Review: Water Babies Chapter 2

Water Babies is the HIGHLIGHT of our week, honestly – Violet just loves it. Well, she is a pisces so I knew she’d have an affinity for water, but I didn’t realise she would show it at such a young age! Chapter 2 is over now, so it’s time to look back on our Water babies journey so far.

So, firstly- if you are thinking of signing your little one up for baby swimming classes, read my review of Water Babies Chapter 1, as thats where you’ll start and that post has all the information you’ll need as an introduction to baby swimming.  We have also done the Water babies Underwater photo shoot, so here is our video on how the shoot is done and a peek at our photos!

So, onto Chapter 2! Excuse the slightly graining photo photos in this post, we took my Olympus Pen to take photos for the Chapter 1 review and the humidity in the pool actually stopped it working for a few days, luckily, it recovered but as you can imagine I didn’t want to risk it this time! 😊

I think the first thing I realised about Chapter 2 is just how quickly your little ones will start to progress with their learning. Chapter 1 was all about easing them into the water and getting them used to a few safety skills and little dips underwater. Chapter 2 feels like you’ve cranked the gears up a notch (or five!) so you need to prepare yourself for much more fast paced, in depth learning. I also found Violet was a bit older so was so much more aware of her surroundings and what we were doing than in Chapter 1 which made it so much more fun too!

Over the break between Chapters 1 and 2, she changed so much. She learned to splash her hands in the water, meaning every lesson I’d be trying to listen to the instructions with water being splashed in my face from beginning to end, plus she’d kick her arms and legs in excitement at the toys and activities –  after the first lesson the mascara had to go as I soon resembled a panda. Gone were the days of gentle movements round the pool, I learned this was going to be much more full on!

As the entire Water Babies journey is a continuous progressive way of learning, we  continued with the same format to the lessons as in Chapter 1 so it was really familiar for the little ones, with songs they’d recognise like Splish Splash, Humpty Dumpty and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but in between the ‘old classics’ we’d add in brand new safety skills and build upon them every week.

The new skills in Chapter 2 come thick and fast, but our teacher like always was excellent at watching to see if the little ones were keeping up and getting on well with each skill, I think that is what puts my mind at rest with Water Babies is that even though it’s a shared class, it still feels so personal and you get quite a bit of 1-on-1 time especially during brand new skills and underwaters to check all is going well for everyone.

Some of the new skills included in Chapter 2 were introduction the ‘Bubba’ float, which doubled up as an awesome surf board, which Violet loved gliding on through the waves on. We did a ‘Ring of Roses’ swim which involves going straight down under the water and also finished the term swimming through a hoop! We also built upon lots of safety skills like getting them to hold onto the side more independently and even an ’emergency’ underwater which in theory would be is they were to fall into the pool, they’d know to kick to the surface and turn to hold onto the rail. This is just some of the activities, there were lots of things like ‘chase the fishy’, blowing bubbles and more which Violet loved too.

All in all, we have loved Chapter 2 even more than Chapter one, Violet was just so more knowing and aware, her excitement when we reach the pool is a picture, there are smiles for the entire session, she is just in her element, plus I feel so much better about taking Violet near water after our lessons. It’s amazing really that at such a young age they can learn such important skills, but I’m so glad we are, should the worst (shudder) happen.

Roll on Chapter 3! 

We go to Water Babies lessons in Brighton & Hove which if you are local I’d highly recommend, to see their latest lesson schedule or to sign up, see their Facebook here! If you aren’t in Brighton, they do have lessons all round the country too!

Giggling Squid Christmas Menu 2017

It’s that time of year again, time to sample Brighton’s festive food offerings, starting with a favourite restaurant of mine, Giggling Squid. I love the idea of Thai Food for Christmas as it’s just something different – certainly not a whiff of turkey and stuffing here! Their Christmas Menu came out on 13th November so we headed down to the Hove restaurant to give it a whirl. The Christmas Menu is at both lunch and evening times and is a three-course set menu priced at £20.95 at lunchtime or £29.95 in the evening, this also comes with a glass of prosecco.

