The Tooth Fairy is a Bit of a Lush (but we should forgive her)

2015-10-06 21.47.25I was away for three nights on my first ‘girls’ holiday’ for eight years when my eldest’s first tooth fell out. I was a bit gutted to be honest and the Tooth Fairy’s visit was delayed for one night. When she did visit, she felt a bit guilty to have missed this first milestone and pushed the boat out with a special handwritten scroll and a little personalised bracelet from Mallorca as well as a couple of quid.

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For the second tooth, the Tooth Fairy only remembered after midnight and wasn’t particularly discreet and then for the third tooth, which fell out last  Saturday morning, the Tooth Fairy did remember her visit and to leave the money late Saturday night (well after wine o’clock had started), but forgot to take the tooth away until her husband mentioned it. Luckily tooth number four fell out two days after number three so that went a little smoother.

I mentioned my rookie Tooth Fairy mistake on Facebook (the leaving the money but not taking the tooth episode) and it appears this fairy isn’t alone.

“At least you realised, our tooth fairy came twice last time and then not until after breakfast this time. Although amazingly the £1 fell out of Jim’s* pyjamas!”


“Tooth Fairies are delinquent – this is a fact

They are: 

1) forgetful 
2) inconsistent
3) confused about day and night
4) illiterate – especially when they have been drinking 

I have found that setting the children’s expectations very low about what, when and how the tooth fairy operates has been a very good thing!!!”


“Jane’s* tooth came out at my parent’s house last night, whilst we were away….the tooth fairy (male aged 67ish) remembered at 4 a.m. but then dropped the tooth on the way out of the room for Jane to step on in the morning….!!! This was one out of practise tooth fairy.”


“Our tooth fairy has left a few notes explaining why she couldn’t come on a particular night (the one where it was raining too hard for her wings to fly created a lot of sympathy). Receiving the notes has been more exciting than the money!”


“Our tooth fairy was late when she was helping Father Christmas out….apparently they are related!”

I think children have fairly high expectations about the Tooth Fairy, but fairies have increasingly busy lives and have a lot on their plates. I think we should forgive them any little indiscretions and salute their quick, creative thinking.

By the way, Fairydoorz do some great Tooth Fairy items if you are going the whole hog. This is Sofia’s fairy door, which is an everyday one, not specifically for the Tooth Fairy, but it’s lovely.


Family Holidays During Term Time

The kids seem to have only just gone back to school and already everyone’s talking about plans for October half-term.

However, I checked EasyJet for flights last week (as I wanted to visit my family in Italy as we didn’t get the chance over the summer) and it’s the same old story: flight prices sky-rocketting during the school holidays. I haven’t even bothered checking accommodation as the price for five of us to fly is already too much of a barrier. I’m talking about an extra £800 premium just for flights on Cheesy Jet if it’s during half-term.


Sofia is in year two at school and she’s only ever had one day off full stop (for a very short-lived vomiting bug). I’ve never taken her out so that we can go on holiday. However, I am getting increasingly frustrated that travel companies are holding us to ransom. I still won’t take her out, not because of the fine, but a) she wouldn’t want to miss school and b) I think it can be disruptive. That said, I certainly understand why others would, and it seems that they are increasing number.

Coincidentally, as I was looking into extortionate flights,  I was sent a press release conducted by online travel agency The headline stated: Half of Parents Will Take Their Kids Out of School for Holidays Over Next 12 Months.

According to their research, 82% of the 1996 parents surveyed, with children between the ages of four and 16, said that they would be prepared to pay a fine, with almost half saying they actually plan to take their children out of school for a holiday during term time (apparently up 104% from the previous year). Unsurprisingly, the majority said they’d do it in order to save money on their trip.

I have to say, I’m not that surprised. As with all good PR stories, attention is drawn to regional differences. Liverpudlians were the most likely to take their children out of school during term time and Bristolians the least likely.

In the meantime perhaps we should all push for our schools to emulate the South Wales primary school that’s tacking all its inset days together in order to gain a weeks holiday outside of the standard school calendar…

Party Bags: Quality, Quantity, Novelty or Charity?

I’m over-thinking things again. I’m ashamed to say it when there are so many atrocities being reported in the news right now, but the ridiculous thing I’m fussing about this time is party bags (weren’t they called loot bags in the 80s btw?) and specifically what to do for M&G’s 4th birthday party. It’s definitely not a case of party oneupmanship – according to the Daily Mail UK mothers spend a collective £808 million on them!?? – I just want to do something the kids will enjoy, but the parents won’t hate; and something that won’t break the bank.


The venue where they are having their party does provide ready done ones at the very reasonable price of £1.80 each. I have shunned these though as they can’t actually tell me what’s in them so I reckon they’ll be rather naff. However, what to do instead? Do you go for quality, quantity, novelty or even charity?

Some of the options:

1) Check out The Works or The Book People and buy book collections and individually wrap one book for each child (looks like you can get decent books for £1 each) and then supplement with a bag of Haribo

However, as one Mumsnetter put it: “My kids like books they like parties they like party bags they dont like them mixing.”

2) Go for a pre-made option from a company that specialises in doing them. It’s a sliding scale with the cheapest looking rather sparse and the good ones really starting to get pricey

3) The DIY bag packed full of cheap tat and penny sweets – loved by children, hated by parents

4) The more novel such as a plant pot and packet of seeds each for party guests to plant at home       

5) Use the money I’d spend on doing something as trivial as party bags to help Syrian refugees instead. At four, I’m not sure if the kids would understand this. I’m currently looking for charity sweet options

Read: Planning a Child’s Birthday Party 

Diary of 43 Days of School Holidays: Part III

Day Thirty Two

The girls loved Tulleys Puzzle Park (the summer offering from Tulleys Farm) in West Sussex so much that we made a return visit so that they could show daddy.

In the maize maze

In the maize maze

We didn’t take a packed lunch this time, so our first stop was The Farmyard Grill, which does BBQ food and sandwiches/baguettes. I have to say the food was really good and reasonably priced.

Then we headed straight into the maze. I think Matt had underestimated the scale of it. It was blisteringly hot so I guessed we wouldn’t last the two hours plus of our last visit. As before, the girls really loved it. After getting off to a good start by collecting several of the stamps quite quickly, we had a bit of a dry spell. Luckily this coincided with finding the cafe within the maze. We stopped for refreshments, but unfortunately Maria got stung by a wasp. We got some emergency ice lollies to calm the situation and the guy at the kiosk gave Maria a complimentary one. She recovered well.


Duck racing

Duck racing

We gave it a good go, but Matt, Maria and Gabriella were beginning to tire. Sofia and I were up for carrying on, but the others won and so, much to Sofia’s disgust, we cheated to get out.

