The World According to Izzie

Mum of twin teens - nothing else scares me!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

A Million Miles from Home

The phone rang yesterday morning and I was surprised to hear daughter, Olivia on the end of the line. As it was early in the day for her to call, I sensed that all was not well. She mentioned that she'd been feeling poorly for a while and her condition had deteriorated overnight. She was having difficulty breathing and also burning up. And it's times like these that render you helpless as a parent when you're 250 miles from your daughter at uni and wish that she hadn't ventured quite so far from home. I suggested she take some Ibuprofen and make an urgent appointment to see her GP.

Had she been to the GP surgery in her uni hometown since starting back in September 2013? Nope. Did she even know where the practice was? Nope again. I told her to call a taxi and promised to call her back at 12 pm.

Olivia might as well have been a million miles from home for all the help I could offer. I'm still fiercely protective where my daughters are concerned and yes, I know they're all grown up - it doesn't make it any easier. I warned my husband that I may be gone by the time he arrived home from work and distracted myself with mundane tasks in the house to kill time while I waited to call her back.

Fortunately her GP was brilliant. She prescribed antibiotics and steroids and dished out great advice about telling her housemates that she was unwell. She was also instructed to go straight back to the surgery if she had any concerns whatsoever. And I am so grateful for the excellent care Olivia received. It's reassuring to know there's help available, especially as this was the first time she'd been to the surgery and she's so far from home.

Later in the day we Skyped and had a longer chat. Olivia was planning to take a nap having slept badly the night before. She'd taken 40g of Prednisolone, her first antibiotic and a couple more Ibuprofen to keep her temperature down. She still looked poorly though and I offered to drive down. "Mum, I'll be fine," she said.

Does maternal instinct ever disappear I wonder? I guess not as my daughters are now 20 years of age and I still revert to type whenever there's a problem. We'd previously done a frantic dash to see Sophia just 6 weeks after she left home for uni. How I turned my back on my youngest daughter and left to return home after sorting out her problems I'll never know. By the time we arrived home I was an emotional wreck.

In my eyes when my daughters are sick they might as well be 4 years old. Us mums do stuff - ferrying to doctors appointments, dishing out meds and hugs as required, making food to tantalise them with and anything else necessary to help our offspring recover. That I can't do this makes me feel useless. Having said that, Olivia's shown that she's more than capable of sorting herself out in a crisis and I guess that means she's growing up.

I have just rung my daughter again and I'm happy to report she's feeling slightly better today. Yesterday, she confessed to watching CBeebies on BBC iPlayer and curling up on the sofa while her housemates were at uni. I only wish I was there to give her a hug. It's what we do. For the record, it doesn't matter whether they're 4 or 20 years of age.

Get well soon hun x

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Monday, 23 February 2015

Shopping in your Forties

Is it my imagination or does the High Street not cater for women in their forties?

At 47 I'm not quite ready for bigger knickers, elasticated waistbands, or tops to hide crinkly décolletage, nor do I wish to dress like a teenager. I'm partial to smart-casual looks that can be dressed up or down - whatever the event or weather conditions and I can't fathom out why I keep shopping - only to return home empty-handed. Is forty-something the age that fashion forgot I wonder? At 5' 3.5" I realise that I'm slightly shorter than average and I may have a bit of a muffin top that's been around ever since I had my daughters. I weigh exactly 9 stone - so why do I feel so meh with everything I drag into the changing rooms?

In a frantic attempt to find something that doesn't make me look like a Cadbury's Misshape, I tried on a lot during a recent shopping trip. In the rare event that I actually find something I like, I have been known to let out a small whoop of joy. I don't crave to have closets bursting with the latest fashion must-haves, instead I'd settle for a few well-chosen purchases each year and be grateful for that.

This is what I went shopping for...

1. One pair of smart indigo rinse jeans that come all the way up to my natural waist - ideally in a skinnyish fit. I'd also like to be able to do up the zip.

2. Any top that flatters, rather than swamps the top half of my body. Ideally this will entirely conceal my bra and not cling where it shouldn't.

