Sunday, 29 November 2015

Don't sniff a christmas tree...

The Christmas decorations have gone up early in the Sawyer household this year. Partly due to there being no Center Parcs holiday this year to start the official time when we are allowed to start being all festive because of our recently overseas adventures. Also, because why not eh! Who doesn't love flashing fairy lights and a bit of tinsel?

This year we decided to buy a real Christmas tree which was very exciting. We considered going full National Lampoon and going for a trek in the forest to find the perfect tree, but alas, other than potentially chopping down a neighbours overgrown conifer this appeared to be an unlikely option.

You know that feeling when you take your car for its MOT and the mechanic says 'so where do you keep your wheel brace?' "Errrr yes of course that most useful of all the braces, let me just stand here looking like I know what you are talking about for a few minutes.....nope I got nothing."

It felt a little like that. We walked around for a while looking intelligently at all of the different types of Christmas tree (apparently there are more than one type) when a man who looked like he took the business of Christmas trees quite seriously approached. Panic set in, "for god sake family look like we know what we are doing." He took one look at us and asked if we wanted a "chunky or thin" tree. Foiled!

Here are a few of things I learned today:

1. When someone tells you the tree has a nice scent, it is OK to sniff it but do so with caution. Some pine needles are sharper than others.

2. Don't get over excited regarding size....remember you do not live at Downton Abbey

3. Nordmann is not a place in the Netherlands.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

How we 'did Florida'

The Package!

For many people travelling to Florida to visit the theme parks the decision of accommodation often comes down to choosing between staying in one of the Disney hotels or renting your own villa.
Gaining some expert advice at this point seemed to be what we needed so we went to see the lovely people at North America Travel. After discussing the options and potential prices with them we decided to go for having our own villa for our ten day trip. I think what swayed it for us was the freedom that having your own villa gives you, the fact that you get your own pool, the cost and that we had had good experiences of staying in villas in the same area in the past.

Car hire is quite pricey but a must if you are staying in private accommodation. If you are a car fan this is where you might have the chance to treat yourself. My mum and dad drove around in a bright red convertible mustang for the 10 days. It cost my dad $8 to half fill his car! No wonder most Americans seem to drive around in huge, gas guzzling vehicles. Not brilliant for the environment though.

It might sound a bit silly but for me part of the experience is driving down the streets and seeing the very stereotypically American mailboxes and because of the time of year we got to see people's Halloween decorations. Self-catering means going to the supermarket - I could have spent hours walking around Publix! Key lime pie...check, Budweiser...check, diet coke...check, pizza...check!

The villa was huge with a master bedroom with en-suite, toilet, two living room areas an open plan kitchen, laundry room and of course the swimming pool on the ground floor. Upstairs were three big bedrooms and another bathroom.

Yes that will do to wake up to every morning and come home to every day.

Monday, 9 November 2015

How we 'did Florida'...

Our family  has recently returned from our biggest holiday to date...that's right, we've been to Disney!

Having such wonderful memories myself of childhood holidays to Florida with my family, taking our boys there once they reached what we felt was the appropriate age has always been a goal of mine.

There are things we had to consider before booking this holiday of a lifetime. The main consideration (of any holiday but especially one that is renowned for being very pricey) is one that winning the lottery could nicely eliminate. As the boys reminded us frequently with their x-factor worthy versions of Aloe Blacc's tune as we cruised along the interstate "I need a dollar dollar, dollar is what I need." A dollar won't get you very far. I saw someone spending $260 on wands from Olivanders in Hogsmead at Universal Studios. That's excessive but you get the picture. Its easily spent.

Once the money consideration had been deliberated over again and again and we decided that it could be done (sensibly) then the other main consideration for us was age; I don't mean us oldies, although I definitely don't have the energy I did when I visited the states at the age of 12. Other then my Dad who couldn't resist the variety of classic films on offer on any of the thousands of channels we had on our television (whilst we were there it was the same date that Marty McFly travelled forward in time too in Back to the Future which made the choice of films even better as you can imagine) we were in bed by 10pm most nights (rock and roll I know).
The best age to take the boys at was something we had to discuss. I wanted to go before our oldest was passed that fabulously innocent stage of believing everything is real. Yes some things were pricey but that look on my boys face when it appeared like he was actually doing magic with his Harry Potter wand was priceless and I'll never forget it. Worth every penny and then some.
There is a gap of three years and two months between our boys so we wanted to go when the magic was there for both of them but when the youngest would be big enough to enjoy plenty of rides and understand what was happening. I think we waited until the right time.

