• The Joy of a British Summer or First World Problems

  • Book Review: Grandad’s Island by Benji Davies

    Grandads island book
  • #SweetsandTreats at The Making of Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour London

  • Featured Post: Things to Do in Leicester

    Holiday Inn Leicester

The Joy of a British Summer or First World Problems


Forgot the I left the pool filling up, forgot to top up the air in the sides of the pool. Created an infinity pool waterfall….

I woke up this morning to find it was actually quite hot. By hot I mean ‘not cardigan wearing’ weather. This poses a problem for me, not in terms of ice white legs. I mean, who cares how white my legs are, i’m a mum of three in my forties, no-one is going to be looking at them. No, its more that I HAVE NOTHING TO WEAR. I’ve noticed that with age I seem to get quite hot, yes, I suspect there are some hot flushes in there. This effectively rules out my uniform of jeans and a top and forces me into dresses and skirts. Except, when I lost weight last year I had to chuck out most of my wardrobe as nothing fitted. This left me with stuff which was ten years old and to be honest more suitable to me ten years ago than now.

I do have a pillar box red 1950’s dress, a lovely floaty dress I bought for a christening, a few black dresses and not a lot else. Nothing in fact which would be deemed suitable for the dreaded school run. I don’t mind looking different and unique in fact I like to. Except on the school run where I don’t want to attract any sort of attention to myself in any way. In fact, if I could don a cloak of invisibility I would!

So what does one wear on the daily school run when its hot? Answers in comments please.

The next conundrum to face me today is that of the paddling pool. This year I took the decision to throw away the old paddling pools and purchase a new one. I did this by buying the first one I spotted in Sainsbury. Good planning I hear you say. No. I managed to buy a near swimming pool sized pool which takes forever to fill. Taking forever to fill there is the temptation to leave it filled with water until the water is entirely displaced by bits of grass and floating insects. The temptation to risk all sort of disease is high, but to be honest this afternoon I was faced with a pool of stagnant water and a small naked boy who refused to get into it. I know have a flooded garden a freshly filled pool and a small boy fully clothed indoors playing with his train set. And so I can see how this summer will be panning out…

ice  lolliesThe next problem with summer time in Britain is the lack of ice lollies available. All through Winter, Spring and Autumn the freezer cabinets of our local supermarket are filled to the brim with lollies on special offer. The first sniff of a bit of heat and these lollies become like gold dust and i’m reduced to shouting loudly at children about how much sugar they contain and how they aren’t good for them.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the summer sunshine and the school summer holidays are the best part of the year for me. Its just all these small little problems can really add up cant they? Pass the Pimms…

Book Review: Grandad’s Island by Benji Davies

Grandads island bookBenji Davies writes and illustrates the most beautiful, thoughtful children’s books and Grandad’s Island is not exception to this. Its the story of Syd and Grandads relationship and deals with death in a very subtle thoughtful manner.

This is a wonderful book to use with children who are struggling to deal with where their loved one might have gone. It clearly shows how those that are close to us remain with us however far away they might seem. This is done in such a thoughtful way that it really brought a tear to my eye when I was reading it. Therein lies a slight problem in that if you are dealing with these issues you do need to steal yourself as you read it to your children, so do make sure that you read through the book alone first!

This is a stand out book, its full of wonderful inspiring illustrations and tackles an issue which very few picture books dare to deal with. That makes it a bookcase essential and I think it almost certainly deserves to win some of this years children’s picture book prizes.

If you’d like to find out more about the book then click here.

Disclaimer: We were sent a review copy.

#SweetsandTreats at The Making of Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour London


A display of sweets in The Great Hall

One of the best local attractions in Hertfordshire is The Making of Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio Tour, its literally ten minutes down the road from us in Leavesdon but people travel from a long way to visit because frankly, its awesome.

From the minute you arrive at the sound studios you are transported into the world of Harry Potter and even if you are not a big fan of the books you’ll find something to enjoy. We loved the moment when the cinema screen lifts up to reveal the doors to The Great Hall, when you walk through those doors you are literally in The Great Hall.

We were lucky enough to get a flavour of the Sweets and Treat feature on a special family opening where we got to meet some of the prop department who made those amazing sugary treats and cakes. The Great Hall was laid out with the most amazing gateaux and pudding and it was our challenge to decide which ones were real and which ones fake. This was incredibly difficult because the Prop Department was so skilled in making cakes out of intricately painted resin.

The Making of Harry Potter

The chocolatiers…

During the opening we got a chance to taste the Butterbeer ice-cream which will be available to purchase in the Studio Tours new backlot cafe. I have to say, we all thought it was delicious. We also tried some Butterbeer, which although worth trying we had mixed feelings about!

Warner Bros Studio Tour

Is it real or not?

One of the things which the Studio Tour does so well is to explain how the films were made whilst retaining the magic of the. For me, one of the best parts  of the tour is the section dealing with the animatronics. For the Sweets and Treats feature, various sets will be redisplayed with the various sweets and cakes from the films and visitors will be able to learn how they were made. It will be a brilliant addition to the tour!

The Making of Harry Potter is a really brilliant day out for Harry Potter fans and for anyone interested in movie making. In terms of suitability my three year old enjoyed it and took something different from it to the older children and I felt it was still worthwhile taking him along. The children were certainly inspired to make their own little movies and do some drawings when they got home which is always a good sign.

Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley

One of the best things about the tour is that it is a brilliant place to take photographs. If you’ve ever wondered what its like to walk down Diagon Alley then you have the chance to do so and take a picture to remember the experience.

The Hogwarts Express

The Hogwarts Express

One of the new additions to the Tour is The Hogwarts Express, I have to say it was quite mind-blowing to see this as we hadn’t seen it before and it was amazing to walk though the carriages and work out which ones belonged to which characters.

The Studio Tour’s Sweets and Treats feature will run from Monday 20th July – Sunday 6th September. Its a very popular attraction and tickets must be pre-booked from www.wbstudiotour.co.uk or by calling the Studio Tour’s Visitor Services Team at 0845 0840900

Featured Post: Things to Do in Leicester

Holiday Inn LeicesterThe first time I visited Leicester was when I was thinking about studying at the University. The Museum Studies department there is second to none. It struck me as a completely different place to what I had expected and we had a lovely day there. Following that I’ve been back quite a few times, partly because New Walk Museum and Art Gallery in central Leicester is one of the best museums in the country. One particular highlight is  The Den, the special area for under 5s. It also has a brilliant collection of Ancient Egyptian stuff which is always of interest.

Leicester is also home to the National Space Centre which is well worth a visit.   Its a brilliant learning experience which the kids always enjoy and there are lots of things going on this summer.

I’m planning on a trip this summer as Leicester has a new attraction in the King Richard III Visitor Centre. As an archaeologist I cant wait to see this new gallery and see how they have interpreted the process of archaeology in their displays. Of course we will also go and see the place of internment. I’m hoping that this might bring my career alive to them in a way which a standard museum visit wont. I shall feed back on that!

Its nice to turn a visit to somewhere like this into a short city break. That way you don’t have to endure 2 really long train journeys or car rides in a day. One option is to grab a family room at the  Holiday Inn Leicester which is on the river and close to most of the things you’ll be keen to do.

Please let me know what you’d recommend us to visit next time we visit, I’m keen in particular to get restaurant recommendations as we tend to stick with tried and tested and it would be good to try something new.

Disclosure: This is a featured post. However, these are all things we enjoy doing with our children and its somewhere we like to visit regularly.

Featured Post: Eight ways to capture your baby’s first experiences

photobox3The other day I was sorting through some photographs and I realised just how many pictures I had of my eldest son when he was a baby compared to the other two children. In fact, there are very few of my third child. I think that because when you have your first baby theres a real urge to take pictures of everything your baby does. Looking back its a brilliant record and I do wish I had taken as many of the other two. Here are some ideas which will help you capture those moments and enjoy them!

Be prepared

photobox2Make you sure know how to use your phone and its camera functions properly or if you use a camera then make sure you put the settings back to standard each time you use it.  I’ve also found it worthwhile working out how to use the video setting quickly as you can capture some brilliant action. Most importantly make sure your phone or camera is fully charged, there is nothing worse than finding it going flat in the middle of some great action.

Soft focus

A DSLR is a good idea as a new baby purchase and I’d argue its more useful than most of the stuff on your list!  A fast shutter speed is ideal for capturing outdoor play in the sun, or action shots. For photographs that look as if they’ve been constructed by a pro, use a zoom lens on a large aperture and focused on the child. This will blur the background but keep your baby sharp. Don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work first time as practice makes perfect.

Back at home

Its a lovely idea to shoot a bringing baby home video. This might capture siblings reactions but you can also do a little tour of the house at that moment in time as I guarantee it will change in time!

A place and time

Placing a temporal cue to a photograph can sometimes add a nostalgic, romantic element. A great scene-setting prop, a pet, a friend or relative who doesn’t visit so often is always worth capturing. These will be perfect snapshots of time in later years, perfect for emotional personalised gifts and canvas prints, perhaps from a company such as Photobox. I’ve also found it really helpful to make sure your camera settings save details such as a date to the image somewhere, so make sure the date is set correctly or you’ll be wondering which birthday it was in years to come.

Time lapse

Mobile phones such as the iPhone feature a time-lapse mode through their native camera apps, snapping a series of photographs and combining them into one rapid fire video. I love this function and it works really well if you set it up to capture a fairly long activity such as a craft activity or exploring their toys.

Bath time or Swim Time!

swimmingSome of the best images I’ve taken are of the children at bath time and in the swimming pool. Not only do they capture the madness and fun of those moments but you also get to see how tiny they are at the time!

This is a two-parent job, one holding the phone and the other holding the baby. If you’re worried about getting your technology wet then use a waterproof camera or a GoPro. We’ve used a GoPro in a private swimming pool before and captured some amazing images.


We’ve been quite successful in attaching the GoPro to the children and capturing how they interact and play and its been wonderful looking back at these videos and seeing how they have changed over the years.

Meal Time!


A messy meal time!

Taking pictures at meal times is often the last thing you think to do. However, I’m really pleased that I captured my children first experiences of solid food. When they were babies I often filmed the occasional meal or snack time as it made some brilliant pictures seeing how messy they got. I shall use these when they get married!

I hope you’ve found this useful. I really enjoy taking pictures and have thousands of my children. The problem I’ve got is with organisation of them which I’ve not been very good at over the years so I’d suggest that if you have time you should start as you mean to go on or you might find yourself in a terrible muddle like me…

If you have any more tips I’d love to hear them.