3. Nothing whatsoever that's manufactured from man-made fibre, or anything that's labelled jegging - the word alone is enough to make me shudder as it reminds me of Jedward - to be honest, this is a thought I'd rather not dwell on.

4. One perfect maxi dress - apparently the average height of a woman in the UK is 5' 4.4" (163.7 cm) so why is it that most maxi skirts and dresses are designed for women 6' and over. I bloomin love a maxi dress in summer - it's a look that's effortless and utterly brilliant - but what are the chances of finding one that doesn't drag across the floor when you're several inches shorter?

5. One pair of gorgeous ballerina shoes - preferably with a little padding in the soles to keep my feet happy during another day of fruitless shopping.

Alas, I return home with a headache that lingers for the rest of the day, sans shopping bags (again). And I continue to drag the same things out of the wardrobe over and over.

Am I asking too much?

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Thursday, 19 February 2015

Life on Planet Grumpy

It's official, I'm tuning into a grumpy old woman. Maybe it's my hormones, or maybe I have unrealistic expectations that the simplest of tasks could go right first time and with the minimum of fuss. Obviously this is too much to ask. I'm left wondering if it's just me that's feeling grumpy with modern life and lack of customer service, or are there things in your life that don't impress too?

In case you hadn't already noticed... this is a ranty post. And if you choose not to read any more, I completely understand. You're free to go.

Still here, I did warn you...

I like to think I'm a fairly nice person and that I always treat others the way I wish to be treated myself. I'd never deliberately set out to hurt anyone's feelings and I've tried to bring my daughters up to be respectful and kind. I volunteer as a teen mentor, share my home with a rescue cat and regularly dish out chocolate bars to the homeless.

Today's list of things that are getting on my nerves is by no means inclusive, but features just some of the things that have riled me a lot during recent weeks:

1. Inconsiderate drivers - I'm thinking tailgating, failing to indicate and talking on mobile phones without a hands-free set. Why has indicating become so unfashionable I wonder? Is it down to laziness, apathy, or sheer devilment? Just this morning I was almost mown down by some complete a**e in a 4x4 talking on a mobile, who failed to indicate as I attempted to cross a side road. Using a mild expletive as I leapt back onto the pavement, I'm wasn't convinced he'd even seen me. Seriously, what's wrong with people?

2. This noise drives me completely insane - it's one that sets my teeth on edge and sends me scurrying inside if I happen to be outdoors. Who gave these people permission to disturb everyone's peace and quiet and where the heck did they get that tune from? It is of course the local scrap metal van drivers that scour the streets most days. Their noise is best described as a disharmonious wail that goes, 'Aneeee oolld irreern,' closely followed by a nerve-shredding screech played on a bugle over a tannoy system. 

3. People who won't take no for an answer when you call them. I called to register the guarantee for a recent purchase at the weekend. Instead of simply saying, 'Yes, I'd like to register, here's the product code,' and be done with it - I was forced to listen to spiel about why I needed to insure against accidental damage. At this point I'd already declined - but the person on the end of the line failed to grasp that I wasn't going to change my mind as she continued with the sales patter. After saying I had no desire to purchase anything else, I was asked why wouldn't want to add this excellent cover for just £2.99 each month to my guarantee, my answer simply, was this, 'Because I said no, thanks.'  

4. Litter - Is it just a small minority of people that drop crisp packets, chocolate wrappers, cans and bottles I wonder? I know no one in my social circle who actually does this and if I did, I'd be quick to point out that they were being inconsiderate, killing wildlife and costing the UK economy millions of pounds. How hard can it be to take trash home? I have been known to hand litter back to someone if they drop something and I will continue to do so. For the record - I've only been sworn at once.

