FUNharmonics Family Concert – ZOG

[GIFTED] I think I must have walked past, taken pictures outside and wondered about the Southbank Centre more than a hundred times over the the years but have never ventured inside.

So I was over the moon when we were asked along to a the FUNharmonics family concert of ZOG that was being held there.

The Julia Donaldson, Alex Scheffler classic has been a favourite in our house for many years now and I was intrigued how the London Philharmonic Orchestra were going to execute it.

We arrived to collect our tickets and after getting our bearing we headed to a great area that had been set up with lots of ZOG inspired crafts to keep the little ones busy before the show. this was all included in the price of a ticket and was the perfect way to get them thinking about the story before the main event kicked off.

We took to our seats in the beautiful auditorium and listened to the huge orchestra warming up. The boys loved looking at a whole host of different instruments and had fun trying to guess what each one was called.

It wasn’t long before the performance was underway and I was hugely impressed with how interactive it was. The children got to answer questions to find gold stars that appeared on the big screen, there was singing, dancing and lots of information given on the orchestra in a super fun way that was perfect for the age range of the audience.

For the second part it was time to settle down and watch the super cute Dragon – ZOG.

As the animation was running we were treated to an amazing performance from the London Philharmonic Orchestra that complemented the story perfectly.

The whole concert was far more interactive and educational than I was imagining and adults and children alike throughly enjoyed it, if all of the woops and cheers from the audience were anything to go by.

It really did bring a children’s classic to life and it is something that will remain firmly in our memory banks for many years to come.

The orchestra is turning to Beethoven in February for its next concert – Why Beethoven Threw The Stew and I’m sure it’s going to be as fabulous as ZOG so keep an eye out.

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.

A Candy Making Masterclass With Spun Candy

[GIFTED] As usual today my sense of direction failed me and we ended up crashing and bashing our way into Spun Candy in East London.

Luckily we were greeted by the lovely Hannah who got us all set and ready to join the rest of the group who were all there to take part in a candy making masterclass.

All set to go and a little more relaxed after a glass of Prosecco was placed in my hand the two bubbly confectioners talked us through the art of making handmade hard and soft rock confectionery.

We were guided through the process of the heating of the sugar, the addition of the colours and flavours and finally the mixing of it all until we finally got to see the final product.

I have watched bits and pieces on the TV before but nothing is like seeing how much thought, care, attention and elbow grease goes into this process.

A huge sticky horn of goodness was created and now it was our turn to get hands on and make our very own lollies.

We were shown a couple of examples to try and were also encouraged to use or own ideas and imaginations to make something that was very much our own labour of love.

There was help every step of the way and I relished in watching the children just go for it and try their best to come up with some amazing creations.

The boys ran back and forth grabby pieces of candy and eagerly asking for help to come up with new ideas and I was super impressed with how well they both did; but I have to say I was pretty taken back by how engrossed the class kept Izzy.

This holiday the teen has certainly been unleashed and I can count on one hand the amount of actives that haven’t caused an eye roll or a deep breath at every moment. Instead she took in all the information, exclaiming it was like a fun science lesson and then really let her creative side out which meant so much to me and was lovely to see.

At the end of the class we all gathered in the shop at the front of the store where there were the most amazing lollies on display…Donald Trump seemed to go down a treat with the boys!

We were all awarded a certificate for our hard work and it was lovely to listen to everyone congratulating each other.

Spun Candy offer a whole host of different masterclass and parties to suit a range of different tastes and after such a great experience today I urge you to take a look as there was so much fun had by all!

My Top Ten Cheap Summer Holiday Activities

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

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

The Cutty Sark:A Day Out For All The Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating Your Own Pizza With Pizza Express

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Room On The Broom – A Magical Journey At Chessington World Of Adventures

[Press Event] For a long time now the most loved ride at Chessington World Of Adventures for us has been the Gruffalo River Ride. The familiar characters from the Julia Donaldson classic has been bought to life and even the cynical teens of the family love to ride on the former ‘Bubble Works’ which we never thought could be replaced.

Fast forward a few years and I was over the moon to learn that another Julia Donaldson classic – Room On The Broom was going to be brought to life again and we would be one of the lucky few to see it first.

As always I was as excited as the kids as we set off to Chessington World Of Adventures. It was a pretty early start and we were over the moon to be greeted with a Room On The Broom themed breakfast of wand shaped fruit skewers, star shaped biscuits and mini caldron of sweets(bring on the sugar rush!).

Full up and eager to get to the ride we made our way over to the old Hocus Pocus Hall which was now home to the brand new Room On The Broom – A Magical Journey.

As we entered the familiar large doors we soon realised it had, had a real transformation and was now a library that was home to a bubbling witches caldron. We even got to see Julia Donaldson herself before we entered!

From the start I could tell this was going to be a very interactive experience which is always a hit with the boys.

A stormy wind gust in, blowing away the witches treasured possessions and from there we were sent on a mission to try and find them.

We weaved through woods and we’re challenged to release her hat from the trees, search through haystacks to find her bow and bash the fireflies to reclaim her wand; not forgetting to dodge the dragon who was looking out for a diner of ‘Witch and Chips’.

