Inside Tower Bridge

[PRESS TRIP] I have passed over Tower Bridge countless times either on foot or by car and the magnitude of it never fails to amaze me. The iconic blue immediately catches my eye and it has always been one of my favourite London landmarks. I have passed this love down to my children who all get equally as excited as me at the sight.

So can you imagine the excitement levels when I told them we would be taking a trip inside – well this was filled with a little apprehension as both Frankie and I are not good with heights!

A short walk along the river chatting about what we might see and do once we arrived and we were there to be greeted by a lovley lady who gave us lots in infromation on the bridge whilst we waited in the short queue. It was then time to make our way inside. We took the small windy staircase of the North Tower up to the top which was great to add to or anticipation, but for those with buggies or access issues there was a lift that could be used.

On the way up there were lots of interesting facts to read, most of which I had no idea about. Once inside the walkway we were greeeted with a light and airy area with panoramic views across London. We purchased a view guide and the boys loved matching up the landmarks in the book when they came across them, and there were also guides on the windows that were really useful.

But of course what we were most looking forward to was the glass floor and it didn’t disappoint! Being 42 metres above the river gave you the most amazing perspective. Oscar was well away and was speeding across trying to spot people and look for his favourite cars. Frankie was a little more coy to begin with – as was I, but I was actually pleasantly suprised that my usual fear wasn’t that great and I got to really enjoy the moment.

Next up was the descent through the South Tower. As we made our was down we got to learn a little about the people who worked inside Tower Bridge and inside the stunning Bascle Chambers if you look closly enough you will spot some statues of these workers. A little futher down there were tools and uniforms of the staff on display that Oscar was particuarly taken with.

As we came out of the South Tower I thought this was the end of our trip and I was pleasantly surprised that we acually needed to follow the blue line along to the engine rooms. the blue line was made to commemorate the people of Tower Bridge and it was lovely to take this all in as we walked.

I wasnt really to excited about going into the engine rooms as I had a preconceived idea it would just be full of machinery and not too interesting. This was quashed as soon as we arrived. The boys made a bee line for the interactive exhibit that showed you the workings of the engines and then much to my amazement we found the most beautiful looking steam engines. Painted in the most vivid green and red, thet really were a sight to behold.

From here there was more things for the boys to get thier hands on and the loved finding out facts about the people who had made histrry on the bridge with their crazy acts, such as the brave Albert Gunter who jumped the open bridge to save a double decker bus full of people!

The Tower Bridge experience exceeded our expectations and Oscar has even been back at school writng about this as his favoruite experience of the holidays. Now we need to try an book again to see the bridge lifting whilst we are on there!

Happy Hour At Ping Pong

[PRESS VISIT] This summer was all about making up for the lost time of lockdown and trying to fit in as much fun as we could. A lot of our time was spent with us being tourists in our own city and exploring parts of London we haven’t been too – and this included a new resturant for us – Ping Pong.

Ping Ping offers delicious Dim Sum and carefully crafted cocktails at a whole host of different locations across London. We were visiting the Tate Modern so decided on the South Bank branch for our visit and were welcomed with a smile and shown to our table.

There are no menus per se, instead you have a list of all the foods and drinks avaliable and then us it as a tick sheet for the items you want. I had completely over ordered to begin with but the friendly waiter was on hand to help me rejig a few things and we were then good to go.

We were there for Ping Pong’s happy hour which runs from 3-6pm Monday to Friday and offers a huge range of their Dim Sum and cocktails for half the price.

There really was something to please everyone and the boys loved the opportunity to sample things they haven’t tried before…and of course it would have been rude not to have tried a cocktail or two!

The soft and delicate prawn and chive dumplings were to die for, as were the turmeric and Chinese vegetable dumplings. The children worked their way through plate fulls of crispy duck spring rolls and enjoyed popping edamame beans covered in celery salt. We washed all this down with lychee and iced teas for the boys and Ping Pong signature cocktails for me.

We couldn’t have faulted our first trip at all. Helpful staff, beautiful surroundings and fabuolous food and drink in a relaxed atmosphere…what more could you want!

Not A Holiday Without A Trip To Hever Castle

I actually can’t remember when we last had a hoilday without a trip to Hever Castle. Our love for it never falters and I would find it hard to tell you what season there I love the most…well actually that’s a little lie as it has to be Christmas. With that said though whatever time of year you visit you are in for a treat and for us the other day was no different.

As I’m sure you have noticed the weather this summer hasn’t exactly been the best, but there is always something to see and do at Hever. We headed straight for the playground as this is always one of the boys favourite areas. Frankie is reaching the age where is sometimes gets a little bored of playgrounds now, but we spent a huge amount of time in here with the boys playing chase and making new friends in a huge game of hide and seek.

