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Discovering Chessington with Merlin

by RosieS on January 13, 2015

Minions at Chessington

Just before Christmas, Merlin (the entertainment group not the wizard) gave us complementary tickets to visit Chessington World of Adventures’ Winter Wonderland.

We’re regular visitors to the theme park and even stayed in their Safari hotel last year for IJ’s birthday. (Here’s the view from our room).

But we’d never visited in winter before when only a tiny selection of the rides are open, so we weren’t sure what to expect. In fact IJ wasn’t particularly excited about visiting Chessington without the roller coasters.

In the end we were pleasantly surprised. It was calmer and more relaxed without the need to rush from one ride to another. There were no long queues and a lovely festive atmosphere.

Sealions at Chessington

We were able to take time to explore the areas that we normally overlook in the race for the dodgems or the log flume.

So we walked around the zoo with its tigers, lions and gorillas. And we watched a fabulous sea lion show although we decided against taking the opportunity to feed them. I’m not one for holding fish but plenty did and seem to enjoy it.

We went along with my brother, niece and nephew and had a really lovely family day out.

Angry bird hat

The highlight for the younger two (3 and 6) was definitely the Gruffalo stage show with the man (or creature) himself. IJ particularly enjoyed the arcades, and we all enjoyed the Bubbleworks ride.

The Gruffalo at Chessington

We didn’t queue to see Santa because when you’re nearly 12 he doesn’t hold quite the same magic, which was a shame. I would have liked to have seen him. I’d been particularly good all year.

We ate far too many warm sugary donuts and drank too much hot chocolate, but then again we always do when we visit Chessington, even in summer. It wouldn’t be quite the same if we didn’t.

The purpose of the trip and this post is to promote the Merlin Annual Pass, which is now on sale.

Merlin Annual Pass

Merlin kindly gave us two individual passes, which means IJ and I can visit over 31 attractions free of charge, including Legoland, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park (read our review here) and Madame Tussards. That’s our weekends sorted for the rest of the year.

The Merlin Annual Pass January SALE is now on. You can grab a Merlin Annual Pass at the YEAR’S LOWEST PRICES – from just £99*.

*The Merlin Annual Pass is just £99 per person when you buy a family set of four passes.

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It’s going to be THAT year

by RosieS on January 5, 2015

Pre-teen

Just five days into the New Year, I can tell. I can feel it in the air. It’s going to be THAT year.

If you’ve got teenagers or pre-teens already, you’ll know the one. It’s the one where there’s an obvious shift in behaviour and attitude.

The one where your child grows up, pushes the boundaries and you find yourself having the most ridiculous arguments.

It’s the year when everything changes and probably doesn’t stabilise until several years hence.

It’s the year when your patience is stretched, your parenting skills challenged and you’re not quite sure what’s going on anymore.

Reader, already today we have argued at length about eating dessert before the main course at dinner.

We’ve fallen out over a game of Minecraft when IJ lost patience when I couldn’t build fast enough. We’d been playing for all of three minutes.

My simple enquiry about homework was met with a shrug and an exasperated sigh.

And apparently I stood too close to the bus stop when waiting to meet her from the school bus.

Last term – all of two weeks ago – I got into trouble for not standing so close to the bus stop that I could be seen when it came around the corner.

How quickly things change and goalposts shift when you’re eleven and a half years old.

In about one hour’s time we’ll be arguing about suitable bedtimes.

So we’re at the start of something. I’m not quite sure what but I’m strapping myself in and preparing myself to cling on for the ride.

Wish me luck!

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Get Taxi logo

If you’ve ever attempted to negotiate the London Underground with a child and a heavy suitcase, on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, you’ll appreciate the relative luxury of travelling by taxi.

That’s exactly what we did at the weekend thanks to some credits given to us by GetTaxi. It saved us having to take the tube from Waterloo to Kings Cross as we travelled home for Christmas.

Considering my suitcase felt rock-heavy, it’s possibly the difference between me losing the plot somewhere around Oxford Circus and the two of us arriving at our destination, sanity intact.

There was also the added bonus of not having to queue for a taxi. I’d booked through the GetTaxi app the night before. As we approached Waterloo our driver called to say where he was, he’d arrived a little early, and there he was when we arrived! It felt a little like having a personal chauffeur.

It’s the first time I’ve used the GetTaxi app and I found it surprisingly straightforward to use. Your driver’s details even appear when your ride is ready, together with information about his car, including the registration number so you’ll have no problems finding your taxi. His photo is also included so you can be sure you’re getting in the right taxi. You can even call or message him if you do get stuck.

Plus there’s a map showing his location, which you can then use to track your journey from pick-up to drop off. You can then pay through the app using your pre-registered credit card, or by cash. It’s all incredibly easy.

For us it made travelling halfway across the country far less stressful. We weren’t exhausted by the underground when we arrived at King’s Cross.

Travelling safely

But there’s a far more important issue I want to raise here. It’s highlighted by GetTaxi in their recent blog post. It’s the issue of safety when travelling by taxi over the festive season, and that’s the importance of travelling in a fully licensed minicab.

Here’s a quote from the post:

Unlicensed minicabs are rife around the festive period and using one potentially puts you at risk. You have no guarantee about the background of the driver and you certainly don’t know how safe the vehicle is.

Be sensible, be safe – never, ever use an unlicensed minicab.

GetTaxi only work with London’s licensed Black Cabs. Your journey is recorded and there is access to a 24/7 customer care team to help you.

All their drivers are CRB checked, licensed and users get a confirmation of their taxi booking straight to their phone.

