On yer bike – the cycle computer

cycle computer and cycling

Bike illustration by Nyoin on Flickr

Three hours at Centre Parcs

Last night we had a three hour break at Centre Parcs, it was the perfect place to test our cycle computer, from Maplins. I know a three hour break sounds silly, but my sister and mother in law, nieces and nephews were staying at the one in Nottingham so we joined them for a few hours. Hearing my sister in law raving about how wonderful it was to get all of her four kids on bikes reminded me all ours need fixing. And that I need to dedicate some more time to getting L and G riding theirs. Continue reading

Four ways to reward yourself after a hard week

Since I had kids Fridays haven’t really had the same winding down ritualistic appeal. More a case of crashing in a heap on the sofa after a gin and tonic, than going out on the town. I loved the tips in this guest post I think it is really important to mark the end of the week and wind down.

We all deserve a break after working hard all week and there is no shortage of ways to achieve this. Whether you like indulgent baths or a little bit of beautification; planning how to unwind after a difficult week can give you something luxurious to look forward to while you count down the hours to Friday. Continue reading

The Magical Fun of Britain’s Waterways

Today’s guest post by Andrew Tipp has reminded me I still need to tick of a canal boat holiday from my list and removed some of the obstacles.

It’s easy to avoid getting into things because they feel like they ‘belong’ to other people. I’ve always been interested in skiing, edgy theatre and amazing bands from the 70s, but sometimes it feels like they belong to a different social class, cultural group or another generation. It can be hard to get past that and simply enjoy the thing you’re interested in.

I felt that same way about boating, and the waterways of the British countryside. From the people you see moored up and the range of canal boat magazines on offer, it feels like boating isn’t just an activity or even a hobby; for a lot of people, it’s a lifestyle. People spend tens of thousands of pounds on their boats and countless hours out on the canals. It’s pretty intimidating. Continue reading

My journey home from Britmums: The Andy and Julian Commercial Break

Forgive me, I’m starting my reflections on Britmums Live blogging conference, where I met so many amazing women and bloggers, with a post about two men who don’t blog. Having also presented my thoughts on the decline of conventional advertising and the rise of the blog ambassador at said conference, please also forgive me handing that role over to two random blokes I met on the train.

But it has become tradition for me to meet some interesting characters on the way home from Britmums. Last year’s bizarre journey involved nail varnish remover, winning the lottery, the whole carriage and Merlot. This year’s tale is equally entertaining.

Julian and Andy had been out for some drinks in London. They apologised for sitting with me and proceeded to tell me about their family, friends and lives all the way home to Nottingham. Fortunately they were entertaining.  I thought admitting to being a blogger might kill the conversation, but they wanted to know all about it. Having been told at the You Tube session at Britmums, that collaborating is the way forward, I agreed to let them review my goody bag. I hope you like it HIT biscuits!

I shared the Fox’s Hazelnut half moon biscuits with my table companions and a family across the carriage. All of us really liked them, there were none left. They also make great smiles, horns, fangs but rubbish boomerangs.

Here’s what they had to say about Soda Stream:

Andy has been to Orlando and says it is ‘great’. Unfortunately the Plum Baby advert needs some refining so I can’t share it here, but it did have me in stitches.

It’s amazing what you find in the garden #KidsGrowWild

Blooming achievement alert! I have greenfingers!

Digging a veg patch was somehting I talked about a lot, then one day it happened. It was in many ways significant. It was me joining a male line of very greenfingered gardeners, Grandad, Dad, my brother. It was about me shouting ‘go away’ in the face of the hideous bouts of procrastination which seem to have descended on me of late. It was about getting outside as much as possible and giving my kids a natural childhood.
Continue reading

What we’re looking forward to at Camp Bestival 2013, comic book style

Excitement is mounting in the Alexander Residence. Last year was our first year, we fell in love with Camp Bestival and vowed we’d go every year, until the kids disown us. We’ve been invited back and we just can’t wait to experience the amazing family adventure that is CAMP BESTIVAL once more.

It was such amazing fun last year, with so much to do that the line up didn’t really matter, but we were all secretly bowled over by something in the Camp Bestival 2013 line up, as you can see. It’s a festival that caters beautifully for adults and grown ups.

