A Calmer Christmas With Calmer Bannanas At Buckland Park Lake

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but the hustle and bustle, packed scedules and lack of time can take a toll on us all and the need to switch off from it all can be much needed.

Its not just the adults that need to take a break. I am definitly guily of trying to put too much on the kids at Christmas. I want these few short weeks a year to be crammed with as much magic as possible, but in reality it can all be a bit too much and they need something that give them a more chiiled day out – and this is were I was hoping the ‘Calmer Christmas Experince from Calmer Bananas would be perfect.

On Sunday morning we headed to Buckland Park Lake, Reigate to take part in this event. We parked up on the edge of the lake which was a stuiing sight to see and so surrene – however the boys were a little worried I was going to get them to join in with the wild swimmers!

We headed towards the gingerbread house where we were greeted by a super friendly elf that told us all about what our morning was going to hold. Buckets and scavenger hunt sheets in hand we headed off on our scavenger hunt to find all the pieces we needed to build our own snowman. In my head I had imagined a much lower key hunt, with us literally finding bits and pieces in the wooldna, so I was thrilled to discover a huge trail filled with activites, questions to answer and lots of little elves scattered aroynd to make it a really thetrical dispaly.

At each stop thier was something to keep the boys brains ticking over and thet loved the challange of having to complete a task to gain a piece towards their snowman.

After walking through the beautiful woodland we troated across a liitle bridge over a stream to play a few games of Pooh Sticks and made our final journey toward a pretty shleter nestled betwwen the trres. The numbers are kept low and we didnt bump into anyone the whole way round which made it even more speical and you didnt have the anxiety of having to rush trough tasks to let ohter people in for thier turn.

As a big fan of outdoor fun I actually think I was more excited at the sight of the shelter than the children. I was beatifuult decorated and homed an open fire where we sat down with a hot choclate after building our snowman.

Hot chocolate in hand and toes nicely warming up there was even more fun to come. We each had a gingerbread man to decorate and the boys made thier own christmas decorations. Whislt all these activites were being completed Mother Claus read the children christams stoires and sang a few songs to really get us in the christmas soirit.

There is also an option to have lunch whilst you are there and i was amamzed at the quality of the snack boxes. The boys has christmas tree shapped sandwithes, a candy cane cheese straw and a super cute reinderr brownie. so much thought had gone into it and they gave a big thumbs up for the taste test!

The adult boxes were just as good, and I enjoyed a festive treat with a turkey and cranberry sandwich, homemade sausage roll and a gooey chococlte brownie.

The whole experince was as relazing as i had hoped for. The boys are extremlly boysterous and can sometimes get more than a little over excited, but being ocupied the whole time gave them a mental workout, alonf with a good walk trough the woods, allowing them to really kick back and enjoy the peace and quiet of the calm actitives in the twnt.

This experience far excided my expectations and I would defintly put it top of our activites this year. It was someting differnt ans we will definlty be retrning next year!

Travelling To Isle Of Wight With Red Funnel

After being restricted with travel for so long due to covid, having a trip planned was even more exciting- and it was actually the travelling there that I was getting most excited about!

Being able to travel by another means than just a car was such an exciting thought and something the boys hadn’t done until our trip on board the Red Funnel Ferry to the Isle Of Wight the other week.

It was an early start for us as we were only staying over night and I wanted to pack as much in as possible. This was easily done as the Red Funnel ferries run from early hours of the morning until late in the evening.

We had a priority booking slot that meant as we arrived at the port in Southampton we had plenty of time to get our car in line and pop to the on site shop for a toliet stop and to grab a few snacks.

I’m a pretty nervous driver to say the least and the thought of boarding the ferry was leaving me filled with a little dread to say the least! I needn’t have worried though as it was such a well run boarding I was on and parked before we knew it. The kids couldn’t wait to get out of the car and do some exploring; so we headed up to the lounge, found some comfy seats and I relaxed with a coffee in hand as we set sail.

There was an array of hot and cold food on offer, as well as plenty of snacks and even toys to keep the kids busy, although mine were too busy taking in the view as we sailed along. After a while they got itchy feet so we headed to the top deck where the sea breeze hit us and I honestly could have sat there taking it all in for the rest of the trip.