I want to share our experience and hopefully try and help convince anyone thinking about 'doing Florida' with the kids to go for it.

More to come

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Slimming efforts!

Since I last wrote about the diet attempts it has been a bit of a mixed bag of results. I lost a couple of pounds the first week then either maintained or lost a little in the few weeks after that. This week however, after a rather indulgent weekend I put on one and a half pounds. Boo.
We did however have a lovely weekend so it was worth the extra weight!
One of my favourites at the moment is making the slimming world crustless quiche. It's really simple to make, is filling and lasts a couple of days in the fridge. To make the quiche I usually fry a few rashers of chopped up bacon, add this to 5 eggs, around 200ml of milk and a sprinkling of cheese that have been whisked together. Season well, pour into a pie dish and bake for around 20 minutes. Yum.
This is another favourite of ours for dinner topped chicken.
Definitely worth a try.

Save money for your little ones with KidStart

Being able to shop online is a blessing for many of us. Busy lives, demanding little ones or simply not being that fussed about browsing the shops, whatever the reason lots of us are now choosing to buy things online
 It's not easy to put money aside for children's savings with the current high cost of living so every little helps. KidStart is a completely free shopping club which allows people to save money for their children when making purchases online.
It's really easy to get set up and many online retailers have signed up to the scheme. Every time you buy something a percentage of what you spend gets put in your child's savings pot.
I thought it sounded to good to be true but its quite simple. KidStart get paid by online retailers for promoting offers and advertising and the money made from this is used to run the scheme and pay the money collected by members.
Take a look at the following link and get signed up..

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Fat Club

I have been going to Slimming World for the past eight months and have lost a stone in total in that time. Although I'm happy that I have hovered around that stone loss for a while I have had a serious lack of motivation lately to lose anymore.

Today I have been to weigh-in and I have put 1 1/2 pounds on this past week. This does not come as a big surprise given the nachos, the chocolate, the wine etc etc.

I am however looking for a bit of a boost to get the weight loss going again so have decided to look for this in one of my favourite past times...blogging!
 I got my hands on the latest copy of the Slimming World magazine today and that always helps when feeling a bit lacking in inspiration. It looks like the summer issue is packed full of recipes so I'm going to try and have a go at cooking lots of those.

The relationship that us women have with our bodies is a turbulent one to say the least. I am having a fat week this week. Not helped by PMT I feel irritable, bloated and generally a bit of a chubster. This is where the control factor comes into play for me. Because I have fallen off the SW plan bandwagon recently I feel like I have lost control over my diet and I don't like this feeling. There is nothing wrong with treating yourself but I'm terrible for thinking "well I'm having a bad day on the diet anyway so I might as well carry on pigging out!" There is no way I'm going to deny myself a couple of glasses of vino on a Saturday night or a nice meal out every now and again but I'm going to try and change my attitude and get back onto plan quicker after the treat!

Right I'm off to get some chicken out of the freezer for tomorrow's dinner.

I do love a bit of organisation!

Watch this space

Monday, 9 March 2015

London baby...

I have just spent a fab weekend in the big smoke with my lovely mother and sister in law. Hubby and children free, we enjoyed some therapeutic girly time, taking in a show, a spot of shopping of course and a lovely meal Saturday night.

After a peaceful journey on the train we ditched our bags at the hotel and headed to Muriel's kitchen on Leicester Square for lunch. The fella behind was obviously very happy about it being lunch time.

     Muchos nachos

    Lunch eaten we then did a bit of shopping (the m&m shop first for the little uns of course)

  Leicester Square selfie. Is this how the celebs do it?

        Sunshine = cider time. 

On the terrace at the Prnce Edward theatre pre-show.

If you haven't seen Miss Saigon I absolutely insist you quickly put it on your list of things to save some pennies to do. It was sensational. I sobbed like a child at the end because of the massive rush of emotions the performances had envoked and because I simply did not want it to end.

After a bit more shopping and a time out at the hotel we found a great Greek restaurant called The Little Greek Kitchen. Great service, great food, great atmosphere.

Some quality time with the mum and sis was just what the doctor ordered. Christmas pressies well used!

