Celebrating The Small Things:Week Forty One

Well I nearly made it to a year without messing up in this series, but I got so far behind over the summer that it seems a little strange to be talking about swimming in the sea when we are approaching winter so I’ve skipped a few weeks and hope to stay on track until the end of the year.

So here we go with this weeks entry:

Apple Crumble – For me the start of autumn signifies comfort food – especially thongs such as casseroles and crumbles.

This Sunday was grey, wet and miserable but it was certainly brightened up by our first crumble of the year.

Charity Shops – I’ve not put a lot in here but last week we moved house and life has been a little chaotic to say the least. The shear logistics of moving a big family are pretty hard but now we are getting settled my attentions have been on furnishing the house.

I have a huge love of mid century furniture and I have been scouring eBay and traipsing round charity shops and have been loving every minute of it. It’s just a shame my passion is not shared with my husband!

Mrs Hinch – Those of you that are fans of Instagram will not have been able to escape all things Mrs Hinch.

Mrs Hinch has gone viral through sharing stories of cleaning her home. At first I told myself I wasn’t going to get sucked into this ridiculous cult like following she has but it’s happened and I’m loving it!

I’ve always been terrible at keeping on top of the house work and this lady has turned things around for me so what’s not to love about Mrs Hinch and her Army.

Getting Christmas Ready With Pines And Needles

For the past two years now I have been lucky enough to celebrate Christmas round one of Pines and Needles beautiful Nordmann Fir Christmas trees.

Pines and Needles offer a completely unique service that allows you to choose your tree from the comfort of your own home or go along to one of those many stores and select your own which they can then deliver to you or you can take home with you there and then.

If you want a little more than just a tree they also offer decoration service ranging from a fully decorated tree or simply threading of the lights which I know is a job that I always hate doing!

Something else that is always a pain is the disposal of the tree after Christmas but Pines and Needles have this covered too. They can simply pick up and dispose of your tree after you have stored away all your precious decorations or even come into your home to remove and carefully wrap your decorations as well as removing the tree and tidying up all the mess.

We have been over the moon with our tree each year and can’t wait for this year and if this sounds something that you would be interested in in then there is a summer offer that is still running until the end of this month which gives you 10% off your order. Just add the code SUMMER10 when placing your order and enjoy all that Pines and Needles have to offer.

Geomag Mechanics Gravity Review And GIVEAWAY

When I was younger one of my favourite toys was technic LEGO. I would spend hours creating vechiles and absuolty loved how they could be transformed into a moving object in front of my eyes.

I often got questioned why I was playing with a ‘boys’ toy which to be honest never bothered me and when I look back now there were probably a lot of girls that missed out on a lot of fun due to toys like this being given a label as being unsuitable for girls.

I am so pleased that over the years this stereotypes are slowing being quashed and allowing girls to take more of an interested in the STEM subjects.

A while ago we were introduced to Geomag which is a magnetic construction toy formed of magnetic rods and spheres that you to build all kinds of structures with. It allows children to use their minds and imaginations whilst building their skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

We have been trying out the next stage to Geomag with their Mechanics Gravity range. This range now allows you to move your creations with the use of your hand or a mechanical knob which Izzy loved using.

The set compromises of  243 pieces and is aimed at age 7+ although Frankie and Oscar who are 4 and 6 still had good fun trying to get to grips with it all. They all loved trying different combinations and watching how the pull of gravity makes everything work.

If this sounds like something your little ones would enjoy which I’m sure they would then enter my competition below for your chance to win a Geotag Mechanics Gravity set of your own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*collaborated post

ZSL London Zoo:Our Best Bits

I am ashamed to say that although ZSL London Zoo is probably to closest Zoo to us I have not had a visit in probably over ten years. Considering we absolutely love an outdoor adventure and one with animals even more so I am not entirely sure why I have left it so long.

We did however rectify this the other week when we took a trip there to check out what they had to offer.

It was a scorching hot day and as we approached the entrance I was dreading the queues I had already envisaged in my head to get in, so I was pleasantly surprised when we were greeted by a super happy member of staff who showed us in and wished us a good day.

I was a little shocked as to quite how vast the zoo was and we were all eagar to get exploring as soon as possible.

After seeing a little about the Superhero Academy this was our first port of call. The boys were so excited to get started by colouring in their own superhero mask and getting hands on with all there was on offer.

