Thursday, 5 September 2019

The Snowman comes to Chester this Christmas [Ad - Gifted]


I want to say it's too early to be mentioning the C word, but in truth, I don't think it is. I start planning the festivities as soon as Ember's birthday is out of the way at the end of August. Don't worry, I'm not one of those (unhinged) people who put their tree up in October. I just like to be prepared.

I like to know what we're doing as a family, as we usually plan a few days out during the Christmas holidays. This year, we've been gifted tickets to go and see The Snowman at Chester Cathedral. The screening will be accompanied by a live orchestra playing the music from the animation. And, obviously, it will feel even more magical because it's taking place in a stunning Cathedral.

The Snowman will be performed in Chester on the 20th and 21st December 2019. Tickets are on sale now so make sure you get yours before they sell out. You can book tickets directly from the Chester Cathedral website here.




You can find out more about Carrot Productions' The Snowman tour on their websiteCarrot Productions are the world’s leading performers of The Snowman, having staged over 200 performances to date across the UK, including at many of the country’s finest Cathedrals and venues, with musicians drawn from the UK’s top orchestras.

Each of their magical performances includes a toe-tapping Christmas Medley and a fun musical tour of the orchestra, presented by our performers alongside specially commissioned animation and original music. 
The show will be travelling to various venues across the country throughout December. For a full list of venues, and to find out more about the show, click here.
Photography © Gareth Widdowson

Disclaimer: I have been gifted a family ticket to go to see The Snowman in return for this promotion. See you there!

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Attending a Youth Strike 4 Climate March

Ebony is a fan of Greta Thunberg’s (who isn’t, right?). I signed Ebony up for a First News subscription, and so now she gets a newspaper delivered every Friday. I do this mostly for myself because I like to see her reading a newspaper. But also, I do it because I really want her to know what’s going on in the world. I find people who don’t understand feminism, people who don’t vote, and people who seem to have no awareness of climate change to be truly terrifying. I can’t raise these people. I must raise people who ask questions and consider ethics, even if they don’t always make the right choices. I’m not looking for perfection here, just some compassion and social conscience.

So, every week, a newspaper arrives and it inevitably has a story about Greta in. Or climate change. Or the climate strike. Ebony has been reading these articles for weeks and asking when she can go on one. So, we went on the May climate strike. It was the fourth monthly event in Manchester, and they will be continuing long into the foreseeable future (until either the government takes real action to prevent climate change or we all die of climate change. Jokes…). If you haven’t been on one yet, you should go, they are positive and uplifting and filled with hope.

Ebony wrote a letter to her headteacher telling him that she was going on the march and that I’d be picking her up early from school. Her headteacher was really positive about it, which I will admit surprised me a little. While I am fully on board with protests and strikes and the need for climate action, I wasn’t sure her school would be. When I went to pick her up on the day, the receptionist was really positive about it, too. She made Ebony promise to tell her all about it after the holidays.

When we first got to the protest, there was a huge group of people gathered outside central library. They were setting up a PA system, and once that was sorted, the organisers gave some short speeches. The marches are organised by school pupils and there were young people with banners all around us. The local police had sent out a pretty stern-sounding email to local secondary schools essentially threatening arrests. I imagine to a teenager who has never protested before, and their parents, this sounds pretty scary. So I was pleased when Andy Burnham, Manchester’s Mayor, took the mic and thanked everyone for turning out and said how proud he was of them.

The kids decorated the street with pavement chalk and coloured in some paper plates in the family area while the later talks were going on. And then it was time for the march. Ebony held her homemade sign up high and proud the whole way around. She loved joining in with the chants and there were quite a few other kids around her age. Ember, on the other hand, immediately fell asleep and I had to lug her dead weight the whole way around Manchester which wasn’t exactly ideal. She woke up as the march ended and then cried because she had missed it. Toddlers are fun.

Ebony came away from the event feeling inspired. And I think it was good for her to see other families and kids out there protesting. She definitely wants to strike again.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Back to my space



I don’t really write much here these days, do I? It has become a neglected part of my life that I occasionally feel guilty about. I used to write this blog when Ebony was a baby and everything about motherhood was new and fascinating and hilarious and a little bit terrifying. There are pages and pages of posts about what it was like being Ebony’s mum.

