Introducing Ms Scoobill Swift Freestyle

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There was an argument in the car over whether to call her Scooby or Bill. So I think we decided on Scoobill. I don’t care if caravans are cool or not, I’m not afraid to admit it, she’s a very important member of the family.

She’s good to go again. After a morning of scrubbing off leaves and dirt and sweeping away the remains of a feast some little mice had in the front storage area. She’s shiny and ready for us to retreat to. Wish the same could be said for the house.

We’re joining the Camping and Caravan Club for our first trip this year. They have some amazing camp sites in great locations, from club sites with a guaranteed standard of excellent facilities, to certified locations away from it all, to forest campsites and sites abroad.

I can’t wait for rain on the caravan roof (okay, well maybe not this weekend), being snuggled up with my family, BBQs, adventures, wine, my tartan blanket, sunshine, walks, nature and the kids roaming free.

How to work with Bloggers

Lots of companies are keen to find out more about working with bloggers. This month found me consulting with the marketing departments of three Nottingham companies: Nottingham Playhouse, John Lewis and Hillarys Blinds. We talked about how bloggers and brands can work together successfully. It has been a varied month to say the least.

Here are fellow Notts bloggers, Jen from Love Chic Living and Amanda from The Ana Mum Diary finding out more about the Hillarys range. I was really impressed by the selection of bold and unusual fabrics when we met Hillarys at the Ideal Home Show, it was interesting to see the blinds being made up in the factory and to learn more about the inspiration from the designers

We had a lovely lunch after, in a Nottinghamshire country pub I liked so much, I convinced Mr A to take me back there for my birthday last week.

if you haven’t seen it already, here is my video tour of Nottingham Playhouse and my verdict on the new John Lewis beauty department. Here’s more about hiring me.

1234 I declare Vacuum wars

No I’m not giving up vacuuming in protest, I did that already.  No one noticed.

No, I am talking about which vacuum cleaners come out tops. I will be using highly technical words like suction…and nozzles.  I recently tested a Panasonic upright after being a pretty loyal cylinder user. I had no idea of the differences, but now I have tried both I thought I would share my findings.

The Panasonic Eco-Max Light

Advantages

  • very lightweight
  • puts less strain on the body
  • rotates on its head, further round than the competition to take you round corners and into tight spaces quickly.
  • flattens further than the competition, almost horizontal,  e.g. to easily get under beds, tables
  • eco friendly – uses less electricity but still very powerful
  • nozzle pulls out instantly, with one hand, from main unit  – makes getting into nooks and crannies less hassle
  • doesn’t need hoover bags
  • the filter can be washed monthly, rather than replaced
  • very compact for storage
  • clearly beat it’s upright rival hands down in speed and effectiveness of vacuuming in the test I witnessed. Here’s the video evidence, bring out the Alpaca hair!:

I would say this is a great vacuum for those who live in smaller homes, for those who vacuum regularly and so can be organised about emptying it regularly and washing the filter. (Otherwise you end up waiting 24 hours for it to dry). It does get round corners brilliantly.
Having the nozzle as the handle is really handy, it makes a quick vacuum AND getting to the edges easy (normally I have to FORCE myself to go back and change the adaptor to do the edges, but this was a pleasure). It also has a mattress and special blind adapter.
I won’t lie, we live in a big and shabby old house that we don’t vacuum enough, we don’t have a cleaning routine as such, and Mr A is allergic to house dust (go figure) so this vacuum probably isn’t our ideal match.
While being able to take apart and clean your vacuum easily is great for some, ideally, due to allergies and laziness, we need a vacuum with bags, that needs as little maintenance as possible from us, with a button that automatically rewinds the cable. It did seem more high maintenance than our current vacuum, but maybe that is just a case of getting used to it.
Admittedly we tested this vacuum the weekend we decided to rearrange 5 rooms in the house and on the bean bag beans Miss L decided to spread across her floor, so it a) took a beating and b) needed emptying more than usual.
I would also like to see one more nozzle, a stiff brush for getting into the gap between the carpet and the skirting. While our cylinder vacuum is definitely more cumbersome to manoeuvre, it has more suction when using the small nozzle adaptors and the perfect brush for Victorian skirting boards.
But that’s us, and I think in the right house this could be a very nifty little mover.

Disclosure – I have been part of the above blogger programme and spent a day at Panasonic HQ testing equipment. I was given a vacuum to test at home.

