Filling up that cup

As the saying goes,

“You cannot pour from an empty cup”

And my cup is feeling pretty empty.  My cup of patience at any rate.

Last night I shared this post on my instagram:

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Eurocamp Accommodation – Espace (3 Bedroom)

We spent May half term in a 3 bed, 2 bath Eurocamp Espace at Chateau de Lez Eaux in Normandy, France.

Having not done a Eurocamp holiday myself since I was about 7 but with the ringing endorsements of family, friends and fellow bloggers, we were excited to see what Eurocamp had to offer us.  As a family of five, we often find ourselves gravitating towards self-catering holidays mainly due to the flexibility the separate bedrooms offer us as well as space for us grown ups to relax once the children have gone to bed.  Standard family hotel rooms don’t often cater for more than four people.

I’m going to be honest and say that our first impressions of our Eurocamp Espace were not great – it felt dark and cramped compared to the pictures I’d seen online and, with it being the start of the season, it smelt a bit musty.  I was also disappointed to see how shaded our Espace was by the surrounding trees, I felt like we were going to be missing out on what little sun was available to us!  However, the following morning, when I’d had a good night’s sleep and was in a better frame of mind, I felt much happier with our little holiday home.  This isn’t a fancy hotel, you are camping!  I started to see our Espace for what it was – sheer luxury in comparison to a tent.  It is, of course, all about your mindset.  The musty smell faded over the course of the week thanks to the air freshener we invested in at the local supermarket and us keeping the windows open as much as possible to air the property.  And, whilst I have been in other mobile homes of similar size with a better layout, the Espace suited our needs perfectly.

Eurocamp Espace review

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Learning Financial Lessons

At 38 years old, I feel like I’ve finally got a grip of my finances.  Dave and I budget religiously – we do a long term plan at the start of each year and then edit this ahead of each month according to what money we know we’ve got coming in and our commitments.  Dave has worked for the same company since he was 16 and earns a regular salary each month with the potential for a bonus each summer.  As I am self-employed, my income is more sporadic – we can have weeks where all the invoices seem to coming in at once and then other times where it feels like I’ve not been paid in ages.  Keeping a close eye on our budget and planning months in advance means we avoid the temptation to splurge when I get a big pay day.  (That said, we do try to assign the larger payments to specific things like a new dining room window, or finally getting our back garden sorted – both of these are things I’m hoping will happen in the next month or two).

It has taken both of us a really long time, some harsh lessons and significant support from my parents, to learn how to manage our money properly and feel like we know where we are at with everything.  With hindsight I guess that yes, there are things I might have done differently, but ultimately the way I’ve lived my life until now and the lessons I’ve learned as a result have brought me to this place and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

cash money - learning financial lessons Read More »

Siblings – June 2018

Unusually it actually feels like a really long time since I wrote my last Siblings post, I think probably by virtue of having been on holiday to France!

Our little gang were absolute heroes on our holiday to France – taking the long car journeys in their stride!  I had fully expected that there might be some bickering but they just got on with it – they chatted, snoozed, played on their tablets and occasionally moaned that they needed a wee or to stretch their legs but my nerves were unnecessary.

Whilst we were away they just got on really well, yes they annoyed each other a bit but mostly they loved being in each other’s company.

In true sibling style, Amy managed to give Ben an impressive black eye on our very first night by leaping into the pool at him and catching his face with her chin!  It was an absolute corker but I think she was more upset than he was in the end!

Since we’ve got home, the usual bickering and frustrations have settled in and the volume level in our house is often to be found set to “ridiculous”.  The irony of me shouting at the kids not to shout at each other isn’t lost on me.

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Fantasie Lingerie – The best bras for big boobs?

From my very first bra, I was always an M&S girl – getting regularly measured and fitted to ensure I was getting the right shape and support for my increasingly ample chest.  In my early to mid twenties I had a lovely pair of fairly full and perky 36DD breasts however, three breast fed babies down the line, with my forties staring my in the face, my boobs are not what they were – yes they’re still big but now they hang low, they lack any volume or fullness so in the wrong bra they just look sad.  This is unflattering, uncomfortable and just now how I want my boobs to be!  The beautiful balcony bras I used to love no longer fit properly – my boobs now tend to just sit in them, looking flat, rather than feeling shapely and supported.

