Summer 2015: Day One – LEGOLAND Discovery Centre

As much as I genuinely enjoy having the boys at home during the school holidays I’m not delusional and I know they need to be kept busy, so I’ve done my utmost to make sure every day has an injection of fun and educational activity. It isn’t possible (or, in my opinion at least, sensible) to be out and about every single day though because I know the boys just wouldn’t be able to hack it. Days out are tiring, so I’ve tried to mix it up a bit and alternate between days out and activities at or near to home.

Day one was an easy decision to make. We’ve been LEGOLAND Discovery Centre annual pass holders since March and haven’t visited nearly enough so the first day of the holidays was set aside for a visit to Barton Square.


The fun, as always, started before we even went into the building. The boys love ‘driving’ the racing car every time we go (or even walk past) and this time insisted on me taking a photo.

We don’t always go through the ‘factory tour’ at the beginning of the LDC visit because it’s always the same and we’ve seen it many times, but this time the boys did fancy it so off we went to listen to Professor Brick talking about how LEGO is made. It’s an enjoyable feature of a visit and a definite must for first-timers.

Once we’d been fully educated by Professor Brick, we shot some bad guys on the Kingdom Quest Laser Ride before heading to Miniland and the rest of the attraction. There is lots to do inside the discovery centre and you can find a full list and description of each part of the attraction here.


There’s a very exciting event coming to LEGOLAND Discovery Centre next month. Do you know a little lego loving ninja? Then you really need to bring them down to meet Red Fire Ninja Kai during August.


Kids will be able to make their own masks and airjitsu flyers before putting their creations to the test in the Airjitsu Flyer Academy. Don’t let them forget to obtain their Ninjitsu Diploma, or to take part in the Laser Maze Challenge! Once that’s all done, they can upload videos of their skills online too.


We have many more days of summer to go yet and this definitely means another trip to LEGOLAND Discovery Centre is in order.

What plans do you have for summer? Share them and inspire us!



Planning Rowan’s Circus Party


Months ago, Rowan asked if he could have a party for his birthday next month, to which of course I said yes. He wanted a circus themed party and I agreed that would be great. He’ll be five.

So now it’s just a few weeks away from his birthday and actually we’re not going to be here anyway because we’re backpacking over his birthday week. I’d completely forgotten about Rowan’s party request… but Rowan hadn’t!

I always vowed not to break any promises I’d made to either of the children and aside from little things, like saying they could stay up but then sending them to bed when they’re getting a bit too rowdy, I don’t think I’ve broken very many promises at all. I certainly didn’t want to break this one – how could I when that excited little face appeared in front of me and said

‘Mummy, can I invite Alfie to my circus party?’

I did panic a little bit inside! Firstly, when on earth could I fit a party into an already busy summer? Secondly, how the heck was I going to afford to pay for a circus party for 30 kids the week after a holiday? Not forgetting the issue of trying to find a venue for a party in the height of wedding season – halls at a reasonable price are hard to come by at short notice.

I’m hoping to secure a venue today – and I’m hoping even more so that it won’t cost me a limb or two. In the meantime I’ve buried my head in the Pinterest sand and found some fantastic ideas for circus parties! Twinkl has once again saved by bacon by coming up with a circus birthday party pack (thank you, twinkl!) and I’ve ordered bits and pieces online for games and party bags, though there’s lots more to get.

I’ve managed to cost the filled party bags at around 61p each I think so I’m pleased with that. I need to source a cake (circus themed, obviously) so I’ve contacted the lady who did the boys christening cakes in the hope that she still makes them.

Rather than hiring a magician or a clown (lord knows that’d be out of my budget just now) I’ve decided to opt for a carnival type approach. We’ll have several different stalls offering an assortment of activities. Hopefully the children can be split into small groups and try each activity in a similar way to circuit training. Stalls so far are:

  • Tin can alley
  • Hook-a-duck
  • Circus skills (juggling, diabolo, tightrope)

So I need more ideas for those which I’ll be working on today.

