2 July 2019

Doing good with your first haircut - The Little Princess Trust

A first proper haircut is a big deal isn't it? When my daughter decided that she wanted to go for a bob I was a little bit apprehensive... Five years of beautiful locks, gone. But, in the name of bodily autonomy and all that I figured I better book a hairdresser. As there was so much beautiful hair to be lopped off, I figured the least I could do was to donate it to The Little Princess Trust, a charity that provides real wigs to children and young people with hair loss. 

The big decision to cut all her hair off was just because of one cinema trip... When The Incredibles 2 came out, my then five year old decided Elastigirl was her big hero now and decided to go for the chop. She wanted to look like Elastigirl. 


posing with elastigirl toy

elastigirl toy


So off we went to the local hairdresser, armed with her Elastigirl toy to demonstrate exactly the type of haircut she was after. She was adamant that her hair needs to have the same flick while I tried to persuade her that a plastic dolly and real hair won't look exactly the same ha ha - we got there in the end and she accepted a version of a similar bob I found a photograph of online. 

And then, the measurement, and the decision, and the snip. Snip, snip, snip. And there she was, my little mini-Elastigirl. 


When my daughter had her first haircut and how she donated over seven inches of her hair to charity

kid at hairdressers

measuring hair

measuring hair

first haircut

first haircut


She was so pleased that she was able to donate her hair for the benefit of other kids through Little Princess Trust.  They are a UK-based charity, that provides wigs to children and young people with hair loss, whether this is through cancer treatment or other conditions such as alopecia. Little Princess Trust also raise funds for research into childhood cancer. 

Educating your kids about charity is so important, and you can do that with the smallest things like this. We had a great discussion around how some children can be sick and lose their hair, and how you can help others in all kinds of ways. Later, after I had posted her hair I also received a certificate from the trust via email which I was able to print out to give her as a reminder. 



hair for little princess trust

with hair to donate

new hairstyle and hair donation


Overall the donating process was so easy. All you need is for the hair to be clean and dry, good condition (no split ends) and minimum 17cm length, although the longer the better. It doesn't have to be virgin hair either, it can be dyed in natural colours, permed, waved, or straight, as long as it looks natural. You can even have a little bit of greys, if you are getting to that age like I am where you start to get a few stray streaks here and there... 

And I'm going to reveal you something. I'm feeling rather inspired by my little Elastigirl - so I've decided that I'll go for the chop too! It's now or never as those greys keep popping up at increasing frequency, so I'm going to grow my hair until 2020 and then it is time for a little (or rather, large) snip...

P.S. For my international readers - Wigs for Kids does the same in US and many countries have their own versions of a similar charity initiative so it's worth asking around!


Have you donated or want to donate your hair?


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20 June 2019

My new fantastic smart photo frame - NixPlay Seed

I’ve always loved displaying photos in our house, and when NixPlay asked me if I wanted to review their flagship NixPlay Seed photo frame I jumped at the opportunity. NixPlay Seed is a digital Wi-Fi based photo frame, a smart frame if you like, where you can upload photos via an app direct from your phone, from your desktop and also by sending them via an email link. I chose the 10.1 inch widescreen frame in black – but there are also 8 inch frames available in black, blue, yellow and maroon, and 10 inch ultra high resolution and 13.3 inch widescreen frames in black too.  

So far I've really enjoyed my frame. I've added all my summer photos on it, and the bright display with the crisp colours has been fantastic to display those vibrant summer vibes. The bright blues and greens of summer are captured perfectly and the pictures are bright and eye-catching. And best of all - any time I manage to take a gorgeous photo of our summer exploits, I can easily transfer it direct to the frame using my phone or my desktop. 


photo frame on mantle piece


How was the set-up process?

You set the NixPlaySeed up via Wi-Fi. Fairly simple process which felt intuitive and quick. Basically as soon as I turned on the frame it guided me through the process. There was a strange hiccup at first, making me think something was wrong, as the frame would not sync with my app despite both being connected to Wi-Fi. In the end it sorted itself out by an automatic software update after a short wait. After it is set-up, the frame can be used and setting changes via the app or the remote control. 

