Priory Farm in Surrey – a great day out

Today we had a meet up with some of my daughter’s classmates. We tried somewhere new: Priory Farm in Nutfield, Surrey.

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Having been to a soft play venue yesterday, which cost £37 for five of us, it was very nice to go somewhere with a modest entry price of £2.50 per person. This gave us entry to the Discovery Walk with nature trail sheet. An ample bag of food to feed the greedy fish we’d meet along the way cost just £1.

We went on the picture-based trail, which was suitable for our five-year-olds, but there’s also a fact-gathering trail for kids up to 12-years-old. It took us a little under two hours to complete. I had a double buggy with me for my two-year-olds (who also had a fantastic time) and had no problems pushing it around the walk. However, it was completely redundant as they ran around everywhere and never once got in it!

The children loved answering the questions about the nature and wildlife around them and there were plenty of obstacles; things to climb, jump on and off and explore. It was all quite simple but the children unanimously loved it and were completely engaged throughout.

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The sunflower maze was a huge hit and actually quite a challenge.

The fish went into a frenzy (as did the kids) when we rang the bell and they knew food was coming.

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We visited the picturesque plum orchard.

The children beat the mums at tug of war (how did that happen?).

Before the mums versus children battle

Before the mums versus children battle

We saw a ‘scary’ dragon in a cave and a very big spider!

Then it was off for a picnic. We’d taken our own food (which made it an even more purse-friendly experience), but Wendy’s cabin sells a selection of food, drinks and ice cream.

After eating, the kids let off even more steam on the pirate play ship, which is situated right next to the picnic area.

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We didn’t visit the farm shop or the nursery, bakery and other businesses based on the estate,  but we’d spent a good three hours there learning and playing and it was time to go. More to explore next time…



Cheap ways to keep toddlers and school-age children entertained

I find that everyone is in a far better mood if we have a focus for each day, even if it’s just painting or making collages. During the school holidays this is even more important, as is finding cheaper ways to entertain.

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Arts and crafts 

We’ve had an arts and crafts box for ages. It’s invaluable as it alleviates boredom in almost an instant. I clear it out every couple of months; throw out anything tatty and then add a few new bits and bobs such as ribbons, foil, lolly sticks, corks, paper plates and some cheap purpose bought stuff. The kids love it.

I recently discovered that big Sainsbury’s stores stock loads of really affordable arts and crafts items and sets. Stickers, sticky shapes for collages, paintbrushes, foam paint brushes and fancy pipe cleaners are all perfect fodder. You can also pick up a pack of 500 sheets of A4 printer paper for a very modest £2.50.

The girls actually love to just draw, so the cheap paper is great as they’re free to scribble to their hearts’ content. They love sticking too. However, sometimes it’s nice to have a bit more structure and to vary things a bit.

1) Pasta pictures – Great for young toddlers and older children alike. All that’s required is PVA glue, a variety of pasta shapes, paper and imagination. We create landscapes and faces.

2) Foot prints and painting on lining paper/old wrapping paper 

Best reserved for outdoors as it can be rather messy. I rolled out a long piece of wrapping paper (white side up) and then filled several plates with poster paint. They all stood in the paint and made footprint trails all along it as well as doing more conventional painting on it. I think there was something about the scale of it as well as ‘the naughtiness’ of getting paint all over their feet, which made it such fun and so appealing.

3) The cardboard box – it’s not a myth: kids really do love cardboard boxes. They’re great for developing imagination. The twins immediately jumped inside the box that I gave them. One insisted it was a pirate ship, the other that it was a rocket. I attached a paper plate with a paper fastener to make a steering wheel; it then became a car. Not only did they love playing in it, they also spent ages decorating it.

Other indoor activities

4) Tent/den building - very similar to the above in terms of ease, enjoyment and imagination development. Obviously works indoors and outdoors. A few chairs, a large sheet/s and a few clothes pegs to hold in place is all that’s required. Their usual toys and usual meals suddenly became far more exciting when used/eaten within the den.

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5)  Baking – we keep it simple with biscuits and fairy cakes.  I’ve found the easiest ever recipe for biscuits on Netmums. It consists of three ingredients and works every time. Biscuit baking is well suited to the younger ones (aged two) as they are able to cream, mix and knead, and can use cookie cutters independently. After they’ve cooled we use squeezy tubes of coloured icing to decorate them. This is easier than creamy icing for cakes as it’s a lot less messy and they have much more control.

I find baking fairy cakes is far better suited to my five-year-old. This is the foolproof recipe we use: fairy cakes.

