Gorgeous Wooden Toys… From Asda! (Who Knew?)

I have a funny old relationship with wooden toys. Four years ago when I had a newborn, I thought they were pretentious and so utterly middle class that I’d try to avoid at all costs. Now (ahem) I’ve totally changed my tune. Perhaps it’s a symptom of having spent the last four years wading through a sea of primary-coloured plastic, but if I can choose a beautiful wooden toy over a plastic version, I’ll opt for it every time.

One problem? They can be more expensive than their plasticky friends. Yep, you gotta pay to have a home that isn’t drowning in plastic tat, folks.

Or so I thought. I’m genuinely surprised and delighted that George at Home have launched a range of wooden kids’ toys. Just in time for Christmas – hurrah!

They have a seriously impressive range from a shop (£35) and a pirate ship (£25) to a kitchen (£40) and a farm set (£20).

 

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We were asked to road test one of the toys and we went for the wooden dolls house (£35). The four year old doesn’t have a proper dolls house, so we thought it would be a good opportunity to treat her to one.

She was SO EXCITED when she saw it. Like, properly. “Can I play with it NOW PLEASE?” she asked. It was breakfast time so we let her have ten minutes of playing and then totally used it as a bribe. “If you do lots of listening and helping at pre-school today, you can play with it tonight” (Mum.Of.The.Year.)

She immediately started carefully placing the dolls house furniture (£15) in the house and pretended that the dolls were getting up, having breakfast and going off to work. So cute!

 

Wooden dolls house from Asda Continue reading

Things That Aren’t As Much Fun When You Have Kids

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1. Lunch with friends

Pre-kids: Meeting at 2.30pm, somewhere buzzy and fun. Getting stuck into a cocktail followed by a bottle of white wine. Chatting so much that the waiter has to ask you three times whether you’re ready to order. Eating leisurely and losing track of time as you catch up.

Post-kids: Meeting at midday (any later and the kids will get hungry and ratty) at a noisy child-friendly place. Ordering off the kids’ menu before you’ve even looked at what you might have. Having snatches of conversation in between helping to colour in (using the complimentary crayons and colouring sheet) and answer the endless “Mummy?” questions. Rushing through lunch before the kids get bored. Sloping off sheepishly after paying because there’s more food on the floor than in the actual kitchen.

2. The clocks going back

Pre-kids: Yesss! You get an extra hour in bed (or when you were a vodka and dancing loving student: Yesss! You get an extra hour in the club)

Post-kids: Argh! They’re technically up an hour early. And you have to somehow get them to go to bed an hour early tonight. (Suddenly, those conversations MPs have about stopping GMT seem appealing.)

3. Bank holidays

Pre-kids: A lie-in followed by a couple of hours in your PJs watching telly, then going to the pub to meet friends, eating a massive pub lunch and drinking wine in the sun until the early evening. Ahh bank holidays, the stuff of dreams.

Post-kids: Getting up the same time as you always do. Having to pay for childcare even though you’re not using it. Heading to the same soft play (if it’s raining) or beach (if it’s sunny) as everyone else on the planet. Fighting the crowds and the queues. Getting stuck in traffic on the way home. Fun times. Continue reading

36 Things That Happened If You Were A Teenage Girl In The 90s

Clueless

1. You read a well-thumbed copy of Judy Blume’s Forever, after it had been passed around most of your class.

2. You had to decide whether you loved Take That or East 17 more. You couldn’t love them both, that was against the rules.

3. But if the hot boys from school asked, you were totally into Pearl Jam and Nirvana.

4. You had a crush on all of the Mizz male models. especially Malcolm.

5. You wore Dr Marten boots and referred to them as DMs. If you were really cool, you had the cherry reds. With tartan laces.

6. It wasn’t Saturday afternoon without a visit to The Body Shop to spend your pocket money on a kiwi lip balm. Or if you were splashing out, White Musk perfume.

7. You were addicted to playing Tetris on the GameBoy. And you may have owned a Tamagotchi.

8. You went to see Titanic at the cinema three times – and cried when Leo died, every time (“Jack! Come back!”)

9. Saying “Not” at the end of a sentence never got tired.

10. You decided if you ever got a tattoo, it would be Mark Owen’s dolphin or Mel C’s celtic arm chain. Both totally amazing.

11. But you couldn’t decide whether you’d rather have your eyebrow pierced like Howard Donald or a pierced tummy button (well, flashing a belly bar while wearing a crop top would be so cool.)

12. School holidays were spent watching Saved By The Bell (you really wanted to be Kelly Kapowski), listening to Pulp, Blur and Oasis on your Walkman and avoiding any homework or revision.

13. You loved Cosmetics To Go and pored over their newspaper style catalogue every time it was delivered. Bath bombs! Shampoos with comedy names! Amazing smelling products!

14. Over the knee socks were a totally legitimate fashion choice. Despite what your mum’s withering look told you.

15. Every second Wednesday was all about Just 17. And the first pages you turned to? The advice pages, of course. Anita Naik and Nick Fisher were your gurus.

