Tuesday, 23 September 2014

*WIN* Tickets to see Disney On Ice at the Phones 4U Arena

Disney On Ice is returning to Manchester in October with the spectacular production of 100 Years Of Magic. It promises to be the celebration of the century, bringing to life Disney’s most remarkable characters from across the decades including Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse, joined by friends from the much loved Disney favourites such as Beauty & the Beast, Toy Story, The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, Peter Pan and many more!




Join the celebration as more than 60 of Disney’s unforgettable characters from 18 beloved stories come to life in Disney On Ice celebrates 100 Years Of Magic! You’ll be captivated by the one and only Mickey Mouse, the irresistible Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio and many Disney Princesses. Be thrilled by exciting moments from The Lion King; Mulan; and Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Toy Story films; in a skating spectacular filled with magical Disney moments you’ll remember forever as Disney On Ice celebrates 100 Years Of Magic comes to Manchester!





Second Time Mummy has teamed up with Disney On Ice to offer one lucky person the chance to win a family ticket* (*admits 4 people), to see the show at Phones 4u Arena Manchester on Thursday 16th October.

To be in with a chance of winning all you have to do is answer the following question as a blog comment...

What is the name of Buzz and Woody’s cowgirl friend?

.... and confirm your entry on rafflecopter form. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disney On Ice celebrates 100 Years Of Magic is at Phones 4u Arena Manchester 15th – 19th October 2014 Tickets are priced between £14 - £39 For further ticket information telephone 0844 847 8000 or visit www.phones4uarena.co.uk or www.disneyonice.co.uk

The prize is a family ticket (admitting 4 people) to go and see the Manchester showing of Disney On Ice - 100 Years of Magic at the Phones 4 U Arena on Thursday 16th October 2014. Travel and accomodation are not included.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Growing Up Too Fast #PowerOfSoft *sp*

Last week my youngest, my baby girl, started school. Last week my oldest, my baby boy, started junior school. Words can not describe the heart wrenching feeling that comes with waving goodbye to your little ones on their first day. My heart was broken... they are growing up too fast.

Little E was four years old just 3 weeks ago and now she's already a week in to the school year. It feels like only yesterday I was holding her and Mister A in my arms, cuddling them for the first time, staring in to their eyes as I fed them. But it feels like a lifetime ago...



Seven and a half years have passed since Mister A was born. No one could have prepared me for the intense love that a mother feels. I am so, so proud of my children and everything they do. There is no better feeling than snuggling up with them to talk about their day or watch a film on TV. They'll never be too old for cuddles!

So many children these days grow up too fast for the wrong reasons... because they're watching things they shouldn't on TV or playing 18 rated video games. In our house we have a motto....

Some people might think that this makes my children naive but I think it just makes my children, children.

The time really does go so fast when you have little ones so make the most of every single minute. Dance with them, sing with them and make memories that will last a lifetime.

My top tip for any new parents out there would be to blog if you can or keep a memory book or diary for you to look back on in future years when they are flying the nest... because before you know it you'll be waving them off to uni or travelling and memories of those little people you once knew will be the only thing you have.

I'll leave you with this video that will have you in tears!




Disclosure: I received some Fairy Non Bio products and payment in return for my memories.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

A Weekend in Wales - Attractions of Snowdonia Review

Living in West Lancashire we are lucky enough to be able to visit North Wales regularly. This year we have already made a couple of trips over the border to Prestatyn and Anglesey so when we were contacted by Attractions of Snowdonia and asked if we would like to spend the weekend visiting some of the local attractions we jumped at the chance. Soon after signing up,  Deri the roaming Dragon (the new Attractions of Snowdonia mascot) arrived to accompany us on our trip...


Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway


We set off on Saturday morning (after some unexpected car troubles) and headed to Porthmadog - the home of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. Parking at the station is limited so we headed to a larger public car park - near Wilko's - not far from the station.  After collecting our tickets we jumped on board the steam train and set off from Porthmadog on the 13.35. The journey took us up through the hills through Minfford and Tan y Bwlch finally arriving at Blaenau Ffestiniog at 14.45.

The train has a number of carriages including a couple of first class cabins if you fancy a little luxury on your trip.

TOP TIP: There are 2 and 4 seat tables so try and board as early as possible to get some extra space.

We started the trip on 2 small 2 seater tables but as quite a few passengers left the train at Tan y Bwlch we were able to sit as a family eventually.

The time absolutely flew by and if I'm honest I was surprised how the sights along the journey managed to keep the children entertained for so long. We spotted sheep, waving walkers and please look out for the beautiful waterfall just before you reach Tan y Bwlch - it's stunning!



