Keeping The Magic Of Christmas Alive At Lapland UK

Do you remember the wonder that each sparkling light on the christmas tree would behold, how the smell of the fresh pine needles used to fill the house and your heart with such excitement, how every sip of warm hot chocolate and each bite of your delicious mince pie would fill your tummy not only with good food but with butterflies from the anticipation of the arrival of Father Christmas each and every year.

As we get older sadly these feelings dwindle and our hopes and expectations of christmas change and the magic slowly fades away.

However once we are blessed with the gift of children this magic fills our hearts once more as we see the wonder through our children’s eyes.

I have soaked up every moment of my children’s twitchy fingers as they try to adoren the tree with the delicate decorations, looked on in wonder at each and every nativity play as the stand their fumbling through the words of those heart warming christmas carols and for me one of the most magical moments is clinging onto their wriggly bodies as they stand in line to see meet the big man himself…Father Christmas.

All these moments are precious yet sadly as fleeting as our own and each and every year I try my upmost to keep the magic alive for as long as possible.

Familiar traditions such as baking the Christmas cake and writing letters to Father Christmas all help with this but as with anything as children grow and their knowledge widens the belief in Father Christmas begins to be questioned and I can honestly say that the reality of having a non-believer has always been way harder on me than it has been for them.

If there was a place you could visit that was as magical and as mysterious as the thought of Father Christmas himself then surly this would help keep the magic alive for that little bit longer would it not?

This is what I has high hope of when we were asked along to Lapland UK last weekend. In its tenth year now I have never heard a negative comment about anyones trip and after meeting the charming husband and wife team Alison and Mike at an event last month I knew that the love and passion that came across as they spoke so fondly of their creation was going to shine trough on our trip.

I decided for my sanity to leave telling the children about our trip until the day before we left. I am completely at fault when it comes to making the children little balls of excitement as this time of year but even I couldn’t take how excited they were going to be on hearing they would be going on the trip.

The invitations get sent through the post in a beautiful presentation box with each child having a personal invitation, complete with a gorgeous wax seal.

The box itself can be placed in the freezer to make for a gust of cold air when they open it up which Frankie was absolute amazed with and went rushing over to the window to see if he could see the tail end of Father Christmas’s reindeers that must have just delivered them.

That night was like putting the children to bed on Christmas Eve, the excitment was immense and after reading The Untold Story Of Father Christmas which is written by the founders and is the perfect way to get them familiar with the lovable charters they would be meeting the next day, they finally settled.

We couldn’t believe our luck when we woke to snow the next morning and as we came off the motorway and drove a short way through snow covered woods it really couldn’t have been a more magical build up to or visit.

A short walk from the carpark we arrived at a beautiful snow covered building where we checked in with the friendly elf and enjoyed a quick snack before our tour started.

It wasn’t long before it was our turn to be guided through the huge bookcase into a magical enchanted forest where we were told the story of how each tiny pinecone turns into a elf that then helps out with making all the toys for Father Christmas to deliver.

This is also what our children had been enrolled to do and as we were about to set off to take up the challenge the huge set of doors was slowly opens to reveal a cascade of snow and a stunning snow covered walkway.

Once inside the workshop the children were all settled at work benches where they has the job of stuffing super cute polar bears ready for delivery on Christmas Eve. This could have lead to many tears and tantrums as the toys were not for them to keep, however the story had been told so well and their role for the day described perfectly so there was not one tear or moan from any of the children in the room.

After all their hard work we then made our way to meet Mother Christmas in her kitchen; the kitchen was snug and cosy and the warmth from Mother Christmas was infectious. The children carefully decorated their gingerbread trees and packed them away to hang from their own trees once they got home and then settled down to a story read by Mother Christmas herself whist the parents got the chance to snack on a delicious biscuit themselves.

When all the work was over we had free reign of the village where you could grab something good to eat and drink or like us get tempted by a few to many sweets in the sweet shop. We picked up a small gift in the shop that really was a child’s dream with a huge selection of gifts and of course not to be missed a trip to the ice rink.

Skating is really not my forte and although I braved it I stayed pretty much in one spot while the children fearlessly skated off with their Dad. Oscar was over the moon as ice skating is normally of the agenda for him as he is only three, but with the help of some super cool strap on skates and the aid of a penguin he was well away.

