Disney on Ice, London (02 Arena)

I have always wanted to watch Disney on Ice. They toured almost every year in Taiwan when I lived there but I never got the opportunity to go. So when I heard they would be in London over Christmas and S is at the age where I knew he’d enjoy it, I booked tickets in a heart beat (we sat in block 111, row A. Although we had a side view, the performers used the entire rink and so we didn’t miss a thing).

It was at the 02 Arena in North Greenwich, London. Thankfully, a few days before we were going, my friend Ritu who’d already been, suggested I introduce S to Toy Story if he didn’t know it (he didn’t). Lucky for us, Toy Story was on tele on the 30th and Toy Story 2 showed on the 31st. S and I watched them on the 31st and 1st so when we went on the 2nd morning, he knew exactly who Buzz and Woody were.

The doors opened at 10am and the show started at 11am. A few mum’s online had warned about how expensive everything was. Apparently a bag of popcorn was £11. We had a couple of snacks in our bag (that made it through the 2 bag searches) and we bought Ice Cream during the interval which was £3.50 a pot (not extortionate for London).

The show was MC’d by Minnie, Mickey, Donald and Goofy. It started with Toy Story and The Little Mermaid in the first half.

  

At 35 minutes, Toy Story dragged on slightly (and I overheard the people behind us say the same), I was just glad for Ritu’s advice at that stage. Never the less, it was so well done and real ( with Woody’s voice being that of Tom Hanks, just like in the movie).

The set and costumes for The Little Mermaid were absolutely amazing. The colours were vibrant and the dancers spectacular.

There was a 15 minute interval before the even better second half! The second half brought us Disney Cars and Frozen, both of which S loves!


  
  
  
  
S was completely entranced as life sized cars drove around the rink. I have to admit, my jaw dropped when Lightening McQueen drove onto the rink.

And then the Grand Finalé, Frozen, of course. It was a 20 minute condensed version of the movie. And again the sets just blew me away! I knew it was going to be amazing, but I didn’t realise just how magnificent. It’s no wonder Disney has a knack for capturing children’s hearts. And adults too…because as I looked around, I could spot so many mums singing along to “Let it go” and “For the first time in forever”.

Disney on Ice will be touring the UK this spring, check out their website for tickets. It really is a must see!

 

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The Tiger who came to Tea

While London boasts an amazing array of shows in the West End year round, it’s usually during August and around Christmas when some of the best children’s shows come out. S has a great imagination and he’s at the age where I felt he was ready to see his books come to life.

We’d gone to see Ben & Holly over the summer and while he enjoyed it, he wasn’t utterly convinced. Back in November some friends were talking about The Tiger who came to Tea and I thought he might enjoy it. Except, we’d never read the book (shock horror!). I promptly ordered it from Amazon, he absolutely loved it and a week later we were ordering tickets to see the theatre production.

We went with my friend Anupa and her two sons (twins) who are the same age as S. The Tiger who came to Tea is showing at the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue until the 10th of January.

  

The set (above)

We got there about 10-15 minutes before the show started and as soon as we sat down, S kept asking when the tiger was coming out. He was very excited! I wasn’t sure what to expect and wondered how they were going to depict the tiger. The show finally started with Sophie and her mum and dad walking on to stage and although the book starts with Sophie and her mum having tea, the show gave us a lot more. We see Sophie’s dad all flustered in the morning as he leaves for work, forgetting his shoes and mistaking an oven mitt for his hat. Clearly this was aimed to get laughs from the younger kids in the audience. The dad finally leaves and the day continues with both the milkman & the postman arriving at different times.

It’s about twenty minutes in to the show when the tiger finally appears. And what a tiger he is. A tall, bright and charming tiger (with dance moves) entertains us with his bum wiggling and “magic tricks”. He really does eat all the food, I was left open mouthed wondering where it was all going to.

The production theme have done a great job with bringing the book to life with lot’s of catchy songs and laughs. At 50 minutes long it captured S’s attention without feeling dragged out. Sophie was slightly annoying but I suppose everything has to be exaggerated when it comes to kids. We had great seats in the 4th row (think we paid about £24 each) and from that close I can tell you Sophie also needs a longer dress!

S really enjoyed it and I found myself laughing at many of the tigers antics so I’d definitely recommend it.

