April 2017 | Modern Mummy

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Education Quizzes: A Review

Just like I did at her age, Daisy loves to learn. If she's not reading a book, she's writing one... or drawing pictures... or doing puzzles. She asks hundreds of questions every day and seems to remember everything. Random facts, song lyrics, things I've said (especially when I've promised her something and then forgotten about it ;)).

I have a lot of friends that are really anti-homework for younger children but Daisy loves it so I'm all for it. I like how sitting down to do school work together at home enables me to keep up to date with what she's learning in class, and to find out how she's coping with it. Being in Year 2 now, she has plenty; there's English and Maths homework every weekend, as well as reading, times tables and spellings during the week, and she often has a topic to research over the holidays too.

As I'm sure is the case with all children, Daisy excels in some subjects, but could do with a little help in others. We've been reviewing an online tool that helps in both instances; allowing us to move forward in the subjects Daisy is doing well in and giving us a chance to dedicate a bit of extra time to the subjects that need it - all the while being super fun and nothing at all like your usual school homework.

The Education Quizzes website does exactly what it says on the tin; it provides you with a whole heap of educational quizzes - written by teachers, using the school curriculum - to work through at your leisure. The website is easy for children (and grown ups) to navigate, with clear categories divided up into separate topics ranging from KS1 all the way up to GCSE level.

Daisy has been working through the KS1 quizzes on some subjects and making a start on the KS2 material in others. She enjoys them so much that she actually asks to do them when she gets home from school, and she gets a real kick out of getting questions right! I plan to look at the KS1 quizzes with Evie over the summer too; she starts in reception in September and I think it'll be a fun way to keep both girls entertained during the holidays - on road trips especially.

As well as the quizzes online, Daisy has also really enjoyed reading the website's daily blog, where a new fact filled post about nature is published every day, covering topics like animals and the weather.

Membership costs just £9.95 a month (it can be cancelled at any time), and this gives access to all quizzes across the different age groups. I think this is an amazing price, taking into account the extent of the material on offer.

Thank you to Education Quizzes for letting us trial their subscription service; we will definitely be signing up!

Pretty Party Dresses from Roco Clothing ♥

At the weekend, the girls and I had a wedding to go to, which meant new party dresses were in order! I've previously worked with, and purchased clothes from, Roco Clothing - and ever since I was introduced to them a couple of years ago they have officially become the first place I visit when looking for something special for the girls to wear.

As well as being beautifully made, and equally beautifully packaged, the thing that really sets these dresses apart from other similar brands is the price. They are seriously reasonable compared to other childrens' formal wear that's available on the high street.

As is always the way now, I let the girls choose their own dresses for our special occasion. Evie went for the Elsa dress in blue, while Daisy chose the Layla dress in champagne. Prices for each start at £34.99 and £29.99 respectively.

Evie's Elsa dress is a beautifully soft and lightweight, pale blue fabric. I love those ruffled sleeves and the fact it has a big bow on the back! It's the perfect party dress - especially as its a great spinner! Evie had lots of fun in it on the dance floor.

I think Daisy's Layla dress makes her look so grown up! The underdress is a champagne colour which really sets off the pretty white lace overlay. It also has lots of mesh underskirts to give it volume, which is what Daisy loved most about it.

Thanks so much to Roco Clothing for gifting the girls their outfits!

We were sent these dresses in exchange for this post. All words are entirely honest and my own, and all images are copyright. Please do not use them without my consent.


Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Three Children, Two Grown Ups + One Canoe

On Good Friday we embarked on a pretty epic adventure.

We packed up our camping gear, hired a canoe from the brilliant Whitewater the Canoe Centre in Shepperton, loaded everything into/on top of Tom's T5, and drove an hour up the road to the very pretty village of Sonning ready to hit the Thames and to do a spot of wild camping on an uninhabited island in the middle of it for a night.

Everyone we spoke to thought we were mad "Three kids and a canoe?" "What do you mean there won't be any toilets?!" "Why aren't you packing a tent!" but the girls and I couldn't wait for twenty four hours out in the elements. The fact I'd never been in a canoe, and the teeny tiny detail that I can't actually swim, didn't put me off in the slightest. 

We hired an open (or Canadian) canoe from Whitewater which is a bit like a big, pointy rowing boat.* It had plenty of room for all our gear (although we did pack relatively light considering) and was made for four adults so took us two plus three littlies no problem. We were expecting it to take two trips to get all our stuff across to the island but we managed it in one and there was plenty of room to spare too. The kids sat in the middle of the canoe and enjoyed the ride, while Tom and I sat at either end and did the paddling.

