Our visit to ‘Christmas at Kew’ 2016

kew3I have been wanting to go to ‘Christmas at Kew’ for a few years but every year remember too late and by the time I try to book they are sold out! This year we booked in time and got tickets!

We booked a 6.30pm slot which gave us time to drive from school, grab dinner and park in the Kew car park – which by the way, I would highly recommend if you have young children. By the end of the trail they were ready to drop and slept all the way home.

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We were really lucky with the weather, clear skies and a little chilly so perfect for getting in the Christmas spirit. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, so often when you have high expectations of something you are eager to see and it disappoints but Christmas at Kew certainly didn’t.

 

 

Beautiful light displays are spread over a mile of gardens, winding pathways take you on a journey of a fairy tale Christmas delight and the kids enjoyed the freedom to explore.

kew2One of our first stops was at a floor display which we thought looked like a magic carpet and the kids promptly jumped on board!

 

 

 

 

 

I had been eager to visit The Hive this year and was delighted that it was part of the display, the kids enjoyed listening to bee sounds through their teeth!

 

Every so often there are activities to titivate a different sense. Toasted marshmallows were especially welcome!

Father Christmas and his elves also made an appearance!

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One of the most amazing light displays takes place on Palm House, a fabulous light display set to music across the lake. The whole adventure ends with some festive food, shops and fairground rides (please note that the rides are not included in the price).

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Freddie thought Christmas at Kew was ‘amazing’ and was surprised by ‘how many lights’ there were, I have to say I agree.

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If you have tickets to go to Kew this Christmas you are in for a real treat, if you haven’t then make sure you get it in the diary to buy some next year! We will certainly go back.

There are a few main gate tickets left (ones with car parking have sold out).

Off peak still available family ticket £48 (2nd January only date available now)

All other times £52 for a family ticket (£18 adult and £10 child)

http://christmasatkew.seetickets.com/tour/christmas-at-kew/calendar/2

Family day trip to Southend

When I was a child I loved the seaside, its sea breeze, fish and chips, penny arcades and ice cream. It didn’t take a lot to keep me happy, I didn’t need it to be glamorous or warm and sunny- I just loved the atmosphere. I spent the youngest part of my childhood in Hackney in London and, because my mum worked, spent the summer holidays with my Aunty near Southend (in Rayleigh). I have really happy memories of this time: we spent time on the farm harvesting and looking after the pigs, and some days  we visited Southend.

On a trip down memory lane, I decided to pop to Southend for the afternoon with my daughter (25) and son (6). The weather wasn’t great but it didn’t matter, we had so much fun and,before we knew it, it was time to leave…

adventure island

 Adventure Island

We hit the adventure golf here but there really is something for everyone: roller coaster, swings, crooked house, Flying Jumbos, Helter Skelter, Jungle Express, Kiddi-Koasta (roller coaster for the littlies!) and more. Trip Advisor reviews are great too!

After building up an appetite we headed for fish and chips, of course! We went to Clarks Fish and Chip Shop opposite Adventure Island. If I had read the Trip Advisor reviews beforehand I would have avoided it like the plague but actually the lady who served us was lovely, the dining area itself clean and comfortable and the fish and chips went down well for all three of us so we would go back.

chip shop

Then we headed for the arcades, sooooo much fun!

2p slot machine is a must and stick with it you might get lucky and win a prize, we won three!

Freddie beat Tas at the racing car game oops!

I beat Freddie at Mario Kart – double oops!

There is a fab water fountain feature that I think would be fun on a sunny day, was a little too cold today…

fountains

But never too cold for an ice cream!

