Sunday, 5 July 2015

My Sunday Photo - Sleepy Gremlin


Thursday, 2 July 2015

A visit to South Lakes Safari Zoo

During our stay in Barrow in Furness we visited South Lakes Safari Zoo at the Southern tip of the Lake District. It's easy to find and well sign posted from the A590 main road and only about a five minute drive from the Travelodge. 

The park has a reasonably sized car park, but it's a bit awkward as one side is filled with skips and large rubbish bins and piles of old pallets. If these were removed it would make extra parking, particularly over the summer months. 
Entry to the zoo is £15.50 for an adult, one child aged 3-15 years is free if entering with a full priced adult otherwise they are £9 each. Under 3's are free and senior citizens are £11. We paid just £15.50 for the three of us as we were able to pick up a discount voucher prior to our visit and the little is still classed as free. 

If you have them, you can also use Tesco Club card vouchers towards your entry prices but you do need to exchange them prior to attending. 
The park has a good selection of animals which all seem to have plenty of space and seem happy and clean. There are parts of the park that you can walk amongst the animals, allowing you to get very close to beautiful wild animals. I really like this idea but it is a little inconvenient if you have a child in a pushchair and you have to leave the pushchair outside and carry your child, change bag and any valuables. 
There are a variety of shows and talks on during the day some of which include the chance to feed the animals. You do need to pay extra to do this but you can pay for a wrist band at entry that allows you a couple of feeds during your visit. You can check out the timings for the talks on posters around the park, we managed to catch the giraffe, penguin and lemur shows all of which we informative and interesting to watch. 
There are plenty of seats and picnic benches to eat at if you take a packed lunch with you but if you decide to eat on site there's a restaurant called the Maki restaurant. The restaurant itself looks fab with a huge terrace through some double doors if the weather is warm enough to eat outside. Sadly we weren't very impressed with the food or prices. The menu implies that food is homemade and freshly cooked, my chips were oven chips and the sandwiches in the little mans packed lunch were dry. Prices were high too, with drinks costing £1.70 for a small bottle of juice. If you are visiting with a large family I would definitely recommend bringing your own food and drink. 
The little man enjoyed being able to see the animals and get up quite close. The feeding platform for the giraffes were one of our favourite parts of the day. We've seen giraffes numerous times before but until you're on their level it's hard to appreciate how beautiful they actually are. 
There's a small train that runs through the park but it wasn't on during out visit. Other than the animals there isn't too much else in the park to do. I'd have liked to have seen a play area or at least some open space to allow children to run off some of their energy. 
There's a rather nice gift shop on site stocked with lots of things suitable for all budgets including art work and wooden toys. After much deliberation and running round the store the little man picked up two animal figures for under £5. 
Overall we enjoyed our day. I'm not sure I'd have been as impressed if I'd paid £31 for entry on top of the £20 for food. We enjoyed seeing the wide variety of animals and the size of the park was good, meaning we spent a good three hours wandering round. 

Fun things to do in the garden during the Summer

Christmas and New Year tends to be classed as the party season but there's nothing to say Summer can't be be filled with shindigs in the sun. The warmer weather is a great excuse to get friends and family together to enjoy the sunshine and have fun.
Have a themed BBQ
Get the invites out and get everyone to bring a bottle. A themed BBQ is a different take on the traditional burgers and sausage combo. You could ask your guests to bring a dish of their own, based on a particular country or culture. For example, if you ask your guests to each bring a homemade dish that's based on Spain and then decorate your garden with sand and straw donkeys. All that you need is a jug of fruity Sangria and some unique decor and let the guests bring the rest.
Play games
Reminiscence about your childhood. Bring out the swingball and Twister mat, even after the kids have gone to bed there's nothing stopping the adults reliving their youth.  Too much time is spent in front of console screens or TV's nowaways, so make the most of the warm weather and get active. 

Have a gardening party
If your garden is anything like ours then you really do need all the help you can get. Ask you friends and family to come over and bring a spade or trowel. You supply the food and music and ask them to help with a spot of weeding or pruning. It's not supposed to be hard labour or a chore but so the saying goes, 'many hands make light work'.

