February 2017 | Modern Mummy

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Planet Hollywood, London: A Review

Last week the girls and I spent a lovely couple of days up in London with the RocknRoller Baby gang. We stayed overnight at the Novotel at Paddington, went to the L.O.L Surprise launch party at Westfield and spent an afternoon at Ripleys Believe It Or Not! Then we finished off our trip in best possible way we could; with dinner at the one and only Planet Hollywood.

I can remember the original Planet Hollywood opening in London like it was yesterday. In actual fact it was 1993; the restaurant was in the Trocadero and the chain had the backing of huge celebrities of the time like Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. I was a teenager and it was the place to go and to be seen, and as proof of your visit (there was no such thing as social media back then) it was all the rage to commemorate your meal with a trip to the gift shop, where they sold baseball caps, tees, sweaters, EVERYTHING YOU COULD POSSIBLY WANT, emblazoned with that world famous logo. I never did get to dine at the restaurant which was torture enough, but I also can't tell you how desperate I was for one of their sweaters!

Fast forward twenty four years and the chain is going from strength to strength. So much so in fact that Bookatable has just voted it the no.1 child friendly restaurant in London for the THIRD YEAR RUNNING. And after our amazing experience I can completely see why!

The restaurant has now moved to a bigger and better site on Haymarket, just down the road from the original venue. As you enter, there is a large cocktail bar to the left, and the restaurant is straight ahead of you, jam packed full of movie memorabilia and divided up into lots of themed areas, like the Bond room and the British room.

Ruth, the kids and I arrived at 4pm and were greeted by lovely hostesses who took us to our table. It took us forever to decide what to eat, not just because the menu was so brilliant and extensive and we couldn't make up our minds, but also because we were all in awe of everything that was going on around us. The memorabilia, the messaging screens (you can send your own messages via text), the singing and dancing and the looking out for yourself on the telly (yes really! Cameras scan the room and beam live video footage of diners to the big screens - and you're encouraged to dance and wave and show everyone just how much fun you're having when the camera is on you!) is all utterly brilliant. We enjoyed taking it all in so much we had to ask our waitress to 'give us a couple of minutes' about five times!

As we couldn't make our minds up about the starters, and we were starting to feel peckish after seeing so many delicious looking meals being delivered to the tables around us, we decided to go for two of the VIP sharing platters to start, so that we could sample a range of Planet Hollywood's famous appetisers. That was definitely a good choice and between the six of us we demolished two plates of buffalo wings, texas tostadas, chicken crunch, loaded potato skins and, everyones absolute favourite, tortilla chips with a parmesan spinach dip!

I've said it once, but I'll say it again: the menu really is incredible. There is something for everyone, from traditional American burgers, hot dogs, steaks and ribs, to wok fired Asian stir fries, pizza and pasta, salads and an entire gluten free menu too. Plus of course there is a children's menu, which is £9.25, and consists of a main and a dessert, and unlimited sodas to boot.

That was the first thing that really surprised me about Planet Hollywood. As it's so famous, and a tourist hotspot in the heart of the West End of London, I expected it to be on the expensive side but in actual fact prices were incredibly reasonable - and the whole experience was SO much more fun than any other 'family friendly' restaurant we've ever been to!

For our main courses, I chose the crispy chilli beef (it was SO good), while Daisy ordered a margherita pizza from the adult menu and Evie the mac & cheese from the kids menu. Over on the other side of the table, Ruth had the chicken chow mein, Jimmy had a pepperoni pizza and Florence had a special half portion of the ribs, which she said were the best she'd ever tasted!

After demolishing our first two courses, we needed a little break, so we left our table and did the conga to the gift shop! After picking out some awesome merchandise we headed back to place our orders for dessert.

The dessert menu was amazing. Jam packed full of knickerbockerglories and sundaes and pancakes and coke floats and cheesecakes and milkshakes, we had almost as much trouble deciding on what to go for as we'd had when ordering our starters and mains!

In the end we went for milkshakes, coke floats and coffee (I couldn't fit another morsel in and needed the caffeine to keep me awake on the train home!)

