Thursday, 27 December 2018

Unpopular Opinions - Xmas Edition

Over the years it's become apparent that I have a lot of unpopular opinions. I'm ok with that. I'm often sharing my unpopular opinions on social media - don't take them too seriously, the reason I've kept  a lot of these to myself in the past is because opinions seem to annoy people - especially ones that aren't shared. It's sad but true and I really hope things start to change in 2019. I'm still a bit nervous about posting this but I'm getting braver, I don't mean to offend and it's just my thoughts. 

As I've grown older I'm becoming more of a scrooge, Christmas is more stressful and since becoming a Mum I've noticed the huge amount of pressure that comes with the big day. Half of these opinions are probably down to me being too stressed  in the lead-up.

Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, I love spending time with family. We've had some wonderful days throughout December spending time with Sam's lovely family members, having days out with friends and taking the time to really embrace being a family of 3 for the short time we have left before the baby arrives.

 Christmas is a personal time and I actually love hearing how others spend the festive period, it's really interesting. As a fan of bad reality TV I think my ideal show would be a look at how people spend Christmas - finished off with a celebrity version. I want to know how the queen organises her Christmas shopping, or if the Beckhams argue over Monopoly - I bet Victoria has to be the shoe (is there still a shoe..?). 

Anyway. I love a lot about Christmas but life is about balance so there's a great deal I'd like to get in the sea.

So as I said last time, these aren't digs at anyone, I'm sure I've been guilty of a couple of these things over the years, I don't hate you if you love the things I don't, you do you etc etc.... you know the drill kids.

Here are some of my (most probably) unpopular opinions about Xmas-


Christmas Films that are over-rated
Now until recently I thought I was alone here but I've seen various tweets from people claiming they hate the film Elf too so it might not be as unpopular an opinion as I anticipated. 

But I really don't enjoy The Holiday or Love Actually either.

Xmas Eve Boxes
These have come out of nowhere. I love a tradition at Christmas and it's really nice to have a little treat on Christmas eve. But I think there is a big competitive element to it. New Pjs is cute, I get the appeal of a dvd to watch together or a book to read before you leave out the mince pie for santa. It's when it gets extreme with themed mugs, beakers, teddies, keyrings, socks, bloody puppies or something... all in personalised wooden boxes that cost a fortune. It's just another thing to add to an already hectic and expensive  time of year. It feels a bit wasteful - do you end up with 10 plastic xmas tumblers that they can only use once a year by the time they've grown out of it? 

I'm not annoyed about people doing it, I think it's just another standard that Mums feel the pressure to keep up with.

Secret Santa
I know it's just a bit of fun. But it's another thing to worry about. I've just had bad past experiences, one year mine went missing completely. I know of someone who got a diabetic a load of chocolate -the person receiving it and his girlfriend were not impressed with that one! Once I got a gift from someone at work that I'm still close friends with to this day and totally lucked out with the gift she got me - all of which I still have and use. But this is rare. Usually this is done with work friends who don't really know you. My partner was in Harry Potter and every single year he can predict that his gift is some sort of wizard-y merchandise as the person who gets him won't be able to think of anything else. It would probably help if he stopped bloody talking about it! 
This is no slight on the person either, it works both ways, I spent this year walking around various high street shops trying to find something decent for less than a tenner that wasn't a load of rubbish. I think it should be acceptable to just give each other a tenner and save the hassle. 

Stocking Fillers
Keeping with the wasteful theme I'm not a big fan of stocking fillers. Maybe I'm just more sensible in my old age but I just don't like buying stuff for the sake of it to look like there is more to open. When it comes to kids toys half of that will be broken in a week and end up on a landfill. 10 bits from poundland is £10 closer to a bigger present they actually want.

The Scents of Xmas
I love a candle, and a good candle gift set is not only a great easy gift but a welcome one at that. BUT the time where these sets are in abundance is at Christmas time. And at Christmas time these companies all seem to think I want my house to smell of bloody cinnamon and pine. I do not. 

