Friday, 15 December 2017

Christmas Parties // Hotel Chocolat Wreath

Christmas is the season for parties and gatherings, mulled wine and delicious chocolates and an excuse to get together with old and new friends.  In our old house we were quite stuck for space and we are really enjoying the new place and being able to host friends now.  This year we have Ed's family coming to us on Boxing Day and it will be the first time hosting a family event for us!

With school about to finish, I decided to celebrate the end of Archie's first full term by inviting some of his friends and their parents over after school one day.  The children quickly split off with the school boys going upstairs and the little siblings choosing the playroom.  The living room was for the adults and it was lovely to chat without the rush and distractions of the school run.  

I was sent a Hotel Chocolat Christmas Wreath and it seemed the perfect time to open it.  I left it in the middle of the table as it made a great centerpiece.  Once all the children were occupied, we broke it open and it was absolutely amazing inside! Our favourites include the 'Christmas mess', the 'Bakewell tart' and the champagne truffles, and the selection was brilliant with something for everyone's tastes!  I find that usually when we open a box of chocolates there are the same ones always left at the end but having some left at the end wasn't an issue with the wreath!

The Hotel Chocolat wreath is perfect for Christmas gatherings and I might have to buy one for a Boxing Day treat for the family too.  It is the perfect festive centerpiece and incredibly delicious!  When we have eaten too many roast potatoes and stuffing, I think bite sized sweet snacks will be great to nibble on.

I couldn't easily get pictures of all the children playing but here are a couple of my little two who loved having a house full of friends and playmates (although one still needs to work on sharing his toys with them).

Hotel Chocolat have an amazing Christmas collection to suit all families big and small, so whether you are having a quiet Christmas at home, a few friends over or the whole extended family, check out their amazing Christmas chocolate collection.

This post is sponsored by Hotel Chocolat but all chocolates were eaten exclusively by myself (and my friends)

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Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Sony Xperia XZ1 Review

We were sent the Sony Xperia XZ1 to review recently and I was really excited to try the new smart phone.  For someone who works from her phone and laptop I know very little about technology and I was quite aware that any modern smart phone would meet my basic phone needs (call, text, facebook and instagram).  I wanted to see what made the Sony different though and most importantly, how good the camera was!

The Sony Xperia XZ1 is slim and sleek with a large display.  I have stuck to the same brand of phone for 6 years before this so I wasn't expecting it to be so easy to set up but everything was really intuitive.  The unlock button is on the right hand side, exactly where my thumb sits and the fingerprint unlock is perfect to keep little people from playing with it.  I could download all my favourite apps and use all the usual functions.

Sony Xperia XZ1 review
The 13mp front facing camera takes brilliantly clear images.
Sony are one of the leading camera manufacturers in the UK and they have used their amazing Motion Eye technology in the camera. Most of the photos I take are of my four small people and they are not ones to sit still and pose nicely.  I have to capture them mid movement, mid speech and mid swing and the Sony Xperia XZ1 has several features to help ensure that I never miss a family moment.  I took these photos on a very ordinary Tuesday, nothing special but special to us all the same and I love that I have some of these little moments captured.

Sony Xperia XZ1 review

Sony Xperia XZ1 review

The Autofocus Burst captures a string of images and means you can flick through afterwards to find your favourite ones.  The 19MP camera can capture so many photos in a short space of time and I was really impressed with how clear these were with no motion blur.  You can see in the swings below that both children look incredibly clear and you can't tell that they were actually moving at different speeds .

Sony Xperia XZ1 review

Sony Xperia XZ1 review

The Predictive Capture mode on the Sony Xperia XZ1 means you never miss a moment and this has been my favourite feature.  So many times I have tried to capture the children doing something sweet, but by the time I have pressed the button they have moved on.  The predictive capture mode recognises that the subject is in motion and takes up to three extra shots before you press the shutter button.  So often now I have looked in the gallery and realised half the child's head was out of the shot and then realise that predictive capture has meant the perfect picture is there too, thank goodness!

