We’re Not Afraid of The Gruffalo

Gruffalo Trail

This weekend we went in search of The Gruffalo at the Alice Holt Forest in Surrey. Dubz, my 2-year old son, adores The Gruffalo, so we knew we could not miss the trail. And since we got a new explorer pack, complete with binoculars, compass and magnifying glass, my daughter was eager to find some creepy crawlies.

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Moozles was beyond excited to discover a millipede with her magnifying glass. Dubz enjoyed pretending to discover things. We found various characters from The Gruffalo before finding the big bad monster himself. Once the kids had a few cuddles, it was time to go check out the playground. Dubz started to throw a tantrum, but I had the perfect enticement. I gave him a yogurt lolly (Yollies), which made him get in the buggy without a fight (I am not ashamed to bribe my children, if needed). Yollies are extra-thick yogurt on a stick, and my kids love them. They come in raspberry, strawberry and apricot, and are sold in packs of four (retails for £1 at Asda).

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We then enjoyed the playground at Alice Holt. It was a nice big playground, and the children especially liked the pirate ship (which even has a plank to walk and jump off of). Our kids worked up quite an appetite after all that walking, exploring and playing, so we went to the cafe before we left. Yum, no complaints.

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The Alice Holt Forest (which is free to enter) is a 45-minute drive from South West London, depending on traffic. The easy access trail is 2 km/1.5 miles and has an optional shortcut. The trail can be accessed by pushchairs and wheelchairs. The parking cost for two hours is £2.50. We paid for three hours (£4) as we weren’t sure how long the trail/playground/lunch would take (but we were done in two hours). You can check out the Gruffalo Trail at Alice Holt, and a few other forests across the UK, until the 30th September 2014.

Family Fever

 

We were sent an explorer pack and given free vouchers to try Yollies. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Snakes & Ladders

Snakes & Ladders Soft Play

A couple of weeks ago we went for a soft play session at Snakes &Ladders in Syon Park in Middlesex. I had never been there before but since they have just spent £2 million on renovations we knew it was going to be good. And it really was good. My two-year old son and six-year old daughter disappeared in the giant soft play frame and came out rosy-cheeked and out of breath. The main frame is really big and roomy and there’s plenty of climbing and sliding to be done. There’s even a mini sports pitch.

There is an Imagination Station where children can play in a red London bus, a kitchen, a post office, a hospital, a shop and a construction area complete with giant blocks. My daughter, Moozles, ignored this area completely. Dubz loved it, especially the bus.

IMG_3597 IMG_3612 IMG_3596IMG_3606IMG_3609There is also a section for Under Threes. Dubz raced in, and when his big sister went after him, she was turned away. I thought this was really good as I get so annoyed when there are older children wrecking havoc in the toddler section. Dubz only stayed in this bit for 10 minutes as he preferred the main climbing frame.

Snakes & Ladders Soft Play

We found the actual soft play frames and play area to be terrific. But there are two issues that I have to mention. The main issue and my biggest problem with Snakes & Ladders was the food. First, the cakes and treats were not fresh. We bought two millionaire’s shortbread. Neither child could eat even half. I had a taste and it was sickly sweet. Also, there was no fruit on offer. Later we ordered them each a burger. They cost £4.50 each and we had to wait 20 minutes for them to be cooked, so I had high hopes. But the patty looked to be a cheap quality and tasted like it had been microwaved. Again, the kids did not eat half and we had to feed them a second lunch when we got home.

Snakes & LaddersSnakes & Ladders

The second issue was the entry cost. Although we were given four free tickets to review Snakes & Ladders, I was surprised at the cost. During peak times, for the four of us, it would cost £21.80. Most of the soft plays we go to cost us less than £15 during peak times. Although the soft play itself was quite good, I think the food lets it down. Until they sort out the quality of their food, they should allow people to bring in their own food. And that would counterbalance the high entry costs.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Lollibop Festival 2014

Lollibop

Today we had our first experience of Lollibop. For those of you not familiar with the concept, it is festival aimed for children under the age of 10. As my kids are six and two, we figured they were at the perfect ages to check it out. First of all, we were all so excited about the programme for the day. The main shows we were looking forward to were Lazy Town Live and Justin Fletcher. But we were also looking forward to the various activities and just having a fun family day.

Lollibop begins at 10am and we aimed to arrive at Hatfield House (in Hertfordshire) at 9.45am. Unfortunately, it seems that half of the festival-goers decided to arrive at the same time. We were stuck in stop-and-go traffic on the road leading to the venue for about half an hour. In hindsight we would have aimed to arrive at 9.15am. Once we got to the entrance (at 10.45am), everything was smooth sailing.

