home community cafe didsbury  All local parents wondering what on earth they’re going to do with the kids during half-term, may I introduce you to Home Community Cafe, recently opened at the front of Emmanuel Church on Barlow Moor Road, Didsbury.

I was excited to hear about this new venture – an independent, not-for-profit café for all the community in Didsbury, run by volunteer ‘Home Makers’. Crucially for me, with two girls aged 4 and 2, families are not only welcome here but are actively and very warmly provided for. As Hannah, Home’s Creative Director says, “We want children to know that at Home they are not an afterthought, but little stars in our community constellation!”

This café is whole-family-focused: the combination of a great ‘mini café’ children’s section together with a brilliant children’s menu (check out the ‘Little Homies’ collection plate which is served in a bun tray, different items in each section – my two girls love it!) means I can sit ever-so-slightly apart from them, get a massive piece of gorgeous cake and an even larger cup of Tank Coffee and chill out. An event which is often unheard of for busy parents – particularly mums of very inquisitive and lively preschool girls! 

The mini café is one of the best places I’ve encountered – perhaps rather selfishly due to the relaxation effect on myself. There’s a really lovely selection of toys – for example a toy kitchen with pretend food and utensils so young children can indulge their penchant for role play to their heart’s content. They also have their own small tables and chairs to sit and eat their food (it’s really cute to watch them sat here!). The volunteers will happily heat baby food and drink, and the café is breastfeeding-friendly, with cushions and comfy sofas.

Note: for those looking for activities during term-time, too – Home café is currently running a Lego club for all ages on Thursdays from 3pm, with more after-school clubs planned for the future. The café also hosts a free Youth Café on Friday evenings for Years 6-11 and a story time session for preschoolers on Wednesday mornings.

Delicious coffee aside (my regular readers will note that coffee is a big part of my life), I’ve sampled lunch here which is quite different and something special. This is because there’s something new every day. Last week, I sampled an Asparagus, Pea and Mint tart with salad which was amazing. The week before I couldn’t resist the Sicilian Caponata made with aubergine and mozzarella. A quick check of their Facebook page tells me that today’s special is Wild Rice, Pear and Fennel salad (but I’m at work – boo!!). There’s a great selection of home-made cakes, too – check out the Bakewell Tart and you won’t be disappointed! Offerings change daily, but there’s also the regulars – the Collection Plate, for example is like an upcycled Ploughman’s lunch with lots of hummus, cheese, freshly baked bread and salad. Take a look at a sample menu here. home community cafe didsbury

 I know there’ll be many of you wanting to try somewhere new with the kids this coming half-term: give it a try, if only to give yourself a break between activities while your kids are happily at Home.

Home café is open Wednesdays-Fridays 10:30am-6pm, situated at the front of Emmanuel Church on Barlow Moor Road. Keep up-to-date with events and activities on their Facebook page, website or follow them on Twitter.

Recently, I attended my favourite bloggers’ conference of the year – Blog on Mosi 2015 – with my friend and fellow blogger Hodge Podge Days.

Organised by Laura Seaton of Blogs up North and  Tired Mummy of Two, the event is held at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and is a chance for bloggers to share ideas, network with brands and bloggers alike, learn something new and keep up to date with the ever-changing world of digital and online ‘stuff’.

The event also involves wine, which is quite correctly served well into the afternoon sessions or I wouldn’t have learned a thing.

Here’s a quick run down of events, which tails off as we get into ‘wine territory’…

Keynote with Nickie o’Hara – time management for bloggers

Time management is definitely something I need in my life – especially where blogging is concerned.  I work part-time and have two preschool children aged 4 and 2 – so on the days I’m not working, I’m pretty busy.  I enjoy blogging; for me it’s a hobby and means of letting off steam whilst keeping a diary of sorts of our family life.  I have been finding it difficult to put aside time and space to even think about what I’d like to write about – let alone do the writing!

Nickie’s basic principle was idea-plan-action.  She strongly advocated a ‘bullet journal’ – a space to jot down ideas as they occur, telling us that the act of physically writing things down has arguably a more powerful effect than writing it on your phone (I tend to use the ‘notes’ app on my iPhone.  And then I never look at it).  She also discussed prioritisation and setting goals or deadlines for yourself, alongside lots of free writing, brainstorming and drafting.

It sounds so simple, but I need to mark the times in week when I know I can have the space to write, even if it’s 15 minutes here and there.

Nickie also discussed scheduling tools such as buffer, tweetdeck, sprout, hootesuite and one I hadn’t used previously – IFTTT, which is apparently a great scheduler. I’ve not tried this yet, but as I write this post I’ve just downloaded it to have a go.

You can view all of Nickie’s keynote speech here.

 YouTube and Vlogging

The next session I attended was on YouTube and Vlogging, by bloggers Wit Wit WooHollybobs blog and Nickie o’Hara once more.

