11

Ideas for a super-hero party

Do you need some ideas of what to do for your toddler’s birthday party? My son just turned 3 years old, and for at least half a year he has asked for a superhero party – or a batman party as he always called it, he has been obsessed with batman for almost a year and then one week before his batman/super-hero party he decided he wanted to be Captain America, and that I would have to find a new super-hero outfit for him at the last minute (thank you amazon).

In spite of the last minute costume change I have been planning a few small ideas, some ways to add a little creativity, rather than just buying everything, and some ideas that Nate could help with too.

1. Super-hero Bunting

Nate and I had a a whale of a time one afternoon cutting out his avengers comics. I provided him with pritt stick and scissors and left him to be creative. I on the other hand, was on a mission. I cut out a bunting shaped template, basically a big triangle with a tab on top, then used that to cut out the best pages from the comic, I deliberately chose pages that had the most characters in them.

What do you need: comic books, ribbon, scissors, hole punch.

How long will it take: several hours I am afraid, but its fun and worth it.

how to make your own home-made bunting

Then I hole-punched two holes, one each side, to poke the ribbon through, which can be a bit fiddly. And that is it, simple. The end result is your very own super-hero bunting, although this idea could very easily be used for any theme, if your toddler/child loves minions, Frozen, Thomas, anything, just buy a magazine of that theme and do as above. Since it is made from paper it is quite fragile, so best to keep it in a folder or some kind of protection, otherwise it may rip. I found the original idea of this bunting from This Girl’s Life.

comic book batman spiderman bunting

2. Cheese Monsters

I found this idea on Pinterest (Danya Banya), some people are just so creative! I’m not the best cook so anything that is easy to make and I am there, well nothing could be easier to make or more fun than cheese monsters.

What you will need: pack of Babybel cheeses, non-toxic glue or Pritt stick, scissors, googly eyes, toddler to help!

How long will it take: 1 minute per cheese, at the most.

Nate loved helping me with these, and they were so easy. I did the cutting and he did the gluing of the eyes.

mini babybel cheese monsters for party ideas

How: Take off the outer wrapping and peel the centre wax from the cheese. From the centre cut out teeth shapes, as few or as many as you like, then put some glue onto the top portion of the wax, then arrange your googly eyes. Now this is the fun, how many different types of monsters can you make? With every different number of teeth and eye combinations will spring a new type of monster. This is what we created:

mini babybel cheese monsters

These were the most popular food item at the party – above the cakes! I couldn’t believe it, the kids went nuts for them. Best of all they are healthy, as well as gluten and nut free. Tip: make sure the children don’t eat the outer Babybel packaging or the googly eyes.

3. Batman shaped sandwiches

Again this is a fun, quick and cheap idea to make sandwiches more interesting, and can be personalised for any party theme.

What you will need: a cake/pastry cutter in the shape of your theme (ours was the batman logo), sandwiches.

How long will it take: It will take a little bit extra time to cut the shape out, less time with a metal cutter than a plastic one, maybe 30 seconds per shape (on top of the normal sandwich making time).

I love simple ideas, so again all you do is make your sandwich, then press the cookie cutter/pastry/cake cutter into the sandwich and voila you have your sandwich in a shape. I was able to make 2 batman logos from each sandwich, but on the downside there was a lot of excess sandwich which went to waste (although I might not have needed to if I was the creative type who could make bread and butter pudding from the leftovers).

batman super hero sandwhich and pastry cutter

The two ideas above would be fabulous to spice up a lunch box, so not just for parties.

4. Frozen Banana pops

A yummy snack that is actually healthy, it is hard to provide healthy snacks at a kids birthday party because most children gravitate towards the cakes, however, with just a thin layer of chocolate and sprinkles, they have the sweetness but also get to eat some fruit.

What you will need: bananas, cooking chocolate, assortment of topping (such as sprinkles and nuts), lolly sticks.

