Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Planning the ultimate 4th birthday surprise....Lego style!

Well, I don't know about you but at the moment we are going through what I call a "play phase" in our house. It's a phase in a pre-schooler's life where they become obsessed with a certain play thing and spend every waking moment of the day totally consumed by this one play thing. Well, the "play phase" we are right in the middle of is one which we started over a year ago and I honestly don't see any end end in sight.

Lego. Lego. Lego. Everywhere, and I mean everywhere.

We first purchased Charlie's first box of Lego when we visited Center Parcs the Christmas before last. Tom took him to the onsite toy shop and they picked the Lego Junior Construction Box. Ok, so at not even three years of age there was no way he could follow instructions and build the diggers, but he watched, and he watched in awe. Within a couple of minutes and with help from Daddy he started to pop the wheels together, small steps and all that for a little person. The diggers were constructed and we had a very content little boy who spent hours just driving the little men around his make believe little world.

Lego Junior Construction - Charlie's first Lego set

And that's where his love affair with Lego began.

What I love about Lego is the ability it has to bring people together no matter what age or gender they are. Daddy and Charlie now spend hours constructing the different versions and he's even built him his very own bespoke Lego play table with interchangeable base plates which according to Charlie is "amazing!". 

Lego is ageless. Timeless in fact. From your very first Duplo set to your brother in law asking for a Lego Campervan for his 40th birthday. It's ageless and timeless. I challenge you to find someone who has never ever played with Lego, Charlie even plays with Lego that my brother had over twenty years ago, not a lot has changed. Did you know that Lego are the largest manufacturer of tyres world wide? No? Well you do now. 

The "amazing" Lego table that Daddy built

I love Lego for a number of reasons. The happiness it brings Charlie when he plays, the delight when he's made something super cool. I love the fact that it's a pretty clever piece of kit too for a little brick. You can construct amazing things, it improves hand eye co-ordination and can even help with teaching little people fractions. 

Teach your kids the art of fractions with the help of Lego - ingenious!

I also love Lego for bringing me the Lego movie and for one of the loveliest film quotes of all time.

Loveliest film quote ever?

In my house, I'm not allowed to touch the Lego. Lego is a mummy free zone. "Don't touch this, don't touch this" I am forever being told, hey the most I am ever allowed to do is open the different bags and lay the pieces out ready for construction. 

This year Charlie turns 4. Goodness knows where an earth those four years have gone but I have to acknowledge that he's growing up and that's why I want plan what I believe is the ultimate weekend away for a Lego loving pre-schooler. We want to go to Legoland Windsor and I want to stay there. 

Being in Cobham, Windsor is a forty minute drive away so is super convenient for us to make our getaway. Situated in 150 acres of beautiful parkland this place really is the ultimate family resort. 

The Legoland Winsor hotel is a must for this special birthday. Imagine his face when we pull up to the Lego themed hotel to be checked into a Lego themed room!!! I mean c'mon you only turn four once right??

Charlie and Daddy are huge fans of the Lego Movie, if you haven't seen it, a) where have you been and b) you'll never use the word super glue again! 

Well this Spring sees the arrival of Emmet and the gang for 4d The Lego Movie Adventure - so we will not be able to escape seeing this when we visit the park!

There are so many rides to do I question whether we will fit it all in one day so probably best we buy a two day ticket so we can come back the following day!

There are a huge amount of rides aimed at pre-schoolers and looking online the driving academy and the fire academy I know will be a HUGE hit! What four year old wouldn't want to learn how to drive or put out fires using giant fire hoses?!?

Now, whilst there are loads of fun rides for the kids and adults I might add, the one thing I cannot wait to see is the mini world where those clever people at Lego have designed and built mini replicas of famous landmarks from all over the world!

Now, we've not really hit the Star Wars phase just yet (to be honest I've never seen a single film), but I have a sneaky suspicion that when Charlie sees Legoland's latest exhibition we will be heading straight to the gift shop to purchase some Star Wars inspired Lego! If you are a Star Wars fan you are not going to want to miss this one. According to their website...

One of the most impressive and biggest models ever created for the LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort will be revealed in March when a 500,000 brick LEGO® Star Wars™ recreation of Darth Vader’s ultimate super weapon,The Death Star, becomes the centre piece of an epic new finale at the hugely popular LEGO Star Wars™ Miniland Model Display.

The new 2.4 metre wide, 3 metre high Death Star will be the focal point for a thrilling, engaging scene depicting the Rebel Alliance attack on the moon sized space station in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. As well as the gargantuan 860kg spherical Death Star model, the scene will also feature 16 Alliance ships swooping to destroy it with sound and light effects triggered by guests.

