29 Mar

National Trust Easter Egg Hunt

It’s that time of year again – when the shops are overloaded with chocolate and you’re pressured into buying them. Well, okay, I’m not but really the M&S Darth Vader Easter Egg looks damn good. Fortunately the National Trust Easter Egg hunts are back, and once completed you get a Cadbury Egghead at the end. That suits me!

Easter-An-Easter-Egg-Trail-day-at-Charlecote-Park-Warwickshire-©NTPL-John-Millar

 

The National Trust Easter Egg Hunt with the Cadbury’s is back again! We go to our local National Trust places for their Easter Egg hunt every year. Last year it was Morden Hall Park, the previous year I think was Claremont Landscape Gardens, and I know we did Polesden Lacey the year before.

They’re always loads of fun, there are several clues to solve, and at the end you show your completed puzzle and get a Cadbury’s Egghead in return. What’s not to love?

H loves doing it every year, and now she can read we can just follow her as she goes from clue to clue – and help if she ever gets stuck. The trail starts at the Base Camp and if it’s anything like last year you’ll have a hat and a book to log things as you follow the Eggsplorer trail.

National Trust Easter

Depending on the weather we’re thinking we might do Hatchlands Park this Easter (it’s quite out in the open, and worth it for the bluebell woods – though they’re more likely to look amazing by May) – decisions, decisions. (edited to add – Hatchlands have a Robin Hood themed hunt this year – excellent!)

You can search for a National Trust Easter trail near you over here – they run from the 3rd to the 6th April. They usually cost around £1 to do, and it’s a fun way to get outdoors and be rewarded with chocolatey goodness at the end. Of course for us older types, you mustn’t forget the obligatory hot chocolate and slice of cake afterwards in the National Trust cafe in the place of your choice – yum! See you there…

29 Mar

Project 365 Week 13

Sunday 22nd March. We’d set aside today to go to Limpsfield Common as it’s not far and the National Trust Surrey Hills Facebook group had posted a picture the previous week of a new trail. It didn’t disappoint. H loved Peter Rabbit’s Post Office and I liked being outside where I could breathe. She left a letter for Peter Rabbit to say she liked his house and a few coins in his postbox so hopefully the volunteers can make some more!

Peter Rabbit's Post Office Limpsfield Common

Monday 23rd March. At Rainbows all the girls had to find some Easter Egg prints outside in the grounds around the church. Once they’d all found two each they could exchange them for one of these. H was pretty happy with that!

easter basket

Tuesday 24th March. Back to normal. Our last swimming lesson for this term before H’s class changes. She was awarded her Water Skills 2 badge which she was delighted to get – she had the happiest smiliest face. Her lesson had them doing relay races at the end, and she did half a length of front crawl without any bother – I knew she could, but with the pool being a bit deeper she has panicked a bit in the past. This all bodes well for her getting her Stage 3, although I think it’s still a bit of a way off yet.

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Wednesday 25th March. Borrowed the Spandau Ballet DVD ‘Soul Boys of the Western World’ from Craig at work – it was excellent. The amount of old footage when the band first got together with commentaries from bandmembers from the start makes it a really good retrospective – and they don’t skip the court case either which is good. I was never a massive fan (I was more of a Durannie) but I could really appreciate them and where they came from with this. Recommended.

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Thursday 26th March. Popped into Tiger Stores at lunchtime and they have glitter glue for glue guns, so I had to buy some. Pretty!

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Friday 27th March. End of term. Had to leave early to get to H’s school, and as usual my train was stupidly delayed, getting in at almost sixteen minutes late. School closed at 1.30 and the train pulled in at 1.29. Annoying. Southern Trains have been awful lately. I booked us tickets to see Frozen Fever & Cinderella, then we followed that with tea at Pizza Express. H designed a pizza for their latest competition and was very pleased with it.