How long will it take: a few hours because this involves freezing.

Break up the cooking chocolate and melt over a pan of boiling water (or use a microwave to melt, although the consistency may not be as smooth). Cut the bananas into 2 or 3 pieces, depending on how large you would like them, into two pieces works well. Poke the stick into the banana about half way (not all the way through). Then encase the banana in yummy gooey melted chocolate, cover in sprinkles and then freeze in the freezer. Take them out to thaw for a short while before tucking in, yum! If you would like it to be even healthier, you could use yoghurt instead of chocolate, but for the party, we thought chocolate would be fun.

low fat fun treats for parties

I’m so glad everyone had fun at the party, there were 22 children and 36 adults so it was big and a lot of work, and my mum and dad did brilliantly helping me on the day itself (my bestie made fabulous cupcakes and my husband did all the quiet hero stuff that husbands always do). I was totally shattered at the end, having been on my feet for 10 hours non stop, but look at his happy face at the end, totally worth it!

toddler in captain america costume

What did you do for your little one’s last birthday? It’s fun to share ideas.


 


17

Top 10 Best Movies of 2014 – part 1

I love going to the cinema, if you read this blog much you would have picked up on that. We are very, very lucky to have such amazing parents who love our son so much that they have him stay over 2-4 nights per month, which he totally loves, as he loves his grand-parents, he has his own room there and a billion or so toys, and for us it means a little break, and time to be a couple. I believe it is very important for parents to get a rest every now and then, especially when you have young children. Because as much fun as they are, it is exhausting, so a little break does everyone a world of good.

Anyway, getting back to the point, we have a cineworld Unlimited card and therefore go out to the cinema at least twice a month. So here is the first part, the first 5 of my top 10 favourite movies from 2014:

  1. Begin Again

This movie was such a surprise, don’t you love that? I watched it because there was nothing else I wanted to see, I had never heard of it, I was prepared even to dislike it. The first time I saw it, I thought, yeah not bad, but then I went home and it was obviously playing around in my subconscious because within a few days, I wanted to see it again, and dragged my husband with me. The second time was even better, I loved the music, and was even singing along to some bits of it. I was so surprised by Keira Knightley’s voice, she had such a unique sound, and what a fabulous idea of making an album all over the city of new york. I could tell straight away by the guy’s voice that it was the lead singer from Maroon 5 (Adam Levine). I absolutely loved the song ‘Lost Stars’, so much so that I downloaded it, give it a listen, it is so beautiful:

  1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I never saw the original Planet of the Apes movies from the 60s, however I did see the prelude to this movie “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” from 2011, which I quite enjoyed, though I have to say this movie is far superior to that. I was so blown away by their little community of Apes, they reminded me so much of early tribes men and women with what they wore, the face make-up, how they lived and communicated, it was fascinating. Caesar, the leader of the apes, and Malcolm the representative of the remaining humans forge a relationship and have high hopes, but both Caesar and Malcolm are double-crossed by those they trusted, it is sad, but intriguing to see how very similar apes and humans are. The giant and very motherly ‘Maurice’ was my favourite ape, although I think, judging by his name that he is a dude – oh well. If that doesn’t convince you to watch, maybe this will: Apes on horseback!!

  1. Monuments Men

A war-movie with a twist! I don’t actually usually enjoy war movies, mostly because of the fighting element, but this one was different, it was a bunch of funny old guys trying to save art from the Nazi’s. I have to admit that when I saw paintings from Monet, Cezanne, Degas, Van Gogh etc going up in flames, I did get a little teary eyed, and I am not even an art enthusiast. This movie totally opened my eyes to the smaller tragedies that happened during the second world war. Obviously it is nothing as bad as the horrific monstrosities that happened to the people who died, but it was a nice change to watch a war movie with a different focus. The main thing that makes this movie is the cast – the cast was amazing including: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Hugh Bonneville (from Downton Abbey, love Downton!) and more.

