Archive by Author

Home-made ice lollies – a Center Parcs Challenge!

25 Jul

P1030565We love making our own ice lollies, so when Center Parcs challenged us to make some we jumped at the chance! There are lots of tips for making lollies here.

I had seen some great recipes just recently in The Daily Telegraph so I thought we would try the Minted Milk Lollies.

Here is the recipe we used:

30g fresh mint leaves (we used all the leaves from a plant that we bought at the supermarket)

450 ml whole milk

250 ml double cream

125g granulated sugar

To make the lollies:

Crush the mint in a bowl with the back of a wooden spoon. This will help the flavour of the mint to seep out.

In a saucepan heat the milk, cream and sugar until almost boiling.

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Remove from the heat and add the mint. Leave this to cool and infuse. (We left it for about 4 hours but you might want to leave in the fridge overnight)

Strain the liquid to remove any mint and pour into your lolly containers.

Freeze and enjoy- preferably in a secret den on a hot summers day!

lollies-den

Check out our recipe for Blackcurrant Lollies. Great if your children won’t normally eat Blackcurrants!

‘I’m a Center Parcs Family Blogger and have visited Longleat village with my family. If you want to enter to win a place as a wildcard winner just go to the challenge page to find out how

 

Swell UK Pond Products – review post

16 Jul

A few months back I was contacted by Swell UK to ask if I would be interested in reviewing one of their products. This came at a good time for us, we had just been tearing our hair out trying to work out how to sort out our slimy, green pond! I was put in touch with their pond expert who gave us some excellent advice. he recommended trying one of their filters and gave us all the technical information we needed to be able to install this.

thomas-filter

Our lovely new filter arrived the next day!

 

Before installing the filter we did give the pond a good clean and removed as much sludge as possible. We left the new water to settle for about a week before installing the filter and in this time the water had already started to go murky and horrid so I was unsure as to how much benefit we would really get from a filter.

Installation was easy (or so Green Daddy tells me!)  and he had it installed and running in no time. After running it for a few days we noticed there was a leak somewhere but couldn’t quite work out where. Again, we got in touch with their pond expert who quickly suggested a few things that we should try. It turned out that our own waterfall was the culprit so we fixed that and now all is running perfectly.

Look at how disgusting our pond was when we started! There were about 50 fish in there and you couldn’t see them at all.

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It has been just two weeks since the pond has been running and you can see in the pictures below that it has made a HUGE difference!

 

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Pond-after

 

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The service from SwellUK was excellent. Everyone I had contact with was so helpful and professional. I love how they have experts on hand to give advice and their after-sales support is also brilliant.  Their prices are reasonable, I did a comparison of filter prices and they are about average with other sellers.  Their website is very easy to navigate and full of lots of useful information. I love their page about creating a wildlife garden.

I would definitely recommend SwellUK for pond products. They also have two other sites, Swell Reptiles and Swell Pets We are SO happy with our lovely, clear pond!

 

 

Disclaimer:  We were provided with a pond filter for purposes of review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by SWellUK.

The Big Butterfly Count!

14 Jul

BBC Poster

 

The Big Butterfly Count is the world’s biggest survey of butterflies and is due to take place from Saturday 19th July to Sunday 10th August 2014. Taking part in the count is fun and easy and will help conservationists monitor the state of our butterfly population. It is a great fun activity to do with the children and you can do the count in your garden, at the park, in the woods or even in a school.

You can find all the information you need from the Big Butterfly Count website. you can also download a useful ID chart from this page and log your results online. You can take part in the count as many times as you like, from as many different locations as you like. You can also check out the results so far to see which butterflies have already been spotted in your area.  There is also a handy little app which allows you to record your count on the go! You can download the iphone version here

We love getting the children involved in nature and this is a great way to teach them about different species of butterflies and about how we can help Butterfly Conservation.

 

BBC

Buttercups and Boomerangs

25 May

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Last weekend we were tackling a big project in the garden so there was not much time for anything else. We are lucky that the children still amuse themselves well in the garden, we don’t have a lot of space for them to run around but they certainly do make the most of the space that we have. At the end of the weekend we really needed to escape from the digging and pruning and decided to head out to the woods.

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We happened to come across the most beautiful field of buttercups and had so much fun for a couple of hours. Luckily we had taken some Boomerangs with us that our lovely Auntie Tina brought back with her from her last visit home from Australia.  Needless to say none of us could get the Boomerang to come back! If anyone knows the art of throwing a Boomerang so that is does return, I would love to know!

