Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Our Bluestone Stay #bluestonebloggers

We have just come back from a wonderful reviewing break in Bluestone.  It is my second visit and if anything it has grown on me even more.  I have had an opportunity to see more of what the site has to offer this time and I must admit I was very impressed.  We did cram it in but I wanted to make the most of our stay including exploring the wider area.  Bluestone makes an excellent base for adventures in Pembrokeshire, we went to Tenby and Folly Farm and thoroughly enjoyed both days out.

The accommodation was lovely, very comfortable and plenty of space to spread out.  

We were in one of the Grassholm Lodges; it was a detached lodge with four bedrooms and three bathrooms.  

It was the ideal size to bring along the boys grandparents and let them have precious time together.  I liked that they already had stair gates installed, even though my boys are older it shows that Bluestone take the safety of their (little) guests very seriously.  The lodge was very reasonably priced if you can holiday in term time, especially given it was very well maintained and modern.

We booked two activities this time round and I would definitely recommend both that we chose.  Tawny Tales was a 45-minute puppet show it was magical and entertaining in equal measure.  Well worth the £7 per child (adults can join the fun for free!).  It’s very interactive; children are encouraged to get involved looking for clues and singing songs.  My two loved the effects, snow machine, bubbles and wind it made it for a very immersive experience.  Also like I have seen before during the Kingdom of the Elves event Bluestone excels at story telling and capturing the imagination of children.  The thought put into costumes and props is quite something and I liked the little details like a spot of glitter (fairy magic) for everyone on arrival at the show.

The second activity was the 4 x 4 Safari (£19 a child); my two were in their element driving around the custom built courses.  They had a welcoming tutor who gave them advice and attempted to develop their driving skills in a very patient and accepting way!!!  The courses have lots of exciting challenges like rickety bridges, narrow roads and a seesaw to manoeuvre round.

A photo posted by Karen (@missingsleep) on

Of course you can head to Bluestone without booking any additional activities and still have a fantastic time.  I would recommend the nature walk to burn off some energy; it’s a beautiful route through a woodland area. 

The swimming pool Blue Lagoon with waves, flumes and the lazy river was a pleasant place to pass a few hours.  We arrived at 9am to take advantage of the guest only use of the pool.  It certainly seemed to get busier as the day progressed.

The Adventure Centre is ideal for children to let off steam whatever the weather, the wood play area is vast with lots to explore, and there is a bouncy castle and free crazy golf too.  With so much included you can really keep the cost down of holidaying.  You can stick to a budget (eating in the lodge and using the complimentary activities) or be more extravagant (my mum booked the spa experience!) the choice is yours.

We ate out a couple of times; we enjoyed our experience at Camp Smokey most of all.  It was a novelty for the boys toasting marshmallows on the campfire and I really liked the food in this rustic diner.  The cook clangs a bell and calls your name when your order is ready and I quite liked eating off tin plates.  It had a great atmosphere there and so pleased I had a chance to visit, when we came for the Kingdom of Elves Camp Smokey was closed (it closes Nov – Feb).

A photo posted by Karen (@missingsleep) on

I am sure we will become regular visitors to Bluestone.

Monday, 30 March 2015

My Laundry Tips and Advice

When you have children you suddenly realise how much more laundry you have!  Children tend to get that much more mucky than their adult counterparts and need regular changes of clothes.  Beko challenged bloggers to come up with some tips to get on top of the never-ending laundry pile!

Firstly I would say get a BIG washing machine with a decent sized load capacity, one that can hold lots as you will always have plenty that will need washing.  School uniforms, pyjamas, football kit, swimming costumes and towels, each day the mound of dirty clothes grows steadily…

I must confess I am not the best at doing laundry I rarely sort the clothes into darks and lights I just tend to bung it all in and hope for the best.  But if you do prefer to wash your clothes in a more structured way, then buying a laundry sorter is a useful time saving idea.  Then you have the dirty clothes all ready sorted.  I also do not have time for hand washing so buy special bags to add the hand washing into my normal load, a tip I learnt from an Australian friend.

Think about what you are washing, can you get another wear out of it, do your children really need fresh pyjamas every night or can you get a few days wear out of them.  Think carefully about what changes you can make that will reduce the washing burden.

Be realistic the days of reaching the bottom of your wash basket may well have passed.  But I do like to make time every day to do a wash or two, if you do not dedicate some time to keeping on top of it, it will grow uncontrollably and rather depressingly.  So schedule time into your routine, try and encourage all the family to help out too.  Whether it’s just collecting up their dirty clothes at the end of the day and placing them in the washing basket rather than leaving them for you to collect from the far corners of each room!!!  Younger children might enjoy matching up socks and putting them in drawers.

Even when I catch up with the washing, I end up with clean piles of clothes squashed into baskets sometimes for a few days whilst I try and find the motivation to put them away.  

On occasion I have even got muddled with my washing not realising what is clean and dirty anymore and rewashed clothes just in case, so do try and put away after each load.

Make washing more fun by buying a decent fabric softener some have lovely fragrances which makes the whole thing that bit more pleasant!!!