  1. Lego Movie

Everything is Awesome! Need I say more…Ok I will. We took Nate to see this at the cinema, although he found it a bit intense (he was 2.5 years at the time), we now have it on DVD and he absolutely loves it (mostly because Batman is in it). I’m not ashamed to say I really enjoyed it too, and I am not a 7 year old boy, but who cares. Liam Neeson, is one of my favourite actors, and is fabulous as Good Cop/Bad Cop, it is funny, creative and fun. Plus there is a very catchy theme tune that you will never get out of your mind no matter how hard you try, the only real question is…do DFS sell the double-decker couch?

double decker couch

  1.   A Million Ways to Die in the West

I’m not really into western movies, so this very non-traditional western was a breath of fresh air. This movie was just funny, maybe there is nothing else to say, it was unique in that it showed how dangerous the West actually was, and that you could die in all sorts of stupid, benign, painful and mostly funny ways. It was genius, and I can’t wait to watch it again on DVD. It was made by the makers of Ted, so if that made you laugh, you should enjoy this – especially as there is a little less swearing although a bit more violence. Oh yeah and Liam Neeson is in it! Still need convincing: there is a song about moustaches.

Please come back in a few weeks to read part 2, where I will be talking about: Gone Girl, The Imitation Game and more.

What was the best movie you saw this year?

The List
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9

12 Books in 12 weeks Challenge – OU Literature Course

In late June this year, I made the decision to study an Open University literature module: AA316 The Nineteenth Century Novel. Reading is a passion of mine, and as I have grown up I have become more and more interested in history, therefore 19th Century literature covers both the history of the Victoria Era and reading classic novels that I have always said I would read…one day. Well doing a course, kind of forces you to read the books you wanted to read anyway, so what a great excuse.

The only problem is that I signed up by the beginning of July, and in the notes it suggests reading ‘as many of the set-texts before the course begins’ in October. After reading the OUSA forums I realised that I should definitely read them all as the course-load is very heavy.

So my summer challenge was to read 12 classic novels in 12 weeks, anyone who is good at Maths would have worked out that this meant 1 book per week! Gulp! I usually get through 1 book a month, and that is usually a light-hearted Bill Bryson or Sophie Kinsella. So how was I possibly going to find the time to read all these books around a full-time job and a demanding toddler?

Classic 19th Century Novels

Then I found Audible…ahhhh audible you have really transformed my reading life! I am simply over-the-moon with how much reading I now am able to get through thanks to audio-books. Once I started listening, instead of sitting down with a book in my hand, I was actually getting through one book a week, why you ask? Well because with audiobooks you can listen to your books in situations you were not able to read before (if you have a smart phone), here are my favourites:

  • Whilst eating (especially at lunchtime at work)
  • Whilst taking the dog for a walk, or going for my lunch time ramble
  • Whilst cleaning or doing any other boring chore
  • Whilst driving, especially good on long journey

You would not be able to pick up a book during any of those situations above, and therefore I found new pockets of time and thus I did actually read 12 classic novels in 12 weeks – amazingly! It was hard-going at times, especially with my least favourite novels, but I feel proud now that I have accomplished this task – what is it about reading classics that makes us feel learn-ed/intelligent etc?

So what were my favourite and least favourite novels:

Favourites:

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – I’ve seen the movie but as always, the book was even better!
  2. Germinal by Emile Zola – I cannot say I “enjoyed” this book because it is so gruelling and harsh, but what a powerful and thought-provoking novel!
  3. Middlemarch by George Eliot – just wonderful.
  4. Woman in White by Wilkie Collins – exciting and riveting like an old fashioned spy-tale.
  5. Northanger Abbey – not my favourite Jane Austen but still enjoyable, if somewhat fluffy, read

Least Favourites:

  1. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James – in my mind this was a book about nothing: a young lady chats rubbish in England then in Florence…the end.
  2. The Awakening by Kate Chopin- the only positive aspect about this book is that is is short!
  3. Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens – when I first listened to all 36 hours of this book, it was the hardest slog, but now I am learning about the history of the book and the time it was written in I have a new appreciation and do not dislike it as much.
  4. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert – this is a rare example of the tv adaptation being better than the novel

I also read Dracula, Far from the Madding Crowd and Heart of Darkness – all fine, but not massively note-worthy. Except to say I wish Dracula would have been better, but that is probably my being ruined by all the current vampire literature.

