In association with VoucherCodes

Today was a bit of a momentous occasion in our house. After 12 years of ‘I hate school, don’t make me go,’ Belle sat her very last GCSE exam.

*pours stiff gin*

It was a bit of a funny day in the end. I did think she might want to go out afterwards to celebrate, but when she got into the car outside school at about 3.30pm she just seemed exhausted.

‘Take me home’, she said ‘so I can get into bed.’ And there she sat, seemingly quite happy, eating Krave out of the box.

Luckily I had expected that she might not be feeling at her most sociable, so I decided to take her out to eat on Monday instead – a kind of last supper. Except it was lunchtime. And nobody got crucified. Otherwise it was EXACTLY the same.

We went to Zizzi as we had an exclusive 30% off mains offer from VoucherCodes.

prawn starter Zizzi VoucherCodes

(When you go to Zizzi, make sure you have this prawn starter. The flavour of the sauce is AMAZING.) View Post

You know how Facebook does that thing where it reminds you of stuff that has happened and shows you pictures of yourself looking younger and thinner?

Well today it had two special memories for me.

Firstly it reminded me that ten years ago today I had to take Belle to A&E because she’d pushed a bit of orange peel into her ear. She’d had a friend to play after school and I think she did it as a bit of a joke, but then she couldn’t get it out and in her panic just pushed it in further and further until she was screaming.

So that was fun.

oranges

Photo by Naomi Koelemans on Unsplash

The second memory was from four years ago.

‘Packing today, moving tomorrow.’ It said. ‘It’s very depressing. :-(‘ View Post

In association with Coca-Cola

How do you get kids to recycle more plastic?

When they’re young it’s easier to be creative around recycling – you can decorate recycling boxes together, create star charts and set up rewards. You can even make a trip to the recycling centre fun for primary school aged children if you go about it in the right way and have chocolate buttons for the way home.

Teenagers though.

Teenagers are generally not so easily engaged. When we moved into our new house last summer I actually bought some stickers in the shape of flowers and leaves, plus a house number sticker, thinking Belle would want to use them to decorate the outside bins. Bless me and my determination to cling to the past.

Needless to say that our outside bins remain undecorated.

how do i get kids to recycle

Over the next six months we’re taking part in Coke’s Family Plastic Challenge, a new initiative to support the wider sustainability strategy they introduced last year. (You can find out more about the team of bloggers that I’m part of here.)

Currently only 58% of plastic bottles in the UK are recycled*, and this is a problem for Coke. It means that there isn’t enough recycled plastic – known as rPET – in the system, which in turn means it’s harder to make bottles containing high levels of recycled plastic.

I think a lot of us (me included) don’t really think about the lifecycle of a plastic bottle. We see it as a disposable item, and even if we do recycle we probably don’t think about what happens to it next. (I just imagine recycled plastic getting made into those pens that were popular when I was young that said ‘I was made from a plastic bottle!’) Plastic bottles are not single use though – when you recycle a plastic bottle it can reused again and again to make more plastic bottles.

It’s not just about the novelty pens guys! View Post

In association with Goodfella’s

How much do you reckon you spend as a family on entertainment?

I’d probably say that we don’t spend a great deal, but then I start to add up in my head our regular cinema trips, bowling, Spotify and television subscriptions and it starts to get a bit scary. Factor in meals out (gah!) and Belle’s penchant for going to Bristol just to buy bubble tea and suddenly you begin to understand why I don’t have a great deal in the way of savings.

It has been just me and Belle at home for a while now and I think if I’m honest with myself I use things like bubble tea outings and pizza restaurants as a bit of a crutch. I know that just hanging out at home with your 40 year old cat loving mum isn’t always the MOST fun, and I know too that Belle has been having a tough time lately and that getting out of the house is a good thing for her.

It can be expensive though. And is guilt really a good reason to spend all of your disposable income on bubble tea?

A poll of 2,000 parents by frozen pizza brand Goodfella’s found that we spend a staggering £2,602 keeping our kids entertained during the course of just one year. £609 a year of this goes on meals out and during the summer holidays our total spend rises to an average of £127 a week. Desperate times and all that.

Does that sounds about right for you?

If anything I’d say that’s probably a conservative estimate for us. Take TV and films – according to the research the average monthly spend on this is just over £37. We each have a monthly cinema pass, which costs £36 for two of us, so already we are hitting the average. Add in Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sky and we clearly spend too much money AND time on television.

(In our defence we do like going to the cinema, and we only need to go twice a month to mean the limitless cards save us money, so it is worth looking into if you like films.)

I guess, like most things, that it comes down to balance. Yes it’s nice to go out and have treats, but you can’t sustainably do that every day. Plus it’s just as fun sometimes to have a fun night in at home, which is exactly what Belle and I did on Saturday night.

We decided to combine three of Belle’s favourite things to show that you can have just as much fun at home on a budget. Unable to secure Finn Wolfhard for a celebrity guest appearance at short notice we settled on:

  • films
  • pizza
  • bubble tea

We had a helping hand from Goodfella’s in the form of their new Romano range of premium frozen pizzas. There are five flavours, all with a stonebaked base and generous toppings. At just £2.50 each you could save a lot of money switching that meal out for a night in with Goodfella’s.

 Goodfella's new Romano pizzas View Post

A few weeks ago I went to spend a couple of nights in Boulogne-sur-Mer. It’s not a part of France I’ve ever visited – to be honest I had always seen it as one of those places that you sort of passed through on the way to somewhere more interesting.

Well, that’s exactly the sort of perception that Boulogne is trying to challenge. Hence my visit.

First things first, Boulogne has a lot going for it in terms of accessibility. We went by Eurostar and the trip from St Pancras to Calais only takes an hour. It’s then only about a half hour drive to Boulogne so extremely doable for a weekend away or even a day trip if you live a reasonable distance from London.

It also has some decent places to stay. We spent one night at the Opal Hotel on the seafront, which has lovely sea views, and another night at the Metropole in the centre. The Metropole has recently been completely refurbished and the room we stayed in was gorgeous. (Don’t be put off by the front of the building – it’s lush inside!)

So what is there to do in Boulogne to keep you busy on a mini-break? Here are some of my recommendations for things to do in Boulogne:

Check out NAUSICAA

This is an absolute must. If you go to Boulogne and don’t go to see the biggest aquarium in Europe then quite frankly you should be ashamed of yourself.

We visited NAUSICAA and I wrote all about it here.

nausicaa new aquarium View Post

At the end of April, just before my 40th birthday, I went to Lisbon.

Pena Palace had been on my list of ’40 things to do before 40′ for nearly five years and it was the last item I managed to squeeze in before the big day. (I did do pretty much all of them in the end, or some became less important to me at least. You can see the full list here.)

Pena Palace was as colourful as it was in the pictures I was travelling alone, I stayed in an AirBnB with pretty shutters, I ate a custard tart* and rode the trams. It was all good. I was going to write a whole post about it but to be honest I just had such a lovely time wandering around that I don’t want to.

(*Three custard tarts.)

I’ll drop in a few pictures, that’ll do.

travelling alone pena palace sintra portugal

I had dates with a couple of different people in the run up to the trip and when I told them about going to Lisbon the first question they both asked was ‘who are you going with?’

‘No one,’ I told them, ‘I’m going on my own.’

Both men had a similar look of pity in their eyes.

‘Aw, that’s a shame,’ said one.

‘No it isn’t,’ I said. ‘I want to go on my own, I like travelling alone.’ View Post