The blog

British mummy blogger and travel blogger

Why Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen is my mantra

Now as I told you a few days ago I'm still a loooong way from being a proper grown-up on many levels;… [more]

Why Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen is my mantra Why Let It Go from Disney's Frozen is my mantra

Cambodia pets

One of the things that struck me when we visited villages in Cambodia was that even though the villagers… [more]

Cambodia pets Cambodia pets

Meeting David Gandy and a very good cause

Last Thursday I put on my glad rags and headed out to the Collars and Coats Gala at Battersea Evolution,… [more]

Meeting David Gandy and a very good cause Meeting David Gandy and a very good cause

My totally gorgeous, probably impractical new pink coat

Yesterday I did something a bit rash. Something not very 'me'. I bought a gorgeous new pink coat. PINK.… [more]

My totally gorgeous, probably impractical new pink coat My totally gorgeous, probably impractical new pink coat

My Quantum of the Seas experience

How did you spend your weekend? I spent mine viewing the ocean from a pod in the sky 300ft above sea… [more]

My Quantum of the Seas experience My Quantum of the Seas experience

The One with all the Kimonos

What with all the Harajuku girls and all the other cool Japanese fashion trends something we really weren't… [more]

The One with all the Kimonos The One with all the Kimonos

Why Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen is my mantra

Now as I told you a few days ago I'm still a loooong way from being a proper grown-up on many levels;… [more]

Why Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen is my mantra Why Let It Go from Disney's Frozen is my mantra

Riding the Japanese bullet train

We ended up riding the Japanese bullet train (or Shinkansen) by accident. Typhoon Phanfone meant we had… [more]

Riding the Japanese bullet train Riding the Japanese bullet train

Dreaming of a Scandinavian-style Christmas

cabin in KirkenesAs you know I’m a big fan of all things Scandinavian – not just Nordic noir like The Bridge (although I really do miss Saga) and the clean simple lines of Scandinavian furniture, but also the little touches they add at Christmas, like this delicious log cabin we visited in Norway for some hot berry juice. Just adding simple accessories like a red tin heart or candle or a rustic wreath can give your home a touch of Scandinavian flair. I love that their decorations are so simple – wood is obviously very popular – but by using a splash of berry red it instantly makes it feel like Christmas.

House of Fraser Christmas decorationsWhich is why I was so thrilled when the House of Fraser home department sent me a Christmas stocking full of Scandinavian-inspired goodies from their Christmas range of Linea home accessories, the perfect gifts for our new home, which we moved into last week. I’m particularly delighted with the red candle, but also the sweet little hot water bottle cover, which *almost* looks as though you’ve knitted it yourself.

Christmas baubleAnd isn’t this bauble fab? Not only great for adding a little Scandinavian style to the home during the festive season but also I think any of these would make great gifts (and if you hurry, you’ll be able to pick up some bargains because many of the items are on sale at the moment).

 

10 signs you’re addicted to cruise travel

Strawberry daiquiri Royal PrincessI was in my bath last night, wishing it was a jacuzzi on a ship deck and wondering why no one was offering me a strawberry daiquiri, and it occurred to me that I won’t be going on any cruises until at least March next year. And the thing about cruise holidays is, the more you go on them, you more you want to go on them. My cruise highlights this year have included chasing the Northern Lights in Norway, discovering new islands in the Caribbean, journeying along the Mekong, and exploring Japan; plus of course skydiving on Quantum of the Seas. No wonder I’m addicted to cruise travel.

Here are my top 10 signs you’re addicted to cruise travel, too:

towel animal bunny1. When you go into your bedroom at night you wonder where the towel animal is. Ditto chocolates on the pillow.

2. You long to wake up to a different view every morning.

Disney cruise breakfast3. Cereal or toast for breakfast just doesn’t cut it any more – you hanker after a full American breakfast, with pancakes, every day, and preferably room service as well.

4. You have to fight the urge to dress up for dinner, even when it’s just beans on toast.

5. You miss your stateroom attendant so much you ask your friends and family to call you Miss Elizabeth.

6. The only way you can get to sleep is if someone rocks your bed gently from side to side.

7. You try to pay for shopping at your local supermarket with an old sail & sign card.

Me laughing8. Half of your wardrobe is cruisewear.

