Tuesday, 23 May 2017

May Day celebrations.

When I think back to Primary School, one of the first memories that springs to mind is Maypole dancing. Every year at the spring fetê our School would dance around the Maypole. It was such an exciting time, even if we weren't doing the dancing, we enjoyed watching it. 

Lots of years have gone by since I was at Primary School, I have moved away from the tiny Village I grew up in. I have often wondered if they have carried on the tradition, and when I moved to a big town I didn't hold out much hope that my own children would get the chance to take part in the May Day traditions. So you can imagine my joy when Chester got a place in a small school on the outskirts of town a few years ago and I found out that they do indeed take part in this tradition! 

This year is Millie's 1st year at Primary School, and she has been so excited for May Day ever since her first day in September. Tomorrow, she finally gets to dance a dance with her class mates and watch as the older children dance around the Maypole. As Chester is getting older he is less enthusiastic, and he is not looking forward to it at all! But hopefully when he see's how excited his Sister is, he will at least enjoy watching her! 

One thing is for sure, I am really looking forward to watching it! 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

SEALIFE London and Shrek's Adventure

Half term is fast approaching and like most parents I am now turning my thought of ways to keep them entertained for the week. Especially, if like this time, I will have the week off of work. Budget is a huge factor in my planning (and I really do think it pays to plan ahead) so I will try and find a mix of 'free' things such as picnic's in the park with friends or a trip to the local beach and then maybe one or two big days out. Cadbury have recently launched a 2-for-1 promotion on their chocolate packs, the voucher means that someone can go free in over 20 top UK attractions with a full paying adult! I love saving money and this is certainly a good excuse to get out and have some fun as a family over the half term without breaking the bank!

The Mumsnet Bloggers Team invited us to pop to London (living in Kent we are very lucky to live only a short train journey away) and take a look around 2 of the attractions that are included in this money saving promotion!

As Craig had to work we decided to take my Sister 'Auntie Sarah' with us for a family filled day of fun. As we were tourists for the day we just couldn't resist this photo.....

We visited SEALIFE London first and arrived shortly after the 9:30am opening time. If you are visiting my one big recommendation would be to arrive as close to this time as you can. We enjoyed wandering around at our own pace with relatively low crowds. When we left the queue to get in was huge! As a family, we are big fans of SEALIFE as we can see all of the good they are doing for conservation. But the last time we had visited this particular SEALIFE location was for Millie's 2nd Birthday! A lot has changed since then! Millie is 5 so she is at an age where imagination is key to her day, she spent most of her time talking to the fish and wondering what they were doing. A real highlight for her was being able to touch a starfish! Chester is 8 so he loved reading the fun facts about the fish, but was also very concerned when he realised some of the fish were endangered. It really struck a cord with him and I am very pleased that he is grown up enough to understand what is happening in the world around us and what we can do to change it.

The star of the show though has to be the new Ocean Invaders section, which as it at the end, I can happily say that they certainly saved the best until last! It has a real wow factor! Very interactive for the children too. There is a part where you can put your hand in and 'feel' a jelly fish (obviously not a real jelly fish, that would just be irresponsible parenting!). You can even play a game on one of many interactive touch screens that link up to a big screen in front of you. Auntie Sarah and Millie were fascinated with the Sunbathing Jelly Fish.

The whole area just totally immersed you in an underwater adventure with them! I managed to film a short walk through of just one section of the Ocean Invaders so that you can see for yourself just how immersive it really is....

But the fun wasn't over yet! We then popped next door to Shrek's Adventure, which is something the children have been asking about for ages. We are all fans of Shrek and the other DreamWorks films, but for Panda loving Millie she is all about Kung Fu Panda (Po), so was extra excited!

I had already done my research before the visit so I knew that I would not be able to film or take pictures inside the main part of the tour, so I have to say before arriving I was a bit twitchy about that! I am never without a camera or at least my phone! But I have to say, it was actually the best thing they could have done. I was able to really enjoy the experience without missing anything due to being too busy on my phone etc!

You start off with Princess Fiona who gets everyone to sing so that we can create some magic to get the 4d bus to work! The bus was fantastic! I wont spoil it as it really is something you should experience for yourself, but with Donkey at the wheel lets just say that its not exactly an easy ride! It included cameo roles from the Penguins of Madagascar and Po, the looks on Chester and Millie's faces were priceless. A real magical moment.

