Lavender Bakery biscuits

Some (belated) thoughts on the Facebook motherhood challenge

I’ve read a lot this week about the Facebook “motherhood challenge” – funnily enough, I’ve been tagged in as many posts from friend’s sharing the articles as I have friends doing the challenge, and the whole thing got me thinking.mumsnet blogfest 2013

I couldn’t help but wonder… (sorry, Carrie moment) what it was about the issue that had (has?) got everyone so wound up.

I don’t think that there is any one right way to use social media, contrary to what a lot of social media courses say. There are optimum ways perhaps of using algorithms and personal usage to achieve maximum exposure, but the vast majority of people I am friends with – 493 at today’s count (which I am sure has dropped recently so I must naturally be doing some wrong) use it as a way of broadcasting stuff about their life. Some post really personal thoughts and comments; others only post photos of their children, cats, cocktails and/or cars, depending on their life choices and interests. Some post only political rants, others have a taste for motivational quotes, slightly sexist videos, car dash cams, fund raising endeavours large and small, extreme sports clips and quick recipe videos. I don’t pretend that I am interested in every last thing that every last person shares or uploads but I also don’t take any of it personally. I’ve seen one of every last of these things in the past week – I think I’ve read a selection of bad news, good news, life commentary from the uplifting and inspiring to the grossly mundane (that was my Finsbury Park related rant), a million links to Guardian stories and about as many video clips.

Some of these I’ve engaged with, in a Facebook sort of way – I’ve liked, or left a short comment giving condolences or congratulations as appropriate. Some I’ve watched and then shared, many more I’ve scrolled past as it didn’t take my interest, or I didn’t have time, or several other people had shared the same thing. Some I’ve even been tagged in where the person thought I might be especially interested. But, you know, not once did I think that the person sharing whatever it was, or tagging me in whatever it was, was making a comment on my life. Several times, I’ve thought “how lovely” in relation to some personal bit of news but not once did I think the sharing of their news or photo was any kind of reflection whatsoever on my life and my choices.

Now supposing I’d been tagged in a cycling challenge photo sharing meme, or a cooking one, or even one about house ownership. Might I have engaged and shared my own? Possibly, depending on time and inclination. Might I have taken this as some personal reflection or commentary on how I own a bike but haven’t actually unlocked it all year, so that the last photo I would have been unable to upload was embarrassingly from 2014? No, I really don’t think I would. I might have thought, how nice, xx is really passionate about their cycling – actually, I think this frequently, I know a lot of people who post touching updates about their cycling endeavours every week, and then I like it, and keep scrolling. Might I have thought that my friends were trying to pit home owners against renters and force us into two opposing camps? Of course, not, that would be silly.

Likewise, when I upload things to Facebook I give a small amount of thought to how my post will be perceived, but the fact that some of my friends aren’t working right now, or don’t like their jobs, or love their jobs doesn’t stop me writing something about work. I might consider who could read the post, or what the consequences might be professionally, but I like to believe that by virtue of being friends with me on Facebook, my friends have my best interests at heart, and that they would like to share my joys and support my lows, just as I do theirs. In a Facebook appropriate way, of course; I interact personally with my close friends and family too, I don’t just conduct all relationships through Facebook. In the same fashion, I’ve shared some of my family photos, discussed my support of the NHS and dislike of David Cameron in the full knowledge that I do know people that voted Conservative, and I even upload holiday photos, despite knowing full well I am friends with some people who can’t afford to go away very often.

So why the angst and endless discussion when the subject matter is motherhood? A lot of posts on Facebook make me want to punch my screen (not specifically the person who shared it, but usually the writer of the article, or the originator of the meme) but I don’t think that those posts “fetishise [insert subject matter]”. Why are we extrapolating from the meme wording that “challenge” is in this context some way anything other than some sloppy wording from the originator – was it even Facebook itself, trying to get users to generate content? Why are we assuming that the people taking part are boasting, or being smug, or trying to make some comment on the lives, decisions and fertility levels of their other friends. I really disagree that a meme originating on Facebook can be “simply another way to measure women and find them wanting”.

