Randomise – game fun for all the family

Now as you may know we are massive game fans in this house. Our shelves are heaving with board and card games of all varieties. Chiswick Daddy loves strategy games best, whereas I have a penchant for word games and family board games. And Chiswick Boy loves chess and mah jong. Plus we know dozens of parlour games that only need pen and paper. Most nights have dinner we'll have a round of a game.

And what we all love as well (and where we agree) is fun, giggly games that we can play as a family. Particularly that we can bring out for a large group at Christmas, or on holiday. Or… well any time really.

So when the makers of a new game, Randomise, asked me to try it out I was uber happy! They sent us a free game to play around with.

If you asked me to describe it in a sentence I'd say it's a mixture of pictionary, charades and taboo, in a deck.

 


Can you mime an anxious penguin juggling?

One thing I like about this game is that it's a grassroots game, and an example of what people that love games can do if they put their mind to it.

It was “born on a cold winter commute from Brighton to London” and Hazel Reynolds and her husband Chris funded the first run with a kickstarter campaign.

How often have any of us had great ideas for games, and then left the ideas to wilt slowly away? I love the fact that Hazel and Chris had a great idea, and then made it happen.



Can you draw a cold clown climbing a tree?

So you want to know what the game's actually like don't you?

Like a lot of good games it's a pretty simple concept. Three sets of cards: One with actions, one with nouns and one with adverbs/adjectives.

 

You draw three cards meaning you end up with a random combination: A Nervous Monkey Tapdancing; or a Scared Penguin Climbing a Tree.

Once you have your combination you then either mime it out; describe it or draw it.

You're meant to roll a die to decide whether you mime, describe or draw, but we keep it simple by letting people just choose what they want to do.

Oh, and each card has easy and hard options, which makes it more kid friendly.

 

Can you describe an Enormous Snail Gardening?

Look – here's a definitely non-Pinterest-ready shot of Chiswick Boy acting out a speedy bird dancing — to the best of my knowledge anyway, it all got a bit blurry as we ended up playing for ages.

And yes, normal people would tidy up before shooting photos to go with a review. Or at least move the weekend papers, and the dirty plate.

Hey – what can I say? We'd much rather play games than tidy up any day…ahem.

 

What I like about this game is that we often dig out the cards from Taboo, or play give us a clue, at Christmas when we have lots of relations.

We go round the room taking turns, but there's always someone who says 'oh, skip me' because they can't be bothered to get up and act it out.

Randomise caters for all age ranges and tiredness levels, as you can get up and leap about, or just stay sitting on the sofa and describe it. Basically – noone has an excuse to join in. No, not even Uncle Kevin who's had a few too many roast potatoes and is falling asleep on the armchair.

Above is my attempt to draw an Anxious Detective Making Popcorn. And below is goodness knows. I THINK it was a happy lizard getting married. What do you mean you can't tell from my drawing…

.

Our verdict: simple concept, fits easily in an overnight or travel bag. Good for whipping out on a rainy day in a pub, or after dinner. Great present, if you're buying a family a game for Christmas or a birthday.

Yes, at a push you could just grab the cards out of taboo, or pictionary and make up a similiar sort of game, or just write down some options on bits of paper and stick them in a hat. But isn't it nice to have something well printed, and well presented, that is all in one set.

Thumbs up from us.

Please note, we were sent a free pack of Randomise to try out and review. The rambling thoughts are my own. The cat's ours too.

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Randomise – game fun for all the family

Now as you may know we are massive game fans in this house. Our shelves are heaving with board and card games of all varieties. Chiswick Daddy loves strategy games best, whereas I have a penchant for word games and family board games. And Chiswick Boy loves chess and mah jong. Plus we know dozens of parlour games that only need pen and paper. Most nights have dinner we'll have a round of a game.

And what we all love as well (and where we agree) is fun, giggly games that we can play as a family. Particularly that we can bring out for a large group at Christmas, or on holiday. Or… well any time really.

So when the makers of a new game, Randomise, asked me to try it out I was uber happy! They sent us a free game to play around with.

If you asked me to describe it in a sentence I'd say it's a mixture of pictionary, charades and taboo, in a deck.

 


Can you mime an anxious penguin juggling?

One thing I like about this game is that it's a grassroots game, and an example of what people that love games can do if they put their mind to it.

It was “born on a cold winter commute from Brighton to London” and Hazel Reynolds and her husband Chris funded the first run with a kickstarter campaign.

How often have any of us had great ideas for games, and then left the ideas to wilt slowly away? I love the fact that Hazel and Chris had a great idea, and then made it happen.



Can you draw a cold clown climbing a tree?

So you want to know what the game's actually like don't you?

Like a lot of good games it's a pretty simple concept. Three sets of cards: One with actions, one with nouns and one with adverbs/adjectives.

 

You draw three cards meaning you end up with a random combination: A Nervous Monkey Tapdancing; or a Scared Penguin Climbing a Tree.

Once you have your combination you then either mime it out; describe it or draw it.

You're meant to roll a die to decide whether you mime, describe or draw, but we keep it simple by letting people just choose what they want to do.

Oh, and each card has easy and hard options, which makes it more kid friendly.

 

Can you describe an Enormous Snail Gardening?

Look – here's a definitely non-Pinterest-ready shot of Chiswick Boy acting out a speedy bird dancing — to the best of my knowledge anyway, it all got a bit blurry as we ended up playing for ages.

And yes, normal people would tidy up before shooting photos to go with a review. Or at least move the weekend papers, and the dirty plate.

Hey – what can I say? We'd much rather play games than tidy up any day…ahem.

 

What I like about this game is that we often dig out the cards from Taboo, or play give us a clue, at Christmas when we have lots of relations.

We go round the room taking turns, but there's always someone who says 'oh, skip me' because they can't be bothered to get up and act it out.

