Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn

Well I'm not sure how this has happened but September is nearly upon us. The mornings are getting chillier, the evenings are getting darker, the paddling pool isn't getting as much action and worst of all...there are MORE SPIDERS AROUND!!

We have had such a fun packed summer with lots of days out and play dates but there's so much more that I want to squeeze in before the colder months are here:

Go On Safari at Longleat
Elliot loves animals, especially the loud roaring variety and I think he would absolutely love it at Longleat Safari and Adventure Park. Me and my husband visited years ago but these things are so much more fun with a kid in tow aren't they! There is so much to see and do at Longleat so this will definitely be a full day out. Plus they have Postman Pat Village which is sure to go down well with Elliot :)

Take Elliot on a boat ride
We live right by the sea and if we were to visit Poole Quay (which we do often!) there are plenty of trips available to us. Somehow we have yet to find time to do this though - I'd better get a move on and make time if I want to catch the warmer weather! I could also combine this with the next one....

See the red squirrels on Brownsea Island
Brownsea Island is open pretty much all year long but the fact we have to get a boat there makes me want to visit in sunnier times! We've been saying for months that we should take Elliot there but I've always wondered how buggy friendly it is. These days he hardly sits still for 5 minutes so I think we could probably leave the buggy at home and let him run loose! There's lots of wildlife to spot so a trip over to Brownsea would definitely appeal to him. And it would definitely tire him out nicely ;)

Monkey around at Monkey World
This is another local attraction that I'm dying to take Elliot to - he'd love seeing all the primates. I'm not sure we'd get out of the giftshop without a big dent in our wallet though!

Ride the steam train at Swanage
A few of our friends have recently visited the Swanage Railway and it's made me want to take Elliot along after hearing great things. Just like his Grandad, he is train mad! It's always nice to visit Swanage too so this day out will definitely be happening very soon!


So there's my little list of our next adventures. Before we know it, Christmas will be on it's way so I'm hoping to squeeze in as much as possible!













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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Lollibop - The Day Elliot met his idol!!

Lollibop was billed as "The Big Bash for Little People" and it certainly lived up to this!



It was a 2-3 hour drive up to Hertfordshire from our home in Dorset (that's 2-3 hours of Elliot chanting Andy! Andy! )so we decided to make a weekend of it and stay in a nearby hotel on the Saturday night. After a great night's sleep in a kingsize bed (room for all 3 without mummy and daddy getting kicked by a certain little person!) we made our way to Hatfield House where Lollibop was being held. The gates opened at 10am but we left nice and early to avoid any potential traffic and we were parked up shortly after in the large carpark. Benefits of getting in early - less distance to walk from the car to the entrance!!

After a short wait we were let in and we headed straight for the Thomas The Tank Engine area. Elliot is train mad and couldn't wait to have a clamber on Thomas! It was set out like a village fete and there were little stalls where you win prizes, all totally free. After winning some Thomas goodies we managed to drag Elliot away and onto the Activity Fields. This section included Little Tikes, Duplo, Baby Ballet and more. We enjoyed the Duplo tent, Elliot loved building a lego burger!


We moved onto the Discovery Zone which featured stands such as the Science Museum, Beano, National Geographic Kids and Nintendo. These were aimed at older kids I think but we spent some time at the Science Museum making some pretty cool squidgy balls that evaporated into a puff of smoke! We also popped into the National Geographic tent and saw a millipede and a tarantula, eeek! The Bear Grylls Survival Academy and Lollikitchen were also located near here but despite aiming to visit later in the day, we just ran out of time!

After checking our map and schedule, we saw that Mr Bloom was appearing in the meet & greet tent so we made our way over and waited in line. After reading the negative reviews on facebook from the previous day I was expecting awful queues but we didn't have any problems, even at the meet & greets. Infact we timed it completely right with this meet & greet and were very near the front of the queue! Elliot always watches Mr Bloom on CBeebies so I knew he'd recognise him and when Mr Bloom walked out ("Ello tiddlers!), Elliot said "do do doom!" which I guess meant Mr Bloom in toddler speak!! When the time came to have our photo taken, Elliot went all quiet and just stared at him!! Mr Bloom was very nice though :)



We spent the next hour or so exploring The Meadows area and dodging the torrential showers. Sunny one minute, tipping it down the next! Despite the number of people at the festival, this area was really spread out so it was nice and quiet. We picked up lots of freebies here including Bear paws and alphabites , Vita Coco drinks , loads of HariboPom Bears, Skylander cards - Elliot was in his element with all the snacks ;) We even decorated a tshirt in the Vita Coco Kids Beach Club! There were so many things to see and do here and Elliot was thoroughly entertained. He loved seeing the ducklings in the Incredible Eggs tent! He was also fascinated by the giant bubbles in the market stall area.


