Boolino Friends Review – Fum by Karl Newson

Seemingly out of nowhere, lately Oscar has become obsessed with traditional fairy stories. The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Billy Goats Gruff (a pattern? Possibly ūüėČ ). It really is lovely because they’re all stories I know the basic plot line for. They feel wonderfully familiar and reading them is like passing on some kind of tradition. Sharing the stories that made the backbone of my own childhood reading, is really what I imagined parenthood would be like!

The latest book we were sent to review from Boolino isn’t a straightforward fairy story, but it does combine a bucket load of traditional characters all in one place. And Oscar loves it. Fum by Karl Newson is the story of the giant Crumb¬†Family, who’ve lost their youngest member, little Fum.

The search for Fum takes the family on an adventure through all the traditional fairy story characters you can think of. The pigs, Red Riding Hood, you name it they’re there, helping the Crumbs along their way. And Oscar loves it. It’s a new story, but it feels familiar and shows the well known characters in a different context, which is great fun.

Oscar sounding out the title. He’s getting so good at phonics and blending sounds!

Meeting the Crumb Family – but wheres the littlest Crumb?

Oscar really enjoys the quirky rhyming couplets of this story, along with Lucy Fleming’s fun and detailed illustrations. Seeing his new found faves popping up in new and unexpected places, make this a very welcome addition to the book shelf.

Oscar loves this latest addition to the bookshelf!

 

 

SimplyBe Lingerie Review

I’ve written several times about my search for a well fitting bra and just how important good underwear is to me. When you wear the kind of sizes I do, you simply cannot do otherwise! So when SimplyBe asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing some of their lingerie I jumped at the chance. Just not too high and not without support, lest I give myself a black eye ūüėČ !

I’ve used SimplyBe many times over the years. They are a wonderful resource for all sorts of plus size wear. For example I’ve bought everything from swimwear to dresses to (wonderful wide fit) shoes from them. But for some reason I’ve never bought underwear from them. I don’t really know why, when they stock bras in back sizes 28-56 and cup sizes A-L. I guess I’ve been buying my bras from specialist retailers for so long now (gone are the days when M&S can help me any more!) that it just never occurred to me to get them online instead.

I was intrigued.

I was fitted by a specialist store not that long ago, meaning I was pretty sure of my size, but wary. As with all clothes just because a size fits in one style/make, doesn’t mean it’ll fit across the board. And unlike jeans, an ill fitting bra can be a serious detriment to your health! Despite being able to exchange the bras free of charge if they didn’t fit, I proceeded with caution.

I was actually really surprised at the range of lingerie brands SimplyBe carries. And also really pleased that, unlike some specialist store bras, these didn’t seem astronomical in price. I chose two very different brands and styles to try.

Elomi

The first brand I tried was Elomi. Funnily enough I’ve come across this brand before. My wedding basque was by Elomi and was absolutely beautiful. As it happened I couldn’t wear it on the big day as my dress was cut too low, but I did wear it many times under strapless dresses and loved how supportive it was. I’ve also worn bras from Elomi’s sister companies Fantastie and Freya, so couldn’t wait to try something from their range.

I decided to go for a very functional, every day, full coverage bra from Elomi in my current size. And I can honestly say I have never worn a more comfortable bra in my life! Even the ones I already had, in the same size and had been fitted professionally don’t feel as comfortable as this bad boy!

Don’t¬†get me wrong it’s not the prettiest thing to look at (there is a whiff of military grade issue about it ūüėā) but if you’re like me and need loooots of support in this arena, you’d have to go a long way to find anything more comfortable. And I love the shape it gives me. Somehow it accentuates my waist, giving me a rather curvy, 50s vibe. And it really does look smooth under my Surrey Mummy uniform of striped Breton top!

Curvy Kate

The second bra I chose was from Curvy Kate, a brand I’d never tried before. A balcony style, in a sheer fabric, it was much prettier than the Elomi, but still the kind of thing I’d wear every day. The style also means it’s much better for low cut tops.

