Mamma Mia! – A Review

Well I’ve made no secret of my love for all things musical theatre so to admit I hadn’t seen Mamma Mia! untill now is a little shameful!

I recently heading into London’s West End with my favourite theatre companion, my lovely daughter, to see the hit musical.

It’s one of those musicals that I’ve always wanted to see but never got round to. I’ve seen the film and I absolutely love it… it’s one of my favourites so I guess that sufficed. I didn’t really NEED to see the show!

I love everything about the film Mamma Mia… the story, the music, the setting and in my opinion, the most perfect actors to play the roles.

How could the stage version live up to that?

mamma mia londonMy daughter here outside The Novello Theatre in London’s West End just about to see Mamma Mia

But I know the musical is where it all started… where the whole story and concept of combining the amazing Abba catalogue of songs with a script began, and I also know nothing can beat the thrill of a live performance yet after watching and enjoying the film so many times, I thought there might be no way the show could win me over.

But boy was I wrong!

Within minutes of the musical starting, memories of the film were being wiped away to make way for this new version. The performers were totally believable, I immediately warmed to them… the stage setting, even though simple, really did make me believe they were on a Greek Island!

mamma mia london cast 2016Sanne den Besten who plays Sophie

I actually think watching the film enhanced my enjoyment of the Mamma Mia! Musical. I was familiar with the story and knew what was coming next, I didn’t need to concentrate too much and could just sit back and enjoy it!

In case you didn’t know (where have you been hiding all your life?) the story is based around single Mum Donna who lives on a Greek Island with headstrong daughter Sophie. Sophie is about to get married and wants to find out who her Dad is! Donna has always refused to talk about him but after finding one of her Mum’s old diaries, Sophie realises it could be one of THREE men… who she proceeds to invite to her wedding behind her Mum’s back! She hopes she will find out which one it is. Cue lots of comedy and emotion as we are taken on their journey to the wedding day!

The show was a real fiesta all the way through which crescendo-ed up to the finale where by this time, the whole audience were up on it’s feet dancing and singing along. There was so much energy and fun up on the stage, it was fantastic!

My daughter loved it, every time I glanced over at her she was smiling and enjoying every moment. The odd little quip from the script was adult in nature but it went over her head and she didn’t notice!

One of my favourite scenes has to be when Tanya sings ‘Does Your Mother Know?’… this had me is fits of laughter and the person who plays her (Mazz Murray) was absolutely brilliant!

MAMMA MIA!  London Cast 2016/2017Mazz Murray as Tanya and Filippo Coffano as Pepper!

The whole cast of the current Mamma Mia! is relatively new, they’ve only been in the show around six weeks so they are still settling into the roles but they were all fantastic, each and every one of them.

MAMMA MIA!  London Cast 2016/2017Linzi Hateley was utterly brilliant as Donna. She’s absolutely perfect for the role… full of emotion and warmth. She played this part for two years once before, from 2007-2009 and has come back to reprise the role. Linzi apparently attended the same stage school as me (a long time ago now!) and our time there could’ve overlapped! She’s only a few years older than me so I might have even walked past her in the corridors… how funny! Ah how I wish I’d been a bit more ambitious and gone into musical theatre myself….

I loved the ‘Slipping through my fingers’ scene.. this always brings a tear to my eye during the film and watching it in the show was no different. I had to physically wipe away tears.. hoping no one noticed! It’s such a heartwrenching song… I always think of my own little girl and how I would feel on her wedding day. I know I would feel the same as Donna… I just wanted to give her (Donna) a hug at this point!

MAMMA MIA!  LondonLinzi Hateley and Sanne den Besten

There were a couple of songs and scenes in the show that weren’t in the film, my daughter picked up on this straight away but it was quite a nice surprise, to see something a little different. ‘Thank you for the music’ is an old favourite of mine so it was wonderful to see this being performed.

I must also admit to having a sneaky crush on Sam in the show (Richard Trinder). He was very charismatic and would easily do as a replacement for the gorgeous Pierce Brosnan ;)

My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed Mamma Mia and if you’re thinking of going to see a show in London, make this beautiful, heartwarming show your first choice. You will NOT be disappointed!

mamma mia london cast

You can book tickets via the Mamma Mia website.

