A trip to the cinema for The Great Race

Last weekend I was ever so grateful to Sarah from Boo, Roo & Tigger Too for the opportunity to take my children to the cinema to see Thomas The Tank’s ‘The Great Race’.
It may have been a little out of age range for my 7 yo, and bordering for my 5 yo’s, but I think we all enjoyed it. Especially as it was for my trip to the cinema with my children.
Depending on who’s watching it I would guess depends on what message is heard. Given the introduction on engines from across the globe, there was definitely a feel that ‘The Great Race’ focuses on diversity – perhaps that everyone’s different, has different skills, has a different heritage, and has different aspirations.Thomas the Tank - The Great RaceAnd I do love to sit through media focused on children to find these messages.
Although I didn’t quite expect to (nearly) scream out loud as I wonder if engines will fall into the sea, or collide.
Fortunately my children still hold their emotion a little less vocally, and were just captivated by the engines and their exploits.Thomas the Tank - The Great RaceMy trip to the cinema did get me thinking other thoughts- obviously when can we go again? (The children saw the Angry Birds Movie advertised and I was quite taken with one about pets).
Despite being gifted the tickets I still managed to spend £8 on a bottle of water, bag of popcorn and bag of Smarties. And I also bought myself a coffee from Costa. 
If I had paid for my tickets I think it would have been around £16.
Fortunately we choose an out-of-town cinema where our parking is free if we use the cinema on the complex.

With a half term dawning, I can’t help but add up what it might cost.
We’re so fortunate that the coastline which surrounds us offers free entertainment.

But the weather’s meant to turn on Tuesday.

And the children have high hopes of entertainment- of soft play, eating out, the cinema.

And even though we’re not going ‘on holiday’, I can’t help but think as the costs add up, maybe we’re not far off. 
Half term set to cost working parents over £400

 

Mila & Pheebs Kids Subscription Box

Mila & Pheebs Subscription BoxI can only start this post by saying I can’t believe how fantastic the Mila & Pheebs subscription box is. 
I went through a massive phase of subscription boxes for me,  until I realised that I know what I like and that’s for a reason. Because the subscription boxes I bought were just like “here’s some of what you might like”, and some would be ok, some would be put in one of my many storage boxes as there might possibly be a point in the future when I would like to use it, or I’d re-gift some of the contents. I came to realise I wasn’t getting my monies worth. So I stopped, and just bought the make-up/ stationery/ food that I wanted or that I wanted to try.

When CM was invited to try a subscription box for children, focused on crafts and stationery, well I couldn’t help but think it was perfectly suited.

I think I’ve previously written about how difficult my daughter is to buy for, having never been particularly enamoured with teddies or dolls, she usually ends up with everything on her birthday and Christmas lists because she likes so little- My Little Pony/ Monster High/ Shopkins – that’s it.

But creating. Creating has always been her thing. The mainstream things mentioned are top-ups for notebooks, crayons, paints and crafts. She loves to draw, to write, well, to be.

And so Mila & Pheebs subscription box couldn’t have been more perfect:Mila & Pheebs Woodland Themed Subscription BoxI’d love to tell you at £9.99 I think it’s pricey. 
I don’t.
The other day, as a treat, I bought one of the boys a magazine. Even the woman on the checkout commented how expensive it was.
With this subscription box you could feel the quality in each item. 
I’d love to think about how much I’d pay for the Bark Colouring Pencils alone. Mila & Pheebs Subscription BoxI love that everything keeps to a theme. 
That is encourages CM to ask questions.
That it’s not a load of random things which you might like.
But there is the common thread running through. Mila & Pheebs Subscription BoxAnd as is CM’s nature, everything became about someone else.

She created the most creative cards for her friends.

I tried not to get too cross when I collected her from school to find one of her friends with the hedgehog craft kit. It had been a stowaway with her that morning, she and him had taken the time to create it perfectly, and it was her gift to him.

That feeling of being cross because I couldn’t take a photograph of it, and just feeling the love of how proud they were that he got to take it home. Money really can’t buy those moments.

CM also gifted her brothers. The boys and I are making our way through the Roald Dahl collection, and the Fox paperclip made the most perfect bookmark as we made our way through ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’.
Mila & Pheebs Subscription BoxSo, what of the £9.99? 

Well, it depends on what you’re likely to spend on your child each month, but I think at seven years-old CM is now at the age to earn things rather than having random treats based on behaviour or chores.

I love the idea that this constitutes quality and learning, rather than acquiring more blind bags.

And before it becomes about me, the enjoyment she got from her subscription box was (and is) fantastic. Unlike the Shopkins which I tread on like Lego. The subscription box on the other hand is kept where mummy keeps all her theatre programmes (the shelf which should not be touched). The contents are removed, used, and returned. I am tempting fate, but I have never seen CM look after something so well.