If you’re looking for a run down on the festival, I’ve tried to answer most of the big questions about Camp Bestival I had in this review post. I made a Camp Bestival video here. There’s the Camp Bestival 2013 line up and here in Howard Marks style. My essential family festival packing list and some kit reviews are coming soon!

Find out more on the Camp Bestival 2013 website. August 1,2,3,4 Lulworth Castle, Dorset.

Learning a language with la familia

What’s Spanish for apple juice Mummy?

Overheard at our house: When can we go back to Spain Mummy?

Alexander Residence blog was born on a sun lounger in Spain in 2010. I’ve come a long way form my rambling diary entries about the art of holidaying with small children and it ‘taking a long time to get to Spain Mummy‘. But that holiday is still very precious to us all. Today’s commissioned guest post is full of reasons to learn Spanish as a family:

The plan to learn another language frequently features on people’s to do lists, especially as new forms of communication make the world feel even smaller, and the economic climate forces people to go that extra mile to get jobs. Sure, we all took French in school, or dabbled in German but can you really count that when you don’t even remember the words for ‘good morning’? Continue reading

My ten great reasons to snack on almonds #snackhappy

I was challenged to snack on almonds, by California Almonds, for 21 days, to see if almonds could make me happier and healthier. I got a very cute little tin and 21 days worth of almonds, which is roughly 23 almonds or 30g per day.

It’s been a really good experiment, I couldn’t find anything negative to say. Here’s why I am converted: Continue reading

Britmums – reflecting on 3 years of blogging friendships

June 2013: Never ever underestimate the power of friends made online, here’s why.

For some silly reason I forgot to post this last year, so here is my account of Britmums 2012. It’s amazing looking back, I can see how over 3 years of blogging I have cemented some wonderful friendships. When I started I had no idea where blogging would take me, it was nerve wracking meeting new people and sometimes, as we all do, I felt very out of my depth.

But…lots of the people I mentioned here went on to play a huge part of my life over the last year. I went to Ghana with Mummy Barrow and Mammasaurus, climbed Snowdon with Gemma, Kate and Mari, camped and festivaled with Gemma, hung out locally with Amanda. I launched a business, Mothers and Shakers with Jacqui, Uju, Laura and Vicki. I saw lots more of Mari and Ruth at Panasonic as an ambassador:

June 2012: Lots has changed since this time last year when I went to Cybermummy conference, my blog was 8 months old then, it was all daunting.  It’s still daunting now, but one year on and I have cemented some really special friendships and had lots more opportunities to put names to faces. The more you cross paths offline the stronger those friendships become. I’ve been trying to explain to people who don’t blog how real those friendships are.

First class travel from Nottingham to London with Amanda of Ana Mum Diary, if you haven’t met the bloggers who live nearby to you, do it, it’s changed my whole perception of blogging.

Amanda, aka @gidders1

Reuniting with Kate Takes 5 after a year, sharing a hotel room for 2 nights this year meant we properly caught up on the last year, in general and not just blogging terms.

Me and Kate

Seeing This Mid 30s Life before she heads back to Oz, we sat together in e Books and cheered each other on with our literary ambitions, through the medium of Doodles.

Mid 30s Life is so inspiring, she’s like my guru

Being a butterfly, although next year I think we need LOTS more of us.  Realising through the Keynotes and by seeing her in action, what an awesome lady Alex from Doing it all for Aleyna who organised the whole concept is  (Alex where has your site gone!)  Getting to know (and laugh lots) with Claire from Seasider in the City.  Talking non stop by the tea and cake with Gemma and lots of new and old faces who popped by to see how the butterflies were doing. Like Hayley from Downs Side Up who got a standing ovation reading an amazing post on Down’s Syndrome.

Hanging out and giggling with Leslie Sinoway, the PR person responsible for blogger outreach at Action Aid, a charity Gemma and I have chosen to work with as bloggers.  Lots of people talked to Leslie about the Action Aid Blogger Party on Wednesday 15th August.

