Memory Book Linky – School Days edition

Dear L and G

I promised to tell you about school days today, a mixture of mine, Gran’s and Grandad’s. It’s been a lovely Summer, we’ve had so many amazing adventures without feeling we are clinging onto the days before you start school.  G still has another year and L you seem happy to go back into year 1 and to see all your friends. This video shows how I felt last year, silly really, you loved reception L and seemed really happy.

Yesterday, L and I met Grandad at Sudbury Museum of Childhood.  (G I hope you understand, you still have a year where most of the week can be spent with me, and on some solo visits to see Grandad). We played with the marbles and jacks and Grandad told you about how he used to play jacks with bottle tops.

When I was at school we used to play British bulldog, hopscotch, tag, football, pretty similar to what you do.  Except you also seem to get more fun equipment like hula hoops and diablos.

In reception I sat on a table with my best friend Claire and two boys called Benjy and Michael.  We were learning to read using a different system to the rest of the class, the school let parents choose, and mum being a teacher decided she didn’t like the other way. So it often felt like we were quite separate to the others. We had lots of fun on our table though, I remember laughing lots, getting told off for leaning on my chair, for putting things down Benjy’s jumper and shouting across the classroom to Benjy.

I also remember standing in line at the teacher’s desk rolling a red crayon under my shoe. I knew what I was doing was naughty but I didn’t stop because I liked the pattern I made. The teacher didn’t catch me. Once I am absolutely sure the room, and the sky outside went completely black, it’s a vivid memory, I wondered if there was some kind of eclipse, Gran couldn’t remember, maybe it was just a storm. I remember mum’s cartoon drawings in my black PE pumps, to help me tell my left and right.

It’s funny what sticks in your mind, I remember rehearsing for our Postman Pat assembly (he’s still going after all these years), with a cut out Jess and Pat and a postbox, singing the theme tune at the tops of our voices.  I couldn’t sing like you can L, and I remember feeling very sad the day I went to the choir audition.  The teacher made me sing along to some notes on the piano and then told me to go back to the playground. My best friends Laura and Claire got in, so I was always a bit lonely on lunchtimes when it was choir rehearsals.

I remember the dinner lady shouting at me for sitting under a tree in my blue gingham dress and white socks with blue stripes, picking my nose. She told me i was disgusting and made me go inside and wash my hands.  I was so cross with her for shouting I went inside, but I didn’t wash my hands.  I had a rebellious streak from an early age.

My Gran, my mum’s mum, lived near both my primary schools, she used to come and pick me and Uncle A up and take us home for lunch,  if you want to know what she fed us it is all here, in this post. We always got things we weren’t allowed at home.  In year one I remember the teacher telling Gran one day not to worry about bringing me back after lunch, I could stay with Gran. One day that teacher, she had a long black plait, she asked us what our favourite smells were.  We couldn’t think of any.  Then she suggested cakes and cut grass and suddenly my nose was full of amazing smells, and it felt like my mind opened to a brand new way of thinking.

I was good at gymnastics though, and we had an amazing teacher called Mr Harris, I remember him choreographing a routine with lots of us to Sink or Swim by Paul MaCartney, a song that really reminds me of primary school days.

I wrote about some memories of being in The Nutcracker and the day mum sent me to school in navy knickers the day I was wearing my white snowflake costume. That was a disaster, but it wasn’t until my next primary school that I really discovered drama.

My headmaster at my first primary was slightly mad, as all good teachers need to be.  I remember he did an assembly where he showed us his red underpants, something to do with running the marathon, maybe they were actaully jogging bottoms?  I also remember him coming round to Mr Harris’ class with a cane to tell us he could use it if anyone was really naughty. We were terrified.

Mr Harris’s class was class 3 I think, and by that time I was so engrossed in reading and trying to lead the class in the sets of comprehension cards we had to work through that I rarely got told off.  Although Mr Harris did tell me to sit properly once, we were listening to The Iron Man, and I was sat like an 18 year old on a bar stool, I thought I was so cool, Mr Harris was clearly very tired of it though.  But, it was soon forgotten and I loved making junk models of the Iron Man afterwards.