I’m going to need a lot of luck and a fair bit of help from anyone I can pin down on party day if I’m going to pull this off!

Do you have a tip for planning or hosting a children’s party?

Kind Club: Surprise Decorating

Last weekend Ted and I took the boys up to Scotland for a short break with Forest Holidays. We were gone for four days and just after we arrived I received a text from my friend Emma to say that a suspicious looking man had been seen loitering outside our back gate at home. Unable to do anything much about it myself I phoned my mum to see if she’d call round to mine after work, just to give the place a look over. She said she would and asked for Emma’s address, which I assumed was so that my mum could ask Emma more about the dodgy dude hanging around the street.

Fast forward four days and I arrive home.

We have two back doors at home and we obviously lock them when we’re not there. On our return from Scotland though we found that the outer back door hadn’t been locked. I had received a call from my mum asking if we’d like her to drop round some pizza for tea so I figured she’d been and struggled to lock the door behind her; it can be temperamental at times.

What I didn’t expect was to come home to a completely redecorated, refurnished house.

Without me knowing, my family had spent months planning to use our time away to let themselves into my house and change it from this…

Lounge before

to this…

Lounge after

My lounge was tired, outdated and fast becoming a depressing sight. I’m not terribly good at decorating, nor was I in any way motivated to make improvements to a home I’d long since fallen out of love with. I was at the point where I never spent any real time at home because I hated looking around and seeing nothing but jobs to put on the to-do list I never worked on. Ted works long hours and is away often, so the time we do have together is spent with the boys, cramming fun into every hour we can. It isn’t spent decorating and is rarely even spent in the house. We’re an outdoor kind of family and it’s easy to push things like DIY out of your mind when it isn’t staring you in the face. Being overwhelmed with a job list you don’t have the confidence to tackle is pretty depressing, and maybe my family could see that in me.

I cried when I saw the lounge. The old, mismatched sofas were gone, replaced by modern and matching furniture and the worn carpet was a thing of the past. The wallpaper I’d picked out a couple of weeks ago was no longer just a photo on my mobile but really there in my lounge with matching cushions, curtains and rug. It was like walking into someone else’s house. Someone who loved where they lived.

I cried some more when I saw that not only had they completely revamped the lounge, they’d carried on and painted the stairs and the landing too. The bannister was clean, crisp white and not the kind-of-white-but-a-bit-chipped I’d left it four days earlier. From plain magnolia walls complete with kids hand prints, the stairway was transformed with cool grey colour and a white framed collage of family photographs. Everywhere I looked there was something new to be thankful for.

Stairs 2They even chose some word art that I would have chosen for myself. I do like to be as positive as I can about every aspect of my life, and this phrase is one that I would agree with. I had let the house get me down and it was pretty much the only thing in life that I felt I couldn’t tackle.

stairs 1


The one room I hated the most though was the bathroom. I had attempted to paint it myself but hadn’t used the right kind of paint for a room that gets damp so often and it was so patchy I could hardly bear to be in there.

Bathroom before

Not a place for a calming bubble bath – five minutes in the shower was more than enough time to look at those walls. From now on though I’ll be making a long hot soak more of a priority…

Bathroom after 1


bathroom after 2

I can’t really explain how lucky I feel today. My family and friends are truly wonderful people and I’m so grateful just to have them in my life. Nobody needed to do this for me, I didn’t ask for it and I certainly didn’t expect it. That’s what makes them so wonderful though; they have all taken time off work to work so, so hard on something they will gain nothing from for themselves. An act of kindness like that can only be done by very special people, and I’m fortunate enough to have many special people in my life.

Thank you Mum, Cath, Hayley, Naomi, Lynn, Shirl, Lorraine and Dora. I love you all.

Someone pass me a tissue?

Grumpyish Mum

Adapting a home for disability

When my grandma broke her arm, it changed her life forever.

If the same thing had happened to me I expect my life would’ve been back to normal within a couple of months, but when you break your arm in a place that cannot be plastered, the risks of an operation are too high and you have osteoporosis, that arm is never going to heal. Not properly.