I will post again in due course about my course, but before I go, has anyone else studied with the OU? Any other reading challenges out there? Off to submit my first TMA…

30 days free trial to audible

 

Mums' Days
2

New Forest – Lymington and Lyndhurst

Last year, hubby and I had a lovely break in Brockenhurst. It was so amazing that we decided to return to the new forest, but a different part. This time we stayed in a B&B just outside of Lymington and used that as base for exploring other parts of the forest. I was initially hoping that Lymington would be the perfect mix of both the ‘new forest’ and the seaside, which is why I chose it, as Brockenhurst was a bit far from the sea, however Lymington doesn’t really have the new forest feel, there are no wandering ponies (which in my mind what is most special about the new forest) and the seafront is not the most picturesque of places, plus the beach is shingle.

However, we didn’t let that deter us and instead spent time in Lyndhurst and Burley. However, before I discuss those I do need to say how absolutely amazing the food was at a pub in Lymington called “Thomas Tripp”. The outside has pretty hanging baskets and is very welcoming, unfortunately when I stepped inside I was put-off as the ambience was not quite right, and didn’t look like a place that would have amazing food, but I am so glad I was wrong. Thomas Tripp had, undeniably, the best ribs and BBQ sauce I have ever eaten in my life! And as a foodie, I have to say I have tried a fair many. They were so unbelievable I had to talk to the owner about them, he explained that they are slowly cooked for like 12 hours, and he came up with the BBQ sauce recipe himself. It was so mind-blowing we actually travelled all the way from Lyndhurst the next day, just to eat there again. The ribs were not the only special things, the garlic and tomato bread must have been made by an Italian because I have only had better in Italy, and the chocolate brownie for dessert was absolutely scrumptious. So if you are ever in the New Forest, find this pub because you will not regret it.

ribs homemade chips corn on the cobgarlic and tomato bread

Lyndhurst

We spent a day in Lyndhurst, half of it shopping and half of it on the new forest open bus tour, which I highly recommend. We went on the red route, which was the longest at 2.5 hours. No matter how hot it is outside, if you are upstairs, in the open it gets very cold and windy, so bare that in mind. It was very beautiful and a great way to see the sights of the forest that we had yet to see. The only downside was that the bus did not have a toilet, which is tricky on such a long tour. There were lots of great touristy shops in Lyndhurst, and if you walk just 5 minutes toward the outskirts, cross over a grate, and there are the ponies, and to my great surprise, wild donkeys.

lyndhurst wild animals

We only had time to stop off at Burley on our way home (as the New Forest Show was on), it was an intriguing little witchy hamlet. Again we were lucky enough to see 2 horses, waiting to use the payphone ;) Burley was the smallest and probably the prettiest of the places we saw on the tour. If you like a bit of fantasy, this is definitely the place, as it has witches, smugglers and “dragons” in it’s history, and due to this many of the shops sell witch/fantasy themed goods.

new forest ponies

1

Butlins ‘Just for Tots’ Review

This year we decided the family holiday would be centred around our toddler, so when we saw Butlins advertising their ‘Just for Tots’ week, we were intrigued and decided to give it a go. Butlins was completely new to us, and I have to say that my original thought/stereotype was not a positive one, probably because of stories I had heard over the years about rowdy hen parties and such. I didn’t need to worry because it was more modern than I had imagined, especially the Wave hotel, where we stayed. Plus because it was a week especially for babies and toddlers, there were no hen parties or loud groups of party-goers, it was all families with young children.

