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Still Alice Film Review

Julianne Moore finally won an Oscar, and it was definitely worthy for her role as Alice. This movie is sad but very watchable, I’ve seen it twice and would be happy to see it a third time. Trailer:

Review without spoilers

Alice Howland is a 50 year old Professor of Linguistics at Columbia University, she has a loving, and equally busy, husband, played by Alec Baldwin as well as three grown-up children, one is lawyer, one is a doctor and the youngest is a struggling actress (played by Kristen Stewart or better known as Bella from Twilight). Just after her 50th birthday, she starts noticing that she is forgetting certain words, and one day after getting lost she goes to see a neurologist. He diagnoses her with early on-set Alzheimers Disease.

Review with Spoilers (Don’t read if you intend to watch the movie)

At the beginning of the film you are shown Alice giving a lecture at UCLA – she is so articulate and poised, it really contrasts to what happens to her by the end of the movie. I like how her relationship is portrayed with Lydia her youngest (Kristen Stewart), they seem really natural together and have good chemistry. I don’t really feel the same way with her older children, they feel very stiff and cookie-cutter, however that does not detract from the movie, and I probably only noticed that the second time I saw it. Julianne Moore gives a superb performance, but I am sure that goes without saying as she has an Oscar to prove that. The way she depicts the struggles, isolation and fight is amazing.

I thought the way she handled her neurology appointments, leading up to her diagnosis and afterwards seemed very in-keeping to the personality of Alice. Alice is a high-flying college professor, constantly on the go, very cerebral, playing word games on her iPhone etc. The way she was trying to test herself, using her iPhone, testing herself with questions, making a video for herself it seemed reminiscent of what I would expect from a person like that, it was well-written.

When she had to tell her children that not only was she about to get very sick, but that they could develop the disease too (what a horrible thing to have to say to your children) that really pulled at my heart strings, she blamed herself even though it’s not her fault, no one can control their genes.

It’s very sad how young she was and how quickly she deteriorated. It seemed like she went from seemingly normal, able to hold conversations and even work, to not being able to dress herself, speak properly or take care of herself in months, although the time frame isn’t completely clear. It is very sad when she says that she would rather have cancer because people go on walks for you and wear a ribbon (less of a stigma), but in fact the Alzheimers Society do “Memory Walks”.

alzheimers disease still alice

My favourite part of the movie was the speech that she gave to the Alzheimers Society, which was directly in contrast to the lecture she gave at the beginning. This time it took her 3 days to write, she had to use a highlighter so that she knew what words she has already said or ‘yellow thingy’ as she called it, she drops her notes and fumbles over words, but wow! She actually made me cry, not that its hard to do that, but it was very moving.

My least favourite part of the movie was when she asked her husband to take a sabbatical, to spend time with her while she still knew who she was. He refused and then later takes a job in Minnesota and moves away, leaving the youngest daughter (Lydia) to look after her mother, who at this point required constant care. He says to Lydia: “You’re a better man that I” and I would have to agree with that. I know it’s harsh, I can’t even imagine how people get through these things, but I really don’t like that he put his job first – even though she probably would have done the same. I did love the irony though of the fact that the older two children were very critical of Lydia, said how flighty she was, never reliable or around for important occasions and yet she was the one out of them all that stepped up to take care of their mother.

I would have liked the movie to have been slightly longer to show more of the later disease, as you only really see a glimpse, I believe in the book she moves into a nursing home/assisted living, it would be interesting to see that transition, though terribly sad I am sure.

The release date of this movie was actually in December, but it is back in Cinemas, no doubt due to the Academy Award.

Lisa Genova is the author of Still Alice, which was based on her grandmother. She is about to release a new book called “Inside the O’Briens” which is about a cop who develops Huntington’s Disease. After watching the movie I will have to read both of these books.

Have you seen Still Alice? What did you think?

6

When everything breaks…

m4s0n501

This week has been particularly trying, so, to sum it up quickly: toddler had Diarrhea (on Mothers Day no less), our Fridge-Freezer broke, and the car needs the cambelt changed – very expensive. So when I was looking through my Bloglovin feed, I was particularly inspired by the Happy Days Linky over at What Katy Said. Her idea is to appreciate the small things and appreciate everyday. I think I really need that this week.

