Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My Word For 2015


The last day of the year, a time to reflect, take stock, make plans.  Something I have been doing for the past few days, especially as I have been thinking about choosing my word for 2015.  The new year will be one of changes and big birthdays, exciting times and new adventures.  With this in mind I have chosen EMBRACE as my word for 2015.

As I finish my degree in June and embark on my career in radiography, it will be a time of new beginnings, even more so if I start my career at a different hospital to my training hospital. Embracing this new beginning, my new career and the changes it will bring will make it all seem a little less daunting.  March will see the start of a new decade for me, as I turn 40.  Just another twelve weeks in my thirties seems a little scary, but I am also feeling ready for this new era.  I hope to embrace being 40, being a little more grown up, looking after me, my body and my mind.  My thirties found me finally feeling comfortable in my own skin. So now I want to continue with that but also to embrace the changes that will come in my forties.  Health and fitness have become more important to me and I want to make time for exercise, meditation and eating properly.

But 2015 isn't all about me, there are more big changes afoot.  Andy will turn 50 in the summer, another big birthday that has got him thinking too.  Being happy and healthy are always at the forefront of our plans and I know he will start his fifties as he means to go on, already planning some half marathons for the year.  Connor will turn 17 later in the year which means he can learn to drive and by this time next year he will have submitted his UCAS application.  Jack will take his GCSE's this summer and will start sixth form in September.  As a parent this all seems a little scary, but I want to embrace these changes that being a mother to teenagers involves.  As for my gorgeous daughters, Lucy chooses and starts her GCSE courses in 2015, Amber will become a teenager and Kitty will turn 9, the last year of single digits.  

So 2015 already holds a lot of promise and I want to embrace every moment.  Whatever else comes our way I know as a family unit we will stay strong, making the most of opportunities and enjoying life.

I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy new year and hope 2015 is full of promise for you too.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo


Monday, 29 December 2014

Reflecting on Word for 2014


After a lovely break over Christmas, I have returned to my dissertation research today.  Endless cups of tea, comfy jeans and cosy socks are necessities for this task. However I have just popped in here to reflect upon my word for 2014, before the year comes to an end and before I share my word for 2015.  Having spent a while considering my word this time last year, I settled on TIME.  My life had become incredibly hectic and I felt I had no time for anything or was really awful at making time for things. There never seemed enough time to do the fun stuff nevermind the important or necessary things.  

So did choosing time as my word for 2014 have any impact?  This is a question I have pondered over the past couple of weeks and I am pleased to report that yes, it has.  I made sure I found time to sew, to bake, to play Scrabble with the children.  By joining in with The Year in Books, I made sure I found time to read a different book each month.  Whilst I haven't written this blog regularly, I have made time to write and am liking the idea of the slow blogging movement, discussed by Holly on Decor 8.  Another aspect of making more time was the introduction of date days with my husband, walks on the beach, trips out for coffee, became features in my diary and will be continued throughout 2015, with cinema trips and visits to local National Trust houses and gardens added to the list.  

Choosing a word for the year really helped me to focus, especially when I was feeling very stressed trying to juggle the demands of study, family, work and running a house.  As for taking this forward I plan to continue making time for things in 2015.  Yet I have chosen a new word for 2015, which I will share with you later this week.  

Have you chosen your word yet? Be sure to share with me.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Monday, 15 December 2014

Dissertation, Word for 2015 & Winter Writing


Well that's all my assignments submitted for this semester, exams completed but there is no rest.  With my dissertation due in at the end of March, I need to get organised.  Thankfully my dissertation supervisor is keeping me to plan but I would really like to just have a little rest and indulge in some Christmas baking and crafting.  However as this week is timetabled as dissertation week, which means I am at home, I think a little compromise is possible. My mornings will be spent working on my dissertation and my afternoons shall indulge my creative side. Perfect!

With the festive holiday fast approaching I am looking forward to slowing down, relaxing and spending time with family.  The time between Christmas and New Year is always very special to me, as I think ahead to the new year.  I am already thinking about my word for the year but as yet am unsure what it shall be.  I will definitely be getting a little help with the inspiring download from Susannah Conway as I fathom what word will be mine for 2015.  Next year is promising to be exciting and scary, as I turn forty, entering a new decade and my studies (for now) will come to an end as I qualify in June, so I will be job hunting.   Also over the holidays I have promised to help my husband make plans for his business for the coming year.  I shall pop on my social media consultant and blog editor head for a little while to help him make even more of a growing business.  Life is never dull in my world!

So with the promise of an exciting new year that will also be filled with plenty of academic writing I have given myself a little present, signing up to the Winter Writing Workshop with Do What You Love.  I want to make some time to write some fiction, developing my style, finding my voice and think this will be the perfect opportunity as I have a little time during the holidays.

I promise to share my word closer to the end of the year and would love to know what your word will be too.  Also say hi if you are also joining the writing workshop.  And for everyone slaving over a dissertation this holiday, I wish you luck and send virtual mugs of tea and biccies.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Monday, 8 December 2014

The Year in Books : December


I know it has been a while since I wrote a post for The Year in Books but I have still been reading, although mostly journal articles for assignments and my dissertation.  However unless you have an interest in paediatric oncology, prostate cancer or health literacy I am sure none of these will be of interest! But thankfully I still find a few minutes each night to read before I go to sleep.  Over the past few weeks I have loved If I Stay by Gayle Forman and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  Both have recently been released on the big screen but I am always cautious when great books are made into films, so I haven't rushed to the cinema just yet.  

This month I have opted for something a bit more light hearted, in the shape of my old heroine Bridget Jones.  A little late to the party in reading the latest diary, Mad About The Boy, from this character, but I have already spent the last few nights reading into the small hours. Clearly I am not disappointed with Helen Fieldings latest offering, already rooting for Bridget to make it through the abyss of single parenting and getting back on her feet after the loss of her great love, Mr Darcy.  

