So a few weeks back the boys saw the movie trailer for Frankweenie and found it a bit scary. I thought the movie looked like fun and not as scary as my eldest son seemed to find it (he also thought Nigel the bird from Rio was terrifying – but is good with all the Harry Potter films, go figure). In any case the boys love any opportunity to go to the movie theatre and especially see 3D movies so we prepped by watching a few more trailers and the boys were excited (if a bit apprehensive still.)
We arrived to a packed house for the Frankweenie pre-screen and while most of the audience was adults there was a good buzz going around the theatre about being excited to see the film, which is always a good sign in my mind.
As the movie started with the traditional Disney opening showing the magic kingdom/castle it quickly became dark and atmospheric (or should I say Tim Burton-ized) as lightning flashed over the castle and it appeared like a spooky haunted castle.
While Disney describes the film thusly,
From creative genius Tim Burton (“Alice in Wonderland,” The Nightmare Before Christmas”) comes “Frankenweenie,” a heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog. After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life—with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers and the entire town all learn that getting a new “leash on life” can be monstrous.
I actually found it more heartwarming than that. It was atmospheric but not scary – and my youngest 4, laughed at all of the kid jokes (while I also chuckled at some aimed at adults). One of the unexpected parts of the film was all the references to older monster movies – it felt like a lighthearted tarantino homage to film and film school. I caught references to films like Godzilla, Gremlins, Dracula, Frankenstein, Frankenstein’s Bride, The Invisible Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Mummy and there must have been more….
Most of those films (given the age of their making) were done in black and white so I think it was a good fit that Frankenweenie was done in black and white and in stop-motion animation, which created a more direct visual link to the older black and white horror films it referenced. I’m glad this film was made in 3D we enjoyed the experience and I think it added to the film.
I think this film is a great film for families – including the younger set. Sure one of the main characters is a re-animated dog, (but don’t worry the dog’s death occurs off-screen) but it was a positive, warm film with plenty of fun. That the boys and I highly recommend checking out. See it for Halloween or any time, the boys are excited to see it again and have already asked me to buy them the DVD when it comes out.
Voice talent: Winona Ryder, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau, Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer, Robert Capron, Conchata Ferrell
Disclosure – I along with my 2 sons were invited to a free screening of this movie. While I was provided with free entry, the popcorn and sweets were purchased by me, the fun was had by all, and my views and review are those of myself and my family.
Going to the movies has always been a special treat for my boys. When I was pregnant with my eldest son “J” – my husband and I went on a BabyMoon and while vacationing went and saw “Walk the Line.” Normally calm with occasional kicks, the baby in my belly would start kicking like crazy whenever one of the Johnny Cash songs in the film would play. My eldest son actually got to watch his first film (one of the XMen movies) at about 2 weeks when we went to one of those Mommy & Baby movie screenings.
Since moving to London – going to the movies as a family has become a pricey affair. We’re big fans of the KIDS AM movies at Vue Cinemaswhere the movies are £1.50* every Saturday and Sunday morning and every day in school holidays. 3D movies £2.75. It’s the same price for adults and kids so it’s a pretty good deal. The movies are generally a few weeks behind but that’s ok.
A few weeks back as a special treat for my eldest son “J” I took him to see a screening of Brave in 3D. We went to a movie at Fulham Vue cinemas that started a little after noon, we got there about 15 minutes early so we could load up on snacks and find a good seat. When we went into the theater and sat down we were the only ones there. J started to get anxious saying he thought the cinema was scary with no on else in it. I said “don’t worry more people will come,” but they didn’t and he didn’t let up either – and while I did my best to calm his fears, he started to rub off on me!
So while I got him calm and settled to watch the film, I was already scanning the empty theater, noting the emergency exits… As the movie got underway I enjoyed watching the film but kept half an eye peeled on the entrances/exits and kept freaking myself out that someone was touching my hair or hiding behind our seats. So I’d start to lean forward in my seat and he’d ask me to sit back and hold his hand. Intermittently I’d look behind me as I’d really freak myself out – and he’d say “What?! What?! Who’s back there?” and I’d say “No one honey, I just dropped my phone.” Needless to say it wasn’t a relaxing movie. It was however a funny and stunningly visual film – which I’d love to watch another time when I’m not so highly strung. I think we’ll definitely be buying a copy for home.
