Win AirPure Scented Candle Advent Calendar with Wow Free Stuff

picture of advent calendar and text saying win 1 of 50 AirPure Scented Candle Advent Calendars with Wow Free Stuff

*** This post is sponsored by Wow Free Stuff ***

It’s never too early to think about Christmas, after all, it’ll be here in less than 100 days! How better to start getting into the festive spirit than with an advent calendar of your very own.

No longer are advent calendars just for children, now us adults can get into the spirit as well. With our very own AirPure Scented Candle Advent Calendar.

Our Verdict

We were lucky enough to be sent an AirPure scented candle advent calendar from Wow Free Stuff, and we sneaked a peek inside just to let you know what we thought.

wow free stuff scented candles from the advent calendar lit, one large plain white, four small red, green, white and a different shade of red

The candles are just the right size to last one day and are festively coloured with red, white and green to match your Christmas decorations. But what I loved most was the scent! Each one had its own festive smell which really got me excited for Christmas. Even my 16yr old son agreed they smelt like Christmas!

Win an Airpure Scented Candle Advent Calendar

Wow Free Stuff Logo

Wow Free Stuff is hosting a competition where you have the chance to win 1 of 50 free AirPure Scented Candle Advent Calendar as well as many other competitions, so why don’t you pop over there and enter. The candles will have you feeling the Christmas spirit in no time!

Make the Cambrian Coast Railway Great Again

picture of a transport for wales train with the text Transport for Wales, make the Cambrian Coast railway great again

An open letter to Transport for Wales – the company responsible for the running of the Cambrian Coast railway

Dear Transport For Wales,

Yesterday I had the wonderful pleasure of travelling on the Cambrian Coast railway from Barmouth to Aberystwyth on your railway. This was my first ride on the line since you took over from Arriva Trains Wales earlier this year. 

The journey from Barmouth was lovely. At the station, the ticket seller was extremely helpful in finding us the cheapest tickets to Aberystwyth. Surprisingly it was a family ranger ticket which didn’t require a family and friends railcard (I just wish I had known that before I purchased a digital railcard the night before!) 

the rear of a train about to head on the wooden Barmouth viaduct over the river Mawddach on the Cambrian Coast railway
A Transport for Wales train leaving Barmouth and Barmouth viaduct
Photo used with permission from @Simply Barmouth

The train guard explained we could either change trains at Machynlleth or Dovey Junction and apologised as there would be an hours wait until the train to Aberystwyth. We decided that since it was a nice day, we would stop at the quieter station of Dovey Junction so that the children could run around and burn off some energy in the sun without fear of annoying anyone else. 

What was surprising about the hour wait is that the trains from Machynlleth to Aberystwyth are hourly, yet the train along the coast is two-hourly. Why can’t the timetable be scheduled better so that the trains connect better at Dovey Junction? I know one of two trains a day manage it, why can’t all trains? We also had another hour wait on the way home.

Another problem which soon had us regretting changing at Dovey Junction instead of Machynlleth was the lack of toilet facilities, especially as we have two children suffering from faecal impaction and needing regular toilet breaks. 

Finally, after a long wait, the train to Aberystwyth arrived. I have heard quite a lot of comments complaining about there only being two carriages to Aberystwyth and now I actually understand why. We got on and the guard apologised that it was standing room only. The train was so busy and packed that we couldn’t take my youngest daughter to the toilet, despite her sobbing she couldn’t hold it any longer. Hubby had to actually get off at the next stop and walk along the platform to get back on in the middle where the toilets were with her. It was even too busy for the guard to check our tickets or tickets of the passengers who boarded the train at Borth! 

The train journey home was similar. There were so many people rushing to get on the train at the platform that I was separated from my youngest daughter who had been stood in front of me beside the doors. People just rushed the doors and wouldn’t let me on, not even to help her up the steps. Thank goodness she didn’t fall and that hubby managed to get on before me and grab her. The annoying part was the elderly woman in front of me who had seen me and my daughter yet still wouldn’t let me past her even though my daughter had gone!

Leaving Aberystwyth the train was again packed, although this time the guard managed to make it along the carriage to check tickets. This time we stayed on the train to Machynlleth for the toilet facilities. 

