Open up a new world with theatre

Open up new worlds by taking your children to the theatre

At the end of last year we did something as a family that we hadn’t done before.

We all went to the theatre to watch a pantomime.

It was a performance of Snow White and it was absolutely brilliant.  I’m not sure who enjoyed it most, the grown ups or the children.  There were jokes that worked on different levels, with just the right level of innuendo and slapstick humour.

What I really loved though was watching my children watching the performance.

They were so engaged by what was happening on the stage.

There is a real magic in taking children to the theatre, no matter what type of performance they’ll be watching.

 

I was really lucky growing up, in that my parents took me and my siblings to see all sorts of shows at our local theatre.

My dad in particular is a big Shakespeare fan, so we saw a few of his plays over the years.  I studied Shakespeare at school, like most people probably did, and I remember being told that the best way to get your head around his work is to actually go and see it performed.

And that is so true.  The language can be really hard to make sense of at times, when you try to just read his plays.  But when the words are brought to life in front of you it all makes sense.

My favourite Shakespeare experience though was going to see the reduced Shakespeare company.  They perform all 37 of his plays in 97 minutes and it is just brilliant.

 

It wasn’t all highbrow experiences though.

We also saw some comedians who visited our local theatre as they toured the country.  I remember Jack Dee in particular being really funny but not all that appropriate at times to be watching as a teenager with my parents!

There were a few shows that we saw on more than one occasion.

Buddy – the Buddy Holly story was one of these shows that we all absolutely loved.  There’s a scene in the show where the band record ‘Every day’, and the drummer is playing his part with his hands, tapping them on his legs, and I still find myself doing it to this day whenever I hear that song.

The one show that will always make me smile the most though is Return to the Forbidden Planet.

I actually bought the soundtrack about a year ago to listen to on the school run and I love belting out all the tracks.

 

What I love so much about all these experiences that I had with my family, going to the theatre, is all the worlds that they opened up to me.

All the music that I got to experience; performed live and with such joy and passion.  The history of classic Shakespeare plays.  The breathtakingly immersive experience of shows like Les Miserable.

My children are possibly a bit too young still for most of these kinds of shows but there are more and more child-friendly productions being put on now.

I actually went to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with my sister a few years ago at the Bristol Hippodrome and that’s definitely a show I would take my children to now if I saw it touring again.  We’re quite lucky living where we do because we have the Grand Theatre here in Swansea but are also close enough to Cardiff and Bristol that we could take the family to the beautiful theatres there too, depending on what productions are on.

There is so much possiblity when it comes to taking the children to the theatre.

From the big West End shows like The Lion King and Matilda, to productions aimed at really little children like The Very Hungry Caterpillar show and The Snail and The Whale, there is something for all ages and all interests.  And they’ll all open up a whole new world of entertainment for the family.

If you want to find out if a particular show is on in your area you can find out here.

 

Disclosure: this is a collaborative post

Great photos of your children less stress

Take the stress out of getting great photos of your children

I love taking photos of my children.

It’s one of my favourite things to do; capturing their childhoods on camera.  But that’s not to say it’s not stressful at times.  You can bet that when I really want to get some great photos of them they just won’t be in the mood.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who finds it stressful at times to get great photos of their children, so hopefully these tips will help both me and you to make the process easier and more fun for everyone.

 

Let your children feel in control

One of the reasons that our children don’t cooperate with our plans is that they don’t feel like they have any say in what’s happening.

We all like to feel in control, and when it comes to have their photo taken then it’s only fair really to let our children have some say in things.

So lets say you’re planning on having a little photo session with your children.

Give them choices for what they’ll wear that day.  Let them show you some poses they want to do, before you ask them to sit or stand a certain way.  Make them creative directors for the day and work with them to get the photos you really want.

 

Make it a fun adventure and let them play

Things will be much easier for everyone if you make your photo session into a little adventure.

Pick somewhere not too far from home like the park, local wood or beach if you live by the coast and get your children to do something like see what natural treasures they can find.  Let them run, jump and explore.

You can photograph these adventures and capture some really lovely memories.

Direct your children gently

When it comes to photographing children you really need to let go of any ideas of perfection.

Don’t get hung up on perfect poses and perfect smiles.

Instead try to focus on capturing your children as they play and talk and laugh.  You’ll get far more natural results that ultimately will make you much happier when you look back at the photos in a few years.

What you can do though is gently direct your children to get the best possible results.

If you’re taking photos outside in bright sunlight, then you can encourage them to go and play in an area of open shade where the lighting will be best for pictures.  Sit them together on a blanket and direct them to tell each other the silliest jokes they can think of to get them giggling.

