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British mummy blogger and travel blogger

Tossed salad and scrambled eggs: Off to Seattle

OK, before you start complaining, it's for WORK. But I'm looking forward to flying to Seattle today for… [more]

Tossed salad and scrambled eggs: Off to Seattle Tossed salad and scrambled eggs: Off to Seattle

Turbo movie review and a new ambassador role

As you know I only ever agree to be an ambassador for brands I really love, or causes I really believe… [more]

Turbo movie review and a new ambassador role Turbo movie review and a new ambassador role

My Top 10 Things to do in Dublin

My grandmother came from Dublin, and some of our favourite family holidays have been spent in the Irish… [more]

My Top 10 Things to do in Dublin My Top 10 Things to do in Dublin

My vlog review of the Carnival Breeze family experience

Now, you'll have to ignore the fact that my skin looks rather shiny in this video; just bear in mind… [more]

My vlog review of the Carnival Breeze family experience My vlog review of the Carnival Breeze family experience

Win The Muppets Character Encyclopedia

As you know we're huge fans of The Muppets in this house and can't wait to see the new movie, The Muppets:… [more]

Win The Muppets Character Encyclopedia Win The Muppets Character Encyclopedia

Kate and Wills and in praise of the baby-free break

Honestly, you'd think the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had done something *really* terrible the way… [more]

Kate and Wills and in praise of the baby-free break Kate and Wills and in praise of the baby-free break

Tossed salad and scrambled eggs: Off to Seattle

SeattleOK, before you start complaining, it’s for WORK. But I’m looking forward to flying to Seattle today for several reasons. It’s one of the few US cities I’ve never been to before, so I’m looking forward to exploring it. And also, my main impressions of Seattle have come from popular culture: Frasier, Gray’s Anatomy, Twilight (although that’s more Washington State) and of course Nirvana. It will be interesting to see what it’s really like.

I can’t wait to see the Space Needle (I can’t promise to go up it) and the food at Pike Place Market; the EMP Musuem, which is dedicated to popular culture; and I’m also excited about seeing quite a bit of Washington State. I expect it will rain the whole time I’m there, but still.

As Seattle is known as the ‘Emerald City’ – it’s surrounded by forest, but it’s also supposed to be really ‘green’ – I’m also going to pick up some environmentally-friendly tips for my 30 Green Days Challenge too.

And of course I’m also going to try and find out if it’s really possible to get tossed salad and scrambled eggs. Will be back on Monday to share my adventures.

*Have you been to Seattle? Share your top tips for things to see and do below.

Easter chick

Hot cross bunMuch as I love Christmas – I even have a whole cupboard for our decorations, for goodness’ sake – Easter is, really, my favourite celebration. The fact that it’s spring, I can put out my everlasting Easter eggs, and of course it’s the chance to eat hot cross buns and A LOT of chocolate without any judging gives it the edge, IMHO.

Good Friday was mostly spent supervising *cough* Man of the House doing the weeding in the garden. And then there was that wonderful feeling of knowing that there were another three days of not having to do very much at all.

Roast porkOn Easter Sunday I hosted a big family get together – my sister usually does Christmas, I do Easter. This year there were nine of us for dinner and I made roast pork which as you can see turned out rather well (although there wasn’t quite enough crackling).

 

 

 

 

 

daffodils

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I put a jug of daffodils on the table…

blue glasses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and  bought some pretty new blue glasses…

pavlova

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and we made a pavlova…

…and afterwards we watched Frozen, and the whole day was pretty much as close to perfection as it’s possible to get.

Hope you had a fabulous Easter too.

*This is my entry for the Gallery – the theme this week (in case you didn’t guess) is Easter.

 

Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks review

Saving Mr.BanksSo it was, really, a bit of a Disney film fest in our house this Easter weekend, because as well as Frozen we’d been sent the DVD/Blu-ray of Saving Mr. Banks to review.  And this one I ended up watching on my own.

I should probably start by saying that neither I nor any of my family – and we’re all Disney fans – have ever really cared for Mary Poppins. Not enough animation, too many odd characters, and far too much Dick Van Dyke. Of course we know the songs inside out but the film was never really a big hit in this house.

But with a cast including Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks and Colin Farrell I was intrigued by Saving Mr. Banks.

