November 2018 | Modern Mummy

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

TOYS // Introducing tonies®

As I'm sure you'll have gathered by now, the girls and I all absolutely love reading at home. Our bookshelves are overflowing with treasured classics and newer, quirky titles and we are equally fond of fact as we are fiction.

The bedtime routine has always been a pretty special one to me. Even when the girls were tiny babies I'd read to them after they'd had a bath and I'd got them into their pyjamas. Snuggling down, closing your eyes and listening to a story is such a lovely way to relax and unwind at the end of a long day. These days the girls will often read together and it's probably the only time of day they aren't either fighting or ignoring each other so I love it even more!

Now that she's nine, Daisy is quite happy reading to herself in the evenings, although we do still have joint family reading time occasionally. Evie, at six, still likes a bedtime story - and very often one will turn into two and then she'll ask for a third.... I know she'd happily have me keep reading until she fell asleep if she could! 

I was rather intrigued when the girls and I were invited to the London launch of the critically acclaimed children's audio system, tonies®, last weekend. These little audio boxes are magical story tellers and I couldn't wait to try them out. Already a huge hit in Europe, tonies® have finally hit the UK and Ireland - just in time for Christmas! 

Combining an audio player with collectible figurines, tonies® gives story telling a whole new lease of life. The toniebox is super easy to use so it's perfect for kids of all ages, and they are available in several colours so there's one to suit every taste! It's portable and comes with a charging base, and each full charge gives seven hours of playback.

When you buy your toniebox, it comes with a creative tonie that you can add up to 90 minutes of your own audio to via an app. How brilliant is that? I've recorded myself reading the girls some of our favourite made up bedtime stories and have also recorded messages to them from my phone when I've been out and about. Not only does this solve the 'please can I have an eighth story, Mummy' dilemma every evening, it also means you can still say goodnight if you happen to miss bedtime for any reason!

As well as the creative tonies®, you can also buy individual pre-recorded tonies® which play all your favourite classics, like Stick Man and Little Red Riding Hood, as well others that are loaded with songs and lullabies. Plus you can download your own music onto them which is great for older kids.

They work by placing the tonie on top of the box to start the content playing and removing it to stop. Simple as that. They are also magnetic so if the box gets knocked, the story won't be disrupted! The volume is controlled by the 'ears', and you can skip/rewind a track by tapping the side of the box. Genius.

At the event we were whisked away to a Christmas storyland and the children were taught how the tonie boxes work by Little Red Riding Hood and James from The Snowman before getting to try them for themselves. They had heaps of fun - it turns out the figurines are just as fun to play with as they are great for telling stories. There are dozens to choose from and we will definitely be starting a little collection!

The boxes cost £79.95 (available from Amazon) and prices for the tonie characters themselves start at £11.99 - I can't wait to get the girls some for Christmas, they're going to make perfect stocking fillers!

This is not a sponsored post, however the girls were very kindly gifted a tonie box each at the event.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

FOOD // Turtle Bay, Guildford: A Review

Last week, the girls and I were invited to Turtle Bay in Guildford to try out their brand new kids' menu. We headed into town straight after school, hit the shops for a couple of hours and then made our way to the restaurant to collapse in an exhausted heap and enjoy some much needed food and drink.

Despite it's brilliant location in the centre of town, just a short walk from the station and close to car parking facilities, the girls and I have never eaten there, which is bonkers really, especially seeing as we all love Caribbean food!

We booked our table for 6:30pm and arrived to a bustling restaurant, full of a real mixed bunch of people; families, groups of teenagers, businessmen and couples. My initial reaction was "how cool is this!" - a bar / restaurant that caters for everyone!

Of course I also noticed the amazing decor straight away - the restaurant was bright and spacious, the walls covered in street art style portraits and stickers, and decorated with neons, eclectic collections of bric-a-brac and mismatched furniture. It was a refreshing change from the usual family friendly restaurant chains that we go to.

As soon as we were seated, the girls were presented with Turtle Bay kids packs which were brilliant. Not just a page of colouring in - we're talking huge booklets, full of word searches and quizzes and mazes and spot the differences. They lasted the entire meal and we even had to take them home so that the girls could finish them off. The kids' menu also had a snakes and ladders board printed onto the back of it, and counters and a dice were brought out along with the crayons. SUCH a good idea! Why hasn't anyone thought of it before?

Both the kids' and adults' menus were seriously extensive. The dishes were all well described - although that made us struggle to decide what to order as it all sounded incredible, and we were all keen to try something new. There were loads of gluten free and vegan options, and this restaurant is great for those of you who, like me, are dairy free, as most of the dishes are cooked in coconut oil rather than any type of butter.

One thing I especially loved was the fact that the kids menu was two tiered; there were meals for 'little turtles' and meals for 'bigger turtles', which meant that different sized appetites were catered for. At 6 and 9, my girls are kind of in-between kid and adult sized portions, so the dishes on the 'bigger turtles' selection were perfect for them.

So what did we eat, I hear you ask!

The girls had complimentary fresh dips and dippers on arrival as part of the kids menu, plus we ordered sweetcorn fritters and crispy squid to share.

