Five reasons why half term is the worst school holiday 

Ok – this might sound a bit extreme but I’m starting to come to the conclusion that I’m not a fan of half term. I understand why it’s great for kids to have a break from school and the various activities they are involved in, but I don’t think I enjoy half term. 

  1. It’s too short. By the time you get into the swing of things, you have to start planning for returning to school/work
  2. Same goes for kids’ sleeping patterns. They have a few days of late nights and lazy mornings, then before you know it you’re having to nag them to get to bed on time again in preparation for school. 
  3. There’s nothing that everyone is looking forward to. Yes, some people have holidays booked, but collectively there’s no big event that everyone awaits. The festivities of Christmas, indulgence of Easter or just the long, lazy sunny days of summer (or a big holiday if you’re lucky). They bring some excitement and anticipation and make great conversation starters. 
  4. You want to rest, but you don’t want to ‘waste it’ because it’s so short. So you are in a constant state of confusion and uncertainty about what to do with your time: relax or go out. 
  5. If you do decide to spend money on days out, you feel like you’ve spent a fortune in a very short amount of time and return to work tired, unrested and broke 

Maybe schools should consider making it 10 days, so moaning mothers like me would have as much to complain about. Maybe after more than 8 years of parenting I still haven’t cracked the half term balance. Or maybe I should just get back to enjoy the short week with my boys ūüėČ

Life lessons from 48 hours in a theme park

During our France trip we spent two days in the “Magical Kingdom” in Paris. It’s been fun. Still deciding if I should write a review (I loved it!). Before I do that, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve observed‚Äč and learned about life, just from our short time there…

  • Children can move quickly if they want to – tell your child they’ve got 10 minutes to get to the other side of the park before they miss the slot on a Buzz Lightyear ride and just check out the speed they develop. Think about that next time their dawdling in Tescos
  • Children can be patient when they want – we waited 90 minutes for one ride! That’s about the length of a Disney animated film!! Regardless of the fact he hated the ride and cried when he finally got off, it reminded me that finding your child’s motivation is really important. I sound like a cheesy management training guide, but knowing what motivates someone can really help to drive them towards a goal
  • Fast food is still king – yes I know it’s a holiday destination and we should all have a ‘treat’, but the amount of burgers, chip and sugary snacks available in modern life is worrying. It was actually difficult to find anything that resembled a vegetable, apart from in the expensive restaurants 
  • Islamaphobia is real – sad but very true. I’m a people watcher. I love looking at people in a queue, wondering what their story is, conjuring up some exciting journey that has brought us to the same point. But I couldn’t help but notice the number of extended glances aimed towards people  of a certain skin tone or women wearing headscarves. Isn’t it sad that we can’t just let people enjoy their days out? Do I want my sons to grow up in a world where people so blatantly give fearful or even disgusted looks to people because of their race or religion? 
  • We are selfie obsessed – they are everywhere!! From young girls to ‘wannabe cool’ dads. I worry that people aren’t really soaking up the environment around them and missing beautiful sights, just so they can perfect a pout
  • Languages are important – I love languages. I sometimes regret not pursuing a career that let me use my degree level Spanish. I don’t think everyone needs to learn them to this level, but just having a basic appreciation for host language can break barriers. Seeing the smiles on people’s faces as my son uttered a mancunian “merci”, was lovely. One of my favourite quotes from Nelson Mandela says, 

    If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.

    In times of ignorance and intolerance, this couldn’t be more true

  • Family time is important – even with the sugar highs (and lows), spending small fortunes on fatty foods and tat, you can’t get much better than family time. No work emails, no chores, no gadgets, nothing to rush back for. Just a chance to talk, laugh, play and really enjoy each other’s company. Even moody teenagers were laughing with parents and siblings!! Whether it’s going abroad or staying at home with a board game, this is what really makes a difference to little ones – blocking out other influences and just enjoying time as a family. We just can’t let modern life let us think otherwise 

XX 

Getting Crafty with ToucanBox

I’m not the ‘craftiest’ of mothers, I’ll be honest. I always liked the idea of spending rainy afternoons creating various pieces of art with my kids, with some music playing in the background, laughing and joking etc…

That rarely happens. I hate mess! We do have craft box and umpteen toilet role tubes, so every now and then we will get crafty, when Boy1 has some inspiration, because I can never think of anything.

So I got very excited when I heard about Toucan Box. It seems as though you can get everything through a regular subscription box these days, food, cosmetics, cocktails (yes, I know!!) and now crafts.