UK Premiere of The BFG

How exciting?

Leicester Square beckoned again as it was time for the long awaited summer blockbuster The BFG.

I have been so lucky to attend a few red carpet events now and they are truly amazing… It really does feel so special to be part of it all, mingling with exciting people.. celebrities and press alike, and being one of the first people in the Country to see a film!

The BFG is a kids film but my 6yr old twins were a little unsure. They’d seen a few adverts on the TV and were worried they wouldn’t like it. They were concerned that it would be too ‘scary’. Of course, the Big Friendly Giant isn’t in the least bit scary himself because we all know he’s friendly, but my boys have read the Roal Dahl classic story at school and they know there are some ‘baddie’ giants in the film too… these were apparently what they were afraid of. Cinema screenings are also dark and very loud, something which many young children dislike, so add into that some giant faces on screen and I can see why they were unsure.

As no one had seen this film, there was no one to ask what their kids thought so I decided to convince the boys that it would be fine, and off we went!

The weather was amazing at the atmosphere in Leicester Square was electric.

the BFG

The Square itself was cordoned off to make way for a magical Giants land which could be explored…

… Like Giant footprints!

bfg

The kids loved discovering many of the artifacts from the story. My boys could even name most of them… which I was rather impressed with, proving they were listening closely at school when the book was read to them!

the bfg

the bfg premiere

thebfg

They even got to sit on the BFG’s chair!

If you’ve been out and about lately in London, you may have spotted some of the BFG’s Dream Jars. There are a few in other cities but most are in London. They are on display until 31 August to support the work of Save the Children and Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity by being auctioned off at Paddle8 (I really want one!) .. so you could even own your own Dream Jar.. how amazing would that be?

At the premiere, many of the Jar’s were on display all together and my children loved looking at them….

Walking on the red carpet into the Odeon Leicester Square was very exciting!

The BFG UK premiere

Once inside and seated, awaiting the film to start, someone VERY special was there to introduce the film.

HIS film.

Yes, STEPHEN SPEILBERG himself appeared on stage, looking totally unassuming… I had no idea he was even going to be there, let alone standing right there in front of me!

I was completely starstruck. I mean, this was epic! It was STEPHEN SPEILBERG… is there really anyone bigger in the movie world?!!

Stephen Speilberg premiere BFG UK

I felt so privileged to be in the same room as this incredibly talented legend.

He spoke about making the movie, how he hoped we enjoyed it and then introduced onto the stage the cast, including the little girl who played Sophie, Ruby Barnhill, who took over the mic to say a few words of her own! I think she was just a tad excited!

the cast of the BFG

Then it was time to watch the film.

What did we think? Well here’s some blurb about the film first…

‘From the imaginations of two of the world’s greatest storytellers, Roald Dahl and Steven Spielberg, THE BFG tells the extraordinary tale of a young girl named Sophie (played by British newcomer Ruby Barnhill) and the Big Friendly Giant (played by Oscar Winner Mark Rylance) who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country. Together they embark on a marvellous and buckswashling adventure filled with snozzcumbers, dream jars, frobscottle and even the Queen (Penelope Wilton)! The mismatched pair form an unlikely friendship that will inspire enormous bravery in the BFG and give Sophie a taste of the family she dreams of’

Our Verdict

So first of all, my twins weren’t in the slightest bit scared at any point during the movie! Just so you know…. so that was the first big tick in the box! Some reviewers have described the film as being too long but I didn’t notice. My children and I were completely engrossed and didn’t flinch the whole way through. In fact, when I looked at my children, they were absolutely transfixed on the screen… the film was really quite hypnotic at times.

There was plenty of beautiful cinematography as we entered the mystical Giant world. The scenes where the BFG hows Sophie where the ‘dreams’ are kept under the water are truly magical.

I must admit to not having read the classic story myself so I could enjoy the story as the film presented it to me. But my twins pointed out afterwards that some parts of the book that they remembered weren’t in it. Not that this bothered them but they did notice!

For me I absolutely loved the film… I couldn’t wait to tell all my friends with kids that they most definitely should go see it.

