Monday, 14 July 2014

The Playmobil Suite at the Waldorf Hilton Hotel; celebrating 40 years of Playmobil

I'm really proud that I'm one of the Playmobil Playologists. Playmobil is only a year older than me and celebrates its 40th birthday this year and its one of the toys which I have spent most of my life lusting after. Playmobil is quite simply the best small world toy you can get your kids. It's a modern classic and I'd personally consider each set an investment as unless you choose to sell it on, your grandchildren will be playing with the sets you buy today.

remote control crane
As part of the celebrations Playmobil and the Waldorf Hilton have created an amazing Playmobil Suite. Situated right in the heart of Covent Garden and close to loads of the big musical theatre shows it is a brilliant place to stay and we were treated to our very own private viewing. This was accompanied with the chance to play with the best of the current Playmobil range what an amazing treat!

With three children it is really hard to spend any time alone with just one of them so for this trip I took along my eldest who is seven. He loves music, Lego, Playmobil and Iron Man so this was really the perfect trip for him. I was thrilled to be able to spend a bit of time with him, life is so busy and even finding time to chat to each of them individually can be a challenge.

spot the remote control car!
At the Waldorf Hilton we found an amazing assortment of toys to play with. Everything from Dinosaur Playmobil, table football which the boy loved and a remote control crane. However, without a shadow of a doubt the thing which the boy enjoyed the most was the remote control car, complete with an onboard camera which you could view via the controller. I know you want this, we want this. You can buy it here, don't blame me for leading you astray...

Playmobil table football

Although we had loads of fun playing with all the amazing toys it was lovely to see the special Playmobil suite. As a Londoner I've always wondered what some of these hotels are like inside and although i've been fortunate enough to attend a few functions at various hotels I've not actually seen what the rooms and suites are like. It was really interesting to see what the room was like and I must admit there was really something special about being able to look out of the window at the iconic view below.

The room itself is plushly appointed as you would image for a room at a luxury hotel. There was a Playmobil themed bedside lamp which I'd LOVE. The children's part of the room was decked out with a brilliant Playmobil Duvet, some of the life sized figures and some more amazing toys. It would be any child's dream to stay somewhere like this (and many adults- i'd certainly like the chance!). It's only available for 40 days and 40 nights so grab the chance whilst you can! If you'd like to stay in the Playmobil Suite, you'll find all the information here.
If you want to keep track on all the brilliant activities that Playmobil are doing to celebrate their 40 year anniversary then make sure you check out their Facebook Pages:

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Pampering at Verulamium Spa, St Albans

It isn't often that I get to go along to a spa without children and enjoy a little bit of 'me' time and some proper relaxation and so when I do get the chance its a brilliant treat. A couple of weeks ago myself and my friend got the chance to try out Verulamium Spa. This was a fantastic opportunity because the spa is ten minutes from my house on foot and its something I've been keen to try out. However, its been hard to find the money and the time to go, which is a real shame because I now know how much I've missed out.

Verulamium Spa is situated inside Westminster Lodge Sports Centre which is St Albans Council and Everyone Active's brand new leisure centre. The leisure centre itself is state of the art which loads of fantastic facilities, in fact so many that they have even tempted my husband down to use their gym on a regular basis. I was surprised at how big the spa was because when you see the entrance you assume that it is quite small, thats not the case at all. Have a look at their video:

We were treated to some fantastic treatments. I had an Espa Facial which really did wonders for my skin. As a sufferer of really bad skin; its dry, greasy and I have acne rosacea, I am always concerned about the results of a facial after a few days but I can honestly say that my skin hasn't looked better in a long time. Interestingly they also scanned my skin for sun damage and I could see all the areas which have been damaged. Surprisingly my forehead was one of the worse areas, I guess I have neglected it because I have a fringe!

In terms of the rest of the spa, there is a fantastic outdoor decked terrace where we were treated to a delicious fresh fruit salad. Its the sort of place you could relax for a long while and I could see myself joining the spa just to rest there in the summer. Downstairs we found the main spa facilities; a hot room, steam rood, hydra pool and heated loungers. Its a lovely calm environment to cleanse and energise yourself and I thoroughly enjoyed the pool, particularly as we had it to ourselves.