Saving up her points each month to deserve a subscription box? I think this is something to which she and I would be happy to commit.

So… worth £9.99.. yes. And, like any good subscription box, by prepaying, the boxes can become £8.33 per month,  and there’s no postage fee on subscription boxes if you’re in the UK.

Perfect for the 6+ year old it’s aiming at, Mila and Pheebs have designed this box perfectly.

And, if there was anything else to convince me of why this box is perfect, Mila & Pheebs is a family run business and with a name inspired by  the couple’s 21 old twins Milena and Phoebe (enough said really!).
Based in Cardiff, Mila & Pheebs create themed stationery and activity boxes for kids. A new box is released each month and includes items such as stickers, notebooks, pencils, word searches and a collectible iwako eraser. 

Subscribe at Mila & Pheebs by the 19th of the month to get a perfectly creative subscription box for your primary school aged child.

Disclosure: We received a subscription box for the purpose of this review. All opinions and views contained are our own.

At home with a drone

We talk, from time to time, but in intense conversations, about what home means, about moving back up North. In saner moments it’s acknowledged, the cons do not outweigh the pros. But when we’re there, enjoying the best of times, it’s difficult to remember why we traded the awesome landscape of the Pennines.

We have been so fortunate. We traded one landscape for another.

So, arguing the toss for the one view is difficult.
His Friends vs My Family and Friends.
It’s not an argument either of us can win.

One room with a view for anotherHome - View out from Rhoose PointBut this time of year, when the wind stops battering our home, and the South Wales Coastline becomes a thing of beauty.
Rather than the protagonist of the drama (a phone call about our 12ft trampoline landing in our neighbour’s garden is hardly the call you need when we’re away for the New Year), it is the beauty.  View out from Rhoose PointIt is the five minute walk which creates so much excitement in our little people, realising their spirit of adventure, creating happiness. View out from Rhoose PointIt gives us our path. 
To new adventures.

To a life which is ours.
To continually create.
To breathe.

To appreciate that we have survived the tougher days.
To enjoy the relationships and bonds which surround us.

And to remember to breathe it all in.
(And, of course, to love it all out).Home - Rhoose PointAnd in his case.

To add another string to the bow.

We have had so much frustration with this.

It won’t work on mobile view.

But we have decided, the soundtrack makes it, so please, boot up a laptop, 

And this, this is why I want to stay put.

And this, this is what’s putting the biggest rocket up my husband’s… This is what’s putting the twinkle in my husband’s eye and the fire in his belly!

This.

This is our home.

Having fun with the Johnson’s

Ok, so I never thought a game with the children could be this much fun.

160 years after its launch, one of the longest surviving games in the world is back, and in 24 great new special edition packs from Go For It Games.

A format of Happy Families / Go Fish cards, designed with clever illustrations and facts to provide added interest is a part of this celebration.

These new versions of Happy Families are available at an RRP of £6.99 and focus on the different stages and moments in life, divided into groups like “The Happy Family at Christmas”.

Each of these 24 new Happy Families packs are already personalised to a family name. So there’s a Happy Smith Families, Happy Jones Families and so on. If you have an unusual name then please bear in mind that these fab new Happy Families games make great gifts for fun-loving families with more common surnames. Giving “Happy Smith Families” to a family named Smith really goes down well.Go Fish for Johnson'sAs ‘Go Fish’, The Johnson’s had the children hiding their cards in various places around the room as soon as they realised their foible in laying them out in easy sight.

It all started calmly enough.Go Fish for Johnson'sAnd there was much excitement for the five year-old’s when they recognised the letters which make up their surname.Go Fish for Johnson'sAnd I was really impressed with the fun facts which made up the different colour-ways. Go Fish for Johnson'sMost of all I loved the passion it brought out in my children.

I loved how excited they got.

I loved how they quickly picked up the colour combinations- or using numbers when the colour-ways were too close to call.

I loved how much they enjoyed (ridiculously enjoyed) giving the instruction ‘Go Fish’. Go Fish for Johnson'sThat they are of the age where being competitive is ok.

But not always getting it makes humour creep in.

I loved that their compassion for sharing cards sometimes gets the better of their competitive side.

But still, regardless they love to win.Go Fish for Johnson'sThe opportunity to introduce my children to a card game was one which held a place in my inner child. The competitive yet one who appreciated intellect one.

The fact they grasped it, enjoyed playing rounds with mummy, and were more excited to play a game solo.

Just makes mummy so proud.

A family game, a sibling game- much fun, much laughter, much hysteria unfolds.

Definitely. The chance to see the best in people.

I loved the chance to rediscover a card game I had forgotten.

This time in our name.

And maybe, it’s also available in yours?

