The weekends are for family days and if you follow me on social media you will probably see that we spend a lot of time at the beach. We visit the nearest one the most but there are so many wonderful ones local and last weekend we decided to head over to one of our favourites which has an amazing cafe right on the promenade.
It is about a 20 minute drive and we had a Peugeot SUV 5008 on loan for the week so we jumped in there to head over. We needed to upgrade to a bigger car after the third child really as with ours all being so close in age we found three car seats across the middle a bit snug and we love the space of having a bigger car now. The three boys are all in high backed boosters and we put two in the back seats and one in the middle with Cora in her harnessed seat. The 5008 has three proper seats across the middle so we could have fit three seats if we needed to but it was snug. Dylan at 7 is technically tall enough to go without a car seat now but we prefer to keep him in one so spreading them out made more sense.
The boys loved the roof window so they could watch the sky and on this hot day we all loved the fantastic air con! The car has a i-Cockpit 8 inch touch screen panel at the front which you can use for the inbuilt GPS, music, air con and air freshener settings and lots more. We managed to pack everything we needed in the boot including a little stroller, buckets and spades, jumpers for all just in case and a cool bag with some drinks and snacks in. The boot isn't huge with all the seats up but it was fine for what we needed as you can see below! The boot opened with the touch of a button and shut with one too which was exciting. Ed has come away from the experience of borrowing this desperate to buy a new car!
We parked up on the cliff top and had a wonderful day at the beach, meeting family for lunch, the obligatory ice cream and plenty of digging holes. The boys have lost interest in sandcastles at the moment but they have an endless fascination with digging the biggest holes and they found new friends who had already made a start. Finn and Cora are always desperate to get in the sea and I was greatful that I had spare clothes. We love our local beach but visiting different ones is more exciting now and they love the variations, especially as the tide can come all the way in at this one (which means you have to check the tides before you visit as there may not be any sand!).
At the end of the day everyone was exhausted but thankfully we had the Peugeot 5008 parked up ready for us all. Ed as the driver was really grateful for the massage function on the drivers chair after an afternoon spent digging sand and I loved the charging panel for phones which meant you don't even need to plug them in, although there is a USB slot too for any phones that need a cable. We were really impressed with the automatic lights that put on full beam as we were driving down country lanes and took them straight off again as soon as a car appeared. As well as being an automatic to drive, so much else was taken care of making it an easy driving experience and we didn't want to give it back at the end of the week!
I have to admit, we hadn't really considered a day out at the races to be a family activity until recently but this summer we are working with Great British Racing and after spending last Saturday at Ascot for the Summer Mile, my mind has been well and truly changed.
We arrived in the morning dressed in our finest and the racecourse was dominated by a huge magestic building, people were dressed wonderfully and the staff were incredibly helpful. We were being treated to lunch in a private box so we headed up there to meet everyone and find out more about the day. The children were so excited to see everything and there really was so much to see.
This summer there are 50 family race days out of the 200 fixtures across the country and children under 18 go free to them all. The Summer Mile was really family friendly and it was great to see so many children around. There was a specific family area full of fun things to do like a helter skelter, teacups and other rides, a huge stunt pillow to jump onto, circus skills workshops, a wooden marble run and lots more and there were no additional charges which I was so impressed with - there wasn't even big queues!
As part of our experience we were taken to the weighing room to find out more about why the jockeys are weighed and the children were allowed a go on the scales too. We met one of the jockeys about to get ready for her races and the kids loved listening to her and finding out more about what the job entails. Back up in the box there was a huge colouring wall set out for the children too letting them know about all the different jobs that exist at a race course, from the manager to the vets and everything in between.
There were 7 races on the day and plenty of time in between them to enjoy some food and drink and a turn on one of the rides or activities. We were also lucky enough to get to cross the track and see one of the races from the other side starting with loading the horses into the box and ending on the finishing line. The children all chose who they wanted to win based purely on the colour of their silks and we cheered on our chosen horses. The atmosphere was fantastic and we could see the excitement from everyone watching.