Watch major sporting events
The summer is always full of great live sporting events like The Ashes, The World Cup and Wimbledon. If the weather is nice why not bring the TV outside and line up the deckchairs to leisurely spectate. You could provide refreshments that reflect the event :- strawberrys and cream and Pimms or meals and drinks based on the wimming World Cup team. During the intervals of the sporting events you could hold sports quizzes for your guests. In this one from Compost Direct you're asked to identify sporting venues, but you could also use intro music or questions about sporting legends.
Hire a bouncy castle
Who says bouncy castles are just for kids? Hire a bouncy castle for the day for guaranteed fun. Young or old, no one can resist throwing their shoes to the side and bouncing until they feel sick.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Freshening up our home

I love updating our home. Shopping for furniture, lusting over paint charts or flicking through home interior magazines are all things I enjoy.

We're slowly in the process of redecorating and revamping our home and garden. We decorated quickly when we moved in due to the fact we were getting married less than 6 months later with the intention of making some changes once the wedding was over. As it happened, when we returned from our honeymoon, the little man was already hiding in my tummy! Other priorities came before decorating and making changes to the house, but now there are no massive life changing events on the cards we can concentrate on updating our home, making it more comfortable and potentially making it easier on the eye for the housing market. 

My least favourite part of the house at the moment is the dining room. It's become a bit of a dumping ground and I feel stressed and irritated every time I go into it. Our kitchen and dining room are open plan and our kitchen is a rather bright and hideous glossy red. It's not something we can afford to change at the moment, so it's a case of trying to draw attention away from it, and avert or visitors eyes.

I've been challenged by Legal & General to pick our some things in my home that need to be refreshed. I could have written a long list, but I've picked out the two that I think need updating most urgently.

We have a cheap and simple Ikea unit which is home to a variety of junk. It's a bit battered, it started it's life in Ikeas Bargain Corner and was in our old house for a couple of years before being transported to this one. It's seen better days and could really do with being upgraded.
I would love to replace the unit with a traditional style dresser with plenty of storage at the bottom and shelving to display pretty things at the top.
I love this beautiful display dresser from Wayfair. It's simple but looks elegant and would look perfect in the corner of my dining room. It isn't cheap some it's probably not something I'll be buying anytime soon but I'm sure I can add it to my wish list. There are other ways I could freshen up the unit we have, introducing brighter colours and pretty accessories could totally change the look of both the unit and our dining room.

Bright artificial flower / wooden vases / brightly colour owl / pretty blue jug / yellow bird / melon candle

Another thing in our home that desperately needs refreshing is our sofa. It's not particularly old at 2 and a half but it's become dull and dreary and isn't really suitable for a home with a messy 16 month old child! It's not something that can be replaced so we're looking at freshening it up, giving it a new lease of life and making it look like a different sofa.
It's none offensive but my cushions are looking a bit drag and dull and could do with a bright new look, especially for the summer. The sofa is easy to freshen up, an array of bright cushions and a pretty throw can easily make it look like a completely new piece of furniture.

Once our garden is finished we will be going room to room to update and refresh, so look out for the posts!

*Collaboration with Legal & General*
Find out more about the home contents services at Legal & General

How to make a quick and easy sandpit

I've been after a sandpit for a while for the little man. I had a solid wood one when I was younger and it was one of my favourite toys, so I wanted him to have something quite similar.

After much deliberation and internet searching we decided to try and make one instead of buying one. We seem to have accumulated excessive amounts of scrap wood so decided to try and make one instead, saving cash and clearing our garage in the process.
Hubby cut four lengths of wood with a jigsaw to made the edges of the sandpit before nailing them together with a nailer. The nailer ensured the corners were strong and helped make the frame tough and solid. If your franme doesn't turn out to be too solid you can always reinforce corners with a small chock of wood on the inner corners. 
One the sides were joined together he nailed on the bottom panel. A lot of wooden sandpits nowadays don't come with a bottom, you're expected to use a waterproof sheet underneath the sand and I'm not really a fan of this style and much prefer a solid box so the sand stays in one place. The panel we used was left over from the outdoor chalkboard we made, this is the size we worked round. Rather than cute the main flat board, we found it easier to cut the frame pieces to match it.
I painted the edge with English Primrose Valspar exterior paint. I used about half a tester pot  on two coats of the sandpit. The tester pots only cost £2.38 from B&Q and a little goes a long way. Valspar is my new favourite paint. The colours are fab and you can paint anything.
I left the sandpit to completely dry overnight and then stocked up on play sand. It took 3 bags of sand which cost £2.99 each. The worst part was lifting them in and out of the car, I now have muscles like Popeye!
As you can see, the sand didn't stay in the sand pit for long, so technical the little man has a 'sand area' rather than sand pit.
I can't believe how quick and easy the sandpit was to make. It's the perfect use for old wood and a tiny drop of paint.