Pizza Express competition

Saturday 28th March. We spent the day cleaning and clearing things. Nearly all of H’s baby clothes have gone to the local Cash for Clothes place, all the money is being put towards a trampoline for H this summer. We made £25 which I’m pleased with! But I don’t actually remember taking a photo. Having said that, there wasn’t really anything to take a photo of, so I’ll leave this day blank and edit if I find one.

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28 Mar

Cinderella & Frozen Fever

Yesterday the new Cinderella film opened in cinemas, and before it is the new Frozen short, Frozen Fever. With H being the obsessive she is about all things Frozen I took her as it was the last day of term and I felt like we needed a treat.

Cinderella and Frozen Fever were released in cinemas yesterday, March 27th. I snapped up tickets as a treat for H and I so, what do you need to know? Well, firstly, I’ve decided to try and simplify film reviews on Mum Friendly, and try to waffle less. This is my first attempt, after discussions in the Mum Friendly Facebook Group. We’re using a traffic light system.

 

Frozen Fever

Frozen Fever

It’s short. You can buy the new song ‘Perfect Day’ from iTunes which takes up the bulk of the short. We bought it beforehand and didn’t really have a context, but once you watch it you don’t really get it out of your head. It’s Anna’s birthday and Elsa wants to make it a perfect day as she has never been able to celebrate her birthday. She has help from Kristoff and Sven, and it’s a really nice little in-between before Frozen 2 happens in the future. It has plenty of funny parts, and H was laughing out loud in her seat. The entire cinema went silent once it started too!

Green lights all the way, certificate U. Slight grump at the idea that there’ll be new Frozen ephemera including little snowpeople which Elsa creates when she sneezes! (snowgies?!) and of course new dresses… sigh!

Cinderella.

Cinderella - Ella and the Prince

The story of Ella, whose mother and father die, who is treated badly by her new stepmother and stepsisters – and you know the rest, it’s the traditional Cinderella story in film, beautifully updated and told.

Deaths – three. H ‘got’ what was going on, and didn’t seem too sad about it. I’d say this is amber depending on how sensitive your child is – you may need to explain beforehand.

Story – wonderful, really wonderful. The filming really makes the movie – and the views of the land and castle reminded me of Arundelle (Frozen) – the settings of both made me realise how well they compliment each other. The story is easy to follow, not scary and a delight. A lot of the film is narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, and H was transfixed as the coach and horses were transformed to take Cinderella to the ball. The Ugly Sisters are no longer ugly, they’ve just ugly personalities for the film and it is no longer mentioned. The only song which features throughout is ‘Lavender’s Blue’, the old traditional folk song and nursery rhyme.

Cinderella - Fairy Godmother

Top Tip – stay for the end credits and you’ll hear a version of ‘A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes’ towards the end. I can see ‘Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo’ is on the soundtrack, which makes me wonder if that followed it – we left the cinema, so I can’t say.

Cinderella is a green light (just be prepared with the deaths), certificate U. The only thing I would say is both films with trailers came in at two hours – a lot of younger children were getting twitchy, so be prepared for a long sit down!

28 Mar

Kingston, Ham and Teddington

A while back it was a warm-ish kind of day and sunny – perfect for getting outside. We have a few projects going on right now, one of them being to get H into a cabin bed as we’ve seen some good looking ones over at Noa and Nani which we’re going to buy. In doing that, it frees up a bit of floor space in her room and we’ve needed a good solution for having friends over for sleepovers – something we haven’t done for over a year as the blow-up mattress is too small for most children now. The Futon Company was the first place I thought of, as an old flatmate from around sixteen years ago had some of their zip up mattresses which convert into cushions – perfect for a child who occasionally likes her own space and sits and reads upstairs – so we headed to the Kingston branch. They were in the sale, so I was pleased I paid just £49.

hs bedroom revamp

After that we headed to Ham House & Gardens as it’s a short drive north from Kingston, and somewhere we haven’t visited for far too long. I sniggered on seeing the ‘Warning – this car park floods’ sign as the main car park is right next to the Thames, and it would be just our luck.

