In the upcoming weeks…

This year is going to be a much quieter one as far as treats and things go.

Last year was a pretty crazy one – we did loads of fun things and often did them if we happened to be somewhere. It was all very last minute.

This year there are still some good things happening, and as usual H doesn’t know half of them.

dick and dom live

Coming up next month we’re going to see Dick & Dom live at St Albans Arena. I’m quite looking forward to this as Dick & Dom in Da Bungalow was my hangover choice of programme back in the nineties. Shaun also appreciates their very daft sense of humour. Seeing as they’re still going strong and have found a big new fan in H, I think she’s going to love it. I just hope we don’t get too messy..  sounds like it could be. We’ve got to get the Thameslink home…!

After that Annie returns to London. We saw the touring production twice, both times with Lesley Joseph as Miss Hannigan. This time it’s going to be Miranda Hart – she’ll make a fantastic Miss Hannigan (and she also sounds pretty excited about it too). So we’re looking forward to that – we’re going in May. You can book tickets now! There’s lots of information over on the Facebook page of the production.

miranda hart in Annie

I really like SeatPlan – it’s a site where you can add reviews of your seat at the theatre, and it’s handy for working out the best places to sit. I’ve added a few reviews over the last few years but haven’t won any free tickets yet!

If we’re lucky then we may be able to squeeze a trip to see School of Rock around my birthday. I don’t celebrate my birthday any more, It’s more fun celebrating other people’s. H and Shaun seem to enjoy celebrating mine though so I have to do something to keep them happy. This should.

The theatre isn’t our only love. There’s also football. Next weekend FA Cup Giantkillers of the 2010’s Sutton United take on FA Cup Giantkillers of the mid-80’s (aka my home team), York City. So I’m taking H to her first York game* as Sutton United is a very short train journey away.

Wembley Stadium SSE giant sponge hands

We have tickets as usual for the Women’s FA Cup final on the 13th May because they always do such a good deal for Wembley, though if York continue their cup run maybe they’ll make it back there too. I’d rather they concentrated on the league…. that would be the week after the FA Cup Final.

I haven’t mentioned that I’ve put H and I down for more tickets to see Adele – this time at Wembley Stadium. Wembley-blooming-stadium. This is that shy girl that was shown around work back in 2007 or something, getting introduced to everyone before she had put out any music. Now look at her. Blimey.

So that’s it so far…. a few things to keep us busy. Add to that an active PTA that I’m part of, plus all the responsibilities with Brownies that I’ve got and things are really busy here – it’s all good!

* strictly speaking H has been to a York City game, when we were in the play off final at Wembley. I was about six or seven months pregnant at the time… that counts, right?

Mini Rumpus – Woodland Tales at The Vault, London

We visited The Vault in the arches underneath Waterloo Station today, to see what Mini Rumpus – Woodland Tales was about. Billed as a fun event for children up to age 11, it felt suitable for H, and it had a bar, so suitable for Shaun and I too!

Mini Rumpus The Vault

Mini Rumpus – Woodland Tales is happening this weekend – so if you’re reading this and it isn’t the 4th or 5th March, you’ve missed it – but never fear, it will be back. It’s a quirky event in an equally quirky venue.

The Vault makes me think of clubs where you have an area made into a creative space for everyone to use. Mini Rumpus – Woodland Tales definitely does this. It’s a great space!

Mini Rumpus Tell Tale Tusk

In the main room there are live bands – at the end Tell Tale Tusk played some lovely tunes (including a cover of The Cure’s Lullaby) – by then we were tired and had got seats in the upstairs bar area which gives you a great view of the stage. Shaun and H had a game or three of Connect 4 as well!

Mini Rumpus Mask Decorating

There are craft rooms too. The main room had loads of bits to decorate a mask you’re given at the start. After that we went to the main craft room. They had run out of headbands for rabbit ears so she made do with a dream catcher (which she loves!). You could also do pom poms or some painting.

Mini Rumpus upstairs bar

There are three bars. One is upstairs (with a view of the stage), one is at the back of the main hall (without a view) and the other is in the food area.

One table in the food area had Mario Kart Double Dash set up, so H got to have a play on it with a random boy. Us parents were wanting a go as well, and did get a chance! (I suspect if it was on purpose, it was the only child-friendly game – nice touch though!)

