Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Go Mum Go is on a Christmas Holiday 

Back with you very soon with more adventures and family fun 

Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year

Sunday, 11 December 2016

The colours of Christmas

First there is champagne - what would the party season be without it ?

Then there's silver and blue - the wrapping paper I used for the decorative presents at the school Christmas fair.

The shades of the autumn leaves that crunch underfoot when we walk to school or to the park or to feed the ducks.

The white of my cat - he spends the cold days on our bed so he stays white too

The red stage lights at the Wedding Present gig we went to this week.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

It's Panto season. Oh yes it is !!

Pantomime has history in our family and I remember taking my younger sisters to watch Christmas cat and the pudding pirates when I was at Uni when they were of primary school age. It was written by Christopher Lillicrap and was the perfect Christmas show which my Mum also enjoyed. Since then it's been a family tradition to go to a Christmas show every year. In the past we used to go to watch Christmas movies, including Tim Burton's The Night Before Christmas (excellent) and Jingle All the Way (not so much). One year we went to Sadler's Wells to watch Edward Scissorhands the ballet - that was absolutely stunning.

The Christmas movies I love include Elf (who doesn't), Love Actually (ok, I know, shuttup), Die Hard (yes of course it's a Christmas movie) and Miracle on 34th Street which I tried to watch with Brown Bear, but he's not that into it... yet. These are all on the telly most years so we've gone back to watching panto.

Last year I took Brown Bear and his best friend to watch Aladdin at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley. He had been to see Cinderella the year before with his school so he knew the format and was familiar with the audience participation too. The boys joined in with 'he's behind you,' 'oh no it isn't' and booed loudly at the baddie. It was a great night out with ice cream in the interval and plenty of familiar songs for them to enjoy. The scene with the flying carpet was particularly entrancing and the boys loved the show and we met Wishee Washee afterwards. I made a promise to myself that I'd make it an annual thing us to go to watch a Christmas show from now on.

So next week I'm taking Brown Bear to see Peter Pan starring Craig Revel Horwood - not that my boy knows who that is of course. He loves pirates, like any self-respecting young child does, so I think he's going to enjoy Captain Hook and Smee. He isn't familiar with the story of Peter Pan though, so I'm hoping he enjoys it. If nothing else he's going to love the ice cream in the interval and I'll be shouting along with him during the audience participation bits.

Oh I've just realised that Love Actually is on. Pass the tissue box - I may need to dab some tears.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Small acts, big impact.

Tomorrow a lot of children (and adults) will start opening windows on their advent calendars. For a lot of us that means a small chocolate treat and a larger on on the last day. The last few years I've bought Lego advent calenders and in the past I've filled the pockets of a felt christmas tree that proved trickier than I expected. Tiny cars and chocolate coins seemed to fit, but after a few days Brown Bear was onto me and said, "they're all the same thing." Oh well.

As I was sorting through baby clothes and toys today to donate to charity I realised that the run up to Christmas is busy for me, but not because of shopping or baking Christmas cake or puddings. I take this time to think of ways to give and donating clothes, food, toys and time are all part of this for me.

So I was delighted to see a 'kindness advent calendar' doing the rounds on Facebook. It suggests 24 acts of kindness you can do during the period of advent and they are mostly, easy, quick and cheap or free. Check it out - some of the ideas are so simple, yet lovely.

In the same spirit I'm going to share my annual 'do something good' list with you. I feel passionately that we can all do something postive and helpful - however small.

Donate toys: a lot of charities will accept toys at Christmas. Some will specify that they must be new, but others will ask that they are clean and in good condition. What a lovely way to regift loved toys that are no longer played with ? 

Be kind all day: this includes things like holding the door open, letting someone in front of you in traffic, popping your change into a donation box. Smile at people, even if you don't know them. Little things.

Rehome clothes: organisations that work with the homeless often ask for coats, jumpers, blankets at this time of year as the cold makes sleeping rough even harder. Clothing for men is often in demand, but women's clothes can also be taken. Ask if they need other items too such as toiletries or sanitary products. I've given paper cups and teabags to charities that run soup kitchens in the winter in addition to gloves, hats and scarves. 

