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In July, my six-year old told me that she wanted to keep a summer diary. I thought this was a wonderful idea. Moozles' writing has come along fantastically since she began Year One. Couple that with her love of drawing, I knew this would be a fun summer activity that could also be a treasured keepsake. Moozles picked out this lovely and bright yellow notebook from Paperchase. The pages are lined, so it is ideal for helping her improve her writing. And it's big enough that she can keep a few summers worth of memories in one notebook.

IMG_4390Summer Diary

Moozles hasn't worked on the diary every day, but she has noted many of our fun summer activities. You can compare her writings and drawings to what we did in real life.

Littlehampton Beach

IMG_4384Beach

Kenilworth Castle

Summer DiarySummer DiarySummer Diary

Birmingham, meeting my friend Emma (Brummy Mummy of 2) and then going to the local pool in Leamington Spa afterwards

Summer DiarySummer Diary

Odd Farm Park, and circus

Summer DiarySummer Diary

We had a great summer, and this diary will serve as a lovely reminder. I'm sure I'll be sobbing over Moozles' summer diary in 20 years' time.

This post has been inspired by Steph Tilley, the Center Parcs Community Manager, who noted that a summer diary can be created using different mementos, including photos and handwritten diary entries. There were some other great ways to capture summer memories, and next year we will try and incorporate all of them.

 

This is my entry to the Center Parcs and Tots100 August Challenge. If I'm chosen, I would like to visit Longleat Forest.

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Diet ChefMy Healthy Living Lucky Dip is in its fourth week. I have been following the Diet Chef programme for the past three weeks and am quite happy with the results. And I'm not the only one. Husband has been on the Diet Chef plan as well so I thought I would conduct a mini-interview so you can see how he is doing.

Favourite part of Diet Chef: I really enjoy the breakfasts and dinners. I use the My Fitness Pal app to check exactly how many calories I consume. I normally get to eat more calories because I ride my bicycle to and from work on most days.
Least Favourite part of Diet Chef: I miss eating sandwiches for lunch. I wish there was an option to just order breakfasts, dinners and snacks.
Tips for anyone planning to order Diet Chef: Order for longer than just 28 days. There are so many choices, when it comes to ordering your meals. I now know which meals I love and which meals I am not bothered about eating again. 
Weight Loss: 6 pounds in three weeks.
photo 4 photo 3 Diet Chef Diet Chef

I lost two pounds last week, which has given me an eight-pound weight loss from Diet Chef alone (12-pound total loss). My trousers are feeling looser and my tummy does not stick out as much as it did. I am a bit sad that I only have one week left of Diet Chef, as I am nervous that other weight loss regimes won't be as successful. But I will work hard this last week and hopefully the weight loss will continue.

Total Weight Loss
14 July: 15 stone 1
21 July: 14 stone 12 (four pounds lost)
(diet holiday)
5 August: 14 stone 12
12 August: 14 stone 8 (four pounds lost)
19 August: 14 stone 6 (two pounds lost)
26 August: 14 stone 4 (two pounds lost)
Diet Chef 
I was given a 28-day supply of Diet Chef for the purpose of my weekly reviews. Husband paid for his own. All opinions expressed are completely my own, unless they are his.
 

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As the warm weather turns cooler and the summer begins to fade, I have been looking back on what the summer holidays have meant to our family. Last summer was my daughter's first summer holiday from school. But as I fell down the stairs and broke a toe one week into the holiday, it was not the summer I had in mind. But we made up for it this summer. Husband took time off, we had day trips and visited the in-laws. We lazed about at home and visited friends and family. We went to cool events and festivals. We ate copious amounts of ice cream.

This summer we made so many wonderful memories. We had six weeks where we didn't have to worry about the school runs, clubs and homework. Dubz had his first splash in the sea. Moozles learned to sew. I didn't break any bones. We made millions of loom bands. Dubz went from speaking 20 words to well over 100. Moozles can now do a forward roll in the pool. I haven't fallen down the stairs once.

Summer 2014, you've been fab. Thank you for all the memories!