Lily loved make a Buttercup necklace and the husband and I enjoyed just being able to relax and watch the children having fun. It just goes to reinforce what I have always believed. Children do not need electric gadgets and games to be able to play. All they need is the space to be free!

 

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Finding the Boomerang was sometimes a challenge!

Finding the Boomerang was sometimes a challenge!

 

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I am linking this post up with Country Kids over at the Coombe Mill Farm Blog. We hope to visit there one day, it looks amazing and everything my children dream of!

The great outdoors – Center Parcs Challenge

24 May

Our camera is always full of photographs and I can only hope that I will eventually get around to downloading and saving them. I really need to be more organised with this so that I can find them when I need them.  I will add it to my list of things to do!

Anyway, I wanted to share these sunny shots that I took in the beginning of May. As I sit here writing this the rain is coming down like stair rods and I have my big woolly jumper on. We certainly have some changeable weather in the UK! I am linking this post up to the Center Parcs May Challenge. Entrants can win a holiday to Center Parcs by entering this challenge. Head on over to the entry page to have a look.

Apple Blossom is always a welcome sight  after a long wet winter

Apple Blossom is always a welcome sight after a long wet winter

 

Talking of apples ... look at this one that we spotted at Cotehele Mill!

Talking of apples … look at this one that we spotted at Cotehele

 

Our Wisteria has had the best blooms ever this year.

Our Wisteria has had the best blooms ever this year.

 

One of my favourite flowers

One of my favourite flowers

 

Another favourite of mine!

Another favourite of mine!

 

Hellebores

Hellebores

 

One thing I really love about late spring is that it gives us the most amazing light. Perfect for capturing those shots that we want to keep in our minds forever. This is another picture take at Cotehele, I love the light in this one and the cheeky look on my little man’s face!

Tom Tom

 

‘I’m a Center Parcs Family Blogger and I visited Longleat village with my family in March. You can see my review here.  If you want to enter to win a place as a wildcard winner just go to the challenge page to find out how http://bit.ly/1okzxJv

Butterfly Conservation – Special offer family membership

20 May
Brimstone Butterfly

Brimstone Butterfly

A few days ago I had a lovely email from Becky at Butterfly Conservation.  As a family we work hard to attract butterflies to our garden and we get quite excited when we spot an unusual Butterfly or Moth in our garden. Some months ago my husband came running into the house and excitedly bustled  us all outside to see a Hummingbird Hawk Moth. Unfortunately in my excitement, I forgot to take a photograph but here’s one I grabbed from their website.

Humming Bird Hawk Moth

Humming Bird Hawk Moth

The Butterfly Conservation website has lots of useful information on it. You can use it to identify Butterflies that you may have spotted and you can also find out how you can do your bit to encourage Butterflies into your garden. They also have a family fun page with lots of ideas for Butterfly themed activities.  A family membership with this charity is something that the whole family will enjoy. Every penny of your membership goes to helping preserve our Butterfly population. You can find more information about how your money is spent here. To get 25% off family membership, enter the code FAMILY25 at checkout. This is valid for the month of May only.

Family Membership includes:

-          A Junior magazine filled with information and activities

-          A ‘Let’s look for Butterflies’ sticker book

-          Butterfly and moth ID charts

-          A set of colouring pencils

There are lots of other benefits, check out their membership page for more information. Membership would also make a wonderful gift for someone so why not head over to their website and take a look?  They are also running a children’s competition at the moment. They would like children to design a T Shirt and the winning design will be printed onto T Shirts that will be sold in their online shop. More details are here

 

 

Hoburne Devon Bay Review

6 May

As a Blogger/Assessor with Approved Family Friendly, we recently visited Hoburne Devon Bay near Paignton. Hoburne already have the Approved Family Friendly Certification but this needs to be renewed every year. This is good practice as it means that providers are constantly having to maintain and improve their facilities to ensure that they can meet the requirements of this certification.

Devon Bay is perfectly located for exploring the Torbay area. There are loads of family attractions nearby, our favorite being Paignton Zoo. This is the best zoo we have ever visited although it is pretty expensive. Get there as early as you can and spend the whole day. There is loads to see and do and you will get the full benefit of your days entry. Paignton Zoo is a leading conservation and education charity so at least you know that your money is going to be well spent. Other excellent places to visit are Cockington Court,  Occombe Farm and Splashdown Water Park. Paignton Seafront is also worth a visit, it is a traditional seaside resort with colourful beach huts and a Victorian pier.  There are many walks from the Hoburne site including a 15 minute walk to Goodrington (note this one is not pram friendly).