The way Shrek's Adventure is set up is like a tour, so you have a maximum of 40 people in your tour group which means its not too crowded and the costume characters did a great job of making sure all of the children could see. After your trip on the 4d bus your mission is to get safely back to London, with some help along the way. The costume characters are key to making this attraction work, each room of the tour contains one and they were all fantastic! The tour is very interactive, and does require audience participation, but not in a cheesy way. Its very well done, Chester was lucky enough to be picked out to help on a couple of occasions, his favourite interaction being with The Muffin Man. In fact I would say this was our favourite of the rooms, it smelt just like a bakery and the costume character playing The Muffin Man was so funny that even the adults were laughing along! The attention to detail going through the tour was great, and meant that the adults got just as much out of it as the children. The corridors between each room or area were filled with nods to the Shrek films, I especially liked the 3 little pigs houses/signs on their doors!

When you eventually get safely back to London, there is an opportunity to meet Shrek! You are allowed to get your cameras out for this, but sadly I managed to miss capturing the lovely huge hug that both Chester and Millie gave Shrek! They just couldn't believe he was there waiting to greet us!

Then we got the opportunity to walk around a DreamWorks area filled with fun props for great photo opportunities and even some interactive areas in the Kung Fu Panda area. As you can imagine, with a very excited Millie, we spent a lot of time in here!

I even managed to capture this very short video of Millie trying to learn how to do the same moves as Po!

We had a really fantastic family day out, and with the 2 for 1 vouchers I can really see how this can be made into an affordable day out. My only criticisms would be that there is not really anywhere to sit and eat your lunch (if you chose to bring your own), and on the subject of food, Chester questioned why there wasn't a café selling the waffles that Donkey loves? That could be a really great addition!

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. I have received a voucher in return for writing this post

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Shoe box Rainforest

Millie is currently learning about the Rainforest at School, and recently, as part of her homework she was asked to make a rainforest in a shoe box. As Millie absolutely loves arts and crafts, she was very excited to tell me her ideas so we could shop for materials!

This is how she got on;

First up, she needed to make the shoebox look a bit more green!  So she used some coloured paper and glued it to the inside of the box.

 Then she needed to make some trees, so she used some brown tissue paper and glued it onto some toilet roll tubes. Next she used cotton wool and green tissue paper to make the 'leaves'. Now, I could have helped her with this part so it looked more leaf like, but Millie really wanted to do it herself and to be honest I really love encouraging her independence! We also found an old log that our Hamster was no longer using so put that in too! 

Millie really wanted a lake in her Rainforest, so that she could make some frogs sitting on some lily Pads! So, she cut out a lake shape piece of blue tissue paper and stuck it to the base. Next she ripped up some brown tissue paper and scrunched into little balls to make mud for around the lake. We had some foam stickers to use as lily pads and made the frogs with Pom poms and googly eyes. 

Lastly, Millie really wanted to make a sock snake. So we stuffed an old sock  with cotton wool and secured it with a pipe cleaner. I cut a small hole so that Millie could insert a red pipe cleaner for his tongue, and then Millie used colouring pens to add some patterns to her snake. You will see that she also found some monkey stickers to fix to the back and used a pipe cleaner to make them look like they were swinging on a vine. She also attached a Red Panda to the top, it will come as no surprise to most that a Panda was an essential part for Millie! 

I am amazed that she managed to pull off such a fantastic looking Rainforest with very little input from me. She has clearly learnt a lot at school since she started in September, and I really hope her creative streak stays with her! 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

I'm back!

Hey everyone, as you may have noticed I haven't been on here for a while.

There are lots of reasons why.

We moved house right before Christmas, which was a huge stress! I can honestly say that I would NEVER recommend anyone to buy/sell their house right on top of Christmas! But it's done now and we are very happy in our new home, even if it needs a lot more work than we first thought!

Since last summer I found out that I had Skin Cancer on my face. So that has been a huge concern. A few weeks ago it was finally removed and confirmed 100% to be Cancer. I don't quite know how I feel about that at the moment. On the one hand I am glad it's out but on the other hand I am very concerned I might get more. Skin cancer and cancer in general sadly is something that is in my Family. But never did I imagine at the age of 32 I would be told I had it!

My Sister got Married in Walt Disney World at the beginning of March, so we went over for that and had an amazing Holiday. Sadly we didn't get time to do everything we wanted to, so we will of course have to go back!