Randomise caters for all age ranges and tiredness levels, as you can get up and leap about, or just stay sitting on the sofa and describe it. Basically – noone has an excuse to join in. No, not even Uncle Kevin who's had a few too many roast potatoes and is falling asleep on the armchair.

Above is my attempt to draw an Anxious Detective Making Popcorn. And below is goodness knows. I THINK it was a happy lizard getting married. What do you mean you can't tell from my drawing…

.

Our verdict: simple concept, fits easily in an overnight or travel bag. Good for whipping out on a rainy day in a pub, or after dinner. Great present, if you're buying a family a game for Christmas or a birthday.

Yes, at a push you could just grab the cards out of taboo, or pictionary and make up a similiar sort of game, or just write down some options on bits of paper and stick them in a hat. But isn't it nice to have something well printed, and well presented, that is all in one set.

Thumbs up from us.

 

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Sudden sunshine – that was the weekend that was

Bit of a quiet weekend this one. Do you also find that weekends tend to go in phases? We'll have a few of rushing around and seeing stuff. And then feel like staying in our pyjamas and taking things slower.

I'm no good at staying in pyjamas all day though. And a weekend's not a happy weekend without at least going for coffee, and having a play at at the swings.

On Saturday we headed to the Fields, which is in Northfields stroke Ealing.

We stumbled into this cafe a while ago, on our way somewhere or other, and were amazed to find a jazz duo playing clarinet and guitar. So we've been determined to go back for a while.

The live jazz is from eleven am to one pm, every Saturday.

Saturday isn't Saturday for me without the Saturday Times, and I love nursing a cappuccino working my way through the crossword and kenken puzzles, while Chiswick Boy reads a comic and Chiswick Daddy reads the bits of the paper that I'm not using.. :-]

If your children are Toxic comic fans don't be confused by this cover – it's an old one that we grabbed from the pile in his room, as he's just read the latest one.

 

I'm meant to be on a bit of a health kick at the moment – but I think Saturdays are the universal day off from self-improvement. So had this lovely raspberry danish:

Chiswick Boy had a chocolate muffin, which he got a bit funny about because it had this custard filling. Personally I think the custard filling was the best bit, as the chocolatey bit was a little too dry for my liking.

 

 

Strange behaviour

Now I didn't know whether to write about what I'm about to say. As I know it's all so bloody easy to get Ms Judgy Pants on other parents.

But I found it a little odd that the woman next to me with her young child sat fidgeting on her phone the whole time, until eventually he asked for the ipad. Which was handed over, as he then proceeded to watch you tube videos with the sound turned up loudly, even though there was live jazz playing.

In her defence I'm going to presume that she must have been tired and exhausted and hit that bewildered plateau where we just want five minutes peace from our kids.

I think it's a lesson that paper and crayons are a good addition when going out to a cafe. Goodness knows I've found myself in enough cafes, exhausted and desperately in need of peace, to realise I had nothing to entertain the boy with.

I find the noise thing weird though – we are so adamant about not making any ipad or iphone noise in a public space – whether cafe or public transport. I also think that it's good to set aside cafe time as a time to read, draw etc – at least for a while before the ipad comes out.

Yes yes aren't I so clever, laying judgement on another mother when I am just as likely to hand over the ipad when I want a bit of peace. And I'm the mother at the swings taking the time to catch up with some tweeting, while other doting parents are following their off spring around, pushing them and engaging them.

 

Everything I do, I do it for you

Remember when this single from Robin Hood was number one forever and ever, or at least thirteen weeks?

We were reminded of this on Saturday when we introduced Chiswick Boy to the film on DVD for our pyjama matinee.

I loved this film when it came out. I saw it at the cinema three times – twice in one day…:-]

The only thing I'll say is that it's rated PG, whereas watching it now with Chiswick Boy I would have rated it a twelve. There's quite a bit of painful death. And there's a part when the evil Sheriff of Nottingham says to a woman in his chamber – 'who told you to cover up', as she tries to pull her dress up when someone storms in on them.

Chiswick Boy asked me about this scene afterwards.

I do look to the British Board of Film Classification to give guidance on what films are appropriate for which age groups. I understand that ultimately parents have to exert parental responsibility, and kids develop at different ages. But you can only make a judgement call when you're watching the film – which is too late…

I wonder whether you need a third rating, which is ten say.

You could argue that I'd seen this film before so I should have remembered what it was like. And that if I was that bothered I'd watch a film first before letting my son watch it with me. What can I say – you're probably right. Mea culpa.

 

We're in the digital age – all eight GB of it

One of the exciting things that happened last week was that after months of agonising, I bought a MacBook Pro.

Since I started blogging in two thousand and twelve, I've done all my blogging on my ipad. In fact I don't think I'd have started blogging at all if it wasn't for the ipad. Suddenly I had something I could use wherever I was, while I was watching Chiswick Boy nap, or lying in bed next to him as he tried to fall asleep.

I do have an old desktop mac, but it's far too old to do my wordpress on, or connect with the ipad or phone to get the photos.

I did worry about spending the money – a grand. But what I've thought is that it's a bit of investing in me and the blog. And it's been so great at the weekend discovering how macs have moved on since I got my old mac in two thousand and three. It connects with all my files on the ipad, and notes and photos I do on the ipad and iphone are instantly available on the mac.

And I'm hoping it means we can finally free up some space on all of our ipads. We don't have a properly functioning desktop or laptop in the house, so this should help all of us.

The big thing that struck me is that it's silent. I'm used to computers purring and chugging. This one is peaceful as a sleeping baby.

The deal I've made with myself is that this is the month that I send out my book to agents, and that I will make back the money I've spent on the mac through writing, and not through the day job.

 

Here come the sun

Sunday was gorgeous wasn't it? We got the recliner chairs out in the garden, swept up and tentatively let ourselves believe that summer wasn't just a figment of our imagination, that it might actually return this year.

