Wednesday, 26 December 2012

5 tips for de-stressing after a busy Christmas day

I had a lovely Christmas day; good food, excellent gifts (both given and received), great company, and the magic that comes from having two children in the house under the age of 7.

We hosted the meal, as we have done the the last 6 years, and although there were 9 for dinner (it has been 13 before), it went pretty smoothly. Everyone ate their fill; there were 5 different puddings to choose from (if you had the room) and I enjoyed a couple of glasses of the drink that, for me, is a pure Christmas drink, port and lemonade. Yummy.

I am relaxing in front of the TV now and looking forward to Friday. Why? Because I have a pamper day planned. Shellac nails and a back massage in the morning and a cut, colour and blow-dry in the afternoon. Somehow, knowing that the pamper day was booked in, I was far more relaxed on Christmas day than I have been previously. So my first tip for post-Christmas de-stress? Get a treatment booked, be it hair, nails, facial, massage or otherwise. The rest of my list is below. Feel free to add your own tips in the comments or tweet me at @ymummyreally.

1. Get a pampering treatment booked, whether it's nails, hair, massage. Once it's booked you will have it to look forward to.
2. Get out for a walk in the fresh air. It's been a wet, dark winter here in the UK and it's all too easy to stay inside. Wrap up warm and face the weather. A good dose of fresh air will do you the world of good. (I sound like my mother, but of course she's right!)
3. Get some exercise. A good long walk (see tip number 2 above), or even better, a run. An exercise class, or a swim. It doesn't matter what it is and it doesn't matter if it's only 15 minutes. It's better than nothing and you will feel energised and more relaxed as a result.
4. Run yourself a bath, grab a book, play your favourite music. At the same time if possible. Chill out and turn off the phone.
5. Got the family visiting? Need some time to yourself? Then take a break. Even if you simply disappear off to your bedroom for 10 minutes to have a play on Twitter. Taking a small break from the folks will give you chance to take a breath and get ready for the next round of Charades!

I hope you are having a great festive season. Merry Christmas to all my readers. Thank you for visiting this small part of the web. Stick around for 2013! There'll be beauty, travel and parenting tips aplenty!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

The one that's not about Christmas...

I am SO, in the manner of Chandler Bing, not ready for Christmas.

We have bought stuff. We have even wrapped some stuff. We have even, dare I say it, sent out a few cards to school, work and nursery. But I haven't written or posted cards for my family and friends. I haven't finished shopping for my husband; nor feel that the things that I have got, that, let's be honest here, he's bought himself on eBay and given me to give him back, are sufficiently amazing, wonderful and Christmassy enough to win the prize of "best present bought by a wife for her husband" this year.

What else have't I done, since I am in a glass half empty mood? I haven't worked out the annual Christmas card conundrum of "where can I hang or position the multiplying Christmas cards without them a) falling over every time I so much as breathe or b) marking the walls with blu-tac, nails or sticky tape?"

I haven't worked out how to feel Christmassy with the pressure of having to keep Christmas presents hidden in a house with two very inquisitive girls aged 6 and 4 respectively peering around your trouser leg every two minutes.

I haven't remembered to get the girls new snow boots in case of bad weather next week. Not really relevant to Christmas, but since I'm writing a list of "haven'ts" lets include it anyway in the hope it somehow reminds me to get them some, even if it's via a swift online order....

I have, though, managed to somehow become fed up with Michael Buble's Jingle Bells, since it's my daughters favourite and therefore is played pretty much on repeat in the car. Not something to moan about maybe... But slightly less heart-warming when it can't be played without the girls singing the girls part and them both insisting I adopt the role of Mr Buble and put on my best deep singing voice. I must swop that CD just for a days reprieve!

So this post isn't at all about Christmas, since I am not ready, or properly in the mood for that yet. It's actually about changing rooms.

Changing rooms at the swimming pool to be precise. I have a query that I'd like to hear your views on. Which changing room should parents take their children into? The girls; if the parent is the woman, regardless of the gender or age of the child? Or the girls, if the child is a girl, regardless of the gender of the parent? The same two options apply to boys.... The boys changing room, if the parent is male regardless of the gender of the child, or the boys if the child is a boy, regardless of the gender of the parent? And does the age of the child that's being accompanied make a difference?

And does the rule apply the same way for the use of toilets in shopping centres and malls, or is it somehow different?