The Wave Hotel

2014-06-06 08.22.21-1

We stayed for 4 nights in June in the Wave hotel (Bognor Regis). I deliberately chose this hotel because I wanted a separate room with a door for my toddler (who sometimes gets out of bed), and because I didn’t want the TV noise to wake him. The Shoreline hotel; while it had a separate room it did not have a door, so even though the Shoreline is targeted at younger children, they really hadn’t thought that aspect through, so I had to book the hotel meant for teenagers just because there was a door! Even though we missed out on ‘putting teddy to bed’ in the shoreline hotel, I was not disappointed with the Wave for these big positives:

  1. It was the newest and most modern of the hotels
  2. You could rent DVDs, Nintendo DS and their games, and Kindles (but note the Kindle requires a HUGE deposit!)
  3. The child’s room had a bunk-bed, with TVs and DVD players on each bunk – that was a lovely treat for Nate
  4. It was very near to the best restaurant for breakfast – the Deck
  5. It had air-conditioning (which was really needed in the hot weather we were lucky to have)

The hotel also has a big games room, but it wasn’t a positive for us because our toddler was too young to be able to play any of the games. In a few years that would definitely become a selling point.

Entertainment

butlins just for tots show

Butlins is well-known for it’s big-centre stage performances, with the red-coats and the special shows, but alas I was not able to see this for myself because, although it was ‘Just for Tots’ week, their nightly big performances still started at 9pm. One evening when I wandered out to get some snacks, I saw a very long queue and I thought, how are people able to do this? If you have a baby or a toddler how are you able to go out late at night? Do they take their babies/toddlers and let them fall asleep to the very loud music? Do they go alone and leave partner at home with the little one? That is what my husband and I do when we are at home, though it is not as fun on your own. Do they have family or friends with them who could babysit? Very good plan, we should try this next time. If anyone has the answer, please let me know as I am intrigued. Even on holiday our little boy was in bed by 7:30pm, mostly because he wouldn’t be able to stay awake any later anyway, and partly to keep him in his routine. Perhaps when he gets a bit older I won’t worry so much about bed times on holiday.

The day-time entertainment, however, was very good and we tried a wide-variety of the activities on offer, most of them free of charge:

  • Theatre shows showing Thomas the Tank Engine, Fireman Sam and more. Nate enjoyed these, although not as much as I thought he would.
  • Puppet Show – there was a puppet theatre showing a variety of shows, including “Monster’s Got Talent”, they also have a session where you can play with the puppets. Nate enjoyed the puppet show but wasn’t interested in playing with them.
  • In-door play area – Nate enjoyed this on the first day, but the next day he was told he was too short to go in, even if I went with him, this made him cry his little heart out. My toddler is quite tall for his age so bare in mind the average 3 year old wouldn’t be tall enough for what looked like a pretty standard soft play (100cm or taller to be allowed in). The side for babies and young toddlers was tiny, Nate barely played there for 5 minutes. This was disappointing.
  • Little Tikes land – this was superb, it is a race track filled with every little tykes vehicle you can think of, with slides, play-houses, wet-play and even a little castle around the track.
  • Fairground rides – a major perk that these are free, downside is the outdoor ones are only open for 4 hours a day, which we found very limiting and therefore didn’t really get to try any of the rides due to it being closed, closed because of weather or long queues. The indoor rides however were open all day, and therefore Nate got to ride them several times, and because of the lack of queues he got to stay on the one ride 4 times in a row, which he enjoyed.
  • Swimming pool – this was fantastic, it had some great slides and water features, all of us really enjoyed that, and despite reviews I read elsewhere, the changing rooms were perfectly adequate and not too cold.
  • Tots soccer – deep in his clingy phase so Nate did not play for long, which is a shame because he loves playing football usually.
  • Messy play – it was indeed messy, with lots of stations set-up for different types of play