The face painting lady was brilliant. She costs £5 for children and was quick too. H chose to be a dog (after I persuaded her not to be Yoshi as the lady was so good!) and looked fabulous!

Mini Rumpus crafts

For four hours in an area which has its own buggy area, plus has a cloakroom (£1 for kids coats, £2 for adults) and the bars, it’s pretty good. I spotted tickets are available at LittleBird too, so you can make some savings there.

Mini Rumpus groovy lights

Mini Rumpus – Woodland Tales has a jamming area, beatboxers on the main stage, an under 5’s area too. As well as this there was a man designing t-shirts with whatever you want on it (£8) and a lady selling wall hangings. There is LOADS going on and plenty of time to do it.

DJ Sets in between each act came from DJ Charlie Chuckles who played plenty of child-friendly tunes.

Mini Rumpus figs in wigs linedancing

There was a bit of line dancing by some ladies dressed as cows, Figs in Wigs.

Mini Rumpus – Woodland Tales is on this weekend – for more information head here.

Shaun said to me he thought this would be something H was getting too old for. We asked her afterwards. “I loved it! I really enjoyed being in the little room upstairs, playing games and listening to the music. Oh and I really loved the Kazoo’s at the end”

Mini Rumpus kazoo orchestra

Yes, there was a Kazoo Orchestra, and H got one which she HAS NOT STOPPED PLAYING! Wah. But she’s happy! My ears……

We received guestlist places to attend Mini Rumpus – Woodland Tales – thank you for the opportunity!

Mini Rumpus Trailer 2017 from Rumpus Party on Vimeo.

Painshill Park – We Returned and Found Our Happy Place Again

Painshill Park is somewhere we’ve visited since H was a baby. It’s in Cobham, up the road from Claremont Landscape Gardens. We haven’t been for a couple of years, so put this to rights recently.

Painshill Park view from Turkish Tent

Painshill Park and Claremont are both landscape gardens, and have similarities. Painshill Park has some unique features which make it a place we love going back to – though it has been some time.

Painshill Park looking towards the five arch bridge

Imagine some gardens which have random things built in them because that was the done thing when you’re a wealthy person. So you build a ruin because you can. Or you build a Turkish Tent because it looks great on top of a hill. Then there’s the Gothic Tower, which has fabulous views. Lest we forget the wonderful Crystal Grotto which is now restored and looks amazing.

Painshill Park Crystal Grotto

We used to go on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day as one parent would get in for free, which would keep costs down. We’re now Historic Houses Association members, so can now go whenever we want. It was a sunny day, the kind where you aren’t wrapped up which meant we had to get back to Painshill Park.

Painshill Park

It hasn’t changed, but there are changes. The Crystal Grotto is now restored and looks so much better for it.

The Temple of Bacchus is being recreated and will complete in July this year – that’s going to be one to go back for.

Painshill Park Gothic Tower

Over at the Gothic Tower there are big changes. I don’t remember there being toilets there before, but there are now. There’s a small pop-up cafe on the first floor which has a good selection of food which you can take out. That section of Painshill Park isn’t so isolated any more. I even made it to the top of the tower to check out the views for the first time.

Painshill Turkish Tent and Five Arch Bridge

My favourite view is from the Turkish Tent, looking across to the Gothic Temple. You can see the serpentine lake, and in the middle the island where the Crystal Grotto lives.

Painshill Park Woollett Bridge

What I’ve always liked about Painshill Park is how almost everything is accessible. There are areas which would be difficult for people with mobility issues or buggies, but Painshill have alternative routes. But bear in mind the Gothic Tower has a spiral staircase to the top. While it’s a lovely walk it might be worth having a baby carrier if you want to climb the tower.

It’s a lovely day out, a picturesque walk and even though you’re right by the A3 and the M25, there isn’t any noise from cars. I love Painshill Park.

For more information head here.

Painshill Park reflections

Country Kids

World Thinking Day 2017 – Girl Guiding Fun

Every year on the 22nd February Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and onwards celebrate World Thinking Day. I’ve always found it a fun day and am so happy the tradition continues to this day. Here’s what we did for World Thinking Day 2017.

