Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Mad Blog Awards Carnival - Small Business And Innovative

It really is a great honour for me to be a finalist in the Mad Blog Awards and I'm sure all the ladies below will agree with me.  I've been asked to host a carnival to showcase some of the work from your favourite blogs from two of the categories - Best MAD Small Business Blog and Best Innovative MAD Blog.

All the Mad Blog Award finalists have been invited to submit a favourite or recent post to 'show off' their blog to the world. This is another honour for me - to bring you some truly great posts from some amazing bloggers.

So sit down, grab a brew and have a read of these 10 brilliant posts from 10 fabulous Mad Blog Awards finalists. If you like what you see and haven't already voted then don't forget to pop along before 14th June and cast your vote - these blogs need your support!

MADs Small Business Logo

Fancy going to a party? Let Becky over at Baby Budgeting take you to a swishing party where you swap stuff.  A brilliant idea.

Laura and Katy over at Little Stuff present Goddess Bec's very open, honest (and very funny) review of Butlins without a Hi De Hi in sight - just a scary breakfast cow!

Did your man disappear off for the day so you could watch the Royal Wedding in peace?  Looks like he missed a great opportunity for sex according to Lisa at The Mummy Whisperer.

Lyndsey who's the Queen Of Easy Green celebrated Climate Week with a feature on some amazing products by Ashortwalk. Just shows you that being eco also means being stylish.

Are you a small independent online retailer? Karen over at All About The Boys wants to make some noise to encourage people to spend their hard earned cash with you.

MADs Most Innovative Logo

We all tell the odd little white lie to our kids don't we? Well Claire over at 20 Something Mum certainly does and she wants to share them with you.  Mummy fails are always good fun.

Are you an animal lover?  If you are you may need to get yourself over to Note From Lapland quick or the puppy gets it! Heather gives us a no holds barred reason why you should vote for her.

Liz over at Violet Posy gives us a great and easy to follow guide to creating fabulous blog headers.  Now you can achieve professional results without all the 'techno jargon'.

Remember the days of house phones? The days when you could only get hold of someone when they were at home and not in the car/shopping/on the loo?  Nickie over at Typecast does and 'It's For You Hoo'.

Ruth from Geek Mummy makes an important decision that not only changes her life but has the possibility of changing someone elses by putting their future in her hands.


For the links to all the other carnivals being hosted today with all the other finalists, head over to the MAD Awards Blog by clicking here.

I'm sure you'll agree all the above bloggers are more than worthy of their place in the MAD Blog Finals so head over and cast your votes!

MAD Blog Awards 2011

Monday, 30 May 2011

H is for... Holidays

It's no secret, I love to travel.

I've been to some amazing countries over the years and passion for travel will never fade - it's just the big stuff has been put on hold for a little while.

I want to share a holiday we took last year to Lanzarote.

I'm sharing this is order to spread this amazing place to more Mums and Dads who may be a little wary of travelling with babies, toddlers and young children. With a place like this you need not be!

I must admit that the thought of going on holiday with a then 13 month old Mini Cheddar terrified the life out of me. The thought of not being able to relax in a hotel or apartment, the thought of having to be all eyes by the pool and having to try to pack enough things to entertain her for 7 nights.

I did quite a lot of searching online and then stumbled across the mention of a place in Lanzarote on a forum about travelling with kids.  I checked it out and it seemed too good to be true!  We booked it for a week in May 2010 and it's one of the best holidays I've ever had.  Which, considering all my previous holidays have been without children that's saying something.

Casa Arabella is a beautiful 2 bedroom villa (with heated fenced pool) in the lovely resort of Playa Blanca in Southern Lanzarote. I had always thought that a villa holiday would be extremely expensive but we paid £450 for the week and got cheap flights with Ryanair (don't knock them too much, we've never had a problem with them).

The service I received from the people who ran the villa was fabulous, even before we departed.  They were able to advise on flights and offered me an extensive list of what was included in the villa.  I was amazed at all the baby and toddler items that were included (a 2 page list no less!). It meant we literally didn't have to take a thing with us - which is good with a Ryanair baggage allowance.

