Saturday, 28 January 2017

Warner Brothers Studio Tour London, The making of Harry Potter announces a permanent new expansion to the tour. Introducing the Forbidden Forest at the Harry Potter studio tour opening March 31st 2017.



On 31st March, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter will unveil an exciting, permanent expansion dedicated to the Forbidden Forest. 

The Forbidden Forest may be strictly off-limits to Hogwarts students, but for the first time this March, visitors to Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter are invited to defy Professor Dumbledore’s orders and follow the footsteps of Harry, Ron and Hermione deep into the grounds of the Forbidden Forest. 

Home to an abundance of creatures, the Forbidden Forest offers shelter and protection to Hippogriffs and Acromantula among many others. It is also well known to beloved half-giant Hagrid in his role as Care of Magical Creatures professor. One of Rubeus Hagrid’s original costumes will be on display, lantern in hand, to welcome visitors through the Hogwarts Gates deep into the forest. Filled with 19 trees each with a diameter of over 12 feet, visitors will walk beneath the giant entwined roots on their journey and will even be able to control the weather using the same techniques created by filmmakers. 

Amongst the imposing trees, visitors will encounter a full size model of Buckbeak, which is new to the tour, and have the opportunity to bow to the majestic creature. They will see up close the incredible detail and craftsmanship that went into creating the magnificent Hippogriff. Each feather had to be individually inserted and glued by the Creature Effects team who were busy adding feathers right up until the final moment Buckbeak was needed on set for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. 

As visitors venture deeper into the depths of the forest, they will come face-to-face with Aragog, the Acromantula. Emerging from his dark lair, the enormous spider will appear before visitors along with spiderlings from his family. Created by Nick Dudman, Creature and Make-Up Effects Designer, with help from Production Designer Stuart Craig, Aragog had a leg span of over 18 feet and was even able to crawl out of a hole and deliver dialogue in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. 

Officially opening on Friday 31st March, the new, must-see expansion has been designed and built by many of the crew members who worked on the hugely successful magical film series including Oscar® and BAFTA winning Production Designer Stuart Craig, Construction Manager Paul Hayes, BAFTA winning Creature and Makeup Effects Designer Nick Dudman and BAFTA winning Special Effects Supervisor John Richardson. 

Sarah Roots, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Tours commented: “We are so excited to launch the Forbidden Forest expansion of the Studio Tour, especially on the fifth anniversary of our grand opening. It’s great to be working with so many of the original filmmakers who know so much about the wizarding world. There will be an opportunity to take control of the weather and discover the techniques used to create a realistic forest within a film. We can’t wait to let visitors step into this mysterious set and discover all this amazing detail for themselves.” 

Stuart Craig, Production Designer on all eight Harry Potter films, added: “Over the course of the eight films, the Forbidden Forest has played a key role and I think it’s an exciting addition to the Studio Tour. The Forbidden Forest is full of mysterious, fascinating and sometimes threatening forces. It represents the great unknown compared to the comfort and safety of Hogwarts and the Gryffindor Common Room which makes it so interesting and important to the development of the story.” 

The Forbidden Forest will open on Friday 31st March 2017 and entrance will be included in the ticket price. Standard ticket prices are £39 per adult, £31 per child age 5-15 years (must be accompanied by an adult), under 4's go free, Family ticket 126 (either 2 adults 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children), carers go are with proof of entitlement with group and complete studio tour package ticket prices available too. 

Thursday, 19 January 2017

When we think twice before spending money on ourselves but if it's for the kids we spend, spend, spend! Buy it, you deserve it.

As a Mum I will always find myself putting the children first, it's what we do as parents. 

That includes shopping. I love to shop especially for clothes and shoes although in recent months I am learning to shift my focus towards other things that could be done like home improvement! 

I will find myself going shopping for the day and coming home with stuff for the children. I'm always up for a bargain so my most recent purchase was new shoes for 3 out of the 5 children all at half price in the current January sales that are still running. 

More often than not both from myself and others though I see us holding back from buying stuff for ourselves. Sometimes it is because we've seen something that we can't afford but more often than not it's something we can afford but feel guilty about spending on ourselves. Yet we probably wouldn't hesitate on buying something for our children for the same price. 

For example, everyone went crazy for Holly Willoughby's rainbow shirt that she wore on This Morning yesterday and there was much speculation about where it was from etc.... Most of us recoiled at the price although it's a statement piece and a colourful addition to your wardrobe that should last for years. There have been times over the years when I have walked into shops and come out with clothes amounting to that price for the children and not thought twice about it and they will outgrow those clothes in months to come too. So why do we think twice about spending on ourselves?