My children loved it too… they thought it was amazing and felt very pleased with themselves for going to watch it! I would even say they felt quite smug that they could tell all their classmates that they’d seen it before anyone else!

I think this Disney and Stephen Speilberg’s THE BFG will become a classic. One of those films that families will all get together to watch at Christmas every year (or over and over again at any time of year) as it really does have that truly magical quality that we love.

Here is the trailer… 

The kids were given some fab BFG ‘ears’ to wear on the way home!

So sad that my daughter has left Primary School

The last photo of my Girl in her Primary school uniform (sob)

I knew I’d be like this. I’m such an emotional wreck when it comes to things like this!

This year I had two emotional ‘Leavers Assemblys’ to attend.

My twins finished Year 2, which means they’ll be moving on to the Junior school. It’s separate to the Infants so it feels like a big deal. And it is. It means my boys are growing up.

I cried the whole way through their assembly. Yes, because of all the feelings that stir with the realisation that this is the end of their time at the Infants, but for me, also, it was because my shy twins stood right at the front and sang their little hearts out!

In any kind of sharing assembly they’ve done in the past, they’ve hidden. They’ve been so shy that they would literally go to pieces and crumble before my eyes…. they’d curl up and cringe and want to be invisible. It was always painful to watch. They hate any sort of attention. To them, they would’ve felt as though every parent was looking at THEM. No matter what I said, or how their teacher’s tried to help, nothing worked.

So to see them standing there with their fellow Year 2 peers, singing away, my heart was puffing out and bursting with pride! It was amazing. That in itself signified a massive milestone for my tiny boys.

The ‘Leaver’s Song’ is incredibly heart wrenching, describing how they are moving on and loving the friendships they’ve formed…. how they’re proud of things they’ve learned and about the new path they’re about to take in the world. I can’t understand how anyone would fail to be moved to tears by it!

My daughter sang it too.

She’s in Year 6 and it was even more poignant for her as she’s leaving the school for good.

The school where she’s been incredibly happy and made some lovely friends. She doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t go to that school. It’s been somewhere she went every day for seven years!

My Girl’s very first day at school in Reception.. aged 4!

I knew I would find it difficult but I haven’t been prepared for how hard it would hit me once she had left.

The last few weeks of term were crazy manically busy, accumulating in the Year 6 Leaver’s Party!

But first on Friday we had the Leaver’s assembly. It was very emotional. We were taken on a journey of their time at the school. Lots of photo’s lit up on the big screen in the hall from the projector. Stories were told and quite early on, some of the girls were in tears. One of my daughter’s friends stood up to sing a song but she couldn’t get the words out.

This set me off.

Within moments, my daughter was crying and it was all I could do to stop myself running to the stage to comfort her. There were a few songs, then the Leaver’s song again.

I sat there looking at her through tears in my eyes. The words cutting through me like a knife.

I didn’t want this to be it. I didn’t want this to be the last time she would be at her school or sit there with those children. I didn’t want this to be the last time she would ever wear that uniform and look this young. I wanted it all to stop, for time to go back so she could stay here a bit longer.

The girls all clung to each other afterwards. It was so so sad.

But the day ahead for them was a busy one. They had all the fun shirt signing to do before heading off on the traditional London bus ride around our local town, then finally ending up at their Leaver’s Disco organised by us parents! Their families were invited down for a BBQ later where we stayed until around 10pm when it finished.

My daughter and some friends from Year 6 enjoying their party.

It was a great evening. The kids had so much fun and it was lovely for us Mum’s to have this last evening all together. Many of the kids are going to different high schools so it was the end of an era for us too and we all got a bit emotional.

My daughter was tearful in the car on the way home bless her. But they have all vowed to stay in touch and I guess it will be much easier than it used to be, with everyone having smart phones. They already have lots of Whatsapp groups that they’re all in so really they will still feel close!

For me though, it really hit me the next day.

The full on craziness of the past few weeks had given way to an eerie, empty feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I picked up her uniform and stared at it for a while. She would never wear it again. Ever.

I glanced over at her sitting on the sofa, absorbed in her phone. My baby girl. No longer at our beloved primary school.

It seemed so final.

Everything is about to change. So much more than she could ever realise.