I have to say, compared to the Elomi bra, this wasn’t as comfortable. I mean it wasn’t uncomfortable per se, but I definitely had to adjust it more during the day and was very ready to take it off come the evening (other larger busted ladies will totally know what I mean here!)

But it was much prettier and still gave me a great shape.

I also loved the advice from CoppaFeel, the charity dedicated to raising awareness of breast cancer in younger women, in the label. What better way to get that message across?

Thoughts

I have to admit I wasn’t convinced buying bras online would be for me. A professionally fitted bra is, in my opinion, one of life’s essentials. But I have to say, if you are pretty sure of your size, particularly those of you, like me, with a larger back and/or cup sizes, then I would highly recommend checking out the SimplyBe lingerie department. While they have a great range of affordable bras, they also stock all kinds of underwear, sleepwear and swimwear.

I know I’ll be revisiting for more Elomi bras. And who knows, I may even treat myself to matching knickers*

 

 

 

*yeah, I probably wont. What mama has time to match her underwear in the mornings??

 

Thank you so much to SimplyBe for gifting me these items for the purpose of this review.

I was not paid to write this post and as always all opinions are my own.

 

Boolino Friends Review – Follow Me Around the House by Camille Garoche

As a Boolino friend, you’re never really sure what kind of books are going to be offered for review. As Oscar’s tastes change at the speed of light at the moment, it’s lovely to have a real mix of reading material to choose from. When we were offered Follow Me Around the House by Camille¬†Garoche however, I wasn’t sure. It was described as a lift the flap, board book. Now I know Oscar still likes to revisit his old favourites occasionally (Dear Zoo anyone?), but really I thought we were over these kind of books. And we may well be. But Follow Me Around the House is nothing like the baby books of old.

Follow Me Round the House by Camille Garoche

The Book

Firstly the quality is far from the board books of our past. Matte finish and heavy, it’s extremely tactile. The story is cute but also very quirky in feel, (unsurprising when you consider Garoche is French. It definitely has that wonderful Gallic peculiarity about it). But all of this pales into insignificance when you come to the bones of the book; the illustration.

The Illustration

The book follows Luna, a Siamese cat, who leads her wards, three new puppies, round the house into which they have been born. Garoche has illustrated the most beautiful house and given an almost dream like quality to the amazing details.

Garoche’s illustrative background is clear to see in this whimsical tale

More than just a ‘lift the flap’ book

Lift the Flap

The ‘lift the flap’ elements are so well combined into the illustrations, that this feels like more of an immersive¬†experience than a children’s book. Seriously, I spent ages just exploring and finding the well hidden secret artwork.¬†It’s a joy to read, but it’s much more of a joy to be a part of.

The detail in this kitchen is beautiful

Just a cello?

Of course not! It’s a bunny bed!

Thoughts

I personally feel this is a book that would be more suited to older or more mature children who would enjoy the time this book demands. To be honest, I wouldn’t even be afraid to get this for an adult, particularly one who appreciates whimsy. Or cats.

Oscar has a bulging bookcase in his bedroom, with free access to hundreds of books. He also has a separate shelf, one he cannot reach alone, that holds a very special collection of books. Ones we feel he is too young for yet or ones that are too precious to risk him damaging. These are books we read together, or books we are saving for the future. Follow Me Around The House is such a gorgeous book, it deserves a bit more care than my boisterous four year old is ready to show just yet. And for that reason, it’ll be joining the others on the special shelf.

For now.

“Ooh, isn’t it delightful here”

Thai Cookery Lessons with Thaikhun Guildford

January. Christmas is over and the weather is dull. And cold. So flipping cold. And what better way to warm up a cold, miserable day, than with some warm, soul comforting food. I’ve spoken¬†on the blog before about the restaurant chain Thaikhun and when they asked me to come along and sample their new Thai cookery lesson at the Guildford branch I leapt at the chance. I couldn’t think of a nicer way to banish the winter blues.

