Warner Bros Studios The Making of Harry Potter Review

A few weeks ago, Noah and I were absolutely delighted to get the chance to go to WB Studio tour, the Making of Harry Potter . I grabbed my sister in law and nephew, charged my camera batteries, made a packed lunch and set my face to stunned and we were ready to set off to Watford.

First things first, finding the venue was very straightforward, it was well signposted and upon arrival, there were lots of friendly staff in the car park to direct us, as if by magic, to the perfect parking space.

The outside area was spotlessly clean, full of smiling, excited visitors and even more staff to assist with tickets and to point us all in the right direction. Huge stills of the film were displayed on the studio walls and giant Wizard Chess pieces from The Philosopher’s Stone were ready and waiting for photo opportunities.

Simply taking our booking number to a booth and getting our tickets, we were ready and very excited to start the tour! After a short wait inside, we were admitted to a room full of screens on the walls, with a guide who explained everything we needed to know about the tour and to get us even more excited about what we were about to see. After the talk, we were let through to a cinema area, took our seats and watched a short video by Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, with lots of clips from the eight films. Once the video was over, there was an audible gasp of joy as the screen rose to reveal the huge, solid oak doors of the Great Hall, which is where our tour began.

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Time to turn your camera on and get yourself ready for the most magical couple of hours you can possibly imagine to find on a hot summer’s day in Watford.

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The Great Hall was set ready for a feast, with mannequins dotted around with original costumes, the Sorting Hat ready at the head of the Hall on it’s stool and costumes of the teachers displayed at the head of the Hall. I could have happily stayed in there for hours to soak up all the tiny details and the magical atmosphere of the Great Hall which I first read about in the first Harry Potter book when I was 11 years old. Noah was in total silence, which I knew was a sign he was very impressed indeed. However, the Great Hall set really is the tip of an enchanted iceberg or indeed, magical ice sculpture.

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After taking countless photos of everything in sight, we walked through to a huge room full to the brim with props, set pieces and costumes and this is where I realised the tour was much, much more than I anticipated. I couldn’t possibly list every detail in this room, from the dungeon Potions Classroom complete with tall labeled jars of grisly potion ingredients to a huge wall of paintings used for display along the walls of the Marble Staircase which are actually portraits of the filmmakers to tiny cabinets filled with Dumbledore’s Deluminator, the Philosopher’s Stone, Reeta Skeeters acid green quill and much, much more.

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There was the opportunity to pose with a broomstick, or better yet, to ride a flying broomstick or the flying Ford Anglia and to buy photos and videos after.

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From here we walked through to Platform 9 and 3/4 where Noah breathed a barely audible “Wow…” at the sight of the gleaming crimson Hogwarts Express and actually got to board the train and walk through to see all the compartments inside.

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By this point the tour had taken around 2 and a half hours and we were ready for lunch as we walked through to the next room to happily find the Backlot Cafe, Butterbeer counter and outside picnic area. If you can definitely try the Butterbeer and Butterbeer ice cream – if you pay a little extra you can get these in souvenir tankards and sundae dishes which Noah was delighted to be able to bring home. I won’t spoil the surprise of how these taste, but the ice cream is really rather special.

Once we were full and rested we were ready to complete the tour, with the Knight Bus, the Hogwarts Bridge and Number 4 Privet Drive right beside us outside in the eating area.

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The Privet Drive set was a special exhibition piece brought back for the Finding the Philosopher’s Stone experience and is open until September 5th.  Inside there’s only one room to view but to see the hundreds of Hogwarts letters dashing down the fireplace and flying around the room for Harry as the Dursleys desperately try to keep him from opening them – it really does add to the magical experience of the tour.

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With yet more photos and even more “Wow, Mummy, look!”, we walked up Diagon Alley, peered at all the shop windows. By this point the boys were rather tired, with one last push we walked through to the darkened, atmospheric room taken up by the scaled down version of Hogwarts itself which is simply breath-taking.

