David Lloyd Know How To Party

As I’m sure most of you know by now that I only have praise for the amazing health club that is – David Lloyd.

It helped my find my mojo again and was the catalyst for my weight loss, it’s a great way to spend quality time as a family as well as keeps you fit and it has even pulled my gaming mad son away from his Xbox which is no mean feat and I will be talking more about this soon.

As well as everything I have mentioned above one of the big pulls for me is the sense of community that David Lloyd encourages. There was is always something going on from quiz nights to BBQs and the other evening we went along to experience this at the kids Halloween party.

The three hour long party was full of fun from beginning to end. The children got the chance to make slime, try their luck with the slimy lucky dip, bob for apples, get their faces painted and so much more!

The staff all got into the spirit of the event and were dressed up and full of life. They boogied away with the kids and seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the children.

All parties need some good food and there was plenty on offer…even cheeseburgers in the shape of pumpkins!

It was the perfect way to kick off our Halloween half term and has only instilled in me more why David Lloyd is the only health club we would choose.

*We have been given a family membership for the purpose of these posts and they are all my own, honest opinions.

Having A Spooktacular Time At Chessington World Of Adventures

Chessington World Of Adventures don’t do things by halves and this years Howl ‘O’ Ween celebrations were as fantastic as always when we visited yesterday.

As soon as you hit the entrance the park is festooned with all kinds of pumpkins and skeletons to get you into the spooky mood.

We usually head to Chessington for the fast rides and thrill and spills they have to offer, but this time we decided on a calmer day where we would just go to enjoy the smaller rides, the animals, the shoes and of course everything they had to offer for Halloween.

Trick Or Treat Wood is always a favourite with all the family as it allows for the element of surprise and is jumpy without being too scary.

We weaved our way through the woods where we were confronted with all kinds of creepy, cute and funny creatures that took us on an adventure to make it through the woods and claim our special treat at the end.

From here Izzy braved the Creepy Caves that saw her escorted through a creepy quarantined area which was extra scary as due to nobody knowing the whereabouts of the missing zoo keeper!

More scares were to come with the Curse Of The Tomb where you need to find your way through the scary maze in search of Genghis Khan’s lost tomb.

This one certainly wasn’t for the faint hearted and I got the wits scare out of me by one of the actors simply popping his head out of the caves!

It was an absolutely freezing day and we were very grateful to be able to warm up for a while in the Sealife Centre that the children all love.

We then made our way to some of the smaller rides such as the flying jumbos, the carousel, adventure tree, tiny truckers and of course Hocus Pocus Hall has to be done at this time of year!

We took a little bit of time out to watch the brilliant Room On A Broom story time they brings the much loved book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler to life which the children were captivated by and then loved getting the opportunity to meet the witch herself.

Another place we love to visit is the Dragon’s Placehouse where the boys have a whale of a time jumping through the soft play while I get the chance to have five minutes peace and a cheeky muffin in the cafe next door.

We were a little pushed for time and gutted we didn’t get the chance to see the brand new Haunted Howl ‘O’ Ween show which looked like great fun.

There was also a competition running for the best dressed Halloween adventurer.

All the fun is going on until 4th November so don’t miss out!

‘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’

Pumpkin Picking At Secretts Of Milford

I had a mini meltdown the other day as I had missed our annual day out pumpkin picking at Priory Farm. It is one of our favourite things to do at this time of year and so I went on the hunt for somewhere else we could visit.

I stumbled across Secretts Of Milford and thought that it would make the perfect place to explore this half term.

After a short drive we arrived at the garden centre to a pretty packed carpark which I was a little apprehensive about but I needn’t have worried as after a short while queuing we made our way into the event field that was full of things to do from face painting to fairground rides, tractor rides and a favourite for mine – corn blasting!

We headed straight to the tractor ride that lead us into the jam packed pumpkin fields, full of pumpkins of all different shapes, sizes and colours. The children didn’t know where to look first and spent ages racing through the fields and selecting their perfect pumpkin.

