Holiday packing with Holiday Extras

Holiday packing is always a nightmare!  I spend weeks thinking about what to take, then try and pack as much as I can into every nook and cranny in the suitcase ,and can barely lift it.   Holiday Extras have challenged me to see how quick I could pack my suitcase so I took them on and packed my holiday essentials along with some goodies that Holiday Extras sent us that are great for family holidays.

holiday eSome top tips I would suggest for packing if I had a bit more time would be:

  • Fill beach buckets with items then they take up practically no room themselves
  • Leave socks until last, you will always find gaps to put them in
  • Roll up clothes to fit around the edges, they also stay less creased that way
  • Lay beach towels flat across the top to help protect things inside
  • Put sun cream bottles in zip lock plastic bags in case of any leaks

 

Here’s my video of me attempting the Holiday Extra’s packing challenge:

As you can see I managed to pack our family suitcase in 1 minute 1 second!!

Yay, all ready for my holiday at the end of July, although I may go back and squeeze a few more items in over the next few weeks.  Do you have any top packing tips that you’d like to share?

 

This post is for Holiday Extra’s speed packing challenge and we received some of the goods seen below in return for this post

Easter Fun at Saltram House National Trust

For us as a family, Easter wouldn’t be the same without a visit to one of our favourite national trust properties to follow an Easter trail.  The children love them, it’s great to be out in the fresh air and there is always a pleasant atmosphere at the national trust properties.  We visited Saltram House in Plymouth last weekend for the children to follow their Easter trail.

saltram 1Once the children had their maps they were off, running along the paths looking for the clues.  It didn’t take long for Miss M to spot the explorer hat hanging from a bush and Mister B found the magnifying glass hanging from a tree on the lawn.

saltram 4On the lawn we spotted a small marquee tent and ventured inside to find a couple of sand pits arranged as an “archaeological dig”.  Each sand pit had the pieces of a puzzle which we needed to find and then complete the puzzle.  My two couldn’t wait to start digging and were soon passing me pieces of puzzle – a really fun activity!

saltram 3Back onto the Easter trail and Mister B was the first one to spot the spade stuck in the ground.  He loved looking for the objects and carefully marked them off as he found them on his trail map.

saltram 5I just love the beautiful plants and flowers that can be found in National Trust gardens and here are just a few that I saw here today.

saltram 2And this tree was simply stunning!

saltram 6We had a wonderful day wandering round and the children loved the trail, especially at the end when they collected their chocolate eggs!

saltram 7

Last week I turned 40!!

For the last few months I have been dreading turning 40.  It seems so old, a number I thought would take years to reach, yet I’m there, it’s happened.  Not that I feel that age at all, but it makes you realise how quickly life passes by and to make the most of each and every opportunity that comes along!

40My front room is now a shrine to all the cards, banners and balloons that were given to me over the past week, either on the day itself, or at surprise meals out, lunches with friends and the biggest surprise – a cocktail party at a swanky private lounge in town!

Unfortunately I don’t have many pictures to share, I tended to find a glass of bubbly in my hand for most part of the week rather than a camera.  It’s been fun, exciting, a little stressful but most importantly I feel great to be 40!

As readers of my blog will know I have spent the last couple of months trying to lose a bit of weight and get my skin and hair looking great in order to embrace looking 40.  I’m looking forward to the future, intend on making the most of life and really want to enjoy time with my little family.  My two children have been fantastic over the past week and as well as joining us on my surprise meal out, I also surprised them with a trip to see Octonauts, the stage show at Plymouth Pavillions which they thoroughly enjoyed.

I must mention the amazing cake my mum bought for my party – this is the best picture I’ve managed to locate but it really doesn’t do it justice.  It was HUGE!!!  It is all chocolate, three towering layers of chocolate sponge, layed with chocolate buttercream and encased in white chocolate icing!  It was simply magnificent and we must of had a good 50 large portions out of it, if not more!

