The Wembley Olympic Experience

I was so excited when Husband managed to get tickets for the Olympics women’s football final, USA vs Japan, at Wembley. This was going to be my first match at the new Wembley, and Munchkin’s first football match, trip to Wembley and live Olympics event all in one. I’d been concerned about being able to make it because I can’t walk far at the moment, but the journey was very easy and I managed to walk there slowly from the nearest station. It was a long walk and involved lifts and escalators but no steps so I got there in the end!

Catching our first glimpse of the stadium was so exciting and we, like most of the other visitors, took lots of  photos. I was just as excited as Husband and Munchkin. Lots of people had make a big effort with their costumes: we saw men and women dressed in flags, faces painted, balloon hats, men and women in kimonos, a samurai and even a full kendo kit complete with sword. The atmosphere was fantastic!

So, what was it like actually being in Wembley stadium, after the almost heroic effort it had taken for me to get there? Honestly? Terrifying! Unfortunately, the booking website didn’t show where our seats were or the view from them, and I suffer from vertigo (basically an irrational fear of the effects of gravity). We’d paid £45 a seat and ended up just 3 rows down from the very top, almost as high as you could get. I panicked, struggled up the steps, sat down, then started to feel dizzy. Husband and Munchkin were great did their best to calm me down (“Mummy, don’t worry, it’s alright, just hold my hand”) and reassure me but no, I really, really couldn’t do it. So back down we went, with me slowly edging my way down the stairs sideways on like a terrified crab so that I didn’t have to look down. All that physical and mental effort to get there and I was beaten by my irrational vertigo. I have rarely felt more useless and silly in my entire life.

Thankfully, Customer Services (thank you Caroline!) were able to allocate us some less terrifying seats a few rows down but I still couldn’t watch much of the game, although I was well aware of the (not many) empty seats much further down. Thank goodness Munchkin has inherited his father’s lack of fear of heights and had a great time. Munchkin particularly enjoyed the half-time music and danced along energetically.

What I saw of the match was very good. Japan had more control of the ball and made many more attempts at scoring than the US. The crowd were very much behind Japan, with lots of chanting of “Nippon”, but in the end the US won 2-1. Maybe it was just me but the US team seemed to spend a lot of time rolling around on the floor then getting up quickly when the referee walked on past them, which wasn’t impressive.

So in the end it was a great experience, but not one I dare repeat in case the seats are just as bad next time.

Posted in Mummydom | Leave a comment

Christmas in July

I was fortunate to be able to attend two “Christmas in July” events showcasing products selected for the Christmas market and providing some much-needed inspiration for presents.

First was an event at Hamleys at the end of June, featuring their selection of the Top 10 toys: Barbie Puppy Play Park, Barbie with interactive puppies that respond to clapping; Innotab 2, a touch-screen tablet for age 4+; LeapPad2 Explorer, another great touch-screen tablet for little ones aged 4+; Lego Lord of the Rings, The Battle of Helms Deep; Master Moves Mickey, a breakdancing Mickey with cool moves!; Monster High Doll, a great alternative to Barbie; Moshi Monsters App Monster,  buy the Moshi Monster, download the app from iTunes on your iPhone and have lots of fun choosing how your monster looks, feeding it, playing wth it!; Nerf Elite Hail Fire, an elite blaster with a rotating ammo rack holding up to 8 clips; Subbuteo, football is still in with this great, timeless game; and Web Shooting Spiderman, shoot the web to capture his enemy The Lizard.

Also on show: the cool Razor Bella Pocket Mod, a classic Italian-style scooter for over-12s; the classic Mini Micro 3-in-1 scooter with seat; a huge Barbie Dream House complete with lift, four-poster bed and chandeliers; Cabbage Patch Kids; Lego Star Wars Death Star; Lego Riding Camp; Star Wars Droid Carrier; and too many others to mention!

Munchkin’s favourites included the Lego Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, the Mini Micro scooter and the Nerf Elite (so far so predictable). But he also loved the gorgeous Honey Bear he was given at the end, as well as the Barbie Dream House and the Lego Riding Camp he played with while we were there. Are your children this unpredictable as well?