We took a picnic to save on pennies but a refreshment service is available on the train where you can order soft drinks, tea or coffee and even a selection of licenced drinks from spirits through to Welsh cider. After a short stop and a stretch of the legs at Ffestiniog, we boarded the train again ready for the 13½-mile journey back to the harbour of Porthmadog.We all really enjoyed our trip up to the mountains and we would highly recommend it to anyone that wants to take in the sights of Snowdonia in a truly relaxing way.

A guidebook is available to purchase on board for £5 where you can find out more about the Ffestiniog Railway. In it you can read about how Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways is the oldest independent railway company in the world - founded by an Act of Parliament in 1832 believe it or not. In fact, the company introduced the world's first narrow gauge steam locomotives in 1863 and four of the original locos still remain!

Once back at Porthmadog we took a quick trip to the harbour before heading to the hotel for the evening.




The Celtic Royal


We spent the night in the beautiful Celtic Royal Hotel in Caernarfon, around a 30 minute hour drive from Porthmadog.

We were booked in to a family room, consisting of a double and 2 single beds. After unpacking we called down to reception to reserve a table for our evening meal.We were really disappointed not to have been able to get a later table in the restaurant (we wanted an 8 o'clock setting but we were forced to take 7.15 as the restaurant was fully booked -  rather annoyingly though it wasn't full at all even when we left at 9pm and we could only watch what looked to have been a beautiful sunset from the window rather than over at the quay.)

The food at Brasserie Draco more than made up for it though - was absolutely delicious -and my risotto was the best fish dish Ive had in years!


We retired for the night but being all in the same room meant that we were restricted in what time we could go to bed ourselves so we got an early night ready for tomorrow's adventures.

King Arthur's Labyrinth


We arrived at King Arthur's Labyrinth just before 1pm. We were booked on to the 1.30 trip so we took a wander round the centre. There are lots of little craft shops to explore - a chocolate shop where you can make your own bar, a wooden toy store and a candle shop where you can dip candles. If you book ahead you can even build a piece of rustic furniture! With little time to play with, the children immediately headed to the adventure playground and worked off some energy.



We arroved at King Arthur's Labyrinth store a little early so we were shown in to a video area while we waited. At 1.30 sharp, a lady came to take us in to a small seating area where we were told about the adventure ahead. After receiving our hard hats we took the short walk round to the entrance of the cavern.

TOP TIP: Wrap up warm and wear wellies if you can as it's very cold and damp inside the mountain.

We walked through to the dark passage to be greeted by a mysterious boatman who ushered us on board. We sailed along, through a waterfall (don't worry you won't get that wet!) and disembarked from our boat. We walked from cave to cave to see and hear the wonderful tales of King Arthur and his men including King Arthur’s final battle - the Battle of Camlan. It was really interesting and we loved walking through the tunnels.

There is lots more to do on the site including an another attraction -  Lost Legends of The Stone Circle where you can follow the snaking paths and navigate the maze to find mythical stories and The Stone Circle but we had to move quickly to reach our next destination so we ate our packed lunch and headed on.

Llechwedd Slate Caverns


The journey from the Labyrinth to Llechwedd took around 50 minutes. When we arrived on site there were 3 people flying overhead across the Quarry on the 'longest zip line course in the World' - it looked fantastic. The children are too young for that yet so Chris and I have talked about returning next Summer with Grandparents in tow so that we can have a go too! Anyway, I digress, we were there to visit the slate caverns.

After getting our tickets we walked to the mine area and, for the second time that day, donned our hard hats. We took a ride down to the mine on the steepest cable railway in Britain taking us hundreds of feet underground.


Our guide was fantastic, he told us about how the miners and their families lived during Victorian times. As you walk the half mile journey through the caverns you hear the voice of Sion Dolgarregddu - a young miner that went to work in the mine at just 12 years old. It was unbelievable to think how they must have worked the mines in such dark and dangerous conditions. The caverns were lit beautifully. Part of the tour sees you head down around 60 steps and as we moved through the lower caverns we came to a beautiful, natural underground lake - it was absolutely stunning. As we reached the end of the walk through, our guide gave us a demonstration of how the Victorian miners used their tools. We made our ascent up a further staircase and then back up top in the cable car. We finished the tour with a visit to the Mill where we were shown the ancient skill of slate splitting - Little E and Mister A were even given small pieces of slate to take away as a memento.