Fun at Home

On Mothers Day I was awoken by a crying little boy, which is unusual. When I rushed in, I could see why, the poor little man had Diahorrea and it was everywhere, all the way up to his neck, in his bed and soaked through his clothes. I think this was the universe’s way of saying – it may be mother’s day, but its not really about you. I think this is what “Oh” from the movie “Home” was referring to when he said – I need to do a number 3! Nate definitely did a number 3!

Husband and I both work full-time, so we both had to take time off this week to take care of the little man as he had to stay off nursery. We both had to use up our annual leave – that’s the nature of parenthood, but at least it is happening less now that he is getting older. When he first went to nursery he caught everything and we hardly had any annual leave left to take a family holiday.

Apart from the first day, he didn’t actually have it very bad, and he was in very good spirits all week, so it was a joy to be spending time with him.

On Friday morning, on our return from the library, Nate and I played superheroes, and at one point I had to stop playing to take some pictures of him because he was so happy, I wanted to capture those moments.

toddler playing with spiderman toyspiderman cycle toypre-schooler running like batman

Out and About

We managed to go to the library and get some new books, as well as a “TMNT – Turtles” DVD that Nate was very eager to watch. I took him to our local play centre and met up with some of my NCT friends, which was a real treat, because they all work part-time and I work full-time so I rarely get to see them mid-week. Nate is becoming more and more independent, and was quite happy to run off and play, leaving me some time to talk. Obviously mummy just had to go on the big slide with Nate (which is so fast it actually takes my breath away) and play in the construction zone.

Time for Me

On Mothers Day hubby encouraged me to go out while he took care of our sick little man. Obviously I felt terribly guilty, that’s what mothers do best right? But ultimately I relented and watched “Still Alice” at the cinema.

My happiest moment

Was when Nate came running off the slide, jumped down next to me and said “Mummy can I lie on your lap”, this appears to be his new favourite thing to do, and it makes me so happy. He put his head on my lap and I stroked his hair, it lasted for about 5 minutes before he ran off to play in the ball pit.

Next Week I would like to…

I would like to have a well little boy, that is more important than anything.

I would also like for the company that sold us the American Fridge-Freezer, to pay for it to be replaced. I have to tell you how stressed I was this week when, not only did I have a sick child, but our fridge-freezer just stopped working, with no warning. I came home from work to find everything in the freezer defrosted and a warm fridge – now, I’m no engineer but I am pretty certain they are supposed to do the opposite to that! We looked online, tried a couple of “fixes” but nothing worked. We had to throw almost all of our food away – and we had just done our monthly shop! Then later that night my sick little boy asked for a yoghurt and then his night time milk – I had to tell him no and he proceeded to cry – which broke my heart! I was so upset that he was being affected too. Do you know how hard it is to be without a fridge when you have a toddler? Everything he eats is from the fridge!

We only purchased this fridge freezer 18 months ago, so it was just out of warranty, the company said there is nothing they can do, even though we paid almost £600. I know it’s sad of me to admit this, but I have wanted an American Fridge Freezer with a water dispenser for my entire adult life! It took me years to convince the hubby to spend so much on one, when we had a perfectly fine fridge-freezer (that incidentally lasted us for 12 years), and then when I finally convinced him, did a lot of research and purchased what I thought was the perfect one, with good reviews, it breaks after only 18 months – that is a shockingly short period of time for something that is so expensive, plus everyone around me was telling me how long they should last for – “Yours broke? Oh no, wow ours lasted for 25 years” – thanks I feel so much better now!

What I’m Grateful For

The lovely lady at work (whom I had never met) that gave us her old fridge freezer, for free, when she heard about my predicament. I am also grateful to have an uncomplaining husband who loves spending time with his son and was more than happy to take time off to look after him for a few days. I am grateful to my best friend who reminded me that a fridge is just a possession. I am also proud of my boy who took himself to the toilet in the middle of the night, pulled off his nappy and did his business, for the first time.

