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.

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.

The Light Bar:From Brunch To Cocktails

[GIFTED] Nestled away just on the outskirts of Coulsdon town centre is The Light Bar – a cafe by day and bar by night.

I had passed by so many times since it’s recent opening and never had a chance to stop until the other day when I popped along for breakfast with a friend.

The decor is cool and edgy and something a little different to what you usually find in Coulsdon which makes for a very refreshing change.

We were greeted with a warm smile and given a menu to peruse. Breakfast was well catered for and you could have something as simple as a pastry to a full English breakfast, tasty treats on sourdough bread, gorgeous bagels and lots more.

For those of you that have followed me for a while will know I have a bit of a thing for pancakes and The Light Bar didn’t disappoint. The fluffy and light pancakes were served with yogurt and berries and I could have easily gone back for more; whilst my friend opted for the avocado on sourdough which was presented beautifully and I was told it tasted as good as it looked!

We sat for a while chatting over great coffee and taking a look at everything else they had to offer, and there really is a vast choice of things to do.

The Light Bar has an equally good lunch menu and I think aside from the quality of the food what really stood out for me was the great prices, which isn’t always easy to find these days.

They run special events such as afternoon teas and bottomless brunches(which we are already planning on coming back for).

In the evenings they offer a huge range of cocktails, a resident DJ on a Saturday night and even the option of private hire and I can assure you it would be the perfect venue for a party.

I was super impressed with my first visit and will certainly be back very soon…probably to try out that bottomless brunch!

Frankie’s Lego Inspired Birthday With The Hip Hooray Co.

[GIFTED] ‘All I want for my birthday is a party with my friends’ – this was a kick to the stomach after realising Frankie had reached the grand age of eight without having a party with his friends.

I think due to the combination of his birthday being so close to Christmas and getting into a routine of doing a special day out with the older ones rather than a party, it has always just passed by without me getting anything arranged.

I was eager to resolve this and after discussions of a sleepover I sought the help of the lovely Tasha from The Hip Hooray Company.

I have followed her beautiful feed over on Instagram for a long time now and had high hopes that she was going to be able to create something special for Frankie and she certainly didn’t disappoint.

After a few emails to figure out what Frankie and myself were looking for and what his likes and loves were, Tasha soon came up with a Lego inspired theme that I fell in love with as soon as I saw it. It was the perfect idea for Frankie and gave me lots of ideas of what I was going to do to work around it.

The Hip Hooray Company specialise in sleepovers and luxe picnics for children and adults alike. There are teepees that are perfect for indoor sleepovers and even the option of bell tent hire for the warmer months.

We went for a teepee and picnic table package where every little detail was thought of and we couldn’t have been happier.

Tasha and her equally lovely Mum came along on the afternoon of the sleepover and set everything up for us, I didn’t have to lift a finger whilst Frankie stayed in the front room so he could have a grand reveal!

We had six teepees set up which come with a mattress, pillows, duvet and decorative cushions. To this bedside tables are added with little glass bottles for their drinks and nightlights and the teepees were given a finishing touch by being draped with bunting and fairy lights…I found the addition of lighting not only very pretty but good for those that aren’t keen on the dark.

As I said we also had the addition of a picnic table which I’m extremely glad we did as it was a great way to get them all seated to eat and doubled up as the perfect place for games that we played during the evening.

The table comes complete with tableware, lunch boxes that I used as the children’s goodie bags and of course popcorn boxes for the all important sleepover movie.

All set up and Frankie over the moon with what had been done the guests arrived and the fun began. Gaming was set to be a big part of the evening, but I made sure we had plenty of games to keep them amused too.

I went with the Lego theme and had a design your own mini figure area, a game to see who could break their mini figure out of ice the quickest, guess how much Lego was in the jar and plenty of games of who could build the biggest Lego tower in the shortest amount of time.

Take away pizza was on the menu but I also created a grazing section for them so they could go back and forth as and when they wanted too.

All played out it we time for a movie and popcorn which was so lovely to be able to be enjoyed in the cosy set up of the teepees and the fairy light lit room.

As expected bedtime took a while with six over excited eight year olds, but upon getting up in the morning they all said what a great nights sleep they had had in the teepees.

Before we knew it the party was over and the team were back to take down and put away after all the fun.

The party was noisy and not much sleep was had and this is exactly what I was expecting – but what I do know is that each and everyone of them had a wonderful and unique experience that they will remember for years to come and I couldn’t have hope for more.

2019 – Our Year In Pictures

I have been reflecting on the past year and kicking myself for not doing as much as I should, achieving as many goals as I wanted and generally beating myself up which isn’t a good thing at all.

After flicking through my camera roll I had a word with myself and realised that I am eternally grateful for my happy and healthy family and all the things we have accomplished in 2019 and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2020 brings us.