In recent years, I have found my bra choices in M&S becoming increasingly limited – I know that a “full cup” style suits me best but all too often these are designed for older customers and just leave me feeling frumpy.  A couple of years ago, Mum bought me a gift voucher for Bravissimo for Christmas – somewhere I had always avoided shopping as I didn’t think my chest was “that big” and I had this misconception that Bravissimo was really expensive.  In reality I think that yes, Bravissimo do sell bras that are a little more expensive than M&S but they’re not ridiculous, and certainly not as expensive as I had thought they would be.  Regardless of cost, when I got my first bras from Bravissmo, friends actually commented on the difference proving that a correctly fitting, supportive bra can be a complete game changer.  I felt like I had my boobs back!

Through a mixture of trial and error and with the help of a great fitting at Bravissmo, I’ve learned that I suit a full cup style with side support which pushes up and forward to encourage the natural rounded shape that I miss.  Unfortunately a full cup isn’t seen as being the most youthful of styles and as such the colours and fabrics are not as modern as I would like – on my last trip to Bravissmo I found the full cup bras available in my size were really old-fashioned and matronly.  I actually ended up just buying the same bra as the one I was wearing and left feeling thoroughly frustrated that whilst I did have a lovely bra that fitted and supported my boobs – I just didn’t seem to have any choice in buying pretty patterns and colours.  I shouldn’t have to be stuck with boring old lady bras just because I wear a 40F! Read More »

Tried & Tested Tuesday (Week 21 – 2018)

#TriedTested badge

How was half term for you? You might have seen on my social media that we were off gallivanting in France which was just lovely!

In case you are new here – let us tell you what Tried & Tested is all about. We all know how useful reviews can be. Most bloggers do them – be it things they have bought themselves or have been asked to review. They are a useful tool for people looking for honest and thorough reviews of products they need, things they are considering buying, or even to introduce people to exciting new products they have never even heard of. You can find out more about how to join in here.

If you have linked up with us before – welcome back! We love having you. Please have a quick read through the points below to remind yourself how things are working:

* Tried & Tested is open on Tuesday – from 8am to midnight on the same day.

* We’d love to share your post on Twitter – please tweet us your link (@Lollinski & @FamilyFever) along with the #TriedTested hashtag and we’ll retweet that for you.

* If you’d like a Twitter reminder each week when the linky is open then please drop Kate a tweet and she’ll add you to the list.

* Each week we feature our two favourite reviews from the past week and we have a super special “featured blogger” badge! If you are this week’s featured blogger we will send you over the code which we would love you to add to you blog post or sidebar!

That’s about it – it’s super simple to join in, so crack on, link up and share some commenty love – let’s face it, that’s what makes linkys work.

Last week, we loved:

#TriedTested featured blogger

Cobra Paw game review from Serenity You. We love this twist on traditional dominos; it definitely looks like one of those games that would become a family favourite!

#TriedTested featured blogger

OXO Good Grips spiralizer review from Nip it in the bud. A fantastic, easy way to spiralize whatever you fancy, and there are some great ideas for family meals here too.

We don’t have lots of rules for #TriedTested however the ones we do have are really important

Please do make sure you visit your hosts Family Fever and We’re going on an adventure to leave a comment on the posts we have each linked up

* Try to comment on a couple of other posts as well if you can – we know that people really appreciate the feedback!

* We do ask that you link a maximum of 2 posts each week to keep things fair for everyone – if you choose to link up an extra post please make sure you visit extra posts in the linky to balance it out. (Additional or irrelevant posts will be deleted out of fairness.)

* We do ask that you link a maximum of 2 posts each week to keep things fair for everyone – if you choose to link up an extra post please make sure you visit extra posts in the linky to balance it out. (Additional or irrelevant posts will be deleted out of fairness.)

If you link up please do make sure you visit your hosts Family Fever and We’re going on an adventure to leave a comment as well as a couple of others if you can!  We do ask that you link a maximum of 2 posts each week to keep things fair for everyone – if you choose to link up an extra post please make sure you visit extra posts in the linky to balance it out.

We do our best during the course of the week to visit you all, leave a comment. If you’d like us to share your review on twitter please tweet @FamilyFever and @Lollinski using the #TriedTested hashtag and we will gladly retweet it for you. We would of course love it if you grabbed our badge and popped it on your post too!

We're going on an adventure

Pressure Washing from Fantastic Services

There’s no doubt that pressure washing the drive is a satisfying job to do but it’s also messy and hard work.  The last time I did our drive I was pregnant with Ben so we’re talking somewhere in the region of nine years ago . . . I remember being surprised to discover that my drive wasn’t actually all one colour and in fact, underneath all the dirt and grime, there was a pattern of pink and grey block work!

