Edinburgh Panto: Aladdin

As we settled into our seats for this year’s pantomime at the King’s Theatre I started to think about how you might explain pantomime to someone from another country. It’s a very British thing; men dressed up as women, the slapstick comedy, the audience participation. It’s an unusual set of ingredients that just seems to work, the whole family can take something from it and I think that’s what makes it so popular.Aladdin King's Theatre

The much loved trio of Allan Stewart, Grant Stott and Andy Gray featured in the King’s panto this year alongside Greg Barrowman (who, if I’ve done my research correctly, is the cousin of John Barrowman).

This year’s show is packed full of special effects which keeps the interest up for kids. Adults will enjoy the hidden jokes and subtle innuendo. The story is the one we all know and love, Aladdin goes on a quest to find the lamp and is bequeathed three wishes by the genie. Evil Abanazar has other ideas and steals the lamp and kidnaps Aladdin’s love Princess Jasmine. While the show often goes off on a tangent from the main story, they are welcome tangents. A great variety performance with a bit of everything thrown into the pot.
Edinburgh Pantomime
Allan Stewart steals the show with gag after gag, a few daring stunts and a big ballad performance of This Is The Moment.

Alex who isn’t usually a fan said it was the best panto yet, and I’d be inclined to agree with him. Fantastic Christmas fun for all the family, a must-do alongside the Winter Wonderland.

Aladdin at the King’s Theatre runs until 18th January. Tickets start from £14. More details and ticket bookings here.

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St Thomas & Tortola

After our day in the Bahamas our cruise visited St Thomas.

During our day at St Thomas we decided to take an excursion to swim with dolphins. We hadn’t realised that the excursion would take us through passport control and into another country! It was a full on day but it was worth it for Erin and Alex to have the chance to swim with dolphins, I’d previously done it in Florida so I sat at the side and took the photos.

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Royal Yacht Britannia

Erin’s been wanting to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia for a while, we attempted a visit last year but it was too busy – it’s a very popular attraction, especially for tourists to Edinburgh who want their Royal fix.

The opportunity came up to visit as part of the ‘St Andrew’s Day Out’ campaign. Over 200 venues and attractions participated, offering visitors special deals. You can see all the offers here, a few are still ongoing.

Before we’d even got onto Royal Yacht Britannia, Erin had whipped her camera and was keenly snapping away.

RYB 1

The tour begins on the upper decks. There’s special commentary for children which Erin seemed to enjoy. In fact she supplied me with a few facts for this blog post, so it must have been interesting!

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For example, did you know that shouting on board Britannia was forbidden. Apparently all orders had to be whispered to avoid disturbing the Royal family and their guests.

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There are two things we love on a day out, one is a gift shop and the other is a tearoom.

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We were delighted to find a lovely tearoom serving scones and tea, as well as soup and sandwiches (which looked lovely!)

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The tour continues and you get to see the Queen’s bedroom, the formal dining room, private offices and the lounge area.

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The most fascinating part of the tour for me was the staff quarters, you get a real feel for what a trip might have been like for them. Everything has been kept as it was, even the naafi is still there and selling sweets to visitors.

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We had a lovely day and would highly recommend a visit, at £12.50 for an adult ticket I think it represents good value too. Find out more about Royal Yacht Britannia here.

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Have you discovered Toothpick yet?

ToothpickIf you’re anything like me, most of the household admin is done online. I manage banking, book hairdresser appointments and do food shopping online. If it can be done quickly and efficiently online then I’m on board. I was interested then to hear of a new online booking system, one that lets you book your dentist appointment online.

Toothpick is the UK’s leading online booking platform for dentist appointments. Launched in 2013, one million people have now used the technology to book their appointments.

Toothpick are on a mission to make dentistry more consumer friendly, by making it easy to access up to date information on both NHS and private dentists near you – including prices and reviews! They say that 50 percent of bookings are now being made outside of dental practices’ usual opening hours and 60 percent on mobile devices. For busy parents, not being restricted to fitting everything into the 9-5 is very helpful. It’s been so popular that Toothpick is now being rolled out in Holland, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Once you’ve made your choice, you can book an appointment in under 60 seconds.

Follow these three simple steps to book your appointment;

Search

Select a treatment, and search by location, practice or dentist name.

Browse

View and narrow your results, to show for example NHS/private or dentists who treat children.

Book

Click on an appointment time to start your booking. We’ll verify and confirm it via email. You’re booked in!

