Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Dinosaur World Live at Lighthouse Poole - Review

If you are a regular reader of this blog then you might have guessed that Elliot likes dinosaurs a bit. Well, not just a bit - he is dinosaur crazy and has been since he was a toddler!

Recently, a show called Dinosaur World Live roared into our local theatre and I just knew we had to go!

Suitable for all the family (3+), this interactive show introduces us to Miranda, who grew up on a remote island off the coast of South America where dinosaurs still roamed. Miranda was very bubbly and engaging and chatted to the audience about her parents who were palaeontologists and how she looks after the dinosaurs.

Throughout the show, the audience are introduced to 6 different dinosaurs, from little baby ones to big ginormous ones! You're probably wondering how on earth they got dinosaurs to go on tour but they are actually puppets. And very very clever puppets! Even though you can obviously see the cast controlling the puppets (complete with noises!), they are so realistic and by the end of the show you almost don't see them as puppets.

Children from the audience were invited to come up on stage and help look after the dinosaurs - feeding them, and even brushing them. Miranda did a great job at putting the kids to ease in what could have been an intimidating encounter!

Our favourite moment was when Titus the  T-Rex came out on stage - the lights dimmed, there was smoke...and a deafening roar! Elliot did jump out of skin at this part so I think it could be a bit scary for little ones - although our friends were sat nearer to the front of the stage and their baby thought it was hilarious!

At the end of the show, the audience were invited to queue up along the stage for a special meet and greet with one of the dinosaurs. This could have been chaotic but actually everyone queued quite nicely and we didn't have to wait too long to get up close to the Segnosaurus! You could also meet the baby triceratops in the foyer which proved very popular.

Overall we really enjoyed the show. At just under an hour it was the perfect length to keep children entertained and the perfect mix of facts and fun!

Dinosaur World Live is currently touring the UK so check out the website for more info and tickets

*A big thank you to my friends Liska and Andy for letting me use their photos - my phone died 2 minutes before the show began!

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Best Advent Calenders 2018 - plus WIN a Lindt Bear Advent Calender!

Now Halloween and Bonfire Night are out the way, we can mention the C word. Yep, Christmas is on it's way and we can't wait!

Ever since I was a little girl, I always had an advent calender and me and my sisters used to try and be sneaky and eat the chocolate without our parents noticing! I think one year one of my sisters even managed to eat her entire advent calender by the 2nd of December!

These days advent calenders are no longer just the bog standard cadburys ones Mum used to get us (although I still love these ones!), you can beauty ones, vegan ones, gin ones - the list is endless.

Here's my round up of some of our favourite ones this year:

Happyland Advent Calender - £20

My children adore playing with Happyland figures (even Elliot who is almost 6!) and this one is one of the cutest on the market. Featuring 24 festive themed characters and accessories, this is a lovely alternative to the traditional calender. Currently on offer at £20, this is actually quite good value as you would normally pay around £8-10 for a pack of 5 characters.

Lindt Bear Advent Calender - £10
I absolutely love LIndt chocolate and this advent calender is perfect for any chocolate lovers like me! Featuring 3 bears, 3 gold reindeer, 6 Lindor mini truffles, 6 snowballs and 6 Christmas napolitans, it even has a full size 100g chocolate shaped novelty behind door 24. Yummy!

If you'd like the chance to win one of these, WOW Free Stuff are currently running a giveaway. To enter, simply head over to their website before the 24th November.

Melissa & Doug Wooden Advent Calender - £14.25
This one, available from Amazon is a lovely alternative to the chocolate variety and is of course reusable year after year. Featuring 24 magnetic ornaments and a shining star for the top of the tree, they all neatly fit into the attached box at the base of the tree. Kids will love rearranging the pieces to customise their own tree!

LEGO Star Wars Advent Calender - around £20

LEGO calenders seem to be getting more and more popular each year and they seem to have a variety of different options to suit each taste, such as Star Wars, City and LEGO friends. It's worth shopping around because the prices can vary alot - the best prices seem to be on Amazon.

Yankee Candle Holiday Sparkle Fold Out Advent Calender - £39.95

I love a Christmas candle this time of year and this advent calender captures the very best of the festive season. Featuring 12 votive candles and 12 tea light candles, it also comes with a lovely glass votive holder.