My Christmas list is always full of books and with a bookseller husband there is always something to read in our house.  Perhaps if you are stuck for what to read next pop over to The Year in Books link up on Circle of Pines for plenty of inspiration and reviews.  Also if you are looking for some vintage Ladybird, Enid Blyton or Penguin books for stocking fillers this Christmas then pop over to Letters & Luggage on Etsy.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Meal Planning - The Future of Being Organised

Meal Planner Stationery



Oh yes it is true, we love a bit of meal planning in our house.  We even have a pad on the fridge so everyone knows what is for tea, add things for next weeks shopping list and even remember to take meat out of the freezer.  Now I can honestly admit that this all feels a little bit too grown up and way too organised.  However as I approach my forties and with five children, I felt it was time to be a little bit grown up! Food is very important in our house, we all love to cook and bake. Nevermind the fact that there are always hungry teenagers opening the fridge or cupboards.  So just incase anybody else was feeling like they needed to take some control on the family food front I have rounded up some stylish menu planning stationery to make this task more exciting!

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Distractions of a Mature Student

Or I could make these bracelets instead of writing my essay!
tutorial from Honestly WTF

Right now I have so much studying to do, with deadlines looming and my dissertation constantly on my mind that I really need to focus.  Yet I seem to be very easily distracted, window shopping online for a new pair of boots, coming up with product ideas for Andy's shop, planning surprise outings, flicking through my ever increasing pile of unread magazines. Idling away precious time, distracted by anything and everything.  This is the curse of being a mature student I am sure, with so many other things on your mind that actually focussing your time constructively is really hard.  There are even times when I start to resent my studies taking up my time as I have soooo much to do.  

One piece of advice I could offer right now is to sit and focus on your assignments then spoil yourself with idling away the hours planning a day out or just sit reading magazines for a whole afternoon with a big pot of tea.  Now I just need to heed my own advice!

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Sunday, 9 November 2014

A Moment of Remembrance


Today is the day when our nation remember the heroes who gave their lives for us to live in peace.  My schedule is crazy busy at the moment and every minute I can study, I take. But today I stopped, just for thirty minutes to stand at the village memorial with fellow villagers to attend the remembrance service.  Life should never be so busy that we cannot give thanks, pay our respects, remember those who have helped shape the lives we have.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Retraining - In My Final Year

I know I have been a bit quiet here and on my social media accounts, but life went from slow summer days to demanding workloads very quickly.  Heading back to uni at the start of the month, no long summer hols for health students, it finally felt real....I am in my final year.  Suddenly I had to start thinking about job applications, updating my cv and Linked In page, nevermind writing my dissertation and completing competencies in clinical practice.  So I dropped a few balls, got my head out of the sand and am trying to get super organised, to make my final year manageable.  

Returning to study when you have children is hard.  I am not going to pretend, if you take the leap, which I encourage everyone who wants to to do, be prepared for days when you actually wonder if you can do everything.  The workload in my second year was huge, stress levels were high and I actually wondered if I would reach this stage several times.  But I did it, I got through the workload, my children and husband are still talking to me and I have made it to my final year.  

So as I head off for my first meeting with my dissertation supervisor, I feel a sense of relief that I have got this far, that getting to the end of my degree is now in sight and very soon I will be qualified.  This of course is scary but really exciting too.  And if I can do it anyone can. Make the changes you want to make, find a way, don't delay it, as it is better to have tried than to regret not trying.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Sunday, 31 August 2014

My Wonderful Week

I have been thinking about doing a post that rounds up my week, lets me share my favourite things with you all.  By doing a post like this it also gives some focus to my writing, makes me stop and think about the things I have enjoyed, loved and learned, as the days pass.  So here goes this is what has helped make my week wonderful.

Reading The Simple Things magazine.  I have caught up on reading the August issue and made a start on the latest issue that dropped through my letterbox last week.

Listening to George Ezra.  I have been loving his music throughout the summer and seem to have his album on repeat at the moment.

Swooning over the new little Citroen C1.  As I drive a small car most of the time, to clinical placement, to uni, playing at taxi's for my children at the weekend, I am always looking out for something a little more stylish than my current car.

Eating delicious homemade blackberry and elderberry crumble.  Having foraged the fruit from the garden we enjoyed a autumnal dessert staple this week.

Watching repeats of Friends on Comedy Central.  Lucy and Jack love this series and of course I do, taking me back to my late teens and early twenties.

What has your week entailed, I would love to hear.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Friday, 29 August 2014

Colourful Shoes

My colourful shoe collection


It would seem I have a perchant for colourful shoes. Well why should our feet not be brightly dressed too?  However I do also own some black and brown shoes and boots.  Very soon I will be digging out my plain, black yet ever so comfortable boots as I head back to clinical placement.  But worry not, I will be livening up outfits at the weekend with one of these fabulous pairs.

Do you also own a shoe collection to rival a rainbow?! Be sure to share a piccy on Instgram or Twitter.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Promise of Autumn

Autumn Days



Gorgeous tweed blazer from Boden - These wellies from Aigle change colour when wet! - 
Cosy fireside - Cute ditsy floral print gilet from Joules - Collecting apples - Stylish wellies for autumn walks from Joules -  Fruit crumble recipe from Waitrose

The nights are drawing in, the air has a chill to it, the leaves on trees in the village are starting to turn the glorious shades of autumn.  Soon we can head out to collect conkers, spend Sunday afternoons by the fire playing Scrabble or knitting, don our wellies and kick piles of leaves neatly raked to save our lawns.  Every season brings changes and Autumn for me signifies tidying up the garden, an abundance of colour all golden and red, fruit crumbles made with foraged fruit.  No season is my favourite, all of them each hold a special place in my heart.  Honestly I could never live somewhere that doesn't have seasons.  But as we head into September, waving goodbye to another fabulous summer, autumn will be my favourite just for a little while.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Celebrating Exam Success

Today we are celebrating as Connor has gained excellent results in his GCSE exams.  After a long wait over the past few weeks, he was finally able to find out if the months of hard work had paid off.  This now means he will be able to attend the sixth form he wanted to, to start the next step of his educational journey.  Exciting times are ahead, alongside lots of hard work as he starts his A levels.  Also today Jack received an excellent result for his English literature GCSE, as they take this in Year 10 at their school then just work towards English Language in Year 11. By doing it this way the results, especially for the boys, have been excellent, due to not forgetting texts studied as they only work on them for one year instead of two. 

