Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Brim full of Hygge

At the start of the year Hubbie gave me a book all about Hygge - the Danish concept of relaxation and being happy. A few weeks ago I went to a workshop to find out all about Hygge Box and I loved it. Not least because I found out how you actually pronounce the word - it's not hoo-gah it's hyoo-ger.

During the workshop we heard all about how Hygge has been interpreted as being all about white furnishings and expensive candles, but it's really simpler than that. Spending time with loved ones, sharing a blanket, eating nice food, soft lighting - these are all hygge. We made a lovely heart shaped decoration and tasted some traditional biscuits - no fancy hot choc for me that day. It reminded me of how me and Brown Bear enjoyed candles and cuddles under a fluffy blanket before he went upstairs to bed and it seems to have slipped away from us. Since the workshop I've introduced after school hygge with the boys getting into their onesies, relaxing on beanbags with a snack. It's a lovely time that they can unwind and I can truly appreciate the peace it brings to the house. 


I was fascinated by the idea of Hygge Box which is delivered to your home either as a one off or on a monthly basis. I asked if I could review a Hygge Box and look what arrived in the post this week - a Hygge Box in pretty packaging. the tissue paper inside is festive and luxurious so you feel like you are truly getting a box of treats. It's like the paper you used to get turkish delight wrapped up in and you'd get icing sugar on your fingers when you opened it. This wasn't quite as sweet as that, but it was filled with some lovely things to celebrate Advent. 


Of course there is an advent candle, some marzipan, mulled wine spices, hot chocolate mix and a kit to make crackers - including the jokes to put inside. There is plenty to do, things to eat, some items to help relax and overall it's a nice bit of self care. I can also see how it would work as a gift for someone else. As subscriptions go this is one that really appeals to all the senses. It would also make an ideal gift. 


Hygge Box was founded by Sally and Gabby whose travels have led to the realisation that they wanted to share Hygge with others. Once a month they send out a themed box of lovely things to get your hygge on. You can order a one off box for a friend - if you want to - or for yourself. I love the idea of a box filled with surprises and treats, like a special gift for no reason other than you deserve it. 

To see how I get on with the contents of my box follow me on Twitter for photos of the crafts and maybe even the tasty treats (if I remember to photograph them before scoffing that is !)

If you want to try a box for yourself you can order online here: www.hyggebox.co.uk  

Disclosure: The lovely Sally and Gabby sent me an Advent Hygge Box to review. 




Thursday, 30 November 2017

Picture this...

It's been a while since I did a photo post so I thought I'd share some of my recent adventures and share the visuals with you. 

A couple of weeks ago I spent the day at Youtube near King's Cross Station. It is one of those millenial workplaces with fridges full of drinks and food available to staff so all us bloggers arrived with empty bellies ready to pounce on the free breakfast. However, I was more interested in the guitars they had hanging up with a sign saying you could as to play them if you wish. I know when I sent this photo to my hubbie he had his eye on the Les Paul ! 


At my sons' school we held a winter ball with a Narnia theme. It was amazing and the effect of guests walking through the wardrobe and pushing aside coats to reveal the snowy indoor winter scene was magical. For me this twinkly dancefloor was the highlight - I think I might have to have one in our home ! 


Hubbie and I are big fans of Jason Manford. We've seen him live a few times and when he announced he was doing some live gigs to promote his first LP I got us tickets to see him perform in London. When we arrived we were stunned to find we were closer than expected. In fact even Jason commented on how close we were to him. If that wasn't embarrassing enough then our pizza arrived while he was still performing and we had to wait until he had finished to eat the - now cold - food. Still, he was very good indeed. 

I've been very late to the party when it comes to Dishoom and since I first ate there the morning after seeing Norah Jones at Ronnie Scotts I've been three times. Each time it's been a different location and they all have distinctive features and colonial Indian decor. I went to the soft launch of the latest branch in South Kensington. It's in the old Barkers building and used to be a cinema. It's like all the things I adore in one place. Delicious food, stylish and cinematic.  



Since I've been at Radio Lewes I've been pestering my fellow DJ and long time friend Soraya to present a show with me and the other weekend we did just that. 2 hours of inane chatter and some pretty spectacular music and we didn't even stop for breath. It was such a wonderful experience and I really hope we get to do it again soon. 


Finally, I can't even remember the context for this one, but I saw it and it tickled me so I thought I'd share with you. If you can't see the problem then I won't spoil it for you. Also, there's far too much to even outline here. 