Food

This was probably the biggest let down for us, because my husband and I are big foodies. On the otherhand, we were not expecting to eat amazing food at Butlins, so in all fairness the food was as expected. Probably the best food experience we had was breakfast at ‘the deck’ restaurant. It was opposite the wave hotel, so pretty convenient, and of all of the restaurants there that sold breakfast, it was the biggest, offered the most variety and tasted delicious. In the evenings we ate at Papa Johns (didn’t taste the same as the takeaway, so not as good), an american restaurant (too noisy, slow and didn’t care about my son) and on our last night ‘Beachcombers Inn’. We actually really enjoyed the beachcomber, not because of the bog-standard (although quickly served) food, but because it is right next to the park, and since it was a beautiful and warm evening we took the seats right next to the entrance and enjoyed our meal while Nate played. It was the perfect ending to our holiday.

My final thoughts on Butlins are that if your child is of the right age and personality to enjoy all the activities on offer this place will definitely keep them busy. The Wave Hotel was wonderful and in general it was much more modern than I thought it would be. *We paid for this holiday ourselves.

m4s0n501
0

Paddling Pool Fun

Having a couple of weekends, or at least a few days here or there of hot weather we decided to upgrade Nate’s paddling pool. For the last couple of years he has been content with the bog-standard/cheap paddling pool that also doubled as his ball-pit, which incidentally was his favourite toy up until about 16 months. Now that he is an older toddler (2.5 years), I thought a more fun/interactive pool would engage him more, and would last for a year or two, therefore I did some research to see what was out there. So here are my top picks for paddling pools based on different criteria:

1. Most expensive/splashing out (excuse the pun)/longer-lasting:  It actually looks too fun, like I might ‘accidentally’ spend a whole day playing on this myself! So if you have come into some money, or are eloping to a part of the world where it is sunny every day, what a perfect paddling pool/bouncy castle for your large garden!

giant bouncy castle

 

2. The cheapest: This is the standard 3-ring paddling pool that you can usually pick up from most places for less than £5. We bought ours from Asda, in store for about £3 last year.

three ring swimming

 

3. The one we almost bought: I liked the idea of the slide, especially when one reviewer said that she (the mum) would lay on the slide as it was great back-support! We almost bought this one from Tesco, but were disappointed by the fact that you cannot collect the same day with Tesco-Direct.

octopus swimming pool

 

4. The one for a baby/younger toddler: I like this one for babies because it has a sun-shade which is perfect for protecting a baby’s skin.

baby crab ball pit

5. The one we did buy:   This one just seemed perfect for my toddler who loves all things transport, and after a happy afternoon with him sliding in and out, running around, splashing and laughing I would say our money was well spent on this one. It did take some time to blow up without a pump, so don’t forget to purchase one of those too. There is also a useful enclosed section that would benefit from some balls, luckily we already had some. We now call it the hot tub (because it does look like a mini hot-tub), which when filled with much warmer water is perfect for mummy to sit in with legs dangling over the side. The upside of purchasing this one from Argos is that we could collect it the same day, so when we awoke on a Saturday morning to brilliant sunshine we popped straight over to Argos to buy it, and Nate was playing in it later that morning. It comes with the addition of pool toys and floats including: a hoopla game, a blow up car, stop-sign and traffic lights and you can attach your hose to it and sprinklers come out of the side. (The blue slide in the picture is ours and does not come with the paddling pool).

toddler sliding into poolhot tub splashing

2

Peppa Pig World – with a toddler!

On our last day of our Butlins (Bognor Regis) holiday, we decided that we would stop off at Peppa Pig World for the day, on our way home.

This was our first trip to a proper theme park with our 2.5 year old toddler, so we were uncertain as to what to expect.

Firstly, Peppa Pig World is a clean and pretty little part of a larger theme park called Paultons Family Theme Park. There are only about 8/9 Peppa Pig themed rides, however, I feel that is sufficient for a day of activity. Unfortunately we did not get to try all of the rides, because either the queues were too long, or Nate decided he didn’t want to go on them.