 

THE TOY STORE, Oxford Street, London

When anyone speaks about coming to London with kids, one place that is always on the list of places to visit is Hamleys. And it is amazing! But there’s a new place in town folks and this place had me walking around like a child in a candy toy store, mouth slightly agape!

A few months ago I noticed that Dorothy Perkins at Bond Street tube station was shutting down but I had no idea what was replacing it. Until last Friday that is. I got off at Bond Street to run some errands and quite literally, could not miss this!!

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Amazing isn’t it?! It had every toy I could think of. Ben & Holly and Paw Patrol toys aren’t one’s you see just anywhere. I’m not sure when exactly The Toy Store opened but the perfectionist in me absolutely loved their displays. These pictures don’t even do it justice!

There were a members of staff dressed in various characters and a magician performing magic tricks. As you can see from the pictures, it was very quiet! I’m hoping that’s just what you get for a Friday morning and they’ll be bustling with business in no time.

Part of me cannot wait to take S while another part of me thinks I best keep him away as long as possible!!

Belmont Farm, Mill Hill

Last Friday, S and I visited Belmont Farm in Mill Hill with a family friend Archana and her son’s Rohan and Riyaan. It was pouring where we are and I was a bit apprehensive but Arch kept an eye on the weather in Mill Hill and I’m glad she did because it was totally dry and the kids really enjoyed it.

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Although set on a huge plot of land, the actual farm bit is quite small, a good size for children with short attention spans. We made it there just in time to go on a tractor ride. When I’d read about this, I thought we’d be sitting on an actual tractor (S would have LOVED that!) but we were in a trailer pulled along by a tractor. It was still a fun ride for the kids, with great views.

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He seemed happy enough in the trailer.

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I thought the farm would be heaving as it was half term but it was surprisingly very quiet. They also didn’t seem to be running according to their usual schedule. We had to request the tractor ride, although we were there on time for it and the kids didn’t get to pet the rabbits (which was supposed to happen at 3:30). Again, they didn’t seem to bothered so instead we spent half an hour walking around the farm and feeding the animals.

I’m glad S is a lot like me and happy to try new things. He gave feeding the ponies a go before he decided he didn’t like how it felt and preferred to just throw the little grass pellets into their eating space.

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Arch was happy to give it a go as well.

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Indoors, in the barn, there were the cutest little chicks that had just hatched, as well as rabbits and guinea pigs.

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Outdoors, there were ponies, wallabies, birds, ferrets (I think), cows, pigs, deer, sheep and very greedy goats!

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Although there were hand sanitiser pods all around the animal area, they all seemed to be empty. Thankfully they had sinks at the entrance to each outdoor area to wash your hands after feeding the animals.

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Belmont Farm is a great place to start your children off gaining hands-on experience of farming and animal care. I think perhaps it was just a quiet day and so we didn’t get to partake in all the activities they advertise on their website/chalkboard.

Although we didn’t stay there to eat, their café looked pretty good.

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I’ve heard great things about Willow Farm which we’ll hopefully be visiting this summer but for a fun afternoon with the little ones, closer to London, Belmont Farm ticks all the boxes.

London in the summer

London in the summer is one of the best places in the world! Scrap that, London any time is one of the best places in the world BUT the warmer weather and the lighter days sure make it a lot better to look at!

With the days getting warmer and this week being half term, I’ve put together a list of some of the great child friendly outdoor places this city has to offer.

1. The Diana Memorial Playground – set in the picturesque Hyde Park, this playground is a must visit on a warm day. It’s got a huge ship cast adrift on a massive sandpit as well as a sensory trail, tee pees and a play area. S is recently into pirates and so this is one place we’ll definitely be visiting this half term. It allows children to explore and follow their imaginations. All aboard?!

2. Bekonscot Model Village – Although we’ve never been here, it’s on my list of places to visit this summer. Only a short train ride from London, Bekonscot Model Village will appeal to all train (and history) lovers. As the name suggests, it’s a model village based on 1930’s England. Travel back in a time warp to see how the people of the time lived and got around.

3. London Zoo – I’m putting this on there because it’s THE London Zoo but I have to say, having been to Taronga Zoo in Sydney and a couple of other’s around the world, London Zoo is overpriced and doesn’t live up to the name. However, it’s lovely in the summer because you don’t just go for the animals, you go for the petting zoo, the water splash area and the scenery. If getting to Whipsnade is easy for you then I’d buy a years pass because not only do you get to visit London Zoo but a pass includes Whipsnade as well (which is meant to be much better). And what’s even better than that apparently is Chester Zoo (it’s on my list!).

