Saturday, 20 September 2014

When things aren't quite as they seem...

Last night, my sisters and I went to our favourite restaurant, The Terrace on The Hill in Malvern, as a last evening out before my youngest sister goes to university. While we were there, we overheard someone talking about a poor review on TripAdvisor that had rated the service badly. This got us chatting about TripAdvisor, and how one person who has taken offence to something innocent can have such an awful effect on the success of an establishment, just by writing a poor review.

I honestly can't think of anywhere with better service than The Terrace on The Hill, we have been there several times with both Libby and Lia and were always served quickly. The staff are so friendly that they even remember us when we go. I admit, I'm a little addicted to their cakes so we have been a few times! Prior to chatting to my sister about this, I would probably have been the sort of person to see a bad review on TripAdvisor and avoid the restaurant. I'm just glad I hadn't seen this before I went. Not only is the service amazing, but they are incredibly reasonably priced, both for the delicious evening tasting menu and the gorgeous (and HUGE) afternoon tea.

My sister mentioned that she had served a table a few weeks ago in the pub that she works in. Someone had complained about the portion size, so she took it away and gave them double the amount. She also took the cost of that meal off the bill, so not only did they effectively have two portions, they didn't even pay for it. Despite that, she heard them discussing how they were going to give the pub a poor review on TripAdvisor. I know I'm biased because my sisters work there, but the food is amazing, the service is excellent and the pub is a lovely, friendly local pub. They even won the title of the best beer pub in Britain this year and yet people could be put off by one bad review on TripAdvisor.

I also read an article this week about a student who used social media to convince her family that she was travelling around South East Asia, when she was in fact in her bedroom for the duration of her five-week "trip". This was a very, very clever university project, which is reminiscent of the videos shared by CEOP to highlight the risks of meeting up with someone you met online, who isn't necessarily the person you think they are.

So I've learnt something this week; always to take things with a massive pinch of salt when they're online, however convincing they may seem. So on that note, is this a massive milkshake or a tiny head?! Answers on a postcard!

Hello School!

Libby was only two in June, but already we are starting to get concerned about her going to school. Our local school isn't a place that I'd like to send her to, and getting into a different one is going to be difficult and may involve a house move. We will need to apply next year, and if we only get offered our local school I'll home-school Libby until we manage to move to somewhere with a nice school. One of the best chances she'll have of getting into a nice local school is if she goes to the nursery, so we are already looking at nurseries to send her to when she turns three, and she will probably start going at least one day a week as soon as after Christmas.

That's why I jumped at the chance to review a new book from Campbell called Hello School by Angie Rozelaar.

Whilst Libby isn't ready for school yet, she does love reading, and getting her used to the idea of school as a positive thing seems like a fabulous idea. When I first had a flick through the book, I was unsure as to whether it was aimed at Libby's age group. Libby now understands and enjoys a basic storyline, but is a long way off reading for herself. I felt that this book was aimed more at either older children about to start school who could read it themselves, or younger children who weren't yet ready for a story since it is more informative than narrative.

Having said that, the book is really interactive, with lots of things happening with flaps that you pull, push or spin. After a couple of times reading the book, Libby is getting the idea about school, as she asked her dad today whether she would be going there. The other thing I have learnt from this book is that I'm making a mistake by not bothering to tell Libby the title of the books we are reading, I tend to just plough on into the book without mentioning the title.

This evening though, Libby decided that she wanted to read this book again and she had to explain to her dad "I want to read the school book, you know school, where Mary works". Dad didn't understand this and I had to translate and explain which book she wanted. She seems to be really enjoying the book and has read it numerous times now. I am really hopeful that by the time it comes to longer hours at nursery or full time school, she will be raring to go! So here is Libby enjoying a bit of educational bedtime reading.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Our Thursday Photo #19

I'm struggling to believe that it's Thursday again already, it only seems five minutes ago I was posting last week's photo from my phone. We came home from our holiday on Monday, having all had a fabulous week. Libby's speech is developing every day, and she is at a stage now where she generally talks perfect sense, so the odd word of utter nonsense or silly mistake can be really entertaining. Here are a few examples from this week:

Libby: I want to go on the radiator.

Dad: The radiator?