But yet, people are irritated and writing articles all over the place about it. So, there must be something about the subject which causes this. Daisy Buchanan, writing for The Pool says the ‘Motherhood Challenge’ “feels like it’s there to pit women against each other”. Anna Whitehouse, aka Mother Pukka, in her post for The Stylist sees a more nuanced version, much like my opinion – the challenge is not what is wrong per se, it is that somehow, another opportunity has arisen for people (who are these people) to have further ammunition to drive a narrative in which women are split. The promotion of Anna’s article appears to push the idea that it is the challenge which has done that, but on closer reading, I don’t think that is what Anna is concluding at all – it is the way that some women have reacted to the challenge, and which has driven the collective narrative, which has then concluded that this challenge is by it’s very existence divisive.

It seems that a lot of people have jumped on the “I would never join in with that” wagon – a quick internet search led me to some discussion forums where people said things like they worried about perception of those who are struggling with infertility, or they didn’t agree with posting photos on social media due to privacy issues – again, written with the implication that they thought that those who had joined in were thoughtless, or smug – adding their weight to the narrative that this is a divisive issue.

I really don’t believe that has to be the case. I do think we (as a society) thinks of parenting as a role for a woman, and I do think that social media makes it hard for anyone who is having a tough time personally, child related or not, and I don’t think that these memes have any real point, or that the world would be worse if they didn’t exist, but, I think we need a bit of perspective too. Just because women are celebrating their families on a form of social media intended as a personal broadcast to people that are supposedly their real life friends, doesn’t mean we have to interpret this as meaning men are somehow lesser parents, or that there are good and bad parents and we are to only tag those we genuinely think are amazing mothers (or whatever). I really don’t buy that the one and only friend who tagged me made a qualitative assessment as to who of her friends she felt was truly deserving of the tag – I presume she enjoys her family, thought for about half a moment of a handful of close friends who also have children and pressed send.

I think we should give it about as much thought in return. Either that, or delete Facebook.

Photos: Love Biscuits (Lavender Bakery) Bloggers (Mumsnet Blogfest 2013 official photos by Anna Gordon)

Cowshed spa evening with Optiwell - making #smallchanges

An evening with Optiwell at Cowshed: making #smallchanges

Cowshed spa evening with Optiwell - making #smallchanges

Cowshed spa evening with Optiwell – making #smallchanges

Have you been making any #smallchanges to your life since my last post on the matter? As part of my collaboration with Optiwell, I met with Laura Clark, Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist and founder of LEC Nutrition to discuss #smallchanges which I can make, particularly after baby 2 is born in a few weeks.

Optiwell berry smoothies - making #smallchanges

Optiwell berry smoothies – making #smallchanges

The evening was held at the Cowshed Spa in Shoreditch House, and it was a lovely evening spent catching up with some other blogging pals, indulging in canapés, blending Optiwell smoothies (surprisingly delicious – I am not sure I would usually describe myself as a smoothie lover, but Optiwell blended with strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and a tiny bit of banana was delicious) and, of course, getting a mani/pedi from the Cowshed team. I do love a Cowshed treatment and Cowshed product, and regularly visit the spa and buy various things including moisturiser and showergel. I don’t always match my toes to the furniture, but I’ve been rather drawn to this shade of eau-de-nil recently…(see my recent nursery updates)… and I was really pleased with the outcome.

Cowshed spa evening with Optiwell - making #smallchanges

Cowshed spa evening with Optiwell – making #smallchanges

The #smallchanges I discussed with Laura were all around tactics for dealing with the new baby sleepless fug, particularly quick and easy food that I will be able to eat with one hand, that won’t just be empty calories. It was a really helpful discussion and I’ve already started making some of the changes including adding seeds to my morning porridge.

If you’re interested, here’s a short film from the evening…

Optiwell berry yogurt cheesecakes - Cowshed spa evening with Optiwell - making #smallchanges

Optiwell berry yogurt cheesecakes – Cowshed spa evening with Optiwell – making #smallchanges

I rounded the evening off with a berry yogurt cheesecake which was also rather tasty and super easy to make and looked extremely tempting all lined up on the table together.

The little pip header kids bedroom

Kids Bedroom Ideas

We’ve just come back from visiting friends in Copenhagen – I worked out that we’ve been friends for almost 15 years. In that time they’ve lived in 3 countries and we’ve stayed with them in all of their apartments. We’ve also all got married and had kids; their youngest will turn 1 this week.