*I think that's the technical term ;)

My first experience of canoeing might have been hard work, but it was a great one - and the girls loved it too. I felt a lot safer in a big open boat than I imagine I'd have felt in a smaller kayak. We'd never visited this stretch of the Thames before and I had no idea just how beautiful it is, or how many little islands there are to explore - it really is a great part of the country to take kids on an adventure, even if it's just for a day.

We set up camp on an island about half an hours paddle from Sonning. We pitched a little two man tent for the kids so that they'd be lovely and toasty whatever the weather, but Tom and I stayed under a poncho which was lighter and easier to pack.

We didn't do anything out of the ordinary; it was just great to be on our first camping trip of the year! We made a fire and had sausages and smores. We all had an early night and then woke up to the dawn chorus. I loved the fact the girls had an entirely tech free weekend. Tom made them a swing to play on and carved them a 'magic wand' each out of twigs which they decorated with felt tips, they drew lots of pictures and collected artefacts for a little scrap book we made, they made potions and mud pies, did some fishing and of course they had a go of paddling the canoe. We paddled downstream to Shiplake Lock and watched the lock gates opening and all the big boats go through, and it happened to be the day of the Devizes to Westminster canoe race so the kids got to cheer on lots of other canoeists (ones that were working a lot harder than their parents!)

If you're interested in hiring an open canoe and are based in or near Surrey, definitely get in touch with Whitewater The Canoe Centre - they were brilliant from start to finish, can offer all the advice you need and can also recommend some really good routes along the Thames. It costs £45 per day to hire the open canoe which I think is a great price for a whole day of fun for a family of four or five. Half days and smaller kayaks are cheaper still - look here for a full list of options.

When it comes to wild camping, there are rules, so make sure you do your homework before you set off. Respect plantlife and wildlife, take all your rubbish home with you and make sure you aren't trespassing on privately owned land!  

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

A few days in Norfolk ♥

So the kids are back at school and the Easter holidays are but a distant memory! We definitely made the most out of our time off together though, and one of the highlights of our break was a trip to Norfolk to hang out with the RocknRoller Baby clan.

As is always the case, we managed to cram a whole lot into three days and two nights. We left Surrey at the crack of dawn and arrived in Norwich in time for breakfast! After a quick caffeine refuel (for me) and play (for the kids) we kick started our visit with a trip to one of our most favourite places EVER - BeWILDerwood. Ruth and the gang introduced us to it the last time we visited and we literally couldn't wait to get back, especially as this time they had lots of special Easter events going on. The kids ran around like loonies for a good five hours and must have worked up a serious appetite as when we made our way to Pizza Express for dinner they ate some seriously impressive portions! (Daisy ate a grown ups portion of dough balls, a full size margherita pizza AND an entire slab of chocolate fudge cake all by herself!)

On our second day we paid Dotty Pottery in Norwich a visit. It was actually an event hosted by Social Network Solutions, although we paid to do some extra pottery painting too. Daisy and Evie both painted heart shaped snack plates, with Evie also doing her hand print on a tile (I have Daisy's from when she was the same age too). It was a lovely place, with really helpful and patient staff, and the prices were very reasonable compared to the London prices I'm used to paying. I can't wait to get our finished, fired pieces back! Huge thanks also to SNS for the lovely goodie bag they gave us, complete with Love Boo bath treats for the kids and Daughter of the Soil hand cream for me :)

We spent that afternoon and evening on the beach in Cromer; the kids ate fish and chips and ice cream before heading off to explore the rock pools, while Ruth and I watched and chatted and ate crab sandwiches and cockles. We spent some time in the amusement arcades and looking in the gift shops before making our way back to the house for dinner with four of the tiredest and grubbiest children I have ever seen!

Our last day was cut short by a diagnosis of scarlet fever for Evie!

She had been a bit poorly overnight but perked up the next morning, so we made our way to Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse as planned. Ruth had won tickets so we visited for free but I would have had no qualms with paying £30 for a family ticket as there was so much to do and see! As well as the museum itself and an exhibition about Norfolk during the war, there was also a lovely cafe, a brilliant children's play area, a farm complete with baby lambs - and lots of pretty spots for a picnic.

