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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Our Merlin Annual Passes

Recently I have been receiving lots or messages and emails about our days out at Merlin attractions, the cost of visiting them and why we go so often so I thought I'd write a post on why we bought our passes and some other info.

We have been Merlin Passholders for a few years now and the reason we decided to make the purchase was simply because of the amount of day trips and short breaks we take. 
We are quite an active family and love a day out but even after all my bargain hunting and coupon cutting, as a family of 5(Sofia was free at most attractions back then) entrance fees, travel, food, snacks, drinks etc a day out was costing A LOT more than our big monthly shop.

One of my cousins had previously been Merlin annual passholder and suggested that we look into getting them as we were visiting lots of the Merlin attractions anyway. The Merlin Annual Pass website is pretty straight forward. It breaks down the different types of passes available(standard, premium and VIP), the cost and what is and isn't included with each one.

We looked through all the terms and conditions and thought that the premium passes best suited our needs. We opted to wait for the January sales to purchase ours and as we were buying 3 or more we qualified for the family rate which made them £119 each instead of £169. That is quite a lot to spend in one lump sum and so soon after Christmas BUT even with the theme parks closed until March we made back what we spent within the first 8 weeks of having them. Standard passes are cheaper than the premium ones but for us, the ability to use them during the Summer holidays, free parking and £15 entrance vouchers for friends and family were worth paying the extra, just the car parking costs alone over the year would have cost us more than the extra £30. Also, if you buy them using Topcashback you can save even further or ask your employer if they get a corporate discount with Merlin as you can save yourself some more money there.

Because we live in London and are quite close to Westminster, we are able to hop on a bus for just a 20 minute journey and make the most of the London attractions along the Southbank(The Coca Cola London Eye, The London Dungeons, Shreks Adventure and The London Sealife Centre) pretty much whenever we want to. We have great transport links locally so are able to get to Chessington, Legoland, Thorpe Park and Warwick Castle that are also well served by public transport with ease(and our railcard makes this even cheaper!) Many of the attractions put on special events for Easter, Christmas , Halloween and Summer so it's worth subscribing to newsletters to keep up to date with all the latest news and offers.

There are some great benefits to our Merlin Annual Passes like up to 20% off food, drink, merchandise and more, exclusive passholder discounts on short breaks through the Merlin Holiday Club, discount on attraction tickets for friends and family and more.

There are 32 Merlin attractions to enjoy and with so many to choose from there is something to suit every member of the family(even if I do struggle to get my teenagers out on a day trip with their 'uncool' mum) and if like me you have a disability don't think you have to miss out. On production of appropriate evidence, disabled guests can get a carers pass free, there is disabled access at pretty much every attraction and help whilst you are there.

So as the theme park seasons winds down and comes to an end we know that there are still so many opportunities to get out and enjoy ourselves with our Merlin annual passes.

Emma xoxo

*I was not sponsored or paid for this post. We are Merlin Annual Passholders and I have received many questions recently about our passes and days out.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Meal Planning Recipe Ideas with Free Printable Weekly Meal Planner

Like many others up and down the country, I am primarily responsible for most aspects of meal planning; the planning it out, shopping for it, cooking it, dishing it up and the washing up afterwards.
I’ve always enjoyed getting creative in the kitchen but with all the after school activities and my older children coming in at different times it has become more of a challenge to find meals that everyone enjoys, fits into our schedule and I actually enjoy cooking. My cooking has become very repetitive and I’ve lost the excitement I once had in rustling up family meals.

I challenged myself to come up with at least 20 meals, some old favourites and some new and use this post as a reference for myself and anyone else struggling to meal plan or wanting to try something new or different.

Spaghetti bolognese
Shepherds or cottage pie, veg and yorkshire’s 
Chilli con carne with rice and tortilla chips
Koftas with rice, salad and flatbreads
Meatballs in tomato sauce and pasta 
Lasagne, chips and salad
Keema peas and flatbreads 
Enchiladas and spicy wedges

Chicken curry, rice and naan
Roast chicken dinner
Jerk chicken, rice and peas, plantain and salad
Chicken pasta salad
Fajitas, potato wedges and corn on the cob
Chicken and mushroom pasty slices with chips and salad
Chicken wings and chips

Hot dog and fries
Pork casserole and mash potato
Toad in the hole and veg
Pork chops, roast potatoes and veg
Lamb chops, cous cous and roasted veg 
Sausage and mash
Steak and mushroom pie, new potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower
Beef stew, dumplings and crusty bread
Ribs, chips and onion rings
Ham, egg and chips
Dinner breakfast(a good old fashioned breakfast fry up but for dinner)
Pulled pork rolls
Lamb biriyani 
Steak with peppercorn sauce, mushrooms, mash and green beans

