The Great Gatsby

Recently, I was invited to review a production of The Great Gatsby at my local theatre.  Having never read the book nor seen the film, it seemed best to hand over the tickets to James and his Mum, who had least had something to compare the play to.  Here’s what they thought:

“I read The Great Gatsby as a teenager, and I was captivated.  I wanted to be Jay Gatsby, the mysterious loner who no-one knew anything about, the man about whom rumours and speculation grew and spread wildly as no-one knew his truth.  I saw the Robert Redford  film version sometimes in the 1980s when it was on TV but deliberately steered away from the Leo DiCaprio version as I doubted a shiny, new Hollyweird version could really do it justice.  When I saw the posters advertising a live production by Blackeye Theatre, I was intrigued.  How would it, or could it be adapted for the stage?


A minimalist monochromatic set that was on full display as we took our seats added to the mystery.  How could this be a mansion, a beach, a road, a gas station forecourt or a small cottage all at once.  The answer was astounding.  The talented cast acted parts of the novel as narrated by Nick Carraway (played by Adam Jowett), the set managing to fill all the requirements of the story by being lit in evocative and imaginative ways.  This was put to best use when the strobing lines that represented the road shattered into shards of glass that spread across the entire stage.  There was a hint of green lighting when Tom Buchanan became jealous, red light when he became angry.  It was effective throughout.


The musical interludes left me a little cold as, aside from The Wizard of Oz, I am not a huge fan of musicals, but as the songs were sung and instruments played by the talented cast, I couldn’t help appreciating the skill and versatility of the entire ensemble.

Not wishing to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn’t read or seen the story, the final scene was disappointing.  The appearance of Gatsby’s father added nothing to the plot, removed some of the mystery of the man, and left me wishing the play had finished one scene earlier.  Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and would recommend you see it if you have the chance.”


“A talented, versatile troupe of seven young actors took the audience through Stephen Sharkey’s intriguing adaptation of Fitzgerald’s story which managed to stay true to the original.  The minimalist black and white set adapted to the various scenes becoming a glitzy party venue, a car or a garden by simply moving chairs.  The addition of some appropriate music, played and sung by the  cast, emphasized the twists and turns of the story.  The costumes, especially those of Jordan Baker (played by Celeste De Veazey), were a credit to the costume designer (Jenny Little).  Max Roll’s portrayal of Jay Gatsby came across as a slightly naïve country boy of dubious past buying into the glamour and consumerism of the wealthy residents of West Egg, giving a different perspective which brought a new dimension to the character.  All in all, a very enjoyable evening watching this young ensemble enthusiastically present an interesting adaptation.”

Thank you to Worthing Theatres for the opportunity to review the show.  Tour dates and further information can be found at


Our Favourite Advent Calendars for Children

advent calendars

When I was a child, there were two choices of advent calendar – Mars or Cadbury.  Or, if we were too late in buying one, it would be a religious pictorial effort with a splash of glitter in place of the chocolate I really wanted.  These days, the choice is pretty baffling.  There are simply dozens of different advent calendars to choose from, and chocolate is the least you can expect to find behind a window.  But how to choose which is best?  Here’s our guide to some of the very best options for children, catering to all budgets:

  1. Thomas and Friends Multivitamin advent calendar, £5.99, Holland and Barrett
    A great choice for health-conscious parents and with a Thomas theme sure to appeal to toddlers (there is also a Peppa Pig version available).
  2. WOW Toys Wonderland advent calendar, £24.99, Argos
    Perfect for little hands, this advent calendar has a selection of toys, all made to the exemplary WOW toys standard.  Ideal for girls and boy aged between 2 and 4, I would say.
  3. Thorntons The Snowman and the Snowdog advent calendar, £2.50, Wilko
    Perfect for older children who love a chocolatey treat in the run up to Christmas (also available in the Gruffalo version).
  4. Wooden house advent calendar, currently half price at £7.50, Hobbycraft
    An absolutely gorgeous advent calendar with little wooden doors to house your choice of treat – try stickers, hair bobbles, shiny coins… the only limit is your imagination.  The added bonus of this lovely calendar is that it can be decorated and personalised and also used over and over again.  A worthwhile investment.
  5. Frozen Eternal Winter advent calendar, currently half price at £9.99, Argos
    Perfect for little girls, this Frozen calendar is full of age-appropriate beauty treats including peelable nail polish.  Well worth the cost, particularly at half price!
  6. Play-Doh advent calendar, £14.99, Argos
    A great calendar for the creative child, I really like this one.  Full of tubs of dough and numerous tools, I can see us having lots of fun with it over the course of December.
  7. Kinnerton chocolate advent calendar (various), £1, Sainsbury’s
    Cheap and cheerful, you’re bound to find your child’s favourite character and keep them smiling throughout advent.
  8. Lego Star Wars advent calendar, £24.99, the Lego Shop
    Something that the boy would really love (though he told me too late this year!) the Lego Star Wars advent calendars (also available in the Friends variety) are great fun and can be revisited throughout the year.  They aren’t cheap, though, and if you can pick them up in the Boxing Day sales, it’s definitely worth it, for the purposes of holding on to them for the following year.