To see which names are available, check out the Happy Families card game range.
These special edition Happy Families range are priced at £6.99 per pack but with the code JOHNSON10 you can get a 10% discount until the 24th December 2017.

Disclosure: We received ‘Go Fish for Johnson’s’ for the purposes of this review. All opinions and views contained are our own.

Living Arrows 21/52

This week’s Living Arrows post is one of the random places you decide to pull out your camera. But Saturday was a first for me, I took my children to the cinema.

They’re not deprived! They’ve been to the cinema lots, as treats- with grandma and grampy, with friends, and for parties. But never with me.

I’ll be honest, once someone took them and the ‘first’ had happened, I didn’t feel the motivation. The attention span of my 5 year old’s doesn’t fill me with confidence.

And I sort out don’t mind that, I’d rather they loved to play rather than sit still for long(ish) periods of time. But still, the cinema holds so many wonderful memories for me, there is still the pull of the big screen.

And life plays its course, thanks to the lovely Sarah from Boo, Roo & Tigger Too I was able to take the three of them.

And it was wonderful. I needed this time out with my children.

And their smiles.

The lovely face of CM Living Arrows

The cheeky face of B Living Arrows

The naughty face of E Living Arrows
Living Arrows

Transformers: Robots in Disguise – Rumble in the Jungle DVD inc. #Giveaway

The boys are massive fans of Transformers, and were a little bit excited to get their hands on the latest instalment of the DVD series.  Transformers: Robots in Disguise – Rumble in the Jungle is available on DVD and Digital Download on 23rd May 2016. With six new episodes, the story continued on from the out of this world first instalment of Robots in Disguise: A New Mission.  Returning to Earth, Bumblebee and the Autobots are still rounding up the escaped Decepticons, but not all of them will come quietly.Transformers: Robots in Disguise - Rumble in the JungleThe team comes face to face with a wild Decepticon, Grimlock, who is on the rampage and out of control; however that is not their only problem to overcome this time round! The rivalry is brewing between Denny and Fixit, but Bumblebee takes the most hits as he is exposed to toxins that make him hyperactive and is being tracked down by a pair of bounty hunters determined to ensnare him once and for all.

The team also has their work cut out with a Decepticon fugitive trying to attack the Bot’s most precious commodity. When it seems their adventure cannot get any worse, Optimus learns of a threat made against Earth and Cybertron! It seems there is evil on the horizon, but can the Autobots stop it in time? Earth and Cybertron are doomed if Optimus cannot prepare himself to make the right move. It is chaos on Earth but will teamwork save the day in this exciting new volume?

Release date: 23rd May | Cert PG (TBC)| running time 126 minutes

If your little ones enjoy Transformers as much as mine, I have a copy of this latest DVD to giveaway. Enter using the Rafflecopter below- and good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: We received a copy of the DVD for the purpose of this post. All views and opinions contained are our own.

Living Arrows 20/52

Whilst they can make life so challenging, especially in the mornings, when they seem to find something which is wrong- “daddy turned my socks inside out”, “mummy, I don’t like you brushing my hair, why can’t you brush it like daddy”, there is usually at least one onslaught of tears.

Returning from school is not much better, for children who create so much about getting into their uniforms they protest just as much at the idea of getting changed out of them.

But then there are the evenings, when everything is just getting a bit to fraught for no understandable reasoning. And you ask them where they want to go. And all three of them start chanting “Jackson’s Bay”. 

And life is good.Jackson's Bay Siblings at Jackson's Bay Jackson's Bay Jackson's Bay Siblings at Jackson's Bay Siblings at Jackson's Bay

Living Arrows

Siblings – May 2016

I’m sharing my Siblings post with a hint of pride in them, especially, but also this time in my improving skills behind the camera.

My new camera arrived last week, my 30th birthday present from hubby.
All of the photography skills I learned from Sara-Jayne were brought to the fore, as I took the photographs I had wanted to take for years.
After so long seeing siblings in fields of yellow.

It will be a long time before I am happy with my photographs, the same problem I had with my Theatre Studies A-Level, the more you learn the more you critique.

But, oh, the fields of yellow.
And these three.

I am learning.

There’s no point in asking these three to look at a camera- no amount of requests for chants of rude words will achieve that.

Ask them to show affection.

That’s what mine were made for.Siblings May 2016 Siblings May 2016 Siblings May 2016

The Me and Mine Project

The Tower Hotel, London

I hope you’ll indulge me, it was a night at Guoman’s The Tower Hotel which inspired me when I had been struggling with content for my blog. I love to bake you see, and my hope of baking ever week has fallen short, but what’s not been falling short is my night’s away with work, and I’m lucky- some weeks a Travelodge will be the only hotel within budget- and every now and again, I’m lucky enough to stay in wonderful hotels.The Tower HotelThe Tower Hotel falls in this category. And whilst I’m not sure to many it looks that great from the outside, it has the most wonderful backdrop, and the interior and the customer service more than makes up for any perception of ‘concrete’.

