Center Parcs – a fantastic winter wonderland

In the height of summer I decided to book us a little family weekend to Center Parcs.

Fast forward a few months and we arrived at Elveden Forest laden down with food and boots and coats and a sense that Christmas was about to start. Center Parcs, Eleveden is nestled in the woods, and as soon as you arrived I could feel the festival levels ramping up!

The car park had a huge snow-covered tree and in the distance a while sleigh sat driverless among the trees. “Where’s Santa?” Arthur asked. “ He’s here, but he’s waiting for you in his workshop.” Oh my god I was ridiculously excited and so far so good. Arriving was an easy process, I had been warned there could be big queues and long waits once the barriers were open for people to get to their lodges. But we cruised through – I have a sneaking suspicion Jonathan drive down a one-way road – but hey ho.chrimbo5

Out little log cabin was hugely impressive – it’s not cheap but inside it’s everything you could wish for. We booked the Woodland Lodge but there are loads of options. It has two good sized bedrooms, a bathroom with toilet and separate toilet plus a spacious living area and fully equipped kitchen. Our first afternoon was spent wandering around and finding our feet, we had an early dinner in Huck’s American Diner and then headed back for a cosy night in front of our real fire.

The rest of the time was filled with swimming in the fantastic pools, riding bikes through the forests, spotting deer and squirrels from our huge windows in our little cabin and basically having a fantastic time.

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On Sunday Arthur met Santa in his workshop and they’d done a great job with a magical post office, wonderful scenes with elves and a real sense of wonder – the present was good quality too. We booked in advance and for £11, I think it was good value. There were also some reindeer waiting outside to say hello and you could feed them and find out all about where they lived and what they liked to do.
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The pool area is faultless, despite being very busy it was spotlessly clean and really easy to navigate. In my excitement I managed to take Arthur down a, slightly faster than planned, water side. This resulted in a momentarily upset little boy who spent much of the day saying: “Mummy why did you make me go on the slide and push me under water?”
The children’s area is amazing with loads of slides, water squirters , splash areas and fun stuff for little people. I loved the lazy river and the secret pools around the edges which offered a chance to warm up before heading back in for more fun.

Jonathan tried out the Cyclone water slide which apparently was ‘very fast, quite quick and at one point left me free-falling in the air’. Earlier that day I’d queued up behind a woman who told me she’s been on and it was the worst five minutes of her life – I quickly decided it wasn’t for me. We cooked in our lodge two nights and on the Sunday there was a brilliant free fireworks display early evening so all the little people could enjoy it too.

I loved it and can’t wait to go back. Yes the activities can be expensive and I’d recommend planning to take at least some food with you – although to be fair their supermarket was well stocked and about the same prices as a normal supermarket.
But it’s perfect for families, there was a real sense of Christmas and the decorations were fab. Our accommodation was faultless and we enjoyed three great days together as a family – what more can you ask.

Bingo – not just for the golden oldies!

Bingo halls used to be filled with purple- haired old ladies with a ever-ready supply of time and dabblers. But, let me tell you, the world of Bingo is changing! Take a look below – us Bingo players are getting younger. Online bingo has exploded and let’s face it we all want to try our luck winning some cash from the comfort of our own home.

It’s not for everyone but for the occasional dabble with Lady Luck you can’t beat a bit of Bingo! Click here if you want to see what all the fuss is about.
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Pop Goes Your Name CD review

Arthur loves music – in fact one f his favourite pastimes is to spend hours breakdancing!

So when we were asked to review a personalised CD from Pop Goes Your Name, it seemed like a great idea. The CD, it comes with twelve songs, all personalised with your child’s name.

There are 800 names to choose from so it’s really flexible and I was pleasantly surprised with how good it sounded. You have to confirm pronunciation as well so you’re happy with how your child’s name will sound. Obviously the names are just dropped into the song but it flows really well and Arthur so was chuffed.

“Mummy,are they all singing about me?”
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Let’s face it, most pre-schoolers are the centre of their own world, so to have a whole twelve songs dedicated to him was a win/win situation! He loves the Rockstar song and the blues-inspired song about being hungry. I’ve got a soft spot for The Wiggle song – purely because he looks so cute when he dances to it! He’s already requested the Happy Birthday song for his party in March. The songs are very catchy and I can often be found wandering around the house singing “Arthur.. this is your special day…let’s celebrate.”

On the first day we had it, we took it on a long journey and Arthur insisted on playing it over and over again and when we get home from nursery he goes to the shelf and gets it himself. It’s become a bit of a night time ritual to have the Wiggle song before bed!

The CD looks great and all the songs are nice and short so perfect for little attention spans. At £12.95 I think it’s a really affordable way to give your child a personal present.

Enhance your space this Christmas

It’s official. The 1st of December and I’ve decided to have a declutter.I still absolutely believe that when I go to sleep Arthur’s toys multiply, like some subversive force of nature I wake to find piles more crowding my sitting room!