Last year we tried the Christmas Menu at the Brighton Giggling Squid but as this year we were with Violet, the Hove branch is so much more accessible for pushchairs as it’s all on one level! Plus eating out at lunchtime is so much easier these days too. How times change! The restaurant has natural rustic feel which is authentically Thai, it was actually really busy when we arrived I managed to snap the above photo right at the end of our meal at a rare quiet moment.

When we arrived there seem to be quite a bit of confusion over the menu, the staff did not seem to know much about the Christmas menu as it had only just launched so excuse some of the dishes are not from the ‘official’ Christmas menu, this can be seen online here.

Of course, all good Thai meals should start with a giant bowl of prawn crackers. The best part? V is allergic to shellfish so can’t have any! Win.

For starters, I had the Thai Grilled Aubergine which on the menu says it comes with a fresh, tangy chilli sauce, that should read ‘seriously spicy!’ sauce, even the waiter who was Thai himself said he struggled to eat this one. I so actually love spicy foods though – but it did put me to my limits!

V went for the Corn Fritters with Sweet Chilli Sauce, a firm favourite of ours. Deliciously Thai, something I would usually always order myself.

Our main courses actually arrived at the same time as starters, V going for the classic Pad Thai with tofu – which was delicious (I wanted to steal it all, basically I had food envy most of this meal)

I went for the Cashew Nut Stir Fry with rice – which sadly, I thought was pretty bland and certainly not special enough for Christmas lunch.

Onto the deserts, the Christmas offers sound rather delicious, with options such as Prosecco and Muddled Berry Cheesecake, Honeycomb Semi-Freddo with Thai-spiced Star fruit. However, sadly these options weren’t available on our visit, so we chose the Mango & Passionfruit Cheesecake and the Warm Molten Chocolate Cake.

Sadly, as lovely as the deserts were both of them were still frozen in the centre, plus the ‘Warm’ Chocolate cake was actually served cold, so it was a massive disappointment – especially as they actually look really good and the flavours were perfect. I loved how the Chocolate cake was spiced with a hint of chilli, if it was warm it would have been divine!

We finished up with some coffees, served with a mint chocolate which is always a lovely touch.

All in all, another meal that was a disappointment at Giggling Squid. It’s such a shame as I actually really love the restaurant, but both times we’ve tried the Christmas menu, it’s fallen flat on it’s face. Maybe I’m just expecting a bit more, when you pay for a Christmas set menu, you expect a touch of sparkle, something special, don’t you? This is very standard food I’d expect on a normal lunchtime.

This hasn’t put me off going to the Giggling Squid though, honestly they do great food and I think their ‘normal’ menu and Thai tapas is delicious, so if you visit, I’d stick to what they do best!

Click here to read my review of the Giggling Squid Christmas menu 2016 

The Shop Small Guide – Brighton

Sponsored post in association with American Express®

Oh beautiful Brighton! A city that I have lived in since I was just 18 years old and although I moved away a couple of times, it just kept drawing me back. There is no place quite like it. One of the most colourful, diverse and vibrant cities in the UK – there is always something new to surprise me around every corner.

One of the things I love the most about Brighton is the shopping, especially going to the one-of-a-kind North Laine and The Lanes areas of town to explore some of the smaller, independent shops that the city boasts. The amount of small shops in Brighton is vast, plus the selection we have is so unique too. If you need anything from vintage clothing to an inflatable flamingo – you’ll find it here and more!

This Saturday is Small Business Saturday, a day when people across the country are encouraged to get out and support local small businesses. So, with my love of shopping in my hometown and supporting local businesses, I recently teamed up with American Express to show you how I like to shop small in Brighton not just on Small Business Saturday but all year round. To help inspire you to explore new areas, I have put together my favourite routes through the cobbled lanes of Brighton – visiting wonderful small shops, exquisite restaurants, and taking in some of the beautiful sights you can see along the way in my vibrant and colourful hometown.

