Thursday, 31 May 2012

Galt Toys - Ants in your Pants!

The lovely people at Galt Toys sent us a new game this week, Ant in your Pants and it has been played at least 7 or 8 times today! Wednesday is my day to work from home in the morning until lunchtime so most of the time my mum comes over and looks after Isla while Noah is at nursery. They have some really lovely one on one time together and while I'm working I love being able to hear what they're getting up to downstairs. I was really looking forward to Isla playing this game and thought this morning was the perfect time for it to get trialed. Mum was up for it and so I heard many happy games of Ants in Your Pants this morning!

The game is really simple but Isla loved it. There are lots of pairs of different coloured pants and a dice with corresponding colours on it. On the other side of the 'pant' cards there are ants - differing numbers of them and then there are also a few cards with Ant Eaters on them. To win you have to have the highest number of ants. BUT if you get an Ant Eater card then you wipe out your ants and have to start again. Mum said that Isla didn't like the Ant Eaters and she was trying to cheat, refusing to take the Ant Eater card if she chose it! When we played it later she was really funny, making the Ant Eater eat the ants, doing the sound effects. I took a couple of videos of our game, so here you can see it in action.

There are a few things I like about this game, there's the colour matching with the dice and the colour of the pants. There's also the opportunity to count up how many ants you have at the end of it. It's also teaching fair play, you have to accept the pitfall of getting an Ant Eater card, it can turn your fortune in the game at any moment.

It's such a simple game but I can see that it will get played loads. It's not bulky either so it can go over to the grandparents and it will also come in really handy when we go on holiday to Sand Le Mere! We give this game a big thumbs up.

We were sent this game free of charge in exchange for our opinion which I've given honestly.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Sunny Weekend & In the Night Garden!

I can only describe this weekend as being absolutely fantastic! Now I'm back at work I put so much effort into making sure that weekends with my family are fun packed. The only thing is the housework suffers but when it's 25 degrees outside who cares about housework anyway?

This weekend was even better as it was the OH's long weekend off work so we had all day Saturday together which only happens every 6 weeks. I was really looking forward to Saturday as we had been given tickets to a VIP performance of In the Night Garden Live at The O2. We set off and found that the O2 is so easy to get to and any journey on the train is exciting for a nearly 1 year old and nearly 3 year old!

When we got to the O2 we made our way to the show and on turning the corner we saw these massive inflatable Ha Hoo's! Someone was really excited to see them. We entered the big inflatable dome where the performance was going to happen and were met by people handing out brilliant goody bags for the kids filled with In the Night Garden stuff to keep them occupied. There was a small soft play area for the kids to let off some steam before they went into the show and also lots of refreshments for adults and kids alike.

After a bit of playing and guzzling juice we were called to go in and see Iggle Piggle and friends. The story was about Iggle Piggle losing his blanket, which we also have as a book at home. The show was a brilliant mix of puppetry and also life size characters. It was great for Isla's age but more surprisingly it was also good for Noah. The show was 55 minutes long with no interval and I would say that he lasted a good 40 minutes before needing a little break. He was so taken with the projections of flowers, the tittifers and the Ninky Nonk and pinky ponk, all around the ceiling of the showdome. He also loved it when the Ninky Nonk came of the stage and was whizzing around. All in all I would totally recommend the show, all the kids recognise the songs and the colours are so bright and captivating. It feels really magical. After the show we got a family photo with Iggle Piggle - Noah is thinking "What the....??"

After the show we travelled home and then got ready for an impromtu BBQ with friends. It was so lovely being out in the garden with all 6 kids ranging from 7 months to 3 in age - they all behave so much better when they're able to have fun outside.

On Sunday after we'd turned a cardboard box into a pirate ship (!) we took a spontaneous decision to go and visit my sister, her OH and my niece and join them for Music in the Park. Isla loves seeing Cousin M, they're only 3 months apart in age and Noah is getting really social now too and loves joining in. They live about an hour from us, so the kids get a good nap on the way. It was another beautiful hot day and ideal for picnics. We packed up some food and lots of sunscreen and set off.

The park was steadily filling up with people surrounding the bandstand where the musicians played all afternoon. We had a lovely sunny/ shady spot and the kids just ran around and danced by the bandstand. They were so cute jigging about. Another special event happened. Noah stood on his own two feet for about 8 seconds!! The sweetest thing was that he knew he had done something special, the smile on his face is committed to memory. After the music finished we went back to my sisters, gave the kids a bath together (all this outdoor playing gets them filthy!) then PJ's and the long drive home.

