Clearing The Jungle With Fantastic Services

[GIFTED] For those of you that have been following me for a while you may remember when we moved house last year we had a super team of cleaners from Fantastic Services that came in and did a fantastic(this is where they get there name from) job just after we moved in which got us off to a really good start.

Fast forward a year and the inside is nearly complete but the front garden was in need more than a little TLC.

It was becoming overrun with weeds and I had no idea where to start. After slogging away for hours and hours and not reaping any rewards I enlisted the help of Fantastic Services once again.

Many people that I have spoken to aren’t actually aware of everything they have to offer and they really are an all round service covering cleaning, gardening, tradesmen jobs, building, removals, storage, waste removal and even pest control.

Two friendly gardeners turned up to the house and asked specifically what I was looking for and as soon as I had given them an insight into what I wanted they set to work. Digging, cutting back and generally clearing the whole front garden which would enable me to see past the mess and get some inspiration for how it was going to eventually look.

They were only there for two hours and I would never in a million years think they would be able to complete the job, but they tirelessly powered through and complete cleared the area for me as well as getting rid of the rubbish which I know many companies don’t do.

I was just as impressed with the gardening service as I was with the cleaning and I would highly recommend trying out either..or why not both!

If this had appealed to you which I’m sure it will I have a code HERE and using the code joyoffive which will enable you to get £10 off of your first service so what have you got to lose,give them a try.

Simple Pleasures At Croyde Bay Holiday Resort

[PRESS TRIP] Holidaying with children of varying ages can be somewhat of a task to say the least. Some want to be building sandcastles and hunting for seashells whilst others want to be hitting the shops exploring theme parks.

It isn’t always easy to cover all these bases and at times it can be a real headache, so I had high hopes that on our visit to Croyde Bay Resort I would be able to keep them all happy!

After a slightly nerve wracking but equally beautiful drive along the coastline of North Devon we arrived at what was going to be our home for the next few days and we couldn’t have been happier with what we found.

After collecting our keys and a little information from the super helpful and very friendly receptionist we were shown to our amazing lodge. We have stayed in similar accommodation to this lots of times before but have never found anything so beautifully designed and as well equipped as this.

The children were overjoyed to see a smart TV and quickly settled down to watch a bit of Netflix whilst I put a load of washing on from our last trip. It really was a home from home and we settled in the minute we arrived.

The whole lodge was extremely spacious with a good sized, open plan living area which had real sofas rather than the usual build in style you often find in this kind of lodge along with a great sized dining table.

Our lodge had three really good sized bedrooms with the main one having an en-suite too alongside the main bathroom which again unusually had a bath rather than just a shower room which is a very welcome addition when you have little ones.

All settled in we went of to explore and our first port of call of course was the beach which was literally a stones throw away from the resort.

We elongated the walk slightly by climbing to the top of the sand dunes and the I sat back and watched the children playfully roll down and run up over and over again. It’s little opportunities like this that allows them to really just be kids that is so important to me.

Croyde Bay was absolutely stunning and it’s rugged coastline lends itself perfectly to rock pooling, surfing and body boarding. We spent a good few hours exploring the bay and were so happy that we had this so close to the resort.

Bellies were rumbling by now so we headed back to freshen up and make our way over to the main hotel where we would be having our evening meal.

I’m not a big fan of on site clubhouses usually but Croyde Bay Resort has a lovely calm, laid back atmosphere with a main restaurant area along with a smaller bar area where we chose to have our evening meal.

The menu offered covered a good variety of dishes for both for adults and children alike with lots of locally sourced products and allergy friendly alternatives which is always so important to us.

I threw thing back to the 80’s with a prawn cocktail which was delicious and followed this with a juicy Exmoor streak and super crispy chips both cooked to perfection.

The children enjoyed a classic with sausage and chips and we all followed this up with super tasty desserts that were a feat for the eyes as well and the mouth.

Unusually I felt super relaxed at the table with the children and we finished off our evening with a couple of board games of which there are a whole host to choose from.

Ordinary I would be rushing through my dinner and hoping that we could get through a meal without them all creating, so it was lovely to be able to kick back, relax and really interact with each other as a family with these games.

We all slept soundly and decided we were going to get out and explore a little before the forecast rain hit, but before that we hit the buffet breakfast which was pretty immense. Again this is an addition to a self catering style holiday that I haven’t experienced before and it was great to have the option to eat out on site if you don’t fancy cooking for yourselves.

