Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Kids eat for £1: Cookhouse and Pub Oldbury review

It's the second week of the summer holidays for us and we're having a good balance of activities out and quality time spent at home. Last Thursday, we went out to sample the atmosphere and impressive menu from the Cookhouse and Pub in Oldbury, as a family treat and an opportunity to try out the new 'kids eat for £1' deal, which runs Mon-Thurs,  3.30-5.30pm (up to two children per adult, £1 children's two course meal when adult main meal purchased).

Here's what the new Cookhouse and Pub aims to offer - "the relaxed vibe and affordability of a pub, together with quality food and service of a casual restaurant, this new venue is quickly establishing itself as a go-to destination for all-day dining and drinking" - and from the moment we walked through the doors, we instantly felt at home.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Simple ideas for the summer holidays

With this being my first of four weeks with Ethan over the summer holidays, spread out with a couple of weeks at work in the middle, I have been planning out what we would like to do and how everything will come together so we fit days out and time at home in without feeling too frantic - or too bored. It's also not pay day until Friday, so finding some cost-effective, or free, things to keep Ethan entertained is a bonus.


Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Turning our dining room into a multi-functional space

Usually, the Easter weekend is when we do some kind of DIY project at home, but we're a little late this year (hubs thought he'd got away with it!) and a mini makeover I want to complete in the next couple of weeks involves our dining room and turning it into a space we can get more use out of.

I've always liked our dining room; it has a fireplace (not usable) and two alcoves plus a big window looking onto the back garden. Over the years, we have made changes to it. At first, we had a huge wooden dining table, that could comfortably seat six, in the middle, but we didn't use it enough. We pushed it to one side for a while, but then it just became a dumping spot.

In the past five years, we've added a dresser and a bureau to the alcoves and a large desk from Ikea to the other side of the room, with a folding dining table by the window for occasional use. We have a lot in our dining room and it is a really nice spot, but day to day, we do just tend to walk through it to get to the kitchen, and leave bags and things in there, rather than actually sitting in and using the room.

So, my key ideas are as follows:

  • Paint the bureau, as it's currently a red shade (as it was when I originally found it on eBay), which an off-white chalk paint
  • Use the bureau nook as a desk space for myself, with a white wire mesh vision board above and space for my laptop when the bureau lid is down
  • Update the alcoves by painting them a duck egg blue, to brighten the room up (and eventually repaint the rest of the room white)
  • Get rid of our current dining table and put a new armchair there, to create somewhere to sit and relax - I like tub chairs and wingbacks in particular
  • Add a rug to make the room feel more cosy
  • Decorate the inside of the fireplace with some accessories (plants, vases etc.) to make more of a feature of it
  • Buy a folding table in white that is more compact in design, so when the sides are down, it's only narrow and can be placed adjacent to the chair, alongside the wall, as a kind of coffee table when not in use
With baby on the way, I think making more use of the dining room will help us not to feel on top of each other. It'll be like a second living room of sorts, and it'll be good to enjoy it properly.

Here's the moodboard I have put together:


Monday, 23 July 2018

Choosing a nursery - important questions to ask and top tips

We knew from when we were first trying to have a baby through to when I was arranging my maternity leave that we would be using a nursery. We couldn't afford for me to be a stay-at-home mum so we knew we'd need childcare and in the beginning, we decided that full time, four days a week would be best for us.

* Content collaboration

Ethan started nursery when he was eight months old, at the start of January 2014. I'll admit that whilst it was something we knew would happen, I still shed several tears on that first morning drop off; it felt too early, he felt too tiny, and I felt so guilty. Ethan didn't seem worried at all, and I soon realised I had no need to be either, as he settled in quick and it didn't take much time to see the difference the nursery was making to his development - and to helping our family.

Every parent makes decisions based on their circumstances and what will work best for them and their child/children. I have no doubt whatsoever that Ethan's time at nursery helped him to develop into a sociable, adjusted and inquisitive young boy, like he is today. Of course, I'd like to think we have something to do with that too, but it was a great start and with no other children in our family or circle of friends at the time, he needed to be in that environment. And he grew and blossomed and to this day, 10 months after he left, he still talks fondly about his memories of nursery.


Freezy-peasy! Delicious meals from your freezer, by Gourmade

Whether it's been a busy working week, a day out enjoying the summer hols or you're preparing for the arrival of a new baby (all three apply to us!), I honestly think that EVERYONE could benefit from having a well-stocked freezer to help make family meal times easier. And I've been trying out a fab new freezer meal range, from Gourmade, to see what they have to offer and how it can help me out when it comes to dinner.

