You’re not my best friend!

“You’re not my best friend!” I wonder how many times a day this is bellowed at me.

“Please can you get dressed” I ask, he resists, “You’re not my best friend!” he shouts.

“Please can you brush your teeth” I ask, he protests, “You’re not my best friend!” he yells.

“Please can you stop playing with your train track in the middle of the kitchen while I’m trying to cook a meal” I ask, he responds angrily “You’re not my best friend!” and refuses to budge.

Calmly, when I have time and patience I sit with him and explain that I don’t want to be his best friend, I want to be his Mummy, the best Mummy I can be, doing the best for him, helping him to learn the skills he’ll need to get on at school, to learn how to be the best he can be, to understand what is safe and appropriate (whizzing around a kitchen filled with bubbling pans isn’t safe or appropriate).

I don’t want to be his best friend, of course there’s a part of me who wants to be his very bestest of best friends, but I can’t be, he needs a Mummy, an appropriate adult to be there to tell him off when he needs it, to cuddle him and kiss it better when he falls over, he needs someone to tell him all of the very excellent things he is, to build his confidence and help him to explore the things he likes and dislikes to help him find his path. He needs me to be his Mum.

I want to fill his little life with experiences he will remember always, days out, adventures, great family time together, things that will help him grow into the man he will eventually become. But what he also needs is the guiding hand of a parent, not the mischievous boundary pushing fun he can only get up to with his best friend.

I love the small boy to bits, it hurts a little bit to sit down and explain that I don’t want to be his best friend, I just want to be his best Mummy. Of course there is a lot of space for me being daft with him, rolling around on the floor, chasing him and his friends around the park, singing silly songs on the bus (sorry fellow passengers), but I am his Mummy first and foremost, not his best friend.

Oh, if you’re wondering who his best friend is….it’s his Daddy.

You're not my best friend

Stick Man at The Lowry

Half term is once again upon us and I find myself scrabbling round for things to occupy the boy. Taking him to the theatre is always a bit of a treat, he loves The Lowry at Salford Quays,  apart from the actual productions we see, there’s lots to see and do around abouts. This half term The Lowry are entertaining kids with a stage production of the Julia Donaldson favourite, Stick Man.

Stick Man

Running until Sunday 31st May at The Lowry (then continuing on it’s UK tour), Stick Man is suitable for children aged 3+. The Scamp Theatre production lasts for around an hour and there’s plenty to keep the little ones entertained. The show is filled with music, song and a spot of beach ball audience participation.

The Julia Donaldson story is a favourite of ours and I did worry a little about how they were going to make a stick lifelike and entertaining. In the event one actor portrayed Stick Man and also held a Stick Man stick, it worked and we were invested in the trials and tribulations of our stick hero!

The cast of three actors are lively and engaging, one actor plays Stick Man, a sprightly actress plays his “Stick Lady love” as well as a host of other characters such as the dog, and the last actor also plays a range of other characters and (and this is the interesting bit) he had a little musical station covered in instruments including drums, bells, a ukulele and a saxophone which he plays to help tell the story.

There was lots of lively audience engagement, a few cheeky laughs and the children all seemed really interested and engaged. The small boy liked the dog taking the stick the best, but was also transfixed with the array of instruments that were being played. It was a lovely way to spend a bit of half term time, especially as we went for a little walk afterwards and had another look around the Blue Peter Garden.

Stick Man is well worth a visit, even Julia Donaldson says so!

Stick Man is on at The Lowry until May 31st, for more information and to buy tickets visit The Lowry website.

My first Degustabox – May 2015

For a while now I’ve been Degustabox-curious, peering at pictures of their contents online and feeling pangs of temptation. For the uninitiated a Degustabox is a monthly food parcel subscription service. Each month you’re sent a box of goodies which are often brand new products, limited editions or just something just a little bit special. It costs £12.99 per month and the contents are usually worth about double that. It is a bit like playing lucky dip, so what did my box contain and what did I think?

