Taking A Look At Where We Came From

Parenting comes with a long list of questions on a daily basis. From “where do babies come from” to “why is the sky blue”. It sometimes seems pretty relentless but how else are they going to learn about the world and everything else that goes on around them.

One thing that all have mine have got in a bit of a muddle with is family and who comes from where. I know that it wasn’t that long ago that my youngest was astounded that his Nanny was in fact my Mum!

As they grow so do their inquisitive natures and this is actually something I really love and try to encourage as much as I can.

Izzy came home the other day full of excitement that Ellen DeGeneres and Kate Middleton are in fact 15th cousins! I don’t know how much truth there is to that but it certainly got her thinking about the possibly there might be royal blood running through our veins and she was extremely excited by this prospect.

Over the holidays I have decided that we are going to do a little digging around and take a look at our family tree with some of the ideas I have left below:

Digging Out The Albums – We have piles an piles of photos packed away that sadly never see the light of day and going back through old albums is the perfect was to show the children faces of days gone by that they may of meet and forgotten about or never meet at all.

Stories – There is nothing better than getting stories from days gone by from other members of the family. Is lovely to let the children hear about what family and friends got up to all those years ago and also lovely for the family to relive these very special moments.

Ancestry Sites – Unlike when I was at school and the only real way to find out your family tree was by looking into records and censuses thee are now some fantastic ancestry sites that you can sign up to that collate all kinds of information and even delve as far as taking DNA samples to get a real in-depth look into your family history. Head over to get the Ancestry.co.uk discount which is on at the moment and will make your search even better!

There is so much to look into and it looks set to keep us pretty busy this summer so keep an eye out as who knows I could be revealing the secret I am in fact the distant cousin of Prince Harry!

My Mini Pop Artists At Warhol Croydon

Research from the International Child Art Foundation has found that a child that is exposed to the arts acquires a special ability to think creatively, be original, discover, innovate, and create intellectual property – key attributes for individual success and social prosperity in the twentieth century.

This is why exposing my litttle ones to as much art and culture as possible is of great importance to us as a family.

By this I don’t mean sitting in front of text books flicking through endless pages of text, but actually getting out and exploring which for me is a far more interesting way of gaining knowledge.

This weekend we took a trip into Croydon to explore the Warhol Croydon exhibition that has been bought to the streets of Croydon by the award winning RISE Gallery.

The street exhibition has been inspired by the life and works of Andy Warhol who was a leading artist in the 1960’s pop art movement.

A group of extremely talented artists have come together to create twelve instillations taken from the inspiration of his work and placed across the whole town centre.

There are plenty of free guided walks that you can book online to take part in or go it alone like we did.

The tour took us from the bustling high street full of shoppers to super quiet derelict buildings, from high rise offices to beautiful gardens and the quirky streets of Surrey Street Market.

We stopped and took time to take in each piece and the children really loved telling me their thoughts…some not so complementary and some hilarious.

It’s wonderful to see what others see when looking at the same piece of art and there is nothing thing better than seeing things through a child’s eyes.

The tour took us some time as I didn’t follow the route as marked out which from experience I would suggest doing.

With the tour complete we headed off to the Whitgift and Centrale Shopping Centre to take part in the Andy Warhol themed session that allowed Oscar and Frankie to become Mini pop artists for the afternoon.

We are familiar with Whitgift Weeenies Kids Club sessions that are put on throughout the year and are completely free to take part in.

The sessions can be anything from animal handling to art sessions and are suitable for children aged 3-10.

This session saw the children trying their hand at printing by carving out a picture into a foam board, covering it  with as much and as many different colours as they like and then creating their own Pop Art style masterpiece.

The friendly staff were at hand to help out where needed yet allowing the children free reign to really bring out their creative side.
Cleaned up and art in hand we finished off our jam packed day at RISEgallery they at the moment is homing some pieces of original artwork by Andy Warhol himself.

It certainly wasn’t a stuffy gallery that didn’t want enquisitive children around, we were infact all warmly welcomed, shown around the gallery and even had a chat about the art work that the boys had created.

The exhibition is on until the end of the month and there is still time to book in for this Sunday’s Wennies Kids Club session, so get yourself booked in as it’s something not to be missed!
*collaborated post

Breakfast With Dame Jacqueline Wilson At The Foundling Museum

Dame Jacqueline Wilson has been a part of our family for many years with her books being a source of great pleasure over the years. In fact my eldest who hardly ever picked up a book would often be found engrossed in the adventures of Tracey Beaker which always bought me such delight.

A new generation of fans is now coming through in the family with Izzy and Frankie finding a love of her books.

When we were asked along to The Foundling Museum have breakfast with her I knew this was an opportunity not to be missed and the children…and myself were super excited at the prospect.

The Foundling Museum in West London is currently home to the Hetty Feather exhibition that is showing how the history of the Foundling Hospital has been bought to life through the character of Hetty Feather in Jacqueline Wilson’s top selling book that has since been won awards as a fabulous stage show and extremely popular TV series.

