Keeping refreshed with Robinsons Squash’d

Drinking lots of water is a no brainer, especially as the summer days arrive and the children are more likely to be found in the garden playing than relaxing around the house. But for me, remembering to drink enough water is the thing I usually remember as evening arrives, and for the little people stopping for a drink is always a chore.Robinsons Squash'dRobinsons are working with parents to create an awareness of the importance of keeping refreshed over the summer months, and ensuring that the whole family are keeping hydrated. Not only have Robinsons introduced two new flavours to their range – Orange & Peach and Lemon & Pink Grapefruit- but they’ve also introduced a fab range of Robinsons Squash’d, a super concentrated squash.

Robinsons Squash’d comes in a bottle so small that not only can you fit it without problem into your bag or picnic basket, but, if your family is like ours, and your children long for independence it’s perfect for little hands to make their own drinks. Robinsons Squash'dAnd I think that’s how we’ve increased our water consumption as a family. At work I’m more likely to say ‘yes’ to a cup of coffee than a glass of water. Knowing I’ve got a little bottle of Squash’d in my handbag means I’ve found myself drinking far more water, to the extent that this week I realised I’d actually gone a few days without any coffee (and survived!).

For the children it’s the independence.Robinsons Squash'dIn the same way as the children love sorting their own breakfast (plastic bowls and cereal in a low cupboard and a half full bottle of milk always in the fridge), they now love seeing to themselves when they want a drink (admittedly they’re using the toilet sink for water rather than overcoming the height of the kitchen sink).

And it’s great. Especially because whereas in the past we’ve stuck with a few standard bottles of Robinsons, now they have lots of variety to choose from, and bottles that are small enough and easy enough to handle.

Which means, more often than not, when they’re not raiding the fridge for snacks, they’re most often found enjoying a drink.

Hydration worried- be gone!Robinsons Squash'ed Robinsons Squash'edDisclosure: We received a gift box including Robinsons Squash’d for the purposes of this post. This post is an entry for BritMums #EnjoyMoreWater Challenge, sponsored by Robinsons. All views and opinions contained are my own.

Into The Woods – the Everyman Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival 2016

Into The Woods was the absolute perfect choice to welcome the world to Everyman’s Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival 2016. There is something quite magical about watching theatre surrounded by the best of Sophia Gardens, and nature’s backdrop created an extra dimension to a wonderful performance.Into The Woods at the Everyman Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival 2016It was the Fairy Godmother (and her mum) who told me I had to see Into The Woods, seemingly my misspent youth meant it entirely passed me by, and as always the Fairy Godmother made the perfect recommendation. I got to escape the day to watch James Lapine’s book being brought to life by the music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, through the talent of Everyman.Into The Woods at the Everyman Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival 2016The scene was set by Neil Parker as the Narrator, a wonderful dry humour kept the story light and he seamlessly kept the tale moving.

And from the Narrator taking the stage, the talent continued, I kept thinking I had a favourite character, but the performances were so strong, and so individual that each brought something entirely special to the stage.

Laura Philips as The Baker’s Wife and Matthew Preece as The Baker definitely shone, their chemistry on stage just seemed to work, and the performances were personable ensuring that they created the empathy needed from the audience to make it more than a comedy, more than a musical, they immersed you in their tale.Into The Woods at the Everyman Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival 2016And there were the characters which you couldn’t help but love. All from the three fairytales which entwine this story- the Witch (Jo Herco-Thomas) instantly enraptured me, the physical characterisation was consistently mesmerising, to the extent I was a little disappointed when her spell was lifted and the stage somehow didn’t feel as full, despite the continuation of a fantastic performance.Into The Woods at the Everyman Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival 2016Jack, Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf and Cinderella were each fantastic. Such different characterisations. The bolshy Red was like a little Tasmanian Devil, against the wonderful naivety of Jack made for some great scenes.  Into The Woods at the Everyman Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival 2016One of the downsides for me was the timing and duration. I imagine how much my 7-year-old would love the story and performance- maybe that’s me making her grow up too fast again. But I can’t help but think that this would be a great musical for older children, but starting at 8pm and finishing just shy of 11pm would mean it would have to be a weekend treat.