40 xLet’s hope the future beholds lots of wonderful things and I look forward to sharing them with you!

Happy 7th Birthday Miss M and Frozen party game ideas

New Year’s Day is my daughter Miss M’s birthday so we always start the New Year with birthday celebrations.  This year we had a quiet, relaxed day, spending time with family for lunch, birthday cake and Miss M opening her presents.  I really can’t believe where the last seven years have gone!

Maisy 2She was insistent on having a Frozen themed birthday party this year, in particular she wanted to wear the Frozen dress up costume that we reviewed a couple of months ago.

partyWe played the usual party games, pass the parcel, musical statues etc but I wanted to find a few different games and after having a google, I came up with these variations on games to which I put a frozen twist.

Musical Icebergs – I cut the edges off of sheets of white paper to make them look a bit more geometrically shaped and these were the icebergs.  When the music played the children had to dance around.  When the music stopped each child had to stand on one of the icebergs.  Then remove an iceberg so that in the next round one child is out until you get down to just one child left who is the winner.

Ice Jewels – For this I had a toy princess ring for each child which I froze in heart shaped silicon cake moulds to create ice shaped hearts with treasure trapped inside.  To rescue the treasure, each child had to melt the ice with their hands until they found their ring.  This could be variated and I put a little Squinkie car in one for my son.

Dress up as Olaf – I put the children into two teams and each team have to turn one member into Olaf.  I bought some value toilet roll which they used to wrap one team member up in, and also add a woolly hat and scarf to them.  You could judge one team to be the winner but I decided to let this just be a bit of fun which they loved and then turned the room into a snowball fight afterwards!

party 2

Dressing up as Olaf was great fun, there were lots of giggles and excitement throughout.  Mister B has now asked to play this game at his next party!

The ice jewels also proved very popular, I wasn’t sure everyone would want to sit melting ice between their hands but they loved it, and it kept them quiet and occupied for a while.  I gave them trays to melt the ice over and handed towels out so they could dry their hands during it.  They got quite competitive towards the end as their blocks got smaller seeing who could finish first.  I’d definitely use this game again.

party 3Overall the party was a great success and all the children seemed to enjoy themselves.  I think the small effort in trying some games that were a bit different kept the girls occupied and they were intrigued to find out what we were playing next.

Miss M had a fabulous birthday and party and now it’s all over until next year.  She has become so grown up over the last year, I’ve really noticed a difference in her behaviour and mannerisms.  She’s also had an amazing year at school.  I hope 2015 is another fabulous year for her and she succeeds in all she wants to do!

party 4

Our Family Halloween Weekend 2014

This year the children were very excited about Halloween and couldn’t wait to celebrate.  Miss M was keen to dress up although Mister B just wanted to wear his scary hat.  Miss M wanted a new outfit so we set off to Tesco and she picked a sparkly black and silver dress and mask.  She also added some coloured hair clips with coloured strands hanging from them to spook her hair up a bit.

halloween 1We then headed home to carve our pumpkins that I’d bought a couple of weeks earlier (after previous years experience of not being able to buy within a few days of Halloween itself!).  Having left it a little late in the day to carve them, I decided to let the ever eager Miss M carve one and daddy do the other while I turned the insides into a delicious, warming soup!  Daddy carved a Spiderman face for Mister B and Miss M attempted her first pumpkin face.

halloween 2The evening was soon upon us and the children were eager to go trick or treating.  We met up with a few neighbours and followed the children up the road and around the block, only knocking on doors with a pumpkin in sight!  I have to say I was quite surprised by their haul, it’ll certainly keep them filled up with sweet treats for a few weeks, although Mister B, bless him, chose an orange from one house which he declared his favourite thing from his trick or treating haul and ate it straightaway!

halloween 8The next day we decided to continue the Halloween theme and visit our local National Trust property, Saltram House to do their pumpkin trail around the grounds.  The children love running around in the fresh air and with the added excitement of finding the pumpkins it kept them more than occupied.