9. When you join another cruise, the crew all recognise you.

10. A few days before your cruise finishes, you start planning your next one; you may even book it while you’re still on board.

There you are, my top 10 signs that you’re addicted to cruise travel. *sighs wistfully*. If you’ve been on a cruise I’d love to know what you enjoyed most.

Why Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen is my mantra

Now as I told you a few days ago I’m still a loooong way from being a proper grown-up on many levels; but the one thing that has changed for me, particularly during the past year, is that I’ve learned to really Let It Go. That means not holding on to grievances, or grudges, or any other gremlins that can overshadow your life if you waste too much time and energy thinking about them.

Partly, I think, this is because of all the travelling I’ve done this year; in particular visiting Cambodia and Vietnam, and Japan. Being blessed by monks, meeting the Cambodian people and seeing the stunning natural beauty of Japan has definitely made me feel more centred; I mean, I’m not going to shave my head and start wearing an orange robe, or chanting, or anything, but I am still wearing my amulet and I do feel much more content.

Elsa from Frozen singing Let It GoLike the brilliant lyrics to Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen say:

“It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all!”

The more I travel, the more I see and experience and face my fears, the more time I spend on long-haul flights where I can spend some time switching off, thinking about stuff and then forgetting about it, the greater my sense of perspective.

Of course Elsa in Frozen protects herself (and everyone around her) by isolating herself. I’m definitely not a hermit, I love going out and dancing and singing and eating with my friends, but my family are the thing I care about most in the world. End of. I have reached that stage where I’m not prepared to waste valuable time with people I’m not interested in or don’t care about, and I am seriously editing my address book so that I only spend my spare time with people who matter to me. I *really* don’t care what anyone thinks or says about me any more. *sings*

“I don’t care
What they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway!”

And the other thing I’m doing is not dwelling in the past. There’s no point in thinking about what might have been. You have to focus on the here and now, baby. Like Elsa ;)

“My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back,
The past is in the past!”

Cambodia pets

Cambodia dogOne of the things that struck me when we visited villages in Cambodia was that even though the villagers had very little, they still had pets that they doted on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nearly every home we visited had a dog, sometimes several, who stayed close to their owners.

Dogs at Angkor Thom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Angkor Thom I spotted these dogs sleeping in the shade – they’re strays, but they were very well looked after and fed by the Buddhist monks…

Angkor Thom dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this beautiful boy.

cattle in Cambodia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even their working cattle were treated as part of the family – the villagers rested on hammocks right next to their cows, who were very calm and relaxed.

Cow Cambodia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s often said you can tell a lot about a country from the way its animals area treated. The Cambodian people have been through so much, they don’t have much, and yet they treat their animals with respect. Says it all, really. (I loved this cow, who was very happy to have her forehead rubbed.)

*This is my entry for The Gallery and the theme this week is ‘pets’.

40 Something going on 17 Again

Last night as I was walking home in my trainers and puffer jacket, eating sweets and looking forward to watching The Walking Dead on TV, it occurred to me that I don’t really feel as though I’m 40 something; even though it was my *cough cough* birthday the week before last, I still feel as though I’m – well, younger. OK, maybe not exactly 17 again, but I don’t really feel like a grown-up. Sure I have a grown-up job and grown-up responsibilities, I act like an adult most of the time, and I am of course a mum, but even though I see ‘laughter lines’ when I look in the mirror inside I just feel the same as I always have done.

Tomorrow night, for example, I’m going to a big awards bash and I’ll be getting dressed up and having a blow-dry; but even though I’ll look like a grown-up lady and spend all night in high heels, inside there will still be a part of me that feels as though I’ve raided my mum’s dressing-up box. And I’ll probably throw up the following morning from having too much to drink, just as I threw up when I was 16 from having too much Cinzano and lemonade.

Justin TherouxI still get crushes; some on real life boys *cough* but also, in addition to Jamie Dornan, I’m currently crushing big time on Justin Theroux from The Leftovers. (Jennifer Aniston is SO lucky). I’m stopping short of putting a poster of him on my bedroom wall, but honestly, look.