Libby: Yes, I want to go on the radiator (points at the escalator)

Libby: Oh look it's the yellow magazine.

Me: What magazine?

Libby: There on Lia's bib!

Me: Ah, the yellow submarine.

Me: We'll go blackberry picking tomorrow.

Libby: Can I go blackberry picking now?

Me: No, it's too dark outside.

Libby: Will we have to turn the light on?

Talking of entertaining, Lia now thinks that Libby is the funniest comedian the world has ever seen. For anyone who is trying to get a baby to smile for a photo, don't underestimate the hilarity of the fake sneeze. It works every time for Lia. So here is our Thursday photo #19, smiles brought to you courtesy of the fake sneeze!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Things to do in Pembrokeshire with a baby and a toddler

Last week, we had a lovely camping holiday in Pembrokeshire. I always find it difficult to know quite what to do with the girls when we're somewhere different, so I'm writing this in the hope that it might help someone else who pays a visit to the area with babies or young children.

We stayed at a campsite in Manorbier, a ten minute walk from the beach. At Libby's pace it was more of a 20  minute walk though, and if we'd had a buggy we'd have had no chance! The walk was through a beautiful wood and avoided the roads, but it was down some really big steps and a tricky hill. Perfect for us walking the dogs and Libby and carrying Lia, but the thought of dragging a buggy down there makes me shudder. Its safe to say though that for us, arriving at the beach to views like this made it all worthwhile.

The weather was incredibly kind to us, so we didn't need to check out the bad-weather options. Hubby took Libby on the boat from Tenby over to Caldey Island which they really enjoyed, but I stayed with Lia and the dogs and did some walking around the coastal path instead. As it turned out, there were dogs on the boat and we could have gone, but it's always a bit hard work with two dogs, a baby and a toddler so I enjoyed a day of walking and sunbathing.

Since going to Drayton Manor a couple of weeks ago, Libby has been raving about going on the rides, so we thought it was only fair to take her to Oakwood Theme Park while we were in Pembrokeshire. What I loved about Oakwood, was that there were some fairly exciting rides that Libby was able to go on. This included the treetops roller coaster, which was really quite quick and I was surprised how much Libby enjoyed it, she went on three times!

There were also some great water slides, a log flume and some flying rides in the Peter Pan section that Libby loved.

For Lia, things weren't quite so exciting. The thing I loved about Drayton Manor is that they let me take Lia on everything that Libby could go on. It was perfectly safe to do so, she enjoyed it and it meant that I was able to enjoy the day as well rather than being a spectator. Whilst I wouldn't expect Lia to be allowed to go on things like the roller coaster, I would have expected her to be able to go on some of the more tame rides. As it was, it didn't matter to Lia, but we definitely won't be going next year because she'll be old enough to want to go on them, but you had to be at least two years old to go on virtually everything so she'll miss out. That said, she did enjoy the little indoor play area, particularly the ball pool.

We were lucky enough to be in Pembrokeshire when the Ironman Wales event was going on, so we passed a pleasant day cheering on the cyclists between dog walks and trips to the beach. I had massive sports envy that day, and I don't mind saying publicly that I WILL be doing an Ironman one day! I'm realistic enough to know that it won't be until the kids are in school though so I have time to train. To everyone who completed Ironman Wales last week, massive congratulations.

We are home now after a lovely holiday and slowly getting back to normality. Jamer cat is delighted to see us, and plans are afoot for her to have her own blog, so watch this space!

N.B. This post is NOT sponsored or promoted in any way, just a review that I hoped might help other people visiting the area.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Our Thursday photo #18

On time with my post today, but posting from my phone as we're on holiday in sunny Pembrokeshire. Camping with two smalls is exceptionally hard work, but we are managing and enjoying the change of scenery.

In particular, Libby has enjoyed the beach and a boat ride, hubby is enjoying being of work and spending time with the girls and the dogs are getting plenty of fresh air and walking. For me, I've loved the change of running scenery. I managed to run down to the beach yesterday, have a short swim across the cove and back and then run along the coast path for a few miles. Beautiful.

The girls are getting closer to each other every day now that Lia is managing to interact a bit more, and our Thursday photo #18 depicts bedtime in the plutonium sox camp!