Sounds pretty cool to me and I couldn't even tell you the difference between a storm trooper and a Chewbaca.

The majority of our friends have gone. They've gone back, time and time again.

So, what do you think? Should we go? Have you been? I would love to know your thoughts before I click book now!

Big love,

Nathalie x


National Breakfast Week - 24th January - 30th January 2016

This Sunday sees the start of National Breakfast Week!

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I spout it everyday to the kids whilst encouraging them to have a piece of toast, an apple, a couple of weetabix but stop and think, do YOU ever have time for a proper breakfast?

Are you one of the 25% of people who skip breakfast, or even one of the 10% who simply don't have breakfast?

14% of women choose to skip breakfast as they feel it will help aid their weight loss. Well I hold my hands up, I've done that and come 11am I am starving and find myself wrestling my colleagues in the office to the biscuit tin - because that REALLY helps lose weight - not!

Well, in a bid to encourage breakfast awareness I am going to attempt a different breakfast everyday! 

Shake Up Your Wake Up is an awesome website with some really great hints and tips as to how to shake up breakfast for the whole family.

What breakfast's are sure fire hits in your household?

Are you a pancake and waffle kind of family or does a mashed avocado with a poached egg float your boat?

Get involved next week and tweet me your breakfast pictures using #MissionBreakfast or tag me on Instagram @thissurreymummy


Nathalie x


From A Mother To Another in association with Jo Jo Maman Bébé

Did you know that last year 66,000 shoes, boots & items of baby clothing were saved from landfill & sent to those in need?

This February sees the start again of JoJo Maman Bébé's From a Mother to Another. Their aim; to reduce the shocking levels of clothing waste that end up in a landfill whilst helping those in need in the UK with distribution via food banks plus helping thousands of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon.

So how can we help?

JoJo will be collecting good quality outgrown or unwanted baby and children’s clothes in, sizes 0-6 years, at their 72 stores across the UK and Ireland. Customers are requested to make up complete outfits to give something worthwhile this mother’s day.

It's a shocking fact that nearly a third of the UK’s clothing ends up in landfill, equating to 350,000 tonnes a year. By extending the life of clothes by just three months of active use, carbon and water waste could be reduced by up to 5-10% a year.

As a human being and more so if you're a parent I challenge you not to have been affected by the awful scenes of desperate families making horrendous journeys across war torn countries and deadly seas in an attempt to find a safe environment for their children and families. Let's be honest, we've all got excess baby and children's clothes sitting in the cupboard whilst we ponder what to do with them. Well by sending good quality, little worn hand-me-downs to those in need could mean they are worn by many more children, children in desperate need for warm clothing.

The emergency clothing packs will be distributed by some of the Trussell Trust’s 420 Foodbanks across the UK and by a number of partner charities on the ground in Lebanon.

Helen Frank’s from Trussell Trust explains why she jumped at the chance to get involved; “I am delighted Trussell Trust Foodbanks will be participating in the From A Mother To Another campaign with JoJo, it is a natural fit to The Trussell Trust’s ‘More Than Food’ approach, which offers additional services to help alleviate poverty in the UK. Over a third of three day emergency food supplies provided by Trussell Trust foodbanks go to children in crisis. From a Mother to Another is a perfect way for one mum to bring a little light and a lot of comfort to another", and I love this idea.


After they've been sorted and repackaged by JoJo

Laura Tenison, founder & CEO of JoJo, visited refugee camps in the Bekaa Valley on the Lebanese Syrian border late last year. As a result JoJo launched an urgent appeal to collect winter shoes and boots for the children living in tents, now under snow. Customers reacted with empathy and the thousands collected are currently being distributed on the ground to refugees with so little. Laura explained what she found when visiting the camps; “The situation is dire and the millions of women and children living in makeshift tents are in urgent need of emergency humanitarian aid to help until it is safe to travel home – just a few miles across the border. They left Syria with whatever they could carry. Their children have outgrown their clothes long ago and are often in rags. The gift of a FAMTA pack brings tears of gratitude. Children are dying from the cold, we just had to help.”

I could not agree more Laura. So, if you've got ANY children's clothing that you no longer need and you simply do not know what to do with then simply pop them in to your local JoJo Maman Bébé where they will do all the rest - how easy is that?

I'm off to clear the cupboard of all the kids clothes that they've outgrown!

