Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Vlogging With Channel Mum and Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons #ButtonsMemoryLane

When Channel Mum first came along, a couple of years ago, I was so so very excited as I saw the potential of it. I waited a month or two and then with a great deal of trepidation submitted a written application which resulted in my being asked to submit a video. I didn't want to submit one from the existing live videos on my channel at the time and plus I wanted to submit one in line with the exciting idea I'd proposed in my application.

Every month I put off filming a video and wasn't at all ready. Whilst I was still considering it a close friend told me not to worry as they only wanted "young mums in their 20s" IHO, which turned out not to be the case. I didn't fully believe this at the time anyway, so it stayed on my mind but each and every month I did not take the plunge and whilst I procrastinated You Tube grew without me. I still kept my toe in the water vaguely, but only because I had to do this video on Vlogging with a Phone Camera for Collective Bias but it gave me hope I could still, possibly, be a Vlogger.

The world unfortunately does not stand still whilst we ponder something. Which was a great shame as twice, in the past, I was at the pinnacle of doing something with my channel (three times if you include when I actually created it in 2012). Once, when I edited my Featherdown Farm video, and was loving i-movie. But then my hubby broke dropped my Apple Macbook soon after. I often wonder where my channel would have been if I carried on with the enthusiasm I had then. I had a second chance last year, when I was uploading a lot of videos, getting in a flow with Windows Live Movie Maker and successfully edited a wonderful well received vlog of our daytrip to Weston Super Mare but then soon after my camera and laptop broke simultaneously (well not in the same month) AND I got pregnant. A pregnancy that found my morning sickness being made worse each and every time I went near the computer. Do they emit waves due to the Wifi? I don't know, but I had dreams of being a pregnancy vlogger and blogger but the morning sickness that would worsen the second I went near my computer really really put me off. Another VERY odd thing, was I could no longer even be a You Tube viewer and commenter late night in bed on my phone as theme tunes would make me feel ill, even my own, like the one on my Folly Farm video. Within 2 bars of that I would want to hurl which is so odd as I watched it again and again and again when making it and can do now too. That problem was just between weeks 6 and 14 of pregnancy whilst I had morning sickness, something I never suffered with Aaron.

When my aunt then so generously sent me my cousin's old computer it wasn't compatible with ANY movie maker, not even a bought CD that I got hubby to buy me for Xmas 2015 so I started to use You Tube editor (it's in the upload section) and oh my God it frustratingly has its limitations and is arduous and time consuming to use. So I'd got used to Windows and Apple and now had neither.

Anyway that laptop then broke too....... I will probably fix my broken laptops one day. I have a total of 3 (one apple and two windows). Well I need to as each of them has thousands of photos on and they are so so so precious and not backed up anywhere oooops.

Precious memories, yes that's what they are, which......... coincidentally is exactly what I got the chance to work on, with Channel Mum in recent weeks. Yep I am finally up to the current day with this preamble.

Even though I'm not an ACTUAL Channel Mum Vlogger, they widened their reach for their recent Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons campaign. I was honoured that I got to work on the campaign and I simultaneously PLUGGED my channel into their site which you can now do.

It has to be said I am rusty at vlogging. Turns out it's not like riding a bike where you never forget. It may or may not be obvious to you dear reader but my Mum said I seem really nervous and dearest Mum you are right I was. After wanting to be a Channel Mum for so long the nerves really DID get the better of me. but when you see the scenes of me, in the video, where I am not alone, but instead with my little Mr Charming, my Aaron, you'll see the nerves are not there and that's the real me.

So have a watch to see what our top 3 little moments of shared joy are:

Did you like it? I hope so. We do really feel joy in those moments. My boy is my everything and somehow my heart has grown to have enough love for two children. This is lil Lottie's first words which I was so very very lucky to manage to capture on camera.

