Getting Away From The Screens At Hever Castle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 maker from the Lekue microwave popcorn maker. It 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.

Celebrating The Small Things:Week Twenty Eight

Well I nearly catching my tail and I have made it to the end of the school term with my ‘Celebrating The Small Things’ series. I have to say that I’m dreading Oscar starting school but I will give me a chance to really get my working day in order and hopefully get more organised…well we will see!

This week I am taking about school awards, park trips and kids fashion.

Dot To Dot London – My blog covers such a variety of topics which I often think I should kerb to be a little more niche but then realise being a bit of everything opens up some great opportunities. One of which being kids fashion that I have a real passion for.

I have always loved kitting the kids out and to be honest their wardrobes are always way better than mine.

The other week I got the chance to go along to Dot London which is a press show for all kinds of fabulous children’s wear brands. There were some of my favourites there that I have worked with before such as Tootsa McGinty and some brand new companies that I can’t wait to see the Autumn/Winter.

Hours And Hours In The Park – One little thing I am certainly celebrating is the amazing weather we have been blessed with this year. We are huge fans of the great outdoors and it has been made so much more accessible with the sunshine on tap that we have had. I honestly don’t think we have had as many picnics and park trips as we have this year.

Feeling Proud – Izzy has just finished her first year at high school and I have to say I couldn’t be prouder of all she has achieved in her time there. She has never been naturally gifted when it comes to the academic side of life but she always gives her all and works to be best of her ability. This was recognised at the end of term when she received an award for all her efforts and I actually think I was happier than her about it!

Top Five Reasons To Visit Elderflower Fields

Elderflower Fields was the festival that broke our family festival and camping virginity! Our happy place that is probably one of the only times of the year in which we can really switch off from the world.

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We are getting set to visit for the third time this year and couldn’t be more excited. There is still time for you to join in the fun, so take a look at my top five reasons for visiting if a family festival is something you have been considering this year.

Peace And Quiet – Of course a festival is lively, music filled and full of the hustle and bustle of the crowds; but it is equally a place you can sneak off into the woods for a secluded walk, plot up in the middle of a field and watch the fun from afar and of course the peace and quiet of sleeping under the stars.

Family Time – With the fast pace lives we all lead in this day and age getting away for the weekend with little internet connection and phone connection allows you to spend real quality time together without ant distractions.

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Food – If you are a foodie then this is definity the right festival for you. The amount of top quality, locally sourced vendors at the festival is unbelievable. Each and every one serving the most sumptuous food using top quality, ingredients made with love by the passionate owners.
Another bonus for us is the fact that Frankie’s multiple allergies are always catered for without any problems.

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Learning New Skills – Aside from a few all the activities at Elderflower Fields are included in the price making it fantastic value for money and allows the children to take part in a things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.
Over the past few years mine have learned a whole host of circus skills, trapeze tricks, kayaking and so much more.

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Building Independence – The festival isn’t as big as some and at no time have I felt worried about the safety of the children which is great for allowing them to build their confidence by independently moving to and from different activities and getting stuck into tasks on their own.

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I really could go on and on with reasons to visit Elderflower Fields, but really the best way to see exactly what I’m talking about is to visit yourself. There is still time to grab tickets ‘here’ so don’t miss out.

Tear And Share Picnic Bread

Over the summer we spend the majority of time eating out of a picnic hamper.  I love eating outside on the go but it can become a little boring if you don’t try out different things to add.

We had our first camping trip over the Bank Holiday and I wanted something tasty that would feed us all, take up limited space and not create lots of rubbish to throw away.

I have seen lots of breads that are filled with yummy ingredients and wanted to give it a try with all the things we love.

Here is my recipe for my ‘tear and share’ bread that was a hit with us all.