 

The main thing to remember is to take the pressure of yourself and your children.

When you’re focused on getting that one perfect photo then everyone will feel the stress of it.

Let go.  Relax.  Let everyone have fun.

And I promise you the photos you get when you do this will be so much more natural, and capture so much more of how your children really are right now, you’ll love them so much more than the ‘perfect’ ones you were picturing before.

I hope my children are kind

I just hope my children are kind

What hopes do you have for your children?

I know some people want particular things for their children; they want them to grow up to be doctors or high flyers in a particular career.  I always thought I just want my children to be happy, but as they go out more and more into the world on their own I’m realising that, actually, I just hope for them to be kind.

 

I want them to be happy too, of course I do, but really that will most likely come as part and parcel of them being kind.

There’s a Roald Dahl quote that I really love that says, “I think probably kindness is my number one attribute in a human being.  I’ll put it before any of the things like courage or bravery or generosity or anything else …  Kindness – that simple word.  To be kind – it covers everything, to my mind.  If you’re kind that’s it”

 

If you’re kind that’s it.

 

It says it all really.  If you’re kind, all those other positive traits will most likely follow.  It just all starts with kindness.

I think that we’re all born with a natural instinct to be kind.  A recent study at the University of Washington actually found that even at 19 months old children will give a tasty snack to a stranger they think needs it.  Even when they’re hungry themselves.

So as adults, we just need to nurture these instincts in our children.

We need to show them kindness.

They need to see us being kind to our friends and just as kind to strangers.

We need to talk to them, often, about how important it is to be kind and point out all the opportunities we have each day to show kindness to other people.

 

I definitely believe that kindness has a ripple effect.

When you do something kind for someone else, chances are they’ll carry that with them through their day.  And they’ll be more likely to pay it forward, to do something nice for someone else.  And it goes on and on.  A gentle wave of kindness.

And that would make anyone feel happy wouldn’t it?

make mornings easier by planning ahead

Plan ahead to make your mornings easier

If your family life is anything like mine, then you’ll know that mornings can be stressful at times.

It can be a rush and a race to get everyone up, fed, dressed and out the door on time to get to school and work.  The main thing I’ve learnt over the last few years is that taking a bit of time the night before to plan ahead for the next day can make the mornings so much easier.

 

Here are my ideas for some of the things you can do to plan ahead and get sorted the night before so that your mornings run that little bit more smoothly.

 

  • Get lunch ready.  If you and/or your children take packed lunches to work/school, then get these made in the evening and pop them in the fridge to keep them fresh.  If you make sandwiches for lunches then you could even go one step further and make a whole week’s worth on a Sunday and stash them in the freezer.  Nyomi has a great post on freezing sandwiches over on Nomipalony.

 

  • Make breakfast easier by prepping the night before.  This could be as simple as putting out bowls and cereal where your children can reach them so they can start sorting themselves out in the morning.  Or you could make something like overnight oats so you have a nutritious breakfast ready to go when you wake up.

 

  • Check your calendar to make sure you know what’s planned for the next day.  If you or your children need anything specific (like homework, cash for charity events, PE kit/gym kit) then get those things packed and ready by the front door so you’re not scrabbling round to find them in the morning.  Making sure school backpacks are packed and ready with everything your children need for school, and get your own bag packed too.  If you have a baby to get to nursery, then pack up their change bag.

 

  • Get clothes out and ready.  For the children this will probably  just be a case of setting out school uniform and clean underwear, but it’s also worth checking the weather forecast to see if they’ll need wellies or warm hats/gloves in the winter or a sunhat in the summer.  It’s also worth checking the forecast so you can plan and put out your own clothes for the next day so you’re not wasting time in the morning trying to decide what to wear.

 

  • Leave things you absolutely have to remember to take with you right by the front door.  This way you’ll have to get past them to leave the house, so hopefully there’ll be no chance you’ll leave without them.

 

  • Set alarms.  A lot of people swear by setting their alarms for a time before their children wake up in the mornings, so they can have a cuppa in peace first thing.  I’ve not mastered this one myself yet but can definitely see the appeal of it.  The one thing I do do is set alarms on my phone to remind me of things we need to grab and another to prompt me and the children when it’s time to go and brush teeth, get shoes on and head out the door.

 

You don’t have to do all of these things, although mornings would be so much easier if you do, but even just one or two of them will make a difference in how your mornings go.

Do you tend to get things ready for the morning the night before?

Are there any other things you do to make mornings easier that I’ve not mentioned?

great gift ideas for busy parents

Five great gift ideas for busy parents

Parenting is tough for everyone, whether you have a toddler or a teenager; parents always have their hands full. When the holiday season is around or birthdays are coming, we all scratch our heads on what buy as gifts for family or friends.

