A Lifestyle & Parenting Blog

Sunday, 30 August 2015

My Sunday Photo - 30/08/2015

Raglan Castle, Monmouthshire


Saturday, 29 August 2015

Brewers Fayre, Barry - A Real Family Affair

Now when you have an extra teenager (lovely cousin Georgia) staying, as well as my very own Dennis the Menace and Minnie The Minx (Ieuan and Caitlin), it's nice to find somewhere that caters for all tastes and appetites.

This is particularly important since Ieuan has the eating habits of an 80 year old, toothless dowager duchess and Caitlin is still in the throes of her 'ice cream with everything' phase. (Please remain calm dental hygenists - the riot act is read regularly about the risks to your teeth about enjoying desserts a little too much).

Happily we were invited by Brewers Fayre to reacquaint ourselves with our local restaurant just a stones' throw (unless you're rubbish at throwing, like I am) from Barry Island (or Barrybados as we almost locals like to think of it).  It is also, handily, right next door to a Premier Inn.

What I like about this particular Brewers Fayre is that it is spacious, immaculately clean and the staff are friendly, upbeat and genuinely look like they are happy to be there. The restaurant is designed with clearly designated areas, a 'zone' for coffee or fizzy drinks, a large bar and a separate area for the carvery.

The menu is vast and it took us a good quarter of an hour to decide what we'd like.  This was also because the kids were happily colouring their Beano Comics and regaling us with the jokes inside.

Because it was a Saturday, the weekly meal deals were not available but even so, everything was reasonably priced.

The kids menu is very good value and, sensibly, is priced according to the number of courses.  Given the generous portion sizes, this means that you're not ordering food that then goes to waste.  You can have a main meal for £3.99, 2 courses for £4.49 or 3 courses for £4.99.

Caitlin chose a strawberry Starslush (like a Slush Puppy) and Ieuan had a chocolate Yazoo (which, 80's pop fans, made me think of Alison Moyet).  Caitlin had tomato soup with crusty bread as her starter and Ieuan had the Gn-achos, cheesy nachos with a tomato dip.


Is it just me or do other parents only discover their kids' tastes in meals have changed when they go out to eat?  Caitlin's soup was rapidly dispatched whilst I sat there saying "but you don't usually like soup". "Well," she announced, "I have had it before you know".

For main courses, Caitlin had Popin Chicken (chicken, chips and baked beans) and Ieuan had the Cod-apult (love the Dennis The Menace inspired names) which was crispy cod bites, chips and beans (substituted for peas).  Both meals came piping hot and with a generous portion size.

Cousin Georgia chose the Ultimate Sausage & Mash from the main menu which was a giant Yorkshire filled with Smithfield pork sausages, mash and caramelised onions, all served up with cabbage and gravy (£8.29).

The Husband had Hand Battered Atlantic Cod & Chips, the fish being hand battered to order and served with tartare sauce and a choice of garden or mushy peas (£8.99).  The fish came wrapped in its own paper which I thought was a fun touch.

I was feeling rather delicate and it was one of those days when only comfort food would do so I chose Sausage, Egg & Chips, 3 sausages, 2 fried eggs, chips and garden peas (£6.49).  The sausages were good quality and meaty and the eggs fried just the right side of runny.

For dessert, Caitlin had a strawberry sundae (of course) and Ieuan has the Tricky Mini Doughnuts which came with a dish of melted chocolate sauce and a dish of sprinkles (or hundreds and thousands as we used to call them before we unfortunately had to go metric).  This was also a surprise as, usually, nothing but a chocolate brownie will do.

Georgia had been beaten by the Ultimate Sausage & Mash so I had a cappuccino and was allowed to share the Husband's treacle tart which came nicely warmed and was served with vanilla ice cream (£3.99).

We also had a Diet 7-up, a Diet Coke and the Husband had a pint of Stella. My Diet Coke came with unlimited refills, as did my cappuccino (which was a Costa coffee).

Ieuan pretending to be Usain Bolt.  
 The total bill came to £54.17 which, for 5 of us was very good value indeed.

If I had any quibbles at all, it would be that there are a couple of vending machines aimed at kids which meant that Ieuan had a minor strop because we wouldn't let him play with them, and the radio is piped into the Ladies Toilet quite loudly which is ever so slightly off-putting, although singing along to Katy Perry is a bit of a novelty in that situation.

I would definitely recommend Brewers Fayre as a no-fuss, clean and welcoming eaterie for the family - including the kids!  Good food and great value.  We'll be back.

Further information is available on the Brewers Fayre website at www.brewersfayre.co.uk, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/brewersfayre or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brewersfayre.

We were invited to dine as guests of Brewers Fayre but all opinions are our own.