Despite all the freebies, it wasn't long before we had to part with some cash and we decided to buy Elliot a giant helium dinosaur with legs!! We didn't really think it through though - it had a life of it's own and was flapping about all over the place in the wind so my husband decided to take it back to the car!



We decided to let Elliot have his face painted and he had some tiger stripes painted on his face - I'm actually surprised he managed to sit still and not fidget!



We were all getting a bit peckish by now so we decided to get lunch from one of the many food vendors. There wasn't a grotty burger van in sight - all the food stalls looked amazing and I wish I could have tried something from every one of them! I let my husband choose and he came back with some Caribbean jerk chicken wraps and fried plantain. I like a bit of spice but the wraps nearly blew my head off and although they were really tasty I just couldn't finish it!

Elliot dozed off after lunch so we spent abit of time relaxing on the grass...and loitering near the Meet & Greet tent!! The rainclouds had well and truly cleared by this point and it was lovely and warm when the sun finally came out. Our loitering paid off because we were third in the queue for the most exciting event of the day...the Andy Day meet & greet!! Elliot loves watching Andy on Cbeebies and many a morning we have had to endure his dinosaur raps on the iPad whilst we're trying to get a few more minutes of sleep. All week leading up to Lollibop, Elliot would say "Andy! Andy!" and I couldn't wait to meet him to see how he'd react. As with Mr Bloom, Elliot went very quiet and after giving Andy a very dainty high five he literally just stared at him! Paul was busy taking photos and trying to get Elliot to look at the camera but he couldn't take his eyes off Andy!! It was over too fast and before we knew it we were out in the sunshine again and right in front of Fireman Sam. I'm not sure Elliot really knows who he is but we took a photo anyway. Elliot looked at Fireman Sam and then just walked off - not a fan then!


We then moved back across to the main stage where Justin Fletcher was performing. This was easily the biggest crowd of the day and it was great fun. Justin in such a pro but you can tell he absolutely loves doing what he does and all the kids love him. We had a good old singalong and Elliot loved it!


Mr Bloom was on straight after and we watched a bit of his show before heading back to the meet & greet tent to see Chris and Pui. They were so nice and exactly like they are on CBeebies. They made a real effort to chat to Elliot (he'd gone mute again!!) and said they'd look out for us when we see their show in Bournemouth next month! They also had signed pictures for the kids which I thought was a nice touch - Elliot's is now stuck on his wardrobe and he points to it and says "Chris! Pee Pee!" haha!


Our last activity of the day was the Andy Day live show in the Lollipalladium. Again I was expecting huge queues but it was all very organised and we managed to get in and seated with no problems. Andy's show was packed with songs, dinosaurs, audience participation but Elliot was starting to flag abit by this point and he did start to fidget by the end of it. I enjoyed it though!!


Sadly it was time to leave after Andy's show but we could have easily spent another few hours doing all the activities we didn't manage to squeeze in.

Overall I think that Lollibop was great value for money and we will definitely be heading back next year.  We had a brilliant family day out and it was great to see how much fun Elliot had!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Toddler of the Year?! Or monster of the year!

I'm not usually one for entering baby / toddler contests as it seems to just be a popularity competition - the more friends you have on facebook to enter for you, the better you'll do! But on a whim, I decided to enter Elliot into the Baby and Toddler of the Year 2014 which is running in conjunction with Wave 105. It was free to enter and I wasn't obliged to actually buy the photos so I thought, why not!

I signed up online and then a few weeks later went along to my local shopping centre where there was a pop up studio. On hindsight I perhaps should have gone in the morning when Elliot was at his liveliest but it was just after lunch and Elliot was getting tired.....which means he can get a bit mischievous!! And true to form he didn't want to sit still, wouldn't look at the camera much and just looked like he had ants in his pants!! And the photographer kept making strange duck noises to distract him but Elliot just looked at him with a "what the....?" face!! He also wasn't a fan of the red sparkly cowboy hat the man tried to make him wear hehe! (Can't blame him!)

Eventually when the photographer realised he wasn't going to get much more out of Elliot, we were allowed to see the pictures and miraculously there was a good one!! He really managed to capture Elliot's cheeky smily nature and I might be biased, but he does look very cute!

Some of the other photos of Elliot were quite funny, you can just tell he doesn't want to be there!! There was one in particular that really made me laugh, and in fact made everyone stood in the queue behind me laugh too! I had to buy it because it's so funny, and will definitely be one to embarrass Elliot with when he's older!! In the picture, Elliot is holding a teddy bear and I think he's demonstrating to the man what bears sound like when they growl. But well, the photo makes him look like a complete monster and like he's about to bite the bears ear off!!