Fancy thinking about something other than Christmas? Then let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Call for posts! Britmums Christmas beauty round-up

Calling all Britmums bloggers!
Written a post about beauty, be it reviewing your favourite products, recommending Christmas beauty must-haves, or talking winter skin care?
Want to be included on the Britmums blog Christmas beauty round-up?
Email me, tweet me or facebook me using the lovely coffee cup icons over on the right.  Or if you are on the mobile web, and can't see those lovely coffee cups, then a) get back to a PC to enjoy the full website, and b) share your links with me via Twitter @ymummyreally or by adding your links to the comments below.
You have until Saturday 29th December (deadline extended!) to point me to your posts.  Get writing!
PS. I am writing these posts using the Android App this week. I can't believe I am now a regular raver of Apps.  I still don't have a tablet though, so if anyone fancies sending me one... Feel free.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

A service announcement and an invite to write for us

Regular readers will be aware that I started working full time this month, not just in my existing job, but in an entirely new organisation in a promoted post.  It's something of a challenge, and I am currently at the "whose stupid idea was this?" stage.
I have a zillion and one new work things flying around my head, along with a zillion and two different mum-related tasks like "take tombola prize to school for the Christmas fair", "drop off eldest at Christmas disco", "ensure Christmas colouring competition entries are handed into school on time", "write Christmas cards", "arrange trip to Santa's Grotto", "remember which day is mufti day at school", "listen to eldest read her reading books twice a week", "remember to do maths homework with eldest", "pay for gymnastics lessons", "take back library books"........I could go on and on and on, but you get the idea.

All that is on top of the daily food shopping, meal prepping, pot washing jobs. I've already opted to buy in 2 hours of cleaning and 2 hours of ironing each week: and still I don't stop until 10pm, at which point I try and find half an hour of TV, but inevitably fall asleep within 5 minutes.

Life throws these challenges at us. Life has decided to throw a surprise work challenge at my husband this month too, meaning he is working 12 hour days at the moment. Something we couldn't have planned for and which hopefully won't continue for too long.

The result of all this is that my blog is not getting the attention it deserves as I am obviously prioritising family time.   I will continue to post when I can, and want to say a huge thank you to all readers. Please please bear with me.

I will also consider guest posts from other bloggers at this time.  If you are a blogger and a parent and would like to write a piece on how you stay yummy, or not, please email it me for consideration.

Many thanks all. Stay yummy!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Working Mothers

Remember when you used to get school reports that told you how well, or not, you were doing?

Feedback is always useful, but todays feedback from my four year old wasn't great.  I drove through the countryside, up and down hills and winding lanes to get from work to her Nursery by 4pm. 

In my previous, part time work, I would have picked her up half an hour early having collected her older sister from school.

But now, in my full time role, I cannot leave until 3.30pm, meaning I can collect her on time, but no longer early.  I feel like I should emphasise the "on time" bit there.

Tonight, when I collected her, I was a few minutes later than other mums but still "on time" and so she wasn't the first child to be picked up.

She wasn't happy.

"Hello lovely" I said. "Have you had a nice day?"

She frowned at me and didn't answer.

"Oh dear," I said. "What's the matter".

Her bottom lip came out and she spoke in that quiet whiny voice that all parents know and love.

"I wanted you to be first" she whined.

Great. I had rushed out of work so that she could be picked up at normal time and can therefore be home for tea, and it still wasn't good enough.

My school report for the day? "Must try harder".

I suspect that report won't change much!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Tights! Love them or hate them?

Who invented tights?

I could google the question and find out, but I really don't think that's a good idea, because whoever it is will be the subject of a fair amount of frustration emanating from me, and it's probably safer to direct that frustration generally out into the world so that it can quickly dissipate in all directions, rather than it having a specific target.

I have spent the last week constantly pulling up my tights. Yesterday, on the way out of the school gates after school drop off, I found myself intermittently taking extra large steps to try and keep the crotch of the tights from sliding further down my legs.

I have had to use damp hands, carefully slid up my tights, to pull them up properly after every attempt at actually pulling them up the usual way - you know, hands carefully pulling up from the bottom whilst trying not to snag them on a rough nail.  The damp hands trick is a good trick and works for a while, but if you are caught sliding your hands up your legs in the ladies bathroom it can look a little strange.  And then, inevitably, minutes later, I can feel the lycra slowly fighting back and pulling the tights back down again.

I've had to pull up my tights as soon as I've got in the car after the school run in order to stay comfortable (what views any passers by must of got had they looked into my car at the point when I was hitching them up around my thighs I dread to think).  Even, as I write this, I can feel them slowly, but surely, venturing south.

A last ditch attempt to keep them where they belong involves tucking my camisole and blouse into them and hoping that my skirt doesn't drop down at the waist enough to show off this strange clothing arrangement.

OK, OK, I know what you are thinking, I clearly haven't got the right size.  But when I do go up a size they end up so loose and baggy that they slide down my legs and create Nora Batty waves around my ankles (If you know who that is you are closer to 40 than you'd care to admit).

I hate tights.

The only trouble is, I love tights.  They make my legs look normal (I am ghostly pale skinned), and they keep me warm (I am a wimp). 

There's only one thing for it; the solution that I used to adopt as a skinny 12 year old girl; I shall wear a pair of pants over the top of the tights as well as underneath them. 

Sexy eh?

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Blogging about beauty but over 30? Is it allowed?

