Finding My Confidence With Laura Shaw Photography

This year was the year I had set goals to challenge myself, push boundaries and try new things.

Over the past few years so many people have asked why I don’t appear more on my blog and the simple answer to this was always that I was way to critical of myself.

I would take endless selfies and delete them all or get one of the children to try and get a picture that I would be remotely happy with and to be honest this very rarely happened.

I hated myself for how shallow this made me feel but due to a culmination of different insecurities I just couldn’t bring myself to be on screen.

A while ago now I won a competition to have a photo shoot with Laura from Laura Shaw Photography and I knew from the very first moment I met here she was going to be the lady to put my mind at ease when it came to getting in front of the camera.

The session was booked and cancelled endless times and finally a few weeks ago all the pieces fell into place and the session went ahead.

I probably didn’t pick the easiest of locations for my nerves as a high street packed with people would never be a place you could naturally relax, but Laura worked her magic and after shots that felt terribly uncomfortable I finally relaxed and started to being to thoroughly enjoy the whole experience.

It was actually a few crude words from Laura that set me off into fits of giggles and I will never look at her without thinking of these worlds again!

The hours flew by as we flitted around the town borrowing changing rooms and handbags from the lovely Nancy of Gerrards and stopping to use the beautiful surroundings off Willows florist.

I have have to say a big thank you to guys at Stone House Vinyl as we plotted up there on a few occasions during the day!

This really was an experience I never thought I would have the courage to do and I can’t thank Laura enough for finding my confidence, giving me an amazing afternoon of fun whilst capturing the most amazing images.

Teaching Children To Give A Little This Christmas

With the media whirlwind that surrounds Christmas it can be very easy for children to get wrapped up in the commercialisation of it all and loose the true meaning.

It is very easy to get swept up in all the splender that surrounds Christmas and loose sight of the fact that this time of year is not a happy one for all of us.

Christmas is the perfect time to teach children the gift of giving and set them up with skills to show understanding and compassion for those less fortunate.

Something small such a helping out an elderly neighbour with odd jobs or simply a gift of their time is a simple way to give something back.

There are many ways to get the children involved and below I have listed a few charities local to me that offer a great way to do this:

  • Loveworks Christmas Appel Loveworks are a Reigate based charity that’s aim is to help the most vulnerable groups of people in the local area. Over Christmas they run a campaign where you can collect non perishable goods during November and drop off to your local Loveworks food bank in the first week of December.
  • Stripey Stork, Help Santa StorkStripey Stork is a charity created by a group of mums who wanted to make use of their unwanted baby and children’s items by giving them to people in need in the local community. Over the Christmas period they run a campaign called Help Santa’s Stork that allows you to either pick a brand new gift for a child either directly from Amazon or chosen by purchasing and dropping off at local collection points.
  • Give A Christmas Gift – Give A Christmas Gift campaign allows you but a gift from the list they have compiled and then drop your special gift off to several collection points that will then be distribute the collections amongst several local charities.

I hope this post has given you some food for thought and I would love to hear any ideas of charitable acts that you carry out with your little ones at this time of year.

Having An Extra Cuddle On Mother’s Day

As I sit here tonight with some little ones in bed and my youngest cradled in my arms I am feeling eternally grateful for being blessed with five wonderful children.

For me Mother’s Day is a time to sit back and really take in how lucky I am to be a parent.  With everything going on in day to day life we tend to take things for granted and although a lot of people are negative about days like Mother’s Day and feel it is to commercialised I think it can be as extravagant or as simple as you want to make it.

This year I was woken at 2.15am by number four whispering Happy Mother’s Day to me and clutching his card.  I snuggled him in bed with me until I was woken again with a huge pile of pastries and chocolate.

  
I didn’t want to go out for a restaurant meal as it always ends up costing a fortune for something we end up throwing down our throats before the children all start to play up.

I love spending time outside so opted for Priory Farm in Nutfield.  Sadly everyone else had the same idea and we couldn’t get a table!

Bundling everyone back in the car we went to one of our favourite cafes in Reigate, happily got a table and had great food without the formality of a sit down meal. 

   
   
We then walked down to Priory Park and head a good walk and mess around in the playground.  

   
   
I went on a bit of a mission hunting for fairies doors that we had never managed to spot before. The kids got bored but I kept searching much to their annoyance and couldn’t find even one!

  
We made our way back home to yet more food and the normality of getting ready for the week ahead.

Such a simple day and nothing that we don’t do on a regular basis but with the emphasis of Mother’s Day in our heads the kids were that little more well behaved and I was that little more relaxed and thankful for all that I have.

What did you all get up to today?

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Reigate Heath Windmill

I’ve always had a love for windmills and I’ve not visited one for years.  I was talking to the children about them the other day and they had no idea what they were used for.  After explaining the ins and out of a windmill I thought it would be good to take a trip to see one so they could see first hand what they were used for.

We have a few near us but the opening times are a few and far between so when I came across one on Reigate Heath it seemed perfect.

