Tuesday, 21 July 2015

KidZania London Review

What better way to start the school holidays than with a trip with Annabel Karmel and her team to the brand spanking new KidZania London in Westfield.  I'd heard quite a bit about KidZania from various sources but I wasn't really sure what to expect. A world created just for children where they actually get to chose a job and earn their own money?!! It sounded absolutely brilliant and I was intrigued to find out more but would it be suitable for my children, the oldest who will be four in a few weeks time and the youngest who has just turned 2.


When you arrive at KidZania you could honestly believe that you're in an actual airport. Except for the actual BA airplane fuselage inside the terminal,  I have never seen that at an airport but it looks absolutely awesome and Rufio was super excited to walk underneath the airplane. We then walked to the check in where they asked the children's names and ages and gave us all security tags, these are so that the children can't leave KidZania without their parents. Rufio being the little houdini that he is, whipped his off his wrist straight away and instead he had to wear it around his ankle like a little ASBO tag which was just hilarious.


The children are given 50 Kidzos ( the local currency) and you have four hours in KidZania to find your dream job. E immediately made a beeline for the face painting which she had to pay 15 Kidzos for.



We asked her what job she would like to do and she told us that she would quite like to work in the Beauty Salon - the apple doesn't fall far from the tree!!

We had to wait a few minutes at the Beauty Salon as it was quite busy but when her turn came, E was given her overall and a work station. It was set out just like a real salon with individual mirrors, swivel chairs and trolleys for their hairdressing tools. The supervisor showed E how to plait hair but she was more than happy to sit there for 15 mins and brush the dolls hair. She was in heaven! Once her shift was over, she signed out and was given 7 Kidzos for her efforts, which she immediately spent at the KidZania Paint School!



Painting and Colouring is possibly E's favourite thing to do. Once upon a time we used to call her Banksy when she went through phase of grafting all over our walls and furniture but thankfully she has now learned to channel her creativity in to creating art on Paper...


.... and still occasionally on the walls :)


As we wandered around the streets of KidZania we came to a roadblock. Suddenly a mini fire engine whizzed around the corner, and out popped some little firemen in uniforms to put out a fire in a hotel. Rufio was absolutely transfixed and in awe as these little guys fought the flames with water canons.



I needn't have worried about Rufio being entertained as we discovered a little house designed specifically for smaller children. Inside there was a giant kitchen with all the utensils, A living room, a bathroom and a bedroom. Below you can see the little man jumping in the bath which is actually a kind of squidgy and springy trampoline type thing which he loved. There was also a bedroom which was designed sort of like a soft play area with beds that you're actually encouraged to jump on and foam walls which he could actually bounce off for once!!



One tip for if you're visiting KidZania for the first time - There is a little bus which takes you around the main street of KidZania and shows you all the popular jobs and attractions. Do this at the start and not at the end as we stupidly did as there is so much to learn from the bus tour and they pointed out heaps of jobs that we didn't realise existed. You can work at the dentist, at A&E, as an actor, a banker, a model, a pilot ..... the list goes on.

E only managed to do one job as we were so busy taking it all in, she did like the look of the Styling and Modelling at H&M and there was a very short que but she didn't want to wait.


The facilities are great, there are plenty of places to eat and an area upstairs for changing and feeding little ones. Whenever we asked for directions, all the staff were very enthusiastic and happy to help out which was lovely. However, I did find that some of the supervisors in the various shops and attractions weren't all that patient with the children which I was a little bit disappointed and hopefully this is something that KidZania will improve on in time, especially given that it has only been open for a few weeks. I was also a little bit uneasy with all the branding, as so many of the attractions are sponsored by huge brands and corporations. I get that they are in fact advertising and generating revenue for KidZania but it does feel a little bit like brainwashing that said though these are both really small points and did not take anything away from our brilliant day at KidZania.