Degustabox

My May 2015 “here comes summer” Degustabox contained –
Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce (43g)
Sweet Baby Ray’s Squeezable Honey Barbecue Sauce (510g)
Slim Pasta Lasagne (270g)
Maggi So StirFry Oriental Three Spice Chicken Noodles (185g)
Maggi So StirFry Singapore Curry Chicken Noodles (185g)
Schwartz Grill Meats Marinade in a Bag – Honey & Soy Flavour (200g)
Sarson’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (250ml)
Fuel10 24 Protein Boosted Wheat Biscuits Breakfast Cereal
Green Coco Kids Organic Coconut & Banana Juice
9bar Fruity mixed seed energy bar (4 in the box)
Daelmans Stroopwafels (8 per box)

The box had a general barbecue theme which I thought was interesting, they don’t always have themed boxes but I’m a big fan of barbecue flavours so I was very happy. The box was well packed and protected with bubble wrap so the contents arrived in excellent condition. I thought there was a good mix of products in the box, the things I probably wouldn’t eat I know the boys would love.

My eye was instantly drawn to the Daelmans Stroopwafels which are lovely waffles with caramel in the middle, if you rest them on top of a hot drink the caramel is meant to soften and be all extra delicious. Regrettably I opened the box in front of two hungry boys and very quickly all 8 of them waffles disappeared, we will be buying those again! I also really liked the barbecue sauces and the 9bar fruity seed bars which are great for throwing in your bag when you’re out and about.

What I especially liked was that it genuinely was like a lucky dip. If you’re a bit bored of cooking the same meals for your family week in and week out, then subscribing to Degustabox is a really good way of mixing things up and making you try new things. There are a number of things in this box we’ll be looking out for in the future.

If you’d like to give Degustabox a try I have a discount code giving you £3 off your first box, just enter JQAMO at the checkout. You can find out more about Degustabox on their website.

Note: I was sent a Degustabox free of charge for review purposes, all images and opinions are my own.

Review: Urtekram – The Danish Skincare Brand PLUS Giveaway

I have an addiction, my addiction is to skincare products, specifically nice moisturisers; but I’m happy to get my fix where I can; soaps, hand creams, haircare products, lip balms, oh the lip balms. Anyway, I digress, I’ve recently stumbled across an interesting and exciting Danish brand called Urtekram. Urtekram produce a really lovely looking range of organic and vegan skincare products which haven’t been tested on animals, what’s more the packaging is really fresh looking and looks great in my bathroom. I was sent a selection of Urtekram products to try out, here’s what I thought.

urtekram

Aloe Vera Hand Cream
This is a great hand cream for me, thick enough to really moisturise my dry hands, but light enough to be absorbed pretty quickly. It’s got a great scent too, there’s a lovely hint of orange zest which is fresh rather than sickly sweet. I love this.

Rose Body Lotion
It’s only fairly recently I’ve started to really like the smell of rose, this isn’t overpowering and is a lovely light fragrance. The lotion itself is light and absorbs quickly but leaves my skin feeling soft and supple. It’s going to become a favourite of mine I think.

Rose Soap Bar
A normal looking bar of soap, infused with the same delicate rose fragrance as the body lotion, an excellent bathroom staple.

Nordic Birch Shampoo
This is for normal hair, so it was ideal for mine. The bottle says it is infused with the smell of corn flowers, but to me it had a nice, light almost medicinal smell. I liked it a lot. The shampoo contains birch leaf and walnut leaf extracts as well as aloe vera to moisturise your hair. It left my hair feeling really clean and fresh. I’ll be looking out for this again.

Camomile Shampoo
This is for blonde hair and none of us are blonde, it is however the most gorgeous smelling shampoo, it is infused with wild camomile oils and aloe vera. Our hair smelt lovely after using this and it was squeaky clean.

Lime Crystal Roll-On Deodorant
I am naturally very cautious about deodorant as I am sensitive to some deodorants, but I gave the organic one a try. First of all the fragrance is fresh and zingy, if I want my armpits to smell of anything then fresh lime is a good thing to smell of. It’s not sticky on application and I think would be great to use in the summer as it feels instantly cooling.