I'm off now to raise a glass as many other proud parents are doing this evening. Congratulations Connor and Jack, we are very proud of you.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Thursday, 14 August 2014

A Levels and Retraining



Today is A Level results day here in the UK.  Time to see if all the months of hard work paid off or maybe if winging it actually worked.  It's now twenty one years since I opened that dreaded yet longed for brown envelope, to the relief that I had done enough to head off to Birmingham Uni. For some, today will provide the opportunity to take the next step in their retraining journey.  Perhaps you have had to take A levels whilst juggling home and family so that you can take a degree to start a new career. Or maybe today with all the talk of A levels has got you  thinking about taking a degree, retraining, starting a new journey.  Many universities still have places left in clearing, so maybe you could take that leap, now, today.  Make that call that you've been wondering about for ages.  Maybe you want to take that first step on to the degree ladder and are needing A levels, so look at your options, now, today.  There are many options from online courses, local colleges offering evening classes or Open University modules.

So take a deep breath and make that first step to your new career.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Can A Citroen Grand C4 Picasso Cope With A Family Camping Trip?


With a round trip of over five hundred miles and an abundance of camping equipment, five children and two adults we thought our trip to Camp Bestival would be the perfect excuse to fully test a MPV.  Packed to the gunnels, we headed off early in the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso on our adventure.   Now I am huge fan of Citroen's style and dream of one day owning the classic DS, but am also rather tempted by the modern version.  So I was interested to see what their seven seater family vehicle offered.





Like most MPV's the boot space is limited when you have all seven seats in use, but thankfully our younger passengers have shorter legs and we could stash some bags under their feet.  However where the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso lacks on actual boot space it more than makes up for in comfort.  Initially the children moaned that the seats were quite hard, but similar to Mercedes firm seat design, these are beneficial on a long journey.  There were also ample cup holders and air con controls around the vehicle to keep everybody happy.  Another nifty gadget is the button to close the boot, neatly tucked into the boot door, which avoids slamming the door shut and easier if you have arms full of luggage or shopping.




But now the nitty gritty of how this car really drives.  Fully loaded it initially feels a little sluggish on pull off but there is plenty of mid range power as soon as you get it up to speed, which makes for a pleasant driving experience on the motorway.  The rear view camera was a huge benefit to me when parking as I am a bit hopeless at reverse parking and I actually now miss this in my own little car.  I also really liked the blindspot sensors, a handy addition on the motorway in busy traffic.  The only negative I found was that the steering wheel was quite cluttered and am not convinced that the flappy paddle gear stick controls were necessary for an automatic car.  It certainly took a little while to get used to where everything was and thankfully the manual was very comprehensive in helping me navigate the in car technology system.  This touch screen system was fairly easy to use and the usb ports were great when phone batteries were low after a weekend of camping and when we needed to plug in a iPod instead of listening to the radio.  Whilst we didn't go as far to personalise it with our own choice of wallpaper, this screen was a welcomed addition to an impressive car.  Another thing I loved was that I could see the children even when in the back row of seats, due to the clever spacing of seats and the extra little mirror.

All photos are my own.

Overall the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is an impressive, stylish and comfortable family car.  It is economical and the added bonus of the stop-start technology added to it's economy and reduced its carbon footprint.   Best of all it just about coped well with our demands of luggage space for a camping trip.  So we would definitely recommend the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso as a family car and as a mother and woman driver, I loved it.  I spend an awful lot of time driving a small car on my daily commute but as a large vehicle it was sturdy and safe to drive my most precious cargo, my family.  What more could you ask for?

For full spec visit the Citroen website.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Disclaimer - Citroen provided me with the Grand C4 Picasso for five days however all opinions are my own.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Camp Bestival - A Weekend of Memories Made

After weeks of planning, of excitement building, early on Thursday last week we headed off to Dorset for Camp Bestival.  Our sights were set on pitching in a particular part of the Purple campsite, which we managed to get and were soon enjoying the sunshine, eating our picnic outside of our tent.  To be perfectly honest we welcomed the rest after an early start and wrangling the tent to pitch perfection!  Yet we also went for a wander to get into the festival spirit as some food stalls are open.



After a relatively good nights sleep, thankfully the airbeds made it a bit more comfortable, we were ready to see what Camp Bestival had in store for us this year.  A little bit of pre planning for what to see and do can help make the whole festival experience better, yet be prepared to change those plans, to miss things and be dazzled and amazed by random offerings as you wander around.  Now we had a little list of things we wanted to do and see but the children knew that these may not all be possible.  Yet we made the best effort to cram in as much fun as we possibly could.  Here are our highlights from the weekend.



Project Wild Thing  and The National Trust

We spent alot of time down in Dingly Dell exploring what Project Wild Thing has to offer.  There were all kinds of workshops, nature trails and activities to keep everyone amused.  We also spent alot of time in the '50 things to do before you're 11 3/4' field.  Armed with their journals, provided by The National Trust, the girls eagerly earnt stamps for many activities, including rolling down a big hill, making a grass trumpet and creating art with nature.  We even made sure we queued up to gain a place on the tree climbing workshop, which Lucy and Amber absolutely loved.  The instructor was excellent, building confidence in the children as they used their ropes attached to their harnesses to gain more height.

I have been a supporter of the 50 Things project since it started and felt that this was a fantastic addition to Camp Bestival.  We are very fortunate to live in the countryside, by the sea, so can get outdoors and explore often, but I am sure for many children their time in the Dingly Dell would be one of the limited times they got to do the kinds of activities that both Project Wild Thing and The National Trust offered.