Ham House is a short walk from the car park, and you get a real feel for how it was when it was lived in as you walk up the main driveway towards it. Our first port of call was the Orangery cafe which has recently been done up – a quick baked potato (for just £5) and we were set for a wander around the grounds. Part of the gardens were blocked off to allow the grass to grow, but there were still plenty of snowdrops and daffodils in bloom which always makes me happy.

Ham House

H and Shaun had a run around the grounds while I sat and relaxed, enjoying the sun on my face. After that we headed inside the house to the Below Stairs Rooms which have plenty to see and do, and is where the servants lived and worked. It also had a big room with crafty things for kids to do, and of course, dressing up. It was great for getting a feel of what it was like when people lived there 300 years ago. H enjoyed making frames for a picture she had coloured in.

In the Beer Cellar there was tasting for adults, so Shaun and I had to try. The beer was good, not at all fizzy and how it would have been 300 years ago – even children drank it then (but that’s before they realised you could boil water and it’d be fine to drink) – but not this time!

Teddington

After Ham House I decided I’d quite like to visit a place from my past, somewhere I haven’t visited for almost seven years – Teddington. Given how close we were and how H had never seen a fully working lock, it made sense. Unfortunately no boats were passing through, but she still got the idea. We walked into the central area between the two main locks, then over the Teddington Bridge, popping into the Anglers Arms for some food – except we were ignored so we eventually left and headed back over the bridge. Teddington Lock hasn’t changed much – my great aunt and uncle lived in Teddington and many a childhood would be spent going for walks down to the lock, walking past the old Thames TV Studios (we saw Rod, Jane and Freddy from Rainbow once at Teddington Station – very exciting).

Teddington

Our trip was about fresh air, rediscovering old haunts and introducing H to them – or in the case of Ham House reintroducing, as the three times we’ve been she’s been a tiny baby!

As National Trust members, Ham House doesn’t cost us anything, Teddington Lock is also free. We’re linking in to Country Kids again this week!

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23 Mar

BuddingSTEM – A New Kickstarter Project

A friend posted a link to BuddingSTEM on Facebook, and I was intrigued. Imagine if you will, a world where girls like dinosaurs and science, space and all the rest. That’s our world. But yet, if H wanted a t-shirt with a dinosaur or a rocket on it, then we’re looking in the boys section. This is where BuddingSTEM exist.

buddingSTEM logo

BuddingSTEM was started by two mums in the US, and they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign recently as well. Their girls wanted train design pants, but in shops only boys versions existed. This is where the seeds were sown and BuddingSTEM was born – if you can’t buy them in the shops, then make them yourself!

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – all things H is interested in – and this forms the centre of what BuddingSTEM is about.

The Kickstarter campaign has many options. The last campaign we backed was the Lammily doll, and this one grabbed me as you don’t get many t-shirts which are girly without being too girly. I like that the prints are big and bold – a five year old or a ten year old could wear the t-shirt and neither would look odd. I like the Apatosaurus collection, though the space range is fabulous too.

BuddingSTEM clothes

Much as I tried to squash out too much pink in our lives, H’s two favourite colours are blue and pink – and both are colour options with BuddingSTEM, as well as yellow and green. Seeing their Kickstarter page I could see H in the clothes – she’s like me, a jeans and t-shirts kind of girl when she’s not at school, and I think these shirts are fabulous colours. They ship worldwide too.

BuddingSTEM clothes range

She’ll often say “I can’t do that as it’s for boys” and I hate the fact she feels things are that way. I do my best to convince her otherwise, but it’d be so nice if children can just be what they want to be without thinking there may be problems. If you’ve heard of Goldieblox and like what they do, BuddingSTEM sits nicely alongside it.

I pledged $25. They’re $2,000 short of their target with 17 days to go, so I think it’s fairly safe to say it’s going to happen, which is brilliant news.