We arrived to a delicious Mocktail and a bowl of spicy prawn crackers, while Map, our host, explained the structure of the evening. We would be watching the chef cook a two course menu, before having a go at preparing the same ourselves. All ingredients, equipment and aprons were provided and the chef was set up at a station away from the kitchen so we could all crowd round to watch.

This was fascinating, however I would mention that this course involved a lot of standing and watching. If you go, don’t do what I did and wear heels! Comfy shoes all the way!

Thai Vegetable Spring Rolls

The first course he, and then we, prepared was Thai Vegetable Spring Rolls. I love spring rolls and had no idea they were so simple to prepare! We shredded and cooked the filling, then wrapped the rolls and deep fried them. It was so obvious and the preparation so straightforward, but I would never have considered making them at home had someone not shown me how to do it!

Skills! Plus, I want a knife like this!

Watching the prep of the filling. Frenetic!

The cooking area was set up with four burners and prep stations. This was based on eight participants (the most the classes usually take), with two to a burner. This would make it a really fun activity for couples or a couple of friends to do. Unfortunately on the night I went I was the only lone participant in a group of nine. This was OK to begin with though as some other friendly bloggers let me muscle in on their rolls!

Then it was our turn!

Deep Fried!

Once the spring rolls were cooked, we sat to eat them, while the ingredients for the main course were prepared. It was lovely to sit and chat with the others in my group while we ate and it really broke the ice that we’d all just cooked the same thing for the first time!

I cooked those!!!

Thai Green Chicken Curry

The main course was Thai Green Chicken Curry, a real favourite of mine!¬†The chef explained the preparation of a real curry paste. However, due to time constraints (making a real paste from scratch, with a pestle and mortar, can take hours apparently) he was choosing to use a bought one. I was a little disappointed¬†at¬†this. I mean the paste was wonderful and gave a fantastic flavour, but it would have been fabulous¬†to see, and use, a¬†real homemade paste. Even a ” here’s one I made earlier” one.

Chef explaining the process of producing green curry paste and prepping the vegetables.

When it came to cooking the curry, the head chef took over. It was so interesting and fun to watch him work!

Then it was our turn. However, I didn’t feel as comfortable muscling in on another couple’s curry so I just watched.

A green curry paste and coconut milk base

It was a shame I didn’t feel like I could get involved, However Thaikhun were most apologetic and have suggested I go back another time to get the full experience and I’d love that!

As I hadn’t helped cook anything I didn’t feel I could ask to eat it either. So, rather cleverly I thought, I asked if the bowl¬†of curry the Head Chef’ had cooked was still around. And it was. I may not have got to cook it, but I did get to eat bowl of Head Chef prepared curry to make up for it. And boy did it! We all sat back down¬†together and were given bowls of rice to go with our curry. Delicious!

Thai Green Chicken Curry

All gone!

At the end of the meal we were given the opportunity to ask any more questions and given, what I thought, was a really thoughtful¬†gift bag, complete with a bottle of Fish Sauce, Palm Sugar and Coconut Milk, along with some vouchers for money off in the restaurant and printed recipes for the dishes we’d prepared. Lovely!

Thoughts

It really was a shame I wasn’t able to get involved in the cooking of the curry. Asking more than two to share a burner is never going to work, even if they were all friends. But as long as the numbers attending the course were kept low, this would be such a fun thing to do.

The restaurant have been these running cookery lessons for a while now. However, the Guildford branch is starting to host theirs from February 2017. They will be running them from 11am-1pm on the 2nd Sunday of every month. The cost is £50 per person and includes everything you could need, including ingredients, expertise and a full meal at the end of it. You can book the course on their website.

