A Sleepover At Alton Towers

A few weeks ago now we took the long journey to Alton Towers. I had not visited this theme park since I was sixteen and I was eager to see the changes and introduce the children to all the fun.

After a five hour drive we were more than happy to arrive at the Splash Landings Hotel. Its bright and cheery decor made for a warm welcome and once inside our family room we were pleasantly surprised by how spacious it was.

There were facilities to make a much needed cup of tea and before long beds had been claimed and we rested our heads in anticipation for a big day ahead. The room offered everything we need from cosy beds, a good shower and entertainment packs to keep the little ones amused. The only problem we encountered were our nightmare neighbours that keep us awake for half the night!

We headed down for breakfast and had a little bit more time to explore the hotel in the light of day where the children stood amazing by the huge waterpark that was housed in the centre of the hotel. Sadly we just didn’t have the time to try it out but it really did look absolutely amazing.

Time to fuel for the day we made our way to the restaurant to have our breakfast where there was a huge variety of food to choose from. From cereal and fruit to a full english breakfast.

The children loved being able to go an help themselves to cereal from the special machine and chose from the vast selection at the hot buffet. It was also a really refreshing change to have so much choice for Frankie and all his allergies.

Full to the brim it was time to head off to the park for a day of fun. There is a shuttle bus that you can catch to take you directly to the park but we chose to take the short walk.

Once inside we spilt up with Archie and Izzy heading off to the thrill seeking rides whist we stayed with the younger two and headed off to CBeebies Land.

CBeebies Land had been on our list of places to visit for a while now and as soon as I saw the boys faces light up as soon as they saw the huge, rainbow coloured welcome sign I knew that they were going to love every minute. They dashed back and forth for sometime before they finally decided on their first ride which as the In The Night Garden Magical Boat Ride that saw us winding through a little stream spotting all our favourite characters as we went, next up we took to the sky with the Go Jetters, played at being Postman Pat in the bright red van, took in the sights of the whole of Cbeebies Land with the ‘Get Set Go’ Tree Top Adventure.

We took a little break from the rides and took a walk around the much calmer Something Special Sensory Garden and found some familiar names in the walk of fame.

There was so much to see and do and so resfeshing to have such a huge area dedicated to preschoolers in a theme park as this is something that is so often missing.

A quick pitstop with our adrenaline junkies who came back buzzing from the excitement of the amazing Wicker Man and Oblivion. I think I was actually most exited that the two children they get on the least had spent some quality time together and enjoy each and every minute of it. Hot doughnuts are a must on a day out like this and we plotted up on the huge grassy area that was perfect to take in the pretty surrounds Alton Towers has to offer.

I was a little concerned that Frankie was going to be a bit left out when it came to the bigger rides but I needn’t have worried as there was a huge variety of family friendly rides that were a good middle ground for those that couldn’t enjoy the thrill seeking rides but still wanted something a little faster.

I loved that we could all take to the water in the River Rapids, Swing high and low in the Heave Ho and battle with our competitors on the Battle Galleons.

Fit to fall after a day full of fun and adventure we headed back on the monorail to the Crooked Spoon restaurant to fill our hungry bellies and rest our weary feet.

When we arrived I was really surprised at the laid-back, outdoorsy feel to it which was right up my street. The little play area directly outside meant that the children could happy play whist waiting on their food.

When in came to the food there was a great choose for both adults and children from juicy burgers and mouth water steaks to roasted summer vegetable carbonara and spicy Sri Lankan curry.

I opted for a classic prawn cocktail to start followed by a creamy chicken carbonara which came served with a beautifully crispy chuck of garlic bread. The larger men of the family dived into a huge bowl of loaded nachos that i couldn’t help but try followed by a mixed grill that definitely came with their seal of approval.

The little ones had a mixture of dishes such as soup and crusty rolls, fresh melon and delicious sausage and mash that they all devoured with not one complaint which is a rarity.

Im not sure how we managed but I couldn’t resist desert – especially cheesecake, and Izzy defintiy wasn’t going to turn down a gooey chocolate browniw with a side of ice-cream now was she!

The friendly, attentive staff who didn’t batter an eyelid when they had to clean up an entire glass of squash that was poured over the table minutes after we sat down and didn’t moan once about having to navigate the huge cuddly toys they had won earlier was a real bonus to a fantastic meal.

If I was to round up our experience of Alton Towers I would say it was a bundle of fun from beginning to end, thoroughly exausting and definitely worth a trip.

* We were invited to Alton Towers for the weekend for the purpose of this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.