4. Southbank –  I absolutely love it down by the river, it’s my favourite part of London. I don’t go there as often as I like but every time I do, I come back loving this city a little bit more. There’s lots to see and do along the river bank but if the weather changes and you need to dart in doors, there’s the London Aquarium, Tate Modern (which offers a range of free activities for families and children) and the Southbank Centre.

5. Regents Park – This is one of our summer favourites. It has a huge playground, massive sandpit and if you’re feeling adventurous you can take your little ones boating on the lake. If you walk along the edge of the park on the outer circle, you may catch glimpses of the giraffes at London Zoo if they’re out.

6. Belmont Farm – We’re heading up to Belmont Farm on Friday so I’ll be able to let you know what I think then but this has come highly recommended. With tractor rides, cow milking, lamb feeding and petting sessions, it’s bound to be an exciting day out.

From Kew Gardens in Richmond to Coram’s Fields near Holborn, London offers so much for kids to see and do but this is a good start.

Mums' Days

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park

My brother is in town visiting us and this afternoon we decided to take S down to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. I’d been last year with my friend Anushka who is as obsessed with Christmas as I am (we’re even going to “Father Christmas Land” this year) and I considered taking S but I thought he was far too young for it and so we ended up going only once he was in bed.

This year however, he has proven what a little dare devil he is and so I figured he’d enjoy it. We only got there at 4pm and ended up leaving at 6pm but in that time he got to go on quite a few rides and we managed to stop for dinner and a cup of hot mulled wine. Yummy!

The best thing about Winter Wonderland is that it’s free and really, given the extortionate prices of the rides and games, it’s a saving grace. Is it possible for you to go to Winter Wonderland and have any sort of experience without spending money? I’d say not really. It’s nice to walk around, take in the sights, listen to some christmas songs and overall feel totally Christmassy but to truly enjoy it, you need to have a heavy wallet.

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A cup of mulled wine will set you back £4.50, a cup of hot chocolate about £3.50, marshmallows (which you can roast over an open fire) were £2.50 and the rides varied from £2 for children’s rides to £6 for bumper cars!!!

I much preferred South Bank last week (post coming soon). There weren’t Christmas songs but there was lots else to see and do. I have to honestly say we didn’t get to really check out the entire place and so I can’t totally judge it (we may go back to go to Santa Land) but from what we saw, Winter Wonderland is just a glorified theme park.

The art of the brick by Nathan Sawaya

Being that it’s half term this week, I have been looking for things to do with S to keep him out of trouble busy. Last week I read about The art of the brick exhibition at the Truman Brewery and it sounded like just the kind of thing I was looking for.

Nathan Sawaya is the artist behind these magnificent creations, all built out of simple Lego blocks. He started building from Lego as an outlet after a hard day’s work and before he knew it, he turned his hobby into his passionate life’s work. His exhibitions around the world have broken attendance records and his works of art have been displayed in New York, Hong Kong, Melbourne and now London, to name a few.

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“I like using LEGO bricks as a medium because I enjoy seeing people’s reaction to artwork created from something with which they are familiar. …My goal is to elevate this simple plaything to a place it has never been before. I also appreciate the cleanliness of the LEGO® brick. The right angles. The distinct lines. But, from a distance, those right angles and distinct lines offer new perspectives, changing to curves.”
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I’ll let the pictures do the talking but if you’re in London, the exhibition is running until January 2015 and is worth the visit. Book your tickets online (children under 3 are free) to avoid queuing and take public transport to get there. We decided to drive because it was raining and there were four of us (2 adults, 2 toddlers) but it took us an hour to get there and an hour back (with 2 boisterous toddlers in the back seat, I’ll let you imagine how that journey felt!)

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I LOVED the philosophical meaning behind many of his pieces.

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All his works of art were so impressive but the sheer size of the dinosaur and the perfection of it totally blew me away!!

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I didn’t realise the “keep calm and…” craze isn’t a new trend but actually dates back to 1939!!

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After going through the whole exhibition asking S not to touch the displays, it was nice to let them at it in the Lego play area.