There was so much to do and see and we can't wait to attend another family day this summer with a picnic and our fancy clothes again (I do love an excuse to dress up!). The children had such a great day and it really was so much fun as a family. To find out more about ‘Under 18s Race Free’ and find a family race day near you, go to www.under18sracefree.com
We had such an amazing week at the Villages Nature Centre Parcs in Paris and we definitely made the most of everything that was included in our stay as well as paying for a few extra experiences to make it more special. I have written about our stay there but I wanted to share 5 of our favourite activities from the week too.
1) The adventure playground set in the woodlands was just fantastic. There was something for every age right up to mine and the wooden and natural style made it really stand out. It was huge, exciting and full of challenges, slides and climbing equipment and we could have spent much longer there. There is a little hut nearby where there is a free show some afternoons but the boys just wanted to run and climb in the playground.
2) Right next to the playground was a building where you could hire jeeps for the children to drive around and we took 2 out for half an hour one afternoon. The children are in control of the jeeps but the adult is given a master switch where one button switches the engine off immediately so you can keep them away from danger. The recommended age for this was 3-12 but Dylan is a very tall 7 year old and was getting a bit big so I would say more 3-8 years really. The boys all thought it was the best thing ever and it was a reasonable price for the experience.
3) Onsite is a free farm where you can pet the goats and visit the chickens, horses and other animals. There is a lovely cafe in the middle with the most fantastic soft play including trampolines and ball blasters with a wooden natural theme. The farm was open every day and it felt like having a day out with no extra cost. My tiny animal lover wanted to bring all the goats back home with her!
4) As we were away with extended family, it gave me a little freedom to do something just for me and I picked the high wires course. I hadn't done something like this before and it was so much fun! I was fitted with a harness and taught how to work the carabiner clip system and after some practice we were sent out into the forest to try the routes we wanted to. It was terrifying at first but a great way to try something new and the courses were so extensive that after 2.5 hours in the forest I had only seen a small number of routes. There is a junior version for children from 6 upwards.
5) Centre Parcs are known for their swimming pools and this might just have been our favourite thing as a family. The pool complex was huge with something for everyone. There was a wave pool, a playground pool for little kids and one for bigger kids, an adventure pool, a lazy river, outdoor pools and so so many water slides. At 1.05 metres there were quite a few slides that Finn could do even as a non-swimmer as they ended in shallow water and there were some scarier ones for the brave adults too. We spent hours in the pools everyday and there were free float vests for the children to use. My brother has visited the UK Centre Parcs and says Villages Nature is definitely superior in this department!
We had such a fantastic week and lots of the best things about it were included in the price rather than being extras! If we were staying longer there were plenty of experiences we could have added on too.
Over the month of June we were trying hard to do something outdoors everyday around the school days as part of 30 days wild and this ended last weekend with us planning a wild night out. Millets are encouraging people to spend more time outside and to help with our garden camping plans they sent us one of their Eurohike air tents, and some camping essentials so we could spend a night under the stars.
We usually try and pitch our tent with four wild children running around but I managed to put up the Eurohike Air 600 in around 20 minutes alone. There are no poles, you just use a manual pump to inflate the three big beams and then peg it into the ground as usual! The tent has two bedrooms which we popped our air beds into and Millets had sent us some sleeping bags too and a tent carpet for our living area. The children were so excited and got into the spirit pretty quickly.
Camping means eating outdoors and we still had the BBQ out from Cora's party so we cooked up the leftovers and afterwards skewered some giant marshmallows to roast. The children struggled to eat their dinner knowing marshmallows were coming and were far too impatient to let them melt properly before wolfing them down!
Getting settled in a tent is never easy with four excitable children but the wonders of the weekend are that it doesn't matter if they stay up late and run around outdoors until they are totally exhausted. When we visit campsites we try and stay near a playground for this reason and when they are tired enough, they come in for a snuggle and a book by the light of the lantern. Once we get them in bed Ed and I can chill out with a drink and watch the stars.