Tear And Share Picnic Bread

  • 1 large loaf of tiger bread
  • 2 balls of sliced mozzarella
  • 120g antipasto selection platter
  • 285g jar of drained and chopped chargrilled peppers
  • 285g jar of drained and chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 50g grated cheddar cheese
  • 400ml mayonnaise
  • 3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1tsp dried oregano
  • 1tsp dried thyme
  • 1tsp dried rosemary
  1. Cut 2cm slices into the tiger bread stoping just before the bottom.
  2. Mix together the mayonnaise, garlic and herbs and spread a generous amount into each side of the bread.
  3. Into each section place a mixture of meat, mozzarella cheese, peppers and tomatoes.
  4. Once it is all nicely filled sprinkle the top of the bread with cheddar cheese and place under the grill on a low heat for around 5 mins to melt the cheese and allow all the filling to mingle together.
  5. Once cooled wrap in brown paper and pack up ready for your picnic.

Gooey Chocolate BBQ Cones


We had our first experience of camping at a festival this weekend and I really wanted to try out some tasty treats that were easy to prepare with limited space but we’re still a little bit special.

We had decided that disposable BBQs were going to be our best friend as we could quickly prepare the food and throw everything away when we were done.

The whole family has a sweet tooth so something sticky and chocolaty would be the perfect treat.  Take a look at these yummy cones if this is the kind of thing that takes your fancy too!

Gooey Chocolate BBQ Cones

Makes 10

  • Pack 10 waffle cones
  • 200g milk chocolate
  • Large pack of marshmallows
  • 120g cadburys nibbles
  • Punnet of strawberries
  1. Break chocolate into pieces, cut marshmallows into half and quarter the strawberries.
  2. Take out the cones and equally divide the chocolate, marshmallows, nibbles and strawberries between each of them.
  3. Wrap the cones separately in tin foil and place on the BBQ when it is just warm at the end of your main cooking.
  4. Leave to warm through for around 10mins, remove and serve.  They would be perfect with a big blob of vanilla ice cream.

Actimel ‘Back To School’ Workshop And Yoga Challenge

A couple of weeks ago the lovely people at Actimel invited us along to the mindfulness and yoga workshop they were holding in East London to celebrate the launch of their new yummy yogurt drinks.  I took number three and four with me, but was a little sceptical as to how well number four was going to behave!

I have only ever practiced yoga during my last two pregnancies, but found it a great way to really focus my mind and helped a great deal towards a much calmer and easier labour.  It is always something I have considered for the children as they tend to easily lose focus easily and would love to see if this had any impact on their learning.  With number three returning to school and number four starting nursery this was a perfect event for us.

Once we had arrived and had a super healthy breakfast at the yoga centre we set to work at practicing our yoga moves and learning the importance of breathing techniques.  The children remained engaged throughout and really enjoyed learning something new.  Next up we got to make some fabulous smoothies with the new flavours that Actimel had to offer mixed with lots of fresh fruit.  It is a fantastic way to get the children to start their day and I always find they are happier about trying new things when they have helped to prepare it themselves.  Number four was especially taken with the glow in the dark bottles and couldn’t wait to go home to try them out.


    

With five children to contend with in the morning it may be a challenge in itself to get the yoga challenge done before school, but with some new rules being implemented for September in our household the time they would spend sitting watching cartoons will now be used to fit in couple of yoga moves each morning.


    

We have started the challenge this week and have already seen a marked improvement in the children’s behaviour and is lovely to have ten minutes together to start the day.  Thank you so much for Actimel for inviting us along to your wonderful event and opening our eyes to something new.


We were invited along to take part in this event to try out Actimels new product.  All views are my own honest opinion.

Hunting For Dinosaurs At Dinosaur Island

  
The sun finally came out for us today and my husband had some unusual time off, so we decided to venture out a little bit and take a drive to Horsham in West Sussex to visit Dinosaur Island.

We were super exited to follow the dinosaur footprints all the way down to the fabulous play area that had everything you could ask for.

   
      
There was a great sandpit with buckets to fill with sand and pull up and down, fabulous things to climb on and explore, along with brilliant swings and slides.

   
        
After we had worn ourselves out it in the playground we grabbed an ice cream and made our way down to the lake in the country park.

There was plenty of open space to set ourselves up to paddle in the lovely warm lake.

   
     

I could have sat here watching the kids paddle all day.  They were more than happy splashing around and throwing pebbles for a good few hours.

We were a little unorganised today before we set out and only got a few hours over here.

