Saturday, 17 August 2019

Getting Creative in the Summer Holidays with Made By Me Craft Parties

I dread rainy days in the Summer Holidays and the inevitable chorus of "I'm boooooooored!" followed by "Can we do some arts and crafts?!" I am #notapinterest mum by any means, my idea of arts and crafts is a bit of play doh or a ready to go craft kit from Hobbycraft!

Fortunately for us, there are people out there who are amazing at arts and crafts and we met one last week - Lexy who runs Made By Me Craft Parties. We were invited along to her Summer Craft Camp and we were excited to do some proper crafting!

When we arrived, the children were set up at the table with a colourful paper bag and asked to decorate it however they liked - there were a variety of different stickers and felt tips and they got to work creating a mini masterpiece. It's worth noting that this particular craft event was for children 6-13 years old however Lexy very kindly let Erin join in too with a bit of assistance from me :)


Once the bags were decorated we moved onto the 3D cardboard letters. Lexy bought out a big box of colourful wool and lots of washi tape. I've never used washi tape before but its a type of colourful masking tape that can be used to decorate pretty much anything and is perfect for children as it's really easy to tear off.


Elliot couldn't wait to get stuck into this activity and he decorated his letter at such speed however he did need a bit of a hand making it neat! Erin just wanted to stick on all the sparkly embellishments so I did the bulk of hers but I found it really relaxing winding the wool round and making it pretty. It was a really fun activity enjoyed by all!


After a quick squash and biscuit break we moved onto the pom pom making. I've actually made pom poms before but by using the old fashioned technique of a cardboard circle. Lexy showed the children how to create pom poms using a speciliast bit of a equipment that made it 100 times easier than the way I know! I was so impressed that I came home and ordered my very own pom pom gadget from eBay - you never know when you're going to need pom poms! :)

The final activity was creating wooden mobiles which I think was Elliot's favourite thing - his eye lit up when Lexy bought out a big box of buttons and he spent ages choosing the ones he wanted for his mobile.


 Lexy had a variety of different beads and buttons for the children to use and Erin really enjoyed theading these onto her wire. Although she's a lot younger than the minimum 6 years, this was an activity that she could really get involved with!


At the end of the hour and a half, the kids were so chuffed with what they had created and I couldn't believe how fast the time had gone. It was great to have Lexy on hand for guidance with the activities and I have to say, she is so patient with the children!



As well as dedicated craft parties, Lexy also runs Dorset based events alongside another lady who has a fantastic biscuit decorating business. Some of the Mini Makes and Bakes events are also suitable for pre-schoolers so I'm definitely going to be looking at attending some of these with Erin

For more details about Lexy's parties and events, you can check out her website or you can find her on Facebook . 

Thank you, Lexy for bringing out the creativity in us! 



*Disclaimer - We were invited along to the event in exchange for an honest review - all words are my own and the smiles are 100% genuine! 

Monday, 12 August 2019

Larmer Tree Festival 2019 - A Chilled, Family Festival


Before kids, my experience with festivals was one very very wet and muddy weekend at Glastonbury. I can't say I enjoyed it much and I decided that it was much easier to watch festivals from the comfort of my own home - with a clean toilet and no mud!

It wasn't until Elliot came along that we started to dip our toes into the festival world again. I realised that family festivals were a completely different ball game and you didn't even have to camp!!

This year we were invited to check out the Larmer Tree Festival which is located at the beautiful Larmer Tree Gardens on the Dorset-Wiltshire border. We weren't able to camp for the entire weekend due to prior commitments so a day ticket was perfect for us. I love the fact you can get day tickets for these type of festivals, it's a perfect way to get a taste of everything without having to do without your creature comforts back at home.

We chose to go along on Sunday and it just so happened that this coincided with a performance from Elliot's idol, Andy Day and his band the Odd Socks! The kids are big fans (you might even say superfans!) so we were excited to see them live again.


We arrived at the festival site bright and early and were directed into the carpark by some very friendly stewards. This was something I noticed throughout the day, all the staff we encountered were very helpful and very friendly!

The festival site isn't overly huge so the carpark was only a short walk to the entrance (nothing like the mammoth walk at Camp Bestival!) and we were soon swapping our e-tickets for wristbands.

The first thing we spotted was the impressive Larmer Tree which is located in the Village area. Whilst we got our bearings, we decided that we'd start the day by sampling some of the many food offerings dotted around the festival. Paul and I had a lovely bacon sandwich and the kids shared a healthy smoothie and flaxjack.



Andy & The Odd Socks were due on the main stage at 11am so we decided to head for the main lawn and nab our favourite front row spot. Things were very calm on the main lawn however as there was a mass yoga session going on - it was very quiet, and very chilled out and it did make me giggle thinking how different the atmosphere would be in about half an hour when dinosaurs and giant footballs would be bouncing around!! It also made me giggle when eagle eye Elliot broke the quietness with a very loud "Andy!!!!!!" as he spotted his idol getting things ready on the stage!



