Over the years Halloween in the UK has got bigger and better than ever, and I am most certainly here for it! Decorating the house, ‘trick or treating’ and probably my favourite activity of them all – pumpkin picking.
We normally have to head a little further afield for this, so I was over the moon when we were asked to visit Picking Patch’s new site in Warlingham, Surrey.
As we arrived in the field we were greeted with a sky full of orange flags wavering in the breeze, lines of wheelbarrows all smartly stacked and ready for use and a band of happy helpers that were there to let you know exactly what was going on and the best way to plan your day. The pumpkin patch is completely free to enter and once you have selected your favourites – they have an impressive twenty varieties to choose from! you can the head to the pricing boxes to see what you need to pay and finally finish things up at the till.
The boys loved being able to push the wheelbarrow through the fields and spent a good while selecting their favourites.
The fun didn’t stop there for us as we were booked onto the Halloween Maize Maze. We followed the story of the Feather Family, joined them for a selfie or two, sat down for a spooky dinner, left our spells on the haunted tree and whiled our way through the apothecary only getting lost once!
We ended the day with a bite to eat. There is a van serving hot food and drinks and an ice cream van if you are looking for a sweet treat.
We had an amazing morning and if you fancy seeing a little more then head over to Instagram or book your places HERE.
Anyone that follows me will know that we are huge fans of Mama Shelter. It is the perfect destination for families and we can’t wait to celebrate Halloween there this year!
On the 29th October from 11.30am – 3pm the hotel will be bringing a taste of Mexico to East London with their Dia De Los Muertos – Halloween Family Brunch.
Alongside a gorgeous brunch menu – which I can most definitely vouch for! There will be a whole host of fun from face painting to magic tricks, football tournaments to arcade games, karaoke and much more!
When you book this fun and interactive family brunch you get to enter our competition. On the day, share your Instagram stories and posts of enjoyment, tag us @thejoyoffive and @mamashelterlondon and you will enter the prize drawer to win a Family Stay at Mama.
T+C: The winner will be selected on Monday 31stOctober and the Family Stay includes a nights stay’ with two bedrooms (one for the parents and one for the kids) with complimentary breakfast. The stay will be valid to be booked to stay during the month of January 2023.
Spooky season is upon us so I have compiled a list of our favourite places to visit at this time of year. I would love to know if you have anymore to add to the list!
Secretts Of Milford: 2nd Oct – 29th Oct This has been a favourite of ours for years now. There is of course pumpkin picking, a spooky trail and the best pumpkin cake I’ve ever tried!
Chessington World Of Adventures: 15th Oct – 30th Oct Howl ‘O’ Ween is always a great day/or night out. All the fun of the theme park plus lots of scary extras. We love being able to take to the rides in the dark!
Godstone Farm: 22nd Oct – 30th Oct They have so much on offer this year from wand making, meeting Griswalda the witch, a spooky trail and lots more!
Picking Patch: 8th Oct – 30th Oct Now this is a new one to us this year so keep an eye out for what we get up to!
Hever Castle: This is another one we never miss! This year they have another fantastic trail, some gouly ghost stories and even the chance to plant some garlic to keep the vampires away!
Hobbledown: 26th Oct – 3rd Nov Meeting creepy crawlies, mystery boxes, puppet shows, ghostly tales, crafts, pumpkin bowling and sooo much more!
September is Vascular Disease Awareness Month. Organised by UK charity The Circulation Foundation, the aim of the annual event is to raise the profile of a family of diseases that remain little understood and often overlooked by the public at large.
In truth, even medical science hasn’t fully got to grips with vascular disease yet. Our blood systems – the network of veins and arteries that carry blood to and from the heart around our body – are incredibly large and complex. There are 27 different known conditions and diseases that affect what medics call the vascular system. The causes of many are still not fully understood.
What we do know, however, is that vascular disease can have a debilitating impact on sufferers. It can cause chronic pain, reduced mobility, physical disability and mental impairment. It is also incredibly common. In the UK, one in six people will have a stroke, one of the most prevalent forms of vascular disease, in their lifetime. It’s also one of the most common killers.
A lot of people will also have some understanding that vascular disease is associated with heightened risks while travelling, especially if you fly. The most famous example is Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), which causes potentially painful clots in the veins and can be triggered by the changes in pressure the body experiences when flying at altitude. DVT can be life threatening if the clot becomes detached and starts to travel through the body.
