Monday, 14 March 2022

Gift Ideas for Mother's Day

Mother's Day is almost here but it can be a challenge picking out the perfect gift. Perhaps your Mum loves a traditional bunch of flowers, or maybe they like to have something to drink or eat. I adore receiving home made cards but I have to admit there are a few things on this gift list that I certainly wouldn't mind waking up to on Mothering Sunday. And of course, a lie in would go down a treat!

If you're wondering what to buy, then hopefully the following gifts might give you some ideas...

JOMA JEWELLERY


If your Mum likes sparkly things then a little gift from Joma Jewellery would be perfect. I particularly love the bracelets which feature a gorgeous golden and silver plated stretch design and a lovely little charm such as the one above. You can even create your own design using charms and letters. The prices are very reasonable and I even spotted some really beautiful silver earrings for under £10 - why not treat your Mum!

GUYLIAN 


Why not show your Mum how much you love her by treating her to some yummy Belgian chocolates from Guylian. I personally adore the praline Sea Shells but you can also pick up this gorgeous Master's Selection. Featuring a premium assortment of mini pralines filled with a variety of exotic flavours and topped off with the finest ingredients, this one is special. The Master's Selection is available online at Moonpig and Ocado but you can find the rest of the Guylian range in all major supermarkets. 

GLOBAL CARE SOLAR LIGHT 


If you're looking for something a bit different then you would be doing something amazing by choosing this gift. For £16, you can purchase a solar lamp for a family in Uganda to reduce the use of kerosene fuel. Kerosene fumes can be extremely toxic and can cause respiratory conditions, plus kerosene is very damaging to the environment. Your purchase will include a gift pack which comes with a card featuring the above image and space for a message to your Mum. For more info, check out the Global Care website here

No Longer Last on the List - Jo Bevilacqua



No Longer Last on the List by Jo Bevilacqua is a self-growth guide for tired, busy women who find it hard to say no, or to put themselves first. As a Mum I am often guilty of this and I'm sure the majority of other mums would agree that our needs tend to come last! This book will motivate and inspire you and remind Mums that it's ok to think about ourselves first for a change.  A fab read and a great gift for Mother's Day. Find it on Amazon here.

LOVE LEGGINGS


Leggings are a staple in most women's wardrobes and finding a pair that are comfy, practical and not see through is something rare! Love Leggings have a wide range of leggings to suit every Mum's need - from sporty, high waisted, classic colours and lightweight crops, there is something to suit every occasion. And most importantly, every pair has been designed with comfort in mind. 

BEANIES COFFEE BUNDLE


Parenthood and coffee go hand in hand so what better gift than the gift of coffee?! Beanies have a fantastic range of flavoured coffees which are sugar free and low in calories. I love the bundles which you can see above and think this would make a lovely Mother's Day gift. It contains a big stash of the coffee jars, a mug, tote bag and a tin full flavoured sachets. 

Arran Sense of Scotland 


Inspired by and made on the stunning Isle of Arran, Arran Sense of Scotland have been creating vibrant, evocative scents for three decades. From candles and fragrances to luxurious gifts set, there is something to suit every Mum. I personally love the After the Rain fragrance which is their best seller - close your eyes and you could almost be on the Isle of Arran! 

I hope that's given you a few ideas on how to spoil your Mum on Mother's Day.

*Contains PR samples 

Monday, 31 January 2022

All Aboard The Polar Express - Seaton Tramway, Devon

 We love a festive day out in this house and over the years we have visited some fantastic locations including The Festival of Lights at Longleat, Santa at the Sealife Centre, various garden centres and even a Santa experience at the Winchester Science Museum

For Christmas 2021 I wanted to do something new so after a quick google, I came across The Polar Express at the Seaton Tramway, Devon. The reviews were all very positive so I decided to book it there and then..and I'm glad I did because I've been told this is a really popular event and sells out! 


Having booked it in October, we had a little while to wait but before we knew it, December had arrived and it was the day of our trip. We only told the kids that morning - so many things had been cancelled previously so I wanted to save any disappointment if we couldn't go. Needless to say, they were very excited and luckily (thanks to me!) we had watched The Polar Express film a few days before so it was fresh in their minds. 

Clad in their warmest Christmas pyjamas (like the film!), we headed down to Seaton (which is just over an hour away from us) and arrived just as the sun was setting. The tramway is very easy to find once you arrive in the town and there is a large pay and display just a few minutes walk away. 


