What we did in the Summer Holidays…

So the summer holidays are over.

Reuben started back at school last Wednesday and now we are all back in the busy routine of school runs, working days, clubs and play.

I have to say I have genuinely enjoyed the last 6 weeks. Although a struggle at times to manage childcare while working in marketing part-time and running an online vintage shop, the more laid-back vibe and opportunities to do new things together has been wonderful.

I, like many, dont have tons of spare cash to throw around so the summer holidays are always a mix of days out and either free activities or time at home.  So in todays blog I thought I’d share some of the things we got up to big and small… hopefully making memories that will last for years to come.

Bletchley Park

This hidden gem on the outskirts of Milton Keynes is a great place to really experience the lives of the WW2 codebreakers (led by Alan Turing – who you may of seen immortalised in the Benedict Cumberbatch film The Imitation Game). Theres lots of information, exhibits and a replica of the Bombe, one of the first computers as well as an original German Enigma machine.  The grounds and house are lovely with plenty of spots for picnics and fun, plus theres a cafe and restaurant too.  A great historical visit that has something to interest everyone.





The National Museum of Computing

Next to Bletchley Park is the museum of computing and with two computer/gaming crazed 9 years olds we couldnt not visit!  The museum holds all types of computing devices and the boys marvelled at the huge old computers from the 1960s as well as interacting with robots, retro consoles and even some virtual reality. There were lots of passionate helpers on hand to explain things and were very patient with our children helping them program, play and generally interact with the exhibits.



Cinema – Finding Dory

OK, its kinda a no-brainer but the cinema was a great day out for all of us and we made sure to fit in some ice cream afterwards!  Finding Dory was a great film that all our children enjoyed (with the age difference this can be hard) and had a beautiful message.



Roald Dahl Museum

What a delight this place is. Small but perfectly formed, it is located in Buckinghamshire where Dahl lived and shares his childhood, all his wonderful work, insights on his process (he ate 3/4 bars of chocolate a day, wrote during strict working sessions and never cleaned his writing hut) and his ongoing legacy. Theres lots of interactive displays, memorabilia, storytelling and talks and a lovely little tea room if you fancy a slice of cake.  It is great for school aged children as they are already familar with much of his writing and all visitors are given a cute pad and pencil to write down their ideas just as Dahl did.


The Science Museum

I’d not been to the Science Museum since I was a child and I was pleasantly surprised to see it had changed alot since then. Its free to get in, theres lots to see and do and kids eat free in the restaurant when you order and adult meal. However for all the REALLY cool stuff you do have to pay – the IMAX cinema, 4D experiences and flight simulators add up £ wise, but make for a cool techy day out…and if you travel by train you can get 2for1 vouchers which bought the cost down a lot.  Great for inquisitive minds, young and old, and don’t get me started on the amazing gift  shop…




Theme Parks

We are a thrill-seeking family so summer wouldnt be summer without a trip to a theme park. We visited both Alton Towers and Thorpe Park this summer and had a blast!  Look for 2for1 vouchers and online codes to make it more affordable and think about bringing a picnic lunch. We usually purchase the refillable drinks bottles too and refill throughout the day via the Hydration Stations.  Now our 9yr old’s are taller we have a lot more rides to go on so keeping hydrated is important!

thorpe park and alton towers


Swimming

The pool, the garden, who cares?!? If its hot get wet!  Our local pool does lots of kid friendly swim sessions and we bought a bigger paddling pool last year and I was determined we would get good use out of it!  Again quick and easy, but very fun.




Trampoline Park

This was a new experience for us as a family and boy it was fun! Be warned though it is EXHAUSTING!  Our local trampoline park has a ‘Total Wipeout’ machine, dodgeball and basketball areas and lots of high points to jump off of! We will definitely be visiting again.




Frappincino Dates

A simple quick thing to do but it feels special. I love having a Starbucks ‘date’ with my 9 year old and it makes him feel very grown up. He knows its a treat (those drinks are yummy but calorific) and we get some sweet one on one time.



Days at the Seaside

Living in Kent we have quite the pick of the seaside towns. Margate, Whitstable, Broadstairs and Herne Bay are all great to visit and filled with everything you would expect. We walked the pier, played in the amusements (2p machines a speciality), ate chips and swam in the sea. Just perfect.


And of course there were plenty of quieter days at home. This year I made sure our boys didn’t expect to do something everyday and they made use of the many toys and books they have as well as visiting our local play park and spending time with other family members. All in all I think we found a good balance.

Find more photos via my Instagram – follow all the photographic fun and games here.