Sony Xperia XZ1 review

And the third fantastic camera feature on the Sony Xperia XZ1 is the built in slow motion mode on the camera.  I know you can download fancy editing software that will do this for you but I haven't worked out how and it looks very complicated! Not only this, but with your average camera taking nowhere near as many frames per second, it wouldn't even compare in quality.  With this camera, you simply press a large icon on the screen when you want it to start and the phone which can record 960 frames per second, slows the next second of footage down to last for five seconds before resuming the filming again.  I have used this to capture the children playing, someone throwing one in the air and I can imagine there would be some amazing moments to try it, like the finish line of a race.  For normal videos, the steadyshotfeature has 5 axis stabilisation to compensate for shaking movement and keep videos clear and smooth.

As well as the camera there are loads of brilliant features

Sony Xperia XZ1 review
Even in low light the camera takes sharp and bright images
- A longer battery life, which easily lasts me a whole day despite the fact I have a minor addiction to a battery draining app.
- Waterproof, so you can take it out in the rain, take photos in the pool and not panic if you accidentally drop it in the bath.
- Android 8.0 Oreo technology (apparently Oreos are not just a tasty biscuit!)
- Durable exterior, something I have noticed as this may be the longest I have ever gone without cracking my screen!

Sony Xperia XZ1

The Sony Xperia handset has an RRP of £599 and a compact version is available too.

This is a paid collaboration with Sony but all thoughts and opinions are completely my own.

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Thursday, 7 December 2017

The Festive Fairground at Dreamland

Situated on the Kent coast, Dreamland is a vintage family theme park full of colour, personality and charm.  Over the coming month they have transformed the Margate park into a festive fairground complete with Santa's Grotto and an ice skating rink and the boys and I (plus my sister) spent last Saturday there for the opening day.

Archie and Dylan are four and six and were a great age to enjoy the park.  I found it was definitely aimed at four years and above (or for children over a metre) and there was plenty that they could both go on but quite a few that Archie at 105cm was too small for as well.  The park has a selection of rides from the iconic Scenic Railway which is the oldest wooden rollercoaster, to the traditional dodgems and carousel.  Entry to the park is free and a wristband gives you unlimited access to all the rides or you can buy seperate tokens if you wish to only ride on a couple.  The children's beehive rollercoaster was a definite favourite for both boys.

We spent about 5 hours at Dreamland and that was the perfect amount of time.  We spent time on the rides as well as enjoying all the open spaces and bright walls.  Dotted around the park are giant letters that spell out Dreamland and we loved spotting them and climbing on them too.

As part of our visit we couldn't resist booking tickets to see Father Christmas.  You have to book ahead on the Dreamland website and you are given a 30 minute slot for your 'Santa experience'.  It is more than your traditional grotto, with two simple craft activities as you prepare to see the big man. The boys loved creating their VIP passes and they are still playing with them days later.  Santa's special Elvis inspired elf stole the show and we were surprised to see a rocking and grooving Santa.  The boys were each given a book as a gift but they are a little old for them at the moment - we would love to see books aimed more at younger readers in the future.

I was nervous about taking the boys ice skating as it doesn't come naturally to me (I like to hold on to a wall the whole time) and they have never been before.  We found the set up was brilliant though and when we turned up for our booked slot there was no queue for boots and the rink was not too crowded.  You can pre-book aids and there were two choices, a standing penguin that the children can hold on to if they want to skate independently, and a seal that the children can sit on to be pushed around.  Archie was happiest sat down and loved it as I raced around with him (I was happiest pushing him as it gave me something to hold on to).  Dylan tried both and really enjoyed giving skating a go with the penguin.  The ice skating was definitely a highlight for all four of us and I would highly recommend booking a slot if you are visiting for the frosted fairground.

The park was quiet in the day, we didn't queue for a single ride and it was so much fun, but the parK really comes alive when it gets dark.  The lit up trees dotted around the park, the dancing lights on the big wheel and the brightness of the fairground were irresistable and I would really recommend staying for at least part of the evening.  

Dreamland is situated less than 5 minutes walk from Margate train station and there are direct links from St Pancras and Victoria station in London.  There is so much to do locally with a brilliant beach opposite the entrance to Dreamland, the Turner art gallery and a row of arcades full of 2p machines. Inside the Dreamland Complex there is a fantastic soft play/imaginative play centre called Octopus Gardens as well as a roller disco. We had a brilliant day out and all left with rosy cheeks and big smiles.

