Thursday, 30 August 2012

The end is Nigh!

The end is Nigh.

It is almost time to say goodbye.

Goodbye to the long, lazy snuggles in bed, getting up when we please.

Goodbye to HAW (him at work) who has been HAWFH (him at working from home) for the majority of the holidays...



Goodbye to jumping in pools and playing together to NO schedule or routine


Goodbye to exploring and discovering new things



Goodbye to picnic lunches and afternoons spent lazing in the park with friends and family







Goodbye to deciding what to do on the day and just jumping in the car and doing it


Man, I am going to miss the summer holidays..................

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

When the boys met the mighty Quins!

Regular readers will know that my boys are rugby mad.  This has been a great season for Beansy as his team (that I manage) were crowned Grand Champions of the Quins Curtain Raiser Cup back in May 2012.  With the 2012/13 season fast approaching, we were delighted to be invited along to watch the mighty quins in pre season training.

2011/2012 Curtain Raiser Cup Champions!!!


For those of you NOT interested or knowledgeable about Rugby, the Quins are also the current Champions and have several England players on the squad, including the current England Captain.  So, to be invited along is a BIG deal and once in a lifetime opportunity for the boys.

Firstly, let me show you something:





Now I am not saying that ALL footballers are like this, but I've seen the face of football change for the worse these past 10 or so years, and despite attending plenty of international and domestic games in my time, it is not something that I would want to do now.  The salary that footballers are paid are obscene.  You just have to look at the likes of Ryan Giggs who refused to sing the NATIONAL anthem during the Olympics but yet is happy to play for team GB.   I certainly don't want my boys aspiring to be granny prostitute shagging, wife swapping, cheating, lying footballers (again, not ALL are like this and I am sure some rugby players are degenerates) who have no morals or values. The problem in my humble opinion, is that they get paid too much and think they are above the law.

Anyway, I digress.

We arrived and spent the next hour up close and personal to the Quins players.  After they had finished training they came over to chat and sign autographs with all the kids and of course answer any questions.









Aren't they AWESOME??

My kids are all so inspired, the players were nothing but polite, accommodating and just plain lovely.  They were all chatting to the kids for a LONG TIME, not just a passing, fleeting autograph.

These are the sort of men I want my boys to look up to, not an overpaid, arrogant footballer and whilst football may be the beautiful game (because let's face it, the game is great, it is just the players) rugby is the game played by real gents both on and off the pitch.

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo





Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Geomag Police Review

My boys love to build things - whether its lego battleships, whittling a bit of wood into a sword or using "junk"to make just about anything, they have always enjoyed putting things together and the challenge of doing so.

You can imagine their delight then when they were asked to review the geomag Police set from Flair.  I'd never heard of Geomag before, but Beansey (nearly 9) was psyched, he said that lots of his friends have the geomag rods and that he really enjoyed playing with them and building things.  He said he had never heard of the set and was really looking forward to playing with and building the police triple pack (retails at £24.99)


This is what they say about the geomag police set:

"Geomag is an ingenious magnetic construction system with magnetic rods and chrome spheres. The Geomag Police Triple pack it the ultimate crime fighting set. Build and rebuild the Police Helicopter, the Police car and exclusively to this set the Police 4×4. Cover the roads, sky and even off road! Connect the helicopter to either the 4×4 or car to deploy the ultimate crime fighting team anywhere! For Ages 5+”

Beansey was saving the police set for when his best friend came over for a sleepover.  It says that it is suitable for ages 5 and over, and as they are both nearly 9, I was expecting them to quietly get on with building the set .  Sadly, this wasn't the reality as within minutes, they were saying "we can't do it" and "this is impossible".  I sat down with them and was flummoxed by the instructions.  It was just a diagram with no written instructions, just pictorial diagrams.  They were the kids equivalent of ikea instructions which we all know are frustrating and impossible to follow.  

We persevered for over an hour, and in that time, we could only manage this:





We couldn't do the police car or jeep, they felt flimsy and the wheels wouldn't stay on.  It felt as if the magnetic rods and connectors were not long enough.  The actual car/helicopter/jeep kept coming undone (you are meant to put them through the slots and then fold into place) as seen in the photo above.

The boys quickly lost interest and instead started to play with the magnets and rods. 

This is such a shame as with a bit of tweaking to the design, the set would be a real hit.  I feel that it needs to go back to the drawing board and researched with real boys and real people.  Once the design faults have been rectified, I can see this being a real hit.  Sadly, until that is done, it remains a real flop in the Super Amazing household.

Peace and Love



S.A.M xoxo





Disclaimer: We were sent the police set for the purpose of this review and whilst it wasn't a hit, I hope you can see that we think that with a bit of tweaking it could be a real hit!