That's some snapshots of what's been happening with me lately. I hope you're a bit more with it than I am at the moment. If not, then stick around kid we will probably get on just fine !


Sunday, 26 November 2017

I can't keep it to myself any more...

I've been trying to contain my excitement about this news, but I have been bursting to tell everyone. In fact I've already told all the staff in my local Waitrose, Yasmin who does my nails, most of the people I have met in passing since we planned it and now I'm finally telling you too. You see it's something I've wanted to do for so long, but it just hasn't happened. Now, with help from the fantastic folks at Mark Warner we are able to fulfil my wish to do something really special with the boys.

We will be flying to France for our first ever...

Family skiing holiday !!


Ok, I'm ridiculously excited about this and really, really want to tell the children. However, it's Blue Bear's birthday in two weeks and with it being so close to Christmas I want to make sure that it is really special for him. Once he has been the centre of attention in his own right we can do the big reveal and share all the amazing new things we are going to try.

Going on a plane: Brown Bear has flown before, but Blue Bear hasn't. I showed the boys their passports the other day and we talked about keeping them safe and what they are for. I asked Blue if he would like to go on a plane and of course he said yes. Phew ! That's a relief.


Staying in a chalet hotel: All our holidays with the boys have been in the UK - well Cornwall because we love it so much. We usually stay in a self-catering cottage and have days out and do activities as a family. This time we have booked to stay in a chalet hotel so we can relax. I don't have to cook and we will have afternoon tea with delicious cakes every day. Now that is dangerous !


Kids' clubs: The biggest departure for us, however, is that we have booked the boys into the Mark Warner kids club which is renowned for being excellent. Brown Bear will go to ski school in the morning and Blue Bear will go to a creche. They are confident and friendly children and will be cared for by British qualified child care staff - we are reassured that they will make friends and have fun.


Doing our own thing: Hubbie doesn't ski and has no interest in learning so I'm planning to head out to the slopes while he relaxes in the chalethotel. There is a heated pool, sauna and steam room and we have a balcony so he can just sit and read if he wants to. I haven't skiied for years so I'm going to tag along to ski school with Brown Bear and hopefully remember what to do. I think staying upright will be my main challenge to start with !

The last time I went skiing I looked like this

Buying ski stuff: Of course this has meant I've had to do some shopping for all the kit we need. It's a difficult job, but someone's got to do it. Family and friends have been advised that the boys have lots of lovely things so for Christmas they don't need any presents. However, some have kindly offered to get them socks, gloves and other things they can use on holiday. I can't wait to see what the boys make of that !


Do me a favour: So, now I've told you there is something I need you to do. You have to keep it to yourself. It it still a secret from the boys so please don't tell them. I promise I will share the big reveal when we do finally tell them. I think Brown Bear already suspects something as he said the other day, "I've never been skiing. I'd love to go." I smiled and said, "I'm sure you will get to one day."


You will definitely be fed up of hearing about it, but for now I'm just so excited !



Disclosure: We have collaborated with the lovely folks at Mark Warner to make this trip possible. 

Friday, 24 November 2017

Is kindness hereditary ?

This week we had an email from the headteacher of my sons' school. In it he told us about the trip his family had taken to Romania during the last half term to deliver donated clothes to children living in poverty. We had given gloves, hats and clothes and the boys were delighted to see the photos of their donations being given. The headteacher was launching phase two of the support for the organisation in Romania and during assembly on Monday he had asked the children if they could give £2 for a child to have a Christmas meal. This must have really made an impact on Brown Bear. He came home and asked if it would be ok for him to give more. I said of course it would and what did he have in mind. "£10 would be good." I told him that was very generous, but it would mean he might not have enough money left to get a glow toy for the junior school disco tonight. He didn't even stop to consider the sacrifice and brightly announced, "It's ok I don't want a glow toy, I want to give all the money to Romania." I felt such a glow of pride.



I recall when we visited Waitrose on one occasion and our local food bank volunteers were there making an in person collection. I asked Brown Bear to take the list of required items and to read me and Blue Bear all the things on the list so we could put them in the trolley. We filled it up and also bought some cereal and milk that we had come to buy for ourselves. As we left the store I asked the boys to help load up the items for the food bank volunteers. They were so appreciative and thanked the boys who beamed and smiled at the gratitude. As we drove home they couldn't stop talking about how great it felt to give food to people who didn't have enough.