This amazing sunny weather is probably not set to continue into the Jubilee Weekend so I'm glad we made the most of the glorious sunshine we just had!
If you'd like to take the kids to see In The Night Garden Live then visit: or call 0333 300 0023

Tickets are £10 - 27.50 plus premium seats are available. Two separate shows throughout the run: The Pinky Ponk Show and The Ninky Nonk Show.
We were given free tickets to attend In The Night Garden Live. My views about the show are my own.

Friday, 18 May 2012

This week I had a wobble

After having a really wonderful weekend that included Cybher (me time!) and Godstone farm (family & friend time), I felt like I'd got my life balance bang on! I was all happy that I'd had time for me, hanging out with blogging buddies and learning stuff to improve my blog and time with the people I love and being a mum.

Then Monday came and I woke up with a full on cold, head pounding, sinuses screaming and work to get to. My feeling that I'd got my life sorted and equal time for all things went out the window and I posted this on Facebook:

"Someone let me into this secret on how to be a good mum of 2, good wife, good employee, good housekeeper, just generally good at anything as at the moment I'm pretty shit at all the above!!!"

I'm lucky that I'm friends with lots of lovely mums who in times of need will either come up with practical solutions (get a cleaner) or just a bit of moral support - virtual hugs are always welcomed by me. Everyone reminded me that I have a wonderful family and that I'm probably putting too much pressure on myself to 'have it all'. Lower my expectations was the best advice. And I think I did do that in the early days when we'd just had Noah, but now I'm back at work there's a change in me that I don't like. I feel like I'm constantly having to prove myself. Take this week for example - instead of staying home and trying to get over the bad cold I've had, I've made myself go into work because I don't want to look bad, like I'm a slacker. When actually I'm far from it.

I know that there will be weeks when the overwhelming feeling is "I can't do this" and this is just one of them. But when you're feeling ill too the feeling magnifies by 100% and I really do question how us women do it. I like working I really do but it's putting an awful lot of pressure on me and my family. There is hardly a spare minute and everything feels like a juggling act and for someone who is used to being in control (I'm a project manager by occupation) my life feels like it's in a bit of a mess.

So my question is how do you do it? What tips do you have to keep yourself sane and feel like a good mum, wife, employee, housekeeper...there are so many roles these days that I wonder is it possible to be good at them all?

And as an extra note to this post, a really wonderful thing happened this morning that I will never forget. My lovely NCT friends sent me the most beautiful flowers (and chocolates!) and the card read:

"Just a little something to say you're fab and to make you smile"

I cannot thank them enough. It is the support of my friends and family that really helps me. I'm in no way 'suffering' in real terms but it's just so nice to have people look out for you and make gestures like this when you're feeling a bit low. Us mums should always look out for each other and spot when someone might just be needing a little boost or an ear to listen, it's tough sometimes in this parenting jungle!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Sand le Mere - A Family Holliday Village

When I found out that we had been offered a long weekend to Sand Le Mere, a holiday camp on the East Yorkshire coast I was really excited and I have to say that isn't something I thought I would ever find myself saying pre-kids. But now I find myself looking for places to go on holiday that will appeal to Isla as I know if she is having fun then we will all be happy. That's not to say I'm overlooking Noah but he's a bit younger, still a baby really.
The opportunity hit my inbox through the Tots100, and I seized on it as I don't think we'll be holidaying as a family this year other than for this short break. Also holidays aren't massively relaxing with 2 little ones under 3, but Sand Le Mere looks like it will cater to all our needs. It's recently had a a £4 million overhaul, so I'm expecting big things! There is a whole new pool complex, children's soft play, an entertainment block and the area is close to stunning countryside and also sandy beaches! What more could we want?
We'll be staying in a 'comfort' holiday home with 3 bedrooms. I'm hoping that it will be safe for our marauding explorer! It's equipped with all the mod cons that we need and to be honest I'm hoping we'll be spending more time out than in.
Times are a bit tough for families at the moment, but on looking at Sand Le Mere's pricing a holiday doesn't have to break the bank. If you're looking for a break then take a look at and use this offer code EB10 to get 10% off breaks taken between 1st - 9th June, 20th July - 1st September and 26th October - 2nd November.

