I’m fully aware that I sound like a broken record by saying this but ‘YAY FOR AUTUMN’… With the exception of our poor girls catching a horrible chest and throat bug I am so happy to be properly embracing this time of year. It’s only 2 and a half weeks until Georgiana’s 2nd Birthday, less than 4 weeks until Francesca’s 4th Birthday and between that we have our super special (surprise!) holiday to DisneyLand Paris. Such an exciting few months ahead but first of all we enjoyed one of my favourite weekends of the year… Bonfire night!

We were lucky enough to be given tickets to Legoland’s Halloween/Firework celebrations by one of Dean’s clients for the weekend before Bonfire night but the next weekend, with the girls feeling pretty lousy we took it easy.

 

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Living around Milton Keynes means we are lucky enough to have lots of beautiful outdoor spaces whilst still having the city on our doorstep. This lake is one of our favourites to walk around and the light on this afternoon was just so perfect that I couldn’t resist taking some pictures of our gorgeous girls.

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I can only apologise for distinct lack of skills in taking outfit photos but considering I was given these beautiful boots by Kaleidoscope I thought it was best to start trying. Francesca had other ideas though and literally photobombed my attempts! Even though you might not be getting the best photos of this delicious footwear I can 100% hand on heart say these are the comfiest boots I’ve ever owned! I’ve lived in them for the past month – they’ve traipsed round Legoland, seen two lots of fireworks, been on countless walks through the countryside and have even accompanied me on night out. Perfect Winter warmers!

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On actual firework night we headed to our local display – it’s literally 2 minutes from our front door, the last time we went I was heavily pregnant with Georgiana and it was so lovely to see her really enjoying them this year as a nearly 2 year old!

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I am fully in the swing of celebrating all things Autumn and Winter now… I think it’s time to start packing for our winter holiday!

 

This time two years I was 34 weeks pregnant with Georgiana, we only had 4 weeks to go until our trio would become a family of four. We had so much planned for the following 2 months but unfortunately we hit a little bump in the road when Georgie was just 10 days old. At her routine day 10 check up a health visitor noticed her breathing was a little laboured and within hours she had been admitted to a local paediatric high dependency bed diagnosed with bronchiolitis and pneumonia. It was an extremely scary time for all of us and looking back now it seems impossible that we made it through… but when you’re a parent you do make it through, there are no time outs or days off – you just get on with it.

Now that England has hit the Autumn and Winter months I thought I would try to offer some advice to anyone who has friends or family in a similar situation to the one we found ourselves in. I truly believe that we found those dark few weeks so manageable thanks to the people around us, what might only be 5 minutes of your day could make someone struggling with their child in hospital feel 100 times better.

Check In – Literally one text, facebook message or tweet could brightened my day. Knowing that people were thinking of Georgiana took a little weight off our shoulders. I didn’t always have the time or energy to reply to every message but the positive thoughts and prayers that friends and family sent meant the world to us, and made us feel a lot less alone. Even a quick ‘Thinking of you all xx’ could make a huge difference to your friends day.

Food – I was lucky that I was breastfeeding Georgiana (pumping milk for her feeding tube) so the hospital was required to provide me with 3 meals a day. It wasn’t exactly the best food but I didn’t really care and it meant I wasn’t dashing home for food or buying overpriced takeaway crap. But poor Dean spent the first few days surviving on crisps and sausage rolls from a vending machine. When family bought in sandwiches or something we could chuck in the parents room microwave it was such a blessing. Warm, filling food really did give us lots more energy and meant we weren’t at risk of making ourselves poorly from filling our bodies with rubbish food. One evening a friend even bought us in a MacDonalds which definitely wasn’t the healthiest thing but was sweet treat amongst lots of doom and gloom. Maybe make a little extra one evening for dinner and drop it off in a microwaveable container for your friend?