Prawn and chilli linguini 
Salmon, peas and pasta in a white sauce
Slice tuna steak, bulgar wheat and salad
Cod bites and chips
Fish pie and steamed veg
Baked sea bass with hassleback potatoes and green beans
Crab and sweet corn soup

Jacket potatoes
Pizza, garlic bread and salad
Omelette and salad
Loaded fries (cheese, veggie chilli)
Aloo gobi

Mcdonalds(chicken nuggets or burger and fries)
Chinese(fried rice, noodles, sweet and sour chicken and prawn or chicken balls, salt and pepper chips)
Donor kebab

Well that’s me set for the next few weeks and if like me you prefer to meal plan rather than 'wing it', click here for a free printable to help you keep track. You can also download the printable to your phone or tablet/ipad and edit it on there. If you do use it then I'd love for you to tag me in your posts on Instagram or Twitter to see what meals you've been planning

I’d love to know some of your family favourites when meal planning.

Emma xoxo

Monday, October 15, 2018

Just Slow Down

These days there are so many memes, saying provers, quotes etc all over the internet and a little while back I stumbled across a poem. I agreed with the sentiment and really liked the poem and that was that, but today as I rushed back from town with my mind focused on the 101 things I needed to do before dashing down to the school for my 9 year olds end of topic presentation I started wondering about just how much as parents we miss out on with all the craziness that is parenthood and chores. I don't mean missing out on all the things that maybe our pre-child selves would do I mean missing out on things like watching your children fall about in fits of giggles over the smallest thing, catching them engrossed in a book and realising just how much they enjoy reading or something as simple as snuggling up to watch a movie. I know just how hard it can be to do everything that needs doing around the home and also trying to find time to play with the kids, give each of them quality time, watch a movie or just have some chilled time with them but it really is so important.

My eldest started college this year and it's really made me stop and think about just how quickly time does go and how much lack of quality time can really affect relationships(our relationship is strained at the best of times but that's a whole other blog post!) For years and years I would get stressed out and prioritise differently and as long as the kids were fed, clean and playing then I thought that that was all they needed and I would spend my days cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, diy-ing(if that's even a word!) and yes I know that all these things need doing but at the same time these things can wait and be lower down on your list of priorities.

Lately, cleaning mania has hit social media and the world quite badly and while I know I have to clean my house daily, I watch some of the videos and Instastories lately of how obsessively people are cleaning and I realise that yes, I would love to scrub my toilet with a toothbrush so it sparkles(I'M BEING SARCASTIC) but that's time that I could spend reading with my children, doing some colouring in, catching up with how their day was or even just sitting on the sofa for a cuddle.

There will be days when I can't spend as much time with my children as I would like to but from now on I will be making sure that I MAKE time to be able to pay full attention.

As hectic as life can be in today's society we really do need to slow down and appreciate the little things and cherish the special moments we share with our children. They are our babies today and grown tomorrow.

This was the poem that inspired this post

Slow Down Mummy

Slow down Mummy
Slow down mummy, what is all the fuss?
Slow down mummy, make yourself a cup of tea.
Slow down mummy, come spend some time with me.

Slow down mummy, let's pull boots on for a walk,
Let's kick at piles of leaves, and smile and laugh and talk.
Slow down mummy, you look ever so tired,
Come sit and snuggle under the duvet, and rest with me a while.

Slow down mummy, those dirty dishes can wait,
Slow down mummy, let's have some fun - bake a cake!
Slow down mummy, I know you work a lot,
but sometimes mummy, it's nice when you just stop.

Sit with us a minute,
and listen to our day,
Spend a cherished moment,
because our childhood won't stay!

~ R Knight

What does your list of priorities look like?

Emma xoxo

Friday, October 12, 2018

Loving My Natural Hair

Growing up when and where I did I was either surrounded by my black friends with fancy corn row hairstyles or my white friends with their straight flowing European hair and I was always jealous. Jealous of the amazing corn row styles and jealous of the long flowing smooth and silky hair. You see I had very thick and coarse hair and my English mum with European hair herself always struggled to manage it. I so desperately wanted long straight ‘flicky flicky’ hair as I called it and absolutely hated my Afro hair.
There was a seriously limited number of hair products on the market back then and even fewer hairdressers that knew how to handle my hair. and you can forget about blogs and YouTube tutorials of black hair care because they never even existed!

