ZSL London Zoo:Our Best Bits

I am ashamed to say that although ZSL London Zoo is probably to closest Zoo to us I have not had a visit in probably over ten years. Considering we absolutely love an outdoor adventure and one with animals even more so I am not entirely sure why I have left it so long.

We did however rectify this the other week when we took a trip there to check out what they had to offer.

It was a scorching hot day and as we approached the entrance I was dreading the queues I had already envisaged in my head to get in, so I was pleasantly surprised when we were greeted by a super happy member of staff who showed us in and wished us a good day.

I was a little shocked as to quite how vast the zoo was and we were all eagar to get exploring as soon as possible.

After seeing a little about the Superhero Academy this was our first port of call. The boys were so excited to get started by colouring in their own superhero mask and getting hands on with all there was on offer.

My children certainly learn most from being hands on so being able to race against the cheetahs to see how fast they can actually go and climb like geckos in search of food. Seeing what superpowers the animals possess was a great way to keep the boys engaged and learning at the same time.

As well as this they got to learn a great deal about plastic waste and what an awful effect it is having on their world. It was great for them to be able to realise this destruction is going on and to then relate it to different animals as we explored the zoo.

Just outside was the perfect setting for a picnic which can all to often be missing from places such as this. We opted to take a picnic along to make the most of the good weather but there were plenty of options when it came to eating from ice-cream and candy floss, a delicious smelling BBQ stand and a cafe serving anything from coffees to full main meals and even a cheeky glass of wine if you fancied it!

I think for us the biggest pull of the zoo was how close you could get to all the animals. For the bigger animals such as the gorillas there were huge glassed walls that allowed everyone a good view without being bundled on top of each other which is fantastic. But for us getting even closer in the butterfly house and the lemur walk through was such an amazing experience.

Oscars face completely lit up when he saw the adorable lemurs casually walking around taking everybody in. The boys normally can’t sit still for more than five minutes but they were more than happy to listen to some very interesting facts while watching the lemurs explore their territory. I mean who knew that their beautiful black and white stripped tails are in fact used as a balancing aid?

Another highlight for us was Penguin Beach. The Humboldt Penguins who are lucky enough to be homed on this great sized beach have plenty of room to waddle around and dive into the water for a quick dip which the boys found amazing to watch through the many viewing areas available.

Into Africa also came high on our list of best bits with the giraffe viewing area which enabled us to get really close to these super tall, majestic beasts.

I have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the animals that we saw, but these were certainly our highlights from the trip.

Not having visited for a number of years now I didn’t know what to expect from our visit and I came away pleasantly surprised by all the changes that had been made. All of which were in the favour of the animals happens and welfare which is all you can ask for. We had a wonderful day and will be back soon for some more fun, especially as the annual membership is such great value for money if you are going to be making multiple visits…which I’m sure you will!

*collaborated post

Camp Bestival In Pictures 2018

The summer is drawing to a close now and I can honestly say it’s been an awesome one with so much fabulous weather and all kinds of adventures for us it a real shame that it has to end.

I am however really grateful to have captured so many of these moments on camera with some of my favourite times being at this years Camp Bestival.

A picture really does paint a thousand words and I hope this little collection gives to an insight into what an amazing place Camp Bestival is!

Camp Bestival 2018 Highlights

All I can really say about Camp Bestival this year is, “you’ve done it again”.

Despite being battered by 50mph winds and torrential downpours Camp Bestival still managed to keep shinning and gave everyone a weekend to remember.

I’m not going to give you a blow by blow account of the whole weekend, as to be honest there is way to much to cram into one post, so instead I will give you the highlights of my amazing weekend and will have more posts to follow.

Food Glorious Food – When we first visited Camp Bestival three years ago now one of the biggest surprises for me was how amazing and varied the food on offer there is.

The moment we leave the car Izzy is on a mission to have her first Nutella and cream cover waffle whilst Darren finds it hard to move away from the Paella UK stall the entire weekend.

I however like to try something new each time we visit and for me it was DJ BBQ that tempted me this year with his woody flavoured pulled pork, crispy rustic chips and of course the fab tunes blasting out whilst waiting for your order. You really do get a feast for all your senses when you eat there.

Absolutely every taste is catered for from delicious maki rolls that are perfect for vegan diets, crispy breaded chicken, amazingly creamy mac ‘n’ cheese, corn on the cobs as big as your head and so much more!

