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The Perception vs The Reality of Cooking With Kids

I like my blog and social media to be a fairly accurate portrayal of my family life. There are so many pressures to make life look perfect and glossy, but I mainly ignore those pressures. It is tough enough being a mother these days. I don't want to add to anyone's feelings of inadequacy. In fact, none of us should feel inadequate if we're just doing our best. But that being said, I will sometimes share the better photos and not share the utter mess of my life, so I thought I would give you a fuller picture of cooking with children.

This morning, the boy helped me make blueberry pancakes. Dubz loves helping me in the kitchen and is full of enthusiasm, if a little short on skill. He is obsessed with adding the ingredients, mixing them up and even helping at the stove. This of course makes life a bit more stressful than if I was just doing it on my own. But I am sure it is quite beneficial in the long-run so we just get on with it. The pancakes weren't difficult to make and tasted delicious (if you would like the recipe, you can find it and other family recipes on the Wren Kitchens' free Little Kitchen Big Ideas e-cookbook).

Anyway, here are some photos to illustrate the reality versus the perception of blogging photos. Also, the reason that my daughter is not in the photos is that she was being stroppy and just wanted to read in her room and be by herself. Reality indeed!

Reality - Oops!

The Perception vs The Reality of Cooking With Kids

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Tenby Beach, Wales

Last week, while we had a family mini-break at Bluestone Wales, we managed an outing to the beach. We went to Tenby last summer and loved it, and could not imagine a trip to Pembrokeshire in West Wales without visiting again. So, armed with buckets and spades, we went to Tenby for a day of fun and fish and chips.

One of my favourite aspects of Tenby is that the beach is sandy. It's great for sitting and chillin', as well as making sandcastles. We saw a few people flying kites and felt jealous that we didn't have one. If you're not fussed about sandcastles or kites, walk along the beach and look up at the beautiful cliff and the pretty pastel houses. It wasn't very warm or sunny during this visit, but we still had a lovely time. To be honest, it is a relief not to need raincoats and wellies when spending the day at the beach in the UK.

If you're visiting Tenby from Bluestone, it takes about 20 minutes by car. There is a fairly big car park near the beach (we paid £3.00 for four hours). It takes less than 10 minutes to walk to the town centre from the beach, where there is a decent selection of cafes. Although there is a cafe by the beach, we like to go into the centre for our favourite place to eat - D. Fecci and Son's Fish & Chips. They make such delicious fish, and even offer them in different sizes (mini is perfect for kids, while I had the regular portion). They also do children's meals, and pies and sausages for fish-haters like Husband. And wonderfully, they have gluten-free options. Such a gem!

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Last Day Of School

Thursday was a special day in the Californian Mum household. It was the last day of school for both children. I took photos of Moozles and Dubz and then went to compare them with the photos from the first day of school. Moozles looks so grown-up now. She even stands in a cool way. As for Dubz, I then realised I had never taken a photo of him on his first day of pre-school. eek Life is so tough when you're the youngest. I had a look through all my photos from September of last year trying to find a photo of Dubz and then I remembered that he went through a phase where he didn't like having his photo taken. That has definitely changed as he now often asks me to take his photo.

Dubz has had a major year of growth. He started pre-school last September, and was very timid and used a lot of sign language. After having speech therapy and grommets, and Dubz can now hear properly and speak clearly. And although he is a bit nervous about starting big school in September, I know he will be fine. As for Moozles, she has struggled with hearing problems as well this year. But after getting grommets and having her adenoids removed again, her hearing has greatly improved. She has started enjoying school again and has gotten an amazing report. I know she will do wonderfully in Year Four in September.

But for now, we can take a break thinking about school, and just enjoy the six/seven weeks of summer holidays. Happy summer everyone!

