Olives

Olives

Djeema El Fna Olives stall

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Taking a young child to a museum

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Taking a young child to a museum could be a disaster. But if you time it right, be prepared and choose one that is family friendly, it can be a great way to spend time with your child. Most museums in the UK are free to enter (my favourite price). I’m not one to shy away from rainy days, I just stick a rain coat and some wellies on me and my son and we go out splashing in puddles, but when the weather is wet, windy, cold, miserable (refer to November-March) museums are a great way to get out of the house. On Saturday, I planned a visit to the Horniman museum in South East London. I gave my little Herbert a big breakfast, packed lots of snacks, spare clothes (potty training necessity) and we left the house by nine thirty. 

We got to Forest Hill by ten and found a free parking space on the road that runs down the side of the museum. There is a big park next to the Horniman and we walked through it to get to the entrance to the impressive building. I didn’t know too much about the place and I was surprised to learn at the ticket desk that there is a small aquarium in the basement. It was free for my little boy, a pound for my 4 year old nephew and £3 for an adult ticket. My son just loves looking at fish, any normal person could be in and out of the little aquarium in less than five minutes, but my boy spent about half an hour marvelling at the star fish, sea horses, jelly fish, salt water tank and froggies. 

Upstairs, there was a very large collection of taxidermy and at first I was a bit weirded out. After a few minutes of looking inquisitively at a stuffed fox, my son gave it a stroke. I decided, this is a great way to learn about animals, get up close to them and study the beautiful diversity of nature. Most of the animals are behind glass, aside from the cute little fox and a gigantic walrus. But you can’t get close enough to touch the 100 year preserved walrus as it is lollopped on a faux iceberg. It is quite fascinating to see an elephant’s skull, an ostrich egg and a cute as pie koala bear. Upstairs, there are sea life specimens and Jurassic fossils. My son didn’t really appreciate the display upstairs but he loved doing sprints around the gallery style mezzanine floor. 

After a number two accident, (my little boy not me), we went to change his clothes and I found a cloak room. There were lockers, you get a free token from the front desk and buggy parks. I offloaded our bags and coats and it was a breath of fresh air to walk around without being weighed down by a handbag full of toot. We ventured to the centenary exhibition and marvelled at the masks which led us through to an awesome African display of more masks and cultural trinkets. The grown ups were ready for a coffee and the kids were ready for some fresh air.

It was a beautiful sunny day and we got a coffee in the canteen in take-out cups. Outside, we sat on one of the many benches and stuffed our faces with chocolate croissants that I brought from home. We took a walk up towards the farmer’s market where there is a play park that boasts a giant set of bongoes, an enormous xylophone and an incredible view over to Battersea Power Station. We let the boys continue running up the hill where we found a little farmyard with the most adorable long haired little goat, fluffy bunnies, suspicious looking Alpaca and a colourful rooster. 

If you haven’t surmised from the blog so far, we had an amazing day. There weren’t that many people there and that really added to the enjoyment of the place, no crowds is rare when you go somewhere good. We spent a total of seven pounds! My son fell asleep on the way home at around 2pm with pastry crumbs on his face and rosy cheeks from running through the park. 

Teaching a toddler to dress themselves

On a recent dinner date with some girlfriends, I had everyone at the table in stitches by telling them my latest parenting struggle. I usually hold back on talking about my son because it’s only myself and one other girl in the group who has any children and frankly, it’s nice to talk about other things! However, I had to ask the other mum in the group if her daughter could dress herself. Yes was the answer. Apparently teaching a toddler to dress themselves is not an issue for all parents.

Another friend asked if my little boy could dress himself. He can just about take his coat off! He is two years and nine months old. I don’t feel like I have encouraged him to rely on me for dressing, undressing and the putting on and taking off of shoes. He either wears wellies or plimsoles with a velcro strap fastening. Still, when I try to get him to put his wellies on by himself, he tries to step into them, he falls over. He says ‘I can’t do it’. He tries to pull them on from a sitting position but is not strong enough, he stands up with the boot half on to tries to push his foot down into them. They flop to the side, he twists his ankle. He’s now over it.

I do help him, but sometimes I wonder if I will be dressing him when he is going off to work. When it comes to clothes, he is very uninterested. He can climb. he can do puzzles, he can count to ten, he enjoys all of the above. When I broach the subject of getting dressed in the morning, he runs away. I really do have to make a song and dance of it. Pants he ends up with both legs in one whole. (And I can tell he’s thinking ‘that’ll do fine’). T-shirt, the furthest he’s got is his head through the top along with an arm until he’s is stuck. Even I can’t get him out of that without a struggle. Socks, it’s as if he has no bones or muscle in his fingers. Jeans, where do I start, they’re back to front, he’s trying to put his foot up through the foot hole, *sighs.

