Shopping stropping – Wicked Wednesday 30 September 2015

It’s been a while since my last Wicked Wednesday post due to being hugely busy with a charity ball (more to post about that soon) – not because the kids haven’t been stroppy and the house hasn’t been a state though!

Today the 3 year old and I went shopping – well, she went stropping. This was because I wouldn’t leave her in the car on her own (I’m not Rachel Stevens #controversial) to watch Stuart Little for the 2 millionth time and insisted she came with me to the dry cleaners and the Post Office.

Barnt Green strop

I tried the reasoning, the old people walking by tried to encourage her (I smiled through gritted teeth) and then I just went for all out bribery of a milkshake and cake in the coffee shop if she walked.  She was then all sweetness and light ‘I won’t be stroppy now Mummy’.  It’s a good job she’s cute…………….

Do pop across and see other people’s post of stroppy kids and domestic woes!!

brummymummyof2
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Florida 2015 – fun in the sun? Or evil bootcamp?!

At the start of the summer a friend of mine went to the west coast of America and had the most amazing time – some of it due to her OCD planning (one of the many reasons we’re friends!) but some of it damn good luck – bears and whales for example.  Her blog was fabulous – and I can’t wait to do a similar trip in the future, when our youngest 2 are old enough to cope with it – but for now other US holidays are on the table.  Just after she got back we headed off to the other coast of the USA to ‘do’ Florida.  Proper, full on, Disney-tastic Orlando based ‘holiday’.  Us 6 – plus my parents and my sister and her family – so a party of 12 (the dinner reservation all LOVED us!!)

Any attempt to blog each day was thwarted by the ridiculous timetable my husband – and life long Florida fan – had planned!  So here’s a random summary of a family holiday to Orlando – with the party ranging in age from 3 years old to 70 years old!

The Countdown

My sister is 35 – but was possibly the most excited member of the party in the countdown.  She had a Disney app with our flight details in that was counting down the days / hours / minutes until our flight.  Which was all well and good until we had a 3 hour delay taking off!  But at least we could amuse ourselves at the airport with a selfie stick (and shopping and champagne!)

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Timing and weather 

Historically we’ve ‘done’ Disney at Easter – when the weather is perfect.  Warm enough to not freeze after getting soaked on a water ride in the day – but needing a cardi first thing and last thing. BUT the parks are uber busy, as the US and UK have Easter at the same time (no sh*t Sherlock!) and consequently lots of people go.  This time we did the last 2 weeks in August when – supposedly – the US kids are back at school. However, I have to say it’s still really quite busy!  And the weather is roasting – with ridiculous levels of humidity.  Apparently it’s always bad at this time of year – but is even worse than usual this year.  We’ve noticed it particularly in our youngest and eldest members of the party – just as you’re advised when the UK has a heatwave!!  We have many photos of the little ones sweaty and asleep in the pushchair!

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Accommodation

Before kids, the husband and I did Disney and stayed in a Disney hotel (he even proposed to me at Magic Kingdom – bless!) Since having the kids, the ability to escape the Disney shite magic has become more important.  This time we stayed in an amazing villa in Formosa Gardens. Only a few minutes drive from the 192 and all the Orlando parks – but in an oasis of calm.

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The facilities were fabulous – more than a home from home (as if we’ve had a summer outdoor kitchen in the UK!!)  We were able to buy supplies from local supermarkets (we had a Target (think Tescos), a Walmart (think Asda) and a Publix (think Waitrose – and my favourite!) within a few minutes drive). Even the chemist at the end of the road sold booze (when 2 of our kids had an ear infection I went and bought drops and painkillers for them, and bottles of Prosecco for us! #winning)

Planning

When we went last time there was the option of ‘fast passes’ – but these were booked on the day when you were in the park.  Everything is far more fancy nowadays – and through websites and apps you can book restaurants, experiences and rides from the comfort of your own home before venturing anywhere near Orlando.  You need to do this as early as possible.  Even a few days after the spaces were opened we’d failed to secure fast passes for anything Frozen related or for the Magic Kingdom fireworks.