So if I could do that Cadbury Dairy Milk Buttons video again what would I do differently?
  • I would straighten (and cut) my hair so that I'd feel confident with my appearance.
  • I'd pick a higher seat so that you'd see the sunny garden and our lovely wooden blinds as a backdrop instead of just looking at my worktops and the gap where a dishwasher should be.
  • I'd pick a better angle so that you can see me down to at least my waist so that it doesn't look like my neckline goes on forever.
  • I'd perhaps do the whole video with Aaron as the scenes with him in are by far my favourites.
  • I'd practice vlogging more, so that I am a pro instead of a novice. Blimey I have vlogged before I'm just rusty. My first ever vlog in 2012 was done to a stranger, a professional camera man, and yet I spoke for 8 minutes, unscripted, in ONE take! I should have ran with it and done it more often. Yep I often wonder where my channel would be now if I'd done just that.
So now is not the time for regrets. Yes I have got them off my chest above, but now is the time for moving swiftly onwards and upwards without constraint. So despite those 3 broken laptops I do now have another. It is on loan from the hubby but I CAN now edit videos and I have dived right in, whilst the iron is hot. Despite how much people tell you videos should be short I went and uploaded a 36 minute vlog. I'll tell you what happened. I wanted to do justice to our trip on a City Cruises boat down the Thames. It was gifted to me as a blogger with no pressure to review. I uploaded all of my content and it totalled 1 hour 9 minutes. I know that short videos should be 1-3 minutes and the popular slot for long videos seems to be 16 or 22 minutes. But with all of the editing in the WORLD my video came out as 36 minutes and given I was so attached to the content that was remaining it was not going to go any shorter so I hit publish.

Given that my Mum is in Ireland she watched all of our videos as a way to stay in touch. She is my biggest critic and said she loved it. I said "are you sure you watched all 36 minutes" and she laughed and said "yes, I felt like I myself went down the Thames". I was thrilled as that was what I wanted to create. It was a "I'll take you with me" type of vlog. Normally I include something long somewhere, that my Mum says I should have edited out, but no such criticism with this video. If you are a lover of London or a lover of the London Underground and history you may just love it too. I certainly got GREAT feedback from Carolin at Mummy Alarm (thank you).

So that's me. A lil insight into my history with YouTube. But from my main channel homepage you can see some playlists, like what my popular videos are etc... 

Did you work on the #ButtonsMemoryLane campaign? What did you think? I loved creating our memory lane, thinking about our joyful everyday moments and seeing the joy that Aaron and his cousins experienced whilst watching it.

You can make your own Memory Lane and my video above shows you just how easy it is to create from up to 7 of your own photos. Your kids will love watching it it's so easy to do and such great fun. Plus you can share it online with friends and family. Use the hashtag #ButtonsMemoryLane and tag @channelMum when you share it. We'd love to see it. Once you've created your memory lane, you'll be sent a link to your phone if you supplied a phone number or to your inbox if you chose to submit an email address. The link you use to then watch your memory lane is the same link you can share with others as I have done with mine above.

Disclosure: I am being compensated for my Cadbury Dairy Milk #ButtonsMemoryLane video which is therefore an #ad.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Things to Consider When Moving House

There's no way around it, moving house is a very big thing.  For me, personally, I've always considered it THE most stressful thing to do and something I always do everything I can to avoid, for a long time, before going ahead. Much to my husband's chagrin. I wrongly thought moving was still up there in the top 5 most stressful things an adult could do, but a quick look on Google tells me that actually the top 10 are now:
  1. Death of a spouse: 100
  2. Divorce: 73
  3. Marital separation: 65
  4. Imprisonment: 63
  5. Death of a close family member: 63
  6. Personal injury or illness: 53
  7. Marriage: 50
  8. Dismissal from work: 47
  9. Marital reconciliation: 45
  10. Retirement: 45


What do you think? Do you agree with the 10 above? I have only encountered the scenarios 5, 7 and 8. Death would be my Father in Law, which given I have been with my husband for 28 years was a big deal and involved travelling "home" for a burial. Marriage, yes it was stressful as it was in Ireland, so alot done remotely but to be fair I found it rewarding and challenging rather than stressful. As for 8, that was dismissal by reason of redundancy and I guess I still haven't fully processed that if I am entirely honest. Good to see that death of a spouse ranks with the highest score, as I can imagine that yes, that must indeed be horrific and of course anyone would, hands down without a doubt, prefer to be moving house.

Which neatly brings me back to that topic. Whether you’ve outgrown your current property or want to move to a new area, there are lots of different factors you’ll need to have in mind. Each and every time we've moved it's been for both reasons. Thankfully We Buy Any House, the nation’s trusted house buyer, have a few tips to make sure the transition is as stress-free as possible. Wish I'd known when we moved.

Space

You’d be surprised at how small a house can seem after 6 months. Are you sure you only need two bedrooms? The difference having a spare room can make is huge. Storage can become a massive problem once you’ve moved in and you find your place isn’t big enough. Make sure your house has enough space to meet all of your immediate and future requirements, or that there is the option to extend further on down the line. 