BRIGHTON PIER

No trip to Brighton is complete without a trip to Brighton’s iconic Pier. A brisk stroll is the perfect way to start your day, with an ice cream in hand, whatever the weather. Try your luck on the grabber machines or brave the rollercoaster rides. Take a look back at Brighton’s beautiful skyline and get a glimpse of the city before you head out to the shops.

CHOCCYWOCCYDOODAH

Choccywoccydoodah is quintessentially Brighton, an internationally famous chocolatier and cake shop creating the most outstanding, creative chocolate and cakes you’ve ever seen. The window display is something to be marvelled at, a tourist attraction in itself. There is a cafe upstairs in ‘the secret room’ that serves one of the best hot chocolates in town. My top recommendation would be their layered chocolate bar, which is so thick you have to break it with a knife!

42 JUICE

Brighton’s 100% Organic and Raw Juice Bar 42 Juice is the perfect pitstop to rejuvenate and hydrate. They serve the freshest ingredients that pack a nutritious punch to boost your health and wellbeing. The bright and airy space is ideal for watching the world go by and an absolute Instagram dream. The “I am GLOWING” smoothie is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted and I could literally feel the goodness flowing through my system.

PAVILION GARDENS

The Royal Pavilion is an exotic palace in the centre of Brighton with a colourful history. Built as a seaside palace for King George IV, it’s certainly unique in its architecture – seamlessly mixing regency grandeur with Far Eastern styles from India and China. The Pavilion Gardens is a tranquil hideaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. The perfect spot for a picnic, you can take a few moments under a tree to relax and unwind away from it all. Beautifully maintained throughout the year, the garden hosts the same plants as it would have done in the 1820’s. The Pavilion Gardens is the perfect spot to catch local musicians and amateur dramatic performances too

CHILLI PICKLE

Chilli Pickle is a nationally acclaimed Indian restaurant, passionate about Indian culture, local produce and traditional methods. Their unique take on dishes stand out from anything I’ve ever tried before – it’s got to be one of the best Indian restaurants in Brighton! You have got to try their Grand Thali for lunch, washed down with a mango lassi – my favourite!

LITTLE BEACH BOUTIQUE

Brighton is bursting at the seams with talented creatives, and the little beach boutique is one of the best places to shop locally sourced gifts and handmade items! The shop has a real eclectic mix of items, from handmade jewellery, to children’s slippers – there is something for everyone. The owner Suzanne also creates stunning glassware with a Brighton theme too. I picked up a gorgeous Violet coloured glass coaster with the outline of The Pavilion for my bedside table, it’s so pretty!

BLUEBIRD TEA CO

This has got to be one the best tea shops in the UK! People come from far and wide to try their amazing blends. Stocking every flavour you’ve ever thought of; this shop has something for everyone with super knowledgeable tea ‘mixologists’ who have all the information you need too. For the perfect warming winter drink, try the Spiced Pumpkin Pie tea, it’s one of their best.

NOLA BOUTIQUE

Nola Boutique is the perfect place to pick up designer womenswear at affordable prices. With chic and stylish décor, it’s an instagrammers dream. My top purchase here would be a cable knit hat or this gorgeous grey sweatshirt with gold feathers – just in time for winter!

LAVENDER ROOM

Lavender Room is one of the most elegant, stylish shops in the North Laine – stocking beautiful products for you or the home, with a carefully selected eclectic mix of products it just oozes Brighton style and character. I’d highly recommend the locally made anti-stress essential oil candles, they smell just divine!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of my favourite small shops in Brighton. If this has inspired you, visit amexshopsmall.co.uk to find out where you can support small businesses in your area throughout the year and get some further ideas for your Christmas shopping.