There was everything from a full English breakfast to pancakes with syrup, cereals and pastries, fresh fruit and yogurt and so much more.

All of this was easy for the children to access themselves which they loved and again it was a really informal set up which made it a lot more relaxing for me.

Izzy was itching to spend some of her holiday money so we took a trip into the town of Barnstable which had a good range of shops and restaurants, but I was looking for someone a little prettier to get a cream tea as it would be terrible to visit the West Country and not sample one wouldn’t it!

As I child I remember visiting and falling in love with Clovelly and I really wanted the children to experience what a gorgeous place it is. We headed down the super steep cobbled hill passing and petting the donkeys on the way, sampling some old fashioned sweets and of course getting my much wanted cream tea before getting down to the water front.

Devon really does home some amazing places to visit and this is one I’m definitely pleased I ticked of the list for the kids.

We headed back to the resort and whilst the boys played outside with the table football I prepared dinner. There is such a safe feel about this place I was more than happy for the boys to just outside the lodge enjoying their evening and having a little bit of freedom.

The predicted storm hit that evening so we stayed in and struggled up whilst listening to the howling winds and rain outside which I always strangely enjoy.

For our last full day we decided to stay local and make the most of what the resort and surrounding area had to offer so we hit the beach and then made use of the lovely on site swimming pool.

The pool had both a large and smaller pool which was perfect for us as Oscar still isn’t a great swimmer so I could keep an eye on him whilst still enjoying time in the pool with the older two. Throughout our stay the pool always stayed relatively quiet and uncrowned which is always good when you are trying to keep your eye on little ones that have more confidence than skill when it come to the water.

That evening we took a short walk into Croyde itself which I actually wish I had done when we first got there as for such a tiny village it had so much to offer. There was a great selection of independent shops and we struck lucky as there was a pop up event happening and we got to sample some amazing battered trout and chips before having some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted from the ice cream parlour.

Full up but not yet ready for bed we tried out hand at table tennis in the games room before hitting the sack.

We really did have a fantastic few days at Croyde Bay Resort enjoying simple activities and each other’s company in the comfort of the best equipped and homey lodge I have ever stayed in.

The location, the accommodation, the food and the general set up of this resort could not be faulted and it would make the perfect getaway for families of all ages.

We hope to be back very soon!

A New Adventure At Hever Castle

[GIFTED] Hever Castle has been one of our favourite places to go over the Christmas period, but for some reason until the other week we had never visited during the summer so I was very excited to see what it would hold at this time of year.

We arrived in the blistering heat with some friends and I was amazed at how stunning the gardens were in full bloom and as always the boys loved running off through each and every pathway that connects them.

We had a pretty swift walk as the children were eager to get to the new adventure playground that was a new addition to us.

As we arrived the mixture of wood and sand immediately appealed to me and the children took off within seconds to explore.

There was a huge sandpit with areas to climb and hide and in and as we walked through we discovered rope bridges, slides and a huge castle at the top which the boys absolutely loved.

Mine tend to get itchy feet pretty much anywhere we go and I was asked we spent a whole three hours there without a moan or groan…well aside from a couple of sand throwing incidents!

There is a coffee hut inside the play area which allowed me to have a natter over a drink whilst the children played.

We filled up on ice cream at the main cafe before heading into the maze which is always a big hit.

Next up was the water maze which again isn’t something we have had the pleasure of enjoying before.

It was so much prettier than I was expecting and was formed of a huge rock formation covered in foliage with pathways running around the outside with water squirting out at different times to surprise the children.

I wasn’t prepared so my lot went in fully clothed but I think that was half the fun!

Our last port of call of the day was to take a look out over the lake and to make some wishes in the fountain.

I love the serenity of this area and a row in one of the boats in on our list for our next visit.

Hever really does cater for all ages and because of this it is one of my favourite places for a day out with the whole family. There is action and adventure for the kids whist the chance for the adults to take in the beauty and the amazing history the whole place is steeped in.

There is always something new to see and experience and a whole activities that run throughout the year such as the Knights And Princesses School that is running right now.

A trip here would make the perfect treat to end the summer with.

Their Own Little Space:Evermeadow House Playhouse

[AD] Being a large family means that it is not easy to find time to yourself.  As adults my husband and I can factor this into our day, but for the children this can be hard to do and I try as much as I can to make sure they all get a little time to themselves, but with the reality of busy lives this isn’t always easy.