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Well no more. In anticipation of the Christmas toy overload I’m taking a firm hand to my house and getting organised. Firstly I’ve taken everything out from behind the sofa where it lives in higgledy piggleydy boxes and organised them into toys he no longer plays with, toys he loves and toys I have no idea where they came from. I’m being tough – I’m not asking him because this will lead to a meltdown. I’ve managed to see some of them on Gumtree so making a few pennies for Christmas too – one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and there’s usually someone looking for what you’re selling so definitely worth a try – and it’s free.

It’s good for the soul to have a clear out. If my house feels organised then my head somehow follows and in turn I’m just a bit nicer all round – especially this time of year when space is of a premium. I want to get to Christmas with a house that feels ready, no one groaning at the seams in anticipation of yet more ‘stuff’.

I’ve spied some fantastic children’s toy boxes and storage in trusty Ikea so I’m going to make a brave pre-Christmas trip there next week. I like the stacking boxes and it means the evening tidy is so much quicker.

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Next on my list is a trip to B&Q for a new bathroom cabinet because, along with Arthur’s toys multiplying, it seems my bottles and jars of dubiously potent beauty products have also been doing the same! I’ve been trying to cram them into one wicker basket but I need something with a lid. In fact that’s my ultimate top tip – storage with lids! Out of sight out of mind is so true when it comes to decluttering.

We have a massive loft which has been converted but it’s still a dumping ground and because it feels so far away I never really go up there. Yesterday, as part of my epic declutter, I braved the stairs and wow – we certainly know how to hoard! Now if I had storage options from somewhere like http://www.warehousestoragesolutions.com It would have saved me loads of time and meant I could shift all the clutter into their storage until I needed it – if ever! Then I have the whole loft to  store all the camping gear, climbing gear (other half’s) and generally remind myself what the carpet looks like while keeping everything neat and tidy. It would be perfect for the big bulky items we have up there.

 I’m on a roll and by 15 December when my decks go up I’ll have a decluttered haven – that is unless Arthur discovered the toys are missing then it could be a very different story!

Time for school

My hand hovered over the send button for some time.

My baby’s school application was almost sent but I needed a moment to breathe through the last three years and just adjust, to let his hand sit a little looser in mine.

I thought of all the times I’d felt short tempered with him, all the moments I’d asked him to wait while I finished a text and my heart hurt. Because in less than a year he won’t be all mine. Yes he goes to nursery but somehow that’s cocooned in a preschool bubble of safety – there are babies and nap times and  cuddles.

Do they even get cuddled at school? What if he gets worried and forgets where the toilets are? What if someone says something that upsets him? Will someone help him with his lunch if he gets in a muddle?

I pressed send because life has no punctuation. We can’t pause for a year or two – it’s a continuum of constant change. Some is seamless and some leaves me bereft and slightly lost. Will he still call me mummy when he’s at school? Will he want his hair cut short because someone older says he should?

I’m used to that little piece of my heart that escaped when he was born, dancing around the house, playing at nursery and splashing in  puddles. I know I’ll get used to the next bit but for now I need to indulge my sense of loss because, quite frankly that send button was the  moment I saw him dancing on his own.

 

I just hope he can open his bloody lunchbox!

Tommy’s My Premature Baby app launched

One in thirteen babies are born prematurely in the UK every year. That’s thousands of beautiful babies needing specialist care for days, week and even months. As parents it’s a fear you hold close until your bundle arrives but for these parents they don’t get to breathe that sigh of relief once the baby is born. They have a whole new journey in front of them.

To mark World Prematurity Day which was on 17 November, Tommy’s is launching the first ever UK App to support parents through the complicated early days of a premature arrival.

Through a series of features specially designed for premature babies, the free app My Premature Baby gives parents the facts they need about prematurity any time of day or night, helps them keep track of their babies’ progress, and offers practical and emotional support ranging from breastfeeding and expressing alarms to a ‘Finding Friends’ feature to help them connect with other parents who have been through a similar experience.

Premature babies haven’t finished growing and the earlier they are born, the more likely they are to experience health issues such as chronic lung disease or bowel problems, and to struggle with feeding and keeping warm.

Just imagine how scary that is for mums and dads who just want to hold their child and keep them safe. A new survey from Tommy’s has revealed that only 1 in 3 parents of premature babies felt excited about telling loved ones their baby had arrived, and 1 in 5 were so worried they didn’t want to tell anyone at all.

The Tommy’s My Premature Baby App has been designed in consultation with mums and dads of premature babies. It will act as a companion for parents, giving them practical advice and insight through those early days on the Neonatal Unit or Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU), including the following features:

• Tommy’s expert Having a Premature Baby Guide (3) available in an easily searchable format
• A diary feature, allowing parents to record their baby’s progress, significant milestones such
as coming off breathing support, and their own thoughts and feelings. Users will also be able to search for other people’s prematurity diaries on the app (4)
• The ability to plot weight and height on development charts customised for premature babies
• The ability to record times, amounts and types of feeding and set alarms for breast feeding or expressing
• A sharing function, so that baby’s pictures and progress can be shared easily with loved ones or shared more widely via Facebook.
• A Finding Friends feature. Mums and dads can enter their own postcode and contact other local parents by email who have been through the prematurity journey.

