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 Thirty

This week on ‘celebrating the small things’ this week as me thinking back on lavender field photoshoots, special allergy treats and Pimms in the sun.

Lavender Field Photoshoot – For someone who at the begining of the year always shied away from the camera terribly, I feel that although I’m certainly not confident in front of the camera but have started to fear it a lot less!

I had been chatting to the lovely Rachel Thornhill for a while now and whence asked me if I would like a photoshoot in the beautiful Mayfield Lavender fields I jumped at the chance.

Not only did I get some fabulous images of the day but I got to meet the lady inside my phone and was pleasantly surprised that she was as lovely as I had invisidged.

Treats For My Allergy Boy – Life with Frankie’s allergies can be a real mental challenge sometimes as the ability to give him what he wants is completely taken out of my hands and the ‘mum guilt’ is immense!

Recently we were out to eat pretty late and the selection of food was pretty limited. The others were all grabbing tasty treat whilst Frankie looked on. After nearly exhausting every option we stumbled across a place that served fries covered in vegan cheese. His face lit up and my heart my full over something so simple.

It’s Pimms O’Clock – This is probably one of the silliest small things I’ve written about but I can honestly say that being out in the sunshine, watching the kids play and having a Pimms in my hand is certainly one of my guilty pleasures…it also helps when the playful children start to argue!

Camp Bestival 2018 Highlights

All I can really say about Camp Bestival this year is, “you’ve done it again”.

Despite being battered by 50mph winds and torrential downpours Camp Bestival still managed to keep shinning and gave everyone a weekend to remember.

I’m not going to give you a blow by blow account of the whole weekend, as to be honest there is way to much to cram into one post, so instead I will give you the highlights of my amazing weekend and will have more posts to follow.

Food Glorious Food – When we first visited Camp Bestival three years ago now one of the biggest surprises for me was how amazing and varied the food on offer there is.

The moment we leave the car Izzy is on a mission to have her first Nutella and cream cover waffle whilst Darren finds it hard to move away from the Paella UK stall the entire weekend.

I however like to try something new each time we visit and for me it was DJ BBQ that tempted me this year with his woody flavoured pulled pork, crispy rustic chips and of course the fab tunes blasting out whilst waiting for your order. You really do get a feast for all your senses when you eat there.

Absolutely every taste is catered for from delicious maki rolls that are perfect for vegan diets, crispy breaded chicken, amazingly creamy mac ‘n’ cheese, corn on the cobs as big as your head and so much more!

Music, Singing, Dancing – One of the main attractions at Camp Bestival is the music and in the past the boys were a little young for us to really appreciate it due to the fact they got a little restless. This year however they fully embraced it all and we couldn’t be happier.

It as actually my youngest that made my weekend when we when to see YouTube star HRVY take to the stage in the big top. Izzy had left us all and weaved her way to the very front of the stage to get as close to her teenage crush as possible, while Oscar waited patiently on Darren’s shoulders for him to take to the stage.

His little face lit up and he spent the entire set transfixed on the stage, singing along to his favourite tunes. It so amazing that children so young can get the opportunity to enjoy the wonder of live music in such a safe and friendly atmosphere.

Sarah Cox wowed the crowds with an outstanding set of all our 80’s favourites that we took great pleasure in dancing along to whilst embarrassing the kids. Basement Jaxx and Clean Bandit were as awesome as I expected and we were thrilled that the boys managed to stay awake long enough for the later acts this year…with the help of a little sugar!

Doing It For The Kids – Ultimately Camp Bestival is all about the kids and this year as always there was something for them to do around every corner. This year we didn’t watch so much on the main stage although Dinosaur World Live was pretty amazing. Instead we spend a lot of time in the Kids Garden where the children got their craft on in the craft tent, turned into little einsteins in the Science Tent, wurled around on the helter skelter more times than I can remember, dug away in the sandpit and created some brilliant sandcastles.

A big hit with us was the LOL Surprise stand that was a real crowd pleaser. Izzy and the boys are all big fans of these little collectables and as you can imagine a whole area dedicated to them went down really well. They got to hunt for prizes in the ball pit, get a glittery makeover and even take to the catwalk that Izzy relished in.

All Mucking In – Camping is bundles of fun but far from easy, especially when there are a few little ones to sort out. This calls for everyone to have their own little tasks which is something they don’t really get involved with at home. I’m actually my own worst enemy and take care of all the cooking and cleaning at home for a quiet life so I love that Camp Bestival allows me to relax a little and hand the meal prep baton over to Darren, the washing up and water runs to Izzy and the tent cleaning to the little ones.
A bit of responsibility is certainly good for them and something I love to see.

Good Friends – Over the past few years Camp Bestival has been a brilliant place to make new and meet up with good friends. The blogging world is a funny one with a lot of friendships being built online and I love that Camp Bestival gives me the opportinity to meet with them at least once a year and have a good catch up over a cocktail or two! Aby from You Baby Me Mummy and Caro from The Twinkle Diaries being two of the lovelies I can’t wait to see each year.