What Katy Said

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36

How to make the most of your iPhone #Competition

I would like to share with you some hints and tips for getting the best from your iPhone (and iPad) as well as some useful and fun apps and add-ons/gadgets. I don’t know about you, but I love my iPhone, I’m obsessed with it, and can’t be doing without it. But I am also aware that I don’t know many things, big and small that it can do (and the new iPhone 6 can do even more).

Fun ad-ons

We recently got the opportunity by Three  Mobile to test drive some exciting gadgets for the iPhone 6 including the i-Robot, the i-Spy Tank and the Sphero at their #AppAndAway event.

My favourite of the three that we raced, was the i-Spy Tank. It was controlled by an app within the iPhone, just like a remote controlled car,  although obviously wireless. I love the camera feature because you can drive the tank into another room and can still see where it is going (stealth!). The camera moves up and down which means you can see what your toddler sees, it is interesting to see the world at their level. The camera takes pictures and saves them to your phone, and even though the picture quality is not the highest, the pictures are fun!

i-tank takes photos This is a picture that the i-Tank took.

I love how robust the tank is, it can traverse across carpets, crazy paving and even short grass and has a huge range of 20 metres. It does, however need batteries to run, whereas the other gadgets can be charged. I found this one the easiest to control, and it could even go up small inclines pretty easily. Nate enjoys driving the tank over our feet and over his toys. It kinda reminds me of Short Circuit!

iphone 6 plus gadgets

Continue reading

0

My Reading Toddler (not)

So today, at bedtime, I was astounded, so much so that I had to video it for daddy, although second time round is never as good as the first.

I started reading “The Snortle Hunt” to my 3 year old, and as I said the first line…On a hill
Nate suddenly continued reading: …bumpy steepy, there’s a house scary creepy, and it’s said a Snortle lives there.
Mummy: Now nobody’s…
Nate: …been so nobody’s seen, and mouse whispers ‘come if you dare’.

It went on like this through the book, me with the occasional prompts and him reciting the book word for word. In the video it looks like he is reading, my 3 year old reading, of course he isn’t reading, he just remembers it, word for word!

Amaze-balls!

0

American Sniper Film Review

I have to make it clear that this movie is not for mums and it is not fun. Mum for fun found this movie hard going!

Synopsis without spoilers

Chris Kyle is a cowboy in Texas until 9/11, then he feels the urge to do his duty and signs up for the Navy SEALS. During his training he meets a beautiful woman whom he marries and is then sent off for his first tour in Iraq. Chris is a particularly skilful sniper and quickly earns the reputation of ‘legend’. Though a legend in the field, he is anything but at home with his family, struggling to switch off when at home, which pushes his family life to the limits after several tours.

Continue reading

4

Toddler Funnies

My little boy has always been a chatter-box, but since he turned three (in December), he has been coming out with amazing things, so I thought I would share the funny ones, to lighten your day, and for posterity.

1. I took Nate to the library today to get some new books…

build-a-bear in the library

Nate: Mummy, can we go in the alligator?

Me: huh? (looks round frantically)

Me: Oh you mean the elevator!

2. Yesterday, while we were putting on our shoes and coats, ready to go to nursery/work…

Nate: Watch me mummy I’m as fast as a cheetah (he speeds off into the living room then comes back).

Me: If you’re a cheetah, what am I?

Nate: You’re as fast as a bush.

Me: (thinks) well I can’t argues with that one!

3. A few days ago, while we were brushing our teeth…

Nate: Mummy we have to turn the (water) tap off.

Me: That’s right darling.

Nate: We don’t want the batteries to run out!

4. Last week when driving to work/nursery in the morning…

sunrise in milton keynes

Nate: (Excitedly) Look mummy, look at the colours on the ceiling, it’s blue and pink and orange and yellow.

Me: (Laughs) yes the sunrise in the SKY is beautiful.

5. Last Friday we were having movie night, so Nate went upstairs to get his PJs and blankets…

Nate: (throws his blanket, pillow and PJs down the stairs then comes down after them) Mummy look.

Me: (I walk out to the stairs) what’s wrong honey?

