December 2018 | Modern Mummy

Monday, 31 December 2018

FOOD // Veganuary on a Budget


Last year over 168,000 people signed up to take part in Veganuary, a month long challenge to eat an entirely vegan diet. I was one of them and this year, together with Daisy, I plan to do it again. Making the switch to veganism is one of the most effective choices you can make to reduce the suffering of animals, help the planet and improve your health - even by doing it for just one month out of twelve has a massive impact on you and the world around you. 

Since my laparoscopic cholecystectomy back in 2014, I've eaten a dairy free diet, and I've not eaten chicken since the arrival of the Sixties Style Icons last October. Giving up the limited amounts of fish and red meat that I do eat wasn't especially difficult, but I did go about it completely the wrong way, spending a fortune on ready meals and eating out; purely out of laziness. Later in the year I discovered that it needn't be such an expensive lifestyle choice when I signed up for the Happy Pear Happy Heart course and learned about the benefits of whole food plant based eating, rather than going down the easy, vegan junk food route. Not only is it a million times better for you than just being vegan alone; it turns out that a diet made up predominantly of plants, pulses, grains and lentils is ridiculously cheap! In actual fact, my weekly shopping bill HALVED when I ditched all the pre-prepared stuff and started making my meals from scratch!

If any of you are interested in signing up to Veganuary but are worried about the cost of all the fresh produce, then this post is for you. Below I'll be sharing a few top tips for stretching those ingredients, getting inspired and cooking some of the tastiest meals you'll ever have!

Top Tips
(1) Plan your meals.
If you know what you're going to be eating in advance, you can time your meals to make the most out of leftover fresh produce. Always scan your fridge and cupboards before you head out food shopping; I'm terrible for doubling up on ingredients.

(2) Shop cleverly.
Don't be afraid or embarrassed to buy from the reduced section at the supermarket! Lots of fresh produce ends up there because it's best before date is looming - it is all still perfectly edible and even if you can't eat it straight away it can be used in a recipe for freezing, or frozen as it is. Also, if expensive store cupboard ingredients that you eat regularly are on offer then bulk buy!

(3) Batch cook. 
Following a recipe that feeds four? Double it and freeze the extra portions. If you're looking to save money and want to be able to eat inexpensive, nutritious, vegan food when you're low on time, then I can't stress how brilliant batch cooking is. There is literally no difference in price if you're making a dahl for 2 or a dahl for 12; just whack your leftovers into mason jars and bring them out to defrost on days when you know you'll be pushed for time to prepare dinner. 

(4) Freeze.
The freezer is your friend! Not only can you store batch cooked meals in there, you can also freeze fresh produce that you're not able to eat before their 'use by' dates.

You can also read my guide to reducing food waste here to find out more about freezing fresh and batch cooked food, storing your food properly and composting any organic matter that can't be used.

Inspiration
I find most of my vegan food inspiration over on Instagram. Some brilliant accounts to follow are:


Then there is also the official Veganuary account - and I love Happy Cow - which also happens to be a great app that will help you locate vegan friendly eateries nearby, if you do want to eat out!

Excellent budget recipes.
Some of my favourite recipes are the ones that equate to £1.50 or less per meal. Nutritious food needn't be expensive so long as you're happy to put the time in to shop cleverly and prepare your meals yourself. Why not try one of these amazing dishes:


Other quick and easy meals include veggie soups, stir fries and buddha bowls - all are also a great way to use up any veg that's on the turn.

Happy Veganuary everyone!
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Sunday, 30 December 2018

The Omlet Fido Studio: A Review



Ever since we got an Eglu Cube for our chickens I have honestly been one of Omlet's biggest fans. Their products are innovative, easy to put together, easy to clean - and stylish too - basically everything you could possibly wish for when it comes to bringing new things into your home for your pets. As a chicken keeper that's previously had a wooden coop I can't begin to tell you how much easier the Eglu has made my life; maintaining a plastic one over the last eighteen months has been a complete dream compared to the hard work that went into keeping my old wooden coop clean (and the red mites at bay!).

Living in an exceptionally small house, it's important to me to be able to make the most out of every bit of space. When we first contemplated getting a dog, I knew a crate would be a necessity - but I had to think long and hard about where it could go, as it would take up really valuable floor space, and possibly need us to lose a piece of furniture altogether.

Thankfully I didn't need to shop around; Omlet was always going to be my first port of call and I was very excited to discover that as well as selling your standard, everyday crates, they also sell the Fido Studio which doubles up as a sideboard and meant I wouldn't have to compromise on the contents of our main living area at all!

The Fido Studio is available in a number of different set ups; two different sizes (24" and 36") and with options such as additional cupboards and accessories. Our set up - which included the crate, a tray and a bed - cost £174.99 (but was very kindly gifted to us) and is also available in white.

I put it together myself and it was super easy. It took me 40 minutes - and that was with numerous interruptions from small children! As was the case with our Eglu, it came with brilliant, easy to read instructions and everything you need included (except for a Philips screwdriver).


It's strong, durable, looks great in your home and makes an incredibly cosy den for your pup! There are two doors which means you can have it running along, or at right angles to a wall, and all accessories are available to buy separately so if you want to upgrade later on, that's totally doable and saves you spending excessive amounts all in one go.


Maggie absolutely loves hers. It has made crate training a dream - she 100% recognises it as her space and if she wants a little time out from the chaos of our house she will quite happily just take herself off there for a snooze. And I love it too; it fits into our living room just perfectly, don't you think?
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5 Tactics That Will Help You Achieve A Thoroughly Modern Family Garden

Imagine a garden that looked neat and tidy with minimal effort, but still provided an attractive outdoor space for you and your family to enjoy! Well, that is precisely what a modern style garden can do, as long as you design and create it right. Luckily, this is a topic you can find out more about in my post below.

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Minimise the grass 
One of the characteristic features of a modern garden design is that the amount of lawn is reduced. It's not that is abolished altogether mind you, it's just that grass tends to look a great deal neater and be easier to maintain if it's contained. To that end, many modern gardens combine squares or rectangles of grass, along with paving and decking, creating a function, yet minimal look.

