cool grandparents

Throughout my childhood, I had cool grandparents. They held a very special place in my heart. They were the foundation of our family and even if we had our ups and downs, they were the unmovable rocks that we could turn to. If one of my grandparents pulled me up on something, it was worse than being told off by mum or dad. These were the people at the top of my pyramid of love and those I never wanted to upset.

Each grandparent offered something different. Nana lived in Waterloo, an Irish immigrant who had been widowed way too early with four young sons to look after. A staunch Catholic, she would grill me every weekend asking if I had been to mass or not. Nana liked to make cupcakes, she measured everything with a cup and always allowed us to lick out the bowl afterwards.

My mother’s parents lived closer to us, grandad was Hungarian with a fascinating history I learned later in life. My grandmother came from a line of teachers, her own father a headmaster at a grammar school and her mother a primary school teacher… maybe moving to education wasn’t so far off of my life journey after all!

These special people, who stood at the sidelines of my childhood and encouraged me at every step, have been fundamental in my life and are a presence I am very keen to encourage in the twin’s life. In fact, I was overjoyed (and a little bit jealous) of them shooting off to County Durham over the summer holidays for a fortnight with Nonna and Grandad.

There was already an incredibly strong connection between the twins and the gramps but spending this special time with them and getting up to so many fabulous activities (Harry Potter castles, Hadrian’s Wall and making pottery) strengthened the bond even more. Reinforcing the idea that grandparents are enormously important in a growing child’s life.

The girls still talk today about their summer holiday antics and are plotting to return next year too. I’m not sure the grandparents know about it yet though!

They think of their grandparents as cool people to be with, they take them to nice places, let them stay up ‘late’, allow them into the kitchen to cook and bake. Their grandparents are full of knowledge – they encourage them to read, to listen, to ask questions and to try new things.

I can honestly say that the girls thrive in their company and it’s so good for them to be with other inspiring adults rather than all the time with us.

How to be cool grandparents

If you are about to become a grandparent I wish you a lifetime of happiness ahead, it’s one very special relationship that keeps on giving. If you’re looking for some top tips on how to be a cool grandparent, I found this fun infographic on Shepherds Friendly that gives some really good ideas to keep in mind as you develop your relationships.

Shepherds Friendly also have an efficient plan for saving for your grandchildren’s future that is worth a read. Take a look at their Young Savers Plan for more information to see if it’s for you.

Following on from my recent post of Things to do in Suffolk, after our recent visit to the Airstream Glamping park. I thought I’d turn my attention to places closer to home. The autumn and winter are the perfect time to get out and about locally. We have Pocahontas on our doorstep, along with Shorne Country Park which is a huge family favourite, Jeskyns Park and of course, our beloved Thanet where we have our caravan.

Even with all of these opportunities, I still have an enormous bucket list of where I’d like to take the girls on day trips close to home.

Things to do in Kent

Leeds Castle

Leeds castle

We have been to visit Leeds Castle on a number of occasions and we shall certainly be returning soon as there is always something exciting to see. This is also where we find our local Go Ape centre which the twins adore and want to return to soon.

Dover

Dover is high on my list as I took Thomas and Megan there when they were children and we visited Dover Castle, the Tunnels in the cliffs with a fascinating wartime history and of course, the notorious White Cliffs of Dover. I suggest taking a picnic along and making a day of it.

Canterbury

I adore Canterbury and now my niece has moved there to study at the university I shall hopefully be going down more often. Canterbury city is a marvellous place to wander, it has a powerful history to take in, hundreds of shops, pubs and restaurants to choose from, a cathedral to visit and plenty more to keep you amused and the children too. One of my favourite bars is the old Pound which sits outside the town wall. You can sit and drink in one of the cells!

Margate

shell grotto margate

How can I not mention Margate? If you are still thinking of a run-down, dilapidated seaside town you are very wrong and I strongly suggest you visit to see just how far Margate has come over the past few years. With the rebirth of Dreamland and the addition of the Turner Contemporary, Margate has become the place to be both in summer and winter. Walk the streets of the Old Town, visit the Shell Grotto, eat some delicious fish and chips and visit one of the many trendy bars and pubs that are popping up all over the place.

Hever Castle

The perfect example of an item on my bucket list! I remember visiting Hever Castle with the school when I was in junior school and it is a place I would love to take the twins. A romantic 13th century moated castle that was Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, it has magnificent interiors to walk through and wonder about the time Anne herself lived there plus, award-winning gardens. Of course, the Maze is a definite visit!

If you are looking for somewhere special to stay, take a look at Kent and Sussex Cottages as they have a wonderful selection of all budgets and preferences.