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Shrewsbury Dogs Trust Behind the Scenes Tour

Last Sunday we visited the Dogs Trust shelter in Shrewsbury, it was a very positive experience.  

It was lovely having a behind the scenes tour and learning more about all the amazing work they do.  My eldest wanted to return the very next day for more of the same, so that goes to show how wonderful the place really is.  The centre manager Louise is a very kind and compassionate lady with lots of dogs herself, her love for the dogs around her is obvious and her dedication to her job was great to see.

The adoption centre is a pleasant environment, the initial viewing area works well for dogs and visitors alike.  If its too much for the dogs they can go to the back of their enclosure and get some peace and quiet from prying eyes but if they are in the mood to meet their adoring public they even have “sniffer holes” so they can interact with you.  

The glass-fronted aspect reduces the noise and helps keep the dogs calm and happy.  It really is state of the art and the dogs all seemed very comfortable and content, they have lots of home comforts (snugly beds or sofa’s) and toys to play with.  They play relaxing music for the dogs so they are used to a certain level of noise and can adjust in their new home.  For the more nervous of dogs they add a privacy shield so you can see the dog but it does not have to look at you.  All of the kennels have under floor heating and access to exercise runs.

The training hall is a big space with agility equipment and it is where my boys had the opportunity to meet the most adorable puppy. 

They really do everything they can to facilitate the adoption process.  We bought Summer as a puppy but if I had known how well the Dogs Trust matches dogs to prospective owners I would genuinely have been very happy to adopt instead.  On your first visit on site you fill out a homefinding questionnaire that details your circumstances and whether you are planning anything significant in the future like a new baby or moving house.  Certain dogs in their care will be better suited for children and others will be matched with adult only homes, depending on the dogs individual requirements.  I have had a rescue dog before many years ago and I never remember the process being so in-depth.  A comprehensive approach ensures a successful match; it can give you confidence that you have found your ideal canine companion.  Once you have selected a dog you will have a home visit to ensure your garden is secure and the appropriate size for the chosen dog.  For families some of the dogs might already be toilet trained so that’s an easier option then starting the training process from scratch.

With Dogs Trust you have plenty of advice and feel much more prepared with your new arrival, obviously it’s an exciting time but you need to go into it committed to make it work.  Every dog is given basic training and the time you spend on your visits will really help them settle into your home.  Adoption is an affordable way to add a dog to your family; the fee of £100 includes a starter bag of food, collar, lead, microchipping and neutering (if the dog is too young then you have a voucher to do this at a later date).  You also get a very helpful guide outlining everything you need to know to care for your new friend. 

The Dogs Trust have a shared adoption scheme so if you do take on an elderly dog any pre-existing medical conditions will be paid by the centre for the dogs lifetime.  I think this is very reassuring, as medication can get very expensive it would be a shame if cost was a factor in you not choosing to adopt a well matched dog.  The oldies have their own section of the centre.  The retirement home is much like living in a home environment with a snug sofa and lots of blankets.  This gives lots of comfort to the elderly dogs, many of them have ended up here because their owners have become unwell and can no longer manage to look after their beloved pet.  It can be distressing for the dog and the owner but seeing how contented they can be here does make the process easier.  

With the Canine Care Card you have peace and mind that your dog will always have a safe haven if anything happened to you.  It is a free service but you are very welcome to leave a gift in your will to help the Dogs Trust continue to make a difference.

Certain dogs people have pre-conceived ideas about (like staffies and lurchers) but please do not rule them out.  Dogs Trust err on the side of caution when matching a dog with new owners, they do a thorough assessment of the dogs temperament and behaviour and then decide what type of home would be the most beneficial for both parties.  All new dogs are isolated initially receiving vet treatment and then starting this assessment programme.  For the dogs with more severe behavioural issues they are placed into a rehabilitation unit, a quieter environment with lots of routine to help them adjust and retrain.

If a dog has behavioural problems multiple visits will be suggested so a nervous dog for example can build up a relationship with its prospective new owner.  On the first visit they would watch the handler with the dog and would have only limited or no contact themselves, over time when the dog is confident with the new person they could eventually move them to their new home.  By doing this you know what you are capable of, if it seems too much a different dog might meet your needs better.  At the end of the day the Dogs Trust wants the rehoming to work, as it can be very confusing for a dog to keep being placed in new homes.  Give your dog time to settle into their new environment and remember Dogs Trust are on hand to give you help if you need it.

I would definitely recommend a visit to your nearest centre, the dogs on the website are only a very small selection of the ones available and once you have filled in your initial forms the staff can keep you in mind if a dog meeting your requirements arrives at the shelter.  We fell in love with Mindy as she reminded us of Summer.

If its not quite the right time for you to adopt yet please consider other ways in which you can help, volunteering at a centre (dog walking and grooming if you have the relevant skills) donating items for events or sponsoring a dog (from a minimum of £1 a week).

A big thank you to a few companies (Fish4Dogs, PetShopBowl, monster pet supplies and SwellPets) who kindly donated toys and treats for me to take along on my visit, they were gratefully accepted and will be put to good use immediately!  They really could not have gone to a more deserving place.