Back To Basics – Every year I say the same thing but it always has and probably always will be the most import thing about Camp Bestival for me – family time.
We all spend way to much of our live lost in our own little words and rushing around worry about the next thing, tied to our smart phones and computer screens and forget about the things in life that are really import.
The ability to really get back to basics and forget about everything else for a few days is the perfect way to draw closer as a family and just enjoy each other.

If this sounds like the kind of place for you, and lets face it why wouldnt it! take a look HERE and get yourselves booked in for more fun next year.

*I went along as an ambassador for Camp Bestival and here are all my own honest opinions.

A Rainy Day At Chessington World Of Adventures

I’m sure you are all going to think I have completely lost my mind when I say this, but I absolutely love visiting Chessington World Of Adventures on a rainy day! Don’t get me wrong torrential rain and thunderstorms might make me think twice but a bit of rain never hurt anyone!

In fact for me I find there are a whole heap of benefits to visiting on a rainy day. I mean there are a fair few water rides in the park anyway so why not just embrace it as once you’re wet you’re wet!

We arrived on Friday and within minutes the heavens opened and we took shelter in the Smokehouse BBQ which was a great way to fill our bellies before we started the day.

They offer a great range of BBQ style food such as pulled pork, chicken and hot dogs served with crunchy chips, sweet potato fries and the best creamed sweetcorn I’ve tasted.

Full up and ready to face the showers we made our way to our first ride of the day which is always the Gruffalo River Ride, a favourite of the boys as well as mine. With the majority of the queuing done undercover and the ride itself inside we stayed pretty dry.

From here we moved onto the the Scorpion Express that my little adrenaline junkies love and I have to say speeding around the track whilst getting a face full of rain just added to the excitement.

Zufari was next on the list and I thought the animals might have been talking shelter so we were more than happy to see the giraffes and rhinos up close to the jeep in all their majestic glory.

Due to everyone being scared off by the weather the queue times were incredibly short for the summer holidays and we managed to get on all of our favourite rides within a few hours which allowed me some time to put my feet up in the cafe while the kids dried off in the Dragon’s Playhouse soft play area.

I feel like I’ve let you into a precious secret here but if you are not scared of getting a little wet then the short queue time, space inside restaurants and the calmer pace of things are definitely a huge bonus.

‘I am a Chessington Blogger Ambassador, I was given a Chessington Annual Pass to do this review with my family and I was not paid to do this post. If anyone would like to confirm any details in the post, please email press.office@chessington.co.uk’

Celebrating The Small Things:Week Twenty Six

I am miles behind with these posts as I predicted I would be at the beginning of the year, but I’m going to try and play catch up with them as I’m very good at this and these posts are something I’ve really enjoyed and had great feed back about.

Coaxing The Teen From His Den – For those of you that follow my blog I’m sure that you will have noticed a bit of a gap when its comes to posting about my eldest son. This is not by choice or because he doesn’t want to be featured, it is purely because the lure of the Xbox is to great most of the time and quality moments are pretty rare.

However we had a pretty good run lately as he been taking part…and dare I say enjoying the Disney 24 Hour Challenge that we have been set.

The challenge in short is a way to encourage families to get active together in any kind of way you want. It has been a real breath of fresh air for us and we have thoroughly enjoyed spending time together in an active way and hope to keep it up even after the challenge has been completed.

Strawberry Picking – This is definitely one of my favourite simple pleasures in life and as soon as the sun shows his face I am eager to get out their and pick all those juicy strawberries.

It gives the children chance to run free and get to know a little more about where food comes from. It was always something I loved to do as a child and adore doing with my own.

Afternoon Naps – Oscar to me seemed to skip the toddler phase completely and moved straight onto a pre schooler. He has always been wise beyond his years, tackled toilet training at really young age, dressed independently for a long time and as for those longed for afternoon naps well they were given up at just over a year.

Although I love his fierce independence and grown up attitude I kind of feel robbed of those precious toddler years that seemed to skip by to quickly with him. So walking in on him curled up and fast asleep on my bed the other was a lovely reminder that he is still my little one that I have for a few more months yet.

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!

Capturing The Wonder Of Mayfield Lavender With Rachel Thornhill

For the past few years the Mayfield Lavender fields in Banstead have been my first glimpse that summer has arrived. The magnificent sea of purple that fills the landscape and the beautiful smell that engulfs the air is a sight to be seen and one that I never ever tire of.

Mayfield Lavender has really gone from strength to strength and not only does it offer you the chance to enjoy this natural wonder there is also the opportunity to enjoy a huge range of scrutipous food and drink from the cafe such as juicy hotdogs, delectable homemade cakes and even a lavender cream tea which is still on my wishlist to try.

The shop is also fully stocked with goodies from tolliteries to lavender flavour sweets and of course a change to take home some of your very own lavender.

My little ones love being able to just run free through the fields but if you want a little more adventure then hop onboard the tractor for a ride around the fields to get a completly different perspective.