But with that in mind it is the perfect treat. Somehow, in the second half as night falls, the surrounding of Sophia Gardens just morph into production, the trees creating a sense of scale as the Giantess wreaks her havoc. And as the characters came together to make sense of what remained, the consideration of “Careful the things you say, children will listen” never seemed more pertinent as the curtain fell on the 23rd June 2016.

Into The Woods is playing at the Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival 2016 from 23rd June to the 2nd July with tickets available from Ticketsource.

The Festival continues with ‘Allo ‘Allo – 7th July-16th July, Romeo & Juliet – 21st July-30th July and Disney’s Peter Pan Jr – 23rd July- 30th July.

Photo Credit: Keith Stanbury.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary ticket for the purposes of this review. All opinions and views contained are my own.

A Go-To Celebration Cake

My relationship with baking has somewhat fizzled out over recent months, between work and trying to eat better I’ve stayed away from my love of baking cakes and bread. And it is a bit of a shame, because I probably love to bake more than I love to eat what I make, and I love to bake because it takes my mind of work. So the chance to bake this week for someone other than me was a win-win. I decided to go for a simple celebration cake, I was so fearful that I might have forgotten how to bake that I decided to stick with what I know.My Go-To Celebration CakeThe cake itself is a simple Victoria sandwich, I still bake using my mum’s trusty recipe- based on the weight of the eggs- and to give it the ‘more than a Victoria sandwich’ enthusiasm there’s trusty Cadbury’s Fingers and a load of Malteasers for a bit of ‘yum’. I discovered, now more committed than ever to getting the weight off, that this recipe is not great for keeping off the pounds, as based on a ‘normal’ round cake tin the perimeter of the cake takes exactly two packets of Cadbury’s fingers, plus four from the third packet. Conned.Victoria SandwichTo make this so simple cake, the first thing you need to do is:

Weight 4 eggs and preheat the oven at 180 degrees celsius.
Put into a mixing bowl the weight of the four eggs in Caster Sugar and Unsalted Butter, and cream.
Add two of the eggs and mix.
Measure the same weight of the four eggs in self-raising flour, add a couple of tablespoons to the mix.
Add the remaining two eggs and mix.
Add a third of the flour, combine, another third and combine, and the remainder and combine.
Add a couple of teaspoons of vanilla essence and mix.
Divide the mix between two cake tins.
Put in the oven for 20mins or until golden brown and a skewer is clean when put into the centre of the cake.
Remove from oven and leave to cool.
Sandwich the cakes together with jam.
Cover the cake with buttercream (a pre-bought tub works fine).Easy Celebration CakeAdd Cadbury’s Chocolate fingers around the cake. Simple Celebration CakeAnd add Malteasers, I start from the outside and work my way in. At this point I did of course realise using chocolate buttercream would have been far better. Easy, Simple Celebration CakeI have no idea why, it doesn’t need it, but I do prefer to add ribbon round the cake. The cake doesn’t need it, but I think it finishes the cake.My Go-To Celebration Cake

Keeping him happy with Hotter Shoes

It was inevitable that getting a puppy would result in Mr J getting more exercise. And with more walking comes an excuse for good shoes. Because Mr J really is like Imelda Marcos when it comes to shoes (and jackets too). When Hotter Shoes kindly sent him a pair of Thor Shoes especially for this task I knew it would be a tall order, Mr J is quite a fussy customer. He’s right to be, years of walking across the Pennines means he knows what he likes in footwear, and when it just isn’t going to stand up to the task.Thor Mens Shoes Hotter UKSo of course when the Thor shoe arrived Mr J was a little dismissive, happy of course to have new shoes (Imelda eat your heart out), but as they were offered to him rather than him carefully selecting a shoe, he was on the back foot. 

On his closer examination, he saw the magic words:Thors Mens Shoes with Gore-Tex from Hotter ShoesThor has GORE-TEX® guaranteed waterproof properties and we’ve learned the hard way that shoes with GORE-TEX® are a lot longer lasting and a lot comfier than shoes and boots without. Along with the high quality materials and stitching, Mr J was convinced.

Mr J has been wearing the shoes for about a month now, as the fact they could do with a quick polish shows.

I’ve been surprised at how often they’ve been on his feet.

Not just for taking the dogs out for walks.

