Friday, 8 September 2017

A Mini Break on the Isle of Wight


Living on the South Coast, you'd think that the Isle of Wight would be a regular trip for us. Sadly not, we worked out that the last time we visited, we didn't even have mobile phones!

Elliot has been asking to go there ever since we watched a programme about the fossils on the beaches so last week, we booked a last minute trip. It started out as a one day trip but we decided to book accommodation and squeeze another day in! 

We caught the ferry from Lymington and 40 minutes later we were on our way - such a quick trip! Everything is relatively close on the Isle of Wight as it is only 23 miles from east to west so we knew we'd be able to squeeze a fair amount in. Our first stop was meant to be Carisbrooke Castle but the long queues made us ditch that idea and instead we ended up in Godshill which is a really pretty little village but very popular with coach parties! We had a little browse round the shops and stopped for an ice cream to cool down a bit.


We drove onwards and headed towards Shanklin where we headed for the beach and looked for a parking spot. It was BUSY!! We ended up parking right at the top of the cliffs - it was hard enough walking down, I wasn't looking forward to the hike back up later!


After a quick lunch on the seafront, Elliot and Paul went off to play dinosaur themed Crazy golf whilst I fed Erin. They were gone for ages...Paul said it was never ending but Elliot seemed to enjoy it! We spent the next few hours having a wander along the seafront..and wasting money on he grabber machines in the arcade!

Don't pet the animals....!
I really wasn't looking forward to the walk back up to the car but luckily, there was a cliff lift - woohoo! It cost us a couple of quid but that was money well spent I reckon ;)

Our next stop was Sandown, another seaside town located just along the coast from Shanklin and we made our way to Dinosaur Isle - a dinosaur museum that had been recommended to us. As it was nearing the end of the day, it was nice and quiet and we really enjoyed having a look at all the displays. Elliot even did a little Facebook live video! 

video


Our bed for the night was at the Travelodge in Ryde - I think the hotel was quite new because everything seemed quite fresh. We had a decent sized family room and the hotel was in a great location near the main town centre but I just wish Travelodge had aircon in their hotels. I hate feeling hot and sweaty :-/

We ate at a lovely place for dinner that we found on Trip Advisor called The Alamo. It didn't look much from the outside but it was one of the best meals we've had! A lovely little steakhouse - amazing food and so helpful. I'm still dreaming about my fajitas now! 

The next morning we were up bright and early and were on the road just after 8am. We had booked onto a fossil hunt on a beach near Freshwater - again, found on Trip Advisor! There were around 30 people on the trip and it was brilliant. Our guide showed us many different fossils and stones and we heard all about the dinosaurs that walked the beaches before us all those years ago. Alot of it went over Elliot's head but he loved finding potential fossils and running over to our guide to find out what they were! 



The highlight of the morning was seeing Iguanadon footprints on the beach. They are stone now but were formed when mud and sand filled the footprints left by the dinosaurs. It's such an amazing thing to see, it really gives you a sense of how big the dinosaurs were!



We had a really enjoyable morning on the beach and Elliot came away with a carrier bag of fossils and interesting things he'd found! Our tummies were now rumbling so we jumped in the car and headed in the direction of Alum Bay and hoped we'd find somewhere nice to eat on the way.

A quick look on Trip Advisor pointed us in the direction of the Waterfront Bar and Restaurant where we had some lovely fish and chips over looking the sea - it was a beautiful view and we could see all the way to Dorset in the distance!

Our last stop for the day was Alum Bay, somewhere I have fond memories of visiting as a child. We had a few holidays on the Isle of Wight as children and I remember filling up some little ornanments with the coloured sand!

These days, you can still fill ornaments with coloured sand but you can also end up spending ALOT more money there if you're not careful. The park is free to enter but everything inside such as the children's rides, shops, 3D cinema come at a cost!

Elliot and I went on the chairlift which was a bit of a hair raising experience - the chair lift looks about 100 years old and there are no belts, just a bar which comes down. I spent the whole time hanging onto Elliot and worrying about him slipping through the gap eek! Aside from that though, it was a pleasant trip - the views are breathtaking and you can see for miles on the way down. You can spot all the coloured sand in the cliffs and have a paddle in the sea at the bottom if you wish. We stayed on and came straight back up (to avoid the queues at the bottom!) and Elliot said it was terrifying!!