I’m not a YouTube person myself so haven’t tried my hand at vlogging.  I’m definitely better at the written word rather than putting my pasty white, freckled face in front of a camera and feeling like a dick.  In fact, there was a lot of discussion about feeling like a dick at first when starting out vlogging and how it’s about building confidence and being more resilient to the negativity that comes with having a public face.

It’s still not for me.

Photography

Jenny Soppet-Smith of cheetahsinmyshoes.com presented an amazing session on photography, with some fantastic shots.  Do have a look at her site if you get the chance as I was in awe and can’t see a time when I can ever get up to that standard!

However, I took away some new things to try with my (mediocre) photography, such as the “look up, look along and look in” rules when you’re photographing a scene, to see what different perspectives you can achieve.

I’ve also been glancing at the #nothingisordinary tag on Instagram since Jenny brought it to my attention – some great shots on here!

Visit Jenny’s presentation here.

Advanced  blogging session by Bring Digital

I think we’re getting to round about the time that the wine was served now, as my notes appear to be a bit thin on the ground.

However I do know that Bring Digital are experts in the field of advanced SEO and generally anything digital related.  Maybe even the world.  A few of my scrawny notes include:

-something about you can teach google ‘bots’ not to look at your login and about pages etc as those won’t help your rankings (what? I don’t even understand that statement but I’m sure someone will so I’ve written it anyway).

– spring cleaning your blog – keep your ‘about me’ pages up to date as these are valuable for readers to understand who you are which in turn influences their appreciation of your content.

– Try and have weekly themes (e.g. my regular theme is my #forgetmenotfriday) as this increases your blog authority.

– Tweet a new piece of content 10 times each week in different ways

– Don’t bother with google+ as this is shortly to be shut down.  Twitter and Facebook are still the best way to promote content.

Lifestyles:

@theladysybil took this session in the afternoon, by which time my note taking had degenerated to drawing pictures of silly things and tweeting my friends and fellow bloggers.  For some reason, I was also drinking prosecco alongside some pink and white sweets which resembled fizzy cola bottles but were the wrong colour.

I do remember some in depth discussion around lifestyles blogging and how to maximise your content by utilising your thoughts and feelings about everyday events, recipes and activities.

I would visit @theladysybil‘s blog for more info.

I had a great day, made some great new contacts.  Each time I attend Blog on Mosi, I feel refreshed and ready to do more blogging.  See you all next year.

Gro-bed bedding review

“Daddy come and see! Mummy bought me a new duvet and it’s absolutely, totally cool!”

This was the fantastically cute reaction from my 4 1/2 year old when she first saw her new zip in bed – the Daisy Dreams Gro to Bed for single beds.

When my children were younger, we used Gro Bags for sleeping which were really lovely, great designs and comfortable.  We also have a Gro Clock which was invaluable when my eldest went to through a stage of getting up in the night.  We still use this now – setting the clock to a designated time (at least 7am please!) when the ‘sun’ appears on the clock face.

I hadn’t heard of the Gro to Bed range until recently when we were given the chance to review the set mentioned above.  

The Gro-to-bed range  is produced with the comfort and safety in mind and features an innovative zip in system to ensure that your child won’t kick free of the bedding during the night or fall out of the bed.  There are lots of designs, including a ‘Jolly Jungle’, ‘All Aboard’, ‘Alfred and the Aliens’ and more.  We chose the Daisy Dreams design as basically we need any purchase to involve pink and girliness or my 4 year old won’t even contemplate it.

Falling out of bed has been an issue for us recently as our 4 year old likes to cuddle up to the very edge of her bed, inevitably toppling out.  We found the zip-in feature really helpful and have had no further falling out events, meaning no get ups for the olds in the middle of the night (yay!).  

The bottom sheet also has an elastic cord that you can place around the mattress, keeping the whole set in place, and an integrated pillow case.  I thought I would find all this unwieldy to wash and dry, but it’s actually been really easy if not easier to manage – I don’t have to mess around with separate bottom sheets, pillow cases and duvet covers, I can just put the whole lot on at once. I also love the quality of the material which is 100% cotton, soft and comfortable.

What’s been really nice to see is my little one’s reaction to it.  She loves it and wants to show her friends when they visit our house for playdates.  My only issue is she won’t have anything else on her bed so I’ve got to get it washed and dried in a day! (maybe we should buy a second set!).

Disclosure:  I was provided with the Daisy Dreams Gro to Bed for single beds set free of charge in return for this review.  All opinions are my own.  The sets range from £49.99 to £59.99 and can be purchased from the Gro Company website or retailers such as John Lewis.

IMG_0307.JPGPotty training is HARD WORK.  The potty training period may only be for a short period of time but places a lot of extra pressure on busy parents, especially when there’s an older sibling to look after (or more? And maybe a younger one, too? Argh! The mind boggles…).