Holly Willoughby's rainbow shirt from Tabitha Webb

Maybe it's just me, although I know I am not alone. Gone are my days of buying and selling copious amounts of prams and pushchairs and I now seem to have moved on to clothes and shoes for the children but why not shift the focus to myself for a while? Why can't I do it? 

Even at Christmas I told my husband not to buy me anything, I didn't want anything and would rather see the children happy and get the gifts they want.

So parents come on now, if you see something you want and you can afford it then go for it. I swear my kids don't need half of the clothes and shoes that they have even if they were a bargain when I bought them. However I fancy some new clothes and shoes every once in a while and think twice about buying myself some supermarket shoes! 

We all want to see our children dressed nicely and who can't resist the cute little outfits in  new season styles when they hit the shop floors but let's treat ourselves once in a while too, guilt free. 

Friday, 13 January 2017

Redesigning a kitchen when on a budget, including knocking a wall through for a new kitchen diner layout. Can it be done? Our plans for a kitchen makeover.

A kitchen makeover 

One of the jobs on our never end list of home improvements is a new kitchen. The existing kitchen has been in situ since before we moved in (10 years ago) and although at the time it was lovely it is now looking very dated, very well used and some of the cupboard doors are falling off and the cabinets are falling apart slowly. 

A quick and cheaper solution would be to replace the existing layout that is there but for many years now we have had plans to eventually knock through the wall between the kitchen and dining room and make one big kitchen diner. 

The Cooke and Lewis Raffello kitchen from the current B and Q range

This dream would be lovely but how easily can we do it on a budget. I'm not talking super cheap but at the same time I don't want a super duper all singing all dancing kitchen with appliances costing thousands of pounds each.

With the sales currently on in stores like Wickes, Magnet and B & Q there are some reasonably priced kitchens to be found in the style we are looking at but there's always all the extras to be added in too. 

The Alpine Graphite and Fusion Blue kitchens from the current Magnet range. 

 Its not just all of the cupboards that need replacing but the sink ,taps, worktops, oven, hob, extractor fan wall tiles, floor tiles, electrics, painting etc... plus the man power to do it all. 

The OH would really like an island unit once we've opened the space up so a completely new kitchen layout would be needed. The only thing that wouldn't need renewing is our recently purchased fridge/freezer! 

The Esker Azure and Sofia Cashmere kitchens from the current Wickes range

So where do we start. This isn't an instant project that we will be starting imminently so I feel guilty for taking up a kitchen design teams time however at the same time if we don't get a layout designed and a rough price then we won't know what funds we need to save to get the project done. 

Every store I've looked at offers a team of designers who can design the kitchen you want and show you all the different kitchens they have to offer at different pricing brackets. Even the cost of worktops and tiles can vary so dramatically depending on what you want or what budget you have. 

I'm the kind of person that will see something I like, for example, some tiles. I will say to the OH 'Oh £5 per tile that's quite good' then you realise you need 1000 of them. That's my tiling budget gone through the roof! So I need help with working out all of those little things that you don't think of when you think of a new kitchen. 

It's all very well walking into a shop and looking at their kitchen displays stroking the worktops and standing at the hob and exclaiming 'Yes this would be lovely' whilst you stand there like you own the place but if you piece everything together that you need it may not be the price that you can afford. (And Yes I do frequent stores and do just this!).

So do I take the plunge and book a design team appointment so I know what kind of price I am looking for or leave it until we think we have enough funds available and then book the appointment? 

I took this picture in Homebase a couple of years ago such a different shape to the worktops

Thursday, 12 January 2017

SATS tests for Year 2 and Year 6 children. Is it fair to pile on all this unnecessary pressure to our children for the sake of some tests?


I currently have two children gearing up for SATS tests in May. One in Year 2 and one in Year 6. I completely understand that these tests need to take place and I am happy for my children to do them.

SATS, or statutory/standard assessment tests (national curriculum tests) are sat in Year 2 and Year 6. These tests are used to evaluate your child's educational progress and are also compared against the average attainment expectations for their respective age group. 

Every year I see messages across social media from parents saying how much pressure they feel their children are under because of these SATS tests mainly from Year 6 parents. 

I have never had the problem with any of my children that have gone through Year 2 SATS tests and none of them have really even noticed that they are doing them!

