Visiting Calke Abbey in The National Forest

Over these summer holidays I've had to spend a lot of time finding activities for my boys to do to keep them busy. Even though my boys are completely different personalities when it comes to exploring they're both the same. They love to get outdoors (when made to) and explore what they can see. Last Thursday we visited Calke Abbey and Calke Explore in The National Forest and the boys got to climb, run around, and explore.

We got up on Thursday to miserable weather, the clouds covered the sky and there was drizzle in the air. It didn't bode well for the rest of the day. 

The boys got ready and I told them to prepare for a wet day. We all got in the car and drove the 24 miles towards our destination. I wasn't sure what to expect from Calke Abbey, even though I've lived in the area most of my life I've never visited but I was excited for the boys to get to explore the woodland in Calke Explore.

Calke Explore

On arrival at Calke Abbey we were told to go to Calke Explore first because there was a one-way system. As we got out of the car and donned our coats I realised it wasn't cold, it was wet and rainy but not cold.

My Autumn/Winter Style Staples

When I put weight on I tend to get a little down, I like to be stylish but have been beaten into thinking it's not possible if you're overweight. Well that's wrong, I assure you. All you need is a few great staple pieces in your wardrobe and you're sorted. As the Autumn/Winter season will soon be upon us I decided to find the best style staples around.

During my search I came across the site Lyst, it's a shopping site with a difference. It looks very similar to other shopping sites but you can see clothes and accessories from lots of different brands including top brands like Ralph Lauren and Gucci on the same page as Topshop and River Island. Not only that but you can "like" an item and Lyst will notify you if the item goes on sale! Now that's a feature I like!

I spent hours searching through Lyst and here are my Autumn/Winter style staples.

Little Black Dress

Everyone loves a great black dress, it's a piece that will do for any occasion whether it's work or a party and when paired with the right accessories will make you look fabulous. The LBD works for any woman any size, can be worn with heels, ballet flats, or even boots. I love this LBD from River Island for £30 - the perfect price point. The 3/4 sleeves cover up the upper arms ready for the cooler weather, the plunge neckline and synched in waist emphasises will look great. This dress would look great on a plus size woman!

Making Memories in Your Home

The hustle and bustle of everyday life is hard to keep up with, let alone to find the time to reflect on happy times and work towards creating new ones. However, before you know it the little ones will be all grown up and you might have missed some great opportunities for creating lasting memories the whole family can look back on.

Creating memories in your home is easy to do and can involve lots of the activities you might already be doing…

Keeping Memories Alive

Is your phone bursting at the seams of storage space because of all the adorable pictures you have of the children? Take your beautiful photos, get them printed and create a photo album or scrapbook. This can be a family activity as you all decide on what goes where and you can also add in some little written memories to go along with pictures so no detail is forgotten. A great bonding experience for the entire brood!

Post Comment Love 26th - 28th August

Welcome to another week of Post Comment Love with Stephanie and me, it's great to see you lovely lot coming back every week to link up. I know Steph won't mind me saying that we both really appreciate your support in keeping this linky going. 

So another week has passed and we're that much closer to the boys being back at school. I'll admit to being a little jealous when I've seen some children are already back, I'm definitely ready for it.

Saying that though we've had a wonderful holiday and made the best use of it we could while trying to work too. We went to Calke Abbey, in the National Forest, yesterday (review to follow soon) and afterwards went for a lovely curry with the in-laws to celebrate their anniversary. Chester Zoo was amazing last week and although it rained all day (ALL DAY!!) it didn't dampen our spirits and we had a great time. 

Back to School: 6 things you need to know

With the kids returning to school in a couple of weeks, it’s the time of year when every parent has to buy new school uniforms. It can be an expensive thing to do, especially when your kids are growing all the time. Sometimes it feels as though they barely get any wear out of their new uniform before they need something to fit better. Luckily, there are lots of great value items out there. Here is our pick of the best ways to make your money (and uniform) last longer.