Sat out in the sunshine in your favourite chair, in your PJs, eating a juicy apple and playing with your lego spooky sticker book. What could be more fun for a little boy?

We also did a lot of playing in Boston Manor Park.

Climbed trees…

And had the first calippos of the season

 

And thus endeth the weekend. Roll on the next one… What did you get up to at the weekend?

 

 

 

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That was the weekend that was: from bubbles to big bangs!

It was the last weekend of the Easter holidays and I did my best to enjoy it and not do too much moping at the thought of going back to work. Don't get me wrong, I love my day job. I just love hanging out with Chiswick Boy more!

We're blessed by being just a short tube ride to the museums, and that's where we headed on Friday. I thank the universe that the main museums are free in London, and long may it stay that way.

I don't think any day is half as happy without a cappuccino, and Chiswick Boy feels the same way about cafe treats. So at South Ken we had a brief pitstop at Gail's, where the take out coffee wasn't bad tasting, although weaker than I'd have liked.

But look at the size of the reverse chocolate chip cookie! (No, I never did work out what the reverse bit meant!)

Yes Chiswick Boy still has his nails painted in this shot, from when I did them the previous Saturday! Hurrah for Easter Holidays!

 

Just before the Science Museum there was the first bubbling busker that I've seen!

He had a gaggle of kids enthralled, skipping around the patch of green and chasing the bubbles.

It was one of those magical moments that remind you why living in London is all so worthwhile!

 

Science show

The Science Museum often puts on free shows for families during holidays, and we were delighted to find that we were in time to be first in the queue for the explosions show.

The shows fit around 200 people in, and it's first come first served.

It promised bangs and explosions galore, and it didn't disappoint.

The presenter was infectiously bubbly and involved kids from all parts of the arena, not just those on the front row, which was a great touch.

Thankfully she also used kids from the front row, as that's where Chiswick Boy was sitting.

And when he got picked to set off the finale, whopper explosion I was excited as he was!

 

 

 

Saturday morning cinema

On Saturday morning Chiswick Boy and I headed out to what has become our little Saturday morning ritual – the family cinema at the Watermans. It's the local independent arts centre, with a cinema, theatre, coffe bar and even an Indian restaurant!

Chiswick Boy wore one of the infamous Grams creations. My mum knits amazing sweaters, pullovers and cardigan-jackets for Chiswick Boy, in amazing colours.

Every Saturday at 11am Watermans puts on a PG or U rated film, at a fiver a ticket.

This week we saw Capture the Flag. My ideal Saturday morning film has an uplifting message about following your dreams against the odds, and also has lots of smoochy bits with mothers telling their kids they love them. This ticked both boxes!

After the film it was a mad dash to get back and all chip in and tidy the house before my aunt and uncle came round to drop off some Easter presents (they've been laid up with colds, hence the delay.)

 

Hunkering down

Even though I love us to be outside, there's something undeniably fun about mocching around the house on a Saturday afternoon, even when it's sunny outside.

We played some chess…and yes, that really is a Pokemon Pez standing in for the white queen! Sigh, it was almost instagram ready!

I used to love playing chess with my dad when I was Chiswick Boy's age (8), and then for some reason as I got older I began to concentrate more on writing and bookwormy things. It may partly be to do with the fact that my little brother gravitated more towards maths, and chess-y things. So I veered more and more into the arts.

In true form, I went on to read English at Oxford, while my brother read Maths there.

I really hope that I can do all I can to help Chiswick Boy nurture both sides of his personality. I don't think there's a need to choose between science / literature / performing arts / gaming – I think kids are naturally Renaissance creatures. I wonder why we feel the need to specialise so early on at school?

For the time being he loves curling up with a Horrid Henry book as much as exploring chess puzzles (above), as well as climbing trees, playing Minecraft, Skylanders, role playing Rise of the Guardians, drawing and the list goes on!

It's all about fun, and living life to the max at his age. This boundless capacity for joy seems to be innate in children and it's a great lesson for me.

“Come on mummy, where's your fun spirit?” Chiswick Boy says to me when I say I just need to tidy up before riding the sofa rocket to mars. And I know he's right.

 

A Walk in the Park

Sunday came with the inevitability that Monday would follow. And the mad dash to find uniform, book bag, work clothes and PE kit.

But we took time out for a wonderful long walk in Boston Manor Park, paying a visit to our favourite tree, just perfect for climbing.

It's still that halfway house between winter and spring. There may be blossoms but half the trees are still leaf-less and the skies have a tendency to suddenly turn a silvery grey.

And then suddenly the sun comes out again and it's time to jump for joy.

 

So that was our weekend that was… as I type I'm sitting on the sofa, precariously balancing my ipad on a pile of books, trying to make sure the charger doesn't fall out. (It's been on a steady 15% for the last two hours.)

I've finally decided that I'm going to invest in a mac book to do my blogging and photo processing on.

Just using an ipad has been amazing for 3.5 years, but the constant running out of space and low batteries are taking their toll on my sanity!

And I have some other news about my blog – I've got a bit of a refresh happening later this month. I'm moving over to self-hosted, and have been doing a little bit of a redesign at the same time.

In the meanwhile, here's a sneak preview of my new header. (Unless I change my mind – again!)

 

So what did you get up to last weekend? Did you have a mad dash getting ready for the Back to School Monday, or was it a breeze?

 

 

 

 

 

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11 great books I’ve read in the last month

Last month my lovely blogger pal Helen Chandler wrote this:

“I love the posts my blogger friend, Chiswick Mum, writes about her family weekends, and as, in keeping with my new policy of dragging myself out of hibernation, I actually have something to blog about, I’ve shamelessly nicked the idea. I hope she will forgive me, and take it in the spirit of ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’”

Well of course I was chuffed. But I do hope that blogger imitation is indeed flattery, as I'm now nicking one of Helen's ideas!