Our next task is to create a lid to protect the sand from the weather.

What you will need
4 pieces of reasonably deep wood cut to size to create the frame (prepped for outdoor use)
a base piece of wood
some bright coloured outdoor paint
lots of sand!

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Beauty Tips for your skin

When your skin is glowing you feel like you can take on the world. Like the rest of your organs, there are things you can do to look after your skin better. By following these five tips, you may notice brighter, more youthful looking skin, particularly over the summer. 
Drink plenty of water 

It may sound simple but no matter how many times it’s suggested, for some of us it’s difficult to drink the eight glasses of water we’re recommended every day. It's very important to drink water and stay hydrated during the warmer weather. Not only is water essential to keeping the brain and body functioning normally, it is also incredibly good for your skin. Your skin is your largest organ and is made up of loads of cells, which are made up of water. If you don’t drink enough, your skin can become dry and flaky and dry skin is more prone to wrinkles. To encourage yourself to drink more, invest in a travel flask or drinks bottle that you can take with you on journeys, outings and even to work to make sure you’re filling up a larger receptacle than those thimble-sized plastic cups at the water cooler. I keep a little tally chart at work, marking off every glass I've drunk, I feel less guilty, the closer I get to 8!
Get a good night’s sleep 

Sleep is fantastic for your skin in a multitude of ways. Not only does your skin give itself the opportunity to repair itself when you are snoozing, but being well-rested actually often results in a less stressed, calmer persona. Stress can have all sorts of side effects and one of them is spots and blemishes, caused by the excess of cortisol produced in times of stress. Try lavender oil, calming audio books and no caffeine after 6pm to give you the best chance of a restful night. It's easier said than done, I know. Being employed, a parent and a blogger and reduce the amount of sleep you get but you should try and get a much sleep as possible. Turn off the laptop an hour earlier, have a nap during the day with your little person or take turns with your other half for a lie in. 

Use sun protection every day – not just when you’re on holiday 

If your job involves you sitting in an office all day, like me, you may think you’re safe from the harmful rays of the sun. Well, think again. Research has shown that sun damage can occur through UV rays creeping in the windows in the offices and cars. To ensure our skin is protected as best as we can, it is recommended that we use sun protection every day, whether it’s incorporated into your beauty products or something you add on top. Skin cancer is the most common cause of cancer in Britain, so it’s essential we do everything we can to keep the risk at a minimum. It also stops your skin aging prematurely from sun damage, after all, no one wants to look like a leather handbag!

Give up smoking and switch to a healthier alternative 

Smoking is bad for your skin; it decreases the amount of oxygen travelling around your bloodstream, which causes wrinkles, and it also decreases the production of red blood cells, which can give your skin a pale, anaemic-looking hue as opposed to a healthy glow. If you’re not sure you can quit smoking cold turkey, electronic cigarettes are a great alternative. These allow you to continue satisfying your nicotine cravings (which prevent you from reaching for the real thing) whilst ridding you from the toxins and chemicals that damage your body. 

Take your make up off properly 

As handy and convenient as they are, face wipes or baby wipes alone often aren’t enough to contend with the make up we apply to our skin every day. Often, dirt and debris is just pushed around the surface of your face without being properly removed, which can clog pores and result in blemishes. To give your skin the opportunity to breathe clearly every night, use a proper cleanser and toner after you’ve given your face the once over with that face wipe. On the first day alone, you’ll really notice the amount of extra dirt that comes off onto that pad of cotton wool.

How to upcycle a bird bath

We've recently been doing the garden up. It's gone from jungle to something that's actually quite nice to spend time in. We haven't got a great deal of cash left now we've had it tidied up so we've been looking at cheap and cheerful ways of brightening it up with accessories.