Summer Memoriesphoto 2photo 3photo 5Rio 2LolliBopGruffalo TrailBeach

 

 

mumturnedmom

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I can't believe that summer is almost over and that my daughter will be going back to school next Wednesday. I wish I could say that I had sorted out new shoes and new uniforms but I haven't done a thing. Yikes! I think I may have been in denial that my baby girl is about to begin her final year of infants' school. From her first day in Reception, Moozles has changed so much.

Back to School

Luckily Moozles can still fit into her summer dresses as she will be wearing those for the first couple of weeks. That gives me an extra week to get her a new skirt, polo tops and a new jacket. But I will have to get the shoes next week. I had a look at the Debenhams website to see if I could get my daughter kitted out for school for £100. I managed to find some great items which won't break the bank (especially as there is a 20% off sale on back-to-school essentials at the moment).

These shoes are girly and cute, but look like they will be comfy and allow Moozles to run up and down her school's adventure playground with fervour. Moozles had patent shoes last year and they actually show less scuffs than the plain ones she has had. And at £12.80, I won't feel distraught if she goes up a shoe size in three months.

This skirt (£7.20) is lovely. I love the pleats, and Moozles adores pockets (you would be surprised how many stones and twigs such a girly girl brings home). Moozles won't wear school trousers, and can still fit into her pinafore, so a new skirt would be perfect.

Moozles also needs a couple of new polo tops. I thought girls were supposed to be neat, but she normally comes home covered in dirt and paint. Hopefully these tops (two for £5.60) can handle some staining.

Last but not least, Moozles will need a warm winter coat. This one will not only keep her cosy, but is the prettiest shade of pink. At £54.95, it is the priciest thing on our list, but it needs to be of an excellent quality. Moozles' last winter coat lasted two winters so I am hoping this will do the same.

Moozles isn't the only one who needs a new school wardrobe. Her little brother Dubz will be starting at the local pre-school three mornings a week, beginning next Friday. *sniff, sniff* Luckily, he will be able to wear his usual clothes. But it would be nice if he had something new on his first day of school. Although he is two, he wears size 3-4 clothing as he is quite tall. Here is a cool outfit he will love but that will be survive the rigors of pre-school. The top and trousers come to £20 so I have reached my £100 limit. But I'm pretty pleased that I have found everything for Moozles and even something for Dubz. Smart clothes for my two little smartypants.

 
This post is my entry into The Debenhams Back to School Competition on BrummyMummyof2.co.uk.

 

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teething

This is my week in a nutshell. Dubz is getting one or more of the last three back molars. He is in pain. He is grouchy. He isn't sleeping well. Therefore I am not sleeping well. I am grouchy. Thankfully, my daughter went to Spain on Monday with her grandparents. So I can give Dubz my full attention. Hope those damn teeth come in soon.

 

brummymummyof2

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Gruffalo Trail

This weekend we went in search of The Gruffalo at the Alice Holt Forest in Surrey. Dubz, my 2-year old son, adores The Gruffalo, so we knew we could not miss the trail. And since we got a new explorer pack, complete with binoculars, compass and magnifying glass, my daughter was eager to find some creepy crawlies.

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Gruffalo trailIMG_4360 Gruffalo Trail

Moozles was beyond excited to discover a millipede with her magnifying glass. Dubz enjoyed pretending to discover things. We found various characters from The Gruffalo before finding the big bad monster himself. Once the kids had a few cuddles, it was time to go check out the playground. Dubz started to throw a tantrum, but I had the perfect enticement. I gave him a yogurt lolly (Yollies), which made him get in the buggy without a fight (I am not ashamed to bribe my children, if needed). Yollies are extra-thick yogurt on a stick, and my kids love them. They come in raspberry, strawberry and apricot, and are sold in packs of four (retails for £1 at Asda).

IMG_4364 IMG_4365Yollies

We then enjoyed the playground at Alice Holt. It was a nice big playground, and the children especially liked the pirate ship (which even has a plank to walk and jump off of). Our kids worked up quite an appetite after all that walking, exploring and playing, so we went to the cafe before we left. Yum, no complaints.

