Making The Most Of Your Outdoor Space During Winter

[AD] These crazy times that we are currently in have bought a huge range of changes to all our lives and we are all having to adapt to this new way of life.

One of the big things that is so hard for many is not being able to see family and friends. During the summer things were slightly easier as you could happily meet up outside, picnic and socialise in the sunshine. Now that we are having to meet up outside again, things are going to be a little tricker with the cold and wet weather.

There are however ways around this and getting your garden ready to enjoy in any weather is something a lot of us are looking to do.

I have left a few tips below on things you could do to transform your garden this autumn/winter and I would love to know if you have had any differ to ideas you have already put in place.

Cover – Instead of shielding from the sun, the winter means we need our gardens to protect us from the wind and rain. An awning coming off the side of the house or a gazebo which is perfect for keeping out the rain and the wind.

Lighting – With the nights drawing in now it’s important to have good lighting for the garden to make it look cosy and so you can move around safely.

You can do this by getting a professional in and running lights from your mains, or solar powered lights scattered around will be just as affective.

Underfoot – Trudging across a boggy lawn isn’t something any of us want to do, so making sure you have somewhere sturdy and level to congregate on is a must. Once you have the firm footings in place then you can make it your own with your choice of paving slabs or tiles.

Heat – There is nothing worse than being outside and not being able to enjoy yourself because of the cold, and there is absolutely no need to suffer anymore as there is such a huge range of patio heaters and fire pits on the market, so you can enjoy your garden whilst keeping toasty!

Seating – Having somewhere cosy to sit is a must and there are plenty of options out their. Outdoor sofas are my favourite and I love snuggling up on ours with a few blankets to keep us warm.

Entertainment – Something to keep the kids…and the adults busy is always a good idea and there are lists of outdoor games available such as giant Jenga and noughts and crosses that will keep you entertained for hours.

Storage – Moving the inside outside is a great idea, but you need to think about storing everything as you don’t want to have to be dealing with soggy cushions and blankets! Investing in a watertight storage system is a great way to have peace of mind that everything will be safe and dry.

BeSafe izi Flex FIX i-size Car seat Review

[AD] With my eldest daughter being twenty three years old now, I have watched how far seats have evolved over the years and the changes have been amazing – one of the biggest changes I had seen though is that of the booster seat.

These used to simply be a block of plastic that could be easily moved around but had minimal safety features and big changes have been made; and I’ve not seen more changes than the BeSafe izi Flex FIX I-size, which is the first booster seat to comply with safety regulations.

We have been lucky enough to try out this high backed booster seat for the past few months and have been nothing but impressed.

The youngest boys who are now six and eight still very much in need of a car seat so this seat was perfect as it spans a good age range from four to twelve.

The chair is super lightweight and even includes a carry handle in the back of the chair to make it easy to move around and installing with the ISO Fix system took a mater of minutes.

Another issue we face being is large family is the amount of space car seats take up in the car, but with the slim yet space design this seat offers we easily fit two chairs in with a teen tucked in the middle. It has in fact been designed so well you can actually fit three seats in side by side.

One of my favourite features is the hight adjustment that is a a spinning handle on the side of the carseat that give you the perfect hight in seconded without having to try and fiddle around behind the chair.

Comfort is still key with older children and this is the first booster seat I have seen with a recline function. It also comes with additional padding on the chin and chest to allow for a comfier journey. The lap belt is also threaded through a clever magnetic loop which is something you wouldn’t ordinarily get with a booster seat.

I have listed a few of the many stand out features for you below:

• PAD for additional chin and chest protection.

Lockable ISOFix arms for easy instillation.

Side impact protection.

Shoulder and lapbelt guiders for best position.

• Headrest shaped for improved view and sleeping support.

• Easy height adjust to grow with your child.

• Integrated carry handle.

• Slim design yet lots of space.

• Detachable bumper to allow three in a row.

• Compliant with new UN R12 safety regulations.

For me this is the perfect final stage car seat. It has a high level of safely, but the comfort and fit has not been compromised in achieving this.

The boys are happy with them comfortable ride and we are safe in the knowledge it will be a safe one!

Messing About On The River With Go Boat

[GIFTED] I’m sure that anyone who has followed me for a while now will know of my love for water. Ordinarily the sea is my first passion, but anything that brings me close to the water makes me happy.

So as you can imagine when we went along to Kingston the other day to try out a trip on a boat with Go Boat you know how happy I was about this!

We regularly visit Kingston for a walk along the riverside and to grab a bite to eat and I have always seen the boats sauntering up and down the river and fancied getting onboard myself, so this was the perfect opportunity for me.