Helen does great write ups of her monthly reads, and as an equally unashamed bibliophile I'm going to follow suit.

 

A love of reading

We all love reading – and I'm really glad Chiswick Boy has discovered this joy too. Reading was such a solace for me when I was growing up. Although of course it didn't have to compete with the lure of an ipad!

 

How I read

I always have a fiction book go on the Kindle. I was an absolute luddite when it came to ebooks, until my brother bought one for my birthday in autumn 2014. I was dubious, but it didn't take me long to get completely hooked.

Now I always carry the Kindle with me wherever I go, and am blessed with a 20 minute train ride at the beginning and end of each working day (Monday-Thursday), which is much-revered reading time.

I also have non-fiction books by my bed which I like to dip into. Plus I normally have a self-development and creativity book or two on the go too.

Oh, and Chiswick Daddy and I take it in turns to read Chiswick Boy to sleep each night. We've always done this, from the earliest board books. And now that we're firmly in the realm of chapter books we each enjoy choosing our own book to read to the boy.

 

Commuter reads – What I read last month on the kindle

1. Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope

My mum's a massive Trollope fan. Very witty stuff, peppered with brilliant social observations that ring true today.


2. Human Remains, by Elizabeth Heynes

I do love a good psychological thriller with an endearing female protagonist and this ticked the boxes.

 

3. A Study in Scarlet, by Arthur Conan Doyle

The great thing about the Kindle is being able to carry entire works around with you in your handbag. I've got the complete Sherlock Holmes and – much prompted by boxsetting Sherlock – I'm going to work my way through.

 

4. The War on Witches, by Paul Ruditis

Charmed is my favourite tv show – it reminds me of long days boxsetting it while supposedly 'freelancing', back in the pre-baby days. I've just discovered these novels which carry on the story from where the tv series ended, and I can honestly say they're well written! It's been a great way to re-visit Charmed after all these years. Go on – judge me!:-)

 

5. Let Gorgons be Gorgons Parts 1 & 2, by Paul Ruditis

Yes, more Charmed novelisations! For reasons known only to Harper Collins, this novel is being released in installments.

 

6. Bear Grylls' Survival Guide to Life

Inspirational stuff.

 

Bedtime reads – what I've been reading to Chiswick Boy

1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, by JK Rowling

Yes we're just beginning our Harry Potter journey together. I read the first few books in French a few years ago when I discovered that reading kids books was a really good way of keeping up my French.

For Christmas we bought Chiswick Boy the new illustrated edition of the first Harry Potter book and it really is beautiful. And this woman knows how to write. Chiswick Boy was hooked.


2. Paddington at Large, by Michael Bond

We're reading this at the moment. Paddington is such a loveable character and the domestic scenes have such a homely lot of mischief. Perfect bedtime reading.


Other books I've been reading or dipping into by the bedside


1. The Artist's Way for Parents, by Julia Cameron

I adore Julia Cameron. Her 12-week creative programmes in book form are life changing. I read the Artist's Way years and years ago, and this is a similiar creativity book but for parents.


2. Plan to Get Pregnant, by Zita West

Because when you're trying to get pregnant and it's not happening, you'll look for anything that helps. I have a pile of fertility books to get through.


3. What Should I Do with My Life? by Po Bronson

When the doldrums strike, or I'm thinking about whether I should try and leave the day job and follow my dreams, this is the book I reach for.


Okay, that was my last month's book round up. What are your recent favourites, or what would you recommend I read next?

 

 

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That was the weekend that was: Kids unplugged in London

Every week I have good intentions that I will write up my weekend and publish it by Monday lunchtime. But here we are, it's already Thursday and I'm still writing about last weekend! One day I will get properly organised! But in the meanwhile, here is last weekend!

Friday was a special day: not only was it my first day of the Easter holidays at home with Chiswick Boy (Chiswick Daddy was at home with him the first week) but it was also the first day that felt truly Spring like.

 
Magical mystery tour
Chiswick Boy and I decided to start off with a bit of a mystery bus tour. This is something we've done before: just hopping on bus after bus and seeing where they take us.

This is why we randomly ended up drinking lemonade and cappuccino outside the Holiday Inn in Brentford. We then ended up abandoning the idea of busses and walked down Brentford High St, enjoying the sunshine while chatting away.

The great thing about walking in London is that you always notice something new, even when it's a road that you've trodden many times before. Like this war memorial:

Not a monument to the Second World War, or even the first – but to the civil war.

 

Civil war history

Brentford and Chiswick are steeped in Civil War History. The Battle of Brentford was on 12 November 1642, won by the Royalists who went on to sack the town. This is what the monument above is dedicated to.

The day after was the famous Battle of Turnham Green – not really a battle as much as a standoff between the 13,000 strong Royalist army and the 24,000 strong Parliamentarians. The Royalists were blocked from entering London – in itself a massive victory for the Parliamentarians.

This battle took place at what is still called Turnham Green of course (the actual green, not the tube station). Although it's a much smaller green. In fact the tube station would also have stood on the green back then.

 

Why does time cause an emotional distance?

Thinking about the civil war history that this part of London is built on, I do wonder about the emotional distance that time puts on history. It is easy to get embroiled in the historical facts about the civil war and forget that these were real people, with real wounds and real fear, with real war crimes against a backdrop of what Wilfred Owen called “the pity of war”.

When we look at the monument in Turnham Green to the second world war, for example, the horrors seem so much closer than the coloured historical plaque telling us about the civil war battle for Turnham Green.


To infinity and beyond

And from writing about war, to writing about finding Buzz Lightyear in a charity shop. Such is the whirlwind that is parenting!

There's a lovely little charity shop near the Watermans centre, and we dropped in to rummage in the toy section.

And that's where Chiswick Boy found Buzz Lightyear – a bit broken in places, and in need of a serious wipe down. But with a bit of TLC we have the power to take him back to infinity and beyond! Not bad for a pound.