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Getting Ready for School With DebenhamsI know that today is the last day of school, but it is difficult not to think about September. My girl is moving to Year Four, and the boy is starting Reception. That's right, my baby boy is actually starting big school. *weeps* Aside from the tears, July is the perfect time to get school gear. That way the end of August/beginning of September isn't filled with such panic. Also, if you have a child starting Reception, be aware that the smaller-sized uniforms are often sold out in August. So in the spirit of getting ready for school, I ordered Dubz his school uniforms from Debenhams last week as there is a 20% off discount on uniforms. Moozles wanted a new PE bag (she has had the same Princess bag since Reception and she feels it is 'much too babyish' for her), and Dubz needed his first PE bag. *weeps some more* So I thought I would share their cool new school things.

Dubz needed everything (except for some school-logo jumpers that he would be inheriting from his sister). I got him a two-pack of the white polo tops, and a two-pack of the blue polo tops (£4 each pack, what a bargain!). Blue tops clean better, especially when you have mucky children like mine, but I thought it would be handy to have some white ones anyway. I also got him a two-pack of grey trousers, one pair of slim cargo trousers and two pairs of the cargo shorts. And of course some socks. Dubz loves his superhero and Star Wars socks so it is a big deal to now be wearing grey socks most days. But he loved the uniform and wants to wear it all the time. It all came to just under £38 which I think is wonderful for this quality of uniform.

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Pen Ponds in Richmond Park

I quite often write about Richmond Park. It is an amazing green space and we are very lucky to live so close to it in south west London. And it is humongous. We try and go once or twice a month for family walks. We seem to explore a new part every time, which keeps the visits from being boring. In fact, when Husband and I tell Moozles and Dubz that we're going for a walk in Richmond Park, they cheer.

I have previously mentioned that we are trying to have a fitter, healthier family lifestyle. We're getting the children to walk longer and longer each visit to Richmond Park, and they can now walk for about two miles without much complaint. Last Sunday we went for a walk near Pen Ponds. We saw loads of deer and discovered a wooded area which the children dubbed 'the deep, dark, woods'. We also saw a few amazing dragonflies. Their bright blue colour looked quite vivid against the green of the grass. We then found the wonkiest bench for a little rest. It wasn't very comfy, but it made for a good photo.

Pen Ponds in Richmond Park

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Maximising Style With A Maxi-Dress

For the past few months, I have been trying to update my wardrobe. After years of wearing the same thing (my safe and comfy dress-legging combo), I have been trying to step out of my comfort zone. I have decided that just because I am not at my ideal weight, it does not mean that I should stop trying out different styles. I've been experimenting with blazers, testing out midi skirts and showing off my shoulders. Next, I knew I needed a maxi-dress. Now, I know that maxi-dresses have been around for ages. But I have always felt like they only look nice on tall, slim women. I'm happy to report that I was wrong (a very rare occurrence indeed).

A couple of weeks ago I got this dress from House of Fraser. For a curvier gal, I do think you need to be a bit careful about what maxi dress to choose from. A flowy viscose or jersey fabric hangs nicely without clinging to all your lumps and bumps. I know lots of full-figure women who are happy to wear tight clothing. I am not one of those people. I really wish I could be more carefree about my body, but I just can't.

But I don't think you have to pick a boring black dress, just because you are curvy. I do love a bright print or stripes. This striped dress from Dickins & Jones would look lovely on just about anyone. Horizontal stripes be damned. The v-neck is flattering without being too low-cut (bonus: I was able to get away without wearing a bra with this dress). Although I wore the dress with wedges, they would look fab with trainers or flip-flops too. And if you're wearing a maxi-dress? No one knows if you haven't shaved your legs. Double bonus!

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Growing up, I didn't do physical activities with my parents. We occasionally went for short walks, but that was the extent of it. Recently I've decided that I want to have a more outdoorsy lifestyle with my family. We've been going on regular walks around Richmond Park and Wisley, clocking up a couple of miles each visit. I've also had visions of us all playing tennis together. When I found out that the Lawn Tennis Association is currently offering free sessions (for kids, adults and families) at tennis clubs across the UK, I signed us all up.