The boys were pleased to see that a couple of the original features of the house still remain and I will league it down to you to visit and find out for yourselves.

As well as this amazing new attraction there has been two new themed rooms added to the Safari Hotel they would make for an amazing addition to any trip.

This really is a must for all those Julia Donaldson fans out there and had made the perfect partner to the Gruffalo River Ride.

Lapland UK – Creating Traditions

The moment the boys clapped eyes on the familiar little box from the end of the hallway they immediately knew that it was a gift from Father Christmas inviting them to Lapland UK. The mere sight of it had filled them with joy and they hurriedly opened the box that had been pre chilled by me as it had come from the cold climbs of Lapland UK. The pretty wax seals were delicately opened and I was over the moon that Frankie could read his invite this year which really added to the magic.

For me when it comes to Christmas there is nothing as special as having traditions that you can create year after year and through the familiarity bring something a little bit special to this magical time of year. For instance a trip to the farm with a pit stop at the pub has been something we have done on Christmas Eve for many years and making our own mince pies to leave for Father Christmas is a lovely thing to do each and every year and I hope that these little things will be passed down to my grandchildren.

I’m sure that a visit to Father Christmas is always on the list for most people and after speaking to friends this can also be the point in which a lot of children begin to question the authenticity of Father Christmas.

‘Why did he have blue eyes this year Mummy?’, ‘Why does his house look different this year?’. These are all little questions that come into inquisitive little minds and if  like me you want to keep the magic alive for as long as possible then visit that brings you the same wonder, with familiar surroundings and of course the most authentic Father Christmas you are ever going to see then Lapland UK will never be topped.

After last years visit where I was brought to tears and Frankie left exclaiming he had seen ‘the real’ Father Christmas I knew that this was an experience that would never be topped and one that would keep the magic alive for years to come.

Last year we visited in the daytime and I thought it would be good to see Lapland UK in all its glory when it was dark and the christmas lights were at their best. We pulled into the carpark and there were squeals of delight from the back of the car – even from Izzy who is a non believer now.

We headed towards the entrance and picked up our passports and Jingles (Lapland UK currency). Its these little touches that really make you feel you have been transported to somewhere else.

It wasn’t long before we were greeted by the friendly elves and their special ‘elf wave’ that the children had remembered from last year and before we new it we had started out journey. We all loved listening to the story of Lapland UK and hearing what was going to be expected from us all on our adventure.

We then headed off in our teams which are either team reindeer or team husky through the huge wooden doors that unveiled a snowy winer wonderland that really is something to behold.

The children hurried onto the Toy Factory while I took it at a slower pace to enjoy the amazing detail that goes into everything. No stone is left unturned when it come to detail here, they really do get everything just right. When we arrived at the Toy Factory the small folk, as the children are referred to at Lapland UK head in through the super cute little door and take to their seats, whilst the big folk later around the sides leaving the children to feel extra special by stating the task on their own. Ordinarily in situations like this Frankie is terrible and clinging to me and nine times out of ten will refuse to join in. It is however a completely different story here and he is more than happy to get stuck in and they all throughly enjoyed stuffing their toy penguin that is then left at the factory to give to little girls and boys on Christmas Eve.

From here we headed to Mother Christmas’s Kitchen where we were treated to a story from Mother Christmas who is as warm and loving as you would imagine and then they set to decoding their gingerbread men that Oscar and Izzy demolished in seconds, whilst Frankie packed his away to give to Father Christmas on Christmas Eve.

The small folks work was now done and we were given some time to explore the village which was even more spectacular in the dark. The snow cover trees and colourful lights set the most amazing atmosphere for us to take to the ice, grab a bite to eat and dose shopping.

I am not a fan of ice skating at all and the fact that they offer special attachments for the little ones shoes makes me so happy. The can then skate with ease so I can concentrate on keeping myself up right! All of that skating calls for something to warm you up and I have it from my little babychinno expect that Lapland UK offer the best babychinno he has ever had.

The bauble shop is always one of my favourite places and somewhere you can get a lovely momento of your trip. The children adore the toy shop which had changed around slightly this year and to me offered some amazing toys that were very reminiscent of Santa Claus The Movie and brought back some lovely memories for me.

The children love to select some goodies from the sweet shop where there is just to much to choose from and again a lovely place to pick up a little treat…or two!

It was now time to see the main attraction – Father Christmas, so we made our way along the snow cover path looking at the little eves homes and stopping to greet the reindeer on our way. One of the highlights for the boys last year was definitely making some reindeer food to take home and they were very excited to do this again whilst also keeping an eye out for all their favourite reindeers.

Our last stop was nearly upon us and after a very short wait we were taken by a very excitable elf to see Father Christmas. The children sat on the little bench outside full of excitement and anticipation and butterflies filled my tummy at the thought of seeing their little faces one we were inside.

Father Christmas was exactly as we had remembered him, the children were grinning from ear to ear and yet again aa tear came to my eye as he spoke about thing the children had been up to and wether or not they had made it onto the good list this year.