Each of the previews we saw were for upcoming spooky kids movies that definitely look worth watching. Get ready for Halloween and check out these films and let me know what you think.
ParaNorman - A misunderstood boy, takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse.
Frankenweenie – Directed by Tim Burton, in this film Young Victor conducts a science experiment to bring his beloved dog Sparky back to life, only to face unintended, sometimes monstrous, consequences. (this film is mostly black and white)
Hotel Transylvania- Dracula, who operates a high-end resort away from the human world, goes into overprotective mode when a boy discovers the resort and falls for the count’s teen-aged daughter
When leaving the theater – we saw the large stand-up cardboard poster for Frankenweenie and J said “Why are all movies in black and white scary ones?” I tried to answer him about how ALL old movies were in black and white but then realized they don’t really play old movies on TV like they did when I was a kid – the ones they do play are the old horror movies – so I guess the kid was kind of right….
While we’ll probably be avoiding empty cinemas for a bit to recover our nerves – going to Kid screenings or Mum & Baby screenings are always fun (and more widely attended!) and are often cheaper – so we’ll be definitely headed out to the cinema again soon.
If you’re looking for Mum & Baby / Kid movie screenings around London here are a few I know of. Feel free to comment and add more.
For some time, Beaufort Housein Chelsea has been our go-to place when going out to eat with the kids. Their Brasserie is a large open room, tastefully decorated – and most importantly ringed with booth seats.Parents who are reading this – I think you’ll fully appreciate the strategic advantage of this. We put the boys in the middle, and my husband and I sit at the ends so there is no escape!
Fortunately the kids love eating there as well. We’re always warmly welcomed by the staff, while there are less kids there at dinner, other families have surely felt the warm welcome for families, as on Saturdays and Sundays this place is packed with families enjoying leisurely brunch/lunch etc. Hakim, the front of house Manager is extremely welcoming to kids and families and while the waitstaff has generally been different people each time we’ve visited they’ve all been very kind and great with the kids (and their needs for extra napkins and ketchup!)
From the kids perspective – they’ve enjoyed the tasty kids meals. The kid’s menu is a nicely designed menu/placemat with scenes of London. Each child gets their own menu/placemat as well as their own set of Beaufort House colored pencils with sharpeners. There’s enough to color to last the whole meal! On one visit, their delight – the boys were even given Beaufort House boys. This has happened once, so I’m not sure if it was a one off thing or not.
We found the kids meal prices reasonably priced and sized and includes dessert. (They were even running a kids eat free promo for a while, whose absence I miss!)
For adults I’ve been impressed with the creative menu, which seems to change frequently – and their cocktails are delicious.
While we’ve spent most of our time downstairs in the ground floor Brassierie, they do have a Member’s Club above.
This week, I was invited along with some other London Bloggers to come see the Member’s Club. The club is spread over several floors and while during the evenings it’s generally full with members and their guests – during the days they use the event spaces for kids parties! I think I’ve found our new birthday venue.
Stairs up to Members Club above the Brasserie (it’s over several floors)
Guests were served Mojitos, champagne and delicious appetizers like duck spring rolls, mini fish and chips, truffle arancini and decadent lemon meringue mini pies.
(Sadly I was unable to partake of the cocktails and pate, and some of the other tasty looking items because of my baby bump)
While you probably wouldn’t see those items on the menu for a kid’s party, the kids party menu and setup looks interesting, and seems like it would be nice for the parents accompanying them.
I’m glad I was invited along and get to check out the Member’s Club and hope to be back soon for future events. They had a children’s event over the summer with Pippa’s Poppets, and from speaking with Simon, one of the co-owners it looks like their planning on more family focused events during the daytime, which I think would be great and certainly look forward to.
For the neighborhood, I think their prices are pretty good for children’s parties. Here’s a photo of their brochure for the price list for kids parties (accurate as of this publication, but do ring them in case menu items or prices change in the future)
Have you been to a kids party here before? Or visited the Brasserie with kids? What did you think?