The great thing about Lollibop was that you didn’t have to pay for much. Obviously there are stands selling things (we left with two animal balloons) and food stalls (there were loads of yummy food on offer but you can bring your own food too). But there are many activities that are free. Moozles, who is six, loved the River Island Kids tent where she was able to design a t-shirt. They both loved the National Geographic Kids tent and the Beano area. There was a Pomme Bears tent where there was colouring and crisps–two great combinations. The Southbank Centre had several tents where you could create a cardboard robot, make woolen crafts, do yoga and watch live music, amongst other things.

We would have liked if there was one tent that played constant music. Pop songs, nursery rhymes or live music, it wouldn’t matter. Although there was music, they would take breaks for talking/workshops. And sometimes my kids just want to boogie.

The Lazy Town Live show was fab. Both kids loved it. We also saw a bit of the Poppy Cat and Steffi Love shows. These shows were at the open-air theatre so there was no waiting to get in. You could walk by, or sit down quite easily. Unfortunately we missed the shows in Lollipalladium, which was a closed tent. The queues were really long and there was no way we would have been able to get the kids to wait for 30 minutes, or more, to see a show. In hindsight, we would have brought the iPad or games so that the kids would have had something to do while we waited in line. We decided to leave at 3pm as the kids were exhausted and we were as well. This meant that, sadly, we missed Justin Fletcher. But all in all, we had a fun day.

LollibopRiver Island Kids

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

 

We were given tickets to attend LolliBop for the purposes of this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.
 

 

I Believe in Unicorns

Yesterday I took Moozles and a friend to see I Believe in Unicorns at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. It is a one-woman show, starring Danyah Miller. She weaves a story, based on a boy called Tomas who hates reading but comes to love books. Tomas eventually unites the town to save many of the books when the library is set on fire. Danyah uses the stacks of books on stage as props, and they transform a simple set into a bit of magic.

Danyah is a wonderful storyteller. Besides telling the story, she incorporated the audience which made it extremely lively. Both the children and the adults were taking part, enjoying the story and laughing out loud. My favourite moments, which were a lot, were when the books became active props. Rather that just laying on stage, she pulled tissues out of them, pulled out a kite, turned them into houses and projected images upon them.

My daughter and her friend, both aged six, loved the play. The play is aimed for children aged 5-11, but I think that younger children would enjoy it. And since it runs for 57 minutes, you do not need a long attention span to be able to enjoy the show. Also, it is really nice to watch a show that doesn’t include cartoons or princesses.

I believe in unicorns

I Believe in Unicorns is playing at The Vaudeville Theatre until the 31st August 2014, with tickets selling at around £17.50. It will then be showing throughout the UK until December 2014.

 

Family Fever
 
 
 *Photo credit: Richard Davenport
We were invited to view I Believe in Unicorns for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.

 

Family Fun at Odds Farm Park

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We spent the past week in Leamington Spa visiting the in-laws. On our way home on Wednesday, Husband and I took a diversion off the M40 and had a day out with the kids at Odds Farm Park in Beaconsfield. Odds Farm Park is a farm that has a soft play area, several playgrounds, go-karts, crazy golf, tractor rides and a big sand and water play area. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to try out the latter four. But what we experienced, we really enjoyed.

Dubz and Moozles had so much fun. There was a smaller playground for Dubz plus bigger playgrounds for Moozles (which Dubz also enjoyed). Even in the soft play, there is a section for toddlers five and under. Moozles loved the big kids section. The only issue was that she was only able to go on one of the big slides. The other two slides required kids to wear t-shirts and leggings/trousers which we didn’t know about beforehand (she was wearing a sleeveless summer dress). But all the equipment, inside and outside, looked quite new and were of good quality.

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There are snack/ice cream stands around the farm, and loads of picnic tables where you can eat your homemade picnic. If you are unprepared like us (or lazy, also like us), there is a cafeteria in the soft play area. We spent £30 on lunch, which I thought was a bit pricey for baked potatoes and chicken bites.

Both kids loved feeding the animals. Especially Dubz. And when he ran out of animal feed, he would just go stroke the sheep and goats’ noses. It was pretty adorable. We missed all the animals races and shows. I think next time we would visit for an entire day as there was just so much to do that we needed more than four hours to do everything.

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An added bit of fun at Odds Farm was the circus. It wasn’t what I would call a ‘proper circus’. But my six-year old loved the Spiderman trapeze artist and the juggler. The best part, after the 30-minute show, was when the kids could get into the ring. Moozles got to practice spinning a plate on a stick, juggling and standing on a giant ball. The latter did not seem exciting to me, but I’m not a six-year old girl. The Charles Chipperfield Circus is playing at Odds Farm until the 2nd September (four shows daily).