But for the school run. For shopping trips. And really anytime it’s raining. Thors Mens Shoes from Hotter ShoesHis opinion? He likes them. They’ve definitely stood up to the weather. He’s surprised by how light they are. And they’re comfy. So basically all the things he looks for.

The comfort is the obvious thing you’d expect with Hotter, but for Mr J this took him by surprise. When throwing the words ‘light’, ‘supportive’, and ‘cushioning’ at him there were nods in agreement. Hotter has successfully combined the functionality of a good all-weather, all-terrain shoe with the Hotter values.

We’ve discussed the price tag. At £105 they are more expensive than a usual shoe. But then it becomes about quality. We would spend this on a good walking shoe- especially one designed to withstand the weather. So, they are definitely worth it if they continue to stand the test of the terrain and the elements as they currently demonstrating.Thors Mens Shoes with Gore-Tex from Hotter ShoesDisclosure: We were sent a pair of Hotter Shoes for the purpose of this review. All opinions and views contained are our own.

A Twin Education: Separating Twins

I wrote a little while ago about a decision that was playing on our mind. For many, choosing the right school is one of the most difficult decisions. It was an easy one for us, we have a fantastic primary school on our doorstep. The minefield we were met with was that of a school with a two-form entry. For us, our minefield has been that of ‘To separate or not to separate’. It has been a consideration from the moment their sibling started school, if only the school had been smaller we’d have just had to cope!Twins at 5My initial instinct was to separate but then life took hold. And at first it was easy. The school determine class allocation based on whether or not your child is at morning or afternoon nursery. In the height of laziness we weren’t thinking of taking one child in the morning, picking them up, taking the other an hour later, etc. It made sense for them to be in the same session.

And then, when it came to thinking about separating them, there seemed no benefit. Everything was ticking along, everyone was happy.

And then they started school.

I guess the easiest way to think about it, is on the basis you have a sibling. Can you imagine what you’d be like in the same classroom? Familiar? Reliant? 

And then there’s that intangible – the bond between twins.

The boys are the best of friends, they are similar in tastes and ability, when they get bored, they wind each other up, they don’t mind who’s watching. When they’re winding each other up, it’s likely to result in taunting, which probably results in an arm or leg flying. They’re 5-year-old boys. Why wouldn’t it?

When the boys get excited, they are exceptional, they’re laughter is truly contagious, they fly on each other’s enthusiasm.

And the ball of energy which might be one child really is compounded into a greater mass when there are two.

I don’t look at the boys and wonder how they’ll cope without the other. They have known another sibling all their lives, and there is never a moment when she is out of things, the twin bond is always there when they sleep, they always gravitate to the other, but there is no interdependence. 

And so, today has been a great weight lifted.

I was dreading meeting with the Head and the boys’ teacher. To reflect on a half term of monitoring. To consider the future.

I went in and with a deep breath explained why we think it would be in the boys benefit for them to be separated in Year 1.

To the response: “I agree”.

Oh my.

There is a sense of relief and trepidation.

Relief because there was no ‘fight’ no case to win. The school was, as they have always been, completely understanding and supportive.

But now, to support the boys, to help them understand the benefits. 

More friends to invite to their birthday party might just be a winner!

Littlest Pet Shop: Lights, Camera, Fashion DVD Review & Giveaway

It has been nearly a year since Blythe, the trendy teen and super talented fashion designer, moved to the city and discovered that she could talk to her gang of animal friends at the Littlest Pet Shop! This time fashion is on the agenda when Littlest Pet Shop: Lights, Camera, Fashion struts onto DVD and Digital Download on 13th June.Littlest Pet Shop: Lights, Camera, Fashion DVDThe pets are as strange and wonderful as ever and Blythe has still managed to keep her ability to talk to the animals a secret. This time though, the pets sneak a glimpse at Blythe’s bad side when she enters them into a ‘Terriers and Tiaras’ talent show and discovers that the pageant brings out the worst in people.

It is not long before the team are back together again. Blythe and the pets are united when things take a turn for the worst, when spooky and strange noises alert them to the fact that there may be a werewolf amongst them! Catch up with all the gang – Zoe the spaniel, Pepper the skunk, Sunil the mongoose, Russell the hedgehog, Penny the panda, Vinnie the gecko and Minka the monkey as they try to hunt down the origin of these spooky noises.