Continue reading

Getting The Right Balance

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Balance is a word I’ve been thinking about a lot, recently. It’s so important that we have balance in our lives. Time on our own, time working hard, time with friends, time watching Friends (with pizza), time at the park with the family.

When things gets imbalanced, it all gets a bit stressy. At least, it does for me. Often, the first sign for me that things are imbalanced is me feeling a bit panicky or paranoid. Then I realise: I need to rebalance my life. I’m either knackered from too many late wine-filled nights, or often too many late nights at my laptop.

But recently I’ve become aware of a new kind of imbalance. For two and a half years I’ve worked full time, while my daughter is at nursery, and that’s worked really well for us. It has kept me sane in the aftermath of (undiagnosed) post natal depression and it has helped turn her into the sociable, happy four-year-old she is now. But something has changed recently. Perhaps it’s the realisation that she will be going to school in a year’s time – our time together now has a cap on it. This time next year, I’ll be picking her up from school at 3.30pm (is that even when school ends for the day? I have so much to learn) and we’ll have just a few hours a day to hang out. We’ll be restricted by a weekday timetable that will limit how much time we can spend together as a family. And then, all too soon, she’ll be at the age where she doesn’t want to hang out with us at all. (Unless she realises that I’m actually a COOL MUM *cough*)

So I’ve decided to change the four-year-old’s pre-school week and reduce her from five days to four days. On one day each week, we’ll hang out, maybe go to the library, meet friends for coffee or meet her nana for lunch. We might do painting or bake cupcakes. There will almost definitely be difficult days and tantrums, but we’ll get through those with as much of a smile as we can. I’m ignoring the small voice in my brain that is trying to remind me of the last time I spent weekdays alone with her. She was a baby back then, rather than a chatty, fun, four-year-old. And my head and hormones were totally messed up. So sshhh small voice, I’m not listening.

Of course, this decision probably doesn’t seem groundbreaking to you. After all, don’t loads of mums work part time? But it’s a big deal for me. And it signifies a real switch in my head. For the first time ever, I’m actually prioritising my family over my career. It’s SUCH a cliché but nobody ever did lie on their deathbed and wish they had worked more. Women are asked about their work/life balance all the time (men aren’t asked about it, but that’s a whole other blog post) and I’ve always been happy with mine – until now.

So I’m going to work less (I’ve already turned down work this week *high fives self*), perhaps even blog less, and focus on my family. I’m also going to do all of the things in my home that I’ve been ignoring for three years – like organising all of our crap, spring (autumn) cleaning, selling stuff on eBay and redecorating and reorganising the four-year-old’s bedroom. I might even paint her playhouse that’s been waiting to be painted for a whole year.

Wish me luck!

Image: DTTSP

Are Cinema Dates A Waste Of A Date Night?

Going on a date to the cinema has a real romantic notion, doesn’t it? Think back to being a teenager and sitting in the back row. I remember going on one of my first dates with Mr P to the cinema (our very first date is something I still tease him about – he came over to my house and cooked me sweet and sour chicken with pasta. Mmmm!) and in our 20s, watching movies together was one of our favourite things to do. Our DVD collection was huge (remember those? Round silver discs you put in DVD players to watch movies on? How retro!) Friends would tease us that it was like coming over to Blockbusters and would regularly leave with at least one or two films to take home. We’re still owed some late fees from those friends…

Since becoming parents, watching movies happens mostly on our sofa. In those early days, films were a great source of entertainment while we sat up with a wide awake baby at 3am, and a few months later, when we were in a vague routine, we’d put the little one to bed at 7pm and settle down with a movie (I’d obviously fall asleep midway through it).

And now, as parents to a four-year-old, we cherish nights where we have a babysitter and can head out together on a date.

 

Printable Popcorn boxes

Image: Design Eat Repeat (awesome printable popcorn boxes – check them out!)

 

But going back to my original question – are cinema dates for parents a waste? We tend to choose going to the pub or out for a meal, our thinking being that we can ignore each other while we check Facebook and Twitter chat to each other, set the world to rights and (assuming a lot of wine and beer is consumed) have a right old laugh. But if we went to the cinema, we wouldn’t be having a conversation, and we’d be doing something we could do on our sofa while our daughter sleeps upstairs.

Not much point right?

Except this week, there’s a movie out at the cinema that we’re both desperate to see. Gone Girl.

I read the book, and despite it being a bit hit and miss, the trailers for the film have had me dying to see it for months. Ben Affleck looks so creepy in the lead role and I’ve heard, from friends who saw advance screenings, that it’s even better than the book. So we’re breaking with tradition and going on a cinema date this weekend. We’re heading to Cardiff to check out a really cool sounding afternoon tea and staying overnight at the Park Plaza Hotel, which is just a ten minute walk from the Cardiff Cineworld, so once we’ve stuffed ourselves with afternoon tea, we’re going to go to an early evening showing of Gone Girl and then hit a bar.

Perfect or what? Cinema date nights, I think I might have been wrong about you…

 

 This post was written in association with Cineworld – big thanks for the tickets to see Gone Girl in Cardiff. We are really looking forward to it!