Personally I would recommend decluttering prior to moving. I managed to garner a sale on our flat despite my clutter but boy did I regret it when I met it all again, coming out of all of the boxes the other end of the removal van journey. "Declutter to sell and all will be well" - I just made that up :-) I am so glad our first purchase was a 2 bedroom flat rather than a 1 bedroom as it meant we happily continued to live there after having Aaron, only needing to move once planning for Lottie's arrival. 

Amenities

How close are the shops? Walking or driving distance? Parks, pubs and soft play centres are always good to have nearby for an easy day out with the kids. Make sure you check where the nearest GP practice is, and hospital should you need it. Do some research on the local schools in your new catchment area to see how they perform and perhaps arrange a visit. 

Personally I was over the moon with Right Move's school's section (the school checker tab on each property) which shows you the nearest schools. It even links to Primary AND Secondary schools. They're then shown to you on a map in order of proximity to your chosen property. The Ofsted result and whether the school is over or under subscribed in 2016 is information immediately visible without even leaving the site. So that's one stress removed. If you're wading through lots of potential properties deciding which ones to view, it's handy to have information at your fingertips as you won't view them all or be impressed by each and everyone you do view.

Area

Moving to the middle of a city is very different to moving to the suburbs, or moving to the countryside. A house in the City Centre may be more convenient but a place on the outskirts might have a safer, calmer atmosphere. Moving to the country may be more peaceful and the houses may be bigger, but they are out of the way, so getting around is something else to consider. Another thing to have in mind is the safety of the area you move to. You can check the crime levels of your street and surroundings by doing a quick internet search.

If you are moving because you have a new job in the area, it's a good idea to familiarise yourself with the route to and from work, and how long it's going to take you. It may also be worth checking out how readily available jobs are for future reference.

Safety

Check out the state of the plumbing, see what kind of heating is on offer, but most importantly check the boiler. An older, unsafe boiler that’s on the blink may end up needing maintenance and could cause serious problems, so on that note make sure you have a fire alarm fitted with a carbon monoxide detector.

A full structural survey (rather than just the bare minimum valuation) might seem like an unnecessary outlay but it will highlight any bigger safety issues and the overall condition of the property before you commit to buy. This will give you a good idea of how much you will need to spend to make sure the property is in top condition, alternatively you could ask the seller to make the necessary repairs. 

Personally I feel, It is also something that provides you with a lot of leverage if you would like to negotiate on price. It can also reveal something that either the seller would not want you to know or even something they were not aware of themselves. They're more likely to negotiate more willingly for the latter. However if you are in a seller's market, while you haggle on this, another easier swifter buyer may snap the house up from under your feet which if it is your forever home, you may not want to happen. 

I am of the belief however, that what is for you, won't pass you by, so go with your gut instinct. Buying a house is a huge commitment and is not something any of us take lightly. Go into the purchase (and sale) with your eyes wide open.

Collaboration post.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Our Day Trip to Greenwich

So, so far this School Summer Holidays what have we done?.... some days nothing. Blissfully nothing. Not even got dressed. 

