Mama OWL Blog: August 2012

Little Super Sparks

Friday, 31 August 2012

I would love for you all to welcome my lovely friend Lucy to the blogging world with her brand new blog Little Super Sparks. It's also her birthday today, so maybe you could wish her a happy birthday too!

As it's #FollowFriday over on Twitter, I'd also like to recommend some other friends of mine who have lovely blogs that you might like to read...

Lara at The Organised Penguin
A woman on the edge, at I'm In Here, Somewhere
Beth at Confessions of a Stay-at-home Mum
Laura at Petit Moi, Big World
Jo at Ojo's World
Sarah at Ups & Downs, Smiles & Frowns

Go have a read, follow and say hello!

Bernard the Bee Trunki Review

Friday, 31 August 2012

At the start of the Summer we were lucky enough to be sent a fantastic Bernard the Bee Trunki suitcase from Simply Hike – online camping equipment store to review.

The children loved it on sight and instantly started taking it in turns to sit on it and whizz around the living room... Not its intended use exactly, but obviously a very fun aspect of the design for the children and one that has gone down very well.

The plastic case is very robust and sturdy, and the fun bee design is a big hit with the kids, the antennas act as little handlebars for the kids to hold on to when 'riding' on the case, which comes with two carry handles and a multifunctional carry-tow strap. It also has locking catches at either end, which means no faffing with zips, and even has a little 'bits pouch' inside which is ideal for storing small things like socks & hair ties for Miss E.

It's spacious inside with plenty of room to pack all the essentials (and some non-essentials, like about four dolls and a couple of teddies) for my youngest. The carry-tow strap is dual purpose, acting as both a tow strap, which allowed me to pull little miss along on the Trunki, and as a carry-strap for easier carrying.

This is a great addition to our family luggage for holidays, and will make packing for E that much easier with her own little case for her belongings - no more sharing a case with mum & dad!

*Disclaimer: Simply Hike kindly sent me a Bernard the Bee Trunki free of charge for the purpose of this review. This review is my own personal and honest opinion of the product and is written entirely in my own words.

#R2BC - Reasons to be cheerful... 1, 2, 3

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Happy Thursday everyone, #R2BC is here again and this week hosted by the lovely Angie at Cakes Photos Life & is a fantastic Paralympic special so be sure to visit, and maybe even link up and share some comment love.

Lots of reasons to be cheerful for me this week, so let's crack on...

1. It's nearly my birthday (Saturday, the big 3-0), which means it's nearly time for the Mister & I to go and see The Lion King! I can't wait, I am so excited to see the show and I will be sure to tell you all about it afterwards.

2. As I announced in an entry yesterday, my family has been chosen as one of the 2012 Toys R Us Toyologists! We are thrilled & honoured to have been selected out of so many, and we are really looking forward to sharing our reviews with you all.

3. The children go back to school next week. I love having them home, and I love spending time with them, but they need their routine and their friends back now. We're almost all set, and they're excited to go back so roll on Wednesday!

Next week #R2BC will be hosted by the wonderful Maria over at Tiger Tales.

Toys R Us Toyologist 2012

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

On Friday evening I received a phone call to inform me that my family had been selected as Toys R Us Toyologists for 2012!

I don't think thrilled really covered how we felt about being chosen, it is such a wonderful opportunity and I am really looking forward to having the children try out the toys & put them through their paces, and helping other parents make the best choices for their kids with honest and unbiased reviews.

We're in the blue group which is for the 7+ age group, but I am sure Miss E will get in on the action, and H turns 7 during the three month program. Our entry for the selection process was this Skylanders review that I posted earlier on during the summer holidays.

Congratulations to the other 23 families who were also selected, and thank you so much to Toys R Us for choosing our family to be among them out of over 800 applications. We hope that everyone will enjoy reading our reviews.

Toddler Togs

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

One of my most hated jobs is the quarterly sort through E's wardrobe for things that she has outgrown. It's just tedious, and seems to take forever. It's one of those jobs that you start with gusto, and then once you are halfway through you wonder why you started. Yes, that.

Anyway. I sifted through her wardrobe, flinging things that were outgrown and worn out over my shoulder with wild abandon. Ruthlessly binning socks that had lost their partner, and old jimjams that were frankly on the too small side and definitely past their best. Some things were sorted in to the 'selling on' pile, others ended up in the 'clothes bank' pile, some simply went in the bin.