We followed the twinkling lights and headed for the entrance where we were ticked off the list and given special golden Polar Express tickets - we were told to keep these safe but you'll find about that a little further on :) 


Once all the guests had arrived for our time slot we were taken through to the large tram shed. Here we were introduced to some of the "chefs" from the Polar Express and the Conductor who sang and danced for us. The attention to detail was fantastic, even down to the actors all speaking with an American accent like the film! 


Soon, the familiar music from the film started, the huge doors of the shed opened and we saw the trams all lit up for the first time. I won't lie, it gave me a lump in my throat - it was quite moving! 

We boarded our trams and soon we were on our way to "The North Pole"..otherwise known as Colyton Station. It's a half hour trip but the time flew by. We were given hot chocolate and cookies, there was singing and a story and before we knew it, the twinkling lights of the station were coming into view. Colyton Station looked so festive, made even more so by Father Christmas on the platform giving us a wave! I think Erin genuinely believed we'd reached the North Pole but she did wonder why there wasn't any snow. It certainly felt as cold as the North Pole!

We had an hour to enjoy Colyton and this gave us plenty of time to meet Father Christmas. Each family were sat at a separate table and he came round with a couple of his elves to meet the children. It didn't feel rushed and the kids loved the silver bell they were given, just like in the film. 

Afterwards we were free to explore the station before our tram arrived for the return journey. It felt so Christmassy and it was lovely just to enjoy the atmosphere on the platform. There was a well stocked gift shop, plus a kiosk selling burgers/hot dogs and drinks. There was also plenty of time to have a pic with Father Christmas on his sleigh! 


Soon it was time to return back to Seaton Station and we boarded the tram. Again, the journey flew by and the actors made the trip really enjoyable with jokes and singing. We even got our golden tickets clipped by the conductor, just like in the film. 


We had a really enjoyable time on the Seaton Tramway and I think The Polar Express is one of the best Christmas themed activities that we have done. As I said before, the attention to detail was fantastic and all the staff involved were really friendly and engaging with the children. My only criticism was that Father Christmas seemed quite hard of hearing so the kids had to repeat themselves quite a lot when speaking to him! 

The cost of the trip was just under £125 for the four of us which certainly isn't cheap but this might be the last year that Elliot believes so I'm glad we did something special. Opting for an early evening slot made it even more magical because everything looked so twinkly. 

I'm not sure how early the tickets go on sale for 2022 but keep an eye on their socials for updates, I'd definitely recommend booking early. 


For more info, check out the Seaton Tramway Website here. You can also view my Instagram reel from the evening here.

 


Monday, 29 November 2021

Family Photos with Lite-Box Imagery Dorset

 I am forever taking photos of my children but I find it so hard to get a decent shot where they are both looking at the camera and smiling....and not strangling each other! I have been thinking about getting some professional up to date photos of them for a while but it's one of those things on my list that got pushed to the bottom while school life took over. 

One of my better attempts!!

I entered a competition on Facebook a few weeks back for a local photography company Lite-Box Imagery (based in Holton Heath, Poole) and thought nothing of it, you enter these things don't you and never win. But soon after, an email dropped into my inbox to say I'd won! I had won a family photoshoot with a free framed image, private cinematic viewing and a £50 voucher so I was quite pleased :) 

I was able to book a time slot on their website which was really handy - a lot of companies insist on calling you to arrange these things but phone calls aren't always practical with noisy kids around! It was really straightforward and I was emailed soon after with a confirmation and welcome pack. In the lead up to the shoot, I was also emailed a couple of reminders. 

On the day of the shoot we found the studio easily and were immediately made to feel very welcome by Amy. Fortunately Elliot and Erin were happy to smile for the camera and they actually listened to instruction! They even came up with their own ideas and Amy was happy to give them a go. The whole shoot was really relaxed, she didn't bat an eyelid when they got a bit silly and the children really enjoyed doing it. 


This one was Erin's idea

At the end of the session, we were given another appointment to view the pictures and given a brochure explaining all the different pricing options. 

I came back later that week for my viewing appointment and it was great to see how the photos turned out! Amy really captured their cheekiness and there were so many photos to choose from. As well as the free framed image, I purchased a package of 10 digital images. It was so hard narrowing the photos down to 10! 


Once I'd paid, the images were sent via email to me and the whole process was very straightforward. We are really happy with our photos and I'd definitely recommend.

If you're looking to have some lovely relaxed photos done, I'd definitely check  out Lite-Box on Facebook because they have lots of offers and competitions and you never know, you might win a photoshoot like we did! 





Wednesday, 21 July 2021

10 Top Tips to Survive the Summer Holidays

It's that time of year again when I'm firstly wondering where this year has gone to, and secondly making plans for the Summer Holidays! Currently the UK is having a bit of a heatwave and I'm really hoping this lovely weather continues so we can get out and about and enjoy the time away from school.  

