Category Archives: Parenting

A Big January

Let’s not sugar-coat it; January is the worst.

Christmas is over, and it’s a long stretch til Valentine’s Day, when I can give Mark a box of chocolate I bought in the discount section two days after Boxing Day for a quid and be showered with love in return (#thriftymama).

New Year’s Resolutions are coming into effect, and we’re all discovering that they’re actually pretty tough, and we set the bar too high again. I can’t go to the gym this week, I need to drink the wine I swore not to touch until summer. I can’t eat healthy today; I need the calories from this donut if I want to survive the stressful shopping spree with Mark’s credit card that I promised myself I wouldn’t do any more on New Year’s Eve.

On top of this, the weather is oppressive. The sky never seems to clear of low, grey cloud, the sun is just a bright patch, it’s bitterly cold, anything that isn’t frozen is soaked through. The grey is demoralising. It’s like living in The Road.

With all that said, you might be tempted to think that this hot momma is down on her luck this January, but you’d be wrong. Life has never been better in this grey, lightless, frozen hellscape.

For one, we’ve discovered that Mark’s job is a little more open-ended than we thought – since he’s with an agency in chemical surveying, we thought it was that or freelancing – but as it turns out, he can have his degree accredited and do a few “top-up” modules on the side, then advance to the role of “Executive Chemical Surveyor” with a potential pay increase of about 20%!

That’s a lot of wiggle room on his credit card!

Not just that, but on the side of writing this blog and looking after the bambineroonies, who are more of a handful now than ever, and the little doggie-do, I’ve been trying to write fiction, since this sort of flair doesn’t come around every day, and should be cherished when it does.

So, ever since before Christmas, I’ve been taking the time to sit and try to write something, every day. The trick is to just make the words come out, no matter their quality, no matter whether you feel they’ll sell or you think they’re worth publishing. Just make them come out, no matter what.

Spray your brain all over the paper, and stop well before you feel like stopping. Edit only after the story is DONE and don’t hold yourself accountable to the rules. The only person who can influence the story is YOU, you need to write what you think is true, and let your light shine. I could go on, but I’m out of writing platitudes. The importance, to sum up, is in writing bigly.

And I did! I wrote a little every day, and finished a few stories, like Pip Dreams, a story about a frustrated housewife who becomes a private detective and uncovers a massive conspiracy to defraud fad dieters, or Sola Antiquity, a story about a bored housewife who survives the apocalypse and helps rebuild society by becoming the queen of a tribe of hard-bodied young men. However, they weren’t the ones I was proudest of – no, that honour went to my pride and joy, Wham, Bam, Slam a Jam.

It’s a mouthful, I know (and that’s a direct quote from one of the characters!) but the best part about it isn’t its story (a bored housewife discovers a portal to another world in the washing machine and has to rise to the challenge to save a tribe of hard-bodied young men from the predations of a snake-people nation who all talk like my bitch neighbour Alexandria). The best bit about it is the way all the little things come together.

The actual prose style is much more conversational and accessible than the likes of Sola Antiquity, and the pacing drives things along really well. It’s got much better use of humour, threat and action to keep the plot moving, and much better characterisation than anything I’ve written before – and I’m not the only one who thinks that, because… (drum roll please)

It’s being published!

That’s right, yours truly, Jin Blogger, is going to be published in a short story anthology! The anthology’s by Fruit Loop Books and it’s called the Oil Cherry Anthology 3 – check it out! It’s out this summer, and if you use the discount code WHAMBAMSLAMJAMJIN you can get it in paperback for 50% off!

So despite the cold and the dark, despite Mark’s tonsilitis, and Tilly’s arm getting caught in the laundry press, despite the short days and the atrocious lack of funds, the post-christmas blues, the eight-day-hangover from New Year’s Eve, the Sophie thing, the cold and the dark, despite ALL THAT, it’s a big January.

I know it’s easy to get despirited in January. It’s the month with the highest reported incidences of depression, and the hotspot for seasonal affective disorder (largely because of the horrors inflicted by the weather and the long night/short day dichotomy, but undoubtedly also to do with the equinoxes and the fact that light drives out negative vibrational energy – no light, no “detox” of negativity during the day).