Once the yoga had finished the lawn was quickly filled with families waiting to enjoy the show - and what a show it was! We have been to quite a few Odd Socks shows over the last couple of years but this one had such a great atmosphere from start to finish. Even a bit of rain didn't dampen the spirits!


Elliot and Erin had a fantastic time and it was lovely to see Erin getting so involved. After the show, we heard on the grapevine that the band would be coming out so we headed over to the side of the stage to see.

I always say this but the band are so lovely to their young fans - they always greet Elliot like an old friend and you can see from the photos below how happy this makes him! Erin also surprised us by not crying like she has done at every other Odd Socks meet & greet...I think they were starting to think it was something personal ;)


After that bit of excitement, we wanted to explore a bit more so we headed away from the main lawn and followed the nearest pathway. The brilliant thing about Larmer Tree Festival is that there are things to see around every corner, and there are lots of nooks and crannies and little paths to explore. Perfect for inquisitive children!


We ended up in the Lostwood area - a series of woodland pathways filled with art installations, secret spaces, a campfire and a whole host of musical instruments hanging from the branches. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before and was certainly popular with the children who could play the instruments to their heart's content. Elliot was quite taken with the guitars whilst Erin preferred the drums!


Although the festival is highly popular with families, it still felt intimate and not overcrowded at all. Walking through the Lostwood was busy but we never felt rushed along and there were plenty of instruments for everyone.


There were also lots of fantastic art installations - we stumbled upon some animal skulls that were decorated with beautiful bright designs. It's a pity we weren't there to see them at night time because I imagine they looked even cooler lit up.


Lostwood was also home to the Peachick Play Area and Baby Changing area - we didn't use this but it's great that there was an area dedicated to the little ones.

The Wilds area was a short hop from Lostwood and here we found the cinema showing a variety of classic films throughout the day and night. I'm sure if we had been staying the whole weekend, we would have ended up here! It looked very cosy and a great way to relax and take a break from the festival madness.

Woodland Crafts was a popular area in the Wilds with a huge array of workshops and crafts for the kids to get stuck into. The tents did look fairly busy when we popped our head in so we didn't get around to making anything for ourselves but I did see lots of homemade decorations dotted around the festival that had been created by mini festival-goers over the weekend!


We spent the next few hours exploring the woods and gardens and time just seemed to fly by - there were so many things to see, even just stopping to do a bit of people watching kept us busy!


The Museums area was great - Erin fell asleep at this point so whilst she was snoozing Elliot did some colouring and we learnt lots about the history of Larmer Tree Gardens from the Salisbury Museum. They also had lots of interesting artefacts on display including items that had been found at the Larmer Tree Gardens site over the years. 


One thing I love about festivals is the random and wacky things you can see when you're not expecting it! We certainly had a few of those moments including some really unique looking puppets that wouldn't have looked out of place in the Labyrinth!


We also caught a pop-up theatre company next to the Larmer Tree - I'm not totally sure what it was about but there were pirates...and the kids were transfixed!


Throughout the weekend, the many stage areas played host to a huge variety of acts including KT Tunstall, The Shires, Kate Tempest and Tom Odell who was a late addition to the line up after Jack Savoretti cancelled due to tonsillitis. The music side of things isn't a priority for us, aside from the family bands such as Andy's, the kids aren't really into bands yet but we managed to fill the entire day without actually seeing anyone else sing! We were happy just exploring the festival and taking in the atmosphere however we did see lots of families enjoying the live music.


One thing we did catch, however, was the carnival procession in the late afternoon sunshine. Winding its way up from the Lostwood, we heard it before we saw it and it was fantastic to see so many families taking part!




The Southampton Ukulele Jam caught my ear - they were a band of very enthusiastic ukulele players belting out some very familiar songs and I only wished we'd managed to catch another of their performances.


Of course, I can't review a festival and not talk more about the food - and there was so much on offer at Larmer Tree. Throughout the day we grazed on very very cheesy mac & cheese, lovely homemade icecreams, churros (is it even a festival without churros?!) and we might have made multiple trips to the Saint Valentine Liquorice stall! There were plenty of healthy options to be had and the smell of some of the stalls was just so tempting. Prices were a little steep but it's to be expected when you're at a festival and I don't mind paying when the food is really good!


We had a lovely day and it really is the perfect family festival. I feel like we only scratched the surface of what Larmer Tree had to offer for families and I hope we can return next year to experience more. 