 It's nice to remember I'm not just a Mummy all the time, but it was even nicer to see my favourite faces with big grins on them, waiting for me at the train station when we got home.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Reality tv...

As I'm sure most of us have, I have been following the tragic news of the disappearance of Becky Watts in Bristol. Obviously my thoughts go out to her family and friends at this unimaginably difficult time. Today, I was reading the latest horrific headlines concerning her murder when a little face popped over my shoulder and started reading. I quickly closed the screen and blurted out that it was just a story Mummy was reading, not real.

Of course the tragedy is that the story could not be more real but the thought of our six year old son reading about it sends shivers down my spine. The constant stream of bad news that we see plastered all over the television and internet on a daily basis is enough to make any adult feel depressed and paranoid but how would a child react to it?

It is our responsibility as parents to protect our children from harm and this includes mentally as well as physically. Of course they are bound to hear us talking about bad news occasionally but I honestly believe that there is massive potential to scar them for life if we aren't cautious with the way we read/watch the latest stories.

I was 16 when terrorists attacked the Twin Towers in the USA and I will never forget my Mum's face or words when she picked me up from school...."there's going to be a war". I knew she would never say anything like that if she didn't mean it and that is what scared me. At home I sat with my family and watched the chaos unfold on the television. As a young adult it was important that I was able to watch and understand what was going on but the lasting impact my Mum's reaction has had on me makes me wonder what must go through a child's mind when they see such things.

I don't want my children to grow up frightened of everything. Never daring to step on an aeroplane for fear it may crash, being terrified if anyone coughs or sneezes next to them on the bus in case they have bird flu or any other fears that the moral panic inducing media companies create.

On the other hand I also don't want the boys growing up in an ignorant state of thinking that nothing bad happens in the world we live in. It comes down to age. Innocence is something we must cling to for dear life whilst we can with our children. Happiness is what childhoods should be about and I for one intend on making the most of the time with them when their biggest concern is which friends they should invite to their party or who they are going to marry when they are old (at ages 6 and 3 the oldest chose his best friend and the youngest his Grandpops).

They will have enough to worry about when they are older and have their own family.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015



This past half term I took a trip with the boys to Eureka, the national children's museum in Halifax.
Having been there before I knew it was a safe bet but last time we went our youngest was only tiny so this time it was a completely different experience.
It was space week at the museum and the most impressive thing for me was how enthusiastic and knowledgeable the staff were. Lets be honest, you often expect (and find) that the staff in some of these places are a bit uninterested but this was not the case at all.

We arrived at around 11am, left at around 4pm and still did not get round all of the wonderful exhibits. I see this as a good thing, as once you have paid to get in you all get a free annual pass so we are already thinking about returning.

On the ground floor of the museum we explored all things spacey, including dressing up as astronauts and going on a mission to mars. We also spent a lot of time in the play bank and supermarket and house. For our youngest this was like a dream come true. The boy loves to play with his kitchen and shop and thought the scan your own goods in the fake M & S were particularly exciting. You can write out your own money slips and send them in a tube from the supermarket to the bank, which lets be honest, sod the kids, I wanted to play with. There is also a pretend garage on the ground floor, complete with petrol station and car wash which was very popular.

Talking of popular, I have to say it was extremely busy which we expected it being half term. We were told that February half term is the museums busiest time because of the dodgy weather. Despite this however, we didn't have to queue because we had booked our tickets on line and once we got used to the noise levels inside, the size of the place meant the boys did not have to wait to play with anything.
Upstairs there is the 'All about me' section which included (as above) a giant nose to explore. Seriously, what more could a boy ask for? This was the section that I think we would start in next time because we had to rush it and there was just so much to look and do...for children and adults alike!
There are plenty of indoor and outdoor picnic areas (including on an old train carriage) and my experience of the cafe from our first visit prompted me to take our own food. There was nothing particularly wrong with the cafe it was just very busy and rather expensive.
There are play areas outside to the side of the museum and to the front and next time we visit it will hopefully be a bit warmer so we can make the most of those.
All in all, definitely worth a visit. I would say it is ideal for children aged between three and ten. For the three of us it cost around £35 which for a full day and given you get an annual pass also I thought was very reasonable.

Friday, 13 February 2015

The Twilight Zone...