**Edited to say that Elliot made it through to the semi finals - yay! Thank you to those who voted :) 
If you think he deserves to go all the way into the final, please vote here


Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Saturday, 9 August 2014

We're going to the Zoo Zoo Zoo.....

A lot of our friends now have families of their own and sometimes it's tricky to get everyone together for a night out so we thought, why not organise a day out instead! Marwell was an obvious choice - it's an hours drive from Poole, plus we knew that there would be something for everyone to enjoy.

Marwell Wildlife (formally known as Marwell Zoological) is a 140 acre park situated near Winchester in our neighbouring county of Hampshire. We have visited several times with Elliot and he loves seeing all the animals up close.

We all arrived just after 10am and although it is peak season (and a weekend!), the park didn't feel overly crowded. Our first stop was the Penguin Cove which is one of my favourites. Marwell is home to a colony of Humboldt penguins and it's great fun watching them swimming around and preening themselves in the sunshine. You can even see them swimming underwater and Elliot enjoyed peering through the glass waiting for a penguin to swim on by!


The flamingos are situated near the penguins and surprisingly, this is one of Elliot's favourite animal encounters - he loves watching them and tries to stand on one leg like they do!

Catching a glimpse of the giraffes in the distance, we made our way towards the Cheetah's enclosure which takes you along a wooden walkway which leads you to an undercover viewing platform. I think the cheetah's must have been snoozing somewhere shady because we didn't spot any!

Something we did spot was a dinosaur!!  Marwell is running a special "Rise of the Dinosaurs" event throughout the Summer and there are lots of animatronic dinosaurs scattered around the park. Some of them move and growl, some of them even spray water at pesky children (and dads!) who stand too close!

Onto the giraffes and easily my favourite animal in the park. This is obviously one of the most popular attractions in the park because this was the only time it seemed crowded and we had to be a bit patient about getting to the front of the viewing platform. Elliot was very intrigued by the giraffes but didn't like to get too close as they are much much bigger than he is!




Marwell's African Valley also features zebra, waterbuck and ostrich and it's lovely to see them roaming together in their 20 acre home. There are less then 2000 Grevy's zebra living in the wild and Marwell undertakes lots of conservation projects to help this endangered species.


After a quick visit to see the meercats, our tummies were beginning to rumble so we decided to head towards the lawn by Marwell Hall and enjoy our picnic. The boys had great fun playing football while us girls enjoyed the sunshine!


After lunch we stopped to say hello to the baby meercats (less than 3 weeks old and very cute!) and explored the rest of the park, seeing animals such as the red panda, Wallabies, anteaters, pygmy hippos, rhino, gazelles, lots of weird and wonderful birds in the walkthrough aviary, Siamang gibbons, otters and more dinosaurs! Marwell is home to over 170 exotic and endangered species so there really is so much to see. Marwell also have tigers but in our haste to get to our picnic spot we marched right past them, doh! 

A trip to Marwell wouldn't be complete without a visit to the giftshop and I have happy memories of spending my pocket money in here as a kid on school trips and visits with my family! My husband tried to convince me that yes we did need a 6 ft blow up dinosaur for Elliot's bedroom but we managed to get out without breaking the bank too much ;) 


Top Tips for Visiting
  • Pre-book your tickets and avoid the queue! You can book tickets online right up to the day you visit and it saves the lengthy queues if you are planning to arrive when the park opens. 
  • The park is rather large and little legs may struggle towards the end of the day but Marwell offer a free land train which has several different stops scattered around the park. They also have a rail train which is £2.50 per person but takes you on a lovely 15 minute ride around the park. 
  • There are several food and drink kiosks at the park, plus their main eatery Cafe Graze but we found at peak times this can get quite busy. I would say plan your lunch to avoid the peak lunch times or bring a picnic like we did :) There are lots of picnic tables around the park but I would highly recommend the lawn outside Marwell Hall. Plenty of room, plenty of shade, beautiful surroundings and also a big hill for dads to run down ;) 
  • If you want to do things a bit differently and avoid the crowds, explore the park backwards! 
  • Allow plenty of time. There are so many animals to see and more than one play area to explore that you really need a whole day here! Some of the big cats may be asleep in the middle of the day so its always worth popping back for a second look to see if they're out and about. We came back to see the penguins at 4pm and we were the only ones there, plus they'd all been fed so were all out in the water. 
We had a brilliant day at Marwell with our friends and hope to return again soon :)


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