As we visit pretty much every 6 months, the evolution of their space to suit their family requirements is pretty obvious, perhaps in a way that it wouldn’t be if we saw them all the time. We’ve been pondering for weeks what to do about our impending arrival and how we will house them in our tiny north London place, and it was on the plane home that we got to thinking about kids bedroom ideas and whether we might try and replicate our friends solution: swap rooms. We take the smaller room, and we turn ours into a kids bedroom with a cot and bunk beds, along with all the toys.

I’ve started looking through blogs and website, and pinning some ideas which have appealed, looking to see whether a theme is emerging – although aside from a Scandinavian aesthetic and lots of white to go with the orange and mint nursery theme I’ve chosen for the new baby, I haven’t got very far. There’s a lot to think about; aside from storage for Pip and the new baby’s clothes, we also need a changing station of some sort and some more cohesive way to organise the toys. Both rooms already have a neutral carpet and walls, although if we do swap rooms, there is also a red feature wall, although in both cases, I’d quite like to paint this a dark grey, which I think is more restful.

Children’s Bedroom : Modern nursery/kids room by Studio Duggan


Follow Rachel’s board Kids Bedroom Ideas on Pinterest.

I measured the space in the smaller room last week and I am pretty sure we can fit in a small single bed (or perhaps even the bunks) but that wouldn’t leave much room for a cot. I am increasingly convinced that swapping rooms might be the answer to the space problem, although it doesn’t address the fitted wardrobes in our room – could we cope with our wardrobes in the kids bedroom?

Tipi—The Tipiz : Modern nursery/kids room by moKee

That said, if we did swap rooms, I might be able to get out the tipi that I made Pip for her first birthday, which she loves but there isn’t really enough room for at present. After all, every blogger’s child needs a tipi in their room, right?!

The one thing I have realised that I like, having scrolled through reams of photos, is good use of space, cohesive furniture styles (even if it is *just* some Ikea and John Lewis bits) and not too much colour, aside from bedding, toys and books (and my orange cot, of course!). Most of all, it needs to suits Pip (and the new baby’s) needs first and foremost.

Any suggestions for me? Which room did you give your kids?

Post in conjunction with Homify

The little pip header

A beautiful life: My month in objects {January 2016}

In the spirit of owning nothing if it doesn’t bring me joy in some fashion, my search for a beautiful life continues and I’ve decided to start a new series, sharing products and things that are making a difference to me every month.

A rather eclectic line up of products but isn’t life like that. These are some of the things that have been getting me through the last four weeks.

January 2016- The Little Pip favourite things

January is often a dark and cold month, and for me has at least double the chances to reflect on the old as my birthday falls into the first week. Despite my best intentions to blog more, things haven’t really turned out that way, and I’ve struggled with feeling down and exhausted, no doubt exacerbated by the lively presence of a pre-schooler, juggling work and life and a myriad administrative tasks that needed doing. Oh, and the small matter of being at the start of the 3rd trimester.

However, as we reach the end of January, the Christmas tree is finally down and packed away, my tax return filed and some small signs of lighter evenings and Spring being on the way, I am starting to feel a smidgen more like my old self.

No less than 2 people have sent me Bloom & Wild flowers* this month – once for my birthday, and once “just because”, which I feel are among the best reasons to receive flowers – and I also sent a bunch to my Mum, just because I liked the ones I received. I love Bloom & Wild because they arrive through the letter box, quickly, and are lovely flowers, which last around a week. The choice updates frequently, is seasonal, and you get a generous bouquet for your money, which can be either used as one bunch, or works split into smaller containers.

Another product which has made me a little less grumpy is the Green People Face Oil which I was sent to test a while ago and which I LOVE. It smells amazing, goes on beautifully, doesn’t leave my face greasy or sticky or heavy but feeling actually moisturised. Best of all, I was assured it is safe to use in pregnancy, which is a huge bonus at the moment (obviously) and like all Green People products is fairly traded, chemical free and not tested on animals.