Next up we plotted up by the water to feed the ducks and have something delicious from the BBQ. Hever is perfect for picnicing and we normally do a mixtutre of both. Taking snacks and drinks to keep us going and then treating ourselves to something nice – which always includes an ice-cream!

We didn’t go inside the castle on this visit as the children were keen to stay outside, but it is definetly a must if you are planning a visit. Instead we ignored the weather and went straight to the water maze. For me this is such a pretty feature to the already stunning grounds, and something I have never seen anywhere else quite like it.

There are still covid restrictions on this attraction, but the queue was short and we still had a heap of fun.

We sadly missed the times for the falconary exebitions that run twice a day, but we spent the rest of the day enjoying all the little hidden walks around the grounds whilst the boys tried to spot as many naked statues as they could – something else they never seem to get bored off and mananged to meet one of the birds of prey on our way round.

We had yet another fantastic day and can’t wait until our next trip.

Flipping Out At Flipout

[PRESS TRIP] With over twenty years or parenting I sometimes reach the summer holidays and feel that I have exhausted every single day out there is. Of course we have some firm favourites we never tire of and can happily revisit time and time again, but were always on the hunt for new and exciting places and we definitely came across this the other day at Flipout – Croydon.

Flipout is Croydon’s largest Indoor Super Centre and is home to a whole host of amazing activities from mini golf to laser quest, five a side football to bumper cars, synthetic ice skating to ninja tag as well as the most amazing bounce area…I’m sure there is something I’ve missed!

The centre is based at the bottom of Centrale and Whitgift Shopping Centre and you can get discounted parking upon validating your ticket, which makes it super easy to get too as well as affordable too.

We arrived for the first session of the day and were greeted with smiles and very knowledgeable staff that told us everything we needed before we got on with the play. The sessions last for three hours and from what we saw it is best to book an early slot as it fills up towards the end of the day and it becomes harder to find a base to plot up at.

For the first part of the day I went around with the children, taking part in the fun with them, and I loved that it has all been designed so the adults could have some fun too, but I was also perfectly happy to sit back, relax and enjoy a coffee whilst they had some independent play. Flipout spans two floors and although it is a pretty big space, eveything is easy to navigate and there is always someone on hand to help out.

Some of the areas you needed to queue for but aside from the bumper cars we didn’t wait for more than a few minutes for anything, and we were able to visit our favourite areas time and time again. I loved the fact there were fast pace activities such as the laser tag mixed with calmer pursuits such as mini golf and ice skating so there was something for everyone.

After working up an appetite we headed to the cafe that stocks a small range of hot food and snacks. My pizza loving crew filled themselves up with delicious pizza slices that were at a good price and even had an offer running of ‘buy three get one free’. They washed all this down with a slushie, which again was great valve as you had the option to buy unlimited refills.

The three hours literally flew by and it was announced that they had had, ‘the best day ever’ and I have to admit I had a lot of fun too!

Anyone from aged four right through to adults would love Flipout and it’s one of the only places I visited that would keep my entire gang happy – and that’s no mean feat with a family spanning a range of ages. We had no moaning or groaning and in fact the only words muttered as we left were – ‘when are we coming back’ so you can’t get better than that!

The Mary Rose Museum:1545 Immersive Experience When Their World Ended

[PRESS EVENT] In 1982 the world watched on as the infamous Mary Rose was bought back to the surface after the devastating sinking of the ship back in 1545 which is still one of the biggest mysteries in nautical history. It stands to this day to be the biggest historical excavation of its kind with over 19 thousand artefacts recovered from the wreckage.

One of the most devestating facts about the sinking of the Mary Rose is that 500 men lost thier lives that day and the new immersive experience, 1545-When Their World Ended at The Mary Rose Museum has been added to the museum to celebrte those lives lost.

I was lucky enough to be be invited along to the lauch of this new instillation and from the minute I set foot on the port I was completly taken with the grandeur and wonder it held. We took the short walk along to the museum, passing HMS Victory and were finally greeted by Henry V111 himself.

The first port of call – pardon the pun, was the new experience itself. We had a short introduction and then we were lead into a darkened room where KIng Henry V111 told us tales of the times before we boarded the Mary Rose and got to re-live those final moments whilst the the screen in front of us filled with water and capsised the boat.

This was a great introduction to the musum itslef, where we took in the magic of all the artefacts that have been found from tiny, intricate dice to the full skeleton of a dog that had been on board and the many, many wepons from cannons to cross bows that must hold so many stories.

On thing that excited me most about my visit was the love and passion the flowed from each and every memeber of staff I spoke to. They were more than happy to answer questions, no matter how silly and the knowledge that held was absolutely dumbfounding.