KidZania is just genius, being almost 4 my daughter is still blissfully unaware as to where money comes from but this gave her some idea and she was so pleased to have earned her 7 Kidzos in the Beauty Salon... she wasn't quite so pleased that 7 Kidzos wouldn't buy her the toy she wanted in the department store but that's all part of the learning process!! As we left I asked her what job she'd like to do when she grows up and surprise surprise she said she'd like to be a painter, It's great how something can inspire children from such a young age! E has been telling everyone she meets about her trip to KidZian as she calls it ( like Sylvania) and we'll definitely be going back again over the summer holidays.
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Sunday, 19 July 2015

Annabel Karmel Family Cooking App Launch

Last weekend we were invited to the launch of Annabel Karmel's newest App at the newly opened KidZania in Westfield London. Now Annabel has been my favourite children's food guru ever since I first discovered her cook books when first weaning my oldest who is now almost 4. Maybe just maybe I was a tiny bit starstruck when I met her and I might have blurted out that if it wasn't for her, my children would have been brought up on junk food as I simply couldn't cook, like at all!! So, sorry Annabel if I came across a little bit weird but I was a little bit in awe and I just had to let you know ( and I'm now majorly cringing as I write this!)



Almost all the meals that I make for my children do indeed come from one of her books as I do find her recipes incredibly easy to follow. In the past I have used her first app ( Baby and Toddler Feeding) for recipes for the children when we travel, to save me carting around cook books so I was really intrigued to see what her Family Cooking App had to offer.

The event was held in the Stadium at KidZania and Annabel began by telling us all about her inspiration for the new app. The children were all given iPads to try out the new  Kids Rule the Kitchen section - a special cooking course designed to feed children's imaginations whilst teaching essential cooking skills. E loves anything iPad related, so much so that we have to restrict iPad time otherwise she would play on it all day. Naturally she was more than happy to try out this section of the app.  She did needed one of us to read the directions out to her as she hasn't yet learned to read and I really like this because it allows us to participate too.

The app has tons of scrummy and easy to follow recipes plus a meal planner section and a shopping list. I find cooking apps much easier to follow than a cookery book downloaded to my phone or iPad and it's great to have all the ingredients needed close to hand ready for supermarket shops.


Next came the cupcake decorating which both children couldn't wait for. However, Rufio really couldn't wait and scoffed his plain cupcakes before Annabel had even shown us what to do!! E was fascinated though and watched Annabel intently before decorating her own cupcakes, one as a fish and the other as a teddy bear.













E had just finished nursery school for the summer so I was very grateful to have such a fun and engaging event for us all to attend. I also loved chatting to the other bloggers and was super happy to meet one of my favourite bloggers/instagrammers, Muhsine of Bubblegarm and her little girl who is the same age as E. I actually started reading her blog long before I began my own!!

We then said goodbye to Annabel and she very kindly signed a copy of her 'My first cookbook' which has been very well thumbed in the past week by a certain little lady!! Next we were free to explore KidZania which I will tell you a little bit more about in my next blog post...... Stay tuned!!

P.S. The credit for the first 5 photos goes to Valentina of Photograface who very kindly shared these images with me.

P.P.S. Here's the link to Annabel Karmel's Brilliant Family Cooking app
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Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Baby Show Preview

I often get asked by friends, to suggest places to stay in London and things to see and do with families and young children. I know that come October, quite a few of you will be making the journey up to London for ' The Baby Show'.  I'm so fortunate to live pretty much on the doorstep, of The Baby Show and it really doesn't take that long for me to travel there at all. So I thought I'd put together some ideas for places to stay and other things to see and do around the area close to Kensington Olympia, where The Baby Show is held.

If you're not totally shopped out after the Baby Show then Westfield Shopping Mall in White City/ Shepherd's Bush, is just one stop away on the overground. Westfield is literally shopping paradise with everything from high street brands such as H&M and Zara to luxury high end boutiques along the lines of Miu Miu and Gucci. You'll also find tons of great restaurants here, a cinema and the newly opened Kidzania which we visited last weekend and will be blogging about soon, it's amazing!!

Notting Hill is also close by with all it's gorgeous boutiques and restaurants and of course the world famous market.

Holland Park ( Or Hollandaise Park as my daughter calls it) is one of our favourite parks in London. It's pretty close to where The Baby Show is held and it has two great kids playgrounds, plenty of space to run free and of course it is home too the beautiful wild Peacocks that roam the park. If you're looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of this vibrant city then I highly recommend taking some time out in the Japanese Garden within the park, it is hard to believe that you're just moments away from Kensington High Street!



