Sunday, 30 November 2014

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park

On Saturday, we went to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, London. It is something I have wanted to do for years. Last year would have been ideal, but we had visited Florida instead so funds were a little tight, so this year, we were tide to weekends. We decided to go earlier in the festive season to try to avoid some of the queues. We spent the morning doing the usual tourist thing and showing the girls the sights.
We had booked tickets for the ice kingdom at 3pm, so we headed for the Wonderland for 2pm. It was very well sign posted from marble arch, and took us direct to the entrance, where we were greeted by lots of stewards.
We made our way to the ice kingdom and as the line was HUGE, we decided to queue straight away, after 10 minutes of queuing we came across a steward, and as we started queuing 5 minutes before the 15minutes allotted time, we were kicked out, and told to re-join the end.... we were not impressed.... where and when were we told when we could queue??  We eventually made it inside, and it was magical, and will have its own blog piece in time. After coming out, we warmed up with a hot chocolate, cream and a flake. The stall were impressive, and gave the girls smaller servings but in larger cups to stop spillages,(cheaper price) and even provided straws for them, which took a lot of stress away, as S is messy still when it comes to drinking out of real cups!

Due to the mess around with the ice kingdom queue, we decided to start queuing for the big wheel which we also pre-booked almost straight away, and thought it was ideal timing as the sun as starting to set. When we started queuing, they decided to split the queue between people who pre-paid and those who bought coupons on the day.... the coupons on the day got through quicker.... we were not impressed. However, we didn't let it spoil our time.

Whilst queuing, I realised how high it actually was.... im petrified of heights, and almost chickened out.... but glad I didn't, as it moved so slow, you didn't realise how high you were.

We were lucky enough to have our own pod. Once inside we could choose what we wanted on the speakers, commentary about what we were seeing or Christmas music, we chose Christmas music. As we started to rise up, we realised just how busy the park was  becoming, and decided against exploring the winter wonderland anymore. The crowds were spectacular, and was more interesting to see rather then the view of London we had.

They had shut the gates and the queue stretched back right to the entrance of Hyde park from marble Arch.

So when we departed the big wheel, we also departed the wonderland. We enjoyed the parts we bought tickets for, but due to how busy it was we couldn't take in the atmosphere with two small children, large groups gathering drinking, and the hustle and bustle of being pushed along.
We made it back to marble arch, but they just shut the tube station on us due to congestion, which meant we then had to battle the crowds of Oxford Road to get to the next tube station. To start with I thought "great" I get to do the lights too, like I wanted. That thought soon changed to dread. It was near impossible to walk anywhere, we decided to cross the road, where it was a little easier, but still shoulder to shoulder, but it was moving, until we passed a bus stop. S soon got put on my hip as it was too dangerous for her to walk as people couldn't see her. We started panicking due to our train home being in 2 hours, as we heard as we were passing Bond Street that they had shut the station that we were heading for.
We started to change our tact, and crossed the road again to check out the bus stops. We eventually found the stop we needed, and the queue put us off again, so we carried on. It seriously was the worst hour of our lives. We have never experienced crowds like it before. The Christmas lights weren't even that special compared to others I have seen, so I couldn't understand it. I never managed to get any pictures, as it was just too unsafe to let go off the girls, as they would be carried along with the crowd.
So the big question.... will I do it again?? Nope. I enjoyed the day, until we left the big wheel, then it went down hill due to the sheer amount of people, and lack of manners and pavement space.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

My Sunday Photo

If you follow me on twitter or Instagram, you may have noticed we visited London today/yesterday/Saturday.  Picking just one photo from the entire day was extremely hard.... but I think this one is my favourite for todays My Sunday Photo. The happy, un-posed look on the girls faces says it all, and worth all the crowds. There will be more photos to follow up in the next few days.
OK I tell a lie... 2 pics, taken within two seconds of each other.


