Friday 30 June 2023

Tips for taking a long haul flight with older children

A few years ago I wrote this post - Flying long haul with two small children. We were lucky enough to fly long haul several times with young children - it was worth it for the experiences we enjoyed but it was hard work! After appreciating how much easier our more recent flights have been now that the children are older (14 and 12) I thought I'd write an update with tips for flying with younger teenagers!

I always make plans in advance around flight times. For example if we have booked a night flight I know that the food may not be served until a couple of hours in. If we eat a good meal at the airport then we can settle down to sleep straightaway. For a daytime flight, if we've had an early start I try to encourage a nap at some point so that we can keep going when we arrive. I always set my watch for the new time zone before we get on the plane and then try and work to that as soon as possible.

We make sure to choose our seats as soon as we can so that we can sit together, and I like to be near a toilet. We try to book a row of seats including an aisle so we can get in and out without disturbing others, and because we book special meals like child or vegetarian we are served first, which means we can nip to the toilet while it's empty because others are still eating!

Plane interior with lit up screens
Photo credit Alexander Schimmeck via Unsplash

Everyone in our family is responsible for their own bag which contains their devices, plenty of snacks, teddies and so on. It's packed in a bag which will fit under the seat in front so that they don't need to disturb me to retrieve things.

For a night flight we pack lots of things to help us be comfortable - a travel pillow, sleep mask, ear plugs and teddies for example. We wear comfy clothes and layers, and when settling down to sleep with a blanket make sure to put the seat belt on over the top so that it can be seen in case of turbulence. When the children are asleep I usually rearrange them carefully and make sure that any loose items like headphones or teddies are well secured!

On that note, as the children get bigger their headphones get smaller, so from experience you need to be extra careful with them as they can easily get lost in the seat! 

I've always found the seat back entertainment on long haul flights very good, with recently released films, television box sets and games as well as the map showing where you are. You can usually check in advance to see what will be showing on your flight which is a good idea as sometimes there is so much to choose from that it can be overwhelming when you are actually sat there.

Finally I now set the expectation that the children are in general responsible for entertaining themselves. They can go to the toilet on their own (although I often end up going too!), they can choose what they would like to drink, they can plan their entertainment and bring along things they might want or need. And if it looks like I'm sleeping then they will have a much happier Mum at the destination if they leave me to it unless there's an emergency!

Wednesday 21 June 2023

End of June garden update

I'm not much of a gardener but I do like to try and make an effort, so I thought I'd do a quick update on how my garden is looking as we get to the end of June!

I was late planting out my seedlings this year, and I was starting to get a bit worried about them. We had over a month of sunshine with no rain which was glorious, but even though I watered my plants every day they just weren't growing. I think it was just too hot. But we've had a couple of cooler days now along with some rain, and almost overnight everything in the garden recovered and started growing like mad!

I love my vegetable patch, it's a separate area from the main garden with a large raised bed and paving slabs around the outside for pots. It has a trellis fence with a gap in the middle and I've been growing ivy over it to try and make it look a little more mysterious. The focal point of my vegetable patch is the enormous lavender bush that ended up there by mistake. I need to do something about it really otherwise the whole vegetable patch will become a lavender patch! It's recently come into flower and is attracting plenty of bees which is really good to see.

Large lavender bush in vegetable patch with bees

I currently have twenty-two tomato plants spread over the vegetable patch and in pots. That is what happens when you plant plenty of seeds in case some don't germinate and then they all do, and you can't bear to get rid of any tiny seedlings! I did lose a couple along the way to slugs, but I probably did over-compensate. I also have about seven broccoli plants although they are looking a bit spindly at the moment.

Small tomato plants in the vegetable patch

The tomato plants in pots usually do just as well as the ones that are planted out in the soil, and one of them is enormous already! I love working through the vegetable patch picking out the side shoots, it's a really peaceful and satisfying job.

Tomato plants in pots against a wall

I planted lots of sunflowers this year but they are taking a while to get going, and the slugs did get a few. The seedlings around the bottom are not weeds, they are a wildflower mix that I planted for some colour, I hope that they pick up a bit!

Small sunflower plants on sticks

My garden is all very green at the moment so I'm appreciating the colour from these lovely nasturtiums which my mum gave me a few weeks ago. 

Orange nasturtium flowers in pot

I also have a wild section to the garden around the side of the house where I've had some nice poppies, as well as nettles and enormous dandelions. I'm hoping to attract back the hedgehogs that we used to have living in our hedgehog house!