I’m currently in the process of potty training my 2 ½ year old girl, with her 4 ½ year old sister in tow.  I’m not going to blog about the practicalities of potty training as there’s already a wealth of material, for example this handy guide from NHS Choices or this one from NetMums.

What I can do however is lighten the mood for any potty training Mum/Dad/Grandparent/anyone who happens to be in charge at the time by highlighting the sheer comedy of the whole thing.

The one principle of my guide is this: always keep your sense of humour to hand (otherwise you may cry/bang your head against the nearest wall/take solace in wine and cake).

The stage we’re at with the potty training is the ‘not quite out of nappies when outside the house, but doing reasonably well enough to wear knickers in the house’ stage i.e. the littlest one will do something on the toilet or potty if I take her there and sit her on it at relevant intervals, but she hasn’t quite twigged the bit about asking to go, when she needs it.

The other day, I had left her in knickers in the lounge with the potty in sight, saying “remember to sit on the potty when you feel wee wee coming”.  As I was making myself (yet another) coffee, I heard her shout “MUMMY I DONE A WEE WEE ON THE LEGO!!”  And yes indeed, that wasn’t the best place to have an accident as it then took me quite a decent length of time to disinfect every bit of urine-tainted Lego.

It struck me that there are infinite places to have wee accidents.  Here are just a few I’ve so far experienced (and I’m sure there’ll be many more):

  • On the leather sofa
  • Whilst standing up on a high chair, this sending an amazing cascade of wee whooshing down from a great height to the kitchen floor
  • Next to the actual toilet, on the floor
  • Next to the bath, discovered as I was about to step into my evening bath filled with essential oils (“ooh, it smells a bit different tonight, maybe the batch of lavender was a bit off?…oh…)
  • In our bed, amidst a Sunday morning breakfast in bed
  • In a plastic box containing pretend picnic-ware
  • In a play-tent
  • On the decking in the garden
  • At the foot of the stairs

Just yesterday, I counted 4 accidents in just one afternoon.  However on other days my littlest one is soooo good she gets loads of stickers on her reward chart (and a lot of chocolate treats!).

I’d like to hear your comedy experiences of potty training. It’s hard work, but I assure you that a slightly insane laugh here and there lightens the load!

I’m a bit late with this post, the Easter school holidays being over and all that, but hey – THE SCHOOL HOLIDAYS ARE OVER AND I SURVIVED (just)!

Tear my hair out, me? Never.

Tear my hair out, me? Never.

School holidays must be difficult for a 4 year old to understand.  My little girl started preschool last September – so to her she gets used to one routine, then it stops and she’s plunged into another for a week or so.  It must be confusing.

Luckily, she does tend to take these things in her stride. She asked the odd question, such as “when is it school again?” or “when can I see my friends again?” but on the whole she’s ok.

I’ve heard other parents talk about it over the years, telling others how their kids turn into ‘excorcist child’ over holiday periods and I find it difficult to understand. Surely they love being on holiday? Why should it turn them into complete terrors that their parents find difficult to deal with?

My 4 year old, despite being generally laid back about the holidays, is nevertheless not immune to this school holiday meltdown ‘thing’, I recently found out.  

It was a usual Sunday.  4 year old had played up a little in the morning (should have seen the warning signs!) but nothing major.  It was raining and we were discussing what best to do.

Going to John Lewis to get both girls’ feet measured seemed like a good idea at the time.

It wasn’t. 

The journey in the car to John Lewis was reasonable.  A few screams relating to “I WANT A SNACK!!” and “I’VE DROPPED MY CAT!” jangled the nerves slightly, but still normal-ish.

We arrived at the Clarks shoe department in John Lewis.  It was busy as everyone had the same idea.  There was a ticketing system.  I got my ticket and ambled around looking at shoes, waiting.

At which point 4 year old decided to run around the whole shoe area in repeated circles, yelling “IS IT MY TURN?, IS IT MY TURN?”.  A few heads turned, looks of incredulity/pity on their faces.  I decided to calmly ask her to quieten down and wait her turn.

Mr Expression was already not coping well at this point.  I thought he’d make a swift exit to the Hi Fi department, but all credit to him. He stayed for the whole sorry episode.

It was our turn for foot measuring – phew! A kind (already slightly harassed from the amount of kids she’d dealt with that day) lady brought the ‘foot measuring tool’ over to us.  4 year old does sit down, although she’s wriggling like she’s got a whole bee hive in her pants. 

“Can you keep still a second?” the assistant said.  Luckily, 4 year old kept still for long enough for the measuring to be complete. 

At which point I made the mistake of asking for some sandals to try on.  Cue 4 year old running up and down pulling shoes off the shelves and shouting loudly. At this point I wanted to leave of course, but thought of the poor lady who had disappeared behind the scenes to find a neat little selection of sandals.