Friday, 28 November 2014

Glebe Farm

I've come to realise that since J has started school, we have almost stopped our outdoor explorations. Its such a shame as well all love being outside, come rain or shine. Its just time is a little tight. Saturday mornings are pretty much all taken up between J's swimming lessons, and the dance lessons for each girl separately. By lunch time, myself and both girls are exhausted, which means a film afternoon, or chill out time. Which just leaves us with Sunday, I like to not have to rush around as its the one day we don't need to be out the house by 9am, and by the time I have had my chill out morning, its then lunch time... the day just vanishes.
Today S was a tad irritable as she had a restless night as we have taken her comforter off her, but that's something special and requires its own blog post. I was not going to be stuck in on my own with her tearing the house up, so after a trip to the pet shop to get our bearded dragon some more live food.... I gave S the option, park, or the local petting farm. This is an easy option for S, and it was back to Glebe Farm. I have written about it before here, when we first discovered it, and we have been many, many, many times since. Sometimes with friends and family, and other times just myself and the girlies. We love it.
Today was a wet morning, and I had wished I wore my welly boots. The smell today was more 'farm yard' too, which makes me appreciate how much effort they usually put in keeping it smelling fresh. They have recently had works done over the summer, and now have new toilets, and a special hand washing sink too.

With Christmas just around the corner, and we had already visited within the week, I decided not to purchase the very cheap animal feed this time, as it does add up, if you go more then once in the week. Instead, we did something we haven't done here before... bought our stale rolls with us. The geese... they must have smelt it, and it was hilarious watching them run across the field too us. One was right in our faces and quacking a lot, so when S decided she wanted a little play on the equipment, I was actually pleased. I don't often see the geese and ducks fed here, as its normally the other animals, but after todays reaction, I will be bringing more down for sure.
We didn't stay for long, as the rain started again, but was a little break from the four walls. It cheered her up ready for her appointment with a speech therapist for evaluation, which I am pleased to say she will not need any follow up care.... yeay!!
Glebe farm, were busy getting ready for the Christmas light switch on whilst we were there, which is tomorrow, (Saturday) and were lining up the real Christmas tree's, this is something that took me back to my childhood, as we always went and picked a real one, every year.
They had so many, and the quality was amazing for a real tree, I expected the needles to be flimsy, and the trees look bare, but there were full and bush, and the needles soft... maybe next year when the girls are that bit older, I may be able to persuade the M family for a real one.
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Elf on the Shelf

Our house is very lucky to have an elf come stay with us in the run up to Christmas, he is like no other elf, as I made him myself out of a pair of stripy socks... the girls adore him, and is a very sensible elf. When he arrives on the morning after the Christmas tree goes up, he always brings goodies like pyjamas, Christmas themed reading books, and a few Christmas DVD's to add to our collection. Sometimes he has bought posh hot chocolate too.

The first Christmas he was just for cuddles, and there were some very special first cuddles...  and last Christmas he wasn't really involved much apart from filling the wooden advent calendar.

This year, we are going to bring more life into him. Our elf Buddy, is bringing an elf in training, called Jingles. Jingles is a new recruit, and this is his very first year out of the North Pole. He is sneaking out early to see them in their sleep and leave a few presents on Saturday morning.

Sunday morning, he will be sneaking out again to make the girls a "traditional" north pole breakfast.... think sugar... and lots of it... (Didn't want to overload them on a school day with sugar) Buddy the elf catches him, but decides to let him finish it, but the girls are told he is being naughty, as its against the rules.... during his stay with us, Jingles is going to be very mischievous in the first few weeks, turning into a good elf by the end of, after Buddy helps him do it right.

I really hope the girls enjoy this part of Christmas magic, as im learning as I go along... and hoping to make lots of smiles and giggles.... its all put on paper so hoping the plan goes smoothly.... time will tell.... I will be updating about their antics regularly.... hopefully!
And capturing those special cuddly moments too, as unlike the 'traditional' elf on the shelf, our elves love hugs and snuggles...
 Festive Friday Blog link party

Monday, 24 November 2014

Our weekend round-up

This weekend we spent the time with Grandma and Grandad, and Grandad I. It seems looking back, it was based around food, I cooked a lovely ham stew, which was originally going to be a ham soup. Then in the evening Grandma and Grandad treated us all to a lovely 3 course dinner at a local country pub, which was divine, and ooh the home made sherry trifle.... well it certainly had sherry in!! Then the Sunday we had Grandmas home cooked roast dinner.... yummy!!
It wasn't originally going to be based around food, but was due to a local church... the iconic gorgeous looking church in Astbury, hosting a Christmas craft fair. 