*Disclaimer - We were provided with press tickets in return for an honest review - all words are my own and I think you can tell we had a lovely day by the big smiles in the photos :)

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Aiming High at ALTITUDE High Ropes Adventure - Bournemouth - Review

Last week we were invited down to Altitude High Ropes Adventure which is located in Littledown Park, Bournemouth. Although we don't live too far away (around a 25-minute drive), I haven't visited the Littledown area in years and I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived! 


Parking in the leisure centre (free parking for up to 3 hours), we immediately spotted a great looking adventure play area and paddling pool - had no idea this was here so this is definitely somewhere to add to our "places to visit" list!

Altitude can be found towards the back of the park and it's a pleasant stroll past the lake to get there. Look out for the zip line too which you will be whizzing down at some point! 

Once we arrived Elliot and my husband Paul got kitted out with harnesses and helmets. The high ropes adventure is divided into 5 sections: Low Ropes, High Ropes, Zip Wire, Climbing Wall and Power Fan Descender. 


The boys began their adventure on the climbing wall and my husband admitted that he found this bit tricky - Elliot, on the other hand, was up the wall like a mountain goat! The climbing wall features lots of challenging climbs to test you to the limit and was a great starting point for their high ropes adventure. 


Next came the Low Ropes adventure which is 5 metres above ground - this is suitable for 5+. The course features 9 exciting elements including crawl tunnel, cargo net, log bridge and swinging lots. 

I was really surprised by how easy Elliot made this look and he didn't falter at any point! They had the chance to complete the course twice, and the second time they could do it blindfolded if they wished. 



Next came the high ropes - and these are 10 metres off the ground so definitely not for the faint-hearted. Under 8's are allowed on the level but must be accompanied by an adult - Elliot was well up for it so Paul had no option but to clip on and follow! 


The high ropes course combines 12 testing elements which include Burma Bridge, Islands in the Sky, Stepping Stones and Swinging Tyres. It made me feel dizzy just looking up at them. 


The only part that Elliot struggled a bit on was the mini zip line - he wasn't quite heavy enough for it to go all the way so he had to kind of shuffle until it reached the end! 

When the boys had recovered from the high ropes, it was onto the Power Fan Descender - a terrifying leap of faith off a high platform. You plummet to the ground before being gently stopped just before you land - eek! 

They finished off the course by whizzing over the Littledown Lake on the 70-metre zip wire - what a way to end the day! 


We spent around 2.5 hours at Altitude and Elliot and Paul really enjoyed themselves. It was great to be able to do something a little different and we'd definitely recommend it. 

Need to Know...

- You MUST wear sensible shoes if planning on doing the course and will not be allowed on if wearing sandals/flip flops
- The minimum age is 5 years old
- There are picnic tables next to the course for spectators 
- Prices are cheaper if you book in advance and you can pay for the courses separately or together as a package - see here for info

If you would like to try Altitude High Ropes Adventure out for yourselves then BH Live have very kindly given me a 20% code to pass on to my readers - the code is ELLIOT20 



*Disclaimer - We were offered a family ticket in return for an honest review - all words are my own however I was too much of a wuss to actually try out the course so had to rely on the experiences of my son and husband ;) Thank you BH LIVE! 



Friday, 26 July 2019

Family Camping Essentials & Tips

This year we decided to bite the bullet and purchase a tent - it's something we've been talking about for the last couple of years but have never got round to actually doing it for one reason or another. I'm sure the idea of camping with small children is some people's idea of hell but some of my favourite memories are of my childhood when we used to go camping!

We got quite a good deal on a large 6 person tent from Go Outdoors - we spent a fair bit of time researching but it was good to go to the store and see for ourselves what they were like. It's a bit overwhelming with the choice of things to buy but we literally bought the tent plus a few items like campbeds, foldable cupboard and the all important drinks cooler. Since we bought the tent, we've been buying bits and pieces and it feels more manageable to do it that way rather than buy all of Go Outdoors at once!


It's a really good idea to put the tent up in the garden before you actually go away - it gives you an idea of how long it will take you and how straight forward it is. Although you can actually get self inflating tents these days if you're not too great with the traditional way!

With limited space, organisation is key - you might have to play a bit of car jenga but at least you will have all the essentials!

Setting Up

- Tent (this is the one we bought)
- Pegs, plus spares
- Groundsheet
- Mallet
- Carpet
- Porch (not essential but handy for extending your living space and useful if it rains!



Bedrooms

- Air mattress and pump
- Camp beds (we're considering getting bunk beds to save room, the kids loved trying them out in the shop!
- Sleeping bags
- Pillows (you can get smaller camping pillows but you can't beat your comfy pillow from home!)
- Torch
- Head lamp (useful for nighttime toilet trips!)
- Spare blankets
- Fleecy onesies for the kids
- Clothing for all weathers, plus spares for the children incase they get wet/muddy/dirty!



