Rate the Date – Mr and Mrs A Go Ape

We might be smiling, but we have no real idea what we are getting into at this point, except for a harness. When I suggested a day off without the kids at Go Ape, I was thinking it would be a great way to mark my new found freedoms, now they are both at school, as the day looms I am less sure.

Our Go Ape instructor at Sherwood Pines, Nottingham is John, he is brilliant, he’s a TV stunt man. He tells us about his work, on Casualty, The Bill,  Inspector Morse to name a few. Part of a stunt man’s job is to test whether stunts can be performed by actors and what safety gear is needed, so we immediately feel like we are in really safe hands. John’s also very at home in nature and really helps us to distract us from our fears so we can appreciate our time in the forest.

It is a long way down, but climbing those rope ladders is by far the worse bit. 

Once you are in the trees, you have the routine of clipping and unclipping your safety cables to keep you grounded in the now and stop your mind worrying.

Once you learn to trust the harness to hold you, you can relax and enjoy. Mr A is heading for the bit where you jump off and rope swing into a net.

The view is amazing, I can only explain it as feeling a bit like a squirrel or monkey might feel. Or like Jane in Tarzan?.

The course really helps to build your confidence. We really look forward to the zip wire at the end of each of the six sections, some of them are really long and the feeling of whizzing through the forest is amazing. Here comes Tarzan.

Mr A is less keen than me on heights, but he is quicker to pick up how the course works and takes it all massively in his stride. He gets to go first on the adrenalin junkie bit, jumping from the apple picking tower, the second highest point in the course, on a rope swing. Except this time there is a bit of a drop before your harness registers, so it feels a lot like you are free falling. Like when squirrels do this:

This doesn’t capture half of the feeling….

I clip myself to the rope swing and call down to John to give me my instructions without even looking down. It is scary, but also a huge adrenalin rush as you hit the net.

With that out the way, we’re feeling quite euphoric, it is back to enjoying our time in the forest, John convinces me to try the tightrope hands free, just for a little bit. I really enjoy swinging through the trees, it is a really liberating feeling.

You can see the satisfaction at completing the course right there in our faces!

Then it is off to the pub for lunch before school pick up.

Rate the date

Mr A said: I give it an 7.5/10 – She definitely took me out of my comfort zone or this would have been higher, we got on well and I hope to see her again, though this time it’ll be my turn to choose where we go!

Mrs A said: I give it an 9 out of 10. It was great to have a date that took us into the outdoors and to face a new challenge. He was brave, if he was out of his comfort zone he hid it well. I just hope he doesn’t expect me to do anything too scary for the next date, I’m worried John gave him some ideas.

Disclosure – the tickets were a gift for writing a post about Go Ape earlier this year.

For all the single ladies, mums and dads

This isn’t an easy post to pitch, so I will probably make a lot of crap jokes. A couple of experiences over the last week made me realise how hard single parents work, and how -even though I am often found complaining about my other half’s belief in some kind of Christmas fairy – at Christmas that load gets so much bigger.

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Theatre Review – The Elephantom at The Shed, National Theatre

Avye Leventis (Elephantom) and Audrey Brisson (Girl)_credit Charlotte Macmillan

Avye Leventis (Elephantom) and Audrey Brisson (Girl) Photo credit – Charlotte Macmillan

My good friend Natalie and her gorgeous son went to the National Theatre’s The Shed to review the Elephantom, for A Residence last week. It is one of our all time favourite kid’s books, and just looking at the photos I want to be there!

Natalie is a drama teacher who I had the pleasure of working with in my teaching days. Isn’t her youngest gorgeous (below), looks like he was loving the South Bank. Find out how they got on… Continue reading

Top 10 tips to take Beautiful Christmas Photos

2011-12-24Do you think much about your Christmas photos? Over Christmas we take lots of pictures indoors, there is the least amount of daylight in the whole year and we’re all a bit preoccupied with other things: hardly a recipe for great photos. I have lots of pretty rubbish shots from over the years.

The ones above were taken two years ago, I was really pleased, much better than last year, but it took me until this week to click why. Continue reading

Five family friendly European Christmas festivals

DSC_0325I really got the travel bug this year. Now my kids are older, but while Christmas is still full of magic, here are six places I would love to travel to as a family at Christmas. Don’t forget to leave room in your suitcase for all the amazing present buying opportunities. Continue reading

101 uses for a Tartan Throw

Laura Ashley sent me a gorgeous tartan cranberry throw and challenged me and 15 other bloggers to come up with a use for it. You can see the results over on the Laura Ashley blog. Having spent my previous career teaching fun drama improvisation games like ‘what can we pretend this stick is?’ I was very up for the challenge.

The Tartan rug looks fab on our black sofa and is big enough for all four of us to snuggle under. It transforms the sofa into a cosy den to snuggle and watch a film. But that is too obvious.

Aha, did someone say den… the classic use for a throw. My kids are driving me crackers, and not the Christmas kind. Endoftermitis has struck, they so needed to break up last week (god forbid I need them at school to get stuff done). The struggle to get them to and from school is killing me. I am counting down the days.

So with four whole days left to survive, I surprised them with this Christmas den. The perfect place for them to be out of my hair hang out after school. I even made it Christmassy.

Do you know what, it only took me 10 minutes to put together and it made them really happy and calm. I’m feeling all warm and festive now.

So, I lied a bit in the title, I don’t have 101 uses yet, so perhaps we can pass the throw on and play ‘what would you do with a Tartan throw?’ But I bet you are dying to know what the other 15 bloggers involved did with their throws, check this out!