Fast forward almost a decade and there was definitely no visible pattern on my drive – our block work has actually been completely relayed after several years of building work but it remained filthy.  At the front of the house it was just grubby from years of use and of course being a building site, whereas at the back of the house it was green and mossy.  This is an issue every year – I’ve tried weed killer, washing powder and scrubbing brushes, but it remains resolutely green & slippy.  We did borrow a pressure washer from my Dad a couple of years ago only to discover that our kitchen tap was a funny shape and we couldn’t attach the hose to it.  Our outside tap had been disconnected years before due to pure water pressure (though sorting this out is on Dave’s never-ending to do list!)  It’s one of those jobs that has just been left – it was too much hassle to actually sort it out and not really at the top of my priorities list.

I was more than happy to hand the task of pressure washing our drive to Fantastic Services – I actually asked them to do all the block work at the front of the house, down the side and also into the back as well as the concrete panels at the bottom of our fences.  I was particularly keen to have them clean these at the back of the house as my neighbour is very sloppy with his paint work and over the years has dripped white paint and fence stain down our side of the fence (literally every single time he paints) – which whilst annoying is easily rectified by painting over it however the concrete panels are a difference matter and the unsightly spillages really get my back up!!  My Dad had previously suggested that pressure washing should clean most of it off so I was excited to see what a difference the team at Fantastic Services could make.

Fantastic Services pressure washing - before

Fantastic Services pressure washing - before

Fantastic Services pressure washing - before

Fantastic Services pressure washing - before

Fantastic Services pressure washing - before

Fantastic Services pressure washing - before

Fantastic Services pressure washing - before

The guys from Fantastic Services arrived bob on 9am as booked and were quick to get started.  I showed them a choice of taps in our kitchen, utility and downstairs toilet but was told that they wouldn’t be able to use any of them – I panicked that the appointment had been a waste of time and that they wouldn’t be able to complete the job after all.  As it turned out, in the absence of an appropriate tap, they just pulled out the dishwasher and fastened their equipment on there instead!  Once they had their equipment set up I showed them what needed cleaning (as per my booking) and left them to it.  The service took 4 hours in total – 4 hours which I spent working quietly in the house,  4 hours where I didn’t have to get filthy or break my back cleaning my driveway!

Pressure washing requires no detergent, the cleaning is done purely through the force of water hitting your driveway – it’s a filthy job as the muck is lifted from your path or fences and moved towards a drain.  As such this means that in the process of cleaning your driveway or patio or whatever else you are cleaning, other things are likely to get dirty.  I’m pleased to say that as much as possible the team from Fantastic Services cleaned up after themselves – cleaning my windows, wiping down the front and back doors and anywhere else that had got covered in general filth as they were working.  That said, my fences, garage doors and walls were left with a fine coat of muck – this is something which is easily dealt with by brushing it once it was dry – something the guys from Fantastic Services wouldn’t have been able to do whilst it was still wet without just smearing it everywhere!  The lawn also ended up pretty dirty as a result of a slow drain but this will sort itself out.

I couldn’t believe the difference – my drive was once again pink and clean and those concrete fence panels?  Well they are by no means perfect but the difference is immense and I can’t stop looking out of the kitchen window at them!  If I’m honest now that everything has dried, I think there are bits that would benefit from another going over – particularly the bottom of the fences or the back of the house where it was especially dirty and difficult to drain but realistically there are 100 times better than they were before.  Unfortunately my garage doors have suffered at the hands of the pressure washer and some of the paint has been removed so they will have to be repainted this summer, some sections of fencing will also need re-staining where they’ve been caught by the water as you can see in the pictures.  Pressure washing block work does remove all the sand between the blocks so it’s important that once everything is dry, you replace this with kiln dried sand (it fills in the gaps, keeping the blocks stable but still allowing for drainage) – this is top of our to do list over the coming week while the weather is still good

The cost of the pressure washing service from Fantastic Services was  £138 and yes, I guess I could have invested that in a pressure washer and done it myself but honestly?  Having someone else do it was just so much easier.