Here is just a small selection of what is included:

  • More toys and books than your child will need for two weeks, never mind one!
  • All toddler and baby plates, cups and cutlery
  • Cot with mosquito net if required
  • Highchair - a really lovely huge one, not like the usual cheap ones you get
  • A portable highchair to take out to restaurants
  • The biggest bucket of pool toys and inflatables you've ever seen
  • Bath toys
  • Potty, step stool etc.
  • Terrace play area with slide
  • They can supply a buggy if needed and a carseat etc.

I could go on and on.  Basically, the people who own the villa have a little girl who has now grown out of these things.  All the items are still in great condition - don't worry, there are also plenty of boys toys in the villa...Mini Cheddar grew very attached to a toy truck while we there!

I don't want to bore anyone with this post - I just want it to serve a purpose to tell you about this place so if you are thinking of holidaying abroad with babies/young children it may give you food for thought.  We had a fabulous holiday.

Now here are a couple of links you need if you're interested but be warned - book in advance! It can get booked up very quickly.... obviously.

Lanzarote Lates website for the villa - details everything much better than me!
Tripadvisor reviews - one of them is mine!

Finally, I'll leave you with some pictures and just say that obviously this is NOT a sponsored post and I did not receive any sort of payment for this post.

Mini Cheddar with some of the toys at the villa
Mini Cheddar with some of the toys at the villa
The Dining Room - You can see the highchair at the back
The dining room - you can see the highchair at the back
Lounge and kitchen
Lounge and kitchen 
Lounge - looking out to the pool
Lounge looking out to the pool
Lounge to dining room (Mini Cheddar STILL playing)
Lounge to dining room (Mini Cheddar STILL playing)
Main bedroom
Main bedroom
Twin bedroom (with cot in place)
Twin bedroom (with cot in place)
One of the two sun terraces
One of the two sun terraces
The removable pool fence for peace of mind
The removable pool fence for peace of mind
Cupboard full of baby and toddler feeding equipment
Cupboard full of baby and toddler feeding equipment
The heated pool
The heated pool

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Friday, 27 May 2011

Pushing My Buttons

Woman looking stressed
Photo credit: m_bartosch
This isn't really me.  I try to avoid blogging about the really bad stuff, even though I have blogged about cancer before.  However, sometimes I need to vent.  Sometimes I just need an outlet to let off steam...call it cheap therapy if you will.

There is someone in my life who has the ability to push my buttons.

Unfortunately they are the wrong buttons.  These are the buttons that send my anxiety levels to maximum overload and cause a feeling inside me that I can't describe.  It's been happening for a while now and there is little I can do for respite.

I don't know what I can to do to appease the situation.  It's the only real area of my life that I can't control, the only area that I wish to sort so I can feel happier...but I can't. It's awkward.

I'm an extremely easygoing person, I like to think of myself as loyal and friendly and I would hope that those who know me would describe me as exactly that. I have the sort of personality though that appears to let this person wind me up. I tolerate things for an easy life but if the pushing and prodding goes on for much longer I'll be tipped over the edge and explode.

At the moment I'm dangerously close to the edge.

Today was pretty awful. Matt and I had suffered one of the worst nights sleep ever (or should I say lack of) due to Mini Cheddar coughing relentlessly. It would have to happen the night before I'm due to do my volunteer work the next day but c'est la vie (and no it's not someone in the shop, they are all lovely).  We are talking a night with an absolute maximum of 3 hours sleep and broken sleep at that.  A night when you feel sick you're that exhausted. So today wasn't a day I need to be antagonised but I was.

Sometimes I think that being pushed entirely over the edge is the only way to 'clear the air', the only way to gain some sort of balance in my life but I'm scared.  I'm scared of the consequences of what would happen if I'm caught on a wrong day. I'm scared that more than 2 and half years of being hurt and wound up will come pouring out of me in a tirade of feelings I've kept bottled up.

I've gone this long and not bitten though so maybe I can hold out some more.

However, it's inevitable that one day I'll erupt and this is one ash cloud you won't want to be in the vicinity of.

Flashback Friday - Beach Holidays

It's all kinds of crazy in my life at the moment and the main reason is we are preparing for a trip abroad. Trying to organise things for a holiday with a toddler is demanding to say the least.  Added to the fact we chose now (why?) to get our bedroom and en-suite decorated.

With the holiday just around the corner, it got me thinking what Mini Cheddar will make of it this year. Last year she was only 13 months old so was limited in what she could gain from the experience.