Kensington High Street- another great little shopping area which is home to my favourite organic food shop - Wholefoods!!

Where to stay? I have often recommended the Holiday Inn London- Kensington Forum to my friends.   It's family friendly, It's just a short trip by tube from Gloucester Road or 5-10 minutes by Taxi to The Baby Show and also walking distance museums such as The Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the V&A. This hotel is great if you're coming from Wales & the West as it's just off the M4 and is also convenient for those flying in to Heathrow Airport.

* Written in collaboration with IHG 


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Tuesday, 7 July 2015

7/7 and Me

Every year on 7th July, the media forces me to relive my worst nightmare over and over again and especially today on the 10th anniversary of the bombings, I feel as though I just can't get away from it. So, I have decided to write my own version of events- partly because I would like to tell my side of the story. Partly because I hate all the inaccuracies in the media but also because despite the fact that I want nothing more than to forget what happened that day, there is a huge chunk of me that believes that I don't deserve to erase it from my memory. After all, I was fortunate to have not been physically injured on that day. I've had a really tough time deciding on whether or not to blog about this, I like my blog to be a happy place and this isn't a happy subject!

On the 7th July 2005, I was a young ambitious girl fresh out of University having recently completed my masters degree.  I had been working for just over 6 months in my dream job and was loving every minute of it, I thrived off the buzz of working in London, it felt as though the sky was the limit and I could achieve whatever I put my mind to. What was to happen later that day, would shatter my world as I knew it and I still suffer from PTSD, panic attacks, flashbacks and nightmares 10 years on.

I set off for work that morning, as usual I was running a little bit late but only by about 5-10 minutes so that was ok and I jumped on to the arriving tube in the direction of Edgware Road which was the closest stop to my office. Ironically a few months earlier my mother had given me what she called an ' anti-terrorist kit' which consisted of a tiny hand held fan and a slimline torch which she wanted me to keep in my handbag for emergencies. I had left all these things at home because I felt pretty safe and confident on the tube. The area around Edgware Road tube station has a large Muslim community and it had never crossed my mind that this area would have been targeted by terrorists.

The tube passed Paddington Station and had then came to a standstill in the tunnel, waiting for the green light to approach Edgware Road. I checked my watch anxiously because often we could be stuck at this point for up to 5 minutes each morning and as I looked down another tube train passed us in the opposite direction. Suddenly there was an almighty explosion, the loudest noise I have ever heard in my life.....

I seem to remember there being a really bright and blinding white flash at the same time, like the sort you get from a camera flash but magnified a few million times. I can remember the look of horror and shock on the face of the woman opposite me, she had a blonde bob and was dressed in office attire.

And then the screams began as the carriage filled with smoke so thick that I couldn't see my hands before me. Was there a fire? how were we going to get out? I distinctly remember feeling like a small child once again and thinking ' I want my mummy!!"

Eventually the smoke cleared and I could see what was going on around me, two girls sat hugging each other, crying and rocking on the floor in fear. To my left, there was a pregnant lady sitting next to me and holding my hand, with her other hand she held a copy of the Quran and she frantically read out passages under her breath in prayer. I then looked out of the tube doors in front of me and realised that the passing train hadn't actually passed us but had stopped with the impact of the explosion. There was so little left of the carriage opposite and apart from the emergency lights, it was so dark outside the carriage, so it took me a while to realise that in front of me was the remainder of the carriage opposite and that the bomb had gone off just metres away from us.

A man had prised open the doors to our carriage and was speaking to people through the small gap. He told them that he was a medical person ( I can't remember if he was a Dr, a nurse or a paramedic) and he then proceeded to give directions to them as to how to administer CPR but sadly that person didn't survive.

Some people were taking photos on their phones which I found totally bizarre, why would you want a photo of our worst nightmare? I guess that everyone has their own ways of dealing with such situations though.

After what seemed like hours and hours trapped in the carriage with sounds and smells that I will never forget, emergency services came and escorted us out of the train. We had to walk along the tracks to Edgware Road Station and I remember being terrified that the line was still live and asking someone if it was safe to walk on which they assured me that it was fine. As we walked along the lines and to the train station, I tried not to look at the carnage around us but I saw some truly horrific sights that I hope never to witness again. When we reached the station, no one seemed to have any answers as to what had happened, was it a power surge, a bomb or something else?