I used to feel a bit daunted by the thought of 6 weeks off school and having to entertain the kids but I've learnt that it needn't be scary, and it doesn't have to cost lost of money. You'd be surprised, some of the best days we've had are the ones which didn't cost anything! 

Here's my top tips for getting through those 6 weeks....

Brainstorm

The first thing we do is make a summer holiday bucket list, get the children involved and write down all the things they want to do. On previous lists we have had simple things like "have a bbq" right up to the extravagant "go to Peppa Pig World"! Obviously you might not get around to doing everything on your list but there's always the half term holidays :) 

Make a Plan

I find it really useful to make a wall planner which you can stick up in the kitchen - it doesn't have to be anything super fancy, I literally got a big sheet of paper and drew out the days/weeks. It helps that the kids can see for themselves what we're up to and I'm not constantly being nagged "what are we doing today?!". 

Snacks & Crafts

I always make sure I do a Home Bargains trip prior to the school holidays to stock up on snacks/ice pops. The kids are always hungry so it's good to have plenty in - also handy if you need to pack up a quick picnic. Much cheaper than buying lunch out.  I always restock the paper and crayons/pens whilst I'm there too - good for rainy days! 

Rainy Days

Speaking of rainy days (and I hope there won't be too many of them), the thought of a whole day cooped up inside can be a bit daunting, especially if the children are moaning they are bored from 8am! If you've exhausted the usual crafts/baking/films/board games then sometimes its fun to just get outside and play in the rain. Last summer on one particular day, we had a ton of rain and our road had loads of surface water - the kids went out in their wellies and had so much fun splashing about. 


Library Time

Local libraries are a great place to spend a bit of time, you can often find treasure hunts and colouring plus most libraries will hold a Summer Reading Challenge. Our local library even has a little cafe! 


Summer Hols Scrapbook

Encourage the kid to make a Summer Holidays Scrapbook or diary. They can collect leaflets from days out, or draw/write what they've been up to. You can even get holiday journals on Amazon which are a fab way of getting creative and a nice way of remembering what you've been up to. Good to look back on for inspiration too! 

Better With Friends

Reach out to your friends and get some playdates booked in. I actually find it less stressful when there's a group of children because they will generally entertain themselves! 



Free Days Out

Not everything has to cost money in the hols and there are plenty of options for a cheap, or even free day out. Pack a picnic and visit your local park. Go for a walk and look for wildlife. You can download lots of free scavenger hunts online which are a great way for keeping walks exciting - you can find a great selection here.  Geocaching is another great free activity - all you need is the app on your phone and you can start finding caches. There's a great guide for beginners here

A massive cache that we found here in Dorset

Cheap Eating Out

It's great to have lunch out now and again throughout the holidays but it can get expensive. If you look around you can normally find some great deals to keep the costs down. Brewers Fayre do a great breakfast, not only is it unlimited but kids eat free making it a fab bargain. Tesco have also recently announced that kids eat free over the summer when an adult spends £3.50. We'll definitely be taking advantage of this offer - lunch in Tesco and a mooch round the toy aisle would make a great time waster on a rainy day! 

Kids Pass is another good one to look into - currently you can do a 30 day trial for £1 and this will get you lots of discounts, including free kids meals at certain restaurants. 

Down Days

Lastly, don't be afraid to have a day with no plans! I'm always guilty of packing loads into our summer holidays and the kids (and me) end up tired and grumpy. Stay in your pjs, watch a film and just RELAX! 


Thursday, 24 June 2021

A Bank Holiday Weekend in London & Surrounding Areas

 Way back in 2019, my husband booked surprise tickets for us all to visit Warner Bros Studio Tour in Watford. Who'd have though two years later we'd still be waiting to visit! Having rebooked and cancelled several times, we were hopeful the easing Covid restrictions in May 2021 would allow us to finally visit. And thankfully WB Studio Tour opened it's doors to the public on 17th May giving us the green light to go - yay! 

We decided to book a few hotels either side of the tour date to allow us to have an extended weekend break and it was so fun to be able to plan things again - it's been too long! Here's what we got up to: 

Saturday

We set off from sunny Dorset and our first port of call was Reading. My husband has a good friend who lives here that he went to uni with so we try and visit if we're in the area. We had a lovely stroll at a local country park called Dinton Pastures and we found an amazing play area for the kids. 



If you're ever in the Reading area with kids I'd highly recommend a trip here - the play area was absolutely massive and there was so much for the children to do.  