Lifts – Have you ever paid for hospital parking? If you have you’ll know just how ridiculous it is, we spent a small fortune in the first few days on parking charges but thankfully once we realised we were in for the long haul family offered us lifts so we could leave our car at home. Something as simple as that was such a relief, we had obviously just had all the expense of a new baby and Christmas was only a fortnight away so knowing we didn’t need to worry about over £100 in parking was amazing. Just offering a lift to the hospital, or seeing if they need to pop home for anything could hugely help.

Babysitting – Poor Francesca was passed around a lot during her sister’s time in hospital. Thankfully both lots of our parents live near by and my wonderful Dad was able to take compassionate leave to help us but after the first week Dean had to return to work and we wanted to let everyone else get on with their lives… some seriously amazing friends took Francesca for us and she was none the wiser as to what was going on at the hospital. In fact she thought it was brilliant fun to see her friends. Could you spare an hour or two to take siblings to the park or give them dinner? I’m sure your friend would hugely appreciate it.

Company – For the first week it was a bit of a flurry for us, we actually barely had a spare 5 minutes. While Georgie was on the rapid response list we rarely went an hour or two without a visit from a member of medical staff, and the alarms on her machines were constantly beeping so nurses were constantly checking on her. But once the initial madness wore off it was actually very lonely and boring. We didn’t get to spend hours cuddling her like we would at home so much of our time was spent twiddling our thumbs, a paediatric ward isn’t the quietest place so it was hard to read or nap and passing the time got increasingly difficult. Having a friend or family member pop in for half an hour was such a relief and meant we could do things like have a shower or go to the toilet without worrying about leaving G. Also just having mindless chit chat about random things is lovely when all you’ve been doing is talking about different feeding tubes and CPAP machines!

Settling back in – It must sound odd but the hardest thing for me was actually leaving the hospital. Those first few days of being at home alone with Georgiana were incredibly scary, I felt very alone and didn’t have a clue how to settle in to life with two children. Having someone pop in for a cup of tea was a life saver… you might think that your friends would want to be left alone to adjust and I’m sure some people do but I really craved adult interaction! Just hearing a friend say “doesn’t she look well” was the most wonderful feeling.

I’m know not all of this applies to every families situation but I hope some of it has been helpful to anyone wondering how to help someone they love in a similar scenario. If you don’t have the time to do any of this (and I know everyone’s time is precious) then literally taking a second just to send positive thoughts is a wonderful thing to do. Fingers crossed for a healthy winter for everyone!

Recently I’ve been thinking alot about the last 10 years… I think 16 year old would be pretty shocked to see what my life is like now. She’d undoubtedly think I was extremely boring but to be honest I think she was a little reckless! I thought I’d send a little note to that spontaneous girl…

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Dear Bryony (aged exactly 16 years),

Happy Birthday! So you’re 16, you’ve been excited about this one. Mum and Dad were pretty good at keeping your present a secret but now you’ve got your own computer! You can write on LiveJournal and download Simple Plan songs to your hearts content!

That leads me on to your first bit of news from 26 year old you – you still write on the internet. A lot. You’ve stopped buying URLs that relate to song lyrics (did you really need 5 of those anyway?) and have a little blog now. Come to think of it you probably don’t know what a blog is… I don’t think we called them that in 2004. It’s basically a ramped up version of what you’re doing right now anyway. Writing about your life and things that interest you, the difference is now you actually make a bit of money from it – crazy huh?

Our next bit of news is a big one… You might want to sit down and grab a drink (if I remember rightly that would be an Archers and lemonade?). The thing we mostly write about on that blog of ours is children… Your children! Two of them. Two beautiful, funny, intelligent, naughty, wild girls.

In 2009 you’ll feel like life is falling apart, work won’t fulfil you like it once did, a boy will break your heart and you’ll start to wonder what on earth you’re supposed to be doing and then you’ll meet someone that will chance everything. It’ll happen when you least expect… DON’T look for it, it’ll just happen. And everything will change. You’ll have the scariest, saddest, happiest, most ridiculous year of your life. And at the end of it you’ll be living in a lovely little house, with a wonderful man and you first baby girl. And then you’ll embark on another new adventure. You’ll buy another house, have another baby and it won’t be easy but it’ll be worth it. You might even end up with a ring on your finger… I KNOW!!!