I will also admit that during all of this I kind of lost my blogging mojo. I had so much going on in my home life that I think one more thing to think about would have sent me over the edge, something had to give and sadly it was my blog.

The last 12 months have been one long horrific stressful nightmare for me and I am really hoping that  we never have to go through any of it (apart from Holidays to Disney of course) ever again.

I have learnt a lot.

 I have learnt to say no more often and not feel guilty about it. If people are going to throw a tantrum over me saying no, I don't need that kind of negativity in my life.

I have learnt that I need more time for myself, my children are the centre of my world, but sometimes I need to put myself first. That also goes for my relationship with my husband. We recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, where we had the most amazing meal out and didn't stop talking and laughing the whole evening. I want more evenings like that.

I have learnt that I need to slow down a little bit, I am very aware that we are a busy family. But sometimes what is needed is a duvet day to appreciate the little things. Time is precious and at the moment I feel it is going way to quickly.

And lastly, but most importantly, I have learnt that my little family bubble of 4 are the most important people in my life. I am not saying other people are not important, but the 3 adorable people I live with are my number 1 priority in life. They are the ones that make me smile (sometimes cry) and they have been the ones to pick me up and carry me through this awful year! I love them with all my heart.

So! Onwards and upwards! 2017 is going to be amazing!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

McDonalds - changes to keep them in touch with modern life

Recently, I was invited to McDonalds in Aylesford to find out what McDonalds have done to make their stores fit in with the changing times of modern society. You can read on to here my thoughts on the store, and you can also click here to find out more information about all of the changes taking place at McDonalds! 

As soon as I drove into the car park I could see that it was unlike any McDonald's I had been to in the U.K. There was a play area outside and the restaurant itself was 2 storey. 

Both myself and some other lovely bloggers were lucky enough to be given a grand tour of the store. Which lead to us even being allowed to create our very own Big Mac (more on that later!) 

McDonalds has been in the U.K. For 40 years now, and during that time society has changed a huge amount! I think McDonalds has always done a pretty good job of keeping up with the times. Memories from my childhood at McDonalds include parties with Ronald McDonald, polystyrene containers, and of course who can forget the mini TY beanie babie craze in the Happy Meals! The design and look of McDonalds has also changed over the years. But I can't  think of a time when the changes were as big as this! 

It's revolutionary from as soon as you walk through the doors! Now, you can order your food using a touch screen order point, and if you are eating in the restaurant you can even have it brought to your table! 

We learnt that the best thing about this technology is that everything is now cooked fresh. From the moment you place your order, you can guarantee that it will ping up on the screen in the kitchen and one of the staff members will be starting to prepare your order. No more food waiting to be brought here! 

Another great thing about the new look McDonalds stores is that they are not only offering free Wi-Fi, but they are also offering charge points at your tables, with some tables even having Tablets to use! 

Technology plays such a big part in our lives nowadays, that I have no doubt that this part of will be hugely popular. From parents trying to keep their children entertained, to business people needing a quick recharge of both their batteries and their mobile devices batteries! 

Whilst on the tour. We were shown the back areas, the parts we don't normally see. What has stuck in my mind the most from the whole experience is how clear it is that McDonalds truely value their Staff members.

 It wasn't just a front because we were there, it was clearly displayed on posters, in the staff room with the use of computers, and just by hearing how well everyone was getting on. I also really loved the strict hand washing rules.

But, now it's time to show you my favourite part of the evening, making a Big Mac! A trained McDonalds staff member would be able to do this in 50 seconds from start to finish. Even though I didn't make that time, I think you will agree I did do very well! 

How amazing is that?! I can also confirm that it tasted delicious!

So, what do you think of the upgraded stores? They will be rolled out across the U.K. Over the next couple of years, and personally I think it will be a huge hit. I can't wait for my local to be transformed!  

*please note: I was invited by McDonalds to view the Aylesford Store and was compensated for my time. This does not affect my views, which are all my own!

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Skylanders Academy launches exclusively on Netflix!

So if you haven't noticed already, we are a bit Skylander crazy here! Chester has been a fan right from the very beginning, back in the days of Spyros Adventure. He is a big collector of the characters, and has always used them not only for the game play but also for imaginative play. Now Millie is a little older she is also showing a very keen interest in the game! 