5. Customer service or a complete lack of it - I won't name names here on the blog - that's not my style. However, I have an issue with a well-known bathroom company that has delivered not one, but two faulty toilets to my home in as many weeks. Not only have the company completely failed to acknowledge my complaints, but I am now expected to wait in for a third time awaiting collection. Grrrr. Meanwhile Mr A has wasted two entire days fitting and troubleshooting faulty toilets that leaked all over the newly tiled floor in the bathroom, we have holes in the floor and the wall that aren't going to match fittings for the replacement that's on its way from a more reliable supplier and consequently, he is not a happy bunny. On discovering that the second toilet was also leaking, I read the online reviews only to discover that the company know the model is faulty and still, they continue to sell it. I won't be ordering anything from this company ever again.

Apologies for the ranty nature of this blog and if you're still here reading, I'd like to say thank you - I feel so much better for sharing. And I'm left with these thoughts - I am so grateful for the fully stocked wine rack or I may have gone completely insane over the past couple of weeks. I'm also grateful to Mr A for his unwavering sense of humour when I need it the most. Here's hoping life gets back to normal (whatever that may be) very soon.
I hope you're having more luck.

I'll leave you with this...

If only life was more about cute fluffy bunnies and less about stuff that keeps going wrong.

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Thoughts on Dementia...

There's an interesting feature in The Guardian today about dementia and how it hits women hardest of all. While this is largely down to women's life expectancy and investments in heart disease and cancer research having a significant impact on death rates during recent years, the latest study from Alzheimer's Research makes for alarming reading. The full study, due to be published next month will call on the government to significantly increase funding and improve investment in care. Here's a link to the article if you want to read it.

Here are my thoughts from an entirely personal perspective:

My Gran is 95 years old and suffers from dementia. She's played an integral role in my life and I try to remember her the way she was - a lady who cared deeply for her family and someone who was always willing to help in a crisis.

As the eldest of 6 children, she started work at the age of 14 and was responsible for the care of younger siblings while her mum worked. After marrying my grandfather, World War 2 broke out and Gran worked in a munitions factory. After the war she had my mum, followed 9 years later by my aunt. She worked until retirement at the age of 60 and nursed her second husband through lung cancer until he died.

When I had my daughters back in 1994, she became a doting Great-Gran. She knitted first jumpers, cardigans, booties and mittens and loved nothing more than spending time with her great-granddaughters. In return, the girls loved her company and got away with anything while visiting her house.

We suspected that Gran wasn't coping so well as she approached her 90th birthday and the burden of responsibility fell to my mum. Despite numerous appointments, phone calls and meetings, it took until last year to finally receive a diagnosis of dementia. As Gran lived in sheltered accommodation, there were regular visits from a warden. Over the next few years, Mum also hired a cleaner and arranged for carers to call 3 times a day to ensure that Gran was eating and getting dressed. She also had a alarm to pull in case of emergency.

When Gran started refusing meals, forgot how to use the alarm and had no concept of day or night, we decided that the care package was no longer suitable as her condition had deteriorated. While Gran saw someone for up to an hour and a half each day, that left another 22 and a half hours home alone to fall over, wander off, or leave the oven on.

After a fall last November, decisions about Gran's care were taken out of Mum's hands and Gran was placed in a care home after being in hospital. This isn't what Gran would have wanted for herself - but what are your options exactly when living at home is no longer safe and no one can take on the role of full-time carer?

I visit Gran every week and I'm astounded by the quality of care given to residents. They are all treated with the utmost dignity and I've observed carers hugging and holding hands with residents and gently coaxing them to eat and drink. I am grateful for their compassion. They take advanced cases of dementia in the home where Gran is and I can't help thinking that it's like God's waiting room. I'm always upset that this isn't how anyone would plan to end their days.

Occasionally, when Gran's slightly more lucid she'll ask when she can go home again and we say, 'Just as soon as you're better.' We know that we're telling lies and that her beloved bungalow and its contents are in the process of being sifted through and sold. I guess that lying to her is the lesser of two evils - it doesn't make it right.

