Training to be a Leader in Girlguiding

I made the decision in September that I would start my training to be a leader in Girlguiding. It was a fairly easy one to make – I had helped out at H’s Rainbows for a couple of years and was a Brownie and a Guide when I was young, so I knew what it was all about.

So what exactly does the training involve?

Well… up to now we’ve really just hit the ground running. Our Brown Owl left before Christmas and we agreed to split things three ways. I’ve taken on the accounts which is quite interesting in itself. I had no idea that each member of Girlguiding has a census fee that must be paid each year. Fortunately I got into the system right before it was due.

We’ve had last minute changes of plan, suggestions of things, doing meetings ourselves as Tawny Owl was ill (there are two of us training), and just trying to make things fun.

It was just the other day I realised, every week we look after up to 30 girls. That’s the same as H’s teachers. I’ve always said I could never be a teacher and yet I’ve got the patience for Brownies! Maybe because I was one once. Then again, I went to school…

I’ve attended a training course to learn about planning meetings, and other than that I’ve just gone on what I know. The girls seem to get on the best when they’re writing postcards to Girl Scouts and Brownies around the world – so much so we shifted one badge to a different term and did the World Guiding badge as a lot of it fitted in with what we did on Thinking Day.

What do I get from it? I’m not entirely sure. I enjoy it, and as long as I’m enjoying it I’m content. I like being one of the cogs that makes things flow rather than a leader. I can step up if I need to, but more often than not I’d rather just go with the flow.

Obviously that doesn’t always work in a room full of 7-8-9 year old’s…

The main reason is I want to make a difference. I don’t remember my Brown Owl or any of the other helpers but I remember having a brilliant time at Brownies and Guides – so I want our girls to have fond memories of their time. If I can do that, it’s a result.

I’ve started a new blog which goes into more of the activities we might do or are working on. Girlguiding Activities is its name – nice and simple.

I have no idea how often it will be updated but there are so many ideas out there it’s somewhere to keep my brain calm when I’ve had too many ideas. Which is most of the time…

In the upcoming weeks…

This year is going to be a much quieter one as far as treats and things go.

Last year was a pretty crazy one – we did loads of fun things and often did them if we happened to be somewhere. It was all very last minute.

This year there are still some good things happening, and as usual H doesn’t know half of them.

dick and dom live

Coming up next month we’re going to see Dick & Dom live at St Albans Arena. I’m quite looking forward to this as Dick & Dom in Da Bungalow was my hangover choice of programme back in the nineties. Shaun also appreciates their very daft sense of humour. Seeing as they’re still going strong and have found a big new fan in H, I think she’s going to love it. I just hope we don’t get too messy..  sounds like it could be. We’ve got to get the Thameslink home…!

After that Annie returns to London. We saw the touring production twice, both times with Lesley Joseph as Miss Hannigan. This time it’s going to be Miranda Hart – she’ll make a fantastic Miss Hannigan (and she also sounds pretty excited about it too). So we’re looking forward to that – we’re going in May. You can book tickets now! There’s lots of information over on the Facebook page of the production.

miranda hart in Annie

I really like SeatPlan – it’s a site where you can add reviews of your seat at the theatre, and it’s handy for working out the best places to sit. I’ve added a few reviews over the last few years but haven’t won any free tickets yet!

If we’re lucky then we may be able to squeeze a trip to see School of Rock around my birthday. I don’t celebrate my birthday any more, It’s more fun celebrating other people’s. H and Shaun seem to enjoy celebrating mine though so I have to do something to keep them happy. This should.

The theatre isn’t our only love. There’s also football. Next weekend FA Cup Giantkillers of the 2010’s Sutton United take on FA Cup Giantkillers of the mid-80’s (aka my home team), York City. So I’m taking H to her first York game* as Sutton United is a very short train journey away.

Wembley Stadium SSE giant sponge hands

We have tickets as usual for the Women’s FA Cup final on the 13th May because they always do such a good deal for Wembley, though if York continue their cup run maybe they’ll make it back there too. I’d rather they concentrated on the league…. that would be the week after the FA Cup Final.

I haven’t mentioned that I’ve put H and I down for more tickets to see Adele – this time at Wembley Stadium. Wembley-blooming-stadium. This is that shy girl that was shown around work back in 2007 or something, getting introduced to everyone before she had put out any music. Now look at her. Blimey.

So that’s it so far…. a few things to keep us busy. Add to that an active PTA that I’m part of, plus all the responsibilities with Brownies that I’ve got and things are really busy here – it’s all good!