Thank you to Dreamland for our tickets for this fun day out!

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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Potty Training with Huggies Pull-Ups

I have potty trained two children before, but the thought of starting with Finn still makes me nervous. According to Huggies 8 Signs of Readiness, he is showing signs that he is ready to start. He tells us when he has a dirty nappy, asks for a change and seems to be holding his wees. He is also interested in the potty - he watches his brothers using the toilet and wants to copy them.

In all honesty, I think the biggest thing holding us back at the moment is me. Our days seem busy, our schedule is full and unlike when the older two were in this phase, we now have school runs and clubs and things that we have to be on time for. We are working with HUGGIES® Pull-Ups® this time though and they have sent me everything I need to get started.

Finn is now wearing HUGGIES® Pull-Ups® instead of nappies and he is much happier with the independence. Thanks to the ‘I do’ feature, the super stretchy sides means he can pull his pants up and down himself.

To help get Finn ready for this new stage, we have been learning about wet and dry - this has probably been his favourite part of it all as he loves water play! Using sand, water and his little figures, I have been talking with him about the differences between the two sensations to help him understand wet from dry. HUGGIES® Pull-Ups® also feature a wetness indicator. When the Pull-Up is wet, the steering wheel image fades, visually signalling when your LO has had an accident. This forms part of the ‘I see’ feature which further stimulates a feeling of independence. The learning layer briefly mimics the feeling of wetness and enables Finn to ‘I feel’ when he’s had an accident.

I think being consistent day and night might take a little longer. Whilst Archie was dry day and night, there was nearly 2 years for Dylan to master all times of the day. As HUGGIES® Pull-Ups® child psychologist, Dr Heather Wittenberg explains, the nerve pathways between the bladder and the brain must be strong enough to wake your LO from a deep sleep. Therefore, we’ll be taking a more relaxed approach with Finn as accidents during the night are completely normal. HUGGIES® has specifically designed night time Pull-Ups with extra absorbency for overnight protection whilst still maintaining consistency.

So what are the Huggies 6 steps?

1) Check you are both ready by taking a look at the 8 Signs of Potty Training Readiness
2) Say goodbye to nappies and hello to HUGGIES® Pull-Ups®
3) Start practicing and building a routine
4) Learn wet from dry.
5) Be consistent day and night.
6) Keep up the good work!

Do you have any tips to help us on our potty training journey?

To find out more about Huggies Pull-Ups, visit

This post is in collaboration with Huggies Pull-ups

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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

What the Boys Wore // Nununu

Now that Cora is easier to leave, I have started getting more time with just my big two babies.  I know Dylan loves having time just him and I, Archie is very much lost without his brother and if I suggest we do something just us, he asks whether Dylan can come too.  We have been going on a few little adventures and it is so nice not having a pushchair or a toddler to chase after and being able to enjoy their company.  Last weekend we visited a local theme park and the boys wore their new trousers from Nununu.

Archie much prefers leggings when given the choice and I chose these skull print ones for him as I knew he would love them.  They look comfy and they are definitely his new favourites.  The print and style of these is great for slightly older children and I think they look great on him at nearly 5.  Dylan's trousers are more of a harem jogger with slim legs.  They look comfy and stylish and match with so much (including his Nununu top).

Margate is covered in bright graffiti, the perfect place for getting some 'cool' shots if these two didn't decide to poke their tongue out in pretty much every one! I think these clothes really match their personalities well and I love how stylish and fun the Nununu collection is from ninja hoodies (which Archie would LOVE) to statement shapes and classic black, grey and pink shades.  I have found the sizing pretty true and both children are wearing the right size for their age here. 

I am really enjoying these days out with my big boys, doing all the things that they miss out on  normally because of the little ones and exploring new places.  We have more adventures planned in the lead up to Christmas and I am hoping to make it a regular thing having a Mummy day with my big pair.