Southend provided a fun family day out, and the fact we live in landlocked Hertfordshire, it makes a good place to visit to see the sea for a drive in under an hour. We will be back.

http://www.visitsouthend.co.uk/

Suffolk a great family holiday destination – our weekend away

I didn’t realise that Suffolk was so beautiful, it has amazing food, pubs, countryside, villages and seaside towns that you just want to keep exploring…

We stayed for two nights in a ‘posh tent’ at Sweffling Hall Farm, owned by the team at Lanterns and Larks and we visited three seaside towns, two pubs, possibly one of the best fish and chip shops I have ever been to, and played in the beautiful countryside. Here’s a little about where we visited:

On our first night we headed off for a country walk to the local pub…

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Here we stumbled across The Sweffling White Horse. A quirky traditional English pub that will take you back through time. The ales and lagers are absolutely lip smacking scrumptious. Hubby had a draft local ale, I am not keen on beer but I tried one of their bottled lagers and it was quite possibly the best tasting lager I have ever had.

pub in suffolk Freddie and Finley

The boys tucked into home cooked sausage rolls. This pub is full of character and so are its owners Marie and Mark. Their philosophy is to showcase local fare and treat you to flavour and quality. And they certainly achieve that.

We headed back to camp and our lovely host at Sweffling Hall, Laura, introduced us to two cool apps: Skyview and Geocaching. Skyview is a great app for star gazing- I’m not sure how accurate it is but the kids absolutely love it! I had never heard of Geocaching but am looking forward to going on some real treasure hunts and will let you know how it goes.

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For now we just enjoyed the sausages, fire and stars. BTW if you are in the area and like eggs Sweffling Hall farm https://swefflinghallfarm.wordpress.com/ specialise in them and you can just nip in and purchase as many as you want. They are very very tasty, so good, in fact, they can be found in M & S, Sainsbury or at the Happy Egg Company.

The next morning, after a little play in the fields of Sweffling Hall Farm and foraging for kindle for the evening, we headed off to the Suffolk coast.

Our first stop was Southwold: what a lovely seaside town where once again we were whisked back in time- it feels like a place where time has stood still.

pier

We headed straight for Southwold Pier, which is small in size but definitely not small in  character! The Pier has a good selection of eateries, we stopped off for coffee and cake at The Boardwalk where food is sourced locally with plenty of menu choices even for children and toddlers. The boys enjoyed water and cake – their choice! Something made them smile, maybe it was the lemon or ice…

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We sat here, out of the wind, soaking the sun and taking in the view of the fabulous lighthouse.

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We then ventured to the weird and wacky handmade arcade also located on the Pier. The boys and I settled down into what looked like a submarine pod to watch a show. I really had no Idea what was going to happen but a lady and her two boys came out laughing a lot, so we ventured in. We were taken into a world under the sea where beach huts and for sale signs live, alongside estate agents sharks and barrels of toxic waste mate (yes mate) to make a monstrous sea creature… yes it was very weird!

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Thankfully the boys didn’t understand any of it and just laughed at the puppetry! There are some really wacky games to play here and worth a visit for a little strange fun.

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Southwold beach is also lined with lovely colourful beach huts, I can imagine it gets really busy here in the summer months but today it was perfect, the sun was shining and Southwold looked beautiful…

We then headed off to Walberswick. You can access this by small ferry directly from Southwold or by driving inland and coming back out again.

Walberswick is located on the South bank of the River Blyth surrounded by marshland, heath and a beautiful white sandy beach in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty- it’s no wonder that people want to own holiday homes here.

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The boys spent an hour crabbing and thankfully caught one each! (if you go you need bacon, crab lines and nets all available at the small corner shop and ice cream van)

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After letting them go we headed for the beach, a little too windy today to stay but beautiful none the less. We managed to find a sheltered spot while the boys played.

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and made their mark…

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We then grabbed the all-important ice cream and went for a walk along the river.

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This is when we spotted the ferry that transports people across the water to Southwold (we drove). This ferry is actually one man in a row boat, quite surreal!

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With rumbling beginning in our bellies we headed off to Aldeburgh. We actually were only visiting here for the highly regarded Fish and Chip shop (more about that in a minute) but the beautiful buildings against the pebbled beach took my breath away. Aldeburgh has been named as one of the top 50 places to live in Britain and it is easy to see why, it is full of colour from the pastel coloured sea fronted buildings to the pebbly beach and colourful fishing boats and huts.