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Easter Bank Holiday Weekend Inspiration

Happy Easter! What ever your personal beliefs, this weekend in the UK is a double bank holiday weekend for most of us that we can spend with our families, hopefully seeing some sunshine, having fun and treating ourselves to lots of naughty food.  I’m a great believer in seizing any free time I have and making the most of it while creating some great memories at the same time. However that is easier said than done – in todays blog I share some things I do to acheive just that. 

Start the day right

Make a healthy breakfast exciting using boiled eggs (well it is Easter!) and some carefully chosen egg cups – I love this stylish cutie by Buddy and Bear or try Etsy or NotOntheHighStreet.com for similar contemporary designs. For a more eclectic look, seek out vintage ones and create a mismatched set.

 photo Buddy and Bear via EtsyUK 

Or maybe choose not so healthy… Creme egg stacked pancakes, you say? Easy to make (one egg per stack was enough sweetness for us) and very, very indulgent.  Yes it’s laden with calories but for one day over Easter it makes an amazing treat! 

Dress for it     

Spring means we can start dressing in pastels and cute prints again so lets embrace it. Spend Easter digging out some of your summer clothing and styling them up to feel and look great.  I love being able to get out of dark jumpers and boots and embrace something more joyful! Fingers crossed the sun shines too…        

Get crafty

More free time means more time for activities! I do like a project with the kids – for Roald Dahl day Reuben and I made this Mr Twit beard as seen below and this Easter I want to make some of these amazing giant origami rabbits that I saw on the wonderful Oh Happy Day blog. Find the tutorial here  Photo via Oh Happy Day

Have an egg and spoon race

Want to get the kids off their games consoles/TV’s and out into the fresh air? An egg and spoon race is easy to do and you dont need to buy anything. We use plastic toy eggs (find race sets in most Easter seasonal aisles) but you can easily use chocolate or hard boiled versions instead.  On your marks, get set, GO!!!

 

Make and bake

If the weathers not so good, another great activity is to bake cakes or make some other special treats to share. We recently made homemade Lemonade as a family (à la Diary of a Wimpy kid) which the boys loved doing and often make cakes over Easter (see our 4yr olds nursery-made offering from this week below). This year we’ve made Spring themed fairy cakes together and I’m sure they will all get gobbled up soon. 

   

  
 

Go for a special day out 

Ok, it can be expensive to go on big days out but across the two weeks of the school Easter holiday we always try and fit one day trip in. Look for 2 for 1 offers, discount codes or free events – whether its to a theme park, zoo or just the beach or play area its perfect for making those special memories. And lets be honest – who doesn’t want to act like a kid again for the day?!?

     Do an Easter Egg Hunt

Easter wouldn’t be Easter without chocolate eggs but I do like my kids to work for them! Last year we hid them throughout the house and garden and our three boys had to follow clues to track them down…they loved it! We will do the same this Sunday, as well as give them a couple of their favourite chocolate bar eggs too.

 
Do some exercise

After all that indulgence some hard work is required to balance all those calories out…I know it’s boring but if you eat lots of chocolate and treats you have to exercise. As someone whos lost a lot of weight and now exercises regularly I will make sure, holiday or not, I’ll run my usual 5k run. As well as meaning you dont put on weight its great to de-stress, have some ‘me-time’ and clear your head and for me, Spring is THE best season to run in.

  
 

So make the most of those extra days of fun with the people you care for the most and make this Easter one to remember!

All photos via my Instagram unless otherwise stated. Follow me on Instagram for lots more here.

The thing I fell in love with this week

Lego mini-figure head storage: large £16.99, small £9.99 – Amazon (plus other retailers)Our house is Lego mad, its a fact, and I’ve been after some storage for it all for quite some time now. Luckily Father Christmas delivered my boys just the thing (thanks Amazon wish list!) and it is as stylish as it is practical! image via my Pinterest

I love a great piece of design and these heads are iconic. They also do a female version, an extra large shake and sorter, a skeleton and a pumpkin. 

We now have 4 which will look great displayed within the white shelves in the boys bedroom when I redecorate (our house is still a work in progress) and I think we might get a couple of the oversized brick boxes as well, as although the heads hold quite a lot, we have a huge amount of Lego and its growing!   And if nothing else they make a great photo opportunity! You just can’t help but be won over by them…  

Creating Christmas in a childs bedroom

They say Christmas is for kids, and I always like to make sure my childrens bedrooms feel festive too. In todays blog see my top 5 tricks to do Christmas in a fun and child friendly way, easily and cheaply…and best of all your kids will love it!