Friday, 5 September 2014

Our Thursday Photo #17

This week has been fabulous but insanely busy. I've had loads of work on from two different jobs, we've been back to Libby's clubs in the mornings and we had a day out to Drayton Manor. This has meant me working until around 12.30 am most nights just trying to get my work done. Yesterday, my sister arranged for us all to catch up for afternoon tea after Libby had been to playgroup. We went to a lovely restaurant that only opened a few months ago and I'm addicted to it already. Libby was exhausted by the time we got there, but both her and Lia behaved incredibly well and Libby ate plenty, despite having spent most of the morning eating as well. 

Lia has started having a few mouthfuls of food now. I prefer not to give her baby food, so we bought a hand blender and she has a little bit of whatever vegetables we are having, just blended up. She is really enjoying it and I think she's ready for it now. She is also sleeping a little better at night now rather than waking up hungry all the time, which is a relief as I'm down to about 4 hours sleep anyway between her and my work. 

We are going away for the week next week, just a short UK break but I'm really looking forward to the time off. I'm hoping to do lots of running by the beach and catch up on some sleep. It will be the first proper holiday for both girls, and we are staying in our folding camper tent to combine the camping experience with a bit of extra comfort. Fingers crossed for the weather! 

So despite the manic week we've had, I'm only a day late with our Thursday photo #17, which I see as a positive! Here are the girls enjoying Lia's play mat together. 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Tale of the Brave at Drayton Manor

Yesterday was Libby and Lia's first trip to a theme park. We were lucky enough to be invited to Drayton Manor to watch the brand new Thomas the Tank Engine movie, Tale of the Brave. Much to hubby's disgust, he couldn't get the day off work to come with us. Luckily for me, my fabulous photographer friend +Melanie Chadd was able to come with us. Not only did she take some *FABULOUS* photos, but she was a huge help with the kids, to the extent that Libby asked if she wanted to come and live with us! So thank you Mel for all your help and photos. If you are in the Herefordshire or Worcestershire area and need an incredible photographer, you can find Mel here

When we arrived at the park, we made our way straight to the 4D cinema for the screening. Libby's eyes lit up when she saw the popcorn and juice that had been laid on for the children. Rather impressively, THE Sir Topham Hatt (the Fat Controller) was greeting visitors and showed us all into the auditorium, which had smoke effects at the start. 

Libby adores trains, and has been waiting to ride on "Thomas the Engine" (as she calls him) for ages. As soon as he came on the screen, she was captivated, as was Lia. This was where taking a professional photographer with me came into its own, because in this photo you can literally see how much they loved it. 

Photo courtesy of

The story was about monsters on Sodor where Thomas and his friends live. There was an underlying message there that it's ok to be frightened, and that to be really brave you have to face up to your fears. It's really quite an exciting story, so when Libby started to get a little bit fidgety after she'd finished her popcorn, she still managed to watch it all and even I was gripped enough by the story to want to know what happened. 

After watching the film, Libby gratefully received a bag full of Thomas goodies before we headed off to enjoy the rest of the park. First stop, Thomas Land of course! Here, she got to meet her hero, and even ride on Thomas himself! 

Photo courtesy of
The staff at Drayton Manor were incredibly accommodating. I always carry Lia in the sling, and we all wanted to go on the rides together so Lia was allowed to go on everything that Libby wanted to. On one ride, Libby went on with Mel and I went with Lia, and a gentleman member of staff even let Libby jump into the car with us at the end of the ride for Mel to take a photo. 

Photo courtesy of

For anyone with pre-school age children, now is a perfect time to visit Drayton Manor, we didn't have to queue for any of the rides that the girls wanted to go on. Lia found some of them a bit of a surprise... 

Photo courtesy of

But both girls loved them none the less. Lia hardly slept all day, and Libby walked all the way round so by 4 pm, both girls were exhausted. We could have stayed much longer, we hardly touched on looking at the animals and didn't go on any of the rides more than once. I would highly recommend both a trip to Drayton Manor and the Tales of the Brave film. And so, it seems, would Libby! 

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of
N.B. We were given the opportunity to enjoy both the film and the park for free along with other bloggers. All views, opinions, babies, toddlers and fabulous photographer friends are my own.