New York – by 2 parents off the leash for 4 days!!

As a belated 40th birthday present for my husband – earlier this month we headed off to New York for 4 days and nights – leaving our 4 children at home (they were supervised!) I thought I would share with you our experiences and top tips for parents being let of the parenting leash for a few days!!

1. Enjoy the holiday from the moment you leave the house.  No ‘are we nearly there yet’ on the way to the airport – and even stopping at the drive thru Starbucks at the Welcome Break service station on the way to Heathrow was a special treat when it was just for the 2 of us and no one was arguing about the fact they’d got the wrong frappucino / smaller slice of cake / whipped cream on their hot chocolate when they’d decided they didn’t want it – despite having always had it before!

2. Make use of all freebies on offer.  We’d cashed in our British Airways Avios points and so were only paying taxes and charges – but flying First Class.  This meant we got to go in the very exclusive ‘Concorde Room’ at Heathrow (and at JFK on the way back).  This was fabulous – champagne, massage in the spa, uninterrupted newspaper reading, wifi so the husband could work (this will be a recurring theme – we have our own business, we never truly escape!), amazing food – in fact I would probably have enjoyed just staying in that lounge for the whole 4 days!

Concorde Room - with vintage champagne!
Concorde Room – with vintage champagne!

3. Find the optimum food / film / sleep ratio on the plane. The husband (and in fact the son, must be a male Price thing) can fall asleep instantly when he gets on a plane.  I, however, am my mother’s daughter – and like to get my money’s worth – even when it was a bargain flight for us (the flights would have been £19,000 if we’d paid – wow!!!) Therefore food and drink has to be consumed before I can drop off to sleep.  As you would expect in First Class on Britain’s flagship carrier, the service, food and drink were impeccable – and being able to enjoy these whilst watching a film uninterrupted by little people (why do kids like going to the toilets so much on planes?) was BLISS.  However, one film in, I turned my chair into a completely flat bed (showing off now!) and slept until nearly landing – perfection.

4. Be lovely to the hotel staff at check in. We got to the hotel at midnight – not the best time for anyone to be at their best – so even though the reception staff were a bit grumpy, we were sweetness and light!  The bell boy who helped with our luggage was perhaps the chirpiest person ever at that time of night (it worked, we tipped him well!)

5. Jet lag is your friend. The next morning husband was up early to deal with emails / clients back in the UK. There are 2 photos that I could have posted here – one where he was totally naked, and this one (from the next day) where, thankfully, he was dressed!

Working pre sunrise!
Working pre sunrise!

Even with his pitstop for work, we were still out and about early each day.  We had paid to ‘skip the line’ at the Empire State Building – but our early arrival meant this was completely unnecessary! (Although I think it would have been very useful if we’d arrived later in the day)

So 'skip the line' was like totally worth it.............
So ‘skip the line’ was like totally worth it………….

6. See your destination through as many possible mediums / media (haven’t done Latin for years).  We had pre booked loads of things with British Airways before heading off (as I like to be as organised as possible!) so we saw New York by air (in a helicopter, I vommited afterwards, but it was amazing!)

Yeah - I was totally calm pre helicopter trip......
Yeah – I was totally calm pre helicopter trip……

By water – on a cruise (it was chilly on the water, layers is definitely the way forward when dressing for New York)

Tourists on board a river cruise
Tourists on board a river cruise

By skyscraper – we went up the Empire State Building (mostly because husband is a film buff and wanted to re-enact Sleepless in Seatlle or such like!)  We were incredibly lucky with the weather and the views were amazing!

The view South from the Empire State Building
The view South from the Empire State Building

By horsedrawn carriage – we were typical tourists and did the trip round Central Park – and it was great fun.  Not only is the park an oasis of calm in the midst of Manhattan – you recognise loads of it from films and TV shows.

A horse drawn carriage - around Central Park
A horse drawn carriage – around Central Park

By yellow taxi – well, it’s a must really isn’t it!