 

Giving me goosebumps

We hopped on a bus headed to Richmond next and… oh reader, I confess. I took Chiswick Boy to McDonalds.

Chiswick Boy really wanted to go to the cinema too and we looked at the Odeon's listing. I really like going to the Odeon Kids Club which is just £2.50 a pop, and have also seen some new releases there.

The thing is that just to go in and see Kung Fu Panda Three on Friday afternoon would have come to almost £26… I just couldn't face it. And the next morning we went to see Goosebumps at the Watermans for a much more palatable £5 each.

 

 

Looking for the sound of silence

But going back to Friday: We normally really like Richmond but that afternoon it just seemed we weren't in the mood for such an urban adventure.

Have you noticed how loud the world is sometimes? The cacophony of modern sounds that harass you as you walk from one end of the street to the other. Filled with horrible noises, where a nice noise could have sufficed just as well.

  • That horrible bleeping of the green man
  • The nasty beeps from shop doors when they open
  • Busses that make horrid noises when the doors open.

So we escaped to that haven just down the road from Richmond: Kew Gardens.

 

Kew Gardens: a little bit of wilderness in London

We've had annual passes for years, and have just upgraded to a joint family pass, so Chiswick Daddy and I can both take a family guest, as well as Chiswick Boy. It just gives us a bit more flexibility to take my mum when she visits, or my aunt and uncle.

One of the best things about Kew Gardens is the great kids play area – both an inside bit and an outside bit. The inside bit is technically a place for parents and children to play together. But barely anyone does that. Instead the tradition is for parents to sit on the wide steps inside (generally nursing a coffee from the White Peaks Cafe next door) and let the children roam around.

 

Easter Bunny trail still on

Kew Gardens also has an Easter Bunny trail – which runs until 10 April. Kids hunt out six giant golden bunnies and then answer questions which give a letter. Once the six rabbits and letters have been found, they need to be rearranged into a seasonal word, and then that answer can be swapped for a real, bone fide mini chocolate Lindt bunny at the gate.

 

Saturday fun

We had so much fun at Kew Gardens on Friday that guess where we went on Saturday with Chiswick Daddy also in tow?

That's right – Kew Gardens again!

This time we had a really good walk around the gardens. One of my favourite spots is the Marianne North gallery.

Marianne North (1830-90) is such an inspirational character.

She travelled the world researching and drawing plants, and her botanical illustrations are gorgeous. I always feel uplifted in the gallery, whose walls are simply crammed with beautiful and exotic paintings. It's impossible to sit there and not be touched by wander lust.

 

Always something new – at Kew

Every time I visit Kew Gardens I see something new. I know that sounds such a cliche but it's absolutely true.

I'd never really paid attention to this folly before:

I love the idea of follies – when I lived in West Yorkshire there were so many of them, often towers built near mills, that served no practical purpose.

Just in case you're not familiar with the term, a folly is something built for purely ornamental purposes, with no practical purpose: usually something antiquarian or gothic in appearance. So here at Kew we have a faux Roman arch.

 

A walk in the park

On Sunday we hung out at our favourite park: Boston Manor Park. The stately home bit is open at weekends, April-October, so now's a great time for you to visit. (The house is free to get in, and is manned by volunteers.)

This is Chiswick Boy's favourite tree to climb:

I do think it's important to be outside as much as possible – it does us all the world of good. Even when – perhaps especially when – we feel all slumpy and cold and just want to stay indoors in our pyjamas.

Don't get me wrong – we love our indoor activities too. And the weekend was also punctuated with several games of Mah Jong, and some film watching. Not to mention large bouts on the ipad, as well as playing Skylanders on the Wii and Minecraft on the X Box.

So although I've called this post 'kids unplugged' – we were definitely plugged in over the weekend too.

But on the whole it was a weekend of feeling Spring like, and finally believing that the warmer weather was here. And that really is what the Easter holidays should be all about.

Oh, and on Monday we went to Chessington World of Adventures. But that is a whole new blog post!

 

So what did you get up to last weekend and over the Easter hols? Plugged in, or unplugged? Or a bit of both?!

 

 

 

 

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That was my Chiswick Easter Weekend

It was a blowy Easter weekend.
My heart went out to the poor mother that lost her daughter on the bouncy castle. The pain and agony that she is feeling – and the anguish that so many mothers feel every day.
It really just makes you want to hug and hug your children and count your blessings every day you have with them.
And it seems strange doesn't it to just go on after that and write about our weekend, but it really is a celebration of life and of motherhood and of Chiswick Boy's childhood.
 
When we got to Kew Green, we found a tree that had been blown over in the wind. There were so many children climbing over it when we got there that we thought it was some organised activity to begin with!
 

We were heading for Kew Gardens but it was closed. They lost 12 trees, with many more possible losses. After the tragic accident there died a couple of years ago when a woman was killed by a falling bough, I guess that they – thankfully – weren't taking any chances.

A lovely woman was just inside the gates though, handing out chocolate Lindt bunnies through the bars to children who'd come for the day.

 

An Easter Monday lunch fit for a queen

Queen of our hearts that is! Yes, my mum – Grams as she's known in our house. She was down for the weekend bearing lots of chocolate eggs.

We went out for Easter Monday lunch and ended up at the Botanist on Kew Green. It was our first time there. It's a massive space inside – loads of tables and little nooks and crannies too.

I will do a proper write up and review later, but here's a bit of a snapshot.

 

Yorkshire pudding for a Yorkshireman

Chiswick Daddy and I both had the pork loin with crackling. It was beautifully presented and tasted lovely. Yorkshire pudding was large and up to the standards of my Yorkshireman Chiswick Daddy!

But the only downside was that the crackling was a bijou, delicately laid on top affair. Whereas my idea of crackling is a great fatty cholestral-attacking row of the stuff. Apart from that it was lovely.