Give blood: Ok that is a biggie, but it's really important. There is just as much need for blood products over the winter months, but due to holidays fewer people donate. If you can give blood please make an appointment to donate. I always joke that I only do it for the tea and biscuits afterwards - they do nice biscuits :)

Donate to a food bank: If you're doing the shopping can you add a few items to your basket or trolley to pop into the food donation box ? A lot of people rely on food donations to feed their families and anything you can give will make a difference. As well as longlife staple food items I like to pop in some treats like yummy biscuits or chocolate for children. 

Now this one is the hardest to do for a lot of people, but it really is worth it.

Listen to someone: I mean really listen. Put your phone away, sit down and take the time. Maybe have a cup of tea or a meal, but just have an honest conversation in which you give someone your full attention. If you can do this with your child, a parent, a neighbour who lives alone even better.

I hope you try some of these suggestions. Take your pick and if you'd like to share with me what you did I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Winter fun for everyone

I love the winter time. I rock big knitwear, bobble hats, furry lined boots and seek out sparkly Christmas lights. Some of my favourite things to do as a family are during the winter and they're not even that pricey. Here are my top tips for fun stuff to do during the colder months. And no they're not all about Christmas !

Winter Wonderland is ten years old this year

Winter Wonderland has become a bit of a fixture in Hyde Park for years now. We've yet to go, but I've heard good things about it and it's always busy. The event takes over Hyde Park for weeks in the run up to Christmas and offers rides, ice skating and a Christmas market. It's free to go into, but there is a charge for the activities once you're inside and I'm reliably informed that you will have to queue for a while to go on anything so wrap up warm.

One of our new family traditions is a Christmas visit to Birdworld to see Santa. The boys enjoy it and it's really magical walking through the grotto to meet the big man and to check that Percy Penguin isn't napping on the job. We love it because you get to see some animals on the way into the grotto - including reindeer that I am assured are happy and well looked after - and the price includes a present for the children and a mince pie and mulled wine for adults. I know it's not in London, but it's not far so I've included it.

Oxford Street lights 

When I was a kid the big night of our year was when my parents would pile us all into the car to see the Christmas lights in London. This was before every town in the country had it's own big switch on with celebrities. It's still impressive and we take our boys to see all the lights near us and they look forward to seeing them every year.

You can name these lights on Regent's Street 

As a bonus we also used to go and see the seasonal window displays. The highlights for me were Selfridges, Dickens and Jones (remember them ?) and Libertys. We would get out of the car to ooh and aah at the windows of Harrods, Hamleys and occasionally we'd even get out at Trafalgar Square to see the fountains and special Norwegian Christmas tree. It's not an option to get out of a car and stroll any more - sadly. You can still make an evening of it if you are prepared to go on foot and I'd recommend the South Bank with it's winter market stalls and the view of all the lights along the Thames.

Fantasy windows from Oasis 

My personal favourite in the winter is ice skating and the amazing locations with ice rinks seems to increase every year. I've been to the Natural History Museum, Broadgate and Hampton Court Palace to skate and it's great fun. A long established rink at Somerset House is very popular and one of the new kids on the block is a rink next to the London Eye on the South Bank. You can buy packages that include a hot chocolate and skate hire so you can make a night of it ! I took Brown Bear a couple of years back and we booked a penguin to help him skate and had a hot chocolate afterwards, it was great fun. You do have to book a penguin in advance as they are limited in number and they also offer special sessions for toddlers and parents so you don't have to worry about professional show-offs mowing down your children.

Ice Skating in the shadow of dinosaurs 
If you are planning a winter evening out in London there is plenty to do and not all of it will cost money. I think we have some wonderful attractions and family friendly activities that are well worth taking the time to visit. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do. 