Tractor ride

Tractor ride

Then it was duck racing, rope mazes, the giant slide, trampolines, a family tractor ride and a go on the quad barrel train. Just as we were about to leave we bumped into my friend and her family, who live in Madrid and had just arrived in the UK for a visit. She’d been reading the blog and seen my earlier post about Tulleys so decided to visit. Quite a coincidence!!

The girls thoroughly enjoyed their day and were tired out.

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 4  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Thirty Three 


Sofia had another Pizza Express party to go to today, which chopped the day up quite a bit, but did mean we ended up having takeaway pizzas for lunch :-)  The girls have played pretty well on a day that saw us having to do lots of boring kitchen-related stuff, so I broke out the new High School Musical doll I had stowed away for just such a day.

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 1  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Thirty Four

A proper rainy day. We have an annual pass, so we headed back to Hobbledown. It’s a farm, but also has a lot else going on. For a bad weather day like today, we were going for it’s vast indoor play area (the play barn). However, shortly after we arrived there was a break in the rain so we went straight over to The Crystalite Mine.

A lot of crystallite

A lot of crystalite

This is a giant sand pit where crystalite (green gems) are hidden. If you find enough pieces they can be exchanged for lollipops at the end of the visit. Needless to say, the girls go crazy for this. As not many people were mad enough to head over there straight after an absolute downpour, it was rich pickings. We then visited the animals, including the new wallaby enclosure.

taking a look at the otters, who were being shy

taking a look at the otters, who were being shy

Then it was off to watch a puppet show before having lunch. After that it was several hours of indoor play. The girls actually went to bed slightly earlier than usual!

At the puppet show

At the puppet show








Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Lollipops: 3 Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Thirty Five 

A wet miserable day, which meant indoor play and a disco with some of our favourite tunes complete with disco ball.


We did venture out of the house to go to the library. Sofia has now finished the Summer Reading Challenge and was very keen to collect her stickers and medal. She’s opted to receive her certificate back at school. All three chose new books to take home.

Very happy despite the serious face

Very happy despite the serious face


Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Thirty Six

This rain is torrential! Thankfully we’d already seen the forecast so we’d planned a cinema trip with one of Sofia’s oldest friends (from baby group) at Dorking Halls. We went to see Strange Magic.


It was all about love: infatuation versus true love. The story was mainly told via song and had elves, fairy princesses, goblins, imps, magic and love potions. It was a big hit with our party of five girls. However, the adults were a little bit skeptical: two princesses who are sisters (one of whom becomes fiercely independent), power ballads and a good looking, male protagonist who turns out to be a wrong’un… hmmm familiar. Think Mr. Lucas let it go a bit.

Then it was off to Côte for a late lunch. They have a very nice childrens’ menu, but the lack of colouring activities (and I’m not saying that I have anything against places that don’t provide activities; they are restaurants and not playgroups after all) meant the kids, who had behaved wonderfully for the duration of the film, were a little restless when waiting for their food to arrive. However, it was all good when it did arrive and mine were already asking when we could do it again as we were leaving.

Ice creams: 3  Ice lollies: 0 Popcorn: bucketloads  Minor bickerings: 1  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Thirty Seven

We had a meet up with some of the children that are going to be in Sofia’s new class when she goes back (her school mixes up the classes each year).

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We went to Jupiter Jos in Ewell. It’s a soft play centre on two levels, but it’s fairly small scale. The kids really love it there as there’s some really good apparatus and the mums love it even more as it’s really easy to keep tabs on where all the children are. Some soft plays are vast and it can be really difficult to spot your children, let alone get to them if they need you for any reason. It is one of the few soft play venues I can actually relax a bit and – dare I say it – have a cup of coffee.

In the evening we had some friends over, who also have three girls. Carnage!

Ice creams: 0  lollipops: 3 Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Thirty Eight

Pre- back-to-school haircut in the morning for Sofia. Then we went for lunch and playdate with two of her oldest and closest nursery friends. It was a lovely day, and so great to see that they all had such affection for each other despite not seeing each other that often. Maria and Gabriella also had a fab time. Picnic lunch and plenty of play: perfect.


Ice creams: 0  Biscuits: 6 Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Thirty Nine

First curry sitting for the kids

First curry sitting for the kids








We travelled to Wiltshire for the bank holiday weekend as we were celebrating two family birthdays on the Monday. We had lots of family time playing cards and games and Matt cooked up two wonderful curries. We had proper dessert, but I’d also bought some  pop corn kernels and the kids and I made it up in the pan. To say it was a hit was an understatement!

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0 Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Forty


The five of us plus my mother-in-law went for a really lovely trip to Stourhead, one of the nicest National Trust places I’ve been to. It has a wonderful Palladian mansion and absolutely stunning landscaped gardens. We had lunch at the NT restaurant and then headed straight to the house, which as you’d imagine was steeped in history. However, the focus was on ‘Harry’s Story’ and the house brought to life what it was like growing up in this family home. The children had a few activities to do so were fully engaged and it was definitely one of the more hands on NT properties we’ve visited. After exploring all the rooms we headed outside into the rain…



The Stourhead estate is 1,072 hectares and includes farmland, temples, grottoes, lakes, a huge number of rare and exotic trees, a gothic cottage and the stable yard, which had shops, a gallery and a pub. We were there for some hours but only covered a small part of it. The girls particularly liked the grottoes. I’d love to go back and explore some more (especially when it isn’t raining!).

Then we went back to a high tea prepared by Matt’s dad: sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream and cake. Lovely!!


Taking a rest in the gothic cottage


 Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 3 Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 1

Day Forty One 


Today was a big family day with a double birthday celebration. Lots of lovely food and good company.

 Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0 Cake: lots  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 1

Day Forty Two

Another play date with one of Sofia’s old nursery friends. A lovely lunch and lots of outdoor (and indoor) play. It was lovely that Maria and Gabby were very included also. A very nice day and mummy got to have some Prosecco too :-)


 Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 3  Cake: 1 Meringues: 3 Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Forty Three

Last day of the holidays, and today we had a meet up with Sofia’s old reception class and headed out to Kent’s Swanley Park, which is billed as a traditional town park set in 60 acres of landscaped parkland. 


We parked up (it costs £2 to park at weekends and during school holidays) and got the miniature public railway into the park, which the children all loved, as did I if I’m being honest.

The weather was decidedly iffy; sunny and warm one minute and raining and chilly the next, so we had a big job preventing them going into the paddling pool and splash park, although there were plenty of other children in there. The girls headed straight over to the bouncy castle, which was £1.20 per child, but didn’t go on the battery-powered bikes as Maria and Gabby were too little. We then spent some time in the small children’s play area and sandpit before grabbing some lunch. We’d had a busy morning doing a dummy school run as we’re currently living at my dad’s whilst our kitchen is being done, so I didn’t have chance to make a packed lunch. Therefore we hit the cafeteria, which is really old school (not in a bad way). It didn’t have the healthiest of food options, but they were plentiful and VERY child friendly if you know what I mean.