BuddingSTEM’s website is here

The Kickstarter campaign is here

BuddingSTEM can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

22 Mar

Limpsfield Common

The National Trust have lots of lovely houses and gardens, and it’s often forgotten how much land is owned by them too. After the National Trust – Surrey Hills Facebook Group posted a photo last weekend of a mysterious Peter Rabbit’s Post Office, a few of us bloggers tried to work out exactly where it was. Luckily someone posted on the group where to find it, so a week later we headed there to find out more – to Limpsfield Common.

Limpsfield Common Owl House

Limpsfield Common is east of Oxted – take the A25 and drive towards Limpsfield Chart on the B269, but turn left before you get there and drive down Ridlands Lane. You will find a car park called Ridlands Grove, which is the best place to park.

Limpsfield Common Hedgehog Hall and Peter Rabbits Post Office

Limpsfield Common is quite a large area, and I felt this was a good place to start. H really enjoyed looking for the five little homes within the wood – most of which are fairly easy to find – though we struggled with the Fox Villa – there’s no clear trail but that makes it even more fun. The little homes have been put together by the Friends of Limpsfield Common who keep it maintained. We popped some cash into the little post box at Peter Rabbit’s Post Office as a way of saying thank you. Each shelter had enough H had a good explore, and the area they’re all situated was enough for a good hour wandering around outside.

Limpsfield Common Fox Villa

Limpsfield Common also has an Air Raid Shelter. It has been renovated, there are six shelters in total, though only one is occasionally opened to the public. (the last time was Mother’s Day last weekend) The other five are used as bat nesting sites. This is situated back on the A25. We parked on a road in Limpsfield village and it took no more than ten minutes to walk there. They are situated near the British Legion building, around the back of Limpsfield Infant school.

Getting H to imagine how it was in 1940 as the Battle of Britain was happening, with the whole of Limpsfield Infant school spending most days in the shelters was quite an eye opener for her. The children were alerted to an attack by siren or the headmaster ringing the bell and had to run to the shelters. If they didn’t make it in time they had to lie flat on the ground – and it’s quite a run to the shelters.

Limpsfield Common Air Raid Shelters

Next to the shelters is a restored Spigot Mortar – one of five that once existed in the area. From the National Trust informationThe gun was extremely heavy, weighing in at about 350lbs. It fired a 20lb high explosive anti tank mortar bomb propelled by black powder. It had an effective range of 100 yards. It was also capable of firing a 14lb anti personnel bomb approximately 500 yards, although the gun was found to be most effective at shorter range.

Really hard to get your head around these days, but an important reminder of how it was.

We had a brilliant day anyway, and would recommend Limpsfield Common – it doesn’t cost to go there and there’s easily a good couple of hours worth of things to do, and wander around. Limpsfield itself looks like a lovely village too, although all the shops were closed when we were there.

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22 Mar

Takeaway Dilemma – Food Hygiene

Most Fridays, after a busy and tiring week at work and school we can’t be bothered to cook. This has led us to head down the murky road into takeaways…

One week we had decided we wanted a chinese meal, so I started to research my local options. There’s plenty of choice, and going on the reviews at Just Eat and Hungry House, everything seemed pretty good with lots of glowing reviews.

But then I decided to have a search around at other ratings – food hygiene ones. Each food establishment is marked out of five, five being a spotless clean place, whereas 1 or 2 needs a lot of work (and I’d definitely avoid anywhere rated with a 0!). Which got me thinking – it’s all well and good ordering food via the aforementioned places, but food hygiene doesn’t come into it. What exactly was I ordering? How clean are the places I’ve been ordering from? And how often does the rating change?

The results were grim. Almost every single takeaway closest to us has a food hygene rating of 1. That’s not good at all. I immediately went off the idea of ordering from them, despite the good reviews.

food hygiene rating 1

A few came in with a 3. I can live with that, after all, it is described as satisfactory, but I felt like if I was going to buy in food, I wanted the best!

food hygiene rating 3

So I decided to go for a minimum rating of  4.  But nothing existed locally – and that was quite a surprise.