Matalan Fabric Reindeer Advent Calender - £11.25

If you prefer to provide your own treats, this fun fabric advent calender from Matalan features a reindeer silhouette and is finished with festive coloured pom poms.

Aldi Wine Advent Calender - £50

It wouldn't be a list without an alcoholic advent calender and this one from Aldi is ticking all the boxes! Featuring mini bottles of rose, white, red and fizz, this advent calender is one of the better value ones on the market. Even the box looks stylish!

Cheese Advent Calender - by So Wrong It's Nom

I have to say, I'd never heard of a cheese advent calender before researching this post but how amazing is this? For me, cheese is a big part of Christmas and who wouldn't want to open a tasty cheesy treat every morning in December!!

Reeces Peanut Butter Cups Advent Calenders - £5

I actually had this one last year and it was really tasty, featuring the iconic peanut butter cups.So tasty in fact that the whole family got a bit jealous and we ended up taking it turns to open a window!

Japenese Whisky Advent Calender - Master of Malt - £194.95 

Personally I think almost £200 is a bit much to spend on an advent calender but I included this on the list because it would be my husband's dream to have one of these! Featuring 24 drams of single malt, your December would certainly be merry ;)

*Collaborative post

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Spooky Half Term Fun - October 2018

I think the October Half Term is one of our favourite times of the year. For a start, Halloween is just around the corner but there just seems to be so much on in our local area - this year was no different, and I think I could have filled 4 weeks with activities and days out and not just one week! Usually I try and pace ourselves by scheduling quieter days at home but not this time - our week was busy, fun, full on and I wouldn't have changed a thing!

Pumpkin Picking - Saturday

We decided to go and pick some pumpkins at a local pumpkin patch at the start of the week - usually we just pick up a couple of cheap ones in Asda so this was a bit different for us! We've never been to a pumpkin patch before but it was such a lovely morning and I'm really glad we did it. The kids loved finding all the different shaped pumpkins and Elliot took great pleasure in finding the biggest one there to take home with us!

Autumn Fun at Kingston Lacy - Monday

The Monday began with a visit to one of my very favourite places in Dorset - in fact, my National Trust Membership is pretty much made up of visits to here! The grounds are beautiful but especially at this time of the year with the stunning Autumn colours. It's a fab place to take the children because there's no traffic and they can pretty much run free! We met up with some friends, Elliot dressed up as Dracula (standard half term attire!) and we had a lovely walk followed by a picnic while the children played on the ride ons.

Corfe Castle - Tuesday

Another National Trust visit, this time to the spectacular ruins of Corfe Castle. This is another brilliant place to visit in school holidays because there are always special events on for children and plenty to keep them amused. We loved spotting the pumpkins around the castle and the children had lots of fun doing the creepy creatures quiz. We sent our teddies down the terrifying zipline and we also managed to catch the trebuchet being fired. All in all it was a great day!

Pumpkin Hunt at Moreton Walled Garden - Wednesday

It took us a while to decide on todays activity. We discussed visiting the Shire Hall Historic Court Museum in Dorchester but in the end the weather was lovely again so we decided to head outdoors.

We met up with our friends and spent a wonderful morning in the sunshine following the pumpkin trail and exploring the beautiful gardens. We even found a brilliant play area that we didn't even know existed so that kept the children amused for ages!

Spooky Fun at Lulworth Castle - Thursday

This was probably our favourite day of the week - we had so much fun! The castle and grounds had been transformed into a spooky attraction and honestly, the effort that had gone into the event was fantastic. As we walked through the entrance we were greeted by a friendly ghost and then there were lots of spooky themed games scattered throughout the walk up to the castle.

Once inside the castle we were directed through the basement where there were spiders, witches and all kinds of scary things. But still tame enough for the gaggle of 1-6 year olds we were with! We stumbled upon a disco in one of the rooms so the kids had a good old boogie to bat out of hell - we could have stayed in there longer but we were itching to see what the rest of the castle held for us!