At times you’ll wish you had a psychic to tell you what’s going to happen next but I promise it’s better to just live it. The next 10 years are going to be so much fun Bryony. Grab every opportunity that comes your way; no matter how scared you are get on that plane to the other side of the world. Apply for that job that doesn’t seem worth it (you’ll meet the most amazing people). Cuddle your family extra tight, they won’t be there forever but you’ve still got time to enjoy them. Don’t worry about that positive pregnancy test, everything’s going to be alright. And no matter how cringeworthy it might seem at the time send that text message to that random curly haired guy you met in the pub… You won’t regret it.

I hope I haven’t scared you too much, you’ve got some amazing things to look forward over the next decade. Enjoy it.

Bryony (aged 26 years, 4 months and 6 days).

 

Written in collaboration with The Circle

This year I am desperately trying to refrain from waxing lyrical about Autumn and Winter… The last time I did that we went on to have the longest, darkest winter i can ever remember (2012/2013 when it was still snowing at Easter)! I can’t help myself though… There is something truly magical about the colder months and now that CBeebies are playing their Autumn song I reckon I can start planning all things halloween, bonfire night, birthdays and christmas!

What better place to start than with our slightly tired clothes… I need a total overhaul thanks to losing nearly 2 stone recently, Dean has a tendency to wear clothes until they fall apart and the girls have been participating in some more of that pesky growing that children seem to insist on doing! Thankfully one of my favourite brands ever came to the rescue and offered to kick start our A/W wardrobes.

We went on one of our favourite walks at Salcey Forest (with a bit of Gruffalo hunting on the way) to break in our new Joules gear…

First off the stars of this show were given a jacket each. The kind of jacket that 5 year old me would of killed for! Georgiana’s is from the younger range and sports full on ditsy print (it’s called Baby Mabel, cutest name ever!) – if you can’t get away with all over pattern as a toddler when can you? It’s extremely lightweight but cosy, and thankfully there are no annoying zips to do up – whoever thought that zips on jackets for hyper toddlers was a good idea was sorely mistaken! From a Mama’s POV I love love love the corduroy elbows patches… Super practical and ridiculously cute to boot.

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Francesca went with a slightly more grown up style. Her gorgeous jacket nips in at the waist, and boasts beautiful cord trim – the same ditsy print from G’s coat features in the lining which definitely makes it fun! This jacket is so cosy – Fran said she was ‘snuggly buggly’ when she wore it for the first time, and I can imagine this will last her a long while with no worries about it being passed down to G.

Next me and Dean were kindly gifted a little something each. We both added to our ridiculous stripey top collection. I went for the super classic jersey stripe top and I’m in love! The material is beautifully soft, and the length is perfect considering I’ve got a pretty big chest and tummy. Dean picked a polo shirt from the men’s range and I personally think he looks pretty dapper in it. The collar is stiff which my Mr is a big fan of (this guy likes to pop his collar) and most importantly it washes fantastically. You can really feel the quality in the material and it makes some of his cheaper tops look pretty rubbish.

I also treated myself to one of my favourite Joules items in the world – a big, soft, delicious cotton scarf. I have 3 of these now in different patterns and couldn’t love them more. They are the softest scarfs I’ve ever felt and are so handy – they are huge so they’ve become mini blankets, pram cosy toes, sun shades and toddler dresses. This particularly pattern is my current favourite and I pretty much never leave the house with out it!

So now we’re all kitted out I think I can officially say Autumn is now here… We’re off to crunch through leaves, sip on pumpkin spiced lattes and look for halloween costumes!

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August and September were, to put it lightly a little bit crazy. Way back at the beginning of the summer I finally took the plunge and did something I never EVER wanted to do, and it seems a little ridiculous to make such a big deal out of it but for me it was huge… I booked a semi-intensive course of driving lessons and scheduled my test. I’d passed my theory test first time in March so I had nothing left stopping me. For some reason I have never wanted to drive, in fact the idea of driving absolutely petrified me.