Daisy had the vegan chickpea and callaloo curry, which came with steamed rice and roti flatbread, Evie went for a half rack of BBQ pork ribs and I had the spicy jerk sirloin steak with coconut callaloo and fries. I don't eat meat often but that steak was absolutely incredible. The girls demolished their meals too.

I was too full for pudding (yes you did hear that correctly) but the girls had warm salted caramel fudge brownie with vanilla ice cream and both said it was one of the most incredible desserts they've ever eaten.

All in all it was a really fun dining experience. The menu was exciting - it was SO nice to not be eating pizza or burgers for once - and the staff were all absolutely lovely. You could tell that they genuinely enjoyed working there; they were really chatty (with everyone, not just us) and nothing was too much trouble.

If you're a family that likes spicy Caribbean food like us, then this is absolutely the restaurant for you! Although saying that, I also quite like the idea of making my way back there without the kids to take advantage of their happy hour one day soon (they have over forty different rums on offer!)

DISCLOSURE: This is not a paid collaboration, however we were given a complimentary meal in exchange for this entirely honest review.


Wednesday, 7 November 2018

HEALTH + FITNESS // The Couch to 5k

This morning I did something I never in a million years thought I would do. I completed The Couch to 5k. Nine weeks ago I could barely run for thirty seconds at a time - during my last three sessions I was running for an entire thirty minutes!

So many people have been asking questions about how I found it over on Instagram, so I thought I'd put together a little post over here.

I have to say, this is the longest I've stuck to any kind of exercise regime in years. Sure I take part in the odd exercise class at the gym (mostly for the coffee and cake afterwards) but the last time I ran regularly was 2005 - and my thirteen year old running gear is still going strong!

I figured the easiest way to answer your questions is to list them. So here goes!

What made you sign up?
I entered the ballot to run the London Marathon earlier this year and at the beginning of September I started to panic that I might actually get a place. It would be just my luck to get in first time when I was the least fittest I'd ever been in my entire life! I downloaded and started the Couch to 5k app knowing that I'd be well on my way to running for half an hour by the time the results came out. If I didn't get a place, I'd give it up. Simple as that!

What is the app like?
Really simple to use! And it's free! It has been created by the BBC, has really simple graphics and a choice of 'trainers' to talk you through your runs. I went for Jo Whiley as she is one of my favourite radio DJs, but there are another four to choose from if she doesn't float your boat!

Is the programme really do-able? 
Absolutely. Even for total beginners, like myself. It begins by alternating sixty second runs with ninety seconds of walking, building up to thirty minutes over 27 runs! On my very first run I found myself out of puff around thirty seconds in, but the whole point is to push yourself, so push myself I did.

You're expected to 'run' (/walk) for half an hour, three times a week which is easy so long as you have the motivation to stick to it. From previous attempts at working out, I know how easy it is to come up with an excuse! I work and also solo parent, so there's no chance of me ever getting out first thing in the morning, or once the kids are in bed. This time round I got into the habit of running home after dropping the kids to school, or running back from work. When we visited my parents at the weekend, I'd leave the girls with them for half an hour and nip out.

How did you personally find it?
Two weeks into the programme I really wasn't enjoying it, but with the possibility of the Marathon looming over me I persevered. I said to myself that if I didn't get a spot I'd stop the programme straight away and with that in my mind I kept going! Week three was a massive turning point and all of a sudden I started to think "ok NOW I get why people run!" I felt so good, and knowing I only had to be out for half an hour made it totally bearable, especially when I got it over and done with early on in the day.

Week four was when I actually started to enjoy myself (and I never thought I'd hear myself say that!). At that point in the programme the weeks schedule consisted of two run/walks and one long twenty minute run. I actually looked forward to those longer runs!

Half way through week five I found out that I hadn't got a place in the Marathon, but I changed my mind about giving it all up and decided that I'd carry on regardless. I signed up for a 10k run in Richmond Park for the first week in December to spur me on.

The last few weeks of the programme were all long runs - 25 minutes to start with, increasing to 28 minutes in week 8 and 30 minutes in week 9. I loved them all!

What kit do you need?
Er... I'm probably the wrong person to ask! I've been wearing thirteen year old leggings and trainers, and a super cheap sports bra and vest top from TK Maxx. I did buy myself a small bumbag from Amazon to hold my phone and keys but the zip broke after two runs. I plan to buy another, better quality one, and some long sleeved tops now that it's getting colder. If anyone else has any suggestions for winter running gear, I'd love to hear them!

What now?
Listening to my last podcast today I actually felt a bit emotional. I know it sounds daft but I'm so proud of myself for sticking to the programme completely and not missing a single run. I've now got a month to go until my 10k run, so I'm going to stick to running three times a week and start working on my distance, rather than my time. I've been covering 4.5k in my thirty minute runs, so for the next week I'll be doing 5k, and then increasing that to 6k the following week, trying to better my time with each run in the same week. I'll be up to 8k by the time of the run and hopefully adrenalin will push me through to 10k on the day!

Did you lose any weight during the course of the programme?
I didn't do this with any ambitions of weight loss, although I did want to tone up. It was merely to kick start my marathon training. I did weigh myself at the start though, and I also measured my waist. After 9 weeks, the results are in! I'm 10.5lbs down (although I've also been eating a lot more plant based whole foods than usual) and have lost three inches from my waist!

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