As soon as I was old enough I began chemically relaxing my hair, this involved covering my roots in a potent chemical paste and washing it off after about 20 minutes. Once washed and blow dried I had the hair I had always longed for. Between this and colouring my hair on a regular basis I started to notice that my hair was breaking, becoming very thin and even patchy in places.
After seeing how much damage I was doing I finally stopped relaxing my hair about 9 years ago and started trying different oils and lotions to try and reverse some of the damage I had done. Despite giving up on straightening my hair I still longed for a ‘slick’ look which is why I was still pulling it back tightly on a daily basis and holding it in place with several hair bands which meant that I was counteracting any good I was doing.

FAS Hair Shop in Peckham, London

In recent years, the Afro and natural hairstyles have made a huge comeback and with it a much healthier way of styling hair and with it an abundance of hair products that cater for pretty much every hair type and a vast amount of great bloggers and vloggers with their amazing hair care videos, tips and tricks

After a life changing event just over a year ago I started looking at life very differently and one of the thing I realised was that wanting my hair to look slick and straight wasn’t because it was what I liked, it was because it’s what society said looked better. 
So for over a year now not only is my hair all natural but I’ve embraced my curls and am on a journey of discovering what works for my hair and what doesn’t. I’ve still got a long way to go but so far I’m loving how healthy my hair is feeling.

decades, natural afro hair has always been depicted as unruly, undesirable and NOT beautiful and I had unwittingly bought into that idea and black celebrities sporting European style wigs and weaves have reinforced that. Black women have been subjected to images in the media that doesn't reflect them and their afro and natural hair but recently we are seeing more and more images of BEAUTIFUL BLACK WOMEN embracing their natural locks and it’s so empowering especially for young black girls.

I’m under no illusions there will be days that my hair will look a mess, not sit how I want it to and drive me completely insane but I’m finally happy with the curls that grace my head and am proud of the head of hair I have, greys and all!

Emma xoxo

Monday, October 8, 2018

Rainy Day Activities

This year we had an amazing Summer full of hot and sunny days which meant we were able to enjoy loads of outdoor activities and we're fortunate enough to live in an area that is densely populated with parks, playgrounds, swimming pools and other family friendly attractions, however, now Autumn is well and truly here with cold, wet and windy days we are getting creative after school and at the weekends.
So with the weather set to get worse over the next few months, here are some of our favourite rainy day activities.

Masking Tape Games
Something as simple as a role of masking tape can provide hours of fun. Mark out a hopscotch on the floor using the tape. Using the masking tape stick a large circle to the floor followed by 2 smaller circles inside the largest one and an 'x' in the centre. Roll a ball and try and get as close to the 'x' as possible.

Play Dough
Despite what many think, making your own play dough couldn't be any simpler. There are loads of recipes out there that require just a few ingredients which you will probably have lying around in the cupboards at home. The beauty of homemade play dough is that its non-toxic, cheap and can be made in minutes.
Here's our favourite

Puddle jumping
This has to be the ultimate(and my personal favourite) rainy day activity. Get all the kids and adults to pull on a pair of wellies, grab a brolly if it's not too windy and head out in search of some puddles to do some good old fashioned puddle jumping in!

Rain gauge
Let the kids play scientists by measuring how much rain falls. Find any measuring implement(jugs, old baby bottles or pick up a rain gauge) and leave it out in the garden, on the windowsill or on a balcony. After every period of rain get the children to record how much rain fell in a chart of some kind
*this could also be used as part of your child's school homework*

Get baking! Fairy cakes, biscuits, fudge, desserts, flapjacks. You'll be surprised by how many ingredients you'll already have laying around in your cupboards so there's no excuse!

Indoor picnic 
Ok, so the weather outside may be rubbish but why not have an indoor picnic? Complete with blanket, sandwiches and  finger foods treat yourselves to a bug free picnic!

Decorate a candle
If like me you have hundreds of candles around the house then why not get out some plain candles and your craft box and let everyone decorate a candle. The possibilities are only as limited as your imagination.

Play a board game
Monopoly, Kerplunk, Frustration and Dominoes these were just some of the games I used to play as I child and I find they are still as popular today. Get everyone around the table and enjoy an afternoon of fun (and in our house lots of cheating!)

Do a puzzle
For me, there's always been something quite therapeutic and satisfying about sitting down and completing a puzzle so why not get everyone to get out their favourite puzzle and all complete them together. 

Look out for my upcoming rainy day activities video on my YouTube channel.

What are some of your favourite rainy day activities?

Emma xoxo

Saturday, October 6, 2018

What Black History Month Means To Us

As BLACK HISTORY MONTH begins I have found myself reflecting on what exactly it means to me and my family. As a family that is fortunate enough to be rich in a number of different cultures, I feel it is an important job for me as a mum to educate my children on the different histories and cultures that make us who we are and remind my them that those things don't separate us but make us special. Whilst there are some daily practises in our lives that are a part of our culture, for instance the way in which we care for our hair or in the food we eat, languages and terminology used, Black History Month is a great way of highlighting some of the forgotten stories and events that have shaped our families and the people we have become. The are some wonderful and courageous people who have positively contributed the world we live in today and made so many things possible for people for people just like myself.