Big love,

Nathalie x


Thursday, 14 January 2016

Annabel Karmel Chilled Toddler Meals

I have one of THE fussiest eaters in Surrey on my hands. If it's not a sausage, a piece of meat, potatoes without skin or baked beans Charlie will simply refuse to eat it. So, naturally when those lovely people at Annabel Karmel asked if I would like to test run their range of chilled toddler meals I naturally jumped at the opportunity.

They have kindly sent me a selection of their meals for Charlie to try and now given that I am back it's key that I always have a stash of meals to hand either in the fridge or freezer in case a quick filling and nutritious meal is needed.

We are HUGE fans of Annabel Karmel in our house and I have EVERY cookbook of hers - let's face it she's a bit of a legend amongst mummy cooks. 

I look forward to Charlie trying out all these range of meals and we'll let you know if the fussiest eater in Surrey gives you his seal of approval!

Big love,

Nathalie x

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Leave your guilt at front door and grab yourself a cuppa - The end of maternity leave...

So, today marked the end of eight and a half months off work. Eight and a half months jam packed with happy memories. Charlie starting his school, Hector being born and the whole summer off with Tom and the boys, a time that we will never have again.

I chose to come back from maternity leave early and thought that January was a sound starting point, new year new start, and as I sit here after my first full day of work with both of my babies asleep it seems like an appropriate time to reflect and look forward.

I won't lie. The reason I come to work is predominately for money, hell if I win £50.9 million pounds tonight on the lottery you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be calling first thing with my resignation whilst packing my bags and hopping into a cab to Farnborough airport to get my private jet to Necker Island like a shot, but the reality of that is so slim that I can guarantee you that you'll find me behind my desk tomorrow at 9am enjoying a cup of hot tea as I begin my day. There is massive part me that loves that desk, my job and the people with whom I spend nine hours a day four times a week with. That desk and those people are now part of who define me as a person. A working mum of two.

Should I win £50.9 million tonight I will be found here right on that beach by Friday morning cocktail in hand. 

I can't deny that I have not had moments of sadness, moments when I've looked Hector in the eye whilst he's all sleepy eyed and half here half there during his afternoon bottle where I have seriously thought "Can I do this? Can I return to work and leave all this behind?" and every time even when debated seriously in my head the answer has always been yes. They are the reason why I go to work, and they are also the reason why everyday when I walk through my office door I leave my guilt at the front door and get myself a cuppa.

Too much pressure is put on mums. Too much guilt about leaving your children with childminders, nannies, nurseries, too  much "I could not bare to watch someone else raise my children". Bollocks, excuse my French. It's 2016, not 1956 and is a matter I feel very strongly about. No one else is raising your child. If anything I feel I am nurturing my children by allowing them to mix with a wide variety of people and to realise that time apart from Daddy and I is just as good as time with us. I am very fortunate to have parents who have the boys one day a week for me and allow me to leave my house looking like a bomb has hit it and I know when we come home from work bellies will be fed, hair will have been washed, pj's are on and like a tonight a chicken has been roasted in the oven so I didn't even have to cook, they are both legends and I could not return to work without their support and help. Also, I have this time around chosen the child minder route rather than the nursery that I did last time with Charlie, this was for one reason alone, ease. Having one person look after Hector and pick Charlie up from school meant one less logistical step needed at 6pm. I am very lucky. The dream team of husband and wife team that look after my children are fantastic and I trust them implicitly which also makes things 100 x easier when kissing Hector goodbye and waving as they shut the door and I head to work.

There are some seriously incredible working mums out there and one in particular who I just love. Balls of steel, men respect her as she's totally kicked butt in a male working environment, she's got cracking hair and she's horribly stylish. Jealous? Me? Not much! She's my working mum idol, Karren Brady. She quotes on her website about "learning to juggle" ...

Incredible business woman. Working mum. Super stylish with great hair. Cow. Jealous? Not much. 

 If you have a family and a career you’ll need to learn about efficiency – and fast. You’ve got to be able to get your work done and get out of the office, but you’re competing against others whose working hours can stretch on indefinitely.

At the end of the day, frankly I just want to be at home. So, it's OK to be picky about the social invitations you accept.

As a parent with a career, you can’t be there all the time. Don’t beat yourself up. Listen to your children; they will let you know if they need more of you. Accept that you can’t do everything, and ultimately, you’ll be make the right decisions at the right time about where you need to focus. Most important, it’ll make sure you never waste a second of the time you DO have.