Sunday, 26 August 2012

Claridges - Gordon Ramsay and us

HAW (him at work) has recently celebrated a milestone birthday!  Yes, my handsome, pain in the butt toady, has reached the grand old age of 40 and as the killjoy didn't want a party (bah humbug, just you wait until I reach the big 4-0!) I wanted to do something special to mark the occasion.   

For his 30th, I booked our favourite pub in Kensington and invited all our friends for a big old party, we then ended up at Embargos on the Kings Road dancing the night away in a private booth, it was a GREAT night.  However, ten years on and three kids later, I needed to do something a bit more memorable.


He is a huge foodie, who loves nothing more than finding good, local produce and cooking up a feast and although he entertains clients at the best restaurants in London, I knew he hadn't been and wanted to go to Gordon Ramsey's at Claridges for a LONG time.  

However, we had been to GR's signature restuarnt on Hospital Road twice and although the food was exquisite, the atmosphere was dire.  (It only has around 5 tables, mainly filled with businessmen and you could hear a pin drop it was that quiet) and so I was a dubious about booking Claridges in case we were faced with the same situation (amazing food, crap atmosphere) so with trepidation and time running out, I bit the bullet.

I wanted it to be a surprise, and after dropping off the kids at my parents, I whisked him off to his favourite shop to buy him a new suit, shirt, tie and shoes.  He was then given the following clues:

1) Botox
2) America
3) Kate Moss - Decadence
4) Art Deco
5) Glamourous

He was FREAKING out, saying it sounded awful and that if we were going to some dodgy eurotrash nightclub with "treasure chests" he wouldn't be impressed (oh, how a decade can change a man!).

Despite living in Surrey, we are lucky to have a flat in London, right by Borough Market and so we headed there for some cocktails and to get ready before a cab arrived to whisk us to our destination in Mayfair.  He still didn't know where we going, and it was only as we pulled up and the doorman opened the cab door, that the penny dropped.







We were going to go for the tasting menu at £80 for five courses, but as HAW doesn't eat fish, we decided that a la carte would be the better option.  The food was exquisite - we had watermelon and goats cheese canapes and then I had white asparagus with scallops and a champagne veloute to start (HAW had a fois gras terrine) followed by roast duck on a bed of white beetroot with cherry infused fois gras and asparagus for my mai (HAW had sweetbreads) my pudding was pistachio parfait with mini chocolate donuts (HAW had chocolate mousse).  We washed this down with hendricks and two bottles of sancerre.  It was expensive (£350 ish) but worth every single penny as we had a lovely, memorable evening.  As for the atmosphere, it was brilliant, lots of laughing, chatter and banter with the someeliers and maitre'd and the night was topped with a tour of the kitchens.

Everything was perfect - the food was exquisite, the atmosphere amazing and of course, Claridges is very special.  If you are looking for a once in a lifetime treat, then I can't recommend this enough.

As Mr R himself would say......DONE!





Peace and Love 


S.A.M xoxo

















Silent Sunday


Saturday, 18 August 2012

Our Summer Holiday 2012

We love France and have been several times in the last decade.  Not many British people have heard of the "islands" but we discovered them last year after a last minute summer holiday booking.  We were hooked and knew we just had to return.  

We decided to stay on the island of Ile de Re this year, and had a beautiful apartment on a small complex in St Marie de Re which has the facilities of a hotel (cleaned every day, reception, bar, free wifi) with the luxury of having a large suite - perfect for a family of 5!

After leaving Les Pierres Couchees we drove for about 2 hours and arrived in La Rochelle to pick up some supplies.  HAW is a huge foodie, and was quite literally salivating at the thought of the food market which we experienced last year.  We are bringing the children up with the food philosophy of "try everything once" and they will quite happily eat moules/frites or langoustines and even chicken livers which I think is pretty awesome.  We don't believe in putting our tastes onto them, as of course, everyone has a different palate and beliefs (eg HAW won't eat swimming fish, but encourages the children to try and make their own minds up rather than his).





After stocking up on langoustines, fruit and vegetables,  we paid our toll money and headed over to the island which can only be reached by a 2km bridge.   We quickly settled into a routine of swimming before breakfast, then going off to explore the villages of Re afterwards (the island is only 12km long with just 10 villages, each with their own identity and daily market and the best way to experience this is by bike.  If you don't want to take your own bikes, there are several bike hire shops and this will cost you around 100E per week for a family of 5) before heading home for another swim and lunch.  Afternoons were spent visiting the the numerous beaches that surround the island and all are beautiful.  We visited in August and there was plenty of room for everyone, in fact our favourite beach was the busiest one, which was by the old fort in St Martin de Re.  It was set in a beautiful alcove with calm seas and a diving platform which all the kids loved swimming out too and jumping off.  It also has a basketball court and a kids activity station which was ideal for families as well as a beach bar.

