A couple of weeks ago we went for a soft play session at Snakes &Ladders in Syon Park in Middlesex. I had never been there before but since they have just spent £2 million on renovations we knew it was going to be good. And it really was good. My two-year old son and six-year old daughter disappeared in the giant soft play frame and came out rosy-cheeked and out of breath. The main frame is really big and roomy and there's plenty of climbing and sliding to be done. There's even a mini sports pitch.
There is an Imagination Station where children can play in a red London bus, a kitchen, a post office, a hospital, a shop and a construction area complete with giant blocks. My daughter, Moozles, ignored this area completely. Dubz loved it, especially the bus.
There is also a section for Under Threes. Dubz raced in, and when his big sister went after him, she was turned away. I thought this was really good as I get so annoyed when there are older children wrecking havoc in the toddler section. Dubz only stayed in this bit for 10 minutes as he preferred the main climbing frame.
We found the actual soft play frames and play area to be terrific. But there are two issues that I have to mention. The main issue and my biggest problem with Snakes & Ladders was the food. First, the cakes and treats were not fresh. We bought two millionaire's shortbread. Neither child could eat even half. I had a taste and it was sickly sweet. Also, there was no fruit on offer. Later we ordered them each a burger. They cost £4.50 each and we had to wait 20 minutes for them to be cooked, so I had high hopes. But the patty looked to be a cheap quality and tasted like it had been microwaved. Again, the kids did not eat half and we had to feed them a second lunch when we got home.
The second issue was the entry cost. Although we were given four free tickets to review Snakes & Ladders, I was surprised at the cost. During peak times, for the four of us, it would cost £21.80. Most of the soft plays we go to cost us less than £15 during peak times. Although the soft play itself was quite good, I think the food lets it down. Until they sort out the quality of their food, they should allow people to bring in their own food. And that would counterbalance the high entry costs.
My two-year old son, Dubz, has many great qualities. He is sweet, funny and independent. But, he is also an escape-artist. In his 27 months of life, Dubz has spent the past six months becoming proficient in escaping, from his clothes and especially from his sleeping bag. I can handle the lack of clothes as I am not afraid of seeing the flashing of toddler legs or toddler tummy. But the sleeping bag. Oh the sleeping bag.
My daughter, Moozles, used a sleeping bag until she was 3 1/2. I liked that she was contained and covered and kept warm. I would like Dubz to use one for a while longer. I know there are duvet sets that attach to the bed but Dubz is still in his cot. Amazingly he hasn't tried to escape from that. And I would prefer him to stay in his cot until we can renovate his room in a few months' time.
I can't tell you how often I've gone to Dubz's bedroom to find him in just his pyjamas with his sleeping bag on the floor. This has been fine during the warm weather, but yesterday Dubz woke up early and was freezing when I got to his room. We got a Grobag a few months ago, and that worked for a bit. But Dubz has now worked out the button and zip combo. And I didn't want to buy any more sleeping bags as I have two winter sleeping bags that I bought earlier this year.
But I am not one to be defeated by my children. I am Mother, hear me roar! So, after a few minutes of problem solving, I realised that my brain was failing me and I needed to turn to something I call The Internet. Luckily there are clever people out there (on a Mumsnet forum) who have gone through a similar thing. And I can't believe I didn't think about it before. Turn the sleeping bag around so that the zip is in the back. Genius. And Dubz will be waking up warm every morning. Mum = 1, Toddler = 0.
So here I am, three weeks into my healthy eating regime and two weeks into Diet Chef. I won't save the big reveal for the end. I knew it would not be another four-pound loss like the previous week. I lost two pounds! I was quite pleased with this, especially as I took a day off for my birthday. I'm now moving a bit further away from the 15 stone mark which has really encouraged me. I'm still really enjoying the Diet Chef meals and I love the freedom it gives me in the way of fruit, vegetables and side dishes (pasta or rice or couscous, etc).
What I found about taking the day off of Diet Chef is that I did not eat as much as I would have in the past. I had small portions for breakfast and lunch, and ate fruit as my snacks. But then it was birthday cake time and Husband served me a huge slice of chocolate cake. Husband then made a lovely steak dinner (which included a large glass of red wine), which I could have stopped eating before I finished my plate. But I could not waste such a gorgeous steak. It did get me to thinking why many of us link fatty foods with birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. Why can't we have a small low-calorie meal and enjoy a nice, refreshing glass of water?