Christmas Lists
Gone are the days when I went through the Argos catalogue (my friends daughter used to call it the artist packlock which is so bloody cute!) to write out a list to give to my parents with things I really really wanted/had only just seen while going through the book.
Christmas isn't about gifts. I hate when I'm asked what I want for Christmas or what M might want. If someone sees something they think I'd like they can pick it up but shopping off a gift list just feels impersonal and just like they're paying for something for me rather than giving me a treat.

Toxic Family Members
The word toxic got thrown around a lot over the last year. But you can't get on with everyone- even family. Christmas can be a time where you are expected to brush a lot of stuff under the carpet for one day. I don't really agree with that, everyone senses tension, whispering isn't as subtle as you'd think and it's just no fun when there's a bit of an atmosphere. if any family members or friends make you feel bad then you don't have to spend your time with them. On the flip side if you're inviting someone over that you all dislike and are just watching and waiting for them to annoy you then that's just not very Christmassy. Christmas is about being happy and your happiness is important too. Send a card or a text if you need to, don't if you know even that will be wrong. Make plans that work for you. I've learnt that trying to please others isn't always the best way to do things. Be a little selfish if you need to and it will be better for everyone. 

Meeting the Big Man
I never really thought about this in my pre-parent times. But each December I panic book a grotto last minute to take M to see Santa. Just one time. I didn't know that a lot of people do this a few times, opting to visit various guys dressed in red in shopping centres, farms, school fairs etc. I kind of think this is a bit confusing and I personally wouldn't be prepared for the questions about why this time his beard isn't real or this guy is suddenly much taller. Once is special enough, we don't need to ruin the magic.

Pet Advent Calendars
They don't understand the concept of time Sharon!

Christmas Eve Drinks
Usually Christmas eve is spent in your home town and that town will be full of people that you'd rather avoid. I've spent a couple of Christmas eves out having a drink but I've never been a fan of getting drunk. I can't see the appeal of spending Christmas day hangover, that's what boxing day is for. Not feeling up to eating the Christmas dinner would ruin Christmas for me.

Work Drinks
Don't get me wrong, I've had a couple of excellent work do's, my old work mates were more like my best friends so for us it was like a free night out but I've also worked in jobs where my workmates were just that - mates from work, people I got on with during office hours but didn't have a huge amount in common with. A work night out with them always felt forced and a little awkward for everyone. 

Doing it for 'The Gram'
Can you go to Somerset House and not make everyone pose for a photo? Would you bother with Winter Wonderland if you couldn't have your phone with you? Does your week old baby really know they're meeting Santa? Just wondering...

while I'm on the subject 

Winter Wonderland is massively over-rated.

The Sales
Maybe I'm just not organised but I can't even imagine buying all presents the year before in the sales. Toys and gift sets all sorted for the next Christmas, it's savvy, I'll give you that but I think I'd end up losing everything or buying stuff for the sake of it. I have no idea what my son is going to like in a years time, he was obsessed with Pokemon a few months ago but I haven't heard that squeaky Pikachu voice in weeks. I spend my Boots points on a couple of bits in the sales, I usually stock up on some luxury skincare as half price Liz Earle gift sets make me happy. But this is done online - the sale crowd scare me.

I have nothing against shops being open on Boxing Day, to some people that's extra work hours which means extra pay that they need. I know there's people that are rude to staff and of course I think people need to be respectful but that applies to every day life - not just when it comes to retail workers. 
To some people shopping in the sales is the only way they can afford presents for their kids. Some people asked for gift vouchers to spend on something discounted rather than ask their family for gifts they know would have been cheaper for them if they'd waited. Some want to get out and avoid being home with people that bring them down. And some just like a bargain I guess. Hey if you have the patience to wait in line at Lush for an hour then good for you, you're a stronger person than I am (and if you could bring me back a bottle of Snow Fairy that'd be lovely).

Working xmas eve
I worked in retail when I was younger. One of my favourite times of year to work was Christmas period. It was always so varied, helping an old lady buy something for the grandchild, a guy at as loss as to what to get his wife - it was busy and full on but I enjoyed it. Yes of course I encountered a few snappy middle aged women but they can be a pain any time, at least I was getting paid!  I enjoyed the buzz of helping someone get their Xmas shopping ticked off. It probably helped that I worked on commission to be fair. 

