Dick Whittington! A night out at the panto. 

This time last year, Rhondda Cynon Taff council invited us along to see Cinderella, a pantomime at Aberdare’s Coliseum Theatre and we had an absolute ball. So obviously we were absolutely delighted to be given the opportunity again this year, and last night me and Iris went along. As we live just over the mountain from the village used as the set for Sky One comedy series ‘Stella’ we’re big fans, and a member of the cast has joined the panto again. This year it’s Di Botcher, or ‘Auntie Brenda’, playing Fairy Auntie Bobells. Frank Vickery returns as Sarah the cook, and Maxwell James is yet again the heart throb of the show as Dick Whittington. Johnny Tudor (also in Stella, as well as 3 episodes of Gavin and Stacey) plays Alderman Fitzwarren. For me though, the real star of the show is Ryan Owen as Tommy the cat who has the best costume, the funniest lines and great songs including Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it Off’. 

The costumes are really incredible. Tommy the cat is clad in tight Lycra with fur, heavy make up and pointy ears. Dick Whittington looks great in his stripy leggings, and King Rat has very sinister glowing red eyes! The wildest costumes, as always, are reserved for the pantomime dame. Sarah the Cook has some really impressive costume changes that made me and the rest of the audience laugh out loud! Iris gave me a look after one costume change that clearly said ‘what on earth is she wearing?’. The crew of dancers changed often too, with my personal favourite being the super sparkly rat costumes with long bumpy tails. The scenery was beautifully painted, and the set looked great. There were many location changes and they were done so well. 

The best bits of any pantomime are the songs, and there were some really great ones. Iris’s favourite was a slightly altered version of the Paw Patrol theme tune, and mine was a hilariously chaotic version of ’12 Days of Christmas’ that left me exhausted just watching. The actors must be so tired from doing that every night! The story finishes with a happy ending, of course, and a song from Hairspray that really got us up and dancing. A strange coincidence as we’d watched Hairspray on TV earlier in the day. 

As an English person in Wales, I still find the accent and the way people speak really fascinating. The panto is extra amusing because most of the characters have a Welsh accent, even though it wasn’t set in Wales, and there were lots of references to local places that got everybody laughing. Even me, with my limited knowledge of the area. 

I think the crew of dancers were mostly the same ones as last year, and some of them look really very young. Being part of the panto must be such an incredible thing to do as a child! The routines were wonderful, and Iris spent as much of the evening as I would let her dancing in the aisle trying to copy the dance moves. She’s pretty groovy, my curly haired girl. Audience participation is such a big part of the show. Lots of booing and hissing was done, as well as plenty of “Oh no we didn’t”s. 

Having ice cream from our favourite place, Sub Zero, available in the interval was an extra bit of magic that we didn’t expect. We had an absolute blast, and it’s started the Christmas season of nicely. Pantomime is such a big Christmas tradition, and being able to share it with Iris is great. She’s been talking about last night’s ‘Christmas Show’ all day today so it’s obviously stick with her even though the story and jokes mostly went over her head. 

There are only a couple of shows left at the Coliseum before it moves to the Park and Dare in Treorchy. If you’re looking for a really Christmassy thing to do with your family in the local area then this is it. It really gets you in the mood for the celebrations! Tickets are available here, from the RCT Arts website, but hurry up because they are selling out fast! 

*We were invited along free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All words and opinions are my own. Picture credit to RCT Council*

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Caketoppers – A review

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Oh how I love cake. It must be hereditary too, because both my little ones are obsessed with it. I try to limit it to special occasions, but I have to admit that Iris does have a ‘cake dance’ and loves a trip to a cafe for a slice of cake. Oops. Obviously, when I was offered the opportunity to try out some personalised cakes I didn’t hesitate. Yes please! I chose two images for my icing, and a few days later my cupcakes arrived. 

There was something a bit strange about seeing the faces of my kids in sugar form, but I got over it quite quickly. The autumn sun has been shining here, and so we packed the cupcakes up and headed to the park for a picnic. 

Shop bought cupcakes can be dry and a bit tasteless, especially chocolate flavour ones. But these were squishy and soft and not dry at all. I received one white sponge and one chocolate one. 

I’ll be honest, I only got a small nibble of each before Iris and Astrid decided they deserved them more. Iris thought seeing her face on a cake was pretty funny, and took some persuading to actually eat the icing. She kept trying to peel it off! I’m not a big fan of thick icing. Kids birthday cakes have way too much for me, and I usually leave it behind. Cake toppers use much less, a good amount but not too thick. 

The quality of the printed pictures was pretty good. I’ve only seen photographic cakes done by supermarket bakeries before, and these were better. I’d definitely order them again, for birthday presents or for parties. I think they’d make a good gift for new parents too! Baby cakes! 

Caketoppers cakes are available to order from www.caketoppers.co.uk 

*we were gifted two cupcakes for the purposes of this review, but all opinions and photographs are my own* 

The SnoozeShade – a review 

Frustratingly, my SnoozeShade arrived the day after our day at the Royal Welsh Show in a heatwave. Astrid isn’t a fan of hot weather and sunshine, and it really would have been a lifesaver that day. Still, the heatwave lived on for a while afterwards (hard to believe now, as a storm is currently raging outside my windows!) so it has been incredibly useful. 