School shoes

Debenhams have launched a great range of shoes that are scuff resistant, meaning you’ll have the peace of mind of them being hard wearing. Let’s face it; we know how much kids like to get into trouble so these shoes will be ideal for the classroom or the playground.

Look for items that will last

It may be tempting to buy cheaper uniform items, but shops such as M&S have shirts and blouses that use Stainaway technology. The material resists and releases stains, so there is no need to worry about washing away those everyday spills. It might cost more initially, but if they last longer then you’ll get enough wear out of them. You can look out for offers on sites such as Plusvouchercode and save money on the new uniform.

The battles of Mum

The word "mum" conjures all sorts of images, from taking care of babies to coping with teenage tantrums on a daily basis. One of the problems I find though is that people who don't have children tend to imagine being a mum is "easy".

Ha! If only. 

As a mum we get up in a morning, don our protective "mum" armour, and brave the day of battles ahead of us.

The Battles

Wake up!

If, like me, you're the mum of a tween, tween-in-training, or even a teen, you know what I'm talking about. That's right ladies and gentlemen it's the first battle of every day; the wake-up call. You begin by telling them it's time to rise and before you know it you're screaming at the top of your voice, threatening them with a bucket of ice-cold water.

BP is awful first thing in the morning. I wake him at 6:50am, it's enough time to get ready for school and be out of the door by 7:50am. We've had this routine for a whole school year now and he still can't get up on time. Our arguments range from teary cries to all-out nuclear war. He just cannot drag his bottom out of bed, even when he's had an early night!

LP is slightly different, although I can see the beginnings of the tween in him. At 7 years old he jumps out of bed (sometimes) with a smile and is ready for the day. But there are some days when he doesn't want to get up and on those days I have to contend with two of them in grumpy moods. 

Thou shalt eat

Whether it's battling with a baby/toddler to get them to eat their breakfast or complaints from the children because you don't have their favourite cereal, you're at 7am (roughly) and you're already on battle number 2. Cereal ends up on the floor, toast is burnt, and drinks are spilled, all in an attempt to get their own way. 

I've had arguments about the wrong cereal, the wrong bread (BP hates brown bread), I've even had to argue about not having chocolate spread on toast! Like most children my boys love pancakes (think american) for breakfast but as they're usually covered in maple syrup I don't let them have pancakes very often, and this of course leads to complaints. 

You're wearing what?!

The usual battle is getting them dressed in the first place but you can also end up fighting about the state of trousers (or skirt), or that they put on the wrong clothes. Telling them to get changed (again) drops like an atom bomb and you hear huffs as they stomp their way back up the stairs.

If I had a penny every of time I've had to tell BP to get changed I'd be a millionaire. He's dressed in creased shirts, muddy trousers, and even attempted to go to school in trainers, and every time I have to tell him to get changed. This is, of course, my fault - if I hadn't told him to get changed then he'd have happily gone to school in those dirty clothes.

LP is not much different when it comes to getting dressed. He hates having to get changed and when I point out that the trousers are dirty or that he needs clean socks on he will shout "it's not fair!" and storm up the stairs to change. He's taking cues from his older brother!

Climbing Everest

Once the children are at school you'd think there were no battles until they arrived home but alas that's not the case. From the moment they leave the house battles of another kind begin. The first one to tackle is the washing mountain that has taken on Everest proportions even though the washing machine is on constantly. 

My washing mountain is something I fight with all the time. I have tried ignoring it which results in its growth, I've tried attacking it 4-5 times daily but the socks seem to multiply and attack me right back. The washing mountain is the bane of every mum's life.


No matter how many times you dust the window sills or the shelves they always end up dusty again a few days later. Leave it more than a week and the sides look like they've been left for years as the flies get caught in the growing cobwebs. 

I love looking at my window sills and shelves just after they've been dusted, they look so lovely. On occasion I've taken photos just to remember what they look like clean because in no time they'll look dirty again. Dust drives me mad, I hate the stuff. 