It was now time for the most anticipated part of the day…our trip to Father Christmas. The walk to the grotto held yet more beautifully snow covered pathways, the cutest of little elf homes and of course a stop off to visit the reindeers where we also got the chance to help out with preparing their food.

We had a very short wait until the children names were called and we were lead to his Grotto, the doors opened and the beaming smile from the big, jolly man filled the beautifully decorated room.

The children sat next to him, hanging on his every word in complete awe. The heart melting moment for me though was the look on the children’s faces when he spoke bout each one individually, letting out little snippets of their lives that they never imagined he would ever know.

Mouths aghast at what they had just experienced and me with tears in my eyes I know that there is no way that this visit could ever be topped and will certainly never be forgotten.

The attention to detail at every point is unbelievable, there wasn’t a queue in sight and the whole day ran seamlessly. But I think what stood out most for me was I didn’t hear a moan, a cross word or a cry from any child all day which is certainly a first for us and just shows that the whole experience is put together with the childs enjoyment being the top priority.

I experienced this day with children aged from fifteen to three and each and everyone felt and shared the magic of this wonderful place. Archie integrated with his younger siblings and loved every minute of watching their delight as we did and although he is way past the age of believing it was still an amazing experience for him.

The one that I most wanted to see the reaction of was Izzy though as the start of High School has already had an effect on her and her belief has been waining since last year, yet the sparkle in her eye and the smile on the face after this trip has given me at least one more year of magic with her and for that I will be forever grateful.

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

Anthony Gormley, Sea Shells And Bus Painting

Art, the sea and delectable food are one of life’s perfect combinations and for me Margate is a home to all of these.

In August the imposing cast iron sculpture from Anthony Gormley was erected on the chalk in front of the Turner Contemporary and I have been desperate to see it for myself for months.

It is one of one hundred sculptures from his ANOTHER TIME series and was as breathtaking as I imagined.

‘I wish to celebrate the still and silent nature of sculpture, ANOTHER TIME is necessarily isolated, and is an attempt to bear witness to what it is like to be alive and alone in space and time’

As I looked out to sea I thought of the words that Anthony Gormley had used to describe land work whilst listening to Oscar’s opinion on the piece.

What really stood out to me was the compassion he was showing for the man being alone. He looked on asking why he was standing alone and as we left kept looking back and worrying that he was being left alone and lonely.

It really was a sight to behold and something I’m really pleased to have shared with Oscar.

Sadly the Tuner Contemporary didn’t have a lot work on display as they were preparing to showcase the world of Tracey Emin…I think I need a trip back to see this.

We still managed to make use of the gallery though by grabbing a late breakfast and taking in the view form the beautifully light and airy cafe, and have a through the beautiful neon installation to the side of the gallery.

For the middle of October we were lucky enough to have picked a very mild day to visit and spent a good while chasing the waves, jumping over rock pools and collecting shells.

The foodie inside me was out in force and on our last visit we had passed The Bus Cafe along the sea front and I was determined to see what they had to offer on this visit.

Oscar was thrilled to climb onboard and take to the top deck to find a table.

The converted bus is run by a super friendly couple that were extremely friendly and very welcoming of little ones which is always a huge bonus for us.

The menu comprised of a selection of wraps and salads that you can mix and match to your own taste.

Fillings were plentiful and jammed packed with flavour.

Not only did Oscar enjoy the novelty of eating his lunch on a bus, he was also handed a special pen so they he could create his own masterpiece on the side of it.

He was more than about this happy to say the least!

The months of having this little one to myself during the day are passing by way to quickly and I have plans for plenty more days like this before I have to let him move onto his school life journey.

He is way more ready for this than I am!

Saying Hello To Autumn At Priory Farm

A chill in the wind, beautiful rich colours, Halloween and cosy afternoons snuggled up under warm blankets are just a few of the reason I absolutely love October.

The weather hasn’t yet changed to the bitterness of winter and getting out into the great outdoors is a real pleasure.

The first adventure for us is always a trip to Priory Farm to select the perfect pumpkin for carving and eating if I ever get round to trying pumpkin pie…I have been promising the children this for the past goodness knows how long!

I have written about Priory Farm countless times as it has so much to offer from fantastic play areas to a brilliant discovery walk and they always go that extra mile for special occasions such as this.