I remember sitting in his class and wishing I didn’t have to go to middle school as it sounded terrifying.  Luckily, my wish came true I left that school after Mr Harris’s class and we moved to Macclesfield where you stayed in primary school until you were 11.

Uncle A and I went back to visit Pirehill Primary school in Stone, when we were 15 and 17, it was funny how small everything felt, especially the toilets. We walked our old walk to school, which I used to do with Gran and Uncle A.  Sometimes Gran would fit us both on her bike, once it snowed and she took us by sledge.  Sometimes an older girl called Tina took me and I had a little orange satchel. I remembered looking down each morning at the cars speeding by beneath me, from the bridge across the A34. The day they made seatbelts in cars compulsory we stood and checked if everyone was wearing them.

You can read some more about Gran’s school days here and I am hoping to add some of Grandad’s, and maybe even Daddy’s too. Oh and add some photos for you! But now you want to go to soft play and we need to get back to the present.

Love Mummy

The last Thursday of the month is the Memory Book linky. July’s theme is school days. You could post a single photo, write about your memories, interview a relative, get a relative to guest post, write it as a letter to your child, include a bit of a diary entry, write a list, make some bullet points, whatever you like. When we’ve collected a few, if you want to join me, we can self publish them into a Memory Book.

Next month the theme is Siblings.

Probably the best kid’s rucksack…

I thought that we didn’t need an extra rucksack, but the Trunki paddlepak is such a brilliant pieces of design, both aesthetically and practically, and my kids really love them. Because of all the features I have highlighted above, my two really enjoyed using and carrying them, they found them comfy and best of all, their stuff stayed safe and dry.

They took them to Camp Bestival, to Lollibop, to the seaside, to the swimming pool, to London, on our camping trip.  Trunki paddlepaks fit in lots of kit so they will grow with them, plus the straps adjust so I could also carry an over-tired child’s paddlepak by both straps very comfortably. The padded straps and back made me realise why my kids never wanted to carry their old rucksacks. There’s also a clever little Trunki grip on the strap to keep sunglasses safe, G used it to keep his bear safe.

Trunki paddlepaks have a big mouth that rolls down and clips, keeping stuff watertight. The safety clip on the straps is secure, but will break away if pulled, so little hands can undo them easily and it doesn’t pose a hazard. Mr G wore his paddlepak very comfortably and I had no concerns about him using it, but I should mention the manufacturer’s recommendation for this product is 6 plus.

A Trunki paddlepak would make a great school or swimming kit bag and they’re perfect for days out when the weather’s dodgy. Capacity is 10 litres.

RRP – £29.99, although I have seen some great offers online.

Paddlepaks provided for review.

Watching the world’s fastest animal

Britain has the most stunning coastline.  Since I was 21 I’ve had this urge to set off and travel round the coastline of the UK.  So far I’ve achieved that mainly by watching BBC2’s Coast, but I am starting to realise I really should get a map and start colouring the bits I’ve already done and working on the ones I haven’t.

Last week we ticked off Bempton Cliffs while we were staying at Sand Le Mere resort in East Yorkshire. It’s an RSPB reserve where you can see the most stunning coastline, get close to the most amazing seabirds, plus it’s really geared up to families, with plenty of opportunities for kids to explore nature.
Regular readers will know I came out of the twitching closet earlier this year, bird watching is an interest I learnt from my parents. Although, just as my kids do from time to time, I probably cut short their ability to watch birds by whining. These days though, the RSPB does lots more to engage little ones in nature.