Music, Singing, Dancing – One of the main attractions at Camp Bestival is the music and in the past the boys were a little young for us to really appreciate it due to the fact they got a little restless. This year however they fully embraced it all and we couldn’t be happier.

It as actually my youngest that made my weekend when we when to see YouTube star HRVY take to the stage in the big top. Izzy had left us all and weaved her way to the very front of the stage to get as close to her teenage crush as possible, while Oscar waited patiently on Darren’s shoulders for him to take to the stage.

His little face lit up and he spent the entire set transfixed on the stage, singing along to his favourite tunes. It so amazing that children so young can get the opportunity to enjoy the wonder of live music in such a safe and friendly atmosphere.

Sarah Cox wowed the crowds with an outstanding set of all our 80’s favourites that we took great pleasure in dancing along to whilst embarrassing the kids. Basement Jaxx and Clean Bandit were as awesome as I expected and we were thrilled that the boys managed to stay awake long enough for the later acts this year…with the help of a little sugar!

Doing It For The Kids – Ultimately Camp Bestival is all about the kids and this year as always there was something for them to do around every corner. This year we didn’t watch so much on the main stage although Dinosaur World Live was pretty amazing. Instead we spend a lot of time in the Kids Garden where the children got their craft on in the craft tent, turned into little einsteins in the Science Tent, wurled around on the helter skelter more times than I can remember, dug away in the sandpit and created some brilliant sandcastles.

A big hit with us was the LOL Surprise stand that was a real crowd pleaser. Izzy and the boys are all big fans of these little collectables and as you can imagine a whole area dedicated to them went down really well. They got to hunt for prizes in the ball pit, get a glittery makeover and even take to the catwalk that Izzy relished in.

All Mucking In – Camping is bundles of fun but far from easy, especially when there are a few little ones to sort out. This calls for everyone to have their own little tasks which is something they don’t really get involved with at home. I’m actually my own worst enemy and take care of all the cooking and cleaning at home for a quiet life so I love that Camp Bestival allows me to relax a little and hand the meal prep baton over to Darren, the washing up and water runs to Izzy and the tent cleaning to the little ones.
A bit of responsibility is certainly good for them and something I love to see.

Good Friends – Over the past few years Camp Bestival has been a brilliant place to make new and meet up with good friends. The blogging world is a funny one with a lot of friendships being built online and I love that Camp Bestival gives me the opportinity to meet with them at least once a year and have a good catch up over a cocktail or two! Aby from You Baby Me Mummy and Caro from The Twinkle Diaries being two of the lovelies I can’t wait to see each year.

Back To Basics – Every year I say the same thing but it always has and probably always will be the most import thing about Camp Bestival for me – family time.
We all spend way to much of our live lost in our own little words and rushing around worry about the next thing, tied to our smart phones and computer screens and forget about the things in life that are really import.
The ability to really get back to basics and forget about everything else for a few days is the perfect way to draw closer as a family and just enjoy each other.

If this sounds like the kind of place for you, and lets face it why wouldnt it! take a look HERE and get yourselves booked in for more fun next year.

*I went along as an ambassador for Camp Bestival and here are all my own honest opinions.

Capturing The Wonder Of Mayfield Lavender With Rachel Thornhill

For the past few years the Mayfield Lavender fields in Banstead have been my first glimpse that summer has arrived. The magnificent sea of purple that fills the landscape and the beautiful smell that engulfs the air is a sight to be seen and one that I never ever tire of.

Mayfield Lavender has really gone from strength to strength and not only does it offer you the chance to enjoy this natural wonder there is also the opportunity to enjoy a huge range of scrutipous food and drink from the cafe such as juicy hotdogs, delectable homemade cakes and even a lavender cream tea which is still on my wishlist to try.

The shop is also fully stocked with goodies from tolliteries to lavender flavour sweets and of course a change to take home some of your very own lavender.

My little ones love being able to just run free through the fields but if you want a little more adventure then hop onboard the tractor for a ride around the fields to get a completly different perspective.

I am always the one holding the camera on our trips which I absolutly love, but this year it was a little different as we went along to meet the lovely Rachel Thornhill who is an expert when it comes to photography…especially at Mayfield Lavender.

Rachel is in fact one of the photographers recommend by Brendan Maye – The owner of Mayfield lavender and the moment I meet her I could understand why.

Her friendly smile and calm, welcoming nature put us all at ease when we arrived and she chatted at length with the children about what our morning was going to entail and how to care for the fields and the nature living there during the shoot.

