Eric's Favourite Films, At Age 3.5

When Eric and I visited one of my best friends last year we spent time chilling out as well as walks and day trips, and we put lots of films on Sky Movies.  I hadn't considered watching any films with him yet and was really surprised that Eric had the attention span to watch nearly a whole film.  We got through Tangled, The Princess and The Frog and Puss In Boots, and had a generally brilliant time!  This got me thinking when we got home about which other films Eric might like, and I spent a long time Googling, looking on forums and asking parent-friends which films they recommended.  The criteria were: not too long, lots of funny bits, and not too scary.  In the last year, through trial and error, Eric now has several favourite films that he really loves.  I really enjoy watching films with him, snuggled up with some fresh popcorn.  We talk about the films afterwards and what the characters might be feeling, we sing songs from the movies and make up new stories about the characters.  When I asked Eric "which are some of your favourite films?" he replied "ALL of the films", so I thought I'd share some of them with you.

  • Tangled
Tangled is based on the Grimm fairytale of Rapunzel, and is my absolute favourite Disney film, I love it.  There's some bits that would make adults and older kids laugh, like Flynn Rider's 'smoulder', and slapstick humour for younger children like Eric.  It's important to me that it's showing Eric a very accomplished, cool female character who's handy with a frying pan (but not in the kitchen).  There's some exciting action that's not too scary, although there is one major character death, and one major character 'almost-death', but it's not horrible or gory, and is done in a way that it's not that obvious that that's what's happened.  We also love the songs, and Maximus the horse, and I like the message about freedom and being true to yourself.  There is the kidnapping element to consider, and 'Mother' Gothel is a baddy, so if your kiddos are especially sensitive or anxious about that it might not be for you. 

  • Enchanted
Eric loves watching Enchanted and it's one of my favourites to watch together.  It's really clever how they've mixed live action and animation.  There are really funny bits, like when Giselle calls all the animals in from the streets of New York to help clean the house, and when Prince Edward stabs the New York bus with a sword.  There are lots of great songs, and Giselle is a very loveable character.   It's not brilliant from a feminist point of view, as the princess is only just getting used to the real world which you could view as her looking stupid rather than naïve, and Morgan, the child protagonist, is bored and uninterested in her father's attempts to show her strong female role models in books etc., she just wants life to be like a princess-y fairytale.  The film also deals with divorce and relationship break ups which you might want to be aware of if that's something your family are going through.  Sometimes Eric finds the dragon sequence at the end a bit too intense and scary, so if he is feeling frightened we fast forward that bit until the happy ending.

  • The Jungle Book
Another of Eric's favourite films is The Jungle Book, which is funny, cool, and just has the most brilliant songs.  Coincidentally Eric's preschool have also just centred a term all about the Jungle Book - they made a huge display board, told the story to the teacher which were then written out and put up on the wall (seeing some of the children's interpretations of what happens in the story were hilarious!), talked about which animals live in the jungle, made masks, did a puppet show, made sock snakes, made Indian sweets etc.  The film has great songs which Eric loves...hearing him sing 'Bare Necessities' makes me smile every time.  I think Eric identifies with Mowgli and I like the adventurous element of the film, where the child is exploring the jungle, meeting animals, climbing trees etc., and he's quite a capable young character.  I like that the film is inspired by the Rudyard Kipling story, which I think Eric will be interested in reading when he's older.  Another thing I think is important is that the animals in the film are actually animals you'd find in the Indian jungle (except the orangutans).  It really annoys me in books/films/TV shows aimed at children where they talk about 'jungle animals' but then show animals that wouldn't be found in the jungle, like African lions and giraffes (I know there are a few Asiatic lions that live in an isolated population in Gir, but that is not the point!).  There are scenes with Kaa and Shere Khan trying to 'get' Mowgli, the scene where it looks like Baloo has died, and the scene where the temple collapses on King Louie and the orangutans, which you might want to be aware of with younger or sensitive children, but Eric is absolutely fine with it all.  Eric also likes Jungle Book 2, which is surprisingly watchable!

  • Peter Pan
Peter Pan is one of the films I remember most from my childhood and makes me very nostalgic.  Growing up my brother, sister and I loved it and watched it ALL the time.  I think it's such a lovely film about imagination, freedom and childhood, and it inspires many games and adventures with Eric.  Be aware that there are some racist scenes, e.g. the 'What Makes The Red Man Red' song which I do find uncomfortable to watch and find it difficult to explain to Eric why it might not be appropriate for him to sing.  There are also some quite sexist ideas about female jealousy and women's roles in the family.  I talk to Eric about how the film was made a long time ago when people thought differently, but now we know that women can do anything, etc.  There is violence in the form of sword fights and Peter Pan fighting Hook, but it's done in quite a tame way with no blood drawn or character deaths.   

