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Friday, November 8, 2019

Making the Most of you Merlin Pass During Winter

If you think just because some of the theme parks have closed down for the winter that you can't have fun with your Merlin Pass then boy are you wrong! With the four major theme parks closed it actually gives you a great opportunity to make the most of your pass by visiting other Merlin attractions.
If like me you live in London or close by then there are an abundance of attractions to visit during off-peak season and what’s more if you want to visit attractions that may require a stopover hotels and B&Bs are generally a bit cheaper this time of the year so it’s a win-win situation.

Along the Southbank there are 4 indoor attractions alone to visit. All within a few metres of each other. There is the SEA LIFE Centre London Aquarium, Shrek’s Adventure, The London Dungeons and London Eye and 4D experience.

Shrek's Adventure, SEA LIFE and the London Eye make for a great family day out in London and with Madame Tussaud’s just a short bus ride away you are sure to have a fun packed day. 
If you’re feeling brave or have older children then why not visit The London Dungeons and learn about some of London’s more chilling history.
For just a mere £1 per person all of these attractions can be pre-booked online and guaranteeing entry at your chosen time.

If you still want to spend the day out in the fresh air then why not visit Warwick castle? With the beautiful Castle itself to tour indoors and stunning grounds(with roaming peacocks) to explore this would make for a perfect day out. If you think it’s too chilly for a picnic then take advantage of one the restaurant’s onsite and fill up on a warm meal and don't forget that your Merlin Pass entitles you to up to 20% off food, drink and more!

If you're missing Legoland and want a Lego fix then while away a day at one of the two Legoland Discovery Centres. With one in Manchester and one in Birmingham there is definitely something for everyone and be sure to check out any special events or activities they may have running.

If a day out along Blackpool prom is what you're after then don't forget to pack your pass. The Blackpool Tower hosts a string of attractions where your pass will have you out of the cold but definitely not missing out on the action.

Alongside the 30+ attractions that you can use your pass at for 12 months there are also a whole hosts of benefits attached to your pass. With perks such as friends and family discounted tickets, money off short breaks, up to 50% off international entry, up to 20% off food, drink and merchandise and discounts from partner companies there is no reason for the fun to stop just because the coasters have!

To add to the already great value, Merlin have also made their passes even more affordable now by introducing a pay monthly pass. There are two types of pass; standard and premium so be sure to make sure if you are purchasing one that you choose the right ones for your family.

We are already planning on making the most of our Merlin Passes over winter with a planned trip to Warwick Castle for stories with Santa, a visit to the Legoland Discovery Centre in Birmingham and just try keeping us away from the Southbank attractions!

Emma xoxo

Monday, November 4, 2019

Weekly Meal Planner 04/11/19

Spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread

Cajun chicken thigh fillet burgers, sweet potato fries and corn on the cob

Special fried rice and vegetable spring rolls

Beef bourguignon

Lamb chops, cous cous and roasted veg

Out for dinner

Pork roast dinner

Once again I'm joining in with Katy Kickers meal planning linky so if you're stumped for ideas head on over for some more inspiration.

Emma xoxo

Friday, November 1, 2019

The 25 Days of Elfmas - Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Every single year without fail between 1st and 25th December I get all comfy in bed and the BAM it hits me, I've forgotten to move the flipping elves!

This year I'm getting organised to avoid having the leave my warm comfy bed by planning 'Elfmas' day by day.
If you're stuck for ideas or want to get on top of it too then take a look at my '25 Days of Elfmas' calendar. 
Follow me over on Instagram for daily pictures, more ideas and inspiration.