Of course, to keep your grass look at neat as possible you will need to both install it and maintain it in the right way. When it comes to laying the turf, it is well worth spending the time and effort to ensure the ground is as flat and level as possible. Something that will not only enhance the look of your lawn but also make it super simple to mow.

Additionally, try to steer clear of more organic lawn borders and beds and go for clearly delineated borders with wood, concrete, or raised beds instead. Then with a little work with a garden strimmer you will be able to keep the edge look sharp and clear no matter what the time of year.

Create some shade 
Next, if you are looking to create a workability family garden with modern features, making sure that there is some shade where you can all eat, or simply just enjoy being outside is a must.

Of course, you have a range of option available to you for this including creating a covered terrace or even using a large piece of canvas to create a sail that will shade the space underneath it.

 

Grow your own 
Another feature that modern gardens need is the ability to provide produce for the home, something that is likely to only increase in popularity as time goes on.

Of course, it is often a greenhouse that is key to achieving a viable crop, as this help to provide seedlings with the necessary heat, light, and humidity that they need for a healthy start in life before they are planted into the garden proper. Sadly, the issue with this is that until very recently greenhouses have not been a feature that blends well into a modern style garden.

Luckily, with products like Cultivar greenhouses now on the market this needn't be a concern. In fact, you can even get custom built greenhouses in a very modern style that will enhance the look of your outside space, rather than looking out of place. Something that means growing food even in modern style garden is something that is achievable for many families.

Water features 
A key aspect of many modern style gardens is the integration of a water feature such as a fountain, pond, or even stream. Of course, the execution of this needs to match the style of your outdoor space, and that means moulded Rocco fountains with cherubs are out.

Instead, consider integrating a sunken pond in a rectangle style into your design. This being an addition that can not only look aesthetically pleasing but break up the lines in your garden, and add some texture as well.

 

Alternatively, you may wish to install a modern style foundation, something that you can get in either spherical or rectangular designs. These can be particularly effective too, as they provide a relaxing trickling sound, and can be run on solar power, and without direct access to a water source. Something that means you can position them anywhere in your outdoor space for maximum effect. 

Temperature control 
Finally, while family gardens of the far future may be space where we can control the temperature completely, we aren't quite at this point yet. However, including features in the garden such as a fire pit or outdoor heater can help you ward off the cold, and get as much use as you can from your outside space all year round as a family.

 

Of course, fire pits will need to be installed in a manner that not only fits with the modern design but is safe as well. Alternatively, outdoor heaters can be positioned high above seating areas which means there are much less likely to pose a safety risk for younger members of the family. Something that perhaps make the latter a more practical addition to a modern, family garden.



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Spring Gardening Tips

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Gardens can become incredibly difficult to manage at times. Your lawn can become a little too much to handle, you may have planted a few too many summer plants and you might have invested too much into your garden furniture and are now having a hard time with its upkeep. Whatever the situation may be, here are a couple of tips to help you manage your garden and stay on top of all of your tasks.

Cut down on the number of gardening projects 
It can be overwhelming to see so many unfinished garden projects such as incomplete beds of flowers or DIY projects that have been seemingly abandoned. Try not to bite off more than you can chew and consider investing in a little professional help to get projects finished quickly so that you don’t need to worry about them.

Consider getting some low-maintenance plants 
There are plenty of great plants for lazy gardeners or gardeners that simply can’t dedicate much time to overseeing the growth of their plants. Some examples include azalea which is happy to grow even in the shade and moist soil, and sunflowers that are very easy to care for especially if they have easy access to the sun.

Get some garden furniture covers 
Even if your garden furniture is already weatherproof, getting yourself a set of covers for it can help you prevent dust and debris from clinging to it and making it dirty. This means you can spend less time maintaining your garden furniture and you can simply just remove the covers when you want to use it. This can also prevent certain types of garden furniture from fading in the sun. Of course, if you’ve yet to replace the typical plastic furniture with something more modern, then a cover won’t be very necessary.

Change your lawn for an artificial one
There are plenty of companies such as New Lawn which offer high-quality artificial grass that can serve as a replacement for your existing lawn. You’ll no longer need to mow your lawn, you don’t need to water it and it doesn’t turn dull nor does it change size. You can keep your bills low since you don’t need to maintain it, and it makes the perfect surface garden furniture. Another good advantage is that you won’t be affected by pollen if you’re particularly sensitive to hayfever. 

Hire a gardener 
Although it seems like an expensive investment, a gardener that comes in occasionally every week isn’t very expensive and can take a lot of stress off your mind by taking care of your garden. This is a great idea especially if you’ve got a lot of plants to take care of or if you’d just like to see your current arrangement of flowers kept in good condition until the end of the season when you plan to replace them. Gardeners can also offer you some sound advice especially if you’re new to gardening and don’t have much idea on how you want to approach your garden design.


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How to Make Your Child’s Birthday as Great as Possible

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We all enjoy celebrating birthdays but birthdays for kids are particularly special – partly because they’ve had so few of them, and partly because their imaginations and sense of wonder are typically so much more active than those of us grown-ups.

For a kid, a birthday party isn’t just an excuse to have some good food, and relax for an afternoon. It’s a special occasion completely set apart from ordinary life, where adventure and excitement can happen.

If you want to help make your child’s birthday as great and memorable as possible, here are a few suggestions for things you can do.

Hire a magician to perform at the party 
Good magicians are amazing, and kids are naturally fascinated and in awe of the very idea of magic anyway, hence the incredible popularity of pro magicians as performers at children’s parties.

Thanks to the Internet, it is an incredibly straightforward job identifying and contacting professional party magicians in your area. This list, for example, may well have done most of the legwork for you:  https://www.alivenetwork.com/bandsearch.asp?style=Magicians

Be sure when you’re hiring a magician that they come well reviewed by other parents, are good at working with kids with different personality traits, and have more than a few tricks up their sleeve. Generally speaking, the more interactive the experience, the better.

If every child is encouraged (but not forced) to join in the act, and learn some tricks, you may spend the next few days having to humour them while they demonstrate card tricks for you. 