Every day we reviewed the plans for the next day to ensure everything was already in place before we left home in the morning.  Sounds a bit dull and anal – but it meant every ride we wanted to go on and character we wanted to see was ticked off!

And this was the husband – also the planner – with his whistle and autograph books at 6.30am on the first morning. And I’m not joking…..

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Eating

Food is Florida is ENORMOUS!  The portion sizes really do have to be seen to be believed – and the breakfast combos of sweet and savoury are something else.

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As a group we were a little divided on food.  Our family of 6 often ate out at lunchtime.  We found that an air conditioned restaurant in the middle of the day was a welcome respite from the heat and chaos – and also meant the kids had eaten something decent at lunchtime, so if they then fell asleep on the way home at the end of the day they could be smuggled into bed without worrying they’d be starving.

My parents and sister and her family did more eating on the go.  They didn’t want the expense of eating out daily – but also didn’t want to waste time in a restaurant.  They would take a mini picnic and snacks.  You have to be a bit careful as different parks have different rules about picnics and coolers – but they never had anything taken off them when going through bag check. Which brings me on to….

Bag Check

Getting into every park means a big queue so that bags can be checked (poked with a stick!) by security staff.  We learnt that this point was a good time to divide and conquer!  So some of the group would have the bags to be checked, and others would go through the ‘no bag’ line to get quicker access to the park to sort out pushchairs,.  Which brings me on to…..

Stroller rental

At home we have a pushchair for the 3 year old (useful to pop her in if she’s having a strop!) but not the 5 year old – but due to the walking involved we suspected she might need some help too – so we hired a double stroller every day.  This made life much easier – and was a great place to hang the bags / fans / water bottles etc.  My Dad also found it useful to push the pushchair to hold himself up!  (And I was pleased, as if I pushed it, not all steps would register on my Fitbit – and the brother in law and I were being a *bit* competitive about steps!)

The only downside with hiring a stroller was getting to and from the car, which in some car parks could be quite a jaunt.  Thankfully the aforementioned brother in law was a lovely Uncle and helped carry his exhausted nieces many times.

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You can also hire mobility scooters for older folks – although my 70 year old father resisted!

Stroppy Children

Whilst we were in Florida, I joined in a regular linky over at Brummy Mummy of 2 with a photo of our 3 year old having a variety of Disney inspired strops. As someone pointed out to me, around most corners in Walt Disney World you have a parent telling a small child ‘come on, you need to enjoy yourself, we’ve brought you to Florida’.  Actually, come to think of it, I think my husband and sister both said that to me at numerous points during the fortnight…….

Characters

This is obviously a big part of Disney – and all of the kids had autograph books – even the teenagers!  We managed to see lots – and some were amazing (Cinderella did a fab video message for a little girl back home)

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and some weren’t (I came close to punching Mary Poppins for being rude and running off before we could speak to her – despite us queuing!)

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The boys took a particular liking to Rapunzel

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Photos

We took A LOT of photos.  In fact there are about 800 on Facebook (yes, I’m one of THOSE people!)  We invested in the various photo passes at different parks to ensure we could have all of the group / ride photos that were taken by the professional photographers kicking around.  For Disney this was amazingly good value and we really got our money’s worth.  We would definitely recommend this investment.

Be warned at Busch Gardens – if you buy their photo package it DOESN’T include photos taken feeding giraffes on the Serengeti Safari.  We were very cross to be charged extra for this after the event – definitely left a bit of a sour taste.

Pre-conceptions

Last time we ‘did’ Florida Busch Gardens and Seaworld were our favourite parks, and the ones we remembered most fondly.  So this time we were a little disappointed that they weren’t. Whether it’s because there’s been a change in ownership (which also meant no free Budweiser at Seaworld much to the husband’s disappointment – it was the one day I was going to drive home!) I’m not sure – but they seemed a bit less slick than Disney – and a lot more money grabbing.  Disney have the parking and fast passes etc down  to a fine art – and the other parks could learn a lot from them.