Parking was easy enough, but it was quite a trek from parking to the entrance (where you pay), fairly long queue’s to get in and then you have to walk through the whole of Paultons Park to get to Peppa Pig World, so if you have a young child, you may want to take a buggy or baby carrier. There is ample space for pushchairs to be left at every ride, so I am glad we decided to take it in. Please note that there are not baby changing facilities in Peppa Pig World, but there is one outside to the left, and it was pretty good and spacious.

peppa pig land paultons park

I felt the price was too high if you only intend to go to the Peppa pig section of the park (like we did), I think they should have a separate and lower price for Peppa Pig users only (although I understand how they are very unlikely to do this, financially). I am glad that Nate was under 100cm (just) and therefore didn’t have to pay the £27 full price ticket that each of myself and my husband had to pay. They do sometimes have special offers and is worth checking the website before you go, it is also cheaper if you book online.

Being completely honest, I think Nate was too young to really enjoy the park, or perhaps it is just his personality, but the idea of queuing for a 2 year old, is just not something he can comprehend. I am sure if we went with friends and their kids, he would have been more entertained, but he really did not like queuing and was not shy about letting us know it – several tantrums ensued. What further irritated him was that he was not allowed to stay on the ride for more than one go (which is obvious to us adults, but try explaining that to a 2 year old).

He went on Grandpa Pigs train ride, Daddy Pigs car ride, Grandpa pigs boat trip (shortest queue) and George’s Rocket – indoor play zone (no queuing required). He enjoyed all of them, and really wanted to try the helicopter ride, but the queues for that were 35 minutes long all day and I knew he would not stand through that. There was also a peppa pig playground that he enjoyed and a muddy puddles wet play at the back of that, but he was too tired by that point to try it.

toddler driving car

All in all, we enjoyed our day and may try taking him back again next year when he is more queue-friendly.

 

3

A Day out with Thomas (the tank engine)

Over the Easter weekend Buckinghamshire Railway Centre ran their ‘Day out with Thomas‘, which they do about 3 weekends a year. The last time they did this was in September so we have waited a long time for this. The cost was £41 for 2 adults and 1 child over the age of 2, so it wasn’t a cheap day out, but I have to say it was worth it to see the look on my son’s face when he saw Thomas for the first time! He loved it! The journey from Milton Keynes was not too bad, it took 50 minutes (it is near to Aylesbury).

We went on Bank Holiday Monday and arrived at 10:30am, exactly when it opened, which was a good time because there was no queuing for tickets and we didn’t have to queue to ride on the Thomas train (there was a long queue for the rest of the day). So the first thing we did, of course, was to ‘meet’ Thomas and ride on the Thomas train, which Nate loved! I was surprised by how very comfortable old steam trains are, I would love to try it on a longer journey. Be aware that the train ride is very short. The ride goes in one direction for 2 1/2 minutes, goes back and then repeats so the entire journey lasts for 10 minutes in total. It’s a shame that you don’t get to see much of the countryside, as the train turns back as soon as you start to see fields, but we all enjoyed it anyway, the steam and the chugging was all very authentic, plus how often do you get to ride on a real steam train?

toddler pointint to toby

After riding on the Thomas train, and spotting Toby on the way, we headed towards the miniature railway, and after about 10 minutes of queuing we had a ride, which we all enjoyed, perhaps even more than Thomas. This was because it was open air, it was a longer journey, it was pretty and was full of little characters all along the journey such as Winnie the Pooh, Noddy, Fireman Sam, Bob the Builder and more we also got to go through a tunnel. We stopped here for a picnic and and Nate watched the trains go round on the model railway.

buckinghamshire railway centre

There were various other activities going on through the day, there was an open top train ride, face painting, a balloon show, colouring activities, a mini cinema on board a train showing Thomas, meet the Fat Controller, some toy train sets to play with and more. There was a restaurant inside selling food, which we didn’t try because it was too busy, there was also a chip van and several picnic areas. We stayed until about 2pm, so there were enough activities for a half-day visit, probably not enough to keep you out all day. Nate was so tuckered out he fell asleep straight away and slept the whole journey home.

