Saturday, 9 September 2017

Me time in Brighton - because I'm worth it.

One of the guiding principles of Go Mum Go is valuing and taking care of yourself. It's something that too many of us forget to do or just don't get round to. One of the ways I have learned to take care of myself - and let's face it I'm still a work in progress - is to identify when I'm likely to get overwhelmed. The Summer holidays are a classic energy sapper for me so I made a decision to take preventative action this year. With Hubbie's blessing I booked a night away in Brighton.

A bit of luxury
Initially I was looking for a cheap hotel and then I saw a special offer to stay at the Grand. There was extensive work going on so the rooms at the front of the hotel did not offer a sea view and I was able to stay in a suite for a fraction of the normal price. Ok it was way over the budget I'd set for myself, but I decided that if I really wanted to treat myself and make this a proper break I would splash out and stay somewhere amazing. It was worth it !

The suite without a view 

The best thing about taking time for myself was the freedom to stroll around shops without having to make toilet stops for the children, without the constant whingeing for a snack, a drink, a new toy, a play in the park. I checked in, put my overnight case into the dressing room and went to make a cup of tea using the most beautiful tea set I've ever seen in a hotel. Once the tea was made I sat on the bed and drank it. While it was still hot.

Beautiful tea set 

I went out to the theatre and didn't have to rush home. There was a wedding at the hotel so there was music all night, but it didn't matter as I knew I could stay in bed in the morning. As it was I woke up at 6am and decided to go for a run along the seafront. The air was crisp and fresh and it was quiet and traffic free. I'd forgotten a hairband so I asked a woman who was walking her dog if she had a spare and she did so I was able to tie my hair back for the return lap.

Morning sky and boats

I've always loved the beach huts along the seafront - they are so pretty. Seeing them inspired me to get onto my summer project to repaint the garden den for the boys in the style of a beach hut. I have since done it and am very pleased with how it turned out. You see a break does a world of good for creativity too. Having the space to think without the background noise of children is something I hadn't appreciated.

Brighton beach huts

On a usual day I rarely get time to eat in the mornings so it was a real treat to get back from my run to sit down and eat a leisurely breakfast. I will confess that this photo doesn't tell the full story - you're seeing the instagram friendly one. Let's just say This was the opening act and I didn't need to eat lunch.

Breakfast for one

I love Brighton and being able to spend time there on my own was just lovely. I've made a promise to myself to take breaks on my own more often and I'd recommend it to anyone. Inspired by my 'me time break' one of my lovely mum friends went for a weekend to Berlin and had a wonderful time. She visited museums by night and stayed in a lovely hotel and just relaxed. I am a bit jealous to be honest so I'll have to think of somewhere a bit further afield for my next adventure. Any suggestions appreciated.

I love Brighton

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Is watercress gin one of my five a day ?

Seasonal gins

I said there would be a second post about my visit to Winchester, but with the school holidays and all that it's taken me this long to make good on my promise. However, it's a booze filled post so I hope it's been worth the wait !

Fields of watercress 

So when me and my fellow bloggers went to visit the Winchester Distillery we were sworn to secrecy about where it is. The drive through the beautiful Hampshire countryside revealed enormous fields of watercress - which explains the watercress line where we've taken the boys on steam train before now. The herb is an important part of the process so pay attention as it will become relevant later !

Specialist gin

So first up I know we're all supposed to be keen consumers of artisan gins nowadays and while I enjoy a G & T when we visit the in-laws it's not my go to drink of choice. It harks back to an unfortunate student prank where my friend Phil woke up to find his entire bedroom had been put outdoors and he was asleep in his bed in front of halls. He drank an entire bottle of gin to deal with the trauma and the smell of gin was so overpowering that I couldn't drink it for years afterwards.

Delicious botanicals 

Anyway, now we have an entire festival devoted to gin - I mentioned Ginchester previously - and there is an advent calender you can buy with a different botanical for every day of advent. I have grown to enjoy the occasional gin and also realised how diverse the flavours can be.

