Sunday, 11 June 2017

Open Farm Sunday - exploring a local farm!

Every year since the Children were old enough to toddle about we have meaning to find a local farm participating in Open Farm Sunday. But as is usually the case, hectic life gets in the way. But I am pleased to say that today we found the time to go to a local farm and see what all the fuss was about!

For those of you that do not know, Open Farm Sunday is a day once a year where farms across the country open their (barn) doors to the public and show them what goes on at the farm.

After a quick bit of research I decided we should head to Badlesmere Court Farm in Faversham. With a long list of things that I thought would interest the children (make friends with the calfs was something I knew would be a highlight for animal lover Millie) and only being a short drive away, it was the perfect choice!

I had intended to pop along for an hour or so but we had such a great time that we ended up staying for almost 4 hours! There certainly was lots to see, we got to chat to local producers and sample some of their foods (we brought some local honey in the hope it will help Chester's Hayfever), we saw lots of Tractors, even went on a Tractor ride. We learnt lots about what cows eat, we also learnt about the cycle of how the cereal we eat goes from the field to our bowls. Chester and Millie had a go at Archery and Crossbow too.  But the true highlights are pictured below...

Learning the process of milking the cows. Millie especially found this fascinating (which is pretty ironic considering she is intolerant to cows milk!) From my point of view it was facinating to see how the process worked, and comforting to see that the cows appeared to be very happy.

Meeting the calves was lovely, they were tiny and very cute! They were in big enclosures too! 

Another big plus for both Chester and Millie was the fact they could just explore! Not only the barns and the animals, but there was also lots of bales of hay to climb and jump across. Chester (as usual) moaned like a teenager before we got to the farm, as he said it would be boring. But leaving the farm his reaction couldn't have been further from that statement. He said he had an awesome afternoon and  he didn't realise there would be so much to see and do. It really was a great afternoon out and I am going to try my best to find time to take part next year too! Did any of you visit a local Farm today as part of Open Farm Sunday? I would love to hear all about it. 

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Changing the balance

For the past 8 years I have neglected myself and my interests, concentrating all of my energy on my Children and making sure they were having a great time. Recently, I have come to realise that it's ok to also take time out for myself without comprimising on the Children's happiness.

If you follow me on social media, you will know that last week I started my couch to 5k journey. I wouldn't say that I enjoyed it, but I did it for myself and hopefully it will get easier as the weeks go by (I am currently trying to motivate myself to do Day 2!).

I have also booked a spa day for next month with a friend from work. It's on a day that Craig has off from work and the kids will be at School so won't miss me anyway! I am so looking forward to this day, it will be a long overdue treat and great to spend it with a friend.

This week we are visiting my parents in Dorset, normally I would try and pack in as much as possible. But this week, for the benefit of all of us, we are going to slow it down. Having some lazy or shorter days.

Yesterday was a stroll around the park, stopping for coffee on the way round. Millie was so happy to find that 'Poppy and Joey' the swans she befriended last year, have had babies. She of course had the honour of naming them; Rosie, Jackson, Jack, Jonny-Joe and Poppy Jr! (Don't even ask where she plucked the names from, I have no idea!). We popped back to my parents for a rest and then I took Chester down to the arcades, where he was over the moon to have 'won' a fidget spinner!

Today, I sent the children and my parents to The Lighthouse theatre to watch Gangsta Granny, whilst I had some really lovely 'me time' wandering around the shops and having an impromptu skincare consultation! Apparently Gangsta Granny was a hit with everyone, and I didn't feel as though I had missed out because I got a full breakdown of the story from Chester and Millie!

I think I have really turned a corner with my mindset and I am really looking forward to enjoying some more 'me time' going forward!

Saturday, 27 May 2017

GBK is coming to Maidstone!

That's right, as the title states, Gourmet Burger Kitchen is coming to Maidstone in Kent! Opening on Bank Holiday Monday at Lockmeadow. Which also happens to house one of Chester and Millie's favourite trampoline parks, so for us as a family, everyone's a winner!