The Singles Attack

If you tackle the washing mountain you get attacked by socks and once those socks are clean they have to be paired again. With a basket full of unpaired socks you take over the lounge floor as you lay out each sock and try to put the pairs back together.

My basket of unpaired socks contains socks that have been 'single' forever and yet I still keep them. Why?! Pairing socks is one of those jobs I both love and hate, I like being able to pair the socks and put them away but when I'm left with more single socks than paired ones I feel like I'm wasting my time. And how is it the socks never come out of the washing machine in pairs when you put them in together? I swear the washing machine eats them!

Fighting the Inner Voice 

You get the washing mountain to less than Everest proportions, you've dusted the sides, and you've paired the socks. Now it's time for a coffee, a hot coffee. Yet you still have a battle on your hands, but this one is more internal. It's that nagging voice telling you you shouldn't be sitting to have a coffee, you should be mopping the kitchen floor or changing the bedding. Allowing yourself a minute to enjoy the peace while the children are at school results in a battle with yourself. Grr.

I'm not sure this one will ever be won. I feel guilty for having a minute to myself, even though I've spent the morning on my feet running around the house cleaning. I think about all the things I ought to be doing while the kettle boils. I plan my next job while I make the coffee. I wonder what jobs I'll do tomorrow while I drink my coffee. The guilt never goes away and even when you know you're entitled to a break you feel guilty for doing it.

The return of the little people

The children arrive home after school and what's the first thing they ask?

"What's for dinner?"

If you don't give the response they're looking for they bombard you with other suggestions that result in you feeling like you're wasting your time. Not only that but they then ask for snacks and sweets because they're "hungry". If you tell them no you're the worst mum in the world.

LP has started asking me about dinner on the way home from school and he even tries negotiating with me about snacks. He'll say things like "if you let me have some crisps I'll be good", needless to say this doesn't work. I am EVIL mum after all!

iPad Wars

You don't want your children to spend all evening on the consoles or tablets but you do want to let them have some down time. You set specific limits and expect them to be obeyed but as the limit is reached the negotiations and the "just one more minute" start.

Living in a "gaming" house this is the hardest thing to tackle. The Hubby spends most of his time looking at games for work and it's hard to explain to the boys that he is working. All they see is their dad playing games. I've had to deal with "just one more minute" and the throwing of console controllers as they have a temper tantrum.

The Hubby may work in the gaming industry but that doesn't mean the boys have to spend every spare second playing games. 

The Battle of Bedtime

After a tough day you're ready to get the children into bed so you can sit down and relax. The children however, have something different in mind. More negotiations, more temper tantrums, and more stress. 

BP goes to bed at 9pm and to him this is far too early for a 12 year old. Given that he can't drag himself out of bed in a morning I disagree and this is the cause of a few arguments. I've told him that as soon as he can get out of bed without being in a grumpy mood then he can go to bed later. It is yet to happen. 

LP is in an awkward stage - he's not tired at bedtime and likes to read, but he needs his sleep. LP loves playing football and being active which means he needs lots of energy. He goes to bed at 7:30pm but often ends up reading until past 8:30pm which means he ends up tired in a morning. I cannot stop him from reading (nor would I want to) so for the foreseeable future his bedtime will stay at 7:30pm.

The Guilt Trip

Whether you're at home all day, get to spend time with your children whenever you want, and don't have to go out to work OR you're at work all day, you get to talk to other adults and socialise, and you get to be you for at least half the day.


That's the message every woman gets from all angles. It SUCKS. The women who work all day feel guilty for working or not being able to be home for their children, and the women who stay-at-home feel guilty for not being the breadwinner

I have been a stay-at-home mum for more than 12 years, I have never been a working mum. I do however, understand that being a working mum is a tough job and you still have to do all the housework after coming home from work. None of us should feel guilty for our choices.

Finally, when the children are in bed and the chores are done you can relax. Tomorrow the battles start again.