These are our picks of the bunch – what are your favourite advent calendars?

We were provided with one Wow Toys advent calendar and one Hobbycraft wooden house advent calendar for the purposes of this post.  All thoughts are our own.

Autumn Muffins

Autumn is a great time for baking, it makes a lovely bonding activity to fill dark evenings, keeps the kitchen toasty warm and provides an opportunity to try new flavours, such as the cinnamon and apple combination used in the autumn muffins we’ve been making.  Miss J and I followed the above video, with great results.


Miss J helped out with a number of the stages, she is quite an accomplished little chef for her age.  She was intrigued by the ingredients – using carrot in cakes is nothing new, but alongside whole chunks of unpeeled apple, and raisins, she was unsure whether or not she would enjoy the finished product.



The method was easy to follow and using the video definitely helped.


We used a tutorial video to help Miss J learn the correct technique to sift the flour:

And she managed all the mixing herself!


We enjoy working with Tesco on their Eat Happy Project; it’s definitely nice to find recipes aimed at young bakers that are more adventurous than the standard fairy cakes and homemade pizzas.  These recipes use new skills that hold Miss J’s attention, and interesting ingredients, too.  We’re looking forward to trying more new things very soon…

Want more tips on cooking with children?  See here:

8 Gift Ideas For Bloggers


Know a blogger?  I’m not saying we’re hard to buy for, but there are certainly some gifts we would cherish more than others.  Here are 8 great blogger gift ideas, for Christmas and beyond:

1. Sequin fashion blogger t-shirt, £12-£17 (3-16 years), Next
2. But first, coffee top, £14.99, eBay
3. Selfy Blogger Bundle Kit, £35, Topshop
4. Vlogger starter kit, £299.17,
5. Fujifilm Instax camera, £64, Currys
6. I blog, therefore I am mug
7. iPad mini, £168.99, Expedite electronics
8. Tassimo coffee machine, £88, Currys

I would love to receive any of these gifts and have actually bought the Next top for my mini blogger, Miss J, for Christmas.

Have any more ideas of perfect gifts for bloggers?  Leave them in the comments below.

The Drove, Newhaven – Brewers Fayre Review

A few weeks ago, we were invited to check out the brand new soft play area at Brewers Fayre’s Drove restaurant in Newhaven.  It is a little out of our way but we do love an adventure and were happy to make the journey.  Greeted by Brewers Fayre mascots Dennis and Gnasher, we were treated to a fun-filled afternoon.


There were crafts to enjoy and some even face painting, which Miss J made the most of:


Whilst the boy favoured the outdoor play area:



Each child also received a wrist band for indoor play and had lots of fun zooming around the steps and slides.  A new play area to explore is always a treat!



I am really impressed with the soft play facilities at the two Brewers Fayre sites we have visited.  For a long time, we had been searching for a nice place for Sunday lunch where the children could play afterwards.  We know one locally that has a climbing frame outside, though finding somewhere with soft play is a definite bonus given that the weather is often inclement in the UK.  At The Regis in Bognor, the soft play is free and unlimited whereas the newer area at the Drove will cost you.  However, it is only £3 per child for 90 minutes of play, under-cutting regular soft play centres, with the added bonus of having fresh, great value meals on offer too.  It is also open between 9:30am and 8pm, making it perfect for a little last-minute, after-dinner exercise before bedtime.


The meals themselves are varied and represent excellent value with a full three course child’s meal coming in at just £4.99 – an absolute steal!  Both children were happy with their choices, and enjoyed eating in the company of Dennis and Gnasher.


We had a really lovely afternoon and hope to visit the Drove again one day soon.

We received free meals, drinks and soft play for the purposes of this review.