World Thinking Day 2017 badge

World Thinking Day 2017 was the 22nd February. All Guides of all ages celebrate it – from Rainbows to leaders. It’s a day to think about other Guides around the world. Besides this, you can wear your uniform to school if you get permission from the head teacher.

This year felt like a big deal – the majority of schools came on board and said children could wear their uniforms. I would say most of our group did – and they loved telling us about it as well.

Our meeting was the day after Thinking Day, and I thought it would be good to post about what we did.

I signed up to the forums at Guiders.co.uk. A lot of other groups from around the world were asking if anyone would like to swap cards or postcards. I’m also part of a Brownie leaders group on Facebook so found loads of other groups to swap with there.

I also messaged Facebook friends with children of a similar age to H to see if they knew anyone. I got a couple of troops in the US which when I told the girls, they were pretty excited about.

World Thinking Day 2017 Quiz and dot to dot

Once we’d had pow wow, the girls went into their sixes. I found a quiz on the internet for Thinking Day, each six got a copy of the Brownie Adventures book to find the answers. It made me happy to see them all work as a group and make sure everyone got a turn to answer a question. This gave us time to set up the next task – writing the postcards!

I bought some simple postcards from WH Smith – you can buy packs of 25. I printed out some World Guide Badges which the girls could stick onto their cards if they wanted, or they decorate the card. The content was their choice. The girls had read cards from other groups they knew what kind of things to write.

Thinking Day Brownies Around the World

Our main leader picked up some girl shapes from Poundland (12 for £1). I found some pictures of uniforms from other countries and printed them out for each six, laminating them for future use. I made sure the pictures were on both sides.

Each girl could choose which uniform they wanted to copy and had a choice of eight different ones.

Some girls were quicker at this than others so we had a World Guiding Badge dot to dot for them to fill in. If they finished that then they help others in their six.

World Thinking Day 2017 dolls

To finish off we had a World Thinking Day Candle Ceremony which is a nice way to finish the day. With us having 25 Brownies there it took a long time; In future we’ll send the girls through in twos!

I enjoyed celebrating World Thinking Day 2017. It was a good excuse to get my old Brownie and Guide Badges out as well!

The theme for World Thinking Day 2017 is GROW. I’d like to think that our meeting has helped our Brownies grow their knowledge of other girls in other parts of the world doing the same as them.

I’m hoping that next year we’ll get more Brownies from other countries! If you’re reading this and you’re a leader drop me a message as we would love to swap cards again.

I’m a leader in training at our local Brownies. Thank you to all the Guiding Resources linked above who have these fantastic ideas for Thinking Day!

The Everything Machine by Ally Kennen

Imagine if you had access to a machine which could make anything at all. The first thing you get your machine to do is make sweets, of course. A neverending supply of sweets. The Everything Machine by Ally Kennen is a story where this happens. But it wouldn’t be much of a story if it was about a machine that made sweets, so here’s our review.

The Everything Machine by Ally Kennen

The Everything Machine by Ally Kennen comes from Scholastic and is out now. In the book we meet eleven year old Olly, who receives a special delivery – a 3D printing machine. There’s a problem though, the machine has stamped on it ‘PROPERTY OF M.O.D and BRITISH SPACE AGENCY. WARNING. DO NOT TAMPER’ which when you’re eleven means you may as well have a go when nobody is around, right?

The Everything Machine blog tour banner

Even better, it prints anything Olly asks it to. So that’s a constant supply of sweets, a swimming pool for the shed and one other thing that Olly wants – his dad. His parents have separated and his dad moved out of the family home. So Olly with his brother and sister, Stevie and Bird created a Dad-bot.

H enjoyed reading The Everything Machine by Ally Kennen. We received the book when she was ill from school, and she had finished it by the end of the day.

H says “I liked this book because it’s funny but also dramatic.”

I asked her how it was dramatic, what happened?

“Bird tells Olly and Stevie to stop when they’re creating the Dad-bot. She warns them but the boys decide to carry on. She thinks she has added too many wires.”

What about the funny part – which bit did you find funny?

“At one point the Dad-bot ruins Stevie’s room when he asks him to tidy it up – that bit was quite funny!”