I've had this vintage style bowl for quite a while. I bought it in a Charity shop for £3.99 as it was too pretty to ignore and it's sat it in a cupboard ever since.
I wanted to use it for something in the garden and finally decided it would make a bird bath of some kind. I initially thought about drilling holes and attaching a chain and hanging it somewhere but I was worried it would crack so I decided a base would be better and more likely to last.

We found some left over wood in the garage from out garden gate and hubby cut it to size using our Ryobi cordless jigsaw which quickly and easily cuts through any wood put in front of it.
One the wood was cut into 4 equal length Hubby nailed each piece into a box shape (if we'd had a more solid piece of wood we've just just used that, but I didn't want to buy more wood when we had so much left). To nail them together he used our extremely handy and effective Ryobi cordless nailer.  

The nailer helped create a solid and durable column which we added a flat top and base too (the top is smaller than the bottom and will hold the dish), the wood for this was left of pieces of scrap from our our outdoor chalkboard and were again nailed on using the Ryobi cordless nailer.
Once it was put together I painted it with outdoor wood paint which I had left over from painting a metal handrail that runs down the side of the garage. Once it was all dry I applied a thick layer of exterior No More Nails to the top and left it to become tacky. I then placed the vintage bowl on top and kept my fingers crossed it would stay put.
It's stuck well so far and has been used daily by the birds. Time will tell how well it endures the lovely English weather though.

I like my elegant little bird bath in the garden and because the bowl is pretty deep the birds get a lovely dip too.
What you need
A bowl of some soft with some depth
Some solid lengths of wood
Wood scraps - enough to male a top and a base
No more nails or similar

What do you think of my birdbath?

Monday, 29 June 2015

Barrow in Furness Travelodge review

Barrow in Furness Travelodge review
The building
Barrow in Furness Travel Lodge is located on the edge of a main road, though traffic noise is not noticeable when you’re inside your room, set amongst commercial buildings and factories, the location is less than idyllic but rather surprisingly, you can hear the sea if you're room is at the rear of the building. 

The travel lodge doesn’t look huge in size but it's set over 2 floors with both single, double and family occupancy rooms available. There's a good sized car park at the front of the building with 54 spaces which are free to park in at no extra cost. 

Our stay was a Sunday evening so I had expected the Travel Lodge to be quieter than a Friday or Saturday night and I was right. The car part was about a quarter full when we arrived at 4pm but had filled up a bit more by the time we went out to find food.

The travelodge is about a mile from the town centre of Barrow in Furness. We had a little drive through and picked up some bits from Morrisons but didn't really do much else there. We found Barrow Park quite close by too. We had a lovely stroll round the park while the little man investigated. He enjoyed running amongst the ducks, playing in the park and pointing at the pretty flowers. 

The travelodge is literally about ten steps away from a Domino's pizza which was quite handy. We ended up eating pizza for tea. which meant we didn't have to go hunting for a restaurant nearby. 

Check in
Check in was via a manned reception at the front of the building. The female member of staff was super friendly and polite and engaged us in conversation, asking us about our journey and our reasons for visiting the area. She explained she was happy to help if we had any questions about the local area, places to eat and things to do and informed us that our continental still breakfast was also included in the room rate. We later found out she was called Shona from another member of staff. 

Check is available from 3pm and guests are expected to check out by 12 noon. You can extend your check out time by 2 hours to 2pm (which is ideal if you want to have a lie in or are sleeping off a hangover) but there is an additional charge of £10 per room. 
The room
Our booking was for 2 adults and 1 infant so after our quick and issue free check in we were directed to our room. We were on the ground floor of the building, literally round the corner from the reception desk in room 19.  The room was bright and airy, with a huge window across one wall of the room letting in lots of natural light.

We were given a reasonably sized room containing a king sized bed with a pull out bed underneath and a travel cot. The bedding was clean and bright which with no marks or ageing. The travel cot was already erected next to the bed and the mattress covered in a sheet.  We were provided with two firm but very comfortable pillows each, which was a welcome addition (there's nothing worse than hunting for extra pillows at bed time). 
I found the bed surprisingly comfortable, especially considering it ended up being three of us in it! The little man decided the huge Travel Lodge bed looked much more comfortable than the travel cot and ended up sleeping between Hubby and I. The mattress was firm with no sagging in the middle and it was ideal for my dodgy back.  

