27 May

Heartlake City is Open for Business at Legoland Windsor!

Today Shaun and H went to Legoland, mainly as she’s pretty obsessed with Lego Friends and was desperate to see the new Heartlake City area now it’s fully open!

Lego Friends Heartlake City Legoland Windsor

Heartlake City is the central area of Lego Friends where all their shops are. Legoland Windsor has revamped the old High Street into Heartlake City, so Shaun and H popped along for a visit today.

Lego Friends Heartlake City Legoland Windsor

It was rammed at Legoland, so they did the sensible thing and bought a Q Bot Mobile – so you don’t have the gadget, it just works on your phone. It meant they got to do a lot more than if they’d braved the queues, and now we’ve made our money back on our Merlin Passes it made sense.

Mia's Riding School Lego Friends Heartlake City Legoland Windsor

Heartlake City didn’t disappoint. The main ride there, Mia’s Riding Adventure was a bit too much for H though, as she fancied the more sedate rides – imagine a large circular area where everyone sits, which turns around as you move from side to side. Definitely one for older kids, but at five she wasn’t keen – but she loved everything else – especially the more interactive area, where you can build extra parts onto Heartlake City via an iPad type tablet.

Lego Friends Heartlake City Legoland Windsor

Around Heartlake City you can find Mia, Andrea, Stephanie, Emma and Olivia models, and at Olivia’s house you can help build a home for one of her pets. Emma’s Ice Cream Parlour is close by and serves up delicious desserts!

Heartlake City Show

There’s also a Lego Friends show which is in the same area as the Pirate show, called ‘Friends to the Rescue’, an action packed adventure full of songs.

The train which goes around a lot of Legoland has been renamed the Heartlake City Express – though remains the same as before.

Keep an eye out for a large Taylor Swift Lego picture too! We’re not entirely sure why it’s there, but it’s impressive anyway!

Legoland Windsor Taylor Swift Legoland Windsor

Shaun and H made it home by 9pm, exhausted and happy. Going on how much H wanted to go to Legoland again, and having the Qbot’s, both of them had a brilliant time – and a lot of that was thanks to Heartlake City – go and visit!

26 May

Busy Busy Things That Go

Busy Busy Things That Go is the latest book we’ve received as Parragon Book Buddies – and it’s loads of fun. It has 2000 stickers and activities throughout the book.

Busy Busy Things That Go

Busy Busy Things That Go is a book packed full of stickers and activities to place the stickers on. The book says :

Get ready for the biggest, busiest sticker book EVER, with 2000 stickers.

Put the scoops on the diggers and the tractors in the fields. Get the machines to the construction sitee and the trucks on the road.

Make your own big, busy scenes with all the stickers!

Busy Busy Things That Go

Essentially, this book is your world. Make of it what you will – and if you leave a book like this with a five year old like H, then you get something like this:

It’s a great book when you need your stickers to have a purpose – for me it feels like the sort of book which would have been ideal when we flew to Australia, as you don’t have a set direction to go in, you can do whatever you want with each page – it’s not like you’ll lose what you’re doing.

Busy Busy Things That Go stickers

The stickers too – and there are many – from larger ones to small, so you need plenty of page space to fit them, and there is.

Busy Busy Things That Go stickers

Busy Busy Things That Go is available now with a RRP of £8.00, available from all good bookstores. You can find it on Amazon over here.

We were sent a copy of Busy Busy Things That Go for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own. 

25 May

Knole

Knole has been on our to-do list of National Trust properties for a while now, and we finally made it there today.

Knole House

Knole has been one of those properties we’ve always wanted to go to, and I’ve always had that “but it’s in Kent” excuse about it. Kent is actually really close – much closer than I realised. So close in fact, we made it there in around an hour which isn’t bad at all – mainly thanks to the M25 being pretty clear.

Knole deer

On entering Knole, you’re met with fields, space, woodland. DEER! As Shaun said “it’s like going around Richmond Park” except the deer didn’t step out in front of us, luckily.