In the back of a yellow New York taxi
In the back of a yellow New York taxi

7. Learn stuff.  Without the kids in tow dragging you to look at stuff / needing a wee / demanding a drink it was possible to actually read about exhibits and listen to commentary both on the helicopter and boat trips, and also up the Empire State Building and at the American Museum of Natural History (from the film ‘Night at the Museum’).  The Empire State Building was really, really interesting (although this could be because we run a construction company so are both geeks about such things!)

Being a girlie swot listening to all of the information posts!
Being a girlie swot listening to all of the information posts!

We were less impressed with the American Museum of Natural History – it just felt a bit dry, and not a patch on what London has to offer in this regard.

The American Mueseum of Natural History (AKA the set for 'Night at the museum'
The American Mueseum of Natural History (AKA the set for ‘Night at the Museum’

8. Keep your eyes peeled for famous stuff / people.  Our Central Park tour guide took us to the fountain from the start of Friends! I’m not sure we would have found it on our own – and we were very excited as you can see!

The fountain at the start of Friends
The fountain at the start of Friends

One evening we got into the lift and a short bloke with white blonde spiky hair asked us where we were from.  I replied ‘Birmingham, in the UK’ to which his response (in a mid Atlantic accent) was ‘Oh, my Dad is from Acocks Green’ – which is a not very salubrious suburb of Birmingham – and I told him how I’d worked in a branch of WH Smiths there as a teenager.  Then we got out the lift and he wished us a good stay in New York. I turned to the husband and said ‘wasn’t that man familiar?’ – to which an American lady – who had been struck mute in the lift, said ‘OMG that was Billy Idol’!! Still gutted I didn’t get a selfie and instead told him about my Saturday job #starspottingfail

9. Enjoy the little things. I suspect like many parents, lots of the simple pleasures of yesteryear are long forgottent!  You’re not going to ‘waste’ a babysitter on going to the cinema, or sitting in a bar drinking and reading a book for a few hours.  Well we did both of these things!!  We went to see Gone Girl at the cinema (which was handily next door to our hotel) and then sat in  the amazing bar at The Hudson Hotel for a few hours on two afternoons!  The DJ in there on the Saturday afternoon was playing loads of 1980s / 90s dance.  She was about 20 – so it was probably ironically trendy for her – but we were in our element!!

In the Hudson Bar
In the Hudson Bar

10.Shopping. Most people rave about the shopping in New York – and there are, admittedly, a lot of shops – but we think that the UK has come on in leaps and bounds with regard to shopping in the last decade or so – and that, combined with a far less beneficial exchange rate as years ago, meant it wasn’t as much of as a big deal as we’d expected.  Husband in particular was gutted with the legendary toy shop FAO Shwarz (from the film Big – as you can see, most of his reference points were movie related!), as it’s no Hamleys!

FAO Shwarz
FAO Shwarz

We also both described Macy’s as Rackhams on steroids!  This will only mean something to Brummies of a certain age (for everyone else, substitute Rackams with a House of Fraser store!)

11. Enjoy just being a couple and being reminded of why you wanted to be together in the first place!  We had both lived a lot before we married each other (and I mean a lot!) but within 15 months of meeting we were married with our first (of four!) children.  We haven’t let having the kids hamper our travelling and experiences – but equally, we try to make time to ‘be together’ (obviously said in a really Brummie accent, like that old advert!).  It’s not always as flash as New York (although let’s face it, we do try!) but even one date night together is a great break from the old routine.

There you have it – a brief run down and edited highlights of the photos of our 4 days and nights in New York!!

Book Review – It’s Not Me It’s You by Mhairi McFarlane

I have read, loved and blogged about Mhairi McFarlane’s previous two books ‘You Had Me At Hello‘ and ‘Here’s Looking at You‘.  So imagine my excitement when my lovely friend Emily sent me this photograph by text message saying ‘Look what I’ve got’:

It's not me it's you 2

There was an actual squeal of excitement from me – as the publication date isn’t until next month!  But as reported before, Em  has contacts!  She also scored super highly in the friend’s stakes by dropping it round to me as I was packing to leave that afternoon for a transatlantic trip with the husband (another blog post is brewing for that – don’t fear!)