When I booked my course I had 7 weeks until my start date, it seemed far enough away that I didn’t need to worry about it too much and then suddenly it was the day of my first lesson and I was a wreck. I actually threw up about an hour before my lesson and had pretty much talked myself out of it. Then my absolutely lovely driving instructor turned up, coaxed me in to the car and drove me to a nice quiet street to get started, and despite the fact I was shaking and sweating I did it. I couldn’t believe I’d actually driven a car, granted it was 100 yards along a deserted road but it was a turning point for me and I felt determined. Over the next 5 weeks I committed myself to around 8 hours of  lessons a week, I pushed through my fears but never in a million years did I believe I would pass my test. But I did, in fact I absolutely smashed it with only 4 minors! I am stupidly proud of myself, and so thankful to all our friends and family who rallied round to look after the girls and convince me I could do it!

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Passing my test has given our family a pretty amazing new start. After gaining my licence on the Friday we were able to confirm Francesca’s place at a new Preschool a short drive away, somewhere that we wouldn’t of been able to send her before. It’s a gorgeous village location with a much smaller class than her previous nursery, the sessions are fantastically structured and it’s just round the corner from the Primary School we are hoping to send her to in September. She bounded off on her first day last week, clad in her new uniform and clutching her book bag – it felt like such a huge turning point for her and so far it seems like the perfect move!

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My new driving status has also opened our options for the next few years, there are some decisions that we just couldn’t make without knowing if I’d be driving. The idea of moving a little further away from my family (who are currently 2 streets away from us!) is a lot less scary now, it means we’ll eventually be able to move nearer to Dean’s work which would hopefully make his days a lot less stressful and extend the time he can spend at home with us day to day. Knowing I’ll be able to jump in the car with the girls and still get to my parents quickly is such a relief, I’d hate to take away any time we get to spend together but I know moving house would make so much sense for my little family.

It also means logistically we don’t need to worry too much about next September, I was starting to panic about the fact Georgiana will be in Preschool when Francesca starts school as unless one of them was to go to a sub standard school they’d be no way of getting from one to the other in time for drop offs! Now we just need to keep our fingers crossed that we get places where we’re hoping – but once again a little bit of pressure is off now we have more options.

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I’m very aware this all sounds very self indulgent but living in Milton Keynes really is tough without a car, everything is so spread out and public transport around here isn’t exactly reliable. I am loving my new found freedom and just can’t believe it’s taken me 9 years to do it!

Anyone who has read my blog at this time of year will know that I am a tad obsessed with all things Autumnal and Wintery. I love seeing the leaves change colour, cosy evenings in front of our wood burner and lighting an unhealthy amount of candles, I knew this time was just around the corner a few weeks ago when an advert for Xfactor popped on to the TV. Admit it… once you’ve seen that first episode you know you’re on the run up to the most magical time of the year! I love everything about it – the rubbish contestants, the rare amazing one, making it in to a proper night in and placing a bet on my favourite to win!

As an embarrassingly big Cheryl Cole (I can barely say let alone spell her new name) I was delighted to realise this quiz had me lined up as her out of all the judges… I didn’t cheat, honest! If I was 5 sizes smaller, with 6 inches more hair and a team of stylists I like to think I could maybe pull off her look so I had a look around to see if I could find some high street alternatives to some of her recent Xfactor styles.

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If you want to give the amazing outfit she wore for this years launch a whirl then I’ve found a slightly safer version of the gorgeous blue jumpsuit she sported, it’s slightly more practical than her original number but would look amazing with killer heels for a night out – JUMPSUIT // SHOES.

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The second look I’ve loved from Cheryl is the classic white crop top and black trousers she had for the London auditions. A much more wearable style than the others, and althought I won’t be getting my stomach out in the near future this is definitely one that I’d like to replicate. TOP // TROUSERS // SHOES // NECKLACE.

Well… that’s got me excited for Saturday night now! I can’t wait to see what Cheryl (and Mel B) wear next!

Disclosure: I was provided with a voucher to cover my next Cheryl-esque shopping spree in exchange for this post!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. (#collectivebias) and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.