The 25 Days of Elfmas

Dec 1st – Elves arrive through letterbox with advent calendars
Dec 2nd – Plant magic green seeds
Dec 3rd – Seeds grow into candy canes
Dec 4th – Red dots on noses on pictures
Dec 5th – Draws on all the eggs
Dec 6th – Bowling in the hallway
Dec 7th – Invite to see Santa
Dec 8th – Christmas crumpets decorate a cookie
Dec 9th – Knicker and bra hammocks on tree
Dec 10th – Elves zip lining
Dec 11th – Bad elf tapes good elf to the toilet lid
Dec 12th – Find the chocolate coins
Dec 13th – Tickets to see the lights
Dec 14th – Pyjamas from the elves
Dec 15th – Find all the candy canes
Dec 16th – Tried to make a cake
Dec 17th – Movie night
Dec 18th – Feeding the ducks in the bath
Dec 19th – Being a doctor
Dec 20th – In the cereal box
Dec 21st – Swinging in the hallway
Dec 22nd – Face paints while the kids sleep
Dec 23rd – Snowball fights
Dec 24th – Brings xmas eve boxes/bags

Dec 25th – Goodbye from the elves, wrapped the door, Santa footprints and glitter

I'd love to see and hear what your elves get up to.

Emma xoxo

Friday, October 11, 2019

A Quick Life Update

So it's October which means we are in our final quarter of not just this year but this DECADE!

I thought I'd take this opportunity to look back on the year so far and see what has been going well, what hasn't been and how much we have managed to tick off of our 2019 Bucket List.

2019 Bucket List

Family            Couple          Children        Personal       Home

Picnic on the beach Christmas Break City Break Spa Break
Theatre Pedicure Visit Boxhill New Forest Short Break
Replace mattresses New Dinner Set Go Fishing
Loose at Least 2 Stone Send a message in a bottle Save More
Visit a trampoline park Alton Towers Break Visit a Waterpark
Have a Water Balloon/Gun Fight Take More Pics Visit a New City
Visit Virginia Water Replace Wardrobes New Sofa Read More
Go on Holiday Go to Peppa Pig World Go for a Couples Massage
Go on a Steam Train Hot Air Balloon Ride Conquer 1 of My Fears
Replace Duvets and Pillows Fit Breakfast Bar

We realised that a breakfast bar wouldn't work in the kitchen so that's one thing off the list and as for a hot air balloon we had a look at a few but decided we would wait until next year when I had worked a little more on  my fear of heights.

My Youtube video has my top tips for money saving.
So far we've managed to do 16 things from our Bucket List but the one I'm most please about is saving more. This year I opened a separate account where I could create different 'pots' for all of the individual things that I wanted to save for and I'm really proud of myself for sticking at it and nearly reaching all of my targets.

The one goal that isn't looking likely and I'm really disappointed in myself in is weight loss. I started off so well at the beginning of the year but then slowly and surely I stopped putting the effort in and the weight crept back on. Last week I decided that I needed to get my butt back in gear and I'm pleased to say that in the first week I've seen a 5lb loss.

We're off on a mini break during the October half term where we're hoping to tick off at least another 3 things off this list so look out for my Instagram stories for updates on these.

Over the last few months my outlook on life has been changing and day by day I'm realising what the most important things are to me and they aren't the same as what I previously thought. Having lost my mother in law earlier this year and watching my Grandmother struggling with dementia it really drives home how precious every day is and that we should be making every second count.

Lymington in The New Forest

Small things that would've got my back up before, I'm slowly learning to let slide and teaching the kids to collect memories and not things are high up on my list.

I started this year off with high hopes and in good spirits and had a big wobble around May and June but thankfully I've managed to take some time out, clear my mind and hit the refresh button and have got back on the proverbial horse.

If you've got in to a bit of a funk just take a deep breath, hit the reset button, don't let life stress you too much and rest will fall into place.

How are you feeling entering the last quarter of this decade?

Emma xoxo

Monday, October 7, 2019

Weekly Meal Planner 07/10/19

Beef bourguignon with mashed potato and green beans

Chicken and 'rainbow' rice

Meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce, spaghetti and doughballs

Chicken kebabs, salad and cous cous

Cajun spiced chicken thigh burgers, hassle back new potatoes and corn on the cob

Breakfast dinner

Curried mutton, rice and peas, plantain and salad

What's on your menu this week?