Today we climbed aboard the truck that was decked out perfectly for Halloween with missing limbs, cobwebs and huge spiders.

The short journey lead us straight to the pumpkin field which the children couldn’t wait to get to and select their favourite pumpkin, which for the first year ever wasn’t a competition to see who’s was the biggest.

A good few laps of the field and more than a few pumpkins picked and rejected we finally had our favourites and headed back to the kiosk where there was a game of ‘roll the pumpkin’ and hoopla onto creepy arms to keep the children amused while we waited for our ride back.

Prized pumpkins in hand we climbed aboard and headed off to get a well earned piece of scrummy cake and a good coffee.

There is so much going on over the next few weeks at Priory Farm as well as the pumpkin picking and a visit come highly recommend from us!

Country Kids

Mini Ninja At Yo Sushi – Boxpark

I am very lucky that all of my children bar one are open to try pretty much any food that they are introduced to.

This has opened them up to experiencing a wide variety of different cuisines with sushi coming pretty high up on their list of loves.

Trying to make it for ourselves though is something even I haven’t attempted so when we were asked along to Yo Sushi at Boxpark, Croydon I was as excited as the children!

On a Tuesday and Wednesday at 11am during the summer holidays Yo Sushi is running their Mini Ninja Sushi making masterclass aimed at children aged 5-12.

Being as unorganised as always I hadn’t looked at the recommended age range and in fact went along with Oscar(3) and Frankie(5) and Izzy(11).

Our super friendly Sushi maestro sat the children down and got them kitted out in their hats and gloves in preparation to get creating.

They were all given instructions sheets on how to make Maki, Salmon Nigi and Crab Handrolls.

These weren’t neeeded as the children were shown step by step how to make each piece and there was plenty of hands on help if neeeded.

Usually the attention span of my children is limited to cupcakes but amazingly they sat through the whole hour without a fidget or a moan.

Once their boxes were filled with yummy sushi made by their own fair hands there was a quick game of who could move the edamame beans the quickest which was great to burn off a bit of energy.

At the end of the session they were awarded a certificate for all their hard word and given a bag to take home their sushi and the rolling mats they used so they could have a go again at home.

My lot however couldn’t wait to get home to eat so we sat for a while eating there creations whilst I sampled some delightful pork buns that I will certainly be returning again for.

There is still time to get you litttle ones booked in at several different locations around the country and it has certainly come highly recommended from us!
 *Collaborated post 

Hunting For The Yeti At Riverhill Himalayan Gardens 

Wooded pathways, stacks of branches, and plenty of mud are just three of the things that make my lot happy and luckily enough they are plentiful at Riverhill Himalayan Gardensin Kent.

We had our first trip there last week and on the way I had a car full of bemused children trying to work out why we were off to the Himalayas by car!

Upon arrival whe picked up our maps at the kiosk and I grabbed a seat outside the cosy looking Riverhill Cafe that I had earmarked for later in the day.

I planned a rough idea of where the day was going to take us while the children took up residence in the ‘Toy Shed’ that made the perfect play area to keep the little ones amused while the adults have a sneaky piece of cake.

I had put a little to much faith in the wonderful British weather and arrived with a summer dress and flip flops which probably wasn’t the best attire.

Fortunately though they are fully prepared here for the unprepared such as myself and have a lovely little area they you can borrow a pair of wellies from.

We headed into the woods where the children all climbed to their hearts  content until we came across the fab adventure playground.
There were climbing walls, slides, tree houses and so much more to explore and they all spent a good hour here enjoying all it had to offer.

Ready to explore some more we entered the woods again with a pit stop for some den building before we made it to Little Everest Viewpoint.

The view from the top was stunning and the perfect place to stop for our picnic.


Refuelled we headed back down the hill towards the hedge maze.

I’m not a huge fan of mazes and tend to freak out a little if I can’t see an exit. Luckily enough the hedge maze is low and was easy for the children…and me  to navigate.

The rain decided to come and say hello so we decided to take cover in the activity tent where they all got the chance to make their own clay creations.

With an unusual calmness from my lot I took the chance to grab a coffee and some delightful carrot cake from the cafe whist they created their masterpieces.

