Ruddy Rats!

I’m very happy to be the Official Family Blogger for The Riverfront Theatre in Newport, and one of my first reviews for them was the wonderful panto Dick Wittington, and wonderful really is cutting the long story short.

All parents want when it comes to Christmas, or any time of year for that matter, is for our children to be happy, healthy and have fun right? So when I looked down at my children’s faces laughing and smiling at the brilliant performances on the stage, and transfixed without a second of boredom I knew that this was something special. The fact that I only caught a few glimpses of those happy faces because I was fascinated and enjoying myself says it all really, and my attention was possibly only dragged away because one of those spinning, flashing wand things had been shoved in my face- kids love those things don’t they?

Dick (Gareth Tempest) and Tommy (Emma Goodwin) shared their story with us with such energy and honesty that the whole audience was hooked straight away. The lovely Bowbells (Nerine Skinner) really brought some sparkle to the proceedings by clarifying the story as we went along as well, and lots of children were in awe every time she popped up just like magic!

There was also the brilliant mix of silly jokes that children laughed at and old references that parents giggled at, I was shocked to discover my children have no idea what the Titanic theme tune is, thanks for making me feel old whoever wrote that in! Oh and for the double entendres that the older ones in the audience were amused by (very amused indeed!).

As the story progressed and Sarah the Cook (Lee Mengo) was introduced the bright and colourful aspect of the pantomime really came to life, I am a fan of Lee, he really becomes the character he plays and has a unique way of playing the dame role and a surprisingly impressive singing voice! We saw Lee in Cinderella at the Riverfront a couple of years ago and thought exactly the same then, I’d even go as far as to say he steals the show.

Sarah the Cook accompanies Alice (Elin Llywd) and her father Alderman Fitzwarren (Michael Onslow who takes on no less than three roles), they have a real rapport and are lovely to watch, the Moroccan scene is so bright and colourful, including the dancing rats who were a breath of fresh air at various points of the show, I told my children that I can dance like that as they spun around the floor, oh how they laughed!

One of my little ones commented that “The stinky man was my favourite”, meaning King Rat (Richard Elis) of course, although I am sure he isn’t stinky really, and I understand why he was a favourite- a lot of children like to make as much noise as possible and shouting “RUDDY RAT!” when King Rat arrived on stage was exciting for them, along with the usual BOO and HISSSS! The hilarious jokes King Rat came up with also had the kids giggling and I think many parents will agree this kind of interaction in a show is great as it keeps the children engaged and helps keep them focussed. Well done Mr Rat.

We didn’t want the fun to end but Tommy had eliminated all the rats, including King Rat, which was slightly bitter sweet. So Newport, London and Morocco were safe and Dick and Alice were free to get married. Hooray! Fuzzy warm feelings all around!

The Riverfront also came up with a brilliant idea to stream the panto to two local hospitalsl to bring a little happiness to children who are poorly there, and I personally think this was a commendable thing to do, I do hope those children are all feeling better now ready for the new term in school.

I was incredibly impressed with this production and the quality of the acting, singing and dancing was outstanding. We can’t wait for next years show already. Everyone I spoke to that has seen the panto agreed as well, so I think it’s safe to say this was a hit.

It is worth mentioning as well that I always feel comfortable taking my children to The Riverfront, it is definitely family orientated and the space inside the venue also makes the visit more pleasant, no busy crowds or stuffy waiting areas to worry about losing the children in- yes I am one of those over anxious Mothers, and a little cafe selling all sorts of food and snacks, including those picnic boxes for the kids and coffee for the parents, reasonably priced too.

I will be sharing other things about The Riverfront here so check back for more!

Disclosure- I was given tickets for the purpose of review however all views are 100% mine and my family’s.

A great cup of tea

How to prevent what I call “eeeeeurgh! What the hell is this?!”…

I make a good cup of tea, no I am not blowing my own trumpet, many friends and family and also elderly ladies and gentlemen I have worked with, say I make a good cup of tea.