Next it was off to the main play area, which has really nice apparatus. We spent quite a lot of time there an then it was time for ice creams and ice lollies.


The children then spotted the ‘fun fair’, which was actually a collection of bouncy castles and inflatables. It was £7 per child for entrance, but as we were a big group they reduced to £5. Still, £15 for my three on top of everything else was a little steep and a few activities within the section needed additional payment and Maria and Gabby weren’t tall enough for the best inflatable (the huge slide). I wasn’t overly impressed but the kids really enjoyed it.


The park also boasts a big boating lake with pedal and rowing boats and canoes. We’d all really have loved to go on, but time was pressing and if I’m honest we’d spent quite a bit of money.

I wish we’d had done more walking around the park itself as opposed to just going to a number of different attractions, but that’s what the children wanted to do and they had a really brilliant last day of holidays.

So, goodbye summer holidays and hello labelled uniform and school bag and new shiny shoes by the front door.  The summer holidays have seen 34 ice creams, 42 ice lollies, 45 bickerings, 11 arguments, 11 tantrums and visits to London, Surrey, Kent, Wiltshire, West Sussex, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.  

Diary of 43 Days of School Holidays: Part II

Day Eighteen

The big drive today from Surrey to Cornwall for a week’s holiday. It should have taken about four hours but took seven and a half instead. However, we had plenty of food, Matt had downloaded some of the childrens’ favourite programmes (which they watched on the Mac which was wedged between the front seats) and we played many rounds of a great game called Are We There Yet?, which I much preferred to Eye Spy. I have to say they were very good and it could have been a lot worse. Amazingly no arguments or tantrums!

Lolly pit stop

Lolly pit stop

When we arrived at the property, which we’d found quite late on, on airbnb, it had been worth the long drive. The view was stunning.


We sorted ourselves out and chose rooms. The house is in Widemouth Bay and is literally a five minute walk to the beach. We were already on holiday time as it was 7pm, which is approaching usual bedtime, and we were just heading out for a beach walk. We had a bit of a makeshift tea after a lovely walk.

Red wine, cheese, pate, bread and Scrabble for Matt and I once they were in bed.

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 4 (including mine)  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0 

Day Nineteen


The weather didn’t look great. After a leisurely start we took a drive across the border into Devon (where Matt’s brother lives) and to the lovely Hartland Quay. After going down to the quay, doing a bit of stone skimming and getting a soaking we met him and other family for a big Sunday roast.

After that we headed out to Northam Burrows Country Park  near Westwood Ho! There’s a small toll to pay and then you take the road through grassland towards the beach. We encountered lots of sheep and horses (who got up very close and personal) and a few golfers before getting to the car park.

This close to the car!

This close to the car!


Then it was buckets and spades, boule set and football out and onto the beach. The weather had cheered up a bit. We all went for a paddle and the girls loved running away from the encroaching water and generally getting pretty wet again. We played a lot of games and spent several very nice hours on a rather windy beach.


Ice creams: 3  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 1  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 2

Day Twenty 

It was absolutely hammering it down in the morning, but we headed out in any case with the first port of call being an early lunch at the St. Kew Inn in St. Kew. We had a really lovely meal, which was very fish and shellfish heavy and by the time we came out it was stunning.



and after

and after









We had a look around the local church and then picked up some lobsters and crabs for dinner from nearby The Crab Shack. After that we headed to the beautiful Polzeath beach via Boscastle.

Polzeath beach

Polzeath beach

Polzeath beach

Polzeath beach









The surfers were out in force and by now the suncream was needed. Amazing to think the weather had changed so much. The girls had a wonderful time at the beach. Then it was back home for a family dinner for nine. The lobster and crab was fantastic.

Ice creams: 3  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Twenty One 

We went back to near Hartland to meet up with Matt’s mum and dad who are staying near there (much better weather this time) and went to the quay. We messed about in the rock pools and used the nets we’d bought. The tide was coming in very fast, which provided its own entertainment as the girls were chased back.

Scorchio in Hartland

Scorchio in Hartland

We went into the pretty little village of Hartland itself for some lunch. Ironically I had my first Cornish pasty of the trip whilst in Devon. Then we headed back into Cornwall to Bude. We played some pitch and putt, which was a first for the girls (and the first time for me since I was about 10!) and then went to the cafe for ice creams, tea and cake :-)

Pitch and putt was a winner

Pitch and putt was a winner

Ice creams: 3  Milk shakes: 1 Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 3  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Twenty Two

Today we want back into Devon to visit Clovelly. The village is privately owned and is completely vehicle free. It costs £6.95 per adult and children  (ages 7 to16) are £4.35;  under 7s are free. However, I reckon it’s worth it. It’s one of the most chocolate box, picturesque villages you’ll ever see.

Just before the descent into the village

Just before the descent into the village


We walked down the very steep cobbles in blazing sunshine taking in the cute little cottages, looking in on the Fisherman’s cottage with artefacts that Sofia was particularly interested in.

Our lunch spot

Our lunch spot

We broke up the walk with a nice lunch at The Cottage Tea Rooms and then continued our walk down to the harbour and had another paddle. Then it was off to the Red Lion in the harbour for some refreshments before getting a rather exciting Land Rover ride back up (at the specific request of Matt who was nursing a beach football injury).

Down to the harbour for a paddle

Down to the harbour for a paddle

We paid a visit to the gift shops and then headed back home. Family came over for dinner, but we headed to Widemouth Bay for a bit of a run around and beach fun before eating.

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Twenty Three 

The day was meant to be a right off weather-wise with torrential rain forecast for the entirety. However, it stopped quite early in the morning so we seized the opportunity to go for a walk. Matt’s older brother and his family were camping at Stoke Barton Farm and Campsite in Devon, so that’s where we began our walk.

A bit breezy at St. Catherine's Tor.

A bit breezy at St. Catherine’s Tor.


It was a lovely walk that took in plenty of farm animals, stunning coastline, wildlife and St. Catherine’s Tor, where we stopped for snacks and a photo opportunity.

We walked back and then went for lunch at the Cheristow Lavender Tea Rooms and took a look at its pretty secret garden as well as its lavender.

After that, it was back to Widemouth Bay to go and collect scallops and more lobsters for dinner before some crazy golf in Bude with the girls’ aunt, uncle and cousins.


Finally, a lovely dinner followed by plenty of card games. Knock is Sofia’s new favourite game.



Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Twenty Four

Not a great day for outdoor activities so it was bowling en masse in Bude. The girls have only been bowling once before and absolutely loved it so were very excited to be doing it again.


After that it was a cafe lunch in Widemouth Bay and then a walk on the beach. It was pretty blustery so I sat this expedition out and left Matt and the girls to it.


