Good, Safe Fun At Hever Castle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filling Those Walls With Poster Store

[GIFTED] When we moved into our home a few years ago now, one of the things that I fell in love with was the high ceilings. They make each and every room light and airy and create an illusion of lots more space. That being said this also brings with it vast expanses of walls that need filling to make it less clinical and really put our own stamp on it.

Art work as your know can be pricey so I always look for companies that offer good quality, different art at affordable prices; and this is where Poster Store really fits the bill.

Poster Store is an online company that supplies a huge range of Scandinavian inspired posters and frames to compliment your chosen work.

Their prints cover a whole range of interests from photography to modern art, fashion to maps and much more. The variety means that you can find anything to suit any taste or home design.

I was actually really surprised that their collections drew my eye towards black and white prints which is not something I would ordinarily go for…well I did sneak a bit of colour in too!

The coloured print was actually my favourite and it complimented the drinks tray perfectly as there has been a few evenings where I have felt like this after indulging!

My husband always says I don’t consider him when it comes to styling the home and I have to admit it is made up of pretty much all my tastes. So I the dining room I have selected some of his favourite things and made a gorgeous collection of black and white photos.

Lastly was the landing which is still definitely a work in progress. I wanted to keep it more calming as downstairs has a lot going on and anything to help the kids become more restful at bedtime is a bonus.

I absolutely love the simple lines and flowing designs of these pieces and now all I need to add is a few plants for a little bit of colour!

The black frames really make the designs stand out and the quality of them is outstanding.

I always opt for a black frame, but they offer a great range in black, white, silver and gold and also if you like a natural look with a wood finish there are also oak and walnut available. They all come in a range of different sizes to fit the prints perfectly.

The amount of different choices can be a little overwhelming if you don’t have a definite idea in your head, so Poster Store has given lots of hints and tips and inspiration pages that can help you towards picking pieces that are right for you.

So head over and take a look and let me know what you think. If something catches your eye you can save 30% on all posters (excluding Selection posters and frames) until 13th September using code thejoyoffive30

Treads – The Indestructible School Shoe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Week Junior – Current Affairs For Kids

[AD] It’s been months now since the children have been in any kind of formal education, and with the summer holidays drawing to an end it is time to start thinking about the return of school and getting those clogs ticking over again.

Lockdown learning wasn’t easy for us at all and I found myself finding ways to keep the children engaged that wasn’t based around endless piles of black and white worksheets, as they glazed over as soon as they were confronted with this. Instead I tried to use things that were going on around us to spark their thirst for knowledge and this is where The Week Junior has been a great help.

The Week Junior is an award-winning current affairs magazine for children aged 8 – 14 that brings together news and facts from all around the world.

Like most children mine are naturally curious and The Week Junior allows them to find out about current affairs such as COVID-19 and the Beirut explosion in a safe and easy to understand way, which I sometimes find hard to convey to them.

There is a section that encourages their ability to engage in debate….this isn’t something they normally struggle with though to be honest! Quizzes, puzzles and crafts to keep restless fingers busy, sport and entertainment that Frankie absolutely loved and so much more.

We received our first copy just before going away for the weekend and came across a section all about Stonehenge. We have driven past numerous times before and the the youngest two had never really shown much interest. I was so pleased as we passed this year though as they had recalled many facts they had read up on and were over the moon to see it in all it’s grandeur.

Frankie also took inspiration from the ‘photos of the week’ and used my camera to try and get a little more creative with the way they see things though the lens.

This magazine is a fantastic resource to feed inquisitive minds, getting them talking about a whole host of different topics as well as discovering new ones and allows them to build critical skills.

You can join the other 90,000 families that already receive The Week Junior by subscribing HERE and getting your first SIX copies free!

Messing About On The River With Go Boat

[GIFTED] I’m sure that anyone who has followed me for a while now will know of my love for water. Ordinarily the sea is my first passion, but anything that brings me close to the water makes me happy.

So as you can imagine when we went along to Kingston the other day to try out a trip on a boat with Go Boat you know how happy I was about this!

We regularly visit Kingston for a walk along the riverside and to grab a bite to eat and I have always seen the boats sauntering up and down the river and fancied getting onboard myself, so this was the perfect opportunity for me.

Go Boat is electric, self-drive picnic boat that has is situated along the Riverside Walk just on the edge of Kingston town centre.

Upon arrival we were created with a smile, lots of hand sanitiser and plenty of social distance markers which made us feel at ease right away.

