Not long now and we’ll be heading back to Wembley for the Women’s FA Cup Final 2018. This will be our fourth year going; I’m filled with delight that this year it’s on a different day to Eurovision. At last!
Tickets are on sale right now for the Cup Final, as SSE customers we bought ours via SSE Rewards – it has cost us £15 total at a 50% discount. I also entered H into a competition to be a mascot but I suspect we’ll have no luck on that front.
Things are looking interesting on the football front too; our Crystal Palace Wildcats are back after a short Easter break. It looks like SSE and the FA have put even more money into the Wildcats clubs and making even more available to join. One has even opened in Carshalton, although we’re sticking with our Caterham gang!
It is almost a year since H joined Wildcats. She’s still enjoying going every week, and at £3 a time it isn’t expensive. It’s also a lot more enjoyable for us parents now the weather is warmer. Standing out in the cold has been quite hard at times in the past! She has made loads of new friends. I love that she isn’t with school friends so has different circles of friends now.
Oh, and this isn’t just about H – we’ve made some friends too which is great!
We love going to Wembley. We’re sad we haven’t got to see Tottenham play there, though we’re looking forward to visiting the new White Hart Lane.
I love that more opportunities are opening up for girls, here’s our local flyer. It is worth having a go. The more groups of Wildcats girls there are, the more girls will end up playing against each other and having even more fun. Football has done wonders for H, and I’m so happy there are more groups opening up.
Here’s hoping this year’s SSE Women’s FA Cup Final is a record-breaking crowd!
You’re eight. You’re standing at the foot of a tree, a very big tree. It might be as tall as a house, maybe even taller. At the top is a ledge, a small ledge with an instructor waiting for you. All you have to do is climb to the top using the ladder and the large staples. Once you get to the top you zipwire down. Can you do it?
That’s H’s PGL experience – or one of them – summed up.
PGL Adventure holidays are a whole new experience for us. We went to Marchants Hill for our Brownie camp, taking just ten girls. You let PGL know what sort of activities you want to do and they tailor them accordingly. We asked for confidence and team building, and on the second day we found ourselves on a foggy Sunday morning standing by the zipwire.
We were moved from the two slightly easier accessible by stairs ones – which left us unsure whether our girls would complete it. In the end only half managed – but the ones that did had the time of their life. Some girls surprised me because I didn’t think they’d do it, but they had the determination. H was one of them.
It was high – any zipwire expert knows you need to start high to get a good run. H said she got half way and felt terrified. She didn’t want to continue. But then she also thought about it rationally, she didn’t want to come down either as that looked pretty difficult. So she kept on going, looked down to me when she got to the top (for reassurance) and then dealt with the final hurdle, getting off the platform. The instructor had H shouting over to the other zipwire instructor (something like “Craig is a muppet”), and once the giggles took over she was ready, and that was that.
That to me is what the PGL experience is about. It’s what you make it. If you want to do something then only you can be the one who does it. Being part of a team and having a go is so important. If it’s an individual task then having a go can improve your confidence.
As a leader I could have joined in but chose not to, and to make it about the girls. I tried not to help as much as possible and let them work it out. Also – my back.
Other things we did include quad biking, raft building, buggy building and problem solving. Lots of different activities which involved water, knots, working together and laughter – very important.
Oh, and PGL has a songbook – you will learn many songs. They will probably involve Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or various fizzy soft drinks. Or toilet water. Or cow poo. They will make your child feel included.
The quad bikes are limited to 10mph. Once we got there the course was pretty small as well, just the right size. This was H’s favourite activity by a mile.
With a hearty breakfast, lunch and evening meal included we always felt well-fed and ready to face the day. You need to eat well and feed yourself more than usual as you’ll use a lot of energy walking around the PGL site. Each activity has a different instructor, and as they finish you’re returned to your main instructor who gets you to where you need to be on time.
The evening’s entertainment was organised for the girls, the first night we had a quiz night and the second a disco – this was the only time we were indoors too (apart from food breaks). This was a good excuse for us Brownie leaders to head to the bar on site and have a 30 minute break. The second night there was a free wine and cheese night – of course we went! The girls are looked after by their PGL leader and we’re always nearby thanks to it being a really well laid out area.
We visited PGL Marchants Hill for three days (two nights), at a cost of approximately £115 each. There are Girlguiding deals available. Generally for every six girls a leader goes free, and they offer additional discounts so it’s always worth asking.
When we asked each girl what they enjoyed the most about PGL everyone had something different – from learning knots and building something, to the zipwire. H’s favourite was the quad bikes!