The coastline, with it’s cliff top viewing points, is fenced-off and a very short walk from the visitor’s centre, so well designed and safe for kids.  The staff at the visitor’s centre were really helpful and loaned the children explorer back packs which they were very excited about.  Inside were binoculars, bug catchers, a magnifying glass, mini beast and bird books and a little brush to help coax insects into the bug catcher.  We coaxed in and observed a pregnant spider:

The maps helped you work out which trail to follow and there were quiz trails with prizes themed on mini beasts and gannets. There were also drawing and make a fat ball activities on site the day we visited. There were lovely reminders around the site of ways to make your stay even more special, like looking for pictures in the clouds or closing your eyes and tuning in to your other senses.  It really is a place to unwind and escape.

Sadly we arrived too late to catch any puffins, but gannets are pretty entertaining, as are Peregrine Falcons who are also hold the title of the world’s fastest animal, reaching an awe inspiring 200mph in their characteristic hunting dives.  The coast line is also absolutely beautiful and to be high on a cliff top, surrounded by clouds, wild flowers, waves and wildlife is magical.

Part of a series of reviews based on a 4 night review trip to Sand Le Mere resort.


Crafty Giveaway Stampin Up CLOSED

I have a lovely bundle of grown up crafty goodies to giveaway from Stampin Up worth £50. Stampin Up make beautiful and affordable stamps and accessories for card making, scrap booking, and other creative ventures. You can see a picture of the lovely paper, stamps, material and ribbon below.

It’s easy to enter, you just need to tell me about your proudest crafty moment, whether it is your most recent project or a creation from your childhood.

My proudest crafty moment

When my nephew was born in June I shared this picture on Instagram of a card I made while my kids were also making cards, nowadays this seems to be the only time I get to be artistically creative.  I didn’t want to send a normal baby card, I started thinking about how babies only see in black and white, and about how obsessed with having a rabbit my brother was when we were little.

My holiday scrapbook

As August tips towards to September my thoughts have been on trying to make the last amazing six weeks stick together some how. We’ve been so busy and it feels like those memories need glueing down.   I’ve been blogging about it lots of course, but sometimes you want something more tactile. Both kids have been busy sticking tickets from Cadbury World, a map from Camp Bestival and Lollibop, Skylanders stickers, sand from Sand le Mere and lots of little photos, into scrapbooks. I’d really like to use my set of Stampin Up paper, fabric, ribbon and floral stamps to create some memories of the Summer too, maybe a framed photo collage, some cards to send to family or a scrapbook. It’s the same set the winner will receive:

CLOSED  – Winner number 19, Congratulations Danielle!

To enter

Tell me about your proudest crafty moment, whether it is your most recent project or a creation from your childhood.

Up to 4 extra entries for each of the following, but please remember to add an extra comment for each one you have done.

    • Subscribe to the Alexander Residence by email
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Terms and Conditions
  • Five entries maximum per person
  • Entrants need to use a separate comment for each entry
  • The winner will be selected at random.
  • The prize will be supplied by the PR company and is non refundable and non exchangeable.
  • No cash alternative will be offered
  • Closing date Midday Wednesday 5th September 2012
  • Winners will be notified by email and have 48 hours to respond, after which time a redraw will take place.
Disclosure – Stampin Up provided me with a kit in return for hosting this competition.

Action Aid Summer Blog Party

I wanted to show you inside the Action Aid Summer Blog Party I went to last week.  It was awesome on so many levels.

Some of the blogger attendees were new to Action Aid, some have built up a relationship at previous visits, some are child sponsors.  We were a mix of activist, food and parent bloggers. It felt like a good time to brainstorm the ways we could help Action Aid as bloggers.  The ideas came thick and fast from everyone, and I will share more in a future blog post. One way I am helping is through Give as you Live, see the button below for more info.

It’s never too late to get involved, we talked lots about having more regular updates and blog prompts as a group of bloggers, and the power of our collective voice on social media, so do make sure @ActionAidUK have your details, or leave me a comment below if you’d like more information. I know lots of people wanted to be there but couldn’t make it over the Summer.

