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Gardening Minus the Green Fingers…

I am not a natural gardener.  Indeed, I kill things.  Unintentionally yet nevertheless determinedly and resolutely.  My mother’s day plant from my children withered and died within days; every herb I’ve ever owned and valiantly attempted to cultivate has darkened and dried up with alarming speed; even flowers wilt almost as soon as they enter the vicinity of my home.  When Sonny brought home a bean from school earlier this year, I was adamant that I would nurture this thing until it grew big and strong.  I watered it gently every single morning and found new and ingenious ways of propping it up until it grew strong enough to support its own height.  Alas, it never did, despite the chopsticks rammed with unfailing optimism into its soil.  Granted, it still looks green at the moment but it is collapsing in on itself and of no use to anyone.  Yep, I did it again.

I should stick to cacti.

So, how does one so completely useless at gardening maintain such a space?  Artificial grass is an absolute must (yes, I can kill grass too!) and so easy to maintain.  It looks so natural these days too, I mean why wouldn’t you invest?  FYI, you don’t need to mow it either!  Win win.  As you can see from the image below, it’s also a fantastic base for children’s play equipment which makes it ideal for a family garden.

artificial-grass-safer-surfacing

Another of my preferred cheats is to get the kids planting things in pots, therefore if it all goes wrong I can honestly say it wasn’t my fault, though to be honest they’ve actually had a lot more success than I ever have!  They’re also great at putting a creative spin on things like what can be used to contain plants and flowers (think wellies and tyres for starters!).  So far, we have planted herbs, strawberries, tomatoes and sunflowers and I love them all.  Adding colour and scents to your garden is not only pleasant for you and your family but can also help to attract bees too, which is a plus for everyone.

Growing vegetables can also be done in pots, which is such a fun and useful lesson for children, especially if you want them to grow up to be slightly more green-fingered than you.  Having children is such an education in itself – it took me until I had my little ones to discover that potatoes can be grown in buckets!

So, as you can see, gardening doesn’t have to just be about maintaining grass and plants and lots of complicated hard work.  It can be as simple as whacking in the artificial stuff and decorating the space more or less how you would any other room – furniture and lights included!

Enjoy.

At Home Date Ideas for Busy Parents

When family life gets busy, often it’s hard to find time to spend alone with your partner. Going out on date nights may seem like a good idea, however, sometimes organising a babysitter, booking somewhere to go and then taking the babysitter home when you get back makes it all quite hard work. After all, the whole point of your evening together should be to enjoy each other’s company and relax. Instead of going out why not choose some fun things you can do at home to experience a special date night together? Here are a few ideas to inspire you. 

Romantic table for two 

Having a romantic dinner at home is possible, even if older children haven’t yet gone to bed. One thing you can try on a convenient evening is to arrange to have dinner with your partner at home, while the children are occupied with a film. Weekends seem to work best, and with a bit of planning everyone will be content. Select a film for the children to watch and allow them (just this once) to have an easy to prepare TV dinner such as pizza. Use a small table beside them and set up another in the kitchen for the adults. A nice glass of wine and your favourite meal will allow you and your partner to spend some quality time together at your candlelit dinner for two. 

Outdoors 

On warmer evenings you can make the most of your garden and still be within earshot of the children. If you’re anxious about being outside the house take a baby monitor with you, as that way you’ll hear if anyone gets out of bed. Create a romantic corner where perhaps you’ve planted a few flowers and shrubs that have gorgeous scents after sunset, string a few decorative lights up, light the chiminea if you want to add atmosphere and settle into a hammock or a comfortable love seat together. If you like to eat alfresco, you can transfer your romantic dinner outdoors or have a fun garden picnic just for two. 

lights

Arrange a sleepover 

If you can’t coordinate a sleepover for your kids with their individual friends, you may find that grandparents are willing to take all of them for just one night. Having a date night in then becomes a real pleasure. You can chat while preparing a delicious meal, enjoy a film on TV and have fun tasting some different drinks – swap your usual gin and tonic for a fine, aromatic rum in a speciality rum glass, or a luscious port, for instance. Add to the cosy atmosphere by playing your favourite music and catching up with each other’s news. Best of all, the kids will most likely have a lovely time too, and their grandparents will be tired but happy. 

Have a screen-free date night in 

Although watching TV and films can be a useful way to relax, if you and your partner have shared interest or hobbies it’s good to make time for them as an alternative. Some people love jigsaws and crossword puzzles, and doing these together or playing board games for two can be fun. If you enjoy chess or draughts have a mini-tournament or opt for some of the many card games for two people. Dominoes can also provide lots of entertainment, even without involving the kids. 

Plan your date night to make it happen 

It’s obvious that you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy spending quality time with your partner outside day to day family life. However, you do have to make time for a regular get-together, so you’ll need to plan ahead. That is especially so if your weekends normally consist of continuous activities for your kids. Co-ordinate the activities as best you can until you find a weekend where you will all have some breathing space. Bookmark and put it on the calendar promptly, before something else comes along to steal your date. 

If you need to organise a sleepover, for instance, give whoever is helping you out plenty of notice. Don’t be afraid to approach other parents, as you can always offer to help them out in return. If you’re planning a meal and some drinks, remember to organise the shopping in advance – it would be a shame to sort out arrangements for the children successfully and then discover you hadn’t remembered to make arrangements for yourselves. Enjoy! 

3 Birthday Gift Ideas for 10 Year Olds

This year sees Jasmine turn 10, somewhat unbelievably.  The day itself may not be until December but I have already started thinking about how to make it special.  Ten feels huge; double figures.  A milestone.  Inching closer to high school and greater independence.