It’s the story of P. L. Travers, who wrote the Mary Poppins books, and what happened when Walt Disney tried to persuade her to agree to let him and his studio executives turn her beloved books into a film. The story focuses on her trip to LA, where she became heavily involved with the script; but it’s interspersed with flashbacks to her childhood in Australia, where her father, Travers (played by Colin Farrell), whom she idolised, battled with the demon drink.

Ulimtately, we discover how this relationship impacted on the characterisation in Mary Poppins. At first, P. L. Travers is a decidedly unlikeable, unsympathetic character. We’re rooting for Walt, who seems affable and aimable; of course while he may well have been both these things he is ultimately a skilled and shrewd man, an artful negotiator, and it’s to the film’s and Disney’s credit that it doesn’t shy from showing this side of his character.

Saving Mr. Banks, really, belongs to Emma Thompson. No one cries quite like she does and gradually, as her chracter starts to soften towards the man who created Mickey Mouse, we start to soften towards the woman who created Mary Poppins: her childhood in Australia unravels until finally we understand the inspiration for Mary Poppins, and the eponymous Mr. Banks. I started crying about a quarter of the way in and didn’t stop until the credits rolled (when you also get to hear P. L. Travers talking on tape – there are lots of additional, fascinating features on the DVD/Blu Ray, too.)

Tom Hanks is of course excellent. The last film I saw him in was Captain Phillips so this was quite a contrast, and it was unusual to see him in a role where, for once, he isn’t really a hero. He conveys Disney’s complex character perfectly, and there’s a wonderful scene where he lets us in to what may (or may not) have been the inspiration for Disney’s own creativity. Farrell, too, is terrific.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter if you’re not a fan of Mary Poppins, because this is a film about Hollywood, and film making, and family, and grief. I thought Saving Mr. Banks was a beautiful, poignant film. There are several really memorable moments (I won’t spoil them for you) and the acting is wonderful. Not everything that happens in the film happened in real life exactly like it is portrayed on screen, but I’m sure even P. L. Travers would have approved of Saving Mr. Banks.

So, that’s my Saving Mr. Banks review. And here’s a trailer:

Disney’s Frozen and some actual Disney magic

When we were sent Disney’s Frozen on DVD to review, No 1 Son turned his nose up. Even though he had loved Brave, he wasn’t keen on watching Frozen – I think the strange-looking snowman on the cover put him off. Ben, 10 and Harriet, 17, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to watch it; and in fact, before we sat down to watch it together yesterday had already seen it five times.

Elsa from FrozenFor those of you who, like me, didn’t see at the cinema, Frozen is about two sisters, Elsa and Anna, who live in a land called Arendelle I’m guessing is supposed to be somewhere in Scandinavia, like a cross between Norway and Sweden, complete with very cute trolls. Elsa has a secret: she can freeze anything by touching it, even people, which has its pluses and minuses. At her coronation the truth is revealed, and she goes into hiding. Her devoted sister Anna (Kristen Bell) sets off to find her, with the help of a rugged mountain man, Kristoff, his loyal reindeer Sven, and an annoying/endearing (depending on your point of view) snowman called Olaf.

The plot is on the slight side, and the animation not quite as mind-blowing as some of my personal favourite Disney films, for example Tangled and The Princess and the Frog. But Ben and Harriet absolutely LOVED it. ‘It’s the story of the love between two sisters, and that’s really unusual,’ Harriet pointed out. ‘I like everything about it,’ Ben said emphatically, and I have no doubt he’ll watch it for an eighth time before the bank holiday weekend is over. What really elevates the film is the songs, which are instantly memorable, with stunning vocals, particularly by Idina Menzel. My favourite numbers are ‘For the first time in forever,’ and ‘Let it go.’ Once you hear them, you won’t be able to stop singing them.

But Frozen did bring about a small miracle. When we put it in the DVD yesterday (Easter Sunday), No 1 Son sat down reluctantly, along with his cousins, granny, aunt and uncle, girlfriend and me. And stayed until the very end. Now that’s Disney magic.