Speaking of skin products, I am on my 3rd tub of Mama Mio The Tummy Rub Butter. Mama Mio is another brand that I love, using it first when I was pregnant with Pip, and then some of their other products including moisturiser and body polish between pregnancies. Although I haven’t really got any stretch marks (which is genetics more than skin care I think) I do have dry, itchy skin and this tummy butter smells great and goes on without leaving residue behind and I use it liberally over my tummy and back (and sometimes legs too if needed) after the shower. You can buy it on Amazon, from loads of shops, and my favourite discovery, in the old packaging for a 1/3 of the price in TK Maxx at the moment.

The inclusion of the Dyson V6 Total Clean must seem a little incongruous but it is something I use almost daily, and I wanted to write further about it since my last post. I was given one to review and it is hands down one of the best household products that we own. As we live in a rented flat, we didn’t want to attach anything to the wall, so the main part of the machine lives on our counter top in the kitchen where it is charged as soon as it has been used, so it is always ready to use, and the other parts live in a tote bag on the back of the cellar door. It eats up crumbs and also slightly larger things like rice crispies with ease, and consequently is both in action frequently but also makes the job easier to do “as needed” as it isn’t a massive pain to drag out. Likewise, now I can’t bend down very easily, I love the fact that it can be used like a conventional vacuum but with the ease of a dust pan and brush.

I’ve also been trying to look after myself and get ready for the birth. I’ve started pregnancy yoga, stopped carrying around a massive bag and swapped it for a smaller, lighter, cross body one and tried to spend more time being cosy with the family and away from reading the internet (along the lines of this post, with the Daylesford candle being my new favourite spring like scent). I have also got myself a cosy sheepskin to line my favourite Ercol armchair and managed to spend an hour sitting in it reading an actual magazine in the sunshine yesterday, and it was one of the nicest hours I’ve had. (The pregnancy massage at the Thermae Bath Spa last weekend may have come a close second – I’ll write about that in another post). I also cancelled a 15 year long Vogue subscription this month after I managed to recycle about 10 years worth from my sitting room last month. They literally filled the whole bin – and I’ve then been recycling the issue as soon as it finished. I realised though last week that I wasn’t gaining much pleasure from the pressure to read the issue, so I’ve now cancelled it.

January – you’ve been a tough month; I’m looking forward to February.

* If you use this link, I believe you can try them yourself, or send to someone else, for just £10. Could make someone’s Valentine’s Day…

1 | Green People Face Oil 2 | Mama Mio The Tummy Rub Butter 3 | Daylesford Freesia Alba Candle 4 | Village England Cross Body Bag 5 | Bloom & Wild 6 | Dyson V6 Total Clean

herring on rye

Parenting, housework and gender roles (#chorechallenge)

I was interested to read today that “Everyday Sexism, human rights organisation Breakthrough and the writer and activist Soraya Chemaly have teamed up to create the 2016 #ChoreChallenge. The project encourages households to take note of the chores being done over the next two weeks and then attempt to “gender swap” some or all of them (children’s tasks included) over the next year. Participants can share their experiences and progress using the hashtag #ChoreChallenge on social media, or add them to Breakthrough’s storytelling platform The G Word, using the same hashtag.”

It is not something I’ve really stopped to think about, particularly, which of us does what in the house. I have always believed just as long as we are both (a) contributing and (b) generally satisfied with the other’s input, then it didn’t really matter.

And, to be honest, it is not something I recognise as an issue, although it will be interesting to look further into the tasks we do, although again, if we are both satisfied with the arrangement and are taking care not to teach Pip that a task can only be carried out by a person of a particular sex (which I don’t think we do, as we discuss this and take care not to) then I really don’t see it matters.

We are a traditional household in that we are are a married heterosexual couple with one child born during the marriage and another on the way, and we are a modern normal couple in that we both work full time, pay for our child to go to full time childcare and have a cleaner come in once a week to help pick up the slack. Our cleaner does happen to be female but that is because she came recommended and happened to be female, rather than because we believe cleaning should be done by a female.

We are also a normal modern family in that we see our child(ren) as both of our responsibilities equally and therefore divide, as is practical to our jobs, the school drop offs and pick ups with both of us equally responsible for organising childcare and babysitters where we have evening work events. We also manage between us Pip’s arrangements – M tends to do most of the correspondence with school and with the other parents for parties and play dates, and I make sure Pip has enough clothes with the payments for all of that coming out of our joint income pot. I love clothes and household shopping, so that isn’t really ever a chore, and M makes sure that there is something for everyone to eat every day. He also cooks most of those meals, and takes the lead in the washing up and dishwasher loading – in part because cooking is his passion and hobby. When Pip is ill, we divide up the childcare depending on who has what work commitments and we try and attend all hospital and parents evening type appointments together where absolutely possible.

