One thing I absolutely love about having my blog is capturing the smallest details of daily life. Little moments that are easily lost or forgotten in the chaos of daily life.
A tiny thing made me so happy today. Sam wrote his name for the first time! This is such a big deal! My daughter was colouring and trying to write from a very young age. My crazy boys have shown absolutely no interest in even holding a pencil!
Please nobody burst my bubble by pointing out that it is not very legible!
I can’t take any credit for teaching Sam to write his name. This little bit of magic happened at the boys lovely preschool.
We have been watching trailers for the film Sing for months! So we were really excited for Sing’s UK release this weekend. Sing is from the same creators as Despicable Me. Having enjoyed the preview clips (and paid £40 for cinema tickets) I was really willing Sing to be good. I am happy to say that we were not disappointed!
The plot of the film is really simple which makes it really appealing to children (have you tried explaining the plot of the Lego movie to a 4 year old?!). The film centres on Buster Moon, a financially stretched Koala, voiced by Matthew McConaughey. He decides to stage a singing competition to save his struggling theatre. The plot follows the fortunes of a group of animals all competing to win the singing prize. The characters in this film are so likeable and well developed. I was totally rooting for them to come good. My favourite was a downtrodden mummy pig called Rosita, voiced by Reese Witherspoon. There is Johnny a silky voiced gorilla from a criminal family. Tori Kelly voices a painfully shy elephant and Scarlett Johansson is a rock chick porcupine. I think the depth of characters will especially appeal to adults in the audience.
Visually the film reminded me a little bit of Zootropolis with the anthropomorphic cast (get me with my fancy word!). There are some really lovely quirky touches. If there was an Oscar for best supporting performance by a squid Sing would win hands down. I love the elderly lizard theatre assistant with one glass eye. I was also surprised when Jennifer Saunders popped up as the voice of an elderly sheep.
This film has lots of really funny moments when all of us (aged 4 to 40 something) were laughing out loud. The audition section is particularly funny. It is like an animal version of the X Factor without Simon Cowell and all of the fake tension! I sometimes find with kids films that all of the funny bits are in the trailer (I’m thinking The Secret Life of Pets, funny trailer very mediocre film!) I was very pleased that this wasn’t the case here.
The singing in the film is incredible. It isn’t like a musical where the characters randomly start singing every 5 minutes. The songs are animal versions of real songs, ranging from Taylor Swift to Frank Sinatra. It made a refreshing change from syrupy Disney style ballads. My daughter was grooving along in her seat. I wanted to applaud some of the performances especially the big musical finale. I felt really touched by one of the songs Meena the elephant sang.
In terms of age appropriateness Sing proved a really good choice for my 4 year olds – there were no scary moments at all. I think the music and the characters combined to make it a real family film rather than just entertaining for the kids. I don’t think I’m giving anything away when I say it all comes together into a really feel good ending. I left the cinema feeling genuinely uplifted!
2017 is my year to ace managing my money. I don’t think I’m terrible with my finances but man being a family of 5 is a financial challenge! I am in a situation where unexpected expenses, like a broken washing machine or a big car repair bill are a headache. I don’t think I am an extravagant spender or am spending recklessly but I have a feeling there must be lots of little tweaks and improvements that I could make. This year I am challenging myself to become a money master!
Knowledge is power
I spend time wishing I had more money however I am a bit hazy on the details of my everyday spending. I am definitely guilty of only giving my bank statements a cursory glance. I’m never that sure what my current balance is. I know what direct debits I pay and roughly when they come out of my account. But I’m a bit vague on exactly what I pay for things like my phone contact and energy supplies.
I don’t carry much cash with me. I have a bad habit of paying for most things by card and use contactless payments wherever I can. Although it is really convenient it does mean I’m not really paying attention to how much things cost – it almost doesn’t feel like real money!
You manage what you measure
My first step to being a money master is to pay attention! I’ve found a few easy ways to do this. These are baby steps I know but I’ve got to start somewhere!
Spending log – I’ve found a really simple way to trick myself into being more conscious about my spending. I’ve bought a little notebook and started making a note of everything I spend. I have gone from absent mindedly making contactless payments to asking for receipts and diligently noting my spending and my bank balance at the end of each day.
Already my spending log has made me think twice about buying things. I needed to go into town this week to exchange something. I would normally seen this as a good chance to do a little browsing and maybe to treat myself but I resisted. I also like to buy a cappuccino from a local cafe when I’m in the office now I’ve realised how much they cost I am going to keep it to an occasional treat!