I got to the end of this chore and was very pleased with myself. Until I realised that she then had no clothes left. Plenty of things I would call 'play' clothes, clothing she can wear in the garden and I'm not all that bothered about her getting covered in who-knows-what. She has lots of summer dresses too, but frankly this weather has been appalling and they've not had the wear they could have. But she has nothing to last through the autumn and winter, to take her up to her birthday (April) in the very least.

This meant only one thing... Shopping.

So, I got online and I got spending. Not too much, you understand, because I am actually quite poor, with all these kids who constantly want feeding (seriously? EVERY day?) and I used my saved topcashback money (which I save for this purpose). So I have picked a bunch of mixy-matchy things that will hopefully see her through to April with no trouble. These things mixed with her 'play' things, we are now pretty much all set until she's three. I also used topcashback (natch) and some promo codes to save myself some money.

Modelled by Miss E, you can see her red cardigan (Matalan £9), with red twill trousers (H&M £5.39) and red patent bow shoes (Matalan £7), teamed with her 'I love Ballet shoes' t-shirt (Matalan, 2pk with the navy/grey spot top, bottom fourth from left picture - £7).

The gorgeous dress is a preloved (aka second-hand) Monsoon one that I bought for £4. Pictured underneath the dress is her Mini Boden long sleeved 'Popcorn' t-shirt that I bought in the sale for £5.

I also purchased a 2pk of leggings in pink & cream for £6, a 2pk of nighties for £7, 10 pairs of u n d e r g a r m e n t s for £5, 10 pairs of socks for £6, and a pair of dark denim jeans with a red, black & navy spot belt for £6 all from Matalan.

Also in her autumn/winter wardrobe, there is a 2pk of tops in pink, & purple spotted £4.18, a grey cardigan for £5.39, 2pk of white & black tops £4.19, a navy blue cardigan for £5.39, a pair of dark blue 'basketball shoes' for £5.39, a pair of grey leggings £2.39, a purple jumper dress £8.99, a beige marl long sleeved top for £2.39 and a similar top in purple also for £2.39. Last but not least, I got another 7pk of socks (socks are eaten rather frequently in this house) for £5.39. All of that came from H&M.

I've spent about a hundred pounds, which all considered I think is pretty good, especially as I am not planning on spending any more (except perhaps for a few pairs of tights and a pair of winter boots when the colder weather sets in) until April next year, and I got rather a lot for my money too.

H&M have two discount codes running at the moment - 1304 gives you £5 off your order, and 9921 gives you 25% off one item (valid at time of writing this entry, I cannot guarantee expiration dates, you'll just have to try them & see).

Luckily teen spent all of her birthday money on clothes (works for me!) and the three boys are all set with numerous pairs of jeans, trackies and hoodies that will see them through for a good while yet. Mostly they just sit around in their grundies anyway, they're in training for when they're men...  ;)

Rays Of Sunshine

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The summer has WHIZZED past at an alarming speed. Next week I am sending four of my five back off to school - teen will be beginning her GCSE journey in year ten, tween starting out at senior school in year seven, and L & H heading in to years five and two respectively.

The weather has hampered most of our efforts to go and do things and to plan activities but we have managed to cram in some fun times during the school holidays. My top five 'rays of sunshine' this summer are (in no particular order)...

1. Our family visit to Paultons Park & Peppa Pig World for L's birthday (and belatedly for E's). The weather was lovely and we had so much fun. The kids had a great time going on all of the rides, and we sat & enjoyed a picnic in the grounds together, all in all it was a brilliant family day out.

2. An afternoon on the beach at Weymouth. I love the beach (the Mister does not, because he is a grump) and we decided on packing up last week and heading to the beach. You don't know how long the good weather is going to last and I wasn't about to let summer slip past without at least one day at the seaside, so we loaded up the car and off we went. It was a bit windy, but the kids had a whale of a time digging in the sand, burying each other and jumping over waves before we all had ice cream and headed home. It was perfect and very much worth all the sand (that ended up everywhere!).

3. Having dinner out with three of my sisters. I'm fairly certain we annoyed some with our raucous laughter and you know, just because we dared to have fun (some people are such grumpy buggers), but I couldn't care less. I haven't laughed like that in ages and I have really missed spending time with my sisters. Time seems to run away with me these days, I don't get time for much besides the kids and the house and everything else, and these days I realise that unfortunately I have very few real friends of which to speak of any more, so time with my sisters is precious and I hope that we can make it a more regular thing.