GetTaxi’s Closed Door Policy

I’m particularly impressed with GetTaxi’s Closed Door Policy. It means that if you’re a woman travelling home alone late at night, your driver will wait until they’ve seen you step into your house and close the door before pulling away. You can even book your journey up to two weeks in advance. Just download the GetTaxi app to your phone.

Discount code

To get £10 off your first GetTaxi ride use code: ‘safetaxi’. You’ll need to download GetTaxi, register your card details in the app and choose card payment when booking to redeem your credit.

Safe travelling!

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Crafting with Craftmerrily

by RosieS on December 16, 2014

Crafting with Djeco from Craftmerrily

It won’t be a surprise to many to read that I have huge respect for small business owners. I’ve also a newfound appreciation of the level of time and commitment that goes into running one, particularly in the Internet age where you’re a click away from a competitor and those dominant ‘Internet giants’.

So when lovely Merry from online art and crafts shop Craftmerrily offered to send us some craft items to review, I jumped at the opportunity. It’s one way of being able to highlight the work of another independent business, and the Craftmerrily site is particularly gorgeous, offering a fabulous selection of paints, clay, papercraft, Hama beads, crafts kits and more.

Djeco from Craftmerrily

However, anyone who has met me, or who has read this blog for a while, knows that I am highly inexperienced when it comes to the world of crafting. Remember that Google hangout where I attempted to make a glitter plant pot?

But despite my lack of skill in the crafting department, IJ and I decided to have a go. And in our own eyes we’ve excelled ourselves.

I can’t take credit for either of these.

Clay creations

If you look very closely at the one on the left – perhaps even more closely than that – you’ll see that this is Santa with an Afro haircut. You can’t see it? The beard is there, and for added effect he is wearing shades.

The one on the right is Baby Jesus in his manager. Possibly he is wearing shades too. I’m at a slight loss for words to add anything else.

Clay creations

IJ’s cousin joined her for an afternoon of ‘sculpture’ with our Fimo kids craft kit. Typically they both ignored my instructions to create small clay animals following the illustrations and step-by-step instructions outlined clearly on the packet. Instead they decided to create their own nativity scene, complete with Christmas tree.

Christmas clay creation

Santa with an Afro is part of that scene too.

The main bonus of all this is that they played happily for literally hours. The TV was off. No devices were being used. Instead they were busy creating things, which makes a pleasant change in our house.

This is my addition to the mix, Sid Scribble. He’s a French mouse with a particular interest in moustache design and all things yellow. Sadly I forgot to give him feet.

Clay mouse

Thanks to Craftmerrily, we were also introduced to the world of Djeco craft kitsand this is where I lost myself completely in the world of crafting. I absolutely loved it and created this:

Djeco picture

I’d no idea that crafting could be so relaxing. I’d associated it with paint on the walls and endless clearing up. I’ve been converted after all these years.

We received the Djeco Abstract Workshop, which features the work of artist Smahane Girardet. It comes with 12 gel pastels, 4 illustrations to colour in and an illustrated workbook to explain step-by-step how to complete the picture.

Djeco art work

The gel pastels in our Djeco set felt a bit like drawing with lipstick (if you’ve ever tried that!).

Djeco pens without lids

They add colour really easy and are a joy to use. No endless scribbling with crayons, which isn’t cool when you’re 11, apparently.

Djeco gel pastels from Craftmerrily

But there’s more. IJ has been converted too. Since we used the clay kit and the Djeco set, IJ has spent hours cutting out pieces of cardboard and making play furniture for her Littlest Pet Shops.

We’ve even visited our local art shop for the first time to get supplies to make jewellery, at IJ’s request. This is something we would never have even thought of before. We didn’t even know it existed.

Thanks to Merry at Craftmerrily for introducing us to the world of crafting.

Give it a year and we’ll be knitting our own clothes.

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The Photo Gallery: Christmas

by RosieS on December 10, 2014

Winter flowers for a Christmas wedding

Winter flowers for a Christmas wedding.

Huge congratulations to my little sister who got married at the weekend and looked absolutely stunning.

This week’s Photo Gallery theme is Christmas. Check out Tara’s blog for more entries.

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When you hear your child is not in school

December 8, 2014

There are some parenting moments that make you physically shake, like I’m shaking right now. Sitting on my own in my office, with thoughts running endlessly through my head. I’m typing this to get them out on to paper (or ‘screen’) instead. The school has been in touch. IJ isn’t there. As her parent I’m required […]

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Brothers

December 4, 2014

They eat all the food. They break your toys. They mess up your dolls. They tread on everything. They trail mud through the house. They put football boots on clean clothes. They leave empty chocolate bar wrappers in the cupboard. They use up all the towels. They turn the garden into a skateboard park. They […]

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Pamper Parcels and Theo Paphitis #SBS

November 22, 2014

I was planning on writing a post about my relatively new business Pamper Parcels but decided there wasn’t a great deal to say except that three months after launching I’m still enjoying it and there have been some really lovely reviews. Like this one, this one and this one. And also this one, this one […]

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Normal everyday life

November 13, 2014

It occurred to me, while standing at the bus stop with a group of school kids (only one of them mine), that it’s been a while since I’ve written a proper blog post. ‘Proper’ as in something relating to normal everyday life in the real world rather than in the life of a brand. Then […]

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Tesco Mum of the Year Awards 2015 shortlist

November 6, 2014

The Tesco Mum of the Year Awards, now in its 10th year, recently announced its 2015 shortlist. 26 mums have been selected from the thousands of entries received. Each of their individual stories, often difficult to read, show incredible courage and achievement often in the face of huge adversity. Out of huge sadness comes the […]

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