I am always the one holding the camera on our trips which I absolutly love, but this year it was a little different as we went along to meet the lovely Rachel Thornhill who is an expert when it comes to photography…especially at Mayfield Lavender.

Rachel is in fact one of the photographers recommend by Brendan Maye – The owner of Mayfield lavender and the moment I meet her I could understand why.

Her friendly smile and calm, welcoming nature put us all at ease when we arrived and she chatted at length with the children about what our morning was going to entail and how to care for the fields and the nature living there during the shoot.

I am not a fan of posed images and much prefer a playful, natural style of picture and this is exactly what Rachel tries to create. Capturing the children at play or us all in deep conversation creates a much more natural image and one that tells a story allowing it to be a more memorable capture and something to treasure for years to come.

During our shoot that lasted a little over an hour we got the change to explore, play, chat and giggle and at no point did the children get bored or restless as Rachel worked her magic and kept them happy and engaged throughout, she even managed to keep shooting when Oscar bundled in for cuddles.

What really sets her apart from other photographers is that she creates bespoke museum quality wall art and framed prints personal to you and hand made by professional printers in both the UK and Italy that are designed to stand the test of time, and become a part of your family story. The products are not available to buy from anywhere other than professional photographers, so really quite special?

Mayfield Lavender is a truly magical place that is pretty hard to find in the UK. It is a place to make special memories to keep for a lifetime and with something like a photoshoot with Rachel these special moments can be captured and remembered for many years to come.

*collaborated post

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

Camp Bestival 2018 Family Ticket GIVEAWAY

With only a few short weeks left until the summer holidays begin I’m sure that a lot of you are already thinking about how to fill those long six weeks. We already have a few exciting things planned with one of them kicking off the holidays in the best way ever – Camp Bestival.

We are literally on countdown now as there is under five weeks to go and the line up is looking as incredible as ever!

Lulworth Castle will soon be turned into one of the most immense festivals you could wish to take your little ones too with entertainment from Mr Tumble, Dick and Dom, Mister Maker And The Shapes, Dinosaur World Live, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Gruesome Nature Live and bundles more!

If it is music you are looking for then you are in for a treat as taking to the stage this year are Simple Minds, Rick Astley, Clean Bandit, Orbital, Basement Jaxx, Shed Seven, Tokyo Myers, Declan McKenna, DJ Sara Cox taking things back to the 80,s and for the teens there is YouTube sensation, HRVY.

Something that always appeals to us as a family is the huge range of food on offer and this year seems to be just as good with traders such as River Cottage and the Feast Collective, DJ BBQ and his BBQ Zoo, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen and one I’m very much looking forward too – Rob and Josie’s Gin Festival.

There is a huge choice of accommodation to which may come as a surprise to many of you. Not only can you pitch up yourself, there is also the option to pick a more luxurious stay in one of the yurts, tipis or gypsy caravans that really would make your stay all that more special.

If this sounds like your kind of thing…and lets face it who wouldn’t then I have a family ticket up for grabs and you can enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

T&Cs

•The prize includes weekend tickets to Camp Bestival for two adults and up to four children (under 18)

• Prize is non-transferrable

• Winners names will be added to a guest list for wristband collection onsite

• ID will be required for collection

• Full Camp Bestival T&Cs here

Celebrating The Small Things:Week Twenty Three

‘Celebrating The Small Things’ this week is taking us back to half term and finding small moments to be grateful for in a pretty amazing week!

Location, Location, Location – It will be no surprise to many of you that I have always had a strong want to live by the sea. The outdoorsy life, laid back feel and plenty for the children to do has always appealed to me, but no so much to my husband.
During half term I actually realised we are really lucky to live exactly where we do. We had a pretty hectic week of commuting into town as well as a trip to Brighton that for so many just wouldn’t be doable. So with this in mind I’m incredibly grateful we can be by the sea and central London in under an hour and have plentiful countryside right on our doorstep, so no more moaning from me…well for a while anyway!

Understanding Food Allergies – Allergies are not something that feature to much on here but are certainly something that affect us on a daily basis. Frankie is allergic to a whole host of foods and although it is something he is slowly learning to deal with there are always those occasions where its pretty hard going for him.
We attended the Num Noms Launch Party at the Good Housekeeping Institute where there was going to be pizza making going on and I had already pre warned him that he might not be able to take part in this section of the day. He was disheartened but still very much wanting to go along.
Looking at the ingredients when we arrived I could sence the disappointment that was going to set in until a lovely lady came over and asked what she could find that would make the pizzas suitable for him.
His face lit up and I was so grateful that he wouldn’t have to miss out as he doses on so many other occasions.

Keeping Friendships Alive – A while ago now my husband’s best friend and his family emigrated to New Zelend. This was a huge wrench for him as they had been good friends since school and we all had grown close as we got married and started families.
It was amazing to have them over and spend quality time together. It felt like yesterday as soon as we saw them and through the help of social media we have all been able to watch everyones adventures over the past few years, but there is nothing like actually getting together and spending precious time with special people.