Emma xoxo

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Dealing With Dementia

The last couple of years our life has been affected by dementia. We have had to watch members of our family become almost strangers all because of one of the most horrible diseases out there. It is absolutely heartbreaking watching those that you love the most become people that you barely recognise. The not remembering people and places and watching them confused and vulnerable has broken me more times that I care to remember but I refuse to let this horrid disease ruin whatever time I have left with them so I've armed myself with knowledge and am doing what I can to help myself, family and you understand life with dementia.

So what is dementia?
Dementia is actually an umbrella term used to describe a number of progressive neurological disorders that affect the brain. There are astonishingly over 200 subtypes of dementia with the 5 most common being Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia.

What causes dementia?
The brain is made up of nerve cells that communicate with each other by sending messages. Dementia actually damages the nerve cells in the brain which means that messages cannot be sent effectively and that prevents the body from functioning as it normally would.

It doesn't matter which type of dementia a person is diagnosed with or which part of the part of the brain that it affects, every sufferer will experience dementia in their own way.

When can it be diagnosed?
Commonly dementia is diagnosed in people over the age of 65, however, it can affect a person at any age so it's worth seeing your GP if you are worried.

What symptoms should I look out for?
Memory problems - You may notice that people with dementia may get lost in places they were previously familiar in or struggle with names of people that they know. They may also have difficulty retaining new information and increasingly misplace things.

Communication - People that have dementia can have difficulty verbally expressing themselves or finding the right words and may often repeat themselves. You may also notice a difference in their personality where they can suffer from mood swings, depression and anxiety. You may find that they are no longer interested in social interactions, become withdrawn and their self confidence can also become affected.

Cognitive ability - Some people with dementia can suffer with timelines. For example you may find them getting ready for bed at 2 in the afternoon or waking up in the middle of the night to get ready for work, the school run, shopping etc. Their concentration may also be affected so things like making a list or watching a programme or film from start to finish can be tricky. 
In some cases the ability to make decisions, reason and manage their own affairs can be affected.

How do I get a diagnosis? 
If you feel that a loved one or yourself may be suffering from some of the symptoms and are concerned it is important to see your GP as soon as possible. Some conditions have similar symptoms to dementia(ie, infections, vitamin B12 deficiency, sleep apnoea etc) but if diagnosed quickly they can be treated without long term problems.
To decide if someone is suffering from dementia, the GP will find out any family and medical history, asking about behaviour and mood changes along with screening them for mental health and cognitive issues by asking questions, testing short term memory, concentration.
If, deemed necessary the GP will requests an MRI or CT scan and/or blood tests. In some cases a referral may also be made to a memory clinic or specialist for further investigation and/or assessment.
If after all of the above is completed and a diagnosis of dementia is given then the GP will ensure that the person with the diagnosis and family or carer is signposted to services in the local area that are able to help and support both the patient and the family. You should also be referred for further assessments and treatments that may be beneficial. 

How can I help and support my loved one?
You may feel that you don't have much to offer or don't know what to do but just by being there you are being a huge help. If your loved one starts talking about events that happened in the past as if they were yesterday, go with it. Try not to raise your voice or speak too quickly around them as it can confuse and agitate them. Have pictures to hand so that you can talk about people and gently remind them of names and relationships to them. Some of the websites below offer more information on what you can do to help

When going through the process of getting a dementia diagnosis there is so much information to take in and medical terms that are bounded about that it can seem like you are drowning but don't be scared to ask professionals to slow down or use language that you understand. Also, once you have a diagnosis don't be afraid to ask for help. It can all seem so overwhelming but there are organisations, charities and people out there who can offer you support and guidance.

Alzheimers Society

Dementia UK

Below are a a couple of organisations that will be able to offer you help and advice regarding dementia but remember to check out what facilities that you have locally as it varies from borough to borough.

If you or anyone you know is going through this, my heart goes out to you and I hope that you have found this post useful. Feel free to pop me a message if you want to chat, my inbox is always open!