I would have felt guilty for my birthday splurge, but I had done a 50-minute Pilates workout that afternoon which left me sore for days. I've bought a yoga mat and have started doing Pilates and yoga a couple of times a week. I would like to eventually squeeze in some exercise every other day, but I am starting slow. I have had back problems for years and only managed to lessen them a few years ago when I saw the physio and took up Pilates Reformer (machine-based Pilates). But then I got pregnant with my second child and gained the three stone that I am only now trying to lose.
Anyway, I am attempting to strengthen the muscles in my legs and core so that my back is not doing all the work. I am trying out different workouts on Youtube (which I can watch on my television and which are accessed through my Virgin Media cable). I already do a fair bit of walking, with the kids, and often while pushing a buggy. And once I'm stronger, I plan to add some medium-impact workouts into the mix.
Come see how I get on next week!
Total Weight Loss
14 July: 15 stone 1
21 July: 14 stone 12 (four pounds lost)
5 August: 14 stone 12
12 August: 14 stone 8 (four pounds lost)
19 August: 14 stone 6 (two pounds lost)
I was given a 28-day supply of Diet Chef for the purpose of my weekly reviews. All opinions expressed are completely my own.
When my daughter Moozles and I were invited to an event to play with GoldieBlox, I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought maybe it would be pink Lego. Boy, was I wrong. GoldieBlox is a construction toy that uses the principles of engineering to help build spatial and problem-solving skills. Each box comes with not only the construction tools, but also a book containing a story about Goldie, a child inventor who saves the day by building cool machines. Moozles loves books and stories and I found this to be a great way to get her interested in building.
Moozles, who is six years old, is not really interested in building blocks. She has some Lego Friends which she has made a few times. She is more interested in drawing, crafts and reading. But she really enjoyed the Goldie Blox. The book contains a few different ideas for what you can build, but you can also freestyle. Moozles is not a freestyle kind of gal. She likes to make things as instructed. Here is the parade float she made yesterday, with only a couple of modifications.
GoldieBlox was developed by a female engineer, who got the toy made with financial backing from Kickstarter. She didn't know she could be an engineer until a math teacher encouraged her when she was 17. My daughter currently wants to grow up to be an ear doctor, a builder, a teacher and a waitress. But how many little girls want to grow up to be engineers? I have to admit that my daughter didn't even know what an engineer did. I had to explain that engineers design and build things. Moozles was amazed to hear that engineers can build bridges or airplanes. And was excited that maybe she could do that one day.
If you have a little girl, aged 2-9, you should give GoldieBlox a try. Moozles loved it and asked me to leave a box out for her to play with when she woke up this morning. I love it when an educational toy is actually fun. Each GoldieBlox set/box costs £19.99-£24.99 from Interplay UK. Have a look and see. Or you could enter my giveaway (my first giveaway!!) for a chance to win a box and some other goodies (all new, unused and unworn).
I am giving away a GoldieBlox and the Parade Float worth which sells for £19.99 (recommended age 6-9). I'm also giving away a super cute 'More than just a princess' t-shirt that would fit someone aged 5-9. And as an added bonus, I'm including LadyBird World (for ages 5-10), so your little one can learn about ladybirds and even learn how to keep them safely as pets (another fab educational product from Interplay UK which sells for £9.99).
a Rafflecopter giveaway
We were invited to play with GoldieBlox for the purpose of this review, and were given a few boxes of blocks and toys to take home. All opinions are completely my own.
Today we had our first experience of Lollibop. For those of you not familiar with the concept, it is festival aimed for children under the age of 10. As my kids are six and two, we figured they were at the perfect ages to check it out. First of all, we were all so excited about the programme for the day. The main shows we were looking forward to were Lazy Town Live and Justin Fletcher. But we were also looking forward to the various activities and just having a fun family day.