Things to do in Sussex

Royal Pavillion

My great grandma used to live in Hove, just along from Brighton and we would visit her in the summer. One summer we visited the Royal Pavilion and I was smitten with the beautiful rooms and decor of the palace. I want to take the twins there so they too can experience this historical landmark.

South Downs and the Seven Sisters

Friends of mine recently posted some fabulous pictures on social media after a day trip to the Seven Sisters. I think it would be a perfect day trip with a picnic in tow. Hopefully, the sun would shine and I could grab some great photos!

Rye Harbour and nature reserve

Rye beach hut

We visited Rye a long time ago when the twins were still sharing a cot! We had a wonderful few days there and visited the town plus the local beach where I took the photo of this gorgeous beach hut. I would love to return and thoroughly recommend it to friends and family.

There are plenty of places to stay in all of the above areas but if you are looking for a cottage, that offers that little bit more, then take a look at Suffolk Secrets.

This is a collaborative post – all opinions are my own.

sorry you're leaving

Just over two years ago I stepped into James Villas HQ as a social media executive and set to work on helping to develop the brand’s social channels. I was so excited to have been given the opportunity and I embraced it with open arms ready to get stuck into any task that was thrown my way.

It has been the most incredible journey where I have learnt so much!

Working as part of a team and having my copy proofed and checked has been a good wake up call, who knew I was so keen on long sentences? I have learnt to slow down, take my time and re-read my work. I hope you are starting to see these small changes coming through.

I have learnt to think more closely about images – do they reflect what I am saying?

I have learnt that social channels are fickle, we don’t own them ‘they’ do. Facebook might only show a tiny percentage of your followers your hard work, it’s incredibly frustrating and I can often be found ranting about Facebook…

I have also learnt that working full time alongside running a home, family and life outside of the office doors is a real struggle. My main challenge came with trying to cover the school holidays. The girls get 13 weeks off and I had 21 days. It was this, that led me to hand in my notice – something I never believed I would do. I had imagined working until my retirement at James.

When I was reflecting on my life and how to make it better I started to search for jobs that would compliment being a mum.

I needed a job that fits in with school holidays and school hours. That would allow me to take the girls to after school clubs without skidding out of one door and screeching into the next, red-faced and often having forgotten something or even worse – arriving at the wrong time.

I had always pushed teaching to one side as I didn’t think I’d be good at it but as I started to look more closely at the opportunities in local schools, I saw our local primary was looking for a TA. The more I thought about the job, read the role description, the more it became a very exciting prospect.

I applied for the job and was successful – I start work on Monday morning!

I am swapping the weekly business meetings for a classroom of 8 year olds.

I am exchanging my snatched half hour lunch to who knows? Playground duty, lunchtime clubs or getting to know the teachers in the staff room?

I shall be helping out with reading and maths, chatting about geography and science. I shall be doing all manner of tasks to assist the teacher and doing my bit to help these young fresh minds find their way.

I shall also be grabbing back a bit of time for me. I want to pick up my blogging, tidy my house, read a book, help Alice learn to sew, help Bessie learn to play the piano. I want to get back into cooking again, not just quickly pulling a meal together to feed the family.

I am also going to start the 0 – 5k challenge as I have managed to put a stone since working full time.

So many things to do but my heart is lighter and I think I’m on to something good here … what do you think?

desk

You know those posts you see on Facebook about untidy desks belonging to genii (or geniuses for you lesser mortals)? Well, I’d like to think my untidy desk is showing signs of my genius too. However, if I am honest with myself, it’s because I have too many ideas, too many hobbies and I’m trying to get too much done in not enough time. So it all piles up and has an incongruous look of efficiency about it …or not – depending who’s looking at it.

My husband is a very patient man and he lets me get away with it most of the time but occasionally he will make a dig, a snide comment about the amount of trash I have collected in my corner of the room.

I have a ton of excuses ready to throw back at him but if the truth be known, he’s right BUT YOU’RE NOT TO TELL HIM.

The twins are fast growing up and also delving into lots of projects of their own. My mess has inspired them to have a go at weaving, to try their hand at sketchbook club and the latest passion – to sew.

After giving Alice a sewing machine for her birthday, it quickly became apparent that she loved it and would be making great use of her gift. The family very helpfully started mentioning projects she could help them with … ripped jeans, dad’s pants that needed mending and various buttons that needed sewing back on to shirts, jackets and trousers. But Alice wants to get creating, she would like to be a fashion designer she says and I would like to encourage that idea. After all, which mother wouldn’t want to be dressed head to toe in designer gear?

desk

Now, sewing can create a lot of ‘mess‘. Apart from the machine, there is fabric, cotton, needles, scissors and all manner of tools that go into making this hobby as enjoyable as it is. So we need a space to keep everything.

