Sunday, 27 January 2013

Chester Zoo Review

Is it just my child who hates going on day trips?  I'm sure it can't be.  Any mention of leaving the house to do anything out of the ordinary results in tearful protestations about wanting to stay at home and play with his cars (you know, just for a change).  The child has to be forcibly put in the car or we'd never get to go anywhere.  I actually remember being much the same as a kid; we'd go on holiday to Cornwall and my mum and dad would want to take us out to do different things every day and all my brother and I wanted to do was stay at the holiday cottage and fanny about in the big garden.  Simple pleasures.

So, our trip to Chester Zoo started with whining and complaining a-plenty and the words "get in the car NOW. We are GOING because some nice people sent us a free ticket and I have a review to write. And I want to see baby giraffes even if you don't, you ungrateful little philistine."  Not ideal, but I am the Parent Blogger Who Tells The Truth and I will not deviate from this.  I grimly strapped the grumbling little toerag in his car seat, gave him Les the Meerkat (long suffering favourite cuddly toy) for company and turned the music up to drown out the whining.

Thankfully, it did get better as Chester Zoo is brilliant, and Rory would have had to make a spectacular effort to keep up the grousing when faced with all the wonders that it contains.

We've taken Rory to zoos before, but he hasn't really appreciated them and as I surveyed all the crying toddlers in pushchairs that surrounded us, I have to say that taking a child under the age of three to the zoo might be a bit optimistic.  It's definitely a trip for the over threes and you get the feeling that children appreciate it more and more and they get older.  This was the first time Rory was genuinely excited about seeing the animals, and he grinned and chattered non stop all the way round, dragging us from one area to another and keeping up an enthusiastic running commentary.  Having Les the Meerkat with us definitely helped as he liked showing him all the animals/threatening to feed him to the lions.

Incidentally, you really must consider going to the zoo out of season.  It's so much more pleasant when it's less crowded and the cold didn't bother us at all, plus you get much better photos of the animals in wintery light.

It's hard to say what the highlights were as there were so many - this zoo is enormous. Rich and I were pretty impressed by the giraffes.  We'd never seen them so close up before and were shocked at how enormous and fast they were, plus the baby one was adorable.  The penguins were, of course, dudes.  And the lions were being fed when we got to their enclosure which was both fascinating and mildly petrifying all at once.  I liked all the weird animals like the whiskery orange pig things best, and the meerkats and porcupines went down well with all.  We even managed to catch the 'flying sky train' (Rory's term - can't remember what it's actually called. The monorail anyway) from one side of the zoo to the other, which was fun.

However, an adult's idea of what's good and a small child's view of the same are wildly different.  We all thoroughly enjoyed our day, but for different reasons, which I have tried to capture in the two photo collages below:

Actual cool stuff we saw 

Top row: Elephant, flamingos having a domestic, enormous butterfly.
Middle row: Baby giraffe, a friend of Les, rhino.
Bottom row: Ginger whiskery pig thing, penguin, red panda.

Rory's Highlights - why Chester Zoo is good according to a 3 year old

Top Row: SKY TRAIN, something disturbing hanging out of a chimp's bum; maybe a scrotum - who knows,  extortionate monster truck ride.
Middle row: Duck (yes, all those animals to see and he liked the duck best), filler graphics as ran out of photos, climbable elephant statue.
Bottom row: Sharing the experience with stuffed meerkat mate, some poo, balancing on stuff.

As you can see - differing opinions but we all ending up having a wonderful time, whatever the reasons, and that's what really matters. We'd all recommend a trip to Chester zoo, although be aware that it's not cheap.  During low season, you're looking at about £45 for a family of two adults and one child for admission, and when you've added on the cost of lunch, added expenses like a charge for the monorail etc and a potential trip to the gift shop at the end it's going to be anywhere between £60-£100 for the day.  We were sent our ticket for the review by, who have a voucher site, so it's possibly worth checking on there for deals first.

At the end of the day, we all had a great time and returned home with sore feet and that comfortable, happy feeling of having had a brilliant day out as a family with not a whinge in sight from the boy.  Lovely.  We'll definitely be back.

We were sent a free family ticket for Chester Zoo as part of the Moneysupermarket Britain's Best Days Out Promotion in exchange for a review.  