Play Centres and Soft Play
Children’s play centres have all-encompassing, full day fantasy experiences for special events such as birthday parties. It’s just a matter of doing your research and finding out what companies there are in your area.

Typically, companies and play areas will tend to follow a particular theme. You may, for example, find a company that follows a mediaeval theme, where your kid gets to be “King” or “Queen” for a day, while their friends act as their knights and courtiers.

Other great ideas for theme options are superheroes, sci-fi space exploration or laser tag in a Mad Max-like wasteland. These events will create an atmosphere that is powerfully different from everyday life, which means, the experience will be a real adventure.

Let them invite all their friends around for a camping sleepover 
If you have a large garden, one great way of arranging your child’s birthday party is to invite all their friends over, set up a central bonfire (closely supervised by an adult, of course), arrange some games, and have a “camping event.”

The great outdoors is a powerful source of inspiration for a child’s imagination, and many kids will automatically like the idea of doing their own thing “without the grown-ups.”

Of course, since the event will be at your home, you’ll be able to check in and supervise appropriately, and your child (and all the others) will be able to get back into the house if and when they want.


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Five Recipes to Replace the Sunday Roast


Ahhh, Sunday roasts… what a wonderful British tradition.

As much as we love a good roast, who said yours has to be the same old chicken and beef every week? Does the thought of another comfy-yet-predictable roast leave you unenthusiastic?

Whether you’re a vegetarian or just want to experiment, here are five recipes to try. From herb-crusted salmon to spice-roasted cauliflower with quinoa and pumpkin seeds, we’re sure these recipes will inspire you to make a not-so-samey roast this weekend.


1. Herb-Crusted Salmon, Broccoli & Sweet Potato Bake 
Ready in under an hour, this herby salmon, broccoli and sweet potato bake makes a delicious and healthy family meal – and is so easy to make.

INGREDIENTS 
Cooking oil spray
500g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm thick rounds
1 red pepper, cut into strips
1 yellow pepper, cut into strips
2 slices wholegrain bread
2 tbsp fresh chives
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 lemon, cut into wedges, and 1tbsp lemon juice, plus extra to serve
400g tender stem broccoli, trimmed
4 x 125g skinless salmon fillets

METHOD 
Fire up the oven to 200°C. Spritz a large baking tray with oil then throw in the sweet potatoes and peppers. Spritz gently with oil then bake for 20 minutes. 

While the sweet potatoes and peppers are baking, pop the bread, chives, parsley and lemon juice in a food processor and blitz to make coarse crumbs. Put to one side. 

Take the baking tray out of the oven then pop in the broccoli and lemon wedges and spritz with oil. Layer the salmon fillets over the veggies then flatten the breadcrumb mixture securely on top of each fillet. 

Cook until the veggies are golden and tender (about 15 minutes) and the salmon is cooked to your liking. Drizzle with an extra squeeze of lemon juice. 


2. Mustard Beef Wrapped in Prosciutto & Roast Potatoes 
For a speedier, equally delicious Sunday lunch, try brushing beef medallions in mustard. Wrapped in prosciutto and cooked in a griddle alongside plenty of fresh veg, you get super succulent meat and tender veg.

No time to make roast potatoes? Consider cheating a bit with McCain’s roast potatoes which can be done in as little as 30 minutes – no peeling in sight!

INGREDIENTS 
700g new potatoes, scrubbed
Cooking oil spray
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 x 125g beef medallions, trimmed of fat
4 prosciutto slices, halved lengthways to make 8 strips
275g small tomatoes on the vine
400g tender stem broccoli
4 heaped tsp reduced-salt gravy granules

METHOD 
Warm the oven to 220°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. 

Cover the potatoes with cold water and cook in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil then simmer uncovered until just tender (about 10 minutes). Drain well then pop the potatoes back in the pan. Gently mash with a fork to break them up a little. 

Shift the potatoes over to the prepared tray and spritz with oil then roast in the oven until crisp and golden (about 30 minutes). 

Next, sweep the mustard around the side of each steak then wind two prosciutto strips around the meat, fastening with a cocktail stick. 

Warm a large non-stick griddle pan over a medium-high heat then fry the steaks for a couple of minutes on each side for medium or until done to your liking. Shift to a chopping board and leave to rest for five minutes, covering with foil. Meanwhile, leave the pan on the heat. 

Sauté the tomatoes in the griddle pan for a few minutes until tender and lightly singed. Pop the broccoli in a steamer and cook for roughly four minutes. 

Whip up the gravy as per the pack instructions. Season the steaks well with black pepper and throw away the cocktail sticks. Serve with the roast potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes and gravy. 


3. Spicy Cauliflower, Quinoa and Pumpkin Seed Pilaf 
If you’re looking for a vegetarian Sunday-lunch option, look no further than this dish of spice-roasted cauliflower served with quinoa and pumpkin seeds. It’s loaded with flavour and ready in under an hour.

INGREDIENTS 
1tsp ground turmeric
2tsp ground cumin
½ cauliflower head, cut into florets
1 red pepper, cut into 1.5cm cubes
2 courgettes, cut into 1.5cm cubes
400g can chickpeas in water, drained and patted dry
Cooking oil spray
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1tbsp olive oil 1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
Pinch chilli flakes
200g quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 vegetable stock cube mixed with 400ml boiling water
2tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley or coriander

METHOD
Fire up the oven to 200ºC and line a big baking tray with non-stick baking paper. 

In a small bowl, stir in the turmeric and 1 tsp of the cumin. Lay out the pepper, courgettes, chickpeas and cauliflower florets in the prepared tray then scatter evenly with the spice mixture. 

Gently spritz with oil and stir to coat. Roast for about 30 minutes until golden and soft. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on to a small baking sheet and cook for the final eight minutes of the vegetable cooking time. 

Next, over a medium heat, warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Throw in the onion and sauté for a few minutes or until tender. Combine the garlic, chilli and the rest of the cumin then fry, stirring for about a minute or until aromatic. 