There are renovations going on at the moment – so no National Trust shop, though there is a temporary outdoor cafe – and fortunately it was the right kind of weather to eat out, so we grabbed sandwiches and a drink and did that. There was an old red bus doing journeys for £2.50 into Sevenoaks and back again which looked quite fun, but we didn’t want to spend £7.50 – and we’d spent a while driving too. The new cafe and bookshop should open this summer.

knole house

Knole itself is a huge property, now owned by the National Trust, though the Sackville family still live there (they rent apartments from the National Trust), and with hundreds of years of history inside. I quite enjoyed looking at all the paintings, though my history and religious knowledge let me down a lot. Shaun isn’t much help either! H was given a quiz on a clipboard to do around the house which relied a lot upon this knowledge, but we muddled through.

Knole kids craftsThere were kids activities on today too – H did some colouring and was so patient too, I know she takes her time much more with pencils than anything else, and her tidiest work is done that way. She really enjoyed colouring in the letter H, she made an H bookmark (which will get used a lot) and made a little book (with her own motto ‘Be Kind’) with things to spot inside the house, just before we went in.

Knole itself isn’t just the house though, or indeed the gardens which are privately owned but opened once a week. There are the grounds too – with deer, so many deer who don’t seem so timid when you’re close (but don’t get too close – there are signs asking you not to feed or pet them). There are tree trunks to climb on, and vast green spaces to have a picnic or fly a kite if the weather is right. There’s also a golf course nearby.

Knole House

I really enjoyed it for viewing some history – H found it interesting doing the activities. We easily spent four or five hours there anyway! There are Kids Activities going on Mondays through the summer holidays – check their website for more information.

25 May

Bucket List

At some point in the next five years we are likely to be moving to Australia. This means I need to make sure all those things I’ve always wanted to do get done. So I’m starting my bucket list. This will be added to and amended when things have been done, but gives me a focus on the things I might never get a chance to do again once I’m over the other side of the world! Some are stupid little things where I’m revisiting my childhood, and others are things I’ve never done.

1. Go to the Dick Bruna Huis in Utrecht
2. Go to Amsterdam
3. Go to Eurovision (just the once)
4. Take H to Salzburg so she can do the Sound of Music tour too.
5. Take H to see Annie on the stage.
6. Go to Cornwall.
7. Take H to a festival.
8. Go to Germany again.
9. Take H to Blackpool.
10. Do the Miffy Trail in the Netherlands this year (could be combined with 1 & 2)
11. Finish reading the Morrissey book.
12. Go to CenterParcs in Belgium next year (as inspired by Jennifer)
13. Take H to a game of Football at Wembley.
14. Take H to a Tottenham game (friendlies count)
15. Take H to a York City game.
16. See Matilda at the theatre
17. Go to the York Pantomime (the proper Berwick Kaler one)

24 May

Project 365 – Week 21

Sunday 17th May. We had a lazy day today – we all needed it, but also we were waiting for the delivery of our new Dishwasher from AO.com. It came on time and we were pleased – it’s nice and quiet. I sorted through my wool and fabric, and found my lovely fabric stash – these four are my favourite bits, and I really need to start doing some patchwork soon.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Monday 18th May. It’s National Vegetarian Week! So I’m going to photograph my evening meal every night this week until Friday. Tonight was spag bol – we have 30 minutes from getting in after Rainbows, so not long to prepare food, so I need something quick and easy. This works a treat every time, even if H gets it everywhere.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Tuesday 19th May. Soup, of course. Tonight’s was asparagus, butternut squash, spring onion and a bit of vegan cheese on the top. It worked. After a tough night at pilates it was nice to come home and relax with my soup and the first Eurovision Semi Final – even though Shaun went out so I was trying to settle H as well as stuff my face!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Wednesday 20th May. We had an invite to the Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen range in Central London. It ran from 4-6 and stupidly I’d booked our food order to come at 4pm, so was resigned to not going. Except the food man turned up right on 4, and we got there by 5, so had plenty of time to eat this lovely stuff. Yum! In stores soon.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Thursday 21st May. I should have gone out tonight with friends, but was too tired after the week and the way it was going, plus I knew Friday was going to be a tough day at work. So I stayed in and ate this comfort dish I always turn back to for a quick and easy curry. We had no coconut dairy-free yoghurt (we like CoYo), but fortunately Shaun had some Alpro Soya coconut milk so I used that instead. It works too – and good as a quick fix. Fortunately the Eurovision second Semi-Final was on, so that kept me far too entertained when I should have had an early night. How yellow does it all look? I think I went overboard on the Turmeric!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Friday 22nd May. As a Merlin Premium Passholder we were sent vouchers to take our friends to the South Bank Merlin attractions, so we planned to do it after school today. The SeaLife Aquarium was empty (brilliant!), the London Eye busy, but we had fast track passes. Had our friends paid for everything it would have cost over £60 – a brilliant saving! We went to Pizza Express for our tea, where I had the Giardiniera for the first time – minus mushrooms (as we did a deal and it was the most expensive thing on there, and suitable for vegetarians). It was really good too!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Saturday 23rd May 2015. Eurovision. One of the musical highlights of my year! I know two people who go every year, and I’ve decided that I need to go to Sweden next year, not sure how though. Anyway, this year they designed an app which brought much hilarity (to me) where I tried to attempt to make the logo look like a tiara (I failed), I drank a load of Jeeves (thank you Lidl for getting it in-store in time for the big day), and had fondue. So no food picture today… I am joining the kids with the disturbing trend of selfies, and this is mine, celebrating Guy Sebastian’s inclusion for Australia this year.