All payments are contact free along with signing in and each boat is sanitised before each trip.

Safety instructions were given, life jackets were issued and we were shown to our boat. Each boat holds up to eight people and we took my Mum and Dad along…Dad was made to take the helm and become captain for the afternoon.

We all got comfortable whilst locating the umbrellas that were provided, and with the sun beating down they were very much welcome.

Our trip was for two hours which would allow us to get to Hampton Court and back but you can opt for just an hour or three hours which means you to take in both Teddingdon and Molesey Lock too.

With six of us in total there was still plenty of room to put your feet up and relax whilst taking in the sights of the stunning riverside houses, paddle boarders and swimmers and of course the grand Hampton Court Palace.

We took our own picnic with us which is a must if you ask me and I think if we had a return trip we would definitely go all out with this as the table really lends itself to this.

We ended our trip by passing under the bridge which the children absolutely loved – especially as I fell off the end of the bench trying to get a good picture!

The two hours absolutely flew by and my preconceived ideas about the boys being a pain were completely quashed. They loved sitting taking it all and helping grandad to steer and can’t wait to get onboard again soon, so I think the Paddington morning will have to be out next port of call!

Top Quality Meat Straight To Your Door With Meatpac

Lockdown had seen a whole host of new changes to people’s lives and I would say that how we shop would definitely be one of them.

We saw panic buying with the supermarkets being ransacked, to people not wanting to leave their homes and frantically trying to book home delivery slots that were like gold dust. A lot of us also turned to local small businesses that really came to the help of so many in this time of need – one of these was Kenneth Bashford who formed Meatpac which is a home delivery service, providing quality meats at reasonable prices.

They supply a huge range of different packages from family to granny, breakfast to BBQ, roasting to steak and many more so there really is something for everyone.

The other week I received the family pack that was delivered straight to my door with a smile and before I had even looked in the bag I was hit with the gorgeous smell of herbs that had been added to the pack which was a lovely touch.

We are a larger than average family and I was thinking this pack would probably be on the small size for us but I was shocked at how much there was…definitely value for money and a great variety.

I took some meat and put it straight into the freezer for later in the week and then pondered over what to do with the rest.

I decided that due to the great quality of the meat I would keep it simple and just enjoy the flavour with a mixed grill which went down very well with my lot!

The meat was flavoursome and I got no shrinkage like you do with supermarket meats.

There no better time to support local businesses and when the quality and value for money is as good as this then what can you possibly lose!

Mysteries In Time – An Adventure Through History GIVEAWAY

[AD] If the past few months have fought me anything, it would be that teachers should never be taken for granted.

Trying to keep my youngest two engaged in learning has been no mean feat, but what I have learnt…especially with Frankie is that he responds much better to anything a little outside the box rather than the traditional style of learning.

So when Mysteries In Time got in touch I was hopefully this would work for us.

Mysteries In Time is a monthly subscription box that brings a whole host of historical topics straight to your door.

They cover world history, ancient Egypt, the Elizabethan era, evacuees, Ancient Greece and the Wild West.

The classic box gives you –

• A story full of adventures

• History booklet

• Word puzzles and other activities

• Themed bookmark

• Sticker sheets

• Three colouring pages

• Timeline stickers

• Free map – with your first box

The bumper box gives you all this, plus a few more additional items, so as you can see there is more than enough to keep them busy.

The time machine designed box arrived at our door and just this alone made him eager to check out what was inside.

Ancient Egypt was our them and Frankie loved uncovering all the exciting elements inside the box – especially the Tutankhamun shaped pen that unusually he was itching to get writing with!

Each aspect of the box interlinks and along with reading from books and worksheets the children can draw, colour and even make things from the modelling clay provided. This was extremely popular with Frankie and he loved making his very own Amulet.

This box really does give you a little bit of everything wether you are history buff or not. From the excitement of receiving something in the post, to discovering everything hiding in the box, to learning all kinds of new facts this box has been brilliant for us.

The quality of the box is fantastic and it really amazing value for money. If you would like to try one out for yourself then click HERE to enter!

Guilt Free Screen Time With Osmo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our First Trip To Godstone Farm After Lockdown

[PRESS TICKETS] Godstone Farm is one of our favourite places to visit and I can safely say I must have racked up a fair few visits with my crew over the years – so after months of being stuck inside with very limited time outside of our own four walls we couldn’t wait to have our first real trip out at Godstone Farm.