4. The Olympics! I didn't think I would get in to the Olympics as much as I did, I found myself jumping up and down in front of the television cheering on the likes of Mo Farah and Ed McKeever and it has really motivated me to not only make sure the children are more involved in sport, but to see what can be done locally to make sure that there are activities and facilities available for everyone. I'm really looking forward to the start of the Paralympics now!

5. Last but not least, the Father's Day Barbecue. Every year my siblings, parents and I get together with our families and have a barbecue on Father's Day. Last year we had just lost our Grampy (my paternal Grandfather) and so it was a rather solemn affair. This year, we talked about him happily and it was a real celebration of his memory, and all of us got together so that the kids could play and we could catch up and just spend some time as a family, and it was wonderful. Times like those make you realise who is really and truly important in your life.

What have been the highlights of the summer for you?

And the winner of the Stuck On You Lunch Pack & Library Bag is...

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The winner of the Stuck On You Lunch Pack & Library Bag is

Entry #43 -

Congratulations! I hope that you enjoy your prize. Thank you so much to everyone for entering, and I hope to bring you another giveaway on the blog very soon.

Thank you very much to for the great prize.

Cheesy Cauliflower Pasta [#Recipe]

Monday, 27 August 2012

Cheesy Cauliflower Pasta

I was a bit dubious as to whether or not I was going to pull this off, I have a bad track record with home-made Béchamel sauce and so I did anticipate something going awry... However, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy this ended up being and the sauce turned out delicious if I do say so myself. I made a large pyrex dish of this for our dinner and it was demolished so, I can't have gone far wrong!

For this recipe I used the following ingredients and served six people (and had enough for second helpings) but you can easily modify this recipe for a smaller family.

1kg frozen Cauliflower florets
500g dried pasta (I used Farfalle)
1 litre of milk
8 tbsp flour
100g butter
200g Cheddar
Salt & Pepper
4-6 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (fan oven).
  • Cook the cauliflower and pasta in separate pans as packaging directs, and set aside.
  • In a separate pan, add the milk, butter and flour and whisk continually over a high heat until sauce has thickened, seasoning with salt & pepper, to create your Béchamel sauce.
  • Remove the Béchamel sauce from the heat and add most of the cheese, stirring well to combine.
  • Drain the cauliflower and pasta and add to your oven dish.
  • Pour over the cheesy Béchamel sauce and mix well until completely covered.
  • Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese and the breadcrumbs over the top and bake in the oven for approx 15-20 minutes until you have a lovely golden brown crust forming on the top (see pic for example).
Serve, and enjoy!

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 27 August 2012

Monday 27th August - Happy Birthday to the Mister! We're having a roast in his honour today - Roast Chicken, mashed potato, roast potatoes, mixed vegetables, sage & onion stuffing, onion rings and yorkshire puddings with gravy

Tuesday 28th August - Brinner

Wednesday 29th August - Gammon & chips, served with pineapple and vegetables

Thursday 30th August - Oven-baked potatoes with baked beans, coleslaw and salad

Friday 31st August - Chicken fajitas

Saturday 1st September - Happy 30th Birthday to me! The Mister & I are eating out in the city tonight before watching The Lion King at the theatre. I'm making a Lasagne for the children to have at home, served with garlic baguettes

Sunday 2nd September - We're taking the children out for dinner as part of my birthday celebrations

Country Kids from @CoombeMill

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

This is J cooling off at Paultons Park last week, nothing like running around a splash park enjoying the summer sun!

#SatCap - Saturday is caption day!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

This is my son J, the Kamikaze kid, going head first down the slide at Paultons Park. The child that laughs in the face of danger. And stitches.

Caption away!

Ease the Back to School burden

Friday, 24 August 2012

There are only a couple more weeks left of the summer holidays and while I have almost everything ready for them to head back, I am not quite done yet.

Having four in school could cost me a fortune, especially now that I have two in senior school and their uniform can ONLY be bought from the school supplier (a bit naughty, I think). I've been buying things a little at a time and have managed to find some good bargains by shopping around, using promotional codes when shopping online, and also by using topcashback (TCB) to get cashback on my purchases (since joining up to the site I have had over £400 back, and it's free which is even better).

I've had a little scout around to try and help out other mums & dads in the run-up to "back to school" and have found a few deals and discounts that might be of some use to someone. This is not a sponsored post, it is just something I put together to try and help other parents save some cash!