Is it easy to transfer photos to the frame?

In one word - yes! Very very easy. You need an app or a desktop version to begin with and to set your account and pair the frame to it. After that you can transfer photos direct to the frame from your phone using the app, from your desktop (using the online version) or sending it direct to the frame using an email (you get assigned a special email as you create your NixPlay account). This can be used by friends and family as well to send pictures direct to your frame. It's pretty cool! You can add friends and family as account holders as well so they can use the app if they prefer.  

Oh yes, and you can transfer short (15 second or less) videos as well, which is pretty cool. 

What's the quality like? 

The display quality is great - high resolution ISP display. Photos look very sharp and with good colours. The quality of the frame seems good. You use the charging wire as the stand and this seems to be working fine, and streamlines the design a bit. 


mum and baby on a photo frame

family in a photo

baby in a frame


Are there any cool functions?

After playing around with the frame a bit I must say I really liked the smart features it has. 

I dislike the black bars you sometimes get when the photo doesn't exactly correspond to the frame ratio. With the NixPlay frame you can modify the photos so they automatically fit to the screen. You can also ask it to recognise faces and place these in the thirds of the photo. This function works pretty well, albeit not perfectly. Occasionally photos, despite the best efforts, are still cut in strange places. This tends to mostly happen when you play portrait photos in landscape or vice versa. 

Other cool function is that you can fix the colour balance on the frame, so if the photos look a bit odd you can play around with them. 

I also really liked the snooze function and motion sensor function - you can set the frame to go to sleep if it doesn't detect movement for a while. While it is snoozing you can have the screen black or showing a clock. And when you do walk in front of it - on the photo roll goes again. 

Playlists seem like an interesting option too - so you can have rolls of differently themed photos. I'll at some point set up a portrait photo roll and a landscape photo roll, but you could do themes like holidays, or wedding photos or whatever you fancy. One playlist can hold 2,000 photos, and the cloud holds about 5gb data so there is plenty of space! 


Are there any bad points about NixPlay Seed 10.1 widescreen frame? 

As it is a cloud-based system it is reliant on Wi-Fi (I haven't tested yet how it works with no Wi-Fi around...). Not that our Wi-Fi is often down, but I guess we will see next time. Also, all the photos are transferred via the Cloud-based system. Great idea but if NixPlay ever went out of business, then what would happen with this functionality? This frame doesn't support SD cards, USB sticks or bluetooth, so the cloud is the only option. It would be great to have that back-up of either physical storage option. 

And this is not really a bad point, but more of a matter of preferences. In my opinion widescreen version might not be the best for a digital photo frame size if you use your phone camera a lot. 

Firstly, the widescreen 10.1 version looks a bit peculiar in portrait mode, it looks just a bit too thin and tall. Realistically you will probably only use it in landscape mode, but if you might find that if yo'u use your phone camera a lot, you tend to shoot in portrait. Secondly, as the frame ratio is 16:10 and phone camera ratio is generally 3:4 they might not match well. I personally have changed my phone camera ratio to 16:9 now so my phone photos should fit better here on in. 

So it's a matter of preferences and your habits - if you use your phone camera as your primary camera and have a lot of portrait photos you might be better off with one of the more traditional NixPlay See frames, perhaps a 8 inch or 10 inch version. Otherwise, the widescreen version does look fantastic when used landscape and gives that extra oomph to photos. 


photo frame in portrait mode


But all in all I've been very please with my new frame. It is smart, great quality and very easy to use. I'm looking forward to adding more and more colourful photos  to it over the summer! And if you're interested in your own smart photo frame too, NixPlay are doing a %15 of their See photo frames currently! 

Have you had a smart digital frame yet?