I sometimes think, if I died, Ebony would know she was loved. She’d be able to grow up and read those posts and know exactly how I felt about it. If she were to have children of her own, she’d be able to compare our experiences even though I wouldn’t be there to ask. This blog is like a time capsule she could dust off and experience whenever she wanted to feel close to me.

But then it just fizzles out. Work got busy, life got busy and I got tired, and suddenly I didn’t spend as much time here. I still had things I wanted to write about, but they never made it past the notes app on my iPhone. I don’t want these memories to fizzle out. I want to keep writing, and recording and taking the time to remember what life is like right now.

The girls are changing so fast at the moment. They both seem taller and older than they did just weeks ago. Ebony has spent most of the Easter holidays with her face in a book. She has read and read and read. Today, she ate her dinner one-handed so she could finish Awful Auntie. I love seeing her get lost in books. If she comes across a bit that makes her laugh, she pauses so she can read it aloud to me.

Ember is changing, too. She is getting to an age where she can play by herself for longer periods now. She will do jigsaws or draw or disappear into the playroom by herself. Today, she played with a doll in the paddling pool for a long time. When Ebony asked if she could play too, Ember replied, “I don’t know, do you trust yourself?”

She did, so the played.

Monday, 4 March 2019

February: 5 Good Things



Is it really March? So soon? Didn’t we only just pack up the Christmas decorations and sweep up the pine needles? February is always a good month. The simple fact that it’s not January anymore guarantees that February will be an improvement on its predecessor. It’s the shortest month and that means money has less far to go. I don’t know why those extra three days make such a difference, but they do. An extra weekend throws my budget into chaos, so I like February.

I thought I’d write a little monthly catch-up in the form of a good things list, so here is my February summed up:

1. We made lemon slices
The problem with being a lifelong vegan is that you have no idea what things taste like. I knew a girl who didn’t know what Wispa Golds tasted like, can you imagine? Ebony is that girl in the making. Being vegan has never been easier, there are substitutes for most things nowadays. Modern vegans don’t know how good they have it, the free from shelves were bare in 2007 when I went in search of vegan treats.

Ebony wanted to know what Mr Kipling lemon slices were like. One of her friends has them in her packed lunch at school, and Ebony wanted to know if there was a vegan version. There isn’t, but I decided we could make one. We don’t bake very often. Pre-kids, I was always making cookies and Laurie went through an intense pie phase, but now we don’t do much baking. The lemon slices seemed like the perfect way to rectify this.

We made some vegan lemon curd (using this recipe) which was surprisingly easy and tasted amazing. If I’d realised how easy it was to make, I would have done it already. Then we used Ms Cupcake’s cake recipe and switched a few of the ingredients to turn it into a lemon cake. And then Ember made some icing to go on top (she was very pleased about this). They tasted amazing, and we ate lemon curd on toast for breakfast all week long.

2. The Life I Lead
I went to the theatre with my mum, dad and sister to see Miles Jupp in The Life I Lead. The play was about the life of David Tomlinson (the actor who played Mr Banks in Mary Poppins) and it was so interesting. Miles Jupp was brilliant, he was engaging and funny and everything you might expect him to be. I didn’t know anything about David Tomlinson before I went (in fact, on the way in I worried that maybe the show might be a little boring), but he had a really interesting life. I really enjoyed seeing the show, and it was lovely to go out with my family for the afternoon (matinees all the way).

3. Half-term
Half-term seemed to arrive without much warning, so we didn’t have much planned. I was a little worried that we might end up wasting the week, but in the end, we seemed to strike the perfect balance between days out and time at home. I loved having Ebony at home for the week, and Ember loved spending so much time with her big sister. We saw my sister a couple of times which both kids loved, too. I wrote more about our half-term here.

4. Walking
I have two good things to say about walking. Firstly, Ember is walking more now. She whines less when she’s walking and she can walk faster now so I don’t have to pick her up to get to school on time. This doesn’t sound like much of an achievement, but she is very heavy and carrying her while running to school was taking its toll on my aged back. I even managed to get her to walk along the canal to visit friends in the next village (shout out to the bird seeds for providing the in-walk entertainment).