I’m a bit of a collector of pushchairs lately. I have two single ones, and I use them with both kids. I wear Astrid when Iris wants to have a rest, and Astrid goes in the pushchair when Iris wants to walk. There’s often a lot of swapping and changing about, so I was relieved to find that I didn’t have to remove the Snooze Shade completely every time. It was just a case of undoing the bottom two of the Velcro bands that hold it in place, then rolling it up onto the pushchair’s canopy. Once it is on the canopy it’s like it isn’t even there, and it doesn’t get in the way at all. In fact move still got it attached to my pushchair and the sun is long gone. I just forgot it was on there. 

When it is done up, the Snooze Shade blocks 99% of harmful UV rays, according to Snooze Shade. This really gave me peace of mind, especially when one of my kids was asleep in the pushchair and applying sun cream would have disturbed them. It meant I could carry on with my day instead of finding some shade to park them in. There’s a small zip at the top that can be used to take a peek at your little one without disturbing them, as well as a flap that changes the front of the Snooxe Shade to one layer instead of two. The one layer blocks 80% of UV and from the inside your child can see out. Iris was quite happy to sit inside looking through this window, but Astrid wasn’t so keen. Actually, Iris has taken to calling the Snooze Shade a ‘pushchair tent’ and thinks it’s quite good fun to be inside! 

One day both of my kids fell asleep in my Cosatto tandem pushchair and I was amazed to find that it fit right over both seats! Obviously I used this time to play Pokemon Go in the sunshine. 

I was a little concerned about the temperature inside the Snooze Shade on really hot days. I know that blankets draped over pushchair’s can cause the temperature to rise dangerously high on the inside, and very quickly. I didn’t fully test it out because it just wasn’t worth the risk, although the fabric is full of tiny holes and very breathable. On hot days I use clip on pushchair fans on the inside, and it felt very cool in there. I really recommend using them together when it’s very warm. 

I’m so glad we got the chance to review the Snooze Shade. I’d never heard of them beforehand, but now I think it’s going to be something I keep on us at all times in the summer months. It gives me so much peace of mind when it’s sunny. 

The Snooze Shade is available to buy from Amazon. 

*We were gifted the Snooze Shade for the purpose of this review,  but all words, opinions and pictures are my own* 

Our Insect Lore butterflies

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Back in Bristol, before having kids, I worked in nurseries with little children. One of the hardest parts of the role is trying to come up with new, exciting and educational activities all of the time. Yet every summer, year after year, we’d order caterpillars from Insect Lore and spend the next few weeks watching and talking about the life cycle of the butterfly. It was always one of my favourite things to do, and the children were always mesmerised! So when a relative gave me some cash and asked me to spend it on something fun for Iris I knew exactly what to do.

I saw a TV advert with an offer for 10 caterpillars for the price of 5, and ordered immediately. The caterpillars arrived in their little tubs within a few days. The food they need is already contained in the tubs, and the rate that they eat and grow is almost unbelievable! I had to be very careful because Iris can be quite heavy handed and I was worried she’d shake the tubs. All of the caterpillars survived life with Iris, and once they were huge and the food was gone they transformed into chrysalides overnight. A few days later, we watched in awe as the butterflies emerged and stretched their wings. Iris couldn’t quite believe it, and insisted on standing on a chair in the kitchen and watching them flap around.

As wonderful as the caterpillar and chrysalides stages are, they’re difficult to photograph. I managed a few poorly lit snaps, but nothing worth sharing. Really it’s all just a countdown to release day. The best part of the whole process!

We headed into the wooded area where we walk Seb the dog near our house, and we let them go. They seemed almost reluctant at first, landing on our hats and arms, but then off they flew one by one. I have no real idea why, but it made me feel quite emotional. Maybe it was Iris’s cries of ‘bye bye butterfly’ that did it. It’s quite an experience, and weeks later Iris still talks about it. We’ll definitely be doing it all again next summer!

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*We paid for our caterpillars and haven’t worked with Insect Lore for this post. We just really enjoyed the experience and wanted to share!*

 

 

 

 

 

Our family photo shoot with Sweet Whimsy Photography

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After writing our our #sweetsummerchallenge summer to-do list, we arranged to meet up with the lovely Donna of Sweet Whimsy Photography for one of her out in the wild photo shoots. I’ve never been a big fan of a studio photo shoot. They make me feel nervous and then I can’t manage a natural smile. The little ones are the same. I took them for a studio shoot quite recently and Iris went all shy while Astrid got upset. They managed one decent photo but neither kid is smiling. It was good enough for a grandparent’s mantelpiece, but not the kind of picture that brings back memories and makes you feel warm inside. For that you need to capture kids in their own natural environment, doing what they do best. The great outdoors!

We headed to Hendrewennol Fruit Farm near Cardiff to tick strawberry picking off our summer bucket list. It’s a favourite of ours, and a place we often pop into after a visit to the nearby Warren Mill Farm Park. As well as fruit fields, they have a lovely play area and the coffee is pretty good too. Donna had never been before, but was happy to meet us there and I’m pretty sure she’ll be going back with her own daughter!

