Confessions Of A Summer Parent – It’s A Wild Life

I must confess that I always view the approaching long summer school holiday with a mixture of relief (no more school runs) and dread (endless Harry Potter reruns).

Generally by about 10:15 am on Day 1 the kids are already bored and, having exhausted the huge and completely random stock of craft materials lurking in our dining room, are demanding ice lollies and entertainment.

Telling them that, in their parents’ youth entertainment was a day spent running amok in a quarry, a woodland or a field cuts no ice with them. We’d take packed lunches of crisps and cheese sandwiches which would keep us going until tea.

My friends and I made our own adventures without anything digital in sight.

I remember returning home from a day on my bike warmed with sunshine, pleasantly tired and ready to fall into bed.

Falling asleep in the summer was a lengthy process because it was the 70’s and mum had installed day-go orange curtains which meant my bedroom was lit up like a disco until the sun had long set.  Black-out curtains were for wimps.

So what do we parents do?  Although there are loads of places to go, things to see and local summer activities, the whole ‘keeping your kids from killing each other’ thing can be rather stressful.

Unless you have unlimited time and money, you can’t take them out every single day so you have to box clever.

We are firm believers in, er, developing a love of nature.

It worked for David Attenborough, didn’t it?  Who knows what previously undiscovered species Ieuan is about to find… eventually.

This post is an entry for the BritMums Confessions of a Summer Parent Challenge, sponsored by Anchor.

Affordable Summer Style From JD Williams

JD Williams is a brand I have come to know through its advertising campaign featuring Lorraine Kelly. Lorraine has become a fabulous ambassador for women in my age group (50+) and I love her positive energy and refusal to be pigeon-holed as any kind of frump just because she’s the other side of 50.

It’s great these days to see a vanguard of sassy older women who are making the Fashion Industry sit up and take notice – I often cite Dame Helen Mirren as one of my favourites but there’s also Julianne Moore, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, Michelle Obama, Christie Brinkley and Jane Seymour – to name but a few.  In fact, I can’t remember a time when the sexiness of the over 50 woman was celebrated with so much fervour.

It’s even better to see that brands are joining in this positive movement to celebrate those of us who are no longer ingenues but who are in many cases absolute powerhouses of energy, confidence and knowledge. We are also the ones with the most disposable income so we are certainly worth listening to!

JD Williams is certainly one of these brands and I was recently invited to try one of their maxi dresses (you know me, just can’t resist a maxi dress).  I was keen to see if they lived up to their reputation as a brand that has risen from out of the ether to be a major online shopping destination.

I was sent the Waterfall Bead Neck Maxi dress – £50 in a cobalt blue (it also comes in cerise) to try and when I tried it on it reminded me of the good old days of Marks & Spencer when the quality was always there and could be relied on consistently.


The dress, a size 12, was a perfect fit and was lined.  The embellished collar contained beading that was securely sewn on (nothing worse than beading where one or two have come loose and spoil the entire effect) and the length of the dress was just right – skimming the ground without trailing on the floor.

This meant that it could be worn with flat shoes rather than having to find some vertiginous strappy sandals which, these days would mean the Husband having to escort me down the drive in case I take a tumble.

JD Williams has a wide variety of maxi dresses and there are a number of different brands under its main brand umbrella spanning not only fashion (Simply Be, Joe Browns, Lorraine Kelly) but home & garden (Silentnight, Denby, Yankee Candle) and electricals (Vax, Panasonic, Samsung).

I particularly love this Palm Print Lace-Up Back Column Maxi (£35), available in sizes 10 – 32.

Palm Print Maxi

or how about this one – the Joanna Hope Print Jersey Maxi Dress – £55.

Joanne Hope Print Maxi Dress

I’d also like to try this one from Lorraine’s own range – the Lorraine Kelly Floral Scuba Midi Dress – £50.

Lorraine Kelly Floral Scuba Midi Dress

JD Williams offers free next day delivery and a personal account where you can spread the cost of your purchases and at the moment there’s 30% off over 200 dresses.  Definitely worth a look.

This is one instance where the advertising promises definitely deliver and I’m really looking forward to their AW16 collection.


Getting Your Garden Ready for Summer

The days are getting that little bit longer as we slowly edge towards summer. Just the small matter of spring in between and once it’s over you can bring out the barbecue and deckchairs.

But put them on hold for now and give your garden a little TLC to make your summer lounging more enjoyable.

A good root to go

Before you start perfecting your outdoor space, remove any weeds and deadhead any of the early flowering shrubs that have flowered and gone already.

It’s also beneficial to thin any older wood while pruning, which will help to improve future growth of plants. Although this stage may seem annoying, it gives you a clean canvas to create your horticultural haven.

All creatures great and small

Make your garden a space for all the family to enjoy, and even get the kids involved in the process. Opt for easy bedding plants, like Sweet Peas, Busy Lizzies, or Lobelia, that are easy to plant — meaning they’re great for mini gardeners.

Or how about placing these in hanging baskets, adding a splash of colour to all angles of your garden?

Pop out bird or squirrel feeders and your garden may just become a little more exciting, with small visitors other than your own children!

Additional characters 

‘Garden ornaments’ doesn’t necessarily have to mean covering your garden in gnomes, cute as they may sometimes be.

How about beautiful butterfly mosaic ornaments, or ladybugs and toadstools? Be creative. There’s plenty to choose from.

Al fresco dining

No British summer is complete without a barbecue or two (no matter how damp they might be), so invest in a barbecue that you don’t need to dispose of this year.

It doesn’t need to break the budget, opt for a small ‘bucket barbecue’ which is low-cost and ideal for smaller spaces, or, splash out and go for a larger, gas barbecue. Either way, the burgers will go down a treat!