Let the kids chill
On to a parenting one. Can we stop the pressure of having to go to every show, every grotto, light switch-on, Christmas Jumper Day, Christmas Party, Craft Day, and Farm visit? We have enough to worry about with nativity costumes, learning lines, teacher collections, christmas cards on top of all the Christmas stuff that already exists. Not to mention those who include the Christmas eve box and Elf on the Shelf too. It's too much and they only get 2 weeks off before they're back to school again. I say give the kids a rest but the parents need some time off too. Plus it's extra difficult for me as I can't drink at the moment to take the edge off!

PHEW that was a lot wasn't it, I promise I do love a lot about Christmas! I think next year if I start preparing in August I might be able to handle it.

*remember my opinions don't really matter. Merry Christmas 


Monday, 17 December 2018

The Blue Anchor Tadworth

My favourite thing to do is go out for food. 90% of my disposable income goes on meals out but I wouldn't have it any other way. I would save money if I didn't eat out but the way I look at it, I’d be less happy. I see going out for food as a little break from reality. There's nothing better than sitting down with friends and family, eating some good food and properly catching up. Nobody getting up to clear plates of get some more wine, all the attention is on socialising. Life gets busy and quality time with people is important and we should take the time to enjoy it. I'm realising more than ever how life is short and we need to make the most of time with the people around us while we can.


We were recently invited down to The Blue Anchor in Tadworth for their launch night. They've had a fabulous refurbishment and this was a chance for them to show it off (and rightly so!). After a hectic few months this was the perfect place for us to spend time as a family and try some of their menu. The exterior looks beautiful at night with the warm lighting leading to the door - I noticed a fire pit too which will be great on a chilly Spring evening in a few months time. Yes I'm already thinking about Spring! 



Inside it's equally beautiful with their new modern look - I need the designer to come and do my house! I found myself saying "I love that sofa" "I need that chair!" "That colour is lovely" throughout the evening due to the mixture of styles that complimented each other perfectly. It certainly has a really comfortable feel to it and you feel instantly relaxed which is enhanced by the ever so friendly staff. You feel very welcome from the moment you walk in.


We got some drinks from the bar, I loved the look of the gin station but due to my 'delicate condition' I stuck to a St Clements while Sam enjoyed the gin. Our evenings entertainment was provided by Wayne Woodward of Britain's Got Talent fame who sang some great classics and we had a great chat with him too. 


Once seated we looked through the amazing menu which had so much choice it took us a while to decide what to go for. Mason is a huge fan of lots of different cheese's and had the Deep Fried Brie in Panko Breadcrumbs with Chutney to start. I was massively jealous of this but my Chargrilled Lamb Koftas with goats curd, plum tomatoes, roasted pepper, cucumber and mint salad was absolutely delicious. All starters are priced around £7 mark which is really reasonable, especially for the portion size.



We were seriously spoilt for choice with the main menu. We all loved the sound of pretty much everything on it. On the website you can filter the menu to limit dietary options which makes your choice much easier. The staff are so knowledgeable they are able to assist you in the restaurant too. 


I was told by the general manager that the chicken and prawn linguini is fantastic so I'll definitely be going back for that at some point. Sam gave me rave reviews on the Roasted Pork Belly and Seared Scallops with potato dauphinoise, butternut squash puree, green beans, toasted almonds, cracking and red wine jus. It makes my mouth water just typing that! I went for the 9oz Rib Eye Steak and the twice cooked chunky chips were incredible and almost like crispy roast potatoes. If you're more of a fries fan you can swap for those or any of their other side dishes if you prefer. I really recommend adding the Beef Dripping sauce too! 


For me the kids menu is really important when dining out. It's £7.95 for a main and dessert or the mains alone are just £5.95. I was really impressed with the selection, Mason would have eaten any of the dishes. It didn't feel like the menu was just thrown together to keep the kids quiet while the adults eat, it was carefully thought out and far more exciting than nuggets and chips. 


With options like Chicken breast strips with coconut tzatziki, Tomato linguini, Cod goujons, and pork sausages with mash even I was tempted by the menu. After much deliberation he opted for the Beef Burger Sliders which went down a treat. 