Nate: Mummy they didn’t go down like I told them to.

5

CenterParcs at Woburn Forest

We are really lucky because our cousin works at CenterParcs in Woburn (which is the recently opened 5th village) and because of this we got to go there for the day as her guest, so I thought I would review it for my readers. I feel so lucky to have one of my favourite holiday venues open up just 20 minutes from Milton Keynes.

Like all the CenterParcs venues (I have been to all but Longleat) it is very beautiful, woody, green and with very few cars around. You have to park your car up at the beginning of your break and come back for it at the end. (Although there is the odd maintenance van etc). Due to the lack of cars it is very safe, which is lovely when you have young children. We have always enjoyed the ‘in the middle of nowhere’ woodland setting, where deer come up to your lodge and squirrels run across your path, it is so peaceful.

family holiday at center parks

Woburn CenterParcs is a big place and the walk from the car park to the plaza and from the plaza to the village square is approximately a 15 minute walk, so bear that in mind, especially with little legs. Our Nate had to be carried a couple of times, but then if we were staying we would have used a bike with a trailer, especially in the cold weather.

Here is a map of the village:

centre parcs village map
We went into the sports Plaza because the Australian Open was on (Hubby is tennis mad). While we enjoyed our hot chocolates and tennis, Nate ran straight off into the soft play, how lovely it was to have a warm drink while he played. Then he wandered off into the little arcade and played on the Batman machine. (How great that he doesn’t realise, at this age, that you need money to play it)!

I had a good look around and saw in the sports plaza the following: bowling (although there is also a bigger bowling alley in the village square), pool tables, tennis and badminton courts, squash courts, table tennis, a build-a-bear type workshop (definitely want to try that next time), a cooking area, a craft and messy play room, a pottery workshop, some shops and at the back the Aqua Sana Spa (definitely coming back for that one with Hubby).

children playing with play dohAbove: Craft room in the sports plaza

Nate was eager to bowl so we decided to have a game. He has only bowled once before so thought it would be fun. It was quite funny watching my aunty bowl (not sure she has bowled before), not sure who bowled slower, her or Nate, although at one point the ball didn’t quite make it to the pins, so that was funny! If I was a paying customer, I would have been a little miffed that we were only given an hour to play, it then kicks you off and asks you to return to the desk to pay. We were not told this when we booked the bowling.

toddler bowling at centreparks

We then had a play in the park outside of the plaza and walked up to the village square for lunch. I’m not sure how many parks they have, but that one was not suitable for young children, Nate couldn’t climb either of the steep steps to get onto the slide. At the village square they had lots of restaurants but we were excited to take Nate to Hucks Diner because we knew it was the best one for kids and an American menu which we all enjoyed. However, to our disappointment, Hucks doesn’t open until 4pm at Woburn, the one in Elveden opens for lunch so we assumed this one would be open too. Alas, we went to Dexters Grill instead which was much smaller, no soft play, only one toilet and a limited menu. In spite of that, the food and service were very good so we still enjoyed it. The Millies cookies inside were a treat and the milkshakes were delicious.

Nate needed a potty stop on the way back, so we stopped in Cafe Rouge which was large, had a small soft play area, crayons and proper toilets, so that would have been better, in hind sight. I am not complaining though because we did have a lovely lunch and it was a special setting to spend time with family.

The Sub-tropical Paradise looked amazing from the outside – I really cannot wait to take Nate there, it looked great, I could see a lazy river ride that came outside, several log flumes and a baby slide. All of the other sub-tropical paradises that I have been to at Sherwood, Elveden and Whinfell were amazing and a definite highlight of my holidays, especially as they are free.

swimming pool at centre parcs

We walked past the beautiful lake and back to our car, it was a lovely day out. To clarify though, it is not currently possible to obtain or buy a day pass for Woburn unless you know someone who is staying there or works there. I really think they should allow day passes for anyone though because it is a great day out. Another way to try it out without committing to a full weekend break or holiday is using the Aqua Sana Spa. They have a 5 hour Spa Experience that costs £50, and you can stay on the site after the spa for dinner if you wish, so I will be trying that some time.