DVT is a risk factor of other common vascular diseases such as peripheral artery disease (PAD) and carotid artery disease. PAD, for example, is a condition which sees the arteries in the limbs narrow due to the buildup of plaque and fatty deposits. This narrowing increases the risk of clots forming. It also causes painful cramping, weakness in the limbs and changes in the appearance of the skin, including sores developing.
Whether you are living with PAD, you have recently had a stroke or have been diagnosed with any other vascular condition, it’s worth knowing the risk factors associated with travel and what you can do to look after yourself. Here’s what you need to know.
Talk To Your Doctor –
Most vascular conditions shouldn’t prevent you from flying. But if you have had a recent bad episode or have seen your symptoms get worse, you should take your doctor’s advice on whether travel is a good idea or not.
If you have had a stroke in the past few months, for example, you could be putting yourself at risk of a relapse. It isn’t just the changes in air pressure when flying that could affect your health. Travel can be stressful, with potentially long queues at airports and cramped conditions on board vehicles.
Take Precautions –
Your doctor is also best placed to advise you on how you can travel as safely and as comfortably as possible. Again, this will depend both on the particular condition you suffer from and on your current state of health. But there are some general points that are well worth knowing.
One is that sitting stationary for long periods is often as much of a risk with vascular disease as the fabled changes in air pressure inside an aeroplane cabin. On long haul flights especially, all passengers, not just those diagnosed with a vascular condition, are advised to get up and stretch their legs by walking up and down the aisle from time to time. It’s important to get your circulation moving, even if your condition does cause you mobility issues.
On that front, it’s highly advisable to get in touch with your airline before you fly to explain your condition and request any assistance that might be appropriate. This could range from getting mobility support and priority access through the airport, to getting a seat on board where you are able to elevate your legs (a good way to guard against clotting for PAD patients).
Get The Right Travel Insurance –
Finally, it’s essential that you declare your vascular condition to your travel insurance provider. Like any pre-existing medical condition, vascular disease will alter how a travel insurance company views you in terms of risk. You are more likely to need medical assistance when you travel, therefore you are more likely to make a claim against your insurance. They will charge you a higher premium accordingly.
However, the inflated premiums many insurers charge for people with long-term medical conditions seemed designed to purposely put them off buying, they are that high. What you want is a dedicated policy for your specific condition offered by a specialist provider. Travel insurance for pre-existing conditions need not be prohibitively expensive, but should take into account your individual circumstances and current state of health. It should also offer cover for specialist treatments related to your condition, should you need them,
Don’t be tempted to hide your vascular condition from an insurer to get a cheaper deal. If you end up sick and need to make a claim, your insurer will investigate your medical history and declare your policy void for non-disclosure when they find out the truth.
[AD] The kids are back at school now which means most people who have young children will now have a calendar full of weekend parties.!And dare I say it – Christmas will be upon us before we know it – which means finding presentsfor a whole variety of different tastes!
Wether you are buying for your own, or for other peoples children it can be an absolute minefield. Nobody wants to buy something that is going to be looked at once and then tossed to the side, and although I hold my hand up to this one – we all like to think a little more thought than some money in a card has gone into the gift buying process.
So with this in mind, here are a few tips to think about before you get buying:
Just Ask – A pretty simple solution here in theory is to just ask! Kids aren’t usually backwards in coming forwards so ask some leading questions, find out what interests they have or even have a look around for a list they may have been scribbling down somewhere.
Check With The Parents – A quick chat with the child’s parents is always a good idea. It might be to see if they have any ideas, maybe they can give you some tips on the things they might like, or simply just to check to see if you have an idea that you think would be good to go with.
Check Out The Top Sellers – Each and every year there will be a list of toys compiled that are set to be the best sellers for the year. There is bound to be something there to suit most tastes so it’s always a great place to start.
Something To Last – For me buying a present that is going to have a long life span is super important. A toy that can be enjoyed for years to come by lots of different children is always a winner in my books.
Something To Help Them Learn – Kids learn though play, so something that is going to spark their imagination and get their creative juices flowing will always be a winner.
Something That Can Be Shared – Now I’m not suggesting here that you but a child a ‘shared’ present, I am thinking thinking more along the lines of a gift that can be played with, with others. This then helps to get children used to sharing and in turn making it a more fun present.
Let Someone Else Do The Work – There are some amazing sites out there that take the hard work out of it for you. Wicked Uncle has everything set up into categories so that it is easy to find something special and a little different too!
Saftey First – As much as possible, choose non-plastic toys made of sustainable materials, free of BPAs, phthalates, PVC or toxic chemicals and dyes. I know this can sometime be a tricky one, but it’s definitely a good move if you can.