Port Isaac

Late afternoon we went to the pretty little fishing village of Port Isaac. Sea shanty group Fisherman’s Friends (native to Port Isaac) were playing there in the evening and Matt’s family were keen to see them (as were many other people!). I was very keen to visit Port Isaac generally, so it all worked out nicely. We had some food, bought some goodies from the fudge shop, had a wonder and then had a drink at the pub before the gig. There was a really great vibe to the place and we all really enjoyed our visit. My only disappointment was that we didn’t get to eat at Nathan Outlaw’s place.

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Chocolate and fudge: quite a lot  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Twenty Five


We vacated our lovely holiday home and got on the road. Thankfully we weren’t doing the whole trip home; we were stopping the night at friends in Somerset for a bit of a uni reunion for Matt. We got there early afternoon and the adults partied until 3am. It was good. The hosts have three girls of similar age to ours and another friend had a mother girl. They absolutely loved it and had a trampoline, sweet and TV-fuelled party of their own until 10pm.

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Sweets: off the dial  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 1  Small tantrums: 0

Day Twenty Six

Following a morning of playing with friends, an extremely boring day of travelling and unpacking.

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Twenty Seven


Post-holiday chores done in the morning so we headed out after lunch to do a few things including buy a birthday present for one of Sofia’s friends. I let the girls go into their favourite shop (Claire’s Accessories). After a lot of deliberating Sofia treated herself to something. I hadn’t planned to, but decided to brave Clarks to see if we could get Sofia’s school shoes. To my amazement we were seen immediately and managed to make a successful purchase.

I’d bought water balloons in the toyshop earlier so they came straight out once we got back.

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 3  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Twenty Eight


Today it was back to the Epsom and Leatherhead Multiples Club. Although the oldest by some way, Sofia loves it when she gets the chance to go outside of term time. This week had the additional draw of a bouncy castle. There was lots of colouring, sticking, playing and bouncing.

Afterwards, we went to Pizza Express for lunch. The chain is very accomplished at catering for kids, which is just as well as the place was rammed with them (all behaving I should point out)!



After a hearty three courses we headed to the library. Sofia has completed five out of her six books for The Summer Reading Challenge 2015, so it was time to collect some of her stickers and also her key ring, which she was very pleased about. We also took out a load more books.

Quite a bad day for arguments though!!

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 3  Minor bickerings: 1  Arguments: 4  Small tantrums: 0

Day Twenty Nine

I had to work so the girls had a few hours with our childminder. They love it so much, not least playing with her two year old. They had a picnic in the park that they were very excited to tell me about.

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After that we headed into Kingston-Upon-Thames to get school uniform from John Lewis. I really love the quality of the their stuff and Sofia’s pinafore dresses from there have lasted two years and still look like new. We’re only getting new ones now as the existing ones are getting a bit short. We were the only ones in the Back to School section and were done and dusted in a few minutes. I was expecting a nightmare.

To counter the boredom of that we paid a visit to Paperchase. The girls have certainly inherited my love of stationery. Then it was off for ice-creams – the good stuff – at Gelateria Danieli.

Ice creams: 3  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 1  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Thirty 

Today we headed back to West Sussex and to Tilagte Park with a friend of mine and her daughter. It’s a huge park with multiple lakes, a walled garden, a nature centre, adventure playground, Go Ape and probably a lot of stuff we didn’t see.

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We started with a picnic and feeding the ducks and then it was off to the adventure playground, which they loved. Sofia was itching to get involved with Go Ape, but even if she was big enough the others weren’t. Luckily the adventure playground kept them entertained for quite some time. Afterwards we headed to the maze. They were all absolute monkeys in there; it has little child-sized holes cut into the hedges. All the kids took full advantage and kept disappearing. Fortunately they were laughing and shouting so much we were able to find them.


After we’d had enough of chasing them around we hit the cafe for lollies and ice creams.

We finished up with a visit to the nature centre. The otters and pigs were firm favourites, but they loved feeding the goats with leaves they picked themselves. We also visited the bee hives, which we all found interesting.

IMG_5954I would definitely like to go back and probably arrive earlier as I think there was a lot more to explore.

Ice creams: 1  Ice lollies: 3  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Thirty One

Today was a day to play in the garden. I’d foolishly bought a bumper back of water balloons so it was a change into swimming costumes and an hour of getting each other soaking wet.

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In the afternoon it was an impromptu playdate with the little girl next door: someone else’s toys, lots of bubbles, chalk pictures and playing with her pet rabbit and dog. They didn’t want to leave. Things are always so much more interesting at someone else’s house!

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

My Childhood Book Collection

I went up into my dad’s loft on the hunt for some of my old books from when I was little.

I struck gold: one box full of reading books and one box of information books (don’t worry I haven’t catalogued all of them).

FullSizeRender-2 FullSizeRenderThe memories came flooding back in an instant. There were Pigeon Street books, Cockleshell Bay books, King Rollo, Willow the Wisp; a huge Thomas the Tank Engine Collection, a plethora of Ladybird read it yourself books and Well-loved tales books (with their ornate tree designs on the inside cover) as well as Paddington, Roald Dahl and Alice in Wonderland. Blue Peter and Mr Men annuals added to the eclectic mix. Then I found a collection of books that really stopped me in my tracks: My first library – READERS DIGEST Mothercare books, and in particular The day the clocks stopped, one of the books in the collection. I remembered it vividly. I was simultaneously really happy and rather sad: happy that I was reunited with them, had so many great memories of them and that I could share them with my children, but sad that my mum wasn’t here to share in it. She’d have loved dusting them off (well actually little dusting required as they were in pristine condition) and reminiscing with me and sharing them with her grandchildren.


My slightly morose feelings soon subsided when I delved into the ‘information books’ box.  Ladybird’s We Can Cook and Usborne’s First Cookbook were first up. Both had spawned a number of culinary nightmares and I could remember each page as if I had a photographic memory. I instantly knew that the Usborne books The Knowhow Book of Paper Fun and Science Tricks & Magic would entertain Sofia as much as they had me, and that the Who?, What?, Where?, Why?, How? and When? compendium might save me from incessant questioning about absolutely everything in the way they’d saved my mum. I even found the official programme for the marriage of H.R.H The Prince of Wales and The Lady Diana Spencer in there!

However, the pièce de résistance had to be The Body Book by Claire Rayner *shudder*.

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How to Keep Kids Entertained During Long Haul Travel

We’ve done quite a few short haul flights with our three girls, but despite wanting to travel further afield we’ve been too fearful of a lengthy flight with them. I was therefore very happy to be approached about a guest post providing great tips and advice for travelling long haul with kids. So here it is… 

Safe trip

I wish we looked this stress-free on a flight or at any time in fact!

Most parents with young children and babies tend to stay closer to home when going away on holiday, favouring the UK staycation or a hop, skip and jump across to France, Spain or Portugal. That doesn’t have to be so, however, because there are ways to keep youngsters entertained during long-haul travel so that the journey is that bit more bearable for everyone involved.