The interactive exhibition at the museum allows the children to see historical artifacts from the days of the Foundling Hospital and try on period costumes which allows them to get a real feel for how things would have been in this era.

Izzy and Frankie also loved putting pen to paper and creating a menu of food they would love to eat and comparing it to the bland and basic meals the poor Foundling children would have had to have eaten.

After exploring the exhibition the children all settled down for Jacqueline Wilson to tell us a little more about the museum and read an excerpt from the Hetty Feather book that the children all listened to intently. 

They then all queued patiently to get there copies of Hetty Feather signed and to have a chat with the wonderful lady herself.

We came away with wonderful memories of meeting such a humble and inspiring lady and highly recommend going along to see the exhibition yourselves which is on until the 3rd September.

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

Discovering Croydon’s Heritage Festival

Croydon was my Mother’s birthplace and home to my secondary school so it is an area that has been part of my life for many years. 

I have noticed huge changes to the area over time, so when we were asked to come along and join in the celebrations of the Croydon Heritage Festival I was happy to take a trip to see what was going on.  

Croydon is undergoing a huge regeneration project at the moment and events such as this help people to understand how things are moving forward to create a better future for the ever growing community whist educating people on the important and colourful days of times past.

With community spirt as a whole dwindling with people’s lives become busier and more insular as a whole,  events like this really bring people together to create some much need community spirit.

This is the fourth festival of its kind and this years focus was on ‘Undiscovered Croydon’.  From the 18th-26th June people have the opportunity to take part in a whole host of activities from looking at exhibitions, listening to talks, trying their hand at workshops and much more.

Saturday was the grand opening and the town centre was alive with people grabbing delicious food from the many stalls, kids rushing around taking part in the family themed activities that were on offer and crowds of people enjoying the music and performances put on by some extremely talented people that had taken to the main stage.


Inside the Whitgift Centre the children had great fun creating their own masterpiece on the interactive art cube. Next to this were some fantastic Victorian themed spyglasses the children could decorate, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to stop as we needed to move onto our next activity.


Feeling crafty we made our way up to Whitgift Wennies where number three and four took part in the mosaic tile workshop.


I had not come across this on my past visits to Croydon and I’m so glad we had the opportunity to try it out as it is a fantastic concept that is open to any child as the session are all complexly free.

Activity sessions are put on throughout the month which are posted to their website and are free to take part in.  Once you are a registered member you simply book your time slot and arrive with your membership card and get set to have some messy fun.

After all of their activities I had the chance to grab a little retail therapy and try out the recently launched dual branded Centrale and Whitgift gift card.  This can be used in 130 stores across the two shopping centres.


For me this would make the perfect gift as there is such a vast choice.  I’m sure is the same for many of you, birthdays have come around and you open a gift card to a store you never use and it a waste of time and money for everyone.  With this card everyone is covered from clothes and jewellery to toys or grabbing a bite to eat.

I treated myself to a couple of sale bargains in Topshop and treated the kids to a hot chocolate a huge slice of cake in House Of Fraser.

The opening of the festival may have been and gone but there are still plenty of activities to take part in.  I for one will be booking a tour of the Alms Houses as I have walked past this secret, gated area for years and have always wanted to discover what treasures are hidden behind the gates!   
* I was given a shopping centre gift card for the purpose of this review and they are all my own honest opinions.

Stepping Back In Time At The Ship Tavern 

Nestled in a tiny alleyway hidden away from the hustle and bustle of Holburn you will find the treasure that is The Ship Tavern.



Feeling like I had stepped into a period drama scene my husband and I climbed the staircase inside the beautiful pub which lead us into the dining room.

Here we were greated by mahogany panelled walls, antique artwork and dim candlelight which made for a very welcoming atmosphere.


We were seated in a private booth which still allowed you to take in the beautiful surroundings.

The waiter kindly bought over a glass of wine whist my husband and I looked over the vast menu.


Traditional, home cooked pub food filled the menu but had a more elegant feel then your traditional ‘pub grub’.

I opted for the soft shell crab fritter with crab salad, caviar and chilli oil.  My husband went for his favourite option of calamari which came with a spring onion mayonnaise.



The calamari was a more than generous portion which allowed me to tuck in too! The spring onion mayonaise was something different for me but complemented the dish really well.

My crab was presented beautifully and once I cracked through the fritter itself I had a wonderful surprise to discover the caviar and crab salad hidden beneath.

For mains I had the Banbury duck breast with confit of duck leg faggot, Anna potatoes, buttered spring cabbage, caramelised plum and red wine jus.  My husband went down the more traditional route of steak and hand cut chips which were served with roasted vine tomatoes.



My dish was an explosion of flavours that all complimented each other wonderfully.  The duck was perfectly cooked and the sweetness from the caramelised plum set it of wonderfully.

A steak and chip option is always a winner and when cooked well can be a simple yet splendid meal.