Pour in the quinoa and hot stock then bring to the boil. Cover the pan then turn heat down to low, simmering for roughly 15 minutes until the liquid has been soaked up and the quinoa is firm. 

Mix the roasted vegetable mixture through the quinoa mixture as well as the parsley or coriander. Season well with ground black pepper and sprinkle over the roasted pumpkin seeds then serve. 


4. Roasted and Glazed Wet-Cured Bone-in Ham 
Looking for something a little different from the average roast this Sunday?

This dish focuses on a high-quality cooking of the meat and goes great with seasonal vegetables and springtime garnishes.

It’s important to cook the cured ham properly so the flavour and tenderness are locked in. Here’s a new way of preserving that moisture to plate up the perfect ham.

Serve with pickles or chutneys, roast new potatoes and spring greens.

INGREDIENTS 
7kg (15 lb 4oz) wet-cured ham
50g brown sugar
50g golden syrup
50g mustard
30ml cider vinegar

METHOD 
Fire up the oven to 170oC. 

Weigh your ham and work out the cooking time you need at 40 minutes per kg (2lb 4oz). 

Pop the ham on a rack inside a large roasting tin and add two litres of water. Make a tent over the ham with large sheets of foil. Make sure it doesn’t touch the meat. Fasten it all around the edges to create a steaming cavity that’ll cook the ham to perfection. 

Put the ham in the oven and cook for the desired time. 

Pour the glaze ingredients into a small saucepan and stir over a low heat until the sugar has melted and the mixture is silky-smooth. Put to one side. 

Take the ham out of the oven and delicately remove the skin, making sure the fat is in place. Make some incisions into the fat (in a criss-cross pattern). Smear liberally with the glaze. 

Pop the ham back in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. You want the glaze to bubble and the ham to look golden. 

Serve with pickles and chutneys, hasselback roast new potatoes and spring greens.


5. Orange-Flavoured Chicken and Roasted Sweet Potato Bake 
Did you know? Oranges and veggies contain carotenoids which can do wonders for our eye and skin health – and may protect against some cancers. Take advantage of these health benefits with this delicious chicken traybake.

INGREDIENTS 
500g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
2 red onions, cut into wedges
200g baby carrots, trimmed and scrubbed or 2 carrots, sliced
Spray olive oil
1 tbsp olive oil
500g skinless chicken thigh fillets
1 orange, cut into 1cm-thick slices
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano or thyme leaves, plus extra to garnish
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp chilli flakes
100g baby spinach, to serve

METHOD 
Preheat oven to 190°C. Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Arrange the sweet potatoes, onions and carrots on the prepared baking tray then spritz with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, after around 15 minutes of the cooking time, warm the 1 tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat. 

Fry the chicken for two minutes on each side (until golden) then shift the meat and orange slices to the baking tray with the roasted vegetables. 

Scatter the vegetables and chicken with the oregano or thyme, coriander and chilli flakes. Place back in the oven until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the veggies are lightly charred and soft (about 20 minutes). 

Top the chicken tray bake with extra chopped oregano or thyme and serve with the baby spinach. 


So, if you’ve begun to grow tired of your go-to Sunday roast beef, we hope you like one of the above spiced-up recipes. Go on, try our tantalising twists on the classic Sunday roast. Cheers and Happy Sunday!
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Who Said Your Kitchen Had To Be An Art-Free Zone?

Anyone who’s made a masterpiece in the kitchen would say that, sometimes, cooking can be art. Done right, a plate can quickly become a canvas. Even so, the kitchen is a pretty art-free zone most of the time (unless you live in my house that is!). For lots of people, this is a matter of practicality. Some of us just don’t have the space for prints on our kitchen walls. Even if we did, they’d get splattered by food drops in no time. And, who wants to spend a fortune on a print which is sure to meet such a messy end?

That said, if, like me, you love incorporating art into your home, this lack in the kitchen could soon get you down. At the very least, it could see this room sticking out against the rest of your decor. Plus, who doesn’t want something nice to look at when they cook? Lucky for you, even if wall prints are a no-go, nothing is stopping you bringing some art to the space in the following ways.

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Use your fridge 
Putting kiddie art on the fridge has been a kitchen staple for decades. But, have you ever considered taking this fridge-art theme a little further? There are plenty of postcard-sized prints available in any art store. You may even find that keeping an eye on things like postcards could see you securing some gems for less. Then, all you’d need is some simple magnets to secure your prints to your fridge door. Get the layout right here, and this could soon become a key design feature in your kitchen. Even better, you could switch those prints around to suit your tastes without too much hassle.

Get artistic with your tiles 
It’s also worth noting that artistic kitchen tiles are all the rage. Bold prints are now making appearances in near enough every sheek restaurant. Whether you invest in kitchen wall tiles or options for your floor, floral or patterned designs can work amazingly here. By purposefully mismatching patterns, you could have a lot of fun here. And, as simple as that, you could bring a touch of the artistic right into the heart of the heart of your home.

Hang prints from your cupboards 
Whether you’re struggling for wall space or are worried about getting messy, hanging prints from your cupboards could be the ideal compromise. This takes up no wall space, so it's perfect for the cramped kitchen. By only hanging on cabinets up top, you also ensure that those prints are out of reach of any stray food. Not to mention that this is a simple way to add interest to an otherwise dull kitchen staple. Have fun with this by choosing bright ribbons for the hanging. You could even colour coordinate these with the rest of your kitchen.

Incorporating art into your home isn’t always easy, but there are ways around any problem. By taking the effort to find them, you could enrich every room in your house no end, kitchen included.



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Tips For Keeping The Whole Family Healthy


There’s no such thing as the perfect parent. We all do the job differently, and our beliefs and hopes for our children's futures guide our choices and actions. This can cause many disagreements between parents, but the one thing that we are all sure of is that we want our children to live happy, healthy lives. With that in mind, here are some essential tips to help your entire family become healthier.

1. Clear Out The Cupboards 
A balanced diet means exactly that. Instead of swearing off ice cream and chocolate to eat only fruits and vegetables, I'm a firm believer in a little of what you fancy does you good so you should get a good mix of both. However, if there are more unhealthy options in your cupboards than healthy ones, the treats are going to be tempting! This is especially true with your children, who may be too impatient to rummage for something nutritious or wait for you to knock something healthy up for them. For this reason, you should clear most of the junk food out of your home.