I no longer feel guilty. I no longer feel the pangs that I felt when I first went back to work because I know that all I work for is them. I don't do baby groups. I am not a baby group type of person. First time around yes, second not a chance. I spent most of my first maternity leave with Charlie dashing from sensory class to music class to signing class to foot painting class, trust me if there was an age appropriate baby class I did it, and now second time around I have learnt to cherish days at home with Hector and if anything it'll be these days that I miss the most, but it's also those days that I have at home with them both that I will cherish the most. 

Weird isn't it? I used to hate bath time. Worst time of the day. At the peak of the witching hour. Meltdowns are likely, over tired children running naked and vying for your attention. Now being back at work I love bathtime. I love the madness and it's that time that gets me from 9am - 6pm. Going to work is actually enabling me to be a better parent. To be the parent that I want to be. To cherish the times that we have together. To not wish away the hours till bedtime but instead I now long for more hours with them and it's because of that as well as many other reasons why I love working.

So, if you're coming to the end of your maternity leave, or your just about to go back to work and you're dreading it, it's inevitable that the first week will be hell, vile in fact, but trust me there is no greater feeling then when you see your baby or little person smiling and beaming back at you at the end of a day at work, that is the best feeling. After all, absence does make the heart grow fonder.


Nathalie x

P.S Since writing this piece I have found out that I didn't win £50.9 million and can be found tomorrow morning at 9am back at my desk.


Friday, 1 January 2016

The 2016 Bucket List so far....

So, we've rung in the New Year and 2016 is well under way and tagging along are all those hopes, wishes, aspirations and resolutions that we made as the clock struck midnight.

2015 was a massive year of up's and down's for us as a family. 2015 will go down as quite possibly one of the happiest yet most challenging years that I have ever had to deal with in my life and there were definitely times where I hoped that a responsible adult would swoop in and make the situations that we found ourselves in go away like they did when we were younger, but sadly this was not to be the case. Never before have I cried so much with sadness then cried with sheer happiness, a very odd experience.

That said, within times of complete and utter sadness and darkness, friends, family, work colleagues and even people we didn't know gathered in and around and pulled us out of the dark and with that forced upon us the happiness, hope and life long lessons learnt that we approached the remainder of the year with.

With 2015 firmly behind us, "Hello 2016!" it's a pleasure to meet you, so what have we got in store for you? Yesterday evening we as a family started to compile a bucket list of what we wanted to have done by midnight December 31st 2016 and here are just a taster of what we want and hope to achieve in the next twelve months.....

1. A fantastic family holiday.

This year we will be travelling to Lemnos in Greece where we shall holiday for a week with Mark Warner and create memories  that we know from our previous holiday with them that will stay with us for a lifetime.

Taken on our last Mark Warner holiday back in 2014

Making memories
2. London.

Charlie wants to go to London and go on a bus. This is a fairly straight forward one and one we will definitely do. I would really love to take him on the London Eye and to see the sights.

3. A trip to the races.

We live super close to Sandown Race Course in Esher and every year they hold their Annual Family Day, this year it's in August. It's a brilliant day where kids under 18 go free with a paying adult.

4. A Mummy and Daddy night away.

Every year Tom and I try to get a night and day away just the two of us. Once I'm back at work and school is in full swing it's difficult to catch a night together so it's great to be able to pack the kids off to their grandparents whilst we head off somewhere in search of a HUGE bed, dinner and bubbles. I adore Pennyhill Park just down the road from us in Bagshot. It's an amazing place and one where the England Rugby team (swoon) stay when they are playing their international matches, it's also home to their training ground. The spa there is out of this world, and don't get me started on their afternoon tea! We've been their for the past three years but this year I would love to try somewhere a little different. My good friend Emily from Blog Me Beautiful recently visited The Pig Hotel and from looking at her pics on Instagram and looking on their website I would like to visit their hotel in Dorset. Tom take note!! Have you been? What's it like? Would love to hear your thoughts!

The Pig On The Beach, Dorset

5. Run a 10k

Before I met Tom I got quite in to my running. Now, let's not get too ahead of ourselves here, when I say I "got quite into my running", I ran a couple of 5 & 10km races and trained and completed the London Marathon but in 2011 I feel pregnant and ever since then if if I'm honest the most I've run is a bath. Well this year I would like to do something, work towards something. I would also like to run a race where I could raise a bit of money for the Princess Alice Hospice

6. Complete #NoSpendJanuary2016

Rather than make resolutions that I knew full well I would never complete I have challenged myself to #NoSpendJanuary2016 where I can't spend ANY money unless it's an essential. 

So, that's just for starters, well as well as winning the lottery, losing two stone and brokering world peace we will focus on the first six and go from there. 

Till next time, 

Nathalie x

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