I’ve got a 17 yr old so I know only too well how much she will change in the next year. High school does that do a child and I’m not ready to go through that with her just yet.

I don’t want to.

I want to keep her like this for a little bit longer please if I may?

She is on the cusp of growing into a young lady but right now she is still so young in her mind, still so childlike and so much fun. She still loves cuddles and to play with her little twin brothers…. In another year that might not be the case.

We spent a lazy day together. I watched her play in the garden… she’s grown so much recently. Not so little anymore.

When I tucked her up in bed that night, I kissed her, squeezed her hard then went into my own bedroom and sobbed.

I sobbed and sobbed. Uncontrollably.

I want to stall time. It’s going way too fast and I can’t stop it. I don’t want her to grow up and I don’t want things to change.

I love her so much. I love the way she is right now and even though I know there’ll be lots of fun ahead…. I’m not ready for that.

I was thinking about the school run. We’ve always gone together. Me, her and the twins. All three of them have always worn the same uniform and they’ve always been together. Not any more.

The last time all together in school uniform! (*sobs again!)

In September, my twins won’t have their big sister with them when we leave for school. We will go without her. She will walk to her new school.

After school when the twins come out first, we won’t walk across to her classroom to wait for her. She won’t be there.

Everything will change and I don’t want it to.

I know I should embrace it and I will of course. I’ll have to.

But it all makes me so sad.

Time is passing way to fast. In the blink of an eye my children will be all grown up and it’s hard to accept.

This summer I want to spend every second with my beautiful Girl and breathe in her young loveliness while it’s still there.

Then in September, I will watch with pride as she puts on her new uniform, ready for the next new chapter in her life.

Pizza Express with Ice Age: Collision Course

The wonderful Pizza Express have a special collaboration that’s just started for Summer 2016. They’ve teamed up with Fox Films and the Ice Age:Collision Course movie to bring some fun activity sheets to the piccolo (childrens) menu, which are available in most of their restaurants. They’re also (and this is the most exciting part) giving you the chance to win an amazing holiday to Hollywood USA, with a VIP tour of Fox Studios too! I would SO like to win that!

As we’d been invited to check out the new activity sheets in the Leicester Square branch of Pizza Express, we were also treated to special previews of the Ice Age movie too beforehand! So lucky!

We arrived in London bright and early for the film and the kids got to say hello to some of the famous characters….

ice age collsion course movie

..before taking our seats and donning our 3D glasses!

ice age collsion course movie

The film was brilliant! We loved it. The hilarious Scrat is up to his usual daft antics, but in Outer Space this time! He wreaks havoc as he’s trying to catch his beloved acorn! He accidentally sets off a series of cosmic events that are set to transform and endanger the Ice Age World. Manny, Sid, Diego and the gang must embark on a mission to save themselves! Full of comedy capers as you would imagine.. we thoroughly recommend going to see it with the family!

After that we were feeling nice and hungry and ready for our Pizza Express lunch. I’ve written an in- depth review of our dining experience and food that we had a few weeks ago at Pizza Express, so I won’t go too much into the menu because this time we were there for a Pizza Express Party! How exciting!

Firstly though, the kids got down to some serious colouring in and activities with the Ice Age Sheets! Could’ve spent hours doing these!

Pizza Express Ice age

pizza express ice age

Pizza Express have been hosting kids parties for many years. Mine haven’t been to any themselves but I’ve heard they are lots of fun. The kids get to make their very own pizza!

Hands washed then hats and aprons donned!

pizza express party

We had a Pizza Express Chef on hand to make the dough, even though we all geared up to making our own! I guess that would’ve been incredibly messy and time consuming, with most kids not being able to manage to making dough anyway… which is an art from in itself isn’t it?

pizza express party

The kids squished the dough into the pan and began to add the toppings… the exciting part. The Pizza Express Chef/Party Host talked them through it and had lots of interesting trivia to tell them about the pizza making process!

A typical kids’ party will last between 90 and 120 minutes, depending how many kids there are, and their age. Expect a lively combination of pizza making fun with games to keep everyone happy. And there’ll be plenty of time to enjoy your creations before you tuck into a round of gelato.