The course was so much fun and I learned a lot about Thai flavours. So much so in fact¬†that I’ve been totally inspired and have cooked the spring rolls and curry at home already. The rolls were so good. I may have to knock some up tonight as it goes.

Anyone want to come to dinner?

 

 

Thank you to Mapp and everyone at Thaikhun for a lovely evening.

I was invited to the course as a guest, however I was not paid to write this review. As always opinions are my own.

 

 

 

The Santa Experience at Marwell Zoo

What do you look for when you take your children to see Santa? With the myriad of opportunities available these days, I like to think it’s getting easier to find one that speaks to all your child’s needs, whatever they are.

For us, it’s important that there’s no pointless hanging around and even less that there’s any queuing. Oscar’s Autism isn’t massively sensorially based, but he does need to be able to move as much as possible and queuing just makes no sense to him (I often wonder if he’s really British at all ūüėČ Joke!), to the point it can make him anxious. He also struggles to concentrate for long periods of time on one thing, preferring lots of small activities to one big one.

So when we were invited to come and meet Santa at Marwell Zoo the description they gave to us ticked lots of our boxes straight off. No queuing, no pointless hanging around and plenty of activity. It sounded too good an opportunity to pass up.

Meeting Santa at Marwell Zoo is a real event. We’re not talking just chatting to a big man in a red suit and white beard, it’s a whole experience. We were well prepped as to what to expect and couldn’t have had a better time. We arrived at the zoo before our allotted time, which gave us time to go round beforehand. I think Oscar would have been heartbroken if we’d gone all the way to the zoo and not seen the animals, Santa or no Santa, so we were really grateful that our ticket included entrance to the zoo. However, it doesn’t have to be, if you’d rather just visit for the Christmas experience.

But first, giraffe

But first, giraffe

We made our way round the park in a loop, ending up at Marwell Hall and ready to start our Santa Experience. The visit was broken into sections, which while very clear, flowed brilliantly:

Join the elves in Magical Marwell Hall and warm yourself with a glass of mulled wine or blackcurrant and a festive treat.

We were welcomed to the perfectly beautiful Marwell Hall, by a team of elves, all dressed to the nines and all who seemed to have been thoroughly briefed on Oscar’s Autism and his needs, which was a wonderfully thoughtful touch. We got our drinks and Oscar had a mince pie before taking a real shine to one of the elves’ outfits. Mistletoe really earned her Nice badge that day by removing her shoes, apron and hat and letting Oscar try them on. Baring in mind this is the boy that doesn’t really do dressing up, he had a whale of a time! He was so happy, it bought a tear to my eye and we hadn’t even seen Santa yet!

Oscar takes a shine to Mistletoe the Elf's uniform. So she gives it to him to wear!

Oscar takes a shine to Mistletoe the Elf’s uniform. So she gives it to him to wear!

My little Elf

My little Elf

To amuse the children while we waited for everyone to arrive there was a touch screen Naughty and Nice list for the children to check, which I though was a really clever touch, especially as the children could find their own names on the Nice list and their favourite super villain on the Naughty list!

Be charmed by Mrs Claus whilst she reads the enchanting tale of ‚ÄėThe animals that saved Christmas‚Äô

I had explained to the staff beforehand, that Oscar was unlikely to sit and listen to a story. They¬†couldn’t have been more understanding and suggested that we skip that part of the experience if we wanted to. However, on the day we decided to give it a go. The staff¬†were prepared for him to leave at any point, which was very reassuring.

Mrs Claus was waiting for us in a gorgeous ‘woodland grotto’ complete with trees, snow, toadstools and tree stump cushions. She proceeded to read a beautiful Christmas story, set at the zoo and based around the animals, which was a clever touch. And blow me if Oscar didn’t sit with the other children and listen to part of the story. OK, he didn’t make it the whole way through, but by allowing him to move around as and when he needed he lasted for at least 3/4 of the story. It blew my mind!