The Feast Collective

As a family we have always enjoyed trying different foods and our children have always been willing to taste an array of flavours.  The Feast Collective certainly offered ample opportunity to do this, with a fantastic selection of food stalls offering all sorts of food.  My favourite was definitely the tapas stall, where I enjoyed the most delicious Shashouka ever.  Other firm favourites were Baba G's chicken tikka wraps and tandori fries and DJ BBQ's burgers.  Sadly I wasn't up to eating much on the Sunday, but wished I had tried something from Zoe's Ghana Kitchen.

With a marketplace feel and smells to tempt the Feast Collective was definitely the perfect addition to the food choices at Camp Bestival and we certainly hope it will be returning next year.


The Farmers Market

With fresh bread, punnets of strawberries, salad bar, salami, bruschetta and delicious chocolate brownies to cheer up my tired and grumpy seven year old.  This market was again a great addition and the bakery had the best Belgian buns ever!



Big Topmania - Circus Skills

This area in the Upper Kids Garden is always a favourite with our children, even the boys.  With unicycles, hula hoops, balance beams, diablo's and other fab circus skills equipment, they can play for ages here.  Lucy was determined to take part in the trapeze workshop this year and we made sure she was in time to get a place.  Even though she only got a few minutes on the trapeze it was worth the wait to see her proud smile after completing the tasks set.  There is also a section of the garden for younger children to explore, which would be great for my little nieces, as my sisters family are planning on joining us next year.




Art Town

Well this has certainly grown since our first visit to Camp Bestival and is still a firm favourite with Lucy, Amber and Kitty.  All sorts of creations were made and Lucy got involved with the big sculpture again and joined Kitty and I in helping to decorate the giant Art Town letters.



Science Tent

This was another area that the Camp Bestival team had grown and improved since our last visit.  There were all sorts of workshops and stage shows throughout the day and the best part was that they went on until 7pm.  So if it was busy during the day I could head back with Kitty, my budding little scientist, later in the evening.



Arsenal Football School

Andy happily took the children round this activity, determined to get the fastest ball of the weekend. However it was Amber who shone as our best player, with the coaches joking that we should invest in her! This activity was always busy but thankfully we didn't have to wait too long and was something that all our children could play together.



Lego Imagination Station

The queues for this were always very long and we had given up earlier in the day in Friday, with too many other things tempting us.  So we were pleasantly surprised to see a shorter queue in the evening and welcomed the thought of being out of the drizzly rain for a little while.  With Lego of all shapes and colours we filled our beakers at the entrance and headed inside to start building.  Now this was Lego heaven for everyone, with so many bricks to choose from I didn't really know what to build! But some ski type legs and comical eyes helped me make an imaginary character.  Meanwhile Lucy built Olaf from Frozen Kitty made a colourful window frame, Andy created a futuristic vehicle and Amber, Connor and Jack set about making Lego heads.  The staff were very attentive and ensured Lucy photographed her Olaf creation with their special camera, to ensure it was added to their Hall of Fame.  


As you can see we had an action packed weekend.  We also managed to spend some time in the Freesports Park, watching the skateboard and bike stunts of some talented tricksters.  Evenings were spent on fairground rides, honing circus skills and watching the acts on the Castle Stage.  Sadly Kitty was exhausted by 9.15 on Friday, so we headed back to the tent and meant I missed James perform.  But as I said, this festival is about going with the flow, not sticking to plans.  Yet we made sure we saw Sophie Ellis-Bextor on Saturday night and danced as the sun began to set, cold cider in hand.  A weekend of magical memories that we will treasure forever.  Thank you Camp Bestival.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Disclosure - This year I am one of the official Camp Bestival bloggers, working with them to share my top tips and reviewing the festival.  They have kindly given us a family weekend ticket, however all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Brand Stylist



Knowing that many of you who read my blog are small business owners or would be entreprenuers, if you could work out how to escape those chains of the humdrum, I wanted to share something exciting with you all.  A couple of years ago a very dear friend of mine sold her successful business, took some time out to be at home and have her third child, but all the time with an idea brewing.  Well that idea grew and she has created a fabulous new venture that showcases the best of her talents to help small businesses make the most of their talents.  Fiona has created a beautiful website and those of you who regularly followed her blog at Flourish will be thrilled to know she is blogging again.  Not only that but she is running workshops, with Colour Psychology for Creatives being the next one, in London on 30 September.  Having completed Fiona's online brand styling course a couple of years ago and still reffering to my notes and the classes I have preciously tucked away in a folder, I know that this workshop will quite simply be amazing.  This is a subject Fiona understands completely and her passion and energy for this subject is infectious.  

So if you are the owner of a creative business or have an idea for a business that will not go away,  pop over to The Brand Stylist blog for full details of the Colour Psychology for Creatives workshop.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Slow Down Summer

Is it really August already?  With only one month left until I return to uni for my final year I would really like Summer to slow down.  After a fantastic weekend away at Camp Bestival, which I will be sharing over the next couple of days, it suddenly dawned on me that there were things I really wanted to do this summer. Nothing spectacular, making a skirt, reading lots of books, planning my cutting and vegetable gardens, enjoying long lazy days with my children and Andy.  I also hoped to take some time to think about where I am going with this blog, old habits are hard to leave behind! Yet panic has set in that I will run out of time, that I need to be returning to academic reading in preparation for writing my dissertation.  

So please Summer, can you just slow down a little, give me time to stop, think, read, bake, sew and plan. Perhaps whoever is in charge of September could oversleep and keep that pause button pressed just a little longer than normal.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

It's Camp Bestival Time

Camp Bestival 2012


Roll up, roll up, the best circus this summer is in town! The car is packed, I'm not quite sure where the children will be sitting?! Early tomorrow morning we will be heading to Lulworth Castle in Dorset for Camp Bestival.  We are all very excited and I am sure there will be little sleep had tonight.  With so many things to see and do this weekend we have each chosen specific things we really want to do or bands/acts we want to see.  Personally I am looking forward to watching James on the Castle Stage on Friday night and of course De La Soul on Saturday night, reliving my sixth form and uni days.  A visit to Dingley Dell for activities with Project Wild Thing and The National Trust is a must and Kitty won't leave without seeing Ben & Holly.  I am also really excited to meet up with some of the other Camp Bestival bloggers and enjoy a drink, laugh and dance.