- - -

Tesco are currently offering a deal on their Summer Clubcard Exchange, to turn every £5 into a £10 token to spend on school uniform. This deal has been extended until September 4th and you can find more information on the exchange here. They are currently offering 5.05% cashback through TCB.

ASDA are at the moment offering £1 off all school knitwear, and their schoolwear prices start at £2. They have 10.1% cashback on all schoolwear through TCB at the moment too (expires in two days) and you can receive a £5 discount off a purchase of £30 or more at George for a limited time only with promotional code bankhol305.

Sainsbury's had some bargain schoolwear in store when I visited the other day, with multipack polo shirts (my boys go through polo shirts at a rate of knots, you can never have too many) and plain white t-shirts which are ideal for PE kits.

Morrisons are offering schoolwear for £2.50 each on any item, any size, as well as stationery from only 15p.

Adams have a sale on their schoolwear right now which might be worth a look, there is a lovely "swing" design cardigan on their site and they offer cashback through TCB at a rate of 5.05%.

Matalan offer a wide selection of schoolwear at reasonable prices with 5.05% cashback on all online purchases through TCB.

Marks & Spencer offer cashback at 3.03% through TCB and currently are offering free standard UK delivery on schoolwear, enter code uniforms at checkout.

Toysrus have character lunchboxes starting at just £4.99 at the moment and have buy 2 get 3rd free on stationery. They also have bags starting at £4.99 including Spongebob and Disney Princess and offer free standard delivery with when you spend £50 or more. They offer TCB at 3.03%.

Brantano have a wide selection of school shoes and are offering 7.07% TCB on home delivery online purchases (or 40p for an in-store pick up), with free delivery on everything, enter DELIVERY1 at the checkout.

Clarks shoes offer 5.55% TCB on home delivery orders right now, with £5 off selected kids sports shoes, enter BESPORT at the checkout to receive this offer online. They also offer free standard UK and Northern Ireland delivery & returns.

WHSmith are having a Back to School sale at the moment with items up to 75% off including maths sets and scientific calculators.

I hope that that helps someone, feel free to add any codes or current sales & offers that you know of as a comment.

#R2BC - Reasons to be cheerful... 1, 2, 3

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Happy Thursday everyone! I hope you have all had a great week.

We've had a lovely and rather busy week ourselves, we've had lots going on so we're all a bit knackered and quite looking forward to a quiet bank holiday weekend really.

It's the Mister's birthday on Monday, 31 years young. We don't have any plans currently, just going to wait and see what if anything we feel like doing on the day but that does mean some cake baking over the weekend!

Right, on with this week's #R2BC...

1. We had a fantastic day out at Paultons Park and Peppa Pig World at the weekend to celebrate L's birthday. The weather was great, could have done with less humidity perhaps, but can't really complain about that!, and a couple of the members of staff on the refreshment kiosks in Peppa Pig World could probably have done with working elsewhere if they hated it so much (aside from being ridiculously slow and having a queue twice as long as every other kiosk we had visited in the entire park, a smile wouldn't have killed them, or even just not looking at everyone like they hated them) but that aside, the children had a fantastic time and loved all of the rides. There were a couple of wobbly moments as expected with kids in a busy place on a hot day, but overall it was a great family day out and we had some surprise guests join us, too (two of my sisters, one sister's partner, and two of my nieces), which made it even better.

2. Yesterday we decided on a last minute trip to the beach. The weather was meant to be good and the Mister was not at work, so we packed up the car and headed down to Weymouth for the afternoon and let the kids play in the sea and build sandcastles, it was lovely. The weather was nice but it was SO windy we all left the beach with sand just about everywhere, and three loads of washing came back with us with all the towels, swim suits and clothing. It was fun though and the kids LOVED it (despite the Mister not being a fan of the beach whatsoever), we finished off the day with a delicious Italian gelato from Rossis on the sea front before heading back to the car to come home.

3. There is just over one more week until my birthday! I know some people dread their 30th birthday, but I am looking forward to mine and really looking forward to spending it with the Mister on the Saturday and doing something with the kids on the Sunday, making it a real family weekend with the people I love the most. We can pretend I am not really getting older... Though I straightened my hair this morning for the first time in ages and found loads of grey hairs, I don't think I will be straightening it for a while again! Or I'll be cracking open the hair dye, none of this ageing gracefully nonsense here   ;)

Don't forget to pop across to this week's #R2BC host Becky @ Lakes Single Mum to read and link up and join in with the blog hop. Next week the linky is being hosted by Angie @ Cakes Photos Life.