No Perfume Baby All-Over Wash
Lastly, this unscented, organic body wash is great for babies, young children and sensitive types like myself. A little goes a long way and it has a no more tears formula.

I really enjoyed trying all the different Urtekram products. They feel gentle and caring on my skin which is important to me. They are not expensive either, with the shampoos currently available in a range of online stores for under £5 a bottle and body lotion at around £6.50, I think they’re really good value for certified organic and vegan skincare products of this quality. I will definitely be searching these out in the future.

I am delighted to be giving away a selection of £20 worth of Urtekram products. For a chance to win, please enter my competition using the Rafflecopter widget below…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:

1. The competition is open to residents of the UK only.
2. There is no cash alternative offered.
3. To enter, please use the rafflecopter widget above. Please ensure you leave some contact details or I will not be able to contact you if you win.
4. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualifying entries. The winner will receive a selection of Urtekram skin and haircare products worth £20.
5. The competition will close on 24th June 2015.
6. The winner will be asked to provide a full UK postal address with postcode for delivery purposes.
7. Address details will be passed onto an agency to post the prize out to the winner, and is therefore beyond my control. I cannot be held responsible for prizes being lost in the post although I will endeavour to liaise with the agency.
8. HodgePodgeDays decision is final in all matters relating to this competition.

My Sunday Photo 24.5.15

image

Things to do in Pembrokeshire

We have recently returned from a short family holiday at Bluestone Wales which is located in Pembrokeshire, a stunning part of the world with beautiful, lush landscapes and pristine sandy beaches. It’s just gorgeous and we hope to go back again soon. I’ve pulled together a list of things to do in Pembrokeshire, or rather some of the things we did which are worth a look if you’re visiting Pembrokeshire or Bluestone Wales.

The Beaches
There are some simply stunning beaches in Pembrokeshire. They are renowned for being clean and having soft pale sand. We always feel that if the sun is shining there is no better place to spend an afternoon than on the beach building sandcastles, paddling in the sea, beach combing and looking for sea glass. Within 20 minutes drive from Bluestone Wales you can find the stunning beaches of Tenby and Saundersfoot. Both have harbours and a good selection of shops, cafes and restaurants.

I have to say that both South Beach at Tenby and Saundersfoot were the most accessible beaches I’ve ever found. As someone who struggles to walk on uneven surfaces these days, having a wooden path down to the shore was a godsend. Well done Pembrokeshire!

Things to do in Pembrokeshire

Just a few minutes drive, or half a mile walk from Saundersfoot is Wiseman’s Bridge where you can find the Wiseman’s Bridge pub which serves very good pub grub with an even better view. It’s a great place to while away a few hours over an evening drink and a nice meal, their kids menu is good too.

Dylan Thomas Boathouse
This was a bit of an unexpected find, but well worth it, I wrote a blog post about our visit to Dylan Thomas Boathouse in Laugharne. It’s a slightly longer drive from Bluestone Wales, but well worth it for the views alone.

dylan thomas boathouse

The Coastal Path
We both used to be keen walkers, so we had a small jaunt along the coastal path in Tenby, which is well signposted and beautiful, especially at this time of the year. We couldn’t walk for long because the small boy was tired and we were tired of carrying him, but a little was better than none at all.

The Blue Lagoon
Although this is located within the grounds of Bluestone Wales, it is open to the public each day, so if you’re staying nearby you can still enjoy this lovely pool. Sporting a wave machine and two water flumes, as well as an outdoor jacuzzi and a lazy river that meanders outside, plus a wet play area for little ones, there’s plenty to enjoy and it’s well worth a visit. The Blue Lagoon is the only pool the small boy has been upset to leave!

The Well Spa Retreat
Family holidays can sometimes err on the side of hectic rather than relaxing. I managed to spend a morning in the spa while the boys went swimming and enjoyed the playground. If you can manage to slip away for a few hours, then it’s well worth a visit to the Well Spa. I’ve blogged about my blissful morning there. Truly. Blissful.