We were taken to M&S next door to the tube where we were checked over by paramedics and then sent off on our way. My Boss and my best friend Anna from work were waiting for me at the doors although I was in such a state of shock that I didn't recognise them at all and walked straight past them. They enveloped me in a huge bear hug and then despite my protests that I was fine and ok to go to work, my boss bundled Anna and I in to a passing taxi and sent us home.

I handled things pretty well for quite a few months after wards although I have never been able to take the tube again alone. However, suddenly one day I felt as though a black cloud had descended on me and then the flashbacks and the panic attacks started. Any loud noise such as a balloon popping, someone shouting, a champagne bottle opening, still sends me in to panic mode to this day. Finally, I was diagnosed with PTSD as a result of the events of that day and was referred for CBT which has helped considerably. I don't think that I will ever be able to take the tube on my own again and I struggle to use public transport in general and know that I will never be able forget the events of that day.

I still don't believe that any God or any religion would condone the murder and suffering of innocent people and I live in hope that one day we will live in a world without fear of repeat attacks. Since the events in Tunisia last month I realise that we are no closer to this dream than we were 10 years ago but we must try our best to go about our daily lives and not live in fear because if we don't then the terrorists will have won and achieved their goals.

I'm sorry for the morbid post and I promise to return very soon with the usual.

Sending much love and strength to everyone affected by terrorism today xx




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Friday, 3 July 2015

Mrs Jones Loves: Coconut Oil ( as a Beauty Product!!)

I know, I know I'm totally jumping on the bandwagon with today's blog post but coconut oil is just sooooooo amazing, how did I ever manage without it? Ladies, if you don't have at least one jar of this stashed at home, then you really need to try it out!! I currently have one pot in the kitchen which I use for cooking, baking, frying, as a spread and making smoothies etc etc I also have another pot in my bathroom which so far I have used for:



Moisturiser:  Coconut oil is a wonderful moisturiser both for the face and the body. I have quite oily skin so I have to use this really sparingly, I definitely can't use it every day as it breaks me out so instead I apply it maybe once a week as an intense moisturiser.

Eye Make-Up remover: This is 100% the most effective eye make-up remover I have tried. It literally melts away waterproof mascara and tough to remover mascara's such as They're Real- by Benefit. You only need to use the tiniest amount though, otherwise your eyes will feel gunky afterwards.

Cleanser: Coconut Oil is great for gently removing make-up especially for sensitive skin such as mine. I apply a pea size which I work all over my face as it melts and then remove the excess with a warm water and a muslin cloth. Using coconut oil as a cleanser can also work well to hydrate your skin if you find it too heavy to use as a moisturiser.

Hand & Foot treatment: massage this in to dry cuticles or dry and cracked patches on your hands feet and leave preferably over night. A great tip for DIY a pedicure is to apply coconut oil to your feet, paying extra attention to the heels and then wrap your feet in clingfilm and leave it to soak in for as long as possible. I can't stand to leave the clingfilm on my feet over night but if you can, then I have heard that the results are amazing!!

Hair Masque: Once a week I will work a dollop of coconut oil through the ends of my hair as a masque. I leave it on for as long as possible before washing it out with a natural shampoo & conditioner.

Hair Styling: melt a tiny tiny amount in the palm of your hand and then apply sparingly to the middle section and ends of your hair. The coconut oil will solidify as it cools, taming frizzy and fly away hair and defining the ends. A word of warning though, only use the tiniest amount and never apply to the roots, unless greaseball is the look that you're going for!!

These are the main uses that I have found for coconut oil as a beauty product so far. Some people think I'm bonkers but please try it before you knock it and I'm certain you'll be amazed at the results. Coconut Oil is pretty easy to find in the supermarkets these days and so it's cheap because a little will go a really long way.
The best part of all though is that coconut oil is completely natural and therefore worry free. I actually use it to help tame my daughter's crazy curls without having to worry about using harmful chemicals or damaging her beautiful hair.

Have you tried coconut oil yet??

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