I started reading ‘It’s Not Me It’s You’ in a bar in Manhattan with an ice bucket of pinot grigio and a husband with a flight of beers and the sport on TV – pretty much perfection! And it was the sampler of this book that turned me into a Mhairi McFarlane obsessive fan, so my expectations were high!!

It's not me it's you

This is the blurb from Amazon, just to set the scene for you (which interestingly has changed since my previous blog post when the sampler came out  – and you can currently download the sampler for free for your Kindle – yay!):

“An achingly funny story about how to be your own hero when life pulls the rug out from under your feet. From the author of the bestselling YOU HAD ME AT HELLO
Delia Moss isn’t quite sure where she went wrong.
When she proposed and discovered her boyfriend was sleeping with someone else – she thought it was her fault.
When she realised life would never be the same again – she thought it was her fault.
And when he wanted her back life nothing had changed – Delia started to wonder if perhaps she was not to blame…
From Newcastle to London and back again, with dodgy jobs, eccentric bosses and annoyingly handsome journalists thrown in, Delia must find out where her old self went – and if she can ever get her back.”

And I was not disappointed at all – in fact I think this could be my favourite Mhairi book yet!

There is a love story (a twisting rollercoaster) accompanied by a bit of mystery solving (think grown up Nancy Drew rather than Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison) and all in the style of writing and with perfectly relevant reference points that we’ve come to expect. I really really enjoyed it, and want to be Delia’s friend as she sounds like such a lovely person – normal in a Bridget Jones as a heroine kind of way (but way less annoying!).  Whether you’ve read Mhairi’s other books or not – if you’re a 30 / 40 something female Brit, with a sense of humour, penchant for booze and the occasional potty mouth (that pretty much sums me up!!) you will love this book.

Despite being very kindly sent this uncorrected proof to read – I will most definitely be buying the original, as my copy has pages saying what illustrations are going to be on it – but they aren’t actually drawn in – and I am desperate to see them (told you I was obsessed!!)

Wicked Wednesday – 15th October 2014

Last week the husband and I were in New York – it was AMAZING and I will get round to blogging about it when I’ve caught back up at home and work!

We, obviously, had to bring the children presents back – and as the 11 year old is starting to like her brands – I spent ages looking for a T shirt for her in Abercrombie & Fitch. I bought this thinking it said ‘That’s Brilliant Darling’

T shirt

Until the 11 year old said, ‘Mum – I don’t think that says ‘brilliant’ – I think it’s a rude word’.

Yes – I bought my tween a T shirt with the word B*LLSHIT across the front of it.  Parent of the week award to me!!

This is my entry for this week’s Wicked Wednesdays – yet again I am posting about my failings – back to the kids looking stupid next week I promise!!  Go and have a look at other people’s fab photos too.

brummymummyof2

Autumn – The Photo Gallery week 204

Ever since we moved into this house – over a decade ago – I have watched the views change from the windows and have always thought – I should photograph them each season to make a montage. However, I’ve never quite got round to it – so this week’s prompt over on The Sticky Fingers blog of ‘Autumn‘ spurred me into action!

I wish it could have been one of those gorgeous, crisp, Autumnal days – but between the prompt and time to post – it’s been pretty much grey and dreary. I guess this is a more accurate reflection of Autumn near Birmingham though!!

From the front we can see our local church (I’m already plotting to take ‘winter’ picture when the advent lights are up on the bell tower – if you could time the prompt accordingly please Tara?! ) and from the back the M42 motorway (at least if you see solid red lights in the morning you know to avoid it).

So here it is – the start of my seasonal montage from my son’s bedroom and our bedroom.

Obviously my OCD will mean I have to get the framing EXACTLY the same for future seasons #pressure

View from the front window
View from the front window
View from the back window
View from the back window

Do pop over to The Sticky Fingers blog to see other people’s interpretations of Autumn.

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Book Review: Daughter by Jane Shemilt

For once I don’t think this was a recommendation from a friend – I’m not sure if it was a magazine review in Red – or that I noticed it was a ‘Richard and Judy Bookclub’ book – but I downloaded this to read, and read most of it on a transatlantic flight earlier this week.

Daughter

Here’s what the Amazon blurb says about it:

“When a teenage girl goes missing her mother discovers she doesn’t know her daughter as well as she thought in Jane Shemilt’s haunting debut novel, Daughter.

