you.

Andy And The Band Premiere GIVEAWAY

CBeebies and CBBC have been a part of our life for as long as I can remember now and I have loved watching how much they have both evolved through the years as my little ones have grown.

The shows are always fun, interactive and educational which makes for a happy parents as well as children.

A new show is set to hit our screens on 29th February with Andy and The Band. The familiar and much loved character Andy is taking his band onboard the Rock and Roller tour bus and we can’t wait to see what adventures Andy, Moxy, Rio, Blue and Cousin Mac are going to get up to!

We are lucky enough to be attending the exclusive premiere of Andy And The Band and I am giving away a ticket for a family of four to come and join us too!

The premiere is taking place at 9.15am – 12 noon on 29th February at the Royal Institution, London and you will get the chance to see an array of familiar faces, a performance from the band and an exclusive screening find the show that will be broadcast live on CBebbies and CBBC.

In the comments tell me the name of the tour bus and click on the link below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Getting Pension Savvy With Profile Pensions

[AD] Retirement and pensions are words that a lot of us would associate with old age; and in a way this is true but they are also two very important things that need to be considered as early as possible to make for a worry free and comfortable time in our later years.

As well as being put on a back burner due to thinking we have all the time in the world to get this sorted it can more than a little confusing and all to tempting to bury your head in the sand…just as I did!

With over 10,000 pension schemes available, changing demographics in the way pensions work and a huge lack of knowledge on the subject is no wonder people don’t know where to start when it comes to choosing a pension.

A pension is in short a savings plan that you put into – usually monthly that allows you to have a regular income once you are retired. The bonus to saving in this way is that you don’t have to pay tax on this, making it the most effective way to save for your future.

We all need a pension as a way of being supported once we are no longer working and if provisions aren’t put in place then a state pension will have to be relied upon and in turn things will have to be sacrificed due to a limited income and I’m sure that this isn’t how any of us would like to spend our golden years.

Aside from the state pension there is a workplace pension and a personal pension.

Workplace pensions simply take a contribution from you, your employer and the government each month and this is then given to you once you reach retirement age; and a personal pension works by having money put into a plan on a monthly basis from a provider you have chosen yourself. These are best suited to self-employed persons such a myself.

This is of course a very brief outline of how pensions work and with limited access to advice unless you have the funds to a financial advisor it can still be very hard to know which provider is best suited to you and your needs. For me the worry of not having an employer to take away some of this pressure was huge and I wanted an bit of an idiots guide to help me make the right choices.

Pensions Profile offer an online pensions health check that is a great way to check the status of your pension with no cost to sign up, which is a bit of a no brainer really! Even if you already have a pension in place it could be poorly performing and they can get this checked for you. Many people are at risk of having a poorly performing pension, especially those with pension dating back pre-2000.  Sadly women tend to be paying higher fees than men as their pot sizes are often significantly lower than men’s. They can see if you have any missing pensions from previous employer, this was the case for me and it was great news to find this and know there is a little more available to me. They can even give you an outline of how much you will need to be comfortable during your retirement which gives you a real peace of mind in all areas.

I hope this has made things a little clearer for you and it has given you that push to get your future finances sorted as its really not as scary as we all think.

For more information and to sign up for your pension health check click HERE.

 

The Light Bar:From Brunch To Cocktails

[GIFTED] Nestled away just on the outskirts of Coulsdon town centre is The Light Bar – a cafe by day and bar by night.

I had passed by so many times since it’s recent opening and never had a chance to stop until the other day when I popped along for breakfast with a friend.

The decor is cool and edgy and something a little different to what you usually find in Coulsdon which makes for a very refreshing change.

We were greeted with a warm smile and given a menu to peruse. Breakfast was well catered for and you could have something as simple as a pastry to a full English breakfast, tasty treats on sourdough bread, gorgeous bagels and lots more.

For those of you that have followed me for a while will know I have a bit of a thing for pancakes and The Light Bar didn’t disappoint. The fluffy and light pancakes were served with yogurt and berries and I could have easily gone back for more; whilst my friend opted for the avocado on sourdough which was presented beautifully and I was told it tasted as good as it looked!

We sat for a while chatting over great coffee and taking a look at everything else they had to offer, and there really is a vast choice of things to do.

The Light Bar has an equally good lunch menu and I think aside from the quality of the food what really stood out for me was the great prices, which isn’t always easy to find these days.

They run special events such as afternoon teas and bottomless brunches(which we are already planning on coming back for).