eurovision selfie

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23 May

A Healthy Me – May

Things are not going well. My love of biscuits is not helping. At work we have a biscuit tin and a Co-Op up the road which always does deals on the best biscuits (Fox’s, Bahlsen). I weaken every time. I’m going to go back onto my Thinking Slimmer Slimpod, as while I didn’t lose weight on it, it was good for controlling my needs for chocolate.

It has been a busy month. I have been able to (mostly) keep up thanks to my back doing what it should do, with occasional twinges here and there. So I’ve been active. I’ve kept up my trips to the gym, and pilates classes have become a bit more challenging which is good. We’ve had lots of trips out and journeys into London with plenty of walking involved. My feet are not thanking me for this.

So… weight. It has gone up – 13 stone 6. But it has got me wondering – that point when the flab starts to turn into muscle, I need to measure myself as well. While I don’t think I’m becoming particularly muscular, measurements are important too – and my jeans don’t feel as tight. My waist is 37″, my hips 41″. According to the NHS this isn’t good. I have no prior measurements to go on, so it just needs to decrease.

Cholesterol spots. Possibly slightly less, but I need to get back on the lemon water again. I got a photo, and need to think about the dark circles under my eyes and how to make them disappear. I’ve read that coconut oil can help, so am going to start there. Let’s see how it looks next month… I promise to try and look less scary.  As a sidenote, one of my friends who is just a year older than me has just had a heart attack. He’s fine and well and recouperating now. Someone I used to work with who is the same age, died from a heart attack a couple of months ago and it has made me look much closer at me and my lifestyle. I should probably get another blood test to check my cholesterol and blood sugar levels, as I’m still at risk of diabetes.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Exercise. Quite a bit, actually. Going to the gym I’m meeting other mums I’ve got to know, and it has been nice to know I’ll have someone to chat to there. My stamina for running for the train has improved massively – good job really as I’m so knackered from doing everything I do, so I’m often running late for my morning train! The Rainbows events we have coming up will certainly keep me busy, plenty of walking and running around. I’m considering doing the Family Fun Run with Shaun and H at West Run London as it isn’t too far from us and I think is a good thing for us all to do together. So we’ll see.

Food. I’ve been eating quite well, occasional takeaways and less cake (but more biscuits). I feel like the junk food levels have gone right down again, which is a good thing for my cholesterol.

20 May

New Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen Range, May 2015

Today we were invited to the Good Housekeeping Institute in Central London for a taste of some of the dishes from the new Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen range, which will be in store in the next couple of weeks.

Tesco Vegetarian kitchen range

The Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen range from Tesco are set to launch some new dishes very soon – and we got a chance to try some today. One was a Mushroom Stroganoff dish, which I skipped – I’ve never been a fan of mushrooms. The other three dishes got a thumbs up from us though. First up was the spicy beanburger. I’ve always been a bit partial to them, and these did not disappoint. There are plenty of vegetables inside and to add the spice there’s some jalapenos, fresh coriander and smoky chipotle chile, not that you’d notice – and H definitely didn’t! They’re well disguised, so if you have a fussy eater who isn’t keen on spicy food, you may well get away with it. We enjoyed these so much we may have had many of them….

Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen Bean Burger

Next up which was our joint favourite was the Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen Vegetable and Cheese crispbakes. Think a bit like an escalope, but full of vegetables without the gushing garlic sauce – and gruyere cheese instead. H claimed she didn’t like gruyere the last time we had it, but scoffed the crispbake in record time without noticing. She really liked this one too, and didn’t spot there were bits of mushroom in there which was good – anything which hides food your child might turn their nose up at is a good thing in my world!

Tesco Vegetarian Cheese Crispbakes

The final dish I tried was the Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen Vegetable Tikka Masala & Rice. H didn’t like this as she found it too spicy (to that I say : hurrah – more for me!) whereas I really enjoyed it. It had a good sauce, not too drippy and just the right level of spiciness. The dish comes with each part separate, so you can serve them as you wish. This is the kind of dish I’d pick up from a Tesco Metro when I fancy a takeaway – more often than not there are very few vegetarian options available, so I’ll definitely be buying this one.

One that caught my eye which I haven’t tried yet is the Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagne – I love the idea of that combination. At the end we were given a goody bag, and inside was one of these so I’ll be reporting back.

Tesco Vegetarian kitchen range

There are ten new dishes in all in the Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen range, and a wide variety. I’ve been vegetarian for over 30 years now, and am happy to see that there’s a good selection available to suit all tastes, and even better they’re only £2.30 in-store.

The Tesco Vegetarian Kitchen range will be in-store and online in the next two weeks – keep an eye out! The dishes we tried today all get the thumbs up – especially the bean burgers from H!

We were invited to try out the food, and received a goody bag for attending. All opinions are our own.

19 May

Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs

Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs is the latest book we’ve been sent as Parragon Book Buddies, and is part of their Gold Stars range.

Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs

Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs is a book packed full of facts and activities. In fact, had this been available when H started Year 1, it would have been the perfect accompaniment as dinosaurs was their Autumn Term topic. As it was, the book has only come out quite recently – but if you’re looking for something which works alongside learning, this may be your book.

As well as having facts about the dinosaurs, I really like there are sections which show you how to draw them. I have a very defeatist child when she really thinks she can’t do something and doesn’t want to try – Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs has step by step instructions on how to draw various dinosaurs – exactly what a child like H needs!

Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs

Right now H is loving doing mazes and colouring, both of which are in this book – and there are plenty. While the book can’t cover all dinosaurs, it does cover the ones you’re likely to find in the school curriculum – the obvious ones. H enjoyed reading Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs as she enjoys factual books quite a lot at the moment.

The illustrations are nice and bright – the fonts are clear, and the facts are fun. This book is a winner as far as my five year old goes.

Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs

Travel Back Through Time to the Land of the Dinosaurs has a rrp of £7.99 and is available now! Follow this affiliate link to buy a copy of the book here

We were sent a copy of the book for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own.

18 May

Football Mum of the Year

Two weeks ago we were invited along to Petts Wood FC for an hour-long training session with Casey Stoney, the England and Arsenal Ladies footballer, to celebrate the launch of McDonald’s Football Mum of the Year.

Football Mum of the Year

Football Mum of the Year is an award to celebrate us mum’s who make football happen – and the launch we attended involved H and the other kids having a training session with Casey Stoney – a nice simple training session too. The children had to imagine they were on a pirate ship and complete a few tasks – from kicking the ball from one side to the other, and chasing the ball as Casey rolled it down the pitch, or just running as quick as they could to Casey to give her a high five. You don’t need a field to do these exercises, you can do them at home too – all you need is a brick wall (for kicking balls against) and you’re set! (preferably outdoors)

Football Mum of the Year
I’ve already done a quick writeup about how the experience has changed H – how something plugged in with her again and her love of playing football reappeared. The last two weeks have been quite remarkable. She is now playing football with Carshalton Athletic every Saturday we can make it, and is really enjoying playing again. I’m a Football Mum again! I get H’s clothes ready, I wash them, I do her hair, I make sure her shinpads are clean and I make a mental note I need to get her new tracksuit bottoms and socks because she has grown. Again. I make sure her footwear is the right kind and fits. Oh, and pack a fleece in case it’s windy, and be at the side ready for a quick hug if she falls over and feels sad.