This post is brought to you by Toothpick

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There Is Only One Success

I love this.

Freedom

Cars and houses are nice, but freedom and choice are the real markers of success in my opinion.

Is success being tied to a well paying job that you hate, that someone could take away from you at any moment? Employment is fine, but getting to the point where you are there by choice has got be part of the success barometer? Likewise with assets, if you don’t actually own those houses and cars and you’re only acquiring them to show off, can that really be classed as successful? Because I think our society currently doesn’t look past these superficial things to find out what real success looks and feels like.

In my opinion, success isn’t a collection of assets.

It’s a feeling.

It’s being completely at ease with where you are in life and how you spend your time and money. It’s having the freedom and choice to do what you want to do and not be beholden to someone else and whatever agenda they may have for you. Beholden is the key word here, employment is the right road for many people, but success is knowing that if you ever wanted to leave you could. Success is having the courage to beat down your own path whether society values and classes that as ‘successful’ or not.

I was chatting to a friend yesterday and we were saying how important and valuable the ‘can’t wait to go to work’ feeling is (as opposed to the dreading Monday morning feeling). Time and the way we spend it is far more valuable than money. There are always ways to make more money, time is finite, once it’s spent you can’t make more. We should value time more highly than money and only spend it on things that are really important to us. Yet too often people ‘work for the weekend’, spend years in jobs they hate (and spend years moaning about it), and put off pursuing hobbies and taking trips for when they have more time. I realised on a trip recently that there would never be ‘more time’. Time in the future is not guaranteed, all I have is the time I have now so I figured I’d better start using it. That’s resulted in adjusting work patterns, spending more time with family and actually using some of my time to pursue hobbies and plan the trips I’ve been looking ‘forward’ to. I’ve got a better deal on our mortgage and started saving more too, I realised that if I wanted to feel successful in the future and have the same level of freedom and choice, that I would had to spend a little bit of my time, and a lot of my money protecting it.

Of course one person’s successful feeling is not the same as another, but on the whole most of us (really deep down, past that ego bit) value similar things; family, a comfortable home, fulfilling work, time for hobbies, a bit of travel… We are often made to believe these things are out of our reach, but if you turn down the noise on a lot of the things that we don’t need (that we are told we do), then you usually find that the important stuff is well within reach.

Right, I’m off to play my new cornet. I thought playing a musical instrument was quite a wasteful use of my time, I’ve realised that doing non-money making things actually gives the money-making activities more point and context. Feels much better to do a bit of the living now and not just saving it all up for some non specific time in the future.

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RBS Finding Scotland’s Real Heroes: Community Entrepreneur Winner

Scotland HeroesI blogged a few weeks ago about attending the RBS Finding Scotland’s Real Heroes awards ceremony.

I was delighted at the end of the ceremony to meet the winner of the Community Entrepreneur of the Year category, Vicki McCarthy.

Vicki, who is inspired by her daughter who has autism, set up REACH for Autism. REACH for Autism provides a variety of support and services such as group workshops, training days and events aimed at bringing those living with autism together.
Scotland Heroes
Vicki says, ‘The Reach Way’ focuses on Relationships, Education, Action. Community and Health. By connecting these five areas we can work together to help anyone living with autism.

Vicki is the Founder and Executive Director of Reach for Autism and mum of a teenage daughter with autism. She has supported many parents over the years and has been delivering parent workshops in her local community and surrounding areas in recent years. Vicki has worked as a nurse in the UK and USA but felt compelled to change direction and study autism after her daughter was diagnosed in 2005. Vicki is passionate about helping people with autism and their families to reach their full potential and to become valued members of their local community.

On receiving her award Vicki said, “I wasn’t expecting this at all. My amazing daughter is the inspiration behind REACH For Autism”

Congratulations to Vicki and all the other finalists.

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Tempus, Edinburgh

To say October was a busy month is an understatement, in amongst all of the other excitement we were invited to Tempus on George Street.

Tempus is part of The George Hotel, now I’ll be the first to admit that hotel restaurants can be disappointing but Tempus is different. Firstly it has a seperate front door entrance to the hotel meaning that it’s not just hotel guests that are dining at Tempus. This means that Tempus is competing with every other restaurant in Edinburgh, so the standard has to be good or better.

Edinburgh Restaurant

Tempus Dining Room

The entrance leads to a bustling bar and informal dining area, as you make your way to the back you discover a larger dining room. The dining room has a bit of a wow factor that you don’t expect, it’s one of the best furnished restaurants I’ve been in. It was a bit empty when we were in during the week, but I expect the vibe is much more buzzy at the weekend.