This time four years we were just coming up to the final leg of our first pregnancy, we had just over 3 months to wait until we would become parents. It was a surreal time, I was kind of floating through work each day not quite believing that I was soon to be a Mum to a tiny little human being that me and Dean had made together. On my days off I would shuffle brand new white furniture around the yet to be used nursery, I’d flick through books that told me ‘What to Expect’ and I would do washing… lots and lots and lots of washing.

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I can clearly remember being in the supermarket and checking around to make sure no one was watching before I lifted a few bottles of laundry detergent to my nose and smelt them… weird I know! But I was hyper concious of the fact that this smell would be forever associated with those first precious months of our new baby. And they were. Whenever I catch that scent of fresh washing it takes me back. I remember spending whole days in comfy clothes with Ed Sheeran’s first album playing in the background curled up with my tiny little Francesca. I remember tucking fresh super soft blankets around her after clearing up a midnight poosplosion. I remember doing all that washing again when I was pregnant with Georgiana and sniffing the pile of clothes that were waiting for her, and crying because I was so happy and so scared of bringing another baby in to the world. I remember the evening that our tiny 9 day old Georgie was admitted to hospital, packing a bag that would see us through the next fortnight with her in a high dependency bay and I remember her special blanket and rabbit smelling like home – it was such a small thing but it made everything less scary.

I love washing the girls clothes in Persil now as I feel like I can snatch back those tiny moments for just a minute, I adore the age our girls are at right now but sometimes it’s wonderful to be transported back to those precious baby days. I walked through Asda at the weekend to find a fresh batch of Persil and Comfort, and I spied a pregnant lady on the same aisle and I liked to think that she was doing exactly what I was doing 4 years ago… maybe without the weird bottle sniffing though!

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At the moment Persil and Comfort are teaming up with Tommy’s for a special campaign – #Mums4Tommys. One in four women will lose a baby during pregnancy or childbirth, and Tommy’s charity are pushing research for cause and prevention of miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth aswell as educating parents to be about health in pregnancy. Last month we had the truly devastating news that two of our friends had lost their beautiful baby girl Ophelia just one day before her due date. Watching Sarah and Paul go through this horrendous situation has been heartbreaking: from having to tell friends and family the news to planning Ophelia’s funeral and beyond – it’s something no parents should EVER have to deal with and I for one will support Tommy’s by buying Persil and Comfort at Asda so they can prevent other people from having to go through this in the future.

I said last week that it’s hard to know where to start planning our wedding. It’s time like this that I kind of wish we were having our day in a ‘traditional’ venue so that we had a planner or coordinator that could guide us, but it’s actually quite fine having to figure it out for ourselves. I have tried to get us organised by setting up a mammoth spreadsheet that accounts for just about everything, from a guestlist to contact details for suppliers aswell as a huge long list of items I’d love to purchase for decoration or try to replicate ourselves.

I’ve noticed a trend forming as I flick through this wishlist: pink, blue and green seem to be the colours we’re steering towards and I am definitely aiming to try to make a lot stuff myself. Here’s a few things that keep cropping up…

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Heart Balloons: I am determined to find a way to use these balloons. They are beyond cute and so tiny! I guess we could use them in the bar area (we are DIYing the bar so need to find things to pretty it up!) or even in the toilets. I’m trying really hard to not get too wrapped up in buying things we don’t need but I think these are too pretty to pass by.

 

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Mini Pinwheels: I love these little pinwheels so much. We are looking at ways to keep the cost down with table decorations so we won’t have any proper flower arrangements, instead I’m hoping to group jars of single stems and things like these pinwheels in the centre of each table. Simplicity at it’s best!

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Washi Tape: Because literally what can’t be transformed with washi tape!?! We actually made our first wedding purchase a few weekends ago, BnQ had a huge sale on and we managed to get 75 metres of fairy lights for £30! The only problem is that they have green wire BUT after a little googling a discovered it’s okay to wrap the wire in tape so we’re going to need ALOT of washi tape to transform them!