I have been thinking a lot about the beauty element of this blog recently.  I have had occasion to nosy around on the web for other beauty blogs as part of my role as Britmumsbeauty round-up editor and I have noticed that Google search appears to have a liking for beauty blogs written by youngsters.  

When I say youngsters here I specifically mean anyone under 25 years old and that don’t have children.  The blogs that come up at the top of search engines including the words beauty and blog are all by women who appear to be industry experts, buying new beauty products on a daily basis, testing them all out, and dare I say it, enjoying the fact that they don’t actually need any make up (they are all under 25 years old with youth on their side after all), so if it goes wrong, or doesn’t suit their skin, it really doesn’t matter as they haven’t spent that much on it anyway, and their youth appears to provide them with a free pass to experiment with make-up styles happily without people pointing and staring in the street.

I, on the other hand, am fast approaching 40 years old and only started using make-up AT ALL 6 years ago when I returned to work after having my first daughter.

At fast-approaching-40, and an accountant, society seems to dictate that I am not allowed to make any make-up mistakes.  If I decide to try bright cerise lipstick, I probably shouldn’t do it the day I have an important meeting with my boss as I’ll get some really weird looks and, sorry but this is true, will have folk thinking a little less of my professionalism if I can’t even get basic make-up right.

So where does this leave those of us who desperately want to work out what suits us, at a time in our life where we are really starting to need the help, but missed the teenage-girls testing stage?

Are we even allowed to have an opinion on beauty products, having had so little testing time?  

Can we afford to switch products once we find something that works just to ‘try’ something else? Or will our fast-approaching-40 skin be too quick to punish us if we veer away from the few products we have discovered?

So what do you think? If we are ‘outside’ the beauty industry AND fast-approaching-40, can we talk about beauty products and express our opinions on them? And if we can, in the form of a blog, then where are all the fast-approaching-40 beauty bloggers hiding? 

Come on Google – find them for me! Or if you have one, or have a view on the subject, tell me in the comments below.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Juggling all the balls, multi-tasking and time management!

I was rummaging through some old draft posts this morning and came across this..

"Today has been a tricky day.  Not in any grand sense; it's not like we've been fighting dragons or juggling eggs, we'll save those fun activities for some other time; no, it's just been a little tricky.

I went back to work today, after being ill last week, and got myself all caught up.  But my job means that, at this time of year, it is busy and pressured, and a missed day sets me back just too far.  So instead of being off on leave tomorrow, like I'd planned, I decided that I'll need to go into work.  And since neither set of Grandparents happen to be available for babysitting duties tomorrow, then our younger girl, still 3 years old, will be going to Nursery for an extra day.

I had to arrange that, last minute, at 4pm today.  Luckily they have space for her.

Regular readers will already have guessed that I am feeling guilty that I won't be spending the day with her like I'd planned.  But, although I feel guilty, I remind myself that my part-time, annualised hours, flexible working contract means that I will be off work for pretty much the whole of July and August. A contract like that is only possible when you ensure you meet the deadlines you are supposed to when you are there.

At the moment work is busy, meaning I get less time with the children.  But I know I will make it up to them.  And every day, when I pick them up from school and nursery at 3.15pm, I try and ensure to spend time with them then.  To enjoy the evening with stories and lullabies and to balance the day.

It was a tricky day, because it felt like a tricky decision.  But it wasn't really.  It was a decision I'd actually made 2 years ago when I returned to work.

Working mums face this kind of decision every day.  How do you get the right balance?  How flexible are your employees?"

It was interesting to read back to this post, drafted over 6 months ago and never published, because this week I started back at work, in a new job, full time.  Yes.  Let me repeat that - FULL TIME!

The youngest isn't at school yet - that excitement will have to wait until September - but a brilliant opportunity came up and I went for it.

Interestingly I haven't felt particularly guilty this week.  The eldest is absolutely thrilled at being able to stay at After School Club with her mates for an hour after school.  On Thursdays I can now pick them up earlier, weirdly, as I'm not trying to shove work hours into fewer days, and the hubby has seen more of the girls and been able to attend his first parents evening.

All in all, going back full time seems to have forced us to create a better balance of childcare and be more organised on the logistics front (I already know at least 6 different routes to work, and have properly started meal planning, which is incredibly useful as it resulted in a slow-cookered meal being ready for us after work!)

And, I feel more like myself again.  The intellectual challenge will mean that I sleep well!

So how do you manage working and parenting?  Any tips?  Feel free to share them below.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Mensa Academy: A review

Do you know your Mensa score?

With the success of brain training games over the last few years, it comes as no surprise that Mensa have released their very own computer game; Mensa Academy, available on Nintendo® Wii™ and 3DS™, Windows PC platforms, and in the near future for mobile and tablets.

I was lucky enough to try it out on an iPad at the Britmums 2012 event in London.  It's great fun on the iPad.  Click the correct picture to complete the pattern as fast as you can, click the right shape, numerical answer.. etc....There are 100+ mini-games, puzzles and challenges with play, test and coach modes.  It was very easy to use and I immediately saw how much fun it would be for the whole family.