Once our bellies were completely full and the time came for us all to part ways and head back home, we realised we'd been in the restaurant for the best part of four hours! Have you ever been for a meal with children that has lasted that long? Me neither!

It just goes to show how family friendly Planet Hollywood really is. You can talk loudly, dance, sing, whatever you like, so long as you have a great time. And I think it's pretty obvious that we did just that!

Our top tips for visiting?

Book in advance, just in case. The restaurant is incredibly busy, especially at peak times (12-2pm and 5-8pm), weekends and in the school holidays.

Allow yourself plenty of time to dine! You won't want to rush a meal at this amazing place!

ps I finally got my mitts on a Planet Hollywood sweater! And I LOVE it!

We received a complimentary meal at Planet Hollywood in order to write this honest review. Special thanks to Esther, Tony and Rosaria for looking after us so well!


Ripleys Believe it or Not! London: A Review

While we were in London with our good friends, the RocknRollerBaby gang, last week we paid a visit to Ripley's Believe It Or Not! in Piccadilly. The girls and I have passed this place SO many times before but never actually gone inside, so we were all really excited to see all the weird and wonderful exhibits that it's famous for.

Like most kids their ages, Daisy and Evie love learning interesting facts which meant this really was a great day out for them. From ancient artefacts, to dinosaur eggs, to five legged cows, to knitted ferraris, to portraits made out of cassette tape (and everything in between!) there was something to capture and keep the attention of us all, and we could have quite easily spent all day there!

This mirror entertained us for ages! As part of the Miss Peregrine exhibition, we were told to look into it and pull our silliest faces. It took a while for us to realise that it was a two way mirror and that there were people standing behind it laughing at us! 

The highlight for us had to be the Miss Peregrine exhibition. We had only watched the film a week or two before and the girls loved seeing all the costumes and props, and learning about the special effects in it. If you're a fan I would definitely recommend heading down to check it out - its on until 5th March!

I loved the art work, and also found the section of the Berlin Wall on display particularly poignant.

Daisy and me in the eye of a needle!

Willard Wigan's microsculptures were a massive hit with all of us; think incredible, teeny tiny microscopic pieces of art sculpted inside the eye of a needle, that can't be seen by the naked eye! We also loved the interactive mirror maze and the black hole and, although the latter left us all feeling super dizzy, we had such a giggle we went on it for a second time!

We had a brilliant time at Ripley's, and if you're looking for something to do in the West End, could not recommend it highly enough!

Top tips?
Book ahead! Tickets are half price if you book two weeks in advance, plus you can get a special meal package that includes a two course meal at Planet Hollywood if you're likely to be hungry. Get your tickets here.
Take your time. I'd say you need an absolute minimum of two hours to see and experience everything, but you could easily spend a whole day there. 
It's not just for kids! There really is something for everyone - plus it's open until midnight each day, so if you're going as a group of grown ups maybe take advantage of the late opening and go in the evening.

We were given complimentary entry for the purpose of this honest review.


Sunday, 19 February 2017

Novotel, Paddington: A Review

As we often do in the school holidays, this half term we spent a couple of days in central London with our good friends, the RocknRollerBaby gang.

Ruth and I are both ex-Londoners. Although we're both happy with our new lives in the countryside, there's nothing we love more than heading back to the big smoke and revisiting all our favourite places every now and again.

On this occasion we lined up lots to do with the kids and, in order to make the most out of two days of adventures, we stayed overnight at the Novotel in Paddington.

The hotel's location was perfect; about 800m from Paddington station, which serviced by both trains and tubes so super easy to get to. Close by were a couple of chain restaurants (we had dinner at Zizzi, which we all loved) and a Sainsbury's Local, which is always useful when you have kids in case you need emergency supplies like nappies or calpol. The hotel was also on a mostly pedestrianised business park, which meant it was lovely and quiet in the evening.

The girls and I met Ruth and the kids in reception to check in. The first thing that impressed me, aside from the lovely staff, was that there were computer games for the children to play with while the grown ups did all the boring stuff. Check in took just a tiny bit longer than usual on this occasion because THIS PARTICULAR NOVOTEL HAS A POOL and, in order to be able to use it, we had to fill in an extra form. But it was no biggie, and we could have filled out ten forms as we had to tear the children away from the fun!

