Project Brabham - get involved! #ProjectBrabham

It’s no secret here that I’m a big motor racing fan.  It’s a love I share with my Dad and brother and Monkey is getting better at recognising Formula One teams on the TV during the grand prix shows.

There are certain names that are synonymous with racing, Brabham is certainly one of them.  My Dad remembers the days when Sir Jack Brabham raced himself.

Project Brabham

Jack Brabham 1966 F1 World Champion (credit…

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Monkey and I were recently sent a couple of parcels – treat time for two!

Treat time for two

As some of you know I’ve started a sewing machine course recently (just need to buy my own machine!!), and am a keen cross stitcher. But my sewing box for the last few years has been a plastic box.  I was definitely in need of an upgrade!  So this lovely Sewing Box is just what I needed. Treat time for me!

As you can see I’ve fitted lots of cottons and accessories in the removable plastic tray and still have plenty of space to fill in the box itself.  My loose pins now have a home at last. For £24.99 it’s reasonably priced and the quality of the finish is good.  I’m one happy seamstress.  Presents for Men (who also supply gifts for women and children!) also offer a Sewing Machine bag to match – so if Santa decides to bring me a sewing machine of my own, maybe he’ll bring me this bag too!

Now, you may well have noticed that the blog was deathly quiet last week – I can’t remember a time when I posted nothing on the blog for a whole week.  Unfortunately I had a really nasty virus which totally wiped me out for the week and then Monkey got a tummy bug to add to the drama.  It meant that by today we were definitely in need of treat time for two.  We snuggled up on the sofa together this afternoon and watched Rio 2 on DVD for the first time.

Treat time for two

Having not watched the first Rio film, I was hoping that that wouldn’t matter.  Luckily I was right, Rio 2 is a good, entertaining watch either way.  I have a bit of a thing for Macaws as we had a couple at home when we were small.  So seeing an animated film that features them kept me hooked from the start.  We meet Blu (who we learn as the film goes on, must have been reared in captivity in Rio 1), his wife Jewel (who came from the Amazon originally) and their children Carla, Tiago and Bia.  They live in a sanctuary in Rio, believing that they are the last of their kind.  That is until a news report informs the world that Blue Macaws have been spotted deep within the Amazon rain forest.  So starts the adventure as the family decide to find the rest of their species.

It’s a lovely film, and having seen Monkey’s reaction, I think we’ll need to see if Rio is on TV over the Christmas holidays.

After the last week I think we really did deserve some treat time for two!

disclaimer:  we were sent these items in exchange for an honest review.

Treat time for two - Rio2 and a Sewing Box Monkey and I were recently sent a couple of parcels - treat time for two! As some of you know I’ve started a sewing machine course recently (just need to buy my own machine!!), and am a keen cross stitcher.

The best new film releases for Christmas 2014

As Christmas approaches, what better gift to give your family than the delightful escapism of cinema?  Whether you’ll all be huddled around a 72 inch wide 1080 HD projector screen or squinting at a wall-mounted LCD as you peel the potatoes for the roast, make sure you have a great selection of new DVD releases to bring the magic of cinema to your household throughout the festive season.

The…

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So our first full day in Catalunya was about to begin.  We would be spending the morning and afternoon in L’Estartit before heading off into the countryside in the evening for some culinary delights with I Cook It at La Vinyeta.

Good morning L’Estartit!  What do you have in store for us?

L'Estartit

The sun was shining as we opened the doors out onto our balcony at Hotel Medes II. As soon as we saw how close we were to the beach we knew where we’d be heading after breakfast.

L'Estartit

We enjoyed our continental breakfast – Monkey was in heaven when he saw cheese and ham.  That was him filled up for the morning.  We were meeting up with our guide at 10am, so we had a bit of time to go for a wander and get our bearings.

L'Estartit

Come on Mummy, I can see the sea!  I love visiting Spain outside of the main summer months, when the weather is still normally better than at home, but not so hot to make exploring too strenuous for little ones.  It was going to be a lovely sunny day, definitely t-shirt and sandals weather.  Our hotel was just a few streets back from the beach and it was lovely to see the seaside town of L’Estartit wake up.

