a transatlantic mommy / mummy blog – my kids say "tomato" & "to-mah-to"

Miffy gets modernised – the international children’s classic is updated

The kids and I were delighted to be invited for the unveiling of the new and updated version of the Miffy children’s books. Miffy has now been a published series for over 50 years and has been translated into over 50 languages.

miffy london

This will be the first time the boys can read the Miffy books for themselves, and their first copy in English (having it previously read to them in Dutch). In Dutch, Miffy is “nijntje.”

Dick Bruna, the author and illustratror, while best known for the Miffy books (32 books) actually wrote an additional 124 picture books for children many of which included rhyming verse, making it easier for kids to read and remember. I love how the Miffy books got started – like many a good idea (from a desperate parent) it started out as entertainment on a rainy seaside holiday in 1955. Dick created the sketches of the Miffy bunny character for his son and then made up stories at bedtime to go along with the sketches.

In the 1980′s the stories were translated into English from Dutch by Patricia Crampton and launched in the UK, as generations have grown up with the stories they’ve stayed the same. Is it really necessary to update the language of children’s books you ask? When I first thought about it – I thought about what would need to be updated in terms of children’s books. Would they be adding in the word of the year, “selfie”, scattering in a few references to technology and #hashtags?

I was pleasantly surprised when I read the before/after to see that the updates made it easier to read. Here’s a few examples:

 

miffy comparison

 

You can click here to see all of the old vs new comparisons of the Miffy Books.

Having read the before/after it makes me think through which other children’s classics could do with an update. Which would you have modernised from your kid’s bookshelf?

The new verse was created by children’s author and poet, Tony Mitton. Dick Brunna’s beloved stories and timeless illustrations have remained the same.

“Throughout my career as a writer of poetry and verse for children, I’ve sought to combine the language of natural speech with precise rhymes, aural texture, good scansion and metre. So to tackle such internationally known works as the Miffy books – with a brief of staying as faithful as possible to the Dutch originals – struck me as a challenge well worth taking up. I was flattered and honoured to be asked.

I find great satisfaction in problem solving and plying my verse writing as a craft – in the same way a carpenter might approach making joinery for a bespoke space. I love working intricately with the sounds, rhythms, rhymes, textures and meanings of language in verse. Working on the Miffy books gave me the opportunity to do this. There were strictures, of course. The books have a look, a format and a feel already known and loved. And Dick himself was very exact in his own original writing, so I was not allowed free rein to do as I pleased. One is using one’s skills within set parameters. In that sense it is like working as a scriptwriter rather than as a solo poet. My own children loved Dick Bruna’s books; I hope my new texts help today’s young children to enjoy them too.”

— Tony Mitton, award-winning poet who has updated the texts in the Miffy storybooks:

 

Miffy book for Highlight PR

The book launch event was held, (appropriately I’d say) at the Dutch Centre in London. The kids enjoyed tables full of Miffy inspired crafting – and colour your own Miffy bunny ears.

miffy crafts

miffy cuddles

After crafting, they joined in to an interactive storytime, then a reading by Tony Mitton

miffy baby

The kids then had photos with and did some dancing with a big plushie Miffy.

miffy photo  It was a great day out and fun for the kids to get immersed in a whole new Miffy experience.

The modernised Miffy books will be rolled out throghout 2014 by the publisher, Simon & Schuster, with the first 3 being available from 27th February 2014.

The new Miffy books are available from all good bookshops across the UK and online. In addition to the traditional books they are also launching a series of activity and sticker books.

Publishing schedule for the new Miffy hardback storybooks (£4.99 each):

  • 27th February: miffy, miffy at the zoo, miffy at the gallery
  • 22nd May: miffy’s birthday, miffy’s garden, miffy and the new baby
  • 11th September: miffy at school, miffy goes flying, miffy’s bicycle
  • 9th October: miffy in the snow, miffy the fairy, miffy’s dream

New Miffy Activty Books, published 27 February:

  • Miffy’s Play Date paperback sticker storybook (£6.99),
  • Miffy Dress-up colouring and sticker book (£4.99)
  • Miffy’s Day sticker, activity book (£4.99).

modern miffy

 

*Disclosure: we were invited to attend this free book launch event, Miffy books were provided to my children for their review, but the opinions, experiences and reviews are our own.

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4 years ago 0 Comments Short URL

Benihana in Chelsea, London – dinner and a show for the whole family

On the Kings Road in Chelsea is Benihana. A few blocks from Sloane Square tube station, Benihana is just steps away from the Marks & Spencer. Step through the glass door and down the stairs into the bar and you’re in for a whole new adventure of food and fun!

If you haven’t been to Benihana before it’s a Teppanyaki style Japanese hibachi steak house.  What is Teppanyaki you ask? Think of  grilling whilst  juggling and you’re getting close to the picture. You dine around a flat hibachi grill table and a chef prepares a meal for the table using all kinds of fabulous stage enhancements using fire, steam, chopping shrimp tails in the air and catching them.  Its’ good fun and delicious food.

The menu allows you to choose your protein and offers set multi-course meals. So for example, if you’re in the mood for a little surf & turf you can order the “Hibachi Steak & Lobster Tail.”

In addition to your protein of choice(like steak and lobster), their traditional hibachi dinner includes:

    • Japanese onion soup
    • Benihana Salad
    • Hibachi Vegetables
    • Hibachi Prawn Appetizer
    • Rice
    • Japanese tea (upon request)

Traditional hibachi lunches offer the same set course selection minus the soup. There seems to be a few less combo-options for the hibachi at lunch but more bento box meals on offer. Lunch meals are also a bit cheaper than their dinner prices. At both meals their is also sushi and other appetizers available. Here is the full Benihana Chelsea menu for your review.

Benihana ChelseaWhen visiting our group was mainly composed of Mums, but it seems like the ideal place to bring kids for a celebration dinner. Indeed they make a huge deal out of birthdays, so be prepared to be the center of attention if it’s yours. This includes balloons, singing in Japanese from the whole staff and birthday cake!

Whether you’re coming for a birthday, a celebration, lunch or dinner – there is so much going on the kids will love it.  In particular I know my boys will find it fun to sit at a “hot” table. Be entertained by the jokes, flames, and flying food/knives of our chef. Most importantly I think they’ll really enjoy the food - it’s simple yet delicious flavours will appeal to them and having 2 types of sauce to dip things in is always a plus.

Even though they have a kids menu(which doubles as a hat!), as far as kids menu prices go, at £12-£18 it’s on the medium to high range.  But in this case I think it’s worth it because I know my kids will eat it. The food is excellent and being a part of the creation process always seems to help with their appetite.

The trick will be trying to convince them not to play with their food when we return home. :0)

Top tips:

  • They have highchairs
  • Lots of stairs so leave the pram at home if you can
  • Remind the kids to keep their fingers back from the hot table – before/during your visit
  • Come hungry
  • They have a private room for parties/events/VIP’s (and a sneaky VIP exit!)
  • Ask for the Japanese tea – it’s included in the traditional lunch/dinner but you have to ask
  • Let them know if you’re celebrating a birthday

If you’re unfamiliar with Benihana Chelsea please click on their landing page and see a short clip of what Benihana is about.

Don’t just take my word on it – here are some reviews of Benihana Chelsea from other Mums & Bloggers:

Disclosure – I was treated to dinner by Benihana but the views on the food and experience and recommendation are my own.

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4 years ago 0 Comments Short URL

Tips for taking the Eurostar with kids

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.

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5 years ago 5 Comments Short URL
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