Thursday, 21 August 2014

Celebrating Exam Success

Today we are celebrating as Connor has gained excellent results in his GCSE exams.  After a long wait over the past few weeks, he was finally able to find out if the months of hard work had paid off.  This now means he will be able to attend the sixth form he wanted to, to start the next step of his educational journey.  Exciting times are ahead, alongside lots of hard work as he starts his A levels.  Also today Jack received an excellent result for his English literature GCSE, as they take this in Year 10 at their school then just work towards English Language in Year 11. By doing it this way the results, especially for the boys, have been excellent, due to not forgetting texts studied as they only work on them for one year instead of two. 

I'm off now to raise a glass as many other proud parents are doing this evening. Congratulations Connor and Jack, we are very proud of you.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Thursday, 14 August 2014

A Levels and Retraining



Today is A Level results day here in the UK.  Time to see if all the months of hard work paid off or maybe if winging it actually worked.  It's now twenty one years since I opened that dreaded yet longed for brown envelope, to the relief that I had done enough to head off to Birmingham Uni. For some, today will provide the opportunity to take the next step in their retraining journey.  Perhaps you have had to take A levels whilst juggling home and family so that you can take a degree to start a new career. Or maybe today with all the talk of A levels has got you  thinking about taking a degree, retraining, starting a new journey.  Many universities still have places left in clearing, so maybe you could take that leap, now, today.  Make that call that you've been wondering about for ages.  Maybe you want to take that first step on to the degree ladder and are needing A levels, so look at your options, now, today.  There are many options from online courses, local colleges offering evening classes or Open University modules.

So take a deep breath and make that first step to your new career.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Can A Citroen Grand C4 Picasso Cope With A Family Camping Trip?


With a round trip of over five hundred miles and an abundance of camping equipment, five children and two adults we thought our trip to Camp Bestival would be the perfect excuse to fully test a MPV.  Packed to the gunnels, we headed off early in the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso on our adventure.   Now I am huge fan of Citroen's style and dream of one day owning the classic DS, but am also rather tempted by the modern version.  So I was interested to see what their seven seater family vehicle offered.





Like most MPV's the boot space is limited when you have all seven seats in use, but thankfully our younger passengers have shorter legs and we could stash some bags under their feet.  However where the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso lacks on actual boot space it more than makes up for in comfort.  Initially the children moaned that the seats were quite hard, but similar to Mercedes firm seat design, these are beneficial on a long journey.  There were also ample cup holders and air con controls around the vehicle to keep everybody happy.  Another nifty gadget is the button to close the boot, neatly tucked into the boot door, which avoids slamming the door shut and easier if you have arms full of luggage or shopping.




But now the nitty gritty of how this car really drives.  Fully loaded it initially feels a little sluggish on pull off but there is plenty of mid range power as soon as you get it up to speed, which makes for a pleasant driving experience on the motorway.  The rear view camera was a huge benefit to me when parking as I am a bit hopeless at reverse parking and I actually now miss this in my own little car.  I also really liked the blindspot sensors, a handy addition on the motorway in busy traffic.  The only negative I found was that the steering wheel was quite cluttered and am not convinced that the flappy paddle gear stick controls were necessary for an automatic car.  It certainly took a little while to get used to where everything was and thankfully the manual was very comprehensive in helping me navigate the in car technology system.  This touch screen system was fairly easy to use and the usb ports were great when phone batteries were low after a weekend of camping and when we needed to plug in a iPod instead of listening to the radio.  Whilst we didn't go as far to personalise it with our own choice of wallpaper, this screen was a welcomed addition to an impressive car.  Another thing I loved was that I could see the children even when in the back row of seats, due to the clever spacing of seats and the extra little mirror.

All photos are my own.

Overall the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is an impressive, stylish and comfortable family car.  It is economical and the added bonus of the stop-start technology added to it's economy and reduced its carbon footprint.   Best of all it just about coped well with our demands of luggage space for a camping trip.  So we would definitely recommend the Citroen Grand C4 Picasso as a family car and as a mother and woman driver, I loved it.  I spend an awful lot of time driving a small car on my daily commute but as a large vehicle it was sturdy and safe to drive my most precious cargo, my family.  What more could you ask for?