Pleasing A Teen With Poster Store

[GIFTED] Trying to please a teenager is a struggle at the best of times, and as I have recently found out these times are particularly challenging when it comes to decorating their room!

Of course any suggestions that come from me are poopooed and when I ask for her input it turns into a battle ground.

One thing however that was relatively painless was picking out some prints for her walls.

We have very different tastes and I have to admit I find it really hard to let the kids have free reign sometimes. When they hit their teens though it is important even more important to let them express themselves and what better way than through art.

Izzy was lucky enough to be able to choose a selection of prints from Poster Store who offer a huge range of posters of different sizes and genres so there will be something to suit absolutely everyone. They also offer a vast selection of frames so you can have the finished piece all ready to hang as soon as it arrives.

Izzy is a big lover of monochrome and there were an abundance of prints for her to choose from.

Over her chest of draws she went for one statement piece that showed her love for her favourite city.

Above her bed she went for a gallery wall and gained a lot of her inspiration for this from the mood boards on Poster Stores sites.

Her love of fashion shone through with her choices with the statement Chanel piece being her favourite.

Izzy went for an all black theme with the frames that were fantastic quality and set the art work off perfectly.

Wether you are decorating a teens room like me or have a completely different project underway then Poster Store is definitely worth perusing.

Simple Pleasures At Croyde Bay Holiday Resort

[PRESS TRIP] Holidaying with children of varying ages can be somewhat of a task to say the least. Some want to be building sandcastles and hunting for seashells whilst others want to be hitting the shops exploring theme parks.

It isn’t always easy to cover all these bases and at times it can be a real headache, so I had high hopes that on our visit to Croyde Bay Resort I would be able to keep them all happy!

After a slightly nerve wracking but equally beautiful drive along the coastline of North Devon we arrived at what was going to be our home for the next few days and we couldn’t have been happier with what we found.

After collecting our keys and a little information from the super helpful and very friendly receptionist we were shown to our amazing lodge. We have stayed in similar accommodation to this lots of times before but have never found anything so beautifully designed and as well equipped as this.

The children were overjoyed to see a smart TV and quickly settled down to watch a bit of Netflix whilst I put a load of washing on from our last trip. It really was a home from home and we settled in the minute we arrived.

The whole lodge was extremely spacious with a good sized, open plan living area which had real sofas rather than the usual build in style you often find in this kind of lodge along with a great sized dining table.

Our lodge had three really good sized bedrooms with the main one having an en-suite too alongside the main bathroom which again unusually had a bath rather than just a shower room which is a very welcome addition when you have little ones.

All settled in we went of to explore and our first port of call of course was the beach which was literally a stones throw away from the resort.

We elongated the walk slightly by climbing to the top of the sand dunes and the I sat back and watched the children playfully roll down and run up over and over again. It’s little opportunities like this that allows them to really just be kids that is so important to me.

Croyde Bay was absolutely stunning and it’s rugged coastline lends itself perfectly to rock pooling, surfing and body boarding. We spent a good few hours exploring the bay and were so happy that we had this so close to the resort.

Bellies were rumbling by now so we headed back to freshen up and make our way over to the main hotel where we would be having our evening meal.

I’m not a big fan of on site clubhouses usually but Croyde Bay Resort has a lovely calm, laid back atmosphere with a main restaurant area along with a smaller bar area where we chose to have our evening meal.

The menu offered covered a good variety of dishes for both for adults and children alike with lots of locally sourced products and allergy friendly alternatives which is always so important to us.

I threw thing back to the 80’s with a prawn cocktail which was delicious and followed this with a juicy Exmoor streak and super crispy chips both cooked to perfection.

The children enjoyed a classic with sausage and chips and we all followed this up with super tasty desserts that were a feat for the eyes as well and the mouth.

Unusually I felt super relaxed at the table with the children and we finished off our evening with a couple of board games of which there are a whole host to choose from.

Ordinary I would be rushing through my dinner and hoping that we could get through a meal without them all creating, so it was lovely to be able to kick back, relax and really interact with each other as a family with these games.

We all slept soundly and decided we were going to get out and explore a little before the forecast rain hit, but before that we hit the buffet breakfast which was pretty immense. Again this is an addition to a self catering style holiday that I haven’t experienced before and it was great to have the option to eat out on site if you don’t fancy cooking for yourselves.

There was everything from a full English breakfast to pancakes with syrup, cereals and pastries, fresh fruit and yogurt and so much more.

All of this was easy for the children to access themselves which they loved and again it was a really informal set up which made it a lot more relaxing for me.

Izzy was itching to spend some of her holiday money so we took a trip into the town of Barnstable which had a good range of shops and restaurants, but I was looking for someone a little prettier to get a cream tea as it would be terrible to visit the West Country and not sample one wouldn’t it!