Here’s the thing- to make a good cup of tea you have to think about what the person perceives a good cup of tea to be, so you have to ask the person you are making it for how they like it. Now I do seem like a nut case when I ask how someone takes their tea as they will reply “weak, milk and no sugar” I will then ask if they mean strong tea with lots of milk to make it weak or only dip the bag a little… I know, I know, It’s crazy to ask so much about a cup of tea! But I’ll ask once, get it right, and remember every time after that, and you know what? It will make a difference to that person’s day, possibly only a small difference but a difference regardless.

For example- I worked with a lady that was receiving a course of chemotherapy and she just wanted a cup of tea that day as she was off her food, I made it, gave it to her and it really cheered her up as it was “perfect”. Imagine if it wasn’t how she liked it? I know I think too much sometimes, but I like to think my tea making efforts make a difference and will continue to make an effort in this area regardless.

What do you think? Have you ever had a terrible cup of tea (or coffee?) that made you feel a bit sad? I have, and for the record I like mine very strong with lots of milk and no sugar, thanks!

Honk! The Ugly Ducking

As usual we were running late and being given a lift to the Sherman Theatre as it was our first visit and I wasn’t sure about the parking situation, we ran inside and were taken up to the balcony, it was less disruptive because the show had started already, and my little ones would rather sit with me anyway.

Once we had settled ourselves and started watching the story unfold the other ducklings were already being a little bit mean to the poor ugly duckling as he honked sadly, my youngest then started asking questions and it occurred to me that I can’t remember reading The Ugly Duckling to my children before, I don’t know why since it was one of my favourites growing up, but it’s all about the Gruffalo’s Child and Funny Bones in our house these days.

What stood out to me at first was how gentle the lighting was, and how the stage area was very compact but being used effectively, we were taken on a journey with The Ugly Duckling which actually made me feel quite emotional at times (reminding me of lonely times in my life maybe? Sigh…) this meant that none of the smaller children in the audience were startled or over whelmed, and even though it was gentle enough for them my eldest didn’t take her eyes off the story either. I think my little one’s favourite part of the show was when the hunting dog came along, this part certainly raised a few laughs and “silly doggy” comments. Also the eldest child likes a bit of toilet humour so when the duckling tried to lay an egg and wind appeared I heard plenty of giggles!

The three performers in The Ugly Duckling Iwan Charles, Anni Dafydd and Gwenllian Higginson, did a fantastic job of providing us with an engaging, funny and touching performance, I personally really enjoyed the show and so did both of my children, and even as a proper grown up (I must be with two children and bills to pay right?) I can honestly say I was very impressed at the way the story was told with few costume changes and mostly static props being used in imaginative ways.

As winter drew in and the little ugly duckling became colder and more lonely the room went quiet, even the toddlers that were pottering about seemed to still with the gentle music, and that was another brilliant aspect of the show, the music and lighting really set the mood and helped the story move along smoothly. I didn’t see any children being taken outside for getting too restless and noticed the smiles the swans gave to some of the smaller children who wandered up for a closer look. The final scenes as the ugly duckling transforms, were mesmerising, the look on the transformed duckling’s face was lovely, and the conclusion left me feeling all happy inside, and those balloons! Where do I get those?!

The Sherman Theatre clearly know how to put on a show and certainly catered for the younger audience with this production. From the relaxed layout and intimate room, to the gentle but very effective music and lighting and of course fantastic acting on display, I don’t think anyone was disappointed with The Ugly Duckling, I didn’t know what to expect, but was very pleasantly surprised indeed.

When talking to the children later on I tried to cement the moral of the story it went like this-

“….And he wasn’t an ugly duckling at all was he?”

“No Mummy! He was a MAN!”

We did get there in the end but that made me laugh!

I didn’t get to try out the food at The Sherman Theatre this time but the menu looked very inviting and when we visit again (which we definitely will) I will report back my findings, the toilets were immaculate though, you will be pleased to hear, and even had those snazzy Dyson hand dryers that kids love.