L'Estartit L'Estartit

Daddy P found an information board (we noticed a number of different boards around L’Estartit during the day – always handy).

L'Estartit

The sea looked so tranquil and we just enjoyed time together watching the world go by.

L'Estartit

The promenade looked so tempting, we wanted to explore but it was time to meet the rest of our party.  I had a feeling that we’d be getting up close and personal to this view pretty soon.

L'Estartit

Illes Medes are the only islets along the Catalunya coastline and is a Marine Nature Park. The area is a popular scuba diving base and we were visiting on the only weekend of the year when people can actually explore the small islands on foot.

Remember I mentioned fireworks yesterday?  We’d arrived in L’Estartit on the first night of a weekend of ‘Pirates I Corsaris’ festivities.

L'Estartit

The Fireworks were announcing the arrival of the pirates rather than my cheeky Monkey. We were off on our own pirate adventure on board El Corsari Negre. Why pirates?  Well the Illes Medes were used as a base by pirates in days gone by, for raiding trips along the coast.  Ahoy me hearties!

L'Estartit

The whole town of L’Estartit had really joined in with the pirate theme, it was lovely to see. Monkey decided to wear his favourite pirate t-shirt and once he noticed other children were wearing bandanas it wasn’t long before the full-blown Pirate Monkey was raring to go.

As we walked along the marina we passed market stalls offering all sorts of lovely goodies – I think Daddy P was quite glad I didn’t have the time to sample and purchase!

L'Estartit

We looked at all the different sailing boats, glass bottom boat tours are really popular in this area.  If we had more time in L’Estartit we would definately explore this option as the glass bottom boat tours offered various options.  I spotted mention of Sant Martí d’Empúries and partially submerged ramparts, and a mental note was made – need to explore that in the future!

L'Estartit

I was a little anxious about Monkey and the boat trip.  He’s not done anything like this before, but he loved it.  He grew up so much during the weekend, new experiences, meeting new people and making friends; he seemed to just know that this was a fantastic opportunity and that he really should enjoy every moment.

We spent a wonderful hour or so seeing the Illes Medes up close.  It was so peaceful and we all just relaxed and soaked up the scenery. The water was crystal clear and Monkey got to help feed the fish – he got so excited when he could see them literally fighting each other to grab an easy lunch.

Once we’d left the ship it was time to explore L’Estartit itself.  I love wandering through the pedestrianised streets of Spanish towns.  Given more time I would have been off up side streets in search of hidden treasures.

L'Estartit

We watched a bit of a pirate themed show in the town square before heading off for lunch. We’d been invited to dine at the restaurant La Gaviota back along the coast road, a short walk from the town centre itself.  I’d read good things about the restaurant before our visit and wasn’t disappointed.

L'Estartit

As well as good food, something wonderful happened whilst we were at La Gaviota.  They have an outside playground for the children and Monkey happily left Daddy P and I dining and went off to explore by himself.  Hello!  Is this my son??  It just showed how happy he was in the environment and another major step forward to a little independence.

After lunch we had a couple of hours before we departed for our evening at La Vinyeta.  I knew it was going to be a very late night for Monkey; so as much as my feet were itching to explore every inch of L’Estartit I knew a return to the hotel was a better option.  The sun was shining, it was time to hit the swimming pool!

L'Estartit

It’s true to say that L’Estartit cast a spell on us.  It’s ideally placed to explore the area in more detail, only 45 minutes away from the city of Girona, and close to the Baix Ter Nature Park – so really offering something to everyone.  The nature lover in me would love to go walking in the countryside, the history lover wanted to explore the fortresses I kept seeing in the distance.  For Monkey the beaches were certainly calling as well as the playgrounds along the promenade.

L’Estartit – thank you for giving us a glimpse of your wealth of treasures.  I also have some new additions to my map postcard collection.