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And then, deep breath, it’s exit through the gift shop time. Be prepared to spend more than you’d think on trinkets and souvenirs as the vast choice is huge and it won’t just be the kids wanting to take everything home, you’ll have armfuls yourself.

And so, with a huge fluffy Crookshanks tucked under his arm, happily eating Fudge Flies, and me trailing behind with everything else and my exhausted camera, we ended our tour and sadly made our way back to the car to go home.

Our experience at the WB Studio tour, the Making of Harry Potter  was truly enchanting, it was everything I hoped it would be and even more besides and we had such a special day, we were very sad to leave. Thank you Warner Brothers for giving us the opportunity to visit and for giving us a day we won’t ever forget.

Disclaimer: I was given a family ticket to visit the WB Harry Potter Studios for the purpose of this review, however all editorial and opinions are completely honest and entirely my own.

George Kid’s Bedroom Makeover Competition

Noah and I have been asked by George at Asda to get our thinking caps on and come up with Noah’s ultimate bedroom for their current kid’s bedroom competition. Now, I know what I’d choose, but obviously, my seven year old knows better than me.

Our initial conversation went something like this:

Me: Dude, we’ve got to make a picture of what your dream bedroom would look like. Have you got any ideas?

Him: MINECRAFT!

Me: Oh. Are you sure?

Him: Minecraft Minecraft Minecraft!

Me: OK, let’s see what we can do…

So we I had to see what I could do with my very specific brief of “MINECRAFT OMG”. The news that Asda don’t actually stock Minecraft crafting tables or furnaces was devastating news to Noah, then I had to gently break it to him that we probably wouldn’t let him have a means to smelt iron in his bedroom anyway. Instead we set out to give our mood board a pixelated, colourful feel. I also needed to stick within Asda’s brief of not spending more than £400. This could be a challenge.

Brace yo’self for our creation…

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Honestly, let me explain.

Firstly, the furniture. I chose good quality, kid-friendly pieces with a modern, modular feel. Noah chose the yellow bed because, well, I don’t think he even knows to be honest. It’s cute though, right?

I spotted the brown rug and immediately thought of a Minecraft dirt block with the different tones and pixelated squares. We then found the green rug and cushions to emulate the same feel of pixels. We then made the bed look like a Minecraft bed with a red blanket and added lots of little accessories to jazz up the place.

Noah would love to swap his current carpet for wooden floor, and I’d use tape on the walls to create squares to make his very own, very real Minecraft room.

I think it’s important when going for a “themed room” to not make it permanent and to create the feel and look your going for with accessories and things that can easily be changed, because when your child is suddenly obsessed with XY or Z, it can easily be changed rather than having to completely redecorate.

I calculate that this room, including furniture comes to £393.00 – I may have been cheeky as Noah already owns LOTS of Minecraft bits and bobs we could use.

What would your little one’s dream room look like? I’d love to know!

Charmed, I’m sure

There are some types of jewellery that you wear to fit with a certain look, to act as an accessory that highlights a neckline on a dress, or to complement some beautiful beading. There are some types of jewellery, though, that mean far more to us.

It could be that we inherited it off a dear relative and we wear it to remind us of happier times with them, but whatever the reason, these types of jewellery are worn day and night, regardless of occasion, and recently I’ve realised the strong attachment people have towards charm bracelets.

Right on trend

Aside from being such a sentimental gift, charm jewellery has become a hugely popular trend in recent years. It’s actually the perfect gift for someone when you think about it, and there are many big-name brands out there that have swept through the fashion world and taken it by storm.

What I love about it though, is that there really is something for everyone. Whether it’s a rose gold, boho-style bracelet with a feather, or an elegant pearl bracelet with a simple peace symbol, I love how people can totally change the style and meaning of a bracelet.