As the 4th small bedroom has only ever been used as a dumping ground and occasionally as a guest room, I decided to convert it into a creative space. Husband should be pleased as all manner of crafts can now live there rather than dotted around the living area. I haven’t had time to strip wallpaper and paint the walls but I hope you can look past the outdated decor we inherited 7 years ago and see what it will be soon. I have even been collecting ideas on a Pinterest board to inspire me and maybe you will get more of a feel from there.

To start our creative space we have this sturdy white desk from Kit Out My Office for Alice to sit at and sew, she has been drawing some designs for her first projects and I can’t wait to start helping her make them come to life.

The desk comes flat packed in 3 separate boxes and is easily put together with the help of an electric screwdriver. It didn’t take us long at all. The drawer slots in easily and is a good space to keep all manner of tools. It is sturdy and we chose all white but the drawer face comes in a variety of bright colours to choose from.

fashion designs

We are also going to use this space for my weaving and for keeping our sketchbook club bits and pieces. In fact, as the room has fitted wardrobes, I can see all manner of crafts moving up to this room soon.

Disclosure: We were sent the desk for the purpose of this post. All opinions are my own

boots for dog walkingNovember is Baxter’s birthday and he will be 4 years old. In January we’ll be counting 3 years since we left Battersea Dogs Home with him and he became such an important part of our family. We really couldn’t imagine life without him nowadays.

We’ve all got to know each other very well and it’s fascinating to understand him more as time passes.

I mean, we always knew he liked food, he lives for it! I can’t go into the kitchen without him appearing in the doorway with the saddest, hard-done-by look on his face. I can’t open any packaging that remotely rustles without him leaping off the sofa and heading towards the promising noise. In fact, I would go as far as saying that food is Baxter’s most favourite thing in the whole world.

In second place of Baxter’s favourite things is a lap. You haven’t even sat down properly and he’s already climbing onto your lap settling himself as comfy as possible regardless if you’ve yet to put your mug of hot steaming tea down. Once he is comfy, he takes a huge sigh and relaxes into you, dropping off to sleep with a loud snore.

walking the dog on the beach

He hates being left at home alone though and will stand blocking the front door if he can get there before you. When you send him back into the lounge the look on his face is so sad it is heartbreaking. On the flip side – mention the ‘w’ word and he goes crazy, yapping excitedly until you’ve got your boots, coat and doggy bags ready!

We try to walk him twice a day, fitting it around work, after-school clubs and every other commitment that goes into daily life. We are very lucky that either Oana (my daughter in law) or our lovely next-door neighbour, will take him out to stretch his legs when we are at work/school.

However, Dad is king of the dog walking and the two of them set off on their walks on a regular basis. Around the Warren (a local green area), across the fields on the old WWII runway or, when we are at the coast, the beach.

Now Baxter has a dream…that of catching a seagull and whenever we are at the coast he pulls as hard as he can to get on the sand to chase them. So, we always make a point of stopping off at the beach and watching him run as fast as he can across the sand chasing the gulls who circle above him and return laughing above him out of reach. If he runs into the sea, which he doesn’t like as he’s not too sure what to make of the constant waves rolling in. However, should he find himself soaking wet, he will then roll in the sand to dry himself off….you can imagine the state he gets in, can’t you?

boots for dog walking

All this dog walking requires some good quality footwear and jackets. You need to know that your feet are going to stay warm and dry and you want to be sure you won’t get wet or cold as you are out in all weathers.

Millets have a huge selection of outdoors clothes including waterproof jackets, fleece, hats & gloves and footwear. They got in touch and asked if we’d like to choose two pieces and review them. Dad checked out the men’s selection and found a great pair of boots and a green parka.

He’s been wearing them a lot. At the park, on the beach and for walks around the area we live in. He’s very pleased with his choices. The boots are just what he was looking for walking the dog. They are comfortable, high to the ankle and have a good grip on the sole. The jacket (minus the fur trim around the hood – that’s not him at all) has also been a huge success. He has tested it on very windy days (Storm Brian and Ophelia) and he has been caught in the rain. He made a point of telling me how impressed he was and pointing out the beads of water running down the coat rather than penetrating the fabric.

Success Millets! The man and his dog are both very pleased. However, we still need to catch that seagull…

boots for dog walking

Disclosure: Millets online sent us the jacket and boots for dad for the purpose of this post. All opinions are our own.