The tackiness of the park wasn't really for us so we decided to walk up to the Needles viewpoint. It's a gentle stroll along the cliff with some spectacular views across the Solent and only takes around 15 minutes.


There is a higher viewpoint located near the old rocket testing site and this is free, but to get a bit closer you need to enter via the Needles Old Battery and New Battery which is National Trust property. Fortunately we are NT members so we didn't have to pay - just as well too as they were about to close and we only had about 10 mins to look around!


Elliot and Paul headed down the underground tunnel which takes you to a viewing platform inside the cliffs - not very buggy friendly so I stayed up top and admired the views!


Time was marching on now so it was time for us to make our way back to the carpark (quicker on the way down with Elliot sat on the buggy!) and we headed back to Yarmouth to catch our ferry.

We had such a lovely couple of days on the Isle of Wight - there is so much to offer for families and I can't wait to go back to explore the parts we didn't see!




Friday, 1 September 2017

BACK TO SCHOOL ESSENTIALS - ARE YOU READY?!

So here we are nearing the end of the Summer Holidays - where have those 6 weeks gone?! Elliot is due to start reception very soon so I've had to be quite organised this year - I did most of my uniform shopping at the beginning of the holidays and finger crossed I haven't forgotten anything.

If you are feeling a bit last minute and panicking that you may have forgotten something, here's some essentials which may have slipped your mind!



Personalised Water Bottle - ItsYourStory (£15.00)
These fantastic water bottles are sure to stand out from the crowd, personalised with a photo of your choice. There are 17 different designs to choose from, featuring cheeky monkeys to little monsters.

Back to School card - Hallmark
I hadn't even thought about getting Elliot a card for starting school but Hallmark have some lovely designs that will really make your child feel special on their first day back.

All You Need to Know Before Starting School (Usborne) - Born Gifted (9.99)
This lovely book follows five sweet cuddly characters who have just started school. Featuring educational concepts vital to early years such as shapes and colours, it provides a fun introduction to the average school day and what your new starter can expect.

Lego Pencil Case - Aplaceforeverything.co.uk (£7.65)
Who doesn't love a new pencil case for the new school year...and who doesn't love Lego?!

'Lunch Bot' The Robot Lunch Box - Find Me a Gift (£14.99)
Love this retro lunchbox - how cute is he!? Strong and sturdy, your lunch won't get squished and you'll be the envy of all your classmates!

Skipper Children's Boat Shoe - Chatham (£45)
These lovely boat shoes are available in 3 colours and are made from beautiful soft pull up leather. People tend to just think of the obvious high street choices when shopping for school shoes but Chatham are definitely worth considering, they offer a brilliant range of boat shoes that would be suitable for school.

Itty Bittys - Hallmark (£6)
These little plush toys make great rucksack and pencil case buddies and would make a cute gift for your little superhero's first day at school

Wellies - Regatta (£11.95)
You can guarantee that the school run will bring rain...and rain means puddles. So what better way of splashing in puddles with a brand new pair of Regatta wellies! Elliot's school actually require him to keep a pair of wellies on his peg for outside play so he is looking forward to taking these in. As well as the vibrant patterns, I really like the handles on the welly - very helpful for little ones who are learning to dress themselves.

Are you ready for school?! 

*Disclaimer - some of these items were provided to me for the purpose of this post

Thursday, 31 August 2017

GIGGLING TIDDLYTUBBIES PLUSH - REVIEW

Tellytubbies are one of the most iconic toys of my lifetime - infact, can you believe Tellytubbies are celebrating their 20th anniversary?!  I remember working in WH Smiths at the peak of their popularity and people went crazy for the toys. And who can forget when they almost made it to Christmas Number 1 back in 1997!

Now 20 years later, the Tellytubbies are more popular than ever and these days, they even have babies! The Tiddlytubbies were first introduced in 2015 and have been a big hit with the viewers. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, there is a brand new range of plush toys which are sure to appeal to tots.



We were sent two of the 8" Giggling Tiddlytubbies - Umby Pumby (yellow) and Nin (purple) and I couldn't wait to see what Elliot and Erin thought.