Verulamium Spa is a calm, quiet environment and I really liked it for that. I'd go so far as saying that I much preferred it to experiences at The Sanctuary Spa in London and even Champneys at Tring, which can get very busy. All the staff were friendly and welcoming and a quick look at the prices suggests to me that its very, very good value for money. They even have some fantastic deals such as free spa entry for yourself and a friend when you book a treatment.

I'm a total convert, I loved my trip to Verulamium Spa it was just what I needed and made me realise that I should really take advantage of things close to where I live. I'm already plotting my return trip and the fact that there is a creche makes is even easier! If you want to find out more yourself have a look at their website where you will find all their latest news and offers.

Disclaimer: I was given a free treatment and use of the spa in exchange for review. I really enjoyed this experience and genuinely recommend a trip there!

Book Review: The Very Best Sheepdog Written by Pinny Grylls and illustrated by Rosie Wellesley

Thanks to this book my children now want to own their own sheepdog. This is a simple tale encompassing concepts of farming, friendship and persevering. I must admit that the story itself is not particularly unusual and over the years we have read a lot of very similar stories. However, it has been interesting to use it to explore farming concepts with the children and it will make a useful addition to my school summer holiday home schooling toolkit.

One of the ongoing issues I have is trying to explain to the children why its worthwhile to persevere with things which don't come easily to them, this book does make quite a useful addition to my armoury for explaining that concept. It is very easy for this age group to give up too quickly and anything which explains why you shouldn't in a subtle, friendly and engaging way should be treasured.

The story is brought to life by some lovely illustrations and they really have captured a 'countryside' feel and coupled with the typeface makes the book stand out from the rest.

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Book Review: Rory and the Monstersitter by Rosie Reeve

My goodness! I think this must be the first truly sinister children's picture book I've read. Well done Rosie Reeve! I'm not sure if the children quite understood what exactly happened in the story, but I think they found it amusing. Rather worryingly the eldest two children said it was a really, really brilliant book and they loved it. God help any babysitters that come to our house...

This brilliantly illustrated book clearly has lots of child appeal. Its well written, engaging and such an usual story that it clearly makes an appealing addition to any child's picture book library. At the moment I'm trying really hard to work on the  children's comprehension and this sort of unpredictable story is excellent for that. Its a delightful book for inspiring children to use their imagination to create quirky stories and I'm going to be using it this summer as inspiration for children's 'horror' stories.

You can find out more and have a look for yourself here:

Friday, 11 July 2014

Parental Guilt

The summer holidays are almost upon it and I'm already trying to plan out some activities as I have found that my children thrive on a bit of order and simply knowing what they are going to be doing. I mainly do all the things myself or with friends working around a few trips to museums and galleries, it can be a bit pressured but means we save a fortune on holiday clubs. However, I cant help but wonder if this is the best thing to do overall. Many of their friends are going to organised clubs, learning new skills and gaining new life experiences. I'm yet again racked with guilt.

I think this may be a product of where we live but there is a tendency for children to be tutored and given experiences which are somewhat out of the norm. My children have their own talents and I have tried to nurture them as best I can but we are up against it financially. For example, this week I had to contribute my last tenner to the teachers thank you fund- I don't begrudge this but it has meant we have had to scrape through the contents of our cupboards for dinner. I also need to find another ten pound note for the other teacher/ teaching assistants and I'm not entirely sure how we will budget for that. Anyway, that's an aside. Fifi has shown a natural ability for pony riding, unfortunately we cant afford the lessons anymore. The guilt. What if we kept her going and she became an Olympic pony rider? It's this sort of worry which is keeping me awake generally. The boy wants to learn an instrument, he has a natural gift for rhythm. Music lessons cost a fortune. Oh dear.

I'm also racked with the guilt of them potentially missing out on something great. This weekend it's a Beaver Fun Day, which I had agreed to go to with the boy (he won't do things on his own). Then I got invited to something which looked more fun for me than standing in a muddy field herding small boys around trampolines and things. So I changed my mind and opted for the thing I'd prefer to do. Now I'm feeling guilty that he's going to miss out on one of those experiences he might remember for the rest of his life and which might change him as a person.