The hours journey flew by and before we knew it we were heading back down to the car where departing the ferry was just as pain free as the boarding.

We headed straight to our first destination of Robin Hill County Park when we arrived, which is only 15 mins from the port and comes hightly recommended from us.

Our return voyage was a night time booking and I’m really glad we got to experience this as the coasttime and the cruise liners we passed where so beautifully lit up it gave us a completely different kind of journey on the way home – and of course being dinner time the boys couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have some sausage and chips to fill their hungry bellies!

We have so much more to discover on the Isle Of Wight and we certainly wouldn’t want to get their any other way!

A Weekend At Robin Hill Country Park

One of my resoultions for 2020 was to travel more with the kids – the Covid pandemic hit and all my plans were put on hold. One thing it did do though is to open my eyes to the amazing places we have here. Somewhere I haven’t been since I was a child is the Isle Of Wight, so when I was asked to visit I jumped at the chance.

I didn’t have any recollection of the Isle Of Wight and certianly didn’t remember visiting Robin Hill.

We got off to an early start and after a couple of hours drive we boarded the ferry and before we knew it we arrived in the Isle Of Wight. It was an easy 15 minute drive to Robin Hill where we were greeted with smiles and shown what was going own. With the map firmly in our grip we headed off to explore.

Robin Hill covers a huge 88 acres of beautiful parkland and woodland that has been transformed into a fabulous adventure area that is more than sympathetic to it’s stunning surroundings.

Frankie has reached that akward age where he thinks he is to grown up for most things I suggest these days. He’s too big for the park, he doesn’t want to go for county walks – the list is pretty endless. So when I saw him leap through the treetop canopy walkways to get to the Jungle Heights my heart was already won over…as was his.

High up aroungst the trees is Jungle Heights which was definitely the highlight of our trip. It is an collection of netted areas set amongst the woodland that you can run, climb and bounce on to your hearts content. As well as this there is a lovely little cafe area nestled away where the adults can grab a drink, sit back and watch the fun. Relaxing music is played through large speakers which made for a really calming atmosphere and I honestly could have sat there for hours.

Around this area is the Squirrel run where the little ones can start from the bottom and weave their way up to the top of the treetop walkway.

From here we headed over to the toboggans. Frankie took to these alone whilst I went on with Oscar. Frankie speed off into the distance while poor Oscar had to creep around the run with his nervous mother!

This was something the boys had never done before and they absolutley loved it. Next to this there were also some huge slides that the boys spent a lot of time working out how to get down them as fast as possible. The addition of sitting of their coat seemed to be the winning combination.

A liitle further along a jouney we stopped off at the huge ponds which were also home to the suspended bridges. It was so tranquil there and whist I enjoyed the beauty of the surrounding the boys weaved their way across the floating bridges.

Dotted around the park there are lots of little extras to keep you entertained, such as falconary exibitions which we sadly missed and a circus play area which was great place to stop and warm up under the shelter of the tent whilst they honed their circus skills.

To end our day we decided to hop on board the tractor ride so we could spot anything we might have missed. It was turing to dusk by now and it was beautiful to see the park as the sun was coming down. It was also an opportunity to see the lights coming on for the evening event that was just going to start. I was gutted the boys were too tired to stay as it looked like such a fun filled evening – it does however give us the excuse to return next year.

All tired out we made on last stop at Colossus, which is a huge ship ride that the boys went on countless times – I honestly don’t know how they weren’t ill.

Robin Hill was more than I had expected it to be. They offer a place were kids can just be kids alongside stunning scenery that the adults can enjoy too. You really can make a whole day of it and we loved it so much we made a return trip the very next day!

Would you like to visit Robin Hill?

Inside Tower Bridge

[PRESS TRIP] I have passed over Tower Bridge countless times either on foot or by car and the magnitude of it never fails to amaze me. The iconic blue immediately catches my eye and it has always been one of my favourite London landmarks. I have passed this love down to my children who all get equally as excited as me at the sight.

So can you imagine the excitement levels when I told them we would be taking a trip inside – well this was filled with a little apprehension as both Frankie and I are not good with heights!