2. Prepare The Food Together 
When it comes to preparing meals, invite your little ones to help. This may make the process a little longer and result in a bit more mess, but the benefits are worth it. As well as teaching your children how to prepare their own nutritious food, asking them to help you provides an opportunity for you to promote healthy eating habits and explain the importance of eating certain foods. They’re also more likely to eat their meals if they’ve cooked them themselves.

3. Stop Cleaning The Plates 
No parent likes to see their child waste food, especially after they’ve just spent quite some time preparing it for them. Teach them to listen to their tummy and describe to them how they are supposed to feel when they’re full.


4. Exercise As A Family 
Children tend to mimic the actions of their parents. If they see you lounging in front of the television all day, they’ll be more inclined to do the same. To help your child become more active, you should plan workouts that you can do as a family. Bike or scooter rides, hikes, swimming, football games etc give you quality time with your little ones and let you show them how much fun exercise can be!

5. Eat Evening Meals Together 
Breakfast can pass by in quite a rush, and, if your children have school, you probably won’t eat lunch together throughout the week. This is why it’s important that you ensure you spend your evening meals together. This is the perfect time to show what a healthy meal looks like. It also allows you to chat to each another, particularly about things that have happened throughout the day and may encourage your children to be open about anything that is causing them stress.

6. Deal With Your Stress 
As important as it is to help your little one’s combat their stress, it’s even more so that you deal with your own. If you’re unhappy, your kids will notice, which will upset them too. There are many ways to reduce your stress, from exercising to having a massage. As you can read in this sports massage benefits article, you might benefit from sports massages if you happen to have an injury. If your stress starts to get out of control, you can also seek professional help.

7. Develop Healthy Sleep Habits 
No one can function properly on poor sleep, especially young children. This is why it’s so important that you develop healthy sleep habits for them. Get them into a regular nighttime routine that might involve a bath, a story, a drink, and other activities, and set them a specific bedtime. Ideally, your little ones should be getting at least ten hours of sleep every single night. It’s just as important that you get your sleep, so be sure you do the same for yourself too.

8. Give The Children Chores 
Having to work, look after your children, and tackle all of the chores alone is a big responsibility. To lighten your workload, you should create a chore chart, assigning chores to every other member of your household, including your children. Even the youngest can tidy their own toys away. This teaches your little ones some responsibility and means that you have less to worry about.

9. Make Time For Fun 
Although it’s good to encourage your children with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities, you should avoid putting too much pressure on them. This can create anxiety and tension, which will make these activities less enjoyable. It’s just as important that you push your little ones to have fun, for no other purpose than their enjoyment. Make sure that you play games together and take day trips as a family. You should also give them time to play with their friends.

10. Create No Phone Zones 
Technology has made the world better in so many ways, but there’s no denying the negative effects it can have when we spend too much time in front of a screen. For this reason, you should create a plan that outlines spaces and times when phones, tablets, televisions, and other screens are off limits. These might include during homework time and at the dinner table. The light from this tech can disrupt your sleep, so you may want to ban them from bedrooms too.

Creating a healthier family isn’t as difficult as most people think. Hopefully, the tips above can make your job a little easier.


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Things To Consider When Buying Your First Family Home

My favourite house at the bottom of The Devil's Punchbowl

Buying your first home is a huge decision - and buying a first home for your family is an even bigger one! Rather than just looking out for things that suit you, the wants and needs of other people need to be taken into consideration, so it really isn't something you should rush into. If you’re struggling with the overwhelming challenge of buying your first family home, then read on; this post is all about some of the things you need to consider.

If you’ll want to sell it after a certain time: 
Whilst it may seem somewhat premature to be thinking about selling your place before you’ve even bought it, you should always remember that property is an investment - and thinking ahead about selling it one day, to either upgrade or leave it for your kids, is definitely something that you need to do. This doesn’t mean you need to know when you’re planning on moving on, it just means that you need to be looking for places that are potentially going to be sellable in the future and possibly places that you can improve in order to make a bit of money in the process, eg by renovating or extending it.

If it has all the features you need: 
Although you’re ultimately going to make the place your own by adding things that reflect your style, and things that work for your family, it’s still good to have a starting point with some of the features you’re looking for. For example, maybe you’re looking for a place that has a garage, or a garden. Once you own the place, then you can redo the garden and add things like Kelkay Pebbles to, but you can only do this it you have a garden to begin with.

If the neighbourhood is right for your family: 
The right neighbourhood is about more than just being a good neighbourhood; it’s also about being one that’s practical and works for your family, such as being not too far from work and school, being accessible for things like shopping or anything else you and your family may need in your life on a daily basis. Think seriously if you're considering a move from the city to the country and vice versa; a switch may sound like good move but living rurally when you're not used to it or living in the city when you're not used to the traffic / noise can have a bigger impact on you than you'd expect.

If you can truly afford it: 
As tempting as it can be to jump in and buy a house either as soon as you start a family or plan to start one, the best idea is always to wait and buy something you can afford. If you're not in a position to buy a family home straight away, you might consider something smaller as a stepping stone - or consider waiting a few years so that you can save up a bit more and then be able to afford that perfect place. If buying a house is definitely in your plans, then waiting a few years isn’t going to be the end of the world and will enable you to make some changes in your lifestyle such as cutting back to be able to save more each month.




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Money Saving Ideas for Family Holidays


There's no denying that when you've got a family, money is tight! With all the general cost of living at an all time high, and then the cost of after school clubs and hobbies to keep kids entertained - and lets not forget all those SNACKS, travel is a luxury that many can't afford.

ABTA, a travel industry data company, released its annual Holiday Trends report recently. The report told us a lot about how Britons are spending their travel money, but one of the most exciting findings was that there are a substantial number of people who can’t afford to travel at all, even though they’re in work. Data suggest that one in five people don't have the funds to take a holiday, according to telegraph.co.uk and that many other people are looking for ways to reduce the cost of their vacations. 