That was a catalyst for huge changes in both her life and mine, and my grandma’s house had to undergo several adaptations in order to accommodate her new needs. Her broken arm, coupled with her already poor health and deteriorating mobility, meant we needed a whole new normal.

I gave up my job and became my grandma’s carer, and together we learned how to get along in our new roles. I have worked in care for many years and I’ve seen all sorts of gadgets and aids, so my family set to work and made sure my grandma’s quality of life was as good as it could be.

Her main bathroom is downstairs so we had a shower cubicle fitted in the smaller upstairs bathroom, giving her the independence to manage her own personal care, since getting in and out of a bath was now impossible.

We had a stairlift fitted so that she could continue to sleep upstairs. Until then, we were managing with a bed downstairs but that isn’t ideal at all. With her arthritic knees deteriorating week by week, this was an absolute godsend, and although stairlifts aren’t cheap there are companies like Ideal Stairlifts that will provide second hand and affordable stairlifts, which is what we plumped for in the end.

We had grab rails fitted to make getting in and out of the house easier – it really is the little things that make a big difference sometimes and this means that although she still can’t go out independently, she can at least enjoy the garden.

There are also smaller aids that make a big difference. Things like a cradle for the kettle, weighted utensils and home alarms all contribute to peace of mind for families and service users alike.

I know first hand that it isn’t an easy transition to make from being totally independent to being cared for, nor is it easy to be the carer of someone who hasn’t ever needed to reply on help. If you need help or advice in this respect, call your local authority who will be able to advise you. You can also find out more about the help that is available to carers and those they care for at  the Age UK website.

Preparing for my friend’s funeral

As many of you already know, my friend of over twenty years passed away last week. Ashlee has been in my life to varying degrees since before I was a teenager and over the last five years I’ve seen her fight harder than I thought any person ever could, firstly against breast cancer and then against subsequent secondary cancers. She lost her fight aged just 32 and left a husband and young daughter. It’s truly tragic.

Next week, I have been tasked with reading at Ashlee’s funeral. I’ll  be reading a poem written by Ashlee, from her daughter’s perspective. I imagine it’ll be one of the most emotionally challenging things I ever have to do, but I’ll do it. I’ll do it for Ash. I won’t share the poem with you now though, as it’s a personal piece of writing that really isn’t mine to share.

It’ll be difficult, but I want to do a good job of it. Ashlee was very well known – it was as though she knew everyone – and there are many, many people who would be honoured to be reading at her service. I’m truly lucky to be one of the few who have been asked.

I think the only way I’ll be able to get through it without choking up will be to desensitise myself from the meaning of the words and just to read them as though they are simple words on a page with no emotional attachment. I have a week to get it right, so I’ll just keep going over it.

Another thing I need to prepare is my outfit. Funeral outfits are usually pretty easy, but Ashlee was the life and soul of the party and really did bring sunshine to everyone’s day, just by being in it. She has requested that funeral attendees wear bright colours, but that her closest friends – who she refers to as her angels – wear white. Ashlee would love people to really make an effort for the service; hair, nails, new frock – she loved a bit (a lot) of bling! So goodness knows what I’m going to wear.

If you’d like to send good wishes, positive vibes, prayers or whatever your version of those are, I’d be grateful if you’d keep Ashlee’s family and friends in your thoughts in the coming days. My reading is going to be a breeze compared to what they’ve been though and continue to go through.

For now though, it’s back to practising my reading.


Photo courtesy of Niki Mills photography


Get help to quit smoking

If you’re a parent and you smoke, you’ve probably thought about quitting smoking. After all, you probably don’t want your children growing up around cigarettes. What’s more, you almost certainly want to kick the habit so that you can be around for your kids as long as possible. Sadly, stubbing out a smoking habit is a lot easier said than done. It is, however, worth the effort.