What’s more, if you’re an American Express Cardmember you will be rewarded for supporting your local high street with the Shop Small offer. When you spend £10 or more in a single transaction using your registered American Express Card at a participating small business during the campaign period (2-17 December 2017) you will receive a £5 statement credit. There is no limit to the number of participating businesses you can receive your £5 statement credit from – however, you can only claim it once at each small business. Terms apply.

But the Shop Small offer is just one way that American Express can make every day more rewarding. The range of Cards from American Express are packed with ways to reward you for your purchases*; from Membership Rewards® points that can be used to treat yourself to virtually anything to discounts at top restaurants and hotels, money back on everyday purchases, or collecting frequent flyer miles* – check out the American Express website for more information.

A Family Day Out at Drusillas Park

Drusillas always reminds me of happy memories of my childhood – I’m not sure I could count the amount of times I’ve been there when I was very small, so going back as a Mum with my own little girl was definitely a special day for me.  I’m sure it’s changed a LOT since my last visit (maybe 20 years ago?) as I didn’t seem to remember as much as I thought I would, but that was good as it felt like a brand new place to explore all over again and hopefully Violet will hold the same magical memories of family days out too, just like I do.

So, we decided to head to Drusillas Park on Monday this week. It was the perfect day for a family day out as it was gorgeously sunny but cold and crisp too. We wrapped up warm and headed out – meeting Violet’s bestie Liv and her Mummy too as we thought it would be lovely for the babies to hang out and do something fun together with not just boring adults for company!

As you arrive at Drusillas, you are greeted by the sound of monkeys in the enclosure right by the carpark, Violet was already looking all around to see what the strange noise was, I couldn’t wait to show her!

We headed through the entrance to the first section – The Zoo. It’s clearly marked and signposted all the way around, plus we had a map and guidebook as there is just so much to see we didn’t want to miss anything along the way. There is a large array of animals to see at Drusillas. They are known as the UK’s best small zoo and I can see why as the variety of species is extensive! There is something to surprise you around every corner, with every inclosure immaculately clean (even the stinking bats, they are so smelly!) and creatively constructed to keep animals entertained, protected and comfortable, yet allowing a good view too. It’s not just like a zoo where you walk around each animal and look at them befhind the glass either – some enclosures have ‘secret viewing areas’, little bubbles where you can pop-up and view the animals from eye-level and see-through tunnels for the animals to run through before your very eyes. I imagine for children this must be so much fun and I’m sure Violet will love exploring all the different tunnels when she’s a bit more mobile!

Another thing that really struck me was how many activities, animal facts and interesting displays there were as we went round to accompany the animal enclosures. Violet is a little small for animal facts, but when she’s bigger I can see her being facinated and the trip being far more educational than your standard zoo trip. There are also activities like the Animal Spotters book with little stamps to collect as you walk round and Zoolympics, where you can try and match yourself to each animal in speed, sound, ability to climb etc. Hours of fun!  After a good mooch through the entire zoo section, the Mummies all needed a well-earned coffee break whilst the bubbas both had their mid-morning nap. They were so good and both had at least 30 mins sleep, we couldn’t believe it – must have been all that fresh-air and excitement looking at all the different animals. The Explorers Cafe also serves Starbucks coffee too, so that was a nice touch and much needed!

We then entered the play & rides section of Drusillas. As it was an off-peak day the rides were on a rotation basis so we just had to check the timings and make sure we were in the right place at the right time to hop on, I believe the rides are on constantly in the busier times though! They have a couple of massive play areas that the little ones were a bit too small for yet, like the Go Bananas Adventure Playground and I’m sure by next summer they’ll love the Get Wet! Splash pad too – but we skipped these bits for now but I’m sure on visits to come we’ll get lots of enjoyment out of them! We headed down to the Hello Kitty Secret Garden. Ok, I’ll tell you a secret – I’ve been wanting to come here for YEARS but it felt a bit silly coming without a child – so my inner 15 year old Hello Kitty/Sanrio fanatic was screaming with excitement inside. The Hello Kitty area is suitable for all ages as the little ones loved the bright colours and characters, plus there are two rides you can take babies of any age onto as long as you hold onto them on your lap. So, of course we had to go on them – multiple times so everyone got a go! (Luckily Violet!). You can also visit Hello Kitty’s house and on certain days meet the lady herself, but on the day we went she must have had another commitment! 🙂