It also got me thinking about holidays I had as a child.  We never went abroad for our holidays when I was young, actually I think I was 13 years old before I first went on an aeroplane.  However, I have such fond memories of our holidays.

We wouldn't always go far, sometimes even just an hour and a half away to Black Rock Sands where we would rent a caravan for a week or two.  Quite often my Grandparents would come over to join us on the weekends.  My Sister and I would love spending time on the beach.

I hope that Mini Cheddar also gets to experience this kind of holiday too.

Me on the beach with my sister
Me (on the left) and my big Sis.
Check out my strap marks!
Me and my sister sitting on the beach
That's right, take a photo where we have
to look directly at the sun.
Me, my Sister and my Dad on the beach
The windbreak is purely to protect my
Dads mahooooooosive sideburns
My Sister burying me in the sand
My Sister loves me so much she decides to bury me
My sister buried in the sand with only her head sticking out
I get my revenge my chopping her head off
and feeding it to our pet poodle Tina.
Me on the beach
A helmet haircut and a home-knitted cardi...
I was always at the cutting edge of fashion!

Now head over to Cafebebe and check out the other entries...

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Cybermummy Meet & Greet

Well, Cybermummy is only a month away and this post has been LONG over-due but it's time to officially introduce myself.

Carly over at Mummy Shoes has been hosting a fab meet and greet for everyone to get to know eachother before the big event and I've been meaning to join in for ages.  It's really because if you look at my blog banner you will see I'm sporting a blonde barnet!  Well, that's a fairly old photo (taken last October by my very talented friend Claire Penn) and I decided to go back to darker hair just before Christmas.

Karin asked me on Twitter the other day if she'd missed a memo when I posted a pic of myself on there with dark hair. Mini Cheddar and I were trying to get a fairly nice photo of us to go with this post, we failed.  She's full of a cold at the moment so wasn't too cooperative.

So, here's the boring stuff...

Name: Heather Lucas

Blog: SAHM Loving It (but you know that already as you're here doh!)

Twitter ID: @SAHMlovingit

Height: About 5ft 5" (I think! How rubbish am I?)

Hair: Long(ish) brown

Eyes: Brown (two of)

Likes: Food, comedy, photography, travel, The 80's and cuddles

Dislikes: Bananas, seafood, spiders and feet

Here are the photos (yes I'm using more than one so you can see what a loon my daughter is!)...

Mini Cheddar And I with open mouths
Our 'Scream' faces!
"No like this Mummy"
Mini Cheddar goes all 'Gangsta' on me
Well, I think that's the best I can hope for!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Gallery - My Backyard

Blimey, is it Wednesday already?  Where are the weeks going?

I know I've been saying the past couple of weeks that I wasn't going to join in with The Gallery but this week was definitely going to be the week. Yeah yeah, I failed again.

By the way...did anyone else snigger childishly at the theme of 'My Backyard' (metaphorically speaking)? Just me then? Moving on...

I wasn't going to join in this week as my backyard is not that exciting.  Basically I'm no Alan Titchmarsh (I would say Charlie Dimmock but I wear a bra) and I really dislike gardening. My fingers aren't in the slightest bit green. We have a fairly large back garden but it's mainly just grass and patio. Oh and the 'den'.  I have a few pots with some crappy flowers in it but that's about it.

So, I ran out in the garden yesterday afternoon and snapped these. At least I joined in and I can sleep at night (damn you Tara for causing my Gallery addiction).

My lawn up close

Flowers in a pot

More flowers in a pot

Now head on over and check out all the other entries...

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

It Was A Big Day On Saturday

It's been full on in the Lucas household lately but I'm loving it (guess that goes with my name!).  Probably not as hectic as some people, I know, but fairly hectic for us.  I still have more to come too as we are off to Italy in less than 2 weeks - unless the ash cloud has other plans that is!  Anyway, I have so much to do it's untrue.  I still haven't organised my entry for The Gallery this week and I'm starting to get palpitations that I may have to miss it for the first time. How sad is that?

Anyway, last Tuesday I found out I had made it through to the finals of the Mad Blog Awards which was very exciting. I actually got a tweet alert on my mobile phone whilst my Mum & Dad were sat in my lounge.  I nervously pretended I needed to check my bank account online (my parents aren't aware of my blog) and there it was staring back at me.  I got all giddy, may have actually wee'd a little and couldn't really speak.