  
The windmill itself is in the grounds of Reigate Heath golf Club and can be accessed by popping into the club where the staff were more than happy to open up for us to take a look around.

The single storey postmill has been converted into a chapel that holds a service one Sunday a month during the summer months.

   
 
The tiny chapel nestled below the impressive beams of the windmill was a lovely sight to see, and I can imagine what a wonderfuly intimate service could be held there.

   
    

After looking around the windmill we took a walk through the common ground around the golf course which was very pretty but not great with a buggy.

There are so few windmills left now that it is something I wanted the children to experience.  I have fond memories of visiting a working one as a child and this is now next on my list!

Fairy And Snowdrop Hunting At Gatton Park

If any of you follow me on Instagram I’m sure you will have noticed by now that I’m a real lover of Spring flowers.  They signify the start of warmer weather and bring a welcome display of colour after the gloomy months we have post Christmas.

One of the best places to go and see the snowdrops raising their pretty heads is Gatton Park in Reigate.  On the first Sunday of every month they open the doors and allow visitors to come and explore the beautiful park and gardens.

  
At this time of year the immaculate gardens are littered with snowdrops and are a real sight to see.

   
   
The children love investigating the winding pathways and uneven staircases. Number five loved the pretty pond that could be crossed by stepping on the stones.

   
 
Inside the house you can grab yourself a cup of tea whist the children colour or make a snowdrop card as a memento of their day.

   

  

 

Our last trip of the day was down to the play trail where the children climbed poles, made music on the wooden instruments, jumped aboard the tractor and most importantly tried to wake the fairies at their cute little house.

   
    
 
 

We spent several hours over there exploring everything the wonderful house and gardens has to offer and I’m keen to come back and try out their toddler afternoons with he youngest two!

   
   
  

Top Outdoor Summer Activities In Surrey

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

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

Mayfield Lavender Fields

 

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

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

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

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

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

Godstone Farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Priory Park

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

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


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


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

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


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

Chessington World Of Adventures

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

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

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


    

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


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

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


  

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

Priory Farm

This is a garden centre with a difference!

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


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

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


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

Chartwell House

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

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

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


  

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


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

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


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

Flower Farm

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


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



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

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

  

  

  

Celebrating National Picnic Week

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


An Adventure In Reigate Caves

  

As a family we spend a lot of time in Reigate and the surrounding area as it just has so much to offer.

A stunning park, a mass of fabulous shops and eating establishments, beautiful walks with breathtaking views and as I’m finding out it is also steeped in history.

For a long time I have wanted to visit the caves that are housed in Tunnel Road in the centre of town.

They are only open to the public five times a year and I always miss out.  Luckily I was looking for the opening dates and got lucky as this weekend it was being opened by Wealden Cave And Mine Society.

   
 We arrived and were greeted by our extremely friendly tour guide.  I was a little worried as the tour was just under an hour and as we only had the two little ones I was not sure if they would last that long!

To my surprise they were very well behaved and were quite taken back by the sight once we were inside.

   
   

The talk was very informative and it was fascinating to find that the caves were in fact old sand quarries that were mined over several centuries and were also used as air raid shelters during World War II.

  
   
 

At points it was like a massive underground sandpit that the boys enjoyed playing with whist we listened to the wonderful stories that were being told.

It was a great trip for all ages but I do think that older children would get more out of the experience.  It would be a perfect trip for children that are studying World War II.  I also think it would make a fab Santas Grotto!!

Our next visit will be to the caves the Baron’s Cave in the castle grounds where we will take the others as they were a bit put out that we had been exploring without then today!

Exploring Reigate Hill

  

In my opinion National Trust sites offer the perfect day out, and our family have covered most of the local ones but until this weekend Reigate Hill had eluded us.

My sister had recently moved to the area and suggested we took a picnic up there to explore.

We took a short drive to the top of Reigate Hill where we found a small car park which also homed a nice little coffee hut run by Urban Kitchen that serves some great drinks and snacks but remember to take some money with you as they only except cash.

We didn’t sample anything but the boys loved trying out the deck chairs!

  
We set ourselves up at a fantastic view point and ate our picnic whilst the kids ran around with their pots of bubbles.

   
       

Once fed and watered we started our walk across Reigate Footbridge to Reigate Fort. 

The Fort was built in 1898 and was storage for tools and ammunition for the soilders; and was a fascinating site for the children to look around.

   
       

As you climb to the top there is a large area of open space where we stopped to climb hills that reminded me of something out of the Teletubbies!!  

   
 

From here I dragged my sister another ten minutes along the path to find the stunning Inglis Memorial.

She was really pleased I did as when we got there the views were absolutely  breathtaking.

   
   

The memorial itself was donated in 1909 as a drinking fountain for horses.  I myself think it is far to beautiful for anything like that.

   
     

We could have walked on further and taken in some more historic sights but for us this was perfect.

National Trust you have once again supplied my family with a beautiful and informative day out that we will always remember.