Parent tips for prepping your teen for their first year at uni

My son is now in his 3rd year at uni ( he still has another year to complete) and I have picked up a few helpful tips along the way, first of all dealing with moving into halls and then moving into shared accommodation after that.

I was in your shoes a few years ago worrying myself to death about how he was going to cope with uni, cook for himself, budget his money and ultimately not get himself into any awful situations or get hurt!! ( I know, I know but c’mon they are our little babies after all).

So having learned some things along the way I thought I would share my wisdom to either save you a crap load of money ( no they really do not need everything AND the kitchen sink) or reassure you that your little baby will be just FINE!

This was his first car load when he left for the 1st year……………we had to go back the next day with his guitar, keyboard, amp and desk chair!!!

 

So here goes………..

!. They will NOT starve!! My son could really only cook basic things and wasn’t interested in learning before he went. But guess what? He didn’t starve or get food poisoning either. He is a very plain and repetitive eater ( that’s the Asperger’s affect – he’s always been the same) so this actually made his shopping cheaper and more manageable. Pizzas, pasta and pesto, chicken, bacon, sausages, eggs, Shreddies, chocolate croissants, milk and cartons of orange juice saw him through most weeks with a cheeky takeaway or two along the way.

2. They will not do any washing! It does not matter how particular they are with their clothes at home with good ‘ol mammy doing their washing………………no, they literally all turn into dirty skanks when they move away and have to do it themselves……….honestly, just you wait. ‘ Do you know how much it is to use the washing machine and dryer in the laundry room?’ was my son’s drivel of an excuse. Yep their picky ways will go out of the window when they have to physically wash their own stuff……………………………….and don;t get me started on the bedding! URGH!

3. They will learn to budget their money! We actually found that having had very little spare cash when the boys where growing up as there was only one wage coming in, although frustrating in so many ways, it was actually a hidden bonus as my son was bloody brilliant at managing the little amount of money he budgeted for each week! Silver linings and all that.

4. They will grow up fast! So they may still be your little babies but I tell you a few months away thrown into the real world will result in changes you never thought was possible. They learn to manage their time, get to lessons, deal with finding their way around new towns and ultimately meeting lots of new friends. So beware, when they do come home and you happen to casually ask where they are going to or who they are going out with you will get the Paddington #hardstare!

5. They will actually appreciate you more! Seriously, when they have cooked all their own meals for months and their clothes and bedding are crispy and rank ( I kid you not!)  then they come home for Christmas and all their washing gets done and smells nice, and you serve up a proper mum’s roast dinner………………..the Thank you’s will come flying at you!

6. Do NOT bother with cleaning products galore! Seriously they will NOT clean their rooms. So just pop a couple of packs of anti bacterial cleaning wipes in there and that will cover most things.

It’s hard as a mum not to think of every eventuality and buy accordingly sending them away to uni with everything but the kitchen sink ( only because you couldn’t physically fit it in the car!). So here’s a few few tips that could save you some money that I had to learn the hard way……………

**They do NOT need every cooking appliance. A couple of pots, a frying pan and I would advise a small George Forman grill. My son literally wore his grill out in the first year and I had to replace it. He said he used it every singe day- think bacon or sausage sandwiches, grilled chicken breasts etc all cooked easily, quickly and with very little mess or washing up. Equally if they love a toastie then a sandwich maker is a great addition.

**As far as plates, cutlery pots and pans etc are concerned I have a top tip. Stay away from the run of the mill black and grey and go for a bold colour. That way they know exactly which one’s are theirs! I got red plates, cutlery and pots from Wilkinsons when my son first went and he always said it was great as he could easily recognise his own belongings ( due to his Asperger’s he takes little notice of and does not immediately recognise what’s his…………only recently he came down wearing his brothers jeans and didn’t even notice!!). Equally most lists will say 1xplate/bowl etc – NOPE……….. send them with 2 of everything, plates, bowls, glasses and mugs (if they like their tea and coffee) as I guarantee you they will NOT wash up every time they have eaten. Also its the real world and other students will use their plates if theirs are dirty! Be warned.

**Send them with a made by you medicine box. So paracetamol, Ibruprofen, plasters, hayfever tablets, Imodium, cough mixture and anything else that you would normally have at home. Within the first month they will definitely get ‘Freshers Flu’ from late nights, drinking, not eating their 5 a day etc etc. My son is in his 3rd year and I still do this now and he loves it as he has everything we have at home so if he doesn’t feel well he has something to hand without having to go to the shops.

**Buy 2 sets of bedding and towels! That way if they do decide to wash their bedding ( wishful thinking of course!) or their towels, they do not have to worry about getting it washed and dried in one day.

**Buy them lots of extra socks and underwear, like I say they don’t clothes wash very often so I would rather my son have LOTS of spares than him get 4 days from one pair of socks or boxers!! I did warn you earlier they turned into dirty skanks.

**Do NOT waste lots of money on loads of stationary. It will be a waste of time. My son studies Law and we thought he would need loads of file blocks of paper………..WRONG! Most of their lessons can be watched again online, and most of their work in all done on computer and emailed. They will not need loads of pretty paper and stickers and higlighters!

**Send them with a full term’s supply of wash kit supplies. Extra shower gels, shampoo, toothpastes, wipes, deodorants etc as they will not want to spend their already budgeted weekly allowance on these…………so refer back to the ‘dirty skank’ observations………….at least you know their personal hygiene will not be a problem!