Whilst the Aberystwyth line clearly has problems with overcrowding, what about the other section of the Cambrian coast to Pwllheli? 

train on a wooden viaduct over the river Mawddach on the Cambrian Coast railway
A Transport for Wales train crossing Barmouth viaduct towards Barmouth
Photo used with permission from @Simply Barmouth

This is an impressive line full of small stations, seaside towns and takes THREE hours to run from Machynlleth to Pwllheli. A long time to stand if there is no room to sit and with no buffet trolley which remains on the Aberystwyth train as there are no facilities in Pwllheli for the buffet car. There are several small request stops where only a two-carriage train has enough room to stop at the station and in some cases, only the middle doors can be used. Then you have the popular attractions on the line, such as the tourist destinations of Aberdyfi, Tywyn, Barmouth, Harlech, Porthmadog, Criccieth and Pwllheli and the Haven site of Hafan y Mor which has its own train station (formerly a Butlins site). Tourist attractions like Harlech and Criccieth castle, Great Little Trains of Wales lines such as the Welsh Highland Railway, Talyllyn railway, Fairbourne Railway, Welsh Highland Heritage Railway, Ffestiniog railway and the iconic walk and viaduct of Barmouth bridge. 

This line has a two-hourly service but badly needs an hourly train service, especially in the summer. Two hourly trains leave trains packed with standing room only and even people left behind. Trains running late because it takes longer to load and unload passengers, passengers unable to enjoy the views because of the overcrowding. Guards unable to check tickets or allow people to purchase tickets on the train as the stations don’t have ticket facilities. They cannot walk through the throng of people blocking the aisle, as well as having so many stops so close together where they have to open the doors. This has been going on for a long time and isn’t a new problem. I used to catch the train to go to work in a rather well-known supermarket in a nearby town. During the summer I was constantly late having spent the entire 45-minute journey standing and sometimes unable to purchase a ticket or having it checked. 

Why is the CambrianCoast Line largely overlooked by yourself and your predecessors Arriva Trains? Why are trains constantly cancelled at short notice, sometimes without even a road replacement? Why do you not have enough stock for the lines?

One of the things I wonder is whether a lot of these problems, such as late trains and not enough stock, is because of the signalling system that the Cambrian Line uses. 

In 2006 it was announced that Network Rail would pilot the ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) on the Cambrian Line. The ERMTS, which is used in several European countries, expects to allow a more frequent service on single line tracks such as the Cambrian Coast. This was to be a pilot scheme and should it be successful, the system was expected to be rolled out on other lines around the UK. It took until 2010 for the full line to be converted to the ERMTS system and for the previous RETB (Radio Electronic Token Block) system to be removed. Yet in the 19 years since the ERMTS entered service, no other line has had this system implemented, 

In fact, a report from 2011 talks about the difficulties of the ERMTS system on the Cambrian Coast;

Have there been benefits from ERTMS on the Cambrian?

For the UK 

• Learning how ERTMS can work in a UK context (and learning that ERTMS is not as well-developed technically as we would like!) 

• Excellent experience of the problems of trying to convert an existing railway 

• Realisation that a single-line railway was perhaps not the best place to conduct a trial

For ATW on the Cambrian Coast line 

• Our very simple railway has been converted to something much more complex (and expensive!) 

• So far, the results suggest we should have kept what we previously had… 

• …but we like to be helpful to the rest of the UK! Nevertheless, we are determined to make Cambrian ERTMS a success!

Source – Leppard, Peter (3 May 2011). Minimising the impact on the train service when resignalling an existing route with ERTMS, using its existing rolling stock (PDF). Copenhagen, Denmark: Global Transport Forum Limited. 

This report itself, as well as the fact that NO OTHER LINE IN THE UK uses this system show that it isn’t working. We struggle to have enough trains to run on the line, trains are still late, the whole system is unnecessarily complicated and we can no longer have special trains like the always popular steam trains, of which the last one ran the line in 2009 when they used to be daily in the summer! There used to be trains known as the Butlins Special which ran every Saturday, a long train with plenty of carriages which stopped only at the main stations rather than the smaller request stops. 

a steam train with The Cambrian on the front passes under the bridge where the photographer is stood
July 2009. One of the last steam trains on the Cambrian Coast Railway

Perhaps it’s time to return to the signalling system that used to be used on this line which would allow freight trains, spare trains and special trains to once more use this line and to make this line more reliable once more!