There were spooky crafts and even a magic show which was great fun. It was a nice dry day too so we were able to sit outside at lunchtime and enjoy the Halloween themed music blasting out from the castle! After lunch we went to explore the haunted forest and for those that were brave enough, there was a zombie infested area....Elliot and I wimped out of that one ;)

It was such a brilliant day and when we finally managed to drag the kids away, we realised we'd been there around 5 hours so we definitely got our moneys worth!

A Weekend in Brighton - Saturday/Sunday

Our fun packed week ended with a lovely, if a little cold, trip to Brighton. I'd forgotten what a vibrant, fun place Brighton is and we had a really nice time exploring on the Saturday. We loved finding the giant snail sculptures that are scattered around the city too!

On the Sunday we woke up the sounds of the sea right outside our window (we stayed at the Holiday Inn Brighton Seafront and it was a fab location) and fortunately the kids weren't awake too early with the clocks going back. After a big breakfast we headed to the Old Market theatre nearby to see our favourite kids band, Andy & The Odd Socks!

It was a fab show and it was brilliant to hear their newest song, Choose Respect which has been written for Anti-Bullying Week 2018 . I think it's fantastic that Andy his using his celebrity platform to publicise such an important cause.

The kids had so much fun dancing to their favourite Odd Socks songs and at one point I thought Elliot's arms would fall off because he was so flossing so fast!!

After the show we were lucky to meet the band again and Elliot was able to give them a drawing each that he'd spent ages doing. Erin did her usual trick of screaming when Andy spoke to her....I'm wondering if she will ever grow out of this!!

A big thank you to Odd Socks HQ for inviting us down to Brighton for the show!
We hope you had a fun half term break too! 

Monday, 5 November 2018

Balancing Mum Life With Student Life: Tips To Make It Work

Being both a parent and a student can take its toll on you, as both roles have their challenges and their
stresses. Parenting challenges include the need to keep your kids entertained and looked after properly,
while student challenges include those dreaded deadlines and dealing with huge workloads. If you are
currently managing both roles, or if you are thinking about becoming a student again (bet you never
thought you would after leaving school/university), we have some tips to help you make the balance work!

Find a course to fit around your schedule.
Find a way to study that accommodates your role as a parent. There may be daytime or night school classes
near you that are a possibility, provided you have people around to look after the kids. If that is difficult because
of your mum duties, then you may consider taking a course online. From GCSE's to professional courses, such
as this MBA engineering management degree, know that you don't always have to leave the house to study.
Whatever you choose, pick a course that will allow you time to study in the week AND still have time to spend
with your family.

Stick to a studying schedule.
You will have homework to do, essays to write, and exams to prepare for. You need to find the time to do all of this
somehow, so look at your day, and find those available windows of time that are open to you. It might be early in the
morning when the kids are in bed. It may be for those few hours when the kids are at school. Or it might be in the evening
when the children are asleep or busy elsewhere. Whenever it is, set yourself a studying routine, and do your best to
stick to the schedule.

Include your kids in your study time.
Older children and teenagers may appreciate your need to study, but younger children may crave more of your time.
If you do have to study when they're not otherwise engaged elsewhere, include them in your study time. They might
only cause constant interruption otherwise. While you're beavering away with study books or essay writing, set them up
with an activity of their own, whether that's colouring a picture or doing something that will complement their school work.
This might create a nice bonding time with your child, and you won't feel as if you have neglected them.

Find a support network.
You can't do this alone. At some point in the day/week, you are going to need people to help you. You need somebody
to watch the kids while you're working. You need somebody to offer you words of encouragement when you get stressed
with your workload. You need somebody to offer you a little light relief away from your busy schedule.
So speak to family, friends and neighbours. Ensure you have people around you for whatever need you have, and draw
on their support as much as possible.

Create 'me-time.'
You need time for yourself in the week. This will help you to recharge your batteries, giving you the strength to manage both
your children and your study schedule. So get those childminders in. Enlist your partner's help. And do something that helps
you to turn off your brain and relax, whether that's having a pampering session in the bath, or sitting down in front of the tv
for a few hours with your favourite movie.

It is possible to balance mum and student life, but you need to take those steps that will help you to manage. We hope our
advice was useful, but if you have any tips of your own, especially if you have experience of this mum-student juggling act,
then please let us know. Thanks for reading, and happy parenting/studying!