On heading up to our room, we were greeted by a huge plate of macaroons which couldn't have come at a better time as the girls were pretty peckish!

The room itself was lovely and spacious and, quite honestly, the best thought out design for families that I have ever come across in a hotel. The toilet was separate to the bathroom, which had a bath, a separate shower and double doors opening out onto the bedroom which was something I especially liked, as it meant I could keep an eye on the kids while I was in the shower. Between us we had a huge double bed and a sofa bed that converted into two singles.... of course it goes without saying that we all slept in the big bed together ;)

Add a huge TV, an Xbox and some lovely toiletries to the mix and you've got yourself a pretty decent set up, if you ask me!

We decided to spend the afternoon using the hotel's facilities, which firstly meant heading down for a swim! There's also a gym, a sauna and a steam room on site, although the kids just wanted to splash around (and who can blame them!).

After we'd been out for dinner we headed back to our room to settle down and watch a movie in our pyjamas (they had a selection to choose from at reception). I can't tell you how nice it was to have a relaxing evening and a good sleep in the middle of two jam packed days exploring London Town!

And then we woke up the following morning to a wonderful breakfast, which set us all up perfectly for another day in the city. There was so much choice at the breakfast buffet; I had a delicious fry up, and the kids had nutella pancakes, fruit and yoghurt.

I couldn't have been more impressed with the Novotel at Paddington and it's facilities - and we will 100% be visiting again in the future. With rooms starting at just £129, it really is an inexpensive way of extending a trip to London, and it's heaps of fun to boot.

We received a complimentary overnight stay at the Novotel Paddington in exchange for this honest review.

Friday, 17 February 2017

The Perfect Summer Holiday with @AlFrescoHols #AlFrescoFamily

Does anyone watch James Martin's French Adventure in the afternoon? (no? just me with a mega mum crush on him?) Well the other day they were filming in a place called Camargue in the south of France, which looked so lovely that I decided there and then the girls and I need to pay it a visit. Obviously, being the subject of a James Martin cookery programme, it's a massively foodie area (it's famous for its salt marshes and seafood) but it's also home to the beautiful Camargue horses which, as a pony obsessed child and teen, were my favourite breed. Plus FLAMINGOS!

Anyway, I digress. This particular episode set me thinking about our holiday plans for the summer. It always happens at this time of year. The weather has no idea what it's doing.... one minute it feels as if spring is in the air and then the next the temperature has dropped ten degrees and the heating is back on. I seem to find myself idly day dreaming about summer holidays pretty much all day long.

Our last family holiday in 2014
We haven't had a proper family holiday in a couple of years. As a single parent there has been the financial aspect to take into consideration and also, in my case, the fact that I'm outnumbered by the girls which has been known to make things a bit difficult in the past. Turns out theme parks are a no go, unless we can rope in another grown up to come with us, as there are very few rides for three and no one wants to be left on their own at the gate!

But now the girls are older, a little holiday abroad seems doable. Somewhere hot and exotic, but not too far from home. Inspired by James Martin, I've been looking at the south of France, and a break with Al Fresco Holidays is well and truly on my radar for this year.

More specifically, I've been looking at the Les Mediterranees Beach Garden resort, which is in a pretty darn perfect location; right on the beach, next to the nature reserve of Bagnas (and a day trip away from my beloved Camargue) plus it's just a short distance away from Beziers and Montpellier airports and the flight there, in turn, is less than two hours from London. I'd say that's an ideal amount of time to spend in the air when you're travelling with children.

Family holidays, for me, are all about the kids. When I asked Daisy and Evie how they'd spend their perfect holiday, Daisy said: "Every morning we'd go to the pool and after dinner we'd go to the pool!"  Evie agreed enthusiastically. Basically, my children enjoy spending time in the pool (can you tell?) so when picking out the perfect resort, this was a key factor. Les Mediterranees Beach Garden has a huuuuuuge outdoor pool complex with an amazing water play park for the kiddos and some absolutely brilliant water slides. Holiday makers here also have the use of additional pools and water slides at the Nouvelle Florida and Charlemagne resorts nearby. Plus, as I said, it's right on the beach for when you fancy something a little different.