On our visit to the distillery we were shown the specially designed still and the unique botanicals that are used in the process. This is where the fields of watercress come in. Ok, so usually it's a salad ingredient in my house, but believe me when I tell you that added to an artisan gin it gives an amazing taste hit.
Enormous and specifially designed still 

When we were invited to taste the different gins it took all of two seconds for all of us to sit down raring to go. I've never tried gin without a mixer before so it was a bit of a revelation I can tell you !

Tasting time 

The Twisted Nose gin has a real kick to it which is surprising, but really tempting to go back for more. I did decide to add tonic - I am a lightweight - because we were trying a few different gins and I wanted to have a chance of remaining at least a little sober. Failed !!

Twisted Nose - gin with a twist of watercress 

Winchester Distillery make a range of gins and it's worth trying them out - not least the seasonal gins which would make a fab present. They are working on distribution through shops at the moment and you can order online.

The Winchester Distillery range

Disclosure: I was invited to visit the Winchester Distillery for a tour and a tasting.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Pretty nails and a relaxing bath - because you're worth it.

One of the things about being a mum on the go is how much it takes out of you. In light of this I've made a commitment to 'self-care' which was one of the strategies on a course I went on recently. I thought I was pretty good at taking care of myself what with swimming regularly and having Saturdays as 'my day' to do with as I please. What I realised was that I was rushing around to fit in a swim and using my free day to do chores while the boys were out. What I'm trying to do now is make proper time for myself. The other week I went to the theatre for pretty much the whole day - by myself - and loved it.

In order to convince you to take this self-care business seriously too I've been looking into some simple ways to help yourself to have a break and look after yourself better. I know I'm all heart.

Mavala Nails: 

One of the things I've treated myself to for a long time is nice nails and a salon brand I love is Mavala. The shades for this season are based on the Hindu festival of Holi with gorgeous bright colours named Pink City, Coral Bay, Blue Mountains, Red River, Rose Hill and Purple Beach.

My nails used to grow really long and loved painting them myself, but in recent years - well since I had my oldest son actually - they've been pretty weak. I've been using a Mavala product called Mava Strong to help strengthen my nails and it really does seem to be helping. With all the swimming I do it's inevitable that my nails will be soft and break, but this has made a big difference to them in the month I've been using it and it's a great base for the colours.

To finish off there is a fantastic top coat with a gel finish to really make the brightness stand out and it also helps the varnish last longer. A must when you are busy and don't lead a life of leisure.

Westlab Pure Mineral Bathing:

I'm not a bath person. I rarely take them and I have never understood the appeal of lying in one when a shower is so much quicker and - to my mind - cleaner. Of course this is fine until you want to actually relax and then a bath comes into its own. In the old days I tried bubbles, bath salts, bath oils and even those baths bombs that are all smell and cleaning up afterwards. Not so much with the relaxation.

The lovely folks at Westlabs, however, have given me a new found respect for baths and the curative effects of their pure mineral bathing range. I have heard of dead sea salt - of course - but hadn't ever tried it before so it was a real eye opener for me. I'm running again - ok I'm jogging, this body was not made for running - and one of the effects of this is that I have tired and aching limbs. A bath with reviving salts after a period of exercise is more likely to interest me than a soak in smelly stuff and I would recommend the Epsom Salt from Westlab. The 1kg bag is a really generous size and even if you are a hardcore exerciser it will last a long while. You don't need to use much and it's effects are gentler than the old school stuff I used to use that smelled medicinal and didn't do much.

I've mentioned before that I'm a very keen swimmer and the consequence of many hours in chlorine is dry skin. As I've got older my skin has become drier anyway and the swimming has added to this. The Dead Sea Salt bath is perfect for this and can be used on skin with conditions such as Psoriasis and Eczma too. It's gentle and healing while also being relaxing.

For total indulgence you can go for Himalayan Salt - which is also detoxifying. I think pink crystal salt is pretty special so you could even give this one as a luxury gift. Pop it in a nice basket with some nice chocolates and fizz with a pretty bow and you've got an indulgent treat right there. If I got that I'd be delighted !!