#TheGallery : Sky

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

I snapped this on my phone one afternoon during this 'summer', as I watched the rain clouds rolling away. The blue sky that followed them didn't last for too long before new storm clouds rolled in behind, but it was nice while it lasted and everything was sunny and bright, albeit for only a matter of minutes. Which proves that even though sometimes it seems like it, it can't rain all the time.

A birthday and Moshi Monster cupcakes

Monday, 20 August 2012

Yesterday was my L's 9th birthday, as we were going to be out at Paultons Park and Peppa Pig World for the day we opted for cupcakes instead of a big birthday cake, and he chose Moshi Monsters to go on them.

I did not design these as I found the design online, however I made them myself and this was the finished product. Vanilla cupcakes, topped with chocolate buttercream and fondant toppers.

We had a fantastic day out with surprise guests (in the way of two of my sisters L & N, as well L's partner and two of my nieces) and it was just wonderful. Beautiful weather, and great company.

There were a handful of trying moments as with any kids on a day out (the heat really didn't help matters at times!), but the good by far outweighed any bad and we are looking forward to going again sometime soon.

L really enjoyed his special day, despite the fact that rubbish mummy me forgot to buy wrapping paper to wrap his birthday gifts. So to get around my rookie mistake, I hid the presents all over the house and gave him clues to go and find them, which turned out to be much more fun than just ripping open some paper anyway (save!).

When we got home we treated the kids to a KFC at L's request, and then watched Hugo on DVD (one of L's presents). A long day and a late night, but lots of fun had by all.

Meal Plan Monday #mealplanningmonday

Monday, 20 August 2012

Monday 20th August - Chicken kiev with new potatoes & steamed broccoli

Tuesday 21st August - Lasagne & garlic bread

Wednesday 22nd August - Cauliflower cheese pasta bake

Thursday 23rd August - Oven baked potatoes served with cheese coleslaw and salad

Friday 24th August - Chicken fajitas

Saturday 25th August - Ham, egg & chips

Sunday 26th August - Undecided, as the Mister is out for the day celebrating his birthday and we have to fend for ourselves

A shower of sh-

Saturday, 18 August 2012

So this morning I need a quick shower before we leave for the day. The mister has left already, the boys & teen are all still sleeping but E has woken up.

Rather than leave her to her own devices (toddlers are not to be trusted, FYI), I took her in to the bathroom with me and sat her on the mat with her bath toys. Leaving her playing happily, I hopped in the shower and washed my hair, and started conditioning it.

Then I heard a desperate shout coming from the other side of the curtain.


I look around the curtain (hair slicked to my face/back/neck/head with conditioner, and I am BLIND as I don't have my glasses on) and she is hopping up and down in front of the toilet and looking rather upset, I then realise... She needs a poop. Since potty training, E has decided that weeing on the pot is fine... Pooping however, not. That can only be done on the toilet.

I hop out on the bathmat (starkers, soaking) and have to crouch in front of her, holding her there while she goes. She is looking at me in disgust, and asks "UGH, WHY YOU WET MUMMY?"

Well, gee. Let me think...

I am part of the #Blog4Sanitation movement setup by Splashdirect to raise awareness of the importance of global sanitation. Learn more about World Toilet Day.

Smencils® Review

Friday, 17 August 2012

We were selected by Learning Resources after being linked by to review their environmentally friendly Robinsons® Fruit Shoot™ Smencils® Starter Set, and a sample pack arrived through the post.

We received a pack of 5 graphite pencils made from 100% recycled newspaper, in the 5 popular Fruit Shoot™ scents including tropical, orange, apple, summer fruits, and blackcurrant & apple (RRP £5.99).

The Smencils® each come in their own biodegradable tube, guaranteeing freshness for two years.

Learning Resources are currently running a competition on Facebook to enter to win one of ten sets of  Robinsons® Fruit Shoot™ Smencils® , which you can enter here. The competition closes Friday September 7th 2012.
My youngest two are quite the budding artists and were keen to get the packet open and try them out. H's first question was "Can we eat them?!" and was rather disappointed when he was told no... E then asked if she could lick them, again, I thought it best to discourage this!

They set themselves up at the table with some paper and their new pencils and started doodling away, stopping every so often to sniff their pencils and comment on how nice they smell.