Gourmade is a new premium frozen food brand that has quite an impressive selection of main meals, sides and desserts, and trust me, there's something to suit everyone - and a few twists to enjoy too. There's some firm family favourites, including Mac n’ Cheese, Lamb Tagine, Butternut Squash Lasagne and some amazing desserts for those with a sweet tooth (*hands up*).

Saturday, 21 July 2018

5 reasons why a visit to Warner Bros. Studio Tour London is a magical visit for Harry Potter fans

It is no secret whatsoever that I am a Harry Potter fan. Whether you've followed me for a while or just for five minutes, Harry Potter creeps in here and there; from my Deathly Hallows tattoo, to hints at books, prints and other collectables in the background of many Instagram posts, I do love the magical world. So when I tell you that visiting The Making of Harry Potter at Warner Bros. Studio Tour London is THE ultimate experience for anyone who has read the books or seen the films, you'll know I'm not lying - and to be honest, it's a pretty cool place even if you aren't a complete Potterhead!

We were invited along to a special event to celebrate the Goblet of Fire special season event (on until Sunday 23rd September, so still plenty of time to catch this feature) and I can honestly say it was up there as one of the best opportunities my blog has ever offered me. It couldn't have been more perfect for me and we had such a fantastic time.

I've been to the studio tour twice before; once around six years ago, and again two years ago, with Ethan in tow. Since then, a lot more has been added and it really is a unique day out that has a lot to offer.

Here's my five top reasons why you should visit this summer:


Friday, 20 July 2018

Advice for the pregnant bride: dress alterations, tips and tricks!

Expecting and engaged? Congratulations!

So, you’re engaged! You’ve purchased the dress of your dreams, booked an amazing venue and have everything all planned out, success! But then you find out you’re pregnant. With your special day getting closer and closer, dress stress can kick in.

But don’t panic!
* Content collaboration

While this time should be filled with surprises and anticipation, this new and exciting chapter of your life may also pose a bit of a challenge. After all, you’re not going to wait until a few weeks before to know if the dress will work for you. So, what do you do?

There’s no denying that planning a wedding while you’re pregnant is more challenging than it might otherwise be, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Having worked with dozens of pregnant brides, leading Manchester wedding gown alterations company, Alterations Boutique, fills us in on their top tips to ensure a perfect fit, no matter what stage of pregnancy you’re at!

Thursday, 19 July 2018

A bright start for little ones in Birmingham

When I was pregnant with Ethan, we started our search for a local nursery early as we wanted to really find out what was on offer in Birmingham and make an informed choice in plenty of time. It really is a big decision to make (I've written before about how the cost of childcare is a big debate but there's so much value on the care nurseries provide for our children) and Ethan absolutely loved his time at nursery

* Collaborative post

At the time, I was working in Edgbaston and considered whether having a nursery close to work would be more convenient. And boy, how nice it would have been to have had BrightMinds Daycare there when we were looking for the best place for him!

It's a recently launched state-of-the-art, innovative and engaging nursery facility for children up to 4 years of age living in and around Birmingham. The magnificent Edgbaston setting includes a beautiful garden complete with a chicken farm, a technology and sensory room, alongside a modern baby yoga studio and performance room with a Yamaha baby grand piano.

Yes, baby yoga! How amazing does that sound?

I am going along to see the nursery for myself, but in the meantime, here's some details you might like to know if you are searching for a great nursery in the Birmingham area:


Wednesday, 18 July 2018

To know or not to know - finding out the gender of your baby

When we had Ethan, both Ste and I knew we didn't want to find out the sex of the baby. We just knew we wanted the excitement and with it being our first child, we wanted to experience the whole journey and keep the mystery right up to the point of meeting them.

At the time, I wrote this brief post on the topic, six months before Ethan's arrival:

The second question everyone has asked us after announcing our news, following 'when's your due date?' has been 'are you going to find out what it is?'.

It's wonderful to see how excited and eager all our friends and family are about our little bundle but for us, the excitement really is in the not knowing.

So much of our lives are planned to the letter and information is at our fingertips, literally, whenever we need it. One thing that can remain a mystery is whether you are having a son or daughter.

From a practical standpoint, I totally understand why people want to find out as soon as they can - after all, sleepsuits aside, finding gender-neutral outfits for baby is quite a task.

But for us, we want to keep that piece of information a surprise, even to ourselves.