**As far as the bank accounts go I got my son to open 2. First one was his student account that their grants etc get paid into and an overdraft is arranged. The 2nd one is a normal current account. I got my son to work out all his money with his grants and sort a weekly amount he was going to live off. That amount was set up as a direct debit/ standing order type payment from his student account with the bulk of his money to his current account. That way he found it easier to track his weekly living budget rather than inadvertently dip into the main bulk of his student loan and then not have enough money to see him through his uni year. So he started with a £70 weekly amount and after a month or two he reduced it to £60 as he was finding he didn’t actually need it all. That allowed him a more responsible control over his full student loan.

So there you have it my lovelies, its a tough time for us mum’s letting our babies go. It’s definitely strange at first and is a sign of things to come when they start going off into the big wide world making their own lives. I have seen huge changes in my son since that first year he went away, I think until they actually do go off and venture into their own things it’s difficult to see them as anything other than children! My eldest son is now 20 and I can tell you it’s been the best thing for him, I do see him as much moire capable now rather than instantly worry when he does something new.

If you’ve had a teen go off to uni I would love to know the useless things you wasted money on that they never used, so drop me a message in the comments.

Biggin Hill Festival of Flight Air Show 2018

Biggin Hill airport is literally 30 minutes from where we live and yet in the 22 years we have lived here we have never gone to the airshow. We are both ex RAF (it’s where we both met) and love this sort of thing and have often been to Duxford Imperial War Museum and other similar places when we are on holiday.

This year was no different, to be fair, until a friend said she had booked tickets to go and so we jumped on their band wagon and booked tickets literally the day before we went. The planned displays sounded good and my friend, who has always wanted to see the Red Arrows display, was excited to hopefully see them.

The weather when we arrived was pretty rubbish with fairly low cloud, and although the forecast was to improve, we weren’t holding out much hope for the Red Arrows display ( I’m ex air traffic control………….so have a fair idea of judging whether they can display or not). Although they took off to display at Eastbourne they were quickly returned due to the weather. Fortunately for us their planned display was not until the end of the day so we just kept our fingers crossed.

Having not been before we were pretty unsure on what would be there, you would expect at least some static displays and some wartime era vehicles and memorabilia. So we decided to have a wander around and have a good nosey before claiming our picnic and watching spot (be warned veterans of this airshow take this very seriously I can tell you, and we saw some fabulous group set ups!).

What we didn’t expect to come across was a guy set up with two MOD style scooters and memorabilia from the film Quadrophenia. If you are of a certain age you will know exactly the film I’m talking about. So, like you do, we stopped to take a few pictures ( well I did, I’m always the one taking the pics and popping on insta- my husband hates social media). As we got chatting to the guy there it turns out he owned the main scooter on display and was actually one of the main extras in the film! Quadrophenia is one of our all time favourite films, I cannot even tell you how many times we have seen it, and so we continued to chat with Roy (the owner). He even let me sit on the scooter for a picture which literally MADE. MY. DAY!

It turns out I could’ve have chatted to him for hours. He was a lovely guy and had ALL the stories from behind the scenes. What I’ve always wanted to know was how many times they had to film the scooter going over the cliff at Beachy Head in the last scene…………………….turns out its not an easy question to answer! He told us that that particular scene was filmed in the first few days of filming, that it was almost filmed back to front due to filming starting in September and the weather still had to look nice and summery for the scenes in Brighton. He remembers 6 almost identical scooters there on the day ( one of which Phil Daniels damaged slightly having a ride around on while the grass was still wet in the morning!). Roy told us that because he gets asked this question a lot he asked the director the last time there was a meet up, and even the director couldn’t fully remember!

Roy- the owner of the original scooter. A lovely guy and I could have talked to him all day!

 

He also told us that his particular scooter had been ear marked for Sting’s character as it was so distinctive, but then as you may know the scooter eventually used in the film for his character was a slick, upmarket one adorned with the distinctive lights (if you’ve seen it you’ll know what I’m talking about). Then, when that was decided Roy’s scooter with its stand out union jack design, had to always be on the sidelines so as not to outshine Sting’s bike. There were lots of other stories too but this post would end up being way too long. However, this scooter is the ONLY remaining one from the filming, it has been used by The Who at various events, appeared on album covers and also for cast reunions with the director. Anyway if you are interested in more details pop over to Roy’s website unionjackscooter.co.uk as he has some great pics on there.

 

 

But anyway lets get back to the airshow. We eventually met with our friends and plonked ourselves in a decent spot for the rest of the afternoon. The weather surprisingly decided to play ball and the sunshine finally came out and the clouds cleared away ( my sunburnt face can vouch for that – I am literally the only person who could go dressed for winter, feeling the cold, and still get bloody sunburnt). This meant we got the full display programme which turned out to be a real mix over a couple of hours.

One of my absolute favourites, is the wing walker planes (in my day they were known as the Crunchie planes, then at one point they were Utterly Butterly). But at the moment they have no sponsor which is such a shame. I will always have a soft spot for these planes due to the fact I have done wing walking myself- twice in fact!