You know me though; I like to be different. Rather than opt for one of the high street brands, I prefer something with a little more of a unique twist to it, which is why the handmade jewellery from ChloBo really stands out to me. A lot of their collections work well together, so you can mix and match different styles to suit your own. What really peaked my interest though, was how they can give you the perfect charm to suit your soul.

The meaning of charms

Charms are quite romantic and mystical, which is probably why so many people love them, and why I’m now hooked too! The idea that the perfect stone can bring the wearer calm and serenity throughout their day, or that it can bring them luck as long as they’re wearing a certain symbol, is something most people would like to believe in. There’s something fun about looking at that side of charms, and I was determined to find mine.

Of course, lots of people can assign different meanings to their charm bracelets and the trinkets they wear, but I think for me, I’d have to go with the dreamball, the hamsa hand, the moon and the tassle. The dreamball is a symbol of a sacred place to keep your dreams, and I certainly have enough hopes and dreams for my future to need a place to store them!

The hamsa hand is a protective sign, said to bring happiness, luck, health and good fortune. The moon is a protective sign too, but also a symbol of magic, which is something I think everyone could use a touch of in their lives. And finally, the tassel, although it is said to distract evil and negativity, I also like to think of as a nod to the fashionista side of my personality.

What would your charm signs be?

Learning to F.L.Y

My heart races. My breath becomes shallower and shallower. Beads of sweat pour down my bright red face as dehydration sets in. My legs ache and groan as they’re put into unfamiliar positions.

I know what you’re thinking: summer’s coming.

And you’d be right. Nothing heralds the doom-loom of brighter days, soaring temperatures and more flesh on display than a Baywatch episode more than the first treadmill session of the season.

Every year is the same. The autumn long-jumper-hides-everything chill out phase, the Christmas binge fest, the fruitless (literally) New Year resolutions and the ignorance of spring. Each stage an avoidance of one of life’s most obvious conditions: I need to be healthy and take care of myself. And then along comes summer. All heatwaves and suntans. Make no mistake: come the sun, come the invites. The bbqs, the beach trips, the parties, the on and on and on. It’s not, of course, essential that you’re in tip- top form to be able to enjoy the sun, but it certainly wakes the brain up from its dormant Ben & Jerry state to the fact that you’re probably going to relax and enjoy it more if you’re feeling good within and about yourself.

Vitamin and supplement store Hellenia are running a campaign to F.L.Y – First Love Yourself – to remind us to treat ourselves with extra care. After all, as a mum – if I don’t look after myself, how can I look after anyone else?

So this year yours truly is actually going to do something. Well, try anyway. I’m back to the usual and the obvious: take your vitamins, start exercising, up the water intake, cut down your pasta and potatoes, evict the coco bean and the sugar cane and bring in the new tenants fruit and veg. But what about the other stuff? What about the things that stuff can’t fix? Or even what about fixing the stuff that stuff caused in the first place? Well, that’s how I came to discover collagen and the benefits it brings.

For those not in the know, collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies and is the structural building block present in muscles, cartilage, bones and skin. So just the important stuff, then.

On my fitness travels, I’ve found myself becoming totally confused with the countless array of health supplements on offer. But after discovering collagen, I came to realise that a lot of what I need is right there in one packet. Whether it be to aid weight loss, recover quicker from workouts, rebuild tissue damage from said workouts or even to contribute to keeping your skin smooth and youthful.

This is where collagen supplements come in, taking care of yourself from the inside, improving your skin (always good for the summer) and taking care of your joints – again, an essential if you’re upping your exercise quota.

Collagen will now be a part of my healthy lifestyle as I embark to F.L.Y – what do you do to ensure you look after yourself?

 

Decorating with Your Children & Dulux

We all know the milestones that children hold as their most important defining moments. The loss of a first tooth, learning to ride their bike without stabilisers, even their first day at big school and countless others, but would you suppose that decorating their bedrooms would be top of that list?

