Monday, 29 April 2013

Days Out - Drayton Manor Thomas-themed rooms

We really wanted to do something special for Harry's third birthday. In many ways I think the third birthday has been the first 'real' birthday for us. At one, he didn't really have a clue what was going on (although he did enjoy the cake!) At two he liked his presents, but in the end it was just another day (with cake!) However, three was a whole different ball game. In the couple of months preceding there was much talk of 'my birthday', 'when I'm a big boy', 'I'm two now but I'll be three on my birthday' etc etc. This led to us having a small party, which we weren't really planning on - but let's face it, every book and TV programme that has a birthday in it also has a party! However, the real special thing we were planning was a trip away to Thomas Land.

First off he woke up on his birthday - having whispered excitedly to me the night before 'Daddy says it's my birthday too-mo' - and opened some presents. His gran and grandad 'Peugeot' came over bearing a fantastic fire engine and he had a great time. As far as Harry was concerned that was it, birthday done. Little did he know what we had planned! After lunch we bundled him into the car instead of into bed for naptime and off we went up the motorway to Drayton Manor. Despite telling us he wanted to stay awake, Harry slept nearly the whole way. When we got to the hotel, he was delighted to see a model of a carousel with all his favourite Thomas characters in the foyer (how the receptionists put up with that music over and over I'll never know!) but the excitement was really still to come.

We followed the receptionist's directions to our room, only to find that before long the carpet design changed to tracks, leading the way! The room was fantastic, a lovely mural on the wall and ceiling, tracks on the floor, and of course the piece de resistance, the Thomas bunk beds, complete with DVD players in the headboard. At reception we had been leant two DVDs to watch (you can go back and swap them should you need to), and also given a Thomas welcome pack, containing slippers, a magazine with stickers, a book and some colouring pages and pencils. Of course the first thing Harry wanted to do was to sit on the top bunk and watch a DVD which he thoroughly enjoyed. Meanwhile Archie thoroughly enjoyed testing how baby-proof the room was (everything survived, although I did have to unplug the phone after one-too-many Archie-calls to reception).

After a few episodes of Thomas, and before heading out to dinner at Harry's favourite restaurant - Pizza Express, we decided to try the outside play area out. Although some of it was a bit tricky for Harry to do alone, he still had a fantastic time with Daddy's help. I'm sure that a slightly more adventurous three year old would have managed lots of it alone. In any case, it was great to have a run around after our drive, and a hotel with a play area is always fantastic when you have little ones.

After having dinner at the nearest Pizza Express (about 20 minutes away) we headed home and used the bath and the brilliant Percy bubbles (how they knew Percy was Harry's favourite engine, I don't know!) and as it was his birthday, we let Harry watch another DVD before bedtime (well, we had to get the most use we could out of those DVD players!)

The room was quite well thought out for a young family. The bunk beds are tucked around a corner so that your little ones won't be so distracted by mummy and daddy. However, the lighting wasn't that helpful. Although the bedside lights had a small reading spotlight as well as a lamp, you couldn't work them separately and even having the bedside light furthest away from Harry's bed still left the whole room pretty light. To counteract this I removed the bulb from my bedside lamp, as using the spotlight was enough for us to read and the boys to sleep in peace. Otherwise, I really couldn't fault the room at all. I think it was all Harry's dreams come true! That is - until the next day at Thomas Land...

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Bobchat - Father Christmas Sign

H - (looking at a wildlife warning sign with a picture of a deer) Look! That sign says 'watch out, Father Christmas is coming!'

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

#50books2013 Capital - John Lancaster

This book is pretty fat, and although I usually like fat books I was a bit concerned that in my current state of mind I would find it tricky to stick with. When I read the back of the book I was still concerned - the residents on 'Pepys Road' in London receive mysterious postcards simply with the words 'We want what you have' on the back. Sounded like a prolonged, and prehaps not particularly interesting 'whodunit'.

I should have had more faith. Despite not being much of a reader himself, my husband always seems to choose books I will enjoy and this was no exception. Of course, by then end of the novel you do find out 'whodunit', but not before you get completely sucked into the lives of the residents of Pepys Road. You get an interesting insight into the lives of a banker and his wife in the midst of the baking crisis; drawn into the familial relationships of the Indian family who own the shop and gripped by the growing relationship between the Polish builder and Hungarian nanny. Alongside these stories a Banksy-esque artist called Smitty and his grandmother tell their own intriguing stories. I found I couldn't put the book down. Although I sometimes became a little entangled and confused by the sheer number of characters (again, I blame my flaky state of mind at the time), I found many of them endearing and I loved the insight into many different elements of London - and British - society.

I'd really recommend this novel for an interesting, thought provoking and just simply good read.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013


Well, better late than never - right?

Monday - Chilli, rice and nachos
Tuesday - Salmon fillet and couscous parcels
Wednesday - Sausage and mash (or posibly hot dogs if this weather continues!)
Thursday - Sweet and sour pork
Friday - Pizza

Hopefully with this week's menu we can pretty much avoid chips, as I feel like nearly all our meals were becoming accompanied by oven chips. I'm really hoping that now I am starting to feel a bit better I can get a bit better at meal planning and cooking again. It feels like forever since I was organised in the kitchen and I really need to get my act together before I go back to work in a couple of weeks!

Monday, 8 April 2013

#50books2013 - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Pilgrimage? Not that interested to be honest. Religion definitely not my cup of tea. Harold Fry? He doesn't sound that interesting, does he.

Really, Harold Fry isn't that interesting. He lead a static, boring life with his wife down in Kingsbridge on the South Coast. He doesn't seem to particularly mind - that is until he receives a letter from an old friend who he feels he let down many years previously who has cancer - he goes to post a letter back and thus starts the pilgrimage.

This book is about Harold - a stereotypical English man walking through England and stereotypical English towns and villages, meeting gloriously and wonderfully drawn characters on the way. It is a novel of British Idiosyncrasies at its best - especially towards the beginning g of the novel. Sadly, although I loved the book, I did feel like it lost momentum as more and more people joined Harold on his pilgrimage. However, the novel as a whole was great and I loved the story of Harold and Maureen, his wife, left behind uncertain of what is happening.

Road numbers, a journey you can follow on a map, descriptions of places you remember of previous holidays - and ones you file away in your mind for future ones... I really enjoyed reading this novel and would definitely recommend it.