Elliot's reaction was hilarious - I wish I'd got it on camera but as he took the Tiddlytubbies out of the packaging, he actually screamed with excitement!! I assumed he might be a bit too old for Tellytubbies as these days he's more into dinosaurs and superheroes but he loves it. As does Erin!


The Tiddlytubby plush toys are equally as cute as they look on screen. Made of soft towelling material with cute little faces and big eyes, they have been a big hit in our house. Press their tummies and they giggle and say a range of Tellytubby babbles! The colours are bright and vibrant and they are just perfect for snuggling up to.

Erin has a range of baby toys but she always makes a beeline for the Tiddlytubbies - she's taken a real shine to Umby Pumby especially! The giggling is really cute and the look on her face when she hears it is priceless!


Here's a little video to show you just how cute they are...and how Elliot is convinced one of them says "idiot"!!


It's safe to say these were a big hit and I'm sure they will be played with for a long time....I've already been nagged to get the other characters too!

The 8" plush toys are priced at £9.99 and can be found at www.character-online.co.uk

*Disclaimer - We were sent this item in return for an honest review. All views are my own

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Fisher Price Hippo Projection Soother - Review

We were recently sent the Fisher Price Hippo Projection Soother in pink for Erin to test out. Fisher Price is one of my favourite brands for baby toys as you can always guarantee the quality and this product was no exception!

Place the hippo on a dresser or table top to help sooth baby, filling the room with soothing, starry lights.


The hippo is made from soft, plush material and his head and legs are lovely and squishy. Three audio modes play 30 minutes of calming lullaby music, nature sounds or white noise to help baby drift off to sleep. The music and noises are controlled by the buttons on the side of the dome - they will play for 30 minutes and switch off automatically (by which point hopefully your baby has drifted off to the land of nod!) - if you wish to stop them earlier, you just need to press the button again.

The hippo is suitable from birth so it was ideal for Erin to test out at 8 months old. I loved the projector - the dome area is quite big so the stars cover a massive part of the ceiling, if not all of it. They aren't too bright or flashy but very soothing. Placing the soother in the middle of the room gets the best coverage I found.

Photo credit - Smyths Toys
I've never really used white noise for Erin (or Elliot) to sooth but I do really like the nature noise option - it's very relaxing and I could certainly drift off to sleep listening to it!

Although the soother isn't really a cuddly toy (due to the big dome in the middle!), Erin has enjoyed playing with the hippo on her mat. I imagine the plush material feels really nice on her fingers.


Erin is generally a good sleeper but I have been using the noises for naptime as a background noise - our house is never quiet (having a 4yr old does that) so it just makes it a bit more soothing for her when shes napping.


She isn't too fussed about the stars but Elliot has been using the hippo as a nightlight recently. He always complains that his room is too dark when we put him to bed so the hippo has been really handy for him to pop on while he's settling down. (I then take the hippo back to Erin's room when he's asleep incase she wakes up and needs settling!)

Our Fisher Price Hippo is a lovely pale pink colour but he also comes in blue and costs £22.99.



*Disclaimer - We were sent this item in return for an honest review. All views are my own


Sunday, 27 August 2017

Livening Up Your Summer Holiday Picnics


Here we are with the end of the Summer Holidays in sight. I don't know about you but we've had countless picnics and I'm feeling a little bored of them. I've even taken to stopping off at the sandwich shop en route to our day out so I don't have to pack a picnic!

With that in mind, I've compiled a list of things that might perk up your picnic...