I’m as guilty of it as anyone, and I’m not exempt this year, by any stretch of the imagination. The long winter is getting to me. But we are moving forward anyway. When the dark closes in, and the snow piles up, that’s when you need to find the fire inside and push forward! For death or glory. For victory or Sovngarde. And that’s what we’re doing: January’s got nothing in its bag of tricks that can stand in the way of this hot mama. Sure it’s dark outside; but it’s plenty bright in here.

Mark’s going for the top spot with his Chemical Surveying, and my stories are finally getting good enough to publish. I’m a very happy Jin!

XOXO
Bloggip Girl

Also called Jin

Hosting a Baby Shower!

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this on here yet, but one of my friends is having a baby soon!

Her name is Marie, and we’re still not sure what sex the baby is, but it’ll be called either Torsten or Quantin if it’s a boy, and either Neveah or Eloise if it’s a girl! She and the hubby are both only children, so a baby shower thrown by the famalam was off the cards, and they were acting like they weren’t that bothered about the whole concept, but you know who wasn’t going to let that slide? Who wasn’t going ot let them miss the baby shower of their dreams? Who was going to step in and host them an amazing baby shower in her beautiful home?

That’s right. This momma.

Marie’s still very young (she’s only 29! Goodness, I’m no dinosaur but she does make me feel a little wrinkly) and she’s new to this, what with it being her first little sproodling, so the hubbub and I took the reins and arranged a brilliant shower in secret, without letting on until only a week before.

And it went fantastically!

We spent two whole days getting the house tidy (one whole afternoon just to tidy up all my dreamcatchers and the jars of mine and Mark’s baby teeth that wound up on the coffee table somehow) and scrubbed it until it shone, then hung up these adorable little string decorations with tiny clothes pegs that little paper baby-grows hung from in pink and blue.

We baked cookies that spelt out “Baby” and decorated them in pink and blue (although that was entirely my job, poor Mark gives it a great go but his baking always winds up either burnt, crumbly as all hell or iced so powerfully that a diabetic bumblebee wouldn’t touch it) and arranged them for maximum effect in the middle of our table spread, which also included houmous and dips with varying exotic and mundane breadsticks from Mark’s collection, celery sticks and carrot sticks (I would later go on to make my famous gumbo with the leftover celery), party rings, home-made spring rolls by Marie’s school friend Lisa, and sausage rolls, because we all know how much Marie loves sausage rolls!

I’ll tell you the story some other time, but rest assured, it’s a wonderful in-joke, she certainly does love a nice baked sausage treat!

We also cleared a spot in the corner of the reception room for gifts, and made sure all the invites had been appropriately RSVPed before the day, when Marie and her new hubbalubbadubdub, Chris, were due to arrive.

The first people to show up were Marie’s old school friends Bob Saggle and Olympia Faulkes, two just lovely Londoners who showed up with armfuls of gifts even as Mark was still running around changing lightbulbs in the living room, stepladder and all!

God love them, I think they felt a little awkward sitting there with cups of tea while the whirlwind of cleaning swept all around them, but the show must go on! The house was perfect by the time the rest of the guests arrived, and when Marie and Chris turned up, they were so surprised!

“Jin!” they said. “Your house is so beautiful!”

I knew that already, but I pretended not to so I’d look nice to them, and I took them in and sat them down. Poor Marie was tired just from walking from the car, as she’s due any day now and she was enormous! She might make me feel old, but she certainly also makes me feel thin. I’ve got that one over her, at any rate.

The party was perfect, too. We played party games about guessing the baby’s gender, including seeing which way a wedding ring on a string moved when held over the bump (boy), which way a cup landed when flicked off the bump (girl), whether baking soda makes the mother’s urine fizz or not (boy), whether the mother can do a pull-up (boy) and my personal favourite – and the one that has predicted the gender of my little munchkins perfectly – putting blueberry jam on the bump and seeing whether it changes colour (boy).

So the tests are pretty conclusive – it’s gonna be a boy. And that’s that.