What battles do you fight during your day?

Diary of an imperfect mum

Best of Worst


Post Comment Love 19th - 21st August

Welcome back for another summery Post Comment Love, I hope the sun has been shining on you this week. Stephanie and I are looking forward to reading your posts!

This week I've noticed that my brain feels full all the time. I think it's because I'm trying to balance each work day with an outing with the boys. Taking one day off for every day spent working means that I'm worn out, my head feels like I've been on "go-fast" for weeks. By the time the boys are back at school I'll be ready for a holiday!

On the bright side though I've spent a lot of time with my boys on days out and various activities at home. We've made the best use of these holidays we could've without going on holiday and I'm pretty sure the boys are having a blast. 

Lunchbox inspiration with Hartley's for Back To School

In a few short weeks LP and BP return to school after six weeks off. It's an interesting time because they're both excited to see friends they've missed through the holidays but will miss all the time they had at home to play games and have fun. The first week back is the toughest, the sudden jolt back to reality with routines including early mornings and school work can often result in the odd tantrum. At the same time though it's exciting, they're both growing up fast and are looking forward to starting their next school year, BP will be in Year 8 and LP will be in Year 3.

Year 3 is going to be quite a change for LP, he'll no longer be considered a youngster and will be expected to make progress with school work as well as begin to do things for himself. Another change he'll notice is lunch. Until now he's had free hot dinners at school and most of the time he's enjoyed them, there's been the odd occasion when he's come home hungry because he didn't like the lunch but it's been few and far between so I'm happy with that. In Year 3 though those school lunches are no longer free and I have to decide whether he's having hot dinners at school or taking a packed lunch. LP has let me know there are a few days when he would like to take a packed lunch and that means I need to find a way to make him quick, easy, and nutritious things to take to school with him. 

An arty morning at Nottingham Contemporary

Finding activities to do during the summer holidays can sometimes prove difficult. Not spending a fortune is near impossible. So when I find something that is entertaining, educational and free I feel it is my duty to let all parents of school-aged children know about it.

Nottingham is full of brilliant museums and galleries that are free to enter, but the children aren't necessarily interested in looking at paintings or some "dull" sculptures. At Nottingham Contemporary right now there's an installation by Michael Beutler called Pump House. The interesting thing about the installation is that you can walk in, around, and through it. 

The boys and I spent a morning at Nottingham Contemporary recently checking out the Pump House and we had a blast. 

Post Comment Love 12th - 14th August

Welcome back for another week of Post Comment Love, I hope you can join us and link up a great post for us all to read!

Is it just me or are these summer weeks flying by. We're at the end of the third week and my boys will soon be back at school. We've done well with the working versus days off so far and I hope we can continue with the routine we've established. We've had lots of days out visiting parks, English Heritage places, and I even managed to visit family recently.

It's BP's birthday on Monday, he turns 12... 12!! I can't believe I'll have a twelve year old son! It seems only yesterday he was a baby, screaming the place down and taking me on the adventure of motherhood. We'll be taking him and a few friends for a meal and he'll hopefully have a great day.

A stargazing date night with Just Us Box

Being a parent to two school-aged boys getting a date night can be difficult, especially when you don't have family nearby who can babysit. Over the years the Hubby and I have had to resort to allocating time for ourselves in the evening while the kids are in bed.

Sometimes though carving out time for being together is low on the list of priorities. I know it shouldn't be but the day-to-day necessities of life take over and that time disappears. Before we know it it's been weeks since we last enjoyed a 'date night'. 

The Just Us Box is here to help with this problem. Just Us Box is a subscription box in which you receive everything you need for an amazing date night. In the box you'll find 4-6 themed items, a date night plan, activities and challenges to ensure you have a great evening. 

A summer lunch at Thaikhun Nottingham

Whenever the school holidays come around, and we're not going on holiday, we tend to visit a lot of restaurants. It's what we love to do as a family and I like that we can let our boys try out lots of different food. When we were invited to Thaikhun Nottingham to try out their new children's menu I was excited to take the boys. 