I’ve also started walking more again. When Ember was a baby, I walked every day. I would bundle her into the sling and head out into the fresh air. It became part of our daily routine and Ember would sleep against my chest in the sling. Now that she’s older, it’s impossible to go for those long walks with her. She walks slowly and it doesn’t really count as exercise because I spend so much of the time waiting for her to catch up. I’ve started walking in the evenings when Laurie is home to look after the girls. It’s not quite as nice because it’s dark and I can’t walk through the woods or down the canal, but it still counts as exercise. I go with my friend and it’s so lovely to spend that time with her.

5. The weather

Isn’t climate change lovely? Hasn’t it been great playing out in the warmer weather in the middle of winter? Yes and no. Yes, the weather was glorious during half-term and being able to spend most of the week outside was amazing. I did some gardening, the swing got dusted off, and Ember mastered her scooter. It made me excited for the months to come. The ice lollies enjoyed in the garden after school, the weekend barbecues and the hours spent playing in the garden. I can’t wait. But, also, climate change is terrifying and the planet is definitely dying.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Our Half-Term


I’m not a mum who counts down to schools opening again after the holidays. I love the holidays. I get more sleep (I don’t know how that works but it does), I get to spend more time with my kids, and we get to break free from the monotonous routine that school entails. Obviously, I also have to referee a lot of fighting, spend more time on public transport than I would usually like, and empty my piggy bank to pay for days out. But, for me, the good outweighs the bad.

This half term seemed to sneak up on me. I don’t know what happened to January but it was over in a flash. Both kids were poorly at the start of Feb, and then I caught it, so this half-term appeared out of nowhere. I hadn’t made any plans or found any fun things to do, so we had a bit of a last-minute half-term. Kind of like those ‘picnic teas’ you have on the days you haven’t been shopping, but with a week worth of activities instead of cucumber slices and crackers.

My sister has moved back to the UK after a couple of years abroad, so she came in useful during half-term. The kids find everything more exciting if Rosie is there. On Monday we all went to watch Lego Movie 2 at the cinema. It’s quite a long film, too long for Ember, it turned out. I loved the film, it was really funny, but I have no idea what happened in the end because I had to take Ember outside. She was yelling things like ‘I’m hungry’ and ‘I don’t want raisins’ and ‘WHYYYYYY?’ over the film, so I had to take her outside. Luckily, Rosie was there so Ebony didn’t have to sit in the cinema by herself while Ember ran riot in the foyer.

On Tuesday, we had a quiet day at home. We popped to the local shops for ingredients and books (I said I’d buy the girls a book each from the charity shop and we came out with ten books, I cannot say no to reading). Then we made some vegan lemon slices and they were so good. Also, I can now make vegan lemon curd and I didn’t even know such things were possible. I feel that a vegan lemon meringue pie could be on the horizon. The weather was nice so we spent some time in the garden and both kids ended up covered in mud and scratches.

Wednesday, we paid a visit to the People’s History Museum. I really love this museum, it’s my favourite in Manchester. It never feels chaotic or overrun like the other museums in the city centre. I think it might be a hidden gem so don’t tell anyone how good it is. They had a clay workshop on for half-term so Ebony went to that with Rosie while Ember yelled ‘I’m hungry’ at me a lot in the foyer. That kid loves to eat.

On Thursday, I had some work to do so my parents took the girls out for the day. I received numerous WhatsApp messages throughout the day showing the kids growing increasingly muddy and sure enough, they arrived home at 4 pm coated in dry mud. Obviously, they then had a bath. It was good to get some work done and it means I won’t have to work this weekend so now Laurie can work on his essay for uni (remember when we used to spend weekends as a family? Sob).

Friday came far too quickly, one week just isn’t long enough for a holiday. We spent the morning tidying the house ready for some friends to visit. The kids spent the afternoon playing in the garden and causing chaos in the playroom. Ember mostly spent the afternoon saying ‘I’m hungry’ and ‘Push me on the swing’. Two and a half is a very demanding and hungry age, isn’t it?