  1. Tablet - Whilst, in most situations, a child having their head buried in an iPad would make many people around them roll their eyes about tech-addicted kids, your fellow passengers will thank you for this one. Taking a tablet onto a flight on which you’ve downloaded some of your children’s favourite movies, TV shows or games will mean that they always have something to do when boredom starts to strike and the tantrum is coming. Make sure you have child-friendly earphones so you don’t risk irritating passengers around you.
  2. Old School Games - Never underestimate the beauty of older, traditional games like ‘I Spy’, memory games such as ‘I went on holiday and in my suitcase I packed…’ and travel board games like a mini snakes and ladders. All of these ideas can provide hours of entertainment, so make sure you have something up your sleeve even if it’s a simple deck of cards for a round of ‘Snap’ or ‘Go Fish’.
  3. Make Believe - Children have incredible imaginations, so make use of that during long distance travel to keep them entertained. If you’re on a flight that’s going to be throughout the night, get them to look out of the window to try and spot planets, stars, astronauts and even aliens. Being above the clouds means there’s always something to gaze at and the stars are extra bright.
  4. Get Arty - Before you think we’ve lost the plot and are suggesting that you pack pots of paint in your holdall, there are fairly mess-free ways of getting your kids involved in arts and crafts during a flight or long journey. A simple colouring book with a few bright pencils can suffice, but if you wanted something a bit different then consider taking some pots of Play Doh. It’s not sticky, it won’t make a mess and the kids can come up with all kinds of creations on their seat tray.
  5. Make It Educational - Before heading off on your journey, make the whole experience more interesting for your little ones by teaching them about the transport. Tell them how the plane works (Google is your friend here), tell them what different countries you’ll by flying over and a few fun facts about each one or how to say hello in that language and then use the plane’s in-flight moving map on the seat screens to allow them to follow the journey.
  6. Tire Them Out - The day before you’re due to travel, or on the day itself, try to make it as action packed as possible for your children. Take them outdoors for a long walk in the country or to the local park to let them burn off some energy. The more tired your child is when they begin their journey, the more likely they are to sleep during the trip; meaning entertainment won’t be necessary for the whole duration.
  7. Stories - Although packing books means adding weight to your hand luggage, you will not regret the decision to do so. The best kind of books for entertainment purposes often involve sounds and buttons for the little readers to push, but don’t be put off by that. Fellow passengers are more likely to prefer a little bit of a jingle to a wailing child. If you’re travelling with more than one youngster in tow, allow them to take it in turns to read pages of the story if they are of reading age, or just put on your very best theatrics to wow little eyes and ears.
  8. SnacksChildren are most likely to get restless when they are tired, bored or hungry, so always ensure you have packed plenty of snacks and drinks. You’ll have to get the drinks from the airport after getting through security due to liquid restrictions on flights, but packing your own food from home is no problem. Instead of taking chocolate or anything that’s likely to make your child hyperactive, think along the lines of grapes, crisps or raisins.

It’s worth remembering that whenever you travel with kids, you should take a spare set of clothes for them; just in case any accidents happen (because they can and do), whether it’s a spillage or sickness. Also, if you have a flight that will go into the night, take their pyjamas so that you can get them changed when it would normally be time for them to sleep. That way, they are more likely to settle down and get some rest and they will be a lot more comfortable.

If your child has recently moved out of nappies having completed the toilet training challenge, don’t tempt fate by not packing any at all. Just take one or two to put on them in case they sleep on the plane, as the cabin pressure can do strange things!

Our best advice to anyone planning a long journey to a holiday destination with young children is to be well prepared. Planning ahead and making sure you have everything you need will ensure that your children barely have the chance to get bored. Don’t use up all of your sources of entertainment at once though; be sure to space them out so that your children always have something new to see or do. Bon voyage!

Written by Chris Clarkson, Travel Expert and Managing Director at

Also read:

The fitness to fly certificate – another pregnancy-related cost

Diary of 43 Days of School Holidays: Part I

My eldest finished school on July 21st at 1.30pm. Her sisters finished pre-school the week before. The summer holidays have arrived! Yay!!

How many outings will we go on, how many places will we visit? How many lazy days will we have? How many ice creams and ice lollies will they consume? How many random craft ideas will I have to develop? There’ll be lots of fun and no doubt some tears and tantrums.

Half Day 

Last school run of the year and stayed on to present the teachers and TAs with their gifts. Then off to the Epsom and Leatherhead Multiples Club with three-year-old twins Maria and Gabriella. Lots of play with a bonus birthday celebration.



Very quick lunch by the duck pond in Ashtead. After picking up a few essentials from Sainsbury’s we went to pick up Sofia from school. We’d organised to go down to Woodcote Green Garden Centre with a few of Sofia’s friends straight after. The garden centre has a nice cafe and lovely play facilities. A good couple of hours enjoyed by all.


Ice creams: 2    Ice lollies: 1   Minor bickerings: 2   Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day One

First day of no alarm clock and girls up crazily early as usual. However, a far more leisurely breakfast :-) .

We had to run some errands, but made a stop off at our local toy shop – Lorimers – at Sofia’s request as she wanted to spend a bit of pocket money. I steered her away from the hugely expensive Barbies and more towards the arts and crafts: the compromise was a GALT Nail Art set, which was far more in pocket money territory. I treated them to a £6.99 boule set for the garden.


We had to get back as someone was coming to buy some of my old maternity clothes. My new obsession is Jellybugs Children’s Market  a Facebook group for selling childrens’ and maternity items in my local area.

We had quite a few games of boule before the weather turned and then it was lunch, which was followed by homemade ice lollies.


Homemade lollies

The afternoon mainly consisted of indoor play (including den building) and old favourite Pick up Sticks from a games compendium Sofia’s grandma just bought her.

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 3   Minor bickerings: 2   Arguments: 1  Small tantrums: 0 

Day Two

Today was a big meet up at the wonderful Hever Castle in Kent with Sofia’s friends from reception class (a tight-knit group despite being separated when they went into year one). I hadn’t been since I was eight, so I was rather excited.

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I booked online yesterday to get a slightly reduced rate; I’m an RHS member so I got into the gardens for free (and as it happened, outside was so fantastic we didn’t even go into the castle) and under fives are free in any case, so it was just Sofia’s ticket to get.

We got into the car, armed with the girls’ trusty I-Spy books, for the 45 minute journey.

We arrived at 10.15am and didn’t leave until 5pm. We started at the cafe and all the kids were really happy just running around the beautiful grounds by the water with its lily pads and ducks and swans. After the mums had all had their coffees, we moved to the adventure playground and Tower Maze. We spent absolutely ages there and that’s where we ate our picnics. We then all took a walk past the castle and onto the English Yew Maze, which again kept everyone entertained for a big chunk of time. Next it was on to the water maze. For the kids, this really was saving the best for last. It was really unique and they LOVED it. They got absolutely soaked. I finally had to lure them out with ice creams. After that we went back to the lake and had a bit of a chill out.

