Learning about different cultures

For as long as I can remember, my dad’s family have had Japanese students staying with them for a couple of weeks every summer. Last year, it was a real honour and a sign that I had become a proper grown-up when we were asked to host some students as well. 

The students are only 14 or 15 years old and they spend a few days over in the UK with host families to improve their English and learn a bit more about our culture. Despite being so young, they are immaculately behaved and a pleasure to have around the house. It is a fantastic opportunity for the students and I view it as an equally exciting opportunity for us. I love the fact that Libby is associating with people with a different cultural background to us. As she gets older, I hope to continue hosting students each year. This should encourage Libby to really interact with them and hopefully learn a few words of Japanese. If this gives her an interest in different languages and cultures then I will be delighted. 

My husband and I have both travelled quite a lot and I am really keen to encourage Libby to do the same when she is old enough. Of course, we will have family holidays abroad when she is old enough to appreciate it. In particular, we will travel to France where I can speak the language, which I hope will encourage Libby to learn a foreign language too. In the meantime though, she is already learning a little bit about the Japanese culture. Today, she even received her own little traditional kimono as a present from one of our students. What a lucky girl! 


Up and running!

Right from day one, we could see that Libby was going to be a bit of a character. Her ministry of silly faces gave that away…

What also became apparent very swiftly was her love of food and drink. These days she can tell us that she’s hungry, usually by shouting for banana, cake or, if she can’t say the right word, just “mmmmmm!!!” Even when she was tiny though, we got the general idea of what she wanted…

Libby is also very keen on exercise. She has been trying to walk since she was about 2 months old. At 12 months, she was quite the local celebrity when she walked 1km holding hands with her poor, long suffering aunt Em to raise money for charity. She raised hundreds of pounds, made the front page of two local newspapers and even won a medal… 

Now that she can walk unaided, Libby understands that she has serious responsibilities to fulfil. She makes sure that she walks Pluto every day, rain or shine, whether he likes it or not… 

All this learning to walk takes it’s toll though, and what better way to relax than to have a nice swim? So off she went at lunch time today for a swim with her dad. A lovely time was had by all. That is until the moment when her dad told her to stand still whilst he got changed. A split second later, she was off at lightening speed back to the swimming pool, swimming costume and nappy in hand. What a great game when dad realised what was happening and went chasing after her! The perfect opportunity to learn to run, just a few steps away from dad, just far enough for him to make a spectacular entrance onto poolside… in his pants! 

(Don’t worry, there’s not a photo to accompany that story!)

Goodness only knows what mischief she will achieve when she learns to ride a bike! 

This is my entry into the Cycle Addicts blog competition. You can enter here: http://www.cycleaddicts.co.uk/cycle-tots-competition.html

I’d love to know what tricks your boys get up to Maz http://maz-shack2.blogspot.co.uk/

I also love to read Sarah’s posts so I would love to hear all about her cheeky trio’s exploits http://mumofthreeworld.blogspot.co.uk/

I’m sure both of these fabulous writers could put together posts worthy of winning an amazing bike for their little ones! 

An introduction to the Royal Baby!

A few days ago, Libby received a fabulous book to review. It’s a story all about little Prince George! 

This Royal Baby by Zita Newcome is a lovely new book that was released as soon as the Royal Baby was born. The book has a pull-tab on every page that makes the baby do different things. It frowns, wiggles its ears, and blows bubbles in the bath among other things. What I like about it is that it teaches young children about doing things and experiencing emotions as well as giving them an introduction to the fact that someone who will one day be their King has just been born. 

Libby always loves a book, usually we read them in bed but she brought this one downstairs this morning and when Aunty Sophie and Aunty Alice came round to see her, she proudly showed it to them. 

What a lovely book, Libby loves it and all my family have have also said what a lovely idea it is. I can see it becoming a firm favourite. 

Bagging a bargain!

Today Libby and I were joined by my sister Emma for a morning of shopping. We were taking part in the MoneySupermarket.com Retail Royalty Challenge. 

Money Supermarket very generously gave us £30 to spend on a charity of our choice. We chose the Worcestershire Animal Rescue Shelter because that’s where we got Libby’s best friend Pluto from several years ago before Libby was born. 

Before we headed to the shops, I contacted a few stores both on the high street and online to see if they could offer us any special offers or discounts owing to the nature of the challenge we were doing. Unfortunately, some places didn’t respond and others declined so we headed into our local town to see what we could find. 

I went armed with a list of things that the shelter needed, which they helpfully display on their website. We had a look around the charity shops first, I thought they might have things like towels and animal bedding. We didn’t have any luck though, so off we went to trusty Wilko’s. I’ve always found Wilko’s cheap, particularly for pet food. They also often have great offers so it was the natural place to spend our £30. As you can see, the money went a long way… 

In the above photo, Libby is proudly showing off my top tip for pet owners; use nappy bags as dog pooh bags. These bags were 23p for a pack of 200. We bought 12 packs, so that’s a total of 2400 poohs picked up for £2.76. What a bargain! 