 

Yes, in my earlier days, before marriage and kids and any form of chronic illness, I actually was kind of adventurous!  Both times were while I was in the Royal Air Force serving at St Mawgan. They used to hold an international air day there and the Officers who organised it ran a competition for the local area for people to get the chance of having a go. My sergeant at the time put my name down as a joke thinking I wouldn’t do it………WRONG! So a few days before the air show, myself and a the two winners of the comp all had a trial and I bloody LOVED it! The following year though, those same officers forgot to run the competition in the local paper and so came into me the day before the show and asked if I would do it for the actual air show itself……………….erm, no brainer for me…..YES…………and I got the day off work (at the time I worked in the ops room that had no windows). So, whenever I see these planes I can appreciate how difficult it is to do, and yet how easy they make it look, and just love watching them.

There were also lots of Battle of Britain Memorial aircraft displaying on the day too, Spitfires, Hurricane, Lancaster along with a Messerschmidt 109, and a great re enactment of an actual bombing raid that took place back in the day at Biggin Hill itself during the war.

 

But for the younger kids and those that like the faster jets, the big draw is definitely the Red Arrows. Unfortunately, although they may be planned to display they aren’t always able to display due to the fabulous british weather. In fact, that particular day they were due to display at Eastbourne but were returned because the weather was not playing ball. It can be unbelievably frustrating when they don’t, yet as an ex air traffic controller I totally get why they can’t, so it’s a real treat to see them do their thing when they can display. They have different levels of display to help account for the weather. A flat display will be during cloudy weather with just low fly pasts. A Rolling display which is for better weather conditions that allows them to go up to about 2500ft  ( I think) and then the full display which can go up to around 7500ft (I think). Although our weather had improved so much we could have had the full display there were , in fact, restrictions on the airspace over the surrounding Biggin Hill area and so we had the rolling display on that day. Watching the Red Arrows just does not get old- I love it! My friend had tried to see them display at a few different events over the last few years and had never been lucky- until Sunday that is. We were obviously her lucky charm  ( taking full credit obvs) and they did not disappoint! They never do.

Now these air shows generally don’t come cheap to be fair and this one was £29 for an adult ticket, so almost £60 for just me and my OH. As the weather improved greatly and we had our full display programme for the afternoon, I would therefore say it was worth the money for us. However, if you were going as a family ( and I’m presuming a child’s ticket would hopefully be cheaper!) I can see how that would add up to being a very expensive day out. One of the best things about it is that it is really family orientated as far as I could see. There was some fair ground rides and go carts along with lots of other, pay as you go, rides for the kids ( so you can see how this could run up to being an extortionate day out!). There were lots of stalls selling merchandise, and lots of wartime and classic vehicles to look around.

It was very well organised ( although we will skip over the leaving the car park at the end of the day fiasco) with lots of toilet facilities, food and drink vendors and lots of large bins for the rubbish. There was a separate area for any disabled visitors and their families to set up ( including their own toilet facilities) that was much less crowded and busy which gave wheelchair and mobility scooter users much more room to move around.

I loved the fact that it seemed to be a real family style event, with picnic blankets and chairs and large family groups all enjoying the day. Would I go again? Absolutely……………we love an air show, we love aircraft museums and I love anything wartime related ( I don’t know why, but I just do!).

So have you been before- if so I would love to know if you felt it was value for money? I would love to hear your views in the comments.

Also have you ever seen the Red Arrows display- what did you think?

 

So, what’s next for Mrs B?

I’ve certainly been asking myself that for a while now. I’m a mum of 2 boys but they are now 20 and 17 (almost18), finding their own independence, as one is at uni and the other is at 6th form and also working a part time job. I have been married for 24 years and my hubby is a shift worker so that means I now spend the majority of my time alone! Due to my illness and chronic pain I’m no longer able to work a conventional job (I was a driving instructor), but I’m lucky that blogging and running social media accounts can be done in pj’s even on a bad day if necessary.

Yet when the boys where younger my life was busy (illness or not) with after school clubs, kids parties, meeting up with friends in the holidays etc, and although I am still officially a taxi service, a cook and a bank, my life is much more subdued. That in itself gives you time…………………..LOTS of time! Time to ponder and think about your own role in life. Yes I am still a wife and a mum but I am also ME. So, with 48 looming very quickly (and my hubby turning 50 last year!) I am starting to think about my time. How do I want to spend my time now my kids are off doing their own thing most of the time? Read more

It’s been a while!

Well it’s certainly been a while since I have been on here!

It’s not like there hasn’t been anything going on for me to write about it’s more like I haven’t had the urge to write, but lately that has been changing. So rather than bore you will loads of catch up posts I thought I would do a quick run through everything that has been going on.

So this year I have had more hospital imput for my M.E/ Fibromyalgia than I have over the last 8 years since being diagnosed. Finally I managed to get physio treatment for the Carpel Tunnel in my left hand which has helped ease some of the numbness at least. I have also been referred onto a pain management course due to start late September for 7 weeks and I hope that helps me with at least pacing any activity I do ( I am absolutely rubbish at saying ‘No’ to anyone and generally end up overdoing things and then crashing afterwards!). The course will run me up to almost Christmas when I have been told I may get referred onto an exercise class suitable to help with my illness.