The steak was beautifully tender and the crispy chips were a great accompaniment.

Due to my husband being a nut allergy sufferer desert was a no no for him which is not unusual but I went ahead and ordered the petit fours.


I always leave room for dessert as this is my favourite part of any menu.  For me petit fours are the perfect desert as it allows you to have a little bit of everything.

The different textures and flavours all worked really well together and more than satisfied my extremely sweet tooth!

If you are looking for sofisticated pub food with generous portions in a beautiful, historic setting than look no further than this stunning restaurant.
We went along to The Ship Tavern for the purpose of this review and they are all my own honest opinions.

Our Trainee Knight At Leeds Castle 

Ever since opening his knights costume on Christmas Day number four has been obsessed with knights and everything that goes with them.

So when we were invited to explore Leeds Castle in Kent it was the perfect opportunity for him to don his costume and make his dreams become reality!

  

 

As soon as we entered the castle grounds there was something special to look at and take in.  From the winding pathways through the gardens, magnificent peacocks and tranquil ponds where the children loved feeding the ducks.
We were lucky that our trip coincided with their Charlie And The Chocolate Factory event which involved the children searching the castle and grounds for golden tickets and huge bars of chocolate while completing their quiz sheet to claim their prize at the end. 

   
    
   
Once we reached the castle we were taken back by its grandure.  It was much larger and more beautiful than I had envisaged.

   
    
 
The children expored every nook and cranny of the building before stepping inside.  They were all taken with the tiny doors they kept coming across and tried with all their might to get a peek inside!

   
    
    
 
The inside of the castle was just as splendid.  Each room was immaculately preserved and transported you back to how things might have been all those years ago.

   
    
 
I need to come back to really appreciate everything the castle has to offer as the younger ones found bounding through the hallways far more appealing than looking at the rooms!

   

 

It was coming up for lunchtime so we headed towards the restaurant to refuel.  I was pleasantly surprised with the pretty building that housed the restaurant.  There was an extensive menu of hot and cold food at good prices and to the delight of the children the Charlie And The Chocolate theme ran through here with the splendid treat table.

   
 
With full bellies we headed over to the play area.  This was all in keeping with the castle theme and had a seperate area for older children which is always welcome with our family with the big age gaps.

   
    
 
At this point the heavens opened and with some very soggy and tired children we started our journey home.

There is still territory we haven’t discovered such as the maze and the grotto which looked like great fun.  We would also have loved to have taken a trip round on the train but all of this will be something to look forward to next time.

There are some fantastic events going on throughout the year and the first one to catch my eye was the Mothers Day event this weekend where you can treat the special lady in your life to a delicious meal in beautiful surrounding.

We throughly enjoyed our whole day and would highly recommend this for families with children of all ages.  There is something to please everyone from 1-100!

We were gifted tickets for the purpose of this review and they are all my own honest opinions.




Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Father Christmas In His Crystal Grotto

Up until today I thought I had covered most options when is came to visiting Father Christmas.  We have done department stores, farms, garden centres and theme parks but I didn’t realise that today was going to surpass all of those for me.

We love being outdoors so when a friend of mine suggested a trip to Father Christmas in a crystal grotto at Painshill Park I was more than intrigued.

We arrived at Painshill after a good journey and easily found a parking space.  From there we took a short walk to the entrance and collected our ticket.

We were early so we stopped for a coffee in their coffee shop which had a huge glass front giving you views out across the pretty grounds.

As you can imagine they were all champing at the bit to meet the man himself so we started our walk towards the grotto.  They had set out cute signposts for the children to follow and the whole area had pretty fairy lights in the trees and along the paths.  The magnificent trees were lit to show off their beauty.

It was about a 15 minute walk so we saved exploring the other stunning follies until after our visit.  I stupidly listened to my Dad and didn’t take the buggy which was a big mistake as the walk was to much for number five and I had to do a lot of carrying.  The pathways are well lit and smooth and fine to take your buggy along. Just before we got there we had a quick stop to see the ducks and if we went again we would take something along to feed them with.

We got to a beautiful wooden bridge from where the grotto was in sight.  We walked through the marque doors and were hit by the smell of mulled wine as a friendly elf told us to take a seat and wait to be guided into the grotto.


We had a quick drink and were then taken to visit Father Christmas.  The moment we stepped into the grotto I was astounded by how beautiful it was.


The crystals and walkways were adorned with pretty lights which made it even more magical.

Father Christmas gave us a really warm welcome and had a lovely chat with the children, well baring number five who was a little overwhelmed by it all.



They each got a gift to take home as we set off to do a little more exploring.


  
The gardens are vast and have something different around every corner.  One off my highlights was the gothic tower that once reached is simply breathtaking.


  
The ruined Abby overlooks the pond and is a real sight to see.


  
The picture really don’t do these magastic grounds justice, you really have to see it to believe it.  Our trip has doubled my Christmas spirit and we will be back next year for sure.
  

Monkey and Mouse