As I child I remember visiting and falling in love with Clovelly and I really wanted the children to experience what a gorgeous place it is. We headed down the super steep cobbled hill passing and petting the donkeys on the way, sampling some old fashioned sweets and of course getting my much wanted cream tea before getting down to the water front.

Devon really does home some amazing places to visit and this is one I’m definitely pleased I ticked of the list for the kids.

We headed back to the resort and whilst the boys played outside with the table football I prepared dinner. There is such a safe feel about this place I was more than happy for the boys to just outside the lodge enjoying their evening and having a little bit of freedom.

The predicted storm hit that evening so we stayed in and struggled up whilst listening to the howling winds and rain outside which I always strangely enjoy.

For our last full day we decided to stay local and make the most of what the resort and surrounding area had to offer so we hit the beach and then made use of the lovely on site swimming pool.

The pool had both a large and smaller pool which was perfect for us as Oscar still isn’t a great swimmer so I could keep an eye on him whilst still enjoying time in the pool with the older two. Throughout our stay the pool always stayed relatively quiet and uncrowned which is always good when you are trying to keep your eye on little ones that have more confidence than skill when it come to the water.

That evening we took a short walk into Croyde itself which I actually wish I had done when we first got there as for such a tiny village it had so much to offer. There was a great selection of independent shops and we struck lucky as there was a pop up event happening and we got to sample some amazing battered trout and chips before having some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted from the ice cream parlour.

Full up but not yet ready for bed we tried out hand at table tennis in the games room before hitting the sack.

We really did have a fantastic few days at Croyde Bay Resort enjoying simple activities and each other’s company in the comfort of the best equipped and homey lodge I have ever stayed in.

The location, the accommodation, the food and the general set up of this resort could not be faulted and it would make the perfect getaway for families of all ages.

We hope to be back very soon!

A New Adventure At Hever Castle

[GIFTED] Hever Castle has been one of our favourite places to go over the Christmas period, but for some reason until the other week we had never visited during the summer so I was very excited to see what it would hold at this time of year.

We arrived in the blistering heat with some friends and I was amazed at how stunning the gardens were in full bloom and as always the boys loved running off through each and every pathway that connects them.

We had a pretty swift walk as the children were eager to get to the new adventure playground that was a new addition to us.

As we arrived the mixture of wood and sand immediately appealed to me and the children took off within seconds to explore.

There was a huge sandpit with areas to climb and hide and in and as we walked through we discovered rope bridges, slides and a huge castle at the top which the boys absolutely loved.

Mine tend to get itchy feet pretty much anywhere we go and I was asked we spent a whole three hours there without a moan or groan…well aside from a couple of sand throwing incidents!

There is a coffee hut inside the play area which allowed me to have a natter over a drink whilst the children played.

We filled up on ice cream at the main cafe before heading into the maze which is always a big hit.

Next up was the water maze which again isn’t something we have had the pleasure of enjoying before.

It was so much prettier than I was expecting and was formed of a huge rock formation covered in foliage with pathways running around the outside with water squirting out at different times to surprise the children.

I wasn’t prepared so my lot went in fully clothed but I think that was half the fun!

Our last port of call of the day was to take a look out over the lake and to make some wishes in the fountain.

I love the serenity of this area and a row in one of the boats in on our list for our next visit.

Hever really does cater for all ages and because of this it is one of my favourite places for a day out with the whole family. There is action and adventure for the kids whist the chance for the adults to take in the beauty and the amazing history the whole place is steeped in.

There is always something new to see and experience and a whole activities that run throughout the year such as the Knights And Princesses School that is running right now.

A trip here would make the perfect treat to end the summer with.

A Child Friendly Escape With The Esplanade Hotel

[PRESS TRIP] For me the words ‘hotel’ and ‘child friendly’ are not something that go hand in hand and I almost always opt for self catering with the family as I find it easier to keep the children happy and I don’t have to worry about them all annoying other guests!

However when The Esplanade Hotel asked me to come and stay for a few days I was eager to see how we would all get on.

I haven’t been to Cornwall since I was a child and for a long time I have wanted to return with the children as I knew it was going to be somewhere we would love and I wasn’t wrong.

As soon as we arrived at Fistral Beach the view took my breath away and the children were itching to dip their toes into the inviting sea and as we were a little to early to check in we did just that.

The children ran on ahead with Frankie exclaiming ‘this is the best day of my life’ and it was then I knew that seven hour car journey had been worth it.

Sopping wet, caked in sand and ready to see where we would be staying we took the short walk back to the hotel and this is when my anxiety kicked in.