Grams had fish and chips, but asked for roast potatoes instead of chips which they happily obliged with.
 
 
And I thought that Chiswick Boy's cheeseburgers and chips were very cutely presented. The chips were gorgeous too (obviously I had to do my maternal duty of being chip tester. It's a very important role I'll have you know and one that I take very seriously. Really. Yum.)
Word to the wise – it's not immediately obvious that there's a children's menu at the Botanist. We asked for it on the off chance, and I'd originally thought that I'd have to get Chiswick Boy the main burger at £11 which I know he wouldn't have finished.
This child's burger was a more palatable £6 and just enough for him!


Pitstop upon pitstop

We did have another pit stop that day – at the Express Tavern by Kew Bridge.

Mum spotted all the statues in the garden as we were passing and we wandered in. I've never been inside before – so another first for us all!

Inside the bar area they were playing old vinyl Elvis Presley and the barman was really friendly. Mum's cup of tea came in a proper teapot and cup. Look at that:

She's mega fussy about her tea (in the same way that I'm mega fussy about my coffee). She hates the tea I make for her!

But I can say hand on heart that she said the Express Tavern tea was the “best cup of tea I've had in a long while”.

We'll definitely be back when it's warmer and next time we'll try out their Sunday lunch!

 

 

The Ballet and the Chinese Buffet: a North London adventure

On Good Friday we'd headed up to Angel, as we were kindly given press tickets to see Snow White at Sadlers Wells.

I do have a deep-rooted affection for Sadlers Wells. I grew up reading the Lorna at the Wells set of books, and I still find it impossible to watch the ballet without thinking that when I grow I'll be a ballet dancer. Sigh. No reality check please – let me just daydream about floating in gossamer and lace.

 

Instilling a love of the arts

The production was flawless – truly breathtaking. And it was part of Sadlers Wells family weekend, with lots of free and taster activities in the foyers.

I do love theatres that do outreach like these over school holidays. Let's face it – living in London costs so much and for many of us it's a lifestyle choice. Little things like this remind us why the slog of the daily commute is worth it – and helps us fall in love with London all over again.

And it helps fill our kids with a passion for dance and music and art – and all those things that people have been coming to cities for since the invention of cities themselves.

I'm going to do a proper write up about Snow White, but for now I'll just add that one of the best bits was the cast of kids for the crowd scenes, from a local school.

The show itself was a twisty retelling by our lovely poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, and the show has a narrator too so everyone can follow the story along.

 

Apples and noodles

Chiswick Boy loves noodles and I'd promised him that we'd go for some before the ballet.

We met up with my ex, whom you may remember we meet up with a lot. It's an ex from a while ago – after all, I've been in a relationship with Chiswick Daddy for 14 years this year! But my ex has remained one of my best and closest friends.

So we popped into One and One near to Angel tube, which was your standard Chinese all you can eat buffet. I haven't been to one for years and years and it was Chiswick Boy's first introducton to this very London experience: the all you can eat Chinese buffet!

It was £7.50 for the grown ups, and just £5.50 for Chiswick Boy – and the sweet and sour chicken was particularly scrummy.

They had lots of fresh fruit on offer too. Which is why Chiswick Boy's plate looked like this – it's what happens when an 8 year old meets his first Chinese Buffet. Apple slices and Noodles!

 

Sink or swim

Suffice to say we ate more chocolate than you can shake a chocolate stick at, and we're still finding little bags of mini eggs that the Easter Bunny left around the house.

But of course Easter Sunday wasn't just eggs this year – it was also the Boat Race!

I was cheering for Oxford of course – being a Dreaming Spires graduate myself.

We went down to the Chiswick Pier House as there's always such a fun sense of camaraderie there (and a bar). It was bitterly freezing though.

It was especially exciting and momentous this year as we saw the women's race at more or less the same time. So many people say 'I didn't even know there was a women's race' – and I was the same until last year. So I'm really delighted that the profile has been raised. Not before time!

I think few things are more inspiring than seeing the Cambridge women with smiles on their faces in a near-sinking boat, still rowing and determined to finish the course.

That is what I think the boat race is all about – determination and tradition.

Not a bad mantra for Easter itself really.

 

How was your Easter? And what did you get up to?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Chiswick 5 mins with… Ahrani Logan

It's the latest in my regular series of 5 minute interviews with local folks. I love finding out about the people that help make this such a vibrant, creative and friendly place to live.

Today it's time to meet Ahrani Logan. Read on and find out why Tweet Ups, artisan coffee and local ecosystems help make up Ahrani's Chiswick life.


Name: Ahrani Logan

Business: Co-Founder Peapodicity



How long have you been in Chiswick?


I have lived in Chiswick for the last eight years.



Favourite place to unwind in Chiswick?


I used to hang out at Sam’s Brasserie but nowFoxlow has won my heart with their unique and delicious cocktails!


I also like The Crown & Anchorpub which has been a very successful venue for theChiswick Tweet Up which I organize.


The Tweet Up is a chance for the local Twitter community to have a Face-to-Face social and I have made some lifelong friends here.


It’s usually the last Friday of the month. But check through my Twitter timelinefor more details.


I have been approached by other venues in Chiswick to host and so we might be mixing it up in the future!



What's your top local tip?


Check out TAMP coffee on Devonshire Road. It’s got the best pastries and artisan coffee on this end of the High Road.


The owner Dorian is very friendly. And it’s a cool place to hang out for coffee with a friend or to do some work.



And what's your Chiswick hidden gem?


The Gunnersbury Triangle is probably the most hidden of them all.


A friend introduced it to me and we took the kids who enjoyed looking at the plant life and local ecosystem. It’s like going for a walk in the country but without actually leaving Chiswick.


You feel transported to a different location immediately. The magic of a forest trail I guess!