The youngest two really enjoy each others company…aside from the arguing! And they are both the ones the older children try to escape from for a bit of peace and quiet!

This is where having a little area in the garden that they can slope off to has been such a great addition for us and we have been able to do this with the help of the lovely people at Big Game Hunters who supply just about anything you could want for oudoor play.

They kindly sent us their Evermeadow Playhouse House to try out and it has been absolutely perfect!

Neither my husband or I own any DIY skills so the thought of errecting a playhouse sent my husband packing and me grabbing the phone to enlist the help of my poor Dad.  I actually didn’t need to panic though as one big box arrived full with our playhouse and instructions that did exaclly what it said on the tin(well box).

The panels have been made to simply slot together and with each pannel being numbered this was an easy task. The screw holes were in place and with the help of a power screwdriver the house was errect within under an hour. Even the windows were already in place so it really was a super easy build.

The house comes in its origianal state wood wise which allows you free reign on the colour you would like it. I was expecting the boys so go for something bold but they surprising they wanted to leave it natural so I just gave it a few coats of wood preserver to protect it from the weather.

The house is suitable for ages 18mths to eight years and has plenty of room for my youngest two to play inside together with their toys.

We have plans to get some cute plant pots outside, a doormat and some big cushions to make it a little cosier inside so keep an eye out over on Instagram for all our updates!

Days Out With The Kids This Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Truly Traditional Christmas At Hever Castle

Hever Castle is a pretty spectacular place to visit at any time of year; from its stunning gardens to the grand castle itself it really is an immensely beautiful place.

This said we have never visited at Christmas and it was something I had heard such good things about that I couldn’t wait to explore what they had to offer this weekend.

We arrived to a tree lined walkway covered with sparkling lights and from this moment the Christmassy feeling kicked in and we were all super excited to get inside.

We headed straight to the castle where the centre courtyard held a crib that the children gazed at whist getting the most wonderful surprise of falling snow from the air.

The castle itself held countless trees that were all adored beautifully with a magnificent surprise of a whole grand hall lined with delicate white trees that were simply amazing.

From here the children climbed aboard the carousel, tried their hand at the coconut shy and spent a good while at the hook-a-duck stall that had some pretty impressive prizes.

Next stop was the Husky Hideout that Izzy had been itching to get to all day. It was so lovey that the children had a chance to get up so close to so many of the beautiful dogs who’s owners were all on hand to answer any…well lots of questions from my lot.

We then couldn’t walk past the cafe without popping in for a bite to eat. As usual I found it impossible to pass on a mince pie and when they come in the form of a tienesse swirl that makes them even more tempting.

I washed this down with a creamy gingerbread latte while the children sampled some very cute Christmas pudding shaped cookies.

A quick stop at the toilets gave us the unexpected surprise of snow covered trees that surround the small area by the gift shop. It was a wonderful surprise and really felt like a little winter wonderland.

We still had the Twelve Days Of Christmas trial to complete and this really exceeded my expectations.

The trail wound round the gardens and had pitstops at each of the sections from the familiar Christmas carol. It was decorated beautifully and a certain points you were greeted with riddles and activities to complete that the children revealed in.

This is also home to Santa’s Grotto that we didn’t visit this year but I must say looked amazing!

Our last port of call was the craft workshop where the children set to creating their very own christmas angel from all sorts of bits and pieces. There was sparkle and shine everywhere so Izzy was in her element.

I really could have spent the entire day here just taking in everything they had to offer. From surprise flurries of snow to the excitement of the fairground rides there was something for everyone to enjoy and we thoroughly did.

It was the epitome of a traditional christmas for me and a day that will have us coming back agin next year for sure.

*we were given tickets to this event for the purpose of this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.

Bringing The Inside Outside

As you are all well to aware the weather in the UK is extremely hit and miss and when we do get the odd spell of sunshine we all need to make to most of it.

One way to do this is to make the garden an extension of your home and get as much use out of it as you can.

We are always trying to bring the outside in by filling the house with pot plants and floral fabrics so why shouldn’t we switch things around and take the comforts of our home into the garden.

For me being in the outdoors is the perfect way to spend time as a family.

The poor wifi connection and lack of TV and computer screens allows us to enjoy quality time together whist enjoying the sunshine.