1. Newman's Own Salad Dressings - Sandwiches are probably the first choice on a family picnic but sometimes it's nice to pack a big salad - I personally love a chicken salad with boiled eggs! Newman's Own have a vast range of dressings and sauces to liven up your lunches and you'll be helping a great cause - 100% of the profits of Newman's Own are given to charity.
2. Nivea Sun Kids Caring Roll-On - this might not be your first choice of picnic items but is easily forgotten if you're busy keeping an eye on the kids/feeding everyone. I love this roll-on, it's so much easier doing faces and really handy for independent children who want to do it themselves!
3. Sparking Ice - Sparkling Ice is a flavoured sparkling water in 5 tasty flavours. A healthier alternative to fizzy drinks, the drinks have just 12 calories and are packed with vitamins. I can't wait to try the Black Raspberry flavour!
4. Brita Fill&Go Vital Bottle - This is the perfect bottle for picnics on the go. Available in 4 colours, the filter disk will reduce the levels of impurities and chlorine, leaving you with fresh tasting water. Refreshing!
5. Abakus Dried Jujube Fruit - The Jujube fruit is brand new to the UK market and would make a great addition to any picnic. Packed full of goodness, the Jujube fruit contain 20x times more vitamin C than citrus fruits!
6. Savoursmiths Luxury Crisps - What is a picnic without crisps?! Savoursmiths are something a little  different - featuring decadent flavours such as champagne, truffle and port and wagyu beef, these indulgent crisps are sure to inject a bit of life back in your picnic!
7. Leksands Swedish Crispbreads - If you're bored of soggy sandwiches, this might be the thing for you! Perfect topped with cheese or cured meats, these crispbreads serve up a tasty treat
8. Bibetta Large Picnic Blanket - These fab blanket is perfect for family picnics - made from thick neoprene, it is easy to clean and can be popped in the washing machine. It is thermally insulating to prevent cold and damp coming through from the ground and comes in a matching shoulder bag which is really handy for hanging on the buggy. Our Bibetta blanket has been everywhere with us these past 6 weeks!
Having fun at a Beer Festival on our Bibetta blanket!
9. Wilko Rainbow Storage Containers - These colourful stacking boxes are perfect for brightening up your picnic or storing your leftovers - 7 sizes available
10. Shloer Drinks - If you fancy something with a bit of fizz but it's too early for the prosecco, then why not pack a bottle of Shloer in your picnic. Featuring 11 flavours, including a brand new no added sugar recipe, Shloer will make your picnic a sparkling success!
11. Beau & Elliot Raindrops Cool Bag - A vital part of a picnic, I love having a large colourful cool bag to carry all our food and drink in. This lovely one has a 20 litre capacity and is definitely on my wishlist ;)
12. Crafted Fruit Juice Drinks - Crafted is a brand new juice drink featuring some delicious summery flavours including Pineapple, Coconut & Lime and Apple, Mint & Lime. With no added sugar or sweetners, each 200ml glass even counts as 1 of your 5 a day. My favourite is the Still Cloudy Lemonade - yum yum!
13. Marks & Spencers Melamine Dinner Plates - Bright and colourful, these melemine plates will stand out on your picnic and make everything better!

What are your picnic essentials? 

*Disclaimer - some of these items were provided to me for the purpose of this post

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Summer of Play at The Dolphin Centre, Poole

Lets face it, the Summer Holidays can get expensive! It can also be a hassle finding new things to keep the kids amused...especially on rainy days. 

We seem to have had a run of rainy days recently so when our park plans were scuppered last week, we headed into the Dolphin Centre in Poole to check out the Summer of Play event. 

Summer of Play is a free event and can be found in one of the vacant shops in Kingland Crescent. We went along and didn't really know what to expect but were pleasantly surprised!


The room is decked out to look like a seaside and has a large craft area featuring beach themed activities, a giant sandpit, interactive games such as hook a duck, beach balls, drawing and loads more. There is even free face painting! Parents can watch their little ones from the deck chairs - if you close your eyes you can almost imagine you're sat on an exotic beach somewhere ;) 




We spent a good hour in the Summer of Play and Elliot really enjoyed the crafts and sandpit. It was nice to do something a little different and amazing that it was totally free! 


Unfortunately the event was only on until August 13th but I really hope the Dolphin Centre see how successful it was and make it a permanent fixture in school holidays. Perhaps they could do seasonal events, like a Halloween one in the October half term week!  
 



Sunday, 13 August 2017

Camp Bestival 2017 - Our First Time....plus lots of MUD!


You might have heard of Camp Bestival - it's one of the biggest family festivals in the UK and happens right here in Dorset. I've always fancied going but the thought of camping with 2 small children frightens the life out of me! This year I discovered that day tickets were available so I took the plunge and booked tickets for the Sunday. The line up was pretty good on all days (the festival runs all over the weekend) but we found out that Andy Day from CBeebies would be appearing with his band, The Odd Socks on the Sunday so that made up our minds really!