Emma xoxo

Monday, September 23, 2019

Weekly Meal Plan 23/09/19

Spaghetti bolognese and garlic bread

Fish fingers, chips and beans

Chicken biriyani, onion bhajis and samosas

Toad in the hole, roast potatoes and veg

KFC rice box fakeaway

At a party

Beef stew and dumplings

If you want more meal ideas and recipes then head on over to the lovely Katy Kicker's blog where I have linked this meal plan up with her meal planning linky. 
What's on your menu this week?

Emma xoxo

Friday, September 20, 2019

Helping Your Child Through their SATS

Like many parents of year 6 children up and down the country, not only will I bedoing the rounds and visiting schools to decide which ones we'll put on our secondary applications we also will be preparing our son for his SATS.

As parents we know our children better than anyone and despite reassuring them and telling them just to do their best we also know that their smiles can hide a million worries.

This will be my third time going through this and here are some tips I've picked up along the way.

Talk about them as early as possible
Start talking to your child about them as soon as possible. They'll be talking about it in school anyway so this way you find out what your child may feel stressed or unsure about or where they are struggling

Ease any anxieties
If you pick up that your child is anxious about the upcoming SATs then try to find out what is making them feel like that. Is there a specific aspect of the tests or just the tests in general and work on strategies to help them when they feel the most pressure. There are loads of articles online and YouTube videos that can help.

Speak to their teacher
If you or your child have any questions, concerns or worries make sure you speak to their teacher asap. They spend a lot of time with our children and know them pretty well. They'll be able to ease your mind or offer sources of info or support to help you deal with any concerns. Parent's evening are a great opportunity to bring up any quick issues but if you have a few things you want to discuss, make a list and arrange an appointment to speak to them.

Encourage them to complete homework
Reading daily and things like practising times tables may seem like small things but it really is all these little things that add up. Feeling confident in these things really goes a long way. You could also download, buy or borrow resources from your library to assist your child. Ask their teacher which ones will be the most help.

Ask what you can do
It may seem a really obvious one but sometimes the most obvious things are the ones we miss. Ask your child or their teacher what you can do to support them at home. 

Be patient
This one is the most important I think. Every child is different but when the time comes to taking the tests, you may find your child is more tired than usual, grumpy, tearful etc. Remember to be patient with them. Schools are supporting them but they will also be feeling the pressure to 'get it right' or 'be the best' so be prepared that they may need you to be just that little bit for patient.

Reassure them
There will be times when they are horrid little things but keep reassuring them that they are amazing and they will be just fine. As I said above, the confidence and reassurance goes a long way.

Wishing you and them all the love and luck.

Emma xoxo

Monday, September 9, 2019

Weekly Meal Plan 09/09/19

On our menu this week is

Pork chops, roast potatoes, yorkshire puddings and vegetables

Stew and dumplings

Meatballs and spaghetti

Spicy chicken, rice and corn on the cob

Steak, chips and mushrooms

Pizza and garlic bread

At a friends for lunch

What are your favourite or go to meals?

Emma xoxo

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Weekly Meal Plan 02/09/19

Pasta in a spicy tomato sauce

Old school fish fingers, chips and beans 

Chicken and mushroom curry with rice, salad and naan bread

Sausage, mash and onion gravy

Breakfast dinner

At parties all day

Stewed beef, curry mutton, rice and peas, plantain, macaroni pie and salad

What's on your menu this week?

Emma xoxo

Friday, August 30, 2019

The Miracle Morning

One of my goals for this year was to get back into reading. I've always loved reading but over the last few years(that should read decade) I had slowly but surely got out of the habit of reading.
In January I chose a few books from one of our local libraries and one of them was called The Miracle Morning. I posted on Instagram that I would e giving it a go and had quite a few messages from people saying that they had heard of The Miracle Morning and could I let them now how I found it.
So here it is...
I know it's now August but it's definitely not a book that you read once and then implement and I also wanted to be honest about the book and process which I knew wouldn't be possible after trying it for just a few weeks.