All kids love a Kids Club and it goes without saying that Beach Garden has one of it's own offering a mix of creative and sporty activities for kids aged 4+. As a single parent, I would also benefit from the kids club as it would enable me to have a bit of down time too.

How nice do the mobile homes look? I can totally see myself enjoying the warm summer evenings out on the decking!

But that's not what a family holiday is all about for me. MY perfect holiday revolves around food ;) I love French cuisine, especially sea food, and The Bistro on this resort is famous for just that - with wonderful sea views to boot! There is also a mini-market on site and each mobile home comes with it's own barbecue, so some early evening burgers for the kids, followed by some delicious local vin rouge drinking on the decking once they're in bed for me, would most likely be a regular occurrence.

Although the majority of our holiday would most likely be spent on site at the resort, we all know I'm a big fan of a road trip, and there's no way I could be that close to Camargue without paying it a visit. This region of France also has pretty towns with cobbled streets (hello shopping at le Grand Marseillan market!) and ports a-plenty, as well as museums and sites of archaeological interest to drag the kids around (I was an archaeologist pre-children, much to their delight). I would definitely take the girls swimming in Lake Salagou, which is famous for its odd hills and red soil (perfect for Instagram, ha!) and would give the girls a change of scenery from the pool and beach.

The only thing that could make this holiday even better would be to go with friends or family. As a single parent, having that extra pair of eyes to help supervise the kids and some company in the evenings wouldn't go amiss, plus it would be great for the girls to have some friends to play with too.

Have you ever been on an Al Fresco holiday, or have you visited this part of France? What did you think? I'd love to hear all about your travels!

Written in collaboration with Al Fresco Holidays and Tots100.


Thursday, 16 February 2017

Daily Outfit ♥ Bomber Jackets for the Girls

Last year the girls and I were invited to the preview of Nutmeg's SS17 collection and we all fell in love with pretty much everything. Now the collection has hit the shops!

The Nutmeg range from Morrisons is my absolute favourite brand of supermarket clothing for kids. Their clothes are by far the best quality, and are made with loads of thoughtful details that I love, like no itchy labels and waistbands that grow with your child. They take the seasons trends into account, whilst still dressing kids like kids - plus they have a 200 day no quibbles guarantee!

The girls' favourite pieces from the SS17 collection were the bomber jackets. Daisy loved the khaki bomber as I have one very similar from TopShop (and twinning is winning, don't you know) and Evie loved the floral version. Both are lovely and lightweight - perfect for spring - although the girls have been wearing theirs with hoodies underneath to keep them warm. And who can blame them? With clothes as cool as these, I wouldn't be able to wait until the weather warms up to wear them either!

Daisy wears khaki bomber with gold zip detail, £18
Evie wears cotton floral bomber, £10
both c/o Nutmeg

Daisy's jacket is only available in store up until the end of next week so 
if you'd like one, make sure you pay your local Morrisons a visit quick smartish!


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The #LOLSurprise Launch Party

Yesterday the girls and I headed to Westfield, Shepherd's Bush, for the official launch party of new collectible doll brand L.O.L Surprise!

These new toys are going to be a massive hit with little fashionistas and my girls, who are already fans of other collectible ranges, like Num Noms and Shopkins, fell in love with them straight away. Although they're a little bit more expensive, they're a whole heap more fun, with no less than seven layers of fun surprises to unwrap!

The girls and their friends were delighted to have the chance to meet guest of honour, YouTuber Tiana from Toys and Me at the event - plus they got to take home a couple of dolls each to kick start their collection!

Thanks for the photo, Karen!

It was lovely to get to hang out with Emma from The Joy of Five, Carolynne from Mummy Endeavours, Ruth from RocknRollerBaby and Karen from N4 Mummy too; after the event we all went for coffee - and our children, both boys and girls, who ranged in age from newborn to 12 - spent almost two hours playing with their new toys. It just goes to show that they really do appeal to everyone! Those seven layers of surprises include a secret code to crack, stickers, a bottle, a pair of shoes, an outfit, accessories and, the piece de resistance, the doll. Lots of fun for everyone, and with 45 different dolls to collect, all with interchangeable outfits and accessories, these dolls really are brilliant.