There is so much to do on site here from the zip wire and the mine tour to Bounce - the world’s first subterranean playground! Huge trampoline like nets are hung within two vast chambers at varying levels, linked together by walkways and slides, the biggest of which is a 60 foot slide! We would have loved to have a try but unfortunaley it was closed by the time we finished our tour. If all that wasnt enough then high up on 'Cribau', behind the historic headquarters of Llechwedd, there are four world beating downhill mountain bike tracks - not for the fainted hearted I would imagine but there are tracks for novices as well as more experienced riders. Finally on the way out we discovered a beatiful waterfall...


Seeing it was the perfect end to a fantastic weekend. Wales is such a beautiful country and we saw some breathtaking views on our 330 mile round trip. I'll leave you with some of the amazing Snowdonian scenery...


What's the Verdict?


We had the perfect weekend away and would highly recommend a visit to Snowdonia. To find out more about the huge amount of attractions that Snowdonia has to offer then visit www.attractionsofsnowdonia.com - go on - do it now!!

In exchange for this review we received a Deri cuddly toy, complimentary admission to the attractions reviewed and an overnight hotel stay.

Monday, 25 August 2014

The Debenhams Back to School Competition #DebsDreamUniform

Since it's a rainy Bank Holiday Monday, the children are bored - at least I think they are - they've only told me a hundred times! Yesterday when I was catching up on my favourite blogs I came across The Debenhams Back to School Competition over at Mellow Mummy blog. So to stem the boredom Mister A headed over to the Debenhams website to complete the challenge....

He took about abhor to decide (I am not kidding!) and finally selected his ideal uniform from the selection of boys wear at Debenhams. These were his final choices...


Mantaray Long Sleeve Bear Top from £10
RJR John Rocha Turquoise Trousers from £18

Sketchers 'Yoke' High Tops £40

He loves the outfit so much that he decided to draw himself wearing it...



Here he is explaining why he choose his outfit...




Little E had a go too - although since she's only starting school in September the novelty of wearing a uniform hasn't yet worn off! She choose a Summer dress with a winter hat and scarf and some rainbow coloured Sketchers...

She did draw a picture too but she made me promise not to post it because she accidentally made her hair in to a beard!

So there you have it - our entry in the the #DebsDreamUniform Comp!


Your little ones can enter too over at www.mellowmummy.co.uk or www.brummymummyof2.co.uk

Friday, 22 August 2014

Happy 4th Birthday Little E

I know it's a cliche but I really can't believe my little girl is 4 today. It's a big year for this little one as she is preparing to start school in September. I am so proud of her. It was actually during my pregnancy with Little E that I started this little old blog and it has opened up some amazing opportunities for all of us. We love you Little E - Happy Birthday!







Friday, 25 July 2014

Manchester Colour Run 2014

Back in June I was contacted by the lovely peeps at LV and asked if I would like to take part in the Manchester Color Run with a number of other bloggers. I'd never competed in a 'fun run' before but I was certainly up for the challenge to promote heatlhy living.

But what is The Color Run? (Spelt the American way!) It is a 5k race also known as the Happiest 5k on the Planet! At every kilometre there is an amazing colour station where organisers pelt you with coloured powder paint. Sounded interesting!

On the morning of the run I headed to Manchester on the train wearing my compulsory white tee. I was a little nervous but excited about meeting the other bloggers. When I arrived I tweeted using the #LVLoveLife hashtag and subsequently met up with the lovely Danielle from Miss Danielle and Sonya from Once Upon a Glam

This is us looking all 'white' before we set off...

The route took us around the Ethiad Campus with colour stations at each kilometre...


We set off jogging but we ended up walking most of the way and soaking up the atmosphere. Everyone was embracing the sunshine and going colour crazy! It was such a great day - a lot of fun!

After the run there was a huge party with some top tunes...




We stayed to party for over an hour before I headed home on the train. I got a few looks from people on the train who quite clearly hadn't a clue why I was in such a state! It was a fantastic experience and I'd love to do it again with the children. Huge thanks to LV who provided me with a ticket for this event. You should check out their post about the Top 5 Fun Runs!

Monday, 30 June 2014

My Must-Have Running Kit

Since I took up running just under a year ago I've become a little bit addicted. I run a lot and I talk about running even more... I've even convinced a couple of people to have a go. One think I do get asked a lot is what kit you need. Really you don't need anything other than a pair of trainers and leggings and a tee to get started but wants the bug gets you, you'll want to invest in some extra pieces of kit to make your running even better. Here are my top pieces of kit that I couldn't live without...

What to wear...