Usually Camp Bestival has glorious sunshine for the entire weekend but typically, this year the weather was terrible! Saturday was just torrential rain and unfortunately a lot of people struggled with camping and left early. Luckily, Sunday morning was bright and sunny but the rain had turned the festival into a bit of a mudbath. We arrived onsite nice and early at 8am armed with wellies, raincoats, black binliners and our biggest buggy with the all-terrain wheels!

Just look at that mud...gives me flashbacks to Glastonbury!
First stop was breakfast so we headed straight for the Dorset Farmer's Market - the smell of bacon baps was just too nice to resist! As the name suggests there were lots of local producers selling local food and drink - we also picked up a wild boar scotch egg which wouldn't have been my first choice for breakfast but it was very tasty.

After brekkie we explored the Magic Meadow area and there was just so much to see including the Love-Bot (an interactive art installation), inflatable church, Bollywood area. the world's largest disco ball and much much more. More on the disco ball later....!


We headed down to the Big Top where Andy and the Odd Socks were due to play and managed to get a front row spot much to Elliot's excitement!

Andy's Number One Fan! 
Andy & The Odd Socks did not disappoint! There was high energy from the start and the crowd (mostly children!) were having the best time singing and dancing along to the songs - all of which are SO catchy! Here's what Elliot had to say:

"I had a really good time and my favourite bit was singing to the Dinosaur Football Legend Mega Match. I loved the giant football that kept bouncing around near our heads!"



We've been singing the songs for the last couple of years since we got the album  but this is the first time we've heard it live and I think Andy and the band have done a great job. Unfortunately the show was over far too soon and Elliot did get a bit upset when he realised it was the last song! 


We were really lucky to be able to meet Andy after the show and he was so nice to Elliot. Elliot actually smiled in the photos too which makes a change from the last two times we met him when he looked like a deer caught in the headlights! 


After that bit of excitement, we headed in the direction of the kids gardens - Elliot said his legs were tired so we decided to have a little break. Paul got himself a pint and Elliot and I got ourselves a Mr Whippy and we sat down to enjoy the sunshine. We found ourselves sitting on a catwalk so rather than resting his "tired" legs, Elliot spent the next half an hour leaping on and off the catwalk and chasing the bubbles that I got talked into buying! I spotted Brummy Mummy of 2 - one of my favourite bloggers. Had to say hello, what a lovely lady! 


The next few hours were spent in the lower kids garden where there were tons of things to see and do. We watched a bit of the Insect Circus, we designed t-shirts in the Family Traveller tent, we made Go Jetters masks in the CBeebies tent and then met Duggie and Ubercorn, we watched the Science demonstrations in the science tent, we bumped into lots of friends, we danced to some crazy live music at Oberon's Observatory, we did lots of people watching and we had some amazing burgers and fries for lunch! We also really wanted to go on the World's Largest Bouncy Castle but the queues were just crazy long so we decided to give that a miss. 


Heading back towards the Castle Field we managed to catch Right Said Fred on the main stage who drew a massive crowd and had everyone singing along to Too Sexy! Despite the muddy conditions it wasn't actually that bad in front of the stage and we were able to put our blanket down without worrying about getting too submerged. 

We headed back to the Magic Meadow and we found ourselves in an area called Caravanserai - it's built entirely from vintage caravans and fairground rides and it was certainly an experience sitting in an old waltzer chair watching the world go by! 

Paul fancied another drink so he went off to get himself a beer while me and the kids went back to the Disco Ball - they were blasting out some absolute gems like Britney - Stronger and S Club 7's Reach , we couldn't resist having a quick dance!! 

note the front wheel absolutely caked in mud! 
We did consider calling it a day at this point as it was gone 6pm and Elliot was starting to flag but we decided to head back to the Upper Kids Garden as we didn't really get a chance to see much of it earlier as it was so busy. Elliot made a bee line for the Big Top Mania Kids Theatre and Circus and he had loads of fun trying to balance on a tight rope! There were lots of things for the children to do such as bikes and unicycles to ride on, big inflatables, hula hoops and more. 