For those of you that are not familiar with GBK (where have you been?!), here is a little background information; Proud of serving gourmet burgers since 2001, GBK kick-started the premium burger trend in the UK, setting itself apart from the rest with a huge range of adventurous crafted burgers. Using only 100% prime beef, hand selected and traditionally reared on independent farms, GBK uses the freshest ingredients in its restaurants every day.

We were very lucky to be invited along to the launch party on Thursday evening for what will be the 86th GBK. We arrived to a lovely bustling and lively restaurant. The decore was very outdoorsy and was very well suited considering Kent is 'The Garden of England'. Another lovely touch was the scrabble tiles dotted around, I actually think I am a little obsessed with that kind of decore and have spent the last couple of days trying to work out how to make it work in our own home!

There is so much to choose from on the menu, so it's a good job really that you choose what you would like and then order up at the bar area. We literally took ages to choose so I would have felt bad having to keep the staff waiting!

Craig and Chester are huge milkshake fans, so they were in their element with loads of tempting flavours to choose from. Chester went for Oreo and Craig went for Salted Caramel with Nutella! I went for Homemade Lemonade, it had been such a warm day on Thursday that it was just what I needed to quench my thirst.

When it came to choosing our burgers it was so hard! I love nearly all of the flavour combinations that GBK offer, and it was very hard not to just go for The Kiwiburger which is just amazing! But I really wanted to try something different so I went for The Satay chicken burger!

Oh.My.Gosh! It was amazing! I am not usually a fan of spice, but I think the balance of the slightly spicy satay sauce with the sweeter relish was perfect! But I had to admit defeat, pared with the scrummy sweet potato fries it was a HUGE meal! Craig went for The Buffalo burger, which was a speciality. He said that it was one of the best burgers he had eaten (and that's saying something for Craig as he loves the American burgers we have eaten on trips to Florida). Chester, who has made up his own song about not liking cheese (only ham), had the kids cheeseburger minus the cheese!

Millie who is incredibly fussy, she will literally only eat Chicken Nuggets, had a kids chicken burger without the bun. Which we passed as a giant Chicken Nugget. Honestly, the things we have to do as parents! At first she was very impressed, but I think she may have eaten a little bit of pepper as she started screaming that her mouth was on fire! Honestly, typical drama queen Millie. So my only critacisisim of the whole evening was to make the children's menu a little more fussy kid friendly. But I would also add that the rest of us enjoyed it so much that we wouldnt be put off by Millie's experience, she absolutely loved the skinny fries so would be happy munching on those!

We had a fab evening, the staff were a lovely friendly bunch and were happy to engage with Chester and Millie. We went home with very full tummies and great first impressions of our new local GBK. So, Thank you for having us GBK, we will back very soon!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

May Day celebrations.

When I think back to Primary School, one of the first memories that springs to mind is Maypole dancing. Every year at the spring fetê our School would dance around the Maypole. It was such an exciting time, even if we weren't doing the dancing, we enjoyed watching it. 

Lots of years have gone by since I was at Primary School, I have moved away from the tiny Village I grew up in. I have often wondered if they have carried on the tradition, and when I moved to a big town I didn't hold out much hope that my own children would get the chance to take part in the May Day traditions. So you can imagine my joy when Chester got a place in a small school on the outskirts of town a few years ago and I found out that they do indeed take part in this tradition! 

This year is Millie's 1st year at Primary School, and she has been so excited for May Day ever since her first day in September. Tomorrow, she finally gets to dance a dance with her class mates and watch as the older children dance around the Maypole. As Chester is getting older he is less enthusiastic, and he is not looking forward to it at all! But hopefully when he see's how excited his Sister is, he will at least enjoy watching her! 

One thing is for sure, I am really looking forward to watching it! 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

SEALIFE London and Shrek's Adventure

Half term is fast approaching and like most parents I am now turning my thought of ways to keep them entertained for the week. Especially, if like this time, I will have the week off of work. Budget is a huge factor in my planning (and I really do think it pays to plan ahead) so I will try and find a mix of 'free' things such as picnic's in the park with friends or a trip to the local beach and then maybe one or two big days out. Cadbury have recently launched a 2-for-1 promotion on their chocolate packs, the voucher means that someone can go free in over 20 top UK attractions with a full paying adult! I love saving money and this is certainly a good excuse to get out and have some fun as a family over the half term without breaking the bank!

