Thursday, 30 June 2016

Imperial War Museum - Mum's drawings

Today I popped up to the Imperial War Museum in London to meet with a senior curator who was interested in some of my mother's items.  She was a child in Austria during WWII and my family had a collection of pictures that she drew during that time.  They ranged from sketches, letter formation, Mother's Day pictures right through to images that are highly reflective of what was happening in Germany at the time.

The senior curator went through each one, looking at them on both sides (some had drawings on the back as well) and also looked at some school books that we had.  I'm delighted to say he took all the items.  My sister and I (who owned them) were delighted that they were going to be held by the museum.  Most of interest will be digitised for viewing on the website but the originals may be displayed as appropriate.  Some I have scanned and are available on my WWII Website.

Thank you Imperial War Museum.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Fun day for children

Yesterday my 7 year old was off at a Brownie's day celebrating the Queen's 90th Birthday.  She had an amazing afternoon doing crafts, baking, playing games, etc and loved every minute of it (other than being a bit nervous when she first arrived as there were Brownies from all over there).

It gave me the opportunity to have an afternoon with my 5 year old pickle.  She had no idea what we were going to do so I surprised her by taking her to Mizens Miniature Railway to ride the trains.  Her face when we arrived was a picture.  We booked for the 'Miler' which took us on a new piece of track we'd not been on before (we last went for the Santa Special so it's been a while).  This track goes up and over little bridges and is a lovely long ride.  She enjoyed every minute whilst I was chatting to the guard as we went round.  Before it ended, she asked if we could have one more go.  Why not!

We walked down to the pond area first and had a look at the waterlilys and fishes.  Then we came back and went round again on a slightly different train and carriages.  Another lovely ride. 

Once that was over we stopped for an ice cream and a drink.  So well priced at Mizens and a huge cup of tea for me.  The weather held for us so it was a lovely afternoon.  Once we got back home, we baked a Victoria sponge and then went and picked S up.  The only downside to the day?  My Victoria sponge fell flat once out of the oven and is only any good for a doorstop now. Oh well, I'll admit defeat with that and stick to cupcakes!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Slimming World - to carry on or to give up?

I've been doing Slimming World since the beginning of September 2015.  My weight loss has gone well until Christmas time.  I seem to have plateaued since then and from December until now, I have put on 2lbs, lost 1lb, lost 1/2lb, put on 1 1/2lbs, lost get where I'm coming from. I have around a stone to go (I say around as it depends whether I'm + or - the 2lbs in any given week) and it seems that I just can't lose any more. I know, deep down, that's rubbish and clearly I can but I'm just not sure how.  I don't eat badly but I do very little exercise (unless you count walking to the school and back) due to my research.  I know that's due to change once I submit my thesis but in the meantime, I sit at a PC nearly all day.  Awful really.  

The consequence of staying at the weight I am now is that I've lost a lot of the interest I had in going to Slimming World.  Don't get me wrong, I've lost 2 stone (well, nearly given the plus and minus weeks!) and that's fantastic. My figure is 10 times better than it was last year and my health has improved (I don't take my asthma inhaler anything like as much) and I'm not so tired anymore.  Lugging around that extra 2 stone was hard work!  It's just that I'm frustrated that I can't shift this last stone.  I felt like giving up.

Then I looked at a picture of me last year just before I began my SW journey (and the picture that actually prompted me to sign up) and one from last month when we were on holiday.  It gave me the motivation to carry on.  Here are the two photos.

I never, ever, want to go back to that person on the left, trying to hide my fat behind one of my children.  I love being the person on the right who can wear a nice summer dress without lumps and bumps sticking out everywhere and having to keep reminding myself to try and suck my stomach in.

I think I may pin the pictures onto my fridge!  So, I'm going to keep going and I will lose that final stone.  Watch this space.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Father's Day

The girls were very excited this morning. They made these lovely cards at school and had also been busy all week making their daddy lots of other little cards and presents.  

As well as a CD, he got a Hama Bead placemat for his coffee cup from each of them and a silk painting from S of a turtle.  Lucky daddy.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Silk painting

The girls are both doing an after school club for silk painting. I have to say that I didn't expect too much from N, who's five, because in the colouring club, she does around 8 pictures to 1/2 of one of S's.  You see where I'm going with this.

Imagine my surprise then, when she came home yesterday with this gorgeous seahorse picture. Yes, she did it all on her own (not the outline of course).  I love seahorses so this is up in the cloakroom now (aka. the seahorse room).

S also has produced some wonderful silk art. She's been going a lot longer than N and has a real passion for art.  This time she's done a lovely turtle. 