The next ‘Day out with Thomas’ is in early July and then again in early September. There is also a ‘Postman Pat’ day in May and a ‘Peppa Pig’ day in June.

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Cheaper Cinema Trips

After reading a couple of blog posts recently about how expensive the cinema is, I was inspired to write a post about ways of keeping cinema costs down. If you go out with the whole family on a Saturday night to see the latest blockbuster you are likely to be spending £30 plus, and that is just for tickets, let alone snacks on top of that. However, if you are a little more selective on the days you go, the venue, the movies you choose, or simply make the effort to collect a few vouchers/print something off online, then you could get your cinema trips for free, or at a much lower cost.

So here are my top 10 tips:

1. Unlimited card – this is what me and the hubby do, because we are regular cinema go-ers. The unlimited card at Cineworld costs £15.90 outside of London but it is only really worthwhile if you go more than once per month. I love it for several reasons: not only do we go to the cinema without having to think about it, we get to see movies we might not otherwise try. If you don’t like the movie, you can just go out and get another ticket for a different one, so the risk is less. If you have the unlimited card for over a year you get upgraded to premium, which gets you the added benefit of being able to see 3D movies for free (you don’t have to pay extra) and 25% off all food and drink. You also get special advance screenings of movies on occasion. I absolutely LOVE the unlimited card, and have had it for about 5 years!

2. Movies for Juniors – at Cineworld they have movies for Juniors on saturday and sunday mornings. They screen fairly recent kids movies and it only costs £1 per person! This week my cinema showed “Monsters University” and “The Croods” (very funny). Vue call it KidsAM and it costs £1.75 per tickets.

3. 2 for 1 on Wednesdays – It used to be called “Orange Wednesdays” (which was a much better name, but who am I to judge) however it is exactly the same. If you are an EE mobile customer, text the word “film” to the phone number: 241. They will text back with a code that when you buy your ticket gets you another ticket for free. This also works with the unlimited card, so I often take a friend out on a Wednesday and neither of us have to pay anything. As a bonus you can also get a 2 for 1 on pizza’s and dough balls at pizza express using the same code that they send you for the cinema.

4. Cheap night – most cinema’s have special cheaper nights. At Cineworld and Odeon it is called Bargain Tuesdays, Vue call it Super Tuesday where you get about 1/3 off the price. Currently around £6 per ticket, although less if you book online (you save 10% when you book online).

5. Outdoor cinemas – in Milton Keynes every year the Parks Trust have an Open Air Cinema weekend event. It it completely free, is in our lovely campbell park and is my favourite annual event. I have seen them in London too, so I am sure other towns must do it too, have a look in your local papers or local parks trust websites.

6. Sky Movies customers – one of the Sky Rewards scheme is that if you are a sky movies customer you can get free cinema tickets to advance previews of films at the cinema. For example they were offering up to 4 free tickets to see “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2″.

7. Collect sweet wrappers e.g M&Ms for Sweety Sunday

8. If you are a student you can use your NUS card to get a big reduction in the price, and don’t forget to apply for an NUS extra card even if you are a part-time student, for example if you study with the Open University.

9. Moneysavingexpert is a fantastic website, that I have been using for years to save money. They have a thread, in their forums with a list of websites you can sign up to that have regular free screenings of the latest films, for example “The Book Thief” was free to see yesterday at cineworld.

10. Booking in advance, If you book your tickets online with Cineworld you save 10% off the ticket price. This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to save a little money off your tickets.

Finally, what are we doing this weekend? Going to see the Lego Movie of course!

the official lego movie