Would you recommend The Everything Machine by Ally Kennen to any of your friends?

“It would appeal to 7-10 year olds. I hope there will be more books about the Everything Machine!”

You can follow Ally Kennen over here, or over on Twitter here. This is Ally’s first book for younger readers, as she has written several books for teens – we’re hoping there’ll be more!

Ally Kennen

 

We’re part of a blog tour – check out the other reviews. Thank you for letting us join in – H had lots of fun reading the book – and also left a review in her own words over at Toppsta! The Everything Machine by Ally Kennen is available at all good bookstores and Amazon (affiliate link)

 

Controlling H’s Pocket Money with GoHenry

A friend recommended GoHenry to me – a bank card designed for kids. I hold my hands up, I am rubbish at remembering to give H pocket money, and that isn’t how it should be. So we ordered a GoHenry card to see if it would work for us.

GoHenry card

GoHenry is for children aged 6-18. They get a bank card, something which I never had at H’s age. Then again I didn’t get £40 in birthday money either. I didn’t want her walking around with a load of cash in her purse – she’s pretty good at losing things. We added the £40 balance to her GoHenry card and it arrived a few days later.

You get three months free at the start, which is a good time to work out if it’s the right thing for you. After that you pay £2.49 a month (and you can cancel at any time). That sounds pretty steep, but after thinking about it we’ve decided to go for it. Here’s my reasons why:

• I often forget to give H pocket money. I can set GoHenry to add the funds to her card every week on a Saturday. It is doing all my remembering for me, which is a good thing.

• It’s a contactless card. This is good as none of us need to remember a PIN number. Not everywhere does contactless, but it’s a help.

• We’ve set up extra tasks around the house. She’s working to earn an extra 50p a week, which I have to authorise. She’s motivated by this and wants to take on more tasks too. I also get a reminder on a Friday night as – you guessed it – I would forget otherwise. That works out quite handy, as we can all sit and chat about whether she has earned any extra money.

• I get an alert on my phone every time she buys anything. Shaun took her to the Science Museum this week, and I got an alert on my phone when she spent any money. I added another £1 as I thought she might want to buy more there.. and I could do all that from the app on my phone. The account can’t go overdrawn either.

• She feels pretty grown up at 7 to have her own bank card. She loved using it to buy things when we went away for a short break last October.

• If you wanted family to give money for a birthday (my mum often sends a cheque when she isn’t sure what to buy H), you can pass on the sort code and account number and they can credit the GoHenry account.

• There is an app. This is handy for someone like me who does most of her important stuff on the train to and from work every day.

• I can top up the card from the app, or set a monthly amount by bank transfer. Bank transfers and Standing Orders are free with GoHenry cards. Adding the funds via your debit card cost you 50p so I have a £10 transfer going to the account each month which is free. I need to encourage her to earn more bonuses…

• If you recommend a friend they get a customised card and you plus the person recommending gets £5 added to their account. You get three months free as well which is good for working out if the card is for you. I’ve had one so far so that’s two months free use which appeals to my money saving needs! This is my referral link.  The reward is given after the card has been activated.

I like that it’s giving H a sense of saving money, working to earn a bit extra and that we’re in control of it. She still has cash so it isn’t like she’s leaving that behind.

From ordering, the GoHenry card arrived within a couple of days.

Most of all, H is now saving her money to buy specific things (read : a spending spree in Smiggle). She seems to have changed how she thinks about money since we got the card.

I like that GoHenry has been created by parents for parents. They have good partners that back up the company. While you’re not going to earn lots of interest having your cash there (that’s what savings accounts are for), I think it’s a good place to start kids thinking about spending their money wisely. Or not. If they’re anything like H you can never have enough £1 creepy crawlies around the house…

Reading Eggs – A Reading Tool for Children

Reading Eggs is a website that endeavours to help children to read quickly, in a fun and engaging way.

I’m sure that most parents, of a primary school aged child, will appreciate the pressure that is on children to learn to read.  My son, J, started reception in September, unable to read and barely able to write. However, by July, he will be expected to read well and be able to write a sentence or two. Frankly, to me anyway, this is scary stuff.