* strictly speaking H has been to a York City game, when we were in the play off final at Wembley. I was about six or seven months pregnant at the time… that counts, right?

Controlling H’s Pocket Money with GoHenry

A friend recommended GoHenry to me – a bank card designed for kids. I hold my hands up, I am rubbish at remembering to give H pocket money, and that isn’t how it should be. So we ordered a GoHenry card to see if it would work for us.

GoHenry card

GoHenry is for children aged 6-18. They get a bank card, something which I never had at H’s age. Then again I didn’t get £40 in birthday money either. I didn’t want her walking around with a load of cash in her purse – she’s pretty good at losing things. We added the £40 balance to her GoHenry card and it arrived a few days later.

You get three months free at the start, which is a good time to work out if it’s the right thing for you. After that you pay £2.49 a month (and you can cancel at any time). That sounds pretty steep, but after thinking about it we’ve decided to go for it. Here’s my reasons why:

• I often forget to give H pocket money. I can set GoHenry to add the funds to her card every week on a Saturday. It is doing all my remembering for me, which is a good thing.

• It’s a contactless card. This is good as none of us need to remember a PIN number. Not everywhere does contactless, but it’s a help.

• We’ve set up extra tasks around the house. She’s working to earn an extra 50p a week, which I have to authorise. She’s motivated by this and wants to take on more tasks too. I also get a reminder on a Friday night as – you guessed it – I would forget otherwise. That works out quite handy, as we can all sit and chat about whether she has earned any extra money.

• I get an alert on my phone every time she buys anything. Shaun took her to the Science Museum this week, and I got an alert on my phone when she spent any money. I added another £1 as I thought she might want to buy more there.. and I could do all that from the app on my phone. The account can’t go overdrawn either.

• She feels pretty grown up at 7 to have her own bank card. She loved using it to buy things when we went away for a short break last October.

• If you wanted family to give money for a birthday (my mum often sends a cheque when she isn’t sure what to buy H), you can pass on the sort code and account number and they can credit the GoHenry account.

• There is an app. This is handy for someone like me who does most of her important stuff on the train to and from work every day.

• I can top up the card from the app, or set a monthly amount by bank transfer. Bank transfers and Standing Orders are free with GoHenry cards. Adding the funds via your debit card cost you 50p so I have a £10 transfer going to the account each month which is free. I need to encourage her to earn more bonuses…

• If you recommend a friend they get a customised card and you plus the person recommending gets £5 added to their account. You get three months free as well which is good for working out if the card is for you. I’ve had one so far so that’s two months free use which appeals to my money saving needs! This is my referral link.  The reward is given after the card has been activated.

I like that it’s giving H a sense of saving money, working to earn a bit extra and that we’re in control of it. She still has cash so it isn’t like she’s leaving that behind.

From ordering, the GoHenry card arrived within a couple of days.

Most of all, H is now saving her money to buy specific things (read : a spending spree in Smiggle). She seems to have changed how she thinks about money since we got the card.

I like that GoHenry has been created by parents for parents. They have good partners that back up the company. While you’re not going to earn lots of interest having your cash there (that’s what savings accounts are for), I think it’s a good place to start kids thinking about spending their money wisely. Or not. If they’re anything like H you can never have enough £1 creepy crawlies around the house…

Beddington Park – The Swans Need Our Help

Beddington Park is one of our many local parks. It has football pitches, an outdoor gym, a play area, a great cafe and a huge area to walk around. Within this huge area is a lake, populated by ducks, geese and swans. Recently, this note appeared.

Beddington Park swans notice 2017

We decided to have a walk around there. Despite living so close to the park I’d never spent a lot of time around that part of it. We had some bread and it made sense to try and do what we could.

Beddington Park

When we arrived at the park it was cold. The kind of cold where if you keep walking you warm up, but a hats and gloves kind of cold where you need to wrap up well. H was on her scooter, she had wanted to cycle around the park but having been ill the previous week I suggested she should take it easy!

Shaun was horrified as we drove there… but it made sense parking near the Pavilion Cafe so we could have some lunch there afterwards. This gave us plenty of time to stretch our legs, feed the swans and try and find some cygnets.

Beddington Park

There’s a big bridge which goes over the lake, ideal for looking for cygnets. Unfortunately we couldn’t see any. There were swans, so we fed them, hoping that it was enough.