We hopped back on the tractor and grabbed a bite to eat which was very fitting with the theme with hot dogs, pumpkin soup, pumpkin curry and pumpkin cake. There was plenty on indoor and outdoor space to sit and relax while the children enjoy the freedom of the open space and even a hay fight or two!

Secretts made for an amazing day out and we will certainly be back to visit next year!

Days Out With The Kids This Christmas

Yes I know we have only just put our sandals and summer dress aways but before you know it Christmas will be upon us and if you want to get those special days booked in then you really do have to start thinking about it now!

Christmas is by far my favourite time of year and I have compiled a list of a few of our favourites that I hope you might enjoy:

Lapland UK – This one just had to be top of my list as I have experienced nothing like it before. We were lucky enough to have our first trip there last year and we were absolutely blown away.

From helping the elves in Father Christmas’s toy factory, icing biscuits with Mother Christmas, taking to the ice in the most beautifully setting and finally meeting the main man himself who Frankie has named ‘the real’ Father Christmas it was sheer magic.

It brought a tear to my eye and I don’t think that day will ever be topped!

Hever Castle – For me Hever brings you everything you would imagine when you think of an English christmas celebration. The traditional fairground rides and beautiful christmas trail are perfect for the little ones, whilst the stunningly decorated castle is a sight that everyone will enjoy.

We are off there at the end of November so keep an eye out for what they have in store this year.

Chessington World Of Adventure – The Winter’s Tail event at Chessington World Of Adventure is always a fantastic day out. There is the chance to visit Santa in his grotto, ride on a few selected rides that are specially opened including our favourite – The Gruffly River Ride Adventure, decorate festive treats in the Gruffly kitchen and something new this year will be The Gruffalo Christmas Groove.

alongside all of this they are also offering sleepover packages and we can highly recommend a stay in their fantastic hotel.

Painshill Park – This one for us has the ultimate wow factor when it comes to the grotto. After a walk along a pretty lit walkway you find your way to the crystal grotto where Father Christmas is waiting to hand out his gifts.

It is certainly different from the norm and gets booked up extremely quickly so don’t leave it until the last minute.

Southbank – If you are looking for a day out with festive foods, quirky gifts and the perfect London backdrop then the christmas market at Southbank if definitey one for the list.

Hobbledown – I am so sad that I won’t be going along to the toddlers lunch with Father Christmas this year.

I have visited for many years now and it is the perfect trip for preschoolers where they decorate a biscuit, have some lunch and meet Santa in the cutest little wooden hut.

Winerville – We had our first trip here last year and it really exceeded our expectations. It is an uber cool experience in the heart of Clapham common offering a bit of everything from great food and drink to ice skating, roller skating, fairground rides, crazy golf and a whole lot more.

Disney On Ice – This has become somewhat of a tradition for us to visit a few days before christmas. The culmination of all our favourite Disney characters, the chill of the ice and the excitement of Christmas makes for a great day out.

National Trust – We have visited a fair few properties over the festive period and each one has its on unique and wonderful christmas feel. They offer visits to Father Christmas, crafts galore christmas markets and brilliant trails to wear the kids out which is always a bonus!

CBeebies Christmas Show:Thumbelina – Getting cosy in the cinema is perfect at this time of year and when its to watch a classic such as Thumbelina put on by some of your favourite Cbeebies characters then its always going to be a hit.

We are off to see this later in the year so keep an eye out for what we think!

RHS Wisley – Now the illuminated trail at Wisley is something I’ve heard so many good things about but haven’t actually got there yet. I think it will have to go on my list for this year.

Winter Wonderland – If you want Christmas on a grand scale then this is the place for you. Winter Wonderland is a huge area in Hyde Park full of fairground rides, food stalls, gifts, ice skating, shows and bucket loads more. We had our first trip there last year and had an amazing time!

Bocketts Farm – I love a farm visit over the christmas period and Bocketts offers an amazingly festive day out complete with a trip to santa in his hay barn.