But it's not available for mobile and tablet yet, so when I was offered the chance to try out the PC version, I jumped at it.

Unfortunately I was a little disappointed by the PC version.  The games are the same, but have been designed with touchscreens in mind so using a cursor slows down your response times considerably.  Not only that, but the cursor doesn't seem to function well on the game.  It bunny hops across the screen despite our cursor usually working fine.

My 6 year old daughter was excited about playing the games, but got more and more frustrated with the lack of decent cursor control until eventually, after about 6 separate game session across a couple of months, she gave up and hasn't asked to play it since.

I've had more of a play, but am similarly frustrated with the PC version.

So our advice: get this for a touchscreen, be it a tablet or phone.  It really is a great game, but is spoilt by it's clunkiness (I don't care if that's a proper word or not; it works) on the PC.

A copy of the Mensa Academy computer game for PC was provided free for the purpose of this honest review. 

Mensa Academy is developed by Silverball Studios and Barnstorm Games and published by Square Enix Europe

Friday, 2 November 2012

Christmas printables

So now Halloween is finished, all thoughts are with Christmas.  Whether it's present buying, organising whose house you are, or are not visiting on the day, which family members you are going to annoy (since you can't keep everyone happy) and what food you need to get stocked up with.

The good news is that it's the easiest time of the year to keep children entertained with craft activities.  Search for Christmas crafts on google and you are inundated with options.

My favourite find this year is the Activity Village Christmas scrapbook papers.  Simply download the A4 sheets of Christmas themed paper and print.  These reindeer's are lovely and are just one example of a vast range.

Be warned though; I used up all my colour cartridge printing about 18 sheets!*

And one further warning; this site has colouring sheets, word searches, advent calender templates, craft ideas galore.... you might need to grab a cuppa before you start browsing.

*Note:  This is not a sponsored post.  I just love the website. and wanted to share.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Parenting advice: Do as I say, not as I do

I have lost count of the number of times I have seen a parent (sometimes me) shouting at the top of their voices at their children; "WILL YOU STOP SHOUTING AND BE QUIET!"

I understand the compulsion as I've have been there.  But it's interesting how often you see it happen: a parent asking their child to do something that they are not doing themselves. 

I've now worked out the solution for us in the case of shouting.  When our two girls are screaming at each other, sometimes in anger, sometimes just because they want to be heard over each other, I pause (to take a breathe and ensure to be calm) and make sure I walk right into the fray, crouch down to their level, gesture for them to look at me and I, ever so quietly, tell them that there is no need to shout at each other or me, as we are not a million miles away.

It's surprising how effective speaking quietly is.  The sudden change in volume, coupled with their need to go quiet in order to hear my words, has a drastic impact on the decibel level in the room.

Besides; I shouldn't expect them to be quiet if I am allowed to shout.  In the same way you can't teach children to be honest if you regularly lie, or to be reliable if you are constantly late. 

Are there any things you do, but that you try and teach your children not to do?  My vice is chocolate.  I try and teach them to eat healthily but regularly find myself sneaking a biscuit on the sly so that they don't want one too.  How bad is that!?

Click on 'Comments' below to let me know your parenting "do as I says", or track me down on Twitter or Facebook .

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Domestic goddess tips: Washing powder scoops

No longer are we sold scoops with our washing powder. 

When you ring the number on the box to request one, you are sent a cardboard container that lasts approximately 10 seconds. (Alright; I might be exaggerating.. but not a lot)

So here's my tip.  You simply need an old clean plastic milk container, your existing cardboard scoop (or some way of measuring quantities), a permanent marker and some scissors.

Cut the milk bottle, as shown in the picture and, using your old scoop, measure the standard amount you need for a wash and pour it into your milk bottle scoop. 

Mark, with a permanent marker, the level the powder reaches.  You can mark more than one level for the various different types of wash you do.
And there you have it.  A new scoop.

It will, eventually bend at the edges, but it lasts longer than the cardboard version, can stand up with powder in it, and it's easy to make a replacement.
You can also use this idea to make impromptu spades for children that break their plastic ones playing in the sand. 
I'd like to give a shout out to the children's programme 'Balamory' which is where this idea came from.

If you have any other tips to make the household chores a little easier or to save a few pennies, please get in touch and I'll share them with other readers.  Please click on your preferred coffee cup over to the right and send me your ideas.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Looney Tunes Big Faces Collection on UltraViolet: A review

I am delighted that the lovely folk over at Warner Bros. have asked me to test out their latest DVDs using a new method of storing and watching... Ultra Violet (UV).
If you've never heard of UV, let me explain. 

Imagine you buy a DVD.  You pop it in your DVD player and watch it on your TV.  But you don't have time to finish watching it before you have to run out and catch a train.  You take your mobile phone, or tablet, with you.  Sit on the train, click a couple of buttons and you are watching that DVD again.  You haven't downloaded it, (you can if you like but it's not necessary) you are watching it live, streamed from your UV account.  It's like having a virtual video store.  Not only that, but if you pause on one device, and then start watching on another device, it knows where you got to and plays from the correct place.  Honestly.  