IMG_4352 IMG_4354 Alice Holt ForestAlice Holt Forest Cafe

The Alice Holt Forest (which is free to enter) is a 45-minute drive from South West London, depending on traffic. The easy access trail is 2 km/1.5 miles and has an optional shortcut. The trail can be accessed by pushchairs and wheelchairs. The parking cost for two hours is £2.50. We paid for three hours (£4) as we weren't sure how long the trail/playground/lunch would take (but we were done in two hours). You can check out the Gruffalo Trail at Alice Holt, and a few other forests across the UK, until the 30th September 2014.

Family Fever

 

We were sent an explorer pack and given free vouchers to try Yollies. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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Soft playIf you are a parent, chances are that you have been to a soft play centre at least once. And if your child is seven or eight years old, then it's likely that you've been to the soft play at least 57 times. Moreover if you have more than one child. Most adults are not big fans of the noise and chatter of the soft play. Though it can be a godsend on a rainy day when your children are about to tear your house down brick by brick. But I think there are several important lessons that children can learn at the soft play. Practical lessons that will help them in the future.

1. Survival of the Fittest - Despite its name, the soft play can get rough. Children push, shout, kick and spit. And that's your own kids. Other people's children are even worse. The soft play teaches kids how to deal with a kick to the ribs and still get to the slide first. That's how future CEOs are made.

2. There's Always A Bully - In the real world, not everyone will be kind and caring. There is always someone, be they big or small, who will act like a bastard. You might not be able to ignore this person but you don't have to let this person get you down or keep you from having fun.

3. Building Relationships - In an unfamiliar land of play structures, strangers come together to form alliances. There the smaller ones become fast friends in order to protect themselves from that one mean kid. A smaller child will follow an older child around. Maybe they are of the same gender or age, but kids can find common ground easily if they want to make a new friend.

4. Run, Run, As Fast As You Can - Speed is good. Really good. Climb to the top, jump over the thingamajig, race to the slide. Caution is not always best. Sometimes you need to just go as fast as your little legs can carry you.

5. Having Fun Alone - Many children do not want to play by themselves. The soft play can be a way for some children to want to do things, without being attached to their mummy or daddy. Conversely, this can be good for parents who sometimes just want to sit quietly and have a cup of coffee.

So the next time it rains or the kids are going stir-crazy, just take them to the soft play. It's not that bad. Plus you could even get a nice cup of tea out of it.

Soft play lessons

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soft play

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Snakes & Ladders Soft Play

A couple of weeks ago we went for a soft play session at Snakes &Ladders in Syon Park in Middlesex. I had never been there before but since they have just spent £2 million on renovations we knew it was going to be good. And it really was good. My two-year old son and six-year old daughter disappeared in the giant soft play frame and came out rosy-cheeked and out of breath. The main frame is really big and roomy and there's plenty of climbing and sliding to be done. There's even a mini sports pitch.

There is an Imagination Station where children can play in a red London bus, a kitchen, a post office, a hospital, a shop and a construction area complete with giant blocks. My daughter, Moozles, ignored this area completely. Dubz loved it, especially the bus.

IMG_3597 IMG_3612 IMG_3596IMG_3606IMG_3609There is also a section for Under Threes. Dubz raced in, and when his big sister went after him, she was turned away. I thought this was really good as I get so annoyed when there are older children wrecking havoc in the toddler section. Dubz only stayed in this bit for 10 minutes as he preferred the main climbing frame.

Snakes & Ladders Soft Play

We found the actual soft play frames and play area to be terrific. But there are two issues that I have to mention. The main issue and my biggest problem with Snakes & Ladders was the food. First, the cakes and treats were not fresh. We bought two millionaire's shortbread. Neither child could eat even half. I had a taste and it was sickly sweet. Also, there was no fruit on offer. Later we ordered them each a burger. They cost £4.50 each and we had to wait 20 minutes for them to be cooked, so I had high hopes. But the patty looked to be a cheap quality and tasted like it had been microwaved. Again, the kids did not eat half and we had to feed them a second lunch when we got home.