If your friendship circle includes busy parents, then you know you want to give them the best, most useful gift possible. The one thing most busy parents really want is a break from their hectic routines. But since you can’t wrap up relaxing, kid-free time, there are other helpful gifts you can give them that will make their chaotic lives a little bit easier.

Parents are usually pushed for time and sleep-deprived. They need help, not more ways to waste the day. Instead of buying them something that will live in the closet or on the kitchen shelf, have a look at these fantastic gift ideas for busy parents for some inspiration.

 

Hiring a nice cleaning service is a great idea

Kids make a big mess while playing around in the house. You just clean one area, and they mess it up again. Cleaning the house is very trying, especially when it gets dirty again in a couple of hours. So what could be more relaxing than having someone else clean up the mess at least for once?

There are many services available online, and if you hire professionals to clean the house for someone you care about they will thank you a billion times. All kinds of cleaning services are available like shampooing the carpet, cleaning the whole house, laundering the curtains, cleaning the walls etc. This will be the most appreciated gift ever.

Busy parents will love you for this. You can tell them in advance that you hired somebody for them to clean the house so that they can make plans to enjoy the free time they will be getting. 

 

A jogging stroller is super useful for busy parents

Jogging is a great way to fit exercise into a busy life. When you get caught up in the stress of routine and work, jogging helps you take you off the edge and maintain the chemical balance in your body. But if you have small kids it can be really difficult to go for a jog as you can’t leave them alone at home and taking them along will give you no time for jogging. The jogging stroller is an amazing invention; it is basically a stroller with a strap that you can tie around your waist. Put your kid in the stroller, strap the cart to your waist and enjoy a good jogging session without worrying about the kids. It does not cost much and can be the best gift for parents who have toddlers and are mostly trapped in their house as going out with kids is difficult.

 

Easy to clean steel coffee maker

Every second matters, when you have a busy morning routine, and kids have school. Preparing breakfast and lunches, getting the kids ready for school before the bus arrives, preparing for a day in the office, parents have to go through all of this every morning. A coffee maker is a must for busy parents; modern coffee makers have additional features such as a turbo button that speeds up the brewing process by 35 per cent.

So if you’re shopping for a really special gift, try to buy the latest coffee maker with all the superb features. Getting even a spare few seconds matters a lot for busy parents.  And there’s the bonus of stainless steel coffee makers looking great and being really easy to clean.

 

Diaper sensor and smart baby bottle

If you know someone who is a new parent, then a diaper sensor and smart baby bottle can be luxuries they’ll appreciate. New parents can sometimes feel so lost, a baby is a huge responsibility and a lot of work. Changing diapers can feel like a constant job for new parents, and a diaper sensor will alert you when the baby needs a change. This can save time and energy, which is very important for already sleep-deprived parents. A smart bottle helps you track the feeding pattern of your baby if you’re using formula or pumping breast milk and bottle feeding.  A smart baby bottle tracks the feeding pattern of the baby and makes life a bit easier for busy parents.

 

A key finder to save the day 

No matter how hard you try to place your keys in one place they always get lost, that’s just the way it goes with keys. Parents are already very busy creatures and finding your keys just before leaving the house can be very stressful.

Orbit is a key finder that takes this stress away.  After attaching it to the keychain you can use the free app to track down those missing keys whenever they get lost. This is such a time saver. The best part is it also tracks your phone, just press the orbit to make it ring even when the phone is one silent mode. Keys and phones are the things that have the habit of getting out of sight when needed, so by giving the orbit key finder as a gift to busy parents; you will make a huge difference in their busy life.  

These are some of the best gifts you can give to busy parents, to give you an idea. Just make sure that whatever you buy will be useful and convenient. This will also show how much you love your family and friends and how much you care about them.

 

Disclosure – this is a collaborative post

Where is cleaning in your priorities

Where does cleaning come on your list of priorities?

I have a love/hate relationship with cleaning.

On the rare occasions when my house feels completely clean and tidy, I love it.  I love the end result of clear surfaces and crumb-free floors.

But I hate the fact that you’re never done with cleaning.

Almost as soon as you’re finished it needs doing again.  Someone makes toast in your nice clean kitchen.  The children come home from school and the clear surfaces and piled high with letters and lunchboxes and homework.  And don’t get me started on the laundry basket that I never see the bottom of.

So, and this won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who knows me in real life, cleaning tends to come quite low on my list of priorities.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I do clean. 

