Good, Safe Fun At Hever Castle

[PRESS TRIP] For those of you that follow me regularly you will know that we are all big fans of Hever Castle and we were delighted when they opened their doors again after lockdown.

As with anything we have done since restrictions have been lifted, we approached our first visit back with caution, but from the get go I needn’t have worried.

Pre-booking is essential, and time slots need to be selected to allow for small streams of people to enter at one time. This worked really well and we were able to get in quickly and easily.

Once we were inside the grounds there was plenty of room to run free and take in the beauty of the gardens.

All of the usual attractions aside from the maze are open with limited numbers allowed in for 30 mins at a time. Once your time is up there is a clean down before the next group of people are allowed in.

Of course this meant there was some waiting around and we didn’t get to spend as long as we usually would at each section. But I was happier to know that we were going into a place with limited numbers that was clean rather than having to stress about trying to social distance the children like I have at other places we have visited.

The play area is actually split into two sections and we manage to fit in two trips to both whilst we were there, with a cooling of session in the water maze in between which is always a favourite of ours.

We didn’t go inside the castle on this visit as the weather was just to glorious to miss so unfortunately I can’t comment on how long it was to get inside. However we did sit for a good while watching and feeding the huge fish!

Along with lots of other people we took a picnic and plotted up next to the water so the children could enjoy feeding the ducks whist we ate.

There were still plenty of food options if you prefer to eat there and of course lots of ice cream stops which we had to partake in!

It’s become a bit of a tradition for us to finish the day with a stroll through the wooded area which we always fine super quiet and the boys love as the can go off track, play by the steam and of course get covered in mud!

I can honestly say I was more than impressed with all the measures that have been put in place at Hever Castle to allow you to still have so much fun, whilst keeping you safe.

The castle will be getting its coating of autumnal leaves now and we can’t wait for our next visit to see this!

Treads – The Indestructible School Shoe

[GIFTED] It’s that time of year when parents are frantically trying to get ready for the return of ‘back to school’ labels are being stuck in, trousers are being taken up and for me the dreaded shoe shop is taking place.

With years of school shoe shopping under my belt I still haven’t found a stress free way to keep the kids happy and me sane whilst getting what we need.

So when Treads asked if I would like to try out their online shoe shop I was immediately drawn in as the prospect of hitting the shops was something I had been avoiding – especially in the current pandemic.

Treads specialise in durable school shoes for children aged 6-16 using a combination of top quality materials and clever technology to turn construction style footwear into school shoes.

The boys sat with me and happily scrolled through the shoes and selecting them for themselves. There wasn’t a huge range which for me was much better as they came to a decision really quickly.

Frankie went for the smart, Velcro option with the Sydney shoe and Oscar went for a more casual, lace up with the Boston.

Children are in school shoes for a good six or more hours a day, so fitting is important to me and is the only reason I usually opt to go in store for this. However Treads have a print out paper gauge that allows you to take the measurements and then enter online to get the perfect fit. They also come with a dual fitting system which means you can take out one of the inner soles to give you a wider fit.

The biggest pull for me though was their ’12 month indestructible guarantee’ which means if they don’t meet their high standards they will replace them for FREE.

My youngest two have been known to ruin shoes in a matter of weeks so I’m eager to see if they can stand the rest of time with them and by the sounds of these shoes they should have their work cut out trying to get through these!

A special Strobel technique is used which means the upper part of the shoe is placed into the mould and then the sole is injected around it – making it come complete entity. As well as this, the heels are reinforced to prevent splitting so they really have covered everything.

I will of course keep you updated and let you know if the demolishers manage to break through…I have high hopes for these though!

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!

What Families Look For When Renting A Home

[AD] The rental market is growing all the time, with a lot of people having to stay due to not being able to get on the property ladder and many just opting to stay in rental properties due the the flexibility it gives them.

Whatever the reason there is a whole host of things to consider when moving with a family and some things are often overlooked by both tenants and landlords; so I have compiled a few top tips for you below to make these decisions a little easier:

Schools – One of the top priorities for most families is the location of the nearest public and private schools and how well they perform.

Recreation – Having parenting groups, open space, playgrounds, libraries etc that are easily accessible is a big must for many families.

Crime Rate – We obviously all want to keep our families as safe as possible so one factor would definitely end to try and find an area with a low crime rate.

Community – This isn’t something everybody would find important, but a lot of people like the opportunity to be able to be part of a wider community for support, finding friends and getting together at different types of events for the whole family to enjoy.