Something needs to be done and as yet I see no improvement to the line from Arriva Trains. All I see is the prices increasing and trains constantly cancelled with no notice or replacement and late-running trains as well as severe overcrowding

The line needs a more frequent service with more carriages but you also need to employ more staff. Too often we hear that a train has been cancelled because of lack of staff. You need enough staff to run the line, that’s Business 101! Without enough staff, it doesn’t matter how many trains you have if they’re just sitting in your depo. Why are you struggling with staff? Do you need more workers or do you need to look at why your staff are leaving or becoming ill? Clearly, something isn’t working and your line is a shambles with Wales and especially Transport for Wales, becoming a laughing stock! 

transport for wales train on the Cambrian Coast railway
Photo used with permission from @Simply Barmouth

For many, this is the main and only line! With the closure in the 60s by Beeching’s Axe of many of the connecting lines it has left this line, a glorious line that it is left isolated. No longer is there a connection to North Wales, Bangor, Holyhead and Chester via the old Afon Wen and Menai Bridge line which used to connect just after Criccieth. No longer is there a connection at Morfa Mawddach (formally Barmouth Junction) to Dolgellau, Bala, Llangollen and Ruabon on the Barmouth to Ruabon Line. No longer is there a connection to South Wales and Carmarthen on the old Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line. No longer is there a connection to Oswestry on the Newtown to Oswestry Railway. Now, you have to travel to Shrewsbury to connect to any other railway. 

Tourism, as well as locals, rely heavily on the railway to get them to work, school and for leisure. Yet, overcrowding and a limited timetable put many people off the journey. I know for us, we would rather use the train than a bus, but at what point does enough become enough and you start to seek alternative transport. I love this line, I am passionate about this line and I will support it as I’m aware of its importance to the area of where I live. Yet something badly needs to be done to improve the service, before once more an axe is threatened over the line! How much money are you loosing with guards unable to check and sell tickets? How many people are put off using the line because of overcrowding or long waits?

You have the opportunity to make the Cambrian Coast the pride of the UK and the most spectacular as well as reliable single-track line and I hope you do so. This line is unique and iconic and I hope you see the potential as much as I do!

Yours, 

Rachel – My Crazy Brood

Why does my child tantrum when they come home from school? The Cola Bottle Analogy

photo of an exploding cola bottle with the text Bad Behaviour After School? The Cola Bottle Analogy

Have you ever noticed that children seem to behave worse when they come home from school? From tantrums, screaming and crying, to rudeness and defiance.

They seem to have had a good day at school and the teacher hasn’t mentioned any problems or misbehaviour. You can’t see any reason why they’re behaving this way and they can’t give you an answer. The smallest thing, such as the wrong colour cup, has them behaving like a toddler all over again.

This is a common behaviour, which is worse for children with anxiety or SEND children (Special Educational Needs and Disability). But why does it happen?

To help you understand, you need to imagine that your child has a cola bottle and imagine the day from their perspective.

The Cola Bottle

exploding cola bottle with a fountain of cola exploding high out of the neck of the bottle

I have a cola bottle it hides inside me and every day when I hide my feelings I give it a shake.

Its morning and mummy comes to wake me and I shake my cola bottle. I don’t want to get up, my tummy hurts, I’m scared. I don’t want to leave mummy, I feel safe with mummy. I have to go to school, I know I have to but I’m scared. What if no one plays with me? What if I get an answer wrong or I don’t understand the work? I shake my cola bottle.

I go downstairs and eat my breakfast but it’s hard because my tummy feels funny, all twisted like someone has tied it in a knot. I put my tablet on and try to make myself stop thinking about my hurting tummy and my worries about school but mummy tells me to hurry up and eat my breakfast or we’ll be late. I brush my teeth but the toothpaste tastes funny and I don’t like it. I shake my cola bottle again.