A short walk along the river chatting about what we might see and do once we arrived and we were there to be greeted by a lovley lady who gave us lots in infromation on the bridge whilst we waited in the short queue. It was then time to make our way inside. We took the small windy staircase of the North Tower up to the top which was great to add to or anticipation, but for those with buggies or access issues there was a lift that could be used.

On the way up there were lots of interesting facts to read, most of which I had no idea about. Once inside the walkway we were greeeted with a light and airy area with panoramic views across London. We purchased a view guide and the boys loved matching up the landmarks in the book when they came across them, and there were also guides on the windows that were really useful.

But of course what we were most looking forward to was the glass floor and it didn’t disappoint! Being 42 metres above the river gave you the most amazing perspective. Oscar was well away and was speeding across trying to spot people and look for his favourite cars. Frankie was a little more coy to begin with – as was I, but I was actually pleasantly suprised that my usual fear wasn’t that great and I got to really enjoy the moment.

Next up was the descent through the South Tower. As we made our was down we got to learn a little about the people who worked inside Tower Bridge and inside the stunning Bascle Chambers if you look closly enough you will spot some statues of these workers. A little futher down there were tools and uniforms of the staff on display that Oscar was particuarly taken with.

As we came out of the South Tower I thought this was the end of our trip and I was pleasantly surprised that we acually needed to follow the blue line along to the engine rooms. the blue line was made to commemorate the people of Tower Bridge and it was lovely to take this all in as we walked.

I wasnt really to excited about going into the engine rooms as I had a preconceived idea it would just be full of machinery and not too interesting. This was quashed as soon as we arrived. The boys made a bee line for the interactive exhibit that showed you the workings of the engines and then much to my amazement we found the most beautiful looking steam engines. Painted in the most vivid green and red, thet really were a sight to behold.

From here there was more things for the boys to get thier hands on and the loved finding out facts about the people who had made histrry on the bridge with their crazy acts, such as the brave Albert Gunter who jumped the open bridge to save a double decker bus full of people!

The Tower Bridge experience exceeded our expectations and Oscar has even been back at school writng about this as his favoruite experience of the holidays. Now we need to try an book again to see the bridge lifting whilst we are on there!

Happy Hour At Ping Pong

[PRESS VISIT] This summer was all about making up for the lost time of lockdown and trying to fit in as much fun as we could. A lot of our time was spent with us being tourists in our own city and exploring parts of London we haven’t been too – and this included a new resturant for us – Ping Pong.

Ping Ping offers delicious Dim Sum and carefully crafted cocktails at a whole host of different locations across London. We were visiting the Tate Modern so decided on the South Bank branch for our visit and were welcomed with a smile and shown to our table.

There are no menus per se, instead you have a list of all the foods and drinks avaliable and then us it as a tick sheet for the items you want. I had completely over ordered to begin with but the friendly waiter was on hand to help me rejig a few things and we were then good to go.

We were there for Ping Pong’s happy hour which runs from 3-6pm Monday to Friday and offers a huge range of their Dim Sum and cocktails for half the price.

There really was something to please everyone and the boys loved the opportunity to sample things they haven’t tried before…and of course it would have been rude not to have tried a cocktail or two!

The soft and delicate prawn and chive dumplings were to die for, as were the turmeric and Chinese vegetable dumplings. The children worked their way through plate fulls of crispy duck spring rolls and enjoyed popping edamame beans covered in celery salt. We washed all this down with lychee and iced teas for the boys and Ping Pong signature cocktails for me.

We couldn’t have faulted our first trip at all. Helpful staff, beautiful surroundings and fabuolous food and drink in a relaxed atmosphere…what more could you want!

Not A Holiday Without A Trip To Hever Castle

I actually can’t remember when we last had a hoilday without a trip to Hever Castle. Our love for it never falters and I would find it hard to tell you what season there I love the most…well actually that’s a little lie as it has to be Christmas. With that said though whatever time of year you visit you are in for a treat and for us the other day was no different.

As I’m sure you have noticed the weather this summer hasn’t exactly been the best, but there is always something to see and do at Hever. We headed straight for the playground as this is always one of the boys favourite areas. Frankie is reaching the age where is sometimes gets a little bored of playgrounds now, but we spent a huge amount of time in here with the boys playing chase and making new friends in a huge game of hide and seek.