Parking – Coming from someone that has only just found a property with good parking this is a big priority – especially when you have a young family.

Having to drag your shopping along the street with small children in tow is never fun and can add additional stress to your day.

A Safe Home – You could find a beautiful home that completely fits the bill in many ways, but there is a banister free stair case or a sheer drop off of the patio area that simply would be safe for your family. This is something that both tenants and landlords should consider.

Pets – Pets can be a important part of the family so with many landlords not accepting pets this is something you most look into.

Gardens – Gardens are an extension of the home and something a lot of people look for in a property. With small children you need to ensure this area is safe and can work with outdoor toys etc.

Insurance – This is import for both the tenant and the landlord to get right as for a landlord there are many more things to factor in being able to compare landlord insurance to ensure things such as theft, loss of rent and malicious damage are a must.

Guilt Free Screen Time With Osmo

[PR SAMPLE] Getting the right balance when it comes to screen time and little ones can be so hard, especially in this current climate. I find myself allowing the children more of it so that I can get work done and then feel guilty that I have let YouTube take over my duties as a parent.

I have recently however found a brilliant solution to this – Osmo.

Osmo is a unique educational gaming accessory that you can use with a list of compatible devices. Osmo brings together tactile exploration and innovative technology to allow children to learn in a super fun way.

When our Osmo Creative Kit arrived I was worried the set up would be tricky, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. All that was needed was to download the Osmo App, place our iPad onto the Osmo base and the then place reflector over the top of the iPad’s camera and we were good to go.

There is a huge range of different kits available for Osmo that help your children learn skills in coding, maths, puzzles, spelling and drawing.

The creative kit that we were sent came with a white board style board and wipeable pens to use on it, as well as a case for the pens that doubles up as a cloth…how cool is that!

Oscar set to work following the instructions and jumping with glee when his creations were brought to life by being dragged into the screen by the big lovable bear. It was so much fun the my husband couldn’t resist joining in to.

I loved the combination of him working on his drawing skills, listening and following instructions and learning to navigate his way around the screen.

The creative kit has given a new meaning to screen time for Oscar and has made me feel so much better about getting on with work, safe in the knowledge he is is gaining new skills.

Protecting Your Family With Life Search

[AD] There are a whole host of things to consider when we think about starting a family and to be honest it can be a bit of a daunting prospect.

Are we at the right stage in our life to bring a little one into the world? Is our relationship strong enough to deal with the responsibility? Have we got a good support network in place to help us out? Are we in a good financial position?

But it is this last question that I want to talk about today as most people take into consideration the financial position they are currently in, but don’t think more long term or consider what would happen if you or your partner were no longer around.

This is where life insurance is something we should all consider, no matter how old we are as sadly no one knows what could be round the corner and if you have the security of life insurance then this allows you to have a safety next if the worse should happen; and peace of mind that your loved ones will be looked after financially.

So what is life cover? – to round it up it is a payment made to your loved ones if something should happen to you. This is usually made as a one off payment, but some companies such as Life Search offer a family income benefit policy which in my opinion is a much better way of receiving payment.

Family Income Benefit is a bit different to other life insurance products in that it doesn’t pay out a lump sum to your loved ones should you pass away, but instead provides the beneficiaries with regular, tax-free income – either monthly or quarterly, to help cover household and living costs when the main earner isn’t around anymore.

When you take out a Family Income Benefit policy, you choose how long you want your term to last. For young families, this could be until the children are financially independent and would no longer need the income payments.

Loosing a loved one if one of the hardest things anyone could go through, so making the financial side of things easier gives you one less thing to worry about.

Is this the kind of policy you would consider?

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!

Rail Safety With Network Rail And Thomas The Tank Engine

[AD] ‘Stop, look, listen, think before you cross the road.’

This is a road safely saying that was drummed into me as a child and I have passed this down to my own children over the years. Road safety of course is something of upmost importance and is taught to our children at home and in schools…but how many of you teach rail safety to your children?

As regular train users I am embarrassed to say that the limits of my teaching to the children have been to stand behind the yellow line on the platform and to move away from closing doors. I naively thought that this was all they really needed to know and never considered this of any great importance; and it looks like I’m not alone – a Mumsnet survey shows that only half of parents that were asked had spoken to their children about rail safety, compared to a wapping 94% that had spoken about road safety. 3 in 1 parents have never discussed rail safety with their children, even though 4 out of 5 of them think it should be spoken about and this seems to stem from parents not knowing how to start the conversation which resonated with a third of those asked.