The children really have enjoyed being reintroduced to Blythe, with laughter and such sweet contemplation as Blythe’s choices left them wondering. At 126 minutes there’s more than enough to keep them entertained, the six episodes on the DVD are:

  • Terriers & Tiaras
  • Lotsa Luck
  • Door-Jammed
  • Frenemies
  • Blythe’s Pet Project
  • Summertime Blues

These fashionable episodes also bring bittersweet news to the fantastical world of the Littlest Pet Shop as Blythe gets accepted into fashion school. Fashion school is her dream – but it also means she will be away from her animal friends for the entire summer holidays!

Littlest Pet Shop: Lights Camera Fashion opens its doors once more on DVD and Digital Download on 13th June and I have a DVD to giveaway to one lucky reader, just by following the Rafflecopter instructions on the widget below, terms and conditions can also be found in Rafflecopter. The giveaway is open to UK residents and closes at midnight on Saturday 2nd July 2016- Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: We received a copy of the Littlest Pet Shop: Lights Camera Fashion DVD for the purpose of this post. All opinions and views contained are our own.

Living Arrows 23/52

This week was an odd one.
At the beginning of the year hubby and I decided that he would take each child away for a week solo.
It’s a really odd thing.
Spending time with a child is a rarity once you have more than one.

And it seems even more so when you have twins.
It would appear there is an inbuilt human response that twins should never be separated.
And yet, I remain absolute that children are individuals. 
Regardless of ‘twin’ status. Siblings will need to be considered in a family environment.

And me and him fortunately agreed, it would (and will) do our children the world of good to have some one-to-one time with a parent.
It helps with trying to figure out half-terms, when my parents can help and I don’t need to use up my scarce annual leave. (That’s not requesting the sympathy vote, I work compressed hours so do get a day with them).

In February, Mr J and CM went to home to Todmorden.
Over Easter we all went back.
And this half term, with our Tod friends also away, Mr J and E treated themselves to a holiday (more of that to follow).

So, this week, Tuesday was our ‘Yes’ day. With CM & B.
CM & B were besties up until B started Reception, so much so that I worried about E. It now seems that B’s confidence (no doubt gained from his bestie) is his downfall.
But fortunately this week has offered some restoration of this relationship. A friendship remains in tact.
Phew.Living Arrows And so,we arrived home after our ‘yes’ day. Fortunately, our ‘yes’ day included acceptance that chores needed to be fulfilled. And so walking the dogs was a compromise.

As long at they got to spend time on the beach.

It wasn’t much of a compromise.Rhoose Point Living Arrows Siblings Rhoose Point Living Arrows
Living Arrows

Good coffee at Academy Espresso Bar – Barry

I function on coffee. I wish it weren’t true. I’m weak like that.
Although I guess it’s another sign that I’m getting old that I drink herbal tea in the afternoon, more than ever appreciating the effect of caffeine.
But good coffee, well, it’s a holy grail.
So discovering a new place locally that meets the brief. It deserves a little happy dance (no doubt caffeine induced).Academy Espresso Bar Barry - Good CoffeeBarry’s pumping station has seen a complete overhaul, and now features Academy Espresso Bar. Within this grade II listed building, the decor of the place instantly makes me feel happy.Academy Espresso Bar Barry - Good CoffeeWith the kind of leather armchairs I always imagined having in my home thanks to Carrie Bradshaw, the industrial flooring not only is in keeping with the design but also serves an additional function, in making the place very pooch friendly.Academy Espresso Bar Barry - Good CoffeeIt’s also very parent friendly, I had to recite “do not approach the mum of twins” over and over as I people-watched so many parents enjoying a bit of time in these gorgeous surroundings.Academy Espresso Bar Barry - Good Coffee Because as you sit, you are able to take the time to breathe it all in.Academy Espresso Bar Barry - Good CoffeeThese features which only serve to make you happy.
Academy Espresso Bar Barry - Good Coffee And I have never tasted an almond croissant quite as delicious.Latte & Almond Croissant With coffee which more than stands up to the mark.Academy Espresso Bar Barry - Good Coffee And great company, of course.Academy Espresso Bar Barry - Good CoffeeNow, I just need to find out if there’s wi-fi. 