But then other days. Wow, those other days! We've been MEGA busy, like the day we went down the Thames with City Cruises. One of my favourite days out this Summer for sure. We got great weather too. Not too hot either so no worry of getting sunburn which is fab with kids. But with City Cruises you can sit above deck or below deck so there is a solution for all weathers. We did above deck on the way to Greenwich and below on the way back. I liked them equally actually. It is a very civilised way to travel around London as there is no pushing and shoving; you're just blissfully unaware of traffic or crowds once you're comfortably seated.
I must admit I was dreading it as I thought finding the Westminster dock Pier would be tough. Little did I know how VERY easy it would be. We got the Victoria Line to Green Park and Westminster is one wee tube stop on the Jubilee Line from there. What really is amazing is that as long as you take the right exit (I think it was exit 1) you literally are on a walk way that takes you straight to the boat, buggy friendly too and no getting lost. More importantly no need to get stressed. 
From the second you step out of the station the views are on a plate. Literally you are at the foot of Big Ben, which - as we discovered during the tour talk - the 4 faced clock tower, isn't actually called! That is the name of the BELL!!! I have been a Londoner for over 4 decades and did not know that eeek!
I was so happy with how easy it all was. We stayed on the boat at each stop when others got off and we finally disembarked at Greenwich once we heard how good the Maritime Museum is.
From the second we walked into the Maritime Museum (which is free by the way) we knew we were in a place that was fun enough to stay for a few hours. Till closing time in fact.
First stop was a play area, which is supposedly for younger ones, but I had a baby, 6 year old, 8 year old and 12 year old with me and they all loved it. They found the above fishing baskets and  had great fun filling them. There was also a pretend fish stall with fish, a weighing scales and a cash register. Aaron just adored it and lots of fun was had there. We all loved the museum feel to some of it where you felt like you were in the belly of a ship in the cabins, with tiny weeny bunk beds and furniture. My ordinarily smiley baby was often just concentrating as you see below as there was just so much to take in. She was happy though, despite serious ha ha!
Lottie even got to pretend to be Captain of this ship ha ha!
I paid for them to go on a simulator whilst there, which was fabulous. I didn't have enough cash on me, but you can pay by card in the gift shop, then showing your receipt to the operator (who was such a lovely lady). The kids were thrilled with their ride but Aaron said it was a little scary as it recreates a stormy sea and the rocks of the machine make it feel as real as what you are watching.
I videoed most of the time that we were in the Maritime Museum so I must compile that into a vlog for you on Youtube and then you'll truly see how great it is. That AND the Thames trip.

One of Aaron's favourite moments was definitely operating this crane:
It really is such a beautiful Museum where everything is a feast for the eyes.
The play area we spent ages in on arrival and the simulator are both on the ground floor but there is plenty to do on the other 2 floors too. There's an amazing map on the first floor, and you are given a tablet so that you can virtually travel the whole world, collecting things on your travels. This kept the younger 2 happy for ages and gave me and my niece a break from the pace they run at :-)

So very fitting to visit a Maritime Museum via a boat - that tickled me lots! Now I know about it I would never travel up and down the route of the Thames any other way. Our boats were full there and back, so it's obviously not a well kept secret but given it was school holidays yet we were never told to wait for another boat, I'd say it is a diamond nugget of tourist information that not everyone knows. 

With City Cruises Kids Go Free with a Family River Pass. Take a look at their website as there is more than one type of cruise and they're not only about sightseeing.

The National Maritime Museum is free to enter and well worth going online to see what events they have scheduled for the remainder of August.

Our trip on City Cruises was complimentary but I was not obliged to write anything so this review is completely independent of any corporate information. All photos (apart from the 3 below) and words are my own.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

The Waldorf Hilton Hotel London Welcomes Thomas and Friends™ | Suite Available to Book 1st August to 4th September 2016

As huge Thomas fans... we were very lucky to be invited to an afternoon cream tea and sandwiches appointment, quintessentially British style at The Waldorf Hilton Hotel, London, conveniently located 5 minutes walk from buzzing Covent Garden and right in the heart of London's West End theatre. A bolt hole location that adults and children will both adore.
Monday 1st August, this week, The famous Palm Court turned into a Thomas Tea Party and Thomas playground just for us guests to enjoy. Aaron's two loves, Thomas and food were both catered for and his 2 cousins and sister came along for the ride. As you can see in my collage, the food was Thomas themed and went down a treat, of course washed down with tea (and I might also have had some coffee). 

There was a huge Thomas engine to get selfies with and of course the Fat Controller was there to oversee the proceedings, as he does.
This rather glamorous and swish affair 
was to celebrate 
the launch of the hotel's 
Ultimate Playtime Pop Up 
Thomas and Friends' Suite.

The event was on the 1st August and as you'll know as a Thomas fan, Thomas is engine number 1. When I then saw a third "1" in the form of my raffle ticket, I thought that's it I am quids in and will win a night to stay in the suite. Sadly we didn't win that nor did we win one of the smaller prizes but we went away with several amazing goody bags and full tummies and of course huge smiles. Oh and quite a few balloons! Actually they even saved our manners by giving us cake boxes to take Thomas foodie treats away with us, so we weren't looking over our shoulders at the food we didn't have room for. It was all very posh and very British with each table having a dedicated waiter/waitress and despite not staying the night I felt very pampered and escaped into the lap of luxury for a few hours. We arrived early and left late such was the draw of the venue.
Thomas and Friends by Mattel 
take families on a journey to London this summer
 with the launch of an exclusive 
themed suite 
taking residency at 
The Waldorf Hilton, London.
Set to welcome families from all over the world, the limited edition suite will be available for guests to book from August 01 until September 04 with prices starting from £450 per night including breakfast and VAT. 