Ive saved the best until last and that really has to be the Mary Rose herself, and to be honest no picture or video can do her justice, she really does have to be seen to be belived – so what are you waiting for!

Mama Shelter:The Kidzcation

Stepping out of the cab with the blistering sun burning down on us, we could have easily been on an LA strip and not in the centre on Hackney when we arrived at Mama Shelter.

The grand, black building and striking canopies gave the hotel that immediate ‘wow’ factor, which also fills me with dread when it comes to travelling with kids! Little did I know though my worries were soon to be quashed.

We made our way past young couples sipping cocktails in the sun and entered the entrance hall where we were greeted with a ecletic mix of clashing, colourful prints and luxurious fabrics that were a feast for the eyes; but I think the game changer for us all was the arcade game sitting right by the reception; which imedietly put my mind at ease about the children being there and gave them something to do whilst I checked in, in peace.

I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome. I was told everything I needed to know and the children were asked what they were looking forward to during thier stay.

Our stay was going to see us experience Mama Shelter’s ‘Kidzcation’ which means that when you book one room you get one half price which is interconecting if avaliable so the family are all still together.

Our rooms consisted of a double bed and two singles which worked perfectly for us. There was plenty of room to move around and all the little essentials you need such as an area to make drinks and gorgous own brand bathroom goodies.

Screen addict Frankie homed straight in on the TV and was over the moon with the huge array of free movies on offer…I think he would have been happy to stay there all weekend. Another lovely little extra were the sweets on the kids beds and the super cute Looney Tunes masks that the boys kept on for the majority of their stay .

All settled in we made our way down to dinner. The restaurant was buzzing and had a fantastic atmosphere. There was a heated debate over who was sitting on the sofa which resulted in a full on meltdown from Oscar. Normally this would make for a fraught evening, but thanks to our wonderful waiter the crisis was divered and his kinds words telling me what a fab job I was doing with the kids meant so much!

We feasted on the best burgers I have ever tasted and finshed off with a variety of puddings from cookies and milk to brulee’d pain perdu.

The children’s menu mirrored that of the adults which is always somthing I like, instead of the usual beige offerings. Mine all wolfed down their meals and I had the chance to sit and enjoy a G&T in peace while the boys played on the super cool football table.

A check out time of 12pm meant that we could have a really lazy morning which is always welcome when you have numerous little ones to get ready. A few coffees, a bit of TV watching and a long relaxing shower later we went to fill our bellies once more. Children under 12 eat free for breakfast and they get to choose from the main menu which has a great variety. We are definitely a pancake loving family and couldn’t turn down the fluffy panckes dripping with syrup and covered in crispy bacon.

Full to the brim the boys made full use of the arcade machines before we headed to the karaoke room. Tucked away at the bottom of the hotel are two karaoke rooms where Oscar was in his element. The disco lighting and iPads to select your favourite tunes were a fantastic addition to an already wonderful stay.

If you are looking for a stay that caters perfectly for the kids whilst still giving the parents something special then Mama Shleter is the place to be!

Valentines Big Night In With Moonpig

[AD] As with most things at the moment Valentine’s Day is going to be a little different this year. There won’t be any candlelit dinners in cosy restaurants or celebrations over cocktails in swanky bars, but this doesn’t mean the celebrations have to stop – we can have just as much fun indoors and I have got some fantastic ideas from Moonpig to help with the fun.

Moonpig cards are a staple for any celebrations in this house and they couldn’t be handier than they are right now. From humour to romance they have it covered and the abitltiy to personalise your cards with your own photos or even handwriting make them all the more special.

Valentine’s Day and flowers are probably one of the most traditional ways to celelebate and Moonpig offer a fantastic range, with my favourite being the dozen red roses – simple and beautiful.

With the flowers to set the mood then a gorgous sented candle is the perfect accompaniment to set the mood for your date night. Yankee Candles are always a winner and the fresh cut rose scent works so well alondside the bouquet.

Next up would actually be a little treat I would buy myself…we all need to treat ourselves sometimes don’t we! The Valentine Beauty Gift Set from Birchbox has a great selelction of gifts such as lip gloss, nail polish and pillow spray to pamper yourself with.

For something a little different then the At Home Date Night gift card is a great way to plan a night of quizzes, puzzles, musical challanges and more. This alongside a few gin and tonics like the Edinburugh Pink Valentines Gin will make this somewhat different Valentine’s Day go with a bang!

What Makes Our Family Special – Guyana:Review

[GIFTED] “Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if we were all the same” is something I’ve always reminded my little ones of. We often talk about all the different factors that make families special and celebrate this. I am ashamed to admit though that being a blended family ourselves with my father in law coming from Mauritius we haven’t really delved into what life is like there, how people live and how it differs to here in the UK and this is exactly what the beautiful book – What Makes Our Family Special GUYANA by Danielle Clarke does.