Next time we will defiantly be packing a big picnic and making a whole day of it.

  

  

Top Outdoor Summer Activities In Surrey

With the summer holidays now upon us I’m sure you will all be planning what to do to keep your little once occupied.

With the weather holding out for us at the moment I wanted to give you a few of my favourite days out in the great outdoors in Surrey.

Mayfield Lavender Fields

 

The Mayfield Lavender Fields are truly a sight to behold and I would question anybody that is not stunned by its beauty.

They can be found just outside Banstead, Surrey and are well worth a visit.

This year the car parking is only £1 but be warned it gets extremely busy and there is not a great deal of parking.

There is a lovely little cafe where you can stop to get refreshments while taking in the sights.  And new this year they have also included a tractor ride.

Mine are more than happy running in between the flowers and searching for bugs whilst I try and capture the beauty on my camera.

Godstone Farm

For me Godstone Farm is great as it covers a variety of ages.

They have massive fields that you can walk around whilst looking at the larger animals such as cows, pigs and donkeys.

The children have a chance to get hands on with the smaller animals of the farm in the petting area.  Mine all love this as they can stroke and hold the rabbits and chickens.

There are set times during the day where you can watch the animals being fed which is always great fun.

The play activities here are endless.  There is a huge adventure playground at the top of the field with everything you could imagine.

There is a section with ride on toys for the younger children as well as several sandpits.

Mine all love the large soft play area that also homes a small cafe so you can relax whist the children play.

As far as eating goes there is a good cafe that serves reasonably priced hot and cold food.  Or there is the option of picnicking with ample picnic areas.

Priory Park

This is our all time favourite park.  It has everything you could expect to get from a local park and more.

They have a beautifully designed playground with the usual swings and slides with the added extras of a large sandpit and water features that are perfect for the summer.
The grounds are vast and have a wonderful fountain, surrounded by pretty gardens we often picnic by.


At the opposite end of the park there is a beautiful lake where you can feed the ducks and take a leisurely walk around.


 Numbers two’s favourite park is the large skatepark which is perfect for older children.

During the holiday there are always lots free activities put on for the children, and in the past we have taken part in bug hunting, den building and a great sports activity day.


Lastly in the centre of the park is a great cafe Pistachios In The Park offering great food and snacks that really adds to the whole day.

Chessington World Of Adventures

We are lucky enough to have annual passes for this great theme park and visit many times a year.

It gets bigger and better each time we visit and covers all of my children’s ages from 1-18.

I tend to let the oldest two wander off by themselves and go on all the thrill seeking rides that CWOA has to offer.


    

I can then take the younger ones to explore the Sealife centre, petting farm, massive zoo full of wonderful animals and to ride on the fabulous rides that are more suitable for their age.


We don’t normally take food with us as its a lot to carry around and there are plenty of great restaurants to chose from.

All of mine love to watch the exuberant Madagascar show that is put on a couple of times a day and the sea lion and penguin shows always go down a treat.


  

It really is a fun packed day and I would advice to get there early to ensure you get a go on the biggest and most popular rides without to much of a queue.

Priory Farm

This is a garden centre with a difference!

There is a large garden centre with all the usual things on offer which also houses a great coffee shop with wonderful hot and cold food, and the most wonderful cakes.


Attached to this is a newly refurbished play area that we have yet to visit this year.  Across from here is a huge pirate ship that mine all love to play on and a picnic area directly next to it which is fantastic to sit and watch them play.

Our favourite part of the farm is the discovery walk.  You pick up your quiz sheet at the start which takes you around all the different parts of the trail answering questions as you go.  At the top we usually stop for a rest and take in the views.  Near the end there is a chance to feed the fish which is my favourite part!!


Our day normally finishes with a walk around the well stock farm shop to pick something nice for our tea.

Chartwell House

If you are a reader of my blog you will know that National Trust venues are my favourite.

Chartwell House is one of the best for my family as it has such a lot to occupy tiny minds.

The gardens are exquisite and there is something different everywhere you turn.


  

I love the tiny playhouse that would have been used by the house owners for so many years before.