Go Boat is electric, self-drive picnic boat that has is situated along the Riverside Walk just on the edge of Kingston town centre.

Upon arrival we were created with a smile, lots of hand sanitiser and plenty of social distance markers which made us feel at ease right away.

All payments are contact free along with signing in and each boat is sanitised before each trip.

Safety instructions were given, life jackets were issued and we were shown to our boat. Each boat holds up to eight people and we took my Mum and Dad along…Dad was made to take the helm and become captain for the afternoon.

We all got comfortable whilst locating the umbrellas that were provided, and with the sun beating down they were very much welcome.

Our trip was for two hours which would allow us to get to Hampton Court and back but you can opt for just an hour or three hours which means you to take in both Teddingdon and Molesey Lock too.

With six of us in total there was still plenty of room to put your feet up and relax whilst taking in the sights of the stunning riverside houses, paddle boarders and swimmers and of course the grand Hampton Court Palace.

We took our own picnic with us which is a must if you ask me and I think if we had a return trip we would definitely go all out with this as the table really lends itself to this.

We ended our trip by passing under the bridge which the children absolutely loved – especially as I fell off the end of the bench trying to get a good picture!

The two hours absolutely flew by and my preconceived ideas about the boys being a pain were completely quashed. They loved sitting taking it all and helping grandad to steer and can’t wait to get onboard again soon, so I think the Paddington morning will have to be out next port of call!

An Overnight Escape To The Hut – Deal

Lowdown has meant seeing a lot of our own four walls or taking trips to out local green spaces. I am extremely grateful that we have a lovely home and plenty of places to choose from when it comes to getting out and about, but after months of end not going to far afield and not seeing friends I was delighted when the lovely Hanna from The Savvy Mummy asked to meet up at her beautiful hut in Deal – Kent.

It’s only just over an hour from us and I was so happy to see a beautiful, smiling face greet us and the peaceful Kingsdown Holiday Park.

The park is home to a collection of stunning wooden huts, set in the middle of a beautiful green space just a stones throw away from the beach.

The park has so much to keep the children busy from mini golf to tennis, a well equipped play area to table tennis and the ability to allow you to let the kids roam free and find their own fun.

The Hut itself is a real home from home with a warm feeling as soon as you step in. The ground floor has a well equipment kitchen and a living space with a dining area which you sometimes don’t find in places such as this. There is also a good sized bathroom a double bedroom and a super cute children’s room complete with bunk beds and a disco ball light that kept the boys very amused!

My favourite part was the mezzanine floor that had bunting draped from each and every banister and had two good sized double beds. The cute triangular windows also have toy a gorgeous view of the grounds and the sea!

The Hut really is a tardis and is deceptively more spacious than than it looks. We are a big family and it could house us all with ease.

After exploring everything the park had to offer we jumped back in the car and took a short drive into Deal town centre to get some chips and have a dip in the sea before Hanna and the girls headed home.

If we had more time we could easily have made the walk into town as there is a wide a flat promenade that is perfect for the kids to scooter on and is definitely on our list for a return trip.

After a sad goodbye we headed back to the hut for the evening and the boys were eager to head out on their own around the park. This kind of thing always fills me with anxiety – not so much because I am worried about their safety as I felt completely space there, but I know how my youngest two have an extreme ability to annoy and I don’t want them to impose on others!

After a while and with regular checks from their big sister I relaxed a little and was able to have a cup of tea in peace whist they enjoyed their new found independence.

I’m not one to sit still for to long though and I was getting itchy feet, so I took Oscar on the few minute walk down to the sea front. This section of beach had a row of pretty cottages and two pubs which I have heard serve great food and have benches on the beach where people were enjoying a glass of wine whilst watching the sunset.

Me on Oscar however headed( pj’s on) down to the sea to see what we could find in the rock pools. My ever inquisitive youngest had a bit of a shock though when he got a sea urchin sucker onto his finger!

A little bit wet and weary we went back and enjoyed chocolate dipped marshmallows and got an early-ish night!

The next morning Frankie was up by the front door at the crack of dawn trying to spot his new found friends. For me lockdown has meant he has wanted to do very little aside from be stuck in front of a screen, so seeing him back to his old self and wanted to get out and about was amazing.

We brought a few of our own supplies for breakfast, but Hanna has left the kitchen well equipped with all the essential such as tea, coffee and cereal which was most unexpected and very welcome.

Toast, and a tidy up and it was time to say fair well to our over night home and head back into Deal to see what else there was to offer.

I had come across Deal Pier Kitchen whilst having a look online and had made it my mission to visit before we left.