Beddington Park

It was good to get outdoors again. H had three days stuck inside as she had a temperature that wasn’t shifting. I’d worked from home for two of those days, and Shaun did one day. We needed to breathe again, but not go too far. There’s so much to do at Beddington Park – even if it’s walking around, scooting around, playing or having a quick spot of lunch there. There are even BBQ’s dotted around the park which you can use (although I wouldn’t fancy it in this weather).

Beddington Park

The full text of the letter in Beddington Park :

HELP NEEDED PLEASE
The swans on the pond are struggling as they are so hungry. The adults are coming and going as they are quicker to realise there is little natural food for them. The cygnets are still learning.

Having sought guidance from the Swan Sanctuary please feel free to feed them bread despite what you have been told.

To share fairly I take a full loaf and skim the slices individually across the water. Someone will no doubt say to you that bread is no good for them. They’ve got little else at the moment so let’s help by at least feeding them.

Rita Mullins
Chairman
Friends of Beddington Park

Beddington Park

Country Kids

A Trip to Folkestone and Sunny Sands

Folkestone always made me think of ferries. That’s about it. Same as Dover, again ferries, although Dover of course has white cliffs too.

Every New Year we make a trip to the seaside. As creatures of habit we’ve always alternated between Brighton, Eastbourne or Bognor Regis as they’re about the same distance. This year we wanted to try somewhere different – and Folkestone won.

Sunny Sands is right next to the harbour at Folkestone and is the loveliest of beaches. In January it’s pretty quiet, but I can imagine it would be busy in warmer months.

Folkestone mermaid

As you enter the beach, to the right is a statue of a local Folkestone girl, modelled in the same way as the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen. She’s sitting on the rocks looking out at the sea. The Folkestone Mermaid. I love finding quirky things like this!

Unfortunately the light didn’t let me get a good photo, but you get the idea.

Arches at Sunny Sands

Along the sea wall at Sunny Sands are archways. They’re sea defences which have recently been restored to help preserve the coastline for years to come.

You sink into the sand at Sunny Sands like it’s a giant memory foam mattress.

The beach itself was great, loads of space to walk by the sea and of course H went for a paddle with her shoes on for a second time. I have no idea why. Fortunately we had spare socks and her wellies back in the car.

Paddling in shoes at Sunny Sands

A quick bite to eat for our lunch (fish and chips for the non-vegetarians of course) and we wandered around. I would love to live by the sea – as soon as we got out of the car my aches and pains went away immediately and I felt like I could breathe again.

When we visited Sunny Sands this was my favourite photo. I love the reflection of H in the sea, but also how carefully she’s trying to get her feet wet. She succeeded again. I stand by my claim seven year olds are a bit crazy.

Look at those deep footprints in the memory-foam sand. Squish…

Sunny Sands Folkestone

We’re joining in with Country Kids this week – and it isn’t that long before we’re staying at Coombe Mill – I can’t wait!

Country Kids

2016 in Review

What can I say about 2016? It has been a strange year, but one where we got things done. A year when friendships got stronger or just disappeared completely. Where we did things and they actually happened. It has been a good year with plenty of memories, and as a family, one I know we’ll remember. Especially H now she’s at the age where your memories stick with you.

Here’s our 2016 in review.

The 1st January was spent in Brighton. We traditionally go to the seaside at the start of the year to get some cold air and breathe again. We usually alternate between Brighton, Eastbourne and Bognor Regis and it’s usually very closed and quiet apart from the odd Fish & Chips place. I like it because it’s cold, closed, dark and fresh and crisp; nothing like bringing in a new year that way every year.

We took out Historic Royal Palaces membership and headed to Hampton Court early on in the year, showing H somewhere I used to love going when I was her age. My Auntie Florrie lived in Teddington and that whole area was somewhere we spent a lot of time when we visited London back in the seventies.

H had her first horse riding lesson. It’s too expensive to keep up, unfortunately. She loved it though.

Horse Riding at Deen City Farm

I had always wanted to visit Kensington Palace as it intrigues me. You’re visiting somewhere next door to the almost-untouchable current Royals. Anyway, it was an interesting place. HRP membership covered that.

Hampton Court

March and we were back to Hampton Court as my friend got an invite to preview the Magic Garden, so we popped along. It didn’t disappoint!

Hampton Court Magic Garden dragon and water sand play area

March also brought H’s first proper gig – Adele at the O2. It was both of our first time going there. I booked us a hotel nearby so we didn’t have to get all the way home afterwards – and had a brilliant evening. H loved it too! Adele is one of her favourites and I’ve enjoyed working on her records for these last few years.