Edinburgh Restaurant

Breakfast Martini

After a tough day at work a cocktail was called for. I ordered a breakfast martini and noticed how tranquil the dining room was in comparison to the bar, almost none of the noise carried through.

Edinburgh Restaurant

Crab Cake & Poached Egg

Alex ordered the crab cake with poached egg, which seemed to go down well. The poached egg was perfectly cooked.

Edinburgh Restaurant

Peas & Parma Ham

I had the peas and parma ham which was lovely and fresh. The pea puree could have done with a touch more seasoning but that’s a minor gripe.

Edinburgh Restaurant

Bread & Olives

We also ordered some bread and olives to share with Erin who had joined us (Tempus isn’t really a kids place but they were happy to accommodate). There was a good selection of breads served with olive oil and vinegar and some tasty grissini.

For main I chose the lamb dish, I don’t usually choose lamb and I did end up with food envy when Alex’ steak arrived. Unfortunately my picture of the lamb didn’t turn out but it was served with carrot and cumin puree and kale. It was on the lighter side so most people would opt to have a side of mash. The carrot puree was a bit earthy for me so I was glad I’d ordered the mash which was buttery and the perfect accompaniment.

Edinburgh Restaurant

Steak & Pepper Sauce

Alex’s steak was good, the pepper sauce was freshly made and had a good hit of pepper – I ended up dipping my lamb it was so tasty.

Edinburgh Restaurant

Mini Fish & Chips


There was no children’s menu but our waitress was quick to offer the bar menu which had a range of mini dishes to choose from. Erin had fish and chips which was the perfect size and she was delighted when it arrived in little buckets.

Edinburgh Restaurant

Chocolate Orange Tart & Pecan Brittle

There wasn’t much I fancied on the dessert menu so I shared the chocolate orange tart and pecan brittle with Erin. Unfortunately the pastry wasn’t crumbly and fresh tasting, it felt bought in and/or refrigerated. The pecan brittle was lovely though.

Edinburgh Restaurant

Banoffee Pie


The banoffee pie was much better. An individually encased pie with banana ice cream and burnt banana puree which was the star of the show.

On the whole a lovely meal, if you fancy somewhere reliable with good quality food and an impressive dining room then Tempus is a good choice.

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Home Is Where The Heart (And A Good Kitchen) Is

We moved house two years ago, from an older two bedroom house to a new build in our village. There was a small part of us that were a bit unsure about the move at the time, we would be tripling our mortgage repayments overnight. After a lot of thought we made the move, and it wasn’t without its stress. Here we are though and on reflection it was absolutely the right decision for us. We live in a lovely street with great neighbours, no through traffic, walking distance from the primary school, and the bus stop for the high school is at the top of the road. We couldn’t ask for much more. For where we are in our lives right now it’s perfect.

It’s fun to dream about the future though, and we often think about where we’ll move to next and what kind of house it will be. One of our favourite programmes is Grand Designs, over the last ten years of watching we’ve learned the things we love (wood, lots of space, mezzanines, good offices and kitchens), and what we don’t (concrete, harsh lines, built up areas, uber modern uncomfortable furniture).

My current future dream is to live in a barn conversion type property. We already live in a more rural area and there are quite a few properties like this in the area, it’s not the right time yet, but one day it will be.

Kitchens
Betta Living
In my next house I’d like a modern kitchen with a larder and island, I’d also like a slightly bigger kitchen. All my homes so far have had bigger kitchens, the one I have now is the smallest I’ve had and a bit more space would be nice.

I like this Phoenix Aubergine kitchen.

Bathrooms
Bathroom
After having a browse on Betta Living I’ve discovered that my preference is for modern bathrooms. I live the stone and glass in this one.

Bedrooms
Bedroom
I’ve got this thing about having a sloping roof in my next bedroom, there’s something cosy about it. Wooden wardrobes like these ones, and white linen with a grey or muted tartan throw (like this) on the bed.

So that’s my future dream, but in all honesty I’m pretty happy with where I am right now and I think we have quite a few happy years ahead of us here before we think seriously about moving.

This post is in collaboration with Betta Living

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36 Hours Onboard Quantum of the Seas

What can you fit into just 36 hours onboard the World’s first ‘smart’ ship? Looking back on my photos, the answer is quite a lot!

Smart check-in (staff have tablets to enable quick check in) meant that we were able to board the ship within minutes.