I can't wait to see what they produce over the next few weeks until term ends.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Airkix - Indoor sky diving

Yesterday the teen and I headed off to use up one of my birthday presents - an indoor sky dive experience at Airkix in Basingstoke.  Brilliant!

We were told to be there for 11am for our 12 noon 'flight'.  Knowing what the M3 could be like I thought we'd give ourselves plenty of time. The M3 was fine.  We arrived at 9.45am. Oh well. Went off first and had a Costa and chat for just over 30 minutes and then I remembered there was a geocache in the area so grabbed that too!

Time to check in at Airkix so we entered our risk assessment codes in to the system (you can do that beforehand or on the day) and headed off upstairs to watch others doing it. Wow!  Utterly amazing to watch.  Children and older people all having a go.  We watched for a while and got chatting to a lady whose whole family were doing it.  Sent teen off to find out if we were going to be called as we were Group 13 and supposed to be called at 11.15 but nothing had happened by then. Around 5 minutes later we were called and met our instructor, Dan, who took us to the briefing room. There were 4 of us in total and we were told we'd be sharing our slot with some 'professionals' - no pressure there then.  Watched the briefing video and Dan then asked us to check for the hand signal meanings and had us standing in our positions for flight.  He ripped the mickey out of my trainers (I don't own any trainers as I don't wear them, so bought a pair from eBay for £5 (including postage!) so you can imagine how hideous they were).  I just knew he was going to be trouble then.

Went off and changed into our flight suits, got goggles, helmet and earplugs and away we went to the seats outside the chamber.  My tummy was starting to turn a little. Mix of excitement and a tad trepidation.  Teen was first of the two of us and she did really well. You have to keep your legs straight, chin up and arms at shoulder height, bent and at eye level.  Sounds easy until you do it battered by 110 mph winds!  Me next, great fun.  Dan is with you the whole time correcting your position and stopping you bumping into the glass with everyone watching (well, stopping some of the bumps as you do push yourself off). What a feeling.  Each flight is only 1 minute but it feels longer. We then sat down again and waited for the people to take their turns before teen was back in. She did really well and got to the top of the glass part on her own.  My turn next and the chap from the other couple was laughing saying I should try the 'jump in' to the chamber. Of course as I stood by the door laughing, Dan pushed me back, stepped away inside the chamber and said jump.  What could I do? I went for it.  Fab!  Flew around and then Dan got hold of me and whizzed me up to the top of the chamber.  Awesome!  We were up then in about 2 seconds.  He did this twice and then, rather than putting me back to the door like everyone else, he put me down furthest away from the door and said I could walk out.  Yeah, right. Of course, I couldn't do this and it was very funny trying to. He eventually helped me get out with everyone laughing.

We were then asked if we'd like to pay for another flight (£11 each) and be taken to the top (£5 each) which we all did.  Another amazing ride up for teen and I.  We both really loved it.  At the end we were presented with certificates marking our achievements, which you can bring back if you go again and get other parts marked off.  We then bought the DVD of our flight to show hubby and the little ones back home (we didn't realise they could have watched so well).

S now wants to do a flight for her 8th birthday as she's "always wanted to fly" and now I've done it, I'd happily take her to do it. I'm sure she'd love it.  Do I want to do it again? Hell yes!!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Ripped off by Thomson Holidays VIP Lounge

You may recall that we had recently been on a Thomson Holiday to Mallorca and, upon our return, had purchased tickets to the VIP lounge at Palma at a cost of over 100 Euros.  Here's the original blog piece.  Due to the coach not arriving until 11am and our flight due to leave at 1pm, and a queue of 1 1/4 hours to get our bags checked in, Thomson have kindly sent me this reply today:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us about your holiday to Majorca on 21st May 2016.

We are concerned when a customer has cause to complain and we are sorry that you were
disappointed on this occasion.

I’ve taken the opportunity to read through your complaint and have noted all the points you have raised.
I understand that you have mentioned that you didn’t get time to use the VIP lounge at Palma.
I apologise for the inconvenience caused to you.

The coach pick up times are scheduled as per the flight timings and the distance or the time it takes
to reach the airport. The coach was not delayed. I see that you have also mentioned about the
long queue and the time it took to check-in the luggage. The check-in desk is handled by the third party.

We do not have any contract with the overseas lounges at the airport.

Whilst I appreciate your strength of feeling, I am unable to offer a refund/compensation on this occasion. 

I can fully appreciate that you’ve felt disappointed on this occasion, and would like to reassure
you that all customer feedback we receive is monitored and shared with our relevant teams, both
overseas and in the UK, in order for considerations and improvements to be made.