I'm looking forward to a bumper tomato harvest this year!

Saturday 17 June 2023

How starting an illustrated journal helped me to notice things

I started a new journal in February this year, and I always knew that I wanted to make it an illustrated journal. I've written in more detail about how I use my journal here, but essentially it's a record of what I've been doing, places that I've visited, and what's on my mind at the time. I'm currently using a very simple Amazon Basics plain notebook (affiliate link), it's not a perfect watercolour paper but I like the way that my writing and drawing pens flow on the page, and as long as I don't add too much paint or water it's fine for simple sketches.

I like breaking the writing up with little pictures, I don't claim to be a great artist but my simple sketches are a way of recording something which was important to me at the time. Most of them only took 5-10 minutes which is exactly what I want as it needs to be a quick process.

Simple sketches from illustrated journal

I'm hoping that as I practice I'll get better and find it easier, and ultimately be able to take my journal out and about with me and illustrate it while I'm on the go! Especially for a travel journal, as I never get to sit still for very long when we are visiting somewhere. 

Since I started the journal, when I'm out and about I'm always on the lookout for something interesting to draw. I have a few regular walking and running routes near our house, and I've found myself noticing things that I never previously paid any attention to. For example the George V postbox in a brick and flint pillar which I've been obsessed with recently, I've drawn it loads of times but it always comes out a bit wonky!

I also noticed a little footpath down the side of a row of houses with a 'Private' sign on the gate and it has fascinated me, although I'm sure it only goes to the garden at the back of the house. I spotted an interesting gate in a wall that I pass on my walk over to the school, and the other day I was waiting in the shop for a pizza and I noticed a beautiful old church window framed by some modern houses. I've found myself snapping quick photos of all sorts of things and then hurrying home to attempt a vague reproduction in my journal! It's definitely helped me to notice more of what is going on around me.

Friday 16 June 2023

Protecting your car with a PAJ GPS tracker

This is a collaborative post

Criminals are becoming ever more sophisticated when it comes to car theft, and I'm often reading stories in the news about people that have had their car swiftly stolen from their driveway, especially when it comes to modern keyless cars. 

Luckily there are now equally advanced technological options when it comes to keeping track of your car. A GPS tracker fitted to your vehicle means that you can have peace of mind knowing that if your car were to be stolen then you could easily track and recover it. The presence of a GPS tracker can also be a deterrence, and it will provide valuable information when you report the theft. 

However I can also think of many other situations when a GPS tracker on your vehicle would come in handy.

For example, many times I have arrived somewhere in a hurry, parked the car and rushed off to where I need to be, only to find on my return that I've completely forgotten where I left the car! There have been several occasions when we've been convinced that the car must have been stolen, only to find that we actually parked it in a parallel road.

We often leave our car parked in the care of others, for example airport parking, and the car is driven to a secure parking location while we are away. It's always nice to be able to check that it has been parked where it should be, and that on return it is been returned to the short stay car park for you to collect rather than being miles away off-site!

If you have other people driving your car, for example teenage children, it's useful to be able to track them if they aren't back when they should be. Some models of GPS tracker will allow you to track the journeys taken by the car so you can see where your car has been, also useful if you have been using valet parking. 

Finally having a GPS tracker installed may also mean that you can get a discount on your car insurance, as we discovered recently when getting some quotes.

Car driving down a forested road
Photo credit Adriano Becker via Unsplash

PAJ GPS offer a range of trackers and subscription plans for car trackers, and you can find out more information here - GPS Tracker for Car. You can choose a product which is battery powered or wired directly into the car, and the subscription plan includes coverage in 100 countries. 

Although many new cars do now come fitted with a basic tracking device, a car tracker from PAJ offers many more options to help with the security of your car. For example as well as instant live tracking you can track previous routes taken by the car over the last 365 days. You can also set up a push notification alarm on your phone or an e-mail if your vehicle leaves a designated area.

I think that it's definitely worth investigating adding a GPS tracker to the car, not just as a deterrent against theft but for the peace of mind that it brings knowing that the car is protected and locatable. 

Tuesday 13 June 2023

Review - Geomag Classic 142 piece set

 I received this set in exchange for a review

My son loves magnets and construction sets, and he already owns several sets in the Geomag range. He really enjoys how these simple pieces can be easily put together to form all sorts of different shapes and constructions, and he was delighted to have the opportunity to try out a new set which could be added to the ones that he already owns.