It didn’t feel like we did much during the holidays, but nobody complained of being bored. I think we found the right balance between days out and days at home. I just can’t believe half-term is finished already. Let the frantic PE kit search commence!

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Things to do with the kids this February break in London





London is a big place with no shortage of fun family-friendly activities to keep you entertained this half-term. If you’re planning a whistle-stop tour of the capital, you’ll want to make sure you don’t miss out on any gems. Be sure to ask friends and family if they have any recommendations of places you could visit while you’re in town. Here are a few fun things to do in London during February half-term:

Ahoy, Matey!

You can’t take kids to London without calling into the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. It’s filled with vintage toys that will leave you feeling nostalgic for the good old days. This half-term, A Pirate’s Life For Me at the V&A is the perfect way to entertain your daredevil kids. The interactive pirate ship is sure to be a hit with your swashbuckling kids.

Vintage TV screenings

If you want to introduce your kids to vintage children’s TV, the National Children’s Centre has you covered. They are screening various shows from the good old days during half-term. Best of all, it’s free to attend once you’ve paid entry into the museum. Find out more and plan your magical visit here.

Head to Knight School

If your kids love crafts, roleplay and using their imaginations, they’ll love Knight School at the Tower of London. Interactive, educational and medieval, it’s the perfect way to learn all about this important aspect of London’s history.

Go crazy this half-term

If you don’t have plans you may end up going crazy this half-term, but you can prevent that happening by finding a brilliant activity for all the family. Crazy golf is a fun game for all the family and with plenty of stunning mini-courses across the capital, you should be able to find a venue near you.
Check out plonkgolf.co.uk to find your nearest crazy golf course in the capital and get ready to have some fun this winter.

Spend time with Charlie Brown this half-term

Charlie Brown is just as cool now as he was in the 1960s, and Snoopy is just as hilarious ever. Head down to Somerset House to take a look at this exhibition. See Charlie Brown, Snoopy and other much-loved characters in all their glory and teach the next generation about this iconic cartoon.
Don’t forget, if the weather is nice during half-term, London has some amazing parks you can visit without having to spend a penny. The Princess Diana Memorial Playground is particularly good, so be sure to drop by if you have an hour or two to kill.


This is a collaborative post.
Photo by Dan Roizer on Unsplash

Sunday, 27 January 2019

5 Tips For Updating Your Bathroom



If you saw the dark brown bathroom suite and floor to ceiling floral tiles of Britain’s Worst Bathroom, you might be thinking about updating your bathroom. If you haven’t see the aforementioned bathroom, go look now, you won’t regret it.

The problem with bathrooms is that you quite often inherit them. And, unlike a bedroom which might just require a quick paint job, redecorating bathrooms can be costly. You might end up having to tolerate the bathroom until you can afford to redecorate. A full bathroom redesign can cost thousands of pounds. And, since it’s not a job you’re like to do often, it’s important you end up with a bathroom you’ll love for years to come. If you’re about to embark on a bathroom redesign, you’re probably spending lots of time researching the different options available to you. For re-designing of your bathrooms in Harrogate, Visit our website Harrogate Bathrooms.

Here are some things to consider when updating your bathroom:

1. Best use of the space
If you’re completely redoing your bathroom, now is the time to think about moving the suite or adding in a separate shower. Plumbing changes add costs, but, if you can afford it, it might be worth it to get the bathroom of your dreams. If you have the space for a separate shower cubicle, it’s definitely worth adding one to the room. Imagine the room stripped back to an empty box, where do you want the bath to go? Where will the toilet be best placed? Start from scratch to get the bathroom you really want.

2. Include storage
Good storage keeps a bathroom looking new and clean. Make sure you have enough storage for all of the kid’s toys, the flannels and all the tubs, bottles and razors lurking in your bathroom. Having somewhere to hide this stuff away will make all the difference to your bathroom. Check out bathroom suites which incorporate storage, like sinks with big drawers or cupboards built in. These provide a clever way to use space even in small bathrooms.

3. Seek out inspiration
Don’t start a home project without first creating an inspiration board. You can do this easily online using Pinterest or by collecting cuttings from magazines. Since this redesign is going to cost a lot of money, it needs to be perfect. Explore all of your options at the research stage and identify the features you do or don’t want. Pick your colour scheme, and find inspiration from photos of existing bathrooms. Don’t rush into any decisions, give yourself time to fully explore the possibilities.