Excitingly, earlier this year a ‘dream job’ sort of fell into my lap via a good friend of mine. Dream job in the fact I can do the job in my pj’s, at anytime of day, keeping my own time! Sounds bloody good eh? It comes in the form of running a social media account for a local clothing boutique called Kimmicass (would love you to come and give us a follow) that sells amazing womens clothing that you just cannot find in the high street shops (and will be looking to expand and sell online as well as open more shops too). This one account actually led to a second account for a London florist who lives locally but works independantly for clients like the V&A! This account is a slow burner and is not fully up and running but is definitely getting there and should be more active before Christmas. So how great is that? Literally a dream job for me as with my illness its difficult to predict health wise how I will be feeling on any particular day, but this job does not require me to be anywhere in particular for any length of time! So I get to work from home in my pj’s which I am loving ………….total result!

Also, we had an amazing surprise with my youngest’s sons GCSE results. His plan was originally to do a Level 3 Early years Childcare course at college which he needed 5 passes including English and Maths. Now hes a clever boy so we knew he would get the 5 passes unfortunately his worst subject is maths so we were extremely concerned ( as was he) that he wouldn’t pass that and therefore not be able to do his course. So the results morning was literally the most stressful time ever and I had lots of contingency plans running through my head should he not get his maths. Well talk about a total surprise, not only did he get a level 5 in his Maths ( the new marking system is numbered!) but he also passed ALL 10 GCSE’s and did so well was offered a place back at the school’s 6Th Form!! He was so gobsmacked he literally didn’t know what to do with himself and although he still went over to the college to enrol he ended up taking the place at 6th form to do A levels instead. As you could imagine it was total surprise all round so we ended up going out to his favourite restaurant to celebrate………….it would have been rude not to!

alex meal out

Then it was birthday celebrations for my husband who was turning 50 at the end of August…………….50!! Now he’s not one for big parties etc although is more than happy to go to others he hates being centre of attention himself. So I came up with a cunning plan to use the money that a big party would cost and instead take him away to somewhere I know he has wanted to go to for a long time- ROME! So I managed to find a little family run boutique hotel in the centre of Rome for 4 nights and booked that and some flights etc for early October for the two of us. However, because this was going to be his only present , except for a few bits from the boys, I wanted to make it a little special. So, I came up with the idea of putting some clues together to put inside a cabin size suitcase and then wrap it all up. So I numbered the clues…

  1. A picture of a fountain and some Euro coins (for the Trevy Fountain)
  2. A spanish style fan with a picture of some stone steps ( for the Spanish Steps)
  3. A rosary (hopefully making him think Catholic!)
  4. A dvd of Sparticus with a small Italian flag!! (The Colosseum obviously)

Each clue was wrapped up and numbered and then his present was a gift of 2 guide books for Rome with the flight tickets inside.

present box

suitcase clues

suitcase pic

Now my hubby is not one for showing emotion at ALL but as he opened the guide books his eyes did well up and his hands were physically shaking which showed me he literally had no clue up until that point of what his present was. I had even gone behind his back to one of his work colleagues to help me book his time off work and get it approved (he is in the police so it’s not an easy thing to do without him finding out)……………..BUT I BLOODY DID IT!

rich and present

It was a tough thing to make all the decisions on my own with regard to the flights, the hotel and when to go so I was actually quite relieved when it all seemed to work out. Thankfully now I can relax as I know he will sort everything else out from here- he has already done our medical cards and booked airport parking! The only time throughout that I gave myself a total heart attack was when my Mum asked me on the phone if our passports are in date! For anyone who doesn’t know us we never go away anywhere abroad as we cannot afford it normally and the last time i used my passport was when he took me to Venice for my 40th birthday 7 years ago……………………………………..SO THANKFULLY THEY WERE IN DATE!!

**So if anyone has any recommendations for Rome please let me know**

We also took my eldest back to uni last weekend (sobs) and helped him move into his new shared house ( which is a total state and will be another blog post on its own!) so I am missing him already sitting with us for dinner etc.

Next up is my youngest 17th birthday in a few weeks time before we can get really excited about our trip.

Anyway, it’s lovely to be back and have the urge to put things down in black and white again and would love to hear what you have all been up to. If

Teach your children not to live in fear

So, the last few months have seen us endure some pretty horrific terrorist attacks around the world as well and 3 in 3 months in this country alone, and I hear more and more people online sharing their fears for their children’s future in such a world. I too share those fears even though I have older teens now I wonder what will become their ‘normal’ in say the next 20 years with regards to terrorism, policing and our country’s safety. What will they be bringing their future children into in many years to come?

However, I am  from Belfast, born in 1970 and lived my youngest years into my teens throughout the height of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. The absolute full extent would probably never have been covered in the national media forums unless it involved the mainland itself, but still it continued on a very daily basis in my area as well as many others. My parents back then probably had the exact same fears about our future as children with armed police and the Army patrolling our streets and wondering where it would all end up.

Yet here I am! Old enough to have my own family and worry about their future in the way my parents did before me. Coming from a very loyalist area ( being Protestant) my parents never discussed religion or politics in front of us. We were never brought up with extremist views one way or the other. They never stopped us playing outside, or going anywhere or doing anything…………………life just carried on. We were never brought up to actively ‘hate’ anyone just because a paramilitary group had decided to plant a bomb,or  kill innocent people, or shoot a single person in retaliation for another attack. We were not brought up to think that ‘tit for tat’ killings where OK. As kids we had been segregated to either Protestant or Catholic areas to live and for schooling etc. Yet I remember how excited I was when I got my first part time job in Belfast city centre working inn Argos knowing that I would be ‘mixing’ with Catholics and working in a ‘mixed’ area. I had a blast in that job. The people I met and the friends I made just made my time there brilliant fun.