The presents were after that. They got an amazing car seat and a push chair from our friends Raquel and Alice, and a wonderful set of baby grows with humourous sentences on them that I can’t quite remember right now (they mustn’t have been that funny!)

Then from Mark and I they got the big pacifier with the calming quartz crystal stone set in the ring, to keep the baby’s energy good and balanced in the crib and ensure a full night’s sleep, which they looked absolutely delighted about. The satisfaction I get from seeing my friends’ faces light up when they open a gift is one of the loveliest feelings, I think.

The Pinata

Then, came the centrepiece of the party: the pinata. A huge baby’s pacifier in pink, blue and yellow, it was full of sweets and mounted on a long pole, since we had nowhere to hang it up that wouldn’t be ruined by a good swing.

We wanted to use a ukelele as the bat, since Marie plays the uke like a Hawaian virtuoso, but we forgot to bring it, so wooden spoon it was. The flat of the spoon turnout to out be a poor bat, but reversing it and re-enacting the shower scene from “Psycho?” Perfect.

Swinging downwards with the handle of the spoon as a sort or wooden stake, the dummy was soon completely split open and sweets showered everywhere. I was hit by one that had completely snapped in half at one point, like sugary shrapnel (I didn’t know Marie had the strength, to be honest) but it seems she did!

The party went on until about 11.30 at night, which was amazing, since we didn’t plan for it to go that long or think it would – the natural flow of the night just went that way, and I didn’t even realise!

I put the sproggins to bed, and we all just chatted away until I suddenly looked up as Marie was going home and thought “how did it get so late?!”

By the end of it we had absolutely devastated the table spread, with very few breadsticks surviving and even fewer party rings and sausage rolls escaping the massacre. We had seriously depleted our tea stocks, and we were almost out of milk. The house, however, was almost spotless. The guests had been absolutely lovely about tidying up after themselves, even the ones that had brought kiddlers of their own, and no-one was really drinking, so there were no bottles or cans to get rid of (oh for the days of mine and Mark’s ragers, where we’d come through the next evening with a brush and brush the piles of detritus up because it was more cost-effective than trying to pick it all up individually. That was well before Tilly, you see).

So we woke up, feeling hungover from the strain of hosting such a great party even though we hadn’t touched a drop. We went down into a bizarrely tidy, clean house, took down the decorations, and then I poached a few eggs for breakfast. They were amazing. Shame we didn’t have any tea bags, though.

A Fantastic Valentine’s Day Surprise!

So it was Valentine’s Day yesterday, and we don’t normally do anything, but this year Mark said he wanted to do something special, even if we couldn’t get a sitter and had to just celebrate in the house.

I wasn’t sure what he was up to, but I said it sounded like a great idea (we haven’t been sticking to our date-night-every-week resolution too well) and I’m so glad I did!

We couldn’t get a sitter (guess everyone else was out being romantic) but Mark took care of the kids, got them watching UP on Netflix, and when they were distracted, he broke out the presents.

He’d made me these unbelievable handmade chocolates and sat them in little red foil covers in a little tray, and topped it all off with a card! I asked him if he’d made them himself and he said he had, when I was out with the girls the night previous. He wouldn’t tell me what was in them, he said the surprise was the main fun part, so I tried them, one at a time.

They were amazing! Soft caramel, strawberry fondant, white chocolate truffle, Turkish delight…. He’d made a little box of everything! I felt terrible for only getting him a card and the Avengers on DVD. I’ll have to think of something special to do for him.

So in other news, I’m trying to convince my hubby to start a little business selling handmade chocolates, because, as it turns out, he’s excellent at it!

holistic medicine natural mother

Tilly’s Cold

My poor Tilly wasn’t well at all this weekend!

On Friday I noticed that she was a little quiet and not as cheery as she usually is, especially considering that Friday is Taquito Night for dinner (her favourite). I checked her forehead for a temperature and thought she felt a little warm, but nothing too bad. She was a little sniffly and downtrodden looking, so I tucked her up and got her a little cup of cocoa to put the pep back in her step while I finished up dinner.