Pizza Express even do parties for adults! These include a glass of Prosecco on arrival… sounds good to me… when can I book? ;)

My children were were so excited to eat their very own pizza, which only takes FOUR minutes to cook in the super hot ovens, which meant they didn’t have to wait long!

And the verdict? Yummy!

We had a fantastic time watching Ice Age Collision Course and stuffing our faces at Pizza Express! You really must make sure you pay a visit to your local Pizza Express over the holidays so the kiddies can have fun with the Ice Age activity sheets… get them to draw a super duper picture of their favourite character with a pizza for your chance to win that fantastic holiday to Hollywood!

#pizzaexpressiceage

We were given complimentary tickets to see the Ice Age movie and to check out the collaboration with Pizza Express! All words and opinions in this post are my own and honest.

My Sunday Photo 17/0716

Curryspcworld Christmas show 2016

I’ve been to a few Christmas in July press shows this week. I usually try and do as many as I can as I love them, but this year I’ve been so busy that I just couldn’t justify the gallivanting into London two/three times a week. Therefore, I picked out a select few.

The above photo was taken at the CurrysPCWorld show!

This table comes with iPads built in to every place setting! All the different kinds of iPads were on show and I though it was so cool and looked very festive!

Obviously this table wasn’t for sale… it was just for presentation purposes! But I think I’d kinda like one in my own dining room! ;)

Photalife

Win 1 of 3 Ice Age Collision Course Goody Bags

ice age collision course

To celebrate the release of Ice Age: Collision Course, in cinemas now, I’m giving 3 lucky readers the chance to win a merchandise bundle including a sticker book, character magnets, 3D jigsaw, paddle ball, character stampers, lunch bag, stationery set, flask and kids t-shirt to become part of the herd.

We were lucky to see the movie last weekend at a special preview event and it’s fantastic! I think Ice Age is back to it’s brilliant best! The hilarious Scrat is up to his usual daft antics, but in Outer Space this time! He wreaks havoc as he’s trying to catch his beloved acorn! He accidentally sets off a series of cosmic events that are set to transform and endanger the Ice Age World. Manny, Sid, Diego and the gang must embark on a mission to save themselves! Full of comedy capers as you would imagine, but also an underlying emotional storyline as Peach (Manny’s daughter) is all grown up and about to get married, something that her doting Dad is struggling to come to terms with!

The film is out TODAY so make sure you book your tickets!

Here is a little taster .. the trailer….

To be in with a chance of winning, simply answer the question and follow the directions in the Gleam widget below… GOOD LUCK

Mummy Endeavours – WIN 1 of 3 Ice Age collision Course Goody Bags

Ice Age Collision Course is in cinemas now!

New innovations at McDonalds

I was recently invited to an afternoon at McDonalds.

Not THAT exciting you might be thinking, but just you WAIT and see what I got up to!

I was in this South London branch, Balham, to check out the fantastic new digital kiosks and order & collect system that’s been installed into a number of McDonalds stores across the UK.

If you’re lucky enough to live in an area that have them, then you’ve probably tried them out already!

mcdonalds

There aren’t any in my local branches so this was the first time I’d seen them. They’re in the experimental stage at the moment so the technology is constantly being tweaked and improved as the feedback from customers comes in. The aim is to make the ordering process much more interactive and relieve that all important queue time!

The touch screens are incredibly easy to use. If you want to order something a little more complex than your bog standard meal, there is a section for it. You can even request your fries to be unsalted, or have no onions or sauce etc. They do, literally, provide for every eventuality and usually once you’ve ordered an item, it’s at this point you go in and add any changes. Once you have placed your order, you then collect it at the counter, where it should be pretty much ready straight away. The ordering machines take bank cards as payment but they don’t accept cash. If you want to use cash you can go to the counter like you normally would. The counters are still there and a helpful McDonalds staff member will only be too happy to serve you, this won’t change. But from I could see in this Balham branch, almost everyone ordered at the screens!

We had a little play around with them and I can see how they would appeal to customers. It’s such an efficient way of ordering and actually, you get to see much more of what’s on the menu. Most McDonalds don’t show the whole range on their photo’s behind the counter, so unless you’re reading the very small menu print… which, when you’re worried about the person behind you in the queue getting annoyed because you’re taking too much time.. you probably don’t. In that respect, scrolling across the screens and having everything to view right there, is much more beneficial.