The following day we took the Thames Ferry to the Tower of London using our HRP membership to get in free. Again, loads of fun and we got our money’s worth.

Easter was an Emmett’s Gardens and Chartwell visit, as our National Trust membership was getting a bit unused, and National Trust always have the best Easter Egg trails. It didn’t disappoint.

Our Merlin Passes were also quite neglected so we made our first trip to Legoland, choosing a rainy day which was a bit cold. It seemed to work, and we got on most rides without a queue. We even managed Mia’s Riding School three or four times in a row before I had to stop.

When your gas boiler is switched off for safety reasons, Leaky Flue Safety Warning Gas Boiler

April brought the weird stuff. We found out we had a carbon monoxide leak at home, which explained a lot of things. Forgetfulness? Tick. Feeling sick a lot? Definitely. Just being sick without any reason? Been there, done that. Our boiler was taken out of action and a plan was set, to get central heating put in when we went on holiday in July. Mainly as it would be so disruptive so we wanted to be away from it all. Every morning I had staggered to work like I was hungover, wondering when the virus would shift. It had never occurred to me it was this. Once the boiler was shut off I never felt like it again. We’ve since bought more carbon monoxide alarms. Too close a call. But why did it affect just H and I? I think because Shaun falls asleep downstairs and would often leave the heating on. I’d go to bed at 11pm and eventually come downstairs to shut off the heating at 2am. Because the leak was in the loft, both H and I were exposed to it more than Shaun as he was downstairs.

That’s my only explanation.

I got out to some gigs in April too – Lush reformed and I had a rare night out. Just getting onto a train and going across London was making me pretty nervous. It was a great night, I had far too much to drink, and the night was to be repeated a month or so later but with Shaun while H went on a sleepover.

Getting to work became an issue. Southern Trains were becoming increasingly rubbish and I was having a lot of palpitations. One day I got into work and burst into tears which isn’t like me at all. One word – perimenopause. I’ve done several things to calm the symptoms, they still happen especially the anxiety, but I’m learning to control it. I had a Mirena fitted which is helping a lot too. I had a journey home with the best train driver ever.

Wembley Stadium players warm up

May also brought our annual trip to Wembley to watch the Women’s FA Cup Final. It’s good fun, cheap and I’ve already bought tickets for next year – they’re on sale now – and kids go free. It’s a great atmosphere!

We also saw Horrible Histories at Hampton Court – a great setting for a great show. H and her friend M really enjoyed it.

We popped to Kew to view Kew Palace on our HRP membership. Don’t forget to print out your 2 for 1 vouchers beforehand like we did… you don’t get in free to Kew with HRP, you get a discount. 2 for 1 works out a bit cheaper too – meant we had more money to spend in the shops there!

June brought our second trip to Wembley. I bought tickets for England’s last friendly before the World Cup. H has finally seen Harry Kane play football (and Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker). Next season we’ll try a Tottenham game. We missed the National Anthem thanks to it taking forever to get into Wembley, but caught the majority of the game.

harry potter tour broom training

June also brought our trip to the WB Studio Tour. H is a fully-fledged Harry Potter convert now – she has seen all the films and knows more about each character than me. She has also read my books more than I have… We all really enjoyed it – even Shaun who tolerates it (and usually falls asleep in the films). We’ll be going back when we can save enough money – maybe for Hogwarts at Christmas in 2017.

June also brought a trip to Southampton to see the touring production of Mary Poppins on stage. The production was nowhere near London so we decided to make a night of it, and booked into the Ibis there (which H loved as it had a bunk bed over our double bed). We had seen it way before H was born, and loved it again. Zizi Strallen is an excellent Mary.

BML with mary drinking fizz

June also brought BritMums which I really enjoyed, hanging out all day with Mary who is excellent company.

July brought the Bottersnikes and Gumbles preview where we interviewed one of the characters and found out the recording didn’t work. My memory was still a bit rubbish so I can’t remember anything he said either. I fail. H was interviewed for CBBC but it wasn’t used (I thought that might happen, she was quiet).

Yurt Life at Kingsdown Centre - wonderful setting!

July was also the start of our holidays, heading to Cornwall again. We stopped in Weston Super Mare on the way down, wandered around there and made the most of late evening beach walks, donkey rides, fish & chips and relaxing.