Behind The Scenes At Sea Life

For many years now my gang have loved visiting Sea Life. They love being able the ability to wander around freely discovering all kinds of weird and wondful creatures that live under the sea…well actually a fare few that live above it too!

The other week we headed to Southbank for a trip around our favourite Sea Life and the chance to take a look behind the scenes with their behind the scenes tour.

In our usual fashion we were running late and had to rush in and get over to the behind the scenes tour. So a quick dash over the shark walkway which the boys weren’t to impressed about and a zig zag past everything else we got their just in time to be greeted by our friendly and thankfully laid back tour guide.

The doors were opened and we headed behind all the exhibits to a small area that was home to some very special creatures. I was a little apprehensive about taking this tour with Oscar as he is only four but only being 30 mins long it was the perfect timing to keep him engaged and I was so pleased to see that all three of them listening intently as we were shown round.

We got the chance to see some of the fish being feed, meet a beautiful chinese snapper turtle that had sadly been discarded by his owner, meet some super cool sea dragons that fast became my favourite of the day due to the male getting pregnant and so much more.

The children loved being shown the huge variety of food the animals were feed, thoroughly enjoyed being able to get hands on and touch things from lobster shells to egg pods, and the highlight for me was how much information they were given and were able to retain as the tour was done in such a relaxed, interactive and informative way.

Full to the brim with a whole host of knowledge on marine life we headed back out to explore the rest of Sea Life. One tip is to get there as early as you can to avoid the crowds although to be honest even though we were there in the middle of the school holidays it was really easy to navigate still and didn’t feel like we struggled to see things in any of the tanks.

The aquarium is set out in sections which include Shark Walk, Atlantic Coasts, Ray Lagoon, Rock Pool, Open Ocens, Ship Wreck, Ocean Tunnel, Nemo’s Coral Reef, Seahorse Kingdom, Creatures Of The Rainforest, Thames Walk, Penguin Point, Conservation Cove, Shark Reef and Ocean Invaders.

Each area has its own uniqueness to it and being in distinct groups means its a lot easier to for the children to understand where each creature is from.

The sharks were certainly a huge hit with the boys and we sat for ages watching them glide around the tanks in their majestic manner, they all got to touch a star fish which I think is such a wonderful experience and something you certainly can’t do everyday! For me the highlight had to be the seahorses as I am always in awe of their delicate beauty.

As we moved around each section I loved the fact it wasn’t all about gazing into tanks, We thoroughly enjoyed getting a shock from the jelly fish wall, getting a nip from a parihna and climbing on board a distressed ship that was getting battered with thunder and lightening.

For us Sea Life gets better and better on each visit and there really is something for people all ages to enjoy. We will be back very soon!

*We were asked along to Sea Life for the purpose of this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.

Super Start To School With PJ Masks

Over the past few weeks the reality of Oscar starting school has set in and I can safely say that it is me with the butterflies in my tummy and the waves of anxiety on a daily basis.

Oscar however seems pretty relaxed about the whole prospect and is eager to get started, make new friends and start his new and exciting journey into school life.

After five children I know all to well that even the most confident and self assured children can have trouble with coping this massive change and it is our job as parents to make this transition as easy as possible.

One thing I know that mine have all had trouble with is the more structured day they have compared to nursery. Although the majority of their learning is still done through play a lot of it is tailored to help them learn and this is something I have been helping Oscar to get used to with the help of PJ Masks.

Oscar has been a huge fan of the lovable charters Owlet, Catboy and Gekko for some time now and their inspirational super powers are the perfect way to motive children to learn and give them confidence to battle through their fears.

Oscar really needed some practice with his hand writing skills and the PJ Masks First Writing book has been a fantastic aid for him. the wipe clean pages allow him to try over and over again without wasting endless sheets of paper.

We have also been learning in a more interactive way with the PJ Masks Leaning Headquarters that has three different modes of play that allows Cat Car, Owl Slider and Gekko Mobile to complete different missions. The catchy theme tunes and familiar faces make challenges such as memory skills, problem solving and much more all the more fun.

A learning tool that is pretty familiar to our house is the Leap Frog range. Oscar was trilled with his Leap Start which is just like bringing a book to life. He didn’t even realise that through the touch and talk games he was building his reading, numerical and problem solving skills.

Lunch time at school can be a pretty daunting experience too with all the hustle and bustle of so many children and the noise levels going through the roof. With school encouraging independence having a lunch that is easy to get into is of great importance. Oscar will be able to get off to a great start with his PJ Mask lunch box filled with his easy to open…and leak proof drinks bottle and super cool snack pot that can be filled with different treats everyday.