There are days when Gran will wake up during my visits and know who I am, and many more days when she does neither. She never remembers when anyone's been to see her. Some days she's convinced she's been to school and sometimes, that she's going home - only she has no idea where she lives anymore. Often she'll say that she no longer wants to live. There are no words to sum up how that makes you feel.
I don't have any answers. I'm not convinced anyone else does either. There are currently 500,000 women and 350,000 men affected by dementia in the UK. I suspect there are many more struggling to get an accurate diagnosis, but with an ageing population we are going to have to come up with some answers, and soon.

Ask yourself in all honesty - is this a life you'd ever wish for yourself?

We're not meant to live forever are we?

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

8 Tips For Organised Parents

As parents it's easy to feel completely overwhelmed by the relentless demands on our time. From laundry to child-rearing and cooking to paperwork - all of this is ours to cope with - and somehow we're supposed to find the time to go out to work and spend quality time together as a family.

Great organisation is the key to achieving the impossible, and having a house and lifestyle that's designed to run as smoothly as possible will help to alleviate some of the stress.

Here are my top tips for making life as a parent slightly more manageable...

1. Too many demands, too little time? Work out what's consuming every waking hour and add the word, 'No,' to your vocabulary. If you can't bring yourself to say it, learn to say, 'Let me check my diary and get back to you.' It's much easier to wriggle out of something once you've had time to prepare an excuse. Something has to give, why should it be your sanity?

2. Surround yourself with a network of friends and family who are happy to help in a crisis. Regardless of how great your organisational skills are, there will always be a time when plans fall apart. Aim to have at least five numbers you can call and don't forget you'll need to return the favour at a later date.

3. Don't leave things until the last minute - write reminders in your organiser to schedule check-ups and trips to the hairdressers a couple of months in advance while there are still slots available. Appointments during the school holidays get booked up quickly - so don't leave it.

4. Freeze ahead - Love cooking but don't have the time, or energy after a busy day? On days off when you're planning to cook from scratch, make double the quantity and pop a meal in the freezer. Lasagne, bolognaise sauce and cottage pie all freeze well and after a crazy day you'll have something  home-cooked to look forward to for dinner.

5. Stash spares for everything from batteries to stamps and light bulbs to deoderant and never run out of anything - by adding it straight to the shopping list when you take the last one. Also keep a selection of gifts and cards for those last-minute party invites from school.

6. Be tidy and have a home for everything to eliminate the stress of looking for essential items that are nowhere to be found. There's nothing quite like turning the house upside down in hot pursuit of missing car keys to start the day feeling harassed before you've even left home. Here, we have a drawer in the kitchen that's home to keys, sunglasses and mobile phones - this works well.
7. Menu planning - on nights filled with extracurricular activities when it's impossible to find the time to eat, plan simple meals with minimal cooking time, such as pizza, salad and garlic bread. On nights when you return home later than expected there's always a takeaway if you can't summon the energy to cook. And don't forget the home-cooked meal prepped at the weekend that's stashed in the freezer. Menu planning is also a great way to waste less food - as you only buy what you need for the week ahead.
8. Accept that some days everything seems as though it's out to get you and what's happening is beyond your control. At the end of that day, remind yourself that you did the best you could, managed to get through relatively unscathed and that tomorrow is another day. Reward yourself with a glass of wine, a long soak in the tub, or some time off for good behaviour. 

Good luck. Nobody said it would be easy. They weren't kidding!

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Friday, 6 February 2015

Out and About in Pembrokeshire

On our recent visit to Wales I couldn't wait to explore the unspoilt beaches of Pembrokeshire despite the wind chill and continual drizzle. Living in Worcestershire means that a trip to the beach is something that doesn't happen all that often, and when it does - it's greeted with much enthusiasm regardless of the time of year, or weather conditions. And if it's wrong to spend too much time at the beach, then I don't ever want to be right.

First we stopped at Newgale Beach, where I spotted a Common Starfish washed up along the shoreline.

I paddled in the sea wearing wellies and two pairs of socks... as I wasn't brave (or daft) enough to venture in without them.

For a while I was optimistic about the possibility of some weak winter sun and convinced that the clouds were about to disperse.

