Thursday, 8 August 2019

Hidden Cheltenham...

With school runs a distant memory, 9:30am felt early to be meeting up with friends in town, but it forced us to be up and at ‘em and was the start of a free, fun filled day! 

We spent a happy hour at Cheltenham Children's Library (with baby bounce and rhyme going on in the background) choosing books for the summer reading challenge, reading and doing some of their activities. After returning the old books and borrowing the new, we all headed across the way to The Wilson for a play in the World of Wonders Gallery. Dressing up, colouring in and making music were the favourite activities, and again we spent a cheerful hour having fun.

Next up, we had decided to follow the Hidden Cheltenham trail, having picked up the map last week. We waved goodbye to our friends, then headed out.

The first clue is in the reception area at The Wilson and they advise you to take a photo of it so you don’t forget the instructions. This turned out to be great advice all the way round, as some of the clues are multi step and it’s good to be able to check what you need to look for or do.

The trail is around 2 miles and I thought scooters would be a good move, so I could pull Ace along on his if he got tired. Between clues, the scooters were a godsend, but I didn’t realise that you actually had to go inside some of the shops, so they were a bit of a pain at times (especially in Tiger as we missed the clue on our first circuit, so had to negotiate the narrow aisles twice).

Everywhere we went, we were met cheerfully and some of the stops even had activities or treats for any children taking part in the trail. Shout out to Middletons for their colouring station and free sweet bowl and also to Lakeland for their lovely gift of an icing bee making kit (another free activity for tomorrow).

The trail itself was very interesting and I definitely learnt some new Cheltenham facts on the way round. It also made me visit parts of town I hardly ever venture into. The route was a little haphazard at times, we were frustrated with having to go back on ourselves at times and Ace didn’t like going past green spots with the ‘wrong’ numbers on, only to come back to them a while later. I will add that this was sometimes due to me wanting to take a safer scooting route, away from main roads.

Including a picnic lunch and a few pit stops for snacks and water, the trail took us around 3 hours. If your children are older, you may need less time, but equally the trail could last all day if you stop to browse in the shops it takes you to or further explore the areas you are led to. We liked the distance updates dotted around some of the stops, Honey was especially motivated by these.

Our last stop was back at The Wilson to swap our trail sheet for goody bags. The kids were excited to find bubbles, balloons and glow sticks in the bags. If you have more than one child, just be aware that the contents of the bags may vary, for example Ace had a beach ball in his, while Honey had a WarHammer figure instead. This initially caused a little friction, but after a quick chat, both were happy with their lot!

As we went round, Honey and Ace also managed to collect another few stickers on their 'No child left behind' summer challenge sheets, so don’t forget to take yours too if you head off on the Hidden Cheltenham trail!

My only suggestion for the Hidden Cheltenham trail, would be to have the option of following the it digitally. Our map and answer sheet were rather tatty by the end and nearly blew away a couple of times when I dropped them due to hand holding or scooter wrangling (having now visited the website, the map is available to download if you sign up for the trail online). It would have been great to have had the option to follow the trail via QR codes and an app where you could also record your answers and unlock the clues, especially as I had to have my phone out to keep track of all the photos of the clues anyway. 

All in all, I would recommend the trail to anyone living in or visiting Cheltenham. It's a great way to see the town and a fun, free way to spend a day. 

Honey wears... Dress by Mini Boded (preloved)
Ace wears... Cargo shorts by frugi

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Pick your own...

When we arrived at Primrose Vale this morning, it wasn't looking good for strawberries. The weather over the last few days meant that the crop had taken a battering. Thankfully we managed to find enough survivors to fill a punnet, but they're now taking a little break to replenish their stocks. Don't worry though, as raspberries, loganberries, blackberries and more were all available in abundance and there's a blackboard on the front of the building letting you know what's available, along with prices and picking tips.

The picking areas are vast and really well organised. They are all labelled and there are plenty of staff members on hand to answer any questions you may have.

There is free parking on site and enough to keep you occupied for a couple of hours in my opinion. Honey absolutely loved the new play area, especially the clamber stack at the end of the wooden trim trail, but she was also pleased to see that her old favourites (the vintage tractor and the drainpipe slide) were still there!