Well Spa

So those are some of the things we did while we were in Pembrokeshire. There are tonnes of other attractions and things to do, but the sun was shining and the beach was calling, maybe we’ll get round to exploring a few more things next time we’re there!

My post-therapy panic attack

Today has been a very bad day. Keen readers will know I’m currently having an intensive series of therapy sessions to deal with my anxiety and depression. My therapist has identified that I have a very critical inner voice who tells me what I am worthless, that I am nothing, that I am ugly and that I am unlovable. (To clarify, I’m not “hearing voices”, it is my inner dialogue, something we all have, the little person inside us who narrates our life). I believe all the awful, bullying things this voice is saying to me. It tells me the truth that others are too afraid to say, or says the things people are thinking before they say it to my face. In short, I am horrid.

Today was rough, therapy was pretty ok, we explored a few things, noted I was making some progress in some areas, chatted about this voice who says hateful things, I left feeling ok, then somewhere on the way home I started crying, then I started having a panic attack, my mind ran at 300mph, I couldn’t do anything to help myself or stop myself. I was in the middle of the street 15 minutes from home and I couldn’t breathe, my eyes were streaming with tears and my nose was running, I must’ve looked an absolute sight.

I stood swaying on the pavement, not knowing what to do or where to turn, I glanced up and a blue car was driving up the road, without thinking I stepped towards the road and into its path. I just wanted it all to stop and the only thing I could think of was the peace of death. At the last second I stepped back off the pavement and clung to a lamppost. I have no idea how I got home.

By the time I got home I had calmed down a bit, the panic was going, but that was replaced with tears, I sobbed bitterly, painfully for two hours. A couple of friends chatted to me online and helped me calm down. Today has shaken me, really shaken me, I’ve not felt this bad in 18 months. I’m frightened that I’m going to slide back down that snake again after spending so long climbing the ladders. What I want to do is curl up and sleep and cry, what I have to do is work and look after my family.

It’s been so long since my last panic attack, it’s scary how they completely take over you and how they leave you feeling drained and worthless. This afternoon my friend reminded me to breathe, how stupid is it to have to be told to breathe? She was right though. Breathe. Keep breathing.

panic attack

Bingo – how lucky are you?

Bingo is almost ingrained in our culture. Growing up my Nan went to bingo, sometimes we’d join her and she’d let me help her find the numbers, it was a regular part of her week and something she enjoyed as a social occasion as much as the chance to win a prize. I’m not sure how lucky she was, or wasn’t, but she didn’t retire to Monaco so I’m guessing she wasn’t as lucky as she’d like to have been.

These days with huge national games and online bingo, it’s not unheard of for lucky punters to win big, really big, millions of pounds big. I’m not sure I’d ever be that lucky, but you never know. I’ve found this interesting infographic about its history from Paddy Power. I never knew that  a form of bingo began in Italy in 1530.

Bingo

These days bingo playing has largely moved from the pretty glamorous bingo halls of the past to online, which means that people can play at home. It’s probably not quite as much as a social occasion these days, but with luck you could still see your numbers come up! For more information about Paddy Power Bingo click here.

Sponsored

The Well Spa Retreat at Bluestone Wales

I’m not a person who likes to treat myself much, I rarely buy clothes, or spend hours browsing posh beauty counters, I’m not one for a new pair of shoes each month and a matching handbag. My treat to myself is getting everything waxed every month and occasionally going for a pamper. Whilst on holiday in Bluestone Wales I booked myself in for four hours of pampering in The Well Spa Retreat. It was incredible.

I’d spent a long time (weeks, months maybe) looking at the website and examining in detail everything The Well Spa offered. I knew I wanted to do the “Celtic Spa Experience” and I also fancied a treatment, my favourite treatment being a facial. After being forced to make my mind up the week before we went to Bluestone Wales, I opted for the “Early Bird & Spa”, which was breakfast, three hours in the Celtic Spa Experience and a 50 minute treatment.

