Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Yummy Mummy's Diary

Sept 27th 2011

Weight: Over 11 stone (rubbish).  Alcohol: half a bottle of Rose (not bad - still made me slightly squiffy as not eaten much).  Number of times checked clock so not late for school pick up: 78.  Number of jobs on To Do list for today: 12.  Number of jobs completed off To Do list for today: 1.  Calories:  Not counted as suspect too many for family of four not just me.

6am: Dragged self out of bed and managed to shower without crashing into anything.  Eyes still not open during morning coffee. 

6.15am:  Manage grunt of welcome to hubby and children.  After pause to consider how rude I seem manage faint apologetic smile.  Note to self - ring bank later to pay credit card bill.

11.30am:  Fourth coffee of the morning is sooo good.  Am feeling positive after meeting with techy guy who taught our team how to make use of things like 'naming cells' and 'macros' in Microsoft Excel.  Emotions swung from indignance at cheek of anyone thinking I wouldn't know such basics, to sheer wonder at the time I could be saving for more coffee and biscuits.  Realise haven't been utilising proper reporting tools to their full effectiveness and feel quite excited about it.

11.31am:  Realise that reporting tools are being upgraded and new knowledge may be worthless before had chance to show off. Chunter to self at desk causing some disconcertion in colleagues.  Remember to ring bank but realise not lunch yet, so can't make personal calls.

4:00pm:  Have frustrating afternoon not accomplishing anything on To Do list and forgetting to ring bank.  Rush home to do it, but forget as soon as in door.

5:00pm:  Can't get online as need to renew various techy packages on system first that I don't fully understand.  It takes far longer than you'd expect having watched computers on telly, but first sip of wine takes the edge off the frustration.  Happy that hubby is home early.  Think will ring telephone banking later.

7:00pm: Got kids to bed early and hubby at Gym so start on mumschores.  Kettle on.  Washing on.  Check if computer update has finished yet (no).  Ring telephone banking and manage to sort out bills.  Hurrah! Can tick something off the list.  Tidy playroom after tripping over toys.  Empty school bags.  Read school letters and made notes in diary to remind self to: dress up eldest as an explorer on Friday for school (and take £1), complete a drawing to be turned into Christmas Cards (profits to school), sort out a harvest festival box (not too big).  Then, refilled school bags. Checked reading books, library books, pe kits, spare pants etc all packed.  Hung up earlier discarded coats.  Drank rest of glass of wine and another cuppa.  And a cake (homemade!).  And considered a biscuit.  Was strong and distracted self with emptying the washing machine.

8.00pm:  Couldn't sit on sofa without another glass of wine and a packet of crisps and realised my mother always eats crisps at night.  Am turning into her!  Mild panic followed swiftly by thought that it wouldn't be all bad.  Mum's alright afterall!

9.00pm:  Loosing magnificantly at scrabble.  Last go the best I could manage was 'Oil'.  Well what are you supposed to do with a Q, L, and a selection of vowels of which U was conspicuous by it's absence? 

9:08pm:  I strongly feel that the world is playing tricks on me.  4 Os?  Come on!! 

9:09pm:  Apparently OOR is a word.  Don't know what it means.  But it's been accepted.

9:15pm:  Just remembered I haven't practised spelling's with eldest for weekly test on Friday.  Never mind.  Have two more days left.

9:16pm:  Gaah!  Spilt wine. 

10pm:  Am gggooin to bedddybyyessss.  Nott hapyyyy.  Lost Srccaabbel.

Hmmm.  Finished reading Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason today too.  Was marvellous.  Fabulous.  Love it.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Back to school! Aaaaagggghhhh!

I always thought that my children would go to school to learn how to read, write, count, solve problems and generally become more intelligent than me. I never quite realised how much homework is code for mumswork.

Cheeky Monkey number 1 is starting her second year at school. This bizarrely puts her in year 1 (I thought they taught them how to count?) We've had to buy a homework book off the school for £3.50 which you can't do the homework without (so someone can count). She now has a weekly spelling test of words that it's up to me to teach her. And I thought that I paid taxes to fund teachers to do the teaching for me?