For full spec visit the Citroen website.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Disclaimer - Citroen provided me with the Grand C4 Picasso for five days however all opinions are my own.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Camp Bestival - A Weekend of Memories Made

After weeks of planning, of excitement building, early on Thursday last week we headed off to Dorset for Camp Bestival.  Our sights were set on pitching in a particular part of the Purple campsite, which we managed to get and were soon enjoying the sunshine, eating our picnic outside of our tent.  To be perfectly honest we welcomed the rest after an early start and wrangling the tent to pitch perfection!  Yet we also went for a wander to get into the festival spirit as some food stalls are open.



After a relatively good nights sleep, thankfully the airbeds made it a bit more comfortable, we were ready to see what Camp Bestival had in store for us this year.  A little bit of pre planning for what to see and do can help make the whole festival experience better, yet be prepared to change those plans, to miss things and be dazzled and amazed by random offerings as you wander around.  Now we had a little list of things we wanted to do and see but the children knew that these may not all be possible.  Yet we made the best effort to cram in as much fun as we possibly could.  Here are our highlights from the weekend.



Project Wild Thing  and The National Trust

We spent alot of time down in Dingly Dell exploring what Project Wild Thing has to offer.  There were all kinds of workshops, nature trails and activities to keep everyone amused.  We also spent alot of time in the '50 things to do before you're 11 3/4' field.  Armed with their journals, provided by The National Trust, the girls eagerly earnt stamps for many activities, including rolling down a big hill, making a grass trumpet and creating art with nature.  We even made sure we queued up to gain a place on the tree climbing workshop, which Lucy and Amber absolutely loved.  The instructor was excellent, building confidence in the children as they used their ropes attached to their harnesses to gain more height.

I have been a supporter of the 50 Things project since it started and felt that this was a fantastic addition to Camp Bestival.  We are very fortunate to live in the countryside, by the sea, so can get outdoors and explore often, but I am sure for many children their time in the Dingly Dell would be one of the limited times they got to do the kinds of activities that both Project Wild Thing and The National Trust offered.



The Feast Collective

As a family we have always enjoyed trying different foods and our children have always been willing to taste an array of flavours.  The Feast Collective certainly offered ample opportunity to do this, with a fantastic selection of food stalls offering all sorts of food.  My favourite was definitely the tapas stall, where I enjoyed the most delicious Shashouka ever.  Other firm favourites were Baba G's chicken tikka wraps and tandori fries and DJ BBQ's burgers.  Sadly I wasn't up to eating much on the Sunday, but wished I had tried something from Zoe's Ghana Kitchen.

With a marketplace feel and smells to tempt the Feast Collective was definitely the perfect addition to the food choices at Camp Bestival and we certainly hope it will be returning next year.


The Farmers Market

With fresh bread, punnets of strawberries, salad bar, salami, bruschetta and delicious chocolate brownies to cheer up my tired and grumpy seven year old.  This market was again a great addition and the bakery had the best Belgian buns ever!



Big Topmania - Circus Skills

This area in the Upper Kids Garden is always a favourite with our children, even the boys.  With unicycles, hula hoops, balance beams, diablo's and other fab circus skills equipment, they can play for ages here.  Lucy was determined to take part in the trapeze workshop this year and we made sure she was in time to get a place.  Even though she only got a few minutes on the trapeze it was worth the wait to see her proud smile after completing the tasks set.  There is also a section of the garden for younger children to explore, which would be great for my little nieces, as my sisters family are planning on joining us next year.




Art Town

Well this has certainly grown since our first visit to Camp Bestival and is still a firm favourite with Lucy, Amber and Kitty.  All sorts of creations were made and Lucy got involved with the big sculpture again and joined Kitty and I in helping to decorate the giant Art Town letters.



Science Tent

This was another area that the Camp Bestival team had grown and improved since our last visit.  There were all sorts of workshops and stage shows throughout the day and the best part was that they went on until 7pm.  So if it was busy during the day I could head back with Kitty, my budding little scientist, later in the evening.



Arsenal Football School

Andy happily took the children round this activity, determined to get the fastest ball of the weekend. However it was Amber who shone as our best player, with the coaches joking that we should invest in her! This activity was always busy but thankfully we didn't have to wait too long and was something that all our children could play together.