My children certainly learn most from being hands on so being able to race against the cheetahs to see how fast they can actually go and climb like geckos in search of food. Seeing what superpowers the animals possess was a great way to keep the boys engaged and learning at the same time.

As well as this they got to learn a great deal about plastic waste and what an awful effect it is having on their world. It was great for them to be able to realise this destruction is going on and to then relate it to different animals as we explored the zoo.

Just outside was the perfect setting for a picnic which can all to often be missing from places such as this. We opted to take a picnic along to make the most of the good weather but there were plenty of options when it came to eating from ice-cream and candy floss, a delicious smelling BBQ stand and a cafe serving anything from coffees to full main meals and even a cheeky glass of wine if you fancied it!

I think for us the biggest pull of the zoo was how close you could get to all the animals. For the bigger animals such as the gorillas there were huge glassed walls that allowed everyone a good view without being bundled on top of each other which is fantastic. But for us getting even closer in the butterfly house and the lemur walk through was such an amazing experience.

Oscars face completely lit up when he saw the adorable lemurs casually walking around taking everybody in. The boys normally can’t sit still for more than five minutes but they were more than happy to listen to some very interesting facts while watching the lemurs explore their territory. I mean who knew that their beautiful black and white stripped tails are in fact used as a balancing aid?

Another highlight for us was Penguin Beach. The Humboldt Penguins who are lucky enough to be homed on this great sized beach have plenty of room to waddle around and dive into the water for a quick dip which the boys found amazing to watch through the many viewing areas available.

Into Africa also came high on our list of best bits with the giraffe viewing area which enabled us to get really close to these super tall, majestic beasts.

I have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the animals that we saw, but these were certainly our highlights from the trip.

Not having visited for a number of years now I didn’t know what to expect from our visit and I came away pleasantly surprised by all the changes that had been made. All of which were in the favour of the animals happens and welfare which is all you can ask for. We had a wonderful day and will be back soon for some more fun, especially as the annual membership is such great value for money if you are going to be making multiple visits…which I’m sure you will!

*collaborated post

Celebrating The Small Things:Week Thirty Two

This week one ‘celebrating the small things’ I really am talking about very little things that bring me lots of joy.

Tea – I think growing up with a father as a builder who drank ‘builders’s tea’ by the gallon it was instilled in me to become a tea drinker. Whilst I was out the other day have a delicious cream tea it made me realise just how much I love a good strong cup of tea and how it really is a cure for everything!

Stationary – Since I was little I have had a love for pretty stationary and I certainly share this love with Izzy. We love nothing more than walking round stationary stores, selecting our favourite shinny new pens and fresh pages in new note books. The only problem is I tend to hord notepads in fear of messy them up with my terrible handwriting!

Why, Why, Why – I have a love hate relationship with the relentless ‘why’ questions I still get from the youngest two. It can be massively draining when they are in full swing but equally as indering that they have such a thirst for knowledge and what to know about absolutey everything that is going on around them.

Letting Your Children See You Cry

Parenting is a challenge on a daily basis, it comes with bundles of rewards but these are without a doubt entangled with countless hurdles that have to be navigated everyday. This coupled with challenges in your work, marital and personal life can be all consuming sometimes and things can just get to much.

As parents we are expected to be a rock to our children. Someone that is there for them wherever they need you and shoulder to cry on, a fount of knowledge to gain information from and and a fountain of love to pour over them whenever needed.

In reality though no one person can be a solid rock at all times and we all have cracks that appear that need to be delbt with from time to time.

I was earwigging in a coffee shop this week…a speciality of mine, and overheard a couple of mums chatting over what a hard time that were having with their terrible twos. They were recalling being brought to tears and how they had gone to hide away in the bedroom to shield their children from seeing them cry.

It made me stop to think about how I deal with these situations and for a moment I questioned how I showed my emotions in front of my own children. Over the years I have experienced plenty of situations that have brought me to tears and have cried in front of my children on many occasions. It made me think that should I have been letting my guard down in front of then, should I have let them see that I am not invisable or should I have keep these feeling to myself to save their own feelings.

Whilst feeling like I had been a terrible mother for allowing my children to see me like this. I then thought a little harder about it and acutally is it really such a bad thing?

As I have already said life throws us all kinds of curve balls that we have to deal with and sometimes things can all get a little to much and having a good cry about this releases all kinds of emotions and makes us feel better about the bad situation we are dealing with at the time and why shouldn’t I show my children that this is a good thing. Doesn’t it do them good to show them that it’s ok to express their emotions rather than keeping everything bottled up, doesn’t it show them that nobody is invincible and its ok to feel bad from time to time and dosen’t it give them a chance to be caring and compassionate towards someone that they love?