Outdoor activities

We go to lots of outdoor venues (weather permitting), but the most cost-effective thing we have done on this front is join the National Trust. With membership, we just jump in the car and go without worrying about admission prices or parking tariffs. There are almost always craft activities to do indoors and there are usually family tours of the houses with dressing up etc, but aside from that it’s all about being outdoors, spotting things, doing nature trails, running, jumping, picnicking… Check out their 50 things to do before you’re 11¾ for more inspiration.

Specifically for the toddlers

Regular readers know that I’m a big fan of Sure Start centres. The one we attend has had some inspired sensory activities set up; things I wouldn’t have thought of!

Here are some of our favourites:

1) Cold baked beans in a massive tray – Squelching their fingers in the sticky mess. Toddlers love it and are fascinated by the sensation.

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2) Cloud Dough (sometimes called moon dough) – Made of flour and baby oil. Has a great texture, which again the kids absolutely love. Additional bonus being that your hands will be silky smooth.

3) Flat perspex shapes submerged in jelly – very messy, very fun, (who isn’t amused by wobbly jelly?) and can be eaten!

4) Cornflour, water and food colouring – This makes a wonderful gloopy mixture in a tray. It feels like plastic when you run your fingers through it. Some farmyard animals were put inside and a minty flavour was added for extra interest. The girls were a little unsure about the texture to begin with but then loved it and played for ages.

5) Hay bales – Great for imaginative play, but also great for physical play. My girls loved ripping it apart and jumping on it as well as using it creatively with toy animals. The benefits of playing with hay have recently been documented.

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6) Food colouring on paper towels – A really simple idea, but literally had them engrossed for a good 45 minutes. The centre had set up a number of beakers filled up with water and different colours of food colouring alongside pipettes. The children simply used the pipettes to suck up some of the coloured liquid and squirt it onto the towel. It blotted and made great patterns. They were fascinated.

What activities would you recommend? I’d love to hear some more suggestions.



When tastes clash – decorating a 5-year-old’s room

My good friend and fellow blogger Eleanor recently wrote a post about creating a new bedroom for a one-year-old. She was worried about foisting her own tastes, likes and interests on her young daughter when decorating the space.

I have had the opposite problem whilst decorating my five-year-old daughter’s room. Sofia had very definite ideas about what she wanted. For Sofia, like for Aerosmith, pink is the love she’s discovered. I hate pink (and frilliness; I’m more a minimalist kind of a person). We compromised on a vibrant purple, Sofia’s joint – well maybe second – favourite colour and something that didn’t make me heave. We put down a  wooden floor and have white plantation shutters on order, so it’s fairly neutral.

Then it’s all been about clever detailing, so that we’re both happy with the look and the room has a long enough shelf-life, but can easily be adapted along the line.

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We got a white wooden mid sleeper cabin bed, which has a play tent and pull out desk with DSCN6576book shelf. It’s very versatile and the idea is that it’ll grow with her. At the moment she doesn’t use the desk, but uses the play tent. I’m sure the opposite will be true in a few years, and at that point we can dispense of the tent and add another mattress underneath for sleepovers (by the way Sofia has been badgering me about sleepovers since she was four. I’m sure I was about 12 before I slept over at a friends’). Similarly at the moment Sofia has a bed set with butterflies on, which could be changed later on for a more grown up look. It’s a great bed, the only downside is, it’s a bugger to make as the duvet doesn’t fit well within the frame; probably why the promotional shots don’t have a bed spread on.

We also got a white bookcase from Vertbaudet, which looks good in the room and has very handy, deep pull out drawers on wheels at the bottom, which are perfect for storing bits and bobs, as are the little compartments.

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Sofia loves butterflies (and fairies), so I also got a butterfly rug to put by the ladder. It gives the room a cosier feel as a wooden floor can look a bit cold.

Continuing the butterfly theme, we got giant wall stickers from JoJo Maman Bebe. These were really good value and are actually really easy to remove (we made several mistakes when applying them!), yet stay well-attached to the wall once you have got it right. I know that we’d be able to remove them all without a problem when she grows out of them. We liked them so much in fact we ordered a second set to decorate another wall.