All you need to do is buy an DVD with a UV voucher code in the box, enter your code on-line, and voila, your latest purchase is added to your on-line UV collection. 

Warner sent over Tom and Jerry and Bugs Bunny from The Looney Tunes Big Faces Collection for us to test out.

I followed the instructions on the voucher found inside the box.  You need a UV account and a linked Flixster account, both of which take a couple of minutes to set up and link together – it talks you through it and if I can do it, anyone can.  The UV account stores your films in a cloud and you watch them through Flixster.  There's a Flixster app for iPhone, iPad and Android, so once you have the Flixster app on your device and are logged in, there are your films! 

The advantage of UV is that we now have Tom and Jerry and Bugs Bunny available at home on the DVD and on my phone and on our tablet.  I could access it on a laptop or frankly any device with an Internet connection if I chose to.  It's helpful when we go to swimming lessons for the elder, but the younger has to sit and watch.  She gets easily bored normally.  But now she has the option to watch her favourite cartoons.  Even in a public place Tom and Jerry is perfect – as who needs sound?

One potential downfall is that, if you don't 'download' in order to save storage space on your individual devices, then you are watching over the Internet.  Whilst the streaming so far on the tablet is fine, it has buffered a couple of times when watching on my phone.  You are at the mercy of the strength of the Internet connection I think.  I'm sure any techie people can tell me if I've understood this incorrectly!  Obviously, those you've downloaded to the device will be fine and you can watch those without an Internet connection; good for long journeys in the car.

However, a great advantage is that you can control which titles in your UV collection children have access to; so there's no need to worry about the little ones starting to watch age-inappropriate material.  And you can set up to five different users to access your UV collection, each with their own log-in and passwords, and each able to customise which titles they see.  The family DVD collection is suddenly accessible anytime, anyplace, as long as it's UV!

The best thing about UV is that it enables you to future proof your film collection, so if discs get scratched, snapped or drawn on by little ones, you are still able to watch the film again and again.

The kids love having access to these DVDs on my phone.  My only problem now is that they want their own iPods or iPads so they can watch themselves!  At 4 years old and 6 years old I'm sticking to my guns and NOT going down that route yet!

And what about the titles?  I've lost count of the number of times Bugs Bunny has said "what's up, doc?"   It's safe to say that our daughters have discovered the delights of the Looney Tunes characters that we grew up with.  From my point of view the cartoons are just long enough, but not too long.  So I can say 'just one more', and they get advance warning that TV time is nearly over, yet get another episode, and I don't feel like I'm letting them watch too much TV.  In short; they love them. 

We were sent two titles from The Looney Tunes Big Faces Collection for the purpose of reviewing the DVDs and UltraViolet.  This is an honest review of the products.

Friday, 19 October 2012

The BritMums beauty round-up: Collecting the best BritMums beauty blog posts each month

beautyYou may or may not be aware that I am lucky enough to write for the BritMums Blog.

I'm still not entirely sure how it happened.  One minute I was sending a light hearted tweet to the BritMums team suggesting that, of all the great round-ups that they regularly publish, they didn't appear to do a monthly round-up of beauty-related blog posts.  As a parenting and beauty blogger I was interested in what other mums were blogging about on the beauty front.  Were they blogging on this subject? Or once you have children, does it really all turn to talk of nappies to the exclusion of skin care or hair fashions?

Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on whether I'm having a productive writing day, the response that came back was; "Great idea, we'll set you up to start it next month".  Hmmmmm. What had I gotten myself into?

My reaction was a simultaneous "oh, pants" and "brilliant!"  And today my third beauty round-up, Shedding the pounds, goes live on the BritMums blog.

I now have to remember to bookmark the great blog posts I come across that provide skincare, make-up, haircare or other beauty advice.  It's an added pressure, but the great advantage is that I'm discovering some great tips and making new friends.  I am so pleased that the Britmums team had faith in me as I'm really enjoying myself.  Thank you!

This month it's all about weight loss.  Enjoy it and let me know what you think and what sort of beauty posts you'd like me to look out for.
Those of you who want to contact me, share your own beauty tips, or pass on your advice on how to be a yummy mummy, are welcome to comment below, or to join me on one of the many social networks I tend to roam in these days.  Sign up to follow via Google+, Twitter, Facebook or RSS feed via the feed reader of your choice (click the links here, or pick a coffee cup over on the right to click*)

If you're a BritMums blogger and you'd like your beauty posts featured in the monthly round-up, please comment below to let me know who you are, and sign up to follow via Google+, Twitter, Facebook or RSS feed via the feed reader of your choice (click the links here, or pick a coffee cup over on the right to click*) so you don't miss the monthly reminder to send me your links.  