L'Estartit

Join me next week as we continue our Catalan adventure – Daddy P cooks up a storm with I Cook It at La Vinyeta, and we go our separate ways in Roses to see the town by bike and on foot.

disclaimer:  we were guests of the Catalunya Tourist Board throughout our taster weekend. Our comments still remain our own, honest opinions

L’Estartit - A Catalan Adventure #incostabrava #catalunyaexperience @VisitEstartit So our first full day in Catalunya was about to begin.  We would be spending the morning and afternoon in…

Inset day at Thomasland #CountryKids

Inset day at #Thomasland #CountryKids

Last Friday Monkey had an inset day, when I looked in my diary I had planned nothing! So unlike me so I decided it was perfect timing for a visit to Thomasland.  We hadn’t been this year and Monkey had mentioned it a few times.  I was really looking forward to spending a day with him, a ‘school’ day.  I still remember our last trip– temper tantrums ruined it – please let’s not have a repeat…

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Our picnic tree #VitaPicnics

Our picnic tree

We were recently asked by the team at Vita Coco Kids where our favourite Autumn picnic spot would be.  I knew the answer to that straight away, our picnic tree at Blenheim Palace.  The tree that we had picnics under with our NCT group from the time the children were a 5 or 6 months old, the tree we return to as a family, our picnic tree.

Now the idea was to return to our favourite picnic spot…

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Last month we went on a Catalan adventure and enjoyed our first experience of the Costa Brava as guests of the Catalunya Tourist Board.  We were all looking forward to experiencing a different region of Spain and seeing what it had to offer for families.  Of course, my first issue was trying to explain to Monkey that we were going to Spain, but not to see Granny and Gramps.  It’s difficult for a nearly 5-year-old to grasp distances!  In the end I got the map out and showed him exactly where we were going on our trip.

A Catalan adventure

This is where we are going Monkey.  We are flying into Barcelona, and then travelling to our base in L’Estartit and then up the coast to Roses.  It’s a long way from Granny and Gramps in Andalucia.  Ok Mummy, we are going to a different Spain!

So off we set one Friday morning, down the motorway to Gatwick for our flight with Vueling.  I hadn’t flown from Gatwick in well over 20 years, the traffic was kind to us on the motorway and we found the Valet Parking within the short stay car park easily.  The service was quick and efficient and we could walk to the airport terminal under cover a few minutes away.

A Catalan adventure

Being me, we arrived at the airport early, so were one of the first to check-in for our Vueling flight when the desk opened.  We were taking our luggage as hand luggage, checked in and went off in search of lunch.  I was slightly bemused to then discover that we hadn’t been allocated seats together, not an issue we’ve encountered before, even more puzzling was the fact the check-in lady had put Monkey 10 rows away from us.  The gate staff were very helpful and got us all seats in the same row.  I could relax.  We were off on a Catalan adventure.

A Catalan adventure

Once we arrived at Barcelona airport we were guided to our minibus by our tour leader Gemma and whisked off to our base for the nest couple of days, the Hotel Medes II in L’Estartit.  It was late by the time we arrived, with fireworks crackling overhead (for the arrival of the Pirates, not us! More on that tomorrow), so we left our bags in our room and hurried down for our evening meal.  There was a set menu with a couple of options per course as well as a childrens menu.  The food was delicious, and much appreciated after our journey.

A Catalan Adventure

Monkey had coped really well with the first leg of our Catalan adventure, but he was exhausted.  It was time for bed.  Our room was spacious, and would sleep a family of four easily.  Everywhere was spotlessly clean and the bathroom even had a bath.  Yes, I know we were only staying for two nights, but if we were staying for a week or more I do like to be able to have a soak if I can.

A Catalan Experience

Wow Mummy, this bed is big!  This was going to be a good test for Monkey as his single bed would be arriving soon after.  Would he sleep? Well, we all slept very well and when we woke up we were dying to look out on our balcony – what did L’Estartit look like in daylight??

A Catalan Experience

We discovered that our hotel was just a few roads back from the seaside and behind us was a mountain.  I’m not sure what impressed Monkey the most!