It was a winter so cold, the coldest it had been for a long time. There was so much snow. I did the sensible thing and bought a simple plastic sledge from Trespass which cost me £10.
We were ready! Ready for whatever snow came – we could go sledging!
Except the next year there was no snow.
There was also no snow the following year.
The lack of snow was getting me down a bit, almost as much as when the snow starts to melt and become slush when it does appear. To make matters worse, almost everyone else everywhere in the UK seemed to be having snow. Unfair.
The following year we had snow! Not enough to sledge in though, just enough to make the world’s tiniest snowman. So we did.
The following year? No snow, of course. The sledge was put in the loft.
It must be around 2017 now and I was starting to forget I’d even bought the sledge. It got moved to the shed, a place where even more possessions go to be forgotten over the years (but slightly more accessible).
I thought about Freecycling it. Maybe that would bring the snow back to us here?
2018. The year of the snow. Our sledge from Trespass finally made its debut.
Five years is a long time to not use something and for it to gather dust in a cupboard.
Fortunately it has had two afternoons of optimum sledging after school. Once in Grove Park and then Carshalton Park where my daredevil child sledged down the Hog Pit Pond. It’s steep – she managed three or four goes. I missed it as I got home from work after they had left. It looks like this when there is no snow and is the place where the big bonfire happens each November as it’s such a big slope. It actually filled with water for the first time in years in 2014.
We went to our local park The Wrythe, the old Air Raid Shelters made a fantastic slope, and where I was able to catch Shaun and H up to join in. H managed at least 30 goes!
It’s fairly safe to say our sledge from Trespass has had a lot of use – at last!
Sutton Soup is a fantastic community led evening held in Sutton. It’s like Dragons Den without the dragons – indeed, YOU are the dragon. You get some soup and bread too.
Sutton Soup meets every quarter or so, is run by volunteers and is a good fun night out. Four groups pitch on the night and whoever gets the most votes gets to take away all the money. Now, if you do the maths, 200 or so people giving a suggested donation of £5 each works out at… well, a fair bit! At our night the total was just over £950 in the end.
So how does it work? Each group gets four minutes to pitch. After that you are asked up to four questions.
We bravely* stepped up in front of 200 people last week to pitch for some new camping equipment for our Brownie Unit. We also wanted to share with other units in the district, after all money is tight for everyone. In addition, we also wanted to buy a new flag as ours is quite old…. actually, it’s very old. So old that a Conservative councillor in attendance said she had probably carried it when she was a Brownie – and coincidentally she went to our unit!
The four minutes flew by – and what we thought was a carefully timed and rehearsed pitch wasn’t. We didn’t factor in laughter (yay! my joke was laughed at!!) and applause (the song at the start of our pitch) – and went slightly over by a few seconds.
At the end loads of ex-Brownies came up and chatted to us – most glad that Girlguiding still existed. Girlguiding is looking for volunteers so we brought leaflets in case anyone was interested. That’s the other thing – Sutton Soup is good for networking. Not that I’m in any way good at being at all businesslike, mind!
The next Sutton Soup is in April – you can find out more about them over at their website. It’s a great night out, you get soup and a bread roll and a really good feeling inside knowing a local cause has got some well-deserved money.
* I had a tight grip of H’s shoulders I was that nervous. Poor child!!
It’s New Year’s Eve and what are you going to do? Sit at home, relax, have a lie in, right? Or go to Hogwarts in the Snow at 9am that morning? Well of course we did the latter.
Hogwarts in the Snow is on at the moment at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour in Leavesden. We visited a year and a half ago and I felt like this was a big enough gap between visits. H has now seen all the films, with the Cursed Child play being the thing we haven’t seen.
Hogwarts in the Snow runs until late January and has the set decorated to look festive. There is also a chance to feel the different kinds of snow that was used when it was needed – as well as how fire and ice was made.
This consisted of boxes of the three different types of snow used in the films, the special effects used for ice, and how to recreate fire (which was slightly hot but not fire-hot). One type of snow was like grains of sand, whereas the more gloopy kind was the sort which you could make snowballs from. It’s another one of those things you wouldn’t think about when watching a film. A small part of Diagon Alley also had snow on it, showing some disappearing footprints.
For the first time, the set of the Main Hall is decorated like the Yule Ball, complete with Professor Flitwick and an orchestra.