Finally, may we thank you once more for getting in touch and for sharing your experience with us.
I do hope you will still consider Thomson/First Choice/Falcon/Thomson Airways when making future
travel arrangements so we have the opportunity to restore your faith in us once more.

Yours sincerely,

Ashok Dixit Archana

Contact Centre Advisor

TUI Customer Contact Team email:

In other words, we don't give a damn that you never got to use the lounge. We got our money and tough on you that the ground staff at the airport were worse than useless.  Hang on Thomson, you say "We do not have any contract with the overseas lounges at the airport." What exactly does that mean?  You SOLD me and my family a ticket to the VIP lounge at Palma.  Are you telling me that this should not have happened? Surely you must have some kind of 'deal' with a VIP lounge to SELL a ticket for it. We didn't just magic it up you know.  If you had no contract, what were you selling to me?

The check in desk at the airport had THOMSON/TUI signs all over it. If that's not you, who is it?  Do I care what nationality the staff are?  The desks, as far as I am concerned, are YOURS!  Your labels went onto our baggage and your staff were given a lunch break at noon when hundreds and hundreds of people were queuing to check in.  Yours.  No-one elses.  Do you think for one moment anyone having a problem at the check-in desk with your signs over it would think "hang on, this isn't really Thomson's problem as they don't have anything to do with running these desks"?  Of course they wouldn't. As far as they, me and everyone else is concerned, they are Thomson desks.  End.

Would I consider Thomson again?  Are you serious putting that statement at the bottom of your ridiculous email?  Clearly the customer care words and please travel with us again are some stock, standard input to the response.  Seems the wording of your reply was given about as much consideration as my request to be refunded money I now consider you 'stole' from me (you must have done that right?  You didn't have a contract with the airport lounge. You said it yourself!).  Surely this needs to be investigated by the proper authorities then. I'm not a lawyer but I'm pretty sure you can't sell something to which you have no rights or contractual agreement.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this like me saying "hey, come and use this Rolls Royce for a day", taking the money and then when the owner turns up saying, "sorry, I never said I had the owner's agreement that you could use it" and pocketing the money anyway.

I am absolutely disgusted. Thomson Holidays, you have quite simply ripped us off.

28th June 2016 *UPDATE* - Thomson/TUI have contacted me after I escalated their response (and pestered daily on social media) to say they have reviewed my case and are issuing a refund.  I'm delighted.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Solar garden lights

Last night I took a few pictures of the solar lights we bought from Longacres yesterday.  My favourite is the owl (and hubby's as well). You can set it to colour or white and I think the colour changing is fabulous. It's indoors as it's a present (but we had to try it out).  I'm going to get one myself as I just love it!  See, hubby should have let me go back into the shop *grin*

The string lights I put up on one of the shrubs also look really nice. I was watching them every now and again as dusk was falling and suddenly they popped on.  They lasted all night (as did the owl).  I couldn't get too close to the string lights to get a picture as our security light kept coming on and turning them off.

We had a minor 'problem' with the ball lights in the plant pots.  We noticed all the other lights came on but they did not.  Really odd. Surely we couldn't have 4 broken ones?  It was perplexing. There didn't seem to be anything wrong with them, but they wouldn't work.  Hubby asked if there were any instructions. I said not.  Then I realised that there were 'white things' around the stem of each of the lights as I'd unpacked them.  Had I bothered to look at them?  Nope!  Were they instructions?  Possibly....  So, I ended up having to look them up online, with hubby grumbling beside me pulling them apart (after he'd gone through the recycling bin to see if he could find said white things).  Yes, there's a 'tab' that you have to remove before they work.  Tab pulled. Hey presto! Light!  Even more embarrassing (please don't tell anyone I told you this), I had put them into the plant pots wondering why the stem had a blunt end.  It didn't. The spike was turned round inside the stem for packaging and you were supposed to take it out and put it on the right way around before you put them in the ground...clearly.  Must have been written on those bits of paper again...

I'm really pleased with the lights and hubby suggested we get some more.  Where are my car keys?

Monday, 6 June 2016

Goodies for the garden

Hubby and I popped over to Longacres today (I know, someone needs to seriously stop this addiction right?) to pick up an 8' pool for the girls for the garden, and have a browse around.  I wanted a string of solar lights to put up in the garden so we wandered over to that section first.  There was such a variety it was hard to decide!  I ended up opting for a string of large bulb lights and also a set of 4 round orb style ones (which were a bargain at 4 for £10). I know, I only came in to collect the pool.

Spot the lights (I'll take one at night too)

The reason for the lights is that we've decided to make more use of the garden in the summer evenings.  No more sitting in front of the telly but more sitting outside chatting in a kind of continental, social fashion. 