‘Days till Christmas’ countdown –

This is a great way to stop those ‘how many days…” questions you get pretty much every day of December. I like using a very cute, child friendly one and then have it displayed in their bedroom. Cute decoration groupings –

In the rest of my home my decorations have to be ultra stylish, but in the kids rooms? Anything goes! I let them pick ones they like then display in groups amongst their usual toys.  These were all bought in our local pound shop! Christmas duvet covers – 

This is a simple way to add Christmas cheer to their beds and there’s some lovely designs out there starting at around £9.99. We bought ours from Dunelm Mill and bought a new one this year for our 8 year old for £12.00 – find it here.Bunting – 

A great way to add decoration to the ceiling or on higher pieces of furniture. If bunting isn’t your style, making paper chains is a cheap and extremely effective solution too.
Festive soft toys – 

For smaller children a soft toy or two can really add a cute Christmas touch to their bedroom or nursery. Remember normal Christmas decorations could be dangerous for any child under 3 years, so keep safe by adding cute plush toys like the one below.I hope this gives you some inspiration to add some decorations upstairs in your home as well this year!

See my blog on advent calendars here.

Advent Calendars with style

So, today it is the 1st of December (how did that happen?!?) and if you have kids (or are a kid a heart) its time to put out your advent calendar. The question is, what do you do to count down the days of December? 

A few years back I decided that I (and my stylish home) could no longer live with the cardboard calendars filled with cheap chocolate that come covered in advertising for the latest TV show or movie. Plus when you have three children in the house under 10, you end up with three Peppa Pig/Spiderman/ Star Wars/Disney etc ones dotted around. Also just to make it a bit more complicated we are a ‘blended family’ so at different times we have different amounts of children living with us – the idea of having uneaten chocolate building up and calendars three or four days behind didn’t feel festive at all, just slightly depressing.

So what to do? I have seen some lovely ideas via Etsy of bespoke handmade creations – here are some of my favourites…

Envelope advent calendar by MummyPuddleduck  buy here

Box tree advent calendar by DorsetHodgepodge buy here

Fabric pocket bunting advent calendar by SewSweetViolet  buy here

Paper bag kit advent calendar by PeachBlossomUK 

buy here

All lovely reusable and flexible solutions.

I happened to be in Ikea when I chanced upon our stylish solution – a 3D cardboard calendar in a Scandinavian style design with 24 drawers that could be filled with whatever (and most importantly whatever amount) of sweets we wanted! We decided to fill it with milk and white Christmas chocolate coins but you could as easily add small toys, messages or small amounts of money. And best of all its completely recyclable and something we can bring out every year as a family tradition. I love that.
  The kids are happy, my partner is happy and I am happy. I call that a win!

Why not try something new this December and create a family tradition of your own?  Look out for more blogs this month on how I like to do Christmas.

The thing I fell in love with this week

Iwako Japanese rubber sets – £6.75 Paperchase  

Rubbers…boring huh?  Well not in Japan. In Japan they are AMAZING!!!

You know sometimes you don’t need something but you just really want it? Well this was one of those times. Iwako erasers are unbelievable in their detail and can be collected singularly or in sets. They come in every variation you can imagine and if you like a quirky bit of design (and maybe are a child of the 80s when rubber collecting was big) you’ll love them.    
I now have the fast food set sitting on my desk…on its own tray! They are sort of too beautiful to use! I’m a total nerd I know…

IMG_7861

Look out for my blog next Saturday on what else I’ve fallen in love with.

Childrens Book Review: Mr Cleghorns Seal by Judith Kerr

This is a new story by Judith Kerr, partly based on a true story which happened to her father and is about a man rescuing a seal pup, falling in love and ultimately finding a new purpose in life.

Our family very much enjoys the work of Judith Kerr and our nursery bookshelves have always been filled with her work – The Tiger who Came to Tea and the Mog the Cat series being particular favourites.  The story is aimed at children 7 years plus but could easily be read to children younger than that. I think that any child older than 12 years or so might find it too old fashioned and twee but I personally found the book charming and would read it to my youngest child quite happily. My eight year old enjoyed the seals antics and the zoo parts and definitely liked that there was a happy ending as he looked a bit worried after the seals mother never returned! Phew! Its a story that feels like its from another time in the very best way, with communication via letter, travels by train and an old fashioned courtship that reminded me a little of Esio Trot by Roald Dahl. Without giving the story away its a lovely adventure with a happy ending that all children (and adults) will smile at. Plus a story featuring a cute seal pup can never be a bad thing! Its 88 pages are peppered with lots of lovely pencil drawings by Kerr so is a relatively quick story to enjoy too. I also love the fact that at the back there’s details of the real story which although did not have the happy ending is still a fascinating read. My 8 year old was very interested in this particularly as it based based on how he puts it, ‘a real life story like a reality show but a book!