It’s time to get dressed. I don’t want to get dressed. If I get dressed I have to leave mummy, I have to leave the place where I feel safe and my tummy hurts even more. Mummy helps me get dressed. My t-shirt itches and I don’t like how it feels. The tag itches my neck. I hate the way the socks feel and now I have to put my shoes on. I’m scared, I don’t want to leave mummy. Please don’t make me mummy I cry whilst shaking the bottle of cola. Mummy asks why, why am I scared, why don’t I want to go to school. I can’t say, I don’t know the words to describe all the feelings and fear that I have that have my tummy all twisted like it’s full of snakes. I feel like something is sitting on my chest and I can’t get it off. I shake my cola bottle as I cry. Please, mummy, let me stay with you. I don’t know why but I’m scared something bad will happen to you and I’ll lose you and I’ll never be safe again.

Time to leave. Mummy holds my hand tightly so I can’t run home. I stop crying but I shake the bottle even more. Time to put on my pretend face. If anyone sees that I’m scared they’ll laugh at me and make fun of me. I have to hide. I can’t run away so I’ll hide, I’ll hide in my head where it’s safe. Where I can pretend I’m with mummy. I shake the bottle of cola as we walk to school.

School is long and hard. I don’t want to speak in front of the class I might get it wrong and everyone will laugh and think I’m stupid. (Shake shake shake the cola bottle) I feel like no one likes me and wants to play with me. My best friend is playing with someone else. she isn’t my friend anymore I’ve lost her (shake shake shake the cola bottle)

More work time? I’m tired, I’m hot, I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, it’s too loud, it’s too bright, it’s too busy, it’s too hot. I feel like I can’t breathe. I don’t understand, I need to move, I need to fidget, I need something to chew on. I keep shaking my cola bottle.

I want to go to the toilet but I’m too scared to ask. What if I have an accident? What if my tummy hurting makes me sick or makes me have runny poop and I get all messy. Everyone will know! I shake my cola bottle.

More work. I feel hot, I feel cold, it’s too noisy. Who is scraping their chair? Why does it have to be so loud? The boy sitting next to me laughs because I have my teddy. He doesn’t understand that teddy helps me feel safe like mummy does. He pushes my teddy on the floor and calls me a baby. I want to cry but I don’t want him to see. I shake my bottle as I hide in my head again. The teacher asks me questions but I don’t understand. I can’t think with all this noise and I’m scared. I shake the bottle.

Finally, it’s time to go home. I see mummy. We go home and I finally feel safe. We get in the house and mummy asks me to take my shoes off and hang my coat up.

I don’t want to. I’ve had a long day trying to hide and I’m tired and my tummy is still full of snakes. I shake my bottle of cola and then I realise I’m home. Mummy is here and I feel safe. I can open my bottle of cola.

But it’s too late. I’ve been shaking this bottle of cola all day and when I try to take the lid off it explodes. Just like I do. I can’t hold it in any more. I have to let it out. Just like the bottle of cola.

For more information on raising a child or teenager with anxiety, check out my Childhood Mental Health Page

My Random Musings

20 Free Autumn Date Night Ideas

image of a woodland path with all the colours of autumn with trees. text says 20 free autumn date night ideas

When you’re in a relationship, especially with children, date night becomes harder. You don’t have the time, the energy and especially the money to spare. Not with Christmas rapidly approaching

Yet, spending time with our partner is essential. According to Psychology Today;

Friendship is a critical part of any committed relationship. It makes for open and honest communication and an assumption that the other person “has your back.” It is easier to address a conflict with a spouse who is also viewed as a friend versus one seen as an adversary (Gottman, 1999).

Emotional connectedness brings added depth to your relationship. For many individuals, it is a necessary factor in generating sexual desire, another important aspect of any long-term committed relationship. The initial romantic love relationship lasts less than two years for most couples. Inhibited desire affects one in three couples (McCarthy, 2013). Putting date night back into the routine can help couples work as a team to rekindle desire.

Given these two positive consequences of having “dates,” why would any couple fail to plan them regularly?