My nerves were in a heightened state by the time she returned, but 4 year old stayed still for long enough to try a pair on.  The lady said “could you walk up and down a bit?”

Wrong thing to say. 4 year old legs it.  LEGS it, to the sound of the lady saying, voice slightly strained and quite panicky “come back!!”

Everything went downhill from that point onwards of course, and ended with 4 year old lying on the floor shouting repeatedly “I WANT ALL OF THEM!” when asked which pair she liked best.  Many parents were looking over, feigning annoyance but no doubt thinking they were glad it wasn’t their child for once.

I should also point out that our youngest, 2 1/2, was rather savvy in spotting a point to make herself look positively angelic in the face of chaos.  In the midst of all this, she calmly walked up to a pair of silver sandals, pointed to them and said to me “Mummy, please may I have these for Christmas?”

It’s a difficult one.  I have to remember that my eldest is only 4 and the only way she has to vent her frustration is to…er run round department stores and cause mayhem.

Note to self: next time it’s a holiday rainy day, choose a soft play centre! Or at least somewhere my energetic girl can let off some steam and run around to her heart’s content.

(And I may invest in my own shoe measuring tool!)

Image credit: womenshealthmag.co.uk

IMG_6320.JPG The Easter holidays are over for some of us, but for others there’s a week left. “Argh!”, I hear you say, “What shall we do with the kids?”.

May I introduce you to Sea Life based at the Intu Trafford Centre. It’s easily accessible via the M60 which provides a circular route around Manchester.  It’s also in the Barton Square area of the Trafford Centre which often has fairground rides and, very excitingly for my two girls, a large ornate fountain for them to throw coins in, make wishes and get me told off when I’ve suddenley realised they’ve taken their shoes and socks off, rolled up their pants and launched themselves in.

Sea Life itself isn’t cheap.  For a family of four you’re looking at £14.95 per person, although under 3s go free.
But there is a lot to see and do inside. There are 5000+ creatures, including sharks, jellyfish, seahorses, octopus and rays. The absolute favourite sight for my 4 year old and 2 year old is the underwater tunnel, where sharks and stingrays fly overhead, prompting a genius moment from my 2 year old where she called the shark an Aeroplane Fish.

That Aeroplane Fish again

That Aeroplane Fish again

Upon entering Sea Life, you’re taken on an interactive journey through ‘Turtle Bay’. This is a brilliant fusion of laser and 3d technology, bringing the turtles  and their story to life.
Then follows lots of colourfully lit tanks, with hidey holes for the children and some interactive games along the way. The children get the chance to handle some creatures, too, such as starfish and crabs.

In the middle of the tour there’s a soft play area to break it up a bit and let the children blow of some steam as it is educational, too, with a lot to take in.

What I like about Sea Life is it teaches the children (and us grown ups!) about the environment and our responsibility in maintaining that environment for the creatures that live in it. There’s a section on litter and its effect on our beaches – my two love this (although I do wonder if this is because they get to play with rhe sand).

If you’re at a loose end this week I’d advise checking out their website (www.visitsealife.com) and consider a visit.

Disclaimer: I’m an ambassador for Sea Life Manchester and was invited to attend free of charge for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

room on the broom live

Yesterday we went to see Room on the Broom Live at The Lowry in Manchester together with my fellow blogger Hodge Podge Days

Those with preschool children may be familiar with the book by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler.  It’s a simple and engaging tale of a witch and her cat, their broomstick and the animals they meet during an exciting journey to tackle a dragon.

I love The Lowry as a venue.  We’ve previously seen plays and pantomimes here.  The Lowry theatre is spacious and welcoming, the seating comfortable and facilities great.

But also, post-production there’s lots to see and do afterwards, whether it’s shopping, eating in one of many restaurants or simply taking scooters or bikes along the quays.

Room on the Broom Live was a great hit with my girls who are aged 4 and 2.  It’s not easy to keep the attention of children this age, but they were gripped for the full hour or so (I think it was just over an hour).

The production, by the Tall Stories Theatre Company, involved a mix of singing, puppetry and interaction with the audience. My two were singing “Iggety-Ziggety-Zaggety-Zoom” all the way home!

The dog, parrot and frog in the book were represented by the puppets which were cleverly handled by the four actors on stage. My favourite was the Frog, who sang his song in true cowboy style!

My little ones loved the Cat, however, played by Emma McLennan.  She was so funny and bossed the other animals (and the Witch) around brilliantly!

room on the broom live

Afterwards, we scooted around the quays, took a glimpse at the Blue Peter garden in the sun and my girls played in the play area while I had a well-deserved coffee! A brilliant day out!

Disclosure: We were provided with complimentary tickets to Room on the Broom Live by The Lowry.  All opinions expressed are my own.