At the end of the last school year the boys went through their old shoes and we picked the ones that were in good condition, but no longer worn. We gave them to a charity that takes shoes overseas to children who need them. I explained that there are children who just don't have any shoes and we have so many that once we've used them and they don't fit any more they are still good enough for someone else who has none. They really took that on board and it seemed to give Brown Bear an appreciation of how different some children's lives are from his. He now asks if his shoes are going to be good enough for someone else to have once he outgrows them.



In January Hubbie and I are going to do a fundraising walk to raise funds for Help for Heroes. It's 20km and it's the first fundraiser we've done together since the Nuns Run we did for Barnardo's. At the time we didn't appreciate how wearing a synthetic habit and wimple would be extremely uncomfortable on a summer day. I'm hoping that this challenge being a 'winter walk' makes it a little less - well shall we say anti-social ? The boys are used to seeing us take part in charitable endeavours and also understand that we give to others as we are so fortunate ourselves.

This evening Brown Bear was sitting on his bed counting out the change in his Big Ben piggy bank. He worked out it was around £4 and I said I had another tin of change somewhere so we went through that one as well. He took great care to sort the coins into piles of different denominations and we made a note of the totals. In the end it came to just under £14. I said, "that is a lot more than you expected isn't it ?" He smiled and nodded. "Are you sure you want to give all of it ? Are you sure you don't want to keep some of it ?" There was no hesitation at all. "I want to give all of it to Romania. We have £14 and they don't."

On days when this parenting thing seems to be impossibly difficult and thankless I'm going to remind myself of how thoughful and selfless my son can be. I must be doing something right.


Monday, 20 November 2017

It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it

Last night I went to see a band from my childhood. As I surveyed the room full of middle aged women and men - and a fair few gay men - I checked out the fashions in the room. You see before I left the house it took ages to decide what to wear. I wanted to 'dress up,' but it was really cold and I didn't want to freeze. What I'd forgotten of course was how hot and sweaty it gets in a venue during a gig. The long sleeved striped top and carpenter jeans I'd chosen caused me to feel fair overheated, but that might have been down to the dancing. Hubbie had expressed a wish for me to dress like this: 


Well, he is a man after all ! So I laughed and went upstairs to change into something far more suitable for a woman of my stature and age. As I watched the big screen behind the bananas showing their old music videos it reminded me that pretty much all my fashion choices in my teens were informed by Siobhan Fahey - and later Madonna. Okay so it didn't look the same on chubby asian me as it did on tall and slim pop starlets, but they had a look that was accessible and - by their own admission - thrown together. These girls weren't styled by anyone - well not until the Stock, Aitken & Waterman days anyway. Before that anyone could dress like a pop star. 

I mean this look was one of my staples - checked shirt, braces and pleated trousers. Yep did that. 


Then there were the dungarees. I have revisited this look in recent years, but back in the day I did in fact own a white pair and can honestly admit I must have looked more like a pint sized painter / decorator than a member of a pop band. 


If you grew up in the eighties you will remember the big hair. Oh yes it was big. I had very long hair back then, but I still tried to make it big and would braid it overnight to make it all crimped and wavy, then tie it up with scarves or rags. It didn't quite resemble this fab look, but I did try. 


Then there were the hats. I love a hat me and in the eighties we had the fantastic Mel and Kim big hat look and of course I had one. It didn't look quite as cool as this, but I like to think I was rocking it in my own way. 


So by the time I was at uni my clothing choices were getting more indie and less pop like, but I could still look to my girls for the cool edgy look I was going for. Look at the fingerless gloves, the red lipstick and the big coat - that's hardcore indie as far as I'm concerned. 


When I turned to my gig buddy and told her that I dressed like Bananarama for most of my teenage years she patted me on the shoulder and said, "never mind." Actually I loved being reminded of my scruffy, experimental, cheap and cheerful teenage looks. It was a bit of nostalgia and reminded me how much effort I put into my appearance. Just as the band have grown up and their look is far more sleek now, I like to think I have developed and grown into my middle aged style.



Mind you in my heart I still want to dress like this.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Go Go Ape for fruit and nut snacks

Now that both boys are at school I find that they are always ravenous when I pick them up at the end of the day. As a result I need a supply of portable snacks that I can take for them to have on the way home. We've made a strict rule that they can't have sugary snacks during the week and I want them to feel satisfied, but not so full that it spoils their dinner.

Ape coconut snacks


stylish packaging and no monkey business !