The remainder of the household tasks do seem to largely break down into ‘gendered’ roles though, although we each do our own ironing should the need arise – I usually outsource mine to the dry cleaners where possible, although I would love a clothes steamer. I do the clothes washing and the bathroom cleaning because (a) I like to be in control and I couldn’t bear for someone else to ruin my cashmere or hang something up so it pulls it out of shape and (b) because M does all the cooking so I am happy to do the washing. I do largely let M organise the car, perhaps in part because he is the owner (only one of us can own it, and he is the one with longest no claims bonus who does most of the driving).

It actually only seems that parental leave is the only thing which falls to gender norms: when it comes to sharing parental leave after the birth of this next baby, it will again be me who takes a career break for a few months, largely because I am the only one who qualifies for any decent amount of paid parental leave, but, also like last time, even if we did qualify for shared parental leave, which we don’t, it wouldn’t be financially prudent for us to take it. It is a dynamic that I particularly find frustrating, as despite starting from a relatively equal starting point in terms of careers, I still earn only just over half that M does.

Where we do differ from gender norms though, is that I will not be the “expert” or the primary carer despite being the one that will not be at work. We both will be in joint charge – decisions were and will be made jointly and we will split care of the children so far as we were able equally, save for the fact that it was and will be me off work for at least 6-9 months.

What do you think? Is this something that we should be giving more attention? Will you be taking part in the challenge?

Photo taken in Copenhagen last summer, apropos nothing

The little pip nursery image

Baby 2: Orange and mint nursery wish list

So, baby 2. I haven’t really mentioned it much but s/he is very much on their way. In fact, I discovered when trying to book a trip to Copenhagen for later this month that I have actually already reached the stage where I require a fit to fly form, although the midwife didn’t seem overly concerned when I mentioned it to her this morning. I’m not really sure why I haven’t managed to find time to write more really, but here we are.

That’s one thing I haven’t quite got used to – with a low risk second pregnancy no-one seems terribly interested in appointments. At 6 months pregnant I have seen the midwife precisely 3 times, and one of those was the booking appointment and even when I do see someone, it’s (thankfully) a quick appointment.

Another thing I haven’t got used to is that the shopping requirements for “our new baby” as we are calling him/her is rather different to the first time round. Last time, I had nothing, and knew nothing. I also had no money. I am not exactly rolling in funds this time round, but I have at least had 2.5 years earning a salary which pays debts, childcare and so on, so there is a little to spare to spend on one or two bits.

Much as I love shopping, I also love choosing and tracking down the best prices once I’ve decided what it is I’m after. This time round, we are in a much nicer flat but there isn’t huge amounts of room in our bedroom for a cot. Actually, a proper cot won’t fit at all, so I stalked the cots I liked on eBay until I won one at a decent price. Probably because it was orange but I managed to pay less than £50. Still, I love an orange accessory and it fits with my own personal preferred colour palette of greys, navy, eau de nil, mint and splashes of orange. (It clashes rather with our red wall, mind you, so I might need to do something about that).

Orange & Mint nursery

The rest of my wish list includes the above. I bought the changing mat cover at the Shop Up in December – I can’t resist a Liberty print – and which will house a plain changing mat pad in due course.

I also bought one of the muslins when I was in Copenhagen last year for no other reason than I loved the colour and texture and Pip needed a dolls blanket whilst we were away… I will be stocking up on several more when we return later this month.

I also bought the circle lollipop sheets for the cot – they say grey but look mint in person – the cot still needs a small 45 x 90 cm mattress so I figured some fitted sheets the right size would make those middle of the night bed changes a lot easier. Again, I tracked mine down on eBay but JL and Amazon sell them too.

The sleeping bag and the pouf are rather more wish list items. I adore all the bedding from Camomile but (sadly for me, if not my bank balance) I think I probably have sleeping bags and blankets already that I should use. Having all been hand me downs to me in the first place, and then used by my niece too, I can but hope however that a new one will be required.