Ordinary Godstone Farm is really good at putting hygiene first and I was at ease knowing they would do their upmost to get the farm ready for visitors after lockdown.

I wasn’t disappointed as when we arrived there were very clear instructions as to what is expected of you on your visit and wash stations and hand sanitizer at every turn.

You need to pre-book online before your visit, time slots have been made to stagger people on entry and numbers have been limited to make sure it is easy to stick to government guidelines.

Due to the amount of open space at the farm keeping your distance can be done with ease and in the few areas that it may become tricky, one way systems have been put in place and reminders dotted around the floor telling you to keep ‘2 pigs’ apart.

One of the first things that really struck me was the fact all the animals looked as happy to see the children as they were to see them. They we happy coming over the the children to say hi and the boys couldn’t have been happier.

We spent ages walking around and seeing if there had been any new arrivals since our last visit and I was happier than the boys I think to see the gorgeous little piglets that were only a few days old.

My children are always thinking about their bellies and although we took a picnic with us there were plenty of places to grab something to eat, and we enjoyed a coffee and an ice cream on our way to the play area; and I can say I was definitely tempted with the delicious looking pizzas.

My main worry of getting back out again was letting the boys on play equipment, but I shouldn’t have worried as the farm had carried out a deep clean and with it being so vast it was easy (even for my boys) to keep a good distance from others and still have a great time.

We finished our day with a walk around the Dino Trail and can safely say that even though a few areas of the farm have been closed we still had a day as full of fun and adventure as always and will be back again more than a few times over the summer I’m sure!

My First Virtual Event With Moonpig

[AD] The world is a pretty funny place at the moment and we are all having to adapt to a new way of life. This can be hard and there are definitely things that I am missing more and more as time goes on.

With my line of work the majority is done online and I predominately work from home so this isn’t to much of a change for me; but a fairly large percentage of work is also event based which I have to say I am really missing now.

Meeting new people, discovering new brands and simple face to face interaction has completely gone and I’m definitely missing this side of my work. So when an invite to a ‘virtual event’ from Moonpig popped into my inbox I was very excited albeit a little a sceptical as to how this was going to work.

A night of cocktail making and flower arranging had been planned and the running order of the evening was exactly what you would expect from any other event, and when the bits and pieces started to arrived at the front door the excitement started to build and I was eager to get started.

With the children shut in the front room with bowls of sweets and a movie for bribery to keep quiet I transformed my dinning room into a flower arranging/cocktail masterclass area and waited patiently for the Zoom meeting to begin.

The screen started to fill will faces – some familiar and some not so, but all super smiley and welcoming.

We started of the evening chatting a little about the Moonpig App. Now I have been a customer of Moonpig for many years now and I hadn’t even realised there was an app available.

It was super easy to use and allows you to access 10,000+ cards and filters from wherever you happen to be.

They have also added something new and exciting, so now not only can you personalise your cards with your own words and pictures, you can also add your own handwriting in a few easy steps. This was a real bonus for me and something I know the little ones will love to be able to join in with.

This service is available on all iOS devices and will be coming to android soon.

Another thing I didn’t know about Moonpig was the extent of gifts they have on offer to add to your cards, with the gin and flowers we were going to be using being just a few of the things on offer.

Next up was our cocktail masterclass with James from Mix and Twist. We had a step by step guide on how to make a Gin Garden, Elderflower Colin and a Strawberry Gimlet with a few games thrown into the mix too which got so competitive it ended up with lots of spillages, a broken glass and plenty of belly laughs.

It was a brilliant way to discover something new but I think it should have been saved until last as I went into the flower arranging more than a little tipsy!

I had been sent an amazing bouquet of flowers from Moonpig and one of their experts Roxanne was on hand to give us some tips on how best to arrange these bouquets.

For me a bunch of flowers will always brighten up my day and it’s just what so many people need right about now!

I came away from the flower arranging with a lot more tips than I was expecting. For years I have moaned about the leaves in the water going gunky and it was a complete surprise to me that I should have been trimming these off before putting them in a vase…pretty obvious if you think about it!

I also hadn’t realised the importance of the size of the vase and I soon came to the realisation I don’t own any that are suitable for displaying flowers well.

All these tips come inside the flower box which is something I’ve never seen before, but for someone like me it would be of great help.

I came away from the event having learnt new skills, met new people and super happy that my first virtual event had been one to remember, so thank you very much Moonpig!