13 Going on 30And if I have a row with No 1 Son, I tend to be the one that stomps up the stairs to my bedroom and slams the door. I also still stamp my foot.

Sometimes I feel like Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30, or Tom Hanks in Big. It’s not that I’m not proud of how old I am; it’s just that if I look at my date of birth on my passport I get a genuine shock. As though I’ve time-travelled to the future. How on earth did I get here? And where’s my DeLorean? (joke for other 40 somethings there).

Maybe it’s a kind of regression, feeling as though you’re still a teenager when you’re so far past the line of adulthood the line is a dot to you. Maybe I’m going through juvanescence, which is the latest buzz word for people who can’t seem to grow up, although I’m stopping short of wearing a onesie and bouncing around to One Direction or reading The Hunger Games. Promise.

 

Is it OK to fancy Jamie Dornan in The Fall?

Jamie Dornan in The FallLet’s face it, you’re really not supposed to fancy serial killers. Unless you have ambitions to become a Death Row bride, fantasising about someone with a penchant for torture and murder isn’t just frowned upon: it’s wrong on every level. These aren’t just bad boys who sometimes cross the line, like Ray Donovan. They’re actual psychopaths. And yet, what Jamie Dornan in The Fall does is to mess with our heads; we know what he’s done, what he’s capable of, but his character, Paul/Peter Spector (they stopped short of calling him Phil), is still dangerously, irresistibly attractive. That incredible, seductive Northern Irish accent; those eyes; those cheekbones… that body.

We’re being manipulated, of course, by the creators of The Fall. Just as there are steamy/gratuitous shots of Gillian Anderson’s character Stella in the shower, pool, or in her trademark silk blouses (who hasn’t gone out and bought one? I know I have), there are plenty of opportunities to admire Jamie Dornan in The Fall. Not least in this week’s episode when he appeared wearing just a pair of black boxers *fans self*. It’s all anyone can talk about in my office and on Facebook and, I have no doubt, up and down the country. Put it this way, I wouldn’t have even considered seeing 50 Shades before The Fall. Now, it’s a definite possibility.

Moriarty SherlockIt’s the same, for me anyway, with Moriarty in Sherlock. For a start there’s the Irish accent (a definite theme here), the dangerously dark eyes, razor-sharp cheekbones. I can’t be the only one who finds him more attractive than either Sherlock or Dr Watson. And yet he’s another bloke with some serious issues.

What this does, of course, is to mess with our minds, to challenge the natural, obvious order; but that’s why The Fall is so clever. The astonishingly talented Jamie Dornan is luring us in, just as his character Peter/Paul lures his victims. We’ve even been given clues as to why he’s so mad and determined to torture and destroy women as though they’re his daughter’s Barbie dolls, although it’s unlikely we’ll start to identify with him or feel sorry for him any time soon. Ultimately, we know, he will have to pay the price for his hideous crimes, but for the time being, let’s just enjoy the ride. And those black boxer shorts *cough*.

Being a mum makes my heart sing

On Sunday I was chatting to No 1 Son about movies; there isn’t anything new about this, we talk about movies, and TV, history and politics a lot of the time. But when we’d finished talking it occurred to me how much I’d enjoyed that feeling, of being able to relate to my boy about something we both find cool, and how lucky we are to have that. Sometimes we may disagree, sometimes we make each other laugh, but but talking to my son is always interesting. Such a simple thing, but it’s one of the things I enjoy most about being a mum.