At the same time, there will also be a Thomas and Friends themed suite at New York Hilton Midtown.

The Waldorf Hilton, London offers families with young children the perfect city break or staycation as it immerses parents and children into the world of Thomas and Friends. 

The suite features iconic faces and landscapes that Thomas fans will recognise from the Island of Sodor as well as containing the forthcoming premium Trackmaster™ Sky-High Bridge Jump toy (next to the parent's bed) and an exclusive preview of yet to be released DVD, The Great Race (to be watched on a large screen TV at the foot of the children's bed).

This is the first time Thomas and Friends and Hilton Hotels and Resorts have joined together for a unique partnership set to bring the whole family together. 

To book the Thomas and Friends suite at The Waldorf Hilton London please visit:

For more information on Thomas and Friends, please visit:

and to learn more about the Thomas and Friends suite in New York, please visit:

The Waldorf Hilton, London Thomas and Friends package includes:
  • A Hilton Executive Suite for two adults and two children at The Waldorf Hilton, London, located at Aldwych, London, WC2B
  • A child’s playroom dream with a vast array of Thomas and Friends toys, books, games, colouring sheets and more, including new Sky High Bridge Jump toy and an exclusive preview of The Great Race on DVD.
  • Every single thing has been thought of from Thomas toiletries to toothbrushes and beakers. Thomas dressing gowns. A Thomas step to reach the sink. This really is a Thomas room that will not disappoint the loyal Thomas fan.
I was delighted that Zena sat with us. Pictured above is her lovely little girl who was mainly, like Aaron, away from the table playing with all of the Thomas toys. Zena has already blogged about our day out and the suite here: #ThomasStaysAtHilton - have a visit of her post as it includes video footage that is worth watching if you want a sneaky peek inside the suite to see if it is worth booking. If you can afford it I say go for it your little Thomas fan will not at all be disappointed.

My instagram fee became a bit of a #ThomasStaysAtHilton Thomas takeover the last couple of days so it is worth hopping over there too:

There are also more photos, from my phone, of the event here at G+

I actually took a lot of video footage and will edit it into a vlog as soon as I get a moment.

My beautiful Princess Charlotte loved being treated like royalty for the day

Friday, 29 July 2016

Family Friendly Restaurants to Dine at Near You

Loose Ends are all about having a great time,
and that means a great time
for each and every member of the family.
There’s nothing worse than taking your knee-high nearest and dearest
out for a bite to eat
only to have to run the gauntlet
of disapproving stares
every time
their table manners
fall short of immaculate.
But equally, you don’t want to be stuck with leftover turkey dinosaurs when you’d rather be tucking into something more adult. So here is Loose End's pick of restaurants which manage to offer a family-friendly atmosphere and food which appeals to gourmets of all ages.

Giraffe
It’s a chain, we know, but we think Giraffe gets a lot right when it comes to family-friendliness. Its reach is fairly wide, too: you’ll find Giraffes throughout England, three branches in Scotland, and they’ve even made it to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Our absolutely favourite branch of Giraffe is at the Brunswick Centre, just a stone’s throw from Great Ormond Street Hospital, right in the heart of Bloomsbury. If you agree with us that it’s never too early to introduce future generations to the joys of pioneering medium-rise modernist architecture, you’ll love it as much as we do.

Menus vary somewhat depending on your location, but tend to take an international approach, featuring spicy yummies such as Kerala Cauliflower Bhajis and Penang Bang chicken. If you prefer to graze the Anglosphere, burgers and fries (including very good sweet potato fries) are well worth a try.

There are wholesome and appealing kids’ menus, too, and we’ve found that staff go out of their way to accommodate the needs of families. In fact: Giraffe is so amazing we wrote a poem about it once.

Ginger Bistro, Belfast

We haven’t eaten at Ginger ourselves, but we had to include it simply because we’ve heard such great things about it (on the strength of which we’re tempted to book a mini-break in Belfast). We love the idea of modern Irish cuisine based on seafood, and the restaurant’s stripped-back interior—illuminated by Moroccan and South East Asian-inspired lighting—appeals to our bohemian side.

Ginger bistro clearly isn’t a finger-food and finger-painting sort of restaurant. There’s no kids’ menu, but the establishment does declare itself to be child-friendly. You can’t book a table online or by email, though: you need to give them a call and do it the old-fashioned way.