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We found the famous Aldeburgh Fish and Chip Shop (reportedly one of the best fish and chip shops in the country) and devoured some of the best tasting fish and chips we have ever tasted. The boys ate every bit of theirs too!

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Heading back to camp we stopped off at The Dolphin in Thorpeness near Aldeburgh. Lovely pub with child-friendly garden and apparently good food. Thorpeness is a quiet village with a man-made lake at its heart, and it was once voted as the ‘Weirdest Village in England’ by Bizarre magazine but we were not here long enough to find out why, but we did notice a house in the clouds as we approached…

House in the cloudes

Our final evening was spent playing Hex bugs

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and making scrapbooks of our weekend using things we had found along the way from sand in the boys shoes to postcards purchased in each town.

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Some good memories had here.

In the morning we woke to a beautiful chorus of bird song and the boys made the most of their last morning using the space to play with anything and everything from

Rocket launchers and frisbee to football and the toy planes

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One got stuck on the tent. The boys went to find a stick for me to get it down, I said it had to be long, this was maybe a little too long!

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And then after playing with a wheelbarrow


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Finley turned Freddie into one…

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We were sad to leave Suffolk and will definitely be back for more…

for child-friendly Holiday cottages and glamping in Suffolk ideal for babies, toddlers, and older children why not visit our site where we have a lovely small selection 🙂

Our visit to Osea Island, I think I’m in love…

We visited Osea Island last week for just two and a half hours and left with a sense of contentment and the feeling that we had witnessed something rather special. A little like the feeling you are left with after watching a thought provoking film…

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It’s hard to find the right words to describe Osea as everyone’s idea of perfection is different. If you are looking for perfect lawns and manicured accommodation then it’s probably not for you. If however you are looking for something with a distinctive personality that will disconnect you from everyday life  then you will not be disappointed. With a feeling of easing backwards in time its like no other place this close to London that I have been to.

I actually think I am in love…

So where and what is Osea Island?

Osea Island

Osea Island is a private Island located just off the Essex coast of England: it is so secret even the locals have never heard of it. It is steeped in history (which I will cover in another post) and owned by music producer Nigel Frieda. Here is a little insight on what i think about Osea Island as a short break family holiday destination…

Why I think adults will like Osea Island

The Osea Island Causeway - tide out

The Osea Island Causeway – tides out!

The only way to access Osea by car is when the tide is low via the causeway. When the tide is high the island is closed off from the rest of the UK for eight hours at a time giving you an amazing sense of freedom and pure escapism.

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You will love watching the children explore nature’s natural playground and the whole family will indulge their senses in this quite majestic place.

Osea Island transport

Osea Island transport

The island is safe, no traffic (transport on the island is in the form of foot or pedal power) and only guests are allowed to be here.

Osea Island Gamesroom

Osea Island Games Room

The small games room is kitted out with the usual ping pong table and games but you will also find piles of vinyl (that’s what us oldies used to play music on for those too young to know!) and a selection of old fashioned record players to play them on giving you a little glimpse into the world of Osea’s owner Nigel Frieda. Through the door at the back of the games room is a small cinema room with a few rows of comfy arm chairs. This small club-house is simple and offers an eclectic mixture of entertainment which will delight the senses of both young and old.

Osea Island Gym

Osea Island Gym

If taking in the scenery, fresh sea air and strolling around the 4 ½ mile stretch of beach and gardens is not enough for you don’t worry there is a gym and tennis court for all residents to use.

Osea's swimming pool

Osea’s swimming pool

If you are looking for water activities then why not try Kayaking, boating or fishing and the outdoor swimming pool is open during the summer months.

Why the kids will like Osea Island

Foraging on Osea's beach

Foraging on Osea’s beach

All the above! Mum and dad will be so relaxed the children will be in their element foraging for treasure on the beach, climbing trees, building camps, playing games in the garden, splashing in the pool, playing ping pong in the club house or petting the lovely resident donkeys Salt and Pepper.

Salt and Pepper

Salt and Pepper

We took our five year old when we visited and he still hasn’t stopped talking about the causeway, we let him drive along it too (well steer on daddy’s lap). The excitement of driving where the sea usually sits and going to a private island has been a talking point for him ever since!