One of the many designs from Candy Queen Designs

One of the many designs from Candy Queen Designs

I was looking for a new light dimmer switch as the existing one is grotty and boring. I Googled fairy/butterfly light switch images and came across the fabulous Candy Queen Designs website. As the site says, light switches rarely evoke a strong reaction when it comes to style and design and often get overlooked but it’s the small details that make a difference in a room. Too right, and these are really are original and quirky, and a fantastic finishing touch. The actual switch itself  is clear resin with real candy and biscuits embedded inside!! I thought they were brilliant and immediately ordered one of the fairy designs. Sofia was absolutely thrilled with it, it arrived quickly after ordering and I received excellent customer service. After Tweeting my feedback they kindly offered to send me another one for PR purposes. I gladly accepted knowing that we’d be decorating the twins’ room next. I found a butterfly one, which I somehow missed first time around. Sofia loved this one too and had great difficulty deciding between them. She eventually went with the butterfly one as it completely matched the colours in her room and the butterfly stickers.

Sofia's fairy door

Sofia’s fairy door

Our other little finishing touch is a Fairy Doorz. These are cute, handmade,  little wooden ‘fairy’ doors, which attach to the skirting boards and can be personalised. I bought one for Sofia’s room and then decided that they’d make great gifts as well, so ordered another one.

We’ve now started on the twins’ room and again it’ll be about the details. We’ve gone for wall stickers again (see below), and of course have our fairy light switch… Their room is definitely going to be more about what I want though :-/

Flowers of Spring Wall Stickers by Djeco

Flowers of Spring Wall Stickers by Djeco in the twins’ room



Dad and I – how things have changed

To celebrate Father’s Day, I was  asked by TalkMum - the website for parents and parents-to-be -, which I blog for, to share a fatherhood memory. I thought I’d add it here too: 

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From when I was born until I was 12, my dad was a manager of a very successful West End restaurant. He worked long, unsociable hours; he was that very traditional ‘provider.’ He worked hard so that my brother and I could have what we needed, and more besides. It meant I rarely saw him. He got home in the early hours and was still in bed – to just say goodbye to – when I left for school. Our Sunday’s (his day off) were sacred. We’d always do something as a family – going out for nice meals and going to St James’ Park in London for a wander and to feed the birds are things that particularly stick in my mind.

It’s safe to say that despite his unquestioned love for us, my dad had very little hands on experience of bringing us up or looking after us – he’d be the first to admit that my mum did practically all of it on her own. This is why it’s so amazing to see what a major part he plays in his grandaughters’ lives. There’s no doubt that my mum would have been a doting and fantastic granny to my children, but sadly that was never to be. She always made my dad promise that if anything ever happened to her, he’d do everything he could for my brother and I. He’s stayed true to his word and has done a fantastic job. Just one example is that, despite still working part-time, he helps me out with the morning school run every day. My mum would have been proud.

He has taken on his role as nonno (Italian for grandad) with gusto. He does so much for us all; the girls love him to bits and my husband is a massive fan!

Gardening at Home: Why Your Children Will Eat More Veggies

A great guest post from Ken Myers about resolving that common mealtime problem: getting kids to eat more vegetables.

Getting your children to eat more vegetables can be a challenge. We know how much healthier we could all be if we ate more greens and less sugars. Unfortunately, children don’t tend to be that bothered about what’s good  for them. Foods that are green in colour can’t possibly be nice; can they? I’ve found that my children are better at eating more vegetables if they grow the plants themselves. So this is what we did…

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Small Indoor Garden - As we wanted to start the garden immediately, we installed small covered plant shelving units in our house. These stand about five or six feet tall with various wire shelves for holding pots and containers. You can get started at any time, even in the middle of winter, as long as you provide ample light and keep the plants warm. As long as you have the basics for a plant covered, it can flourish in nearly any locale. You need:

  • good quality lighting
  • sustainable temperatures of  20-26C  (70-80F) – depending on what you’re growing
  • water monitoring

Good Lighting
Plants are photosynthetic meaning that they will convert light into the energy they need to survive. In theory, any light source will sustain a plant. Sunlight is the most common as it’s the most intense. The more intense the light source, the better it is for the plant.

Sustainable Temperatures
With an indoor garden you don’t want the plants to get too cold or too hot. Don’t put them near the windows as the cool temperatures could be harmful in the winter.

Monitoring the Water
You need to be careful with watering an indoor garden. Since the sunlight isn’t available to evaporate moisture it can collect onto the soil. If the temperature is warm and there is no airflow, it could begin to form mold.

Seeds are Cheap - I allowed each of my children to pick a few packets of seeds. I personally selected vegetables that were easy to reproduce such as bell peppers. I didn’t spend much at all. I was quite impressed with the vegetable selection of my children and pondered why they were so excited to eat fresh veggies when they wouldn’t even touch the ones we’d bought from the shops. Depending on the plant, you want to make sure you have enough room for growth. Watermelons and pumpkins usually require greater space due to the sheer size of the fruits, and because the plants vine outwards.