Heidi Livesey, whose daughter Ebony was born at 26 weeks weighing just 511g, said:

The word ‘roller coaster’ is used a lot in neonatal units and that best sums it up – you walk into an alien environment, machines beeping, not knowing what you’ll find or how your baby’s health is going to be. Tommy’s My Premature Baby App is fantastic as it’s full of information that you’re too caught up to ask staff about, and it’s brilliant that it will help mums and dads to learn from other people’s experiences and find friends who know what they’re going through.”

Halloween at BeWILDerwood

One of my favourite times of year at BeWILDerwood is, most definitely, Halloween.

This year we made the trip actually on 31 October and had a wonderful time. With magical pumpkins lighting up our arrival we were ready for a day full of fun.

The children loved the wonderful story-telling and as always the sky maze was a massive hit – even if I did get lost! Tales of Boggles and Twiggles never cease to capture their imaginations.bewilder6

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We spent ages making dens and even our youngest recruit, 20-month Charlotte, was keen to get in the action!

As the afternoon fell we began to gear up for the wonderful, magical lantern parade. We made lanterns and stood by the fires in anticipation. Soon the wonderful staff at BeWILDerwood came out with their cloaks and beautiful bat lanterns to announce the start of the lantern parade.
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It was very busy so it took a while to get through the pumpkin archway but once through there were Halloween delights around every corner. The Hairy Clod spider who wanted to steal our lantern lights, twinkling lights and pumpkins galore.

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It’s a wonderful event, it marks Halloween without being too spooky for the children, however young.

We went on one of the busiest days but there was still plenty of room in the carpark and, because of the layout, it never feels busy when you’re inside. It’s a place of adventure and exploration and a perfect Halloween was had by all.

Snorewizard review

Ok so I confess, my name is Victoria and I’m a snorer.

It’s genetic, my dad sends rumbles through the house that scare animals. My brother sounds like someone in the middle of death throws and me, well, let’s just say there have been several nights Jonathan has slept somewhere other than the bed!

It’s not every night but when I go for it take cover….apparently even the industrial strength headphones he bought to watch films in bed are helpless in the face of my night time rumblings.

On a serious note it can be an huge pain for those who suffer every night from a partner who snores incessantly and can really effect the quality of sleep for those who snore. So when I was asked to review the Snorewizard products, designed to help stop snoring – it seemed like a great idea.

The pillow arrived and I will admit to being a little dubious – it’s very firm and doesn’t, at first glance look that comfortable. How wrong I was!

This pillow has quite honestly transformed my sleep. The first night I slept on it was so comfortable. It cradles your neck perfectly and it’s firmness meant I was not tossing and turning, folding pillows and trying to get comfortable.

It’s cover is breathable so feels cool to sleep on and quite frankly from a comfort point alond I will never go back to a conventional pillow.

So now for the big question – did it help my snoring? Yes is the answer. It took a few nights but after about a week Jonathan said it had reduced significantly and was now more of a light murmur rather than the earth shattering growls he’d previously encountered!

I am pleasantly surprised that such a small change has made such a big difference. Plus, an added bonus is it’s helped my neck and shoulder pain too.

I was sent the mouth guard too but, for me, it was not something I could get along with. I found it very difficult to sleep in. But maybe I should have persevered a little longer – I’m not known for my patience!

Snorewizard offer a full money back guarantee though – that’s great customer service.

Online bingo – what’s your guilty pleasure?

Children are hard work and we all need time to sit back and relax. If not there’s a chance we may be found rocking in a corner!

I used to take long baths, reading whole books and generally pleasing myself for granted. Of course I wouldn’t change it for the world but sometimes I’d like to indulge. If I say my guilty pleasure is a particularly raucous episode of Jeremy Kyle you may laugh. But for some a little low brow entertainment is just the ticket for mind- numbing relief. Now it’s not for everyone but if your secret passion is online bingo then take a look at The GameVillage.

Of course this is sponsored – it’s Christmas and I’m sorry!

Children’s first aid kit

I’ve found that small boys are very good at falling down, tumbling over things and banging into any objects that happen to be in their way.

So, in my house a first aid box is a must! I need something compact, easy to use and filled with all the basics. In light of this I was asked to review the Childerns’s first aid kit from Premier Healthcare and Hygiene Ltd and what a great little kit it is.FIRSTAIDKIT

It has its own zip up carrier it works perfectly for the endless camping trips and bike rides my boys take. You can pop it in the car, in a bag or leave it in a drawer at home.

The cute little plasters have been met with calls of ‘mummy I need another one’ because he was rather taken with the Sealife themes!
On a practical note it has burn cream, alcohol-free wipes and dressings, tape and even an eye bath so means I feel I have all the basics sewn up. For £4.60 it’s a great basic buy to give you piece of mind and keep the tears at bay.