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All in all it was a great day. Well, it must have been fun because the kids passed out within 10 minutes of driving home. It took us 45 minutes to drive home to South West London/Surrey, which is a totally acceptable journey time for a day trip. Next time we will stay all day and bring a picnic.

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Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

 

We were sent tickets to visit Odds Farm Park for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.
 

Diana Memorial Playground, Kensington Gardens

Last Sunday we took advantage of a lovely sunny day in London and went to Kensington Gardens. Now that our youngest is two years old, we thought it would be a great time to check out the Diana Memorial Playground. The playground opens at 10am every day (closing times differ throughout the year). We arrived at 9.58am to find a herd of families waiting to be shepherded in. There is park employee who lets people in, and they only allow a certain amount of people in at a time. They also do not allow adults in unless they are accompanied by a child. 
 
Once in, we found the playground to be busy without being overly crowded. The kids loved the big pirate ship. But the playground has more to offer. There is LOADS of sand. I definitely recommend bringing your bucket and spades. But there are also swings, a seesaw, playhouses and tents to play on/in. There were only two big kid swings but four or six baby swings (I can’t quite remember). There were climbing structures and a mini-playground for the younger toddlers.
 
As it was very sunny, and Husband is very pale, I was relieved to see covered structures with benches to allow people to rest in the shade. And since my kids eat constantly during the hours of 9am-12pm, I was happy to find benches where we could sit and enjoy a snack, or three. There is a cafe, but it seemed a bit overpriced.
 
For those of you who live in London, you can of course get there via tube or bus. We chose to drive as Dubz is a bit of a handful on public transport. The beauty of going on a Sunday (or Bank Holiday) means you can park for free on a single yellow line. We parked right outside the park’s closest entrance.
 
The kids had such a fun time. The playground is quite big, but is sectioned off making it feel more private than it is. There is paving woven around the playground so you can push your buggy/stroller around. But there are also places to park your buggy. 
 
I think the playground would suit babies who can sit on their own up to kids of about the age of eight or nine. Babies can play in the sand or chill in their buggies while toddlers and little kids play. I saw a girl, who looked about 11 or 12, walking around with a bored expression. But it is a great place for little ones to run around, explore and release energy. Even better for Moozles, there was a carousel outside the playground so she got to have a little horse ride before we went home. 
 
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

LolliBop Festival, 15th-17th August 2014

 
I have heard of the LolliBop Festival but I haven’t been before as I have spent the last couple of years being pregnant and then dealing with a baby. So when I received a press release a few days ago, my eyes nearly fell out of my head. The line-up is ridiculous. It’s like a kid’s dream day. Justin Fletcher, Chris & Pui and Hook & Line (Swashbuckle) from CBeebies. There’s a Scooby Doo show and a Postman Pat mini-show. LolliBop is aimed for children up to the age of 10 so I am certain that my kids will have plenty to see and do (my daughter is six and my son is two).

There will also be a Lazy Town show, musical workshops from the team at Stomp!, a Bear Grylls Survival Academy (to appeal to older children) and Harry’s Wizard School. What they haven’t made clear is the age range for the the wizarding workshops, which include Wand Making workshops and Brooomstick training. Do you reckon that 38 might be too old? Just asking for a friend. 
 
LolliBop is at the lovely Hatfield House, which I’ve been to twice for work awaydays, in Hertfordshire (north of London). You can grab the train to Hatfield from King’s Cross, and Hatfield House is a five-minute walk from the train station. I prefer driving for days out with the family (as there is normally a tantrum at the end of our day), so it will take about an hour in the car from SouthWest London.
Check out the LolliBop Festival website for more information on their line-up and booking individual and family tickets.
 
*Photo credit: from Hatfield House website

Deer Spotting at Richmond Park

TGIS. Thank Goodness It’s Spring. Although we still get out and about in the winter, it hasn’t been the same. I’m Californian and I am not used to a lot of rain. And certainly not cold rain. So it has been glorious this past month with the warmer weather and less rain. If we’re not in the garden, we’re at a nearby park or common.
 
Last weekend, despite the chilly weather and the occasional hail, we went to Richmond Park. I love Richmond Park, and not just because it’s a convenient five-minute drive from my house. Richmond park is huge. It has wide open space, playgrounds, duck ponds, hiking and biking trails, a golf course, a fab cafe and deer. Lots of deer. Richmond Park was originally a deer-hunting park and still has about 650 Red and Fallow deer.
 
Dubz, who is 22-months old, loved running around aimlessly. Moozles, who is 5 1/2, enjoyed climbing the giant tree trunks. They chased each other and played hide and seek. They also tried chasing some deer. To my horror. 