Picture from Wikipedia -'s_Church,_Astbury
We drive past it LOTS as its on one of the routes home, in a small village very close. The girls were giddy before we went, so whilst walking up I explained to J that its Gods house, so she had to be on best behaviour. Now daddy and myself are not religious, but Grandma and Grandad are, and have taken the girls to church before, so they have been around  the subject before, so I was expecting that to be the end of the conversation.  Whilst inside J asked one of the ladies on a stall if she was God... and if this was her house... it did provide some giggles... The craft fair was lovely and a few things were bought.... and another Christmas present is sorted.
We also visited a local garden centre too, I just love visiting garden centres at Christmas time to take in all the sparkling lights and pretty decorations.
Sunday we had a relaxing morning, and J finally got to unpackage a present she got for her birthday. Barbie and Me nail salon. She loves it... it comes with fake nails, perfect size for her, aged 5 and possibly up to age 7, that she could paint, and then stick on. She loved being able to paint them, but didn't want them stuck on after, as she wanted her own nails painted instead, which Grandma happily did when we visited for lunch and the afternoon.
We watched cool runnings, but the girlies were not impressed as they wanted to watch Shrek 2, so instead they found their own entertainment with wooden animals and a swivel chair....
I managed to get my first lot of Christmas presents wrapped, ready for Grandma to deliver next weekend, and I also finished 2 home made presents im giving this year, after purchasing a mini sewing machine...
It wasn't  a full on hectic weekend, but with a late night for the girls thrown in, its been a tiring one, we don't spend a lot of time with the extended family as much as we would like to these days, as J is now at school so it restricts us to weekends, or late nights for them, and Grandma has recently started a new job, which has changed from shifts to weekend only too, so she isn't left with as much spare time as she used to have, which makes these weekends extra special. Grandad I lives along way away, so again we don't see him much, but the girls adore him, even though he refused to meet Dave our bearded Dragon, which did upset J. Teehee....  So that's our weekend roundup.... the last before our Christmas activities start...
Did you have a nice weekend? What did you get up to?

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Let the imagination run wild with Hug-Mi

When a new up and coming company tweeted me on twitter, I was keen to learn more about their new product, and was cheeky to ask for a sample to review. They happily accepted in return for a review. The company is Hug-Mi. The product, a backpack like no others I have seen.
You probably wont have seen them before either, as they are so brand new, they are on kick-starter, if they make their pledge amount, you will probably see them everywhere, as your child, I expect if they are like mine, would love them.
We got to choose the bag we could receive, so I put that one on my youngest.... She is loving the My Little pony at the moment, so it just had to be the pink pony -Poni-mi. They have lots of other designs, including various bears, which are very boy friendly as well as girl friendly, dogs, and even a tortoise.
The bag is like no other, as it also doubles up as a costume.....
S loves it so much, the first week, we had to let her wear it for the school run, even though it was empty. Its great as the costume still fits over her coat. She actually wears it too.... we have tried numerous 'Disney' rucksacks and she wont wear them for longer then 5 minutes, meaning I have to carry it along with the main rucksack filled with everyone's lunches.
The rucksack is designed with children between the ages of 3-10 in mind but younger children and older children will still love them. For the purpose of modelling the bag, J stepped up to the mark as S just wouldn't stand still.
The bag whilst being modelled is on the tightest setting, so has plenty of room as the child grows. It has an attached hood to add to the costume, but can be folded away inside its own pocket if its not wanted. It also has extra arms that come around and Hugs the child... hence the name. These attach onto the straps with Velcro like material. But again can be folded away into pockets if not needed.... they can also attach around the child's hands/wrists for imaginative play....
Front view