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Individual Projects - Once we started planting the seeds, I helped each child to use the Internet to research how to care for their plant. I’ve never seen my children so intent on learning and so keen to nurture something. It was like watching a mother tend to her own babies. Perhaps that is part of why children are more likely to eat food they’ve grown themselves. We printed each individual plant’s specifications and the children followed the suggestions to the letter.

Pointing Out the Irony - As the children grew ever excited to see vegetables begin to form on the plant, I didn’t point out the irony. This is an edible product that the children grew themselves and are proud of. If this is what it takes to get them to eat more greens, then I will happily buy seeds regularly. There are three main reasons why I keep quiet about the fact that they are eating greens:

1. It’s fresh vegetables that they actually want to eat
2. It’s an activity that keeps them occupied
3. It saves us money

Harvest Time - For children that hated the thought of eating vegetables, there is quite a bit of excitement when it comes to harvesting various edibles. As these foods are as organic as you can possibly get, I have no worries about what my children are consuming. There are no pesticides to wash off or growing chemicals used that could put my children in future danger. It brings a smile to your face when you see the children are so excited to harvest foods they grew themselves.

What We’ve Learned as a Family - Throughout our food growing experience, we’ve learned that ranch dressing can be used as a dip for just about any vegetable. I’ve learned that my children are far more likely to eat foods that they’ve grown with their own hands. Perhaps this has something to do with learning hands-on or the swelling of pride they get when the plant successfully produces food. In either case, my children found a great deal of enjoyment and nutrition by growing their own plants.

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I have no doubt that my own participation plays a role in our gardening practices. It seems the more excited I get, the more excited the children become. Now we have the indoor gardening shelves, which I use for fresh herbs in cooking; and the children and I maintain larger plants outside. The kids are learning the value of fresh and nutritional foods being grown from home without spending money at the supermarket. Whether or not this knowledge follows them throughout their life remains to be seen. I am just glad they are eating vegetables now.

Ken Myers is a father of three and passionate about great childcare. Find out more about expert childcare by checking out @go_nannies on Twitter.



What we’ve been doing during a rainy half-term

It’s yet another rainy half-term holiday. All the usual groups that I take the twins to are on holiday too, and now there’s five-year-old Sofia to entertain as well. Here’s what we’ve been up to so far…

1) Soft play centre 

Bank holiday Monday was a wash out. We headed to Eddie Catz in Wimbledon, South London – a soft play centre that caters for babies, toddlers and children up to about 12 years old. It offers classes and workshops under the ‘edutainment’ umbrella, but we were there purely for the kids to release plenty of energy, and boy did they. Some soft play venues that are aimed at that sort of age spectrum can be extortionate. I find Eddie Catz reasonably-priced. The facilities are good and the food went down very well, and again was reasonably-priced. All three loved the sizeable main play frame with all its scramble nets, tubes, slides etc, but my husband started getting a bit nervous about the two-year-olds disappearing out of reach and sight and took them to the tamer toddlers’ frame. The disco room was also a big hit.

2) Designed a Father’s Day mug

Last year's effort (complete with wear and tear)

Last year’s effort (complete with wear and tear). It changes colour with hot liquid!

It has become a bit of a custom: the personalised photo Father’s Day mug. Each year for Father’s Day we design a mug for my husband using some of the family photos from the last year that we’ve uploaded onto Truprint. It’s lovely to go through the year’s photos together and choose which ones to include. It’s really easy to do and there are loads of different options. We do get him another gift/s in addition, but my eldest likes giving this present the most (mainly because she loves photos of herself).

You can get some good deals at the moment with Truprint here:

  1. Get up to 75 6×4” prints for just 1p each (normally 11p each)
  2. Get up to 30% off photo gifts
    • Spend £10 get 10% off
    • Spend £20 get 20% off
    • Spend £30 get 30% off
  3. Get 50 free prints when you create a FREE Truprint account and upload your first photo

3) Baked and decorated biscuits 

Look at the concentration

Look at the concentration

I found the easiest recipe for biscuits ever on Netmums; it consisted of three ingredients (though I made it my own by adding Vanilla Essence) and all three girls were able to get stuck in with the creaming, mixing and kneading. Sofia had been bought Eddingtons Cinderella Cookie Cutters, so we used those. Like their older sister, the younger two are obsessed with anything fairytale and princess-related (bleugh!) so these caused much excitement. I let them all watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates whilst they baked and cooled, so it was a dream come true for them. I’d bought some squeezy tubes of coloured icing, so much time was spent decorating them. Then after dinner they ate them.

