Thank goodness it’s Friday!  This week has been so hard.  The first week after half term always just seems that little bit more difficult; I think after enjoying not having to get up and out it takes a bit of adjustment and the kids have seemed really tired this week as well which hasn’t helped.  

To say we are looking forward to the weekend would be an understatement!

Read
This week I finished Walking Wounded by Anna Franklin Osborne; you can see the full review here and there’s a nice giveaway running as well.  Basically it is set across the two world wars and into the 1950’s and is a family saga.  It touches on quite a few things and I thik it reads more like a group of snapshot moments rather than a novel but I did enjoy it.  I also started (and am so close to finishing) I’m Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjork which has to be one of the the creepiest books I’ve read in a while.  It’s a Nordic thriller and is quite dark, but I’m really loving it.  If it ends as well as I think it might, it will definitely be a new favourite.


Watched
I’ve been feeling quite rundown this week so I’ve been having early nights, going to bed right after the kids; watching an episode or two of the Gilmore Girls and then reading for a bit so I haven’t watched much more than that.

Made
Going sideways a little with this one and I’m going to say that we made a fuss of my Dad.  It was his birthday over the weekend so we went down to the East Midlands to spend some time with my parents.  It was a really lovely, chilled out time and the kids absolutely loved it.  I’ve made a resolution that we are going to try and get down there this year more often than we did last year as it’s so important to spend time together as a family.


Wore

Who would have thought we’d be digging out hats and gloves again this week?  We have been right in the path of Storm Doris so Thursday particularly was rough.  Think me, chasing our recycling down the road where our bin had blown over and watching as our trampoline was slowly blown to pieces.  It was a good excuse though to come home and stick our pyjamas on after the school run and cuddle up watching Trolls.  Yep, still a firm favourite here.

Heard
A couple of weeks ago I decided to take the plunge and book a flight to Chicago.  I have become quite good friends with some other Youtubers and we were talking about a meet-up so I decided to go along.  I’ve never been to the US and I’m very excited (and nervous).  This week we’ve been chatting about accommodation which has suddenly made it seem very real and now the nerves and excitement have gone up a notch.  I can’t wait!

And Lastly…

I know I’ve mentioned my Youtube channel a fair bit recently but it’s probably the social media platform I’ve been putting the most effort into building and I am now only 1 subscriber away from 900!  It’s probably my favourite platform at the moment and I love challenging myself to be creative with our videos and I feel as though I’ve got a real little community over there now of people who love to chat after watching my videos and share life together.  Getting such a positive response just makes it totally worthwhile.  I’d love to have broken the 900 mark by the end of the month so let’s see!

Have a great week all!

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Living in such a small place it is always exciting news when you hear about a new restaurant opening nearby.  We love to eat out as a family but finding different options to try which are also family-friendly and not a 45 minute drive can be a little tricky unless we want to go to the same place each time!

So when we were invited down to visit the new PizzaExpress restaurant which has just opened in Formby you can bet we were down there like a shot.


The restaurant is located right in the heart of Formby and we visited on a Thursday evening; we were warmly greeted on arrival and although the restaurant was incredibly busy and we had a little wait for our table, it was fine and it gave us the opportunity to have a quick look around at the decor.


In keeping with the fact that Formby is on the seafront, the restaurant has been decorated in a nautical style, with reclaimed timber planks making up the counter areas as well.  We adored the sailor-style hats which Meg and Eli were presented with on arrival too and thought it went with the style of the restaurant perfectly.

Our waitress was Megan and she was very attentive throughout our meal, introducing herself to us and the kids, asking their names and engaging with them the entire time we were there.


The PizzaExpress menu is fairly extensive and we had a hard time choosing what we wanted!  I was impressed with the variety and the price of the children’s menu; £6.95 for 3 courses and a Bambinoccino to round off with at the end was great and neither of the kids could eat their dinner fast enough, which is always a good sign!


For starters James opted for the Bruschetta Originale ‘PizzaExpress’ and I had the Roasted Tomatoes; both of which were very tasty and a great start to our meal.  For our mains James chose the Sloppy Giuseppe; hot spiced beef and peppers and I went for the Pollo Pesto; chicken and pennette pasta in a béchamel and pesto sauce.  James’ pizza was absolutely huge and, like the kids, he made short work of eating it.  I wasn’t too enthused about the pasta, it was a little dry for my taste but that might just be my personal preference.