Despite their popularity during the 1970s and 1980s, package holidays have made a big come back in recent years. Fewer people can afford to go off the beaten track and make their own holiday plans: often the only way to get away is to do everything in a big bundle that’s economical for the tour providers - and not necessarily what holidaymakers would choose if not constrained by budget.

Twenty per cent of people can’t afford to travel. Why? Let’s take a look at some of the things that you can do to get the cost of travel down and take back your standard of living.

Do A House Swap 
The most expensive part of taking a vacation is usually renting out the accommodation. Property owners make a fortune in rents during the peak holiday season, often charging vacationers many times the price that you would expect to pay for similar accommodation year round. Costs in popular resorts close to amenities can go crazy high.

The good news is that there is a way around this, especially if you know someone who owns a property in a desirable holiday location. In a house swap, you can give them your house, and you get theirs in return. If you live in a big city, like London, and they live somewhere exotic, like the French Alps, you may think that they’ve got the raw end of the deal. But, remember, many people like taking city breaks and would like to visit London, were the price of hotels not so high. Do what you can to sell a house swap and see what you can get in exchange for your property.

Use Vouchers 
Sites like NetVoucherCodes.co.uk are a savvy holidaymakers’ paradise. These sites help you find great deals on all kinds of holidays, saving money on everything from travel to accommodation to tours of your destination.

When it comes to vouchers, you have to be open-minded. You won’t always get money off exactly what you want, but if you can be flexible, you can often make huge savings. Sure, you might have to get a plane at a strange time of day or stay in accommodation several miles outside of the resort of your choice, but those compromises are usually worth the tremendous savings.

Stop Using Hotels 
While hotels are a nice place to stay, they’re not the only place that offers accommodation. Airbnb, for instance, allows you to stay in people’s homes at a fraction of the cost of hotel rooms or even holiday cottages. If you’re a solo traveller, you can often find rooms in some far-flung locations for less than £20 per night, especially in “Outer Britain.”

Start Hosteling 
Granted, hostels might not be ideal for a family holiday, but if you’re going solo, they offer fantastic value for money. It’s often possible to stay in a hostel for under £10 per night, as long as you don’t mind sharing a dormitory with other people.

If you’re going with friends, some hostels offer private dormitories for six people or less. These dormitories come with shower facilities and access to a shared kitchen, allowing you to make your breakfast in the morning.


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Tips For A Happy Family Life

Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

When it comes to having a family, one of the hardest things you can do is ensure that everyone is happy. Although each of your family members will have individual aspects of their life that they will be dealing with, there are lots of things you can do to ensure that when working together, you're as happy as you can be. With that in mind, here are 5 top tips for a happy family life:

- Spend As Much Time As You Can Together As A Family 
One of the best ways to have a happy family life is to ensure you're spending as much time as you can together as a family. Whilst this doesn't have to mean fancy days out every week, just taking an evening walk together after school and work could be more than enough. Encourage family meals where you all sit at the table to eat, as well as at least one night a week where you have to do an activity together Not only will it allow you to grow together as a family, but it will also instil great family values into your children. For inspiration when it comes to activities for family night, you can visit this site here.

- Let Everyone Have A Say 
Another important thing you need to do in order to have a happy family life is to ensure everyone has a say in both the big and small decisions. Whether it's deciding what you have for dinner that night or deciding where you go on holiday, you need to involve everyone in the decision. Although you may have a couple of ideas from your children that are not suitable, it's still important to let them know you value their ideas.

- Be Open And Honest About Everything 
When you're part of a family it is important you're being as open and honest as you can about the things that are going on around you. Whether it's being open with your partner about things or sharing bad news with your kids, ensuring everyone is on the same page will make you feel much closer as a family - even if it's discussing difficult subjects like divorce. For more information and guidance when it comes to going through a divorce, you can visit expert divorce solicitors here.

- Have Adventures Together 
A great way to encourage family bonding is to go on plenty of days out together to explore. Whether that means going out in your local town or heading somewhere new, you can be sure it's a great way to spend time together. The great thing is, heading out on family adventures don't have to cost a lot either. There are plenty of things you can do on a family day out that doesn't have to involve any money at all! For inspiration on free things to do as a family, you can visit this site here.

- Share Out Responsibilities And Chores 
Finally, it's important you're sharing out the responsibilities and chores in the house. Whilst this will have to depend on the age of your children, getting them involved when it comes to chores is important. Whether it's the simple task of keeping their bedroom tidy or helping with the dishes when you're done with dinner - teaching them responsibility from an early age is incredibly important. As they get older, the number of chores they have to do should increase too.


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Are You Tired Of Breaking Your Back In The Garden?


Most of us absolutely love being able to take the best possible care of our homes. After all, there's nothing quite like being able to walk through your home and see just how much all of your hard work has paid off. However, there are plenty of people for whom there is one frustrating black mark on that: their garden. Everyone would love a beautiful garden but the problem is that it often feels like the hard work in a garden never stops. But that's not necessarily the way things have to be! Here are some things that you can do to make your garden beautiful without breaking your back every day.

Keep things simple 
One of the most common mistakes that a lot of people make when it comes to their garden is that they often end up letting their ambitions get away with them. Sure, the idea of a garden with a beautiful lawn, a flower bed, and a load of space to grow your own vegetables is a wonderful one, but the truth is that doing that can be seriously exhausting. Instead, why not just pick something simple for your garden. If you want a space for you and the kids to place, then a lawn is great. If you just want something wonderful to look at then turn it into a wildflower garden instead. Super passionate about growing your own veg? Concentrate on that. On their own, none of these things take huge amounts of effort and can really improve your home.

Take some shortcuts 
One of the problems with gardening is that it can often be some pretty backbreaking work. Whether that's not something that you're physically able to do or you simply don't have the time or energy to deal with it outside of the other things in your life, there are plenty of shortcuts that you can take that will make your life easier. Services like LazyLawn allow you to lay down artificial grass that feels just like the real thing without having to worry about mowing it all the time. Or if you're trying to plant things around the garden then don't bother putting them in neat and straight lines, just throw them out into the soil and see what happens. Not only is that going to be a great way to save yourself a whole lot of time and effort but it can also give your garden a beautifully wild look as well.