The great thing about the Warner Brothers Studio Tour is how things change. The sets have been moved around to accommodate the Forbidden Forest since we last visited. It wouldn’t surprise me if things are changed around regularly, and indeed on chatting with a staffmember at the end, he confirmed that items from the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movies will be joining the Potter Universe. There’s an extension being built which will house it.
Let’s stop for a minute here. The last film was completed in 2011. Okay, so that’s only seven years ago – but everyone there was enjoying being there. Even Shaun! There is so much to take in that it’s impossible in one visit. There ware different exhibitions and features being added all the time.
The fact that something finished so long ago that still lives on, finding new fans all the time, well, that’s a great achievement.
I noticed changes from the last time we visited – just little tweaks but changes. H read absolutely everything again. Which took a long time – again! I’d love it if there was a guide you could buy at the end with all the information in there.
There were queues, but we were prepared for it after our last visit. I’d say we got through quicker in some areas too. We stopped for lunch at the Backlot Cafe whose only vegetarian burger option was a mushroom one (sob, not all vegetarians like mushrooms!). Fortunately there are sandwiches too.
As before, H got her passport to look for Golden Snitches and stamp each page when she had spotted them, and even though they were in the same places it still took a while to find them (another good reason to leave a gap between visits!).
The Forbidden Forest was great – and a welcome addition to the tour. Inside is a moving Hippogriff (of course) and several moving Acromantula. Not one for arachnophobics – fortunately we’re not!
Over in the second part of the studio tour was a section where it showed the different stages where Dobby was animated. I don’t remember from last time – and it was brilliant. Cue loads of happy kids getting Dobby to Dab. Try saying that quickly…
H got Dobby to do the Macarena. Or maybe it’s the locomotion. I have no idea which song was in her head at the time…
We managed to spend six hours at Hogwarts in the Snow in the end. The model of Hogwarts at the end all decorated in one of the types of snow used in the films was as ever, impressive.
If you plan to visit and haven’t been for a while, then I think you’ll get a lot from seeing Hogwarts in the Snow. I know we’ll be visiting again once the Fantastic Beasts ephemera has been added, and I can’t wait to see it!
We have been trying some Mazuri Kids Haircare products – a shampoo, conditioner and detangler.
Mazuri Kids Haircare products are organic. This is important as I’ve often found that what goes onto H’s head isn’t always the best. Shampoos that contain sulfates make my head itch, so I like to keep things as natural as possible for H too.
We don’t use conditioner as often as we should so were delighted to try the Mazuri Kids Olive Oil Sweetie Pie Detangling Conditioner. I loved the waves that came back to her hair; as a baby she had lovely curly ringlets. While the ringlets didn’t reappear, it definitely helped her hair’s appearance.
Mazuri Kids Olive Oil Sweetie Pie Softening Detangling Conditioner, has a blend of olive oil, blueberry extracts and silk protein which forms a softening,
detangling conditioner. Considering H’s hair is pretty tangly every day, this has definitely helped.
The Olive Oil Shampoozie Detangling shampoo is really gentle, has olive oil in it and I feel has really improved her hair. It’s always looking nice and shiny and healthy. Made from hydrating olive oil, honey and aloe vera extracts, it’s very soft and mild and helps her tangly hair. You only need a small amount too!
One thing we have big issues with is how tangly her hair gets. You can often find her screaming at me in the morning if I brush her hair with all the tangles. Add a bit of the Mazuri Kids Snookums 3 in 1 detangler to her hair and I have a happy girl.
Mazuri Kids haircare products are organic and made by mums for kids. They cost £2.97 each and a bottle lasts for ages. Given H washes her hair three times a week, we still have a lot left in our bottles!
We were sent the Mazuri Kids haircare products for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own. You can buy the products now from Morrisons and Tesco stores.
This summer we went back to Cornwall for a third year, and decided we’d stay at Coombe Mill. We join in with Country Kids as much as we can, and enjoy the outdoors. Just follow Coombe Mill’s Instagram and you’ll see the beautiful scenery and fun on the farm.
Coombe Mill is in St Breward, near Bodmin. It’s a working farm, something I had a lot of questions about, because I’m a curious person who likes to know stuff. I’ve often wondered if owning a farm and rearing your own animals means you could eat them. We soon found out that the animals without names were the ones which went! H was doing her Brownie ‘Friend to Animals’ badge there and learned a lot of facts which helped too.
We stayed in Trebah, a Scandinavian style lodge which was cosy and comfortable and had everything we needed. You have a washing machine and a dryer which came in handy as we had a lot of rain. We also had a wood burning stove which kept us really toasty on the more chilly nights.