About Thaikhun

The Thai word 'khun' means 'your' and so, roughly translated, Thaikhun is Your Thailand. At ThaiKhun you enjoy a casual dining experience with an open kitchen and rustic decor welcoming you to experience Thai food as you would on the streets of Bankok.

What I Read - going on holiday

I thought I could do it but it turns out that keeping up a weekly post as well as staying on top of Post Comment Love is quite difficult, especially during the holidays. I'm putting What I Read on pause for now, it will give me chance to do lots of reading blogs and gathering great posts to share.

What I Read will be back in September when the boys are back at school and I'm sure I'l have some great posts to share with you by then!

Post Comment Love 5th - 7th August

Welcome back to another week of Post Comment Love, link up your best post of the week or one you'd like a comment or two on. We're seeing more and more linkers every week which is great!

I hope you're having a great summer so far, we're at the end of the second week of the school holidays and we've already done so much! This week has been pretty much the same as last week with some days allocated for fun and others for work. The house looks terrible, toys everywhere, clothes everywhere, and dishes fill the sink, but my boys are happy and that's the main thing.

I was enjoying a little peace and quiet a few nights ago when I spied the gorgeous sky. I couldn't help snapping a photo (the one you see above), I loved the rainbow sky with the moon clearly visible. It's times like that when I wish I had an amazing camera that I knew how to use. The photo was taken on my iPhone 6!

Protecting your skin in summer

We are not going abroad this year, during the summer holidays we'll be at home. Days out to theme parks or playgrounds, visiting family, and restaurant trips will fill our summer. One thing I'm always aware of though, whether I'm in a different country or not, is to protect mine, and my family's, skin. 

With naturally fair hair and pale skin I'm susceptible to burning if I spend too much time in the sun. As temperatures rise and we have sunnier days more often I trawl the shops to find the best sun cream around. My choice for protection is SPF 50, it's the only one that guarantees I won't get burned. I also use it on my boys, I won't take any risks with their skin.

Protection against the sun's rays

Where my boys are concerned I like to have all the information I can about how to protect their skin. For example I know that the sun has UV (ultraviolet) rays that cause damage but did you know that the amount of UV light present is less about temperature but more about the time of year and how close you are to the equator? The closer you are to the equator, the more UV there is. So if you're holidaying in Cornwall and your friend is in Africa, they are being exposed to more UV. However that doesn't mean you shouldn't be thinking about UV when at home in the UK. UV light is still present on an overcast day, it can penetrate cloud cover, and it is higher the closer you are to midsummer's day. So even if you think you're safe to go outdoors without sun cream on you should be considering the time of year.

Free activities in Nottingham this summer

With the children off school and the sun making an appearance (occasionally) the chances to enjoy the outdoors are many. Of course the cost of activities during the summer months can prove expensive and there's only so many times you can take the children to the local playground.

Free activities are like the Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory - You feel like you've won before you even get there!

The ParkLives programme run by Coca-Cola Great Britain is that Golden Ticket, especially during the school holidays when they have lots of free activities in parks around your local area. In parks across Nottingham you can find activities for all the family, some are one-off opportunities and others run weekly.

One-off activities

Monday 8th August - You vs Wall Challenge at Southglade Park 13:00-15:00
The You vs Wall Challenge is a tennis challenge. If you don't have a partner for tennis pop to Southglade Park and attempt the You vs Wall Challenge, you could win a tennis racquet! 

Wednesday 10th August - You vs Wall Challenge at Forest Recreation Ground 12:30 - 14:30

Wednesday 17th August - Pond Dipping at Vernon Park 13:00 - 15:00
Discover the variety of life that lives in your local pond!

The pain of divorce and how it goes on

My parents divorced when I was 14 years old and it had a negative impact on my life. At the time I said I didn't care and that it was cool to have separated parents because I got two lots of presents at Christmas and birthdays. I didn't want to admit how hurt I was and how much it bothered me to see my parents apart.

