Friday, 26 August 2016

My Tree of Life for Johnson's Baby Wipes Messy Play Activity

I was sent a messy play paint kit by Johnson's Baby so that we could put their new baby wet wipes through their paces. Their new wipes dispense one wipe at a time. 
Despite being good at art myself at school I rarely get arty or crafty with my kids, so the only thing I could think to do was hand painting, so that Lottie could join in, given that she's too young to hold a paint brush. I got hung up on the fact we were sent a canvas and thought "that means it needs to be good", as in, they can't just swish the paint around as "I wouldn't frame that!" Silly thoughts I know, as with hindsight of course I would have wanted to frame whatever the two of them created what with it being Lottie's first ever painting session. But, I thought "it's canvas, it needs to be grand" so I decided that their hand-prints would form part of a family tree. Initially that meant I would paint a tree and there would be four handprints on it: Mummy Daddy Aaron and Lottie but when I Googled images for reference I stumbled on a tree of life that had a woman as the body of the tree and then I couldn't get the idea out of my head. This meant I was the tree, holding two baby hands and after creating it I was left wondering where Daddy comes in.

It gets worse. By the time I got round to painting the tree, we'd run out of our Johnson's Baby Wipes. I know! You couldn't make it up. They were used for anything and everything - God wipes come in handy when you have two kids and it's the Summer holidays. 

So, we went ahead with the painting but my Cooperative wipes didn't really cut it getting the paint off Aaron's hands and I washed Lottie's with water anyway. I made the mistake of using the poster paint neat without diluting it with water so Aaron's handprint came out as below so I decided to draw around his hand, get an outline and then fill it in myself by painting.
Aaron said "Mummy the wipes are wiping the paint in not off" so I knew the Cooperative wipes weren't cutting the mustard and couldn't wait to replace my Johnson's Baby ones knowing they would work having read Forget Me Knit's review.

Lottie adored getting covered in paint and doing her hand print. She was beyond thrilled:
I knew she would not stay still enough for me to draw around her hand so I used my normal Ikea paint which is more fluid which meant I got a good strong print first off. I was amazed at one, getting her whole hand covered as babies of her age often keep their hands in a fist and two, I did the print without her moving her hand and splodging all over the canvas. You can see above, that her hand has the proper texture of a print. I just smoothed out the edges a tiny bit with a brush. Anyway, the paint did go on her clothes but as it was water based I wasn't bothered. Aaron had the apron on even though it was too small for him, as I knew he'd be tickled by it and therefore more engaged. I did try it on Lottie later and actually although it was too big for her, it just meant there was a lot of fabric on the arms, but due to the elasticated cuffs it didn't at all pose a problem, so I think it'll be hers from now on.

Once the two of them had fun doing their hand prints, I then made it a job for me, to make this piece of art as good as possible, but all I kept thinking was how rusty I am. Like my last post where I said I am rusty at vlogging it seems I am also rusty at painting. The brushes were synthetic though (children's ones) and it was quite hard painting with them which I only realised after was the reason.

I did my best and although I don't LOVE it, this is what I came up with
There are many layers to this. It shows the sun, solar masculine energy and the moon, feminine lunar energy. It shows that me and Daddy share the roots that have created our children, both biologically and their foundation/home. It shows that Aaron's hand is so very large compared to Lottie's. It shows that mainly as the primary carer I do the juggling act alone, so although they are growing out of me to represent my growing them in my womb it represents so much more. The daily balancing act when Daddy is at work. Oh and the reason he is stood like that is because I drew his silhouette by copying a photo of him I had. Daddy said it looks like he is looming over us LOL, but it probably does represent that he is looking on at a distance from work, whilst we are dancing around. But we created them together. Have our "roots" together and have lots of quality family time when he's not at work.

The poster paint included gold and silver so the roots are silver and Aaron is gold, as I am trying to show show signs of alchemy to represent the miracle that is creation. I have also put silver on the moon and the sun to highlight that we are so very linked to them. I do think it needs tweaking and improving before I'd consider framing it, but it's been an interesting cathartic project nonetheless.

But over to the wipes themselves. We did finally replace both packs: the all over baby wipes and the extra sensitive baby wipes, because Johnson's were kind enough to send us some more phew. I actually covered Aaron's hands in gold paint again to try them and they work! So it proves you get what you pay for:
So the new dispensing system...? Well, it means you get one wipe out at a time which is convenient when you are trying to use them sparingly, which I know only too well having got through so many this Summer holidays. The rigid lid means (1) it's easy to open one-handed (2) they stay sealed so you don't end up with a top dry wipe which is so incredibly annoying and (3) as it is thin, they're not bulky in your bag. Normally rigid lids are a big chunk of plastic (like on my nappy bags) which makes them harder to fit in a bag. Incidentally the one on my nappy bags has fallen off anyway (they're cooperative too) and plus in our recycling conscious days that's just too much plastic. The Johnson's lid is just the normal packaging only reinforced a little. I must admit though, on one of my original packs before getting more (the Extra Sensitive packet), the point where the lid folds did crack, from being opened and closed too often, but it might have been a one-off as it didn't happen with the other pink (non sensitive skin) packet. 
I don't go anywhere without wipes and don't even consider them baby wipes as they can be used for a whole host of things like when Aaron gets muddy knees or hands and Daddy always keeps a packet in the car. Despite Aaron being six years old I had not stopped buying them before Lottie came along. Tonight though I did use wipes to clear her face up after dinner. I love that Johnson's baby do an extra sensitive wipe as Lottie does occasionally have flare ups like when her chest gets too wet from dribbling. Don't use those dribble bibs they are useless, it's plastic backed all the way now!

Both Johnson's Extra Sensitive Baby Wipes and Johnson's Gentle All Over Baby Wipes have been formulated to minimise the risk of allergies. Both have a no more tears formulation with the Johnson's lotion consisting of 97% pure water. Johnson's is a registered trademark of Johnson & Johnson Ltd. Both types have been gentle on Lottie's skin.

I would say that neither of the wipes have an overwhelming smell and like I said above Johnson's definitely performed better at getting the paint off Aaron's hands. I do like the new dispensing system and will update this post when I have finished the two recent packs so that I can confirm - hopefully - that my lid cracking was only a one-off. To be fair it did happen towards the end of the pack.

Disclosure: we were sent a pink pack and a yellow pack of Johnson's Baby Wipes (ohnson's Extra Sensitive Baby Wipes and Johnson's Gentle All Over Baby Wipes) and a messy play paint kit. This consisted of brushes, paint, an apron and a canvas. We were also sent 2 replacement packs of wipes.

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!