The following day we arrived at Hallagenna Cottages in St Breward, and had a lovely week there discovering loads of new places. Up the road at Coombe Mill The Boy and Me gang were staying. H and The Boy both got on famously, so next year we’re going back to Coombe Mill to stay!

OMG We're Staying at Coombe Mill next year face

I love Cornwall. Great beaches, great weather and having a proper holiday is always a good thing.

On the way back to London we stayed in a Yurt at the Kingsmead Centre which was loads of fun!

We used our Merlin Passes and visited Weymouth Sea Life on the way back to London.

H in front of the Disneyland Castle

August arrived. We had a short break to Paris planned which didn’t break the bank. We stayed near the Eiffel Tower for a couple of nights. After that we headed to Disneyland Paris and H didn’t have a CLUE! She also got in for free as if you’re six, then that’s what happens. She was seven the following day – and it counts from check-in date. We also managed to do Jedi Training Academy. So that was her surprise 7th birthday treat. We had glorious weather and needed a month to recover afterwards.

In September H moved up to Junior school. She has settled well and is loving it. Her confidence is growing too which is great. She also started Brownies and had moved up a level in swimming at the end of summer to Stage 5.

Because it was a new school we didn’t do a huge amount in September, although made it to Hampton Court again.

H and Milo the Giant African Millipede from Wild Fangs

October was busier though, with H’s birthday party which she really enjoyed.

At the end of October we headed back to York to see my mum, staying there for the first time in a long time. H loved spending time with her nana, and I loved stopping and recharging my batteries. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the whole of half term off, so we took H out of school for two days so she won’t get her 100% attendance this term.

We visited Fountains Abbey with my sister and her boys too.

We also found time to visit Alton Towers which I’d spent plenty of time at in the eighties. I recognised parts, but not that much really, although I’d occasionally have moments where I’d say “Hang on? Wasn’t The Corkscrew there?” and be right.

Fireworks at Carshalton Ponds

November was Bonfire Night which was fun – we stayed by our local ponds and had great views, rather than enter the park and have some views. The end of the year is all about saving money! I booked a ticket for Blogfest earlier in the year and attended but it wasn’t the same. I don’t think I’ll be going next year.

We went to Epsom Downs and saw the supermoon which gave me lots of silhouette photos I do love to take. We planted Miffy Tulips, and got some mesh to put over our plant pot so the foxes won’t dig it up. H did her Brownie promise and remembered it, and I wore my leaders uniform for the first time and felt like I had confidence to do it.

December. We had the school fair (which H helped me on the stall with – see, this is a new confidence she’s found. She used to hide behind me), she has moved up a level at swimming to Stage 6. She has lost two more teeth taking it to 10 total, and is almost there with her handwriting at school, holding out for a pen licence.

Completely unexpected, but H was Star of the Term as voted for by her teachers. She ran up to me incredibly proud in the playground. Their note sums it up. I love that the unexpected things make everything feel even better.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

We went back to York for the York Panto which was Cinderella. H got her name read out in the shoutouts part of the production which she loved – and she got a Wagon Wheel! I am still persuading her not to eat it…

We had two visits to see Father Christmas. One was at Chessington Garden Centre and the other at Tottenham’s ground. Of the two, the Tottenham one was the best – he was really warm, fun and engaging and had H chatting. I asked him if he could make sure Tottenham win the league for my present and we all left feeling cheery (but I don’t think he’ll have much luck with that, another good season would be good).

We’re finishing the year off inviting neighbours around to our house. This is a big one for us – until now I’ve felt like our house is too small, though a friend did it last year and made me realise it could be done. Then we had H’s party which proved over 20 people could be in our house with room to spare. My biggest problem had been our heating. It was fine us living here with the crappy heating which I always hated and felt like it only warmed the landing upstairs and our front room – but now we have proper central heating. This house is welcoming again… though I suspect our 1st January trip to the seaside may need to be postponed by a day… that and I’m sure our car won’t make it there and back!

So what will 2017 bring? I know my aches and pains and anxiety aren’t going to go away, but I’ve found if I keep myself busy it helps it not be at the forefront of my mind. I’m going to progress with my training to be a Guide Leader though I’m still not sure I want to be in charge. But we’ll cross that bridge…

We’ve taken out Historic Houses Association membership so at some point we’ll get to Hever Castle which we’ve wanted to visit for a while. We’ll probably need to buy a new car as ours is on its last legs.

See you, 2016. You’ve been busy.