She cheered up a little after dinner, and but she was still a little too warm and said she felt unwell, so we put her to bed nice and early and she fell straight to sleep. I sent the hubbub to check on her a few times, but apparently she slept like a baby!

During the night I woke up when I heard her little voice crying from the bathroom. I couldn’t believe it – she’d been sick on the floor trying to reach the toilet, but she was crying because she was so unwell and she didn’t want to wake her mummy! I nearly cried, it was terrible seeing my little baby like that. I told her it was ok and I wasn’t annoyed, and got her all cleaned up.

We stayed up all night because she couldn’t sleep, but I made her a charm bracelet out of my hair so that contact with her mother’s natural DNA could boost her immune system, and after a few days at home wearing it she was totally better!

She got up this morning in great form and took the bracelet off and gave it to me, saying “thanks Mummy but I’m all better!” and I was just so proud!

So now she’s off to school to tell all her little friends about how great her natural-medic-mummy is – but really, seeing her skip to the car in full health was all the reward I needed!

J x

christmas with family

Settling in for Christmas

So, after setting our tree up last week, we finished the last of our prep today! (We’ve been very organised, I’m sure it’s a fluke).

We’ve got the turkey bought, the veg in the fridge, the presents ready (don’t tell the kids!) and the decorations up all in time for Christmas week, so now we’re just settling in to enjoy the last few days, and really kick back.

We’ve made a little planner for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, with a schedule of things to do each day, just to make sure we don’t lose track of anything. With so many relatives to see, and so many things to pen in, it’s been a real lifesaver, and I think it’ll really keep us on track!

We’ve got my sister up, with her sprouts and her husband, Rufus; we’ve got to visit my Mum at some point, we’ve got the hubster’s parents to see, we have to sort out the presents for the kids, that scratching started in the attic again, we need to sort out the dinner (which will be tricky just by itself) and we have all kinds of smaller treats and things to arrange to fill the time.

Things like curling up with the kids to watch Elf (something I like to do every Christmas), stuffing button mushrooms with pate for Christmas Eve supper, a glass of Baileys on the sly with the sis when she gets here… There’s so much to do!

Thank heavens for little leather diaries.

Spooky Baking!

So Halloween’s coming up, and at Tilly’s fierce insistence we’re going to bake some cupcakes to take round to my sister’s little family Halloween party!

I was looking online for some inspiration and the options were a bit overwhelming (apparently cupcakes can be made spooky in thousands of ways) but when I saw the picture of the spiderweb cakes up above, I just fell in love with them.

So then all I needed was to find the recipe – it wasn’t attached to the photo!

I hunted around and finally found this one on the BBC Good Food site that should do the trick just perfectly! Tilly gets her baking and I get the most gorgeous cupcakes to bring round to Suzie’s for the party. Everybody wins! (Especially Tilly and I, who will be tucking in to a cake or two hot out of the oven!)

We’re baking them the night before Halloween, so I’ll post pictures then! (if I remember!)

Ingredients

  • 125g/4½oz plain flour

  • 25g/1oz cocoa powder

  • 1½ tsp baking powder

  • 150g/5oz caster sugar

  • 50g/2oz butter, softened at room temperature

  • 1 free-range egg

  • 8 tbsp milk

For the cream cheese icing
  • 50g/2oz cream cheese

  • 25g/1oz butter, softened at room temperature

  • 125g/4oz icing sugar, sifted

  • ½ tsp vanilla essence

For the chocolate icing
  • 25g/1oz icing sugar

  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a muffin tray with 9 paper cases.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a bowl. Add the sugar and butter and beat the mixture together until well combined.
  3. Whisk in the egg and milk until the mixture is thick and smooth.
  4. Divide the mixture between the paper case and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until springy to the touch and skewer inserted into the middle of one of the cakes comes out clean. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.
  5. For the cream cheese icing, beat the cream cheese and butter together in a bowl until well combined. Beat in the icing sugar and vanilla.
  6. Spoon the icing onto the cupcakes, leaving a small border around the edge.
  7. For the chocolate icing, sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons of water to form a smooth, thick icing.
  8. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a fine nozzle. (Alternatively, spoon the mixture into the corner of a sandwich bag and snip off the corner, to form a small hole.)
  9. Carefully pipe a few concentric circles onto each cupcake. Run a toothpick from the centre to the edge of the cake, through each circle of icing, at 2cm/1in intervals to create a cobweb effect.
  10. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow the icing to harden.