The biggest problem with smoking is, of course, its affect on a person’s lifespan. You’re probably already aware that cigarettes and cigars contain carcinogenic chemicals that can cause cancers to develop in the smoker’s body and that these cancers can significantly shorten their life expectancy. Smoking is also linked with a number of other deadly or debilitating illnesses and effects, including heart disease, strokes and vascular dementia (which is the impairment of brain function due to problems with blood circulation to the brain).

With so many potentially fatal or crippling consequences, it’s only natural that you should want to throw out your cigarettes. The worst aspect of these negative effects, however, is that they may directly affect your children. Because second-hand cigarette smoke can be breathed in by those around you – including your kids – it’s not just your own health that a smoking habit can damage. Even more problematically, children who grow up around cigarettes are more likely to become smokers themselves in later life.

Luckily, there are many ways you can kick the habit. For some people, simply binning their cigarettes and going cold turkey is an effective method. If you need a little more help freeing yourself of the habit, there are plenty of methods that you may not be aware of.

One quitting strategy that modern smokers can take advantage of is switching to e-cigarettes. Vapouriz E-cigarettes allow you to control the amount of nicotine released each time you inhale, allowing you to gradually phase out the addictive chemical and reduce your dependence on it until you can do without it altogether. In the meantime, e-cigarettes are a little less harmfulthan traditional smoking and also reduce the problem of second-hand smoke because they don’t need to be lit.

You could also use nicotine patches in a similar fashion, though it is harder to control the exact dose of nicotine you receive through these. Alternatively, you could consider hypnotherapy, which can be used to plant subliminal edicts against smoking into your subconscious, either cutting you off from the desire to smoke or (more usually) giving you a better chance of fighting it. Hypnotherapy isn’t universally successful, but it can be a useful tool for some people.

Whatever method you choose, you owe it to yourself and to your children to try to kick the habit. Don’t be smoker; be a quitter!

Mini Creations: Rowan’s plate

Rowan was quiet.

He had the majority of the craft box contents scattered around the lounge and was quite happily singing away to himself as he worked on what I imagine he considered to be the next award winning piece of artwork.

After a little while Rowan came to me with his new masterpiece, his little face beaming with pride. How could I tell him off when I noticed that the basis for this artistic wonder was actually one of my side plates!

Not only had he created something he was proud of, he had also been practising his literacy skills. Using some sticky backed foam letters, he’d spelled out our names. Well, sort of. Some of the letters were missing so together we ‘doctored’ some remaining letters to make what we needed.

I’m not entirely sure why my husband is referred to as ‘Dad’ while I’m ‘Karen’ … maybe there weren’t any more ‘M’ letters!

A simple, child-led craft that cost £1 and a side plate now takes pride of place in the kitchen. Rowan is still very proud of his creation and so we are, too! We’re linking up with Mini Creations this week – click the picture below and find craft inspiration.

Rowan's plate

Mini Creations

Something for Me 10/06/15

Each week, I’ve been trying to remember to write down something I did over the last seven days that was just for me. A little treat, not necessarily of great proportions, all of my own. I wanted to make it a weekly feature here on the blog but somehow life gets in the way of writing down the good stuff. I last posted about some cute shoes I treated myself to but that feels like ages ago now. A whole three weeks!

Well this week my sister and her fiancée saved me a  job when they brought me this back from their trip to Miami...


Lucky, aren’t I? It’s 360 by Perry Ellis and I love it.

Perfume is something that I rarely buy. There are some that I really like but I tend to just wear whatever I get bought for Christmas/Mothers Day/Anniversary etc. because I don’t like to spend that amount of money on something for me. I can’t decide if I’m selfless or just tight!

I adore this scent and I’m wearing it every day, though unfortunately that might mean it won’t last all that long. I can buy this online in the UK but not in the beautiful gold bottle I have now. Perhaps Hayley will have to return to the U.S to get me another bottle when it does run out! I’m sure she won’t mind …

What do you do that’s just for you? Is it just making sure you have some time for yourself to wind down at the end of each day? Maybe you run (not likely to ever happen here!) or go to the gym? If you could treat yourself to one little gift right now what would it be?