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9 June 2019

A night as Bond: Review of the Secret Cinema Casino Royale

Last week we went to the grand re-opening of Casino Royale and what a night it was… Secret Cinema, the immersive cinematic event in London, has done a production based on the start of the latest Bond re-boot Casino Royale and we went to the first night. The events are running until 22ndSeptember 2019 and  I wanted to share some of my thoughts and tips on how to enjoy the experience the best, so here is my spoiler-free review of the event.


wearing all white at casino royale event


If you have never been to Secret Cinema I would definitely recommend it. A special set based on the film is created at a secret London location, actors are recruited to interact with the audience and provide scenes relevant to the film, and finally the film is shown to the audience, with an added flair. There may be things such as special effects and actors recreating the scenes live in front of the screen. There are food and drinks and activities. Your phones are packed away so you can’t take any photos, and you immerse yourself in the whole experience. We’ve previously been to the Secret Cinema Blade Runner (see my review here), which was an amazing experience. 

Now, I’m not going to share any spoilers here now, but will update this post with a detailed description after the production has finished.

As part of your pre-event instructions you are told to wear a certain colour depending on your character. If your group has different colours, fret not, you can stay together, no-one will separate you. Before you enter the event you get briefed on your spy-appropriate mission - look for the person holding flowers in your colour.  

You don’t necessarily need to buy anything as a prop, but should you feel the need to, there is a Secret Cinema online shop, as well as a physical shop outside the entrance and inside the venue on the day. We had ordered a set of purple sunnies and red jewel earrings online before attending (they arrive quick, in a day or two) but could have just relied on whatever we could find already.

selfie

the red carpet to the event casino royale


At the event feel free to interact with the actors, and do explore the area. It is vast. Huge. There are off the top of my head five different areas to explore, although one didn’t seem to be much more than a bar. There are food stalls in at least three areas, so plenty of choice. There are performances happening in all areas, so don’t worry too much about seeing everything. There was live music and acting performances, with some scenes flitting from one area to another. There are also a couple of rooms where you can get in on the action, so do try join in if you can. You might not be able to as it is busy and not everything is available to everyone, based on skills and finances (without revealing too much detail!) and VIP status.  

I found the good things to be that the set was huge and there was much to explore. We got there as one of the first people and we managed to wander about a lot without ever feeling bored. Food was nice, although fairly basic stuff, not excessively Bond but keeping to the locational theme. I liked the performances although I didn't really capture any real storyline, if there was any. The film though... I'm not a fan of Bond films really but I enjoyed this one a lot. The added performances and special effects during the film were fabulous, and I loved it. It felt really immersive and cool. Also, unlike some previous productions the seats were well-spaced and  fairly comfortable, even if by the end of the film I was feeling tad achy after all that sitting. Modern films eh, they make them twice as long as they really have to be...


at casino royale

man and woman in front of secret cinema event


As for bad things, there weren't many. I did feel that there was a lot of people, and at time it felt like you were in a club, particularly at some transfer points between areas. A seriously annoying thing was that as the bars were open during the film, the quiet scenes were interrupted by chatter and ambient noise from the bars. Not a problem at loud parts, but even though we were sitting at the front we could still hear the bar noises during quieter scenes. 

Also, I think it is worth to mention that as a basic ticket holder (at £50 a pop) there were some activities to join, but I feel like there was a lot more (of course rightly so) for VIP ticket holders. We for example got booted out from one room, politely and in character by a couple of Bond baddies, as it was taken over by VIPs. As a basic ticket holder you probably miss a fair bit of the performances as they flit between areas and as a VIP you would be taken to where the action is. VIP ticket holders were taken from scenes to other scenes, so I would think they get more of a show and a storyline to the experience. 

But all in all, I really enjoyed our night and thought it was fantastic fun, and I loved watching the film. I've also got a few tips on how to enjoy the night...