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

'tis the season for giving

I've been thinking about the values that we teach our children and one of the main reasons I share ideas for things to do with kids is to encourage others to do the same. A big part of our family life is giving to others. I want to raise my boys to be men who are valued members of society and whose worth is measured in more than monetary terms - not that there's anything wrong with that too of course. So, it's important that I lead by example and show them how being kind is important.

Recently we talked about how many toys they have and how they are so fortunate to get new gifts for birthdays and at Christmas. We agreed that the toys they no longer play with - only if they are in good condition - could be donated to other children who don't have much. The boys were very generous in their decisions to give things away and I almost had to hold them back from giving everything away. I posted on a local freecycle site and was contacted by someone from a local refugee charity that supports families in the local area. Blue Bear and I went on Monday with bags of children's shoes, toys., handbags and some clothes. We get to clear space and someone else gets to play with the toys and wear the shoes. Double bubble.

When we go food shopping we put a few extra things into the shop to donate to the food bank. At Christmas I like to include some treats like mince pies, chocolates, an advent calendar or two and some posh biscuits or crackers for cheese. Our local food bank also collect toys and clothes at Christmas to give to the families who rely on their support.

Every year the Metropolitan Police run a Christmas campaign to give presents to children who might otherwise not get anything. Last year 11,000 presents were given out so it is a big thing and worth taking part in. You can donate to one child or a few - it is entirely up to you how much you spend and last year we were given a lovely Christmas card from a police dog as a thank you. It's the little things that make me happy.

I'm sure I've mentioned before that blood donation is an incredible gift. If you are able to donate it's particularly important at this time of year as stocks run low during the winter months, but the demand for blood products does not. It doesn't take long to donate at all and you can make an appointment in advance. If you're a bit funny about needles just tell them when you arrive - they are really nice and want to make it as easy as possible for you. Once you've donated you get to have a drink and a snack - I love the tea and biscuits afterwards. Honestly if you can give blood I cannot express how important it is that you try.

Lastly, it's getting cold and there are charities that collect coats, blankets and clothing for people who are sleeping rough. If you are in London you can donate a coat at an allocated donation point until this Friday (18th Nov). If you have clothes you no longer wear that are in good condition there will be a charity that can take them. The Salvation Army in Croydon accept clothes for men and women and give them directly to people in need.

These are a few of the ways that we give. I hope that when my boys are all grown up they will still think about others and want to keep this family tradition going. I'd be so proud if they did. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Boxpark Croydon: My new exploration challenge

Look at how beautiful it is !
I took a walk this evening to explore Boxpark - a new venue in Croydon that opened last weekend. It is a phenomenon that started out in Shoreditch and has now come South of the river. I knew something was up when I saw a man with a top knot style hairdo a while back and have watched the rising interest in artisan coffee for years now. We've had our own Cronx brewery too and most recently a project took over all the walls in Croydon with street art that is frankly amazing. Boxpark, however, takes us to a whole new level of cool and I can see why. I mean look at the design of it for a start. How cool is that ?

You can get to Heathrow on that bus - seriously ! 
Unlike our East London counterpart this Boxpark is food, drink and music. There are not fashion outlets - so far. It's right next to East Croydon station and well served by plenty of public transport so if you've planned an after work drink or bite to eat you've got plenty of options for getting home afterwards. 

The perfect lighting for a first date

It was proper parky* tonight so there weren't so many outdoor diners / drinkers, but the outside seating is plentiful and well lit. Probably just right for first dates I reckon. As it is the outdoor spaces are taken up by smokers, but at least the design has incorporated plenty of greenery to counteract the container look. 

I know people who are slavering right now 

There are plenty of food places that already have a great reputation elsewhere and pride of location goes to Meat Liquor which pretty much dominates the upstairs of the Boxpark. Not my scene at all, but it was doing a roaring trade for a Wednesday evening. Mind you maybe Wednesday is the new (insert day of the week most associated with partying nowadays). 