With potty training, bed time routine, eating habits, and the like, I expected to need some strategy. With dressing, I am so surprised that he hasn’t just sort of picked it up along the way. I just found this article http://bit.ly/1aVmIAZ – it looks like helpful advice. I will try it out, maybe in conjunction with a good old sticker chart. Or maybe buy him a wardrobe full of Thomas the Tank engine clothes?

Life without a debit card

When I first began working, I opened a bank account and got my first debit card. I was used to not having any money, having been a student. So for a long time, I was a very good saver. I never drew out cash unless I needed it and in those days, most places had a £5-10 minimum spend for card payments. No matter how peckish I was at the train station, I didn’t buy a sandwich or a coffee. When I moved in with my boyfriend, we were very careful with money because we were saving for a deposit on our first house – that meant when I was at the supermarket I only bought what we needed. Luckily we both knew how to cook so we didn’t need to waste money on lots of prepared food.

Last week I left my bank card at my sister’s house and I have had to use what little cash I had to get by. I could have gone to the bank, I could have driven the two hour round trip to get my card and I could have gotten my husband to withdraw some cash but I was curious to see how I would get on. The most obvious result is that I have saved quite a lot of money! I do usually get my groceries from Ocado and that was no different so that was already paid for. But throughout the week I often pop to the shops for some milk or whatever and I find myself with a basket over flowing with bits and bobs. Over the week without my card, I’ve had to only get what I needed. No cheeky DVD or mascara. No toy for the little one. No Pizza Express pizza for an easy dinner.

I could easily get by with half a tank of petrol a week, maybe even less. But sometimes when I get cabin fever I set out with my son on a distant adventure without really thinking of the fuel cost. It’s only when the light comes on 50 miles from home that I fill up, pay on the card and try not to pay attention to the frightening cost of driving. This past week, I’ve lived local. Local playdates, walks to the post office, staying indoors, baking colouring in and the like. It has been enjoyable. And when I have been out, I’ve packed a bottle of water and a few snacks so that I haven’t needed to pay the inflated prices of sustenance on the go. There is an organic bakery near where I live and normally if I’m walking past, it’s impossible not to go in and buy a coffee, a sausage roll and something for the kid. That’s a fiver almost every day!

As I’ve been typing I’ve totted up the money that I’ve saved and realised that when I use my card, I’m not thinking about the expenditure. Having the tangible money in my purse has made me appreciate the actual value of it. It’s been good for me and though I’m not going to forgo using the debit card now it is back in my possession, I will be more conscious of  my spending and with the rising cost of living, that can only be a good thing. Could you live without your debit card?

Extreme sports for toddlers

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At the weekend we made a family trip to an indoor skate park. My two and a half year old has never been to one before, but his dad spent half of his childhood on a bmx. I love the idea of letting our little boy try new activities and once he was wearing his protective head gear I was keen to see what he made of skate boarding. We put him on the skate board and held onto his hands. He laughed as the skateboard rolled quickly out from underneath him and he landed on his tushi. We pulled him back up and showed him where to put his feet for his second try. Granted, it was ambitious of us to put him on a skateboard, but while he was having fun – we encouraged him. We are also looking forward to our first winter holiday together where we would like him to try snow boarding!

The place we went to had a separate area for under sixes and after G had had enough of skateboarding, he rode up and down the tiny ramps on his scooter. There were a few other little ones doing the same, all with a huge smile on their face. Over on the other side of the skate park was for the older kids and it was amazing to watch them perfect their tricks. Loud hip hop music boomed out of speakers dotted around and after a while I was looking forward to some peace and quiet, but it set the rhythm for the Tony Hawk wannabes.

When we were ready to leave, we sat on the side for our little skater boy to catch his breath and have a drink. He watched the big kids with wide eyes, he was captivated and I think that he is now hooked. He likes to watch people doing extreme sports on Youtube, he likes to ride his scooter when we’re out walking the dog and his dad is looking at getting a little ramp for the garden. I don’t know about that!

Family day out

Autumn in Greenwich Park

Photo of Autumn in Greenwich Park by Dave Patten on Flickr

On Sunday morning, the sun was shining and we were staying in South East London. We normally do something as a family on the weekend and as we were so close to lovely Greenwich, we put on our bobble hats and drove up to Greenwich Park. What a beautiful park. What a beautiful time of year. I felt nostalgic, my husband and I used to come here almost every weekend. We parked at the top of the park and had a leisurely walk down the hill towards the impressive architecture of the Royal Naval College.