Back view

Showing off the hugging arms
 The bag is so soft, even after being caught out in the rain. and has a large inner space. The zip is how I can only describe like a big smile shape, so it really opens the bag up, and has a net to stop everything falling out.
My girls just love wearing it and dressing up with it at the same time.... S only wears it in full on dress up mode, as demonstrated by J... mid neigh... as ponies do...
Since we have had it, I have not had to carry it, so it will be a success for all her toys on our walks that she insists she takes along for the ride. As she grows older, I can sneak her juice bottle in, and spare clothes, and if im feeling mean the families lunch as its that big.
So where can I get it from you ask?? Well they are available through kick-starter if you pledge £25, if you wish to pledge more, you can even design your very own hug-mi bag. If you wish you can pledge a little less and get some more great things. The kick-starter pledge campaign ends on 21st December, so they don't have long to wait to get to the target. So if you fancy helping about a new company, or buying one of these fantastic rucksacks pop along to Kick-starter for Hug-Mi. where you can also view a great video showing the different designs, and the company specs of the product.
I was given this bag in return for a review, all words, photos and opinions are my own.
Binky Linky
Family Fever

Child denied tap water - UPDATE!!!

It seems my last post certainly touched a nerve with parents everywhere, sparking plenty of comments and discussion. My post had over 9000 page views in 32 hours, and whilst I don't always do "follow up posts", I thought due to the popular nature of this topic (and in fairness to fun2b!) I ought to keep you all updated as to how things have progressed over the last few days.

Firstly, I want to thank everyone who viewed, commented, and shared. I have been overwhelmed with how big this post became! I recieved a reply from fun2b last night from their management team explaining "what went on" behind the scenes on their side. One of the big frustrations for me surrounding this whole experience was that I had commented on their Facebook site and also emailed them to give them a chance to talk to me before I posted onto my blog. As I wrote on my last post, I received no reply and my Facebook post vanished.

Without going into hugely technical detail, it appears there have been problems with the IT setup behind the scenes meaning my email to them (along with many more emails from others) had not been received. Another technical issue prevented my Facebook post uploading. Fun2b explained to me that it is indeed their policy to provide a glass of tap water to a child if needed (but they don't go over the top with this policy as revenue generated from food and drink sales are what keeps them open and in business. This is fair in my opinion!). My experience, along with others' experiences highlighted in the comments made through the various mediums have brought to light a breakdown between fun2b's water policy and what the staff have come to believe the policy is.

Fun2b have rectified the IT problems, and have said they will reinforce their policies to the staff. Personally, I feel this is a fair resolution to the issues I outlined in the original post.

Ultimately, I'd like a positive outcome from this. I don't blog to hurt companies, and my first post was borne from my feeling let down and angry. I'm a great believer in second chances however, and fun2b took the time to write me a long and honest reply to my experience. They have endeavoured to fix the problems I highlighted, an that's all that can be asked of them. I feel that as my original blog piece gained strength and struck a cord with so many people, there is a certain responsibility that goes with "big posts" like this, a responsibility to be fair and truthful. To this end, it's only fair for me to mention that fun2b have been open and honest in their response to me. I don't wish to hurt them, we all know how negative publicity can damage businesses, and it seems that my blog piece, whilst it served its purpose in voicing my opinion and attempting to rectify "issues", it also runs the risk of becoming some sort of hate campaign. This has never been, and will never be my intention.

As I mentioned, mistakes happen and all I expect is for them to be fixed. That's all that can be expected of any business, big or small. I think fun2b have fulfilled their responsibility to fix them, and as a blogger it's my responsibility to post the good, as well as the bad.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Child denied tap water!

Question of the day: Is it right to deny an exhausted, thirsty child a glass of tap water in a children's play area?
As the title of the blog suggests, yes a child was refused tap water.... and YES... this is in England, UK. Tap water, the one thing we are really lucky to have on.... tap... literally.... yes I know other countries aren't so lucky. But in one Children's play area, we weren't so lucky.
In the October half term, we met up with another family in Warrington's Fun 2 B. The entrance price was a little more expensive then our usual play areas we visit, but as a half term treat, we decided to give it a go....
The parking was a nightmare to begin with, but eventually after an hour wait, I managed to slip out and move it from a traffic wardens play area to on site. But we didn't let that deter us... the girlies went off to play....