We had dinner at a local pub before heading to our first hotel of the weekend, the Holiday Inn Express in Hemel Hempstead. With these kind of chains, you can't usually go far wrong and this HI was more than adequate for a one night stay. It was a bit of a squeeze in the room with all four of us but it was clean which is the most important thing! We found the staff on the front desk really helpful too. Our car is electric and we asked if they had a charger - they let us plug in through a ground floor window and leave it charging all night. Very handy!

Sunday

Breakfast was a bit different at the hotel due to Covid and there weren't any hot veggie options but there were sausage/bacon baps already packaged up and plenty of cold options like toast and cereal. The breakfast was included in the price of our stay and the kids were more than happy when they discovered the nutella sachets. 

We checked out and headed down the road to the Warner Bros Studios Tour and excitement levels were high when we spotted the huge buildings! I will probably do a separate review for the studio tours because it was absolutely brilliant and we had such a fantastic day. The last time I went was 8 years ago and there is so much more there now. I won't ruin it if you haven't been but Gringotts was AMAZING! 




The only disappointing point of the whole day was the long queues at lunchtime for the Backlot cafe but we made do with ice-cream and Butterbeer 🍦🍺


The gift shop is of course located just as you exit the tour and if you've never been before, it's pretty big. And they sell all sorts so you'd be hard pushed to leave empty handed! Elliot decided to spend his pocket money on a wand - always useful! 


We bid a fond farewell to the studio tour and started making our way into central London for the next stop on our mini break. 

Our hotel was the Premier Inn at Waterloo and the central location was really handy. We dropped off our bags and headed straight back out to enjoy the sunshine. The Southbank was really really busy - being a sunny bank holiday, everyone in London seemed to be out! We managed to get a table in Giraffe and found it was really reasonably priced for food,especially for the kids. 


We did plan on having a walk right along the Southbank but it had been a long day for the kids with lots of walking so we decided to head on back to our hotel. All in all, a great day 👍


Monday

We were up bright and early due to the hotel only having very early breakfast slots - 645am is a bit early to eat but as we'd already paid for breakfast it was either that or 1030am which was far too late! Bellies full, we checked out and headed towards the tube station (Waterloo) to start our next adventure. 

We hopped on the tube and headed over to the British Museum near Holborn. There are some fantastic FREE museums in London...I'll say that again - FREE! We did have to pre-book a time slot but I think that might just be due to Covid and staggering the amount of people visiting. From the outside the museum certainly looks impressive and we were excited to see what was inside. 


The British Mususem is one of the largest museums in the world and houses over 13 million objects, although obviously not all these are on display. The museum has nearly 100 galleries open to the public and you can see two million years of human history. Not bad for a free ticket! 


Currently the museum has Covid rules in place meaning there is a one way system around the galleries but we didn't feel this detracted from the experience at all. There were lots of staff around the museum who were happy to answer any questions or give some more information about particular exhibits.

The kids really enjoyed seeing the Egyptian Mummies and it was absolutely fascinating to see all the artifacts that had been discovered in the tombs.



There is SO much to see and you could probably spend all day without reading every single information board! I was a little unsure about how much our children would get out of it but we spent a good two hours and it was thumbs up from them. If you visit with children, check out the British Museum website where you can download activities and museum missions. 

After a visit to the Forbidden Planet shop for some comics, we stopped for lunch at a BrewDog pub. The weather was absolutely beautiful so it was lovely to sit outside with a nice cold drink. Not eaten at one of these before but the food was brilliant - lovely burgers and big portions, especially the kids meals. Check out the size of Elliot's burger! 



We spent the next few hours wandering through central London, taking in the sights and sounds. It was very busy, it's been a while since we've been to somewhere with that many people so it was a bit of a shock to the system. 


Our final stop for the day was Hamleys - the kids have been getting excited about this for so long and all complaints of being hot and tired went out of the window when they saw the famous red shop! It's not mine and Paul's idea of fun, especially as it was the temperature of a sauna inside, but the things you do for your kids eh! 


We explored every floor and eventually the boys split off to find the Lego and Erin and I found ourselves surrounded by Barbies and LOL dolls. It took a while but they finally managed to choose something to spend their pocket money on!

Back out in the fresh air (thank goodness) it was time to head back to the hotel to pick up the car. It been a long hot day of walking so those last few miles weren't the fastest! Predictably, Erin fell asleep as soon as she got into her carseat, my fitbit said we'd walked 22,000 steps so no wonder she was tired. 


We arrived in Slough around 730pm and after a quick stop at the local Tesco for some sandwiches, we checked in at the Holiday Inn Express. We had another family room booked and this was a lovely large room with two double beds. Alot of the time a family room will have a double and a sofa bed/pullout bed which are never very comfortable so this was good to see. Erin was wide awake after her dangernap so bedtime was a bit never ending but we got there in the end! 