We all have clean clothes to wear, the beds get changed regularly and the kitchen gets wiped down each day so we can cook and get it all messy again.

It’s just that there are so many other things to do that cleaning and tidying get pushed to the bottom of my to-do list.  So there are days when I don’t get round to putting away the drawings and sticker books and games that are covering every surface in the lounge.  Dust starts to gather on my desk and in the corners of the room and the pile on the stairs starts to spread onto more and more steps while I hope that someone else might spot it and carry something up to the right room.

Which means that I inevitably reach a point each week where I get annoyed with there not being any surfaces clear enough to put a cup of tea down on and spend half an hour running around tidying up and hoovering and generally moaning to myself about it all.

It’s not a great cycle to be honest.

So I’m planning on trying something new.

I’m going to start making tidying up and cleaning for a little bit each day one of my priority jobs.  It’ll actually go on my to-do list and will be one of the first things I tackle when I’m at home.

There are a few cleaning routines that I’ve dabbled with in the past but have never made enough of a priority to stick with them.  The routine from Clean Mama involves doing a different cleaning task each day, so Monday you clean the bathrooms, Tuesdays you dust everywhere, Wednesday you vacuum and so on.

The other routine I’ve looked at is The Organised Mum method where you tackle a different room each day, and clean it quickly but thoroughly.

Both routines have daily jobs as well, like putting a load of washing on and giving the floors a quick once-over.

For me I think The Organised Mum method will be best, because I think it’ll be better for me to see a whole room quite clean and tidy each day.

So, I’m going in.  I’ll be kind to myself and not stress too much if I do fall off the wagon, but the key for me will be jumping back on the next day if that happens.

What I will be doing is putting each day’s cleaning job in my diary and at the top of that day’s to-do list.  I’ll schedule in the 30 minutes that TOMM says to clean for and I will crack on each day.  I’m hoping that if I can commit to doing this for the rest of the month then it’ll start to become a habit and then I’ll be able to keep it up without too much bother.

 

Do you follow a particular cleaning routine?

Do you make cleaning your home a real priority or does it get pushed to the bottom of your to-do list?

Bluestone winter lights break review

Winter lights break at Bluestone – Review

Disclosure – we were given a mid-week winter lights break at Bluestone for the purpose of this review, but all words and opinions are my own.

A few weeks ago Steve and I did something that I’m not sure we’ll be able to top.

We were invited to go on a 4 night break to Bluestone, and we kept it a secret from the children.  So we picked them up together after school on the Monday, and kept them guessing as to why the car was jam packed full of our stuff.

It was only once we were halfway there that I told them that they weren’t going to school for the rest of the week.  And they then guessed almost straight away where we were going and oh my word I’ve never seen them so excited.

We’ve been to Bluestone twice before and it is somewhere we all absolutely love.  The first time we went was in May 2017 and we fell in love with the laid back atmosphere and the freerange philosophy.  Then we went for a Kingdom of the Elves break in 2018 which was such a different experience but in all the right ways.

Nerys has asked every month since then when could we go back for another holiday so she was thrilled to be surprised with a trip at the start of this year.

 

You can arrive at Bluestone any time after 11 am and use the facilities on site, and then you can check in to your lodge from either 3pm or 4.30pm depending on what type of lodge you’ll be staying in.  We drove over after picking the children up from school so didn’t get there until around 5.

If you can get there earlier it would be worth it, partly to make the most of your time there and partly to avoid the queues at the check in points that we were caught up in at 5 o’clock.

Once we got to the desk though it was plain sailing and the staff were just as friendly, welcoming, and helpful as we remembered.

We got our keys and welcome pack and then headed off to find our lodge.

Now, we did have a bit of fun trying to find our lodge in the dark, mainly because I have no sense of direction.  What we did find a big help over the course of our stay was the map on the Bluestone app.  You put your lodge details in and it then gives you directions from where you are back to your lodge, and it updates as you go using gps.

We were staying in a Tenby connect lodge in Castle Close, and we were excited to get in and check it out because we’d never stayed in one of those lodges before.

The Tenby lodge was lovely, with most of the living space downstairs and then the master bedroom and ensuite shower room up on a mezzanine floor.

It sleeps 6, between the master double bedroom and 2 twin bedrooms.  This particular lodge was a ‘connect’ one, which means it’s attached to another Tenby lodge and you can open a door between the two to make it sort of like one huge lodge.  This would be perfect if you were going with a big group.

We did find it a bit noisy having neighbours in the lodge attached to ours (the sound really does travel between the lodges) but it wasn’t really a problem.

 

We had 3 full days at Bluestone and didn’t leave the resort once.