We were more than a little windswept and I was panicking about walking into the beautiful hotel reception in such a state of disarray, but all those worries were lifted when we were greeted by a warm smile and not a judgmental look in sight; In fact while the receptionist was getting everything sorted my gaze was drawn to a huge trunk with a sign above encouraging the children to borrow buckets and spades and enjoy the beach as well as a board full of children’s activities from pizza making to arts and crafts, doughnut decorating to bingo and a whole host of other things to keep the children entertained.

From this alone I could tell that the hotel was more than child friendly and certainly settled my nerves.

We headed up our room to clean up and I was really surprised at how spacious the room was. There was a huge double bed, a set of bunk beds and a sofa bed in a little anex off of the main room which was perfect to create an area that the older children could use to get a bit of time away from the little ones. This also lead onto a decked area that I enjoyed sitting on in peace watching the sunrise before the children got up!

The room had everything you could need for your stay and included a lovely personal touch of buckets and colouring books with the children’s names embellished on them. My preconceived ideas of a hotel stay being stressful were being quashed at every turn.

All settled in the children were eager to take part in the ‘build a bear’ session which was a really relaxed activity where they got the chance to make a bear of their own whilst making some new friends.

We were all ravenous by now and headed to the restaurant for dinner. We were seated by the window and the view alone was worth eating at The Esplanade. The friendly waitress went through the menu with us and although there was a separate menu for the children they also gave you the option to select anything from the main menu and they would make up a smaller portion which is always something I love to see.

I can honestly say that each and every dish was absolutely outstanding. From my soft and flavoursome breaded Brie to the creamy seafood linguine my meal couldn’t be faulted in any way.

The children made their way through all three courses and enjoyed every mouthful and it was lovely to see them have something that wasn’t based on the usual ‘beige’ offerings a lot of restaurants offer.

After a good nights sleep it was more food on the menu and on the proclamation of Izzy (an extremely opinionated teen) it was the best breakfast she had ever had, with top marks going to the buttery, flaky croissants.

The buffet style breakfast offered a huge range from a full English to fresh fruit and yoghurt, a great selection of pastries and all kinds of cereals.

I think it was definitely the pancake station that won Oscar over though!

The children were certainly in need of running some of the sugar off so we headed to the soft play area that was perfect to keep them entertained and let off some steam before we made our way for a dip in the pool.

The pool was perfect for the children and they were over the moon that they were allowed in the jacuzzi as this is so often of limits for little ones.

Whilst we were enjoying a bit of water play we stayed with the theme and headed to the Quicksilver Surf school that is attached to the hotel for our surf lesson.

Fistral beach is famous for its surfing and it would be a crime to not have a go whilst staying at the hotel.

We meet our instructor JJ who was young, bubbly, full of fun and hugely passionate about surfing which really helped to keep the children engaged.

After our pep talk we hit the sea and put what we had learnt into practice. Izzy was annoyingly a natural and took to it straight away whilst it took me a good few attempts to even get to my knees.

Oscar in hindsight was a little young and even though he gave it a good go it wasn’t really for him, but Frankie relished in every moment and hasn’t stopped talking about JJ since!

Fistral Beach really does have so much to offer and aside from the surfing we spent plenty of time swimming, rock pooling and strolling along in the evening watching the sunset.

We came away from our stay with a new found love of Cornwall, a new set of skills by the way of surfing and a realisation that a hotel stay with children needed been something to worry about when a hotel like The Esplanade has got it so right.

It was the perfect combination of somewhere for the children to explore and enjoy freely with a touch of something special for the adults too.

We have been missing those sea views in the morning and will certainly be back to visit very soon.

The Perfect Way To Show Off Your Art With eFrame

[AD] Since moving I have found a new passion for art and filling my walls with colour has become something I absolutely love.

Our dining room was very bare and I wanted two large prints that would make a real statement rather than the gallery wall style I using opt for.

The prints arrived and I feel in love with them but I hadn’t taken into consideration the size and soon realised that after exhausting all usual places for frames I wasn’t going to get something off the shelf and needed something customised.

This however came with a pretty hefty price tag until I came across eFrame. They offer a fantastic customised service at brilliant prices and I can honestly tell you I wouldn’t go anywhere else for frames now with frames starting as little as £9 and mounts for a mere 40p!

eFrames allow you to get the exact frame to suit your artwork/pictures in just a few simple clicks and even have a section for you to browse to get some inspiration if you are not sure what look to go for.

You can chose from a variety of different materials and colours and can opt for it to be mounted too if needed.

With my prints being pretty bright I wanted a dark frame to show this off and to give a good contrast against the white walls.

The frames arrived within a matter of days and were super easy to use. The frames were off a super high quality.

eFrame off an all round fantastic service and I couldn’t recommend them enough, I particularly intrigued about there new service where you can upload a photo to their site and it comes printed, mounted and frames for you so I think I will be trying this out very soon!

The Cutty Sark:A Day Out For All The Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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