A midsummer night’s dream 

Transform your child friendly garden into a relaxed space in which to unwind on a cool summer evening.

Coil cute, low-budget-friendly outdoor fairy lights around garden walls, fences, benches, or any object that would benefit from a little bit of twinkle.

Or, how about some mosaic tea light holders, perfect for citronella tea lights to keep the midges at bay?

Add a patio heater such as a Fire Sense or Heatstar and those nights won’t seem quite so chilly. All that’s left to do is put your feet up and enjoy your beautiful garden under the starry, silver sky.

Gardening is fun for the whole family and those little green fingertips might just make this job a whole lot easier. Roll out the picnic blanket, and roll on summer!

Images by and likeaduck and Accretion Disc, used under Creative Commons licence

*collaborative post

Summer’s Best Maxis – Take Your Style To The Max

I love maxis.  So wearable. Dress them up or down and they’ll take you from the school run to a dinner date.  Throw on a shrug or scarf and it doesn’t matter if the British weather is a little inclement. Best of all, there are beautiful dresses to suit every budget.

Here are some of my favourites so far this season.

M&S Limited Edition Floral Maxi Dress – £45

I love the olive colour of this dress which makes a change from the traditional floral pattern and the tassels add a fun touch. It’s available in sizes 6 – 18.

Reiss Arleta Floral Maxi – £225

This is a beautiful floor-sweeping dress from Reiss which would not be out of place at a summer wedding. It’s available in sizes 4-14.

ASOS Pleated Swing Maxi Dress – £65

Gorgeous dress, gorgeous colour.  It’s very hard to beat ASOS for on trend but purse friendly fashion treats. It also comes in black and is available in sizes 4 – 18.

Wallis Monochrome Scarf  Print Maxi £48 reduced to £33.60

I love Wallis Maxis and have quite a few in my wardrobe.  I’m not sure that this season’s collection is Wallis’ strongest but I love this one which would be incredibly easy to accessorize.  It’s available in sizes 8-20.

F&F Floral Embellished Maxi – £55

I love this feminine, floaty dress which has an embellished neckline and cut out detail on the chest. It’s available in sizes 6-18.

Jessica Wright Sweetheart Neck Panel Bodycon Maxi Dress – £80 at House of Fraser

Not your run of the mill daytime maxi, but how much va-va-voom does this fabulous maxi from the Jessica Wright collection have?  Available at House of Fraser.

Myleene Klass D-Ring Maxi Dress – £100 –

This is a lovely dress in a hot raspberry colour which has contrasting straps in white at the back. Available in sizes 8 – 20, it would set off a tan nicely, should you be lucky enough to find the sun this summer.

Joanne Hope Lace Maxi from JD Williams – £55

This is a body lined maxi which comes in two lengths (43″ or 52″) and comes in cobalt, coral, ocean green and navy.  Available in sizes 12-32.

Embellished Maxi Dress from Marisota – £60

A lovely maxi which has embellished detail to the waist and would an ideal summer wedding guest outfit.  Be quick though, the stock is quite low on most sizes (12-26) which size 12 and size 20 already sold out.

Don’t forget, before you go shopping online to check what voucher codes may be available at voucher sites like [my referral link] or Just a few minutes of searching online can often save you 15-20% or at least get you free delivery.

If You Can’t Stand The Heat …. Summer’s Here Again

I’m not a fan of summer.  There. I’ve said it.  In fact, there are quite a few things I hate about summer.

things I hate about summer - Caitlin and Ieuan enjoying the paddling pool

I hate sweltering heat and the confusion over what to wear. I have a fear of sudden climatic change inherited from my parents so I am unable to travel more than five miles without a cardigan and thus insist my poor offspring are always overdressed ‘just in case’. We Brits really don’t do heat well.

A trip on the local bone-shaker train to Cardiff is spent with acres of untamed and strangely coloured, podgy flesh. You could create your own Pantone chart of fake tan before you’ve travelled two stops. It ranges from light Cadbury’s Caramac to full on Cuprinol.

Children are grumpy through sleep deprivation and their parents even more so.  Air conditioning is non-existent. Shops are full of slightly wilted salad vegetables and forced fruit shipped from Europe, despite the fact that our own local farmers would love to sell their produce to those on their doorstep.

Magazines are emblazoned with ‘flat tum’ diets and exercise plans endorsed by celebrities who have nothing better to do with their time than take endless photographs of themselves. I suspect Kim Kardashian would wither and die like Ursula Andress in the film ‘She’ if someone took her camera off her. Were this to happen, however, I fear the editorial team at The Daily Mail would be in a complete quandary and would have to go back to reporting news.

August in the world of journalism is known as ‘silly season’, although with the raft of terrible aviation tragedies and reports from the war-torn quarters of the planet there is clearly no excuse at this time of year to focus on solely writing endless verbiage on the latest celeb tattoo or whether Cheryl Versini Biscuit Barrel (or whatever the new, double-barrelled and doubtless temporary surname is) had her marriage ‘accidentally’ revealed to the press.

Or then there’s the latest sad chapter in Katie Price’s life as she accuses various friends of having no morals, or Lily Allen’s continued quest for mediocrity by wearing different outfits and singing a bit.

I’m looking forward to autumn. Crisp evenings, falling leaves and general, twinkly cosiness. I don’t want my sausages barbecued.  I want them cooked with caramelised onions and chunky apple. In an oven.

I love Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas – times when emotions are heightened and joyous family memories are created.  All that darkness and gloom, punctuated by fairy lights and mulled wine.  Lovely.

It’s no coincidence, I think, that there are no great summer celebrations, bar possibly Summer Solstice. Perhaps our ancestors spent summer languishing in their caves, fanning themselves with branches and drawing pictures of themselves on the cave walls.  If so, nothing’s changed that much, has it?

Those are the things I hate about summer – what about you?