There is so much to do on site that we really don’t feel the need to go anywhere else, but I know if we didn’t live by the sea at home we would probably want to get out and explore one of the nearby beaches at some point.

Our favourite thing to do at Bluestone is visit the Blue Lagoon so we spent a few hours each day of our holiday there.

The children are both quite confident in the water now and they really love the lazy river and the wave machine.  Nerys was big enough to go down the slides this time, but decided against it.  Rhys on the other hand couldn’t get enough of them and kept dragging Steve up for another go on them.

One of the great things about going to Bluestone in the winter is the surreal feeling of going outside in the lazy river into the cold and the rain.  It was actually hailing at one point when we were out there and it’s just such a bizarre experience!

 

When we weren’t at the pool we were either in the Adventure centre or the new Serendome.

The weather was really wet and windy most of our stay so it was brilliant to have these places to visit and let the children run wild out of the rain.

The Serendome was a brand new experience for us, it was still being built last time we were there, so we were really excited to go and check it out.

We were all really impressed with it.  Steve said a few times that it made the holiday for him, it was just a perfect finishing touch to the resort.

 

The Serendome is basically a big umbrella, so it’s open to the elements on the sides but the huge dome that covers it keeps out the rain on wet and wild days.

It’s a brilliant way to be outside without being out and exposed to the elements, although you do need to make sure you wrap up warm if you’re visiting in the winter months because it does pretty much feel as cold under the dome as it does outside.

 

There’s a fab mix of things to do in the Serendome. 

It’s free to get in and there’s a sand play area and water play area which are both so much fun and amazing for sparking creative play.

There’s also the imagination garden which my children both loved.  It has these big blue shapes and cogs and things that you can use to build basically anything you can imagine.

We also found a little play park area with swings and a little slide, and another space with garden games and giant lego blocks to build with.

If you get peckish while you’re there there are a few different places to grab a bite to eat and there’s even a bar which looked like it had a great selection of ales and cocktails on offer.

For children who are a bit more adventurous you can book a session on the go carts that whizz around the dome or a climbing session on the Sky Walk.  What’s really great about this is that there’s a mini skywalk option for younger children and those who don’t fancy going quite so high up in the sky, and there’s also a wheelchair friendly course so almost everyone can have a go if they fancy it.

The go carts and the Sky walk do cost extra though, and it’s often worth booking these kinds of activities in advance.

 

The thing I was most looking forward to on this break was seeing the winter lights, so I was gutted to find out that on the first few nights we were there they weren’t on as the weather was so bad.

We held out hope though and luckily on the Wednesday the wind died down and the rain cleared for long enough for the show to go on.

The winter lights trail starts at the entrance to the woodland walk down by the lake and, honestly, you can’t miss it.

When you’re in the village there’s a big notice projected on the side of one of the buildings pointing you in the right direction then as you get closer you can see the main path to the woodland walk lit up in rainbow colours.

Once you’re in the woods the magic really begins.

We went when it was properly dark outside and it was so beautiful to see all these different light displays leading through the woods.

There were giant butterflies and flowers up in the trees, fish with moving lights in an underwater themed display and of course the magical fairy houses.

 

 

We probably spent about half an hour making our way around the trail taking it all in.

Everywhere you looked there was something else to see, so even though there were quite a few other people there it never felt like you were waiting to have your turn to enjoy a part of it.

At the end of the trail there was a little area set up with fairground mirrors and a few games where you turned handles or pressed buttons to make things move on the screen which the children really enjoyed.

 

The last day of our trip we checked out of our lodge (you have to check out by 10am) and then parked the car up in the long stay car park.  The weather had really cleared through so it was dry and the wind had dropped down so we took advantage of the extra time on site to wander round the village and visit the lake.

The resort was so quiet, I think most people do tend to head for home straight away after checking out, so it felt like we almost had the place to ourselves.

We played in the park in the village for a bit, popped into Newton stores for a few treats and then walked down to the lake.

We’d brought Nerys’ walkie talkies with us so we split up and walked different ways around the lake, talking to each other.  The children had a great time and it was really nice to get some fresh air and stretch our legs before leaving.

 

We had such a wonderful holiday all in all, and I am thrilled that we actually got to see the winter lights; I’d heard all about them from friends who had been before and the whole thing absolutely lived up to my expectations.

This is one of the things I really love about Bluestone, no matter what time of year you go there is something different to experience that makes the trip extra special.

After our last trip I wrote about the perfect time of year to visit Bluestone and now, having visited during the winter lights festival, I’m still just as undecided about it as I was then!

It all depends what you want from your holiday I suppose, but honestly, I think any time of year is the perfect time to visit Bluestone.