What I am trying to say is that my parents never made religion and the issues surrounding it in Northern Ireland and issue for us growing up. We were not brought up to ‘hate’ a person just because they were a different religion to ourselves.

So  if you are afraid of what the future holds for your children then teach them that not everyone of that race or religion believes the same as those extremists. I never once thought that all Catholics ( back in the days of The Troubles ) were affiliated or believed the same as the IRA and I can only thank my parents for that.

Do not get me wrong, my absolute heart goes out to each and every person who has been affected by these atrocities and yes I would love to see an end to them too, it’s a total heartbreak that most of us cannot even begin to imagine or understand what they must be going through.

It is a scary world, but do not pass on your adult fears to your children before they are able to comprehend or begin to understand. Instead, teach them to see and take everyone on face value, to not be afraid when they see armed police or possibly armed forces on the streets- these people are here to protect us. I was in my mid teens on holiday in Plymouth when I saw the very first policeman in shirt sleeves with no body armour, unarmed and on his own!! Until then armed police and Army on the streets was my normal- and yet here I am a normal person. I haven’t suffered any detrimental affects, all grown up with my own family.

Our world is always going to be scary with everything that is going on across the globe, but for your children’s sake concentrate on the everyday normality and the good. I have seen a great quote online telling us to ‘look for the helpers’ in those awful situations and it’s true. There will always be many more people willing to help than to harm. Never let those people affected be forgotten but celebrate those who go to selfless measures to help in the most awful situations regardless of the danger they put themselves in.

In short, I am proof along with many others, if you teach your children to live without adult fears and teach them not to hate a race of people or a religion because of the actions of a minority of extremists then your children will adapt and live normal lives too. It’s possible, we as adults have to make it possible.

 

Jump In, Tonbridge- Review

I have seen more and more of these style of trampoline parks popping up all over the place taking over (almost) from the generation of kids indoor playcentres, with the difference being that us adults can also now ‘pay and play’!

We were invited along to Jump In trampoline park Tonbridge in Kent over the half term,  which has just recently opened in fact. This one was on an industrial estate ( which most of these places are anyway) and although there was a decent sised sign on the outer gate we really had to look hard to make sure we were in the right place as this was the sign on the building itself….

jump-in-sign

We were advised to register everyone in our group that were actually going onto the trampolines and those under 18 need to be signed in by an adult on the waiver form.

As my eldest was home from uni we decided to all go on and try it ( yes even me!) but unfortunately for us we were restricted on our time that week and so were there around 3pm, and obviously at those times it was full of young children from toddlers up to teens. Thankfully we are not a family to be put off and we went on anyway. I am sure the later you go the older the kids/teens would be ( it is open until 9pm on weekdays and 10pm on weekends -Fri and Sat) but like I said we were a little restricted that week working around my eldest.

The venue itself you could tell had not been open long, the walls were a clean crisp grey and everything had that newly painted/ decorated feel. Once you register and book in and pay, you are given your grip socks which you need if you are going on the trampolines. The sessions are one hour long at £12 inc your grip socks with a second hour available for £6 (prices for under 5’s are reduced ). So at £12 a child it could be kind of expensive with more than one child- however, I guarantee you they will come off totally knackered…………… so worth it if you think about it! We were also given a coloured wrist band as it was peak time in half term and very busy, but I imagine this is the only way to actually keep a restriction on how many people they are allowed on at any one time. Then we were sent into a holding room to view a 4 minute ‘Do’s and Don’t’s’ video before entering the trampoline area itself.

There are small lockers available if you are all going on for you to pop your phones/ bags/ valuables etc into which you get your money back from each time.

As you walk through you are into the seating/ cafe area on the same level (think normal playcentre and you will get an idea of what to expect) and then if you are going on the trampoline area which is completely raised there is a ramp walkway to get on there. It is still easy to see your children from the cafe and there is a small walkway all along that you can go up to check on them if you want.

Like I say we all went on and had a ball. I lasted about 20-30 minutes before I was completely shattered and went for a coffee from the cafe ( ladies be warned Tena ladies would be very handy if you are jumping!! Just saying). Our 2 teens stayed on there the whole time! There was an area unfinished in the top corner which was bordered off from the rest of the park, it was set in lower and looked like it was going to be used for a dodge ball area ( I could be wrong on that but it did look like it). They also have a small 2 hoop basketball area which you queue for to go and have a try- using the trampolines to get the bounce and height to help you get the ball in the hoop- looked good fun. There is also an under 5’s small area bordered off near the cafe area. There is also an area at the top end where you have obstacles to get past over a pit filled with sponge blocks- string ladders to climb up and ‘gladiator’ style jousting on a slim walkway were you are given head gear to put on and bash your opponent with a large soft paddle to knock them off into the pit.

All in all we had a fun time, next time we would definitely book an evening slot so the age group would be older and more suitable for teens and adults alike without worrying that when you jump you are going to unknowingly fling a young child about 10ft in the air! They also run exercise classes which I imagine would be amazing fun and great exercise- my hubby and I can confirm our legs felt like lead the next day so this would be a great form of cardio exercise! It’s definitely something we all enjoyed and said e would do again……….and lets face it most teens don’t want to do anything with their parents so were pleased they said they would go back again.