*I am somewhat over excited by my new coffee cup social media icons. :-)

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Staying true to yourself

For me, staying yummy is all about looking and feeling my best.  Doing the work for your self to ensure you have enough energy and sleep, that you've eaten the right foods to be healthy, and are spending your time with people that you love. 

I have always had a strong work ethic and believe you get what you put in.  That's how it's always been for me.  I used to work for myself and you really notice it when it's up to you how many pennies you are going to be carrying to the supermarket with you.  Put the work in and the rewards will follow.  It helps if you can multitask!

But it's important to stay true to yourself.  Whatever job you do you should be happy in it.  Even if you don't love it, you are happy enough to do it; take home the pay check and enjoy the rest of life; family, hobbies, films, music, books, crafts, cookery, bell ringing..... whatever floats your boat.

I am lucky enough to work within an organisation that I admire, and have been successful in obtaining a new job; a promotion; starting soon.  I am looking forward to the challenge (I'm an accountant by the way - alright, don't yawn) and I will be working hard to prove that they selected the right person for the job; which of course they absolutely did, so it should be easy to demonstrate!  I love what I do, so even though it's full-time I'm hoping it will help me stay looking and feeling my best and all the more yummy. 

But I am an eclectic individual, to say the least, and to balance me out - to feel like a rounded, whole, yummy mummy, I need creative outlets like this blog.  So today; my elder daughter, who's now 6 years old, helped me play about with a camera taking pictures of our favourite teddy bear.  What mum doesn't multitask? This was a job I wanted to do for the blog, but became a great game for her 'playing photographer' too! 

Teddy's going to become very recognisable on this blog; this is what you might call a 'teaser' post; so I thought I'd treat you to a sneak preview of one of the shots we took. 

Now that's one chilled out bear!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Is Lego stereotyping? When did the gender divide arrive at Lego HQ?

Maybe it's my age and my nostalgic memories of creating my own little village of Lego when I was young that is clouding my judgement now.

Growing up I enjoyed building a couple of cottages, a bakery, police station, fire station, hospital, flower shop, bus station, school, fairground..... and supplementing this with the train tracks and a little Lego train, a Lego bus and numerous Lego cars.

Could you buy those things from the Lego shop at Legoland Windsor?

My review of LegoLand Windsor is here  ]

No you could not.  And it seemed to be very boy / girl orientated.  With, dare I say it, a predominance of boy angled products.  The front section was dominated by Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, Dino, and Ninjago, Lord of the Rings, Kingdoms and Cars ranges.  Then there was a VERY pink corner with less lego and more Princess dressing-up products, hair slides and purses. 

The brand new Friends range is creating a big stir with my girls, but, not only is there not much in this range yet, I am also annoyed that the Lego girls in these sets are suddenly taller and thinner.  As if we didn't have enough overly slim role models?

The absolute joy of Lego when I was young was that it wasn't stereotyped.  It was neither for girls, or for boys.  The Lego people were differentiated only by subtle variations to hair, skin colour and clothing colours.  Now it seems that this openness is gone.  The colour scheme choices for the boxes aim to direct certain box sets towards girls or boys.  How incredibly typical is it that the Friends range is in pink and purple?

I had a browse of the Lego store website whilst writing this.  Along with the ranges mentioned above you've also got, Monster Fighters, Technic, Hero Factory and Racers - all of which are aimed almost exclusively at boys.  Are boys really all about the fighting and the monsters?  What about the Lego for girls?

The only theme that looked, according to it's initial theme logo picture on the home page, non-gender specific was Creator and there doesn't appear to be the types of sets I played with as a child available anymore.  You struggle to find a 'house' to make.  And then the site crashed on me... so I suspect that's a sign that I should stop turning into a grumpy old woman.

But, really?  Can't they release the classic 80s sets?  Couldn't you get little Carousels and such like?   Maybe that's an idea Lego?  A retro range!  Please!  Now I get more than £2 pocket money a week I could actually finish that village.  I'm thinking a post office, pharmacist, hair salon (multisex obviously), and church complete with church bells.

What Lego set would you want if you could select anything?

Day 5 - Legoland Windsor: A review

This is the fifth and final of a series of posts based on our crazily busy holiday down in Bournemouth and Slough in August.  Yes, you heard that correctly; Slough.  We had an intense week of family days out; it cost us far too much, but we had an absolutely ball. 

I publishing the posts that were drafted during the trip between other yummy musings throughout September.  The first one: Sandy Balls is here and the second; Wet Bottoms: A review of Peppa Pig World is here. The third: Painful Groynes - a day at Bournemouth beach is here.  And the fourth, Piddle Valley and Sea Life Adventure Park, Weymouth, is here.  Enjoy the series.

We also managed to visit Beaulieu National Motor Museum to check out the James Bond Car collection (DB9 - yum) along with Noddy and Mr Bean's cars, go ten-pin bowling and catch this year's new Disney Film Brave.  It was a VERY busy week!