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We didn’t do the boating, see the Japanese Tea House, Miniature Model House Collection, Italian Garden, English Rose Garden or Tudor Garden; in fact we barely scratched the surface. However, all the children and adults thoroughly enjoyed it; it was a truly relaxing and fun-packed day.

All three girls asked when we could go with daddy. We’ll definitely be going back and hopefully we’ll get to see some of the summer jousting that’s taking place and see and do some of the many things we didn’t have time for this visit!

Check out the Visit Kent website for other great things to do in the county.

Ice creams: 4 (including mine)  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 0   Arguments: 0  Small tantrum: 1 (having to put wet shoes back on) 

Day Three

14c and torrential rain: welcome to British summertime.IMG_0072

We had our first proper leisurely start. Not much happening in the morning apart from drawing and a bit of TV, but we cooked a curry for lunch. In the afternoon we went to Hobbledown - ‘an adventure farm park’ in Surrey. The girls absolutely love the place. However,  it is pretty pricey, so I bought an annual pass last year, which although expensive itself, has actually saved money for days out since I got it as we’ve used it loads.

IMG_0080As it was absolutely pouring we didn’t even attempt to see any of the huge range of animals. Instead we headed straight to the play barn, which is probably the biggest indoor play centre I’ve ever seen. We spent three hours in there and they still didn’t want to leave. Luckily it was closing time so we had to!

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 2

Day Four 

Sofia had a birthday party to go to at Pizza Express and I had to go shopping, so dad was in charge for a couple of hours. He firstly dropped Sofia off. Many, many weekends now consist of driving to various parties around Surrey. Sofia is now old enough for a drop and run (five seems to be the acceptable age for this – hurrah!).

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My husband then took Maria and Gabby to our local playground, which is home to Pistachios (one of a number of lovely cafes in parks in Surrey and London, which always have lots of activities on), for a play and toasties for lunch. He then took them for a haircut at our local childrens’ salon. They absolutely love having their hair cut, not least because they get to watch Ben & Holly whilst sat in a car and get a lollypop afterwards. Naturally, I’ll have to take Sofia for a haircut next week!

Late afternoon was spent playing some garden games and and generally just messing about.


Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 1 (at Pizza Express) Minor bickerings: 0   Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Five

Today was all about a BBQ at friends. Everyone ate (and drank) very well and had a great time. The girls had a four-month-old baby to coo over. No ice-creams or ice lollies, but plenty of chocolate  cake :-)

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Six

I’m a freelancer and needed to get some work done today so the girls went to the childminder for a few hours. They absolutely love going, which is brilliant as essentially they view it as a proper day out (and I can get on without worrying). They do loads of arts and crafts, enjoy playing with different toys and absolutely adore her two-year-old daughter (who adores them too!).


In the afternoon we had an impromptu play date. Two hours passed very quickly as all five girls raided the dressing up box and did some imaginary role play. A very busy and happy day for them.

Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 3  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 1  Small tantrums: 0

Day Seven 

It was one argument after another this morning. It started when my husband allowed Gabby to have one of Sofia’s temporary tattoos. This spawned many more showdowns.


However, I packed a picnic and got everyone in the car so that we could head out to Wisley, an RHS garden in Surrey.

This summer, all four RHS gardens are celebrating the 150th anniversary of  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. IMG_0112There were a number of Wonderland-inspired activities at Wisley, and each of them got a book which contained quizzes, things to spot and conundrums related to the novel. It was rather beyond Maria and Gabby (perfect for six years and over I’d say), so we only very loosely followed it. We visited our favourite parts of the gardens, of which there are many, and did lots of walking. IMG_0134They love all the water features and the glass house as well as the orchards and fish. However, they were all very intrigued with everything Alice-related – including a game of flamingo croquet – and Sofia now wants to read the book. For once, we didn’t even make it to the playground as everyone was so interested in everything else.

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We headed over to The Clore Learning Centre and Teaching Garden to plant some pansy seeds (pansy Joker Series), which we brought home. We had a great day and all of them were asking when we could go again. Sofia especially wants to do the Alice trail properly.

Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 3  Minor bickerings: 3  Arguments: 3  Small tantrums: 2

Day Eight 

So, we’ve embarked on a kitchen renovation. It started today. We were intending to stay the day here, but by 9am it became obvious it wouldn’t work so we shipped out to my dad’s.

From fully operating kitchen to a shell in a few hours

From fully operating kitchen to a shell in a few hours

The girls were quite excited about the chaos. There was quite a lot of ferrying backwards and forwards on my part, but they enjoyed spending the day playing at my dad’s.

Loom bands and tea parties

Loom bands and tea parties

Then the real excitement came: their very first sleepover. They were so excited that I was very surprised that Maria and Gabby, who were sharing a bed, actually fell asleep within five minutes. Sofia, wasn’t asleep when we left, but was reading one of the books she’s chosen as part of the Summer Reading Challenge. She’s already four books in.

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My husband and I took advantage of their first sleepover and the fact that the kitchen was out of action and went for a curry. It’s going to be very strange having no one up at 5.30am or any midnight visits or demands for breakfast before 6am…

Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Nine

I managed to get a lot done before heading over to my dad’s to see the girls after their very first sleepover. I arrived to find them all watching TV with a plethora of tattoos adorning them, including a rather fetching massive black and purple Sofia the First one on Maria’s face.

They actually did this unprompted

They actually did this unprompted


After a quick tidy up of the carnage they’d created in a couple of hours, we headed to Nonsuch Park, which houses Nonsuch Mansion, and is literally across the road from my dad’s.

We had a nice walk to the lovely Nonsuch Pantry where we got fed and watered. The girls were particularly intrigued when three men in full on Highland dress walked in. There was a wedding happening at the mansion and as soon as we went outside for a play, we could hear bagpipes playing.

Sofia's sneaky pic of the kilted men

Sofia’s sneaky pic of the kilted men

We spent several hours exploring, playing, climbing and racing and then headed home.

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We got back to my dad’s and renewed several library books online that are part of the Summer Reading Challenge but had to go in person to return one, so headed to our local library.

Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 0  Chocolate lollies: 3  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 4

Day Ten

Today was a meet up with some of my friends who also have kids. We decided on National Trust venue Morden Hall Park as it was pretty central for two of us that live in Surrey and the others who are in South West London. It describes itself as a green oasis in the city, giving a taste of a country estate with a glimpse of its agricultural and industrial history. A pretty accurate description.

Adventure playground, which kept them entertained for some time

Adventure playground – kept them entertained for some time

We spent a lot of time in the great adventure playground – including the favourite zip wire -, played plenty of Pooh sticks and did lots of walking and tree climbing. We had a lovely picnic in the rose garden and then walked to Deen City Farm, which is a very manageable distance from Morden Hall Park and suitable for buggies. We even picked some early blackberries en route. The girls liked them but way too tart for me!