Vacation or staycation?


Having a child is costly. There are lots of great (and free) things to do in London.


But if money were no object, I would choose vacation. Somewhere culturally interesting or somewhere warm and calm. Although given I have a 7 year old, I should probably say Disneyland or DisneyWorld!



If you weren't in Chiswick where would you be?


If we are talking UK, it would be London and I would go for somewhere like Holland Park, or Hampstead.


But if it’s out of the UK, I would head Stateside.


Chicago has a vibe and an energy about it that is very similar to London and has amazing culture and bars. But I have always had a soft spot for New York too.


I would love to be in sunny California one day.


Tell us what about your typical day:


I recently set up a business with my other half. As I get older I realize the key to productivity is having some structure or routine.


I get up early. I might tweet. I might do some exercise. I will have a cold shower to wake me up properly. Then coffee and breakfast.


I do like reading articles I discover on Twitter.


I have got much better at skimming through large quantities of material very quickly. And if it doesn’t catch my attention in 20 seconds, I am off to the next thing.


I will then sit at my desk and work in batches. Always having a goal and aiming to complete at least five tasks in one day.


You have to have a lot of discipline working from home. Some days the tasks are bigger, some days smaller, but I always aim to move forward, even if it’s inch by inch.


Of course this is all broken up with the usual run of the mill household chores.


I studied neuroscience so I know the brain needs regular breaks to stay focused. So I will usually break up activities into 40 minute chunks.


Although it has been known for me to become so engrossed I might be found working into the early hours.

I used to have the rule of not opening my e-mails until later in the day, but more recently I have been relying on sending out emails to push things forward. So that’s a bit of a change at the moment. But I still try not to let the inbox run my day!


My day can end anytime from 3pm on some days to 6pm or 9pm on others. It really does depend on who and what is in front of me. And I will work late when I need to because I know I might be taking the weekend off, for example.



Mother? Business? What hats do you wear?


I wear both hats of Mother and Co-founder ofPeapodicity.


Peapodicity is a tech creative startup with a passion for STEM and STEAM. (Science, Technology, Engineering, (Arts), Mathematics).


We recently won a Nationwide competition run by University College London (UCL) called the Rosalind Franklin appathon.


The challenge was to come up with an app to empower women in STEMM (the extra M stands for medicine). We pitched an education app for children aged 7+ to engage them in critical thinking, and problem solving and increase their knowledge base about female STEMM role models.


We are currently developing the app and it will be launched later this year in the App store.


I am also a STEM Ambassador for STEMNET, a charity that encourages school-children to become engaged in STEM subjects. I am speaking with them about integrating the app into their STEM Clubs in the future which is very exciting all around!


I am a Mentor for the School of Biological Sciences at University of Leeds, where I did my degree. And I am also a Mentor for Kings College, London, where I did my postgrad.


Being a mother has inspired a lot of the work that I do now. My daughter inspires me no end, and I hope that my work will inspire her and other children both now and into the future.



What's on your bedside table?


I love to read. I find I am reading a lot more non-fiction and I like to read books that make me think or inspire me. I have just started reading “Sprint” by Jake Knapp. It’s about agile development, which is what you need for a tech startup.


My “dip into” books at the moment are “How We Learn” by Benedict Carey which appeals to my fascination with the brain.


I also love my Calvin & Hobbes books! I need humour!


Books that empower women will also always find a place with me.



Is there a book in your bag?


I tend to grab “easier” reads for my bag.


But at the moment the only book I have is my notebook as I like to use any travel time now to think or let my mind wander. Sometimes I will need to scribble something down.



Is your glass half full or half empty?


My glass is Definitely Half Full. I would Like to say it’s Totally Full on some days!


I believe in a Positive Mindset. Life throws its challenges in various ways but you can’t let those moments define you.



Secret talent:


Hmmm… I am HUET-qualified, although I probably need a refresher. It stands for Helicopter Underwater Escape Training.


I had to do it when I was filming offshore for a Discovery Channel engineering series about building an underwater pipeline.


Technically it means if a helicopter ditches in the North Sea or similar, I Should be able to escape! I wouldn’t like to test that though!


I can also do, according to my 7 year old, a good impression of a lullaby-singing Minion!

 

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A Chiswick 5 mins…with Sofia from the Chiswick Bookshop

It's my regular '5 mins with' feature, where we meet some of the fab and creative people that help make this such a great place to live.

This time we meet Sofia Vallejos, Manager at the Chiswick Bookshop on Turnham Green Terrace.

Read on and see why a stroll down the High Road, pub quizzes and Frida Kahlo help make up Sofia's Chiswick life.


How long have you lived / worked in Chiswick?


I've just moved in to Chiswick! Only 7 months living and working here and I already love it and feel very well connected.


What's your top local tip?

A nice stroll in the high road, with some stops in my favourite pubs. Chiswick House in a sunny day. Local ice cream!


And your hidden gem?

Those narrow roads by the river, near St Nicholas church, get a wonderful light during the evening.


What's your perfect Saturday in Chiswick?

Having breakfast in Angie's little food shop, in the high road; visiting all the bookshops (while eating ice cream!); meeting up with some friends at The Tabard in the evening and maybe joining a pub quiz; enjoying some live music or a nice meal around Devonshire Road.


Tell us about your day job in a nutshell…

The first thing I do when I open the bookshop is putting the kettle on! So everyone can have a cup of tea while browsing.

I get the delivery (it feels like Christmas every day) and contact all the customers who have ordered something.

I make sure all the books look great on their shelves, read some reviews and The Bookseller and, if I'm lucky and it's quiet, I get to read!

We always get interesting people in and have long great conversations with our neighbours and visitors, most of times over a glass of wine!


Philosophy on life?

Whatever you want to do in life, do it with pride – and enjoying yourself. Never stop enjoying yourself!


Glass half full or half empty?