Then, Wednesday it was our 4th wedding anniversary.  My parents had given us a voucher for a 2 night hotel break for Christmas so we decided to use it over our anniversary.  Did we choose a romantic retreat and pack Mini Cheddar off to my parents?  No, we went to Hampshire and took Mini Cheddar to Peppa Pig World.  Not romantic but lots of fun.

As Mini Cheddar slept in a bed when we were away and coped great with it, we decided when we returned that is was the time to convert her cot into a bed.

We did it on Saturday.


I thought I'd be okay with it.  I was actually really excited about it.

Mini Cheddar happy with her newly converted bed
Mini Cheddar even got involved with 'helping' Daddy unscrew the cot. I say helping very loosely indeed and I gained a few more grey hairs trying to stop her running off with the screw drivers and allen keys to antagonise the poor dog.

Then, when it was complete and made up, I saw her climb up onto it and sit there playing happily.  I felt a pang of something I couldn't quite put my finger on.  I'm guessing it's exactly the same emotion I felt when I dropped her school application form off the other week.

My baby has finally turned into a proper little girl. I honestly can't quite explain what I'm feeling over it at the moment.

Incidentally, Saturday was also the first day she asked me put bunches and slides in her hair.

So yes, Saturday was a big day for a number of reasons...

We also accidently spent £491.00 with Next Online.


There goes our holiday spending money... so come on ash cloud, do your worst!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Mini Cheddar Does Peppa Pig World!

On Thursday last week the sun was shining, it was gorgeously warm and we were in good spirits.  Why? Because we were down in Hampshire to visit the newly opened Peppa Pig World at Paultons Family Theme Park!

I know a few of you have asked what we thought so here is a full-on account of our experience.

It was a long drive (240 miles) down to Hampshire on the Wednesday as we live in North Wales - just outside Chester - but it was totally worth it.  We'd been telling Mini Cheddar for a couple of weeks we were off to visit Peppa Pig and she was just as excited as we were - I'm not going to deny it, my husband and I are big kids!

We got to the park at 10am when the gates opened (rides were due to open at 10.30am), collected our tickets and walked towards Peppa Pig World.

As soon as we got there we could see just how lovely it was and the attention to detail that the people at Paultons Park had gone to. The atmosphere was fantastic and the place was immaculately clean. All the music and voices piped around the park just added to the whole experience.  Now we were even more excited.

We had a wander around before the rides opened and first stop was Peppa Pigs House, of course!  Here we could step inside Peppa's kitchen with George, Mummy Pig, Daddy Pig and Peppa herself and listen to them talk about making pancakes.


Mini Cheddar loved it and just kept screaming "Mummy Pig" or "Daddy Pig" whenever one of them spoke!

Then the rides opened and the real fun commenced.

First 'up' (excuse the pun) was 'Miss Rabbit's Helicopter Flight' where up to 4 people could take a ride. I thought Mini Cheddar would be a little nervous but she loved it - which bodes well for our forthcoming holiday abroad!

What is great about all the rides at Peppa Pig World is they are designed for little kids (and adults) to enjoy and there appears to be literally no minimum or maximum age limit. The only ride that we couldn't go on at the park was 'George's Dinosaur Adventure as Mini Cheddar was about 4mm (achingly close) too short to ride.  I was gutted as it was the one I really wanted to go on.  My husband said I should have gone on it alone but can you imagine what a narner I would have looked?
Nevermind, we settled for a go on Grandpa Pig's Little Train instead.

Mini Cheddar waited patiently for her turn.  She decided she wanted the yellow car at the back and her wish was granted and her and Daddy admired the park on their travels.

I loved watching Mini Cheddars face as she noticed little things around park and would squeal with delight. She was always so eager to go on all the rides too which was fantastic.

Then it was time for a go on the 'Windy Castle' ride which takes you up the side of a castle in a cloud car.  It's fairly obvious from the picture on the left what Mini Cheddar made of it all.

Once up on the Windy Castle we were able to get a great aerial overview of the park...

This is only a section of the park, there's so much more to it.  Like 'Mr. Potato's Playground' which we had great difficulty persuading Mini Cheddar to leave she loved it so much.

Again, the attention to detail and the purpose-built equipment for the real young ones is great. They even have small water fountains where youngsters can pretend to splash in muddy puddles!