One thing we have always said is that Skylanders would make a great TV programme. We were invited to London on Monday to a Skylanders event, and whilst there we were lucky enough to see our dreams become reality! 

Yes, that's right! Skylanders has been made into a TV programme! How amazing is that?! 

The series, named Skylanders Academy, is going to availible exclusively on Netflix. Season One has 13 episodes at approximately 20 minutes per episode. Based on Activision Blizzards pioneering video game franchise, the show follows the heroic adventures of Spyro, Eruptor, Stealth Elf, Jet Vac and Popp Fizz as they travel the vast skylands universe protecting it from evil doers. 

Now, we were extremely lucky enough to get an exclusive screening of the first episode, and let me tell you, it was awesome! It is everything we had hoped it would be. Millie found Kaos hilarious, some of the things he said were good enough to entertain me too! Chester loved getting to know the characters personalities a bit more, and all three of us agreed that it was very humorous. The adults in the room recognised some famous voices including; Justin Long (DodgeBall), Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical), and Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad). It has been written by Eric Rogers (Futureama) and to me that explains the well placed humour! 

Chester, Millie and I will certainly be watching the new series on Netflix. It starts tomorrow (28th October 2016). If you are a Skylander fan then this programme is for you! 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Our fun Family day out with Emirates!

Craig and I both work full time, and with Craig working every Saturday and both children having football every Sunday, it's very hard to enjoy a day out all together. On Sunday though as it was the beginning of half term we had a football free day and certainly made the most of our family day out! 

When we were asked if we would like to come and visit the Emirates Aviation Experience the geek in me was very excited! Craig is a mechanic so is always interested to find out how things are put together. However, Craig is also very scared of flying! Its always a struggle to get him to agree to a holiday that involves flying. Its something that really upsets me as I really love holidays and adventure and desperately want to take the children on more foreign holidays. So my main excitement for the day was that the whole experience may alleviate Craig's fear! 

We are very lucky that Greenwich and the O2 area is only a 40 minute car journey for us, and actually by the end of the day I questioned why we didn't visit the area more often!

When we arrived the children were very excited, they could see the Emirates Air Line cable cars in the Sky and were fascinated! But more on that later, the first part of our day was a special treat for Craig! He had half an hour flying a simulator A380 plane. It was amazing! The simulator experience is for up to 4 people but only people of a certain age can actually be a pilot. Craig was Captain and Chester was asked to be co pilot! Millie and I were given seats behind, and felt included in the whole experience. The experience is 30 minutes and in that time Craig and Chester managed to take off from 3 different airports, and make successful landings 3 out of the 5 attempted times! I was secretly hoping that it would help to cure his fear, and whilst I don't think it has completely done this, I do think it has helped!

Walking around the exhibition there was lots to keep the children (and adults!) entertained. Through an interactive game we learnt how the airport staff work together to turn a plane around quickly and efficiently.

We watched a video in the surround cinema with a moving floor, which showed how luggage goes from check in to the plane. 

We sat in real airplane seats and had a play on the inflight entertainment.

But saving the best until last, we got to get up close to a Rolls Royce Trent 900 engine and see how it works. I must admit that some of it was a bit too mechanical for me, but Craig was fascinated!

We probably spent about an hour in the exhibit area and although we had seen and done everything, we had to peel the children away! They would have been happy to stay in there longer! 

The next adventure for our family day out was a trip on the Emirates Air Line cable car! Chester and Millie were very excited about this! Sadly Craig bottled it at the last minute as it was a bit too high for him! I think he had visions of it swaying about in the wind, but it wasn't like that at all! It was a really calm ride, we could see for miles!

It was roughly 10 minutes each way so we had plenty of time to spot the landmarks. Chester was very happy that he spotted Olympic Park. Millie and I were very happy to spot the Golden Syrup Factory haha!

We were also very lucky to see two planes come in to land at City Airport, I think that was the highlight for us! 

The capsules were big and could seat around 8 people comfortably, I saw a couple take on a pram which was no issue at all, so very family friendly. The Cable Cars run from the terminal at the O2 to a terminal very close to The Excel, which also makes for a great DLR and other tube connections.  

Whilst we were in the area we also popped into the O2 for a meal and had a look around some of the exhibits. We spent a full day in Greenwich and came home exhausted but happy! Chester and Millie are already asking when we can go back!  

For more information and prices for Emirates Aviation Experience and Emirates Air Line please take a look a the website here.