4) Arts and crafts 

I gave our arts and crafts box a Spring clean. Then doing our grocery shop (I’d say weekly shop, but I spend what seems like half of my week in the supermarket), I discovered that Sainsbury’s stocks loads of really well-priced arts and crafts items and sets. I bought sticky shapes for collages, paintbrushes and foam paint brushes, fancy pipe cleaners and a great canvas with a fairy design with paints and sparkly bits included for Sofia. The girls didn’t fight or moan for ages, so a definite hit and Sofia was super proud of her artwork, so we put it on display.

Sofia's handiwork

Sofia’s handiwork

5) Play dates 

The perennial favourite: Simple, but effective. We went to someone else’s house armed with both healthy snacks and treats. The change of scenery and company works wonders.

The weather’s shaping up to be ok, so we’re off to Godstone Farm tomorrow… and here we are:

That poor rabbit!

That poor rabbit!



Family-friendly Knoll House Hotel: a review

If you’re looking for chic decor, high speed Internet in every room and grandiose staff then the Knoll House Hotel isn’t for you. However, if you want completely stress-free family time, where the kids love every minute and all their needs are fully catered for by lovely staff, and where you can actually relax and enjoy yourself, then keep reading…

Knoll House Hotel

Knoll House Hotel

Knoll House is situated in a prime spot on the Dorset coast, overlooking the stunning Studland Bay and its beautiful, long sandy beach and heathland (managed by the National Trust). Studland beach is less than 400 metres from Knoll House and can be accessed via the hotel’s grounds.

Studland Bay

Studland Bay

My first thought on approaching the hotel was: it looks nice, rather old-fashioned. As we spoke to the receptionist on checking in, the true charm of the place quickly became apparent. It’s a family business and this permeates through everything. We were immediately given the lowdown on the main dining room and the Children’s Dining Room (CDR), which boasts its very own childrens’ chefs. As we’d arrived in time for lunch, we were going to head to the CDR straight after seeing our room.

On the Studland sand dune trail

On the Studland sand dune trail

Our room was configured perfectly for a family of five. On entering, there was a bathroom to the left, a separate single bedroom for my eldest daughter straight ahead and a central double bedroom for my husband Matt and I, which then connected to a twin room (for the twins). The rooms were clean, comfortable and child-friendly; even having safety catches on the windows for peace of mind.

Our room didn’t have a TV (many rooms do, and they are available on request for the rooms that don’t plus there is a TV lounge). However, we didn’t contemplate requesting one as the kids, who are big fans of the goggle box, were so entertained they never once asked to watch a single programme. My only criticism was that the bathroom had seen better days and could have done with a spruce up.

In the CDR eating tea. A little subdued after a day's activities

In the CDR eating tea. A little subdued after a day’s activities

Our second port of call was the CDR. Knoll House cleverly timetables things so that everything caters completely for families but doesn’t infringe on other guests. This means childrens’ lunch is served 12.30pm to 1.15pm and tea is 5.00pm to 6.00pm. Although we completely missed it, a table literally had our name on it (as did tables for all the other families staying). It was already set up with two tall chairs for the twins (high chairs were set up for younger children) and three plastic cups and three sets of childrens’ cutlery, so no scrabbling around to bag the last high chair! There was a marker pen and labels on the table so that we could make name badges for the kids so staff could get to know them. Our waitress came over and explained a little bit more about the CDR. The kids (or we) could help themselves to juice and water that was laid out and then could have a starter, choice of two main courses and dessert. The children unanimously loved every meal; there were favourites such as spaghetti Bolognese, shepherd’s pie, macaroni cheese and roast with trimmings. I loved the set up for tea; it was a sort of buffet of both healthy foods and treats. Our kids loved the novelty of the pick and mix style. For many children this would be ample for tea following a hefty lunch. However our gannets ate this and then had a hot main, which is also offered.

On the first day, we were told that there was a childrens’ disco after dinner; that cemented it: they loved the place.

The pièce de résistance was the adjoining playroom, which was available throughout the day, but actually supervised from 1pm until 2pm. The playroom had its own child-sized toilets and a changing station equipped with nappies in all sizes from newborn to number 5s.

One side of the playroom/ The other had lots of comfy sofas and more toys!

One side of the playroom. The other half had lots of comfy sofas and more toys!

Matt and I had the option of ordering from the main dining room and eating in the CDR or actually leaving the children in the playroom and going to the main dining room itself. On the first day we felt we should eat in the Children’s Dining Room as we didn’t want to desert them. We had a lovely two course lunch delivered to us. As it turned out, it was the children that deserted us, lured by art and craft activities, sing-alongs and lots of toys and games. Day two and we had no qualms, so after having an enjoyable time with the children as they polished off every last bit of their roast (and we had an alcoholic beverage), we absconded to the main dining room and enjoyed a leisurely lunch a deux: The best of both worlds.