Father Christmas Stadium Tour at Tottenham

A week ago H and I headed to North London as I had bought tickets for us to do a Father Christmas Stadium Tour at Tottenham.

Father Christmas Stadium Tour at Tottenham various sights

The Father Christmas Stadium Tour at Tottenham was a new one for us – and was a bargain at £10 each. I’ve been desperate to take H to White Hart Lane for a while now especially with all the changes.

Before she was born, Shaun and I would go almost every home game we could. My gentle brainwashing has ensured H is also a Tottenham supporter. This was a big deal for H as it could be the only time she got to see the ground. We can’t afford to go to games and they don’t have friendlies on over the summer any more thanks to the stadium works.

It’s about now I should point out I loved the 1983 film ‘Those Glory Glory Days‘ (affiliate link). It shows a love of Tottenham from a group of girls who sneak into White Hart Lane. They stay overnight to get tickets for the FA Cup Final while wandering around the ground. H has watched the film with me and also enjoyed it. We were travelling to York that evening so any ideas of hiding in the ground and staying overnight weren’t going to happen, mind.

Father Christmas Stadium Tour at Tottenham old ground

So what did the Father Christmas Stadium Tour at Tottenham involve?

We met in the club shop. The group before us had Chirpy, the Tottenham mascot leading them around, so we missed out. We went into the main building – and straight to the press room. H and I got our photo taken (I was sat in Poccettino’s chair) and I was too busy grinning to try and look like I was giving a serious press interview.

After that we had some views of the new stadium from the press area – you can see how it’s growing. It’s going to be enormous.. maybe we will get to a game when we’re back there.

Father Christmas Stadium Tour at Tottenham home dressing room

We headed down to the dressing rooms. The player shirts were there and of course everyone went for Harry Kane. H went to Aldeweireld’s instead, so we got a few good pictures as the Kane-Alli-Lloris section got quieter!

I was surprised at the size of the area – it’s quite small. I thought changing rooms would be much bigger, but then I guess all you do is get changed, don’t you?

Father Christmas Stadium Tour at Tottenham cool stuff

A quick walk up the tunnel and to the pitch side and I was happy. We got to sit in the seats the management take during a game (they’re heated too), and gaze out at the ground.

H was quite keen to take it all in. This is her team and she had finally made it to the ground. I pointed out where we used to sit behind the goal on the South Side – you can see Shaun and I in the background of most pictures when Paul Robinson scored a goal. It was great.

Then it was time to visit the big man. The whole point of doing the Father Christmas Stadium Tour at Tottenham. He was just up the tunnel and in his own little blue and white room. Father Christmas was blue and white too. You know what? He was flipping brilliant too. He asked H questions, got her talking about stuff and heck, even I told him what I’d like for Christmas… (Tottenham to do okay this season)

Father Christmas Stadium Tour at Tottenham meeting Santa

We must have spent a few minutes in there, he was fantastic. H got two presents as well – a Tottenham annual (which is good as we’d thought about getting one in the club shop but hadn’t) and a little teddy which she has cuddled every night.

After the Father Christmas Stadium tour at Tottenham we headed back out, past the Hall of Fame and to the main office. I grabbed one last photo with H before we headed back south of the river, but with happy memories in place. I’m happy as she has finally seen White Hart Lane before it’s demolished.

H is happy as, in her words, she said “Mummy, I don’t know if you saw, but I touched Harry Kane’s shirt. I’m NEVER washing my hand EVER AGAIN!!!” – and I felt a moment of proper pride, this is the start of hero worship. Ew.

The Father Christmas Stadium Tour at Tottenham cost just £10 each. We had a 45 minute mini tour, our guides were brilliant and gave us loads of facts and information. I’m pleased we did it. I just wish White Hart Lane would exist next Christmas as I fear H might be too old for it the year after!

The Dyson V6 – One Year On

Last year we received an invite to try out the Dyson v6, and I promised a follow-up post. Which then didn’t happen as life got too busy, stuff happened and it’s a year on. But I’ve finished work for the year – so now I have time. So I thought it might be nice to do a Dyson v6 update.

me trying a Dyson v6 out

Dyson v6 is a cordless vacuum cleaner. We received one last year after attending a workshop. I was curious back then – we have our old Dyson which was our primary cleaner around the house. I assumed the v6 would be for those in-between jobs.

Not so.