THE NIGHT OF THE DISAPPEARANCE

She used to tell me everything.
They have a picture. It’ll help.
But it doesn’t show the way her hair shines so brightly it looks like sheets of gold.
She has a tiny mole, just beneath her left eyebrow.
She smells very faintly of lemons.
She bites her nails.
She never cries.
She loves autumn, I wanted to tell them. She collects leaves, like a child does. She is just a child.
FIND HER.

ONE YEAR LATER

Naomi is still missing. Jenny is a mother on the brink of obsession. The Malcolm family is in pieces.
Is finding the truth about Naomi the only way to put them back together?
Or is the truth the thing that will finally tear them apart?

Daughter by Jane Shemilt is an emotional and compelling story about how well you really know those you love most.”

Overall I enjoyed this – the combination of thriller and family drama is often a winner.  The one thing is, and it’s no fault of the writer at all, but I’m getting a bit bored of books that flick backwards and forwards in time each chapter. It seems to be the thing to do at the moment, and frankly – it’s all a bit exhausting!

It made me think a lot about how I juggle family and work life – although thankfully without a missing child thrown into the mix.

Definitely worth a read – and whilst slightly gritty in places, it didn’t have the scariness of ‘I Am Pilgrim’ or ‘Pop Goes The Weasel’ – but maybe the fact it could be more realistic makes it worse?!?  It’s well written – and amazing that the writer juggles being a GP, wife of a neurosurgeon, and mother of 5 (all of which she has utilised in the story to some extent!)

Film Review – Gone Girl

A couple of weeks ago I FINALLY got round to reading Gone Girl – possibly the last person in the entire country to read it!!

Gone Girl

Husband and I are in New York this week (plenty more blog posts about that to come – bet you can’t wait?!) but tonight – having done loads of tourist and shopping stuff, we decided to have a decadent treat and actually go to the cinema to see something we want to see and not a kids film! Slightly mad that we have to come across the Atlantic Ocean to do that – but it felt like a lovely treat none the less.

Having said I was perhaps the last person to have read Gone Girl – I should have clarified that the husband hasn’t! He doesn’t do books – so I thought it would be interesting to see what we both thought afterwards.

It was pretty true to the book – but there were some chunks missing (as is always the case) – and like the book I didn’t particularly like any of the characters – so I guess it shows the actors got that right!! I felt that the film seemed a bit slow – but I wondered if that was because I knew what was coming – so was wishing it away – but having discussed it with the husband, he felt the same. So I guess the film was just kind of slow!!

One thing I did realise – is how much we rely on Sky+ (this was the most wonderful invention between my first pair and second pair of kids – I remember weeping when the oldest was a few months old because ‘I just want to watch Dalziel and Pascoe’ – and back then you watched it in real time, or waited for it all to have been recorded to play back – how retro!) but we quite often utilise the pause facility now to have a brief chat on what’s happening (or more likely for me to explain what’s going on because husband has been working at the same time and not paying full attention!) not being able to do that in the cinema felt a bit disappointing!!

Just like the book, the twists and turns were great – and it would appeal to both sexes.

So all in all – a decent film – but not an amazing film. There endeth my first film review on this blog! Do not fear, there won’t be many – there will be far more book ones!!

Book Review – The Year I Met You by Cecelia Ahern

I mentioned a while ago about my friend giving me a book to read before publication (you can read about that here) and this is the review that was embargoed until the release date of 9 October 2014 (hopefully today if the scheduling system on WordPress decides to work?!?)

The book in question is ‘The Year I Met You’ by Cecelia Ahern.

The Year I Met You

This is the publishers blurb from Amazon:

“A thoughtful, captivating and ultimately uplifting novel from this uniquely talented author.
Jasmine loves two things: her sister and her work. And when her work is taken away she has no idea who she is.
Matt loves two things: his family and the booze. Without them, he hits rock bottom.
One New Year’s Eve, two people’s paths collide. Both have time on their hands; both are at a crossroads. But as the year unfolds, through moonlit nights and suburban days, an unlikely friendship slowly starts to blossom.
Sometimes you have to stop still in order to move on…
Original and poignant, The Year I Met You will make you laugh, cry and celebrate life.”