Gift An Experience – This always has an always will be my favourite gift. Giving someone the opportunity to create memories is a priceless present to me.
Buy A Book – If all else fails then go for a book. Children can never have to many books and it’s always a fail safe option.
I would love to know if you have any tips on present buying?
[AD] Wether you are planning on renovations to improve your forever home or looking to make improvements to sell your property it can be tricky to know where to start and where the best places to spend your money are. We are always looking at ways to improve our home and here are my top five areas that I think you gain most from when it comes to making change:
Kitchen And Bathroom – These are undoubtedly the most used rooms in the home and unfortunately the places that date the most. They are rooms that can have a hefy price tag, but it is definitely worth spending money in these areas. To keep the budget down choose a simple, timeless designs that can be changed easily with a splash of colour to the walls or adding accessories so it can be changed over the years to move with the times without having to replace large pieces such as the bath and tiles.
Make More Room – More space is something I dont think anyone would say no to. An extra bedroom to give the chidren more freedom, an office so you have somewhere to work independently from your living space, an extention to the kitchen which allows room for entertainment – the list could go on. I know with having a large family having enough room to have our own space is very important to us all…especially the teens! Adding an extra room on your home not only adds space to live in, but also money to your home.
New Windows – Windows are one of the most important features to any home. They keep your house warm and keep the noise out. Replacement aluminium windows will give you a house free from draughts which will save a fortune in lost energy over the years, making them one of the best investments you could make.
Eco Friendly – I think the majority of us are trying to move to a more eco friendly way of life with things like reducing the use of single use plastic, using refillable bottles and recycling more. These changes can be made in the home in lots of different ways too. Smart thermostats and energy efficient appliances are simple changes that can make a huge difference.
Get Green Fingered – Making the outside of your home an extention of the inside with a well planned out garden that can be used throught the year and not just the summer is a great way to make the most of every aspect of your home. Covered sections and dining areas mean that your garden really can be an extension of your home. Making the most of the front garden will also make for a welcoming entrance…this is definitely something I need to do some work on.
Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but the hustle and bustle, packed scedules and lack of time can take a toll on us all and the need to switch off from it all can be much needed.
Its not just the adults that need to take a break. I am definitly guily of trying to put too much on the kids at Christmas. I want these few short weeks a year to be crammed with as much magic as possible, but in reality it can all be a bit too much and they need something that give them a more chiiled day out – and this is were I was hoping the ‘Calmer Christmas Experince from Calmer Bananas would be perfect.
On Sunday morning we headed to Buckland Park Lake, Reigate to take part in this event. We parked up on the edge of the lake which was a stuiing sight to see and so surrene – however the boys were a little worried I was going to get them to join in with the wild swimmers!
We headed towards the gingerbread house where we were greeted by a super friendly elf that told us all about what our morning was going to hold. Buckets and scavenger hunt sheets in hand we headed off on our scavenger hunt to find all the pieces we needed to build our own snowman. In my head I had imagined a much lower key hunt, with us literally finding bits and pieces in the wooldna, so I was thrilled to discover a huge trail filled with activites, questions to answer and lots of little elves scattered aroynd to make it a really thetrical dispaly.
At each stop thier was something to keep the boys brains ticking over and thet loved the challange of having to complete a task to gain a piece towards their snowman.
After walking through the beautiful woodland we troated across a liitle bridge over a stream to play a few games of Pooh Sticks and made our final journey toward a pretty shleter nestled betwwen the trres. The numbers are kept low and we didnt bump into anyone the whole way round which made it even more speical and you didnt have the anxiety of having to rush trough tasks to let ohter people in for thier turn.
As a big fan of outdoor fun I actually think I was more excited at the sight of the shelter than the children. I was beatifuult decorated and homed an open fire where we sat down with a hot choclate after building our snowman.
Hot chocolate in hand and toes nicely warming up there was even more fun to come. We each had a gingerbread man to decorate and the boys made thier own christmas decorations. Whislt all these activites were being completed Mother Claus read the children christams stoires and sang a few songs to really get us in the christmas soirit.
There is also an option to have lunch whilst you are there and i was amamzed at the quality of the snack boxes. The boys has christmas tree shapped sandwithes, a candy cane cheese straw and a super cute reinderr brownie. so much thought had gone into it and they gave a big thumbs up for the taste test!
The adult boxes were just as good, and I enjoyed a festive treat with a turkey and cranberry sandwich, homemade sausage roll and a gooey chococlte brownie.