*The pressure washing service from Fantastic Servies was provided free of charge as part of my ambassador role.  This post contains affiliate links which means if you do book a service I might earn a small discount off my next service at no extra cost to you*

Kona Sandals from Strive Footwear – Review

I’ve always found shoe shopping fairly challenging – I’ve got big feet – reasonably wide size 8s if you please.  Since having kids they’ve got worse, they’ve spread and my arches have collapsed which is probably due to the inordinate amount of time spent in flip flops during pregnancy when my ankles and feet were too swollen to fit into anything else!  I love the idea of heels and pretty details but always finding myself reverting to the same comfortable flats – which is why I now have three pairs of Saltwater sandals, some gorgeous Hotter pumps and a pair of Hotter pumps and the spend much of the rest of my time in my trainers.  I fear its a sign of age that I now go for comfort and support over everything else – I have no time for uncomfortable shoes, that said I still want to look and feel nice!

I was recently introduced to Strive footwear, a brand concentrating on women’s orthotic footwear – slippers, shoes and sandals which are designed using biomechanical footbed technology to support your feet.  I have a terrible habit for wearing very flat sandals which I don’t think is really doing my feet an awful lot of good in the long term so I was excited to see what Strive had to offer.  After spending quite a while browsing the site I eventually settled on a pair of metallic Trio sandals – sadly these didn’t fit.  The straps are not adjustable and I couldn’t get my feet into them.  Back to the drawing board!  Next on my wish list was a pair of Hotter pumps – I loved the contrast of the thick black elastic and thought they would lift my standard mum uniform of leggings nicely.  Unfortunately they didn’t have my size in stock (though I’ve noticed today that they’ve got them in again and I’m sorely tempted to order a pair!)  Eventually I settled on a pair of black and bronze Kona sandals (continuing the distinct metallic theme of my picks!) working on the basis that the adjustable straps would give me the best chance of a good fit!

Black and copper sandals from Strive footwear

Whilst I was right and the fully adjustable straps did allow for a completely customisable fit, my feet were too wide for the footbed.  Gutted.  Accepting that perhaps my feet are just too wide for Strive Footwear I decided to see how Mum would get on with my Kona sandals as they colour way is right up her street.

Mum loves shoe shopping just as much as I do . . . she struggles with fit and comfort – a broken ankle some years ago and a more recent hammer toe have just compounded the issue.  However, as I have mentioned already, the fact that all three straps on the Kona sandals are fully adjustable means she can really make sure they fit perfectly and, even better, they can be loosened off as the day goes on to accommodate for any swelling.  (Personally the effects of heat and a dodgy ankle mean this is something I have to consider too!)

Strive footwear - Kona sandals with adjustable straps

comfy summer sandals from Strive footwear

adjustable straps for customisable fit

sandals for all day wear from Strive

The Kona sandal is designed for all day wear with supportive footbed technology and a cushioned micro-fibre lining.  The contoured sole unit with BFT technology is a step up from the very flat sandals I tend to wear personally and means that the shoes will minimise se foot fatigue all while improving posture, balance and body alignment.  I’m all too familiar with the aches and pains that come with wearing too flat shoes all day!

Whilst I’m pretty gutted that these super comfy sandals are not going to be a part of my own summer wardrobe, I’m pleased to have been able to add something new to Mum’s!  (Dad actually said he prefers them to her Birks!)

*I received the Kona sandals from Strive Footwear free of charge for the purposes of review however all thoughts and options remain my own (or Mum’s!)*

Looking ahead to Timber Festival

Regular readers will know that Just So Festival is a highlight of our summer calendar and we’re looking forward to attending again this summer for the third year in a row.  However this year we’ve added another festival to our summer and will be kicking off the summer season with the very first Timber Festival.  Of course there is always a risk in attending an entirely new event but knowing that that Timber Festival is being organised by the team at Wild Rumpus – the very same people who organise Just So Festival, means I know that it’s going to be a winner!

Taking place on 6th / 7th / 8th July, in the heart of the National Forest, Derbyshire – Timber Festival is a family friendly weekend event whose ethos is

“to re-connect young minds and the young-at-heart with our natural surroundings, promoting curiosity, learning, courage, personal development, social skills and familial bonding within the context of wild landscapes.”

I’m sure you can imagine that I got really excited reading this and was happy to accept an invitation to attend!  After our experiences at Woodsmoke last year, I’m keener than ever to keep on getting my children outdoors and into the freedom of the forest.  Looking at the line up for Timber Festival I’m expecting a whole world of random in the vein of Just So but with a strong theme of sustainability and forest fun!

Timber Festival

There’s so much to look forward to and I know that we will likely spend our weekend dipping in and out of things as we stumble across them however I’m keen to try out family yoga, you know Ben is going to spend as much time as possible up a tree and of course with campfire stories with Ian Douglas will be an absolute must!