If you really want to make sure that your home is the best possible place and that you're as happy and comfortable as you can be, then the best thing to do is often the simplest. Decide what is most important to you and adjust your routine so that you're able to fit working on your garden in alongside the time you would spend on the interiors of your home. If you're doing something you love, you're able to make it a part of your routine and you're looking forward to seeing the end result it's going to feel like a whole lot less effort.


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Travelling to Unusual Places

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi from Pexels

Travelling is, by far, one of the most popular activities in the world - and for good reason! There's nothing quite like being able to get away from all the stresses and pressures of the modern world and enjoy yourself for a while. Getting away from all of the stress of work, family, and friends, and just spending some time reconnecting with the things you really enjoy in life is a fantastic thing that many of us are privileged to get to experience. However, that doesn't mean that travelling is always the most fun or enjoyable thing in the world. There are plenty of occasions where are a lot of people find themselves coming up against problems like being crowded by other tourists, or places they love becoming commercialised in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. Often the reason that these things happen is actually quite simple: you're going to all of the obvious places. After all, if you're always going to the most popular travel destinations then it's hardly going to be a surprise that they've because tourist havens. However, you don't need to let that ruin your travel experience. Here are just a few reasons why it might well be better to visit some lesser-known travel destinations.

It's often cheaper 
The first and most obvious point is that there are plenty of places that are absolutely beautiful and full of amazing things to do, but because they haven't achieved the same level of mainstream popularity as other destinations, they're a whole lot cheaper. This includes everything from flights to accommodation to the food that you eat while you're there. A lot of places that are very popular with tourists now know that they can basically charge whatever they want but smaller places that don't rely quite as heavily on tourism are often a lot more affordable. Plus, you're probably not going to see nearly as many big chains so your money is likely going directly into the hands of small business owners.

There are fewer tourists 
If you've ever taken a trip to a famous capital city like New York, London, or Barcelona, you will understand just how stressful it can be to try and navigate any place that is filled with tourists. You end up queuing for everything all the time, cramped in with other people, many of whom seem to have forgotten basic manners, and it ends up making what should be an amazing trip into a non-stop cavalcade of stress and frustration. Being around lots of other people often ends up making a trip feel more stressful than the stuff you took the trip to get away from in the first place! Going to somewhere a little less well-known means that you're going to find it far easier to get away from the rush and crowds so that you can actually enjoy your trip.

The joy of surprise 
One of the pleasant things about going somewhere really popular is that you pretty much always know what you're going to get. If it's somewhere you've seen in the media all the time then you know what it looks like and if it's really popular then it's going to have a lot of familiar things that you can latch onto. However, when you go somewhere a little more unknown you get the thrill of being surprised by things that you see. You have to enjoy the local cuisine, even if you've never tried it before. You get to experience the architecture and the landscape, all of which might be completely new to you.

You might find a reason to stay 
One of the amazing things about going somewhere you previously knew nothing about is that it really can take you completely by surprise to the point that you fall in love with it. This might mean that you want to keep coming back year after year, or it might mean that you never want to leave at all. If you head to somewhere like Singapore and you fall in love with it the latest hdb bto launches mean that finding a home there is far cheaper than if you wanted to relocate to somewhere more famous. Sure, this is a big change and not one that should be taken lightly, but it's a whole lot more common than you might think.

Whether you're taking a longer trip or you're just heading for a short holiday, it's so important to ensure you're doing something that's going to make you happy. But if you find yourself becoming frustrated with any trips that you're taking then it might be worth considering whether trying somewhere a little less well known might be a solution to that problem.


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Unique Wedding Ideas


From the moment an engagement happens, you will be suddenly thrust into a whole world of fabrics, table decorations and cakes for your big day. Planning the perfect wedding is something which is unique to the couple celebrating it, and it can be something with is really fun to do when you think outside the box. If you aren’t looking for a traditional church or stately home affair, here are some of the more unique ways you can spend your big day.

An outdoor concert 
It is always a given that a good wedding needs to have some great tunes for everyone to sing along to throughout the day. If you want to make the most of this part of your wedding and you have the ability to hire a large field for a few hours: you could hire some bands such as Hipster and other wedding focussed artists to come and give you all a concert on a sunny afternoon. Get the beer coolers out and strike up a barbecue and enjoy amazing music for the afternoon!

At the zoo 
Believe it or not, you can get married at the zoo. There are many zoos such as Chester Zoo who offer wedding packages on the grounds where you will be able to gain after hours access to the zoo, as well as freshly grilled food and an amazing display of fireworks. If you are an animal lover, there is nothing that could be better than spending your big day surrounded by some of the most amazing creatures on the planet.

On the beach 
One of the things which we can do to make the most of a summer wedding is choose to have it on the beach. There are so many places where you can enjoy a beach wedding and it can be a relaxed way to spend your big day if you aren’t all about the fuss and glamour of it all. Spend the afternoon swimming in the sea and eating a meal alfresco and it will be one of the most amazing things you ever do.

Camping trip 
Camping trips are always amazing and they are great for those of us who love a bit of adventure in our lives. When it comes to a wedding day which is out of the ordinary, there is nothing stopping you from taking a camping trip to a national park and using the grounds to say your vows. Once you are done you can sit around the campfire and enjoy a drink or two, and some s’mores.

At home 
If you don’t have a lot of money to throw a huge party for your wedding, or a family member has a sizeable home with a big garden: you might consider throwing your reception at home. This can actually be a great decision for you because you will be able to control all of your food and music, and you can drink as much as you like in the knowledge that you can head to your own bed at the end of the night!


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Saturday, 15 December 2018

Reminiscing about Christmas 1988 with #FireTVxSEGA


Christmas 1988. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I had just one thing on my Christmas list; the brilliant and brand spanking new Sega Mega Drive.

It was a couple of years before I managed to persuade my parents to get me one, but when they did I LOVED it. My brother and sister and I spent months, possibly even years, fighting over the controllers but we all agreed on one thing; Sonic the Hedgehog was THE best game EVER.

