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.

 

 

 

 

cake-two

 

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?

end

 

Painted Driftwood Wind Chimes

14 Mar

Image

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!

Image

Image

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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

Braving beautiful Plymouth in the storms of 2014

9 Mar

This post is a little late, especially now that spring seems to have finally arrived (yippee!)

I just wanted to share a few pics of us braving the storms to get some wild and windy fresh air in February. I must admit I don’t really like being out in the wind, it always makes me nervous and I can’t stand being cold. Thank goodness for my coat with a decent hood!

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Plymouth took quite a battering in the storms this year with 40ft waves smashing into the coast and destroying local restaurants. Hundreds of trees have come down in and around the city, rivers have flooded and walls have come crashing down. Also of course our rail line was cut off at Dawlish during one of the storms and this has caused mayhem for commuters.  Hopefully we have now seen the last of it until next winter.

There’s no doubt the storm has been exciting in its own way and we couldn’t resist taking the children out to see some big waves (always staying safe of course). People will always talk about the storms of 2014 so here are some of our memories.

wetwok-Collage

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Looking a little windswept!

Looking a little windswept!

We finished our walk off with a well-deserved cream tea in the Duttons Cafe on the Hoe. This is a lovely little cafe, the owners are so helpful and friendly. They offer lots of gluten-free options including these gorgeous scones. Definitely the best I have ever tasted!

cream tea

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