Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Kids On A Train: What You Should Know

After the kids watched a Christmas movie about a young boy who travels to the North Pole on a 
train they decided that they wanted to go on a train journey during the following holidays. The fact 
that I’ve always sort of romanticized this type of transportation didn’t hurt either! I will never forget 
that journey nor will I forget the sometimes hard lessons about train travel that I learned either. I did 
a little research online and finally chose a cross country trip that lasted two nights and three days 
(although this actually worked out to two full days on the train).

Save With Coupons

Planning for the trip might involve a lot of different expenses, not only the price of the tickets. 
Rememer to be prepare yourself for all kinds of situations and get everything you need in advance, 
such as appropriate clothes or first aid items, which doesn't have to be expensive when you use a 
Discountrue coupon or take advantage of some of the amazing occasions available to you when 
shopping online.

Book In Advance

Long distance train travel is not as cheap as you might have believed. Depending on what train line 
you’re traveling on and how ‘luxurious’ the compratment is, it could cost as much if not more than 
a plane ticket. But by booking in advance as well as taking advantage of any applicable discounts, I 
was able to save a fair amount on the total price.

Arrive Early

Train travel is not like plane travel in that you have an hour reserved for boarding, then a bit of a 
wait before you’re finally taxing down the runway. Trains have a schedule to keep and they’re very 
often running behind so you have a maximum of about 15 minutes to board and get settled before 
you’re pulling out of the station. So, whatever you do – make sure you arrive early! At least 30 
minutes when you have kids with you, although if they’re very much into the whole experience you 
might just get away with arriving an hour beforehand. This will also give you time to make sure 
you’re on the right platform and find out anything you need to know from the info kiosk or 

Power Outage

Power points are becoming more common on trains but they’re still pretty hit and miss so don’t 
count on them. You may be able to make sure of this beforehand, we booked a sleeper that 
specifically stated there was an outlet available, but again – no guarantee! Some carriages will have 
power outlets at every seat, others will have just one in some weird location like the roof. The 
power outlets in the dining or ‘common room’ carriages will have queues waiting to use them so 
you may be considered a god if you happen to have a power strip in your luggage!

Small Space Entertainment

There is only a little more freedom to move around on a train than what there is on a plane so pull 
out your small space entertainment kit. Remember that power isn’t guaranteed so bring along items 
that don’t need to be charged, are not going to annoy you or fellow passengers and that don’t have 
small parts that can be misplaced. Coloring/puzzle books with triples of each color, matchbox cars, 
action figures and a couple of reading books are great ideas, but if you like child friendly tablet 
games then I would suggest investing in those ‘battery packs’. If you’re using a laptop for movies, 
games or anything else then maybe buy extra batteries – both of these are an investment that will 
never really go to waste!

Pack A Picnic

Pack your own food for the journey and make sure you have plenty of bottled water. The food on 
most trains is exorbitantly expensive and not always edible so you’ll be doing your pocket and your 
stomach a disservice if you don’t have your own snacks and meals. Keep an eye out for stops where 
you can hop out to refill water bottles but do not get out if the train is only stopping for a few 
minutes because they will not wait for you! You won’t have microwaves or anything like that so 
pack a cooler with ice bricks and choose picnic food that is best eaten cold and will keep for a 
while. Things like cold meats, bread rolls, chicken pieces, salads, cheese and crackers as well as a 
couple of soda pops and packets of crisps are good choices.

Final Tips

My last tips are to stock up on baby wipes even if you’re absolutely sure you’ll have shower/basin 
facilities and also your own toilet paper because running out is a highly unpleasant experience for 
everyone involved! But most of all have fun, play a few train games, take plenty of photos and 
watch the scenery rolling past while the clacking of the train lulls you to sleep!

This is a guest post.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Jamie's Italian Leeds

So it's no secret that we love eating out as a family. It's something we did regularly together well before we had children and as soon as Son 1 was born, we introduced him to the joys of eating out early on. All our children are used to sitting in restaurants - they are not always 100% perfectly well behaved but they know the score; they know they have to sit still and can't go running round, they know they have to use their manners and they know we expect them to eat what they choose. We always ensure they choose their own main course so that way they cannot complain! We love going into Leeds and trying the new restaurants that keep popping up all the time, and one of our favourites is Jamie's Italian on Park Row, Leeds. We've been a few times but to be honest never with the children before, so when we were invited along, it seemed like a good chance to try it out en famille!