Another great bargain was the offer on these Felix Goody Bags of cat treats. The shelter are always running low on treats and these are great quality, my fussy cat used to love them. They were £2 for two bags, so we bought 4 bags of them for £4. 

I also particularly loved these play balls for cats. Most people realise that dogs like to play with toys but often people forget that cats like to as well. There are three balls in a pack and each pack cost £1.25 so we bought three packs. 

Another bargain (which I wish I’d known about when I still had my cat) was the cat litter. That was  on offer at just £1.26 for 8 litres so we bought two packs. 

We bought two 1kg bags of everyday value dog biscuits for £1.50 per pack. These are a nice size so they’re ideal for the shelter to use as treats. When I walk the dogs there, treats are always readily available to give to the dogs on their walks. This helps with obedience training and all the dogs love to have a treat.

The shelter also had non-biological washing powder on their list, so we bought a 1670g box of Fairy non-bio for £4. 

The final purchase was 4 packs of six Wilko Train tennis balls at £2.49 per pack. All the dogs love to play with a tennis ball, but they often chew them so the shelter get through a lot of them! I’m hoping that our 24 tennis balls will last them for a little while! 

In total, this came to £29.99. We took the supplies straight up to the shelter and I left them with the volunteer on reception. Helpfully, there was also a little pot on the reception desk for spare change, so I put the extra 1p in the pot to make sure that the shelter got the whole £30. 

We have had a lovely morning shopping and it’s great to know that it’s all going to such a worthy cause. Many thanks to Money Supermarket and to Wilko’s

New shoes!!!

Last week, I received an email asking if I would like to review a pair of running shoes. This came at the perfect time for me, my old pair were so far beyond repair it was no longer funny. I really couldn’t justify forking out for another pair of shoes but I was determined to keep on running. I have done a half marathon and a triathlon recently in shoes that were digging into my feet at the back where the fabric had worn away and had huge holes in the toes. 

So you can imagine my excitement this afternoon when I saw a delivery van arrive with a parcel! My heart sank when the driver handed it over, it was much too light to be my shoes, it must be our new broadband router. I put the package down on the kitchen work surface and looked at it again; it had a Hi-Tec logo on it… 

I’m not really a shoe person, I don’t have hundreds of pairs and I certainly don’t buy them regularly. These though, are something to get excited about. I have had Hi-Tec running shoes before, years ago, and loved them. They have a fantastic range of women’s running shoes

I’ve never seen anything quite like these though. The pair I am trying out are the Illusion. They are advertised as light-weight and they really are. They feel quite minimalist despite being cushioned underfoot, the upper part is just like wearing a sock. Plus, they look great! I’m never one for buying running shoes because they look nice, but these are pretty! 

 The ultimate test though came this evening when I headed out for a run. I’m doing an aquathlon in a few weeks and the run is only 5km, so most of my training is focused on doing that distance and trying to improve my time. On Saturday, I managed my 5km in just over 26 minutes. Today I managed to cut that down to 25:11. I’m not saying that a pair of shoes could shave a minute off my time, but they certainly helped! They were a pleasure to run in, my feet felt noticeably lighter and I could feel the air coming in through the toes which, in this weather, is fantastic! Despite being new I didn’t feel any rubbing or blistering on my feet, every part of the shoe seems to be designed for comfort. 

I will continue to put these to the test over the next few weeks and see how they fare in the aquathlon; I suspect they will do me proud! If I had to criticise one thing about the Hi-Tec Illusion, it would be that they’re too easy to steal! 

This post was not sponsored but Hi-Tec sent me a pair of their amazing shoes to review. Views, opinions, sore feet from my old running shoes and resident shoe-thieves are all mine.

Food, Glorious Food

Libby has always enjoyed food. She eats anything that we give her, even if it’s spicy, strongly flavoured or otherwise unusual. She has always eaten what we eat and we never really gave her jars of baby food. 

Generally, it’s really convenient that she eats the same as us. We all eat together and I just cook one big meal that will sometimes last us a couple of days. Occasionally though, we might get home late and not have time to cook a proper meal, or my husband and I might be eating later because one of us is doing sport that evening. That’s when it can become a little difficult to know what to give Libby to eat. I want her to have something healthy but that tends not to go hand in hand with having something quick and convenient. 