Tilly!

I went into the kitchen to get breakfast ready for the kids this morning, and opened the cupboards to find Tilly hiding in there!

She jumped out and scared me and I laughed so hard I almost fell over! She’d actually gone straight downstairs after I got her dressed for school so she could hide before I got down there. Thankfully I wasn’t carrying cereal or milk, because they would have gone everywhere!

What a mischievous little madam she’s becoming.

Getting Tilly Ready for Reception!

It’s been a big few weeks for us! Tilly’s started reception, and at risk of sounding like a gushing mum, she’s settling in really well. She’s made a few friends and her teacher is lovely.

I made sure to do lots of prep before her first day to make sure she got a head start, and I read that these tips are great ways to help a child get ready for their first day of school, so if you’ve got a little one getting ready to start school, here you go!

Reading Aloud

I’ve always been keen on reading to my kids before bed, and I found plenty of research online backing up how good it is for them! Expecially just before school, reading aloud to Tilly was teaching her that words can be written, as distinct blocks of letters on a page – almost a primer to beginning to read herself!

I got her started on learning what letters make what sounds, and now that she’s in school she’s getting a chance to show off and be a little clever clogs (and she never misses a chance to do that!)

baby-adult-with-book-2

Lunches

I made sure to call the school and explain Tilly’s lactose intolerance well ahead of time. I made sure to have doctor’s notes handy, and they were very accommodating! Just being clear and open and communicating honestly concerning your child’s dietary needs is always the best first step!

I’ve tried my best to make sure she’s not a fussy eater, but she does pick sometimes, so I spent a while making sure she knows she can just ask the lunch ladies if she has a problem or if she’d like something else. Lots of kids are too timid to try and wind up throwing away a lunch they don’t like! (Not that my Tilly would throw food away to save her life)

Starting school

Keeping it together on the first day

This is a surprisingly tough one! When a parent is upset or distressed, the child usually picks up on it and feels like they should feel that way too (remember they’re always looking at you for clues on what to do!)

So on the first day of school, make sure they know how happy they should be, by looking and acting happy yourself.

And try not to cry, or you might set all the poor parents there off!

Walking with children A.K.A dinosaurs!

We are over half way through the year. When did that happen? But at this time I’m reflecting on the new years resolutions I made back in December.

I set a fair few tasks for myself this year, but I figure that If I’ve kept at least 1 or 2 I’ll be happy. The general idea was to increase the amount of exercise we do as a family. I had some great ideas back then such as weekly sports nights, dancing, nature walks and ditching the car. I reckon we’ve done all of them at least once, but if I’m honest we haven’t kept them up, aside from one that I’m really happy about.

As a family we have been getting outdoors a lot more than we used to. We’ve been camping and gardening (which the children love!) and have introduced walking into our weekly routine. However, walking with children can be a lot like walking with dinosaurs. Kids are not ones to keep the peace, and if they’re bored, they’ll certainly let you know. This being said, we’ve found some great nature walks that the kids love and so I thought I’d tell you about them here.

walking with childrenMalham Waterfall, Settle, North Yorkshire
This is a lovely walk that really sparked the kids interest, as the path leads to a magical waterfall and secret cave. We had fun telling stories about the local legend that says the cave is home to the Queen of the Fairies. This really piqued Tilly’s interest. Lots of wishes were made here, and she often asks to go back.

 Polesden Lacey, Dorking, Surrey
This is a big area to explore with 1,400 acres of land. But Polesden has a lot to offer for families from geocaching and special kid’s trails to dressing up and play areas. There really was a ton of things for the kids to do. It was a real unexpected treat when we went. We’ll definitely go back, but it’s quite far to travel for us.