They retail at £8 and are available from all good toys stores, including The Entertainer.

We were invited to the launch which was also open to the general public.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Five Favourites ♥ The Lindy Bop Sale

Just before Christmas I collaborated with vintage style fashion brand Lindy Bop on a piece about getting glammed up over the festive season (check out my review of the Audrey swing dress here - those of you that liked it, its now on sale for just £17 here!)

And so began a beautiful love affair!

I hadn't heard of Lindy Bop before we worked together and now must be one of their best customers; I've bought about a dozen dresses over the last couple of months (you'll no doubt have seen them all if you watch my Instagram Stories), and I also got the girls little petticoats to go under their Christmas dresses, after they fell in love with mine!

So what's a girl to do when an email appears in her inbox with a subject line saying 300+ sale dresses from £12?! Go on a massive virtual shopping spree, of course.

Here are five of my absolute favourites from the current sale (although it was so hard to whittle them down to just five, this could easily have been a Fifty Favourites post!)

1. Bobby white ditsy floral day dress, £18 // 2. Chloe powder blue swing dress, £15 //
3. Belina pink posie & polka dot swing dress, £22 //
4. Lana black & white swing dress with waspie waist belt, £13 //
5. Leena sunset weave jive dress, £14 

OK, OK a couple might have slipped through the net.... This maroon swing dress and this New York print skirt may or may not be winging their way to me ;)

Monday, 6 February 2017

Valentine's Day Sucks! A Holly's Lollies Giveaway

I'm a bit of an old misery when it comes to Valentine's Day. Obviously I'd graciously accept delivery of a dozen red roses and a box of chocolates from a handsome mystery man but I'm fairly certain they won't be arriving this year. I was, however, incredibly excited (and lucky!) to receive an early Valentine's Day parcel from the lovely Holly of Holly's Lollies. Boozy sweets are SO much better than chocolates and flowers, don't you think?

I absolutely love these giant lollipops. I'm such a sucker (excuse the pun) for a quirky gift and am also a big fan of supporting indy businesses. I can't help but think these would make the perfect token gift for anyone feeling a little grumpy this Valentine's Day.

Available in six flavours; Strawberry Daiquiri, Whiskey & Cola, Gin & Elderflower, Passionfruit Mojito, Cherry & Amaretto and, my personal favourite, Raspberry prosecco, these lollipops really are giant (10cm in diameter, no less!) and are a bargain at just £3.95 each (with super reasonable postage charges too - just £1.80 if you're only sending out the one).

But Holly doesn't only make brilliant anti-Valentine's Day lollipops, she also has a whole range of actual Valentine's Day gifts if you're feeling romantic - plus sweets for every other day of the year too. I adore these Gin & Raspberry Rock Sweets (£7.50 and LOOK AT THAT PACKAGING!) and the Peach Bellini Prosecco Bubbles, which are £4.50 and made with real peach schnapps, took me on a nostalgic trip straight back to my old Archers and lemonade drinking days of 1995 ;)

But back to those awesome lollipops. Everyone deserves a little pressie on Valentine's Day so I have a box of three up for grabs for one lucky reader. Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget below.

The giveaway closes at midnight on 9th February and the winner will be contacted the following morning to arrange delivery prior to Valentine's Day. This giveaway is open to UK Residents only and the prize will be sent direct from Holly's Lollies. The winner may receive any three of the six flavours mentioned above.

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Of course, if you don't win the giveaway you can win yourself some mega brownie points by treating your BFF/boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife to some goodies of their own (or treating yourself! No one will judge you here!) Order by Friday 10th February to guarantee delivery in time for Valentine's Day.

I was sent a parcel of Holly's Lollies goodies in exchange for this honest review. As always, all words are honest and my own.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Daily Outfit ♥ GIRL

Last week I posted about Evie's new sixties inspired outfit from Mothercare.... today it's Daisy's turn!

Daisy is seven now (SEVEN! How do I have a seven year old daughter?!) and loves picking out her own clothes. She's really into monochrome at the moment, which is a far cry from the brightly coloured vintage clothes that I dressed her in when she was younger.