I have LOADS of running tops from the likes of Primark, Matalan and Aldi but my absolute favourite is this Adidas that I bought from Sports Direct a couple of months ago. It's long enough to cover my bum so I don't have to worry about the wobble as I run!

My capris were from Lidl - although I need to invest in a new pair since I fell at the start of the Mersey Tunnel 10k and scuffed them.

My trainers have been with me for a year and will soon need replacing. They are lightweight New Balance that I got in the John Lewis sale - I ran with them for 10 months before I started using the orthopedic insoles.

Other than clothing here are some great additions to your kit...

Yurbuds Women’s Pro (RRP £25)


I love running with music, it helps me pace and allows me to forget about my breathing and run naturally. When I first started out my earphones were my biggest bugbear - constantly falling out of my ears and slowing me down. After a while I moved on to a cheap pair with ear cuffs but they didn't work either. I decided to ask the ladies in my RunMummyRun Facebook group and everyone was recommending the same brand - Yurbuds.

Since my Yurbuds arrived I've never looked back. I pop them in my ears and forget them. You don't feel them, they don't move, they stay were they are meant to be- they are AMAZING!

Next time you need new headphones (runner or not) I can highly recommend Yurbuds - and I do recommend them - ALL the time!

A bit about Yurbuds:
yurbuds sports earphones are designed to contour to the human ear so they never hurt and they never fall out. Designed by athletes for athletes, yurbuds provide premium sound quality, even while in motion. With exclusive TwistLock Technology - they never hurt, never fall out. Sweat and water resistant design FlexSoft comfort fit Ambient noise awareness Available in two ranges: Inspire for Women (pictured above) available in aqua, orange, yellow, green, pink and purple. Designed for women to fit smaller ears, two sizes in the box. Inspire Pro features a 3-button sweat and water resistant microphone that gives you full track, call, and volume control on your iPhone and iPod and a lifetime guarantee.


SOLE Softec Response RRP £35.00


About 6 weeks ago I was sent a pair of SOLE orthopaedic footbeds to trial. They basically mould to your feet and give you added support when you run. Until then I had always just ran with the standard trainer insoles. You basically pop them in the oven on a tray for a couple of minutes than pop them in your running shoes (once the existing soles have been taken out). You have to stand in them for a minute or so to allow the moulding to begin, then after that everytime you run you're shaping them to your natural stride. The first few runs felt a little odd and it felt like I was working new muscles in my legs but since then they've been great and I love the added support.

A bit about SOLE footbeds:
SOLE orthopaedic footbeds  give you unique support just where you need it by equalising pressure distribution, reducing plantar fascia strain, increasing balance and feel and providing natural heel cushioning. The moisture-wicking top sheet helps to keep your feet dry while the 1.6mm of Softec cushioning eases the pressure on your feet. You can achieve custom support from SOLE in minutes: simply heat the footbeds, place them in your shoes and step into them. The footbeds will mould to the shape of your feet as they cool to give you a unique, customised fit. SOLE Softec Response Footbeds cost £38 from www.yoursole.co.uk

SOLE Dual Layer Socks  RRP from £11.50

One thing I did struggle with was socks - especially when I first got my trainers and again when I started running longer distances. Sometimes blisters can be inevitable on those occasions but with dual layer socks it's a lot less likely. I love the SOLE dual layers because they give you a lot of support for a sock and the two layers rub against each other rather than rubbing on your feet. I can definitely recommend these - I just wish they made them in brighter colours - and I'd love to see some compression socks from them too!

A bit about SOLE dual layer socks:
 
SOLE Dual Layer Socks have two layers of blended Tactel, Coolmax and Lycra to reduce friction on the skin and prevent blisters from developing. They have a TensorFit arch band that ensures the socks stay in place and provide additional support. The seamless technology gives added comfort, the super soft materials wick away moisture and the mesh panels in the socks ensure feet stay cool and dry. Available in different lengths from www.yoursole.co.uk.

ActiPatch RRP £19.99

If like me, falling over is part of your game then it's inevitable that from time to time you'll be out of action. A couple of weeks ago I fell at the start of my 10k, I still finished but afterwards my ankle swelled and it was quite sore. To be honest I was really skeptical that the ActiPatch would have any effect but I used it for a few nights and it reduced the swelling and pain very quickly. Chris has used it on his shoulder too and it's really helped - definitely a great thing to have in the house!

You just attach the device where the pain is and turn it on. You can wear it overnight or all day long - and the best thing is it REALLY works!