I'm going to be taking this muscle spray with me tomorrow for after my run. Ok I'm no Mo Farah, but  until I get home and get into a recuperative bath this will help with muscle recovery. It uses the same espom salt that is in the bath products, but with the addition of spearmint and eucalyptus so there is a chance that I will smell like a Koala bear !

If you get the chance to spoil yourself make the most of it. Treat it as you would a gift to someone else. Why not gift wrap something and make it an occasion ? After all, you're worth it.

Disclosure:The nice folks at Mavala and Westlabs sent me some products to try so I could tell you about them. 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Visit Winchester: A foodies paradise (with gin !)

Winchester is a place I know a little from visiting with mother-in-law for a celebratory afternoon tea. I also know it a bit from studying history at Uni. What I didn't know is that it is a big cultural destination and even has festivals and cultural ambassadors for the city. Visit Winchester invited a few bloggers to come and experience what they have to offer and there is so much to tell that this is the first of two posts I'l be writing about it.

Historic letter box 
On arrival we walked to the tourist information office and it gave us the opportunity to bask in the unexpected sunshine that we had not dressed for at all. Our first host was an official city tour guide who took us to see the beautiful cathedral and gave us a lot of the history including the limited time that Jane Austen lived there.

Alfred the Great 
Jane Austen 

There are some lovely touches to Winchester that are eccentric and unexpected. These bollards for instance are decorated in different artistic styles. There is a Mondrian and an Andy Warhol one and they do look pretty striking. They are located outside the City Museum which is the first purpose built museum outside London. We skipped it on the day we visited, but as I fully intend to go again I'm saving it for a future trip.

Having seen the beautiful sights and learned some of the history of the city we went to meet Gary Whiter of the Cabinet Rooms who is the Food / Drink ambassador. He took us to see some of the independent resturants and bars that are putting Winchester on the map as a foodie destination. He and his partner opened their chic bar having been drawn to the city by it's focus on organic, local produce and artisan gins. We spent a lovely afternoon meeting some of the people bringing wonderful food and drink to this historic location.

Flat Whites is based from a coffee van that built a loyal local following that has enabled them to see off a sandwich chain that has set up directly next to it. We spoke to the staff who told us that they also have a branch in Southampton so when I next visit the in-laws I will have to search it out.

Forte Kitchen is universally regarded as one of the best places to eat in Winchester although the chef / patron Ollie is suitably modest about this accolade. While we were there they were preparing for lunch service in a tiny kitchen in which they prepare simple, but ridiculously good food that requires you plan ahead to ensure you get a table. I will definitely head here for breakfast on my next visit - I hear the pancakes are amazing.

Ollie chef/patron at Forte 

Pie Carumba has the dual honour of being the best named place I've seen in a long while and having by far the best decor. I think my kids would love it here and Hubbie would definitely appreciate the menu. It's tucked away a bit so you do need to look for it, but I suspect it's a local's favourite. 

Chococo is on my list of heavenly places. On a previous visit to Winchester I spotted this shop and just stood outside drinking in all the chocolately goodness in the windows. This time we went inside and even got a chance to taste some of the delicious chocolate. It is really excellent quality so you don't need much to get a sweet hit, but honestly when it looks this fab how could anyone resist ?

I feel as though I've barely touched the surface of what we saw on the day, so there will be more in a future post. For now though I'll share a view from our walk along the river. We passed a weir and joked about making a future visit to properly take in the food places and drink some of the local gins. I didn't even mention the Ginchester festival !!

You can find out more on the Visit Winchester website and the social channels @King_Alf on Twitter and King Alf on Facebook under the hashtag #CreativeWinch.

Friday, 3 February 2017

All my sons - all of the time

I always envied those celebrity mums who would say thing like, "I stay slim running around after my children." and "I make special time for each of my children every day." The latter is even more impressive because Angelina Jolie has six of them !

It has taken me time to work out how to do it, but I have finally got the hang of spending quality time with the boys. At first I did the same things with them both which invariably led to one of them being bored and unruly which spoiled it for the other one (and me). Now I make time to do thing with them individually and tailor the activities to what they love to do. It's been a journey of discovery that has reminded me they are similar, but different and of the value of one to one time.