Timber Festival

If you fancy joining us at Timber Festival, tickets and more information are available here:

Outdoor Classroom Day and Us!

Ok so I’m not a school or an educational establishment but I am an experienced primary school teacher and a Mum who loves to get her kids outdoors so the idea behind Outdoor Classroom Day is something I am fully on board with!  So much of our children’s learning takes place indoors now, often sat at tables or even screens – prescribed by a restrictive curriculum and statutory testing.  In fact 1 in 8 primary school children gets less than 30 minutes of outdoor playtime on an average day.  But this is missing out on the most incredible of learning opportunities.  Children have a natural thirst for knowledge, a need to learn and a desire to explore new things.  All too often I fear this is squashed out of them by fronted adverbials and complex mathematical language.

Outdoor Classroom Day encourages teachers to take learning outdoors – last year over 2 million children got involved in thousands of schools from over 100 countries – some trying this for the first time, others celebrating the work they already do in getting children playing and learning outside.  Play is so very important – not just in allowing children to enjoy their childhood but also in teaching critical life skills such as problem solving, teamwork and creativity.  These are not things which are taught sat at a desk!

Sir Ken Robinson, leading expert in education, creativity and human development, and Chair of the Dirt is Good Child Development Advisory Board, comments:

“Play is not a dispensable, frivolous part of childhood.  It facilitates many forms of development – social, creative, physical, cognitive and emotional – that are fundamental to the healthy growth and maturity of every child.  Children must have the time, space and permission to engage in a variety of play, which schools can offer and encourage parents to make real play part of the everyday.”

In celebration of Outdoor Classroom Day, Persil challenged me to plan three activities to help my children learn something new outdoors – by exploring, touching  and getting dirty – not just being told.

1. I Spy Treasure Hunt

For this activity I wanted to tap into Amy’s new found love of letters and sounds – she’s obsessed with spotting letters and words in her environment and trying to read them.  Knowing that I had an afternoon with just Amy and her best friend Amelie I focused specifically on Early Years skills of hearing initial sounds, reading letters and attempting to write letters.  I created the girls an “I Spy Treasure Hunt” sheet with some letters of (making sure I already had ideas of things we might find – no point sticking X on the sheet when we were walking in our local country park . . . ) and told the girls I wanted them to go on an “I Spy Treasure Hunt” to find me things on our walk that started with the letters on their sheet.  Within moments they had spotted geese – they told me it started with “g” and tried to sound out the word before Amy had a really good go at writing it down.  I was thrilled with how invested they became in trying to complete the sheet, finding things I hadn’t even thought of and also pointing out why certain things couldn’t go on the sheet!

Outdoor Classroom Day - I Spy Treasure Hunt

Outdoor Classroom Day - I Spy Treasure Hunt: letters and sounds

2. Den Building in Delamere Forest

This time I wanted to focus on soft skills such as teamwork, conflict resolution and creative thinking so I took my little team down to the forest and challenged them to build a den for their favourite cuddly toys.  Ben is no stranger to den building – I don’t really know how he developed this skill but he seems to have a fairly good grasp of what he needs to do.  As such the girls were happy to allow him to lead the project but this didn’t stop them debating things with him if they disagreed with his decision.  As well as the problem solving skills and spatial awareness that building the den required, all three children demonstrated that they were able to work as a team, discuss their ideas and solve conflicts with next to no intervention from Dave and I – we were very impressed!  (And you know what? They had a whole lot of fun doing it!)

Outdoor Classroom Day - Den building in the forest

Outdoor Classroom Day - Working as a team to build a den

3. Planting seeds and growing plants

For our final activity I wanted to take a look at how plants grow – where they come from, what they need to grow and also to learn the names for the different parts of the plant / flower.  This meant that whilst all three children were doing the same thing I could tailor my questions or different bits of the task to their own level – Amy is only just starting to learn about plants and seeds whereas Ben could confidently name most of the parts of the plant.  As we were buying various seeds and plants, Chloe asked if we could plant a hanging basket and, ever a fan of child led learning I went along with that!

Outdoor Classroom Day - Learning about plants

Outdoor Classroom Day - writing with a purpose

We have absolutely loved working with Persil on this campaign and I’m already planning how we can use our outdoor classroom next!

Will you be getting involved in Outdoor Classroom Day this year?  Either as a parent or your children in school?

*This post was commissioned by Persil in celebration of Outdoor Classroom Day*