There are colourful rainbow pathways that lead you through the park and it is surrounded by little houses and picket fences which make it just adorable.

You can see from the photos how cute it is.

The floor is made from that fake grass which is really soft and spongey - perfect for when the little ones take a tumble which is pretty much inevitable with Mini Cheddar around.

Across from the playground is the largest Peppa Pig shop in the world.  Just be warned - it's lethal letting your kids loose in there.  Even I wanted to buy everything.  Mini Cheddar walked away with a Candy Cat cuddly toy, some stickers and some colouring items but we could have spent so much more!

After a spell in the shop and trying to drag Mini Cheddar away from the array of toys, games and clothes it was time for lunch and what better place to grab a bite to eat than 'Daddy Pig's Big Tummy Cafe' (yes, you read that right).  We were expecting the food to be over-priced (as often found in theme parks) but we pleasantly surprised that they had only added on a slight premium for the captured audience.

Call us slightly mad but we decided to let Mini Cheddar run riot in the toddler section of 'George's Spaceship Play Zone' after lunch.

Put Mini Cheddar anywhere like this and she's in her element! I had to go in and retrieve her (and the large smelly deposit in her nappy) in the end.

The park provides good toilets and baby change facilities.  I loved how the toilets had extra seats that you could pull down for small bottoms. Too cute!

After a clean up it was back out into the sunshine and a chance to try out Grandpa Pig's Boat Ride.  I loved this so much, as did Mini Cheddar.  So my husband and I both had a go to get some good photos. Yes, big kids as I said earlier!

See my bra strap sticking out of my vest top?  Well that bra strap is still visible when I take my bra off now. Must always remember to put sun cream on myself after applying Mini Cheddars!

Then the highlight of Mini Cheddars day...she got to actually meet Peppa Pig and hold her hand.  Too cute.
I bet the poor person in the costume was roasting though.

After so much excitement it was time to head inside Madame Gazelle's School House to join in the class.  Mini Cheddar fitted right in!

Seeing her standing there in the school holding Peppa and George's hand almost made all the emotions of the school form hand-in come flooding back.  See, I told you all I was emotional at the moment!

After lessons it was time for a well deserved ice cream from 'Miss Rabbit's Ice Cream Parlour'.  If only to ply Mini Cheddar with some sugar to keep her going.  Not that she needed it.  I was surprised as she normally has a nap between 1.15pm and 3pm every day but she didn't even start to get crabby at all.  The sheer excitement of the park kept her a happy little bunny and we didn't leave the park until 3pm.

Before we left the park though there was plenty of time to have a go on 'Daddy Pig's Car Ride' where Mini Cheddar could sit in the front and pretend to steer the car around the road (without mowing down Rebecca Rabbit and George Pig!)

We actually went on most of the rides twice during the day and Mini Cheddar would tell us where she wanted to go next.  We only had to queue for about a maximum of 5 minutes which was great, even though we thought it was quite busy for a Thursday in school term.  I would imagine that it will be very busy in the school holidays but the ride turnarounds seem pretty quick.  Also, there is so much going on in the park that I don't think it would be too much trouble to entertain the kids in the queues.

Before we left there was a final chance to go on 'Peppa's Big Balloon Ride' and go "up sky" as Mini Cheddar says.

All the rides are really great and the park has been extremely well planned with clearly a large amount of money put into it.  As I mentioned earlier, the attention to detail is fabulous and there is so much there for the family.  There are also plenty of other rides within Paultons Park itself that there is literally something for everyone.

Tickets can be purchased in advance from Paultons Park website at a reduced rate (children under 1 metre go free) and for a family of 3 you can expect to pay £56.00.  That gives you access to the whole of Paultons Family Theme Park though and we think it's good value for a day out.

I honestly can't fault Peppa Pig World at all. I would go back there in a heartbeat - it's just a shame it's so far away for us. It is definitely worth making the journey though - the pure enjoyment that Mini Cheddar got from the day is so heart-warming. She keeps saying "Go back to Peppa Pig World please".  We just wish we could take her there more often.  If only for this scene afterwards...

Just because it would be rude not to - here are a couple of short videos from our day out!

This is not a sponsored post.  
We did receive free entry to Peppa Pig World but all views,
opinions, photographs and videos are entirely my own.


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