I didn’t even realise Deal had a pier and unlike the usual fairground filled piers this was just home to the restaurant that sat right at the end.

The pier has a brutalist feel to it which I love and the restaurant has been built in keeping with this, keep the exterior dark, with plenty of glass to take in the stunning sea views.

There were lots of delicious choices on the menu, but being early we grabbed skinny fries and cake…great for the waistline!

Izzy was desperate to have mooch around the shops, I was not so much so with all the COVID regulations in place, but we window shopped and Deal had a good variety of your usual suspects as well as some pretty homeware and gifts shops in a pretty lame type setting.

I really felt we made the most of an overnight stay and packed in as much as we could with The Hut being the perfect place for us to do this.

The location was perfect to relax in and just let kids be kids and it allows you to do as little or as much as you want.

We had a wonderful stay and hope to be back very soon!

Our First Trip To Godstone Farm After Lockdown

[PRESS TICKETS] Godstone Farm is one of our favourite places to visit and I can safely say I must have racked up a fair few visits with my crew over the years – so after months of being stuck inside with very limited time outside of our own four walls we couldn’t wait to have our first real trip out at Godstone Farm.

Ordinary Godstone Farm is really good at putting hygiene first and I was at ease knowing they would do their upmost to get the farm ready for visitors after lockdown.

I wasn’t disappointed as when we arrived there were very clear instructions as to what is expected of you on your visit and wash stations and hand sanitizer at every turn.

You need to pre-book online before your visit, time slots have been made to stagger people on entry and numbers have been limited to make sure it is easy to stick to government guidelines.

Due to the amount of open space at the farm keeping your distance can be done with ease and in the few areas that it may become tricky, one way systems have been put in place and reminders dotted around the floor telling you to keep ‘2 pigs’ apart.

One of the first things that really struck me was the fact all the animals looked as happy to see the children as they were to see them. They we happy coming over the the children to say hi and the boys couldn’t have been happier.

We spent ages walking around and seeing if there had been any new arrivals since our last visit and I was happier than the boys I think to see the gorgeous little piglets that were only a few days old.

My children are always thinking about their bellies and although we took a picnic with us there were plenty of places to grab something to eat, and we enjoyed a coffee and an ice cream on our way to the play area; and I can say I was definitely tempted with the delicious looking pizzas.

My main worry of getting back out again was letting the boys on play equipment, but I shouldn’t have worried as the farm had carried out a deep clean and with it being so vast it was easy (even for my boys) to keep a good distance from others and still have a great time.

We finished our day with a walk around the Dino Trail and can safely say that even though a few areas of the farm have been closed we still had a day as full of fun and adventure as always and will be back again more than a few times over the summer I’m sure!

Outdoor Activities For Children During Lockdown

I now have no idea what week we are on in lockdown but I do know that during this time we have all been trying to find ways of coping with being around each other 24 hours a day and for me I have found structure is key and trying to give the children some kind of home learning has been a must.

I am no teacher and so with the help of work set by school and the wonders of the internet I have been trying to find ways to keep the children happy and engaged.

We have been lucky to have been blessed with this wonderful weather and have tried to utilise this as much as possible and taking our home learning outside.

  • Most homeschooling activities can be done outside as it allows children to have freedom of movement, increases their physical development, helps build towards a healthy and activity lifestyle and hopefully makes them happier and more motivated to learn.
  • I have compiled a few of our favourite activities below and hope you find something that’s a good fit for your family to try:

    Den Building – The boys love building dens, so this was a great excuse to get something set up in the garden where they could play and read independently.

    Skipping – Skipping is a great way to get them using their gross motor skills as well as burning off a lot of steam!

    Climbing Tree – This is great for them to challenge their dexterity and build their confidence.

    Digging In The Dirt – All kids love to dig around in the dirt and without knowing it they are getting a real sensory experience. From making mud pies to hiding and finding different objects this is a great exercise.

    Getting Out For A Walk – The government is still allowing us out for 39 mins exercise a day, and we can use this time to clear our heads, strike up conversations to check that your little ones are coming with this situation and make it into a game by spotting different things on the way.

    • Planting – It’s the perfect time to plant seeds and flowers in the garden which can turn into a science lesson by talking about the lifestyle of plants and then drawing and labelling what you have planted.

    • Still Life Painting – There are so many things that can be painted in the garden, just pick something that catches your eye and get painting.

    • Rough And Tumble – This might not be for everyone, but my youngest two literally can’t keep their hands off each other; so for me allowing them to battle it out for a while works. It’s a way for them to relive stress, read social cues, make decisions on their own and of course have a good cardio workout!