Me, Leslie and Gemma

Peggy, from The real life of a Narrowboat Wife always makes me smile and is always full of brilliant ideas for things I should be doing with my blog. I also smiled when I heard Rachel from Right from the Start ask a question in the Getting Published session, it was great to catch up in the bar after and to meet Jane from Practically Perfect Mums. I also got to meet Keith, Reluctant Housedad, it was great to see the Dad bloggers being such a force.

Keith Reluctant Housedad

Rachel from Right from the Start

Jane from Practically Perfect Mums

There were men in pants handing out fizz. I can’t get on my soap box for laughing here, sorry. Mr A attends enough games industry, motor sport and gadget conferences with scantily clad women roaming around. It’s about time we had a female gaze, although to be fair I was too busy chatting to all the amazing women in the room to spare a gaze for the waiters.

Winning the Brilliance in Blogging Award for Vlogging meant I got to meet a former Blue Peter presenter. Katy was lovely and really injected energy and humour into the award ceremony.

Helping out on the Give as You Live stand and attending the greater good session reminded me bloggers have such power to work together to make stuff happen.  Annie, Mamasaurus’s words stuck with me, by being generous in our RTing and sharing of other’s posts, we can spread messages. Give as you Live is such clever concept, and I hope if I persuaded press ganged you to sign up, you’ll take the next step and start shopping with it. Mari, Tanya and Kate the other ambassadors feel like old friends now.

Laughing with Uju from Babes about Town as she propped up the juice bar, seriously she needs Juicers Anonymous.  Meeting Laura from London Baby at long last, who is hilarious. Reuniting with conference buddy and ray of sunshine Jacqui from Mummy’s Little Monkey. Saying a few more shy hellos to Peggy from Perfectly Happy Mum. Talking video and more with fellow vloggers and all round lovely people Geek Mummy, and Juggle Mum. Catching up with Honest Mum Vicki as she raced round making the Britmums film.

Listening to Sarah Brown, who always gets what it means to be a mother and a blogger, spot on for me.

You will never please everyone, and shouldn’t try to,  but I felt Britmums worked so hard to build on suggestions from last year. What the conference was about for me was finding your voice, finding inspiration and finding your mates.  Which is why I would happily pay £39.99 for next year, without seeing the schedule, to go and do it all over again.  Even if it did take me a week to psyche up, and a week to recover.

I finished with a Greek feast with Peggy, Kate and Cari from The Secret Diary of a Secret diary.  

I have by no means mentioned everyone, and for that I am very sorry. Thank you to Little Magic Beans and Kate from Wit Wit Woo for the smiles when I was flagging!

Two tales of Legoland…30 years and 30 minutes #maddayout

That’s my Dad in Miniland at Legoland Windsor, Father’s Day 2013.

That’s my Dad in Miniland, Denmark c1984.

My photography skills improved a little, or maybe it’s just technology.

It meant a lot to take my Dad to Legoland, nearly 30 years on. To take my kids, just a little bit younger than I was when I went. To take a glimpse into my own childhood, to remember and be reminded how it felt to be a child and to see being a parent in a whole new light.  Continue reading

Summer Dresses – Which do you like best?

I think I did rather well for £91. I needed a dress for a wedding in London, a Cornish camping wedding, and for Summer in general. Zalando is a great place to hunt down a specific style of dress, there’s a huge choice so it makes it easy to track down styles and colours that suit you and your budget.

1. Warehouse Chevron Maxi Dress £45

2. Anna Field red Summer Dress £17

3. Vera Moda Grey Summer Dress with yellow spots £29 Continue reading

Overcoming networking nerves: be a happy social butterfly at Britmums Live

Apologies to those of my readers who aren’t heading to Britmums Blogging conference this weekend, and to those who aren’t bloggers. But, I think this post is relevant to any big social event where you might have to network with people you’ve only previously met online.

So many awkward moments arise at conferences which with a teeny bit of pre planning can be avoided. Conversations get off on the wrong foot because someone mistakes you for someone else, seems aloof or doesn’t recognise you. Generally it is because A) people look nothing like their avatars or B) people aren’t always as confident offline as they are online. We’re all human! Continue reading