We made sure we had room for dessert, which meant sacrificing a few those delicious chips but it was worth it. Sam's ever so instagrammable Melting Chocolate and Peanut Bomb looked great as the hot salted caramel sauce was poured over it causing it to open up and reveal the sticky toffee  pudding and peanut butter cream inside. It's served with bourbon vanilla ice cream which pairs with it perfectly. If you like Reeses Peanut Butter Cups you'll loves this. There's a video on my highlights reel on Instagram if you want to see it in action!


Mason and I had Warm Belgian Chocolate Brownies with ice cream. You just can't go wrong with a brownie! The desserts are all priced around £6 and are £2.50 on the kids menu. If you only have room for something small you can have a mini dessert (either an apple & blackberry crumble,  baked vanilla cheesecake or Belgian chocolate brownie) and hot drink for £4.95. 


On weekdays they have a lunch menu from 12-6pm which offers 2 courses for £11.95 or 3 courses for £14.95. Something I'll definitely be doing is getting some friends together and heading back for the Sunday roast. They’re all served with plump yorkshire puddings, fluffy goose-fat-roasted potatoes and fresh seasonal veg. I love a roast and the smaller portion for kids is just £6.95.

Everything down to the bathroom looked perfect and the staff couldn't do enough for us. They were all so welcoming and really made Mason feel included too which I always like when we take him out to restaurants with us. It's as much of a treat for him as it is for us.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and thank everyone there for an excellent evening. I've already convinced a load of my friends and family to visit an I'll be back again myself very soon!

 *this was a complimentary visit but all thoughts are my own and I was under no obligation to write this review


Thursday, 29 November 2018

Coral Reef Water World with Zoggs

Earlier this month we were invited down to the newly refurbished Coral Reef Water World in Bracknell to celebrate the launch of the new DC Super Heroes collection from Zoggs. The new range of swimwear and accessories features all the favourite DC heroes including  Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Superman. The best bit is these aren’t just for kids, there are products for men and women too.


It was a great chance for us all to dress up in some superhero themed Zoggs gear and enjoy a couple of hours family time while trying out the facilities! We were all kitted out in some great Zoggs swimwear, I had my first try of a maternity swimsuit which was so comfortable and really flattering. Mason was over the moon with his Batman hip racer shorts from the kids (0-6 years) range.


Zoggs were founded in Australia back in 1992 and are now a leading swim brand with products available in over 50 countries around the world. They think the best way to fall in love with swimming is to make sure you have fun

Their swimsuits, goggles, learning aids and training accessories are made to stand up to the Australian sun, sea and swimming pools. Their view is if they make the grade in Australia, they’re sure they’ll do the same anywhere else in the world. 


Mason is a big fan of superheroes and loves swimming, he couldn’t wait to get in the pool! We headed straight for the  the 'Coralina' pirate ship which I remember loving when I was little. Mason enjoyed the slide and shooting the water-filled cannons. 

The under 5’s are well catered for with the the Little Corals water slides  and fountains in the children area right next to the ship.  Watch out for the buckets of water tipping on you, although it provides much amusement for the little ones to see you caught off guard -I found out the hard way!


It was such a nice change from our usual family swim, with their water spouting snakes, cascading waterfall, and pool jacuzzi with the lazy river around the outside.


Throughout our swim an alarm would sound and the erupting volcano would shoot water out which created such a great atmosphere - everyone got involved!

For over 18s there’s also the Coral Spa Jacuzzi, three saunas, steam room, cool pool and the heated loungers available. Of course the main attraction is the the interactive giant waterslides!


Being 7 months pregnant I gave the slides miss and left them to the boys. They tried out the Storm Chaser first. You ave to be over 1.2m to ride this one alone but anyone under 1.2m can ride with an adult in a double rubber ring. The greatest thing about this is that the ride is customisable, you can choose your own special lighting/sound effects before you head down. With exciting options such as rainbow, pink sparkle, blue run, circle light, disco, halloween, yellow snake and flash light it would be rude not to have a few goes and try as many out as possible. 