However, a couple of days before Christmas Thing 3 (Year 6) came home with a few SATS revisions books and I wasn't happy. She is worrier anyway so to have handed these out a couple of days before the Christmas break meant she felt the need to revise over Christmas and also there is still five months until SATS, FIVE MONTHS! 

Another thing. If my daughter needs booster classes because you feel she's not quite at the level you think she should be at by now then should they not have been offered before now? Not conveniently on the lead up to the SATS tests? 

I'm all for children having extra help if they need it but not just for the sake of some test results. My children will sit those tests and do the best that they can but not after they've been pressured for five months to get things right and do better than they are now just for better looking results. 

I completely understand that schools want to get the best SATS results they can possibly get but revision books, extra booster classes and turning some of our children into stressed out nervous wrecks, NO.

The first time I ever felt like that was at GCSE exam level. At that age I knew I had to revise, I knew those grades controlled whether I would get on to the college course I wanted to attend and that mattered a lot. I controlled the revision I did and I added the pressure to myself to do well (or not do well!). 

I am all for schools trying to get the best out of the children that attend there. I am always amazed at the hours the teachers at our local schools put in to their jobs both during school time and afterward school (and at weekends) too. I know they are aiming to give my children the best education they possibly can and the happiest school years they can too and I know this happens every school day throughout the year. 

So knowing the teachers have done their best and they have taught my child well then they can only do their best in those tests and that's all we ask. The added stress, revision and booster classes are unnecessary at SATS test level. 

What do you think about SATS tests? Do your children get stress out? Does their school pile on all the extra revision and booster classes? Let me know in the comments below.  

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Happy New Year 2017. What does the New Year have in store for you? I have named 2017 the year of home improvement, does it ever stop?!

A slightly belated Happy New Year to all of my readers here at Mum of Five Staying Sane. Thank you for your continued support here as well as connecting with me across all my social media too. 

Saying Goodbye to 2016 was easy for me, it was a bit of a rubbish year for a few reasons and I am glad to see the back of it. What has resulted from the few rubbish things that happened is that I have made 2017 the year of home improvements (and being a bit more selfish!). 

That may sound mean on my part but for 19 years (and counting) I've given the children everything they have wanted, I've said Yes to everything and they certainly haven't missed out. However, a couple of people in 2016 showed me that being selfish means you get what you want so this year I'm being selfish, saying No to their wants and in the process moving towards getting the home that I want. 

Parts of my home are falling apart. I've not just changed my mind on colour schemes or fancying some new furniture even though what I have is perfectly fine. It is falling apart. 

This includes; 

Kitchen cupboard doors falling off

A half finished hallway refurb

Mould growing on my bedroom window

A broken kitchen window

Bedroom furniture that is falling apart (although it has lasted 13 years)

A broken curtain rail in my bedroom

Threadbare and marked carpet on the stairs and in my bedroom (circa year 2000!)

An unfinished patio which the children can't go out and play on

A broken light fitting in the upstairs hallway

So 2017 brings the year of home improvements, or at least some home improvements! 

Where to start first is difficult as I need to know rough costs and budget accordingly. I'm all for saving money here and there so am always on the look out for good deals, offers and bargains to be had. I don't want top end designer items but I just want things fixed and for my house to look nice. 

As the children grew up we always said we will wait to make the house look nicer than it is as they were still at the stage of trashing the place, ripping wallpaper, drawing on walls and furniture etc..... always fun when you are a toddler! However, now they are older asides from being too messy they can at least live in a house that looks nice and isn't falling apart in places. 

So operation home improvement is underway. After sorting my bedroom window asap my next stop is Carpetright to price up new carpets. I've not bought new carpets for many, many years so am completely clueless as to what is good, what a decent carpet is, what prices are like so I may be in for a shock but without knowing prices I don't know where I stand on what to budget for and I will then also know a rough timescale of when it can be done by once I've sorted funds. 

The current under stairs look! 

My broken curtain rail and very sad looking curtains with no hooks left! Hiding a very sad looking window. 

I know many readers will be thinking with the amount of shoes and prams I've bought in previous years my money could have been put to better use. However, nobody is perfect. I bought what I wanted. I wasn't in home improvement mode I was in buying what I wanted when I wanted and letting the children have what they wanted. Times have changed, the days of having 5 prams in the house at a time have gone and operation home improvement is in full swing! 

What does 2017 have in store for you? Are you in DIY mode? A new baby on the way to plan for? Adventures to seek? Let me know in the comments below.