Excellent motto 

I was impressed with how busy it was and yet not at all crowded. I'm sure this will be different at weekends when it's going to be heaving and with so many places to eat and drink it will attract a range of visitors. I've already scoped out all my dining plans for the weekend:

Friday - free Burritos at Chilangos with the kids before we go to watch the fireworks - yes please !!

Saturday - I'm trying to talk my lovely friend into coming with me. I think meat liquor will persuade her though

Sunday - Brunch at the Breakfast Club, by far my favourite venue for a late breakfast / early lunch. The kids have never been before so fingers crossed they enjoy it.

Monday - it's Hubbie's birthday so after parents' evening we're going to take a stroll down to Boxpark and see what takes his fancy.

I haven't seen this many seats since my uni exams ! 
There is so much to try that I've set myself a challenge - I'm dedicating the rest of this year to exploring the eateries and bars and will use it as leverage to get more people to visit Croydon. We are proper trendy now you know !! 

I'm going to be seeing a lot of this sign

* parky is colloquial for very, very cold indeed 

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Half term fun and ice skating at the Eden Project

Autumn half term is a much needed break for both children and adults in our house. The kids are exhausted from being back at school and the run up to Christmas is punctuated by Hallowe'en, bonfire night and for us Diwali. I have spent the last few weeks collecting leaves, pine cones and conkers with Blue Bear, he loves taking them into pre-school to show his friends.

The other thing that happens during this half term is we celebrate our wedding anniversary and this year we decided to go away for a few days and for the boys to stay with grandparents. In the past we've taken the boys to Coombe Mill - our favourite holiday destination - and spent a week in Cornwall, but this year we wanted to go it child-free. There are a few highlights that are worth knowing about if you are planning a UK break.

Lappa Valley: 

We visit Lappa every time we go to Cornwall, the boys just love it. By the boys I also mean Hubbie. It truly is the best family day out with steam, diesel and static trains (a cafe on sleepers is the latest addition). There is also a boating lake, crazy golf and a large playground and indoor play for the days when it's a bit too chilly to play outside. Not that anything stops our boys from wanting to go outside and play. There are seasonal events so this half term there is the Halloween Spooktacular and at we've also been at Christmas and seen Father Christmas there.

Eden Project: 

My first visit was when Eden first opened over 15 years ago and I was captivated by it then. I went back after a long time when we brought Brown Bear to Coombe Mill for the first time in July 2014. I had wanted to go back to Eden for years, but with it being so far from home I hadn't had the chance. Now I visit at least once a year if not more. That first year we took Brown Bear to Eden for Christmas and saw the best Father Christmas I think I've ever seen. He was so convincing I had to pinch myself.

My favourite thing to do in the colder months (apart from skiing) is ice skating and the rink at Eden is fantastic, set in a biome of its own outside the rainforest and mediterranean zones. I've taken Brown Bear skiing with me and he loved going round with Pedro Penguin. This visit was my first skate of the year and it's always the same - starts off with me looking like a foal finding it's feet and by the end I'm convinced I'm at an Olympic standard. I'm not. If you can make it to the end of the 40 minute session there is a snowfall that will leave visitors young and old with a magical feeling about the experience.

In my wildest dreams I imagine that I will study / volunteer at Eden and be a regular visitor here pretty much forever. I can hope can't I ?

Fishing villages: 

There are some beautiful places to visit and we have only been to a handful of them so far. The ones I'd recommend visiting with children are:

Mevagissy is a really pretty vilage which has a model railway that Brown Bear loved visiting and there is a traditional sweet shop that drew my eye as well. If you fancy seeing some more here is a list of the top ten fishing villages of which Mevagissy is one: http://www.cornwalls.co.uk/top_ten/fishing_villages.htm

Padstow is pretty well known and hardly qualifies as a village any more, so it's often busy in the summer months. We still love visiting for the great fish and chips and ice cream that makes the boys' tongues go blue. This visit we went to Rick Stein's seafood reastaurant for our anniversary which was a treat. Not something that we would do with the boys - well not at this age anyway.