                                            Image result for the miracle morning

The book is designed to help people build simple habits that will go on to create positive changes in life. Many experts have hailed it as a life changing read saying that it "contains the building blocks to get your life back on track or turn it around."
 I had a copy from the library which meant I couldn't make notes on it which I quickly realised wouldn't work. I ordered myself a copy from Amazon and picked up where I left off. 
The idea of The Miracle Morning is simple yet effective. It involves getting up earlier than usual(not ridiculously early though) and spending time alone to focus yourself on being the best version of you. 

I quickly set about making notes on suggestions in the book; things that would work for me, things that weren't practical etc 
The book tells you that The Miracle Morning consists of 6 life SAVERS 

  You have a period of Silence
A  You read or say Affirmations
V  You do Visualisations
E  . You Exercise
R  You do some Reading
S   You spend some time Scribing, journalling, writing etc

All of this is done in the time that you wake up earlier before getting ready to face the day ahead.

The books author, Hal Elrod suggests what you could do for each activity and how long to spend on it but I found myself getting so hung up on his suggestions that the first 3 days that I tried to implement it I just didn't feel that it was working for me. I looked at the SAVERS again and this time decided to reorganise them in a way that worked better for me and after a few mornings of doing it my way I felt this was something that definitely was making a difference to my days and my mental well being too.

"But don't you find getting up earlier hard?"
This is question that I get asked the most and the truth is sometimes yes. I learned rather quickly though that my usual bedtime of after 11pm wouldn't work with The Miracle Morning but actually wasn't working with my normal routine either so I decided that going to bed an hour earlier was worth it. If you establish a good bedtime routine then it definitely makes getting up earlier much easier.

"Aren't you tired all the time?"
This is the second most commonly asked question. There are days where it gets to about 1pm and I am shattered and just want to nap but equally before I started TMM and on the days that I don't do it I still can and do have days that I feel tired. Making small changes to my lifestyle has helped combat the tiredness and I also believe that TMM has made those changes possible.

"It won't work with my lifestyle/family!"
I'm not even going to lie, after first reading the book and trying it for 2 days this was me. "It doesn't work, I'm too busy, I don't have the time, It's inconvenient" every excuse you could think of I had. It was when I sat down and really thought about what I want from life and how I could achieve those things that I knew that I had to give this a proper go and if after that it didn't work then fair enough. There is a quote or saying that is always doing the rounds on Facebook about people making time for what they want and it's true. If you really want to do something you'll find a way.

I won't lie and say that it's always easy and I do give myself 2-4 days off of TMM a week depending on what my week looks like(ie, during the summer holidays it wasn't physically possible to be able to do it for 7 days a week because of our plans) and I won't say that as a result I have millions in the bank or have lost all the weight I want but what I will say is that this process is undeniably helping me make positive changes to my life and helping see that my goals are more within my reach than I ever dreamed.

If you've tried The Miracle Morning I'd love to know how you've found it and if you are going to give it a go because of this post then please keep me updated.

Emma xoxo

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Weekly Meal Plan 26/08/19

We are at Notting Hill Carnival

Out for the day

Spaghetti Bolognese and garlic bread

Jacket potatoes with various fillings

Vegetable curry and rice

Picnic at the farm

Sunday roast

What’s on your menu this week?

Emma xoxo

Friday, August 23, 2019

Chicken Arrabbiata Recipe

One of my favourite dishes at an Italian restaurant is Chicken Arrabbiata. A basic dish that tastes yummy and whilst I haven't perfected it this recipe comes a pretty close second.

You will need
Serves 4

400g chicken breasts
400g penne pasta
2 cartons of passata
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 onion finely chopped
1 chilli deseeded and finely chopped (you can leave the seeds in if you're feeling brave)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
4 tbs olive oil
Parsley chopped

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat

Dice the chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper and add to the pan. Cook for 5 mins or until the chicken is cooked.