Friday, 28 August 2015

High Noon For Head Lice With Vamousse® & Giveaway

Back to school time is nearly upon us and, together with the kids' excitement about returning to see their friends and starting a whole new academic year afresh comes the threat of a set of potential visitors who are not welcome in the slightest.

Yes, when children come back together, it's a great opportunity for head lice to thrive and just one or two lice can start an infestation off.

Sharing hats and brushes can also spread them as they can survive 8-12 hours off the body but generally they are spread by physical contact - i.e. head to head.

I'm sure we've all felt our heart sink as our little ones run out of school brandishing the "slip of doom" saying that one of their number has been adopted by those nasty little varmints, head lice.

We've all heard the homespun advice about combing through conditioner before we wash our children's hair and the theories about plaiting hair to keep head lice away.

We've questioned whether head lice like dirty hair better than clean and given our kids' scalps a cursory examination to see whether we can spot anything.

A Head Louse - Source:  www.nhs.uk
But once you've done that, what do you do?  Apart from crossing your fingers and hoping?

There is a new weapon of lice destruction on the high street from Vamousse® - Vamousse® Protective Shampoo which is proven to break the cycle of infestation.

You see a commonly held frustration by parents is the belief that other parents are deliberately sending their kids to school with head lice and causing the spread.

Actually, most head lice infestations are spread by undetected infestations that take over a month to discover. Head lice are the hidden enemy!

A head lice infestation takes time to develop. In its early days an infestation consists of young lice (nymphs) that are too small to be seen by the naked eye and eggs that do not cause symptoms such as itching/a crawling sensation.

To stop an infestation taking hold both adult lice and, later hatching lice (nymphs) emerging from eggs need to be killed, thereby breaking the cycle of infestation. 

Research carried out by Vamousse® found that most parents are too slow to take action, often waiting for visible signs of lice before whipping out the detection comb and using a product for protection or treatment. (For more information on head lice prevention and treatment with the Vamousse®  range, check out their website here.)

So, you've received the dreaded 'nit slip'.  How does Vamousse® Protective Shampoo Work?

When used regularly as part of a family bath-­time routine Vamousse® Protective Shampoo can stamp out an infestation before it takes hold, by killing the lice that have unknowingly been contracted and later killing lice as they emerge from eggs that have been laid. 

It's easy to use - simply apply a generous amount of shampoo to wet hair, work into a lather and massage into scalp. The leave the shampoo on hair for at least 3 minutes and Rinse.

For best results it is recommended that you use the shampoo daily for at least 2 weeks.  Hair is left clean and fresh and you can use a conditioner afterwards.

Best of all it's pesticide free and suitable to use on children aged 2 and over.

If you do find head lice, in other words there is a visible infestation, then you need to use Vamousse Head Lice Treatment before using this shampoo.

It is non-toxic and pesticide free and kills 100% of the lice AND eggs within 15 minutes of contact. 

So what did we think? We are not currently under threat of an infestation but I wanted to test the shampoo for ease of application, smell and its effect on a child's scalp and hair.

The shampoo is colourless and quite runny.

It is recommended that you really massage the shampoo in well to blitz any lurking eggs or lice.

Then rinse and condition as normal.  Caitlin's only comment was that the shampoo had a stronger smell than her usual one.  

Her hair was left clean and actually had quite a nice shine to it - although that may be because I was liberal with the use of condition, conscious that she had had a stronger product on her hair than normal.

You are advised, by the way, to make sure that you don't get the product in your eyes or near your mucuous membranes as it may irritate or sting but that probably applies to many other shampoos.

Vamousse® Protective Shampoo retails at £9.99 and there is sufficient for around 20 washes in the bottle. Vamousse Head Lice Treatment costs £14.99.

Both products are available to buy at and the products are available to buy at Boots, Superdrug, Ocado (coming soon to Sainsbury’s) and all good pharmacies.

It's nice to know that there is something definite you can do to prevent head lice taking hold and now you can really Vamousse® Those Varmints™.

Further information is available at www.Vamousse.co.uk or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/VamousseThoseVarmints or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VamousseUK.

In addition I have a giveaway of 1 x pack of Vamousse Head Lice Treatment, 1 x Vamousse Protective Shampoo and 1 x Turbie Twist Turban Towel.  Simply complete the Rafflecopter below in the usual.  UK entrants only. The competition ends at 11:59 pm on the 11th September 2015.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*PR samples were received for the purposes of this review.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Mums: Don't Get Angry -Get "Turbo-Calm"

Week 5 of the Summer holidays and we are now all living in a simmering state of restrained hostility. Caitlin is showing all the signs of galloping puberty or is permanently auditioning for Hollyoaks - I can't tell over the sound of harumphing, slamming doors and "none of you understand me".