The great outdoors also offers so many benefits such as helping to improve concentration, relives stress, improves vision, boosts your immune system and many more things why would you not want to make the most of your time out there.

The added bonus now is there are so many great products on the market to make your garden an inviting and comfortable place to be.

Gone are the days of flimsy plastic tables and chairs that always have the tendency to buckle under to much weight.

These have been replaced with cosy ratan sofas and sturdy tables and chairs made from all kinds of different materials that replicate indoor furniture perfectly.

To this you can add plenty of throws and cushions to make for an even comfier experience and creating a welcoming  splash of colour.

Something that makes me want to make the most of my time outside is the addition of mood lighting in the form of candles and solar power lighting.

A few candles lit on the table can keep the bugs at bay is you find some citronella  candles and solar power bulbs placed in the tress and shrubbery allow you to stay out well after the sun goes down.

The garden really can be a feast for all your senses from the smell of fragrant flowers to the sound of the early morning bird call.

It’s a place to relax and unwind so why not make your garden a little haven to enjoy as a family.

What would your dream garden include?

*collaborated post 

Dinosaurs Invade London At Jurassic Kingdom

Who would have thought that tucked away in a suburban part of town there would be grand Georgian house with stunning grounds homing a whole host of dinosaurs!

Last week we went on the hunt for them and wasn’t disappointed.

After a more than a little fraught journey to from South London we made it to Osterley House in Isleworth, which a a stunning National Trust property with acres of beautiful land that is just perfect for hosting Jurassic Kingdom which is there from now until the 17th April.

It is accessible by public transport but a long walk from the train station for little legs or a short bus journey but the buses are only scheduled every 20 mins which was a long wait for my impatient children.

The car park however is huge and free to National Trust members of £7 all day.

Time slots are available to book easily on line for the event and I would suggest you allow yourself plenty of time as there is lots to see and do.

The Jurassic Park style entrance paved its way into the attraction itself which has you following a path through the grounds spotting dinosaurs as you go.


Some are static but the majority have moving limbs and sound effects which the children loved.

It is a far more interactive experience than I had imagined and there are dinosaurs that you can climb onto, a sand pit that lets the little ones try their hand at becoming an arciologist and digging out bones and an education tent where you can sit and watch a short show that explains a little more about dinosaurs.

As far as eating goes the places is perfect for picnicking as there are so many great places to pitch up. There is also a small selection of fast food stands where Izzy count resist the churros!

The children also has a great time making us of the National trust facilities which are always a winner by tree climbing, den building and swinging on the rope swings.

All in all it is the perfect day out for dino fans and even those that aren’t so keen could easy make us and enjoy everything else Jurrasic Kingdom has to offer.

*we were given tickets for the purpose of this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.

Country Kids

Cultivating Little Ones Green Fingers

The sun has been raising its head a little over the past few weeks and after a winter of neglect it is time to get out into the garden and get it ready to enjoy over the spring and summer months.

The garden is the perfect place to teach your child so many wonderful things, so why not don your gardening gear and see what your garden has to offer.

A company that covers functional yet fun clothing for adults and children alike is Engelbert Strauss. They supply high quality pieces that will withstand being out in muck and grime of the garden whist still looking good.

Stimulates The Senses – The colours of the flowers, the scent they give off, the texture of the dirt and the taste of the fruit and veg that can grow there will engage your children’s sense of smell, taste, touch, sight and sound.

Builds Motor Skills – Digging with thier spades, filling up the watering can and picking out weeds will all help to build your child’s gross and fine motor skills.

Learning About Lifecycles – From planting that very first seed to watching a flower grow and then eventually wilt and die, will teach your child the importance of the lifecycle of plants.

The same thing can be done with fruit and veg. Simple things like strawberries and tomatoes are easy to grow and the children will love being able to watch them get bigger by the day and then enjoy the fruits of their labour once they ripen.

Our local garden centre is full of great items to get things started and allows the children to be immersed in the whole process right from the start by picking out the seeds or plants at the garden centre and taking them home to cultivate them all by themselves. 

Bug Hunting – Children love a bug hunt and what better place than just outside your backdoor is there to explore where all the creepy crawlies live.

So with the Easter holidays approaching why not keep these things and mind and set up a few activities to enjoy outside.

How about growing some juicy strawberries, planting some seeds to see who can grow the tallest sunflower or make a list of some of the most common mini beasts and see how many you can find.

*collaborated post