Tuesday

Big thumbs up for the Holiday Inn breakfast, thought it might just be continental but you could have a full english as well as all the cold options. Really good for a "free" brekkie. 

Starting the day with the all important nutella!

We checked out of the hotel and made the short drive into Windsor. We parked up in Alexandra Gardens Car Park and headed towards the centre of town. First impressions of Windor were wow, that's an impressive castle! It's one of those places that I've seen on TV so many times and it felt a bit surreal to be stood in front of it. Erin was fascinated to know that the Queen lived there, I think she was expecting her to be stood by the window waving at passers by! 


Our original plan was to walk some, if not all of the Long Walk but the weather was rather warm and we decided to save that for another (cooler day!) - instead the kids were happy chasing each other and pouring water over their heads to cool down! 


We did have a peek through the gates and it was pretty cool to see the Queen's Guards. We were really hoping to catch the Changing of the Guards in the town but sadly due to Covid this isn't happening at the moment. 


We spent the rest of the morning exploring the town and we eventually found ourselves by the river. The boat trips seemed to be really popular with most of the time slots sold out. There were also huge queues to hire out boats, the lovely weather definitely made everyone want to be out on the water! 


The kids had a quick go on some of the rides in Alexandra Park but we decided to call it a day and head on home. Heat + tired children = cranky everyone!

There's so much more in Windsor that we didn't get round to seeing so I really hope we get to visit again one day. If you want an in depth Windsor day out write up, have a look at my blogger friend Sabrina's post - she lives in Slough and has lots of lovely photo of Windsor and Eton on there. I wish I'd read that post before we went, super useful 👑

Both children fell asleep in the car on the way home, this never happens. So I'm taking this as a sign of an action packed, fun, weekend away! 


Tuesday, 15 June 2021

The Greyhound - Corfe Castle - Review

 Nestled right in the centre of Corfe Castle village is The Greyhound, a 16th Century Coaching Inn which is apparently the most photographed pub in the UK. If you've ever driven though the village, no doubt you have taken this very snap! I have lived in Dorset my entire life and have been visited Corfe Castle since I was a little girl, but I never get bored of this view.

Corfe Castle on a Cloudy Day

We were invited along to try out the food and having eaten at the Greyhound before on a number of occasions, I was looking forward to seeing what was on the current menu! 

We arrived at the pub for lunch and were shown to our table which was on the covered terrace. There were plenty of tables here, plus in the beer garden which overlooks the castle but it did get very busy so if you are planning to visit I would 100% book in advance to save disappointment. 

Standard Covid measures are in place at the Greyhound - masks on until you sit down, hand sanitiser on entry and they ask you to check in using the NHS Track & Trace - the QR code can be found on the menu which is handy. They do have a food ordering app to minimise contact but this wasn't working when we ate - the staff were all wearing masks though and happy to take orders. 

The menu is very varied and has options for vegan/veggies/ GF etc. It was great to see lots of local additions such as Portland crab, Dorset Blue Vinney Cheese and Purbeck Cider. The stonebaked pizzas sounded amazing but I chose Mussels with cider, leeks and chorizo. This came with chips and crusty bread. It's not a dish I'd ever attempt to make at home so I really wanted to try it - and I wasn't disappointed! The creamy sauce was so tasty and the portion was plentiful. The downside is the mess I created, maybe they could supply a bib for messy eaters too ;) 


My husband is vegan and he was excited see his favourite Moving Mountains burger on the menu. His only criticism was that he would have preferred a brioche roll rather than a standard burger bun but apart from that, he really enjoyed it! The sweet potato fries were especially nice. 


We weren't planning on having pudding but the waitress asked if we'd like to have a look at the menu and to be honest, we couldn't resist! I had vanilla cheesecake which was topped with Biscoff crunch and served with Biscoff sauce and salted caramel ice-cream. How could I say no to that?! Paul had the sticky toffee pudding which came with warm caramel sauce and ice-cream. And a flake! 



We visited on a weekday lunchtime and I expected the village to be quiet but it was very busy and felt like a weekend! The outside area of The Greyhound was buzzing with families having their lunch and it was great to see them so busy. The kitchen were doing a fab job in getting the food out fast! 

We really enjoyed our lunch and I'd definitely recommend a visit to The Greyhound. If you're spending the day in the village and have tickets for the castle then you can even get 10% off your bill.


Have you ever visited Corfe Castle?

*Disclaimer - We were invited for a gifted meal in exchange for an honest review. 



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