Next up we plotted up by the water to feed the ducks and have something delicious from the BBQ. Hever is perfect for picnicing and we normally do a mixtutre of both. Taking snacks and drinks to keep us going and then treating ourselves to something nice – which always includes an ice-cream!

We didn’t go inside the castle on this visit as the children were keen to stay outside, but it is definetly a must if you are planning a visit. Instead we ignored the weather and went straight to the water maze. For me this is such a pretty feature to the already stunning grounds, and something I have never seen anywhere else quite like it.

There are still covid restrictions on this attraction, but the queue was short and we still had a heap of fun.

We sadly missed the times for the falconary exebitions that run twice a day, but we spent the rest of the day enjoying all the little hidden walks around the grounds whilst the boys tried to spot as many naked statues as they could – something else they never seem to get bored off and mananged to meet one of the birds of prey on our way round.

We had yet another fantastic day and can’t wait until our next trip.

Flipping Out At Flipout

[PRESS TRIP] With over twenty years or parenting I sometimes reach the summer holidays and feel that I have exhausted every single day out there is. Of course we have some firm favourites we never tire of and can happily revisit time and time again, but were always on the hunt for new and exciting places and we definitely came across this the other day at Flipout – Croydon.

Flipout is Croydon’s largest Indoor Super Centre and is home to a whole host of amazing activities from mini golf to laser quest, five a side football to bumper cars, synthetic ice skating to ninja tag as well as the most amazing bounce area…I’m sure there is something I’ve missed!

The centre is based at the bottom of Centrale and Whitgift Shopping Centre and you can get discounted parking upon validating your ticket, which makes it super easy to get too as well as affordable too.

We arrived for the first session of the day and were greeted with smiles and very knowledgeable staff that told us everything we needed before we got on with the play. The sessions last for three hours and from what we saw it is best to book an early slot as it fills up towards the end of the day and it becomes harder to find a base to plot up at.

For the first part of the day I went around with the children, taking part in the fun with them, and I loved that it has all been designed so the adults could have some fun too, but I was also perfectly happy to sit back, relax and enjoy a coffee whilst they had some independent play. Flipout spans two floors and although it is a pretty big space, eveything is easy to navigate and there is always someone on hand to help out.

Some of the areas you needed to queue for but aside from the bumper cars we didn’t wait for more than a few minutes for anything, and we were able to visit our favourite areas time and time again. I loved the fact there were fast pace activities such as the laser tag mixed with calmer pursuits such as mini golf and ice skating so there was something for everyone.

After working up an appetite we headed to the cafe that stocks a small range of hot food and snacks. My pizza loving crew filled themselves up with delicious pizza slices that were at a good price and even had an offer running of ‘buy three get one free’. They washed all this down with a slushie, which again was great valve as you had the option to buy unlimited refills.

The three hours literally flew by and it was announced that they had had, ‘the best day ever’ and I have to admit I had a lot of fun too!

Anyone from aged four right through to adults would love Flipout and it’s one of the only places I visited that would keep my entire gang happy – and that’s no mean feat with a family spanning a range of ages. We had no moaning or groaning and in fact the only words muttered as we left were – ‘when are we coming back’ so you can’t get better than that!

Honolulu With The Family:What To See And Do

Honolulu is the largest city in the state as well as the capital of Hawaii. It is located on the south shore of the Island of Oahu and is considered the gateway to the chain of islands that make up the Hawaiian Islands. With an average high temperature of 85 and an average low of 71, spending time on the beaches is popular in Honolulu.

Taking the family to Honolulu is a fantastic idea whatever time of year it is because the weather is warm and sunny all year. Even in December and January, the average temps are about 75 degrees. Wherever you decide to go with the family, be sure to drop off your backpacks and heavy bags at a luggage storage site in Honolulu first.

Check Out the Fishes at the Waikiki Aquarium

Founded in 1904, the Waikiki Aquarium is one of the most popular attractions on the island. What started with 35 fish tanks and 400 plants and animals has expanded to over 3,500 plants and animals in almost 500 species. In fact, in 1978, it had the first display of Pacific corals in the US.

