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.

Celebrating The Small Things:Week Twenty Five

This week has been a real mixture of sentimentality, celebrating new challenges and making new friends.

17 Years Of School Runs – It was only the other day when I was taking the obligatory video of my feet for Instastories on the school run that I realised my little toes had been doing the school run for the past 17 years! There have been different schools, we have taken different paths but ultimately I have wracked up a fair few miles over the years and still have plenty more to go and I love it!

Facebook Live – This was actually a pretty big one for me but wanted to celebrate it as it was a big step in my confidence journey.

I was lucky enough to go along to Mumsnet Head Quarters in Kentish Town to film a Facebook Live to let everyone know about the Disney 24 Hour Challenge that I am taking part in.

Not only did I face my fear of the camera I also had the added pressure of it all going live which aside from a massively dry mouth and sweaty palms I got through. I had some help and encouragement from the lovely Franca from A Moment With Franca and Amie from Mumnet and thoroughly enjoyed every minute.

Oscar’s New Friends – When my older children started school it pretty was just that. There were no meet the teacher days or picnics to welcome the children and their families, we were all just thrown in at the deep end and had to deal with it.

Over the years this transition has become much more of an event and our lovely local softplay organised a meet up for children starting reception at our school. It was a great chance for the children to meet their new friends and the parents to meet over a coffee and of course a big boy of cake!

Making Arla Organic Free Range Milk Part Of Our Everyday Routine

My husband jokes that it would be cheaper and easier to buy a cow for our home due to the vast quantities of milk we go through each and every day. From breakfast to our evening meals there is rarely a meal that doesn’t include it. Milk is certainly a staple in our house that we couldn’t live without and after a trip to an Arla dairy farm last year it gave me a completly different outlook to how I view this rather amazing product!

I was certainly the kind of person that didn’t give my choice a milk more than a few seconds thought. I would simply throw a full fat for the little ones, a semi skimmed for the adults and a dairy free for Frankie into the trolley and off to the tills I would go.

All of Arla’s milk is free range and sourced only from British farms. The cows are all free range and where possible grazed on organically farmed land. The wellbeing of their cattle is of upmost importance and this is one of the many reason I choose to buy Arla Organic Milk.

I always start the day with a big bowl of porridge along with the majority of the family. There are varying topping of choice from healthier options such as blueberries and strawberries to naughtier hazelnut spread!

Arla is the perfect milk to kick off our day with and works perfectly with our porridge.

Having a large family and working from home can sometimes feel like I’m in a hamster wheel that I can’t get out of so I always try to take five minutes out of my day to switch off to everything and grab a cup of tea. This usually means a quick stop off at the supermarket after the school run in the morning (Arla Organic Milk comes in handy 2L bottles) and take solace in the garden – sometimes with a sneaky piece of cake!

One of my favourite ways to incorporate Arla Milk into our meals though is with my creamy rice pudding recipe that I have left below.

The richness of the whole milk is the prefect choice and something my whole family love:

125g pudding rice
600ml Arla organic whole milk
50ml single cream
1tsp vanilla extract
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp grated nutmeg
2 tbsps sugar

Place the rice into a medium sized saucepan and pour in the milk, cream and vanilla extract. Bring all this to the boil and then simmer.

Cook the rice ensuring you stir regularly for 20/25 mins. The aim is for the rice to be plump and the liquid reduced.

Add the sugar and nutmeg and wait for the sugar to dissolve. Once it is completely dissolved give it a good stir and serve covered with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Using Arla Organic Milk allows me to know that my family are getting all the goodness they can from a milk plus I have the feel good factor that comes from knowing it is coming from happy cows and the money I am spending is going straight into the farmers pocket.

Is buying Arla Organic milk something you already do or something you would consider?

*Collaborated post

Pizza Making And Doughnut Decorating At The Num Noms Series 5 Launch

We kicked off our half term in a pretty spectacular way when we headed off to the Good Housekeeping Institute to celebrate the launch of the Num Noms Series 5.

For those of you that haven yet heard of Num Noms(where have you been) they are a range of collectibles that have been made to look and smell like food. They come in a whole range of different forms from lip glosses to nail polishes and so much more.

We were introduced to these cute little characters a while ago now and all three of my youngest have been really taken with them.

As we arrived at the Good Housekeeping Institute the celebrations were already starting and the entrance was covered with pretty balloons and we were welcomed with lots of friendly faces and so much for busy fingers to do!

The kids got stuck in straight away and loved seeing the new additions to an already great range. The most popular addition for my lot is definitely the lip glosses and they spent ages creating their own flavour.

It wasn’t long before we took to our seats and the event kicked off with an introduction from Nickelodeon’s Nigel Clarke. The first part of the day was pizza making, as the ingredients were being past round a room full to the brim with children I was more than a little anxious about how this would go, but the children were thoroughly engaged and enjoyed every minute of making their very own creations.

While their pizzas were cooking away they got the chance to make up some fruit kebabs which was pretty similar to the way Num Noms can be stacked and arranged which makes them a great for keeping little fingers occupied.

It really was a day full of experiencing, making and tasting different foods in different ways and I think one of the highlights of the day was hopping on a push bike that had a smoothie maker attached and cycling away to make our very own fruit smoothies.

Izzy however was a little preoccupied by the fact that Chloe Medows and Chloe Chloe Lewis from ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ were there and took half the afternoon plucking up the courage to ask for a selfie with them!

The last activity of the day though probably brought a bigger smile to my face than it did to the kids – doughnut decorating.

The kids were presented with two huge ring doughnuts each that they were then given free reign to decorate as they wished. Covered with all kinds of sweets and fab Num Nom stickers they all looked incredible.

After such an immense day the children were knocked off their feet again by taking home a goodie bag full to the brim with Num Noms goodies that they couldn’t resist opening on the train which made for a pretty messy journey home!

I know that mine were ecstatic about the new Series 5 and if you have a lover of collectables like me then check them out ‘here‘.

Exploring Stories With Pizza Express And Puffin Books

If a poll was taken with my family on which was their favourite restaurant I know that Pizza Express would win hands down!

The children love the delicious food that is served quickly to quash those all to familiar ‘I’m starving’ moans and as a parent I love the family friendly vibe that you get in each and every restaurant. The hustle and bustle means I don’t feel I need to be continually asking the kids to be quiet and with the great activities that are always on offer there is actually not much chance for fidgety bums and fingers to get restless.

It was in fact an exciting new activity pack and competition that Puffin Books have created for Pizza Express that saw us making our way to one of their Brighton branches last week.

We were taken to our seats by our super friendly waiter that handed the children their activities packs and they got started on them straight away. The Story Explorers Adventure Journal was full to the brim with activities and games inspired by different books and it really got the children’s creative juices flowing.

After trying to create their own Grey Huffley from their favourite series РDiary Of A Wimpy Kid they feasted on a starter of dough balls and vegetable crudit̩s while I indulged in some delicately battered calamari that I had to keep Izzy away from!

Actually if you are a fans of Diary Of The Wimpy Kid too then there is a brilliant competition you can enter where you can design your own book cover and submit it online for your chance to win a family portrait down for you by Jeff Kinney, the author of Diary Of A Wimpy Kid himself.

As we waited on our mains we were treated to a visit from caricaturist Sean Savage who created a fantastic portrait of us all. The kids absolutely loved it and found the size of my teeth hilarious!

With our special memento safely tucked away we ate a delicious selection of pizza and pasta that didn’t fail to disappoint.

Aside from being so family friendly another highlight of Pizza Express for us is the way they cater for Frankie and his multiple allergies. The kids menu can be adapted perfectly which always makes him feel inclusive rather than having to have something completely different which can happen in so many other restaurants.

We had a quick break between courses where it was Izzy’s job to make up the chatter boxes that came in the activity packs. These are always a hit with us and they played for ages asking each other questions to unveil the final answer.

A meal out isn’t complete without desert and at Pizza Express you really are spoilt for choice. The children dived into ice cream sundaes and brownies whilst I went for the mini biscoff cheesecake dolcetti which I told myself was a lighter option!

Full to the brim and bursting with ideas on stories they were going to create and illustrate when they got home really meant that Pizza Express has been a feast for our minds as well as our bellies and we highly reccomend a trip there soon so you don’t miss out on all the fun!

*Collaborated post

Cake Smash Time With Layrish Photography

I actually can’t believe its been a year since we welcomed Isla into the world and I became a Grandmother. I have to say that this time has passed even quicker than it did with my own children and because of that capturing and celebrating milestones is something of great importance to me.

When I was asked by Layrish Photography if we would like to take Isla along to a cake smash photoshoot to celebrate her first birthday both Alice and myself were extremely happy to go along.

Layrish Photography offer a whole range of photography sessions from weddings to birthday parties, cake smashes to family photoshoots and so much more. They take place at locations of your choice or for from the comfort of your own home.

Cake smashes are a relatively new concept to me and certainly something I was very happy to experience with Isla as a first for us both.

We were all made to feel at ease as soon as the session began and Isla was eased into the whole process by playing with some toys and chatting before the photography started.

With pretty balloons, bunting and bubbles to distract her attention the first few photos in her pretty dress were taken effortlessly before she became a little restless.
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What better distraction could there be though than a quick change of clothes and the most beautiful cake being placed in front of you!

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A little hesitant a first she poked and prodded around for a while and then dived in…face first!

Isla (27)

I wasn’t long before she got a real taste and was well away digging in with her hands and trusty wooden spoon.

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Once she was sufficiently covered head to toe in cake it was time to wrap up the session and of course sample some of the cake ourselves…I mean it would be rude not to!

If you like the look of this session then I couldn’t recommend it enough for an experience that will stick in our mind for years to come and amazing image to look back over time and time again.

In fact the whole package is finished off beautifully as Layrish Photography send over a stunning case that comes with a handful of images all ready and printed out for you that are tied together with a pretty bow and covered with confetti along with the memory stick continuing all your photos that you can do exactly what you want with.

This was also accompanied with a slideshow that includes live footage of the cake smash that actually bought a tear to my eye when we received it, it was certainly a really lovely and unexpected addition.

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It will certainly be a day to remember for us and I couldn’t recommend it more.

*we were given this session in exchange for this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.

A Sneak Peek At The Land Of Tiger- Chessington World Of Adventure

On Friday we loaded up the car and set off for a very special sleepover – a stay at Chessington World Of Adventures to take a sneak peek at the new Land Of The Tiger which is open to the public on the 5th May.

Chessington is only a short drive for us but staying over at their fabulous hotel makes us feel like we are a million miles away. The children ran straight in the room and headed to the bunkbeds to stake their claim whilst I had five minutes with a coffee looking out at the monkeys playing in the park.

It wasn’t long before we headed over to get the evening started which we were all super excited about. Wild Asia was set to be our home for the night where we started the evening out with a few cocktails in the Explorer’s Outpost Restaurant and late night rides on the Kobra and the Monkey Swings.

Next up was the highlight of the evening as we all headed to the Land Of Tiger to be amongest the first few people to see everything it has to offer.

Once inside the huge wooden gateway we were greeted by the super friendly zoo keepers that spoke lovingly and passionately about the four new additions – Olga, Tsar, Kalinda and Kyra.

These majestic beauties have made themselves at home in their grand and innovative enclosure that is the first of its kind in Europe due to its overhead trails that gives you an amazing, up close view of them.

The children were amazed to see the Amur tigers passing through the walkways above their heads and then being able to get so close to them was an amazing experience.

I loved all the free space they have to roam around in and the different habits they can explore, there is even a huge pool for them to have a dip in!

The Land Of Tiger is also home to the new log flume ride – Tiger Rock that we were all itching to have a go on in the morning.

We finished off our evening back in Wild Asia enjoying good food, having a bit of a bumper car marathon due to the kids not wanting to get off and a lot of singing and dancing along to a fabulous band of child stars that absolute made the evening. It has to be said that Izzy was more than a little star stuck to be dancing alongside the likes of Sophie Ellis- Bextor and Jacqueline Jossa who plays Lauren in Eastenders.

I can honestly say it was a matter of minutes after the kids head hit the pillow before they were fast asleep in preparation for the next day.

Miracles actually happened over night as I had to wake them all up to start the day which began with an amazing breakfast with the choice of a full english, pastries, cereal, fresh fruit and so much more.

I had all good intentions of sticking to a bowl of fresh fruit, but my resolve cracked pretty quickly once I got a wiff of the bacon and saw the gooey blueberry muffins.

Full to the brim we headed back to the Land Of The Tiger to try out Tiger Rock. Oscar and Frankie were still to little to go on so Izzy and Archie raced while we waited at the bottom to watch their decent.

Seeing the glee on their faces as the boat past by let me know that it had been a hit an it was soon my turn to try it out for myself.

I clambered on board the boat and took the same familiar journey as the old Dragon Fall but I wasn’t expecting a very different surprise along the journey and I won’t spoilt the fun by letting on what it is, I will let you find out for yourselves. It was wonderful to travel along the watery pathways and spot the tigers from all different directions and it certainly takes your mind off the huge 15ft plummet at the end of the ride that sees you plunge into the huge, mist covered tigers head.

The excitement didn’t finish there as we made our way back to the entrance just in time to see comedian Romesh Ranganathan hand feeding one of the tigers that the boys would have loved to have a go at themselves.

After feasting on some ‘tiger churros’ and delicious doughnuts we whizzed around a few of our favourites like The Grufflo Ride before having to make our way home.

The Land Of The Tiger is a magnificent addition to an already amazing theme park and is something not to be missed. Sadly we didn’t get time to see the new Gruffly Grove stage show so we will be back in the next couple of weeks to see what the cuddly creature has in store and I will be letting you know all about it!