The Dyson v6 has in fact replaced almost every method of cleaning in our house. It fits into our new cupboard where the leaky boiler used to live. I’ve even taken to bringing it to other people’s houses to do the cleaning, especially where there is glitter. It’s powerful and it does the job.

The only thing it doesn’t do is clean the dust from our blinds, everyone’s least favourite job. It could if we took them off the wall and put them on the floor, mind.

Dyson v6 Absolute

It has changed everything. Now little jobs are easy to do – after all, a few crumbs on the floor wouldn’t justify getting the big cleaner out. The Dyson v6 is small enough to do that and powerful enough to give the area a good clean.

Even H wants to use it. The novelty hasn’t worn off, she seems to enjoy doing a spot of cleaning with it, and I’m not going to stop her. I feel happier with her using it as there’s no chance she’ll pull the plug out of the wall with it being cordless.

It’s great for tricky to get to areas, and doesn’t lose its power. You get around 20 minutes of use on the normal setting which is enough for us to do the essential areas of the house. The turbo setting does use up more battery power, but is best used for tougher mess (like glitter).

That’s the other thing – battery life. I was curious, after a year would the battery charge drop off after a shorter period of time? This hasn’t happened to us. The Dyson v6 gets used a lot of times during the week – maybe five or so times. We’ve had no problems at all.

My friend cuts our hair at home. I hate cleaning wet hair out of the carpet – it never seems to pick up. Not with the Dyson v6 – it picks it up with no bother at all. In fact, my friend was so impressed she has bought one for herself.

I’ve found that the more people who have come over to try it out (always a good way to get your friends to do your cleaning!) the more seem to have bought one for themselves. It is light and has been great with my back having the problems it does. Our old Dyson DC04 is sitting gathering dust in the cupboard since the v6 arrived.

We were sent a Dyson v6 to review via Currys/Joe Blogs. All opinions are our own. Our previous post is here

Booking a Reptile Party – What to Look Out For

H recently had a reptile party for her seventh birthday.  It’s important to look out for certain things when you book a reptile party and was something I hadn’t thought enough about. Here are some top tips for booking a reptile party.

Stroking Tiny the African Bullfrog with Wild Fangs
Stroking Tiny the African Bullfrog with Wild Fangs

Booking a Reptile Party – The Most Important Things.

• Is the Reptile party host DBS checked?
They don’t have to be. If you’re providing entertainment for children, it makes sense to have one. While it isn’t compulsory, it’s a reassurance.
• Do they have public liability insurance which is valid and up to date?
From the internet: “Public liability insurance protects you if clients or members of the public suffer personal injury or property damage because of your business”. This is pretty sensible if you’re working with animals, especially spiders and snakes. Right?

A blurry Sebastian the Corn Snake from Wild Fangs
A blurry Sebastian the Corn Snake from Wild Fangs

• Does the company have handlers who have experience or have qualifications?
Don’t be afraid to ask about their handling techniques or methods. Don’t be afraid to ask if they have reptile handling qualifications.
• Do they have a performing animals licence?
Not all reptile handlers do. Ask to see a copy of their certificate if they do. If they don’t, then why not?
• Do they have a website? Is the website up to date?
Check their Social Media accounts as well. READ REVIEWS! You can find reviews on Facebook and everyone is Googlable. If someone is good they’ll be being talked about. If someone provides a poor service, everyone will also talk about it. You make your mind up.
• Are they accredited by the Children’s Activities Association?
Some reptile handling companies are. This means their policies and procedures have had an independent body assessing them.

Booking A Reptile Party – Things to Ask.

• How many reptiles will they bring?
This could help you work out the most number of children to invite. They will be able to tell you.
• Will more than one creature be out at any one time?
This is a BIG question. You’re paying the handler to be in control of the creatures. If there are two creatures out, which one are they in control of? This rings alarm bells to me. Could you trust yourself to get a party guest out of bother if the handler is with another set of children? What exactly are you paying for? The animals or the handler? Both, of course.

H and Milo the Giant African Millipede from Wild Fangs
• Is it okay to put a snake around your neck?
There are no rules or guidelines saying that you can’t. Lots of companies do it, and it isn’t bad business practice. Some reptile handlers are working towards a regulated industry to have this stopped. If a snake is around your child’s neck, the reptile handler should be close by. It may be more acceptable with a smaller species as long as the handler stays in contact.

How to correctly handle a tarantula, something to think about when booking a reptile party
Samantha Weller’s son Tyler at his party, handling a tarantula. Reptylers stepped in at the last minute when the original party was cancelled.