Picnicking in the rose garden

Once at the farm we spent some time with the chickens and then had the obligatory ice creams/ice lollies to recharge. Then we went on to feed the bigger animals.

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Finally we headed back to Morden Hall Park; Sofia had knocked off a few of her National Trust 50 Things to do before you’re 11 3/4 and went to get the stickers to prove it.


The kids (22 months – 6.5 years) had a wonderful time. Six kids and not a single argument or meltdown. Amazing!!

Ice creams: 1   Ice lollies: 2  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Eleven

We went to Glorious Goodwood today for the horse racing. We live right by the Epsom Downs so the girls have been to that race course a couple of times and love it, but it was our first time at this one.

My brother’s girlfriend had invited us to go as it’s something that she and her family do annually.

We travelled down, met with some of the group and went straight on for a pub lunch at the lovely The Earl of March. It’s believed that the view from here inspired William Blake’s poem And did those feet in ancient time (Jerusalem). The girls were brilliantly behaved over lunch.

Pub lunch

Pub lunch

We headed off to the races in a minibus (another cause for excitement!) as soon as we’d finished eating. The food had been very good and won the childrens’ seal of approval also.

Once at Goodwood the girls were immediately captured by the buzzy atmosphere. There was plenty of space for them to roam about and they just loved every minute of it: both the social aspect and the races themselves. A really great day where they were entertained throughout, which meant not even a minor bickering!

Checking out the form

Checking out the form

With daddy

With daddy








Ice creams: 3   Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Twelve 

We travelled back from West Sussex this morning but stopped off for coffee and to say hello to an old family friend who lives near where we were staying.

My dad was making one of the girls’ favourite meals for our return – Spaghetti alle vongole (or in this case using bavette instead of spaghetti).


We went into my dad’s garden to play and his neighbour (who has a couple of grandchildren and who we get on with very well) called us over. He has actually bought a huge bouncy castle (OMG!!) and invited Sofia, Maria and Gabby over to play on it. He didn’t need to ask twice!! They were in their element.

Later on, I decided to go up into the loft and found loads of my old story books from when I was a little girl. I was so excited as were they. Sofia was ecstatic when she found Alice in Wonderland (we’d been to the celebrations at Wisley earlier in the week).


At bedtime, I read one of my favourite stories from the books I’d discovered: The day the clocks stopped. They really enjoyed it, and I was really pleased that they had :-)

Ice creams: 0   Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Thirteen

The girls busily made some thank you cards whilst I did a bit of work in the morning.

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After lunch we went back to our house to sort out a few things and called in on some friends. It turned out that the little sister had tonsillitis, so we took out big sis for a walk. The walk culminated in a trip to Mococo’s, an ice cream parlour in Banstead. Ice creams all round except for Sofia, who had her usual crepe with Nutella. The heavens opened on the way back, but it didn’t dampen spirits; in fact, quite the opposite.

Sofia waiting patientally for her crepe

Sofia waiting patientally for her crepe

Ice creams: 3   Ice lollies: 0  Nutella crepes: 1 Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Fourteen

Unbelievably it’s been a fortnight since Sofia broke up for the Summer holidays.

We went to the Epsom and Leatherhead Multiples Club with Sofia. She’s been a handful of times before and loves it as she always slightly begrudges what her sisters and I get up to when she’s at school.

All three delved straight into the arts and crafts, which was butterfly-themed this week. The art box is very well stocked and maintained and there are always loads of different materials available.

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After ages at the art table they started playing with the toys and hooning about pushing each other in dolls’ buggies. In no time it was juice and biscuit time and then home time. Two hours had flown by and they’d all had a really good time.

We didn’t actually go home straight after, we went for lunch at the Woodman in Ashtead (next door to the the centre where the club is). We all had a very nice meal at this very family-friendly pub. The girls were kept well entertained with the sandpit outside and then some of the toys inside when it started to rain.


Ice creams: 4 (the pub made a mistake and gave us an extra one free of charge!!)  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 3  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Fifteen

Today I randomly decided we were going to Tulleys Farm in West Sussex, despite the fact that is was over a 45 minute drive away. They have the traditional farm and then put on loads of additional seasonal activities; for the summer holidays it’s the Puzzle Park & Giant Maize Maze (which is exactly as it sounds).

Eight hectares of maze

A small part of the eight hectares of maze

I booked the tickets online as they are cheaper than on the gate, and a quick Twitter search revealed a discount code: TWITMAZE2 saves £1 per person.

We arrived at Tulleys and it looked a little quiet and closed. We soon discovered that whilst it was open, the main seasonal activities were just down the road. Two minutes later we arrived. This was more like it.

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We did a couple of mini mazes whilst we were waiting to get into the maize maze, which is carved out of eight acres of corn. Then we went in. I can honestly say I have never seen a maze like it before. We usually go into a maze pretending, for the childrens’ sakes, that it is ‘really difficult.’  No such pretending required. I think Bear Grylls would have struggled. The aim is to collect eight stamps, at various stamping stations, which complete a castle and then find the exit. We were in the thing for well over two hours (including a short packed lunch stop at a cafe hut somewhere near the middle), and still only managed to get six out of the eight (I had shunned the £1 map). You’re provided a flag on a long pole in case you need to attract attention or exit quickly. In fact, an ambulance and wheelchair did arrive on scene for someone (who I was told was doing fine); it was serious stuff. You’d think after a couple of hours of going around paths lined with tall maize plants the girls would have been fed up. Quite the contrary. I had to force them to leave.

All aboard the quad barrel train

All aboard the quad barrel train


Afterwards we headed to the other attractions. There were inflatable slides, trampolines, tractor rides, quad barrel trains, duck racing, skittles, the secret forest, mining, sand pits and playground equipment to name a few. We could have stayed for another few hours easily, but the M25 beckoned just before rush hour. As we were getting in the car, they all asked if we could come back and bring daddy. We will be back as I want to complete that damn maze!! Hey, we might even go and see some animals at the actual farm next time.

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 0  Minor bickerings: 2  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Day Sixteen

Matt got back from New York late last night. He’d taken today as holiday, but ended up working quite a bit of it. Add to this going home to sign off a delivery of a kitchen and moving stuff from one place to another to wash and pack for holiday and it was never going to be the most exciting of days.

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However, after a dull morning of chores, we all went for lunch at Cabaollo Lounge in Epsom. The place is truly child-friendly: colourable menus with crayons (sparkly!) on arrival, brightly coloured child cutlery that isn’t babyish and a load of lego and games to help yourself to. Sofia is obsessed with chess so she dived straight in and grabbed a set and started playing with Matt.