So I could enjoy a hot chocolate in peace.... again the prices were a little more inflated, but it was the girlies treat, and this was my treat.....
 Our friend who visited with us has a child that cant have squash, so she asked for a glass/cup of tap water, and was refused..... we asked why... and they pointed us in the direction of a bottle of water for £1.... our basic right in the UK and we have to pay for it.... the child didn't want bottled water, good old tap water would be sufficient... but nope.....

Play areas are designed for kiddies to run around and burn  off all their energy, and the mums to try and relax.... if we had no more cash on us, this child would have ran the risk of getting dehydrated.... which as we all know is very dangerous in young children. In this case we were pushed to buy the thirsty hot child a bottle of water to stop him getting ill.

I could understand if we only paid the entrance price, as they are a business, but we had numerous hot drinks between us, and we all ate.... well I refused to pay up for me, so nibbled on some of the girls chips as the prices were so inflated on the food as well... between the two families we paid over £50 on this trip, and was still refused the cup of tap water for a child.
I emailed them after to get their response, and they have decided to ignore my email. On the day I also popped it on their Facebook page as I was so disgusted, and that also got deleted, and now we cant post posts on their wall....
I understand they have no legal obligation to offer tap water, .... I just had to name and shame a place that say they are so family friendly yet, will not offer a child some tap water.... please share to let others now.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Dear Santa....

So this weekend officially started our Christmas crafts and activities with the girlies. If you follow me on Instagram, you may well know I am Christmas OBSESSED!!! I just love the build up, and the challenge to make it magical for the girlies.
This weeks task was a simple one... the list for Santa... We have already done our girlies gifts, but wanted to make sure we had some from the list... but  few surprises have come up, so we are hoping Grandma may pull it out the bag... if not, I may be pushed to use the credit card for just one more present...  they are not getting everything on the list, but the one present each they showed the most enthusiasm for whilst writing the list.
The girls are both at different stages, so we decided to do 1:1 with both girls, daddy helped J and I helped S. We decided to get S to cut and stick into a board for us to then write her list for her, and J went through the big book of toys for ideas, with daddy writing everything down, for J then to pick 5 out of the long...long.... list for her then to write herself.
This was a perfect activity to do whilst dinner was cooking, and helped S practice her scissor grip...

J went a bit toy demanding, wanting lots on each page.... (yep, we used a catolog from a well known toy store for inspiration, as all we were getting was boy marrying Barbie!!)

S soon finished her present board, and got down to play....

S's list.... wanting lots of princess Lego... and the interactive dolphin!
 J took her time and wrote her letter very well, but used up the page before any list was written, so we had to put the actual list on the back. We have noticed a HUGE change in her writing since she has started school, and she's even attempting the spelling of words herself too.

After the list, she then drew lots of pictures, and made a border using a pattern... it was beautiful.... her first real list.... We had told her we are posting them to Santa, but didn't want to post this work of art, as this would need a place in her memory box.

Dear Santa, I would like, Lego, Barbies, Wii U, Board Games,
Whilst J was at school today, I managed to slip her letter out, and re write it with a letter explaining her beautiful art work was kept behind. We then found the Royal Mail Santa's postal address, and wrote the envelopes out, ready to be posted after school.
They are now en-route to reindeer land. I think this is a fab idea from the Royal Mail, I am not sure if we will get a reply, but some lucky children do. All they ask is its sent by 6th December to be in with a chance, and then I think it all depends on the demands.... well Santa is busy getting ready after all.... If you want to send yours off too, the address is.....