This visit we went to Pen Ponds so that the kids could see the ducks and the swans. But the next time we visit Richmond Park, we will stay away from the pond. Husband and I had to carry a kicking, screaming Dubz away from wading into the water to be with the ducks. No pictures were taken as our hands were truly full. All in all a fun visit, except for the last 10 minutes of screaming tantrumming craziness. But that’s toddlers, right?  

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Wagamama, Come to Mama

See what I did there? I’m a Master Wordsmith, I am. Probably why I was invited to an intimate dinner at the Wagamama on Wigmore Street for the Way of Wagamama. This event is to encourage diners to try a new dish as opposed to ordering their favourite dish each visit. I think many of us are guilty in having one or two favourite items we always order. At Wagamama, I order the Cha Han three out of four visits. Cha Han is just fried rice and it comes with miso soup. Nothing special right? Well, it is special, and yummy, and I love it.

But last Monday, the fine people of Wagamama tried to lure me away from my Cha Han. Fellow bloggers Mirka from All Baby Advice and Liska from New Mum Online were also there having their favourite dishes challenged. The Executive Chef, Steve Mangleshot, spoke to us about the enthusiasm he and the other chefs at Wagamama have for the food. They want us, as the diner, to taste many different flavours in each dish; they want our taste buds tickled. Steve travels around Asia looking for different tastes and dishes to add to the menu. You can tell how passionate he is about the food they create at Wagamama.
 
Christy Fergusson, the Wagamama taste expert, was also on hand to talk to us about how our taste buds were related to our personalities. Luckily she didn’t mention what it meant if people like to eat a lot of food. Though I think I know the answer.
 
First, I was served the Chicken Tama Rice. I had tried this dish before. The rice is wet as it is on top of the yummy oyster and garlic sauce. It has lots of mushrooms and courgettes, two of my favourite things. I could have happily eaten all of this but wanted to save room for my next dish.
 
 
 
 
 
 
We were also given some juice. I think many people who go to Wagamama get the juices as they taste so fresh and delicious. Since we were trying new things, I had the Root Juice, which is made from beetroot, carrot and orange juice. I don’t normally like beetroot but it was nice, though I could only manage half a glass. 
 
 
 
 
 
I was then served the Chicken Teriyaki Donburi. ‘Well, hello stranger. Where have you been all my life?’ Luckily I did not say this out loud, but I did think it. It was damn good. The dish needs to be mixed up, so that all the flavours are properly blended. This has a great combination of sweet, salt and spice. I have had donburi before, but not quite like this. I have indeed found a new favourite dish.  
I finished off my meal with a trio of desserts. I had never had dessert from Wagamama before. I especially enjoyed the Passion Fruit Cheesecake (far right). I will definitely be having that again.
 
From left to right, Christy, Steve, Mirka, Liska,
and me, with Suhendra (another top chef) behind me.

 

I have to say that I had a lovely evening, and am a bit shocked that Wagamama managed to find me a new favourite meal. Wagamama will be unveiling a new menu at the end of April and I will be taking Husband and the kids to see if they can also find a new favourite dish.
 
 
 
 
 
Disclaimer: I was given free food and drinks for the purpose of the review but I was not paid to write a favourable one of Wagamama. I did so because they rock.
 

A Little Adventure with Little Barny Bear

Husband and I took the kids to RHS Wisley a few weeks ago. Unusually, it was not raining so I thought it would be a perfect day for exploring and wandering around aimlessly. Moozles is 5 1/2 and she loves a little adventure. Dubz is 21-months old and he turns everything into an adventure. I brought a picnic blanket. Despite the fact that it is winter, I thought it would be fun for us to have our elevenses picnic-style. I packed two boxes of Barny snacks, apple and strawberry. Each box contains five snacks, so I thought we could try a few then have some left over for another day and another adventure. Ah, best laid plans.
 
We made it about five minutes into our visit to Wisley before the kids cried hunger. It was only 10am, they had already had breakfast at home and a banana each during the 30-minute car ride. So I brought out the Barny snacks. At first, Dubz did not want to eat Barny. He loved that it was shaped like a bear and he just wanted to hold it. But his curiosity (and greed) got the better of him. And one by one the snacks were eaten. In fact, the kids were eating the snacks in every photo I took. And by the time we reached our picnic spot, there were no Barny snacks left. I didn’t even get to take photos of the Barny snack boxes on our lovely plaid blanket as the boxes were empty and crumpled. Moozles especially liked the strawberry snacks so I will soon be buying those as well as giving the chocolate ones a try. Barny snacks would be a fab addition to our weekend adventures, as well as provide Moozles with a fun lunchbox treat! 
This post is an entry for the Britmums ‘Winter Little Adventures Challenge’ sponsored by Barny, individually wrapped bear-shaped sponges with a hidden filling. Find out more about Barny here. I was sent two packs of Barny snacks for review purposes. The opinions expressed are completely my own.