Attingham Park, Shropshire
The Attingham Mile Walk is a perfect for pushchairs. There is also a play area where the kids could let off steam. One of the good things about Attingham is that it holds a lot of family fun events throughout throughout the year. Especially during the Great British Walks festival. We are considering heading down for the Family Adventure Walk on the 27th of October. Apparently, there are different challenges for the children to take part in.

Llyn and Snowdonia, Gwynedd, Wales
We are tied between Attingham Park and this one for the Halloween period. There’s lots of adventures to be had in Llyn and Snowdonia, and during autumn, on October 26th there are special  woodland activities for children of all ages where there’s lots to discover and create. The walk is lovely too, with some great views

Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge, Langdales
Another place we loved – we enjoyed discovering beautiful waterfalls, woods, small bays and it’s great because the path leads to an open meadow (which was great to relax in) and a pretty dramatic Woodburn Bridge. It also has handy amenities and refreshments at either end of the walk.

Do you know of any other family friendly walks? Have you been out an about over the Summer?

Family Fitness

It’s been a while since I last posted, but with Christmas taking over and the festive season seeming to go on forever, I think it’s about right! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a a great New Year’s…We certainly did!

DeathtoStock_NotStock6One of my New Year’s resolutions this year, as you probably know, is to make more time for exercise in my daily/weekly routine. This is not just for myself and Marcus, but for the kids too. Luckily, us having a dog makes it that bit easier to get out and about…but it is all too easy to let Marcus do the evening walk while I get the kids ready for bed and flop in front of the TV.

So I’ve been looking at ways to get the whole family moving more together, as isn’t exercise always better when its done with a group? It all counts as quality family time, after all.

It’s also just as important for your little ones to get at least one hour of physical activity a day, as this builds essential motor skills; co-ordination, and their growing hearts, lungs, bones and muscles. It also allows them to learn just what their bodies are capable of and discover their favourite physical activities early on.

Here are some tips for family fitness that I can’t wait to try in 2015.

1. Pre or Post Dinner Walks

Taking a walk together before or after dinner is a great way to boost the metabolism and prevent sleepiness after eating. (If you hDeathtoStock_SlowDown10ave a dog demanding to be walked, this makes it easier!)

Allow toddlers to alternate time in and out of their buggy to get them used to walking, and you can even make it into more of a game by asking your children to spot things along the way (a black and white cat; a type of tree; a type of house etc.)

2. Dancing

Dancing is by far one of the more fun ways to be active. If you have older children you can dance to whatever type of music you like, but for younger ones it might be best to stick to a CD or DVD of their favourite TV show where you can help them learn the actions to all the songs.

Push the furniture out of the way and create more space – this will help you move more and make it more fun. Cheap coloured or flashing lights will help to make it a disco!

3. Ditch the Car

You might be used to hopping in the car everyday because its more convenient and leaves you more time to make those packed lunches. But walking or taking the bus to school/playgroup is a small change you can make to fit more activity into your day, as well as being more beneficial for the environment.

Use the walk to fit in more social time with your youngsters. Ask them about their day ahead at school – what projects they’re working on; who they like to play with. You can also invent spotting games to play along the way, or test them on their spellings.

gardening-with-kids4. Get Gardening

As the weather starts to get warmer in the next couple of months, you’ll no doubt be turning your attention to the garden. Why not get your kids to help you by giving them simple tasks to do? Watering the plants; digging up soil to plant new bulbs; gathering leaves or pulling up small weeds are easy jobs that your kids will likely throw themselves into.

Gardening has been shown to be one of the best activities for improving motor skills and is also a great opportunity to teach your kids more about plants and vegetables.

5. Weekly Sports Night (or Day)

The warmer weather is also a brilliant reason to get to your local park or playing field and kick around a ball. You can maybe even invite some neighbours’ kids who are of a similar age to your own. Set up a game of 5-a-side (or more) and if it all goes well, try to make it a regular thing.

Remember its not all about getting the rules just right. Its about having fun and getting your kids to be active, whilst possibly making some new friends.