I tried a bit further out, and eventually one came up in Morden – not too far up the road, but still, not that close either. Plus the food arrived late and it was cold.

But regardless of this, it has got me thinking. Websites where you can order food don’t go into hygiene. Maybe they should? Maybe people who occasionally think too much like me would appreciate this information to hand.

food hygiene rating 5

Have you ever checked the hygiene rating before ordering a takeaway? I have to say, I was surprised with the results, and it’s definitely made me think about what I’m eating. If anything, it’s made me think about buying meals from supermarkets rather than put my business their way, if we really want someone else to do the food prep for us (and thankfully we have a Cook store in Banstead which isn’t too far out of the way.

You can search here at the Food Standards Agency website. It makes interesting reading, anyway.

22 Mar

Project 365 – Week 12

Sunday 15th March. Mother’s Day. Which is absolutely fine, but any chance of a lie-in and relaxing wasn’t going to happen as H had her Rainbows parade and I was helping. She enjoyed it, in fact all her group were brilliant as they had to sit on the floor for the entire service. Afterwards we went to the Honeywood Museum by Carshalton Ponds, somewhere we haven’t been since it got done up, and somewhere H enjoyed while learning about the history of Carshalton. Shaun met up with us after that so we headed to Costa for a drink and some cake. Yum! It was a nice calm day, much needed after the hectic day before.

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Monday 16th March. Back to work, back to Rainbows, and another badge for H. So that’s more sewing and then I spotted them – TWO stains on the shirt. One was fairly easily removed, the other may need a bit more sun on it to bleach it out. At least it’s not warm enough to wear just the shirt, so it doesn’t matter too much.

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Tuesday 17th March. H’s home learning has been to take in 30p in 10p pieces which you would think would be easy, what with having a penny jar. EXCEPT. Every single penny is a 1p, 2p or 5p. I managed to find three 10p pieces but next week I’ve got to remember to get some change as we have nothing now. Uuuh!!

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Wednesday 18th March. Went to the gym tonight, and on getting back, H had grabbed around fifteen toys, and held on tightly to them as she slept. She was like this for hours! I eventually managed to prise them away, but did find it rather cute she had them all snuggled up with her.

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Thursday 19th March. I went out this evening, to a friends house with some other friends. It was great to get out. We chatted away until gone 11pm, I got home and realised I hadn’t taken a photo, so this one is called ‘dirty stop out’ even though I don’t go out very often!

spotty converse

Friday 20th March. Ah, the eclipse. Or rather, the anticlimax in London, as it was so cloudy. At the point of the eclipse, four of us were stood outside, it happened, came and went and you couldn’t really tell thanks to the cloud. Anyway, it was a good excuse to get one of my workmates to take a photo of me in a similar spot to where I was stood during the 1999 eclipse. That is not coffee in my cup – it’s hot water – much needed as it was SO chilly.

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Saturday 21st March. My old friend Jos had a party – and we love going as we get to catch up with loads of lovely people. Add to that the parties are always child-friendly so H always enjoys herself and we had a great time. The journey to West Hampstead is an easy one as we get the one train all the way, however the home leg wasn’t so good as someone had been hit by a train further up the line, leading to cancellations. We eventually got the 10pm train home, and H did brilliantly given how late it was, sleeping on my knee for most of the journey home! She was pleased as there were other kids there to play Hide and Seek with, as well as Jos’s fine selection of children’s books which she enjoyed reading. 

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20 Mar

T-Rex Terror – A Dino Supersaurus Story!

As part of our Parragon Book Buddies we get sent a new book every month – I started out having cookery books which were fab, but found that there’s one true bookworm in our house – H. She gets through 200 page paperback books in a couple of days, and loves to read. I was excited when Parragon offered us ‘T-Rex Terror – The Supersaurus Legend Begins’ from their Dino Supersaurus range, as H has recently had dinosaurs as a topic at school and it’s something she enjoys to read about.