Now I am a complete bookworm and very keen for my boys to discover how fantastic reading can be. As a result, I had been curious about Reading Eggs but had never gone as far as to try it. I was excited to be given a years free access to the site and the Mega Book Pack to really explore and see what it was all about.

I will be completely honest. J is knackered, and still getting to grips with his full days at school. I will admit to being a little hesitant at giving him more school type things to do in the evening. However, in the name of research, I was willing to give it a go, as long as he wasn’t too tired or resistant.

On browsing the Reading Eggs site, I was very keen to get J on there to see his first impressions. The site itself is very engaging, bright and friendly. As his computer skills are just emerging, it was nice to see that everything is very user friendly and self explanatory. He only needed a little adult guidance in the beginning. Each of the initial levels concentrate on one letter at a time. These letters, and the sounds they make, are studied thoroughly, but not to the point of tedium, before moving onto the next level.

Reading Eggs J1Reading Eggs J2

J really enjoyed his time on the Reading Eggs site. He was giggling when the marshmallow mouse came out,  at the end of the first level, and at various other things. In the end, we spent a lot longer than we had planned to spend on there. J was very put out when I insisted it was very much time for bed!

After bed time, I came down to find an email from Reading Eggs with suggested homework. The homework focuses on the most recent lessons learnt, and easy ways that this can be supplemented at home.

Two weeks on and he is still hooked. I love the fact that J also has his own personal Avatar for the site. This is something that he really enjoyed making, and he gets excited to see, every time he switches on. J loves Reading Eggs, most days asking ‘can I do my eggs Mummy’ whilst his little brother goes to bed. It’s really nice to spend this time together, knowing that he is learning in a way that is fun to him.

Reading eggs are currently offering a four week free trial to the online subscription. Please click here if you would like to register. Offer is available until the 31st March 2017.

The Lego Batman Movie – Our Review

Yesterday we went to a preview of the Lego Batman Movie. Most cinemas are offering a preview screening this weekend. It’s a film we’ve all wanted to see for a while now!

The Lego Batman Movie

The Lego Batman Movie comes from the same team who created The Lego Movie. As this is one of H’s favourite films it had potential to be a winner again. Generally if H likes a film she’s demanding we buy the DVD as we leave the theatre, and yet again she requested this.

So, what is it all about? Bruce Wayne is at a gala where the new mayor of Gotham is being unveiled, Barbara Gordon. Barbara declares that Gotham no longer needs Batman. He keeps saving the city, but the villains keep coming back, making it the most crime-ridden city ever. She suggests she takes over law enforcement as she is highly trained. Batman is sidelined, but eventually Barbara realises that Gotham needs Batman. She suggests they work as a team.

BUT.

Batman works alone. He does not work as part of a team. Even his newly adopted son Dick Grayson and Alfred Pennyworth are not a part of his team.

Which is the message in this film. The Lego Batman Movie is about how much you need friends to get things done and work together. Sometimes you might even need your enemies to be a part of that team…

Oh, and what brilliant enemies make an appearance too – I won’t spoil things.

Will Arnett voices Batman again, with voice appearances from Michael Cera as Robin, Ralph Fiennes as Alfred Pennyworth, Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon and Zach Galifianakis as The Joker.

We popped into The Entertainer on the way home as there are Lego Batman Movie characters available in their latest range (£3 each, you don’t know which one you’re getting). Harley Quinn on Lego rollerskates eludes us for now…

So, our final thoughts on the Lego Batman Movie. We loved it! As I said before, H has demanded we buy the DVD when it comes out. Shaun and I were laughing out loud at several bits of the movie – it’s the little background touches. Two Shades of Grey at the Lego Movie (well, there are in Lego aren’t there), and a proper laugh out loud at the number plate on Bruce Wayne’s automobile. There are many things like this which you have to be quick to spot.

It’s a fun, cheeky, daft, hilarious movie with a message and best of all, classed a U so suitable for all. It references many different Batman moments throughout the years too. Oh, and I have to say a fabulous eighties soundtrack and references too.

The Lego Batman Movie gets a big thumbs up from us.

With our Tastecard Plus tickets worked out at £5.75 for adults and child ticket £4.50. We saved around £15 in total which is a great saving.