Shopping

Long gone are the days of 2 dollars to the pound – but there are still bargains to be had with shopping. We did outlet malls and regular malls and did lots of purchases in both,  My eldest daughter and my niece both bought Timberlands (they’re cool again, apparently!) and they were $150 whereas they’d be £150 at home – so a definite saving.  Obviously they had to wear them home as they were too heavy to pack!

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I also like clothes shopping in the US – as it makes you look 2 sizes smaller #result

Orlando International Airport

For a long time Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France has held my ‘worst airport in the world’ award – interestingly after a trip to Disneyland Paris.  But this has now been surpassed by Orlando.

Upon arrival at the start of the holiday immigration took forever, luggage then took 2 hours (due to a storm stopping the conveyors), then you have to either lug all of your luggage on a train (which is tricky with 4 kids, all the suitcases and 2 car seats) or recheck it in – which we did.  The lady on the recheck conveyor told us it would be about 20 minutes – but when we got to the belt to collect it we were told it could be up to 2 hours!!!  There is then not an easy route to the car hire – and they just send you off across an immense car park to find your car. But we survived – just (with a lot of swearing, and clothes so sweaty you could wring them out!)

Flying back out again was even worse! At the check in desk we were told that despite us having a 40kg luggage allowance each (Virgin Premium Economy) each individual bag could only be 23kg.  Apparently this was health and safety.  BUT – you could pay $60 if you bag exceeded this weight. This seemed utterly ridiculous – it is either health and safety or it isn’t?!?  So – in the middle of check in I was repacking bags to make sure all came in below the 23kg mark – which they did (I would not be beaten!!)

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Then, the luggage belts weren’t working, so all of our bags were lined up in the middle of the check in area – with people milling about them.  Not exactly high security!

The waiting area in the airport had minimal seats  – although thankfully we managed to bagsy some.  But the queue to get a round in Starbucks took AN HOUR!!  Utter madness.

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Some of us look happier than others to be about to board the plane!!

Once on the plane we thought we could be on our way home. But no,  the inept ground crew struck again, and it was apparent to our captain on the way out to the runway that she’d been given the incorrect paperwork so we had to taxi back.  Then we had to refuel, as she’d used up too much fuel on the taxing forwards and backwards  Argh!  So 2 hours later we took off.

And don’t even get me started on the rubbish service on board.  Children’s meals that had been sorted on the way out not available, entertainments systems that didn’t work, seat that reclined about 5 cm – premium my arse!

But we survived!  And some of it was quite enjoyable!!

We all came back exhausted, and it took a while to recover – a combination of walking 6 miles a day and jet lag is not fun.  It’s definitely not a holiday you could do regularly – in fact our kids have all said ‘please don’t make us go to Disney again’ – but I’m sure we will.  Maybe.

Book review: Liar Liar by M J Arlidge

Liar Liar

I have really enjoyed the first 3 books in the DI Helen Grace series (Eeny Meeny, Pop Goes the Weasel, The Doll’s House – in that order – as obviously my OCD wouldn’t let me list them in anything other than chronological order!) and so was very excited to see this pop up on my Kindle.  I’d forgotten I’d pre-ordered it (got to love Amazon!)

Because of pre-ordering, I hadn’t read the blurb – but here it is for you:

“In the dead of night, three raging fires light up the city skies. It’s more than a tragic coincidence. For DI Helen Grace the flames announce the arrival of an evil she has never encountered before.

Because this is no firestarter seeking sick thrills, but something more chilling: a series of careful, calculating acts of murder.

But why were the victims chosen? What’s driving the killer? And who will be next?

A powder keg of fear, suspicion and dread has been laid. Now all it needs is a spark to set it off . . .”

Again it was set in Southampton – where I went to Uni (and so I can feel a bit smug that I know how to pronounce Bevois Valley) – and again it was a grim race against time to protect the people of my home for 3 years from a serial killer.  As usual I loved the mix of police investigation and the personal lives of the main detectives – DI Helen Grace, but also her right hand woman Charlie.  The ‘working Mum guilt’ is bad enough as an accountant – but how much tougher it must be when your job puts you in physical danger.

The twists and turns were excellent – as I’ve come to expect from this writer both in his books, and when I see his name pop up as the writer of a similar genre of TV programmes.