Don’t worry, I didn’t either, but after doing some extensive research, Dulux has found that children rate the decoration of their bedrooms really highly indeed and are encouraging parents to work together with their kids to create something really special and unique.

I must admit I’m guilty in not involving my son is the decoration of his bedroom (along with three quarters of parents) – if I’m honest that was due to me being scared that he’d want his room neon green with an enormous mural of a dragon eating a unicorn on one wall or something equally bizarre that his six year old mind could conjure up. But after reading the research and commentary from developmental expert and child psychologist Sam Wass and Dulux creative director Marianne Shillingford – I’m beginning to see the beauty of involving our little ones to create rooms they love and want to spend time in, where their imaginations can grow and wander and they feel safe and happy.

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Dr Sam Wass first suggests to sit down with your child and create some pictures, drawings or even collages of what they’d like their rooms to look like, talking about it and giving them a role in the decision making process can give little ones a huge sense of pride. This can even encourage them to keep their newly decorated rooms tidier and want to show their friends something they have put their own stamp on.

Dulux have also created a whole host of looks to inspire children and adults on how to decorate their kid’s rooms (including videos of how to achieve certain looks, which paints and tools you need etc), that with a little imagination and some clever paint techniques – there really is no limit on what you can create together.  My personal favourites being Storybook and Circus, I know the inner child in me would love to disappear in my own little cloud covered bubble with a book in here!

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Seeing these beautiful rooms and feeling the magic of childhood has really made me want to involve my son in the look and feel of his bedroom and give him creative control of his own space – because they’re only little for such a short space of time aren’t they and before we know it, the fairy tale murals and homemade wonderlands will be plastered over with band posters and selfies before we know it.

This is a collaborative post.

The Dress Lyst

Uh-oh. It’s Spring. And y’know what that means? The Mum Coat will soon be prised from our grasping fingers and we’ll be found out.

We won’t be able to get away with wearing the same, possibly slightly stained sweatshirt under cover of the coat on the school run. Or sweatpants when we have absolutely zero intention of going to the gym. Or pyjamas. Maybe. Only that once when you were running really late though. Promise.

Anyway, I digress. The point is, soon, very soon, I may have to spend more than my usual 3.4 seconds to think about what I wear. And if you hadn’t already gathered – I need desperate help.

This is where Lyst comes in.  Lyst is your expert, fashion-forward, personalised shopper who knows exactly what you like. Lyst will tempt you in with a few perfectly cut, beautifully draped old favourite styles, and bravely smuggle in a few pieces you wouldn’t normal think to look at – but it’s OK, Lyst has got your back. Lyst knows.

You see, on signing up, you’re taken through various designers and their key trends and pieces and you tell Lyst whether you like them or not – and based on these, it’s able to generate a whole host of suggestions for you.

Dress Lyst

I created a Lyst of dresses, because heaven knows I need help with anything vaguely feminine or that takes some effort to wear. Another really good thing about Lyst is that there’s something for every budget. Don’t be alarmed by the hand-embroidered tulle or bead appliqued Valentino gowns (and oh my, they are magical) – Lyst also lists the likes of Zara, H&M, TOPSHOP, ASOS and Forever21 to name a few more affordable retailers for those of us with clumsy dispositions or sticky fingered children.

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Creating Lysts is really the highlight here, think of it like Pinterest but with clothes. Every item on Lyst has a “Lyst it” button, where you can conveniently keep that cute ASOS denim pinafore dress safe to peruse later. You can also edit these Lysts – Window Shopping, What I’d Look Like If I Had 2 Hours To Get Ready In The Morning & An Unlimited Budget, Brother’s Wedding in June,  Girl’s Night Out – you get the idea.

And because of this, I think Lyst and I are going to be the very best of friends. I may even start a new funky mum coat Lyst for next A/W.

This is a collaborative post.