When we lived in the US in Chicago, we’d regularly go visit my family in Michigan. Most of the time we’d take the car but sometimes the train. Now that we live in London, we regularly visit my in-laws in Belgium and take the train too. While we live in London and they in Antwerp, it’s faster for us to go visit them by train than the similar trip back in the US.
We take the Eurostar from London to Brussels and then from Brussels either we take an intercity train to Antwerp or we get picked up by car. I prefer taking the Eurostar to flying as it’s less hassle than flying, we can move about, there are no seatbelts and the kids have a view of the countryside, towns and other activity out the window. Having now travelled regularly with the kids via Eurostar I have learned a few things I thought I’d share.
Booking your tickets
If you think you’ll be going on more than 1 Eurostar trip in a year, sign up for their free Loyalty Programs like their Eurostar Plus Points. With Eurostar Plus Points, when you book your travel online through their website you earn 1 point for every £1 you spend and when you’ve earned 300 points you’ll get a £20 e-voucher. You can sign up the whole family into 1 joint account and the points will accrue quickly. With 4 of us traveling it only takes 1-2 trips before we get a voucher, which we then use towards our next trip.
We usually book online at Eurostar.com however, if you need to book only one leg of your journey with children, you won’t be able to book that online and you will need to give them a call. For the most part, ticket prices online are similar to what they offer you on the phone, we have found a few times it’s actually been about £10 cheaper over the phone, but then we can’t use the voucher.
When booking your tickets, remember that children 4 and under can travel for free, however, this does mean they won’t be allocated a seat. In the past we’ve booked 3 seats facing each other around a table, leaving the blocked in window seat free for booking and keeping our fingers crossed that no-one would book it so we could use it for our “free” child. This strategy has only worked out for us about 50% of the time.
When booking your seats – you have several options. Your first choice is class of service, Standard, Standard Premier and Business Premier. We’ll be focusing on Standard.
Within Standard class, when selecting your seats, if you speak to the customer service reps on the phone – they will recommend the “Family Section” to you. Don’t take those seats!!! Trust me you don’t want them, and here’s why… The “Family Section” is a closed off section of the carriage. Sure that’s great for containing kids, except it also traps in the food and other smells of your traveling companion. It’s a small boxed in area. Even then, just like other areas of the train there are people constantly walking through to get to the loo or bar buffet car, so the advantage of containment is lost. Finally – there is only a short stumpy side table. So if you have more than 1 child get ready for a fight for who gets it and don’t count on being able to fit coloring books or other activities on it because it’s too small. Also – this area is generally packed with other families, many of whom are also taking advantage of the 4 and under free – so be prepared for a generally packed and crazy area full of kids. For the same price – sit elsewhere. We made the mistake of sitting here once on the advice of Customer Service reps – never again!
Compare this “Family Section” seat with it’s dinky side table to a regular 4 seat configuration with table.
If you or your children get car-sick or motion-sickness take note of which way your seats are facing when making your booking. You’ll be able to see which direction the seats face when you select your seats online. Seats facing forward on a journey to Paris/Brussels will be facing backwards on the return journey.
However, on rare occasions this may change.
If you’re planning to rely on videos to keep the kids occupied or need to bring your laptop with you, UK and European power points are available in coaches 5 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10 -11 – 12 – 14.
Once you’ve selected your seats you can choose to print your tickets at home, or have them mailed to you (for a fee). We choose to print our own.
Packing for your trip
Pack lightly! Remember you’ll be dragging your suitcases and children through the terminals, security etc and then have limited space once on the train. We generally give each child a backpack to carry in which are their snacks and activities for the train. We each then take a suitcase (2 people sharing per suitcase). While there is a bar buffet on the train, it’s generally pricey and has not the healthiest selection of snacks (Pringles, candy bars, fizzy drinks, wine & beer etc ). So, think ahead, pack some water, juice boxes, crackers and fruit, or whatever snacks you and the kids prefer. Each seat has it’s own small litter bin so you’ll be able to get rid of wrappers etc. Again don’t go overboard, most of the trips aren’t that long, you will have to carry it and you can always get more on the train or in the station if necessary.
For keeping the kids busy on the trip, we generally have 1 handheld gaming system, then some other coloring or sticker book activities. (Cheap ones we can toss when we get to our destination). Try and get something that’s all in one like a sticker book.