After a couple of hours Evie took a turn for the worse and we ended up taking her to the doctors with suspected tonsillitis. It turned out that the poor thing actually had scarlet fever, and was prescribed a ten day course of antibiotics, so we picked up our prescription, gave her the first dose and decided to make a move home.

Despite a slight change to our plans (I'd intended for us to stay for a full day and to drive home at bedtime after putting the kids in their pyjamas) we still had a lovely trip. Norfolk is a beautiful place to visit - I would recommend it to anyone, especially those with kids! - and although its a fair distance from the south of England, its an easy drive. We've already invited ourselves back later in the year to go seal spotting (and this time we promise we won't bring germs, Ruth! ;)).

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The New Pizza Express Spring 2017 Menu

Visiting the RocknRoller Baby clan wouldn't be the same without a big old gathering in our favourite pizza restaurant!

We eat at Pizza Express in Haslemere pretty regularly - the food is great, it's affordable, plus there's no washing up ;) - but last night we paid the St Benedict's restaurant in Norwich a visit for the first time. It's double fronted, so huge, light and airy, and is on a street packed full of quirky shops and bars with plenty of parking nearby, making it pretty darn perfect for a pizza and vintage loving girl gang like ours!

As is always the way with Pizza Express, when we got there we received a very warm welcome and the children were given the star treatment, with their infamous colouring packs waiting for them on our table. We ordered our drinks and some olives for the table straight away, as well as the kids piccolo menus, and then set about perusing the new Spring specials.

That's one of the things I love most about Pizza Express - the ever changing, seasonal menu. The new additions for this Spring looked so incredible, we couldn't resist sampling them all.

There's no denying that a meal at Pizza Express just isn't the same without at least a couple of portions of dough balls on the table as a starter, and more recently we've started ordering an antipasto platter too. But now there's a new dish that's set to become a staple for us (if we can persuade Pizza Express to keep them on the menu permanently that is!). The Cod Crocchettes were amazing - baked in the oven, and packed full of creamy smoked cod and mozzarella with a real kick, courtesy of red jalapenos, they came served with rocket and a drizzle of anchovy mayonnaise and were INCREDIBLE.

I'm a creature of habit and usually go for the Soho pizza (or the Pianta if I'm being good and dairy free) but on this occasion I decided to step out of my Pizza Express comfort zone. It might not have been a new item on the menu but I decided to give the Pollo Forza a try for the very first time. It did not disappoint! If you like spice then this pizza should definitely be a contender next time you visit.... the toppings include chicken, garlic, roquito peppers, red and yellow peppers, gran milano cheese and a whole lot of chilli! I had mine on a romana base (we all know the romana bases are THE BEST!).

Ruth's husband went for the new zapparoli pizza and very kindly let us all have a tiny slither slice. This is the new spring special and rather than having a tomato sauce it has one made of creamed corn which is really bloody good. The toppings include chicken, hot soft 'nduja sausage, mozzarella and red roquito pearls, and it's finished off with gran milano cheese, a drizzle of garlic oil and a sprinkling of parsley. We all loved it!

Another springtime special for 2017 is the seafood rigatoni, which Ruth went for. With salmon, pollock and king prawns in a creamy white wine and garlic sauce, this classic pasta dish was a hit with the whole table.

The new dessert is now officially my FAVOURITE EVER Pizza Express pudding - which really is a pretty high accolade coming from me, the pudding queen ;) It's a mini lemon bundt cake, served warm with a scoop of vanilla gelato and garnished with a sprig of mint and a dusting of icing sugar. The perfect, light choice for when your belly is full of pizza but you want something sweet (and not chocolatey)!

We were in the restaurant for two hours and only left because our car park was about to close. I always think it's a sign of a great evening out when you're with your kids and are able to eat leisurely and without stress. This is always the case with Pizza Express, which is why its one of our favourite places to go as a family.

The new Spring menu was a hit with everybody - and I can't wait to go back and eat more!

Our food and drinks were complimentary in exchange for this honest review. All words and photographs are my own.


Meeting Cedric the Easter Bunny at BeWILDerwood

Last August our good friends, the RocknRoller Baby family, introduced us to a magical place called BeWILDerwood in their home county of Norfolk. Being big fans of the great outdoors, we fell head over heels in love with it straight away. Yesterday we returned for a much anticipated second trip, and one with an added Easter twist to boot.... the girls got to meet Cedric the Easter Bunny!