But even better than that, there is also an option for ‘Table Service’! Yes, you read that correctly.

mcdonalds

I love this!

If you don’t want the hassle of going to collect your food yourself… maybe you have small children with you and you want to grab a table, you can put in a request for it to be brought to you. The refurbished restaurants have different seating ‘zones’ so the screen simply asks you where you’re sitting and that’s it! Someone will bring your order over! Very upmarket!

mcdonalds

Demonstrating this was Franchisee Mike Smith. He owns 10 restaurants across South London and Surrey including this one in Balham. He is a McDonalds employee success story and such a lovely and inspirational person. Mike started working at McDonalds as a Saturday boy at 19 years of age and within the extensive development programme that McDonalds runs for it’s staff, he progessed up the ranks. After Managing a store he moved into the corporate side of the business and traveled all over the world, implementing the brand into new Countries. Constantly training and learning new skills, he was the perfect person to become a franchisee and has never looked back. It was great to hear his story and a real eye opener to what a great employer McDonalds really is, and confirmation that you can start at the bottom and with hard work, you can achieve great success.

The ordering machines aren’t the only new tech in this branch. There’s even a designated area that has ‘tablets’ built into the tables .. so while you enjoy your meal, you can surf the web, log into your social media (be sure to log out though!), play games or even watch a movie!

I was totally blown away by this! I mean, this is super contemporary… so twenty first Century!

mcdonalds

I remember when McDonalds first appeared in our local town… must’ve been the very late 70’s or early 80’s! It was all about Ronald McDonald then. They really pushed that character onto us kids but actually, he really made it great back then! There was a big opening event and I remember it being a huge deal. The whole concept of fast food was new and it was exciting! It was VERY child orientated though and a little tacky really.

Fast forward thirty odd years and McDonalds has evolved beyond all recognition really. Shaking off that tacky, cheap feel and replacing it with a stylish decor and becoming more about the food and dining experience than gimmicks. Anyone can eat at McDonalds these days and feel comfortable.

Our visit included a tour ‘backstage’ so to speak. We got to go into the state of the art kitchen and make our very own iconic Big Mac!

mcdonalds

We even had our very own apron, hat and badge given to us… how cool is this?

The kitchen has been recently revolutionised and everything (as I imagined) is extremely efficient and precise. The kitchen staff are very busy so everything has to run like clockwork and it does. Each member of staff is highly trained so they can cook and prepare your meals in a set time and to perfection.

These coloured trays are for the cooked meats. They have timers on and if the meat isn’t used within a certain (very short) time frame, it’s thrown away.

mcdonalds

The grills are a brand new design and cook the burgers in about 1 minute. Everything is incredibly clean, tidy and highly productive. The work surfaces are even heated so as to keep the food hot as it is prepared.

mcdonalds

The Big Mac is a craft in itself. Every step is perfectly measured from the time of toasting the bun and the exact weight of the onions and lettuce! The gherkins are placed in such a way as to achieve a piece in every single bite of the burger!

mcdonalds

Very proud of my finished masterpiece!

The final part of the day was to taste test the brand new Signature Range that’s being trailled at the moment. This consists of three burgers.. Classic, BBQ and Spicy. They are a thicker, meatier burger.. the type you would expect to find in a high end burger restaurant. The bun is brioche, which really gives it a wonderful taste and texture.

signature range mcdonalds

The new Signature range is only available in selected stores at the moment but I do hope they roll it out to all stores as it’s truly impressive. The whole look, from the bun to the box, screams superior and can easily compete with any elite burger out there.

I had a great time at McDonalds learning about all the new innovations… my kids can’t wait to get their little hands on that ordering screen, I must find a branch that has some near me! I definitely think they improve the whole dining experience.

I was at the Balham branch during the busy lunchtime period and I have to say, the whole restaurant was calm, there was hardly anyone at the counter, no one was rushing around and there was just a really civilised vibe going on!

I was invited to McDonalds to learn about the new innovative technology and the Signature range. I was paid for my time an this review. All opinions expressed are my own and completely honest.

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