Scattered throughout the grounds were lots of interesting sculptures with the huge scaffold tube sphere being a real pull for the kids.

Our final stop of the day was the stunning gardens full of wonderful flowers, an abundance of fruit and veg and hidden wrought iron gates that are always some thing I love.

Riverhill Himalayan Gardens was an absolute treat to discover and we will need another visit very soon as we didn’t manage to find the illusive yeti who is said to be hiding in the woods.  
*we were given tickets for the purpose of this review and they are all my own, honest options.

Country Kids

Jamie’s Italian Guilford:Review

I am a little ashamed to say that even though I have been a huge fan of Jamie Oliver since his ‘Naked Chef’ days I have never set foot in to one of his restaurants.

His immense passion for food and will to share this with every walk of life is one of the things I love about him and I know this love and passion will be passed into all his restaurants.

We were recently asked to go along to Jamie’s Guilford branchto see what we though which was a very exciting prospect for me.

A short drive into Guilford lead us to a quirky shaped building that homed Jamie’s Italian.

We were shown upstairs to our table in the brightly coloured restaurant that had had an industrial feel softened by glimpses of rustic Italy.

We had the youngest two with us which is always a challenge when eating out as their attention span leaves a lot to be desired.

Luckily as soon as we were seated the boys were given activity sheets and fantastic viewfinders that they could chose their meal from…these were a hit with the big kids too!

The children’s menu was a great mix of the usual suspects mixed with dishes such as fish stew and gnocchi which is really refreshing to see as not all children like a plate of beige food for every meal!

Oscar went for the baby beefburger which was served with a portion of sweet potato fries and a delicious salad.

Frankie had a bit of a harder time in choosing as his multiple allergies were a little hard to cater for, but our waitress worked round them and was able to alter the happy chicken lollipops that were also served with sweet potato fries and much to Frankie’s excitement a salad in a jar that he could shake himself to cover with dressing.

 

They still had plenty of room for pudding and Frankie was extremely happy with his strawberry and mango lollipop whist Oscar went for the more indulgent warm chocolate brownie that much to his delight was topped with popcorn.

 

Darren and I went for the Super Lunch which is a great value set menu where you can chose from a good variety of dishes and have either two or three courses.

The greediness in me went for the three courses while Darren only opted for two.

Pate is on of my favourites but I can be a little fussy with it. I wasn’t disappointed and the creamy chicken liver pate that covered the crispy bruschetta and made for the perfect combination.

I’m not normally a burger fan but the Gennaro’s Chicken Club caught my eye and I was really glad I went for it.

The soft brioche roll was filled with succulent chicken, crispy pancetta, spicy mayo, rocket and juicy tomato.

If you are a follower of my blog and have read my restaurant reviews you will know that my husband is a creature of habit and calamari and steak are choices pretty much every time we dine out.

Jamie’s Italian had a little twist on the usual calamari and was instead a selection of battered fish and squid that have been coated in a delicately spiced fennel flour and served with a sharp garlic and lemon aioli.

The steak was a little different too as it had first been marinated then served with a garlic butter, crispy fries and a beautiful purple slaw that set off the meal wonderfully.

The children full and happily playing I endulged in Jamie’s favourite lemon polenta cake which was served with cream and a fruit coulis.

The texture the polenta gave the cake was a good change to a traditional sponge style recipe but I could have done with a little bit more of a lemony kick.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our first experience of Jamie’s Italian from the warm welcome to the delicious food.

I think the real pull for me though was the attention to the children’s menu that was not only vast and full of variety but allowed the children to get hands on with their choices and preparation of the meal which I always find is key to encouraging them to eat and try new things.

If you have been inspired to try Jamie’s Italian out for yourself then from now until the 31st August one child eat free with every paying adult so it’s the perfect time to try it out.

Just A Week To Go:Camp Bestival

My excitement is building by the minute as we get closer and closer to our trip to this years Camp Bestival.
Memories from last year keep flooding back and we are all looking forward to visiting old favourites and trying out lots of new experiences that will create a whole host of new memories for us all.

It may only be a week until the fun begins but there is still a few tickets available if you want to come along and join in the fun.

If you are a visual person like me and are still a little undecided if it’s the kind of thing for you then take a peek at this Camp Bestival video and see what a fabulous place it is to be!