family

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When I was a teenager, my friends and I used to go to Pizza Hut all the time. We loved their salad bar and personal pan pizzas. But I haven't been to Pizza Hut much since my early 20s. A few months ago, we happened to be near one and had dinner there while my daughter was at a party. We were surprised at how good it was and vowed to take her (Moozles loves a salad bar). So last weekend we went to the new restaurant in Kingston-upon-Thames to try out the new menu.

First of all, I noticed how family-friendly Pizza Hut looks. There is lots of banquette seating, the colours are bright without being garish, and the artwork shows pizza-related superheroes. The children's menu has a little and bigger option. My five-year old had the smaller meals and my nine-year old had the bigger one. And while we waited for our food, we all enjoyed the salad bar.

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In my 20s, I was obsessed with shoes and handbags. I spent my 30s thinking about things for my babies. Now, in my 40s, I'm all about my home (okay, okay, I still like shoes and handbags). So I was thrilled when I heard that West Elm was opening their second UK store in Kingston-upon-Thames. And I was even more thrilled to be invited to the grand opening on the 8th December.

Personally, I love mid-century modern. I like furniture to be comfortable and useful, but also interesting. West Elm is like my mecca. Even if you're not looking for big pieces, or if you have a small budget, you are able to find accessories here that add a unique feel. They have some amazing plates, mugs and Christmas decorations that are both vintage and modern and oh so quirky. And despite West Elm being a chain, it's not like you'' end up having the same armchair or mirror as half of your friends (I'm looking at you IKEA).

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If you are anything like me, most of the time you feel a bit stretched. There is just so much to think about and get done, especially at this time of the year. Right now, it feels like Christmas is just around the corner and I'm starting to feel the pressure a bit. There is a long list of potentially time-consuming things to get done, including present buying, which is a task that I know many of you dread.

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Updating the Living Room with a New Sofa

We have been busy at Californian Mum HQ (by HQ, I mean my house). We are currently in the middle of home renovations. Although we have been having some major work done, we are also getting new furniture and giving the house a general update. Last month, we gave the living room a little update in the form of a new sofa and moving some furniture around.

Our previous sofa was brown and boring. It was also not very comfortable, even though it was only three years old. And the top cushions were in a constant state of sag. Also, after some calculations, I realised that we had had four brown sofas over the past 14 years. Husband really likes brown sofas. But I decided that I needed some colour in my life.

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I love Christmas. Shopping for gifts, visiting Santa, meeting up with family and friends, and buying cheesy festive jumpers. But my favourite part is going to the theatre to see a show with my family. For the past few years, we normally see the Christmas show at the Rose Theatre Kingston. This year, I am so excited about Alice in Winterland.

Written by Lewis Carroll, and adapted and directed by Ciaran McConville, Alice in Winterland looks like it will be another family favourite. Watch as the White Rabbit visit Alice and begs her to help him save Winterland (a frozen world of mad hatters and a terrible Jabberwock). The very brave Alice goes on a magical adventure. Expect puppetry, projections and a delightful cast of 30.

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I'm not the only one, am I? Who cooks dinner on a two-weekly rotation? I'm not a confident cook. I make nice dinners, but there isn't a huge amount of variety. I feel uncomfortable trying new recipes. And even if you have everything you need, it is always tougher and takes longer than expected. Recently, in an effort to add variety to our family dinners, I have been trying out the HelloFresh family meals. And I wanted to share how we got on.

Husband and I are acually already big fans of HelloFresh. We normally get a box every other week. Husband loves cooking but gets stuck for ideas. The weekdays are so busy, that it feels easier to cook the same things over and over. But I want my children to try new things and to expand their tastes. So I'm trying to be more adventurous. And that's where the HelloFresh family box comes in.

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After about six weeks of anticipation, Halloween came and went in a flash. Moozles went as a skeleton bride and Dubz was an evil jester. The kids had a great time picking out their costumes (which I got from Sainsburys during their 25% off deal, as usual). And they enjoyed walking around the neighbourhood looking spooky. I love how you see lots of lovely decorations and so many friendly faces. Halloween feels like such a community event when you're a parent.

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Ever since I was diagnosed with a severe Vitamin D deficiency two years ago, I have been extra vigilant about my children taking their vitamins. While a healthy diet is important, a multivitamin offers protection in getting any vitamins or minerals that are missed. And a vitamin with added Vitamin D and Calcium is essential to children and adults. That's why Bassetts Vitamins are encouraging families to take their vitamins so they can stay healthy and get outside this autumn and winter. They want us to have fun and enjoy #nodulldays.

The Department of Health recommends that everyone should be taking a supplement that has 10 micrograms of Vitamin D (during autumn and winter). The best way to get Vitamind D is through lovely sunshine. But did you know that in the UK, we are unable to make Vitamind D from the sun from October to March? And since Calcium and Vitamind D are important for healthy teeth and bones, you need a supplement.

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Everyone knows how Americans love Halloween. Besides the dressing up and trick-or-treating, we go crazy for pumpkins. And not just buying our pumpkins at the local Tesco, but going to a pumpkin patch. Sadly, the UK is a bit behind on the pumpkin patch bandwagon. It has improved in the last five years, but it still has a ways to go.

Today we visited Garsons Farm in Esher. It is an amazing pick-your-own farm, and we normally visit twice a year (in the summer for various fruit and vegetables and in October for a pumpkin). We normally visit a week before Halloween rather than just two days before. There wasn't a huge array of pumpkins today but we found one good one in the field. There were loads of lovely pumpkins in the shop so we got one and some ornamental gourds.

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All parents care about keeping their families safe. But it can be so tough figuring out how to do that, that sometimes nothing is done. This was the case for us for many years. We locked the door and hoped for the best. But four years ago, after spending a couple of nights at my in-laws', we returned home to find that our home had been burgled. I cannot describe how scary and uneasy we felt. Even though the burglars were long gone, the safety of our home had been destroyed.

After the burglary, I had nightmares for months. My home no longer felt safe. Every time we went away, I would wonder if the house had been burgled again. Luckily the children were small at the time and had no idea what happened. Husband and I discussed what to do but were never able to agree on how to best keep our home safe and secure. When Maplin sent me the Arlo Pro 1 Wire-Free HD Security System, I had a feeling that this would be the solution we had been needing.

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