I was given a tour of the Children’s kitchen, which is accessible 24 hours a day. I was very impressed. You can help yourself to milk, squash, ice and fruit whenever you want. There are  also tea and coffee making facilities as well as tons of children’s plates, bowls and cutlery that you can help yourself to. You can store anything you want in the fridge, which incidentally contains jugs of cooled boiled water (something else not to have to think about). You have access to constant boiling water and a microwave, so every feeding/weaning scenario is catered for. There is even a cupboard that stocks jars of baby food.

We packed the two days with beach and seaside town visits (the hotel is really close to many good attractions), punctuated with meals back at Knoll House and plenty of visits to the great adventure playground on site. It’s really well maintained and suitable for little children and young teens alike. We also spent time in the spa using the plunge pool and Jacuzzi; something we all enjoyed. I particularly liked the spa bar, which alongside smoothies, juices and coffees also served spirits, wine and beer (my kind of health spa).

So that was the kids very well catered for. What about the adults?  One of our waitresses had told us about the evening baby-listening service, which runs from 7.30pm until 11pm. Having never done this before and actually not sure what it entailed, I was a bit apprehensive. I was then convinced that it was fine. One of the housekeeping staff was literally stationed outside of ours and another two rooms, and sat there all evening listening out for any whimpers or cries. If any upsets did occur they could go in and try to settle the child or – if you wanted – just call straight down to let you know.  So Matt went down to the bar, got us some pre-dinner drinks to have in our room as we got ready; we settled the kids and then had another drink in the bar before dinner.

The hotel’s main restaurant boasts twelve chefs, who provide different table d’hôte menus of classic dishes each day. The food, if not groundbreaking, is very good quality and locally sourced; that said, the Dorset Blue Vinny ice-cream was rather avant-garde (and tasty). Our waitress was stunned that we dared to order it. Matt and I were thoroughly enjoying our evening meal and all the parents that were dining looked to be having a great time; then the restaurant phone rang. We all looked around. We were all thinking the same: ‘please don’t let it be my child that’s woken up’. Phew it wasn’t (either night) :-)

The Pirate ship, one of the attractions in the adventure playground

The Pirate ship, one of the attractions in the adventure playground

We had a lovely meal, and on the first night adjourned to the bar for a bit of old-school Scrabble and bar billiards. The following night we hit the games room (which is actually aimed at the older kids staying there) and reverted to our teenage selves by playing table tennis and arcade machines. Brilliant!  I kind of envisaged my 15 year old self coming here: too young to go on hols with my friends, but feeling too old for the family holiday, but actually enjoying it and maybe having a little holiday romance with someone else that was also ‘too old’ for the family holiday.

So what else? There’s a self-service laundry with ironing facilities  (which we made use of), two hard tennis courts, a nine-acre par-three golf course, Turkish steam room, gym, hot tub and a wonderful, big outdoor pool (surrounded by loungers), which is heated from mid-May until September. The kids were itching to get in, but seeing as our visit was at the start of May, we said we’d save that for another time. Dogs are also very welcome and the hotel has several resident ones.

We thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. The children loved it and my eldest daughter was asking (before we’d even left) when we could return. Guests (including us) all seemed so chilled out and everything was designed to make life easy. I think Matt and I were the most relaxed we’ve been on a family break. Matt said: the question is would you come back paying full price? Yes we both agreed.

* We were given two nights full board for the purpose of this review.



I want to believe that a man cheating on his pregnant partner isn’t that common

It’s not that often that I feel sorry for Jordan (AKA Katie Price). However, if her Tweets about her husband’s infidelity are to be taken as the truth, I certainly do feel sorry for her on this occasion.

 

It must be horrendous to find out that your husband/partner is having an affair whatever the situation, but if you have an eight-month-old baby and are currently six months pregnant it must be completely debilitating.

I think most women feel a little more vulnerable when they have a young baby, and when you’re pregnant you can have all sorts of anxieties – least not about how it affects your relationship with your partner.

Is she really six month's pregnant?

Is she really six month’s pregnant?

I want to believe that a bloke cheating on his pregnant partner can’t be all that common, but I’ve seen loads of stories about just that in gossip mags; it’s happened to friend’s of friends and I’ve seen many online stories such as this one on shesahomewreaker.com. I just Googled ‘men cheating on pregnant wife’ and article after article came up on the subject, as well as a mention of the book What’s Your Pregnant Man Thinking?, which says that the well-quoted stat of one in ten men being unfaithful whilst their other half is pregnant could be true.