We had a lovely day out at Cockington, including stopping for a gorgeous cream tea at Rose Cottage. This is a lovely restaurant with vast gardens and huge pond. Children are welcome to run around and have fun, ours spent ages rolling down the hill!

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Rose Cottage Tearoom and Gardens

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Be sure to try the scones!

 

I wonder how many tearooms have a nesting Moorhen?

I wonder how many tearooms have a nesting Moorhen?

There are two swimming pools on site, one indoors and one outside. Both pools were of a good size and the indoor pool also has a flume which our children loved! There is a good seating area where you can watch the rest of the family if you don’t fancy a dip yourself.

 

Outdoor pool, in the rain!

Outdoor pool, in the rain!

We stayed in a 3 bedroom caravan which was immaculate. It had gated decking which went around two sides of the caravan. This meant the children could safely play on the decking without us worrying about them. There is an excellent shop on site which is well stocked with everything you could possibly need.

There is a good programme of entertainment for both adults and children. We were there over Easter and the Easter Egg hunt was very popular! The park also offers two restaurants, an indoor play area, 10 pin bowling and a small games arcade. Although we didn’t use the restaurants we could see that they were both very family friendly, offering a good selection of children’s meals. One restaurant offers outdoor seating near the playground so you can enjoy sitting outside whilst still keeping an eye on the children.

The playground is excellent and with sea views directly behind it, it is a pleasure to perch yourself on a bench and watch them play as the sun goes down.

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Hoburne gets a thumbs up from us,  for being family friendly and for being in a great location!

Would you like to recommend a holiday park that is family friendly? Do  leave a comment and we will check it out.

 

Center Parcs Challenge – Easter Nests

26 Apr

cake-one

 

This month’s blogger challenge from Center Parcs is to create your own Easter nests. Ooh, this got my taste buds going I can tell you! Cake sprang to mind pretty quickly (as it usually does!)

There are lots of tips for making Easter nests over on their challenge page.

I decided to make some gluten-free Easter nests so that I could eat them too! We practiced making some birds nests in the garden before hand, using some grass, leaves and sticks. We talked about the kind of colour that birds nests can be and we decided that if the birds used lots of moss then the nests would be mainly green. (Thank goodness as I didn’t have any brown food colouring!)

Here is the recipe we used. It only made 7 cakes so you might want to double up on this.

4 oz butter or margarine

4 oz caster sugar

2 eggs, beaten

4 oz Doves Farm Gluten Free Flour

Butter Icing

Green Food Colouring

Chocolate Strand Sprinkles

Cadbury’s Mini Eggs

Method:

Beat sugar and butter together, gradually add the eggs and then gently mix in the flour.

I used silicone bun cases to bake these. They take 15-20 minutes at 190 degrees Celsius.

Whilst they are cooling down, add some green food colouring to your butter icing and spread this onto the cakes. Add chocolate sprinkles and mini eggs and there you have it!

If you take part in this Center Parcs challenge you could win yourself a holiday to Center Parcs!  If you want to enter to win a place as a wildcard winner just go to the challenge page to find out how.

 

 

 

 

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Center Parcs Longleat. Our review in pictures and video!

17 Apr

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As you may have seen in an earlier post, I was chosen to be a Center Parcs Family Blogger for 2014. This was such a privilege as we LOVE Center Parcs! Earlier this month, we visited Center Parcs and were asked to review our holiday. Firstly, here is a quick 2 minute video of our top tips!

The children did not know that we were going until the day we were leaving. We picked them up from school and told them that we were on our way to Longleat. The excitement was pretty full on, I lost track of how many times we heard “are we there yet?”

Finally we arrived and were given a very warm welcome at check-in. We were directed to our gorgeous 3 bedroom woodland villa. It was way out on the edge of the park which we loved. On a previous visit we stayed much closer to the plaza which is great BUT we saw very little wildlife. This time we saw lots and lots! We also got to make good use of our bikes which the children loved. You feel as if you could be anywhere, with the Giant  Redwoods and Conifers towering over you. It all feels very Scandinavian.

wildlife

Our villa was just perfect, very spacious and it had everything we could possibly need. We also received a complimentary grocery pack which was great. It meant that we didn’t need to pack tonnes of food as all the essentials were already there. The children loved the huge blackboard on the wall and spent lots of time recording our daily activities and our wildlife spots!

blackboard

One of the things we love most about Center Parcs is the ability to let your children run free. You don’t need to worry about cars and there is so much space! When we were not in the Subtropical Swimming Paradise the children explored the area, climbed many ancient, twisted trees and tackled the numerous adventure playgrounds that can be found all over the park. They were basically in heaven!  We loved cycling around from place to place and spent most of our time on our bikes (although there is a land train which runs very regularly). We were a little worried that our five-year old may not be able to cope with cycling the quite long distance from our villa to the plaza but he did really well. The cycle routes are really well thought out so that they are mainly flat and easy to navigate. There are some fairly steep hills on site so you might want to check this out when booking your accommodation.