Lollibop begins at 10am and we aimed to arrive at Hatfield House (in Hertfordshire) at 9.45am. Unfortunately, it seems that half of the festival-goers decided to arrive at the same time. We were stuck in stop-and-go traffic on the road leading to the venue for about half an hour. In hindsight we would have aimed to arrive at 9.15am. Once we got to the entrance (at 10.45am), everything was smooth sailing.
The great thing about Lollibop was that you didn't have to pay for much. Obviously there are stands selling things (we left with two animal balloons) and food stalls (there were loads of yummy food on offer but you can bring your own food too). But there are many activities that are free. Moozles, who is six, loved the River Island Kids tent where she was able to design a t-shirt. They both loved the National Geographic Kids tent and the Beano area. There was a Pomme Bears tent where there was colouring and crisps--two great combinations. The Southbank Centre had several tents where you could create a cardboard robot, make woolen crafts, do yoga and watch live music, amongst other things.
We would have liked if there was one tent that played constant music. Pop songs, nursery rhymes or live music, it wouldn't matter. Although there was music, they would take breaks for talking/workshops. And sometimes my kids just want to boogie.
The Lazy Town Live show was fab. Both kids loved it. We also saw a bit of the Poppy Cat and Steffi Love shows. These shows were at the open-air theatre so there was no waiting to get in. You could walk by, or sit down quite easily. Unfortunately we missed the shows in Lollipalladium, which was a closed tent. The queues were really long and there was no way we would have been able to get the kids to wait for 30 minutes, or more, to see a show. In hindsight, we would have brought the iPad or games so that the kids would have had something to do while we waited in line. We decided to leave at 3pm as the kids were exhausted and we were as well. This meant that, sadly, we missed Justin Fletcher. But all in all, we had a fun day.
We were given tickets to attend LolliBop for the purposes of this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.
I have just finished the second week of my Healthy Living Lucky Dip. Last Tuesday I began a 28-day trial of Diet Chef. I have written an overview of how Diet Chef works here. Basically it is a calorie-controlled meal delivery service. And as Husband wants to lose weight too, he ordered a 28-day package. We picked which meals we wanted, on the Diet Chef website, the meals were delivered and our diets began.
This past week has gone pretty well. I was hungry the first two days, but then my stomach adjusted to normal-sized portions. Diet Chef gives you three meals and one snack for each day. The three meals work out to about 800-900 calories in total. The snacks are all about 100 calories. Then you add whichever fruit and vegetables you like. You can be tough and have 1200 calories a day, but I have been consuming 1400.
I am starting to see a difference in the way my clothing fits. Things are feeling looser, which is wonderful. I still have a long way to go, but it is really motivating to see a difference. I have found most of the food to be delicious, which also keeps me from cheating. I have mentioned before that Husband and I have difficulty eating healthy (we both love pudding and anything made out of chocolate). But we were able to pick some chocolate snacks which help satiate our sweet tooths.
I was very happy when I stepped on the scale on Tuesday to reveal that I had lost four pounds. I don't expect this loss every week, but this has been a great start to Diet Chef. Check back next week to see how my progress continues.
Total Weight Loss
14 July: 15 stone 1
21 July: 14 stone 12 (four pounds lost)
5 August: 14 stone 12
12 August: 14 stone 8 (four pounds lost)
We went into central London on Monday to see I Believe in Unicorns at the theatre. As we crossed Waterloo Bridge, I thought it would be a great moment to take a photo of my lovely daughter against a lovely backdrop. Um, the wind had a different idea. Oh well, the London Eye looks nice.
Pop on over to Brummy Mummy of 2 for more fab family pics.
Yesterday I took Moozles and a friend to see I Believe in Unicorns at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. It is a one-woman show, starring Danyah Miller. She weaves a story, based on a boy called Tomas who hates reading but comes to love books. Tomas eventually unites the town to save many of the books when the library is set on fire. Danyah uses the stacks of books on stage as props, and they transform a simple set into a bit of magic.
Danyah is a wonderful storyteller. Besides telling the story, she incorporated the audience which made it extremely lively. Both the children and the adults were taking part, enjoying the story and laughing out loud. My favourite moments, which were a lot, were when the books became active props. Rather that just laying on stage, she pulled tissues out of them, pulled out a kite, turned them into houses and projected images upon them.