The five children have argued between them as to who got which scent and have shared them out, and are looking forward to taking them to school to show their friends (well, except E who will use hers to draw me some lovely pictures for my memo board. And possibly some original artwork on my tablecloth too...).

In addition to smelling lovely, Smencils® support the importance of recycling and sell for pocket money prices, as well as being highly collectible. We will certainly be buying a set or two of the colouring pencils for our art & craft drawer.

*Disclaimer: linked me with Learning Resources, who kindly sent me a sample pack of Robinsons® Fruit Shoot™ Smencils® free of charge for the purpose of this review. The review is my own personal and honest opinion on the products and is written entirely in my own words.

#R2BC - Reasons to be cheerful... 1, 2, 3

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Good morning and welcome to week 33 of #R2BC, which I have been given the honour of guest hosting this week by Michelle as she enjoys her summer break. Next week the link will be hosted by the lovely Becky at Lakes Single Mum.

It has been a busy week (when isn't it?!) and we are SO excited about our visit to Paultons Park & Peppa Pig World this weekend to celebrate L's birthday on Sunday (and belatedly, E's birthday). The weather is so far looking good and we hope it will be a great family day out.

1. This week the Mister and I were lucky enough to manage a trip to the cinema together. The Mister chose The Dark Knight Rises and we got a free popcorn using my O2 Priority Moments app on my phone (those on O2 should definitely download this app to enjoy money off and freebies!) to go with our drink & munchies.
It was a good movie, I really enjoyed it but it was very long and I had a seriously numb backside going on by the time the credits rolled. We had a really nice evening out together.

2. We have also enjoyed a family trip to the cinema, when we went to watch The Lorax. It was E's first time at the cinema and she did great, she very much enjoyed stuffing in the popcorn and watching the bright colours on the screen. The musical numbers were brilliant, I wrote a personal review of The Lorax, I would definitely recommend it. We're hoping to go and see Disney's Brave before the end of the summer too.

3. We are just about ready for 'back to school' now, only a couple of things left to get before we are all set. Before I know it, it will be time to send them back off to start the new school year, with A beginning her GCSEs in year 10 and J starting secondary school in year 7. Lots of new challenges to await them both, as well as L & H in years 5 and 2 respectively. I am also going to be enjoying this final year with E at home with me before she begins nursery next year. I know it is a cliché but I honestly don't know where the time goes, I can't believe half the summer has passed already. Fingers crossed for some decent stretches of good weather before the end of it!

Thanks again to Michelle for inviting me to host her linky this week, please be sure to visit those who have linked up and share some comment love. Have a great weekend everyone.

#TheGallery : Emotion

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

This is A meeting E for the very first time. When I woke up that morning, A was sitting at the end of the bed crying and looking in to E's moses basket. She didn't know I was coming home because I left the hospital at about midnight after E's last obs, so it was a nice surprise to find her new sister there in the morning. She'd waited a long time but she finally got the sister she was so desperate for.

Family Movie Review - The Lorax

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

I cannot express how much I adore Dr Seuss. Those who follow me on Twitter may have noticed that my bio is actually a Dr Seuss quote. He is one of my favourite children's authors ever, my kids absolutely love his books, and now the movies.

The kids were really keen to see this movie after H received the book for Christmas last year, and having heard such good reviews about it from my American friends I was rather looking forward to it myself I have to admit.

The book of The Lorax has such a lovely message, it's a good story with real meaning and it was great to have it turned in to such a fun movie. It didn't stick thoroughly to the book as it was also following the budding romance of Ted & Audrey but that aspect just adds to the sweetness & whimsy of this movie. The musical numbers throughout the film were brilliant and I think really made the movie that little bit more special. We went as a family and even E (2 & a bit) sat and watched, and enjoyed the songs and the bright & colourful animation.

A really enjoyable film with great kids humour and slapstick moments that my kids thought were particularly hilarious, and featuring the voice talents of Danny DeVito (The Lorax), Betty White (Grammy Nora), Ed Helms (The Once-ler) Zac Efron (Ted) and Taylor Swift (Audrey) it is a brilliant family movie that I am sure everyone will enjoy as much as we did.

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." - The Lorax, Dr Seuss.

We will definitely be adding this movie to our collection (we already have The Grinch, Horton Hears A Who and The Cat In The Hat) when it is released on DVD.

** Disclaimer - this is an honest and personal movie review that was paid for out of my own pocket and has not been endorsed by any agency for promotional purposes.