The aquarium is divided into 15 sections. The Amazing Adaptations exhibit has a collection of pipefishes, sea dragons, and seahorses and is one of the most popular. The Giant Clams and Coral Farm exhibits are also pretty popular. But the 7,500-gallon Edge of the Reef outdoor aquarium is the main attraction.

Visit the Animals at the Zoo

If you want to see some land animals, take the family to the Honolulu Zoo at the 300-acre Kapiolani Park. The zoo boasts more than 1230 animals on the 42 acre s with numerous exhibits to explore. See them all from the huge Asian elephant to the zebras from the African Sahara and everything in between.

The zoo was opened in 1916 with several lion cubs, a sun bear, a monkey, and a handful of exotic birds and today houses a huge variety of creatures in several different sections. The African Savannah is the most popular, featuring lions, baboons, African painted dogs, black rhinos, chimps, and meerkats.

Swim with the Dolphins

At Kahala Resort, their Dolphin Quest program is more than just swimming with a few dolphins. They have their own group of six dolphins that you and the family can meet in person up close. The Dolphin Adventure lets you spend an hour with these beautiful creatures swimming and touching them. The Premier Experience offers a private session for just your family to swim and play with all six of the dolphins. These adventures are only for those five years and older though so if you have a younger child, try the Wee Family Fins and Fun where even the tiny tots get to meet, feed, and play with the dolphins.

Play for the Day at Sea Life Park

Another great place to hang out with the animals, Sea Life Park celebrates the local sea creatures by providing the public the chance to get up close and personal with some of them. First, visit the Hawaiian Reef Aquarium, which is a 300,000-gallon tank with 2,000 marine animals like sharks, turtles, and stingrays. 

They also have the Hawaiian Ocean Theater, where the park staff hosts many shows displaying sea lions, penguins, and dolphins. You will get a chance to feed some of them at the Sea Turtle Pool and Stingray Lagoon. But do not miss the Hawaiian Monk Seal Habitat where you can see these amazing animals.

See the Bottom of the Ocean on the Atlantis Submarine

For those of you who want to go deeper and see more wildlife at the bottom of the ocean, check out the Atlantis Submarine. You and the family will take a shuttle ferry to the submarine location in Waikiki. The Undersea Adventure takes you down in a real submarine in the comfort of AC and cushy seats.

For approximately one hour, you will descend 100 feet where you will all get to see marine life up close in its native habitat. The coral reef was rebuilt in 1988 to revitalize the area and it has become a treasure trove of fishes, turtles, and vibrant corals. See two sunken airplanes and sunken ships teeming with wildlife.

Get Some Sun on Waikiki Beach

Waikiki Beach is the most well-known and popular beach on the island of Oahu, and you will know why when you see the gorgeous crystal-clear turquoise waters and two miles of white sand. In the 1800s, the beach was a private space for Hawaiian royalty but today it is a public adventureland. 

But Waikiki has several beaches stretched out along a huge section of Waikiki Bay stretching for miles along the southern side of the island. One of the best sections of beach for kids is Prince Kuhio Beach, which is also known as The Ponds because there are two walls that offer calm and shallow water to play in.

Learn More About Hawaii at Bishop Museum

Teach the kids about the history of Hawaii while you are in Honolulu at the Bishop Museum. It’s the biggest museum in Hawaii with the largest collection of Polynesian artifacts in the world. The exhibits of Hawaiian life and culture are thanks to Charles Bishop, who founded it in 1889 to honor his wife, Princess Bernice.
Some of the permanent exhibitions include the Kaimiloa Expedition of 1924, the Falls of Clyde from 1968, and the Jhamandas Watumull Planetarium, the oldest planetarium in Polynesia. With 25 million items, each with its own story, you could spend the whole day there and not see everything there is to see.

While you are in Honolulu, don’t miss out on trying the local foods like Poke bowls, Kalua pig, Lomi salmon, and of course, shaved ice. Some of the best places to eat with kids include Mac 24/7, the Honolulu Burger Company, Hula Grill, and Duke’s Waikiki. And for dessert, try Island Vintage Shaved Ice or Liliha Bakery.