You can really educate the children in a fun way here as they are taking in information and not knowing it!

  
Keep an eye on their website as there are always some great cheap or free activities going on that mine all love.


We are yet to venture into the house as in not sure my nerves could take that until the small ones are a little older.

Flower Farm

Fruit picking is a brilliant activity for all the family.  It teaches children where the fruit originally comes from, gives them some exercise and they get a yummy, healthy treat at the end.


At flower farm there is always a good variety of different fruit and vegetable to pick at good prices.



They also have a lovely farm shop and a small tea room that is unfortunately closed for refurbishment at the moment.

I hope you have found some inspiration for days out here and I will be posting another list very soon so keep your eyes peeled.

  

  

  

Celebrating National Picnic Week

As I’m sure many of you will know I am a massive fan of picnics.  It means you can get out in the fresh air, take in your surrounding and enjoy some time together with good food.  Our favourite place to picnic is Priory Park in Reigate, Surrey.  It is a beautiful park with lovely surroundings and lots to do.

Towards the end of last summer I had lost my mojo a bit and our picnics became very samey, and consisted of the usual sweaty sandwich, packet of crisps and a boring cereal bar.

I have made it my mission this year to create fun, interesting and memorable picnics that we will all enjoy and hopefully remember in years to come.

My first picnic of the year was made for a festival a few weeks ago which went down a treat with everyone.

To celebrate the start of national picnic week this week I put my thinking cap on and can up with some ideas hopefully you will be inspired to give a try.

The first couple of ideas were made up simply because I picked up the wrong tumblers whist shopping in Tesco.  Once I had opened them I realised they were infact a normal plastic tumbler with a raised section inside to pour a shot!!


These infact came in really handy as I made some vegetable crudités and added some salsa to one and sour cream dip to the other.


Next up for the fab tumblers was a mozzarella, avocado and tomato salad.  I sliced each of the ingredients up and placed around the edge of the tumbler and the added some balsamic vinegar and olive oil to the little well in the centre.


Simple sandwiches for my little allergy buddy were made with his wheat free bread and filled with ham and salad.  I then I  took a toast press that I had bought for Valentine’s Day to create an “I Love You” message on the top to make it a little more interesting.

I came across some mini bagels in Tesco that I filled with hummous and spring onion and cheddar and onion apple chutney.


My sister was coming with us and she is a massive fan of hallumi.  I sliced it into bite size chunks and wrapped each piece in a slice of streaky bacon.  I placed them on a greased baking tray and cooked them for about 10mins on 200C fan/180C or Gas Mark 6.


My boys adore olives and a few years ago I made an olive spider for Halloween.  They are just a black plum that you attach eight cocktail sticks to to made the legs and them thread on black olives.  For the eyes I just used a couple of sugar beads that you decorate cakes with and stuck them on with a little bit of icing.


The last of the savoury snacks was a mini corn in the cob. These were just cooked in boiling water for 10mins then once they were ready I placed a wooden skewer into the bottom of each of them and placed theminto individual  sandwich bags with a knob of butter and secured the end.  Just little you get in fried chicken shops!

Next up I got the tumblers out again to create a multicoloured jelly.  I picked three different coloured jellies that I mixed according to the instructions  and poured the first colour into the small well.  I placed them in the fridge to set which took about 10mins.  Then I filled the tumbler half way with the next colour and put them back into the fridge to set again for another 10mins.  I then added the final colour and placed into the fridge until we were ready to use them.  These are best done the night before.


We all love marshmallows in our house so I made some super easy skewers by alternating strawberries, marshmallows and grapes.  These would have been lovely with a chocolate dip!


Our last little treat were melon lollipops.  You can use any melon and cut it into any shape you like.  I used a gala melon and cut it into slices which I then halved.  I put a small hole into the bottom of a cake case and then inserted a lolly sick into the bottom of the melon then slip on the cake cases. These looked great but didn’t travel that well.


There was minimal cooking in all of these ideas and they were loved by everyone.  Even if you added on or two of these ideas I’m sure it would really cheer up any picnic.


        
Try and dedicate a little time this week to get out with your family and celebrate national picnic week.