Jamie’s Italian

We’re not fixated on huge nationwide mega-chains, we promise you, but Jamie’s Italian deserves a special mention for the quality of its interior décor, the broad appeal of its menu and the welcoming attitude of its staff. We recently went to lunch at the Chelmsford branch of Jamie’s with a total of five adults and two energetic boy-children (one aged 5, the other 18 months), and we all had a whale of a time.

The grownups tucked into fried squid, pasta carbonara and giant pork chops while the little ‘uns gnawed at pizza margarita and played ‘who can get repeatedly stuck behind the sofa and scream the loudest’. Staff charmed the 5-year-old by demonstrating the art of slicing salami, and good-naturedly returned the toddler to us when he roamed too far.

There are branches of Jamie’s Italian in most regions of the UK, so check it out when you fancy some adult nosh and the offspring want familiar favourites.

Bush Pepper, Newquay

If your kids could give Ned Kelly a run for his money in terms of larrikin behaviour, Newquay’s Bush Pepper is the restaurant for you. Stand-out dishes feature fresh local seafood, Australian specialities like Kangaroo sausages and an unusually varied and delicious vegetarian menu.

Booking is definitely a good idea because this isn’t the biggest restaurant in the world, but you’ll be glad you made the effort. You can even charm your children into early morning good behaviour with the promise of Bush Tucker breakfast or home-made banana bread. Yummy.

More company, more fun

We hope you enjoy the restaurants we’ve chosen. But don’t forget that eating out is about more than just good food – it’s also about great company. Why not download the Loose Ends app and use it to make your next restaurant outing a bigger, better, more sociable experience? Take a look at our beginners guide to get you off to a flying start.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Pizza Express and Ice Age Collision Course #PizzaExpressIceAge

Saturday we headed off to Pizza Express for a late lunch, followed by Ice Age Collision Course at the Cinema. That'll be the 5th movie that Lottie has seen - yep you can take a baby to the movies. She either stares at the lights and marvels at the sounds OR breastfeeds OR sleeps OR normally covers all three in one film. She's easy going really, my smiley baby girl. 

Originally I had intended joining everyone in London to Pizza* en masse followed by the movie at Fox HQ - how cool would THAT have been?!? But it turned out we couldn't make it so it was a family day out, instead of a blogger day out and for so many reasons it was wonderful. Yes, we didn't get to meet Sid and Scrat, but we made lots of amazing memories as a family and discovered one of the best branches of Pizza Express in the process. But more on that later. 

Pizza Express have teamed up with Ice Age Collision Course, so while you are eating, in addition to the ordinary activity sheet you get an Ice Age one, where you can enter a competition to win a family trip to Hollywood and VIP tour of the world famous Fox studios! Plus amazing goody bags, gift cards, Ice Age toys, and pizza making parties to be won EVERY WEEK. See here the terms and conditions of the Pizza Express Ice Age competition.

If you liked Buck then you'll be glad that Buck is back as you see below...

P.S. I've made pizza a doing word, as in "to pizza". It's like "to hoover" except a lot more fun and way more nutritious. So many fresh ingredients yum! And way more colourful than that there blooming acorn.
Scrat’s epic pursuit of the elusive acorn catapults him into the universe where he accidentally sets off a series of cosmic events that transform and threaten the Ice Age World.  To save themselves, Sid, Manny, Diego, and the rest of the herd must leave their home and embark on a quest full of comedy and adventure, travelling to exotic new lands and encountering a host of colourful new characters.From Producer Lori Forte and Directors Mike Thurmeier and Galen Chu, ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE will be opening in cinemas 2016 and stars returning cast members Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Seann William Scott, Josh Peck, Simon Pegg, Keke Palmer, Wanda Sykes with Jennifer Lopez and Queen Latifah.Joining the herd are Stephanie Beatriz, Adam Devine, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Max Greenfield, Jessie J, Nick Offerman, Melissa Rauch, Michael Strahan, Neil deGrasse TysonICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE IS IN CINEMAS JULY IN 3D AND 2D 
So back to our trip. Lottie recently received a Tot Seat to review and even though it fits nearly every chair known to man it's not a good fit on ours indoors so I have been laying an egg to try it whilst dining out, as that's what it's for anyway. Oh my golly, she was so very thrilled to be able to look all round herself without an adult blocking her view, she literally scanned every inch of the restaurant (which she liked as did we) and refused, for ages, to look at the camera. I know, unusual for my model baby who normally loves nothing more than to look down the lens of a camera. First she busied herself with pulling her tights and then, I couldn't resist it, she's SO close to 6 months I tried her on the cucumber in Aaron's starter. She will literally be 6 months and weaning in a week. So I can say, she had her FIRST taste of solids in Pizza Express. I soon realised that the slices of cucumber in Aaron's starter were too slim for me to have a good grip of, so once I established that she loved the taste and loved sucking on them I asked our waiter for some chunky bits. I had already gotten to know him as a good egg, for which NOTHING would be too much trouble so I felt confident making the request. Given he has a 1 year old of his very own, he brought TWO bits and they were both big enough to chew (in a teething type way) and long enough for Mummy to hold while Lottie had a munch. She sucked so hard she hollowed them out so I had to cut off the end, start again, and then switch ends on each of the two bits. It was a lot of fun and she was utterly thrilled with herself.