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LEGOLAND Windsor - A review


I was delighted when the lovely people at Legoland Windsor agreed to provide me with a family ticket for the day in return for an honest review of the park.  It's somewhere I've always wanted to go (I'm such a lego geek) and my hubby was excited about the prospect of seeing the Star Wars Lego sets.  My children obviously thought I was the best mum EVER to get them free tickets, so it was all looking good.  My  camera took a hefty toll on the day of our visit.   

My pictures first... then the review.. then some more pictures... work for you?

My picture of the Legoland Hotel entrance

At this point hubby was drooling.....


Younger was shouting and pointing at this point.

Not a bad effort capturing the action!?
Remember when TV's were that deep?

Yellow piggies?

Dear Father Christmas......

What I'd really like for Christmas....

is a whole village made from Lego!

I wonder how much, at RRP....

Miniland cost to build?

I wonder how much this set would be on ebay?

The giant people have invaded!

London Calling...

How cute?!

Amazing eh?

Unfortunately we managed to pick the hottest day of the year to go.  Ordinarily we would have adapted our plans and gone to the beach for the day, but the tickets were for a specific day so we were limited.  With suncream plastered on, sun hats on our heads and spare clothes in the day bag we set off from our base for this part of the trip, Premier Inn Slough and arrived at the park 10 minutes later.

Parking and collecting our tickets was easy as we'd arrived at 9.15am.  The park wasn't due to open until 10am but I kind of hoped maybe we'd be able to get in either early or as one of the first.  The turnstiles for entry were empty, so no queues to pay at this time.
We paid for our car parking (£2).  Yes, I was surprised.  You'd think that the entry fee to the place would include your car, but apparently not.  Either this is Legoland's attempt to be ecofriendly by trying to discourage car users and encourage the use of public transport (tricky since it's not exactly next to a train station) or someone somewhere is being a bit greedy.  Tickets for 2 adults and 2 children bought online in advance (and therefore at a saving of £25) cost £33.30 per adult and £26.55 per child.  That's £119.70   .  What do you think about charging extra for parking?

Onwards then, into the 'Beginnings' section of the part.  Here we hired a buggy for the day for £8.  In hindsight we should have made it a double buggy.  Although our Elder has recently turned 6 years old, the busy week we'd had, combined with the heat and a large park to cover took it's toll. 

 The Star Wars experience is over to the right as you go in.  We wandered straight into there (hubby was delighted) and were impressed by the models.  The kids were slightly uninspired, but then they aren't old enough to have seen the films yet so it was a bit bewildering for them.  Hubby was, of course, completely bewitched! We ended up in the Star Wars shop (of course).  At this stage in the day we weren't about to start shopping so we emerged from there into the sunshine only to find a crowd of people gathering just outside the store.

A queue? Or not? A quick look at the map revealed that they were blocking where we needed to go.  I thought we'd been let in early, after all we'd just been in one of the attractions, but apparently not.  In much the same way that you can get into the entrance to Disneyland Paris, but have to wait at the Castle until that section of the park opens, in Legoland you have to wait outside this store.  Only there were no employees letting the customers know this or directing traffic.

I am a traditional fair queuer.  I get in the queue at the end and wait my turn.  But this wasn't a traditional queue.  There were people surreptitiously going into the Star Wars store, then emerging and hovering near its entrance alongside the queue  instead of walking back up to the back of the queue.  Even worse, when the queue started moving, people emerged deliberately from the store and just joined it.  Major queue jumping!  I hate this.  I think you should wait your turn.  It wound me up no end, and since we were stood in the heat (about 22 degrees already) with two over excited children, the queue jumping made me angry.  I turned to my husband and said "At least I'll have something to review.  They've failed at the first hurdle."  So Legoland, please sort out this queueing.  Have an employee (there were plenty wandering around with those refillable bottles (more later) stood directing people into the queue and not letting them jump in from the shop. Please!

Anyhow:  enough of the moaning, because this is a HUGE attraction.  There was far far far far too much to see and do in one day, so what did we do?

We hotfooted it straight over to the Atlantis ride - an amazing journey underwater with the sharks and a fair bit of Lego (obviously).  The sharks are real though.  Really.

Tried Dino Safari which the girls enjoyed (mostly the younger) and there wasn't a queue.  The dinosaur models are brilliant.
Checked out the exterior of the Legoland Hotel, and worked out that, since it is physically INSIDE the park, they probably get in before the rest of us (mental note for next time).  The pictures on the website (see the pirates bedroom I've shared over on the left) show some interior decoration that is going to forever make the kids own rooms seem dull.  I'm not sure Santa Claus could cope with the length of my daughters' letters if they went to this hotel before Christmas!

Had a go on the Squid Surfer - great fun. Our elder thoroughly enjoyed forcing us out to the edges so that I'd get absolutely drenched stood behind her.  I was dripping, but pretty thankful - it cooled me down.