    • Nature Collage – Take some time to walk around the garden and pick up anything you find interesting to create a masterpiece with.

    • Painting With Water – A big pot of water, some paint brushes and some space on the patio, a wall or a fence will allow children to create their own murals with no mess at all.

    • Shadow Drawing – Grab some paper and some objects that will create good shadows…our favourites are dinosaurs; position them on the paper so that the sunlight casts a shadow on the paper and the draw around the shadow.

    • Make A Bug Hotel – Find a space in the garden where you can put together as pike of bricks, logs, sticks, tiles and just about anything else mini beasts can create a home. The children can then go back and take a look at the insects and write up their finding.

    • Scavenger Hunt – Write a list of all kinds of different objects you might find outside such as leaves, flowers, rocks and set the kids a challenge to find them all.

    Bug Hunt – Lift up rocks, dig around in the leaves and see what insects you can find and them write down and discuss your findings.

    Tree And Leaf Rubbing – Grab some paper and crayons and find all kinds of different tree barks and leaves to rub over with the crayons and compare the different textures.

    Giant Bubbles – If you have a tuff tray or something large enough to hold a hula hoop then make up a bubble mixture using washing up liquid and water. Place the hula hoop inside and make as many giant bubbles as you can.

    Outdoor Gym – Nature gives us a huge array of items we can use to build our own outside gym which allows the children to left off steam and build gross motor skills. Stepping stones from logs, a rope placed between two objects to limbo under, a bench to do tricep dips from a just a few ideas. Let me know what else you would use!

    The Best Home Office Locations

    More than ever at the moment people are having to find ways to work from home – with many finding this could actually be a better and more efficient way to work going forward.

    We are currently struggling at the moment as I am ordinarily the one working from home and I’m happy with my workspace in the dining room; but due to my husband having to move his business online and numerous children trying to create workspaces we are all having to move and adapt to cater for everyone.

    This has really got me thinking about how we could make room for extra office space at home and below I have listed a few of the things I find of upmost importance when planning your home office:

    The Perfect Space – First up of course is where are you going to position your office. Have you got a spare room you could utilise? Could you make room in a guest room? Could you transform an area in your dining room? Could you factor in the cost of a loft conversion?

    Home And Work Life Balance – For me it’s crucial to strike up a good home and work life balance, making sure there is a definite divide between your work space and your living space. Sprawling out on the sofa is great for when you’re relaxing but it’s not really conducive to being productive when working.

    Good Connections – Good connections to the outside work are vital so when planing your space you need to ensure there are plenty of plug sockets situated around your desk and there is a good internet connection.

    Lighting – If you can make sure there is a good amount of natural light which is good for a whole range of things. Getting the right artificial light is also imperative to ensure you don’t strain your eyes whilst trying to concentrate on the screen.

    Colour – Colour can evoke a whole range of emotions so when choosing a colour theme for your office you should choose colours they are going to stimulate your imagination and motive you.

    Greenery – Plants are known to promote happiness and give you that feel good factor so go ahead and fill your office with plenty of plants.

    Tidy House, Tidy Mind – This is a moto I always follow and I think it is just as important when it comes to your workspace. Make sure you have plenty of folders and boxes to store things away so that your desk space doesn’t become cluttered and overwhelming.

    What tips would you have for creating a home office?

    Childcare For Now And The Future With Childcare.co.uk

    [AD] Leaving your children can be one of the most anxious times you are likely to experience during your parenting years. We have that motherly instinct to look after and protect our children and having to take that step and hand the responsibility over someone else can be a really hard task.

    Ultimately though this time will come and as much as it may he heart wrenching for us it is good for our children to mix with others and learn to cope without their immediate family. For many it is also a necessity as we need to go back to work.

    For me one of the best ways to feel happy about passing on one of my precious bundles is to get as much information about the childcare provider as possible and this is were something such as childcare.co.uk is a great service provider.

    Used by over 2 million parents – childcare.co.uk is an award winning online social media networking platform for parents that provides a huge range of childcare in a whole host of forms from babysitting to childminding, nannies to nurseries, maternity nurses to doulas and so much more.

    With the current pandemic childcare may be something that you are thinking about once things are back to normal and this is the perfect time to take a look at everything they have to offer or if you are an NHS/Keyworker then they have a fantastic services that allows you to arrange emergency childcare which couldn’t be more needed right now.

    The site is super east to navigate and once you have registered and created your profile you can search for any of your childcare needs with providers from your local area.

    You can read their profiles to find out a little more about them, and take a look at them from their profile picture which I think is a great addition as it makes you feel more connected straight away.

    Many profiles have reviews attached which is always something I need to see as who better to share experiences with than other parents!