The next event was different as it was set in a gorgeous house dressed for Christmas, with different products for the whole family in different rooms.

Munchkin’s favourite rooms were the Everything Rosie and JCB Kids bedrooms. These had everything from beds to wardrobes to storage and, of course, toys! The products were well-designed, stylish and robust, which is important because the last thing you want is for things to break easily and result in tears on Christmas Day. Raa Raa and Little Charley Bear toys, puzzles and scooters were also popular.

I absolutely loved the dressing room with the beautiful Fox & Chave silk scarves, “poshminas”, jute bags, clutch bags and hand-painted jackets. There were also lovely silk ties and cotton boxer shorts, perfect for presents or stocking fillers. All of the designs are fabulous and have a story, with many being based on art works, and there really is something for everyone. I would love to have any of these.

 

Buying Christmas gifts for the men (husband/partner, father, brother, friend) in your life can bedifficult but Finicky Shirts have the answer, with a bespoke service from just £64.95. They also do shirts for women, so you could get yourself a no doubt well-deserved present at the same time!

 

Also showcased were Mookie Toys, Scoot accessories for scooters, Sweet Trees by Riviera, University Games and Busy Pictures, all great products.

Our favourite product, as a family, was the family Android tablet the Kurio. We all loved this! It comes with a drop-safe bumper and is pre-loaded with favourite apps; you can download more. It’s the only tablet with parental controls, so you can limit the websites your child can access or block all internet access. Even better, you can set time limits for use so it switches itself off after a specified amount of time, so you don’t have to be the bad guy any more. The Kurio would be perfect for learning, reading books and watching films, especially on holiday.

Thank you to the lovely ladies at LightBrigade PR and mi-commsPR for inviting me to these fantastic events.

Posted in Mummydom | Leave a comment

Olympics in Hyde Park

Today we decided to head to Hyde Park to watch the Olympics on big screens at one of the free BT London Live events taking place every day. It rained most of the morning, so we waited till early afternoon before setting off. Naturally enough, the heavens opened while we were queueing to get in. Luckily it didn’t take too long to get through security and that turned out to be the last rain of the day. The security staff were great, very professional and also friendly, with some of them playing with Munchkin while we waited. The wristband for Munchkin with his surname and our mobile number on it was a very thoughtful touch. We were allowed to take in empty drinks bottles and there were plenty of free, chilled water fountains in the park. But we couldn’t take in any food. OK, there was plenty available to buy but we don’t normally live on a diet of burgers (£6), hot dogs (£4) or chips (£3). There were a few healthier options (noodles and a veggie/vegan stand) but all the food was expensive and I really wanted and needed some fruit and healthy snacks for Munchin (and me, I have to graze to keep my energy levels up, or at least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!).

First stop, Cadbury House (of course!). We queued for almost 1.5 hours to get in, and I’m not sure I’d do that again, but it was great fun once we got in. We were given a small pot of melted chocolate to begin with, then won a creme egg treat by playing a game. At the end, we were each given a chocolate gold medal and got to pose as medal winners, with Munchkin wrapped in the Union flag.

Next stop, a short queue to check out the new Samsung Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note in the Samsung Mobile Pi zone and win a few pins for playing games and drawing. Amazingly, some people had collected all 49, but we were happy with our 6.

Then on to watch Andy Murray win the men’s singles tennis gold! There were three big screens, showing the Olympics, and a stage with good live music; we had a choice of watching tennis, cycling or gymnastics. After the tennis came more tennis, with Andy Murray having to play the mixed doubles final as well. The atmosphere was great, lots of ooohs and aaaahs and cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, it was time to go home and get a tired Munchkin to bed (and for an exhausted Mummy to put her feet up). We had a lovely day and the atmosphere was great. I’d thoroughly recommend going to the free events in Hyde and Victoria parks in London. We didn’t have enough time to queue and try out free sports but we might go back for that.