Ieuan is admitting to getting "a little bit angry" which is akin to saying Kim Kardashian is quite fond of cameras.

I have exhausted my repertoire of bribes, threats, cajoling, wheedling, pleading, stropping, sighing and outright emotional blackmail.  I have hidden in my bedroom and taken mid afternoon showers to shut out the thunderous sound of bickering which erupts over something world-shattering like the wrong placement of a Lego brick or the refusal by one or the other of them to play their longstanding (and weirdly entertaining) game of Puppy and The Incredible Hulk.

I have taken them out to run free on our nearby common or to explore the local beauty spots.  They have iPads, books, TV, a safe garden, bikes and scooters and Lego which appears mysteriously like damp in the various corners of the house but they still require entertaining.  I've read to them (which lasts the length of a shortish chapter till they get bored) and they have enough craft materials to build a space shuttle. I have eaten so much pizza I'm starting to resemble Gino on the Go Compare advert.

But I have a new thing.  I'm calling it "Turbo-Calm".

It's where you are rendered speechless by rage or irritation. It's the replacement of shouting with silence. It's when you finally think"enough of this nonsense" and take yourself out of the argument equation in order to defuse it.  And, surprisingly, it works quite well.

Expecting a spectacular explosion of maternal nagging, the kids find an icy calm exterior.  I become one with the universe and my mind is like a computer.  I am Mrs Logic.  I show no emotion.  Oh no.

Now, I'm not entirely sure this is a healthy method of interaction but it does at least create a space for everyone to calm down a bit.

My mother used to send me to my room to fester and then appear with a cuddle about half an hour later.  I'm guessing today that would be referred to as positive time out.

There's no escape when you're a parent though, is there?  You can run but you can't hide.

When it all gets too much, hit the turbo-calm button.  And break out the biscuits.

While you're carb-loading you may just remember that you love the little menaces after all.

And if you're lucky, the kids will remember they quite like you too - and come for a cuddle.

Monday, 24 August 2015

He's Not Babysitting - He's Parenting!

I often read blog posts about the challenges (for 'challenges' read 'bombshells') experienced by new mothers. It is physically, emotionally and spiritually draining.  Childbirth changes you in ways you never previously suspected.  You feel everything more intensely and your propensity for feeling guilty increases a thousand fold.

I'm not sure who looks more perplexed here!  Mat and Caitlin in 2008

But there is one key skill, I think, that all new mothers need and that many fail to master.

No, I'm not talking about putting a nappy on one-handed whilst drinking a cuppa and cradling the phone beneath your chin.  I am not talking about the motorised instrument of torture that is the breast pump.  (It's ironic that you are expected to 'express' milk, because there was nothing very speedy about mine!).

I'm talking about the ability to ask for help - and accept it.

Because, let's be honest, offers of help are not always forthcoming.  Everyone is so busy with their own lives and particularly if you are a stay at home mum, you will most likely find yourself home alone with your new, albeit magical, plus one.

I saw on Twitter the other day a dad complaining that he was congratulated for 'babysitting' his own child when, as he so rightly put it, he was parenting.

There is, I think, a temptation for new mums to immerse themselves completely in motherhood to the exclusion of their partner.

Very little is actually written about what it is like for new dads and it must be very frustrating to find that, having done midnight runs for curry and gherkins, listened endlessly to birth plans (which are usually jettisoned as soon as labour begins in earnest) and planned the first bike rides, country jaunts and trips to the seaside, they find themselves rather surplus to requirements.

And then, if they are left in charge of their newborn son or daughter, we congratulate them for 'babysitting'.

I have done this myself and I think it's because new mums feel it's their mission to single-handedly ensure the baby thrives - and that only they can do it.

As a new mum, you may become consumed with a perfectionism you never had before.  Nappies must be put on just so.  Baby must be laid down like this.  And on it goes.

There is sense in this because, at least in my experience, creating a routine that works for all the family is vital.  We become obsessed with baby's bowel movements and when they will 'sleep through'.  Every ounce of their weight is recorded.  We wait, anxiously, for the first toothless smile.

But, at some point, you  have to let go, for your sanity and your health and also for your baby.  This is even more important, of course, if your partner is not around to support you both - and a time when you really need your family and friends.

For those of us lucky enough to have a partner on hand, as mothers we need to let them in and share the experience and learn by doing.  That is not meant to be patronising. It is the same logic used in delegating in the work place. A team is stronger than a single individual.

And if we don't encourage dads to get 'hands on' and acknowledge their input as 'partners' in both senses of the word, then we play into the hands of the dyed-in-the-wool sexists who still refer to looking after baby as 'women's work'; the sort of people who think a man's role in the birth process is to have a stiff whisky.