I'm very lucky to have had many opportunities in life, including travel, study and work that have opened my eyes to things I may not have otherwise had the opportunity to experience and it is because I know that my ancestors just like the ancestors of many others were denied those opportunities for no other reason than the colour of their skin and fought so very hard for future generations to have these chances that I grab them with both hands.

One of the reasons I felt compelled to write this post is as a mummy blogger, I frequent many parenting forums, networks and read many blogs daily and there is always very little mention of black history month and in some cases no mention at all. I could spend hours going on about what black history month means to me and reel off names of many black people who have contributed to the world we live in but this post isn't about that, it's about seeing if what I am trying to teach my children is getting through to them and hearing what black history month means to the next generation, the ones who can make a difference in this world, MY CHILDREN. Unfortunately, even in this day and age there are still so many negative stereotypes surrounding black people, particularly young black men and boys and I work hard to prove that my children do not fit those stereotypes which is a sad thing for a parent to have to do. But with my daughters recent GCSE results, my oldest son's sporting achievements and my youngest son's amazing ability in maths we are proving ignorant people wrong.

Some time ago I asked each of them what black history month means to them and even now I'm still bursting with pride at their responses. 

Mikhayla, 14"I believe Black History Month is a celebration of achievements and movements made by not just famous individuals but by lesser known people too. It is a time to reflect on what is great about our cultures and traditions and acknowledge some of the wonderful things people have done for us. We can also use this month to let our mentors and role models now how proud we are of them and grateful for their contribution to our lives."

Jason, 12"To me Black History Month means achieving goals  and proving that skin colour shouldn't limit our ability to be who we want to be."

Samuel,7"It means I am proud of who I am and love my Mummy and Daddy, 2 grandmas, 2 grandads and nanny. It means that I get to eat lots of different foods and hear different stories and songs from the olden times in the Caribbean. I love my family."

I really couldn't have put it better myself. 

So this month immerse yourself in a different culture, find out if your local authority are running any special events, learn about some of the amazing black people who have influenced society as we know it and enjoy Black History Month!

Emma xoxo

Monday, October 1, 2018

10 Top Tips For Using Zoflora

Over the last month or so, cleaning mania has completely taken over the internet thanks to the lovely Mrs Hinch and along with it the super increased use of Zoflora.  As a family of 6 (8 if you include the cats) not living in a mansion, I’ve always tried to keep on top of the cleaning, washing, ironing etc So keeping with the cleaning theme and offering some cleaning tips you may not have thought of, here are my top 10 cleaning with Zoflora tips.

1. On a clean and dry cloth or piece of paper towel pour a capful of your favourite scent Zoflora and wipe light bulbs and radiators. When you turn them on and they heat up they will fill your home with the lovely smell.

2. Fill a reed diffuser bottle with your fave Zoflora and just wait for the gorgeous aroma to fill your room.

3. Whether you own a steam or spray mop, or both like me, fill the water tank with a dilute* solution of Zoflora. Not only will the the room smell lovely but you will also be safe in the knowledge your floors will be disinfected and clean.
When your microwave needs a good clean fill a bowl with water and add a few drops of Zoflora. 

4. Put the bowl in the centre and microwave for two minutes. When the two minutes are up, not only will your microwave smell lush you’ll be able to just wipe any mess inside.

5. With half a capful of Zoflora on a dry cloth or piece of paper towel wipe door handles and light switches to keep bacteria and germs away.

6. When it’s time to clean the washing machine, pour a small amount of Zoflora into the softner tray and set on a cycle. Once finished wipe the rubber seal and door with a cloth with some Zoflora on.

7. Pour a couple of capfuls into your toilet cistern before bed. Not only will it clean and disinfect your cistern, it will also mean a nicer smell than first morning wee!

8. Fill and empty spray bottle with a dilute solution and have it on hand to clean and disinfect work surfaces, cupboard doors, windowsills and more

9. Pour a capful of Zoflora on the toilet brush every evening. Do I really need to explain this one?!

10. Every night, before bed fill your kitchen sink with boiling hot water and a capful of Zoflora and wake up to a clean sink and gorgeous smelling kitchen.

There will be a YouTube video with some of these and more tips for using Zoflora so make sure youre subscribed so you don't miss out!

What are your top tips for using Zoflora?

Emma xoxo

*Please read the guidelines on the box
Ensure you wash your hands after using Zoflora