But for now I am off to get Lucys glasses fixed, one of the arms fell off this morning, then I may sneak in a cheeky cold beer in the garden before tea, well it is almost holiday time!

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

My Sister is Getting Married



A couple of nights ago I had an excited phone call from my sister to tell me she is getting married! I am so happy for her and her partner.  So now she has months of fun, planning a wedding and of course a hen do. Time for me to introduce her to Pinterest and send her the links to my favourite wedding blogs from my previous work as a wedding and party blogger.  Of course we are all very excited, thoughts of gorgeous dresses, new suits and shoes as we look forward to a winter wedding in 2015.  

Congratulations Fay & Matt, we look forward to celebrating with you very soon.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Ice Lolly Recipes

Even though the sky has clouded over here in Suffolk, being ever hopeful of a long, hot summer I thought I would round up my favourite ice lolly recipes.  I haven't as yet had time to try them all but as usual Pinterest has provided ample inspiration to tempt my taste buds.


Recipe from Jelanie


Recipe from Two Loves Studio


I hope some of these help cool you off this summer, be sure to share over on Instagram if you try any of the recipes.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo




Monday, 28 July 2014

Summer Sounds On The Go

There are times in our busy house that you just want a little space to listen to your music choices, not everyone elses, to watch just one more episode of Homeland or Frozen for the umpteenth time.  The solution of course has been headphones.  Giving everyone the chance to watch or listen to whatever their latest favourite may be, without the rest of the house being subjected to it again and again.  Plugging themselves into their phone or tablet has meant fewer arguments, especially in the last year or so.  So when Coloud asked if we would like to test their range of headphones we were delighted.  Personally I loved the bright colours, knowing that they would brighten up a run on a dull morning, when I didn't really want to head outside, but I was intrigued to see if they actually delivered a decent sound too.


The Pop

These neatly designed little headphones pop into you ears, with covers in three sizes to prevent them falling out, unlike other brands that aren't so snug.  Lucy regularly watches her favourite vloggers on You Tube and prefers in ear headphones, so she has willingly tested The Pop.  She loves that the wires don't get tangled due to the flat design but most importantly the sound quality is excellent.  Lucy has said there is little disturbance from external noise and whether she is watching a video or listening to her latest music choices these little headphones deliver fantastic sound.  Aswell as the excellent sound quality she was interested to see there were different colour combinations available, which is important to every fashion loving teen.



The Knock

These were our least favourite pair that we tested.  Lucy and Jack compared them to being similar to school headphones and found external noise was heard more with this pair.  However The Knock are a lightweight overhead design which both Kitty and Amber liked as they didn't feel heavy on their head.  Again the flat cord was a hit, meaning the headphones could be worn quickly without having to unscramble the cords first.



The Boom

The Boom had the majority vote as our family favourite.  The closed construction design meant interference from external noise was virtually non-existent.  Jack regularly watches movies and listens to music on his laptops and has tried various sets of headphones over the past few years.  He was very impressed with The Boom and was surprised when I told him the price (£20), as he thought they would be much more expensive considering the quality of sound produced.  Connor was equally impressed with these and they also get mine and Andys vote.  Similarly to the other two pairs The Boom has flat cables, which really impressed us all, yet Andy and I are interested to see how this lasts in the longterm, knowing that cables do work loose with time.


The Pop, The Knock and The Boom are all available from Coloud's website.  Each design is available in various colour choices, allowing you to personally style your perfect set of headphones.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Disclaimer - Coloud generously provided us with a pair of each headphone design, however as always all opinions are mine and my family's own.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Packing List For Camp Bestival

Camp Bestival 2012


Continuing from yesterdays post celebrating a good list, I thought I would share my list for top things to take to Camp Bestival.  With only nine days until we head to the beautiful Dorset coast, I am starting to check we have everything and that it's still in working order.  Batteries are top of my shopping list this week, torches and tent lights need them, also our phone charger needs some, aswell as the cameras.  So apart from plenty of batteries what else do I consider essential?

Loo Rolls - there are none provided, DO NOT forget these!

Hand Sanitiser and Baby Wipes - there aren't sinks in the porta loo's. Baby wipes also come in handy when ice creams get drippy and coke cans explode! (The toilets are cleaned regularly and we have never had a problem with them).

Sunscreen, sunhats, wellies and raincoats - this is England, be prepared.  Also wellies are handy for those early morning trips to the loo, across the dewy grass.

First Aid Kit - plasters, paracetamol - adults and childrens, insect bite cream or spray, antiseptic wipes.

Sleeping bags, warm PJ's, socks and a hat - the nights are chilly under canvas. Lucy brought her woolly hat last time to wear to bed, I wish I had as I slept with my hoodie on, hood up!

Jumpers - I always take a hoodie camping and a lightweight cardi.  First thing in the morning and later in the evening can be chilly and you will be glad of the extra layers.

Matches or a lighter - always handy for lighting your stove.

Teabags, Coffee, Hot Chocolate and UHT milk - that first cuppa of the day will be the best. Just remember no glass containers, so buy instant coffee in the refill bags.

Wine in a Box - again not glass - Helen of Knackered Mothers Wine Club shared some top choices in this blog last month, read them here.

Lots of Snacks - all that fresh air makes you hungry - for more food ideas read my post here.

Bubbles - of course I would prefer the fizzy champagne kind but children everywhere seem to have bottles of bubbles! There are stalls that sell them but taking some with you saves a little money.

Washing Up Bowl - this can double up as your sink for washing your face and brushing your teeth.

Water Bottles - there are ample taps around the campsites and in the festival too for you to fill up for free.  We take our camping water container and each have a water bottle to refill.

Air Beds and Pump- yes I know this a luxury, but a good nights sleep is essential to make the most of your time at the festival.  However my sons are a bit more hardcore and just have roll mats!

Picnic Blanket - we take a couple that can be used outside the tent and can be used in the festival too.