6. Go on a Nature Walk

If you’re lucky enough to live nearby some forestry or woodland, make the most of this by DSCF7252taking the kids on a long nature walk at a weekend. Everyone takes a small lunch, and puts on their wellies or walking boots. Then you can follow a designated trail or path, asking the kids to spot different types of bugs, furry animals and trees/flowers along the way.

If you don’t have a nature spot nearby, there are many forests you can drive or take the train to up and down the UK. Many of them contain preserved species of woodland creatures and have experienced rangers on hand to guide you.

Holidays For Furry Friends

So the air is warm and the sun is shining (most of the time anyways), so I guess it means dogs-on-holidaywe’re way into summer now! We’re scheduled to go away next month to Florida, where we will be staying at the amazing Key West beach. Tilly is so excited, and we can’t wait to spend some time in one of our favourite hot spots.

Our reasons for choosing Key West, however, might surprise you. Besides being a beautiful, sunny and uplifting place and perfect for families, Key West is also a primarily dog-friendly place. And with Roxy, our four year old golden retriever in tow, what other reason do we need?

While lots of dog-owners might see their holidays as a rest from the doggie duties, we’ve been taking Roxy on our trips for the last three years. The first time we left her was difficult for both us and her, so we decided that whenever possible, we would include her in our summer vacations in the future. The cost of paying for your dog’s stay in a hotel is about the same, if not less than putting them up in kennels for two weeks anyway. So why hesitate?

Key West has a dog-friendly beach, a dog-friendly restaurant next door (the Afterdeck Bar at Louie’s Backyard) and a range of other dining options where dogs are welcome (Island Dogs Bar; Blue Heaven, and Cheeseburger on Duval Street). We’ve been there before and always had such a great time and Roxy loves the opportunity to frolic in the sea.

However, Key West is definitely not the only option if you’re looking to take your furry friend on a much-needed trip. San Diego in California is home to a number of dog beaches where leashes aren’t mandatory, and there are dog-wash facilities nearby. There are also plenty of pet-friendly eateries like Baja Betty’s, O’Bistro, Cafe Merlot and Heavenly Cupcake (where they even make ‘pupcakes’ for dogs!)

dogs-national-trustIf the crisp English countryside is more your thing, then England and Scotland is just brimming with hotels and country lodges where your canine will be welcome.
The Swan Hotel in Southwold provides lovely dog-tailored accommodation in its Lighthouse Rooms for just £10 a night, and dogs get their own bowl and treat upon arrival. There’s also a dog beach along Walberswick Harbour for running and playing.

Fieldshead Hotel in the pretty fishing town of West Looe also looks like it would be a great choice. The hotel is said to be luxurious and relaxing, providing five-star service, pet-friendly rooms, and an ocean coastline right on your doorstep. Meanwhile, Trigony House Hotel in Thornhill, Scotland, looks a classically beautiful and charming place, surrounding by enchanting Scottish countryside including lots of exciting walking trails. This place is said to be a more up-market stay for dog-owners that want a bit of luxury for both themselves and their pooches, and its service is award winning.

It can indeed be difficult to get a good blend on dog-friendly vacations, especially as humans tend to like sightseeing and culture, whilst dogs love forests, fields, woods and other open spaces. English Heritage and National Trust in the UK however often aim to combine outdoorsy activities with historic walks and experiences, so their trips can be a good option (and they accommodate dogs in many of their hotels, pubs and restaurants too).

As far as accommodation is concerned, you’re certainly not necessarily limited to camping. Lots of travel agents (including a young startup named Chien Bleu Travel) can point you in the direction of lots of pet-friendly hotels, as well as self-catered holiday homes and lodges, right across Europe and beyond.

Be patient, do your research, and don’t be afraid to make enquiries (or be open to something new!) When the whole family travels, there should be no more excuses for leaving your four-legged friend behind.