AfterShokz Bluez 2S Headphones Review & Giveaway

A little while ago I was happy to be asked by AfterShokz to review a pair of their very snazzy Bluez 2S wireless bone conduction headphones – having never ventured beyond the infamous tangle-prone white in-ear earphones, I was really excited to give the AfterShokz a go.

Once they arrived, I realised just how serious the headphones were. The cynic in me was quietly thinking they were a bit of a gimmick, but on inspecting the very cool box and getting my hands on the Bluez 2S themselves – my inner voice was rendered speechless and found herself rather resigned.

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As they’re wireless, next I needed to set them up and get them talking to my devices so I could start listening. This turned out to go from ridiculously easy, to trickier than it really ought to be – Apple devices and my Chromebook were the simplest, just enabling Bluetooth and pairing with the headphones. But my smart TV? No dice. After a lot of trying and heartache – it didn’t happen and my hopes of watching Walking Dead marathons while everyone else was asleep, just wasn’t meant to be. However after some research, I think this is more to do with my TV itself (LG) than AfterShokz.

Still, I was now up and running and ready to start listening!

AfterShokz Bluez 2S

These aren’t any old headphones, they’re headphones from the future! With normal headphones, the band will go over the top of your head, with the Bluez 2S – the band goes around the BACK of your head, hooking over your ears. Trying them on for the first time I thought they were going to feel really strange and unnatural, but in fact, as soon as they were on – I didn’t even know they were there and very quickly got used to the brand new effect of being able to hear what was going on around me and what was coming from the headphones.

Not sure what I mean? Don’t worry, I shall explain.

The Bluez 2S’s main feature is that the speakers don’t actually go into your ears. They rest just beside your tragus and conduct sound through your cheekbones. As the sound isn’t directed straight into your ear, hence blocking all surrounding noise and ambient sound – you can listen to your music / podcast / audiobook / guilty pleasure YouTube fashion vlog AND hear everything around you too.

This enables better situation awareness; making exercise, travelling, gaming and generally going about your day an awful lot safer for yourself and those around you.

Not only are the Bluez 2S the perfect answer for those with health conditions who can’t wear traditional headphones or earphones that go inside or cover their ears (like my partner), they’re actually a really clever solution to a lot of everyday problems caused by wearing traditional headphones. No more pesky twisted, tangled wires is just the tip of the iceberg.

Obviously being wireless, they do need charging with a charge time of around 1.5 – 2 hours. I found I got around 3-5 days battery life with light to moderate use – a few 30 minute runs, a couple of podcasts and the odd YouTube video. With continual use, I managed around 3-4 hours before they started cutting out.

More Bluez 2S Features:

  • Bone conduction technology delivers music through your cheekbones, ensuring ears remain completely open to hear ambient sounds
  • OpenFit™ design ensures maximum situational awareness and comfort during long-term wear
  • PremiumPitch+™ guarantees a premium audio experience, including wide dynamic range and rich bass
  • LeakSlayer™ technology significantly reduces natural sound leakage
  • IP55 certified to repel sweat, dust and moisture
  • Enjoy six hours of continuous music + calls on a single charge
  • EQ presets boost bass and reduce vibration
  • Dual noise canceling microphones exclude surrounding noise, effectively enhancing speech
  • Audrey Says™ voice prompts guide users through power, pair, play and talk
  • Hassle-free 2-year warranty

Overall, I really am super impressed with the Bluez 2S, they make going for a run and nocturnal Netflix viewing a lot easier and more enjoyable without going deaf to everything around me. With a few minor tweaks in the future, such as having an adjustable band and a longer battery life, I think they’ll be unstoppable. Even still, these are by far the best headphones I’ve ever used.

And the best part? I’m giving a pair to one of you lucky lot! Simply check the T’s & C’s and complete the Gleam widget below. Best of luck!

AfterShokz Bluez 2S Wireless Headphones

Disclosure: The Aftershokz Bluez 2S headphones were provided for the purpose of this review; the above opinions expressed and editorial is entirely honest and my own.

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