My top tips for enjoying Casino Royale:
  • Glam up. You are going to the casino and the more glamorous you are, the more suited you are to the occasion. I saw many people in proper black suits and bowties, and ladies in proper evening ballgowns so don’t feel worried about being over-dressed. You won’t be... 
  • That said, take your comfortable shoes. I took my silly glamorous Jimmy Choo shoes, and quite frankly, I had to take them off and move onto my flats half-way through. The set is humongous and there is so much to walk around for.
  • Try to remember characters you've seen during Casino Royale - there are actors dotted across looking like them. Think of the final poker table, and some of the baddies at least... I think you may get a bit more out of the experience if the film is somewhat fresh in your mind, I had forgot many of the characters as it's been years since I've seen the film. 
  • When people start to get ushered towards the actual Casino Royale area, the film will start soon. Have a bathroom break, get your drinks and popcorn and start getting ready. The seating is at the opposite side to the stage if you want to get ready for the scramble for the seats.
  • Keep your eye out for the special star exhibit as you exit the cinema... Pretty cool!


man and woman at casino royale secret cinema



Have you been to Secret Cinema ever? What would be your tips?



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26 May 2019

Going from one to two kids - it was pretty easy in the end!

I've been a mum of two for a year now, after five years as being a mum of just one. Truth be told, I was a little apprehensive how it would all change when our new baby would make her way into the world. Going from one to two kids, I was a little bit worried to begin with. You hear so often what a big shock to the system it is, how it changes your family and the dynamics and everything forever (as it would do of course) and how much extra work it all is... 

And honestly? After a year of mothering two I can honestly say I wasn't half as bad.


baby and sister in matching dresses


For me and for us, going from none to one was a big shock to the system. Suddenly there is this writhing little wrinkly stinky package, who demands all your thoughts and attention. Combine that with the first experience of serious sleep deprivation, a difficult recovery from birth and just feeling generally overwhelmed by everything, and that just begins to scratch the surface. 

Going from one to two however was a walk in the park in comparison. 

We already knew what we were supposed to do as parents. Nothing was totally new anymore, although as any parent with more than one child can recognise, no two kids are the same. What worked with one, might not work with the other one... As we found out pretty quick. Despite that, we sort of knew what we could try and do and could experiment. 

We already had most of the stuff ready. No more brain space wasted on the benefits of different travel systems or what would be the best cot bed or where could we find cute clothes. Nope. We had all that, and plenty more in the storage. It was rather cheaper this second time around. 

We already knew what to expect, from birth and from newborn stage, and later. While it was still quite exciting walking into the maternity ward I knew what I wanted and what I didn't want and could advocate accordingly. I knew what the first weeks with a newborn were likely to be and could prepare myself mentally. And I knew that all the difficult times would be balanced by such great joy in the end, it would all be worth it. It was just easier to deal with.


baby and sister in matching dresses kissing

baby and sister in matching outfits looking at each other

baby and sister in matching dresses cuddling



Our new baby just slotted herself in our lives with what felt like great ease. She appeared and fit in, just like a missing piece in a puzzle. Just like a key to a lock. 

It did help that our new baby was an OK sleeper. Not great, but OK. There haven't been many nights she has slept through but it hasn't been constant wake-ups either. 

It also helped that the age gap was a sizeable five years. Our older one was old enough to not get jealous and old enough to "help", whether that was handing over wet wipes or entertaining the little one with endless renditions of Baby Shark. 

But what probably helped the most was us just deciding not to stress about it. The new baby would do what she did and we would do what we could, but there were no specific things we needed or wanted to achieve as a family.



baby and sister in matching outfits smiling on bed


Maybe it is the fate of the second-born, but she hasn't had much baby "hobbies" like baby swimming or signing. Baby swimming only started when she was closing in on her first birthday. Me going to mummy-coffee-mornings didn't start until she was well past her new baby stages - I just didn't feel that need for peer support this time.

And another second-born syndrome manifestation is that poor thing has had hardly any of her baby book filled out yet, although it's not as bad as that sounds. As a blogger there are baby entries here on the blog and I've kept up her monthly portraits too, so don't worry her being neglected in the life documenting stages. 

I haven't felt the need to be (or appear to be) active, and I haven't felt the need to do this or that. I've done stuff, of course, but it's all been very stress-free and relaxed, and cancelled if I could just not be bothered, and that has helped in making this second maternity leave and getting used to being a family of four easy, really, quite pleasant too. 

baby and sister in matching outfits


Now, don't get me wrong. The extra laundry and cleaning and food and all, it has certainly made us busy. And it is noisy and chaotic at times. But it is also joyful and fun and filled with laughter, double the laughter now. 