Aaron was eating from the rather fabulous Piccolo menu which has dough balls to start, pictured below. As it says on the menu it comes with a fresh salad of crunchy red pepper, cucumber and fresh tomato. It's £6.95 which is fabulous as that's for 3 courses AND a bambinoccino. That's bambino, not baby! Get the jargon right and impress your waiter ;-) I will be uploading a video and I myself got it wrong on there ooooppps!!!
I had the cheesy dough balls which are called Dough Balls Formaggi. They are baked with Gran Milano cheese and served with garlic butter, priced at £4.35. Pictured below.
Daddy as always, likes to be different, so he ordered the Calamari. You won't believe it, but he loved it SO much he ordered it again, but by then he had his pizza so our WONDERFUL waiter jokingly said "shall I make it a side dish now?" It's @lightly crumbed crispy calamari rings served with Caesar dressing, lemon and fresh parsley. To die for! He let me have.... one! :-)
Aaron adored the drink that our waiter chose for him. I can't find it on the menu, but I remember him assuring us that it would not be fizzy - Aaron hates fizzy drinks thank goodness and they don't have them on the Piccolo menu anyhow. They have milk or juice. Actually, I am back with an edit, it's the Passionfruit Lemonade from the additional "fancy something special" menu and clearly went down a treat! And it's not fizzy but is delicious! Served with ice.
So, continuing with the "fancy something special" menu (which is attached to the main menu) I ordered the Barbacoa Romana pizza as recommended by my good and trusty waiter. He said it is spicy but not too much and he was dead right. Enough to blow away the cobwebs but not enough to be troublesome. Be warned it is huge. 2006 to 2012 I worked near a Pizza Express and was in there every week. I'd never get full from just a pizza and would always need starter and dessert, but the Barbacoa is bigger than your plate, which I noticed as my waiter moved it around to cut it. As it overlapped a bit all round. We were in there for 3 hours, so I just grazed on it until I got it down to one remaining slice which I took away (I wasn't about to throw away any of that baby!).
Aaron chose pasta not pizza as his main meal and adored it. He particularly loved spooning the Parmesan cheese on to it. I was worried he wouldn't like the taste of that, being used to cheddar at home, but he thoroughly enjoyed his meal. I swear he is made of pizza and pasta. Good ole staples for children. Before you have kids you think they'll love chicken nuggets and chips but that is not at all something you could give Aaron often. He loves colourful nutritious made from scratch food, not just frozen food bunged in the oven. He's got very discerning taste actually, always has done. And LOVES eating out. He was spoiled at a young age as I was still working then.

Little Miss will like her food too and this is just the beginning:
I have proper coverage of her exploration into eating on the video I've made, but not yet edited. It will be a Vlog on my Channel hopefully in the next couple of days.

Aaron loved the dot to dot and the word search on the activity sheet and that kept him happy for ages, which is probably how we were so easily able to stay in there very close to 3 hours. Before he got onto the Ice Age activity sheet he decorated a chef's hat with stickers the restaurant provided and our waiter so generously agreed to wear it. It made Aaron's day decorating the hat but he was beyond thrilled when he saw our waiter with it on. I captured his joy:
The restaurant has been decorated with Banksy in mind and you can see one of them behind Aaron. There are several dotted around and they're awesome. You can read about them here: Refurbishment of locally themed Pizza Expresses continues. I cover all but one of the pizzas of wall wrap vinyl artwork in my video.