For dessert Meg and Eli both had sundaes from the Piccolo menu and as we were both pretty stuffed, James and I shared a PizzaExpress Chocolate Fondant which in hindsight may have been a mistake as we ended up fighting over the last mouthful.  It was absolutely delicious with a soft melting centre served with vanilla gelato.  Yum!



All the serving staff, and in particular Megan, were very attentive and although the restaurant was busy, we didn’t feel like we were left waiting for our food.  As anyone with children will tell you, this is a very important thing!  Eli just does not understand the concept of waiting at all and expects his dinner to arrive like magic as soon as he has ordered it.  So anywhere which has fast service is a winner with us.


The kids were given crayons and an activity sheet to help keep them occupied, although they also enjoyed the fact that the kitchen area was open and they could see the pizzas being shaped and made.  We didn’t manage to see one getting thrown in the air though which was a shame!


The restaurant is very well positioned in Formby and I can see it proving to be a very popular addition.  There was a real ambience and an inviting atmosphere; it’ll definitely be our first choice the next time we pop over to Formby for the day.

Overall we had a very enjoyable evening, and are very pleased that a PizzaExpress has opened up so close to us!


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Welcome to my post for the blog tour of Anna Franklin Osborne’s ‘Walking Wounded’.  I was kindly sent a copy of the book in order to write the following review…

Anyone who has been here before will know that I have a real love of stories set during the First and Second World Wars so when I heard about ‘Walking Wounded’ I was immediately intrigued.  This is a book which shines the spotlight on those who were left behind whilst the men went off to war as well as touching a little bit on the soldiers as well.


It is a family saga which predominantly follows the story of one young woman, born at the end of the First World War into a big family, trying to find her place, surviving through the Second World War and ending with emigration to Australia as part of the ‘Ten Pound Poms’ exodus which took place during the 1950s.

I believe that the story is based, in part, upon the experiences of the author’s own family and there are certainly plenty of interesting facts to keep you turning the pages.  

The book is incredibly short at just 156 pages and for me, I would say that it reads more like a collection of polaroid moments rather than a novel.  The paragraphs are short and snappy and jump through the various time periods fairly rapidly which gives it that ‘snapshot’ feel.  Additionally, you don’t just follow the main character, May, but other members of the family including May’s older sister Lydia who has her own battles to face, Lydia’s husband who is left behind when the men go off to war, several of May and Lydia’s brothers who go to fight overseas and May’s husband, Jimmy as well.

Due to the fact that you are following the story of many different characters, it could be so easy to get lost in who is who and what is happening but the author manages to give each one an individual voice, and although they are all experiencing the same awful situations, their reactions and their ways of coping and keeping on are all incredibly different.

This is a moving story about how people’s lives were impacted by the eruption of the First and Second World Wars and how the decisions that were made in such trying circumstances had far-reaching and long-lasting consequences.  It wasn’t just the men who suffered but also the women who were left behind to keep on going, and to pick up the pieces when the soldiers returned.

Overall I found the story to be an incredibly fast read and an enjoyable one, however one thing I do wish is that the book had been longer!  I think Anna Franklin Osborne has such a readable and relatable writing style and I could easily have got swept up in the story.  I would have loved even more detail about the characters and how their lives were during this time in history, and some more depth on some of the harder topics she touched on.  I certainly hope she continues writing so I can keep an eye out for future work!

Now some exciting news, you can win one of two signed copies of ‘Walking Wounded’, just use the rafflecopter below to enter.  And make sure you hop over to some of the other blogs also taking part in the tour.  Information on this is also below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



I was provided with a free e-book version of Walking Wounded for the purpose of this review. 
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Over the past few years we have made several long car journeys with Meg and Eli; having family who live all over the country means that we are fairly used to hopping in the car and driving for 2-3 hours at a time.

However, we have also attempted a number of fairly insane mammoth journeys with them when we have driven down to the South of France.  We have (stupidly some might say) done this twice, and despite the fact that both times we have said never again it’s something we are currently looking into for this year as well!