  • Monsters Inc & Monster's University
I really thought Monsters Inc would be too scary for Eric, but from the first watch he has absolutely loved it.  He's watched it many, many times and knows all the characters and the story.  There are bits that he finds hilarious that we have to repeatedly rewind.    We talk about the characters a lot and he relates other things to them.  We act it out and pretend to be the characters.  It's a funny film that leaves you feeling happy and I think the whole world Pixar have created is very clever.  If your kiddo is afraid of monsters it might be initially scary, but it could help children with that fear as it humanises the monsters and we learn that they are scared of human children too, and it has a happy ending, so I think this will depend on your child.  The end of the film shows the importance of doing the right thing and living ethically which is great.  We went to see Monsters University at the cinema, and Eric likes it too but he found the plot harder to understand as he didn't know what university, frat houses, etc. were, but it's still the most requested DVD at the moment.  Monsters University also has good messages about friendship, teamwork, dealing with bullying, working hard, and not giving up until you achieve your dreams, and that cheating doesn't pay.  Eric is especially enamoured with the 'glow urchins' and this is a scene we recreate a lot using various obstacles to be the glow urchins which we race through and swell up.  It has made Eric very keen to go to university, where he says he "will learn how to line up plums".

  • Brave
I think Brave is a beautiful and inspiring film, and it's brilliant to have such a strong, female character as a role model for children, it makes the feminist in me very happy (although I think this should always be the case!).  The Scottish setting and atmosphere is hauntingly beautiful and different, and there's a great message about working together as a family, open communication and being allowed to be yourself.  There are some scenes involving naked bottoms that Eric finds hilariously funny.  There is some violence in the film, but no blood.  The fights between the Scottish clansmen are more slapstick and funny than scary, but there is a big, angry bear called Muldoon who is involved in some quite intense scenes which could be frightening to sensitive or younger children.  Eric wasn't at all phased.  Overall it's an excellent adventure movie that smashes the 'princess' stereotype.

So this doesn't turn into the longest blog post in the world I'll leave it there, but other films Eric absolutely loves are Home Alone, Home Alone 2, 101 Dalmations, Star Wars, Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Robots, Toy Story 3 and Robin Hood.  If you are looking for information on how to decide which films your little ones would like I'd highly recommend the Common Sense Media website.  My friend Anna told me about it the other day and it is brilliant, so helpful.  Films (and games, books, TV shows etc.) are rated by Common Sense Media, but also by parents and by kids, and are given a 'recommended age', so you can make a really informed decision.  I hope that gives you some ideas of films to watch with your small people!

Our Easter Weekend in Pictures

We had a lovely Easter weekend so I thought I'd share some pictures with you (and one from the weekend before!)
On Palm Sunday we met a beautiful rescue donkey.  She led the procession from outside our church service up to the church land.  She was born in Sri Lanka and live exported on a ship for the meat industry, but was rescued and rehomed in the UK.  She was a very friendly and chilled out girl, and apparently her favourite food is still palm. 

Good Friday was the last day of my bestest friend Rachael's visit (separate post coming soon!) Eric and Rah Rah played a game of 'catching the bad guys' in the morning before she had to go.   

In the afternoon Alex went to Bristol to watch the rugby whilst my Mum, Dad, Eric and I went to Hestercombe Gardens for an Easter egg hunt.  It was actually very long, taking in nearly all the gardens, but Eric managed the whole trail.  It was great to see more of the gardens than we'd seen before in one go, and I was impressed by Eric's stamina! The clues were very tricky but he got them all and at the end he proudly swapped in his question sheet for a dairy-free white chocolate bunny (I had sneakily given it to the member of staff moments before.)

On Easter Sunday Eric had breakfast in bed for the first time...

...and then we headed downstairs to find our Easter Eggs.  And we possibly ate some.  Just a bit.


Eric and I went to church and then straight afterwards I drove us the hour's drive to my Mum and Dad's house (only the second time I've driven the long journey so I was proud!) for a family meal.  My Mum, Dad, sister Magdalena, her new beau, my Grandma, my cousin Sara, her partner Nigel and her two children James and Elsa, Alex, Eric and I were all there so it was a full house! It was the first time I had met Sara and Nigel's new baby, Elsa, which was very special.  Eric was really excited to play with James, who is the same age as him.  After we ate lunch, the boys ran around the garden finding Easter eggs hidden by Mor Mor (which is what Eric calls my Mum.  It is the Swedish word for your Grandmother on your Mother's side, 'mother's mother').