We booked for midday but owing to an unexpected fun run in Bradford - we were stuck there for over an hour with a screaming baby which was fun - we were AN HOUR late. We rang Jamie's who were very accommodating and told us to not stress and just to get there when we could. I hate being late so this calmed me a little. When we got there I was impressed to see a sign outside that said, "kids eat free" - brilliant idea. But what would the Jamie's Italian Kid's Menu be like? The children were given a pack each full of goodies and fun stuff. Someone really knows their stuff as the contents were perfect for children of 4 and 7. We got stickers, crayons, a puzzle, a game and good colouring. Win!

Now for the really fun stuff and something I have NEVER seen before - the kid's menu could be viewed through this slide viewer (I cannot work out what they are called!) which you "click" to get to the next photo of food! The kids had never seen one before and we had a lot of fun flicking through and explaining to them how it worked. Genius! There is also a paper menu for those who do not like clicking.

Son 2 chose meatballs and pasta for his main course - the waiter was great and let them have as much parmasan as they wanted (they are obsessed with it!) the food tasted great and was perfect for someone his age. He was even given age appropriate cutlery which restaurants NEVER do - but really is quite obvious. Again, genius.

Our five month old baby (I could NOT get a picture of her keeping still so apologies for the blur!) tried out a brand new high chair which was probably one of the best I have seen - I hate those cheap wooden ones you usually see in restaurants - this one had obviously been chosen by someone who actually has experience of eating out with kids - maybe Jamie himself? Who knows? She damaged many serviettes but the waiter kindly replaced them and was not grossed out by the dribbling. Luckily.

Right behind us was this awesome looking servery with delicious breads and oils - sort of sums up Jamie's Italian really. The smell is intoxicating, makes you hungry as soon as you walk in...

Son 1 chose salmon in a bag which came with a "shake me" salad. I had to keep reminding myself that the kids meals were free - the quality was absolutely awesome. He wolfed down the salmon but was less keen on the green beans - maybe peas could have been an option?

I was really impressed by the kids salad - it had ribbons of carrot, grapes, lettuce and tomato. It was a really cute idea and the boys loved it. Anything in a mysterious jar is always a crowd pleaser with kids eh?

Both hubby and I ordered the porchetta which was amazing. It's the sauces and dressings that really set this place apart - the attention to detail is second to none. Yet it's informal and relaxed at the same time as being quite posh if that makes sense?

For pudding the boys chose ice cream which again, was divine. I thoroughly recommend the caramel flavour which was RIGHT on.

For child friendliness you really can't beat Jamies. There were actually loads of families in there - maybe we would have felt slightly more comfortable if the families had been sitting together, I think we would have felt less self conscious about the toilet related jokes that our sons are currently into...

I asked the boys a few questions about their experience...
1. What did you do until your food arrived, "we messed around with this red thing and I drew a lot of pictures of Angry Birds. Only they are secret so do not show ANYONE."
2. What did you eat and did you like it? "I had salmon which was very tasty and healthy at the same time. Salmon makes you live longer so I always order it. Plus it's my favourite. I liked the carrot ribbon I have never had one of those before".
3. Where do you think Italian food comes from? "Obviously it comes from Italy. My best friend is Italian so I know a lot about it. He makes his own pizzas, he didn't like our pizza when he came over to our house to play. He likes playing Fifa on our computer. I also like pasta, in fact salmon with pasta is my most favourite meal ever."
4. Do you like eating out in restaurants? "Yes I do, I like being altogether as a family and we spend time together and chat. Sometimes we play noughts and crosses or spot the difference which is fun. I like sitting next to my mummy. My favourite food is pizza and pasta so I like coming to Italian restaurants. I wish I could have coca cola but mummy said no."

So there you have it! A success! We will be back...

Monday, 26 October 2015

Roxy Lanes Leeds Review

As a family we love a bit of bowling. What's not to like? Family fun? Check! A bit of competitiveness? Check! Problem is that I really do NOT like most bowling alleys. They are kind of dated looking and I always leave feeling slightly grubby, not least because I do NOT like sharing shoes. But the kids like it, it's relatively inexpensive and I get to sit down for a few minutes.

However, now, my feelings about bowling have totally changed thanks to Roxy Lane Leeds. I'm not sure how long Roxy Lanes has been there, but I'm already a MASSIVE fan. They have nice beer, a well stocked bar, and it's in Leeds city centre which is great! I was just saying to my husband that now it's in Leeds, it actually gives us a reason to go into Leeds aside from eating - and it's something for the children to do that doesn't involve trailing around shops too.

Here is the interior - it's super cool, sort of a cross between a trendy New York bar and a beer hall. Throw in some bowling alleys and you've got a recipe for fun times.