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Stripey bunting: What wedding is complete without bunting? I actually used to be massively ‘antii bunting’ but I’m having a little love affair with it at the moment. It really does transform a space, especially bright white marquees and village halls!

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Confetti: One of my favourite parts of any wedding day is the ‘confetti moment’. I actually love that most places won’t let you use paper anymore as petal confetti is just completely beautiful. I’ve found a few places that let you mix and match petal colours so I’m really looking forward to deciding on that this time next year!

Did you have an item that inspired your whole day? It feels weird looking at the little details when we haven’t even finalised the big ones yet but I just can’t help myself!

Thanks to this completely random cold snap that we’ve been experiencing lately I have found myself forced inside, and pottering around the house. I know most people embrace Spring cleaning but what with Autumn/Winter being my favourite part of the year (the weather, the celebrations and most of all the clothes!) I always get a little excited about getting the house prepped for the cooler months.

I recently switched our around our dining room and playroom, so now our living room runs straight through in to the girls play area – I made sure I had a really thorough sort out as I relocated everything!

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I sent two big black bags of books to the charity shop, I am a terrible hoarder and had books sat around that I haven’t read for 10 years – a lot of which I never enjoyed in the first place. I’ve kept all my favourites (not one J K Rowling or Ben Elton book made the donate pile) and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to part with any craft, interior or coffee table book but a hell of a lot of chick lit paperbacks have gone!

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I am so excited about being able to use our wood burner again, it really does kick out so much heat so we don’t dare put it on when it’s even a little bit warm! That owl vase in the picture on the right is one of my favourite buys ever – it was £5 in the Next sale. Amazing!

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I finally got round to framing two of my newest prints this weekend, the top one is a Charm and Gumption ‘What Would Beyonce Do?’ print. It’s probably my favourite thing in the house. And the one below was a birthday present from my parents, it’s from a stall at Spitalfields Market and is made up of tiny hearts. Next up for a reorganise was our shelves. My signed (with birthday messages!) De La Soul poster got a new frame, a tiny little budha that was once my Nanny’s is now perched on top of one of my Dad’s handmade boards and I finally opened my honeycomb ball from Blogtacular.

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Finally I added some more frames to our gallery wall. The girls now have a long frame each (I mentioned those here), and I made a little frame with some mementos from the night we got engaged. I can’t believe I put this up two years ago and I still haven’t filled two of the frames! That’s pure laziness for you!

Next up on the list for my ‘Autumnal clean’  is our newly converted dining room – time to get the paintbrush out!

I was one of those people who whined constantly about the town they grew up in, it doesn’t help that my hometown Milton Keynes has a ‘repuatation’ as a car filled grid city (without the city status!). In hindsight I was probably a little silly complaining as there is so much to do here, it’s just finding the new time to discover it all.

Freesat have done a little research recently and have discovered that most people would love to spend their free time trying new things, so where better than Milton Keynes to start? They are setting up outside John Lewis in the Centre: MK this weekend to help people find new things to do locally, so if you’re stuck for fresh ideas pop along.

Jennifer Elworthy from Freesat says:

“We are really excited about our event at centre:mk and wanted to get to know the local people and their motivations beforehand. Discovering that residents would like to have more time to try new local activities whilst spending time with their loved ones is really encouraging and hopefully, through our event, they will discover some local treats and give them a go.

“This event ties in with our Freetime service which allows busy viewers to be able to watch, pause, rewind and record at the touch of a button, therefore never having to worry about missing their favourite shows and spending more time going out.”

Of the top of my head just some of the things I can think of in Milton Keynes are snowboarding, skiing, cycling, wakeboarding, indoor skydiving, the gallery and windsurfing… aswell as the loads of gorgeous woodland and forests near by. We also have an unbelievably good shopping centre, and a few little towns around with lovely highstreets (Stony Stratford and Olney being my favourites!) if you fancy something more low key.

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If Francesca and Georgiana ever complain about being bored growing up around here I’ll be pointing them to this post! What is there to do in your town or city?

***this is a featured post – thanks MK News for enabling us to go the cinema for the first time in 4 years!***