The Original London Bus Tour: A review

For those who know me, I love London and I love doing all the touristy stuff that London has to offer. So when I had some friends in town a few weeks ago and they were keen on doing the Original London Bus tour, I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve done it before (about 5 years ago) but it’s an opportunity to see one of my favourite cities again, I couldn’t say no.

We started the tour at Marble Arch but you can pretty much get on at most stops. There are three routes: The yellow route, the red route and the blue route. They each take around 2 hours and 15 minutes (if you don’t get off). The ticket also includes a FREE river cruise. Given that I have a love for the South Bank, this is my favourite part of the tour. Tickets cost £28 (or £26 if you book online in advance) and the ticket is valid for 24hours. So you could easily do one route one afternoon and the other two rotues the following morning (if you really want to see it ALL!). Under 5’s go free.

My friend Melanie was visiting from Germany with her daughter Mia (who had just turned 3). And my friends Sonya and Anushka were here from Hong Kong and Dubai. Naturally I took S with me but decided to leave his pram at home. I was slightly worried, given we were spending an entire afternoon out, but he was amazing. Both the kids were.

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We set out at about 2:15 once S and Mia woke from their naps and got on the tour bus at around 3pm. We went down Park Lane, through St. James Park, down Buckingham Gate, up through to Westminster, across a bridge to Waterloo, across a bridge again, down Fleet Street and up to St. Pauls. Back over the river to the South Bank, past London Bride and then over Tower Bridge (my favourite view of London) and to the Tower of London.

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We decided to get off there and get on the river cruise. It was a beautiful day, sunny with a slight breeze so thankfully the queue for the cruise didn’t put us off. The cruise is 2 parts funny and 1 part informative. The tour guides know how to keep the crowd interested, pointing out all the landmarks and making subtle jokes alongside.

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We got off at the pier by Westminster Station and decided to call it a day. The kids were getting tired and I wanted to make it home before over-tiredness kicked in.

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All in all it was a lovely afternoon out and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting London. It’s a great way to see the entire city and all the major landmarks in 24hrs. Children 4 years and upwards would enjoy it a lot more but our little two loved the sights, sounds, the experience of sitting on an open top bus and the idea of going on a boat. We took the tube home, literally covering almost every mode of transport in London! 🙂

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Pushchair dilemma….solved!

When you find out you’re pregnant, there are so many things that cross your mind. Will I have a boy or a girl? What should I name my baby? Which hospital should I have my baby at? In some cases, which country should I have my baby in? What pushchair should I buy? Will I used cloth diapers or disposable?

Funnily enough, after speaking to many friends, one of the toughest decisions is deciding on a pushchair. There are so many great ones out there at the moment. I always had a name I loved but when deciding on a pushchair, I spent countless hours researching, reading reviews, watching Youtube demos and visiting stores to see how each and every one worked. Quite honestly I drove myself mad and in the end I don’t even think I made the right choice!!

So to help you along a little, here are some tips on picking the right pushchair. For me, the three most important things were:

1. It had to face both ways as I wanted to be able to see S when I was pushing him along.

2. It needed to be lightweight.

3. I needed to be able to fold it easily.

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself before deciding on a pushchair:

1. What sort of terrain will I be using it on?

2. How important is it for me to have a bassinet/carrycot with my pushchair?

3. Will I be on my own a lot or will there always be someone to help me with it?

4. Do I have a lift or will I need to be able to lift the pushchair up stairs?

5. Do I want it to be compatible with my car seat?

6. Do I want it to be able to convert into a double in the future?

7. Is it important to me that my baby is parent facing for the first few months?

8. Will I be travelling frequently?

9. How big is my car? Will the pushchair of my choice fit in my booth?

10. Do I want to be able to jog with it? Suspension then is very important.

Now you see how complicated it can get? I used to think maybe I am overthinking things but having spoken to a few mummy friends about it, I think the dilemma of finding the perfect pushchair is on all mama’s minds and funnily enough, I’ve read that a) most people make the wrong choice the first time round and b) the average number of pushchairs owned by a family is apparently 4!!