There are four lanes, which means there won't be loads of people milling around - great for those trying to keep an eye on their children. The staff were really child friendly and found shoes for my picky children without so much as a quibble. Perfect. We were offered drinks straight away which were the brought over to our lane. I didn't see this myself, but my son claimed to have seen an Angry Birds bowling ball over on one of the other lanes - superb. They have a clever system for bowling whereby the computer knew who was playing and who needed the bars up on the side (though seeing my score at the end maybe I needed them too?!). There is also a rail for children (that you can see in the photo below) as the balls are quite heavy so this solved that problem.

In this photo below you can see hubby bowling with our baby in his arms. A first?!

As you can see it's super modern and sleek - such a refreshing change from most bowling alleys that are pretty grubby and unappealing. We were offered food but due to traffic in Bradford we had a very late lunch so actually didn't have anything to eat. We did see someone else have a burger though and it looked DIVINE. I was actually regretting my decision not to eat on the way home as I kept remembering the smell.

Sleek and trendy
Roxy Lanes is open to children Sunday to Friday 3 - 6pm, and Saturday 10 - 3pm and for £10 a head you get pizza, bowling and unlimited soft drinks. Bargain! A great way to spend a Saturday and Sunday in Leeds or even half term!

To book ring 0113 3221781 (option 2).
1st Floor, The Podium, Bond Street, Leeds, LS1 5BQ (it is above Tesco close to Pret a Manger/Park Row.

For the purpose of this review I was offered a free game of bowling with my family, but all thoughts are my own.

Be Cool Scooby Doo! Giveaway Time!

There's nothing more entertaining than rewatching retro cartoons from childhood - and of course singing the theme tunes. Lol.

One of my favs was Scooby Dooby Doo. I think there are few of us who didn't hide behind the sofa during the scary bits in Scooby Doo. Even hardened horror film watchers. My own children watch it now and are clearly, at times, absolutely terrified, despite watching Star Wars with absolutely no reaction whatsoever. What does that tell you! 

Now, you can watch your favorite team in an all new show,  Be Cool Scooby-Doo!  While one of our favorite cartoons continues to provide entertainment for the whole family, the way our kids watch cartoons is certainly not the same and they seem to expect more than we ever did as children. They want the whole package. Luckily now, they can watch videos, play games and download printable activities on

The Warner Bros Youtube Channel  makes it easy for our kids to watch their favorite mystery squad, on-demand, and from any device.

Scooby-Doo! is giving away a £100 gift card for Amazon, which makes it a great time to check it all out. Watch the video and enter for your chance today!


Friday, 23 October 2015

York's Cold War Bunker

Don't you just love it when your child's new obsession is something totally obscure - like the Cold War for instance? Yes this is an actual thing. I guess it sort of makes sense - for ages Son 1 has been preoccupied in a BIG way with WW2. It started when we went to Normandy a few years ago and has just gone on from there. He is absolutely fascinated with the details of the whole thing - the names of the landing beaches, the different fighter planes, the names of the tanks and various U Boats - I suspect he knows more about it than your average A Level History student! Anyhoo, now his interest has passed to the aftermath of the war - the Berlin Wall, communism and the Soviet Union. I guess it sort of makes sense - the only negative part to this is that is not a huge area of knowledge for me, and so it made sense to go somewhere that would enable him to find out more and have his questions answered! Therefore I jumped at the chance to go and visit York's Cold War Bunker which is looked after by English Heritage. A bit random but there you go!

Luckily it's not too far from our house, but when we get there I was surprised at it's location - it's sort of nestled in between some trendy flats just off a small high street outside of York. Random. We parked up and waited for our tour to begin at 1pm - you have to go on the tour at certain times (see bottom of the post) so make sure you look into that before you go. The other people on our tour seemed to mainly include students from York and other families. The students looked so pleased when they realised they were going to share their tour with small children. Not. The tour guide was a lovely guy - very friendly and knowledgeable. I explained that my son is a bit eccentric and into the details but he said it was fine and that's usually the case with quite a lot of the children who are interested in the bunker. The bunker itself is quite cramped and there is not room for a pushchair so we used a baby carrier. There are toilets but no cafe or anything like that although you can find places to eat on the high street. Going back to the tour guide - he was absolutely unflappable even when my younger son decided to spend quite a lot of time trying to velcro his coat to the tour guide's jumper. Thankfully after twenty or thirty attempts he succeeded - much to the relief of all.

Inside the control room!
I won't go into the contents of the tour as I don't want to spoil it for anyone who goes themselves, but suffice to say it was quite an eye opener as to how serious the threat of missiles during the Cold War actually was. The living conditions inside the bunker looked pretty horrendous - I honestly don't know how people could stand it. It was interesting seeing the locations on the map of all the bunkers across the UK - there are thousands of them all over the place. Who knew?