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Monday, 4 December 2017

Sorted at The Postal Museum

"But that wasn't a real museum, was it? It was too much fun!" Dylan aged 6.  This weekend the big two boys and I went on a little adventure to London.  It has been a long time since I did anything with just them, without having to make sure it was baby or toddler friendly and we all needed this time. We were invited up to check out The Postal Museum and their new imaginative indoor play area 'Sorted!' and I had a tough time convincing the boys that it was a real museum.

The Postal Museum, Sorted indoor play area

I don't know quite where they got their views from as we haven't really taken them to many museums before.  They clearly had low expectations however which were exceeded before we even discovered the play zone.  After locating The Postal Museum which isn't far from Kings Cross station, we headed straight for the Mail Rail, an underground ride to discover the history of the postal service.  As you book tickets in advance there was no waiting around in queues and the ride was interactive with narration, short videos projected on the wall and lots to look at.  It was the perfect length for their concentration spans at 4 and 6 years old and it gave us plenty to talk about.

The Postal Museum, Sorted indoor play area

Sorted! was the main reason for our visit though and we were all excited to see what it was like.  20 children are allowed in at a time and the play area was split into two main zones, one for post offices, post vans and post boxes and the other for inside the sorting office.  The 45 minute session could easily have been double as long before the boys were ready to leave and the variety of tasks combined with the limited number of children allowed in and therefore the amount of space they had to play was a great combination.  They loved sorting the parcels and sending them down the chutes before heading down the slide to start again.  There were different dress up accessories dotted around and plenty of soft parcels that could be sorted, weighed, posted and played with.  

The Postal Museum, Sorted indoor play area

As well as the imaginative play for children, there was so much to keep toddlers and babies entertained too, from magnetic walls covered in toys to be moved around, post vans to pretend to drive and wooden blocks to make a city.  Everything was designed for children from zero to eight years and I felt a bit sad that Finn and Cora were missing out as they would have loved the experience so much.  There was space for adults to sit and enjoy a drink or you could get involved with the children.  The whole place was spacious, clean and easy to see everything and we all loved it.  

The Postal Museum, Sorted indoor play area

I was a bit worried that after all this excitement, the boys wouldn't be that interested in the main museum, but in actual fact it was brilliantly designed for children and adults of all ages.  The whole exhibit was interactive and the boys loved sorting the letters on the simulated moving train in a race against one another.  With accessories to dress up dotted all around they could really get involved and the sorting game was coded with both words and pictures so Archie at 4 could still take part. (There were also little stools so that smaller children didn't miss out).

The Postal Museum, Sorted indoor play area

We did have to leave one building and cross the road to get to the second which I am not used to in museums but it gave us a chance to break up our visit as the second building had a cafe which served lunch and refreshments.  The children were given a trail to do around the museum, spotting stamps and post boxes to earn a sticker at the end.  The museum was really interesting from my point of view and the children were really curious as we went round, asking questions and enjoying the conversation.  There were phones to be picked up, hats to try on, letters to open and everything was on their level.  Overall we spent about 3.5 hours in The Postal Museum but we could easily have spent another 45 minutes looking around if it wasn't for the call of some promised milkshakes.

The Postal Museum, Sorted indoor play area

We left the museum with a better knowledge of how things worked, an insight into life inside a sorting office and a desire to send some letters of our own.  There was a lovely gift shop inside, but they didn't have any postcards! We headed over to Covent Garden when we were done (an easy walk) to buy some postcards to send, talking as we did about the journey they would be going on before they reached our loved ones.

The Postal Museum, Sorted indoor play area

Until recently I had no idea that a Postal Museum existed but we will definitely be back with the whole family next time. It was brilliantly interactive, well laid out and the indoor play area 'Sorted!' was a great way to get their imaginations going.  Archie declared the visit 'better than a Kinder Egg' (high praise indeed from a four year old) and Dylan is already asking when we can go back.

The Postal Museum, Sorted indoor play area

The Postal Museum, Sorted indoor play area

The Postal Museum, Sorted indoor play area

The Postal Museum, Sorted indoor play area

The Postal Museum, Sorted indoor play area

The Postal Museum, Sorted indoor play area

The Postal Museum, Sorted indoor play area

The Postal Museum, Sorted indoor play area

The Postal Museum, Sorted indoor play area

This post is in collaboration with The Postal Museum but all thoughts and opinions are completely my own.

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