Two doors down was The Boy and Me gang so H had a playmate, and over by the train tracks was Jo from Mummy Needs Wine. It was a proper blogger get-together!
So what does Coombe Mill offer? For H, freedom. We live in London and I get twitchy enough her going to post things at neighbours houses. We joined the feed run every morning, and H got to drive the tractor with Farmer Nick twice which she really enjoyed.
She learned facts about the animals, picked them up and by the end of the week was way more confident with them than at the start.
Bear in mind as we rent we can’t have pets, and she has never spent a chunk of time around animals this was a big deal for her. By the end of the week she was picking up hens and rabbits without a care. At the start of the week there were a few strops when they didn’t just magically come to her!
Coombe Mill is in a great location with several places close by. As ever we ran out of time to do everything we wanted to. We discovered the fabulous beach at Perranporth and are trying to plan next year’s holiday. That may be a part of it…
Coombe Mill is a great place to stay. It’s somewhere you could stay through the day and still have plenty to do. Aside from the feed run there’s the daily train ride from Coombe Halt which H insisted we HAD to go to. H even got a circuit on her own!
We loved watching the wild deer every morning on the feed run.
I loved opening the doors and listening to it all. The river, the birds, the animals. I started to breathe again, to relax. But then all of a sudden our week was over – it flew by! I wish you could bottle it up so I could have some to remind me of the calm.
The thing I loved the most was meeting parents every morning on the feed run and chatting. Everyone was so friendly – and H made new friends. She’s sending a Christmas card to a girl she met at Coombe Mill as they swapped addresses and write to each other.
Our last night we had an outdoor barbecue with the bloggers, and it was a lovely end to a lovely week. The kids all played around us, their age differences didn’t matter as they all got stuck in and enjoyed each other’s company. You can’t beat that as far as holidays go.
I’m a leader in training at Brownies at the moment. Volunteering with Girlguiding is my way of giving something back. There’s a huge shortage of volunteers, so if I can do something to change that then I feel like what I do is worthwhile.
Volunteering with Girlguiding can be time consuming. I look after our accounts, and since we had a recent change of systems also look after our Unit membership on Go! which is our main admin system. The other two leaders can’t get in. Let’s not talk about Gift Aid right now too… I’m not ready. I know it needs doing, it’s just getting to the point where I do!
Volunteering with Girlguiding is fun. The girls crack me up – intentionally and unintentionally. 7, 8 and 9 year olds are quite funny characters to be around.
Volunteering with Girlguiding is something I find myself enjoying and feeling like I’m making a difference. When I helped at Rainbows and left, and a girl did me a picture saying “you’re my favourite teacher” (!!!) I knew I was doing something right.
Volunteering with Girlguiding means I have to join in from time to time. Like last week when I pretended to be a dog. I didn’t roll over onto my back or anything, mind. Or that time I was bandaged up when we were doing the First Aid badge.
Volunteering with Girlguiding means that occasionally the Brownies step over the line, squirt me in the face with their water bottle and when I look at them sternly they say “but Snowy Owl, SHE told me to do it!” while running away laughing.
Volunteering with Girlguiding means giving support to girls who need it. The shy ones, the ones who might have difficulties in certain situations. The ones you know will be fine when they find that confidence.
The girls who have learning difficulties who tell you “I want to be a leader when I am old enough” makes you feel like you’re doing something right.
We encourage girls to be kind and to respect others.
I was a Brownie and a Guide and left Guides because I felt like I had done my bit. I loved every minute of Brownies.
Girlguiding has a shortage of volunteers right now. Our Unit waiting list is high, with many girls waiting to move up from Rainbows too. Another Unit here in Carshalton (or even running two units in one night) might solve the problem but there aren’t the people to run it.
Girlguiding has a campaign running at the moment, with a video to accompany it. The campaign is ‘Know Your Place’. Is your place helping the largest charity for girls in this country?
Then head here and register your interest. There are units desperate for help.
Volunteering with Girlguiding is telling a parent there’s no space for their daughter in our unit because there are so many girls who want to join, but not enough adults to make it happen. We’d love it if you could join us…
I think it’s worth adding this final note. Back, during the World War Girlguiding played a huge role in it. The skills the girls learned were essential to being a part of the people helping during the war. I’m reading a fascinating book, How the Girl Guides Won the War’ which goes into a lot of what happened. People, we’re training your girls with proper life skills here. Oh, and a few daft ones too, that helps keep it all fun.