I don’t think that showing my vulnerable side has had a detrimental effect on my children and will continue to show them its ok to shed a tear from time to time and that I will always be there for them to hug it out and talk it over whenever they need me too and I hope that as they grow they will build a loving and compassionate side that will be used to comfort family and friends in the same situation when they are older.

Days Out With The Kids This Christmas

Yes I know we have only just put our sandals and summer dress aways but before you know it Christmas will be upon us and if you want to get those special days booked in then you really do have to start thinking about it now!

Christmas is by far my favourite time of year and I have compiled a list of a few of our favourites that I hope you might enjoy:

Lapland UK – This one just had to be top of my list as I have experienced nothing like it before. We were lucky enough to have our first trip there last year and we were absolutely blown away.

From helping the elves in Father Christmas’s toy factory, icing biscuits with Mother Christmas, taking to the ice in the most beautifully setting and finally meeting the main man himself who Frankie has named ‘the real’ Father Christmas it was sheer magic.

It brought a tear to my eye and I don’t think that day will ever be topped!

Hever Castle – For me Hever brings you everything you would imagine when you think of an English christmas celebration. The traditional fairground rides and beautiful christmas trail are perfect for the little ones, whilst the stunningly decorated castle is a sight that everyone will enjoy.

We are off there at the end of November so keep an eye out for what they have in store this year.

Chessington World Of Adventure – The Winter’s Tail event at Chessington World Of Adventure is always a fantastic day out. There is the chance to visit Santa in his grotto, ride on a few selected rides that are specially opened including our favourite – The Gruffly River Ride Adventure, decorate festive treats in the Gruffly kitchen and something new this year will be The Gruffalo Christmas Groove.

alongside all of this they are also offering sleepover packages and we can highly recommend a stay in their fantastic hotel.

Painshill Park – This one for us has the ultimate wow factor when it comes to the grotto. After a walk along a pretty lit walkway you find your way to the crystal grotto where Father Christmas is waiting to hand out his gifts.

It is certainly different from the norm and gets booked up extremely quickly so don’t leave it until the last minute.

Southbank – If you are looking for a day out with festive foods, quirky gifts and the perfect London backdrop then the christmas market at Southbank if definitey one for the list.

Hobbledown – I am so sad that I won’t be going along to the toddlers lunch with Father Christmas this year.

I have visited for many years now and it is the perfect trip for preschoolers where they decorate a biscuit, have some lunch and meet Santa in the cutest little wooden hut.

Winerville – We had our first trip here last year and it really exceeded our expectations. It is an uber cool experience in the heart of Clapham common offering a bit of everything from great food and drink to ice skating, roller skating, fairground rides, crazy golf and a whole lot more.

Disney On Ice – This has become somewhat of a tradition for us to visit a few days before christmas. The culmination of all our favourite Disney characters, the chill of the ice and the excitement of Christmas makes for a great day out.

National Trust – We have visited a fair few properties over the festive period and each one has its on unique and wonderful christmas feel. They offer visits to Father Christmas, crafts galore christmas markets and brilliant trails to wear the kids out which is always a bonus!

CBeebies Christmas Show:Thumbelina – Getting cosy in the cinema is perfect at this time of year and when its to watch a classic such as Thumbelina put on by some of your favourite Cbeebies characters then its always going to be a hit.

We are off to see this later in the year so keep an eye out for what we think!

RHS Wisley – Now the illuminated trail at Wisley is something I’ve heard so many good things about but haven’t actually got there yet. I think it will have to go on my list for this year.

Winter Wonderland – If you want Christmas on a grand scale then this is the place for you. Winter Wonderland is a huge area in Hyde Park full of fairground rides, food stalls, gifts, ice skating, shows and bucket loads more. We had our first trip there last year and had an amazing time!

Bocketts Farm – I love a farm visit over the christmas period and Bocketts offers an amazingly festive day out complete with a trip to santa in his hay barn.

The Snowman – My children laugh at how much I love The Snowman in any form. My first love was of course the illustrated character and I have loved watching how he has evolved over the years. We watched the stage show a few years ago which was absolutly spell binding and keep the attention of my younger two for over two hours which is no mean feat. This year there is also a magical exhibition at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, an immersive experience at The Backyard Cinema, a special story telling session at Bath Pavilions by the talented author Michael Morpurgo and a the most magical showing of the animated film at the Royal Albert Hall accompanied by the Royal Philamonic Orchestra.