I know it’s cliche to harp on about the colours of the leaves and the crisp air, and I won’t. But it’s this simple beauty and the joy of seeing your child find a conker for the first time that makes me feel warm inside. We wandered down to the indoor market where there are lots of lovely independent sellers. It’s a bit like if Etsy had a market that you could visit. On the edges of the market there are some lovely boutiques selling women’s clothes, men’s suits, leather goods. There’s an old fashioned sweet shop, a toy shop crammed full of toys and games from floor to ceiling and a children’s clothes shop that sells the cutest little dresses ever.

At one end of the market theres is a plethora of food vendors. Handmade cakes, Moroccan wraps, mulled wine, Thai curry, Chirizo…and one stall that was serving hot roast beef with roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and onion gravy. Believe me when I say I am salivating as I type. My little boy who is just two years old, was happy to try some gyozas (minced chicken and spring onion in little fried parcels and a gigantic prawn in tempura on a stick. I had a cinnamon bun from one place and a delicious coffee from another and my husband tried a cheesecake brownie and an Italian ball of rice filled with chilli and cheese.

The atmosphere was great and with the smell of hot spiced apple brandy and the sight of an iron monger at work, it felt as though we were in a different time. The one sad thing about Greenwich is that the old markets, the ones that sold pre-loved Levi jeans and juke boxes from the 1950s among other things – have gone. The land has been built on. But Greenwich is such a charming place, boasting attractions such as the Cutty Sark, Maritime museum and the Observatory. It’s the kind of place that’s perfect for families, little ones can scoot along the pathways in the park, the grown ups can enjoy a mooch around the market and together you can learn a thing or two about sailing and stars.

 

 

Peppa Pig Live

Peppa Pig Live

Peppa Pig’s Big Splash

Peppa Pig is the undoubtedly popular with almost all children. The Peppa Pig brand is outselling everything, including the long established and ever popular Thomas the Tank Engine. My little boy is no different. He just loves the characters and he has a few of the toys and books. When I saw that there was a Peppa Pig Live show at the Orchard Theatre about an hour from where I live, I booked tickets straight away. My son is two and a half and I thought it would be a fantastic way to introduce him to the theatre.

We arrived a bit late, but in my opinion this worked out quite well because we didn’t have to queue for anything, we just swiftly went in and took our seats. There were booster seats which was great as it meant my son could see all of the show. I took plenty of snacks for him, we almost had a bit of a picnic!

I had thought that the characters would be actors and actresses wearing Peppa Pig suits, but they were big puppets operated by the cast who wore all black trousers, shoes and long sleeves tops to help them blend into the background. The set on the stage was really bright and colourful, exactly how it looks on Peppa Pig on the TV show.  The lead role was played by Emma Grace Arrends, who lead the show as a character called Daisy. She really was a joy for the children to watch.

The predominantly toddler audience were all very excited and chatty, you might describe the noise coming from them as a dull roar, with a few unhappy kiddies, a few over enthused ones and a lot of shouting things like ‘OVER THERE’! Some on cue, some more delayed. It was not very entertaining from an adults point of view, but seeing my little one’s face light up and smile was heart melting. He joined in with all the cheering, clapping and dancing. It was very special and I am so glad I took him.

Justin and the Knights of Valour review

Justin and the Knights of Valour

Justin and the Knights of Valour

Last weekend I was in charge of an additional child, my four year old nephew. Leading up to the weekend I prayed for good weather. Once the weekend arrived, so did the rain and wind. The only idea I had was to go to the cinema and that depended upon a children’s film showing at my local cinema at a time that allowed me to get the kids in the car and get them sat on a booster seat in the theatre. Justin and the Knights of Valour was showing at 10:00 – I began packing snack bags, filling drinks cups and putting little shoes on little feet.

We got to the cinema just in time for the film to start. I had no expectations as I had not heard of the film before. The storyline was slow to unfold and the youngsters were very patient in waiting for the action. The plot involved a town where there was political unrest and new laws were inhibiting the people that lived there from having happy lives. The storyline was not exactly easy for children to follow and it was quite boring for the first twenty minutes. My son kept asking if it was finished.

The middle section of the film showed Justin training to be a knight, this was the best part of the film in terms of action and the kids began to enjoy it. Towards the end, I was running out of snacks and the kids were a bit fidgety. I had lost interest near the beginning and if I’m honest it’s hard to write a fantastic review because the film was less than mediocre. None of the characters were truly memorable, aside from one cute strong minded girl called Talia. It is great to see females in kids films that are not tall, hour glass, Disney princesses that need rescuing by prince charming. The title of the film suggests battle scenes and most scenes did include fighting and violence. I really dislike those elements in children’s films and that only worsened my opinion of Justin and the Knights of Valour.