4. Shop around
You don’t have to buy everything from one place, sometimes it pays to shop around. Not only could you save money, but it also means you can find all the things you love. From a budget point of view, look around for sales and promo codes that could save you money. And from a finishes point of view, if you want black taps but your supplier doesn’t stock them, look elsewhere. Don’t settle for anything less than perfect.

5. Finishing touches
The finishing touches are what makes your bathroom yours. It’s the prints and plants and decorative touches that give your bathroom style. These are things you should ideally think about during the planning stage, but they can also be added in at the last minute. Plants look great in bathrooms and add a feeling of freshness to what could otherwise feel like quite a sterile room of the home.

Happy bathroom hunting!

This is a collaborative post.

Monday, 21 January 2019

The Curse Of The Squawking Toddler


I don’t know if this is a second child thing, or if we have just done a terrible job of parenting the second time around, but my two-year-old squawks.

She also talks, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some weird new way of communicating. She hasn’t developed her own language or figured out a way to share anecdotes with her feather friends. It’s a thing she does as well as talking, not at the same time you understand, but just as an extra tool in her communicating toolbox. She’s got the expressive facial expressions down (shit-eye much?), the body language (she can throw her arms in the air like no other), the angry sentences (‘no, mummy, I not use my words,’ said defiantly and often) and now she has the squawk.

It is high-pitched and loud and very much like the kind of sound you would expect to hear from a deranged and tortured bird. We live in a terraced house so I am expecting the RSPCA to knock on the door any day now. ‘Excuse me, ma’am, but we received reports of a bird of prey being mistreated.” Our local RSPCA officer is probably American and I almost certainly have the eyebags to pull off ma’am.

The squawk comes during times of great neglect. Like the time I told her she couldn’t have another biscuit or the time I politely suggested it might be bedtime. Sometimes she does it at 3 am because she is enraged that she needs the toilet (if you own a lucrative earplug factory, it is probably our neighbours making you rich). Sometimes she does it because she doesn’t like her dinner or because she wants to go out in January wearing only her sister’s t-shirt (no shoes, no knickers, no coat).

It starts with a warning. A wide-mouthed wide-eyed silent scream to let me know she means business. If I do not immediately concede and let her have what she wants, the squawk starts. It is loud, especially loud between the hours of midnight at 4 am, I have noticed. Sometimes, it is a short sharp note not unlike a smoke alarm. Other times it turns into an endless high-pitched shriek that only culminates when she runs out of breath. Thank god for her toddler-sized lungs otherwise she would probably already have an ASBO.

I have observed the reactions of our cat and nearby wildlife and it is clear that my toddler is no Dolittle, the squawk merely comes from a place of spite. She does it for no other reason than because she can. I am hoping she will grow out of it, that one day she will simply learn to say ‘I’m disappointed to hear that,’ instead of squawking like an unhinged bird frothing from the beak.

I am not used to this unnecessary screech, my first child displayed her annoyance at this age by saying things like, ‘I want to scrunch you up and throw you in the bin.’ Now that I could handle. If anything, my heart swelled with pride at her threats and insults, my talented little wordsmith. I struggle to feel anything when faced with the squawk, especially when I am half asleep.

She will grow out of it, right?

* Squawk not pictured.