I am not a fan of posed images and much prefer a playful, natural style of picture and this is exactly what Rachel tries to create. Capturing the children at play or us all in deep conversation creates a much more natural image and one that tells a story allowing it to be a more memorable capture and something to treasure for years to come.

During our shoot that lasted a little over an hour we got the change to explore, play, chat and giggle and at no point did the children get bored or restless as Rachel worked her magic and kept them happy and engaged throughout, she even managed to keep shooting when Oscar bundled in for cuddles.

What really sets her apart from other photographers is that she creates bespoke museum quality wall art and framed prints personal to you and hand made by professional printers in both the UK and Italy that are designed to stand the test of time, and become a part of your family story. The products are not available to buy from anywhere other than professional photographers, so really quite special?

Mayfield Lavender is a truly magical place that is pretty hard to find in the UK. It is a place to make special memories to keep for a lifetime and with something like a photoshoot with Rachel these special moments can be captured and remembered for many years to come.

*collaborated post

Family Photography Workshop With Sharp Shots Photography Club

It was a few years ago when I first met the lovely Lillian Spibey from Sharp Shots Photography Club whist she was running Sharp Shots Photography Club workshop at Priory Farm in Surrey. Lilian in fact runs the UK’s largest kids and teens photography company and has taught over 2000 students aged between 7-15. The courses run after school and on site at numerous locations across the south East of England.

Izzy chose this course as her birthday gift as her passion for photography had just started to take hold and she enjoyed every single minute of it!

She came away with a firm vision of where she wanted her new found skills to take her and has been putting them into practice ever since.

Im sure that Izzy’s love of photography has been passed down by me as since I started my blog a little over three years ago now photography is the biggest and most loved part of it.

When I first started all I was armed with was my IPhone and no clue of how to take a photo at all. Over the years I have upgraded to my beloved Olympus Pen, followed countless photographers on Instagram and just gone with what I think would make a good picture.

I really feel that from the start of my blogging journey my photography has improved but I had got to the point when some professional intervention was needed as there were things I just couldn’t get the knack of no matter how hard I tried.

So when I was approached by Lilian to come along to a workshop she was putting on for bloggers and their children I was over the moon.

We headed off early to meet everyone in London where Lilian greeted us with her calm and welcoming manner which put us all at ease and eager to get some tips from the experts.

Sharp Shots Photography Club aims to provide you with life long photography skills teaching you how to use your digital camera along with composition skills to allow you to take the best photo you can.

We all sat around in a large group where I was very happy to see the lovely Emily from Family Four Fun who had also come along. Each person introduced themselves and told us what they were hoping to gain from the day which was lovely as their were such a wide variety of aims with a lot of them involving the need to know the basics which is where we started.

I know for me this was of upmost importance as I have to admit since getting my camera over two years ago I have been pretty scared to use anything other than auto and I was really eager to move away from this. Izzy was just excited to explore her surrounding and get snap happy around the park.

Lilian started with the theory side of things and we got the chance to see how other photographers put different techniques to use in their style of photography and the mechanics behind how the camera actually works which was extremelly interesting. Her background and passion for what she does makes her the perfect teacher and things that I have found daunting before were made so much simpler through her explanations.

We learnt to master the basics such as shutter speed, how to focus, depth of field and how to get the most out of your pictures by putting yourself in different positions to get that perfect angle.

For me it was all about getting something different from my photography. I feel I always opt for a close up as this is what I feel most comfortable with and it was great to be able to try out different shutter speeds to gain some fantastic images with the passing traffic and pretty ribbons.

Cameras are amazing pieces of equipment that can give you such a different perspective on the same scene and I am so pleased that I have now been armed with the knowledge to try different things out.

I think though what I gained most from this workshop is how differently children take to new things. I was certainly very tentative about changing my style and was apprehensive about taking a step away from what I am used to; where as Izzy embraced it all with our any apprehension and gained some wonderful images because of just that.

Below I have left a section of her favourite shoots from the day, ones that I am extremely proud of.

Going over my own photos I’ve been pretty critical, but have learnt from the kids to be more gun hoe with my approach and will certainly be trying out my new found knowledge a lot more in the future. Here are a few of my favs from the day.

We both came away from the day with our heads bursting with new ideas and even more passion for photography! Izzy can’t wait to sign up to another course this summer and I am hoping on getting on another one too!

Finding My Confidence With Laura Shaw Photography

This year was the year I had set goals to challenge myself, push boundaries and try new things.