Unfortunately it didn’t make me laugh or cry or particularly want to celebrate life. It was ‘nice’ and ‘an easy read’ but I was not desperate to get back to it to finish it, as I have been with lots of other books I’ve read recently.  It was kind of like Marks & Spencer undies – fine, practical, you know what you’re getting – but not going to set the world on fire.

I know Ms Ahern has a huge fanbase – and I am sure lots of people will love this – but I have to say it’s just a like from me.

I’m glad I didn’t pay for it!!

Eyes – The Photo Gallery Week 203

The topic for The Photo Gallery on the Sticky Fingers Blog this week is ‘eyes’ inspired by the charity #seethemiracle.

My 2 youngest daughters both have huge eyes that are frequently commented on by people wherever we go – so this week’s picture(s) had to be of them. Sometimes the fact that they have different coloured eyes makes it easier to tell which is which in baby photos (this was never so much of a problem with the older two as we could rely on gender stereotypical clothes to highlight which was which!!)

Eyes

P1010829 P1010299

Do pop over to #thegallery to see what other people have posted for the topic ‘eyes’ and to learn more about the charity that inspired this week’s topic.

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Wicked Wednesdays – 8 October 2014

Last Saturday the husband and I deposited the 4 children on to family and friends, went for cocktails, popped home for a power nap, got our glad rags on and headed off to a charity ‘Fall Ball’ – it was a brilliant night with lots of great friends, food and booze, and loads of money raised for some excellent causes.

One of my friends took this HIDEOUS photo of us dancing – it is just wrong on so many levels. May I point out that I am not sure what’s happened to my lower left arm?! I have tried, unsuccessfully, to recreate this arm positioning – my father suggested perhaps I need to drink a litre of cheap white wine before attempting it again……..

Fall Ball

Normally it’s my kids that feature in Wicked Wednesdays over on Brummy Mummy of 2’s blog – but as soon as I saw this I knew it had to be this week’s entry!!  This is obviously what happens when parents have a night off.

brummymummyof2

Book Review – Here’s Looking at You by Mhairi McFarlane

A few weeks ago I read and reviewed ‘You Had Me At Hello‘ by Mhairi Mcfarlane and loved it, and the lovely author (whom I must confess I have a bit of a girl crush on) even tweeted back saying she loved my review – eek!!!  She’ll probably block me on Twitter now thinking I’m a crazed stalker….

So – I set about on her next book with high expectations of enjoying it immensely!

Heres looking at you

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

“The new novel from the bestselling author of You Had Me At Hello.
Anna Alessi – history expert, possessor of a lot of hair and an occasionally filthy mouth – seeks nice man for intelligent conversation and Mills & Boon moments.
Despite the oddballs that keep turning up on her dates, Anna couldn’t be happier. As a 30-something with a job she loves, life has turned out better than she dared dream. However, things weren’t always this way, and her years spent as the ‘Italian Galleon’ of an East London comprehensive are ones she’d rather forget.
So when James Fraser – the architect of Anna’s final humiliation at school – walks back into her life, her world is turned upside down. But James seems a changed man. Polite. Mature. Funny, even. People can change, right? So why does Anna feel like she’s a fool to trust him?
Hilarious and poignant, ‘Here’s Looking At You’ will have you laughing one minute and crying the next.
The new must-read novel from #1 bestseller Mhairi McFarlane.”

And it did not disappoint at all.  I totally agree with the writer of the above review – at times I really was laughing one minute and crying the next (although I do cry very easily – adverts / X Factor / school assemblies all have me reaching for the tissues).

Don’t tell my friend Emily – but I also found the bit where she took the mickey out of Mills & Boon editors quite funny!!!

The historic (1980s / 90s) references are just bang on for a ‘just 40’ year old – and it’s so well written, like chatting with a mate.  After reading Gone Girl and not really giving a toss about any of the characters, it was lovely to read something where you are rooting for the good guys.

Only a month until Mhairi’s next book ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ comes out, and the first few chapters are fab.  Now what to read before then…………