The newness of Woburn is a lovely perk, especially as the lodges are all brand new, however the only downside to this is that the Forest is new too and not grown in. I noticed the difference compared to the other CenterParcs, the Forest seemed sparse, and very little wildlife. However, I am sure this will change within a year or two when the forest and foliage grows in. I would definitely come back here for a weekend break and for the spa.

Mami 2 Five
3

The Theory of Everything Film Review

Went to see The Theory of Everything recently and really enjoyed it. A great reminder to us all, especially on those hard days when our children are waking us up in the night, not eating their food, having tantrums in the middle of the supermarket and generally testing our limits, this is a great reminder to keep on going, keep pushing through the hard bits and live life.

Synopsis with no spoilers

This movie details Stephen Hawkings’ early years from when he begins his PhD at Cambridge, in the 1960s, shows how he met his (first) wife, how he dealt with the overwhelming news of his Motor Neurone illness (ALS) and being told he only has 2 years to live…

I love this quote from Stephen (he has a lot of good quotes):

whale picture and quote about not giving up

(c) Brigitte Werner

Synopsis with Spoilers (Read no further if you intend to watch this movie)

I thought the acting was utterly superb, both Eddie Redmayne who plays Stephen and Felicity Jones who plays Jane ( his wife) were amazing, their relationship, their love and all of the hardships they had to endure. It was very sweet, especially at the beginning. It is so visceral, so you can really feel the struggle that Stephen is going through. When he struggles up the stairs whilst trying to re-assure his toddler, I thought this was very moving.

I thought Eddie Redmayne looked like I pictured Stephen Hawking, and even his mannerisms and his cheeky smile, it was so believable.

I really felt for Jane and her struggles as a care-taker of not only Stephen with his disability but her three children too – she is a super-hero in my mind. I can barely take care of my small and healthy family of one toddler, husband and dog.

I did feel really uncomfortable though when Jonathan came onto the scene, as it was obvious straight away that Jane and he were into each other, plus it just looked, as an outside observer, very odd, but maybe I am being too cynical. I am not a religious person so I don’t understand the ‘calling from God to help others’. However, in a way I was right, they were into each other and they do end up getting married, so it obviously was inappropriate. It is very sad when she and Stephen both decide their marriage isn’t working. Her line to him is very revealing…she said something like “you were only supposed to live 2 years and you have had many more”. I cannot imagine going through something like they had to go through, I am sure anyone who lives like that is a saint.

I have to admit, I didn’t realise that Stephen Hawking was still alive, and it looks like I am not the only one, when I Googled “Stephen Hawking” the alternative searches said “Stephen Hawking death” and “is Stephen Hawking dead”. How tremendous that he was only given 2 years to live and he has fought through adversity, written at least 8 books, including his most famous book “A Brief History of Time”. All these books were written by the clicking of a mouse, which meant he could write 4 words per minute – how amazing, and that’s why the quote above is so poignant, and so inspiring.

To lighten the mood, whilst looking for images relating to the movie, I am came across this, and decided to share this instead of a movie poster as my son is a lover of Lego:

stephen hawking fun lego image

Image rights: Iain Heath.

Has anyone else seen the film? What do you think?
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Mami 2 Five
6

A magic moment with my toddler

The other night I was tucking Nate into bed, turned on the night light and then he said:

“Mummy, will you sing to me?”

The people who know me, know that singing is my most favourite activity – ever, so I was thrilled!

“What should I sing? The song I sang the other night?”

“Yes please” he said.

“Ok” I said and started singing the song ‘Make you feel my love’ by Adele. I used to sing this to him when he was a baby, but stopped when he became a stroppy toddler and didn’t seem into it.

I sang: “When the rain is blowing in your face, and the whole wo-orld is on your case, I can offer you a warm embrace, to make you feel my love…When the evening shadows and the stars appear, and there is no-one there to dry your te-ears (I reached over and dried his imaginary tears, he giggled), I could hold you for a million years, to make you feel my love…”

I sang the whole song and the whole time he looked up at me adoringly, my little 3 year old boy. Then when I was finished he said:

“Thank you mummy”. Then he cupped my face in his hands and gave me a kiss.