The Lego Batman movie opens on February 10th 2017. There are advance screenings in most cinemas this weekend. For more info head here.

It’s going to be a brilliant Lego Batman Movie computer game too – can’t wait.

In the meantime why not have a go at the Lego Batman Selfie Builder?

Beddington Park – The Swans Need Our Help

Beddington Park is one of our many local parks. It has football pitches, an outdoor gym, a play area, a great cafe and a huge area to walk around. Within this huge area is a lake, populated by ducks, geese and swans. Recently, this note appeared.

Beddington Park swans notice 2017

We decided to have a walk around there. Despite living so close to the park I’d never spent a lot of time around that part of it. We had some bread and it made sense to try and do what we could.

Beddington Park

When we arrived at the park it was cold. The kind of cold where if you keep walking you warm up, but a hats and gloves kind of cold where you need to wrap up well. H was on her scooter, she had wanted to cycle around the park but having been ill the previous week I suggested she should take it easy!

Shaun was horrified as we drove there… but it made sense parking near the Pavilion Cafe so we could have some lunch there afterwards. This gave us plenty of time to stretch our legs, feed the swans and try and find some cygnets.

Beddington Park

There’s a big bridge which goes over the lake, ideal for looking for cygnets. Unfortunately we couldn’t see any. There were swans, so we fed them, hoping that it was enough.

Beddington Park

It was good to get outdoors again. H had three days stuck inside as she had a temperature that wasn’t shifting. I’d worked from home for two of those days, and Shaun did one day. We needed to breathe again, but not go too far. There’s so much to do at Beddington Park – even if it’s walking around, scooting around, playing or having a quick spot of lunch there. There are even BBQ’s dotted around the park which you can use (although I wouldn’t fancy it in this weather).

Beddington Park

The full text of the letter in Beddington Park :

HELP NEEDED PLEASE
The swans on the pond are struggling as they are so hungry. The adults are coming and going as they are quicker to realise there is little natural food for them. The cygnets are still learning.

Having sought guidance from the Swan Sanctuary please feel free to feed them bread despite what you have been told.

To share fairly I take a full loaf and skim the slices individually across the water. Someone will no doubt say to you that bread is no good for them. They’ve got little else at the moment so let’s help by at least feeding them.

Rita Mullins
Chairman
Friends of Beddington Park

Beddington Park

Country Kids

Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond by Sam Hearn

Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond is the first fiction series that Sam Hearn has written and illustrated. We are taking part in a blog tour, here’s our review.

Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond

Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond is a story about John Watson starting the Baker Street Academy. While there he meets Sherlock Holmes and Martha Hudson, and the three of them try and solve a mystery.

The story tells through various ways which appealed to H. She liked the comic book illustrations and detective notes. You also read the story through school assignments, media reports and Watson’s blog.

Holmes and Watson go on a school trip to one of London’s top museums which is home to the world’s most famous jewel, the Alpine Star. But, someone has stolen the jewel.

They find the jewel, and the police close the case. Yet Sherlock Holmes isn’t so sure that it should be. John and Martha work with him to try and solve the mystery.

Our copy of Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond arrived on a day H was off sick from school. Until the postie had arrived she had been ambling from one activity to the next, not focused on anything. Since she started reading the book she hasn’t put it down. It’s a winner here.

It’s a nice easy read, and with the pages laid out like they are, it makes it a good attention-grabber. There’s plenty going on inside.

H says “I like that it’s like a comic strip, but also like a book. It’s half comic strip, half book. I like the detail in the pictures and how everything is in a logical way”

I asked her what she means by logical

“so it makes sense” she replied. “I like the blog part too.”

I asked her about the story

“They find the jewel, but it’s a fake. I like how Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and Martha Hudson all realise this and work out how to find the real one.”

I like how the start of the book has a few pages of character introductions. That kind of thing helps me a lot!

In summary, Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond is a good, fun read which she hasn’t put down. H recommends it for 7-10 year olds who like books that have mysteries in them which get solved.

We have one final question. Who is Sam Hearn….?

Just Who is Sam Hearn

Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond is published by Scholastic. You can buy it now from all good booksellers, plus of course, Amazon. (affiliate link)

Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond Blog Tour