Bank statements – I sat down yesterday and for the first time in ages and looked at my bank statement in detail. I wanted to get a better idea of what all my regular payments are what are my biggest areas of spending are. There were more cafe related transactions than I care to admit to! Amazon also features quite heavily.
Spending analysis app – I also stumbled across an app from my bank that breaks down all of your spending into categories. Downloading this and looking at my outgoings over the last year was eye opening! I spend an incredible amount on supermarket shopping – nearly every month Tesco comes out as the place where I have spent the most money. I always think that my boys are eating us out of house and home and now I have the evidence to prove it!
One of the reasons that I spend so much money on supermarket shopping is that I am always popping to the local Tesco store near to my house for bits and pieces. They mainly stock premium brands and Tesco finest items – not exactly budget friendly! I am also like popping into our local Waitrose, I’m a sucker for the free coffee.
Today I took a trip to Aldi to see what savings I could make on supermarket shopping. I was completely amazed! I bought a trolley full of shopping (61 items in total). This included a bottle of wine and 5 lots of fresh meat. It came to a total of £60.88! We will have to see which Aldi products we like – so far the kids have given the smoothies I bought a big thumbs up. I am blown away by the green tea bags I bought which were only 35p a packet. I cannot tell the difference between them and the £1.50 ones I usually buy.
I am slightly skeptical as to whether the washing liquid tablets can be as good as the Ariel ones that I currently use. The last pack of Ariel I bought works out at 33p per wash (I think this might have been an offer price). The Aldi equivalent work out at 14p per wash. It is worth a try!
My last online Tesco order, a similar size shop of 65 items, cost £107. This isn’t a totally fair comparison as some of the things that I bought were different but I’m still blown away by the price difference. Aldi is over the other side of town to us but with a bit of planning it should be possible to switch our main supermarket to Aldi for at least one big monthly shop.
Money saving bore?
I was a bit concerned that all of this focus on money and saving could get really boring. Would it become like doing a strict diet when you just end up obsessing about food? I came across a really good tip on YouTube, from the fab Marie Forleo. She calls it “Bring Your Own Luxury” finding ways to use what you already have to create little treats and nice experiences.
I realised that I’m not making the most of the lovely things I already have. For example I have a really good electric toothbrush but I’m using a manual brush because I haven’t got around to recharging it – I went and had a search for the adapter that I need to get it working again. When I was getting ready for work this week I used some lovely body cream and perfume that had been sitting untouched on my bathroom shelf. To stop money saving feeling like a chore I’m going to keep looking for ways to treat myself with what I already have.
I think my money saving mission is going to be a bit of an evolving thing. I’m sure there are lots of things that I can do and I’m going to keep my eyes open for ideas. Next on the list is seeing if I can get a cheaper mobile phone contact and to look into switching my energy supplier.
I’ll post some updates as the year goes on to report on how I’m getting on.
Getting twins to walk
I’ve been having a bit of a dilemma with getting the twins out of their pushchair and walking. The boys turned 4 in October and I feel like they are getting too old to be using a pushchair anymore. Plus they are also getting really heavy for me to push about. However phasing out the pushchair has proved to be tricky. When we are all out together as a family we don’t really use the pushchair anymore, this is easily manageable with two adults. The main challenge has been doing the school run everyday on my own with the 3 kids. I have got into the habit of popping the twins in the double pushchair as it is the quickest and easiest way to get to school/preschool in a hurry.
Walking miles and miles!
Because I don’t drive I walk A LOT! We live a mile away from school so walk a minimum of 2 miles every day. Twice a week we do two round trips to school. That’s nearly 4 miles of walking which is quite a lot for little legs!
When we got rid of the pushchair for Sofia we didn’t have too many places to rush to. We could take life at her toddler walking pace. It is a bit of a different now that we have to avoid the shame of being regulars in the school’s late book! In this cold winter weather I just want to get back home into my warm house as quickly as possible!
Keeping them safe and under control
It seemed so much easier to walk to places with one child. I would just hold Sofia’s hand when we were near a busy road. If she got tired or went on walking strike I could just pick her up and carry her.
I find it a bit nerve wracking to have two boys walking alongside busy roads, especially now it is darker in the evenings. It also a nightmare if the twins decide they are tired or don’t want to walk anymore. It is no fun at all trying to coax two uncooperative 4 year olds to keep going. You attract a lot of funny looks if you are dragging 2 screaming children along the pavement!