Maybe you know someone who deserves a little treat? I’ve got a great competition coming up this afternoon to win a hamper from Serenata Flowers. Keep a look out!

Kind Club makes a comeback

Grumpyish Mum

A little while ago here on the blog I ran a series of posts about Kind Club. It was something that I did once a week with the boys consisting of a Wednesday afternoon ‘meeting’ around the kitchen table and a good deed for the week sometime over the following seven days. The boys were interested at first but their enthusiasm began to wear off after a few weeks, as did mine. In the end I didn’t write many of our good deeds up for publishing on the blog.

This week Rowan asked me if I remembered Kind Club and said he missed it. I wasn’t sure whether ‘missed’ was the exact feeling he had about it, so I nodded in agreement and no more was said about it for a few days. Since then he’s asked me twice more if we can do Kind Club again, so we’ve decided we’re going to give it another try.

It won’t be a linky like before, because I don’t know how long it’ll last, but if we do get into the swing of it maybe I will add the option for bloggers to link up their own stories of kindness.

There is so much wrong with this world, what harm can spreading a little bit of happiness do! It’s a great way to teach them how to consider other people in their every day lives and it’s very rewarding to do a good deed so everyone wins.

Our first Kind Club good deed was to make a donation to help those in Nepal after the horrendous earthquakes they suffered recently. Louis and I were watching TV when Philip Schofield appeared on our screens, asking for text donations for the children of Nepal.

Louis asked me if the footage of the devastation was real, and was visibly upset when I confirmed that it was.

Can we send £5, Mummy? I’ve got some money in my wallet.

So of course we did.

Nepal text

We’ll be having our first meeting this evening after school, to decide what our good deed will be for the coming week. If you have any suggestions I’d love to hear them, just leave a comment below or come over to my Facebook page.

If you’d like to follow our story you can sign up for notifications by email when a new post goes live, or you can watch out for us on twitter. If you’d like to get involved yourself that would be amazing!


My 7 day weight loss meal plan

I’m back to publishing my meal plan this week because I’ve got a wedding to go to in just over four weeks and my dress is too small, so once again I’m trying to lose a few pounds.

I did buy the dress in a size smaller than my usual dress size, and I think that if I manage between 7 and 10 pounds it should fit. I can get it on and fasten it up but it isn’t very flattering just now.


So this week I’ll be following the Slimming World plan (again) and am hoping to have shifted at least half a stone by 10th July, though the actual numbers aren’t really a goal this time, it’s just the dress.

This week then, I’m looking at a menu like this:


Overnight oats: 35g porridge oats topped with a fat free yogurt and frozen berries or fresh fruit. Leave in the fridge overnight and enjoy in the morning. This is really filling which surprised me really because 35g of oats isn’t much at all. I sometimes add sweetener in the morning depending on what fruit I’ve used.


2 Weetabix with semi skimmed milk, topped with banana


Bacon, Sausage, Egg, Mushrooms and beans (fat cut off the bacon and syn-free sausages)


Jacket potatoes with tuna, lemon and pepper

Low fat Super Noodles

Prawn salad

crust free quiche


Fajitas (everyone else at home eats them with the wraps, I wrap mine in Iceberg leaves)

Ham Salad

Chilli con carne

Chicken curry

Salmon stir fry

Sausage, mash and beans

Tuna pasta bake

I’ll also be trying to drink more water and move a little bit more too. Not sure I’ll be using the gym membership I pay for (whoops) but I’ll perhaps walk the dog a little further each day or even walk the kids the 2.5 miles home from school if it’s nice.

Snack-wise it’s be fruit, fruit and more fruit and one little treat in the evening – all counted towards my syn allowance of course!

I’m linking up to Sim’s Weight Loss Wednesday and Hannah’s Blogging to Jogging. With any luck reading the other bloggers goals and achievements will provide a little extra motivation.

Until next week …

Sim's Life