There are a million-and-one psychologists providing reasons as to why men might be more likely to cheat when their partner is pregnant, including the old chestnuts of him being stressed and the fact that you might be having less sex when you’re pregnant.

How thoroughly depressing.



A Great British family holiday

We were meant to be  visiting my family in Italy over the Easter break. Then I discovered my five-year-old’s passport had expired 10 days previously. We couldn’t renew it in time, so we had to cancel everything. We needed to pick ourselves up from the disappointment, so we searched for a UK holiday.

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Talland Bay

We booked a contemporary, luxury, self-catering holiday home at The Bay, Talland, between Looe and Polperro in Cornwall. Situated right by the pretty Talland Bay, it had all the mod cons as well as a lovely heated pool complete with sauna. Toys and consoles at reception, competitions and even an Easter egg hunt, ensured the children loved the place.

General things we did and the kids loved: 

Visited lots of beaches and bays – skimmed stones, paddled, beachcombed, investigated rock pools

Ate lots of ice-cream – Cornish ice-cream is delicious (as is Italian!)

Visited lots of lovely seaside towns and villages

Travelled on boats and car ferries

Ate out every day :-)

Used the pool every day

The amusement arcade!

Some of the places we visited:

1. Seaton Beach, Seaton Vally and Hessenford (woodland walk)

Nature walk between Seaton Beach and Hessenford

Nature walk between Seaton Beach and Hessenford

Our first excursion was to Seaton Beach, which was a few minutes from where we were staying. It wasn’t the prettiest of the beaches we visited, but the kids liked it and there was a great Woodland Nature Walk right next to it, which takes you through Seaton Valley to the village of Hessenford and right to a welcome pub for lunch. We saw all manner of flora and fauna, and the girls were thoroughly engaged; so much so that even the twins – at two-and-a-half years old – managed to walk three-and-a-half miles. It was a really good walk.

2. The Lost Gardens of Heligan

I think this was one of the highlights for all of us and we spent hours and hours there as there were so many interesting things to see. If you know some of the history behind The Lost Gardens, it’s even more remarkable.

The Lost Gardens lay dormant and neglected under decades of overgrowth but were restored on a shoestring budget and unveiled in 1992. The gardens are vast yet so many parts have the intimacy of private gardens that you’ve been invited into.

The rope bridge spanning part of the jungle.

The rope bridge spanning part of the jungle.

On admission, the children immediately received compasses, pencils, bird bingo and an object search game for the jungle section. Sofia (aged 5) was in her element spotting birds along the woodland paths (on one of a number of trails) as we made our way to the sub-tropical outdoor jungle. The jungle was brilliant and all three were really interested in what they were seeing and I was fascinated by its microclimate. The very recent addition of a long rope bridge ensured this section was a major hit. You can take a buggy around the top section of the jungle, but have to park up if you want to explore the depths. My two-year-olds did very well with the steps down and the stepping stones across ponds, but younger ones might struggle.

On one of the many pathways

On one of the many pathways

After lunch at the Heligan Tearoom, which had a wide choice of lovely home cooked food (and produce from the onsite bakery), we visited ‘The Northern Gardens,’ which are home to the Productive Gardens, which include the vegetable garden, the melon yard and the walled flower garden complete with over 200 varieties of fruit and veg; and the Pleasure Grounds. The Pleasure Grounds had so many nooks, crannies and paths and included Flora’s Green, which provided a spectacular display of exotic plants and trees, which are particularly beautiful at this time of year. We also visited the Crystal Grotto and wising well, the Italian Garden and Sundial Garden. There was something to see around every corner, from natural sculptures to bird houses and scarecrows.

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A view of the Italian Garden

We then moved onto ‘Heligan Wild’ where the girls got to feed Dexter cattle. We visited Horsemoor Hide where we were able to view Heligan’s wildlife and do some bird spotting.

There were many more things to see and do, including the whole of the Wider Estate. However, we had to call it a day as it had been a long visit and the kids were getting tired. We’ll definitely be coming back though to explore some more!

Feeding time!

Feeding time!

3. Fowey Harbour/Fowey

We went to the pretty small town of Fowey (‘Daphne du Maurier country’). This involved getting the Bodinnick to Fowey car ferry; a journey that took less than five minutes, but something that the kids loved. Our first stop was the interestingly named Ready Money Cove Beach. This was a great little cove and we had great fun playing on the beach. We did want to head to the nearby St. Catherine’s Castle, but the steep walk looked a bit ambitious for three little ones plus a buggy. In Fowey itself there were lots of lovely little shops and great independent cafes and restaurants to eat in. The harbour is lovely. Watching Liverpool v Manchester City in the Fowey Royal British Legion with three children was also quite an experience!

