Education Preparation

When your little one starts school, it’s all very overwhelming. What do you mean they get homework in reception?! Foundation, KS1, KS2 – what does it all mean? Curriculum meetings, PTA meetings, reading daily and don’t forget that Mrs Thingy in Peacocks class is collecting milk bottles this week.

It’s all so much to take in and lest us not forget the never ending ironing uniforms, teeny tiny Pinterest approved packed lunches, reading, spelling tests, after school clubs and PUT YOUR SCHOOL SHOES ON, PLEASE DARLING.

After attending the meetings and reading the weekly newletters, I understood KS1 (key stage one, years one and two), I got what the curriculum was about and what was and wasn’t expected of Noah. He nailed his SATS in year two, and actually enjoyed them so much he wanted to do them again. By the end of year two, I felt I knew it all, but uh oh, here comes year three….

This is where Education Quizzes comes in – a subscription based all encompassing site that covers all curriculums from Foundation all the way up to GCSE with enjoyable and easy to use quizzes devised by teachers. While I know there are no national tests in year three, and fingers crossed, the only tests we’ll come across this year will be weekly spelling tests and times tables – for the last week or so I’ve been reading and familiarising myself with what the year ahead will bring. Including knowing that Noah can now learn a language, what will be covered in PSHE (personal, social and health education) and what on earth Citizenship entails.

While I don’t want to overload Noah with too much more work, I don’t see any harm in preparing myself of what to expect so I can help him along the way rather than being clueless and needing to run off to google his latest subject and completing the odd quizz on an extra curricular basis.

How do you prepare your little ones for the new year at school? Do you have any tips?

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.

The Ultimate Guide to Buying Jewelry for Yourself

Although jewelry is most commonly bought in the form of a gift, there is no reason why you shouldn’t go out there and treat yourself to that special piece that you’ve been wishing for. If there’s something that you want to have, you should definitely go out there and buy it for yourself rather than hoping that a friend or relative will buy it for you on a special occasion. But, with so many different jewelry styles and types out there to choose from, making sure that you make the right choices when picking out jewelry for yourself can be tricky.

Your Sense of Style

When choosing a new piece of jewelry for yourself, it’s important to ask yourself whether or not it goes with your usual sense of style. This is especially important if you are looking for a classic piece such as a ring, necklace or bracelet for everyday wear. If you’re purchasing a piece of jewelry to wear every day, ask yourself things such as how it will go with your work clothing and the types of outfits – both casual and otherwise – that you like to put together for yourself. Diamond jewelry is hugely versatile and can be a great choice of jewelry for regular and everyday wear. Visit this website for more information.

Know What You Want

Before you walk into a jewelry store to pick up a treat for yourself, it’s a good idea to know what it is that you want. Even if you’re not exactly sure of the specific piece that you’re after, having a general idea of the type of material, color, and style is essential. If you walk into a jewelry store and simply say that you’re looking for something nice for yourself, you will end up being ushered over to the most expensive pieces by the salesperson and could end up spending more than you at first had in mind. If it’s in your budget and you like it then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go for it, but making sure that you have a good idea of what you want before you go out to make your purchase usually means that you’ll come home with something that you are especially happy with.

Know Your Budget

Last but not least, it’s important to know your budget and stick to it when you are buying jewelry for yourself. Although it can be easy to budget when you’re buying jewelry as a gift for others, buying it for yourself often gives you a little more freedom of choice and therefore there’s more risk of overspending. Make sure that you set a budget for your new jewelry piece which is a little under the maximum amount that you’d like to pay, to give yourself a bit of room if you find something you like which is a little bit pricier.

Don’t wait around for somebody to give you jewelry as a gift – with this guide, you can buy yourself the best!

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?

Heatwave-Proof Fashion

Now I’m not sure if you’ve noticed in the last few days, there’s been a gigantic yellow ball in the sky, I’ve heard old wives tales and folklore about it, but just in case you weren’t aware – it’s called the “sun”.

The “sun” conducts extreme heat, causing profuse sweating, numerous outfit dilemmas, dehydration, frizzy hair, melted-off make up, and men shedding their tops in public like snakes shed their skins.