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The decor in the cabins has been poshed up a bit and it was good to see that there were loungers and foot stools rather than a table and chairs, I think this will be a popular change. You still have a room card, but now there’s also a handy wristband which you can use instead, I loved this feature as I’m always worried about mislaying my card. After a quick freshen up I met my fellow bloggers, who were already on their phones Tweeting and Instagramming using the ship’s wifi.

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Our muster drill was inside Vintages where they have smart wine stations to allow you to select and pour your own drink – great for wine tasting.

The dining aboard Quantum of the Seas is a bit different, they’ve chosen to move away from the traditional main dining room and instead there are four complimentary restaurants to choose from. We ate in The Grande which is the most formal of the restaurants, guests are encouraged to dress up and the restaurant is decorated and furnished in a classic style. The menu features lobster, beef fillet and prawn cocktail. After dinner we had a quick look at the Bionic Bar (robotic arms that make your drink for you), before settling into our seats for Mamma Mia. We were going to be sensible and head to bed, but after a bit of a dance at the end of Mamma Mia we were left wanting more so we made our way to the Music Hall where an 80’s band called the Wild Boys were playing.

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We were up bright and early the next morning* (*might be a slight exaggeration). After breakfast a couple of bloggers braved the iFly, Quantum’s skydiving simulator, I chose the more sedate bumper cars in the SeaPlex. The SeaPlex is a fantastic new activity zone that will host not only the bumper cars but sports tournaments, DJ’s, and circus skills sessions. I can imagine teenagers spending ALL their time here. All the excitement pushed me over the edge a bit and I flopped down for a pit stop and lunch at Johnny Rockets. A couple of hours relaxation was called for in the Solarium before we got ready for the evening entertainment.

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Our final evening began with a trip on the North Star which gives fantastic views over the sea and back across the pool deck of Quantum of the Seas. Dinner was at the Alice in Wonderland inspired restaurant, Wonderland (more on that in another post!). After dinner entertainment was in the Two70 Theatre, Star Water is a Las Vegas style dance show with a huge digital backdrop and robotic screens. Once again we ended our evening at the Music Hall where 60’s band The Overtures entertained the crowd.

We managed to experience a bit of everything during our 36 hours but I could have easily spent a whole week or two having fun with the family on this ship. Overall I felt the ship was best suited to couples travelling alone or families with teenagers.

Here are myself and fellow Royal Mum bloggers choosing our WOW Quantum moments.

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Cupcakes & Macarons in London

This year has been a fantastic year for trips, I still have so many to write about. A couple of weekends ago Erin and I joined our lovely friend Becky from Englishmum on a foodie weekend in London. We were invited to stay at Cheval Harrington Court, a gorgeous apartment in South Kensington.

Erin
While we waited for our apartment we went for a little wander around South Kensington which is one my new favourite places in London. We stopped for lunch at a Lebanese place called Comptoir Libanais, Erin and I shared a Chicken Taok wrap.

Chicken Taok

The apartment was a real highlight of our trip. We had THE biggest bed and having a kitchen was really handy.

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The big unexpected bonus was a balcony area with views over South Kensington.

After a bit of a jump on the bed we headed to Covent Garden for a spot of shopping before a bite to eat just around the corner from our apartment.

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We enjoyed breakfast in the apartment before catching the tube back to Covent Garden for our Cupcake & Macaron Tour. During the tour we would visit seven bakeries and restaurants and sample some of the best cupcakes and macarons that London has to offer. The tour began with a stop at Laduree where we tasted chocolate, liquorice, and ginger macarons. A mini cupcake at BB’s Bakery had a raspberry in the centre and the most delicious swirl of fondant icing on top.

Next up was Sweet Couture a tiny bakery where we were each invited to choose a cupcake from the selection available, I chose an Oreo cupcake and had it wrapped for later – you have to pace yourself on this tour! A short walk us down a few of the back streets of London including Goodwins Court which apparently was one of the inspirations of Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. An infamous red velvet cupcake awaited us at the Hummingbird Bakery, this one wasn’t getting wrapped, we scoffed the lot. Another shorter walk took us through Soho and to Patisserie Valerie for a macaron. Yauatcha was the most unusual stop on our tour. This chinese restaurant features a huge patisserie bar with chinese inspired desserts and macarons. I really went for it and selected a toasted rice macaron, and a sesame one, both were delicious. Our final destination was Fortnum & Mason, my final choice to round off a wonderful foodie afternoon was a cherry macaron which I think was my favourite.