Bunting and Flags - there are hundreds of tents so personalise yours to make it easier to find.  We will have a flag and bunting, infact I've just found the circus bunting from Kitty's birthday party, perfect for this years circus theme.

Well I think that's the essentials.  One last thing is take some cash, there are cash points and some stall holders probably take cards but cash is king. Right I'm off to check all the sleeping bags zips are working and to find our flag pole!

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Disclosure - This year I am one of the official Camp Bestival bloggers, working with them to share my top tips and reviewing the festival.  They have kindly given us a family weekend ticket, however all opinions are my own.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Lists, lists and more lists

Notepad available from The Green Gables


The impending summer holidays mean I need to be organised.  With five children to feed and entertain life becomes even busier than normal. So this is the time of year I actually depend on lists. Oh I do love a good a list, just sitting quietly to write it is fun. Now I know I am not alone in this love of list making and like many still favour handwriting my lists.  Although I do have a memo app on my phone and am seriously planning on using One Note properly....let me just add that to my list of things to do this summer! 

Yesterday the girls and I popped out to buy new notebooks for them to create summer journals.  With another storm and a wet afternoon putting paid to plans of outdoor adventures, the three of them sat and each wrote a list of '25 things to do in the summer holidays'.  Obviously I wasn't sure what they would list and hoped it would not include extravagant and expensive adventures.  Thankfully their lists are realistically affordable, including a trip to a museum in London, days at the beach, lots of sewing, writing stories, learning a foreign language, baking, learning to play the guitar and camping sleepovers in the garden, to name a few.  

So hurry up the end of term, my daughters have memories to make and I need to write a list of what to take to take on holiday and of course that dreaded new uniform list.  But for now I need to think about making my own summer journal.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Friday, 18 July 2014

Three Hungry Teenagers at Camp Bestival



Yes that's right, we will be taking three hungry teenagers to Camp Bestival, nevermind Kitty (aged 7) who has the fastest metabolism I know and Amber who is teenager in training at eleven years!  So thinking about food and starting to buy supplies for Camp Bestival is taking some planning.  With just two weeks to go *excited squeal* I am giving food for the weekend some serious consideration.  Hungry children does not bode well, as we all know hungry children means grumpy children.  Therefore I am planning some easy camp stove meals, that do not rely on me having fridge access.  Ideas so far are pasta with stir in sauces, pasta and tuna, beans and hot dogs in tins.  Yes I know these are not my first choices when planning family meals but needs must and all that!  Whilst some may avoid bringing eggs camping I like to take risks, especially as they are great protein options for hungry teens and means I can rustle up some french toast crumpets (recipe can be found here) for breakfast.  As for snacks I will of course be bringing crisps, fruit, biscuits, rice cakes, breadsticks, bread and croissants and making several cakes, scones and flapjacks to bring with us.  Our plan is to eat breakfast at our tent, have lunch out at the many, many choices around the festival and then dinner will be back at the tent before returning for more festi-fun in the evening.

Hindsight is a very fortunate thing this time when planning food, with Connor, Jack and Lucy regularly checking the bags I am starting to fill with foodie purchases.  Have you started planning your meals for Camp Bestival yet? Any extra tips are always welcome! Also remember no glass is allowed on the site, so decant jam, choc spread, marmite, wine, Pimms, etc into plastic containers and bottles before you go.  

Have a wonderful weekend and until next time take care.
Zoe
xo

Disclosure - This year I am one of the official Camp Bestival bloggers, working with them to share my top tips and reviewing the festival.  They have kindly given us a family weekend ticket, however all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

What Does A Therapeutic Radiographer Really Do?

This is a question I get asked alot, people seem genuinely intrigued by my new career choice.  Many assume I am a nurse specialising in something or more often a diagnostic radiographer.  Well I thought it was about time I explained the what I do as therapeutic radiographer and why it is very different to my collegues role in diagnostic radiography. Whether you or a member of your family has ever had to have an xray, a CT or MRI scan, you would have met a diagnostic radiographer.  Their role is similar yet very different to mine and they can be found in several departments in the hospital, however you will only find therapeutic radiographers in the oncology department.

Radiotherapy is a key and often primary treatment for many types of cancer.  Using targeted megavoltage xrays we kill tumour cells, pinpointing treatment within millimetres to avoid damaging normal tissue.  This is a very simple explanation and my training has included whole modules on radiation physics and how the treatment works biologically as well as how the machines work. My role is varied but very specialised as theraputic radiographers plan and deliver treatment as well as managing patients side effects throughout treatment.  From the first visit to the radiotherapy department for a planning CT scan, to a patients treatment plan being created and then actually delivering the treatment, no two days are ever the same.  When I qualify I will quite possibly become more specialised in either pre-treatment or treatment, as this seems the normal path in most departments. 

One the best parts of my job is that I get to know the patients, seeing them every day for four to seven weeks.  Over that time you get to know them, can help them on days when treatment is taking its toll, to just being there to ask if they are ok or greeting them with a smile.  This is the reason I chose therapeutic over diagnostic radiography, I wanted to be able to offer continuity of care.  Although people often wonder if my job is depressing, cancer isn't normally a cheery subject.  Yet I can assure you my job is far from depressing, patients amaze me every day, just because they have cancer it doesn't mean they lose their sense of humour. They are incredible with the way they cope and their determination is inspiring.  Admittedly there are some days that are tough, but I didn't go into this job because it was easy, I chose it because I wanted to care for people.  

So there is a little insight in to the role of a therapeutic radiographer. In the next few weeks I will write in  more detail about the actual degree course, just incase any of you are considering a career change.  In the meantime you can find out more about the role of a therapeutic radiographer on the Society of Radiographers website and find out more about radiotherapy on the Cancer Research website.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Den at Camp Bestival



At the end of last week Camp Bestival finally released details of their new teenage space, The Den.  Earlier this year my three teenagers completed the survey from Camp Bestival to help shape this new arena and I can report they are delighted with the line up.  Lucy is especially thrilled to see that there is a fashion journalism 101, as she is an aspiring fashion blogger.  Of course my very own comedian, Jack, is tempted by the open mic session and Connor is intrigued by the independant film screenings.  Nevermind the music, including Coco and the Butterflies, Nathan Ball and DJ's Pharaoh K & Absynth, alongside comedy, The Roundhouse Brass Ensemble and disco yoga to name just a few. For the full line up visit the Camp Bestival website.