The Eurostar Terminal
Generally you’ll want to arrive at the Terminal about an hour early. When you first arrive you can go through the automated turnstiles or if you’re a family group or have lots of bags, you can go to the manned desks. There they will check your ticket and send you through to security.
At security – it’s the x-ray machine for your bags and metal detectors you walk through which is standard at most airports now. Be prepared to remove your coat or sweater and make sure you and the children have nothing metal in their pockets. I do the shakedown on my kids and am surprised by the coins, cars and other things they seem to have collected in their pockets.
Once through security you need to pass through passport control before you arrive in the waiting area of the terminal. Here there are limited selections for food or drink or magazines etc. (generally 1-2 shops vs the many found in the main train terminal). About 10-15 minutes before your departure time, they announce the boarding of your train and allow you to board.
On the Train
Once on the train at the end of each carriage are large racks for suitcases (make sure yours is labelled) and over your seat are smaller shelves for coats, purses and smaller bags. Quickly get the kids out of the aisle and into their seats as many people are still trying to get to their seats and through the aisle.
Beware if you are traveling with a child with an ear infection. When you go through tunnels, or even the Chunnel (Chanel Tunnel) there is pressurization of the ears much like you’d find when flying. You can try relieving the pressure by popping your ears, chewing gum, swallowing or yawning. If you know in advance it’s a problem for you and or your kids, there are ear plug valves that can help regulate pressure. (The brand we’ve used was called Earplanes and they come in kid and adult sizes).
At the end of each carriage is a WC or loo. Although it’s a tight squeeze we do accompany the children to the loo. In the loo there is a toilet and sink, the controls for both are found by pressing buttons on the floor. (You’ll need to step on them, my 4 and 6 year old aren’t heavy enough or don’t have enough leg strength to do it) While there doesn’t seem to be room to change a baby’s diaper in the WC there is a baby changing station in carriage 18 or you could just do it on your seat.
So these are some of the things we’ve learned – but I’d love to hear if you have any tips for Eurostar Travel. Please leave them in the comments below.
So here I go with my belated post on BritMums Live – a UK Conference for Mum Bloggers, based around the BritMums Community. While I’m not a regular contributor to the community – I am a big fan (or sucker) for Blogger Conferences and it was a great opportunity to meet some of my new online Blog and Twitter friends from the UK.
The conference started on a Friday afternoon and continued through Saturday. I found it kind of an awkward time as I had to take time off work to make it there as it started mid-afternoon. I’d have preferred it over a Saturday and Sunday. A lot of people travelled from outside of London – so I’m not sure if this time made it easier or harder to travel.
Like many of the conferences I’ve been to in the US – it was a nice mix of panels, talks, keynotes and sponsor showcase area. As usual my favorite conversations and learnings came from the casual hallway chats and new friends made in the moment.
Having come straight from work – I didn’t get quite so fancy for the awards night on Friday evening – but was lucky enough to be sporting some gorgeous earrings by Sarah Hickey Jewelry. It made me feel very glamorous.
These were so gorgeous – I couldn’t send them back! I bought them and have been wearing them everywhere!
On Friday evening while waiting for the awards ceremony to begin I had the pleasure of meeting “My Funny Mummy. while she didn’t win the award she was nominated for – certainly made a lasting impression on me and I can’t wait to connect again in the future. Unfortunately she had to leave the conference early due to an unfortunate incident at home – you haven’t read about it? check it out here: “Why Me”
On Friday evening I went to the expat blogger meetup with some of my fav old and new online friends – unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay long at all as I had a horrible headache and the loud music in All Bar One had me beating a hasty retreat quickly after arriving. The expat meetup was organized by the amazing Michelle, The American Resident – who also wrote a lovely recap of the conference and meetup here: Expat Roundup
One of my favorite sessions was the Food Blogging panel, Good Taste: Blogging about food which included Kerstin Rodgers, Ms. Marmite Lover; Sarah Trivuncic, Maison Cupcake; Katie Bryson, Feeding Boys and a Firefighter.
I think one of the things that made it so special was how real and open these ladies were. They shared their rates for sponsored posts and what they’d charge for putting together a new recipe. I think there should be more transparency in the blogging community about this – and about compensation or sponsorship in general as women I think we often undervalue our contributions and are therefore more easily taken advantage of when it comes to putting money to the time we invest in things.