All thats left now is for some of those PJ Mask super powers to rub off onto my little superhero and hope this will get him and me through those tricky first few weeks.

*collaborative post

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.

A Rainy Day At Chessington World Of Adventures

I’m sure you are all going to think I have completely lost my mind when I say this, but I absolutely love visiting Chessington World Of Adventures on a rainy day! Don’t get me wrong torrential rain and thunderstorms might make me think twice but a bit of rain never hurt anyone!

In fact for me I find there are a whole heap of benefits to visiting on a rainy day. I mean there are a fair few water rides in the park anyway so why not just embrace it as once you’re wet you’re wet!

We arrived on Friday and within minutes the heavens opened and we took shelter in the Smokehouse BBQ which was a great way to fill our bellies before we started the day.

They offer a great range of BBQ style food such as pulled pork, chicken and hot dogs served with crunchy chips, sweet potato fries and the best creamed sweetcorn I’ve tasted.

Full up and ready to face the showers we made our way to our first ride of the day which is always the Gruffalo River Ride, a favourite of the boys as well as mine. With the majority of the queuing done undercover and the ride itself inside we stayed pretty dry.

From here we moved onto the the Scorpion Express that my little adrenaline junkies love and I have to say speeding around the track whilst getting a face full of rain just added to the excitement.

Zufari was next on the list and I thought the animals might have been talking shelter so we were more than happy to see the giraffes and rhinos up close to the jeep in all their majestic glory.

Due to everyone being scared off by the weather the queue times were incredibly short for the summer holidays and we managed to get on all of our favourite rides within a few hours which allowed me some time to put my feet up in the cafe while the kids dried off in the Dragon’s Playhouse soft play area.

I feel like I’ve let you into a precious secret here but if you are not scared of getting a little wet then the short queue time, space inside restaurants and the calmer pace of things are definitely a huge bonus.

‘I am a Chessington Blogger Ambassador, I was given a Chessington Annual Pass to do this review with my family and I was not paid to do this post. If anyone would like to confirm any details in the post, please email press.office@chessington.co.uk’

Crate Creatures Surprise:Review

Anything crazy looking, involving monsters and noise making is always a hit with Frankie and Oscar. Although I hate stereotypes my youngest two are definitely boisterous creatures and are always drawn towards toys that are a little bit naughty.

When I was asked to review ‘Pudge’ from Crate Creatures Surprise I knew they were going to be a big hit.

Pudge arrived caged and padlocked up and the boys took great delight in trying to crack the cage open and release the monster. Frankie could do this with ease and I loved the fact that aside from a few little bits of plastic there was no wasteful packaging as the cage could be used to store your new found friend.

Once freed the boys had a brilliant time pulling at his super long tongue that made his eyes glow bright as he shakes with temper that he has been pulled at! Although you need batteries for Pudge I was pleasantly surprised that there are batteries included to allow for a little play on demo mode which is pretty unusual and very welcome feature.

Just like the boys he is always hungry and pizza is definitely his meal of choice. He calls out to be fed pizza and makes noises of appreciation once he has chomped away.

Any kind of fast movements with him such a flipping and ticking will see Pudge squeal with delight which also had the boys in stitches.

I think one of the favourite features though was the response you get from him when spoken too…it has certainly been a breath of fresh air to have questions aimed at him rather than me!

There are four monsters to collect in total and each one has its own unique character offering a whole host of different features.

There is so much to love about these differnt creatures and they would make an absouotly great gift for both girls and boys.

*collaborated posts

Petit Fernand School Labels Review And Giveaway

The children may only have been broken up for a few weeks but this year I was determined to get ready for their return to school as early as possible. This is pretty out of character for me but I simply couldn’t stand the last minute panic of getting everything done.

One task that I generally avoid is the labelling of uniform! It really is a thankless task but absolutely essential if your children are anything like mine!

Coming out of school with half the stuff they go in with is a ritual for all of mine and if it wasn’t for labelling their clothes then nothing would find its way home.

When my eldest went to school the only thing on offer were the embroidered labels that had to be sown in by hand, this was something I always passed onto my Mum as she had way more patience and skill than me.

Thank goodness things have moved on a long way since then and the lovely people at Petit Fernand sent me one of their school packs to get me started this year.

Petit Fernand make a range of customised iron and stick on labels that are perfect for school clothes and any other personal belongings that you want to keep safe.

They labels are available to buy separately or in value packs that offer the perfect variety of labels for anything from school, nursery or holiday camps.