*Tickets were provided for review purposes.

Shiny Happy Things

Let me start by saying that I don’t have the first clue about fashion or trends, and what ‘celebs’ are wearing does not interest me, I just can’t get my head around it all. Basically if something looks nice to me/ or is comfortable (not necessarily in that order) then I’ll wear it. Of course it is nice to wear something that others might appreciate too sometimes, but basically I please myself and probably look a mess to those who do ‘get it’, c’est la vie! The fact that I have NO TIME to concentrate on my appearance generally doesn’t help either.

That said I have recently been thinking that it is nice to treat yourself once in a while and I should build on my wardrobe and make-up collection a little as they are dismal right now. So I thought why not share these little (tiny!) extravagances here?

There are plenty of amazing blogs/ vlogs that can give you some great tips on what will look good with your skin tone or what is ‘on trend’ right now, this isn’t one of them, this will be more- “Ooh look at this nice shiny thing I found and like!” and will probably be nail varnish heavy, I like a nice nail varnish. However It could be a nice dress I found, some make-up, things for the house or socks! All the little things I like and want to share.

So here is the first of my Shiny Happy Things-

I was in the chemist the other day waiting for a prescription (see? no glamour here) and there was a little bit of time to look at the gift sets and make-up, so I thought I’d take a look at the nail varnish, I noticed the Rimmel shelf and all the lovely bright colours at the one end, such vibrant orange and blues and yellow and… OH SPARKLES! Yes, like a magpie, I picked up “Disco ball” and then put it back and thought “I am too old for that”, once I’d given myself a shake and reminded myself that it doesn’t matter how old I am, I should just buy what I like and enjoy it, I took it to the till (with some toothpaste, yawn).

I imagine Disco Ball is intended as a top coat really, to add some sparkle to an existing colour, but I was happy with the glitter on it’s own. I put a little bit on and loved it right away, it dried quickly and was lovely and glittery in the little bit of sunshine we’ve had this week (between hail storms and rain), and my little ones were very impressed with Mummy’s sparkly nails-

There is an added bonus to this varnish, it has sadly chipped (but then again I didn’t buff the nails or add a topcoat either so possibly my own fault) but because of the nature of it you can’t even notice! For a busy Mum who will look at her nails in the morning and think “oh I must sort those out” and not get around to it for days (because of the NO TIME thing) I would recommend this little bottle of happiness. It certainly cheered me up. I think I will experiment with using this as a top coat and adding a little sparkle to my other colours now.

So I will share these little finds as I come across them and use #shinyhappythings to keep track. Send me your finds as well please!

How To Get Freestuff For Anything

If you’re wondering how you can get free stuff for anything, you should know that you can get anything for free if you know how to get it.

If you’re into coffee, there are several coffee brands that offer a free cup of coffee. For Caribou Coffee, you only need to make a web-based account to get a cup of coffee totally free. For Starbucks, you only need to request an employee to get a Starbucks card in your next visit, then file it online. With Krispy Kreme coffee, register on the official Krispy Kreme website to get exclusive offers, including a free moderate drink (plus another in your birthday).

If you want free treats, you’re in for a treat. If you like Godiva chocolate, sign up with Godiva’s Rewards Club to get a piece of free chocolate once a moth at a participating store. For Pretzelmaker, join the eatery’s mailing list at pretzelmaker.com for a “buy one, get one free” coupon. If you like eating at the Cheesecake Factory, let the waiter know that it’s your birthday (even if it’s not). By the end of the meal, you will be treated to a birthday cake with serenade.

For ice cream, join Friendly’s Birthday Club to get a free three-scoop sundae when you buy any adult entrée. You will also receive birthday offers for your loved ones as well as you. Join the Birthday Club to get a free scoop coupon and discounts on your ice cream cake. If you join Cold Stone Creamery’s Birthday Club, you will get a free treat. You can get free ice cream anywhere by looking out for ice cream shops for free taste test to customers.