halloween 3I love all the views from Saltram across the estuary, you are so close to the city centre yet feel so far away!

halloween 4Once the trail was complete and the children had handed in their clipboards we headed into the gardens of the wonderful Saltram House.  I just adore the exterior of the building and always have to stand and admire it each time I visit.

halloween 6The gardens still had a lot of the traditional garden games on the lawn which the children love and can play endlessly which is fabulous.  Such simple, classic games but so much fun, we played skittles, croquet, quoits and then they practising goal shooting in the football net.

halloween 5It was then time for some refreshments and instead of heading to the usual cafe we decided to try the new Edwardian cafe that opened this year to the side of the lawn for some tea and cake!  In vintage style with white linen table cloths, flowers and proper teapots, cups and saucers, it felt much more elegant and refined than the traditional cafe.  Miss M was loving it and so impressed that she got to pour her hot chocolate from a teapot and drink it from a proper little cup and saucer.  They also enjoyed a large shortbread biscuit each covered in chocolate toppings!

halloween 7All in all a fabulously pleasant and enjoyable Halloween weekend had by all the family!

Mister B’s 4th Birthday

A couple of weeks ago my dear Mister B celebrated his 4th birthday.  He was so excited, although had been quite specific in his requests for his special day.  He only wanted a few friends round at home, for dancing, pass the parcel and musical statues so that’s exactly what we did.

3After opening his presents early in the morning, we then walked big sister, Miss M to school.  Usually being a little shy and reluctant to talk to strangers, he had a new found courage now that he is 4 and told everyone we saw along the way that he is now 4! lol

In the afternoon Daddy took him to the aquarium while I prepped for the party, and he proudly told the receptionist that he was 4 meaning Daddy had to buy a membership card for him.  They then picked Miss M up from school and came home eagerly awaiting his friends to arrive.

Amazingly they all bought him Spiderman toys which he thought was hilarious, but incredibly pleased with them.  We played various games to music and then I suggested my favourite party game to calm them down, Sleeping Lions.  To my surprise they all cheered and told me how much they loved that game, and before I said anything more they were all laid down on the floor with their eyes shut… and their was silence!!

I then sat them down for some party food followed by singing Happy Birthday and blowing the candles on his Spiderman cake!  Mister B was thrilled with his cake (even though mummy cheated and bought the cake! Shhh!).

Blake 4For the next week Mister B has proudly told everyone, everywhere that he is 4, from the cashiers in the supermarkets, to teachers at the school, and anyone, anywhere that I happen to chat to!   On the Saturday, Nanny & Grandad kindly took us to Prezzo to celebrate his birthday where he enjoyed pizza followed by chocolate ice cream.  Then he opened his presents from them and as you can see in the above picture, his favourite present believe it or not was a Spiderman cushion!  He has been so cute and lays his head on this everynight.  Aw my baby boy is growing up, and whenever I’ve called him my little baby or little boy over the last two weeks, he turns round and says “I’m not your baby, I’m 4!!”

Brown Sugared Vanilla Shortbread

Baking Mad is a recipe database website with endless pages of scrumptious looking things to make, all alongside mouthwatering pictures to tempt you into a spot of baking.  It really is the place to go if you are looking for something to bake and I do like the way you can search with just a few key ingredients in mind.  There is also a “How to” section which is really handy for getting to grips with methods, hints and tips as well as video demonstrations.

baking madWith an array of baking goodies sent to me including flour, sugars and Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Extract, I wanted to make something that included most of them so searched with the words, “brown sugar, vanilla, flour” and I was faced with a delicious array of sweet treats wondering what to make.