The blurb

ToucanBox is a flexible subscription service offering mini craft ‘projects’ for children aged 3-8 years. According to the site, the boxes mean parents ” can spend less time trawling through toy stores and more time making mini masterpieces with your budding masterminds.”

How it works

When you sign up, you are asked to privide your children’s names, ages etc and even answer a personality quiz, so that their boxes can be tailored. This is a great touch and gives you confidence they’ll like what arrives.

A fortnightly subscription costs from £3.95 + another £1 p&p. Bigger boxes cost more, of course.

The activity

The box arrived fairly quickly in a lovely turquoise box, addressed to Boy1, which instantly got him excited.

Eastern 100%
Inside our parcel

We opened it up to find our project was a dinosaur tail and mask. Lovely animated cards with clear instructions.

It came with enough tape and sticky bits. The only thing we needed was a pair of scissors. Thankfully, this particular activity needed very little adult supervision, which meant I could get on with the ironing.

Boy1 found the instructions fairly easy to follow and it took him about 20min to complete.

After a bit of peeling and sticking, followed by some cutting, we had our tail and mask.

 

The Verdict

I really do like the idea of ToucanBox. It provides the inspiration along with the materials. I believe in other boxes they even provide glue, so its very convenient. I like the fact my son was able to get on with it whilst I was ironing, rather than him being glued to a screen.

Boy 1 really enjoyed it. It’s not the kind of thing he would usually make (sword/marble-run/boardgame), so the surprise element was fun. Plus he felt a sense of achievement in completing it himself.

I’d say for ¬£10 a month it is a bit pricey for me, because we¬†aren’t¬†that crafty. Part of me would rather spend ¬£10 in B&M Bargains on lots of random craft items, which I know would last for ages. But it is a nice treat and for a child/family that struggles to come with ideas, this does provide some inspiration. I know Boy1 has already started to think of other things he could make.

Definitely worth giving it a try, so sign up for your free trial here: https://www.toucanbox.com/freesample

Remember summer holidays are just around the corner…

 

Rating: 4/5

Experimenting in the kitchen….with success!¬†

We’ve been weaning Boy 2 for a few weeks¬†now and I have to admit, I haven’t been quite as ‘on it’ as I was with Boy 1. No recipe books, just winging it this time. So far it’s been going quite well, but it’s time to make a bit more effort.

Boy 2 loves trying to feed himself so I really want to encourage him. Today I decided to experiment with savoury pancakes. I’ll admit, I glimpsed on a recipe for savoury muffins but couldn’t be bothered to reheat the oven and get the muffin cases out. Improvising seemed to work and these pancakes are tasty and super quick…

1. Grate equal quantities of carrot and courgette in a bowl (I’d say about a medium size each)


2. Grate a similar amount of cheddar cheese. I used mature to give it more flavour and would definitely recommend it.


3. Add one beaten medium egg and a tablespoon of plain flour then mix thoroughly. It should form quite a thick batter


4. Heat some olive oil in a pan and pour a table spoon of batter.

5. Cook for a few min on each side until slightly brown and the centre is cooked

6.remove from pan and leave to cool until they are the temperature  for your little one

7. Enjoy!


Boy 2 absolutely loves these. I break them up and leave on the highchair table so he can feed himself. He’ll usually have 2 in one sitting which means I can keep the rest for another meal.

Tip. These can stay in the fridge for a couple of days, but are great for taking out and about. No spoons or bowls needed!

I’m hoping to try a few more variations (squash, parsnip, beetroot) and even making sweet versions with apple or banana.

Review: Zizzi, Corn Exchange Manchester

Last week I received an email from the Corn Exhchange in Manchester to say that some of the new restaurants are ready to open. More importantly it said that the new Zizzi branch was holding a training day, which meant I got to see the new venue and taste the food before anyone else. Result.

It’s been a long time since I ate in a Zizzi. It was always seen as a slightly fancier version of Pizza Express in my student days. So I was looking forward to seeing what they had to offer now.

So I booked a table for myself, my mum, Boy 1, with Boy 2 in tow. We arrived promptly and they had my details. Tick.

As we we had a buggy, we needed to use the lift to get down to the main restaurant. With it being a training day, staff were literally learning on the job so we were the lift guinea pigs. Low and behold we got stuck!