If you like free entertainment (who doesn’t?), you can rent a movie for free on your birthday when you sign up with Hollywood Video. If you like going around visiting local attractions, there are many amusement parks, zoos, museums and theatres that offer birthday specials. Be sure to call and verify for birthday specials.

If you enjoy your lunch or dinner at Outback Steakhouse, TGIF and QDOBA, you can actually get free appetizers. Just do some research on how you can get your free stuff.

If you would like to get your hands on some of free stuff like bars of chocolate, bottles of hand cream and so much more, your best bet is to go to a website that gathers all that information on free stuff and samples, rather go to individual companies and check out each of their offers, which would only take too much of your time. Just go to Google and search “just free stuff“.

You should sign up with these websites using a separate email account so you don’t get flooded with spam email. Once you have an account, get a hold of your free stuff. It may take some time before the free stuff arrives, but we promise you, it will be worth the wait.

Thank You Teacher

Dear teacher,

I know it’s usually at the end of the year that you receive gratitude from parents and guardians, lots of mugs, chocolate and cards, but this year teacher I wanted to say thank you, for all the things I know you will be doing for my children this year in advance.

Thank you for the cheerful way you will greet the children in the morning, no matter how exhausted you are, for nodding and smiling and taking time to reassure the worried new parents, and old, and for the kind words you always seem to find.

Thank you for the patience you show to the children as they settle back into their new routines, all at different speeds, you know you have deadlines and targets from ‘above’ but you care for the children too and take time to wipe their tears.

Thank you for seeing that little disagreement and stepping in, and for explaining to the children how to interact, encouraging friendships and preventing rows, skills that will last them a life to come.

Thank you for the hours and hours you give of your free time, planning and marking, thinking and worrying, the hours we don’t see, the strain we can’t understand.

Thank you for listening to the children telling you their important news, their excitement and concerns, and for giving them a voice, and confidence to use it.

Thank you for being there and caring about the children as if they were your own, investing your time and energy and going over and above the call of duty, as so many of you do.

Thank you for encouraging and helping to shape the future generation and giving them the opportunity to shine, ensuring they know their worth and all whilst having fun.

Thank you of course for teaching our children about the world, how fascinating it is, the way it works, the things that have passed and how to be a wonderful part of it.

I appreciate your efforts and I know so many others do, we see the good work you do, we see the positive effect you have on our children, and so thank you and have a great year.

A parent.

A Guide To Finding Your Ideal Foundation

The beauty industry in the UK is one of the most popular and profitable being worth approximately over £17 million and statistics indicate that this will increase as the year progresses.

While beauty may be great for the national economy, it is not beneficial for the consumer’s pocket. Records show that the average British female will spend an overwhelming £100,000 on beauty products in her lifetime. It is seen that facial beauty products occupy the largest proportion of this amount with the average annual spending amount being approximately £279.41. That calculates to be £18,000 or so across the woman’s overall life span.

One of the top attributes all women aspire towards is having a healthy complexion. Statistics show that approximately 24% of females cite dry and cracked skin as their largest concern, with oily complexions following closely at 22%. Contrary to popular belief, acne is not the most concerning attribute coming in at only 15%; however, it does still contribute to the disruption of a healthy of complexion. This explains why foundation is another big facial beauty product expense.

By using a high quality foundation from a designer brand, it is possible to gain a healthy complexion. Unfortunately, this designer brand setting can cost the average person up to £30 or more; therefore, it is essential that we find the best foundation first time around to avoid unnecessary expenditure. While colour-matching is often performed in-store, the artificial lighting and professional application can result in choosing the incorrect product.

Needless to say, it would be ideal if we could take home generous samples of brand foundations to try each for several days. You would not have to waste money on products that are not well-suited to your skin type or tone.