It bucketed down with rain so we chilled out inside with cups of tea and the boys played with the Dala horses.   
Bank Holiday Monday was my 29th birthday.  I had a rare lie-in in the morning reading Enid Blyton then a bath - heaven! Eric and Alex made me a rhubarb and custard cake and my friend Lucy made me a chocolate cake, which was a lovely surprise! I received lots of amazing and thoughtful presents which was completely unexpected as I really did think I wouldn't be getting any this year.  I felt very lucky and cared-for indeed.

My Mum and Dad gave me a year's membership to Hestercombe, so we went there again for the afternoon.  It was so warm, sunny and relaxing.  Eric and I rolled down the steep lawns, sang '5 Currant Buns' in the Orangery and played 'avoid the librarian like in Monsters University' where we silently sneaked around the rills in the formal garden. 



We also saw bats roosting on the batcam.  Here is Eric "hanging upside down like a bat". 
It was a perfect long weekend.  What did you do?

Lunch at Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen, Bath

To celebrate all our birthdays, my lovely friend Lucy arranged an afternoon out for us and two other birthday-having friends to Bath, and a meal at Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen.  I absolutely love Bath, and the prospect of a meal out where I would actually be able to have a choice from the menu rather than just having the one vegan dish (or having to ask for a modified dish!) made me quite giddy with excitement!
We had booked a table for a Sunday at 1pm, where you can indulge in the Acorn Sunday Roast:  3 courses cost a very reasonable £13.95.  There is also a normal lunch menu, which includes the option of choosing 4 or 6 'little plates' to share.  There's an emphasis on seasonal and local food and there were lots of vegan and gluten-free options.  All the dishes sounded really exciting, interesting and delicious, it was hard to decide on one! 
The restaurant is light and contemporary but cosy with quirky touches.  The walls are wood panelled, the ceilings are high, there are sash windows and original features, but the white and grey paintwork and the artwork give a modern feel.  It's just relaxed, stylish and lovely. We were shown to our table which was amazing as it was tucked away in a teeny room, with just room for us and the table, beautifully decorated and I was lucky enough to sit on a window seat bench with a view of Bath's Georgian architecture and the roof of Bath Abbey.  It felt like we were tucked away in our own little world.
To start I chose the carrot and cashew pâté with spelt toast, seasonal pickles, herbs and tamari cashews.  It was a beautiful plate of food, with lovely presentation.  The pate was subtle and tasty, though I would possibly have preferred it to be slightly smoother in texture without whole cashews.  The pickles were amazing, and I didn't think I liked pickles! What were those pink ones?! It's a great mystery, but they tasted awesome.  The tamari cashews reminded me of the Marmite cashews we make at home, savoury little morsels.  I had never tried tamari before, but I'm convinced and will be buying some now!
My friend Anna had the asparagus with a lemon-thyme dressing, fresh ewe's cheese, roast onion and pickled lemon, which looked amazing for non-vegans, I love asparagus!
For my main course I chose the nut roast.  I want to point out that I do not usually choose the nut roast, as it seems to be all that's ever on offer for vegans and I find it a bit boring, but I was seduced by the sides: purple sprouting broccoli, rosemary potato galette, smoked parsnip, cider braised red cabbage and an onion and cider sauce.  Oh just remembering it is making me want to eat it again! The nut roast was seriously good, full of flavour and yummy.  Everything was so well balanced, it all tasted amazing together.  I think the parsnip was a tiny bit too smoky for me, but I loved the idea, and would definitely have it again.  My favourite bit was the potato galette, it was crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, savoury and delicious. 
Two of my friends both chose the curried cauliflower fritter with hickory smoked potatoes, cauliflower, garlic dhal and greens with raisin and tamarind puree, which looked beautiful! I was lucky enough to try some and it was completely different to mine but no less scrummy.  It was really good. 
Pudding was my favourite part of the meal, it was absolutely perfect.  I had the chocolate pot with raspberry sorbet and candied pistachios.  Just remembering it is making my mouth water.  It was dreamy.  The chocolate pot was so smooth, melt in the mouth, and almost honeyed in flavour.  It was rich but neither bitter or sickly and was perfectly offset by the texture of the crunchy, sweet pistachios and sharp, cold raspberry sorbet.  Oh and I loved the presentation.  Sublime.
My friend Lucy had the vanilla pannacotta with new season forced rhubarb and shortbread which looked delightful for non-vegans.
Anna had the rhubarb and vanilla Martini for her 'pudding'! I had a taste and it too was a bit special!
The portion sizes were just right.  Not stomach-ache-inducingly huge which was good as I wanted to try all three courses, but not so small and arty that I felt hungry afterwards.  Spot on. 
I had been to Acorn Kitchen in it's previous incarnation as Demuths about 3 years ago and had a few issues - I found it very difficult to manoeuvre a pushchair (still not easily accessible for pushchairs or wheelchairs), there were no baby changing facilities (still no baby changing facilities!) and the service was very slow (still not the speediest service but not as slow as before and we were chatting so much I barely noticed.  Besides, the food is worth the wait.)
I can't recommend Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen enough for creative, inventive, delicious food for veggies and omnivores alike, with friendly and attentive service in a lovely atmosphere.  It is amongst the best, if not the best, place I've eaten out. 
2 North Parade Passage, Bath (01225 446059)