So now I have mumswork. Hopefully it'll make friends with mumschores and mumscleaning and they'll all sod off to the pub and leave me in peace?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The New Ellington - Any good? A great location for a romantic weekend away?

Feeling in need of a break?  Managed to get babysitters for an overnight stay?  Looking for somewhere to go? 

We don't do Travel Inns or Premier Lodges when we have the opportunity for a weekend break.  A 2 night weekend break.  On. Our. Own.  It's a rare opportunity.  A chance to splash out and enjoy being us again.  So with that in mind we generally do splash out and try a different hotel every time we head to our favourite weekend break destination, Leeds.

We like shopping, but rarely get the chance to shop on an actual street instead of online.  So if we are going to be browsing for treats, or looking ahead and getting a couple of Christmas presents.... come on you know you've already started thinking about it, September or not... then it's Leeds we head to.

It's a once a year trip normally and this year we picked The New Ellington.  A hotel due to celebrate it's first birthday next week, located 2 minutes walk from the train station (we always get the train and I don't do long walks) and just a 5 minute walk into the centre of the Victoria Quarter (shopping heaven).

I'm writing this blog sat in an Executive Suite with the Rugby World Cup on the TV, sipping complimentary sparkling water, having had a gorgeous in-room breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast, cornflakes, coffee, orange juice, toast and marmalade and a selection of fruit.  The rooms are large, well presented, clean and well stocked with everything you could possibly need.  From the coffee machine, kettle, fridge, complimentary tea, coffee, hot chocolate and milk, a hairdryer, shampoo, shower gel, Molton Brown body lotion, in room safe and an iron and trouser press should you need it, the rooms provide that comforting feeling of luxury.  The knowledge that if you need something, the staff will be only too happy to run around and sort it out for you.

They even lend out DVD players and pre-loaded Ipods, so that you can watch a film or listen to music in the comfort of your room should you wish.  That's if you've managed to read the selection of current magazines provided.  Not the type of magazines you'd find at your local dentists' surgery. Definitely not. No 'TV Quick'. No 'Hello'. No weekly gossip.  The magazines we found provided for us were none other than 'Vogue' and 'GQ'.  There were others, but I was too distracted by the fact that I was reading 'Vogue'.  Me.  Reading 'Vogue'.  OK, looking at 'Vogue', since you have to turn between 50 and 100 pages before you get to anything resembling an article that requires reading.  But even so, it was fun feeling all Sarah Jessica Parker for a couple of days.  Even if I couldn't afford anything in it!  

And finally of course, they provide the all important (these days) free broadband connection.

Only one minor downside.  Breakfast was confusing.  The room service menu doesn't have a price on it.  The book it refers you to doesn't have a price on it.  And then when we went for our restaurant-based breakfast there was not nearly enough orange juice on the buffet, it wasn't clear if you could help yourself to the buffet or if you'd get charged separately for it, we had to ask for toast twice before it arrived after we'd finished our cooked breakfasts, and the preserves are in a large pot on the buffet, but there's no pots or other similar devices to put it in to take back to your table.  The absolutely gorgeous American Pancakes with bacon and maple syrup made up for it.  But it's worth noting in advance that you'll need to be clear what you do, or don't want, for breakfast!   

Other than that minor irritation, which I'm almost tempted to delete for fear of putting you off a hotel that is definitely, definitely worth a visit, the hotel was brilliant.  I'm gushing somewhat, and so apologise.  But I suggest you take a look at this hotel when planning your next break.  They know what good service is.  And that's rare.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Les Alicourts, The Loire Valley, France - A review from a mum of two.

This summer we took ourselves off to France.  Not the South of France, no.  That would require getting on a plane, and since we'd worked to a tight budget this year we decided to go only as far as we could drive.  So drive we did.  All 600 miles.  We decided to break up the trip there by driving only as far as the south coast of England one Saturday afternoon, and checking into a hotel, giving us a full Sunday to drive to Eurotunnel, drive our car onto the train (the children absolutely lurvvvedd that!  Cheeky Monkey No. 2 (who is nearly 3yrs old)  just couldn't quite get her head around a car being on a train), and then drove down past Paris.