Snakes & LaddersSnakes & Ladders

The second issue was the entry cost. Although we were given four free tickets to review Snakes & Ladders, I was surprised at the cost. During peak times, for the four of us, it would cost £21.80. Most of the soft plays we go to cost us less than £15 during peak times. Although the soft play itself was quite good, I think the food lets it down. Until they sort out the quality of their food, they should allow people to bring in their own food. And that would counterbalance the high entry costs.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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sleeping bagMy two-year old son, Dubz, has many great qualities. He is sweet, funny and independent. But, he is also an escape-artist. In his 27 months of life, Dubz has spent the past six months becoming proficient in escaping, from his clothes and especially from his sleeping bag. I can handle the lack of clothes as I am not afraid of seeing the flashing of toddler legs or toddler tummy. But the sleeping bag. Oh the sleeping bag.

My daughter, Moozles, used a sleeping bag until she was 3 1/2. I liked that she was contained and covered and kept warm. I would like Dubz to use one for a while longer. I know there are duvet sets that attach to the bed but Dubz is still in his cot. Amazingly he hasn't tried to escape from that. And I would prefer him to stay in his cot until we can renovate his room in a few months' time.

I can't tell you how often I've gone to Dubz's bedroom to find him in just his pyjamas with his sleeping bag on the floor. This has been fine during the warm weather, but yesterday Dubz woke up early and was freezing when I got to his room. We got a Grobag a few months ago, and that worked for a bit. But Dubz has now worked out the button and zip combo. And I didn't want to buy any more sleeping bags as I have two winter sleeping bags that I bought earlier this year.

But I am not one to be defeated by my children. I am Mother, hear me roar! So, after a few minutes of problem solving, I realised that my brain was failing me and I needed to turn to something I call The Internet. Luckily there are clever people out there (on a Mumsnet forum) who have gone through a similar thing. And I can't believe I didn't think about it before. Turn the sleeping bag around so that the zip is in the back. Genius. And Dubz will be waking up warm every morning. Mum = 1, Toddler = 0.

toddler sleeping bag

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Diet Chef scale

So here I am, three weeks into my healthy eating regime and two weeks into Diet Chef. I won't save the big reveal for the end. I knew it would not be another four-pound loss like the previous week. I lost two pounds! I was quite pleased with this, especially as I took a day off for my birthday. I'm now moving a bit further away from the 15 stone mark which has really encouraged me. I'm still really enjoying the Diet Chef meals and I love the freedom it gives me in the way of fruit, vegetables and side dishes (pasta or rice or couscous, etc).

What I found about taking the day off of Diet Chef is that I did not eat as much as I would have in the past. I had small portions for breakfast and lunch, and ate fruit as my snacks. But then it was birthday cake time and Husband served me a huge slice of chocolate cake. Husband then made a lovely steak dinner (which included a large glass of red wine), which I could have stopped eating before I finished my plate. But I could not waste such a gorgeous steak. It did get me to thinking why many of us link fatty foods with birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. Why can't we have a small low-calorie meal and enjoy a nice, refreshing glass of water?

I would have felt guilty for my birthday splurge, but I had done a 50-minute Pilates workout that afternoon which left me sore for days. I've bought a yoga mat and have started doing Pilates and yoga a couple of times a week. I would like to eventually squeeze in some exercise every other day, but I am starting slow. I have had back problems for years and only managed to lessen them a few years ago when I saw the physio and took up Pilates Reformer (machine-based Pilates). But then I got pregnant with my second child and gained the three stone that I am only now trying to lose.

Anyway, I am attempting to strengthen the muscles in my legs and core so that my back is not doing all the work. I am trying out different workouts on Youtube (which I can watch on my television and which are accessed through my Virgin Media cable). I already do a fair bit of walking, with the kids, and often while pushing a buggy. And once I'm stronger, I plan to add some medium-impact workouts into the mix.

Come see how I get on next week!

Total Weight Loss
14 July: 15 stone 1
21 July: 14 stone 12 (four pounds lost)
(diet holiday)
5 August: 14 stone 12
12 August: 14 stone 8 (four pounds lost)
19 August: 14 stone 6 (two pounds lost)

 

I was given a 28-day supply of Diet Chef for the purpose of my weekly reviews. All opinions expressed are completely my own.