I melted…

It was such a beautiful moment, I had to share it.

toddler drinking bottle

12

Cats – The Musical – review by a theatre novice!

This is trip 1 from my ’12 Trips Challenge’, which I mentioned about in my resolutions post. So January is officially done, bring on February!

Last week hubby and I went on a trip to see Cats the musical, in London. We are very lucky to work in such a large organisation that they have a club that arranges theatre trips, and manages to get a great group booking rate, as well as arranging travel, so the whole process was really easy. They picked us up from work in a coach – so we got to sit back and listen to audiobooks, tweet and blog while someone else drove us.

We were dropped off on Regents street with enough time for dinner – perfect! So we headed over to Carnaby street – I love shopping here as they have quaint shops, not just the usual highstreet chains, they also have choccywoccydoodah here, which for nostalgia reasons hubby and I stepped inside – well they did make our wedding cake. Look at this amazing (recent) creation:

fairy wedding cake

Our next stop was at Ben’s cookies – now I found this place on Tripadvisor, the reviews were amazing and the picture of the cookie on the page made me salivate so much that I needed a costume change mid-stare. They were every bit as delicious as I had hoped, I particularly enjoyed the more subtle single flavoured cookies – white chocolate, milk chocolate and peanut butter – they were so good I am almost considering walking to London right now to pick some up. It’s only 50 miles. And why did we only buy 7 cookies? I mean, who does that? Cookies of this magnificence were surely meant to be purchased by the dozen!

best cookie in the world

Using the Tripadvisor app, I realised they have a “near you now” section which showed us all the restaurants within walking distance – it was fab, we used that, found a quaint Hawaiian restaurant (Kua Aina) and enjoyed a Guacamole burger and a bacon sandwich:

guacamole burger and bacon sandwhich

Finally it was time to go to the Theatre. I was so excited as I have heard about Cats since I was little, and had always wanted to go, but by the time I was old enough to take myself there (my parents didn’t go to London much and certainly never went to the theatre) Cats had ceased in London, but finally they are back!

When we were seated I could not believe how good our seats were, I didn’t choose the seats, they were allocated, so we just got lucky. We were in the royal circle (the upper bit) but front row centre, so fair enough we could have been front row and centre in the stalls but I really loved the view from up there, check this out:

cats the musical stage

As I have implied in the title, I am a theatre novice, which means I have only been to the theatre a handful of times, but these were the best seats I had ever had.

So I am sure that like normal people you have probably already seen Cats – I am yet to find someone who hasn’t see it, so there is no point me relaying the story (or lack there-of) to you, so I will keep it brief.

I loved the music – particularly the first song “Jellicle Cats” – although the whole time I was thinking, what the hell is a Jellicle cat? Surely that is not a real word? I really loved the Rum Tum Tugger song, mostly because the guy was so mesmerising and because they did it in a hip hop vein, and as a lover of hip hop music and dancing that was a nice and unexpected treat for me. Finally I loved Memory – the famous song – sang by Nicole Sherzinger – who utterly blew my socks off – she was like an opera singer, I could not believe how surprisingly amazing her voice was.

nicole sherzinger as grizabella

I loved the dancing and I loved the talent before me, the characters were amazingly cat-like, all had the most amazing and varied voices and could dance like they were in a ballet – it was very impressive and I was utterly mesmerised. So much so that I wanted to relive the experience but was brutally re-buffed by itunes and amazon. The latest version of the soundtrack, which was released only last year was so sub-par that I couldn’t bring myself to buy it. Why don’t they have a recording of the actual show, with the actual actors on the stage? The ones on this soundtrack just do not live up to what I heard, so it is a shame. I guess I will have to go back and see it again…

Did you know that the musical is based on T.S Eliot poetry? I had no idea! Especially T.S Eliot, I was force-fed his poetry during my A-levels and thought it was awful, so I am surprised he wrote something so good. I might even purchase the book of cat poems to read to Nate. I played him a few of the songs and he bopped away to them.

Who has seen it and what do you think?

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