A bit about ActiPatch®:ActiPatch is a perfect solution for people, who suffer from any pain (especially after exercise) including sore muscles. ActiPatch® is an award-winning drug-free micro medical device which uses Electromagnetic Pulse Therapy to reduce pain and inflammation and accelerate healing. Its effectiveness has been clinically proven in eight medically published trials and has been shown to treat back and musculoskeletal pain on the body 5x better and 100% safer than over-the-counter drugs.

So there you have it - my must-have kit. It won't stop there either - Ive just treated myself to a Garmin Forerunner 220. I'm just getting to grips with that and I'll post a little review on here too!

Disclosure: I recieved the SOLE insoles and socks, the YurBuds and the ActiPatch to review for this post.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

The One Where I Run My First Ever 10k

I did it... 10 days ago I ran my first ever 10k. Yes, I'm overweight, no I'm not an athlete but I did it... on the hottest day of the entire year. At first I was disappointed with my time but given that I started the race with a bad knee and the addition of all of the other mishaps that happened along the way I am proud that I completed the race and even got up and did it at all.



This time last year I had just accidentally won my place on the 5 mile National Lottery Back to the Stadium run on Twitter. I hated running. I'd never run anywhere in my entire life. Running for the bus was a struggle. But that day... that day that I got the tweet...


...it really changed my life. I HAD to get fit. Gradually I began to run a couple of times a week. I didn't enjoy it - I was running because I had to, running because I was going to be in a race. As the weeks past I got in to it... I went from running to train to running for me. Then somethnig strange happened.. after the race, I didn't stop. I carried on running a couple of times a week and I enjoyed it.

So when work were gathering a team to compete and raise funds for the NSPCC I didn't hesitate. It would be my longest ever run but I wanted to do it... for me... and and for the kids.. obvs!

On the morning of the run I was so nervous. It was hot... really hot and I didn't start until 12.30pm when the weather would reach 25 degrees. Being an amateur I wasn't sure on how much water to drink pre race. I took it easy and gathered at the start line. The atmosphere was fabulous and then boom... we were off.

The first 1k was slow and steady but as I jogged round a corner I was distracted by something going on to the side of me. Something kept coming in to my line of vision, just on the corner of my eye.... I ignored it but it didn't go away. Finally I glanced to my left, only to see that it was my dad trying to take a picture of me! I slowed to help him out but as he still struggled to keep up he ran straight in to a car park meter. I giggled and ran off.

Soon I spotted the 2k marker. I was happy with my progress but the heat was starting to take its toll. My mouth was dry and I felt desperate for some liquid.

The water station was just before the 5k marker, just after my run past Old Trafford. I grabbed a bottle with the intention of slowly sipping but my body told me to drink drink drink. BIG MISTAKE. After that I really struggled. I soon got a stitch in my left side and after that it was less of a run and more of a hobble.. jog... walk.. hobble... jog...walk.

I reluctantly headed for the run through shower at 6.5k and that spurred me on a little but the stitch would not subside. By the time I hit 8k I was virtually walking and that's when my extremely hungover - been out on the Razz in Leeds the night before - friend Emma, caught up with me. She was feeling ill, I was broken. We jogged, talked and walked.

At 8k we were met with what I can only describe as a hose shooting a jet of water in to the air. It looked refreshing and we figured that the cold mist of water that we could see would refresh us. As we ran through it was like someone had poured a bucket of water on to our heads from a great height. As refreshing as that was on such a hot day, it meant all of the sweat from my head was washed in to my eyes. The salty water mixed with my contact lenses and a hint of mascara meant I was temporarily blinded just before the 9k marker!

I slowly regained my vision only to hear my son, Mister A shout "Mummy". My emotions got the better of me and tears filled my eyes. We upped the pace, we were nearly there... we ran but slowed again when we were safely out of view.

As we neared the finish line we spotted Emma's family and upped the pace again to cross the finish line in 1 hour and 24 minutes. I'm pretty sure I looked like I was going to vomit as I crossed the line, it was hard work in the heat but we did it!

Here I am at the start of the Great Manchester Run with my friend Cat - I'm smiling because the sun and stitch hadn't 'got me' yet!!!
I'm so proud of my achievement and proud that some of my friends have been inspired to start running too. I do get asked a lot about basic kit  so look out for my post this Saturday where I'll share my reviews in some fantastic must have buys if you love your running.