There's plenty of space for you to bring your own picnics to eat on site, or alternatively there are plenty of delicious goodies available to buy in the farm shop. The ice cream menu looked amazing too, so we will definitely be heading back to sample it soon!

Honey wears... Pink shorts from Tu at Sainsbury's 

Saturday, 27 July 2019

A Squash and a Squeeze...

The summer holidays are officially in full swing here. We have a list of summer ideas as long as your arm, some home based, some local adventures and some days out. Most are free, some will only cost us the petrol it takes to get there and lots will help us 'use up' activity and craft packs Honey has collected over the years.

This morning we went to the cinema to watch Toy Story 4 (which was awesome, but definitely was not free) and this afternoon we made our own play dough. I found a recipe online which promised I'd only need things from my store cupboard, and excited to find out how to make play dough from a tub of out of date Angel Delight and some ice cream cones from last summer, we began.

Obviously, the Angel Delight and ice cream cones are still in the cupboard, but using plain flour, salt, vegetable oil and water, we were able to make ourselves some cloudy soft lumps of dough, adding food colouring to create different colours.

8 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp table salt
60ml warm water
Food colouring
1 tbsp vegetable oil

There is a detailed explanation on the BBC Good Food web page, but we basically combined everything then kneaded it on a flour covered chopping board until smooth.

Honey did all the measuring and mixing, then Ace got involved when the time came for kneading. They both enjoyed the making process, but definitely loved playing with it even more! We all loved the vibrant colours, although unsurprisingly they aren't quite as vibrant now they've been slightly mushed together to make triple scoop ice creams and monster trucks! I've reused some bags that Honey's school uniform came in to create airtight packages, so hopefully we will get a few more play sessions out of this lot.

Honey wears... Apron by Emma Bridgewater
Ace wears... Apron by Daphne and Margot

Friday, 17 May 2019

Pack your bags...

Honey has an app that counts down to exciting, upcoming events. The next event on her radar is a week away, camping down in Cornwall. When we go camping, everything is really relaxed and chilled out. Ace has a nap whenever and wherever he falls asleep, most meals are picnics and bedtime is whenever someone asks to go to bed. At home, we encourage our children to be as independent as possible, while being on hand to help if required and when we are away, we try to carry on in the same vein. A great place to start with this is packing.

If your children are involved in packing, they will be aware of what's available to them while you're away and what's not. They will be able to help you find and fetch things you need while you're away because they know you packed the colander in the Paw Patrol bag for life and that their wellies are inside your wellies...

Here are just a few things we use to make packing easy and ensure that everything can be found in an instant when we reach our destination!

1. Packing Cubes
These were all over Instagram last summer, I love anything to do with tidying and organising to I invested £4.29 in a set from Ebay. Almost as soon as they arrived, I packed Honey's holiday clothing and loved being able to group items according to different criteria (e.g. underwear, socks) as well as being able to roll whole outfits up together, making it easy for me to ask Honey to put on activity appropriate outfits each day. After packing Honey's things, I ordered two more sets of cubes for Ace and myself. I love them!

2. Tiddlers and Nippers Swimming Bag
You can read our full review of this super product here, but in a nutshell, this bag and the Tiddlers and Nippers microfibre towel save us space in the car, mean that we can put all our stuff in one locker at the pool and mean that the kids can pack, carry and unpack their own swimming kits.

3. Tiddlers and Nippers Wash Bag
This little gem has a carry handle so little ones can take responsibility for carrying their own bags to the shower block. There are 3 open top pockets, perfect for toothbrush, toothpaste and and small bottle of hair and body wash, then there's a mesh pocket which is great for their sponge/facecloth and a small pocket which is the perfect size for hairbands, packets of teetha granules or even earrings for older children. When open, the bag has a hook that means it can be hung over a shower door or tent pocket. We adore Tiddlers and Nippers products and you can use our discount code HONEY10 if you decide to order anything from their website.

4. Wheeled Suitcase
Honey used to have a Trunki which was super fun for riding through airports and hotels but not very practical in terms of shape or size. With a cabin sized wheeled suitcase, the packing cubes allow you to make the most of the space available inside the case. You can use the space around the cubes to pack last minute extras like slippers and cuddly toys. I bought Honey and Ace a case with 4 wheels on the bottom, they're really easy for both adults and children to pull along and great for packing into the car, Tetris style! Buying a cabin sized case also takes care of future proofing, hopefully they will still be using them when they're teenagers!