We love taking the boys to the beach and even in the Autumn there is plenty to see and do. In the Summer I took Brown Bear surfing at Polzeath beach. We both loved it and while you can still surf I'm not keen to get in the water when it's cold. Instead we like to walk and explore the rock pools. We've usually been lucky with sunshine even on the coldest days in Cornwall. Trebarwith Strand offers a lovely coastal walk to Tintagel and on the afternoon we visited the boys had a lovely time playing with boats and making footprints in the sand.

I can't imagine a time when we won't enjoy going to Cornwall as a family or as a couple. Not when there is so much fun to have and so many adventures yet to enjoy.

Disclosure: We received complimentary entry and ice skating from the lovely folks at the Eden Project. 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

An evening adventure in London

Sometimes we make plans to have a grown up night out and arrange babysitting so that we can enjoy each other's company child-free for just a few hours. Last night was supposed to be one of those and we had tickets to see a comedian in London.

Then Hubbie rang me to say there was going to be a rail strike so it was unlikely we'd be able to both make the early start of the show as our babysitter prefers to take care of the boys when at least one of them is already in bed. As we would have had to leave immediately after feeding the boys it wasn't going to happen.

The last time we had tickets to see Stewart Lee I ended up staying home with a poorly child - despite my best efforts to persuade him that he'd be fine if I went out for a few hours. This time it was my turn to go so off I went to negotiate the depleted train services and jam packed streets of London only to arrive out of breath just in time to see the show start.

As it started so early - Hubbie has a theory that Stew is a fan of Bake off and wanted to get home, but I reckon he has to do bedtime for the kids when he gets in - I found myself in London town on an Autumn evening with no rush to get home.

I've always loved walking in London and the evenings are a special time as everything looks so different. I used to run in St James's park with my friend Soraya at lunchtimes. When it's dark it's a much more serene place and the rain spattered roads add a sheen to the whole picture.

Of course I'd have loved to have had a romantic walk hand in hand with Hubbie, but an evening walk in London by myself was a pretty lovely adventure to have. It reminded me to do something for myself every now and again.

Even better I spotted some traffic signs that made me proud that I'm from London. I only managed to catch this one in a photo, but if you're around Trafalger Square you may spot others.

Next time I hope we both get to spend the evening together - not least as it's going to be our anniversary !

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Say it with flowers - learning a new skill with Julie Davies

If you've been following me on instagram (if not why not ? Go on do it now - it's ok I'll wait) you will notice I've been posting photos of flowers a lot recently. I love flowers and have been taking an online course with Julie Davies that is designed for busy mums (and dads of course) who want to learn how to make the best of flowers. 

I was keen to take the course as I wanted to learn a new skill and taking it online was so convenient for me. You can take as little or as much time as you like and do the homework as and when it suits. There are tasks like preparing flowers, choosing colours and thinking about what flowers mean to you. The practical tasks are fun and result in lovely arrangements - hopefully. 

The first week's homework was arranging flowers in a straight sided jar. I chose some lovely carnations in co-ordinating colours and used one of my favourite vases in a rectangular shape. 

Finished tank arrangement 

Flower foam was introduced in the second week and Julie showed how to soak the foam before use and then how to shape it for the teacup arrangement. I loved watching the online videos of Julie demonstrating skills and showing how to do things. I'm a visual learner so it was really helpful for me to see how it's done before having a go myself.
I chose these lovely blooms 

Flower foam
teacup arrangement 
Overhead view 

Then we did an experiment about what to feed our flowers. I took four clean jars and some simple clean stems. In each jar I put a small amount of water and then added sugar in one, lemon juice in another, bleach in the third and kept the fourth as plain water.

After a week I observed how the flowers had coped in their different containers.


I found it really interesting that the blooms that fared best were those in water and sugar. Those in bleach and lemon seemed to dry out and looked a bit poorly. That really surprised me as although I've heard that sugar feeds flowers I've never tried it before. I'm not saying it will be a regular thing, but it did give me food for thought.