The Geomag Classic 142 piece set contains magnetic balls and rods which can be fitted together in many different ways. The set comes with an instruction sheet for inspiration, or you can just play with the pieces and fit them together as you like. The set also contains some base boards which can be used for supporting and displaying your creations.

Review - Geomag Classic 142 piece set

The generous number of pieces in this large set means that he was able to build all sorts of interesting things! He was particularly proud of this bridge which uses two of the base plates for support. The pieces are made from 100% recycled plastic and they are sturdy enough that they will last for a long time, they are definitely a toy which can be passed down through the generations.

Bridge built using Geomag construction set

He was particularly pleased when he discovered that he was able to build his favourite shape - a dodecahedron - when he combined this set with some of the pieces from his other set! Although these sets are suitable from age 3+ there is definitely plenty of play appeal in them for older children and even adults too.

Dodecahedron built using Geomag construction set

You can find my reviews of two other sets in the same series here:

Geomag Glow 60 piece set

Geomag Supercolour 42-Piece Magnetic Building Set

Wednesday 7 June 2023

What I've been doing instead of blogging

I feel like I have neglected my blog a bit lately. I know that I'm still posting but usually I write and schedule lots of posts in advance as well as writing as I go along, and lately I've been scrabbling to get something published! I feel like I've been quite busy though, I've been working on my hobbies and trying out a few new things. So here's what I've been doing recently instead of blogging!

Going for walks - The weather here has been wonderful for weeks. Lovely and sunny but not too hot, the perfect temperature for a long walk. My husband and I try to get out after dinner most days and I often also go out at some point during the day, even if it's just around the block. 

Journalling - I've been really into my journalling lately, I love sitting down for ten minutes or so at a time and writing down my thoughts. It's a mixture of diary entries and just things that are on my mind, nothing too personal just what I'm thinking about, maybe something that I've read in the news. I have also started doing a few little illustrations, very badly, which leads on to my next interest...

Sketching - I've always fancied the idea of having an illustrated journal, especially a travel journal. I did study Art A-Level so I have a vague art qualification which maybe gives me a bit of a head start, but it was a long time ago and the first sketches in my journal didn't look at all how I wanted them to. I discovered Urban Sketching and some artists that work in a really loose way, so I've been following a few tutorials on YouTube and giving it a go!

Some very early attempts at Urban Sketching

Sorting out and reading my old diaries - I have a box of diaries dated from 1991 - 1998, throughout my teenage years. I keep them stashed at the top of the wardrobe and every now and then I get them out to decide if I still want to keep them. The early diaries are fun to read although pretty boring, it's mainly just what I did at school that day. The later ones are much more interesting, especially when boys came on the scene, but they are so embarrassing that I can't bear to read them and I would hate for anyone else to come across them! But they are also filled with memories, like my driving test mark sheets and entries from visiting the Orlando theme parks which I really enjoyed looking back on. So back they went into the wardrobe!

Organising my holiday leaflet and ephemera collection - I've always been a collector, especially of free things, and I have two boxes filled with mementoes from my travels over the years. It wasn't very well organised though, just everything piled in together, so I had fun going through it all. I've got theme park maps going back years and it was interesting to get them all in one place and compare them. It also made me realise that this kind of collection probably won't grow very much, now that everything is done electronically. When we visit an attraction we rarely have a physical ticket, and on our last couple of cruises they no longer give out the daily itineraries - it's all in the app. 

Two boxes filled with travel ephemera

I'm not giving up on the blog though, I love writing it!

Monday 5 June 2023

Overcoming the fear of journalling in public

I started journalling seriously in February this year and I've kept up the habit, mostly writing daily. I record about what I've done that day, I glue in ephemera, I write about things that I've learned or that have interested me in the news, I copy notes from research about things that have interested me and recently I've started illustrating it with very simple sketches and watercolours.

I write with a fountain pen, and because my journal has smooth pages I love how the ink flows onto the page. Sometimes I write a paragraph or so and sometimes I'll write several pages, and I pick it up throughout the day whenever the fancy takes me.

On the first page of my journal I wrote a list of places that I wanted to write. I wanted to conquer my fear of writing in public, I intended to take it out and about with me, even though I hate the thought of anyone reading what I write.