Chop the garlic, onion and chilli and add to the pan. Fry for another minute, stirring everything together.

Pour the passata in as well as the chopped parsley, stir well and simmer gently uncovered for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

In the meanwhile cook the pasta following the instructions on the packet. Once cooked, drain and tip the pasta back into the same saucepan.

Add the chicken in sauce to the pasta and stir everything together.

Serve straightaway. (Serve with chopped parsley and parmesan if you like)

If you try this recipe I'd love to see your finished products. Feel free to tag me on Instagram I'd also love to see your take on my favourite recipe.

Emma xoxo

Monday, August 19, 2019

Weekly Meal Plan 19/08/19

Pork chops, roast potatoes and vegetables

Chilli con carne and rice

Spicy chicken arrabbbiate

Homemade wrap pizzas

Beef nachos

Saturday and Sunday
Away for the weekend

What's on your menu this week?

Emma xoxo

Friday, August 16, 2019

Dinosaur World Live

On Thursday 14th August we headed to the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre to watch Dinosaur World Live
For the last few years families have had to opportunity to get their hands on free theatre tickets for their children for some great shows so we took advantage of that and got our tickets.
The show was held in the brand new Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre located in the heart of Wembley Park and just a few minutes walk from the station.

We were greeted at the entrance by some really fun and friendly members of staff who showed us to the box office to collect our tickets. The equally lovely staff at the box office gave us our tickets along with a nice surprise of free seat upgrades.

The foyer was styled in a very urban and cool way with a dinosaur egg and foliage in the centre which makes for a great photo opportunity. The concession stand had loads of dinosaur related merchandise and programmes available to buy opposite a very well stocked bar serving hot and cold drinks.
After purchasing our dino heads on sticks and programme we made sure we visited the toilet(which were very snazzy may I add) before taking our seats. 

The staff were super efficient at seating all guests and offered booster seats where necessary. We had an amazing view from our seats in row D and shortly after being seated we were taking in the scenery of the stage; crates strategically placed with warning signs of what may reside inside then a lady appeared on stage and introduced herself as Miranda. She talked about her parents being palaeontologists, growing up on an island off South America and how they studied dinosaurs. Miranda continued by telling us that they brought some species back to the UK to educate us about these dinosaurs.
As the story continues Miranda introduces us to six different dinosaurs one at a time and asks for volunteers from the audience to feed, pet and cuddle the dinosaurs. Every so often Miranda would say "Dino fact" and then provide us with some factual information about dinosaurs so not only was it a fun show but also educational.
Towards the end Titus the T-Rex was 'released' on stage and with smoke, lights and fantastic sound effects had everyone on the edge of their seats with excitement. Once Titus is safely led away the show ends with us being able to witness a baby dinosaur hatching from its egg and mother and baby singing to each other which had the whole audience cooing.

Once the show was finished there was the opportunity to meet one of the dinosaurs on stage and two of the dinosaurs were in the foyer waiting to meet the audience and have a cuddle.

The show is aimed at families of children aged 3 and up and as an interactive show there are lots of opportunities for audience participation which all of the kids(including the adults) loved. Now although I've talked about dinosaurs I will take this opportunity to point out that as fantastic as the show was the dinosaurs are in fact the most amazing looking puppets that are life size(I assume as I've never met a dinosaur in person)and as for the puppeteers well what can I say, blown away by their performances.

I was pleasantly surprised with just how much my two children enjoyed it and took away from it. I myself wasn't sure exactly what to expect but I left the theatre in awe of what a great show we had just watched. Along the the fab setting and awesome staff I can safely say that we loved our afternoon out and would definitely recommend Dinosaur World Live as a show and Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre as a venue.

**Dinosaur World Live will be on at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre until 1st September so there's still time to get some tickets. Don't forget if you book them through kids theatre week you will get one free child ticket per adult ticket purchased and a second child can go for half price.

Emma xoxo