GREAT MANCHESTER RUN
SPLIT TIMES
3k time 00:21:26
5k time 00:38:12
8k time 01:05:28
Finish 01:24:30


Sunday, 11 May 2014

#MorrisonsMums - Bank Holiday Shop

Last week, over the Bank Holiday weekend I was challenged by BritMums to become a #MorrisonsMum and complete my weekly shop at my local Morrisons store. Usually I do my 'big shop' at the local Tesco store (purely out of convenience) but to coincide with Morrisons new 'I'm Cheaper' campaign, I was given £80 in vouchers to spend.

I shopped on Friday and bought everything I had on my list for the Bank Holiday weekend - we were planning a BBQ so meat and salad items were a priority as well as our usual cereals, snacks and fruit.

One thing I did notice was that the fresh raw meat was a fantastic price. I regularly shop at Tesco and I've noticed that over the last few months the price of meat has rocketed. Asda has always been cheapest locally, however I find the meat to be really fatty and for that reason I would never do my big shop there as we tend to cook all of our meals from scratch.

The shop I did was focused on us hosting a family BBQ over the weekend however the weather was awful so we ended up eating the BBQ food for dinner over the course of the week. One of my favourite meals being the Morrisons Signature Kebabs served with cous cous and salad. I bought 2 flavour variations:Spiced Lamb with Apricot and Lamb and Mint Shish with the apricot versions being my favourite. The meal was delicious and fed the 4 of us for only £2.02 each..






If processed kebabs aren't your thing and you want something a little cheaper then why not try these delicious home made kebabs we had later in the week for only 95 pence per serving!!




The Verdict

I had always thought Morrisons to be a false economy - plenty of offers but all on the items that I believed were over priced in the first place. This shop has been a real eye-opener for me and I am really impressed. We cook from scratch at least 5 nights a week and Morrisons has really impressed me with the quality and price of their fresh meat - great value for money.

The shelves are amased with the new 'I'm cheaper' logo wherever you look from own brand ready meals through to famous brands like Coca-Cola, Birds Eye and Pampers.

Going forward I will seriously consider traveling the few extra miles to Morrisons, the only down side is that I'll miss out on my Tesco Clubcard points but maybe I'd prefer to take my value in the here and now.

For now, I would definitely recommend you shop there if you like home-made meals.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The future of laundry? The one where I meet the Samsung WW9000 Washing Machine

Two weeks ago I headed to John Lewis’ Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square to take a sneak peek at the brand new Samsung WW9000 Washing Machine.

I've got to be honest, usually I wouldn't be interested in domestic appliances but I absolutely love Samsung and couldn't pass up the chance to see their latest invention. I wasn't disappointed...



First off, I should tell you that this picture really doesn't do it justice, the washing machine design is sleek and streamlined and I love the attention to detail the designers have given the machine. Even so far as the circle design to the side of the machine that allows you to place it at the end of a work surface without looking bland and boring.

But let's face it, design isn't what we necessarily look for in a washing machine is it? It's a device of necessity and what I was really interested in was the machines performance and durability. Will it get grass stains out of PE kits on a daily basis? Will it take the constant stream of Lego bricks/coins/action figures that will accidentally be added to the laundry basket? Will it be cost effective because we're on a water meter? And the question I always ask myself as a working mother of 2 - will it save me time? Well it appears the answer is yes to all of the above...

We were shown all of the incredible benefits of the machine by Nick Bevan, Senior Product Manager  - Laundry at Samsung UK and Ireland and he was happy to answer all of my questions on the new machine.

The first thing I was attracted to about the machine was the intuitive smart touch screen. I have a retro dial on my washing machine and I have to admit I've only moved that dial once in the past year because I have absolutely no idea what the other settings are for. In fact I have a very strict set routine when doing my laundry which I guess I should tell you before I go on...

1. Gather the laundry (not as simple as you may think) This usually involves emptying the laundry basket on to the floor of the landing then frantically searching the children's rooms for various socks/vests/school uniform that the children have left lurking under their beds.

2. Attempt to carry said washing load by hand (why?!) to the washing machine, dropping several socks en route like a modern day version of Hansel and Gretal dropping bread.

3. Drop washing on the floor in front of the machine then trace the steps back up the stairs to locate dropped items.

4. Search for washing up tablets..

5. Scream at the top of my voice "Chris? Where the washing tablets? I cant find them"

6. Locate washing tablet right in front of my eyes, throw it in to the machine.

7. Add washing and close door

8. Glance at the dial... realise I don't know what any of the settings mean.

9. Press 'Start'

10. Question whether I should have added an extra rinse/spin/extra washing tablet.

11. Realise I missed the one item out of the machine that needed to be washed for tomorrows ballet/athletics/swimming lesson.