The next side was Aqua Splash which is a gentler ride with some more customisable sounds and lights. This one has a great game to play on the way down as you hit coloured pads as you pass them - the more you hit, the more points you get at the end. You can compare this to the best score of the day - the boys got rather competitive!

Any thrill seekers need to head for The Cannon. This one shoots you down the 67m chute like a...well, cannon! The sensors in the ride record how long it takes you to get to the bottom and the results are displayed on the board at the end along with the top score of the day. You must be over 1.2m and over 8 years old to have a go on this one - we left this for Sam and he spent a great deal of time trying to beat his top speed score. 


At it’s deepest, the pool reaches 1.35m so it’s easy to stand in throughout. There's no treading water needed here - you’ll need that energy saved for the steps to the slides! Believe me, we all felt like our thighs had had a workout! 


We had such a great evening trying everything out. Even the little things like decent sized lockers, large family changing rooms and hair driers that really work all help to make a family day (or in our case, evening) run smoothly.  Mason is still talking about his trip to Coral Reef to everyone he meets and loves showing off his Batman shorts at his swimming lessons.

For more information on Coral Reef Waterworld visit the Everyone Active website. And you’ll find the Zogg products for sale online, on the high street and in sports and leisure centres.


Friday, 16 November 2018

Our day at the St Nicholas Shopping Centre

Recently I was invited down to the St Nicholas Shopping Centre in Sutton which has recently welcomed new facilities, including a Sweat gym and the Games Garden. Never a stranger to a shopping centre, I was excited to try out the leisure facilities and have a little wander around their stores.


First I headed to Debenhams for a masterclass with Urban Decay. Playing around with make-up is one of my favourite things to do with my spare time so I was in my element trying out the new Cherry Palette and adding a load of the old favourites to my Christmas list! The girls there taught us how to do a gorgeous halo eye using the palette which looked perfect for the party season.

The boys headed downstairs to the new Games Garden - this is something we all loved as gaming is very much part of our lives at the moment with the launch of the PACVAN earlier in the year. 

Located on the ground floor it’s a great place for kids (and big kids!) to enjoy some games of pool, table tennis, air hockey and even some Mario Kart, Lego Avengers and Fifa. It meant I had a bit of time to pop into Next and New Look while they played.


Mason can barely be torn away from his Nintendo Switch so he got settled right down on a bean bag for a game of Mario Kart. The place looks great, all brightly decorated in green astro turf and recycled wooden pallets and it’s free to use til 5pm. It’s perfect for anyone with kids who don’t like wandering around the shops for long. 


 Also new to the centre is the Sweat! Gym. They use the latest technology to take their group classes  to the next step. Their group exercises  focus on working together and having fun while you get fit. They have spin theatres with great big screens to keep up the momentum and keep you on your toes (at times, literally!).

Their BOX! 360 class sounds great fun and it’s exclusive to Sutton. It uses aqua bags, kettlebells, speed ropes and ab rollers for  a 3-dimantional fun workout. Right now I have to roll sideways off the bed instead of using my abs to sit up so I’ll have to wait til the baby is here to give this a go! 

There’s a whopping 150 classes a week so you’re bound to find something to suit you. Whats more, members get 2 hours of free parking so there’s no excuse! 

There’s a selection of street food on the top floor. We all sampled some rather incredible desserts and milkshakes from Sugar and Spice.


Now maybe I’m getting old, maybe it’s due to the baby on my bladder ensuring I make at least one visit but finding clean decent toilets always pleases me. The St Nicholas Centre has revamped not only their toilets but there’s a lovely family feeding room with nappies and wipes supplied for those little emergencies. It’s nice to see unisex baby changing so it’s not always left down to us ladies and perfect for days where Sam takes the kids out. The comfortable seating outside is a really nice touch too.


We were given tickets to the Empire Cinema so Sam and I headed back a week later to see Bohemian Rhapsody. The cinema looks great, I haven’t actually visited since I saw Titanic here in '97 so needless to say it’s changed a fair bit! 

Walking in you can’t help but notice the revamp, it looks modern and fresh. I really love the wall of old movie posters before you go to the screens. 