Priory Farm – This has been our Christmas Eve tradition for a few years now. We stop off in the cafe for a mince pie and a warm drink, get the last of our foodie bits at the fab farm shop and a trek round the discovery walk to wear out the over excited little one.

Celebrating The Small Things:Week Thirty One

This week on ‘Celebrating The Small Things’ I am talking about my love of kickboxing, travelling into town and candles!

Kickboxing – My love of kickboxing started many years ago now and was actually one of the reasons me and Darren got together. It was a shared passion and something we always enjoyed together. Over the years teaching the skill became a job for me and in between having the kids I have always loved getting back to it.

Since having Oscar though I had really stepped away from it and its only been the past few months that I have fallen back in love with it and have enjoyed every moment of it…well maybe not at the time!

Candles – I’ve had a thing for scented candles for years now, one that unfortunately my husband doesn’t share. I would fill every room with a different scent if I could but he would be one step behind me blowing them all out.

My passion was filled for a day however when I went along to the Yankee Candle Christmas event where I walked into a room filled with beautiful scents and gorgeous christmas displays. I have so many new candles on my wishlist now and the only thing I have to do is encourage Darren to like them too.

I Love London – One of the many things that blogging has brought me is the opportunity to visit central London so much more than I ever have done before. Pre blogging I would probably only venture in a couple of times a year and usually to the same old places.

I am now in time several times a month exploring new areas, seeing new things and loving every moment of it.

Back To School Sleeping Woes

Well we are nearly back into the whole school routine thing and I am finally coming to terms with all my babies being in full time education! We have nailed the homework, have been leaving the house in the mornings with plenty of time to spare, there have been no phone calls for forgotten books and ‘touch wood’ everything seems to be running smoothy…well aside from bedtimes!

The summer holidays made way for long bright evenings and a much more relaxed routine when it came to bedtimes. This was perfect at the time and I loved those few extra hours it gave us all to be out and about or relaxing in the garden; but this has all backfired on me with a certain little boy now that the school term routine is here.

The problems start as soon as dinner is over and the realisation that bedtime isn’t to far away. The tummy aches and headaches appear, the bedtime drink takes an eternity to get finished and then once finally in bed the real issues start.

Frankie gets so worked up about going to bed that the minute I leave the room he got foots it out of bed and is right behind me, refusing to stay in his bed and pleading to come downstairs. At the moment we seem to have two options which is to continually lead him back to his bed until he his finally to worn out to fight it anymore or spent half the evening sitting in his room until he falls asleep.

Both of these options are time consuming and hugely stressful for all of us and its really something we need to get on top of as the lack of sleep is breaking us all.

Below are a few tips that I’m going to be trying out to see if we can finally crack this before I crack myself:

Routine, Routine, Routine – This is one of the things that was always a big priority but over the years and the more children I had the relaxed and calm bedtime routine I once inforced has stacked somewhat and it is all a little manic. A definite routine of bath, book and bed are certainly going to be put in place again.

Security – A know that a big problem from Frankie is the anxiety of being left on his own at bedtime so finding a toy or a blanket to snuggle up to may help to make him feel a little more secure.

Calming Environment – I know for me I get a much better nights sleep when my room is clean and tidy and free from the clutter of the day and I’m sure that for children this is the same. Making their room a calming and inviting place make for a good starting ground for a restful night. Making sure that all the toys are put away and there is a cosy and inviting bed for them to jump into is a must.

London Bus Red Wooden Kids Theme Bunk Bed Frame - 3ft Single £364.99.jpg

Turn Off Electrics – I definitly fall down when it come to limiting electronics before bedtime and it is actually advised that anything stimulating such as TV, computers and tablets should be turned off an hour before bed.

Choose The Right Foods – Try not to give children any sugary or caffeinated foods before bedtime. They work as a stimulant and can be a good reason as to why they are still bouncing off the walls when you are trying to get them to sleep.

I am really hoping that some of these tips are going to work for us and we all finally get some much needed rest. I would love to know if you have any other top tips to help me out.

*collaborated post

A Sleepover At Alton Towers

A few weeks ago now we took the long journey to Alton Towers. I had not visited this theme park since I was sixteen and I was eager to see the changes and introduce the children to all the fun.