My highlight was the appearance of Jessica Ennis on the main stage. And Munchkin really enjoyed flirting with the cheerleaders at The Sun’s stand!

Posted in Mummydom | Leave a comment

Treatment Scan Number 2

Yesterday was an interesting day, the day I got the results of my second PET scan during treatment. I went in feeling nervous because I’ve had some new joint pain recently, but Dr H was very reassuring. He showed me the first scan from February, showing all of the tumours, then the first treatment scan from May and finally the new scan.

At this point, I stopped listening and my heart sank – there were signs of possible tumour growth that weren’t there in May; this scan looked worse not better. How could this be? Dr H was so positive last time. Then came the good news. “You’re doing really well. Have you been more active recently?” Well yes, I’d just come back from holiday and been trying hard to walk more, and I’ve also been trying to use my PC more too. So what was going on? Basically, he thinks the new hot spots (active areas) in my bones are most likely just the result of extra activity and nothing to worry about, because there are no affected lymph nodes showing (unlike February), although he’ll keep an eye on my bones (so another scan in 2 months). He’s also stopped the chemotherapy after 6 cycles instead of 8 and is going to continue with just Avastin and Zometa, so no more blood transfusions.

Phew! Well, that serves me right for trying not to be a couch potato and actually walking (very slowly and out of breath) up a hill! Not to mention lots of sightseeing and sleeping on hard beds while on holiday. Maybe I should just accept my destiny and retire to the sofa with my magazines, books and films (and lots of chocolate!)? Now I have even more reason to sit down and play with Munchkin’s toys (always a silver lining!). And I’ll be going back to voice recognition software, if anyone can recommend a good package. Well, it’s either that or Husband power!

I have to admit to still being a bit nervous, but then who wouldn’t under the circumstances. But I’m happy with Dr H’s explanation and will get on with things as best I can until the next scan.

What’s a PET scan? It’s a scan on a CT machine, the one that looks like an open white tube, and you’re injected with radioactive glucose (sugar) after fasting for 6 hours then lie down for an hour (trying not to think about the scan and absolutely no reading or using your phone in case you get a false positive but not on a bed comfortable enough to actually sleep on!). As tumours are nasty, greedy, selfish things that grow more quickly than normal tissue, they’re also starving and the glucose goes straight to them, so they glow if they’re growing or present. What also shows up are black areas for the brain, heart, kidneys and bladder, all perfectly normal.

For me, the worst part is not being able to go near Munchkin for the rest of the day (because he’s under 5 years), or pregnant friends either. Having to lie still (and not think about how much my shoulder hurts or even that my nose is suddenly itching like mad!) isn’t great either, but I always make it through in the end. Music helps, although I almost laughed out loud at the appropriateness of Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars last time, which came on just as the scan started: “If I lay here/If I just lay here/Would you lie with me/And just forget the world?”

Posted in Cancer | 1 Comment

Please Give Blood and Keep Me Alive

Have you ever seen the TV ads about giving blood and wondered why they mention people on chemotherapy? Well, now I know. First time around I had problems with my immune system but my red blood counts remained perfectly normal. This time? It’s been a very different story.

So far, I’ve had six lots of chemotherapy, with two more to go. And every time I’ve had to have a transfusion of platelets to “keep you safe”, in the words of my oncologist. Without enough platelets, blood doesn’t clot so you don’t stop bleeding.

For me this means I bruise ridicuously easily, have nose bleeds that take up to an hour to stop just because I sneezed, and might not make it to the hospital if I’m ever involved in an accident.

I’ve also had two full blood transfusions because I was so anaemic I couldn’t walk up a short flight of stairs without being breathless. The first time this happened I thought OK, I’m getting unfit, too much being a couch potato (one of the “perks” of being a cancer patient), maybe I should try doing some exercise. But no, it wasn’t quite that simple.