Nottingham Playhouse – backstage video tour

We were really excited to be invited to take a backstage tour of Nottingham Playhouse. Having studied Drama I was excited to see the set up, but for L and G and all many of the other children there, it was their very first glimpse back stage. I did wonder if going backstage would spoil the magic, but quite the opposite, I think it added to the buzz we all felt that evening!

The Playhouse is celebrating its 50th year this year, it is a producing house, meaning that it makes lots of it’s own theatre rather than just taking touring shows. It was fascinating to go backstage and see where it all happens, stage, props, set and costumes. We even managed to say a quick hello to some of the cast and crew involved in Grandpa in my Pocket.

I took my video camera so you can sneak a look too….

Grandpa in My Pocket is at Nottingham Playhouse until 31st May 2013, then touring the UK via Swindon,  Crewe, Wolverhampton, Croydon, Cardiff, Cornwall, Hastings, Bradford,
Dartford, Exeter, Oxford, Wycombe, Rhyl, Richmond, Brighton!

For more tour info check here.

This is a really bright, sunny adaptation, guaranteed to lift your mood in a wet half term. It has a very strong cast, beautiful set, bold lighting, colourful costume, moving and magical puppetry and a playful approach to storytelling. It also had a pirate theme which always goes down well in our house.

 

Guest Post: How to help the kids with their homework

keep-calm-and-do-your-homeworkIt has been something parents have done for a long time: helping kids to revise or testing them for their homework. While you can still do this, technology can help as well. With wireless broadband offered by Virgin Media, so many tools are at your child’s fingertips.

Online references

It used to be that the only way to look something up was to dig out the old dictionary or encyclopaedia and turn to the right page. Now, however, a quick search online will usually find exactly the information you are after. On the internet there are reference websites and pages full of information on almost every topic.

These can be really useful to help your child do their homework. Of course, the internet will not be able to do the writing or studying but it provides the tools needed to complete many homework tasks.

Computer programs

Computers used to be nowhere near the classroom. However, in the last few years they are an increasing presence to help children learn. That means word processing, design and mathematics programs are all used in the classroom and as such will be very useful to your kid if they have the same power available at home. So by equipping your home computer or laptop with programs that the kids use at school you can help them get ahead.

Connect with school and friends

Doing homework doesn’t always have to mean your child should be shut in a quiet room until they have completed their essay. In fact, connecting with the school’s resource system and brainstorming with friends can really help improve grades. Most schools have an online system for the students to connect, which will provide advice and tips as well as reminders of deadlines. Providing your child with access to the internet so they can take advantage of this is a big step towards their successful learning.

Revision tools

Exams can be tricky; even for children who are naturally calm in the situation. There is not much you can do as a parent to help here but you can prepare them as well as possible ahead of the event. There are many revision tools that come loaded with information and CDs that are designed to work alongside revision books. An hour or two a day in the build-up to an exam could be the difference between a low grade and a high one.

Comissioned guest post

Guest Post: Children and Injury Claims: What Parents Need To Know

Any accident that involves a family member is something that everybody dreads, but when
it involves a child it is something that can be even more stressful and upsetting. As a parent, it is an absolute duty to make sure that your children are as safe as possible
at all times, and this includes taking all the available measures that you can to protect
them from potential accidents.
Sadly, it is not possible to wrap your kids in cotton wool or even keep an eye on them at every moment, so it is inevitable that some parents experience the unhappiness of finding out their child has been involved in an accident. Of course most accidents can be relatively harmless things and not cause any lasting illness or injury, but anything that does happen and that is not the fault of the child may mean that there is a basis for a compensation claim.

Responsibility

When you child is under the care of someone else, for instance whilst at school, or for
infants, perhaps in a playgroup or nursery, there is a duty of care that the professional in charge will have. When you entrust your child to the care of someone else, it has to be done in the full knowledge that they will do their utmost to look after them in the same way that you yourself would. If there is a dereliction in their care, which subsequently leads to an accident of some kind, this can be a very serious matter.
Events that happen in childhood can leave lasting impressions and sometimes result in fears and phobias that affect adult life in negative ways.

Claims

Depending on the age of the child, it can be a distressing and drawn-out process for a parent to get to the bottom of exactly what happened in an accident situation. This means that sometimes it might be difficult to ascertain where the blame lies, especially if the situation involves an adult who denies any responsibility.

Any legal situation involving children needs to be handled delicately and sensitively, which is why talking to a reputable professional claims firm is essential. The staff at www.injurylawyers4u.co.uk have a great deal of experience in dealing with every possible
kind of accident and injury claim on behalf of people of all ages.
By discussing the situation with a specialised claims professional, you can find out exactly where you stand in terms of going forward with a claim and what the possible outcomes
could be regarding the well-being of your child.
Comissioned guest post

Grandpa in my Pocket, Nottingham Playhouse.