Of course, it hasn’t always been easy. There were a lot of tantrums when he was a toddler and a lot of rows when he became a teenager and was on the XBox instead of revising for exams; and I’ve had to struggle – really struggle – internally to overcome my cotton wool instincts, to let him have the freedom he needs to grow.

my son at Lake ComoOver the years, whenever life has been a little harder than I expected, whenever something hasn’t gone quite according to plan, the thing that has kept me going, always, is the thought of being a mum to this fantastic boy and doing everything in my power to give him the love and security he needs. He’s bright and funny and charming, and I can say honestly, without bias, that he has this incredible talent for writing; I’m not sure he’s even aware of how good he is yet. I’m so proud of everything he’s achieving, and while he’s a bit tight with his hugs, when he does hug me – and he’s 6ft 2 now to my 5ft 6 – it’s the best feeling in the world. And he’s inherited my love of travel: as I’ve said many times, being able to take him on lots of adventures and seeing the world through his eyes is one of my greatest pleasures in life.  This photo – taken when we were on holiday in Lake Como, Italy, a few years back – still makes me smile, every time I look at it. I had to actually bribe him with euros to persuade him to let me take his photo at all, and then he did that naughty thing. Cheeky git ;)

When he was little I remember his Kiwi grandmother saying that when he suddenly took your hand in his, it made your heart sing. And it’s true. Being a mum, knowing I’ve played a part in raising this wonderful young man, makes my heart sing every day. Love you bub.

*This is my entry for The Gallery and the theme this week is ‘Being a parent.’

Why Newquay Cornwall is perfect for a winter break

Fistral_Beach_Hotel_and_Spa_Bedroom_SuiteTake a look at this gorgeous hotel suite. Isn’t that an amazing view, right on the beach so you can wake up to the sea or go to sleep lulled by the sound of the waves crashing on the shore? Don’t you love the cool boutique chic decor, all that white, with accents of turquoise and mocha? Doesn’t that bed look comfy? So, where do you think it is. Go on, have a guess. California? No. Miami? No. OK, I’ll tell you. It’s Newquay, in Cornwall. I KNOW.

We’re really big fans of Newquay in our family – those sweeping sands, that spectacularly craggy coastline, and in winter, when it’s a bit quieter, it’s absolutely breathtaking. It was one of the first places we ever took No 1 Son on holiday so it’s a very special place to me. By the way, this stunning suite is at the fabulous 4* Fistral Beach hotel and it’s one of the hotels in Newquay offered by Hotel Direct with an absolutely brilliant location, right on the glorious beach. I know I travel to exotic places a lot but I really do love British beaches in winter – OK, you can’t really go swimming (unless you’re very brave or have a wetsuit) but there’s nothing better than a walk with the family and the dog along the beach on New Year’s Day; my mum always says it ‘blows the cobwebs away’ and she’s right, it really does (particularly if you’ve had too much Champagne the night before *cough*), and as long as the kids have their wellies on and don’t go too far they can have a little paddle in the water. (If you’re travelling with children under 16, then the Fistral Beach Hotel’s sister hotel, The Esplanade, is only a two minute walk away. It really does have the best lcoation, just a two minute walk from that fabulous golden sand.)

ice skating at the Eden projectOf course, there are lots of other reasons to visit Newquay in the winter (and I don’t just mean the chance to eat piping hot Cornish pasties and have warm scones with fresh clotted cream and jam, although obviously that’s a definite bonus), and it’s also a brilliant destination for a pre-Christmas break, too. It’s also the perfect base for exploring Cornwall. You’re within easy reach of the Christmas fair in Truro, for example, which sells everything from surf-inspired paintings to delicious food and drink, and even collectable handbags and teddy bears. Also close by is the wonderful Eden project, where they have a beautiful ice rink, suitable for everyone from toddlers to more experienced skaters. They even have penguins with handles to help you on to the ice (not real penguins, obviously).

Newquay harbour fireworksBut most special of all –  if you go to Newquay at New Year’s, you’ll see the amazing fireworks at the harbour; take it from me, there’s something absolutely magical about seeing fireworks on the coast, illuminating the sand and little cottages nearby. Wrap up warm and take a flask of hot chocolate (spiced with rum if you prefer) and admire the fireworks exploding against the clear night sky, unspoiled by pollution. Superb.

My 2015 Travel Wishlist

I know what you’re thinking. It’s not even December and she’s talking about 2015 travel already? But as all travel writers and travel bloggers know, the thing about the travel bug is that once you’ve caught it you’re living in a constant state of itchy feet, your suitcase semi-packed and your passport always ready for your next adventure.