On Saturday I shared lunch with the lovely American expat Bump2Basics and her babe in arms, and had a long lovely chat. While in the sponsor area – one of the first people I met was Penny Alexander of The Alexander Residence. Penny told me about Give As You Live, which allows you to shop online with thousands of stores and raise money for your favourite cause with every purchase – at no cost to you. (I later won a lovely gift bag from them which included some fair trade goods and items made by hand and or which supported charitable causes and community building)
I was also delighted to see LEGO in the sponsor area as my munchkins are huge fans and was delighted to see they’ll be releasing more book/toy sets. They did a cupcake decorating session which was well received.
While in the sponsor area I also ran into Andy from Dad’s Cooking Tonight – one of my favorite #MumsNight contributors! It was lovely to see Andy nominated for some awards and see Dads included in this event.
One of the things that most surprised me was all of the Americans – both attendees, event organizers and sponsors! In the sponsor area there was Disney, ThermoMix, Crocs and Visit Orlando.
Thanks to Visit Orlando I was able to have a truly evil moment of parenting -> Visit Orlando had a photo booth where you could take your photo with a backdrop of iconic Orlando locations, including SeaWorld and DisneyWorld. The day after BritMums Live the boys found my photo – and asked “Mommy what’s this” grinning evilly I replied – “What does it look like?” The look of horror on their faces as they said “You went to Disney without us?!” was priceless. Ok so I only let them believe it for a second a quickly corrected them that it was just a pretend photo and I hadn’t gone to their holy land and left them at home.
It was a full day and a half and by the end I was ready to head home – which of course was complicated by tube closures. This did give me a great opportunity to connect with Christine Mosler and Circus Queen ( Christine wrote a great writeup of the conference here: BritMums Live 2012 – How was it for you? ) as we tried to navigate alternate routes across London.
All in all – I enjoyed the event but like BlogHer in the US – I always find I enjoy the unscheduled hallway chats more than the panels themselves. I find panels problematic in that with so many people you never have time to get in depth in a subject. Or, like Advanced blogging: Video blogging – Building your online presence and YouTube profile. Christine Beardsell, VCCP - we ran out of time before she could share more of the advanced details which I really wanted to hear.
Will I be back next year? Yes, probably – I really enjoyed it for the opportunity to meet people in person I’ve connected with online. Did I learn much, no but I’ve been online for a few years now so wasn’t really expecting to. It’s nice though to meet people, connect and share online and off so for me, it was worth it.
Often it feels like the only “ME” time I have to enjoy media is when travelling. Planes – trains, automobiles you name it – that’s when the channel is my choice! You wouldn’t think I’d have to travel half-way around the world to enjoy a little Oscar-nominated time, but there you go!
Each year I have a conference that falls about 2 weeks after the Oscars. As I have moved further and further away from the venue, my travel times have increased. The last 2 years it was a 13 hr flight each way (including a 1 hr layover). This means – plenty of time to watch all of the Oscar Nominees and Award Winners on in-flight entertainment! Noise canceling headphones, champagne, ice-cream, new moves and my own remote! How could I go wrong? Once I made way through the Oscar worthy movies I turned my attention to the pop-culture favorites including The Hangover Two. Terribly funny, until the very end where I was almost throwing myself in front of the video and flailing around with the remote trying to block the screen/shut it off as it showed extremely graphic movies to the rest of the plane passengers seated behind me (I was in the first row, aisle seat)
With all honesty – let’s just say this isn’t my first rodeo. I’m a busy working Mom, so for movies, books etc I enjoy pure escapism. It’s my time to give my brain a little rest. I’m a big fan of romance novels (or “Bodice Rippers” as my Nana would call them). especially the Paranormal Romance genre. In any case if you’ve read 1,2,3+ romance novels you tend to recognize the cliched phrases, and if you’re like myself if you’ve read about one heaving busom or turgid member you’ve read about them all and quickly begin to tune them out.
So, besides just reading books – I’ve found for really data-heavy work my best way to stay focused on the work itself is to listen to something. I sometimes listen to audiobooks if I’m working with large data sets or repetitive tasks to keep me focused, or while commuting.