You're not seeing things. Thats Oscar. Sat on a carpet. with other children. Listening to a story. Regardless of how long that lasted it happened and I couldn't have been prouder. The fact that Mrs Claus was wonderful and read such a cute story may have helped!

You’re not seeing things. That’s Oscar, right in the middle. Sat on a carpet. with other children. Listening to a story. Regardless of how long it¬†lasted, it happened and I couldn’t have been more proud. The fact that Mrs Claus was wonderful and read such a lovely¬†story may have helped!

Create your own Christmas cone tree

If Oscar had surprised me in the previous two sections, how he reacted in the craft based activity amazed me. We were lead into yet another beautifully decorated room, laid out with everything needed to make ice cream cone Christmas Trees. I expected him to just choff the sweets and ignore the craft, but I need to stop underestimating my boy. He sat and happily made a beautiful tree. As did mummy! The elves then wrapped them in cellophane and ribbons and when we were ready lead us to the main event!

Every family was assigned a table to make Cone Christmas Trees. Such concentration!

Every family was assigned a table to make Cone Christmas Trees. Such concentration!

Family Savage. A rare photo indeed!

Family Savage. A rare photo indeed!

Meet Santa in his sparkling grotto and receive a special gift

We had agreed with the park beforehand that Oscar would be the first child to go and see Santa, to avoid any prolonged waiting and they were as good as their word. The whole team knew Oscar was to go first and again their communication was much appreciated. We were lead¬†into another room, where Oscar was shown a curtain to pull back to reveal Santa’s grotto. It really was magical! After a quick peek he ran into the room and whilst he didn’t seem blown away by the fact that the big FC was sat there on a throne, he did go and chat with him, after having a look around the room.

Who's through there?

Who’s through there?

I really feel the ‘Santa’ can make or break an experience like this and Marwell’s Santa was fab. He¬†spoke to Oscar like you would expect, but I got the feeling he’d also been briefed on Oscar’s needs as he didn’t seem phased by Oscar’s apparent lack of interest. He didn’t ask for a hug or for Oscar to sit with him (although at one point Oscar chose to go and sit next to him) and he didn’t seem upset when Oscar’s most pressing question was “Where’s the presents?”. Love him. He didn’t mean “wheres my present?” (well not completely), it’s just you very rarely see Santa without presents in books and films do you? And he’s a literal thinker my boy. Santa happily handed over a gift, which we let Oscar¬†open immediately. And when Santa asked for high five, Oscar happily obliged. It was fantastic!

Oscar chose to go and sit with Santa. Even if he didn't want to look at him!

Oscar chose to go and sit with Santa. Even if he didn’t want to look at him!

Hey dude! Oscar meets Santa

Hey dude! Oscar meets Santa

The only thing I wished I’d done differently was taken the boy camera. Much of the experience was dimly lit and my iPhone photos just don’t do the day justice. We did however purchase two of the official photos of Oscar meeting Santa, which I thought were great value. Both were printed and framed in a carboard sleeve as you would expected, but we were also given hi res digital copies. All for ¬£10.

Oscar opens his first Christmas present of the year (a light sabre and a Star Wars sticker activity book!)

Oscar opens his first Christmas present of the year (a light sabre and a Star Wars sticker activity book!)

My boy is too cool for school. Who wants to hug Santa when you can High Five!

My boy is too cool for school. Who wants to hug Santa when you can High Five!

Thoughts

Would I go back? Totally. If the staff were as understanding and well briefed as this time, I’d be there in a shot. Oscar loves Marwell and has done for years. Who wouldn’t want their child to meet a real childhood icon in their favourite place in the world?

We had such a lovely day and we really did make a whole day of it. Although I do fear it’s kind of ruined shopping centre Santa’s for us for life ūüėČ

A day well spent!

A day well spent!

 

 

 

Thank you so much to Marwell for the invitation to meet Santa.

I was not paid to write this review and as always all opinions are my own.