Bought 4 refillable drinks bottles.  These large plastic bottles on lanyards are brilliant.  You pay £6 each for them, but since a large drink is approx £4 anyway, you only have to refill it once (at any drinks venue in the park) and you've saved money.  On a day like today, with the heat, with small children, they saved us from sunstroke or dehydration.

Tried Digger Challenge - good and novel idea, but the queue was long and they hardly give you any time when it's your turn to have a go in the digger.  Younger loved this, but wanted LOTS longer.  Any chance of more diggers please Legoland?

Watched The Pirates of Skeleton Bay stunt show.  Absolutely fab.  See one of my pictures further up this post.  But it is out in the open, so if it's hot, it's really hot sat watching it.  Maybe a few seating areas under cover would be good (are you taking notes Legoland?  Hehe!)

Ate lunch in City Walk Pizza and Pasta.  This restaurant is enormous but at noon there was a huge queue going out of the door and an empty restaurant.  The system in place is unusual and has advantages and disadvantages.  You queue up at the door where one member of staff is stood.  His entire job is to stop you going further.  You are then collected by another member of staff who takes you to a table.  Then she asks you how many are eating and tells you how much it is.  If memory serves she disappears to bring back one of those card machines.  Then she goes to get plates for you and brings them back (If they'd have been stored by the door she could have picked them up with us, so there's another idea for the notebook Legoland).

Finally she disappears so you can go away from your table to the self service buffet to load up your fairly small plate and grab a drink.  The food was nice.  Hearty, filling, plenty of choice and salad too.  But the logistics of this didn't work.

I suggest that the chap stood on the door would have been better off joined by one of the numerous 'take-you-to-a-table' folk.  Two people, with payments machines, could have taken your payment on entrance and then let you in.  You could then help yourself to plates, a table, the food etc.  A few members of staff to keep the place clean, clearing tables etc and you are sorted.

After lunch we walked across to try the Fire Academy.  Another great idea but unfortunately again there weren't enough of them, and by them I mean life size Lego style fire engines, so the queue took nearly an hour (in the heat).  The actual ride is also over in less than 30 seconds by my reckoning.  That's a lot of time invested for 30 seconds.  Making it a race between the four families that get a turn together was also not ideal for smaller children who, lets face it, just want to have a go and not be rushed.   

The plan was now to walk up near Duplo Play Town where all the smaller children's rides are.  However, as we approached it was clear that this was one part of the park that was absolutely packed!  There is a splash park called Waterworks.  I couldn't tell you what it looked like because of the sheer volume of people in and around it.  I, as a very risk averse mother, was scared at the thought of children running around that splash park, because a) there was no chance as a parent you could keep eyes on them with that many people around, b) there isn't just one entrance into it that you can stand by, there are multiple and c) the children running around ranged from tinies (3 and 4 year olds) to teens making it, again just by sheer volume, a recipe for broken bones.  The only way I can explain how busy it is is by saying that there wouldn't have been one child inside there that could have stood with arms outstretched without hitting someone else.  I don't have an answer to this though.  Limiting access on that hot day could have sparked a riot, so not really an option.  We chose to walk through this section of the park as fast as we could, stopping off at the toilets on route.

Quick Tip on Baby Changing: there are separate doors for specific toilets with changing tables so parents with babies were queueing outside those, BUT, the normal toilets (with no queue) also have changing tables in them, so before you queue, take a peek.

We spotted Fairy Tale Brook, as we tried to walk through this part of the park, with hardly any queue.  20 minutes later we were sat in a little boat spotting the different fairy tale characters, all made of Lego of course.  Quick Tip on this - Don't sit two adults in the back of the boat and two tiny children in the front... it makes for an unsteady boat!  We had to lean forward to ensure we didn't flood the boat.  This was a lovely little ride though, and the girls were tiring by this time.

Next for a walk through Miniland.  My favourite bit.  The camera took some hammering and my favourites are at the top of this post.  The lovely train close up here is, of course, a Legoland official picture and far superior to my efforts.

And that was it for us other than the inevitable trip to the Lego shop at the exit.  I started to comment on this, and got sidetracked thinking about the gender stereotyping that we were faced with in this store.  I decided to move that discussion to another post which you can find, and add your Lego set pick to, here.
And that was us done.  The girls were exhausted and there was So much more to see.  I think, looking at the map (HERE) we probably covered only about 20% of the park rides, if that.  I guess it means there's plenty to look forward to next time!

Would we go again?  Absolutely yes.  I'd be prepared for the queues and would research the QBot scheme next time.  I'd try eating in another of the eateries and I'd not go on the hottest day of the year!

All in all Legoland Windsor has some great original ideas which is rare in a theme park.  Often the rides are all the same basic structure with different themes painted on (think Dumbo and Aladdin rides at Disneyland Paris)  But here, there were ideas I'd never seen before.  Great work on the originality.  But room for improvement on the restaurants and queueing.  

PS  If you are going out for the day with young children always take spare clothes! These parks all seem to include either rides with water involved, or actual splash parks for the kids)

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