Last summer we pitched the tent in the garden for a few days and the boys had their friends round to sleepover in it and we will definitely be doing the same things during the summer holidays as they absolutely love sleeping outdoors and when they wake up in the morning they stay out there playing. The Eurohike air tent is so much easier to put up and take down, it took less than 10 minutes to get it from upright to back in the bag and only about one minute to deflate it completely which is what we need with lots of little children running around!
The additional 'footprint' made pitching even easier.
Goodbye June and hello summer! June was a month of little adventures, days at the beach and in the woods, cinema trips and swimming and the preparing for the end of the school year. These final weeks always seem to take forever as everyone loses motivation but Finn has been excitedly doing his settling in sessions and there isn't long until he will be in a fresh blue polo shirt too! June had plenty of parties including Cora's and it was the last month I could say I had a baby (and even that was pushing it) as my little girl is now 3!
This month I loved spending all day at the beach, playing Pokemon Go on my phone, giving landscape photography a go and throwing a huge garden party.
Ed loved a childfree weekend at Download festival, seeing Tool play, cooking all the bbq food and finding a new favourite beer.
Dylan loved planning his birthday party and sending out very early invitations, having a bouncy castle in the garden, going to school earlier in the morning so he has more time to play and watching The Kid Who Would Be King on DVD.
Archie loved riding a horse at a birthday party, lots of after school play-dates with his friends, swinging on a rope swing in the woods and dressing himself head to toe in pink.
Finn loved seeing the new Toy Story film, going to his swimming lessons, spending time in his new school classroom and playing in the tent in the garden.
Cora loved opening all her birthday presents, stroking every dog she can find and trying to take them all home with her, a toy My Little Pony that her friend gave her and swimming.
Tonight I put you to bed in your own room, the last time as a two year old but before I had made it to the bottom of the stairs I heard you dart out and climb into my bed where you would much rather be and sure enough I found you snuggled up in the middle waiting for me when I went up to check on you.
It was your last day as a two year old which means tomorrow is the day you have been talking about for so long, your birthday. It started with a small crowd, you wanted to invite Elsa from Frozen, Archie and his best friend, a horse and a spotty dog, but now you spend the day listing all the friends and people you want to come along, with your best friend Freddie always being top of the list. You know exactly what you want and I love that strength in your character (most of the time). Unfortunately what you want most for your birthday is a pet dog so you may be a little disappointed in the morning!
This has been the year you made close friendships, found the things and people you love and learnt to pull the best sulking face. Everything is pink and ideally fluffy and My Little Pony features heavily and you talk about your brothers like you own each one of them. Collectively they are 'my boys' when you mention them and you love picking Finn up from nursery so you can hold hands on the way home.
You are so fiercely independent in your actions, you dress yourself, you put on your own shoes, you can do it all, but you only want to do anything if I am there. You get upset if I ever leave the house without you, even just to take the boys to school and you want to be within touching distance of me at all times, preferably on my lap. I thought this phase would have ended by now but it is showing no signs of slowing down!
You have big feelings and you understand so much. You tell me you are sad, or worried or ever so happy and you greet me with such love every time I come back from somewhere, even the bathroom. You are cuddly and affectionate with everyone and even though I have told you many times that we always ask before stroking a dog, I see you put your hand out for a quick 'fluff' when we walk past any.
You are cheeky and mischievous, your hair is always wild and you strip off at any opportunity. You are such a 'girly girl' in so many ways but you are always grubby, covered in felt pen and getting stuck in too.
Everything I said in this letter as you turned two, and this one as you turned one still applies, you are still so much the same character, just with more dimensions each year. I can't wait for the adventures of three but before they begin I want to pause, just for a moment to soak up everything you are now. I want to remember the feeling of your arms round my neck, your nose against mine. I want to remember the way you take care of me when I feel ill, the way you tell me that I am your best friend, completely unprompted, the way you make me feed your teddy in the morning before you have your milk. You will never be this small again. The clocks will move forward and so will you but I never want to forget this wonderful stage in your life.
Baby girl, you are more loved than you will ever know
Both the little two have shot up in the past year, far more than the average amount and very little from last summer is going to fit. Little Green Radicals send us a few pieces from their stunning new collection though and I think they are going to be summer staples. I have loved LGR for years now and have bought so much so they are a great brand to work with! Not only is their clothing organic, it is also fairtrade and designed with childhood in mind.