A Catalan Experience A Catalan Experience

I could tell instantly that I was going to like L’Estartit.  Our hotel was perfectly located to explore the town and beach and I was already telling Daddy P that I could imagine us staying here again.  It’s a lovely, small, family run hotel.  Everyone was very helpful, it offers 3 meal plan options, a car park and swimming pool.

Time for a Catalan adventure to really begin!  I could have just written one long post giving a short version of what we experienced during our stay, but the area deserves more than that.  So I’m going to leave you with a few taster shots and will be posting over the next couple of days with our thoughts on L’Estartit itself, an evening watching Daddy P cooking with I Cook It at La Vinyeta (trust me that was a fab experience!) and then two different takes on a day spent in Roses.

What I can say, is that all three of us fell in love with this area of Spain and we will definitely be returning.  A Catalan Adventure continues tomorrow …….

A Catalan adventure #incostabrava #catalunyaexperience Last month we went on a Catalan adventure and enjoyed our first experience of the Costa Brava as guests of the…

As you know I have a big Octonauts fan here.  It’s a fab CBeebies series teaching youngsters all about marine life.  Monkey has certainly learnt loads from watching Captain Barnacles, Kwazii and friends.  So when we were asked to look at the new Octonauts Gup-S Polar Exploration Vehicle from Fisher Price, I knew it would be well received.

Octonauts Gup-S Polar Exploration Vehicle

The Octonauts Gup-S Polar Exploration Vehicle would be our first Octonauts playset so I was looking forward to seeing what you get for your money.  Priced at around £34.99, this set is aimed at children aged 3 years and over.  If you’ve got your eye on this for a Christmas present, note that some assembly is required, but it’s a couple of click fits and you are ready to roll.  The set also comes with 3 x AAA batteries which gets a big thumbs up from me.

Octonauts Gup-S Polar Exploration Vehicle

I was really impressed by the amount you get with this set, and therefore the extended play potential.  The Octonauts Gup-S Polar Exploration Vehicle works as one unit, but can also be split into an Octo Sled and Octo Shuttle. Captain Barnacles can operate the vehicle, Sled and both of the Mini Ski units. There are also 3 interchangeable tools for added interest.

Octonauts Gup-S Polar Exploration Vehicle

All of these items are made from sturdy plastic including the Narwal – Monkey is convinced it’s Captain Barnacle’s old friend Boris – told you he was a fan of the show!

Octonauts Gup-S Polar Exploration Vehicle

The only criticism I have with this set is with the Iceberg.  It’s made of flimsier plastic, it has the sort of hinge that will break quickly through continued use (in my experience anyway) and our Iceberg doesn’t fit together too well.

Octonauts Gup-S Polar Exploration Vehicle

But Monkey wasn’t bothered, and when he discovered the Lights and Sounds features he was suitably impressed.  Press the red Octo button on the side of the Exploration vehicle and the set illuminates and you can press through a number of different sound recordings. There’s no volume control but I haven’t found Captain Barnacle’s voice annoying at all!

Rescue poor Boris from the Iceberg and warm him up in the creature warming tank!

Octonauts Gup-S Polar Exploration Vehicle Octonauts Gup-S Polar Exploration Vehicle

Designed to withstand the coldest of climates and able to explore icy environments with ease, the Gup-S is the Octonauts’ ideal vehicle for polar exploration!

Monkey loves this set, there are so many moving parts that he’s like a pig in muck.  You should be aware that this toy cannot be used in water, but that hasn’t phased Monkey at all.

I can thoroughly recommend the Octonauts Gup-S Polar Exploration Vehicle, it offers hours of play potential.  A nearly 5-year-old Monkey certainly gives it a big thumbs up.

There are other sets and character toys that work alongside this new set, but it works perfectly well as a stand alone play set too.  It can be bought from a number of retailers including Smyths Toys.

disclaimer:  we were sent this set in exchange for an honest review

Octonauts Gup-S Polar Exploration Vehicle #review As you know I have a big Octonauts fan here.  It’s a fab CBeebies series teaching youngsters all about marine life.