All as pleased as punch they had made it onto the list they received a gorgeous golden bell and cuddly husky, but I think above anything that little bit of time spent with the ‘real’ Father Christmas again is what made our trip.

Yet again Lapland UK gave us an afternoon of magic and winer that we will never forget and something that doesn’t easily get forgotten about once you get back home. The love they have for their huskies is there all year and they come on many a day out with us and being able to scatter the reindeer food and putting the gingerbread man out for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve means that a trip to Lapland UK really is a gift that keeps on giving and one we will never forget.

* We were invited along to Lapland UK for the purpose of this review and they are all my own honest opinions.

The Snowman Experience:Review

We are huge fans of the Backyard Cinema and the themed cinematic experiences they offer.

Over the past few year we have swung through the jungle to see the jungle book and walked through a winter night garden to watch Elf, but this year when we were asked to come go along to Winter Wonderland to The Snowman Experience it was even more amazing than I had imagined and they have certainly built in their fantastic idea and gone all out to create the mot spectacular experience.

Inside the hustle and bustle of Winter Wonderland is a huge cinema offering much more than just a screening.

This year the iconic book – The Snowman by Raymond Briggs is celebrating it’s 40th with this extra special showing.

As I’m sure you will all agree, The Snowman is the epitome of Christmas. The charming tale of a small boy and his adventures with his snowman friend fill my heart with the joy of Christmas and I will never tire of this story. However I didn’t expect it to be transformed as it was for us this weekend.

We stepped inside a wooded area and weaved our away into the cinema, stopping for a photo first. As we took to our seats we saw the screen surrounded by brilliant props that made the illusion we were inside the story. As the film began we were treated to a few surprises from the stage that the kids were amazed by.

After a short while we were unexpectedly whisked through to another room where the huge curved screen allowed us to feel that we had taken flight with the snowman himself.

The last room was set up ready for the grand finale where everyone was ready to party. With flashing lights and familiar tunes the boys loved dancing along whilst watching the big screen. But the biggest surprise of all was The Snowman himself making an appearance to a crowd of excited children all eager to meet him.

The Backyard Cinema really have excelled themselves this time and have given us a experience to remember for many years to come.

The experience is running from 10am – 10pm up until 6th January 2019 and it’s not to be missed!

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

A Laid Back Trip To Santa At The London Transport Museum

A trip to the London Transport Museum always goes down well with my lot, especially at Christmas. I mean being in the heart of Covent Garden which is always brimming with festive cheer has to be one of the most perfect settings; and last weekend as we caught sight of the beautiful red and blue christmas tree standing proud outside the museum we were filled with excitement and anticipation of what the day would hold.

We made our way inside where the boys immediately jumped on board the buses letting their imaginations run wild, asking where we wanted to travel to and recalling all the London landmarks they could think of.

When they had finished we made our way to the magical forest to see if we could find Santa. Unlike last year where you went inside a cabin to meet Santa as a family things have been changed around a little and the whole experience is less formal and has a lovely laid back feel to it.

We sat on cosy cushions whilst the boys played with wooden toys and read books until the big man himself arrived. He sat amongst and chatted to us all, asking how far we had come and what the childrens wishes were for christmas. He gave each child a special badge and was more than happy for you to take photos with him.

There were lots of tiny tots there which for me seemed like the perfect introduction to meeting Santa without the long queues and hefty price tags. Santa will be there until the 23rd December from eleven to three so keep an eye out for him throughout the museum.

The festive fun doesn’t stop there as there is the opportunity to sit amongst the magical forest for the story time sessions that run everyday at 11.30 and 1.30 and use an array of different props and instruments.

The boys also took a chance to get crafty by making glittery, sparkly christmas decoration with all manner of glitter glues and pretty pom poms.

All the sessions are completely free of charge and come in with the entry price which at £17.50 per adult and children going free is amazing value. This entry price also gives you admittion for 12 months so you can enjoy the museum time and time again.

We headed around the rest of the museum where the boys got to play at being train drivers, took me for a ride in a taxi and played for ages in the play area which is always a big hit.

One area of the museum which seems to have eluded us until now is the Upper Deck cafe where we had an amazing lunch. On previous visits we had eaten inside the hub of the museum which was a great way to grab a quick bite whilst the kids play, but the Upper Deck gave us a much vaster menu and an amazing view of Covent Garden whilst we ate.

We were all super hungry and we filled our bellies with delicious juicy sausages, oozing burgers and crispy chips. There was a great choice from salads and sandwiches to coffees and cakes and the cake were certainly the piece de resistance for us with a super cool London underground icing top.

To finish our day we headed back down to the museum shop which is probably within the minority of attraction shops I don’t wizz the kids through. ¬†They have a gorgorgous range of eclectic gifts, stunning christmas decorations and pocket money toys that are a far cry from the usual brittle plastic rubbish you usually come across.

I really can’t stop singing praises for the London Transport Museum and it really is a brilliant place to visit at this time of year.

* We were gifted this day out plus gifts for the purpose of this review and they are all my own honest opinions.