After a brief stop in the picturesque village of Solva, it was time to move on to St Davids.

This is officially the UK's smallest city and home to St David's Cathedral.

We called in at The Sound Cafe as by now our hands, noses and feet were in need of a reprieve from the bitter conditions outdoors. The Marimba Dark Hot Chocolate was the perfect remedy for the cold and prepared us for our next windswept walk along Whitesands Bay.

At Whitesands it was so windy that breaking waves were caught by its sheer force and blown back as they crashed. And it was hard to distinguish between spray from the sea and the relentless fine drizzle. That didn't stop us from spending ages here as it was too beguiling to pass up the opportunity to take as many photographs as possible .

I was captivated by the rocks and by how desolate the beach was. During our time here we didn't see anyone at all.

And by the end of our walk, the clouds had finally dispersed to give a hint of blue sky. But as our fingers and noses and toes were numb with cold, it was time to head back to the lodge.

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton 

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Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Every Cloud...

Olivia came back from university last week to catch up on some reading. And obviously I was happy to see her, but she couldn't have picked a worse week to return home.

For starters,the bathroom is mid-renovation - I say mid with hint of sarcasm. At time of writing our newly fitted toilet is out of action as the cistern's cracked and leaking water all over the recently tiled floor. As we're not getting a replacement for another week and a half - we'll have to manage without.

Mr A and myself had arrived home from Wales the previous weekend to discover that the house was freezing. The pressure had dropped in the boiler while we were away and the heating had conked out. Fortunately after topping it back up it fired into action. On a slightly more positive note, our 20-year old fridge had also packed up during our absence, but as the house was so cold its contents were fine.

I ordered a replacement which was due to be delivered 4 days later, but as the temperature outside was so cold I stuck a coolbox in the back lobby wine store and used this as a temporary fridge once the house had warmed up again.

Olivia meanwhile was happy to be home and enjoyed having a bath (something her uni accommodation doesn't have). Fortunately, as this was the only functioning item in the family bathroom this was very good news for my daughter.

Meanwhile the water and electric were on and off throughout the week to allow renovations to continue. The house looked as though a spiteful imp had sprinkled bits on the floor and spewed a coating of dust over every surface. Is anyone capable of closing the doors before making a start on the tile cutting, sanding or angle grinding I wonder? I guess this is too much to ask.

Sophia's bedroom is currently doubling up as a workshop and it isn't everyone who has a redundant sink, toilet and bathroom cabinet awaiting disposal in the conservatory floor. I keep thinking about picking up a duster and attempting to create some semblance of normality in the house only to shake my head and think, 'Seriously, what's the point?'

They say that every cloud has a silver lining and that's certainly been the case in the Anderton house over the past week. I joked with Mr A that for every negative there was also a positive when he was struggling to see the funny side and starting to get a little growly. He cheered up no end after a couple of bottles of cider and a night off from the mayhem.

The best silver lining of all however, was getting to spend the entire week with my daughter. She's fabulous company and I miss her already now that she's left. I've just found out that I've won 6 bottles of Prosecco - that has made me very happy indeed.

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton 
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Sunday, 1 February 2015

Postcards From Bluestone

Located within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, close to the seaside town of Tenby, Bluestone is an all year, all weather holiday destination. Set in 500 acres of spectacular countryside, there are almost 300 lodges, cottages and studio apartments and with over 100 activities on offer there's something to suit everyone.

As I travelled with my husband, I'm writing about Bluestone from an adults only perspective. Although there are many brilliant activities for children of all ages and I'm certain this would make a great destination for anyone travelling with kids.

Whether you're an adventure junkie and can't wait to test out the zip wires in Steep Ravine, or just want to leave the world behind and relax in the Well Spa - Bluestone really does have something for everyone.

The Lodge

Our Caldey lodge was warm, clean, spacious and fully equipped for a self-catering holiday. However, I'm not a huge fan of cooking on holiday and we ate out most nights. The atmosphere on site was very peaceful  and apart from the occasional buggy or car, the only sounds we heard were birds and the odd rain shower.

