Mini post or melba post if you will! #MelbaPost

I thought about trying to blog more often, so rather than doing piles of research and taking hours to write a post and find the perfect pictures (all the time) I tasked myself with writing some mini posts in 15 minutes, and therefore post more often. In thinking about mini posts I am reminded by a Friends quote:

“This is my mini toast or Melba toast if you will” Chandler Bing

mini toast

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!


Please share your #MelbaPost with me over on twitter or a link below. Can you write a post in 15 minutes?


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.

Synopsis with spoilers (don’t read if you are planning to watch the film)

As I said at the beginning this movie is not easy to watch, especially as a mother, there are three instances involving young children, and if you are a wuss like me, you will not be able to watch those scenes. In fact one scene involving a young child and a screwdriver saw me fleeing, I literally jumped out of my seat and practically sprinted out of the screen, it was just too upsetting, I couldn’t handle it. I never used to be like this pre-Nate, but since giving birth I cannot stand watching anything negative towards children. I did actually go back into the screen though because aside from those scenes the movie was compelling, and I felt I had to watch it to the end. I’m glad I did because it was a powerful film, Bradley Cooper was superb, and I’m glad that after his tours he was able to help others and make his way back ‘mentally’ to his family, shame about the ending though, that was sad.

This is a war-movie so it’s not a barrel of laughs, and it is not a feel-good movie, there is a lot of violence of course, but it is powerful.

american sniper photo (c) Jake Maurelatos

As I thought about the film afterwards, I realised that there are parallels between being a sniper and being a parent: keeping someone alive! The only real job of the parent is to keep their child alive, day in day out, keep your child alive and you have done the basics of your job, as a sniper he has to keep his troops alive, he protects them, he is responsible for them, just like we are responsible for our children, and like us parents, he sometimes had to make hard decisions and be unlikeable for the greater good – how often do we have to be the bad-guy with our kids to keep them healthy and safe?!

I was fascinated to read, after seeing the movie, that the person who is allegedly the killer of Chris Kyle is literally about to go on trial for murder, right as the movie has been released. Not only that, but the judge is allowing people to be jurors who have seen the movie. How they still think this man will receive a fair trial is beyond me, the movie portrays Chris as the all American Hero, and says that he was killed by this man in the credits at the end, doesn’t sound like fairness to me.


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.


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

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

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


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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Questions to ask a Childminder or Nursery

My friend is soon to pop out her first, and over lunch the other day she grilled me about all the questions you need to ask a childminder. I eventually sent her my list of questions and I realised that it might be useful for others. When I was pregnant with my little man I initially chose a nursery for him, however, our financial circumstances changed and therefore we decided a childminder would be more cost effective. I have to say, how very glad I am that I chose a childminder instead of a nursery, it’s so much more personal and the activities they get to do are more varied.

So when Nate was a few months old I visited and interviewed 6 different childminders, to try to find the perfect fit for both Nate and our family. Please note that choosing a childminder or nursery is a very personal decision, and you should use your gut instinct, not just the answers to your questions. These are the people that will be part-raising your child, so it is one of the most important decisions you can make, especially if you work full-time and your child is in full-time childcare (like Nate is).

mum and children painting

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How to halve your shopping bill…easily!

I was recently asked for one of my biggest money saving tips, and I quickly realised that by shopping monthly we have reduced our shopping, essentially halved our shopping bill pretty much overnight, and we have been doing this for 18 months now. If you want to know how to save money on food shopping, read on…

shopping trolly

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My 2014 Highlights

It seems that many of my fellow bloggers are reflecting on their year, so I thought I would do the same.

dice showing 2014

Firstly, my most popular post this year was: Frozen cinema trip with a toddler which is interesting because when I wrote that post I wasn’t really on-board with Frozen and didn’t understand all the hype. However, after watching this movie 3,000 times, thanks to my toddler, I actually really like the movie and the music and (like my toddler) know all the words – I know – shock horror! We even went to the cinema to see the special sing-a-long version, which almost brought me to tears when I listened to my little boy (aged 2.5 years at the time) singing along to all the words with all the 5-8 year old girls around him (which is more impressive considering he cannot read the words on the screen).

One of my personal favourite posts from this year was about our trip to Buckingham Railway Centre for their Day out with Thomas special day. We had such a great day and will definitely be going back in March when they run the Thomas days again.

Now for my favourite posts from my fellow bloggers, bear in mind they are likely to be recent as I don’t have the best memory:

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