So for us, going from one to two kids has been delightfully and frightfully easy. I could not have imagined that it would be like this. It feels like we have always had two girls - it has been so easy for our new baby to slot in to our family lives. It is like she was always meant to be here.

So if you wonder and worry about adding that second baby in the mix, well, it isn't always that bad. in fact, it might even be totally OK!

Now, I wonder what it might be if there was a third one in the mix...



Has it been easy or hard when you add to the family?




9 May 2019

Our amazingly fun first visit to the Zippos Circus

When I was a kid I secretly wanted to join the circus. All kids go through this stage don't they? Alas, it was never meant to be, even if I did learn to juggle at ten. The last time I've been to the circus was when I was a tween. It's been over twenty years... This spring I went back to circus - a new show by Zippos Circus, The Magnificent Top Hat - and my was it exhilarating. It was just like being a kid again. 

We were invited to attend the London press event for this review. We drove to Blackheath and rushed inside just in time to grab pop corn, cotton candy and the programme before the show started...





And what a show it was! Contortionists, aerial artists, foot jugglers, knife throwers, acrobats, and daredevils of all sorts. It was exhilarating and scary and funny, and I sat there mostly with my mouth open or laughing. It really felt like I was a kid again, watching these amazing artists performing mind-boggling tricks and wondering what would come next.

The Magnificent Top Hat tour of 2019 was great fun. There was plenty of humour in the storyline running through the show. Paulo, a showman just 3'6" tall, was trying to steal the top hat and the limelight from Norman Barrett MBE, the indomitable ring master with over twenty years of experience at Zippos Circus...









As for the acts, throughout the show there were so many amazing talents. I particularly enjoyed Ebby, the Mongolian contortionist, who was very flexible shooting her arrows. I also thought The Lucius Team and their "Globe of Terror", with five motorcyclists riding inside one little steel cage was exhilarating.

To be honest, it was all just highlights to me, all the acts were amazing. The Cuban State Circus had amazing rope skipping and springboard acrobatics, and The Timbuktu tumblers from Africa had such fun pyramids and tumbling. And as far as trust in marriage goes, the prize must go to Nikol, hailing from Czech Republic, whose husband Toni threw knifes at her while she was spinned on a wheel of fortune (or perhaps death would be a better term.). Paulo got in on the action with aerial stunts with Laci from Hungary - such incredible skills and strength from both of them.

Aili, my daughter who is five years old said about her favourite acts that "It was so good when they were flying". She was exhilarated by the experience, and my baby girl Aija, was quite mesmerised by all the lights and action too. It wasn't too loud at all, and the light were fun for babies, so feel free to bring little ones.

Our circus babies certainly enjoyed the experience, as did we parents. Like Norman Barrett MBE said, "You are never too old, never too young and never too cool to go to the circus!"






My top tips for enjoying the Zippos Circus show:

  • The seats inside the tent are small and there's not much space. If you can, leave big and bulky items home. 
  • You are not allowed to bring buggies inside the tent, so unless you want to hold your baby bring a baby carrier. 
  • It was fairly pleasant in the tent, even though it was a hot spring day, but worth it to wear light layers that you can easily remove if needed. 
  • You can have your photo taken with some of the artists at the interval, although you might need some change for this. 
  • Plenty of refreshments can be bought before the show and during the interval. There are hot and cold drinks, pop corn and cotton candy (£5 each). You can also get programmes and light sabers for the kids for £6. 
  • You can also pre-buy snacks with your tickets and it will be a bit cheaper. TimeOut has a good deal on for 2 front-view tickets with snacks for £35. 
  • If you're driving come in plenty of time - we found the access to the parking area a bit confusing as there was no signs pointing to entry. 
  • The show lasts two hours, with an interval in between. There are decent bathrooms outside the tent. 
  • We sat at ringside seats and I'd say these are worth the extra expense. It was nice to sit so close to the ring and the view was good even with some people sitting in front of us. That said, the view from the rest of the front-view seats is apparently great as well. 

When was the last time you've been to the circus?


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