One of the containers I love the most is this metal jug that I use to make small arrangements or to place little bunches of roses from the garden. The task in week three was to arrange flowers in such a way as they would look like you'd just carried them in from the garden. It was tougher than I imagined as the wide mouth of the jar required some thinking so the flowers didn't 'gape.' I was quite pleased with the finished result though.

My jug vase 
Jug arrangement 

The final week was making a hand tied posy. This is my second attempt as my first was a bit clumsy looking. I'm delighted with this as it makes a simple supermarket bunch look really special. Julie also showed how to wrap the posy so it looks really pretty and professional.

Hand tied posy

I'd recommend taking Julie's courses as you get to be creative, your home will be filled with beautiful flowers and you can take your time to do the tasks as and when you can fit them into your life.

I didn't spend a fortune on flowers. All of mine came from Lidl or Aldi and the flower foam was from Hobbycraft and was really cheap. All the vases are my own and I've collected them over the years.

You can try a mini course for 5 days to see if you would enjoy doing a course with Julie. There is so much support online in her facebook group  and on twitter and I loved sharing my work and seeing what others had achieved.


Sunday, 2 October 2016

A first trip to Legoland for my boy's birthday treat

We asked Brown Bear a while back what he'd like to do for his birthday and he replied - unequivically - that he wanted to go to Legoland. I realise that it may be bordering on negligent on our part that he has made it to 6 years old without going, but I think he's now at an age where he can truly appreciate it. I grew up 20 minutes drive from Windsor so we would go there regularly either to the safari park (where the monkeys would snap off your windscreen wipers - a sure sign they weren't happy in my book) or to see the castle long before they introduced an entry charge. 

Before we went I asked for some tips on what to do on our visit. Almost everyone said get there early and I can see why. Even on a rainy day in October the car park was heaving when we arrived. The other tip was to go to the very end and work back as it's a long walk at the end of the day otherwise. This proved to be a great bit of advice as there is so much to see and do that just doing a circuit to see what is where proved helpful in planning our visit. My lovely blogger pal Lou also said go to the Laser Raiders ride so we queued for it. It took a lot longer than I expected, but the boys really enjoyed shooting lasers at targets. I think if we go again I won't go for the long queues as we realised (afterwards) that the notice boards give you a heads up how long the queues are in the entire park. 

One of the things I really liked when we waited the longest was this kids area where Brown Bear sat and watched a lego movie while we stood in line. Blue Bear wasn't so keen to be left so we carried him instead. The queue management is pretty good on Laser Raiders, I guess because it's so popular. You can purchase ways to jump the queues, but as it was our first visit we decided not to. I think that was the right idea and on a future visit I would consider it, but we did so much I didn't feel the need on this occasion. 

Brown Bear was so excited when he saw that there is a fire academy in Legocity. We headed over there and both boys could hardly contain themselves when we got to take part. It is an exhausting activity, but we had such fun that I can heartily recommend it. 

After we'd been on some rides and put out fires we went to see Miniland. This is the bit of Legoland that I have always seen in photos and it's pretty breathtaking. Brown Bear loved London and Blue Bear ran around looking for the moving trains and boats. As the boys missed football to go to Legoland it was with great joy that they spotted a mini version of Wembley (the original one) and cheered on the match that was taking place. 

I had to share a photo of Covent Garden as it's such an iconic London location.  

This year is Legoland's 20th birthday and we were there to see a live show featuring Olly the dragon and his dance moves. The sun came out and we all had a bop along with him on the grass. 

As we were getting tired and wanted to get going we decided to make our way out, but Brown Bear spotted a sign for the Star Wars Miniland exhibit. I'm so glad we did as it is really impressive. Lego depictions of great battles from the movies and all the iconic characters take your breath away, but the most amazing is the Millenium Falcon and a Death Star that sent a chill down my spine. 

We didn't have the best weather as it was rainy and sunny in turns all day. This did result in the perfect end to our day though. A double rainbow. 

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Legoland gave us a family ticket for our day out.