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Educational Play with Schleich I'm a big fan of learning through play. Unforced educational play. I'm not a teacher and I don't want to be. I want my children to naturally learn whilst they are having fun. When I was contacted recently...

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Say Eh-Oh to the new Teletubbies toys! There back!! Teletubbies made a joyous return to CBeebies last year, and this year marks the launch of the new range of toys. As you know I was sent a box just before Christmas, and today I can finally...

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Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel...

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A Place To Enjoy My Garden I love my garden. I love the fact that I have a garden, especially with the recent gorgeous weather we've been having. Whilst I have a pretty compact garden, there's a lot going on out there. Plants, fruit...

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Cuddles With Ben Cohen Some days I have a really difficult job. Days like this for example. *Ahem* That rather nice young man is former rugby player Ben Cohen. Ben is a bit of an expert when it comes to cuddles. He has...

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Travel: What’s Your Favourite City?

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Holiday, Information, Travel | Posted on 03-07-2013

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Do you have a favourite city? I do. I’ve recently come back from two nights in Dublin, my favourite city. The break was short, but much needed. Two nights on my own in the city I love . For the first time in a long time I was just me, not someones wife, or mother, and not a blogger or writer. I wasn’t working – well, I did have my phone on me so did do a bit of emailing but I wasn’t really working – I could just do what I wanted, when I wanted. And it got me thinking. What is it about this city that pulls me in and makes me want to return so many times?

I first went to Dublin in 1998. It was the first year of my A-levels and a friend of mine and I went on a day trip. We took the ferry from Liverpool with his mum and sister – a very early start if I recall. The pretense of the trip was a bit of a booze run, but I wanted to see the city. Back then the attraction for me was a boyband I liked at the time – I’m sure I’m not alone in being a Boyzone fan – not that I was expecting to bump into any of them. I’d seen the city on one of their videos and, being something of a fan of the Irish accent, wanted to go and see it for myself. I didn’t realise then that it would be the first of many trips I’ve taken over there in the last 15 years. The fact that my friend and I returned ourselves for a day trip a few months later should perhaps have been a hint though.

My first big trip to Dublin came at the end of 1999. The very end in fact. I went with a good friend from Norway to Dublin for New Year. The turn of the Millennium seemed as good a reason as any to go to Dublin, and this time I’d be staying for a few days as opposed to a few hours. The appeal had changed a little from that first trip. The music was still prominent – the new Irish boyband of Westlife were in fact responsible for my becoming friends with my co-traveller – but we were also off to see Temple Bar and all it had to offer. Lots of alcohol if I recall. My main advice is to never be in a city changing its national currency if you’re likely to be hungover. The change to the Euro occurred on January 1st 2000, and it was baffling.

From the year 2000 I have returned numerous times, at least once a year up until recently. I’ve been for New Years again, St Patricks Day, on trips with my Mum, my Norwegian friend, and in more recent times my husband and even his family. I have so many incredible memories that all stem from that city. Shopping till we literally couldn’t lift our suitcases with my crazy Norwegian friend, a friend I also accompanied to Sligo for the day in early 2002 when I nearly got hit by a car. The car was being driven by one of Westlife, so not all bad. Watching a St Patricks Day parade before a night out which largely included green drinks and some very dubious walking. My last trip to Dublin with her occurred in 2008, just a few months after I was married. We went to Croke Park for a huge Westlife concert and that was an unforgettable night in itself. I returned again on my first solo trip just a few weeks later to do some genealogical research for my new in laws, or at least that was the reason I gave at the time.

River Liffey Dublin City Ireland Hapenny Bridge

My last visit to Dublin for many years was in 2009. My husband was turning 30 and his younger twin brothers were turning 21. Clearly a cause for celebration and their parents had the genius idea of going to Dublin to do it. Needless to say the younger members of the party spent a lot of time in and around Temple Bar for the few days we were there, and I was a bit like Tourist Information having been quite as many times as I had.

From 1998 to 2009 I went to Dublin at least once a year every year. A cycle I planned to continue, but pregnancy and Little Man’s arrival soon put a stop to that. Returning this last week was a pleasure. I spent two full days in the city and for the first time didn’t step one foot into Temple Bar. I frequented Grafton Street and Henry Street – shops galore – and spent a delightful two hours sat in the sunshine of St Stephens Green reading a book. I ate leisurely breakfasts in cafes – Bewley’s Grafton Street is a MUST. I rode the hop-on hop-off bus around the city, taking in the sights, hiding from the rain, and remembering great times. The bus is something I have done every time I’ve visited. Its such fun and so convenient. The numerous buskers – of varying skills – that litter the main shopping streets are always a hit, whether they are singing, playing music, or attempting to look like statues. The highlight of my latest trip was an evening out with a good friend. The last time I saw him was during my second visit of 2008 so it had been far too long. You wont be surprised to learn he has a musical connection to my story, having been in an Irish boyband himself several years ago.