The Tower Hotel sits conveniently next to Tower Bridge, a short walk from the aforementioned tube station, and a stone’s throw from St Katharine’s Dock which offers some great eateries and bars. In my limited experience of staying sporadically at the Tower Hotel for the past six months, the hotel is most popular with group bookings, usually for black tie dinners.

So you could forgive me for always feeling out-of-place. My first stay in the hotel last year saw me approaching the receptionist saying in hushed tones “I think I’m booked in here.” such is the grandeur of the hotel. When I returned the following evening because I couldn’t persuade my room card key to work she remembered me (no mean feat given there are usually at least six people on the front desk at any time and it’s always busy). 

And since that first experience I have returned to the same standard of customer service. When my visits are less sporadic I am greeted with “Welcome back” and less so I am reminded of the locations of all key areas of the hotel.The Tower HotelFor the accommodation itself, I am always a little unintentionally wary. The rooms do feel dated, although this is always pessimistic of me. I judge every hotel by the quality of its shower (even in the early days of babies it is a truth that I cannot function without a shower), and The Tower more than stands up to the test.The Tower HotelThe Tower is also one of the few places I will happily pay for room service. If I am not meeting up with friends or colleagues I am most likely to find a local Pret or supermarket and bring food back. I’m not one for eating alone. The food at any hotel will be more than exceed the cost of bringing food back, but I feel at home enough at the Tower to make hot food an option.

One of the main areas of customer service I love at The Tower is that they ask what room you’d like. I love to eavesdrop on the responses, because whilst on the whole I think I’m accepting with a hotel like this I’m happy to push my luck.

Many will say “as long as I have a bed for the night”, but if like me you look confused they’ll ask “a higher floor or lower”, I’m a sucker for a view (my home is testament to this) so I automatically say “higher”. And on the basis you’re selective, dependent on availability you’ll be asked about your preferred view- the Tower, the Bridge, the River, the Marina? The hotel team are great at making sure you have the room you want. I’ve also heard people asking for the refurbished rooms. I have no idea on this one- I have always been more than happy with the allocated room.The Tower HotelSo here’s a quick spin of the room:

Despite a promise to stay in a different hotel going forward to get some great material for my blog, my new camera has been delivered, so I’ve booked this hotel again – I’m a sucker for London landmarks!

Keeping a 7 year old happy with Carlton Kids

Last week, for the first week this school year, CM was off school poorly. There is nothing worse than a poorly child, and worse still- one who doesn’t want to be off school. CM is the kind of child who fights illness, and we watched her fighting the virus for a few days before she succumbed. When she did it was difficult, she needed to be kept busy whilst trying to recover enough energy to fight the lurgy. Carlton Kids Alice Through the Looking GlassFortunately we had received two completely different motivators from Carlton Kids. One allowed CM to be engaged whilst relaxing- by reading. Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ is  beautifully illustrated book. Retelling the sequel to ‘Alice in Wonderland’ the book has a homely feel, of familiarity, and whilst it is has enough words to tell the story- designed for 6+ year olds- there is enough to keep a young child engaged. The pages have beautiful associated illustrations featuring familiar characters.Carlton Kids Alice Through the Looking GlassIn addition to the illustrations is the ‘lift the tab’ engagement, this ensured as CM’s concentration lapsed there was something to keep her interested, because she loved the wonderful artwork.

But nothing prepared either of us for the fantastic pop-up page… you really do need to buy the book!Carlton Kids Alice Through the Looking GlassAs CM’s health got better, she still needed to be boost her energy stores. Whilst her preference seemed ‘boom and bust’- a great spurt of energy before she fell fast asleep, we quickly realised we needed to give her something more than reading.

Carlton has produced the kind of colouring book which is very similar to those being marketed for adults, an instant win for CM. My Mandalas is a wonderfully grown up colouring book, full of beautiful images for careful creation. Carlton Kids My Mandalas Colouring BookCM definitely thought this was a colouring book worthy of her (and mine) attention. And one thing worth noting is that broad tip pens won’t entirely fit the bill, using my fine tip pens was one compromise I had to make. Carlton Kids My Mandalas Colouring BookThe mandalas in this book are beautiful and a perfect distraction for a child who things themselves too old for ‘colouring in’.

Both these books have had merit in the week post illness. My Mandalas is the perfect relaxation and distraction from the week. And the perfect place to hone concentration and artistic license.

Since finishing ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ for herself, the wonder of the book is being passed to younger brothers. I now have to sit and listen as a 7-year-old regales her 5-year-old brothers with the tale- bliss.

Disclosure: We received ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ and ‘My Mandalas’ for the purpose of this review. All opinions and views contained are our own.