After all, it won't change anything one way or the other. As long as bubs is healthy, it doesn't matter one bit if it's a boy or girl. From the trend of women I have known over the years who have had babies, it's 99.9% certain to be a boy but it's one of life's great mysteries and we'll wait until May to find out what Mother Nature has in store.


Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The best UK treats to send a friend living abroad

Long-distance friendship is hard for the both of you. You both need to get used your everyday routines without the other being there. You want your friend to know you’re still there for them, and they might be homesick. A care package could do them the world of good. What should you put in it?

* Collaborative post


Monday, 16 July 2018

Gift ideas for teachers at end of term

Alas, it's the last week of school; the PE kits finally come home, sports days and parents' evenings are being held up and down the country and we have the possibility (and realisation) of six whole weeks of summer holidays stretched out before us. There's a lot to reflect on, to celebrate, to remember, and to be thankful for.

Of course, as well as being super proud of our children - whether they are working hard at their writing, turning into a mathematician, showing a creative streak or heading for a more sporty path - and rewarding them, it's also really important to thank those people who have helped our little ones learn over the past school year.

On the first day of Reception, Ethan declared his love for his teacher and all year long, he has come home with stories about how nice his teacher and TA are and how much fun he has had at school.

So, I've been thinking about gift ideas to say thank you - beyond giving chocolates or flowers as I am sure they get plenty...

Last year, I gave Ethan's nursery workers a gift bag with an artificial sunflower and sunflower seeds, with the message 'thank you for helping me grow', and a few other thins and this year, I have had some help from Find Me A Gift in coming up with some teacher present inspiration.

We've ordered this personalised mug and this bath bomb set (which currently has 40% at £7.79) in particular, but they have lots of different ideas to suit your preference and budget too.


Friday, 13 July 2018

See the PJ Mask heroes soar into Merry Hill for the start of the summer holidays

Just one week to go until the summer holidays start for us, who else is excited? Or worried about how to keep the kids entertained for six whole weeks?! Hubs and I are alternating annual leave to cover off the whole holiday and I want to enjoy lots of things with my little man, as well as having some time to relax too (we do have a bundle to prepare for after all!).

I've shared a few ideas for things to do over the summer holidays in the Midlands already - Cadbury Character Breakfasts, Octonauts: Shark Mission at Sea Life Centre, Drayton Manor, Conkers, Park LivesSymphony Hall Inside Out - and now have some news from Merry Hill to share in case this is something else you want to add to your must-do list...


Thursday, 12 July 2018

18 week pregnancy update, baby number two

I turned 18 weeks pregnant on Saturday and I'm getting closer to that all important 20 week scan, which we are really looking forward to. We didn't find out what we were having when we had Ethan and I think we will be the same this time around, but the next scan is just so important to make sure that everything is progressing well.

Here's an update on how my pregnancy is going so far...


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Second trimester treats for mama

I am into my second trimester and bump is cooking along nicely, hopefully, without there being too much to complain about. Although of course, we've all had this heatwave and it is a real treat to have so much nice weather for such a length of time, everyone asks pregnant women like me how we are coping.

I'm doing ok - it's hard to tell if I feel any hotter than I normally would in this weather, with bump in tow - and I'm using a few things to help keep me cool and refreshed as I go through the second trimester during the summer months.


Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Free fun for everyone at the Symphony Hall Inside Out festival

I'm proud to have worked with Town Hall Symphony Hall as an ambassador for a couple of years now, with the next event to be reviewed being the new Kevin and Karen Dance Live Tour 2018 on Saturday (tickets still available, read my review of last year's show), and I wanted to share with you a new free event that they have just announced....


Monday, 9 July 2018

Drayton Manor's Summer Sensation season starts soon

Like most Midland families I'm sure, we have visited Drayton Manor several times since having Ethan, with Thomas Land obviously being a real highlight for Ethan, and there's so much going on over summer, I wanted to share it with you in case you are planning ahead for the summer holidays.

I'd like to take Ethan again to this theme park as it has been a while since we've been (read my top tips for visiting Drayton Manor), but we always have a good time. Being pregnant means that the rides are out for me, but there's plenty of other things to enjoy on a day out here, plus in mid-Augist, there's due to be a food and craft fair which sounds really interesting and right up my street. 