Iris really got stuck in. Once we convinced her to only pick red ones and not the green ones, she filled her basket pretty quickly. It was a damp drizzly sort of Saturday morning, but we’ve never been the sort of family to let the weather hold us back. Even Astrid was happy to sit on (and eat!) the wet grass, and she really enjoyed her first taste of strawberries. You’re not really supposed to eat them until after you leave, but Astrid is too little to read the signs! It didn’t take long for the little ones to completely forget that Donna and her camera were there. I’m pretty sure Trevor had forgotten too. If I wasn’t so self conscious I could have done the same, but cameras pointed at me make me feel nervous! I needn’t have worried. I don’t look nervous and I’m pretty pleased with the shots of me. I have to admit that my favourites are the images of Trevor and Iris, who were having a really great time together!

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The big two kids were in Lanzarote with their mum, lucky things, so they couldn’t be a part of the shoot. It’s a huge shame, but we’ve already decided that we’ll be doing another shoot with Donna in the future and they’ll be included next time. I think we’ll wait until Astrid is walking, so that they can be captured all running together.

I highly recommend Sweet Whimsy Photography if you’re in South Wales and want a family photoshoot that’s a little bit different!

*Donna photographed us for the purpose of this post and for images for her website/blog. We weren’t charged for the shoot.*

The SnugglyBabies car mirror 

I was pretty excited to receive the SnugglyBabies car mirror. Even second time around, I’m one of those parents that checks their sleeping child is still breathing several times a minute. I’m even worse in the car.

When Iris was tiny, and the big two stayed with us, I had to sit in the front so that the kids could sit in the back. This meant I couldn’t see Iris. I bought a rubbish mirror that was all fabric and velcro, and I could never get it to stay sitting at the correct angle for me to be able to see her from the front. Instead I constantly bugged the kids by asking if she was ok every few seconds.

This time around we have the van, with two rows of seats in the back, and even with all of us inside there’s room for me to sit next to Astrid. When it’s just the four of us it’s great to have the opportunity to hop into the middle row to chat with Iris while Astrid sleeps, and still be able to keep an eye on her. The fabric Velcro thing just wasn’t doing the job though.

I’m not really sure why the fabric Velcro thing exists. Why didn’t anybody think of a proper mirror, framed in proper plastic and with proper sturdy fastenings before? Maybe they did, but I didn’t see such a thing when I googled and googled when Iris was new.
Proper brackets attach the mirror to the headrest stalks, and it can be tightened so that it doesn’t move around when you go over bumps. A second bracket means you can adjust how far the mirrors stands out from the head rest, and then the mirror can be turned around 360 degrees.

Img Credit: Snuggly Babies website

We’ve been using the mirror for a few weeks now, and it definitely puts my mind at ease in the van. For more information, check out the Snuggly Babies website. It is available to buy now on Amazon where it is currently less than half price!

 

 

*We were gifted the Snuggly Babies car mirror for the purpose of this review, but all words and opinions are my own.*

Stur Drinks – water enhancers. A review. 

I am dreadful at making sure I get enough water. Even when I’ve been exercising, I still don’t drink enough. I’m a bit better if I add squash,but I’m wary of the contents. Some are filled with sugar, and the sugar free ones are filled with other rubbish. I know that I sometimes eat extra food thinking I am hungry, when in reality I am probably just thirsty. As part of my challenge to take better care of myself, I’m determined to drink more water. So it’s pretty lucky that Stur Drinks sent me some of their water enhancers to try out. It’s also pretty lucky that it’s even scorching hot here and I’ve been able to enjoy them in the sunshine, with lots and lots of ice.


I received three of the berry flavours range. Freshly Fruit Punch, Simply Strawberry Watermelon and Boldly Blue and Blackberry. The Stur Drinks website is full of lots of other flavours. Too many to choose from actually. I really fancy trying out some of the coconut flavours or the tea flavour range. 

It took a couple of days before I got to try them out. Iris loved the tiny bottles, and took them off into her play kitchen where they became tiny cups of tea, apparently. When we did open them, she insisted on being first to try them and ran off to fetch her Peppa Pig mug. I don’t usually give her squash, and she only has watered down juice occasionally. I was happy to let her try the Stur drinks though, as they don’t contain any sugar and are sweetened with natural Stevia extract. She certainly seemed to enjoy it, but mostly liked squeezing the bottle to squirt it into her water!

As well as helping you to drink enough water, one drink also contains 100% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. Great for me, as my immune system could do with a boost. I’m sure sleep deprivation means I catch every bug that goes around! Each bottle contains 30 servings, but I found I needed more than the recommended one squirt to get the taste strong enough for my liking. This did mean that the little bottles didn’t last as long as I’d hoped. I find this is the case with ordinary squash too though. I just like it strong! 

Stur water enhancers are available online via their website and on Amazon, either singularly or in multipacks. 

*I was gifted three bottle of Stur for the purpose of this review, but all words, opinions and pictures are my own*