After the divorce my dad moved away. 90 miles away. I could only see him during the school holidays and even then my biological mum would put restrictions on the time spent with him. Not only that but if my mum couldn't find someone to drive me the 90 miles then I wouldn't get to see my dad during those holidays. 

It would be months before I saw him again.

The visits to see my dad meant a lot to me and while there I would behave (as well as a teenager can!) and try to be a good daughter. What I remember most about the visits though is not what I did with my dad while there (although I have some pretty awesome memories) but the pain I felt every time I had to leave. It was heartbreaking. 

Packing up my things to go back home I would take as long as I possibly could secretly hoping that I would have to stay. I would shout and scream, tears would flow, but eventually I knew I had to get into the car. I hated getting into the car that would take me back home and saying goodbye to my dad, knowing that it would be months before I got to see him again. 

That same feeling came back to me yesterday after visiting my dad. Even though I'm now an adult and I don't have to leave if I don't want to I still had that same gut-wrenching feeling about leaving. Every time I say goodbye to my dad it hurts. Every. Time.

This made me think about all the children out there whose parents' are going through a divorce. It makes me sad that they might be going through the same thing. As adults you need to realise the pain of divorce may ease for you or your partner but it may never go away for your children. 

The things your children witness during a divorce will stay with them. If you argue in front of them they will either relive those moments later in life with their own partner or they will avoid partnerships altogether for the fear of arguing. If you call one another names in front of the children those names will take on a monster-like persona and come back to haunt your child every time they hear them. 

My downward spiral began when my parents divorced. My attitude changed drastically and my behaviour went downhill. I became someone else and my family had to deal with it.

What I'm saying is if you're going through a divorce right now, or have just separated, and your child's behaviour is changing - talk to them. I lashed out at the people I loved because I hated what was happening. I may not have consciously cared but it bothered me deeply and what I needed at the time was an understanding ear, even if I didn't understand myself. 

Please, I beg of you, talk to your children. Let them know that you still love them, regardless of the circumstances. And whatever you do don't use your children as pawns against one another. That only hurts the children.

Above all listen and pay attention. Slight changes in behaviour despite seemingly honest professions about being "okay" can indicate bigger issues. If you're there for your children you can get through the tough times together. 

Two Tiny Hands

Guest Post: Is your kid addicted to their smartphone?

For the parents of teenagers, one thing is a near constant – the sound of smartphones and other devices buzzing with notifications from Facebook, Twitter and many other social media sites teenagers use to stay connected with each other all the time. However, if kids spend too much time surfing the internet or responding to text messages, it can affect their development later on in life.

According to a new study conducted by Common Sense Media in May 2016, 50 percent of teenagers said that they feel addicted to their smartphones. Nearly 60 percent of the parents who were polled stated that they are aware of their children spending far too much time with electronics. The report includes information from 1,240 parents and their kids living in the same household.

The study found that 72 percent of teenagers felt an intense need to answer a text message when they receive one, and 78 percent of respondents check their smart devices at least once an hour. What was most striking, however, was both parents and children admitting that the constant smartphone usage was actively straining their relationships, though they seem unwilling to give up the action or even modifying their behavior.

Enjoy cocktails in the sun with Soho Juice

Taking advantage of the summer sun (when it shows up!) can be spending an afternoon in the garden or inviting friends over for an impromptu barbecue. Whichever way you choose to enjoy summer why not try out some cocktails while you're at it?

Soho Juice is a new cucumber based fruit juice with a fresh minty taste that reminds me of Mojitos. When mixed with the right ingredients you can have one tasty cocktail. 

I used to love cocktails, especially on a night out, from the Woo Woo to the Long Island Iced Tea. As I've got older I drink less cocktails, mainly because I don't have all the ingredients at home, but when the sun makes a rare appearance my mind instantly makes me think of cocktails by the pool.