Friday, 18 January 2019

5 tips for the perfect pre-spring clean



5 tips for the perfect pre-spring clean
I haven’t yet watched Tidying Up on Netflix but it’s on my list of things to binge. Our house is feeling pretty cluttered at the moment. I spent most of yesterday sorting through my bedroom and getting rid of things I don’t want or need. I gave the playroom the same treatment before Christmas, though it probably needs doing again thanks to Father Christmas.
With a house full of new toys and books, now feels like the perfect time for a pre-spring clean to set the house up for the year ahead — here are five fab tips to get you started.
  1. Cruelty-free hand cream
This time of year is not kind to hands, add in some cleaning products and elbow grease and you have a disaster waiting to happen. Grab some cruelty-free hand cream from natural store Kijani Living — ingredients like lemon, peppermint and cocoa butter will keep your hands supple and smooth while you spring clean.
  1. Green duster
Our house has high-ceilings so a duster is needed to get rid of hard-to-reach cobwebs. Opt for an eco-friendly duster like the ones from Greener Cleaner which are 100 per cent crafted from wood pulp and Eco-Flek.
  1. Gentle furniture polish
Cleaning seems to be on-trend at the moment and I’m sure that the companies who make cleaning products are enjoying booming sales. Worryingly, many cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that you may want to think twice about before using them in your home.
Amazon’s selection of eco-friendly furniture polishes is pretty impressive. Opt for a product with natural scents and oils to reduce its impact on the environment.
  1. Make your own
If you’re hoping to reduce your reliance on plastic this year, you might consider making your own cleaning products. This will save you money, keep your home free from harmful chemicals and reduce your plastic waste. There are plenty of videos and blogs explaining how to make effective cleaning products yourself.
  1. Tough door mats
A practical product to place at your door is a tough yet attractive door mat which will trap external dirt and detritus and protect your carpets from gunk and grime.
Specialist mats from hygiene gurus Kleen-Tex have plenty of options — their classic kleen-scrape model is grease, oil and solvent-resistant, so it’ll cope admirably with fierce family footfall from children, pets and guests.
Can you add any cleaning tips? Please share them in the comments section.

This is a collaborative post.
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Thursday, 17 January 2019

#FamilyHolidays2019 — 5 tips for food, leisure and logistics



#FamilyHolidays2019 — 5 tips for food, leisure and logistics
January is a funny old month, isn’t it? Christmas is over for another year and, with it, all of the stress of buying presents, writing cards, hosting family and drinking your weight in vegan Baileys. The weather isn’t great (though arguably, this year is pretty mild so far) and you’re probably skint.
One guaranteed way to improve your mood is to start planning your summer holiday. Whether you’re heading across the globe to a luxury resort or popping across to France in your caravan, a vegan holiday takes a little bit of forward-planning.
So here are five tips for food, leisure and logistics on your 2019 family break.
  1. Vegan restaurant finder
Some cuisines are more accessible to vegans than others — for instance, India has lots of inspirational plant-based dishes but you might struggle a little more for food options in the Czech Republic.
However, locating vegan restaurants on HappyCow.net takes the stress out of eating on holiday — browse their desktop site or download the app to find your plant-based fix in over 185 nations worldwide. You’ll be able to find not only vegan restaurants but other eateries in the area that serve vegan options.
  1. Vegan passport
The Vegan Passport is a multilingual phrasebook developed by The Vegan Society which provides the phrases for ordering animal-free fare in 78 languages — including Zulu and Igbo as well as Euro favourites French and German.
96 per cent of all global languages are covered and there are handy photo prompts to be double-sure nothing gets lost in translation.
This indispensable travel tool is now available in app form — check vegansociety.com for details.
  1. Vegan airline food
I haven’t flown long-distance since my honeymoon and back then vegan airline food was pretty grim. A lot has changed since then, though, and I am assured by my forever-backpacking sister that airline food is now pretty tasty.
A recent airline food poll by Vegan News found Emirates to be the best airline for vegan meals. With delectable dishes like meat-free lasagna peppered with premium ingredients, this is one carrier that doesn’t make alternative diet options feel like an afterthought. If you want a vegan meal on your flight, don’t forget to book this in advance.
  1. Family airport lounges
Several UK airports offer family lounges with affordable deals if you book ahead of time. And if you want to secure a stress-free start to your trip, these havens of tranquillity just yards from the busy concourse are heaven-sent. Aspire Lounges at  Manchester’s terminals 1-3 welcome kids of age 2 and over. Check online to see if your departure airport offers something similar.
  1. Airport parking
Cruising to the airport in your own car can be conducive to calm when your party includes children at a range of difficult ages — and it’s so convenient hopping back in your ride on the return leg of your trip.
So booking airport parking with Looking4.com helps you bag a bargain on park and ride or valet services and provides peace of mind that your vehicle will be stored safely and securely while you’re away.

This is a collaborative post.

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