The room was basic and clean with the added extras of a TV, tea and coffee making facilities, 1 set of towels and two toilet rolls. We did have to request a further set of towels as there wasn’t enough for the three of us but this was quickly and easily done by popping down to reception.
There was a hand desk/dressing table with a large forgiving mirror in front of it, thankfully the lighting around the mirror was great. One of my pet hates is poor lighting in hotel rooms, I hate not being able to put my make up on properly or see what I actually look like!
I was pleased to see the shower was over a bath in the hotel room, the little man likes to have a bath before bed and he finds it much more relaxing than a shower.  The bathroom toilet, bath and sink were clean though the floor was a little grubby and could have done with a scrub. Travelodges now have a supply of shampoo/body wash affixed to the shower wall which is perfect if you've forgotten to bring things from home. 

Whenever I stay in a Travel Lodge I always pay to use their WIFI, as I hadn’t booked the room this time it wasn’t included on my booking so I paid for it once we were there. Sadly, despite two phone calls to the WIFI support team they were unable to establish a connection and we couldn’t use it during our stay.
We found out that breakfast was included with the room rate. As the hotel has no on site bar or restaurant, breakfast is provided in packed lunch box style and the contents are suitable for a quick breakfast on the go. Should your room rate not include breakfast, the boxes cost an additional £4.95 per box. At check in we were asked if we'd like to collect breakfast from reception or whether we'd like it left outside out room and at what time. 

Things that were great
The lady who was on reception at check in was fantastic. She was extremely helpful and friendly, and couldn’t have done more to help us during our stay. She rang the WIFI support team for us initially, helped my husband reset his useless phone and even let us store a bottle of milk in the staff fridge for the little mans bed time bottle. 

Things that weren’t great
The picture on the TV was quite poor and slightly unclear, I’m not sure whether this was to do with the aerial at the hotel or simply the TV, it didn’t cause use too many issues but I can imagine someone staying over after a hard day at work, wishing to relax in front of the TV may be slightly more annoyed.

The WIFI didn’t work. We paid to be able to use it for 24 hours but it wouldn’t work on either of our mobiles or my laptop. We made two calls to the WIFI support number (0330 660 1141) but they were unable to rectify the issue and help us establish a connection, we were assured a refund would be given but it can take up to 5 days to be returned – not really an issue if it’s the £3 payment you’ve made but not great if it’s a payment for a week of usage. 

The travelodge was well equip, clean and comfortable. I was really impressed by the service we received from staff, not only at check in, but throughout our stay. The lady who was juggling cleaning and front of house during our check out was equally as helpful and friendly, Our stay was quiet, comfortable and pleasant, had we not had issues with the WIFI it would have been perfect.

*The stay was complimentary. Opinions and thoughts are my own and are honest*

Friday, 26 June 2015

Munchkin Magical Firefly Mirror review

The little man is still rear facing in his car seat so obviously when I'm driving I can't see what he's up too. We've used a plain mirror attached to the rear seat for as long as I can remember so I knew he was safe and watch his cheeky little face. I was recentlysent the Munchkin Magical Firefly mirror to try out. It's a much better upgrade to the one we were using and has many more features than the plain mirror we were using before. 
The mirror attaches easily to the rear seat and keeps your little person entertained whilst allowing you to keep a watchful eye.

It fixes quickly and easily over the head rest of the seat and is secure with no excessive shift or movement.
The mirror has two modes :- entertaining mode has a lively range of music and light shows behind the mirror whilst the soothing mode plays calm and relaxing sounds that help your child drift off to sleep. Each mode runs for 24 minutes and can be controlled by a small remote which can be attached to the sun visor in the front.
The mirror surround is bright and eye catching and the little man loves trying to grab hold of the fireflies as he's getting in or out of the car. He's also obsessed with looking at himself and sticking his tongue out so will happily sit looking into the mirror while pulling faces, it doesn't even have to be turned on!

The remote control allows you to change the music lights and volume from the front of the vehicle and means you don't need to pull over to skip certain music.

The mirror itself is shatter resistant which offers reassurance should you be unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident.

I really like the mirror, the sounds aren't annoying, the light shows keep the little man entertained, the remote control is really handy and saves time changing songs and the mirror itself means I can keep a close eye on what the little mans up to. This is a great safety product for car safety while travelling. I wouldn't be without ours now.

*We were sent the mirror for review purposes. Opinions are my own*