So this weekend we went to one of our local tennis clubs (Cranleigh). I booked Moozles into a one hour session aimed at eight and nine-year olds. Afterward we had half an hour to use the court as a family. And all for free! First of all, I have to be honest. Moozles cried when I told her that I signed her up for a session learning how to play tennis. She's at an age where she wants to be consulted about everything, because she likes saying no to new experiences. And she marched sullenly onto the court when we arrived. But five minutes into the session, she was all smiles. And once her session was over, Moozles asked if she could have proper tennis lessons. Result!

Afterwards we all got on the court for our family session. The tennis club provided with rackets and balls, and Moozles taught us some of her new skills. At four years old, Dubz was not that great. But he was very enthusiastic. Husband and I took turns, one playing with Moozles and one playing with Dubz. Moozles did not want to stop. I really enjoyed myself as well, and now I am thinking about getting some lessons too. I will be signing Moozles up for tennis camp this summer. It would be amazing to one day play proper tennis doubles as a family.

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A Special Date Night

Last weekend, Husband and I had a special date. It was not only Husband's birthday on Sunday, but that Saturday marked 15 years since our original anniversary. We stopped celebrating that anniversary when we got married 12 years ago, but we couldn't ignore this special date. Luckily, the in-laws were able to babysit on the Saturday so Husband and I went to the Kingston riverside for a date night (I treated him to steak and cocktails at Cau). Gone are the days where we stay out late partying. We managed dinner at 7pm, a walk along the Thames and a drink at a riverside pub. We were home for 10pm. We're no longer party animals, but we still managed a special night.

A Special Date Night

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Updating Our CookwareHusband and I bought our first home almost exactly 13 years ago. It's wonderful moving into your first home. The best part being all the shopping. Furniture, homewares, cushions. Oh the cushions. And then all the lovely things to fill your kitchen. I love buying things for our kitchen. Recently, we have noticed that our cookware have not been looking very well. The non-stick is mostly gone and everything looks quite worn. So we have started to buy new pots and pans to update our cookware.

Luckily there are some great sales on at the moment. We've gotten a few great items from House of Fraser, including this lovely new 20cm saucepan. Our previous large saucepan was really heavy and clunky, and this one is so lightweight. Plus it has one of those stay-cool handles. I've gotten accustomed to wrapping my pot handles in a tea towel so I am thrilled I can just hold onto this one. Every time Husband uses it, he goes on and on about how much nicer it is than our old one. I really don't know why we didn't buy a new one sooner.

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Dinosaur Zoo at the Rose Theatre (Giveaway)

Regular readers know that I am a huge fan of the Rose Theatre Kingston.  We have seen loads of family shows there over the past few years, and we have enjoyed every show. In a few weeks, Husband and I will be taking Moozles and Dubz to see Dinosaur Zoo. Regular readers might remember that Dubz is crazy for dinosaurs, so he is going to be thrilled to see this show.

If you are not familiar with Dinosaur Zoo, it is a fun interactive show filled with dinosaur puppets of all sizes, including a Tyrannosaurus Rex. And it is supposed to be quite funny. After the 50-minute show, there is a meet-and-greet so the children can get up close to the terrifying creatures. Okay, the dinosaurs look pretty cute but I am sure the kids will be pretty amazed anyway. The show is recommended for ages three and over. Dubz is four and Moozles is eight, and I'm sure they will both enjoy it.

Dinosaur Zoo is playing all around the UK until September 2016 but will be at the Rose Theatre Kingston from 30 July until the 1st August. Since the Rose Theatre is in the round, you are pretty much guaranteed a good seat wherever you sit. There is even a space near the front where you can bring your own cushions and sit on the floor (perfect for those squirmy toddlers who don't like to sit still). Tickets cost about £13.50 each. But if you would like the chance to win a family ticket (two adults and two children's tickets), enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below.

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