My daughter and her friend, both aged six, loved the play. The play is aimed for children aged 5-11, but I think that younger children would enjoy it. And since it runs for 57 minutes, you do not need a long attention span to be able to enjoy the show. Also, it is really nice to watch a show that doesn't include cartoons or princesses.
I Believe in Unicorns is playing at The Vaudeville Theatre until the 31st August 2014, with tickets selling at around £17.50. It will then be showing throughout the UK until December 2014.
*Photo credit: Richard Davenport
We were invited to view I Believe in Unicorns for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.
I am not sure why I decided to start my healthy eating regime during the summer. I can see why normal people begin weight loss programmes in January and avoid ice cream in favour of spinach when it is cold and grey. But not me. But despite the fact that I'd like to be eating ice cream every day (preferably mint chocolate chip), I have actually lost some weight. I started my first week on a meal delivery service called Total Diet Food. Very healthy, wholesome food and I lost four pounds.
I then had two weeks of holiday when my daughter finished school. I tried to do some ballet workouts, but I could not keep it up during the week we spent at my in-laws'. I showed some restraint, however I ate about five ice creams. Whoops. I was pleasantly surprised when I weighed myself last Tuesday morning to find that I hadn't put on any weight. So last Tuesday I happily began Diet Chef in the hope that I would continue losing weight.
Diet Chef are a meal delivery service that offer prepackaged calorie-controlled food to your door. Since I would be doing it for 28 days, Husband decided to give it a go too. He gained a stone during each of my pregnancies (I guess he took the 'we are pregnant' thing too literally). We went on the Diet Chef website and picked out 28 days worth of breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks. We both liked being able to choose which items we wanted to eat. I ordered a lot of muesli, and Husband opted for cereal bars as he is often in a rush to cycle to work. We both dislike red peppers and didn't pick any of the meals that contained them.
The above is an example of a day's food budget, minus the fruit and vegetables. Luxury Muesli for breakfast, Oxtail Soup for lunch, Oat Bar with Chocolate for a snack and Pork Meatballs for dinner. Delicious, filling meals, and I don't have to worry about thinking too hard about my caloric total for the day.
The food is delivered in one big box. We cleared off our sideboard and put the boxes there so we have easy access to our food. I have put our snacks in one bag and our breakfasts in another bag, inside the box, to help keep things better organised. Since we're both renowned diet cheats, it helps knowing that most of our food is in those boxes so there is no need to rummage around the kitchen cabinets. The only extras we are allowed are fruit, vegetables and milk/yoghurt.
Check back on Wednesday to see how my first week of Diet Chef has gone.
Diet Chef have given me 28 days of their meal delivery service for the purpose of my reviews. Husband paid for his own. All opinions expressed are completely my own.
I have turned into a bit of a hermit. You see, I am having trouble leaving the house. When Husband is around, we go on lots of family outings. But when he's at work, I go into the garden with the kids. And that's about it. There are the occasional playdates or trips to buy groceries. And my daughter and I sometimes have little outings, just the two of us. But I cannot handle proper outings with both children. I say both children, but it's not my 6-year old daughter who gives me a hard time. It is my son. My dear, darling, terror of a two-year old.
I have written about Dubz before. But he has somehow gotten more 'energetic' in the past two months. In the house, he storms around, destroying the house. He upends baskets, rips books and climbs furniture. In the garden, he smashes pots, digs up plants and bashes the BBQ with a plastic golf club. My Twitter and Facebook feed are full of mums taking two, three, four children out for fun summer days out. I stayed home all day with the kids on Wednesday and Thursday this week, bar one quick trip to buy ingredients to make ice cream.
I am tired of feeling afraid and nervous of leaving the house with my son. I am tired of feeling like my back has to be strong enough to carry him into the car, kicking and screaming, when he does not want to come home (this has happened many times). I won't even go to the park or playground because I cannot control Dubz in public. And I get so embarrassed when he kicks off when he doesn't get his way.
So, what do I do? Do I wait until I can negotiate/control Dubz? Or do I bite the bullet and go on lots of outings so that he can get used to going out, and so that he can learn when to stop acting dangerously and when to go home with me?