12. Go off and forget that the washing load finished 6 hours ago and is now creased to death and starting to smell.

13. Sniff it...It smells... start over.

Sound familiar?! Yes, well read on...

The WW900 has a touchscreen rather than fiddly buttons and dials. Samsung say "Every other smart device has a touchscreen - why not your washing machine?" and I like their style, the 5” LED screen responds straight away with just one touch of your finger. The machine automatically shows your 'Most Used' cycle as soon as you switch it on, so if you are a one cycle wonder like me then you can start your wash with literally one tap.

There are different programmes too that can be selected for every stain scenario: a 'Gardening' cycle that shifts soil and grass stains, 'Cooking & Dining' gets rid of food and grease marks, and 'Active Sports' that would be perfect for the kids' football kits.

I particularly love the idea of having no detergent draw. Mine gets scummy quickly if I use powder (which is why I usually buy tablets that go straight in to the drum) and I hate cleaning it. This smart machine holds up to a month’s worth of detergent in the drum (in a similar place to the filter in your tumble dryer) and magically dispenses just the right amount you need for each load by weighing the laundry as well as sensing how soiled it is. Amazing!

It has a Super Speed Wash for those items you need washed in a rush. You can wash an average load of 5kg in just 59 minutes – or a load of 2kg or less with light soiling on a 15 minute wash!

If that's not enough to entice you then how do you fancy controlling your machine from your smartphone or tablet - very futuristic. With the WW9000 you can pause or start a wash using your mobile or tablet, so if you don't want to put a wash on in the morning and leave soaking in the drum all day until you get home, then you can load it in the morning and switch it on as your leaving work - that way it’s done by the time you get home.

You can also get notifications telling you how long there is left and when a cycle has finished so if your snuggled up on the sofa watching your favourite soaps, then you don't need to keep getting up to check if it's finished.

The WW9000 also uses Samsung's ecobubble technology, producing special bubbles which dissolve faster and deeper into your clothes - making them cleaner but also meaning you only have to put your laundry on a cool wash as the bubbles (rather than the heat) do all the hard work.

It has a huge door with double hinges, meaning it can fully open back on itself (my current washing machine is always bashing my legs as I'm loading so this would spare me the bruises) but as a mum this also worried me as the door, combined with it's 10kg drum, could easily attract children as a hiding place. Nick assured me that safety was key - both the door and the touch screen have child locks, however, should the unthinkable 'hiding' happen then the door is easily pushed open from the inside.

Finally, it’s quiet too (or so I'm told) thanks to its motor and 3D vibration sensor  the machine creates minimal noise even during fast spin speeds of up to 1600rpm - so you can put a load on at night and it won't disturb your little ones.

The verdict?

So all in all the WW9000 sounds amazing.. so much so that I decided I must have one... which is why I was a little down-hearted when I heard the £1700 price tag. Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that this machine is worth the money but at that cost it would definitely have to be an appliance we'd need to save up for. And this is why meeting this machine has really got me thinking about the way in which we perceive our appliances - I really feel that in the future our appliances buying decisions will no longer be made out of necessity but, much like we want the best mobile with the best operating system, we will want the same for our every day appliances too.

I for one really want this bad boy in my life but by the time I've saved up my pennies I'm sure that they'll have invented a robot that can load the washing and press all these buttons for me! Well, a girl can dream!



The Samsung WW900 is available now at John Lewis and at other retailers later in the year.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Help... I think I'm Turning in to a Runner

In less than 3 weeks time I will be running the Manchester 10k to raise money for the NSPCC. It feels strange to be telling you I'm running another race. After all my previous 5 mile run was an accidental win on Twitter!

In fact, if you'd have told me a year ago that I was even considering running 10k I would have laughed in your face. But strangely, at the age of 31, I find myself dragging myself out of bed at 6.30am on a Saturday morning so that I can eat my breakfast early enough before my 9am Park Run. Errr... WTF??

At school I hated running, I would get so out of breath within the first 100m that I would make myself ill. No one ever taught me about controlled breathing or starting out slow, I would bomb it for 30 seconds and then struggle for breath.

This is pretty much how my first runs went last year when I realised the mammoth task of a 5 mile run was approaching. Id sprint and walk, sprint and walk... and it was ok... it worked at the time. Gradually, after the race was over I began going out running for me... as a way of winding down after a long day. Still I'd exert myself and then slow down to catch my breath.. until one day, I started out slow. I jogged at a slow steady pace, controlling my breath and I jogged... and jogged... and I didn't stop. I couldn't believe it! I was running... albeit slowly... I was running non stop!