Loving the great outdoors!

Loving the great outdoors!

As part of our family blogger experience, we were able to choose a complimentary activity  from one of the numerous ones available on site. It was very difficult to choose as there really is something for everyone. We decided to choose the ‘outing with owls’ as I just LOVE them. Their huge big eyes and heart-shaped faces just fascinate me and I think my love for them has rubbed off on the children.

I am so glad we chose this activity, it was amazing! We all got to fly two different types of owls and the lovely Clare was so knowledgeable about them. She obviously genuinely loves them and is so enthusiastic about sharing her knowledge with others.  I would definitely recommend this activity and I’d even consider doing it again if we were to go back. The look on the children’s faces when they got so close to these amazing birds was just priceless.

owls

It is very tempting to eat out every day at Center Parcs. There is just so much choice and everywhere is child friendly. It is not particularly cheap though so I would recommend making the most of your lovely villa to self cater if you are on a budget. If you do decide to eat out I would highly recommend Hucks. This has a play area at the back of the restaurant which is made to look like a pirate ship. It is all designed quite cleverly so that you don’t really notice it is there when you are eating. There is a buffet option for the children with all the usual foods that they love. Adult portions are huge! There is a good selection of cocktails and we just had to sample a few of these! My only negative point about Hucks is that since our last visit, they have installed computers for the children to play on at the back of the restaurant. I imagine most families go to Center Parcs to escape the pull of games consoles and to re-connect as a family. Having computer games in a family restaurant kind of detracts from that ethos.

Nachos

Look at the size of these Nachos!

If you visit the Pancake House, I’m sure most children would love the chance to ‘decorate their own pancake’. They have the option of gluten-free pancakes, which for me was a huge bonus! The food was lovely, good-sized portions and I think, one of the cheaper options for eating out at Center Parcs.

pancakes

The Subtropical Swimming Paradise is just amazing! We love everything about it and our children would happily stay there all day until they are  little shriveled up prunes. I do wish they could extend the outside pool area a little though, it can feel a bit of a squash and a squeeze at busy times.

If you are holidaying at Center Parcs try to make the most of your time there. You may not be able to check into your villa until 3pm but you are welcome to leave your car and luggage in the car park and enjoy all the facilities until your villa is ready. Likewise, on the day you check out, you can depart your villa and take your car to the car park but stay until the end of the day.

Would we recommend Center Parcs? Most definitely yes! If you can visit outside of peak times then the prices are pretty reasonable and you will have an amazing time.  If you would like to be in with a chance of winning a trip to Center Parcs then head over to their challenge page to find out how.

Have you visited Center Parcs? What would be your top tip for getting the most out of your visit?

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Painted Driftwood Wind Chimes

14 Mar

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We have been busy scouring the beaches for drift wood and other interesting items lately. The storms have washed up so much flotsam and jetsam, it is quite depressing when you think how much rubbish people throw away instead of putting it in the bin.

Anyway, we found some lovely smooth drift wood which we brought home after our last visit.Lily and Thomas put it to good use making pretend campfires, swords and bows and arrows.. then we decided to paint it and turn it into a nice Eco wind-chime.

We initially started to paint them an aboriginal way, using lots of little dots to make up a picture. Lily did this in school last year and loved it. I left the children to it and the driftwood soon became animals. We had a lizard, a tiger a whale and a robin to name a few. We used acrylic paint so hopefully these will last a good while.

We have hung it in the apple tree and it makes a very subtle noise when blowing in the wind. The children love it and of course it was all their own work so they are quite proud!

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With spring in the air, we painted these outside and made the most of the warm sunshine. The blossom is on the trees and plants  are starting to appear through the heavy, wet soil. A few more days like this and it should soon start to dry out. If you fancy getting outside and doing some nature-inspired painting, why not enter the Center Parcs Challenge at the same time? You could  win a family holiday, just go to the challenge page to find out how http://bit.ly/1kAhiA1

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