Now I should say right here that this was a successful holiday.  The resort, Les Alicourts, was great, the chalet we stayed in was clean, sufficiently kitted out, and had air conditioning ( a must, since the temperature reached 34 degrees Celsius). 

However, I am only human, and English at that, so I will of course be starting off the review with the pitfalls!

Pitfall number 1.  Driving around Paris.  You can do it, and you can do it fairly stress free with two children in the car under the following conditions,
1) both children have recently been to the toilet and will be OK for a good half an hour before they need to go again.
2)  you have an in car DVD player showing a film they've never seen before and will therefore keep them suitably entertained
3) you have an updated SatNav system.

I absolutely love my SatNav.  The lady, who is so far unnamed, is calm and gets you to precisely where you need to go.  OK so she sometimes has a slightly weird 'turn' and tries to get you to completely avoid a stretch of road for no apparent reason* and sometimes takes unnecessary detours, but she does get you there, and frankly, when you are circumnavigating a large city, on the wrong side of the road**, you need help and not a stressed passenger trying to read a map.

2.  The chalet had bunk beds.  It was a 6 person VIP Chalet with 3 bedrooms that could sleep up to 8 and we had my mum and dad there with us, which meant we could have put the children in one of the double bedrooms and my hubby and I could have slept on the convertible sofa in the lounge.  But, due to the kindness of a good friend, we had borrowed a 'Readybed'*** and so our eldest had the bottom bunk and our youngest slept in the Readybed on the floor next to her.  No-one was allowed on the top bunk.  OK, so at 5 years old you might argue she's old enough, but we weren't convinced.  And there was room, just, for our Readybed, so we used it.

3.  The chalet had limited storage.  My parents had the main bedroom with en-suite and had to hang clothes in a wardrobe cupboard situated weirdly in the lounge area.  We had a smaller double room without en suite but with wardrobes so were OK.  The bunk bed room had the smallest cupboard ever, and we ended up keeping clothes on the top bunk.

And so, on to the positives:

1.  The resort has a man-made lakeside beach.  This is great with small children as there's no tides or waves to worry about.  And the sandcastles stay in tact!

2.  The splash pool area for little ones got very full, so if you weren't there at opening time at 10am you were unlikely to get a sun lounger to sit on by the pool.  Having said that, you only needed one lounger between 2 adults and 2 children, because frankly when do you sit down!?

3.  The take away was fantastic.  Not just pizza and chips, oh no!  This is France after all.  Gorgeous spit roasted chickens and dauphinoise potatoes with green beans all to take away at incredible prices.

4.  The restaurant was equally brill.  Just book the day before to get a table for 6pm when it opens.

5.  10 mins drive to nearby Lamotte Beurvon and you can get on the quietest, smoothest trains ever to Paris, changing at Orlean, in roughly 2 hours.  If you can't be bothered, like us, you're in Orlean in about half an hour and it's a lovely french town with Joan of Arc heritage for those looking for history.

6. Everything was beautifully clean and well kept, from the gardens, to the chalets.

7.  The drive was particularly easy once you hit the French toll roads.  These, unlike equivalent motorways in the UK, have rest stops roughly every 10 minutes.  As a minimum these allow you to pull over for a picnic, a large percentage include toilets, and others have petrol stations and cafes/shops of varying sizes.  Additionally the French appear to hardly use them, creating the emptiest roads I've seen in a while.  It cost us about £30 in tolls to get halfway down France, but it was worth every penny for the convenience and speed.

8.  There's an indoor pool at the resort for those rainy days, which is great and also has a little slide in water only a few centimetres deep.  Downside though - the pool is in the Spa complex so only accessible to families with children between the hours of 10.30 and 12.30 in the morning.  We only needed to use it once and it was full.  The children got a little fed up of not having much room, so we left after only about half an hour.  

Overall Les Alicourts is a lovely resort.  You can book with Eurocamp who have caravans on site, as do Keycamp and Thomson Alfresco.  We booked direct with Les Alicourts online and got a better deal.  They also have some new Tree houses for the adventurous (though suspect not suitable for young children!)