Well Spa

I arrived at 9am on the day of my treatment and was asked to sit in the “Cwtch” area (cuddle in Welsh) and complete my health and safety form. I was then given a bathrobe and a towel and shown to the changing area and told where to go for breakfast. The Well Spa changing area is large and open plan, there were no private changing cubicles, but at a push if you’re shy you could change in a toilet cubicle.

I put my swimming costume on, wrapped myself in a big snuggly bathrobe and went to find breakfast. There was no breakfast menu on the website for Caffi Mor so I wasn’t sure what to expect. On the tables were individual bottles of britvic orange juice and a box which contained a croissant (with butter and jam), a pain au chocolate, a pot of creamy yoghurt and an apple. The waitress came along and took my coffee order and I was left to munch my big continental breakfast in relative peace. It was a very lovely breakfast, I was very full by the time I’d eaten it all, I’m a sucker for a croissant so it was perfect for me.

After breakfast I had about half an hour before my treatment, so I had a very quick look around the Celtic Spa Experience, I would go back in after my treatment for a few hours of relaxation. The Celtic Spa Experience is a selection of thermal rooms you can use and spend some time in relaxing and unwinding. The Well Spa has six rooms including, the Red Brick Sauna, the Herbal Steam Room, the Marine Steam Room, the Hot Slate Sauna, a Salt Inhalation Room and an Ice Room. There are also Experience Showers and The Sanctuary Relaxation Room as well as an outdoor Hydrovitality Pool.

I didn’t want to get too hot and bothered before my treatment, so I had a quick sauna in the very lovely Red Brick Sauna which was a nice temperature for me, bearably hot, it was probably my favourite room so I did go back in a few times.

The time came for my treatment, so as instructed I went back downstairs to the Cwtch room and waited to be called. This was by far the least fun part of my experience. Having unwound a little upstairs in the spa I was in a fairly draughty waiting area with the most awful pop music blaring loudly at me. At one point I sat with my fingers in my ears for a few minutes to stop the aural assault. Thankfully Ruth my therapist arrived after about ten minutes and took me to my treatment room. I may well be showing my age, but I’m not sure why places, especially places which should be quiet temples of relaxation feel the need to blare out loud pop music all the time. Silence is underrated.

Ruth showed me upstairs to the Opal Treatment room and we had a little chat about what I was expecting from my facial. I had opted for the ESPA  Re-Hydrator Facial as I’d been told a few months ago that parts of my skin were quite dehydrated and the previous day I’d managed to burn my face a bit in the sun, so hydration and pampering were the order of the day. Ruth wrapped me up on the treatment couch, made sure I was comfortable and began the blissful and relaxing treatment. The 50 minute Re-Hydrator facial is an intensive and regenerating facial for dehydrated skin leaving it supple and nourished. My skin looked and felt fantastic after it and continues to feel good a few days later.

After the treatment I retired to the Sanctuary Relaxation Room for a few minutes, had a drink of water and returned to the Celtic Spa Experience for a proper look around. I visited each thermal room in turn, here’s what I thought of them…

The Salt Inhalation Room – This was a room with two curved seats in it, it was slightly colder than room temperature and I wasn’t really sure of the benefits of it, though it did seem quite popular on the day, it wasn’t for me, my old bones prefer heat.
The Red Brick Sauna – A good sauna which runs at about 65 degrees. It was a great temperature for me, comfortable and I kept going back for ten to fifteen minute sessions.
The Herbal Steam Room – A lovely steam room with herbal steam, running at around 45 degrees this was a very pleasant room to spend time in, again I returned to this room a few times.
The Marine Steam Room – I thought I’d love this room, the marine steam smelt incredible and the sign suggested it was a 45 degree steam, but it was much hotter than the sign suggested and I couldn’t tolerate it for more than a few minutes. I did ask a member of staff but she didn’t know why it was incredibly hot in there, I heard several other people complaining to each other about it too.
The Hot Slate Sauna – This is a hot sauna, running at 85 degrees I really enjoyed it but couldn’t tolerate it for as long as I would’ve liked.
The Ice Room – This is a cold room, it’s about 10 degrees and there’s a big bowl of ice you can rub all over yourself. I didn’t linger, but understanding the benefits of an ice room, I popped in for a few minutes at the end.
The Experience Showers -Three showers of varying temperature and power, these were very pleasant and refreshing, especially after a session in the Hot Slate Sauna.
The Outdoor Hydrovitality Pool – This is probably my favourite thing. It was a lovely hydrotherapy pool on the roof top, it was incredibly peaceful and I enjoyed floating in the pool and enjoying the jets of water even in the slight drizzle, in fact I think the rain added to the experience. I wasn’t cold, it was just blissful.