My biggest run so far (without stopping) has been 6k but over the next 20 or so days I'm going to hopefully ramp that up.

I'll keep you posted on the progress but in the meantime feel free to sponsor me.. it's for the kids!!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Haven Presthaven, Prestatyn Review

Over the first April Bank Holiday we headed over to North Wales to take the children on their first static caravan holiday. Eeek - exciting! We booked the holiday (our first of three) through a national newspaper deal and so in all honesty we weren't expecting much but that didn't stop us. Both Chris and I have fantastic memories of similar family holidays when we were children so we were looking forward to the adventure.

The Park

We stayed at the Haven Presthaven site on the coast of North Wales. Arriving at around 5.30pm on Friday evening, we drove right through the park following the signs to check in. The signposting wasn't great and we did wander around the restaurant before being directed to the reception desk.

The lady at the check-in desk was lovely, really taking time to talk to the children and ask if they were excited about the trip. She handed us our key and our entertainment pass wrist bands and showed us on a map the location of caravan where we would be spending the next 3 nights. As well as having each area of the park sign posted by name they also feature a Haven character so Little E and Mister A were always able to locate the character and find their way back (with us obviously!)

The first thing we noticed as we made our way to the caravan was how huge the park was and we panicked a little about getting around the site.

The Caravan

We had booked the cheapest and most basic 4 berth caravan so we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived to find we had been upgraded to a 6 berth caravan. It was really spacious with 3 bedrooms, a lovely living area that included an LCD TV, a kitchen with oven, hob and  microwave and of course a dining area...




Things to Do on the Park
The weather was slightly un-predicatable during our stay but there were plenty of things to keep us busy come rain or shine. There are 2 indoor pools on site that the children loved one with a water slide that even Chris and I loved. We stayed during April so unfortunately the outdoor heated pool and lazy river weren't open during our stay.

There are so many activities from a climbing park to go karts to pool activities and sports. Too many to share but all available to view on the website.



There are plenty of kids activities and clubs available but Mister A and Little E preferred to not to join in so we took to exploring the sand dunes and the playground instead.




In the evening there was plenty of entertainment for all of us to enjoy from Character FunTime shows for the children to live acts and bingo for the grown ups. My real bug bear about the site was that to get to the Live Lounge where the children's disco took place, we had to walk right through an arcade that was open to under 18s. It was filled with tweens gambling and I hated exposing my family to it. Immediately Mister A (7) and Little E (3) were asking for 'monies' to put in the 2p and 10p slots, fruit machines and grabbers. It was so frustrating. When we made it though the migraine inducing arcade the lounge was packed and we had to wait for someone to leave to get a seat.


The children loved the entertainment though and we found ourselves singing 'What does the fox say?' constantly for the entire hoilday much to Chris' annoyance! We obviously had to treat the children to  flashing toys, Mister A choosing a sword and Little E choosing a light up fish shaped bubble gun!! We were sat quite far back during the show but the enteratiners did make there way around the lounge and came over to talketo Little E and Mister A and asked them about thier toys. Little E even showed the entertainer her dance moves!

By 9pm the children were worn out so we headed back to the caravan, popped them in to bed and Christ and I cracked open the win and played cards!



The VerdictWe were worried the children might get bored but in actual fact we would have liked to have stayed longer. There was so much to do but make sure you do pre-book activities at the very start of your stay as they do fill up quickly. We really enjoyed the weekend and hope to visit Haven again soon. There was a real family vibe there and the staff paid great attention to the children which was lovely. Definitely worth a visit - we made some great memories during our stay.

Checklist


As with most holiday parks, you do need to remember to take your own essential items with you. Luckily this wasn't a surprise to us as we researched before our trip, however a lot of people do get caught out and end up having to head to the shops unexpectedly and spending more than they'd anticipated. Here's a handy list to help you to know what to take on your trip...

Bedroom:
Sheets.
Bedding
Additional pillows if you like more than one

Bathroom:
Towels
Toilet Roll
Toiletries

Kitchen:
Cooking Oil
Condiments
Food if your planning to eat in
Washing Up Liquid
Washing up equipment
Tea towels

If you do forget anything at Presthaven than there is a large Spar on site and a retail park 10 minutes away with a large Tesco supermarket and a pound shop.


Park address: Presthaven Sands Holiday Park, Shore Road Gronant, Prestatyn, North Wales. LL19 9ST  Park open: 14 Mar – 2 Nov

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