Unlike normal playcentres though it is advisable to pre book your slot online before you go as once they reach their maximum amount of people at that time the slot will no longer be available for obvious health and safety reasons. You also get to keep your grip socks after the first time so a 1 hour slot reduces to £10 an hour when you bring those socks back to re use them each time.

If you fancy trying it then just check out their website here for more details on pricing/ times/ classes/ parties  etc.

 

My tips on preparing your teen for University

My eldest baby left us on 12th September this year to start his university adventures. I didn’t want to write about it straight away ( or before) as my head was literally all over the place with a huge mixture of emotions. Yes I was unbelievably proud of him, but I was, as most mum’s would be, absolutely terrified that he wasn’t going to cope! It was so hard to leave him there on his joining weekend although we are lucky enough to be relatively close enough to go there for a day visit- which we did the next day to take him for a final family meal before leaving him properly.

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Almost a month into his new independent life and I am super pleased to say that he is not only coping very well but he is also loving his new found freedom. He has done several weekly shops now ( he loves the fact that he has an Aldi near him) and also done a few clothes washes too…………….this probably amazes me the most. He has also got himself a part time promotions job as well so is now earning a few extra pounds here and there to boost his weekly spending amount.

We had discussed the importance for him to maybe look for a part time job to subsidise his money as we as parents are not in a position financially to heavily subsidise him on a weekly or monthly basis. He is a sensible boy money wise as both my boys have been taught to save for the more expensive things that they have wanted over the years, but they also are shrewd enough to buy dvd’s/ older video games pre-owned from places like CEX and Game to make their money go further.

When my son initially discussed going to uni my husband and I did worry hugely about the financial side of things until it was explained at one of the uni talks that he could apply for possible bursary and loans etc that were means tested. Thankfully my son fell within that particular category however, I know other parents have had to look at other methods of supporting their child such as personal loans, savings and even equity release in order to support and subsidise their teen as necessary.

In a very short period of time I have come to realise that:

  • they will not starve!
  • they will eventually find the launderette
  • they will learn very quickly that their money does NOT last
  • they will cope because they have too

So here is a few of my top tips that you can help prepare your teen for living away at uni

*Teach them a few simple dishes to cook. My son is a very plain eater but he could at least cook pizza, cook eggs and bacon, cook chicken breasts properly and make sure he wasn’t going to get food poisoning!

*show them which of their clothes can go into the washing machine together and that their precious white t-shirt does not go in with their black jeans.

*one of the best things we did when setting up his student account was to keep his normal current account open so he could agree a weekly amount he could transfer on a weekly Standing Order from his student loan account into his current account. That way he has an agreed weekly amount he needs to manage on without the fear of dipping into his loan unnecessarily and whittling away at the money without realising.

*get them used to normal security measures ie: make sure before they go away they are used to always taking house keys with them everywhere-even if you are going to be home when they get in. If they are used to always taking their keys when  going out they stand less chance of losing/ forgetting to take keys when they are at uni…………..sounds silly but uni’s charge the students a fortune to replace lost keys!!

*take them with you when buying all their essentials to take with them, that way they know exactly what they have with them and they don’t waste money buying things when they get to uni that they already have tucked away in a cupboard!

* teach them to self medicate when they feel unwell. My boys have been doing this since their early teens and have a very sensible approach to over the counter medications. They know how and when they can take things like paracetamol/ ibruprofen and how often, cough mixture, hayfever tablets etc. YOU WOULD BE VERY SURPRISED HOW MANY TEENS DO NOT KNOW THE BASICS!

I could go on but those are a at least a few of the basic necessities to getting your teen ready for their independent uni adventure. If you have boys they will tell you that they wont be calling everyday, but what they don’t realise that they will find themselves texting you to check things about the cooking, the washing machines, their food shopping without actually realising that they are doing it………………………………………so do not fret THEY WILL KEEP IN TOUCH!

A Level results and mixed emotions

Today my eldest son did the nervous walk to school to find out his results and ultimately if he was going to get to go to uni or not.

I really feel for the kids today as they seem to be under so much more pressure that we ever were at that age at school. Pressure from the school, pressure from their peers and even sometimes pressure from their parents.

Neither my husband or I went to university, my hubby went straight from school into a job working in a photographic lab, then on to the MOD and from there into the Royal Air Force ( where we met) and then for the last 20 yrs he has been in the Met Police………….not a bad career for someone with virtually no qualifications. I left school and did a Youth Training Scheme ( YTS- remember those….I am very old you know) as a teacher’s assistant before joining the Royal Air Force, I then worked for the London Ambulance service for many years before having my boys and leaving work. When they got older I trained to become a Driving Instructor which I did before my illness took over……….again not too bad for leaving school with only 5 O levels, although I do have 2 A levels which I did at night school while I was still in the Air Force.

Today’s kids though have it so much harder I think. They are pushed from school ( especially from grammar schools) towards the university route from the minute they join, it has almost become the ‘norm’ to go to uni for everyone. I personally love the fact that apprenticeships are making a huge comeback and some kids are choosing to go down that route themselves rather than get into the debt that uni will inevitably land them in. Apprenticeships allows them to use and learn life and work skills whilst earning a wage and is a great opportunity covering a range of careers in all walks of life.