The Mumsnet Bloggers Team invited us to pop to London (living in Kent we are very lucky to live only a short train journey away) and take a look around 2 of the attractions that are included in this money saving promotion!

As Craig had to work we decided to take my Sister 'Auntie Sarah' with us for a family filled day of fun. As we were tourists for the day we just couldn't resist this photo.....

We visited SEALIFE London first and arrived shortly after the 9:30am opening time. If you are visiting my one big recommendation would be to arrive as close to this time as you can. We enjoyed wandering around at our own pace with relatively low crowds. When we left the queue to get in was huge! As a family, we are big fans of SEALIFE as we can see all of the good they are doing for conservation. But the last time we had visited this particular SEALIFE location was for Millie's 2nd Birthday! A lot has changed since then! Millie is 5 so she is at an age where imagination is key to her day, she spent most of her time talking to the fish and wondering what they were doing. A real highlight for her was being able to touch a starfish! Chester is 8 so he loved reading the fun facts about the fish, but was also very concerned when he realised some of the fish were endangered. It really struck a cord with him and I am very pleased that he is grown up enough to understand what is happening in the world around us and what we can do to change it.

The star of the show though has to be the new Ocean Invaders section, which as it at the end, I can happily say that they certainly saved the best until last! It has a real wow factor! Very interactive for the children too. There is a part where you can put your hand in and 'feel' a jelly fish (obviously not a real jelly fish, that would just be irresponsible parenting!). You can even play a game on one of many interactive touch screens that link up to a big screen in front of you. Auntie Sarah and Millie were fascinated with the Sunbathing Jelly Fish.

The whole area just totally immersed you in an underwater adventure with them! I managed to film a short walk through of just one section of the Ocean Invaders so that you can see for yourself just how immersive it really is....

But the fun wasn't over yet! We then popped next door to Shrek's Adventure, which is something the children have been asking about for ages. We are all fans of Shrek and the other DreamWorks films, but for Panda loving Millie she is all about Kung Fu Panda (Po), so was extra excited!

I had already done my research before the visit so I knew that I would not be able to film or take pictures inside the main part of the tour, so I have to say before arriving I was a bit twitchy about that! I am never without a camera or at least my phone! But I have to say, it was actually the best thing they could have done. I was able to really enjoy the experience without missing anything due to being too busy on my phone etc!

You start off with Princess Fiona who gets everyone to sing so that we can create some magic to get the 4d bus to work! The bus was fantastic! I wont spoil it as it really is something you should experience for yourself, but with Donkey at the wheel lets just say that its not exactly an easy ride! It included cameo roles from the Penguins of Madagascar and Po, the looks on Chester and Millie's faces were priceless. A real magical moment.

The way Shrek's Adventure is set up is like a tour, so you have a maximum of 40 people in your tour group which means its not too crowded and the costume characters did a great job of making sure all of the children could see. After your trip on the 4d bus your mission is to get safely back to London, with some help along the way. The costume characters are key to making this attraction work, each room of the tour contains one and they were all fantastic! The tour is very interactive, and does require audience participation, but not in a cheesy way. Its very well done, Chester was lucky enough to be picked out to help on a couple of occasions, his favourite interaction being with The Muffin Man. In fact I would say this was our favourite of the rooms, it smelt just like a bakery and the costume character playing The Muffin Man was so funny that even the adults were laughing along! The attention to detail going through the tour was great, and meant that the adults got just as much out of it as the children. The corridors between each room or area were filled with nods to the Shrek films, I especially liked the 3 little pigs houses/signs on their doors!

When you eventually get safely back to London, there is an opportunity to meet Shrek! You are allowed to get your cameras out for this, but sadly I managed to miss capturing the lovely huge hug that both Chester and Millie gave Shrek! They just couldn't believe he was there waiting to greet us!

Then we got the opportunity to walk around a DreamWorks area filled with fun props for great photo opportunities and even some interactive areas in the Kung Fu Panda area. As you can imagine, with a very excited Millie, we spent a lot of time in here!

I even managed to capture this very short video of Millie trying to learn how to do the same moves as Po!