Mama Shelter:The Kidzcation

Stepping out of the cab with the blistering sun burning down on us, we could have easily been on an LA strip and not in the centre on Hackney when we arrived at Mama Shelter.

The grand, black building and striking canopies gave the hotel that immediate ‘wow’ factor, which also fills me with dread when it comes to travelling with kids! Little did I know though my worries were soon to be quashed.

We made our way past young couples sipping cocktails in the sun and entered the entrance hall where we were greeted with a ecletic mix of clashing, colourful prints and luxurious fabrics that were a feast for the eyes; but I think the game changer for us all was the arcade game sitting right by the reception; which imedietly put my mind at ease about the children being there and gave them something to do whilst I checked in, in peace.

I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome. I was told everything I needed to know and the children were asked what they were looking forward to during thier stay.

Our stay was going to see us experience Mama Shelter’s ‘Kidzcation’ which means that when you book one room you get one half price which is interconecting if avaliable so the family are all still together.

Our rooms consisted of a double bed and two singles which worked perfectly for us. There was plenty of room to move around and all the little essentials you need such as an area to make drinks and gorgous own brand bathroom goodies.

Screen addict Frankie homed straight in on the TV and was over the moon with the huge array of free movies on offer…I think he would have been happy to stay there all weekend. Another lovely little extra were the sweets on the kids beds and the super cute Looney Tunes masks that the boys kept on for the majority of their stay .

All settled in we made our way down to dinner. The restaurant was buzzing and had a fantastic atmosphere. There was a heated debate over who was sitting on the sofa which resulted in a full on meltdown from Oscar. Normally this would make for a fraught evening, but thanks to our wonderful waiter the crisis was divered and his kinds words telling me what a fab job I was doing with the kids meant so much!

We feasted on the best burgers I have ever tasted and finshed off with a variety of puddings from cookies and milk to brulee’d pain perdu.

The children’s menu mirrored that of the adults which is always somthing I like, instead of the usual beige offerings. Mine all wolfed down their meals and I had the chance to sit and enjoy a G&T in peace while the boys played on the super cool football table.

A check out time of 12pm meant that we could have a really lazy morning which is always welcome when you have numerous little ones to get ready. A few coffees, a bit of TV watching and a long relaxing shower later we went to fill our bellies once more. Children under 12 eat free for breakfast and they get to choose from the main menu which has a great variety. We are definitely a pancake loving family and couldn’t turn down the fluffy panckes dripping with syrup and covered in crispy bacon.

Full to the brim the boys made full use of the arcade machines before we headed to the karaoke room. Tucked away at the bottom of the hotel are two karaoke rooms where Oscar was in his element. The disco lighting and iPads to select your favourite tunes were a fantastic addition to an already wonderful stay.

If you are looking for a stay that caters perfectly for the kids whilst still giving the parents something special then Mama Shleter is the place to be!

Valentines Big Night In With Moonpig

[AD] As with most things at the moment Valentine’s Day is going to be a little different this year. There won’t be any candlelit dinners in cosy restaurants or celebrations over cocktails in swanky bars, but this doesn’t mean the celebrations have to stop – we can have just as much fun indoors and I have got some fantastic ideas from Moonpig to help with the fun.

Moonpig cards are a staple for any celebrations in this house and they couldn’t be handier than they are right now. From humour to romance they have it covered and the abitltiy to personalise your cards with your own photos or even handwriting make them all the more special.

Valentine’s Day and flowers are probably one of the most traditional ways to celelebate and Moonpig offer a fantastic range, with my favourite being the dozen red roses – simple and beautiful.

With the flowers to set the mood then a gorgous sented candle is the perfect accompaniment to set the mood for your date night. Yankee Candles are always a winner and the fresh cut rose scent works so well alondside the bouquet.

Next up would actually be a little treat I would buy myself…we all need to treat ourselves sometimes don’t we! The Valentine Beauty Gift Set from Birchbox has a great selelction of gifts such as lip gloss, nail polish and pillow spray to pamper yourself with.

For something a little different then the At Home Date Night gift card is a great way to plan a night of quizzes, puzzles, musical challanges and more. This alongside a few gin and tonics like the Edinburugh Pink Valentines Gin will make this somewhat different Valentine’s Day go with a bang!