Last week I took Blue Bear to the theatre to watch Ben and Holly's Magical Kingdom on stage at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley and he loved it. He sat nicely throughout the show and joined in when they asked the children to shout out, although he didn't want to sing the laughter song. At the end he said, "more Ben and Holly Mummy." and I explained that as the are little children they had to go home to go to bed just like he did. He was very upset that it was over. It's so different from the first time we took him to watch a show and when the lights went down he freaked out and didn't want to stay. We took him to meet Sooty, Sweep and Soo after the show, but I think Hubbie was far more impressed than the boys were.

Brown Bear is a different kettle of fish and enjoys nothing more than a day out doing fun stuff like visiting Daddy at work. We went to the Science Museum at the end of the Christmas holidays and as his office is right next door we popped in to see Hubbie for lunch. I have always taken Brown Bear into London and we usually go to the London Transport Museum as it's one of his favourites. In the past we've been ice skating, on a treasure hunt and on a boat trip on the Thames. I have already promised him some one to one time during half term when his brother is at half term camp. It's important to him that we get to do things just us.

Before we adopted Blue Bear everything was about Brown Bear and he loved being the centre of attention. In the summer holidays we would go out and visit the London Transport Museum once a week and visit parks almost every day. We'd go to rhyme time, gymboree and stay and play and he had the busiest schedule of any toddler I knew. I was careful not to overload Blue Bear in the same was as we didn't want to overwhelm him. Helping him settle into the family meant taking things at a pace that would suit him. Even though they absolutely love each other now the early days were pretty tough to negotiate.

We took both the boys to London and planned lots of fun things like an open top bus tour and a boat trip. They bickered and fussed the whole time. What we hadn't accounted for was that Blue Bear wasn't used to days out and Brown Bear had already done all of those things. We needed to do things differently. This is where we had to take them on one at a time. By having one each and giving them special attention they respond far better and we all have a nicer time. For Brown Bear's birthday we went to Legoland and we made sure both boys had a fantastic day. At times we split up and did things separately and then we came together as a family and had fun being trainee firefighters.

When it works it can be amazing. After all I don't have a nanny or a personal trainer to bail me out when I don't feel like being mum. What I do have is a wealth of ideas about how to have fun with my boys.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Go Mum Go is kicking this year into shape

I have made a decision that my approach to 2017 is to live without fear. In that spirit I am taking on challenges and pushing myself. This includes applying for jobs that I love the look of, even if I don't think I will get them. I am saying yes to opportunities and volunteering.

So far I have committed to a few activites and I started a 5 week boot camp in January. I've done this before and it's hard work, but completely worth it. The post Christmas period can be so deflating so doing this really pumps me up and gives me strength and energy. It also motivates me to think about my health overall. This coincided with my giving up bread, sugar and alcohol for the first week of January to kick start the year with a fresh look at what I eat. I reintroduced bread the second week and then sugar the third. I've had a glass of wine tonight and last night. The exception to this was when we went out for my lovely friend's birthday and enjoyed a fantastic three course meal, delicious cake and wine.

Last week I also tried my first kickboxing class. I did try once before, but the teacher was intimidating and the other students scared me so it put me off for years. This time it was held at Blue Bear's pre-school by a great teacher who also runs classes for children - in fact I'm taking the boys to his class on Monday after school. I was in a lot of pain for a few days afterwards, but the best thing was that I gave it my best shot. I tried hard during the warm ups and even when I hurt myself learning a break fall I still managed to put some oomph into the punches. I'll be taking the classes throughout February so hopefully it won't hurt as much next time.

Somewhat rashly I've signed up to do sugar free February to raise money for cancer research. I'm pretty sure I can manage to do it, not least as it's the shortest month of the year. It's a good warm up for an event I did last year that really tested my will. Dechox for the British Heart Foundation. This involves giving up chocolate for the month of March with the added motivation that when it ends it's Easter not long after. Last year I found that although I was looking forward to eating chocolate again when April began I wasn't in a rush to reach for the sweet stuff as I'd been off it for so long I didn't crave it as much. Of course once I was back on it the old habits returned pretty quickly.