We have started talking about a party – a disco to share with all her friends and most likely the last big party she will have until she turns 16 (a scary prospect) – and she has some firm ideas about the gifts that she would like.  The last time we spoke about it, these included a Garmin child’s activity tracker, a Polaroid camera and vlogging equipment.  Yeah, she’s not a cheap date these days!

I have been toying with the idea of saving the gift ideas for Christmas or farming them out to family and instead buying her something a little different; some kind of experience day that she won’t forget for a long time.  Or a puppy.  No, let’s stick with the experiences for now…

The first to catch my eye were these Junior Driving Experiences, ideal for any thrill-seeker.  Jasmine has always loved anything remotely exciting (which I attribute to riding all the coasters at Chessington when I was 3 months pregnant and didn’t yet know!) and I can only imagine her sheer delight at being let loose in an actual car!

junior-supercar-platinum-4155-main

My second idea was a zookeeper for the day experience at our local mini zoo, Drusillas Park.  These are pretty expensive but such a wonderful experience and I know Jasmine would thrive on getting up close to the animals and engaging in behind-the-scenes action.  I am so tempted by this idea and just need to put in a good word with her Dad…

drusillas six

My third and final idea (for now) is a bedroom makeover, though this is now not going to be an option for us as we want to move and give Jasmine her own bedroom before we redecorate and this is likely to be next summer rather than in time for her 10th birthday.  However, I think it would make a really lovely 10th birthday gift for any child.  Jasmine is keen to have a space-themed room with decor, furniture and accessories all tying in.  I can see the finished room in my head and it will look amazing, I just hope we have the funds to do it once we have moved!

I have always tried hard to make birthdays special, much more so than Christmas, as they are the one day a year that is all about the individual child and it is lovely to be able to celebrate them so wholly.  I do tend to go a little OTT but figure they are only small once so why not spoil them while you can?!  Let the 10th birthday planning commence!

3 Times In My Life When I’ve Needed Money… Fast!

It’s fair to say that life does not always follow the path we choose and, inevitably, we can quickly find ourselves caught short in the finance stakes.  For example, ten years ago I discovered I was 20 weeks pregnant completely out of the blue and was still living at home whilst my boyfriend was living in a bedsit that barely accommodated one person, let alone 2 and a bit!  We needed to find somewhere to live as a family (including my then 9 year old stepson) almost immediately, which is never without its problems. Firstly, we needed somewhere with 3 bedrooms that was local to my stepson’s school and, vitally, affordable.  After weeks of searching, we found somewhere suitable but still needed to source the deposit and first month’s rent.  Our little bundle of joy being something of a surprise (albeit a wonderful one), we were not financially prepared for this at all and were forced to resort to borrowing money from family to tide us over before it was too late.  As it was, we moved into out first family home on October 8th 2008 and our baby arrived on December 3rd that very same year.  Here she is meeting my grandparents:

IMG_4844.JPGThe second time I found myself in need of a rapid cash injection was when I was pregnant with my second child and needed to buy the large essentials – things like his pram and cot, which are such expensive items.  Having exhausted our family loan options, we researched other ways to quickly make some cash and managed to sell a few things online to over our costs though we found many other directions that we hadn’t previously considered; short term loans could be something to look into, for example.

Lastly, once my two children were both at school, I started to think about getting back into work and decided to retrain as a teaching assistant.  As excited as I was by my plans, the associated costs ran into thousands and it was clear that we really needed a boost to enable me to realise my dream and reach my intended goal.  This time, we opted for a combination of our previous efforts, combined with some of our own savings and thankfully managed to raise the funds and I qualify as a Level 3 TA next month.

I hope this post goes to show that whatever you want or need there is usually a way of making it happen, of making it work, however impossible the financial constraints may feel at times.

Gift Guide for Motorcycle Moms

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and you know what that means—it’s time to spoil Mom rotten! From staying up with you until all hours of the morning when you were an infant to putting up with your teenager sass for years, your mother has done more for you than you will ever know. Show your gratitude with more than just the cliché flowers. Show her that you appreciate her and all she continues to do for you with a new women’s motorcycle jacket, a sleek new helmet or something as equally cool as the woman herself.  

Head Gear 

Let your mom know that none of her safety advice went unheeded by presenting her with the very item you gave her heck about when she suggested you wear one: a brand-new motorcycle helmet. Off-brand isn’t good enough for your mom. She needs something stylish, durable and just as classy as she is. Check out the motorcycle helmets for women from Shoei, Fly Racing and O’Neal. Present her with a quality helmet and you just might steal the title of Favorite Child.  

 Sweat Proof Makeup 

 Just because your mom is a BA doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want to look pretty. Give your mom the gift of eternal beauty…or, you know, the next best thing. Sweat-proof makeup will keep your mom’s face looking fresh on all rides, even after she puts that brand-new helmet on. Sweat-proof cosmetics include concealer, mascara, powder, foundation, eyeliner and blush.  

 A Rider’s Wallet 

 YOU can’t carry a purse when on a motorcycle so why should Mom be expected to carry one? Make life easier for Mom by getting her a compact wallet that can hold her cards, keys and cash. There are several brands that make motorcycle wallets with secure, no-slip neoprene bands. These wallets are often lightweight, compact and heat resistant, perfect for the biker mom on the go.  

Your mom deserves a Mother’s Day gift as cool as she is. Step up to the plate and shop the riding gear and accessories at BikeBandit.com