Of course I jest, but we Brits are just not made for these seemingly sky-high temperatures of late. Do we don our bikinis and just go with it, because who knows when we’ll see the sun again, or do we surround ourselves with fans, munch on ice cubes and take to social media because “I’M MELTING I HAVEN’T SLEPT IN 5 DAYS”?

Alas, it being summer, my calendar is getting fuller and fuller by the day, with BBQs, weddings and day trips, so the latter, unfortunately, will need to be put on hold. So, how to combat the heat, what do I wear when it’s feels even too hot to breathe?

I have a wedding reception to go to in a few weeks, and the dreaded “I have NOTHING to wear” is plaguing me already. And while I know the bride is checking the Met Office for weather updates hourly for rain, I know on a day I want sleek hair and flawless, dewy skin – it’ll be hot, humid and I’ll be a sweaty heap in a shady corner dropping ice down my front surreptitiously in a bid to cool down while my hair gets bigger and bigger by the moment.

I’ve been on the hunt for a flowy maxi dress – not too formal, not too casual and something I feel comfortable and move in. After searching high and low, Esprit have come to the rescue, with a figurative palm leaf to fan my fevered, sweaty brow.

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I think a cool, breezy fabric in this stormy blue shade will look great with a tan, and can easily be dressed up or down (as a mum, it’s a huge plus for clothes to be multi-purpose).

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This floaty little number with the beaded neckline is pretty enough to go very minimal on the accessories, a big thumbs up in the heat, with less irritating trinkets and jewellery to bog you down.

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Let’s get some colours happening here, shall we? No other colour says “summer” to me than this coral / watermelon shade. With some flat strappy sandals and simple gold accessories.

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I know navy isn’t a typically sunny colour, but the flattering cut and fabric really speaks to me and with sunkissed skin and understated make-up, I think the dress really speaks for itself and will be perfect for a summer evening.

So now I have the dress narrowed down… I just need to sort the shoes now.

Oh. And what do I do with my hair?

 

In a Bedroom Far, Far Away

There was a time, BC (Before Child), when I assumed just one eternal conundrum existed. After being awoken from a Matrix-like slumber, I now realise there are eternal, eternal conundrums.

Today, we’ll be focusing on eternal conundrum number 327. Namely; the correct shade of darkness required for your offspring’s bedroom. Our son cannot, will not, and simply refuses to snooze without at least two night lights on. After years of searching, we appear to have arrived at the perfect combo of a red glowing lamp thing and a mushroom-shaped light that apparently never needs its bulb replacing. Hey, if it works…..

Conundrum time: paradoxically, his brain will not allow him to reach REM without total and utter darkness. You can see the problem. Currently, we read the tales of a young wizard until he’s asleep, quickly run to switch off both lights and then get the hell out of there like we stole something method. It proves effective for the most part. But a lack of a proper nights’ sleep heralds all sorts of nasties: poor concentration, irritability, hyperactivity, struggles at school, constant interrupting of mother and father’s weekly helping of zombies and dragons. The list is endless.

When I said total and utter darkness, I meant it. One burst of moonlight, one garden light-baiting cat and he will awaken, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. When the clocks change, he’ll be out of bed, dressed for school and searching for a rogue Pokemon before 4am. This is when a friend suggested blacking out the windows. For a low cost solution we used bin bags. Yes. Bin bags. And they kinda worked, so we knew the science was stellar. However, we had bin bags taped to our windows. That’s one the Jones’ didn’t bother keeping up with.

Even though we patted ourselves on the back, there could be no doubt that bin bags on windows began to cause residual effects. When the sun shone, it got so hot in the room we were finding half-naked men – modesty wrapped in towels – sitting on the bookcase concocting shady deals through wafts of steam. Every Tuesday, my son would be awoken by workers in florescent vests trying desperately to remove the bags and take them away. And, well – it just didn’t look very nice.

Then, thankfully, another friend recommended VELUX – one of Great Britain’s and Ireland’s largest window-innovations companies. With an extensively extensive range of competitively-priced blackout blinds, it took no time at all to find the right set for his room. 

In fact, we were so taken with VELUX blindswe returned and purchased a Star Wars-themed set when we redecorated his room into a galaxy scene.

So there you have it. One eternal conundrum solved. Tomorrow we’ll be tackling number 489: what came first – the child or the wine?

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