Tips for attracting wildlife to your garden

We spent most of last weekend in the garden, trying to tackle weeds but also as part of our 30 green days challenge trying to make the garden more attractive to wildlife.

squirrelFoxes, squirrels and birds already hang out in our garden (in fact sometimes I feel a bit like Snow White) but I’m very keen that we make it a haven for butterflies, bees and ladybirds. So after doing lots of research, here are some tips for attracting wildlife to your garden:

Ladybirds are a brilliant form of natural pest control because they eat aphids, and help pollinate plants. Like many gardens around the UK we’ve had issues with the *wrong* kind of ladybirds (the Harlequin Ladybird). Why does it matter? Well, Harlequins can actually move in to your house, bite you *shudder* and worst of all, eat native ladybirds. (TIP: if you don’t know what they look like, they usually have 15-21 spots on their back.)

The best way to attract native, seven-spot or two-spot ladybirds to your garden is to plant the kind of flowers they like, including dill, thyme and daisies.

Butterflies also help pollinate flowers and with moths provide natural pest control; their presence is an indication of a healthy environment and healthy ecosystem. The best way to attract them is to plant buddleia (butterfly bush), lavender and oregano.

And we’re really keen to get more bees in the garden. Bees are also natural pollinators, particularly of wildflowers which are essential to the food chain: but did you know that they’re estimated to contribute over £400million to the UK economy*, through the pollination of commercial crops such as tomatoes, peas, apples and strawberries? Bees really matter.

bee houseFortunately there are easy things you can do to help attract bees to the garden, including planting inexpensive and easy-to-grow flowers such as sweet peas and geraniums. We also invested in a little bee house (£12) which we’ve hung from one of the pear trees. We can’t wait to see if any bees decide to move in. Watch this space.

Remember, one simple act each day can inspire a lifetime of green habits. Watch out for the hashtag #30greendays for more ideas and tips.

*source: bumblebeeconservation.org

Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner

As you’ve probably deduced from the title of this post, this is, really, an ode to London. I’m fiercely proud of the fact that I’m a Londoner, born and raised in SW London; I spent my teenage years hanging on the King’s Road, Chelsea, where I now work, and I have a knowledge of short cuts to rival any cabbie.

Westminster and the London EyeAnd I’m also fiercely proud of the fact that my son is a Londoner, born and raised here too. I love that so many people from all different backgrounds live here; the culture, heritage and history; the breathtaking views from the river and incredible architecture. I never, ever get tired of it, and even though I travel a lot I’m always happy to come home.

Sometimes, I do fantasise about what it would be like to move to the seaside, but the truth is I can’t really imagine living anywhere else. I’d miss it too much.

So this is my post for my beautiful city, London, for Tara’s gallery. The theme this week is ‘a favourite place.’ Well apart from this photo, which I snapped from the top of a London bus last week, I’ve put together a little slide show – some of these photos you may have seen before, some are new, because you never run out of photo opportunities in London. I hope you like it.

Nominate a green charity to win 6000 pounds

Recycling-30-Green-DaysThis week, as part of my 30 Green Days Challenge, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much food we throw away as a family. (Admittedly this was worse when No 1 Son was small, and used to squirt blackcurrant all over his food when he was fed up of eating it, but even now we do waste a fair bit.)

Of course, we’re not alone. In fact, in the UK, we throw away almost 7 MILLION TONNES of food and drink from our homes every year. That’s shocking, isn’t it? Particularly when you realise that if we stopped wasting food, there would be huge benefits to the planet – the equivalent of taking one in four cars off the road, in fact.

It’s made me resolve to ensure we waste less food as a family, so from now on I’m going to be really strict about what I’m buying: no more picking up bits and pieces here and there and then forgetting all about them or ordering takeaways because I can’t be bothered to cook and throwing away fresh food. We’re going to have a meal plan and stick to it. And plan in the takeaways.

I’m also trying to make sure we recycle as much as possible. I only found out recently, for example, that you can recycle empty aerosol cans. As a family we’ve resolved to make sure we’re recycling 80% of our household rubbish, and something I’m seriously considering right now is getting a compost heap to take care of the food waste. We used to have one of these when I was growing up as a kid and I can definitely see the benefit now I’m thinking more about how much we throw away.

I’d love to know how much you recycle – and if you have any tips for composting, do let me know.

And meanwhile here’s some really exciting news. SC Johnson have agreed to give £6000 to a British environmental charity, chosen by me. That’s right, £6000. I KNOW. Isn’t it AMAZING? I feel like Oprah, or something. But I do need your help to find a suitable charity to receive the award.