When choosing this outfit from Mothercare, she spotted the My K t-shirt straight away. It was the bold slogan and frilly short sleeves that caught her eye, so I suggested the long sleeved stripe top for underneath so that she could layer up and be warm, but still show the t-shirt off. She then chose a pair of skinny jeans (these ones in particular because of the heart studding detail) and the boots because I have a pair that are similar (hers are WAY cooler though - the heels are glittery!)

I've said it before and I'll say it again; I love Mothercare clothes. They are just so well made and so well priced, it genuinely is my go-to shop for everything, from underwear to pyjamas to winter coats to party dresses. They've really got every style covered - there's the simple every day range, character pieces, the vintage inspired Little Bird collection and then the My K range which is a bit more edgy and urban; perfect for style conscious seven year olds!

1. My K GIRL t-shirt, £5-£7
4. Chelsea boots, £16-£18
all c/o Mothercare


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Age Defy+ from Green People: A Review + Giveaway

I've always been fairly relaxed about my skincare routine and have never really suffered from any major problems but, as the realisation that I was about to turn 36 hit me this time last year, I thought it was time to start taking a bit more care of myself. All those sleepless nights over the past eight years had definitely started to take their toll, and there was no harm in investing a bit of time and interest in looking after my skin.

For the last year I've used Green People's Fruit Scrub and Vita Min Fix 24hour Moisturiser and have absolutely loved them both - I've even given up wearing foundation altogether since I started using them which has been amazing. They were recommended to me by some of the mums from school and I am now a massive fan of Green People's natural, organic skin care range. Not only are their products 90% natural and organic, they are also 100% vegetarian and cruelty-free. They may come in smaller pots than we are used to buying but they last forever! Just earlier this year I found out that this is because Green People don't bulk out or dilute their products - there's no added water and no nasties in there whatsoever which means a little really does go a long way.

So with the arrival of some new laughter lines, and the offer of a few samples from the lovely Green People people, I have now upgraded to the Age Defy+ Soft Buff Skin Exfoliator (£20 for 30ml) and the Age Defy+ 24hour Brightening Moisturiser (£36 for 30ml), with a little bit of Age Defy+ Lip and Eye Line Eraser, (£20 for 10ml) thrown in for good measure!

The Age Defy+ range is aimed at women over 35 and contains entirely natural ingredients to assist with the regeneration and hydration of the skin. As we get older, blood circulation slows down and our skin cells receive less oxygen which means our complexions suffer a little. Exfoliation is a quick and easy way to get rid of old, damaged skin cells and has been part of my skincare regime for as long as I can remember. The Soft Buff Skin Exfoliator uses pineapple extract, bamboo stems and bentonite clay to unblock pores and gently remove these unwanted cells.

The 24hour Brightening Moisturiser is super hydrating which makes the skin look plumper and smoother (and younger!), reduces hyperpigmentation (age spots to you and me) and reduces fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating cellular metabolism. Basically it's a wonder cream!

I've talked about laughter lines already but I have also developed the beginning of crows feet over the last year. Obviously this is because I'm so fun and happy and have smiley eyes ;) and I don't really mind them, but I thought I'd give the Line Eraser a go, more as a preventative than anything, and also to see it's effect on my very prominent eye bags! It definitely works in both ways - it firms the skin and definitely reduces dark circles (although I'm not sure it is supposed to). I'll keep you posted on the development of my crows feet, but at the moment it seems to be keeping them at bay.

As with all Green People products, they are seriously nice to apply and smell so, so good (although they also have a scent-free range if you have super sensitive skin).

All in all, in just a couple of weeks, my skin feels much smoother and brighter and I will definitely be making the switch to the Age Defy+ range for future purchases. And if you'd like to try them yourself then I have a set of all three of these products up for grabs for one lucky reader! Entry is via the Rafflecopter widget below, and everyone is entitled to six entries each. The giveaway closes at midnight on 8th February 2017 and the winner will be announced and contacted shortly afterwards. This giveaway is open to UK Residents only and the prize will be sent direct from Green People.

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