To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the SEGA Genesis, Amazon have launched SEGA Classics; a bundle of the 25 most popular SEGA Mega Drive games including Sonic the Hedgehog (of course!) Golden Axe and Streets of Rage. 15 of them are multiplayer games, so a brilliant way to spend time with the whole family this holiday season whilst reminiscing about your youth! The best bit is you can play them all without having to purchase a game console or switch HDMI outlets. All you need is your fire TV remote, or you can pair a compatible bluetooth controller if you have one. I love the idea of having a bit of a retro gaming session and can't wait to introduce the girls to the video games of my childhood.

SEGA Classics is available on Fire TV for just £11.99. You can buy an Amazon Fire Stick for £39.99 here.

For more info, check out the hashtags #SEGAClassics #SEGAMegaDrive #FireTVStickSEGA and #FireTVxSEGA. Merry Christmas!



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Wednesday, 12 December 2018

#AHandmadeChristmas: Brilliant Gifts from #AmazonHandmade

Hands up who's ready for Christmas? Please don't tell me I'm the only person that's only just started buying their Christmas presents? 

This time of year always seems to disappear in a blur of school nativities and festive shindigs. One minute its the end of November, then you blink and it's 12th December - and nothing has been ticked off your To Do List. 

I don't know about you, but the gifts I love to give (and the gifts I love to receive) are special, personalised, handmade ones. Even the simplest idea, once personalised, suddenly becomes all the more magical.

This year, Amazon is working with some truly brilliant artisans to show just how special handmade gifts are! As much as I love and depend on my Amazon Prime membership for buying those last minute presents and essentials, I also love supporting smaller creative businesses when I can - and now you can do both at the same time! You can see some of my favourite Amazon Handmade gift ideas below (or browse their full selection here).


Our Christmas traditions start on Christmas Eve. The Elves pop by (usually while we're leaving food out for Father Christmas's reindeer) and leave a few goodies under the tree to kick start start the festivities. The whole family gets new pyjamas, a Christmassy DVD and some festive nibbles to enjoy while we watch it. It's so lovely spending the evening relaxing together before the chaos of Christmas Day starts! This Personalised Christmas Eve Box by Dust and Things would make a perfect keepsake - something to bring out every year. How special is that!


On Christmas morning, the girls each receive a stocking full of little treats to open in bed (usually mine!) while I acknowledge that it's 5am and slowly wake up properly. I love this Christmas Stocking Gift Bag by Dilly Dally Designs. If you've got a few larger than average stocking fillers it would be perfect to replace a smaller stocking - but it would also be great to leave under the tree, filled with presents for all the family.... imagine the excitement of a lucky dip, and then having to guess who each gift is for!


I always give the girls a couple of books each at Christmas; usually classics that I love too, so that we can all enjoy reading them together. The girls were given personalised books last year and loved them so much. I have no doubt at all that this Personalised Kids Book by My Magic Name Personalised Children's Books would make a little girl or boy very happy this Christmas!

For more festive inspiration, check out the hashtags #ahandmadechristmas, #amazonhandmade, #countdowntochristmas, #madeforyou and #craftychristmas!



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Wednesday, 5 December 2018

DAYS OUT // The London Transport Museum


We've been London Transport Museum annual ticket holders for as long as I can remember. You only need to visit once, then you can use your ticket to go back as many times as you like for a whole year! At £17.50 for adults (kids go freeeeee), I think this is a total bargain, and the museum is perfectly located in Covent Garden so you can easily drop in when you have an hour or two to kill with the kids.

The girls have been to the museum dozens of time before, but they never tire of it - and neither do I. They can't visit without collecting ALL the stamps on the stamp trail and running riot on the ground floor for as long as I'll let them. I'm the Upper Deck Cafe's biggest fan - they sell an amazing selection of hot and cold meals, and coffee and cakes (the mince pies are especially delicious).


Last weekend, Ruth from RocknRoller Baby and I met in London for a day out with the kids. We always include a trip to the London Transport Museum whenever we meet up, it's a bit of a tradition. This Christmas they have loads on to keep you and the kids entertained during the holidays. We absolutely loved meeting Santa (he was the most brilliant Santa I have ever seen) and visits to his magical grotto are included in the ticket price. There are also loads of festive crafts to take part in (we made winter bunting!) and story telling and singalongs too.... As if we needed another excuse to drop by.

You can join in with the festive fun until 6th January, but the museum is absolutely worth visiting (over and over again!) any day of the year!

We were gifted entry to the museum along with our amazing Christmas jumpers.
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Tuesday, 4 December 2018

THEATRE // Stick Man at the Leicester Square Theatre


Every December, we make our way to London for a day of festive fun with the RocknRoller Baby family. This has become a bit of an annual tradition for us; we take the children to a show, head out for some food and admire the Christmas lights. Ruth and I are lucky that our kids enjoy a trip to the theatre as much as we do, and over the years we've been lucky enough to watch a number of different productions all together.

The Gang: 2015 and 2018
Three years ago we went to see Stick Man for the first time and, to this day, it is still one of the best stage productions for kids I've ever seen. Needless to say we were thrilled to be invited back to the Leicester Square Theatre to watch it again last weekend. Even though the girls are nine and six now, Stick Man is still one of their favourite books - and we loved the live show as much as we did when we first saw it in 2015!

You can read my original review here - our views haven't changed at all; we absolutely LOVED this new production by Scamp Theatre and Freckle Productions!

From the simple set, the bright costumes and the brilliant props to the laugh out loud moments and catchy songs, there is no denying that Stick Man has something for everyone. The story may remain the same (and we will never, ever tire of it!) but there were some brilliant nods to the current day, including a song from The Greatest Showman as well as a bit of flossing in one of the dance routines!



If you go and see one show this festive season, make it this one! We can't recommend it highly enough.

Stick Man is on at The Leicester Square Theatre until 6th January 2019 with tickets starting at just £16. The running time is 1 hour, so perfect for even the littlest children. Our tickets were very kindly gifted to us.
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