Looking forward to letting you all know about our holiday!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Frankie & Benny's - Review

Recently we were approached to review Frankie & Benny's - the restaurant chain. I immediately said yes as who's going to say no to a free meal??! We've had our voucher for over 6 week s now and we still hadn't made it there, for all sorts of reasons, me being back at work, illness etc. So finally we thought today is the day, we CANNOT be bothered to cook and tidy up afterwards, lets eat out!

After Isla's ballet lesson we set off to our local Frankie and Benny's in Croydon. I've been there before but not for a very long time as it's situated in an out of town retail park next door to a cinema, making it a great place to eat prior to the flicks or after you've done a bit of shopping. I was kind of looking forward to it and I kind of wasn't. The reason I wasn't is that meals out at the moment can be really hit and miss, Isla messes about a lot during meals, picking and playing around with her food, hardly consuming a morsel and Noah, well he's a baby and he can kick off at the drop of a hat. Both of these things happened but to be honest, I think the fact I wasn't cooking and cleaning up outweighed it.

So what happened?

We were shown to a table in a very calm and quiet restaurant - it was about 4.30pm, so our usual time for a family meal out given that bedtime is usually about 7 for the kids. Our waiter straight away gave the kids their little goodie bag with a coloured pencil and some colouring bits in it. He very quickly asked us for our drinks order and was on the ball about bringing a container with some hot water in it to warm Noah's food.

We looked at the menu and I did feel a bit overwhelmed, there is so much choice and in my honest opinion I don't like this. It makes me feel nervous that the kitchen is too stretched and how can it possibly get all those dishes right. I personally always like a smaller menu. When faced with this kind of menu I go to my default selection - a burger. I chose a Bacon Cheese burger with a side of coleslaw. I was impressed with the children's menu, it had lots of things that Isla would eat (Spag Bol, Fish Fingers) and she went for the Chicken Strip and fries. The OH copied me and had a Bacon Cheese Burger with a side of Spicy Onion Rings.

While we waited for our food Isla did her best to guzzle her apple juice as fast as she could so that she wouldn't have room for her dinner. I fed Noah his dinner and once it was finished he went on to demolish lots of snacks. We also had a great 'fart' moment, where Isla did a special 'parp' and then proceeded to go on to ask "Daddy didn't you get to the toilet in time?" Love her.

The food arrived and all was fine until I realised that I had a crispy bread crumbed chicken under my burger bun. I also saw the teeny tiny pot of Coleslaw on the side and thought, "Really? £2.55?" I let the waiter know that mine was wrong, he was fine about it, he'd misheard me. I got a replacement about 10 minutes later. Sorted. Well apart from the fact that it wasn't until we'd finished that I realised I didn't even get the teeny tiny pot of Coleslaw with my replacement burger. The OH felt that the food wasn't hot enough, I'd agree with this. He also said his Onion Rings, although nice, were just not spicy. Regardless of any of this, we ate it all (well apart from Isla who never eats the whole of anything, unless it's chocolate, ice cream.....).

The OH fancied a dessert and I think Isla thinks that every restaurant meal must be finished off with an Ice cream, so we ordered a Yankee Doodle, which the waiter wisely advised us we could easily all share - it was enormous, vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice cream with a massive topping of whipped cream! While the OH and Isla made their way through that I had to take Noah for a little walk round the restaurant because he was getting narky. He cheered up on sight of the balloons and the manager gave him one to play with which was great (Isla soon snaffled it though).

The bill came to around £44 (sorry I wasn't on the ball enough to remember it exactly!) and I think I have mixed feelings about whether it was good value. Frankie and Benny's is great for families, there is no question about that and I liked that I didn't feel frowned upon for having noisy kids or kids that felt like having a bit of a lay down half way through dinner. This mistake over my order could have been made anywhere and it was rectified quickly and without drama. I do think our burgers and chips were slightly over-priced for what they are, oh and I'm pretty sure the ketchup in the Heinz bottles wasn't actually Heinz.... The kids menu is fabulous and priced well. All in all if I was to give it a mark out of 10 I'd say a 7, which isn't bad! Thanks Frankie and Benny's for saving me cooking and washing up after another exhausting day as a working mum of 2.

We were given a £50 voucher to spend at Frankie in Benny's in exchange for a totally honest review