Psychologytoday.com written by Dianne Grande Ph.D Mar 30th 2017

Communication is key in any relationship and in order for any relationship to grow and develop, you have to spend time with each other. Away from the children. For that reason, WeLoveDates has challenged me to share my favourite Date Night ideas that don’t cost a penny.

Of course, if you don’t have that special someone, then autumn is the perfect time to find a new date and test all these ideas on and the dating site We Love Dates is an easy way to do so.

20 Free and Easy Autumn Date Night Ideas

With nights drawing in and Christmas rapidly approaching, it can be even harder to find time and money to spend together. But here are a few simple and free ideas to help you

couple snuggled together in an autumn meadow filled with the colours of autumn
  • Snuggle together under blankets and watch a movie together, complete with popcorn
  • Talk a nature walk
  • Visit an orchid and pick apples (not scrumping even if that does remind you of your childhood).
  • Bake together, you can use the apples from the orchard or the pumpkins you’ve carved.
  • Game Night, you can even spice it up a little with games like strip poker (just make sure the children are asleep!)
  • Host a “Mr & Mrs” quiz between you with a forfeit for every question you get wrong with questions based on your partner and how well you know them.
  • Wrap presents together ready for Christmas, the earlier you start the more prepared you’ll be and the less stressful Christmas will be
  • Carve pumpkins and challenge each other to create the funniest or scariest
  • Take turns to give each other massages.
  • Play truth or dare together
  • Wrap up warm and enjoy picnics together
  • Watch the sunset sharing a blanket
  • Tell each other your deepest fantasies and act them out
  • Have a bonfire and roast marshmallows
  • Lay on blankets and gaze at the stars
  • Camp in your own backyard
  • Find a playground and swing on the swings
  • Stroll through a farmers market
  • Visit an Art Museum
  • Watch a local team play football or rugby

Can you think of any other free date night ideas? Feel free to comment down below

How we spent our Summer Vacation

I can’t believe summer is over already! It seems to have flown by in an instant and now it’s time for the children to go to school and the nights to start drawing in. I don’t mind though, because autumn is my favourite time of the year! 

This summer has been hectic and we’ve experienced things we’ve never done before. 

Guinea Pig Shows

two guinea pigs, one black one cream and black in a cage at the Royal Welsh show 2019. Text says April and May at the Royal Welsh Show 2019
Two of our guinea pigs, April and May at the Royal Welsh Show waiting to be judged.

We went to the Royal Welsh Show in July for the very first time, it was also the 100th Royal Welsh. We entered our 4 guinea pigs in the juvenile owned section, Want to know how we did? You can read all about it soon. We also went to the Gwendwr show a few days later and again entered our guinea pigs in their fur and feather section, Reese was thrilled when she won a trophy for being the Best Young Handler and our two female guinea pigs came 1st and 3rd. We were supposed to go to the Angelsey show and show the guinea pigs, but I accidentally booked for us to go away for a few days the same day. We even went to our local nursery as they were having a pet day and wanted us to bring the piggies and talk about them to the children which was a big success. We took the girls and the children loved meeting them and holding them.

Small girl with brown hair and red t-shirt holding a winning silver cup
Reese and her winning trophy at the Gwendwr Show

Summer Holiday – City Break

Living by the beach means every day is a holiday for us so when we do go away, especially in the summer, we want to do something different. That’s why we chose to go to the city for a few days and we went to Dudley. We had a wonderful time in Dudley as we did school shopping at Merry Hill where Reese was thrilled to get a birthday Build a Bear, a bear that you only pay the child’s age to buy as long as their birthday is that month. They also fixed her beloved Kal-El teddy bear who had suffered an injury. Then we went to the cinema and watched the new Lion King movie as well as a pizza hut for tea. The 2nd day was Reese’s birthday treat and we went to Dudley Zoo. Our last day we decided we missed the canal so much that we wanted a ride on a canal boat, so we took a tour through Dudley tunnel. We all really enjoyed this and as it was only a quick 45-minute tour talking about the history of the tunnel and mines, we want to go back and do the full two tunnel tour. 

man wearing white hard hat stood beside a canal boat by the Dudley Tunnel
Dad all ready for the Dudley Tunnel Tour