The Snowman – My children laugh at how much I love The Snowman in any form. My first love was of course the illustrated character and I have loved watching how he has evolved over the years. We watched the stage show a few years ago which was absolutly spell binding and keep the attention of my younger two for over two hours which is no mean feat. This year there is also a magical exhibition at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, an immersive experience at The Backyard Cinema, a special story telling session at Bath Pavilions by the talented author Michael Morpurgo and a the most magical showing of the animated film at the Royal Albert Hall accompanied by the Royal Philamonic Orchestra.

Priory Farm – This has been our Christmas Eve tradition for a few years now. We stop off in the cafe for a mince pie and a warm drink, get the last of our foodie bits at the fab farm shop and a trek round the discovery walk to wear out the over excited little one.

Celebrating The Small Things:Week Thirty

This week on ‘celebrating the small things’ this week as me thinking back on lavender field photoshoots, special allergy treats and Pimms in the sun.

Lavender Field Photoshoot – For someone who at the begining of the year always shied away from the camera terribly, I feel that although I’m certainly not confident in front of the camera but have started to fear it a lot less!

I had been chatting to the lovely Rachel Thornhill for a while now and whence asked me if I would like a photoshoot in the beautiful Mayfield Lavender fields I jumped at the chance.

Not only did I get some fabulous images of the day but I got to meet the lady inside my phone and was pleasantly surprised that she was as lovely as I had invisidged.

Treats For My Allergy Boy – Life with Frankie’s allergies can be a real mental challenge sometimes as the ability to give him what he wants is completely taken out of my hands and the ‘mum guilt’ is immense!

Recently we were out to eat pretty late and the selection of food was pretty limited. The others were all grabbing tasty treat whilst Frankie looked on. After nearly exhausting every option we stumbled across a place that served fries covered in vegan cheese. His face lit up and my heart my full over something so simple.

It’s Pimms O’Clock – This is probably one of the silliest small things I’ve written about but I can honestly say that being out in the sunshine, watching the kids play and having a Pimms in my hand is certainly one of my guilty pleasures…it also helps when the playful children start to argue!

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’

‘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

Celebrating The Small Things:Week Twenty Three

‘Celebrating The Small Things’ this week is taking us back to half term and finding small moments to be grateful for in a pretty amazing week!

Location, Location, Location – It will be no surprise to many of you that I have always had a strong want to live by the sea. The outdoorsy life, laid back feel and plenty for the children to do has always appealed to me, but no so much to my husband.
During half term I actually realised we are really lucky to live exactly where we do. We had a pretty hectic week of commuting into town as well as a trip to Brighton that for so many just wouldn’t be doable. So with this in mind I’m incredibly grateful we can be by the sea and central London in under an hour and have plentiful countryside right on our doorstep, so no more moaning from me…well for a while anyway!

Understanding Food Allergies – Allergies are not something that feature to much on here but are certainly something that affect us on a daily basis. Frankie is allergic to a whole host of foods and although it is something he is slowly learning to deal with there are always those occasions where its pretty hard going for him.
We attended the Num Noms Launch Party at the Good Housekeeping Institute where there was going to be pizza making going on and I had already pre warned him that he might not be able to take part in this section of the day. He was disheartened but still very much wanting to go along.
Looking at the ingredients when we arrived I could sence the disappointment that was going to set in until a lovely lady came over and asked what she could find that would make the pizzas suitable for him.
His face lit up and I was so grateful that he wouldn’t have to miss out as he doses on so many other occasions.

Keeping Friendships Alive – A while ago now my husband’s best friend and his family emigrated to New Zelend. This was a huge wrench for him as they had been good friends since school and we all had grown close as we got married and started families.
It was amazing to have them over and spend quality time together. It felt like yesterday as soon as we saw them and through the help of social media we have all been able to watch everyones adventures over the past few years, but there is nothing like actually getting together and spending precious time with special people.

Family Photography Workshop With Sharp Shots Photography Club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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