Our thoughtfully hand wrapped booked arrived with a hand written note attached from the stars of the book, along with some colouring sheets which was such a lovely touch. Oscar opened the package with such excitment and the beautiful, colourful illustrations from Lily Carver immediately caught my eye.

Evie and Isla are tucked up in bed and all set and for a special bedtime story about their Guyanese grandparents when they are transported on an adventure to Guyana; learing lots of facts about this gorgeous county. While they are there they come across a distressed river otter who’s baby is trapped under a huge log. Working together as a team, they manage to free the baby otter and head back home with dreams of Guyana and their exciting adventures.

This book allows children to think about how different families are up and this is what makes each one so special, they are able to learn a whole host of facts about Guyana…I learnt more than a few myself and finally it shows how coming together as a team gets is always the best way the job done.

Beautifully written, beautifully illustrated and most importantly a very important message delivered in the perfect way! Oscar absolutely loved this book and we are egarly awaiting the next in the series!

Slow Cooking With Homepride

[AD] Cooking for a large family with varying ages can be a challenge to say the least. There are always likes and dislikes, someone is hungry when someone else isn’t or there is a last minute friend turning up that needs feeding.

All of these issues with the need of serving them something nutritious as well as tasty can be mind blowing at times, but this is where my slow cooker is my saviour.

I bought my first slow cooker back before I can even remember now, after getting fed up with serving up a plate of beige food when I was pushed for time after the kids swimming lessons. We would get in late, they would be ravenous and I just reached for nuggets and chips or pizza as they were the quickest and easiest option. 

The more children I had and the more after school clubs that were happening, the more I was reaching for freezer food and I knew this wasn’t good for any of us.

The slow cooker came on the scene and I marveled at how I could prepare a whole range of meals that were healthy and filling in the morning, and this would be ready to eat as soon as we got in at night.

My narrow minded thoughts of them only being used to cook stews were quashed and over the years the different meals I have prepared have been so vast. The only thing that sometimes holds me up is having a bare cupboard as some recipes require a fair few ingredients and this is why I have been so pleased to discover the Homepride Slow Cooker range.

Homepride slow cooker sauces are concentrated sauces that once added to a few simple ingredients creates a perfectly slow cooked meal packed with flavour in three simple steps.

For me the sauces are perfect for those times when you are in a real rush as all the flavour is packed into this handy little pouch for you which is so convenient when you are pushed for time…or inspiration.

Big families also come with big food bills and these Homepride sauces are extremely budget friendly as there is no need for a high list of ingredients which you can find with some recipes.

As I said earlier, another hurdle I face with my gang is needing to please everyone’s tastes which is no mean feat! The Homepride sauces offer chilli con carne, chicken curry, beef and ale and BBQ pulled pork. My mini critics are a hard bunch to please but I can honestly say each recipe was a winner.

The issue was choosing which sides to have, but because the recipes are so quick and easy to prepare I didn’t mind adding a few different side dishes to please everyone.

The beef and ale worked perfectly served with a creamy mash that I had made in advance, and for my potato fearing kids, chunks of fresh bread worked well. The pulled pork was the perfect after school meal as it could be piled inside floury baps with a big green salad.

The favourite for us though was the chilli con carne. I can never get the combination of spices right and the Homepride sauce gave me a rich sauce with just the right amount of spice.

Head over to my highlights on Instagram to see a step by step guide of how I made it and please let me know what you think if you give it a try.

Christmassy Bedtimes With Great Little Trading Co.

[GIFTED] I am like Mother Christmas, and the minute Halloween and Bonfire Night are out of the way it’s full steam ahead with Christmas prep for me!

I actually love the run up to Christmas more than the day itself. The children are all balls of excitement and there just seems to be a little magic in everything.

When it comes to decorating the house I’ve always left it to the downstairs, and have never really thought about doing anything in the children’s rooms before, so when I was kindly sent some Christmas Bedding sets from Great Little Trading Co. I knew this was going to be a new tradition for us.

I went out a got a mini Christmas tree – lights an all and a poinsettia for their chest of drawers which was the perfect match for the bedding sets.

The crisp white 100% cotton sets come with a duvet cover and making pillow case, both of which has a super cute Christmas print with woodland animals and of course Father Christmas himself.

You can also get matching stockings and Christmas sacks that would complement the bed sets perfectly; and the classic theme means they can be used for many years to come.

This year has been a little sparse on the magic front, so this has made a lovely addition to the boys room and has definitely got them more than ready for Christmas!