Over the past few years so many people have asked why I don’t appear more on my blog and the simple answer to this was always that I was way to critical of myself.

I would take endless selfies and delete them all or get one of the children to try and get a picture that I would be remotely happy with and to be honest this very rarely happened.

I hated myself for how shallow this made me feel but due to a culmination of different insecurities I just couldn’t bring myself to be on screen.

A while ago now I won a competition to have a photo shoot with Laura from Laura Shaw Photography and I knew from the very first moment I met here she was going to be the lady to put my mind at ease when it came to getting in front of the camera.

The session was booked and cancelled endless times and finally a few weeks ago all the pieces fell into place and the session went ahead.

I probably didn’t pick the easiest of locations for my nerves as a high street packed with people would never be a place you could naturally relax, but Laura worked her magic and after shots that felt terribly uncomfortable I finally relaxed and started to being to thoroughly enjoy the whole experience.

It was actually a few crude words from Laura that set me off into fits of giggles and I will never look at her without thinking of these worlds again!

The hours flew by as we flitted around the town borrowing changing rooms and handbags from the lovely Nancy of Gerrards and stopping to use the beautiful surroundings off Willows florist.

I have have to say a big thank you to guys at Stone House Vinyl as we plotted up there on a few occasions during the day!

This really was an experience I never thought I would have the courage to do and I can’t thank Laura enough for finding my confidence, giving me an amazing afternoon of fun whilst capturing the most amazing images.

Celebrating The Small Things:Week Nineteen

This week has been a pretty full one and also one that has seen some changes in my life that for a very long time I didn’t think were going to happen!

Sharing Passions – I have always tried to ensure my children follow their dreams, indulge their passions and to never be afraid to stand out from the crowd.
This is something I feel very strongly about even though it has backfired on me a few times when they have needed to conform and these sayings have been recited back to a teacher of two!
Out of all my children Izzy is certainly the one who puts her all into everything she’s tries and is eager to explore all kinds of new things.
At the weekend we got the chance to go along to a fabulous photography workshop and it was so heart warming to see she has a passion for it as strongly as I do and watch her inventive and very different ideas be put into practice.

Braving The Camera – Talking about photography from a different angle this time, with me getting in front of the camera for a change.
I am always told that I should appear more on my blog but due to a lack of confidence its something I’ve always shied away from.
This week however I bit the bullet and with the help of the wonderful Laura Shaw I managed to not only get in front of the camera but to thoroughly enjoy it too!

Hello Mr Sunshine – The weather has been pretty horrific up until the past few weeks where the sun has shown his face and I couldn’t be more excited about this!
Longer evenings, being able to eat outside and making the most of the garden are all small things I have been relishing in.

A Sneak Peek At The Land Of Tiger- Chessington World Of Adventure

On Friday we loaded up the car and set off for a very special sleepover – a stay at Chessington World Of Adventures to take a sneak peek at the new Land Of The Tiger which is open to the public on the 5th May.

Chessington is only a short drive for us but staying over at their fabulous hotel makes us feel like we are a million miles away. The children ran straight in the room and headed to the bunkbeds to stake their claim whilst I had five minutes with a coffee looking out at the monkeys playing in the park.

It wasn’t long before we headed over to get the evening started which we were all super excited about. Wild Asia was set to be our home for the night where we started the evening out with a few cocktails in the Explorer’s Outpost Restaurant and late night rides on the Kobra and the Monkey Swings.

Next up was the highlight of the evening as we all headed to the Land Of Tiger to be amongest the first few people to see everything it has to offer.

Once inside the huge wooden gateway we were greeted by the super friendly zoo keepers that spoke lovingly and passionately about the four new additions – Olga, Tsar, Kalinda and Kyra.

These majestic beauties have made themselves at home in their grand and innovative enclosure that is the first of its kind in Europe due to its overhead trails that gives you an amazing, up close view of them.

The children were amazed to see the Amur tigers passing through the walkways above their heads and then being able to get so close to them was an amazing experience.

I loved all the free space they have to roam around in and the different habits they can explore, there is even a huge pool for them to have a dip in!

The Land Of Tiger is also home to the new log flume ride – Tiger Rock that we were all itching to have a go on in the morning.

We finished off our evening back in Wild Asia enjoying good food, having a bit of a bumper car marathon due to the kids not wanting to get off and a lot of singing and dancing along to a fabulous band of child stars that absolute made the evening. It has to be said that Izzy was more than a little star stuck to be dancing alongside the likes of Sophie Ellis- Bextor and Jacqueline Jossa who plays Lauren in Eastenders.