Here is a round up of some of the best pushchairs (in no particular order) and why:

1. Maclaren – The good ol’ Maclaren, almost every parent has one. Even if it wasn’t their first pushchair, it becomes one that they buy later on as their child grows and they want something lightweight or if they are travelling and want one that folds down umbrella style. The Quest and the Volo are the two popular lightweight choices, followed by the Techno XT and the Techno XLR. I always thought of Maclaren’s as only being forward facing and so a great option for when your child is 6 months+ and not before that (at least for me). Until I discovered the carrycot for the Techno XLR. This can be bought separately and it fits onto the seat of your pram, leaving your child parent facing. Suitable from birth, this pram most definitely grows with your child. Maclaren’s don’t break the bank and they are quite reliable as far as pushchairs go. The Techno XLR retails for approx. £230 but the carrycot needs to be bought separately. It comes with a rain cover, has an extended sun cover, a foot muff, a pram liner and comes in a variety of fab colours.

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2. Bugaboo – Bugaboo’s are relatively new to the pushchair market and now they are all the rage. Almost every second pram in a mall in London is a Bugaboo. The most popular being the Bee, given it’s urban chicness. It’s lightweight, easy to steer, grows with your child, is suitable from birth and comes in a range of colours. The seat can face both ways, the pram folds down quite compactly and can be done one handed. The Bee retails at approx. £500 and you’ll also need to buy the cocoon to make it suitable from birth. This retails for approx. £70. It comes in a variety of pretty colours and designers like Missoni and Andy Warhol have also teamed up with Bugaboo to come out with limited edition Bee’s. Other options are the Chameleon (if you’d like the carrycot option), the Donkey (if you’re having twins or would just like the option of more basket space) and the Buffalo (an all terrain pushchair).

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3. Baby Jogger City Mini – Funnily enough, in all my research, I never came across this one!! Go figure?! The BJCM is sturdy, easy to steer, super easy to fold (again, one handed) and good value for money. The only thing that would have put me off is the forward facing only position. But if you think that is something you can compromise on and you live in the city then this is the pushchair for you.

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4. Uppababy – A bit like the Bugaboo, the Uppababy range of pushchairs have become quite popular in recent years. When I was pregnant with S, the one I had my heart set on was the Vista. However, after much deliberation, I realised it would be quite big for Hong Kong and so changed my mind. If I lived in London at the time, I think I definitely would have gone for that. The Vista has won several awards since it came out a few years ago. It comes with a carry cot, 2 raincovers, 2 SPF 50 sunshades, 2 insect nets and Maxi Cosi car seat adaptors. All this retails for approx. £630 which is good value considering how much you’re getting. The carry cot mattress is good enough for your child to use as a stand alone bassinet at home as well as out and about. When S was a few months old, Uppababy came out with the CRUZ pushchair. It’s a compact stroller solution that doesn’t compromise on the features of it’s big brother the VISTA. It’s suitable from birth (with a carrycot), compatible with a Maxi Cosi car seat, has a great canopy for those sunny days and their USP is most definitely the size of their basket.

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5. Mama’s & Papa’s – M&P’s carry a huge range of pushchairs, I could go on forever if I had to go into each individual one. Essentially I found that many of their pushchairs were inspired by existing models in the market. The Mylo reminded me of the Stokke and the new Armadillo is very similar to the Bee. M&P’s thrive on great products at decent prices. I actually ended up buying a Sola, used it a few times before I realised I wouldn’t be able to manage it alone in Hong Kong without any help. Although the seat faces both ways, the pram only folds down with the seat forward facing which gets annoying very quickly. The sola retails for approx. £340 but look out for deals because M&P’s are always adding on their Aton car seat at a bargain.

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6. The BABYZEN Yoyo Stroller – Why oh why was this not available when S was born? The BABYZEN Yoyo was created by 5 French individuals who probably thought “Why on earth are we carrying our babies around in big, bulky, difficult to fold pushchairs?” It is a lightweight stroller that offers spectacular folding, a smooth ride and a sleek design. It is the perfect pushchair for city dwellers and frequent travellers. If I’m not mistaken, it is the only pushchair you can actually take on a flight with you because it closes down small enough to fit in the overhead compartment. Now that is small!!

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There are lots more pushchairs out there – Graco, Quinny, Icandy, Stokke, etc but I think the line needs to be drawn somewhere and above are my top choices.

For my readers who live in Hong Kong, the Combi is a great option. To be perfectly honest, I was never a fan initially but having lived in Hong Kong and realising how un-pram-friendly it is, the combi is super super lightweight, folds down one handed, steers easily and the new ones even face both ways. My only reservation would be the small (and somewhat un-sturdy) wheels but many Combi users reassure me that this isn’t an issue.

What pushchair do you use and are you happy with it?

Mums' Days