I realise that some of this is irrational. As a child I didn't do a great deal of this sort of thing and I don't think it had much of an impact. I get so stressed about whether the children are being left out from stuff, who they are friends with and all of that sort of thing. However, I couldn't name all of my primary school 'friends' could you? Does it really matter?

That's the crux of it all really, if you as a parent are doing your best, does the other stuff matter? If you cant afford music lessons, additional tuition, the best school, if your child is falling behind but you just cant help them yourself, does that matter? Have you failed if you put them in front of the television instead of carefully sourcing activities for them? I'm confused, I want my children to do well in life, to be able to support themselves financially and lead worthwhile positive lives. Will they be able to do this without all the additional stuff given the current state of the UK education system? I'm not so sure.

On the other hand, should I sacrifice my own well being for them? I regularly make myself ill worrying about them, worrying that I'm not doing the best for them. I drive myself mad working out the best activities, researching and reading up on what they should be learning and where they should be at school and then making sure they are at the right place. It means I have very little free time for myself. That isn't good either.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about it all. Do you make your children fit in with you or do you live your lives for them?

Thinking about Summer Purchases

The other day I was contacted completely out of the blue by Tena Lights, you know those things we don't talk about. I read through what they had to say and thought that actually they were onto something. Whether or not this was the result of having just jumped up and down skipping as part of my fitness routine. Note to self, remember to do pelvic floor exercises everyday after three children if one wants to be successful and focused on exercise whilst skipping/ trampolining etc. There's no shame in this apparently 1 in 2 women in the UK have experienced bladder weakness

Anyway, Tena Lights are encouraging you to think about summer preparations. What you might like to buy and what you need. I though this was interesting because I've not really thought about it myself in the past, but you do tend to get specific things without even thinking about it. For example, a new pair of sunglasses, a great hat (if you find one let me know!), some moisturiser with SPF and the ultimate dress. As we have very little money at the moment I'm building up a list of potential purchases as a reward for continuing my running regime and this has made me think about it in a different way.

At the moment I'm really focused on getting fit and healthy, I'm within government levels of healthy weight, but I know for me I'm overweight. To this extent I've been running nearly every morning, it makes a real difference to my energy levels and I think that even if I don't seem to be losing weight my mental health has improved. I might even have another go at the skipping and trampolining soon as even though I've ramped up the pelvic floors Tena lights are actually quite a handy little thing for a bit of confidence *nudge nudge!*

Disclaimer: To help me think about summer I was kindly sent the above goody bag with a few additional contents.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Thank you!

I was thinking back over the past couple of months and I realised that we have done some fantastic things and had a rather nice time generally. I don't know if this has coincided with a definite effort by myself to make a bit of space for myself in my life. I've definitely got a little bit more of a zest for life thanks to all these 6 AM running sessions (now up to 7.5 km!).

The husband has been invited to some wonderful events and taken me along which means that I don't have to write them up and that has been brilliant too. I really enjoyed the Invisimals Event, Legoland Pirate Falls Launch and also The Lego Movie DVD launch this weekend. On top of those treats we have had a great time camping with friends in North Norfolk and even managed to have a night out together, just us, no children!

That's not to say I haven't been busy, which is why I haven't had a great deal of time to blog as I've been working away on the St Albans Literary Festival and doing some childminding alongside finishing off craft projects and starting new ones. All in all it has been an interesting time and one which I shall remember as a sort of new phase in my life.

However, with all this going on I must admit I did sort of forget Fathers Day and I didn't manage to organise very much, so i just wanted to say a very big THANK YOU to the team at Pokemon who sent the hubby and the children a huge box full of amazing Pokemon goodies and even a card thus averting a martial disaster. They had a brilliant time playing Pokemon TCG: XY- Flashfire and I got even more 'me-time'. Just perfect! If you have no idea what I'm talking about have a look at the website here. I'm a Pokemon convert, it seems to help the children with maths, visual and verbal skills and they don't even notice...


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