If you’ve never been on the London tube during rush hour – you’re in for an experience. You will never be so close to so many people who don’t make eye contact in your entire life. Being short, I generally spend my commute snuggled under the armpit of a stranger or 3.
So, a few weeks back I was listening to one of my audiobook romance novels – I had picked up a paper and was idly perusing it, listening to my book and surrounded by silent people on the tube. (That’s right only tourists talk on the tube) Suddenly this train ride seemed more silent than others. I looked up from my paper – and shockingly everyone WAS LOOKING AT ME. This is not normal behavior for the tube or London in general. I quickly ran a mental inventory. Am I having a nightmare? Nope. Am I naked? Nope. Is there toilet paper on my shoe? Nope.
Hmmm. And that’s when I realized… The romance novel was still playing. Loudly. Via crappy headphones. That were broadcasting a very VERY dirty sex scene to the entire carriage and I had mentally blocked out the whole thing – and everyone was staring at me as I supposed listened and broadcast my smutty smutty story across the whole carriage….
Face burning, I remained stoic. Turned down the volume and kept my face bored and still…you know, kept it real cool! And hopped off at the very next stop! :0)
Since then I’ve got a fantastic pair of in-ear noise canceling headphones that can’t be overheard – and better yet, a Kindle! Woohoo! Now I can read whatever I want without having to fear about people judging my book by it’s cover. And if you spot me on the train and wonder what I’m reading on the Kindle? Let me enlighten you – it’s Fifty Shades of Grey.
So that’s my story about Me-dia, and I’m sticking to it – how about you?
So we’ve taken the boys on plenty of flights – that best way I can describe it is “it’s like aligator wrestling.” There’s a whole lot of flailing and sometimes teeth involved – and when you least expect it they can turn on you! It’s not just the flight though – usually by the time we get on the plane we’re already exhausted by what it took to get there. The days of the kids asking – are we going now? The packing, the making our way to the airport, through security, past all the shops with amazing stuff they want to buy. By the time we get on the plane we are ready for that extended sit-down. Them, not so much.
In crossing the Atlantic with kids – I think the trip from US to Europe is easier- it’s generally later in the evening and is a night flight so we can generally get them to sleep. The other direction however is just a really really long day. So I was definitely interested – when I heard about an Airplane Nanny the other day.
Basically it’s a service where they help match you up with people on your flight who have Nanny or Childminding experience who are willing to watch your kids on the flight – it’s called Nanny in the Clouds.
For me though – after the first thought (more of a daydream really of me in first class being pampered) – the next thought is well who are these people. My suspicious nature next thinks of creepy people and or drug smugglers – hmm.
What I think is missing is some kind of social vetting – kinda like an ebay trust score, but rather using this persons real social graph or network. Perhaps they should license this Whit.li API – to integrate into their service. “Whit.li creates a portable psycho-social identity for consumers. Using context-based pattern matching algorithms through our API, we enable companies to organize users based on compatibility to create a faster, more personalized online experience”
So what do you think – would you pay for an Airplane Nanny? Ever convinced someone on a plane to watch your kids?
My eldest son J who turns 6 next month has become aware of that childhood mecca – Disney (land/world). He’s been asking us to tivo the commercials for Disneyland Paris, asking us to write down the phone number and sneaking up on me at odd times to gravely let me know that Disney is currently on sale and that he as a child can stay and play free.
Good job Disney – clearly your marketing has reached your intended demographic and is resonating well. I wonder how long it will be before you see a return on that investment (ok fine, we’ll cave soon).
In a way I’m surprised it’s taken him/them this long to ask. But having lived in Chicago previously to London with the kids – it wasn’t like there was a Disney nearby. We’re actually closer now, here in London to Disney (Disneyland Paris aka Euro-Disney), than we were in Chicago to the 2 in the U.S.
I have a friend in the US who is/was on the Disney Moms Board – but I think he may have turned in his mouse-ears and stepped down. Not sure if there is something similar here in Europe. Anyone happen to know? I’m starting to information gather for our upcoming (as of yet unscheduled) visit to the Magic Kingdom and any sites/resources/blogs you know of would be great if you could share them or your experience and tips and tricks for Disneyland Paris