Driving on along the Causeway

Driving on along the Causeway

Osea Island is a place like no other, we were transported back in time and taken to a faraway place after just a couple of hours here, I can’t wait to spend a couple of nights! Just imagine…

Sunset on Osea

Sunset on Osea

There are 19 child-friendly holiday homes on Osea Island of varying sizes, accommodating from 2 – 22 people alternatively you can hire the whole island and there is a fab venue licensed for weddings (more on that in my next blog post). If you can’t wait take a look at their holiday cottages and Manor House, Captains House and Beach cottages and apartments here on Holiday Tots:

https://www.holidaytots.co.uk/view-property/401-manor-in-osea-island/

How do you celebrate New Year countdown with young children?

2015Over the years we have celebrated New Year’s Eve in many different ways: quiet dinners at home, large house parties, organised parties, fireworks and more but what happens when you become parents. Everything changes, family and friends who might usually babysit are busy and it costs a fortune to hire a babysitter, unless you are really lucky!

Until a couple of years’ ago we were happy watching the Jules Holland Hootenanny, SPOILER COMING UP SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH! Why did we stop? I will set the scene… Baby in bed at 7.30, check, lovely dinner and wine, check, cosy up with fizz and chocolates, pop the telly on to enjoy the festive count down on the Jules Holland Hootenanny. It gives gave us a real sense of celebratory warmness until… we found out it was pre-recorded aghhhhhhhh. We actually found out at 11.30 one night and I was mortified! I always watched believing it was live, a real countdown and how cool to have those big celebs on New Years Eve!

So what do we do now?

Idea 1. Have a house party, let the kids stay up late and deal with the aftermath – tired kids, messy house etc etc the day after.

Idea 2. Pop the kids to bed at the usual time and enjoy your wine, food, a little music or TV.

Idea 3. If you want to involve the kids why not celebrate New Year with a different time zone. If you have family or friends who happen to live in an earlier time zone than you why not celebrate with them? Skype them or just watch their city fireworks on the screen.

Dubai Fireworks

This year we have decided to have our New Year celebrations early with the kids. We start the ball rolling at 4 O’clock with close friends coming over for fizz, food and games and our New Year countdown will be at 8 o’clock in time with probably one of the best firework displays of the year in Dubia. Most countries are live streaming their fireworks via You Tube this year and if you have a smart TV you can play it directly using the You Tube app from your phone. Dubai You Tube New Fire Works link hereht_netflix_king_julien_nye_countdown_jc_141229_16x9_992

If you have Netflix you could also air their Kids New Year’s Eve Countdown with the characters from Madagascar. This three minute film can be played any time and provides an alternative countdown. The internet is rife with stories on how to trick your kids into believing that it is a real countdown and that they have stayed up late until the midnight hour, not sure why anyone would want to do that though as there are plenty of New Year parties happening for more you can piggy back, unless you live in Samoa…

Wishing you a very Happy New Year! xxx

Family trip to Cape Town South Africa – departing & arriving

We are all off to South Africa, immediate family, extended family and friends. Why you ask? Well my oldest son is getting married and South Africa is the venue. He is marrying a lovely South African girl and we are all very excited.

We left London on Thursday evening on an overnight Virgin Atlantic flight.

On our way...

On our way…

While we were in the air the Hertfordshire Business Awards night was taking place and Holiday Tots were in the finals, we would not hear until we arrived in Cape Town if we had won.

The flight was good, although my youngest (5 year old Freddie) kept me awake all night with his fidgeting. I think I drew the short straw sharing a double seat with him as everyone else seemed to sleep!

We arrived at our villa in time for lunch. In the meantime I received congratulations’ messages saying we had WON Online Business Of The Year 2014! Whoop whoop! More on that story in another post…

We are staying in our villa for one week before moving to our hotel for week two. The villa is actually a penthouse villa accessed by a funicular with magnificent sea views. Please note that I would NOT suggest families with young children stay here but for us it is perfect. A full review on the villa will follow but here is a view from our bedroom, I just had to share it!