After a five hour drive we were more than happy to arrive at the Splash Landings Hotel. Its bright and cheery decor made for a warm welcome and once inside our family room we were pleasantly surprised by how spacious it was.

There were facilities to make a much needed cup of tea and before long beds had been claimed and we rested our heads in anticipation for a big day ahead. The room offered everything we need from cosy beds, a good shower and entertainment packs to keep the little ones amused. The only problem we encountered were our nightmare neighbours that keep us awake for half the night!

We headed down for breakfast and had a little bit more time to explore the hotel in the light of day where the children stood amazing by the huge waterpark that was housed in the centre of the hotel. Sadly we just didn’t have the time to try it out but it really did look absolutely amazing.

Time to fuel for the day we made our way to the restaurant to have our breakfast where there was a huge variety of food to choose from. From cereal and fruit to a full english breakfast.

The children loved being able to go an help themselves to cereal from the special machine and chose from the vast selection at the hot buffet. It was also a really refreshing change to have so much choice for Frankie and all his allergies.

Full to the brim it was time to head off to the park for a day of fun. There is a shuttle bus that you can catch to take you directly to the park but we chose to take the short walk.

Once inside we spilt up with Archie and Izzy heading off to the thrill seeking rides whist we stayed with the younger two and headed off to CBeebies Land.

CBeebies Land had been on our list of places to visit for a while now and as soon as I saw the boys faces light up as soon as they saw the huge, rainbow coloured welcome sign I knew that they were going to love every minute. They dashed back and forth for sometime before they finally decided on their first ride which as the In The Night Garden Magical Boat Ride that saw us winding through a little stream spotting all our favourite characters as we went, next up we took to the sky with the Go Jetters, played at being Postman Pat in the bright red van, took in the sights of the whole of Cbeebies Land with the ‘Get Set Go’ Tree Top Adventure.

We took a little break from the rides and took a walk around the much calmer Something Special Sensory Garden and found some familiar names in the walk of fame.

There was so much to see and do and so resfeshing to have such a huge area dedicated to preschoolers in a theme park as this is something that is so often missing.

A quick pitstop with our adrenaline junkies who came back buzzing from the excitement of the amazing Wicker Man and Oblivion. I think I was actually most exited that the two children they get on the least had spent some quality time together and enjoy each and every minute of it. Hot doughnuts are a must on a day out like this and we plotted up on the huge grassy area that was perfect to take in the pretty surrounds Alton Towers has to offer.

I was a little concerned that Frankie was going to be a bit left out when it came to the bigger rides but I needn’t have worried as there was a huge variety of family friendly rides that were a good middle ground for those that couldn’t enjoy the thrill seeking rides but still wanted something a little faster.

I loved that we could all take to the water in the River Rapids, Swing high and low in the Heave Ho and battle with our competitors on the Battle Galleons.

Fit to fall after a day full of fun and adventure we headed back on the monorail to the Crooked Spoon restaurant to fill our hungry bellies and rest our weary feet.

When we arrived I was really surprised at the laid-back, outdoorsy feel to it which was right up my street. The little play area directly outside meant that the children could happy play whist waiting on their food.

When in came to the food there was a great choose for both adults and children from juicy burgers and mouth water steaks to roasted summer vegetable carbonara and spicy Sri Lankan curry.

I opted for a classic prawn cocktail to start followed by a creamy chicken carbonara which came served with a beautifully crispy chuck of garlic bread. The larger men of the family dived into a huge bowl of loaded nachos that i couldn’t help but try followed by a mixed grill that definitely came with their seal of approval.

The little ones had a mixture of dishes such as soup and crusty rolls, fresh melon and delicious sausage and mash that they all devoured with not one complaint which is a rarity.

Im not sure how we managed but I couldn’t resist desert – especially cheesecake, and Izzy defintiy wasn’t going to turn down a gooey chocolate browniw with a side of ice-cream now was she!

The friendly, attentive staff who didn’t batter an eyelid when they had to clean up an entire glass of squash that was poured over the table minutes after we sat down and didn’t moan once about having to navigate the huge cuddly toys they had won earlier was a real bonus to a fantastic meal.

If I was to round up our experience of Alton Towers I would say it was a bundle of fun from beginning to end, thoroughly exausting and definitely worth a trip.

* We were invited to Alton Towers for the weekend for the purpose of this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.