Our first excursion down to France was a 36 hour round trip and our second wasn’t far off that although we did break this up with an overnight stay in a hotel (an adventure in itself when James got lost trying to park the car and I had to go looking for him…).  

Both times we thought we were setting off fairly well prepared. 

We had bags full of colouring books/stickers/magazines/new toys and we had a couple of tablets loaded with games and movies for when things got desperate. We had snacks, drinks, car seat tables and generally felt good about how things were going to pan out.  Oh how we laugh…

…because there are something things you just can’t prepare for, right?


We weren’t leaving them at the side of the road.  Honestly…


Here are some of the lessons we learned:-

‘Are we there yet?’ conversations
Young children have absolutely no concept of time. If you say ‘yes, in 3 hours’ that means zero to them and they will probably count to 3 and then throw a tantrum because you haven’t arrived yet.

Neither should you answer with ‘No’ as James has repeatedly discovered to his detriment. This will entice your children to continously ask ‘why not’ for the next 2 hours until you are glaring daggers at your husband for being so ridiculous and the tension in the car has risen to boiling point.

Distraction techniques work better than direct answers in this situation: ‘Oh look, there’s a cow/cloud/red car’ etc etc

Back Up Supplies
You will discover that your children have the uncanny knack of throwing their things into the ‘place of no return’ during the journey. Even once you’ve arrived and the car is empty, good luck finding where those 4 dummies/brand new tsums-tsums/colouring pencils disappeared to.

Have a back up supply and then a back up supply for your back up supply. Trust me, listening to your toddler screaming for their dummy at the top of their voice for a prolonged period of time is enough to give anyone a twitch in their eye.

Don’t attempt to unfasten yourself and root around in the back of the car whilst your other half is driving either. Not only is it incredibly dangerous but you will probably receive a poke in the eye from your youngest child for your efforts, not find the item in question and bang your elbow on the cool box nestled between your loving offspring. The plus side is that they will find your squeals of discomfort hilarious and will be distracted from thinking about the lost item for approximately 5 minutes.

Toilet Habits
Service stations in France are either FAB or TERRIBLE.  Many of them have adventure playgrounds which can be brilliant for burning off energy and stretching legs when you stop for that all important toilet break.  However, the bad ones (and I think we all know which ones I mean…) can also introduce your child to some pretty awful toilet habits.  Such as the moment when you are driving down a remote country lane and your child announces they need the toilet.  No problem, just pull over to the side of the road and get them out.

Of course whilst you are busy checking that you aren’t breaking any obscure French laws about pulling over, your child may decide to take matters into their own hands, and, left to their own devices will squat down and wee into their pants, shorts and shoes before announcing they have been to the toilet the ‘French Way’.  Best to make sure you only visit those service stations with ‘real’ bathroom facilities instead.


Kids Can Hear In Their Sleep
You might think it’s safe at 4am in the morning when the kids are certain to be fast asleep to talk about important stuff but trust me, they are either pretending or they have super skills and can hear even in dreamland. Don’t have serious conversations about other people/intimate moments/life changing decisions as your children will pipe up about them the next day at the most inappropriate moment they can think of. The owner of your home for the next 2 weeks probably doesn’t want to know what you really think about your best friends.

Movie Moments
Let’s be honest, at some point during your lengthy car journey, you are going to bring out the screens.  Absolutely no judgement here.  You might even download a few favourite films to keep your children well and truly occupied.  Great thinking!  Just make sure you have invested in a really good pair of headphones for your children otherwise you will be listening to them play the same movie on repeat for the remainder of the journey…


Experience tells us that it’s a sign you’ve been in the car for too long when your husband can quote the lines of the film word for word and you laugh hysterically at the one liners you’ve already heard 10 times. Take a break.


Plan To Stop!
We have tried so many variations of the long drive and how best to factor in a break.  In all our naivety on our first trip to France we thought that if we took it in turns we could drive through the night without stopping.  Let me tell you that when you finally drop off in the passenger seat and then stir in the early hours to discover that your husband is, in fact, driving directly towards a line of confused French cars, it’s a bit of a wake up call.  A 3 point turn on a French dual carriageway is enough to wake anybody up.