Once seated, our friendly waiter Zsolt came to the table to take our orders. Unfortunately a few items on the menu weren’t available, but he was quick to offer alternatives and recommendations.

The food 

 

We went for the garlic bread and Zizzi antipasti to start. Both came on rather trendy long wooden boards, which were rather impressive. The garlic bread, fresh pizza base with a tasty garlic butter, was more generous than expected. Slightly crispy, but soft in the middle.

The antipasti came with a selection of prosciutto, speck, coppa and finocciona, along with a dollop of creamy mozzarella, olives and dough sticks. While the meat serving s didn’t look particularly big, when combined with everything else, it was plenty. Definitely enough for three of us.


My mum went for the Calzone Pollo Spinaci. It was huge! Generous portion of chicken, mushroom and spinach, stuffed in a pizza base and topped with coppa ham. The little tomato sauce on the size was tasty, but not really necessary. All in all … Tick¬†

 

I went for the Classic Caprina on a rustica base, which is stretched to a thinner, more oblong shape than the classic. The vegetarian pizza is topped with goat’s cheese, pepperonata, spring onions, roquito pepper pearls and baby watercress. All in all a very tasty and filling dish. ¬†Depending on the size of your appetite, I’d say it could easily be shared with a side salad.

The kids menu at Zizzi is pretty simple and to be expected. All receive a starter of carrot and cucumber sticks with a couple of dough sticks, which is just enough. Boy 1 did tuck into some our starter too, but he loves garlic bread. A choice of pasta (sauce options of bolognese, tomato sauce or cheese sauce) or pizza (choose your topping).

The drink 

Both adults decided to go for a glass of wine (well, it would be rude not to!). The California Zinfandel was a little on the sweet side for me, but was chilled and refreshing, while the Montepulciano was crisp and light, a good value choice for lunch.

The good bit aka Dessert

Boy 1 chose a scoop of strawberry sorbet and a scoop of chocolate ice cream. Good enough size to fill smaller stomaches, although I wonder if a younger child would have been able to finish it all.


While mum decided to bow out after round two I just had to go for a dessert and chose the summer special Raspberry Rosa Sundae. If you are a fan of Eton Mess, this would work for you. Scoops of soft strawberry sorbet, ice cream, mascarpone, topped with meringue and fresh raspberries. Delicious!

The verdict…

All in all we definitely enjoyed our lunch. Good food and great service, a good choice for a family lunch, or a stop while out shopping if you don’t want to go for American style food or pub grub. Or total bill was just under ¬£70.

Welcome to Manchester, Zizzi. It will be interesting to see if they can maintain the quality once the honeymoon is over and some of the other, more ‘exciting’ venues have opened their doors.

Rating: 3.5/5

Kids bike workshops at Halfords

During the holidays, Halfords, the national cycling retailer holds FREE bike maintenance workshops for kids.

We booked a place and went along to the Trafford store in White City.

 On arrival we had to wait a few minutes, as there was a bit of confusion about where the session would take place. I had to lug Boy 2 up the stairs in his buggy, only to bring him back down again, but a friendly member of staff have me a hand.
It turned out that we were the only ones who bothered to honour our booking, which meant a free 1-2-1 session for Boy 1. ūüėä

After being escorted to the back of the shop, we were introduced to Pete, who decided to tailor the session to my son’s preference.

Pete was really friendly and professional. Given that the shops aren’t really catered towards interacting with youngsters, he did a great job of speaking to Boy 1 at his level – not too patronising, but not too much bike jargon.


He talked through the ‘M check’ process used for checking a bike is roadworthy.

Start at your back wheel, checking for punctures and ensure the chain is positioned properly.

Then move up to your seat to check it is the correct height and firmly in place.

Next, the pedals, up to the handle bars and gears. Then finally the front wheel.

Rather tan just talking at us for an hour, Pete allowed Boy 1 to have a go at tightening screws, pumping tires and fixing punctures.


With a 7 year old who is obsessed with the number of gears on his new bike, Pete kindly offered to explain which setting a and combinations are best.

The verdict 

Whilst it wasn’t the most glamorous way to spend a Wednesday morning, we both found it very useful. I’d certainly recommend it for children age 6+.

Plus, we got biscuits!!

I do think they’ve missed a trick though…. Maybe giving some kind of pack with a certificate of completion, or quiz, or even some good old fashioned stickers. Kids LOVE stickers! Any kind of take-home item to remind them of the experience and what they’ve learnt would work really well.

Rating: 4/5