We were asked to try these new Ape snacks - moreish bite-sized pieces of coconut that pack as much punch in taste as they do in texture. They are something different and offer a change from crisps or rice cakes. The range offers mouth-watering and satisfying treats that don’t compromise on taste. Ape Snacks is available in two variants – Crispy Coconut Curls and Crunchy Coconut Bites.  All nibbles are gluten free, sugar free and high in fibre, making them the ideal snack for any time you’re feeling a little peckish.

tasty flavours too 

As you can see there is an extensive range of flavours with the Ape Curls are available in Lightly Salted, Slightly Peppered and Salted Chocolate variants, whilst the Bites come in scrumptious Natural, Chia Seed, and Sesame Seed flavours. All natural and suitable for vegans, the Ape Snack’s range is low in calories and high in taste.  I'd keep these as a treat for the boys or a post-gym or afternoon treat for me with a cuppa.

Ape’s coconut snacks are available from Boots, Ocado, Whole Foods, Planet Organic, Amazon and Holland & Barrett, amongst other leading retailers. RSP for the Crunchy Coconut Bites is between £1.49 and £1.68 for 30g standing pouch, and between £0.89 and £1.19 or a 20g bag of Crispy Coconut Curls.


Go Go Squeez Fruit Snacks


so many delicious flavours 

I often take fruit based snacks for the boys to have after sports or school. An actual piece of fruit is always good, but a these pouches of Go go squeez offer a great fun way to enjoy fruit. Each pouch contains 100% fruit and the varieties include apple, strawberry and mango - all of which my boys love to eat. The yoghurt varieties have another distinct advantage for me which is they don't need to be kept in the fridge. Once opened they should be refrigerated, but to be honest my boys wouldn't leave any to be stored for later.

yes it's 100% fruit 
no fridge - whoop whoop ! 

The pouches are just the right size and the propeller style lid is quirky and cute. On a practical level it is easier for children to open and looks like a good shape to prevent choking - which is a serious consideration if you're going to put these in packed lunches. The brand started in North America as 'applesauce' - which is big over there. I think it will do well here and we are certainly going to pack some into our travel bags when we go on holiday as a plane snack to help the boys if their ears pop on ascent.

cute and practical lid


Disclosure: The lovely folks at Ape and Go Go Squeez sent us some delicious snacks to try. 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Why I'm walking to support Help for Heroes


Brown Bear had his first sleepover with the Scouts last night. Very little sleep occured, but he came home exhausted and happy. They had put up a tent, watched a movie until late at night, slept in sleeping bags and this morning he took part in a church parade for remembrance Sunday. They also observed a silence in commemoration of the fallen. At school on Friday both Blue and Brown Bears took part in a school service of commemmoration and they stood in silence to remember the fallen. Hubbie and I were home this morning when the Cenotaph was shown on TV. He scooped up Blue Bear and we all stood watching the service and even managed to keep him quiet.

A few years ago we took Brown Bear to see the poppies at the Tower of London and we talked to him about what they meant and explained that the silence is a sign of respect. He was very young, but it seems to have struck a chord with him and he still loves to talk about it. At school his project this term is WW1 and he has taken a great interest in the topic.

I worry that talking to my children about war might frighten them. That they will be sad to hear about the young soldiers and the killing and the loss. Instead remembrance is a time to talk about bravery, sacrifice and pride. I am proud that my grandfather was in the army. I never got to meet him, but I know enough about him to feel a sense of gratitude for his service. It is also important to tell my children about those who return from service. Those who have served and might now need help to manage their lives.

It is with his in mind that I wanted to tell you that Hubbie and I are raising money for Help for Heroes.

"Help for Heroes supports those with injuries and illnesses attributable to their service in the British Armed Forces. No matter when someone served, we believe that those prepared to put their lives second, deserve a second chance at life.

Every course and activity we offer aims to empower them to look beyond illness and injury, regain their purpose, reach their potential and have a positive impact on society.

How we do it

Working with a vast network of professionals and partners, we help our Veterans and their families through physical and emotional rehabilitation, identifying new career opportunities as well as financial and welfare support.

We know that those who served together, recover better together - supporting each other, enjoying the camaraderie and sense of fellowship once more.

The Nation has united behind our Armed Forces. During our first 10 years, we’ve directly helped more than 17,000 individuals and their families in this way. Offering this to thousands more who need it remains possible thanks to our supporters, and specialist charity partners."

I hope you agree that Help for Heroes is an amazing charity doing fantastic work. If you can support our fundraising efforts I'd be delighted: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tiswaz