Equally, we have tried simply pulling over into a service station and attempting to catch 40 winks.  This is great if you have children who will get on board and go to sleep.  Not so much if you have a child like Eli.  The one time we tried this, I kept waking to the heart-stopping fear that he had somehow opened the car door, climbed out and disappeared into the night. In fact, he was just in the boot of the car rooting around for food or at one point on the dashboard kissing the windscreen.


And our final lesson in this category is that it IS best to plan an overnight stop but you should make absolutely sure you have booked the hotel for the right night to avoid having to drive around an unfamiliar French town at 10pm, after hours already spent in the car, desperately trying to find 3G signal so you can find somewhere to sleep for the night.

The Journey Home

It is likely that everyone will be super tired and fed up on the journey home. After all, there’s not much to look forward to at the end of it.  This can be the most draining as you have to try and keep everyone occupied and happy.  If you are planning to stop late at night then be aware that French shops will probably not be open at 9pm when you’ve arrived at your hotel for the night.  Luckily, a lot of the motels in France also offer vending machine dinners (yes, you have indeed read that correctly…)

You should do your best to not be offended when your children intimate that the grey looking slop in front of them is the best meal they’ve ever had.  It’ll have been a long day.


Make Those Memories
My final lesson is that in everything, you just have to keep smiling.  Unfortunately for us, all of the above has happened at some point and although at the time I wanted to back into a corner and weep, now I can look back and laugh.  And maybe cry a little too…

Whether it’s listening to the same soundtrack 8 times in a row, or turning up the radio to drown out the sounds of your children squabbling for just a short period, or taking the wrong turn or not being able to find your accommodation…try to face it with a smile and think of all the wonderful memories you are making in the process.  It will be worth it in the end!


This is my entry for the GoEuro #travellessons competition.

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A couple of years ago we were sent a Little Live Pets Talking Owl and Baby for review, March 2015 to be precise and to this day, it is still something which Meg enjoys playing with.  So when we were asked whether we would to review a new Little Live Pets toy, this time the Lil’ Hedgehog House I was absolutely certain it would go down a treat.


The Little Live Pets Hedgehog and House retails at £22.99 and comes with an exclusive hedgehog called ‘Shy Sky’ as well as a little house with a carry handle so you can take it out and about.


Shy Sky will roll into a ball if you touch their nose, will walk along the floor and around the house and will even back up if they get themselves stuck in a corner.  There is an elevator in the house which you can lift up and then watch as Shy Sky rolls down the slide and back into the house again.  The nose depresses so you can watch the hedgehog curl in on itself and then, if you wait a couple of seconds, they will unroll and continue to wander and explore.



Meg seemed absolutely thrilled by the hedgehog itself; she enjoyed watching them curl into a ball before popping back out again and watching as they trundled across the floor.  I would say that it is absolutely for ages 5+, the mechanism involved to make the hedgehog roll in and out is quite delicate and even Eli at 5 years old was a little rough with it and almost detached the pieces when he had a quick play with it.

The outer ‘shell’ is quite soft to the touch although the hedgehog themselves is a hard plastic and there is an off and off switch so you can make sure your hedgehog doesn’t escape when you are finished playing with them!



The house is a cute addition to the product; Meg did enjoy using the elevator and the slide but I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t more elements to the house itself, and that there was nowhere to store Shy Sky when in transit; the hedgehog just rolled around the house and easily fell out when on the move.  A bed or a little pocket inside the house would have been perfect for this.  There is also a little flap on the side of the house which was a sweet addition.


Of course, if your child is anything like Meg then they will almost certainly rise to the challenge of rooting out things from around the house to add into the Hedgehog house to create the ideal home.  Socks, scarves, bits of fabric and felt…nothing was off limits and so, in many ways, this was nice as it also stretched Meg’s imagination and got her talking and thinking about what a hedgehog might want or need in real life.

Overall we thought this was a sweet toy; it it possible to purchase the hedgehogs individually without the house and I can certainly see that being something Meg would enjoy; creating her own little hedgehog family and watching them play together would definitely enhance her enjoyment of the product in the future.  I would also be interested to see Little Live Pets will release any additional products, such as items to furnish the hedgehog house with.


We were sent this product for review.  All thoughts and opinions are our own.

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