    Finally there is an option to chat online so you can get a feel of the provider before arranging to meet.

    This easy to navigate site offers everything you could want and more and I urge you to take a look for yourselves as I’m sure there is something to fit everyone’s needs.

    A New Way Of Life In Lockdown

    It was only a few weeks ago that I was moaning at my husband for not wanting to get on the tube due to the Coronavirus outbreak – fast forward to now and I have just had sweaty palms and my heart beating out of my chest as I prepared to leave the house to do the weekly shop.

    In such a short space of time the world has been turned upside down in a way none of us could have imagined, at times it feels like we are living in a movie scene.

    I feel grateful that for us it’s being confined under one roof and financial battles that are our only problems as I know that there are far worse situations going on around us and this helps me gain some perspective when things get on top of me.

    I developed a cough and felt unwell around a week before the official lockdown and we are now approaching our third week of social distancing.

    I’m not going to lie, the first few days were pretty horrific. We went from a family that are like ships passing in the night for the majority of the time, to being with each other twenty four hours a day was a huge shock.

    The dining room has had a bit of a turnaround and for the best part of the week is now a training area for my husband to train his clients via Zoom(something neither of us had heard of before) and get some exercise for himself…I need to utilise this more!

    With the youngest two I found early on that structure was key and a loose plan was put in place for their home learning was put in place. This hasn’t been without its tears and tantrums, but on a whole making sure their work is complete before they get free time has been working well. Dad comes into play with the teaching for an hour with a PE session to allow me time to get the house in order and I have been fitting my work in before they wake up, during their break times and once they are all in bed.

    The teens are a bit of a mixed bag and Izzy has been knuckling down independently, getting her set work completed and busying herself with cooking, crafts and helping me with the boys. Archie however has been less compliant. Getting him out of bed is a challenge in itself and trying to get him to work is impossible. I have my fingers crossed that by working together with his teachers we can get things on track after the Easter holidays.

    Food has been a battle ground as for the first two weeks none of us could leave the house and we had to rely on wonderful friends dropping things to us. I have had to ration what we are all eating and it hasn’t gone down well at all. Trying to explain to the children that only having two biscuits a day isn’t going to kill them really isn’t going down well but they are learning to get used to it; as after a very nervous trip to the supermarket, full of people taking little notice of the distance they should be keeping it’s not something I want to be doing to often.

    Trying to keep in touch with the outside world is something I’ve been trying hard to keep up and daily FaceTime calls to family and friends are the new normal. We have a very close relationship with our extended family and not seeing my parents, eldest daughter, grandchildren and my sister has hit us all hard, but keeping in touch virtually is a something we are very thankful for.

    None of us know when this is going to come to an end, but the importance of following these guidelines to protect everybody else is of the upmost importance and if we all hang in there and get this done then hopefully it won’t be long before we can all get back outside to embrace our love ones and enjoy those simply pleasures we are all guilty of taking for granted until now.

    Getting Away From The Screens At Hever Castle

    This half term Frankie seemed to hit the age where the only thing that was interesting him was screen time. The dreaded Xbox had firmly taken hold and anything I suggested doing was brushed aside.

    However the mini dictator wasn’t going to get his own way and we headed out for some fresh air and to see what the Living With Nature event at Hever Castle was all about.

    After a lot of complaining about having to leave the house, the minute the children left the car they made a run for it and bounded across the fields, making the most of all the beautiful open areas Hever has to offer.

    The huge play area is always a favourite for us and we spent a good few hours picnicking, letting off steam and drinking delicious coffee and hot chocolates to keep us warm.

    Frankie was especially snug in his cosy sweatshirt from T.J.Maxx.

    Next up it was time to take a look at what was on offer at their Living With Nature week.

    Hever is fabulous for children and they always manage to put on something exciting for them during the holidays and this half term they didn’t disappoint. The children got to watch an array of different birds of prey in the falconry display, meet a hedgehog and talked about bee keeping in the wildlife charity tent, make a super cute ladybird and bumble bee in the craft tent and explored the grounds whilst answering lots of questions in nature trail quiz.

    We even managed to fit in a snowdrop walk which was so pretty and highly recommend.

    Of course we couldn’t have a visit without a trip inside the castle. I always love looking at the grandness of all the rooms whilst the boys love to see the suits of armour and discussing how the poo would make it’s way from the toilet into the moat!

    We managed to squeeze in an ice cream before the heavens opened and got us drenched…but that’s all part of the fun isn’t it!

    For me Hever is a place where the adults can take in the beauty whilst the kids can just be kids and you can ask for much more than that can you.