We had a really fantastic family day out, and with the 2 for 1 vouchers I can really see how this can be made into an affordable day out. My only criticisms would be that there is not really anywhere to sit and eat your lunch (if you chose to bring your own), and on the subject of food, Chester questioned why there wasn't a café selling the waffles that Donkey loves? That could be a really great addition!

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. I have received a voucher in return for writing this post

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Shoe box Rainforest

Millie is currently learning about the Rainforest at School, and recently, as part of her homework she was asked to make a rainforest in a shoe box. As Millie absolutely loves arts and crafts, she was very excited to tell me her ideas so we could shop for materials!

This is how she got on;

First up, she needed to make the shoebox look a bit more green!  So she used some coloured paper and glued it to the inside of the box.

 Then she needed to make some trees, so she used some brown tissue paper and glued it onto some toilet roll tubes. Next she used cotton wool and green tissue paper to make the 'leaves'. Now, I could have helped her with this part so it looked more leaf like, but Millie really wanted to do it herself and to be honest I really love encouraging her independence! We also found an old log that our Hamster was no longer using so put that in too! 

Millie really wanted a lake in her Rainforest, so that she could make some frogs sitting on some lily Pads! So, she cut out a lake shape piece of blue tissue paper and stuck it to the base. Next she ripped up some brown tissue paper and scrunched into little balls to make mud for around the lake. We had some foam stickers to use as lily pads and made the frogs with Pom poms and googly eyes. 

Lastly, Millie really wanted to make a sock snake. So we stuffed an old sock  with cotton wool and secured it with a pipe cleaner. I cut a small hole so that Millie could insert a red pipe cleaner for his tongue, and then Millie used colouring pens to add some patterns to her snake. You will see that she also found some monkey stickers to fix to the back and used a pipe cleaner to make them look like they were swinging on a vine. She also attached a Red Panda to the top, it will come as no surprise to most that a Panda was an essential part for Millie! 

I am amazed that she managed to pull off such a fantastic looking Rainforest with very little input from me. She has clearly learnt a lot at school since she started in September, and I really hope her creative streak stays with her! 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

I'm back!

Hey everyone, as you may have noticed I haven't been on here for a while.

There are lots of reasons why.

We moved house right before Christmas, which was a huge stress! I can honestly say that I would NEVER recommend anyone to buy/sell their house right on top of Christmas! But it's done now and we are very happy in our new home, even if it needs a lot more work than we first thought!

Since last summer I found out that I had Skin Cancer on my face. So that has been a huge concern. A few weeks ago it was finally removed and confirmed 100% to be Cancer. I don't quite know how I feel about that at the moment. On the one hand I am glad it's out but on the other hand I am very concerned I might get more. Skin cancer and cancer in general sadly is something that is in my Family. But never did I imagine at the age of 32 I would be told I had it!

My Sister got Married in Walt Disney World at the beginning of March, so we went over for that and had an amazing Holiday. Sadly we didn't get time to do everything we wanted to, so we will of course have to go back!

I will also admit that during all of this I kind of lost my blogging mojo. I had so much going on in my home life that I think one more thing to think about would have sent me over the edge, something had to give and sadly it was my blog.

The last 12 months have been one long horrific stressful nightmare for me and I am really hoping that  we never have to go through any of it (apart from Holidays to Disney of course) ever again.

I have learnt a lot.

 I have learnt to say no more often and not feel guilty about it. If people are going to throw a tantrum over me saying no, I don't need that kind of negativity in my life.

I have learnt that I need more time for myself, my children are the centre of my world, but sometimes I need to put myself first. That also goes for my relationship with my husband. We recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary, where we had the most amazing meal out and didn't stop talking and laughing the whole evening. I want more evenings like that.

I have learnt that I need to slow down a little bit, I am very aware that we are a busy family. But sometimes what is needed is a duvet day to appreciate the little things. Time is precious and at the moment I feel it is going way to quickly.

And lastly, but most importantly, I have learnt that my little family bubble of 4 are the most important people in my life. I am not saying other people are not important, but the 3 adorable people I live with are my number 1 priority in life. They are the ones that make me smile (sometimes cry) and they have been the ones to pick me up and carry me through this awful year! I love them with all my heart.

So! Onwards and upwards! 2017 is going to be amazing!