*Collaborative post

Monday, 29 October 2018

5 Parenting Challenges That You May Not Be Prepared For

Being a parent is the greatest job in the world. Fact. But that doesn’t mean that the journey is all plain sailing. There are a number of challenges along the way and, while you will have prepared for some, others may take you by surprise.
Here are five of the most common, along with how to manage them in the most suitable fashion.

Family, Parenting, Together, People, Child, Mother
#1. Child Behavioral Problems   
As our understanding of ADHD and related conditions grows, the number of diagnosed cases shoots through the roof. While getting your child tested at the earliest stage possible will help the cause, you may need to push the issue. Otherwise, your child’s case can be lost in the system. If an issue is detected, the diagnosis will point you in the right direction of treatments and coping mechanisms. However, one of the best things you can do is connect with other parents in a similar situation.
#2. Limited Home Space
Times are hard, not least with regards to affordable housing. A property that is a little smaller than you’d ideally like for a family of your size can cause a few issues. Bringing a sense of stability to the child’s bedroom should be at the top of your agenda. Meanwhile, bathrooms are surprisingly important. In truth, sticking to a minimalist design and getting rid of clutter should work wonders throughout the home. When the home is blessed with a happy vibe, the impacts will be palpable.
#3. Relationship Troubles
The harsh reality of life is that roughly one in three marriages ends in divorce. When your relationship breaks down, finding a fair solution for both parties is key. You'll also need to ensure that you are both able to provide your child with the best life. Family law solicitors can take care of the legalities and financial aspects. Your job as responsible adults is to sit down and explain the situation in a comforting way. Providing a united front is essential, even if you no longer get on.   
Family, Divorce, Separation, Before, Marriage Divorce

#4. Internet Safety
While they’re still toddlers, the kids are likely to be limited to a few iPad Apps. However, they’ll soon be playing games with friends via the internet. Whether it’s playing on the PlayStation or using the laptop doesn’t matter, they need to be safe. Reading support from experts in the field of online safety will help you stay on top of this challenge. Even if your child isn’t at risk, it’s always good to put your mind at ease. Prevention is always the best form of protection.
#5. School Admissions
Once upon a time, the process of getting your child into a school was the simplest of tasks. Nowadays, not quite so much. Therefore, conducting the necessary research in advance is vital. It is another option to think about homeschooling. One way or another, ensuring that your child receives the best schooling is vital for your child’s early years. The ‘fun’ doesn’t end there, though, as you’ll have to do it all over again once senior school, college, and university admissions arrive!

*Collaborative post

Monday, 22 October 2018

Victorious Festival Portsmouth - The Perfect Festival for Kids

Back in the Summer Holidays, Elliot and I headed down to Portsmouth on Bank Holiday weekend to spend the day the Victorious Festival.

The Victorious Festival, now in it's 7th year, is a three day family friendly festival held on Southsea Common. Featuring many different stages and big names in music such as the Prodigy it really has gone from strength to strength over the last few years.

The music side of it wasn't really a draw for me as I'm rubbish at current music and haven't got a clue who's in the chart these days but the kids arena sounded fantastic and this is what swayed our decision to go!

Leaving Erin with my parents, we headed down to Portsmouth on the train from Poole. I've only been to Portsmouth a couple of times before so I was looking forward to going somewhere different - Elliot was excited just to be going on a train!

We arrived in Portsmouth just after 10am and we hopped on a Hover bus from the station which took us directly to Southsea Common. It was a beautiful sunny day and the view over the water to the Isle of Wight was stunning.

The festival itself was massive and I definitely underestimated how large it would be - we seemed to walk forever around the outside barriers to get to the entrance! Entry was nice and fast, our bags were checked and I picked up a lost child wristband to write my number on incase Elliot and I lost each other. We had a wander as we got inside the festival and it was the perfect time to get our bearings as it was still nice and quiet.

We decided to head straight for the kids area, where we quickly discovered that all the activities (including the face painting and bouncy castle!) were free - how amazing is that?! Featuring a whole variety of local businesses, all with children's activities we were spoilt for choice. Elliot decided to go on the bouncy area while there were no queues - this area was continuously busy all day so if you're thinking of coming next year, make this first on your list to do!

