Talk About Cheesecake

Musings, meanderings and meditation for my mind.


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My Mini Assignment

I wrote this article for my coursework, but I kinda liked it so I thought I would share it with you too. Plus, it’s about my beautiful Mini, Muffin. 

If you are looking for something with a pinch of spice and stylish cut, but still need the practicality of space that suits a family, then the Mini Countryman is the car for you. How do I know? This is the car I chose for my family after a long search!

Unlike it’s smaller Mini cousins, the Countryman has four doors for accessibility. The back seats can slide forwards for a larger boot space, or backwards for more leg room, but in any position there is still plenty of space for two children in-car seats or three children without – great for those with older kids or bringing friends home for tea.

The high ceiling and upright seats at the front allow plenty of elbow room – a definite improvement on the Mini Coupe. Of course, it’s kitted out with plenty of fun additions, which can be customised dependant on whether you chose to upgrade with the packages Mini offer – Salt, Pepper or Chilli.

Okay, some of the extra’s are frivolous, like the changeable colour lighting dependant on your mood. Others, like the centre rail for attaching additional storage, are entirely useful. I chose the centre armrest with storage compartment, great for car park change and spare pens. In addition the glasses case keeps my sunglasses close at hand and safe from sticky finger marks.

The USB adapter means my iPhone charges while running my sat nav or music and the bluetooth phone connectivity makes taking urgent calls on the move easy and safe. Whilst I don’t recommend chatting away on the motorway, the speakers produce a clear sound on slower roads. I do like my gadgets to be built-in and functional.

Of course, the main benefit of the Countryman over the other Mini’s is storage. The boot has plenty of room for shopping, buggies and even a child’s bike or two. If you are interested in the technicalities, the boot offers from 350 – 1170 litres of space. In other words, that’s one family sized tent, camping stove, cooking gear, sleeping bags and clothes for four, all packed in the boot and still leaving room for 2 children and one dog in the back.

Aside from functionality, the selling point for me though was the sense of fun and style all the way through from looks to driveability. Your people carriers might offer more storage compartments and the Chelsea tractor might be beefier all round, but none of them have the looks or individuality of a Mini. While I needed a car that was suitable for a family, I wanted something that was still about me as a person, not just a mum. I feel I have got all that in my Mini Countryman – and more.

Mini bring out new designs all the time – the newest addition to the range, the Mini Paceman, is basically a 2 door Countryman pitched as a sportier version with sloping Coupe roof. Take a look at their Facebook page for regularly updated pictures to compare the two.


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Project Optimism – School is in Session!

I started today’s post completely differently. It began as a rather long winded panic about how many commitments I have on right now and descended into a rant.

I deleted that one. Boring.

So, instead of focusing on the things that need to be done let’s look at the positives.

We have had a four day weekend, thanks to the snow. We had sledging time. Snowball fights. We made snowmen – and a snow lady with oversized breasts (don’t ask!). My family and I have caught snowflakes on our tongues and made snow angels. We have sat in front of the fire with hot chocolate and played PS games. It’s been a happy weekend, full of family time.

I am however optimistic that school will be open tomorrow.

Like most parents, much as I love having my children home with me, I appreciate the time that they go to school and the calm descends on the house. I am looking forward to a return to normality.

Snow, I have decided, is much like camping. Two days of it are great, three days are tiring. Four days are too much!

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This post is written as part of Project Optimism. You can find out more here or see some great contributions here and here


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Modern Camping

This is a piece I wrote for some coursework, so takes a slightly different tone than usual. See what you think . . .

With many families budgeting more and more the uptake on a package holiday has decreased somewhat in recent years. In contrast, more parents are looking for a cost effective alternative and, perhaps over romanticising their own childhood memories, are taking up camping in a bid to spend ‘quality time’ with their offspring.  But is camping the same as in the days of yore?

When I was a child I remember camping trips with my parents and brothers being the most exciting part of the summer holidays. Of course, back then there was no such thing as a package holiday and the costs and stress of taking three children on an airplane would just about have finished my father off.

The night before we went my parents would be packing the car with exciting essential equipment – wellies, pac-o-macs, buckets (to bail out the tent) –  and in the morning we would climb onto the heap of sleeping bags laid out across the back seats, legs up on bags squashed down the foot well (no seatbelts in those days) and off we would go. My parents would choose a place to visit, usually Thetford forest or Aldeburgh, and once we got within range they would just hunt down a campsite and pay per night to pitch up in a field at a rough fee of £2 a night.

In recent years enthusiasm for camping has grown again, with an increase in camping and caravanning trips of 20% in 2009 according to the Great Britain Tourism Survey. Camping itself seems to have changed somewhat, with campsites having to provide more in the way of facilities and entertainment to attract families. With the ease of so much information available online, the discerning family camper can pick and choose their campsite based on amenities such as the shower block, washing facilities, children entertainment room and of course, the essential free wifi. Gone are the days where children would be expected to roam the forest or paddle along the rocky beaches with no other entertainment. Now, no matter how ‘rustic’ the camping experience, we would not dream of going anywhere without ready access to facebook. Electricity is available to power fridges and heaters. Last time I went camping, the neighbours turned up with their 24 inch TV. Pitching up in a field can still be done, of course, and that is sold as a unique selling point, with rural campsites advertising ‘camping as it used to be’.

The equipment has also improved. Gone are the days when touching the side of the tent in the night meant waking up in a soaking sleeping bag. Now tents are drier, warmer and much more roomier. Inner sleeping rooms can be bought in a dark fabric to prevent the light waking up the little darlings at dawn. Collapsible and inflatable furniture means a tent can be furnished with sofa and wardrobes without taking up too much room in the car. Indeed a new phenomenon of ‘glamping’ sees some campers taking rugs, beds, duvets and microwaves – a real home away from home.

Thankfully though, not everything has changed. Small children still enjoy the experience of snuggling up in their sleeping bags and listening to the exciting and scary sounds of the outdoors. One of the great things about camping that does remain is the sense of community, possibly born from the relief of knowing that every other adult there is as soggy, tired and insane as you are. However it is true that, as with no other holiday, campers are a friendly lot who can be chatting to the neighbours, assisting complete strangers in putting up their tents, sharing a hammer and rescuing stray children within minutes of finding their patch of grass. There seems to be an unwritten rule on a campsite of keeping an eye on each others belongings. Where else would you deposit your personal items and hundreds of pounds of cooking gear, sleeping bags and foldable tables and, having secured them carefully within a formidable shield of fabric and a zip, wander away for the whole day while fairly certain no one would breach the barrier.

As one mother said, ‘the community atmosphere is brilliant and there is a real sense of spending time together as a family that you just don’t get on a holiday abroad’.

Is modern camping an improvement? Parents certainly do appreciate having adequate showers and toilets nearby and, televisions aside, it does get families out and about and spending time together still. At the end of the week though, one thing has not changed. By the time the tent is packed up, the dirty washing stuffed back into the footwell and the sleeping bags on their way home to be aired,  any mother can tell you camping is hard work and there is no relaxing. It’s not what I would call a holiday.