If you really take time to think about this the dangers of the railway are just as great as those on the road and even if you do not live near a railway station or use a train regularly, teaching our little ones about rail safety is of upmost importance and the need for it to be taught at a very young age is so great as their learning can then be carried through into their teenage years.

As I said earlier a third of parents didn’t really know how to broach this subject and this is why Network Rail have got together with the lovable and familiar characters – Thomas And Friends to teach children how to stay safe.

For those of you familiar with Thomas And Friends he is a pretty cheeky character who is always up to mischief and my youngest two certainly have many of the same characteristics. Looking for fun rather than considering dangers that can be involved is something I always need to keep an eye on with them and I’m sure many of you have the same issues with your children.

‘Stay Safe With Thomas’ allows parents to approach the subject gently with their children, allowing them to learn in a fun an interactive way with their special book.

I turn to books to aid me in a whole host of subjects I find difficult to navigate, so having Thomas And Friends there showing children the dangers of not stopping at level crossing, standing to close to the platform and much more allowed me to broach these subjects where the children could put their self into Thomas and his friend’s shoes.

There is also a super handy checklist at the end of the book that can be referred back to time and time again to reinforce all those dangers they need to be keeping an eye out for.

As well as being able to purchase a paperback copy there is an easy to download electronic version which would be great to refer to when you are out and about and using the railway.

I would love to know how many of you already speak to your children about this or if it is something you will now consider engaging in.

Frankie’s Free One – To – One Tuition With toota

[AD] Frankie has struggled with maths for a long time now and a long time now and alongside getting additional help at school I have tried to supplement this at home which has often been a struggle. With there being different teaching methods to those that I am used to and the familiarity between us we more often than not hit a brick wall.

Something I have been considering for a while now is a tutor to give him some much needed expert help, and for me with this in mind I then had to make the decision as to wether I wanted a traditional face – to – face tutor or to explore online tutoring.

So when toota asked me to trial a 40 minute one – to – one maths session for Frankie I was eager to see how this was going to work for us both.

toota offers tailored online one – to one maths tuition from UK qualified teachers and cover key stage 1 all the way to A Levels. The sessions work in a pay as you go basis which allows great flexibility so you can book as an when you need.

Our session was super easy to book and a follow up email arrived shortly after, asking if there was anything specific we were looking to cover. As I said Frankie struggles with lots of aspects of maths so my brief was pretty vague WiFi got didn’t put off our lovely tutor Jan who just got stuck in with Frankie the minute our session began.

Jan introduced herself to us both and Frankie was was a little apprehensive before the session immediately warmed to her and amazingly offered her an insight into what he was finding hard at the moment, with fractions coming up as his sure team of choice for the session.

One of the reasons I was put off by online tutoring was the fact that Frankie works much better in a hands on way but toota quashed my worries here as Jan used visual aids for Frankie as well as an interactive board online that they could both write on. Frankie loves this aspect and it worked well alongside him being able to use traditional pen and paper too.

As the session progressed Jan quickly picked up his needs and sent me on the lookout for some dried pasta for him to use as counters which helped Frankie no end.

I loved the fact I could sit in on the session with him and pick up tips on how I could continue helping him at home which is something I always find hard and end up loosing my will with. The sessions are also recorded so you can go back time and time again to go over anything they have learnt and may have forgotten.

Frankie isn’t a willing learner and I never thought we would get through a whole 40 minutes without him trying to leave the table which would have been so easy to do when there was nobody there in real time, but with the combination of an engaging tutor and a fun and interactive session he finished asking for more which I honestly wasn’t envisaging at all.

For me an online tutor is more convenient for us and during these challenging times it is the only option obviously due to lockdown. We have pretty hectic schedules in this house and having an online tutor would allow me to fit in sessions easily without having to battle through traffic, sit waiting in the car for sessions to finish and allow us to have the session from pretty much wherever we want, also making this more cost effective as you are receiving the cost of traveling back and forth.

As I said earlier I loved being able to dip in and out of the session with him which is something you don’t get the chance to do if they are with an outside tutor and I would really enjoy being able to see his progression the through the sessions.

It also gives them the chance to navigate a different style of learning, mixing in computing skills along maths with the use of the interactive tools.

I was overly impressed with toota from start to finish and I would highly recommend taking up this offer of a FREE 40 minute maths supercharged session to see how it works for yourself. Simply click HERE and use the code JOFIVE to get started and don’t forget to let me know how you get on!

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?