We then decided to look around for something for hubby's mum's 85th birthday which is coming up on Friday of this week.  We normally buy plants or flowers but I suggested that as they have just had a new patio laid, it might be nice to get something for this.  I quite like clock/barometers like this one but hubby wasn't sure she'd be chuffed with a clock.  So....I ended up buying this for us (£9.99).  Doesn't it look smart on the wall. I love the fact that it's kind of rustic and worn looking already.  Ideal for the garden.

So, having purchased a garden clock we didn't come in for (either), we then looked at some of the other solar items. I loved this owl and, despite walking all round again, hubby then said that he also thought the owl would be lovely.  His mum likes to sit on a bench seat outside their patio doors and I think this owl would make a lovely addition to their patio, sitting next to her.  He's a smart solar owl and you can choose white or coloured light for him, so I'm looking forward to seeing what he's like at night.

I now want one of these but hubby wouldn't let me back into the shop to buy one. Don't fret though, I'll sneak back when he's at work *grin*.  However, whilst we were still in the shop, I went to look at the Fairyland area again. It's been restocked and looks really sweet.  The prices of these little ornaments are such good value.

It's the girls first day back at school today so I decided to get them a little surprise for when they got home.  They both have a fairy dust container which contains a little scroll that they can write their wish on. I'm a bit concerned that it says the wishes will come true!  I'm hoping that my girls write something simple like "I'd like a ham sandwich in my lunchbox tomorrow" or "I'd like a Magnum lolly for my pudding on Friday".   Here's hoping...  I also got them a little fairy necklace each as well.

Off we strolled to the car and I was about to get in to drive off when hubby suggested we actually pick up what we came for.  DOH!  Yes, the pool and cover. It's currently being filled in the garden, which will take a while as it's 8' and 30" deep.  Gives us a good excuse to sit in the sunshine and keep an eye on it filling.  

Sunday, 5 June 2016

We've got cauliflowers!

I'm probably slighly over-excited by the fact that we have grown our very own cauliflowers.  Here's a picture of one of them.  Yes, yes, I know it's small but at least it's growing.

See.  Great isn't it!  The girls were really pleased this morning to see it.  They love looking at how their vegetables are coming along. We've been hit by slugs and snails unfortunately so some of our plants are no more than sticks with all the leaves eaten off. Slug pellet time.

Today we also had a new visitor to the garden. I'd just refilled the peanuts for the birds when this little chap appeared. The girls were fascinated by him. He scampers up, takes a bit of peanut and disappears.

Seems he's nibbled through the wire to get the nuts out.  So our feeder is squirrel proof but not mouse proof.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Turf and Fairies

Popped over to Longacres today to collect some turf that we ordered. Unfortunately hubby hadn't read the instructions on some lawn weed-killer properly and ended up killing the grass and not just the weeds!  Men and instructions.....  Naturally, whilst there, I had a walk around too and picked up a few bits and pieces.

After purchasing the garden essentials I needed, I went to have a look at their Fairy Garden and Miniature World sections to get something for the girls.  S had received a fairy garden as a Christmas present from her aunt and she was keen to get it planted. I therefore wanted to find a fairy for her.  She loves purple so here's what she got. Isn't she cute?

Naturally, it would be more than my life is worth to turn up with something for S and not get N something as well.  As pink is her favourite colour, I opted for this lovely pink fairy with unicorn.

Both girls were delighted with their presents.  This was part of the Fairy Garden range at Longacres and the items are gorgeous and really well priced.  S's purple fairy was £4.99 and N's unicorn and fairy was £3.49. I loved the little fairy doors as well which are £14.99 so maybe a little expensive but could be a magical addition to the garden for young girls. 

I'm off back there on Monday as they were just unpacking all their Fairy Garden bits when I arrived so I need to have a proper look...for the girls of course *grin*.

The miniature world is a little more expensive and I think aimed more at adults.  There were some really sweet things here also that I'm sure would mix and match with the Fairy Garden pieces.  I particularly liked this Toadstool House which was £20.49 so I'll have to see if it would fit with S's fairy garden planter.

The other thing that caught my eye was this burrow door.  Is it just me or should a Hobbit be living behind that? It's only £5.99 so I may have to pop it somewhere in the garden for the girls to find.
I'm also really pleased I bought a watering system recently (see this blog post).  It kept all my pots and hanging basket healthy whilst we were away (and saved our neighbours having to water the lot for us as well!).  The flowers are really coming on and it's looking very summery - even if the weather is letting us all down.

I'd better be off and supervise the turf laying!