Camps Bay View

Camps Bay View

For our first lunch we munched through some ‘Soul Food!’ lovely highly recommended restaurant in Camps Bay.

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Followed by a wine tasting choosing the wines for the wedding in the villa. and the winner is…

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Looking forward to a good night’s sleep and waking up to this amazing view!

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Be back with more updates on our family trip to South Africa soon…

Lollibop review 2014 – Entertainment for the next generation of Festival goers!

 

Lollibop, Hatfield House 2014

We arrived back late last night from our holiday: our return flight was very delayed and Freddie didn’t get to bed until nearly midnight. As I sieved through the two and a half weeks’ worth of post I was delighted when I opened our guest passes for Lollibop…….but would Freddie last the day… You can bet he did! He loved every minute of it, I had to drag him away when it finished!

What is Lollibop?

Dubbed by its creators as ‘Glastonbury for kids’ Lollibop is a festival for children under 10 and their families, and it’s jam packed with kids activities and shows.

This year the Lollibop festival headed to Hatfield House in Hertfordshire (it is usually held in London), one of our favourite places to visit especially ‘Bloody Hollow’ but that’s another story! There are Lollibop Zones: Lollibop Live, hosted by Cbeebies Alex Winters, Lollipalladium, Lollibooks, Active Zone, The Meadows, Join in with Southbank, The Discovery Zone and Meet and Greet.

Alex Winters of Cbeebies doing the Hokey Cokey!

Alex Winters of Cbeebies doing the Hokey Cokey!

Looking at the programme for 2014 the children’s entertainment seemed endless, and it was! With lots of shows featuring Cbeebies favourites, Mister Maker, Justin, Mr Bloom, Lazy Town, Andy Day and more plus favourites from CBBC including Horrible Histories.

When we arrived there was something happening on the main stage (we quickly found out that there was nearly always something going on here!), ‘It’s the real Mister Maker, mummy!’ squealed one child and then the fun began.

lollibop mr maker

We actually could have spent two days here as we missed a few things that we would have loved to see or taken part in, the day was fun packed until the end. Here are some of our highlights…

Andy Day was his usual energetic self, visiting his past by re-creating his bedroom and showing the audience some of the things he loved when he was a kid. There are lots of chances for audience participation and the kids loved it. My funniest part was when a couple of dads were invited on to the stage and had to stomp and roar as dinosaurs, Andy makes these moves look cool, sorry dads yours just looked extremely funny!

Andy Day's Show

Andy Day’s Show

There are lots of opportunities to meet a variety of characters and have pictures taken with them from Dennis the Menace to Fireman Sam, Chris and Pui to Poppy Cat! Freddie was very excited to meet a Horrible Histories character as we had just returned from a holiday with friends whose son is absolutely addicted to Horrible Histories and he couldn’t wait to get a picture taken with him to send back.

Freddie with cast member of Horrible Histories - For you Alex, Ruby and James!

Freddie with cast member of Horrible Histories – For you Alex, Ruby and James!

The festival layout is great with loads of space for picnics, if it doesn’t rain!

Lollibop 2014 Map

There are lots of opportunities to dance and sing, get creative or just listen to some great stories. Everything is free (apart from food and drink) including face painting – even for us adults and T-shirt making.

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For the older kids there is the football area managed by the Tottenham Hotspur FC Global Coaching team (another of Freddie’s favourites)

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And the Skylander Arena where you will get a sneak preview into the new, not yet released, Skylander game.

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One of my favourites was the Southbank Centres children’s program with lots of activities to keep any child (and adult) entertained from Big Sing Workshops and Hip Hop Dance with Zoo Nation to a
Pirate School and more!

It’s so hard to cover everything in a short blog, so why not visit yourself? There really is something for everyone…

Lollibop runs from 15th – 17th August 2014 at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire from 10-6 – it’s a fabulous family day out.

Website: www.lollibopfestival.co.uk

Thank you for a fab day Lollibop! xxx