After a quick look in the Feast Collective (the smell of the amazing food lured us in), we headed back to the Lower Kids Garden as Elliot wanted a go on the Carousel. By this point the crowds had really thinned out and it was raining so it was a good time to go on with no queues. We also stopped off to get some yummy Pad Thai and Corn on the Cobs which we ate under an umbrella while the rain got heavier! (Typical brits enjoying the "British Summer"!)


After a slow walk back past the Castle and having a quick singalong to Brian Wilson, we decided it was probably time to go home. It was a pity to not experience the festival after dark and to miss the fireworks but Elliot was walking slower than a snail and I knew he'd be asleep as soon as the car started! (He was). We were a bit worried about getting out of the car park due to the mud and hearing about other cars getting stuck but we had no issues and were back on the road to Poole relatively quickly. 

Good job we packed the waterproofs! Here's Elliot modelling his new jacket from www.drykids.co.uk :)
We had a brilliant day at Camp Bestival despite the mud and it definitely hasn't put us off going again. There were so many things that we missed seeing so next year I would ensure we actually had a map rather than just wandering! Highlights of the day were meeting Andy, dancing to Britney at the disco and bumping into lots of blogger friends :) 

Roll on next year!  


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Deep Sea Adventures with the Octonauts at SEA LIFE Weymouth


This Summer, CBeebies favourites The Octonauts are coming to a Sealife Adventure Park near you, ready to take you on a brand new deep sea adventure.

The much anticipated Octo-Glow Explorers event will offer children and their families the chance to
join CBeebies’ most intrepid ocean explorers on a special mission to uncover the secret world of
glow in the dark sea creatures.

Elliot loves the Sealife Centre and is constantly nagging us to take him there - he was quite excited to hear we would be visiting and checking out the new Octonauts event!

On arrival in Weymouth the centre and carpark are well signposted and located within Lodmoor Country Park. Car parking is plentiful although you do have to pay for it.

Once inside we headed over to the Octonauts area where we were able to take part in the interactive acitivities to discover how creatures of the deep use light to hide from predators , attract their prey and communicate with each other. Other features included puzzles, morse code cracking and even a chance to appear on screen with the Octonauts via the magic of the green screen and a photobooth!


Newly recruited sea scientists will also be invited to share their findings in the Octo-Glow Lab with
Octonauts, Kwazii and Peso, during an Octo-Glow Explorer character meet and greet. Elliot met Kwazii and he said this was his favourite bit of the whole day!


After meeting Kwazii we went off to explore the rest of the park including the much talked about Carribean Cove play area which opened earlier this year. It's a fantastic outdoor play area featuring slides, tunnels and all manner of play equipment. Unfortunately weather wasn't on our side and it was a bit wet to play for too long but this just means we will have to return another day to explore it properly!

photo credit - Kara Guppy
The park is home to over 1000 creatures and they are separated into different creature zones including rainforest, rockpool and ocean tunnel. You can see fish of all shapes and colours (you might even spot Nemo and Dory!), otters, penguins, turtles, octopus, seahorses and many more.


Elliot enjoyed looking at the tiny seahorses and amazing Weedy Seadragons in the nursery but my favourite was the Rockpool area where we learnt all about creatures native to the UK. Children (and adults) can learn so much on a visit to the Sealife Centre with information and facts scattered around each exhibit. Did you know that starfish eat by turning their stomach inside out?!

The penguins are always fun to watch - one of them took a shine to Elliot.  Everytime Elliot moved his arm, the penguin followed him up and down the tank!


Sealife Weymouth has three food/drink outlets if you get peckish. We had lunch at the Adventurer's Grill cafe for lunch and everything was reasonably priced. It does get very busy in there although, especially at peak times and rainy days!

The entire park is buggy accessible which is brilliant for families but there are plenty of parking stations around the park where you can leave your buggy if you want a closer look at the creatures. There are also locker facilities located at Crocodile Creek if you need to store your belongings.

For ticket information, visit the SEA LIFE Weymouth website - usual admission tickets will cover entry to the Octonauts Octo-Glow Event which is running from 29th July - 28th August 2017. You can also find out more about the amazing marine conservation work  that SEA LIFE does.

We had a brilliant day out at SEA LIFE Weymouth and can't wait to return! 

*Disclaimer - We were given free entry in exchange for an honest review and coverage of the #Octoglow event
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