I've already talked about the Moonwalk in May and I'm in training for that already. Walking and getting fit to ensure I can finish in good time and hopefully without injury. I'll be walking in a team for a change so that will be great fun and help in keeping me going when it gets to the tough bits.

I'm making a good start to the year and am motivated to get stronger and fitter as the year progresses. I will keep reporting back on my progress and showing how to Go-Mum-Go !!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Roll up, roll up, Cirque Berserk is in town.

Theatre is one of my great loves and, fortunately, I can indulge regularly as we have some wonderful local theatres who kindly invite me to previews. Only this week I went to see a show with Hubbie and it was a complete surprise for two reasons. Firstly he rarely accompanies me as there aren't many shows he's really interested in seeing, but on this occasion he said yes. Secondly because I had no idea that Cirque Berserk even existed. It's a genuine circus that is adapted to suit theatre venues. If you remember Zippo's Circus you will be familiar with the founder of Cirque Berserk, Martin 'Zippo' Burton. I can recall Zippo's visiting schools when I was at uni so that children who might not have been able to see the circus otherwise could enjoy the show. 

The wonderful variety of acts includes performers who are the latest of generations of circus folk. They are from all over the world and many still perform in traditional circuses during the 'big top season' ie. the warmer months. As it was explained to me, it's not so easy to hammer tent pegs into frozen ground. 

Seeing a circus in a theatre like the Churchill Theatre in Bromley is a real 'wow' experience, especially as they don't use safety harnesses or nets and the aerialists in particular are pretty high off the ground ! From the moment the show opened it was breathtaking with non-stop action and incredibly evocative music. These were punctuated with visits from Tweedy the clown who is no slouch when it comes to circus skills himself . His repertoire includes juggling, tightrope walking and riding a unicycle (while juggling). 

There are tumblers from Kenya, a knife throwing act, the most phenomenal stunt team from Brazil who ride motorcycles inside a globe on stage at speed and with increasing jeapordy. We met one of the riders from Team Lucius during the interval and he explained that he has broken every bone in his body at some point. Once you've seen the stunts you will see why that is and why it's more surprising that he is actually still here ! 

I did take a video clip of the 'globe of death' stunt to show Brown Bear and he was open mouthed and wide eyed at the sight of it. I won't spoil it for you, I think you really should go and see the show in person. The tour continues from Bromley to Glasgow and during half term the circus will come to the New Wimbledon Theatre. This show is suitable for the whole family although younger children might find it a little long as just under two hours. 

You can find out more about tour dates and book tickets here:

Monday, 16 January 2017

Easy like Sunday morning

After the excitement of the snowfall last week we decided to have a relaxing weekend. It was quite cold outside so I planned some home cooking for Sunday that would keep us warm and cosy and also involve the boys. Brown Bear has always enjoyed helping in the kitchen so we decided to make some pastries on Sunday morning. 

I bought a Jus Rol kit and asked Brown Bear to check the instructions - he likes to look up the temperature and cooking times for me. It helps with his reading and also I ask him to check the cooking timer so there is some sneaky maths going on too. Mwah ah ah (evil mum laugh).

He loved the twisty carton and said, "Wow !" when these pastries pieces came out of the tube. I used some baking parchment to stop the pastry sticking to the baking sheet. We've had an issue with this before so I learned from my mistake.

Brown Bear laid out the chocolate slices onto the pastry sheets and carefully folded the pastry over the top. 

We decided to brush the pain au choc tops with milk to make them golden brown.  Brown Bear loved using the pastry brush. 

They look pretty good don't they ? 

A treat for Daddy - breakfast in bed on Sunday morning. 

It was only afterwards that we noticed we were supposed to put the folded side down on the baking sheet, but it didn't matter. The boys enjoyed them just the same.

Cooking with the kids is such fun and they love to eat what they've made. Now that Blue Bear is older and can understand safety in the kitchen a bit more I hope we can cook together too. I would recommend the Jus Rol kits as they contain everything you need and are simple to use. I have some lovely recipes that are really easy to make so I think we will start with cookies - they also taste great.

Do you cook with your children ? What are you favourite things to make ?