1 | Sleeping bag Camomile 2 | Liberty print changing mat cover Coco & Wolf 3 | Bloom Alma mini cot 4 | Cam Cam mint muslin Oskoe 5 | Cam Cam Pouf, sashiko mint Illums Boglihus 6 | Grey Fitted Sheets


Making #‎smallchanges‬ with Optiwell {giveaway!}

Happy 2016! I will be back later this week with some reflections on 2015, resolutions for 2016 and some long awaited pregnancy posts, but in the meantime, I have an exciting giveaway to kick off 2016.

I like the idea of improving life by making a series of small changes – we talk about this a lot at my day job and the process of making continuous improvements to get to an easier or better life, also known as the “aggregation of marginal gains” (which is what the British Cycling team did to lead to their amazing performance at London 2012). Now, I’m not expecting my small changes to lead to Olympic glory, although that would be nice, but rather a happy, healthier family.

Optiwell is helping with that – they’ve challenged bloggers to take part in their 10 day #‎smallchanges trial. Optiwell is a yoghurt drink which is available in both 1 litre tetrapak and 330ml on-the-go bottles, offering a “tide me over” alternative to unhealthy snacking, and can be a small step towards a healthier lifestyle in a world filled with temptation. It naturally contains calcium and is high in protein, which helps maintain bones and muscles.

Which is where my small change comes in. We’ve being trying out Optiwell over the past couple of weeks and have decided that our small change is to eat breakfast every morning. Ideally together, sat at the table, which is where the pouring carton comes in very handy and is lovely over cereal and with fresh fruit (or even made into pancakes or muffins, if you have more time – some other Optiwell recipes are here) and even just drunk out of a glass. For the mornings when we want to eat breakfast in transit, or simply wouldn’t usually have time to have breakfast, the 330ml bottle is handy to grab from the fridge and drink alongside a piece of fruit and some carbs of some kind.



The exciting part is that you don’t just have to take my word for it – I’ve another kit to giveaway to a lucky reader. Just use the rafflecopter widget below to enter, and one person will be receiving enough yogurt to try for 10 days, and a pretty lovely kit to help you eat it.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions: 1. To enter Optiwell 10 day trial kit giveaway you must share your small change on either Facebook or Twitter and leave a valid link here as your entry. There are additional options for more entries. 2. The prize is 1 x Optiwell 10 day trial kit and will be sent out directly by the agency. No cash or alternative prizes will be given 3. The prize draw will start on 03.01.16 and end at 11.59pm on 06.01.16 4. The winner will be picked from all valid entries 5. The winner will be notified directly via email. The winner must reply within seven days of receiving the email or a new winner will be picked at random. 6. I reserve the right to change the entry dates at any time, for any reason.

Post in conjunction with Optiwell.


London with kids Christmas ideas {Part 3}: The Gruffalo Live (Vaudeville Theatre)

The Gruffalo, the adventures of Mouse taking a stroll through the deep dark wood, is a pretty much compulsory children’s book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and has been adapted for the stage as a musical play – The Gruffalo Live! by the Tall Stories Theatre Company, directed by Olivia Jacobs. We were invited to a performance at the Vaudeville Theatre on the Strand during their Christmas run, and we were delighted to attend, after all, there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo… is there?

Continue reading


London with kids Christmas ideas {Part 2}: The Tiger Who Came To Tea (Stage production, Lyric Theatre)

The Tiger Who Came to Tea is a firm and beloved favourite in our house. Written by Judith Kerr and first published in 1968, it was adapted for the stage as a musical play by David Wood and we were invited to a performance at the Lyric Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue during their Christmas run.

We took Pip and her cousin, who is 4 and half, and they were both entranced. As the play ended, Pip turned to me and said “can we watch it again”. The running time was 55 minutes which was perfect for that age group, and the simple format of one set with only 3 main actors meant that it was super easy for the young audience to follow along, and they were guided by repetitive motifs to guide them as to the plot changes, which I thought worked really well, such as a ticking clock interlude to show the passing of time.


I particularly loved the tiger, and judging from the reactions not just from my kids but those all around us, I wasn’t alone in this view. He (and I do always think of the tiger as male, perhaps for some of the reasons I discuss in this post about the book although there were no sinister implications whatsoever in this adaptation) was extremely compelling – both in his movements and his interactions with Mum and Sophie.

