Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Jedi Mind Tricks for Kids

Photo Credit:Young Yoda
At the moment my parenting focus is on helping Ella to manage her negative emotions without repressing them, or letting them completely take her over.

So, if she’s scared of wolves in her bedroom at night we start talking about happy thoughts like our recent trip to Euro Disney.

If she can’t get the wolves out of her mind, we talk about how they are like dogs and how she can choose to make them her pets in her imagination: take them for walks, tickle their tummies.

I’m keen to encourage her to realise that she can control her thoughts, which in turn makes it possible for her to change the way she feels.

I think it’s one of the most valuable life skills I can teach her. Although I must confess, being quite a sensitive soul as I am at times, I am still learning that trick myself.

Master it I will...

Friday, 19 June 2009

Get Lost in Music...

Photo Credit: PhilipZeplin
Until recently, I’ve been stuck in a musical rut.

I want something new to listen to and I don’t want to be permanently plugged into Radio 1 to discover it. Their inane chatter in between tracks is too off-putting when I’m working.

So, I was chuffed to bits when I recently discovered Last FM. You type in a band you like and it creates a non-stop-music radio station for you - featuring your chosen band and artists of a similar genre.

It’s fab for discovering new music - and rediscovering old favourites. My current fave is Polly Scattergood (no, I’d never heard of her either). Check out her very beautiful Poem Song and Other too Endless. You can even create your own playlists - and send the URL to your mates. Please share your discoveries with me!

Ella's dad recommended Spotify to me the other day. It’s like a jukebox for your PC.

Basically, you download it (for free) and type in any album or artist. You can then listen to all their stuff for free (but can’t burn it to CD/download it onto your MP3 player).

It takes all the risk out of buying new music ‘cos you can listen to an album as many times as you like before popping to the shops/ordering it on Amazon.

It’s also great for keeping up with your muso friends – whenever they mention a band/singer you should know about (as happened to me re. PJ Harvey), nod sagely then scurry on home to listen to their entire back catalogue on Spotify. Like what you hear? Discover more bands like them on Last FM...

The soundtrack to my life just got a whole lot more interesting.

I’m currently working my way through the Camp Bestival line up so I know who to make a beeline for in July. Although I’ll need to keep my plans flexible...

CBeebies’ Mr Tumble, Angelina Ballerina with the English National Ballet and Will Young will be vying for Ella’s attention. Strangely enough, El’s most excited about the Knitting Tent.

Rock on, Ella!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Yummy Mummies Meet at the Rainforest Cafe

Photo credit: traci*s retro

Now I must confess that I used to think meeting anyone from an internet 'community group' was completely nerdy. The kind of thing best left to World of Warcraft-ers and Second Life-ers.

Basically, I thought that meeting people you'd only ever met virtually was suitable for people who didn't have any real friends.

But times move on, and I with them.

I was excited, I was nervous. Sunday came and Ella and I traipsed off to London for the British Mummy Bloggers get-together at The Rainforest Cafe.

Organised by Susanna at A Modern Mother - truly the Queen of the British Mummy Bloggers - it was a great opportunity to match some (very pretty) faces to blogs.

Ella had a great time on the kids table and loved her goodie bag, especially the Rainforest Cafe wallet which prompted her to ask for some pocket money. Hmm. Is five too young for pocket money? Probably. I gave her some anyway.

I had a lovely natter with NixdMinx during which we discussed the burning desire to occassionally 'let rip' in anonymous blog posts.

We all slightly self-censor at times, knowing that friends/Romans/Countrymen read our posts. It would be great to have a place for us mummy bloggers to vent, to expose the raw, naked truth at those times when we can't on our own blogs for fear of reprisals. NixdMinx suggested the name 'AnonyMums'. Love it. I'll let you know when it launches...

I met Emily from Maternal Tales and her cute, cheeky daughter who had me and NixdMinx in stiches. I chatted to Home Office Mum and More than Just a Mother (whose current post I urge you to read. It'll make you chuckle) and waved manically to Notes from Inside My Head as for some reason I was convinced I'd met her somehwere before. Turns out she thought the same of me. We don't even read each others blogs (though I will now). Spooky.

And then there was the ripely preganant and glowing Tasha from Wahm Bahm who impressively managed to combine working at home with a two week old baby the first time round. Living, breathing proof that you can have, and do, it all.

And last, but certainly not least, I met Metropolitan Mum and her gorgeous little Baby L. What a delicious group of yummy, funny mummies. I am proud to belong to such an intelligent, interesting completely non-nerdy group.

There were more mummy bloggers I didn't get a chance to say hello to (I was wedged tightly in the corner, as it was a large table in a very small room, and I only ventured out of my seat for loo trips), but I hope to meet in due course.

We all enjoyed a free lunch - courtesy of the lovely people at Silver Cross who only asked for a few minutes of our attention while they discussed their ethos as a company (British, committed to quality and innovation, open to feedback from customers) and demonstrated two pretty cool products.

My favourite was the Halo pushchair which combines a travel system with a lightweight stroller so it will last Junior all the way through from birth until s/he progresses to walking/scooting/cycling.