I can’t express how grateful I am to the wonderful people who’ve given blood and helped keep me alive. Just think, if you donate blood, you might be helping me without realising it, and if not me then one of the many other cancer patients I’ve met whilst receiving blood.

http://www.blood.co.uk/

Posted in Cancer | 1 Comment

The Witch of the East

The Witch of the East is a high quality book written by Mark Boyde with beauiful illustrations by Scott McGregor, and is a compelling, moral story about a witch, faeries and other creatures. It’s told using imaginative rhymes, which keeps the pace going and the audience engaged. The gothic tale follows the Witch of the East as she tricks the faeries of Sweetascanbee Castle into going to a party at her house in the scary Ringfinger Forest. But the party is not all it seems. Along the way, you meet goblins, a troll, ogres, sea hags, red wolves and black crows.

The book is aimed at children aged 4 to 11 years, although the story may be a little dark for the youngest children. Munchkin found it quite scary, but he still enjoyed it and kept turning the pages eagerly. We’ve now read the book several times and it’s definitely one he wants to come back to.

This is one of a series of books, The Tales of Mordekai Hagg, and Munchkin and I are curious to see how the story develops. The next book The Legend of Mordekai Hagg is due to be released this month.

It also comes as a beautifully produced iPad app with very high quality art and the same compelling story. The app is nicely narrated by Braveheart actor Jimmy Chisholm and Royal Shakespeare Company actress Siobhan Redmond.

There is some animation in the app, which is faithful to the book, great sound effects and atmospheric music. The app also includes extensive back stories for all of the characters and explains the background to the tale. The only possible negative point is that the app isn’t really interactive, but the extensive detail of the character biographies makes up for this.

A percentage (25%) of the price goes to The Scottish Burned Children’s Club, a charity dedicated to young burns survivors across Scotland. Each book in the saga will be dedicated to a different charity.

Overall, the book and app are great and highly recommended, especially if your little one likes to be scared but isn’t prone to nightmares!

You can buy the iPad app and order hardback and paperback versions of the book on the website. The website includes lots of information about the characters and the creators an is well worth spending some time on.

Disclosure: I was sent the book and iPad app to review, but my opinions are honest and all my own.

Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

Blenheim Palace

Sunday was a rare sunny day so we decided to go outfor the day and wanted to go somewhere new. A cousin recommended Bleinheim Palace, so off we went, and arrived just over an hour later by car.

The palace is a very impressive building and the surrounding gardens are a huge 2,000 acres. There are two tours of the palace. The audio-visual tour of the upper floor is well thought out and gives a good overview of the history of the palace and its owners. Some of the rooms have animatronic figures who tell projected stories, which Munchkin watched with great interest. You’re guided through these rooms by one of the first occupants of the house. The remaining rooms have touch-screen information stations that give a great deal of information on the history of the house and the family; you can take your time in these rooms, although Munchkin was keen to move on every time the magic door into the next room opened (every 3-4 minutes).

The tour of the ground floor is self-guided and goes through several furnished rooms with information plaques and guides in them. There’s an interesting trail for young children that involves looking for animals in paintings and on ceilings and furniture; the lovely guides were very helpful and Munchkin had a great time.

The best part of the gardens for families has to be the Pleasure Gardens, which includes a maze, an adventure playground and a smaller play area for younger children. There’s a car park next to it but make sure you go to the palace first because there’s no way back into the rest of the gardens from here. Munchkin had a lovely time in the adventure playground, which was essentially a series of linked wooden climbing frames with climbing nets as well. You can take a little train from the palace to the pleasure garden, which runs every 30 minutes.

At £20 for adults and £11.50 for children aged 5 to 16 years (under 5s are free) for a one-day visit it’s expensive, but it’s worth it if you convert your ticket to an annual pass valid for 12 months; you have to do this within 7 days of visiting and can apply online. If you do convert to a 12-month pass, it’s worth going back just for the playground and the gardens, and there are regular events in the gardens as well.

The nearby small town of Woodstock is lovely, lots of stone buildings and full of character. Meals and drinks can be a little pricey but it’s a beautiful place to spend some time and relax after visiting the palace and gardens.

Visit the palace’s website here.

Posted in Mummydom | Leave a comment