Are you heading to Camp Bestival at the end of the month with teenagers in tow? I am sure The Den will be the place you will find them this summer!

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Disclosure - This year I am one of the official Camp Bestival bloggers, working with them to share my top tips and reviewing the festival.  They have kindly given us a family weekend ticket, however all opinions are my own.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Health - Obesity and Gastric Band Surgery

Today has seen NICE announce their recommendations for gastric band surgery to be used for possibly tens of thousands of people, to hopefully alleviate the health problems caused by obesity.  Type 2 diabetes is the biggest concern, with a sharp increase in cases, which adds strain on to our already buckling healthcare budgets.  However I do not see this as the best way forward and will only create a short term fix.  People need to be educated not given expensive surgery that will hold higher risk than normal due to the patients being obese.


So what can we do to help these people?  Education is key, teaching people about healthy eating and quite possibly how to cook a meal from scratch.  Sadly home economics, or food tech as my children call it, is no longer a part of the weekly timetable.  Children and young people are not being taught how to cook at school often enough to make a major difference in their eating habits as adults.  My husband and I have taught all of our children to cook from a young age, starting with chopping veg for a meal,  to baking treats and actually preparing and cooking a family meal.  In our ever busy worlds I know many people reach for ready meals at the end of a chaotic day, no longer preparing a meal from scratch, not teaching their children how to cook.  Personally I think skills like this are essential and should be taught from the age of three in nurseries, throughout primary school and high school and not reserved to a once a term occurance.  Cooking and meal planning should be taught every week or once a fortnight.  I am sure our children will benefit far more from this than the endless testing they endure to prove to the government that they can do times tables, quadratic equations and spell words they rarely use.


Another contributory factor in the rise in obesity is our sedentary lifestyles.  I regularly see people in the village driving to the village shop, to take their children to cubs or brownies, to pop to the post office.  Maybe it is because I only passed my driving test six years ago and used to walk the children a mile to school when we lived in a nearby town, walked to the town centre, to nursery, but I find this ridiculous.  Nevermind trying to be greener, this quick walk would help their heart, their well being.  Just being outside can have positive benefits, I know I feel better after a brisk walk, however short.  Andy and I have a rule since moving to our village, we only drive to somewhere in the village if we are going to be very late, it's absolutely pouring.  Further impact on this sedentary lifestyle we see in the world is people are too busy.  No longer do people pop out at lunchtime, take a proper break but eat lunch at their desks.  They then leave work late or have a long commute and are too tired to cook a meal, favouring a quick snack or ready meal.  Now I am not saying all ready meals are bad for us, I have been known to eat them!  But maybe it is time to make sure we take our proper breaks, take a walk at lunchtime and make sure we leave enough time to walk to drop the children off at Brownies or to the gym, if it's possible.  I know sometimes driving is the only option.


Perhaps these ideas are just pie in the sky and I know it is not always easy to make healthy choices or to walk.  I am not stick thin, more a healthy size 12-14, yes I eat cake and drink wine, I am not a healthy saint.  But I do exercise and make healthy food choices most of the time and cook everyday.  Heading towards my forties and the menopause and my new profession makes me worry about my body shape more than it used to.  I know if I am overweight heading in to the menopause it is harder to lose weight when I reach the other side and being overweight post menopause will increase my chances of getting breast cancer.  Therefore if nothing else standing on my soapbox today has reminded me that I need to make sure that I need to exercise more regularly than I have been recently.  But for now it's fat Friday and tonight I will drink wine and eat crisps....well we all need a treat once a week.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo


Thursday, 10 July 2014

Baking - Triple Chocolate Cookies


Since finishing for the summer I have revisited my love of baking, indulgently perusing recipe book pages and baking treats for my children.  After a morning of gloss painting the staircase I decided to make a batch of cookies.  For the past couple of years Andy and I have been using a favourite recipe taken from The Australian Women's Weekly Chocolate cookbook.  So having teased some of you earlier on Instagram with photos of my baking I thought I would share the recipe with you.

Ingredients
125g butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
250g light muscavado sugar or soft brown sugar
1 egg
150g plain flour
35g self raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
35g cocoa
85g raisins
200g of chocolate, chopped coarsely (you can use dark, milk or white all three!)

1. Preheat oven to 180C / 160C fan oven.
2. Lightly grease two baking sheets.
3. Beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla extract and egg until smooth.
4. Stir in the flours, cocoa and bicarb.
5. Stir in the raisins and chocolate.
6. Put dessert spoonfuls of mixture on a baking sheet. Leave a space as they do spread out.  Also you can make smaller cookies by using a teaspoon or huge cookies using a tablespoon!
7. Bake for 10 mins. Leave for 5 mins after getting out of the oven then transfer onto a cooling rack.
8. Enjoy!

I am going to play with flavours over the next few weeks, but using the basic recipe.  Perhaps orange and cranberry, chocolate and ginger, tropical fruit (using dried pineapple, mango and papaya), lemon and raspberry.

Have fun baking and until next time take care.
Zoe
xo

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Year in Books - July


With the promise of long, lazy summer days looming I have been stock piling books from the library.  There are several that I really want to read, having read reviews from other bloggers taking part in The Year in Books and also from reviews in Red.  Infact there are so many books I want to read at the moment that I wish there was such a job as professional book reader! 