Living Area

- Stove and gas
- Cutlery and plates/bowls/cups (we bought the infamous plastic set from IKEA that every parent seems to own!)
- Cooking utensils
- Tin foil
- Kettle
- Pots and Pans
- Cool box and ice blocks
- Washing up bowl, liquid, cloth etc
- Tin opener
- Lighter/matches
- Chopping board
- Black bin bags
- Camping chairs
- Fold out table
- Fold up shelves (really useful for storing kitchen bits)

Food/Drink

You don't really want to be slaving over a hot stove for too long when you're away camping so it's good to pack a few meals that are quick and easy to prepare.

For breakfast you might be able to pick up fresh bits from the campsite shop (if you don't have access to a fridge) but you can't go wrong with scrambled egg on toast! The mini boxes of cereal are good for the kids too, along with longlife milk. I always pack brioche buns too as the kids are big fans.

We recently got sent some Shaken Udder milkshakes* to try out and these were perfect for our camping trip. Aside from being really tasty, they don't need to be kept in the fridge so are ideal for camping.


Lunch/Dinner wise, hotdogs are always a hit and can be easily made on the stove. A friend of mine always takes a big lunchbox of chilli to heat up on the stove which is a fab idea! We usually take a few noodle pots as these are mega easy - our faves are Mr Lees* and they are so tasty.



I usually try and take a few bottles of frozen made up squash too, not only do they double up as cool blocks but the children are more inclined to drink it if it's ice cold!

Extras

- Mini first aid kit
- Sudocrem* (The folks at Sudocrem have created a mini version,  "My Little Sudocrem" which is ideal for camping and can be popped in your first aid kit. I find it really useful as it can be used for a multitude of things - insect bites, sunburn, blisters, chafing!
- Insect repellant
- An abundance of wipes
- Toilet roll
- Some small games to keep the kids busy - we love Top trumps!


Now we have our tent we are planning to go a couple of times over the Summer holidays and I hope it's something the children enjoy as much as I did as a child!

*Contains press samples

Saturday, 6 July 2019

5 of the Best Family Friendly Festivals in the South - Summer 2019

Since becoming parents we have been to a few festivals with the children and every year I am blown away by how geared up they up for kids! Whether you want a quiet, village green type event or a kid friendly music festival with lots of big names there is one to suit every family.

Here's 5 of the best festivals happening over the South this Summer:

Camp Bestival - Lulworth Castle, Dorset
25th-28th July 2019


I'll start with one of the best family-friendly festivals and one of our favourites! Camp Bestival is held in the stunning grounds of Lulworth Castle and is the perfect festival for children of all ages. You can catch Mr Tumble, Mister Maker, Jess Glynne, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Lewis Capaldi and many many more. Kids can go on the world's biggest bouncy castle, get creative in the MAKE SPACE area, meet their favourite characters and even learn some jaw-dropping circus tricks. 



Boomtown Fair - Matterley Estate, Hampshire
7th-11th Aug 2019


Boomtown is a fully immersive festival, sprawling across many different "districts" across a ficticious city. Featuring a diverse musical line up and hundreds of actors bringing the sets to life, this is a festival like no other. 


Is it suitable for families though? Local blogger Bella and her family visited last year and had lots to say about Kidztown - https://dearmummyblog.com/2018/08/16/kidztown-review-becoming-a-boomtown-citizen/

Larmer Tree Festival - Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset
18th-21st July 2019


The Larmer Tree festival has been entertaining revellers for the past 29 years and is now widely thought of as one of the best family festivals around. Although smaller and more intimate than some of it's neighbouring festivals, there is plenty on the line up to entertain the whole family. 

This will be our first year at Larmer Tree Festival and I am really looking forward to seeing Jack Savoretti and KT Tunstall. The children are also really excited because our favourite family band Andy & The Odd Socks will be performing! 



Victorious Festival - Southsea Common, Portsmouth
23rd-25th August 2019


Now in it's 8th year, Victorious Festival is definitely one of the biggest festivals on the South Coast. They have a huge lineup this year including New Order, Clean Bandit and Lewis Capaldi but what makes this festival so suitable for families is it's absolutely fantastic Kids Arena. 

We went along last year and spent most of our day in the Kids Arena, it is like a festival of it's own accord! There are tons of activities for kids including inflatables, arts and crafts, circus skills, live music and shows, face painting, character meet and greets and so much more. The fantastic thing is, it is all free! 


Port Eliot Festival - St.Germans, Cornwall
25th-28th July 2019


According to their website, Port Eliot is a festival unlike any other. Celebrating words, music, imagination, ideas, nature, food, fashion, flowers, laughter, exploration, fun and all that is good in the world! 

Image: Louise Roberts

Do you enjoy going to festivals as a family or do you leave the kids with Grandparents and head off to relive your pre-kid days?!



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