5. Small Backpack 
One of the last things I pack, is a small backpack of toys/activities for each child. They are involved in deciding what to put into their packs and I add in a couple of surprises (usually birthday or Christmas books/toys that they haven't got round to using yet). This means that if it rains or we decide to have a relaxed morning in the tent, they both have things to play with that interest them.

Whether your next trip away is camping, hosteling or going all inclusive, I hope these ideas have helped you get into your packing zone. Happy holidays everyone!

*Some of the Tiddlers and Nippers items pictured have been kindly gifted to us for the purpose of testing and writing honest reviews. All opinions expressed within this blog are my own.

Honey wears... Swimming Bag by Tiddlers and Nippers

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Water Babies...

If you're like me, you probably take a huge bag to the pool with plenty of 'just in case' items that never see the light of day! Recently, I had a message from Tiddlers and Nippers asking if we would be interested in reviewing their swimming bag and towel and I seized the opportunity to scale down my packing list in a way that would also mean that Honey and Ace gained the responsibility of carrying their own things.

Firstly, is easy to navigate, with all their items grouped in collections such as Bags and Accessories, Tiddler Apparel and Maternity Range. Clicking through the bags and accessories option, I scrolled through fun, colourful prints until I found the swimming bags. Ace was easy, Diggers and Lorries was the obvious choice but Honey took her time and eventually chose the Fabulous Fairies bag.

I received an order confirmation, shipping notification and tracking information very shortly after ordering and my parcel turned up super quickly and with the minimum of packaging.

As soon as they saw the bags, Honey and Ace couldn't wait to use them and packed them ready to go, there and then (unfortunately, coughs and colds meant we had to wait a few days)! In the front, mesh pocket, they put their hair and body wash, moisturiser, goggles and hairbrush. I also clipped our padlock (needed for the lockers at our swimming pool) to the zip so we won't forget to take it. In the main compartment, they stowed their new towels along with their swimsuits. Ace isn't in nappies anymore, but when I posted about the bags on Instagram, I  did have a query about whether a nappy would fit in too and I can confirm that there is enough space to add one if needed and a pack of wipes will fit too. 

The straps on the bags are really easy to adjust, which means that children of all ages will be able to carry their own bags and really take ownership of their swimming experience. The clip helps to get the bags off quickly if your toddler needs help and it is also fab if you want to attach the bag to a buggy (which we did for part of our journey when Honey was riding her bike).

Arriving at the pool, both children automatically started to get themselves changed, excitedly pulling their swimsuits out, unasked. I decided to put their clothes in my bag rather than back in theirs, so that I wouldn't get them wet when I fished the towels out after our swim (although there was definitely room for a pair of leggings, a top and underwear in the bag if you wanted to put them in there). Thanks to the compact size of the bags, all our things fitted into one locker (shoes included, but we left our coats in the car). 

After an hour in the pool, it was time to shower and test out the new towels. The towels a great size and are made from super absorbent microfibre and are incredibly soft on the skin. I hadn't told Honey that we were testing out the towels for a review, but she was absolutely raving about how quickly the towel dried her and I could hear the lady in the next cubicle saying that it sounded like she could do with a towel like that because hers was on its last legs! Ace managed to dry himself brilliantly with his towel, he did keep dropping the corners on the wet floor, but that didn't seem to impede its performance at all. 

Honey and Ace were able to put the towels away by themselves as there was plenty of room for them to go back in unfolded, then I repacked them into their pouches after washing and drying them at home. 

This bag is brilliant for swimming, but I would also recommend it for those who have babies and younger toddlers for quick trips out or when you don't want or need to take a full changing bag. It would even be useful for those who use cloth nappies, as the main compartment is separate and waterproof. 

If you haven't already, why not take a look at Tiddler and Nipper's range of super useful products in fun and funky prints and if you fancy treating your little ones (or yourself) to a bag and towel, use the discount code HONEY25 for 25% off at the checkout until Mother's Day 2019.

*One set of a swimming bag and towel was kindly gifted in order for me to write a review. I thought that the products were such a great idea, that I also bought another set so that they could have one each. All thoughts and opinions within this blog are my own and have not been approved or edited by the brand.