I've only seen 14 of the films you can see in this picture!

The thing that really makes a trip to this cinema stand out is the choice of seating. From Monday to Thursday a standard seat is a really reasonable £7.45 and is a pound more over the busier weekend days. You can pay a couple of quid extra for a lovely soft sofa or even a recliner. 

Armed with a Cherry Tango Ice Blast to fuel my ice craving I headed to the screen to watch one of the best films of the year. I loved every moment, I resisted singing along and it really was made all the more special sat in such a comfortable reclining chair which I could manoeuvre into the perfect position. I’ve recommended this place to everyone!

If you really fancy a treat some showings have the option of D-Box seats which vibrate and move around for a real immersive experience! At only £10.50 per adult and £7.50 per child this definitely sounds like something I’ll be checking out!

Top Tip- remember to validate your parking ticket and you get 3 hours free parking while you’re there! 

At the end of the year there’s a brand new soft play coming to level 3 which will provide hours of fun for children up to 7 years old. It seems like this centre is really catering for everyone and it’s great! 


Monday, 5 November 2018

Last minute photo gifts

It's that time of year again, Halloween is over (though didn't it seem to go on forever this year?!) And as I type the fireworks are all fizzing out. X Factor is on Tv and it's the countdown to Christmas, which of course means we need to start Christmas shopping. 

 Whenever I'm stuck for a gift idea I always turn to something personalised. You just can't go wrong with something personal, it will mean more to the person receiving it and it always feels like a worthwhile gift. 


This is made so simple now that there are more options on the market. Gone are the days where you would just have to stick a photo to a bit of folded card and write inside or put a picture in a frame - to quote Eddie Izzard from the recycling advert - the possibilities are endless!
*wonders how many people will actually get that reference....

Holidays are well and truly coming and I know a lot of you are already wracking your brains over what gift to get that person that has everything. I feel like as we get older we end up treating ourselves to things more and actually don't really know what we want for Christmas. I certainly can't write a long list like I used to. 

I like to be surprised with a gift with some thought put in. I really like giving gifts like this too. I have a sense of satisfaction when I give something that I've thought up on my own and the person receiving it really loves. 
However, this can leave me fretting over what to get and I end up in a last minute panic. Luckily I have a great option at my local Tesco!


Tesco Photo have a great range of same-day delivery gifts available so you can buy an extra special last minute gift for a loved one. You just use their 
express service to get products the same day. Most same day gifts can be collected in store after 3pm if an order is placed by noon.

There's a great selection of products not just perfect for Christmas but  for an anniversary, birthday or just to add something extra to your rooms.

Along with your usual personalised mugs and mousemats there's a range of canvas prints and posters in a range of sizes to brighten up any wall and you can really get creative with them by making a collage if you like. 
I received  this gorgeous picture of Mason and me from a few years ago which I admit I'd forgotten all about. I really love how it looks and every time I see it it reminds me of a lovely day in London we had with our friends and their daughter.


There's an option to order a photo in a frame so the hard work is completely done for you for about £10. There's no hunting around stores with a picture trying to find a frame to suit it. So simple!

Photo blocks are a perfect contemporary addition on any table or mantelpiece. I got these for Sam's birthday to have on his desk. They look really great and they're something a little different. You can order these from postcard size, 8X6" or 10X8" and they can have a black or a white trim. They can also be wall mounted if you prefer.


You can also print out your photos to collect that same day -something  really need to do more of instead of leaving them sitting on my computer or phone. 

What's more, the website is really easy to use; you choose the product you're after and simply upload a photo. You can use their tools to position it how you like to make sure it's perfect. 

Everything is packaged really well in bubble wrap and cardboard so there's no worry of there being any damage in transit. 

You would think that a personalised product would mean there's a long wait and you should have ordered something back in October but thankfully that's not the case. Just order by noon and you can have your order with you by 3pm so you can  pick it up when you do your food shop. If you have enough time to wait a little longer you can have the order delivered to your house which takes about a week.

I think these are a really great idea for Christmas and I'd definitely recommend them.

*these products were kindly sent to me but as always all thoughts are 100% my own