I decided on the Brown Sugared Vanilla Shortbread, we all love shortbread and this one looked really tasty with the crunchy brown sugar and it’s deep golden colour.  And it was so simple to make, all the ingredients put together in the food processor which does the hard work for you then bake in the oven.

baking mad 2I let all the family have a taste and the verdict was a resounding “delicious”.  They all wanted more and now are eager for me to bake it again.  It has a really soft crumbly yet crunchy texture that just melts in the mouth, perfect with a hot drink to dip it in.

baking mad 4I’m really pleased with the outcome of the Brown sugared vanilla shortbread and now want to try some other recipes from the site, with so many tempting options I’ll have to be careful but I’m sure my family will enjoy tasting them with me.

All reviews are my own and my family’s opinions and we received some ingredients in order to write the review.

A family day out to Escot

Last week we decided to have a family day out at Escot, somewhere I’d come across on the internet before the summer when researching places to visit for days out during the summer holidays.  The thing that attracted me to visit was the Amazing Maze built using over 4000 Beech plants.  Alongside is a woodland full of of exciting things to find and do.

escot 14When we arrived we headed straight for the maze, and the children were full of excitement as they ran around the hedge lined paths, twisting and turning while mummy and daddy chased after them.  After about half an hour they slowed down and let us take the lead as we attempted to logically think about which way to go, it felt like we were going around in circles but after about 50 minutes of wandering, we finally made it to the centre where we could admire the view and then take a bridge back outside of the maze.

escot 13Around the corner from the maze we found a pond full of busy little otters eagerly awaiting feeding time. They were dipping in and out of the water faster than you could take a picture but I managed to catch a couple of them.  We also saw some chickens including some rather cute little fluffy ones!

escot 16We then decided to follow the path through the woodland and the first thing we came across was a huge fallen tree, Miss M immediately took lead and began to climb up!

escot 10Across from the fallen tree was a huge picture frame, perfect for striking a pose!

escot 11There were also various obstacle courses and climbing frames littered among the woodland that the children were delighted to find and enjoyed the challenge of climbing, balancing and sliding on.  We did find a huge enclosed drop slide at the back of the woods that Miss M bravely ventured down and loved, although she was coming down at such speed I couldn’t get a decent photo of her in motion!

escot 12Mister B enjoyed the various animals we came across, such as a Wild Boar enclosure where we saw the cutest litter of baby boars trundling around after their mummy!  There were also lots of birds of prey and we sat and watched a display where they came swooping down brushing across the tops of our heads!

escot 7The red squirrel cage kept us amused for a while as they darted up and down and across tunnels then stopping momentarily while their beady eyes checked us out.

With trains to climb aboard, tunnels to crawl through, this was certainly a woodland walk with a difference.  Which ever way you turned, hiding behind the next set of trees was something to do.

escot 6I loved this hand built cannon that Mister B found, he pushed it around pretending to fire and made all the right noises to go with it!

escot 5Miss M and Mister had so much fun running in and out of things, hiding behind things and exploring, this is definitely a must for children who love the outdoors, with so much to do, little ones certainly won’t be bored!

escot 9My favourite picture has to be off them in the stocks!! lol

escot 3We had a light shower of rain, but were not deterred as there was a big soft play barn next to the maze for lots of indoor fun, I managed to catch my two rolling about in the ball pool.

escot 8One thing that they both loved, yet was so simple was this huge hanging rope swing from a large tree.  As they swung around they had an amazing view over the fields beyond, I almost wished I’d been younger and could of had a go myself!

escot 17On our way out we found this huge trampoline and the children flew across to have a bounce.  They long for one at home but we don’t have a suitable size garden so they certainly made up for it on this not wanting to come off!

escot 2Miss M went on the trampoline with one very wobbly top tooth and came off with it hanging by a thread and lots of blood, so I told her she’d need to pull it to get it out.  With one little tug it came loose, her first top row tooth to come out.  Although she was a little alarmed by the experience, she was very excited about the visit she’d get from the tooth fairy that night.

escot 4We had a really lovely family day out at Escot, somewhere I’d thoroughly recommend visiting and that we’ll definitely go to again.

Hope you’ve all had some great day’s out this summer and with the warm weather looking to continue over the next few weeks, hopefully we can squeeze in a few more fun days out at the weekends.