One of the big things the parent bloggers present talked about was getting our children involved.  While we were chatting upstairs, our kids were in the amazing creche at Body and Soul making faces, a giant collage about their local park and writing letters, all to send to children in Myanmar.  It made me realise how easy it is to involve them in charity campaigns, Action Aid first appealed to me because of that very fact. The Action Aid photographer took some lovely shots:

My daughter continues her campaign to secure her pet and my son found lots to tell the children of Myanmar about, some of it fact, some of it fiction.  Joking aside, I was really impressed with what the staff helped them create, these are my snaps:

The day brought home to me what attracted me to Action Aid as a charity in the first place:

What makes Action Aid different

We see poverty as an injustice and poor people as partners in tackling the causes of poverty – ActionAid is the only international aid agency with its headquarters in the developing world.


We never try to impose solutions, but work with communities over many years to strengthen their own efforts to throw off poverty. We constantly ask ourselves how we can make the greatest impact with our resources.

The Action Aid child sponsorship programme in Myanmar was announced. Action Aid ambassador and television producer Alex Graham, came along to talk about his experience in Myanmar, which was Burma and shared his stunning photographs.

Action Aid’s work in Myanmar is really inspiring in that it trains and empowers young people to help facilitate change in their communities. They learn the planning and analytical tools to brainstorm with communities what long term change could look like. It seemed appropriate that we were brainstorming more long term ways to make a difference too.

In a film about his trip to Rwanda Jimi Mistry talked about how Action Aid child sponsorship inspires both his and his daughter’s life.

Lastly, Louise Odquier, Digital Content Producer at Action Aid shared some tips on SEO and Google plus.

>> @babesabouttown

>> @jhowze


Are you joining us?

To find out more about Give as You Live, (it’s like gift aid for shopping and costs you nothing), read this post or click on the button to register for more information.

Proud supporter of Brit Mums for good!

Disclosure –  I am a paid ambassador for Give as You Live

Amazing Spa Day Offer (featuring the Massage Chair Video)

Eden Hall Spa, Nottinghamshire have a fabulous Back to School Spa Day offer for parents in September which I feel it is my duty to tell you about. I also want to show you a pretty funny video of what me and the three other bloggers I went with had to say after our massages (I may regret this).

I think you would struggle to find a spa day, a three course lunch and a treatment for £39, certainly in such luxurious setting. I was invited to test this spa day offer back in July, and I can confirm it represents amazing value for money. Being geared at parents the day is organised around the school day, it starts at 10am and finishes at 3pm.

I’m writing this for the first time in 3 weeks with no children around.  It’s so quiet here, my mind is able to find it’s own thoughts once more.  I can feel the knots in my shoulders from carrying a tired and sticky 3 year old on my shoulder across fields, through cities and down the windy road to the sea.  Just thinking of the non-stop demands for ice cream, entertainment and permission to stay up late makes my temples seize up.  My back holds the memory of bending over to constantly scoop up half finished games, snacks and drawings. I keep promising myself, when this holiday comes to an end, that I will pay some attention to myself.

I keep dreaming of the day I spent at Eden Hall spa.  Their motto is what a difference a day makes, and it is so true.  Hot tubs in the sun, scooping warm water in my hands in the outdoor pool, giggling and gossiping with friends, testing out the steam and sauna rooms, lounging in a fluffy white robe in a sun drenched conservatory eating exotic fruit, snoozing on a bean bag in an Arabian themed chill out room, being gently pummelled by the revolutionary massage chair, eating the most amazing food.

I felt very at home and it was less stuffy and health farm like than other spas I have visited whilst being modern, relaxed and luxurious.  It has been shortlisted recently in the Good Spa Awards, from 800 UK spas. The facilities and catering are superb. I had new potato, asparagus, feta and egg salad to start, followed by tagliatelle with slow roasted tomatoes and sundried pesto accompanied by free choice from the amazing salad bar, and Vanilla Creme Brulee with gingerbread and roasted rhubard for pud.