That’s why I was intrigued to hear about the new Little Foodies range from Plum Tots, and delighted when they sent me a few portions for Libby to try. They are made from organic ingredients and contain at least two child-sized daily portions of vegetables. The flavours are interesting and unusual for children’s food. So far, Libby has tried the tomato and beef ragu and the vegetable biryani. They are also incredibly convenient, being served in a nice little bowl and taking just 30 seconds to cook in the microwave. 

Libby’s favourite so far was the biryani, she has always loved things with a lot of flavour and this is made really tasty with herbs without being spicy. These would be a great introduction to more unusual tastes for children that aren’t necessarily keen on strongly flavoured food. Personally, I wouldn’t give Libby pre-made meals every day, but it’s great to know that there is a convenient yet healthy option available when we are short on time. The other thing I loved was that Libby was able to feed herself the ragu. The bowl was nice and easy for her to get to with the spoon and the food stayed on the spoon really well. Libby was delighted with herself as you can see! 

This post was not sponsored but I did receive a few samples of the little foodies range for Libby to review. 

Swimming, cycling, running and underwear

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to take part in the Shock Absorber Women Only Triathlon at beautiful Eton Dorney Lake. I was also lucky enough to have a Shock Absorber sports bra to review whilst I was at it!

We set off at 7.30 am to get to the venue in time to register before my wave started. My husband took the day off work so that he could bring Libby down to watch. Luckily we have an estate car, but packing my bike, Libby’s buggy, the cool box for the picnic and all my other kit into the car was still a bit of a squeeze!

When we arrived at the lake, I was amazed at how few people were there! The races were so well spread out throughout the day in such a large and impressive venue that it didn’t seem packed at all. I got my kit together, took a leisurely stroll down to registration and spent the obligatory hour getting a bit nervous about doing something so ridiculous in this heat.

Eventually it was time for the swim. The organisers advised against wearing a wetsuit because the temperature of the lake was so warm. After the initial shock of the water not actually being that warm, I was pleased to be free of the restrictive wetsuit and soon warmed up once the swim started. After the 800 metre swim, I was third out of the water in my group. Unfortunately, I’m not much of a cyclist so the people I had beaten in the swim were soon whizzing past me.

The cycle was a great route though, six laps of the lovely flat course around the stunning lake. I even noticed some sheep grazing by the lake and found myself thinking what a lovely place it was to be a sheep… ok, perhaps I should have been concentrating on cycling a bit quicker!

The run was shortened due to the ridiculous heat, which I think was very sensible of the organisers. It ended up being just over 6km and that was far enough! The water stops were very welcome, as was the finishing line!

I would definitely do that triathlon again, it was a fantastic venue and amazing atmosphere. My husband is also desperate to compete there too, so we will be looking for one that he can do soon. At the end, I paid a quick visit to the Unlisted London tent. They had a great stretching zone where you could do a stretching class and I had a look through some of their amazing products. Unfortunately, not being based in London I won’t be able to use their home spa service. I will definitely be looking to order some products from their website as a treat some time though, they smelt divine!

Now on to the real hero of the triathlon for me- the Shock Absorber. I have been running in it for a few weeks now and wore it for my half marathon. It took me quite a while to get used to the clip on the back and I initially struggled to do it up. I’ve got the hang of it now though and I am definitely converted. The clip just makes it extra sturdy and massively reduces bounce. It is testament to the bra that I didn’t notice it at all during the triathlon or the half marathon. I am always nervous about bras because I still have scars from wearing the wrong bra to do the London Marathon. This one though, is a revelation. I was stunned that I couldn’t feel it at all even when it was wet through from swimming without a wetsuit. This is one piece of equipment that comes with a strong recommendation from me.

On the subject of equipment, not all of my kit fared so well. The fact that I didn’t notice the Shock Absorber really made it hit home how much I did notice other things. Firstly my cycling shoes. Awful. It always takes me ages to clip them in, then my feet get numb because they’re a bit too small and my legs never quite feel like they’re at the right angle when I’m cycling. 

Then onto the run and another footwear issue- my running shoes are falling apart. It’s definitely time for a new pair. They are more hole than shoe these days. This is partly testament to how much I love them that I’ve worn them for several years, several half marathons and several triathlons. Now though, it’s time to move on. 

The third piece of kit I have realised is essential is a water bottle that clips onto my tri bars on the bike. Yet again, I managed to drop my water really close to the beginning of the cycle and had to wait until the run to have a drink. In this heat, that wasn’t ideal. I was incredibly grateful for the carton of Vita Coco coconut water that was handed to me at the end. It was really refreshing and hydrating- that is until Libby got her hands on it when I was about half way through drinking it and polished off every last drop!

This post wasn’t sponsored, but Shock Absorber kindly gave me a fantastic sports bra and let me enter their brilliant triathlon in return for writing it. Views, opinions, slow cycling and musings about sheep are all mine.