I don’t come from a family where we went to a show or panto each year (although I did go to a number of ballets and plays as child/teenager) so whilst I love musicals, my experience has come mainly through film. Last year though, we took Pip to a children’s ballet performance at Sadler’s Wells which she was entranced by, and at Christmas we also went to see some panto which I found surprisingly enjoyable. Since becoming parents we were determined to make time to go to the theatre more though, particularly with Pip as a family, and so we are also off to another performance next weekend, and the Snowman ballet Christmas Eve. I could highly recommend a family excursion to see The Tiger Who Came to Tea this Christmas!

We watched the trailer below the evening before we went, which really helped give Pip some expectation of what would happen, and I thought did a very good job of giving a flavour of the performance.

There was plenty of opportunity for the audience to join in with some singing or dancing but was done in a way which meant that there was no obligation but allowed the children to be able to stand up and interact in a totally appropriate way.

Performances are showing until 10 January 2016 and tickets are from £14.50 to £23.50 depending on timings and seat choice, which seemed reasonable for a West End theatre performance. All details here.

We were kindly given press tickets to the performance. I received no payment for this post. 

Photos provided by the PR company as no photography was permitted in the performance.


London with kids Christmas ideas {Part 1}: Adventure to Santa’s Grotto (Westfield)

Last weekend, we took Pip and our nephew to the Adventures to Santa’s Grotto at Westfield Stratford. Or should that be that we were “whisked away on a fun, interactive adventure to visit Santa with help from our friends Shrek and Donkey and enjoyed a magical, personalised journey complete with a 4D cinematic sleigh ride which transported us through the skies to Santa’s workshop in the North Pole.”

The 4D cinematic sleigh ride was excellent and we were all thrilled by it, adults as well. With the cold air blowing in our faces and the wrap around screen, we are found it an exhilarating ride and the kids seemed to be transported by it, even if my 4 and half year old nephew did say to my husband that he knew it was just a film. I won’t say too much as I don’t want to spoil if you go, but we really did feel like we were flying and that cold snow was hitting us in the face! Santa was also excellent and we enjoyed having a photo taken altogether. I was surprised that the promised present to the children was a ‘only’ a pair of Shrek ears, but these also seemed to go down well, and Pip didn’t take hers off all weekend, so they were a definite hit!

Admittedly I don’t have much to compare it to as this was our first Grotto experience, but I thought the magic of the sleigh ride definitely outweighed some of the more irritating parts, and the things which were frustrating to me were things that the kids didn’t even to notice, and they thought it was excellent all round. Even if we did forget to watch Shrek beforehand so I found it most amusing that Pip was referring to “the green one and the horse” all afternoon afterwards.

grottoEven first thing in the morning on a Saturday the Grotto was busy and the waiting area whilst you collect the boarding passes is rather small and drafty and on the day we visited seemed particularly chilly and the staff rather frantic. Not that the kids noticed of course. You might be lucky and get a seat on the bench whilst you wait for your Elf to take you over for your flight. (Don’t make the same mistake I did and leave the kids in the warm whilst you pop over for the tickets – although you probably wouldn’t be so ill-informed about grottos to turn up sans kids!)

My only other comment was that no photo was included in the price of the ticket. If a free download to share straight to Facebook or similar had been available I think that would have been a great marketing opportunity as I would have happily shared it there and then, particularly as it was strongly stated throughout that no photographs or filming was allowed during the experience. As it was, we were magic-ed back out of the grotto straight into a gift shop packed to the rafters with purchasing opportunities. We of course felt obliged to buy something, particularly as we’d encouraged the kids to pose for a photo with Santa, and we were immediately directed to the photographs which are for sale (in addition to the fee for the grotto). We bought Pip and her cousin a fridge magnet each and then a third one for them to both give to their grandparents – the three magnets cost £18, so not cheap.

All in all, if you have a reason to go to Westfield, I though the grotto experience was very good. £35 for 4 people is a little on the expensive side, particularly when the cost of the photos/gifts is factored in, but I think it still within the realms of affordable or compared to say a cinema ticket for 4.

Post in collaboration with Westfield. I received free entry into the grotto and a Westfield gift card to cover my costs. 

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