The great thing though about Re though, is the "frenchness" of it.  We heard very few English voices and loved the fact that all the restaurants didn't have tourist menus (you know, the plastic backed ones that serve chips with everything) and served the same food for children as adults.   I speak french pretty well and took great delight in haggling with the producers in the market daily.  

Here's some photos to illustrate our highlights:









Ile de Re is an island crying out to be explored, there are lots of little shops hidden away up deserted side streets and you will stumble upon artisan boulangeries, antique shops and galleries in all of the villages.   It is tranquil and unspoilt and if you are looking for a relaxing family holiday with good food, wine and excellent beaches then we can't recommend it enough!  

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

Friday, 17 August 2012

Monsuno review - will this be THE must have toy for Christmas 2012?!

The boys are at Rugby camp this week, and without fail, every morning, I have had to say "boots CHECK, Gumshield CHECK, Water Bottle CHECK, Monsuno CHECK".

Monsuno what is that I hear you ask?  Let me explain....

Our house has been taken over by Monsuno and if you are a parent of boys between 5-10, I am sure you are aware of what these are and what I am talking about!





Monsuno is the latest "must have" craze, and it is no surprise to me that it has been voted one of the top toys for Christmas 2012 by The Entertainer.   The boys were beyond thrilled when we were sent the Strike Sector Combat Set to review as well as some Core Combat Figures  and very quickly set this up so that battle could commence. 

I'm afraid I have NO IDEA whatsoever what the cards and figures do, but here is what Beansey aged 8 had to say about it all:

"It's so cool Mum, you basically have a battle with your monster, some of them spin for up to 20 minutes and you never, ever know when they are going to attack, it is very suspenseful (sp!) and just totally awesome, I love it"


BoBo aged 6 had this to say "Mum, this is the BEST thing ever, you can do battles and find out all about your monsters, it is so easy to spin and fight, and AND we are playing together nicely aren't we?"

I then thought I would have a go - could I spin it? No I couldn't but lets be honest, I am NOT the target market here!

The battle arena comes with a handy carry bag so it has been easy for them to transport to rugby camp and back and I have it on good authority that EPIC battles have been carried out during the lunch hour at camp.

So there you have it - what I am predicting will be the must have toy for Christmas 2012!

Priced from £3.99 upwards it has everything that boys love - epic battles, collecting and playing!

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo







Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Siblu - what do the kids think?

Last week I blogged about my thoughts on our recent siblu holiday to France and this week, I am handing over the blog to my 8 year old son Beansy.

Here's a vlog that we did on our last night, where I asked Beansey his opinions on our recent holiday to Les Pierres Couchees in the Loire Atlantique region just south of Brittany.




Isn't he a natural?!

Judith Chalmers, watch out!

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

Friday, 10 August 2012

My 3 year old Graduate

Yet another milestone has just passed.  A few weeks ago,  I was blogging about waving goodbye to the fertility boat and a few days later, my gorgeous little Pixie "graduated" from pre-school where she has happily going for the past year.  It is a truly amazing place, small, well equipped and with the most wonderful teachers who are all so special in each way.

Each child was called up at the end, and presented with a little certificate.   I would wager my chocolate stash that my little Pixie is the only 3 year old in the world to graduate with this honour! 

Regular readers will know that Pixie is obsessed with clothes and that after trying to get her to wear what I want her to wear, I allow her to choose her own style.  Consequently, she goes in wearing a tutu with stripy tights and wellie boots and looks fabulous.  A true Fashionista!



Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Family Holiday - Review of Siblu Les Pierres Couchees

We have been back in the UK for a few days now, and I wanted to write up our memories of our first ever siblu holiday to Les Pierres Couchees in the Loire Atlantique area of France before the memories fade along with the suntan!  I briefly blogged about our first few days onsite, but it deserves a proper review now we are back on British soil.

This was our first ever driving holiday and we were chuckling to ourselves as we saw car after car driving by with roof racks and bike racks - we felt very unprepared!  We were sailing from Portsmouth and I can't priase Brittany Ferries enough - it was certainly more relaxed than flying, and having our own cabin was a wonderful start and it meant we had privacy and a place to use as a base.  We arrived in Caen at around 9:30pm and after an uneventful drive (empty roads!) arrived in Les Pierres Couchees around 4 hours later.  We then spent nearly an hour actually trying to find our mobile home once onsite as the map was useless and nobody was around to help us.

We awoke to blue skies and had a good look around before going to the supermarket and stocking up.

The site was big but felt intimate as is was set in woodland with giant pine trees.  There is a well stocked shop (we forgot armbands) that sells fresh baguettes and store cupboard staples a bar, restaurant and pizza cafe.   The facilities are superb with a warm, centrally located pool with flumes, swing park, tennis courts, football pitch and of course, the obligatory boules area.   