Dublin Grafton Street Performers Buskers Statues

My reasons for going to Dublin have changed since that first trip 15 years ago, but my love of the city hasn’t. I wish I could put my finger on what it is about the city that makes me return year upon year. I just recall feeling at home there even back then on my first visit, and that feeling was as strong this week as ever before. Will I be going back? You better believe it. Trips to Dublin will be something I always do, and I hope to take Little Man with me soon. Yes, I may well venture out of the city on my next trip, but I suspect Dublin will always be at the heart of it.

What’s YOUR favourite city?

Product Review: Acrylic Photo Block from Bags Of Love

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Home & Lifestyle, Information, Product Reviews | Posted on 06-08-2012

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If you’re anything like me your mobile phone is probably full of photos of your children. I don’t think a day has gone by when I haven’t taken a photo of Little Man – more often than not in a comedy sleep pose – since he was born. Most of them are for my own amusement and not good enough to be shown around, but once in a while you get a really great shot that you want the world to see. If you’re looking to display a photo that brings back great memories, or maybe a shot of you children gettting into the Olympic spirit this summer, you’d do well to check out the beautiful gifts from Bags Of Love. Here’s what they did for me.

I took this photo on my mobile phone a couple of weeks ago. We were at the garden centre enjoying tea and cake in the cafe. Little Man was – as usual – sat on Daddy’s knee, so I took a photo. This photo:

Now I love this photo. Little Man is both looking at the camera AND smiling which is rare, and most importantly so is Daddy. I wanted to put a copy of this on display, but I was looking for something a little different than a simple photo in a frame. Bags Of Love transformed it into an Acrylic Photo Block in less than 24 hours, and it now looks like this:

Their photo blocks come in three sizes – A5, A6 and A7 – and are self standing and more importantly unbreakable. If I put a photo in a frame on display on a shelf in our house Little Man would be over there straight away picking it up, carrying it around and inevitably dropping it. This is much sturdier and safe for him to pick up and hold. The photo was printed on the back on the acrylic block and the depth of the block makes the image brighter and clearer, and now has pride of place on my kitchen window sill. Little Man loves it, and gives it a little wave whenever he wanders into the kitchen.

Acrylic Photo Blocks are just one of the great range of photo gifts available from Bags Of Love. Head over there now to check out their great selection, perfect for gifts or just to preserve that special photo.

Book Review: “A Passion For Baking” by Jo Wheatley

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Book Review | Posted on 06-07-2012

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I love baking. It’s something I’ve enjoyed doing since I was little and used to “help” my Mum in the kitchen. Now I’m a Mum myself finding the time to bake does prove tricky. I can’t wait until Little Man is old enough to join in, though I don’t look forward to cleaning up afterwards! When I do find the time – usually at weekends when Daddy takes over – there’s nothing I enjoy more than whipping up a cake or a batch of biscuits for my little family to enjoy, and this book is perfect for doing just that.

Available exclusively at Sainsburys for a bargain price of £7.99 “A Passion For Baking” is the debut book from the winner of The Great British Bake Off Jo Wheatley. Whenever I get a new cookbook – and yes, I own a ridiculous number – I flick through it immediately to see what stands out for me. After a few moments of flicking through the pages of “A Passion For Baking” I was salivating. Not only does this book contain loads of recipes that I actually want to make, but the photography makes me want to make them right now! Page after page of beautifully photographed food, either as a completed bake or as partial ingredients, makes this book a visual feast. My personal favourites are the photos of the Mini Mississippi Mud Pies and the Raspberry Torte. But this book contains so many recipes which I can’t wait to try out on my family.

For Fathers Day this year we had Jo’s American Pancakes with some fresh fruit. My Husband and I have been to the USA twice – once when we’d been dating a year, and again for our honeymoon – and on both occasions visited New York. Our main memory from these visits is the food – mostly the sheer size of it – but specifically the breakfasts. Nothing started the day better than a stack of pancakes, more often than not with maple syrup and some crispy bacon. Jo’s American Pancakes are JUST as delicious, and brought back amazing memories. They were light and fluffy, and super easy to make. I can see them being made again and again in our house for years to come.

Baking conjures up so many memories for me, and I look forward to making lots of new ones with my Little Man, and this book.

“A Passion For Baking” is out now, and available from Sainsburys.