Honey and Ace wear... Bags by Tiddlers and Nippers

Friday, 16 November 2018

I think I want to carry you…

When my little girl was a few months old, I saw an advert for a babywearing dance class at our local play cafe. It looked like so much fun but up to that point, I’d only managed to carry my daughter in a carrier for about 20 minutes before my shoulders started screaming and my back began to ache. I know now that it was down to an ill-fitting, non-ergonomic carrier, but at the time, I almost didn’t go along to the class. However much I loved to dance, I thought that babywearing wasn’t for me.  How wrong I was! 

After a short chat with a sling consultant (during which she also gave me some pointers to try and make my own carriers work for me), I ended up borrowing a super carrier for the class and going on to buy the same one (an Action Baby Carrier) as it was so good! That was a turning point for me, the lovingly chosen travel system rarely saw the light of day after that and Honey could mostly be found chatting away on my front in her carrier.

When we found out we were expecting our second baby, babywearing was on the cards from day 1. At just a few hours old, our son had his first snuggles in our Vija Designs UK skin to skin tops, he loved being so close to my husband and myself and with a toddler running round the place as well, it enabled us both to be hands free from the off! This time round, we invested in a babywearing raincoat, a babywearing hoody and babywearing all weather covers. All of these enabled us to wear our son any time, anywhere. When our son was around 18 months, we moved on from baby carriers to toddler carrier,s which have a wider and taller panel to allow older children to be worn comfortably on their parent/carer’s front of back. I absolutely adore wearing my son, we have so many amazing cuddles and chats and I’m free to hold my daughter’s hand, carry the shopping or cook the tea.

As well as wearing my own toddler, I love talking about babywearing, slings and carriers with other parents and often volunteer as a peer supporter at our local sling library, Cheltenham and Gloucester Sling Library. Two local sling consultants, who give up their time to help families safely try out a whole host of different slings and carriers, run the library. Hopefully, families will find one that suits their needs and then they can either hire from the library or make a well-informed purchase elsewhere. The consultants spend time keeping up to date with the latest safety regulations and investigate new carriers on the market, using library funds to purchase stock to keep the library fresh and current.

To me, babywearing means cuddles, convenience and chats. If you’re not sure whether babyweraing is for you or if you’d like some help with your sling or carrier, I urge you to get in touch with your local sling library or consultant. It was the best thing I ever did and I now have an endless supply of lovely, slingy memories with both my babies. 

Sunday, 21 October 2018

The more you read, the more you will know...

On the way home from dance yesterday, Honey told me that she was the best teacher in our whole house. After a slight panic that I was going to be out of a job, I observed her giving Ace a phonics lesson and I have to agree that she’s pretty good! Learning to read has been such a revelation for Honey, she is chuffed to bits every time she finishes a book, reads a story in her comic or a deciphers a sign while we're out, and feeling confident with phonics has been instrumental in her reading journey.

We were asked to try out the Read with Phonics app a few weeks ago and Honey has been working to complete it at her own pace ever since. For context, Honey is now in year 1 and already has a solid grounding in phonics, so much of the app acted as revision for her, which is no bad thing at all based on the ‘use it or lose it’ school of thought!

Yesterday, Honey showed Ace how to navigate the different islands and recognised that he would need to start with the most basic sounds. The app is arranged in the same order that your child will start to learn their sounds during the EYFS, beginning with satpin and moving cohesively through the rest of the sounds, finishing with digraphs and split digraphs. Children can gain points by completing the games and activities and can level up, which Honey found really motivational and exciting.

The app is intuitive, therefore easy for children to use without lots of support and it provides a range of engaging games and activities which Honey explained to Ace and then helped him to try. At 2 1/2, we are not actively teaching Ace phonics, but he does get roped into being Honey’s pupil fairly often, so it’s lovely for him to have such a visually appealing app to navigate under her guidance.

Honey says... I think that this app is good for anyone in Reception class or older children who might find phonics a little bit tricky. I give the app 5 stars because it is very colourful and the games are fun! 

You can download the app from App Store, Google Play, Amazon or you can play online.

* Although we were lucky enough to have the in app purchases unlocked free of charge for the purposes of this review, all thoughts and opinions expressed are our own.

Honey wears... Rainbow jumper dress by Next