J

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dog-on-beach

 

Dining Room Redesign: Inspirations

So Marcus and I have decided to redecorate the dining room. We’ve been a while putting it off as we were pretty sure Roxy would trash the place when she was a puppy…but now that she’s got out of the chewing phase I think its about time we roll our sleeves up and get it DONE! (That’s not to say Roxy won’t trash it anyway…I’m sure if she doesn’t, the kids will. But we’ll see how things go…)

So far I’ve been picking out small designs for wallpaper, colour schemes, lighting and furniture that really inspire me, whatever may be their source. As easy as it is to walk into a store and point to a photograph in a brochure, that sort of approach isn’t really for Marcus or me. I’m usually pretty intent on keeping things original, and Marcus’ mother used to work in interior design so I don’t think we’d get away with it if we didn’t consult her opinion!

I thought I’d post a few of my favourite ideas here that I’ve found so far. I have consulted some design mags and websites…but sometimes its also fun to simply stumble upon inspiration when out and about or surfing the web. Pinterest is certainly a great place to inspiration on ANYthing…you should definitely get on it if you haven’t already.

Wallpaper

dining-room-wallpaper-inspiration

I love this tree pattern – its very fresh and spring-like and reminds me of the white blossom trees at the end of our street. Whilst a neutral colour, its also still pretty playful, which I like.

Table/Furniture

dining-table-inspiration

I love this rustic dining table, which could bring a distinctly warm feel into an otherwise cool room. I’m not too keen on the chairs, but the mahogany table could make a beautiful centrepiece through both summer and winter. I also like the tree wallpaper used in the room in this photograph too!

Lighting

dining-room-lighting-inspiration

This metal-framed leaf-designed hanging lamp is from Overstock’s Home & Garden range. Whilst a dark colour, I love the pattern and I think it would go perfectly with a nature-esque, organic theme (which seems to be a recurring element right now…!)

Rug

dining-room-rug-inspiration

I think we’re pretty set on having a hard wood floor, so a rug will probably end up being an essential. I usually love heavy, rich-coloured rugs that echo exotic countries like India and Morrocco…but being a dining room I’d like to keep things fresh and airy. This cream-coloured woven rug made from natural materials would be perfect…though how long it would stay clean for is another issue!

Dog Eats Food…Again

Funny thing that happened the other day (and an update on Joe’s feeding habits). Whilst on a rather long call to nPower Customer Services (another story entirely), I looked away from Joe for a minute and back again to catch him feeding his whole dinner to Roxy, our four-year old golden retriever.

I could have been frustrated, I suppose, but the scene was just too funny not to laugh – Joe innocently tipping the food off his plate and Roxy eyes lighting up like her birthday had come early, as she raced to lap up the falling food. I had to hold back from laughing lest the Customer Service girl on the other end of the phone wondered what on earth was wrong with me.

J

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The Joys & Trials Of A Fussy Toddler

Things have been a little hectic here at Jin Towers – not only have my deadlines kept me exceedingly busy, but we are currently in the middle of transferring little Joseph onto solid food…something which I can’t say hasn’t been quite an experience!

The whole transference to solid food process means that Joe messy-baby-highchairobviously needs to be supervised at all mealtimes and takes much longer to feed – not the most conducive circumstances to get a good 3000 words a day in (my target has shrunk since I began working from home to be with the kids – it had to) but nevertheless we try.

It’s actually been really fun finding tasty foods that Joe will be willing to eat, as well as bake him up a baby-sized treat every now and then, like these delicious little chocolate brownies from Small Steps Online. (These are for special times only – like when he eats his whole dinner – a very rare occurrence.) I can’t wait till he’s big enough to get involved in the baking himself – not long now before he’ll be able to stir and roll things, I’m sure!

baby-solid-foodTilly is great – she often helps to feed Joe his afternoon snack when she arrives home from school and has taken to fixing him a mini version of what she eats herself. This usually involves something simple like peanut butter with celery and raisins, but it doesn’t always go down well with Joe. Sometimes he’ll simply play with it and make a mess; other times he just won’t touch it at all.

Overall, it is a changing phase that will require perseverance, no doubt, but I find plenty of support from the forums of netmums.com and Small Steps, and I’m really relishing spending more time at home (even though the whole freelance working thing isn’t getting my fullest attention right now, admittedly). Still, they say these years pass by faster than you could imagine, so I’d rather be enjoying adventures with my kids whilst they last, and have much more to write about later down the line!

Until next time,

J.

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