Friday, 25 January 2013

The Home Spa Experience

I didn't really understand the point in spa days before I had Rory.  I'm a busy sort of person and would always have rather spent my time doing something productive rather than sitting there being pampered.  It seemed like a big waste of time.  However, now I'm a parent I totally get it.  A few hours of sitting around doing nothing while someone does nice things to me and attempts to make me beautiful without a three year old chattering non stop about Spiderman and using my breasts as hilly terrain for his monster trucks? BRING IT ON.

So I was mildly skeptical when I saw that Amy Neale (Aqua Sana spa manager - they're the ones at Center Parcs, incidentally) claimed that you could turn your home into a peaceful and relaxing sanctuary for the day. Seriously?  My house?  Oh well. Worth a try.  Time to don my husband's Boba Fett dressing gown (the nearest thing we own to a spa robe) and give it a whirl:

Step 1: Jacuzzi
Throwing myself in whole heartedly, I had bold plans to recreate that weird thing that Eastern European men do when they sit in steam rooms eating salty snacks, then run out and roll naked in the snow whilst being hit with sticks by their womenfolk.  It's been snowing in Cheshire.  I have access to a range of big sticks in the woodland at the back of our house.  I have a packet of crisps.  I have a husband.  I don't have a steam room, but what I do have is a paddling pool, access to lots of hot water and a toddler willing to blow bubbles through a straw to recreate a hot tub in our back garden.

Sadly, Richard was none too enamoured with the thought of sitting in our paddling pool eating Monster Munch in sub zero temperatures and being beaten afterwards.  I think it was the state of our paddling pool that really put him off.  This is where it's been wedged for the past 18 months, collecting filth and dead leaves and, you know, toads and things because I couldn't be bothered to put it away in the shed.  Time for a re-think.


So, a bit less creative, but you can't go wrong with a hot bubbly bath by candlelight.  Easily done, and the tea lights can be strategically placed to hide the bits where the grout needs re-doing.  This was the glorious scene that awaited me:

Sadly, the combination of water and naked flame set off Rory's Toddler Hazard Alert alarm. DOUBLE HAZARD, I REPEAT, DOUBLE HAZARD, GET IN HERE IMMEDIATELY, WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP.  Within seconds, he'd pelted into the bathroom entirely naked and thrown himself into the bath, where he proceeded to play experimental jazz on his bath flutes.  FFS.  Right, not quite what I had in mind, but I could share my spa bath with my child, couldn't I?

"Are beards going to start coming out of your legs soon, mummy?"  Cheeky little shit.  It's only been 2 days since I shaved them.
"Do you remember that time I did a poo in the bath when I was a bit little, mummy?"  That I do. "You know, and it got stuck under the bath mat and I trod on it?"  Yep, that's wedged firmly in my mind as only a distressing bath turd incident can be.  "Wouldn't it be hilarious if I did that again?"  "No it most certainly would n....RICHARD,  RICHAAAAAAAARD,  I'M GOING TO NEED A SIEVE AND A BIG BUCKET OF DETTOL UP HERE.  AGAIN."


Step 2: Relaxing back massage:
I dream of a handsome young man massaging my poor, wrecked back with relaxing oils while I drift happily off to sleep.  I'm sure Richard dreams of this too (except maybe a woman rather than a man).  What neither of us dreamed of was back massage Rory-style, which involved various toy cars being vigorously driven up and down our backs.  On the up side, it definitely un-knotted some muscles, and I'm sure the bruises will fade within a week or so.


Step 3: Exfoliating treatment:
Or, as some may call it, 'getting attacked in the sand pit by a child who's hell bent on grinding damp grit into your skin with the aid of a stolen spatula.  It definitely removed any dead skin cells I had floating around - in that it removed most of my skin.


Step 4: Face mask:
Amy Neale says you can make a face mask out of natural yoghurt and honey.  However, I wouldn't know as while I was peering into the fridge wondering whether it would work with a strawberry Petits Filous, Rory made off with the last one and ate it.  In other news, there is sand everywhere.


Step 5: Hydrate:
Excellent.  Wine anybody?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Hotter Boots Review (from pubic wigs to comfortable shoes in one easy blog post).