In the evenings they offer a huge range of cocktails, a resident DJ on a Saturday night and even the option of private hire and I can assure you it would be the perfect venue for a party.

I was super impressed with my first visit and will certainly be back very soon…probably to try out that bottomless brunch!

Making Family Time With Deliveroo

[AD] Meal times in our house work a little like a hotel with sitting. It’s a one in one out kind of affair where I find myself serving meals from around 5pm to as late as 10pm.

My husband says I have made a rod for my own back but with so many different commitments that we all have from after school clubs, work and play dates it can be hard to get everyone together at the same time.

It is however important to me to try and carve out a few family meals times at least once a week and we recently tried this with the help of Deliveroo.

Deliveroo offers restaurant quality food to your door in around 30 minutes from a large selection of local restaurants that are selected for you on their easy to use app after you have filled out a few simple questions.

The children enjoyed scrolling through all the different cuisines from the usual kind of takeaway foods such a fish and chips and curry, but we were presently surprised to see our favourite – sushi.

Using the super easy drop down menu they all decided what dishes they wanted and it was delivered by the super friendly delivery driver in just over 30 mins.

The ease of order, great selection of restaurants and the speed in which it was delivered were all big bonuses for us and allowed us to spend some rare time together sharing good food with arguments only over who was getting the last California roll – and this is why 89% of 130 Mumsnet testers would recommend Deliveroo to friends and family, qualifying them as Mumsnet rated.

Frankie’s Lego Inspired Birthday With The Hip Hooray Co.

[GIFTED] ‘All I want for my birthday is a party with my friends’ – this was a kick to the stomach after realising Frankie had reached the grand age of eight without having a party with his friends.

I think due to the combination of his birthday being so close to Christmas and getting into a routine of doing a special day out with the older ones rather than a party, it has always just passed by without me getting anything arranged.

I was eager to resolve this and after discussions of a sleepover I sought the help of the lovely Tasha from The Hip Hooray Company.

I have followed her beautiful feed over on Instagram for a long time now and had high hopes that she was going to be able to create something special for Frankie and she certainly didn’t disappoint.

After a few emails to figure out what Frankie and myself were looking for and what his likes and loves were, Tasha soon came up with a Lego inspired theme that I fell in love with as soon as I saw it. It was the perfect idea for Frankie and gave me lots of ideas of what I was going to do to work around it.

The Hip Hooray Company specialise in sleepovers and luxe picnics for children and adults alike. There are teepees that are perfect for indoor sleepovers and even the option of bell tent hire for the warmer months.

We went for a teepee and picnic table package where every little detail was thought of and we couldn’t have been happier.

Tasha and her equally lovely Mum came along on the afternoon of the sleepover and set everything up for us, I didn’t have to lift a finger whilst Frankie stayed in the front room so he could have a grand reveal!

We had six teepees set up which come with a mattress, pillows, duvet and decorative cushions. To this bedside tables are added with little glass bottles for their drinks and nightlights and the teepees were given a finishing touch by being draped with bunting and fairy lights…I found the addition of lighting not only very pretty but good for those that aren’t keen on the dark.

As I said we also had the addition of a picnic table which I’m extremely glad we did as it was a great way to get them all seated to eat and doubled up as the perfect place for games that we played during the evening.

The table comes complete with tableware, lunch boxes that I used as the children’s goodie bags and of course popcorn boxes for the all important sleepover movie.

All set up and Frankie over the moon with what had been done the guests arrived and the fun began. Gaming was set to be a big part of the evening, but I made sure we had plenty of games to keep them amused too.

I went with the Lego theme and had a design your own mini figure area, a game to see who could break their mini figure out of ice the quickest, guess how much Lego was in the jar and plenty of games of who could build the biggest Lego tower in the shortest amount of time.

Take away pizza was on the menu but I also created a grazing section for them so they could go back and forth as and when they wanted too.

All played out it we time for a movie and popcorn maker from the Lekue microwave popcorn maker. It was so lovely to be able to be enjoyed in the cosy set up of the teepees and the fairy light lit room.

As expected bedtime took a while with six over excited eight year olds, but upon getting up in the morning they all said what a great nights sleep they had had in the teepees.

Before we knew it the party was over and the team were back to take down and put away after all the fun.

The party was noisy and not much sleep was had and this is exactly what I was expecting – but what I do know is that each and everyone of them had a wonderful and unique experience that they will remember for years to come and I couldn’t have hope for more.