Always full (of wine, hopefully).


And now a few questions about books and bookwormery:

Favourite book as a kid

The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Last book you read that you thought you'd never admit reading

I honestly think I've never read something that embarrasing. But I'm actually about to! The Incredible Melting Man, a bizarre horror and tacky book from the late 70s. Can't wait.


What's on your bedside table?

Too much stuff. The normal pack (lamp, clock, books) and a long list of objects I refuse to let go or put somewhere else.


Best current kids writer

I love Oliver Jeffers and really enjoy reading him.

I always say you don't need to be five years old or have kids to enjoy a good children's book. They're great!


Best current writer for grown-ups

This question is really too hard. But, if I have to choose a contemporary writer, I'd say Chuck Palahniuk.

Generally, I read really old books whose authors are dead, but being a bookseller makes you stay updated!


Thriller or romance:

Although I'm not a thriller person, I loved The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, from the Swiss author Joel Dicker.

If I have to pick a romance, I must go to my South American roots and pick Love in the Time of Cholera by Garcia Marquez.


Biography or self-help:

Frida Kahlo's biography really touched me. I read it as a teenager and it had a huge impact in my life. She became a role model and an inspiration for me!

Would you like to take part in my 'Chiswick 5 mins with…' series? Or know someone who should? Drop me a line at chiswick_mum @ yahoo.co.uk

 

 

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Kids unplugged: a London weekend

Been ogling over photos of my nephew – even though we were there the previous weekend (which I blogged about) it seems like ages since I've had a cuddle. And at this age (a week old!) they seem to change every day. Not just getting bigger, but their face seems completely different as each day passes.

How can such a young body look like it has such an old soul? I have the privilege of not just being his aunt, but also his godmother-to-be, so expect quite a few photos of this young lad as he grows up!

 
This is what a £4 cupcake looks like
 

 

Don't get me wrong – I'm not complaining. Yes of course in one sense it's ludricrous that we'll pay £4 for a cupcake.

On the other hand I'm a great believer in paying for the experience. And I'd rather go somewhere nice and have a memory of something special, than just buy something to munch on the way.

Plus I get to take lots of photos of the food and the places we visit. Do you know this is one of my most liked pictures on Instagram?

We were at Selfridges on Oxford St, and I was at that stage where I was desperate to sit down and we are all in need of a hot drink.

This is Chiswick Boy's cake by the way. I had the mac & cheese from the food hall…

 

Did Chiswick Boy love his cake? Not really – I'd foolishly got him a hot chocolate too and it was just too much chocolate even for a chocolate fiend such as Chiswick Boy. Sigh.

Chiswick Daddy enjoyed it though! Very rich – and very chocolatey! With lashings of chocolate frosting.

Chiswick Boy did manage to pick off all the sweets and eat them, and eat the biscuit, and then lick half the frosting off before handing it over though!

We'd nipped in to Selfridges specifically for a coffee and the all important loo trip. But I was derailed somewhat by having to walk through the shoe halls on the way to the loos.

Oh the shoes.

The shoes.

The shoes.

I almost fell down and wept at a pair of silvery gold trainers (brand forgotten)..and similiarly shaded sandals from Birkenstock (I've got a thing for metallics at the moment – God knows why. Iron deficiency probably!)

Needless to say, Chiswick Boy and Chiswick Daddy weren't up for a slow amble through the shoes so I'm goign to head back there on my own. And you don't need to really splash out by the way – they have Top Shop and the afore-mentioned Birkenstocks as well as Valentinos and Michael Kors.


Cherish the little moments that make up a London childhood

I was reminded that in London you really need to get into the flow, and not try and stick to an itinerary. Because that's when the magic happens.

It was meant to be a big clothes buying mission. Chiswick Boy has a thing for H&M and I was going to let him loose in there as a treat. Plus he keeps on trying to pull on clothes that are now too small for him.

A pair of Gap jeans that he was struggling with yesterday turned out to be age 5, but it feels like I only bought them on Chiswick High Street yesterday, not 3.5 years ago!

But the mission was disbanded as Chiswick Boy was feeling too ill and coldy and just wanted to go home. On the way down Oxford St though we found this busker and Chiswick Boy (as kids will do in their generious spirit and unstoppable zest for life) started dancing to his music.

The busker loved it and asked him to keep dancing, and then gave him a CD.

I'm kicking myself because I wanted to give him a plug here on my blog – but haven't got the CD with me so I'll add it in here later.

 

Home Sweet Home

I love the way our cat sits on our doorstep waiting for us sometimes, like a dog. Ooops – looks like our doorframe could do with painting though!

We'd planned on heading to the George IV on Chiswick High St on Sunday to watch the over 12s breakdancing competition and have some Sunday lunch. But Chiswick Boy was still feeling coldy and miserable.

A firm believer in that fresh air is needed for health (mental and physical) I persuaded him to get dressed anyway and come out to the park.

 
Kids unplugged
I love the fact that even in this digital day and age a ball and a bat is enough to keep a kid entertained for hours.
This bat was about £3 from Tiger, last Summer. And it's provided hours and hours and hours of joy.


We had a great time playing our little made-up cross between rounders and baseball.


Chiswick Daddy and Chiswick Boy took some time out to discuss tactics.

 

Then poorly Chiswick Boy said he wanted hummus and breadsticks. And what a poorly boy wants a poorly boy should get! So a quick nip to the shops later (no – I'm not organised enough to have proper quantities of hummus and breadsticks on my person for such impromptu picnics. Hashtag fail.)
We had a park picnic – and ther were no breadsticks in the shop so we had to make do with a Jacobs cracker selection box. Yum!
 

We rounded off the day by snuggling on the sofa in our jim-jams, watching our boxset of the 1970s edition of Famous Five. Lovely.

 

 

So just a plain old London weekend really – what about you? What did you get up to?

 

 

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