I can honestly say it was a matter of minutes after the kids head hit the pillow before they were fast asleep in preparation for the next day.

Miracles actually happened over night as I had to wake them all up to start the day which began with an amazing breakfast with the choice of a full english, pastries, cereal, fresh fruit and so much more.

I had all good intentions of sticking to a bowl of fresh fruit, but my resolve cracked pretty quickly once I got a wiff of the bacon and saw the gooey blueberry muffins.

Full to the brim we headed back to the Land Of The Tiger to try out Tiger Rock. Oscar and Frankie were still to little to go on so Izzy and Archie raced while we waited at the bottom to watch their decent.

Seeing the glee on their faces as the boat past by let me know that it had been a hit an it was soon my turn to try it out for myself.

I clambered on board the boat and took the same familiar journey as the old Dragon Fall but I wasn’t expecting a very different surprise along the journey and I won’t spoilt the fun by letting on what it is, I will let you find out for yourselves. It was wonderful to travel along the watery pathways and spot the tigers from all different directions and it certainly takes your mind off the huge 15ft plummet at the end of the ride that sees you plunge into the huge, mist covered tigers head.

The excitement didn’t finish there as we made our way back to the entrance just in time to see comedian Romesh Ranganathan hand feeding one of the tigers that the boys would have loved to have a go at themselves.

After feasting on some ‘tiger churros’ and delicious doughnuts we whizzed around a few of our favourites like The Grufflo Ride before having to make our way home.

The Land Of The Tiger is a magnificent addition to an already amazing theme park and is something not to be missed. Sadly we didn’t get time to see the new Gruffly Grove stage show so we will be back in the next couple of weeks to see what the cuddly creature has in store and I will be letting you know all about it!

Easter Fun At Morden Hall Park

I think this has to be the first year for as long as I can remember that we haven’t taken part in a National Trust easter egg hunt and I have to say that I’m pretty sad about that! The Easter weekend just seemed so fun that we didn’t get a chance to fit it in.

That said we couldn’t get through the holidays without a trip to one of their properties and we decided on Morden Hall Park as its been a good while since we’ve had a visit there.

After a pitstop at the cafe for coffee and cake we were greeted at the main entrance by a super friendly volunteer who set about telling us how we could join in wth the Duck Trail which allowed the children to set off around the grounds in search of different species of ducks, ticking them off on their sheet as they go and showing them some food along the way.

Morden Hall Park has had a lot of work done to it since we were last there and absolutely loved the wooden pathways and lookout points that had been added to the wetland area.

The boys spent ages dipping in sticks and trying to find the crocodiles my Dad had told them were lurking beneath!

We played Pooh Sticks on the bridges, ran through all the open spaces, climbed trees and got covered in mud…exactly what a day should be full of!

Morden Hall Park is also perfectly positioned for a short walk to Deen City Farm where the children got to feed and get up close to lots of lovely farm animals from pigs, sheep and even ferrets.

The children were filthy dirty and thoroughly worn out after a wonderful day and Morden Hall Park certainly come with a big thumbs up from us.

Country Kids

Celebrating The Small Things:Week Four

This weeks ‘celebrating the small things’ is a little self indulgent as I’m unusually pleased with what I have achieved. I’m usually full of self doubt and always see the negatives in what I do which is really counter productive and something I want to try to improve so here it goes:

Happy In My Work- I recently restarted teaching my ladies fitness kickboxing classes which I have found a whole new love for. Teaching was always a huge passion for me but the more children I had the trickier it became to fit this kind of work in and sadly it stopped a few years ago.
Thankfully the New Year has bought with it some lovely faces both old and new that have made my job an absolute pleasure once again.

Weight Loss Going Well – A New Year, restarting my classes and a big hit of self motivation has seen me finally losing some weight.
I wrote a post a while ago on how the past few years have seen me gaining a lot of weigh which has really bought me down and I’m so pleased that over the past few weeks I have seen some changes for the good.
I’ve banished the scales as these are always a source of disappointment for me and have simply used how I look and real as motivation to keep me going.

Looking Back – Last week the lovely Carrisa over at Little Likely Lads tagged me in a post on Insta Stories that needed me to scroll back through my hundreds of photos on Instagram to find my first ever post.
Of course this task had me stopping and looking over all the photos through the years and made me love this social media platform even more.
Moments captured in pictures are hugely important to me and Instagram allows me to see a whole host of my favourite moments in seconds.