The positive news is that free beauty products are now available from MegaFreeStuff who offer Freebies UK they have helped with finding you a full month’s worth of foundation samples from designer brands. The products can be collected from store counters and tried at home. I tried the items myself to find the perfect foundation for my skin tone and here is what I discovered:

 

The Clinique Superblanced™ Silk Makeup SPF 15 10-Day Sample

As part of the free samples selection was this Clinique foundation product. A new, highly rated item that is ideal if you are searching for a foundation offering sheer to moderate coverage. It has an oil-free base with a natural, ‘naked’ matte finish making it perfect for combination or oily skin types.

The unique formula of Clinique’s Silk Makeup sample is beneficial because it adds moisture to the skin removing oil where required. This mixture not only improves the skin’s complexion, but also makes the wear comfortable throughout the day. The SPF protection is a bonus feature helping the skin appear vibrant and as attractive as it would without a foundation.

Even with the advantages of the product, a bottle of this foundation costs a mere £23 making it ideal for your skin and pocket.

The Clinique Superblanced™ Silk Makeup SPF 15 foundation was the first sample I tried and I was initially very impressed with its performance. The assistant at the beauty store matched my skin tone well applying blusher and lipstick in addition. I walked out of Boots pharmacy feeling like a model, convinced I had located my perfect product. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

As time passed, I attempted to replicate the initial look created by the assistant at Boots. Sadly, I found this procedure too difficult to perform and I found that the foundation was not blending correctly. It began appearing too rigid and heavy for my preference and I was no longer interested in the formula.

 

The Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup SPF 10 10-Day Sample

Voted first in the United Kingdom, the Double Wear by Estee Lauder is an iconic foundation beauty product. Its promise to keep the wearer appearing fresh and natural-looking is the base of its cult following. Regardless of what you are doing, where you are, the climate or culture, Estee Lauder ensure that you will continue looking flawless.

The beauty product is available in 44 skin tone colours making it near impossible to not find a foundation to match your skin.

When collecting my sample from the House of Fraser, the Estee Lauder beauty counter assistant provided me with information regarding the product and its advantages. She used an eye match tool to find the ideal colour for me and tested a sample near my neck.

I will admit, I was not keen on the foundation in the beginning as I prefer lighter formulas. I was also put off by the product’s supposed 24-hour durability. I felt the foundation was not suitable to my face and as the product was not applied to my face in-store, I had yet to determine whether or not it was worth my time.

When I used the sample at home, I began to take an interest and it grew on me. While I do find the formula to be slightly heavy, the colour tone match was perfect and looked natural. I am also highly impressed with the buildability of the foundation.

 

The Smashbox Studio Skin 15-Hour Wear Hydrating Foundation 7-Day Sample

As noted in Glamour Magazine, the Smashbox Studio Skin foundation is one of the most beneficial beauty products and is definitely worth spending money on. Created without the use of chemicals, oils or dangerous fragrances, this product can hydrate the skin without unwanted shine.

The Smashbox Studio Skin Hydrating foundation is a highly practical option for daily use. It is perspiration-resistant and offers 15-hour coverage for the wearer, which is ideal for people who have busy lives or enjoy attending the gym after work.

The question remains: is this product ideal for your skin tone?

Disregarding the popular Studio Skin Primer, I had not used a Smashbox product before in my beauty regime. I was slightly dubious about the product; however, the counter assistant at Boots assured me that this foundation was fantastic. In fact, to convince me she even threw in a hydrating prima sample.

Similar to the Estee Lauder option mentioned above, this product was tested on a small portion of my face. It was only once I returned home that I was able to see the full effect on my entire face. The result: I like the product.

Smashbox has really smashed it out of the box with this foundation. It is beneficial in that it glides on easily during application and was not too matte in appearance. Lighter than the other samples, it met my colour preference and skin tone needs.

 

The Estee Lauder Double Wear Nude Cushion Stick Radiant Makeup 10-Day Sample

A second free sample from Estee Lauder was the Double Wear Nude Cushion Stick foundation product. This was an ideal option because it presented as a liquid makeup stick and a pro tool in one.

The formula was light in weight and hydrating giving the skin a healthy complexion. It is easily used for sheer to medium coverage and can last for approximately eight hours.