June was a bit of a miss for me regarding my book choice.  I managed about the first third but to be perfectly honest I wasn't enjoying it.  It was well written but didn't really capture my imagination.  So having promised myself that if I'm not enjoying a book after the first quarter to waste no more time on it.  Long gone are the days when I had to read books for my English A level or the English Literature part of my first degree.  Life is too short to be wasted on books I am not enjoying, especially when there are so many books I really want to read.  Therefore I have spent much of June catching up on favourite magazines (Red, The Simple Things and Country Living) and have almost finished Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff as recommended by Lucy, my thirteen year old daughter.  I have to admit Meg Rosoff is fast becoming one of my favourite authors this year.  Even though her work is aimed at young adults and my greying hair and fine lines suggest I no longer fit this category, I am enthralled by her stories.  I adore the way she writes and have yet to find one of her books that I don't devour with great zest.

Already part way into July I have a little pile of books aligned, ready and waiting for my attention.  Dear Life by Alice Munro, Five Days by Douglas Kennedy and Life After Life by Kate Atkinson are on my list this month and I still have Gone Girl waiting in the wings.  However I am not sure I will get through all of these this month but I am hoping for plenty of reading time.  So now I am just hoping for the sunshine to return so I can lay out in the garden and enjoy many happy hours with a book.

What are you reading this month?  Recommendations are always appreciated and be sure to see what everyone else is reading for The Year in Books project.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
x

Thursday, 3 July 2014

End of My Second Year

Endless blue sky - A view from my village.

Well that's it, I have finished my second year.  To be perfectly honest I can't quite believe how quickly this year has gone.  Last September I felt like I had a huge mountain to climb and then in January I actually wondered if I would make it to the end of this academic year.  But yesterday I completed my last shift for my second year, handed in my practice portfolio and drove home too tired to feel elated.  This morning I am still feeling a little emotional and incredibly tired, having climbed the mountain but am left impatiently waiting to know if I passed and can climb down the other side.  Exam and assignment results aren't due until later this month, so until then I will keep my fingers and toes crossed!

So I now have eight and a half weeks to rest, enjoy and just be.  The best part of course will be having time at home with my family.  I miss my children and husband when I am on placement as the long commute and funny hours mean that normal family time is limited.  Weekends become precious but during school terms these are often filled with sports clubs and matches, concerts, play rehersals and performances and birthday parties.  Therefore the summer holidays are even more precious, no commitments, just endless days to enjoy.  Of course I am hoping for many sunny, blue sky, warm, hazy, lazy summer days.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Wine Choices for Camping


With a summer of camping ahead I wanted some advice for which were the best wine boxes, as sometimes it is not possible to take glass bottles.  This rule applies especially for festivals and I know I want to take something worth drinking to Camp Bestival. So I have enlisted the help of Helen McGinn of The Knackered Mothers Wine Club to guide me in my choices and hopefully to help you all too.  


Camping Wine: The Essentials

When Zoe asked me for some tips on camping wines I was thrilled, not least because it gives me a chance to talk to you all about bag in box wines. Now, I know they often look horrible and some of them taste really horrible, but pick the right one and you’re sorted. They’re easier to transport than glass bottles. There’s less waste to carry home afterwards and the wine keeps fresher for longer as there’s no air in the bag (wine starts to oxidise once in contact with the air, losing freshness and fruit over time). Here’s the thing: bag in box wines are generally cheaper to produce than bottles so the wine inside – if chosen wisely – can be great value. And they’re definitely a greener option than bottles, which is energy hungry to produce and transport. Win-win, I say. For reds, look for classics like Australian Shiraz (Aldi do a good one, albeit a bit on the light side), Chilean Cabernet or Cotes du Rhone (the Tesco Simply one is brilliant, really spicy and earthy, just right for camping). No need to chill, either! But if you prefer white, go for a Chilean Chardonnay (Waitrose have got one) and stick it in an icebox. They all work out at around £4 per bottle.   

I’ll be at Camp Bestival this year, with my own wine parlour! There’ll be a wine tasting on Saturday, with some of my current favourite wines. Let me know if you’ll be there, would be lovely to meet you. And I’ll save you some wine, obviously. For more information on the Knackered Mother’s Wine Club at Camp Bestival, click here (http://www.campbestival.net/line-up/2014-line-up/knackered-mothers-wine-club/)


For weekly wine recommendations, visit my blog at www.knackeredmotherswineclub.com


Thank you Helen, I will definitely be trying these this summer and look forward to escaping to your wine parlour at Camp Bestival.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Almost 40 - A Charity Challenge

As the big 4 0 gets closer I am finding that I want to make sure I do things I have wanted to do for ages.  It's not that I feel time is running out, but I feel now is the time to take on a challenge or two.  No more talking about maybe one day, but actually committing to something.  Since my teens I have worked as a volunteer in various guises, however I have never done anything that really takes me out of my comfort zone, that pushes me hard and truly challenges me.  So next year I am planning on changing this, with ideas for pushing myself harder and making a difference in other peoples lives, through raising funds and giving up my time to volunteer.  Obviously I am a little tied to my studies and placement time but this time next year I will be qualified (fingers crossed).  

So what am I planning on doing?  Well I have always wanted to do the Moonwalk in London.  Why? It will push my fitness, stamina and perseverance to new levels and I actually think it will be amazingly liberating, walking the streets of London through the night in a decorated bra.  But also this is no raise money to support vital work for breast cancer research, a cause closely related to my new career. Another challenge I am seriously considering for next year is one that I have only been aware of very recently.  Cancel Cancer Africa is a breast cancer awareness programme in Africa, helping women in various parts of the continent look for signs of breast cancer and even offer screening to them.  They have announced the schedule of trips for 2015 and either the trip to Ghana or Kenya would fit with my plans next year.  I would travel with them for two weeks, helping raise awareness of breast cancer for women who have limited medical care.  

However breast cancer is not my only interest when it comes to raising funds and volunteering.  I also would love to work with Teenage Cancer Trust in some capacity or take on a challenge for them.  Their work is vital in ensuring teenagers and young adults get care and hospital facilities that better suit their needs.  I would also like to look at working to promote more volunteers helping with listening to children read in the classroom.  This is a vital part of their education and I know from experience that children are not listened to reguarly but having people help once a week makes a huge difference.

It would seem I am going to be busy if I manage to do all of this.  Have you considered pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to raise money for charity? I would love to know if you planning anything special this year or next year.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo