My Top Ten Cheap Summer Holiday Activities

I love having the kids home for the summer…well most of the time, but my purse certainly feels the strain so I always try to find as many cheap activities to get us out of the house as I can I have have listed my top ten here for you to take a look at.

  • IKEA – This Is my saviour at least a couple of times during the holidays. We head over there early to grab their cheap breakfast and avoid the queues and then the kids absolutely love walking around and playing house in all the different room set ups. As long as I can resist popping candles and pot plants into my trolley then it makes for a really cheap day out.
  • Swimming – Over the summer months a lot of council run pools offer free or heavily subsidised swimming for kids. This is perfect to keep my teens busy for free as well as the little ones. Check out Croydon Pools or Donyings, Redhill if you are a Surrey local.
  • The Library– Most libraries run a reading scheme over summer that gives the children a chance to use the library and gain merits of different kinds once they complete different stages.
  • Fruit Picking – This is something I love as much as the children to be honest. They get the chance to see where the fruit is grown and then can go home and enjoy the fruits of their labour.
  • Soft Play – To be honest soft play is never my first choice of activity but the kids absolutely love it and many independent soft play facilities such as Little Lambs Soft Play have some great offers running over this period.
  • National Trust – We have had a National Trust card for a few years now and it really is so worth the money. A couple of trips and you will have covered the years membership and it gives you a whole hosts of homes and gardens to discover and lots of activities to take part in once you’re there.
  • Play Dates – A change is as good as a rest so they say. Sharing play dates is a great way to get out of the house, see friends and save on having a big day out.
  • The Park – For us a trip to the park is good wherever the weather. There is puddle jumping when the rain shows it’s face or bug hunting and picnicking when the sun comes out to play.
  • Hit The Beach – A trip to the beach is great whatever the weather too. For the price of a packet of chips or an ice cream you can have a whole day of exploring.
  • Food Shopping – Now this one is a little random but all my children have loved to help with the food shop. They can read items off the list and find them on the shelves and even get all the ingredients to then get home and help out with dinner. For me it’s an essential thing to do that can be made fun!

Simple Happy Parenting:Book Review And Giveaway

[AD] I’m not going to lie, since my last two came along parenting has taken a completely new turn for me and has become a whole lot harder than it ever was with my first three.

I have spent so much time trying to work out what has changed. Has my will become a little broken with the more children that have been added, is it the fact that they are both very strong willed boys close in age, is it that I haven’t been as strict with them, is it I’m older and feeling the strain more. The list really has been endless and I am still in search of the answer to make for an easier and happier home life.

The combination of a large family and busy work lives makes things pretty manic and I do thrive off of the hustle and bustle of a large family but sometimes it really does take its toll and a quieter, more relaxed pace of life would be a welcome change.

When I was asked to review the book – Simple Happy Parenting I was immediately taken in with its promise to show the secret of less for calmer parents and happier kids.

The basis principles were put together after Denaye Barahona had her first child and found herself trying to give her all to her children by ways of gifts and activities which I’m sure we are all guilty off and actually realising that maybe this isn’t the best thing for them and a simple way of parenting is more beneficial to you all.

By simply buying less, fearing less, referring less and entertaining less we can make a happier life for the whole family.

This is all done in stages and over the summer I am going to implement some of these strategies to see if they can help us.

First up is to have a declutter to make for a simple family home and this is something I going to get the children involved in and explain to them that they don’t need such an abundance of ‘stuff’.

It’s not only going to be toys, it will be their wardrobes and mine and my husbands too!

With step one complete it will be time to move onto meal planning. This is something that I can actually say I’m already pretty good at but getting the kids involved is something I don’t always do enough so this will certainly be happening more.

For me the next steps will be a little harder as it involves slowing things down, letting the children get bored and find amusement for themselves and letting them explore and adventure without any fear from you.

All of these tips seem so easy to implement and it certainly sounds like a much more relaxed, happier and easier way of life and I am going to enjoy reaping the benefits.

If this sounds like something that your family would benefit from then I have three copies of the book to giveaway over on Instagram so click HERE for your chance to win.

Finding The Right Broadband Deal For You

When it comes to household essentials I would say for us good connection to the internet is essential. My husband and I both rely on it heavily for work, the youngest two use it to watch their favourite tv shows and as for the teens well it would be like cutting off a limb if we got rid of it!

We have always opted for fibre broadband as it provides super fast connection through fibre optic connections to the copper cabling that would already be in home from existing phone lines. These cables transfer data at super high speeds and can cover a great range of distances.

It can however be a bit of a minefield when it comes to choosing a provider and there are a lot of factors to consider before you make your final decision:

  • How many people using the connection – This is a big consideration for us as we have such a large number of people in the house using the internet at any given time so we need a package that can cope well with this.
  • Who supplies your area – It is all well and good to pick a provider that will offer you the best service but it is essential you check to see if they cover your area as without that the deal is worthless.
  • What speed do you need – Some people are happy with a slower connection time that will save them a little money wise. We however are usually on a pretty tight schedule so speed is the key for us. This also needs to be thought about if you like to download a lot of movies and tv shows as your connection needs to be able to cope with the demands of this.
  • Do you want an entire entertainment package – We actually got rid of our tv entertainment package a few years ago now but a lot of people still like to have the option to have this alongside their broadband so would be something to look into if this is you.
  • Budget This should probably be ranked at the top of the list but I think all of the other options need to be thought about before you find an entire package that suits you and your family. Getting all the things you need for a good price is ultimately what most of us want and those are some great comparison sites that can do just this for you.
  • I would love to know if there are any other things you consider before choosing your home broadband.
  • The Cutty Sark:A Day Out For All The Family

    [AD] I am ashamed to say that although the Cutty Sark is less than an hour away from us I have never visited, either alone or with the children. It’s one of those places that is so close I’ve simply overlooked it and never made the trip.

    However during the half term holidays we were invited along and I was as excited as the children to have our first visit.

    After a short journey that was made extra special with a trip on the Docklands Light Railway – another first that I highly recommend if you have little ones we arrived and were immediately taken aback with the sheer beauty and splendour of the ship.

    There was no queue at all to get on which is always a bonus when you have children as hyperactive as mine. There is the option to take in the sights of a ship with an interactive guide that talks you though each and every step; but the boys are a little more hands on and decided they just wanted to go ahead and get exploring.

    A big worry for me was that the whole set up would be more aimed at adults but this couldn’t be further from the truth. All three of the magnificent decks have been geared up for inquisitive little fingers which certainly placated my nerves.

    The lower deck was the first to be explored and it gave you the first insights into the history behind the tea clipper and how and where it carried its precious cargo. It also allowed you to witness the skeleton of the ship and just how much detailed is in the inner workings. The boys were absolutely amazed by the length and the thickness of the huge chains that would have anchored the ship down all those years ago.

    Next up was the middle deck which was definitely the area my boys enjoyed the most. There was a special bench that mimicked the movement of the ship, lots of wooden toys for tiny ones to get their fingers on, a chance to sail your very own ship and a whole host of interactive displays to explain what everyday life would have been like onboard.

    For me it had to be the top deck that was most impressive. The beautiful glossy wood and brass fittings along with the masses of ropes the seemed to fill the sky really was an amazing sight to see.

    The boys ran up and down the decking and exclaimed, “we feel like a Goonie”. They loved being able to get inside the sleeping quarters to try out the bunk beds, peep through the port holes and take a look at the grand dinning area and see where all the food would have been prepared.

    The last port of call was to take a look under the boat. I was just expecting an area to take a look at the ship itself but it was in fact a really laid back, peaceful area where you can grab a bite to eat, sit down and take in the beauty on the boat or indeed the stunning views of London from the viewing gallery or take part in one of the many activities on offer for the children.

    Whist we were there there was a big group of children all playing a game to help them understand a little more about the ship in a really fun way(you can check out the highlights on my instastories to see a little more).

    My preconceived ideas of what the day was going to hold we’re completely smashed after our visit. I took on a whole host of knowledge from the trip as well as the boys and it is definitely well worth a visit.

    There is so much for the children to see and do and if you check out Royal Museums Greenwich they will keep you updated on all the fun things on offer for the family such as toddler time, meet the captain and Cutty Sark characters and lots more.

    Just Go To Bed!

    It’s Friday night and I’m sitting here writing this at gone 10pm, wrinkled from hiding in the bath at my absolute whits end after seven years of no sleep.

    Tonight really has pushed me to my limits and after three hours or pleading, bribery, shouting and crying I really am lost at what to do.

    The oldest three weren’t bad sleepers. I had a few problems over the years with my eldest but all in all bedtimes were pretty much the same routine of bath, book, bed and there they stayed.

    Then along came my fourth. He didn’t really get off to a good start as he suffered terribly with food allergy related eczema that keep him awake at night. I felt terribly for him and night after night would be spent applying creams and trying to sooth him back to sleep. Breastfeeding was a huge comfort for him and for the first few years he spent each and every night in my bed on and off the boob to give both me and him some much needed rest.

    Fast forward a little and the allergies were under control as was the eczema and I had said goodbye to our breast feeding journey but the sleep problems were well and truly still there and to be honest now at the age of seven nothing much has changed, in fact over the past year things have got worse and it is really taking its toll on me.

    You name it I’ve tried it! We’ve gone through countless pillow sprays, special bedtime stories, meditation apps, the list really is endless. There may have been a little light relief every now and then and all this false hope would come flooding in and then bang – right back to square one.

    I’ve sat tirelessly outside his bedroom in the hopes he will drift off to sleep, tried the ‘Super Nanny’ method of returning him every time he leaves his room, none of which have had any effect. He unfortunately inherited my stubborn pigheadedness and it is a standoff between us both and I have to say each and every night he wins.

    When he does eventually decide he can’t take anymore and drifts off it’s not long before he is making his way into our bed, usually closely followed by his younger brother and here starts the next leg. Flying limbs in everyone’s face, the arguing over who is in who’s space and before you know it the alarm is going off and I am ready to face the day on a few broken hours sleep yet again.

    I have to say that over the years I have grown accustom to the lack of sleep and seem to mange pretty well on this but I’m not so sure it’s the same for this little one and I worry what effect it is having on him in terms of his health and learning as it can’t be doing him any good.

    For me the major problem is missing those few hours of time to myself before I hit the sack. A child that won’t go to bed coupled with the demands of two teenagers in the evening, mixed in with all the other admin of life that needs to get done leaves a window of about 30 mins for me to switch off unless I want to push my bedtime back until about 2am.

    I try to remind myself of the quote ‘motherhood – the days are long but the years are short’.

    With grandchildren of my own already I know this too well but I can’t help but feel if my days were a little shorter those years would be they little bit more enjoyable!

    Creating Your Own Pizza With Pizza Express

    [AD] During half term we had the pleasure of heading along to the Pizza Express test kitchen in West London for a very special pizza making party.

    In usual fashion we arrived once the party had started to a room filled with plums of flour and happy little faces; the boys couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

    The dough was kneaded and spun like true professionals and they were then given a whole host of toppings to fill their base with.

    A smiling face seemed to be a running theme amongst a lot of the children and it was lovely to see their creative minds at work; this leads me on to letting you know about a fab competition that allows the little ones to use their brilliant imaginations to create their own pizza that if selected could end up on Pizza Express’s very own Piccolo menu.

    All you need to do is head over to the Pizza Express Site and select four toppings from a choice of 20 for your very own pizza and then give your creation a super special name to make it stand out from the crowd!

    I know that my little ones would be over the moon to be able to visit any of their restaurants and order their very own creation.

    The competition is open until Monday 17th June 19 and is open to all children up to the age of 13.

    Once the children had finished their pizzas they were popped into the oven to cook whilst they took part in a game of pin the moustache on the waiter which proved to be very popular.

    With the smell of pizza in their air everyone got scrubbed up and ready to eat. The meal obviously started with their infamous dough balls, followed closely by their very own pizzas.

    For me Pizza Express is the only restaurant we visit that Frankie and his allergies are completely catered for. He doesn’t have to put up with a completely separate/bland menu but instead he can indulge in exactly the same food that the rest of his family and friends enjoy without any worry. From the soft and squashy dough balls to pretty much any pizza he fancies and to finish it’s not just a bowl of fruit or a boring lolly; he can have a ice cream…well sorbet that he never notices the difference with and even a gooey chocolate brownie!

    It’s has been one of our top restaurants for family dining for a while now and after our pizza making extravaganza it will remain there for a long time to come I’m sure.

    Our April…

    As expected I have already fallen behind with this series and am writing up ‘our April’ at the end of May! At least it’s easier to catch up then last years series where I committed to a post a week.

    Anyway it’s actually been really lovely looking back and here are a few of the things we got up to.

    I kicked off the month at an event set in a tree house in the middle of Shoreditch…yes you heard that right; with Cetraben who have released a new oatmeal based cream that is set to rival their already brilliant creams that are perfect for problematic skin.

    It was lovely to catch up with Nadia Sawalha who I had worked with on a campaign last year. She really is a lovely as she comes across on TV.

    From here I went onto getting a new hairdo with the lovely Frankie from Blown Away London they I have written all about ‘here’.

    It must have been a big boom in babies at this time of year as we have been inundated with kids parties from the teens right down to the little ones.

    It was a special time for Frankie who took part in his first Thai Boxing tournament. I think the nerves were running higher in me than him and after he had competed and I took my heart back out of my mouth I realised how proud I was of his grit and determination. He is certainly walking in his Father’s footsteps.

    A while ago now a meet a lovely lady called Charlotte who runs an agency called Blooming Mummas. Her love and passion for what she does shines through every time we speak and I have been lucky enough to attend a whole host of events through her.

    During the Easter holidays she set up and event at Yo Sushi that brought together a whole range of different, inspiring and wonderful women and their little ones and it made for a fantastic afternoon.

    The boys were as hyper as ever when we made our way to the London Transport Museum for a day with Greg Rutherford and the Lego City Hero Academy talking about how to encourage our little ones ‘hero gene’ and of course play with a whole heap of Lego!

    It was a pretty event filled Easter holiday and one that really stood out for me was the Easter Egg Hunt. We were invited into the store before opening to take part in an egg hunt that ended in a supermarket sweet style run around the sweet emporium! It was certainly something dreams are made of!

    We are still in the process of getting our house complete and as I’m sure everyone knows it can be a costly process so I try to save as much as I can and I find the bargain corner at IKEA brilliant for this. I picked up a beautiful lamp and gorgeous rug for under my dining table which I have since found out looks better on Pinterest as the practicalities of a rug, food and children isn’t really a good combination.

    The last two events of the holiday involved a trip to Sony HQ to take a look at the new episodes of the Cookie Monster’s Food Truck that was a barrel of laughs and a trip to London Zoo for the launch of George at ASDA summer range which we all loved.

    Just as we were ready to set off for a few days of fun in Chichester for the Bank Holiday weekend we ended up with an overnight stay courtesy of the NHS with a poorly Frankie. He had been suffering with terrible headaches and after a few tests we still didn’t get to the bottom of it but he was fit and well to get on with his holiday.

    We certainly didn’t get the weather we were hoping for but we had a few days filled with beach trips and ice cream which is the perfect combination in my eyes.

    Date nights are few and far between in our house and I was so happy to be able to get to spend a little adult time with Darren when we went along to see Hall and Oates at Wembley. A night of 80’s cheese is just what I needed.

    I ended my month on a high with a treatment at the new Re Nu salon in Banstead which I will be telling you all about very soon.

    Turning 13 With A Bang At Project B

    [AD] It wasn’t until this year I realised that 13th birthdays were such a big thing now. I happily breezed through this age with the other two having a simple day out…however it seemed this wasn’t going to be the case with Izzy!

    Every weekend has been filled with ferrying her back and fourth to different parties and the planning started for her own months and months before the actual big day.

    The brief for me was that she wanted somewhere ‘cool’. This is a dangerously brief description when it come to teenagers as it has the ability to go terribly wrong!

    I took a look through the internet and with the help of Google I came across Project B in Croydon which looked like it would fit the bill perfectly.

    I went along to meet one of the owners who was warm, welcoming and more than happy to cater for a room full of hyper teens!

    They have home a huge variety of different events and parties and really want to make your event work as well as it can. I mean with hours fun I g all through the day until 4am they really do cover a whole host of angles.

    The venue is split into two floors of which you can hire both or separately. We opted for the upper floor that has a huge open space, cosy sofas and tables, an area to home a DJ or bring along your own music and and an amazingly Instagramable wall which was a big selling point for me.

    As well as the main room there is a smaller bar area to the side which would be perfect for adult parties and worked wonderfully for us as it gave the children their own space without us being to far away.

    Izzy didn’t want a particular theme so we just went for lots of props to use while they were taking photos, a sweet table which went down a treat and as she didn’t want a birthday cake a popped some bottle sparked onto nonalcoholic fizz that went down a treat with a room full of screaming teens.

    To be honest the decor is super cool and quirky so it all really speaks for itself and is a world away from having to try and make a dingy hall something special.

    A few parents were a little apprehensive about the party being in the centre of Croydon but I can honestly say that the set up made it perfectly safe and there was no way they could venture out and do their own thing, and to be honest they didn’t even feel the need to as they were all to busy dancing the night away!

    Project B made Izzy’s 13th one to remember and if you are looking for a children’s party then I highly recommend you get in touch as it was the perfect venue for us and could be for you too.

    Making A Place At The Table For Everyone With Notty Reclaimed

    [AD] My husband and I disagree on just about everything from where we want to eat to the clothing each other wear, and these disagreements are always magnified when it come to choosing items for the home.

    I love something a little alternative while he always favours something a little more classic. Nine times out of ten I always win, but when it came to choosing our dining table we amazingly agreed on the first one we set eyes on.

    After scrolling through Instagram simply for inspiration I came across a gorgeous feed called Notty Reclaimed. Just by luck they were a local company that produced amazing furniture from reclaimed wood.

    It was one of their dining tables with benches that really caught our eye and after chatting I knew that the warmth and love they showed for their products was going to make for an amazing piece for our home.

    Having a large family and more often then not a few extra visitors at dinner times we needed something that was going to seat a lot of people comfortably and this was the main reason we opted for benches as this way we could fit plenty of little bottoms round the table at one time.

    Both the table and benches were made from gorgeous reclaimed scaffold boards that were homed on chunky metal bases.

    The whole experience from ordering through to delivery was absolutely faultless and it felt great to be able to get something that was using reclaimed materials and from a local small business who have invested so much time and effort into everything they do.

    They offer much more than just dining tables and will go above and beyond to make sure your own personal needs are met.

    This really is a focal point for our dining room now and many great memories have been created around it. We can’t thank Notty Reclaimed enough and I urge you all to take a look as I know there will be some that everyone will love. If you do please feel free to use my discount code JOYOFFIVE10 to receive 10%discount on any dining set.

    Getting The Kids Out And About With Micro Scooters

    [AD] It is always a worry for me that the children don’t spend to much time indoors stuck to screens instead of getting outside and enjoying some good old fresh air and exercise.

    I try my hardest to squeeze as much outdoor time into our days as we can and a great way to do this is through scooting.

    All of my children have loved being able to hop on a scooter and pop to the shop, grab it from the boot and scoot to school or make a day of it at the skate park.

    Over the years we have tried a large variety of scooters but have always favoured the three wheeled Micro Scooters for whole hosts of reasons; but the biggest pull was their amazing steering system that allows the scooter the turn the way the child leans into the turn. This saved so many falls that we had with other first scooters and allowed them to build confidence at a much quicker rate.

    Now the boys are growing their need for a bigger, two wheeled style scooter was coming and Micro Scooters were not someone I would have thought about for this age range. So when we were asked to try some out I was pleasantly surprised what Micro Scooters has to offer.

    For Oscar who is just five I wanted something a little sturdier to offer the transition to a two wheeler less daunting so the Micro Scooter Cruiser seemed to be the perfect option.

    The Cruiser offers a wide foot plate, large wheels and bicycle style handle bars for a sturdy ride. This is brilliant for them to gain confidence and I really feel in love with the retro style so it was a win from all parties.

    Oscar has loved nipping to the shops with me and when he has had enough as with all Micro Scooters it is super easy to fold up and carry.

    Frankie wanted a little more than just a straight ride from a scooter so for him we opted for the Stunt Scooter. His older brother was a fan of scooting for many years and in fact competed so I think as he gets older this is something he wanted to try out for himself.

    This scooter has been perfect for him to try out all kinds of jumps, spins and tricks due to its streamline and lightweight nature. The handlebars are also positioned higher than a traditional scooter allowing ease of movement.

    As well as being perfect for the skate park this scooter has also been great for the trips into town and playing in the garden with his brother.

    As well as the scooter themselves Micro Scooters offer a whole host of safety equipment and accessories to make you scoot safe as well as fun!

    Micro Scooters always have been the first choice for me and since trying out these different styles I have fallen in love with them even more.

    The attention to detail and really knowing what both kids and parents want shines through with every step of choosing, ordering and using the scooter.

    What style do you think you would opt for, for your little ones?