How will we inspire a generation?

Monday, 13 August 2012

Now that the London 2012 Olympics is over (only 16 days until the 2012 Paralympics though so not all bad news), I have been having a think about their "Inspire a Generation" slogan and whether or not I personally believe this will (or can...) be met.

I have read, as I am sure many others have, about how the UK is raising a generation of celebrity obsessed youth, who aspire to be the (over-paid but, more often than not, morally bankrupt) Footballers and reality TV "stars" of tomorrow, when they should be aspiring to be the next Jessica Ennis, Ed McKeever, Victoria Pendleton, Greg Rutherford, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Tom Daley, Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Mo Farah... the list goes on. We have a list as long as my arm of people who have worked hard, made sacrifices, shed blood, sweat and tears to be the best at what they do, and who truly deserve to be role models to our children, but who are seemingly overlooked until the Olympics rolls around every four years.

So then I asked myself, why might this be? Personally, I think it could possibly have something to do with the fact that our mainstream television channels are chock-full with "reality tv" such as TOWIE, Made in Chelsea, Geordie Shore and Big Brother, and when it's not perma-tanned simpletons jumping in to bed with each other or drinking themselves into oblivion, the schedules are rammed with match after match of Football.
I honestly couldn't tell you which channel to watch to find some Athletics or Gymnastics or Cycling. Maybe I don't pay enough attention to the TV programming schedule, but during Football season I am painfully aware that you can't flick through the channels without finding at least two matches (normally in place of something that would appeal to the wider public).

Personally I have zero interest in Football, although my husband and eldest son are mad about it, but they are well catered for by the big TV networks. So what about the rest of us? The general public who do NOT enjoy Football (because I know that it is not just me)? An entire viewing audience is not having their needs met. Where are the track meets? The Gymnastics competitions? The Cycling? Both nationally and regionally, the networks could seriously benefit from televising such events more regularly and in more prominent viewing slots. I know that I would watch them, and I would definitely encourage my children to watch them too.

The Olympics are fantastic for showing people what can be achieved at the highest level, but why not also show the events on the way to the Olympics? The lower level competitions, the up-and-coming athletes... Show exactly how and where they are working their way up to the "big event", celebrate their successes every step of the way?

There have been a flurry of "Does anyone know where *X activity* clubs are in *this area*?", "How can I get my kids in to *Y activity*" tweets on my Twitter feed in the last couple of days. I have asked myself the same question after H was chatting to me about wanting to be a Hurdler. Where ARE these clubs? HOW can you get involved in them? Seeing our athletes compete at a lower level on regional television, if nothing else, would help get them out there, show people what hard work can help you achieve, make people more aware of how to take part and get their kids in to sport. You can't move for Football clubs in the school holidays - but where can you find an Athletics club? General sports?

I live about three or four miles from the county town, so you would be forgiven for thinking that there would be a massive variety of sports options available to my children. A quick search of Google would show you that you were wrong.

I have found Team Bath AC (which is the next county over and approx half an hour journey) which has the 365 Academy for 8 to 15 year olds. The only other one I found is Swindon Harriers, which is over an hour away, and they start taking children from the age of 7 upwards. For those interested in rowing or canoeing, there is BOARC. In Melksham (about 20+ minutes away) there is the Wiltshire School of Gymnastics.

But in the county town? Nothing. Not exactly inspiring, is it?

This weekend (August 18th/19th) everyone is encouraged to Join In Local Sport, where thousands of clubs and community groups are opening their doors to everyone to get them to try something new. Rather tellingly, the only thing on offer in the county town is a free 5km in the country park. In my town, there is the opportunity to join with Netball, and then in Bath there is Judo, Hockey and Volleyball. I really hope that lots of people will take up these free taster sessions and get involved, I just wish that there was more available here, where we live.

J plays Football for a local youth side (there are - of course - many youth Football clubs locally), and L & H are currently taking swimming lessons. H has expressed an interested in Hurdles, at the moment he is a little too young to join an Athletics club but the only option available to me when he does reach the minimum age would mean a two hour round trip for training every week. Unless of course one of you knows of somewhere more local, in which case please let me know.

In order to 'inspire a generation', the facilities and opportunities need to be in place and readily available in all areas, especially in places like the county towns. These sports and events also need to be visible. Advertise, televise... Show us how and where to get involved, and to get our children involved. Allow us to support and aspire to be like our athletes throughout their careers, not just once every four years.

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