Grandpa in My Pocket was produced here in Nottingham and tours the UK. So what did the audience make of it?

Grandpa in My Pocket is at Nottingham Playhouse until 31st May 2013, then touring the UK via Swindon,  Crewe, Wolverhampton, Croydon, Cardiff, Cornwall, Hastings, Bradford,
Dartford, Exeter, Oxford, Wycombe, Rhyl, Richmond, Brighton!

For more tour info check here

Cheers to being 36

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So far I have had tea…but Pizza Express offered me free Prosecco later!

Thanks for the lovely wishes.

It has been a mad year in which I…

Nearly moved.
Nearly sold the house.
Fell in love with the house again.
Fell in love with Nottingham.

Struggled with Mr A working away from home for 8 months.
Fell in love with Mr A being home again.

Dealt with some lingering bits of bereavement and stress.
Realised losing my temper daily with my kids wasn’t normal.
Got better.
Fell in love with my kids again.

Went to Ghana with Comic Relief.
Fell in love with the power of blogging and the blogging community, and travelling.

Opened lots of new doors through blogging.

Cemented some wonderful new friendships.
Rekindled some friendships I’d been too frazzled to tend to.
Fell in love with how lucky I am to have so many amazing friends.

Rejigged my blog.
Fell in love with it again.

Lots to love, and lots to be happy about.
Fell in love with the idea that happiness is this end of the rainbow.

Two little Vikings went out hiking…

An utterly magical day out at Sherwood Pines, Nottingham’s Forestry Commission site, with the Vikings and Saxons of the Regia Anglorum who create living history encampments around the UK and Conroi de Vey the Nottingham branch of Regia Anglorum.

I’ve seen a few living history groups in action, but I have never seen one get children so involved, or be so keen, not just to re-enact fights, but to talk about everything from food, to medicine, to coins, to needles, to burials. In fact while the battle was taking place, my two were busy learning how to make bread and grilling those left in camp for clues as to the missing silver cup.

All children got a sheet with details of the crime and suspects and were encouraged to quiz the camp residents. It was great fun and really helped to get everyone talking and learning quite effortlessly.

Of course the forest is a perfect setting, given that a Viking roadway, or the’ Dark Age M1′ was recently discovered in Nottingham forest. I thought it was a really moving reminder of the history of our land, the narration that accompanied the battle really drew this out.

I was torn away by the kids to the walkways in the forest to play in, the den building area and the cafe. I will have to go back for a quiet contemplation of the Saxons and Vikings part in history. I love forests!

I am joining the Where I Live linky over at The American Resident, click the button to travel there!

The American Resident

First Guitar: Herald Classic Acoustic Guitar

Maplins sent us a Herald Classic Acoustic Guitar to review. Despite many years of piano lessons I am just not very musical, so I asked Mr A to test it out. Long ago he played bass in a band, they played lots of funk and Chillis covers. He still has a collection of electric guitars, but has been saying for a while an acoustic one would be great.

Being a guitar snob Mr A did say he would probably try and pay a little bit more for a first guitar, when buying a guitar spending more can make it easier to play, and the sound much better. However, this one is very reasonably priced at £54.99, and for the price Mr A felt the sound was good, it was easy to tune and pretty easy to play. Plus kids are fickle, I know I was, so this could be a good way to test the waters without breaking the bank.

It comes with a case, instruction DVD, tuning pipes and spare guitar strings.

It is great to have in the house, Mr A has been picking it up to play for the kids and Mr G especially has been racing round doing rock star impressions. So perhaps from our point of view we should probably of gone for a 3/4 one, which Maplins also stock. These are a real bargain at £39.99, I’d be tempted to buy one as a toy, instead of those noisy plastic light up battery powered ones, and throw in some lessons as they get older.

Look, he even managed to tempt a reluctant Miss L to play.

New Beauty Department opening at John Lewis Nottingham

Beauty Departments can be so intimidating right?

John Lewis just opened a new beauty department which I think has gone a long way to changing that.  The space feels lighter, the displays are more tactile and, well rounded.  It is a space that makes you want to float round, instead of fearing what might lurk round the corner. The counters are much more open plan and display orientated, making it easier for you to try products and for staff to come out front and mingle in a relaxed manner with customers.

My favourite additions are the Bobbi Brown and Benefit counters. Continue reading