Do you know a football mum? It doesn’t have to be someone who takes their child to football – what about the mums who make sure everything is ready to make it happen for their child? Or someone who helps a club exist maybe? Or even does fundraising. If you know someone, then why not nominate them for the Football Mum of the Year Awards? The winner will be presented with their award on the 2nd September at Wembley! You just need to vote here.

Football Mum of the Year
I grew up watching York City in my teens, and before H was born we went to Tottenham games as often as we could. My dream is to take H to games and her to enjoy them as much as we did. When Shaun first arrived in the UK from Australia, football had to be his sport – even if he resisted supporting my two teams to start with! So poor old H has no choice, but fortunately she seems happy with the teams she has (thank you Harry Kane, five year olds like players who score lots of goals).

Football Mum of the Year

We’ve bought tickets for the Women’s FA Cup Final on the 1st August this year, to take H to Wembley for the first time (she missed the England v Germany game due to being ill) and I know she’ll enjoy it, watching her first big game as a neutral. Let’s not forget the Women’s World Cup this summer too – Casey Stoney has been selected for the team as well, so H has been really proud she might see someone she’s met playing football on tv soon!

Also, I’ve never played a game of football in my life. But that doesn’t stop me supporting my daughter and making it happen. If you know someone else that does that, get nominating!

Football Mum of the Year

Here’s a video which was produced on our morning out – look out for our blink-and-you-miss-it appearance! My interview with Casey will go live as soon as I get a chance.

17 May

Project 365 Week 20

Sunday 10th May. Today was ‘Rainbows Go Global’ at the Girl Guiding South HQ and fun outdoor area, which also happens to be right next to Painshill Park. It was awesome and exhausting. I’d put a picture in, but it involves other kids so I won’t be, so instead you can see the badge I was awarded for going!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Monday 11th May. Rainbows again. The joys of a warm day meant H’s shirt from the previous day was washed and dry, her new badge sewn on. She had lots of fun tonight and I could see a more confident H emerging – she stood up and talked about things rather than being shy. It makes me so happy as she is a shy girl, it feels like a breakthrough. We got home and put on the Matilda soundtrack I’d bought from eBay. She particularly liked that she had the words to read along to on the CD booklet.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Tuesday 12th May. This was easily the busiest day of the week and Sunday was stupidly busy. From rushing to the Osteopath, H’s swimming lesson, PIlates and more, somehow I found the time to also make tea for everyone, even if it was just chopping up vegetables and putting them into the Soup Maker.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Wednesday 13th May. Ocado had Douwe Egbert’s on offer for £4, which included the limited Edition Orla Kiely jars. So I ordered two. I figured if they picked two of the same I might be able to swap one, but if I ordered three and got three of the same that would be tricky. So I saved myself £5 – I’ll still have to buy the other jar at full price, but oh, the pretty!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Thursday 14th May. The latest issue of Storytime Magazine arrived. I asked H a question to be met with silence. My baby bookworm was so engrossed in her magazine. Magazine subscriptions are the best presents you can get, I think. H is subscribed to Storytime, Okido and Anorak magazines, and has been getting the free Lego ones since she was born, pretty much!

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Friday 15th May. At knitting on Thursday night my friend Katharine gave me a pile of Brownies and Guides annuals – some of which I remember owning back when they came out. H loves them – she’s been engrossed in the Brownies annuals, and has already started asking when she can join. She’s got a Very Long Wait.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Saturday 16th May. It was our first Summer School Fair today – it was busy, hot and tiring – four hours on the raffle was not good for my back. I had to pop to the shops afterwards and went to Lidl as I’d heard they had Jeeves in stock – their bargain priced Pimm’s-A-Like – and there it was in all its glory. We had a couple of glasses later on and I can confirm it is just as good as the proper stuff. It also costs half as much, if not more. Bravo Lidl! As they say, ‘Get it while you can!’ – so I did…!

Jeeves from Lidl - their bargain priced Pimms

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