Easter Fun At Morden Hall Park

I think this has to be the first year for as long as I can remember that we haven’t taken part in a National Trust easter egg hunt and I have to say that I’m pretty sad about that! The Easter weekend just seemed so fun that we didn’t get a chance to fit it in.

That said we couldn’t get through the holidays without a trip to one of their properties and we decided on Morden Hall Park as its been a good while since we’ve had a visit there.

After a pitstop at the cafe for coffee and cake we were greeted at the main entrance by a super friendly volunteer who set about telling us how we could join in wth the Duck Trail which allowed the children to set off around the grounds in search of different species of ducks, ticking them off on their sheet as they go and showing them some food along the way.

Morden Hall Park has had a lot of work done to it since we were last there and absolutely loved the wooden pathways and lookout points that had been added to the wetland area.

The boys spent ages dipping in sticks and trying to find the crocodiles my Dad had told them were lurking beneath!

We played Pooh Sticks on the bridges, ran through all the open spaces, climbed trees and got covered in mud…exactly what a day should be full of!

Morden Hall Park is also perfectly positioned for a short walk to Deen City Farm where the children got to feed and get up close to lots of lovely farm animals from pigs, sheep and even ferrets.

The children were filthy dirty and thoroughly worn out after a wonderful day and Morden Hall Park certainly come with a big thumbs up from us.

Country Kids

Now We Are Six:Happy Birthday Frankie

When I was one, I had just begun.
When I was two, I was nearly new.
When I was three, I was hardly me.
When I was four, I was not much more.
When I was five, I was just alive.
But now I am six, I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six now forever and ever.

A.A. Milne

This was one of my favourite poems from my childhood and now as I’ve grown and become a mother I can relate to the words with each year that passes in my little ones lives and I have to agree that six is a pretty perfect age.

On frankie’s six birthday where his birthday request has simply been, ‘Lego and mussels’ I look on in wonder at the beautiful little boy he has become in those six short years.

He is certainly my most vibrant child that has a charater and tenacity that is heartwarming and alluring and his charming personality never fails to fill a room.

He is strong willed, determined and passionate and although this obviously comes with its challenges I wouldn’t change it for the world.

In fact it was his head strong ways that saw my big birthday plans of a trip to a Lego exhibition in town for him come crashing down when he insisted on a simple day of softplay with his little brother and a lunch of mussels to finish.

Little Lambs Softplay – New Location And Better Than Ever

Setting up a business whilst being a busy Mum is something that is no mean feat and something many of us would shy away from for many reasons.

It takes drive, determination and passion to keep going and I am in awe of anybody that bites the bullet and makes their hopes and dreams a reality.

This is exactly what Sophie the owner of Little Lambs Softplay in Coulson has done and I have absolutely loved watching her journey and how far she has come in a few short years.

From a small area in a cricket clubhouse Sophie then moved her business onto a bigger and better premise inside a very popular shopping centre in Sutton that was a huge success, so much so that she then had the opportunity to grow even more allowing her to open the new premise she is in today in Coulsdon town centre.

I went along with Oscar to check out everything that is now on offer and we were both more than pleasantly surprised.

The softplay area is extremely spacious with slides, ball pits, ride-ons and lots more to keep little ones up to the age of 6 occupied.

On the same level there is plentiful seating from tabled areas to a cosy corner away from the noise that would be perfect to fed babies or simply pick up a book a relax if it all gets a little to much.

One thing that has always drawn me to Little Lambs is the food. Softplay areas are not usually renowned for the best food but they have really got this down to a tee here.

From indulgent waffles covered with cream and all sorts of goodies to at the healthier options of jacket potatoes that follow Slimming World guidelines, there is something for everyone.

I settled down with a warm croissant and a creamy coffee while Oscar opted for the fully loaded hot chocolate.

My head was turned more than a few time though with the scrummy looking Oreo milkshake and festive late complete with a mini mince pie.

Full up and worn out from all the running around we made our way upstairs to the role play area that I absolutely fell in love with.

The children can get dressed up in a huge variety of different costumes, take to the stage and become a mini popstar, get cooking in the kitchen area or do a spot of shopping in the supermarket or finally become a builder in the construction area complete with a cement mixer, bricks and safety equipment.

Little Lambs really do have everything you could want and more from a Softplay and more.The usual equipment to allow the children to build confidence, agility and let of some steam; good food to keep you all fuelled and an interactive area to allow you to really engage with your little ones whilst growing their imaginations.

This has certainly gone on our list of favourite places to visit and we will definitely be regulars from here on in.

*collaborated post