If you are looking for a new bedtime story that is gentle, sweet and wistful with a slight vintage vibe to it then this would be a great addition to your childrens bookshelves. It’s presented beautifully too with a dust jacket with gold embossed type so would also make a nice gift.

Mr Cleghorns Seal by Judith Kerr* is priced at £12.99 published by HarperCollins and available at all good bookshops

Roald Dahl Day 2015

When Puffin Books got in touch to ask if Reuben and I would like to make part in the Crafty Twits Challenge for Roald Dahl Day today (Sunday 13th Sept) its fair to say we were pretty excited. We both love Roald Dahl and for me, its fantastic to see your child enjoying reading particularly when its a book that you also enjoyed when you were their age.

The Twits has been reissued to coincide with this years Roald Dahl day and we were kindly sent 3 versions to review – a beardy one, a smelly one and a techy one! Plus Reuben was given the challenge to get crafty and create a Mr Twit style beard!!! He started thinking of what type of beard he would want and how it might look almost immediately, but more of that later…I love the book ‘the Twits’ – it is funny, not too long, grotesque (in the best way) and like all Dahl books has a very strong life message. In fact it contains one of my favourite book quotes ever which I’ve shared a few times via my social media –   Photo via my Instagram : @Blueskygirlie
Its a pretty good message don’t you think?

So, what about the books?  Reuben and I are both familiar with the story but a great story can be read again and again (another of the joys of Dahl) and where it is quite a short book it can be read together in just 2/3 days (we usually read together before Reuben goes to bed). The new style books themselves are lovely and definitely bring a new vibe to a well loved storybook.

‘The beardy one’ (available at all good booksellers rrp £9.99): this is a lovely chunky hardback book with a furry style beard on the front cover. This makes it very tactile and caught the eye of our almost 4 year old so could be a good one to buy for a younger child that you’d like to read to. It would definitely make a lovely gift.

As well as the story itself, theres a section at the back full of Roald Dahl trivia, writing tips and other fun tit bits. We loved these bits and definitely makes this version feel quite special.

The smelly one (available at all good booksellers rrp £5.99): this is a paperback version but has the added attraction of a selection of scratch and sniff stickers of Quentin Blake illustrations. And they do smell…awful! Being a typical 8 year old boy, Reuben loved the grossness of it!
The techy one (available via the App Store/Google Play – free): I knew Reuben would love the fact there was an app game and sure enough within minutes he had downloaded it and was playing it! You basically have to swipe away pieces of rubbish/food/ goodnessknowswhat coming from Mr Twit eating and stop them hitting and waking up a sleeping Mrs Twit while getting them to lodge back in his beard. If she wakes up she is not happy! Theres special missions to complete too and its great fun.
And finally onto our Mr Twit style beard…
Reuben loves his tech and gadgets and decided the perfect beard would be one not with hidden bits of lost food within it, but with hidden compartments for his ipod touch, video camera, ipod, Xbox controller and even a charging point! And here it is!!!
We had great fun making it together – it has hidden headphones, a chocolate bar for energy and sunglasses…because, well sunglasses are just cool according to Reuben!  
   
I reckon we could be into something here…we’re claiming copywrite now!!!

Have fun this Roald Dahl Day and spend some quality time maybe having a party, being silly, getting crafty with the Craft Twits challenge, baking some Roald Dahl inspired cakes and embracing the magical world of Roald Dahl with your kids….

Find more details of what you can do today and throughout the month here.

All books via Puffin books*

The thing I fell in love with this week…

Peacocks bird print t-shirt – £3 (in sale original price £6).   

Loving fashion I always look out for quirky and fashionable clothing for my son and stepsons.

This gorgeous little number is available instore and online at Peacocks now and even better has gone into the sale! I love its print of old fashioned bird illustrations on 100% cotton. It is from the older boys range and comes in sizes 7/8-13/14 years.

I think it has a cool vintage vibe with a modern twist. Here is my almost 9yo son Reuben modelling his new top like a pro…  

I think its gorgeous and looks like it costs a lot more. What do you think?  Find it online while stocks last here.  Look out for a new item I have fallen in love with next week…

Top – Peacocks
Jeans – F&F at Tesco