I have a theory as to why I look so disheveled all the time.  It has nothing to do with my lazy grooming habits.  No.  Definitely not.  It's all because I don't own a car.  Think about it:  If you have a car, you step out of your house looking perfect every morning, get straight into your car, drive, and arrive at your destination looking just as you did when you stepped out of your front door.

If you don't have a car, you leave your house looking perfect and are instantly subject to whatever the weather has decided to throw at you that day.  My personal favourite is that sort of drizzly, grey rain that Cheshire seems to specialize in - the sort that turns your hair from salon straight to ratty old merkin within 30 seconds.

Having to walk everywhere also wrecks your feet and your shoes.  I wear through a pair of boots in less than a season, however expensive they are, because I walk miles every day.  They get scuffed and muddy the first time I wear them - also due to that walking malarky.  And my feet...well, 'ouch' is all I can say about that.  Whether I'm wearing trainers, heels or my trusty old wellies, my feet are agony after a day of trailing around everywhere I need to go.

Fortunately for me, some very nice people at Hotter Shoes took pity on me and sent me a pair of their boots to test.  They are all about making shoes comfortable; not something that sounds particularly sexy and exciting, but very useful indeed.

I expected to find it difficult to choose a pair that I liked - mainly because the words 'comfortable shoes' conjure up images of the horrid brown sandals my mum used to make me wear when I was 5.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find many pairs of boots that looked nothing like the orthopedic horrors of my nightmares.

I chose this style - Jade - in the winter taupe colourway (now out of stock, but there are four other colours to choose from):

They go perfectly with my mummy uniform of skinny jeans and have been tested thoroughly over the past month or so.  So far, they have pounded pavements (I estimate at least 100 miles worth), negotiated canal tow paths, woodland, cobbles, muddy puddles, dirt tracks and shopping centre floors (those really slippy ones).  They have also sprinted after my kamikaze child on his new bike as he freewheeled down a particularly steep hill shrieking "I'M GOING TO DIIIIIIIIE."  Even more importantly, I have been wearing them on the school run during the recent snowpocalypse, and I haven't fallen on my arse once.  You have to know me well to appreciate how miraculous this is, but believe me, it's nothing short of amazing.

photo by Ian Clark

I love them, and my feet haven't hurt at all in the entire time I've been using them.  They actually feel like they cushion your feet, and I can walk 6 miles in them and get home feeling like I've just popped down to the local shop.  If you are a no-car-walking-everywhere-parent like me, you really do need some Hotter boots - have a look at their sale now.

Sadly, my hair still looks like a moth eaten brillo pad after I've walked into town and back.  Now...who wants to get me to test one of those keratin blowdry jobbies?

I was sent a pair of Hotter boots to test in exchange for a review.  All opinions are my own and I did not receive payment.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

January Confessions

Time to purge my soul.

1. I sometimes wear my PE kit to drop Rory off at preschool on the pretence that I'm off for a run afterwards.  This is not the case.  It actually serves two purposes: 1. I don't have to wash my hair or put make-up on if I pretend I'm working out later.  2. It makes me look far less conspicuous when I sprint home as fast as I can in order to maximize my child free time at home.

2. Every time Mr Tumble mentions his spotty bag I pretend he's talking about his scrotum for my own amusement.

3. I found a used pull-up behind a curtain yesterday.  It had almost definitely been there since before Christmas.

4. Speaking of which, I actually get jealous of the vast piles of presents my child gets at Christmas.  Yes, well done Father Christmas, jolly good haul for the boy this year. Now where are all my presents, motherfucker?

5. Am also a bit jealous that Rory gets shoes bought for him every 4-6 months.

6. I used one of the three wise men from my knitted nativity scene to dust the fireplace last week.

7. There was no child friendly food left for Rory's packed lunch box on the first day back at preschool because I'd eaten all the Babybels.

8. I forgot to wash my son's hair for 2 full weeks.  Well, not so much 'forgot to' as just...'didn't'.

9. I made an underwater Lego scene with whales and fish and things.  I pretended it was for Rory's pleasure, but actually it was so my husband would think I was cool and fancy me more.

10. I had a Very Wrong Dream about Tom Jones last night.  This has nothing to do with parenting or housewifery, I just wanted to put it out there.

Your turn.