The last ride of the day for us was the Safari Express. Running only once on the hour in off-peak season, make sure you check the timings of this one before your trip as you don’t want to miss out! Luckily, we were standing right by the station as boarding began so we hopped on. The babies absolutely loved this bit – maybe more than the other rides, the music and scenery captivated their attention, plus they are able to sit together and even held hands on the way round – so sweet!

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Drusillas, there was way more to do than I’d realised – for all ages. I’m sure it’s a place we will return to over and over again as Violet grows up, especially as we are only 20 minutes away.

There are lots of exciting Christmas activities at Drusillas too if you fancy a visit, we saw them all being set up and they look magical! A Winter Wonderland, Santas Cottage, Meet the Reindeer and a Husky Cave, just to name a few of the activities over the Christmas season – we will certainly be taking Violet back for a festive visit – I can’t wait!

Days Out: SeaLife Centre Brighton at Halloween!

Oh, I do love a trip to the SeaLife Centre Brighton! We’ve been meaning to take Violet for a couple of months now although had been holding on as we wanted to take her once we knew she’d actually be interested in the fish and have a bit more of an understanding on what is going on so we could all enjoy the experience.

I think we timed it just right as now Violet is just about to turn 8 months (I know, WHAT!) and she absolutely loves animals of all kinds. From previous trips to the farm we’ve seen that she is clearly watching the animals as her eyes will follow them around their enclosures – so we knew she’d just love the SeaLife Centre. She had never seen fish like this before, so it was going to be a real treat!

Also, this October, Sea Life Brighton has a spooky Halloween theme going on in the ‘Fear Forest’ which is the rainforest section – with decorations, scary creatures (and handling sessions of creatures like hissing cockroaches and african land snails!), a ‘Yucky Dip’ and face painting so we thought it would be fun added extra to check that out too!

From the moment we stepped through the doors, Violet was just mesmerised by the beautiful aquariums, lights and colours. In fact in the first picture, she is literally trying to break out of my arms to get back to the fish tanks as she was just in awe. I just thought maybe she liked the lights but holding her up to each tank, you could see she would be staring intently at the creatures inside, her little mind visibly taking it all in. She also loved the bright rainbow colours of the Victorian Arcade, although who doesn’t! It’s so pretty in there.

We headed into the Fear Forest, where some Halloween decorations have added to the experience – although I have to say the decorations were a little on the sparse side for what I was expecting, but we didn’t come for the Halloween bits really and Violet was too mesmerised by the aquariums to really notice any other bits of decoration. I’m sure the Halloween activities would be fun for slightly older children though!

My favourite part of the SeaLife Centre (and I’m sure Violet’s too!) was the Ocean Tunnel –  with giant sea turtles, sharks, rays and tropical fish there is so much to see!  We spent quite a while in here, watching the ginormous turtle gliding so close over our heads, so close you could almost reach out and touch it.

We’ve always enjoyed going to the SeaLife Centre and have been a few times now, but this was our first trip as a family and honestly, it makes all the difference! It was such a lovely feeling watching Violet’s face as she stared in astonishment at the creatures, squeaking and kicking her legs in excitement as they came closer to her! There was so much for her to see, even at the tender age of (almost) 8 months she was taking it all in and I know when we come back when she’s a little older, she’ll love getting involved with the activities like face painting, animal handling and treasure hunts too, so this is a place we can keep returning to over time too.

I’d highly recommend a trip if you are looking for something to do this Half Term, plus kids in Halloween costumes will receive free entry too!

Sea Life Brighton is open from 10 am every day apart from Christmas Day. Visitors can save up to 40% by booking in advance online. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit www.visitsealife.com/brighton or call 01273 604234.