T-Rex Terror book cover

T-Rex Terror – The Supersaurus Legend is set out like a comic strip which makes it really appealing and fun to read – and in case you didn’t know, a Supersaurus is a cross between a dinosaur and a superhero. The book has already become one of H’s favourites.

New Dino City is a dinotropolis in dino-danger! The tyrant tyrannosaur T-Rex and his army of ninja raptors are trying to take over the city – and there’s only one thing which can stop them – The Supersaurs!

H reading T-Rex Terror

I really like that the front of the book lists the Supersaurs (and the Sinistaurs) so if you’re new to the series like we are, you get an idea of the main characters. One of H’s best friends loves the Dino Supersaurus series (and dressed as one for World Book Day) – so I know some book swapping will happen soon.

The story itself is fun, H enjoyed it  and at £5.99 it’s reasonably priced too.  You can buy T-Rex Terror from all good bookstores and Amazon too.

15 Mar

Project 365 – Week 11

We’ve had a busy week, and it has been great – although it has flown by.

Sunday 8th March. We went to Thorpe Park. Our Christmas present from Shaun’s mum and dad were Merlin Passes, and they had their annual Merlin weekend. We got our tickets and arrived just after 10am, got on a few rides, met with friends and had a brilliant time. I was surprised at how much there was for younger children as Thorpe Park has always been billed as something for older kids – and H got to be properly scared for the first time in her life, finally understanding that grown ups are weird (we enjoy being scared like that), and that rollercoasters are tons of fun!

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Monday 9th March. Back to work, and so on and so on. I was sent the Blue Peter book awards finalists books, all of which are wonderful and I know we’re going to end up buying more by some of the authors. I picked up Chris Riddell’s Goth Girl book for World Book Day for H at the end of the week. 

blue peter book finalists

Tuesday 10th March. After school H and I had dentists appointments, though the best part of that was the nice weather and a run to the park where the old Air Raid Shelter is all grassed over and filled in, the perfect hill to go down on a sledge (it just hasn’t snowed properly here for at least two years – since I bought my sledge, in fact).

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Wednesday 11th March. The Book Trust want us to take a photo of our bookshelves, to help promote their #shareyourshelfie campaign – plus it’s really easy to donate. This is H’s bedside shelf which is packed full of books that have been read many times, or that she’s mid-way through. I donated £3 to them by texting ‘BOOK10 £3′ to 70070.

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Thursday 12th March. Last Friday H had Book Character Day at school, where all the teachers dressed as Hogwarts teachers. This got H a bit more curious about Harry Potter which we’ve chatted about a few times and I’ve pre-warned her could be scary. I gave away my copy of the first book so bought it again (had to make sure the covers match my other ones) and she’s enjoying it so far. So I guess this means we may need to look into the Hogwarts Tour at some point when she’s finished it.

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Friday 13th March. I have new purple shoes. I got over my fear of colours and wore them for work on Friday. They have little holes in the front which air gets into, almost like I’ve got air conditioned holes in there. It’s lovely!

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Saturday 14th March. Chessington. The second Merlin passholders preview weekend and a chance to properly discover the area – plus we’re only 30 minutes up the road. We got on tons of rides and had a brilliant time. It was so quiet most rides had a 15 minute maximum queue – or in Sea Storm’s case, you could get straight back on it. It was great for getting on the more popular rides quickly as I’m sure once it gets sunny some will have an hour’s wait. I think we’ve nearly made back the money on the Merlin Passes too – just a trip to Legoland and I think we’ll be in credit! Shaun and H are pictured on Sea Storm – a simple little ride but loads of fun. The best thing about Chessington was it didn’t aggravate my back on the rides, so we all had a brilliant time and I got involved – in fact, a few times all three of us were on the rides. Fantastic.

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