Stupidly I told Aaron that he needed to draw his favourite character from the movie with a pizza to win us a trip to America. Had I remembered that working on this promotion means we wouldn't qualify I wouldn't have even told him that but he got so flustered that our trip or no-trip would hinge on him, that he had to get through FOUR pieces of Ice Age activity sheet paper and in the end got all tearful. Silly Mummy I shouldn't have told him. He doesn't do pressure and is a bit self conscious about his drawing but it is cool as I now know I need to draw with him lots in the school holiday and I needed a kick up the bum and an incentive to do that anyhow.

Luckily his tears ended the minute he saw the dessert. Not because of the ice cream or the beautiful cone. Not even because of the beautifully displayed fresh strawberries. No! He was thrilled because he has never had a babyccino before and this was a BAMBINOCCINO and he was over the moon with it. Warm milk with a few chocolate sprinkles thrown on top. He was a right proper little gentleman. I should have reminded him to stick out his pinkie finger.
Hubby could not be persuaded for love nor money to have a dessert even though he simply loves chocolate fudge cake and loves brownies. His excuse being that he was full. Well he did finish a meat feast pizza! They don't do one called that but he got close by altering one with some help from our waiter friend. I know! Can't take him anywhere. We go to a posh pizza restaurant and he wants a meat feast. He did love it though and finished it to the point of bursting but then he did have the Calamari twice!

The waiter suggested the Leggera Tartufo Limoncello for him as it is only 230 calories and perfect for a full person, but he found it too "tart" - I happily took it over and loved it so I ate BOTH of the desserts you see below. No wonder I loved the limoncello, listen to this: 
Under 230 calories. Full of southern Italian flavours: creamy Sicilian lemon and Fior di Latte gelato with a liquid centre of limoncello
It tastes like a meringue, but like icecream too at the same time. Truly amazing!

But my heart was set on a dolcetti so I got one. The Salted Caramel Profiteroles.

Personally I prefer my photos of these to the ones Pizza Express has online:
Clearly in my branch, presentation is everything and it's not just Banksy that gets that right! Hmmmm! The fresh mint was just as good as the earlier fresh strawberries. The freshness and flavours at Pizza Express grab you and don't let you go. So when you leave you have a very wholesome full feeling, which sustained us through the movie. Like I have a spare space in my tummy for pudding always, it turns out I have a popcorn tummy too as I still downed a bag of sweet popcorn nay bother :-)

Before I let you go dear reader, this was hubby's pizza
And then it was off to the movies for us. After 3 hours of eating with us, we let Daddy have two hours of downtime whilst me and the kids (oh I love saying kids plural) went to see the movie. Aaron has all of the previous ones on DVD so he was thrilled to see this new latest version.

What's funny (as you will see on the video once I edit it) is that Aaron ran into the bushes before we went into the restaurant and like a good ole explorer came back with TWO pine cones that he found. Due to the focus on the ACORN in Ice Age it did kind of make me chuckle, but perhaps that's just me........ I guess you had to be there.

I'll leave you with this:
It's a great movie go see it!
The Piccolo menu is fabulous go eat it!
Pizza Express is a wonderful restaurant go visit!
No but seriously, all words and photos and opinions are our very own. It only leaves me to say that we were provided with a complimentary meal (not film, I should have gone to London for that and seen it in the exciting Fox HQ like everyone else) for the purposes of this promotion. Gosh we milked it though. Pizza Express is very classy so we were not restricted to a voucher. Oh no that is so de classe. Oh no, we could have starters, sides, mains, pudding and a couple of drinks. As I am breastfeeding and Daddy was driving, we substituted extra Calamari for alcohol. Oh and Lottie's cucumbers bless her. Don't forget, she started her weaning journey AT Pizza Express. SO cute and something I will never forget.

I was so excited to work with Pizza Express we sorted the film ourselves AND gave our water an £8 tip as he was AMAZING. But apparently he is always like that and not just because we were there as part of the Ice Age promotion. It was an amazing family meal out and will be remembered for years to come.

Can't wait to share the video with you all once I have uploaded all of the many clips and edited them. I've made a start.

Actually I just went through my photos which reminds me of two things I forgot to say. I had the Bottlegreen Raspberry Lemonade and it was amazing. I had two!!!! Also, crayons in restaurants are normally shite, but not so in Pizza Express, they had these amazing extendable ones which I have never seen anywhere before.