Post in colloboration with Laura Ashley

Hey *tartle* Lolo! Don’t be a Mouton Enrage – give the gift of a language course

I am feeling a little bit mouton enrage today, (French for someone who loses their temper, literally an ‘enraged sheep’. Too much to do, overtired kids, and not enough time. The language course provider Rosetta Stone sent me these crackers and I haven’t even had chance to make them because this time of year is bonkers.

If you are fed up of jokes in Christmas crackers, and fancy livening up Christmas dinner then take a look at Rosetta Stone’s alternative cracker inserts, ten cut out unusual words picked from languages around the globe.

The dog woke me for some silly reason at 5.30 and as we wandered though the dark house to see if he needed a wee in the back garden, (he didn’t), I had a distinct feeling of Hira Hira. Japanese for the feeling you have when you walk into a dark and decrepit old house in the middle of the night. I feel like stuff is caving in on me, the Christmas tree was the final straw, the house is overflowing.

I’ve lost my Yupinalle too, or the kids have hidden it down the sofa. Swedish for mobile phone, literally, yuppy teddy, like a security blanket.

Anyway, only 3 days of school left and then I hope we will have the time and energy to make these lovely crackers.

I love the word Tartle, I do it alot. It is Scottish for hesitating when you are introducing someone whose name you can’t remember. Only the Welsh could have a moment for the sound the grandfather clock makes before it chimes, and what a beautiful word it is too, Gwarlingo. I imagine there will be lots of Poronkusemas on Christmas Eve, Finnish for the exact distance a reindeer can travel without a comfort break.

Anyway my point is, language, it is beautiful and it makes a fabulous gift. Rosetta Stone offer language courses on CD Rom and online. The software is interactive and can be downloaded on two different computers for use by up to five people, making it easy for a couple, or family to follow a language course together.

I have been threatening to learn Italian for sometime. Rosetta Stone kindly sent me a six month trial of their Italian language course, so next time we go to Italy I can do more than order coffee and pizza, badly.

Here is the pdf of the cracker inserts in case you fancy livening up the conversation over Christmas.

http://aresidence.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Christmas-Cracker-Languages-1.pdf

If like me you were wondering why Rosetta Stone…

The Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian granodiorite stele inscribed with a decree issued at Memphis in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The decree appears in three scripts: the upper text is Ancient Egyptianhieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek. Because it presents essentially the same text in all three scripts (with some minor differences among them), it provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Wikipedia

Post in collaboration with Rosetta Stone.

The Nutcracker – London Coliseum: A mother and daughter review.

nutcracker_production_header.jpg__740x448_q85_crop_upscaleOur roving theatre reporter in the South, Kerry Bratt took her daughter to see The Nutcracker. Kerry is a mum, a Head of Drama and we trained to teach together. Over to Kerry…

This was a wonderful Christmassy, Mum and daughter girlie night out that I recommend to anyone.

Penny will tell you that there was a time when Friday night was the time to find me out in London having a ball and running for the last train home….since having kids the idea fills me with dread!  However tonight is different, tonight a new phase of girl’s nights started, just Mummy Bratt and girl Bratt-Sparks who is 11.  Continue reading

2013 looking utterly incredible, thanks to Photobox

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Before the year ends, I wanted to show you this. Our photo album from Photobox. If you’re anything like me finding time and making yourself slow down long enough to put this together is a real achievement in itself. Actually the software is easy, it is choosing the pictures that takes the time!

I cried when it arrived, it brought back so many fab memories of our Carnival Cruise and it is just so stunningly beautiful and the photos so sharp. How cool too, is the collage cover? But this photo book just keeps on giving. Continue reading

Awesome Scooter Y•VOLUTION, the Y•Fliker Air

scooter y volutionIn 1984, when I was 7, me and my friends played together in the park at the end of the cul de sac, all on our own. There was a boy we used to play with who was a bit older than us. One day he pinched my scooter, jumped over the fence and carried it off towards the big river. Me and my best friend had to run all the way home and breathlessly shout ‘Help!’ at my Dad.

Watching my Dad leading the boy out the undergrowth, Dad with my scooter held aloft, I’ve never seen my prized possession so clearly, bright turquoise and yellow stripes. I thought it was the best thing ever, after my Dad of course. In reality it was just a souped up version of the one above on the left.

Times have changed. Fast forward to 2013.

When our  Y•Fliker Air turned up I couldn’t quite envisage what Mr G might be able to do on it, but this video shows why these scooters are so very, very cool and I’m really excited by what they are capable of. This is a slightly more grown up model, the Carver, but it gives a real sense of where the Air could lead you to: Continue reading

What are your Little White Lies of Christmas?

How many white lies do you tell to get you through the Christmas season? In the run up I lie a lot, in fact I think it would be safe to say I am a competitive liar.

I mainly lie about how organised or disorganised I am. I cannot bear conversations about Christmas shopping, so generally the more organised the person I am talking to is, the further down the spectrum towards complete disorganisation I go, just to see their horror. Sometimes if I am very bored of talking about it, I just tell people it is all done and wrapped.

I sustain a whole elaborate world populated by a man in a red suit, reindeers and elves.

I also pretend Christmas is my favourite day of the whole year, when actually it is Boxing Day, the day when I can eat leftovers, play with my presents, actually watch some cracking telly and not have to cook.

Christmas is the season of little white lies and this video by the insurance company Hiscox had me really smiling. If you are a parent, I think it might have you grinning too. Spot on.

So, what are your little white lies of Christmas?

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Beautifully simple, classic Christmas printable crafts

DSC_0718-001The fabulous people at cartridgesave.co.uk shared with me some gorgeous printable craft templates. Whether you want to keep the kids quiet for an hour over the holidays, or you fancy a serious craft challenge these six ideas are easily adaptable to create lovely results for all levels of ability. Miss L and I sat down for a quiet Saturday afternoon to try out two of the Christmas printable crafts: Crackers and Angels. Continue reading