Liz JarvisI’ve had the most extraordinary year on the travel front, starting with my trip to see the Northern lights in Norway, and highlights including seeing Cher, alligators and kayaking in Fort Lauderdale; being sleepless in Seattle; whizzing over to Venice, discovering new islands in the Caribbean and spending a few days in Dublin; spending a lot of time in Asia, first in Vietnam and Cambodia, and then Tokyo and the Japanese islands; and skydiving at sea. I’ve challenged myself, I’ve surprised myself, and I’ve grasped everything travel has to offer. Oh yes, 2014 has been awesome.

But now, with nothing planned until I go to New York for work in January, I’m dreaming about all the places I’d like to visit in 2015, both on my own and with my family. I already know we’ll be making an important trip to Ireland to commemorate the sinking of the Lusitania (which claimed the lives of one of our relatives), and also spending a week on the Danube, visiting Prague and Budapest. But there are so many more places I want to see,experience and taste. So here’s my 2015 travel wishlist.

1. WaikikiHawaii. It’s been ages since I was there last, and although I’ve been to O’ahu twice I’m still desperate to explore the other islands.

2. Alaska. I was hoping to get there this year, but it didn’t work out. So next year I really want to make it happen, and finally get to see bears and whales in the wild; Harriet wants to go, too, so if it works out I’ll take her with me.

3. Japan. It’s got under my skin and I want to go back. This time I want to take No 1 Son; we’ll spend a few nights in Tokyo (officially now one of my favourite cities in the world) and take the bullet train to Kyoto.

Maybe we’ll get to one or none of these places; it doesn’t really matter, because the dreaming and the planning is part of the fun, isn’t it?

Which places are on your 2015 travel wishlist? I’d love to know.

*UK Blog Awards 2015Travel blogging is incredibly important to me, and I’m delighted that The Mum Blog has been nominated in the ‘travel’ category of the UK Blog Awards. I’d love it if you voted for me – just click on this link and leave your name and email ;)

Meeting David Gandy and a very good cause

Last Thursday I put on my glad rags and headed out to the Collars and Coats Gala at Battersea Evolution, in aid of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. Of course as the proud owner of a rescue dog I fully support any attempts to make lives better for dogs and cats; and an added attraction was the chance to see David Gandy – as in DAVID GANDY – in the flesh.

husky at Battersea Dogs HomeWhen we arrived there were lots of dogs on the red carpet; some of them were military dogs, accompanied by soldiers, but others were residents at Battersea, hoping for a home. Among them was this beautiful husky, just 11 months old. She had been at the home for a month. If we didn’t have Yoda I would seriously have considered adopting her. All the dogs were happy to be stroked and have their ears rubbed; I wish I could have given homes to them all.

The evening was very glamorous – the presenters included Amanda Holden and Craig Revel Horwood, and Jacqueline Wilson and Paul O’Grady were there. But there were several incredibly moving moments: the first when Claire Horton, the Chief Executive of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, asked if she could find 15 people to donate £3000 each for a new operating theatre and within five seconds 20 people had stood up. And the second when a procession of Chelsea Pensioners and soldiers took to the stage, with dogs, to honour all those dogs who have served in wars.

What I hadn’t realised was the part Battersea played in the First World War. In fact, 20,000 dogs, many from Battersea, became part of a specialist canine brigade, doing vital work such as running messages, carrying munitions and first aid supplies, and warning their battalions of incoming shells. It makes me cry just thinking about it now.

Me with David GandyWhen we’d wiped away our tears and donations had been made, it was the chance to hit the dance floor – and of course, try to meet David Gandy (or as we like to call him, DAVID GANDY). It took a little while to break through the sea of admirers who were constantly surrounding him, but finally we made it. My friends suddenly lost the power of speech, so it was left to me to do the talking. I introduced myself and he was utterly charming and very sweet (needless to say he smells delicious), and when I asked if we could have our photo taken with him he was only too happy to oblige. What an incredibly nice guy.

But of course, like us, he was there for a good cause, and that’s to raise funds for Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. Even if you can’t adopt a dog or cat at the moment, there are so many ways you can help. You can find out more at battersea.org.uk

*Thank you to Viking Cruises, one of the sponsors of the event, for inviting me as their guest.

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