My son got his results today and was overjoyed to get what he needed to go to his first choice uni (Sussex). Some of his friends did not get the qualifications they wanted but still got places, but there were a few who didn’t get anywhere near what they needed and have spent the day in the ‘hell’ that is clearing. It must be overwhelmingly stressful and heartbreaking for them to be in that position, for some it’s almost like the end of the world where they can see no way out.

We were happy for my son because he was happy he got what he wanted. Either way we would have been proud of him regardless of the outcome. For us as parents, if he is happy then we are happy. We made it clear to him well before his exams that he could only do his best and there are always options if things don’t work out the way he wanted.

As super proud as I am, I am totally unprepared mentally for him to be leaving in less than a month! I purposely did not start gathering anything he was going to need as there would be nothing worse than all the excitement of getting everything organised to then not get the results he required. Yes that will mean a rush to get him sorted but I would prefer it that way, however, that means mentally I am totally unprepared for him leaving. I cannot quite believe he will be gone in such a short space of time. It will probably whizz past in a total blur and I will be left after the 12th September weeping into my wine that my baby has gone!

I will miss him terribly but I know he is so excited to go and I am very proud he got the results he needed. MASSIVE MIXED EMOTIONS.

I don’t know how I will cope initially, I know I will get used to it but the start will be very hard for me. He’s my first born, my baby and I just want to keep him close but I know the time is right for him to spread his wings and cope on his own in a fairly safe environment with lots of others in the same position ( I just do not think he even has a clue of what is coming!).

My heart goes out to all of those who were disappointed today and just hope they can see that it is not the end of the world, that these things happen for a reason and that there is always a way forward for them even though it may not seem like it at the moment.

If anyone has any tips for me as a parent, or to help me get him organised with what he needs ( if you have been through this yourself) please let me know in the comments- I will welcome all advice.

Yes I am still here!

You may have thought I had given up on my little blog it has been so long since I have posted on here, but no, I am still here I have just been having a little break.

It’s not that I haven’t had anything to write about, there have been loads going on in the past few months in my little corner of the world, it is just the fact that I haven’t had the inclination to put it all on here, call it lack of blogging mojo but I have had a total break from my site although I have been active on my social media sites. Last night, however, I attended a lovely event down in Kent which got me back in touch with the blogging community. It was fun, it was nice to meet new people and get a bit of that missing blogging mojo back.

So, what has been happening while I have been away (and I do not mean the obvious political stuff that is all over social media at the minute). In my little bubble, I haven’t been active on here since attending a review for a local spa, which I have now joined myself and try and go there at least twice a week. I cannot tell you how relaxing it is using the heat rooms ( sauna and steam) there and how lovely that has been for my poor M.E/Fibro muscular pain.

There’s been 18th birthday celebrations for my eldest ( in April) before all the madness of his A level exams recently.

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There’s been more sewing for me as I attended another sewing class learning more skills and meeting new people.

dress collage

There’s been a lot of ‘new to me’ furniture buying and upcycling as we have started to redecorate our lounge from a modern look to a more old style/ country appearance..

Gone from Dark leather to cream fabric
Gone from Dark leather to cream fabric
Again gone from a very dark wood to white and a sanded top, I still need to cover the chairs!
Again gone from a very dark wood to white and a sanded top, I still need to cover the chairs!
Gone from dark to light on the curtains and will be taking down the blinds and putting up voiles instead to make it lighter
Gone from dark to light on the curtains and will be taking down the blinds and putting up voiles instead to make it lighter

There is still a lot to do as the walls need repainting and the feature walls need re-papered and some soft furnishings still need to be sorted, but the majority of the change over is done.

There’s also been a trip to Royal Ascot (which was amazing) for a friends 50th birthday.

That's my friend and I all togged up looking posh!
That’s my friend and I all togged up looking posh!

This was something I always wanted to go and experience and I am glad they invited us to enjoy their special day- things are always enjoyed best depending on the company you go with. This was a fabulous day that I will not forget for a very long time…………….did I mention how close I got to the Queen????

There you go - just in case you didn't believe me!
There you go – just in case you didn’t believe me!

Recent weeks have been tough health wise for me, I felt I was having no relief from my Fibromyalgia pain at all. It was making me more exhausted than normal and was just never ending. I finally managed to get a GP appointment and she is very understanding and finally changed my medication to a slow release morphine ( the strongest thing I have been on ever). However, the detox from the years of Tramadol onto slow release MST was just horrific for about 5-6 days in total. I have never felt so rough in my life, hardly able to hold myself up yet unable to sleep  ( I was literally awake all night on the 1st evening watching films!), there was lots of nausea and dizziness and a bloody awful crushing headache that lasted days. A week or so on from there and things have settled and things are on the up and I am slowly but surely getting back to what would be relative normality for me.

Then last night was a huge milestone when my 18yr old went on his 6th year school leaver’s Prom, having officially left school and now just waiting exam results ( do not mention Edexel A level Maths………….there may well be a meltdown here!) and hopefully for him ( definitely not me) off to uni.

Here he looking handsome and dapper being  forced to stand and have a million pictures taken before he went!
Here he looking handsome and dapper being forced to stand and have a million pictures taken before he went!

So there you have it! There have obviously been lots of normal life thrown in too, ( nothing is ever straightforward or stress free with older teens in the house) but for now I will leave it there.

I look forward to catching up on all the blogging goings on now that I have a little blog mojo back!