Maria and Gabby had opted for sausage, chips and beans and Sofia, a burger and chips; whilst Matt had fish finger sandwich and I had a halloumi wrap and glass of Prosecco. All the food was great and it was clean plates all round. They really liked the venue.  so much so, that I was able to sneak out after we’d finished eating to do a bit of shopping whilst the little ones carried on with their colouring and play and Sofia continued her game of chess.

The afternoon consisted of playing in the garden. Then we had dinner. Following this, Sofia and I tried out a microwave cake in a mug. We used a recipe from BBC Good Food. It took five minutes in total and everyone loved it so much we made a second. We may need to work on presentation, but move over Great British Bake Off!!











Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 4 (including Matt’s)  Minor bickerings: 1  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

 Day Seventeen

Today was a playdate at someone else’s house: three sets of twins plus Sofia. It could have been absolute chaos, but instead they were all brilliantly behaved. They all played really nicely; on the trampoline and with lots of toys – NB other childrens’ toys are always infinitely more interesting than their own!


They had a great picnic lunch complete with plenty of goodies, then it was back to playing whilst we (three mums) had our lunch. We actually managed to have lunch in complete peace. This does not happen often.


Afterwards we a had a lovely walk to the local duck pond armed with a sliced loaf and then walked on to get ice cream.



It was the perfect day. Not complicated, just lots of fun.

Ice creams: 0  Ice lollies: 3  Minor bickerings: 0  Arguments: 0  Small tantrums: 0

Summer Activities for the Kids

My latest post for TalkMum is about ways to entertain toddlers, pre-schoolers and older over the holidays, so I thought I’d give a quick rundown here of my top 10 tips.


1) Outdoor arsenal

Make sure you’ve got a few inexpensive outdoor toys etc up your sleeve. The big supermarkets stock a wide range of good value items. A few that are popular in this house:

  • Bubbles/bubble wands
  • Football
  • Badminton set
  • Skittles set
  • Quoits
  • Cricket set

















2) National Trust membership

I bang on about this quite a lot. However, it is so cost-effective when compared to other days out. Whether heading for somewhere new or visiting an old favourite, my girls love it. There’s always a new trail or activity to do even for seasoned visitors.

National Trust ahoy!

National Trust ahoy!

3) Picnics

There’s something about a variety of cold picky foods eaten from the comfort of a picnic rug that seems to pique the appetite of the kids. They can’t eat enough and never get bored of them. Be warned though, picnics aren’t usually an easy meal option. I always find they can take a while to prepare. If I’m not driving I add in a bottle of Prosecco. Holidays are for mums and dads too :-) Wisley Gardens are a favourite place of ours for picnics.

4) The Pub

Check out your local family-friendly pubs. It’s a win win really. Many have great outdoor stuff for the kids; one of my locals – The Woodman – has a massive sandpit and outdoor games. Others in the area have climbing frames etc.

5) Paddling pools and water features 











Lots of parks have paddling pools and water features. Check out your local ones as water is always a massive hit. We recently headed to Tooting Bec Lido in South West London and had a great time (children under five go free). Also pay a visit to the local duck pond; there’s usually a cafe nearby.

6) Hidden gems

Do a bit of research to see if there are any attractions/hidden gems near you. I recently discovered that we have beautiful lavender fields on our doorstep. We’ve now visited three times in the space of five weeks!

7) Dens and gazebos 

In the height of summer our garden is a suntrap all day long, which isn’t as good as it sounds. Last year, we were in desperate need of shade so I bought a £20 gazebo from Homebase along with a few cheapo cushions. Old toys get a new lease of life if played with underneath the gazebo and eating there sat on cushions on the floor is ‘like camping.’ Last year, the girls even enjoyed just relaxing under it with a drink (and they never relax). Alternatively, you can just make a den with sheets and table clothes.

8) H2O

From running in and out of a sprinkler and playing with water pistols to aqua tents, paddling pools and simply floating things in it and tipping it from one container to another, water never fails. Get them cleaning the car, watering the plants and generally cleaning stuff. If it involves using a hose they’ll be all over it. Try not to completely waste it though. One of my friends sings the praises of the Crazy Daisy. I’m yet to purchase one, but it’s a matter of time…


9) Outdoor messy play

  • Chalk pictures on the patio. Bonus points for letting them wash them off afterwards
  • Sand play – Great fun and brilliant for aiding your toddler’s development. Make sure you invest in the slightly more expensive play sand. You can get 10kg for £3 at Sainsbury’s. It’s totally safe and doesn’t completely stain clothes (I’ve heard some horror stories about builders’ sand!).

10) Cooling off  

Invest in some ice-lolly moulds. They’re cheap as chips, toddlers, pre-schoolers and older children love making them and eating them, they’ll be a lot healthier than shop-bought ones (we do pure fruit juice watered down a little) and you’ll save an absolute fortune in the course of the summer!

The £2.99 Dresses and a Children’s Clothing Epiphany

I have three girls. My eldest is at school and wears uniform so has little choice in what she puts on in the morning during the week. However, I have a daily battle with my three-year-old twins.  I was a bit of a tomboy at their age and only ever wanted to wear trousers. They on the other hand want to wear ‘beautiful dresses’ every day. We can often have a 20 minute meltdown if it’s a day I’m putting them in trousers, leggings or shorts for pre-school. I ‘win’ in the end, but it’s a rather hollow victory and certainly not a great addition to the morning routine.

Some of our H&M haul

Some of our H&M haul including 5 of the £2.99 dresses

All of the dresses I’d been buying until recently were fairly pricey from places such as Boden, Petit Bateau and, luckily due to my husband travelling to the States, Ralph Lauren (much, much cheaper than in the UK). John Lewis is also another port of call. It tends to be cheaper than the aforementioned but can still be quite pricey, although they have a childrenswear clearance on at the moment. They’re all lovely clothes but not necessarily the clobber I want them to do painting in at pre-school or wear to messy play.

I also have this thing where I like to buy each child the same number of clothes each – although I’ve started to sneakily buy my eldest the same thing in two colours so that she can eventually pass them down to her sisters. As you can imagine x 3 gets pretty expensive and there never seem to be enough dresses for every day use.

I then had an epiphany on discovering Boots’ Mini Club and H&M Kids. Boots always do loads of offers; currently they’re doing two for £8 and half price on a variety of lines, including cropped leggings, tunics, dresses, shorts and T-shirts and trousers. I bought a number of tunics and a variety of leggings, which all mix and match. Then there’s H&M: it’s clothing is always really well-priced. Right now they are doing girls dresses aged from one to eight years for £2.99!! I’ve stocked up on loads of the £2.99 dresses, and then some shorts and other dresses, which are still a modestly priced £5.99. The girls are absolutely elated, I don’t have  to wash favourite clothes every other day and I can save the more expensive items for special occasions. It means we can compromise by alternating between dresses and shorts/leggings/trousers. Win win.