This parenthood malarkey is a strange beast. When thinking about having children or expecting your first bundle of joy how could you possibly ever imagine what trials and tribulations you would be facing on a day to day basis?

Does anyone else sometimes feel like they have woken up in the twilight zone?

Today's highlights have been....

- Attempting to get ready for work whilst the usual toddler meltdown was in progress
- Explaining that the youngest child does not need to wake up in the night because I'm quite certain Maleficent doesn't come into his room
- Deciding to try a new nursery drop off tactic and epically failing
- Doing some work
- Asking a woman in a shop if she had anything that could help us create an Australian landscape in a shoebox
- Stopping a cat from eating a hamster
- Being asked the following by the oldest child: "Mummy can you email me with a I love you or something." That boy breaks my heart on a daily basis
- Crying with laughter whilst trying to wipe youngest child's bottom because he is such a character
- Sneaking a peak at the oldest boy writing his 'secret book' whilst in bed.
 - Listening to them chat away and sing to each other whilst in their bunk beds
- Tell them to stop calling each other stupid whilst in their bunk beds.
- Pouring myself a vodka and diet coke and reflecting on the strange events of the day.

How dull our lives must have been before June 2008.

Monday, 26 January 2015

What the Woggle!

Well as of today our oldest little man is officially a Beaver.
He's got the neckerchief, he's made the promises, he's just got to wait for a woggle!
He also got three enrolment badges and almost immediately after the little investment ceremony he asked if I was going to sew the badges on to this, now Mummy.
So this week I will mostly be attempting to improve my sewing skills.

Nursery - is it really too expensive?

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Square Eyes

Lets be honest, when you become parents, evenings are not what they used to be. Don't get me wrong we were never the kind of couple that went out every night or had friends round all the time just because we could. We did however, have the option of a change of scenery at the last minute. A nice walk and a quiet drink in the local pub, a drive out to the pictures or even just a late leisurely walk around Asda because we couldn't decide what to have for tea.

Can you imagine, as a parent, a leisurely walk around Asda! My brain can no longer accept that there ever was such a thing. There can be nothing leisurely about supermarkets now, whatever the time of day is. If I go during the day I am most likely to have at least one child with me and even the best behaved child with the most patient mother in the whole world would get bored and annoying by the time they get to the bread aisle. If I go in the evening once the boys are in bed, I find that the shops are still busy, the fresh produce is often lacking a bit and I'm so tired and usually hungry that my heart is just not in it. My other half went through a phase of thinking it would be "nice" for the four of us to do the big shop at the weekends rather than the burden being mine during the week. The phase was short lived and it is fair to say it did not go well.

Anyway, as I was saying, evenings are definitively different since becoming Mummy and Daddy. The nights pretty much go like this:

6pm - Bath time
6.15pm - Kids pjs on and an attempt to calm everyone down
6.30pm- Supper and pre-bed cartoon viewing
7pm- Bed time which can take anywhere between 10 minutes to 1 hour depending on the mood of the youngest member
7.30pm ish - we usually have our dinner
8pm - collapse on the sofa in the hope that there is something good on tv.

Television is our main form of entertainment during the evenings, there is absolutely no doubt about it. With 'on demand' meaning we can catch up on missed programmes and choose from a massive selection of tv box sets there technically should always be something worth watching. This is not always the case but at the moment tv is looking pretty good.

Here is my list of top programmes that are on the box at the moment:

1. Broadchurch. I wasn't sure a second series would work with expectations so high after the first was such a success. The first few episodes have proved otherwise however and we were hooked after episode one. There are some well known names and the acting is superb.

2. Call The Midwife. Comfort television at its best. Lovely stories, lovely characters, generally a load of loveliness.

3. The Hotel. We love this. Absolutely cringe worthy viewing but completely compelling.

4. Wolf Hall. I'm Henry VIII I am. The first episode of this historical drama was quite heavy going but we can't wait for the next episode and with Damian Lewis starring, what more need I say.

5. Walking the Nile. The story of Levison Wood's epic journey has been fascinating. Beautiful, terrifying, heart breaking, inspiring viewing all rolled into one.

6. Mr Selfridge. I haven't watched the first episode yet but I'm sure, from my love of the previous series' that this will be a winner.

7. Silent Witness. Absolutely love the tension and drama in this series. A new story every week means you never get bored and the characters are very well acted.

Happy Viewing