Lego Imagination Station

The queues for this were always very long and we had given up earlier in the day in Friday, with too many other things tempting us.  So we were pleasantly surprised to see a shorter queue in the evening and welcomed the thought of being out of the drizzly rain for a little while.  With Lego of all shapes and colours we filled our beakers at the entrance and headed inside to start building.  Now this was Lego heaven for everyone, with so many bricks to choose from I didn't really know what to build! But some ski type legs and comical eyes helped me make an imaginary character.  Meanwhile Lucy built Olaf from Frozen Kitty made a colourful window frame, Andy created a futuristic vehicle and Amber, Connor and Jack set about making Lego heads.  The staff were very attentive and ensured Lucy photographed her Olaf creation with their special camera, to ensure it was added to their Hall of Fame.  


As you can see we had an action packed weekend.  We also managed to spend some time in the Freesports Park, watching the skateboard and bike stunts of some talented tricksters.  Evenings were spent on fairground rides, honing circus skills and watching the acts on the Castle Stage.  Sadly Kitty was exhausted by 9.15 on Friday, so we headed back to the tent and meant I missed James perform.  But as I said, this festival is about going with the flow, not sticking to plans.  Yet we made sure we saw Sophie Ellis-Bextor on Saturday night and danced as the sun began to set, cold cider in hand.  A weekend of magical memories that we will treasure forever.  Thank you Camp Bestival.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Disclosure - This year I am one of the official Camp Bestival bloggers, working with them to share my top tips and reviewing the festival.  They have kindly given us a family weekend ticket, however all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Brand Stylist



Knowing that many of you who read my blog are small business owners or would be entreprenuers, if you could work out how to escape those chains of the humdrum, I wanted to share something exciting with you all.  A couple of years ago a very dear friend of mine sold her successful business, took some time out to be at home and have her third child, but all the time with an idea brewing.  Well that idea grew and she has created a fabulous new venture that showcases the best of her talents to help small businesses make the most of their talents.  Fiona has created a beautiful website and those of you who regularly followed her blog at Flourish will be thrilled to know she is blogging again.  Not only that but she is running workshops, with Colour Psychology for Creatives being the next one, in London on 30 September.  Having completed Fiona's online brand styling course a couple of years ago and still reffering to my notes and the classes I have preciously tucked away in a folder, I know that this workshop will quite simply be amazing.  This is a subject Fiona understands completely and her passion and energy for this subject is infectious.  

So if you are the owner of a creative business or have an idea for a business that will not go away,  pop over to The Brand Stylist blog for full details of the Colour Psychology for Creatives workshop.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Slow Down Summer

Is it really August already?  With only one month left until I return to uni for my final year I would really like Summer to slow down.  After a fantastic weekend away at Camp Bestival, which I will be sharing over the next couple of days, it suddenly dawned on me that there were things I really wanted to do this summer. Nothing spectacular, making a skirt, reading lots of books, planning my cutting and vegetable gardens, enjoying long lazy days with my children and Andy.  I also hoped to take some time to think about where I am going with this blog, old habits are hard to leave behind! Yet panic has set in that I will run out of time, that I need to be returning to academic reading in preparation for writing my dissertation.  

So please Summer, can you just slow down a little, give me time to stop, think, read, bake, sew and plan. Perhaps whoever is in charge of September could oversleep and keep that pause button pressed just a little longer than normal.

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

It's Camp Bestival Time

Camp Bestival 2012


Roll up, roll up, the best circus this summer is in town! The car is packed, I'm not quite sure where the children will be sitting?! Early tomorrow morning we will be heading to Lulworth Castle in Dorset for Camp Bestival.  We are all very excited and I am sure there will be little sleep had tonight.  With so many things to see and do this weekend we have each chosen specific things we really want to do or bands/acts we want to see.  Personally I am looking forward to watching James on the Castle Stage on Friday night and of course De La Soul on Saturday night, reliving my sixth form and uni days.  A visit to Dingley Dell for activities with Project Wild Thing and The National Trust is a must and Kitty won't leave without seeing Ben & Holly.  I am also really excited to meet up with some of the other Camp Bestival bloggers and enjoy a drink, laugh and dance.

But for now I am off to get Lucys glasses fixed, one of the arms fell off this morning, then I may sneak in a cheeky cold beer in the garden before tea, well it is almost holiday time!

Until next time, take care.
Zoe
xo