4. Caerhays Estate

Caerhays Castle on the Caerhays Estate is nestled in a pretty valley between Truro and St Austell. The children are fascinated by castles and they weren’t disappointed.

Caerhays Castle

Caerhays Castle

The 120 acre gardens are beautiful, hosting amazing camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias amongst other pretties. It was a beautiful display that can be enjoyed on four different walking routes, which provide views of the lake and sea as well as the rest of the estate. You do need to go in very late winter or during spring as there wouldn’t be much of a floral display otherwise (probably best to check before visiting so staff can advise). Although not really aimed at children, they enjoyed the walks we did and managed it comfortably. We didn’t take the buggy, but I imagine some of the walks could be quite a challenge if you were pushing one.DSCN6430

In the gardens

In the gardens

Porthluney Cove Beach (also known as Caerhays Beach) is also part of the Caerhays estate and is beautiful. There were big expanses of golden sands and plenty of rock pools to make it interesting. I think this was our favourite beach (and we visited many).

Porthluney Cove Beach

Porthluney Cove Beach

5. Rock and Padstow

We had some lunch in Rock (sadly not at Nathan Outlaw at the St Enodoc Hotel), played on the lovely sandy beach and then took the boat the short distance to Padstow, which probably requires very little introduction. We had a good mooch about and had yet more Cornish ice-cream from one of the many parlours!

Walking to get our boat to Padstow

Walking to get our boat to Padstow

A Great British holiday!



Having one, then having twins

Discovering you are expecting multiples is quite a shock whether you’re a first time parent or not.

If you already have a child, you certainly have the benefit of experience and have more confidence in your parenting abilities. However, the leap from one to three is pretty huge and juggling the demands of a toddler (who can have a tantrum at the drop of a hat and who probably wants entertaining most waking hours) with having not one, but two newborns can be quite challenging.

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When the twins came along my eldest daughter (Sofia) was two-and-a-half. It turned out that she dictated a very big part of our schedule, not the newborns. That’s not what I’d expected!

You have to be realistic and a lot more flexible with twins as opposed to a singleton, and with an older sibling on the scene as well, you’re not going to be able to please all of the children all of the time and you’re not always going to be able to do things perfectly. Having felt that for baby number one I did things to the best standard possible, I struggled a little when I was no longer able to do everything ‘perfectly’ with three. I had to get over that otherwise I’d have gone insane.

There were times when Sofia was a bit bored as I fed one or both twins for the umpteenth time that day or sat hooked up to the breast pump. I didn’t like letting Sofia watch too much TV, but sometimes needs must and I had to learn not to beat myself up about it. Sofia loved her TV time, but we’d always make sure we did something that was specifically for her multiple times a week.

We’d go out to Childrens’ Centres, parks, play dates etc even if the twins hadn’t had their feed or the sleep they needed. I’d feed them when we got there or they could have a sleep en route. I’d have never done this with Sofia; I danced to the beat of her drum. If it was time for her nap we’d leave somewhere a bit early, if she needed a feed we’d leave the house a bit late, if I thought she was a little under the weather we would cancel plans. We all had to be adaptable and the twins had to fit in, wherever possible, with the routine we already had. It would have been unfair to expect Sofia to have to cope with everything changing. Far from being detrimental, I think not pandering to the twins’ every whim was actually very good for them and keeping things as similar as possible for Sofia meant that we kept the dreaded green-eyed monster at bay.

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It is hard work, but it is fantastic having twins with an older sibling and I was far more relaxed and confident second time around.

Sofia absolutely loves having two little sisters, she knows it’s something special and she continues to receive a lot of attention and fuss because of it. So do I for that matter. If I’d had a pound for every time someone exclaimed: ‘you’ve got your hands full,’ I’d be very rich!

It is amazing to see them all interact. The twins obviously have a special bond, but they really look up to their older sister and as the age gap is relatively small between them and Sofia, they are all natural playmates, which is wonderful. I feel amazingly proud when we are all seen out together.

It’s also been very good for my self-esteem: I’ve survived having a toddler and newborn twins and everyone is always very quick to congratulate me  :-)

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I wrote this article for the Epsom and Leatherhead Multiples Club, which I’ve been attending for the last two years. 

Go to: www.tamba.org.uk for more information about having twins and multiples.