And if they’ll put up with me working there every once in a while*.

(*Which probably means at least once a week).


Bye Bye Milk Teeth

Another milestone is upon us. The first of the milk teeth has fallen.
It has the sharp intake of breath.
One of my boys, my babies, has lost his first milk tooth.Losing your first tooth - bye bye milk teethAnd of course he couldn’t be prouder.
As I hold back tears.
It’s ok.
He really isn’t old enough yet.
His first milk tooth didn’t fall out of its own accord.
For I am a mum of boys.

He went out on his scooter the other month, and scooted towards the beach he scoots towards most days.
But this was the day he’d stumble and catch his tooth on the handlebar.
And we’d have a rushed trip to the dentist.
And it would be ok, he could wobble it when it was less tender and it would fall out.

Then they’d be the phone call.
That (somehow) he had collided with a child on lunch break at school.
And it looked painful. His tooth.
Coincidentally, he’d had a check up booked for the dentist that afternoon.
Of course it was the other front tooth.

And so it came to be.

Two wobbly front tooth.

Until this.
The head contact had won the race.A cheeky letter from a five year-old to the tooth fairy - bye bye milk teethThe best bit about these siblings?
A big sister to show you the way!

Jamie’s Italian Super Lunch Menu Review

When the sun is shining and you get to spend time with friends and/ or family, I’d have to say I enjoy nothing more than sitting down with good food and drinks to while away some time. And this week I got to spend some time with my best girls at Jamie’s Italian in Cardiff to enjoy the super lunch menu.Jamie's Italian CardiffWe really couldn’t have planned it better to take advantage of the half term good weather, and we were able to enjoy watching the world go by as we dined on The Hayes in Cardiff. And whilst it couldn’t have been more perfect for four women and a baby, I couldn’t help but think eating inside or out, the atmosphere created really works.Jamie's Italian CardiffWith enough time to while away the afternoon we managed to get through the three courses of the Super Lunch Menu. Available between 12.00-18.00 Monday to Friday, and priced £10.95 for two courses or £12.95 for three, it really does offer value for money, especially in the city centre. 

For starters we went for the Fritto Misto and Pâté Bruschetta. As a huge lover of fish (and mocked in work for my tendency to always go for squid in restaurants), the Fritto Misto was perfect, the garlic and lemon aioli was a great accompaniment and the batter was so light it didn’t overwhelm or over-faze. Jamie's Italian Fritto MistoThe Pâté Bruschetta was picture perfect, with pancetta, vin santo & Parmesan it didn’t last long. Jamie's Italian Pate BruschettaFor mains we went with Spaghetti Primavera and the Superfood Salad. Jamie's Italian Spaghetti PrimaveraThe superfood salad featured roasted beets, fennel, quinoa, black rice, curly kale, sprouting broccoli and  pomegranate and was perfect and similar to the favourite salads I pick up on lunch breaks when working away. It was accompanied with avocado and spicy harissa & creamy cottage cheese, at this point I wished I had read the menu more closely, I don’t do spicy and wished I had the foresight to have requested it without the harissa, as it was one of those things I kept eating because it was delicious… as my senses streamed.Jamie's Italian Super Food SaladIt’s fair to see we’re all dessert girls, and unlike our mains we ended up selecting one of each from the menu: chocolate orange cheesecake (Brownies were off, but it was great to have an alternative option offered); orange blossom polenta cake; strawberries and frozen yoghurt; and chocolate ice-cream with berry compote and smashed honeycomb.
And they were, of course, absolutely lush.Jamie's Italian Chocolate Orange Cheesecake Jamie's Italian Chocolate Ice-cream, Berry Compote, Smashed Honeycomb Jamie's Italian Strawberries & Frozen Yoghurt Jamie's Italian Orange Blossom Polenta CakeThe three courses were delicious, more than filling, they definitely offered value for money. The service was prompt without being overbearing, and as my latest bugbear in restaurants is how long it takes to pay, I was really impressed that from beginning to end there was no waiting around. The relaxed atmosphere of summer days was definitely achieved and enjoyed.

Disclosure: We were invited to try the Super Lunch Menu by Jamie’s Italian, Cardiff. All views and opinions contained are our own.