My First Night Away From Eric

Written on Thursday 10th April

Last night was the first night I've ever spent apart from Eric, and it was a bit of a daunting milestone for me.  Alex's mum has spent the last few months doing up the spare bedroom so Eric would be able to come over for sleepovers, and finally it was ready, and everybody was super-keen...except me.  Eric was really excited to go for a sleepover at Grandma's house, they were so eager to have him, but I just didn't feel ready. 

I knew he'd be absolutely fine and happy there, especially as Alex would be staying there with him.  He is comfortable at their house, has visited in the day many times, and it would be new and exciting for him.   But I was dreading how much I'd miss him. 

The night before they were due to go I was in floods of tears, unable to imagine how empty the house would feel without him here, beyond sad to envisage him not coming into bed for a cuddle at night.  This happened at the same time as the devastating passing of Peaches Geldof, another attachment mama, and my heart had been hurting thinking of her two boys without their beloved mother.  It probably didn't help my emotions.  I made myself remember that it was just one night, it would be over quickly, and that he is so excited to go and all I ever want is the best for him. 

I talked to a friend with similar parenting beliefs and she reassured me it's normal to feel like this, I've been with him every night for nearly 4 years so it's bound to feel weird at first! She encouraged me to use the time to do something nice for myself and made me feel so much more positive about it.  Alex's mum and her partner live 80 minutes drive from us, but I made Alex promise to drive Eric home if he changed his mind or if I changed my mind, and to phone me at bedtime so I could say goodnight!

I apprehensively went to work and had a good day with lovely colleagues, then I went home on the bus.  Getting home and making dinner for just myself and getting to eat it, hot and uninterrupted, on the sofa, was actually a bit of a treat! I felt like a young professional again, and I kinda liked it! Tidying up took a fraction of the time it usually does, and I cleaned out the rabbit and put the recycling out without having to fit around Eric's bedtime routine.  Then I just slumped on the sofa the whole evening, watching property programmes and Made In Chelsea whilst eating chocolate.  Although the house was quiet, it was actual bliss.  I copied my contacts from my old phone to my new phone and had the time to get in touch with some friends.  Then I had a really good bath, face mask and all (Lush's Full of Grace Serum Bar followed by Oatifix Fresh Face Mask, Immaculate Eggception Ballistic and King of Skin Body Butter), read my book and had a chamomile and spiced apple tea.

I went to bed which I anticipated being the hardest bit as I'm so used to bedsharing, but I felt so relaxed after my bath and just read my book till I was really sleepy and nodding off into the pages.  It was nice to be able to stretch out in the whole bed! Funnily enough though I still slept squished on my side and woke up at 6:50am, like normal, as if Alex and Eric were still there.  But it was lovely to be undisturbed and get to go back to sleep in the morning.  I've just been reading and had breakfast in bed, and now I have the time to catch up with my writing, with the windows thrown open, the sun shining in and the birds singing.

I had a few wobbles but I'm so glad to have had the time on my own, to feel like me again.  And knowing how much I was worrying about it helps me see that I do have a really good attachment with Eric.  Now I feel more refreshed and able to deal with the challenges and stresses parenting sometimes brings, and I'm really looking forward to seeing him later and having a big cuddle!

We Like To Read # 3 - The Islanders

Lately we've been really enjoying reading The Islanders by Helen Dunmore. 

It's a brilliant story of childhood adventure, freedom and friendship set beside the sea, and reminds me of holidays in Cornwall when I was a child.
Rebecca Cobb's watercolour and ink illustrations are beautiful, quirky and charming.  The text is a bit longer than the picture books Eric used to prefer, which holds his attention now that he can concentrate for longer on a story, and he gets really involved with what's happening.

The story has made Eric feel more adventurous and independent.  After reading the book he wanted to go out at night on his own, so we compromised and he had a daytime adventure.

Eric has been especially taken with the 'Wild Interior' that Tamsin and Robbie build and explore on their island.

I would really recommend this book.  It's one we got from the library but I'm going to buy it for Eric's birthday, and I know it will be a favourite for a long time.
This post is linked in with Tigerlilly Quinn and other bloggers who are sharing books that We Like To Read with our kiddos