 

42 days of Summer fun with BN biscuits

Six weeks of school summer holidays means 42 days to have fun with the children, days out, days at home, some in the garden having fun, others inside playing games, baking and making crafty pictures.  So much to do, so much fun to have, where do we start.

If it’s sunny and you want to get out but not go to far, why not try out a local park that you’ve never been too.  We discovered one the other week that ended up being fabulous, the children loved it, lots of new things to do and we ended up spending a good few hours there walking around and playing.

They loved the zip wire, in fact we didn’t know we had one so close to home.  They are now eager to return!

devonport park 1This big hammock like swing was a huge hit and my two lay on it for ages relaxing while mummy gently pushed them.

devonport park 2There was also a huge wooden structure to climb on, which Miss M was eager to try out.  Mister B wasn’t so keen but gave it a go.

devonport park 3If it’s a dry day why not get the children out on their bikes and scooters for a ride.  Mister B has just mastered his scooter after many months of insisting he couldn’t ride it.  The summer is a great time to teach them how to ride things.

scooterIf you need to get on with some household chores, then get the children to help.  They love it more than you think.  Here they are helping me to clear some of the plants and weeds from their grandparents garden.

gardeningIf it’s raining, there are plenty of things to keep children occupied with indoors, board games, cooking, crafting or how about face painting?  Miss M made her first attempt at face painting the last week when she painted Mister B’s face with Spiderman.  I was very impressed and we had lots of fun for the afternoon decorating each other’s faces!

Spiderman faceSo no matter what you do, whatever the weather, you always tend to feel a little peckish and tired in the afternoon.  This is a great time to sit down and have a little snack.  As it’s the summer holidays then why not make it a fun snack, such as a McVitie’s BN biscuit!

bn 1These crispy sandwich biscuits come in Chocolate and Raspberry flavours, with a fun smiley face on the top.  Miss M and Mister B loved these particularly the chocolate flavour and I have to agree they did taste rather good!

bn 2McVities BN biscuits are perfect to bring a smile to hungry children and are not too heavy so make a great snack.  Why not try some to bring a smile to your summer?

This post is an entry for 42 Days of Summer Linky Challenge sponsored by McVitie’s BN. Learn more at http://bit.ly/1mRpMCL

Looking Back – First Day at School

Almost two years ago, I was busily preparing for my daughter, Miss M’s first day at school.  I was a mixture of nerves, excitement and anxiousness as I awaited the day that my daughter took a new step in her life and met a group of people who she will spend the next few years learning with, gaining experiences with and building friendships with.

first dayWe had only visiting the school briefly before the summer break for a welcome afternoon, so there was a lot of new things ahead, new faces, a new environment and getting used to the school routine.  Miss M was really eager to start somewhere new, learn more things and build on her existing skills after spending three and a half years at a very small nursery looking at the same four walls each day.

In the weeks beforehand we went shopping together and picked out various pieces of uniform, a P.E. bag and a lunch box to take to school.  On her first morning she proudly got dressed in her uniform, I plaited her hair and we walked the short journey around to the school.  Her younger brother Mister B came with us and they walked ahead together, Miss M holding on to Mister B’s reins, a proud big sister embarking on a new journey in her life!

first day 2I’m pleased to say the first day went well and although we had a few wobbly days in those early weeks where she felt a little unsure of things, she has progressed really well over her first two years in school and we are looking forward to starting Year 2 in September.

With the start of the new school term nearly upon us, one thing we all need to think about is school uniform.  We all want something that’s durable and lasting and George at Asda have come up with theAsda George at Asda 100 day money back guarantee where you can return any item you are not satisfied with within 100 days along with a proof of purchase for an exchange or refund!

Why not check out the uniform ranges at George at Asda, they have a great choice available  including some rather cute Hello Kitty designs which I’m sure Miss M would love.

This is a sponsored post.