• Does the host put spiders on heads/faces?
They should not. This is dangerous. The spider could blind you for one. If you see photos of a tarantula on someone’s face or head, avoid. Oh, and the spider isn’t keen on human breath either! This is DANGEROUS. Avoid. More to read here.
• What are the chances of conflicting animals being out at the same time and in the same vicinity? For example, a chameleon next to a snake.
This is dangerous. For obvious reasons.
• Is hand hygiene promoted?
It should always be, from start to finish.
• Is there ever a time you shouldn’t handle a snake?
When it has just fed or has shed. Ask your handler this, see what they say.
• Are children left unattended?
Children should never be unattended with most animals, especially snakes.

Booking a Reptile Party – The Booking Form.

What you need to see:
– Company address
– Email address
– Phone number
– Clear terms and conditions
– Ask to see a copy of risk assessment and handling procedures documents too
What are they providing, what insurance do they have (get it in writing), and make sure you know what their cancellation policy is.
Think of it this way. If you book a soft play party for your child you get tons of pages to read and sign before booking. It isn’t unreasonable to expect that from a reptile party company too. Plus sometimes reptiles can get ill.

BIG ALARM BELLS if you don’t see a company address on there and an email and phone number. Messaging in Facebook isn’t a good way to contact someone. Remember our experience? You can get blocked by the company.

Booking a Reptile Party – Payment.

In an ideal world, you want to put down a deposit and pay the balance at the party. Some places might not ask for that, or might offer you a better deal if you pay in full. Bear in mind, if you need to cancel, your options will vary depending on how you paid.

Most companies will ask for a bank transfer. Maybe they’ll ask for Paypal too – most people accept it. Please make sure you send the money as a business – not as friends. You can’t issue a claim to get your money back, and you’re not friends with the reptile company. You’re entering a business agreement. They’re likely to be doing it to avoid PayPal fees.

Booking a Reptile Party – On the Day.

We received a list of the creatures that would be coming the previous night. This helped as I could let the other parents know, so they could pass it on to the children. A good reptile handler will keep you informed and you won’t need to chase them for anything.

These useful hints have been compiled with help from the Reptile Party Facebook Group, plus additional help from Lee at Reptylers and Maria at Amazing Animal Encounters. Thank you Andrea for the group existing, as without it we all wouldn’t have learned as much as we have about reptile parties.

The photos are taken from H’s excellent Harry Potter  Fantastic Beasts Themed Party that we had, where Wild Fangs were our entertainment.

Other excellent and recommended Reptile Party Companies.

H gets trendy with BooHoo Kids

I’m the sort of person who wears jeans and t-shirts on a daily basis, which in turn has passed on to H. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that but at the same time she’s seven. She’s discovering her own style and – oh – she’s tall too. So our age seven girl tends to wear clothes for age 9-10. BooHoo Kids recently launched and offered us the chance to order up to £35 worth of clothes from their website.

BooHoo Kids offer a really good range of clothes. I wanted to make sure H had something which would be worn plenty of times and would also be good for special occasions. With her being so tall she can get away with skinny jeans, so we ordered her a black pair. To go with it, BooHoo Kids have a fabulous red sweatshirt with a big black love heart on it. It looks pretty good and is still our jeans and t-shirts style.

Boohoo kids star skater dress

When you’re seven you’re getting invites to parties which might be a bit more party-like than just games (like, say, when you were six, right?) so H chose a skater dress with a star pattern on it. I think she looks fabulous in it too! It’s just the right length.

The black jeans and red sweatshirt were perfect for mufti day at school – warm for outside and unique enough for inside that she wouldn’t lose it (unlike most of her school jumpers this term). She was also nice and warm on Bonfire Night! The jeans were long too – important when your child is tall.

Boohoo kids heart sweatshirt and skinny jeans

I found that BooHoo Kids sizes could have come in a bit too small for H. She’s 137cm, and that’s pretty much anything age 9-10. I would recommend going on height rather than anything else. The waist of her jeans isn’t adjustable, although that isn’t a problem.

I like how they’re easily washable and hard wearing too. They keep their quality and I love how the slogans available on the t-shirts are the kind of things H would say. If we’d had double the money to spend she would have wanted even more!

Ordering from BooHoo Kids was easy. I ended up doing it in my browser (they have an app too), the clothes arrived in a few days.

We were given a £35 budget to order clothes from BooHoo Kids, all opinions are our own. You can find their clothes here