The Village

Located at the heart of the Bluestone complex is the Village, here you'll find shops and restaurants. Check out Newton's for essential groceries (they stock everything from pesto to pain relief) and Miller's Bakery for delicious cakes and bread. Here you'll also find three of the main restaurants: the Farmhouse Grill, Carreg Las (adults only) and the Knights' Tafarn. There's also Village Central for guest services, tourist information and bookings.

The Knights' Tafarn

We ate here twice during our stay and were impressed with the traditional pub food and lively atmosphere, with free entertainment almost every night. The live music was really good and as this didn't start until 8:30 most of the younger children had left.

Adventure Centre and Blue Lagoon

Breakfast at the Wildwood Café in the Adventure Centre also comes highly recommended. Mr A ordered a cooked breakfast, while I opted for the continental, self-service option which included cereals, yogurt, pastries, toast and fruit - both options were delicious. The Adventure Centre is also home to the Big Four: The Swing, The Drop, The Wall and Sky Trail. Here you'll also find the adventure playground and soft play area for children.

The Blue Lagoon water park was great fun - we completed a few laps of the Lazy River and enjoyed the wave machine in water that was the perfect temperature for this time of year. There are also a couple of flume rides if you feel up to trying them out. After enjoying a session in the pool, there are loungers and a patio area if you want to relax. The poolside Fish Shack serves a great selection of drinks and snacks if you're feeling peckish.

The Well Spa

The Spa was one of the highlights of our stay - it's beautifully appointed and the staff were very approachable and helpful. Mr A and myself booked a two hour spa experience and made the most of the hydrotherapy pool, saunas, steam rooms, the ice pod, dry salt room and feature showers. Afterwards we treated ourselves to a traditional afternoon tea in the spa's Caffi Môr. Sparkling wine and cocktails are also available but as we were feeling very chilled after our spa session we managed to resist.

Nature Trails and Camp Smokey

Although it was muddy and incredibly cold we couldn't resist heading off on the nature trails and taking in the spectacular unspoilt scenery before ending up at Miller's Bakery for a much-needed hot chocolate.

Camp Smokey was closed during our stay but we stumbled across it while walking in the woods and decided to take a few photos. Once back at the lodge I checked the menu and craved tantalising food that's perfect for life in the great outdoors - especially Smokey Smores - fire-roasted marshmallow and chocolate biscuits.  

Go and explore

I thoroughly recommend getting out and about to explore the unspoilt Pembrokeshire coastline while you're here. Although it was bitterly cold during our stay I didn't want to miss the beaches (no one else was crazy enough to be there) and local area. I'll blog about that at a later date.

What we loved...

1. Great hospitality from staff who were only too happy to help.
2. The Well Spa - don't miss it.
3. The best of both worlds - do as little or as much as you like during your stay.
4. It's a great base for exploring the Pembrokeshire coastline.
5. Hearty pub food and live entertainment in the Knights' Tafarn.

Top  5 tips...

1. If you're travelling without children - consider visiting at the weekend rather than mid-week as there are more adult only activities available then. Sadly we missed out on the Wickedly Wild Welsh Woodland Party and the Quirky Wine, Cider and Ale tasting as these were scheduled to take place on Saturday and Sunday.

2. Although it's possible to book activities after arriving at the resort, if there's anything you're desperate to do, I'd recommend booking before you leave home to make sure this fits into your itinerary.

3. Don't forget your wellies! You'll also need towels for the Blue Lagoon.

4. Arrive early to make the most of your break at Bluestone - you can check-in from 11 am onwards and make use of the facilities on site. Although you won't be able to get into your accommodation until 4:30 pm.

5. Although it's possible to hire a buggy to get around the site, we didn't find that anything was too far away and braved the weather no matter what.  

And finally...

Huge thanks to everyone at Bluestone for a warm welcome and a fabulous holiday.

Disclaimer: In return for writing this review I received a four night complimentary stay at Bluestone. All opinions however, are entirely my own.

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton  
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