The whole experince was as relazing as i had hoped for. The boys are extremlly boysterous and can sometimes get more than a little over excited, but being ocupied the whole time gave them a mental workout, alonf with a good walk trough the woods, allowing them to really kick back and enjoy the peace and quiet of the calm actitives in the twnt.
This experience far excided my expectations and I would defintly put it top of our activites this year. It was someting differnt ans we will definlty be retrning next year!
Over the years I have tried more and more to shop from independent stores for a whole host of reasons.
One being I know from experience how hard it is to run your own buisness, and how much blood, sweat and tears goes into making it a success. Because of this you always get that personal touch when shopping small and I know that each and every sale that is made will be appreciated.
I have compiled a gift guide this year showcasing a few of my favourite gifts from my favourite independents.
Something For The Kids – I always try to limit the amount of plastic contraptions that go on the kids Christmas lists and steer them towards things that are going to last longer and mean more…this doesn’t always work, but I definitely give them lots of alternative ideas to the ones that they see on screen.
Kind Words – I love anything that inspires children and encourages them to think about their day to day actions. Curious Child have a gorgeous range of fun, colourful clothing that they will love just as much as you!
Colour Popping – For anyone who follows me regularly, you will know how much I love colouful clothing for the kids – and this is exactly what you get with We Love Frugi. They have a huge range of colourful, organic clothing and accessories from babies to adults. This super snuggle fleece and bobble hat would make a wonderful christmas gift.
Scrub Up – Bathtime gifts aren’t just for adults. I know that mine all absolutely love gifts that can be used in the bathroom. Childs Farm have everything covered, from this beautiful washbag full of body wash and bubble bath, a money box full of goodies and this super cute cracker for the tiny ones in your life.
All of their products are dermatologist and paediatrician approved, which makes them sutiable for even the most sensitive of skin.
Something Personal – Frankie suffers terribly with anxiety, with a large part of this attached to separation . When I came across these hoodies from Olive & Pip I couldn’t think of anything more perfect for him. Each super soft hoodie has a secret message printed on the inside cuff that is hand written by you. I think it will be a comforting reminder that there is always a little part of me with him when he is wearing it.
Olive & Pip don’t just stop there, they have a huge range of gifts from clothing to picture frames, prints to hampers and lots more so be sure to check them out.
Subscription Boxes – A gift they keeps giving in the form of a monthly subscription is always a lovely gift, and I think you are going to like this one.
Cover Those Toes – Socks are always a good idea at Christmas and what makes this Socks In A Box gift even better is that each month you get a box of of one or two pairs of beautiful bamboo socks through the door every month. They are lots of different options to choose from, including one off gift boxes.
Something Pretty – Christmas is definitely a time for jewellery and I have a couple of beautiful pieces here you might like to take a look at.
Snowflake Loveliness – Snowflakes and Christmas go hand in hand and this beautiful enamel snowflake pendent from I Am Rachel Shop would make a stunning present. This handmade pendent comes in white or mint green and hang from a sterling silver chain. Rachel also has a gorgeous range of other pieces that are definitely worth checking out!
Personalised Jewels – If you are looking for delicate, beautiful, personalised jewellery then Bloom Boutique is the place to go. They have stunning pieces such as this secret message birthstone necklace and bracelet. That are gorgeous on their own, but made that little more special with the personalisation.
Something Smelly – Who doesn’t love a scented gift at this time of year! I for one have always loved to fill the house with christmas smells and these wax melt hampers from Scentsational Candle Co give you a whole range of different Christmas scents – the hardest thing is to pick which one I like best!
In The Kitchen – I love gifts for the kitchen as I spend so much time in there and here are a few pieces that have really caught my eye.
Eco Friendly Kitchen – Sustainability is at the forefront of most peoples minds these days and I have been trying to move away from plastic food covering and EdiBee have got the perfect solution to this. They have a stunning range of sandwich bags, snack packs and bowl coverings in a range of different sizes and designs.
They have even done a Christmas Gluhwein mix in a reusable snackpocket that brings you that delicious smell of Christmas the moment you open them.
On The Go – Last but by no means least is this gorgeous flask, designed by my very own Oscar! Dinky Artist has a massive range of different items that can be personalised with your little ones creations. Oscar went with Santa as he said we love hot chocolate at Christmas and this could go in our thermal flask.
I really am in love with how well made and thoughtful these pieces are and I think they would make for a wonderful Christmas gift.