All you have to do to nominate a deserving charity is leave a comment below telling me why you think they should get the funds, giving me as much detail as you can about their work, and their website. This is your chance to really shout about a green charity you feel does great work and could do with an extra £6000. It could be a conservation charity that is helping to protect endangered British wildlife; a woodland charity; or one that encourages people to live a more sustainable life. There are so many brilliant environmental charities to choose from – the only stipulation is it must be a British charity, working in Britain (not overseas), and it must be registered (this will be verified).

Entries close at midday on April 28. I’ll be choosing the winning charity with the help of a representative from SC Johnson. The usual The Mum Blog competition rules apply.

And don’t forget, keep looking out for the hashtag #30GreenDays on twitter to pick up eco-friendly tips.

My best travel photograph

Back in January I wrote a post called ‘My Best Travel Photography so far‘; at the time, I think it probably was. But then I went to Norway and took this photo of a spectacular sunset….

Norwegian sky….which I think is probably one of the best photographs I’ve taken so far (absolutely no filter, the colours were really like that).

Governor's Beach Grand TurkAnd in February I took this photo on Governor’s Beach in Grand Turk, which is pretty cool – it makes me long to be on that beach…

Oresund BridgeBut if I look back at the photographs I’ve taken so far, then I think this one, of the Øresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark is still my favourite (if you’ve ever watched The Bridge, you’ll know it as the um, Bridge), and I think probably my best travel photograph to date. I love how the bridge silhouetted against the night sky makes it look almost black and white. It feels like a ‘proper’ travel photograph. But most of all I’m proud of it because I know what it took to take it – I had to lean over the side of our ship’s balcony in the dark.

*This is my entry for the Gallery – the theme this week is ‘A photo I’m proud of’.

My 30 Green Days challenge

30GD-logo-for-releaseWhen you’re a parent you feel a sense of responsibility not just to your family but to the world your children are growing up in; you want to help create a better environment for your offspring and for generations to come. Which is why I’ve agreed to become one of the SC Johnson bloggers and take on their 30 Green Days Challenge.

The idea is that we try to make one small positive change every day, because that one simple act can inspire a lifetime of great green habits. We’re quite an environmentally-conscious family anyway, but there’s always something more you can be doing, right?

For example, this week I was going to have my hair Brazilian blow-dried. The idea of having beautifully soft, straight hair for about six months with no need for straightening is incredibly appealing. But I’ve decided not to have this done because the treatment isn’t so great for the environment, and so yesterday I cancelled the appointment. I’ll just have to put up with being frizzy in the rain (and humidity).

Earth Hour 2014On Saturday night, instead of having Earth Hour, we had Earth Evening; we turned off all the lights and sat in the dark for about three hours. It was actually a lot of fun and more than a little spooky (particularly when the dog started barking at something unseen in the garden).

tulipsI try to encourage ladybirds to chase away the greenfly in the garden by planting out lots of tulips, which apparently they’re very attracted to.

I’m also encouraging Ben, who is 10, to really think about what he’s throwing away, and recycle as much as possible instead of just putting everything into the bin; while I’m insisting No 1 Son remembers to switch off the games console at night.

And at work I’m trying not to print out stuff I don’t actually need a physical copy of; so I’m saving electricity and paper.

I really hope you’ll join me for the 30 Days Green Challenge – watch this space because later this week I’ll be revealing how you can nominate your favourite green charity to receive a fantastic donation, courtesy of SC Johnson. And do look out for the hashtag #30GreenDays on twitter.

My French selfie

So it’s been a few weeks since I’ve managed to make The Gallery, mostly because I’ve been in France. In fact, when the theme for this week’s Gallery popped up on my twitter feed I was in Lyon, strolling around in the spring sunshine, wearing my lovely pink coat for the first time and my sunglasses, natch, and just about to go and eat my entire week’s calories in crepes. The theme was ‘What I’m Doing Right Now’, based on the instagram hashtag #widrn. (I much prefer this hashtag to #latergram, which to me seems a little, erm, after the event.)

Liz JarvisHere you go then, my French selfie. What I was doing right now, last week, when I read the instructions for the Gallery. Pay attention there at the back.

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