I started by writing in different positions around the house - in bed, in the egg chair, on the sofa, on the garden chairs, in the car or on the floor. This helped me to find comfortable ways of holding the book and the pen. I also wrote in front of other family members, I think they all took a peek and realised that it wasn't particularly interesting!

Woman sitting on a hill writing in a journal
Photo credit Ashlyn Ciara via Unsplash

The first time that I truly wrote my journal in public was on our cruise holiday over Easter. I wrote while sitting on a chair on deck with my back to the wall and holding the book almost upright so that no-one could see. And I'm pretty sure that no-one even noticed! Then I took it to the beach a couple of times and wrote while sitting on a sun lounger. This was much less private as the beaches were busy with lots of people walking past, but again no-one cared. 

My next step is to become more comfortable with drawing in my journal in public. I think that this will be much more obvious, especially if I get the paints out, and also I'm very aware that my sketching definitely has room for improvement. I don't think anyone would criticise me out loud but I don't want people judging my efforts even internally, especially when they are a work in progress. 

I'm going to start by taking a very small sketchbook up to school with me and drawing in the car, just sketching the things that I can see from where I'm sitting. The houses on the road, trees, and maybe people if anyone stops in one place for long enough. Then I think that my next step will be taking it to the beach and finding a quiet spot while I get used to working outside. Eventually I'd love to be able to create an illustrated journal which I'd be happy to share with others!

Friday 2 June 2023

What I've been up to lately

It's been a while since I've done one of these posts, so I thought I'd share a few of the things that I've been up to lately!


I've been reading a lot as usual, and I recently shared some of my latest top reads. I'm currently reading The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton which is a long book, a former Booker prize winner which is why it caught my eye. I'm enjoying it but it's not an easy read, there are loads of characters and it's important to remember all the relationships between them. Luckily there are some summaries written into the narrative to help to keep the reader caught up with things!

I'm also reading The Rebecca Notebook by Daphne du Maurier which is a short book so I'm trying to make it last as I'm really enjoying it. I love Rebecca and it's interesting to read the original ideas for the plot and also an alternative epilogue.


I've hardly watched any television recently! We don't have any series that we are watching at the moment, and by the time I've got the children in bed it's getting too late to sit down to a film. We did get out to the cinema to see the new Guardians of the Galaxy film which was very good.


Over the last few weeks I've been working on my journal and starting to fill it with a few simple sketches and illustrations. I don't want to share any yet because I'm still learning! I've been really interested in looking at urban sketching - quick, loose sketches that are made while out and about. I'm too shy to take my sketchbook out in public yet but I'm hoping that I can improve my skills a bit at home and build up some courage!

I was incredibly proud of this balloon arch which I made for Mia's birthday to use as a photo backdrop. It was really easy, I bought a kit from Amazon for about £15 but all you really need is a big heap of balloons and some balloon tape, which is a thick plastic tape with holes in for the balloon ties. Blowing up the balloons was a bit of a mission, but the kit came with a balloon tying tool which was really good for saving my fingers. With a foil curtain behind it looked amazing, the trouble is that now everyone will want one for their birthday!

Homemade balloon arch for birthday


I've kept the garden simple this year, I'm only growing sunflowers, tomatoes and broccoli! They have all been doing well outside in the gorgeous sunny weather, most of my tomatoes are still in pots outdoors but this weekend I'll be planting them out in the vegetable patch if I have enough room, I have loads!


With Mia's birthday and half term there has been far too much junk food in the house. We've been making brownies, eating pancakes and waffles, as well as far too many crisps and biscuits. When they are back at school I need to get back to my healthy soups and wraps!


I've felt a bit out of touch with my blog recently which is a shame as I love writing it. I'm finding it a little difficult as the children grow up and I don't like to write about them too much, also I always focussed on crafts for children and now they are too old for that. So I've been brainstorming away and coming up with new ideas for things to write about. 

Feeling proud of

Both my children! Harry took his Computer Science GCSE last term, he's only in year 9 and has pretty much taught himself so I'm really proud of his achievement. Mia has her grade 3 flute exam coming up in a couple of weeks and she's done so well, she works really hard at her practice. She's also taught herself to do the splits and a couple of other difficult yoga poses, she's such a good example of showing massive improvement by working at something every day.

Looking forward to

Is it too early to be looking forward to the summer holidays?! This week has reminded me how lovely it is to have that long stretch without the stress of the school run, packed lunches, homework and so on. We also have a holiday coming up which I'm looking forward to. 

What have you been up to lately?