Sofia learnt to scoot when she was quite little. This was great when we needed to go somewhere that was a bit further away. The idea of my kamikaze twins zooming about near traffic is way more than my nerves can handle!
Using a single pushchair
I’ve decided that I’m just going to go for it and try and retire our double pushchair. At the weekend I bought a single pushchair (a Baby Jogger City Mini). My plan is to let one of the boys walk to preschool and to switch over for the return leg. I can then gradually stop using the single stroller altogether.
Our first try
Today we took the plunge! The boys both decided that they wanted to walk to preschool. I still took the single pushchair just in case their enthusiasm wore off on the way. Plus it was handy for carrying 3 rucksacks, 2 lunch boxes and a PE bag! We navigated a level crossing, two sets of roadworks blocking the pavement. We made it across two busy roads and dodged some dog poo! I had a slight heart failure moment when a car mounted to the curb just in front of us. I must have said “stay away from the edge of the pavement” “don’t go too far ahead” and “we need to keep together” about 500 times! I was so proud when we reached school on time. We did it!
Not only that the boys nearly walked the whole way home too! Sam walked the full mile home. Leo fell over right at the end of our walk and bumped his knee so he sat in the pushchair for the last little bit of the journey.
I don’t know if we’ll manage it everyday or what we will do on a double school run day but today’s walking felt like an achievement!
How did you go pushchair free?
I would love to know any ideas you have for getting kids out of their pushchair and walking more. Have you found a solution that works, especially with twins?
Ever wondered about the calories in McDonald’s desserts. Can you guess which have the most and least calories? We took the kids to McDonald’s for ice creams after dinner yesterday. We don’t go there very often and I always get a bit mind boggled trying to decide what to choose while I’m in the queue so I’ve been having a little look at the McDonald’s website to check out the dessert options.
I don’t really believe in full on dieting. Life is way too short not to have the odd treat every now and again. Having said that I think it’s important to make food choices based on clear information. The nutritional information for all of the McDonald’s menu is on the company website arranged into different product categories. I thought it would be handy to see how McDonald’s sweet treats compare.
Here are McDonald’s desserts listed from the lowest to the highest calorie content (information is taken from the current McDonald’s published menu).
Pineapple Stick – 37
Ice Cream Cone – 145
Sugar Donut – 189
Ice Cream Cone with a Flake – 190
Apple pie – 250
Chocolatey Donut – 254
Strawberry Sundae – 292
Oreo McFlurry – 310
Cadbury Crunchie McFlurry – 323
Cadbury Dairy Milk McFlurry – 332
Toffee Sundae – 344
Triple Chocolate Cookie – 368
Blueberry Muffin – 401
Galaxy Ripple McFlurry – 406
Chocolate Muffin – 515
What would you choose?! I had an apple pie, Rolando has a strawberry sundae and the kids had ice cream cones.
I feel like we are just getting out of the Christmas and New Year haze. You know that phase when you don’t know what day it is and you spend a lot of time wearing pyjamas! To start off the year we have been having a collective brainstorm about what we want to do as a family in 2017 . I’m not sure if family wish list is the right title. It sounds a bit airy fairy like these things will happen by magic! Maybe I should call these our 2017 plans to make them sound more definite. I was going to call it a bucket list but that made me think of dying!
This year is going to be a big one for us. Sofia will turn 9 in August (how is this possible!). The boys will start school in September! We have loads of ideas of things we would like to do this year. Some of these are fun things and some are more practical. A couple are boring but necessary. I’m sure we will add to our wish list as the year goes on.
Here are the ideas that we have had so far.
Learn to drive (me!)
Decorate the bedrooms
Go to the zoo
Take a family holiday
Get passports for the boys
Learn some origami (me)
Have some date nights (me and Rolando)
Improve our money management
Celebrate our half birthdays
Have a birthday party (Sofia)
Replace our living room carpet (boring but necessary after 3 kids)
Sort out our garden
Have a barbeque party
See a show
Go to the beach
Clear out the loft
Post weekly videos on our YouTube channel
Go punting in Cambridge
Do something meaningful for charity (I need to think about this one a bit further to make it more specific)
Learn how to do handstands and cartwheels (Sofia)
Have friends over for dinner once a month
Do meal planning and try out a new recipe each week
Complete a running challenge (me)
I’ve written out our 2017 family wish list and stuck it on the wall next to our kitchen table. We will see our list every time we eat and it will maybe make us more focused on making these things happen.
Do you make a list of things that you want to do each year? What do you want to do in 2017?