If we don't encourage dads to play an equal role then we will only have ourselves to blame if they regard their input as 'babysitting'.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, there is no shame in asking for an hour out for a coffee, or in asking for help with some of the routine household tasks (ironing, putting a batch of washing on etc).

When we're stressed, we somehow think people can read our minds whereas a short list of things that need to be done and some basic instructions is far more useful!

If we involve our partners in childcare and we ask for help from friends and relatives, our experience in those first few challenging months may be even more memorable - for all the right reasons.

We do dads a disservice when we deny them the opportunity to create their own memories with their newborn child.

And we do ourselves a disservice when we won't ask for help at a time when we really, REALLY, deserve it.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

My Sunday Photo - 23/08/2015


Saturday, 22 August 2015

Our Family Day Out At Caerphilly Castle

Cadw, the Welsh Government's Historic Environment Service (or, as I like to think of them, the guardians of some of Wales' most beautiful heritage sites), are running a summer campaign this year which asks us to 'pack your imagination'.

We were invited to go along for a double bouncy / non-bouncy castle experience!

There is a variety of exciting family fun activities in Cadw sites around Wales and we were very happy to hear that, at Caerphilly Castle, this includes a bouncy castle and Lego workshops.

Incidentally, the last of these workshops is on Thursday 27th August and you can find more information here.  (Booking is via Eventbrite).

So, on a satisfyingly bleak and rainy morning (I like a bit of 'bleak' as you know), we drove the short distance from Cardiff and, armed with the customary Fruit Shoots and Tunnocks Caramel Wafers, prepared to explore.

There is ample quite cheap car parking, by the way, in the nearby long-stay pay & display car park and the castle itself is very well signposted.

The first thing we noticed was the geese and ducks who grace the surrounding river. There were loads of them!

Mindful of the fact that the Romans allegedly used geese as guards we walked somewhat gingerly towards the imposing silhouette of the castle.

Isn't it funny how you can live in a place for decades and completely forget how fantastic the places on your own doorstep are?

For some reason, despite the fact that I had visited Caerphilly Castle as a child, I had forgotten how big and strikingly majestic it is.

In fact, Caerphilly is Wales' largest castle and the second largest castle in the UK (the largest being Windsor Castle).

It is also very well set out for visitors, with a site office / gift shop and toilets (very important for us family explorers).

There are also art installations, exhibitions and great use of projection (for example, to create a portcullis or a roaring fire) which help to bring the castle alive.

Caitlin and Ieuan loved the many towers and halls and were fascinated by dark corridors and foot-worn turret stairs.

The views over the castle ramparts are spectacular - even shrouded in the kind of misty murkiness only South Wales seems capable of producing.

Caerphilly Castle was begun in 1268 by Earl Gilbert de Clare who was a rich and powerful English nobleman.

His new home had to weather its first attack in 1270 whilst still under construction.

The castle had rings of stone and water defences to repel attack.

In its huge Great Hall, it is probable that King Edward II was entertained there in 1326 on the run from Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer.

And, as another point of interest, the south-east tower out-leans the Tower of Pisa.

We enjoyed the art installations, although I'm not too sure this interpretation of "the wife" is all that flattering.

The story of Caerphilly Castle is very well documented by Cadw and it is easy to get a sense of how hard life must have been then.

For a start, life expectancy in 1268 was 31, although if you managed to get to 20 you stood a good chance of living to 45.

The daily focus must have been on survival. How different must it have been for families then!

The "Pack Your Imagination" Campaign is a great opportunity for little ones to put themselves in their ancestors' shoes to bring one of the hardest (and one of the gruesomest) periods in our history to life.

After a great hour or so exploring, the kids could resist the lure of the bouncy castle no longer and, ignoring the drizzle, had a great time bouncing like Tigger on a sugar rush.  (I managed to restrain myself from joining them).

I can heartily recommend a bouncy castle as a quick method of tiring your kids out.

As long as you can then withstand the inevitable "I'm tired, I'm hungry" etc.

There was only one thing for it - off to the Black Cock Pub on Caerphilly Mountain we went for a lovely pulled pork madras and freshly cooked fish goujons and chips for the kids.

The pub is also just a stones throw from another Cadw site - Castell Coch built by eccentric genius William Burges for John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute.  But that's a tale for another day.

Entry to Cadw sites is free is you are a member (a family membership is £66), otherwise a family ticket is £16.50 (2 adults and all children under 16). If you join Cadw at the site, there is a £10 reduction in the membership fee.

For further information about Caerphilly Castle go to www.cadw.wales.gov.uk.

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