Some of the other stalls we visited were the RNLI where we learnt about safety in the sea, the Mary Rose museum where we were able to see and hold actual items that were on the ship, we played with ALOT of Lego with the team from the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and we couldn't resist getting a giant slush drink!

One of the things Elliot was looking forward to was the meet and greets and he was quite excited to spot Paddington Bear. He's always loved meeting characters and mascots...Erin is the opposite however, she runs a mile if shes anyway near someone dressed up! Through out the day we also met Finn & Jake from Adventure time and even some Princesses.

Just before lunch we headed to the stage where our favourites, Andy & The Odd Socks were due to perform. The sun was shining and it was a lovely atmosphere - there were rows of hay bales for the audience to sit on and space for the children at the front to dance. There was a children's entertainer, Ross Presto who was very funny and Elliot even got picked to join in with a game. He won a bag of sweets so that made his day!

After Ross came the Princesses who sang and danced to lots of recognisable pop/Disney songs - they even did Baby Shark much to the delight of the kids in the audience!

Finally the moment, we'd been patiently waiting for - Andy and The Odd Socks! We had a spot right at the front of the hay bales and Elliot had loads of fun dancing around and flossing to his favourite songs. It was probably one of the smaller stages the band have played but they certainly had a large enthusiastic crowd! The band have so much energy - they must have a pre-gig snack that includes weetabix and redbull because they do not stop! As always we loved seeing them rock out and it was great to hear Unique again. We love this song and the important message it puts across - and it's so blimmin' catchy!

As the band came off stage, eagle eye Elliot spotted Andy at the side saying hi to some of the audience so he dashed on over for a high five!

After all that excitement we decided to head out of the kids arena in search of something yummy for lunch and we were so spoilt for choice that it took us almost half an hour to decide! In the end we had ostrich burger and fries which was lovely, we sat under a tree with the Common Stage in the background and it was a nice moment of calm in the busyness of the festival. I have to say it was so lovely in the kids arena and then coming into the main festival where there were so many people was a bit overwhelming!!

After a quick stop at the Coca-Cola stand to try out the new zero flavours, we decided to head back to the kids arena where there was a ton of things still to be looked at! Top of Elliot's list was the Rebel Yarn Bombers - these lovely ladies had a massive selection of knitted monsters that were all lovingly handmade and even named. All the monsters were available to adopt for a donation and the money was being raised for the Roald Dahl Charity. Elliot took a l-o-n-g time to decide on a monster...and we even had to come back later in the day so he could get a couple more!

Some of the yarn bombers work on display - impressive!

The next few hours were jam packed with lots of making in the arts and crafts tents, Elliot played some football with Little Kickers, he built some sandcastles at the beach area, he checked out the instruments at the Ready to Rock school and we even got to sample some really really yummy Montezuma chocolate...guess which bit was my highlight ;)

I have to say that everyone we spoke to on the stalls was so friendly - we met a really lovely young lad on the Foster Portsmouth stall who spent ages colouring with Elliot and helping him choose about a thousand stickers to go on his sheet! He told us all about how Foster Portsmouth had helped him throughout his childhood and how passionate he was about getting the word out about fostering. He was called Elliot too!

Elliot and Elliot! Foster Portsmouth
Our final activity of the day was another Andy & The Odd Socks set - I think this one was even busier! We bumped into some friends of ours, Laura and her son Max from Max and Mummy and we had a fab time sat with them. The boys were off down the front throwing some shapes whilst we sat and relaxed on the hay bales!

After the show Elliot managed to get selfies with the band so he was one happy boy, always nice to chat to them and they are always so friendly to us.

With a fond farewell to our friends, it was time for Elliot and I to head home. As the kids area was drawing to a close, the rest of the festival was starting to get even busier with crowds of people streaming through the gates. Perhaps we'll stick around for the evening entertainment next year!

The Victorious Festival was bigger and better than I'd imagined and we were absolutely blown away with how amazing the kids arena was. There was so much on offer and you literally could spend all day in there - pretty much like we did!

We look forward to seeing what next year has to offer :)

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