 Santa’s Grotto,
  XM4 5HQ

All you have to do is pop a stamp on, and include your child's name and address so they know where to reply too.
I will let you know if we get a reply!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Our Wedding. part 1

Today is our wedding anniversary. It has been 4 years... WOW!!! We have survived 4 years married!! So this post will be flashing back to that memorable and expensive day! Mostly photos as they do say a thousand words themselves. Hope you enjoy looking back at our special day...
Our wedding was originally booked for May 2010, but we found out we were expecting J, so wanted to postpone, unfortunately as the hotel already had our deposit, they could only move it forward or back 6 months or loose a lot of money. We chose back so we had more time to save.... we would need it with J on the way. This meant more time sorting the details out.
I went off the usual stereotype white wedding dress, as I felt that I couldn't walk down the aisle in white after having J, and as our theme we were attempting to go for was winter wonderland, I instantly fell in love with this dress when I found it! The shoes, I had to have the ankle strap to keep my feet in place, were from good old eBay, as well as the pearl necklace and bracelet which also had an extra sparkle with them too.  I had an old sixpence cello taped to the bottom of my shoe as my something old, and its till there now...I'm hoping to pass the same one on to my girls when its their turn.
My tiara, was my mums she wore when she got married, and I believe my sisters also got married in it too, as my something borrowed. My hair.. well I was selfish... I wanted a really time consuming up do, that I could never recreate, and to get my moneys worth out the hairdresser. I originally wanted long curls, but my hair is so thick, they drop out very quickly. My make up I left to the beautician, and looking back, I don't like it. I'm clueless when it comes to make-up.
My parents in law, took J off my hands whilst I got ready, and my parents came to get ready with me, along with my eldest niece, who was my flower girl. The hairdresser did my mum and my niece too, and we enjoyed buck fizz, I also had croissants, but my stomach was doing cartwheels... My mum was the one who also helped me squeeze into my dress... THAT STORY is going to have to have a whole post for itself... I so almost ended up down the aisle in a bin bag...seriously.
As my mum got ready, my dad helped me put my necklace on to help finish the look off, and I straightened up his poppy... we HAD to have poppy's,Lest we forget... its not just our day... and I got a lovely daddy daughter shot, being 1 of 4 girls growing up, these photos are rare.
We were ready with plenty of time to spare, and the cars were even early. Unfortunately, one of my classic cars broke down the day before, so we only had one of the classical and a Merc pitched in instead. The drivers couldn't believe how calm we were when they told us, but what could we do? Risk it breaking down on the way??

 Whilst they were waiting for the room to be organised, and for myself to arrive, the photographer got the guys to pose for some shots... Daddy M does not like the camera, so I'm surprised they got these shots. The photographer must have thought I would be late with the watch poses, but in fact I was early, and I had to go around the block several times due to the hotel thinking they could get an extra meeting in our rooms before our vows.

The room was eventually ready for us, and all my little details I spent so long picking out and organising all came together...  I love the white twigs with the battery operated fairy lights in over sized vases... I originally wanted candles either side of the aisle, but as we wanted it child friendly, we decided against that idea. The white aisle runner also helped bring it all together for our theme, although it would have been better if I paid triple the price for a carpet one, but it did the trick. The company we did to do our chairs, also did a fantastic job, and so glad we chose a small family business over a huge firm.
Instead of page boys, we got our nephews to be poppy boys, giving out fabric poppies that we organised from the British legion to all our guests for a splash of red so we could still remember what day we were sharing.

It was then time to go in.... 2pm 11.11.10

Daddy looked extremely nervous, and wouldn't turn around...
 The ceremony went without a hitch, apart from J deciding to scream her little heart out, so my sister in law, took her out.

We had two readings, one from daddy's brother and one from my sister.

It was soon time to "kiss the bride" I love this photo, as it looks like a love heart with our heads and Daddy's arm.

On leaving the ceremony, we were greeted with champagne, and buck fizz for our guests... well it was time to celebrate.

I just love the when I flick through the photos, everyone apart from Daddy and myself are wearing poppies... and there is  glimmer of red in every photo. Bringing happiness into a day of remembrance.

And not forgetting the obligatory confetti shot...

So that our run up on the day, and the ceremony... the rest of the day ill have to be another post for another time, as I'm sure this is long enough already.