Well Spa

The Well Spa Retreat is so lovely, it was pretty quiet, it wasn’t full of people, at other places I’ve been they’ve been full of large, noisy groups which I feel aren’t conducive to relaxation, this was just right for me. Peaceful perfection.

I only have two words of negativity about the spa, the first was the blaring pop music in the Cwtch room (it was like being trapped in Top Shop in my swimming costume); and the second is the slate floor can get quite slippy, especially when it’s wet, I think it would be good to offer people the use of spa slippers.

My four hours in The Well Spa and my Early Bird Experience cost just £75 which I thought was incredibly good value. The facial treatment alone should have cost £70, a two hour spa visit is £35 and the breakfast was plentiful and good quality. I’d love to go back, it was probably the most restful spa experience I’ve ever had. For more information about The Well Spa Retreat at Bluestone Wales visit their website.

Note: I paid for my visit to The Well Spa in full.

Collecting Sea Glass in the UK

For the past 15 or so years we’ve holidayed along the stormy beaches of North Devon, during that time I’ve enjoyed beach combing and seeing what treasure I could find. A few years ago I found my first piece of sea glass and I was hooked.

Sea glass is shards of glass, usually from smashed bottles or jars, which have been tossed in the sea until the edges are smooth and the glass looks frosted. It can take between 10 and 50 years for the sea to turn a broken bottle into sea glass, so each piece I find is something to treasure, something special which I know has been years in the making.

We’ve recently returned from a family holiday in Bluestone Wales, which is near the beaches of Tenby and Saundersfoot. I wasn’t really holding out much hope of finding much when I first set foot on the beaches, which are both beautiful soft sandy beaches, I’ve always looked for it on beaches with a little more rock and shale.

Sea glass

South Beach at Tenby is a stunning, clean beach. Admittedly I was very tired and didn’t beach comb for long, but I managed to find one or two pieces. I must stress that finding sea glass can be an incredibly hard task, most of the time I’ve left a beach either empty handed or with just one or two pieces in my pocket, so I was pleased with what I found at Tenby.

The following day we went to Saundersfoot. Again this was a lovely clean sandy beach, there were lots of shells, so it was a very pleasant beach to comb. I walked up the shoreline and after a short while began picking up pieces, and more pieces, and more, to the point where I had to take my hat off and carry everything I found in it.

In total I found over twenty pieces, in clear glass and green. I was very lucky to have found a couple of pieces with a pattern on them which I think is pretty special.

The problem with sea glass is that because collecting it is becoming increasingly popular there are fewer pieces to be found. Additionally you may just be picking up glass that’s been in the sea for a bit and not glass which has been formed and rubbed into true sea glass. I admit some of my pieces are more sea glass like than others, but I will be adding all of these to my collection.

I have a rule about collecting sea glass. If I find some which is still sharp then it goes in the bin, it’s too new and I don’t want anyone cutting themselves on it. If its edges are rounding but it’s not yet mature enough for me then I’ll pop it back in the sea for another collector on another day.

I love collecting sea glass, it gives me an excuse to hit the beach in all weathers, to wrap up against the winds and stalk the shore for treasure, or to swan about in a sun hat for a while. I have a jar I put my sea glass in which I look at daily and remember the family holidays we’ve been on and the sandcastles we’ve built. I often wonder what the story is behind each little piece of frosted glass in my collection, my sea glass collection isn’t valuable, but it has value to me. It is my treasure.