There is a full programme of activities across the week as well as three kids clubs - Bubbles for the Under 5's, Pirates for the 5-11s and Barrcudas for 11+ who have sessions every day in the morning and the afternoon.  

Evenings are focused around the ampitheatre where the reps put on a number of shows from the Michael Jackson Spectacular to the kids talent show.   Everything was very well prepared and planned.

So what did we think?

Firstly, the mobile home was spotless.  It was owned privately and rented by siblu  and it had everything you could possibly want for a self catering holiday.  It had 3 bedrooms - a small double with ensuite and two small rooms, both with single beds.  It was perfect for us (2 adults and 3 children) but I wouldn't recommend taking grandparents as it would mean adults sleeping in very small beds!

The main living area had comfy sofas, a table that seated six and an incredibly well equipped kitchen.   The outside decked area was spacious with two tables and numerous chairs - but lacked a BBQ.  Although you can access BBQ's in shared areas, it would be ideal if you had your own. It seemed ludicrous to us that on a self catering holiday in the sun, that a BBQ wasn't standard!! As it was, the kitchen was so well equipped we were cooking lobster and mussels without any problems, but your own BBQ would have been the icing on the cake. * see response from siblu below*

We soon settled into a routine of pool in the morning and exploring in the afternoon (separate blog post coming soon!) before heading home for some al fresco dining from produce bought in the day in local markets and drinks in the evening.  We only went to the organised entertainment twice over the week period as it is not really our thing but I have to say, the nights we did go (Kids Gala and Michael Jackson) I was pleasantly surprised.



The kids were in Nirvana.  Living in London they quite simply don't roam the streets or go to the park on their own.  I'd love LOVE to let them do this, but it doesn't feel quite right at the moment at the age of 8, 6 and 3.  They are ferried from club to school, and although I am far from a "helicopter parent", I don't feel secure enough to let them go on their own.  At siblu, they were like free range children - popping to the shops for a baguette, playing in the park ON THEIR OWN (even wee Pixie at 3 was taken by her elder brothers) and it felt safe and right.  

The swing park came into its own about 6pm at night - as parents cooked, the children played.  Ours were the only English ones but the international language of play transcended all barriers and fun was the objective irrespective of what language was your native tongue.

As HAW was on cooking duty, I quite often went and watched the kids and in the end, I was a bit like the pied piper and was teaching all the kids games such as "stuck in the mud" and "40/40".  It helped that I speak French and I revelled in the fact that the kids were immersed in a culture so different to our own at home.

The beach is a 15 minute walk away and is beautiful.  The sea was calm and warm and the beach wasn't busy.  There are no facilities though, so please take plenty of supplies!   There is a large hypermarket nearby and the market in town on a Sunday was fabulous with lots of well priced, local produce.

We can't recommend siblu enough - the kids had an absolute ball and although they only went into the kids club twice, they really enjoyed themselves.  I have to say, that the end of the week, HAW and I were happy to be moving on (ile de Re) NOT because it was bad, but we were ready for a change of scenery. 
The kids however, could have quite happily stayed for another week!


Positives

  • Kids had freedom to roam - In London they are "battery" kids but
  • Kids clubs were multi lingual and it was a joy to see the international language of play
  • Clean, well-equipped mobile homes with excellent equipment
  • Lifeguards in attendance - it's quite scary having three children of various swimming abilities running around various pools but the lifeguards were incredibly vigilant and this gave us a great sense of security
  • Shop on site that sold all the "basics" handy for when you run out of milk!
  • Close to a beautiful beach and lots to do further afield if you have a car
  • Reps on site for any queries and support
  • Superb value for money



Negatives

  • If arriving in the dark, you really need someone to guide you to your mobile home.  We spent nearly 40 minutes trying to navigate the one way system and poor map.
  • No BBQ 
  • "Bubbles" kid club needs an adult (ie YOU) in attendance.  This was a real negative as we were looking forward to an hour of total relaxation whilst the kids were in kids club.  As it was, we took it in turns but it would have been nice for HAW and I to relax together.


I've got a video review from Beansy coming up shortly, as well as a look around the area but if you want anymore information, then please do get in touch with me.

Peace and Love

S.A.M xoxo

Disclaimer: We were fortunate enough to have our first week provided free of charge by siblu for the purposes of this review.  However, as always, this does not affect or influence my opinions which are all our own.

*Siblu's PR agency have let me know the following: "The restriction on BBQs at Pierres Couchees is down to local regulations, rather than our park rules. At most siblu villages BBQs are included with mobile homes, unfortunately we can't do this at Pierres Couchees"