[AD] While international travel is once more a possibility, the lingering spectre of Covid adds extra layers of risk and expense that may mean it remains unattractive for some. That means lots of families are still looking at staycations in 2021 and even into 2022. Today we’re here to convince you that your next family trip – whether it’s a day out or a full blown holiday – should be in Manchester!
Manchester has a rich history to discover from its settlement by Roman invaders of Britain as Mamucium to its rapid expansion and economic dominance during the industrial revolution and into the Victorian age. Unfortunately that same rapid growth and success obliterated the ruins of the Roman fort that had stood outside the city for the previous thousand years. If you’ve got history buffs in your family, they might enjoy a visit to a reconstruction of the original city walls, gatehouse and other buildings in Castlefield Urban Heritage Park.
If you’re interested (or want to get your family interested) in the history and heritage of the city, then you might want to try a Manchester treasure hunt, and race through the streets of the city, learning about its buildings, inhabitants and famous happenings to solve the clues and find the answers you’re searching for.
After you’ve built up an appetite exploring, you’re going to need to eat and Manchester offers some world class restaurants.
Mana is the only Michelin starred restaurant in the city and well worth checking out if you’re interested in fine dining. It’s rigorously contemporary restaurant using the very best ingredients from right across the British Isles – and by no means the most obvious ones. Have you ever tried Reindeer Moss from the Isle of Sky?
Kids might enjoy the Cafe Football – the sport soaked casual restaurant overlooking Old Trafford. Specials include the Nicky Butty and the Mara Doner – it’s a must for the hungry football fan.
For many people, Manchester is followed automatically by the word United – and for others of course, by City. Fortunately both groups of fans (be they die hard followers or casual supporters from afar) are catered for in the city, with tours of the teams’ respective stadiums and fullmuseums dedicated to their history. Even non-sports fans will find a lot to reward them, if only in the sheer scale of the enterprise and the clear passion of players and supporters down the years.
Although we are Londoners, being South of the river means going into central London is still always an exciting experience. The hustle and bustle, the towering buildings, the eclectic diversity of everyone there is always food for my sole and something I will never tire of – and it’s something I encourge my children to enjoy too.
What is even better than a day trip is an over night stay, and we were lucky enough to experience a night at Andaz London Liverpool Street. Andaz London Liverpool Street is a short walk from London Bridge station and a stones throw from the Shoreditch District, which is certainly one of my favourite parts of London.
Andaz London dates back to 1884 and was formally known as The Great Eastern. My Dad who is a born and breed East Ender, remembers the hotel from his childhood, and I’m glad to stay the original features have been mixed perfectly with a modern twist, giving it that feel wow factor.
Upon arrival a glass of very welcomed glass of Prosecco was placed in my hand after a slightly fraught journey with two over excited boys! We checked in with ease and made our made upstairs to check out our room. We had an interconecting room which allowed for plenty of space to chill out, infact the rooms were some of the most spacious I have stayed in. The soft, cosy beds were super inviting and the simplistic decor made for a very calming atmosphere.
The little notes back to the hotel’s East London roots with art from a local tattoo artist were the perefct touch, and the boys were even left some tattoos to try on themselves!
The black and white, clean lines of the bathrooms were beautiful and complemented the rest of the room perfectly.
We wanted for nothing inside the room as there was a fully stocked mini bar…much to the boys delight, tea and coffee facilities and of course robes and slippers that we slipped into as soon as we settled in.
The boys unloaded their toys and I sat back and relaxed until it was time to head down to dinner.
Every evening there are complimentary drinks in the lounge between 6 – 8pm. I was a little hesitant about going along with the boys, but they thoroughly enjoyed listening to the music and taking in the atmosphere.
Our room was located directly next to Liverpool Street Station and I was worried about the noise, but we didn’t hear a peep from outside and we all slept really well. The 12oclock check out allowed us to have a lay in and enjoy our room before heading down to breakfast.
Breakfast while we are away is always a highlight for the kids, and if it is a buffet style they are even happier. So their eyes lit up when the saw the plethora of food on offer. There was everything from cereals and fruit, continental style treats to a full english or there was the option to order from the menu with favourites such as pancakes and eggs Benedict – we really were spolit for choice!
Sometimes I find you are ushered out as there is a big turnover of people, but the kids were uncharacteristically relaxed and we sat for a good while, enjoying the delicious food and each others company.
Andaz London is perfect if you want a centeral location, a touch of luxury and good food with a quirky twist. A family friendly hotel with all the little touches to make it a great stay for the adults too!