I don’t think you would need to have read the first 3 books to enjoy this – but I would definitely recommend starting from the beginning if you haven’t already.

And, I’ve just downloaded the next in the series ‘Little Boy Blue’ to arrive in March 2016 – which I will probably have forgotten about by then, and it will be another lovely surprise!

Being Blonde……..

This evening I took my husband’s car to pick up the eldest from Guides.

I’d forgotten he’d put the roof bars and gubbins on ready to take some canoes to the River Severn for the Scouts tomorrow morning – until I hit the overhead barrier going in to the car park…………………………………

Thankfully after I phoned and confessed (and confirmed all bits and pieces still appeared to be on the roof) I was briefed on a special button to press to make the car drop lower, and we managed to escape without hitting anything #winner

Book Review: The Lie by C L Taylor

The Lie

“This was no accident…

Haunting, compelling, this psychological thriller will have you hooked. Perfect for fans of Gone Girl and Daughter.

I know your name’s not really Jane Hughes . . .

Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She’s happier than she’s ever been but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist.

Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women.

Jane has tried to put the past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves . .”

This was recommended to me by a friend on Twitter – and we usually have similar tastes in books, so I had high hopes.  I wasn’t disappointed.

From early on I was intrigued as to what was going to happen both in the present day story and back 5 years ago on the ‘trip of a lifetime’.  The chapters flipped between the 2 time periods, but it didn’t feel formulaic at all.  The tension kept building in both story lines and it really kept me wanting to come back and read more.

There were a few times when I wanted to shout at Emma / Jane – as is often the case in these types of books – but overall I did like her (which is always a bonus – and makes a big difference from Gone Girl where everyone was unlikeable!)

It felt well written, and whilst keeping you entertained, wasn’t too complex a read.  I’d definitely recommend this to fans of this genre.

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Guest Blog: It’s all about me

Yesterday I blogged about my boobs, and it made me think about this excellent blog post by my friend – who is currently recovering in hospital from an op – and has far more important things to say about boobs than me.  She writes so eloquently, I wanted to share it with you all – so here goes.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

It’s all about me!

Most, if not all of you, will remember the “No Make-Up Selfie” craze that swept social media last year. I duly took part on my personal FB page. I remember loving the unity between women as they complimented each other, understanding that a photo without make-up was a hard thing for many to do. There was sense of unity & it was lovely to see women supporting other women, not to mention the fantastic comments from lots of men. I also remember being surprised by the criticism about the craze. Cancer charities saw a rise in donations & it definitely raised awareness, which can only be good in my book!

It raised my awareness & prompted me to check myself as I’d not done so for a while. I then wished I hadn’t, which was a stupid thing to think but better than the thoughts that raced through my head when I found a lump. I went to see my GP who talked about breast mice & dismissed any concerns around cancer or simple links to hormones & the migraines I’d experienced.  The GP went through the tick list for identifying cancer from a lump & mine didn’t tick any of the boxes. I did what all internet savvy peeps do & googled breast mice as soon as I got home. Everything the GP had said tied in with what I read. I still felt a sense of disatisfaction with the GP’s approach, but I breathed a sigh of relief & carried on as normal.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago. The lump seemed to be more uncomfortable on an increasingly regular basis. I was still convinced it was linked to hormones, although the migraines have become less frequent. It was really disconcerting to have a lump in my breast that I seemed to be increasingly aware of. I went back to the GP. The infamous breast mice were discussed ago. The difference was, this practitioner decided to take a “peace of mind” approach & referred me for tests.

6 weeks, 2 mammograms, 2 ultra sounds, 3 fine needle biopsies & a mammotome later I have a diagnosis of DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ), described as pre-cancer cells, in the lump & another area. The spread of these cells means I am having a mastectomy & reconstruction in September. The after treatment will be decided after the removed breast tissue has been tested.