The intended audience for this movie is children and so, to be fair I will tell you what my son and my nephew thought of it. My son has not mentioned any element of the film at all. After watching something he normally talks about it afterwards in his own cute way. My nephew, when prompted, said “yeah, it was good”. I asked him what was the film about and he looked lost. I said, “Do you remember what Justin did?” My nephew replied, “He wanted to be a knight”. He then went back to playing with his toys.

2/5

Tips for taking young children to the cinema:

My son is two and a half and we have been going to the cinema since he was under one year.

  • Make sure you have lots of snacks with you.
  • If you are potty training, encourage a trip to the toilet before the film.
  • I try to avoid going inside at the advertised starting time. A quarter of an hour of advertisements can ruin the otherwise manageable 90 minutes of viewing time.
  • Don’t worry if your child talks a little bit, just encourage them to watch the film and answer them in a whisper.
  • Be prepared to leave the cinema if your child becomes unsettled and only go back in if and when they are ready.
  • Ask your child about the film afterwards and enjoy sharing your favourite bits.

 

Tears over tiles

Textured retro tiles

Retro tiles for bathroom

Having been living in our new home for eight weeks, we have begun the renovation work. We have spruced up three houses before and here we are again, discussing our options and I’m trying to get my own way. Am I a spoilt brat, no. I do have very good taste though and I want to convince my husband to just let me choose everything.

He is a builder, a very good one too. I am lucky. In the weekend just gone, he has ripped out our existing en suite bathroom and prepared it for new tiles, shower and basin. When decorating our last house I remember standing in Topps Tiles, in tears because I wanted the pretty mosaic tiles and hubby wanted big marble tiles. We got half and half and his half looked much better. Don’t tell him I said so.

Our recent trip to the tile shop was an apprehensive one. But it turned out we both chose the same thing, yay! We chose these sort of rustic, 70’s retro chic patchwork, textured tiles in grey and beige. They sound disgusting when I describe them and until they are on the wall, in situ – they may be just so. I will keep you updated.

Lunchbox ideas

Rainbow lunchbox

Rainbow lunchbox

When my child first started at nursery, I had to provide a lunch for him. I took to the task with some ambition I had put aside when I became a stay at home mum. I don’t know what I expected (I do actually, some words of praise from the nursery staff) but the ongoing result is that my child enjoys his lunch. So, if that’s not encouragement enough, then stick to a cheese sandwich everyday and stop reading here.

The rainbow box

Take vegetables and salad with bright colours, cucumber, tomato, pepper, carrot and cut them into finger food size. Or some, more Frenchish people would say – Crudités. Arrange them in a tupperware (other plastic containers are available) and marry them with some breadsticks and a dip of your choice. Hummus goes down well and offers some protein. Or stuff in a few bits of ham and cheese if you have some.

Samosa

My son is not a fussy eater, but if your little one is, do not be afraid. The particular samosa that I recommend is very mild. The Sainsbury’s basics samosas comes in a pack of two and cost 50p. They have potato, onion and peas inside with a smidge of seasoning. To run with the theme, pack some cucumber sticks and yogurt dip.

Pitta pocket

Take a good quality, fresh pitta and cut it in half. Stuff with whatever your off-spring enjoys, some tuna and salad perhaps. I find that if you chop up some lettuce finely and mix it with a bit of tuna and mayo, children are not horrified by the salad content.

Wrap

These can offer a do-it-yourself lunch that adds a new fun dimension to lunch. I’ve witnessed my son both construct and eat a wrap and on another occasion he ate the separate components as they were. Same nutritional content I’m guessing. Strips of roast chicken fit in quite nicely.

Sausage roll

If, like me you are concerned slightly about processed foods, always check the ingredients on shop-bought lunchbox items. I am very lucky because I live near an organic bakery that does delicious sausage rolls. I say I’m lucky but it does cost me a slightly chubbier figure and a slightly lighter purse. My son also enjoys Scotch eggs and pork pies – what a good British boy.

Cold pizza

Who doesn’t like cold pizza. To be honest it is rare for any pizza to be left over in my house, but it’s so easy to put a slice or two in a lunch box the morning after pizza night. Sometimes the crust is a bit tough the next day so I trim that off and give it to the dog. Everyone’s a winner.

If you have a great lunch box idea, please comment below as I love my son to try new things. I have heaps more lunchbox ideas but I didn’t want to over-blog the subject. If you want more, please just ask 🙂