Back in August we treated H and two of her friends to a trip to Kidzania for her birthday. We had no idea what to expect, so I’m hoping our Kidzania top tips will be useful for other first-timers.
Kidzania Top Tips.
Plan beforehand. I couldn’t find a map of what was where, but asked everyone to list their top 10 places they wanted to visit within Kidzania. I then collated everything so it meant we had an idea where to aim for once there. It also meant if somewhere they liked had a short queue we could do it.
Know that the plan will change – and that’s okay. In each four hour session your child is likely to do up to seven activities. H managed 9, her friends 8!
Keep an eye on queues and queue times. Sometimes it’s not worth it, and sometimes you can do an activity really quickly. Kidzania give you this information for each activity so you need to have maths skills ready.
We got a 9.30am slot, getting into the main Kidzania area by 9.45. The upstairs area didn’t open until 11am, and everything was really quiet at first – so things like the climbing wall had a 10 minute wait.
We were all given tracker watches. This means you should always know where each of you are. As you can see from the picture below, they weren’t always scanned in. Fortunately we stuck together the whole day, but worth bearing in mind. The watches will still track, but you will be unable to do any activities once your four hours are up.
Adults – be prepared to stand. Not all Kidzania activities have seating arrangements nearby. Keep an eye out for chairs. Your children are safe within Kidzania (you’re generally almost always behind a big glass window watching them), it becomes quite exhausting standing watching them.
There is a LOT there. You will not get everything done. You have to accept that if you do want to do more you will need to visit again. If you plan to visit a lot in a year there are annual passes.
Take snacks. Take advantage of queues and have a quick snack then – if you buy a meal within Kidzania you’re using up your valuable time!
You have a four hour timeslot. It is activated from the point you enter the main Kidzania area. You can go over your four hours but your tracker watch will no longer scan so you can’t do activities.
Kidzo’s – this is the Kidzania currency. You spend it to do fun activities and you earn it doing other fun activities. The penny dropped pretty quickly with our 8 year olds, and they found a good balance of earning and spending, with enough Kidzo’s left at the end to spend them in the Kidzania gift shop within the main area.
There’s an additional Kidzania gift shop when you’ve left the main area and handed back your tracker watch. By the time we got there we were exhausted!
When you’re 8 and you get to make chocolate, make wraps, be a vet, a midwife, a surgeon, climb a wall the size of a house, make smoothies, learn how to drum, be a fashion designer… it’s a pretty awesome day. Keep an eye out for deals too as there are often several around.
These are my Kidzania top tips. Have you been? Can you think of anything else I’ve forgotten? Let me know!
Ooh how we love Gel-a-Peel in this house. We were asked if we’d like to try the new Gel-a-Peel Colour Change kit and of course we said yes. We love a bit of colour changing round these parts!
The Gel-a-Peel Colour Change kit is available in stores now. You make your creations and hold them to the sun, and watch the colours change. Now… the weather hasn’t been the best of late so I haven’t been able to see our colours change. I’m working on it though!
There is one HUGE thing which I love with this Gel-a-Peel Colour Change kit – there is a tray template for bracelets. Both H and I are quite clunky when it comes to following the pattern for the bracelet fasteners. Now we can create them on the tray and gel them to our creations! Now that is ruddy marvellous and something which we both give a big thumbs up to.
There are two bracelet styles which we had a go at straight away. It makes such a difference having the tray as your guide too.
The Gel-a-Peel Colour Change kit comes with three tubes of gel, one (fabulous) tray plus 16 design templates, and five designer tips – 3 round, one rake and one star. There’s also the clear plastic sheet to use with the design templates.
An additional one this time is a necklace which is currently drying. We’ve made some little gel gems to hang from it too. H loves it!
If we have enough gel left we’re going to use the Gel-a-Peel Design studio and screen print onto a t-shirt – that should make an interesting design, especially if the colour changes from time to time.
The Gel-a-Peel Colour Change kit is available now. There is also a 2-Tone designer kit where your designs flow from dark to light which I suspect we’ll be buying once our gel tubes get empty.
I like that Gel-a-Peel can be used on several surfaces – from just adding emoji’s to books to decorating t-shirts, to even making your own purse. It’s a really versatile product with so many fun uses – and really brings out a lot of creativity in H.
Buy your Gel-a-Peel Colour Change kit over here (affiliate link) or from all good toystores now! It has a RRP of £17.50.
We received the Gel-a-Peel Colour Change kit for the purpose of review. All opinions are our own.