*for some reason she didn't want us on the M1 northbound on the way home past Luton.  We ignored her, and hit no problems.  She panicked and for half an hour desperately tried to get us to turn off the M1 and get back on it further up North.
** yes, wrong!
*** A blow up bed with built in cover and pillow shaping, meaning you literally need nothing.

Parenting tips from a regular mum this autumn!

I consider myself a fairly average mum that works part-time, which few mums seem to do these days; I have a husband and 2 children, as I'm not yet sure how to get the 0.4 of a child required to exactly meet the average; I eat out and order takeaway more than I think I should and beat myself up about it*; I wash and iron everyone's clothes before my own; I rarely go out with girlfriends; manage a professional manicure about once a year; have opted out of salon colouring and have a strong relationship with Nice N Easy which I will love forever as long as it continues to lie to the world about my hair colour which is clearly brunette and not white at all! And I spend far to much time watching rubbish TV, albeit on Sky+ which cuts out the ads and saves me money but means I have no idea what innovations are hitting the highstreet.

So, with that in mind, here's a much longer list than I originally intended of the things that make my crazy normal life a little easier at the moment and will hopefully help you.

1.  Fork out for School dinners.  The children get a hot meal for £2 a day which I could never emulate.  And I can pick them up and be 'picnic mum' at tea time, not concerned with meat and veg, only with cold sausages, cheese and crackers, dippy egg and beans on toast.  My daughter is testing me this week and wanting to try packed lunches.  It's taken me until 9pm to get them to bed and then make appropriate lunches for tomorrow.  Usually I've done the ironing by then which is still sitting there grumbling at me... grrrrr.

2.  Always have the following either in your bag or easily accessible in the car:  plasters, germolene, a sticker/activity/colouring book, crayons, drinks, snacks, spare nappies (even if the kids are out of them, they are the best at absorbing any large spills quickly!), wipes (whatever age they are), a couple of nappy bags (good for rubbish which gravitates towards mum, if nothing else),  a spare outfit per child including socks and pants** (you'll thank me when you need it).

3.  Children don't tend to like doing tasks that they 'have' to do, like teeth brushing.  I have recently invented the "Teeth Monster" in our house.  Tell them he's lurking and that they need to brush their teeth quick and that you'll help.  Do some little growls, play acting, whilst brushing, then just as you are finishing their teech say, "Quick!  I can hear him!  I'll go and look! and pop out of the bathroom.  Then immediately come back in with arms in, what I like to call the 'T-Rex position', with fingers clawing, and say "I'm the Teeth Monster!  I'm coming to eat up everyone with mucky teeth!" look at their teeth and immediately look disappointed...."oh, that's not fair!  I'm hungry but you have lovely clean teeth so I can't eat you!  My tummy's grumbling...  Is there anyone else?"  In our house the children normally get away but then the Teeth Monster finds my hubby (or vice versa) and says "Hurray, you have Very mucky teeth" and tries to eat their arm, which the children find hilarious and enjoy fighting off the monster!  My children actually ask me to brush their teeth now instead of running away!

4.  Invest in an in car DVD player with 2 monitors for the backseats.  Ours was £50 from Curry's Clearance Store and worth every penny during the 8 hour drive to France on holiday.

5.  Save TV time until 4pm.  The children are tired and hungry by this time, so if limiting TV absolutely limit it to this time slot to enable you to cook in relative ease.

6.  Invest in Sky+ if you ever want to watch programmes of your own again.  Unless you have a much better memory than me and can manage to set the VHS/DVD recorder regularly.

7.  And one final tip for very new mothers;  don't panic if all you feel like doing is crying during the first few months of looking after your first child.  The culture shock alone is enough to throw anyone off kilter, and if you throw in crazy hormones and lack of sleep you have to expect that you won't be at your best.  It'll get easier and more fun as time goes by and as you begin to find ways of managing this new life.  I have cried buckets in my time, literally over spilt milk.  Don't worry about it, that's one aspect of child rearing that's most definitely a given!

And that'll do for now.  Let me know if it was helpful, boring, rubbish, funny etc.... and I'll try better next time!

* not literally of course, mentally.  No need to write in.
** that's knickers if you're in America.  Trousers are trousers in the UK.  Knickers are pants!

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