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Cupcake and Macaroon Walking Tour of London (new to Viator)
Twice daily tours at 12pm and 3pm
Costs from £40 for adults and £32 for children
To book visit Viator Cupcake & Macaron Tour

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How Do You Compare to Mrs Average?

The latest Benenden Health Report is out, over 4000 people were surveyed to give an accurate picture of the state of the nation’s health. As is the norm with these things, the news isn’t great. We are a nation that’s overweight, stressed and consuming more alcohol than Big Brother the government says we should.

What’s more interesting, is having a look at how you compare to everyone else. Although I don’t really care, it’s fun to see how your behaviours compare to other people like you.

Here’s the stats for Mrs Average;

Sleep per day: 6.5 hours
Portions of fruit and veg per day: 3.5
Water per day: 897ml
Cardio per week: 69 minutes
Muscle workouts per week: 1.1
Alcohol per week: 8.4 units
Cigarettes per day: 3.3
Average BMI: 25.9

I used the even more accurate comparison tool to see how I measured up. I did better than average for alcohol, cigarettes and sleep. I fell short on the exercise and water.

Perhaps I’ll make a bit more effort this week and take Daisy out for a little power walk.

How do you compare?

This post is brought to you by Benenden

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Ziggy’s, St Andrews

Ziggy's St AndrewsI’m just back from a trip to Tennessee, which is famous for it’s barbecue (yes I did sample some, more on that soon). However the week prior to going I actually experienced some ribs to rival those that I had out there right here in Scotland in St Andrews.

Ziggy’s is an American style diner which has been established since 1983 (coincidentally the same year I was born). 31 years is a long time for an independent business to be….in business, it’s got to be good right?

After a week of packing and organising to go away I was desperate for a cocktail, unfortunately they only come in pitcher size so you need to take some friends along if you want to partake.

We ordered maple glazed wings and nachos to start. The wings were excellent, they hadn’t been jointed so you got two for the price of one on each wing. It didn’t take us long to polish the little bucket off though. Unfortunately I found the nachos a bit disappointing, the Mexican sauce had made them go mushy so I opted out. Alex finished them though so there was no wastage.

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The main courses were what really made us fall in love with Ziggy’s. We both ordered the steak with a half rack of ribs. I’m always waxing lyrical about American beef and how flavoursome it is, but this steak rivalled that. We asked about the beef at the end of the meal and we were told that it came from an award winning butchers. We were rather pleased with ourselves to have identified that it was high quality. The ribs had also been really well cooked, the meat was falling off the bone and the sauce wasn’t overly sweet and cloying as they can be sometimes. Erin enjoyed her own mini portion which also got a big thumbs up.

We were stuffed after the huge main courses so we ordered one dessert between the three of us just to make sure we gave Ziggy’s a thorough review. It was fine, nothing wrong with it, it just didn’t live up to the mains which were the clear star of the show.

Our verdict? Go for the steak, ribs and chicken. We would definitely go again.

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Saturday Night Snacks

One of my favourite things about Winter is that all the Saturday night programs come back and it’s a great excuse to get the cwtchy blankets out and cuddle up on the couch together. Erin loves our Saturday nights, I remember loving ours as a child, especially our Saturday night picnic teas.

Good snackage is a must, here are couple of new ones that we’ve been putting to the test recently.

Veronica’s Snacks
Veronica's Crisps
We were sent some Veronica’s Crisps to try out, I was particularly keen as they are gluten free. We were sent three flavours to try out; Barbeque, Roast Tomato & Spanish Paprika veggie crisps and Sour Cream, Herb and
Onion. I’m not a massive fan of crisps as I find them quite greasy but these are baked not fried so they weren’t greasy at all. The flavours were all really good and it’s nice to have a vegetable crisp option in the range. A thumbs up from us.

Nib Nibs
Nib Nibs
Nibs nibs are moreish little straws in a variety of flavours. I tried the cheese and chilli mini nib nibs last Saturday, they come in a handy little resealable container which is great as bread snacks can go soft and take on a weird flavour really quickly. I really enjoyed snacking on these, I actually wished I’d had some hummous as they’d be great for dipping. I like the fact they are made in North Yorskhire by Susan and Darren, it’s good to support the smaller local businesses. Mini Nibs Nibs come in three different flavours Mininibs Exceptional Cheddar Cheese; Cheddar & Spicy Chilli and Cheddar & Cheeky Onion.

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