Finn's shorts look so smart but they are soft jersey cotton and so comfy. I love the little red button on the back pocket and how they will go with so much. His t-shirt is covered in colourful lion faces and is one of his favourites. Cora's leggings are the perfect shade of yellow which means they are back on almost as soon as they are out the washing machine and I love how floaty and light her top is. At the bottom of this post you will find a wonderful summer beach dress too which is so beautiful in real life.
I wanted to take photos in this field as I took them in the same place last year when I worked with Little Green Radicals and I think they show the stunning colours - I can't believe how much they have grown! As always I have too many photos but I think they help show how the clothing really looks, how it moves and how comfy they find it. Finn is an average height 4 year old and I went for 4-5 shorts and 5-6 in top as we prefer them bigger. Cora is a petite 2 year old (34 months here) wearing 2-3. I often buy a size bigger than what they usually wear for the tops and dresses and the correct size for bottoms.
And here is the stunning frill dress which I am tempted to buy in a bigger size for next year too!
The Kent coast is such a beautiful area and so easily accessible from central London. It is full of unique towns with amazing personalities, independent businesses and lovely people. To celebrate Southeastern’s Off-Peak Day Return Offer from London to 12 wonderful towns, we were asked to discover some of Deal’s hidden gems along with our four children.
1) Pop Up Cafe
First thing is first and that should always be coffee. We found a little place called Pop Up Cafe that offered food made freshly onsite and the coffee smelled great so we went in. The menu was simple and full of their homemade sourdough bread which I loved! They offered a variety of alternative milks for coffee including oat (my favourite) and did simple things like cheese or jam sandwiches for the kids. We stocked up ready for a busy day and left to look for the coast.
2) Deal Beach
Deal has a long pebble beach which starts level with the promenade and drops down a few times towards the sea. It was beautiful to walk along but what the children loved most was running down the pebble hills and learning to skim stones. They were determined to throw all the stones back in the sea but sadly we ran out of time for them to do this. We made towers, we had races and they had to be dragged away when it was time to leave!
3) Deal Pier
Deal Pier was built in 1864 although it has recently been renovated and is lined with fisherman. You can hire everything you need at the entrance although we decided not to
this time and there is a welcoming little cafe at the end where you can buy lunch or ice cream and look out over the sea. There is a walkway all around the outside so you can look out or back on the colourful seafront of Deal town and it definitely needs to be visited as part of a trip. It was only a few minutes walk from the train station (as everything is in Deal) so it was so easy to get here too.
4) The Lane Bakery
The most important thing I want to know when I visit a new town, is where to get the best cakes and I asked a few people who know this area and always got the same response.
The Lane Bakery is only a 2 minute walk from the train station and has the most amazing selection of cakes - so much so that it took us about 10 minutes just to decide what to have! I will be making a trip back to make sure I don’t miss out on the cookie dough chocolate brownie! It is open 7 days a week and does plenty of vegan and gluten free options. The Bakery is one of two local businesses owned by Anna and Chris and their cafe looked just as delicious!
5) The Arcades
Further along the seafront, we found a small vintage looking arcade where you could ride a painted horse for 20 pence and spend all your two pences. There were stools for the little
ones and we could collect tickets to buy something special at the end (our children chose a calculator!). No trip to a seaside town is complete without ice cream and the arcades in our opinion and this one was easy to find, just a little way along from the pier and within easy walking distance from Deal train station (about 10 minutes if you have little children in tow).
Everything in the town was so close and accessible and we loved not having to find parking and being able to jump on the train when it was time to go home (with a fish and chips picnic to make it a truly British seaside day out!
For the first time last week we went on a big family holiday, travelling not just the six of us but also with my parents, my sister, my brother and his family. 13 of us got into cars and caught the ferry to Calais before driving to Villages Nature, a French Centre Parcs site just outside Paris. We had three cottages which were all attached and a private garden at the back.