Ashford Eureka Park Beefeater review

I was recently asked to go along to this branch of Beefeater to review their menu ahead of Mother’s day and having not been down at this park before I was also interested to see what else was there.

We were booked into the restaurant for an earlyish meal around 6pm as a family of four before my eldest teen’s social like took priority and we became a party of three! When we arrived at Eureka Park it was clear to see the Beefeater was probably the main restaurant for the Premier Inn next to it and to be fair it seemed like it was one of the larger branches of the restaurant.

On entering it had a large bar area both with bar and table seating and seemed the perfect place for the people staying at the hotel to pop along in the evening and have a drink or some food. The reception area was a nice open space and we were greeted and seated straight away. Most of the seating in this branch is free standing tables and chairs however there is a diner style area of boothed seating adjacent to the open cooking/ serving area and that’s were we were seated.

This is looking onto the boothed seating back towards the reception area leading onto the bar.
This is looking onto the boothed seating back towards the reception area leading onto the bar.

My youngest teen had already decided what he was having before he got there as he absolutely loves their burgers ( the best burger he has ever had apparently- and he can be pretty fussy!). This time he took advantage of adding an extra burger patty for only 99p making his meal around £9 as he had ordered off the early menu before 6.30pm.

Double 1/4 lb burger with skinny fries and slaw from the early menu that finishes around 6.30pm
Double 1/4 lb burger with skinny fries and slaw from the early menu that finishes around 6.30pm

Normally from this sort of restaurant I would play safe and get something with chips but this time I decided to try something different, so I opted for the Liver and Bacon with mash and curly Kale. I adore liver when it has been cook properly as it is beautiful and tender, full of flavour and very good for you too. When it came up I was slightly disappointed at the size, just because I was very hungry and I thought it would come up served as a roast style dinner. However, I could not have been more wrong about the portion size- it was a very filling meal!

Curly kale not visable but is at the bottom, with creamy mash on top, several slices of bacon on top and then piled with crispy onions with gravy around the side.
Curly kale is not visible but is at the bottom, with creamy mash on top, several slices of bacon on top and then piled with crispy onions with gravy around the side.

Obviously liver can be a disaster when overcooked feeling like a bit of shoe leather and therefore, I was overjoyed to see it was cooked perfectly with the liver being gorgeously tender- so much so that my teen and mu husband (who hates liver!) gave it a try and actually liked it. I really must learn how to cook it properly myself as this was a beautiful dinner. The crispy onions were a really nice contrast to the soft creamy mash and believe me about 2/3’s of the way through I was getting pretty full. This dish came in at £13.99 and was definitely worth the money.

My husband also opted for a different choice and stayed clear of chips as he ordered the chilli. It came served in a little dish already on top of the rice with some separate flat breads and pots of sour cream and guacamole served on the side. Again the chilli pot did not look that big and my hubby has a good appetite so I was slightly worried he may have regretted his choice. I tried some of it myself and there was enough spice in the sauce for my taste but he opted to have the extra chilli pieces on top!!

The rice is not visible but is actually already under the sauce in the pot. The extra chillies and onions on top are optional and would depend on your taste.
The rice is not visible but is actually already under the sauce in the pot. The extra chillies and onions on top are optional and would depend on your taste.

The chilli is their signature slow cooked recipe and seemed a little thick in consistency and difficult to mix through the rice, however the flavour was perfect and the meat was super tender. Mixed with the sour cream and guacamole the texture then worked nicely and I would be tempted to have this myself next time I visit. The chilli is amazing value coming in at just £9.99 and although I thought my husband would still be hungry after it he said that with the flat breads on the side it was more filling than he expected it to be.

We are not really one’s to have starters usually as we enjoy having something sweet at the end, so we only ordered mains and then had a desert. We love traditional deserts do both of us ended up choosing the same thing which was their new Salted Toffee apple crumble and both of us opted for custard………….c’mon it has to be custard with crumble! You do have the choice though and we could have had either cream or ice cream if we had wanted.

Say nothing about the fact I tucked in before I remembered to take a photo!
Say nothing about the fact I tucked in before I remembered to take a photo!

This was seriously lush as a crumble lover and was only £4.99 which is very reasonable. My son just wanted plain ice cream as he is not a big ‘pudding’ eater and they were very obliging with that.

We were there on an early Friday evening so I would imagine this is one of the busier nights for them as staff. There was certainly plenty of people both in the restaurant part and in the bar area but that didn’t seem to impact on the service at all. I can only speak from our experience that evening, but there seemed to be plenty of staff serving and a regular turnover of meals at the kitchen service area.

Like I said earlier, it maybe has less of a cosy restaurant feel to it and more an open diner feel, and I could imagine a busy breakfast serving in there with all the people using it from the Premier Inn next door. In that respect it was definitely built for purpose and seemed to work fluidly in that way.

They also run a reward card where you get points for every pound you spend so if you have a branch near you then this would definitely be worth thinking about and if you were looking for somewhere different to go with family on Mother’s Day then there is something for every taste on this menu. It is also worth mentioning that soft drinks such as Coke/ Pepsi etc come as a refillable option which is great if you have kids as you pay just the one price but they can refill as much as they want ( my teen son loves this option!).

DISCLOSURE: I was given a voucher towards the meal cost in return for an honest review. All comments are my own and I can only comment on my experience that evening in that branch