I went with Becky from Baby Budgeting, Amanda from The Ana Mum Diary and Jen from Love Chic Living.  It was so lovely to be able to chat all day.  I had to capture everyone’s responses the the Revolutionary Massage chair on video (which are I warn you are hilarious).

I thought the revolutionary massage chair was a brilliant concept as it is like having a full massage but in 15 minutes which is great if like me you’re a) rubbish at lying still for an hour b) would rather be chatting with your mates in the hot tub c) have a body full of knots. Plus with the package being a slightly shorter day it really makes sense to have an intensive, time efficient treatment.

If you have some spare cash after the holidays, a day spare and maybe a friend or two you need to catch up with, then do go for this.  But persuade someone to take the kids off your hands when you return, or prepare them some sandwiches and a DVD for your return, I was so relaxed I couldn’t leave the sofa.

Be quick though, the Back to School Spa Day offer is for September only. Do look out for Cleo Lacy’s Image Consultancy workshops at Eden Hall, we met on the day and have chatted on Twitter and she is one stylish and lovely lady.

Disclosure – thanks to Eden Hall for our day and to my Dad for having the kids.

Skylanders Giants are coming

We were really lucky to be among the first in the world to play the new Skylanders Giants on the first leg of the European tour, in Birmingham.  Well, I say we, the honour was bestowed on Mr A. Having worked in the video games industry all his working life we thought it was only fair. He’s been gently introducing our kids to Skylanders and they have really captured their imaginations.  They like the crossover between toys they can hold and interact with, and the characters’ adventures on screen. They loved watching Daddy take on Tree Rex. Continue reading

Why Lollibop rocked in 2012, why we’re heading back in 2013 – Review

This week excitement is mounting as we plan for our trip to Lollibop on Friday. Lollipbop is the big bash for little people, a day festival for under 10s, in London. You can buy a day ticket for Friday 16th, Saturday 17th or Sunday 18th August. I’m excited to see the new site at Olympic Park and to see some old favourites and new surprises. Ticket and line up info here.

Here’s my review from last year, if you’re still making your mind up! The big thing mine are looking forward to is Dick and Dom as we somehow missed them at Camp Bestival. Continue reading

How to save time online.

If like me, the Summer holidays are taking their toll on your sanity/home/time then I may have just the thing for you.  Last night, as part of the Save Time Online challenge British Gas have set me, I finally tracked down and interviewed Mid 30s Life over Skype (one of the many new things she’s doing online).  You may remember before I went to Camp Bestival I challenged her to see if she could save time, money and hassle by doing more jobs online. I was pretty impressed by her week!

I even recorded our call for you dear reader/listener, tips and all. My first radio show. Like Women’s Hour, but not:

You can read Mid 30s Life’s diary of her online efficient week over on her blog.

British Gas have also launched an app to help British Gas customers manage their bills online.

My tip would be don’t forget to Give as You Live, an app which as you shop online, prompts you to give to charity at no cost to you. It’s like gift aid for online shopping. You can even Give as You Live as you pay your British Gas bill.

Proud supporter of Brit Mums for good!


Have you got any great ways to save time, money and hassle online?

This post and Mid 30s iPad were sponsored by British Gas.

Proper British Beach fun at Sand Le Mere

I turned the page of Maggie Farrell’s The Hand that First Held Mine. It was the first novel I had read in sometime, and it was unputdownable. Reading it was made all the more special by the sound of waves and the seagulls. Suddenly my concentration was interrupted by voices to my right, speaking in hushed tones. Continue reading

A Residence at Sand le Mere

Have you ever holidayed in a static caravan?  I haven’t since I was about the same age as my kids are now, but it’s been a little dream to.  Ideally we’d like a tipi,  a VW Camper for festivals, a touring caravan for exploring and a static tucked away by the sea to retreat to, then all our camping fantasies would be ticked off. There’s something magical about kids and caravans, they love them. Continue reading