From now until 17th April, as well as the usual - brilliant! - den building, and maze exploring, and tree climbing, visitors can take part in a whole heap of seasonal fun; making bunny ears, getting faces painted, searching for Easter eggs around the woods plus, the icing on the cake, visiting Cedric's burrow and meeting the Easter bunny himself!

At the entrance to the adventure park the children were very excited to be given special invitations to meet Cedric so we decided to head straight over to his burrow. Despite it being bang slap in the middle of the school holidays, we only queued for about twenty minutes and because of it's location, the kids were actually able to run off and play on the zip wires while Ruth and I kept our places in the queue.

Once we had said our goodbyes to Cedric, and searched for chocolate eggs in his burrow, it was time to explore the rest of the woods. I'm not being soft when I say this is a magical place - it really is. With little houses and fairy doors to spot, and story telling, as well as the activities and arts and crafts, there really is something here to keep every child (and grown up*) happy.

*I may have spent a considerable amount of time 'helping' Evie on the Slippery Slopes and on the Broken Bridge ;)

Of course there is also the boat ride across the L o n g lagoon and Scaaaary Lake to enjoy, which is turning out to be one of my favourite things when we visit! You can use this to your advantage by boating back to the entrance and saving your weary legs after a long day exploring the woods, but this time we actually boated over to BeWILDerwood (and avoided the end of day queues) which was brilliant.

Thanks so much to BeWILDerwood for inviting us to visit, and for the incredibly warm welcome. We all had a wonderful day - and the girls were thrilled to see my name on Mildred's message board! Ticket prices start at £13.50 and are available online here. Cedric will be in his burrow until 17th April!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Easter Fun with HEMA

Any of you that follow me on Instagram, and have seen snippets of my life and my house, will know about my fondness for all things colourful, bohemian and Scandinavian. It turns out I'm a fan of all things Dutch too!

Living out in the sticks, quite a lot passes us by - and one shop that I somehow seem to have missed launching over here in the UK is the Dutch lifestyle retailer HEMA.

Known for it's high quality and affordable prices, HEMA sells everything you could possibly need; from household knick knacks to arts and crafts supplies, as well as make up, food, clothes, stationery, toys and brilliant gift ideas.

When I visited my parents in London last week I discovered their local HEMA store in Kingston-upon-Thames and fell head over heels in love with it the minute I walked through the door. I'd describe it as being similar to IKEA or Tiger, but the whole shopping experience is so much more pleasant, with the stores' wide aisles and well marked out designated areas for each department.

HEMA is focused on togetherness, and with that in mind I was challenged to come up with some ideas for keeping the girls entertained this Easter!

The school holidays aren't complete without a road trip, and one thing I always buy to keep the kiddos entertained on long car journeys are notebooks and pens! These HEMA products were a total bargain - two (excellent quality) notebooks for £2 and brightly coloured gel pens for 75p a pop. I also bought myself a set of stamps so that I could personalise them (and save arguments.... I'm clever like that ;)) for just £3 including a mini ink pad!

It wouldn't be the school holidays without a little arts and crafts session. Now I'm no Pinterest mum, as we have established before, but I'm a sucker for a pre-prepared kit and HEMA sell little paint your own Easter tree decoration sets for just £2.50 each. They contain the egg, paints and a paint brush - you just need to provide the newspaper to protect your kitchen table and water to wash the brushes. I've actually been back and bought more of these as Easter presents; there's always waaaaaaaay too much chocolate floating about at this time of year for my liking.

Last, but by no means least, we bought everything we needed to make and decorate cupcakes. HEMA literally sells everything you could possibly need; baking cases for your cake mix and muffin trays to bake them in, decorations, beautiful crockery and table linen, and extra Easter egg essentials!

In the photos above you can see:
wooden cutting board, £10 // tea towels (much larger than standard) £3 each // white breakfast plates, £3 each // teal cake plates, £2.50 each // pink bowls, £1.75 each // candy sprinkles for the cake, £2 for six tubes // individually wrapped chocolate mini eggs, £3.50 // chocolate ornament eggs, £2.25

So if you're looking for fun things to do with the kids this Easter but don't want to break the bank, make sure you pay HEMA a visit (check out the store locator here to find your nearest store - or you can shop online with free shipping when you spend over £20!)

This Easter also sees in-store and online activities taking place for extra fun. From 3rd April, kids visiting HEMA stores will be able to participate in an in store Easter egg hunt while grown ups can join in with the online version to win a £5 online discount.

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