Here's what the team has told me about their summer holiday activities:


Saturday, 7 July 2018

Shark Mission at Sea Life Centre Birmingham

Another 'must-do' on our summer list is the new Octonauts: Shark Mission at National Sea Life Centre Birmingham because a) Ethan loves the Octonauts (hubs and I do too), b) he is also a big fan of sharks, and c) we always enjoy visiting the centre, so the summer holidays are a great excuse to go along again soon.

From what we've heard, the new event will be absolutely jaw-some (sorry!), so here's what you need to know if you would like to add this to your list of summer holiday days out ideas: 


Friday, 6 July 2018

Ideas for planning a swashbuckling pirate party

For Ethan's fifth birthday, we went for a pirate themed party as he is a big fan of Jack Sparrow (despite never seeing the Pirates of the Caribean films before) and thought that it would be a fun choice for his friends to get dressed up and play games together.

We booked our local David Lloyd leisure centre as they offer some great birthday party packages, and take care of all the details and entertainment which makes it much less stressful for you as parents, leaving you to enjoy the smiles and fun of the day rather than struggling to blow up balloons.

We decided that Ethan shouldn't be the only one to get dressed up, so both hubs and I picked up pirate costumes to really help set the scene.


Start the summer holidays with ParkLives' free, fun family events

Two weeks until the summer holidays start for us - can I get a whoop whoop?! As you may have seen from my Cadbury World and Conkers blog posts earlier this week, I am looking ahead and planning out what we would like to do as a family over the summer break whilst Ethan is off, and I have another suggestion for you today.

Starting next Friday, there's a huge range of fun, free activities taking place across Birmingham as Coca-Cola Great Britain's ParkLives programme returns, with Love Parks Week kicking everything off.

There's a whole host of things to get involved with, so well worth checking out what's on near you.

Here's the info:


Thursday, 5 July 2018

The first trimester and being an ambassador for Natural Birthing Company

With a new bundle on the way later this year, I am sharing my journey all over again on here and I am also really excited to be an ambassador for Natural Birthing Company. Even though I have been through pregnancy, birth and baby before, every time is different, there’s always something new out there to try or learn and I feel new to it all again somehow. 

I am all about being prepared, so working with this lovely brand is a great way for me to do things a bit differently.

Here's a quick preview of my first guest post for them...


Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Character breakfasts and fun in the sun at Cadbury World this summer holiday

It's less that three weeks until Ethan breaks up for the summer holidays and I am really excited. This is the first time we have had a summer holiday break, being Ethan's reception year, and hubs and I have shared the holiday period between us, taking annual leave in turns, so that we can make the most of it.

There's been a post doing the rounds recently on Facebook etc. about how we only get 18 summers with our children, so all the more reason to make this one count.

We are looking ahead and planning a few things in and very much looking forward to the first thing on our list - a trip to Cadbury World.

I have only been once, on a school trip when I was about nine years old, so Ethan hasn't visited before and doesn't even know there is a world of chocolate to explore! He will flip!

We will be meeting and greeting some of Cadbury’s most iconic characters – shaking hands with Freddo, high fiving Mr Cadbury’s Parrot and posing for a selfie with the Caramel Bunny – at one of Cadbury World's character breakfasts, which start from 21st July. Ahead of our visit, I wanted to share the information about Cadbury World's summer holiday plans in case, like me, you are starting to plan ahead, and a full review of our visit to a character breakfast will follow in a couple of weeks once we have been ourselves...


Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Our fun family day out at Conkers

I love getting out and about and discovering new places to explore, and a couple of weekends' ago, we visited Conkers, in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, for the first time.

I'd seen signs for it when travelling north, but never really knew what was there, so when we were invited to check it out for ourselves, I thought it was about time and that it would make a great place to go for a fun family day out.

Conkers can be found at the heart of the National Forest and offers 120 acres filled with fun things to do, inside and out, so no matter what the weather, you can still keep the kids busy. It honestly has so much to look at and explore, you can easily spend the whole day here.


Sunday, 1 July 2018

Ways to keep your kid’s brain sharp all summer

As far as your kids are concerned, being out of school for the summer months is all about doing things that matter to them. There’s summer camp, travel, time spent playing with friends and other kid-friendly activities. Summer break is the time that they’ve been looking forward to for months and usually they are grateful to get out of the classroom at last.

* Collaborative post

For parents, however, it’s those many weeks of being away from class that can cause them to lose a little bit of what they learned during the school year. When classes resume in the fall, both parents and kids scramble to make up for knowledge and comprehension skills that are lost over the two to three months of summer vacation. Here are some ideas on how to keep your kids’ brain active and help to keep them ready to return to school in the autumn.
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