Ours had 3 bedrooms, free wifi and a lovely communal area as well as two bathrooms and a seperate toilet. It was a fantastic space for the six of us and the children loved having their family next door too! The parc is big and green and everywhere you look there are trees, flowers and lakes. There were several playgrounds including a huge one in the enchanted forest, a giant pool complex with indoor and outdoor pools and plenty of slides for big and little people and there was an onsite farm with a cafe and soft play. It had all the usual Centre Parcs activities from tree tops trekking to escape rooms, to den building and climbing walls and we loved trying new things.
What we loved most though was spending time together. The children got so much one on one time thanks to lovely family who would take them off on little adventures, water slides and for visits to the bakery. It meant we got to spend dedicated one on one time with them as well as them having it with other family members and it made it really special.
The parc is situated about 10 minutes drive from Disneyland Paris and there is a bus that runs between the two. We couldn't resist a day trip there and ended up staying until midnight so that we could watch the Illuminations show which is just beautiful and lights up the castle. Finn's highlight was definitely being tall enough for Big Thunder Mountain and he couldn't get enough of the wild rollercoaster.
Cora loved seeing all the animals in the parc's onsite farm, stroking the goats, cows and horses and planning which ones she wanted to smuggle out with her and keep. She loved the play area in the farm too and I think she would love to try out the pony rides if we visit again as she was just a little bit too small.
Archie loved the waterslides and there were quite a few he could do. There was a fast one in a rubber ring which was my favourite and the two big boys loved the outdoors one in the middle of the rapids that never had a queue. I think all four children would have spent the whole week in the pools given the choice!
Dylan loved the big adventure playground set in the woodlands and playing games in it. It was the perfect place for hide and seek, tag or any other game they could make up and it was a shame we didn't have longer to spend there as there was so much more to explore.
The parc had something for all of us and was a great family place. We loved spending time as an extended family and it is definitely somewhere we would love to visit again!
I have plenty of photos I want to share, so here are a few
We stayed in a 3 bed Country Premium Cottage and each rooms was decorated with a different nature based theme.
The photos of the big enchanted forest one are in another post, these are just from other playgrounds around the parc.
The farm was really interactive with lots of animals that were happy to be touched but they all had plenty of space to get away from humans too. There were big fields for the horses and cows around the outskirts of the main farm areas.
Hiring a Jeep
This was a big hit with the three boys (Cora had a nap) as we hired two jeeps that they could drive around the park. Ed and I had a remote control for them both that switched off the engine with one touch just incase!
The Parc in general.
It had an easy layout with the big swimming complex easy to spot! There was so much green.
Our day at Disney
My four children and I all wore our Disney gear for a lovely day on the rides, watching the parade and the illuminations
The Activity Centre
The big boys had a go on the climbing wall whilst the adults did a ninja warrior course. There were other games and activities and everything was pretty reasonable (2 euros each for the ninja course, 6 euros each for the climbing wall). It was located next door to the pool.
May has been a fun filled month ending with a week in France with the extended family and we have entered June ready for the summer. Due to a couple of laptop disasters, one the result of bad luck and one the result of a bad temper (not mine), nothing has been done on time and for the first time I am writing my monthly photo post 2 days late! The photos were taken in May though, in the pools at Centre Parcs in Paris where you are allowed to take in phones. This was where the kids wanted to be and so it made sense to get a quick photo here!
This month I have loved seeing Take That (twice), a week away with all my family, doing the tree tops trek at Centre Parcs and a night out at an Indie Disco with friends.
Ed has loved going on holiday with a better adult to child ratio, teaching himself to swim, attempting the ninja course at Centre Parcs and anything with halloumi in.
Dylan has loved getting muddy at Lidl Mudder, having one on one time during our trip away, moving up a lesson at swimming and his school trip to Harry Potter Studios.
Archie has loved his first experience of big water slides, after school beach trips, staying in a house next to uncle Oli and a school trip to Pizza Express.
Finn has loved Thunder Mountain at Disneyland, lots of birthday parties, burying himself at the beach and driving a mini jeep.
Cora has loved 'fluffing' all the animals at the farm, her new leopard print shoes, spending lots of time at the beach and Aunty NatNat