Oscar will be starting school this September so the School Pack was perfect for him. The pack contains 140 labels that are a mixture of stick on labels for items such as book bags and shoes and iron on labels that can be simply attached to items of clothing using the heat form your iron and take only 12 seconds to apply.

You can chose from a a variety of fonts, coloured backgrounds and most importantly for Oscar the theme…of which he chose a Capitain America shield. You can have pretty much anything from animals to fairytale characters, space themes to transport and so much more.

If you are looking for something a little extra then they also have adorable personalised water bottles and lunch boxes.

Oscar has absolutely fallen in love with his superhero inspired lunch box that is embellished across the top with his name. Just as you can with the labels, the lunch boxes can be created to suit your child’s style.

The bento style boxes comes with four separate compartments and an integrated ice box so that everything keeps its cool. Not only does it work really well cool it can also be used in the microwave to heat things up when they fancy a warm meal.

If you fancy trying out a school pack for yourself then go ahead and enter the competition below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ergo Pouch Sleepsuit Giveaway

All of mine have been crazy sleepers in the sense that they can’t keep still in bed for more than a few minutes! From tiny babies it was always the relentless task of going into their rooms at night to cover them back up before they got woken by the cold.

This is where the discovery of baby sleeping bags with my youngest two was an absolute game changer and the ability to keep them warm all night was finally discovered!

As they grew though we still had the issue with missing bedcovers but a real lack of anything to use once they outgrew the sleeping bag stage.

However the clever people at ergoPouch have got this covered with their amazing Ergo Pouch Sleepsuit.

Ergo Pouch in fact start with baby swaddles and sleeping bags for little ones and then allow older children to progress to the sleep suit.

All their products are made with natural, skin friendly fibres that allow both temperature regulation and breathability which gives the child comfort and you peace of mind.

Oscar is probably on of my most wiggly little ones who also feels the cold terribly so trying out the sleep suit bag on him made for the perfect candidate.

The bag is easily converted into a suit from a bag allowing the child freedom to move around or the perfect way to move them from car to bed in one easy movement without having to fuss around.

Being avid campers this is also the perfect alternate to the traditional and somewhat uncomfortable sleeping bags we usually use for the children and we will be testing ours out at Camp Bestival in a few weeks time.

If this sounds like the perfect solution for your little ones then please feel free to enter my completion below to win one of your very own!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

‘Tour De Trike’ With Little Tikes

Until recently I thought that we were passed the stage of trikes, but my mind since attending a fantastic event with Little Tikes when Oscar feel in love with their Pack n Go Trike.

So when we were asked to take part in the Little Tikes ‘Tour De Trike’ we absolutley jumped at the chance. We were send the Pack n Go Trike to try out and Oscar was keen to get out and about with it.

The Pack n Go Trike is new to Little Tikes and there are a whole host of features that I found so appealing.

The trike is suitable for ages 1-5 which makes it a great buy due to the years of usage you get from it. for little ones aged 1 – 1.5 the trike can be steered solely by the parents and the children can just enjoy the ride. Moving up to ages 1 – 1.5 the children can have a little more of a real of actually ring by using the pedals whilst being steered in the right direction. Finally little ones aged 2.5 – 5 can take the lead and ride the trike independently.

Although we are huge outdoor fans I find taking things such as trikes and scooters out with us a real faff and more often then not I talk the children out of it due to having a lack of space for everything in the car. The beauty of having the Pack n Go means that due to its unique folding design it can be folded down to half its size which makes it really easy to transport and store.

Although Oscar has reached the age where he is pretty good at riding when we are out and about he simply can’t be trusted to go it alone so we kept the handle on and headed out for our ‘Tour Le Trike’ to see if my fearcley independent child would be happy with this.

We mixed a little bit of shopping with a trip to the park and I can safely say it went really well. Oscar was more than happy to buckle up and pedal alone the road thinking he was in charge as he was peddling and steering the whole way and I still had the peace of mind he wasn’t going to be able to shoot off anywhere.

We explored the book shop, picked some flowers for his teachers and had a nosy around the shoe shop…well there had to be some perks for me.

The trike was easy to manuvoure both inside and outside due to its slim design and smooth steering.

After our shopping we stopped for and ice cream and coffee to refuel and then headed into the park. Oscar was also pretty taken with he handy drinks holder where he could stash his favourite drink.

Given the vast space in the park where there was no need for me to panic I asked Oscar is he would like to have a go on his own, but he was so taken with me helping him out when he fancied rising his legs he was more than happy to carry on as we had been.

Our tour saw us hit the High Street, navigate shop isles, cobbled streets and grassy turrsin and handled them all with no problem. look out ‘Tour De France’ Oscar is coming for you!

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