Impressively, it folds down so small you can fit it in the boot of a Mini. The old style Mini.

Now I just need the baby...

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Top 5 Tips for Enjoying Disneyland Paris

Ella and I had a great time at Euro Disney this Tuesday and Wednesday. The weather was amazing, the queues bearable (the longest we ever had to wait for a ride was 30 minutes) and the atmosphere happy and upbeat.

I had steeled myself for an onslaught of unbridled consumerism and in-your-face American-style Disney overkill but was pleasantly suprised.

I'm not denying that food and merchandise were expensive, they were. But the French are, well, French and so their Disney-ness was expressed with a smile and a 'Hello Princess' (for Ella, not me). They were charmingly free of faux enthusiasm, tending towards friendliness instead. A refreshing experience for any visitor to Paris.

The peculiar thing about Disneyland, Paris is that you can't get a decent coffee for love nor money. Not in the park, the studios, the village nor the hotels. There wasn't a Gaggia in sight.

I had to make do with Nescafe espresso or, worse, Nescafe cappuccino - the kind that started life as a dry powder and owes its foaminess to E-numbers. I'm surprised the Disney staff haven't mounted a strike in protest.

For those of you who haven't yet been, here are Ella and my recommendations for Euro Disney:

Top 5 Tips for Enjoying Disneyland Paris

  1. Make it a Mini Break
    We went for one night and two days. At the most, I'd recommend two nights and three days. Yes, there is a lot to do but it is very tiring walking around the Park's 140 acres -and the Walt Disney Studios' 50 acres.

    A mini break gives you enough time to do the best rides, and see a few shows, and frees you to suck up the expense without wincing. We spent around £140 on souvenirs, food and drink over the 2 days.

  2. Go Off Peak
    A bit of an obvious one, this but strongly recommended. To find out the best times to go, select 'book now' on the
    Disneyland Paris hotels page, and click the 'arrival date' link which will bring up the calendar. The cheaper dates (shown in yellow) are the best times to go - both for your purse and for your sanity.

    Don't feel guilty about pulling the little darlings out of school. Remember, you're creating magical memories that they, and probably you, will cherish for ever. Corny but true.

  3. Know your Rides
    This one is tricky, but it really does pay to do your research, talk to friends and friends of friends (thank you to MJ for her amazing itinerary), trawl the whatever you can before you go to find out what your child/children are most likely to enjoy.

    We made the mistake of thinking
    Big Thunder Mountain was a family ride. Disney bill it as such, Ella exceeded the minimum height requirement and from where we were standing the ride looked fairly tame. We were so wrong.

    It is not a fast train ride. It is a roller coaster without the loops. We closed our eyes and screamed through the entire ride. I know that's de rigeur on roller coasters. But we were both uncomfortably scared. Although, later in the day I must admit that we looked back on the experience and felt a stoic sense of achievement.

    So be warned - what Disney, or others, think is age appropriate may not be, depending on how fearless you and your child are. Els and I are fairly evenly matched. Clearly, she has a better excuse for being a wimp – she is only five.

    I, on the other hand, am old enough to know better but cannot sway my strong sense of self-preservation by thinking of the impecccable safety record of most roller coasters, the laws of physics being on my side etc. etc.

    For what it's worth, our favourite rides were
    The Pirates of the Carribean, Buzz Lightyear Laserblast and a tame-looking but great fun Orbitron

  4. Get Up Early
    If you stay in any of the Disney hotels you are allowed access to the Park from 8am to 10am. That means you get two whole hours before the day tripping hoardes descend. Bliss.

    They only open up two areas of the park, and not all of the rides in these areas are open, but it is a doddle to get on the rides you fancy and it is a relaxing experience wandering around an almost-deserted Park.

    The first hour (8am-9am) was the best because a lot of families at the hotels clearly hadn't finished breakfasting and getting ready. Ella and I had both hit the sack at 9pm the night before, so it was easy to wake up early and make the most of our two hours.
It was a great mini break, and a fabulous Mother-Daughter bonding opportunity. We smiled and giggled and 'wowed' our way through two of the best days we have had in a long time. I highly recommend that you go.

But if you're watching the pennies (and who of us isn't these days?) do hurry up and book soon. Kids under seven stay and play free until 8th November this year. If you're lucky, you may even get free travel on Eurostar for the little darlings too (very much subject to availability - we couldn't get this deal on the dates we wanted to travel).

Bon voyage!

Monday, 1 June 2009


J and I spent the weekend with Sarah and Mike, lounging in the sunshine and flying kites. I was totally made over when Sarah told me they are going to try for a baby soon.

It seems to be Maternity Year.

Two of J's friends' wives are about to have their first babies, a good friend of his has recently announced her first pregnancy and two of my friends are about to pop. Sarah is the second girlfriend to tell me they're 'going for gold' in the next few months.

I wonder if it's catching?

I have some exciting news of my own.

I'm taking Ella on a suprise trip to Eurodisney, Paris. I am sooo excited. We're catching the Eurotunnel tomorrow morning. I'm planning to keep the secret at least until we get to St Pancras.

Au revoir!