The only thing I would say is not recommended for children are parts of the video about the effects of nuclear weapons - some of it was very distressing especially as the aftermaths of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were shown, I covered my son's eyes but my older son got quite upset and left the room until it finished.

Some sort of army related jacket

Outside the bunker. Why wouldn't you take a baby in there?

It was a really interesting tour and something a bit different. I would really recommend it for anyone who has an interest in the post war era and who is keen to expand their knowledge of that area. It's also a part of our heritage so take advantage of it while you can!

Ticket prices are £17.60 for a family and remember you have to go at the following times - no need to book - Entrance by guided tour only, at the following times: 10:00, 11:15, 11:45, 13:00, 14:15, 15:30 and 17:00.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Chunky guacamole and home made tortillas...

Something fun, zesty, healthy and delicious to make on a Sunday afternoon or for a gathering. Total crowd pleaser and super quick to make as well. So here's what you need.
One ripe avocado
One salad tomato
One onion (red if you have one)
Bunch of coriander
Juice of half a lime
Bit of salt
Fresh chillies (use those "lazy chillies" you get in a jar
So, basically put all these things in a bowl like you see in this picture...

Then using your hand mixer thing (you know, the sort of thing you use to puree baby's food) turn it into this! That's it! Obviously you can make is as smooth or chunky as you like depending on taste.
100g of self raising flour
Pinch of salt
Olive oil
Warm water
Mix the flour, salt, a spoonful of olive oil and enough warm water to make this dough.

Break the dough into small balls and then roll them out individually onto a floured surface. They need to be quite thin. When done, heat some more olive oil in a pan and when hot put in your first tortilla. As you can see it doesn't have to be perfectly round. (good job).

It will need flipping when one of the sides is cooked. You will need to keep an eye on it or you may end up with slight burnage (see below).

Break up into strips and place in a bowl with some guacamole on top for a healthy snack. Serve with a Mojito. Standard.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Hot Slings Review

I suffer quite frequently from what's known as "baby stuff envy". I first became aware of this condition when I had my eldest son, and because obsessed with the idea that the pushchair I had chosen was rubbish and not at all trendy and cool. About five pushchairs later and I wish I had kept the original pushchair! All around me I see other mums with what I consider to be better pushchairs, cooler baby toys, more easily accessed changing bags etc etc. So a few months ago when I was on a train, and I saw a very calm looking mum with her Hot Sling baby carrier, I knew I had to have one. Luckily the kind people at Hot Slings sent me one of their beautiful carriers for the purpose of review, and here it is!
The idea is that rather than faffing around like some sort contortionist trying to attach your baby to your body with a complicated sling/carrier, you simply pop this over your head and baby slides right in. I have to say it is much quicker and simpler to use than any other sling I have tried.  There are also foolproof hints and tips on the sling itself so you literally CANNOT get it wrong. See below.
There are a few positions for holding baby which you can see ably demonstrated in this video.

For us, the best carrying position is definitely the hip carry. It's a very natural position to carry your baby in and also means that if you are at a playgroup or something, you can carry your baby around with you without the impact this usually has on your back and arms.

We chose the Overcast Design as I thought it's quite a neutral colour it will go with anything.

Times when I would choose to use this sling:-

  • on the school run
  • nipping out quickly into a shop
  • going from car to play group
  • whilst in a play group - walking around
  • sitting down
Times when I would probably not use it:-

  • on a long walk
  • if I had several heavy bags as I like to use one hand to hold baby girl in place
I think that's it! But then I would probably not use any sling or carrier in these situations.

I was very impressed with both the thoroughness of the instructions and the quality of the material for this sling - to me, along with the safety of course, these are the two most important factors. I also like the fact that it packs up really small in its pouch so I can easily put it in my changing bag. There are two sizes - regular and large. I think in hindsight I might have been slightly better with the large, mainly because baby girl is quite a big baby and I (ahem) am not as slim as I once was. Having said that the sling is totally adjustable so you can alter it to make it work for you.

I really recommend this sling - it's great quality, good value for money, safe, looks awesome, is comfortable (more so than those carriers with loads of clips and straps), and most of all baby girl loves it! In fact she seems to drift off to sleep as soon as she is in it, probably because of the warmth and closeness of our bodies.

I'm also pleased to announce that I have a 25% off offer code to share with my lovely leaders! Use code bargainmum to claim your offer and can be used across the whole Hot Slings website. Shipping is $5.95 even to the UK.

I was sent this Hot Sling for the purpose of review, but all thoughts are my own.


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