So, I have met my surgeon & have avoided the temptation to request 2 new Double D numbers! I know what to expect in September. As long as I have a plan I am fine. I will be busily preparing endless lists & filling in calendars in preparation for the family members who will be stepping in to cover my Mommy duties. My “Northern Bird” sister in law is intending to come round to devise a spreadsheet. The title of this blog entry stems from the numerous conversations we’ve had since all this started. She gets I don’t want a fuss but is concerned for me at the same time. She expresses this through taking the pee out of me!! Her approach is perfect!

Obviously a mastectomy is a big thing to have, it took me a while to learn how to spell it properly. It’s a big thing to have, both psychologically & physically. However, I am grateful it has been diagnosed now rather than further down the line when it could have been a lot more than pre-cancer cells. I only have a tiny idea of how someone would feel if being given a  true diagnosis of cancer. Whilst this is still a possibility, it should only be a small one. What will be will be.

The reason I am writing this is a) to save myself needing to send numerous texts to let people know or ruin completely pleasant conversations and b) to raise awareness. It was the someone starting a trend to raise awareness that has brought me on this path. I also want to say to people not to be afraid to question the professionals. I questioned mine, but I should have done it a lot sooner.  If I had not gone back to the doctors for a further explanation……well you can imagine the what ifs & maybes. I want my story to be a reminder to others both male & female to check all your lumps! If you have something suspicious, make sure you are thoroughly checked & examined. It’s better to make a nuisance of yourself & be safe, rather than sorry.

In the meantime, I have a good few weeks to fit in work, holiday & fun with my boys. After the op I will have plenty of recovery time.  I will need to ensure I relax, which isn’t my strongest assett. Guess what I’ll be doing, other than hospital trips, sleeping etc, to fill my time……

………………………….CRAFTING!! Yay!

So, nothing more to see here. What are you waiting for? Off you go…go check yourself right now!!

Boobs the size of a head?!

Today I suffered a hideous pain, one comparable with stepping on a piece of Lego, being stabbed in the boob with a stray underwire.

This was a bra that had already tried to injure me before, and I’d attempted to reinforce it (me, sewing, I know!) but I find that once underwires have tasted freedom, they’re never quite the same again.

After being stabbed all morning whilst assisting with family swimming – I decided enough was enough and removed it at lunchtime.  My husband was astounded at the size of the underwire (and he’s not unfamiliar with my chest area!) – so obviously he wore it as a headband…..

Underwire

Then the 3 year old wanted a go – but it was far too big for her little head.

I guess I probably should take note of the washing instructions and only handwash them – but isn’t life too short for handwashing?!?

Book Review: Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

I realised that whilst my kids go at least once a week, I hadn’t used my local library for nearly 2 years!! A new found love of my Kindle – and being given books to review – meant I hadn’t actually borrowed anything for myself for all of that time. So I decided to rectify the situation and borrowed ‘Summer at the Little Beach Street Bakery’ by Jenny Colgan.

Summer At Beach Street Bakery

As usual – here’s the Amazon blurb:

“Summer has arrived in the Cornish town of Mount Polbearne and Polly Waterford couldn’t be happier. Because Polly is in love: she’s in love with the beautiful seaside town she calls home, she’s in love with running the bakery on Beach Street, and she’s in love with her boyfriend, Huckle.

And yet there’s something unsettling about the gentle summer breeze that’s floating through town. Selina, recently widowed, hopes that moving to Mount Polbearne will ease her grief, but Polly has a secret that could destroy her friend’s fragile recovery. Responsibilities that Huckle thought he’d left behind are back and Polly finds it hard to cope with his increasingly long periods of absence.

Polly sifts flour, kneads dough and bakes bread, but nothing can calm the storm she knows is coming: is Polly about to lose everything she loves?”

It was a lovely, easy, holiday read. Not earth shattering literature – but a fun escapist romp and I was keen to find out what happened next!

Some of it is a little far fetched (pet puffin anyone?!) and some a little predictable (I immediately guessed the culprit for the graffiti on the side of the van) but overall a pleasant book to read.

It reminded me very much of the style of Jenny Oliver, whose books I’ve reviewed before.

I’m not sure I’d rush to buy all of Ms Colgan’s back catalogue – but perfect as a library book.  I think I might have to go and  borrow the first book in the series to see how Polly got to Mount Polbearne in the first place.