Lazy Beach Days

We spent lots of days lounging on the beach, playing in the sea and we took a ferry ride across the harbour and a ride on one of the Littlest Trains in Wales on the Fairbourne Railway

little girl with a waterfront back ground and mountain selfie
Ferry Ride to Fairbourne

Reese – Turning six and getting hurt

At the start of the Summer holidays, Reese turned 6! I can’t believe how quickly my baby is growing up. She’s my last baby and I want to enjoy her being small for as long as possible. We didn’t do much to celebrate on her actual birthday, although she did get cake and the best surprise! What was her surprise? Was it what she wanted more than anything? I’ll share all about it soon.

Just before the start of the Summer, Reese actually earnt a Rainbow badge for looking after her pets and she was thrilled to do so. She’s a little vet in the making as she’s always happier when she’s with her animals.

little girl in Rainbow uniform holding a circle badge saying rainbow lover and a tan and white guinea pig
Reese the Rainbow holding Ozzy and her badge

Of course it wasn’t all sunshine for Reese this holiday. The poor thing was injured not once, not twice, but three times. I guess things really do come in threes!

The 1st week of the holiday she stood on a weaver fish which stung her foot.

The 2nd Week of the holiday she stood on a broken beer bottle in the river which sliced her foot.

On the 3rd week, she went shopping with nanny and granddad to buy her birthday present and whilst eating lunch she was stung by a wasp!

Thankfully the last two weeks were injury-free for her but she does say she had a bad holiday!

sad little girl wearing a towel in minor injuries waiting to get her foot looked at
Reese at minor injuries getting her foot looked at after she stood on broken glass

Back to School

Now the children are back in school. Ryan has officially left school although he does have to finish his BTEC course, he is thinking about college which is an amazing achievement for him. He will be seeing an advisor soon to help him decide what he wants to do,

Becky goes into year 10 and begins her GCSE years, she made her choices back in May and has chosen History, Cookery and Business. She is still planning to attend a nearby agricultural college when she leaves school and their animal welfare course,

Ruby had a fantastic first year in secondary school with an amazing school report and she has made plenty of friends. One friend is a girl she has been friends with since infants and as they are at the same school and same class their friendship has become even closer. In fact, it felt like her friend had moved in most days! She is now in Year 8

four girls stood in a line wearing their school uniforms

Rhian moved into year 5. The last half of the year Rhian has been struggling with anxiety, especially separation anxiety, and this has impacted on her schooling. Last year it was a struggle to get her to school and she was very nervous at moving into year 5. She had had the same teacher for two years, although for the second year her class was split in half with half going to a different class. The two halves then merged with the year below which had also been halved. This year she is reunited with all her classmates. Luckily she likes her new teacher and after a difficult first day she has settled back down. Although getting her to leave me in the morning to go to school and to get dressed is difficult.

Reese is now in year 2. Last year her class was also split in two and merged with the class above. This year they are all back together and she has the same teacher for the 3rd year running! I do worry about Reese sometimes as she is the youngest in her class (being an August baby) and her school report last year said she was at reception level and not year 1. The sad thing is, had she been born just four weeks later she would have been a reception student rather than a year 1. To make it even more difficult, her attendance was very low last year because of illness as well as hospital appointments for her hearing and speech. Hopefully, we’ll see a big change this year and she will start to catch up with her classmates.

Looking forward to Autumn

Now we start looking forward to autumn, to walks through the crunching leaves and the beautiful colours on the trees, hot cocoa and snuggling under a blanket to watch tv, nights drawing in and cooler days, Halloween, bonfire night, the build-up to Christmas, Ruby’s 13th birthday and a trip to Harry Potter World, daddy’s birthday (the last of his 40s). Did I mention I love this time of year?

Changes for Me too

Things are going to be different for me as well. For the last two years, I’ve worked as a relief in the school canteen, meaning that if any of the dinner ladies were off I would go into cover them. Now I’ve just been made a permanent member of the team and I look forward to being in the kitchen every day, especially as it means I get to see the two littlies! 

I hope you’ve all had an enjoyable summer. Feel free to comment down below what you got up to and what your favourite bits of the summer were!